Friday, 31 October 2008

Is business the noun for being busy?

Last week was crazy for the 1st MA students of Communication here in S N School. Our 2 week radio workshop was being wrapped up and we had loads of assignments to finish. Sound recording was easy to do while editing ate up most of our time. This was the first time I laid my hands on something so exciting; something that I always so wanted to do. Almost like a holiday package, after 4 days and 3 nights of relentless editing and sleepless work, now we are at ease. And I feel so good now! Our faculty is pretty impressed with the work we submitted.

 The month ahead is equally busy as well. We have exams lined up on 17th November. Before that, there is a complete portfolio to be made for the Basic Writing course, a video to be edited for the Video Production course, two term papers to be submitted for two other courses and an extempore film review to be written on an intellectual movie! Sounds exciting especially in the 'contextuality' of severe dearth of time. Ha! That's the language one of our Professors use. He is a genius. :)

Meanwhile, there is no 'meltdown' on my movie watching. So if not anything else, movie reviews will still find their way here. Stay with me for some Fashion updates. ;)

Saturday, 25 October 2008

The Train Tigress

MMTS has been my single most important mode of transport from the time I joined Hyderabad Central University. And such a superb public transport system it is! For various reasons like spaciousness (is there a word like that?), blue-ness, small size, frequency of trips, cost-effectiveness, connectivity, I just love it.

The other day though, I had a horrible experience. I was on my way back to University with three of my friends after a day of city shopping. Assuming 49M buses would be over-crowded, we patiently waited for the train and got into one. That is when we got to know what the real crowd is! 49M is nothing compared to that. This was the first time I was witnessing (and being crushed in) such a gargantuan crowd. I mean, really. There was literally no inch left in the train left when I got in from the Secunderabad station.

And what's even more fascinationg (not really), the Ladies coach had more than  40% men! This is not something unusual in MMTS trains. However, considering the train was over crowded and there were many women who could not get in due to lack of space, this was unpardonable. 

Alas! Nobody including me reacted for a very long time even while we were being literally squashed. And then.. a man tried to invade in through a door brimming with women. And our heroine lost control. She started shouting and yelling in English and Hindi. The train had started moving by then. The man thought it was funny for a woman to react like that. And grinned. Well, it wasn't too funny; especially what she did next. She pounced with her paws on him (who was clinging on to a mere  handle and hanging out loose in the cold air) and tried to loosen his hold. While this was extremely dangerous as the man could have fallen out, nobody who was in that train would ever make that allegation. 

Of course, other gentler ladies discouraged her and saved the man. The tigress let him off on the promise that he would get down at the next station. And guess what! The guy showed the himmat to try to get in again from the next station. And the tigress literally pushed him out. Yes, she succeeded and he could not travel in our compartment. 

Men on the other side of the compartment laughed at him to make fun of the fact that a mere woman could push him out. I hope that I was able to drive home another point to all the men who are reading this. To women too. :)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

India Untouched!

I have a love-hate relationship with my University Mondays. It is effectively the only day on which we have an inflexible afternoon schedule. We have a film screening during that time. Okay, don’t be mistaken by ‘films.’ They are documentary films and not the usual feature films that most of you may be thinking about.

Coming to the point, our class watched the gem of a movie called ‘India Untouched’ on such an afternoon. Conceptualised and created by a talented man called Stalin, it took me into a hitherto undiscovered planet of information on untouchability. And I.. was left astonished.

The film begins with a dedication note to all the people of India who think and say that untouchability does not exist here any more. It goes on to show visuals from a multitude of Indian states including my state to prove this claim wrong.

I felt very strongly about what he showcased in the film; I still do. A Malayali woman who started talking about a land feud she had with her neighbour on the grounds of roadway, ended her byte in tears explaining how the rich and the upper class neighbour also caused her husband die a slow and horrific death. How? By banging him against their house wall multiple times on different occasions. I always knew that untouchability and caste differentiation are still prevalent in those dark states of North. I never knew it was existent so close by, at home.

Another realization I had – caste was one of the reasons used by many animalistic men to exercise their ‘rights’ on poor women who did not have a voice. The film showed two Dalit women who were brutally raped at a very young age and left with nothing but deep scars. When shot, both of them were married and mature ladies, but I wonder if the wound inside would ever heal.

Two little girls explained in amusement how they (lower caste boys and girls) were made to sit on the floor in a corner while the privileged ones used the benches and desks. Additionally, they also had to clean the toilets for others to enjoy a neat and tidy experience! It is extremely pathetic that even schools, the temples of knowledge, are not devoid of caste bias.

There was a Swami (I detest calling him one though, considering the divine undertones of that word) whose interview formed the crux of the film. He was adamant that the upper class represents God’s head and the lower – His feet. For the very same reason, they should perform their respective jobs as prescribed by the caste system (read all dirty jobs for the lower caste, and the divine stuff for the upper class). He went on to say, “the lower castes do not have the right to study or do anything related to acquiring or sharing knowledge. Hinduism and Manusmriti say so. These are rules we cannot live without.” Absolute rubbish. I wonder what he knows about Hinduism which is not a religion, but a way of life; a culture in itself. For once, I felt I am much closer to God than many others who proclaim themselves to be so.

The opening and closing shots were of some innocent children from Uttar Pradesh who were born into and brought up in the filthy pool of casteism. Initially, the director asks some of the upper caste kids to accept water offered by the lower caste ones who also happens to be their classmates. They obviously don’t do that. The film ends where one kid with great hesitation gulps the ‘lower caste water.’ And lo! Nothing happens. No mountains fell, no sky came down.

Just before I say bye this time, a small point to ponder for you. A Malayali girl gave a byte that she does not think that Kerala practises casteism in anyway. She herself says though that she would prefer a person from her own caste when it comes to things like marriage. What does this mean? To you, to me, and to all of us? Is change really the thing that never changes? I don’t think so. India truly remains untouched.

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Hello, Good bye!

This was the first time I watched the adaptation of a novel as a movie – barring may be Omkara, which was more inspired by rather than adapted from Othello. I am right now nodding my head in consensus with the millions of Harry Potter fans who said adaptation is after all a bad idea.

Hello, the movie, really is a bad idea! The amateur hands of the director, Atul Agnihotri, are seen swaying throughout the film. The camera angles he has chosen, the way he has made his cast perform, the flow of scenes – everything speaks for substandard directorial capability.

Showcasing the array of the Khan family just for the sake it also wasn’t really a great idea. The choice of the cast, on the whole, is dismal. Sharman Joshi who played the lead male role of Shyam actually suited to play Vroom. Sohail Khan looked way too old for Vroom. Sharad Saxena was wonderful in his Military Uncle suit. However, he would have done a better job being Bakshi, the beast. Each time Gul Panag laughed, I was horrified because she sounded more like a witch than a heroine. Eesha Koppikhar (Yes, that’s how she calls herself now) and Amrita Arora did not disappoint too much though.

Chetan Bhagat! Ignoring all the criticism his works have faced – shallow, lacking substance, being identical, filled with masala factor – let me confess, I like reading his books. One Night @ The Call Centre, I thought, was a very unique piece because of the story being depicted in a night’s time and its unusual narrative. None of this replicated in Chetan’s screenplay of Hello though. The narration lacked the soul which his book originally had. For example, the scene where Radhika along with her team discovers that her husband is betraying her was so plain and jaded that it made nil impression. In the novel, it was one of those moments that made me aghast. The chilling climax episode of the Operation Anti-Bakshi and the Operation Call Boom was so well executed in the book. The movie did not do justice to that. Suresh Menon as the systems guy made such a buffoon of himself with his non-sensical mutterings throwing all attempts of Chetan to infuse humour out of the podium. Also, for a person who hasn’t the read the book, the movie would not make much sense as my friend told me.

It is better that I don’t mention how the music was because I may end up sounding rude. I didn’t hear any music basically. There were just randomly thrown in songs which were shot even more pathetically. I guess you are not supposed to be surprised if you see semi nude men and women for no reason in Hindi film songs.

The look of the call centre was chic though. The art director did a good job. And that’s about it – the positives I mean.

On the whole, watch it only and only if you are a die-hard fan of Chetan Bhagat. I warn though – you might return losing the love for him.

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

The Drona who killed me..

After years together, I watched a movie first day first show. But I am asking myself now, WHY?

Yes, I am talking about Drona, the so-called super hero film which is supposed to push Junior B to a different league altogether. I am afraid that won't happen. I can give you a thousand reasons why.

The concept to start with is not digestible. You may ask me which super-hero film is. But normally, there is an element of fantasy in them that makes us dream and think beyond. Drona has nothing of that sort. To add to the dilemma, it has been scripted poorly. Coherence among scenes is totally missing. One of the first scenes of Abhishek -with the puppy- was so meaningless. Add to it a boring and unnecessary song; a very bad first impression was created. I am still wondering why the story began in a foreign location when it could have very well been set in India. In fact, that would have made the story much more believable. Okay, let us forgive that. But when does Drona reach the vast sanddunes of Rajasthan in India? Goldie Behl and his fellow script writers missed out out on giving various such important details to the audience. The transitions were just not smooth.

Goldies' direction also lacked that golden element which could balance out the script flaws. In fact, he ended up making Abhishek look helpless in most scenes. Priyanka Chopra looked more like the hero to me. This is not forgivable in a super hero movie especially since the director himself calls it one. (The feminist in me is happy though).

Lets talk about the hero of the hero-centric film. I like Abhishek. Really I do. But not in Drona. This is definitely not his cup of tea. I am not talking about his acting capability or anything. But he just lacks the charisma and screen presence to portray such a heavy character. I hate comparing Hrithik and Abhishek because they are so damn different at all levels. But after witnessing the gems of performances in Dhoom 2, Krrish, and Jodhaa Akbar, you won't tolerate AB as a super hero, unless you are an unreasonable fan of him. Casting a friend as the hero just because he is a friend and would give dates readily is not a good idea for both the friends; unless the role suits him.

I hate Priyanka Chopra. But I was able to tolerate her in this movie as hers was one of the very few (read 2) well-etched characters of the movie. Her entry was superb in a yellow sporty car. Her costumes were in sync with the theme as well. But again, the foreign setting and the sporty car didn't go too well with her looks. I told you, coherence was missing.

Jaya Bachchan, like Abhishek ends up looking foolish in a robe that doesn't suit her. She is paying the price for being emotional while agreeing to roles are not for her. Maharani Jayanti Devi required a much more charismatic person to empower the role. Like Rekha. Ha! I wonder if Goldie would ever cast her considering his love for Jaya Aunty.

The second well-etched character is - Riz Raizada. Kay kay Menon was believable in an unbelievaby baddie form. The director's attempt to make a villaneous punchline of "Mogambo khush hua" sorts is successful I should say - with Gustaakhi maaf. But the disgusting makeup of the villain-look-alike creature was falling off and deteriorating as the scene proceeded. Didn't the director see that? I did. So he shoud have.

Also, I am wodering what Goldie Behl told his art director when he conceptualised the movie. The fantasy land Raazpur, where Drona goes to discover where Amritha kumbham is, was so damn colourful and all that. It appealed to my girly aesthetic sense too. But what about the movie? Its mood and tone? They lost it all.

The music by Dhruv Ghanekar is not very enthralling. The only tune that still lingers in my mind is Nanhe Nanhe by Sadhana Sargam. Other than that, the music doesn't help the movie a bit.

On the whole, I was disappointed. With all my love for Abhishek - one should experiment for sure, but with a little bit of foresight. Also, with the right people who are not necesarily friends.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

A Stunning Wednesday!

The first time I went to watch the movie A Wednesday, I was late by fifteen minutes. I liked the remaining 100 minutes so much that I watched it another time; this time the whole of it, that too on a Wednesday!

The second time I watched the film, I wasn’t too impressed by the first fifteen minutes. Especially the part where the-remnant-of-an-Channel V-VJ was made to appear as the biggest star of Bollywood only next to the Khans was ridiculous. May be the jocular effect is what the director intended; but it did not suit the film’s overall mood. Five minutes later though, I was in a strong grip of concentration and curiosity. Each shot was so exciting that I kept asking myself “What Next?” The director Neeraj Pandey put together the shots so excitingly that you cannot help being thrilled.

The film is spectacularly well-scripted by Neeraj. The fact that he tells the story through a protagonist without a name shows its uniqueness. The scenes are tightly packed into each other that you don’t have a moment to flutter your eyelashes. They flow effortlessly from one to another with an amazing amount of unpredictability that chills you. The dialogues are so to-the-point that you end up sharpening your auditory sense by listening carefully to not miss a word. When Anupam Kher confidently invited his officers to his place for a drink in the evening just before sending them to a dangerous operation, the whole theatre just gasped.

The performances! Riveting is the best word I can find to describe the performances by two stalwarts of Indian cinema. I can bet - a film that is essentially a telephone conversation between two people would fail miserably had it featured anyone short of Kher and Shah. The dialogue battle in the climax between the two is mesmerising. Goosebumps are all what you feel. The intimacy with which Shah delivers the deepest of insecurities and concerns of the ‘stupid common man,’ is just beyond words. That scene is a perfect balance of emoting and subtlety. Shah’s versatility comes out in the fact that he performs his conversation with the terrorists also with the same amount of believability. I can see the Bharat Award trophy taking a peek-a-boo into Shah’s cupboard, already. Anupam Kher has put up an act that is very subdued, yet powerful, as the Commissioner of Police, Prakash Rathore.

Jimmy Shergill, Aamir Basheer, Deepal Shaw - each and every person in the cast is so appropriate that you see real people in front of you rather than characters. Aamir‘s Sub Inspector, I would say, was a role where the casting was particularly well done.

The movie has been technically quite well made too. The cuts are crisp and the camera work adds a lot to the script in building up the mood of the film. There are no songs stereotypical of a Hindi movie; only fine background music that keeps up the movie’s tempo.

I can go on and on about how much I loved the movie. The point is that millions of other Indians loved it as well. Any Indian with genuine feelings for his/her country couldn’t have helped empathising with Shah’s character. They, like me, are sure to have found their unheard voices reverberating through his.

A success of this dimension was probably unexpected for a small movie with hardly any *starry* actors. That is exactly the reason why that accomplishment becomes all the more spectacular. It is the success story of a movie that relied solely on its script and the talent of its human resources – no marketing gimmicks, no formulas, no star acts, nothing. This gives much hope in all the right directions for the Indian film industry that provides bread and butter to many. More importantly, it stands as a testament to the much elevated sensibility of the Indian audience.

Neeraj and all my fellow Indians, it is a perfect ten for you – for making the movie and for making it a success.