Mom is too much of melodrama and too little of story

Despite all its noble intentions of amplifying the crime against women, director Ravi Udyawar’s Mom reiterates the stereotypes associated with rape. A youngster keen on going to a Valentine’s Day party at a farmhouse is a premise that goes on to state: Girls shouldn’t party till late, else they can be sexually assaulted.

The parent, i.e. the mom (step-mom, to be precise) of this young girl in question takes every precaution to ensure her daughter’s safety. For instance, right from the usual checklist questions like ‘whom are you going with?’, ‘who is going to drive?’ ‘is there a male member with you?’, ‘call me as soon as you are about to leave’, etc.

Needless to mention, this ‘safety checklist’ doesn’t stop the inevitable from taking place. The second half is your usual ‘Zakhmi Aurat’, ‘Phool bane angaarey’, ‘Mardaani’ and ‘Maatr’ fare. Speaking of Maatr, the film steered clear of the usual ‘girl goes to party and gets assaulted’ or ‘couple go out in the dead of the night and the woman gets raped’ and showed an ordinary situation of being late from an award function and taking the wrong road, which eventually proves to be fatal for the mother and daughter. Pink went on to break the clutter and stand out with its realistic treatment of getting inside the criminal’s mind, as well as the victim’s emotions. The screenplay written by Girish Kohli heads south. What could have been a smart cat-and-mouse game ends up becoming a yawningly predictable affair.

The key focus of Mom remains on Sri Devi, who makes a comeback after English Vinglish (2012), understandably so, owing to the fact that it’s her 300th film. The emotional graph of her character is portrayed with a veteran’s ease, which is indeed worth an applause. The other actors worth a mention are Sajal Ali as the daughter (An unmistakable look-alike of Kareena Kapoor), Adnan Siddiqui as the cool and composed dad who is quite a find, and Vikas Verma as one of the baddies, who in a brief role, leaves an impression that he is here to stay.

Mom oscillates between ‘Stepmom’ and ‘Maatr’ and while the film is at it, we are introduced to some fascinating characters like Dayashankar Kappor aka DK (Ably played by the ‘unrecognizable’ Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and Mathew Francis (Akshaye Khanna in a terrific form). DK is a failed detective frantically looking for work and often doubles up as a matchmaker. Nawazuddin seems to be uncomfortable in the odd get-up and yet shines out with witty one-liners delivered in his inimitable style. On the other side, Akshaye Khanna’s Mathew Francis is an aggressive cop with a rich repository of informants yet is bogged down by bureaucracy and corruption.

These traits of DK and Mathew Francis, though hinted at the outset, remain unexplored throughout the film. There’s a scene where Mathew Francis is interrogating DK and breaks into an impromptu grin, which is the second-most powerful scene of the film. The scene will fascinate you even after reading this criminal of a spoiler. Cinematographer Anay Goswamy, take a bow.

Second-best, because the only scene from Mom that will stay with you even after leaving the auditorium will surely be the one where rape is being depicted without showing anything gory. The scene catches you unaware and forces you to imagine the unimaginable by deploying a bird’s eye view camera angle and a haunting background score by AR Rahman.

Speaking of music, the songs of Mom, especially ‘Be nazaara’ and ‘Muafi mushkil’ are gems that remain hidden in the film as mere background scores and leitmotifs. Thankfully, the song, ‘O sona’ is the only one to survive the editor’s (Monisha R. Baldawa) merciless snips, but by the time you watch this song, you have already given up on the film, blame it on truckloads of melodrama thrown at you.

To sum it up, Mom is too much of Sri Devi and too little of Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Akshaye Khanna. Too much of AR Rahman’s background score and too little of his brilliant songs. Too much of melodrama and too little of a story. Too much of promise and too little of delivery.

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Tiyaan shatters the barriers of language and religion 

A sadhu uttering ‘Allah Hoo Akbar’. A Muslim proclaiming ‘Om Namah Sivaay’. A youngster being roughed up by his cop father for eating beef and the inspector making him chant a Gau rakshak slogan, spitting his paan inside the police station and invoking ‘Swachh Bharat Abhiyaan’. A film, especially regional, replete with many such bold scenes would have been stuck with the censors and one wonders how ‘Tiyaan’ (‘the above-mentioned’ in Malayalam) escaped unscathed and made it to the theatres. The filmmakers need to be lauded for their audacity and sheer grit to drive home their point.

To begin with, ‘Tiyaan’ is the first-ever Malayalam film I watched. And mind you, watching a film in a language you don’t understand and that too, without subtitles could be quite a daunting task. Well, not exactly, if the screenplay and story is engaging, direction is awe-inspiring, and performances are way beyond your expectations. Add to that, a mallu wife for the company, whispering translations of lengthy dialogues to keep you in sync with what transpires on the screen.

Beyond a certain point, one no longer misses the translation or subtitles. Nevertheless, I’d request regional filmmakers to include English/Hindi subtitles in their films or maybe the Board of Film Certification can make it mandatory so that the film can reach wider audience. Thankfully, the second half was mostly in Hindi, which made the viewing easier.

Tiyaan is a socio-political thriller, generously sprinkled with religion, miracles and spirituality. Written by Murali Gopy, and directed by Jiyen Krishnakumar, Tiyaan features Prithviraj Sukumaran and Indrajit Sukumaran playing the lead roles. Muraly Gopy, the writer of the film, doubles up as the film’s antagonist, essaying the role of a menacing godman to perfection.

The film is set at an idyllic village, perhaps in Uttar Pradesh. The strategic location of the village draws attention of a self-styled godman, Bhagwan (Muraly Gopy) to establish a temple. The only obstacle he and his goons face is a Brahmin’s (Indrajit Sukumaran in a brilliant performance) home, which needs to be demolished before the construction of the temple resumes. A Muslim fakir (With an interesting back story), essayed by Prithviraj Sukumaran with a veteran’s ease, lends his ‘divine’ support to the Brahmin, in his combat against the evil godman.

A story of such simplicity has multiple layers, which the director Jiyen Krishnakumar unveils one scene at a time. The screenplay writer Muraly Gopy’s craftsmanship and the deft storytelling skill of Jiyen Krishnakumar makes Tiyaan a compelling film. Satheesh Kurup captures the essence of a remote village to perfection with those aerial shots of barren landscapes. Even the action sequences that he shoots, amplify the characters’ emotions rather upping the film’s commercial ante. The editing by Manoj is slick to a fault, not a single frame more, not a single moment less. The music by Gopi Sundar blends with the film’s narrative seamlessly and becomes almost a character, especially in the song invoking Lord Shiva, lip synced by Muraly Gopy. When was the last time you loved a song sung by an antagonist in a film?

If Prithviraj Sukumaran commands screen presence with his smoldering persona and piercing eyes, Indrajit Sukumaran (his real-life brother) owns the frame with his dialogues and histrionics. Muraly Gopy depicts anger and greed using his eyes and with a restrained performance. Any other actor in his place would have surely gone overboard to make himself menacing. Muraly knows his skill too well to succumb to such temptations. Besides the powerful lead cast, the film has an interesting ensemble of supporting actors like Padmapriya Janakiraman, Ananya, Paris Laxmi, Suraj Venjaramoodu, Shine Tom Chacko, and Rahul Mahadev, who are indeed worth an applause.

To sum it up, Tiyaan is a film that goes on to prove that regional cinema is here to stay and shall always remain way ahead of mainstream Hindi cinema. This film makes a much bigger impact than those loud OMGs or PKs that we have been watching and appreciating. The film reiterates the fact that humanity, spirituality and compassion are above godmen, religions and miracles.

 

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‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ is worth the pay

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Guy meets girl. They fall in love. Girl’s father opposes the alliance. Guy wins her over. How different can a plot this archaic be translated into an engaging film? Watch ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ to know. The title here is justified by the fact that the public toilet was christened after the name of a local politician.

Well, I was told there was a double entendre there in its title but let’s not get there, as the film’s director, Krishnadev Yagnik, too, refrains from the indulgence of toilet humour in his film. ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ effortlessly replaces toilet humour with dark humour, a rare feat to achieve.

An actor with brilliant screen presence, Mayur Chauhan, who had earlier essayed a brief role in Krishnadev Yagnik’s previous blockbuster, ‘Chello Divas’ (The highest grossing Gujarati film), as a Saurashtra accented tea vendor. This time around, he plays Tilok, the caretaker of a public toilet who makes a living by helping people answer the nature’s call. The actor uses the Saurashtra dialect to his character’s advantage. Never does the accent feel forced or fake.

As an audience, you are convinced that Mayur Chauhan speaks the same way. More than the accent, it’s the actor’s ability to emote in front of the camera and sink his teeth into the character that makes him believable. In fact, the character is so well-written, you can’t resist rooting for him, even if the means he chooses to meet the ends aren’t morally correct.

Deeksha Joshi, in a role far different from her previous outing, ‘Shubh Aarambh’, where she portrayed the role of a confident and independent urban girl, essays the role of Jaya, a housemaid, with such conviction that there isn’t a trace of the urban girl you’d seen before. The house that she inhabits is a complete mess, replete with four (plus one, I guess) sisters, and a ruthless father, Chinubha (Chetan Daiya, a terrific actor), who drives an autorickshaw, when not busy impregnating his wife, hoping against hope for a male child.

The other actor who makes his presence felt is Hemang Shah, who plays Sundar, the brother of Tilok. The chemistry between these brothers is far effective than the one shared by the lead characters, i.e. Tilok and Jaya. Barring a scene on the terrace, where Jaya and Tilok meet, the other ‘romantic’ scenes are shot in slo-mo peppered by a reggae leitmotif becomes too repetitive after a certain point of time. The special touches like onion peels replacing rose petals and the ‘Vikram Rathod’ (He also plays a cameo here) scene are worth an applause.

The ‘mohalla ruckus’ has been given an authentic feel in ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’, where the director recreates the tension to perfection, making you believe that you are in the middle of the action. Brief characters like swachhta karmchaari kaka and an over-enthusiastic news reporter are sure to leave you in splits. The highpoint of this film is surely the faceoff between Tilok and Chinubha, ably supported by Jay Bhatt, the benign Pani-Puri vendor (An actor worth a mention here).

Well, to sum it up, ‘Kasandas Pay and Use’ is a departure from those multiple ‘Urban Gujarati Films’ churned out after the success of ‘Kevi Rite Jaish’, ‘Bey Yaar’, ‘Chello Divas’, and ‘Wrong Side Raju’. This film has many sub-texts to it, which I’d better leave on you to discover. ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ is sure to appeal both urban as well as rural populace, especially because of its authentic rustic treatment. Despite being shot in Vadodara, the film thankfully distances itself from those mandatory Laxmi Vilas Palace or Bird Circle shots.

A film on such topic would have been replete with toilet humour, but director Krishnadev Yagnik ensures that you root for Tilok till the end credits roll. Hope other filmmakers take a leaf from this film and think beyond ‘jugaadu friends helping the hero woo his girl’, ‘bootleggers and terrace daaru parties’, ‘American dreams’, and ‘Patang restaurant shots’. Gujarati cinema surely deserves better and this might just be the beginning. ‘Karsandas Pay and Use’ offers Gujarati cinema the much-needed relief from the stereotypes. After all, there are miles of ‘Sairat’ to go before we sleep…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In admiration of ‘Hindi Medium’ in English medium

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In a nation where English is more Hindustani than Hindi, a film like Hindi Medium is likely to strike a chord with many, be it the ones with an inherent attribute of minding their Ps and Qs and often indulging in an ‘exasperating farrago of distortions’ debate, the average English speakers who have mastered the art of surviving with ‘functional English’ of sales and marketing, to the ones who just couldn’t crack the Queen’s code and believe that a suffix of ‘ing’ makes every language English – yup, they’re the Hindi Medium types.

“How would you introduce poverty to your child?” is one of the questions asked by the school authorities to the parents of their prospective students. Hindi Medium, despite centering around the Babel that divides two classes, is about the deprived and destitute populace who receive water supply for barely ten minutes and ration in marginal quantities. In hindsight, one feels that Hindi Medium is an introduction of poverty instead of an eye-opener of education lacunae.

Irrfan Khan essays the role of one such ‘Hindi Medium type’ to perfection. So much so that you’d be tempted to google his name in the dubbing credits for Namesake, Life of Pi, Slumdog Millionaire or the latest editions of Jurassic Park and Spiderman series in Hollywood. This earthiness surely stems from his humble upbringing, where the actor might be drawing parallels and finding inspiration.

Hadn’t it been for experience, what kind of reference would this gem of an actor ever find while playing a Chandni Chowk garment shop owner interacting with an affluent woman and her daughter with those ‘Aji Kareena lagti hain aap to…” and “Juice piiyengi madam?” to sell them ‘Manish Malhotra designer lehengaas’. This, dear folks, is just the beginning and there are multiple of such nuggets you’d discover on your way while watching Saket Chaudhary’s Hindi Medium.

Saba Qamar, in her Hindi (Medium) film debut, impresses by the way she approaches this role with varied emotional graphs. She essays the role of a wife, as well as mother with effortless ease, sans melodrama. And trust me, the film had immense scope for melodrama but the engaging screenplay by Zeenat Lakhani and Saket Chaudhary avoid it like plague, and emerge triumphant with many a lump-in-the-throat moment in the offing.

The film is sarcasm cinefied. Right from what is wrong with our education system, to the definition of poverty reminiscent of ‘Asli Naqli’ (The Dev Anand starrer directed by Hrishikesh Mukherjee), Hindi Medium ticks all the boxes of a well-rounded film that engages, inspires and educates, all in the same breath. A story about the desperate measures a couple would take to admit their kid in an upmarket English medium school takes a completely different route in the second half, by questioning the norms, and shaking up collective conscience.

Amrita Singh, too leaves an impact with a role that suits her persona, but is quite a caricaturist one. The other actor who makes his presence felt with his mind-numbing performance is Deepak Dobriyal. Having explored the rib-tickling terrains in the Tanu Weds Manu series, the actor goes on to prove that he can make you go ‘LOL’ in a minute, and ‘OMG!’ in the next. There is one scene that would linger on your mind for a long time after leaving the auditorium, and I’d better leave at that.

Well, to sum it up, Hindi Medium essentially belongs to Irrfan Khan, be it his chemistry with Saba Qamar, friendship with his lil daughter, camaraderie with Deepak Dobriyal or equation with his nemesis, Amrita Singh, the actor justifies the nuanced writing and a direction by Saket Chaudhary that dots all the Is and crosses all the Ts. Didn’t get the phrase? How Hindi Medium type!

 

 

 

Sarkar 3 isn’t just dimly-lit, but also dimwit

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The format is set. A shady guy walks inside the artifact-ridden and electricity-deprived mansion of Sarkar. The henchmen are about to hit him while he speaks, but Sarkar’s eyes prevent them from doing so. Sarkar hears him out while sipping and slurping chaai in a saucer. The offer of the shady guy is refused with a prompt ‘Kisi aur ko bhi karne nahin doonga’. The shady guy walks out, resolving of making Sarkar’s life hell, instead of getting his work done elsewhere, despite Sarkar’s caveat. Add to this, some domestic issues, ego clashes and double (multiple) crossing, lo and behold, you have your Sarkar script ready.

Film after film, Ram Gopal Varma is churning out assembly-line of films under the pretext of The Godfather (It’s a blasphemy to compare the two). Well, the first film did leave us awestruck with its novelty factor of Amitabh Bachchan, the second one ambled along on the Anna Hazare-Kejriwal terrains, and the third one dumbs itself down with ‘naatak kar raha tha mein’. It’s as if the director telling his audience, ‘Ullu bana raha tha mein’. Yup, the joke is on us, who could have easily watched Bahubali 2 yet another time rather than sitting through this done-and-dusted Sarkar yawnathon.

The background score blares out the Govinda chant, making the audience secretly wish Raja Babu makes a brief appearance with ‘dil behelta hai mera aapke aa jaane se’ and brightens things up in this dimly lit and dimwit film. Amol Rathod’s camerawork is far from the brilliance demonstrated by Amit Roy in the previous Sarkar films. This time, the Sarkar mansion is so dimly-lit that many characters are barely visible in poignant scenes, especially where Sarkar reprimands his grandson, Shivaji alias Chiku, who stands in the dark. One can’t help remarking, ‘Sir, daantne se pehle lights on karke check to kar lo ke Chiku hi hai ya dhobi?’ Perhaps there was a load-shedding issue in the vicinity and the only electrical appliance you could see was television playing perfectly-timed breaking news (Why aren’t those channels playing irritating commercials like Vicco Turmeric ad in between those breaking news?). Guess those television sets must be battery-operated. Okay I give up here.

Among the actors, Amitabh Bachchan does try to recreate the magic of the first Sarkar, but it’s the lazy writing that lets him down. For instance, if you watch the first two films, Sarkar was never a verbose character. And here you see him addressing a plethora of extras with yellow flags (Not saffron, lest they’d resemble a certain family in Mumbai), uttering inane lines like ‘Ek haath mein maala hai to doosre mein bhaala’. When was Sarkar’s character about Maala and Bhaala, Mr. Varma? Wasn’t he someone who was a ‘soch’ and not ‘bol bachchan’, who let his actions speak louder than words?

This deviation right from the opening shot sets the tone of the film which entirely relies on its camerawork, be it using and abusing the shallow depth of field (Okay focus-defocus feature in your mobile), along with artifacts strategically placed inside every room, be it Ganesh idol, pug, laughing Buddha, Mahatma Gandhi or a large picture of Abhishek Bachchan (Who seems to be insisting upon the fact that he is the hero of the film, like he does whenever a Dhoom series is about to release). No character enters the Sarkar mansion without being depth-of-fielded along with an artifact. The director’s brief seems very clear in every frame, not to mention the camera peering through every possible aperture (no pun intended) in the dark Sarkar mansion.

Actors like Ronit Roy, Manoj Bajpayee, and Jackie Shroff are completely wasted with roles of glorified extras. Amit Sadh comes across as a miscast here, who seems to be wondering why he took up this role of playing Sarkar-Sarkar. Not a single emotion of Amit Sadh makes you root for his character or relate to his anguish, something Kay Kay Menon pulled off with a veteran’s ease. Just like Sarkar’s henchmen, you just cannot accept him as the Sarkar scion, no matter how hard the actor and director try.

As for Yami Gautam’s character, the lesser said the better. Here’s a girl, who seek vengeance against the man who killed her father (The allegation is conveniently written off as a misunderstanding over a single meeting with Sarkar that the director doesn’t even bother to film, and is mentioned in a dialogue as justification), but barely chalks up any strategic plan. There’s no trace of chemistry between her and Amit Sadh. Yami wears a constipated expression all throughout the film (Rubbing her fingers under the table, just in case you don’t get that she is a threat to the Sarkar family).

Manoj Bajpayee, who seemed to be the only saving grace of the film, is done away with midway, killing all your hopes against the hopes for this colossal mess of a film. There’s a Mahatma Gandhi scene where he clearly outshines Bachchan, such is the power of this gem of an actor, who must seek a compensation from Ram Gopal Varma, for being exploited in this film.

Jackie Shroff clearly wears the expression of ‘Mere ko kyu cast kiya Bhidu, khaali-fokat bikini babe aur dolphins ke saath time-pass karney ko?’ Even his face-off scene with Sarkar towards the film’s end is the weakest ‘filmy takkar’ we have seen of late. Heck, even the Mithun-Mukesh Rishi scene in Gunda (1998) was far effective, at least you felt the tension between the duo. In Ram Gopal Varma’s Sarkar 3, everything, except Sarkar’s chaai, is all thanda.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Bahubali 2: The Conclusion is a spectacular celebration of cinema

There are films and there are experiences. Films like Bahubali easily fit into the latter category, where the canvas is so grand that you keep wondering what hue the artist is going to paint next, in this chef d’oeuvre of a film. In a generation of Harry Potter and Hobbit, the granny’s stories that lulled kids to blissful sleep have become a thing of the past. The art of storytelling, especially in films seems to have lost its sheen, and we as audience find solace in mere star presence, where a certain Khan outstretches his arms for the nth time, another Khan rips off his shirt, and the third one adds method to the similar madness by losing and gaining his weight, and lo and behold, we attain our ‘paisa-wasool’ nirvana.

If not the Khans, we have Kumars, Kapoors and Singhs to help producers keep their cash registers ringing. Amidst these assembly-line moneymaking films, there comes a mammoth ‘dubbed’ film without a known face, conjures up a magical world and takes the entire box office by storm. While it exudes charm by its resplendent visual imagery, it narrates a fascinating story, akin to those granny tales, where she’d mix up Ramayana, Mahabharata and Krishna’s pranks, dishing out a mishmash of mythology that is far from the banal ‘Ek tha raja ek thi rani’. Director SS Rajamouli, with his gripping screenplay and visionary direction, is the modern-day granny of filmmaking.

KK Senthil Kumar shoots the film with a style that matches scale with the international blockbusters and Kotagiri Venkateswara Rao edits the film with the deftness of an artist. The music by MM Kreem creates a whole new world of its own, especially the opening sequence. One hopes for a song like Dheevara in this one too, but the rest of the songs seem to have been lost in translation. Just like those good ol’ grannies, the story (Written by KV Vijayendra Prasad, the director’s father and also the writer of Bajrangi Bhaijaan) that the director narrates is far from original.

We know Amarendra Bahubali and his son Mahendra Bahubali (Prabhas in a role of a lifetime that easily secures his position as an iconic actor and a superstar-in-making) is going to triumph over his evil brother Bhallaldeva (Rana Daggubati as one of the finest antagonists we have ever seen in recent times), in a Mahabharatasque style, yet you still are all ears throughout the narration.

The character of Katappa (Satyaraj) is like Hanuman in Ramayana, Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) has shades of Kaushalya as well as Kaikeyi, Devsena (Anushka Shetty) has shades of Devaki in the previous installment of the film and Jodha, Sita as well as Draupadi in this film. In fact, Anushka and Ramya have the meatiest roles in this film, apart from, of course the titular Bahubali(s). Ramya, who had made her presence felt in the previous film, has an interesting character graph in this film, where she falters and eventually emerges triumphant, with that signature shot of an infant in her hand.

Satyaraj demonstrates his funnier side, which is a welcome change. The only ruse is the repeated usage of ‘Kutta’ for his character. Being a Senapati who commanded immense respect in the previous film, he deserved much more respect here too. His character is almost reduced to a caricature, especially towards the film’s end. The aggression displayed in the first film during his meeting with the Afghanistani king (Sudeep, who unfortunately doesn’t appear here) is missing here. The oft-repeated ‘Kutta’ word loses its gravity as an expletive (If it ever is), reducing him as ‘Kuttappa’ instead of Katappa (Pardon the pun).

Anushka Shetty, as Devsena, the fiery and ‘feminist to a fault’ princess, owns the screen in every frame she appears. One glance at her and you secretly hope Sanjay Leela Bhansali ditches his current favourite for his upcoming films, as you helplessly visualize Anushka in the roles of Leela, Mastani or Padmavati. The actress convinces you that she is indeed a warrior princess and a perfect match for Bahubali’s character. We are yet to see someone of her caliber in our films, after Madhuri Dixit.

As for Prabhas, it seems he was born to play Bahubali and the actor nails his role to the T. There is not a single frame where he lets you check your mobile phone or talk to the ones sitting next to you. In hindsight, it’s quite difficult to ascertain whether the actor commands such screen presence or is it the writing of his character that inspires awe. Prabhas is surely going to remain Bahubali for us, no matter what roles he might essay in the years to come, which is boon as well as bane for him (Remember Arun Govil, Nitish Bhardwaj, Mohit Raina as Rama, Krishna and Shiva?). Honestly, one won’t mind multiple Bahubali films or perhaps Arjuna in a Mahabharata made by the same director (Only SS Rajamouli can pull it off, if Mahabharata was ever to be made on celluloid). Bahubali could well become India’s first superhero franchise (You are forgiven if you just mentioned Shaktimaan, Krrish, RA1 or Flying Jatt).

As far as the proverbial question, by the film’s interval, you’d care two hoots about why Katappa killed Bahubali.  After all, with an engaging screenplay and a mammoth scale like this, who cares? Admittedly, I knew the ‘suspense’ well before watching Bahubali 2, thanks to a plethora of ‘FB friends’ who quite immaturely spilt the beans on social media. And believe me, the spoilsports of their ilk stood no chance in dampening my experience of beholding this spectacular film. With its charismatic blend of mythological stories, this granny’s tale is sure to mesmerize you. While we are at it, when was the last time you met that curious-eared child in you?

 

 

 

Begum Jaan: Popcornversation: Partition of story and logic

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A fictional conversation between Begum Jaan’s director, Srijit Mukherji and writer Kausar Munir, who has been credited for writing the dialogues of the film. The conversation is an attempt to understand what thought or logic went behind making such excuse of a film:

Director: I am doing a remake of my Bengali film, Rajkahini, which is a remake of Mandi.

Writer: But sir we don’t have the rights to remake Mandi.

Director: Who cares? I will set the same story against the backdrop of partition. I don’t want you to watch the original Bengali film. So, come up with your own draft, especially the dialogues. I will adapt the screenplay later and credit you for the dialogues.

Writer: That will require a lot of research and even the budgets will shoot up.

Director: Who cares? I will make two groups of villagers pass through a patch of land along with bullock carts. That’s partition for you.

Writer: And what about the riots?

Director: Simple. Make woman lay unclad before a mob. Place the camera above her head. Take a perspective shot, punctuated or rather accentuated by a loud background score. That way we’d be killing two birds with one shot, hinting at the Nirbhaya episode.

Writer: Sir, how about showing an old woman disrobing in front of the rioters and rapists, hence shaming them?

Director: That’s brilliant! I will use this same technique by showing a teenage girl doing the same towards the film’s end. The idea is to keep repeating things until the audience gets it.

Writer: And let’s have two fine actors like Rajit Kapoor and Ashish Vidhyarthi representing India and Pakistan.

Director: And let’s cut their faces into two halves, symbolizing the two nations.

Writer: Won’t it look odd? And will people understand?

Director: They will. I will employ the same technique 3-4 times until they get it. And add a Satyajit Ray’s Jalsaghar angle to the story…we can cast someone like Naseeruddin Shah to play an aging king losing it all to the British regime.

Writer: And what about British actors? Most of them look like Bob Christo in our films.

Director: Let’s do away with them.

Writer: How are we going to depict colonialism without British actors?

Director: Who cares? Our film will have enough distractions to keep the audience away from story and logic. We will have an opening narration by Amitabh Bachchan. His deep baritone will ward off all the evils of intelligence.

Writer: And what about the lead role? How about Kiron Kher reprising her role in Sardari Begum?

Director: Sardari Begum…sounds an interesting name. We will cast Vidya Balan playing Kiron Kher and call our film Begum Jaan.

Writer: But why Vidya Balan? Why not someone like Seema Biswas or Nandita Das?

Director: By casting Vidya Balan, we won’t have to worry about paying her extra to put on weight, like Nitesh Tiwari had to do for Aamir in Dangal.  Secondly, we can thrust the feminist angle down the audiences’ throats, by casting someone who has already done female-oriented films like Kahaani and The Dirty Picture, which means wider ‘aunty audience’.

Writer: And what about the other roles? Mandi had an interesting ensemble of actors like Smita Patil, Neena Gupta and Soni Razdan…We, too, should have an impressive cast of women working in a brothel.

Director: Who cares? Vidya Balan will rule the three-legged roost in the film and boss around the girls. We can have someone like Gauhar Khan and other obscure girls speaking in different accents. And why are you referring them as ‘women working in a brothel’? Just call them whores. Even our posters will read: Lived like whores, fought like queens. Subtlety is for the art film directors. I am establishing my brand as a ‘commercial art’ film director.

Writer: What will be Vidya Balan’s accent? Since the film is set near Agra so should it be Urdu?

Director: Does the audience really care about such things? Let her talk in different accents, be it Punjabi or chaste Urdu or Hindi. We will add other characters speaking with fake accents of Punjabi, Gujarati and Bihari for those ‘cinema connoisseurs’. Don’t get into silly details like these.

Writer: You also asked for a Holi scene despite the film’s story set during the partition i.e. August…

Director: Did you say something…?

Writer: Okay, I get it…Shall do.

Director: Here’s the DVD of Mandi, go and watch the film again and develop the screenplay. Make sure you underline every scene with additional dialogues, some sex and menstrual references, a clown character, lesbians, etc. and I will take care of the rest to underline it further with loud background score and artistic cinematography.

Writer: We need some goon and traitor who shall evacuate the kotha or kothi whatever…I need to visualize someone while writing these characters…

Director: Chunky Pandey is a star in Bangladesh and wants to do a comeback in Bollywood. We can ask him to shave his head off, blacken his teeth and wear a vest-lungi costume.

Writer: Chunky Pandey? Okay…maybe that will draw the curious audience…And what about the traitor?

Director: Cast an innocent looking guy…Can be Vivek Mushran. The key to the success of any film is unusual casting.

Writer: But what if Chunky Pandey overtakes Vidya Balan with his performance?

Director: Who cares? We aren’t making the film for Vidya Balan. Well, to be on a safer side, we will ask Vidya Balan not to do her eyebrows for few months.

Writer: But since she is into prostitution, shouldn’t she be conscious of her looks?

Director: Let the other aspects remain the way they are…Just the eyebrows will have a ‘realistic touch’.

Writer: But how can she remain oblivious of what’s happening around in the country? She can shift her kotha elsewhere and still thrive…

Director: The kotha is her home, remember!

Writer: But countless Indians and Pakistanis abandoned their ‘homes’ during the partition. So, what’s the all fuss about?

Director: Did you say something…?

Writer: Okay, I get it…So, how are we going to end the film?

Director: Padmavati is news these days. Do a Google search on her and see what you can do. Add some grandma kind of character like Ila Arun to narrate the tale and manipulate with the emotions of the audience in the climax. Make sure your screenplay has truckloads of melodrama. It always works, be it Chopra, Johar or Bhansali film.

Writer: But sir, will this film work?

Director: Who cares? My debut in Bollywood should establish my brand as a stylish auteur who uses unconventional camera angles and you as a female feminist writer. We have a star like Vidya Balan to carry the entire film and producers like Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt. What else do we want?

Writer: Er…We do need a story and logic…

Director: Did you say something…?