Saturday, December 10, 2005

Apaharan+ 2 


It just so happened that a little before the release of Prakash Jha’s Apaharan (could be seen as a Bihar trilogy with Mrityudand and Gangajaal), the elections in Bihar brought in a hope of change in that dark state. But things could well have gone the other way, and then Jha’s film would have been eerily prescient. (He even has a Chief Minister with a familiar mop of white hair!)

Those who understand the ground realities of Bihar would appreciate Aparahan a lot more for creating an accurate picture of corruption and breakdown of law in the state—where criminals live like nawabs in prison and run their empires with the help of cops and politicians. But even the ignorant viewer would relate to a powerful (very reminiscent of Shakti) story of a young man’s clash with his idealistic father, his going astray and then seeking redemption.

Ajay Shastri (Ajay Devgan) is unable to get a police job without being in any caste quota or having any recommendation, despite being on the merit list. His idealistic, social crusader father Professor Shastri (Mohan Agashe) blocks his only chance, when he does manage to borrow money and pay the required bribe.

Ajay and his friends (why are his friends so slavishly loyal?) are forced to turn to the easiest and most rampant crime in Bihar—kidnapping for ransom. The first job goes wrong, and after many complications Ajay finds himself as the right-hand man of Tabrez Alam (Nana Patekar), a politician, mafia don and self-styled minority leader.

Ajay’s desperation and the development of his relationship with surrogate father figure Tabrez is very well-etched. However, in the second half, the film goes off tangent into many tracks—political horse trading, media sting operations, an honest cop (Mukesh Tiwari) single-handedly trying to fight the system and general chaos, leading to a populist and cop-out climax-- making one man a ‘symbol’ of all crime and corruption and eliminating him. But with so many other crooked men in power – including the home minister, top cops and Tabrez’s silently hostile brother—is it so easy to clean up?

Ajay’s getting into a the world of crime was a conscious choice, he was not forced or conned into it—why should the audience’s sympathy be with him when he starts to repent, and that too because his mentor turns against him? Also, in a film that concentrates on kidnapping as an industry, there is surprisingly little attention paid to the victims—there are reduced to terrified squealing that causes involuntary laughter in the audience.

Anyway, a few flaws can be overlooked in a film that is otherwise authentic, honest, intricately constructed and mostly gripping, with fabulously written dialogue. Each character in the huge ensemble is perfectly cast (except may be Bipasha Basu, who does nothing in her very brief role), and they all perform well, like an orchestra conducted by a master—Mohan Agashe as the ineffectual activist, Chetan Pandit as the sly home minister, Yashpal Sharma as a sleazy criminal, Mukesh Tiwari as the good cop, Mukul Nag as Tabrez’s brother, Ehsaan Khan as a corrupt cop, Ayub Khan as Ajay’s best buddy, and others.

The film is balanced on the shoulders of Ajay Devgan (he could do without the stylish hair colour!) and Nana Patekar, who are both outstanding, giving impressive performances that are bound to be noticed when it’s time for the awards next year.

Home Delivery

There one thing to be said in favour of Sujoy Ghosh—he must be having the gift of the gab, to be able to get a line-up of stars to do walk-on parts (Naseeruddin Shah, Karan Johar, Abhishek Bachchan, Juhi Chawla, Sunil Shetty, Ritesh Deshmukh and many others) in his Home Delivery.

If one were to write the synopsis of the film, then the story of a pizza delivery man teaching a cynical agony uncle the meaning of life and love sounds nice and feel good. But one can’t recall actually feeling good at any point while watching this film – just an overwhelming feeling of irritation at what unfolds on screen and the recurring question – was Jhankar Beats a fluke?

Sunny Chopra (Viveik Annand Oberoi-- hyper) is a famous ‘Gyan Guru’ bunking work and trying to write a script for Karan Johar. He and his girlfriend Jenny (Ayesha Takia— vapid) AKA Nani—repeated so often in the dialogue you will remember it till your dying day—potter around the house for most of the first half, having inane conversations and dealing with insane neighbours like the freeloading Pande (Saurabh Shukla) and ear-splitting singer Gungunani (Tiku Talsania). There’s also Sunny meeting (at a TV show) and fantasizing about a Southern pallu-dropping star Miss Maya (Mahima Chaudhary). If this were not enough there’s a serial killer on the loose, who kills Page 3 people (not in the least bit funny).

After such a mind-battering (cheesy special effects and all) first half you return after the interval, only because one teeny-weeny glimpse of Boman Irani has been offered, and you hope (in vain, as it turns out), that he will somehow save the second half.

He plays Michael, a pizza delivery man, a Santa Claus lookalike, who with his simple-mindedness somehow solves Sunny’s romantic and professional problems. The audience, well, they can pray for their own miracles!

Mr Ya Miss

Hollywood has done it all –men turning into women, women turning into men, children into adults and vice versa. So it’s not as if Antara Mali and Satchit Puranik came up with a wildly brilliant idea for their Mr Ya Miss, which is a straight lift from Blake Edwards’ Switch.

Nearly a decade after that movie, surely there are some changes in the gender landscape – for instance, it is normal for a working woman to get ahead without doling out sexual favours, women can and do wear jeans and flat heels to work, and many wear their hair short or have access to conditioner and clips. But you wouldn’t have guessed as much from Mr Ya Miss, in which being a woman means tottering around on high heels, wearing short skirts, tight tops and having unmanageable bird’s nest hair. The alternative being men’s trousers, shirts and ties, spiky hair and boots!

In this brainless and unfunny enterprise, a chauvinist pig (Aftab Shivdasani), who treats women only as sex objects is killed by his girlfriends and sent back to earth as a woman (Antara Mali) as punishment. The Shiva and Parvati who order this change are right out of tacky TV mythologies!

So Sanjana makes hideous faces, walks in a drunken swagger, wears tarty clothes and goes about socking oglers on the jaw. She even manages to get pregnant with her best friend (Ritesh Deshmukh), a shy sensitive type who, apparently never gets girls, while the Casanova Sanjay had them in droves! Then she ends up being arrested for Sanjay’s murder, and who’d believe she is or was Sanjay?

In the end, when Sanjana says she has understood what it is like being a woman, it comes as a surprise, because she makes it look like an ordeal.

With a bit of intelligence, this film could have been a really funny look at the battle of the sexes in our age. But with Antara Mali in front of and behind the camera, this film is as much a nightmare for the audience as it is for Sanjay/Sanjana falling about in stilettos!


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