How to Survive “Happy New Year”

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The thing about a Farah Khan movie is that it unapologetically and unabashedly carries high the flag of the cinema of nonsense. The sole raison d’être for her movies, and those of her brother Sajid Khan is to entertain – and that too the masses, not the discerning viewer who values his sensibilities more than a trip to la-la land. It’s perhaps no wonder then that her movies do well, playing to the galleries as they do.

179 minutes of a Farah Khan movie is well beyond my tolerance level especially when despite huge openings, it has been thrashed to bits unanimously by all reviews. But when your 9year old implores you to take him to this nonsense fest, you succumb. So it was that I landed in the theatre, armed with all resources at my disposal to survive the 3 hour ordeal – two smart phones (just in case one battery drained and left me high and dry as smart phones often do), a strip of disprins and an unlimited supply of coffees and popcorn. That the show started half an hour late, didn’t exactly help matters. Yet, surprisingly, I survived and here’s I’ll tell you how.

The trick is to go with abysmally low expectations and arm yourself with all the resources at your disposal- smart phones, food, and medicine. If you are the sadistic kind who finds being miserable alone beyond tolerance, carry your friends. Misery, you see, loves miserable company. If not friends, at least drag your spouse along- this has to be “THE” acid test of his/her devotion to you- if your marriage can survive this, believe me you’ll survive a lot. And finally, contrary to what you may have thought all along, the focus of your attention cannot be the movie. If you err here, you are doomed my friend. Focus on your child cackling away happily at all the inanities; on the crowd whistling at SRK’s abs ( how the hell does SRK do that at his age?); on the AC that is too cold or too hot- in short, on anything other than what is happening in front of you on the screen.

So it was that I survived “Happy New Year”. When asked how the movie was, I happily chirped “not too bad”. Only when more probing questions came- either from the spouse whom I had spared the ordeal (can’t put my marriage through such “agni pareekshas”) or the excited child- “Wasn’t that guy/scene just so funny mom?” I realised that I really had no clue as to what had transpired in those fateful 179 minutes. I remember that here was a plethora of everything – revenge, heist, love, melodrama, slapstick comedy,  music ( or noise perhaps), dance, patriotism, digs at everyone and  everything etc etc- everything except one essential element- a coherent, gripping narrative. The actors do manage to somehow pull it off though but not without making you wonder if this is what Wordsworth had in mind when he talked of “willing suspension of disbelief”. Except that here it requires more than a suspension of disbelief- it asks for a suspension of all rational, logical faculties of the mind. And no, there is absolutely no method to this madness or any way to get around it and you better not look for one. Then and only then, my dear, can you come out dancing the way I did- to the tune of “I’m feeling alright, ‘cos it’s a nonsense ki night”.

Fanny Re!

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There is something about “Finding Fanny” that reminded me of “Waiting for Godot”. Highly improbable comparisons one would think. Perhaps it’s the doing word in the 2 titles- “finding” and “waiting”- that is the resemblance. However as I saw the movie, I gradually realised that it is not just a word in the two titles but the very idea of hope, giving a purpose to one’s otherwise futile existence, that is at centre of the two. Of course while the Existentialists would say that hope is philosophical suicide, Finding Fanny says just about the opposite- hope, even in the face of adversity, is what makes life worth it. Life is not always good or fair, things are seldom the way they seem and hardly ever work out the way you want them to and we all live a life of pretences at one level or another. Yet, the bitter- sweet mixture that life is, it is worth living and the elusive bird called love is worth seeking- knocking even when there are no doors.

With an impressive cast of veterans like Naseerudin Shah ( Ferdie), Pankaj Kapoor ( Don Pedro), ex hottie Dimple Kapadia ( Rosie) and current best sellers like Deepika Padukone ( Angie) and Arjun Kapoor (Savio), we get a good comedy, with shades of grey, after a long time. The movie picturesquely captures the queer Goan village where they reside and as the motley crowd goes on a wild goose chase to look for Fanny, we get a glimpse of life, as we know it. With its impeccable comic timing, crisp dialogues and sudden bathetic plunges it brings us face to face with life, albeit through a humorous lens. Ferdie and Don Pedro, as expected are flawless in their characters. I never had a great opinion about the sexy Bobby’s acting prowess but she fares better here as an actor than she did in her sexy hey days. Her derrière is the source of much amusement and inspiration to Don Pedro but one does wonder what happened to the sexy booty of Bobby! Both Deepika and Arjun Kapoor perform effortlessly and breeze through the film. It’s quite a pleasure watching them being able to hold their own in front of likes of Naseerudin Shah and Pankaj Kapoor.

Finding Fanny is clearly not a movie that is meant for the masses. The audience that makes likes of Masti a hit, isn’t going to be able to appreciate the finer nuances of a work such as this- no bawdy humour in the gross sense, no double meaning dialogues, no uncalled for booty show. Yes one does shake ones bootiya on the floor but that is to the music of life. A must watch for the discerning viewer.

Shakespeare and Ram Leela

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What would Shakespeare have to say about this modern day saga of eternal love (and lust) set in some obscure village of Gujarat? That a rose by any other name is still as sweet? Ummm…..probably not. The thing is that there was Shakespeare and there was his Romeo and Juliet. Then there is Sanjay Leela Bhansali and his rendition of the great bard’s tale of love – “Ram-Leela” (aka. “Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram Leela”- bit of a tongue twister that one). For “Ram-Leela”, as Anupama Chopra rightly points out, is Shakespeare on steroids. This, in fact, is not  the first (or last) of Bollywood’s take on Romeo and Juliet. There was “Qayamat se Qayamat Tak”, a tale of true innocent love in an atmosphere of hatred; Ishaqzade, much closer to Ram-Leela in its exchange of bullets than QSQT but with it’s own take on “Romeo and Juliet” nevertheless. “Ram –Leela”, to think of it, could actually be seen as a “Ishaqzade” on a much grander, refined scale. But still not a patch on Romeo and Juliet.

So while we had Juliet waxing poetry and eloquence- “O Romeo, Romeo! wherefore art thou Romeo?” – and Romeo replying in the same vein – “Call me but love, and I’ll be new baptized;Henceforth I never will be Romeo.”; there is Leela , Juliet,with her-“ Jigar par mat jaa trigger daba dungi” and  a voyeuristic Ram, Romeo, with – “Green hai angoor, kele ka rang peela hai, Kehdo saari duniya se, Ram ki Leela hai” . Petty dialogue however is not this movie’s weakest point. Yes dialogues could be more taut, even though colloquial, but given the milieu the characters belong to, one can let it pass. The problem with the movie, as with many Sanjay Leela Bhansali movies, Guzaarish for one, is that the canvas is grand and picturesque but in totality fails to work. The lead pair, despite Ranvir’s over chiselled body, sizzle with their unapologetic display of love and lust. They bring Ram and Leela alive- their lust, their passion, their love in the face of inevitable doom- all are there for you to see, believe and fall in love with.

The Sanadas and Rajadis, like the Capulets and Montagues, are a hatred driven clan, destined to cross each other’s path in the most unfortunate of circumstances. Whatever, if any, chance there maybe of a seize fire is rendered futile by gods themselves as it were. So we have a pair of love struck forlorn lovers, inexplicably drawn towards one another. A part of the attraction is perhaps the “forbidden fruit” syndrome as both are aware of the other’s identity. Their love reeks more of lust than innocence and misunderstanding and recriminations fly galore. Yet the passion survives through all the bloodshed only to meet a tragic end on the balcony made famous by Romeo and Juliet amidst a macabre dance of death on Dussehra.

ramleela-wallpapers-7_20130928_1206659691 There are grand sets, grander costumes against a riot of colours unlike the blackness of Black and the blueness of Sanwariya.   Yet for some reason the movie tires you out. Mostly people have liked the 1st half of the movie but for me it was in the 2nd half that the characters came into their own. Either way, the whole just doesn’t click. It’s quite like a beautiful painting or postcards that one sends of a picturesque location. Only that they don’t string well together and the movie turns out to be a collage of postcards from nowhere.

Worth a watch? Honestly, I don’t know. It’s definitely not everyone’s cup of tea and can really test your patience. Yet there is a grandeur to it- the music, the dance sequences, the play of light and colour- that are a treat in their own right. Watch it depending on your sensibilities rather than reviews.