Tuesday, October 11, 2011
Friday, February 19, 2010
Saturday, December 26, 2009
Rajukumar Hirani’s power as a director comes from the vision of world he creates. It can be called a world of ‘convenience reality’, his world is only real to the extent he wants it to be. But, it is his unique style of exaggeration where he chooses to address a relevant problem by dressing his characters and conversation in a manner which lends his narrative clarity and often helps him find his destination. He has been primarily a story teller where he chooses to create a somewhat simplistic model of the world he chooses, but it is the genuine warmth that his narrative exudes makes him an important filmmaker. However, with 3 Idiots, too much to recount at hand becomes his undoing rather than privilege and the movie ends up sneaking into different zones, peeking, often sniffing, passing a statement and then moving on to different parts of the story.
One of the liberties taken by our story tellers for eons has been the use of clichés. It is a convenient device that instantly polarizes the different characters and clearly draws a line by delineating clearly what is to be ridiculed and what is to be taken sides with. Hirani is no different here. Like Bhagat he sets his story and bombards it with characters that are painfully stereotypical. The movie is a depressing celebration of motley of clichéd characters who clamor after your attention: a nerd who is oblivious to ways of life and does not defer to human feelings, same can be said about the college dean, the female lead’s beau is a yawningly out and out black character who is blatantly stupid and materialistic, the main characters are under performers and therefore, by default ‘cool’ and ‘different’. Such shallow understanding of people that throng the campus and hence translating them to mere stereotypes stems from limited understanding of college life and plagues the movie quite badly, because the majority of conflicts arise from these stereotypes which makes the whole situation a farce and nothing else.
can’t be denied that Hirani has an interesting premise at hand. In fact, the most relevant and pertinent than his previous two movies; the age old debate examining the importance of grading system, the fact whether our current education system stifles independent thinking.etc, It is also commendable what he chooses to do with those questions, but the fact remains it is not a concentrated effort and the movie never settles into one zone. Also, what hurts the movie’s prospects is the fact that Hirani is more concerned about the fantastic quirks of the characters and exposing them so as to extract numerous laughter moments on screen. He is less concerned about the message he wants to put across and is more intrigued by the flippancy that comes by default to all his characters. Because, the real answers are not as monochromatic and simple as proposed by Hirani and Joshi, rather they are kaleidoscopic in nature. This is where Hirani’s world clashes with the real world. In his previous two movies, his was a world of ‘convenience reality’ where he kept things ‘real’ at one plane and hyperventilated to another at will taking every liberty under the roof and often achieving the desired result with glee. Because, for all we cared, we had not come across a Munnabhai anywhere and therefore we embraced his vision of world unquestioningly. But, the world depicted in the movie exists and we have been a part of it, and hence Hirani’s toggling his versions of reality does tend to affect the movie a bit.
Also, there is absolutely no connect between the characters of Aamir and Kareena. Barely three scenes they have met and the fourth one breaks into a imagined romantic duet. There is no noticeable arc in the feelings and hence, the whole romantic track between the two leads looks forced.Where Hirani fails with this movie is the lack of conflict between the existing world and the world his main characters believe in. When the characters wants to chase excellence and not success, there is hardly any mention of what happens when you throw caution to the wind and do what you think is right. What happens when one’s idealist self steps into a dog-eat-dog world. How is one tempted to succumb when one’s ideals are questioned at each and every moment? The nerds are always shown as someone devoid of intelligence but only gifted with superb memorizing power. Is it really the case? Are they the typical drones they are made out to be? Really? Besides, it must not be noted that nerds are someone who have seen this system from close and know how to live harmoniously with it. How sinful is it to make peace with a system which you can do nothing about other than scraping out of it? But, these are serious questions that require deep contemplation; rather, here the protagonist’s problem gets solved by a freak accident. Although it can be argued that Hirani’s main intention is to propose a solution rather than contest the ‘what ifs’ of situations. Even then, the subject here is complex and required more attention than what Hirani chooses to lend it. The movie is also yawningly formulaic at places and laced with myriad filmy moments. Yes, not the magical uniquely cinematic ‘filmy’ moments but rather cringe worthy predictable scenes that have a hangover of ‘been there, done that’.
What is to Hirani’s credit is he keeps the thread of comedy throughout the movie and it is this flavor that Hirani is most comfortable with. He is most comfortable at creating something which is a derivative of his soaring imagination, and clearly not comfortable at creating (or, rather recreating?) a prototype of the world that already exists. Creating funny situations out of nowhere is Hirani’s groove. He makes the journey tolerable by creating many light moments. You tend to laugh at the situation, even though disagreeing with the way he handles the ‘message’. But, it must be admitted that he is an important filmmaker just because of the way he has handled all his three subjects so far. His style is often at times endearing and takes unique potshots at conventions; however, he is most comfortable when he does not have to think about hammering a ‘message’ to the audience. Because, Munnabhai despite being insanely funny showed what ‘parental pressure/expectations’ can force one to be. Here, the thread of laughter is strong and glowing, but sadly is the movie’s only saving grace because for most part it is absolutely clueless what to do with its soul.
Wednesday, October 21, 2009
Being fearful comes naturally to us. We need not be conditioned for it. However, bravery, courage and other virtues seek example. Fear stands on its own. Tall, unfettered bonded to our psyche naturally. All great horror movies revel in the fact that ‘it is not about what you show, but what you not show’. They exploit the human imagination and spur it on to unlock the normally inaccessible sets of thoughts and images. Peli knows the fear of unknown is the most pronounced of all and hence builds anticipation like a slow poison with a lot of care and craft. He makes sure the movie doesn’t startle us all of a sudden one moment and fizzles in the remaining parts. The emotions don’t vacillate in crests and troughs here, but rather take a forever depressing linear path which sometimes make it quite a task to even tolerate this movie.
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Let’s begin with Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa. One of the few ‘Bollywood’ movies that dealt with a loser’s story. The movie made us sink into his shoes and helped revisit our vulnerabilities. It also commented intelligently on youth’s lack of choices, and only few clearly defined options of future that they gulped. Rather, forcefully. A loser who bent all the rules in the book, but still remained what he was – a loser. Although the last scene got trapped by the contagious disease called ‘Happy Ending’ or ‘binding all the threads together’ that had been prevalent in Bollywood movies since forever, even then the movie was one of the finest of the decade. Pankaj Advani wrote the screenplay for that movie. It always helps to know where the director is coming from.
But, Sankat City’s fault not lies entirely with director’s surprisingly stunted cinematic vision, but rather failing to realise even its most basic requirement. Living up to a promising script. A script that contains some of the most weird, zany characters, but when translated on screen, the consequence is not inebriated laughter, but listlessness . The jokes are inconspicious by their absence, and it hurts the movie’s prospects because social commentary is not the director’s aim here. At least not the primary one. Although Advani’s attempt is undeniably laudable and honest, but, don’t we all understand and appreciate the cliched ‘Don’t talk about the labor pains. Show us the baby’?
The most potent weapon in the movie of these kinds is dialogues. But, that is not a mean feet to achieve. Specially because one attempts to tackle madness with a subtle method. Less effective dialogues only causes the method to appear more wobbly at a tangible level. The method is then no longer hidden, but is rather exposed, bringing all the flaws on surface. Sankat City ails from this major problem. Ek Chaalis ki Last Local and 99 were prime examples of smart dialogue writing in the movies of same genre. Yes, I am not even attempting to raise the bar by mentioning Tarantino and Guy Ritchie. Even in the Bollywood playground, the dialogues of Sankat City are uninteresting and pedestrian.
However, Sankat City doesn’t suffer from hangover of any film. Pankaj Advani’s voice is essentially his own, and that is heartening to note, however detached it may be from tickling the funny bone is a different thing all together. Characters don’t become weird and interesting just by default. They have to prove their madness. The fact that Fauzdaar substitutes ‘j’ by ‘z’ every time he speaks doesn’t make him a very appealing character. There is nothing else he does to hold your attention. The character had a lot of potential to seamlessly switch between aggression and comedy. That’s what these kinds of characters can do. They coax you into their mannerisms, and when they unleash their venom with blinding alacrity, you almost feel guilty by laughing at the wrong time.
Fauzdaar does nothing of the sort. Briefly, when he chides Pachisia for not slapping the captive followed by a hesitant, wobbly camera closing up is one of the few times the character looked interesting. The movie had a motley of potentially interesting characters on paper. Consider this: A gangster who has a thing for sexy sirens, a homosexual baba, a con woman who is not out and out black, a goon who struggles with English as much as with his life and his overtly emotional co-worker, a stupid goon, and his lover, a sex worker. Pretty interesting characters these. However, the director’s inability to go full throttle with them robs the movie of many potentially rib tickling moments. When Fauzdaar meets the Dynamite, it could have been an insanely, complex, comical epic scene. However, Advani trivialized the whole thing by showing us a silly 20 second dance number. Amongst the pack, KK stands out. The consistency in his character is remarkable. Papa will geeo you breakfast, still makes me chuckle. It is not the kind of role we are accustomed to see him play. But, even then his execution looks effortless .
Over the top characters are a dangerous territory, not because they stand the fear of being rejected outright by people hopelessly running after realism. They are a dangerous proposition because they are difficult to carry. Some characters are intentionally over the top to quench people’s quota of laughter(Most of them are formulaic and poorly written too). But, one there is even a remote intention of taking a dig, the character’s loudness seems shallow. Because then, one is sure the mannerisms are supposed to justify the self depreciating humor dedicated to a much higher cause. Sadly, they don’t in this case. So, Chunky Pandey’s ‘Ye role different hai’, and the usual inanites that he mouths merely transports the message the director wants to convey. It doesn’t touch us in any way, and thus doesn’t a warrant a laugh. Same holds true for Lingam, and Dr.Zhivago. They are irritatingly loud and hence, mere caricatures who do not justify their presence. Here the character’s justification is not related to whether they mean something in the context of the story, which is obvious they do, but into the larger context of adding that quirkiness which movies like these are known for.
It is not as if Advani doesn’t have anything to say. He says, and says it rather well in plenty of situations. Most notably in the movie’s climax when KK and Rimi are trying to find the money in the heap of garbage. Isn’t it analogous to trying to make a fortune in a city which is full of scum(people)? Or, that scene when KK plays with his fishes. One of the few things in the movie(or, even in the dynamics of the frenzied city as a whole) that is not corrupted by the shadow of monetary gain. The fact that KK and Rimi Sen’s story don’t have a romantic angle to it. The swapping of bags and the meteor twist is really smart too. The movie has its moments, but few and far in between.
The movie could have been an intelligent homage to all the Bollywood absurdities we have grown up watching, and it gets some of the things right too, but on a macro level the movie leaves a lot to be desired for. It became a slave to a genre and couldn’t justify its place there.
I wish the highly discussed New wave Indian film making doesn’t resort to mere mutual back slapping, but rather cultivate and encourage serious criticism. Where every rebuttal is not encountered with ‘It is his first film’, ‘atleast he made a film’ , ‘the movie was made in trying circumstances’ , ‘go make a film yourself’ ( Lest I be misunderstood, this is a general statement and is not directed at any one particular!). Or, with excessive cynicism such as ‘Look! he is trying to sabotage our baby’. Our collective goal is much more higher and shouldn’t be impeded with such trivialities.