Thursday, February 12, 2004

LOC: Kargil

DVD mastering rant: Fire everyone who does non-anamorphic aspect ratios. Fire everyone at Eros who doesn't understand the task of mastering a film so that the left and right sides do not get randomly chopped off.

The film opens (after dedications and acknowledgements to all the people who are subsequently embarassed and insulted in the footage that follows) with a note that "cinematic constraints of screentime" prevented it from butchering the reputations of more people. It then opens with prescient scenes loaded with bad acting, a jaded low-budget TV serial look, and a flood of familiar faces playing characters that don't seem important enough to merit some explanation. By the time this flick reaches its end, your rear end feels sore. Very sore. And, little ones, if your parents have been diligent about your language, this film, despite its U certificate, has taught you a lot of new cuss words: bahen[mute], maadar[mute]. And if you, on the sly, have learnt to read lips (something you could easily do with the 15 minute news bulletin on Doordarshan on Sunday afternoon), then you would get other opportunities to utter these loud when the director chose to drown the on-screen invocations with bathetic background music. And you could even learn the F-word.

And now for a lesson in Object-Oriented moviemaking. Every real-life person involved in the Kargil fracas is reduced to a 1-dimensional verbigerator with lards of bravado, oodles of jingoism, and (as long as the budget permitted), a star to play his significant other (read: someone to make sure that all the glycerine we got on discount from the warehouse is used before its expiry date). And there's even a pattern that develops: anyone who delivers a piece of dialogue that attempts to endear him to the audience is sure to be bumped off in the scenes that follow. And if you utter one cuss word too many (unless you are Sudesh Berry) you've just made yourself a marked man. After J P Dutta assembles a bunch of badly designed cliché objects, he calls up Aadesh Shrivastava and tells him he needs more of the senseless, mindless, juvenile soundfest he had done with Border. Aadesh obliges, and gives us a background score's equivalent of a pesky fly. With no respect for silences, the rising and falling sounds of his "foreground" music complement J P Dutta's pleionosis. And the music also provides the most subtle cliché of the film: when the mandatory flashbacks start off for each "hero" of the film, we are treated to specious improvisations of Raag Desh (patriotic film. "Desh" raag. Pound! Pound! Pound! Get it??). The only time anything works in this department is the silence that surrounds and follows Ajay Devgan's dying sigh.

The only quality JPD ever possessed that would make him a filmmaker of interest was his talent for visuals. Yet, his wagon seems to have crashed a long time ago. I have never seen anything from him that matches the shock and impact of the opening moments of Ghulami. Or any visuals that match to the horrifying beauty of the desert in Batwara. In an attempt to be Bollywood's Altman (something that has been achieved more successfully by serendipity), he eschews (as do most of our "successful" filmmakers) the most important ingredient: the script. Splicing together scenes of repetitive violence, jingoistic chants and romantic clichés and passing the stew off as a tribute to those who fought at Kargil does not cut it (since JPD also masquerades as an editor, that last pun is intended). And with the history of jingoism in Bollywood, and the baggage that each actor brings from his previous forays in such exercises only serves to confuse me about what is truth and what is fiction. For example, one of my favourite brief sequences in the film is the exchange between a Pakistani soldier and Vikram Batra about Madhuri Dixit. This rings true despite the bad dialogue delivery and klazomania. Another sequence where Sunil Shetty's rifleman performs a barrel-grabbing stunt seemed to be SS's answer to his tank encounter in Border. Yet, as a friend informs me, this actually happened. File this one as a case of crying Wolf for Dutta. The third and final favourite sequence is Lt. Vishwanathan (Mohnish Behl) dying as we hear his wife's voice over the phone. There are promising moments at the end when all the female stars are shown grieving over the deaths of the loves of their life. Bad editing and shot composition, however, mar anything memorable from surfacing.

Having an FF button meant that I didn't have to sit through the long long long long songs (any irony in the line ek saathii aur bhii thaa at the end is lost as Nigam voice drowns even the foreground music!).

And acting? ROTFLMAO break. Anyone who even makes a decent effort gets a chopped-up role. Cases in point: Ashish Vidyarthi (who even has his name incorrectly spelled out in the closing credits), Saif Ali Khan. Or they get enough bad lines to wipe out any memory of a good turn. Cases in point: Manoj Bajpai, Ashutosh Rana. Special mention must be made of Bajpai, who is the only one who makes the cussing seem authentic. Everyone else including the overfed paper dosas called Sanjay Dutt, Bikram Saluja, Sunil Shetty (the dosa pun is intended), Nagarjuna, and Sharad Kapoor. There are people who barely even make it onto the screen: Milind Gunaji, Avtar Gill, Puru Raj Kumar. And we have people who seem to be digging graves for their careers: Abhishek Bachchan. And Sanjay Kapoor with his moustache spends most of his time grinning like an emaciated monkey or providing a poor imitation of his elder brother's turn in Woh Saat Din. There does not seem to be any need to cover the bases on the heroine front. Each one of them, good, bad or ugly, hopefully, has either a fat paycheck or some patriotic satisfaction at having participated in this cinematic enema.

JPD made me think again about Kubrick's Full Metal Jacket. The stark tones of this film are one reason. And the utter immaturity displayed by JPD makes me see Kubrick's questionable masterpiece in a different light. JPD even almost makes it to Kubrickian territory: at one point in the film, Kiran Kumar speaks to each member of his unit (in IT, we call this "customization"). Luckily for us, there aren't too many people in his unit. Thus we come to an end of another self-indulgent Bollywood imbonity. And we walk away asking ourselves a question that we have asked ourselves before: Why do flash flashbacks for a person always happen with them in the third person? But the most important question is: What will JPD's ploitering result in next? For the sake of hapless filmgoers, I would urge India and Pakistan to cease hostilities and make peace.

No comments:

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.