Tuesday, January 22, 2008

The Bad, The Ugly, The Villain!

“Fata poster nikla Hero!”. I sometimes feel that heroes are unduly celebrated in Bollywood. If it was not for that tobacco chewing, spitfire and cruel Gabbar, what use would the dallards like Jai and Veeru have served? Hindi film villainy has changed faces over the years and has held its own despite the fact that villains always end up being on the losing side at the end of it all. If you look closely, the villains can be broadly classified into a few subcategories. Here’s a take on that. Take it as my tribute to the Bad Men you never aspire to be.

Dirty Gabbar clones: They never bathed and carried a disheveled look. As social outcasts, they found solace in the ravines of Chambal or in some deep forest. Such a choice of habitat was intelligent. Nobody cared if they didn’t take a bath. Their gang comprised of human manifestations of wild boars. I don’t know how Ramu thought of casting a Rajpal Yadav as a gang member in Jungle. But then he also cast Fardeen Khan as the lead hero. So the answer is quite obvious – he wanted to prove a point! The Gabbar clones had strange taste buds. Some of them had a weakness for cabaret dancers while some of them were repulsive even in their taste.

To quote one from China Gate - “Mere mann ko bhaya, main kutta kaat ke khaya”

Nevertheless, they epitomized all bad things that you were scolded for as a kid. They stole, stayed dirty, passed lewd remarks and stayed outdoors all day. They are the more macho villains who used terror as their weapon to rule. Largescale deforestation and desire to share a community life probably spelt the doom for this class of villains.

Gaaon ka lala clones: These were real b******s. They lent the money to our hero’s family and then asked them to settle for a compromise.

Lala Dharmprakash: “Tumhare paas aur bhi bahut kuch hai dene ko”

The poor hero had to toil hard. The fact that he had a young and generally plump sister at home added to his woes. More often than not, the poor hero was framed and sent to a jail. The Lala then made life miserable for his family back home. The hero returned later to find his personal life ruined. He just had the memories of a Rakhi song his sister used to sing to find a reason to live on. The Gaon ka lala was finally crushed and the hero once again surrendered to the law to start life afresh. These Lalas started disappearing into oblivion once nationalized banks opened centers in villages and money lending Lalas became a thing of the past.

Safedposh Chor clones: “Saara sheher mujhe LOIN ke naam se jaanta hai”.

They smuggled and killed people while managing to stay in the limelight for all the right reasons. No one dared to imagine them to indulge in any wrong doing at least for the first 14 of the 17 reel movie.

IG to DCP Prabhakar: “Kya bakte ho Parbhaakar, Deen Dayal sheher ka izzatdaar insaan hai”

These clones enjoyed all pleasures in life. They had a bevy of revealing personal secretaries, they smoked imported cigars and went about living a flashy lifestyle that could make you mull whether it was really worth it to be righteous in conduct. These clones lost out to the underground and gadget savvy villains who aided by their firangi partners wreaked havoc in the society at large and the hero in particular.

Underground baddy clones: These clones operated sub-surface. They had a whole security system in place to track down any infiltration. As soon as any outsider entered their premises, 100W bulbs flashed and an alarm bell set off. The gadgets varied from the simple switchboards to complex electric-shock giving set-ups. Their state-of-the-art operation center was well equipped with a prison that housed the hero’s mother, love interest, long lost father, sister and all other character artists under one roof during the climax. The technology savvy villain was far removed from the do-naali toting Gabbar clones who moved on horses and lived in open air. The secret door to their hidden world was either behind a huge painting in a bungalow or some such place that one could never find out. It was only when the last scene rolled that Police was able to reach the place and arrest them all.

Mogambo Clones: The upgraded version of the tech savvy villain were their foreign counterparts who spoke impeccable Hindi and had vested interests in India. They had strange names though – Dang, Dong, Mogambo and Shakal to name a few. These clones operated from some la la land or from privately owned islands. They had their own army, a set of scientists and customs and rituals.

Hail Mogambo” – A soldier praising his leader as part of a customary ritual.

Not just the rituals, these international epitomes of treachery dressed exotically and had a handy one liner in their repertoire.

Dong kabhi wrong nahi hota” – Dong, when asked if his decision to let the gang of hooligans from India come and torment them in their privately owned country was correct.

With globalization came an end to their life on screen. The world shrunk, the boundaries merged and the audience came to know that there was no la la land.

Political goons: They were relegated to the backseat for most part of Indian film history. They often appeared as sidekicks who couldn’t survive till the last scene. However, for a brief period of time, they held sway in the industry. They had very social names but indulged in all possible anti-social activities.

Most of the times they had a shady past that was brought to the limelight by the once oppressed hero who sought vengeance. Again, these political goons borrowed their traits from the gaon ka lala clones in terms of debauchery. They were again the pervert lot.

Funny Villains: This brand is synonymous with the rise of Jeetendra as the “Tohfa tohfa...laaya laaya” superstar. These villains came to life owing to the wild and largely whacky sense of humor possessed by the south Indian directors. They kept goofing up but never fell short of creating trouble for our hero. The set up was mostly in a south Indian village painted as a north Indian one. The funny villains operated in pairs Father-Son or Thakur-Munim. They mouthed double meaning dialogues in abundance which can partially be acclaimed to the lack of knowledge of Hindi by the creative team that wrote dialogues. Sample one such dialogue that a villain used whenever he saw the heroine:

Aauu Lal.e.e.tha

Their era was short lived too. They disappeared overnight when Jeetendra’s supply of 30+ tablets was curtailed and he decided to hang up his boots

Suave Villains: SRK changed the complexion of hindi film villainy with his K..K..Kirrran avtar. True, Shatrughan Sinha and Vinod Khanna had started the trend quite early in their career and moved to play the protagonists, SRK was already a hero when he played the bad guy. These villains possessed tremendous IQ compared to the rest of the cast. They held the upper hand in almost the whole of the film until they were finally undone. Almost the entire breed of the current lot has played the suave bad guy once for a change. You name them, you have them – SRK (Darr, Anjaam, Baazigar), Akshay (Ajnabee), Suniel Shetty (Dhadkan), Amitabh Bachchan (Aankhein, Boom, RGV Ki Aag), Ajay Devgan (Khakee) and Hrithik and John (Dhoom series). The current trend is that if you haven’t played the bad guy once, you are not happening.

While at this I purposely left out the outright winners who appear in the B grade money churners made by Kanti Shah and Mithun Da. They deserve a special mention. Although times have changed in the hindi film industry, these guys were never affected by the mutations that hindi film villainy went through. Pick up any such film and they would be as interesting. The plots of these films has been Kubrickesque. You have to understand the undercurrent of the whole premise. Sadly, one life time is not enough for that! The story revolves around a village where these wicked souls rule the roost. The Pujari, The Thakur, The Politician and The Police Wala all meet at Thakur’s haveli every night plan out their next deadly move. By the twist of fate the hero also becomes involved. The goons either lay their hands on the heroine or the hero’s sister. Now starts the roller coaster ride. Either the victim or the hero (these are the two variations) turns into a bandit to avenge the wrong doing. One by one, the villains are trapped and then sent packing.

“Aye kafanchor neta, pujari ke baad ab tera number hai..fir mera..wo humein nahi chhodega”

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

BREAKING NEWS - The Saga Down Under!

"I am no monkey. Please don't call me by fancy names either. That's not on" - Andrew Symonds on being asked if he was a homo sapien.

This picture did Harbhajan in. Hayden and Symonds used this picture to convince Mike Procter how Bhajji chewed his hat to taunt Symonds. Indian camp on the other hand said that the proof was inconclusive. They cited that Bhajji's hands were busy tucking his shirt and since he already had a turban on his head, wearing a cap over it would have incensed his community back home. "Sikhs don't even need to wear a helmet in India for that very reason" - remarked Sachin in the meeting. However, Procter was convinced beyond doubt that Bhajji should go.

"It's all upto the almighty - the ALL-Mighty Aussies, I mean. They propose (appeal), I dispose (uphold their appeals). It is one happy setting you see. If you could take Sachin's Helmet Before Wicket in the right spirit, why create such a furore now? Rahul was anyways boring everyone out, wasn't he? I am 61, show me some respect" - Bucknor seems to be telling the Indian team.

"Mission accomplished. We played quite well indeed even though Indians made it simpler in the end"

"Waahe guru ji da khalsa, waahe guru ji di fateh. Not me again by God. Assi te sirf 'Maa Ki' bolya si..te us khote de puttar ne usse 'Monkey' samajh litta. Mainu bacha le rabba..aur comeback nahi hote mere se ab. Almight Father, holy be your name..bacha le mainu, don't put me to shame"

"Aggression is not cultivated. It's in there..in your whole personality. I am not Yuvraj or Dhoni going around with actresses and trying to look presentable everywhere. I can express..and I don't care if I wear my trousers 6 inches above the waist and don't get to endorse any clothing line. I deliver when it is upto me. Umpiring and Gamemanship aside, there is only one player in the team playing to win and you know who."

"We won the bout maite..That's how we Austraaliens plaaiye - hard and fair. Oiee feel that Bhajji is racist. What's the bid deal maite? Lehmann and Deano too were. And what about grassing the catch? Pup (Clarke) needed encouragment. We plaaiye for each other in Austraalia. Oiee just raised my finger to help him. Did oiee or did oiee not? " - Rocky Ponting after demolishing India and Australia's reputation as a World Champion side.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Taare Zameen Par - Review

As I sat through Taare Zameen Par, I struggled to come up with a befitting epithet for Aamir Khan. He might not be in the same league as the dazzling superstars of today who descend in dozens in the farcical award shows every year to get recognized for their crappy work. He creates cinema like no one does and keeps doing it time and again. He is an institution in himself. Aamir is legendary, he is Iconic!

If you thought that Lagaan was a once in a lifetime thing, he came up with Dil Chahta Hai and Rang De Basanti. Just when you thought that his ammunitions won’t last long, he came up with his mesmerizing directorial venture. Aamir lets the actor within him take a backseat to let the film be led by an eight year old kid. I don’t think even seasoned directors will have the guts to let go off an opportunity to cash in on Aamir’s presence on screen. But this guy does, his film is a gutsy effort that scores with the audience.

Now something about the plot. TZP has a message but it is not preachy. TZP has Aamir Khan but he is not the hero of the film. TZP is a film about kids but it is not a kids’ film. It talks about how we tend to overlook what we have to chase dreams in a result oriented world. A dyslexic child finds himself out of place in the real world. It is a story of his struggle, the world’s failure to understand his problem, his fight back and finally his triumph.

Getting into the individual strengths and weaknesses, let me start off with the positives first:

Darsheel Safary: The child can knock anyone out with his antics. He gives a seasoned performance. It is hard to believe that this kid who is all of eight years could display such a maturity in his performance. Everyone else looks like a support cast around him, Aamir included!

Direction: The best works of the year as far as my ratings go. Extracting such a poignant performance from a kid could be difficult but Aamir does it brilliantly. He deftly handles the subject which could easily have gone haywire to look like a documentary. The way he brings out some emotional moments look so special.

Story/Idea: Amol Gupte, as pointed in several promotional events has been the source behind the idea of TZP. The film does show his research on the subject. A very non filmy story that still holds its own and more importantly delivers in conveying the message in a pretty straightforward way.

Background Score: Very good background score that goes very well with the film.

Moments: Special mention of some very special moments from the film.

Scene 1: Ishaan begging his father not to leave home. The scene is not all that important but I still liked it. It captures the innocence of an eight year old kid who thinks that his father is all set to leave the house after he picks up a fight with a neighborhood kid. I found it straight from life and was reminded of one of my childhood experiences :)

Scene 2: Ishaan’s mother turning the pages of his drawing book in the song ‘Maa’. Touching! Watch it to feel it.

Scene 3: The one where Ishaan refuses to light crackers thinking that he will be saved from going to the boarding school.

Scene 4: Aamir Khan’s meeting with Ishaan’s father in the hostel where Aamir brings it to his notice that he too had a part to play in destroying his self confidence. I specially liked the way Aamir Khan made him realize his folly by describing how they felled trees in Solomon Islands.


Pace: Some people would find it moving at a slow pace in the first half. I personally feel that the build up was necessary at that pace but this won’t go down too well with everyone I am sure.

Loopholes in script: Some loopholes do exist. For instance, I couldn’t understand why Ishaan’s parents did not turn up to take their kid back when they got to know that he was in fact dyslexic.

Mother-Son bond: There is an entire song on that but the bond doesn’t come out all that well in the film. It would have served to have a couple of scenes to depict that.

When you watch this film, you will be reminded of faces from your school days - Good boys, bad boys and then of course yourself. The film is the boy’s journey from being an outcast to getting accepted. You’ll sure feel good.

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