Friday, September 22, 2006

Sublime to Ridiculous 


In this era of commercial compromises, it is wonder that Nagesh Kukunoor was able to make Dor, without keeping an eye on the box-office. He cast the right actors rather than saleable ones; he did without the naach-gaana-nautanki that goes with a subject set in rural Rajasthan. As a result Dor is a wonderful film that deserves to be seen, and if there is no unfair lobbying, then it should be India’s entry for the Oscars. It has a story that can be understood and appreciated in any part of the world, and it can stand alongside quality cinema from any country.

It tells a simple story of friendship, loss and love with incredible depth and would leave no soul untouched at the end. Nagesh Kukunoor has been getting better with each film, and with Dor, he has reached the peak of his creativity and story-telling abilities.

Based on real incidents and perhaps picking the germ of an idea from Jayaraj’s Shantam, Kukunoor creates an original and emotionally enriching film about two women whose lives cross due to tragedy.

Newly-wed Himachali girl Zeenat’s (Gul Panang) husband is accused of killing his Rajasthani co-worker in Saudi Arabia. According to the law in that country, he will be executed, unless the widow of the dead man grants a pardon.

Zeenat goes looking for Meera, and does the impossible by actually tracing her with the help of a local Bahuroopia (Shreyas Talpade), who is probably the only compromise in the film, added on for comic relief.

Meera is living the sub-human existence of a widow in feudal Rajasthan, where her father-in-law (Girish Karnad) regrets the possible loss of his debt-ridden haveli more that the death of his son. Independent, wise, and brave Zeenat befriends Meera and teaches her to think and act for herself, rather than be tied to the life-long mourning dictated to her by tradition. The scene in which the two women and the Bahuroopia dance with abandon amidst the sand dunes is hauntingly beautiful.

When Meera does find out what Zeenat is really there for, will she be able to forgive? More than her dilemma, what is so moving is the about Dor is the compassion and warmth with which Kukunoor portrays the relationships—between the two woman and between Zeenat and the Bahuroopia. The first scene between Meera and her husband’s widowed grandmother (Uttara Baokar) is heart-wrenching. The film is refreshingly free of melodrama and though it has a message, it is for the audience to recognize and comprehend, the director does not deign to stand behind a pulpit.

The cast (every one of them, except, alas, Kukunoor himself as a lechy haveli tenant) and crew (camera, editing, music) come together in perfect harmony. Gul Panag and Ayesha Takia are outstanding and deserve to win many awards. Their make-up free loveliness and inner strength is brought out so strongly by Kukunoor.

Dor is not to be missed. Go cleanse your movie-viewing palate of all the accumulated junk (and more to come) by watching the best film of the year so far.

Khosla Ka Ghosla

Cheeky and charming, Dibakar Banerjee’s debut film is reminiscent of the best films of the new cinema movement—films like Mohan Joshi Haazir Ho and Gharaonda—but without the bleakness. It is a comedy with a dash of darkness—it is frightening realistic, in the sense that what the ordinary Mr Khosla suffers in Khosla Ko Ghosla, happens around us all the time, and there’s no guarantee that the bad guy will lose. But by turning it into a tale of triumph of the underdog, the director also reassures us that anything is possible with brains and guts.

Khosla (Anupam Kher) buys a plot of land to build a house for his family. His wife (Kiran Juneja) is encouraging, but the kids are not too kicked about the idea. The older son Cherry—AKA Chironjilal—(Parvin Dabas) is seeking escape through a job in the US. The younger son (Ranvir Shorey) is a worthless idler and the daughter’s opinion doesn’t really count.

When the cherished plot that has eaten up a lifetime’s savings is usurped by evil land shark Khurana (Boman Irani), the family comes together as if glue has been sprayed on, and decides to fight the power corruption. Khurana is so crooked that he gets Khosla arrested for taking possession of his own land, and the law is blind as usual.

Cherry’s travel agent (Vinay Pathak), girlfriend Meghna (Tara Sharma) and her drama troupe pals (Navin Nischol and others) hatch an intricate plot to pay Khurana back in his own coin. As the ragtag bunch stumbles along, you watch with bated breath—there are so many goofs-ups—interspersed with relieved laughter.

The Delhi ambience and lifestyle is meticulously recreated, and the characters, from the glib real estate agent to Khosla’s laughter club buddy, are carved out of real life. Jaideep Sahni’s amusing script is full of surprises and the actors exhibit a pleasant camaraderie. Anupam Kher plays Khosla with a wounded dignity that is touchingly correct for the part, and Boman Irani’s flamboyance is perfectly in place—he has played so many Punjabi characters, he probably has to do no homework. Parvin Dabas, Ranvir Shorey and others lend able support. All told, Khosla Ka Ghosla is a very enjoyable film.

Rocky- The Rebel

Suresh Krissna’s Rocky—The Rebel has contemporary actors struggling with stale material. It’s a routine revenge drama, of the kind that has been done to death in commercial cinema.

Zayed Khan plays Rocky, who is always ready to get into a fight to protect the weak—that is, mostly women from molestation by rogue cops and hooligans. In the process, he stands up to gangster Anthony (Rajat Bedi), who kills his girlfriend (Isha Sharvani) and terrorizes his parents into leaving town.

In London, Rocky rescues another damsel in distress (Minissha Lamba) and then shakes off his sorrow to return to Mumbai and bash the villain to pulp.

Unremittingly B-grade and pedestrian, Rocky does even have the redeeming factor of good performances. Himesh Reshammiya’s average score is choreographed in the overdone style with chorus dancers swinging behind the lead pair. Zayed Khan and the two girls are disappointing, and a sniffling and twitching Rajat Bedi makes a weirdly ineffective villain. Avoidable!


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