Saturday, September 28, 2013

Lootera...



After waiting eons to watch Lootera, I got a chance to see it today. I really do not know how to express my feelings for Lootera because it touched me immensely in some inexplicable ways. I have to say that one thing Lootera did for me was it made me feel terribly lonely. There is an underlying melancholy in the film that drew me towards it. Whether it is the utter loneliness of an old zamindar trying to hold onto the last bits of his fiefdom, or it is the haunting loneliness of a love-stricken girl ditched by her lover, or it is the inescapable loneliness of a man trying to break the shackles of his fraudulent living ways. There is an inherent feeling of calmness; a better word would be thehrav that the film is resplendent with. Not only did the film remind me of my deep solitude, but it nudged me into a zone filled with a dazzling pathos. It is one of those rare films that depict despair and desperation in gorgeous ways, underscoring that sadness has its own sophistication and beauty. 


If I have to sum Lootera, to me it was essentially the story of Pakhi and her quest for finding love. Pakhi, daughter of a zamindar in a post-independent Bengal, is a feisty woman. She is fascinated by new things. Be it her love for driving, or the newly found excitement of switching on and off a light bulb or the ecstasy of looking through a magnifying glass or her instant attraction towards a new man who arrives on an archaeology expedition. She has the guts to check the pockets of that man, whom she hurt in a car accident. She has been used to a protected and sheltered life and perhaps, has not seen much failure or rejection. Only till the point of Varun’s arrival. And then she and he gradually fall in love. 


Some of the most beautiful moments of the film are about their courtship. They sit down together near the lake and share their dreams. She wants to be a writer and get settled in Dalhousie. He is an aspiring painter. He carries a blank canvass wherever he goes and someday he wishes to paint a masterpiece, although he cannot even paint a simple leaf presently. She teaches him the art of painting, drawing him to closer to her. There are some tender moments, such as the one when she gently directs the brush in his hand to bring finesse to the painting. 


Or another lovely one when they both click their picture together on a sofa with some distance between them. Or the one when they both together recite the poem ‘kai dino ke baad’ by Baba Nagarjun. Or their silent longing smiles when ‘sawar loon’ plays in the background. Since she cannot get close to him physically, she goes to his room and smells his jacket, his cap and his Winston cigarettes as if these would bring closer to him in some way. 


She silently stands behind a curtain, and watches him shave and get ready. I loved these parts of the film particularly a lot. But this painting is not to be. It is only an illusion. He is a Lootera of not only her heart in a metaphorical way, but also someone who belongs to a gang of thieves that loots the treasures of zamindars, given to them by the East India Company. Varun also realizes that he has no future with her. It is now when Pakhi gets her first real rejection in life, which she could not get over with and which silently kills her from inside. When she realizes Varun did not turn up for the painting lesson, she goes to him and asks him whether he will come kal, parson, tarson, narson. He then says to her that he is leaving next week and then she confronts him if he ever loved her at all. Her desperation is palpable and then she says, mera dil rakhne ke liye to haan bol dijiye. This fear of being loved, whether it is true or false, whether she meant something to him or not, mera kuch mayna hai aapki zindagi me..is haunting. Even after she meets him in Dalhousie, she asks him the same question if he had ever loved her truly. She just cannot move on until she gets an answer to this. May be that is why she refused to call the police when he comes and stays with her again. She wanted answers. It is in the final moments of the film that she finally got an answer. 


She is joyous and ecstatic at that point, forgetting that Varun is perhaps dead. The painted leaf that Varun had been putting for the last few days even though the last leaf had fallen off the tree, which was her tota from the bheel raja story, was the answer she finally got. It was even more cathartic for her because it was a leaf, an object for which Varun did not have an iota of painting skill. She had taught him how to paint a leaf, which was a metaphor for their love. By putting this leaf not only did he give her hope to continue to live, but also in ways did his final act of redemption. Because he had said to her he hates himself for what he did to her. It was only Pakhi who had truly loved him. Mera zindagi me istemaal sab ne kiya, pyaar sirf tumne kiya. I think that is why Lootera became more than a sum of its parts for me. It gave me an emotional high, although it did not make me cry. This feeling of being truly loved by someone is an act of seduction. Pakhi might not have lived for long after that, but she would have got the satisfaction that some of the best moments of her life were true. She can live with those memories now.





Vikramditya Motwane, an assistant director to Sanjay Leela Bhansali at one time, has clearly taken inspiration from his mentor to etch such subtle details, contrasting them with opulence of the background. The placement of curtains, mosquito nets and roadside shrines covered with a red cloth is fascinating. There is a shift in tone from a colorful radiance in the first half to a gloomy, cold ambience reflecting the shift in Pakhi’s heart. 

At one point in the film, Varun’s friend Dev talks about Baazi – a film starring Dev Anand. In fact, there were many other references to Dev Anand. In the second half, Pakhi says to him tum koi Dev Anand nahi, KN Singh tumhe mar dalega. To go in more details, the villain in that film was the real life actor KN Singh. Baazi also dealt with some morality and ethical choices that the hero of the film. At another point, the song tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana le from the same film plays on the radio. Motwane has said in an interview that he modeled Varun’s character after Dev Anand and James Dean. 


Tadbeer se bigdi hui taqdeer bana le..


KN Singh


KN Singh (Illustrated Weekly Magazine too!)

Lootera also pays a tribute to some old literay and arts masters. Pakhi and Varun together recite a lovely poem by Baba Nagarjun titled as ‘kai dino ke baad’. 


Kai dino tak chulha roya chakki rahi udaas,
Kai dino tak kani kutiya soyee uske paas,
Kai dino tak lagi bhitpar chipkiliyon ki gast,
Kai dino tak chulho ki bhi halat rahi shikast.
Daane aaye ghar ke andar bahut dino ke baad,
Dhuan utha aangan se upar bahut dino ke baad,
Dhamk uthi ghar ki ankhen bahut dino ke baad,
Kauvey ne khujlai paankhe bahut dino ke baad


In one scene, Pakhi’s room has a copy of Premchand’s epic novel Godaan. There is another book which I am not able to decipher but has a tile of gandha in its name. 


At one instance, Dev while speaking to Varun about his painting says, na tum raja ho na ravi verma referring to the famous painter Raja Ravi Verma. He also makes a mention of Ustad Allah Rakha Khan. At another instance in the movie, the radio plays the song, yaad kiya dil ne kahan ho tum paying a homage to S.D. Burman. And if these were not enough, there is also a tribute to Rossini when at one time ‘The Thieving Magpie’ overture plays in the haveli.


There is also a reference to Devdas as well.


And of course, Motwane has actually credited O Henry’s The Last Leaf. I am sure I missed out many other references to other cinemas, particular Bengali cinema which. Motwane has put in a whole collection of creative effort in putting these gems. At one point, he also shows us the magazine ‘Illustrated Weekly of India’, which was the most famous magazine during that time. 



One of my favorite scenes was this painting. The imagery in the painting matches with the painting.  I was simply fascinated by this meta-referencing. Jai Arjun Singh, however, explains further about the scene.
The juxtaposition of reality and artifice might lead one to ask: is the world of the zamindars a pretty picture that has nothing to do with real life? Or is it the other way around – is the modern world a gaudy simulacra, an imposition? And either way, can they exist in the same space? 


I also loved the direction in this scene. When Varun turns back, he is not walking but actually the camera is rolling giving us a feeling that something is forcing him to go back, something not under his control. He finally realizes that he needs to pay for his sins. He has to seek redemption. It is here his morality forces him, unlike earlier where he ran away. At one point earlier, Varun remarked to Pakhi that she has always got what she wanted in life. She has not seen the real world. But now something draws him back to her. Perhaps, it is time to give back the love.


It is not to say that Lootera is flawless. I did find some issues with it. It has been criticized because of its languid pacing. Baradwaj Rangan, in his review, criticized that he felt The Last Leaf plot was utterly unconvincing to him. I was fine with all this. My issue was regarding the simplicity of the narrative. Clearly, he has designed this film for a discerning audience. I would have liked if he had not explained everything in such detail. In one scene, Pakhi says that the tree is her tota from the bheel raja ki kahaani. I would have liked it more if Motwane had not told this explicitly and let me decipher that on my own. She was looking at the tree every day longingly. The state of the tree reflected the state of her life. In another scene, he explains that Varun had wanted to create a masterpiece. He plays that dialogue again in the background. In the final moments of the film, he again shows the scene when Varun was not able to paint a leaf but he did that finally. I would have been thrilled if he had let me think on my own. And perhaps, I felt a bit irritated at this point - I had guessed that Varun had been going onto paint the leaf because the film shows us that every night he had been going somewhere with his colors. It was very obvious. It would have been even more thrilling had he not shown these scenes and just shown his final act. It confirmed my thinking rather than surprising me, even though I have not heard of The Last Leaf before. I was slightly disappointed by this because obviously he has made the film for a certain section of the audience (I am not saying I am superior!) but if you have been concentrating all the while, you knew the twist was coming. There are other plot loopholes, rather I should say too many plot coincidences (like the letter which Varun sees when he is shot at and he realizes that the person at guest house is Pakhi). But I can overlook these because the other good parts gave much to think and observe, the primary reasons why I am fascinated with movies.


The songs are particularly lovely. The imagery of the songs is in line with the mood of the film. I loved sawaar loon and shikayatein


Lootera made me really sad. The movie ends in a hope but somehow I ended up being absolutely hopeless about my own life. Lootera might not be a masterpiece, but it is deeply aching and painful at times, and it remains with you long after it has finished.

I only wish if I could learn to paint from a book that Varun uses. I wish I could put the entire photographs from the picture here. Will watch it again. 



Dialogue of the Day:


“Sab kuch peeche chhod kar aayi thi, sab bhool jaane. Pata nahi kyun tum waapas aagaye, pata nahi kyun maine aane diya. Yun jab tum so rahe hote ho, main gala ghoot kar mar nahi dalti.” 
– Pakhi, Lootera

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Ghanchakkar...


Despite the really bad reviews Ghanchakkar had got, I was eagerly waiting for it. It became available on Netflix last week and I could not wait to watch it. The thing that I have learnt is that the critics are probably so bored of watching new films that they are always focusing on the negative parts. I have always maintained that a review is just once person's opinion. How can you make your decision of not watching a film based on what someone else is saying? (Though pardon my momentary lack of judgement while I am supporting The Lunchbox without even watching The Good Road!) Just go watch yourself and see whether you liked it or not. I had absolutely loved Raj Kumar Gupta's terrific debut film Aamir as well as I had really liked No One Killed Jessica, that also starred Mohammad Zeeshan Ayyub (Murari in Raanjhaana) as Manu Gupta. And with delivering-superb-performance-in-every-film Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi, whom I have started to like of late, and with music by Amit Trivedi - what else was not there to make one excited for Ghanchakkar? I loved it, honestly. Though the ending just flummoxes you, but still I think it offered me a lot to think about. Ghanchakkar is essentially the story of a con man - Sanju. He robs a bank with two other con men - Pandit and Idris. After an accident, Sanju suffers from retrograde amnesia - somewhat different from the anterograde amnesia that Sanjay (Aamir Khan) suffered in Ghajini - and he forgets where had he kept the money that he had looted from the bank. Now, the two other con men are hounding him to get the money back. What follows is a narrative that keeps you engaged till the end in which Sanju is not able to trust anyone - his best friend, his wife and at times, himself. The movie shifts tones periodically. Sometimes, it becomes very funny, sometimes it behaves as a thriller, at times it is a heist-gone-wrong, and the end is a surprising poetic justice with shades of black comedy. With excellent performances by Vidya Balan as an over the top Punjabi wife obsessed with fashion magazines, Rajesh Sharma (who was simply outstanding as the cop in No One Killed Jessica and as Titu Mama in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana) as Pandit, and Namit Das (who had played Sid's friend in Wake Up Sid!) as Idris, Ghanchakkar worked for me and gave me much to think about.

The movie begins by showing us a black cat. Just like Talaash in which there was a dog barking in the beginning, this scene made me think that there might be a super natural element associated with the story but this was perhaps only a trick or too much analysis by me.


At one point in the film, Idris is eating a raw brinjal.


Kachche Baingan?

In the immediate next scene, Sanju is also eating a raw baingan. I did not quite understand what is its significance though but I am very sure it means something. Idris had already made a statement regarding baigan ka bartha. Could this be related to bartha that could mean the utter mess that they have landed themselves into? I also thought of that famous Hindi idiom - thali ka baigan for a person whose loyalties constantly shift. Was baigan referring to Sanju's constant change of his state of mind in which he could not decide where to find the money? I do not know.


Bartha?

In fact, there were so many references to fruits and vegetables in the film that I just could not understand what they meant. Surely, it cannot be a co-incidence. During the climax, a character says to Sanju, "aapko pata hai kele ki sabse acchi baat kya hai? Isse khane se pehle dhona nahi padta." To which Sanju replies, "santra..santre ko bhi dhona nahi padta." At one other point in the film, Idris enters Sanju's house and remarks after seeing apples being kept on the table, "lagta hai seb ka bageecha khareed dala apun logon ke paison se." Also, there is a hilarious running gag in which a traveler who always brings vegetable on the train and gives it to Idris - baigan, gajar, and tamatar. That is why I think there were elements of a black comedy in Ghanchakkar. Even the song Lazy Lad has one line referring to a karela: Nasal hai karele, ke neem pe chadha. 


Seb ka bageecha

And this was perhaps my favorite scene of the film. When they robbed a bank, they actually wore masks of Utpal Dutt, Amitabh Bachchan, and Dharmender. One reviewer remarked that the best thing in the film is the expression on Utpal Dutt's mask which after years can still give anyone a run for their money. It was a terrific scene and brilliantly executed. In fact, again I felt there were elements of some black comedy which I did not get completely perhaps. So, besides these three famous character masks, the film refers to a number of old actors. When the property dealer tells Sanju about the new house, he says Hema Malini ke flat ke upar hai. At another point, Sanju decides that he wants to meet the others at Rajesh Khanna park. In another scene, Sanju makes a fool of Idris and Pandit saying that he remembered that he kept the money at Dilip Kumar's house. Even the names of characters - Sanju (Sanjay Dutt?), Neetu (Neetu Singh?), and Uttam (Uttam Kumar?) had some references to old actors.


Utpal Dutt: Priceless

Another of my favorite line in the film was about Ghajini and the Khans. So, Idris out of frustration calls Sanju as Ghajini ka Salman Khan. Then Pandit says, Ghajini me Shah Rukh Khan tha, Salman nahi. Then, Sanju who hears them says "in bandaron ko itna bhi nahi pata, Ghajini me Saif Ali Khan tha." It was hilarious.


Best Dialogue :)

And there were some very interesting character quirks. Neetu was all the time reading Vogue, Femina or Cosmopolitan. The costumes she wore were similar to the way she decorated her house.


Always reading Vogue, Femina or Cosmopolitan 


There are butterflies on the wall


Her earrings also are like a butterfly


The apron says Whip Me and her mobile cover is like a rabbit


Her earrings are pretty cool - in the shape of the dress she is wearing

There were some other quirks of her - the curtains and bed sheets had flowers and so did the night dresses she wore.

While Neetu was fascinated by the latest fashions, Sanju was addicted to watching films on Zee Cinema. He decides to rob the bank thinking that he will be able to buy the largest available LCD from his loot. So, at one point, he is watching Kimi Katkar frolicking in Tarzan. I think this was perhaps referring to the wilderness of the relationship of  Neetu and Sanju. 


Watching Tarzan

At one point, Sanju is watching a film starring Saif Ali Khan and Kader Khan in which they talk about some frauds. I could not find what exactly the film is. Google says it could be Aashiq Awara. Not confirmed.


Which film is this?

At one point, Dil Chahta Hai song plays in the background and naturally I will write about it even though it did not mean anything in the context of the film :)


Dil Chahta Hai reference which I have to add.

Also, found some great books in movies titles. While searching for something, Sanju opens his drawer and we see two books. Flower by some author's name starting with D and The Thorn Birds by Richard Chamberlain.


Flower


The Thorn Birds by Richard Chamberlain

When Pandit and Idris open the suitcase, it has many books. The three books that are visible: The Jane Austen Book Club by Karen Joy Fowler, The Witch of Portobello by Paulo Coelho and a textbook on Computer, Internet and E-Commerce. Some books have P.D. written on them. I think they belong to Parvin Dabas who was also in the film.


P.D. as in Parvid Dabas?

In one scene, Pandit and Idris are watching this horoscope - Astro Akal. I have heard Idris as a name for the very first time. Wikipedia says Idris means an ancient prophet who is mentioned in the Quran. Pandit and Idris have formed a team and incidentally, their name means the same - someone who is very knowledgeable. Such tiny details fascinate me.


Astro Akal

It is no surprise that Pandit and Idris believe in the powers of a roadside baba who says, "baba dila sakta hai, mila sakta hai, hila bi sakta hai." ;-) In fact, there were many double entendres in the movie - kaat diya, bajana, hilana :) 



Baba dila sakta hai, mila sakta hai, hila bi sakta hai..

I did not understand why Rupa Frontline was shown prominently in the film :)


Rupa in the field


Rupa in the train as well

What is with directors doing a Subhash Ghai these days? I mean Subhash Ghai has this unique thing that he makes a special apperance in each of his film. Anurag Kashyap has also done that in many of his films. This year, Ayan Mukherji appeared in Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. Raj Kumar Gupta also makes a special appearance in one scene.


Raj Kumar Gupta

I also remember now that he had made a special appearance in No One Killed Jessica too.


No One Killed Jessica

Finally, some words about the music. When I first heard it, I did not like it much. But I realized I was humming its songs even today, especially Lazy Lad and Allah Meherbaan. After all it is Amit Trivedi and Amitabh Bhattachrya duo giving the music and the lyrics. The lyrics of Allah Meherbaan are just brilliant. I loved this scene when Sanju stands beneath the light in a way asking for light on how to deal with his problems, with the song Allah Meherbaan playing the background. 


Do din ki chandni ke chaand bhi jhoothe
Kaali kartooton ke daag na chhoote..

There was also a really charming moment in the film when Sanju does not take salt when offered by Idris, even though Neetu just could not get the amount of salt right. There were some other things that cracked me up like Dr. Gulati who suffers from amnesia himself and he also treats amnesia. That bartha, Neetu wearing dresses similar to her house decorations, Sanju's memory rewinding and forgetting - all point to some sort of meta relationships. I think that was the entire them of the movie itself - meta referencing - that is why it is called Ghanchakkar.


Love this scene :)

There were some things whose significance I did not completely understand. But again, Ghanchakkar gave me enough material to think about. It is a really nice film. Love it :)

Lootera is releasing this Friday on Eros. Super super excited :)

Dialogue of the Day:
Jaisa aaghaz waisa anjaam hai..
Harkat maili to maila hi naam hai..
 - Allah Meherbaan, Ghanchakkar

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Of Ram Leela and DevD...


The trailer of Ram Leela is out. I have mixed feelings about it. I love the colors, Gujarati vibes, the visuals, the cinematography, and the Holi scene - classic Bhansali. I did not like Dabangg type dialogues and too much focus on the Ranveer's bronzed body. Bhansali's strength has been subtlety in emotions combined by the opulence of the background. Here, the trailer looks a bit over the top. But what do I know? I had loved Saawariya, which was universally panned. So my opinion does not count anyways. And this is only a trailer. We do not know how the movie will turn out. But I am very very excited. I have to watch this on the big screen somehow.

At one point in the trailer, Deepika says "tere to baal hi nahi hai?" 


Tere to baal hi nahi hai?

I was very sure I have heard this dialogue earlier too. Then, I realized where I had heard it - DevD. In that outrageous scene in the field when Paro had called Dev for a romantic liaison, she takes off his shirt and says, "tere bade baal hai."  For a moment, I thought Bhansali was alluding towards Anurag Kashyap, after all Anurag had used many references to Bhansali's Devdas in DevD. Maybe. But it is my interpretation. We like films because we understand them and can interpret them as we like, right?  


Tere bade baal hai..


DevD references Bhansali's Devdas - Dev and Dev's poster


Chanda watching Chandramukhi's dance

While researching for this topic, I found this as well. Chanda reading Alberto Moravia's Contempt. I need to watch DevD again to understand it better. It has been more than five years since it released and I think I would appreciate it more. I will do another review of it.


Contempt

Meanwhile, Ghanchakkar has, finally, been released on Netflix. I was waiting for it since long. Will watch it soon. If only, I get some breathing space. There is just no time. Have to write about so so many things. 

More later.

Dialogue of the Day:
"Soch se nahi, dil se sangeet banana." 
 - Zafar's Dad, Fukrey