Monday, December 19, 2011

Aarakshan - Quite Easily Dismissed (Q.E.D) PART II

Aarakshan (2011) PART II

(Part I - the post below)

Moving forward, the ‘evil’ people succeed in their little (evil) plot to get Prabhakar to resign and take over the college and turn it into a money making, ass licking institution. But they don’t stop there (since when did they have a personal vendetta against Prabhakar Anand? Sad to say, I don’t have an answer to this either…side note – this film is making me feel stupid), Mithilesh Singh has managed to get the family that Prabhakar helped (rack your brains back to those whirlwind of the first 15 minutes) to turn on him. He has opened his coaching centre in the house Prabhakar loaned to them and because of the bank guarantee being involved is legally allowed to have that place for two years. No explanation has been provided for this turn of events.

Cut to the Anand family moving into a hotel where Prabhakar refuses any kind of help from friends and is admonished by an emotionally charged Poorvi who accuses him of being too holy for his own sake, the only sensible moment in the film. And it is done pretty great by Amitabh and Deepika (with Amitabh hardly having any dialogues…the eyes and the body do all the talking). And it is here that you realize two things – a. Deepika is finally showing some form of talent which is pretty great. She looks great and if she can get herself to act…whats better than that? and b. Tanvi Azmi as Anand’s wife gives a disappointing performance. She is like a ruler. No bending, no emotions.

Now, finally we are taken back to Saif (Deepak) who had left for America (having been accepted into some university in what respect…I have forgotten or perhaps it wasn’t mentioned) following the furious exchange of words with Prabhakar and consequent break up with Deepika (Poorvi). It is perhaps the most hilarious moment in the film (it isn’t meant to be so) when Deepak is sitting with this white guy in some university of USA and discussing his work and relating how great Prabhakar is (ummm…what? Didn’t you just accuse him of being a casteist?) does he get to know what has happened (thanks to Yahoo! India…don’t ask me how that opened as the yahoo mail page for an American in America…or maybe it was the US version only which would still be strange because what was the news of a principal being sacked in a private Indian university, something which the chief minister of the particular state will confess ignorance of later on, doing on front page Yahoo! USA?).Deepak surprises Poorvi by returning home and pledging support…Once again inexplicable change of character feelings happens with Sushant suddenly turning over a new leaf (that is reverting back to his original, but improved, self and burying the hatchets, the origin of which are still largely unexplained, with both Poorvi and Deepak) and the director realizes that he should work towards some sort of conclusion.

Hence, what seems like a scene being lifted from Viruddh, Amitabh Bachchan decides to enact out a scheme which is basically starting a free and fair rival institute just opposite his house (which has been taken over by KK coaching classes) with his students being the poor children living in the tabela (stable) owned by a faithful servant (Yashpal Sharma as Shambhu gives a charming performance). Lo and behold, the numbers grow and people join in to help him out – Deepak, Sushant, Poorvi etc and finally he has succeeded in creating a major nuisance for KK coaching classes and his detractors (why they are STILL his detractors after getting him out of STM and running it as they see fit, I know not).

The film in its ending tries to ape the revolution feel and treatment as say in Lagaan, the Munnabhai series, Chak de India, Rang de Basanti but fails miserable because of its nonsensical storytelling and basic lack of plot, not to mention contrived situations and sequences. Therefore, as the good doers stand in a huge crowd and stare obstinately in the face of evil, you feel irritated and frustrated and basically tired out of your mind and not energized, adrenaline rushed, bright eyed as you should.

The situation by the climax scene has gone absolutely haywire. Mithilesh Singh has actually lost his mind and can be seen dancing around in fury in full public view, screaming out orders at the police force to demolish the tabela classes (that’s what it is called and no, I am not joking. Sadly) who by now has lost every semblance of credibility. This is not it though because Mithilesh Singh snaps out his blackberry and calls up the State education minister (a typecast Saurabh Shukla) and they both start yakking out all of their ill intentions in full public view.

In walks, out of nowhere, Hema Malini – the woman who owns STM who until now had retired into the forests to live the life of an ascetic – and calls up the chief minister (who confesses ignorance of the entire thing…seriously?! It was in the news as shown extensively in the movie!) and basically puts everything right…which we know because in the next scene everything appears to be alright with Prabhakar being appointed principle for life of a remedial institute for poor and weak students.
There is absolutely no, and I mean NO, indication of whatever may have happened to Mithilesh Singh, the tainted ministers, the evil trustees, the strange policeman etc etc. They are simply forgotten.

Where is reservation in this?


Coming to the finer points of film making…nothing good to report here either. The dialogues are contrived, uninspired and forced and so is the dialogue delivery. The dialogues seem to have been written with the sole purpose of being punch lines and that never helps and are further ruined completely drab dialogue delivery (for instance the much publicized exchange of words between Deepak and Mithilesh…in a canteen full of students, I might add).

The acting, as said before, is done only by Amitabh Bahchan (whose eyes seem to have mastered every emotion) and Manoj Bajpai. Deepika Padukone springs a surprise, a sweet one. Tanvi Azmi is disappointing and Saif is well just there. But the most surprising is the performance given by Prateik…and not in a good way. I had high expectations from him which tanked beyond trace. He is uncomfortable and does nothing to hide it. You can see the workings of his mind in each scene…like when he walks, you can see his mind going “One two. One two. One two” or when he talks, you can feel his mind going “Start. Pause. Next. Stop.” and that’s never a good thing. His character is bad, but so is everyone else’s, and he does nothing to save it which can probably be attributed to the him being extremely new and the fact that he has done good work in other films like Jaane tu ya jaane na and Dhobhi Ghat makes me think that the fault lies with the director. There seems to be nothing happening between them – no chemistry between a director and his actor with the result being an awful performance.

The camera work is once again drab, even by the standards of today which largely holds no poetry but still believes in exhibiting some form of skill. Here nothing happens. Its like a box shooting…you give a steady and generally aware of what its doing hand a camera and ask him to shoot in a circle and use no sort of creativity at all. At least that’s what I felt as a viewer who has no particular training into this stuff but is speaking from what appeals to the eyes and to the brain and to the heart. Here it is general and not really worth talking. Same goes with the musical score, which save for one song (‘Saans albeli’ sung by Pandit Channulal Mishra) is forgettable to say in the very least.

What is the most disappointing in this kind of cinema is the pretention it comes with – of being an intellectually charged film with a proper issue at its helm. Pure bull crap. This film is not it, AT ALL. I watched 40 minutes of Bodyguard in the afternoon of the same day and honestly I felt much better at the end of that then this! Why? Because it came with no pretentions. It was supposed to be a brainless brawny Salman Khan senseless movie and it delivered just that unlike this ‘intellectual issue based’ film. I have seen two movies of Prakash Jha – Rajneeti and Arakshan – and I cant say that I am too happy…I mean how is it possible to turn a mix of Mahabharata and Godfather into a drab, annoying experience? There is obviously something very wrong but because I haven’t seen his other work, I shall reserve my judgment here.

Coming back to Aarakshan, it can be described in three words (the short form taken from the movie itself, one of the favourite expressions of Prabhakar Anand as a teacher, but with the long form being tweaked to suit my view of the film) : QED – Quite Easily Dismissed.

Ritambhara aka Rae aka RitambharaA

Aarakshan - Quite Easily Dismissed (Q.E.D) PART I

Aarakshan (2011)PART I

Direction – Prakash Jha

Story – Prakash Jha and Anjum Rajabali

Starring (in order of acting talent as exhibited in the movie)– Amitabh Bachchan, Manoj Bajpai, Deepika Padukone, Tanvi Azmi, Saif Ali Khan and Prateik.

I saw this film last night as it was telecast on Sony Television and this was my first viewing of the film and quite safe to say my last viewing too. I did not see this movie in the theatres because I seem to have decided, quite subconsciously, to strictly avoid paying for those movies which did not appeal to me at the first glance and waiting for them to hit the TV channels…and this seems to have worked quite fine for me till now with me having avoided wasting money on treasures like Kambhaqt Ishq, Chandni Chowk to China, Mere Brother ki Dulhann, Bodyguard to name a few.

Anyway, I heard a lot of divergent opinions on Arakshan but being the self assured in the sense of not really bothering too much about other people’s opinion person that I am i.e. I am assured only by myself, I decided to wait until I myself watched the film to form any sort of opinion on it. Hence I sat down last night and watched it with all the good intentions that I mustered up as an impartial viewer.

And the following are my observations. As I always say these are my opinions and you are most welcome to make your own.

I found the film to be extremely ill paced. The first 15 minutes are a whirlwind with absolutely EVERYTHING happening from the establishment of the godly nature of Prabhakar Anand (played by Amitabh Bachchan) to the (potential – in most cases proven) kameena-ness of everyone else to the establishment of side track of Prabhakar helping out a friend’s family to the establishment Saif’s character (Deepak Kumar) and his love relations with Deepika (Poorvi, Prabhakar’s daughter) to the establishment of Prateik (Sushant) as the ever so slightly bigrail bachcha but a good friend of Poorvi and rival but friend of Deepak to the establishment of ALL side characters …so yeah, there is a LOT of establishment, all crammed within the first 12 minutes and the remaining three minutes are donated to a forgettable romantic duet.
Anyhow, this extremely fast pace then gives way to a slow forgettable journey which is the movie. There is hardly any continuity in story. Manoj Bajpai’s character of Mithilesh Singh is quickly introduced as the worst kind of teachers who although seem to know their craft are more interested in minting money out of it by way of expensive tuition centers (KK coaching classes in this case) which cater more to learning by heart (or rattafication) then imparting knowledge for real. He is the one who seeks to commercialize education and is hence in direct contrast to Prabhakar Anand to whom education is a way to a brighter future for all and hence believes in free (as much as possible) and fair education to all. The crux of the story is this. The title is hence misleading because the concept of ‘reservation’ is used only as a vehicle for this basic plot, which would not have been a problem had it been sold like that.

Why I say this? Well, the film sets no basis or foundation to the advent of the policy of reservation. It comes like a torrid wind and…that’s about it. It comes, it changes stuff…and it disappears. The director wastes no footage on actually debating out the issue. The three main points regarding reservation are put forward, no beginning or conclusion provided – a. Reservation is the birth right of lower castes in view of the years of humiliation and abuse they have faced; b. Merit should be given importance and not reservation of any sort and c. The personal point of view “why should I support those who are taking away my son’s/daughter’s seat because as it is they come first for me”. There is absolutely not even a try to make sense of the issue. It is just presented as in textbooks (worse than that actually) and left there. No debate, no discussion and absolutely no conclusion.

But yes, it changes everything. How? I doubt anyone knows the answer to that. Mithilesh Singh, along with the evil trustees of the college (STM) where Prabhakar is the principal, decide to get rid of him in lieu of his absolute disregard of any sort of recommendation. Here lies another major problem of the movie. There is no sense, not even a semblance of it, of the concept of ‘duniya daari’ or the ways of the world. Everyone does EVERYTHING in full public view with all their emotions and feelings displayed right out. For instance, Prabhakar openly dismisses all recommendations, even if they are by a minister. I am not saying that there is a problem with that but there is a deep sense of unreality in the fact that such dealings are engaged in the presence of others. It seems like no one in this screenplay has heard of the concept of ‘behind closed doors’, not even the otherwise master schemer ministers and trustees and police officials. This is brilliantly unsettling to any viewer if this is meant to be ‘realistic’ cinema. Second issue is how everyone changes in a matter of few seconds and for no visible reasons which should have been pretty darn visible for such massive change of hearts. Example, Deepak Kumar who till now had been vouching for Prabhakar Anand’s sincerity and true nature and owes basically everything to him, and not to mention is courting his daughter, accuses the same man of being a casteist following a brief, again unexplored and brilliantly abrupt, scuffle with Sushant. Or how old students of Prabhakar who basically treated him like a God just a few scenes back (or in the police officer’s case literally a few seconds back) turn their back on him (or in the police officer’s case turn truly ‘evil’) following his one statement in a newspaper in support of the idea behind the policy of reservation (or in the police officer’s case for no reason at all)…no care about the context or his situation.

Such situations and errs make this film an irritating watch and if it had not been for Amitabh Bachchan’s strong performance (in another wise weak role) and Manoj Bajpai’s good performance (in an otherwise unexplored all black role), I would have abused the film for two minutes (for wasting my time till this moment) and switched off the TV but they gave good performances which managed to calm my nerves and keep my itching hands off the ‘off’ button. A small note here – Manoj Bajpai is by no denial a great actor but it is sad that he seems to have been typecast as the kameena ghatiya villain. Hopefully, sense shall prevail and he shall get a chance to expand his horizons.

And as we move on, we realize that to make Prabhakar Anand’s godlike status and principles more and more visible, the creative team goes all out to make everyone else flawed with no explanations given for any sort of change of heart (for the worse or for the better). This is a fundamental flaw I have been having with certain films – why do we need to make a character ‘God’? Why isn’t it enough that he is a good guy? For instance, if we take the example of My Name is Khan (which to add is a terrible movie and had entirely missed the editing table and would have been intolerable had it not been for Shahrukh Khan’s brilliant performance), why does Karan Johar (and team) need to make Rizwan a God by making him save an entire village from a hurricane etc etc etc. Why isn’t it enough that Rizwan is a great guy, end of story. Sigh.

Read Part II for the rest (the post just above this...if this link has opened in isolation, then just click on 'cine me' at the top) :)

(Thanks to Asmita for this suggestion)

- Rae

Monday, December 12, 2011

Woh zindagi ka saath nibhate chale gayye...

Dev Anand passed away on 3rd December 2011 at the ripe age of 88. I got the news as soon as I woke up, thanks to Twitter updates and as I rushed downstairs to the TV, I couldn’t help but think how could this have happened? A question which may have seemed strange considering the age we are talking about…but its Dev Anand, and age does not apply to him. I am 20 years old which would mean I am 68 years his junior but I have no qualms in admitting that I have been harbouring a crush on Dev Anand for at least the last 6 years…ever since I saw Bambai ka babu…but why? That my friend is the question...or is it really?
Dev Anand exudes charm. He was unbelievably good looking...if you see some of his black and white movies, you will know what I am talking about. Those eyes...they spoke volumes and that made your heart beat to the music. In those black and white days, his one smile could infuse in colours of the brightest hue, his confident manners and his ever so pleasant They could make you stand still and thats what they did to me...when I was all of 14 or maybe even younger. And he could switch from the tormented lover (Din dhal jaaye from Guide) to the one chasing after his girl with cheekiness galore (try Hai apna dil toh awara from Solva Saal and you will know what I am talking about)...from ultra confident to lamenting and melancholy (Kabhi khud pe kabhi halaat pe rona aaya from Hum Dono)...his expressions in "Achcha ji main haari"...hayye! Kya bataayein! He could give you all the gyaan you want and you would want to follow it too! (Hum hain rahi pyaar ke from Nau do gyara or Main zindagi ka saath nibhata chala gaya from Hum Dono) and the same guy could convince you of his naughtiness in Chod do aanchal! Such versatility!
I was surfing through the channels when a beautiful melody caught my ears and a man came gliding into the screen…the song was Dekhne mein bhola (Bambai ka babu) and the man was Dev Anand, sauntering the way only he could.
I was hooked. The film was beautiful and deeply touching and now that I think about it, it could not be made today thanks to the extremely low on sensibility (and sensitivity) audience and flashy is best brainless film makers.
Khair…chodo…yeh post unn donon tarah ke jeevo ke baarein mein nahin hai...this post is about the man whose sheer charisma, sheer intensity and sheer sensitivity got a 14 year old to stop all work and get immersed in “boring” black and white cinema. Dev Anand’s films, specially the earlier ones, were blessed with two things – a very good and interesting story and brilliant musical scores and Bambai ka babu is no different. Two of its songs can make me sad and melancholy just thinking about them – Chal ri sajni ab kya soche and Saathi na koi manzil.
I must have watched a number of Dev Anand movies when I was younger but they were from the days of his later colour cinema and did not appeal to me much…maybe the story could be different today but we shall have to wait for a verdict on that.
Anyway…recently I watched Guide and as a student of philosophy (even if a reluctant one at that…and not too bright either) it appealed to me on a whole different level. The ending of the movie can put you in deep thinking and if you are willing to ask yourself some tough existential questions, do watch that movie.
Guide was once again not only a visual and a mental treat…its songs are classics – from Gaata rahe mera dil to Tere mere sapne to Din Dhal jaaye and finally Wahan kaun hai tera musafir…an album which comes probably once in a decade (if you are NOT Dev Anand, that is...because most of his films could boast of such brilliance in music).
Today I watched Solvan Saal and Tere ghar ke saamne back to back and fell in love all over again...Dev Anand looks like a million bucks and can make your heart race like you have never known before...the swagger...oh my, the swagger! And as soon as I post this, I will be watching Nau do gyaarah and the magic will surround me once again...the magic of Dev Anand...
This article may appear scattered (trust me I know it is) but I cant help it…my thoughts are as scattered…is he really gone? The man who had been around for so long that it seemed he would be there forever is actually gone? Can it really happen?
Perhaps…no, not really…his films are around and God knows the music is and the jest to live shall forever be around as an inspiration to have for all…I never once saw him in a wheel chair...heck! I never once saw him as anything but standing straight and upright and being ful of life. Dev Anand se jeene ka jazba seekho, yeh seekho ki usne kabhi parwah nahin ki ki tumne kya kaha…woh chala kyonki usko chalna tha, woh thama nahin kyonki koi aur chaahta tha…he lived life on his terms and he lived life like it is supposed to be. He continued making films, knowing no one really cared anymore, because he wasnt really making films for them anyway. He was making them because he wanted to and he was content with whatever limited audience he may have had. He was so kissed by success in his heyday that these so called 'failures' mattered little to him and rightly so...after all he was not in any need to impress anyone anymore, at least not explicitly. He was comfortable with all that he had achieved and that is something everyone should learn - be comfortable in your own skin and live life like you want to. Dont give a rat's ass to what other people say or think cos really they dont matter...not that much anyway.
He entertained millions, he swayed millions and he left us with a million memories…
“Aaj main kitni azaadi mehsoos kar raha hoon…jeevan aaj jaise muththi mein hai aur maut jaise khel hai…main aatma hoon, amar hoon – na sukh hai, na dukh hai, na deen hai na duniya. Na insaan na bhagwan…sirf main hoon, sirf main.”
Alvida Dev Sahab…aapne sach mein zindagi ka saath nibhaaya waise jaise nibhaana chahiye…shukriya aur alvida…we shall hum along...for always. :)

The Liveing Legend of Indian Cinema - Dev Anand
(1923 - Forever)

- Rae