After my two earlier posts highlighting the Best and the Worst of Bollywood, now it is time for the So-Bad-Its-Good Countdown for 2005—-surely for regular readers of RTDM its what all of you were expecting. Possibly.
So here without much ado are the Greatbong’s must watch for the year 2005—-of course do remember to be well stocked with Prozac.
Let me start by saying that the skin flick “Topless” (tag line: It takes more than guts to reach the top“) is ineligible for this countdown because even I could not get through 30 minutes of this amazing work of art. Directed by one of Bollywood’s greatest avant-garde directors, Nabh Kumar Raju whose portfolio includes “24 X7 Bombay Saloon Unisex” and “Flirt–Mera Dil”, “Topless” is about an innocent model who is asked to pose “topless” for an ad campaign but she, according to the promotional material, stands “rock steady” against sacrificing her morals. It takes more than guts to sit through this one.
Having gotten that out of the way, here’s my list —tongue firmly in cheek, brain firmly in the drain.
5. Khamosh–Khauff Ki Raat
Ten people in an abandoned motel. A frightful deluge rages outside. Everyone is wet to the bones–which explains why they spend the night “khauffing”.
And then the bodies start piling up. Who is the killer? Why are they being brutalized?
Do you really care so long as you get to see Rakhi Sawant in the bathtub?
Most people have seen the twisted thriller “Identity“—-one of my personal favorites of the genre in the last few years. Well Dipak Tijori had the DVD in his tijori for some time and he decided, in an orgasm of originality, to make an exact Hindi replica down to the costumes, the motel sign and the characters. However finding the ending and the explanation of “Identity” too confusing, he decided to dumb it down for the Indian audience—flattening a few of the twists at the end to make it more digestible including inserting a few “essential-for-the-plot” disrobing scenes.
Also Tijori threw in a cabaret number or two—-a shortcoming of the original movie many critics had pointed out. After all, we know the rule of thumb—for every 3 murders, there should be at least one item number.
Which reminds us of Agatha Christie’s chilling lines from “And Then There Were None”
Ten little Indians went out to dine,
One saw “Khamosh” and then there were nine.
No this is not the Madhoo-Akshay Kumar-Rami Reddy starrer “Elaan” with the song “Tururu tururu turururu kahaan se karoon main pyaar shuru?” (From whither shall I start making love) nor is this the Dharmendra-starrer Elaan-e-Jung.
This is “Elaan”—one more quality product of the Bhatt family made with characteristic style and panache. A motley crew of Indians (Arjun Rampal, John Abraham, Rahul Khanna, Amisha Patel, Lara Dutta) go to Switzerland to get back, dead or alive, the greatest terrorist the world has ever known.
The man is Baba Sikander—-a terrifying visage of unadulterated pure evil played with Shakespearean aplomb by the Star of stars—Mithun Chakraborty, the Supreme Sith Lord.
Elaan is Mithun’s vehicle and he rides it like there’s no tomorrow. Sometimes ensconced in his luxurious chalet in the Jungfrau region and sometimes engaging in murderous debauchery in Venice, with the “shayari sprouting” Chunkey Pandey as his right hand man, Baba Sikander pulls the strings and delivers the lines—-in one beautiful Macbethian passage he tells us how despite his attempts to stay good, the world keeps on making him bad. Evil and tragic, Baba Sikander is truly one of the most 4-dimensional villains in Indian movie history.
The rest of the movie however can be summed up pithily in a line from a song of the movie:” Andarlu Mandralu”.
3. Fun— Can Be Dangerous Sometimes
Swapping is not a new concept in Hindi movies—-its been happening to infants in Kumbh Mela for ages. But Bollywood pushes the envelope by stretching this idea to the realm of adults—more specifically to husbands. While wife-swapping is fairly well known, Fun talks about husband swapping—which is subtly different. Its so subtle that I dont even know what the difference is.
Anyhow here’s the story.
Two women decide to play a dangerous game aided and abetted by Payal Rohatgi, 2005’s biggest discovery. The game is to seduce each others husbands. In the meanwhile, Payal Rohatgi’s boyfriend (shown in picture) rescues a scantily-dressed Meena Kumari-aping lady from the ocean. Thrown in is a subplot of a horny hotelier, a tartar of a wife, a voluptuous maid and a lecherous waiter— and what do you get?
Loads and loads of “fun baba fun” (as the song goes).
And oh there is a murder somewhere too but really when you are having so much fun, who cares?
Payal Rohatgi is a wonder of technology —so much so that you could be excused for considering her to be a Fembot (female robot)—-her dialogue delivery and facial expressions are synthetic and seems to be operating on closed-loop control. She also might be Vulcan considering the number of times she arches her eyebrows ala Spock.
In conclusion, the movie’s greatest strength is its extremely ‘swappable’ nature whereas any scene can be swapped with any other scene in the sequence and even then “Fun” would make just as much sense as before.
2. Chahat Ek Nasha
In the course of her controversial career, Madonna has had her fair share of critics—the Church, feminists and angry moms . But not even her worst enemy could imagine or wish for Manisha Koirala, 200 lbs of gin-soaked flubber, to essay the role of the greatest female popstar.
Supposedly inspired by the story of Madonna and Britney Spears (according to the movie promos), “Chahat Ek Nasha” is a heart-pounding story of lust, greed, desire and jealousy between two pop-stars—Mallika played by Madonna Koirala and Rashmi played by “Toxic” Jhangiani. Thrown into this mix is the object of affections of the two fine ladies—recording exec Rahul (Aryan Vaid) and a murderous bodyguard (Sharad Kapoor) who has gone slightly off the rocker under the ceaseless pressure of protecting Koirala’s rather considerable body.
Manisha Koirala fits naturally into the role of an alcoholic superstar—-tottering about in alcohol-induced melancholia like an iceberg struck Titanic. Another weighty performance from her after Choti Si Love Story, Tum and Market. Jhangiani decides to be naughty in peekaboo Britney-ishtyle dresses , of course only because the “role demanded it” and “it was done in a tasteful way”. A “Behenji Trying to be Modern” performance if there ever was one. The dialogues are Tarantino-esque and the production credits, from the guys who brought you “Market”, are top-notch.
In passing, “Chahat Ek Nasha” remains memorable for capturing Madonna in her full playful glory (something even Baba Sehgal tried to do in “Main Bhi Madonna” but failed), crystallizing on film the essence of the Material Girl through the flawless acting of one of India’s heavyweight performers who certainly reveals a lot of “material” inside her (and some bulging out at the wrong places).
Another Payal Rohatgi movie and you know that this strappy lass is having an annus cleavlibis (wonder year). Directed by the brother of Kenny G, Vicky G “Laila” is episodic in nature—-basically a collection of the most common fantasies you would encounter in smut (boss-secretary, minister-villagebelle, master-student, actor-starlet, producer-starlet, biker-hitchhiker, godman-disciple) linked together by an invisible, imperceptible storyline.
A most brilliant narrative device is provided by a mysterious man who sits in a shadow and keeps the episodes “in context”. If the ideal of Engels was the withering away of the socialist state, here we see a true epitomization of the ideal of Hindi movies —the withering away of the plot.
Special mention must be made of Nirmal Pandey, once-rising-star of the Bollywood alternative scene who continues his hemorrhoidal hamming from “Mirchi Its Hot” (2004’s No 1 movie) to essay the role of a lusty actor who teaches method acting while bedding a starlet. Listening to him opining on the art of histrionics, one understands how Pandey has attained his current position in the Bollywood hierarchy of stars.
Summing up, Laila remains one of the most influential movies of the year—the recent Operation Majnu (Laila-Majnu) was no doubt inspired by cops watching this movie and becoming pro-active in preventing the social breakdown the movie depicts.
0. Classic Dance of Love
“Classic Dance of Love” cannot be ranked. It is incomparable and even calling it No 1 is an insult. Hence the special placeholder: Zero. (in honor of Mithun-da’s relativistic dialogue in the movie:
“There is no time, no space—only zero.”
Nothing more need be said except what has already been written here. Please read this review if you have not already.