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.