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So happy to get the vivacious and younger looking Priety Zinta back again on screen. That Ness guy had turned the other one into a pot smoking zombie.
The trailer seems intense,fast paced and there is a bit of suspense. This is what modern cinema should be if the indie filmmaker are so keen to change perimeter of hindi movies. Checking this one out for sure.
Taapsee Pannu: I got ‘Chashme Baddoor’ because I look like Preity Zinta
“…I got Chashme baddoor because I look like Preity Zinta
Right from the time I was in school, I have been hearing that I look like Preity Zinta. I think of it as a huge advantage. It was one of the reasons I got Chashme Baddoor – they were looking for a girl who has that kind of a vibe. I have met Preity at premieres but it’s always been limited to ‘Hi’ and ‘Hello’…”
I will later be putting up a kind of naysaying comment on a certain kind of contemporary Bollywood thriller which as I see it operates in a very colonized space. I’ve probably said something about this in the past, I’ve certainly commented on this larger Bollywood dynamic in other genres but I will expand on all of this within the context of the thriller format and specifically here some of the films Bachchan has been recently doing. These films have many things going for them but they too share this problem (as I see it). Anyway I’ll post the comment on Bachchan’s blog and then reproduce it here. It is unfortunately the case that wherever one turns in Bollywood and at whatever end of the production spectrum, one finds, with very few exceptions, the Hollywoodization of Hindi cinema. this is true for just about every genre of filmmaking from Kashyap’s cinema GoW to something like Sultan (Rocky, Kick-boxer, whatever). In other words very hard to find films that don’t bear these traces. Now I offer this prefatory remark (again not for the first time) partly so that I don’t have to repeat the obvious in the actual comment but also, and equally importantly, to highlight that I am not arguing against ‘influence’. Certainly one could look back at the decade of the 50s or the 70s and discern all kinds of influences from visual choices to musical ones and so on. But the question always is: can a film integrate all of these influences in a fashion where its core is still very Indian or is such a film simply a Hollywood one ‘speaking’ Hindi? From my perspective these problems are evident not only in commercial Bollywood genres but equally in offbeat or arthouse ones? Incidentally this isn’t a problem evident only in Bollywood but in other global cinemas as well in different ways. But certain industries navigate this problem much better than others. And Bollywood once did as well.
[The Pink trailer looks rather interesting. I did find some of your moments over-pitched but this is a somewhat older quarrel I have with you on this subject (i.e. in this contemporary phase of your career). I am not being too stern a critic, I am only living by your impossibly high standards. Moving on though and in response to a question I’m often asked here I will make this larger point. On the one hand I am very happy about your current line-up of ‘smaller’ films. Irrespective of how these turn out, critically or commercially, these are all worthwhile attempts. It is interesting for more reasons than one that you suddenly seem to be associated with these offbeat attempts that often revolve around questions of crime and obsession and so on and in the process also introduce a certain kind of metropolitan reality (or representation of the same) that is all too often absent elsewhere. Put differently it is almost as if we can get to see these cities in any authentic sense conditionally or the degree that these are ‘homes’ to the bleak and the perverse. I would like to expand on this a bit more here but that’s not really the subject of my comment. Because what nonetheless disappoints me with most of these attempts is the extent to which they clone various Hollywood genres. This is of course true for Bollywood everywhere (one of the reasons why this name is actually appropriate for the industry). In just about every genre there is a Hollywood or world cinema stamp. These films are essentially Hollywood efforts speaking Hindi. These films clone everything from Hollywood to Korean cinema to even other arthouse kinds. From Kashyap’s GoW to smaller thrillers of the sort you’ve been associated with to even seemingly masala fare like Sultan (which is as much about Rocky or Kick-boxer as anything else), every genre at every end of the production spectrum seems to rely on these Hollywood (or what have you models). The Hindi film industry has not known how to be Indian for a long time except on the exceptional day. Now I have liked most of your recent films at some level or the other (Piku was truly very good). But my point isn’t about the literal narrative of these films which one can then debate one way or the other. It’s about the meaning of these films beyond the obvious. Of course Hindi cinema (like any other) was always influenced by global trends. You can see noir and Italian neorealism in the 50s, you can see Hong Kong action genres being imported in the 70s. The music similarly incorporated all kinds of influences from Slavic folk elements to high classical symphonies to whatever the popular explosions of the day were. I am therefore not arguing against influence. But there’s a distinction to be made between this and cloning. It is not close to enough to take those Western (or Korean.. etc) tropes which might have some sort of cultural currency in their respective countries and then make them seem to be the central ones in one’s own society. But it is a measure of the colonized attitude of this audience in India (for which these films are most designed at any production level) that only those genres, only those concerns, only those problems, that are considered canonical in contemporary Hollywood or else ins one festival circuit are recognized as legitimate by most of these audiences. It’s once again about a certain mindset. These are the films that ‘impress’ both filmmakers and audiences. For instance anti-gay discrimination is suddenly the coolest issue within that same mindset. I am not suggesting it’s not an important issue but if I were to list the top 100 problems of India in this sense I doubt it would make the cut. Because all those other places would be occupied by violence against caste and religion and women or the depredations of police violence and so on. There is so much that is utterly atrocious and horrible that goes on despite all the great and impressive strides of Indian democracy that I wouldn’t really even be bothered about those other issues. Yes one should make films on the latter by all means but not when there is an almost total absence of the former. Even when it’s a film like GoW these issues are touched upon in the most superficial sense because of course the work (impressive at many levels) is really only interested in doing the Tarantino-like routine (incidentally I am also a critic of many aspects of Tarantino for other reasons) within its contexts. even directors who have real experience of this other India are simply excited about this sort of thing. I am not suggesting that one shouldn’t become a fan of whatever cinema excites one. But there are questions of responsibility that come in and quite naturally when there is a potent mass culture medium such as cinema. I’ve gone over all of this before but these thrillers are often symptomatic of this problem. And to be clear once more I am not saying these cannot be worthwhile films. Just that they cannot be important ones (for the most part). I’d offer Talaash here as a good example of a film that takes the same familiar Hollywood genres but uses it to offer a critique of certain Indian realities. The mirror it casts is an authentic one. It is very much rooted in Indian life. To repeat myself it is not a Korean film speaking Hindi. Your own Piku in a different sense is as well. Deewar borrowed from On the Waterfront but was otherwise a very different film. All kinds of borrowing is possible and indeed is desirable. What would the history of any art form be without such borrowing and such economies of influence? And so it doesn’t really excite me as it evidently does the same sort of colonized mindset to imagine India’s ultimate star, one Amitabh Bachchan, occupying the space that major Hollywood stars do when these attempt the same genres. I am trying to understand what the director can do with enormous reserve of memory, this great archive of meaning that is the Amitabh Bachchan ‘signature’, to then probe those spaces or genres that originate elsewhere. Only then can the final result be an Indian one. Only then can it have something significant to say. Otherwise we can all agree there should be discrimination against gays, that serial killers are not useful members of any society, etc etc etc. But these subjects or genres shouldn’t get ‘authorized’ only because one lacks the imagination to think outside the colonial box. Once more still I am criticizing all of Bollywood (with rare exceptions) in all of its genres. One of the reasons why I am never celebrating most of what has gone on in the last fifteen years or more. Yes a certain professionalism, a certain technical finesse, all of this is for the good. But these films are by and large light years removed from the ‘experience’ that the industry in most of its glory decades constituted. It’s true that cinema has lost its aura everywhere in the world and there are complex reasons for this. I am not even enamored of Hollywood for the most part for somewhat analogous reasons. But at least they make films on subjects that are relevant to their society. We make films that first of all price out a large cross-section of the audience, even a majority, and then we keep delivering this boutique cinema called Bollywood to the rest. It’s a small club where everyone agrees on everything. And it’s all about making well-designed products that mirror these outside efforts without ever raising anything too disturbing about one’s own contexts. Or at least this is so 99% of the time. From the most commercial genres to the most niche ones. Even where there is promise in some of these films, including some of your current ones, in the sense I’m referring to, it is rarely fulfilled by the actual film. The directors are just not able to think ‘India’ and this is the most damning bit of commentary on almost all of the talents that have emerged over the last two decades. Then again this is also a description of New India. Always in flight from the old in the most superficial sense, never quite able to confront it in any meaningful way. Let’s fix the old if that’s what one wishes to do but one should have the capability and integrity to take on the task in the first place.]
some more discussion ensued on this and I added these two comments…
[On the rest awareness is a good thing but I’d argue that they’ve always been aware. Which is why there were significant influences earlier as well. In fact any industry is aware in this sense and gets influenced. Including Hollywood. But if you’re not careful the awareness feeds a certain colonized view of the world. Some of this is unavoidable. We’re all here writing in English! But we should at least have a more critical stance in this sense.]
[You are quite right. the influence is seeping everywhere and in many cases it has emancipatory potential in terms of gender and caste and so on. I am not arguing that all influence, Western or otherwise, is bad. There is no pure culture anyway (just as there is no pure language). There are always borrowings and so on. But the terms on which all of this happens is crucial. For instance I’d offer this analogy. Exactly within New India, exactly within those upwardly mobile classes of the last two decades or so, exactly within those younger demographics that have been the greatest beneficiaries of globalization, you will find if you did some sort of survey very few who cross caste fault-lines when it comes to marriage. Meanwhile the same folks will be seen aggressively marching for gay rights! The point I’m trying to make is that it’s easy to celebrate all kinds of progress and emancipation and some of this has in fact occurred but I get very suspicious when I see these old divisions also being preserved much more than they should be at least among these classes. So my point is 1) the emancipation often masks a deeper regressiveness and this is precisely what we see in the movies of the last two decades which for all their ‘formal’ finesse are not even comparable to the best of the 70s (to use my preferred example) in terms of their subversion, much less anything greater than this 2) even where things are genuinely emancipatory (yes it is on the whole good to argue for gay rights) this comes about on terms laid out by the West (yes gay rights are important but in the context of Indian struggles a lot less so than caste rights).
Nothing is good or bad in itself. It all depends on what one does with it. The West is seen in many societies including India as primarily about technological and economic (in the technocratic sense) progress. What they totally miss are the institutional elements of the same and even more than this the ‘intellectual’ currents that go hand-in-hand with it. And so here’s a very obvious and perhaps cheap example. Consider all those online sites where marriage arrangements are made and where people are able to specify what kinds of women they want in far more precise ways than they ever could using traditional brokers and so on. So it’s a new technological medium but it’s being put to this sort of regressive use. And worse. The more horrifying example is of course ultrasounds serving foeticide practices. One could go on.]
Somehow just not feeling this. Everything feels very – rehearsed, practiced. Like – ok tum dialogue bolo. Ok, ab tum. It has neither the ridiculousness of Rustom nor the seriousness of Court – which incidentally has set the bar too high for Indian courtroom movies.
The new song promo- Tujhse Hi Hai Roshni, is one of the most beautiful song.
This single handedly has brought my faith in this movie after the initial superb trailer.
MSD and Pink are top choices for me this quarter and at same level of interest.