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Subhash K Jha’s Lockdown Blueschasers Continued

Subhash K Jha’s Lockdown Blueschasers Continued
Written by Subhash K . Jha

Fashion(2008):  The sum-total of Bhandarkar’s vision  is far greater than  the captivating 

components that characterize his  protagonist’s journey to  painful self realization.

If we go  right down  to  the  basic issue  of morality in Bhandarkar’s cinema  then all his protagonists  reach a  stage in their  life when they  cannot look  themselves straight in  the eye.

 That  moment of  ‘wreckon-in’ in Fashion is steeped in a windswept dereliction that reflects itself effortless  in Priyanka Chopra’s  face.

Yup, this is  her moment of glorious reckoning . It’s her character Meghna’s journey  from the  innocent  aridity of Chandigarh to the  fruitful corruption of Mumbai’s modeling world  that  defines the resplendent  rhythms  of Bhandarkar’s cinema.

  This remarkably resonant film  is arguably Bhandarkar’s most accomplished  work to date, though Page 3 comes close in terms of  etching out even  the smallest of characters with a deft sensitivity that connects them to  a world far beyond the one   his camera captures on screen.

Mahesh   Limaye’s cinematography  is  a little predictable in its bustle-and-bristle images.  Couldn’t  the visuals have avoided  the  ‘clutter’ clichés  on urbal lifestyles?  Fortunately  the  storytelling  is anything but  predictable.

Screenwriting has always been  the greatest strength   of Bhandarkar’s cinema.  Fashion  is   exceptionally skilled  in  its writing. The  screenplay(Bhandarkar, Anuradha Tiwari and  Ajay Monga) conveys  a lived-in ‘overheard-at-a-party’ kind of  conversational  tone  where  every  sentence seems  the opposite of bombastic.

Rhetorics and  high-drama  are exchanged for fearless  transparency  in  the characterizations and   conversations, so that what we  eventually look at  is  not a tantalizing dekko  at  the beau monde  but a breathtaking map of  a   heartbroken  humanity  who  occupy the upper crust of  the  urban social order  and eventually  have to    slow  down on  their  fast tracks to wonder, ‘Is this really worth it?”

By the the time ramp queen Meghna  Mathur  reaches  this self-searching  stage  , Fashion becomes  not a macro-cosmic view  of  the  ramp  walk ,  talk  and shock,  but a story of two women , one who  already ‘has-been’  there(Kangana Ranaut) and the other who just about saves  herself  from  catastrophe  in  the nick of time.

Indeed  the sequences between  Priyanka  and Kangana are  the goosebumpy highlights  of  this  bumpy beguiling  journey  into heartbreak and desolation. In a sequence such as the pre-interval one where  the ousted  ramp queen Kangana confronts and warns  the new ramp rani Priyanka  in  a restaurant loo ,  or later after they bond(oh so beautifully that you  feel  a lingering lump in your throat) when Kangana  urges  her new soul-mate to grab a second chance,  the  screen splits wide open to reveal the  dark  fissures  that  are hidden just beneath the  seamless splendour   of  the  glamour industry.

Whether it’s sexual  or emotional ,  Bhandarkar has  never flinched from  telling  it like it is.  Fashion shocks  us with its  brutal  forthrightness  on matters  of  the heart and  pants.

Samir Soni  performs   a very  complex tight-rope as  a  closet-gay designer who balances a  lover with  his  mother’s demand  for a  wife  with a  marriage   of convenience with  a stunning model friend played Mugdha Godse.

Mugdha  is  the  female  discovery   of  the  year. With a  figure that could launch   thousands of  cola  sips   and   face that registers a spectrum  of emotions  she   gives a compelling consistently  to her goodhearted  model’s character .She  neatly   offsets and balances Kangana familiar-yet-compelling traumatic act, done here at a gut-wrenching decibel.

What Kangana  does in Fashion, no  other  actress can do.  But there’re no surprises in  her  performance.She has done it. We’ve seen it before.

Priyanka  catches you completely unaware. Her transformation from the khati-peeti girl from  Chandigarh to  the  super-ambitious super-model who dumps boyfriend and conscience to  pursue her dreams, is  achieved with a  gentle subtlety and  bridled  passion . This is  Priyanka’s coming-of-age  film. She  looks like a zillion bucks. And acts like a woman who  connects with the darkest most desperate human emotions  without wallowing in them.

Every  character  is written to  accentuate the specific actor’s  grace in  the  given space. Even by the overall high-octane  caliber  of  performances Kitu Gidwani and Ashwin Mushran  stand  out.  Harsh Chaya’s  ‘gay lisp’(?) was  the  only annoying appendage in the otherwise-immaculate casting .

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Also,   the ramp walks could have been done with slightly  more  élan and subtlety. Yeah we see  the best models strutting and pouting as  the  flashes go berserk.

But what else?

Eventually the   evocative screenplay decides to give its fallen heroine a second chance. But  that seems like more like cinematic liberty than  an effort  to  define  the  straight-from-the-hip quality that we  encounter  in  most of  the journey  from dimmed lights to damned souls…Madhur Bhandarkar  takes us  through  a labyrinth  of   emotions, some devastating  in their gut-level directness.  But  at the end we  come away  with a  film that  gives us  something to hold  on to permanently  even as  the characters  on  screen lose practically everything worth  holding  on  to.

A truly outstanding film and  one that brightens  your Diwali  in  ways that  don’t  show up  on  the surface.

Dasvidaniya(2008):  Returning to the ambit  of  the  dull workingclass protagonist  that  he  almost patented  in Bheja Fry  Vinay Pathak  delivers yet another bravura performance as a  man who learns  to  live only when he learns he  has to die.

The premise done to death(pun intended) in films  as disparate  as Akira Kurosawa’s Ikuru and Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s  Anand, gets its power and glory from the  simple  yet never simplistic  narrative  that grows  on  you…piece  by piece….just as the lessons of life creep up belatedly on our hero Amar Kaul.

 With every  dying day  he lives  a little more of that life he  leaves behind .  Though  the film’s leisurely pace  doesn’t quite   capture the urgency  of  the moment,  Dusvidaniya scores  high point for its sincerity of performance reflected  in  every performance. The narrative   has been patterned prettily  as a pastiche  of  ten    episodes each  dealing with  a facet  of  Amar Kaul’s life that  he would  like  to  retrieve from the archives of  angst and claim as his own before he’s gone.

The pace  often drops to a willowy  whisper. The tone gets  predominantly stifled. The  narration  is constantly  hushed, never rushed even as  the  shuffling, procrastinating  hero speeds  through things in his  pending  file  that he needs done before he’s through with  life.

  The beauty and harmony  of  life’s  essential core  is obtained  in  passages  of  relaxed  rumination and  casual conversations that show  us where we often go wrong in our  daily dealings. This is done without wagging  a dispproving finger at the audience.

 Vinay Pathak  gets  the  sur of  the  tragic hero’s comic  escapades  just right. He’s partly  Charlie  Chaplin, and partly Robert Benigni. But finally this is an actor who does his  own thing. Make no mistake about  that.

Helping him  in  his endeavour are  like-minded friends  like Rajit Kapur, Neha Dhupia,  Ranvir Shorey,  Sarita Joshi and  Gaurav Gera all pitching in with  transparently- sincere  performances.

 There is not  one faked  moment in Dasvidaniya. You may feel   portions of  the film(like the Kailesh Kher number Mumma)  are  manipulative  in  their  intentions.  But   that’s life. You  win some. You lose most of  it.Kudos  to Pathak for making another winner  out of another  incorrigible loser’s story.

Rab Ne Bana De Jodi(2008):  Tender as  that drewdrop that perches on  the window- sill after a  monsoon shower,  and yet as  strongly  assertive  as that  bindi  that  a woman puts on her forehead  to  declare her marital status  Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi  is a curious  and compelling mix of   fragile and  powerful  emotions  meshed together  with a skill and subtlety that suggests  the maturation   of both  the director Aditya Chopra and  his  leading man   and  Shah Rukh Khan.

 Indeed, if  Dilwale  Dulhaniya Le Jayenge  was  the consummate   boy-meets-girl ‘chic’ flick, Rab… is  a  comprehensive and evocative  homage to the  dreams aspirations  loves lies and  heartbreaks of  the average middleclass couple.

 Deftly edited(by Ritesh Soni)  to  imply  a deep and indelible link between feelings and time passages, Rab Ne..  exudes an exceptional  vigour  in portraying  two lives that  could do with some of  that  quality.

Vigour  is  vigorously  absent   in our  working-class hero Surinder Sahni’s life.

We enter his bleak existence    as he brings home a bride   into  his  Amritsar   neighbourhood filled with  gawking  mohallah -wallahs , all curious to know why Suri went to attend a  marriage and came  back with  the bride.

Also Read:  Reviewing The Two Baahubali Films

 It’s  a long story. Aditya Chopra , in no hurry to  make his point, captures the  coming gether   of two very incompatible  people(couldn’t  get any more incompatible  than  SRK and the confident debutante, could it?) with  an elegance charm wit and warmth  which  one would  expect to have gone with the  wimp….and  I do  mean  the wimp.

Wonderfully wimpy  in  his   demeanour,  Shah Rukh  invents  two different  body languages  the slouch  and the  swagger , to bring out the yin and yang aspects of the Great Indian  Middleclass Dream.

One of  the  questions that   bothers  the wimpy Amol Palekar-meets-Vinay Pathak hero is, what does  an Indian  girl want? Diamonds,  a  Swiss account,  a Japanese honeymoon?

“Just a  man who loves her to death,” sighs Suri’s new bride. But she also adds, she has none  to  give.

And you wonder, are  working-class dreams  really that  simple?

Aditya Chopra keeps them uncluttered  and  largely  cleaned-out of unnecessary complications. In a playing-time  of  1 hour and  40 minutes, there are just two  main characters, a  muted uncomplaining  repressed besotted  working-class  husband and his  distressed but dignified  wife, occupying a  house in Amritsar   that’s perfectly lit up. And by perfection we don’t mean  the perfection of cinema.

The kitchen, the two bedrooms upstairs and downstairs(the couple  stays separately  under the same  roof until  their hearts  collide on the dancefloor)  the portico and the  acres surrounding  the  protagonists  convey a  feeling of  lives that have been  around long before  Ravi K Chandra’s  supple camera  was set up.

Yes, you  connect instantaneously and  permanently with this  warmly-written saga  of  a couple  that discovers  love in the strangest  of places… the dance floor, for example, where  Suri invents a remarkably hip-and-swaggering  duplicate Raj , a  doppelganger that’s   the opposite  of  Suri himself , and sweeps his own  wife  off her feet.

 The  comic  drama that ensues is both  engaging and  heartbreaking.  In portraying  the  working-class  underdog and  his larger-than-life double Shah Rukh Khan faces the  greatest challenge of his career.

 How  to  keep the  two characters apart without  making them appear black and white?  The  imaginary   guy  on  the  dancefloor  Raj, a sleazeball with two left feet, transforms  gradually into an emotional  humanbeing as  lonely  as our  poor Surinder  . They  both want  to be  loved. Awwww!

Shah Rukh plays his  poignant working-class  protagonist  without making him look pitiable.  The  invented character Raj(a spoofy but not synthetic   version of  the flamboyant  Raj from Dilwale  Dulhaniya….) is even tougher to  play.

You can’t do  underdog and super-hero  without  making both appear  caricatural . Shah  Rukh manages to keep his feet in two boats without rocking  either. And yet rocking all the way.

Often he  just lets his screen-wife,  the super-confident down-to-earth debutante Anushka Sharma take over  the screen. This  time  Shah  Rukh is an attentive listener. He listens to  the  call of  the heart and transmits the pain  of  love  to  the audience with  a serious  scarcity  of  the strenuous.

The third  skilled performance comes from Vinay Pathak as   Shah Rukh’s  emotionally unabashed  best  friend who  conveniently, is a beautician(blissfully not  gay) who  helps Suri transform into Raj at the flick of  switch.

     There’s  no  denying the fact that the  director has  chosen well. And we  don’t mean just the  actors.

A large  portion  of the narrative leaves the couple in the sprawling Amritsar  home to find their bearing a , and one another.  It’s  these scenes that show the director’s subtle skill at  portraying lives that long for love and companionship  but  don’t  know  how to get there.

There are vignettes from a  middleclass marriage  like  the  sequence where the  wife eager  to  fulfill her kitchen duties,  serves  Suri  biryani.

 But Suri, masquerading as Raj,  has  devoured earlier during the  evening  on paani-puris with his wife. She can  be honest about  her full appetite. He can’t.

 The dishonesty that colours and prejudices  any intimate   relationship  is  dealt with  such sincerity and  honesty   you wonder  if the  institution  of  marriage was invented as a pretext for cinema  such as  this. 

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