Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004



Cinema In General


Pans & Tilts…Kay Kay Menon, Sarika, Adoor’s bonus, B as Lear…

Two actors have emerged this year out of, it seems, thin air. Kay Kay Menon is one. Even six months ago, not many had heard of him. But today, after “Black Friday” and “Honeymoon Travels Pvt. Ltd, people are sitting up to take a good look at him. He plays very different roles in both these films. In “Black Friday”, he is a police officer investigating the 1993 Mumbai blasts. Grim and reflective, he pans through the entire movie as an epitome of seriousness, as one who is not only responsible for shedding light on the bloody massacre, but also as someone pushed into a heart-wrenching tragedy. Kay Kay does a somewhat lighter part in “Honeymoon…” where as the Bengali husband of Raima Sen, he portrays the typical inhibitions of a young, newly married guy, zealously guarding his pretty wife, who shocks him at the slightest of chances she gets. I still remember the look on his face, when Raima para-glides in a Goa beach only to lose her sari in midair.

Kay Kay grew up in Pune, often referred to as the intellectual heart of Maharashtra. After graduating as an MBA from a prestigious institution in the city, he began his acting career in theatre before moving on to television. He movie debuted in “Naseem” (1995). But it was in Sudhir Mishra’s “Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi” where he was first noticed. But as Amitabh Bachchan’s hot-headed son in “Sarkar” (2005), he impressed critics and others. However, it was “Black Friday” that has truly catapulted him into limelight.

Married to television actress Nivedita Bhattacharya, whom he met during his stage days, Kay Kay will, I am sure, continue to give us many, many more memorable performances. And, I am tempted to compare him with early Naseeruddin Shah.


Another actor who has literally bowled me over is Sarika. After an abusive childhood -- when her mother exploited her and did not even let her go to school – she graduated from a child artist to an adult star. An excellent actress, Sarika married Kamal Hassan and gave up acting when she was at her peak. Two daughters and a divorce later, she now seems determined to make a mark in cinema. She could not have made a better choice than picking “Parzania”, where as the young mother of a lost son, she is extraordinary.

We all take it for granted that Naseeruddin Shah (as her husband in “Parzania”) would always give us an award-clinching performance. But Sarika has surprised many of us: none thought that she would be outstanding after such a long hiatus, when all she did was to play second fiddle to her husband, helping him with costumes for which she was not even acknowledged. Natural to the core, Sarika is good throughout “Parzania”, though the scene in the courtroom when she breaks down is nearly brilliant. And, I hope that we would get to see more of this wonderful actress.


Kerala’s Adoor Gopalakrishnan is the only living auteur-director in India. In a career spanning over three decades, the master has made just nine films, and the gap between two movies has been one of the eternal mysteries. But Adoor has been seldom ruffled by this: It takes a long time for an idea to germinate in my head, and I am not inclined to force the pace, he told me once. But now, he is all set to give us not just the tenth film, but an eleventh as well. He has begun shooting two, one after the other, in and around Kerala’s Allepey district. Nandita Das will act in one of the movies. Based on the short stories written by Jnanpith award-winning Thakazhi Sivasankara Pillai, Adoor’s two films -- `Moonnu Pennungal' (Three Women) and `Kallante Makan' (Thief's Son) – have been scripted from six. Each movie will be based on three stories, with a common thread running along them. The first deals with different shades of women, and the second with how society dispenses justice to the common man. A Dadasaheb Phalke award winner, Adoor’s last work, “Nizhalkkuthu” (Shadow Kill), was a powerful study of capital punishment, where the helmer traces the pain and guilt of a hangman in the erstwhile princely State of Travancore to point out the futility of such retribution.


As one fairytale wedding ends and another is all set to begin, we hear of one romance going sour. British beauty Elizabeth Hurley and Indian businessman Arun Nayar are now on their honeymoon after a showbiz marriage in Jodhpur. Aishwarya Rai and Abhishek Bachchan are trying to get over their singlehood, and are presumably looking forward to the seven circles round the fire. Some say that this ceremony will be as important to Indians as the Charles-Diana marriage was to Britons. But, in the meantime, another hot affair, that of Saif Ali Khan and his Italian lover, Rosa, is now cold. Rosa is supposed to have told her friends that she could no longer cope with Saif’s mood swings. Also, his growing relationship with his former wife, Amrita, has been perturbing Rosa. But Rosa, who is now in Geneva recovering from the break, plans to return to India to pursue her unfinished work. The million-dollar question now is, will Rosa and Saif get back together. Lovers, as someone said, have strange ways of kissing and making up.


Tailpiece: Amitabh Bachchan is unstoppable. Truly the Big B that he is at 64, I find that his roles are getting extremely varied: from a royal guard in “Eklavya” to a paedophile in “Nishabd” to King Lear now. In his latest avatar as the Shakespeare hero that he will portray in Rituparno Ghosh’s Bollywood film, “The Last Lear”, Bachchan is a stage actor who in his twilight years finds an irresistible movie offer coming his way. The film examines the artistic rivalry between stage and cinema. But the moot point is, much of Indian cinema is stagy. Where then is the conflict?

(Webposted March 14 2007)