Thursday, November 30, 2006

thirsting for pyaasa

what we make today is not cinema but superficial, downright dumb drivel is the byline for some impassioned vitriol from Sudhir Mishra in an opinion column for Outlook India. The article notes the ignorance fuelling Bollywood's auto-fellating spirit, the stronghold exercised by the stars and a ray of hope represented by a new breed of filmmakers who're more interested in telling stories instead of churning pages of captions accompanying polaroids of stars. My favourite nugget is a bit devoted to the industry reaction to Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi:

The continuing tragedy of Hindi cinema is that it is in the grip of the hegemony of a few stars, who patronise a select few filmmakers, often resulting in the tripe that is offered to the public. I was told by two of these megastars that Hazaaron Khwahishein was one of the worst scripts they had ever read. What these stars did with their next films is a part of history that I don't wish to dwell on.

related reading: An article that offers a comparative analysis (see page 2) of financial success in Bollywood and in the south indian film industry.

elsewhere hereabouts: notes on Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, easily the best Hindi film of 2005 and one of the best Indian films of the year | a review of Bhansali's Black that includes a pointer to Sudhir Mishra's caustic take on the film and the fawning industry reaction to the film.

and if this ever-changing world in which we're living makes you give in and cry JUNG

Revisiting a classic dud

First, some disambiguation is in order. This is not the 2000 film directed by Sanjay Gupta that filched from Face/Off and Desperate Measures. This is the truly original 1996 vehicle bearing the likes of Ajay Devgan, Aditya Pancholi and Mithun Chakraborty. Yes, this is the Jung that filched Rahman's tilaanaa tilaanaa (from Muthu) and made it diiwaanaa diiwaanaa (persons responsible: Nadeem and Shravan and lyricist Anand Bakshi). This is that T Rama Rao film we talked about a few years ago. Since enough venom has gone under the bridge, one may be tempted to ask why. Now this is a question that has plagued viewers (like YT) of Bollywood's folderol for eons. However, in the context of this Rambha rompfest, an answer is available: we failed to address the greatness of the film; we merely scraped some flakes off the tip of the smallest ice cube floating at the surface of this cesspool.

It's a portent of slippery times ahead when the movie is presented by someone called Dinky. Then you have a villain (good old Sadashiv (H)amrapurkar) called chakradhaarii chaudharii, who spouts the following delicate ego-fondling nugget:

is sa.nsaar me.n do hii to chakradhaarii hai.n
uupar sudarshan-chakrawaalaa
aur niche mai.n usakii Takkarawaalaa

Everyone's favourite pillar of superhuman honesty and integrity, Mithun Chakraborty, plays eii!-CP arjun (translation: bright, shining, radiant), an honest, sincere, A-grade cop. Ajay Devgan plays his younger brother ajay (translation: he who cannot be defeated; also: we were too bored to think of a name for his character, so he kept his own), who, pursuant to the Bollywood Cliché Act, is an honest lawyer (which, is a contradiction in terms, and hence makes this stock character unique). Aditya Pancholi rocks the joint in a double role: we have the innocent fair-complexioned raam (translation: dark/black [according to wikipedia]; pleasing/charming according to another page), wrongfully accused, tried with the secular docket number 786/25, and rotting in the oft-worn outfit of prisoner #117 in a prison on some backlot; and we have billaa (from the genus of Bollywood villains that inundated movies like Gardish and continue to haunt us even today with Musafir), the villain who decided to rob a train and then frame train-driver raam (aah the trains of coincidence) for his misdeeds. In keeping with tradition, billaa and Co. also tie raam's pregnant wife siitaa (meaning: furrow; straight out of the epic to the railway tracks. The framed siitaa dumps her baby at the doorstep of lakshmii (translation: wealth, fortune), the wife of ACP arjun and manages to flee prison.

In order to get a tax exemption from the CoincidenceMeter by providing a stellar implementation of the StronglyConnectedCharacterGraph, screenplay writer Santosh Saroj (translation: lotus of happiness ... or is it the kiLukkam-e-kamal?) whips out his Kevin Bacon strips and links our characters up.

Like free cable, ajay, convinced of raam's innocence, begins to represent a ray of hope for him (that is, to say, on a professional level). He takes up his case and thus aligns himself in conflict with arjun, who's busy filing his nomination for the Guinness Book of World Records for arresting raam over and over again. Meanwhile, wifey dear (who insists on conjugating English verbs to the continuous form ostensibly as an attempt to provide some humour) hires a nanny for the baby -- if you haven't already figured it out, sitaa's the lucky nanny. Also in the mix is a jallaad (translation: executioner) played by Tinnu Anand, who also has his own axe to grind with billaa (the man responsible for his son's death). On the artistic front, Rambha plays madhuu, over-fed romantic foil for ajay; madhuu also happens to be the daughter of chakradhaarii. This sets up a rich interlocking set-up of Kekule closures and things begin to boil slowly with a rising conflict of truth, justice and melodrama.

Those looking for a simple dramatic narrative will find solace in the number of twists and coincidences that the film sports. Santosh Saroj also scores a coup with lines like kisane mere pyaar ke tave pe paanii chi.Dakaa diyaa? ye ##papa## nahii.n paapii hai, and mai.n har hi.ndustaanii kaa bhaaii huu.N magar tujh jaise gaddaaro.n ke liye kasaaii huu.N. The scenarists do well with their limited supply of spiked lassies by writing a historical voyeuristically satisfying scene featuring madhu bathing against the aural background of Hotel California (appropriated without due credit, but you already figured that out). As if this wasn't enough, Rambha shows up again later dressed up as a Sikh pilot. The giddily swinging cake gets its cherry with Ajay Devgan's drag act.

This belongs to the equivalence class of Mithun films where everyone else seems to get more screen time than the Bengal Tiger himself. Such movies work best when they sport enough villains to fill up a lunch thaalii, but we have a shortage here. The combination of the doppelgänger, the benzene bonds among the characters, the faux physics of the collisions and the visually overwhelming Rambha-nctiousness augment the value of this ham sandwich just enough to make it memorable as events draw to a close with a crackerjack emotional ending where a mother donates her biological baby to its surrogate mother. It's time to catch the 8:55 goods train to Pune.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

vishal bhardwaj's next

[a generous tip to JR for remembering a fragment and prompting a frantic search for the newsitem]

After Omkara, Vishal's been producing Anurag Kashyap's No Smoking (besides doing the honours on the song front with Gulzar) as well as the song for RGV's Nishabd. Although a third edition in the Shakespeare canon (Julius Caesar) was hinted at, his next directorial project seems to be "a period drama set in the days of World War II on the Burma-Japan border." Here's where you can read all that and more from lyricist Gulzar who's doing the lyrics for this venture as well.

what the ba.njar!

Raghav Sachar does a fine job with his songs for Kabul Express. kah rahaa meraa dil (with its clear prominent acoustic guitar and suspended chords) and haa.N ye mai.n aayaa kahaa.N huu.N (with some nice harmonies, accidental chords and an a cappella coda) are personal favourites. It's a bit annoying to hear the fake accent and inflections that Sachar infuses the opening track (kaabul fizaa) with. The instrumental theme stirs memories of Morricone (Once Upon A Time In The West perhaps, but I'm not sure).

The pièce de résistance, however, is the song called ba.njar (meaning: barren). The song features in three versions: one sung by Shubha Mudgal, another by Sunidhi Chauhan (which, for sheer verve, wins top spot for me) and the third by KK (coming a close second). The title of the song becomes a motif so blatant that the other words in the mukha.Daa feel like window dressing:

ba.njar ret hai zamii.n ba.njar hai
ba.njar aasamaa.N ye ghar ba.njar hai
ba.njar dil ye nain ba.njar
ba.njar nain ke aa.Nsuu ba.njar hai.n

refrain: is ba.njar shahar ke dil me.n Dhuu.NDhuu.N mai.n giilii miTTii kaa ma.nzar

ba.njar lamhaa hai waqt ba.njar hai
ba.njar waqt-sii ye raat ba.njar hai
ba.njar raat Kwaab ba.njar
chaa.Nd-taaro.n kaa saath ba.njar hai

refrain: is ba.njar shahar ke dil me.n Dhuu.NDhuu.N mai.n giilii miTTii kaa ma.nzar

ba.njar ret ba.njar zamiino.n ke is daur me.n
ba.njar man ba.njar dha.Dako.n ke is shor me.n
ba.njar ehasaas me.n ba.njar saa.Nso.n me.n
ik safar zaruurii banataa hai jo dilo.n ke dam pe chalataa hai

refrain: is ba.njar shahar ke dil me.n Dhuu.NDhuu.N mai.n giilii miTTii kaa manzar

With so many ba.njars, how the hell does a song remain ba.njar?

(That extract above has been shorn of repeated lines, in case you were interested in counting the total number of ba.njars).

Very ba.njarous.

Monday, November 27, 2006

please welcome the new wave of bollywood high concept

The resounding success of a piece of trash like Krrish and the incumbent success of Dhoom 2 [rejected title: Dhoom and Dhoomer] are enough indicators that Bollywood's laying claim to yet another Hollywood bastion: the high concept flick. Preliminary optimistic analysis predicts a return of Rs. 90 crore. Baradwaj Rangan's review notes the Gandhian aspect (walking, puTTan, walking) of the characters. Oz, on the other hand, notes venomously: But there is a difference between "Not using brains" to "View" a movie AND "Not using brains" to "MAKE" a movie..

The paying masses meanwhile are glad to have their fill of starry eye candy and Ms Rai's smooching coup. Expect Uday Chopra to indulge in method acting in a forthcoming sequel.

While on the roof, please allow me to recommend the book High Concept: Don Simpson and the Hollywood Culture of Excess. I also recommend the opening scene of Robert Altman's The Player. And if you're looking for a breakdown of the requirements for pitching a project in this vein (since, presumably, you're an aspiring writer who has the perfect script for the Dhoom franchise), kindly refer to Steve Kaire's article on the subject. Now if you will excuse me, I have to work on the climax of the sequel to Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna (it's The Sound of Music meets Cliffhanger meets Classic Dance of Love).

Sunday, November 26, 2006

the making of SATYA

Kindly head over to the PassionForCinema blog where Anurag Kashyap has just begun to describe the experience of making Satya, one of the best and definitive Indian films ever. It's just the first part, so if you can't stand the suspense, stay away till the last post is in. Hopefully, we also get more on the creative enigma that is RGV.

addendum: Part II is up.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

RIP Altman

The master of the ensemble is no more. Elsewhere in the archives of this blog, you will find notes on M*A*S*H and Gosford Park.

yellow midday

Oz's Passion For Cinema portal's been getting some press thanks to Anurag Kashyap's No Smoking Diary. Oz has also managed to get two other filmmakers on board: Pavan Kaul and Suparn Verma. But some of the press hasn't been good. A recent Midday article (ePaper URL) fails to do its research and merrily concludes that Pavan Kaul's merely copying Anurag's move to blogging. Oz's impassioned post has more details. Feel free to voice your opinion in the comments; suggestions on a course of action (accounting for things like the Indian judicial system that seem to offer no solace) are also welcome. Outrage might just make up for the hurdles in mounting a legal attack.

Monday, November 20, 2006


The Big B seems all set to sing a song titled rozaanaa for RGV's forthcoming is-this-based-on-Lolita-or-not Nishabd. Vishal Bhardwaj returns for an RGV-fronted venture for the first time since Satya (he did the songs for LKLKBK, but RGV only produced that venture). This will also mark the first collaboration between Vishal and lyricist Munna Dhiman since Ramji Londonwaley and the hard-to-find album Aasma.

On a related note, Vishal's returning with Gulzar for Anurag Kashyap's No Smoking. If you haven't already heard about it, allow me to direct you to The No Smoking Diary for more.

While on the subject of Vishal, one must also note with hope that The Blue Umbrella is slated to be the inaugural release in January 05, 2007 for a new sub-division of UTV Motion Pictures created to "promote experimental and unconventional cinema, making it accessible to a broad audience." The sub-division's strangely called "UTV Classics." Presumptuous perhaps; however, one welcomes any opportunity for more interesting celluloid fare. There's more about the film elsewhere hereabouts as far as the national awards and the Pusan International Film Festival are concerned.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

a racemiferous return

[aka I have a few links for you]

Manish trashes aspects of Umrao Jaan that don't seem to have been part of J P Dutta's game plan.

JR has a growing series of posts on the music of Mani Ratnam's Iruvar. So far we have the introduction, the players and notes on narumugaiye. As of November 16, 2006, we have a post dedicated to Poo KoDiyin Punnagai.

Coincidentally, Baradwaj Rangan has resurrected an old article of his on the same film.

With his notes on Vivah, Baradwaj Rangan gives me food for thought and an incentive (where there was none) to watch the flick (I'll still wait to build up my resistance though).

Gaurav gets his first taste of the business venture menace ... or should I say the menace gets a taste of Gaurav? [my personal saga ended here]

In other news, as G P Sippy's grandson Sascha Sippy is hell-bent on tossing legal hurdles in the way of RGV's take on Sholay, RGV notches up a winning retort: With his fertile imagination, aggressive attitude and way with words, he'd be ideal to write dialogues for movies. And I'd be happy to let him do the needful in my next film, provided he can look beyond his uncle's 'Sholay'

RGV continues to make more interesting news and less successful movies. He's got a PNC production coming up called Sex Haazir Ho (aka "Sex Present Yourself"). That English title alone merits an award.

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