Filmistan, Sunny Deol and love thy neighbour

“It is a small movie with a big heart,” and that is how most film critics have described the movie Filmistan. It is a film that crosses the boundaries set by religious fanatics of Pakistan effortlessly. I mentioned only Pakistan because there is no mention of fanatics from India in the movie, I believe there is a similar breed in India as well. These fanatics can generally be called terrorists and that is how they have been depicted in the film. Filmistan beautifully weaves the basic ethos of the “aam janta” of the two countries, who believe in live and let live and love.

If you are reading this then you should see the movie and it will be nice if you read this piece after having seen the film. It has some amazingly funny moments and any Hindi movie buff will absolutely love it. So go and see it if you haven’t so already.

One peculiar thing in the movie that grabbed my attention was the repeated reference to Sunny Deol and the allegiance of the protagonists to the actor. The movie makers also made a Youtube trailer where the actors sing paeans in honour of the actor (See it here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NbtP6Gxyie8). Even the lead character is named Sunny in the movie. While the Sunny references get a lot of laughs, I felt that there was perhaps also a subtle message that the makers of the movie wanted to convey: Please do not hate thy neighbour.

Sunny Deol is perhaps the only actor in Hindi cinema who has been repeatedly used by Directors to spew venom on screen about our “padosi mulk” and has set the box-office cash registers ringing. Such was his clout in those movies that Gadar-Ek Prem Katha is till date one of the highest grossers in Indian Cinema. Gadar had successfully built up on the rage and fury he had displayed in the film Border earlier. While as an actor he was just doing the job, a big section of the population perhaps went on to believe that Pakistan is a country of terrorists. Kargil War and the perennial problem of infiltration only added to the negative perception.

However, today is the time when we need to open the windows of our houses. The air has become too stale and stagnant. This is the time when both the neighbours need to open their arms and make way to each other’s hearts and homes. This is the time when we need to kill Terrorism and give birth to Happy-ism. There is a sequence in the film where a patrol guard smells something fishy when a kid calls out for the protagonist Sunny. To save the situation his friend says that the kid is a great fan of Sunny Deol and loves his films like Ghayal, Ghaatak and Daamini, but he doesn’t mention Border or Gadar.  For me the Pakistani friend of the Indian Sunny, even upstaged Jai and Veeru of Sholay in their bond of friendship, for the makers of the film perhaps believe that let us not give our audiences any more Gadar but many more movies like Filmistan.  

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Highway is surely not my way, though you may like it for Alia

Watching a movie in Bandra’s Gaiety Galaxy is always fun as not only are the ticket prices one of the lowest in Mumbai (considering G7 is a multiplex, they are damn cheap) but the rightly priced and well fried samosas double the joy of watching a movie there. Therefore, as I was there to catch the late night show of Highway on Saturday evening, I went in hoping for a fun-filled experience. However, what I saw did not double my joy, not at all, in fact during the first half of the film it almost looked like I was watching a movie which was an entry for some film festival. While learned film critics and discerning audiences may not give a hoot about what a simple moviegoer like myself felt about the film, I would say that BORING would be an understatement for the first half. Though there are some good dialogues about oppression of the lower classes by the high and mighty –Randeep delivers it in his usual teeth clenched style, making me wonder why does he not open his mouth. His voice modulation is good but the straight face delivery is too plastic– and molestation of children — Alia shows that acting is in her genes — the first half falls flat. The claustrophobic references of the physical environment works as a good metaphor for the disturbed childhood of Alia’s character. The desire to break free of the shackles of dogmatic expectations of the family/society is a constant in all Imtiaz Ali films and you will see it in Highway too.

The movie is shot in beautiful locations and the two lead characters look real. However, I wish that there was a more meat in the story, as movies of this kind are highly dependent on the performances of the lead actors, some digressions in the narrative would have perhaps broken the monotony. I could visualise the response the movie would garner at the film festivals as the dialogues which form the fulcrum of the movie (the background stories of Alia’s and Randeep’s characters) would look great when translated in English and the subtitles will generate the kind of responses that the director perhaps intends to receive at Film Festivals.

Watch this movie only for Alia Bhatt. The girl shows a lot of promise and I hope that this movie will get her good projects in the future.

Monsoon: My first tale of Love, Loss and Longing

August 30, 2013: This is a special announcement for Mr. Arun Banerji, travelling on Air India flight number AI 688 to Mumbai, may please report for boarding immediately at Gate Number 23. This is the last and final call for Mr. Arun Banerji…

Arun was dead tired after the long night and catching the early morning flight wasn’t a great idea but he had to report to office early in the morning as there was an important presentation to be made. As the announcer kept calling his name, Arun kept sleeping near Gate No. 18 at the Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi.

***

March 10, 2011: “How did you find me? Did your parents say anything?” Arun read the text message on his mobile phone. He had met Smita for the first time in the morning in the presence of both his and her parents since they were the ones who had arranged for the meeting at a hotel in Saket, New Delhi.

Though he had chatted with Smita on G-chat and had talked to her twice before the meeting, he had not expected her to be so upfront. He thought for a while before sending an SMS reply, “I think my parents found you to be nice. They will talk to your parents once we are back in Mumbai.”

Arun was in Delhi to attend his cousin Raja’s wedding when he had first met Smita.

His parents had pointedly raised the issue of his matrimony when three months back he was desperately trying to befriend IRCTC’s server. “Ninety days remain before our travel date and only 15 tickets are available in the New Delhi Rajdhani; looks like Mumbaikars have nothing else to do except for travelling to-and-fro Delhi to eat Karol Bagh ke Chhole-Bhature,” cribbed Arun. As soon as he had finished booking the tickets that he heard his father say, “Even Raja is getting married; now at least you should think about your own marriage. You are already 30; how long do you want to wait?”

Arun wanted to ignore his father when his mother joined in chorus, “Your Baba (father) has already created your profile on bengalimatrimony.com. Why don’t you check the profiles of girls who have shown interest in you?” Arun hardly had a choice. He logged on to his profile and glanced at the seven “expressions of interest” he had received. He had stopped at Smita’s profile to read through it. Smita worked in Delhi in a software company. Born and brought up in Varanasi, she had done her MBA from Lucknow and had 3 years of work experience. Her parents were based in Varanasi and her profile said that she was open to relocating after marriage.

The first thing that struck Arun in her picture was the smile. She indeed had a beautiful smile. He asked his parents to get in touch with her parents to ensure that the two families were compatible. In any arranged marriage, the families of the boy and the girl matter the most and for an alliance to materialise it is paramount that the two sides like each other.

After the initial talks between the parents, Arun sought Smita’s number from her father and called her up after a week of first seeing her profile on the matrimonial site. “Hello Arun, how are you?” There was a nice ring to her voice. Arun already liked the manner in which she had confidently responded to his phone call. The call lasted for 10 minutes and Arun asked her if they could chat over G-chat, to which she agreed. Over the next 3 months they did not have any telephonic conversation except for once when Smita had called to let him know that she was looking forward to their first meeting.

Smita’s father was going to be in Delhi on a business trip and during one of his conversations with Arun’s father (though the girl and the boy were told not to get too friendly with each other before the alliance was finalised, the parents on both sides were in regular touch) had proposed that the families could meet in Delhi as they were also travelling to Delhi to attend Arun’s cousin’s wedding.

Smita was summoned and the meeting took place at a hotel in Saket, New Delhi. Smita’s mother had taken the trouble to travel to Delhi from Varanasi just for the meeting. After the initial chit-chat between the parents, Smita and Arun were asked by Arun’s mother if they would like to talk to each other in private. It was a funny situation as they were asked to find privacy in a public place. Arun asked Smita if she would like to go to the hotel’s lobby to talk and she willingly agreed.

Both of them were like free birds without the company of their parents and they opened up about their lives for almost an hour, oblivious of the ticking clock. Smita’s mother had come to look for them at the lobby when they realised that they had surpassed the permissible time limits of their conservative parents.

They bade farewell to each other as they touched the feet of their parents and sought their blessings. Sitting in the car little did Arun know then that it would turn out to be his last meeting with Smita.

“I think your parents are nice. Thanks for letting me know that they found me to be nice too. What are your thoughts about me Mr. Banerji?” Smita had teased Arun through her SMS.

“I will let you know my thoughts after I land in Mumbai. Have some patience Ms. Chatterjee :-)” replied Arun.

Two days after they had reached Mumbai, the alliance was finalised. Parents on both the sides were very happy and were busy making plans of visiting Mumbai and Varanasi to check out each-others’ lifestyles. In an arranged marriage, it is essential for parents to ascertain that they get their kids married into a family with an equal or higher social status. Plans were being made to solemnise the wedding at the earliest.

***

It was April 2011 and the entire nation was under the spell of Dhoni and his boys. The final match was at the Wankhede Stadium and Arun had bought two tickets for the match which he went to watch with Deepak, his childhood buddy. The finals had turned out be an interesting one and the entire country was thumping its chest at the triumph which India had finally got after a wait of 28 years.

It was well past midnight when Arun managed to step out of the Stadium. In the din of the jubilations he had not been able to hear his phone ring. He had 13 missed calls and his phone reminder showed “Smita’s birthday”. There was also an SMS from her, “On my 28th birthday, India brings home the World Cup after 28 years. Hope you celebrated the win with Deepak. Now it is my turn to celebrate with you. Call me as soon as you read this message.”

Arun immediately pressed the call button. She took the call even before the phone had rung twice. “I love you,” said Arun. Perhaps India’s win had caused a surge of the happy hormones in him. There wasn’t an exchange of words for almost a minute after his admission when Smita said, “Is that supposed to be my birthday gift? Don’t expect me to be so naïve, and I won’t let you get away so easily. I want my birthday gift and it better be a good one.”

“I love you and would like to spend my life with you,” said Arun attempting to recreate the magic of the one-minute silence.
“Don’t repeat yourself in the hope of getting rid of the responsibility of getting me a nice gift and don’t be filmy to say that you are my gift. I will not accept that as an answer,” she retorted.

“Okay, then tell me what do you want?”

“Hmmm… when I will first come to Mumbai you should take me to Marine Drive and we will spend the whole night walking by the sea and talk.”

“Arre main Johnny Walker nahin hoon. How can I walk for the whole night? Anyways when do you think you will be first coming to Mumbai?”

“What’s the hurry Mr. Banerji? (Giggles) But on a serious note I just heard Papa speaking to your father about there being an auspicious date in the month of July for the wedding. Hope you don’t feel that they are rushing into it, because I think that July will be beautiful. I love the monsoons you know. Though Varanasi gets a little messy during the season, but I simply love to experience the rains on the ghats of Varanasi.”

Smita’s statement brought back fond memories of college days to Arun when he would visit Assi Ghat almost every day with Deepak and other friends. The ghats of Varanasi with its amazing history and mesmerising appeal had stayed with him even after a decade of passing out from the famous Banaras Hindu University.

“I think July is good. Even I like the monsoons. Though the rains in Mumbai sometimes really become difficult to handle, the city surely looks washed up after the rains. So granted, I will try and make up to your humongous demand. Hope you don’t want to walk with me under a single umbrella like the great Raj Kapoor and Nargis did in Shri 420,” said Arun cheekily.

“I may be a terrible romantic but definitely not a fool. Getting soaked in the rains for an entire night isn’t my idea of intelligently spending time. We will wear rain coats,” giggled Smita.

“OK madam, if you say so,” replied Arun and after answering Smita’s further questions regarding the famous win by the Indian cricket team and if he had finished his dinner, he wished her Good Night.

***

Another month passed by and both Arun and Smita had strengthened their bond over emails and telephonic chats. Every day before he went to bed, Arun would wait for a special SMS. Arun had told her that he would not respond to her SMS every night, however, there was hardly a night in the last 30 days when Arun had not longed for his phone to beep at around 11 PM. It was a simple message, “GOOD NIGHT :-)” after seeing the message, Arun would sleep with a smile on his face.

For the next one month, almost a quarter of Arun’s time every day was devoted in letting Smita know, over calls, SMSes and chats, about how his day went, everything from his meal menus to office gossips would have to be shared. It had been just over three months after their first meeting but now they knew a lot about each other. From their best friends, to his favourite cricketer, to the best actor on the planet, they had shared quite a lot about their lives.

Smita was looking for a job change and was trying to get an opportunity in Mumbai. “There aren’t many vacancies that suit my profile in Mumbai; the number of opportunities in Gurgaon, Noida and Delhi are far higher,” she would say continuing to add in the same sentence, “But I am sure that my present employers will agree to transfer me to Mumbai if I ask for it. Do you know that I have always been a Star Performer in my present organization,” she would say with fake arrogance.

The boring and conservative Arun was slowly catching up with Smita’s joie de vivre. He had never been in a serious relationship before; though his good looks used to get him female attention they would not turn to be serious affairs. During their conversations both Smita and Arun would often talk about Varanasi and its mystic ghats. They would reminisce the charm of the city and recall incidents from their respective school and college days and laugh over the funny things they had done as students.

***

It was the first fortnight of July and Monsoons had just arrived in Mumbai when Smita got very scared. Arun had not returned her calls throughout the day and not replied to her SMSes. At around 5 PM she received an SMS from Arun, “Mother is in ICU at Jaslok Hospital. Please pray for her.” Smita immediately called him but he did not answer, then she sent him an SMS, “Have faith on God. She will be fine.”

Arun’s mother had been having concomitant spells of severe headaches for the last few months. However, in the humdrum of daily affairs, she had ignored the symptoms and had done self-medication through over-the-counter analgesics to treat the pain. She had informed neither Arun nor his father regarding the bothersome headache.

On the morning when she had to be hospitalized, the pain had become unbearable causing her blurred vision. The neurologist had detected a big cyst in the front lobe of her brain. A biopsy was recommended to ascertain the nature of the cyst. The doctor’s worst fears were of the cyst being malignant (cancerous), a possibility which he had not ruled out.

Being the only child of his parents, Arun had got extremely scared on hearing the diagnosis. He sulked and went into a state of depression not wanting to share his pain with anyone, not even Smita. The biopsy’s results were expected after three days and it was during this time that he had not paid any heed to Smita’s SMSes and calls. Only after the results of the tests were revealed that he sent an SMS to Smita. “Thank God. The cyst is benign and can be removed by surgery. The doctor has said that possibilities of a re-growth are very low.”

Within a minute of his phone showing that the SMS had been delivered, it rang. An almost cheerful Smita spoke in a happy tone. “God is with us, nothing will happen to Mummyji,” she had started referring to Arun’s mother as Mummyji. “Don’t worry she will be fine. A benign cyst is quite common now-a-days. Three years back even I was detected with a benign tumour in my stomach which was removed and I have not faced any problems after the operation,” she said.

It took almost a minute for Arun to register the fact that Smita had suffered from a tumour. “Are there no side effects? Doesn’t the patient suffer from any pain after the operation?” he asked. “In my case there have been no problems. None at all. However, in Mummyji’s case since the cyst is in the brain, there could be a possibility that she might start loving her daughter-in-law more than her son,” Smita made a half-hearted attempt to lift the pall of gloom that had enveloped Arun for the last three days. Arun chuckled and then both of them laughed.

Arun’s mother was operated upon and she was discharged from the hospital after three days of nursing.

***

Pandemonium broke out at Arun’s house on the morning of her mother’s return from the hospital. His father spoke in a demeaning tone, “Why did they hide this important fact? I had not expected them to cheat us. They looked like such nice people.”

“I had asked Smita’s mother on the very first day. Now I am sure that they intentionally hid this information,” said Arun’s mother.

At the breakfast table, Arun had shared his new-found medical knowledge with his parents. To uplift his mother’s mood, he had told her that her ailment was not too worrisome as the probability of a recurrence of the tumour was very low. He had also informed his parents that in the past Smita had also undergone an operation for removal of a tumour and had not faced any problems thereafter.

Instead of calming, Arun’s statement had flared her mother’s nerves. “I had categorically asked Smita’s mother if she had been through any severe illness or had undergone any medical procedure in the past. She had answered in the negative. God only knows what other facts they have hidden from us,” she said.

“I will talk to Mr. Chatterjee right away and ask him why they did not inform us about her ailment earlier. I am feeling deceived. I don’t think we should go ahead with this alliance any more,” said Arun’s father.

Arun was stumped. Even before he could react to the sudden turn of events, his father was on the phone talking in a harsh tone to Smita’s father. Of the conversation that lasted for about five minutes, only three words stayed with him, “Shombondho taa aar hobe naa,” (the alliance will not happen). Being the only child, Arun had never confronted his parents on any matter. From the choice of the subjects he had studied in college, to his profession, to the choice of a life partner, he had always been guided by the choice of his parents in every decision of his life.

Within 10 minutes of the phone call, his phone rang. He could hardly muster the courage to answer the call but somehow he had to speak. Smita was crying vehemently. “My father suffers from high blood pressure and after the phone call, he is unable to speak,” she said between sobs. “What is my fault? I want to talk to Mummyji, hand over the phone to her. I want to explain to her my condition. I am medically fit Arun, I told you my condition in all honesty, I did not want to hide anything. Why would I tell you if I had the intentions of hiding the matter,” Smita was trying to reason with Arun, despite being unable to hold her tears. Arun could not say anything. He had gone completely blank and did not know how to handle the situation. Luck played truant and his phone’s battery died out. He could not get up from the chair to plug it for charging.

Within a few minutes, the landline started ringing. All three of them knew the identity of the caller but did not have the courage to answer the call. In their hearts they knew that after all it was not Smita’s fault. They knew that she had no intentions of hiding the fact about her operation otherwise she would have never revealed it to Arun.

As the phone went on ringing incessantly, Arun’s mother answered it. She did not speak for almost five minutes as she kept listening to what Smita had to say. Those five minutes seemed like eternity to Arun. Then the mother in her broke down and she spoke between her sobs, “I know that you are a very nice girl and all of us like you very much but please try to understand my position. I am a mother and Arun is my only son. Had the news of your ailment and the subsequent operation not been revealed to us and if we had come to know about it after the wedding, we would have accepted it as our fate. I am a God fearing person and since now I know about the operation, I see it as a divine message which I am unable to ignore. I think a divine power is behind the unfolding of this entire episode. Please don’t get me wrong but if we went ahead with this alliance and God forbid if there was a relapse of your ailment then I will never be able to forgive myself,” said Arun’s mother and after waiting for almost a minute for Smita’s response, she disconnected the call.

Smita could not think of any reply to the convoluted logic of the divine signal. It had been her first relationship with a guy. Though being an extrovert by nature, she never had an affair or a fling in the past. The relationship with Arun, which had just started developing, was the first romantic relationship of her life. She could not believe that it had ended so suddenly and in such a bizarre manner. Myriad thoughts clouded her mind. “Perhaps he is under pressure from his parents and will soon think about the situation rationally,” she thought.

***

For the next 24 hours, Smita hoped against hope that the situation would change for the better. Though she knew in her heart that Arun would not go against his parents’ wishes but she hoped that he would be rational to judge the sudden turn of events and not brand it as some “divine message.”
When Arun did not call her for the entire day, she reached out to him to find out his thoughts. Arun took the call after Smita had desperately called him five times in succession. As Arun started speaking Smita felt as if she was speaking to a different person. There was certain rudeness in his voice, “Listen Smita, this was in any case not a love affair. It was a match arranged by the parents and since my parents are not in favour of the alliance anymore, I think there is no point in being in touch. I feel it will be better if you did not call me anymore,” said Arun.

Smita kept holding the phone to her ear for almost five minutes after Arun had disconnected the call, hoping that he would say that he had just cracked a nasty joke. But it was not to be. She had never imagined that her first serious relationship would fail so miserably. She was absolutely stumped and angry.

While it would have been logical if she would have been angry with Arun and his parents but instead she started blaming herself; why did she have to mention about her operation? Why did she? Smita started questioning and cursing herself. It was completely illogical for her to be blaming herself. But perhaps matters of the heart are not always logical.

In the night she did not send a “Good Night” message to Arun, instead she sent him a blank SMS to which he did not respond. The practice of sending a blank SMS every night continued for almost a month but there was never any response from Arun.

Monsoons were over and it was now the onset of the spring season. On the Independence Day in 2011, Smita sent him a message, “This is my last SMS to you. I will try to forget you but I will never forgive you.”

***

Over the next two years, Arun’s parents arranged many meetings hoping to find a suitable match but none of them materialized. Arun would often compare the girls he met to Smita. As his failure in finding a suitable match continued unabated, he started missing Smita all the more. He kept thinking about her whenever his parents fixed up a meeting with a girl. However, nothing seemed to work.

Finally after two years of committing the act of cowardice, he felt like shirking the thoughts of the shameful manner in which he had ditched Smita and decided to get back to her.

  • Continue reading “Monsoon: My first tale of Love, Loss and Longing”

    Chashme Baddoor: No ‘Chamak’ in this remake

    Those of us who cherish the innocent 1980s of Farooque Shaikh & Sai Paranjpe and loved Deepti Naval as “Ms. Chamko” in the original Chashme Buddoor, the remake of the film is just not for us.

    I went to watch the movie yesterday with two of my oldest  friends in Mumbai. So there we were, a group of three friends watching another group of three friends (Ali Zafar, Divyendu Sharma and Siddharth) on screen. I was reprimanded several times by my friends as I kept comparing the remake with the original while the show was on. My friend Rahul even asked me to shut up and watch the movie without being critical as he kept getting hysterical with bouts of laughter.

    Laughter is indeed the best medicine for many of our woes and comedy is a genre through which many films have enthralled the audiences, but directors, like David Dhawan, should not always rely on slapstick to  keep their cash registers ringing. The remake by Dhawan is crass and despite not being a long film by Bollywood standards, it starts feeling stretched post the interval.

    For the benefit of those who have not seen the original, the film is a story of three friends who prey (Divyendu’s character calls her ‘shikaar’) upon a pretty young thing. Two of the guys fail miserably at wooing the girl while the third succeeds, then the two dejected lovers scheme and plot to separate the lovers. It is a comedy and even in the remake there are a few sequences which indeed get a few laughs but that is all about it.

    Some of the younger audiences may like the film as some dialogues and the lyrics of some songs (Har ek friend Kamina hotaa hai) may find a resonance with them. Divyendu has got the maximum number of punches and he delivers all of them well, managing to get big laughs. He is without a doubt the best part in the film.

    It is not a big-budget movie, therefore, recovering the investment will not be difficult. Over the next week be prepared to see a number of ‘Kamina Hit’ advertisements splashed in tabloids and entertainment supplements of newspapers. However, for me the remake did not have any of the shine of Ms. Chamko from the original

    PERSONAL NOTE:  Almost a decade back around this time in the year, three boys were travelling to Pune from New Delhi in the Sleeper Coach of an Express train. The destination was Film and Television Institute of India (FTII). The institute had re-started its acting course after 25 years and the boys were aspirants to get through to the hallowed portals of Prabhat Studio, housed in the FTII campus. During the course of conversation in the train, it was revealed that two of the boys had already got an admission in the National School of Drama (NSD), New Delhi.

    Over the next four days, after rigorous examinations, one of the boys got through FTII. The other joined NSD and became an actor; Mohammed Zeeshan has in the last three years, acted in many hit movies.

    In 2004, FTII had appointed Ravi Baswani as the Course Director for Acting, who quit the job a year later under unknown circumstances. Ravi Baswani had acted in the original Chashme Buddoor. 

    A decade later, one of his students acted in the remake of the film. The student who had started a successful journey from Delhi to FTII in 2004 was Divyendu Sharma, who is the only saving grace in the remake.

    The third passenger with Zeeshan and Divyendu in the train was me. After watching the remake last evening, I wondered how Ravi Baswani would have reacted. RIP Sir. 

    ABCD: Ab Bas Chalo Dekhne

    As soon as the movie got over, the first line that I heard was, “Kal ki tickets bhi le lete hain.” As I turned to look at the speaker, I was not at all surprised to see the girl in her early teens instructing her bunch of friends. I watched the release day evening show of the movie ABCD (Any Body Can Dance) and since the film doesn’t boast of a big star cast, was thrilled to see the movie hall almost full. The only two recognisable actors in the film are Prabhudeva and Kay Kay Menon. Notably the crowd was a motley mix of teenagers, elderly and people like me, who are neither too young nor too old.

    The movie has a linear plot where the virtuous poor guy challenges the rich bad guy and comes out victorious overcoming all odds. The medium of the challenge is dance and this is where the movie attains exceptional heights. It was expected that the film would have some great dance sequences as it features arguably India’s best dancer in the contemporary/Western dance form along with the winners of a hugely popular dance reality show and is directed by a great choreographer Remo D’souza. It is apparent that Remo has picked certain nuances of the movie from his own life, even the name of the bad guy’s dance studio (Jehangir Dance Company) and the dance form he chooses to embrace after shunning Prabhudeva hints at a popular choreographer. However, the characters, their names and some of the caricaturing is to merely evince audience interest and establish a connection.

    The idea of making the movie in 3D is a masterstroke as 3D works best in the action and animation genre and this being an action oriented film (you can’t just sit and dance, can you?) the visual effects are magnified due to the use of 3D. The actors, or rather the dancers, can also act and are definitely not an eye sore as compared to good-looking wooden models, some of whom are amongst the highest paid actors in the country.

    The somersaults, B boying, head spins are all borrowed from the West but the electrifying effect they create during the climax performance on Ganesh Vandana gave me goose bumps. The dance sequences are great and though I am not competent on their technical aspect, to a non-dancer like me, they just looked out of the world.

    The film is expected to find a strong resonance with the younger generation as it gives a clear message just like 3Idiots did that one should follow one’s heart rather than buckle under parental pressure in making a career choice. It is a well-made entertaining film… ab bas chalo dekhne 🙂

    Vishwaroop: Misleading clerics lead themselves to Jahannum

    First things first, Kamal Haasan is one of the finest artists India has ever produced. I watched the first day show of Vishwaroop’s release in Mumbai. The film has been made both in Hindi and Tamil so thankfully it was not dubbed like Enthiran (Robot). The film is a gripping espionage story and in terms of the cinematography is at par with some of the Hollywood action thrillers. Kamal Haasan is first grade, in some of the sequences reminded me of his Velu Nayakan days where his big beautiful and expressive eyes created magic on-screen. An actor can give anything to possess those eyes.

    The plot of the film is simple and can be summarised in a single line but the way it has been presented makes the film what it is, a remarkably good entertaining movie. There is a warning when the film opens advising that some scenes depicting gruesome violence may not be suitable for the faint hearted. Indeed there are some sequences which are very gross to the extent of making one squirm in the seat. The film takes inspiration from some popular tales of violence by the Taliban (beheading of journalist Daniel Pearl; suicide bombing outside US military camps; punishing people enjoying music; vendetta against those learning English; treating women with utmost disrespect etc.) and the retaliatory counter attacks by US Forces leading to the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians.

    The film can be divided into four chapters: chapter one shows Haasan as a classical dancer with atypical feminine characteristics bordering on being stereotyped of being from a community, the representation of which in today’s popular cinema seems to be limited to elicit laughter. Haasan plays the character to a tee; of course his training as a classical dancer comes in handy to depict the dancer Vishwanath.

    In the second chapter we come to know that Vishwanath is not only a superb dancer with great moves but also a Super Man who can decimate an army of trained terrorists with his killing moves. The transformation is awesome captured and the action sequences make the audiences cheer like crazy. Just before the metamorphosis, it is revealed that Vishwanath is not a Hindu but a Muslim and the audiences are made to imagine that perhaps Vishwanath is a terrorist who defected from the Group.

    The third chapter: The action shifts to Afghanistan and in flashback Haasan is shown to be receiving training under the direct tutelage of Osama Bin Laden. He becomes an important member of the Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan in company of Mujhahids who believe that while they are fighting for Allah, the US is fighting for oil. It is a simple statement which most anti-US individuals believe to be true, so Haasan hasn’t attempted to be judgmental here as he has focused equally on the barbaric acts of violence by the Taliban as on the merciless bombing of villages by the US forces.

    In the fourth chapter, it is cut-to present and it becomes evident that Haasan is not a defected terrorist but an agent of India’s Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) who is in the US to foil the plan of the Al-Qaeda terrorists who have planned a nuclear explosion in the US. The secrets are revealed and the mysteries of his multiple avatars are given away in a very exciting manner. The visual effects and the cinematography keeps one gripped. It is a must watch entertaining movie.

    N.B: All the brouhaha about the film being anti-Islam is completely untrue. The only theory that comes to my mind regarding the unfounded fears about the movie portraying Muslims in bad light is about the title of the film which sounds like a Hindu God (Vishwanath — which is also the name of the character amazingly played by Shekhar Kapoor in the film). But literally translated the title of the film means state/nature of the world and has nothing to do with Hinduism. The protagonist of the film is a Muslim who prays to Allah, fights evildoers and helps to reinstate that Islam doesn’t propagate violence; it is selfish clerics who do. The film surely highlights terrorism which has been branded by the West as “Islamic Terrorism,” but in no way derogate Islam. It is a fact that religious fanatics from any religion in any part of the world are trying to achieve their evil motives by false propaganda. The Muslims who should be offended by this particular film are the Muslims of Taliban, surely not the ones living harmoniously in India. The opinion makers/clerics in India who tried to colour the perception of our innocent Muslim brethren even before the film was released will surely go to Jahannum (Hell).

    #Why this Kolaveri between SRK and Shirish#

    Now it is public that SRK has a problem with Shirish Kunder and his wife, SRK’s estranged friend Farah Khan. However, it was not always so. The trio, not-too-long back, was bosom buddies and Shirish had even approached SRK to act in his directorial venture.

     But SRK, being SRK, the shrewd businessman, had hatched a plan and had showed rosy pictures to Shirish of his maiden directorial venture becoming one of the biggest hits of the millennium and strengthening their bond of friendship by making snide symbolic remarks against the ruling Khans, since then as today, SRK was going through a professional crisis.

     As was destined to be, Shirish’s debut project as a director “Tees Maar Khan” bombed at the BO and it was only then that Shirish and Farah could see through SRK’s gameplan which he had managed to execute at their expense. What followed was a strained relationship between SRK, Farah and Shirish. The soured relationship led Shirish to celebrate the debacle of #Ra.One# on Twitter and subsequently being punched by SRK on the morning of Gandiji’s death anniversary.

     To know what was SRK’s shrewd plan, read the following post written a year back…

     # Why SRK did not act in TMK? #

     February 25th, 2011

     Tees Maar Khan (TMK) doesn’t deserve to be called a work of art or creativity, it is an insult to the intellect of cine-goers. This blog-post comes two months after the film’s release so it is neither a review nor a critical appraisal of the film.

     I watched the song Sheila ki Jawaani on TV today and thought of pointing out some of my observations about the Hindi film industry, which is partisan, with its camps headed by three most prominent ageing stars all sharing the same surname. 

     Media has already explored and filled reams of newsprint with stories of the fallout between TMK’s director Farah Khan and her one-time bosom buddy Shah Rukh Khan (SRK). It has also been written as how Farah was upset with SRK for refusing TMK (though Farah clarified that she always wanted Akshay Kumar for the role). However, when I saw the film, it looked to me like the film was conceptualised over a dinner by Farah and her best buddy SRK (I am cynical about the news reports of their fall out; especially given the timing of their newly-found-hatred tale — that is exactly a fortnight before TMK released).

     Here is a recap of the discussion (with some imagination) between SRK, Farah and her husband Shirish Kunder on the unfortunate night when project TMK was born over dinner.

     Farah: Yaar tujhe Sallu se dosti kar leni chaahiye. Hum sab yahi chaahte hain.

     SRK: Hum sab kaun?

     Farah: Hum sab matlab main, Shirish aur humare bachhe.

     SRK: Hmmm. Even I want that buddy. Especially after Dabangg was such a huge hit, I would even want to do a film with him, where both of us could flaunt our six-packs and beat the baddies. Like the good old days of Karan-Arjun.

     Farah: Do you seriously want to do that? Let me talk to Sallu about this (grabs her Blackberry to dial a number, to which SRK waves his hand asking her to not make any calls, Farah keeps the phone back on the dining table)

     SRK: Yaar aise nahin… bahut raitaa failaa huaa hai. And now Salman has become best buddies with Aamir. He consults him for everything. Both of them are delivering the biggest hits in the history of Hindi films. Inke beech kuchh karnaa padega.

     Farah: You mean Sallu and Aamir ke beech?

     SRK: Yes. (Lights up a cigarette and gets into a pensive mood)

     At this point, Shirish, who has idolised SRK since his childhood, quips: Sir, I have an idea of a film to poke fun at Aamir. Actually this idea has been in my head for some time. Sir, if you agree to sign the film then you can yourself bash Aamir and I have already thought of a hot item number like Dard-e- Disco, but this time I have Katrina’s six-packs in mind.

     SRK stubs out the cigarette: But how will this help in creating differences between Salman and Aamir.

     Shirish is left with a blank expression when Farah jumps to his rescue: Yaar aisaa karte hain ki film mein Salman kaa ek friendly appearance rakh dete hain. So both you and Sallu gang up to bash Aamir and his films. Howzzat?

     SRK: Bahut obvious ho jaayega and I don’t think Salman would agree to do something like this.

     Farah: Sallu ko ek gaane mein rakh lenge. We won’t tell him the entire story of the film. Anyways he never has the patience to sit through a narration. We will tell him that he will be the best part of the film.

     SRK: Phir bhi ye bahut obvious hai. People will think that I have done the film out of jealousy against Aamir. My intention is to just bring Salman back on my side. Let’s do one thing. You take someone else to play my part in the film.

     Hearing this Shirish starts crying: No, sir, please sir. All my life I have dreamt about making my first film with you. Please don’t do this.

     SRK: Don’t worry yaar. I will be the hero of your next film. That’s a gentleman’s promise.

     Farah: But what will I say? How can I make a film without you? What will I tell the world and most importantly, media ko kyaa bolungi main?

     SRK: Tell them that we have fallen out and are no more friends. It will make for a good juicy story on news channels. It will be a good pre-release publicity gimmick. You can drop in the name of the film at every opportunity.

     Silence follows for a few mintes as Shirish and Farah are lost in their thoughts when SRK gets up to leave: Okay you guys work on rest of the story and make sure to take enough potshots at Aamir and his films like Mangal Pandey, Lagaan, Peepli Live and his eagerness to get an Oscar award. Don’t tell Salman any of this, just get him for a song in the film and let me suggest Akshay’s name for the role that you had initially thought for me.

     Farah: Are you sure? This film will be a blockbuster, are you sure that you really don’t want to do it?

     SRK turns away from Shirish and Farah. They can’t see the smirk on his face.

     And the rest, as they say could not become history. TMK will be best remembered for Sheila’s geography.