{Of all lies, art is the least untrue - Flaubert}

Monday, December 31, 2007

Year End Post # 3 : Notes on Hindi films

I know I am late for Year End posts now, but to my excuse, I was keeping very busy for the whole last week (of course watching and catching up as much 2007 movies as possible, mostly Hindi films). Here are few notes on the Hindi films seen this year.

Aaja Nachle: Aaja Nachle is based on two major fantasies, and few minors. Major fantasies include - a small town girl marrying a good looking (preferably white) foreigner (but remember, this "myth" should be broken to make Indian male audience's fantasy alive that "their" women like them most, or on a broader level, Indian fantasy that matches in India are made in heaven, all others end up in divorces), second being the NRI fantasy . Minor fantasies are mainly about a small town life. Also, this film somehow suggests that the people who are born with and seen money for ages (rayees-jyade) are more honest than those who have seen it for the first time. But that is not the point; I am disappointed because it was hoping for a mad dance extravaganza, which it is not. For record, Shamli, where the film is set, is one of the town in the district of Muzaffarnagar, which is my hometown.

Jab We Met: A nice bubbling first half and a dull predictable second half (Imtiaz Ali's Socha Na Tha was better). This is one of those films where the proverbial irritating acting of Kareena Kapoor is put to good use. Shahid Kapoor acts best in the first scene, and from there its a downfall. The same self help gyan of the first half, look ugly in the second half when Shahid Kapoor "discovers" it and "implements" it in life and love. Kareena's happy go lucky charm of the first half comes partly from her youthful naivety and partly from her inherent happy nature. Shahid Kapoor's 'found' charm is straight from that monk-ferrari book.

The Namesake (Not a Hindi film, phir bhi): The Namesake has its heart at the right place, but only that does not make a right film. What keeps the film together, and at time moving, is Tabu and Irfan Khan. In whole of the film I was wondering how good an actress Tabu is. Think of this film without her or Irfan Khan, and it all falls flat. Also, the name thing doesn’t hold any water, it looks like a trick. Given that it means a lot to Ashok Ganguly, but as a narrative device its stilted and unconvincing. I know that most of the narrative flaws (like why Gogol's sister is nobody's concern) in the film will go back to novel, but on a visual level too it doesn’t break any new ground. Right from the first shot where camera shows a coolie carrying a suitcase with clearly legible name, A. Ganguly on it, even then the camera zooms on the name to let us read it more clearly. There are other such instances which are more guiding than required (when we have got the "message" that marriage does not necessarily work because of cultural backgrounds, Mausami says "It was not enough that we both were Bengalis"). Also, Mira Nair gets all the easy things right, but fumbles when something difficult, like identity crisis of second generation, is required of her. Kal Penn honestly tries but he has no screen presence (at least when Tabu or Irfan Khan are in frame). What is the point of acting when an itch or a disappointment can only be conveyed by saying it? But the film is worth watching for little emotional farewell speech that Tabu give towards the end, and for all the time she is in the frame.

Saawariya: Let me think what is good in Saawariya. There should be something. Actually there is even nothing bad about it. Its a tasteless, odorless, colorless, harmless, non-sublime liquid.

Taare Zameen Par: The usual theory that one should be extra careful while making a film about war is now extended to children too. War makes us overlook things because of its ugliness and gore, and it is exactly the opposite in case of children. The kid makes us overlook because of their inherent charm. So we need to understand and thus make a separation between the two facts - Is TZP a good film or Is the kid cute. One should be careful if, intentionally or otherwise, kid is used to mask the flaws of the film. This film too has that first half/second half problem. Good first half and reductive-didactic-simplistic-self-serving second half. Let’s talk about the first half only. There are many nice moments here where we are let inside the mind of a child, and they do remind us of their wonderful imagination (one of such sequences is directly lifted from Calvin and Hobbes, just that 'addition' changed to 'multiplication'). In other sequence, in which Ishaan bunks school and roams around is very effective in portraying the freedom and fearlessness of a young mind. It is shame that a film about understanding a kid's mind, turns into understanding about a particular disability (which many genius had in childhood), and worse, a quest to put them into mainstream like the "normal" children. However feel-good it was but it unfortunate that a film with a tagline "every kid is special", ends in a competition. The good thing is that this film boasts of one of the best performances of the year, which is not Aamir Khan’s, and which is except from Darsheel Safary’s Ishaan. Also there are some good lyrics.

Dus Kahaniyaan: After reading Saadat Hassan Manto who is master of twist towards end in his short stories, I felt that a real twist is not a narrative twist which makes us join threads of the story with an 'aha' feeling, but a twist that brings about something which is very delicate, which should be stored for an ending to make its impact, a touch of the realization that the character had at the moment. Its not a shocker, but a moment of contemplation and understanding (for readers and for characters). Most of the stories of Dus Kahaniyaan miss that point. The best is of the lot is Meghna Gulzar's Pooranmashi. Most of the others are passable but the real irritating one is Rice Plate, not because of story, but because of Shabana Azmi, who does such an absurd caricature of a South Indian woman (listen how she says 'pickle' a thousand times), that if there is any artistic conscience left in her, she should make a public apology.

It looks like the futile verbal diarrhea of year end posts might spill to the next year too.


Alok said...

Indian male audience's fantasy alive that "their" women like them most, or on a broader level, Indian fantasy that matches in India are made in heaven, all others end up in divorces

lol!! funny and insightful commentaries even though I haven't seen any of these hindi films. as for The Namesake I agree completely with your sentiments. It was very predictable... I would have even called it dishonest and cliched but for the presence of both Tabu and Irfan who bring a much-needed authenticity to their roles. Nair's Monsoon Wedding was quite ambitious and very interesting in formal and visual terms. Wonder why she chose such conventional and plain style in this film.

anurag said...

Ya, the only thing that keeps it all going is the presence of Tabu and Irfan Khan. I have read the people didnt like Tabu's English and Bengali accents in film. I cant tell about the Bengali, but I felt the English was just fine (at least it was not a failed attempt to mimic a Bengali speaking English). Also I was reading that tabu was not the first choice to play Ashima, Rani Mukherjee was the first choice for the film , and then Konkana Sen Sharma.

dontlikeyou said...

i like what you said about sawariya...it was everything-less!!!