Saturday, October 27, 2007


Jab We Met

Of the multiple releases this week, Imtiaz Ali’s Jab We Met is the least adventurous, most been-there-done-that, completely Chopra-Johar school and most likely to do well. It’s extra sugary candy floss caters perfectly to the entertainment-seeking, young multiplex crowd.

It’s a romantic road movie—partly It Happened One Night, partly A Walk in the Clouds, partly French Kiss, partly Rajnigandha, and little bits of lots of other movies of the genre. To its credit, Ali tells his story well (even though he does stretch needlessly towards the end) makes it look nicely rainbow-y, and by today’s standards, sweetly innocent.

Jilted in love Aditya (Shahid Kapur), gets on to a random train, where he meets Geet (Kareena Kapoor), whose chattering gets on his nerves. He gets off the train, she runs after him to prevent him from missing it and is left behind too. Now she insists he take her home to Bhatinda, which he does after various misadventures on the way. In Bhatinda, is her large, loud, bhangra-dancing family (the kind that can be found only in films), who want her to marry a dull businessman.

Aditya rescues her again and after some more song-and-dance (the Ishq number is picturised beautifully) delivers her to her boyfriend, and returns to run his business empire. Nine months later, he discovers—when the bhangra family—lands up at his door, that Geet has vanished.

He goes in search of her, finds her, reunites her with reluctant boyfriend (Tarun Arora—so stiff he is comical!), all go back to noisy bhangra family—and anyone who has seen a lot of popular romantic films would know exactly what happens!

This join-the-dots movie is redeemed by the humour (the scene in the seedy hotel, for instance), the terrific chemistry between the lead pair, Kareena’s sprightly performance and Shahid’s gentle foil to her madcap character. Plus Pritam’s music, which catches all the right notes to match the actors’ moods.

No Smoking

If Anurag Kashyap’s nightmare vision in No Smoking looks like something Stephen King thought up, it’s because the idea does come from Quitter’s Inc. one of the three horror-sultan King’s stories that form the film Cat’s Eye.

It’s not a straight lift, Kashyap has given it his own touches, but the film is an odd and uneasy mix of horror, black comedy, sci-fi and surrealism.

The lead character played by uber-cool (even with limited range of expressions) John Abraham , known just as K (for Kafka?) smokes like a chimney – pop-psycho explanation offered, some hassle between parents, who keep getting married and divorced. His own wife-cum-secretary (Ayesha Takia) threatens to leave unless he quits smoking.

His buddies tell him about this great rehabilitation programme at a “Prayogshala” and K, descends into a hell-hole underneath a Dharavi-like slum colony, where a Baba Bangali (Paresh Rawal) and his sinister cohorts put him onto a quit-cigarettes programme, that threatens severe bodily harm to him and his family if he takes even one puff!

K’s defiance causes the disasters to snowball, the Baba’s spies are everywhere, and each cigarette lit registers on his network. K keeps waking up from bizarre nightmares, which have consequences in the real world.

After the darkly funny encounter in Baba’s dingy underground den (terrific production design, a contrast to K’s swank apartment and office), the idea simply cannot be sustained, and the film goes on for far too long, after it has exhausted its nicotine kick.

A lot ‘In’ stuff for the film buff to snigger at – a shifty character called Abbas Tyrewala, a cabaret at a club called Bob Fosse, a place for cigarette zombies called The Dead Factory (geddit?) and so on…

In Kashyap’s laddish world, only men smoke and men go through weird adventures—women are wife/nag or secretary/slave or androgynous club dancers.

Have to admire the imagination (all the way to Siberia!) and visual quality (fine work by Rajeev Ravi), but in the end, it’s a self-indulgent piece of work, and Kashyap hardly likely to find an audience of film buffs to endure his off-the-wall narrative techniques. And in the end, continuing to smoke and dying of lung cancer seems like a better alternative to giving up. The tobacco lobby needn’t worry, the sale of cigarettes won’t slump after No Smoking.

Mumbai Salsa

In the metro cities, there are a whole lot of young professionals, living away from their families, dealing with their own personal and work problems—their independence has made them break the rules of traditional morality. They drink without apology and have casual affairs without embarrassment.

Manoj Tyagi’s Mumbai Salsa (bad fusion title!) follows a short period in the loves of four male and four female buddies. They work hard, earn well, have ‘careers’ as opposed to ‘jobs’ and relationship problems.

Raj (Vir Das) is the nice sober ad guy who gets dumped by his fiancée who prefers her career. Maya (Manjari Fadnis) gets dropped by her guy, who finds her too controlling. These two hook-up after a drinking session and meet each other’s friends, who then get together too—through one-night stands, deception, commitment phobias, a gay pass, a nervous a break-down and other crises of the heart.

Shabby looking and punctuated with sleaze, with not one good actor among the lot-- except Vir Das-- the film will probably appeal to those whose lives are reflected here, but not to people outside of urban multiplexes. What’s with the ‘salsa’ in the title? The group’s watering hole is called Mumbai Salsa, and one of the girls (Neelam Chauhan) runs a salsa class. Of the unusual professions they have, another “hypersexual” girl (Amruta Khanvilkar) runs a tattoo parlour.

Hollywood films and TV (Friends, Sex and the City) have mapped this territory; here films like Metro and Page 3 have peeked in. Manoj Tyagi (co-writer of Page 3 explores a bit further—after a few more films, maybe Bollywood will get it right. This film uses mostly unknown actors, and has no production values, still there is a raw honesty and desire to understand a relatively new urban subculture.


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