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When ‘Foolproof ‘ Epics Go Horribly Wrong

When watched  the hideously-botched  epic Submergence last week I  very strangely remembered Mehbooba, the 1976 classic-gone-wrong which  had everything going for it. A  dream  team of filmmaker Shakti Samanta and lead pair Rajesh Khanna-HemaMalini and a  reincarnation plot based on a novel by  pulp fictioneeer Gulshan Nanda. Above all the  divine melodies of  R  D Burmanincluding the immortal Mere  nain  sawan bhadow.

The  film came, it bombed.The disaster shook the film .

7 years  later Jeetendra  went bankrupt when he  poured whole and  soul  into another  period drama Deedar-e-Yaar.Another seemingly  foolproof  epic  gone bust.

Why do lavishly  mounted impeccably  packaged films  sometime go wildly out of control? Kamal Amrohi  thought his Razia  Sultan  would be another  Pakeezah.

The  boxoffice had other plans.

After Sholay ramesh Sippy thought Shaan would tear the  boxoffice apart. Instead  it proved  a  big embarassment  to all involved inspite of  a dream starcast and  R D Burman’s songs that are  played to this day.

A  very handsome production traversing  many continents directed  by Australia’s finest  filmmaker, and a charismatic  lead pair, couldn’t  prevent  Submergence , a purported  love epic from sliding into a crashing   bore.Submergence  is one of those well-aimed misfires that  Hollywood serves  up once in a bluemoon. In the narrative of  catastrophic  epics it ranks right up there  with  Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far, Michael Cimono’s Heaven’s Gate and Guy Ritchie’s  King Arthur Legend  Of The Sword.

Catastrophe  strikes the  film’s  charming couple long  before the man  is kidnapped by Islamic Fundamentalists in rural Africa and locked into what looks like  a fairly habitable room for a low-income Mumbaikar. So okay the hideout  doesn’t have a  window. But we’ve been in far more suffocating places than McAvoy.This  film, for example.

Long  before James MacAvoy, making a big and song dance of his broken body and  tattered  soul, is held captive , the  director WimWender’s vision is  imprisoned by the  couple’s inability to generate mutual passion. Indeed  Vikander and McAvoy look more like two people trying to be politely receptive to one another’s eccentricities  than the desperate  lovers that the script so desperately wants them  to be , while we so  desperately seek an escape from the claustrophobic conflicts  of  two hearts that belong not just to two separate  planets but also deserve  to be placed in two different  films.

Perhaps the very talented lead pair found itself  together in the wrong  film. If David Lean were alive he may have created anotherRyan’s Daughter for Vikander and McAvoy.Wim Winders seems  bored with the idea of letting the  lovers find their mutual passion. Their love making is executed with  as much passionate  exuberance as  molar surgery.

The camera , forever peering into cavities that generate no brio,pries  into the pair’ facial profile  with the  reverent  aloofness  of  a priest tiptoeing through a temple . There is just no mutual attraction between  Vikander and McAvoy.Their separation moves us in no special away. By the  time the question of whether they will finally be united pops it head , we are way beyond caring.

The  bizarre ending suggesting a profound connection between the heroine’s oceanic  explorations  and  the hero’s doomed destiny,only adds  to the tiresome affectations  of a film that forfeits real emotions  for  a pantomime of passion.
Not  that the narrative, so  in awe of its exotic locations and esoteric  camera  movements , ever  allows us to get anywhere near  the central romance. How can we care for the  lovers when they  don’t seem to care  for one another in any real  sense?

Unless  you like films where the locations are  used as characters  to heighten the distance between the audience and the plot, Submergence is best left buried  deep under the  ocean where the heroine is seen to explore constantly. I hope she finds the script some day  . Because Wim Wenders who  once gave us  a rousing  interpretation of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s  literary classic The Scarlett Letter, here makes a  complete hash  of J M Ledgard’s  novel.

Making a hash of literature  is not new  to cinema. We all know what  happened to Ruskin  Bond when he  came  to Bollywood  with 7 Khoon Maaf. An eighth murder was  involved.

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