Tuesday, November 24, 2009

taal se taal mila

If Gabbar Singh were to ever capture me, and Teja coming to the rescue was tied down hand and foot by Gabbar Singh's henchmen and put at gun-point, he would never ever have to flare his nostrils and shout at me, "Banno, in kutto ke saamne mat naachna." (Banno, don't dance before these dogs.)

For Gabbar Singh would himself clamber down from his high rock, put a shawl over my trembling body, untie Teja's bonds and tell Teja, "Teja-bhai, tum Banno-behn ko ghar le jaao. Hum ko koi naach-vaach nahin dekhna, Nahin dekhna naach-vaach hum ko." (Teja-brother, please take Banno-sister home. We don't want to see any dance. No dance we want to see.)

For a 10 second demonstration would have made it clear to him that Banno-style dancing goes like this: 1. Move right foot sideways. 2. Move torso to the right. 3. Lift right arm up. 4. Twist right hand. 5. Move left foot towards right foot. 6. Move torso to the left. 7. Lift left arm sideways. 8. Turn left hand round and round. 9. Stand still to listen to beat. 10. Catch it again and start motion in above sequence, now completely off-beat. Repeat ad-infinitum.

Is it any wonder then that anyone who can move arms, legs, shoulders, eyes, face, head, and other body parts in one continuous, rhythmic motion and stay with the beat, for any length of time mesmerizes me?

As if my own gracelessness were not enough, my ignorance about any form of classical Indian dance (or music) is shameful. So I am always hesitant to attend dance performances. But for once, I decided to diss the computer and the DVD player, and stretch my mind, if not my limbs a little.

The dance performances at the Bandra festival were meant for ignoramuses like me. The open air stage attracts a mixed crowd, street children, regular promenade walkers, young couples who've made their way up from the rocks by the sea after sun-down, friends and family supporting performers.

The performances by children from 2 NGO shelters, had me doing that thing I do to stop howling - gulp, gulp, close mouth, squeeze nostrils, stop breathing, face swelling up, getting red. Theirs was a dance I understood, because it was close to Banno-style dancing.

The three other presentations were Kathak, a duet of Bharatnatyam (performed by the male dancer) and Odissi (performed by his female partner), and a group of students performing Bharatnatyam. I was unable to capture the finer nuances of the performances, so I concentrated on watching the expressions, the costumes, the flowers in their hair, the sparkle of the jewellery.

And going on in my mind, "Why are they wearing black? It's showing the dirt. If she was wearing red and yellow, why is he wearing maroon? Her ghaghra is too stiff. It doesn't show me the play of her legs." And so on. Because of course, to me, commenting  is half the fun of watching anything.

What I also love doing during live performances is to watch the people who are watching. Some young boys  getting impatient. A little girl with dirty frock, matted hair and blond streaks. An old couple who really seemed to get it. Parents of the performers, whose eyes and cameras were focussed only on their kids.

There was also a school-principal type of MC who scolded all of us before and after the presentations.

Of course, going to Band Stand is never complete without shouting "Ee, ee, Shahrukh Khan's house." I almost never have to do that myself, because someone always gets in there before me. This time, it was Pu.

However, in my book, this is highly excusable, because just a few weeks ago, I met an old doctor who lives across Shahrukh Khan's house and he was pointing out of his window, going, "Ee, ee, Shahrukh Khan's house." And the old gentleman and his family have lived there for years before SRK.

After, a walk through Bandra, and then prawn curry-rice, fried surmai and fried bombil at Soul Fry.

Made me forget all my film woes, for sure. I was also quite pleased when I liked the same dances that Pu had liked, considering that she is studying dance since she was a child. Some hope for me, I say. And for Gabbar Singh.

Monday, November 23, 2009

the david and goliath of film making

The following exchange between karrvakarela and me on my post on 'Tum Mile' seemed too important to be hidden in the comments section. Some of my Film & Television Institute friends, filmmakers themselves, The Third Man, Irene Dhar Malik and I, review films regularly, and we are often accused of hating Bollywood.

At the risk of sounding silly, I actually feel physically sick when I trash a film. As a film maker I know how difficult it is to get a film off the ground, and to actually see it through to the end. 

So I take the liberty of speaking for all of us, and other film critic, film maker and film lover friends, in saying that the fact is that we love films, and therefore hate the sheer waste of money, effort, technical skills and star power expounded in an obviously lackadaisical manner, to make what can only be called 'products' and are definitely not films.

This displays a callousness in the film industry towards the audience and leads to a desensitization of both film makers and the audience. The Times of India today carries an interesting article 'Directors on the Fringe' which introduces us to a few of the film makers who are struggling against the system.


Anyway here is the exchange between karrvakarela and me, and I hope that all of you will add your own thoughts to this.

karrvakarela said...

Hi Banno,

This has nothing to do with your review, or the film, which I will assiduously avoid, but is it just me or is the recent urbanization of Hindi cinema starting to get stale? Granted a lot of the audience is concentrated in the cities so it makes sense to make movies they can relate to but as an industry whose job it is to tell stories I think most new filmmakers have been willfully negligent in ignoring the rest of the country. I was watching Prakash Jha's Hip Hip Hurray the other with its charming portrayal of small-town Ranchi and it hit me how little we've seen this kind of story-telling of late. Films like Gulzar's Namkeen and Mausam, Shyam Benegal's Manthan, Basu Bhattacharya's Teesri Kasam; stories with local flavor and character. Where are they now? Will they ever be made again? I think Vishal Bharadwaj may be the only one who is exploring those possibilities and transcripting them into his own private genre. Everyone else seems too obsessed with the urban grind.

Banno said...

Karrvakarela, true. The trouble is not that those stories are not being written, nor that those films are not being made in the face of severe odds, but that those films are not getting distributed, and don't even have a chance of reaching the audience. When they are picked up by a distributor, they are released in a few multiplexes, where the audience is not necessarily interested in these films, and the ticket prices are too high, thereby killing the film.

I've watched several small films which are in fact fresh, interesting stories, different from this no-man's land, which is not even truly representative of any urban concern. In the last year itself I have seen, Sushil Rajpal's 'Antardwand' (not released), Paresh Kamdar's 'Johny Johny, Yes Papa' (not released), Paresh Kamdar's 'Khargosh' (not released), Ranjit Kapoor's 'Chintuji' (didn't do even one week), Shyam Benegal's 'Welcome to Sajjanpur' (did reasonably well through word of mouth), Pravesh Bhardawaj's 'Niyati' (today he is celebrating 2 years since he finished the film) . These are just a few off the top of my head. A couple of days ago, I saw Bela Negi's film 'Daayen Baayein' (awaiting release, and all of us waiting with bated breath hoping that this lovely film gets its due viewership).

Often, I am unable to review those films because they are still in the process of being sold. :(
Which usually never happens.

A lot of us now feel that unless there are exhibition spaces for art-house cinema, where ticket prices are low, there is no hope for it.

Marathi cinema, in fact, has made a huge comeback because of government subsidies in the making, and also tax-free exhibition, made compulsory for cinema halls.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

a 'bad hair life'

A group of college students enters 10 minutes late. Of course they are chattering. Loudly. As they shuffle across me.  A girl who has actually (really?) seen the film earlier gives them a vague update on what has happened so far.

The vagueness of her story-telling makes them ask more questions and the chatter goes on for some more time. When they finally settle down, the girl who has seen the movie before dials a number and starts cooing into it. I stomp off and change seats. I can hear them sniggering.

Another group enters late and sits down to the left of me, thankfully a few seats away. Yet another group enters late and sits down to the right of me, giving me a wide berth. I am khush.

The people on the right tentatively deposits an infant in the seat nearest to me. But perhaps my scowl is fluorescent.  It makes them change their mind. They take the infant and place it in the aisle near their feet, presumably to be trampled upon by hovering popcorn vendors.

I look at them in horrified disgust. They ignore me. The man then spends the rest of the film talking to his clients. From the various instructions about a car in Mira Road, and a driver in Vasai, I gather he runs a transport company.

Suddenly, a man 2 rows behind starts yelling abuse. I turn around thinking that finally someone has lost their head in the way I've been wanting to for the last 40 minutes. But the man is raging with eyes in space. Ah, a hands-free phone. "Tell the bastard that we won't do anything till we get the money." He starts walking towards the exit, yelling all the way, his 'b******d's and 'f******'s lighting his way.

I burrow into my seat and think viciously that an audience like this deserves a film like 'Tum Mile'. We have become so desensitized as a society that we deserve to pay obscene amounts of money to watch complete shit about 2 people who make the most boring couple in the world.

Why write a script where two ex-lovers meet after 6 years on a day that is bound to give them bad hair?

Soha Ali Khan is gutsy. Her hair goes from wet rats tails to dried frizz. Perfectly natural when one has been pelted by the rain for hours. But since the 26 July 2005 deluge is only a pretext for the two ex-lovers, Sanjana (Soha) and Akshay (Emran Hashmi) discovering that they are after all, just right for each other, surely a background kinder to the heroine's hair could be chosen for this reconciliation of kindred boring souls?

Sanjana is rich and modern. She lives alone, then lives with her boyfriend. She enters a room and takes off her shirt and does the rest of the scene in her slip. She lounges around in teddy shorts. She displays a beautiful cleavage whenever she can. Soha is comfortable with her body. She does little things with her eyebrows and a flick of her hand that tell us she knows about acting. And yet, I spend the better part of the film wondering why she does not allure, why she remains an ordinary girl. Surely I should admire her for acting an ordinary girl, but I find myself resenting the total lack of glamour.

Even her supposedly rich father lacks glamour. Sachin Khedekar does not look like rich Sanjana's rich father, but in his black shiny coat, a lawyer soliciting clients for 100-200 rupees outside Bandra Court.

Emran Hashmi seems to have put a cap on his sleaziness. But that unfortunately just makes him flatter than a paper dosa. He's nothing without his torrid kisses. He plays an inexplicably bitter painter.

Inexplicable because in fact, he paints for the common man. Melting moons and beautiful sad women by windows, which in the real world, should sell like hot cakes to hotel lounges. Instead he is poor. Even though the 'common' electrician too loves his painting. There is much talk about the opinion of the common man. It's a message to all those out there, yes, the critics may bash our work, but the common man loves us.

Sadly, the 'common men' watching 'Tum Mile' did not seem too happy on the ride.

There is no point in even elaborating on the illogicalities in the plot. There are many but they float like dead rats in the dirty water. However, because this is a love story, and not a documentary, we do not see the dead rats.

What remains is a sense of terrible boredom. The two narrative threads, the past and the present, play like two different stories. The trouble is that Sanjana and Akshay are just not interesting enough a pair for us to be interested in their love, hate, love lives. You feel sad that Sanjana hasn't found anyone more worthy in all these years.

Akshay is given a chance to vindicate his earlier 'loser' status, someone who had to let his girlfriend pay the bills, by now flying business class, buying art galleries and going to Tokyo to pick up awards for his design company. He is also given several chances at displaying his manly heroics during the flood, while Sanjana is suitably, femininely helpless and afraid.

What is conveniently forgotten is that things went wrong in the past because Akshay didn't communicate. That Sanjana just got tired of dealing with someone who was so self-obsessed.  All doubts about compatibility are washed away in the deluge.

A shorter version of this review published here.

BTW, header photo by Teja.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

it's been a long haul

'Khargosh' won 3 awards at the Osian festival this year - the Special Mention and the Audience Award and shared the NETPAC-FIPRESCI award.

Trisha at Tehelka wrote this.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

in love

In our house, Ranbir Kapoor is mentioned several times a day.


One of our family members is madly in love with him.

I am meant to make it very clear to all and sundry that that family member is not me. I am not supposed to love Ranbir Kapoor, though I am allowed to like him, in a maternal sort of way.

One of our family members also hopes to be an actress, work with Ranbir Kapoor, have him fall madly in love with her, and marry her, one day.

I, meanwhile, am trying hard to imagine what it would mean to be the 'samdhan' of Neetu Kapoor. And I am glad for the temporary reprieve from worrying about all those next-door boys .

We have spent a fortune in movie tickets watching 'Wake Up Sid' 4 times, and 'Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani' twice.

We don't like Deepika Padukone or Katrina Kaif much in this house. In fact, we hate them.