Saturday, February 18, 2006

Chingaari+Fight Club 


When industry ‘wisdom’ says that women-oriented films don’t do well, nor do issue-based films, you have to applaud Kallpana Lajmi’s courage in consistently breaking these rules, with an almost self-destructive zeal.

Her Chingaari, set in a village is also about a woman fighting for her dignity, and is several notches above her last two films Daman and Kyon.

Sushmita Sen plays Basanti, the star prostitute in a rural brothel run by the motherly madam (Ila Arun). Despite the clawing for customers, it seems to be rather an idyllic world, where the brothel inmates are surprisingly well-integrated into the village—dancing at the fair and at the temple with the others.

The village is ruled by the powerful and kinky Bhuvan Panda (Mithun Chakraborty), who particularly exploits the women. For some reason—not explained—he is obsessed with Basanti, but his regular visits are dreaded by her.

Life in the brothel is all churned up by the arrival of a young postman Chandan (Anuj Sawhney), who falls in love with Basanti and also wins over her fatherless little daughter. But he can’t express his love directly, so writes anonymous letters to her, which he delivers and also reads to the illiterate Basanti.

The growth of this relationship has its sweet and poignant moments, but when the film cuts to Panda, it takes on an unreal, Gothic tone, that evokes laughter rather than terror.

Panda cannot stand the growing closeness between Basanti and Chandan, and when she gets a proposal of marriage from the unknown letter-writer, he is driven into a frenzy of rage.

The film finally sparks to life when Basanti gets the courage to defy and confront the priest. But the end when she leads the villagers into a Kali-like dance of vengeance, is too pat. There is no indication of unrest growing to such proportions that the villagers would follow a prostitute in a war against a priest.

However, Sushmita Sen, plays the scenes of confrontation and combat with such admirable ferocity, that her too affected rendering of Basanti in earlier scenes is forgotten. You come out of the theatre with the frantic climactic scenes, when Sushmita is at her best. Mithun Chakraborty and Ila Arun are too theatrical, which makes Anuj Sawhney (not too well cast) look particularly timid and ineffectual. But it’s Sushmita’s film all the way, and a few award nominations would be due next year.

Fight Club

The title is the same and the idea lifted, but Bollywood wouldn’t dare do a frame-by-frame remake of David Fincher’s Fight Club, because it is too dark and pathetically pseudo-macho.

Director Vikram Chopra has his team of gym-built Neanderthals start a Fight Club, where aggressive men can bash each other to pulp. But this film, despite its dozens of fight scenes is kidstuff. The target audience is the ‘tapori’ who might just like the mindless violence of this no-brainer.

In fact the plot-- such as it is--is just a flimsy hanger for the several hand-to-hand-brawling sequences with some songs and a little romance thrown in.

The dudes in Fight Club seem to be in college (or hang out on campus like idle hunks are wont to do!) with nothing to do. Vicky (Zayed Khan) suggests to Karan (Dino Morea), Saumil (Ritesh Deshmukh) and Tikku (Ashish Chaudhary) that they charge to arrange fights for guys who want to have a private scuffle.

After a few fights, the action shifts to Delhi where Saumil’s uncle is killed over a night club that villains Sandy (Rahul Dev) and his brother (Ashmit Patel) covet. The gang is joined by Sameer (Sohail Khan) who contributes more muscle and a permanent scowl. There is some more needless complication involving a reformed thug Anna (Sunil Shetty) and his hoodlum brother (Yash Tonk).

So the dudes watch the junior artistes thrash one another, bash the villains’ henchmen, sock the villains and in general never give their knuckles a rest. Those who pine for the good ol’ days when heroes fought with their fists and not with fancy automatic weapons, might want to see this one. Amrita Arora and Dia Mirza are there for the songs, but that’s when the smokers exit en masse. The guys in the audience didn’t buy tickets to see the girls-- the one time they cheered was when two skimpily clad women had a vicious cat fight.


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