Shaandaar Movie Review: Shahid and Alia Shine, the Film Doesn’t

Shaandaar-2015-SoundCoverShaandaar has many things going right for it. Right from the word go. It is touted to be India’s first destination wedding film, the sets and the canvas look splendid, the songs are quirky and peppy, and most importantly, the film has a refreshing pairing of Shahid Kapoor and Alia Bhatt.Continue reading “Shaandaar Movie Review: Shahid and Alia Shine, the Film Doesn’t”

Breaking Bard: Vishal Bhardwaj’s Shakespearean Trilogy

In early 2000s, when a music director, known mostly for his work in niche Hindi films, began travelling to festivals for his exposure to international cinema, he chanced upon his nephew reading a “children’s version” of Shakespeare’s works. Little did he know that what began as a leisurely reading exercise, would, almost a decade and a half later, culminate into one of the most accomplished trilogies on Shakespearean literature ever.

What is interesting to note here is that what the world saw as a master stroke, with the Kingdom of Scotland being replaced by Mumbai’s underworld and the witches by corrupt policemen, to contemporarize Macbeth, was born largely out of ignorance. Had the creator felt intimidated by Shakespeare’s standing in world literature then perhaps we wouldn’t have witnessed this ‘chutzpah’ in his adaptations.

Today when we see Vishal Bhardwaj’s Maqbool, Omkara & Haider, unless told otherwise, we might not even think of them as adaptations of Macbeth, Othelo and Hamlet respectively. As his frequent collaborator, Gulzaar, points out “Vishal simply uses the name of Shakespeare for marketing gimmick. They are all but original works” This remark garbed with sarcasm is perhaps the best compliment one can give to his trilogy. 

(SPOILERS AHEAD)

 

“Shakti ka santulan”

Like most trilogies, it is very easy to notice a similarity in the screen-writing pattern in all the 3 movies. We are already familiar with the names of his characters sounding similar to the ones in the play (Gertrude becomes Ghazala, Iago becomes Ishwar ‘Langda’ Tyagi). The supernatural elements get conveniently replaced with their contemporary avatars (King Hamlet’s “ghost”  becomes a man carrying Ghost IDs – aptly named Roohdaar). The major plot points in the play always make way into the final adaptation (Desdemona’s handkerchief makes way for Dolly Mishra’s Kamarbandh but nevertheless remains pivotal to the final doom)

The "grave-digger" scene from the play & the film
The “grave-digger” scene from the play & the film

However, the similarity does extend to minor character peculiarities as well. The central character always gets a closely cropped haircut (while Irrfan & Saif got a Caesar cut, we saw Shahid’s head getting a complete shave-off). There is slight touch of an english song or a phrase to add the quirk to a narrative rolling out mostly in local dialect (much before the wordplay between Chutzpah & AFSPA we saw Kareena’s hindi medium educated Dolly learning to sing ‘I just called to say’ for Omkara always addressed as ‘My dear O’ in her love-letters).

And if you thought we had exhausted all the points, take note of how every romantic ballad, between the lead pair, paves way for the first in the series of events that would finally culminate into the tragic climax. (Nimmi lays the germ of killing Abbaji in Maqbool’s mind after ‘Rone Do’ | Indu steals the cummerbund towards the end of ‘O Saathi Re’ | Haider discloses his plan of avenging his father’s death to Arshia after ‘Khul Kabhi To’)

There might be many more similarities. We just need to keep looking!

 

“Ya to tu bahut badi lool hai. Ya bahut badi chudail.”

The two-faced Shakespearean lady
The two-faced Shakespearean lady

When Haider looks at his mother’s reflection on a broken mirror, split into two, he rightly points out her two-faced nature. The classic Shakespearean lady, whose desires and ambitions always leads to the crime. And it is her guilt of the same that consumes everyone at the end.

Does she really love her husband’s godson or is she simply looking for a means of escape from her sexless and hapless life? Why does she steal the cummerbund at the slightest prodding of her husband, without questioning him about it?  How can she, still a half-widow, sit and smile beside her new lover, basking in the glory of his electoral win; or are those dark glasses concealing her guilt-ridden eyes?

She is also the innocent victim, torn between her loved ones. She might scream out to push away her enemy. But mostly she weeps and surrenders – taking away her own life or letting her loved one take it away from her.

 

“Bewakoof aur ch***ye mein dhaage bhar ka fark hota hai”

Vishal really indulges himself in fleshing out the minor characters in Shakespeare’s play. The witches, the spies, the courtiers are not just mere sidekicks in larger scheme of things. They are instrumental in influencing the protagonists, taking the story forward and also providing the much needed comic relief in what everyone knows is going to end up in a tragedy.

Naseer & Om’s Pandit & Purohit in Maqbool, Deepak Dobriyal’s Rajju in Omkara and, the latest addition, Salman & Salman, played by Sumit Kaul & Rajat Bhagat, in Haider have some of the best written scenes in the film for them.

If it has been a while since you watched Omkara, we can recap one such scene for you.

And to all those raving on the performance of the two Salmans in Haider here is a small scene from the film for you.

 

“Hummara ishq to paak tha naa miyaan”

What is it in the forbidden love, that attracts us so strongly towards it? The very boundaries of relationship that one is expected to safeguard, end up getting violated first. It inebriates us with such a toxic strength that the lines of right and wrong get blurred.

The different shades of forbidden love
The different shades of forbidden love

Why else would Maqbool end up putting bullets into his Godfather when he has risked his entire life saving him from those very bullets? What came over Dolly to defy her father and elope from her own marriage for a hard-core criminal, lower to her in both caste and status? Was Ghazala actually in love with her brother-in-law or was just running away from her son lest she starts reciprocating his Oedipus complex?

The forbidden love doesn’t expect the world to understand it. It is continuously judged and condemned, but it continues to be giving till its last breath. Sometimes it is in form of a last peck to her son to salvage his years of desire before blowing oneself up to quench his thirst for vengeance. Other times it is just abject surrender to one’s beloved only to be smothered by him on your wedding night. As mentioned, it continues to be giving till its last breath.

 

“Hum hain ki hum nahin”

Last, but not the least, Vishal’s films are also about existential crisis. A half-brahmin continuously jostles with those who have been ridiculing his caste to gain power over them. His second-in-command forgets years of friendship when what rightfully belongs to him is usurped away by a greenhorn only because of differences in their social standing. His insecurities are not very different from a Mumbai gangster who continuously feels threatened by a lad much younger to him simply because he is soon going to qualify as his Godfather’s son-in-law. And in a world much more complex than theirs, millions of Kashmiris take sides in a war for reasons that are anything but ideological. Some are avenging the death of their closed ones. Others are following their lines of duty. Most of them are confused and are willing to sideline with anyone who can promise them safety and purpose in lives.

While love, greed, lust and redemption remain integral to the plot, it is the continuous struggle towards protecting one’s own existence that forms the core of all of Vishal’s stories. It propels them to do the unthinkable only to realize the truth when it’s too late. The truth that recurs in all the 3 movies. Whether it is by showing Maqbool giving up arms at the sight of his son being adopted by his enemy or by having Haider forgive his uncle to honor his mother’s last wishes. The truth- that has been articulated with great simplicity in Haider “Jab tak hum Inteqam se aazaad nahi ho jaate… koi Aazaadi humein aazaad nahi kar sakti”.

Here is leaving you all with the Faiz Ahmed Faiz song that is played through the movie. Set to music by Mehdi Hasan, it is the first instance of Vishal using someone else’s composition for his films. “Chale bhi aao ki gulshan ka karobaar chale……”

Finding Fanny Movie Review: Finding Fantasy

Finding Fanny is an English language film, and I am always suspicious and wary of such endeavors where characters speak ‘well-written’ English dialogue. The dialogues always try to be natural, but unless actors are adept enough, the movie becomes a tedious watch. I am sure more than half the scripts of Bollywood are written originally in English, and then translated to Hindi. Few of them like Delhi Belly and now Finding Fanny manage to come out in their original intended form, but still I always prefer the Hindi.Continue reading “Finding Fanny Movie Review: Finding Fantasy”

Finding Fanny (2014) Movie Review: Finding Love, Bollywood Style

Language : English | Running Time : 93 Minutes | Director : Homi Adajania

In the middle of a Goan village that you can’t find on a map, we have mavericks living life like in a R.K. Narayan story but with an oddball twist to it. Homi Adajania, whose first film “Being Cyrus” shouted “Look, I am different” returns after the more typical Bollywood box office venture “Cocktail” and “Finding Fanny” is as unconventional as his debut feature was.

Finding Fanny breathes with eccentricity. This time Adajania creates a typical Bollywood comedy and sets it in English and that too in a remote Goan village. These are enough to set apart his film from the rest and he rides the coattails of language, the R.K Narayan environment of his characters and village to give Finding Fanny its “I am different” call.Continue reading “Finding Fanny (2014) Movie Review: Finding Love, Bollywood Style”

Nominations For the Best of Bollywood 2013!

Like most other years, 2013 too has been an eventful year for the Hindi film industry. And unlike other years, 2013 was also the 100th year for the Hindi film industry. However, the centenary wasn’t really a landmark in terms of quality; we didn’t have a watershed of extraordinary films. Yes, we had a few brilliant pieces of cinema but we also had a truckload of terrible movies. What has been most encouraging in this entire melee is the gradual acceptance and support rendered to smaller films. While we had Kiran Rao helping a “Ship of Theseus” to get a release, we had a Karan Johar taking “The Lunchbox” out to the masses. In this post, I enumerate my (completely) personal list of favourite films of 2013 and their different aspects. These are my nominations for the best of Bollywood in the year 2013. While I have considered six nominees for every category (most of which are non-technical), I have added one more as “Almost There”, whom / what I feel is good but not enough to be on the list. Would love to get your vote from the nominees or any additional candidate you feel like.Continue reading “Nominations For the Best of Bollywood 2013!”

Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola: Film Review, "Synecdoche, India"

“Arey morcha kyu nahi karte mere khilaaf, awaaz kyu nahi uthaate”, questions Mandola played exquisitely by Pankaj Kapur, before directing villagers, in a protest against himself, in a village called Mandola, almost ruled by Mandola himself. In 2004, Charlie Kaufman directed a film called “Synecdoche, New York”. In a strange fashion, this Meta Mandola undercurrent reminds me of that film, and propels me to write village Mandola, might be, in a practical universe, synecdoche, India.Continue reading “Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola: Film Review, "Synecdoche, India"”

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola Movie Review: An Issue Based Entertainer

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola stars Imran Khan, Pankaj Kapur, Anushka Sharma and Shabana Azmi. Sounding weirdly preternatural, the unattractive title of this film created apprehensions in everyone’s mind when the movie was announced, whether the makers would have wanted it or not. The first trailer and the following promos reflected a lot of fun on theaters this weekend, despite the limitations of a seemingly non-populist film, set in a village with no mainstream slam-bang histrionics to boast off. Continue reading “Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola Movie Review: An Issue Based Entertainer”

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola-Trailer

Vishal Bhardwaj‘s Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola has been keenly awaited and one of the reasons for the same has been the casting. Ever since the time Imran Khan stepped in as the male lead there has been a lot of talk about how the casting decision would turn out to be. Continue reading “Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola-Trailer”

Stereotyping in Indian Cinema: How long will it continue?

SRK as Shekhar Subramaniam,the stereotypical Tam-Brahm in Bollywood
SRK as Shekhar Subramaniam,the stereotypical Tam-Brahm in Bollywood

Sometime ago we saw RGV and Vivek Oberoi re-uniting for RaktaCharitra, a biopic on Paritala Ravi, the dreaded factionalist leader of A.P who was shot down a few years ago. Though I did have some apprehensions on how RGV would carry off the transition of factional A.P politics and associated violence conveniently into a mainstream Hindi movie in the end it still turned out to be a fair job.Continue reading “Stereotyping in Indian Cinema: How long will it continue?”