Saturday, September 13, 2008

Mumbai Meri Jaan: Reflecting our times

'Daaru nahi peeyenge to inke andar spirit kahaase aayega… 'Mumbai spirit'!!'
The above line from Paresh Rawal's cop character is part of the undercurrent of sarcasm that runs all through Mumbai Meri Jaan, Nishikant Kamat's excellent follow-up to his brilliant directorial debut (Marathi) 'Dombvili Fast'. I know not a word of Marathi and still I was swayed by Dombvili Fast. Just like he did in his first film, Nishikant Kamat examines the psyche of regular citizens, living ordinary (non-Yashraj!) lives. It is just that this movie is set against the July 11th, 2006 bomb blasts in Mumbai and hence Mumbai forms the necessary backdrop. This movie is as good as the 2006 Oscar winner ‘Crash’. While ‘Crash’ was set up in the post 9/11 multi-cultural Los Angeles examining the xenophobia and bigotry involving whites, blacks, Persian, Latino, Korean and cop characters, Mumbai Meri Jaan does it in the Mumbai context. Just like ‘Crash’, this is raw and in-the-face, exploring the gray between black and white. It is hard-hitting when it shows the indifference and insensitiveness that are slowly getting rooted into people about others’ plights. This movie gives no messages, no discoveries, no solutions; Nishikant Kamat is just thinking aloud. The dialogue is crisp, tongue-in-cheek, infused with sarcastic, deadpan and wry humor with endless potshots at the print and television media, which the audience welcomes gleefully. This movie is neither about the maximum city nor its ‘spirit’ (I never quite understood what this is supposed to mean). There is no romanticized view of Mumbai as it would sound from the title. The movie focuses on the kind of people who make up the city and their daily struggles, their angst, social disconnect, sense of belonging and confusions. This is a social commentary on the different strata – a hot-shot corporate guy who in his love for the motherland overlooks the greener pastures of America before the blasts make him rethink, a young man from a Hindutva family consumed by suspicion of anything Muslim, a TV journo riding the ladder of success before she herself becomes a great ‘Saturday night story’ for her own channel, a ‘Madrasi’ tea-seller who drives the post-blasts phobic cops and crowds into frenzy as an act of revenge.

What is refreshing about Kamat's works is his originality of thought. The way he handles the track involving Kay Kay is excellent. The usual Hindu-Muslim 'we-they' syndrome is subtly handled. In this age of Islam-phobia, a character suspecting Muslims is not necessarily that of a fundamentalist (of other religions). And Kay Kay’s character reflected this reality quite well. In fact I know of atleast one guy (one of my friends, a Hindu) who in his adolescence was a staunch right-winger, high on RSS. Now, after 10 years, he is an atheist! Adolescence is the age when we easy to get swayed by these divisive and hate politics. Age brings in some mellowness as reality dawns in and introspections remove the hate and suspicions planted in the mind. Kay Kay’s character was one such, entangled in hate politics (one scene shows the atmosphere at his home – his family elder preaching a school kid about Akhand Bharat). He always sees a conspiracy theory involving Muslims. He says 'Yeh log sirf Mohammed Rafi ko sunenge, Kishore Kumar kabhi nahi sunenge' when he hears a patriotic song out of a radio while moving through a Muslim-dominated alley. He goes on to get a Swastik Tee to wear his heart on his shoulder, literally. This track is funny, thought-provoking at the same time. Other story tracks are equally good and engrossing.


All characters have their story-tracks running parallely, unrelated to each other and still we would be able relate all the stories to each other on a psychological level when all of them find their hope and redemption from their inner devils towards the end.
I will not spoil the fun and stimulation any thinking individual can get viewing this film. So I will stop here. With the best of casting, writing and performances, undoubtedly, this is one of the best movies for me. If there is one film that reflects our times as they are, it is this movie, Mumbai Meri Jaan. And I think Nishikant Kamat, with his unfailing thought, will only get better next time.

12 comments:

sachin said...

great review man. I agree with u this is one of the best movie in recent times that makes you think and gives u a great message which is imp in todays world .....

Raju said...

Good review,The movie perfectly brings in the slipstream of thoughts that come accross a common man after the blasts.

prasad said...

Great review Dude !
Haven't seen the movie yet, so refraining from commenting on it.
But liked the way you took a jibe at Yashraj...:)
And may I know who this 'one of your friends' is who you are taking a dig at...:)

Abhinay_Badhan said...
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Abhinay_Badhan said...

The review was too balanced and diplomatic, in short it did not fall under 'fan'atics and nor in the 'criic'al area.

One thing i would like to say in here is your confusion about the Title - Mumbai-Meri-Jaan....

The title seems to be similar to multi-facing structures at the Ramoji Film city,..from one side it gives us the entrance of court and by other side its a hospital...

So according to my thought, the meaning in Mumbai-Meri-Jaan is not directly related to what it gives...but its about the serial blasts which had a great impact on the suburban railway service and the commuters..

But soon after the black dawn of blasts, the railway service was back on the track with the same push as it was before the blasts...

So, here it was like the 'Jaan' factor which never lost its energy, and so its always alive...

Good one from you, buddy !....

Look to see more from you......

Salil said...

Hey Amar, it’s really a great review.

I saw this movie few days back, and today I read your blog. Your comments on the movie are really superb, but your confusion on the Title of the movie.

On Ganesh Visarjan, I was in Mumbai, and the same day I was watching news on TV about Delhi bomb blasts. And, I thought at this time, people of Mumbai will be terrified of to celebrate Ganesh Visarjan. But, I was wrong. I saw the “Spirit” of Mumbai.

Waiting for your next blog…

Deepz said...

Hey Amar !! Another nicely articulated blog. I simply like the way you analysed the theme as well as the characters of the movie. Only after reading this, I feel like I should go ahead and watch the movie ( I sparingly knew that such a movie exists ;))......... Keep Writing ..........

Amar said...

@ Sachin
Yes buddy, this is a very honest and true movie. I feel grt that u feel the same.

@ Narasimha Raju? Thnx buddy :).

@ Vara Prasad
i wud like to listen from u after u watch this buddy. Abt the friend, seriously i think its part of growing up. Infact it (the transformation) proves he thinks on his feet! Thats a good thing we look for in our frenz,. wat say u?

Amar said...

@ Abhinay and Salil,

Guys, i chose not to be confused! :) Titles could be purely a marketing exercise. So i dont read too much into it. What i meant to say was that from the content of the movie, nothing is romanicized abt Mumbai. Infact it was sarcastic abt the fancy words media uses whenever calamity strikes - Mumbai's towering spirit came to the fore...Delhi gets back to its feet...bla bla bla

I share the feelings of this filmmaker when he puts those famous lines into Paresh Rawal's character 'Daaru nahi peeyenge to inke andar spirit kahaase aayega… 'Mumbai spirit'!!' I seriously think all this 'spirit' thing is one of the media's feel-good business. Rightly, this spirit thing is ridiculed in the movie. As expressed in the movie, Media makes a tamasha out of every tragedy. This whole 'spirit of the great city' is no less. And plz note this is not specific to any city. Everywhere its the same story. I people got back into trains or if they participated in Ganesh Visarjan, it is because that we got 'so used' to violence and it is no more a choice for us to stay home. Was it a choice for Madhavan to take the train in the climax? We are compelled to go out because we have to eke out a living. We are not making any bravery statements by resuming our life. If at all, we really have that so-called 'spirit', we would have got at least some leads (if not the culprits themselves) about who planned and execute these blasts in Mumbai, Blore, Delhi, Ahmedabad, Hyderabad. Common guys, its an insult to all those who lost their lives to call our actions 'spirited'! We are just living our mechanical names, uninterrupted! Forget abt the blasts, even if it were some flood, we would still get along with our lives the moment the rain stops, in the flooded homes and streets. So what are we talking abt!?

Infact,in the movie, if you observe closely, there are scenes which show insensitive people around. At best, you can call them people who became numb to violence and suffering around.
One is when Madhavan returns home after surviving the blast, there is no melodrama at home. His wife casually browses to other channels when she sees images the bomb blast images in a channel on TV. She has no time or heart to feel for others. That is what we are all becoming. The other is ofcourse the brute world around the journalist which she discovers once she becomes the 'story'. The 'Madrasi' tea vendors did not feel the spirited brethren. so he strikes back.

How can a city become spirited when its citizens cant be spirited?
Mumbai is too big a city to be stopped, come what may. Similar is the case with almost all big cities in the country today. They will have to simply go on and on. Its not a choice. Whatever fancy names you call, that is what it is. And that is what this movie is matter-of-fact abt. I loved that honesty.

Amar said...
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Amar said...

@ Deepz,

I am flattered. Go enjoy the film buddy. And yes, keep reading :)

Salil said...

Thanks Amar, for clarifying my doubt on your blog :)
Certainly I would like to see this movie again…(especially after your comments). And, Now I feel that before going for any movie I should wait for your blog… So, please keep writing…