Jan 262017
 

raees-7591

First day, first show – first time ever (i think) in my life ….

Raees tells the Promethus like rise and fall from grace of Raees Alam, the son of a bangarwaali (scrap seller is the nearest English word i could find). Raees is brought up in the late 70’s era in Fatehpura (Gujarat) by his mother (a fantastic cameo by Sheeba Chaddha ), with a one point philosophy,”koi dhanda chota nahi hota aur dhande se bada koi dharm nahi hota‘.  It is a line that helps her maintain her dignity even when a policeman tries to intimidate her, in the aftermath of a anti liquor raid that has failed. Raees grows up from being a school kid who transports liquor in his school bag, to being one of the major players in the Gujarat underworld. In his rise to the top, he is chased by honest cop Jaideep Ambalal Majmudar (Nawazuddin Siddiqi); and it is this, almost erotic, relationship that is the lynch-pin of the film. the scenes with the two of them are the best, and the  screen crackles with energy with they are playing off each other.

This is a plot we have seen before. Man comes from humble beginnings and becomes a ‘Godfather’. A don, but a savior of his community. Afoul of the law, but friends with lawmakers. There is a certain ambivalence in the morality. But, you root for the man who is, technically, the villain. This is Godfather, both 1 &2, Nayakan, Deewar, Shakti, Ganga Jamuna, Dalapati – and, the theme itself is fascinating. What happens to a ‘good’ man aligned with the wrong side. None of the central characters in the films mentioned above, got to the top without blood shed. The blood shed, and often public blood shed, is what builds the fear, the authority, the power base. And, the brutality at one end, is compensated with compassion for ‘my people’ at the other. And, Raees is a god father of the old kind. Although participation in community religious activities is part of his ethos, and the Shia Muslim part of him is part and parcel of the character, (the matam in the begining, is brilliantly shot)the only time you see him praying (as a one on one communication with a higher power)  is at his mother’s grave. And, I find that aspect quite fascinating. In a way it is a throw back to films of an older generation – with the mother as the moral core (Mother India, Deewar ) of the family, as well as the full fledged participation and festivities that bring communities together – and the community is the community of the labour class.

But, if the plot is as old as  films, the story of Raees Alam is new. The nuances of the character, the setting (Gujarat that is gritty, bleak, and with an underlying sense of dry humour), and the revival of a dynamic, and a segment that has not been seen in main stream Hindi films for long,  the pan religious working class/labour class – where poverty unites more than religion divides. This is a dynamic most of us growing up in the 70’s and 80’s saw in movies. One of the things that director Rahul Dolakhia does very well, is create the 80’s vibe – be it in terms of music on radio, or Laila mein Laila featured on a caberet dancer (Sunny Leone), or the characterisations of various characters in the film. The references are real, and give the film a context of time and space. When Raees Alam is beating up a seth into agreeing to pay the dues of his millworkers, there is a hat tip to the greatest film on labour issues in modern India, Kala Patthar. The other thing that Dolakhia does well is visually narrate the scenes in which Rais stamps down on someone who has crossed into his territory. The machismo posturing, the sheer outpouring of testosterone, and the rapid spiral downwards to a a scenario that is going to blow. The scenes that bring out the sheer single focued ruthless brutality of Raees are built up the best, and shot the best. The fight sequence in the abattoir, the scene where he goes to kill his mentor (Atul Kulkarni in another fine cameo), the riot scene, and the show down with Musa (Narendra Jha) are very well done.

Shah Rukh carries the film. Raees Alam is is brutal, ruthless, and a cold blooded killer. And, yet you feel for the character. I predict he is going to bring the pathan suit, kohled eyes, and banyans back into fashion. The man oozes screen presence, and in this film you don’t see too much of the superstar, just the actor. Nawaz is good, completely understated, and has some of the best lines in the film. Mahira – is seriously underwhelming. She just seems so overawed by being in a film, that she never manages to break out of the tv actor mode. Zeeshan is a good support role, but you wished that the writers had bothered to give him something beyond being a good friend. And, I think that this is the problem with the film – Dolakhia tries to cram too many themes, and too many interesting characters,  into a two and a half hour film, and none of them is ever explored with any nuance. This could have been a 10 hour narcos kind of series, but, i am nto sure that it would be a commercially viable project. But, the acting, the characters, and the editing, s the film tightly paced – though the pace drops in the second half, when the film focuses more on the ‘god father’ part of Raees, and less on the ruthless rise to the top of the crime pyramid. There is an inexplicable pregnancy that seems to go on for ever, and for ever. And, the purpose of both Mahira and the pregnancy, seems to be to build the human side of rather ruthless killer.

Is it worth a watch – definitely. I am possibly going back to watch it again, next week.

Dec 012016
 
dear-zindagi-wallpaper-11115

I finally got to see Dear Zindagi.

A story about a young woman – a cinematographer – who has everything going for her. She is confident, talented, good looking – and yet feeling completely out of sorts. Nightmares. Insomnia. A sense of being on the edge with everyone in her life. A sense of not belonging. we have all been there.

But, she does something, most of us don’t do – she visits a counsellor for help to take charge of her life again.

Alia’s character, Kaira, does not have any dark demons. No child abuse. No abusive parents. None of that. And, that is what make’s Gauri Shindes take on mental health so interesting. The fact that seemingly ‘normal’ people can have problems. That you can cope with your everyday activities, have fun, laugh, smile and all of that, while you are crumbling from the inside. Alia’s vulnerability and brittle strength are played well. SRK as the counsellor is outstanding. The sheer empathy, decency, and that his character does not judge situations or issues in the young woman’s life, or her choices, makes him a poster boy for popularising mental well being. I am not sure anyone else could have pulled off the role as well – there was, unlike in most of his films,  no SRK superstar in this film. There was only Jahangir Khan (Jug), and you wish you met someone like that when you were going through your own shit (without outside help). And, it is not because of the way he looks. It is because of the way he is. SRK, is infinitely better when he plays his age (or close to it).

A bit talky, maybe 15 minutes too long . But, beautifully cast. well acted, and a lovely little slice of life. I would definitely recommend it to watch in the theatres – preferably with BFF’s, an extra large box of tissues, and some pop corn.

Jan 292013
 

Bites the hand that feeds him – screamed the headline on Firstpost.in on Shah Rukh Khan, reminding me of Sholay. Had discussed the film with my class this morning, and the film was kind of fresh. The introductury scene of Gabbar, he is ranting at his 3 men for losing to those two. In the most chilling part of the scene – Gabbar pulls out a gun and plays Russian Roulette with his defeated men. He asks of one of them (Kalia)
“ab tera kya hoga kalia?”

Kalia squeeks – “Huzoor meine aapka namak khaya hai”

“ab goli kha” say Gabbar, shooting him.

This entire concept of namak khana, biting the hand that feeds them – is so incredibly – how does one put this nicely ? – feudal.

——–

The fact that the author loathes SRK is fairly evident, what is more is that this loathing seems to have overcome any half decent form of accuracy. Hey, i know opinion pieces are meant to be opinion, but even opinion is based on a modicum of fact. Some samples :

More importantly, he was embraced by a generation of Indians who were evidently so swayed by his looks (or whatever else they saw in him) that they readily overlooked his vacuous performances, blessed him with fame and fortune – and even went on to crown him ‘King Khan’.

(embraced across generations – not preteens anymore – but pretty much the rest, and especially women)

At the peak of his career, Shah Rukh was spoken of in the same breath as the Shahenshah of Bollywood, Amitabh Bachchan. That comparison may have been valid in terms of the box-office appeal that both held, but a certain indefinable element of classy refinement that Bachchan exuded even when the cameras were not whirring remained forever out of reach of SRK.

subjective – and therefore one will not comment on it. biases are allowed. I have mine, am sure the author has his. Except that in the last year – SRK was the highest earner in Bollywood, not someone past the peak of his career.

In his eternal quest to be the ageless Peter Pan of Bollywood, Shah Rukh appears not to have come to terms with the fact that while once he may have commanded a forgiving fan following, he is well past his prime. Like the Norma Desmond character that Gloria Swanson essayed in Billy Wilder’s Sunset Boulevard, he is only clinging on to the memories of a happier day when the arclights were turned on him and the adulation of fans enveloped him in a warm, glowing embrace.

good lord, this person obviously neither watches Hindi films nor follows box office reports. Norma Desmond, incidentally, is the lead character in Sunset Boulevard,  a silent era star, and who, in the film, hasn’t been seen since the coming of sound. SRK’s last film – the unintentionally funny – Jab Tak Hai Jaan – was one of the 8 films that crossed the 100 crore mark in theatrical revenue in India & twice that in overseas territories – (that means that many tickets were sold).

So, by every verifiable metric, it’s fair to say that Shah Rukh Khan has enjoyed more success – and earned more fame and fortune and fan-love – than he arguably deserves. Which is why it’s difficult to account for the victimhood chip – rooted in his identity as a Muslim – that he bears on his shoulders.

Who decides who deserves what ? He doesn’t deserve this on what parameter ? Has the author seen other super stars – desi and hollywood and their performances ? Does a Tom Cruise deserve success ? Superstars bring people to the theaters, they create value all down the value chain.

And, the author’s grouse :

In an interview that he gave to an overseas publication, Shah Rukh Khan is quoted as saying that he “sometimes become(s) the indvertent object of political leaders who choose to make me a symbol of all that they think is wrong and unpatriotic about Muslims in India.”

Now, which part of inadvertent does the author want explained ?

this is a translated version of what was written in Samna after SRK suggested that Pakistani cricketers play in the IPL (for the record, i don’t support that or indeed them being cast in films or tv shows)

Shiv Sena chief Bal Thackeray on Saturday said Kolkata Knight Riders co-owner Shah Rukh Khan should be given Pakistan’s highest civilian award, the Nishaan-e-Pakistan, for supporting the inclusion of Pakistani cricketers in the IPL.

Thackeray said in his party mouthpiece Samna that the ‘Khan’ inside Shah Rukh Khan must be crushed by the ‘Har Har Mahadev’ war cry.

The author goes on

It’s true, of course, that your films have had their problems with Shiv Sena leader Bal Thackeray, who kicked up a shindig by protesting against your film My Name Is Khan on specious grounds.

The Shiv Sena did not have a problem with the film “My Name is Khan”, they had a problem with SRK statement regarding IPL and wanted to take it out on My Name is Khan in retaliation (btw i have seen the film and it is mawkishly sentimental)  And this is what SRK said , that got him into trouble

“They are the champions, they are wonderful but somewhere down the line there is an issue and we can’t deny it. We are known to invite everyone. We should have. If there were any issues, they should have been put on board earlier. Everything can happen respectfully,”

And, incidentally this is what Shilpa Shetty (another team owner, whose name is not Khan) had to say about the same issue:

“If you ask an Indian whether he would like to see Shahid Afridi play in our country, he would say yes. But you must look at it pragmatically and see that we have had these people who are constantly threatening.It’s not something we hold against the Pakistani players. We completely understand the situation but as franchise owners are we willing to take that risk? If something happens to the Pakistani players, the onus lies on us and who is going to take responsibility for a situation like that,”

And this is what Preity Zinta (another team owner, whose name is also not Khan) had to say about the Pakistani Players in IPL

”We would have loved to have the T20 world champions in our teams to bring real joy to the extravaganza but what can we do if we have certain threats about not only our own safety, but the safety of the Pakistani players too, with no official quarter assuring us of foolproof security of players during the tournament,’
Therefore, given the same event IPL, to be held post 26/11, with three star owned teams – if you eliminate all other factors – the only one left is that they picked on SRK because he is a Muslim. (it could also be because he is a man, but i dont think that he SS would eliminate 50%+  of their voters)
And it continues,
So, grow up, Shah Rukh, and learn to take it on the chin like a man. Don’t bite the hand that fed you – and made  you who you are – by running off to an overseas publication and crying your heart out, thereby providing the space for low-life terrorists like Hafiz Saeed to take potshots at India.
On SRK Being resposnible for Hafeez Saeed’s comments, it would be good to read the whole piece and figure where that comment came from. I daresay it was from mangled  headlines from the MSM. In which case, i wonder who is responsible for Hafeez Saeed’s comments. Also, what is this with treating Hafeez Saeed’s statement as being important, instead of dealing with it with the contempt it deserves – what do people expect from Hafeez Saeed –  Kudos for India?

On his being inebriated and badly behaved – sure – he is human. And,a flawed one at that. Where he attacks people who cannot fight back – like the security guard in Wankhade, please take him to task. When it is with other, equally successful,  members of the film  industry, let them sort it out.

I can criticize India, the armed forces, decisions on hanging terrorists or not, Pakistani Players or actors in India, peace with Pakistan and the rest of it – and not once (mabye once) there will be calls for me to move next door. People may question my logic, my intellect, my wisdom, my credentials – but not my right to be in India and make those comments. SRK has those rights too. He is a citizen and like all citizens has the right to critcize the system without having to prove his love for the country every time he does so.


Finally this is neither about the Indian state, nor the people of India, nor the great Indian paying audience – couldn’t care who was what religion so long as they sell tickets.  It is not even about political parties, apart from those  like the Shiv Sena – whose stock in trade this is. People from across the political spectrum came out to support SRK, when the Shiv Sena went on that blistering attack on him.

“We do not consider it correct to use such terms for Khan. His contribution to Bollywood and as a cultural ambassador is immense,” Ravi Shankar Prasad of the BJP, contradicting their ally in Maharashtra to defend SRK. .

This is rather a comment on the Indian media, who takes things out of context to raise passions, then when those passions are raised – whether it was in terms of misquoting SRK on IPL or in this current case, or indeed anyone else – use those raise passions to attract more eyeballs. Am not sure that this is meant to be the role of the media – to stir the pot and wait for people to get at each others’ throat.

I am not the world’s greatest SRK fan. there are films that i have enjoyed, films i have loathed and films i have not even bothered to watch.  But, this is a hatchet job. And, a badly researched hatchet job at that. I am not sure what bothers me more.


(declaration : I have neither met SRK, nor worked with him, or have pitched to him, or likely to – we are completely in different universes) ..

This, incidentally, is the piece that firstpost had issues with. and, it is a wry, funny piece on what it means to be a Khan …

Aug 192009
 

The person i feel sorriest for in 24 hour news channels is the Sound Recordist. Having to hear our esteemed ‘news anchors’ screech their way through various issues – must deafen the strongest of ear drums.

Of all the news channels, there is none more screechy than CNN – IBN – i can hear it 2 rooms away – when my mother has it on in the hall. i keep wondering why they don’t use an audio limiter .

Over the weekend, they – like every other news channel – milked the SRK controversy for all it was worth, and the decibels were higher pitched than normal. Wall to wall discussions on a non-issue – with the view of boosting up their TRPS’. Nothing wrong in that – so long as we, the audience understand that they are in the business of making money -and take everything that they say with a bag of salt. They want higher TRPs because that means more money.

But, that is not the problem. The problem is hypocrisy. Look at todays’ blog by Sagarika Ghosh, No checks please, I’m a Bollywood star

Perhaps the wonderfully talented Shah Rukh Khan, beloved of millions, should limit his superb skills to doing what he does best: making great movies and enhancing the silver screen. His lectures on geo-politics, America’s role in the world, security procedures and international diplomacy are a little bit hilarious. So you endured a bit of questioning at Newark because your baggage hadn’t arrived on time, Shah Rukh? So what? As Meghnad Desai said on Face The Nation, what’s the big deal? Be like APJ Abdul Kalam and just get on with it.

I take it that “Face the Nation” is a programme on their channel. and they get Meghnad Desai on – he btw is an Academic, Historian, Economist & widely read – to comment on this ????

Now, given that she and her fraternity & sorority – across news channels – had blanked coverage on this- made SRK into some sort of a martyr, and vilified some poor immigration clerk – i find it kind of absurd that she is trying to take the moral high ground by attacking Shah Rukh Khan. So, they are using him for two days to rail at the American system. And, then they are using him to rail against the Indian system. Manufacturing News if not Consent !

Maybe, Mr.Shah Rukh Khan – or any other celeb- ought to take the Paris Hilton route with news channels. You have used my image, and my name to make money – pay me ! Seriously.

Aug 172009
 

At first, when my nani called me up to tell me that SRK was arrested in the USA – I thought that they had sent him to Gitmo ! Then i realised it was a 2 hour stop at the airport. I wonder how much airtime was spent on this – and to the exclusion of what ? and how much money did the “NEWS” channels make.

Take one bloated super star ego, mix a nation in the grip of paranoia ; stir in customs and immigration officers who think that they are god ; simmer with silly season ; add a dash of news channels with no ethics, and journalists who would sensationlise their mothers’ sex life if they thought it would get them better TRP’s – and bingo you get ‘……because My name is Khan’ kind of overkill.

The unkind say that this was publicity for the film. I don’t buy that – this sort of stupid serendipity cannot be paid for. It has to happen only when every body f***s up and the News media compound it by forgetting that they are the watchdogs on behalf of the public – and get co-opted by the ruling elite.

On the day Shahrukh Khan got detained for two hours — oh my god, how can someone stop SRK for two hours, hang them, quarter them; no quarter them, hang them — 21 farmers committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh because they couldn’t pay off their debt.

But, farmers committing suicide cannot be sponsored, it does not drive up TRP’s and it definitely is not conducive for off the cuff ranting by our esteemed ‘journalists’. (note: i use the term journalist very, very loosely, and I apologise to any real journalist who is offended at my comparing the lot on TV to them)

24 Hour Blogs – one can say – but that too,would be unkind. There a whole bunch of bloggers whom i follow and whose integrity and intent I respect – even if i differ with them on their views. There isn’t a single TV journalist I can put in the same category.

Since 26/11 I have stopped watching TV news – except for DD. I read papers – sometimes – but mostly I subscribe to various RSS feeds – including bloggers, columnists and news agencies – and I figure what is happening in the world. I get my updates from my mother or my grandmother – who are avid news watchers on the death and disaster and slap to ego that is happening in the world. I listen to them, much the same way that I do, when they tell me what is happening in their favorite soap 🙂

So if we can’t call really call them journalists, or news channels or even bloggers – then what are they? If you read this excellent piece in The HOOT you will realise that a whole bunch of them are putting out ‘NEWS’ that is not in Public Interest – as they claim – but in the interest of Interested Parties – that they have close commercial ties with. So 24 hour Infomercial Channels – is possibly what we ought to call them. They have the same repetition, the same music that drives you to action, the same kind of ‘we asked 30 people and they said’ mode of driving home their point. So, if they are in the pay of commercial interests and if they are putting out content in the interest of these commercial interests, shouldn’t they be regulated by some body ?

____________________________________________________________

Other Blogs with a different take on the same issue :
Churumuri on – Is an immigration clerk threat to our sovereignty?
Melissa George’s – Who is this Shahrukh Khan character anyway?
Prerna on My Name is Khan And Hence I was Detained
Shishir Joshi’s My Name is Khan…ummm…..er…so?
Reality Check India’s – We Are Not Outraged