Monday, February 22, 2010

Mokashi's fun factory

Paresh Mokashi's rapid-fire comic sketch of the life and times of Dadasaheb Phalke, better known as the father of Indian cinema, is undoubtedly entertaining. That he could have raised the bar to make it even more enduring is another story.

But all that pales into insignificance when you consider the fact that all these years, the film fraternity never thought of paying a tribute to the guy whose pioneering strides is the very reason for its existence.

Parag Mokashi has done that ...and deserves a thundering applause before the umpteen awards that would line up for his team in the near future.

To his credit, Mokashi weaves some top-class pathos for you. The concluding frame of the film stays with you - the protagonist contemplating a four-anna "Phalke toy" in a tram journey, named so as it "moves" like a Phalke cinema. The scene captures the essence and spirit of commerce that soars high on the wings of innovation.The concluding note summing Phalke's life-work and his timeless aura is poignant in its appeal.

The film handpicks the seemingly cinematic pieces from Phalke's life, elaborately dressed in humour throughout. The struggle on the home front comes out well...More so, the marketing gimmickry that Phalke resorts to entice his shaky viewers keeps one in splits throughout..

The art direction is first-rate. The Mumbai of Phalke's time comes alive on screen...Trams, cinema huts, roads, buildings tell a mute story of their own. How loyal is Nitin Desai to history is left to expert opinion.

Tough as it was to capture the multi-hued strife of Phalke's life, Mokashi resorts to simplistic motifs. In the process, he dilutes some of the story's shine. The attempt to make it hilarious seems desperate at times.

Whores, enunchs and homosexuals chasing a frantic Phalke, animated Parsis and Bohris engaged in invariably cliched rants, Phalke's English escapades, few antics of Phalke's home-grown cast and crew...the resort to slapstick seems a tad overdone.

Also, Mokashi could have easily included a playful refresher on the technicalities of the camera and how Phalke learnt the ropes - the static frame of Phalke perpetually glued to a film reel gets monotonous beyond a point, so does the background score that seeks to epitomize most of Phalke's vocational strides.

Nandu Madhav in the leading role of Phalke is outstanding - his emotive ability condones most of the glitches in the script. The support cast, save for a few plastic performers, is convincing (my favorites are the guys playing Vishwamitra, Phalke's childhood mate Telang and the harmonium player)

This factory is a delight, no doubt. A fitting tribute to a multi-faceted personality - draftsman, lithographer, magician, film maker and above all, a non-confirmist, die-hard enterpreneur..a guy who was mercilessly forgotten with the advent of the sound film and died unsung in 1944.

That Harishchandrachi factory aspired for an Oscar came as no surprise. With all its flaws combined, it's far superior to Slumdog Millionare! If the Oscars have eluded him, Mokashi can turn to another - the great Oscar Wilde and ask himself "Why was I born with such contemporaries?"

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

What a reunion!

The other day, on one of my painfully sustained initiatives, we all met for a grand reunion - on one of the worst beaches of Mumbai's coastline. The sheer joy of sharing few nostalgic moments off the rigours of day-of-day life was simply beyond words. And the filth of the beach could not dampen our spirits that went high in the evening - for other reasons of course!

As I woke up with a heavy head the next morning, the remnants of the night before danced before my eyes.

Few of us had gone overboard - mixing drinks and what not! Thanks to my regular pranayams, the toxins could not trouble me. I also had a fair idea of what traspired but chose to submit that I went blank. Here, the fun began. I simply could not keep pace with the numerous versions of the same story titled "what happened last night?" Unfortunately, the quality of fabrication was poor.

And while the mischief mongers aborted memories of the ghastly night, the others chose to keep mum. It was fun nevertheless.Perhaps the price one pays for staging a reunion.

As with all my other groups, this one is quite disparate. We come from diverse backgrounds and grapple with different circumstances. That we are still in touch is partly effort and partly the intrinsic human will to bond, deep within each one of us and one that only grows with time.

The effort is largely mine, for whatever the world calls trivial and inconsequential attracts me no end. Else, I had no reason to shun some pending work aside and spend the night with guys with a known craving for mindless pranks - more the result of a dull, sedentary working life than anything else. If they can't understand, I certainly can.

Monday, February 08, 2010

The Brave, New World of Piyush Mishra

The autocratic Hindi film industry, run by a chosen few, hates when loners, maverick at that, try to make statements. In a close-knit fraternity that swears by pampered legacy, proven formulas, muddled notions and big bucks, there's little room for non-confirmist views and waves!

No wonder, celebrities love idiots..the more idiots to idolize them, the more their vote banks and bank balance.

But some individuals care a damn.They dare to be different...and pay the price. If they survive the wrath of the lords and make their mark, it's poetic justice. Piyush Mishra is undoubtedly a sterling example. That he is actually a poet makes the justice even more poetic.

In the little celluloid space that's been alloted to him, he has done what others would not achieve in a life time (and yet win life time achievement awards by default-led design)

An NSD alumini, Mishra has subtly tailored his theatre sensibilites to the demands of the silver screen. While Maqbool and Gulaal are his career highlights, he has shown us he's capable of much more.

Gulaal was godsent for his versatality as a singer-composer-actor. Gulaal's songs form its soul. While the Rekha Bharadwaaj - Mishra duo create magic with the catchy, tongue-in-cheek "Raanaji Mhaare", there could not have been a better tribute to the great Saahir than Mishra's home-bred version of "Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaye to kya hai".

Saahir's duniya was not a mere anguish of a stereotype celluloid lover. It was a bold condemnation of the hypocrisy that runs the world. Perplexed by the sheer force of Saahir's dejection, the world was quick to label it as "defeatist poetry".

But Mishra takes Saahir's verse to another level...he skteches the dilapidated structure, laments the ruins but goes beyond to call for salvage.

Palchin mein baate chali jaati hai hai
Palchin mein raate chali jaati hai hai

Reh jaata hai jo savera woh dhoonde
Jalte makaan mein basera woh dhoonde

Jaisi bachi hai waisi ki waisi bachaa lo yeh duniya...
Apna samajh ke apno ke jaisi uthaa lo yeh duniya...


No suicidal withdrawal, no sentimental worship..just a matter-of-fact appeal to take charge! With residual force!

The awesome lyrics should fetch him all the awards under the sun. What he has bagged so far is a Stardust Award - not considered a mainstream recognition. Yet, Stardust has done yeomen service by acknowledging the genius of Mishra.

Watching Mishra accepting the trophy was in itself a delight of cinematic proportions. Before the gathering of a largely superficial crowd, pompous celebrities and mindless anchors, Mishra rendered few lines of his "Duniya" with such devil-may-care zeal, like a true solitary reaper!

In recent times, lyricists and screen play writers have taken the lead in furthering the cause of meaningful cinema ...Swanand kirkire, Prasoon Joshi, Guru Thakur have all been superlative but Mishra is simply in his own league...

Fearless poet, soulful singer and above all, a great actor!

I am waiting for the day he makes his own films. Such abundance of talent is tailor-made for film direction.

May his tribe grow! Hopefully few well meaning producers would be willing to provide a green house.

PS: Mishraji, you should blog and tweet for the sake of your fans. Yes, you have arrived, but you need to reach out...for the larger cause, and to as many as possible.

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