Tag Archives: Bollywood

The Politics Of Cinema: Ideas, Influence & Agenda

Today I was asked to be part of a debate on Salman Khan’s statement that Pakistani actors are not terrorists and hence should not be asked to leave the country. I couldn’t make it to the event after all but it did force me to think about what my stance was.

My first thought was that the arts have nothing to do with politics and should not be interfered with, by politicians. But over the course of the evening, I had a chance to remember that artists and performers wield such influence that we may also bear moral responsibility for our personal ideas, beliefs and actions. Politics after all, is not just for politicians. Politics is every knotty dilemma, every complex life experience. Every single one of us ascribes to certain politics, whether we’ve reasoned them out or not, whether we live them out deliberately or under duress.

I’d be the last person in the room you’d call a cinephile (I prefer books). But I can’t deny the mass influence they wield. Three movies that I watched in the past month made me think about how they’re permanent chronicles of social mores. Especially so because they all came out in the 90s (a decade that doesn’t seem like that long ago). All three are movies I watched when they first came out, enjoyed tremendously and have watched again several times over the years.

Statements About Race

The first was Independence Day, that alien-bashing saga we all loved. It only struck me recently how independence_day_moviepostermathematically precise the film’s racial ratio was. The 80s started making a point about black/white integration. Remember the episode in ‘Small Wonder’ where a potential rich (and WASPy) employer comments on Jamie Lawson’s best friend being black and how such things would never happen in their new neighborhood?

By the 90s, it had gotten subtler and maybe storytellers were not supposed to point out how racially integrated they were. And enter Independence Day with one studly, wisecracking black male lead (Will Smith), one hunky, intellectual Jewish male lead (Jeff Goldblum) and one golden WASP male lead(Bill Pullman). Each man was paired up with a colour-coordinated female character. Is that how world is? Ha, no.

Mainstream Hollywood movies settled into all-white or all-black movies with token representation of the other racial group and barely-there nods to other racial communities. There’s a rare movie like Hitch which had a black male lead and a Hispanic female lead but did not once touch on the issue of race. Tokenism is so real, it’s an actual word.

Gender Politics in Bollywood

The second film I thought of was Rehna Hain Tere Dil Mein, which was rehna-hai-tere-dil-meinMadhavan’s entry into Bollywood. For years I have loved the film and enjoyed its music and its droolworthy hero (a Tamilian man can look like that??!). Sometime in the last decade I began thinking the story was a bit dated. Maddy’s lies (such a crucial part of the plot) started to bother me a few years ago. But it was only in my last viewing, that I was truly appalled. RHTDM is the story of a stalker with a history of violence who has no qualms about lying, cheating or misogyny. And I’ve been ingesting its narrative as a romantic film. I will never watch this movie with pleasure again. As for Madhavan, the actor. I can’t think of him as anything but Stalker Maddy anymore.

Transphobia or Awareness?

And finally, I just finished watching Mrs.Doubtfire. On this mrs-doubtfiremovie’s politics, I’m not sure. On this last viewing, I caught a subtle thread of antagonism towards the trans community. When Chris accidentally walks in on Mrs.Doubtfire peeing standing up, he reacts as if there is a criminal in the house. His sister Lydia automatically grabs a hockey stick, wielding it as a weapon. Robin Williams explains his actions and the situation is resolved. But the whole thing has an air of ‘I’m dad in disguise. I’m not really abnormal.’ He even says

“I don’t dress up like this all the time or frequent old lady bars.”

When the judge pronounces his ruling, he takes away custody because he wants to protect the children from unsavoury influences (not from a person who lies). All implying that a man who dresses like a woman is abnormal, unsavoury or a criminal.

At the same time, I can also see how revolutionary it was (still is) for a popular male actor to play a female character and do it without parody. The film deals with divorce and relationship breakdowns in a very sensitive way, projecting neither parent as bad but just victims of a broken relationship. It even makes me wonder whether transphobic attitudes were being subtly mocked. I really don’t know.

Cinema is a commercial medium and movies have to find ways to make money for their makers. They have to do this by catching attention and popular fancy but also by avoiding unpalatable ideas.

The politics of a Salman Khan

I was asked “Do you support Salman Khan?” and my answer is a definite NO. I have a problem with his history of partner abuse, endangered species killing, violence towards the media and of course, American Express bakery. I have boycotted Salman Khan films for over a decade (making a single exception for Dabangg). My politics do not permit me to support his work by paying for tickets, and that means I’ve brought politics into art too.

I’m still undecided on the original question, a prerogative I get to keep if I’m not on a debate. And here’s something of interest I found while considering the question (‘Dear India, Pakistani actors don’t need Bollywood to become stars‘). Let’s not forget that this is about economics and power, not justice.

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If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

 

#DIYCreativeClub: Hope

Today, the world. Tomorrow, a better phone. For @cassyfry's #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today's prompt is #Hope Bombay represents one kind of glittering, distant dream for a lot of Indians. It's home to Bollywood. Thousands of hopefuls flock to this city daily hoping to have their words, their voices, their faces or their bodies discovered. Andheri, besides being the city's most populous suburb, is also the Mecca where all tinsel town hopefuls have to pay homage. I spotted this young man hastily brushing his hair into the perfect set using his phone as a mirror. And in a blink of an eye, he turned and was gone, vanishing into the sea of auditions and casting calls and other delightful sharks in my Island City. #struggler #andheri #bollywood #tinseltown #selfie #metrosexual #metrosexualgiveaway #model #aspire #aspirant #actor #artist #bombay #mumbai #twitterpoetry #people #dandy #men #man #boy

A post shared by Ramya Pandyan (@ideasmithy) on

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For CassyFry’s #DIYCreativeClub challenge. Today’s prompt was ‘Hope’.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page and the Youtube channel. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

H for Holy Censored Expletive! – Dharam Sankat Mein

HI caught the media premier of a movie on Wednesday and am due to write its review. I thought I’d combine it with my April 2015 A to Z Challenge.

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Paresh Rawal playing a man challenging society’s obsession with religion. Now where have we heard that one before? And a colourful godman, complete with wild locks and flashy sneakers, riding in on a motorbike. That’s known too. You’d be forgiven for wondering if Dharam Sankat Mein is what happens when MSG marries Oh My God. I’m not sure people will forgive the movie for those similarities, though.

Now take a look at the trailer.

Done? So you know the important plot points already. A Hindu man in Ahmedabad discovers that he was adopted from Muslim parents. It’s an interesting premise. Let’s talk about what I did like about the movie.

It is set in Ahmedabad. That makes for a nice change from movies set in Mumbai or Delhi (jaded, uber-urban brats and the idle problems of First Worlders in a poor country) or the ones set in ubiquitous North Indian towns (full of gossipy neighbours and a Mountain Dewesque desire to break free). Ahmedabad is a bustling city and close enough to a major metropolis to not be overawed by it. It’s also smaller and comparatively homogenous in culture, making the problems of diversity very real. And finally, given that our much discussed Prime Minister and his politics hail from there, it sets the tone for a rather bold statement.

I did wonder whether the frequent Gujarati sentences thrown in would bother the audience. I am a Mumbaiker after all, so Gujarati is like a second language to me. But that isn’t true for the rest of the country. Still, we’ve survived the Punjification of Hindi cinema for decades now, without flinching or letting it stop our acceptance of the stories. So I’ll hope North India doesn’t turn this movie down, solely because they couldn’t digest its linguistic flavour.

Paresh Rawal is in perfect form but that’s not surprising. The role was written for him. I wonder whether he is starting to get slotted, the way Amitabh Bachchan was in the early millennial decade. AB became the go-to guy for stories needing an old, strong man while Paresh Rawal seems to be the quintessential middle-aged skeptic dealing with change in a reluctant but humorous way (Hera Pheri, Hulchul, Oh My God). You already know what to expect and how he’ll behave, when he appears on screen.

Annu Kapoor was the surprise element for me in the film. As the firebrand Muslim lawyer next door, he delivers one Urdu couplet after another perfectly crafted verbal explosion and keeps the audience hooked. I was happy to see that he had a sizeable role in the movie and a chance to explore his rather unacknowledged talents.

The story doesn’t flinch from delivering hard truths. It addresses latent religious biases, the defensive stance of minority groups, the sense of identity crisis that occurs with a parent’s death as well as the pressure to change to please the offspring. The trouble is that it tries to do all of these things and the effort shows. None of them get addressed fully before the story rushes off to deal with something else, equally big. For instance, when the imaan tells Paresh Rawal that he must learn the Muslim way, the audience starts to think about what this actually mean. But all the movie does is describe the motions of namaaz and make a passing reference/joke to pronouncing nuqtas.

satireThere are several things going on all at once and the pacing seems completely off. Paresh Rawal holds the bumpy set of incidents together but still one is left feeling disoriented. And all the effort that it takes for the key characters to hold the story together, leaves no room to flesh out the others, making them but cardboard cutouts in the background. The ending seemed too convenient, as if the film-makers, exhausted by the effort, decided to just stuff what was left into wherever there was room.

I have to say this. I was terribly disappointed with Naseeruddin Shah. His character is an extreme one but I would have expected better of this actor than to turn Baba Neelanand into camp horror.

Overall, Dharam Sankat Mein isn’t a bad story. I think I would preferred to read it, though. The medium of cinema seems to have overwhelmed the makers and the end result is amateurish. Since comparisons with Oh My God are inevitable, this film looks like a starry-eyed but not very polished attempt to follow up on that theme. But if your weekend’s only options are an overdone car race franchise or a violent postfeminist saga, this might get you a few somewhat intelligent laughs.

pareshrawal-dharamsankatmein

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Follow the April 2015 AtoZ HERE.

If you liked this post, you’ll want to follow the Facebook Page. I’m Ramya Pandyan (a.k.a. Ideasmith) and I’m on Twitter and Instagram.

#AndheriGirl: Auditions

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Good girls go to heaven.
Andheri girls go to auditions.

#AndheriGirl
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N is for A Nice Guy

NI was challenged to write noir fiction by a friend. Being that I’m utterly unfamiliar with the genre, all I had to go by was a sexy woman in red, a world-weary man, cynical lines and criminal intentions. I gave it a desi twist, imagining what the seamy side of my city would be like. Tell me if you enjoyed it. For today’s A to Z Challenge, I give you n for noir, N for a Nice Guy. By the way, if references to sex, crime, the underworld or prostitution bother you, please do not read further.

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N is for A Nice Guy

You might expect to find people who look like her about at that hour. People who look like her, but not her. If you were feeling peckish and in a mood for a certain kind of company, you wouldn’t be too far off your mark, to approach her. You’d have to have money though. This one does not look like your classic 300 rupees, by the hour, mooh mein lene ka extra sort.

She walked into my room at quarter past two. A red chiffon saree, so transparent, if it had been yellow, it wouldn’t have been visible at all on the smooth contours of her skin. The palluv bordered with black lace drew a sharp line from the corner of her shoulder down to the tip of her right breast. And if that blouse hadn’t been black, it wouldn’t have been there at all. Her hips, undulating around an impossibly low waist tuck, entered my room before her breasts did – no mean feat considering her proportions. That’s how I knew what she did for a living.

My first thought though, was that she was a hi-fi type, stumbled into my place for nasha. But I didn’t bother telling her that was 3 doors down at Abdul’s room. We’re not friends but why give away information for free? I have a clean chit, with everyone. I may not look it but then, look at where I live. Tinsel town those mediawaalon used to call it in the 80s. Tinsel tarnishes in three days in this weather and scratches like fuck.

My name is Mihir Kulkarni and I am a real estate agent. The only 24 hour estate agent in the city that never sleeps. I still can’t believe how stupid they’ve all been to never catch the significance of that. People need spaces, different kinds of spaces, any hour of the day. A kholi for 4 nights, a bed for 3 hours, a shelter for a kid for 2 days, a safe place to keep 6 petis…I’m the man that will get you these, cash upfront, no questions asked.

I looked her straight in the eye, lace bordered, red tinged watermelons notwithstanding. It’s about being a professional and letting them feel they can trust you. Anyone could be a client, even a Zeenat Aman lookalike in a chiffon saree. Men looking at her in the face couldn’t have been something she was used to. To her credit, she didn’t look surprised.

“My boyfriend is trying to kill me. Help me? I was told you were the man to speak to.”

she said.

So, a place to stay. 3-4 nights maybe. Till she could raise the funds to buy a ticket back home. I could tell she didn’t have much cash (where would she store it?). But she was a wild card. I couldn’t put her with Sheena and Maria – those girls were sweet but they’d probably run off to sell this madam’s high heels. Naveen had told me that they were to be off cocaine for at least a month while the cops were cracking down.

So I took her home.

She didn’t bat an eyelid when I opened the door to the Worli bungalow. But her eyebrows registered surprise when she saw my passport photographs lying on the dining table.

“This is your house?”

I opened the refrigerator and took out the daal palak I had made earlier. By the time I’d brought over a plate of rotis and sabzi to her, she was seated at the dining table. The palluv I noticed had been pulled over her other shoulder (not that it changed things much).

She talked as she ate, clipped words between small bites. Jabalpur was home. Parents who wanted to see her married, a 45-year-old widower who wanted to marry her, no dowry, same old story. Except she didn’t run away with a lover. She got a job with a local news channel. Two months later, they put together the money to come to Bombay, where the real masala was.

Sting, she said, wiping up the last of the daal palak with a roti. That’s what Sateesh had said would be the best way. Blackmail money or instant publicity – both investments in a future of media glory. They set their sights high, right in the beginning. No slow build-ups in this game. The name she told me, surprised even me.

Not a Khan, not a Kapoor but one of Bollywood’s reigning superstars. In addition to a wife and two kids, he also carried the distinction of Family Man. He’d burst on the scene with his first blockbuster 10 years earlier – a kesari-sweet film with 17 songs and lots of wedding rituals. He’d followed it up with a string of similar movies and was credited with bringing back family audiences into the theatres, hence the title.

But Sateesh thought he must have a dirty secret somewhere. So he fitted her with the instructions and the hidden cameras. She was nervous she said, but it all went well.

“Then?”

I said, leaning forward in spite of myself.

“We…yes. But I didn’t go back to Sateesh. I showed him the cameras. Family Man. He was angry at first, but he realized I was helping him. So he promised to get me out of the dirt. What life is there for the girl in a sting video?”

Ah, so that was that. I stood up and went in through the door to prepare a bed for her. I knew I should get back to work but I didn’t want to leave her alone. Her eyes were still downcast.

“I thought…you know, he really is a nice guy. What did I know? There are no nice guys in this industry. Now he’s trying to kill me.”

She stood up and the palluv slid off her shoulders, the hem pulling the tuck off her waist and the saree fell in little circles around her ankles. I was about to turn away when she turned around. Reaching around with painted nails, she edged the blouse strap off. And there, along the line of the slinky strap, was a deep gash, still raw with exposed flesh. When she turned around, I saw the bruises streaked across her breasts.

“There’s more. On my thighs. And in other places you can’t see even in this dress.”

That was when I noticed the line around her throat, lean like the imprint of a single slender finger. I had missed it earlier, probably mistaking it for a fold in the flesh. I reached out and ran a finger across her cheek, wiping away her tears.

“Come to bed.”

I told her.

“You are safe here.”

It was around 6 in the morning when I lay back and pulled out a cigarette. She turned on her side and looked up at me.

“You know, you really are a nice guy. You didn’t look like it but you are.”

I finished my cigarette before I turned to look at her. Then I stood up and pulled on my pants.

“Up.”

I told her.

“Time’s up.”

She widened her eyes. The cheek of it. It didn’t work any more on me. I had almost felt sorry for her. Almost, for a fraction of a second, I’m not too proud to admit it. Till she showed her true colours. Begging, begging me to gag her, to bind her up and hurt her.

I had it all on record. And the camera never even saw my face. Stung the sting. No Bollywood roles for a woman who had done this. S&M is new enough to India to have its takers but not for open consumption.

“It won’t even work as a leaked MMS. This is HD quality and no phone camera can give you that. Don’t try claiming that it was someone else, either. People saw you entering this place. And there’s those scars you had when you came in. I made sure those weren’t make-up.”

My phone was ringing. It would be my money. My first cash-after-delivery job but it was big bucks. The name of the caller flashed ‘SATEESH’.

“Even you tried to take advantage of me.”

she sobbed.

“Everyone has to pay their dues, sweetheart. That’s what you did to that poor actor, didn’t you? He hasn’t had a movie in a year.”

“I thought you were different.”

I picked up my phone and strode to the door. Then I paused and looked back at her.

“There are no nice guys in this industry.”

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N is for A Nice Guy

*Image (without text) via adamr on FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Let’s Not Go Bollywood On Jiah Khan

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Image via BollywoodHungama

Last week Jiah Khan, a Bollywood starlet made headlines and front page news when she was found hanging in her apartment. The story continues to expound and unravel like a meticulously formulaic film, complete with villains and half-baked plot turns. The most current news is that her boyfriend has been arrested and held responsible for her death. This is based on a number of letters and his own admission of having beaten her months ago.

There is a lot of talk right now about why women put up with domestic violence. The whole story is skewing in the direction of a poor, hapless victim, preyed on by an evil force and battered to death. But that is not the truth. The evidence clearly points to suicide, not murder. Can we take a minute and think about this first? I want to think about something I’m not hearing or reading enough about.

A relationship is not a fairytale with a surefire recipe for love, happiness and eternal bliss. It’s a complex, shifting set of personal equations. It also includes secondary associations. In a society like India, other people play a great, sometimes larger role in a relationship than the two people itself. Just look around at the number of marriages that struggle under the weight of disapproving/hostile/uncooperative in-laws. Take a look at the number of engagements and romantic relationships that don’t even make it as far as marriage as a result of parental interference.

Moreover, even if it were possible to isolate the relationship from the impact of everyone other than the two people it is between, it’s impossible to predict a success formula. Between any two people, there’s bound to be friction and discord. All human relationships are rooted in power plays and that these aren’t necessarily good or bad; they just are. Power plays involve using all the tactics at your disposal. These include an ability to convince/coerce, strength (physical and emotional), force of personality, passive-aggression, emotional blackmail and manipulation of other people. We all do it. Every relationship is a combination of chess, war and a dance that uses all of these things, both ways.

I find most dialogue about domestic violence and abuse perfunctory because it paints one party too starkly as a perperator (villain) and the other as a hapless victim. Admittedly there are relationships where one party (usually the woman) is bound, gagged and forced to do & be what the other wants. But I don’t think that constitutes the majority of such cases.

I know of a case where a couple’s fight escalated into a violent scuffle. The woman ended up more bruised because of her relative size. But she started it and kept at it, until the guy retaliated. It’s a murky, grey area about whether the guy’s actions constitute self-defense. But they do, don’t they? Just because you’re being attacked by someone smaller, does not diminish your instinct to protect yourself.

There’s another case, a marriage between two professionals, both equally qualified. The wife’s career trajectory soared faster and higher than the husband’s. Her family, high on the success of their overachiever daughter, often subjugated her husband publicly. His career suffered and so did his mental health. Three years later, they divorced. There are scars on her back that bear testimony to domestic battery. But he hasn’t been able to go back to work or resume a normal life since then, which I think indicate a different kind, perhaps less visible scarring. This had to have been a difficult pairing at best and it was shot to hell by overzealous and insensitive families.

Both cases above came down with a social gavel on the men based on the scars on the women’s bodies. Judgement was served but I don’t think justice was. I’m not saying that a violent crime within a relationship is the victim’s fault. Fault is different from responsibility. I’m saying it’s more complex than that.

A lot of such regrettable episodes stem from power plays gone awry in the heat of the moment. They are indicative of breaches that need to either be healed or made permanent with a breaking of the relationship. And I think any justice being served in a similarly heat-of-moment fashion is slapdash and irresponsible. Human relationships do not have a clear villain and a helpless victim. There really is more to a story than that.

To come back to Jiah Khan’s case, I think it is unfortunate for anybody to feel that they have no recourse but suicide. But the choice to hang oneself or not, is still a choice in one’s own hands. Everyone who takes on a goal and pursues it faces rejection, failure and pain at some point of time. Everyone who falls in love, endures these as well. Some people go through these at the same time. Not everyone decides to commit suicide.

What kind of a world was it for Jiah Khan that she felt that way? One where all the options available to her had been exhausted or shut down. She could have reached out for help, if she found it available. She could have run away from the situation (left town, quit Bollywood, changed her name or identity). She could have fought back (and dirty) if she believed it possible. If an admittedly young but still adult over 20 felt unable to do any of these, was she emotionally stable?

Her boyfriend Sooraj Panscholi admits to have beaten her. Why did she feel like ending her life would be easier than ending the relationship? What can one person possibly tell another that keeps them chained to them in this manner? No, that’s the job for a much larger universe. A possible abortion and perhaps getting dumped after that are definitely nerve-wracking experiences. But still, to feel so lonely and unloved after that to prefer death indicates a much deeper neglect.

Doesn’t her claimed support system bear any responsibility? Doting families that come forward at such a time, should they not be asked, why did your daughter feel unable to seek your help when she was in a difficult place? Maybe she did not listen. People certainly stay in bad situations, deaf to their well-wishers. But in the absolutely finality of death, there is room for every idea, any notion that could serve as a guiding light out. If she did not take it, perhaps she never had one at all?

Separately, I think the issue of domestic violence should be addressed because it is a violation, a crime, a wrongdoing. You can blame a relationship rotting on abuse. And you can pin murder on someone who has actively poisoned, slit a throat or in any other way forcibly ended the life of another human being. But how can you pin the blame of a person’s choice to take their own life on another person?

A suicide is the death of one person and the burdensome responsibility of many, many others. Let’s please stop expecting a Bollywood story out of it. It does a grave disservice to her life and to everyone else getting pulled up for it.

Bombay Talkies: 100 Years Well Worth Celebrating & Watching

If you’re a cricket-agnostic in India, then IPL season is slow torture. Every television in the world is hogged by cricket fanatics. Restaurants, malls, even shops are playing matches and everybody’s looking over your head to catch the score. Even the bloody internet bandwidth is clogged by those in office, desperate to know Sachin’s stats. And if you do manage to get online, Twitter is waiting for you, hashtags bared. A movie would be a nice place to lose oneself from this mania but the multiplexes and theatres all throw up their collective hands and screen the bottom-of-barrel movies only. I guess somebody up there took pity on the minority that is me and tossed me a tasty titbit in the form of Bombay Talkies.

Released as a centennial tribute to the 100 years of cinema, Bombay Talkies is Bombay_Talkies_2013_Filma collection of four short films, one each by a prominent Bollywood director. The shorts-format has always intrigued me and I wonder why Bollywood doesn’t do more of these. The only short film collections I’ve seen Bollywood release into mainstream are Darna Mana Hain, Darna Zaroori Hain and Dus Kahaniyan. Considering the burgeoning costs and risks in making a film, might it not be a better idea businesswise and creatively speaking, to spread that across multiple smaller buckets? I do hope the powers-that-be are considering this and that the brilliance of Bombay Talkies paves the way for more.

The first story, directed by Karan Johar, brings the expected star value by way of Rani Mukherjee and Randeep Hooda. This film is really more about gay angst than about cinema. It’s not too bad, all things considered. Unfortunately, as part of a bouquet that has the other offerings, this one is the weakest, both in terms of interpretation of the theme and the story delivery. Randeep Hooda is his versatile self but Rani (doing a Vidya Balan a la The Dirty Picture, if Silk were an affluent South Bombayite) come through the way HD made the raving beauties of the last decade look – plastic and grotesque. The one and only sweet note in this film – and it’s a beauty at that – is the street urchin’s rendition of Ajeeb daastan hain yeh. The child’s voice brings all the mood and has that component of art that reaches out from its canvas/celluloid/paper and wrings the audience’s heart.

Story two, by Dibakar Banerjee, takes us through the mundane day of a chawl-dweller and the one special event of his day. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is nothing short of superlative in his depiction of a nondescript everyday man turned magician, full of wonder and glory and big dreams, if only in his own mind. This one showed real class in such subtleties as Purandhar’s monologue with his alter ego and a surreal emu walking around in disparate scenes.

Post interval, the film didn’t disappoint either. The next story, by Zoya Akhtar dips into the LGBT bucket again, but this time with finer strokes and the rawer talent of a child. A little boy dreams of shiny baubles and dancing, instead of football and cricket. Mostly alone in a world of ambitious and gender-role rigid parents, he takes comfort and inspiration from Katrina Kaif. The climax of this film made me want to stand up and clap and just keep on clapping. Naman Jain shows talent beyond his years as he manages to depict a cross-dressing child without parody. He makes you want to laugh with him, rush to protect him from judgements that will destroy his innocence and applaud him for the star he is. This was my favorite film in the entire movie.

The last story is by Anurag Kashyap and to my surprise, not dark or gritty. It’s a fairly standard story of the God-level idolization of filmstars across India. A young man comes to Mumbai with just one burning purpose – to meet Amitabh Bachchan and ask him to bite into his mother’s homemade murabba so his ailing father can eat the other half, having felt like he shared a meal with the superstar. But the story carries you through Vijay (Vineet Kumar Singh)’s adventures and right through the twist in the end. Maybe I’d have enjoyed this film more if it had been number two or three. Placed last, it felt slightly predictable, probably because the two preceding it were so unexpected and diverse. At the start, I also had a The Terminal flashback with Tom Hanks soldiering on to get an autograph of his father’s favorite jazz player. Still, this was a very good film with the unmistakably Kashyap style of extreme highs and lows.

The movie ends with a song that fails to impress in any way. The medley through the years has been done so often in Bollywood recently, you already know how the music and even the backup dancers hips will swing. And it closes in a tacky family-photograph style ensemble of all the current actors. I was glad to walk out by this time.

In all, I’d have thought this would be a ‘festival’ kind of film, meant only for niche audiences that lived and breathed the technical language of cinema. What I found instead was a damn fine movie, that even I, a regular member of the audience, could relate to and enjoy.

Go Goa Gone: Zombie Comedies are Howl-a-rious!

I’ve only ever seen two movies on the same day, once in my life. That was the day Saawariya and Om Shanti Om released together and I came home with a headache and a blue disco hangover, swearing never to do that again. I broke that rule today and how delicious, I had a wonderful day!

Go_Goa_Gone_poster

Starting the day with a solo matinee of Bombay Talkies was a sweet surprise. And I ended the evening with Go Goa Gone. The friend I invited along, tossed off a comment about the ‘ZomCom’ that I was going to watch which made me think I must be getting old since I didn’t recognize the abbreviation. Zombie comedy seemed a misnomer to me and I wasn’t that hopeful given the cast seems to range from child stars who never really made it big as adults (Kunal Khemu), funny-but-always-sidekicks (Vir Das), Mr.Nondescript (Anand Tiwari) to ageing-and-desperate Saif Ali Khan.

Well, take all those notions and throw them to the zombies to chew on. Go Goa Gone was fun, funny, fun from the word go! Three friends find themselves Goa-bound. One, the classic hip dude/douchebag is in trouble for getting upto nooky at work, the second paavam prani has been dumped by his girlfriend and the third geek/good boy thinks he’s going to a business conference. They wake up on the other side of a rave party on an island off Goa’s mainland and discover that everyone at the party has turned into zombies.

The humour might have been grating were it not for the fast-paced action. And the zombie horror bit might have been screechy if it hadn’t been for the laughs. Quite surprisingly Go Goa Gone seems to hit the perfect balance between chills and laughs. It was actually fun to be scared of something other than the random ‘Boo!’ kind of scares that current Bollywood horror seems to dish out. And yes, it was such a pleasure to watch entire dialogues that weren’t being sterilized by censorship. If the words sex, fuck, fucker or gaand offend you, you might want to stay away from this film. Somehow in this film, this language didn’t seem to be thrown in for its ‘cool’ quotient but because realisitically, that is how people talk.

Aside from the language, there were genuinely funny sequences through the movie and I’m glad to say that these were plentiful. The sequence on the window ledge, right after Hardik (Kunal) gets caught with his pants down at work was a beauty. And the first conversation between the three friends where they try to piece together what they know about zombies is howl-a-rious. Finally, I loved the fact that they didn’t run out of the magic laugh-creating formula midway. The ending twist before they get off the island, was perfect and resulted in an explosion of laughter.

All in all, I’d say watch the movie. I’m heading to Goa as soon as I can!

State Pride

The next time someone makes a wisecrack about the state I’m ‘really’ from, I’m telling them that I’m Tamil Nadu’s way of saying,

“Thank you for Rajnikanth!”

Yes, I just thought of that.

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