Sunday, May 01, 2011

Shor In the City - Has got Soul!

Somewhere in the middle of this film, an oily fixer says, "pata nahin sab log aajkal patli gali hi kyon dhoondte hain!". He, a fixer, looking for a fast buck, mouthing this priceless gem about the state of the argumentative Indian today. It is that kind of a film.

On the surface, it is a thriller set in the cattle class Mumbai, with motley characters, who you will find in everyday Mumbai, jumping in and out of the screen. Three thugs, all different types, have to make some money. An NRI, wanting to set up business and acquire a girl friend in Mumbai up against some local thugs. A cricketer wanting to make to somehow to the Indian team and save his girlfriend from impending arranged marriage and doom.

But, the story is not about that actually. It is more about hope, redemption and the triumph over circumstances through the practice of goodness!

Enter Mr. Coelho in the form of his book "the Alchemist". He starts to teach a thug how to get through life with the choices that one has. The thug is Tilak (Tusshar) and the goodness reaches him first through the book and then through a caring wife who is more educated than him and helps him learn the book.

But while Tilak is learning, the other motley characters are also seeking their destiny in the bowels of Mumbai. The NRI (Ramamurthy)has a dark past that he has run from but needs to bury once and for all. He does this tellingly, if only to be at peace with himself. In his case, the good comes out of the bad as he deals with the thugs who harass him in his own manner, only to go faceless at the alter of God.

The cricketer and his girl come to terms with their chances in the prevailing order of the society. They choose routes to future that may not be the best but yet provide them with a lot of cheer.

The film has its moments in all the departments of film making. Some details are very nicely done.

* The newly wedded Radhika Apte cringing in her marital bed at the thought of her new husband's assault on her for sex. The camera stationed on the side of Radhika's face captures her vulnerability and Tusshar's indecision and confusion. Nice!
* The witty repartee between the three thug friends. (Of course, more proficient actors than Nikhil Dwivedi or Pitobash or even Tusshar may have done wonders with these dialogues, I was thinking Sharman, Arshad, Deepak Dobriyal, etc. Repeatedly, their antics drew laughs. But it had a smear of pathos, through illiteracy and mockery. Very thin ice directors, Raj and Krishna skated here!!
* The redemption scene for Senthil Ramamurthy, the editing and BG score rocked here. The BG score is by Roshan Machado who needs to be complimented for the climax scene. It keeps us hooked to the proceedings.
* The mother outside the cricketer's girlfriend's room shouting away in Hindi and Gujarati alternatively to make the girl get out of the room. Small scene yet so effective.
* Amit Mistry, when he inspects the arms in the hideout. (Amit Mistry has been continuously impressive through Ek Chaalis ki last Local, 99 and this film, don't know why he does not get more work?). Watch out for his Mumbaiya Marathi intonations. It's brilliant!
* The set up of the loving couples at Bandra Reclamation in broad daylight. This spoke volumes about the loneliness of this city!!

My only crib is Tusshar. He is bland. This needed a yesteryear Kamalhasan kind of performer, really! If not, a Sharman would have done adequately or even a Nawajuddin!!

But go see this film. It's got soul!

Monday, February 28, 2011

Of Budgets, Ties and Oscar mirth!

Need to find some relief. Too many messages from all around. I am a bit mixed up and my thoughts are coming out like:
 Pranabda takes a moral high ground on expenditure because of all the bat changes that Sachin, Gautam, Yusuf and some others have been doing. So, Pranabda has said that corruption needs a deeper probe. Why does Yusuf want to change his bat in 10 balls, I wonder? Because, Melissa Leoh has blurted out ‘f@##$%#g’ during her “Thank You” speech during the Oscars, someone hoots! Blur!!
 We shall Tax exemption upto Rs. 180000. Only? I have to dole out so much. I moan. Dhoni doesn’t. Why would he? He is neither happy nor sad. Or both. I dunno. All I know is that his conveyance is free, his petrol comes courtesy BCCI, mine doesn’t. And then he does not have a good midwicket for half a game. Franco does, look how he was walking on stage!
 Infra has got a lot of government attention. L&T stocks up. Kumble envisaged it and as an advertorial prepared that awesome 22 yards. Kenya can hit up 250 odd there now, but its got to be against India, with Chawla hogging one end to prove his acting skills as a leg spinner! Kumble also has come to know before about Pranab babu’s push to Education. His academy shall have Chawla as Sr. Lecturer.
So on and so forth!
Phew, need some sleep!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Lyrical Bhardwaj and his Shakespearean Cinema

Bhardwaj once said he made films only because he got to make his kind of music. Or did he actually?

We already know most of the story linearly through Ruskin Bond, Twitter and Blog reviews. A few minutes into the film, Bhardwaj pulls the rug from underneath my feet in a neat scene where the dwarf jockey cum horse trainer openly rebels against the Housemaster Major Rodrigues (Neil Nitin in a straitjacket). Vivaan Shah’s dry voice over announces a duel. Both Major and the Jockey are with whips. The subjugated Jockey is giving it his best. What is his motivation? Why would he do that, is my thought? He loses and he also loses an eye in the process. Susanna (Priyanka Chopra) gets angry. The bells toll. Major is bumped off in an elaborate sequence.

Why would the Jockey, Maggie the cook and Ghalib the butler willingly take part in Susanna’s ghastly thought as if it were just another episode in their dysfunctional life. As Vivaan keeps explaining to us in the background!

These people are not afraid of circumstances, of their position or their future?
(In the meanwhile, a Christian Susanna has already been shown doing a Naag Devta puja in a well) I get nudged, I am winked at!

They are not. As they know their “Saheb” Susanna from before. (Here, I begin to understand the genius of Bhardwaj). They know that she is a murderer and that at some point in her relationships she’ll snap. So, it is the men who in most cases come to live with her. Not she with them. The Ghazal writer (Irrfan in all glory) being the notable exception. In her familiar environs she sets up her murders like a Sardar and his man servant in a place called Nithari, in real life! Nudged, Winked.
But, she is in a battle with herself, with her damaged psyche that has nestled evil right from her childhood. The house help know. They vicariously enjoy her conquests, live a cheerful life, have bacchanalian evenings recounting her exploits and even willingly participate in her elaborate murders. The Nudge is hard. The wink is Mischievous now.

Very lyrically, through an elaborate use of Western folk, Western Classical, Rock and Ghazals, we see the men meeting their nemesis and losing their life to her through the first hour.

Bhardwaj needs to sell the psyche of a cold blooded murderer to us. He does that with some of the most awesome music that I have heard in recent times. Not all the riffs, church choir songs, a great “I Do” version (sung by Dominique Cerejo, most probably, as I could not spot the tag anywhere), a superb waltz track done in a dark army mess ballroom, Dekh to Dil ki Jaan by Mehdi Hassan et al. Murders need to be dressed up too! Nudged Hard!!

These brilliant pieces set the tone for Susanna to move forward through her story, aid her in her macabre search for life, violins serenade when she walks the aisle with John, the rockstar, just after a church choir help her in shedding tears for her departed Major, who we know she has killed. In fact, John is from the church choir. So musical and yet so fatal for the poor church boy.

I have entered the House of Mirrors that Bhardwaj has set up completely.

So, I state again, Bhardwaj once said he made films only because he got to make his kind of music. Or did he actually?

Do her husbands deserve those deaths? As I have mentioned in the beginning that Susanna’s damaged psyche does not allow herself to even contemplate walking away. She has to kill. So, the characters are shown indulging in some form of sin.
So, back to the music again and now the brimming BG score. I have to take a notepad and sit the next time I would have to note the elaborate notes he spins around each episode, differently yet the focus is to stun us viewers into understanding the fact that Susanna had to do that murder! She had reason, you see!! McGuffin there. But we get sold. Wink. Wink..

The confusion for the viewer is in the second half. Vronsky first. Why? He tells her he would not want to get married then, she forces her into marriage and then gets those photographs. Then the elaborate kill wherein the butler Ghalib malevolently explains how “Saheb” has bumped off the earlier husbands. Now who is winking at me?
So, an Abala Naari who is kind of dysfunctional, has landed up with awful hubbies and so has a history of murders now needs to murder again just for the heck of it?
Hard to digest. All because he has another family or he is probably a double agent?

The answer is in her darkening and wizening face. The demons inside her are out there for all of us to see. The tight close ups now and the haunting BG make us aware of the uncomfortable face and the mind behind it. Gruesome.

Then, she invites the investigating officer Keemat Lal (Annu Kapur) to her home, herself. Compellingly brilliant scene wherein she clearly states that she may be caught and Keemat keeps finding out a way of saving her while looking at the murder scene and then she coolly takes him to bed. Mind you, he is not so sure of this middle aged good looking woman and is just playing the lark. But, she is sure. Inevitably, she is on top in bed, bringing him to a climax that he has not known before. He is sold. He quickly goes through a divorce to come back and get married. Then, he is immediately killed. Why? This time, in church she is not even simpering!
Realization dawns to viewers and herself, Susanna. She ain’t gonna change. At all.
Then, the remorse sets in. She consumes pills to die. She is saved. The tables turn.

So, she plans one last time. She kills and then wants to die as she does not want to kill anymore. The fire results. The violins wail.

Then, the brilliant end. And the seventh husband. Faith! And the Church Bells…
I mean, how would this auteur go about filming this? So, let me get the scenes out of the way and then I’ll worry as to how I shall embellish it or get all the details in place, in head, in the screenplay, the music to the last riff and film it with all my actors knowing what they have to deliver?

The actors deliver, and how?!