We’ve debated over how to write about films: who to write about and why; should an actor be profiled just before his new movie releases or after its success/failure; must there be Govinda and Aamir Khan, or David Dhawan and Anurag Kashyap in the same magazine; should a particular kind of film be endorsed by us. These questions are still asked. Every story in Lounge, as you know, needs a good reason to be there.
But somewhere along the way, all of us agreed that bad trash Hindi movies like Welcome and No Entry and God Tussi Great Ho and Shortkut: The Con is On and Kambakht Ishq---you know what I mean---didn’t deserve to be in our Culture pages. (Anything on Ram Gopal Varma is banned by the Lounge editor too, until he makes his next good film---we really hope he does so soon, because you and I know he can.)
One guy we love is director Vishal Bhardwaj and I look forward to watching Kaminey, his next. I’ll come to Vishal and something about his world that I know of a little later in the post, but before that, I can’t resist giving you a brief lowdown on the celluloid quotient of us Loungies.
Most of us are film buffs. One colleague introduced me to the Monty Python series (now I want to build a collection. Any suggestions as to where I can buy the DVDs from? Amazon and eBay don’t have all of them); another colleague still believes that Hindi films are a waste of time and I still, to her utter annoyance and amusement, attribute it to her being Parsi; with yet another I have shared how I tackled manic depressive thoughts after watching Lars Von Trier’s Dancer in the Dark (her symptoms were much worse).
One of my best movie memories ever is watching the Tamil version of Ghajini in our office video conference room after the Hindi Ghajini made those unbelievable crores in its very first weekend. Three of us ate Udipi khichdi and watched Surya flex and grunt (so much better than Aamir, really), and happily went back to work after the film ended.
Coming back to Vishal Bhardwaj, we’re banking on him to lift us out of the dull funk that permeates the movies these days. It has been a painful year for movie buffs, as you know from the Box Truths column in Mint every Friday and from the Stall Order column in Lounge, and also through our film reviews and blogs. Considering Bhardwaj’s impressive earlier work---I consider Maqbool his best. What’s your favourite Vishal Bhardwaj movie?---Kaminey, I surmise, will be the year’s best film, at least of the first half of the year.
Here’s what we already know about the thriller: It’s about Guddu and Charlie, who are twin brothers (Shahid Kapoor in a double role, his best performance ever, concurred a director I met last month). One is a shy NGO worker with a stammer; the other a wheeler dealer who makes a living by hedging bets at the race course, with a lisp.
They are literally worlds apart. Guddu is in love with a middle class Marathi girl (Priyanka Chopra). Both get unwittingly embroiled in a Mumbai microcosm where drug lords, goons, cops and small politicians call the shots. Their worlds converge in the climax and despite what they think about each other, they save---andfind---each other. Human emotions triumph.
I got a glimpse of the man a few months ago at a seminar at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII) in Pune that I have to share with you. He was one of the speakers at a session about adapting Shakespeare on screen. He was actually the only regular guy in that panel.
The rest of the panel tried to struggle with answers to questions such as: ”Why is interpreting the universal in Shakespeare so much more difficult than interpreting the details of his characters?”
Bhardwaj reluctantly moved the microphone towards himself and started talking about how he discovered Shakespeare. On a train from somewhere in UP to New Delhi, he borrowed an abridged version of Macbeth from a schoolgoing boy who was his co-passenger. The story blew his mind and he said to himself: ’Oh my god, who’s this William Shakespeare? He is brilliant!’. He came to Mumbai much later, and finally landed himself a job as an assistant to Gulzar first and then as a music dierctor (he once sold his own tunes to a producer saying they were lifted from a Pakistani band because Paksitani bands were in vogue at that time), but Shakespeare never left him. He attempted reading the original texts, but gave up because English wasn’t his language.
Gulzar convinced him that he could be a director and finally he wrote Makdi, his first script. With Maqbool, the Shakespeare bug ripened and later, of course, he made Omkara.
After the seminar ended, Bhardwaj came out into the open and mixed freely with students and film-makers, perched himself on a motorcycle parked below the famous wisdom tree in the FTII campus, before returning to Mumbai.
The film releases on 15 August, and I’ll let you know if I convince my Parsi colleague to accompany me to the press screening a day before that.