Monday, May 03, 2004

distant thunder, nasty intruders and stilted conversations

It was good fortune to find a tape of Ashani Sanket, Satyajit Ray's adaptation of Bibhuti Bhushan Bandhopadhyay's novel about the 1943 Bengal famine (actually, I knew it existed, but never found it on the shelves). Although the specs indicate that this is a colour film, the print was washed black-and-white [even the vidcaps on the page are in B&W!]. I must say that accidental(?) act aided the tone and content of the film. The subtitles were perfunctory on occasion, and this will continue to be a personal grievance when watching any film with English subtitles. The film itself is a masterpiece. I remembered only fragments from the Doordarshan marathon that ensued after Ray passed away in 1992, but the intake of films and theory in the interim before Sunday afternoon was helpful in allowing me to relish some great filmmaking. Highly recommended.

The next tape in was Kaun. This flawed RGV horror venture (I contend that all his forays in this genre, although well-intentioned, always seem to fail in delivering cohesive satisfaction) was what educated me on the cruelties of box-office black marketing in Pune. The film was playing in the matinee slot at Rahul, and the x-kaa-y (where x represents the number of tickets available at a scalped rate represented by y) dudes bought out virtually all the tickets even before the box office opened and then proceeded to strike gold as people continued to flock to watch the film. Disgusting. Had to wait a few more weeks before I could just walk over from COEP and catch a screening. Everything in the film until the appearance Bajpai's enormously outstanding performance as the grating hapless salesman feels gimmicky (and it gets worse once you know the predictable twist at the end). Ms Matondkar ain't no actress. I still like the moment when Urmila finds her house filled with people, and the badly filmed quote from Polanski's Repulsion. Ultimately, Bajpai's performance (aided by a brief competent turn from Sushant Singh) still becomes the sole grace of this RGV venture (he is credited as Ramgopal Varma ... when did he move to "Ram Gopal"?).

Husain's latest filmic venture (aka an ode to Tabu) Meenaxi couldn't have found a worse time to be in the VCR. After Ray's skilled piece of work, I was treated to another journey through the same things that plagued the more interesting (so far) Gaja Gamini. There are enough interesting visuals, but the proceedings have a cluttered, unfinished feel to them. Everything falls short of grace, failing to live up to promised potential. Tabu fails to impress me again -- she just doesn't have the grace required to play a muse. The dialogues are forced, and the camera angles and the editing have baffled me. Ultimately, I might be inclined (unless the tide changes) to agree with the front-benchers who stepped out of a Bombay theatre to note that Husain had better stick to painting The wonderful red opening credits emerging from a parchment add to MFH's points for a sense of visual style. What he needs is a more controlled hand behind the camera that can channel the creative tumult of ideas into something satisfying in a filmic way. And I can't believe I hit the FF button the moment nuur\-un\-alaa came on. I hope things get better later.

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