24 December, 2011

Don 2 : Mushkil nahi Namumkin

Prelude : 3D as a technology was invented 50 years back and had it really done something exceptional to the cinema viewing experience, it would certainly have attained greater popularity. 

Synopsis: 5 years after the first Don escaped, he has become the King of the Asian drug market seeking to capture Europe. For this he needs Wardhan rotting in a Malaysian jail. Wardhan has a key that shall open a locker in Zurich to a tape. With this tape Don intends to coerce the V.P of Germany's premier bank to show the way to the 'currency plates'. This is the Don's master plan to rule Europe by executing this caper. Roma who is now in Interpol is on his tail with a retired or just about to retire d'Silva. I did make a genuine effort to try and tell you more but this is it. 

"Don ka intezaar to gyarah mulkon ki police kar rahi hai!!!"
So said the first Don in 1978 without setting a foot outside Mumbai...oops Bombay then. This is the one line that has absorbed Farhan Akhtar and is the basis of his Don movie franchisee...let the courts decide whether the Akhtars legitimately own this or the Irani’s..ours not to reason why...ours just to see and cry...


The first fifteen minutes of the movie truly sizzle and then sadly the flame goes out and how. 

Don 2 is a holiday odyssey made by a trainee at a travel agency who in his enthusiasm to get the best deals jumps across countries and continents in the shortest time giving no thought to the paying tourist. 

Needless to say we have first class travel arrangements in luxury yachts, exotic locales. Fast cars. Only one amazingly talented hostess ( Lara dutta showing off her various wigs and classic sartorial faux pas...a colourfully orange nightgown on an unending pier takes the cake ) and extremely friendly border authorities and officials. So we journey with the old Don who has vanished from part 1 remake from Thailand to Malaysia to Switzerland to Germany.

On the way he picks up a Wardhan from a Malaysian jail(Om shivpuri in the first part had not impressed greatly but his was an Oscar worthy performance looking at Bomman here...5 years in jail have frozen that mercurial actors face into one weird scowl). Given gen nexts requirement, we need a token computer geek. The geek has to be partnered with a local country girl to show his credibility of being in place with the times,  however unconvincing the actor playing the part comes across (Kunal Kapoor totally in need of a crash course from Barry John, Anupam Kher or whoever is teaching acting these days ). So Don and entourage are in Germany and voilaa before one can say “apple strudel” we have the German RBI equivalent bank having an Indian Vice-President ..so first there was the geek and now the veep.explanation given..."after all We Indians are everywhere."

This is where the director has totally lost the plot, there is no cohesive story that links up part 1 and 2 apart from a sketchy voice over and when they were shooting the new movie in Germany the hard bound script that had the story was forgottenback home in India and since no one wanted to travel to India...we are left with a movie that has frames which are very attractive but no rhyme or reasoning to them. German efficiency is conveyed to us in a manner that the bank veep gets an immunity for an international criminal in like 30 minutes...try telling our RBI Governor Rengarajan to do the same for Kasab...if he cant or wont we can still get away by saying this is because of a beauracratic India, the poor Germans have no such luxury.

There were serious expectations from Farhan Akhtar and this movie was his litmus test in creative writing let alone direction. Don had remained in the public memories because of characters like Narang,Shakaal, Mac, Jasjit each one having a clear role knowing what part they essayed in the larger scheme of things.

Watching Sharukh Khan in every frame of a SRK movie can be tiring not to say irritating when he is not looking or performing at his best. Priyanca as Roma has a logical role but then she too loses it towards the end with an ‘ uff tumhey goli lagi hai, kinda line where one feels given the cliched cinematic tradition she would tear off a strip from her bullet proof jacket and tie it around SRK’s scratch” Lara’s character and role is so totally redundant one wonders what is she doing here. If we have left someone out of the performances department without a mention then well its because they truly were not noticed...There is not one song which shall go down as hummable...the remake had a sensational composition in “Aaj ki raat”, here "Dhuaan" is just not in the same class

The ‘why’ is what baffles me...now that we have a movie that is bereft of a story we need to make it saleable and fast because a longer stay in the cinema’s is certainly going to damage its recovery process of investment, hence lets make it 3D,  charge the viewers double and get out fast before anyone realises that “Is Don2 ko samajhna mushkil hi nahin namumkin hai”

07 December, 2011

Memory Vignettes - Dev Anand - Adieu

Working keeps me young & maybe that’s why they call me evergreen - Dharam Dev Pishorimal  Anand

Circa 3rd December 2011, London , Dev Anand passes away. It took time to sink in and hence the delay in writing this piece. I believed truly so that this man was immortal. What else can be a testimony to it but the fact that he was acting and directing a film at a young age of 88 years; A working career spanning 65 years, Unbelievable.

In the decades of the fifties and sixties Indian Cinema was dominated by a Troika. Dilip Kumar who re-invented acting had laid claim to the title of the Thespian, Raj Kapoor who captured the common man in his Chaplinisque portrayals of a socialist India was the Great showman, and then there was Dev Anand. Unabashedly I  say he was my favorite.

Dev Anand was not quite as easy to slot neatly as the other two. Maybe because he was arguably not as talented an actor like Dilip Kumar nor did his movies have the depth of a Raj Kapoor's did but when Dev Anand smiled on screen with that twinkle in his eyes the silver screen lit up. He defined and symbolized a rakish romance. He was the handsomest of the three and while the other two ( Raj & Dilip) conveyed an image of pathos , Dev was Mr. Cool even before Cool was a word in spoken parlance.His image ethos was urban through and through. The reason he was difficult to slot is also because he played apart from the lily white hero roles, all kinds of characters with shades of grey and he played them fearlessly and effortlessly.There was no concern for the prototype hero image which seemingly restricted his contemporaries. He  even got clobbered in his films unlike the typical Hindi film hero who was always dishing out more than was served to him and even then one still loved him.

Enough and more has been written about his films the great ones that he acted in , some brilliant ones that he produced under the Navketan banner and directed and even those haphazard narratives that masqueraded as films beyond the 80’s. We are not treading that path. The onscreen avatar of Dev Anand for me stops at “Hare Rama Hare Krishna’ this was the last great film that Dev Anand made and all that which came after was pure indulgence.

My memories of this stylish actor reside in the manner in which he romanced his ladies on screen. A romance in which there is a playful mischief yet one that maintains a genteel elegance. It was tilted at an angle like he was. Dev Anand never grabbed a lady onscreen, quite the contrary he maintained a distance. His  almost casual embrace too didn’t make his heroines uncomfortable in fact they felt cherished in his arms and company and that came across beautifully in his songs and scenes. Watch a Nutan run down the steps in Dil Ka Bhanwar Karey Pukaar ( Tere Ghar Ke Saamney) or a Madhubala (Kaala Pani ), she is the one who approaches & initiates a physical contact in "Accha ji main haari chalo maan jao na" or the way Hema Malini in a huff is closing those endless windows and curtains (Johnny Mera Naam). The twinkling mischievous demeanour clearly stating that " I shall be a gentleman till you stop being a lady". A thorough gentleman he was both on and off screen and this is the elegance in etiquette that one shall always miss with his passing away.

Another abiding memory was at a recent award ceremony that he attended. Film award ceremonies and their presenters can get personal and some even downright nasty in their attempt to being funny, none more so than the current so called King of Bollywood, Shahrukh Khan. Khan was taking pot shots at every one sitting in the audience and the recipients of his hammering were too junior to object or did not have the command over the English language that Shahrukh constantly uses during his baiting. He acts falsely humble for a few actors like Amitabh Bacchhan for the others he is downright arrogant. Even seniority is not respected as was seen in the Manoj Kumar episode when he mimicked the star in one of his movies. In this function wading through a crowd he came across a quiet Dev Anand sitting in the audience without any hangers on; the common manner in which the film stars group themselves. The Khan with a catty gleam in his eye that said "lets have some fun with this old man" approached with pseudo humility and said "Here I have with me Mr Dev Anand who even I am scared to ask questions as his are the films that I have grown up watching". He would forever live to regret this baiting.

Dev Anand stood up at an angle , a frail figure and tossed back his scarf and with flashing eyes challenged Shahrukh, "Why son ask me anything." The language was the idiomatic Queens English that the Khan could not even hope to imitate. “I think Shahrukh, you are not conveying the picture like it is, if Mr.Bacchhan sitting over there had said he grew up watching my films, he would have been partially right, as for you I don’t think you were even born then”.  Like a whipped cur Khan fled .

The signals were all there but not read correctly. Dev Anand was sitting alone because he chose to, he had always marched to the beat of his own drummer, he neither needed the divided or bunched up camps of the current day Bollywood to define his being. Age may have made his body frail but his thrust & parrying was rapier sharp as ever. It may not have translated into great movies off late but the number of movies he kept on churning out with wannabe actors who were better off undiscovered was a statement of an obsessive, self absorbed cinematic giant who refuses to stop and stop he didn’t. He like the shining star that he was simply moved on to the next realm.

It was indeed a pleasure and privilege to breathe the same air and share some time in this Universe with you, Dev Saab. 

He had remarked that when I die, cremate me or if you choose to bury me and put a stone on it, don’t carve the word “Rest In Peace”…I don’t like that word Rest…instead carve  “Work In Peace”.  WIP Dev Anand.