Saturday, August 08, 2009



With recent Ram Gopal Varma films, one is not sure when he means business, when he is having a private laugh and when he is having a laugh at the expense of the audience. Agyaat is one such film from factory that simply cannot be taken seriously.

It is supposed to be a horror movie about a film crew shooting in a dense forest, being hunted down one by one, by a malevolent unseen—perhaps extra-terrestrial—force. But this is no Predator, just a low budget con, that expects you to spend more money on Agyaat 2, to be told who killed the film unit weirdos.

There a producer Moorthy (Ishrat Ali) who keeps saying “Ayyoda” with his mouth open, a bald director (Howard Rosemeyer) with a pencil parked in his mouth, the obnoxious leading man (Gautum Rode), his cowering spot boy (Ishteyak Khan), the leading lady (Priyanka Kothari), the stunt director (Ravi Kale), the cameraman (Kaliprasad), the first and second assistants (Nitin, Rasika Duggal) and the jungle guide (Joy Fernandes). God knows what they are shooting at this out-of-the way place, where even cars can’t reach, but stuntmen and back-up dancers appear when needed and then vanish. When the camera breaks down, they all decide to go deeper into the forest and camp, and that’s when the alien menace strikes.

It could have been scary if it weren’t so funny. The camera captures Priyanka Kothari’s midriff more than the beauty of the forest, and well, we can only wait with terror for the next installment “Coming Soon.”

Teree Sang

A 15-year-old girl gets pregnant, her parents are understandably furious. She runs away with the father of the child, and they set up home in a cute hill cottage gifted rent-free by a friend. He does manual labour, she cooks noodles and they might have lived happily ever after, but for her pesky parents who want to bring her back home. Her argument is that if Nature does not object, why should the law interfere?

What kind of message is Satish Kaushik sending out to youngsters through a film like Teree Sang? The plot is not new, the unwed pregnancy has been done in Kya Kehna and Suno Na, the idyllic life has been done in Love Story and other films. If the film had taken a good honest look at the way today’s teens take sex so casually, and at least tried to caution them (like old Malayalam film Chitram), this film would have served some purpose.

However, the characters in the film are superficial, a class angle needless added, the events are most implausible, the film very irresponsible. The girl Maahi (Sheena Shahabadi) is neglected by her parents (Rajat Kapoor-Neena Gupta). She is not the shy sort—she chases the boy Kabir (Ruslaan Mumtaz)—but she has no friends. She hangs out with the spoilt son of an auto-rickshaw driver (Satish Kaushik) and his noisy wife (Sushmita Mukherjee), along with his working class buddies.

When she gets pregnant, she doesn’t want to terminate it, instead she is willing to wreck her own life and Kabir’s. Very conveniently, they set up home in this fairy-tale cottage and have not a care in the world. The parents who try to knock sense into them are seen as evil, making their kids fight against “kudrat.” The two youngsters are appealing enough, but one can imagine most of today’s urban teens—wise, cautious and ambitious beyond their years --- sniggering at the film, and getting on with their MBAs, or whatever the ‘in’ career aspiration may be, while the very out-of-it filmmaker dishes out his pro-life humbug.

Chal Chalein

Students suffering from excessive pressure in an education system that stifles all individuality was a subject waiting to be tackled in a film, but just good intentions do not a film make, and Ujjwal Singh’s Chal Chalein is a prime example of a great idea leading to a dull, preachy film.

Many students in an Allahabad junior college are forced by their parents to study subjects for which they have no aptitude and punished if they don’t top the class. One such student, Navneet (Priyesh Sagar), son of an authoritarian father (Kanwaljeet) buckles under and commits suicide. His friends, also suffering the same fate, decide to take action. They approach an activist lawyer Sanjay (Mithun Chakraborthy) and file cases against Navneet’s father, their own parents and the Government of India. Their action provokes more such cases from all over the country and becomes a movement.

The film makes parents out to be complete monsters – one mother makes a little girl do 150 sit-ups and starves her if she doesn’t stand first in class. But the way the eight leading kids go around singing and dancing all over the city, attend parties and hang out in the canteen, it hardly looks as if they were over burdened or tortured by their parents. After the suicide of the boy, the film become one long indignant harangue, as the entire cast is carted to the Supreme Court for the case, with Anup Soni playing the Defence lawyer, but vague grumbles about the ‘System’ don’ really amount to anything. If a parent is worried about a child’s future, it hardly seems fair to accuse him of being an underachiever.

The actors playing students are fresh-faced and earnest, but that’s no incentive to see this film. Might as well read newspaper clippings on the subject.


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