Tuesday, September 26, 2006


What a rare treat in India! A film without a man-woman romantic interest at its heart, a film tenous in the pursuit of its story, a film without any visual or musical distractions, a film with the rare good feat of both making you laugh and cry, a film unique in its story and yet not strumpeting itself, a film which is really able to accord respect to women in its two strong-minded and strong-spirited women protagonists - need I say more?
It all begins with the title - Dor. The title is so aptly chosen - the delicate string that connects apparently a fiercely independent woman (Gul Panag) from the mountains of Himachal Pradesh to the strong-spirited, joyful, innocent girl (Ayesha Takia) from the raw deserts of Rajasthan, from the keen mountain air that moves your impulses to the conservative, stuffy air of Rajasthan, where girls are often thrown in wells as soon as they are born - the delicate string that binds a man and a woman, to keep which taut a woman (Panag) can go into the unknown, know no fear, bear all insults and the world of men, trust herself more than the God, be prepared to even accept an impostor's help - the delicate string that connects any good person to other person, any of this mankind to another, one which cannot be broken unless by severing it, one which as long as it is remains a testimony to the surviving humanity in that person, and one which can at the same time redeem human values in other people - the delicate string of circumstances which bind together an educated woman, an innocent already-married child, and an impostor into one common, kindred bond.
I had always wanted to see Gul Panag in a good, befitting role. The film Dhoop was a disappointment in that respect. But, here, Gul finally gets the role which only she is fit for in the Indian film industry - at the same time mentally strong, intelligent, able to take care of herself, and tender. Shreyas Talpade has you in splits more than any Munnabhais can do - it's a simple, unsophisticated, and, in fact, much tried-and-tested humor, and yet, he succeeds, primarily because he has it in him to make you laugh, he is doing his role sincerely and has worked hard on it (although he has not much of a role in the film), and of course, the dialogue-writer, the director, the person whoever has selected those disguises, all have really worked to make the bahrupiya (impostor) lovable. And, of course, the star is the much under-rated Ayesha Takia. I liked her first when I saw her in Socha Na Tha (with Abhay Deol - another fine, honest actor, though not at all hero-like) - she knows her acting, she doesn't get carried away, she knows the delivery of dialogue, she has got a good, winning smile, she looks innocent inspite of that sexy Telugu song which she shot to resurrect her career (I believe it was a Telugu film) and yet desirable, and, most importantly, she's not affected, she's not proud (I don't mean here the tantrums that stars and starlets are famous for; what I mean is the sort of pride that creeps in an actor when he begins to know himself or herself as a good actor - the real nemesis of Amitabh since he became hit). She plays the role of the village belle to perfection, the joyful girl who is still a child at heart, who wishes to live her life fully and joyfull still, who has not been numbed by the death of her husband, whose life is being 'made over' by the society in which she lives, although it is not over in her heart. And, lastly, Nagesh Kukunoor himself is suited to the hilt to his cameo role.
Other strengths - a beautiful music, good cinematography, aesthetic and not opulent visually, brilliant development of the characters of all three (Panag, Takia, and Talpade) - and for this a real thanks to the director that even in such a simple, bare story he did not go for cutting down the length of the film (Hollywood should learn something from this - preening over their 'value of time' give you only brainless things like Mr. Bean or a baseball match, not a Ben Hur or an Eng-Aus Test match), minimal peripheral characters, faithfulness to the story with absolutely no distractions. The only weakness that I felt was related to the Rajasthan that they have shown - I was disappointed that no one was speaking in the commonly spoken Rajasthani way in the film; without it, it was not an authentic Rajasthan at all. Another was Takia calling her husband by his name - I really don't think that in a conservative Rajasthan village, this can be a norm. I think, quite a major blip from the filmmakers, at least for me. Maybe, they wanted to show Takia's character as inherently modern, but if a girl has been taught some things from her childhood as right and wrong, and she follows some of those things only for the sake of it or for the sake of the society she lives (after all, she might be questioning them in her mind), she doesn't become unmodern.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006


The only thing that I can say is that Vishal Bharadwaj has easily surpassed Shakespeare in adapting Othello to the screen. I will jump straight on to the real strength of the film - its independence of the players, the paramount direction, art settings, lyrics, dialogues in rustic UP Hindi, and the explosive music. All the actors perform their roles to the hilt, yet the film rises above them and is not grateful for its greatness to any of them. Yes, Saif Ali Khan was always expected to play the jealous sower of evil perfectly, and he does that, Kareena Kapoor is indeed the innocent, lovely girl caught up in a web of intrigue about which she doesn't even know, she doesn't even have an inkling of, and Konkona Sen the added dimension of the ignorant wife of Saif, unwittingly adding fuel to the fire. Ajay Devgan and Viveik Oberoi don't have to do really much - the film doesn't belong to them, they just have to turn out, as Bipasha Basu has to for the electrifying song, once again given by who else than Gulzar and Vishal's combo, "Bidi Jalai le". But the film's hero is purely Vishal Bharadwaj - he has captured western UP, which is far more difficult to catch than eastern UP. Not many people even attempt to catch western UP; in fact, I can't remember one instance from my experience, unless it has been the Muslim culture. So, here's something fresh, not many times seen before on the big screen - and the canvas looks so evocative, so charming, so old worldly, so pristine, so beautiful on the screen. Right from the frame when Kareena's father comes to Naseeruddin Shah to complain about his proteges (see the sunlight streaming in behind from the window, with a pile of books dishevelled in the typical, typical UP style) to the frame when Saif is provoked to jealousy sitting on the bridge and the whole bridge is seen majestic against the backdrop of the river (the whole scene is sort of fuzzy, the camera's focus is nowhere sharp, as if the camera is undecided what to point at now, and during its indecision is just revealing the majestic canvas unwittingly) - what else can you ask for? Maybe, a little more development of the characters of Kareena and Viveik, but then remember Vishal is no spoilt, darling director of the masses like a Karan Johar, he has to think of the finances too - already, adapting Othello was a bit of risk, maybe less in today's times (the film would have definitely been a non-starter ten years ago).
Even now, after being acclaimed all over by critics and audiences alike, there's a common refrain - the dialogues, the abuses. First of all, my basic problem is simply that what's the problem with the abuses themselves? Let alone the fact that such language and sexual undertones were necessary for the film, what's the problem of people with abuses that are so common in the society that they live in, that most of them themselves use in their day-to-day life. They can watch a vulgar Priyanka Chopra or a Govinda any time of the day, and they profess to be shocked with a good film, why? They don't want to take their women and children to "such" films, they ask how did the censor board pass it even with an adult certificate. And it is a fact that they are shocked; they simply do not claim to be shocked, but they are in reality. This puts me in a real confusion, a total non-understanding in fact. How can a person rave for Govinda and really feel shocked with Omkaara. Is it that they live by a set of rules and the rules begin to govern their tastes, their likings, their whole experience of the life? For how can it be explained otherwise? Or is it that they are thick-skinned? Until and unless a man pushes his cock into some girl's ass or an expletive is used, everything is fine with them? So, they will lap up all the suggestive dialogues, all the double-barrelled jokes with a good amount of smirks of pleasure, and yet they will revolt when something is shown which is totally devoid of any meanings other than what is right there before you, what is in fact a necessity, what they too know is a daily occurrence (for to imagine that in UP life would go on without abuses in small talk is absurd)? I cannot understand these double standards. Where is their shock with all the obscene songs and dialogues? Or is it that for them there exist two kinds of movies: the ones that they enjoy without inhibitions, which they in fact like, but which are not called "great", and the others which are "supposed" to be great, and hence then they bring all their definitions of "greatness" in it? After all, Mahatma Gandhi's probably greatest source of the influence over Indians was his eccentric way of living, his non-practise of sex, his remaining absurdly and unreasonably naked and bald - so even though they would not live like him and would call any of their sons as mad if he even thinks of following Gandhi in earnest, they will call him as a hero, partly because he was all that they do not understand, and partly because it has been accepted he was great.
Anyway, simply drifting. This was meant to be a review of Omkaara. Great and effective use of camera, good drama, great music and lyrics (the strength of the music lies in that it is suited to the film to the T), and preserving the plot of Othello intact with no tampering - these are the strongpoints of the film, and every film lover must watch the film.

Sunday, June 04, 2006


Yes, you could have a whole sociological essay based on the probable reasons that Gangster didn't work. Though the film has been produced by one of the well-versed marketeers, Mahesh Bhatt, the film doesn't work. Why? Lack of a stellar cast? But, then, had Rang de Basanti a stellar cast? Or had not Mangal Pandey - the Rising a stellar cast?
Gangster is a superb film, the most intense love story that I have ever seen made in Hindi. Its a tortous love story, it doesn't let you rest in peace, its what love is. It conveys to the home the hopelessness, the helplessness of a person when confronted with true love. The sympathy never wavers from the lead pair of Shiney Ahuja and Kangana Ranaut, even though the latter's end betrayal could have induced a resentment against her character among the audiences. This is the best testimony to the craftsmanship of the film. That is what is the forte of the film - its different editing style, and the construction of the screenplay (of course, the editing style has been necessitated due to the unconventional screenplay). And, oh, what a music score! Even if its lifted from Arabia, I don't care as long as I get to hear some real music.
Emraan Haashmi is his usual poor self, a poor actor, who is only fit to star in some hit songs. But, then, the film does not depend on him at all. Its Shiney Ahuja who impresses you (thankfully, there are a very few dialogues in the film from him, for he has still to learn about his dialogue delivery). And Kangana is the star of the show. What an honest acting effort! She looks sad, she looks drunk, she looks glamorous, she looks in need of love, she looks in love, she looks betrayed, she looks the star! Her dialogue delivery is also unusual, and very apt for the sort of role that she is playing in the film.
Why didn't the film do well in India? Maybe, first of all, due to a poor name selection. People think that it is some violent film to which they won't like to go with their kids et al. and then to top it off, after seein' the name of Haashmi in it, they think that some extramarital things also must be going on in the film, and it might be just one of those usual Emraan Haashmi films. So, I think, selecting Emraan was a big mistake for this project, when his kissing services weren't much needed also in the film. The name too. Then, though the real music lovers absolutely loved the music and it is still at no. 1 on the billboards, yet the music didn't create as much a wave as, say, Rang de Basanti. Why? Because, the youngsters want something to dance with in the disco bars, want something which could fill them with insta excitement, and which has that bawdy feel of Punjabi music in it. Of course, many of the youngsters would prefer this music for disco bars also against RDB's, but then the reach won't be upto those who do not have their own preferences but simply follow what they think their peers must be following. And, most importantly, its an intense film, a serious love story, not at all sugary. No melodrama in it, no deep plots in it. Its a simple story with some unconventional screenplay (another put-off for Indians). The acting is very honest, the dialogues are very few, Shiney Ahuja's eyes tell you the whole film, and the cast is not a star cast. Its a low-budget film, and the exhibitors were more interested in investing their money in the forthcoming Fanaa, which has a star lead pair, than any other films. A popcorn-munching public simply wants something to spend their time with, they don't want something too serious - if confronted with, they will laugh it off, disdain it to the bins, and make directors like Priyadarshan the creators of vulgar comedies.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Memoirs of a Geisha

What a beautiful film! Again, the Oscars surprise me by their zeal for political correctness instead of cinematic excellence. A film, which should have definitely got the Best Picture Oscar not even nominated and a soundtrack which is so overwhelmingly touching, which has so much of a woman's life in it, losing out to a band of persons who don't even know what music is.
The role of Sayuri has been excellently essayed by Ziyi Zhang, and the role of Sayuri as a child has been even more excellently performed. The film's simple story is so touching (I have not read the novel) and so full of love. An intelligent, rebellious girl, unhappy with her lot, finds happiness for herself in that one kind gesture of a stranger; she is inspired to improve her lot just because of that one person and in the hope of meeting him again. Amidst all the dirt surrounding her, she keeps herself astonishingly and pristinely pure for that one person, for the stranger who was the one person kind to her in her life. And Ken Watanabe, though in a brief role, suits very well to the role.
To show a different culture or a different era is a big challenge for the director, for the costume designer, for the art director, for the screenplay writer. You have to have the film pervaded by that culture, and yet you have not to overdo it. While dressing up all in Japanese costumes and making the actors behave in Japanese manners, you have to still ensure that the film does not begin to look like a fancy dress parade, which often ends up being the fate of several period or historical movies. And here, Memoirs of a Geisha scores heavily. The film is a visual treat, and yet it does not overdo it. The key to it is probably the use of low intensity lighting throuh most parts of the movie, and a brilliant colour scheme. The focus is more on Ziyi Zhang's face rather than her clothes - first there is Sayuri and then there is the geisha in her. This is what is difficult to achieve. Otherwise, she would be like all other geishas.
All the other characters in the film have played their roles to perfection, especially Sayuri's jealous rival and "Pumpkin." The music is the best that I have ever heard, and the most suitable to the storyline of the film.

Rang de Basanti

I had not expected much from the film, except its great music and the energy of youth. And, it turned out that the film really had only these two elements. Rahman's great music saves Rang de Basanti, otherwise the film has no storyline, lacklustre acting, misguided aims, and, more importantly to me, an insult to some of the great persons whom I have admired since my childhood.

The director looks a very confused person. What does he want to show in the film? I couldn't understand for the life of me that why all the scenes like Kakori's train loot and Saunders murder are enacted and shown in this film. In fact, when the filmmaker first visualized all the leads in the roles of freedom fighters to herself, then only it was a little distasteful to me. But to go on with it and keep on showing them feels like real blasphemy. Why blasphemy? Since how could that rabble of a lot, who are simply vagabonds and who do not care about their country and nor about acting or how a film is made, how a character is played - how could that rabble be shown to be selected for the documentary? The film initially shows concerns from the documentary film maker that her docu is not being taken seriously, they are not what they have to be - but suddenly the docu is shown to proceed with aplomb. How does this transformation occur? Since they remain the same unruly, vagabond lot that they were to the end of the film - I didn't think of them as martyrs even after the director's painful efforts to show them as such.

Other faults? A lot, like more light could have been shed on the backgrounds of each of the friends, plus a lot of India could have been captured, especially looking from the eyes of the foreigner. Is a Western person, even if he or she is interested in Indian politics, going to be charmed by the sight of parliament after coming to India. Is that the symbol of India's might, India's exoticism, is that the thing for which India holds its name as a synonym for a 'difficult country to live in, and to leave'. Things like this instantly make you feel that the director's attempts are all hackneyed, and cannot be sincere.

Rahman's music, as usual, is great, and not only saves the film from ignominy but also makes the film a box office success. How easy it is to delude people!