Your very own free Akashvani. (Whether u like it or not!)
MY MUST DO Master List

Saturday, June 19, 2010

A disaster of epic proportions.

It's probably not fair to either - comparing movies helmed by two talented but orthogonally tilting directors. However, as I said before, this is not your weekly movie review. This is about adapting an epic to modern times.

Exhibit A: Raajneeti

Prakash Jha's storytelling is crisp, and fast (fast being the operative word.) He focuses on the story at large, dwells on character development, and in the end delivers hair raising performances from every character in the story. You can attribute this to either Jha's extraordinary ability to extract performances from his actors, or his uncanny ability to pick the most capable people to deliver powerhouse performances. Your pick. But in the end, there is not a moment of idle time in the theater, no yawns, no restless leg syndrome, no crying kids. Paisa wasool.

Exhibit B: Raavan

A talented director gone Ram Gopal Varma's (Ugh...I mean Aag) way. Too many changes after shooting has begun, caused such a loosely knitted fabric that the audience falls through it. Throughout the movie, you get the feeling that you are watching the scene, but not seeing the story. You are seeing the act, but not feeling the emotion. Even when you are on an impossible bridge (and the camera ensures that you get the best awe inspring view like no other) you can't feel your self at the edge of your seat. Probably because you aren't. You're actually slumped back ....yearning hopelessly for it to get better.

Endless screaming, and in your face loudness does not mean a thing if it does not connect with your audience. Mr and Mrs AB Jr to note. Much more emotion can be evoked from your audience in much subtle a manner as Mr AB Sr has often showed us. (When he was probably as old as Jr is right now. So, comparing apples to apples)

Here is an example. Raajneeti vs. Raavan. When Jha's Kunti (I forget her name, sorry) in the moment kisses Shah, did you feel the embarrassment he felt for a microsecond before his emotions sweep him away? I did. Aishwarya has a 'moment' of confusion - but it came and went like a cold cucumber. Felt nothing.

Here is another major difference. Perhaps, the most crucial one. Jha's movie has something for everyone - the intellectual discerning viewer, the urban-trying-to-connect-with-mythology viewer, the traditional movie goer, the less urban viewer, the unititated viewer, the critic and the complete dodo head. Throughout Raajneeti, your brain is trying to catch up (or race ahead...YMMV) and you eagerly absorb the subtleties Jha provides at many levels. For example, depending on your type you can "get it" from the get go right when Nana's character was introduced as "Brij Gopal" that he was the 'sutradhar Krishna' of the epic. Otherwise as the story moves along, again ymmv, it becomes obvious at some point sooner or later. Mani on the other hand, expects his audience to have zero intellect, and leaves nothing to guess work. For example, Govinda is introduced as Sanjeevani Kumar, and THEN he starts jumping around from branch to branch on trees for a whole 2 minutes until you get the point he's hanuman! How cheesy. And rude. Please give us more credit than that. Priyamani aka surpankha is actually held by the nose and dragged to get us to click --"oh, oh, surpankha!!" Wow. I didn't get it when she was introduced as Raavan's sister.

Songs. Jha decided that his story telling didn't need them, while Mani decided he needs one every 5 minutes in the first half...and some more in the second. While I won't criticize a 'design choice', I can certainly tell you that Mani's story telling suffered due to this choice. Graphic violence interspersed with the violence perpetrators breaking out into fluid moves with all and sundry in tow does not help the story line one bit. BUT it's Bollywood, and we accept that. So it's okay. But sometimes, depending on the genre, you can actually do away with it, for the better. We've seen quite a few good movies lately that have done that - and well.

Background scores were great in both, and certainly added to the experience. Mani's ending had a nice twist, and I appreciated that. Jha's was a bit too centered on the physical plane. I would have much preferred if he had kept the final Mahabharat yudh to the mental strategies plane and 'decommissioned' each player strategically rather than physically. But again, personal vision.

Between focusing on the camera angles and vivid cinematography and brand name actors, Mani lost focus of the single most important thing in his golden recipe - the story telling.

In end, I think the original recipes were great story material. One decided to use the right ingredients in just the right proportions and churned out a well baked, flavorful product in sync with modern times, and the other decided that the ingredients were more important than their measured proportions, the technique was more important than the recipe and churned out a passable creation that won't have many takers.

No left overs for me, please.


Oops. Sorry for the long torture post.


Post a Comment

<< Home