28 October, 2011

A pod of cheer

 ‘Do come soon. I am waiting for you Rahul, we have to go together’. The voice came from a beautiful girl; the soft morning sunlight was in her eyes. The short sleeve blouse under a rust orange sari displayed evenly tanned brown arms. A keener observer of the female form could also get a glimpse of the slim waist through the transparent chiffon. The smile still played on her lips and the eyes sparkled as she brushed something off her cheek that flew in the air…it was a dandelion pod. The passerby envied Rahul, whoever he was. Obviously it was the first flush of a gentle story at its very beginning.

The pod in the mean time was carried on by a gust of air and it flew high up. In the trajectory of its flight it executed a gentle twirl and settled on a head covered in an embroidered cap favored by Marwari jewelers. The wearer of the cap was oblivious to its presence. His phone rang and he screamed in delight “How much is it up by? 32%, kya baat kar raha hai…sell all that we picked up yesterday…how much deducting brokerage? Rs.48 Lakhs , that means about Rs.16 Lakhs profit? Done deal…he shook his head in frenzy…he was obviously thrilled with his recent glad tidings. But right there in the middle of a busy market he could not share it with anybody so he just galloped along in search of a body who could properly admire his genius. This sudden motion of his though dislodged the light pod and it carried on in the air.

A small little girl saw it and stretched out her palm. She was a grubby little beggar girl with grime all over her face and a dress that had more dirt than clean patches. But the pod in her hand jumped up a few times and settled there. She closed her palm around it in a hollow so as to not damage it. Her face despite its obvious hardship had a gamin charm and she beamed at everyone around her. Her other palm was stretched out for largesse that had not been in her lot for a few days. The light at the crossing turned red and she got into action tapping on the windows of the cars…hands came out and before she knew she had a few crispy notes from three cars…more money than she had seen in the last month could be anyones educated guess and they wouldn't be off the mark. “Aaiiiii” she shouted at her mother as she showed her collection, she had quite forgotten about the pod in her other hand that flew up and settled on the window of the car and fell in on to the sari of an elderly woman in the backseat.

The lady who had absent mindedly plunged into her purse to give the note to our beggar girl was occupied in thought. She was on her way to the hospital. Her husband was in a coma over the last fortnight after a heavy fall he had sustained. He slipped on the steps & had cracked his skull. Now even the doctors had stopped predicting when he could be out of it. Through the styling of her apparel, her large car and general well being one could sense prosperity, there were worry lines etched on her face due to the hospital visits. The lines did not ease up as she entered the special ward. As she sat on the bed and passed a hand over his forehead, the pod rolled and fell on the blue smock worn by the comatose patient. At that moment his eyes fluttered open and recognizing her, he smiled. Her eyes filled up as she hugged the fragile form on the bed & this made the border of her sari billow. The pod flew out of the room and settled on a starched hemline of a matron passing by the door.

The matron was a good looking woman in her early to mid forties but she was tense. Her boy who had finished his graduation had gone for his first job interview. She was quite sure that he would get the job but he had told her that he would have an additional surprise for her. The nursing community and her job in which she had spent over 25 years only made her dread surprises. She turned as the young nurse at the reception called out to her, Matron call for you. She hurried over and picked up the phone. “Mum, about the job…can you come down for a second, I am at the reception and I don’t know how to tell you? His voice broke and the Matrons heart was filled up with anxiety. She hurried down. As she reached the spot she found a young man who hurried over and hugged her. “Enda Monay…she affectionately murmured in Malayalam…I am still on duty…the hug had dislodged the pod from her hemline and it had stuck to the side pocket of the young man. Mum I got the job and then he turned and expectantly brought forward a young good looking girl wearing a rust coloured orange sari. Mum, this is Jini Thomas and she has agreed to marry me. Jini’s eyes had the same sparkle from the morning as she bashfully met those of her future mother-in-law. Only when she was enveloped in a big warm hug and she exhaled, that Jini realized that she had been holding her breath. The Matron looked at both of them with a mock sternness and then pushed them out…Go Rahul, you and Jini go out and have some fun. We shall meet later at home and you can tell me all about it. Jini you too are to be there…We have a lot to talk about this rascal.

The matron was beaming as she walked in. She saw the driver of Mrs. Rastogi whose husband had been admitted in a coma two weeks back distributing sweets to everyone on the floor. She turned back once to see Rahul and Jini walk out of the door arm in arm…something flew in the air dislodged from Rahul’s pocket, the wind gently blew through the wispy threads of the pod from the open door and  brushed across her face. 

It was a happy wind. The pod flew on …

03 October, 2011

A new genre in cinema UP: Sahib Biwi aur Gangster, a review

There is a new geography in popular Hindi cinema today, Uttar Pradesh. We have had Romantic films, Comedies, and Action cinema from here but arguably the most popular have been those films that have used this geography and its peculiar nexus of Politics, Underworld social ethos in the hinterlands as a backdrop. So popular is it that this has almost attained the status of becoming a genre.

Genre, I must be kidding right? Take a look at some of the films that have been released in the recent and middle past and take a call. Vishal Bharadwaj’s stable has given us Maqbool, Omkara, Ishqiya; Anand Rai’s Tanu Weds Manu; Prakash Jha’s  Gangajal, Apaharan, Rajneeti & Aarakshan. Tigmanshu Dhulia made a smooth debut as a director with his first film “Haasil” which was an excellent display of the politics on college campuses in the state. This film jump started the career of Irfan Khan for his chilling performance as a student leader. Tigmanshu Dhulia made some other films in between like Charas which didn’t shake the box office but with his latest “Sahib Biwi aur Gangster” it would be surprising if he is not recognized as a director of serious merit even at the cash counters.

“Sahib Biwi aur Gangster” as a title is a take-off on the Guru Dutt films production directed by Abrar Alvi titled Sahib Bibi aur Ghulam. The inspiration sure is from the earlier film but it is in the adaptation of the storyline where the similarities end. This is without a doubt a triumph of the script.

The plot is clear, fast paced and finely nuanced. It hinges around the three principle characters of the Sahib ( Jimmy Shegill, in superb form as an erstwhile prince riding on the borders of financial peril), Biwi ( Mahie Gill, his manic, scheming queen , competent) and the gangster Babloo ( Randeep Hooda, the ambitious goon cum driver, excellently underplayed). The Sahib is scrambling to regain his lost glory through the route of tender contracting and even contract killing for money to achieve the ultimate aim of a political victory. He has to for this, seek favours from a politician he helped elect ( Rajiv Gupta, absolutely standout performance in its smooth oiliness ) and a rival contractor mafia goon Gainda Singh ( Vipin Sharma, a natural who looks the part ). The sahib has his coterie of loyalists who abound the palace grounds; his protective shadow and trusted bodyguard Kanhaiyya ( Deepraj Rana , very convincing) his saucy daughter who cannot stop talking ( Deepal Shaw, a wee bit over the top but palatable) and his mistress ( Shreya Narayan, a sensitive and sensual performer). 

The story line centers on the Raja in his quest and shifts to the plotting Begum. Babloo is planted into this household by Gainda Singh as an informer. He has a tryst with the Begum. The Begum has her own agenda to retain the Sahib in the haveli and wean him away from the mistress. These are the plots and sub plots that are so skillfully weaved in that one waits for the next unexpected turn quite vicariously, and it comes with a punch.

The characters are deeply etched and masterfully executed which show the directors grip on the storyline. It is almost Brian De Palmaisque in its treatment. The backdrop of UP is now familiar yet the locales chosen for staging this drama are beautiful , stark and lonely. The camera by Aseem Mishra ( Once Upon a Time in Mumbai fame ) captures this so finely yet stays in the background bringing the characters to the fore of a beautiful frame. This is elegant camera work. Another technician who stands out in this venture is the sound designer Rakesh Ranjan. Music ( Songs ) does not overpower but the compositions in the audio track are powerful. They shall not be hummed popularly for sure but savored by aficionados who shall admire the compositions and keep wondering in which film did they hear it in. 

This movie though is through and through a directors cut, for the manner in which he has extracted performances from his lead trio that are beyond what they have shown us so far in their careers. For this alone Tigmanshu Dhulia can very well stand up and take a bow. When one sees this plot of layered agendas it is not surprising to understand the buzz in the industry created for his next “Pan Singh Tomar”.