Thursday, February 16, 2006

bluff's on ya

[february 11, 2006]

If you asked me to use only two words to describe a reason to watch bluffmaster!, I'd say "Nana Patekar." Aside from the impressive selection of Bombay spots, the only good thing to be said about Rohan Sippy's follow-up to his directorial début Kuch naa Kaho is that this flick's a tad better than that one. Which is like saying a withered banana's better than a dried dessicated one. Just like KNK, Rohan Sippy executes another patent-pending flourish of inspiration by snagging elements from foreign flicks (Matchstick Men and The Game being the more obvious ones, with some elements from Nine Queens [need another viewing to get more concrete blueprint information]). Admittedly, that single-mom angle in KNK only felt like it had come out of Jerry Maguire, but there was enough of the standard Bollywood melodrama to make you wring your hair out.

This time around, RS was all set to make the film with Sanjay Dutt and his KNK regulars chhoTaa B and Ms Rai. Shooting schedule openings forced RS's hand; all this resulted in chhoTaa B getting Dutt's spot with Riteish "mai.n bhii numerology" Deshmukh stepping into his shoes, and Priyanka Chopra replacing Rai (Miss World 2000 replaces Miss World 1994; makes sense). That's why you have those acknowledgements to Dutt and Rai in the opening credits. Dutt creates a record of sorts for acknowledgements and cameos: he was on the soundtrack of Home Delivery, he stepped in for a music video for the closing credits of Ek Ajnabee, and now this.

soundtrack: RS employs an approach that combines the regular new-songs-for-the-film approach (Vishal-Shekhar's Right Here Right Now) the compilation approach (Trickbaby) common in Western films (and seen in local examples like Kukunoor's Hyderabad Blues 2: Rearranged Marriage) and the collection-of-remixes approach seen in movies like Double Cross: Ek Dhoka (whadda title that!). The result is a mixed bag: the remixed title song from Sabse Bada Rupaiya sung by the late Mehmood is a rollicking track with a delicious horn intro, the remixes are tiring otherwise; say naa say naa's constant Dhol (both in the words and the rhythm section) is irritating. Stuff like this probably works best isolated from the film, playing in some discotheque. The most marketed element of the soundtrack has to be chhoTaa B's attempt at Snoop Dogg-ery with Right Here Right Now. To use the word "singing" to describe what you hear is a sure indication of poor English IMNSHO. I can see him signing up for more of this brand of vocal drudgery (like the new Vishal-Shekhar number for a yet untitled film). The intrusive background score decides to quote a motif from Bitter Sweet Symphony by The Verve [thanks for the tip, Amogh].

hangover square: The film begins just like Dus did. The SBR remix features a female chorus going bluffmaster ever so often, thus qualifying it as a title song. So this, just as in Dus, is what plays as we are treated[sic] to another montage of babes and chhoTaa B doing the patent-pending pull-up-your-pants step. Clearly, his dancing and singing abilities are something that only his fans can appreciate.

The ooh-we're-so-cool attitude that pervades this music video never seems to let up through the film that unfolds after the opening credits. It takes real talent to take such interesting source material and make such a dismal boring piece of footage. The acting's substandard, everyone's trying so hard to be (funny/dramatic/cool/hip) and with all this you're (a) asleep or (b) sneaking peeks at your watch counting down the minutes or (c) getting set to tear this flick apart with an MST3K treatment.

And then the intermission happens. And you've seen the true promise of the film as the character of cha.ndrakaa.nt paarikh (Nana Patekar) is introduced. Post-interval, NP rules every scene he is in. He makes everyone else on the set who claimed to "act" look like an emaciated peon in a chinese disco. In addition to getting the best lines in the film, he also makes innocuous lines funny. Makes you wish he and Govinda figure in a well-written comedy some day.

NP's appearance also throws a floodlight on the film's various failings, not the least of which is the maudlin melodramatic baggage that has plagued (and seems destined to do so for years to come) Bollywood mainstream cinema. The combination of cool and weepy ain't workin'.

Must one even begin to lament the embarassment of exposition in the climax?

technique: You actually thought those fake fish-laden wipes were cool?

The movie thrives on its post-modern slant. There are references to the Big B (the remixed title song of Do Aur Do Paanch), obligatory references to Sholay (something that got added to that long list of requirements of a mainstream movie), Karz, Shaan. And if memory serves me right, that movie playing the cinema hall during the income tax raid-scam is RS's disastrous début Kuch Naa Kaho. RS seems to be so pleased as punch with the work of screenwriter Shridhar Raghavan (Khakee) that he even includes a reference to him in the film. And does he appear himself in that Dogg-erel/music video that peppers the end credits?

burning question for the subtitling department: We know you ain't quite qualified in the intricacies of either subtitling or language. You've always been adding cuss words to the subtitles when nothing of the kind is ever uttered on screen. And with this movie, you're flaunting another skill[sic] of yours: you change the English subtitles for English dialogue. Yech!

funniest subtitle: chhoTaa B telling son-of-CM that he's usakaa baap in the business of conning gets subtitled as I am the Bill Gates of this kind of technology (somehow, given MSFT's history of misdeeds, the subtitle seems to now have a strange [unintended] resonance)

plugs: Raj Travels [Bombay consulate visa line throngers will remember this name well]

the chyawanapraash lemma: Any movie that includes a joke about chyawanapraash is guaranteed to be a migraine-inducing bore [see also: Garam Masala]

the cast: chhoTaa B's only successful attempt at acting[sic] will still be in Yuva. Rating the "coolest" role ever is a task best left to his fans. Priyanka Chopra is listless, untalented, and dull. The good[sic] looks seem to have taken her further on up the road as far as a film career is concerned, so she ain't complainin'. Riteish Deshmukh's only qualification is that he's Vilasrao Deshmukh's son. And he's already received awards for his comic[sic] performances, so should he really care about improving his skills[sic]?

awards: Surely, the film deserves an award for Special Effects for treating us to beautiful vistas of Bombay that had us sitting in disbelief throughout the proceedings.

There's a scene where chhoTaa B gives son-of-CM a lesson in the different types of marks. In a nice piece of Bombay-awareness, analogies are made to different types of fish. The result, however, is anything but delectable and underscores the problem of the film as a whole in its refusal to rise to the level of its sources. If you're nursing any desire to watch this over-hyped cool flick, choose wisely and go fishing instead.

postscript: Forgot to note that one may also spend one's time making Brokeback Mountain jokes for a few chhoTaa-B/son-of-CM scenes without having to try too hard.

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