Friday, February 17, 2006

2235?

If I read one more review of Rang de Basanti¸ I shall scream. Which, of course, is the cue to dole out my own Rupeej Eight-tee Shebhen hwaarth on the subject. As my grandfather used to say after watching some film on television (this, girls and boys, was back in ’lebenteen-’lebenty, when not only did we have only ONE channel [OK, two, even], teleebhishaan was only in black and white. No, not because we hadn’t got a colour TV, my grandfather was big on modern gadgets, I remember he got us a Sonodyne music system with super 9-ply boxes and a separate amp back when stereo sound was a luxury, but because DD only telecast in black & white … now where was I?) .. well yes, as my grandfather used to pronounce gravely, “Good book”.

(Which again requires an explanation of the cultural context. Back in the days when my grandfather started on the bioscope, a film had to have (gasp!) a story. Forget about films riding on “bra-panty” ensembles [Supriya Debi was almost branded a loose woman because she wore “slibhless blaauj”, the Dark Ages precursor to halter-tops], forget about “slick” and “technique”, films were based on BOOKS. Real, printed, honest-to-goodness books with stories in them. Usually by acclaimed authors [the majority of whom were Bangali, from Sharat Chandra to Premendra Mitra]. As a result, films were also referred to as “boi” or books. Haven’t heard this usage for some decades now, wish I had, it brings back so many memories)

So the story on Rang de Basanti is that it has a story. A slightly far-fetched story especially in the latter half, great gaps in credibility, but nevertheless an entertaining story. All you self-appointed guardians of the public good who pontificated on the deleterious influence of such popular media, take a break. It’s a film. It’s not a manifesto. It’s not an instruction manual. Or a Do-It-Yourself guide. These guys made the film so people would PAY to watch it, in the hopes that these paying people would enjoy the film and then go tell other people to watch it (and pay some more) because it’s good fun.

And oh yes, because it has Aamir Khan. I mean, an Outlook article on the film? Get real, Mr. Vinod Mehta. I would humbly submit that you (or Namrata Joshi, for that matter) don’t give a damn (or a ‘big rat’s ass’) about the film in itself, you ran the article (with a mention of the 2234 blogs that have posted about it) because right now the film is news, it’s what your readership WANT to read about. It’s news because it IS entertaining, it IS a hit. And deservedly so.

Some things about the film are irritating. The technique of jump-cuts with a blurred background is done so often, my eyes turned to jelly. The entire friends-having-a-great-time-together angle went on a bit too long. Siddharth Suryanarayan was not only good but even hot (girls, switch off Kunal Kapoor, get your tongues back in your mouths and wipe the drool off the table), but in his big scene with Anupam Kher he didn’t quite cut it.

The assassination was too easy, the get-away was incredible. Rakeysh Omprakash, have you ever tried to get into AIR these days, let alone with a gun? (Though the RJ – Gaurav? [no, Cyrus Sahukar*]– is woven into the script very well, it’s not till the AIR sequence that we realize why he appeared in the beginning) The film-within-the-film would have been intolerable, it’s just too damn reverential. We don’t need to be reminded of the parallels every now and then, credit the viewer with some intelligence. Aamir Khan could pass as 32; if he wanted 25 he should have thought of Botox. And it’s only cerebral types like your FC who lose that much hair at 25 (he said with characteristic modesty).

BUT on the whole this is one of the most enjoyable movies I’ve seen in some time. The dialogue is crisp, it’s real (kudos to Prasoon Joshi), some of the lines resonate. When Aamir is in the jeep, venting to Alice Patten about why he still hangs around the University five years after passing out, it’s half a generation speaking. (Where are you today, Shibu Goon?) What’s more, it successfully treads the fine line between being hip and being real and only in one scene (Madhavan’s last scene) does it teeter on the edge of preaching. Even the radio callers are good.

Aamir is outstanding. Of course, that’s a given. We don’t expect him to emote through epileptic fits or stutters (now if only he were half as smart OFF-screen as the other guy). The surprise is that EVERY member of the ensemble is good. Not just good, but very very good. Atul Kulkarni, reciting Sarfaroshi ki tamanna, takes his entire theatre experience, flexes it, rubs it in the faces of the Masti-multiplex-moron types and walks away leaving them sitting on the pot with their pants round their ankles. Alice Patten is a revelation, Soha actually has a real role and does it justice, Sharman Joshi is brilliant in a role that could easily have been overlooked, Kunal Kapoor is developing a screen presence. Kir(r!)on Kher, Waheeda Rehman, Om Puri – the supporting cast need no commendation, these are old troupers who could do it in their sleep but are thankfully wide awake and on the job (though Waheeda Rehman is in a coma through most of the second half!)

The narrative structure of the film is good. Even the opening sequence holds the attention, sets the stage for the story that follows. The story-within-a-story is used for some very good transitions. One that stayed in my mind - when Kunal Kapoor runs up the stairs to his room as Aslam and emerges on the terrace as Ashfaqullah. Towards the end, Aamir is on screen in one frame as both DJ and Azad, a shot that may be trashed as corny but which succeeds because of the situation. Some of the sequences are actually touching, even for a hard-boiled old cuss like me.

The camerawork is a joy when it’s not being self-indulgent. The sound design is bloody brilliant. A.R Rehman finds himself again with this score. You pays your money and you chomps your popcorn for nearly three hours, youse comes out feeling all warm and toasty, then youse even gets to debate the social relevance of what is, after all, a commercial exercise. What more you want, chief, eggs in your beer?

I can unreservedly pay this film my highest compliment. Paisa vasool.

* - thanks to "The Thing inside Me"
**** ****

20 comments:

Bongo Pondit said...

Sir....

Hats off ! You have hit the proverbial nail on its head. An abs-atively brilliant review of the movie and squashing of the hype re: the so called morality of the youth's action and all that.

Btw, I too remember the single channel b&w days of DD with its 'Pollikothas', 'Dorshoker Dorbares' and Lokogeetis. Those were the days when 'ChichingPhank' and 'Harekarakamba' were nadirs of children's entertainment, and one would wait with expectant breath around 6 o'clock to find out what Micheal, the amazing talking doll would be upto this time.
Those were also the days when being rich and able to afford colour TV immediately after its release (around the time of Asiad '82) was almost looked down upon by the literate, 'kaaltured' middle class. The owners of such technical wonder would be snobbishly and somewhat derogatorily (and not without any hint of sour grapes) be referred to as 'huh ! borolok' or 'boroloki byaparshyapar'. Eventually of course, color TV became quite ubiqutous.

On yet another note, I remember Shottojeet-babu talking about the Bangali practice of refering to films as 'Boi' in 'Ekei Bole Shooting'. I forget the context or whether he had an answer for it.

Have been lurking around this blog for a while now and this post forced me out in the open.

the thing inside me said...

the RJ, not Gaurav, Cyrus Sahukar of Mtv.

panu said...

Achha, why do you bring in the Romantic yearning for the not-so-distant-past in nearly ebhery post of yours??

Just a thought.

You were an O off Panu...

panu said...

O hyan... apnar comment has been noted and answered to in my blog

Kele Panchu said...

Jap mohashoi,
Thanks for bringing back the good ol’ memories of b&w tv and bangla ‘boi’. I first saw a tv in someone’s house in ‘79/’80. The whole ‘paRha’ used to gather in their house before the Saturday/Sunday night movie. I was very little then, so I can’t remember much except for one thing. One guy used to sit near the door and used to pinch every child’s ass when they passed him by. That was a scary moment. I was unaware of Jackson or any kind of ‘philia’ then. After a year or so my ‘jethu’ bought a Telerama, I still remember it had a folding door in front of the screen, and it could be locked! What happened to those blue screens people used to put in front of the real TV -screen? I don’t know whether it was used to protect our eyes from the tv or vice versa!
After watching hindi movies on DD my grandmother used to say ‘ekta thakur debtaar boi dekhate paare na?’
I like the transition in your review. Although, I’ve a shitty pirated copy of it in my comp, I have not seen the movie yet. I’ll have another chance to watch it on the big screen this weekend.

thalassa_mikra said...

JAPda, my grandparents still refer to films as "boi". My paternal grandfather would often sit through an entire Hindi film, and then sneer and say "Egulo abaar boi holo naaki. Aamaader shomoi boi hoto Shorotbabur golpo niye. Aaha, she plotkhana ki!".

Panchu-da, the collective TV-viewing experience in villages is so fantastic! That's how I watched Pather Panchali for the first time, and it was so wonderful to hear those who had lived in the village all their lives say how vividly Satyajit-babu had captured gram Bangla.

There was also immense interest in watching DD Bangla serials that depicted modern, urban life in Kolkata. The people in my Ma's village loved to watch shows depicting Marwari, Punjabi and Bengali families living in close proximity and the dynamics between them. So much for stereotypes about conservative village folk.

Agarwaen Mormegil said...

Brilliant, hombre. I haven't seen the movie, in fact I haven't seen one hindi movie on theatres [gasp], but you said it man. So much has changed in the last 10 years or so. Thinking about thta, I wonder how China have changed given their accelerated, drug induced econ. growth rate.
Your review is great. The reviews at ABP suck or what. They give the worst reviews in town. Those are not reviews, just opinion fest of 'has been' movie-people.

erebus said...

you should see me for spectacular hair loss at 23...
shit happens...

Anonymous said...

aah, mustafa you haf new profeson as filmi critic. Allah be praised, you haf written de well for basanti. You not working for producer, no ? I haf seen fotos with rival female president in morse code paper too. Congrats. You haf done the brotherhood proud. I haf not seen de basanti, but now that you haf refiewed it, i ill haf to. Pliss inform producer. You mention assasination simple and gateway simpler -- aah, they shoot haf got habibi to advise. Nevertheless, just to convey that review was gooth.

Rimi said...

paragraph the third, lines three, four, five and six. hmmm...definite deja vu (excuse the spelling). thanks for the unwitting support. as freud didn't have the chance to say, sometimes a film is just a film.

re. siddharth and kunal kapoor, did you read my latest? :) and saw your pic on the paper today! ta-dum!

DD said...

JAPda, I read your posts regularly but today this review has forced me to leave a comment.

about the sonodyne moojik system - it is still world's best company after amar bose's.

my thakuma still watches that b/w TV where the entire family would gather to watch 'tero parbon', 'buniyad' or 'malgudi days' in the 80s, when i was a shishu.

and the RDB review speaks all of our hearts. the besht one i've read in the blog world.

panu said...

Did you HAVE to scream out my name in Public????

People are leaving anonymous comments on my blog. Damn!!

J. Alfred Prufrock said...

Bongo Pondit, Swati, Panchu, DD, I feel so good that my reminiscing struck a common chord. Post about those days, perhaps?

Panu, your question about 'why the nostalgia' - answered sufficiently above, I think. (innocently ...) What was that second comment about?

Thing Inside, have thanked you on blog.

Aragorn, thanks. I like your attitude.

Erebus, if life gives you lemons .. Think Bruce Willis, get a buzz-cut.

Rimi, WHICH third para? Most cryptic. And what be 'ta-dum'?

Habibi! A thousand salaams, BUT you see my detonator, you not show me your detonator yet. Maybe I should Post Private Pics of Panda? (Yes, that is a threat!)

J.A.P.

erebus said...

sigh.. tried the buzz cut.. actually works for me... buut parents hate it...
"You're right here! Everybody is constantly seeing you! How can anybody think you're dead????"

Rimi said...

the third para of YOUR post. uff! :P
reminds me of the general tome of my post of RdB. holo? eibaar kiliaar?

Zero said...

Nice write-up.

Sharman Joshi is brilliant in a role that could easily have been overlooked
Very very true!

P.S.:- I have a draft of a write-up on RDB already. So, I guess it's safe for you not to follow this link to my blog.

Bonatellis said...

i too find the mention of DD and B&W quite nostalgic ... I remember how we used to run back home from football to watch Johnny Soko and the Flying Robot ... for the '83 world cup final, we had some 20 peeps from the "para" at our place, with my poor mom doling out tea and bishcut to everyone every hour ...

Ananthoo said...

JAP!
u may see here (http://ananthoosupdates.blogspot.com/)how this movie was not reviewed:-)
but feelings were almost same..eagerness to make many more see it..or pay up?

panu said...

Innocent!!!!!
Huh!!! Innocent My A*se!

N said...

A lovely, balanced review.