Wednesday, September 10, 2003

gangaajal: jha-m packed with fragments {official site}

The best part about Gangaajal (shot in Wai and Satara) is the incorporation of the famous Bhagalpur incident into its otherwise striving-to-be-mainstream narrative. The background music by Wayne Sharpe redeems itself with a titular motif that recurs at the end of the film -- the rest of it swings the spectrum from interesting, to mundane, to loud, to intrusive, to boring. Pity. The relatively clean DVD print was a blessing -- not too many dark zones. The editing and photography were the most surprising parts of the film -- given that Jha had a semi-decent narrative in place, he really should have paid more attention to these crucial aspects of filmmaking. Interesting moments get knocked by, strange camera angles and moves dominate. Very rarely does what is transpiring on screen get justice meted out to it -- most of the time you wonder what these guys were up to. Devgan's performance has merit and must be lauded -- here's hoping he can get rid of that Bollywood starry swagger and find more ways to hold a cigarette soon. Gracy Singh gets even more disappointing. Admittedly, the script has not been just to her character. Yet, it isn't a character that should have vanished on the cutting board. Given the brevity of the role, GS had an excellent opportunity to use her eyes and face to emote -- a very very good sign to weed out the wannabes from the good actors. When Ajay Devgan breaks down after losing a court case, GS gets one opportunity to react -- and what do we get, a blank expressionless face. Where are you Smita Patil when we need you most?

Laloo's brother Sadhu Yadav did try to put in some cogs by raising objections about the baddie's name being the same as his, but the objections were withdrawn when Laloo found nothing objectionable about it. Curiously, just as in Shool, that other film about a good cop struggling in vain against a system riddled with corruption, there's a Marathi actor playing the baddie (Mohan Joshi here, Sayaji Shinde there). The other Mohan (Agashe) gets another badly written part and tries to do his best with it. Ayub Khan (who carries over along with Mohan Joshi from Jha's last effort, Mrityudand) is stiff, which does not bode well since he is one of the key figures involved in the blurring of good and evil, thanks to the acid (the Gangaajal of the film) incident. The movie's ambiguous end is denied fruition by the previously mentioned technical department and Jha's (possible) desire of getting done with the film.

The one thing that puzzled me was the length of the film and how much was left unexplored despite having so much time. There were just two songs: one, the equivalent of mai.n aayii huu.N UP bihaar luuTane from Shool, which ends up being more rustic and believable (although badly aurally mastered and picturised); the second overlays lyrics germane to the narrative (if you can decipher them!) over the tune of chalat musaafir moh liyaa re (famously rendered by Manna Dey in Teesri Kasam). There's a third plaintive bit by Ustad Sultan Khan (who incidentally is the guru of the main music director Sandesh Shandaliya -- pronounced close to 'chandelier' (ha! ha! ha!)), which is rudely mixed from foreground to background to abrupt termination. Pity. So, back to the length. I didn't notice any evident excesses in terms of plot angles (except *perhaps* the news reporter), but Jha left a lot of interesting issues unexplored/half-explored: the questionable nature of the violent turn of events in the lockup, Amit Kumar (Devgan)'s restraint and principled pragmatism, the changing moralities of his subordinates, all culminating in the open ending (slightly marred by the closing voiceover which fails to achieve much). Bachhaa Yadav, however, does manage to come off as the second interesting character in the film,

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