Movie Review: Haidar – The smartest movie of the year

Haider 2

How these things came about: so shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,
Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall’n on the inventors’ reads: all this can I
Truly deliver.

(Horatio, in Hamlet: Act 5, Scene 2)

 

Faiz Ahmed Faiz, imprisoned at Central Jail in Hyderabad (the one in Pakistan), wrote this in his book Dasht-e-Sabaa –

Maqaam faiz koi raah mein jaNchaa hi nahiN
Jo ko-e-yaar se nikle to su-e-daar chale

मुकाम फैज़ कोई राह में जँचा ही नहीं
जो कू -ए -यार से निकले तो सू -ए -दार चले

I didn’t care much for the stopovers on the way; So, I departed from the lanes of the beloved, towards the welcoming gallows

When you read Faiz, the revolutionary poet who was one of the pall bearers of progressive literature, often makes you think that his ghazals and nazms are romantic. Truth be told, they are one of the most definitive fusion of romance and revolution. One would never know for sure if gulon mein rang bhare was written as his yearning for his wife, or his yearning for freedom.

Somewhere, Dr. Meer is singing the same ghazal in an unidentifiably named prison MAMA2, and somewhere else in the movie, a young Haider/ Hamlet is expected to complete the couplet – chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka kaarobaar chale. And , roohdaar (Irrfan Khan – rooh= Ghost, daar = gallows/ house), the prison mate of Dr. Meer/ the ghost of King Hamlet, narrates the backstory.

Tell me now, why wouldn’t you fall in love with this movie?

Haider 1

The juxtaposition of scenes and characters is brilliant.

The movie begins with Dr. Meer (King Hamlet of Denmark) getting picked up by the army under AFSPA and disappearing after that, Ghazala/ Gertrude (Tabu) watching on as Zahoor prays while his band of extremists are taken out by the army and her house is blown up, a bearded hairy Haider/ Hamlet returning to find his father gone and his memories burnt to ashes, Arshia/ Ophelia (Shraddha) fighting for her independence while really being a stooge in a patriarchial society, General Parvez Lone/ Polonius (Lalit Parimu) playing the fine role of a suave strategist army man who would go any lengths to get his way, and finally, Khurram/ Claudius (Kay Kay), who is the slimy conniving uncle that he needs to be. The splitting of Horatio into two Salmans(Salman Khan wannabes) copying the dance steps of “mere rang mein rangne wali”  is as brilliant a take as was the conversion of the three Macbethian witches into the two inspectors of Maqbool – “satta ke santulan ke liye aag ke liye paani ka bhay jaroori hai”.

And the final nail – Roohdaar, as the ghost of the dead King (Irrfan), whose puffed burnt eyes that are not able to sleep in the night.

 

Why would you not fall in love with this movie?

The acting is special. Even from Shahid Kapoor who everyone thinks will destroy his father’s rich legacy. Irrfan, Kay Kay, Tabu, Shraddha, Lalit Parimu and the others – they all just fit the piece.

The music, with the exception of ‘kabhi khul toh’, is intricately woven with the movie. A special standout mention for Bismil, So Jao and Jhelum. [on a separate note, purist as I am about ghazals, I think Arijit Singh has done a rather fine rendition of Gulon Mein]

The cinematography, coming from the man who gave us Ship of Thesus, brings the tragical beauty of Kashmir to life that few others have done.

The dialogues. Subhanallah. Almost poetic. Right from Chutzpah to Intequaam.

Editing – Again, with the exception of that one song, spot on. There are things left unsaid, unexplained. The audience is assumed to be smart enough to interpret or hypothesize. BTW, who was the man behind the mask? Does your heart go out for Dr. Meer who was supporting a terrorist? Oh wait, was that man a terrorist? Oh, but the army still did something horribly wrong, no? Wait, why are we discussing all this? Isn’t it about Haider’s search for his father and the revenge for what what was done to him? By his own brother? Was there a unrequited romance between Ghazala and Haider?

 

Who cares!! Enjoy the smartest movie of the year my friends! Movies like Haider, with the depth of screenplay, the finesse of dialogues, the detailing of characters, and beautiful visual storytelling, do not happen too often in Bollywood. That it’s a beautiful adaptation of Hamlet makes it more droolworthy*. That I was able to enjoy the movie so much despite me and the biwi having to take turns to play with Laddoo (who was exceptionally energetic all through the show only to drop off to sleep in the last 15 minutes of the movie) should stand testament to the brilliance of Haider.

 

[ *I never thought there could be another droolworthy adaptation of Hamlet after Hamlet-The Clown Prince.]

[Note: I don’t know which moron came up with the #BoycottHaider campaign. But then I don’t know why there is so much outrage on facebook and twitter about most inconsequential things either.]

 

 

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The Murder of David by Jayantabhai Ki Luv Story. Part 2

David ke do aage David. David ke do peeche David. Aage David. Peeche David. Bolo kitne David. 3 David! Correct. As you all know, David has 3 Davids.. And as you an guess, they do have a linkage somewhere. Otherwise, it’d be a lame idea to make a movie named David, right?

Davidar? Gower? Fincher? Schwimmer? No. Just David.

Make it 30 minutes shorter, cut down Monica Dogra’s and Lara Dutta’s presence, and tighten a few scenes. That’s all that David needs to be transmogrified into “Great Cinema”.

At the beginning of the movie, all three Davids are at the cusp of a life changing action.  A scene that we see at least thrice in the movie.

D1The first David is a perennially constipated Neil Nitin Mukesh. Since it is expected that he, having lost his father, would be a grumpy young man, his constipation is a disguised strength actually. Like that tweezer trick of Joey Tribbiani (FRIENDS). The second David (Vikram Virmani) is a hippie, who is so genuinely nice and all that you start wondering what exactly can go wrong with such a nice guy who doesn’t even have a girlfriend. The third David is a loony Chiyan Vikram. His (lack of) hindi skills don’t hurt him because of three reasons – he is a Christian (since independence, we have given Indian Christians the responsibility of speaking Hindi like leftover Brits would), he is in Goa (so speaking native hindi would be very unoriginal, a fact that is not applicable to the  other born and brought up in London desi David), and he is, in reality, a Tamil speaking superstar who was last seen in Ravana (after Ravana, one can forgive anyone anything).

D4Previous commentary withstanding, the third David track is the most interesting, with Saurabh Shukla adding a zing to the proceedings. Tabu waltzes in and out of this act and is brilliant in her role. Vikram himself is not bad at all. The supposed weak link of the story, Isha Sharvani, playes a deaf and mute character, looks ethereally beautiful, and has but a few expressions to take care of. The lady that plays Vikram’s mother is another piece of brilliant furniture in this large well lit room. The lighthouse symphony is a beautiful composition. AND, the constant ear trick is funny, a trait of the seafaring fishermen, I believe.

The first track, shot completely in black and white is reasonably tight. Though one wonders why Milind Soman is there to waste screen time. And Monica Dogra flirts and bites, but with little effect, and lots of boredom. Rekha Bhardwaj’s O Laal Meri filmed on Sarika is a nice touch, especially with the merging into the rock version. This is also the track where everyone seems to be wearing black or white, despite the shots being done in Black and White. Ah. Those were the days. Why waste on color when it has to be colorless.

D2The second track, the hippie track is the most disconnected track from the movie. If my opinions were counted for, I’d have asked Bejoy Saar to take it out, and focus on the other two. Nothing against Virmani though. Maybe, he was required for continuity, but I’d have figured out something else. But then, why waste 5-10 minutes on Lara Dutta and general sop. Moreover, since with the exception of the second track itself, the timelines don’t really have an impact on the proceedings. the 2011 story of Goan David could have happened in 1999 or 1973 as well. I hope I got the years right. I was too bored to remember such details by the end of the movie.

Bejoy Nambiar has got his casting quite right, I must say. Except Monica Dogra. Actually, her existence in the movie is not quite unjustified, but the length of her role is. In a movie of Davids, she is the real David turning everyone else into Goliath.

The detailing is quite nice too. Like, the David2 getting pager based messages. Or, people talking about the cost of bullets in 1973.
Soundtrack is praiseworthy . Very different, and very versatile, which is explained by the fact that there were 15 composers involved.

D3David, however, should have been cut down brutally by a good editor. Anurag Kashyap has been missed on this venture. I have been told that the Tamil version has only two stories. I think something like that should have been done for the Hindi version too. The end is quite well done. And Vikram’s Satku Santa is an idea that I’d love to take up some day. So much for secret Santa.

The movie is experimental, and well conceived. But not that well executed. And given the flavor of the season, executions should come easy, right?

Rating – 2 on 5.

Movie Review: The Namesake



I saw the movie more than a week back. However, I was thinking of writing the review only after I have read the book as well. As Diamond would have it, the book has taken steam in the last day or so, and the review has been pending a while.

Yenniways, back I am. To talk about Gogol, Goggles, Ashoke, Ashima, America, India, Bengal, and all their Namesakes.

Of all the classical literature I have followed, somehow, I never ended up reading Nikolai Gogol. Dostoevsky, Chekhov, and Tolstoy were as much a Russian repertoire as I could get comfortable with. Anyways, the plan is to read and figure out if I have also come from Gogol’s overcoat.

The movie seems to have impressed a lot of people, but yours truly wasn’t really impressed. And for a change, the biggest disappointment was Tabu, who just doesn’t seem Bengali enough. IrfanKhan is extremely convincing in his accent and demeanor of a Bengali. Kal Penn disappoints (with due respect to his comic timing and my appreciation of his several other movies). Others don’t really have a role.

The Namesake is the story of Gogol Ganguli (or, Nikhil Ganguli) (Kal Penn), the namesake of the great Russian author Nikolai Gogol, with his unique name bestowed upon him by his father Ashoke Ganguli (Irfan) given his love with Russian literature and a past haunted by an accident.

However, rather than getting into the story, which I will definitely get into in my other post on the book review of The Namesake, I will focus on the movie.

The things I did not like about the movie (there are n number of blogs talking about how good the movie is!)

A. Settings

  • Calcutta (then, and now Kolkata) of 1974 hardly seems authentic.
  • Ashoke’s accident occurs in 1974, and he is bed ridden for one year. He goes to the US for 2 years, and that would take us to 1977. Getting married in 1977, and with a son who is nearing 25+ years at the time of going to Maxine’s house in New Hampshire, would take us to something like 2003+. I am surprised that neither Max nor Gogol had a cellphone. Surprisingly, no one in the movie had a cell phone till the time Moushumi flips one open. And even at that point, she is the only one with a cell. Everyone else uses landlines all the time.

B. Performances & Characterizations

  • Tabu’s accent is just not Bengali enough. Her accent reminds me not of a Bengali turned American, but the recent metro English movies like 15 park avenue, etc. where the artists add a musical tinge to their English. “What Rahul! I tell you. These kids no! They are just taking our generation down the drain. You don’t trust me? How mean?”
  • Kal Penn doesn’t look young enough to be a 14 year old (at the time when Ashoke gifts him the book). And he never seems irritated enough! More importantly, the story belongs to him. Somewhere Mira Nair has gone wrong in showcasing the conflict between Nikhil and Gogol.
  • His sister’s character is totally sidelined. With her first half looks, it was a good ploy, but the second half is where she should have had a role to play. However, the book is about Gogol. And Gogol’s sister probably is not important for Gogol’s existence.
  • The events are simplified a bit too much – Gogol’s hatred for his name is long drawn phenomenon where he doesn’t hate the name as much as its strangeness, its un-indianness or something like that. The trauma on his face (for the first 5 minutes after Ashoke tells him about the accident) is lost without any further analysis. And guess what – changing his name from Gogol to Nikhil is the most important thing he has done ever.
  • The divorce between Gogol and Moushumi just happens. Moushumi’s side of the story is never explained. And she does look pretty hot in some of the sequences. So my sympathies are with her. Not with the confused brat Gogol.
  • Breakup with Max! but why? What went wrong? In her own way, she wanted to be a part of the family. What went wrong there? No explanations given!
  • Gogol’s choice of being an architect. Again, too simplistic. What was he doing till the time he saw Taj? There is only one point where he is shown sketching. But what about the career shaping forces known as Indian parents, who want their kids to become doctors/engineers!!
  • I can go on and on and on. But the point remains. Some of the underlying struggle of being a namesake, a fact that haunts Gogol forever, are hardly dealt with.

I feel, as I write this review, and as I walked out of the theatre, that The Namesake is another book turned movie gone average, a fact I would never understand. When a novel is written, the authors usually creates exquisite detail around who a person is, their life, their environment, their dresses, the walls, the colors. Someone converting it into a movie, needs to be honest to the spirit of the book. But they edit and re-edit it. Thinking they are making more logical sense than the original. They underestimate the viewer. Moreover, they make the mistake of assuming that the viewer has read the book.

However, having said all this, let me take some of the harsh words back. I am being overcritical because I had high expectations from the movie. I don’t remember having the feeling of walking out of the movie during those 2 hours. SO, its definitely worth a watch. It’s a decently narrated story in chunks. Its a collage of small snippets that Mira Nair tries to walk us through in her journey of understanding Gogol. Or, maybe, that’s her understanding of Gogol. It’s a reader’s interpretation!

Overall Rating -5-6 out of 10. Bulk of that 6 is Irfan Khan. And the fact that the movie is not a bore!

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