As an ardent cinegoer, what rocks my boat is (sometimes brilliant) films I get to watch week after week. But this year, nine months have passed and I haven’t seen a film that either comforts me, or disturbs me. As a person who watches films for a living, it is highly disappointing to not remember one great film from 2017 that came and left an impact on my heart and soul.
Films with megastars have not been able to please their fans this year. I have either seen mediocre films or ones where the actor shines and the narrative doesn’t.
Recently, Kangna Ranaut’s Simran was stuck in a dichotomy of sorts: the narrative is so bland and the actor is just terrific. But here’s a pressing question. Do we worship the act or the actor?
As I watched Simran, the backlash of the writing credits was running in my mind and I thought to myself: who actually wrote the film? Can the brilliance of an actor’s performance disguise mediocre filmmaking?
The multi-faceted actor, director, singer, producer Farhan Akhtar absolutely doesn’t believe in this statement. He doesn’t buy into the idea that a brilliant performance can save a sinking boat.
Another film which looks delicious is the upcoming Chef, starring Saif Ali Khan directed by Raja Krishna Menon. As I keep my fingers crossed about the fate of the film, I probe him about performances and filmmaking, and he says
“That depends on how you define filmmaking, doesn’t it? A brilliant performance often is related not only to that particular performer but to the entire environment created. I define a brilliant performance as one that is consistent to the character and the story in which that character exists.”
A point well made, isn’t it? Many actors who refer to themselves as ‘director’s actors’ are called lazy. So if we turn around the situation, is depending only on the actor for a film’s brilliance a little unfair?
R Balki — who has made the wonderful Paa with the ever so inspiring Amitabh Bachchan and is amidst making Padman with Akshay Kumar — feels,
“Brilliant performance is also a part of filmmaking.”
But as audiences, we want to watch a wholesome film which doesn’t see-saw between technicality and instead warms the heart. The last time that happened was the end of last year, with Aamir Khan’s Dangal.
On this, Raj Nidimoru says,
“When you put a brilliant actor on stage, there’s usually no director or set design or music or any film elements around. And she/he will still win your heart. When you look at all the great films made, they always have brilliant performances first. Then comes film-making. So yeah, you could make a mediocre film or leave the camera unattended if you’d like and a great actor will carry the film.”
Is it the actor’s objective to successfully accomplish all acting tasks and deliver a successful scene or could the actor’s goal be to allow the character to exist so profoundly and fully that acting techniques disappear?
Homi Adhijania, someone who takes the approach of a Gabriel García Márquez novel in his films, answers this tough question:
“A brilliant performance can definitely help disguise a mediocre screenplay as it serves as a distraction. Case in point being how Deepika’s (Padukone) adept portrayal of Veronica lifted Cocktail’s predictable narrative. But when it comes to technically mediocre filmmaking, it’s tough to disguise that if the basics of visual storytelling are missing to begin with. When the audience experiences the overall picture, any performance can’t be isolated from the rest of the film, so a brilliant performance won’t matter in terms of the audience’s overall takeaway.”
When you are a director on a film set, juggling egos and creative energies of so many people, the stakes are very high.
Meghna Gulzar is one such director who brings out the toughest of nuances with ease in her actors and she disagrees with what is written above. She strongly sticks to her guns and adds,
“Nothing can disguise mediocre filmmaking. But mediocre filmmaking can certainly compromise a brilliant performance.”
The year that has gone by has certainly been a forgetful one for the film business and the only film that might be able to change the game could be Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati starring Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh and Shahid Kapoor. But then again, will it just be good performances taking the film forward, or will it shake the system that seems like it has been sleeping all year long? Only time will tell.
The article was first published on Firstpost.
When you step in to watch a biopic, you expect to watch everything that you ever wanted to know about the person involved. Something that you would not find on the wikipedia page. Something that shakes you and you’re engrossed- elbow deep. Haseena Parkar, a biopic on Dawood’s sister offers absolutely none of the things mentioned above. First and foremost, when will people understand that the writing of any narrative needs to be stronger than your promotions? When all you’ve got is what you can find on the first search as you type Haseena on google, something is really wrong.
Shraddha Kapoor as Haseena aapa is not a great fit as she is unable to evoke thrill, fear or sympathy for the part. She is a sweet, fragile girl till she gets married and suddenly starts slamming people. Trust me, till now you saw no signs of eccentricities and suddenly over a water fight in the chawl, she is ready to smack people. The most bizarre part of the film is that no one explains any how’s and why’s. Beyond a point, it gets really boring because no one went back to the storyboard when they needed to. The only thing that tells me that I have to be scared in various scenes was conveyed to me by the background score and the Shraddha Kapoor’s lipstick color. Baffling, Isn’t it?
Bumbai ka bhai is played by Siddhant Kapoor and this is the first time I have seen Dawood Ibrahim devoid of any personality. Bouncing away in those caricature outfits and enjoying a scotch in a jacuzzi or even candlelight dinners in Dubai is where the thrill is lost. The voice is dubbed and the dialogues are atrocious. There are times when I thought the lines were incomplete because a lot of times, they don’t make sense and are just said for effect. *I just can’t*
Apoorva Lakhia’s Parkar is oversimplified and is unable to hold your attention for a long time. It gets sadder by the second and you don’t learn anything new from the narrative. There are many many loopholes and where simplification is required, the ends are left loose. Just like that! This is the second gangster film in two weeks and yet again, no one has been able to fix the same old problems. It’s high time we pull up our socks or else no one is up for a dull theatre watching experience.
This article was first published on Filtercopy
Hansal Mehta’s Simran is inspired by the real-life story of Sandeep Kaur who was referred to as Bombshell Bandit in the United States because of the way she robbed banks. The difference between Sandeep Kaur and Simran is that Kaur was a lot more eccentric and Praful Patel in Simran stops half way because of the crutches in the film.
Kangna Ranaut steps into the life of Praful Patel who is a hotel maid and is a lively girl. She is divorced and is 30 years of age and lives with her still stuck in Rajkot mentality parents in the states. This is a story about the middle class, working NRI’s who do not have the plush houses and have to live on every spec of money that can earn to make ends meet. She is jaunty, confident and has a very strong persona. She is neither ashamed of herself or her choices. She very well explains to her second hubby to be that dating men is not a character flaw as he is of the mindset who thinks that flaws are equivalent to the number of relationships one has had in the past. She stands up for herself in front of her parents who nudge her about her sexual escapades when she decides to move to an independent place and when in the middle of an escapade, she will make sure that protection is always on the table.
Praf, as she is fondly called gets drawn to a life of crime because of her addiction for gambling at a Las Vegas Casino. Her bank robberies are comical and so is the police. Even American police in Indian films becomes like Indian police in Indian films. But the best thing about this film is how it ventures into a space where most Bollywood films wouldn’t. While the protagonist is a maid and has no qualms about not having the surreal close-up shots or play downright dirty. There is no redemption to why is she the way she is which is beautiful.
While there was so much hue and cry about the writing of the film between Kangna Ranaut and Apurva Asrani, the saddest thing to see here is that the writing is the weakest part of this film which is followed by how it is eventually executed. It looks half-baked where one person is the only one who is trying to make things happen for her in the film. Since the effort is not well rounded, the interest that I could put from my side is also not sustained for a very long period.
I occasionally love her and then I want out. There are times when you want to root for her but beyond a point, you just cannot. Kangna Ranaut is brilliant as Praful Patel but then this is not a monologue on stage where you have come to watch only one person shine. Isn’t it?
Prison breaks are high intensity and you more often than not have your heart in your mouth while watching them. The thrill makes everything worth it. Ranjit Tiwari’s Lucknow Central is essentially a prison break drama, but it sways here and there too. Tiwari believes in Orson Welle’s saying, “Nobody gets justice, people only get good luck or bad luck” and makes this an underlying theme in his narrative. The film revolves around a young man, Kishen Mohan Girhotra essayed by Farhan Akhtar who aspires to be a professional singer but is wrongly implicated in a murder of an IAS officer. No-one asks him his side of the story and he is imprisoned for life. Despite of me buying this, what I don’t buy is the fact that we don’t know why he was framed. Who actually killed the IAS officer? What happened that all hell froze for poor Kishen who just wanted to sing?
Lucknow Central has an interesting skeleton structure of a film but the cracks are not filled well. Many times you question yourself and don’t find answers. While Kishen is being shifted from Moradabad Jail to the scarier Lucknow Central, Kishen plans a strategy to get out in the name of making a band with inmates who have to perform at an inter-jail music competition. Diana Penty strongly believes in reforming prisoners but agrees to everything Kishen asks her. Why? Are they friends? We have no clue. Now that Kishen is ready to face a fiercer jailer while planning his escape from a deadly jail, I thought to myself, why couldn’t he run from Moradabad Jail. Why all the fuss?
The answer is to introduce newer inmates- Deepak Dobriyal, Inaamulhaq, Gippy Grewal and Rajesh Sharma with their jailer who eventually turns out to be a man of straw and nothing else. He is all talk and no action. Once we get to Lucknow Central, we see prison politics, canteen fights and a lot of power play between a man who runs the system from inside the prison and Rajesh Sharma, who is in-charge of the fabric unit inside the prison. Speaking of canteen fights, we see Kishen having a bad time and doesn’t get to eat. He looks pretty ripped for a guy in jail, who’s delivering him anabolic steroids, I ask.
The film swings between heart-warming and predictable and I was confused as I left the theatre. While most of it is predictable, the friendship between Kishen and his prison-mates is sweet to watch till everything they do is too convenient. You don’t want mediocrity when you see a bunch of wonderful actors in one frame. Do you?
This article was first published on Filtercopy
Packaging one’s life for cinema has been a running trend and even today, people are putting their money on films that are inspired by real people. Biopics are the new in thing.
Not just the audience, but even film makers find solace and inspiration in people they have looked upto (or read about) all their life. Irrespective of stumbling blocks, biopics are a glossy, money-making blockbuster production. But things are not as free flowing like they used to. The digital age, where everyone is on social media platforms, has and continues to make life difficult for the story teller.
If at all any details are omitted out of the production, a mob is always ready to fight out and question the matter that has been projected on screen.
We have all seen and praised superlative performances in films like Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Dangal, MS Dhoni- The Untold Story, but to go through the part through various people’s perspective is a complex task. Initially you don’t even know what you are looking for. If you find something, you are unsure if that is what would be enough to showcase and build an entire narrative around. It won’t be wrong to say that biopics are not just challenging to make but are very complex in nature too.
Many times film makers struggle between documenting and dramatising the chosen character for the film to making sure there is a moral in the story. How rational can we actually be? And can there be a moral in every story we decide to make?
We have seen many films of the biopic nature that have not made a mark post the first weekend excitement. Be it Mary Kom, Azhar, Sarbjit, Main Air Charles, Steve Jobs — none of them could survive the day of the light once the excitement died down, or it wouldn’t be wrong to say after the first few people watched it and told others not to go through them.
Not just Bollywood but even Hollywood is time and again enamored with the glorious biographical productions. All Eyez On Me, a film on the rap artist Tupac Shakur opened so big recently that it earned $ 12.8 million on the first day and eventually was pulled out of 1000 theatres in a couple of weeks because fans couldn’t relate to the film.
If you look at these films with a magnified eye, you will find an uneasy quid pro quo between the creator and the muse. Usually, biopics insist on eulogising their subjects and the maker would hardly take the road less traveled. If that is not the case, a delivery of a story without illusions and the inclusion of lived events would just be vile. Don’t you think?
But there’s always a catch twenty-two in most situations as the audience is very inquisitive and needs to know every spec of semblance there is to authenticity. So does that mean biopics should be made from a fan’s point of view? In that case, will we ever be able to show case the character flaws of a human being? How do we answer that?
The life of Mark Zuckerberg was packed in The Social Network and it did face flak as a fair amount of detractors were unimpressed with how Aaron Sorkin, the screen writer, dramatised the lives of those involved with Facebook. The co-founders were not involved in the making of the film and Zuckerberg was even quoted being hurt after watching all the creative alterations.
Speaking of packaging, a very public yet vulnerable life in a film would be the upcoming Raj Kumar Hirani’s biopic on Sanjay Dutt, essayed by Ranbir Kapoor. Baba (Working Title) is not a story of an athlete bringing laurels for the country, nor a rags to riches story. It would be a life led in the middle of stardom, loss, prison, drugs and what not. But the question still remains, are we judging the man or the film maker while we watch biographical dramas?
In Arun Gawli’s Daddy, Arjun Rampal takes the part of the gangster and wears it like second skin. Many times people have questioned glorifying the men with guns whenever a biopic on a gangster has surfaced. How true is the truth and how biased are we? The most fun thing I have observed while I watch dramas of this nature has to be how there are no favourites when you jump in the film and while you come out, there are many. Every minute your love and hate changes for the people you watch simply for the human flaws you see in them, which makes them absolutely normal.
While I watched Clint Eastwood’s J. Edgar on the life of FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover and Spielberg’s take on the presidency in Lincoln, I was awestruck.
These are the only rare films that seem to have served the purpose of elevating the mythical status of their subjects to a higher ground and purpose. These are some rare films that have set high benchmarks to biographical dramas that no film has even come close to touching them.
And now, since biopics are not going anywhere, I close my eyes, and keep my fingers crossed every time a new one is announced.
This article was first published on Firstpost
The minute Daddy’s trailer was out, I was ecstatic. I for one, love a film that has murky locations and a cold blooded gangster and to top it all, it is a real story about Arun Gawli who was feared and worshipped by the people of Dagdi Chawl. First and foremost, this film deserves a round of applause for its technical prowess. The camera work is so stunning that it takes you deep in the shady bars, murky streets and dilapidated buildings that you’re breathless of all the claustrophobia that is being thrown at you. Ah!
Well, director Ashim Ahluwalia is a brave man for this attempt where he experimented with an unconventional narrative structure. He doesn’t shy away to establish how cold blooded this murderer was with all the brutal killings and the ambition that is cold as ice. There is a scene in the film around a lift shaft of a building that captures the essence and the establishment of the B.R.A Gang ( B- Babu Reshim, R- Rama Naik, A- Arun Gawli) which is absolutely amazing. The film takes you through the bloody killing in 2011 and then flashes back to 1976 and keeps going back and forth which sometimes is tough to keep track of all the characters that keep coming at you.
From cops to colleagues, everyone shares their version of the story about Arun Gawli who they remember as Daddy and how he gets entrenched in the underbelly of the city we called Bombay. While these are the high points in the film, the point of the matter lies in the fact that even after watching the film, do we know more about the feared gangster? Honestly, barring a few things here and there, not much insight has been given to us than what we already know which gets in the way of me appreciating the film too much. I like it, but then I wanted to know more especially about the genesis of the new crime collective that was formed in 1970.We see raids on Matka dens, smuggling and how Gawli aligns himself with the local don Maqsood which is played by Farhan Akhtar in the very 70’s shades.
This is a story of a man who is as repellent as he is feared. It is intriguing how a son of a jobless mill worker became the larger than life phenomenon everyone called Daddy. How everyone worshipped a cold blooded murderer?
Speaking of the man who gives structure to the protagonist, Arjun Rampal’s intense depiction of the man is quite interesting to watch. He tries to convey the threshold of crime convincingly but sadly doesn’t elevate the part with magic. His physical transformation is commendable but as a thirsty cine goer, I am parched. It is a wonderful film in shots but lacks the glue that holds the entire film together.
This article was first published on Filtercopy