In the past three weeks, I saw three very good movies. Each remarkably better than the previous one.
I did briefly write about Paan Singh Tomar in my previous blog entry, where I believe Irrfan Khan had surpassed himself. I have always loved Khan, who is the best of the current Khans in Bollywood, since watching him in Miya Maqbool many years ago. But in Tomar, Khan depicts the best in cinematic portrayals. He has transformed himself in mind, body and spirit, depicting the pathos and mirth in a unique character, with several deep shades of grey. Yet, Khan ensures that everyone in the hall roots for the anti-hero.
However Paan Singh Tomar is not just about Khan’s acting. It’s also about telling a story that needs to be told. And at the end of movie, leaving a message that’s important. What are we doing about of our old sporting heroes? Why do we forget them so fast? The message is delivered, without being very preachy.
The director and the crew have obviously done enough home work to get the mood of a period film. I could not find many flaws with the way the story was told. There were no real bloopers or flaws. This was movie making at its best.
A week later, I saw Kahaani, and it turned out to be even better. And I must say that Sujoy Gosh has created a master piece, which one day would be seen on par with the best Bollywood has produced. It was so gripping, that I missed some of the background music. Especially the lovely rendering of some Rabindra Sangeet by Amitabh Bacchan.
A hallmark of a good thriller is to leave the suspense till the last. In many ways, I think Kahaani is in the same league as Vijay Anand’s Jewel Thief, minus the music. What’s incredible about Kahaani is not just the twist in the end which leaves you breathless. The movie does throw a few red herrings. The twist in the end does make you replay the entire movie in your mind. And you’ll start searching for answers, and you’ll start finding them. You search for loop holes in the story, and find that there are few.
Vidya Balan is now among the best actors India has seen. I was very impressed by her debut in Parineeta. And I was completely bowled over by her in Ishqiya. However in Kahaani she has proven that she’s a performer who is incomparable. But the movie is not just about Vidya Balan, though for an average Hindi movie buff, she’s the only recognizable face, other than Darshan Jariwala. Some of the other actors who are from Bengali cinema or theatre give the movie the realistic touch.
I have seen popular cinema falter when an actor tries to play a character that needs to have regional distinctness. Most Bollywood stars end up as caricatures when they try to play the role of a Bengali, a South Indian, or even a Pathan. However, majority of Bollywood has its roots in Punjab, they are able to play a Punjabi very easily. Parineeta (2006) was a lavish attempt in depicting Calcutta of the sixties. While to a large extent, the mood of the period and the city was captured, I felt the male lead actors (Sunjay Dutt and Saif Ali Khan) looked so not-so-Bong that it was funny. That’s why Sujoy Gosh’s casting was pretty good. I am sure he could have signed on some of the leading Bollywood veterans, but I guess they could not have delivered the way the supporting cast of Parambrata Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Saswata Chatterjee have done.
But there is more to this movie than the twist, Balan, and her supporting cast. One of them is the way the director captures the city of Kolkotta during the Durga Pujo. Gosh manages to transport the viewer to Kolkotta that when you leave the cinema hall, you feel you are leaving the erstwhile Indian capital behind. You can almost smell the city in the theatre. You’ll suddenly recognize the Bongs among the fellow cinegoers in the cinema hall, because they are so excited that they can only speak in Bengali.
The humour in both Paan Singh Tomar and Kahaani is very subtle.
Finally, I saw The Artist. An Oscar award winning movie does set your expectations. However recent Oscar winners were not very impressive. I thought Slumdog Millionaire was terrible. The Artist is an almost flawless attempt at film making. It does not have a story which is one per cent as gripping as Kahaani. In fact we have heard the story before in both Hollywood and Bollywood.
First of all this is a silent movie. It’s in black and white. But when it comes to telling the story, which is very predictable, the makers of the movie have left little for you to complain about and have managed to keep you rooted to the chair.
I have been a huge fan of good old Hollywood cinema. I have watched hundreds of thirties and forties Hollywood flicks, and have a good eye for detail. The Artist captures late twenties and thirties perfectly.
In a period film, it’s so important for both main actors and the supporting cast to capture the mood, emotions and the looks of the era. Each decade had its own distinctness in terms of style, attire, body language, emotions, and expressions.
Both mainstream Bollywood and Hollywood have been pretty poor when it comes to delivering period films, off late. There’s no doubt that Hollywood, is better than Bollywood, but I guess they have more money to invest.
Even renowned directors such as Shyam Banegal have failed miserably when it comes to getting things perfect. His Zubeidaa is a good movie, with some great music. However the music, the choreography, or even the body language of the cast never depicted the forties. The Artist comes a winner in this respect. Jean Dujardin depicts the persona of Douglas Fairbanks and oozes the charm of Clark Gable. The way he grins, smiles, nods his head, or expresses depression has the late twenties written all over. There’s nothing about the current generation in looks, body language, attire or expression of any actor including even the extras in the movie. The way the camera rolls to the way movie has been been edited, is simply the silent era.
And the background score by Ludovic Bource is sublime. The music director has borrowed from several old films, and the resemblance makes it even better. Finally, the real star of the movie is Uggie the dog, who literally stole every scene in which he appeared.
So friends, here are three films that you must watch. They are all different, but they all celebrate the best in film making.