Friday, March 16, 2018
Wednesday, March 14, 2018
Tuesday, March 13, 2018
Sunday, March 11, 2018
Friday, October 27, 2017
A scene within a home. A family is told by the man of the house that they will have to go a party. The wife is told to make an exception in her attire as the gathering is a bit modern. She does not have to wear the Burqa. She is happy and dresses up. Pertinently, the daughter is not told to go along. The daughter is a teen. Appearing for Class 10.
The mother decks up. The man comments that there is a necklace missing in her attire. He asks her to take out the "only" necklace that she owns. Fear sets in. The lady cannot tell the truth. That she sold the necklace and bought a laptop for the daughter. Fear makes her fumble. Fear makes her daughter discover the truth. Fear makes them look at each other in utter helplessness. Fear makes the man bigger than he actually is. A ritual of physical abuse starts as everyone cowers in fright.
The story of "Secret Superstar" is not so much about a girl going against all odds, meeting a mentor and making it. It is all about a woman discovering her voice against abuse and dependence.
Numerous small moments strike you. The mother raising her arms and doing a jig as her husband leaves for another country, in relief. The grandma telling a story about a mother desperately running away to save the girl child in her womb. A money making tuition teacher realizing the plight of the girl who tries to apply herself to studies in spite of a very abusive home. A mother who buys a guitar for her six year old daughter. A canny mentor searches his soul through a forgotten song. A daughter discovers the plight of love in her little brother's handiwork with scotch tape. And TV, to escape the mundane existences in middle class India.
In all this, a very lovely teen love affair blossoms knowing fully well that it will be crushed by hard reality. Hindu - Muslim. In Gujarat. She, having stars in her eyes. He, a middle class steady boy, knowing his place. And they get a permission to be together from the mother on their last day at school. He takes her to his home. She's fed aam, very aam moment but powerful in the message. It's over. Because, he knows that the girl and her parents are going away to another country.
Yes, it is again the magic of cinema. It can be manipulative at times like Aamir Khan's efforts with another story about a buck tooth autistic boy a decade back. But it is streets ahead of any other maker's vision.
All the actors are in form. Zaira Wasim and Meher Vij are unstoppable in their roles as daughter and mother respectively. Meher has many close ups and her eyes are so expressive and similar to Zaira's that it makes them mother and daughter in more ways than screen. Raj Arjun has been around and he revels in the father's role. The violence is implicit and in his demeanor and that's commendable work. But the scene stealer is the classmate cum boy friend called Chintan. Tirth Sharma does the role and he just rocks every scene he is in. That includes roaming a city in an autographed shirt.
The songs could have been better. In a film about songs and talent, the songs are not catchy, that's sad. Amit Trivedi, such chances do not come by so easily.
Know the name, Advait Chandan, the director. His idea of stories on film is just about blossoming. Like, his "Secret Superstar".
Saturday, July 22, 2017
Moynaguri. North Bengal. A boy is born and left at the hospital. He is brought up by the hospital staff. He stammers and so he keeps quiet. He has his own world. Among books and nature. One day he watches a man take a dive from a coal train. The man is rescued by the boy and moved to the hospital. The man and the boy become father and son.
The boy is Jagga. The man is Bagchi. Both are investigators. But of different kinds.
I won't tell the story here. Let me dwell on some moments.
The father stumbles into clues and circumstances. He isn't prepared half the time. Yet he makes do. In a ganjee, he cycles off with Jagga to save himself through green top jungles. We see the sequence in song, in motion, in swirling light, in brilliant green and in an anxious Bagchi's face who's so unlike an investigator up close. We are being surprised just like Jagga is being surprised too.
Jagga looks at details. He has a yen for details. There's a clock tower mystery he's solving. There's a school assembly. There's rain. There's late evening. There's a clock tower. There are two women. There's a man. And a lot of little details. Now, Jagga's mind is registering these details in staccato mode. We watch the unfurling story in the same form. Through his eyes. Through his stammering speech forms. Through a song that acts like a voice over showing all the scenes happening with swift cute. Mystery in a box. Evening. Night. Next morning. Jagga with friends. The final say on the mystery, Sherlock or Feluda style.
Jagga adds things up. They are in Ukhrul, Manipur. Shruti, another reporter-investigator arrives there. Jagga bumps into a man. He follows him. Then, there's a murder in a room and a murder on a sky wheel. Jagga's mind takes him to some conclusions. We are nudged to some conclusions too. With Jagga. Via the net, a book with Netaji's exploits, a tunnel and Shruti's own background. It's a pleasure for us too when the mystery unravels. As they stumble through to success.
There's whimsy. Through songs and stutters. Images dissolved appear and then gain focus. Like evolving minds. There's small facial expressions. Bagchi's nods. Later Jagga's nods and eyebrow ticks. Shruti's lips pursed. Portents of done mistakes. There's swift actions. A la a young Feluda or Sherlock. Or Tintin. There's a back shot of Jagga standing at a round window and dark visage exactly like Tintin is in his comic books. Every disaster of Shruti or Bagchi ends with them being flat or legs up, like Thompson and Thompson or Captain or Prof Calculus.
There's enough happening in the songs as they are dialogue in verse. Beatboxing, guitar strings, horns creeping up, violins being maudlin as Jagga is being lonely. Choruses bring enthusiastic as Jagga solves mysteries. A whole orchestra picking up as Jagga and Bagchi adventure through Africa. Music is the soul of each happening. The reason for existence.
Katrina is Shruti and she bumbles through the film quite sincerely. She adopts the clunkiness that is required with admirable gusto. Saswata Chatterjee is priceless as Bagchi. He's a detective and a Bengali. Considerate, funny, sad, emotive, stubborn, witty, angry and fueled by adventure, all at once. This is a bravura act by Saswata and shall be hailed in different ways in years to come. He's Sanjeev Kumar and Peter Sellers coming together in Eastman colour.
Ranbir Kapoor is Jagga and he wears the character, seeps it into his bones and lives it. The stutters, the little sounds, the facial expressions, the idiosyncrasies and the walk. There's so much to see. Deduce. Understand. From just his portrayals. Here's an actor who can go very far with the right stories. Watch him throw toothpaste foam into a basin from afar. Priceless.
It's Anurag Basu's mind that's on screen. His stories. His life. His interests. His wanderings. His childhood. His belief in theatre and music. He weaves it together as only he knows.
This is compulsory cinema for people who believe in the art. I mean, which cinema can have a Bengali music strain effortlessly segue into an operatic orchestra and then end up in an African tribal song all in one sequence?
Mr. Basu, just release those comic books. Bestsellers guaranteed. Please.