Monday, March 22, 2010

Love, Sex aur Dhokha

Rahul : “Director kabhi dikhna nahin chahiye… Uska kaam dikhna chahiye,”

Dibakar Banerjee's third offering "Love Sex aur Dhokha" is an excellent case in point. His first movie "Khosla Ka Ghosla" continues to stay a multiplex favorite since it plays very well into middle class sensibilities that anything is achievable if one puts ones mind to it. This was followed by "Oye Lucky Lucky Oye" a much better movie where the director's disdain of class was depicted in the character of Paresh Rawal. But while Khosla Ka Ghosla may have been run-of-the-mill Multiplex fare and OLLO a chit of a movie, with his third offering he has broken into new ground.

A movie shot entirely with new comers and mostly on hand held, CCTV and sting operation cameras could very well have gone down the path of many other avant garde movies where content was subservient to form. But if one were to define classicism as an effortless intermingling of form and content it is to be found in this movie.

The movie as the title suggest is a collection of three interweaving stories about Love Sex and betrayal. While the first section about love is loosely inspired from DDLJ one can also make out the damning indictment on the mediocre fare that Bollywood mass produces in the name of Cinema by the director. This is about the only section that we had a problem with, where we thought that far too much time was devoted and a few more sections could have been edited out.

The second section and by far the most brilliant one tells the story of the vast urban non-rich. Adarsh seems to be a boy who is related to the owner of a super market looking at the CCTV footage of the shop. Rashmi is a girl working in the super market store who will be used very deviously by Adarsh. I cannot recall any movie in recent Bollywood history that has tried to tell the story of a girl working in a super market. Later in the concluding part of this section of the movie it is not even apparent as to whether the contact number she has given is a real one or not. A vast majority of the urban populace who escape the attention of the so-called new wave directors like Mr Farhan Akhtar.

The third section takes us through the travails of a TV journalist trying desperately to bring off a sting operation. The darkest possible form of humor ever seen in Bollywood cinema comes about in his attempts to commit suicide. Trying to help him in this endeavor is a Bengali girl (Who thankfully does not mouth sweet words in Bangla like "Ekdummmm Mishti") who has come to Delhi with dreams of being launched in a music video.

As Naseeruddin Shah says in this piece, once you cast a star in a movie (and this is true of Abhay Deol as well is what I feel) the movie tends to be about the star rather than the work itself. But in this case since it is a whole cast of new comers there is a starkness to this movie that is unparalleled in recent history and the lives of the principal characters are essentially messy like what most of us go through.

So unlike the synthetic clean lives that the principal protagonists of DCH led (ever wondered what Saif did for a living or how Akshaye could so easily earn so much as a painter) this in more ways than one mirrors everyday lives captured through a novel medium that of a much smaller camera. That is why we think this is easily aeons ahead of any Bollywood movie of the past decade (yeah DevD and DCH and Omkara included).

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Vinnaithaandi Varuvaayaa

Back in college while reading Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" one of the sections that stuck with me over time was the fact that one never is really very vocal about the obvious. If my memory serves me right the passage went "The sun rises from the east, but no one shouts that it rises from the east". And so when in Vinnaithandi Varuvaaya (VTV) Gautham Vasudev Menon's (GVM) latest movie the protagonists Kartik (Simbu) and Jessie (Trisha) decide that they will be "just friends" and keep repeating it over a space of a few scenes one realizes that over the rest of the movie they are going to be anything but just that. For before this conclusion to be "just friends" is reached Kartik travels to Allepey (but not before one of the endless self-referencing ode to other lovers who have traveled to the US for love) where he apologizes to Jessie for declaring his love to her to be an act of impulse and you notice as Jessica's eyes flicker that this is not what she had hoped for. And hence the vociferous declarations of being "just friends" which precedes yet another brilliant sequence shot in a train after the absolutely charming one in "Vaaranam Aayiram".

And let us make no mistake, this is a movie driven entirely on the weight of the conversations throughout the movie between Jessie and Kartik and occasionally between Kartik and Ganesh. (As an aside how long has it been since we have had such situational humor that Ganesh creates in the movie while at the same time staying relevant to the advancement of the plot.) It may not be entirely in the "Pulp Fiction" class, but I cannot recall any Tamil movies that have made me pay so much attention to the dialogue in the movie with me straining to not miss any word that is being spoken. Handled excellently by a director who is on much surer ground than either Minnale or Vaaranam Aayiram both of which we personally were very dis-satisfied with, especially since both promised so much but followed an all too familiar path.

GVM is probably to Tamil cinema what Imtiaz Ali is for Bollywood. And in what must be an astonishing parallel we see an almost Rashomon-esque story presented from the point-of-view of Kartik and so are left guessing as to what is the truth and what is a product of his imagination. A similar thing can be seen in the love story of Rishi Kapoor in Love Aaj Kal where we thought the whole black-and-white part of the movie may or may not be reality. It is also quite novel to see a Tamil heroine who wears normal clothes, seems to have a normal job and speaks Tamil the way it is spoken.

But there are still some discordant notes in the movie especially the part about the hero being a boxer and having the mandatory fight scene where one hero bashes up an army of goons. The sequence at the end of the movie where what we consider a holy tenet of film-making "Show-don't-tell" is violated while explaining the difference about what happened in the movie-within-the-movie and in VTV. That was a let down, almost seemed patronizing about the way the director thinks about his audience. The endless self-referencing petty jokes about his own movies was a source for irritation for us throughout the movie.

But these are minor quibbles about a movie which is so far above the average that we are seriously tempted to buy into the "Tamil New Wave" argument.

P.S : While we had immense respect for the ending, we have come to know that they are now running a modified ending in the theaters which makes me wonder about this post by Jai.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Tamil New Wave and Classic Hollywood

Since we are too lazy to write our own reviews of these movies, we link to :

Ebert on an old Hollywood Classic

And Bharadwaj Rangan on the emerging Tamil New Wave.