Thursday, September 12, 2013

Shuddh Desi Cinema

I’m really excited and can’t stop raving about the new crop of filmmakers. If Maneesh Sharma’s Band Baja Baaraat had stunned you with its freshness in content as well as treatment, then the director’s latest offering, Shuddh Desi Romance has raised the bar a notch higher. The Delhi director has got back the magic of story telling after a small aberration called Ladies v Ricky Bahl.

First, the absolute positives...for a change the protagonist of a Hindi commercial cinema is actually dumbfounded when he’s around girls. He can’t rattle off witty lines to impress girls but Raghu Ram (Sushant Singh Rajput) does impress, in fact two of them. Sushant gets to romance two 'desi' girls who are 'videshi' in their ways. And they want to remain glued to him, so what if he ran away from the wedding pandal of Tara (Vaani Kapoor) in front of Gayatri (Parineeti Chopra). They both want him.

For an out an out commercial venture, the director has the three main leads talking to the camera in between scenes – on their take at that particular moment. But it would have been better if it could have related/revealed feelings, which were not so obvious.   

As far as performances go, all three of the main leads are outstanding. Maneesh has the ability to extract the best from his actors – remember Ranveer and Anushka’s power-packed acting in BBB. Parineeti has again not struck a single wrong note. Her role might not be very different from the I-care-a-damn bubbly girl-next-door, but you have to give it to her – she’s flawless as Gayatri.

Sushant’s a difficult one. Writer Jaideep Sahni of Khosla ka Ghosla and Chak de India fame has etched out two clearly defined and distinct female characters but Raghu Ram is full of contradictions. The way it is written and acted, is open to debate. He is a tour guide who, at best, is insecure and unsure; but manages to lure two smart and bold women into bed. From going as a hired baarati to running away from his own wedding – Sushant had a lot on his plate. He manages to portray all the contradictions of the character. Brilliant. Many might argue that the character could have been handled ‘differently’ but could never have been handled ‘better’. The other female lead Aussie import Vaani Kapoor also has not given any reason to complain.

In fact the heavy indulgence with lead players, did leave all the other characters looking like caricatures. Even Rishi Kapoor, playing a wedding planner, struggles to leave a mark, despite getting a meaty role – not to take away from his acting prowess.

Another big plus has been the way songs have been interspersed with the story telling. And the difficult task of shooting entire song sequences in one room has been overcome with brilliant shot division using jump cuts. But you wish that the love making scenes could have been more hurried and rough than the beautifully but measured one.  

If in BBB it was the brilliant usage of by lanes of crowded Delhi, , then SDR exploits the colour, mood and chaos of the Pink city to the hilt. 

The light-hearted, chaotic climax may not appeal to many but brings out our over-indulgence in the institution of marriage in a lighter vein. Not a very emotional or dramatic climax as the director lets you wear the objective lens to gaze at his cinema.

A truly outstanding effort! Gosh, we are living in good times!

Sunday, July 28, 2013


Earlier I used to boast about how we never felt the need to book tickets in advance for a movie. That’s because within three kilometer radius of where we stay (Indirapuram), there are at least a dozen multiplexes.  Not anymore.

After trying at four places on the first day, I gave up and settled to watch Bhaag Milkha Bhaag on Monday. All my friends, family liked the movie but I was disappointed. And the reasons could be many. May be I’m now used to watching emotions hidden beneath a layer  - thanks to new young filmmakers like Vikram Motwanes, Anand Rais and Dibakar Banerjees. And no longer like human emotions so pronounced and on the surface, am now used to subtlety.

May be like me many of us watched with two filters – one as a movie fan and the other as a mad sports follower. C’mon this is not a sports film even if run your imagination faster than Milkha Singh in his hey days.

The biggest moment of Milkha Singh’s sporting career is literally hidden at the top. There is no mention of the Rome Olympics moment anywhere in the rest of the movie. And an inconsequential Indo-Pak Friendly event has been preferred as the climax of the movie. Prasoon Joshi, I’m sorry, you might be the most sought after lyricist and writer but you should have shown the script to a sports fanatic before filming.

Like the good old days, Farhan Akhtar becomes a world class athlete from being a knife wielding errant youth within a span of one song shot in the hills. The overplayed trials and tribulations of the hero take centrestage and coaching, strategising the nuances of the sport is sadly missing.

Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra might say he didn’t make a sports film, but why not…why not a sports film on one of India’s greatest sporting legend. You can also make millions by telling how an athlete becomes a winner in a pure sports way - how to get off the block faster…how to run the curves….how to run the first 100m….then the next…then the next. Milkha Singh deserved a true sports film. Learn it from the masters of Hollywood, how they turn them into blockbusters.

And then it’s completely unjustified to make full blown scenes out of hero getting excused from regular drill sessions, wearing or stealing the Indian jersey, which contributed immensely to make it a three and a half hour long film. Some of the scenes like a ghee drinking one near the police station did not add anything to the movie or the hero’s character. May be Rakeysh Mehra wanted to portray how corrupt and helpless Delhi police were even then. Simple logic – if you do not have powerful content, enough content then chop the damn movie. The director, producer, everyone must have seen the movie multiple times at the post and post the post production, why nobody decided to cut out a few scenes, which they could easily done making the story telling even crisper.

And what was the need to handle Milkha Singh’s troubled past with kid gloves. He might have turned a hooligan in his youth but the director has been so careful not to tarnish his image that it irritates you. May be Rakeysh Mehra didn’t want to upset Milkha Singh. After all he’d given the director the rights to make the film for one rupee.

Now the makers are basking in the success of the movie. Remember reading Farhan Akhtar’s interview somewhere that the biggest compliment he got was when Milkha Singh cried watching the movie. I have been a sports producer and have made some of the most well-known sportstars cry by producing 2-3 minutes packages on them. So why waste three and a half hour film.