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The Dystopian Extremes March 24, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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I am always up for a post-apocalyptic loner anti-hero flick and The Book of Eli seemed the perfect one (on the face of it at least). Yet, in spite of the Hughes Brothers impressive visuals the content turned out to be a huge letdown. Even halfway through the film, things seemed quite interesting – the unfolding plot appeared to be a tongue-in-cheek take on religion and power but at the end I actually felt like walking out of a religious sermon. I am more disappointed because this is probably the one film genre where I would least expect something like this.

Just a couple of days later I caught up another post-apocalypse movie – “The Road”. The only common thing between this movie and “The Book of Eli” is that both the films weren’t what I expected it to be. You keep hearing about how certain films are bleak, gloomy and depressing – “The Road” makes all of them look like kiddie fantasies. Watch it and you’ll know what I am saying. Every few minutes or so, I kept wishing something good would happen (even a little) just to make my movie-watching experience less disturbing. It is an authentic throught provoking study about humanity in the most dystopian situations ever. With great performances from Viggo Mortensen and Kodi Smit-McPhee – you would not want to miss this…..even though this is not at all an easy watch.

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Delhi-6 February 23, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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The experience of watching Delhi-6 goes something like this – Imagine that Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra promised to take you on a trip to the moon. This wonderful trip through space seems to be going fine and when you finally see yourself approaching the destination, he jettisons you off into outer space (the advantage in this case being that you can actually come back home). Now no matter how much you want to curse him for throwing you off you still cannot discount the unforgettable journey till that point. That for you is Delhi-6 condensed in a few lines – the must-watch disappointing flick of the year.

The film for most part is a satirical black comedy centered around the family and friends of an NRI Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan), who agrees to accompany her dying grandmother (Waheeda Rehman) to Delhi where she wants to live with her kith and kin until her final moment. This extended circle of family and friends incidentally turns out to be one amazing ensemble of a supporting cast who bring the streets of Delhi alive. The main premise makes use of the (in)famous “Monkey-man” (Kala Bandar) series of incidents which occurred about 6 years back. You realize as the film progresses that the use of this peg is mainly to take a dig at communalism but meanwhile there are a lot of other issues touched upon with a mix of playful reverence and biting satire like religious beliefs/rituals, casteism, oppressive families etc. with a dash of the usual NRI-finding-his-roots thread. The multiple sub-plots reminded me of last year’s Welcome To Sajjanpur but they are completely different and commendable in their own way.

What seems to have gone terribly wrong is the communalism thread – which is so hackneyed, preachy and completely out of line with the tone of the film. Still, when the film seems to be getting back on track towards the climax you are given another bitter (or rather bizarre) pill to swallow. No wonder it is receiving brickbats from all corners. Apart from Mehra another person to shoulder the blame has to be Abhishek Bachchan. On one hand he should be commended for accepting a role which is little more than a narrator where the only thing expected of him is just to “be there”. Now whoever gave him the idea of using that irritating fake accent – the worst part being he uses that only when conversing with characters who don’t seem to understand English otherwise he absolutely has no issues mouthing heavy duty dialogues in shuddh Hindi. Apart from pissing you off this only seems to make his character appear so disinterested in what is happening around him. If it weren’t for that wonderfully filmed song – with Times Square juxtaposed on Delhi’s crowded streets; his character’s existence in the film would be completely unjustified.

You might say these are small details but these stand out more so because the rest of the cast is flawless to the core. I can only mention the people whose names I know – Waheeda Rehman (my favorite onscreen mom anytime), Rishi Kapoor (whose true “second innings” finally seems to have kickstarted this year), Sonam Kapoor (a similar giggly role like Saawariya which nevertheless suits her so well), Vijay Raaz, Pawan Malhotra, Om Puri, Divya Dutta, Atul Kulkarni, Tanvi Azmi and the ones who play Rajjo Bhabhi and Rama Bua.

The cinematography (Binod Pradhan) and artwork (Samir Chanda) are top notch and there is a fine balance between the use of real locations and set-pieces. If the cast and crew make Delhi come alive then to top it all is the man of the moment A.R Rahman who arguably delivers one of his best scores ever and to his fortune he has a director who knows how to use it to maximum effect.

As the end credits rolled with the mesmerising “Arziyan” track I was feeling so exhilarated yet equally sad – for having seen a film which rises to magnificent heights yet screws up so badly in the last lap. But I strongly recommend every lover of cinema to still check out Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s brutally flawed masterpiece for it has too many great things about it which you’d struggle to find in any so called “good” film you generally come across.