Bollywood-ish

Monday, 1 December 2014

Masoom

Directed by: Shekar Kapoor
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Shabana Azmi, Saeed Jaffrey, Tanuja, Supriya Pathak, Jugal Hansraj, Urmila Matondkar
Released: 1983
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


The over the top reactions and dramatics are part of Bollywood and you just have to go with the flow. It is not a bad thing per se (except sometimes, when it does not go over the top, rather like over the galaxy). But from time to time even in Bollywood there are movies which abandon both traditional mainstream formulas and (let´s say) fiercely passionate acting, and become perhaps not a great entertainment, but an interesting probe into more everyday lives of more common people. They are relatable to the fullest and remind us of what it is to be.... well, normal, with the failings and generosity of which we are all capable of. Shekar Kapoor is undoubtedly a great director with a touch for..... that special something which makes your heart feeling all fuzzy in the end. Be it in fantastic extravaganza of Mr. India or quiet, wide-eyed Masoom.


Naseeruddin Shah is a loving husband to Shabana Azmi and an adoring father to their two little daughters (the elder of whom is none other than baby Urmila Matondkar). He has everything he could possibly want, except sometimes he jokes he lacks a son. However he is in for a shock. Once upon a time he was unfaithful to his wife, for reasons he himself cannot explain, and he indeed had sired another off-spring. Now the boy´s mother is dead and he must take responsibility for the child. While he could probably cope with the situation, the child, oblivious about the facts, could easily break his home and all the certainties it once represented.


Not many words are needed for the two spectacular lead actors to convey their painful inner struggle to the viewers. Naseeruddin tells everything with his eyes. With Shabana, it is little things. Slight change of intonation when talking to her own children and her husband´s son. Her apprehension on serving him food. Her own confusion whether to hate the child or not. Hers is not an easy role. Easily she could have become an evil step-mother. Instead she is what she is – a woman trying to cope. She realizes the child is innocent, yet she is not capable of seeing him that way. One cannot hate her even during her more rash outbursts. We just know her pain. At the same time we pity the child. The whole situation is heartbreaking, yet there are no villains, only humans.


The children in the film are really good, Jugal Hansraj especially deals with a heavy-load of his role brilliantly. Shekar Kapoor is one of the very few Bollywood directors who know how to find a child actor, that is not artificial and annoying (which is really Hindi cinema standard even today). The supporting cast too is good, even though I was somehow baffled by the character played by Tanuja. I understand she was meant to be sort of Shabana´s trusted genius, whose own actions would show her friend which road is best to take, unfortunately she was really the one that felt somehow preachy and forced into the plot. Shabana could have made up her mind herself easily enough, without Tanuja´s transformation from „strong, single, yet miserable“ to „beaming with happiness cause my dude decided to come back“. Supriya Pathak makes only a brief appearance in flashbacks. I can only say hee complete difference from Shabana, in both appearance and character, makes it easy to imagine that Naseeruddin fell for the temptation of an unknown and unfamiliar, even if just once.


Masoom is very human, sad but ultimately beautiful, soulful movie. A true tribute to a family spirit. (unlike some other films....)

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Mary Kom

Directed by: Omung Kumar
Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumaar, Sunil Thapa
Released: 2014
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing – experience


Before I even start with the film itself, I think I need to explain one thing: I hate boxing. I do not consider it a sport of civilized people, for it lacks what I am looking for in a sport event – team spirit or an individual stepping over one´s limits. The sole purpose of box is to simply beat the shit out of the other and you cannot tell me otherwise. That much said I have nothing but respect for Mary Kom as a woman who had to go through struggles which would weary out majority of other people (including me). In that aspect her life story is immensely inspirational and should be told. Just perhaps not the way this particular film does it.


Even without not being intimately familiar with the life of Mary Kom, all its twists and turns, I dare say it was dramatic enough to be an intriguing picture, however the filmmakers felt the need to ad lots and lots of filmi clich├ęs, which they hoped would enhance the major points of the narrative, unfortunately they reach an absolutely opposite effect. They strike out of nowhere and leave one slightly baffled or dubious, they seem too improbable and made-up – basically they do not go with the rest of the film. The most prominent among these are scenes which show Mary in sort of mystical, mental contact with her father and later one of her baby sons, which directly influences her ability to fight. While common in fictional films, I cannot help but wonder if this bit was necessary in a biopic. The songs, too, were not needed and only diluted the story. The “villain” shares the over the top sheer nastiness reminding one of all those negative roles by Prakash Raj, and again, lacks the believable factor.


The film belongs to Priyanka Chopra. It is not her best ever performance and I still think she was a miscast. It was ironic seeing her accusing the match jury of racism, when her casting itself could be called racist. I am not saying I am a great know-it-all on the issue, but I still recall the reasoning of the makers, who stated they knowingly cast Priyanka because a new, Manipuri actress, would not be bankable. What was the intention then? To tell a story of a Manipuri woman who beat every obstacle INCLUDING negative, dismissive attitude so many have against people who look like her, or to make a bankable film? Because they did not manage to have both. I am aware Mary Kom herself was satisfied with the movie, but I do not believe her consent was the best thing to have happened to her community, which so rarely gets the deserved attention and representation in media. This was an opportunity which nobody took. That much said, Priyanka deserves heaps of credit for her incredible dedication. One can see she put her heart and soul into the role, not fearing the physical demands. I suppose much like I respect Mary but disagree with boxing I also respect Priyanka but disagree with her being the protagonist. I salute their work and dedication – and success.


Looking back the at “big” biopic of the last year, Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Mary Kom fails to leave a mark. Where Bhaag Milkha managed to deal with the athlete´s haunted conscience, his inner struggle and issues, while at the same time being a good sports film, Mary Kom is a good sports-film, but the backstory is really just... a backstory. Why did Mary picked up that glove in the beginning? Why did she love box but disliked athletics? How did she feel when she started a family? We do get to see most of what happened, but hardly any of the scenes really touches the inner conflicts which must have plagued Mary once. And since the main protagonist is left without more complex feelings (as a film character, I am not saying the REAL Mary Kom does not have complex feelings!), you cannot expect more from other characters either. In case of Onler, Mary Kom´s husband, that made me almost sad. (if he is in real life the half man he was shown to be on screen, he is everything a woman could ever want!).


Mary Kom the film is not as magnificent as its subject, but it could be treated as a good way of getting some really basic knowledge on her. Decent, but less than what it could have been and deserved to have become.

Monday, 3 November 2014

Nagin

Directed by: Rajkumar Kohli
Starring: Sunil Dutt, Feroz Khan, Reena Roy, Jeetendra, Vinod Mehra, Kabir Bedi, Sanjay Khan, Mumtaz, Rekha, Yogeeta Bali
Released: 1976
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing


A massive star cast of the kind one does not see too often today and yet a film so laughably bad! Nagin is one of many Indian movies drawing inspiration from the ancient belief in existence of magical snakes, which are capable of taking a human form. Unintentionally it also discovers the endless human stupidity, which makes you facepalm so often you actually hardly see anything of the film unless you rewind. Most importantly, however, the picture suffers from a common Bollywood illness: it is a thriller/horror that is neither thrilling nor scary.
My sideburns are better than your sideburns.
Well, copulate you!
After shooting an obviously stuffed bird Sunil Dutt with horrible hairdo and wearing bell-shaped, skin-tight trousers meets a magical snake in human form Jeetendra. Happy to be alive the snake invites Sunil to watch his copulation dance with a female snake Reena Roy (I guess snakes do not dig private nad btw yes, my subtitles kept translating "suhaag raat" as "copulation night"), and Sunil, being all into it, soon after invites his friends to come and watch as well. However since they do not think he is serious, they come and secretly ogle at a barely-clad girl dancing in the woods – until a snake appears and they shoot it, thinking it was attacking the gal. As it turns out, though, it was the previously saved Jeetendra, all ready for some copulation, and now as dead as a fish. Enraged, the female snake – nagin – sets on a revenge trip.

Flying Snake attack!

That was close!
Even with the questionable special effects and questionable performances this could have been a good horror, but unfortunately it gets quickly boring a repetitive. The nagin has just one cheap trick up her sleeve – taking a form of girlfriends and then killing her victims – and she uses it every single time. Luckily for her the guys would still only have half a brain if they put all of their brains together, so they fall for it easily, however, for the audience this revenge tale gets stale all too quickly. Maybe the director recognized this as well, and that is why he included a pretty physical and violent fight between Reena Roy and Rekha near the end (over a man, naturally).

The Dumbass Club of the Round Table
Nagin is one of the films that are both roll-eyes worthy, boring and unintentionally hilarious. It suffers from choppy editing, flying snakes, random stupid comedy and prepostrous characters. It is fun to watch actors, that had proved themselves with better cinema, being a part of such trash – and at the same time it is cringeworthy and painful (almost as much as the copulation love dance between Reena and Jeetendra dressed in gold and leather, which they kept bursting into every five minutes). There is the old Bollywood habit to create drama in situations that call for anything but that, and then the drama intensifies to dimensions nearly unimaginable. Naturally there is a high level of WTF: a scene where Feroz Khan shoots at Mumtaz, wounding her – yet then he says „sorry, I thought you were a snake, let me bandage that“ and she just smiles and accepts such bullshit explanation as a part of their budding romance, is just one of many such scenes.

Such pathetic sideburns you got!
How dare you bitch!
Take a plunge off the cliff!
It was interesting for me to watch Kabir Bedi – this was my first Bollywood film I´ve seen him in, but I have been familiar with him since many years. In my part of the world he is terribly famous for his role of Sandokan. Not long ago he was being interviewed for the Czech TV, and I wanted to be angry with him for saying he preferred doing small role in America to film in Bollywood. Well, if all his films were like this one, I think I might just forgive him.

Don´t die! I loved you since that day you shot at me!