Kaminey: A Ballad Darkly Tuesday, 25 August, 2009Posted by ~uh~™ in Bollywood.
Tags: Amole Gupte, Bhau, Bhope, censor, Certificate, ch*tiye, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Climax, dark, Desi, drama, Film, gangster, genre, hindi, Kaminey, Masala, Mikhail, Mumbai, political, Priyanka Chopra, Review, Shahid Kapoor, Train
This review was first published on PFC [link]
For me there will always be a difference in experience between watching a film on big screen, on the immediate weekend after its release compared to watching it after reading many reviews, seeing it on DVD. Because of my lack of knowledge, experience and panache to observe the nuances and minutiae of this medium of art and expression. Unfailingly, I tend to form an opinion from others viewpoint, build-up expectations or more detrimentally, become biased.
Thus, I normally try to avoid reading many reviews before watching a movie just to keep my mind free from any bias or expectations. However, for Kaminey it was entirely a different trip. I have never had the privilege to witness any Director’s perspective on his movie before watching it, leave alone attend a discussion between two Directors, who have imprinted their style in contemporary Indian cinema, in person, in real time. So, when the two directors started discussing the film in animated excitement, I gulped it down like a greedy pig. Because, having missed the discussion, I would have now been writing the script of Flashbacks of a Fool- Part Deux.
Evolution of ‘Hindi movie’ has always been based on certain modus operandi, saving a handful of exception, which rather proved the norm. Movies which were not formula based were a copy/ lift/ inspiration or termed as ‘Art film’. So Commercial Hindi cinema, also known as ‘Mainstream Bollywood’ or ‘Escapist Entertainment’, always typified the certain formula, albeit modernized with time.
The formula broadly delved on love story, family drama, twin siblings/ reincarnations, political drama, cop/ gangster/ terrorist, horror/ comedy (of late it’s difficult to distinguish between them). With the winning formula combined with muscular hunks, foreign locations, underdressed zeroines, numerous song and dance sequences, they were sure to entertain a section of the audience. The other kind of audience drooled over Tarantino, Ritiche and Rodriguezor, to satisfy their appetite for dark wit and flamboyant violence. Then happened Kaminey and things did not look the same anymore.
[This para is not in PFC review] The basic plot revolved around separated twin brothers Guddu and Charlie (Shahid Kapoor), Guddu’s girlfriend and mother of his child Sweety (Priyanka Chopra), her headstrong regionalist politico brother Bhope Bhau (Amole Gupte). A huge consignment of coke deal goes bad and Guddu and Charlie gets entangled in a nexus of corrupt cops, international drug peddlers, Bengali race fixer Mafioso and henchmen of Bhope. A bloody chase for power and money ensues while love and blood bonding floats above all.
Kaminey to me is an absolutely desi and dark director’s cut of our times, which does justice to the medium of art/expression as well as makes commercial sense. Vishal Bharadwaj uses elements of the time tested formula and imbues them in the film in his unique way. The story is a not so subtle statement on Indian politics and corruption at the metropolis underbelly, under the subtext of classical vulnerable romance. What is subtle is how he interweaves dream like sequences within harsh reality and creates a ballad, wrinkle free and acid washed.
The aspects of Kaminey which made me see the movie once again-
Political undertone- The statements on politics, corruption and exploitation may not be new in intent but surely in presentation. In a necropolis, neither the criminals are glorified nor are the cops. At the end of the day the people are constituent of a symbiotic scum, corroding the moral values to the core and celebrating it with vada pao and modak. When values are traded and negotiated like vegetables, it’s the kaminey who walks up the victory stand.
Childhood memoirs- The guns in the hands of Bhope Bhau and Mikhail seemed like toys, when they play the game of death with innocent ‘dhishkaon’ to each other. The mention of Bela-Bahadur and champak immediately took me to my days of Indrajaal Comics. Violence was a child, once upon a time. That’s why the eccentric Bengali dadas not only refuse to grow up, but chose their lethal weapons with childish ecstasy.
Black Humour- Now this is not everyone’s glass of blood. How violence becomes comic and death brings a smile, are illustrated in this movie. Picking up the humorous killing scenes and describing them would be a criminal offence and killing of the humour itself, so I refrain. Those who love comic books may get the drift.
Dialouges- Each and every sentence uttered by the characters reflected the idiosyncrasy, humour and the strata of the society the characters represent. Usage of original mother tounge by the characters further makes it a treat for the audience, who understands it. I can vouch that the Bengali dialogues were one of the best in the movie, not just because it’s in Bengali but the contextual sarcasm in which they work. For your information, ‘Sonamoni’, mukhta ektu kholo dekhini’ [ o my sweetpie, open your mouth please] and ‘O amar Sontumunu pushuta’ are the sweet nothings a Bengali mother affectionately uses to nurse and cuddle her baby.
Influences- Some of us, who are little overdosed with international films, tend to seek the ‘inspiration’ or ‘tribute’ to a context, or a scene, and then analyze it so deeply, which probably even the Director never had any clue of. Just because a film is structured as non-linear narrative and talks about a wristwatch doesn’t mean a simile with Pulp Fiction, similarly to El mariachi because of a Guitar and Guy Ritchie because of multiple gangsters chasing a large booty moving. However, I must confess, some of the elements used, did remind me some films of foreign origin. For example the masked figures in the song Fatak reminded me the death procession on Once Upon A Time in Mexico., the climax shootout reminded me of Desparado, Mikhail’s long hair and sniffing style reminded me of Banderas of El Mariachi and Pacino from Scarface.
Symbolism and Surrealism- The delirium of Charlie and the jump cuts to his childhood and Mikhails deadbody in his father’s place was subconscious acceptance of guilt, which , in most probability was intentional. But Guddu’s walk along the railway track over the corpses while half-dead people are trying to grab his feet was surreal to me- I was simultaneously surprised, shocked and disturbed, but ‘felt’ the scene in my psyche. Quite an anarchist poetry in celluloid.
Characters performances- Priyanka Chopra , Amole Gupte, Chandan Roy’s performances are etched in stone. Rajatava Datta and Deb Mukherjee as the Bengali dadas are brilliant too. I liked Tenzing Lama as Tashi too, he had the right attitude to like bitches over dogs. Shahid Kapoor’s dual role as Guddu and Charlie gives us some hope, that stars may not need to build up a image of romantic or action hero but can do character roles. Our cinema needs characters, we have seen enough heroism.
Overall, a superior and entertaining cinema with masala plot, great music, fabulous casting, cult characters, brilliant cinematography and a new flavour which sets the Hindi film standards up there, that would change the meaning of ‘average’.
However, I did have my feeling of discontent with Kaminey, even being aware of the director’s thought behind certain elements.
Dilution/ comic reliefs- The high standard of twisted humour, though fairly consistent does degrade a bit at places, especially with that Lele character at the climax.
Make up- looking at it from pure practical point of view there should have been some marked difference between the twin brothers, representing their upbringing. Atleast, Guddu would have been given a shorter hair cut.
Climax- The climax was a big letdown and it was clear that it’s been brutally edited to fit the film into a time limit. Such climax, panned with wide angle camera, rendered with the number Rasta Hai Jo Sasta Hai Wo would have been a masterpiece, a metaphoric epic like end. The silhouette against the setting sun and the gunfire sparks looked like a painter’s canvas and I wanted more. But, it ended like a rushed up 80’s potboiler, with a clichéd message – Alls well that ends well. The ending clearly disappointed me. It was like the fragile David of art was defeated by the commercial Goliath. The ballad gets asphyxiated.
Certification- Was that A certification some kind of joke? Some contemporary movies get released with an U certification which feature cleavages as deep as ATM slots, display human flesh like PETA adverts, item numbers that would enable premature ejaculation to coma patients, leave alone the Sulabh Sauchalay grade innuendos, while I cringe into my seat, as my 9 year old son doesn’t even find them funny. But Kaminey gets a big A, because our respected censor board does not want to talk about condom and thinks Kaminey is a bad word, so is Pilibhit.
I sincerely request the film fraternity to give censor board another chance, by making Ch*tiye.
Caught in Prosopamnesia Tuesday, 30 June, 2009Posted by ~uh~™ in Favourites, Hollywood, Rewind, World Movies.
Tags: Black actors, Caravan, Cinema, Cuban, Cube, dark, Dolpo, drama, Eric Valli, guillotines, Himalaya, maze, Movies, plot, psychogical thriller, scenes, story, Tarsem Singh, The Cell, The Survivors, Thriller, Violence, World Movies
Warning: You will find the post rather long, if movies doesn’t excite you.
Having a good memory is a curse
(And I have experienced that)
This is not a review.
This is a post about few movies I have seen long time ago and for some reasons could not forget. May be because I was premature ten years ago and the movies were complex for me to decipher, these movies had an unforgettable impact on me. Presently, I can only recollect the basic storyline and remember few isolated scenes from these movies. There was no wikipedia or rotten tomatoes to search for movies and neither I had access to IMDB, even if it existed in the 90’s. Thus, I could not find the names of those movies, in absence of the critical search keys – Director, actor(s), origin and year of making. But the common qualities of all these four movies were intense drama on the plot, superior camerawork, excellent cinematography and vivid graphical scenes.
I am going to describe what I remember from these movies. I have been searching over the internet with various search strings and gathered some clue. However, I am not sure about them, as I could not get hold of these movies for that craved second viewing. I am sure; in a forum like PFC there would be few aficionados who have seen these movies can confirm my guess. I would be grateful if you can also let me know any known source to view them again. It is then only I would be relieved from my state of Trishanku.
Movie # 1
I saw it between 1991-93 on TV. Those days DD used to screen award winning movies from different countries (which we term as World Movies today) at night after 11 pm. This particular movie was in some European language- Italian or Spanish and I had followed the subtitles. The movie was set on a grand palatial building where a affluent family lived. The family consisted of ladies and gentlemen of various ages and a very old lady. There was a grand dining hall where all the family members used to dine together over elaborate spread of dishes, which looked like an exotic cuisine. The building had a large garden, huge fields of crop all around and it looked as if everything is eternally bright and happy. Somehow because of some reason (either it was a war or a famine) the food supply stopped suddenly and the family started starving. Initially they tried having vegetable and leaves collected from the garden and made a meal out of it. As days passed they started looking shabbier with torn and dirty clothes, but they continued their ritualistic family meals, though much humbled in terms of content and presentation. Gradually their human inhibitions started deteriorating as they started eating dead animals. The old lady, who actually resembled like a scarecrow, tried to fight the birds from eating away the crops and succumbed to death. Though it is not shown explicitly, but it was understood that the inhabitants slowly turned into cannibals and one after other family members were served as they continued to have their ‘meals’ in the same dining room. I don’t remember the end, but it was one of the most dark and creepy story I ever saw on screen. The dining room scenes and their conversations were the key highlights of the movie. Please note the movie was not The Exterminating Angel though there are some similarities in the plot.
Addition after posting:
Based on my years research on the net, I zero down to this movie – Los sobrevivientes (The Survivors) a 1978 Cuban drama film directed by Tomás Gutiérrez Alea. The wiki page doesn’t give much information and mentions that the film entered the Cannes Film festival in the year 1979.
The synopsis found here-
A bourgeois Cuban family of aristocratic origin locks itself into its mansion when the Cuban Revolution comes to power, waiting for the new regime to be overthrown. As time passes, they regress to older and older systems of political order, from capitalism to feudalism to “primitive savagery.” This dark comic classic, by one of Cuba’s most acclaimed directors, was never released commercially in the United States.
Movie # 2
I saw this movie on a theatre in Nepal during my month long stay in 1999 for official work. This is one of the most fabulous mountain movies I have ever seen (I have not seen Chandrabhusan’s Frozen yet). It was made in some Tibetan language and whatever few dialogues it had was subtitled. The plot was a simplistic story involving a leader and his son who wanted to break the tradition of the tribe and go on his own way. Whereas the old leader had to lead a team of people and yaks and travel across a long and dangerous route across the indomitable Himalayan territory. There was one scene where the group had to cross a narrow turn and one of the yaks fails to negotiate and falls into the icy blue water, deep down below. The entire movie is shot in Tibetan Himalayas and devoid of any significant actors. The faces, I remember were all sunburnt and full of wrinkles of experience. This movie, unlike other movies made on Himalaya doesn’t focus on the beauty or romance of the mountain, rather showcases the harshness of the terrain and the endurance of the people set on their philosophy of living. Mountains were the most prominent character in the movie dominating everything and the actors were as natural as if it was a documentary. One of the most remarkable feature films with an everlasting impact.
I think the movie I saw was named as Caravan which is also known as Himalaya in some parts of the world , Directled by Eric Valli. If I am not able to watch this moving again in my life, I would die incomplete.
I have found this trailer of the movie . Please watch it in full screen. You would understand the humongous effort by the cast & crew when you realize that the locations, where the film was shot was so difficult, that all equipment were being carried manually. All the characters are local people and are not trained actors.
Movie # 3
This one again I saw on TV sometime during 2001-2002. I don’t remember much except that most of the movie was shot inside a complicated old fortress like building crammed with lot of glass guillotines. It was kind of a psychological thriller with a treatment similar to Saw series. A man enters the building and loses his way around. After some time another man gets vertically split along his shoulder, when one of the glass guillotines strike him from the top. Even his spectacle frames get cut neatly. When the rear half of the body falls off, the other half stands there and the cross section shows the anatomy like a biology book. I remember one more significant scene from this movie. One man tried to enter a space where a nice agile horse was standing under a skylight. But a little girl from a distance gestured him not to tread in that direction. As soon as the man backs out of the space, a set of glass guillotines drops from the top dividing the horse into pieces. While the horse is still standing the glass panels start moving apart extending the length of the horse. The camera then slowly moves closer and turns to a close up of one of the cross section of the horse which shows the heart, still pumping. One of the most artistic graphic violence I have ever seen.
Unfortunately, I could not even see this full movie for some reason. I started watching it on TV on Star Movies or HBO and then there was a power failure. It must be sometime between ‘98-’02. The movie was set up in some suburban location where men wore hats and women- gowns. A man and a lady were engaged into what seemed to be like a forbidden love, for that place. Once they were caught red handed while making love on the haystack inside an abandoned farm-house. A motley bunch of men brutally assaults the man and the lady as well, while she tried to resist. At the end of the movie, the bunch of men is shown to nail the injured man to the wooden external surface of a bogie of a goods train. The man is so wounded that he could not even scream in pain against the brutal torture. The entire event happens in front of the lady, who is hold captive and helpless by the gang. The train slowly starts moving while the guy hangs from it with his armed stretched and head bowed down. The lady breaks herself free and starts running after the train. Just in time a black man appears with a shotgun and kills all the evil men in rapid succession , within seconds. In the very last scene, the lady stands in front of the black man with the shotgun, while the train leaves.
I tried browsing movies by known black actors- Denzel Washington, Samuel Jackson , Laurence Fishburne , Don Cheadle , Wesley Snipes and Cuba Gooding. (I was fairly sure it was not Forest, Whitaker, Will Smith or Morgan Freeman). Till date I could not find this movie again. I tried goggling with various keywords. The nearest I came was A time to Kill .
I even tried to browse movies by black actors, but the list is so humongous I ran out of patience.
Hope I will get the confirmation on my guess on the first three and name of the last one from the readers of PFC. I would be glad to find anyone who has seen all the four mentioned here and I would mention him when I cross post this article on my blog.
Ps: This post was originally published here and reading it’s comment section may add to the readers knowledge.