14 October, 2008

Two Good Movies, A Twin Casting Coup & the Changing Trends of Bollywood

Often have wondered why, despite having the smarts, the talent in areas of on-screen performers, the script writers, the directors and today even the money & infrastructure ; We are yet compelled to make inane films. Is there a place for a kind of cinema that can be both an entertainment treat as well as having meaningful content, in India ? When would we be able to compare a Hollywood and Bollywood ( Mumbai Film Industry to the purists ) work with absolute equanimity and purpose. Can we make movies like Hollywood, those that are both commercial in format who don’t belittle the grey cells of the ticket purchasing consumer?
Let me tell you my experience this last fortnight. I had the pleasure to take in two movies (One American and One Hindi) and thought here are movies with uncanny parallels..lets detail this a bit further

The Event:
Two movies from different parts of the world release back to back “A Righteous Kill” from Hollywood and “A Wednesday” here in Mumbai, India.
Both movies by themselves are casting coups. Two veteran performers of the same industry, contemporaries who by some quirk of fate, have never performed in a single movie ever or in a very long time, are together in the same project.

Robert De Niro and Al Pacino, Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher between them have won nearly all the acting awards instituted.

The Common Issue:
Both the films ask questions on Law and Order (Police force). These are very basic questions on citizen safety and justice. The means to justice adopted supersedes the defined parameters in the code of law and hence form the base plot and are the main contributors to the drama. In both the movies the question raised is a moral one, Justice delayed is Justice denied. If the mechanism that is created to dispense justice is unable to do so because of sanctions and shackles created by bureaucratic red tape, corruption, lack of political will or general dilly dallying of legal-speak, where does the common man get his due? It is this angst and the drive to right a generic wrong perpetuated by the system that leads the protagonist to take the law into his own hands. The audience finds empathy on both sides because of this peculiar moral dilemma.

The Parallel:
In “A Wednesday” we have a Hindi film which is taut, fast-paced and absolutely without any superfluous clutter which is very unlike the demand of its normal format. Hence we now have two movies that are between 90 to 100 minutes of celluloid time. With the casting connection I had a Hollywood and Bollywood film that could be compared on both format and content. This in my known memory had rarely happened.
Maybe I wouldn’t even have compared these two particular movies had they been spaced out in different parcels of time. But they did release together and I did see similarities below the surface.

The Conclusion
“A Righteous Kill” is a good movie but nevertheless just a casting coup. “A Wednesday” on the other hand connects everyway whether in terms of the superlative performances of the lead pair, the direction from the debutant, Neeraj Pande or the tight script and screenplay. Pacino and De Niro still have the fire in them but at a sublime level they do not connect the way Shah and Kher do, with each other, with the film or the audience and it is here the movie "A Wednesday" scores.

For those who have not seen the two films, do make the time. If only for the pleasure of watching excellent performers share screen space together, the trip shall be worth your money.

Today we do have good film makers venturing into territories uncharted and subjects unexplored. It can be seen in the movies that have ben released in recent times . To name a few :Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na : Superb Treatment, Welcome to Sajjanpur: Vintage Storytelling, A Wednesday , Mumbai Meri Jaan , Aamir : Subjects contemporary, Rock On : An original style of telling a story, Hello ; here the story is from a bestselling novel, a good trend though this output could have been different in the hands of a more competent filmmaker.The Blue umbrella, Khosla Ka Ghosla, Bheja Fry, Johnny Gaddar all ouevres different but great in their own way. The benchmark is rising and love it. The last decade that had this variety was the seventies.

This trend is urban and has not really reached the rest of non-urban India. How else can one explain the tremendous commercial success of "Om Shanti Om" or "Singh is King" ? I wish for a time soon that good cinema propogates into all nooks and corners and gets recognized commercially too.

Else we shall have a film being declared a hit even before its release ala " Karz" of Himesh Reshammiya..and be subject to more heroes like Harman Baweja and Love Story 2050's.. Yikes..This happens only in India !!!


Soul Images said...

Well written! I agree with you about the changing trends in Indian Cinema. It is heartening that at least some flks making the cinema don't take me for granted and I get more than value for money from them. Welcome to Sajjanpur, a recent release is ample proof of cinema of substance. Nothing pretentious. A simple cast carrying the film. A very Indian setting! And Ila Arun in her abandon act... :)

Kau Kau goes the Crow said...

In the same movie I also loved the performance of the Eunuch played to perfection by Ravi Jhankal, one actor whose last contibutions were used by Benegal in " Discovery of India '

This movie is all about characters. Actors are remembered by their character names which in my opinion is the true success of this enterprise.