Raat Gayi Baat Gayi?
There is a scene in Raat Gayi Baat Gayi?, one of the last releases of 2009, where Mitali, a talented, out-of-work sculptor (“not a painter”, as she angrily points out to her friends), kisses her former classmate from art school inside his car. She has walked out of a party where her husband, Rahul, a jaded ad film-maker, is in the throes of a one-night stand with an uninvited guest, an aspiring actress named Sophia.
Mitali is unhappy for reasons of her own making. She has chosen to give up her ambitions for the sake of her marriage and daughter. The moment with her friend, a successful painter, is almost like a vindication—and a momentary token of admiration for the life she herself could have had. “You will not understand. You are not married and you are not a woman,” she tells the painter. The scene has a moving, palpable tension. The role of Mitali, a disgruntled, passive-aggressive housewife is played by Iravati Harshe, an actor of some calibre, and her relationship with Rahul (played by the seasoned actor Rajat Kapoor) is the centre of Saurabh Shukla’s Raat Gayi Baat Gayi?, produced by Pritish Nandy Communications.
Talk to me:Saurabh Shukla’s Raat Gayi Baat Gayi? has a great ensemble cast.
Scenes such as this redeem an otherwise flat and dull story about urban relationships.
One of my abiding interests in the film was Shukla, the director. He is primarily a writer, known famously for his script for Ram Gopal Varma’s Satya, which he co-wrote with Anurag Kashyap.
Shukla begins with an interesting premise. Four couples in their 30s meet at a party at one of their bungalows. There is unspoken bitterness and grudges in their relationships that simmer beneath the happy facades. As the night progresses, the men are confronted with sexual temptation, and the women, predictably, with frustrations they have brushed aside.
Structurally, the film is supposed to have an element of suspense. The morning after the party, nursing a hangover, Rahul tries to find out what really happened between him and Sophia (Neha Dhupia) the night before. Did he have sex with her? If yes, should he tell his wife about it? While trying to find the answers, the lives of the four couples are revealed to us. Not so many surprises there.
This is a genre of film that I categorize as “talk” films. Close-ups, one-liners, tight interiors scenes—they can easily pass off as telefilms. There is, of course, Woody Allen, who is the master of the “talk” film. But Raat Gayi Baat Gayi? is nowhere near the best.
Even though stray scenes lift the film, it is a flat and uninspiring debut for Shukla as director. Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Navneet Nishan, Dalip Tahil and Harshe are competent actors and they deliver good performances. But ultimately, it is a story that has nothing new to say about what we do and feel when we are drunk.
Most importantly, the film is utterly bereft of the magic of cinema. Mumbai, where the film is set, is entirely absent from the frames. I don’t remember a single shot that told me more than what the characters talked. I would have been happy watching this film on DVD or on TV.
Promoted as a thriller, with Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri in two of the lead roles, Bolo Raam starts with some promise. Ram, a young man with unusual religious fervour and an even more unusual affection for his mother (played by newcomer Rishi Bhutani and Padmini Kolhapure, respectively), is falsely accused of murdering his mother. He goes silent after the murder, obsessed only with his mother’s dead body. Oedipus complex is not out of bounds, you’re likely to surmise in the first half. But director Rakesh Chaturvedi Om has no such imagination or depth.
On the couch:Naseeruddin Shah plays a psychiatrist in Bolo Raam.
Ram suffers from some kind of disorder which is difficult to diagnose. Shah plays a shrink who tries to unravel what’s in his mind, by appearing in just about five scenes in the entire film. Many characters come and go, supposedly trying to lend more mystery to Ram’s silence. Yet there is nothing engaging or likeable about Ram.
The story opens up many windows—one of which is Muslim fundamentalism. It is a confused screenplay made worse on screen by the debutant lead actor’s lack of acting abilities.
Shah and Puri, two of the finest actors we have, might have not envisioned what this film would be when they accepted their roles. Both almost sleep through the entire film. Bolo Raam is a film without imagination, emotion or politics. Don’t begin your new year with it.
Raat Gayi Baat Gayi? and Bolo Raam released in theatres on Friday.