Sunday, October 16, 2016

Film musing - Zulfiqar (Bengali)

Zulfiqar. Ceaser + Anthony & Cleopatra. In Bengali. Transported to the dock underworld of Calcutta. Note that I have put it as Calcutta and not Kolkata. I know this underworld a lot closely. I know the kind of people who have made money here. I know of people who have flourished and how. Who managed the dock workers. The truck parking. The boys who worked illegally in the parking lots. The illegal auctions of items off the broken down ships. The scrap. The voluminous smuggling off broken open containers. I can go on and on. It sort of got set up as an organized underworld in the middle 70s. The parties entered it in the early 80s and even now the guys who profit the most from it are around wearing the colours of a particular party. The spread is now from Kidderpore to Budge Budge. The movie skims through this history very simply in the first few minutes of the film and quickly comes to the conflict between the members of the highest echelon of the underworld, the syndicate. Since, I don't do reviews I shall refrain from going through the story. Suffice to say, much happens but actually not much meat. Srijit, the director, has created a large canvas for himself. Then, he flounders badly. This is a large story. Ceaser. Zulfiqar. It needs that time to spice the politics happening. To bring in the right marinate and make the meat juicy. Brutus or Bashir here was not just a good man who killed his friend over some misinformation fed to him by Cassius or Kashinath here. There was a lot of undercurrents. At the personal level as well as the political level. There were family intrigues. I really thought Srijit underdid those areas of the story. He had the actors who could have pulled it off. But he chose not to. In the last few scenes, it was sad to see him get the entire cast do a confusing gunfight scene in the dock like the 90s Mithun classics. Locations of the gunfight shifting in a jiffy. Prasenjit Chatterjee as Zulfiqar is trying, hard. One can see that. But he does not have the gravitas to pull this off. His screen son loving the same woman Rani Talapatra or Cleopatra is even poorer. Anthony's debauchery does not even start to peek through. Rani Talapatra is done by Sayantika who starts off proceedings on a strong note. A scale that tells me that she will play the queen in a certain manner. And then I am devastated to see that she becomes the whimpering B grade Bangla film heroine. Parambrata and Dev are a duo here. Tony Braganza and Marcus. Zulfiqar depends on them the most. They do well in the beginning. Parambrata does the talking. Anglo Indian English peppered with some Hindi and Bangla. He does it well. Dev is dumb. No talking. He does most of the fighting. Does it well. They have a little bromance going. But just when it starts to go well, there's a strong stage scene and all goes haywire and downhill from there for these two actors. The saviour is an actor called Kaushik Sen. He plays Bashir. He talks in a higher pitch. Is a kind of a good man in a bad trade. Kaushik nails most of his scenes. He has great expressive eyes. The director is intelligent enough to spot this early and gives him a lot of close ups. Kaushik also gets his Calcutta Hindi very right. There's a scene. Bashir is calling back Zulfiqar's friends and family from where they are hiding. Kaushik is seated in the corner of a large sofa with a cellphone. The only movement in that dark scene is his eyes and head. Must say, I was blown by his act. Jishu as Kashinath and Paoli Dam as Zulfiqar's wife are simply not there with their complicated roles. I could not even understand what Paoli was saying in a couple of scenes. Srijit is probably looking at quantity but then he should attempt simpler films. Simpler stories. Ceaser is very complicated. Shakespeare meant it that way. So that people could come back over and over again to see his plays. This was Srijit's Bombay Velvet.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

A bearded leader and some bearded men

Virat Kohli smiles a lot. He also gasps, fumes and grimaces. Sometimes his inner Captain Haddock takes over on the field if his deep fine leg is standing on his heels. At other times he's found wringing his hands in dismay or having a rueful smile when his nice fielders get into a tangle with the ball. Read Rahane. Or Ashwin. When he's running like a grammar school kid after school. But Virat gets his job done. I won't mind saying that this cute little team has more talent on field than the times of Saurav or Dhoni. But putting the available talent to work and getting the best out of each guy is another sort of work. Your talent cannot graze grass at third man like some of the pacers did in other times. Nor they can be toggled between third slip and midwicket in fervent hope that the ball will show signs of deviant bounce or the pitch shall show frantic signs of turn just after 3.17 pm in the afternoon. Talent has to be put to work. Logical. Yeah, but try telling Amit Mishra that. Or Praveen Kumar. Praveen may even bring down his family mace onto your head. It's the near past. Just look through the score sheets and see how these guys were used. Virat has succeeded in this. I would not venture to say fully. I fear a caustic Viru tweet if he ever reads this. Ever. But sample this. You have a setting sun. You decide to change Ashwin's end and bring in the tall bowler against the setting sun. You employ a leg slip for his faster ones. You have your best in field catchers at all the close in positions. Then you put in yourself for the uppish drive at short mid on. You ask Ashwin to go about his business with trajectory and drift. You get results. The science and art of talent management onfield comes alive. It's beyond all fixes and cave ins. Virat loves his hours of the day. His declarations have had a certain certainty to themselves. It isn't about waiting for Rohit's fifty or Rahane's hundred. It's telling them that he's going to declare at this hour and they better move their arse if they have to get the team anywhere near to an objective at that appointed hour. Then, like a fielding captain with a Border level mojo, he rotates his bowlers. Shami and Umesh or Bhuvi for the first eight. Jadeja for some quickies in between. Ashwin centrestage. Grinning and fuming. Alternately. Bhuvi certainly near the twenty fifth. Shami for the thirtieth. Reverse swing, you see. Setting sun. Jadeja back for his bootlickers. Ashwin, the hulk in the dark. Shami, if someone needs to smell some leather. Virat senses. The team rallies. Watch Umesh run for the ball. He knows he's being valued in the deep. They all pester him for the piston throws from the deep. Jadeja must throw. Saha must dive for the unreachable. Rahane must walk in a few paces for the faster ones coming off the edges. Angles. Trajectories. Gambhir found himself at sea for a few minutes before he accepted the new order of things. His bones didn't. Play for the team. It's a team game. Good man and cinema feature, Dhoni, brought this concept back into Indian Cricket after Greg Chappell had majorly messed around with the lateral thinking of the nation's favourite team. But Virat is making it sharper. He does not need a saw. He has allowed the beard to flourish. Like that other great thinker of our times, Misbah ul Haq. Forward thinking. Take more singles. Adds to a total. Drive in the V. Get the partnerships going. Facilitate two all rounders suddenly. Get your quiet wicket keeper to breathe at the wicket. Allow your speedsters to do the seam and bounce thing. Junk containment. But dry up the runs through aggressive fields. Allow your premier spinner to give away runs in search of wickets. Keep working on the impish left armer's fields for a variable bounce off the pitch. Forward thinking. Think ten overs hence. Scenography. Again Misbah. But not as inscrutable. Not at all. Voluble. Jolly. Very Punjabi! Kohli!!