Friday, October 28, 2011
“Yaara Sili Sili Virah Ki Raat Ka Jalna”
‘Lekin’ is a movie best remembered for this timeless song by Lata Mangeshkar. Directed by Gulzar and produced by the nightingale of Bollywood herself (along with her Brother Hridyanath Mangeshkar, who also takes up the responsibility of composing music for the film), Lekin is the most 'hatke' theme attempted by Gulzar in his long and illustrious directorial career. It is a story that is mythical, rustic, and open to interpretations- like so many of the folktales that can be heard in villages abode to old monuments that act as bridges between our past and the present. Starring Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia in principal roles, Lekin is a story seeped in the culture of the most mystical part of our nation- Rajasthan.
Samir (Vinod Khanna) is sent to a non-descript village in Rajasthan to evaluate and classify the possessions of an old palace that was once owned by the king of that region, and the doors to which have not been opened since the past few decades. On the way he has a strange encounter with a gypsy woman (Dimple Kapadia). Not thinking too much about it, he reaches his destination where he discovers that his old friend Siddique (Amjad Khan) is now a collector. The very next day he starts his job in the old palace, but things take a strange turn when he meets the gypsy woman once again. Soon, a lot of things start happening thick and fast around Samir, of which he cannot make any sense at all. How Samir gets embroiled in the age old forgotten tale of the sandy ruins, and how his life gets hijacked by an apparition from the past, is what the movie is all about.
The movie is different not only in terms of its story, but also in terms of the way Gulzar has treated it. He very beautifully captures the mood of the ‘lands of kings’, and adds a stamp of authenticity in each and every frame of the narrative. He creates a world that sucks you into it, and involves just like a very well written and intriguing bit of poetry. There is suspense, but it is not hurried. Everything is languid, and each and every bit of the puzzle unfolds patiently. It appears that Gulzar wants the viewers to feel the restiveness, the confusion, and the curiosity that is haunting Samir. Also, in terms of its theme, Gulzar chooses a story that could well have been converted into a tacky Ramsey affair, in the hands of a lesser and a more commercially inclined man. But Gulzar not only tells a story, he also raises a lot of questions about the paranormal, and the supernatural. Of course, the viewers are left to form their own interpretations through the course of the story, and also at the end of it all. It may all seem implausible, as it does to the protagonist initially, but then suddenly it may start making sense. Or rather, you would stop caring about its plausibility, and would just start to go with the flow of the proceedings (that is what happened with me). The only glitch is that this flow gets a little too slow in the middle of the movie- and that has led to it becoming a lengthy feature at around 160 min.
There are a lot of important characters in the story played by well known names of that time including Alok Nath and Vijayendra Ghatge. Hema Malini chips in with a very important cameo appearance. And like in most Gulzar movies, the music plays an additional character, one which often commands more respect than the mere mortals on screen. That said, even the mortals aren’t far behind in this feature, for both Vinod Khanna and Dimple Kapadia do a fabulous job. Dimple Kapadia looks ethereal, and talks more through her eyes than through her words. Amjad Khan (highly obese at the fag-end of his career) is efficient as the hero’s best friend and confidante- and so is the actress who plays his wife.
Parting Note: For those who don’t mind a slow pacing to their movies, and can digest a theme involving supernatural elements, Lekin is a very good watch.
Wednesday, October 19, 2011
While no one can put a stop to ageing (the world is still waiting for the chemical formula), coming of age is an arduous job. It is a journey like no other, which is more psychological than literal. Unfortunately history tells us that the best men, more often than not, get made only after facing a lot of hardships and going through personal losses. Maybe it’s a small tax that they have to pay on their path of self-discovery and conquest.
Govind Nihalani’s Vijeta is a movie that emphasizes on the above fact and explores human relationships through challenging times. It is basically a story of guy’s journey from boy to man, and how he conquers his doubts and apprehensions to emerge victorious in life. The movie has been produced by Shashi Kapoor, and stars his son Kunal Kapoor as the protagonist.
Vinod (Shashi Kapoor) and Neelima (Rekha) form an estranged couple, who despite their differences live together for the sake of their only son Angad (Kunal Kapoor as a young surd). Vinod is in the entertainment business, while Neelima is a housewife who is highly involved with her pursuits in classical music (This deep involvement suggests a void in her life that she is trying to take care of). One day Angad, their son, returns home after leaving his boarding school. Utterly confused about what to do in life, and highly troubled by the shaky relationship his parents share, Angad feels that his life is completely worthless and confesses contemplating suicide in front of his mother (with whom he shares a friendly relationship, contrary to the acerbic one that he shares with his father). Neelima’s young brother (and Angad’s uncle), a Naval officer, takes Angad to stay with him for a few days. During his stay with his Uncle, Angad finds life in the armed forces highly disciplined, challenging, and adventurous, and decides to enter the National Defense Academy to train for becoming an Air Force Pilot.
Soon, after countering the initial resistance to the idea posed by his father, he enters the Academy and settles into a new regime that throws more challenges at him that he anticipates initially. Thus his journey ensues, and how along the way he forms new bonds- finds few friends for life and finds love, and how his success in life helps resolve the issues between his parents, is what the movie is all about.
The one thing that striking about this movie is its authenticity. Be it the manner in which human relationships are depicted, or the way the life at the Defense Academy is showcased- everything is done realistically and nothing is over the top. Even the love story between Angad and Ana (played by a young Supriya Pathak) is unconventional in the way it has been handled on screen- minus any melodrama and the usual kitsch associated with Hindi cinema. There are many sequences that deserve mention-right from the initial ones involving Shashi Kapoor and Rekha, to the pre climax when Angad is at the front fighting the 1971 war. Certain scenes are so powerful that they can be easily included in the best shot scenes ever in Indian cinema. One such lengthy sequence is at the Air Force training academy when the handling of an in flight glitch is depicted wonderfully. When one contrasts it to one such scene in the latest movie ‘Mausam’, one can only feel highly impressed by the way Govind Nihalani shot the scene almost 30 years ago without using the kind of digital technology that is at the disposal of the directors today (incidentally, just struck me, Supriya Pathak is another connection between the two movies).
This movie is embellished with truly remarkable performances, led by Shashi Kapoor and Amrish Puri. The latter is, in my opinion, the greatest character artist ever in our movies, and the respect for the former has grown leaps and bounds in my eyes after watching this and Junoon (both unconventional movies produced and backed by him). The people who play Angad’s friends are all very efficient, and so is Rekha, in a complex role that required much emoting but no histrionics (again unconventional by usual standards). Om Puri, who plays Angad’s Uncle, is effective in an extended cameo. Supriya Pathak is damn sweet in her portrayal of Angad’s love interest, and I wonder why she didn’t do better as a mainstream actor. The only one who disappoints a little is ironically the main lead- Kunal Kapoor, for whom this movie was a kind of launch vehicle. Maybe in an effort to remain restrained, he is surprisingly insipid and dull in many scenes, and does not enforce himself on the movie at all. He shows flashes of talent in a few sequences, but overall, it is not hard to understand why he was not a success as a mainstream actor after watching this movie where he was handed a role of the lifetime by his father.
Parting Note: This movie is a must watch for many reasons. One- it is a technically brilliant film that has a strong theme and an engaging storyline. Two- it is an unconventional take on human relationships, the kind is realistic and at the same time has tremendous entertainment value. Three- it shows life in the Air Force, and the growth of an individual as he progresses through the various stages of his career in the defense forces. And lastly, it is an ode to the human spirit, undying and relentless in its pursuit of acceptance, peace, satisfaction, and victory…
P.S. A poster of the movie, that did not care to even slightly depict its central theme. Commercials trappings hard to eschew completely in the big bad world of Bollywood.
Wednesday, October 12, 2011
Monday, October 10, 2011
The sad demise of Jagjit Singh today marks he end of an era. The following is a write-up on a movie embellished by his 'Ghazals'- a movie that embodies his soul- melodious, thoughtful, and beautiful...
Togetherness, affection, love… so many of our movies talk about these things, but hardly any of them try to look into the actual meanings and connotations of these rather abstract emotions, and fewer still try to take a realistic look at these things. Saath Saath, a Farookh Shiekh and Deepti Naval starrer from the early 80s, is a movie that attempts to give an answer to an oft repeated question- ‘What is Love?’ (A question that has left many a philosophers and thinkers grappling, and whose answers, more often than not, are pretty vague ones that stem more from frustration rather than actual understanding or sudden flashes of cognition). This movie is the debut for writer/director Raman Kumar- another of those people who went downhill after showing a lot of promise in their first feature. One striking feature of this movie is that all songs are sung by the husband-wife pair of Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh, but more on that later.
Saath Saath starts off in a manner, which despite being predictable is fairly engaging. Geeta (Deepti Naval in a girl next door avatar), the only daughter of a rich industrialist, moves into a new college and meets Avinash (Farookh Shiekh in a fiery role of a young socialist), and falls in love with him. Avinash reciprocates, and soon their love blossoms, much to the happiness of their group of friends (all recognizable faces-ranging from Satish Shah to Neena Gupta). It is usually hard to put an exact reason to why someone falls for someone else. But in this case Geeta certainly takes to the revolutionary streak in Avinash, and his zeal for honesty and passion for making a difference in society. He is one who minces no words against the money-minded industrialists who, he believes, revel in their corrupt means and build their empires by exploiting helpless people who agree to become slaves to their exploitative ways just because of lack of other options. Avinash freelances for newspapers, but more often than not, finds his articles rejected on the pretext of them being too realistic and too aggressive against capitalists.
Geeta, despite being a daughter of an industrialist herself, fully empathizes with Avinash’s ideas and thoughts and decides to spend her life with him, despite her parent’s passive resistance. Soon they marry and move into Avinash’s small home; making it a home of their dreams by their understanding and love. Things start to change when Geeta gets pregnant, and because of their rising monetary requirements, Avinash joins the publishing house of his friend (Satish Shah), as an employee. Soon, blinded by his love for Geeta, and his desire to give her and their kid all the comforts in the world, Avinash leaves his path of honesty and starts to compromise on his ideals in the company of his profit minded friend and boss. How Geeta reacts to this, and how she starts to alienate herself from Avinash’s life is what the movie is about in its latter half.
Like most of the realistic movies of that time, Saath Saath too has a simple plot, but is taken to the next level by its thought and its conviction. Its purpose seems to be to highlight the meaning of true love, and at the same time draw out the distinction between life pre and post marriage, when even the best of men can sometimes move away from their staunch ideals due to rising responsibilities and higher stakes in life. Although the narrative gets a bit shaky in parts (especially during attempts to bring in some humor), and the culmination looks a bit simplistic and hurried (as if the writer was forced to end it this way), the movie is a delightful watch for most parts. Certain scenes are truly splendid- the post marriage scene between Avinash and Geeta when they both take up hectic jobs, and the scenes that bring out the change in Avinash’s personality in the latter portions, are worth a mention. But what really adds wonderfully to this movie is its music. This movie, despite being a fairly different and engaging one, is still remembered more for its songs by Jagjit Singh and Chitra Singh. Kuldip Singh is the man behind the compositions, and the words are by Javed Akhtar. The two evergreen songs that form the backbone of this movie are ‘Tumko Dekha toh Yeh Khayal aaya’, and ‘Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar’. The rest of the songs too are good, but not as popular.
The performances in such movies always appear better than what they are, but despite that it can be said that both Deepti Naval and Farookh Shiekh did an excellent job as the lead pair (though Farookh Shiekh looked a bit theatrical at places- especially during the ‘Tumko Dekha’ song and his scenes of outburst). The supporting cast (Rakesh Bedi, Satish Shah, Neena Gupta, Iftekhar etc.) doesn’t have much to do, and the focus never wavers from Deepti and Farookh.
Parting Note: All in all, Saath Saath is a good breezy watch (at just about 120 min), elevated to a great extent by its music and performances by its lead pair. Signing off with...
P.S: The editing is credited to David Dhawan, who incidently never attempted this kind of cinema after turning director.
Tuesday, October 4, 2011
Well this one is considered one of the classics of Indian cinema and is a favourite with many movie lovers. Despite knowing this, I was pushing back watching it for some reason or the other. Last week I finally decided to take the plunge and watch this tragic melodrama starring Sridevi and Kamal Hasan. And post viewing it, I was certainly left with mixed feelings.
Written and Directed by Balu Mahendra (a famous South Indian director), with dialogues by Gulzar, ‘Sadma’ is not your regular romance flick with a dash of melodrama thrown in. I think most are aware of its premise- a young upright and honest fellow giving shelter and care to a mentally challenged girl, and in the process falling in love with her.
Kamal Hasan’s plays Somprakash (Somu), a lonely guy who is a teacher in a private school based at one of the idyllic settings in the hill station Ooty (Karnataka). He is a self-sufficient fellow- he lives alone, cooks his own food, and does his own chores. Moreover Somu’s morals are not fractured, and he is loyal to his boss whose young second wife (Silk Smitha) makes direct passes at Somu almost every other day. His life takes an unexpected turn when he visits a city brothel at the insistence of his friend, and meets Reshmi (Sridevi). He finds Reshmi to be a strange case. Although a grown up woman, Somu discovers that she has the disposition of a six year old child. She talks, behaves, laughs, and cries like a kid, and Somu for his life cannot fathom how she got stuck in a brothel. He decides to help escape the place and ends up taking her with him to his place in Ooty. How the two grow closer, and become indispensible for each other over the course of time, is what the movie is all about.
The story is unconventional- but it is actually the characterization that is the highlight of the movie. The characters of Somu and Reshmi are extremely well etched out and the director knows exactly how to present them. Their personalities are a study in contrast; while Somu is a taciturn and stolid fellow with a great strength of character, Reshmi is all that Somu isn’t- playful and joyous. Thus the child-like Reshmi ends up filling the void of loneliness in Somu’s life and the two end up sharing a lot of bitter-sweet moments that form the best moments of the film too. As the narrative progresses, it incorporates two delightful and soothing songs by Gulzar and Ilayaraaja-
“Surmayee Ankhiyon Mein, Nanha Munna ek Sapna De Jaana”
“Aye Zindagi, Gale Laga le”
The climax of the movie is one of the most heart-wrenching you would ever see, and I think it is this climax that takes the movie from being just a good watch to being a must watch in most people’s eyes. However I feel that despite all the good things that this movie boasts of, it also has some serious embarrassing moments and does not escape the trappings of pleasing the front benchers of those times. And for me, because of this a lot is taken away from the overall impact of the movie- The entire Silk Smitha track is cringe worthy, and there is also one hideous song sequence between her and Kamal Hasan. Similarly the character played by Gulshan Grover with all his typical villainy complete with over the top glaring and lustful staring at the lead heroine is a complete put off. There is a mandatory action scene too, where the school teacher assumes a superhero avatar and jumps into a twenty feet deep pit to bash the villain. Frankly, all these things take the focus away from the central theme of the movie and add unnecessary minutes to the run-time.
Kamal Haasan delivers a first-rate performance and reinforces his credentials of being a terrific artist. His act in the last few minutes of the movie is considered one of his very best and might have actually decided the National Award in his favour. Sridevi’s performance appears a touch overdone. In some scenes I thought she was really irritating and did not manage to the embrace the cuteness and innocence her character required. But maybe she was just following the Director's vision, and that’s what he wanted from her. Silk Smitha, the film's other important character, just irritates with her in your face raunchiness and over the top expressions. The director tries to bring a touch of sensibility to her track by adding a dash of the lonely-young-wasted second bride theme.
Parting Note: While Sadma is certainly a good watch, and is notches above the regular entertainers Bollywood dished out in the 1980s, in my opinion is not exactly as perfect a film it is made out to be. Good-of course no question, but great- I don’t think so…