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.