Thursday, May 18, 2006

duh vinci

In 2004, Dan Brown's 2003 bestseller faced a potential ban in India, but moves to this effect were classified as gimmicks and there were people who chose not to exercise any opinion without having read the book (surprising, no?). A few years later, after this two-or-three-session potty page-turner had raked in millions for the author and the associated publishing machinery (not to mention serving as a stellar example of terrible writing), Ron "Eat My Dust" Howard's movie adaptation is tasting the same ire -- except that this time around any controversy would be good; after all, we're not talking intellectually stimulating material here, but a blockbuster aspirant. The reviews so far have been, to say the least, uncomplimentary. The film looks all set to become a clunker, but one never knows.

But on to the objections in meraa bhaarat mahaan. The protests and calls for a ban have been in keeping with the fine tradition of outrageous misguided rants that has plagued films as diverse as The Last Temptation of Christ, Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and Deepa Mehta's Fire. After its unsuccessful attempts at getting the book banned, The Catholic Secular Forum (CSF) tried its luck with the film. They filed a petition at the Bombay High Court seeking action against Sharmila Tagore, the Censor Board chief for clearing the film. The Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting, Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi invited a few friends from a particular community to watch the film and provide feedback. Particular community? Who were they? The Opus Duh? Dasmunsi even went on to note: "Whenever there is a film related to the sentiments of a particular community, and requires sensitivity in social matters, the Censor Board invites experts for their opinion. This does not mean the Board has become redundant." . Whatever that means.

If it wasn't bad enough that some "representatives" of the obvious community voiced their protest, the Muslims stepped in in "a show of solidarity." United we stand, united we fall. That's the anthem of the lemmings. And when you read a statement like "The film shows our Prophet Jesus Christ in a bad light. I have not read the book but I am told that the author says Prophet Jesus Christ had a child. This will not be tolerated by any Muslim, you really wonder if any rational mind is at work in this whole business. Hearsay has historically been one of the biggest contributors to the diet of the green-eyed monster, and consequently the cause of ill-will, hatred, strife, violence and death. Such a hullabaloo over a movie that's clearly out to make money, and paradoxically, will benefit from such outrage. Controversy fuels curiosity; curiosity peps up ticket sales.

Finally, and rather soon, the verdict was in. The film was cleared without a cut, and is slated to hit desii theatres with a disclaimer at the beginning (which a lot of people will miss) and at the end (which will probably not get shown thanks to the irritating habit of desii projectionists to turn the projector off as soon anything resembling "The End" transpires).

It will also sport the "A" certificate, which, as we all know, has been a very effective measure in cinema theatres.

It's just as well that there will be no cuts. Especially when one of the scenes on the excision playlist was a scene where the murderer made the sign of the cross before and after the murder. Dear protesting brethren, have you heard of a movie called Jo Bole So Nihaal? It was a movie that offended another community (this time the Sikhs). Strangely enough, you didn't seem to mind the character of Romeo (played by Kamaal Khan), a professional contract killer ( meraa ek hii ##record## hai, ki meraa kahii.n ko_ii ##record## nahii.n hai ), who had a fetish for confession. Every Sunday he'd find a church to confess, and once he was done with the outpouring of sin and vice, he bumped off the priest. As if this wasn't enough, he also indulged in masochism (going topless and asking his hot sidekick Rosie to dress up in black leather and whip him) in the event that he was unable to find a church in time.

While one eagerly awaits Anthony Lane's review, A O Scott's NYTimes review serves up enough feathers for the rib.

And, in closing, may I offer the Language Log's archive of extremely entertaining posts dedicated to Mr. Brown's book and style.

update: [may 20, 2006] In an interesting development, Sony has refused to add the disclaimers saying that the existing standard note (you know the "no resemblance to ..." drill) must suffice. There are reasons why something straightforward like adding disclaimers as bookends is going to pose problems -- this task requires a lot more process and sanction. The studio is reportedly considering moving their disclaimer over from the end credits to the opening credits (I wonder if they realise that this means their disclaimer has a greater chance of being seen -- reasons already mentioned earlier in this post). Meanwhile, Sony has offered Underworld: Evolution for release this week. The second edition in the saga of strife between vampires and werewolves with pervasive strong violence and gore, some sexuality/nudity and language (rated R) should make for a perfect substitute for a murder mystery featuring a symbiologist/sleuth that contains disturbing images, violence, some nudity, thematic material, brief drug references and sexual content (rated: PG-13).

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