Wednesday, September 05, 2007
Of Anwar, Lucknow, B Grade Townships in recent movies and the likes
I saw "Anwar" a few days ago. I didn't want to write about it because I was feeling lazy and I thought it did not deserve mention. But it kept hovering over my mind and there were many things about the movie that kept coming back to me. And yes, the movie has much of Lucknow in it. Given that not many movies mention the city and the few that do, often go back in time and dwell on the famous Lucknawi tehzeeb and nautch girls etc (a notable exception is "Main, Meri Patni aur Woh" which captures beautifully daily life in a small, upcoming and growing city) I thought I gotta write about this.
The first thing you'll notice is the absolutely topnotch album of the movie by a guy called Mithoon (exceptions are the atrocious songs "Bungla Khulla khulla" and "Maula Mere Maula(remix)") but more about this later.
I want to first talk about the Director here. The guy is Manish Jha and has to his credit a previous movie called "Matrubhoomi" which I remember clearly, polarised the movie watching junta of our hostel into those who had liked the movie and those who simply couldn't stop laughing at what the movie turned out to be (Nitesh was in the laughter gang). I didn't see the movie but was intrigued. Hence when I came to know that this guy has made another movie, and that too about Lucknow, I grabbed the chance to view it (online!).
The Directorial vision, in my view, in deeply flawed. I'll tell you why. Basically, most important characters are in deep shit on account of their love life. This is one common thread that connects all major characters. Vijay Raaj meets his sorry end because the cute dramatics chick tells him that he is a bhikhari, the local junta gets fucked and Valentine Day celebrations turn sour because the minister gets L'd by the wife of the IAS officer (incidentally all love lives in this movie get fucked on Valentine's Day...some kind of fancy symbolism on the part of the Director?), the hero, obviously suffers on account of his love for the cute Nauheed Cyrusi who, incidentally, looks delectably cute in the movie, most of all in the "Maula Mere Maula" song, which in turn is what a beautiful song. Manisha Koirala longingly takes out a picture of Sushant Singh (who never comes up in this movie again apart from this photo) and is shown to have broken up with her boyfriend or something, the SP harps upon his wife dying due to Cancer and he not being able to do shit about it...basically no end of this sorry state of affairs, all due to stupid love problems.
Now all this is not bad per se. And I think the Director is trying to say that even after this shit, love is cool etc. Again, not bad by itself, but in the Universe of Manish Jha, politicians are evil, scheming villains trying to take control of the world (or India as the case may be) just like The Joker or The Penguin would try to do the same in Batman Comics or what Daku Gobar Singh and his sidekick Dhamaka Singh would try to do in the homegrown comic world of Chacha Chaudhary. He would also want a comedian like Rajpal Yadav to indulge in lameass comedy and totally forget what happened to him in between the movie (he totally vanishes after a certain point in the movie and what happens to his efforts to nab Osama bin Laden etc is something that the Director seems to have forgotten to mention).
The basic criticism of the movie is that it lacks subtlety. It has to be loud mouthed about every which sensibility that the Director cares to speak about and this is what pisses me off most. The Director is not without talent. Certainly, I would definitely see his next movie (again, probably online) even after all this but I would expect that he understand that evil, bad criminals and politicians don't act that way brazenly, even if they pride themselves on being evil and bad and have taken up office only because they are in the pay of Pakistani intelligence agencies. It also looks like that a lot of serious editing has been done and many things have been left incomplete (Manisha Koirala's role and Rajpal Yadav's etc are examples) and the basic premise of the movie-the suspicion of terrorism and the follow up to that on the basis of some stupid sketches is laughable. Even evil, criminally insane ministers of god-forsaken states (like UP, Bihar and Orissa) would never create such a ruckus based on that flimsy piece of evidence.
If this was all that the movie had to offer, I would have not written about it, nor would this movie have occupied my mind for such a long time. Actually every other thing apart from the above in this movie is wonderfully done. It captures very smartly the atmosphere of Lucknow, its ruins, its dilapidated, no longer paid attention to mausoleums and palaces. All this is done not in an obtrusive way, not in loudmouthed way that could've meant "Hell, we're shooting in Lucknow, so you've got to see this". This subtlety is thoroughly lacking in the other departments of the movie. The dialogues sometimes sound corny but not corny enough to receive flak. The movie also has a good story and does a decent job of telling it. It also takes a very good and informed look of the ambience of UP, the villagers that dwell in there, the ways they are manipulated, the local flavour of the love story, the interesting side love story, the betrayal, the redemption-all of it adapted well to the setting that must have been chosen very carefully etc. This is something only those who would've stayed in UP for a long time and absorbed all of its nuances could've done.
And yes, the soundtrack. With the exception of the two aforementioned songs, it is a gem. Roop Kumar Rathod has sung a memorable "Maula Mere Maula" in the highest traditions of Sufi music. The song itself is picturised in a brilliant way and all that is good and beautiful about Lucknow comes forcefully to haunt you during the time the song plays. Ra, if you're reading this and you come to see this movie, you will clearly be able to spot the Ambedkar stadium in the song where we spent that scorching afternoon in the 43 degree hot sun. You will also see the places we went to in Old Lucknow when we visited Zebi, the old Imambara, the old homes that many people in Lucknow still live in, the dirty and green/black-with-moss/sludge Gomti and the many minars and ruins that are interspersed, so to say, throughout the timeline of the movie.
The song sounds particularly wonderful to my ears because probably it reminds me of the brilliant trip to Nainitaal that Himanshu and I made during summer '07 where I first heard the song.
I am providing a link to the movie. You can view it online on Google videos. The song "Maula Mere Maula" lasts from the 43rd minute to the 49th minute (for those who want to see the brilliant song/video). Here it is.
Basically this movie is another in what is now a rather long list of movies, mainly by young Turks of the Hindi Film Industry. Examples that come to mind are "Main Madhuri Dikshit Ban_na Chahti Hoon", "Main, Meri Patni aur Woh" (both by Chandan Arora), "Iqbal", "Dor" (both by Nagesh Kukunoor), "Bunty aur Babli" (maybe...(Shaad Ali), "Omkara" (Vishal Bharadwaj) "Haasil" (I forget the name of the Director here but the first half of the movie was brilliant and Irfan Khan as the Student Leader of Allahabad University kicked ass!) etc. All these movies have given the Hindi Film Industry a strong boost by making use of creativity and showing the viewers some artful, artsy yet quintessentially commercial cinema. Cheers to the new face of Bollywood.