Sunday, October 17, 2004

duniyaa kal jalatii hai, aaj jal jaa_e, maachis chaahiye, mai.n de duu.Ngaa

[being my thoughts on Sangharsh]

RGV officially calls his shop The Factory (at work). The rejuvenated commercially-aware Mahesh Bhatt actually seems to be running a factory ... of rip-off specialists. His protégé Tanuja Chandra is a case in point. Her directorial début Dushman (which introduced the mainstream world to the capabilities of an actor called Ashutosh Rana, chose Eye for an Eye to Bollywood-ize (with doleful songs from Uttam Singh sung by pathos specialists Jagjit Singh and an agelessly aging Lata Mangeshkar; a strongly vintage wooden performance by Sanjay Dutt as a blind army officer; and Kajol barely making it to the finish line of sobriety as twin sisters). This time around she chooses a much more familiar movie. And a very unlikely candidate. It's almost as if Bhatt had thrown her an over-dinner challenge to do something like this (see also: Howard Hawks making To Have and Have Not solely to show that he could make a good movie out of one of Hemingway's worse books). The choice: The Silence of the Lambs. The task of creating a potent gruel of source elements and destination clichés (aka the script) lies in the capable hands of Mahesh Bhatt. He takes Clarice Starling's gnawing memory that gives the film its title and converts it to Reet Oberoi's(Preity Zinta, looking plump and innocent, and still feeling her way about -- aah the good old days) fear of the dark (a fear linked to the death of her revolutionary brother on the night of his birthday). He takes the cold evil enigmatic character of Dr. Hannibal Lecter and creates a for-the-gallery object-of-Reet's-fantasy Professor Aman Verma (Akshay Kumar hamming away with a funny moustache). And Buffalo Bill is developed into what could have been an interesting character but ends up being a loud ill-baked decrepit piece of expired pastry called Lajja Shankar Pande (Ashutosh Rana resorting to an unsubtle approach to winning gallery whistles). Pande is a Kali worshipper (echoes of Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom?) who kidnaps kids and sacrifices them during solar eclipses. We are introduced to the solar eclipse motif through a visual that opens the opening credits (hmm, nice little piece of linguistic flourish there!). Vishwajeet Pradhan plays Vishwajeet, the desi equivalent for Scott Glen's Jack Crawford. The film also provides the stronger vertex for the mandatory triangle of affections in the form of Aman Verma's sappy Amit. Jatin-Lalit delivered a competent set of songs for the film (including the nice naaraaz saveraa hai/nazadiik saveraa hai and the Rafi/Ek Musafir Ek Hasina-ripoff mujhe raat din [the original: mujhe dekhakar). But nothing works on screen. The saveraa songs feature in the background but some shoddy editing and pitiful framing put paid to any derived benefit. And Sonu Nigam's tribute to Rafi becomes a Sujata-esque on-screen FF-friendly excursion. Other unnecessary elements include a neighbourhood rock/pop group called the Brahmaputra Boyz (who perform ma.nzil naa ho at an Easter celebration sponsored by Officer's Choice -- what was it with Jatin-Lalit and Remo those days?). There's even a film quote for the alert viewers: at a point in the second half, Ashutosh Rana cradles a child in his arms and sings vo subah kabhii to aa_egii -- it's all set up just like things were in the original song with Raj Kapoor and Mala Sinha. And for the "intelligent" masses Bhatt adds a scene involving the extraction of a bullet that provides a not-very-subtle metaphor for congress. Perhaps the only decent yet undeveloped element in the film is the character of Reet Oberoi. Full marks on the casting front, but the writing department didn't quite get a handle on developing Reet's naivete and child-like outlook to things into a more mature point-of-view by the end of the film. Pity, really. This was a struggle that was guaranteed to fail.

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