Friday, June 13, 2003

the truth, and a ghostly prospect

Caught SATYA again on VHS yesterday evening, and the experience caused twin emotions of joy and frustration. Joy at beholding a great product out of the Bollywood factory: a wonderful script, authentic dialogue, dedicated talented performances, a background score that complements the tone of the film in every way, great camerawork, good songs (more on this in a moment). I could go on. Frustration at seeing RGV give in to producer pressure and dilute an otherwise perfect experiment in mainstream-realistic cinema with songs. Vishal composed a brilliant kitty of songs written by the best abstract poet in the industry, Gulzar. And all the songs, save one, fit well into the narrative: the point-blank (no pun intended) gangster booze-o-rama song (so reminscent of the RD Burman-tuned Akhtar lyric in Arjun), the brief paen to wet water (the complete song available on cassette and CD is a gem of a composition, although I still mind Lata's piercing voice!), the song of love that textures the background for the burgeoning but doomed relationship between Satya and Vidya (the use of Bhupinder after long last must be the playback singing coup of that year), the song at Chandu's sister's wedding (complete with apt lyrics and some authentically outrageous dancing). The aspect of grief is the Khandala duet, where all hell (read: filmic unrealism) breaks loose: the couple sings (well, lip syncs), changes costumes. GaaH! Apart from this minor annoyance, SATYA is a once-in-a-lifetime gem from RGV. Every character in the movie is doomed for auto-destruct. And this driving fatalism elevates the film miles above the commonplace. Company, a thinly disguised retelling of the Dawood/Chota Shakeel affairs, made amends by embedding all songs into the narrative background, but suffered from issues of length and a bleakness that overstayed its welcome.

The prospect of not being able to catch RGV's Bhoot [previous thread] is a distressing one. Galaxy Cinema in Atlanta dedicated itself week after week to ARMAAN (rant elsewhere) and today they are all set for Chalte Chalte, another Shah Rukh Khan vehicle dedicated to being coo-coo mushy, smart-ass sassy and catered (whether they choose to admit it or not) to the NRI dollar vaults abroad. So clearly, I don't stand a ghost of a chance at catching RGV's mini-masterpiece in the theatres (couldn't resist that pun). On that note, Bhawana Somaaya actually managed the impossible feat of presenting the enigma that is RGV -- asking him the right questions, getting responses that aptly described this director who continues to have the ever-important cherubic fascination for the medium. Here's more about the location of the film. And if you thought all those SMSs and email messages about the climax of the movie were authentic, you just contributed to the success of the film. Predictably after it did so well, everyone in Bollywood now wants to make scarefests ... with songs and dances in Switzerland I am sure. And after an RGV retrospective, how about some real-life jitters?

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