Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Happening

So, in Central Park people come to a stand still all of a sudden. A lady removes a long sharp object, that is used to hold her hair intact, and pokes herself dead through her throat (the gore, admirably not shown!). So, one (read, Me) is not at fault if one thinks the movie has a lot to reveal, especially if the movie opens with a sequence like the one mentioned above! Anyway, just when the part of the mind which is kept safe and secure to revel in some insightful movie which drops by with the occasional meteor sighting, sets itself up to revel in the likely event of a meteor sighting, you are bombarded with a scene that is an oh-so-cliched version of a science class! And the scene after this was the best of the movie.

Picture this. 3 construction workers are talking; cracking jokes as you would expect them to especially after having done so in innumerable movies before! Which might prompt one to think, why do construction workers always joke when they are in a movie? Anyway, this is probably the only part of the movie, if at all, on which I may spare inflicting sarcasm. Having so decided, let me move on. So, these guys are generally joking and laughing, when one of their colleagues falls to death. "John!" exclaims one of them, only to show he knows his name - for there is no other consequence of that exclamation! He then goes on, as a good samaritan would, to inform medics about this accident, when he hears another sound - another colleague fallen to death. Then another. Another. Another. And the scene I like the most, as the camera moves upwards you see people - in line - walking off the planks from the top floor. Not being pushed. Not thrown. They are walking off; to their own deaths.

And this is exactly when I would request, and in keeping with good humanitarian practices, even beg you all to leave the movie hall. Just get up and leave. Do not worry about the rest of the movie - or the gross amount of money you paid only a few minutes ago. Unless, I know you love this unless, of course you like humor! Because, that is provided aplenty.

It is at this stage that the viewer is introduced to a new character, one which changes color and character all the time. The boom mic. I have seen many a movies, but none like this. None where you can see the boom mic all the time! They appear is various colors and shapes - black, silver, black with a red ring, lolly-pop shaped, a wholesome one, etc. It is really funny, and you have to see it to believe it. It is otherwise impossible that such a thing 'happen's but for in a movie titled so - it is after all the Happening! The laughter in the movie hall reaches hysterical proportions when in a certain scene we can actually see the mic oscillate between actors as they exchange conversations. Frankly, this was the only entertaining part and for one, I could claim that I have indeed seen this phenomenon actually happen!

Disclaimer: This 'happening' though been reported in many a movie halls across the world; some claim that they haven't seen anything that hideous as I describe. So, in case you are one who would risk that - please do at your own cost

Well then, back to the plot! There is a news bulletin (yes yes, like the one in Signs) where some Ph. D. guy from MIT claims that this is due to some toxin released in the air by some, yes you guessed it right, terrorists who are now indulging in bio-chemical warfare. And shortly, there is another comment which says that the pattern (oh yes, this phenomenon is now spreading all through the North East) suggests this is not in fact a terrorist attack. Also, the toxin works in a 3-step process.
1. Person looses short term memory
2. Person is completely disoriented
3. Person gets this immutable drive to kill himself

In the meantime, it attacks the hero's city and they are advised to vacate the city. The way MNS (not of the Sena fame, duh!) has shot this scene is indeed interesting. For once, he does not create panic-filled-helter-skelter-running scenes, instead choosing to show people moving out in numbers very calmly. That, I would submit is indeed soothing.

Now, after their train stops mid-earth and people run from there too (of course the hero and his wife are left behind, duh!); they meet this guy who offers them a lift and some botanical mythical-facts like plants communicate amongst different species and such-like. He says plants react and evolve. When a certain kind of worm attacks the plants, they release a toxin to attract wasps and thus evolve with self-protective mechanisms. Thus, he claims, much to the humor of our hero-heroine jodi, that now plants are reacting to human stimuli. We have wronged them and they are taking revenge! And a few more random scenes-of-people-dying-in-various-ways later, hero finally not just believes in the plant stimuli thingy, but also brings out a pattern wherein the plants react only if a minimum number of people are around.

Oh man! I just realized that my narration doesn't sound half as bad as the film itself! Well, after they are given refuge by an eccentric old lady and surprisingly the 'winds' victimize her (Oh! Her death is irritatingly dramatic!) leaving the hero-heroine untouched! Then what MNS does is bizarre, not only 3 months later does he show that the wife is pregnant but also ends it with a similar Central Park scene in some part of the world!

End of movie.

And, in keeping with my good nature of imparting credit where it is due - I give it to the director for making the movie so effective, in the sense -

Immediately after getting out of the movie hall -
1. I had a short term memory loss
2. I was completely disoriented
3. I got this immutable drive to kill myself and/ or Manoj Night Shyamalan

End of review.

PS: For the keener audience - I loved the plot. The hero-heroine jodi were spared because they are in the process of getting back together and exchanging lovey-dovey sweeteners. And, at some point in the movie the botany-maniac says talking sweetly has a positive effect on the plants and such-like. Hence, probably spared. Or whatever! But for the boom mic, I guess the movie would have been much better!

Monday, June 16, 2008


A wonderfully crafted story narrated with the simplicity of a grandmother! Tingya is about this little boy who loves his bull. And that is all. No; the movie doesn't boast of breath taking cinematography. It doesn't have any intriguing screenplay to keep the viewer engaged. The performances, but for a few scenes, are just adequate. The music is just one song, throughout the movie, sung (or played) in varying moods and tempo.

And yet, the movie is super. Because it relies on what I feel is most fundamental - the plot/ story and more importantly the sincerity of all involved in its treatment. That is where Tingya strikes. None of them, not the director, not the actors, heck - not even the story tries to become bigger than the story to be told. The viewer is engaged because the narrators want the viewer to listen. It is that sincerity that shows. The characters are beautifully developed. Right from the hapless farmer, to his ever understanding wife, the girl next door who plays Tingya's friend and the innocently brave Tigya - the characters are sketched to perfection.

There are scenes written which reach out, without being dramatic. There are lines which are strong, without being preachy. There is a message which is important, without being explicit. The movie is dedicated to the farmers who committed suicide across Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, and the movie mentions but only once about the same. The extraordinarily simplistic movie making is what drives it home. The sincerity is so evident, that the movie seems almost documentary-ish. It is clearly not for the popular masses - but as with Shwas, no one can not like it! Such is the movie, that it might put many a film makers to shame, and quite a few to revisit film making!

Do watch!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sarkar Raj

So I came up, close and not too personal with Sarkar Raj on the first night of the release. A lot did I expect from this movie, from RGV especially after the 'Aag' debacle. WIth expectations come disappointments. And besides, RGV is a kind who is nonchalant about falls, unperturbed by the loss and wouldn't care less about the flak. He makes movies for one simple reason - he wants to make it. With an attitude as that, the onus of liking the movie falls head first on the viewers. First things first, I didn't find the movie as bad as the reviews all over portray it to be. It isn't a good movie though, despite a decent plot, strong actors and whimsical camera work.

So, the movie begins with a typical Sarkar like execution sequence where Chote Sarkar (Abhishek) has taken over the mantle and Sarkar is celebrating his birthday! In such a world where people prefer dying falling off trains than to wait a couple of minutes for the next train, Sarkar's birthday does attract a lot of crowd. An inexplicable number of people are seen standing in the Sarkar-Mahal grounds much like in the olden days when the King would come onto the balcony on his birthday. Of course, then the King would throw away gold coins, and other such ostentatiously expensive items and enjoy the ongoing stampede for money and its like, which sort of explains the inexplicable crowd! But no such luck here for Mumbaikars, who after having created much applause and jingoist cheer receive much to their disappointment only the wave of a hand from the Big B! In fact, keen movie goers might even notice a section of the crowd moves out in sheer despair with the sound department doing a very commendable work in cutting out comments like 'What has the world come to...', 'Chya maaila...' etc.! It is then that the Big B announces that there is nothing more joy-giving to a parent than to see his own son take his place and excel; and hence calls Chote Sarkar to give darshan to the audience. This time the already frustrated audience cheers up doubly well and some in fact throw in a couple of cheesy 'Chote Sarkar ki Jai ho' and the likes thinking this might remind them of the duty due to be executed! Oh btw, good work sound department! However, Chote sarkar comes in to give a much 'chota' darshan and immediately leaves to attend another phone call (which, by the way, would make you wonder at the end of the movie as to who the hell was calling him up all the time!). And all this while, the only part you would enjoy is the engaging camerawork.

Now seriously, I doubt if RGV had heard the background score even once before meshing it up with the film. If in Sarkar you felt that the Govinda chants were a bit too many; please, and I mean it sincerely, please take your ear plugs along. Why would someone want to westernize the chants, Amar Mohile is to answer. On top of that, a rural setting with a local leader leading a pack of vollage folks on top of a truck does not warrant a rock sound in the foreground background. The sitar which was sufficiently abused in Sarkar returns, only to annoy the sitarists further. Overall, the only points that the music department garners is for pure audacity. Why would anyone, even if the anyone is Ram Gopal Verma himself, want to do this time and over again, no one can explain! The songs, huh!

The camera is, I felt, the only aspect that keeps the film alive. The angles and the light has to be entirely credited to Ram Gopal, as the indulgence of the maverick (?) clearly shows. If you thought Sarkar was full of close ups, this time around you move at least an inch closer to the characters. While it might irritate some beyond measure; I did find out two things. Abhishek does not have a clear complexion and Aishwarya puts on a hell lot of make up! These apart, the angles surprise you frame after frame. The overly done sepia tone of the movie makes the setting a lot more surreal than the plot itself.

The dialogues in the movie had to be given a re-think. The father-son combo have been given a lot of screen space together and they converse only in punch lines. Good to begin with, cheesy after the first half. IMO at least a couple of them are classics - Faayda wahi hai jo sabka ho and Khoon karna jurm hai; sahi samay par jurm karna - raajniti! That apart, the rest of the cast is hardly given anything noticeable, which focuses all our attention to the father-son duo which didn't make me much too happy.

The performances are good, though Abhishek doesnt seem to be mature enough to handle the chair of Sarkar! One shivers when Aishwarya is seen asking for a cup of tea in the closing scene. Amitabh's role in the movie was weak, despite which he emerges a winner. 'Chander' who enacted the classic opening sequence in the first volume is reduced to unfortunate nothingness.

All said, I loved the plot. It has politics mixed with corporate profit and the rural junta playing scapegoats - all masterminded, of course, by the one whom you would, under ideal conditions, least expect! And there in lies the undoing of the movie too. It is the screenplay to a large extent which doesn't put in enough to weave the crucial sequences into an intelligent sequence. And hence, unfortunately Amitabh in his now-over-heard base voice is left to narrate the whole plot to Aishwarya in one sequence, much as a grandfather would to his granddaughter. It is a plot so cunningly conceived, says the grandpa to granddaughter; only it is not the Mahabharatha now - both sitting in chairs, and we are left listening to the plot unfold in less than a minute while watching the camera focussing through Amitabh's fingers from behind him, or something to that effect!

The direction moves from good to mediocre to amateurish. The only romantic scene before between Abhishek and Aishwarya is forced in only to heighten the effect of Abhishek getting shot; which by the way I felt fell flat. You wouldn't wince once while he gets shot some 5-6 times! And RGV, if the hero is on a terrace with the heroine and saying cheesy lines like all the thorns in our path are gone, no more villains and nobody can stop me - the viewer no longer expects; he knows the hero is gone for the movie!

The closing scene (read Aishwarya may be the next lead in Sarkar Rani (or whatever!)) still sends down shivers and I am left wondering; Shiva, Satya, Company, Sarka, Sarkar Raj - what next?!

PS: Next of course is a movie titled Contract with a tag line that reads 'where underworld meets terrorism'

PPS: Some changes made to the grandpa-granddaughter bit after Harini's inputs