Monday, October 04, 2004

piffle psychobabble, before lakshya, and the onslaught of the mundane animation flick

Gothika: As far as premises and plot points go, Gothika refuses to subject itself to an examination in logic. Ebert's observation about Halle Berry's function in the film as a star is dead on. I don't think Halle Berry is capable of acting at all, except for perhaps Monster Ball, and I might tack this one on as a weak entry, simply because she doesn't evidently put her acting foot in her untalented mouth. But then again, she wasn't really meant to act. The film is rich in atmosphere, mood and effects and those things comprise its positive offering. If you're looking to find explanations for unimportant things like Miranda Grey's blackout, this ain't your movie. Incidentally, this appears to have been Dark Castle's first original film -- they were the guys responsible for the William Castle movie makeovers (13 Ghosts, House on Haunted Hill). Go watch The Snake Pit if you want better acting.

Vijeta: Imagine my surprise to see that the Vijeta video tape I picked up from the Indian store had been sourced from a DVD. Imagine my continued surprise to find that someone had actually managed to find and transfer a good print to DVD. The result (unprecedented for a non-mainstream movie like this -- or am I being overtly pessimistic?) is both a great nostalgic trip (to the time I first saw this film on DD as well as an example of some good honest filmmaking). This is a Film Valas production, and Shashi Kapoor gets to handle another non-mainstream role (something he did for Merchant-Ivory) with gusto: Nihal Singh is a kaTaa-sardaar who is scarred by nightmares of terrible Sikh massacres, pained by a fractured relationship with his wife Neelima (Rekha) (thanks in no part to an extra-marital fling), and unable to communicate with and express his love and care for his only son Angad (Kunal Kapoor). Aside from a cast that includes familiar faces like Om Puri, Dina Pathak, Keith Stevenson, Raja Bundela, Madan Jain, Amrish Puri, Supriya Pathak, Shafi Inamdar, Arvind Deshpande and K K Raina, there are other names that should ring bells: original story and script by Dilip Chitre and Satyadev Dubey (who also wrote the dialogues), costumes by Jennifer Kapoor (no surprise really). And there's Raj Kumar Santoshi notching a credit for chief assistant director. Little-sung music director Ajit Varman scores big with the ahir bhairav-based masterpiece man aanand aanand chhaayo (lyrics by vasant dev), and there are other fragments of classical music heard throughout the film as diegetic music contributed by LPs. The soundtrack, featuring Asha Bhosle, Manna Dey, Parveen Sultana and introducing Satyasheel Deshpande (the voice accompanying Asha on Lekin's jhuuThe nainaa bole) was released by CBS on record discs. I wonder if they ever transferred them to CD? Given the general lack of taste in matters of soundtracks like this, I would doubt that, but let's be optimistic, shall we?

This is very good example of great Govind Nihalani filmmaking. He even manages some great aerial photography (although the print quality doesn't bear good testimony to that).

Which brings us to the interesting secular pepper of the film. Remember all the jingoistic nonsense mainstream movies give us? Remember how there are token members of every community and faith (especially in disaster movies) who go through their clichéd behaviour? Well, this movie seems to have a fair deal of them, and gets by without even making one explicit announcement about it: there's Nihal Singh, a Sardar married to Neelima, a Maharashtrian. There's Nihal's associate D'Monto (hope I spelled that right), there are Angad's close colleagues (Venkat Raju from AP, Aslam Khan from UP, Wilson from MP), there's their chief instructor Verghese, and his daughter Anna (Angad's declaration of love for Anna must rate as one of the most interestingly written scenes on the subject).

I saw Sulabha Deshpande's name in the credits? Did I miss her in the movie?

The Road to El Dorado: I have to conclude that given an animation flick from Pixar/Disney and another from Dreamworks (Katzenberg used to be with Disney!), the odds are I'll like the one from Pixar/Disney. This film only serves to support this observation. Shrek was fine, but I preferred Monster's Inc., and now this movie only seems remarkable for the vocal collaboration between Kenneth Branagh and Kevin Kline. Aside from that, even Elton John's songs don't work as well as they did in The Lion King. My favourite character in this series of predictable happenings strung together would be the horse Altivo. This film deserved, to quote from its content, "the honour of a quick and painless death".

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