Monday, June 16, 2003

vadh: the death of an idea ... and X marks the spot

Two things ruined what would have otherwise been a great entry in the murder mystery genre. I refer to Vadh. Released in 2002, with two dubious credits: "a film by Nana Patekar for Dilip Dhanwani" and "directed by N. S. R". Before I delve into the reasons for this film not working as well as it should have, here's some trivia on the credits. Apparently Nana himself had undertaken to ghost direct the film since he had a major difference of opinion with Raj Bharat who was the actual director. Raj Bharat preferred to walk out and Nana suggested that his stepney -- a director called Rajesh Singh who is directing Nana in Aanch -- step in as the official director. Rajesh Singh, however, does not wish to come out in the open as the director. In short, NSR means Nana, Singh and Raj! Cool, what? {information courtesy of India Syndicate}

On to more affective matters. The first irksome aspect of the movie had nothing to do with the filmmakers or the actors and technicians. Some Dynamic Dhanaji had decided to play with the settings of their DVD/VHS hookup as they made a copy for rent, and we ended up getting a colour-shorn black-and-white print. Now B&W works decently for bits of the film, adding some menace to the darkness and the shadows. But since it wasn't the intended medium, a lot of the other colour-oriented portions (read: frivolous dances and songs) look drained.

The second, and more pertinent annoyance is two-fold: the pigheaded desire to adhere to the mindless Bollywood need for songs and dances and a hackneyed narrative involving love birds. The songs in this film add no value whatsoever. The only exception is the Jagjit Singh-voiced "bahut Khuubasuurat ho", which after an initially hilarious sight of Nana lip-synching to JS's voice, becomes a decently picturised song with the lyrics and music counterpointing a montage of matrimony. And then there's the Shweta Menon cameo that opens with one of those delicious lines that are ephemerally ingenious: kamasin kalii huu.N tuu mujhako khilaa de. The title song that plays in the background of the opening credits is marginally passable. The rest of the songs seem like justifications for the presence of the ineffectual Puru Raj Kumar (last reviewed in KKK). He is but one of the many people who suck big rotten eggs in the acting department. The others include Anupama Verma playing Nana's wife (note: she joins Nutan-- in her 80s movies -- and scores of other actresses, whose facial contortions of love and shock are enough for Madame Tussaud's monster wing), Meghana Kothari (to quote Mustafa Mastaan "bad! bad! bad!"), newcomer Nakul (why even bother?). The only competent people in this titanic enterprise are Nana and Arun Bakshi. Nana plays Dr Arjun Singh, a moneyed psychiatrist married to Jyoti (Verma). His younger brother Vijay (Nakul) is a police officer, and Aaryan (Puru), a rich spoilt playboy is a very close friend. A crazy killer escapes from an asylum under Dr Singh's supervision and dead bodies begin to pile up ... with death veering close to the Singhs. A needless element in the whole cauldron is Dr Singh's background: he's a Rajput from UP. While Nana puts in a sincere effort with the dialect and slang, he can do little to mask his hard Maratha accent. And the background matters squat, beyond providing fodder for a song.

The merits of the film: the denouement (which should not be a big surprise for people familiar with The ABC Murders and Malice) is revealed with wonderful underplay. The explanations are engaging. And apart from some atrociously filmy devices and some ghastly faces from Verma and (yes, I'm not done yet) some more ham-bane-tum-bane from the supporting players, we have a stellar example of a film suffering from the SFH (sagging first half) syndrome. The SFH plagued a lot of movies of the 70s and 80s (where audiences would shift about in their chairs, dive out for a smoke or a thums up as a song came on, and indulge in other time-filling activities till the "Intermission" sign came up and then breathe a sigh of relief, settle in their chairs and await the "real" picture). Despite the controversy behind it, this film deserves a little credit. Some of the dialogue (mostly delivered by Nana) is entertaining, and there aren't too many instances of the metaphoric cliché caches that pepper the standard Bollywood by-the-numbers product.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.