Friday, September 25, 2009

we all need to tighten our belts

Now all those who have been cribbing about 'Dil Bole Hadippa' do not know that it is a stalwart effort to pitch into the recent austerity drive undertaken by the government. How so, you say? Well, for instance:

1. Rani Mukherjee summoned Manish Malhotra to her bouidoir. The floor was covered in old costumes from 'Bunty and Babli', 'Chalte Chalte' and 'Laaga Chunari Mein Daag'. "Cut and trim these, Manishji, and make new out of old", she pleaded and Manishji did just that.

2. For most of the film, Rani dressed as a Sardar boy in dreary tracksuits and a white pagdi. She let her freckles show and saved tons of expensive MAC make-up.

3. Shahid Kapoor did not have a haircut throughout the shoot schedule. He is soon going to auction his mane on Farah Khan's show 'Tere Mere Beach Mein' to the highest equestrian bidder, and give the money to Rahul Gandhi to fund his next undercover foray into Uttar Pradesh.

4. Shahid also re-used the character and expressions from 'Jab we Met', i.e. a cold blank look, and minimal smiling. As all beauticians will tell you, this reduces wrinkling, thereby reducing the need for Botox and other surgical treatments necessary for actors at a later age.

5. Sherlyn Chopra and Rakhi Sawant as usual supported the cause with enthusiasm and loyalty by wearing just enough clothing to avoid nudity, thereby saving on fabric costs.

6. Pritam rehashed old tracks from 'Jab We Met', 'Singh is King' and several other films, thereby saving lots of creative energy and earning many carbon points. Julius Packiam saved on scoring background music tracks by reusing old tunes from old Yash Raj films.

7. Ditto for Jaideep Sahni, who worked with 50 words, scrambling them over and over again to create 7songs. This has also created a new game for the listener, called 'Unscramble' which will be launched soon by YRF in association with Big.

8. Ditto for Vaibhavi Merchant - same old, same old.

9. Jaya and Aparajita wrote dialogue for 30 mins of the film and then used it as a loop through the film. They also used Indira Gandhi, Jhansi Ki Rani and Kiran Bedi as references for the closing speech on women's emancipation. This has saved many forests. Also, since the actors needed to learn fewer lines, it meant shorter rehearsal time and shorter shooting schedules, saving on production cost and workers' wages.

10. The line producer Padam Bhushan saved on location manager fees, location recce costs and location hire costs as he decided that the mustard fields used in previous Yash Raj Films would continue to work their magic, especially since they are now given to Yash Raj Films at a phenomenal discount.

11. Wherever there are excesses, they are used to the maximum, since no waste is gain. For e.g 4 bowls of expensive dry fruit are quaffed by Anupam Kher and Dalip Tahil while they sit on drawing room sofas in the middle of nowhere, watching cricket matches. It should be made public knowledge that the 4 bowls were covered with cling film between takes and thus used throughout the shoot in various scenes. Also, takes were kept to a minimum to reduce the amounts of dry fruit quaffed by the veteran actors.

12. Similarly, Sudeep Chatterjee used all the camera equipment given to him to maximum limits. No track, crane, jimmy jib was left idle for even a single minute on set, the camera was kept moving throughout to ensure that money's worth was extracted.

13. Poonam Dhillon was taken off the shelf - what a beautiful example of recycling!

14. Through out the making of the film, the director Anurag Singh stayed away from the set. Thereby he not only abstained from his director's fees, but also accomodation, food and other perks. Yash Raj Films cannot show their gratitude to him enough.

15. Particularly since Anurag helped them in their endeavour to make a fabulous flop. The common masses stayed away from the film and the middle class and the poor of the nation learnt how not to spend their hard earned money on cinema tickets. A valuable lesson indeed!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

fashinista banno or an old horse with red reins

I had been eye-ing a red bag in Hidesign since months.

It was not always the same bag, but it was always red.

Once again, I went in to the store, and saw the perfect red messenger bag. I took it carefully off the lurching mannequin, and slid it over my shoulder. One hasty look at the mirror, one covert look, one over the shoulder look and I dropped the bag, and walked out. A few steps away, and I turned back to look at the store, wistfully. The bag was calling out to me.

I wanted Teja and Dhanno to convince me, either to buy the bag or forget it. They were tapping their feet, and clicking their fingers, and looking everywhere but at me.

I said: "It would look too much, no? Everyone would say, an old woman carrying a red bag."

Dhanno said: "But that's what you would be, isn't it? An old woman carrying a red bag. So how does it matter?"

What I had wanted her to say was: "But you are not old, Mama!"

There's not much to be said for dinning 'honesty is the best policy' into your child at a tender age. Because sooner or later, she hands it back to you. I let out a sigh and took a couple of steps towards the store again. Then sighed and turned back.

Teja, knowing well that the sighs if ignored, threatened to take over our domestic arrangements over the next few days, said: "Why don't you just get it?"

I said: "Yeah. I can probably use it for a few more years. Then I'll be older. And that will be just be too old for a red bag."

Teja said: "You'll never be too old for a red bag."

Dhanno said: "Yeah, as if. You are never going to give up your jhataak pink, are you? Or purple? Or yellow?"

I grinned.

This time, I ignored the swinging of the mannequin and grabbed my bag from its shoulder and marched with it to the cash counter. Anyone could see that the red bag was going to give me graces Nature had not conferred on me.

With flamingo-pink rainy sandals, and my tomato-red messenger bag, I made quite a fashion statement on my last documentary shoot. Specially when I teamed them with my lime-green capris and rose-pink lipstick.

Monday, September 14, 2009

whoever said old films were slow?

Bimal Roy's "Parakh" (1960) opens thus:

A postman is limping down a dusty road, from a great distance, with a heavy bag. He enters a yard. A little boy runs across him. He asks the little boy to call his sister.

The postman goes in, and puts down the bag. The postmaster says - You have a lot of mail today. The postman says - Yes, it is because people write too much. Job requests, love letters, letters of complaint.

A girl comes in. The postman asks her if he can have a cup of tea. She says yes, but there is no sugar.

He says, he will go get it. She is hesitant, how often can he get it? He says not to embarrass him, for it is God who gives, who is he? He goes out.

The postmaster asks the girl to take over for some time while he goes in to look at his ill wife. The girl starts stamping letters.

Outside at the counter, a man appears. He wants to make a money order.

When she replies, he is surprised, Oh it's you. She asks him to come in.

He comes in behind her, she keeps stamping the letters, not looking at him.

He asks her what she is doing there. She asks him why she cannot work. She is the postmaster's daughter. He says if she was the postmaster, he would make a money order everyday. She says with a schoolmaster's pay of 7 rupees, how would he manage to make a money order everyday. He is quiet. He looks at her from behind, and mutters, "That is why.."

She is apologetic for hurting him. She asks him where he has been.

He says he is so busy, there is so much to do. Since the elders of the village won't listen, the school boys and him have decided to clean the village on their own. She says why bother about doing good for others, when one is in such a bad shape one self. He says that if the country does well, all of us will do as well. And aren't you a part of the country too?

Someone calls from outside. Both shuffle guiltily.

Pandit enters. School master leaves hurriedly with an excuse.

Pandit asks for girl's father. Postman enters. Girl leaves to make tea. Postmaster enters.

Postman and Pandit get into verbal spat. Postmaster intervenes. Pandit leaves, insulting Postman as low-caste.

Postmaster scolds Postman for being rude.

Postman says Pandit is horrid. The other day when he entered his house with a letter, Pandit made a big show of cleaning the house with fresh cow dung. When he went the next day with a money order and asked Pandit if money would be acceptable from his lowcaste hands, Pandit threw him a shloka which justified his taking the money.

Postmaster says whatever it is, Postman is new here, and must respect elders. Now quieten down, and get to work.

So, in virtually one scene set in the post office, within the first 6-7 minutes of the film, we meet 6 characters and one off-screen character. We learn a little bit about each character, what they are like, what they believe in, and what their problems could be. We also get a glimpse of the village where the post office is, and the country where the village is, and the problems that beset it - unemployment, poverty, caste. Not only that, but the premise of the film is set down as well - money, and the greed for it.

Contrast this with what most Hindi films do these days. The exposition is reduced to a verbal introduction of each character, this is Bunty, he is blah blah blah. The voice-over has the air of being slapped on after the film is edited, and it's amply clear that the who? where? why? what? of the story are not clear to the audience.