Saturday, November 01, 2014

Filimstaan - Why competence is sometimes not enough

I finally saw Filmistaan – two friends starred as the terrorists keeping the hostage. I was surprised that it turned to be quite watchable (the trailer did dreadful injustice to it), managing to engage me from the first scene to the last. Given the stasis inherent in the plot – a man being held in a rude brick cell almost through the length of the film, with only a few ramshackle huts and the desert beyond – I thought that the screenplay was good, the acting and direction capable. It definitely deserved a watch in the hall. But unfortunately, it never rose above this level of competence.
The issue with me was that the film set itself up so that it could never rise beyond the level it was being played at. The protagonists – Sunny Arora, a wannabe-actor from Bollywood held hostage in a border-post Pakistani village, and a Pakistani bootlegger of Indian films – are that and that alone. The fact that Sunny is Punju explains everything about him. Their inner narratives, their dialogue, almost never rises beyond the simplistic paradigms of their shared obsession, Bollywood, and since the plot does not allow for too many moments beyond these for character development, in the end, their characters and their relationship seem too easily arrived at; worse, contrived.
We never see Sunny’s isolation beyond his empty-headed optimism, nationalism and nostalgia. The thought of imminent death over many days does not change him, make him introspect deeper beyond a confession of knowing he was a bad actor all along. No relationship – friend, family – is mentioned beyond a brief brush with an old hakim where the two reminisce about the lives they left beyond the border. We never really get to know Sunny, the hero, forget the bootlegger. It seemed that Nitin (the writer-director) was just not interested in building the characters beyond the competent first-ideas.
And so you have the same clichés someone in Alaska who’s seen five-six of such stuff can write – what did Sunny remember his grandfather telling him about Lahore – Jinnne Lahore nai dekhiya... blahblah – that’s it. What do the protagonists talk about when they realise the irrationality of the border – the dreamteam with Sachin and Inzi opening. And these are two instances I remember because they ending up mediocratising some potentially very-good scenes building up. (The latter almost hurriedly stanching a potentially powerful turn when, to Sunny’s musing of what might have happened if the partition had not happened, the bootlegger darkly replies that rivers of blood would have flown then.)
And since besides these brief superficial excursions into their real lives, the fantasies they discuss are not exactly world cinema, or even stuff like Filmistaan itself, the depth of their inner worlds revealed in these fantasies remains at the level of Maine Pyaar Kiya and KKHH they watch together. No ‘Kiss of the Spider Woman’ here where the fantastic dialogic world the protagonists build to escape the reality reveals almost everything about them.
I am reading some collected stream-of-consciousness oral narratives from Rajasthani villagers these days. The stuff is so, so dense with overlapping references to their lands, their cattle, their folklore, their society, their history – the various categories and norms of their world – a world as rich as any, with its own grammar and vocabulary. If only the filmmaker had cared to dig these worlds out for his two protagonists a little deeper. If he had researched more to imagine them beyond first ideas, and brought forth what people from such two different worlds, overlapping but not quite, might really experience and share under this extreme and peculiar circumstance.
But alas. And so, as so many times before, a film in my mothertongue again settles for competency and I have to go back to the old favourites or scout elsewhere for true transcendental greatness.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Our poor rich celebrities









Disclaimer: All rights to original photographs with Indian Express.




Wednesday, May 28, 2014

More Indian Express photographs

(Note: All rights on original photographs reserved by Indian Express. )

Prime Minister Narendra Modi takes charge of the office at PMO in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Source: PTI)
 Prime Minister Narendra Modi assumed office on Tuesday, a day after being sworn-in by President Pranab Mukherjee. (Source: Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)
"Let us together dream of a strong, developed and inclusive India that actively engages with the global community to strengthen the cause of world peace and development," Narendra Modi added. (Source: Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)
Thaawar Chand Gehlot takes over as Minister of Social Justice & Empowerment in New Delhi. (Source: PTI)

Dr Harsh Vardhan takes charge as the Health and Family Welfare minister in New Delhi on Tuesday. (Source: Express photo by Ravi Kanojia)

 However, even before assuming charge, Modi had already began his official work last night itself by holding a meeting with top officials. (Source: Express photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)
 Ahead of his meeting, Sharif had yesterday said he was carrying a message of peace and intends to pick up the threads with India's new leader Narendra Modi from where he and then Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee left off in 1999. (Source: AP)
 

The 63-year-old Modi, the first leader to get a landslide majority for BJP on its own, became the 15th prime minister in a virtual 'coronation' ceremony in the forecourt of the Rashtrapati Bhawan before a 3000-strong gathering, the largest audience at the swearing in a of new government. (Source: Express Photo by Neeraj Priyadarshi)

Thursday, May 22, 2014

More photographs


(Note: All rights on original photographs reserved by Indian Express. )

Eyes have it



One’s eyes are always those of someone else, the mad and desperate dwarf crouched within.

- John Banville (The Sea)