Monday, April 12, 2004

easter tridium

I began Easter Sunday with ad-man Ram Madhvani's Let's Talk. Hyped as the first film shot on DV to be reverse-telecined for theatrical distribution in India, this enterprise is redeemed only by the honesty of everyone involved, and a towering soaring performance from Boman Irani. And then we have Ram Madhvani noting that he was inspired by the structure of the Thumarii. Everything surrounding the flick tickles the interest. The end result seems strangely inappropriate for DV (unless the intent was to "exactly" capture the starkness and colourlessness of the normal lives of the protagonists). The simple story (a wife decides to tell her husband that she is having an affair, thus casting the father's identity of their next child into doubt) is told interestingly, but the overall tone is extremely depressing. Still, if you can stomach this, as well as the dumb pixellation as Boman cavorts in a bath towel, you might like the Krishna sightings offered as simple counterpoint, and the flick as a whole. Unfortunately, this may not be a great way to pioneer the use of DV in Indian cinema.

Next up, Mahesh Matthai's Bhopal Express. With people like Kay Kay Menon (billed as "KayKay") and Naseeruddin Shah, Zeenat Aman in a brief yet memorable turn, and a surprisingly more competent turn from Nethra Raghuraman (who sucked in Thakshak), this human drama set against the Bhopal Gas Tragedy of December 1984 (infamous as the "Hiroshima of the Chemical Industry") gets my hearty recommendation. The soundtrack includes people as diverse as Lucky Ali, Ila Arun, and Jagjit Singh. Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy provide the background music. What stays after the end credits roll is the evocative sequence where KayKay rushes to flag down a train headed to the endangered Bhopal train station. And another thing that will stay is a little element of detail. When we first see the Topaz Bar (where Naseer and KayKay are headed), we see the accompanying musicians tuning up their instruments. This doesn't seem too exciting, except I have no memory of any detail like this being included in similar scenes in all the Hindi films I have seen.

And finally, at long last, Martin Scorsese's perfect mix of art and entertainment, Goodfellas. It's interesting to see that given his religious background, Scorsese managed to set (with this film) and break (with Casino) the record for the most F-words used in a single flick (both courtesy the lively Joe Pesci). This film, just like Bringing out the Dead has Scorsese displaying consummate ease at choosing great songs that evoke the right emotions (something that QT seems to have picked up as well). In addition to being a very engaging flick with snappy dialogue and a frenetic pace, there's a lot of interesting use of film technique here as in Hitchcock's films: the most memorable one for me would be the over-2-minute-long single steadycam tracking shot as Henry and Karen leave the parking lot and settle down for their first real date. And then there's the Vertigo zoom when Henry meets Jimmy in a restaurant and realises that he is leading him to his death. And the death montage sequenced and cut against the piano coda to Layla. And the "new wave" use of freeze frames. Eminently watchable.

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