Movie Review: Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro

When I was in school, we had to study a short story by Khushwant Singh titled, Portrait of a Lady. I love how it opens with the following lines:

My grandmother, like everybody’s grandmother, was an old woman. She had been old and wrinkled for the twenty years that I had known her. People said that she had once been young and pretty and had even had a husband, but that was hard to believe. My grandfather’s portrait hung above the mantelpiece in the drawing room. He wore a big turban and loose-fitting clothes. His long, white beard covered the best part of his chest and he looked at least a hundred years old. He did not look the sort of person who would have a wife or children. He looked as if he could only have lots and lots of grandchildren. As for my grandmother being young and pretty, the thought was almost revolting. She often told us of the games she used to play as a child. That seemed quite absurd and undignified on her part and we treated it like the fables of the Prophets she used to tell us.

Similarly, I sometimes find it hard to wrap my head around the fact that my parents and grandparents used to be young once upon a time. Even if I were to picture them as kids, I can only do so in black and white. I can’t imagine them growing up in a world that had colours in it. Watching movies like Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro has a somewhat similar effect on me. I find it almost preposterous to think that oldies like Naseeruddin Shah and Neena Gupta were also once young and full of life. For me, it’s hard to shake off the image of Naseeruddin Shah playing the role of the old drunkard from Iqbal.

The movie is over the top, outlandish, improbable but somehow, it still works! It’s a brilliant satirical take on corruption in Indian society. Although the movie was released almost four decades ago, it is still as (if not more) relevant today as it was back then.

There is one scene in the movie that really captures the essence of the movie. In the scene, a new bridge is being inaugurated by Tarneja, a corrupt builder, played by Pankaj Kapoor. During the inauguration, he says, ‘Yeh pul sirf ek pul nahi hai. Yeh laakhon logon ka sapna hai. Aur kai gareeb log ek din is pul ke neeche apna ghar basaayenge.‘ (This bridge is not just a bridge. For lakhs of people, it’s a dream come true. And one day, many poor people will build their homes under this bridge.)

At the inauguration, another guest goes on to say this about the late Municipal Commissioner after whom the bridge is being named, ‘Unhone ek hi morche pe itne mahaan kaam kiya. Aur woh morcha hai… GUTTER! D’Mello saab aksar kaha karte the – Kisi desh ki pehchaan agar kisi cheez se hoti hai, toh woh hai GUTTER. Woh gutter ke liye jeeye, aur gutter ke liye mare. Marte marte, unke aakhri shabd thhe GUTTER. Hum unke yaad mein ek din ke liye sheher ke saare gutter band kardenge. Isliye aap logon se praarthana hai ki aap log peene ka paani ek din pehle bhar ke rakhe.’ I have no words to describe the brilliance of this one scene, the effect of which is heightened by the thunderous applause that this announcement is met with.

There is yet another dialogue that had me chuckling. The character Ahuja (played by Om Puri) says this about his business rival, ‘Hum cement mein raith milaate hai. Woh toh raith mein cement milaata hai. Pul toh tootega hi!’ (I mix sand into cement. He mixes cement into sand. It’s no wonder that the bridge collapsed!)

In my opinion, there’s also something magical about seeing the old Bombay in these old movies. I find it fascinating to see sights that I am familiar with in a somewhat different era and setting. It evokes a weird sense of loss for what once was. (I recently saw Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai, another movie set in Bombay, to which there is a tongue-in-cheek reference in this movie.)

Another aspect of the movie that really caught my attention was how the two principal characters are extremely hesitant to travel without a ticket on a local train. This, after a drunk policeman waylays them in the middle of the night and relieves them of all the money in their pockets! This stands out in stark contrast to how the editor of a newspaper famous for exposing corruption is willing to accept hush money.

In conclusion, if you’re in the mood for a dark satire with over the top antics and some rib-tickling dialogues, you really should watch the movie. You won’t regret it one bit. I could literally have gone on and on about some of the dialogues from JBDY, but then that would kill all the fun for you!

Aamis: Not quite like The Lunchbox

I have been meaning to watch Aamis for a while, ever since my Twitter friend @BrutuTweets posted a recommendation a couple of months back. I finally got around to watching it today after my friend NKV posted about it in one of our WhatsApp groups.

Warning: This post may contain spoilers. Also, certain aspects of the movie might make you squeamish.

Aamis is a 2019 Assamese film written and directed by Bhaskar Hazarika. The basic premise of the movie is pretty straightforward. A young PhD student Sumon and a married paediatrician Nirmali meet and strike a friendship that is built over a shared interest in eating fresh and exotic meat dishes. They start off with rabbit meat, but then move on to increasingly taboo sources of protein.

I loved the opening shot in which this particular portable radio player is shown. We had the same one at home. It was extremely cool – with a hand crank that you could wind to recharge it. Seeing it brought back a lot of memories from my childhood – of how we’d sit on the stairs outside the front door and listen to the radio during power cuts; of my mother singing along with the radio in the mornings while making breakfast.

When they first meet, Sumon complains to Nirmali, ‘These days people put anything in their mouths. Not knowing where the meat came from, how it was stored or how old it is.’ This brought to mind a dialogue from the Malayalam novel ‘Verukal’ in which the protagonist Raghu takes his four year old son to his native village.

Similar to how Raghu’s children seemed to be losing touch with their roots, we also tend to forget how food reaches our plates.

My parents often tell me how eating meat was usually restricted only to special occasions such as Christmas and Easter while they were growing up. Chicken was sometimes served when guests came over – a chicken would be freshly killed and cooked. Nowadays, we’ve reached a point where we eat meat at almost every meal. The act of killing is far removed from actually eating meat, especially if you pick up shrink-wrapped broiler chicken from a supermarket. However there is truth in Nirmali’s remark, ‘Who has the time for all this? We have hectic schedules’.

The chemistry between the two is brought out nicely right from their first meeting. I also loved the small town vibes that are depicted in the visuals – they kept reminding of things back home in Trivandrum.

As the movie progresses, it forces you to try and answer certain difficult questions such as How do you decide what kinds of meat are ‘normal’? What you consider normal might seem disgusting to someone from a different culture or background. The scene in which they eat bat meat really drove that home. It reminded me of all the xenophobic and hateful messages that popped up in the aftermath of the Corona pandemic.

I took this photo of live scorpions on display in a market during my trip to China in 2018. I couldn’t muster the courage to try eating them…

During one of their outings in search of exotic meat, Sumon tells Nirmali that to really savour the taste of meat, you must eat with your hands. Nirmali disagrees though because it makes her feel uncomfortable.I’m with Sumon on this though. In my opinion, eating with your hands hits home different and food tastes infinitely better. Since moving out of Kerala, I’ve noticed from my personal experience in Mumbai and Delhi that eating (rice) with your hands is frowned upon. A professor at IIFT went so far as to say, ‘Eating with your hands is dirty. These South Indians do it though.’ This really ticked me off and I retorted, ‘Haan, sir. Aap toh roti spoon se khaate ho na?’

The movie manages to breach the topic of cannibalism in a delicate manner. Never at any point does it feel even remotely gimmicky or over the top. If it’s okay to donate a liver or kidney to someone that you love and care about, is donating your flesh all that different? At the same, these parts of the movie made me feel extremely squeamish but isn’t that the whole point? A movie should be able to make you feel something!

These scenes reminded me of The Lunchbox in some ways…

One scene that really stayed with me was the scene in which Nirmali repeatedly uses mouthwash in an attempt to get rid of the taste in her mouth. It reminded me of the famous line from Macbeth, ‘All the perfumes of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand.’

I’m not sure if certain aspects of the movie draw inspiration from the story featured in the folk song ‘Paar Chanaa De‘. As described on Mangobaaz.com, ‘Mahiwal, at this point in his life, was poor. He did not have enough money to properly feed his Sohni. On one such night when Sohni was going to come, Mahiwal realized that he had no food to feed her. Without thinking, he carved a piece of his thigh. Without telling his beloved of his pain, he swam a part of the way to her wearing dark clothes so the blood would not show. Sohni ate the meager banquet laid before her with great relish that he prepared this meal out of love for her.’

I love watching movies in a language that I can’t comprehend. It forces me to look out for non-verbal cues more.
When the movie ends, you are not surprised. It was always obvious that this wasn’t one of those movies with a happy ending…

To conclude, I would recommend that you watch this movie for the chemistry that blossoms between Sumon and Nirmali and for that shell-shocked feeling that it leaves you with.

You can watch Aamis at Moviesaints.com by paying Rs. 99.

Mathilukal: Not Exactly A Movie Review

Growing up in Kerala, I always knew that Adoor Gopalakrishnan was a big deal but somehow, I never took out the time to watch any of his films. Mostly because I thought they’d be dry and beyond my comprehension. Interestingly, I once met Adoor Gopalakrishnan at Chaitanya Eye Hospital, Trivandrum when I was around 8 years old. He smiled at me and remarked to my mother, “Mon sherikkum vaayikum, alle?” (Your son reads a lot, doesn’t he?)

Recently one of my friends on Twitter (not exactly sure who it was, think it must have been Brutu) shared a scene from Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s movie ‘Mathilukal’. In the scene, Basheer (played by Mammooty) is informed that he has been released from prison and that he can return to the ‘free world’. Mammooty scoffs and replies with disdain, “What free world? You’re just shifting me to a bigger jail out there. Who wants freedom?” My curiosity was really piqued by just this one scene. I felt like watching more especially since those lines really seemed to hit home, given how we are all locked up at home right now because of the Corona pandemic.

In my opinion, one interesting aspect of the movie is how the character Narayani is never shown on screen. (Narayani is a female prisoner with whom Mammooty’s character strikes up a friendship (or a relationship of sorts). They have regular conversations with each other even though they are physically separated by the walls of the prison compound.) I think leaving Narayani to the viewer’s imagination is a masterstroke because the viewer creates an image of her according to his/her ideals of beauty. This reminds me of how some stage productions of Macbeth choose to have Macduff’s children killed off-stage to heighten the gruesomeness and depravity of their murders. In cinema and theatre, I’ve noticed that leaving things to the viewer’s imagination has a very strong effect if executed properly. Another scene that comes to mind is a scene from Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, where a young Milkha Singh hears his elder sister being assaulted at the refugee camp. The act isn’t actually shown on screen, but we hear what happens. This is one of the most disturbing scenes I’ve ever seen in a mainstream Bollywood movie.

While watching Mathilukal, I couldn’t help but wonder how absolutely endearing Mammooty’s character is. This caught me by surprise, because you would expect a prisoner who constantly receives preferential treatment would come to be hated by his fellow prisoners. But somehow, he manages to win them all over with his affable manner. To conclude, the movie is a delightful watch and I would highly recommend it, especially since the lock-down is in place.

Dilwale: Movie Review

WARNING: Contains Spoilers.

There are these movies that you watch only because one of your friends calls you up and says, ‘Let’s go watch that film. Heard it’s really bad. I wanna see how bad it can get. Trust me, we’ll have fun.’ Dilwale is definitely that kind of movie. And it doesn’t disappoint. Not one bit. What else can you possibly expect from a Rohit Shetty film? After all, this is the same guy who directed all three Golmaal films. And Singam. And Chennai Express. And Singam Returns.  And from the way he’s going, it won’t be long before Singam Returns! Again!!

Dilwale is extremely predictable. There’s your usual dose of seemingly harmless gunshots, cringe inducing action sequences and shout-outs to old Bollywood films. Shah Rukh Khan is named *you guessed it right* Raj yet again. Because naam toh suna hoga! In case you were wondering, SRK has played a character named Raj in 8 films. And he’s played a character named Rahul 8 times. And towards the end of the film, you find out that he was adopted. But wait, didn’t they already do that in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham? Ah, who cares anyways?

I’m someone who loves puns. I love coming up with really lame ones. One of the reasons I love Eminem is because of his puns. There comes a point when you have to learn to say NO to all good things, even puns. (Read: Diminishing Marginal Utility) Dilwale comfortably manages to overshoot that point. By an entire light year. And yes, it is a unit of distance.  For instance, ‘Raj bhaiyya, Veer was going fast. That doesn’t mean you have to become furious.’ In case you somehow manage to miss that reference to F&F, they subtly reinforce it through the fact that half the movie takes place in a garage. If you ever pay a visit to SRK’s garage in the movie, have no fear because gaadi par Raj raj karega.

Kriti Sanon plays a character called Ishita, fondly called Ishu. And somehow everyone seems to have an issue with Ishu.  There are a few moments of startling clarity like when Johnny Lever’s character Mani (if I remember correctly) wonders out loud whether you present somebody with a gift or you gift a present?

If anyone was wondering where the wreckage of MH370 was, you’ll be astonished to learn that the crew of Dilwale managed to find it in Iceland and even included it in the Gerua song sequence. The song-writing reaches a whole different plane altogether at times like when ‘Tera jalwa dekha toh dil huaa Milkha’ in Manma Emotion Jaage. What did Milkha Singh ever do to you, huh? There’s also this sequence where SRK is upside down in his car and Kajol asks him if his duniya palat gayi… Strictly rhetorical question, of course. Right after that, Kajol breaks the fourth wall by looking straight into the camera and asks quite seriously, ‘Kaisi lagi meri acting. World class, no?’. Again, strictly rhetorical but nobody in the theater seemed to get that. Everybody took her too seriously and started screaming, ‘Nooooo!’

 

Watch Dilwale only if you appreciate bad puns. And for an opportunity to see Johnny Lever in action once more.

Krrish 3 Review

Yesterday, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) launched its Mars Orbiter Mission: ‘Mangalyaan’. According to reports, the Mangalyaan project cost Rs. 454 crore. Just to put that figure in perspective, Rakesh Roshan’s Krrish 3 was made on a budget of over Rs.  100 crore. What a colossal waste of money!! And why the fuck is the film called Krrish 3? Where did Krrish 2 disappear to?

The film is plagued by overacting, screwed up special effects and the most ridiculous script in the world. Krrish 3 is inspired by (read: ‘ripped off from’) pretty much every Hollywood superhero film that you can think of. The villain ‘Kaal’ (played by Vivek Oberoi) goes from Charles Xavier in a wheel chair to Magneto to Iron Man in a really screwed up suit through the course of the movie. When you spend  100 crore on a movie, the least you could do is give your menacing (*snort*) super-villain a decent costume. According to Vivek Oberoi, playing Kaal was the most difficult role of his career, which only goes to show how screwed up his career is. His last film in recent times was the cringe-worthy ‘Grand Masti’. Priyanka Chopra’s acting sucks as usual, so I’m not even going to get started on that. She should have stuck to modelling. If she had, we wouldn’t have had our ears raped by her mildly auto-tuned voice. But no use crying over spilt milk, is there? Excuse me ma’am, one doubt. Is it even possible to feel ‘exotic’? Are you sure you didn’t mean ‘erotic’? Since when did exotic become a feeling? No wonder my friends say I don’t have any feelings… 

Another thing that I noticed was the shameless product placement in the movie. It feels like one endless advertisement. Rado, Bournvita and what not… The list just goes on and on. Have you no shame, Rakesh Roshan!?!

The songs are terrible. But in a film aimed at kids, I guess it’s okay to have a song that goes “God, Allah aur Bhagwan ne banaya ek insaan” with people dancing around a giant statue of Krrish, as if in some freaky pagan ritual. I honestly don’t know what kids these days like…. But shouldn’t it be a crime to convert a bhajan (Raghupati Raghav Raja Ram) into a seriously messed up dance track? How come no one has taken to the streets to protest about that yet? You’d think someone would have taken up the issue by now. After all, this is India. People take to the streets for the flimsiest reasons. Remember when MNS disrupted screenings of ‘Wake Up Sid!’ because they used ‘Bombay’ instead of ‘Mumbai’ in the film?

Go watch the film. See for yourselves how bad it is. Don’t take my word for it.

And to think that I pestered my mom into taking me to watch Krrish when I was eleven. And that I even dressed up as Krrish for fancy dress at school. DAMN.

EDIT: Just noticed. Krrish 3 has a rating of 7.1 on IMDb. How the fuck?!?

Show Cancelled: Ship of Theseus

Last week, trailers of the film, ‘Ship of Theseus‘ started popping up on TV. After seeing the trailer, I just had to see the film! (You can watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p5xt0cKasDw)

So you can imagine how excited I was when I found out that the film was being released in Trivandrum at the Kairali theatre, through a post on the film’s official facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=394260517366452)

I went to the theatre with three of my friends yesterday, only to find that the matinee show was cancelled due to ‘technical reasons’. Dejected, I went back home.

Show timings at Kairali theatre, Trivandrum

I decided to try my luck again today. On reaching the theatre, the cashier at the ticket counter told me that the show would be cancelled unless there were atleast twenty-five people for the morning show. Eventually, the show was cancelled much to the indignation of the people who had come to watch the movie. (Around fourteen people in all.) I had a half a mind to break a few glass panes before I left the theatre but unfortunately, better sense prevailed.

Here’s a video of what the cashier had to say… (PS: It’s in Malayalam, in case you’re not a Malayali…and you might have to turn up the volume a bit.)

Sorry, Mr. Anand Gandhi but I won’t be watching your film anytime soon. Two trips to the theatre only to find that the show was cancelled on both occasions has sapped all my enthusiasm and to some extent, my faith in humanity. And all this at a theatre run by the ‘Kerala State Film Development Corporation (KSFDC)’. Hats off to you, and all the films you’ll be ‘developing’ in the future. I won’t be watching any of them if I can help it.

And here are a few parting words, ‘Fork you, KSFDC!‘ & ‘Fork you, Kairali theatre!