Monday, February 23, 2009

Luck By Chance - Brilliance By Design

The movie Luck By Chance gives you sheer unadulterated delight,a rare experience these days. This outstanding film is a bold statement of debutant director Zoya Akthar on the elusive and enigmatic phenomenon called the Hindi Film Industry. The theme in itself is potent and colorful – a subject not novel by any chance - but Zoya goes several steps ahead to make umpteen observations with amazing sensitive detachment. This treatment is indeed one-of-a-kind – a feat that deserves every award and accolade from all possible quarters.
Luck By Chance tells the story of Sona Mishra, a small town girl aspiring to make it big in tinsel town. She goes through the predictable rounds of struggle and bumps into Vikram Jaisingh – a graceful opportunist – a struggler trying his offbeat charms on all potential victims. An unnamed bond develops between the two – an intricate mix of love, lust, support, care and respect.
Sona’s path of struggle is more sincere - dependant on the perceived goodness of people around her – principally the fly-by-night producer Chowdhary, who has plotted her career graph well in advance – a certain role at a certain time will launch her into stardom and till then, it’s wait and watch. She waits and watches –till the gloom of her doom leaves her shattered.
Vikram on the other hand, tries every trick under his sleeve and, with loads of luck, becomes a star overnight. The usual distance leaves both at two ends of the tunnel – both victims of their respective situations. Vikram glows in the dazzle of his stardom and deserts Sona. In a weak, vulnerable moment, he comes back to reclaim his support system but this time round, Sona has matured and blatantly points out the weak spot in their relationship – his self-centered world of claims.
Leaving him at the mercy of his stardom, Sona comes to terms with the reality of her life – she loves her job, she earns decent money and her independence is never challenged in this big, bad city – all enough to help her make a decision – to be happy. Ironically enough, she owes this state of mind to his casual sermons during their moments of togetherness – a decantation that settles the sediments of deep meaning in her core as an afterthought.
Zoya Akthar shows loads of cinematic flair in what is her debut effort. Her style is a collage of vibrant techniques – At times, she lets the camera speak its own (The “exist” in lieu of “exit” in front of a doorway says what thousand words could not) and there are junctures where the dialogues drive the show. Somewhere in the middle of the story, the focus turns rather lopsided in favour of the male lead, nevertheless things happen in quick succession and there's hardly a dull moment.

Zoya is immensely helped by two of the most competent artistes the silver screen has ever seen – Konkona Sen Sharma & Farhan Akthar. Farhan does disturb the poise of his character in certain frames by almost turning into the host of “Oye, it’s Friday” (like the scene where he can’t resist a pun “no more horsing around”) but Konkona is superlative throughout – she leaves no stone unturned in making her character immortal in the annals of film history.Both show exceptional restraint in underplaying their solemn moments - the effect flowering like it should without playing to the gallery.

And for some vintage company is an august support cast – never seen in such true-to-life avatar on celluloid – Rishi Kapoor as the innocently pompous, happy-go-lucky producer, Dimple Kapadia as the slimy, venomous star queen of yester years, Aly Khan as the matter-of-fact seasoned producer, Sanjay Kapoor as the stupid, confident flop actor-turned-sloppy director, Juhi Chawla as the typical doting housewife of affluent homes and above all, Anurag Kashyap as the poor, victimized script writer caught in a intricate whirlwind of commercial demands and artistic urge (Kashyap unearths vintage dark humor with such effortless grace in the limited screen footage allotted to him)Saurabh Shukla looks jaded - the "Satya" fame actor falls short of the benchmark he is known for.

But who can forget Hrithik Roshan, an integral part of the film. His sensitive portrayal has not left the archetypal pug mark of a special appearance – there’s nothing casual about his character – he breathes it with as much intensity as Farhan and Konkona do. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy pour their very best in “Sapno se bhare Naina” – a song that says it all in such simple words – the lyrics and the music were made for each other.

Luck By Chance is a milestone movie…as Dil Chahtaa Hai was some years back…Hope our film industry is blessed with more of such creative siblings. With more Luck by chance perhaps!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Indian Curry, British Bowl

Danny Boyle knew he had a global winner in the script of Q & A. The generous accolades for the film from the world over tell many a tales of orchestrated creativity and populist strategem.If Slumdog makes you happy at its global success, it also leaves you sullen at the falling standards of film making and the over-accommodating benchmarks as to what constitutes creativity.

The film tells the story of Jamaal Malik - a slum dweller with starry-eyed ambition to make it big in life..but not at the cost of his simple morality that remains unadulterated in the hustle bustle of the metropolis. As he grows up to the realities of life around him, the resolve to defy his fate becomes even stronger.

And as we would expect of a Indian cinemascope product, success greets him on the way with dramatic twists and turns as he becomes a millionaire and wins back his childhood love. Boyle relies on all the gimmickry that fills an Indian film - and the usual wow-a-Britisher-makes-an-Indian-film hysteria helps his cause too.

The artistes are no great shakes in terms of capabilities - Both Dev Patel and Frieda Pinto cash in on the jackpot that they hit - and who would not - but they fall short of histrionics in crucial scenes - at best, they are passable. Anil Kapoor plays a character that's hardly developed - the audience is left wondering about the reason for his loud n' wicked ways - and the "live" feel of the TV show Kaun Banega Crorepati is ridiculous (The Patel and Kapoor rendezvous in the loo during the commercial break is the height of stupidity)The frame showing the child Jamaal going all over, rolled in shit, (literally) in a desperate attempt to catch a glimpse of superstar Amitabh Bachchan is as disgusting as it is unreal (Amitabh ka helicopter...Amitabh ka helicopter..shouts a slum urchin! - what filthy drama) Mahesh Manjrekar ends his screen oblivion with a half-baked role that he makes even more unconvincing.

The best part of the theme is the way it begins ....with the four options asking how Patel won the coveted millionaire crown - "it is written" - says the screen at the end...brilliant stuff. Even the scenes of the working class cross-section glued to television screens watching their favorite TV show are beautifully done.The child artistes are wonderful.

A R Rahman, Gulzar and Pokutty's Oscar fame is indeed the highlight of the film's recognition. Not that their glowing talent was in need of any firang acknowledgment - but the Oscar win is the real Jai Ho!

Thursday, February 05, 2009

Akshay kumar's Chinese disaster

Akshay Kumar happens to be my favorite star-actor in hindsight. During his early years on celluloid , he seemed bland, if not repulsive...running around trees with Raveena Tandons and Shilpa Shettys or flinging roundhouse punches at Amrish Puris and Gulshan Grovers. Even his serialized Khiladi success was not enough to make him a star to reckon with - he was only headed to fade away as an also-ran of Bollywood. But his 40-plus success is a story of great determination that hardly seemed destined.

Somewhere, I don't know exactly when, he made his mark as a great comedian star capable of using the nuances of the film medium to great effect, the way Govinda carved his own niche. Perhaps, it took a Priyadarshan to unearth the seemingly non-actor's value proposition.


His current status is an inspiration to all those who don't stand a chance in the normal scheme of things. He is so refreshingly different from the celebrity circus....No nauseatingly pompous six-pack claims, no narcissist marketing gimmickry, no narrow minded strategies of angry old men....Akshay's mass appeal is truly class apart.

His films are no great shakes in terms of innovation - but he surely makes them look innovative. He is accused of stealing the show in every frame -but rarely has the audience complained in the bitter tone that his co-stars wail in. And the stars who are used to rocking center-stage with their plastic "Chak de" smiles can never ever match the rustic appeal of this aging star.

Singh is King was labeled a no-brainer by the critics and self-proclaimed film pundits but it turned out to be quite an entertaining film. The presence of the prolific Om Puri made it even more enduring. Staking no claims to intellectual supremacy or socially relevant purposes, it stood out as a thoroughly entertaining product - far more sincere than the Sajjanpurs of the world.

Precisely why, I chose to watch Chandni Chowk to China in a theatre closer home - a costly proposition in these times of recession. The disappointment was more than grave - the film is neither a fantasy, nor a social drama - the creative team behind the curtains has made a perfect mess of a potentially powerful script - Akshay does his usual bit but the lack of a theme leaves him gasping for breath.

The best frame in the film is the Kungfu training regime made special by the guy who plays the role of Akshay's Guru. Kailash Kher's background score makes perfect company for those electrifying moments when Akshay moves from strength to strength to become a master himself - entertaining stuff.

The rest of the scenes are a drag - there are times when even the usually noisy front rows of the hall sat in dismay - not making any sense of the going-ons. Deepika Padukone offers great visual delight but has a long way to go in her histrionics - she can learn a bit more on comic timing from her illustrious co-star of the movie.

If this film was meant to be Akshay's life story in reels, it's such a poor tribute.

It's high time Akshay turns his attention to some meaning in his meaty roles. With his new-found style, authority and success, he's in a far better position to take risks on offbeat subjects.

Else, why lutaye karod to watch a tod marod dil ka chor?

Right Season, Wright Reason

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