Sheer Melody

A mole's eye-view of the Cosmos


Some movies - and reflections...

Returning to the blog-world after a somewhat longer hiatus than is normal - multitude of thoughts – and no specific order to put them in. So here are some of them…

Slumdog Millionaire sweeps the Oscars, or as Raja Sen of Rediff puts it – ‘India conquers the Oscars’. In some sense, it’s perhaps right – as we went from a cumulative count of two to five in the space of a night. That’s no mean feat. The movie has its merits: a gripping pace, impressive screenplay and no shortage of ideas. Sadly, it was poverty porn – and that’s where the film went from being a good movie to merely a mediocre attempt at purportedly realistic cinema. Danny Boyle got all the ingredients together for an Oscar favorite: the underdog, the insurmountable obstacles, the developing country with its idiosyncrasies, quaint and exotic – luxuriously conforming to the average American movie-goer's mental image of India. With each passing moment, with each story in Jamal’s life, we are treated to an overdose of grotesqueness, so unrealistic as to be perfectly laughable. Add his accented English to the list and you have a party! To quote one of my friends – it was an underwhelming experience. For me the high point of the movie was Rahman’s music (though I firmly believe he has delivered and composed way better in the past and I am sure will in the future): a sumptuous score to rival the best in the world – deceptively simple, original and instantly endearing.

DevD is being touted as the Indian psychedelic equivalent of The Wall. I can’t wait to see it – I wish Anurag Kashyap would release the DVD soon – with only 4 prints in circulation in the United States – it’s darn hard to find a theater screening it – at least in the somewhat respectable localities from where I can return home unscathed. For the people who have seen it and have enjoyed it and are just dying to reveal its plot to me – here’s your chance, and if you want to gloat – feel free!

I really enjoyed Luck By Chance. Zoya Akhtar feels like a very sensitive director. It was a pleasure to sit through a movie which portrays people in refreshing shades of gray (in contrast to the black and white which we are so used to Bollywood dishing out with amazing consistency). It was fun to observe characters depicted as unashamedly selfish, as genuinely hopeful. Rishi Kapoor as the producer confused that a script could be treated as property was extremely endearing, and I loved the scene in which Nikki seduces her co-star. Konkona was brilliant as usual and her expression as she realizes the reality of the casting couch and silently accepts the fact is out of the world. I still can’t decide whether I liked or hated the impossibly stupid song in the film within the film – but there is absolutely no doubt that this movie had the most amazing opening credits I have seen in any Hindi film in a long time.

In contrast, Delhi 6 was excruciating torture – unadulterated pain. The film starts off well with its quirky characters and impressive vignettes of life in Delhi 110006 but quickly degenerates into preachy farce. Sonam Kapoor pulls off a composed performance and methinks her smile is quite the seductress. Abhishek Bachhan alternates between two expressions in the film, has a fake American accent and decides that India ‘works’ with no logical explanation or premise. Divya Dutta is fantastic, and the one place where I smiled was where she gives the hypothetical Kala-bandar’s lock of hair to the local simpleton Gober. I also enjoyed Om Puri’s expressions as he discussed dowry with the Lala. Sadly, such moments were fleeting and very few – with the result that the movie remained a confusing albeit colorful mixture of well-caricatured clichés and pretentious imagery. In one of the most ludicrous climaxes I have seen in a long time - the movie degenerates terribly as it closes, comfortably equating its audience to bunch of zealous sixth graders with an average IQ of eighty attending a class on national integration.

10 Responses to “Some movies - and reflections...”

  1. # Anonymous TAM

    You deserve this, of course, for watching slightly odd movies:

    "I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed? "
    "I think you can in Europe."  

  2. # Anonymous Anonymous

    True.
    A list of movies that won oscars will tell you more - Born into brothels, Slumdog mill, Smile pinky, etc. The list is long and torturous. The departure from the original plot by Vikas Swarup indicates the insidious motives (of course he's been adequately compensated for touting the movie line). This deviation includes "poor muslim boy", "hindu-rioters", et. al.
    Another key point that misses the eye is the commercial angle. With the slump in US, hollywood desperately needs new markets. Just like winning a few Miss worlds opens the door for the fashion industry, oscars opens the doors for the hollywood. Nuke deal is only the beginning of the colonial conquest of "modern" India.  

  3. # Blogger Prashant Dhanke

    Totally in tune with you on Slumdog Millionaire. And God I hated the scottish accent of the characters when they were teenageers in Agra.

    Delhi6 I wouldn't have watched anyway; have a personal thing against Abhishek Bachchan.

    Managed to get hold of DevD & "Luck By Chance" for the coming weekend.  

  4. # Blogger Sheer melody

    @The alternate Moebyus: Thank you for hooking on to the invitation to gloat ;)

    @Anon: I haven't seen 'Smile Pinky' but have seen 'Born into brothels' which was a decidedly mediocre experiment. Again, I haven't read Vikas's book - so perhaps it would not be correct comment on that. But the commercial angle is perfectly true and a very valid argument - with the kind of slump the Oscars and in general Hollywood has seen in the recent past, it's not surprising to see them try and get the summer blockbusters to win stuff - if only to recharge the audience interest in films.

    @Dhanke: Scottish or otherwise, the accent grated. I would never deny the fact that a Mumbai slumdog (or slumboy - to be politically correct) could learn good working English - but the accent!??

    What's your pet peeve with the junior Bachhan?  

  5. # Anonymous Anonymous

    Well, I can suggest that you read the original plot or do some googling regarding the making of slumdog and you will be surprised!
    When we hear of US we think California, but when US thinks of India, all they can muster are the slums - and their goal is to keep it that way. No one knows about the ghettos in atlanta, neward or chicago suburbs.
    This is the strength of "soft power". It is very difficult to beat it. If somebody points a gun, even the poorest can fight back. But if someone dangles a bunch of rupees, what can he do?
    btw: this is bio.  

  6. # Anonymous TAM

    Gloating was a unlooked for bonus :)

    Let's just say that I can't sit through it twice. It's like being at the Nürnberg rally: a hypnotic effect as long as you're there, but reality kicks back sooner or later.  

  7. # Blogger Prashant Dhanke

    Undesreved fame. Percieves himself to be worthy of more than that. Idiots around me agree. Then those idiots want Tendulkar out of the team. And I waste the time of my life arguing. An analogy with BOG quota works fine though.  

  8. # Blogger Sheer melody

    @Bio: Interesting comments - I did read a few things about the way the plot has been conveniently changed from the original.

    @TAM: Just went through your review of DevDa the BevDa, and will post comments on that after I manage to get hold of the movie.  

  9. # Blogger Sheer melody

    @Dhanke:

    The BOG quota - if I am not mistaken - doesn't exist anymore (thankfully). I can't imagine the authorities ever believed something like that would stand the test of time.

    About the junior Bachhan, I do agree he is an actor several notches below the level one can call a decent calibre. And why is it that the dad turns up wherever son is?  

  10. # Anonymous Anonymous

    One of the many ... http://www.missoulian.com/articles/2009/02/23/opinion/guest/guest71.tx  

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