Monday, September 29, 2003


a great gala weekend of movie watching. the pleasure of the festival was augmented by some perfect weather on Sunday. but first, we step back in time, to

friday, september 26, 2003: the movie of the evening after a couple of Fawlty Towers episodes (A Touch of Class, The Builders), it was time for some Southern Gothic thrills with Bill Paxton's directorial début Frailty. Well-written, well-made and well-acted. Spooky. Special features on the DVD tell you how Bill Butler achieved the "Poor Man's Process" for the sequence in the car (reminiscent of the tricks employed for the famous cab scene in On the Waterfront) -- completely shot on a sound stage. Impressive.

saturday, september 27, 2003: first up, Better than Chocolate. canadian. lesbians. family breakups. transgender club singers. banned books. some of the jokes in this superficial comedy (The Birdcage -- haven't seen the original -- was much better). and one of the songs on the soundtrack.

To follow this up with Dum (a remake of the Tamil film Dhill, which was a remake of Kireedam. Dum has Mukesh Rishi playing a good guy, and Rishi had made a big splash as the baddie in Gardish. ) might seem ridiculous. The film is a royal pain to watch. It's staged as one of those standard 80s/90s revenge dramas with clichéd dialogue and situations. All this film can lay claim for is a set of decent videos for some decent songs on the soundtrack. Therefore, the best thing they could have done with this film would have been to package and release the videos of the soundtrack. Atul Kulkarni is menacing enough as the crooked Encounter Shankar, but what will actually go into the books of bad film cultists is the use of the word POLICE as an abbrevation to introduce his nickname: Power Order Law Income Commision Encounter Shankar. Outrageous. Vivek Oberoi and Dia Mirza are ineffectual. The physics of impact in some of the action scenes defies science. And the shining USP of the film is the front-bencher song baabuujii zaraa dhiire chalo, featuring Yana Gupta and a big fat buffalo (that HAS to be a first!). Watch out for Atul Kulkarni mouthing maadarc****. The plot device of the dalit mahaasabhaa is also a plus. The flash dissolves get painful after a while, and there are way too many closeups. The 'helmet utaaro' sequence would have worked really well had it not been paced so slow (and to top it all, there's some slow motion!). TRIVIA: the film is dedicated to Bunty Soorma (who produced Damini, Arjun, Raja Hindustani [BOO!], and Dushmani; was responsible for the filched story and passed away on March 19, 2002). And yes, there's more comedy (not all good, but at least marginally funny) from Flop Show regular Vivek Shauq. Later-to-be-famous-as-Laakhaa in Lagaan Yashpal Sharma is Babu Kasaaii. Sushant Singh gets to add as much as he can to the role of the close-friend-who-is-doomed-to-die-later-in-the-film. Nice opening too. Bad titles.

Finally, I watch Koi ... Mil Gaya: Overall, unfortunately, I must say I was disappointed. Given, the alien is cute. Given, there are some interesting moments in the songs (very very few). Actually, come to think of it, I think the only song I really cared for was idhar chalaa for (a) the sfx-enhanced choreography and (b) the brushes of electric guitar. It was also a very explicit plug for Coca Cola and Café Nescafé. But it, along with the other songs, contributed to the musical slowdown of the film. The first song in pa.nchhiyo.n ko dekhakar (on seeing these birds) features CGI birds and sky enhancements (clearly a viewer's irony). Other product plugs include Hero Honda, Sansui, Avon and more Coca Cola. Wonder if all cops in Kasauli wear blue caps. The mostly flacid background score features snatches from RR's compositions[sic] for Kaho Naa ... Pyar Hai (especially chaa.Nd aur taare), El Bimbo and pyaar maa.Ngaa hai tumhii se (which leads me to wonder if that song has a source that both Bappi Lahiri and RR are aware of...). The dialogue is truly immature. There are two dominant irritating patterns: the use of a hindi word followed by its explanation in english or the use of an english word followed by its explanation in hindi. Why? why? The religious bent to director Rakesh Roshan's Dr. Mehra's (it's great to see RR back on screen, but equally to see him die off early on in the film) message to outer space (the word Om in different frequencies) reeks to the high heavens of clichés. And his explanation of the word is cult fun: On is a Hindu religious word that has all the vibrations of the universe. Preity Zinta looks cute, but has little to do. Coming to Hrithik Roshan. Yes, he's not as bad as I had expected him to be. His gestures as a kid do hit the grate limit occasionally. But what really hinders him from delivering what could have easily been his best performance so far (except when the alien upgrades him so that his mental age and physical age are on the same page -- at which point he becomes ... Hrithik Roshan, the star) is the poor job that the screenplay and dialogue do in defining most characters (especially his) in the film. Spielberg's E. T. (to which this film owes its biggest debt) covered more ground in far less time. And what was that Govinda-esque song hailaa hailaa doing in the film?? Three cult moments: (a) when HR finishes indulging in his crowd-pleasing dancing {some funny steps there -- very Carrey-esque}, one girl comes up and says "You were fantastic. Good!" and walks away {you really need to see this to hit the floor!} (b) the upgraded HR explaining madness to PZ's folks and family friends {a tribute to Amitabh Bachchan?} (c) HR answering a difficult computer question -- reproduced here:

Q: kisii particular file ko khole bagair Window ke ek drive se duusare drive me.n copy kaise kiyaa jaataa hai?
A: sabase pahale Program me.n jaakar click kiijiye. Jab Windows Explorer khul jaaye to cursor ko us file par le jaakar right click kiijiye. Phir binaa button chho.De duusare drive me.n le jaakar button chho.D diijiye. Aapakii file copy ho jaayegii sir.
(Principal): That's absolutely right.

Would you want to learn computers from such people?

sunday, september 28, 2003: a more fruitful day, movie-wise. First up, Love Ke Liye Kuch Bhi Karega. The only reason I even gave this movie some thought was because I am admittedly a Vishal fan. And the songs on the soundtrack are pretty cool: the title song has two variants: one with soaring vocals and a rocksy riff; the other owes a lot to qawwalii. And then there's the crowd pleaser aslam bhaaii, which turned out to be no mean song to write: it's brimming with film-insider references (which are even more evident when you see the film). Johnny Lever scores by being more entertaining than irritating as Aslam Bhai. Kudos to Snehal Dhabi (famous as Chandar in Satya) for bringing down the house as the trickster/movie-producer Aaj Kapoor promising Aslam Bhai that his next film titled ham dilawaalo.n ko bahut kuchh hotaa hai sanam will be directed by Sooraj (barjatya) Aditya (Chopra) Johar (Karan) Bhansali (Sanjay Leela). And the reference to five fingers (Hrithik Roshan) makes its way into the song along with digs at Salman and Shah Rukh Khans. The songs feature Kerala (raamaa raamaa), a retro dance-up (remember the first segment of vo la.Dakii hai kahaa.N in Dil Chahta Hai?) with bright coloured sets (socho kyaa karogii) and some interesting lyrics (baa.Dal ko takiye saa gaddaa ye aasamaa.N), a third variant of the title song as a romantic duet (sunidhi chauhan soars up the frequency chart leaving udit narayan far behind on this one). And then there's Aftab's song dil meraa dil, a section of which seemed like a take on D'Angelo's infamous bare-all video. For more filmi digs check out the names that Fardeen and Aftab take up when they pose as kidnappers: Sultan Ahmed and Khalid Mohamed (good old vitriolic film journalist turned editor turned chastened filmmaker turned back to diluted vitriol?). There are funny lines in the film and the only real problem is that none of the main players can really get the rhythm right. Their inadequacies as actors are clearly evident and the only one who really surfaces above the morass is Saif Ali Khan, who seems to be getting better at his comic act. Viewers of Ruthless People and Fargo may sense some familiar elements, but there was more potential in this film. It still isn't that bad though. And it marked an E. Niwas (who also directed Dum) double bill. TRIVIA: opening voiceover by Paresh Rawal (hence the acknowledgement). This was also an RGV co-production. And the end credits roll against shooting moments and outtakes (watch carefully and you'll see Fardeen Khan give a two-handed finger salute to the camera -- another exhibit in the "sleeping censors" case). And the intermission screen is cute too: a freeze frame of Saif Ali Khan with a single word -- Relax.

Next up was Chhal, Hansal Mehta's second directorial feature, which, had I watched it when it was released (US release: DVD-only) would have been my pick of the year. There was no way in hell that any other film could have beaten this highly talented and motivated group of people before and behind the screen at making a very engrossing film, satisfying every demand you could make: narrative, performance, music (there are songs too, and work into the background, never encroaching on the proceedings). Rediff columnist Suparn Verma turned screenwriter with this great saga about an undercover cop who infilitrates the underworld and experiences a conflict of morals and values as he comes to understand that the line separating good (defined by the cops) and evil (defined by the goons) is not so fine after all. Kudos to all involved (the following is only a brief enumeration):

*Shwetah Priyam from Maya Entertainment, inc (title design)

*Ketan Rawal (production design)

*Arun Nambiar (sound)

*Ajay Verekar (art direction)

*Apurva Asrani (for returning to form in editing after Satya, and also his cameo as Kunal Sarpotdar)

*Neelaabh Kaul (cinematography)

*Viju Sha (music) and Amitabh Verma (lyrics) for music that complemented the narrative, and lyrics that gave the songs more than what such films usually get. And for giving me another song to fall in love with: chup chaap with Shaan and Sadhana Sargam sounding like their best

*producers Nitin Patil (a builder from Nashik), Uday Shah and Umesh Bagul for enabling this film to see the light of day.

*A spunky cast: Prashant Narayanan (as Girish), Naved Aslam (as Dave), Vallabh Vyas (as Shastriji), Jaya Seal (as Padmini), and the talented and underrated Kay Kay Menon (as Karan Menon/BCom)

The film is full of several great moments. It has at least two sequences where edits mix different moments and splice together a coherent exchange of dialogue (similar to the technique Soderbergh adopted with The Limey and Out of Sight). Lots of acid-washed blue drenched scenes. The film opens with an in-joke: people watching Dil Pe Mat Le Yaar! in a movie theatre (Movie Time in Malad?) [GAFFE: the sequence of scenes doesn't seem right -- just like the use of footage from Border in Satya]. Several minutes there's a shootout at a restaurant. And then a flashback. And once we get to the point we started from, there's a blur montage of the events we just saw, except, if you notice carefully, these are embellished with details that add more in the way of explanation than the usual mainstream approach of spoon-feeding. The camera perpetually holds a twisted tilted perspective (nothing is straightforward in this world) -- the nightmarish claustrophobia is well-evoked (a bit like Welles' visual adventures in The Trial). Lots of slide/dissolve (aka blur) montages (terminology is my own, formal equivalents are welcome). All in all, a wondrous moviewatching experience. All is definitely not lost. And I don't really care about complaints that we have had too many gangster/underworld movies. Haven't we had several times that number in mushy love stories? And if you want a love story, there's one here too. With its maturity and complications, instead of tree-hugging and clichéd promises. And Shyam Kaushal's action sequences can have action fans screaming John Woo, but it doesn't really matter. There's a payoff for everyone. If only people had noticed this film instead of Mujhse Dosti Karoge. See also: Donnie Brasco

A prematurely terminated transfer from DVD to VHS prevented me from soaking completely in the archetypal pathetic piece of filmmaking that Kaizad Gustad's BOOM represents. The film is an exercise in faux-Luc-Besson (ref: The Fifth Element) setpieces and flamboyance marred by terrible performances (did you really think he got all those models and lookers for their acting skills? grow up, it was the promise of an oglefest!) all around. There were some interesting bits in whatever I got to see (the diamond angle in the opening plot element kept reminding me of de Palma's Femme Fatale, but that's probably just a vibe): character names and aliases, characters providing voiceover introductions to other characters, and a great use of original old photographs of the actors when the characters they are playing are introduced. But Zeenat (thanks Sudarshan and JR for noting another descent into senility when I initially posted 'Dimple' instead of 'Zeenat') doing a post-modern kickback tabletop dance to dam maaro dam is embarassing. And the Big B seems to be in dire need of funds to have agreed to participate in this marshy venture -- his whacko character hits the embarassing button way too often. TRIVIA: when boom boom shankar (jaaved jaaferi) takes the models through a disco you can hear maar gayo re from Sandhya playing.

1 comment:

bhattathiri said...

Excellent blog.
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