Wednesday, December 28, 2005


Apart from visual opulence, the film disappoints terribly. While I'm here going very much against the established opinion about the film in the public in general , and also the critics, the fact, for me, remains that the film is only good in patches, and never attains the status of an excellent film, a riveting film. Inspite of his best acting in his career by Amitabh and a brilliant performance by Ayesha Kapur, the film fails primarily due to a weak post-interval script, and a third-grade lead actress in Rani Mukherjee. I wonder what the film would have felt like if, instead of her, the lead would have been Ayesha Dharker, very unknown in India but a powerful actress, though probably not versatile enough. Of course, the script in that case should have suited her.
Rani is in fact suitable to the script, and hence it can be said that, notwithstanding Rani's mediocrity as an actress, the real blame of the film's failure lies in a weak and inconsistent script. The rebel, intelligent child (Ayesha Kapur) transforms into a cowed-down, ordinary girl (Rani), which is what is indigestible. Indigestible not because this cannot happen, but because I cannot see any dignity, any heroism, any story to tell in the life of the character that Rani plays. What do the filmmakers intend to show? The director, Bhansali, proudly proclaimed in the interviews that the deaf-dumb are not "children of a lesser god" but it is he in fact who is portraying them as such, and the film Children of a Lesser God stands as a proud example of rebelling against the pity, the discrimination, the sympathy accorded to anybody less privileged.

More weak points follow. Amitabh and Rani are shown to be dependent on each other too much, the object of each other's existence. But yet the film tries to imply that Rani's character is some heroic character, that she is now very independent, very much transformed by the mentor that took her by storm when she was an unruly child. To summarize, the child, when the mentor had yet not come, is looking more intelligent, more rebellious, more lovable than the girl that grew from her. Then the whole film is pointless.
I mentioned visual opulence earlier. Yes, the film is visually opulent, but remember I have not said that the film is visually beautiful, is visually breathtaking, is visually magnificient. No, the opulence seems out of place. The setting of the film in the Wildflower Hall itself seems out of the place, and in fact I think that by sticking to Christian atmosphere in this film, Bhansali lost more than gained out of it. Panoramic views of the Hall, romanesque statues, and broad, spacious halls and galleries make the film only visually "opulent", not "beautiful". What was needed was more of Simla, and in fact, the real Simla and not the recreated one in the sets. For in fact, the real is different from the one depicted in the film in a brief scene. When Amitabh goes to get Rani ice-creams and gets lost, they should have been sitting somewhere in the Lower Bazaar and the ice-cream seller on the Mall ( for those of you who do not know Simla, the town is in tiers almost, and there are lots of broad stone stairways between any two tiers, as for example here the Mall and the Lower Bazaar, so that people can easily ascend/descend to another tier). The scene could have been then made visually poignant, with Rani on the lower tier waiting expectantly and Amitabh getting lost due to his attack of Alzhiemer's. The camera could have then a long shot of Rani and the long flight of stairs, with a narrow depth of field focussing on the stairs( and not on the foreground, Rani) and the hustle-bustle of people on it. It is in fact upto the director then how to toy with the camera, the real idea is to interpose the stairway between them, and the people on it. The stairway would have served the purpose of re-emphasizing the point of aloofness between Rani and ordinary people, her impending estrangement between her mentor(Amitabh) and her, and most importantly, the sexual alienation of her from all the people. It would have also served as a brilliant coping-stone for the scene to follow when Rani craves for sex from her mentor herself.
I would in fact have placed the lead heroine in such a manner that her back is towards the stairs, and then using the long shot ( of course, then only both her face and the stairway can come in shot), so that the point that she is unaware that there could be tragedy in her mentor's life also (and other people's) is also emphasized. These small things make or mar a film, otherwise everybody has the camera, and the actors, and the underworld dons to finance them. But these are the things, the real ones. Anyway, it would be too much to expect it here, when the script, the screenplay, and the actors themselves(except some of the actors on sidelines, who have all done brilliant jobs, especially Ayesha Kapur, and the actors playing the parts of Rani's mother and father) go kaput.
Other positives are excellent cinematography and a great background music score. The promos were brilliant, as well as the website design. The play of light and shadows was brilliantly executed, but again it was a little too unreal, too opulent for me.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Hud / A Streetcar Named Desire

I saw Hud just today, with Paul Newman again demonstrating what a fine actor he is (watch his drunken gait, as different from the normal one). But what struck me was that Newman was completely overshadowed by his co-actors, all of whom have done a fine work, especially Douglas. Patricia Neal has also done a very good work in her brief role ( I have only seen her a second time, after once seeing her in The Subject Was Roses many years back in which she has performed par excellence and the film itself is one of my favorites, plan to review it sometime later on).
I came to know that the film has received Oscars for Douglas, Neal and the cinematography. Though I praise Neal, I think it could have been only a severe lack of competition which enabled her to earn an Oscar since the role was too brief and neither that much powerful so as to make her deserving of the award for that particular role. Or it could have been one of those innumerable instances in the history of the Academy Awards where a fine performance by an actor is overlooked and then to make up for it, the actor is rewarded for even a tolerable performance later on. Anyways, I am not too much a fan of the Academy Awards nor want to be interested by their intrigues.
The striking point of the film Hud is of course the sweeping cinematography and yet the static camera at times, forcing the viewer to be unwillingly pushed into the scene, into the setting, as if he is himself getting oppressed by the cruel wantonness of Newman, the heat, the sultry monotony of the ranch life, and the desires of letting oneself go into the manifold temptations once in a while. The solitary ranch life is dominating them all, is dominating the film, is dominating the viewer, and of course this is where the director had to succeed and has succeeded. A good film, but I don't think that most of the people will able to tolerate it , since the film is neither thrilling at any point nor has any sort of pace. Its a heavy-handed film, almost drooping shoulders on the viewer and asking him to take the burden along.

Also saw A Streetcar Named Desire some days ago, and that was my first time for this Brando-Vivien Leigh film. As a matter of fact, I could say that this was the film that I liked least of all of all the Tenessee Williamses I have ever seen (I have already seen Cat on a Hot Tin Roof many times, and besides it Night of the Iguana and Sweet Bird of Youth). Vivien Leigh's acting is very great and very brilliant, and yet its for the stage, not for the film. Maybe since Leigh had already been doing the play for the stage for a long time, she was unable to act in a less dramatic way or maybe the director never told her to tone down. Anyway, but that is a major flaw to the film for me, although Leigh's brilliant dramatic acting is alone why every man should possess this film. Brando - well, I have never liked him at all , but here he suits very well to the character. And his wife's role is played to perfection, but looking too much of in a pink of health for the poverty stricken setting of the film.
Where the film succeeds is of course a very good cast, all suitable to their roles, and the director's ability to bring out the sexual tension between the characters in the film. Even more than the director, it is Leigh and Brando who succeed in creating the tension through their performances and the cinematographer also doesn't play a small role. But I would have loved to see a little bit more of what happened when Brando took Leigh by force, something more after the shattering of the glass. Maybe it isn't there because of the censors of that period.
Where the film fails is of course the lack of sympathy for any character in the mind of the viewer. No character could call for any sympathy in my mind. Williams used to say that he could never conceive of a story in which he doesn't feel intense physical attraction towards one of the characters, and for that kind of a story to succeed the viewer must precisely feel the same, but in this film there is none whom at least I would feel a desire for.
In Cat on a Hot Tin Roof I feel it for Elizabeth Taylor's character, in Night of the Iguana I feel it Ava Gardner's character (rather than Kerr's), and it is the vitality of the character of Paul Newman which keeps you going in Sweet Bird of Youth (though the written play is disappointing, only the film is good). But here, there is none.

Friday, October 28, 2005


The film is only okay, with some of its glaring faults being too much forceful to let it be a good one. But first harping on the positives, first one is that a good actress has come to the fore, Vidya Balan. Though now would come the sternest test - will she be able to handle the stardom and yet mature as an actress ? Rather too elegant for the persona in Parineeta, yet she is the modern day Meena Kumari, and will do well if she is limited only to soft,sensuous roles ( she would have excelled in a remake of Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam). She is not an excellent actress, just good, and I don't think that she would make a versatile one. But a good,fresh talent. Another positive that the period has been captured effectively and the film captures the atmosphere a little bit( though only a little bit) of Calcutta. Its good that the filmmakers put the film in 1960s, an era with whose dresses and lifestyle the viewers could adapt themselves better than pre-Independence period ( of course, much depends on the director's vision; maybe the director could have placed the film in the Vidyasagar/RamMohanRoy period and could have made the turbulent social reform period as a backdrop, involving an increasingly long film but possibly a great epic film , but better to not to try something too ambitious at first try, so commendable effort by Sircar). Very good melodious music, and suiting to the mood of the film to the T, of course is adding value to the film.

The negatives ? here they are. Overly melodramatic, especially the climax scene. And not just that, but the whole film. As for example, the song Piyu bole has been too much mellowed , too much steeped into the sunset by the post crew. Similarly, there are often sound effects at crucial scenes, as for example when the heroine is stunned on seeing her haveli as the projected heritage hotel, just like those which are staply used in daily soaps running on the television and those sound effects are rather decreasing the impact of the visual; rather than emphasizing the visual, they are rather looking like giving a cue to the viewer that ' c'mon, now you've got to feel shocked'. The humor quotient of the film is not high enough nor good enough, though it has been tried enough. Secondly, going against what most of the people are saying or have said, Saif Ali Khan was to me a poor choice as the hero. He seems too brutal, and the director doesn't help matters when he is showing him brutally hitting Balan on-screen. And the most important, the flaw in the storyline itself. I don't know anything about Sarat Chandra's novel, but anyway the filmmakers have every liberty of modifying it, and they should've done so if the novel itself doesn't concentrate on the heroine' s dilemma about accepting money from Sanjay Dutt. After all, the money could have meant only one thing, that Dutt's character was head over heels in love with the heroine. She can't refuse, she is grateful, but there is a gnawing doubt always in her mind that what if a price were to be asked of her for this generosity ? And even if the price is never asked, she is understanding everything, perceiving everything, should she not then pay the price of her own accord ? This is the dilemma that the heroine should have been shown in. A grateful smile on Balan's face is there, okay, in the film, but it should have been followed by even deeper tensions , deeper introspection, and greater observation of Dutt's character, and maybe trying to please him and despise herself at the same time.

Then of course there are other flaws and issues. When Saif Ali Khan comes to know of her beloved's marriage to Dutt through her mother himself, then he is seen to come out from the haveli with a beautiful song just starting to rise from the night along with the whiff of a bidi of a lower-class person, complete with the slow,firm,steady action of his alighting the bidi. A beautiful sequence of frames! Why not more of such? And why the so much interchange of happy and sad sequences in the film ? Right after the heart attack of heroine's father, we have Saif trilling around in Darjeeling. Not letting the viewer to get sucked into the film at any stage is always a disaster recipe for the film.

Finally, a positive - the support cast is also brilliantly suited to their roles, even the elderly lady who is helping Saif's mother to cook in a very small sequence of frames. Maybe only the person playing the part of Saif's friend disappoints , among the support cast. Rekha and her costume are perfect for the cabaret song, as is the music itself and the lyrics.
An honest effort, a good effort, but doesn't turn out to be excellent fare. Vidya Balan's and Diya Mirza's characters needed more exploration, as did Saif-Balan's love.

Monday, October 17, 2005

Kisna: The Warrior Poet

Much criticism has been heaped over it, and not only by the critics but by the viewers themselves. It is simply not that unfavorable reviews by critics led to its downfall, the response of those who went to see it was itself contemptuous. Yes, there were definite mistakes, big ones. Isha Sherwani’s dances again and again, and that too in those unnatural mannerisms, were not too helpful for the rhythm of the film. And the start and the ending sequences of the film were too hopelessly insipid and unnecessary, there was no need to put them. The add-ons at start and end were too ridiculous.
But, especially considering against films made usually in Bollywood, should the film have suffered so terribly for these fiascos ? People lamented a lack of storyline in the film, but how do the same people find stories in a Page 3 or a No Entry is quite beyond me. Did nobody care for the excellent cinematography, and the beautiful visuals of the Alaknanda-Bhagirathi junction ? The water-splashed look of the film – did no one feel that ? The freshness of the film, of the actors themselves should have been such an incentive to watch the film – Antonia Bernath does her role well, as does Vivek Oberoi. Not many in Bollywood do their roles well. And I found the story not damnable. Yes, it was not much of a story, it was always a chase and run story , but then the love emerging between Oberoi and Bernath, and which they wished to hide from themselves (due to social compulsions) until the circumstances force it to explode with all its youthful vigour, was that love not beautiful ? Was it not much of a story ? Maybe that’s why Robinson Crusoe isn’t much of a success in India, the people would ask what’s the story in it ?
And a very, very great music. Beautiful music for almost all the songs, and picturised also quite interestingly. After many years in fact, such good music has emerged from Bollywood. But strangely, songs which anybody would be ashamed to call even songs like Gela Gela become hit and not these. I can understand Woh Lamhe becoming hit, it has a catchy music but how can something like Gela Gela become hit ?
Quite obviously, I do not understand quite clearly two things – the market economics for one and the herd mentality for the other.

Children Of A Lesser God

People consider all sorts of films as romantic but not this one – I’m surprised why ??? Maybe what people consider romantic is those mushy films (which I hate absolutely) where people go only to go for a movie and eat popcorns, where they do not want to be inspired, where they do not want to think, where they do not want to be moved, I mean deeply moved since after having been deeply moved you find yourself not much in that candlelight mood, that flippant mood, which so often characterize people “looking for romance”. And considering the number of clumsy and third-rate “romantic comedies” turned out in America on televison as well as on cinema screens, I think of that as the most probable explanation.

But for me this is the most wonderful romantic film. The build up of love between the hero and the heroine leading to the inability of enjoying of some things of one since the other cannot do so( the inability of absorbing himself into Mozart for the instructor to deaf William Hurt since he now loves a deaf girl, Marlee Matlin) is nerve-wracking ! And shouldn’t the greatest of loves be shown as intensely nerve-wracking on screen ? – nerve-wracking to the viewer and possibly to the lovers in the plot themselves.

The whole personality of the instructor is shining through William Hurt, and Marlee Matlin is simply excellent. She’s every inch the obstinate, the self-willed, the imaginative, the emotionally deep, the beautiful, the intelligent , the deaf girl that she is meant to portray. And of course the plot is excellent.

The story’s brilliant, and all the support cast is very able, thus letting not one weakness to creep into the film. The school principal, the other students, and lastly Laurie Piper, everyone’s excellently suitable for their roles. The cinematography is great, especially the underwater one. And the soundtrack also.

But what really uplifts the film into the realm of sublime is the brilliant screenplay and direction, the whole concept in fact of not letting too much of the normal world into the film. Without stifling the viewer, the film manages to come more from the heart of the dumb heroine rather than the hero (the old classic Johnny Belinda had also this difficult characteristic though in a less marked manner – in that Jane Wyman film the effect was achieved more through the camera rather than absence of sound, more through showing vast, flat, beautiful landscapes rather than through the raw vitality of two persons trying to communicate with each other). Most of the talking in the film is through sign language! And to aid the viewer, the hero of course speaks in undertones most of it, but still those sounds of dialogue do not obtrude since the story itself provides that the hero is slow to comprehend sign language while the student is very fast, very able in it. So he is simply talking to himself, interpreting to himself whatever Matlin is saying, and the viewer is the beneficiary. The attempt to keep most of the film in the soundless world of Matlin is excellent and it has surprisingly succeeded without boring the viewer.

One of the best films that I’ve ever seen, and the climax is really excellent. If you haven’t seen it, please see it now.

Cinderella Man

A remarkably good motion picture after quite a long time from Hollywood. And interestingly the film's success is due to the more solid premise that though each of the characters is playing his or her part superbly well and suitably well ( two different things) yet neither of them is getting dominant over the film itself, the Cinderella Man itself, the tone, the mood, the swing of the film.

The film's said to be a real-life story of a boxer who achieved glory during the days of the Big Depression. And interleaved into it is the gist of the film - his struggle with poverty and his inability to accept the fate of his family, his heroic struggle in which he would turn to beg rather than have to send his children away, and most importantly his sense of obligation to his family , his pain when he sees his wife, his children suffer because he, the man of the house, cannot provide for them sufficiently. The meek and accepting wife's role is excellently performed by Rene Zellweger, though probably in concession to the more feminist tone of America and the world at large, a couple of dialogues have been thrown in towards the end (the manager's wife saying them to Rene) to imply that being always in waiting to be provided by the man is such a tragedy for women. Still, although I personally think that the dialogues are jarring with the tone of the film, they are not being too anachronistic. Of course its a tragedy, but a tragedy in my viewpoint for only some of the women, women who seek to go out, who seek to play a larger role than the one society is restricting them to or expecting from them. But many women are happy also at being provided, and in fact now that women also make careers as well as men, I often get to see women who are unhappy at being thrust into a career rather than a home, but then they continue to live that way since they do not want to feel left out, do not want to feel that they are not conforming to what society expects of them.

But I’m veering from the review. The manager’s role has been done brilliantly by Giamatti and his sharp jabs of speech and apparent enthusiasm , his dancing around the ring always makes him the most lovable man in the film. And it is Crowe and him who are keeping the film alive, and even more than them the editor and the cinematographer, who have edited and shot the boxing scenes fantastically well, so that your guts will be wrenched out seeing those fights. Maybe only there was no need to do something very conventional and obvious, the showing of breaking of bones through xray visuals. Otherwise the fight choreography, the editing and the cinematography make for a heady combine. A great film !

An Introduction

I will be posting here reviews of various movies, including the ones that I've recently seen, the ones about which I want to talk forever, the ones which have merited the status of greats.

Occasionally, I may also discuss directors, do an analysis rather than a review of films and contemporary trends, and veer off the topics. Please forbear ! The movies will contain mostly a mix of Bollywood and Hollywood.