Monday, August 17, 2009

kaminey: genesis

[in which it is obvious that I've seen the film]

be warned that some elements herein may be regarded as spoilers

Kaminey opens with very little of the dross that inundates most Bollywood releases these days. The dross comprises acknowledgements to various media partners, outdoor partners, brand partners, various names both familiar and unfamiliar, miscellaneous logos and the like (My Name Is Anthony Gonsalves might have set a new record with about 1 minute and 54 seconds of such sycophantic fellatio before the film's title came up).

Vishal's film opens with an acknowledgement to Mira Nair and the Maisha Film Lab in Kampala. Then there are two screens of names (including familiar ones like Abhishek Chaubey) after which we get a screen proclaiming "UTV Motion Pictures presents." The next screen bears the interesting "based on an idea by Cajetan Boy."

Maisha is the brainchild of Mira Nair and aims to be "a film makers laboratory dedicated to developing and supporting visionary screenwriters and directors from East Africa and South Asia." The first lab for screenwriters was held in Kampala, Uganda from August 3rd to August 13th, 2005. The mentors for the workshop were Mira Nair, Matthew Robbins, Vishal Bhardwaj, Steve Cohen, Sabrina Dhawan, and Sooni Taraporevala. Vishal fans will probably recognise the name of Matthew Robbins. One of the 10 screenplays chosen for the workshop was titled Roho and it was written by a Kenyan named Cajetan Boy. Vishal had more in an interview:

Where did Kaminey originate? Was it an incident or a film or a book that inspired you?
Four years ago, Mira Nair assembled writers from America, India and Canada to mentor ten students from Asia and Africa. This scriptwriting workshop was held in Kampala, Yuganda[sic]. A young writer from Nairobi showed me a script which was a story about twin brothers and what happens in their life in a span of 24 hours. It was like parallel cutting and I really liked that approach. Mira and I spoke about it at length and both of us felt that it was a typical Bollywood masala movie. I was in touch with that writer for the next six months. He also sent me another draft. Then two-three years later I asked him to sell me the idea. He was in need of money so I sent him some 4000 dollars and bought the script to make any time. I picked up that idea and added Bollywood masala and my dark and serious side to it. So now, one brother stammers and the other has a lisp.

Vishal didn't stop with merely adding the disabilities, the wide array of colourful characters, his trademark dialogue and the other elements reinforcing his belief in the utility of Bollywood conventions in interesting ways. He also tossed in a credit for Cajetan Boy. And that was not all -- Vishal decides to use the name Cajetan for one of the many characters in his tapestry. This gets us more than a couple (if memory serves me right) of utterances of the name. It is also a credited appearance, so we read the name in the end credits (those who stomped over all the popcorn on the floor the moment the dissolve to black happened can pretend they saw this).

The film's merits notwithstanding, this is one of those simple yet masterful gestures that makes people like Vishal stand out in a sea full of plagiarising halfwits and mendacious morons.

Cajetan, one is happy to report, is pleased with all this.

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