Monday, 27 February 2017

Rangoon has been declared a disaster

As I rushed into the theatre and swiftly moved around searching for my seat, it dawned on me that the theatre was mostly empty. Yes; first weekend; Sunday afternoon show; Rangoon. Or let me put it this way: Vishal Bharadwaj’s Rangoon.

A poster of the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Getting straight to the point, so that I have enough time to lament before you have the urge to get out of here (much like my thoughts in the second half of Rangoon), the film started off well and was decent in the first half. The audience had hopes that the film is heading somewhere. But hey, Bharadwaj must have thought, “Why not spoil it right here?”
And hence, it went for a downfall right after interval. Climax is unbelievably stupid and clich├ęd. Kangana is in her elements, had a lot of scope to perform because of her character and does pretty well too. Shahid did pretty well too with whatever his character allows him. Pataudi Saheb is decent but does not have enough scope to perform. Few supporting actors like the one who plays Zulfi (Julia’s makeup artist), are brilliant. All that stayed with me, even after the movie ended, were the songs. 

Shahid Kapoor as NAwab Malik in Rangoon.
Photo Courtesy: Internet
Watch it but just once for Kangana’s flawless portrayal of Julia, Shahid’s calibre as an actor, the soulful songs and because it is Bharadwaj. In fact, it is his weakest film till date. It was not bad but could have been brilliant seeing the star cast and the script he had in hand.

The narrative was heading nowhere after a point. And not to forget, the VFX is third rate. In the climax there is this scene where Pataudi Saheb is walking on a tight rope and another where he slits a British officer’s throat. These two scenes are horrible; much like the arrow scenes in Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana. But that was decades back. Technology has advanced since then, I guess.

What needs to be realised in this moment of disbelief is the fact that a film with a subject like Rangoon should never have expected to be a runaway hit overnight. Apart from people’s expectations, the film has hurt its distributors, gravely. The film has just touched the 15 Cr mark in its first weekend, at a snail’s pace. This figure is not a happy one since the investments are huge and the film budget is big. With the negative word of mouth and sad reviews that the film is generating, it is certain that it won’t be able to break even. Rangoon will go down in the history of Indian cinema as a classic example for investors to invest wisely.

A still from the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet
But this analysis of the problem is just the tip of the ice berg. The cracks in the film could have been avoided, had the production house (Viacom 18) had a strong control on where the money is being put and a well thought through plan of whether the same subject could have been made in a tighter budget. Films like NH 10, Badlapur and Neerja are shining examples of small budget films doing wonders at the box office, entirely because of their strong content. The profit these films made was later shared by the makers and the lead actors of the film. This method of wisely putting in money reduces the risk of incurring heavy losses in case the movie bombs at the box office.  
A still from the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet
The situation seems to be extremely gloomy with Rangoon being declared a disaster after its first weekend. 

Sunday, 5 February 2017

Salaam Bollywood

“Insecurity is an overwhelming emotion in any creative profession. In the film industry, it is more so. Film stars are peddlers of emotion and, therefore, there are more emotional wrecks in the film world than in any other place. 
There is shame and scandal, exhibitionism and eccentricity, but there is also energy, a fatal attraction about the world of cinema that is obsessive. Once you've been a part of it you feel incomplete without it.”

The lines were these; refreshingly insightful and holding tight to my flinching concentration. Looking back, I still cannot fathom what made me put my hands on a book lying so aimlessly on a random library desk in college. Searching desperately through the endless neatly stacked books, the frustration was getting onto my nerves. Since time memorial, I had been contemplating to get my hands on another set of books which was not available to me there. And then suddenly, my gaze fell on it.
Photo Courtesy: Internet

Salaam Bollywood by the veteran film journalist Bhawana Somaaya, has proved out to be more than just a 250 page book for me. I can declare with much pride that those 250 pages can be equated to two decades of enriching, life changing journey in the film world I embarked on when I first read the foreword written by Bollywood legend Amitabh Bachchan. Somaaya, within a matter of days has brought to my knowledge the little and the big ‘dramas’ of the Hindi film world which had always left me puzzled, pumping up my curiosity pressure.

Fortunate enough I have been, to have read the same book which the author herself had gifted the veteran journalist and also my college’s honourable director, Dr. M.V. Kamath. It is her homage to the film world wherein her awkwardness as a newbie film journalist to her immaturity as an editor has been accounted. It also narrates her encounters, sweet as well as bitter, with film actors of all types which taught her innumerable lessons about the way of living in a glamorous world, if not one.

The time when Rishi Kapoor sternly told Neetu Singh,” Once you are a Kapoor, you are not stepping in the studios.” ; the time when Shabana Azmi was ready in a random saree and a ponytail to get promptly hitched to the highly acknowledged lyricist and writer, Javed Akhtar, one fine evening; the time when little Bebo howled endlessly on the sets of one of Bachchan’s films when a fight sequence was being filmed after his fateful accident in the early 1980s; the time when a shy and young Aamir Khan stood nervously outside Dimple theatre where his debut film was being screened; the time when Smita Patil slipped into coma in the arms of Raj Babbar; the time when Dharmendra was teared between his two homes after his marriage to Dream Girl, Hema Malini; the time when Smita, all of 31 and Raj Kapoor’s death got me teary-eyed. I cried as though I was witnessing everything in front of me...and countless other anecdotes.

From the depressing times when Sarika and Kamal Hassan’s relationship was under constant scrutiny to the happy times when Sarika announced her pregnancy to Hassan in Ooty; from the tiring times when Smita would frequently fall ill to the jubilant times when she first fed her baby in spite of feeling feverish; from the celebratory times when Dimple Kapadia returned on the sets to complete the last schedule of Bobby as the superstar Rajesh Khanna’s wife to the worrisome times when she used to leave him every second or third day: the late 70s, 80s and 90s was one roller coaster ride.

Photo Courtesy: Internet

Towards the end, the author also raises many fundamental questions such as why doesn’t the Cine Artists Association (CAA) hold frequent get-togethers and recreation clubs for older artists of bygone era? Why they are not appreciated for their contribution when they are alive rather than remember them only when they become history? Why the CAA couldn’t send a representative to India’s first ever heroine Devika Rani’s funeral in Bangalore? There are glorious moments but then, if you try catching a closer look, lay the flaws as well.

The book was a time machine for me, transporting me into eras I always wanted to see. 

Monday, 29 August 2016

Mandi - Reminiscing old school Hindi cinema

When I was asked to pen down a research paper for my final year project, Shyam Benegal’s much acclaimed movie, Mandi instantly came to my mind sans any clouds of hesitation or doubt. The movie, somehow, holds a very special place in my heart. The piece that is going to follow is something that I wrote almost a year back. Republishing it for the blog has been at the back of my mind ever since. The article will largely attempt at analysing the characters, dialogues and narrative of the film.
A poster of the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet

With a runtime of 162 minutes, Mandi (Marketplace) covers the issues of Indian hypocrisy, female oppression, class oppression, political manipulation, human trafficking, and corruption with rare humour, hard to find in movies addressing heavy issues. Benegal’s style of filmmaking is very intelligent and compelling as is evident from his movies such as Bhumika, Nishant, Ankur, Antardwand, etc. Every character, whether small or big, is crucially important to the plot of the story. One cannot do away with any character as each character adds another layer of meaning to the story, an important feature of parallel cinema. It is very refreshing to view film where no one particular dialogue, sequence or character is without layers. It’s a film heavily loaded with multiple layers of indications, both superficial layer and deeper layer. This makes it very interesting to study a film like Mandi.
The storyline
Mandi (Market Place) is a1983 Hindi movie boasting of an ensemble cast of almost 15 actors who later went on to make national and international mark for themselves. Shabana Azmi(Rukmini Bai), Naseeruddin Shah(Tungroos), Smita Patil(Zeenat), Ratna Pathak(Baby), Om Puri(Ramgopal), Soni Razdan(Nadra), Saed Jaffery(Mr. Agarwal), Kulbhushan Kharbanda(Mr. Gupta), Gita Siddharth(Shanti Devi), Amrish Puri(Baba Khadag Shah), Neena Gupta(Basanti), and introduced Ila Arun and Harsh Patel(Policeman). Based on the Urdu short story Aanandi by writer Ghulam Abbas, the film revolves around Rukmini and the brothel she runs in the heart of a city, an area, Mr. Gupta and Mr. Agarwal wish to convert into a mall. The film is a satirical comedy on politics and prostitution with the underlying themes of human trafficking, Indian hypocrisy, manipulation, lobbying, etc. 
Following is a short clip from the movie.  

The film won the 1984 National Film Award for Best Art Direction. It created waves around the world with it being selected at Indian Panorama at Filmostav, Bombay 1984, and it also got invited to the Los Angeles Exposition (FILMEX), the Hong Kong International Film Festival 1984, and London Film Festival 1983.
About Shyam Benegal
Shyam Benegal. Photo Courtesy: Internet
Shyam Benegal is a noted film director whose work is central to and instrumental in giving shape to alternative cinema/ new cinema/ Indian new wave/ parallel cinema/ realist cinema. The synonyms are endless as described by endless no. of film critics. Satyajit Ray is considered to be the father of this school of filmmaking which dates back to 1950s. Later, film makers like Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Mani Kaul, Girish Karnad, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Ketan Mehta, Girish Kasaravalli and Shyam Benegal carried on the legacy. These filmmakers aimed for a social change and strong commentary through the use of films. The term ‘parallel’ cinema suggests a genre which runs alongside (not literally) the mainstream cinema which is your commercial cinema. Benegal has always been known to make films centred on strong female characters, be it Rukmini and Zeenat in Mandi or Urvashi in Bhumika or Zubeidaa from Zubeidaa. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991.