Sunday, January 18, 2004

GUNAAH: criminal groundhog day

In the 80s, Mahesh Bhatt threw in the towel. Despite having shown promise with sensitive human cinema (although he took this as an excuse to exorcise his own demons and repaint his past several times), Bhatt claimed to have become increasingly frustrated with the whole enterprise and went commercial. Having tasted success, Bhatt suddenly assumed the role of a hack filmmaker. A cheaper version of the assembly-line filmmaker, he churned out plots with repetitive motifs, laden with mainstream masala, and somewhere in them were buried useful ideas that could have seen fruition had their creator not lost the spark of enthusiasm to make a quality product. He was rumoured to direct films remotely (yeah like RPC!) over his cellphone. And Vishesh Entertainment became the den of a new kind of cinema that echoed the factory of Roger Corman. The same sets, the same people, non-actors (also known as stars), similar plots, similar situations, and no pretence to greatness (well, not always). Somewhere in that morass was a 1994 film starring Sunny Deol and Dimple Kapadia called Gunaah. As was the case with most of Bhatt's original scripts, this one was a ripoff as well (of The Bourne Identity no less). The only thing people might remember was an onscreen kiss.

Years later, Bhatt pens another script with the same title. A non-entity from his camp called Amol Shetge directs[sic]. There are elements that echo Out of Sight, but barely. The film is really an exercise in nonsense. There is a lot of 80s baggage: the traditional flashback sequence that (a) links several characters we have already been introduced to (b) features unmentionable acts of violence and defilement and ends up in the death of a minor character that fuels the passion of vendetta in a lead player. There are some barely interesting characters: parts of Ashutosh Rana's uncle (with his makeup, he could be a dead ringer for a kaakaa in a Marathi social), the vigilante society, and especially its leader Parshuram (symbolism alert!) played by Yashpal Sharma. There are some subtle(?) nominal associations too: Bipasha's character is called Prabha; Dino's character is called Aditya; and there's even a Bhor Industries. Irrfan deliciously chews the scenery in his role as the evil Digvijay Pande (and barring some drastically expressionistic leering, he's the only merit of the film). Bhatt's rabbit foot Avtar Gill is also on the roster (a corpse whose talking lines appear only in flashback). The film is a drag and the songs don't help (the Sabri Bros excel in the qawwaalii ruuThakar ham, composed by Sajid-Wajid, but I had to hit FF).

A special note must be made about the lead performances. Dino Morea gets brownie points only because he says nothing for most of the film and looks sufficiently innocent to fit the part. Bipasha Basu on the other hand is a horror. The word you hear most in the dialogue is ra.NDii and BB does everything she can to play a cheap tart of that kind. The continuity department probably had a headache with the way she switches the gun from her left hand to her right hand and back. And there's so much bad acting on display that you wonder if all the praise showered on her (probably because of her dusky looks and figure) came from a coterie of lascivious blind men. After the laughter dies down, the dominant emotion is one of violence: the desire to wring her neck for subjecting you to such torture reaches feverish peak. Beautiful you say? What's with the damn squint in her left eye?? Acting? Paah. Dead people could trounce her for an acting trophy. Star appeal: J Lo, despite my hatred for the media-hyped image she has cultivated to ensure full coffers, did better as Karen Sisko. So what's left? The question of how she continues to get more roles and praise for her acting[sic]. Ye gads.

Dubbing note: As seems to be the case with most of the Bhatt house productions: Basu and Morea (although he claims to have done his own this time around, as against VB in Raaz) had dubbed voices. Morea received the generous favours of Vikram Bhatt (who did this in several films including Aftab's voice in Kasoor). Basu has been enjoying these vocal favours for a while now. If reports are to be believed, she had an army of voices in Raaz.

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