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.