Film Review | Not a Love Story
This is the film that blows Rangeela to smithereens. Ram Gopal Varma’s 1995 film was about Mili (Urmila Matondkar)—a naive, aspiring actor who gets her chance at Bollywood stardom. The fairy tale has ended. In his new film Not a Love Story, Varma turns the Rangeela anthem, Hoja Rangeela Re, into a ringtone. The aspiring actor in this movie, Anusha Chawla (Mahie Gill), dances to the song in her middle-class apartment in Malad, but it’s hardly a role-grabber for her at the auditions. She does not make it in the movies because her obsessive boyfriend from Chandigarh hacks her insignificant sugar daddy to pieces.
There is no real suspense in this sleaze drama—Varma sticks to the brutal, real life story of Neeraj Grover’s murder by Emile Jerome, helped by his then girlfriend Maria Susairaj. Varma’s linear telling of the murder has all the ingredients of a gimmicky sex-and-murder drama. He uses a portable 5D camera for a home-video effect. This single-lens camera, propped on a flexible tripod, zooms in almost to capture the texture of the characters’ skin. The director predictably uses it for maximum voyeuristic effect.
Varma objectifies women in all his films—often to hilarious or outrageous effect. This is not a pretty film, but that of course is not its problem. However, Varma’s obsession with Anusha’s physicality, especially body parts, is not justified by the narrative. It comes across as a perverse kind of misogyny. So what differentiates Not a Love Story from pornography?
Raw potboiler: Deepak Dobriyal (left) and Mahie Gill have given powerful performances.
First, the story itself, which is in our collective memory, and the way Varma uses the same piece of equipment to interpreting the real life crime as a stark, amoral narrative. When it’s not caressing Anusha’s body, the director uses the 5D camera for some spectacular transitions and fluidity. It lends a hyperreal griminess to the already gruesome story. Robin Fernandes (Deepak Dobriyal) hacks the body of film producer Ashish Bhatnagar (Ajay Gehi) with a butcher’s knife in Anusha’s living room, while the camera follows her every movement, right into the corners of her crummy bedroom. Throughout the film, Varma’s intention to shock is unapologetic.
The writing, by Rohit Banawlikar, is ordinary. There is no imaginative leap from the real story we know from newspapers. He takes no sides, and morality is out of bounds. There’s only one question the writer and director are interested in: What would you do if you were in the shoes of Anusha and Robin?
If you’re stupid and weak like Anusha, and no Lady Macbeth with enough guile or remorse, you’ll end up in the torture cell of a tough policeman. The director is also not interested in the parents’ grief or helplessness—there are no scenes where characters communicate with dialogues. The camera’s angles and movement—or the lack of movement in some of the film’s most powerful scenes, when it stays unflinchingly on a face—do the job of dialogues. The background sound is loud and grating in parts, but overall, in a strictly technical sense, Varma returns to his core gift as a director—his instinctive ability to infuse energy and audacity into every scene he films.
Powerful performances by Gill and Dobriyal add to this raw potboiler. But the director’s unabashed intention to shock leaves Not a Love Story notches below his best—and far from a great film.
Not a Love Story released in theatres on Friday
Film Review | Sahi dhandhe galat bande
A promising debut with a smart script and good performances
Actor Parvin Dabas makes his directorial debut with ‘Sahi Dhandhe Galat Bande’, which he has also written and acted in. Set in Kanjhawala village in north India, this action comedy with a political twist tracks the journey of four bad boys who must make a choice between making tonnes of money and doing the right thing.
Rajbir, Sexy, Ambani and Doctor are childhood friends and local thugs who get by with illegal and random jobs for their boss Fauji (Sharat Saxena). Life goes on between petty abductions, evictions and cash transactions until a life-changing opportunity comes their way. When Fauji offers the boys a windfall to disrupt a peaceful farmers’ demonstration against forcible land acquisition by the government, the foursome find their conscience awakening.
Smart direction: Dabas has handled a sensitive issue with dexterity
Rajbir (Dabas) appears to mastermind a plot to save their ancestral agricultural lands from a corrupt chief minister (Kiran Joneja Sippy) and an industrialist (Anupam Kher), but mostly events develop organically, leading to an unexpected climax. The movie?uses?intrigue, crime, drama and humour?with some surprises. After all, these are goons, and using violence and crime are the ways they know best, even if the cause is bona fide.
Writer-director Dabas is clear about his stand on the issue. With a smart script, peppered with humour, he tackles a topical and serious issue. The relationship between the four friends is especially well etched, and enhanced by consistent performances from actors Vansh Bhardwaj, Ashish Nayyar and Kuldeep Ruhil as the buddies. They are ably supported by Yashpal Sharma (the local hero), Saxena and Neena Kulkarni (as Rajbir’s aunt).
While the film has its heart in the right place, a tighter edit and slightly less resounding background score would have helped. Dabas makes a fine directorial debut. Employing an interesting storytelling style, he also handles a sensitive issue with dexterity and commitment.
Sahi Dhande Galat Bande released in theatres on Friday