To desire, to believe
Hazaaron Khwaishein aisi
Director: Sudhir Mishra
Cast: Kay Kay Menon, Shiney Ahuja, Chitrangda Singh, Saurabh Shukla, Yashpal Sharma
Every generation needs something to sell. In the 60s, they peddled revolution. The smart ones kept long sideburns, grew longer beards, got drunk on country liquor, wore Lal Salaam knickers and spewed dialectical materialism to pretty girls who often lost their hearts and virginity (not always in that order) to them. Then both proceeded to study history of mentalities in Yale and got married. Preferably not to each other.
The honest ones left for the countryside 'to the backwaters of Bihar and the killing fields of Bengal ' to manufacture a peasants' insurrection. They bared their bottoms in the paddy fields, taught Marx primer to starving farmers and battled both police and upper caste reactionaries with countrymade guns. Some died; most were reborn either as NGOs or professors of social science.
Director Sudhir Mishra's Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is a post-dated love letter to that lost generation. Through the disparate but crisscrossing lives of two men and a woman, Mishra (Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin, Chameli) tells you the collective story of a restless generation with a thousand desires and one desperate dream. And he asks why the finest young men and women in the best of urban colleges got obsessed with the idea of changing the world. And, why even in that season of Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Bob Dylan, some preferred to join Youth Congress.
The movie ploughs through the mindscape of its protagonists. Why Shiney Ahuja, the son of a Gandhian, hates the idealists and becomes the finest fixer in Delhi. Why Kay Kay Menon ,a retired judge's son, gives up the good life to raise a revolution. And, you wonder if Chitrangda, the sincere and refined England-returned girl, really loves Kay Kay, or just the idea of the man she thinks he is. It's all told with craft and control, with humour and that dirty word, passion. And in the end we have an intelligent, imploring movie that leaves you twisted like a cork and wistful like an old woman. And, you feel jealous of its characters ' of the lives they lived in those angry seasons of the almost young.
HKA wouldn't have been the same without Shantanu Moitra's blend of folksy-classical music that helps the film travel inside your skin. Or, without its actors, all superbly sensitive. What stays in memory though is debutante Chitrangda's face: a complex map of beauty, mystery and symmetry with the colours of the setting sun.
There are a thousand reasons to watch Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi. But enjoy it as a last anthem for a generation who knew how to believe. Watch it holding the hand of a woman you have loved and lost. And it would be nice if you have drunk some rotten whisky before.
Kamal ka kamaal
Cast: Kamalahasan, Manisha Koirala, Om Puri, Saurabh Shukla, Vijay Raaz
Kamalahasan's back ' this time on a rollicking ride aboard Mumbai Express. Director Singeetham Sreenivasa Rao, with whom Kamal has teamed up earlier for a pioneering film like Pushpak, almost manages to pull it off this time as well. Slick editing, comic timing and brilliant dialogues give Mumbai Express a frenetic pace, though it does sag a bit in the second half losing steam as the story takes a new turn.
Three crooks with the perfect plan to make it big overnight hit one hurdle after the other, forcing them to turn to a deaf (and dumb in equal measure) Kamal for help. And help he does, by abducting the wrong kid ' that, too, a cop's son. As if taking the law head-on wasn't enough, the pesky little brat has them clutching their heads in desperation.
Saurabh Shukla is brilliant, but Manisha, as the mother of the abducted child, has precious little to do, which doesn't come as a surprise for no one is allowed to take away the spotlight in a Kamal film. However, while story-screenplay-dialogue-writer Kamal carries the film on his shoulders, actor Kamal is overshadowed by crazy crook Vijay Raaz and corrupt cop Om Puri.
Om, as the cop eager to hide his double life with mistress Manisha from prying eyes and Vijay, as the kidnapping kingpin left licking one wound after the other by Kamal, bring the house down. Literally.
Kamal, no doubt, drives Mumbai Express to its destination, but it's Vijay and Om who romp home with all the accolades. Ah, yes! Not to forget the horse for displaying amazing horse sense.
Director: Andy Tennant
Cast: Will Smith, Eva Mendes, Kevin James
Ever seen a guy make it up to his girl across a peephole and a closed door' Well, Will Smith does exactly that in Hitch just minutes before the final credits start rolling. That, after breezing through the movie as the successful and elusive date doctor Alex Hitch Hitchens, who makes a profession out of hitching up people and, in the process, stitching together relationships.
And that's what makes the movie so endearingly funny. Hitch ' despite his smooth-talking ways and his unique gameplans for every lovelorn man in town ' realises that falling in love just might be the best thing to happen. That there is more to getting hitched than making the proper moves and brushing up on that perfect smooch. That a four-minute speed date and the right pick-up line at the bar are not what love is all about. As the movie goes on a crazy tailspin across a summery New York, it gets the romance element just right, without falling into formulaic, mushy cliches. Will puts in a thoroughly smart performance and Eva as the on-the-move gossip columnist is just about believable. It's the sort of light, zippy comedy you want to watch to keep your spirits up.
Like Rajdhani 'soup'
kuchh meetha ho jaaye
Director: Samar Khan
Cast: Arshad Warsi, Mahima Choudhary, Jaspal Bhatti, Kanwaljeet Singh, Sachin Khedekar, Irawati Harshe, Pravin Dabas, Sandhya Mridul, Rohit Roy, Sravan Chabria, Mahima Mehta, (Shah Rukh Khan)
Journalist turned filmmaker Samar Khan's debut has seriously put the Indian Railways cooking to shame, even that of the notoriously bland 'Continental' variety. Indeed, so insipid and tasteless is Kuch Meetha Ho Jaaye that it might actually make you yearn for the hot water that is served under the pseudonym of soup, at 7pm on the Rajdhani Express. And this, despite the lucky ingredients of a 'K' name and the presence of superstar Shah Rukh Khan.
A motley group assembles at the fictitious Ganganagar Airport to catch a flight to Delhi. A technical snag in the plane delays them for long hours, forcing them to put up with one another, leading to confrontations, confessions and reunions. A story like this, which has no movement in space and time, needs strong characters and engaging situations. This is where KMHJ falls flat on its face. The characters are all one-sided, and the situations, school skit-like. Samar Khan's handling of relationships is amateurish and simplistic.
Arshad Warsi is genuinely good ' funny, sensitive and endearing. Mahima is okay, but then, her role doesn't demand much. self. The rest of the cast are all wasted.
Go back, Boss!
Director: T.L.V. Prasad
Cast: Mithun Chakraborty, Rambha, Anamika Saha, Sanjib Dasgupta, Rajesh Sharma
The Boss is back, the posters declare. Meant to chill our bones with terror or tickle them to laughter as to when exactly did he go away' Weren't his posters always staring down at us as we hurried past them to meet our own bosses, perhaps. Or indifferently stared back at them, as we sipped roadside tea. But, with Dada, that indifference will turn to desperate pleading, Dada dearest, we love you and all that stuff, but please go back to wherever you are saying you are back from.
Take all those white clothes and hop into that helicopter that's so mysteriously always at your disposal, anyway. Away into those dark clouds, perhaps, under which you try to dance as delightedly as Aamir in Kale megha song. After you have done the other Khan act that not shordi, khaashi, maylaria, bhalobhasa is the problem. Here, we sympathise. At your age, two women falling all over you can be stressful.
Take them with you as they are stressful for us, too. But don't put them into that train running through mysterious landscapes and tunnels only to stop at Burdwan Junction. Along the track they may find more of the sword-wielding men that director T.L.V. Prasad was so busy recruiting that he never really got a chance to get down to the story, plot, or any development remotely logical. All of which fails to give the tiniest clue, even if we agree you were away, as to why you are back.
A Ray for a Ray; so what's new'
Director: Sandip Ray
Cast: Soumitra Chatterjee, Rituparna Sengupta, Sabyasachi Chakraborty, Raima Sen, Parambrata Chatterjee, Deepankar De
A family gathers in a quaint cottage in idyllic Himalayas. A quirky guest arrives one day. One night, an earthquake destroys the bridge that connects them to mainland. Electricity goes off. Water runs out. Food ends. Panic begins'
Watching Sandip Ray's Nishi Japon induces a sense of deja vu. It reminds one of two Satyajit Ray films in terms of its treatment, thematic content and characterisation. Kanchenjunga, because of nature metaphors like mountains and landslides symbolising inner avalanche of human emotions. And Shakha Proshakha, which shows hidden discord breaking down semblance of congenial familial relationships. Some images are downright dittos. Like bedtime conversation between husband and wife while she applies night cream on her face and neck. Is it a deliberate device used by the director to acknowledge allegiance to his filmmaking gharaana' Maybe. Because what prevails is a sense that time is suspended. It's neither past nor present. Which is fine. Except when disaster hits in a seemingly contemporary world, one wonders where the cellphones are. Or for that matter, the landline, television, or radio.
An excellent ensemble cast shares great chemistry. Especially, two seasoned thespians with shared 'Ray history' ' Soumitra Chatterjee and Deepankar De. Sabyasachi Chakraborty is a straight-talking, irreverent Army doc with a penchant for bird hunting (literally and connotatively) and Rituparna Sengupta is his beautiful, dutiful wife. Parambrata Chatterjee is the reticent younger brother, with some kind of 'never made known' angst. And Raima Sen, with her fluid child-woman face, dulcet voice (Rabindrik inflections in perfect lip-sync) and doe eyes, is definitely Bengali cinema's lambe race ki ghodi.
A charming feature of the film is its subtle humour. Like the dig at Bengali sartorial sense when young Parambrata, wearing 'muffler' goes to fetch 'monkey cap'. Or a delightful coinage like 'aabaar khaabaar' reinforcing a legacy of memorable Rayisms.
Sizing up the male mindset
shunyo e bukey (empty canvas)
Director: Kaushik Ganguly
Cast: Churni Ganguly, Kaushik Sen, Tota Roy Chowdhury
PJ. Harvey appeared flat and bare-chested on an album cover and hell broke, precisely because women, bodies and all, universally, are circumscribed by expectations. And precisely at a time when we have increasingly proliferating standards of conformities to go by ' impaling navels, practising the right jut of one's hip under a thong ' trust a classicist Bong to focus our collective confused gaze back where it belongs, apparently. To all cultural mammaries/memories, translated into the familiar Bangali polemic of the haves and have-nots. After all, by the film's own admission, the lithe veejays and anorexic models are far too hip by Bong standards.
But more than what women want or are made to want for their bodies ('the history, philosophy and mathematics behind the female anatomy'), this film is a plea to tortured men who haven't somehow managed to get past the adolescent fixation of looking at women as overstuffed walking bras. As Tota Roy Chowdhury's character puts it, sympathetically, 'though it is impossible for a man to feel any kind of attraction for that body, there are certain things one learns to compromise on'. As long as she breeds well. Very charitable, no doubt. And quite likely a very grave issue of marital discontent in Bangali families that we don't really get to know of. The film does end up revealing the utter ridiculousness of the husband's 'narrow-mindedness' and the pathos generated by it.
The performances.are credible and the cinematography, soundtrack, baulgaan are tasteful and segue well, and there's only just the one hideous sculpture near the end. But even then, my male friends unanimously insist that they're plagued much more by their own relative sizes than the swell of their counterparts. Now that is something truly rendered silent by the norms of society and patriarchy. So why not film a series on those anxieties, one each, on all the penile malfunctions that Dr Lodh's posters promise to set straight instead'