Sunday, January 18, 2004

fiza: fizzles of a film critic

A Tehzeeb note first. My last reaction post hinted at the uncredited Bergman lift. After having finally caught the tail end of the film, I must correct myself. The end credits (running up against the upbeat habiibii that inundated the background track -- how appropriate given that one of the key characters just passed away!) start off with a "This one's for you. the inspiration. Ingmar Bergman". I can hear IB turning in his Swedish grave. Morbid.

Seemed appropriate to catch KM's first directorial venture after having watched his second tank of bird droppings. KM managed to use his film biz contacts to put together a strong technical team but decided to adapt a promising story himself into a screenplay[sic] and even decided to direct[sic] himself. This film (as does Tehzeeb) thanks several people for always being there (whatever that means): the three common names are M F Hussain, Karan Johar (which would explain why KM sucked KJ's directorial rear-end on his mega-gaga review of K3G), and Gautam Rajadhyaksha (whose photographs have done for stars what Astrid Kirchher's did for the Beatles). Given KM's awareness of art cinema, I can't imagine why he'd want to thrust a story of terrorism and politics into the mainstream, a genre he clearly is better positioned to write entertaining kiddy rants about than be an exponent in. He gets Sushmita Sen to cameo for a seductive dance in Rajasthan and succeeds only in underscoring the irony of mainstream Bollywood cinema (where poor villagers in love can benefit from a song sequence in Switzerland). Every song (except perhaps, by a whisker, ARR's excellent piyaa haajii alii (aside: as the singers go shaah\-e\-sama.ndar the camera presents us an image of ocean waves hitting rocks -- how clichéd can you get!) and Anu Malik's naa leke jaao, the irony of whose picturisation is probably lost on people itching to get themselves far from this piece of filmic drivel) adds testimony to the importance of the FF button. And then there's the beautiful but saddled-with-crap-and-hence-difficult-to-assess-an-actress Neha (formerly Shabana Reza).

The film opens with a dissolve montage highlighting HR's skills at facial contortions (something Subhash Ghai explored in more brevity and better taste in the otherwise dismally and unmemorable Yaadein [sic]). Karishma Kapoor provides the voiceover and there's Ranjit Barot passing off (surprisingly) a loud intrusive unsubtle faux Hollywood wail as a background score. We then see the family at the heart of this story against a house whose walls smacked as artificial and seemed more like elaborate paintings like those I had to work out for those drawing exams in high school). The first of several motifs appears at this point: the RK clas[sic] Bobby. I used to admire Jaya Bachchan as an actress, until I saw her puffy-faced and pouting with constipated grief in K3G. Now I see where all that came from. Barring a scarce minute-long restrained piece of subtle performance towards the end of the film, she serves only as an advertising vehicle for some of the most horrifying and amusing facial expressions of constipation, overeating and general malaise. We move on to the star of the film, Karishma Kapoor. Why she spends most of her time staring at some invisible point off-screen (perhaps the director and unfortunate dialogue writer for putting her in one embarassing position too many) is beyond me. As for her acting, I'd give her points only for trying (except when she breaks down after her mother's death). The film, despite its content providing ample fodder for a sensitive film on the lines of Piravi, clearly aims for the melodramatic excess of mainstream Bollywood cinema[sic], and with KM not attempting any move to the contrary, the stars must only comply. The dialogue is unnecessary -- the silent moments work the best. Manoj Bajpai trumps in a small role. Asha Sachdev joins Navneet Nishan as one of the most irritating large female presences ever chosen to provide a mindless comic track to a film that could have done without it. Hrithik Roshan wasn't so big a star when he was signed on for this film. To his credit, the songs and dances and excess weepy tracks notwithstanding, he shows promise (my favourite moment -- aside from the brief conversations with his sister and former love -- is when he breaks down in an abandoned engine after his mother discovers his true identity). Clearly, starry baggage aside, and if he is willing to pick up the gauntlet of potentially ruining his star image, Hrithik Roshan should attack a more meaty and complex role and work with a director who knows his stuff (instead of strutting around like an overfed chicken pretending to know what he is up to). So much promise wasted. That the second half is more promising than the first (something unheard of in an SSH-affected Bollywood) is enough indication that the daal is more than blackened.

The whole film feels like a bad 80s movie. The hackground score (except for the little motif that first surfaces at a wedding celebration introducing the fickle political leader of a leading Muslim party) contributes a lot to this. And what must I say about non-actors like Bikram Saluja (who gets to make his "début" here). Or the wasted presence of Sanjay Narvekar. I can't go on. I can't understand how KM manages to get funded to make more pieces of stinking cowdung like this. If he were some brain-dead $$$-laden producer out to make a quick buck in the front-bench market, I wouldn't mind so much. But this is a person, who with his often entertaining vitriolic takes on mainstream cinema, offered promise if he chose to be a director. Clearly, he was an unfed wolf in emaciated sheep's clothing.

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