Monday, July 14, 2003

the saaya of maya | compulsion: all goes welles, mostly

First up for Sunday was Saaya, Anurag Basu's directorial début under the wings of mentor Mahesh Bhatt. Appropriately, perhaps, just as Bhatt began a series of ripoffs in the latter phase of his career, Basu rips off the Kevin Costner starrer Dragonfly (directed by Tom Shadyac who has been responsible for a lot of irritating Jim Carrey vehicles like Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Liar, Liar -- summarily ripped off in Kyon Ki Main Jhoot Nahin Bolta, and the recent Bruce Almighty -- which had its share of publicity too, as well as other brain-fry fests like the bad upgrade called The Nutty Professor, and the sob-fest called Patch Adams). His defense for this (reportedly) frame-for-frame copy (minus the maudlin cumbersome songs though) is both futile, immature and howlarious. There is nothing to report about this film -- the original Hollywood film was a failure, and this one seems slated for a similar fate(the DVD of the film hit the US market the day after its theatrical release in India). The denouement (check out the spoiler if you're sure you aren't keen on watching the film to find out). Nothing to write about the performances: Tara Sharma (as evidenced in Om Jai Jagdish).

Compulsion is not simply important as a vehicle for another great Orson Welles performance (he plays Jonathan Wilk, an ace lawyer who has been fighting capital punishment throughout his career -- modelled after the real-life Clarence Darrow). It's also a well-written tightly-directed movie officially based on the Meyer Levin novel of the same name, but really being a thinly disguised recreation of the Nathaniel Leopold and Richard Loeb murder case. This case had previously received another famous cinematic treatment in Hitchcock's first colour film, Rope, which also showcased his experiments with long takes. Comparing the two films is pointless. Both present an intriguing study of two diseased minds, but from different perspectives. It is Hitchcock's film that tackles the homosexual undercurrent of the relationship, while Fleischer's film focuses on the intellectual mindset of the partners in crime (including strong references to Nietzsche). The hallmark of Fleischer's film (besides a wonderful brass-heavy score by Thomas Newman) is Orson Welles' closing speech in court -- although comprised of several shots, it was done in a single take, and some unfortunate tax problems for Welles resulting in a remarkable editorial improvisation at the end {see more}.

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