A Tale of Three Davids

David is about the grey character inherent among us; how the good and the bad are just two different sides of each of us, and how good always wins over evil (more on this ahead).

David‘s scope is vast. Thematically connecting three (almost) independent stories is not something tried often in Hindi films. It’s almost like last year’s Cloud Atlas in that sense. And yet, it is bogged down by stereotyped characters, (especially in the case of the Goa-based segment), a weak third segment (again, the Goa-based) and an unconvincing link between all the three stories.

David #3

The story revolves around three men in different locations and era by the same name and how they defeat their Goliath. The first David (Neil Nitin Mukesh), in London, ekes out forgiveness and sacrifice from an enclosure of betrayal. The second David (Vinay Virmani), in Mumbai, wants his justice, but not in the non-violent manner about which his father (Nasser), a priest, preaches (and practises). The third David (Chiyaan Vikram), in Goa, is searching for love while taking a break from drinking and speaking to his dead father.

The first segment, shot entirely in black & white, is the film’s strongest. It hooks you in right from the first scene, and never lets you go. The second segment, though slightly uninteresting to begin with, gathers steam quickly. It also has the best scene of the film which involves David’s father injuring himself in delusion. The third segment shows a very politically incorrect character in David, and his first scene will send your senses tingling, telling you that something is wrong. It does pick up eventually, but this segment is tonally different from the rest and it affects the flow of the film. It plays lighter and in the manner of a fairy-tale. This also has one of the biggest disappointments with respect to sub-plots in its satku-Santa section.

David #2

The link towards the end is completely unnecessary, though it would be interesting to know why the writers (Bejoy Nambiar and Natasha Sehgal) decided to use it. Leaving character development to fate is fine as long as there is foreboding, and it works between the stories set in London and Mumbai, but the jarring returns when the Mumbai story connects to the Goan one.

The story also paints a very stereotypical picture of all characters. If the Goan David is always drinking, the Mumbai based David is playing guitar. Nambiar addresses a very political issue based on religion in the second segment, which does happen in real-life. But towards the end, one can’t help but feel that all three religions depicted in the film end up being depicted in one particular colour. Christians are white and make sacrifices. Hindus (black) are greedy while Muslims (black) want to avenge themselves and their loved ones. A straight line is drawn through complex issues with none of the sides appearing strong enough, so much that even a character who tells the Mumbai David to act on his words is in a kurta and has a jhola on his arms. No points for guessing which profession he is a part of. (No points for guessing his regionality too. Yes.)

The acting is strong throughout the film. The three leads perform to their best. Tabu (Goan David’s friend Frenny), Akarsh Khurana (London’s Iqbal Ghani) and Nasser support the cast brilliantly too.

David #1

Nambiar chose three different cinematographers for the three different locations, and it must be said that all three of them did a commendable job. Sanu John Varughese’s black and white palette lends a classic touch to the mafia tragedy in London, while R. Rathnavelu bathes Goa (and Kerala) with a soft orange tinge. P.S. Vinod is good with the Mumbai segment too but is overpowered by some impressive photography from the former duo. The editing by A. Sreekar Prasad plays fine too except while switching between segments where a certain jerk is always apparent.

The film is won, though, by two departments that are usually undermined in Hindi films. The production design by Rajeevan and costume design by Ameira Punvani are excellent and some of the best seen in recent times.

Nambiar takes ahead his theme of good triumphing over evil from Shaitan and multiplies it threefold. He does manage to stay in control of his cinematic techniques this time around, using them to create a desired effect, but make no mistake, the movie bleeds visual pleasure. There is, also, no doubt that, perhaps, after Kashyap and Bhardwaj, Nambiar is one director who knows how to use music in his films. It is harsh to say that Nambiar’s second film is ‘all style, no substance’. David has an interesting plot and a few colourful characters going for it. Nambiar knows to play subtle too. But there is no denying that although David is a good film, it could have been a whole lot better had the story been stronger.

Written by Runcil Rebello.

The Year In Review – Hindi Cinema (2012)

2012 was (by its usual standards) a very good year for Hindi cinema. Yes, we saw the usual masala films hitting the 100 cr mark, but we did see other cinema receive recognition too, and not just from critics, but audiences as well. Here we try to lay down our 5 favourite Hindi movies of 2012, scenes, songs and what you should be looking forward to in 2013.

Favourite films (in reverse order)

5. Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu

Finally, an Indian rom-com that did not make me cringe. Bonus points for the end.

4. Paan Singh Tomar

Paan Singh Tomar

An extraordinary (real-life) story told very well. And Irrfan, one of our best actors.

3. Barfi!

Barfi!

May have lifted scenes but its sum was greater than its parts.

2. Supermen of Malegaon

Supermen of Malegaon

Okay, I cheated. This is a documentary. But you’ll laugh, and laugh, and ponder, and laugh again while watching the people from Malegaon creating their famous parodies. The whole film is available online here.

1. Talaash

Talaash

The film got a lot of stick for the twist, and it was promoted wrongly too – as a thriller. But watch the film knowing it’s about grief, and perhaps even knowing the twist, and this film turns out to be something else. My Hindi film for this year.

Before we move on to my favourite songs of the year, the composer of the year goes to Amit Trivedi (Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Ishaqzaade, English Vinglish, Aiyya, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana as well as Trishna and the best episode in Coke Studio India Season 2). Runner up: Sneha Khanwalkar for Gangs of Wasseypur.

Might I add the best background score in a movie this year was by Abhishek Ray and Sandeep Chowta for Paan Singh Tomar.

Favourite Hindi songs (in reverse order)

6. Auntyji (Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu)

Composer: Amit Trivedi; Lyricist: Amitabh Bhattacharya; Singer: Ash King

5. Ala Barfi! (Barfi!)

Composer: Pritam; Lyricist: Swanand Kirkire; Singer: Mohit Chauhan

4. Laakh Duniya Kahe (Talaash)

Composer: Ram Sampath; Lyricist: Javed Akhtar; Singer: Ram Sampath

3. Jiya Ho Bihar Ke Lala (Gangs of Wasseypur)

Composer: Sneha Khanwalkar; Lyricist: Varun Grover; Singer: Manoj Tiwari

2. Motorwada (Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana)

Composer: Amit Trivedi; Lyricist: Shelley; Singers: Tochi Raina, Amit Trivedi

1. Aafaton Ke Parinde (Ishaqzaade)

Composer: Amit Trivedi; Lyricist: Kausar Munir; Singers: Suraj Jagan, Divya Kumar

Favourite scenes of 2012 (in reverse order)

Have tried to provide clips as much as possible.

6. The Dinner Table sequence (Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu)

One of the best written scenes of the film (and the year).

5. “I love gandagi.” (Supermen of Malegaon)

One of the writers of the film Malegaon ka Superman comes up with a classy entry with a fitting monologue for the Lex Luthor-esque villain of the film – Ding Dong Ding – who is the owner of a tobacco company and loves filth.

4. The Bengali and Punjabi parents visit each others’ homes. (Vicky Donor)

Our cultural biases can be a lot of fun, especially when shown in such a hilarious manner. What Chetan Bhagat tried to show in one entire book called Two States was shown here in two smartly-written, short scenes. Here’s a (very) short clipping.

3. “Parmissan” (Gangs of Wasseypur)

Hands down, the most hilarious scene this year!

2. The Underwater Sequence (Talaash)

Beautiful cinematography aside, (and avoiding spoilers), this scene was just surreal.

1. Raabta (Agent Vinod)

Not a good film, not a bad film. But was it technically sound! For instance, this one take shot for the song Raabta.

Films to look ahead to in 2013 – In no particular order.

1. Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj; Actors: Imran Khan, Pankaj Kapur, Anushka Sharma

2. Lootera

Lootera

Director: Vikramaditya Motwane; Actors: Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha

3. David

David

Director: Bejoy Nambiar; Actors: Vikram, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Vinay Virmani, Tabu, Lara Dutta, Isha Sharvani

4. Kai Po Che!

Kai Po Che!

Director: Abhishek Kapoor; Actors: Sushant Singh Rajput, Rajkumar Yadav, Amit Sadh

5. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra; Actors: Farhan Akhtar, Sonam Kapoor

6. Ghanchakkar

Director: Rajkumar Gupta; Actors: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan

7. Dhoom 3 (in IMAX)

Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya; Actors: Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Uday Chopra, Jackie Shroff, Katrina Kaif

8. Gunday

Gunday

Director: Ali Abbas Zafar; Actors: Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Arjun Kapoor, Irrfan Khan

9. Chennai Express

Chennai Express

Director: Rohit Shetty; Actors: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone

10. Peekay

Director: Rajkumar Hirani; Actors: Aamir Khan, Anushka Sharma

Daag Achche Hote Hain

A few years ago, Kate Winslet made a statement by bringing curvy back into fashion. While the rest of the women in the West were turning bulimic and putting on show their anorexic bodies, Winslet did the impossible by showing off her love handles in movies for the world to view. A similar attempt was made by Vidya Balan in the film The Dirty Picture and boy! she pulled it off with those so-called ‘flaws’.

Inspired by the life of Silk Smitha, the sexy siren of South Indian films, the lady Madonna who conceptualised erotica in India, The Dirty Picture promised to titillate the audience with Vidya Balan unabashedly flaunting her cleavage from the start.

The Inspiration: Silk Smitha

As the film progressed, with Silk (Balan’s character) showcasing her almost exposed bosom, a lot of women shifted in their seats, while men applauded and cheered with raging hormones and mouths agape. Much-admired, mostly for her bold and colourful scenes in Ishqiya, Balan did not disappoint. Known for her on-and-off screen charm and choosing strong female protagonist roles, Balan armoured the arrogance of the Hindi language with aplomb and looked elegant despite the attire, which seemed like an extreme case of fashion faux pas.

There’s so much to write about Balan, but nothing about the story or the male leads in the film. Naseeruddin Shah gravely disappointed as there was so much that he could do while playing Vijayan, a well-known Tamil cinema actor. It seemed that Shah was consciously avoiding the much anticipated pelvic-jerks and super-hero tactics of most of the Tamil actors set in the mindset of pan-Indian cinemagoers (a la Quick Gun Murugan). He kept it simple, yet there was a Nasseruddin Shah touch missing in the film.

No Kissing, Only Seeing.

For once, Emraan Hashmi was bearable, zipping his lover boy instincts in his pants; an appalling mouth which didn’t turn into an infamous pout at the sight of his ‘love interests’ (If you remember, Murder!)

Then there’s Tusshar Kapoor, whose acting skills are nothing to write home about. But since you will notice him, it will remind you that the movie is an Ekta/Shobha Kapoor home production.

The dialogues are smartly crafted and invite applause and few cackling laughs from the audience.

The music was mostly forgetful, with the exceptions of Ooh La La and an extremely popular Tamil song Nakka Mukka which was predominantly playing with every appearance Silk made in the movie. The makers of the movie have officially acquired the rights of the song from the 2008 film Kadhalil Vizunthen.

There were a few unforgivable camera angles and boob-flashing, which we could have done without!

The movie exhibits the decline of an almost idol, and the deterioration of a woman who fell from the sky into the gallows. As a friend put it, “it’s a gradual decay of a perfect full-bloomed flower.”

Let me know what you think of this dirty fixture!

Written by Shubhra Rishi.

Rockstar: A Review

I turned to rock music only recently; and I am still discovering the magic of Zeppelin, Morrison and the Woodstock generation; and of course, School Of Rock has been a major anchor in my tryst with rock ‘n roll. So, when I first heard of Rockstar, I confess, I was curious to know what a mainstream Bollywood movie’s take on the genre would be like. I also found it appealing for another reason: A R Rahman’s soundtrack and score. I had high hopes. And I did not wish to be disappointed. I wasn’t.

Before I go any further, let me tell you one thing: Rockstar is not going to do well at the box-office. It is going to be slammed by puritans and public; the former because they would not consider this worthy of the genre, and the latter because they are too used to a conventional Hindi movie. Rockstar is none. It’s doesn’t pay homage to the genre, but to the philosophy; as Jack Black put it: “sticking it out to the man!”

And that’s why Rockstar is a damn good movie. There are other reasons as well, which I shall discuss further on.

One of them is Ranbir Kapoor. In plain words, the movie would’ve been impossible without him (and Ali and Rahman, of course). Janardan Jankar’s character is simplistic: he has been learning the guitar since he was a child; his wall is adorned with posters of Morrison, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd and the likes — as opposed to Bollywood biggies. And he is desperate to find inspiration. His transformation into Jordan — the rebellious music icon/bad-boy is a combination of cinematic progress, as well as a growth captured by narrative. Yes, many would sense a disjuncture in this; and Imtiaz Ali could’ve employed more conventional techniques. But that would severely impede the beauty of the film and of the character.

Obviously, though very loosely, Janardan’s story is inspired by Jim Morrison — he even is in awe of his idol showing the middle-finger to the public — but Ranbir’s performance does not go into manic depravity. His journey is reflective and painful; creative and self-destructive. Not because he’s a rebel without a cause; it’s because, talent can afford arrogance.

Rockstar, also, is a commentary on society and the media who hail him a ‘kalakaar’ and then a criminal. Icons in the past have been dissected by the media before: Michael Jackson, Keith Allen, and Morrison himself are a few examples. Celebrities are expected to have decorum, even if they lack talent. Jordan refuses to make this compromise.

He’s not the hero, clearly. Anti-hero? Maybe. But most of all, he is that iconic music figure India has never been able to produce. There has been talent in the country, but the film industries have absorbed them and rendered them only as background artistes or as musical geniuses from the margins of high art.

Ustad Jameel Khan (Shammi Kapoor, magical performance truly!) is representative of that old school. Jordan is the new school. There is no discord between the two, because above all, they respect their art. There has never been a Jim Morrison, or Bob Dylan in India. Rockstar laments that fact. And it also celebrates it, had it been so.

Nargis Fakhri, Imtiaz Ali’s newest newbie, evokes mixed feelings. Her screen presence is brilliant. But it’s when she opens her mouth that you get an awkward feeling that casting could’ve been much better. However, she does manage to fit in the film as a whole — janglee jawani and “gandh machana”, truly innovative! She displays Heer’s vulnerable side well, but the subsequent scenes feel strangely out of place and leave one to wonder that the 2 hour 40 minute run time could’ve been managed better. But these are only the minor glitches in an otherwise cohesive movie.

The supporting cast is what gives the movie a whole new dimension; because Jordan would not have been the man he is had it not been for these people – from the canteen owner cum manager (Kumud Mishra, subtle yet powerful) to Dhingra (Piyush Mishra, thoroughly convincing!) the dodgy record label manager. Their performances complement Ranbir’s intensity, rage and introspection to the letter T — another evident example of a well-written script. The supporting cast at Fakhri’s end, however, appear as elite snobs, who think themselves, and possibly their theatre backgrounds, to be higher than Bollywood standards. A minor, 20 second let down, that’s all.

Technically, the movie aces the score board. Ali does justice to the stark, snow-covered yet beautiful Kashmir (I wonder if this is actually a reference to the Led Zeppelin number).

Prague was an unconventional choice (I mean, who gets married and settles in Czech Republic of all places), but it pays off nevertheless. And it also brings about a cultural intercourse of sorts, in terms of both the music as well as the aesthetics. Hawaa Hawaa and Aur Ho capture this fusion beautifully. Sadda Haq is an amazing number, and it does justice to this ‘philosophy’ I keep harping about. Jo Bhi Main is another beautifully rendered track. The montages across India add an element of credibility to the movie, supported by production design of the highest degree.

And last, but in no way the least, this brings us to the music. Perhaps, Imtiaz Ali’s decision to approach A R Rahman for the score of Rockstar is the best one in his career. Pritam would’ve, to put it mildly, screwed the movie.

I admit this is not Rahman’s finest composition; there have been better ones, Rang De Basanti and Delhi 6 being some of them. But Rockstar’s score and its script are knit closely and intimately; the music emanates from the movie. The track listing could’ve been better had Rahman taken the liberty to add more singers. But his choice to stick to Mohit Chauhan as Jordan’s voice makes the movie credible. And while doing so, Chauhan explores his versatility as an artiste, and Jordan’s intensity as a performer.

People might say that Rahman’s getting predictable. But his compositions are not standalones to be made into ringtones and caller tunes; they serve a purpose in the movie. Although the movie is loosely inspired by Jim Morrison, Jordan is his own man. And his music in his own. Here, I would like to make a special mention of the lyrics by Irshad Kamil; now this guy is no Javed Akhtar or Gulzar. But he understands the meaning of rock, the philosophy of it, in other words. Rock isn’t about head-banging music; it’s a revolution in the way of thought. And Rockstar does so, staying true to the rock tradition. It rebels against convention, against hypocrisy and one-dimensional thought. It’s creative, it’s introspective, and it’s poignant. Above all things, it’s meaningful.

Final verdict. Rockstar is not a flawless movie. Then again, which movie is? It has its flaws, and some of them are rather evident. It juxtaposes two ideas and philosophies, contrasts very different world views; it is rebellious, arrogant even. It is certainly not meant to appease anyone. If anything else, its purpose is to get you to think. It challenges our perceptions, dogmas, and ideas of morality, aesthetics, good-bad or whatever. It’s a ballad, not a story. It isn’t finite or watertight, or impeded by conventions. It is an intelligent movie, at the end of the day. And an insanely brilliant one, that too.

It’s not going to do well at the box office, critics will slam it, and so will a large part of the public — because they don’t make movies like Rockstar very often. And that’s precisely why you should give it a watch.

Written by Proshant Chakraborty.

What did you feel about this new Imtiaz Ali offering? Has Rockstar captured your minds and hearts? Or do you agree with our other reviewer who felt the film didn’t make the mark? Let us know in the comments.