Friday, September 26, 2003

calcutta mail: SSH resurfaces {see also: music review}

Let's start with awarding points:

* screenwriters Sudhir Mishra, Saurabh Shukla and Ruchi Narain for distilling the essence (minus the star baggage) of the Chiranjeevi Telugu vehicle Choodalani Vundi, and giving Mishra another chance to create a cut-to-cut pacy thriller

* Saurabh Shukla (again) for some great dialogue (you can even sense this is SS's work)

* Shukla (yet again) in one of several good performances in the film, as Ghatak, a pimp whose only allegiance is to takaas

* The other performances from Anil Kapoor (sincerity all over), Rani Mukherjee (very much at home), Sayaji Shinde, Satish Kaushik (in his first negative role, and making up for some of his fox paws as a director[sic]), Shivaji Satam. Manisha Koirala's role is mercifully brief -- can't stand this lady. The same trademark collection of expressions regurgitated

* A great first half with little mercy for taking stock of breathing cycles

* Mishra's use of Calcutta's backdrop -- the train, tramlines, Durga Puja, red-flag marches, Howrah Bridge, Sona Gachhi (a set recreation) to augment Avinash's pain as he seeks the kidnappers of his son

And now, the bad. What are songs doing in this film? Well, the same thing they did in Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin. Clog the narrative. Admittedly, ye saahab ajiib hai.n has a Sai-Paranjpe-esque appeal to it and is even entertaining. But the other song breaks are painful -- although the dance routines are (perhaps intentionally) comical, the sojourn to Salzburg was uncalled for. Damnation.

And last but not the least, SSH (Sagging Second Half). The film begins to lose steam with the flashback narrative (although not completely).

The film was delayed due to the ill health and the eventual death of Mishra's wife Renu Saluja, one of the best editors India has ever had. This might explain the few jerky switcharoos and jumpy little visuals that interfere with the pace of the film and the narrative. These minor glitches apart, I'd recommend CM -- on VHS or DVD only, so that you can skip the songs -- as an alternative to mainstream turdbags featuring famous hunks in romantic rain and foreign locales vying for the amorous attentions of sassy semi-nude senoritas. Ugh! for that last thought.

R. I. P. Renu. We'll miss you. {obits}

{Sunday Midday review and Khalid Mohamed's review for the Midday}

addendum (october 08, 2003): I must retract the SSH label and put on a new one (once again overloading an existing technology abbreviation): the film offers an example of SMS (or Sagging Middle Section). This happens (coincidence?) when we see Manisha Koirala. Thankfully, the latter portions resume their pace and the film races to a conclusion. So no SSH here, really. If only the songs and the Manisha portions were excised (or at least edited for brevity). But if you liked a well-paced, well-made little domestic thrill ride (no fancy jumping off building tops and slow-mo kung fu here) go take a look at Sudhir Mishra's eulogy to Renu Saluja.

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