Saturday, November 29, 2008

Now what? Again sing 'Spirit of Mumbai'!?

Lauding the role of the security personnel who sacrificed their lives to save Parliament, he said it would have been a tragedy far worse than the September 11 attack in the United States had the terrorists entered Parliament House when top political leaders and 700 parliamentarians were in. - A news item referring to LK Advani and his comments on December 13, 2001 parliament attack

When i read this piece, just for a moment i wished they entered the parliament! Such is the overwhelming helplessness I feel seeing the unfolding events in Mumbai on TV. What a crap we have for our leaders.

Will we ever wake up? Before long, we will again see the dreaded cliché 'Spirit of Mumbai' across TVs and papers. We will proclaim we are not hurt, we get back to work, conveniently forget this whole thing. Its a routine by now, they come, they hit, go back. We sit, wait for them to come back and hit. And meantime, we entertain ourselves with iron-man Advani proclaiming he will 'clean-up' terror in country within 100 days of coming to power. Could he please share with us his magic-mantra? Such statements only show how lightly this issue is taken by him and his party. Of course, it was while he was at the helm, the parliament was attacked. I have always had a positive feel for Manmohan Singh despite his not-so-charismatic approach. This could be because he sounds very honest. But the other day, for the first time, watching him addressing the nation on TV, i felt he is woefully inadequate. No, Mr Singh, ur staid approach doesn’t reassure me, not anymore. Maybe we dont need a scholar for a leader anymore. Not an old man for sure. I am not even talking about a certain Shivraj Patil. If he is still keeping his job, i wonder what his job profile is. Shameless, he utterly is. Maybe we need a raw muscleman who loves his country more than anything else. Even if it means a Narender Modi, despite all his history. Not a single reassuring voice did i hear in the past 3 days.
The Mumbai attacks made a mockery of our borders, internal and external security. From the common man in CST to the honchos in MNCs, terror touched everyone. We lost brave officers from police and NSG not to terror, but primarily for our ineptitude in governance. Think about all those officers, politicians who compromised with corruption, greed for power to make the terrorists roll into our public spaces this easily, in blue jeans and designer T-shirts. I wonder if any of these brave officers wondered for a moment if its worth laying their lives for all our insensitivity and ineptitude. Oh yeah, we will pay our due respects lighting candles and stuff before going ahead and discussing Big Brother six-packs and eight-packs. Our government already came up with the same old excuse - the root of terror is in external countries. Are we supposed to believe foreigners simply walked in without any logistical support, went around and shot every living creature around even as they ate dry fruits. Why is our leadership reluctant to focus on the assistance the terrorists got from our fellow citizens? Simply because its easy to blame the whole thing on Pakistan and get away? Pakistan has of course failed. India is failing! They couldn’t themselves avoid the attack on Marriott in Islamabad in September this year. Whether or not the Pakistan's establishment is involved in this attack does not cloud the huge task we have now for us - to proactively approach terrorism and single-mindedly sustain our pursuit of the perpetrators of these heinous crimes. Even if we have a percent of the commitment the officers who died showed, we would succeed in tackling these warped minds of terror. Quite a few times did we listen US saying Pakistan to 'do more' about tackling terror. I wonder, ironically, if that advice is more suited for our leadership!

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Quantum of Solace: The Reluctant Bond

Quantum of Solace (QoS) not just sounds like an art-house movie but in parts is shot like one! What with Marc Forster of the art-house movies like The Kite Runner and Finding Neverland, the temptation is real. When the Bond is not involved in deafening episodes of action, all we get to see and hear are lengthy expositions (in typical British style Queen's English :)) of 'who-is-who' and 'who-is-spying-who'. The Bond is back and he is pissed! With his lover's death, he transforms into a killing machine and that is what all QoS is about.
With screenwriters like Paul Haggis (who has written the very famous Crash), the Bond franchise re-invented the Bond in Casino Royale two years ago with stupendous success. It was a masterstroke especially because the very suave Pierce Brosnan was giving way to a blond muscleman Daniel Craig. With the reinvention making him play a rookie yet to be promoted and trusted fully, Craig didnt have to carry all the baggage of his superstar predecessors. With the collaboration of Martin Campbell (Director of the Zorro series), Paul Haggis and an excellent casting inclusing the very beautiful and talented Eva Green Casino Royale turned out to be the best of the Bond series for many. The drama and the action built into this story of how the Bond transformed into a killer machine rejunevated the Bond series. Casino Royale has one of the best finales when in the climax Daniel Craig, all power-dressed, complete with a gun, looms over and kills one in revenge to Vesper's death. And that is where the problem started for QoS. Making a sequel to a herculean task, especially when the Bond franchise seems to be in a hurry to distance itself from typical elements of previous Bond movies.

Having broke up with his past through Casino.., the Bond cannot now return to his suave past (in this sequel of Casino... QoS is the first sequel in the Bond series. And for those with a mind for statistics, QoS is the shortest of the Bond series while Casino..was the longest). Having started the revenge saga in Casino,..the Bond goes on a killing spree in QoS. We are told he is 'blinded by inconsolable rage'. There are some mind-numbing action episodes lumped together for Bond fans. But otherwise the movie lacks a soul. The Bond is too serious to enjoy himself and his revenge drama doesnt excite because of a weakly characterized villain Dominic Greene. Nevertheless, the villain's henchmen chase the Bond across the sky in an aerial dogfight, across water in motor boat manoeuvres and on the cliffs in artillery-mounted cars. And to end this all, when the Bond actually gets hold of the villain, he drops him in middle of a desert to die on his own! This is one of the poetic art-house things done in this movie by Marc Forster and Paul Haggis. The other scenes include one initial chase scene where Bond chases his MI6 colleague. This chase was interspersed with a horse race scene. The climactic scene where the dictator gets killed in fire was poetic revenge for the Bond girl whose own family was similary put to death by the dictator. Alas, the plot and charcterizations ofcourse didnt get this kind of attention to detail. And that is why this bond enterprise in unexciting. This is a reluctant Bond. We miss his introduction 'My Name is..' and the tune (which plays only thru end-credits).

This Bond movie is filmed across Italy, UK, Bolivia, Austria, Haiti and Russia and is the costliest ever but this simply dosent measure up. But this does not seem to stop a sequel for this as well! The crime syndicate 'Quantum' discovered in this movie is not yet destroyed and the Bond is told that the villain is indeed shot by his colleagues in Quantum. Daniel Craig who has been signed for 3 more Bond movies may very well come back to destroy Quantum. And our solace, if the screenwriters are not up to the task.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

Fashion has no passion

Well, I am no fan of Bhandarkar. And so it hardly should surprise my friends if i knit-pick on his latest offering 'Fashion', which most of them seem to like. Before anyone calls me a cynical critic let me tell you the simple reasons why i havent liked any of his movies.

He simply does not involve in story-telling! He simply dosent care. He bought to Hindi films what newspapers like Times of India bought to journalism - Gossip. And so it sells. Not surprisingly, he chooses subjects like Page3, Fashion and Corporate world. And yeah, the bar girls. The subjects in themselves are rarely explored in our movies and so his movies ride on the curiosity wave when they open. Well, maybe you need to appreciate his business acumen though for choosing these subjects (I mean we never saw the big boys like Yashraj try this for all the muscle they have). This is the only point i can concede to Bhandarkar.

And what does he do next. Goes and creates some characters and a plot thats too silly to bother about. His attitude is that of a perpetual outsider. He never owns the story or the characters and the result is we never get moved. All those front-benchers would cheer though for all the simplicistic approach. It simply dosent tax their brain! Its plain stupid to call his movies 'realistic'. They are a million miles away from realism.

Coming to 'Fashion', he named it so for all the attention it could get and he is right. The movie has almost nothing to do with 'Fashion' and is more about a lady's modelling career. The crux of the story, i understand, was supposed to be this lady's confident foray into the fashion world , her rise and her arrogance, her fall and her redemption. This subject requires sensitive handling to have the impact on the viewer to sympathize with the main character. And it fails here.

Many crucial sequences are lightly done. Some instances are -
When Priyanka aspires to become the 'supermodel', does she not know what professionalism is and what it means to mind her business? Especially so when she is doing the show for a leading hot-shot designer! She suggests the designer instead the best way to wear the dress and then obviously he makes her cry. Now, r we supposed to cry for her ignorance!?
Next comes the scene where she breaks up with her boyfriend. He is himself a model and still they end up fighting about the time she comes home,.The dialogue which Priyanka blurts out here about her boyfriend not seeing the kind of success she got looked forced and out of context. Bhandarkar must be desperate to pen a 'break-up scene' and this is the best he could come up with. This scene is supposed to shatter our heart for the two loving birds now done apart. I yawned.

Immediately next, we have the taxi scene where Priyanka smokes and asks the driver what is waiting for. This is lifted straight from 'The devil wears Prada (climax). Its just that it doesnt fit and make any sense here, ofcourse nor does the movie.

Yet another dumb scene in the film is when the 'supermodel' 'discovers' that she cant have children while on contract. So what was she thinking, she was being paid to carry and raise children!? The movie is filled with all these scenes which are neither logical nor emotionally touching. And so you dont feel sympathetic when she falls (after all it was ignorance, not arrogance that lead to her downfall!) and so we neither want her to come back and succeed again. So her redemtion exercise simply dosent take off and i wondered why was she forced back in modelling.

If there is anything that actually fires us for a moment, it got to be Kangana Ranaut. This movie works despite Madhur Bhandarkar. While the backdrop of the Ramp brings in the fire, it is Kangana who raises the quotient in the few scenes she does the cat-walk. The music adds up, especially in the scene when she fires on to the ramp after pouring in those drinks. Too bad, the movie dosent have more of those scenes. The background score was perfect. Probably Priyanka Chopra did her best playing this ill-sketched character. I cant really say.

The fact is that either Bhandarkar does little research or maybe he is simply incapable of it. For all the hype of realism, he could never think like an insider. All we get to see is superficial newpaper gossip kind of overview with gay designers and wardrobe malfunctions. But yes, we should thank him for not stooping too low with this subject! Think the horrible 'Traffic Signal' and the ridiculous 'Corporate'. While his 'Page 3' was a 100 years behind Govind Nihalani's 'Party', Production values and the backdrop of the Modelling world helps this movie stay put despite himself.