Saturday, November 08, 2008

Ek Vivaah&EMI 

Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi

It's Bhopal..in the present, though it could well be 1908. Because the Rajshris live in a world of their own, and their films are watched by people who probably populate that world too.

Based on of their own productions (Tapasya-1976), which in turn was based on the even older Vachan (1855) and there is always the Ritwick Ghatak classic Meghe DhakaTara, which can't even be mentioned in the same breath as this. They are all about a women 'sacrificing' her own happiness (read: marriage) for the sake of her family.

Kaushik Ghatak, the director of Ek Vivaah Aisa Bhi, used to make soap operas before this and the style remains the same—the restless camera and wailing songs (Ravindra Jain) running almost throughout the film, telling you in verse what you can already see happening on screen. So pervasive is this background track, that there is barely a moment of silence or introspection in the film.

Chandni (Eesha Koppikkar) is an aspiring singer, who lives in Bhopal with her father (Alok Nath) and two younger siblings. She meets another singer Prem (Sonu Sood) at a music competition and they fall in love.

The film is inhabited by stock Rajshri characters – the father's aloo-paratha gobbling doctor friend, the heroine's chirpy Muslim friend, the hero's Sikh and Muslim buddies, an evil aunt and her hen-pecked husband.

On the day of the engagement, the father dies; Chandni is afraid her siblings will suffer if she leaves the house, so she calls off the marriage. Prem, who is devoted to her, promises to wait till she is ready. She becomes a music teacher and he goes on to become a famous singer.

Years later, when the brother (Vishal Malhotra) marries a bitchy rich girl (Chhavi Mittal), she asks Chandni why she could not have sent the kids to boarding school, where their education would have looked after, so that she could have pursued a career. Which sounds like a sensible, practical solution, and makes Chandni's sacrifice (and by association Prem's), needlessly masochistic.

But the rich girl is called Natasha, speaks English, and wants the ghastly decor of their precious house changed, so she must be vamp. She also complains about power cuts—when today, generators are easily available.

Chandni looks increasingly harried, but wants to continue her 'sacrifice' till the sister (Amrita Prakash) gets married and goes abroad too, driving most viewers to tears of frustration, and poor Prem to exasperation.

To make heavy-duty melodrama work—especially since it makes so little sense today—actors of calibre are needed. Eesha Koppikkar doesn't look like simpering comes easy to her and has a harsh voice. Sood appears to be completely out of place, like he'd much rather be fighting in other film than standing around looking gooey-eyed here.

It may nice to see a universe where people are mostly good and noble, and there must be an audience for this kind of film— people who watch domestic dramas with overdressed women on TV, and mistake it for Indian values and culture. That doesn't mean the film is not boring, bland and irrelevant.


Realistic films about contemporary urban life are so few and far between, that you welcome any such movie that comes along.

Even those who have never taken loans and have a good credit rating, have been harassed at some time or the other with unsolicited calls from banks, peddling loans and credit cards. Newspaper reports about the hooliganism of recovery agents (often they have caught the wrong man!) appear periodically. We live in consumerist buy-now-pay-later times, and what happens if financial disaster strikes is a subject ripe for a black comedy.

Unfortunately, director Saurabh Kabra EMI (with the tagline: Loan liya hai to chukana padega) barely skims the surface of the problem, and then turns it into a Munnabhai kind of romantic comedy.

Ryan (Arjun Rampal--suave) is a DJ, who believes in living on credit, and has a high-maintenance girlfriend (Malaika Arora Khan), and eventually his dues pile up. Anil (Ashish Chaudhary) and Shilpa (Neha Uberoi) are a middle class couple, who take loans to get married and settle down, and can't keep up the installments when they split.

Elderly Chandrakant (Kulbhushan Kharbanda), takes a personal loan to pay for his hopeless son's foreign education and Prerna (Urmila Matondkar) gets into a complicated situation over an insurance claim when her husband commits suicide.

Sattarbhai (Sanjay Dutt) runs the Good Luck Recovery Agency– who is supposedly dangerous, but seems to run a 'Munnabhai' kind of outfit consisting of laidback goons with names like Decent, Chocolate, Bachkana (a dwarf) and Chocolate! In fact a large chunk of Dutt's colourful character appears only in the second half, by which time the film has already lost steam.

Not being able to pay back a loan or an installment and have gangsters breathing down your neck, can be a scary and embarrassing experience, but EMI does not even go that route. Instead Sattarbhai goes all moony-eyed over Prerna and that takes the sting out of him. Besides, he has political ambitions and is advised to clean up his image.

The film sputters to life only when Dutt is on screen, but then there is nothing new about seeing him as a 'Bambaiya'-speaking gangster-- he must have done this role half-asleep. And then it ends abruptly with a public service like warning to audiences to 'take loans responsibly.' Indeed!

The flimsy material is stretched with badly-picturised songs—Malaika Arora comes to the rescue with her 'item girl' act twice, when bored audiences walk out for a smoke. Waste of a good idea, waste of a good cast, waste of good money (ours and theirs).


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