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Hey Ram (2000)
I hate Semifiction......
'I hope all the communal anger becomes a bullet and pierces my heart , I hope that would suffice the anger of the people'
One of the more memorable dialogs from a memorable movie. Call it an irony of sorts that I am writing a review on 'Hey Ram' the very day I wrote the review on 'Gandhi'. The movie itself is irony of sorts. What does it want to prove, what is the message ? Does it want to spread a message on Communal harmony, is it about the alternate anti-Gandhi moment of partisan times ? Is it to prove that no matter what you say 'Gandhi is always right' ? Or is it just a journey through the eyes of a man who lost his wife in riots and makes it a mission to take revenge. The problem are only two, one he doesn't know who his enemy is and second he is a fictional character. A fictional character who is quite unbelievable in many ways in the world of factual reality is a bit difficult to digest. You don't know the person Saket Ram even after watching him in every scene over 3 hours, you simply can't relate to him. Does it matter ? No. Why ? Because this is simply an engrossing 3 hr plus drama of the life of a person, the LoC between fiction and fact can go to hell.
What makes the movie engrossing is a wonderful form of cinema that Kamal Hasan has rediscovered and it is called acting ! Every actor no matter what his role has done more than just simple justice to his or her roles. The movie, if nothing else is an example of a north-south divide between the directors. When directors of north India take up a fiction they base it on dreams and stress on visual appeal, while when southern directors take a fiction they superimpose it on a fact and stress on acting powers.
The screenplay is simply awesome and dialogs pretty slick. Kamal has used some specially effects too which couldn't have been worse and unnecessary. Sound track is first rate and songs well timed and well placed. The editing is left wanting but then we will excuse that. There is an interesting hand-gun-bullet relationship between a king- Atul Kulkarni and Kamal Hasan respectively , you would realize what I mean when you see this movie.
Now about the cast, and this will take a while. As I said the major USP of the flick is the first rate acting and ensemble cast. Nassserduin Shah as Gandhi does a wonderful take in a small role. Hema Malini is a breath of fresh air and brings life to a dead pan character. Rani Mukerjee hasn't got much of a role but does her job just fine. Sharh Rukh Khan does a great job, but then he is wasted and all his acting skills are unexploited. Saurabh Shukla hams outrageously, probably demand of his role. Kamal Hasan gives a marathon role, but I would say not the best one of his life . But there are now actors who do the best job and probably steal the job. One is Atul Kulkarni who even bagged a national award for this one. He looks totally focused and seems to understand his character inside out. The second is Vasundra Das. She raises above all the modern day actresses. I just hope we see her more often with such good roles.
At the end of the day, whether you like this movie or not depends on what is you cinematic preference. Some would call it a master piece and some would go home and as it is frequently remarked in the movie, say 'I hate semi-fiction'
Making of Mahatma's movie
Picture this. Gandhiji walks in a court, accused of influencing the people and starting a movement, the Non Cooperation movement, immediately after Gandhiji broke the fast he started to curb the movement which had assumed violence after Chauri Chora. We walks in alone, unescorted and as soon as he walks in there is an unexplainable silence in the court, and to everyone's surprise the Judge, stands up in respect of the accused ! Seeing him do this the barristers and rest also stand up. This scene though may seem insignificant on paper is one without which this entire movie would have been incomplete. To know why read on !
On day of 2nd October they play this movie every year on DD National, Richard Attenborough's Gandhi. I never watched it whenever it was shown since 20 years of 2nd Octobers I had seen. The first few years because I couldn't understand and the next few because I felt that though it's a multiple Oscar winner, how could at the end of the day, a British person understand and do justice to an Indian icon ? After so many years I finally broke the ice and saw the movie in totality right from the first scene of Nathuram Godse, to Hey Ram, and I understood that Gandhi was as British, as much a part of Britain's history as he was of India's, in fact an outsider judged the person better than we ourselves could, hence without doubt this is a masterpiece, because it was always meant to be.
Richard Attenborough like all directors worth their salt uses visual aid as a medium to replace conventional dialogue delivery at times. A picture is worth a thousand words and a scene without words is worth a million. Like the first scene I described and others. In one scene towards the end of the movie, Gandhiji starts a fast until death to stop the communal riots post independence and Nehru goes to meet him. A crowd had gathered near his residence and one of the person in the crowd shouted a suggestion, 'Why don't they kill Gandhi ?', Nehru furiously jumps into the crowd to search for this person and the camera moves in the crowd and for a briefest time and quite unmistakably you spot Nathuram Godse in the crowd. This made me think, 'hey this is what I call good cinema!'.
So what about the outsider theory ? Well you see if Rajkumar Santoshi, Yash Chopra, Raj Kapoor or Mani Ratnam had made this movie they would have fallen under the pressure and the unbearably weight of historical facts, Richard had that advantage. Someone quite ignorant about Indian culture was telling a story of an Indian to an audience even more ignorant. What I mean is that there are things which are skewed up, characters gone wrong and famous words mouthed by someone else. For example the writer has messed the character of the Patel Siblings. Vallabhbhai Patel was never an extrovert and never as polished as shown in the movie, but someone else was and it was his more Birtish, yet less famous elder brother Vithalbhai who in fact introduced Vallabh to Indian movement. Again it is a known fact that Vallabhai continued the Dandi march after Gandhi's arrest, the fact which is ignored. Once again the characters of Kriplani, Maulana Azad etc are all skewed. But at the end of it works, why, because Richard's view is focused. I would notice these mistakes because I am an Indian aware of this, a person in England may never find out and even if he does he would consider it as trivial because this is a story of Gandhi and not the Indian freedom struggle. People say that unnecessary importance is given to foreign characters in Gandhi's life like Margret, Rev. Charlie, Walker, Miraben, but I would say it is necessary because these people did influence Gandhi and made him an international personality which he is.
But before I end my take on this movie I must comment on the characterization. Starting with Ben Kinsley as Gandhi. To tell you the truth when I first saw him as Mohandas KG in the train I was shocked, he didn't look like Gandhi which I imagined, but as the movie goes ahead I changed my opinion. Ben worked because of multiple reasons. The first he is a British Gujarati, Gandhi was gujarati who did his law in England so both speak the same language, Partly British English with unmistakable Gujarati overtones. Second all other characterization of Gandhis in the history are shown as fragile creatures without clothes. Ben did carry some more body than others and which made Gandhi look more real , more alive. Also he had an infectious little smile which works because Gandhi in many was a jovial happy person who smiled a lot , a kind smile of calm which no one but Ben Kinsley brought out ! Of the other characters, Martin Sheen as Walker was impressive, so were Lord Erwin, Gen Dyer, Margrets, Nehru and Miraben's characters. Rohini Hattangidi as Kasturba does a remarkable job too, though she was shown a little more extroverted than Kasturba was , maybe.
As a whole to sum it up, this is one hell of a beautiful movie experience. If you missed it this 2nd October don't forget to tune into it the next.
Phir Milenge (2004)
A Beautiful movie about an HIV patient who fights for Justice
'Life is a moment. For a moment it's there and in a moment it's gone'
What would you do if you find out that you are HIV positive, you are infected by the only person you ever loved, you cannot trace that person for answers and the worst of all your boss throws you out of your job for which you have given everything, just because he fears you would infect him and the other employees ? Sit and Sulk or ..fight !
Coming from a director of the beautiful movie 'Mitr', the movie 'Phir Milenge' has lived, lived to it's expectations, lived to tell a tale, lived to spread a message that otherwise one would have dared of. The movie is sensitive and touching, and even though it may have been written off by critics as commercially unacceptable, in my opinion it is one of the most beautiful movie ever made in mainstream Bollywood cinema. Truly the Hindi film industry has grown up, matured and come of age.
The plot is largely based on the classic movie 'Philadelphia'. In fact many scenes are directly picked up from that movie, but at the end of the day , this movie is different, may not be as hard hitting as the former, but it is good enough none the less. In fact even people like me who have already seen Philadelphia would easily find contrast from that movie. The former tells about an 'AIDS' infected homosexual, who sues his firm for discrimination for not only being infected, but mind you for being homosexual, years ago in USA, but 'Phir Milenge' , note carefully is the story of an heterosexual woman, who is 'HIV Positive' (Note: She still hasn't got full blown AIDS), who is discriminated by her firm for having HIV, in today's world, in India ! If it still sounds similar read the fine print again.
As far as the performances go, Salman Khan is excellent in his little cameo especially in the scenes in which he is shown to die. Abhsheik Bachaan is outstanding. He almost does as Good as Denzel in the original. Nasser as the heartless defense lawyer is great. The music is soothing and touching.
But clearly the entire credit of the movie goes to two women. Revathy, who brings forward one of the best direction ever seen in Hindi cinema and Shilpa Shetty for one of the best performance ever in a mainstream role. Though these may seem exaggerations, but once you see the movie you would realize that it's not.
The best part of the movie, is it's ending, it is conspicuous by it's absence ! The movie doesn't end in a conventional way. The director has intelligently implanted loose ends to it , first to signify that there are absolutely no laws in India to help the victims of HIV, and second to show that even and HIV patient can live, and live long.
For those who complained India lacked realistic cinema, it's time for you to stop complaining. Bye for now, Phir Milenge on IMDb.com
The Recruit (2003)
A Stylized review
Quite frankly, I expected a lot from the movie and probably it was the expectations that killed the film. The Recruit, though backed by great actors and big money is just an ordinary Spy Vs Spy flick. The life of CIA recruits, the moles the counter and counter intelligence schemes are all very interesting, especially the games at the training centre "The farm". But the biggest drawback of the script are the characters, quite frankly they lack conviction. Colin Farell though in a neatly done role play James and if I were with the CIA , tell you what I wouldn't hire James even though he were the last person on this planet. The man is fooled by just about everyone and there is just one instance where he shows a bit of brain work, that too at the climax. WB Burke played by Al Pacino must be the most mediocre role this great actor has played in his life. He doesn't inspire, all he does is conspire. And well for the rest , don't even get me started. In all a mediocre product packaged in a Good way. Worth a miss.