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.


M said...

I have been reading your blog for quite some time now, and (thanks to facebook!), I *think* you are a friend of my sister in law's. Small world huh? :)

Although I could be terribly wrong!
In that case I'll be uber ashamed.

karrvakarela said...

Hi Batul,

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.

Incidentally, where is Raj Kiran these days?

Banno said...

M, since I can't know you, as 'M', I can't quite place the relation. :) So do tell me on FB, who you are.

And even if the connection is not quite what you suppose, what is there to be ashamed of? I'm a dimwit about names too, and make those mistakes often myself.

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.

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.

bollyviewer said...

Emran Hashmi = totally avoid yaar, for me. So I am glad to know that I dont have to watch this for Soha (she doesnt seem to have inherited her family's histrionic ability!) or a good story. :-D

karrvakarela has raised a good point. I am tired of all the glossy NRIs and urban yuppies inhabiting the filmi world these days, too. Welcome To Sajjanpur seems to be the only exception in the last couple of years! I wish some of these small films would make it to internet so at least people like me could watch them - though that still doesnt solve the problem of their larger audience.

Miss M said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M said...

Ummm my sister in law would be Bela Negi?

memsaab said...

Thanks for reviewing this so I don't have to even *think* about watching it, Banno :D Appreciate you taking a bullet for the team.

BTW, one of my best friends was in a mostly empty theater when a group of teens came in and sat directly behind her. She got up, turned around, and said: "I'll give you $10 to go and sit as far away from me as you can." They took her up on it, and she says it's the best $10 she ever spent :-D

Pitu said...

"they float like dead rats in the dirty water" rofl, I think the review was more fun to read than this movie can be.

Marathi cinema is truly amazing these days. After sitting through utter tripe in the form of mainstream Hindi films, I'm just edging more towards regional films. At least they're intelligent.

And I can always watch my old Chashme Buddoor/Katha/Chupke Chupke/Biwi O Biwi/Sooraj Ka Satwa Ghoda dvds over and over and over. Better use of three hours than this Btown crap methinks.

You know what would be a kickass idea? If I lived in India, I'd try to put together a business plan to show old classics on the big screen. Trust me, more of my friends (and my friends are in the 25-30 age grp) saw the re-released Mughal E Azam in the theater than whatever rubbish was in the cinema halls then.

The more I see Hindi films these days the more I understand my parents' generation who say things like "Hamare zamane mein film ki story hoti thi/log acting jante the" etc.

Banno said...

M, :) Of course. As you have probably seen, Bela features in my newer post, the david and goliath of film making.

Memsaab, I'd have to shell out money left, right, center, to keep people quiet in an Indian cinema hall.

Pitu, yes, it's a good idea. Really, a bunch of us film makers are seriously contemplating a travelling theatre with good films. Probably utopian.

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