Saturday, August 27, 2005

three films

Mujhse Shaadi Karogi should have been a warning for me as I sat down to watch Maine Pyar Kyun Kiya [Kyun kyo.n???]. How people continue to choose forms of life (aka "actors") who lack comic timing, or even basic kindergarten annual day-level acting smarts for comedies is something I have failed to comprehend. Priyadarshan (rant elsewhere) managed to convince a multitude of viewers that AxeHay Kumar and SwooKneel Sh*tty (among other termite-infested pieces of wood) could (a) act (b) be capable of comic timing. Kamal Haasan (despite the general lukewarm clamped quality of his Hindi releases) managed to score better by picking people, who had the gift and could deliver a crackling performance given a conducive milieu (Vijay Raaz, Saurabh Shukla). David Dhawan's rising star owed a lot to Govinda (and Kader Khan). But later he attempted to try and convince us that certifiable pieces of driftwood (and pioneers of the "socially acceptable menace to society" genre) like Salman Khan and Sanjay Dutt were also capable of comedy. Loud were they. Very loud. And yet, the cash registers didn't stop ringing. Despite their inability to let go while indulging in the comic business (something Govinda managed with consummate ease), these planks managed to make great strides. Dhawan snagged an ebb and then returned with Mujhse Shaadi Karogi, which, despite being a welcome hit for him, was a so-so affair that you laughed at only perhaps out of pity. The emotion extends to this Sohail Khan co-production. Anything with Sohail Khan in it is usually a stink bomb (except, perhaps, for DMH). This one's no exception. There are lots of really really bad jokes, which basically require someone competent at comedy to deliver them. Arshad Warsi, Sushmita Sen, and the inconsistent Rajpal Yadav can't make it work though. They're relegated to the deadly competition of limited screen time and paltry dialogue. Instead the camera and film stock choose to focus on three items that belong in a furniture store: the aforementioned Salman Khan, the illustrious skunk Sohail Khan and the dumb airhead Katrina Kaif. Kaif is yet another classic example of the misguided soul, who has been chosen to be on screen solely because of her looks and not for any acting smarts (which she lacks). The problem with such souls is that they "believe" that they are on screen for their acting smarts (for other such lost souls see: Aishwarya Rai, Payal Rohatgi, Neha Dhupia, Isha Koppikar, Eesha Deol, Mallika Sherwat, Lara Dutta, Priyanka Chopra, Kareena Kapoor [yeah, yeah, I know, no looks either] usw.). Sorry. I couldn't take this movie. It wasn't good; and it wasn't bad enough to be funny.

Next up, Amol Palekar's commercial-fest Paheli. Beautiful production values. A simple tale told with a reasonably high coefficient of languidness to put anyone to sleep. There just didn't seem to be any spark of verve in the narrative. It was a folk tale without the magic. An interesting conundrum without the interesting elements. Songs that didn't impress me on the audio release and, in the film, only encourage the use of the FF button. And enough reason to try and find Mani Kaul's Duvidha.
[August 29, 2005] Some follow-up notes thanks to being privy to a marathon of viewings by friends (all still in parts; I can't bear to sit down and watch the whole flick). Noted husband/wife Naseeruddin Shah and Ratna Pathak-Shah as the voices of the puppets. Noted the potential of the puppet dance (seen during the previews -- also the reason I decided to stay away from the film) during the end credits -- IMHO it fails to live up to its full potential as a motific device of counterpoint. Noted the presence of Mohan Bhandari and Ravi Jhankal. Noted the obligatory Amitabh Bachchan appearance. Noted that the ominously egregious presence of Suniel Shetty. Noted that SRK the actor has potential, but this is not the movie to tap into it. Convinced that Amol Palekar has gone commercial. Didn't know fairy tales could be so boring.

Stephen Chow's Kung Fu Hustle provided the required catharsis. I had caught fragments of this film *before* it hit the marquee here (see also: Hero). I haven't seen the much-mentioned twice-butchered Shaolin Soccer yet, but this movie rocks! Quit complaining with whines like "oh! this is clearly wire-work/CGI/impossible." You're missing the point of the film. Chow knows that you know this is fake. Sit back and grin and let your jaw drop. Everything here is overtly stylised and extremely wonderfully choreographed with breath-taking attention to detail. This is crazy mix of Buster Keaton, Jackie Chan, Quentin Tarantino, the Bugs Bunny/Road Runner cartoons, spiced with some more spoofing of The Matrix (no surprise to see the name of stunt choreographer Yuen Wo Ping, who also contributed to Kill Bill I and II). The most interesting thing for me in the film was the sense of dislocated time. There's so much that the frames imbue from the "present" and other referenced times (the Shaw Brothers films of the 60s and 70s). There's that lovely shot framing Chow and Sheng Yi Huang in a pose that echoes the poster of the Astaire/Rogers starrer from the 30s, Top Hat). And if you want more Top Hat references take a closer look at the Axe Gang. The exotic background score is another complex goulash of times and periods that also features Khachaturian's "Sabre Dance" and selections from Sarasate's "Zigeunerweisen". The cast roster features several icons that I am only marginally familiar with (time to get onto the martial arts wagon), but a little googling should assist the curious reader. The finesse and high production values make me hang my head in shame as I think about the state of Bollywood filmmakers on the other hand -- everyone else seems to be making more interesting mainstream cinema, but all the Bombay folks can do is import the motion-capture machines used in The Matrix and instead of doing something interesting with them, use them to produce a stupid 4-minute sequence in ... [in true Finnegans Wake tradition, let's go back to the beginning of this post]

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