Friday, July 23, 2010

bobby: not directed by raj kapoor

Here's how you can avoid being confused when you read the title Bobby: Love and Lust. Raj Kapoor would never give things away in his titles. His films broke new ground in family-rated salaciousness but they never had suggestive titles (except perhaps Ram Teri Ganga Maili). But there is no denying producer Hyder Kazmi's desire to exploit the titular confusion. After all, a lot of VHS tapes will probably stick to the simpler version of the title and a lot of families will walk home expecting to see Dimple Kapadia only to see some lass named Mona Lisa (born Antara Biswas) playing a girl named Bobby. She's from Porbandar and ends up eloping to Bombay with a boy named Uday (hint: symbolic name). Unfortunately, it turns out that Uday is a pimp (working for a madam who has a fetish for breaking glasses and whose voice sounds like Perizad Zorabian with a cold) and a wimp (he can't bring himself to surrender her to madam).

Do you know why parents oppose children? So that they can take a decision themselves. It is because of such pronouncements that Uday eventually winds up dead (not too long after the credits and a messy flashback or two) and Bobby ends up in madam's clutches.

image courtesy: You know what kind of film this is as soon as you see Milind Gunaji (who plays a corrupt policeman on madam's payroll). It's one of those films that purports to deliver a social message under the garb of B-grade titillation. Madam supposedly runs a business for the elite but neither the girls in her care nor her clients will ever convince you that this is the case. We also have another herring in the form of Vishwajeet Pradhan, who has journeyed from films like Prahaar to films like Sangharsh, Aanch and Ek Aur Visphot. And you really can't go wrong with Mohan Joshi (although some of his lines sound like someone looped them in post-production).

You might remember producer Hyder Kazmi (who is also credited with the idea that the film's screenplay was based on) from Patth. He makes sure you don't forget him by playing KK, an intellectual who works for Madam, protecting her girls and ferrying them to and from clients. To underscore his importance in the film, the scene introducing him has him delivering a bucket of dialogue as a bird lies dying on the floor. He also gets to delivering lines of wisdom in a grave voice that sounds like Irrfan had something to do with it to various people in the film: जो कुत्ता भौंकता है (pause) काटता नहीं to Gunaji's corrupt cop, जो बोलते ज़्यादा हैं, वो सोचते कम हैं to Bobby.

The film has, of course, all the requisite song and dance interludes. There's the romantic song for Uday and Bobby on the beach (along with a bathtub full of roses) with sweeping camera moves and a female voice going आँ while Sonu Nigam belts out आँखों की ज़ुबां. There's not one but three item songs set in the same dance bar with McDowell's logos featured prominently: to ensure variety, one of the songs has an Arabian vibe while the other gets African on your senses. There's also a sad song (Sonu Nigam again, of course) with a dream sequence, an over-enthusiastic smoke machine and plenty of romantic sniffing of the armpits. Most of the film has Bobby dealing expressionistically with her loss and situation and with KK turning out to be her saviour as he manages to save her cherry from each client that Madam sends her out to. Eventually the time comes for Madam to meet her end and for KK to free the birds (both from a large cage and from the brothel in slow motion -- never has symbolism been so overtly unsubtle). He then sends Bobby off on a train (of course it's raining -- don't you know how these films work?). It is at this point that we are treated to a temporal leap forward and we see that this was a book called ... Bobby (bingo!). The writer, Krishna Kant (aka KK), ends up winning a Booker prize (it happens only in Bollywood; see also: Baghban, Shabd). We also see that his wife looks familiar (hint: it's Bobby). Of course, he smiles when the journalist asks him if the book is based on fact and who Bobby was. We cut to the brothel under new management (a nice touch) and end credits accompanied by a nice oomph-laden funky instrumental piece that deserved better than this flick.

It would be unfair to depart from this B-treat without acknowledging the background score that was probably designed to represent the equivalent of novocaine in muzak along with piano riffs that tip their hat to Walking in Memphis, the sweeping shots of the Bombay skyline that were probably inspired by a late-night viewing of Blade Runner, a really competent scene between two girls at a hotel when one, a hooker, thinks the other is a hooker as well (it turns out she works in TV serials), a scene featuring the girls of the elite brothel watching a commercial for a breast enhancer and, finally, the subtitles.

The subtitles are quite sublime and represent a fine effort in all departments: Worli becomes volly, Divya becomes बिंदिया, झगड़ने की आवाज़ becomes someone lighting and bloody b*tch becomes rascal. The pièce de résistance, however, is a case when the subtitles enhance the silliness of the dialogue. Here is the sample of dialogue between two girls at the brothel without the subtitles:

A: you are a jealous b*tch
B: you mean ईर्षालू कुतिया?

And here is the sample with subtitles:

A: you are a jealous b*tch
(you are a jealous girl)
B: you mean ईर्षालू कुतिया?
(you mean a dog?)

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is what Rakesh Parmaar's directorial effort has to offer. Don't forget, that's Rakesh Parmaar and not Raj Kapoor. [april 17, 2010]

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