Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema In General

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Pans & Tilts…Bollywood blues, Shootout At Lokhandwala, Ek Chalis Ki Last Local, Hum Dono...

Bachchan in "Eklavya"
Sometimes I feel Bollywood is so intimately linked with some stars that their performance or luck or ill luck has a strong bearing on a film’s box-office bonanza. I personally believe Amitabh Bachchan is being flogged so hard that he has begun to appear jaded and uninspiring. Take, for instance, Bachchan’s “Eklavya – The Royal Guard” (Directed by Vidhu Vinod Chopra) or “Nishabd” (by Ram Gopal Varma). Both flopped miserably, and an important reason for this was Bachchan, who looked utterly tired, even bored. I cannot understand why he should let himself into a situation where he has to do two or three shifts a day. Must he do this at his age, risking whatever little reputation he still enjoys?

This year has been overall bad for Bollywood with Nikhil Advani’s “Salaam-e-Ishq”, Suneel Darshan’s “Shakalaka Boom Boom”, Milan Luthria’s “Hattrick” and “Vikram Bhatt’s “Red” and “Life Mein Kabhi Kabhi” all adding liberally to the bloodbath.

I saw several other movies this year. Reema Kagti’s “Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd”, Madhur Bhandarkar’s “Traffic Signal” and Sagar Ballary’s “Bheja Fry” had weak scripts and performances, and were eminently forgettable.

The only Bollywood film I liked without serious reservations was Anurag Kashyap’s “Black Friday”, a hard hitting docu-drama that looks at the 1993 Mumbai blasts in an unflinching, uncompromising manner. With an excellent star cast led by Kay Kay Menon, “Black Friday” is a work to be cherished. I wish Bollywood would make a serious attempt at producing films like this.

I also liked Rahul Dholakia’s “Parzania”. Mainly for its brilliant acting cast led by Naseeruddin Shah and Sarika. She is absolutely marvellous, and one hopes to see more of her in the coming years.

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Apoorva Lakhia’s “Shootout at Lokhandwala” takes us in about 125 minutes into the ruthless world of two gangsters, Maya and Dilip. Based on a real incident in the early 1990s, the movie zeroes in on a six-hour shootout in the Mumbai suburb, where five ‘goondas’ – who lived a life of kidnapping and extortion – pay the ultimate price. Emerging victorious out of this is police officer A.A. Khan, who helped Lakhia re-enact the scene. Lakhia has an impressive CV. He studied cinema at New York, worked as an assistant to no less a person than Woody Allen, and part produced a Wall Street Journal television series on India, titled “Emerging Powers”. Lakhia also assisted Ang Lee helm “Addicted to Love” and “Ice Storm”. But does anybody remember Lakhia’s “Ek Ajnabee” and “Mumbai Se Aaya Mera Dost”? I am afraid not many do, and let us hope that his latest “Shootout at…” turns out to be more attractive to audiences.

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Sanjay Khanduri’s debut film “Ek Chalis Ki Last Local” is a dark thriller that tells us how a call centre executive with a measly Rs 70 on him fails to catch the last local train home. When he does get on to the next morning’s first local, he is richer by Rs 25 million. Khanduri follows the man between the two trains, a mere 150 minutes. Waiting to get a glimpse of this run with Neha Dhupia and Abhay Deol.

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Dev Anand’s 1961 tearjerker, “Hum Dono” is now in colour, the second after “Mughal-e-Azam”. Some movies are best seen in black and white, some could gain in colour. I was not very sure about “Mughal-e-Azam”, but let us see how “Hum Dono”, a classic story of a mistaken identity, reflects in its new avatar.

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Tailpiece: I fail to understand how actors of Amitabh Bachchan’s stature and Aamir Khan’s calibre can pass themselves off as farmers and buy land, probably at throwaway prices. Now having done that, they would be perhaps charged, but never punished. In India celebrities walk away with even murder, unlike in the West, where Naomi Campbell did community service (including cleaning toilets) for throwing a telephone instrument (or was it something else?) at her maid and Paris Hilton served a 23-day jail sentence for driving with a suspended licence.

(Webposted June 6 2007)