I’ve been exceedingly tied up with this and that and god alone knows what else, though I feel like I’ve not gotten any darn thing done. But over the past couple of months, I’ve managed to watch and read stuff.
Most of it has been random shite I wouldn’t rewatch or reread. But some stuff has penetrated my numb skull and made an impression on me. I’m a sucker for small details which I don’t explicitly notice, but which give me a glimpse of a feeling of something, somewhere I want to be. A flick of the wrist, a hint of jealousy in a voice, some microexpression, pastel colour schemes… they don’t even register, but go on to hit me like a ton of bricks, drawing the seemingly arbitrary line between “good” and “godawesome”.
So… here goes.
I hunted this one up just for the title. It sounded genuinely hatke. It’s a whodunit, with Rajit Kapoor as the detective, only it’s more Roger Akroyd and Poirot’s Last Case than his well-known Byomkesh Bakshi. It is shot very well, the white balance makes the images very sharp. And the characters apart from Rajit Kapoor and Rati Agnihotri aren’t known faces. Due to this, it genuinely feels like a whodunit… you can’t assume anything about any of the characters, you’ll be willing to go wherever the story takes you.
Saat Khoon Maaf
This movie sort of lived up to expectations, though watching a bad print sort of dilutes the experience. But what I liked the best was not Priyanka Chopra’s performance, though she does do well here. It was the characters of the servants – the butler, Usha Uthup and the dwarf jockey which gave it a real feel for me. When the butler is poisoned, it sort of hit home for me, the evilness of Naseeruddin Shah’s character. Usually the support staff in any movie are either just in the background and nothing happens to them; they are in the same state in the end as in the beginning, or their deaths are inconsequential, some sort of a sideshow. But here, it’s a turning point in the movie. Whoa.
And Vivaan Shah. The character of the narrator was so incredibly well-etched. The dark way in which he talks about each death in a casual way mirrors the sort of feel in the original Susanna’s Seven Husbands story, where the narrator is just a bystander, but the muffled irritation he has to every husband of Susanna’s (and is conveying the same to his wife) earns my empathy, makes the story personal in a way going deeper in to Susanna’s mind couldn’t have.
Tina Fey’s memoir. It’s not a bodice-ripping tell-all tale or anything. It’s exactly what you expect from a comedy writer. She writes about her early life, her path to SNL, life at SNL, 30Rock, playing Sarah Palin.. and then reflecting on her life, child(ren)…. the stories aren’t spicy or edge-of-seat. But it’s the way she writes them that keeps you glued to the book. Her writing style when she is trying to be funny is reminiscent of Woody Allen. When she’s not being all WoodyAlleny, she has a very conversational, stream-of-consciousness way of writing. You can as well imagine her saying these things on some talk show or the other. Her pragmatic approach to feminism appealed to me, mainly because I haven’t heard these sorts of points of view elsewhere, and it gives my (very similar) points of view some validation.
I’ve always found Tina Fey pretty, and wondered where all those ugly-jokes came from – on 30Rock, everyone makes derisive references to her looks including herself, and she herself talks about her looks in a self-deprecating way. That, mind you, was a little unsettling… it felt like she was just playing the Geek Girl card while being Hollywood-ugly (the sort who only needs to take off her glasses to look like a leading lady), not real-ugly. But only until I saw what she looked like before she began doing Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live… overweight, badly-dressed, with a haircut that didn’t quite suit her… and realized, well, she does know what she’s going on about; it’s not just exploitation.
This gives her a self-deprecating yet mean and nasty sort of a sense of humour, that is enchantingly delightful. She disses Paris Hilton, she disses random people on the Internet who’ve left nasty comments about her… you don’t always want to agree with her, but her insults are fun to hear and file away in memory to use sometime later.
This is a famous movie, apparently. It’s one of those very few Chinese movies famous outside of China which aren’t about martial arts… here, you must keep in mind that the only Chinese movies I’ve watched are Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon and those ones dubbed in Tamil that show on Vijay TV on Sundays.
This one’s made in and set in Hong Kong. It’s got two stories, told one after the other, and they pretty much don’t intersect except for one brief moment.
The stories are normal, usual, whatever you call it…. they didn’t much make an impact on me. What did was the dialogues… my favourite is where one of the protagonists is arguing with the cashier in a departmental store about the feelings of a can of pineapple. The cinematography is good too. It gives me a feeling of deja vu; I seem to have seen this movie before I came to UCI – When I was at Hong Kong airport for my transit, this was one of the first shots I took, and the movie seems to look like that, only much more ’90s-looking and with better white balance and contrast.
Yeah, the dialogues are good, but I think the poignancy in the movie comes from the heckuva lot of stuff that is left unsaid. It’s been ages since I’ve watched a movie with latent emotion portrayed in a believable way. You know that scene in Sarkar where AB senior and AB junior realize that Kay Kay Menon is the one who betrayed them or something? That whole scene passes without a single word, just ominous background score and ‘powerful’ glances exchanged between them. That’s ‘latent emotion’ alright, but I didn’t find it one bit believable…. it came off as too forced.
In the climax of Chungking Express, he asks her if they would accept a boarding pass that looks like the one she gave him a year back, and then she says a very casual ‘maybe’ after which she writes him a new boarding pass on a tissue… that scene to me was pure magic.
And, of course, the strains of California Dreaming playing throughout the second half… I liked very much.
I liked the first story much better than the second one. Maybe because like the protagonist there, my twenty-fifth birthday isn’t all that far away. Maybe because of the pineapple dialogue. Maybe because of the pithy philosophy he spouts while nursing a broken heart, same as I do even when not nursing a broken heart – “Running is good. The body loses so much fluid when you run so that there’s none left for tears”. Maybe because Takeshi Kaneishiro is way better looking than Tony Leung. Maybe because on some days, I feel like Brigette Lin, with the whole world against me and so tired that I want to just sleep, though I might not remember to wish people on their birthdays when I wake up. Maybe because I found Faye Wong’s character in the second half way too creepy and stalkerly… maybe a few years back, I’d've found her character as alluring and enigmatic as the director wants you to think she is, but all I feel now is she is crazy, creepy and needs a restraining order.
After watching this flick, I’ve pretty much made up my mind that I’m going to fly to India the next time transiting at Hong Kong, with a really really really long layover and a transit visa. And take pictures of the streets and neon lights downtown at night. And edit them to make them seem as psychedelic as possible without making it look like Tokyo….thinking of which city gives me the shudders; the ghost of the Ryu Murakami books I’ve read so far still refuse to stop haunting me.
I’ll leave you with a clip of Quentin Tarantino talking about Chungking Express.
I used to be a majorleague movie buff at one point of time. It almost seemed like no movie would release in Hindi, Kannada and Tamil, and to some extent, English, without my knowledge. Mind you, this was in the pre-Internet days, which meant I basically scoured MTV and Channel [V] and Sun TV and Udaya TV to insane extents. While also scouring the filmi news reported in Deccan Herald, Indian Express and, heh, ToI, apart from The Week, India Today and on occasion, The Hindu. I was too snobbish to read Filmfare and Stardust back then.
And then NITK happened, and I lost the TV habit, and there was no LAN or unlimited Internet my first two years to keep my movie habit going.
I used to think it was no big loss, because “the recent movies are all utter manure”. But that is totally not true… pop culture of an earlier era always seems godawesome because you forget about all the crap and only the awesome stuff remains burnt to memory. And I watched enough junk – Aarzoo, Mr. and Mrs. Khiladi, Zulmi, Zor, Yeh Tera Ghar Yeh Mera Ghar, Hum Saath Saath Hain were just some of the many repressed memories of utterly idiotic fare I indulged in back then. Oh, and the next time anyone calls Aamir Khar Mr. Perfectionist, they deserve to be subjected to Mela and 1947-Earth back to back.
I watched a lot of movies in third and final year, but those were more of random picks than any actual craze for cinema. Including the first day first show watch of Om Shanti Om. And in college, watching movies was something you did because it was there on an overfull LAN, not because you are fascinated by the trailer or anything. Accessing everything on the Internet has its pitfalls – your allergy for advertisements means that you don’t see anything you don’t explicitly want to see – including new stuff. Unless someone or the other recommends it to you.
Naturally, I am stuck in a ’92-Early’00s pop culture loop. And don’t really try to get out.
I wasn’t too aware of all the stuff I’ve written so far until late this afternoon. I came across the trailer for Vishal Bharadwaj’s 7 Khoon Maaf. Watch it yourself:
Don’t you feel the flesh creep a little? Especially at the ‘Darrrrlingggg’? The gentle, understated change from ‘Husband’ to ’7 Husbands’ piqued your curiosity, didn’t it? And John Abraham in drag… that makes you want to watch the movie just to know what the heck is up with that, doesn’t it?
After a really long time, I’m all fired up about a movie. About a Hindi movie…. I was suitably fired up about Shutter Island. So much that I think when I finally stream this movie, it’ll be something I actually make time for, not something I just look for on a boring weekend evening.
I am intrigued by the presence of Usha Uthup as well. She was nothing short of perfect as Madhavan’s snide mom in Manmadhan Ambu. And here, as a loyal housekeeper who won’t stop short of murder, I’m dying to watch her in it.
Most reviews seem to be dissing the movie. I don’t much care about it being macabre… that’s the point of such a flick – being a black comedy it’s supposed to present gruesome acts in a cute, sympathetic way that the juxtaposition shocks you. One review however got me down… it said the flick could have been so, so much more, and that Priyanka Chopra’s character is never explored much. *Sigh*
I guess this will turn out to be a colossal disappointment much like 90% of the movies I’ve waited for with bated breath. The most colossal disappointment I’ve had is Hey Ram. God the pre-release hype! Especially when it’s a bilingual, especially when the tags for the movie would be Gandhi, Independence, Partition, Kamal Haasan, Ilaiyaraja, Shah Rukh Khan, Kavignar Vaali, Hema Malini, Rani Mukherjee, Godse, Religious Riots, Kamal Haasan’s directorial debut, Kissing, and apart from all that, a very Iyengar-looking Bangalore girl (from MCC, no less) in the lead role hyped it extremely for me. The trailers, the music were all totally something. And then finally watching it…. god, what a damp squib. In the words of my aunt, “Tamizhum, Hindi-yum, Bengali-yum kalandhu onnume puriyala…. illa, onnu mattum purinjadu – Kamal thaan hero-nu“. [In the unholy mix that was the arbit usage of Hindi, Tamil and Bengali, all I could grasp was that Kamal was the hero].
But, you know what, I’d probably not care much if it did turn out to be a bad movie. I consider every movie an experience by itself. You don’t gain much from watching a bad movie, yes, but then, you don’t gain much by watching a good movie either. At max, watching movies opens up your imagination. Normally we’d all have super unconstrained imaginations, but given the barrage of movies, television and other media, we sort of begin thinking in a constrained way, and to keep it rich and vivid and active, we need to load up on as much information and as many narrative styles as we can manage.
Or maybe, I watch movies with the hope that something in them will be able to help me bring together all the little blips of inspired storytelling that flash to me at the randomest of times, into a coherent story. And each time I watch a bad movie, there’s already a framework for me to think in, and armchair filmmaking, whining about how this scene could have had ten times the impact if only this actor had done that and the other actor had done this, is a good enough starting point.
For storyline et. al, it would do you better to click here.
Let me tell you at the outset it has NOTHING to do with the master Teacher, or Mahabharata.
Plot borrows elements from The Prestige (You didn’t think that cloning thing was original, did you?), LOTR (Saruman lookalike ugh!), fairytales from Tinkle targeted at kids below age 6, stories from Chandamama … you get the drift.
Abhishek Bachchan is the sort of actor you cast in a movie when a piece of wood is unavailable.
And the amount of crying! Villain cries, hero cries, heroine cries, folks in guest appearances cry…. the cinematographer seems to have been this kid excited on getting his first camera that he takes so many close-up shots of teardrops. So much tears, so many closeups… it deserves to be called Rona. Did someone say ‘action movie’?
But what the heck… I shouldn’t be complaining. I went to watch a Bollywood movie. I can’t expect any better. Atleast this one promised to be mindless and doesn’t feign seriousness and logic like a certain Oscar entry from India.
PS: Everyone was wondering why the rose petals are blue… and why the roses that bloom in the graveyard are blue…. I’ll tell you why. It’s coz the folks buried there were blue-blooded.
PPS: The previous post is password protected because I have neither the time nor the patience or the desire to deal with possible side-effects. Password can be requested for, however.