Tuesday, June 04, 2002

South Asian Writers Group and movie bits

The South Asian Writers Group met yesterday for the second time at Chris' place. We had some nice reading material too (all original): an article on the desire to become a good pianist, poems on solitude and love, a poem about matrimonial ads and one on the Bhopal Gas Tragedy. I had my little (gauchely verbose) piece written in 1997 called Death. The reading sessions were followed by New York style pizza (half pepperoni and half veggie) from The Pizzeria nearby. If anyone out there (and local to Atlanta) is interested, sign on. We'd be glad to have you.

Back home, Mahesh and Harish had selected Lal Salaam for the night. Didn't seem too much to write home about from what I saw. No outstanding performances, including Nandita Das. Wish people would take lessons in background scoring. This film had an offensive track running throughout, destroying any claims to being gritty and realistic. Other reviewers {planet bollywood, rediff} have applauded this box office dud for its documentary quality, which I never noticed. The story is bold, but vignettes of violence and (polite) rape (really tame, considering the shocking precedent set by Bandit Queen) do not a serious film make. Character development proceeds as a viewer-initiated activity based on almost familiar on-screen events. The burgeoning bond of love meant to be split asunder, the evil side of the upholders of the law, the bombastic spiel about causes and the revolution (for some good minimalist references, check out Gulzar's flawed but bearable Maachis), and the inevitable retribution. And yes, it is worth noting that Ms. Das is slated to be the desi Kate Winslet.

I caught the first few minutes of Na Tum Jaano Na Hum (aka Pantaloon's maiden venture into film production, which implies that you will see a lot of Pantaloon in the film. Help!). Esha Deol (her debut film Koi Mere Dil Se Pooche, starring Aftab Shivdasani and Sanjay Kapoor, bombed at the box-office), the scary daughter of Bollywood star of the yesteryears Hema Malini (remember the on-screen pants and groans that predated Ms. Seles on the tennis courts by years?), trashes the screen as she proceeds (nay plods) from one randomly orchestrated burst of catatonic emotions to another. The film also features aren't-we-supposed-to-be-dead legends like Rati Agnihotri and Moushmi Chatterjee. The music, as far as I could make, is one of Rajesh Roshan's bad experiments. The interesting motif in the film is 'Kya Yahi Pyaar Hai', composed for the film Rocky (Sanjay Dutt's launch pad) by the late R D Burman. Of course, the version they use in the film is an appropriately dumbed down elevator version of the song. Even that scores over Mr. Roshan's attempts to compose music using old dusty test tubes and burettes and pipettes covered with fungus. Hrithik Roshan is a competent actor who tends to overact a bit, but clearly his range is limited to his face-splitting grin, his polished English, his skills on the dance floor and in the inevitable fight sequences (this is a general observation that carries across all his films). Saif Ali Khan does what he has always been trying to do well, play a spoilt rich brat. The film also features scantily-clad random femmes all over. Clearly a film for the family. Why was this film made? Na Tum Jaano Na Hum.

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