Sunday, 28 December 2014

Ugly PK

Raj Kumar Hirani and Anurag Kashyap are two leading contemporary directors. Hirani had three cult movies to his credit before PK – 3 idiots, Munnabhai 1 and 2. Kashyap was the script writer of three top quality movies of the nineties - Satya, Shool and Kaun. He has directed movies like Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2; Dev D; Black Friday, Gulal before his latest offering Ugly.

Kashyap and Hirani deal in opposite poles of human existence. Hirani’s lovable gangster heroes in the Munnabhai series have hearts of gold. His Rancho in 3 idiots is almost a prophet.  Even the gangster is no less with his Gandhigiri.  His villain, Boman Irani in all these three movies, is also driven by most laudable objectives and is quite likeable. His heroines were adorable in Munnabhai. Quite a few hearts swell listening to Gooood Mooorning Mumbai from Vidya Balan. We fall in love with the supporting cast also. Who can forget Circuit of Munnabhai or even a small Milimeter “MM” of 3 idiots.

Thus the result is a heartwarming, energizing time in the theatre. Hirani’s characters are too good to be true. But we can’t help but love them and suspend our disbelief. Thus even a hard-nosed movie buff winks at scenes such as the delivery of a baby aided by a vacuum cleaner in 3 idiots.  

Kashyap’s movies are as engaging as Hirani’s. However you come back from the theatre with different emotions. Disturbed and depressed. Kasyhap is always searching for evil in his characters.  It is difficult to find a hero in most of the movies directed by Kashyap.  His men are mean and destructive. His women do not have much to give. His petite and elegant beauty Urmila Matondkar is a serial killer in Kaun. Love is supposed to be uplifting and life giving. Kashyap’s love in Dev D is decadent and sucks the life out of the characters. Kashyap makes decadent love more believable than life-giving love and we find that scary. He goes into the dark, inner recesses of human beings, unflinchingly and relentlessly.

Hirani enjoys seeing and showing good in us. Hirani, in his three previous movies has been like three monkeys of Gandhi, see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. On the other hand, Kashyap is a purveyor of evil. But their respective single-minded pursuit of good and evil only has limited them as movie makers.  They have made decent movies. Not classics.

Human life is an interplay, a duality of good and evil, all the time. We keep creating heaven and hell for ourselves and others. Not upstairs. Here on the ground floor. Every moment. Good art emerges from the attempt to understand and share that dualism. Hirani trying to find god in us and Kashyap trying to find the devil have got them stuck at a certain level of mediocrity in the art of movie making.

In his latest movie PK, Hirani tries to break free of that mould. He tries to deal with the devil in a godman. Speak no evil is given up for double entendre to some extent. However, he is quite out of his depth in handling the grey areas. The first half of the movie is regular Hirani vanilla ice cream laced with trademark Hirani humour. An alien being, pure as snow, is in India. Hirani is on home turf in the first half dealing with goodness and purity spoken with witty and crisp dialogues. Thus the going is good for the viewer. In the second half Hirani has to deal with something which he has never handled before. A devious godman.

The director flounders. Hirani’s earlier movies generally had simple plots. Except for a few twists in 3 idiots. What Hirani has excelled at is making strikingly moving frames. Each of those frames touch you as tiny beautiful flowers with their radiance, fragrance and vulnerable beauty. Aided by the simplicity of the plot, Hirani had produced beautiful rangolis from those gorgeous frames.

In the second half of PK, Hirani loses control of his frames. In this half Hirani has to deal with the conflict of the scheming god man with an alien who is simplicity personified. A classic plot device. But Hirani is not upto it. His frames become stilted. A love story on the side is overly melodramatic, Karan Johar style. The movie becomes preachy. Hirani asks very fundamental questions about religion. However, he is unable to handle the answers. May be he should have just asked the questions and left it there. He takes almost three hours to tell a story which was not good for more than ninety minutes.

On the other hand, Kahyap’s near simultaneous release Ugly takes his love for evil one step further. A little girl goes missing. Her parents, step father, the friends of her parents, other relatives and the police – everybody, tries to do something. Less to search for the girl. More to gratify their own twisted emotions and motives. Lust for flesh, greed for money and revenge against one another dominate the search attempts. The end result of such enterprise is a foregone conclusion sealing the fate of the young girl.

However along the way we encounter human emotions and depravity which leave us gasping. Kashyap’s characters in this movie hardly have any humanity. Almost all of them are devil incarnates. It is an engaging, gripping and disturbing narrative. However, Kashyap overplays his devil hand. It comes across as affected and artificial. The movie had the potential of a classic. If only Kashyap could see some humanity in his characters.

Yet, in being true to his genre Kashyap’s offering is far more engaging than Hirani’s. I hope that Hirani does not falter the way the likes of Ram Gopal Verma and Sanjay Leela Bhansali have gone: losing touch with their muse completely after making some very good movies.

Friday, 10 October 2014


“Age cannot wither her, nor custom stale” are Shakespeare’s eternal words describing the ageless beauty Cleopatra. These words are equally true of his own work too. It is a fairly well accepted notion of great art that it transcends time and space. In Hindi it is said that uttam sahitya desh aur kal ki seema se pare hota hai. The work of Shakespeare, more than anybody’s work, transcends time and space and certainly qualifies for great art.

The greatest art goes one step further. It is not only timeless but is relived again and again. It is retold by various artists in the same medium as well in different ones. The Ramayan and the Mahabharat are such great works. They have been retold by artists in numerous languages. Ramleela is played every year. I do not know how many movies we have made from the stories of Ramayan and Mahabharat. The plays of Shakespeare have been retold many times. Hundreds of movies and television programs have been based on his work.

Why does that happen? The pundits of art can have different theories. My layman’s theory is this: Life, as stated by J. Krishnamurthy, exists in relationships. Our relationships with other human and non-human beings, with our emotions and institutions. The relationship of good with evil, with each other, and with ourselves. And so on. The greatest art goes deep into us and reveals a part of us that we otherwise do not realize. That deep insight cannot be allowed to die and it has to be relived. With every good retelling it becomes  fresher.

Vishal Bhardwaj has made three attempts at adapting the stories of Shakespeare for a feature film. Maqbool, Onkara and the latest one is Haider, based on Macbeth, Othello and Hamlet respectively. In Maqbool and Onkara Vishal Bhardwaj was almost close to  what Francis Ford Coppola had done to the Godfather of Mario Puzo. These two movies telling the stories of goons of Mumbai and the Hindi heartland touched some deep and raw nerves. 

Thereafter to see Vishal Bhardwaj in steep decline at such a young age in Kaminey, Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola and Haider is painful. His lack of understanding of the issues and the emotions that he is dealing with is seriously exposed though he still has command over his medium.

In Haider, on one large canvas of the political issue of Kashmir Conflict he tries to paint a smaller emotional conflict arising from the Oedipus complex. The personal conflict of love and hate, greed and renunciation played out in the backdrop of big political battles have produced some of the best literary achievements such as Julius Caesar, War and Peace, and Mahabharat. In these books the dualism of love and hate, good and evil within and without suddenly takes you beyond them and they cease to be stories and become treatises of philosophy.

However, in attempting to do so in Haider perhaps Vishal Bhardwaj bites off much more than he can chew. The result is not a soulful Jugalbandi but a confused mishmash with some silver linings.

Tabu, count on her to light up the silver screen with her dusky face and husky voice in any role expressing numerous subtle expressions. In Haider, torn apart by her love for three men- her husband, son and brother-in-law who later becomes her second husband, she does justice to a challenging role. As always, Kay Kay Menon is good as a scheming lawyer/ lover.

Shahid Kapoor who has a meaty role delivers a performance which you will have if Parthiv Patel was asked to bat against Vasim Akram, Waqar Yunus and Shoeb Akhtar. His dealing of the emotional conflict with his mother whom he is supposed to love and hate in accordance with the plot is childish. His political outpourings can compete with Rahul Gandhi’s political speeches. Delivered by somebody who has mugged up the lines but has no idea of their meaning.

Vishal Bhardawaj’s understanding and portrayal of the Kashmir conflict is borrowed straightaway from Arundhati Roy, without her flair for language of course.  There is no original attempt to understand the nuances and various shades of this deeply tragic political issue.

However, he saves his worst for essaying the sexual tension between the mother Tabu and son Shahid. Oedipus complex, a very complex and rare phenomenon, would challenge any artist. I do not expect Vishal Bhardawaj to be original on such difficult issues but at least he should have been able to use the art of understatement, ambiguity and leaving more meaningful things unsaid. Hamlet has more of a son unable to digest his mother’s sexuality after she is widowed. Oedipus complex in Hamlet is almost invisible. Vishal overdoes almost everything on this issue and it comes across as unpleasant.

And so is the mediocrity of this film made by one of our most acclaimed film makers. The film reflects poorly on Vishal and it reflects poorly on our intellectual life. What kind of artists are we producing if one of our best is producing Haider after having already botched up Kaminey and Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola?

Our crisis, as a society is not only a crisis of institutions facing bankruptcy, poverty, unemployment, polluted land, water and air. It is deeper. It is the poverty of intellect and the pollution of culture that should really worry us. It explains how somebody can win the national elections by talking about shahjadas, topphies and balloons. A Hindi author had said about central Bihar “Magadh me vichar ki kami hai –(There is a draught of intellect in Magadh)”. Where all do we apply this?

PS: I must admit that as a long time Vishal Bhardwaj’s fan my expectations from this talented movie maker are always high. Therefore I might have been harsher on him and the movie does have its good moments.

Friday, 12 September 2014

Finding Fanny

Quite a few men may have one thing in common. Not having the courage, at the right time, to ask, a particular woman who would have been the dawn in their lives. Life goes by. The pain lingers on though and eventually turns into regret, nostalgia and other such emotions.

But what if one had the courage to ask the woman one loved but having received no response believed that he had been rejected. The sting of rejection and the loss of love would be suffocating. He would not want to wake up in the morning fearing that he would have to face the day filled with the same searing pain and incapacity. The man with strong will to live and do will recover early by sheer striving followed by the man with tendency to philosophize who would find justification in the fact that the person was not meant for him. Others may also recover because the challenges of daily living, mundane or extraordinary, will drown the agony in due course.

However, what if, years later, in the dusk of his life...  he gets to know that the message never reached the women? That His destiny was crushed not by the woman but by the quirks of fate? He is gripped by a pain he has never experienced before. His days have become nightmare. He can-not sleep at night waking up with parched lips and dry throat every hour. Walking on the edge of that precipice which can wrench the entrails of younger men must be overwhelming for a man in ripe old age.

That’s the start of Finding Fanny. Daunting. Nasiruddin Shah, finds, after 46 years, that a letter by him proposing to his lady love never reached her.  Egged on by a young widow Deepika, the old man sets out to find the woman he had lost. His journey becomes the journey of the viewers also.

We live, with the characters, their quirks and the quirks of life where the love, hate and lust of the characters have the expanse of the roaring sea and transience of its waves. Their love and despair at its loss seemed so deep once. In the next moment it might become stupid. It may be discovered suddenly that the lady he pined for is a soulless vessel.

In their road journey in a rickety car, we discover the beauty of Goa captured in great details by consummate cinematography. The skillful cameraman has Goa, Deepika and bountiful Dimple to shoot. The visual impact of the movie soothes the senses. The oddities of the characters and the humour of their conversation put the viewers at complete ease. You attain a mental state to have a perspective on love, hate, lust, life and death. I got one. Please go and get one for yourself. I can-not disclose what happens to his lost love, because there lies the charm and depth of the movie which you must discover and savour yourself.

PS: The movie has its flaws though – some parts such as Deepika’s relationship with Arjun Kapoor are contrived. It is a must watch overall though.

Thursday, 22 May 2014


The 2014 general elections seem to mark the zenith of power, so far, of the Sangh Pariwar’s affiliate, the BJP, and the nadir of the Nehru Pariwar’s fortunes. It is interesting to study the relationship of rise and fall of these two Pariwars.

Before the arrival of Gandhi on the Indian political scene, Indian nationalist politics is dominated by two different schools of politics. One comprises the likes of Pherozshah Mehta, the anglicized drawing room nationalist, who thinks that most of the answers to human problems have already been found by the Anglo-Saxons in Western Europe and Northern America and that all we have to do is to copy them deftly. The other school, equally powerful but the opposite pole, is represented by the likes of Bankim Chandra who, loosely put, suggest that going back to the days of ancient glory was the answer to all present-day problems.

Gandhi snatches the politics away from these westernized drawing rooms and ancient caves and makes common cause with the common man howsoever illiterate and poor he may be. The present, as it is, in its ugliest form is embraced with a resolve to make it beautiful in accordance with an indigenous vision, rather than being remade in the image of some remote western model or some ancient dream.
But these two powerful thoughts reassert themselves soon - almost together. The Sangh Pariwar is founded in the year 1925. It follows the legacy of Bankim Chandra. The drawing room of Mehta is reborn when the Nehru dynasty is founded in 1928. Jawaharlal Nehru is made the president of the Indian National Congress in 1928, a few years before his contemporaries such as Prasad, with active support from Motilal, and another Pariwar is born. There are letters from Motilal to Gandhi pushing for Jawaharlal to be made the Congress president in the year 1928. Similarly in the 1950s, immediately after Jawaharlal Nehru resigns from the Congress’s Central Parliamentary Board, Indira Gandhi is nominated for this highest political decision making body of the Congress. Indira Gandhi is made Congress president in 1959 when Jawaharlal is the prime minister. We will not be able to find many great political achievements of Indira Gandhi making her eligible for this top post of Congress in 1959. Contrast this with Gandhi, who, when offered a choice of nominating a young student for a foreign scholarship, prefers to send somebody else over his sons. When Patel becomes a minister after independence, he bars his son from coming to Delhi lest there be a notion that his son had access to the highest echelons of power. Motilal and Jawaharlal, in that glorious galaxy of nationalist leaders, are the rare exceptions who pushed, with some circumspection, the political careers of their offspring and established their Pariwar.

There have been insinuations that one Pariwar had, at least some relations with Godse, the man who killed Gandhi. However, Godse was too small a man to be capable of killing Gandhi at the level of thoughts and ideas. The real blow to the political ideas of Gandhi comes from the other Pariwar – the Nehru Pariwar.  The post-1947 establishment under Nehru will have nothing to do with the radically decentralized Swadeshi model of political organization and development of Gandhi. He embarks upon a policy of a highly centralized model of political organization and development. To a large extent, Nehru imports and implements a centralized western Fabian Socialist model of development and damages Gandhi’s political ideas seriously at the level of thought. At the level of behavior, the attack comes from Indira. Purity and goodness, which are central to Ganhi’s political existence, are made irrelevant to a large extent, by Indira. Lohia tries to take Gandhi’s legacy forward but is not allowed to take his area of influence beyond a certain point by the two Pariwars.

The two Pariwars, the Sangh Pariwar and the Nehru Pariwar, are born together.  From 1947 onwards their fortunes have been intertwined. The pinnacle of Nehru Parivar’s power is reached in 1947 and the decade following that. The Sangh Parivar is at its lowest during that period. It is accused of having a hand in the murder of Gandhi, it is banned and so on and so forth. As the power of the Nehru Pariwar starts waning in the 60s, the power of the Sangh Pariwar and its political affiliate, the Jan Sangh, grows. In the 1967 general elections, Indian National Congress (led by Indira Gandhi) gets less than 300 seats for the first time. It is interesting to note that this is the election when the Jan Sangh makes its presence felt on the national scene with 10% of the votes and 40 parliamentary seats. Since then, in 1977, in 1989 and in 1998-99, every dip in the fortunes of the Indian National Congress has benefitted the Jan Sangh and its other political avatars, the Janata Party and the Bharatiya Janata Party. Similarly, the surge of the Congress in 1971, 1980, 1984, 2004 and 2009 has been at the cost of Jan Sangh/ BJP. The 2014 general elections is the starkest example of this trend. The biggest loss of the Congress in 2014 elections has produced the biggest win for the BJP. (1991 is an exception where sudden decline of the Janata Dal benefitted both the BJP and the Congress apart from the event of unfortunate assassination of Rajiv Gandhi).

Nehru and Golwalkar are the most articulate voices of these two powerful political forces representing two sections of Indian society. They set out, in their own deeply flawed ways, to reconstruct India and unleash formidable political energy. At their best in the decade of the 50s, they represent two opposite sides of ideological spectrum and are able to get a whole generation of Indians to take up the project of, what they believe in their own ways,  national reconstruction. The rise of these two forces drowns the voice of Gandhi.

Both the Pariwars have exercised significant influence on Indian history, specially post independence. They have been the biggest national political forces in the last century. The Communists and Ambedkarites have never been a national presence electorally. The socialists of the 1950s and 60s also could not have a pan-Indian presence. Mulayam, Laloo and Nitish have neither been socialists nor maintained a national vision. Much as one would like to criticize them, the two pariwars have given some kind of political stability to the country. From 1951 onwards, more or less, their combined vote-share in the national elections has been more than 45% and they have, together, got more than 300 seats giving the country political stability. They have also given some semblance of growth. However the legacy of Gandhi and Lohia has been buried somewhere.

The last three decades have seen a steady decline of the Congress even though they have won some elections. The organization of Congress hardly exists in the Hindi heartland. The only ideology they seem to possess is singing paeans to the Nehru Pariwar.

For BJP’s Ramdev, Sonia had Imam Bukhari. Imran Masood of the Congress who threatened to chop Modi to pieces can find a good friend in Giriraj Singh of the BJP who threatened to send people who would not vote for Modi to Pakistan. The right wing politics of the BJP can be put to shame by the right wing allies of the Congress in Kerala.

At a superficial level, the 2014 election seemed to be glorious for the Sangh Pariwar. The battle of images was won by Modi. But the history, when it Judges him, will go far deeper than the 3D holographic projections.

For any discerning eye, the intellectual and moral decline of the Sangh and the BJP in the last few decades is more than obvious. After Golwalkar, the Sangh leadership can be seen in constant intellectual decline in Deoras, Rajju Bhaiyaa, Sudarshan and Mohan Rao Bhagwat. Rahul Gandhi is as much a caricature of Nehru as Sudarshan was of Golwalkar.

Six months in power could be early days. However, the Six months of the present government read with the six years of Bajpayee Government can lead one to a safe conclusion that there are not many fundamental differences in Manmohanomics and BJP’s economic policies. Crony capitalism was as rampant in Bajpayee’s Government as it has been in Congress Governments. Modi Sarkar is trying to make a pretense of difference on that account however on the issue of black money it has repeated the same false excuses which Modi was so fond of pillorying from his 3D holographic projections.  

Modi himself has nothing to do with Ekatm Manavwad of Deen Dayal Upadhyaya. The corruption and Congressisation of the BJP is complete. Modi Sarkar has already started leaking stories as to how the Prime Minister is rapping its corrupt ministers on the knuckles. There is an uncanny resemblance of these stories with the Congress leaks where Sonia was always trying to straighten its hugely corrupt cabinet ministers. The fundamental spin of both the narratives is the same. The top person who is projected as a demi god is good and is trying to control his/ her cabinet ministers whose being corrupt is inevitable. 

The BJP is nothing more than a saffron Congress as once suggested by its now discarded patriarch Advani. 

One pariwar got replaced by another in the 2014 elections. However, the prospect of a regenerative Indian politics is not a concern for either of them. There is hardly any replacement in the real sense of the term because the two streams have become completely interchangeable. In their rise, the two Pariwars, represented two streams flowing in opposite directions – eastward and westward. Subsequently both have gone downhill and they seem to merge in their decay. But this merger is not producing a Sangam.

Will the Sangam come from the ideas of Gandhi and Lohia, the two most formidable political thinkers of the last century who are yet to gain their due! Who will revive the legacy of Gandhi and Lohia and make it a national force? 


Monday, 12 May 2014

Is Modi OBC enough - The wheel has turned

The working of sixty five years of Indian democracy has shaken the foundations of more than three thousand years old Indian feudalism. When the last so-called Hindu Hriday Samrat (Shiva Jee) made his pitch for a Pan-Indian empire, he had to call for Brahmins from Banaras to establish his Kshatriya origins, because his alleged savarna origins were doubted by his detractors.

Three hundred and fifty years later, when the next self proclaimed Hindu Hriday Samrat (Modi) is making a pitch for himself to rule the country, one of his election issues has been his much advertised OBC origins. The response of the Congress  is: no - no, Modi is not OBC enough.

The Indian feudalism ran on the basis of strict control of hierarchies. Disabilities were inflicted or un-earned qualities were bestowed, the moment an infant was born, on the basis of his or her caste and family. This allowed a lot of mediocres to grow far beyond their hard work or entitlement and stifled talent. Indian feudalism straddled our society on two legs – caste and family.

When men / women of talents and ambitions from deprived sections built-up kingdoms and empires for themselves, they had to engage renowned Brahmins to trace a fake genealogy for themselves linking them to some savarna caste and famous ancient family. Mauryas of Patliputra and Shiva jee from Maharshtra can be cited as examples. There are also examples galore from Central India, of some adivasi kingdoms doing something similar. For instance, the Raj Gonds of MP/Chhattisgarh are a case in point. Dilip Singh Judeo of the BJP, who was widely tipped to be the CM of Chhattisgarh, had fate not intervened, was a Raj Gond.

The independence, education, adult franchise combined with the leadership of Phule, Periar, Ambedkar and Lohia has shaken the foundations of Indian feudalism in our political life. To be from a Dalit or OBC caste does not mean political weakness any more. It is a sign of strength. Vasundhara Raje tom-toms her Gujjar marriage and underplays her savarna birth. Karunanidhi, Lalu, Nitish, Mulayam and Mayawati have already reaped the benefits of this changed phenomenon at the state level. Modi is trying, to an extent, to do the same at the central level. Rahul Gandhi is being attacked by all his opponents for what has been his only strength – his family. It is another matter that most of these enemies of savarna caste hierarchies have established their family fiefdoms - which was the another side of the same coin – Indian feudalism.

As the grand old party heads towards its worst ever defeat in the Hindi heartland since 1977, should it blame Manmohan’s corrupt government and Rahul’s infantile leadership only? Has it ever wondered in last twenty years when it has been suffering one defeat after another in Hindi heartland, as to whether it’s largely upper crust/ upper caste leadership needs to be replaced by leaders of humbler social and economic origins.

The writer is not a supporter of Modi or his politics. But any student of Indian politics will see how he has denied tickets to old war horses like C P Thakur in Patna and given it to new entrants like Ram Kripal Yadav. The reasons are obvious.  When the growth of BJP plateaued in 1990s in the Hindi heartland, it’s ideologue Govindacharya advocated his famous “social engineering” and promoted OBC leaders like Sushil Kumar Modi  in Bihar by discarding the likes of Tarakant Jha. However the largely savrna BJP/ Sangh leadership did not allow his idea to prosper. The result was BJP plateaued in Chatisgarh, Rajasthan and declined in UP. In Bihar they were able to hold on to something with the help of Nitish. Overall BJP came down in next fifteen years from it’s 1998-99 peak. Wily Modi has recognized this.  If BJP does well in these elections, the reason will not be so-called Modi wave or his governance. It may just be a calculated recognition of the changing realities of Indian Politics which other national player has failed to recognize.

If today Dhroncharya had to pick up – possibly he would prefer Eklavya over Arjun who would have far more political potential. With all its distortions, there is no denial that the wheel has turned in Indian Politics. One leg of Indian feudalism has been seriously damaged and it is limping.

When will the turn of family come! When will the time come when Mulayam and Sons, Chautala and Co, Nehru, Gandhi and son and son-in-law, Sindhia and Daughters, these family firms which are already ideologically and intellectually bankrupt will be wound up politically?

Saturday, 4 May 2013

Bombay Talkies Movie Review

We Indians love to exaggerate. Gandhi is not only Bapu but Mahatma also. It is not enough that Patel is Sardar, he has to be called Lauh Purush too. Tagore is Guru and Dev both - together. Nehru was Chacha... Thank god he was not called Mamu also!! Even Indira Gandhi who mothered (politically also) the thuggish Sanjay Gandhi was called Durga!!!

The film Industry in India is, arguably, the most powerful expression of popular culture. Our movies amplified the unreal so much that it became an escape from reality. Our heroines knew nothing except purity, virtue and sacrifice. They fell in love with men like Sunny Deol who took on the entire Pakistani State all alone in Gadar. That love gave them so much warmth that they could gyrate in skimpy clothes on the frozen lakes of snow capped Alps.

The movies made by Benegals and Nihlanis in late seventies and eighties on real issues were called parallel cinema. Escape was the mainstream. Nineties was the Zenith of escapist Cinema. Kitsch was at its pinnacle in Karan Johar combining with Shahrukh Khan and making Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gam where Shahrukh Khan was so good at not acting. Karan Johar and Shahrukh Khan, by achieving so much success with such sloppy escapist work, epitomized the mediocrity which thrives in every other sphere in our society. No other combo has achieved such success with such shallow delivery except, possibly, the director and actor combo of Sonia and Manmohan.

The last decade though, has been a welcome change. The emergence of directors like Vishal Bhardwaj, Dibakar Banerjee, Anurag kashyap, Thigmanshu Dhulia, and the likes has given us stories of real people. They have got rare acting talents like Irfan Khan and Nawajuddin Siddiqui to give flesh and blood to these real people and not rouge and mascara of the escapist cinema.

Their movies, in their attempt to discover reality, have taken us deeper into layers of our existence which is good, bad and ugly at the same time. In our daily existence, we attempt to ignore the unpleasant or sweep our passions – good or evil - under the carpet. Their work has tried to show us the mirror. They are fascinating because they tell us about the most unpredictable story, the real Life. Watching the filth of hinterland has made us more lively. The imported beauty of Swiss locations was numbing us.

Bombay Talkies is an unique joint effort of different directorial talents. Anurag Kashyap, Zoya Akhtar, Karan Johar and Dibakar Banerjee tell us four separate stories combined by a common thread in celebration of hundred years of Indian Cinema.

Dibakar Benerjee has adapted a short story of Satyajit Ray. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is a failed actor who can not even get the job of a security guard. Telling stories would have been his vocation if he had stuck to acting. However, he looked for the safety of a job, landed nowhere and is not even able to tell a story to his daughter. He finds an opportunity to do a tiny role by accident. He gets in touch with his lost soul and finds the story of his life.

Zoya Akhtar takes up the riveting conflict of desires of a middle class father and his tiny son about the latter’s future. The father wants him to play football and be Macho. The tender hearted kid wants to dance with effeminate moves. The stage is set for a pulsating story but it splutters when the story moves to the kid’s fascination about Katrina Kaif.

Karan Johar deals with the complex topic of bisexuality of a married man in a hard hitting manner. The background of the song “Lag Ja Gale” creates artistic tension. I am still grappling, whether, the use of lovely old song was to soothe the nerves or to inflame passions! The pain of your most tender passions being in conflict with social norms is portrayed touchingly. A brush with reality can change Karan Johar. Karan, Please leave Shahrukh and Firang locations. Go to Kalahandi or Gorakhpur and tell us some beautiful stories which you seem to be capable of.

Anurag Kashyap tells the fantastical story of the obsession of a father-son duo from Allahabad about the Mega Star Amitabh Bachan. Anurag’s story is the weakest link of the battery. Is it so because he is not in his familiar territory of reality and has gotten into fantasy?

Dibakar Banerjee’s story is the true celebration of hundred years of Indian cinema. Dibakar seems to be perfecting his art in his fifth movie. He shows almost complete command over the medium and gives a flawless treatment to a beautiful story. This is expected from somebody who has made Khosla Ka Ghsola, Oye Lucky! Lucky Oye!, Love Sex & Dhokha and Sanghai.

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Talaash Movie Review

A thriller keeps us glued to the chair by constantly challenging our intelligence and engaging our curiosity. Talaash has a brilliant first half. The question, whether the accident is a mere accident or a murder, troubles the protagonist and his quest for an answer goes through the labyrinth of red-light areas with inevitable connections to the plush apartments. The story telling is raised to another level by intertwining the outer quest of the protagonist to crack the case with his inner turmoil. It is rare in a Hindi movie, where you find a protagonist, who is as vulnerable as us ordinary mortals but can still get on with the job to give his best. His quest finds more questions than answers which gives us a tense build up and anticipation for the second half. You have less time for the rest-room and getting the pop-corn in the interval because you do not want to miss the first scene of the second half.

A thriller, generally, lacks depth which has to be compensated by speed. This can be done by a tight plot developed with fast narration. The first half has both, second half none. The second half, which loses pace under a meandering plot is full of emotionalism which grows into supernatural. The director forgets that, the genre of thriller, by its very nature seldom touches the heart but cannot succeed without capturing the mind. The movie is like watching a fifty over match, where, after watching a scintillating start @9 per over by Tendulakar and Sehwag you saw VVS Laxman and Rahul Dravid struggling to score @4.5 per over. The curious mind eager to find the answers is confronted with supernatural.  A kind of anti-climax. 
However the movie has many attractions. It is mostly shot in the dark in beautiful frames. The scores move the story forward, hauntingly. There are cops, pimps and sex-workers in the movie yet no item number. Such a relief.  Aamir Khan does a good job of a police officer who is facing a tough case without and a tougher conflict within. However, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, as the side-kick of a pimp, steals the show. Kareena gives us the same plastic smiles as a sex-worker which she could have given as a college student. Her street walking is more like a cat walk on the ramp. Without the overly glitzy clothes and some good dialogues given to her by Farhan Akthar and Anurag Kashyap, it would have been difficult to establish that she was a sex-worker. Rani Mukherjee has a no make-up role of a troubled house-wife which she performs with some ordinary acting. The women in minor roles in the red-light areas are far more convincing than these leading ladies. Overall the Aam Actor does far better in the movie than the stars like Khan and Kapoor. Nawazuddin Siddiqui has had a super year as an actor with Kahani and Gangs of Wassepur also under his belt. The movie is more than watchable for the performances of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and other Aam Actors directed by a talented young women director who deserves the kudos for giving us the brilliant first half. If you are a believer in supernatural then for you the second half may not be as lame as it was for me. 

PS: The movie explores the reasons of death of a big star Aarman Kapoor!!! We can not imagine Hindi movies without Khans and Kapoors and Congress without three Gandhis and one Vadra.