This might sound really sad, but my introduction to Netflix was through the Netflix Prize. In my defence, I wasn’t all that much into movies back when the contest was announced. And heck, the NITK LAN when I was around could easily beat any Netflix in terms of average quality of content hosted. And not that much into data mining either [the Netflix Prize was a contest where you had to devise a system which would predict ratings for movies you hadn't seen yet based on what you had rated, and not just that, you had to perform 10% better than Netflix's recommendation engine, and you would get a million dollars]. I didn’t know enough to compete back then. And now, there’s not going to be another Netflix contest [which essentially will mean a shot at a million dollars and/or bragging rights] thanks to some IITM-UTAustin-Stanford guy (Indian! Everyone, put your claws together for one of our very own!).
So anyway, now that I knew what Netflix was, I took amazingly long to visit the site. Yesterday I did. And the deal seemed rather OK – Trial run for two weeks, which I had to cancel before the two weeks were up, else I’d get billed for the month. And unlimited movies to watch online. Great, no?
Totally. I watched more movies yesterday than I normally watch in a week. It felt….. surreal. The max record I know of is Dha’s record of 9 movies in a day (Info gleaned from Smriti testimonials… is it an Urban Legend?). Anyway, these are the ones I watched yesterday.
- Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi: I totally totally liked SRK in this one. He doesn’t talk in his usual manner in the movie at all… whoa. Movie isn’t great, obviously. But the ending credits more than made up for it – Surinder-ji presenting his and Taani-ji’s Japan snaps.
- Welcome To Sajjanpur: Nice timepass movie. A little cliched in places, but overall, a good watch. Shreyas Talpade is totally lovable in this flick.
- Luck, By Chance: Ok, I didn’t watch this off Netflix, but I watched it yesterday, so it makes it to this list. I liked the opening credits quite some. I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked videos of people posing for photographs. I rather liked Rishi Kapoor and Juhi Chawla in it. Dimple Kapadia seemed too contrived to me, and I can’t stand Isha Sharvani’s giggle. I liked Farhan Akhtar’s understated manipulativeness, thankgod it was not the rubbing-hands-evil-glint routine.
- Blackadder Goes Forth – I’ve watched this before, and I can rattle off each dialogue before it’s uttered, but it’s brilliance, just plain brilliance.
- Hey, Arnold! (Season 3) – I used to watch this show long long ago, sporadically. It turns out that I appreciate this show better when I watch it right after coming back from school than now when I try watching the entire season at a stretch.
- The Proposal – I had watched Did You Hear About The Morgans a few months back. Man, what’s it about Hollywood and getting New Yorkers to live in some rural area due to a set of unforseen circumstances? It’s not sweet, it’s not cute, the granny is not as adorable as other Hollywood grannies, nor is the family, certainly not as adorable as the family in While You Were Sleeping. Random chickflick. Unless you really have no choice, don’t watch this one.
- Julie And Julia – Given that I’m going through a phase where I’m craving for short term goals and structure in life, AND that I blog, AND that I sort of like cooking, this one hit close to home. If you want to use your blog to set and fulfill short-term goals, and attempt to become a better person in the process, this movie’s for you. Also if you seek relief from the daily humdrum by making yourself a nice meal at the end of the day. Of course, I’ve ended up doing neither; I constantly waver between “Cooking is stress” and “Cooking is stress-relief”. Still, not a bad movie. It shows a blogger getting a book deal, so… well…
- District 9 – Aliens! Racism! Xenophobia! One of Us becoming One of Them! Those things didn’t really make much of an impact on me. What did, however, was the possibility of a senti sequel where Wikus is old, there’s a plot to remove Wikus’s then-assistant who’s now a good bigshot, Christopher is dead, and Christopher’s son comes back….. And I’d really have liked to see something about the Alien culture and all that. It’s a good watch, I’d say, and Sharlto Copley does do a good job of the whole thing. It’s good to see aliens being portrayed in a way different from the established norm in film industries worldwide.
- Monsoon Wedding – I’ve seen this often on TV and blogged about it too. Oh, it turns out that the girl who plays the 10-year-old is Naina Lal Kidwai’s daughter.
I should also state here that I began watching Shakespeare In Love, and Happenstance, and quit coz they weren’t riveting enough.
So did I beat Dha’s record? No, considering I didn’t really watch the entire season of Hey, Arnold. And even if I did, I’d probably be tied.
I’m not going to be doing this anytime in the future. Having so many movies at your disposal and limited time to watch them isn’t my cup of tea. Of course, it’d be much better if I took it in smaller doses…. there are lessons you learn from watching Arunachalam. I’ll be going home for the summer, and as part of closing a lot of things down, I’ve cancelled my Netflix account.
And I’m not really ruing that. There aren’t that many movies and TV shows you can watch online right now. Most of the ones I wanted to watch – the entire run of Whose Line and A Bit of Fry And Laurie and all the flicks from Studio Ghibli – are not available to watch online. Why, even the rather popular flick which I haven’t yet watched and whose name I will not reveal for fear of being crucified or lynched was not available to watch online. Rather a disappointment, that way.
Plus, a good number of the films I want to watch are Tamil or Kannada or Hindi. I sadly couldn’t find Manithanin Marupakkam, which I vaguely remember watching many years ago on Sun TV and being very intrigued by it. A lot of the movies I want to watch are like that – I’d've watched fifteen minutes of it before changing the channel many years ago, after which the clips keep coming back to me, and I decide I just have to watch this… often, those fifteen minutes have nothing to do with the general tone of the movie and I’m often disappointed, but not for lack of trying.
Still, a sort-of magical day when I could totally drown in a world of make-believe.
Oh, and how could I forget…. the ratings. I rated just around 60 movies, and already, the predictions for the ratings I’d give other movies were BANG ON!! Really, amazingly accurate. Down to the decimal point. Except when it predicted I’d give two-and-a-half stars for Avvai Shanmughi.
The one thing that strikes me about this is that the movies I’d give five stars to aren’t the ones I’d really prefer to watch at any given time. I like my mindless, useless chickflicks for a one-time watch. I find some Awesome movies totally depressing.
Maybe an alternative small task would be to predict which movies are a one-time watch, and which ones I’d like to rewatch?
I used to wonder what makes a movie successful. Is it the presence of stars? Can’t be…. there are movies like Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai. Hot-looking leads? Then how come people gather to watch Monsoon Wedding? Don’t tell me it was for Vijay Raaz or Shefali Chhaya, coz Parveen Dabas and Vasundhara Das aren’t exactly great-looking, not by conventional standards anyway. And in that case, why do movies like Asoka fail?
Strong story/concept? Mmm… not quite. Remember Kaho Naa… Pyaar Hai. Music? How about Jeans?
Well, yeah, let me come to the point now and say it out once that I think dialogues are what make or break movies.
More than anything else, it’s only when the audience identifies with a character, or with a plot, that (s)he tends to like it. Acting, mannerisms and all that can only take you so far in talkies. “K-k-k-kira-a-an” is a better indication of a psychotic lover than if the director had asked SRK to twitch his nose and dilate his pupils. And face it, mannerisms become downright irritating – Most people can only groan when they see Vikram’s shifty eyes and dilating pupils when he transforms from Ramanujan to Anniyan. But Dei Baadu became an overnight hit.
Sholay wouldn’t have been as poignant if it hadn’t been for gems like Toh tumhara naam kya hai, Basanti? and “Kuttey! Kameenay!!!”, which are parodied to this day.
Talking of Sholay, I’ve grown to obsess about the movie of late, and I’m quite surprised… the story is the last thing that would appeal to me, and I don’t think it makes a brilliant watch. I’m not awed by Gabbar… but thing is, Basanti! In kutton ke saamne mat naachna and Aadhey idhar jaao, aadhey udhar jaao, baaki mere peeche aao stay stuck in the mind for a good while. And some have this way of finding their way into everyday conversation ["How on earth do you get to know so much gossip??" " *chuckle* Humaare jaasoos chaaron taraf hain", or "You stood me up for lunch! Hell, I'm so starved, now I dying, pulees coming, roomie going jail, roomie chakki peesing, peesing, peesing"].
Perhaps one of the best latter-day tributes to Sholay is Sujoy Ghosh’s Jhankaar Beats. All the hit dialogues of Sholay [oh, what the heck, all the dialogues of that movie were hits in their own ways] find their way into the movie. Like Shayan Munshi says “I’m just going to commit suicide”, to which Sanjay Suri replies with “Yeh su-site kya hota hai?”. And Sanjay Suri is a crazy RD Burman fan in the movie [He and Rahul Bose refer to him as Boss(!)], and he asks his wife to guess what he’s planned to name their son; She asks the baby, “Toh tumhara naam kya hai, Rahul?”.
The movie’s also replete with discussions about Sholay. “Basanti danced to save her skin!”, maintains Rahul Bose, while Sanjay Suri disagrees… “She danced out of love for Veeru, yaar.”.
Jhankaar also has its own great dialogues. Well, not exactly great, but definitely poignant and the sort you reminisce about. Like the one where Rahul Bose is supposed to present a one-liner which he has no idea about – “Yessir…. the one liner…. here it is… Kyunki. Yeh. Mujhe. Pasand hai!”. Shayan Munshi tries a classic “Aapko pata mere daddy kaun hai?”. Rahul Bose retorts with a “Kyun, tujhe pata nahin, kya?”, and follows it up with “Listen… I hope he found out who his daddy is … And Basanti did not dance for Veeru”.
Then there’s his divorce scene where he’s asking his wife to return his audiotapes, and his absent-minded divorce lawyer instructs her to “return my client’s cellotape, please”. He later says he was very distracted as he was going through his own divorce!
Shayan Munshi’s trying to ask Riya Sen out, and is being pepped up by Sanjay Suri. Rahul Bose chips in with “Sex ke baare mein kuch mat bataana“, and then distracts him with a “Hey, look at that bald guy, doesn’t he look like our client?”. When he finally approaches her, she thinks he’s an employee of the store, and asks him about a dress, he replies with a rushed “Main us takle ke saath sex karna chahta hoon”.
Then there’s the crazy neighbor who says “It’s all about control!”, and who finally supplies the much-needed one-liner for their ad campaign – “Better safe than worry”.
Mani Ratnam movies have always been known for their dialogues. Especially Alaipayuthey, which had a good number of new-age pickup lines, and romantic rantings. Like Madhavan tells a shy Shalini, “Shakti, I don’t think you’re good-looking, I’m not falling in love with you, but I’m worried whether this might happen”. And when he goes looking for her in a remote medical camp, and finally finds her, she asks him why he took so long to turn up.
Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi had a strong script and concept, and very normal-sounding dialogues. There’s one where Kay Kay Menon says of Shiney Ahuja, “I used to wonder in college whether he was an idiot or a clown, now I know he’s both”.
Weirdly, no Hollywood dialogues come to mind immediately. I guess the comedy in those movies is more sequence-oriented. However, one from Notting Hill does strike me… Hugh Grant says to Julia Roberts, “I live in Notting Hill, you live in Beverly Hills. The whole world knows who you are, my mother has trouble remembering my name”. And also to his best friend, “My whole life is ruined because I don’t read Hello! magazine?”.
It would take an entire website to cover the multitude of awesome dialogues in Rowan Atkinson’s dark comedy series, Blackadder. Some excellent samples include:
- “Oh, sir, I’m as bored as a pacifist’s pistol”
- To Hugh Laurie in drag: “Personally, I thought you were the least convincing female impressionist since Tarzan went through Jane’s handbag and ate her lipstick, but clearly I’m in a minority.
- “Irony is just like Goldy, or Bronzy, only, it’s made of iron”.
- “The path of my life is strewn with cowpats from the Devil’s own Satanic herd!”
- “Oh, no! What a mad, blundering, incredibly handsome young nincompoop I’ve been!”
- “Baldrick, that’s the worst plan since Abraham Lincoln said to his wife, ‘I’m bored of sitting around the house, let’s catch a show’ “.
- “Well, Baldrick, I just would like to say how much I enjoyed your company and friendship, but we both know that would be an utter lie, so sod off and if I ever see you again, it will be a billion years too soon.
There’ve been many, many more movies with punch dialogues, more notable would be the innumerable Rajnikanth flicks with their hard-hitting lines like “Naan oru dhadavai sonna nooru dhadavai sonna madhiri”, but they don’t seem to have made much of an impact on me… the dialogues are too explicitly worded so as to strike a chord with the audience.
The best dialogues are delivered without much fanfare, completely catch you by surprise, yet are so in tune with the context that you either completely identify with them, or are completely amazed by their brilliance. They stick to your mind, find their way into your conversations, get quoted and misquoted again and again, and if they really do catch on, get parodied widely.
To sum up, I’ll misquote Lord Edmund Blackadder – Talkies without great dialogues are like a broken pencil – pointless.
So, tell me… What’s Your Dialogue?