Friday, February 11, 2005

how dry can a raincoat be?

The end credits of Rituparno Ghosh's first Hindi film Raincoat acknowledge O. Henry as an inspiration. Just in case you were wondering, the story in question is the classic The Gift of the Magi. Ghosh has been showered with superlatives and hailed as, among other things, a worthy successor to Ray. The only Ghosh film I have managed to catch was Bariwali. News articles and posts online give me the idea that Ghosh is a very "inspired" director -- people have spotted echoes of the works of Bergman in his films (which is not necessarily a bad thing really -- except when Khalid Mohammed and Tehzeeb are concerned).

Which brings us to this film itself. The flick has things going for it -- I liked the way the dissolves and different edits served the narrative (or the sense thereof). Ajay Devgan, once again, provides a sincere (not to be confused with stellar or mindblowing) performance. Annu Kapoor easily takes top honours with his brief role. Must I even bother to say anything about Ms Aishwarya Rai? She looks strange, overdoes her part, and fakes her dialogues to the hilt. If her performance serves any purpose, it is to underscore and highlight how inconsistent and poorly written her part is. The character of Neerja is supposed to have issues with English, and is anything but cosmopolitan and cultured in her social exchanges. What Ghosh provides in the way of dialogue is completely appalling and contrary to this: note how more cosmopolitan Rai seems in the flashbacks, for example. And Rai's pronunciations are jarring -- if only Ghosh had found an actress instead of succumbing to sheer star glory (now I haven't seen Chokher Bali, but I don't have high hopes).

Ms Rai's fraudulent performance only brings to the fore other aspects of the film that might not have been seen as problems -- its pace and the very rare appropriateness of the soundtrack. And at the end of it all, there was only sympathy for everyone involved except Ms Rai and Ghosh. I hope he sticks to actors instead of succumbing to stars (unless he wants to make the $$$). As for Ms Rai, she is a beautiful pestilence that afflicts the milieu of good filmmaking -- if she only she had some acting smarts and flexibility, but then, I don't think that was part of her plan, really.

On the trivia front we have a slower male rendition of piyaa toraa kaisaa abhimaan that differs from the one on the soundtrack (which still remains the best part of the film for me).

Question: Saregama Ltd merits a mention in the acknowledgements thanks to the use of diegetic music they own (e.g. do sitaaro.n kaa zamiin par hai milan from Kohinoor), but why does Subhash K Jha's name figure in the acknowledgements?

Another curious aspect of the credits is the way Ghosh renames established departments. He refers to the actors as "players", he refers to the actors providing cameos as "special players" (incidentally, Surekha Sikri merits two mentions!), he chooses to use "montage" instead of editing (which might only reveal his merit as a student of film and film history), and he chooses to refer to himself as an "author" (auteur, anyone?). Wonder why...

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