It’s been a long time I havent written about movies. So here now I make up for that by reviewing three movies I have seen recently.
Boy ! I have got to stop watching movies. I have seen so many Hollywood movies in the last five years (when I was doing my PhD and had nothing better to do) that watching Hindi movies gives me a protracted sense of deja-vu—I can identify which scene is “inspired” (copied) from which English movie. Of course I will accept there is a fundamental unfairness here…when Quentin Tarantino does it to Sergio Leone it is called “paying tribute” and oooh-ed and aah-ed when our home-grown desi bhailog do it to all Hollywood it is called “copying” and pooh-pooh-ed. One such movie is “Vaastu-Shastra”— Bollywood’s new trend of classy horror movies (“classy” as opposed to the campy terrorfests of the 80s directed by India’s answer to Ed Wood—-the Ramsay brothers.)
Directed by Ram Gopal Verma (whose production house helmed the much better “Darna Mana Hain” ) “Vaastu Shashta” is the story of a happy couple (Chakrabarty and Sushmita Sen ) who move into a haunted house with their wholesome looking kid and wife’s sister (who seems to be inspired by the MMS Dhamaka thing –see the movie to find out why). Everything is predictable as hell and the only fun for me was to find out all the “tributes”— the ” I want some peace and quiet” writer and the red bicycle from “the Shining”, the “They are here” from Poltergeist, the flies buzzing from ” the Amityville Horror”, the whitened emaciated faces from “the Grudge”, the ending from “Thriller”and “Evil Dead”, the ghosts catching fire from countless vampire movies like “Blade” and “Vampires”. What remains of the movie must have similarly been inspired by flicks I miraculously have yet to see.
Still it was much better than the intolerable “Bhoot” (RGV’s previous botched attempt) and had I not been such a seasoned “been there done that” horror aficionado, I could conceivably have been scared. What however really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up was the hyperactive overacting from Rajpal Yadav——-to see a talented actor like him hamming to high heavens was indeed horrifying.
So you have made a movie that has created history, set new box office records, become the first Indian cross-over film of recent times ——what do you do next? Ramesh Sippy could never recreate the magic of “Sholay”—the rest of his career produced duds of the magnitude of “Zamana Deewana” (with the honorable exception of the marvelous “Shakti” which nevertheless was a disappointment at the box office) . With this in mind, the big question was what would “Lagaan” boy Ashutosh Gowariker do for his next movie—-would he up the ante or go down in flames?
He does neither and makes a middling movie—Swades. It could have been much better —for once it had Shahrukh Khan doing a real good job of acting (after centuries) , an engaging story line and of course AR Rehman. And it had himself in the director’s chair—a man of no small talent. (Well mmm he made “Baazi ” too ) . Yet Ashutosh Gowariker tries to make a movie with the express desire of winning an Oscar ; attempting to fit “Swades” into the “right” formula that has historically been known to gel with the Academy voters. In the process he ends up with an unappealing, extended yawnfest which has all the excitement of a 80’s Doordarshan primetime documentary—the basket weavers of Kumaon. It need not have been so —engaging movies about social change in villages (“Manthan” comes to mind) have been made in the past. But here, Gowariker goes on sermonizing with the subtlety of a sledge hammer poking viewers in the eye with the message till we want to cry out –” Yes yes we got it already”. The message is noble, the acting is good (Shahrukh Khan without his mannerisms) but regrettably Swades does not work as a movie.
Oh yeah baby. Sanjay Gupta, Mahesh Manjrekar and Sanjay Dutt. I always think of them as three stooges getting wasted in a Nasik hotel room and groveling , via cell phone, in front of a mafia don 10,000 miles away. Here of course Sanjay Gupta, the man who directed Kaante and who shamelessly copies Hollywood, is holding the camera and Mahesh Manjrekar and Sanjay Dutt are in front of it. This time Sanjay Gupta’s video library has thrown up “U-turn” and so , with the predictability of a well-oiled machine, out comes the Bollywood version “Musafir”.
Is it any good? One word. Yes. Suitably Indianized and stylized, Musafir is good entertainment. It’s not clean entertainment of course—after all this is a Sanjay Gupta movie where foul language, leering camera angles and shocking violence is expected. Sanjay Gupta is India’s Tarantino—-he makes copying look good. He did it with Kaante and he does it here again. The look and the feel of the movie is so vastly different from the ordinary Hindi movie—yes I know we have seen this in Kaante but the monochrome lens filter, handycam shots and all the “cool tricks” are out of the bag once again and to good effect.
Anil Kapoor, the luckiest actor alive, having played romantic roles opposite generations of heroines is at it again as the hero—Lucky. Opposite him is my personal favorite, the Sultan of style—Sanjay Dutt ( I am sounding like a teenage girl here) who explodes onto each frame playing the role of Billa—the most memorable Hindi movie villain after Gabbar. The dialogues are raw and crackling with the heat of the Goa sun, the camera work dizzying and at the cost of repeating myself Sanjay Dutt straddles the screen like a colossus.
A lot of people wont like this movie—especially the Humtum/Veer Zara/Main Hoon Na crowd but thank heavens there is at least one guy left in Bollywood who makes movies for guys ! The abiding image of Musafir shall be Koyena Mitra seducing Anil Kapoor while washing his Porsche while Mr Barber’s Dream, as old as the hills, relaxes with a Cheshire-cat smile of contentment. Oops he did it again—with another generation of heroines….pure bliss……..