Sunday, April 29, 2012

Palkon Ki Chhaon Mein (1977)

A completely misleading poster of the movie- playing up the drunkard jilted-lover image of Rajesh Khanna, and glorying a five minute Jeetendra appearance. The movie is nothing like what this poster indicates. 

Five minutes into the movie, and you can make out it is a Gulzar film. This Rajesh Khanna and Hema Malini film is though not directed by the maestro himself, but by Meraj, who was an assistant to the man in most his earlier directorial ventures. But everything- be it the dialogues or the treatment, or even the look given to the lead actors- looks straight out of the Gulzar school of film-making. That he has written the screenplay is just a part of this happy occurrence.

The story is set in a village, very much like the Jeetendra- Hema Malini starrer Khushboo that came just two years or so before this movie. But this time, instead of Jeetendra, the moustache is donned by (the then on the wane) superstar, who gets to play a meaty author (read Gulzar)-backed role. Ravi (Rajesh Khanna) is a city bred educated but unemployed youngster, who doesn’t lose his sense of humor and wit despite his many failures to secure a decent employment. A chance encounter leads him to the job of a dakiya (postman) in a nearby village, which he gladly accepts. In the village he soon gets around to doing his job with much sincerity and dedication. Within no time gets acquainted with most of the village folk- each of who have their own story to tell. These include a senile old lady who awaits the return of her son, a young widow who has lost her husband in the war- but has not lost the zest for living, and a young lady named Mohini (Hema Malini) who to Ravi’s pleasant surprise appears more than willing to strike a companionship. Soon Ravi and Mohini start meeting everyday and Ravi falls in love with her, completely oblivious to the fact that she has very little interest in him- the person, and most of her attention is reserved for Ravi- the postman. This is because Mohini expects a letter from her lover, an army-man, to reach her. Ravi’s pleasing ways and respectful manners lead her to confide in him her relationship with this soldier (Jeetendra in a guest appearance). This love story of hers completely shatters Ravi’s heart, who had genuinely felt that Mohini’s affections were a result of them drawing closer to one another with each passing day. But consoling himself, Ravi decides to go the city and look for this soldier who had not written to Mohini despite his many promises. When he returns, the news arrives that Mohini’s beloved is no more and has lost his life in the war. It then becomes his responsibility, being a postman, to break this news to Mohini…

Not unlike Khushboo, this story too looks like a chapter out of Malgudi Days with all its simple and unhurried appeal. The drama in the story is somewhat based on the fact that in those days very few village people could read and write their own letters- and the responsibility of the same then rested upon the village postman- who thus became an essential part of their lives. In that sense the village postman acted like a ‘social glue’, being a common element in all the villagers’ lives. Here the song ‘Dakiya Daak Laya’ reflects on pretty much the same sentiment. While the postman drama is the backdrop, the innocent love-story with all its uncertainty and apprehensions, is the motif in the movie. Ravi’s one sided love, and his expression of the same through his sketches (that are revealed at the end), is quite endearing. The most unique thing about the movie however, is that despite all its underlying tension; it retains a light-hearted spirit on the surface. There are many instances of humor, though like in all other Gulzar movies, they are quite understated. But quite unlike most of his films, the music score here is not too memorable with two of the songs being quite situational, and a forced nautanki dance number (picturised on Rekha) not being as fun as it should have.

Rajesh Khanna puts in an earnest act, and quite underplays his character for most parts. It is easy to make out that he was a very fine actor, and thus his fall from fame appears more baffling (though perhaps that had more to do with his off-screen issues). Hema Malini is effective, though it looks like she walked down straight from the sets to Khushboo to this movie. The supporting cast doesn’t have much to do here with Farida Jalal (another Khushboo connection), Asrani, Amjad Khan, and Master Raju being the most popular ones from the ensemble.

Parting Note: This movie is a sweet love-story that deserves a watch by all those who like such village themes. And when you add the fact that it is almost a lost Gulzar film, it becomes a must watch for his fans. 

Monday, April 23, 2012

Gharonda (1977)

The star-cast and Imdb summary of this Bhimsain Khurana film gave an impression of it being a film in the mould of ‘Chhoti si Baat’ or ‘Rajnigandha’. After all, one can hardly expect an Amol Palekar or a Zarina Wahab to star in a movie that is not a feel-good entertainer. But ‘Gharonda’ is hardly that Basu Chatterjee or a Rajshri movie from the 1970s that would leave you smiling and cause you to drift away in a simple and endearing world where everyone is good at heart and there are hardly any vices. It surely tells a story of two working-class people living in an urban city (much like Chhoti si Baat and Rajnigandha), but here the tone and tenor is drastically different. The world out here is the big and bad one where people aren’t always sweet and don’t always have the best of intentions. They are insecure yet ambitious, apprehensive yet ruthless. They hardly think beyond their own interests and seldom give a damn about the lives of others. The film tells the story of two people in love who dream to have their own house in the concrete jungle of Mumbai, daring to take on all the challenges that the city throws on them. How their lives take a drastic turn post this, is what the film is all about.

Gharonda is more like a Shyam Benegal or a Govind Nihalani film in its treatment. Emphasizing on the dark human desires and talking about people going through their most troubled times, the movie is a dark and pessimistic take on human emotions and their worth (or worthlessness) in a big modern city like Bombay. Amol Palekar and Zarina Wahab play office colleagues who fall in love and decide to marry. But before taking the marital plunge, they decide to own a flat of their own for which Amol is forced to take a loan. But in a rather cruel twist of fate, the builder with whom they book a flat turns out to be a swindler. Not able to accept this big monetary loss, Amol’s room-mate, who had also booked a flat with the same builder, commits suicide. Amol completely breaks down but not before making an indecent proposal to Zarina that literally breaks her heart. Accepting defeat at the hands of the heartless society, Amol asks Zarina to marry their elderly boss (Shreeram Lagoo) who had shown interest in her on more than once occasion. He tells her that their boss couldn’t be expected to live for more than a few months at best, and after his death they could get together again and live comfortably off the old man’s wealth. Outraged at this suggestion, Zarina breaks all ties with him. But owing to her unstable financial condition and her wish to fulfill her younger brother’s ambitions of studying abroad, she decides to honor her boss’s proposal to her and marries him. However, she accepts her husband wholeheartedly and makes all the efforts to have him hale and hearty again. Meanwhile, devastated by this betrayal, Amol loses all interest in life and becomes a recluse…

There are a lot of elements in this film that are unconventional. Amol is shown to be living in a shady men’s hostel where one of room-mates has regular tete-e-tete with prostitutes. Even Amol brings Zarina to his room for the first time with not so noble intentions. The old man’s pursuit of a young Zarina (almost his daughter’s age) is again not something which is regular. Amol’s dissonance with the world and his complete disregard for his own self post Zarina’s marriage, again is something which is not worthy of a Hindi movie hero. He becomes an urban version of Devdas, and there is also a mention of his involvement with prostitutes. Zarina’s comfort level with her much senior husband is again dramatic, and quite uncomfortable. She becomes his trophy wife without any complaints and accepts him with all his deficiencies. More than a wife, she becomes his nurse, his householder, and his closest friend. Thus all the characters in the story have shades of grey, which is truly unique for a movie of its time and age.

The songs of the film are quite unlike the rest of the narrative. They are given an easy treatment and are sans any dramatic or visceral connotations. In fact if seen in isolation, they would give a completely different impression about the movie. ‘Do Deewane Sheher Mein’ is the memorable song from the album, one for which Gulzar won many accolades. As far as the performances go, Amol Palekar attempts a completely different role and although he does well, it is difficult to accept him this pessimistic and discontent avatar. Zarina Wahab too is not very convincing in the complex role and it easy to see why she didn’t become a very popular actress of that time. A Shabana Azmi instead of her could have added a completely different texture to the performance with her penchant for such complicated characters. Similarly a Shreeram Lagoo hasn’t got that imposing aura that his character needed. One feels that a Sanjeev Kumar or an Amjad Khan could have taken the film to an altogether different level.

Parting Note: Gharonda is a semi-Shyam Benegal film with a Rajshri cast- It has a powerful narrative that could have been well served by likes of Naseeruddin Shah, Sanjeev Kumar, and Shabana Azmi. The film tells a novel story and is given a realistic treatment. However because of its weak casting it fails to create a great impact and ends up being good film, but hardly a must watch one.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Geet Gaata Chal (1975)

What is the purpose of life? What is a happy state of mind? What is freedom? What is love?

Source: Wikipedia
These are some of the very deep philosophical questions that are extremely hard to answer. We have had tons of books written by the most eminent of thinkers and writers that attempt to give some answers to such human predicaments, but it’s hard to point out one that is the most satisfactory. However if we have to go back and look into our own holy texts- Mahabharata and its subset the Bhagvad Gita- we do get some insights. In these texts, none other than Lord Krishna, God on earth, gives a discourse explaining the meaning of life to Arjuna. Every now and then, he takes up examples from his own life to enlighten the lives of the Padavas. Krishna was a wanderer, a man who despite having a family never really chose to settle down at one place. It is most fascinating the way it has been presented in the texts and even the people who don’t believe in God and religion would find these stories very interesting.

Rajshri ProductionsGeet Gaata Chal, directed by Hiren Nag, is a delightful reconstruction of the ideas given in the text which is presented as an analogy drawn between the life of Krishna and a young man of the name Shyam (essayed by Sachin). This analogy is not too discrete and that comes out through the names given to the characters. Shyam was a name used for Krishna (a name that emerged because of his dark complexion). Here Shyam is a boyish young man who is like a free bird- with no settled home- no emotional attachments- and who keeps on wandering through villages and towns without a care in the world. Neither has he a destination in mind, nor does he have some aim in life- he just keeps traveling and discovering different cultures and places. On the way he meets and befriends various people, but never gets emotionally attached to anyone. It is ironical that his pleasing nature, his honesty, his charisma, and his charm makes it very easy for others to fall in love with him- but he hardly ever reciprocates with the same intensity as his admirers do. The closest companion he has is his flute and the songs on his lips that he keeps singing to the world while he travels.

The movie starts with Shyam watching a village nautanki where he becomes the savior after a loophole on the stage results in a momentary halt in the nautanki. With a melodious song he manages to placate everyone- from the audience to the performers. The troubled lead actress of the nautanki (an alcoholic too) gets attracted to the rakish charm of Shyam and invites him to her tent to spend a few moments alone. The simplicity of the boy prevents him from seeing the vice in the situation- a thing that comes out further when he addresses the lady as ‘didi’ (elder sister). It is the first instance in the film when he forms a bond with someone without him himself realizing the strength of it. This ephemeral attachment is enough for the lady to share a lifelong connection with Shyam, while the next day he leaves the village and moves on…

The next stop for Shyam is a village fair where he saves an elderly lady from a bull stampede. The lady takes Shyam to her family ‘Dharmshala’ (guest house), where he meets her husband (a rich Zamindar of a nearby village) and her daughter Radha (Sarika in a rare lead role). Both the Zamindar and his wife get taken in by the simplicity and likeability of Shyam and invite him to their home for a few days’ stay. Shyam is reluctant in the beginning but agrees when the he is told that the village is situated in the lap of nature and offers wonderful opportunities for sightseeing. Radha is irritated by the attention Shyam gets from her parents but is unable to prevent him from joining them. When they reach their Haveli, she tries to play some childish pranks on Shyam, but unfortunately for her all these tricks backfire. Soon Shyam becomes the cynosure of even Radha’s grandmother’s eyes, who gets mightily impressed by his soulful rendition of the Ramayana. Also, another village belle (Radha’s friend) of the name Meera starts being around Shyam a lot. It is this Meera who sparks a hint of jealously in Radha’s heart and makes her realize how truly wonderful Shyam is. In a dramatic incident when Shyam is playing the flute for Meera, Radha snatches it from his hand and breaks it into two. This is a wonderful moment and again beings out the director’s attempt to draw the analogy between Shyam and lord Krishna. The flute was the only constant in Shyam’s life, but when it is taken away from him- Shyam is more perturbed about Radha’s state of mind rather than worrying about losing his flute.

Soon Shyam gets more and more intermingled in the family affairs his hosts, and Radha gets more and more taken in by him. The Zamindar’s closest friend realizes the companionship between Radha and Shyam and decides to get them married. While the entire household prepares for the marriage, Shyam suddenly realizes that he is being trapped in worldly affairs. It dawns to him that like a caged bird he is about to be confined in the restricted space of a household and that he would never be able to fly again. Without saying a word to anyone, Shyam departs- once again adopting his nomadic ways. Radha is distraught, and so is her family. But she refuses to blame Shyam and decides to live out her entire life as Shyam’s wife. In her heart, he is her only sole soul mate- and she decides to wait for him till eternity.

In his journey Shyam encounters the same nautanki that he had once visited and where he had found an elder sister. He runs and embraces her. He tells her all about Radha and his last few days at her home. He tells her about his predicament- to remain a free bird or become entangled in the worldly affairs. His didi tells him that what he had done with Radha was wrong. Shyam is convinced and he runs back to Radha’s village and takes her hand. This is how the film ends but it is not really clear whether Shyam’s return is his acceptance of the worldly ways, or just a temporary acceptance of Radha’s true love for him.

Like all Rajshri movies, Geet Gaata Chal takes a very positive view of the world. There are no grey characters, no negative energies. The troubles and controversies are all a state of mind and get cleared up as easily as a few minutes rain clears away the dust in the air. It is certainly a world that borders on the utopian, but the Barjatyas have always believed in Ram (and thus Ram Rajya). Many of the dialogues and exchanges, if seen in isolation, would appear corny to a lot of people fed on the diet of world cinema. But when seen in its entirety the movie is a supremely well crafted effort that has a story to tell and ideas to discuss- which is does with sheer simplicity and joy. The songs by Ravindra Jain complement the story remarkably (like they always did). Now that I have seen a bit of his works, I can safely say that his sense of lyrics and music was simply unmatched. He was a true Hindi film music director- as his songs were tailored for his movies- and their stories. Most of his songs wouldn’t have had the same impact in any other film apart from the ones they were made for. The performances of Sachin and Sarika are nice and Sachin looks every bit the character he plays. No wonder he played the lead in the film ‘Gopal Krishna’.

Parting Note: Geet Gaata Chal is a must watch for anyone who loves family entertainers and is fond of rural settings. It is the kind of cinema that is not seen today- thoughtful and yet simple.  

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Buddha Mil Gaya (1971)

Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Salim-Javed never collaborated on a movie. In the 1970s, these were two institutions of the Hindi film industry that operated in different spaces altogether- and yet were able to enthrall the same audience with their distinct approaches to telling a story on screen. Both were prolific, and both were big brands. At the start of the decade Hrishikesh Mukherjee directed Buddha Mil Gaya’, comedy-thriller that is funnier than most out and out comedies of that time, and also has more thrills than most out and out thrillers of the period. And the striking thing about the movie is its almost ‘Salim-Javed’ian plot treated by Mukherjee in his own trademark manner. Also, it is one of those rare non-art-house Hindi movies in which the hero of the show is an old man- essayed by the inimitable Om Prakash. And what makes it more unique is that the old man here is not shown as frail or dependent on someone. The man here fights his own battles and takes everything head on, while not losing his sense of humor even for a moment. This elderly fellow is younger than most youngsters at heart- he is quick, he is nimble, he is charming, and he is brave. And he is remarkably entertaining.

The movie stars Deven Verma and Navin Nischal as slackers who do a bit of photography to earn their daily bread. Tenants to a kind yet fiery old lady and her granddaughter, the two guys are forever hard pressed for money. Then one day they see an advertisement announcing for a missing old man to report himself to his corporate partners in the next fifteen days, or else be at the risk of losing all his money to them. The two of them wish to catch hold of this old fellow and apprise him of this news. They think that this might lead them to a handsome sum of money. In a happy coincidence they spot the old man in one of the photographs they had clicked a few days back and very soon run into him at the same place where they clicked it. They request the man to accompany them to their home, and the man agrees because of a personal reason. The two however are unaware that this old fellow is on a grave mission to rest the ghosts of his past. Within no time they too get well and truly embroiled in the dangerous game of the old fellow. What follows next is what the movie is all about.

There are slight cinematic liberties that Mukherjee takes in the movie, especially in the first half. But all in all he has a taut script at hand which he executes with great dexterity on screen. It looks like the making of the film was a joyride and that fun and frolic gets reflected in the way the characters perform. The humor in the film is clean and sans any innuendos (as you expect with any Hrishikesh Mukherjee film), and it is remarkable the way the director derives genuine laughs in the most simple and innocuous of situations. The two heroines opposite Deven and Navin are Aruna Irani and Archana. The exchanges between the two couples are most deftly designed and it is ensured that none of it is the run of the mill stiff.

When the old man enters their lives and Deven and Navin get involved in his affairs- the two of them form a pair not far off from the Amar-Prem Jodi from Andaaz Apna Apna- two not-so-smart people led by the slightly less duffer but vastly more articulate fellow on the trail of something intricate. Both the actors do a fine job, more so Deven Verma who lights up the scenes with his flair for comedy. However, the life and soul of the film is the performance of Om Prakash. He is effervescent on screen and completely owns the second half of the story. The way he expresses himself in the ‘thumri’ he teaches Archana is simply amazing. It is pretty evident the man knew that he would never get many such opportunities to play such a flamboyant character- and thus makes the most of it. The story and the intentions of his characters in the film are kept as suspense till the last few minutes, and this adds an additional dimension of intrigue to the narrative.

The music by RD Burman is superb- two of the songs are quite popular. ‘Raat Kali Ek Khwab Mein Aayi’ is one of the timeless romantic numbers created by the maestro. There is also one slightly weird comic dance number with Om Prakash as the center of the attraction that comes towards the end of the film and works well in the context of the narrative.

Parting Note: Buddha Mil Gaya is the closest Hrishikesh Mukherjee gets to the Salim Javed brand of entertainment. But what makes it a must watch is his own trademark touches that ensure lots of fun throughout the film. I would place it slightly ahead of Bawarchi in the list of my favorite Hrishikesh Mukherjee films- a list that is led by Golmaal, Anand, and Chupke Chupke. 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

JFFS: Chandni Chowk To China AGAIN

Sidhu (Akshay Kumar) returns to India along with Sakhi (Deepika Padukone), her twin sister Suzy and their father Chiang. Sidhu and Sakhi get married and they, along with Chopstick (Ranvir Shorey), open a high-end Chinese restaurant in the city. Soon they all get very busy with the day to day workings of the restaurant. The two sisters become really enthused about making it the best Chinese restaurant in Delhi and their father helps them in all their ambitious initiatives. But Sidhu soon gets very detached with the set-up…

Sidhu starts missing the feeling of fun and achievement that he had experienced when he had learnt martial arts from his father-in-law. Although his revenge is now over, he still has that urge in him to go out and do something big. He is convinced that he is not meant to live a normal life. So to pamper his urges he starts teaching martial arts to kids and youngsters in nearby Colony Park in the evenings. Soon his evening classes gain a lot of popularity and even oldies start enrolling for them- and those who don’t start visiting the classes just to enjoy the spectacle. Among all his students he takes a particular liking for a spirited twelve year old boy Krishna who soon becomes his favorite pupil. After a few weeks for his classes, he organizes a competition within his pupils to exhibit their skills to the world. For this competition Sidhu invites all famous people of his area. His father-in-law, a martial arts expert himself, also attends and accepts to open the show with a fun match with Sidhu- in which Sidhu gets well and truly beaten initially but then recovers to make some solid moves. The competition then begins and Krishna defeats a much taller, stronger, and older opponent to lift the cup. Thus Krishna well and truly becomes Sidhu’s beloved student- almost like a son.

Soon after the competition Sidhu visits Krishna’s home. He meets his widowed mother. In Krishna’s bedroom he accidently discovers a photograph hidden beneath the bed-sheet. It’s a photo of the boy along with his younger looking mother and his late father. When Sidhu sees the picture he gets a huge shock. The man in the picture is none other than his beloved Dada (Mithun Chakravorty) who was killed because of that villain in China. Sidhu confronts Krishna’s mother who tells him something which is most astonishing. She tells him his Dada was a secret RWA agent who was working incognito for his organization and keeping a check on a lot of notorious activities that take place in the Old Delhi and Chandni Chowk area. He used to keep his family life a secret from the world so that his enemies could not use his wife and son as bait against him. When he had died, some members of the RAW had visited their home to offer condolences and pay their last respects to her- at least that’s what she had thought at that point in time. But later she understood that what they really needed was a file that her husband had compiled on a lot that goes on in the area. His colleagues couldn’t find the file. But some unknown people started following her and her son wherever they went. She wanted her son to be strong and that’s why she sent him to the martial arts class.

After hearing everything, Sidhu urges the two of them to move in with him. To him they were his family- perhaps even a bit more than just family. They accept his offer. For the next few days Sidhu keeps revising in his head all his Dada had told him. He is convinced that the secret of the file was inside him- and he just had to find it. This one mission to recall that very secret starts haunting his life. He starts rewinding all his memories with Dada for that one clue.

One day when he, his father-in-law, and Krishna make their way back from their martial art class, a group of miscreants attack Krishna and pick him up before either of the two grown-ups can do anything. They chase the goons and free Krishna- finally getting to use their martial art skills in a non-simulative situation. Krishna also makes some smashing kicks and punches- and the three of them exchange high-fives. Krishna then points towards a rare rainbow in the sky. As soon as Sidhu sees the rainbow he instantly remembers something that Dada used to tell him often.

Indradhanush ke ant mein sone ka matka hai. Yeh sabko pata hai par aaj kal kisi ke paas waqt nahin hai us tak pahunchne ka.”

This abstract sentence used to befuddle him earlier- but today Sidhu makes a little sense of it. He starts to run back towards Chandni Chowk. Within no time he reaches his old shop- his dada’s shop. He enters their old room. Their on the wall is printed a rainbow that runs into the other room. He follows it and comes to the end of the rainbow. He looks around and spots a switch under the bed- right at the end of the rainbow. The presses the switch and a small crevice becomes visible. He looks inside and finds a note.

Ajay, if you have found this note it means that there is a high probability that I would be dead. The file is present where it should be. Make the best use of it.”

Sidhu cannot remember his Dada mentioning about Ajay to him. In fact he knew no one called with that name. Sidhu returns to his home and asks Krishna and his mother about Ajay. She tells him that a certain Ajay Sharma was Dada’s colleague in RAW and also a very good friend. The next day Sidhu looks up for Ajay Sharma and visits his home along with Dada’s wife. Ajay Sharma’s wife opens the door and tells that that her husband hadn’t been home for the past two months or so. She further tells them that she was not worried at all as her husband had done such things in the past too- that was the nature of his work. But she also tells them that this time she was really angry because he had not even tried contacting her in the two months. Not even a phone call.

Sidhu finds everything fishy- also the fact that the note had found him- and not Ajay. But he has no leads to work upon except that note which was designed in a manner that it could be understood only by Ajay. He reaches home, only to find it deserted. He goes to the restaurant and discovers that only his employees were present- and none of his family members. On the way back he is apprehended by two unidentified men- they tell him that all his family had been kidnapped by them-

We want that file in the next six hours

Before Sidhu can say anything they run off after leaving a visiting card in his pocket- he spends the next few minutes roaming around and completely dazed- not knowing what to do (Rahat Ali sad song in background) - after an hour or two he takes out the card and sees the address- and decides to go there and face everything head on. He borrows a car and makes his way out of the city- to the outskirts- a few narrow lanes lead him to a place from where a huge bungalow is in sight- he parks the car some distance away and reaches the bungalow- makes his way to a side wall- climbs a tree and enters clandestinely. Next few minutes are spent making his way inside the building- and once he does that- he spends the next few minutes searching for his family- all the while making sure that no one spots him- and if someone does, making sure that that someone is not able to tell anyone else about it.

Finally he reaches the room where his family is locked in- he meets them- they tell him that Ajay had already been kidnapped by the mates of the people who had kidnapped them- he was present in the same room- completely bruised and shattered- unable to speak and move. Before Sidhu can reach Ajay the goons enter the room and capture him. They beat him black and blue- and he is unable to return the favor as his family is held hostage at gunpoint.

Where is the file?”

Sidhu looks at his wife, her sister, her father- and the first thing that comes to his mind is – CHINA.

The file is in China- Dada took it with him when he went there.”
With whom in China?
We don’t know where he left it.

The goons go off and leave all of them in the room. Sidhu walks up to Ajay and shows him the note. Ajay tells him that Dada had indeed taken the file with him to China- and the note indicates the same. The file had been left by Dada in the city he had died. According to an old organizational division practice- before going on a dangerous mission the officer is supposed to leave secret items/information with the person who he trusts the most. In China the person he trusted the most would have been none other than Sidhu...

Sidhu, his father-in-law, and Suzy then go together to find that file. Krishna, Sakhi, Ajay, and Ajay’s wife remains as hostages. Upon reaching China they start visiting all the places where Sidhu had been with his bag. Sidhu was more than convinced that Dada would have kept the file in his bag. If only he would have taken the bag back to India- or even cared about it. Then Sidhu realizes that he had left the bag in Hugo’s den when he was fighting it. They make a few enquires and learn that indeed a bag was found and that it was kept in a safe in Hugo’s son’s house. Hugo’s son was sure that Sidhu would be back for the bag and he would get his revenge.

Sidhu, his master, and his daughter Suzy reach Hugo’s son’s den- an ultimate martial art showdown with them finding the file.

Meanwhile Krishna keeps reading a note that Sidhu had left him.

“here is a map of this bungalow. When you get a signal- escape from this place- I am convinced you can do it- and help everyone escape.”
When Sidhu finds the file he starts doing an old martial art trick of telepathy- Krishna, asleep at that time, gets the signal in his dreams. Wasting no time he and others start escaping from the place- Krishna making full use of his martial artistry.

They succeed. A day later Sidhu and others join them. File is handed over to Ajay who takes it to RAW and finishes Dada’s unfinished business. Dada’s son Krishna is sent to a special training camp to hone his skills. The goodbye between Sidhu and Krishna is just the beginning of a truly wonderful relationship.


Friday, April 6, 2012

Garam Hawa, 1947 Earth: Mirrors kept on the two sides of pain

In Garam Hawa, the train starts from Delhi and goes to Lahore. In 1947 Earth, the train starts from Lahore and goes to Delhi...

Macro. Micro. Two views of the same world. And within each view, multiple perspectives. And within each perspectives, multiple possibilities with multiple outcomes. The world we live in is utterly complex, and yet the basic human emotions and needs are as simple as they come. The need for acceptance, the need for association, but above all the need to live and breathe in a safe environment that gives them the freedom to live their life the way they want to. Human rights and legislative rights given to citizens of any country wish to fulfill the same aforesaid needs and ensure that each and every human being is in full control of his own story. Story? Yes story. For somebody’s reality is someone else’s fiction. So essentially we live in a world full of interlinked stories that cross path more often than once. And while we are too busy taking care of our own lives, there are people who are doing their indirectly meddling in our affairs. The lawmakers, the leaders, the politicians, the influencers, the media. It has been the same since the start of time. As human beings evolved from being solo food gatherers to creatures who hunted in groups, there were always certain few who emerged more powerful and more influential than others. Gradually they started moving slightly away from the rest of the pack, until they became truly absolute. Since then, the decisions are made by some and accepted by the others. On face value. Yes, there have been revolts. Every now and then the masses have ignited and tried to take the reins of their destiny in their own hands. Some of these revolts have been stifled. A tiny few have succeeded. But even the ones that succeeded have done nothing but create a new set of leaders with new order, new regime, new procedures, but more or less the same results.

Take a look at Mahabharata. Two sets of cousins- the most powerful ones in Jambudvipa (As India was called then), fought for a piece of land. But they were not the only ones who fought and won and lost. With them fought eleven other great kings of India. And with them fought their seventeen different armies. And within each army fought a thousand soldiers. All for what? For deciding who will assume the sole ownership of Hastinapur. Or, to give it a higher purpose as many do- for dharma. Whose dharma? Now when we look back and read the great epic we get lost in the story of revenge and the motivations, learnings, and actions of the Pandavas aided by the God himself- Krishna. But who talks about the innumerable faces that fought the battle? Didn’t all of them have a story of their own? Yes, they did.

Fast forward to 1947. Was it any different from Mahabharata? Yes of course there are many distinctions that can be made; but in essence it was a war declared at the top and fought by the masses. In the process causing nothing but loss. For most, the loss was beyond the tangible. It was beyond the loss of property and life of loved ones. It was nothing less than a complete loss of identity. The human in every human being was replaced by a label- the label of religion. And this label was indicated by the names they carried. So countless people had no option but to change their names. To change their entire identity. To give a new meaning to their meaningless existence. And to serve what purpose? To honor the decision made for them at the top by the leaders. But did they have the option? No. Could they have had the option? No they couldn’t have…
Law and order cannot be enforced without having a stable leadership taking charge of the society. And in the failure of the leadership in 1947, this fact emerged most glaringly. Human beings are no different from the animals of the jungle. In the Jungle there is no leadership- the larger fish eats the smaller one. It is survival of the fittest. Post the 1947 decision to divide India, the most anguished ones became the fittest. Law and order went for a toss. The world became a jungle. There were killings all around. The bestiality in some of the acts was basic, yet almost creative. A man was killed by just ripping him apart. Ripping him apart? The phrase got its literal celebration. The women were raped and molested in the most brutal ways possible. Humanity was reveling in its newfound freedom. The freedom to express, the freedom to revenge. Who ignited the flames? God knows (If there is God, that is).

Deepa Mehta’s 1947 Earth and Kaifi Azmi’s Garam Hawa are two Hindi films that are based on incidents preceding and succeeding the horrific partition of India. Both the movies take a completely different view of the situation. In some ways, both the movies are like mirror images of one another. And both the movies have a narrative that can be viewed in two perspectives. Macro and micro. There was the larger picture that was common to all. But there were millions of people whose life got affected in a million different ways. While Garam Hawa tells the story of a rich capitalist Muslim trying not to leave India for Pakistan post the partition, 1947 Earth looks at the picture from the other side- how Sikhs and Hindus had to leave Pakistan for India post the partition abandoning their homes, their hopes, and their lives. While Garam Hawa starts from six months after August 1947, 1947 Earth begins six months before that date. While Garam Hawa talks about a family, 1947 Earth talks about a family to be. While Garam Hawa is a story of resignation to fate, 1947 Earth is the story of taking charge of fate- even if it is in the most horrific manner possible. And while Garam Hawa ends on an optimistic note, 1947 Earth ends in the cruelest way possible.

Both are extremely disturbing to see, and yet are a must watch for every Indian my age. They should not be seen as movies. They are like honest recounting of the tales that are our very own. We can never experience what our forefathers did. And we should thank God for that (If there is God, that is). But we deserve to know on what foundation our country stands today. The greatest of structures need the most solid foundations to become great. But for us the challenge lies in making a great nation on a foundation that is full of cracks and that got corroded by blood. The Blood of our own forefathers. The blood that was the result of pain. Pain that was (or rather is) is both figurative and literal. Pain that has been looked at by these two honest artistic efforts like mirrors kept on both sides. 

Monday, April 2, 2012

Kaash (1987)

There are slight similarities between the basic thread of Aamir Khan starrer Akele Hum Akele Tum and Mahesh Bhatt's Kaash. Both deal with an estranged couple and are largely centered around a father-son relationship. Also, both the movies are set in the world of showbiz.

This is the age for action. Not just the dishum-dishooom kind. The word of movies has become fast paced- see any new trailer- twenty random shots will pass your eyes even before a single second is registered in your mind. Of course, the editing would be slick- people are hard pressed for time anyways- and it makes sense to cram in as much as possible within as less time as possible. Another explanation for it can be that “Hey, let’s not let them make any sense of it... just pack in some great shots and back it with a zany background score and they will be sold to our film”. It is not just our trailers, but even our films are becoming more ambitious in terms of the expanse of time and space they depict. Today, the camera hardly lingers on the face of an actor when he or she is done with the dialogue. It’s pertinent, for impatience is something which is now a virtue. The more impatient you are, the more you will achieve.

In such time and age, watching a film like Mahesh Bhatt’s 1987 feature Kaash can be an extremely novel experience. The film boasts of just four lead characters and almost no one else. The story is simple; the narrative is singularly linear (apart from a few discernable flashbacks). But more than anything else, the most unique thing about the film is that the camera is in no hurry and has a lot of time to capture what the characters feel and what they do. It is an extremely performance oriented movie that tells the story of a dysfunctional couple- a man who has seen the highs of stardom but is now experiencing the lows of obscurity, and a woman who cannot bear to see her once full of life husband taking to the bottle and giving up on life. Caught between them is their school going son; grappling with the acerbic tension between his parents. The story takes a turn when the kid is diagnosed with a terminal illness.

The film basically is a deeply moving account of a father-son relationship. Said to be inspired by a few moments from Mahesh Bhatt’s personal life, the film has been made with a lot of love and effort. That love and effort is visible through the dialogues and the performances that the writer/director has extracted from his two leads- Jackie Shroff and Dimple Kapadia, as well as from the actor playing their son. Some of the scenes are heart-breaking and it would be tough for even the most stubborn hearts to sit through them without getting moist-eyed.

The songs of the movie are innocent- there is no other word to describe them. If seen in isolation however, they might seem childish- but that’s the intention, for more than just songs, they are playful interactions between the young kid and his doting father. The mother, for most parts, is in absentia owing to her quest for being independent and not compromising on her self-respect, and understandably so as her husband becomes a terrible alcoholic loser post his fall from fame. The performances from both Jackie and Dimple are worthy of being described as textbook ones amongst their class. The former, in my opinion is a mightily underrated actor who is amongst the best in carrying off intense roles- at par with Nana Patekar (who being more theatrical grabs more eyeballs). Of course, the fact that Jackie has done innumerable inconsequential films (including B and C grade ones) goes against him. Anupam Kher plays an important role and the fourth lead (albeit peripheral). Despite him having a largely positive role, he strangely comes across as a grey character with the kind of look that he is given. 

After watching this movie, I was going through the filmography of Mahesh Bhatt- and wasn’t he prolific! So many movies and such well remembered ones too. I haven’t seen a lot of them and will watch the better ones soon.

Parting Note: There are a lot of movies made for making you laugh- but here is a semi-autobiographical (allegedly) movie by Mahesh Bhatt that looks like it was designed as one that intended to make people cry. The strong performances and emotional storyline makes it a good watch. Akele Hum Akele Tum (starring Aamir Khan and Manisha Koirala) shares slight similarities with this movie.