Sunday, March 26, 2006

Cyrus & Souten 

Being Cyrus

Almost everybody in Mumbai would have at least one Parsi friend and a fund of “bawa” stories. Homi Adajania’s Being Cyrus taps right into that affection and nostalgia.

The first half of the film creates such a delightful tableau of Parsi life, that it’s only in the interval that you realise that the ‘story’ such as it is, hasn’t even started yet.

Cyrus (Saif Ali Khan) lands up at the Panchgani doorstep of former “avant garde potter” Dinshaw Sethna (Naseeruddin Shah), now a dope-addled nutcase, harangued by his still sexy wife Katy (Dimple Kapadia). Back in Mumbai are Dinshaw’s mean-spirited brother Farokh (Boman Irani) and his mousy young wife Tina (Simone Singh), who may or may not be ill-treating his old father Fardoonji.

Katy wiggles her hips and bares her cleavage and gets Cyrus to meet and befriend Fardoonji with an evil agenda in mind, but what she doesn’t know is that Cyrus hasn’t just dropped in by accident—he has an agenda too. All these twists and turns come way into the second half. Till then are hilarious—if pointless—scenes in the Parsi colony; Farokh quarreling with the neighbour and the Sethnas visiting a bone-setter and so on.

Thick with atmosphere, imaginatively shot (Jehangior Chowdhary) and set in bric-a-brac laden Parsi homes, Being Cyrus is immensely charming with a wicked twist at the end.

Boman Irani leads the superb cast with a perfect performance—that he is a Parsi himself undoubtedly helped. Naseeruddin Shah, who has played Parsi characters brilliantly before (the memorable Pestonji) doesn’t have a great role, but does what little he has with aplomb. Saif Ali Khan has that devilish appeal that makes Cyrus come to life. Dimple Kapadia tends to overact, especially towards the end, but she is feisty and attractive. Honey Chhaya is a revelation and Manoj Pahwa in a cameo as a Punjabi cop is very funny.

Being Cyrus is a tribute to the lovable Parsis wrapped as a comedy thriller, adding to the small but impressive list of films about this small community.

Souten: The Other Woman

Somewhere in Rajashtan: grand palaces, His Highness types hunting lions (didn’t Maneka Gandhi throw a fit!) and Her Highness romping in tents with young lover.

Bollywood cinema is maturing, we are told, so it is possible for Her Highness’s step-daughter to dally with the same lover, but, gasp, it is not possible to have a happy ménage a trios. There is always a bhabhiji type in background to spoil the party. So Karan Razdan has to limit the boldness of his film Souten The Other Women to heaving bosoms in bikini tops and noodle strap blouses, and see to it that the sinful temptress repents and sacrifices in the end. Things haven’t actually moved, morally speaking, from the attitude of the forties. There’s actually a dialogue when temptress tells bhabhiji, that she must have also sinned somehow, that’s why she is barren. If only the connection between sin and childlessness had occurred to the family planningwallas, India’s population problem would have been solved!

Karan Razdan has neither the wit nor the honesty to make Souten work either as soap opera (though in style it is like a Balaji soap) or as a modern tale of sexual mores. It just thuds through several tedious scenes, songs and dances all over Rajasthan and Goa (lovely locations) towards its predictable climax.

Her Highness Mitali (Mahima Chaudhary), bored wife of His Highness Ranbir Singh (Gulshan Grover) has an affair with Raj (Vikram Singh trying hard to be Shah Rukh Khan) and while she is dreaming of chalets in Switzerland, her step-daughter (Kiran Rathod) sweeps the dude off his feet. Mommie Dearest will have none of it, and tries to get girl to marry a non-descript princeling, but the interfering bhabhiji (Padmini Kolhapure) lectures her till she throws in the towel. So this wannabe Dangerous Liaisons ends with some half-hearted bloodshed amidst the sand dunes. Tacky all the way!


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