Wait! Before you fling a coconut at me with the obvious question: How can you compare apples with oranges, let’s settle on the common ground i.e. the no man’s land: Madras/Chennai. Here’s a fictional account of a conversation between two middle-aged friends – an intellectual and the other cinemactual. Oops! That word is yet to find its pride of place in the Oxford dictionary, but fret not; this isn’t going to please the dictionary-seekers anyway.
So let’s call these two fellows Balcony and Upper. On second thoughts, Gold Ticket and Silver Ticket would have been quite befitting, but considering they’re still multiplex crowd who are supposed to be intellectuals, no matter where they choose to park their…you know what. So let’s proceed with this popcornversation taking place at a Madras Café:
Mr. Balcony: Hey Tambi! One filter kaapi! What will you have?
Mr. Upper: Nescoffee
Mr. Balcony: It’s Nescafe!
Mr. Upper: Same to same.
Mr. Balcony: See, that’s what films like Chennai Express do to people. They become mediocre people with a chalta hai attitude.
Mr. Upper: Have you watched Chennai Express?
Mr. Balcony: Cheee Cheeee! Illey! Why on earth would I watch such crass film? What will my friends say…Murthi watching Rohit Shetty film!
Mr. Upper: Is it about the surname?
Mr. Balcony: Not surname re, it’s about ‘image’. I am considered to be an intellectual among the high class people. Why spoil my image by admitting that I liked Chennai Express?
Mr. Upper: Don’t tell me you’ve seen the film?
Mr. Balcony: Aise hi re…the kids wanted to watch so I just tagged along. But I hardly watched the film…
Mr. Upper: So what were you doing? Counting lice in the hair of the lady sitting in the row before you?
Mr. Balcony: See…this is what these films do to you…even your sense of humour is so cheap. Why would I see lice on a woman’s head?
Mr. Upper: Then where would you look for?
Mr. Balcony: You are sounding vulgar now…there was no woman there okay…But I tell you, it was such a pathetic film that it made watching my wristwatch more interesting. It’s really high time Shahrukh Khan retires…
Mr. Upper: That’s what people say about Sachin Tendulkar too.
Mr. Balcony: How dare you are comparing Sachin with a fellow like Shahrukh? Apples and Oranges, eh! See, that’s what Rohit Shetty films do to you…you lose the sense of logical reasoning and common sense. The director asks you to keep your brains at home and you end up abandoning it forever. That’s what makes films like Madras Café lose out to zero-brainers and hundred crore earners.
Mr. Upper: What was wrong with Chennai Express? It was supposed to be an out-and-out entertainer, promising to make us laugh…and it delivered what it promised.
Mr. Balcony: Laugh? (Guffaws) Can a woman trying to mutter wrong Tamil accent make a Tamilian like me laugh? Can an aging so-called overacting superstar paying tribute to his films time and again ever be funny? Hasn’t he done that before too? And what was funny about a guy in his forties getting stuck in a village and not able to elope easily while the heroine has done it multiple times? And can you explain me how the hero learned so much Tamil and saved it for a show-off in the climax scene? And what was funny about that over-the-top finale fight?
Mr. Upper: (Snorting) Logic has no place in a film like this okay! And what was so special about Madras Café that you are going all gaga over it?
Mr. Balcony: It is a political thriller. I should say intellectual thriller…India’s answer to Zero Dark Thirty!
Mr. Upper: Zero Dark Thirty? Are you kidding me? Well, a thriller is supposed to thrill na, this one made many snore.
Mr. Balcony: They were not intelligent, simple!
Mr. Upper: And what was about that Bala’s character being portrayed as a Bollywood villain? If John’s character already suspected him of being a shady guy, why didn’t he inform his seniors, especially to Siddhartha Basu, whom he was close to? And what ‘intellectual’ was it about John’s character narrating his sob story to that padre at Kasauli? What was there in the film which we have never seen before?
Mr. Balcony: It didn’t have the hero in six abs or item numbers. It portrays a spy’s story exactly the way it actually happens.
Mr. Upper: Have you ever been in the company of a spy?
Mr. Balcony: You don’t need to lay eggs in order to eat them! I possess common sense to make that out.
Mr. Upper: Exactly…’make’ is the word, it’s all fiction – all made up. Just because the hero doesn’t make a song and dance about his job doesn’t make the film intelligent. Where is the entertainment factor? It’s like showing a clerk at his job. He doesn’t break into a song, he doesn’t fall in love, doesn’t bash up the bad guys and just does his job sincerely.
Mr. Balcony: Your Rohit Shetty can make even a clerk’s job glamorous!
Mr. Upper: Why not! That’s what I am trying to say. A film like Kahani was a thriller and it entertained the audience right from the first frame to the end credits not because it had item numbers and six pack-ab hero…forget abs and paunch, it didn’t even have a ‘proper hero’…yet it went on to make money and win accolades too. Barfi, though plagiarized, had an equal dose of entertainment and intelligence… ditto with films like Pan Singh Tomar and Bhaag Milkha Bhaag…and even the same director Shoojit Sircar’s previous film, Vicky Donor. You don’t need to wear a gloomy and serious look to be deemed an intelligent film.
Mr. Balcony: So what did you expect from actors like Siddhartha Basu, John Abraham and Nargis Fakhri, to break into a song every time things got tensed or keep making faces like your Shahrukh Khan and Deepika Padukone?
Mr. Upper: I don’t know what they should have, but surely know one thing: They didn’t entertain me and the audience in the auditorium. I even overheard someone in the loo saying ‘We should have gone for a second viewing of Chennai Express than snoozing in Madras Café!
Mr. Balcony: You hear people’s conversation in the loo? See this what such films make you…
Mr. Upper: Gent’s loo…what’s wrong in that? There’s where one gets the exact review of a film. Madras Café was all a familiar territory…something what we saw in Dil Se, Terrorist, Raavan, Chakravyuh…what they say…leja vu…
Mr. Balcony: Déjà vu…see that’s what…
Mr. Upper: I don’t care what these films do to me as long as they entertain and engage me.
Mr. Balcony: It’s useless arguing with you…hey Tambi…one filter kaapi!
Mr. Upper: One Nescoffee!