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Friday, July 16, 2010

3 This Week 

Tere Bin Laden


Unusual for an Indian film to be set in Pakistan, but a story like Tere Bin Laden could only have taken place there (though shot in Hyderabad). Low budget and tacky, this Abhishek Sharma film makes up for lack of production values with its cheeky humour.
Ali (Ali Zafar) TV reporter for a third rate channel is obsessed with the idea of going to America, but can’t get a visa. While shooting a cock crowing competition in a sleepy village, he discovers an Osama Bin Laden lookalike.

Noora (Pradhuman Singh) is an eccentric poultry farmer, who is conned into recording a threatening message to America. Ali and his sidekick (Nikhil Ratnaparkhi) sell the video to their own skinflint boss (Piyush Mishra). The release of this ‘breaking news’ footage creates a sensation and sends a posse of paranoid American agents, led by the buffoonish Ted Wood (Barry John) to Pakistan.

It is a terrific idea, and the film is peppered with loads of wit, and barbs at American warmongering, but it fails to rise up to its true potential as a political satire like Wag The Dog or the recent Brit comedy In The Loop—it is content to remain at the level of school boy farce.

Still, it entertains, it has its own innocent charm, the actors are all peppy and enthusiastic—Chirag Vora as the meek editor of the video, Sunanda Garg as the make-up expert and Rahul Singh as the voice artist. But Ali Zafar and Pradhuman Singh really fuel this madcap comedy. The latter is a real find, and deserves to be ‘discovered’ by mainstream Bollywood.

Tere Bin Laden, despite its shortcomings, is just the kind of impish film that should be coming up more often on the indie circuit.


Udaan

Vikramaditya Motwane’s debut film Udaan, about a young boy’s rebellion against a monster dad is realistic and has moments of power, but still leaves you with mixed feelings.

Seventeen-year-old Rohan and his friends are expelled from boarding school from running off to watch a porn film. Rohan goes home after eight years, to find that he had a six-year-old half brother Arjun (Aayan Boradia) and his father (Ronit Roy) mistreats the child.

The father wants to make a “man” out of Rohan, his idea of discipline is cruelty, emotional deprivation and complete control. The suggestion is that he was treated thus by his own father, and this is how he thinks he should treat his sons.

However, sympathy often swings away from Rohan, because he is hardly a model son—he steals, sneaks off to drink and hang out with pals, flunks exams and does not, till the situation goes out of hand, have the courage to do the right thing. The end also seems too easy and idealistic.

The relationship between Rohan and his perpetually terrified kid brother is tender, but the father’s weird character remains unexplained and somewhat incomplete. Still, Udaan portrays a side of the Great Indian Family that is at odds with what if fed to audiences through television and mainstream cinema. Ronit Roy makes the best of his unidimensional part and Ram Kapoor as his genial brother makes a good foil to his relentless grimness. Rohan Barmecha has the vulnerability required for the role, but little Aayan Boradia’s haunted eyes say a lot more about what lies behind the walls of so many ordinary homes.

Lamhaa

Rahul Dholakia's last film Parzania, against the backdrop if the Gujarat riots was hard-hitting and dare to take a contentious stand. His new film Lamhaa declares that it tells the untold story of Kashmir, and you expect--and hope for-- a piece of cinema that goes beyond Bollywood cliches.

Dholakia has shot in Kashmir and it is stunningly beautiful. He has also used a documentary style to capture the streets, by lanes and everyday life in the state. No fake cheery visuals of flowers-laden shikaras on Dal Lake, and rosy-cheeked girls in phirans. He captures the grimy reality of a state reeling under terror and the lack of a political will to solve the terrible problems afflicting the people.

But he also ends up falling into the Bollywood trap and makes a film full of the usual politicians-are-the-baddies cliches. Nothing that the audience doesn't already know. Sanjay Dutt plays Vikram an Intelligence man who is sent undercover to find out about a brewing plot. He walks conspicuously around the city, a keffiyeh flamboyantly wrapped around his neck asking questions and, surprisingly, gets correct answers. If it were that easy, Kashmir would not have been such a trouble zone.

The theory that Dholakia keeps repeating is that various groups have turned Kashmir into a "company" and profit by it. He comes up the notion that militancy is stoked in Kashmir because it ensures large budgets for the ministry concerned. Ultimately, it is one politician (Anupam Kher), who is behind it all. As if the huge terrorism issue is one of his little backyard and not an international headache, as it was once famously described.

Bipasha Basu is miscast as a Kashmiri women's activist, while Kunal Kapoor does well as an aspiring politician. Sporadically the film gives a small hint of something it might have turned out to be, were it not tied up with star glamour -- the track about the half-widows of Kashmir, and the innocent kids indoctrinated with hate and sacrificed. (The implanting bombs in human bodies bit, shamelessly lifted from Hurt Locker).

The one hair-raising scene, of Bipasha being attacked by burqa-clad women in the street, does not any impact on the plot later, so is merely used as an ‘item.’ A sun-plot of Kashmiri girls forced into prostitution is abandoned after one hurried scene. In fact, it looks like the film wanted to say a lot more, but hesitated—either due to the hassles the director faced while shooting, or a desire to remain non-controversial. If everything is trivalised, then nobody will take a film seriously enough to protest and picket theatres. Even so, it has been banned in a few Islamic countries, which goes to show how intolerant we are getting to be.

Except for the brisk pace and camerawork, nothing much to recommend in this disappointing film.

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