Miniature prints

A tribute is hardly ever the truth. Maybe just a sliver of the truth. You simplify, romanticize and gloss over what’s unpalatable about your subject—distilling a kind of agreeable net worth. The romanticizing is perhaps bound to be more pronounced if the subject is one of your own.

Most of Bombay Talkies, four miniatures by directors Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap, meant to commemorate 100 years of Hindi cinema, is that stereotypical tribute. There is warm-hearted humour and a playful, anodyne gaze at Hindi cinema’s power and role in the life of India, largely Mumbai. They don’t question its workings or provoke strong reactions on its hyper-presence in our life. More disappointing, none of the stories have a personal stamp—in aesthetics or point of view.

The lead performances lift the narrative above its predictable curve and earnest tone—both Mukerji and Hooda make the most of every scene they have without going overboard with the histrionics. This is Johar’s most mature, if sentimental, look at homosexuality. Hindi cinema is a tertiary flourish in his story.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Siddiqui is at his peak of acting prowess. In Banerjee’s direction and writing, pathos and humour intermingle, and Siddiqui brings out the character’s fine print without the crutch of lines. It is safe to say that Siddiqui is today’s most engrossing acting talent in Hindi films. Nikos Andritsakis’ cinematography produces some gems, including a surreal sequence in which the actor shakily rehearses his blink-and-miss role in an open space surrounded by glass high-rises. Under a scorching sun, he meets an old man and an emu. Indisputably, the best-executed story in Bombay Talkies.

Naman Jain
Vineet Kumar Singh

Bombay Talkies is set to excellent music by Amit Trivedi and while they unfold, the stories hold up in their half-hour individual length. But after you have left the theatre, it is not gratification you feel, but the short-lived aftertaste of a music video or a good commercial. It eulogizes Bollywood, sure, but in a Bollywood-crazy nation it is like preaching to the converted. Surely there is more to the desire, madness, ugliness and fantasy in Hindi cinema, and to the millions who work here. If you wait to watch the terrible promotional video at the end of the film, satrring all our stars, you will most likely forget the best of Bombay Talkies.

Bombay Talkies released in theatres on Friday

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