Sunday, June 08, 2003

offensive subtexts, two gurus, a pickle jar, an indra-genious stunt, some chinese food and a long-drawn love story

Great post heading what? Wish I had more weekends that could be summarised with such ultra-cool words.

Offensive subtexts: The Yash Chopra (see rant elsewhere) late 80s box-office success Chandni was the Friday night VHS movie of choice. Rented with serious intentions of review by a friend, the movie became an exercise in talk-back and subtext exploration for the rest of us, over some nachos and wonderfully spiced chicken served over steamed rice. Our comments, observations and reactions would have made even sailors blush... and some of the scenes were begging for this treatment. I never realised that this film had so many songs, and most of them seemed lacklustre in retrospect. Yash Chopra still seems to have been working at perfecting his fetish for glossy-candy-flossy-cutesy-beautiful-yellow_fields-pastoral yucky senti-mush-fests, but the film still garnered the National Award for providing wholesome entertainment. Clearly, someone was thinking ahead when they chose this movie (laughter into the darkness...)

Two gurus: I finally waded through the rest of Guru Mahaguru, a lifeless mess despite (or especially because of) the presence of Om Puri, Naseeruddin Shah and Ashutosh Rana. While one could go into shock wondering what these capable dudes were doing in such a boring flick (which marks the directorial début -- the horror, the horror -- of one Alok Srivastava), one can clearly see this as a paycheck-pichchur for the veterans Puri and Shah. Each gets to cavort about in a song -- Puri's dance-o-rama is reminiscent of Amrish Puri's turn in the much better Chhammaa Chhammaa from China Gate, while Shah's naaTya-pradarshan is fodder for dropping jaws. Puri spends his time in the film playing A G Rawal, the villainous twin of P K Rawal (played by Om Puri again, of course), a crime lord complete with an accent and delivery borrowed lock, stock and a roomful of smoking barrels from his TV turn in Kakkaji Kahin. He also turns out to be this international elusive criminal called Crocodile (yes, I know, ROTFL material). Shah wanders about playing Mukesh Agarwal (in reality, a CBI officer undercover tracking the whereabouts of Crocodile, not knowing that Rawal is the one), complete with a hat covering a wig of long WWF hair. Rana sleepwalks through his role as a crook out to avenge his father's murder, and out-smarting Mukul Deo's character, who is in reality, his younger brother. Been there, seen that. The most interesting part of this whole [sic]fest is that when Daddy dearest is dying, he manages to write "AGRAWAL" on the wall. This leads the two brothers to seek out a dude called AGRAWAL (which is not unlike looking for an American called SMITH). Except, Daddy dearest was low on punctuation, and meant to write "A G RAWAL", namely, the name of Om Puri's evil dude character. Apart from that, grab an old Mithun flick for a better way to kill your time.

DVD cover of Guru Mahaguru

A pickle jar: Caught Foxy Brown on DVD. Cool score, and an interesting director's commentary. Overall, the film does look dated, especially in it's gung-ho characterisations, cuss words, and front-bench dialogue. But it's still cool to see Pam Grier "give 'em hell". And then there's the opening credit sequence which owes a lot to the Bond movies and to Hitchcock's Vertigo. What's the pickle jar title for? Well, Foxy punishes an evil couple by presenting the girl with the guy's tom and jerry sealed in a pickle jar.

An indra-genius stunt: Being a laudatory mention of Chiranjeevi's INDRA, for featuring Matrix-esque fight sequences and also a Mithun/Rajnikant-reminiscent scene where C's character utilizes his Uttareeyam (correct me if I'm wrong. My friend told me they call it a kandoba. It's basically a piece of garment worn by men on their shoulder, and a mark of high class) to snag a chair just as his adversary is about to sit down, proceed to sit on it, do a Sharon Stone/Basic Instinct leg wind, and then display the dexterity of the material of the garment. Priceless, with or without subtitles.

Some chinese food ... and the second guru: And the plot gets clearer and clearer (and clearer ... (and clearer ... (and clearer ...))). After a post-rain-shower experience from the safety of an airconditioned home, I ventured for dinner with a friend clique to Chin Chin (not to be summarily translated from English to Urdu as thodi-thodi). Slow service, despite the conspicuous majority of empty seats, but the food was decent enough, albeit wee-slightly on the upper side of the dollar. On the way back, thanks to a critical mix of low fuel and unfortunate positioning on the freeway, I got a taste of standing on the shoulder watching the cars whizz by (yeah, I was the cool dude on the side, with my hair tossled about by the car blasts into weird geometrical shapes). The initial thrill wears off soon, and the sound of rubber and Doppler's legacy get on your nerves, unless, as in my case, you've got friends to banter with. Mercifully, the AAA rep was quick and over-prompt and we were soon back home. But the night was still young. I walked down to the lower living room to find a congregation of friends settled down to watch the Mithun classic Guru (Yes, the second guru!). With hit music from Bappi Lahiri (I remember the songs being roadside-blare-speaker hits when the film's music was released) and some really cool dialogue (neutron, proton, proton, neutron equals atom), in-jokes (at a certain point a woman starts going 'ammaa, ammaa' in fake pain, and Mithun retorts "abhii koii Bappi Lahiri kaa gaanaa chaaluu hone waalaa hai kyaa"?) and wonderfully counterpointed performances (the ever-sincere Mithun backed by a sober Sameer Khakkar, a high-pitched Sridevi and a bhuut huu.N mai.n Nutan) made this movie the perfect gem for the evening. The only problem was it never seemed to end: what with two Sridevis and a convoluted climax straight out of Goldfinger. But the best part was the talk-back and sing-along that everyone got involved in: both with the film's songs as well as with the Vicco Vajradanti and Vicco Powder/Vicco Paste ads that punctuated the action. A splendid time for one and all.

A long-drawn love story: As if all this was not enough for one night, we had an exodus to City Café Diner nearby for some coffee and pastries. I then walked into an expedition of an interesting nature: walk over to my friend's house at 3am to borrow the copy of Haasil lying at his place. Mercifully, another resident of the house, also a resident, was up and so in about 10 minutes we were all back home watching HAASIL. Impressive for a début feature, this film boasts a stellar performance by Irfan Khan (credited with his first name only). I should take pride in having placed my faith in his acting capabilities long back when he played a single father nursing dark secrets of others in the thanklessly soppy Banegi Apni Baat on ZEE TV. Ashutosh Rana turns in a good performance for his brief role. The dialogue and the script capture the atmosphere of Lucknow, and Jimmy Shergil is bearable. The first song (yes, despite the realism and a simple story and plot, the film has songs, and LOTS of them) Aa.nkhe.n bhii gets by with being hummable and decently picturised. The rest of the music by Jatin-Lalit goes downhill, and takes a long long time to get there. Repetitive, generic and synth-mushy, with lyrics that get bored with themselves. Hrishita Bhat gets by looking like Alyssa Milano, and does little else of importance in the acting department (but hey, she was supposed to function just as a pretty face, right? right?). There's also the talented Rajpal Yadav in another cameo. All the promise of the film, however, is diluted with the overburdening songs, the progressive drop in pace, the growing importance afforded to the non-existent layers of the love story, and ... well, basically, another victim of the SSH (Sagging Second Half) syndrome. But if you're prepared to bear it out (as I did), don't miss the film because of Irfan Khan, in one of the predictably unsung performances in 21-st century mainstream Bollywood cinema. {into the future: gaurav's take -- has quotes and a detailed synopsis}

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