Wednesday, November 06, 2002

the desi version masters

Just noticed Anees Bazmee's latest directorial venture Deewangee topping a few movie charts. I have no idea how the film is doing back home, but I'm sure there are a lot of desis in the United States who are flocking to their local Indian stores to grab the DVD or VHS-created-from-DVD at low prices. Only the utopian faithfuls would rush to the theatres to catch the big-screen glory of a strictly run-of-the-mill destined-for-cable rip-off.

Anees Bazmee emulates Vikram Bhat by consistently presenting Hollywood releases, both mainstream and less common flicks, wrapped in oily, greasy, carbon-heavy newsprint and topped with the desi masala of anachronistic inappropriateness (songs, dances) and vintage seasoning (clichés). The two have patented a delicious Indian schezwan delicacy that mixes essential bare-bones ingredients from a variety of sources (read: foreign films). In the business and IT research worlds, this is referred to as 'data integration'.

Bhat is famous for his original flicks like Fareb (Unlawful Entry), Ghulam (On the Waterfront and Raging Bull), Kasoor (The Jagged Edge), Raaz (What Lies Beneath),and Awara Paagal Deewana (The Whole Nine Yards and The Matrix). Bazmee has made two films, the second of which, Pyar to Hona Hi Tha was a local take on French Kiss. He now takes on the Richard Gere-Ed Norton box-office success Primal Fear, mixes it with Cape Fear, adds the incongruous songs and dances and the hackneyed dialogue, packages it well (honestly, the preview was slick) and presents the mostly unwary audience with a "different" film. Mr. Bazmee, as can be expected, vehemently denies the inspiration, and states that the grain for the film came from the real-life tragedy involving the murder of music baron Gulshan Kumar. True to his word, he has transplanted the religious crime into the world of music. Wonder when this will end...

Out here in the States, new releases are a healthy mix of the conventional run-of-the-mill genre films as well as a crop of interesting movies (coming up: Star Trek: Nemesis, The Hours, Brian De Palma's Femme Fatale). The fate of such movies is, as always, uncertain, but the fact that they actually get made is a consolation.

Interestingly enough, Primal Fear was directed by Gregory Hoblit, who made Fallen, a film that I caught when it did the rounds on Star Movies back home. I wasn't the only one who caught it though. When ad film maker Rakesh Mehra decided to make his directorial début he chose to interpret (read: mooch) this conflict of good and evil with quotes from the Bhagvad Gita and slick technical finesse, but the usual glaringly unwanted songs and dances, along with inappropriately over-the-top performances from everyone concerned (except Amol Palekar, who pays for this trangression by getting bumped off in the opening sequence).

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