Saturday, June 23, 2012

where are the gangs?

Friday, June 22, 2012: Gangs of Wasseypur hits the marquee. I go to Google Movies to check the showtimes in my area. Zilch.



No dice.





Saturday, June 23, 2012: According to NowRunning, the film is not playing anywhere in the US of A.




What happened?

Did the producers and distributors of Teri Meri Kahaani (puke!) strike a deal with their associates to delay the release of Kashyap's opus so that they could get a few more dollars?

Did the irate masses of Wasseypur take over Congress and the Indian film distribution circuit in the USA?

नाम बोल! कह के लूँगा!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

shanghai: whither progress

As the red-on-black end credits for Dibakar Banerjee's Shanghai started scrolling up in an otherwise empty theatre, that rare feeling of wanting to sit in for the next show kicked in. I also wasn't sitting through the end credits out of habit with an open eye for trivia and familiar names; I was also thinking about what I had seen.

I was thinking about all the attention to little details to embellish almost every scene. I was thinking about that ball bouncing into what should have been an otherwise serious hearing; I was thinking about the desperation in every pore and crease of Anant Jog's face. I was thinking about the chaos of protest, of impassioned mobs and of fervent futile idealism presented in the brightest hues. I was thinking about each song loaded with the sharpest lyrics in many months. I was thinking about the item song that fit so well in the narrative, that was interrupted (as it would have been in real life) by the appearance of a political biggie. I was thinking about Abhay Deol's accent and how it added the extra something to his poise and demeanour without standing out as an acting exercise. I was thinking about Emraan Hashmi turning a new corner and doing what might be his best work as the pornographer/video photographer with horrible teeth. I was thinking about how almost no character in the film really seemed truly white or truly black. You could understand the futility of those driven to ill deeds in the quest for something better than their wretched conditions. I could understand (and perhaps not stomach) the pragmatic path that some people had chosen. I also saw how justice could seem as rich as skimmed milk. I liked how the last time we see the hospital is introduced as a sound that makes sense later and then continues as a long shot tracking faces and ending with a tear.

This is a fine film worth every anna (or whatever the lowest meaningful denomination is today in inflated India) of your ticket's price. But this film is not going to entertain you in the least. You won't really enjoy the fervour of bhaarat maataa kii jay because it's after all a paean to dengue and malaria as well as to the Golden Bird of yore. You can't ogle at the lady sashaying and wiggling away in imported kamariyaa because the song is never allowed to stay long enough to titillate you. You don't have a 5-minute obligatory sad song running over a montage of sad people. You don't have jingoism making it easier for you to take sides. You just sit and squirm each time you laugh or smile, because you realise that it was no laughing matter at all.

And because this is hardly an entertaining film, I fear that Dibakar Banerjee's brilliant adaptation of a Greek novel that already sired a classic in 1969 will find few takers. It will get the good notes from people who cannot influence the masses enough. It may survive with a recommendation or two from the few that may have ventured to the cinema halls and picked this instead of Ridley Scott's compelling Prometheus or that execrable piece of dung called Rowdy Rathore. But it will not change the inevitable results this weekend: Prabhu Deva's latest directorial venture will surely triumph. And India will continue to progress.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

madagascar: lucky the third time in 3D

They walked in for a free preview screening of Madagascar 3: Europe's Most Wanted on a nice bright Saturday morning. There were lots of kids in attendance, as expected. The usher welcoming everybody said "Disney" instead of "Dreamworks" (or did he?). As soon as the Dreamworks logo appeared, everybody in the theatre realised that this was the 3D version and not the 2D version (which was what the organisers of this preview had planned to screen).

Guess what was missing? 3D glasses. Oops. Scramble! Confusion. Voila! A box of 3D glasses is procured and packets are distributed in two flavours -- one for kids and the others for the grown-ups.

The lights go dim again and the logo appears. Oops. We still have a problem. The 3D on screen does not mix well with the 3D glasses and what you get is a mix of blurs, offset contours and general distraction. Screen off. Lights on.

They finally go and fix the projector (presumably this was 3D streaming out of a 2D lens). The third time is a charm and everybody sits back to enjoy a fun-filled romp in 3D. Dreamworks does a great job with the colours. There are a lot of good jokes and sequences and Frances McDormand makes a great splash as the villainess of the piece. Some of the jokes clearly work only for grown-ups: there are jokes that just expect you to know things that only a grown-up would; there are also jokes that challenge what kids should hear and see. Pixar manages a better balance in this matter. The crew of the first two films is back, but the penguins don't get to show off much. King Julien XIII gets more to do and his sub-plot offered the most fun of all the sub-plots.

If you're a fan of Clerk, there's a sequence that will look familiar (No, I am not kidding!). This is surely just a wishful coincidence. The makers of this film can hardly be expected to have seen Manoj Kumar's cult classic.

If you're an Indophile, stay for the end credits and watch a long roll for the Dreamworks crew from India.

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