Monday, May 02, 2005

albert pinto ko gussa kyoon aata hai [april 24, 2005]

Saeed Akhtar Mirza deserves a place in the record books for his collection of films with long names (in sharp contrast to the specious word selections that adorn our marquee today. To review: Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho, Arvind Desai ki Ajeeb Daastan, Albert Pinto ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai, Salim Langde Pe Mat Ro. Each of these works presented biting social commentary seasoned with humour and a sense of fatality and inevitability. Some of the efforts are extremely downbeat (MJHH) and some mix in a subtle element of the surreal and the abstract (ADKAD). This time around our protagonist (who works more like a suutradhaar and our eyes into the world gone mad) is a mechanic in a garage who has a very short temper and is extremely opinionated. Naseeruddin Shah gives us Albert Pinto with an ease that downplays the complexity of the role. The supporting cast is rich with familiar talents: Smita Patil as Albert's sister Joan, Shabana Azmi as Albert's girlfriend Stella (whose boss, in a typical nod from Mirza, is named Arvind Desai), Dilip Dhawan (who played Arvind Desai in ADKAD) as Albert's vagrant brother Dominic, and Arvind and Sulabha Deshpande as the Pinto parents. Other familiar names relegated to smaller parts include Om Puri and Madan Jain as other mechanics at the garage, Rohini Hattangadi as the wife of a frequent customer at the garage, Avtar Gill and Satish Shah as Dominic's buddies, Mushtaque Khan as a lecherous shopper, and Achyut Potdar as Chandumal Potdar, the adhyaksh of the Bombay Textile Mill Owners Association. And brother Aziz Mirza pops in too. While presenting us with events in the life of Albert, Mirza also explores the influence of the industrial behemoth (the textile mills of Bombay) and the communal insecurity of the Christian community. It's an interesting mix: human and social drama served up with numerous flourishes from theatre. The most overt moments in the film come from the song-and-dance sequences: Dominic improvising words onto changing melodies and rhythms he is playing out on his guitar; the street play-esque tableau that Dominic and his goon buddies break into while on a job stealing stuff from a warehouse. Even these sequences (especially the second one), although drastically out of place when given the tone of the rest of the film, have a point to make (although it's less depressing that the goings-on in MJHH). It's a pity Mirza seems to have stopped delivering such movies. It's a clear indication of the times. Take a look at the credits roster again. The late Renu Saluja handles the editing, and the currently ineffectual Kundan Shah assists on script and direction. All members of one of the most talented cliques ever to come out of the FTII. Commerce and the need to make a profit have, over the years, eroded the fine sense of creative adventure and audacity they demonstrated. Films like these thus serve as an important testament of the good old days of experimental cinema.

Trivia:: Music director Manas Mukherjee is the father of singing sensations Shantanu (Shaan) and Sagarika. The title of this film pops up as a code phrase in the quintessential black comedy JBDY.

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