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?"