Sunday, March 25, 2012
These days I have been watching a lot fewer movies than before. After writing my 50th post (on Masoom) in the recall series, I have decided to take a break from old movies for a few days, and now I am catching up on some of the recent acclaimed Hindi movies that I didn’t pay much attention to at the time when they released. So this week I saw Tigmanshu Dhulia’s Haasil (after watching the superb Paan Singh Tomar), Satya (Ram Gopal Varma’s finest hour arguably), and Vishal Bhardwaj’s The Blue Umbrella. Haasil and Satya are widely recognized as brilliant films, and I concur with most of the glowing reviews received by the two movies that I read post watching them. But none of them has the haunting quality that the third film I saw has. Maybe it is because there have been many an attempts to rehash and cash in on the Satya cult (Ram Gopal Varma has done quite a bit of it himself), while the atmospherics of Haasil has been matched by movies like Gulaal and a few others. Or maybe it is just because the settings of Satya and Haasil are more familiar to the average Hindi movie audience.
On the other hand, The Blue Umbrella is truly a unique film. Everything- from its simple storyline, its performances, its setting, its intentions, to its unconventional execution has incredible freshness and charm. Prima facie it is a children’s film based on a novella by Ruskin Bond. Most certainly it is that, but more importantly it is also a film that makes you feel for its lead characters- and for that it takes a very difficult route- it makes you part of the longing the characters experience. Longing for acceptance, longing for joy, and longing for appreciation- wonderfully conveyed through their longing for a beautiful Japanese blue umbrella. The umbrella here is an important plot instrument, as while the story is woven around it, it also acts as a metaphor for all the small joys in life that may not be big achievements, but are certainly no less in the kind of happiness and satisfaction they lead to.
The movie transports you to a small village in Himachal Pradesh. The setting is idyllic and pristine, from the rain-washed valleys to the snow clad roads, from the small kutcha-pucca huts to the almost family like village bonhomie. The people are as simple as they come- uncontaminated and pure. They have aspirations that don’t have the grand vision and scale like the aspirations of the city people have. Their smiles are genuine, their laughs are uninhibited. Their sorrows are sudden and wild like torrential hailstorms that leave behind a brighter landscape when they leave. Their slight quirks, their eccentricities may be jarring to the outsider, but they are a part of their way of life- their way of living.
Movies are stories on celluloid- it is an oft repeated statement. But this particular movie is the quintessential story on celluloid. There is no other way to describe it. It is like a page out of a children’s story book and its imagery gives an impression that that particular story book must be very well illustrated. Mr. Vishal Bhardwaj has certainly followed his instincts and a crystal clear vision. I have seen three of his other films- Makdee, Kaminey, and 7 Khoon Maaf. And ‘The Blue Umbrella’ is my favorite from whatever I have seen of him.
I strongly urge all the people who like movies and fiction- to watch this movie. It is just 90 minutes- and it will surely transport you to a world that is alien to us, but in a certain way a very small part of us. Just a tip- persist with the movie- Pankaj Kapoor’s weird ways and idiosyncrasies might put a few people off in the beginning- but by the end they will be sure to realize the finesse and dexterity of his performance.
Saturday, March 3, 2012
This is my 50th post in the series. To mark the milestone I choose one of my favorite films for discussion- Shekhar Kapoor's 1983 feature Masoom, starring Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, and Jugal Hansraj (as a child artist) in principal roles. The film is one of the most acclaimed ones from that time and is the winner of many a awards for its actors as well as for the people responsible for its timeless music- Gulzar (lyrics, screenplay, and dialogues), and RD Burman (music director). Shekhar Kapoor also won tremendous appreciation for his able handling of a sensitive subject in his debut directorial effort.
Masoom has quite a following amongst Hindi movie lovers and is widely recalled as one of the most loved films from that time. Thus I design this post as a tribute to the movie where I will recount some of my favorite moments from the film apart from discussing some subtle aspects. For the same I am using some screen-shots from the movie- my first attempt at the method.
One of the most loved aspects about the movie is the wonderful portrait of an urban nuclear family it paints. Indian cinema from the time of its inception has always stressed on the joint family system as the perfect way to live. Rarely did one see a movie in which a nuclear family was shown to be so happy and contented. It was maybe a reflection of our society and our culture which stresses on the importance of living together. Thus seldom did we see a family on celluloid sans the parents or the multitude of siblings and cousins. Masoom is truly unique in that sense for that period of time. It was truly an advertisement for the Government initiative which says 'Chhota Parivaar Sukhi Parivaar'.
Also it was one of the few movies that celebrated the urban way of living. DK Malhotra (Naseerudin Shah) is a successful architect who owns an idyllic house in a posh colony of Delhi. His wife Indu (Shabana Azmi) is the quintessential urban housewife who has a household help for assisting her in the daily chores, has a garden to look after, is educated and helps the kids with their homework. The way their house is set up shouts sophistication and richness. The family has its dinners and lunches and breakfasts on a fancy dinner table. The culinary on the table is all un-Indian and the kids are quite proficient in table manners. The children have a separate room all for themselves, and the parents don't mind going to parties without them. At the parties the wife quite enjoys it when her husband makes a mockery of himself in an inebriated state. The weekends are spent at a posh club with bonfires and all.
Both DK and Indu are part of the 'high society'. Their friends and acquaintances are from the same world. DK's best friend and confidante Suri (Saeed Jaffrey) is an exuberant Punjabi who likes his wine and women and is quite into sports. He is a proud father of a spoilt kid and enjoys his son's impudence and relishes his slight achievements. But the gregarious fellow is good man at heart and a true friend to DK. With him DK can discuss his worst fears and the biggest mistakes without feeling ashamed. In him he has a 3 AM friend who he can call upon at any time in times of adversity.
But despite all of the urbane feel and the progressive attitude in life, it is still a male dominated world. The women of both the households are housewives who have nothing much to do apart from looking after their home and children while they wait for their husbands to return from work. Indu's friend Chanda (Tanuja) plays a crucial role in shaping her thought process. Chanda, more than a friend, is an influencer who acts as a reference to Indu when times become tough for her. In the initial portions of the movie Chanda is a fiercely independent woman who has adopted a tough persona to hide the sorrow that haunts her from inside caused by her husband abandoning her for some other woman. She vows to never forgive her husband and channelizes the feeling of rejection through her sarcastic and cynic view of the world. But during the end portions of the movie her tough exterior breaks down when her husband returns to her, and she forgives him. This happens at a time when Indu herself is slowly coming to terms with her husband's infidelity and is drawing closer to the young boy her husband had fathered with some other woman.
A married DK visits his Alma-mater for a reunion and runs into the beautiful and enigmatic young daughter of his teacher- Bhavna (Supriya Pathak). There is something quaintly charming about the lady that pulls him towards her. Their interactions are wistful and thus their encounter is one that has an inexplicable sadness attached to it.Maybe the fact that they both realize the pointless nature of their brief courtship leads to this regretful longing. But Bhavna, despite being cognizant of the ill-fated future, goes ahead with the brief relationship. Soon DK returns to his world and his wife and forgets all about this ephemeral romance. Bhavna to her part never tries to contact him, even when she gives birth to his son. This quirky spirit of Bhavna is strangely alluring. And Gulzar created a similar character (Maya) in his tale of unrequited romance (Ijaazat).
When DK discovers that he has a son outside his marriage with Bhavna, he is of course devastated. But he makes no effort to hide this fact from Indu. In one of the most poignant scenes from the film, he confesses in front of his wife. This scene comes very early into the narrative, which is again rather unconventional. In such situations in most movies, the guilty party tries to evade this moment of confrontation and makes all efforts to delay it to as late as possible- to eternity if feasible. Here by standing up and facing the truth while admitting to the the worst, DK shows great strength of character. But more than that it shows the amount of love he has for his wife. He knows that he has caused great hurt to her, but he faces this fact head-on without fearing the repercussions.
The arrival of Rahul (Jugal Hansraj)is fraught with tension as expected. The boy is quiet and deeply affected by the loss of his mother. But despite all his nervousness, there is an air of confidence in the way he talks and looks around. The aura he has is a quaint cocktail of melancholy and warmth. His eyes are expressive, and gives away more than what his words do. The new setting for him is a challenge. But he is unaware of the fact that his arrival is as big a challenge to Indu, if not more. From this point, the most intriguing moments of the movie are between her and the boy. Her internal struggle, her confusion, and her being unable to take a tough stance against the lovable boy is a real treat to watch. The arrival of Rahul is also a welcome change in the lives of the two girls Pinky and Minni (The elder one played by a young and as sprightly as always Urmila Matondkar).
The new family
The bonding between the three kids is delightful to watch. The younger sister Minnie is less tentative and the more curious of the two. She and Rahul strike a friendship immediately. The elder Pinky is slightly more reserved and takes her time to lose her guard against the stranger boy. But when Rahul helps her with some difficult Maths, she too starts liking him immensely. The song 'Lakri Ki Kaathi' is a joy to watch with the three sharing great camaraderie. Post the song comes one of the most touching moments of the movie when Rahul gifts Indu a self-made wooden box. This is again a moment when the motherly love in Indu is itching to come out and embrace the boy, but the hurt wife in her stops her from doing so.
My favorite scene
DK and Suri's families go for a picnic on a weekend. In a game of cricket Suri's spoilt and bratty boy spanks DK the bowler all over the park. A proud Suri watches his son bat splendidly from behind the wickets. The ball is then taken by Rahul and he runs in to bowl... The result is expected yet sweet. He clean bowls Suri's young boy. What follows is something truly heartwarming. Seeing Rahul beat Suri's son at the game DK exults in joy. There is a feeling of great pride in him which he is unable to restrain. The father in him forgets for a moment the precarious situation that his family faces due to his illegitimate son. He almost proclaims to the world... "he is my son". Only thing is, that there is no one in earshot.
Tujhse Naraaz Nahin Zindagi... Hairan Hoon Main
The genius of Gulzar. Remarkably simple words that convey a sea of emotions. Certainly one of the most memorable songs to have come out of his pen. The soothing tune and the wonderful lyrics are coupled with some excellent visuals with DK and Rahul spending some quality father-son time with each other. The scenes are reminiscent of the Salman Khan starrer 'Jab Pyaar Kisi Se Hota Hai'. The movie that came in the late 90s is most certainly inspired by Masoom, and no wonder it is one of my favorite Salman Khan films :)
Rahul soon learns that DK is none other than his own father. Unable to take in the shock, Rahul's young mind loses its composure and he runs away from DK's place. His disappearance creates great drama with DK losing his cool and driving all over his portion of the city along with Suri, searching for Rahul. At home the two sisters are unable to handle the stress and break down. Once again the character with the most confused emotions is Indu. She is worried for Rahul, but restrains herself from expressing her worry out aloud.
The differences that were created since Rahul's arrival start creating an inferno in Indu's head while he goes missing. Her's is most certainly the most complex role of the lot and Shabana Azmi does full justice to her. In the end the compassionate mother in her wins over the hurt wife, and that leads to a happy climax!
Parting Note: Masoom is truly a special film. It deserves to be seen and savored by all those who like their movies to be simple yet alluring. Parting with the song that's synonymous with the movie today.