Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Aamir joins the league of movies like Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai, Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota, Taare Zameen Par, Mithya (these are the only ones I can think of, as of now) and loads of others- movies synonymous with the coming of age of Indian cinema, where the story and screenplay are the real heroes of the film. Never mind the stars attached to them.

So even though it is 'inspired' from a Filipino film Cavite (Have not watched it.-- Talk about Bollywood and originality.) and deals with the same old subject of branding certain people as terrorists just because they are Muslim, debutant director Raj Kumar Gupta, gives it a whole new meaning, with such finesse and control over the medium, rarely seen.

As our protagonist (Rajeev Khandelwal) is coming out of the Mumbai Airport, after a squabble with the immigrations officer- Just because his name is Aamir Ali( his luggage checked thrice-What if he's a terrorist??)-he's given a mobile by two strangers. Soon Aamir becomes a puppet in the hands of a man(Gajraj Rao), who has kidnapped his family and is constantly giving him instructions over the phone, taking him(and us) through a maze called Mumbai, all this leading to a riveting climax. But why is Aamir chosen?- He too doesn't know and so don't we.

Shot on real time locations(all of it during the day) the city of Mumbai comes alive, with some very interesting camera work(Alphonse Roy).Very neat and clean, nothing too gimmicky.Yet there is some novelty in the way the shots are taken. Right from the opening shot where we get to see montages of the cityscape, with "It's a good day....." playing in the background to the scene where there is this chaotic traffic jam or even the abandoned shady alleys which Aamir has to go through. It gives the movie a very raw feel.This combined with Raj Kumar Gupta's adept direction and Amit Trivedi's music and background score, keeps you hooked on till the last minute.

Even though, this drama has a running time of 98 mins, the pace does slacken at some point, and the dialogues (Raj Kumar Gupta again.) get a little repetitive, especially that of the man on the phone.
The cast mostly comprising of unknown actors, except Rajeev khandelwal, performs quite well( Gajraj Rao gets a little annoying though.) Ekta Kapoor's then sone-ka-anda-dene-wala-murgi, Rajeev Khandelwal, who was wasted in two completely hopeless dailies ( Kahin na kahin...and Left Right left) means business, and just does that-act, displaying his wide range of histrionics and proves that he fits the character of Dr. Aamir to the T.

This movie surely needs to be watched.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mahanagar : The Big City

With Mahanagar (The big city)(1963) Satyajit Ray explores the pathos of the people living in a modern day city.

Subrata Mazumdar (Anil Chatterjee) is a bank employee. The meagre income he earns is not enough to support his middle class family, which consists of his wife Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee), their son, his retired father (Haren Chatterjee) and mother and his young sister Bani (Jaya Bhaduri). After a few hints from her husband, Arati too decides to take up a job with stiff opposition from the elders, especially the father. Arati finds a job as a sales girl selling knitting machines door to door. Her success notwithstanding, Subrata asks her to quit her job. But as luck would have it, Subrata ends up losing his job due to unforeseen circumstances. Now its Arati who is the ‘man’ of the family. But then everything isn’t smooth sailing in the big city…..Thus begins a journey of struggles and hardships, and one has to be optimistic.

Somehow Mahanagar doesn’t have that poetic flow to it, as the other Ray films I’ve seen, especially Pather Panchali and Charulata (I know they can’t be compared, but then….). But he lends the film a raw feel which is much understated and he’s made a film which was completely modern for its time- about people living in 1950’s Calcutta, and it still holds relevance. The issues he deals with in this film are plenty. Like Arati’s racist boss, who has a strong dislike for her Anglo-Indian colleague Edith or her father-in-law, who has a problem with the women of the house working outside. Even though the movie deals small vagaries of city life, not a second does it leave you bored.

This was Madhabi Mukherjee’s first film with Satyajit Ray, after which she went on to star in his Classic Charulata and Kapurush. The transformation of Arati from a timid housewife to a confident working woman is excellently brought about. She underplays her character without being overly dramatic. Ditto with Anil Chatterjee. Even Haren Chatterjee as the father, who is unapologetic about his views, especially women working, but how he slowly ends up surrendering to the ways of modern times, plays his part well.

The camera work is quite impressive, and so is the way a few scenes have been executed. The scene where Arati is looking at herself in the mirror, with her first pay in her hands- the expression on Madhabi Mukherjee’s face and the scene as such is brilliant. A few of the close-up shots, of the main players, throughout the film, have been very interestingly shot with the play of light and shadow.

A film with interesting insights of city life