Saturday, August 06, 2005

A poet and a one-man band?




Sadly enough, the poet had left the building and a hustler had taken up position. Hence ads for lubricants, paints, calcium tabs. Bloody awful "in-film" stuff.

But the one-man band more than made up for everything.

****

Two decades ago, Tinnu Anand crafted the Man's come-back vehicle, Shahenshah, making full use of the biggest resource at his disposal. To wit, the Man himself. Low-angle shots, lighting, taali bajao lines (Rishtey mein toh tumhaare baap lagte hain .. .. I loved that!), the works.

Here, in Viruddh, the Man has no resonant lines. He is not a super-hero. He shuffles where once he strode. (Mallika Sherawat would be SO disappointed. And has anybody else noticed how Amitabh's walk in Trishul, Deewaar, Don, even Silsila, is copied from that bank-robbery sequence in Dirty Harry?)

****




Viruddh is a bad film. Somewhere in the muddle there was the skeleton of a good story. Mahesh Manjrekar just lacked the calibre to put flesh on the bones. Where the film could still have survived if sketched on a lower and more serious key, he pulls it down by trotting out some of the usual suspects.

National integration (or at least Mumbai integration), with a fine actor like Shivaji Satam wasted behind hideous false teeth and a dikra accent (Prem Chopra plays the obligatory Sardarji). The indulgent mother, with Sharmila’s sensible, self-reliant character suddenly hamming it up when her son calls from London. The villainous politician (why is it that Bollywood recognises only Chief Ministers and Home Ministers? Can anybody recall a Hindi film minister with some other portfolio?). The obligatory minority rep with the heart of gold (Sanjay Dutt looking particularly wooden in yet another re-hash of the persona he found with Vaastav). The firang girl who is won over by the Indian wooer’s “foynn krrakter".

The film is further marred by some truly awful in-film advertising. The script-writer must have run out of ideas, or these sequences may be the director’s protest against the producer’s money-grubbing. Either way, they are truly cringe-worthy and widen the holes in the film’s credibility. (To accommodate Western Union, the film has John A’s student character sending 15 grand a month to his old man in Mumbai. Some scholarship that must have been.)

This is all much of a muchness with the generally shoddy character development and the holes in the plot. Except for Sharmila as the wife (bar the aberration mentioned), none of the characters holds together as a credible person. Even the sea-change that Bachchan’s protagonist undergoes is hardly in keeping with his slightly weak character in the first half of the film.

It could have been a gripping exposition of the David-versus-Goliath theme, but like all too many Bollywood men in a hurry, Manjrekar wraps up the story with a simplistic and absolutely incredible denouement.

****

One must, however, give the man credit where his tactics have paid off. The banter between the ageing couple is well-written (and Sharmila almost measures up to Amitabh in this part). Sachin Khedekar is made to mouth some awfully pretentious lines in the opening sequence but finds his length later on and uses his silences with great assurance. The new girl, Anousha Dandekar, has to speak Hindi as if it is a foreign language and does a good job. Even John Abraham is credible.

Give the man credit for realising the potential of silence when Bachchan’s eyes fill the screen. For the spare sound design where a subdued whisper in that gravelly baritone walks up your spine.

Give him credit, above all, for being a shrewd product manager.

For two and a half hours, there's hardly a frame without the Man in it. And how he delivers. In a film with shoddily finished sets, poor continuity, botched make-up and unimaginative camera; with a supporting ensemble whom the script-writer and the director forget somewhere along the line; in a strange two-in-one product that changes mood and colour mid-way, the Man moves from sit-com to film noire with silken ease. The ease not just of a master but of a master craftsman who has never stopped learning his craft.

For two and a half hours, we watch Amitabh Bachchan plying his trade before the cameras. And for two and a half hours, he holds us in thrall.

**** **** ****

11 comments:

Gamesmaster G9 said...

As Karan Johar correctly pointed out - Amitabh Bachhan was the cause of Hindi cinema's nosedive into mediocrity in the '80's. Realising the power of The Man, directors bypassed such niceties as scripts and production values. Here's hoping the story does not repeat itself.

uma said...

Great post. The B is totally cool. The movie is phenomenally bad.

uma said...

and yes, why don't we see an animal husbandry minister, or even a minister for charities...

Jabberwock said...

Saar, as requested, review of review (in the last few months btw I've progressed from doing book reviews and film reviews to blog reviews and now reviews of film reviews posted on blogs. What next I wonder: perhaps dog reviews, as someone suggested recently? Pomeranian: intensely annoying, yappy, resembles large white rat, breeds in Punju households, eligible for drowning-by-brick.)

Okay, review is extremely well-done. Unstructured in its current form but it has a definite flow, and if you had to submit it to a newspaper at short notice I'm sure it wouldn't take more than 5 minutes to structure it without having to rework it completely. You'd have many of us out of jobs if you did this officially btw, so stick to civil servant-hood.

Perhaps a tad too much about AB. Normally I wouldn't have a problem with that but these days I'm mighty pissed about his overexposure - including guest appearances and voiceovers in every second movie that comes out of the reel factory. This is pushing the 'God is everywhere' theme.

Not too sure though how Viruddh can be a 'bad film' if 'Bachchan holds us in thrall for two and a half hours'. Can the two things really be mutually exclusive?

P.S. I haven't seen the film, but that's irrelevant anyway.

P.P.S. he may have copied the walk from Dirty Harry, but it's still way better than the original - especially in Deewaar. Like I often say, AB-da, Soumitra/Felu-da or Toshiro-da could each whip Clint's ass anyday.

Srin said...

Uh huh,too much of AB around these days.

J.A.P.-I am honoured.You have put my blog under 'Bongo Rongo'.I will send link to everybody who thinks I am 'taansh'and also to Mrs.D.Sanyal,my bong teacher from class 9 to 12.She will be happy and proud.She will shed tears of joy.

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Ani, good point. On balance, he is doing somewhat better films, not just the formula stuff.

Umam-d, I see you're in the news. Now if only we could READ your comments (teeny-tiny font)

Joy Orjoon, thankee kindly. Both phor bhaluabel taa-eem and phor bheri kaa-eend owards. But don't run down Clint! In an otherwise awful tribute, Sean Penn came up with the term "Mount Rushmmore of American cinema" for him. Very apt.

Srin, get Mrs. Sanyal a little vial to collect her tears in. A la Charles Laughton as Nero in 'Quo Vadis'

J.A.P.

Jabberwock said...

JAP, a pedantic clarification: Peter Ustinov played Nero in Quo Vadis. Laughton played the role in a much earlier film The Sign of the Cross, in the early 1930s.

Rimi said...

@G9-- karan johar said THAT about dear 'amit uncle'??? must've meant it as a compliment...come think of it, it IS.

i'm psychic--i knew it'd be a bad fil, so saved myself the trouble of seeing it. and i shall not forgive THE MAN his charishma--my weekend tv hours have been severly curtailed because of kbc 2. i mean, WHO wants to see other people meeting the BEE and winning disgustingly huge sums for answering stupid qs?
plenty of ppl, apparantly...

The Marauder's Map said...

Was just thinking the other day -- 'Amitabh Bachchan is no. 1 to 10 in the Hindi film industry' is perhaps as true again today as it was when Manmohan Desai first said it. Which other character actor in Hindi cinema has had roles written for him, film after film? I'm not a huge fan of the man, or The Man, and this is a grudging acceptance. Am as sick of his prolific appearances and voiceovers -- from period films to NDTV ads --everywhere as jabberwock.

Gamemaster, that's a fabulous quote from Karan J. Thanks. Are you sure you didn't make it up? Great observation, anyhow. I think production values these days are in no danger -- in fact I would appreciate it if film-makers paid a little less attention to it and more to the script, which is less neglected than before but needs more TLC.

Emma said...

I finally got to watch Viruddh, yes, after all these days. I completely agree with what you have to say here. Never heard anybody put it any better. If the movie becomes eminently watchable, it is only because of the Big B.

satanbug21 said...

JaP...
Anusha Dandekar needn`t try n speak hindi like a " Foreign Language"...
her natural hindi is like thats only///

u know Maite...she is Australian Maite...