Monday, June 8, 2015

Flawed Machismo And Philandering Femmes: Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Two archetypes of Modern India.
Tanuja Trivedi a.k.a. Tanu - from UP. Romantic, aggressive, self-confident
Kusum Sangwan a.ka. Datto - from Haryana. Confident, dutiful, athletic.

Then you have Manu Sharma a.k.a.  Manu - A man torn between the two women
In the trignometry of modern India's changing gender equations, writer Himanshu Sharma and director Anand Rai explore patterns that go beyond the obvious.
Marriage meets betrayals. Lovesick Romeos flaunt flawed machismo. Girls lose their heads and find their feet as freedom comes with its warts. Tanu Weds Manu Returns is a subtle comedy of manners spiced with a depth that arrives elegantly when Kangana meets Kangana in a voluptuous meeting of dialects and dialectics. See it for her histrionics and the rugged charm of a plot that celebrates the vulnerabilities of hinterland India.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

Selfie Verite - When stand-up comedy makes you sit down

'Time stands still in Calcutta. That is where ambition goes to die. It has a high return on investment on nostalgia'- says Papa CJ
It was delightful attending his PAPA CJ - NAKED (Gurgaon - Sun 31 May)show on Sunday. It is more than comedy. It has a deep literary flourish, with a visceral sense of pathos as he journeys into his own past to mix the ribald with the profound and the profound with the poignant. There is always a challenge in making stand-ups rise above the simple stringing of gags. CJ, reveals much more (body and soul) in what you could call Selfie Verite -- a click into his true persona. He does that in a fascinating way, combining impromptu interactivity with audience with a part-nostalgic, part-incisive recollections of his own past.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

Pronounced bowels and digestible consonants: Piku

There is only so much you can guffaw when the bowel is a muse.
But beyond the ablutions lie the intuitions that provide a richer variety of humour.
Piku is brilliant. Beyond its toilet humour lies a sense of character and souls trapped in a rubble of conditioned habits and ways of the flesh. The richness of cultures ingrained and established is nothing when worlds collide between souls in search of harmonious understanding. 
Writer Juhi Chaturvedi excels in a matrix where characters are stripped naked of their habits and social mannerisms to a point where you see the constant permanent over the variables of everyday idiosyncrasies. Shoojit Sircar's ability to weave in little oddities and rich textures of culture within single-frame detail and short-lived gestures is amazing.
We are quite used to excellence from Amitabh Bachchan, but he can excel himself sometimes -- and the more weird the character, the more is his ability extract the juice of mannerisms, twitches and eccentricities. 

Irffan Khan, by now Bollywood's uncrowned king of understated elegance, can somehow combine the ruffianesque with the sensitive as only he can do, it seems.
But what is fascinating alongside is Deepika Padukone's ability to retain a sense of modern, independent, aesthetic style even as she sinks into a messy role that reflects a character steeped in the hallowed weight of traditions and responsibilities beyond what her tender shoulders might permit. Some things, when chewed well, can be very digestible and delicious.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Gangsta Chic Rum in Vintage Wine Glass: Bombay Velvet's Underwelming Underbelly

Smart Alec Parsees and uprooted Punjabis melt with tycoons and labour leaders in a cauldron that brews struggles for power, status and wealth amid rising skyscrapers and squalor. This is an excellent setting for a saga of wounded souls embracing and conspiring in romance and lust.
But overambition is a crime, be it an urban underbelly's anti-hero serenading a Portugese-scarred songstress or a Banaras boy trying to be a desi avant-garde Hollywood icon.
Anurag Kashyap, like Johnny Balraj played by a dedicated Ranbir Kapoor, shows spunk in a montage of taut plot, moving lyrics and nostalgia jazz. Yet Bombay Velvet underwhelms. It gets caught in a crossfire of style and crafting flaws. 
The characters jump too quickly in, with little etching. They all shake hands in curt Hollywood fashion in clumsy self-introductions. Close-ups make up for lack of aesthetic long shots or zooms. There is too much of Sphagetti Western influence that eats into the jazz mood. The characters are strong in some way but are way too middle-class in articulation. 
Karan Johar tries too hard as a manipulative wannabe, Ranbir shines with sincerity and Anushka Sharma fits the role despite her persona of not being a vulnerable screen figure. The music, inspite of the staccato violence that peppers the movie, stands out in poignant elegance. A lot of hardwork has evidently gone in: Sri Lankan locales, a pastiche of double-deckers, old-world brands and sepia knick-knacks.
But still...

Because India is not America, 1960s isn't 1930s, gangsta chic is not period authenticity, emotional trignometry is not social history.
And Kashyap is not Scorcese. 
Rum in a wine glass.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Calcutta Remixed, with some overcooking - Detective Byomkesh Bakshi (mini review)

Trams and hand rickshaws. Japanese agents and Chinese gangs. British power and Bihari workers. Murders, betrayals and shaky notions of love, loyalty and idealism. Dibakar Banerjee uses Detective Byomkesh Bakshi's thriller-sleuthing as a wonderful excuse to capture the dynamic 1940s in Calcutta, when Imperial lines and impoverished Indians crossed path in an ugly global game that involved opium peddlers, street politics and conspiracies of many hues. The movie is a magnificent high for a Bollywood Renaissance, but its end is overcooked, giving us a David Lean like period feel with a questionable aroma of the blood-and-psycho realism of a Tarantino.  And the use of disco and rock occasionally in the soundtrack is a jarring throwforward in a nostalgic high.
Costume design (inlcuding some by Manoshi Nath) give an authentic feel in a strange aesthetic that involves worn out cottons, long dhotis, Raj-era uniforms and loincloths amid mildewed walls and industrial machinery. And K Venugopal Menon's daughter plays female lead in a role that reminds you somehow of Smita Patil. Classic wine in multiplex bottle.