Friday, February 21, 2014

Highway: No way!

For a really long time in the movie, Veera and Bhaati, played by Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda, are clueless of what is happening to them and where they are heading. Ditto audience! You're caught in a journey of two characters -somewhat joined by destiny and mostly forced together by Bollywood sensibilities. Their contradicting backgrounds are an obvious Bollywood pretext. And so we learn that as different as they may appear, they are victims of a troubled past and somehow not so different in how lonely and insecure they both are in their respective presents. Not the first time we heard that, but exploring the idea of being trapped in your own house and feeling liberated as a kidnappee might be a first, a Bollywood first. Yet, in the end the movie is not a very wholesome experience. It is easily Imitiaz  Ali's most experimental work and most definitely his least impressive.

Over the past decade, Imitiaz Ali's work has been rife with endearing characters enabling a potent ensemble. Remember the man from hotel decent in JWM or the music producer from Rockstar or Love aaj kals fun ensemble; this time the storytelling focuses on (and relies on) two characters and ends up being just a series of monologues spread across moments of travel and silence.

Perhaps comparing Ali's work to his own is a bad start, as would be comparing Rahman's soundtrack to his previous work. But even without those comparisons the film is an anticlimax of sorts.

So a bride to be just sneaks out a day before her wedding to catch some fresh air and ends up being kidnapped by a not so motley bunch of goons. With an accent thicker than his mustache, we see an intimidating Hooda, nailing the character of Bhaati who is resolved to kidnap, for that's the only thing he does. Over a few days, Alia struggles to come to terms with being kidnapped, then feels secure with strangers to the effect of not eloping when she easily can; and finally true to Bollywood sentiments, decides to "spend some more time" with her uncharacteristic hero.

Perhaps the only master stroke in story telling is how imtiaz manages to keep the chemistry broadly platonic. The intimate cuddle is as suggestive as it is real and it makes you want to believe that there is something special there, without calling it physical attraction or even love. As the scenery changes from the lonely hinterlands of Rajasthan in the first half to the serene peaceful and romantic escapes of the second half, the characters have come to terms with their differences and just want to live for some more time, before a more obvious climax interrupts their cinematic journey. The strongest point  of the movie has to be the breathtaking cinematography - an awe inspiring montage for incredible India!

In terms of acting, the pick of the two is Randeep Hooda, who manages to gain your sympathy when he cries or makes you smile when he smiles, which is rare for the resolute self that he plays. Alia was offered a role of her life, but can't hide her inexperience in handling a very nuanced character. Interestingly, her best moments are when she has no dialogues and she has quite a few of them. Watch her cry against the truck window or giggle n choke undecidedly against a gushing stream of mountain water. She has promise and potential, but ends up over or under emoting when it matters. In a screenplay that thrives on monologues, she fails to take the dialogues head on.

Undoubtedly the movie has it's moments. But they are few and for between. For a really promising idea, the film is an Imitiaz Ali experiment gone awkwardly wrong.

2 stars

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Dhoom 3.. Magic + Aamir = Mediocre?

"I will watch this movie only because of Aamir khan", a friend of mine told me, as we merrily discussed the dhoom 3 weekend. I am sure thousands of Indians echoed that sentiment. With his choices and his devotion to every choice he makes, the audience, his fans and critics have learnt to expect a certain brand of perfection when it comes to Aamir khan! So you buy your ticket, pick your popcorn and wait. The ads, promos and previews end and the movie begins.

For the first 10 odd minutes of the movie, Aamir is set to impress you, without uttering a single word. First with action, and then his tap dance. Kudos to this guy, who at this accomplished stage of his career, still tries to impress you. It is this very quality that earns him respect and keeps him on the edge of negative criticism.

Dance, for example, was never aamir's strength and as hard as he tries, he doesn't manage to unlearn his native 90s swagger n stances. Tap dance, contemporary, hip hop. Why!?!?! That brings us to action - Aamir does a ghajini act again, (or the director picks a few tricks from that movie) and makes sure the focus is on the chiseled body. And then again, the dhoom franchise is that of chase sequences. Bikes, cars, motor boats, concept vehicles - Aamir doesn't get to "express" or "act" but it is the choreography (action) that is awe inspiring. 

True to its franchise, the movie takes a wafer thin plot (with a dramatic interval twist) and infuses a whole lot of style and super slo mo action moments, sprinkles in an item Number with an arm candy. In the end, the line between good and bad is as blurred as the films overall impression.

So there's a great Indian circus in Chicago (more like Chicagos got Indian talent) which is bankrupt and the bank simply does the right thing by asking it to shut down. But no, it's not such a simple thing. Think of how many lives this will affect- TWO!! (Okay, three, wink wink). It's a dramatic Bollywood moment, and the circus owner/lead magician is also an emotional dad who can't take the moment and shoots himself in the head. His 7-8 year old son who witnesses this is convinced that the bank is the culprit here and vows to put an end to the bank! He is all set to avenge this all by himself (or is he?).

The boy grows into a 6-pack strutting dude, who is all set to reopen the circus, cast the hottest desi gal in town and fulfill his dad's dream (what was the dream btw). In his free time, he's building concept bikes that'll aide him loot different branches of the same bank. Why Abhishek and Uday land in the USA to solve this case, is as much mystery to me as to why Katrina signed this film. May be answer to both those questions is: What else to do!

Unlike it's previous outings, a few things just don't work this time. Music, is the biggest let down. None of the numbers, NONE of them rock. The choreography of the magic number is good but nothing you haven't seen better versions of in reality shows.

The Abhishek-Uday comedy track is too overdone and simply blah. At some point it feels like even the two actors are bored of this part and are on the "fake it till you make it" mode. It's not funny, to say the least.

There's no chemistry whatsoever in the lead pair (dhoom 2 worked on another level, simply because of the lead pair's chemistry, remember). Forget chemistry, the one tender moment of the film also seems so forced and awkward. Something's awe fully wrong with the casting here. They don't work well together.

Everyone knew this was a hero's movie, Aamir's movie, from start to end. Aamir is given enough to play with and goes about like a child in a toy store. Obviously great. But, is this his best performance? Not even close. Is this even the years best performance by a lead actor? Not even close.

Well.. critical acclaim hardly matters to commercial viability. And so, In an industry where chennai express  and krish 3 will go down as the years most successful films, this film surely "deserves" to be a superhit for it's surely better than those films.

In the end though, this is a forgettable 1-time watch. Everyone enjoys the occasional adrenelin rush, but even hiccups can last longer than the memories of this film.


2.5 stars

Monday, September 2, 2013

The price one pays to become Steve Jobs?

My brother gifted me a 2nd generation video iPod back in 2006. That was my first brush with an Apple product. That was such a turning point. “You’ve tasted blood”, mocked a friend of mine, “and this is a point of no return.”

He was so right. 7 years and 3 more apple products later, I find myself using these products as if they were a “natural extension of myself” – much like what Jobs envisioned his products to be. So much so, that without knowing anything about Steve Jobs, I was a fan of the person behind the product. I was in awe of a man whose attention to detail and quest for perfection, changed the way the world functioned.

He pushed the enveloped, created products that create a new market, new secondary matter of applications accessories – millions of dollars, countless jobs! And as much as I believed that it was never a one-man-army, it was somehow believable that Jobs was the fountainhead of that vision.

When Steve Jobs passed away in 2011, I was engulfed in a sense of remorse – as if someone close to me had died. As if someone who cared about me was no more. Ironically, I hardly even knew the person. Apart from his dramatic product-launch presentations and press clippings, I hadn’t read and heard a word about this man. 


So when I went in to watch “Jobs”- the movie, I went in hoping to see a person full of insight, full of passion and someone so content with creating concepts and products which revolutionized the worlds. Purely on the basis of what I saw in the movie, I came back far too uninspired by Steve Jobs as a person.

He cared too much about his product to care about the people involved in its making. He sought a certain perfection that only he could envision. Not that he didn’t compliment his friends, not that he wasn’t enough appreciative, but his imagination continuously overpowered the projected outcome. “What is the next paradigm shift” seemed to always over power “what about the people in my life”?

Right from abandoning his girlfriend when she announced her pregnancy, to sacking his relatively inefficient friend, to letting go of the one man who stood with him for his vision in the initial years, Jobs simply didn’t care. Was it a failure in trusting people? Did he assume that such worldly ties, would stop his meteoric rise? Or was he simply all about the product?

Clearly, he wasn’t about the profit. While he always knew how to price his products and command a premium, it was in fact his attention to details and perseverant strides to achieve a better user experience, even if it was a cost that lead him to some of his failures – the first macintosh, for example. He wasn’t shy of admitting he was going for costlier options, but his reason (as unpopular as they would sound) were solid and were for the customer’s benefit.

He was simply following a vision for perfection – much like following the rainbow in the hope of finding a pot of gold. Did he really find it? Did becoming the “Worlds most valuable company” fulfill his dream? I wonder…

Even if it did, my question is, what is the price one pays to become a Steve Jobs? To lose friends, to not be connected with family, to be mocked at for his apparent arrogance – are those the qualities that I am willing to live to with to be at the helm of a respected company?

I don’t know the answer and I suddenly find myself questioning if I respect the product as much anymore. If I knew so much of Steve Jobs, would I have cared to shed a tear at his death? And then why only Steve Jobs, what about all the celebrities whose work is the only connection we have to their personality. Is Meryl Streep really the Devil who wears Prada? Is Amitabh Bachhan really a super citizen thanks to his social messages delivered in a credible tone or just a super star? Rajni really (K)cant do everything.

While their work is exemplary and inspiring, the people behind it might be just an imperfect as their audience. A bit like a bubble that burst, Jobs is a movie that reminded me that only a product can be perfect – people are invariably full of imperfections.

And Apple, is after all flawlessly executed vision of a man, who had his own tragic flaws.   


Rest in Peace, Steve Jobs. 

Friday, July 12, 2013

The unending run of Farhan Akhtar.. Bhaag Milkha Bhaag is one long movie!

Now, Mr. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra… I understand this is “inspired” by a true story.. I also agree that Milkha’s story is truly inspiring, so why did I come out of the theater 3+ hours later feeling not really inspired?

The movie begins with a tragedy.. We are told that Milkha Singh who was the favorite to win the 400m mens event at the Rome Olympics in 1960, unfortunately looked behind and gave away his lead in the final.. losing the bronze in a photo-finish  As he turns, we are shown blurry ghosts of his past.. This isn’t the first time he has heard the titular cry “Bhaag Milkha Bhaag”.

His first tragedy was the trauma surrounding partition. He grew up to be robber of sorts, fell for a girl who wouldn't marry a goon. He joined army to “become someone”. Harsh training, bullying and 2 fantastic coaches later, he has the coveted “India” blazer. So when he goes to seek marital alliance of the girl he oh-so-loved, he’s told she’s already married. Another tragedy.

He finds himself awestruck, lovestruck/lust-struck with a gori, in his first Olympic appearance. However much he slaps himself staring at the mirror, he is not to forgive or forget this tragedy. That triggers a dedicated effort to break the 400m world record and the stage is set for Olympics 1960.

We are somehow narrated, that the baggage of the past lead to the catastrophic loss that lead to public outrage and self denial – both an inseparable reality for Milkha Singh. First thing first: As someone who gets tired of running from my building to the main gate (my 400 meter run once a week may be, when I am late to meet a colleague) – I feel dwarfed by Milkha Singh. As someone who went to gym 2 times and felt it was too taxing, I feel dwarfed by Farhan Akhtar, who has literally chiseled himself with a sculpting knife to look this fit for this role.

So let me just stop and not get dwarfed by the personalities, and just talk about my experience with the movie as a movie.

So there are moments, there is great music (the kind that makes me wonder why we don’t hear more of the talented Shankar Ehsaan Loy trio), there is a little bit of everything and yet the whole is not greater than the sum of its parts.

If anything, the screenplay is over-thought and the movie over-directed (if you know what I mean). While the premise was great, the story was simple and neat, the presentation simply overpowers the message, which was essentially a heartfelt, individual struggle. The director (and writer) is too busy making it a non-linear film that has associative links to the three timelines of the movie, that none of the three timelines really create an impact. The director’s re-use of sepia tone for the past and speed blurs is so Rang-de-basanti-isque that I was partly wishing I was watching that movie, instead.

Of the three, the timeline of Milkha’s childhood creates the most impactf. Personal lives affected by partition are portrayed with raw fervor and the images of violence are stirring and scary. There is nothing very unique about his young adulthood – for cinema, at least. The boy meets girl sequences, the chori sequence and some random tomfoolery – all simply giving us another facet of the Milkha Singh personality, but doing nothing really to the movie itself. I honestly feel, that this timeline could’ve been chopped off to a large extent to make the film somewhat smaller.

But then it is a biopic. Or is it? For the director puts in enough commercial masala (save for an item number THANK GOD) to convince us this is just another bollywood film. And I think that is where the film falters – in trying to make up its mind on being entertaining, accurate and yet slick and punchy, the subtle emotions of Milkha are lost.

Farhan Akhtar submits himself to physically transforming himself into Milkha Singh. He looks every bit an athlete and perhaps outdoes the fitness levels of a professional athlete, and gets a runners body-language pitch perfect, even tries a Punjabi accent, but still somehow remains a Farhan Akhtar and doesn't become a Milkha Singh– his emotional moments, comic timings and dialogue deliovery are distinctively Farhan Akhtar, and not of the character he embodies. So as much as I am proud of what he has done to look and be the part, I am conscious I never forgot it was him. Which is not uncommon in bollywood, I have learnt. Like a Shahrukh is a Shahruk and a Salman is a Salman in every film. But I honestly don’t think the makers and the actor (who both represent a promising body of work) set those to be their benchmark.

Pawan Singh as the army coach and Prakash Raj as the accented trainer are the only supporting cast that leave a mark. Oh, and Divya Dutta hams (like it was a 50’s movie and not a movie set in the 50’s) and Sonam Kapoor I am told took 11 rupees for the movie (that girl is so overpaid!).

Everything said and done, this is NOT a BADmovie. It is long, it is entertaining in parts and has inspiring moments. If you are a Farhan Akhtar fan, you MUST watch it. If you are into biopics, you MAY like it, if you go in expecting some Rang de Basanti class of entertainment, just rent the RDB DVD, this one will do nothing to you.

2.5 Stars. If it wasn’t for Farhan’s hardwork and the stellar soundtrack, there wouldn’t be much to write home about. 



Saturday, June 22, 2013

Raanjhana, hua mai tera!

There were at least two moments in the movie where I had goosebumps. Without giving away any spoiler, the commonality in those two moments was the combination of a terrific performance heralded to another level by a soundtrack that speaks for the film. Needless to say, a lot of  credit goes to the makers - the director and the writers for creating such moment(s). 

Raanjhana is pushed from good to great because of the acting, writing and music. In what is a complete relief, the characters don't fall prey to Bollywood climax identity crisis which I held as a tragic weakness of yeh jawani..

Here are it's merits in random order: 

The performance of the protagonist- Dhanush, after Ranveer Singh, is a great example that Bollywood does once in a while, look beyond looks and give rank outsiders so much as a "chance". To dhanush's favor is his body of work, kolaveri fame (and of course the rajnikant connection). But unlike Ranveer, Dhanush can boast of no six pack. No dimples. No color. In an industry that has broken looks into measured checklist of abs, dimples, height and weight, it is shocking that someone like Dhanush even got a break. So what does Dhanush have? Simple - Talent. 

He brings to Bollywood what is the essence of successful commercial Tamil cinema - a heroic performance. He embraces the character so well that Kundan makes you laugh, smile, gasp in shock, stunned in disbelief with effortless ease. He exceeds superlative in playing the simpleton who is playful, sometimes stupid, but always, unashamedly, in love. 

He emotes so well that even ordinary dialogues would've been enough for him to nail his expressions.  But Dhanush is handed a script so taut and dialogues so apt that the concoction hits you like a tequila shot. Or a banarasi paan, eh? 

And those witty lines come handy for the able supporting cast. First with tanu weds manu n now raanjhana, the director impresses in creating an ensemble cast that win your heart with their honesty and perspective.  Swara Bhaskar, in particular, deserves a pat on her back to bringing bindiya to life on screen. She is a sweetheart and your heart will go out for her flirting, seduction and yearning alike. 

The writing is a winner. The second half is arguably over-written and seems to unnecessarily elaborate the many sub plots, but as it turns out, it is those details that makes the climax kind-of believable. Albeit, the connections in the plot rely on the  (in)famous Bollywood creative liberty - read "don't ask too many whys". 

In general, the movie is fast paced and the predictable twists and turns in the first half make way for some surprising action in the second half. The end in particular has expert writing finesse that steers the movie clear of an otherwise ordinary end. It helps that the director brought to table an editor and cinematographer who make the screenplay look crisp n beautiful. 

The music - Rahman at his best. Here's an artist with a fresh canvas, colors and imagination who has set off on a colorful journey. Rahman fills every corner of the celluloid canvas with Rich detail. He weaves magic with the tracks, the bgm and even moments of silence. In perhaps a first for bollywood, the movie ends with "music by a r Rahman" instead of "directed by Rai" - respect well deserved. With aise na dekho, he sparks the old debate whether he keeps the best song of the film for his voice or it becomes the best song since he gave it his voice. 

If I must find another flaw in the film, it is the in the leading lady. Even if sonam delivers the performance of her life so far, she doesn't do enough justice to layered character of zoya. Amid sparks of brilliance, she is mostly average and sometimes simply off mark. Chin up gal, it didn't help that you were paired opposite a star who is just too natural. sympathies there. 

So while the first half is predictable, and the second half is a slight information overdose, it still works, because here is a director who knew what he was working with and placed enough punches, enough music, enough Dhanush, to make it a fun watch. 

I will give 4 stars. It's not to miss and well worth your movie ticket n pop corn. 


Monday, June 3, 2013

Why Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani is just good not great!..

You may identify with this: the cricket team you supported needed 36 runs to win in the last over. A very capable batsman was on strike. The first 5 balls went for sixes and on the last ball he hits a desperate shot and loses the wicket. There is not as much disappointment as there is sheer sympathy that a team tried so hard, was so close to victory, and yet somehow just missed the mark! You will remember it as a great match which they sadly didn't manage to win.

Well that's how I feel after watching Yeh Jawani Hai Deewani. A film that is almost flawless and yet missing there is something missing and it falls short of being a great modern love story.. 

No. There is nothing unacceptable about a predictable end. Rarely does a love story end in a tragedy - at least in mainstream Bollywood. Be it DDLJ, Jab We Met or the more recent Cocktail, were we really surprised the movies ended the way they did?  It was always the process that made it a good watch. Ditto yeh jawani..

What works! J

Refreshing plot - the conflicts in this film are drama-free and yet enough dramatic. There's no babuji or caste divide that keeps the couple. It's just them. Their mutual respect of each others lifestyle and an understanding that sometimes despite the irresistible sparks that fly, it is better to not start something that may never have a future. 

For me the winning moment in the film was when the characters confess they love each other but simply agree its not going to work out. (what a movie it would have been, if they ended the movie there). 

More than harping on love or lust, the movie harps on connections, crushes and camaraderie. My personal favorite is the edgy friendship between the two male leads - who resist confrontations for they both know they're not perfect. Or right. 
  
Music song n dance  - First ABCD, then aashiqui 2 and not this. If we needed any proof that well used song and dance are at the root of a blockbuster in Bollywood, 2013 has doled out three glaring examples. And with a lead pair like this one, which can top perfect beats with crackling chemistry, all you need it some foot tapping music. The music rocks and the dances are well choreographed n performed. 

Cameos- Without going away from the previous comment, it needn't be said that the original dancing diva of Bollywood simply stuns in her item number. Madhuri Dixit doesn't get the best track of the album to dance on, but when did she need more than a smile to disarm the audience? She lifts the song (and the movie) by her sheer presence. 

There are other cameos too that lift the movie. Farooq Sheikh as a father desparate to understand (and be understood by)  his son or a Kunal Roy kapoor in his signature buffoon template, work like magic on celluloid. 

Performances - Superlative. Each one of them. Ranbir Kapoor is effortless. Aditya Roy Kapur and Kalki are top class. But to me the revelation is Deepika Padukone who handles the tricky scenes in climax with depth that I frankly didn't expect of her. She is now clearly a more complete leading actor who delivers beyond glamour and charisma to celluloid. This is her best work so far! That reminds me, that Ranbir needs to find something more challenging to surprise us. After Rocket Singh, Rockstar and Barfi, this is too easy a role for him to essay and not very different from what we have already seen of him in Wake Up Sid or Bachna Ae Haseeno! Doesn't mean he isn't good, but so what? 

What doesn't work L (Spoiler alert)
The need to create moments - Somehow (and I wonder if it is an inheritance from the Karan Johar banner/brand of film making) the film maker seems too involved in creating "cinematic" moments. Some work. Some seem forcibly interjected. 
The train boarding scene for example: So when Shah Rukh Khan held out a hand to a very late Kajol in DDLJ it evoked cheers, but here our lady Padukone is well in time on the station. Theres enough time for banter, to introduce herself to the hero, to the other characters and yet she must "have a moment" and board a running train while Ranbir hold out his hand. Duh babe! She's a doctor trying to act blonde. 

There are other such attempts that dont seem to connect well enough and range between silly and pointless. 

Easy escapes - As much as I loved that the conflicts in the movie were intrinsic to the characters, it's almost a damp squib that their resolution is more convenient than convincing. The lopsided narrative only cares for us to see Ranbirs perspective, while the film actually starts with Deepika’s point-of-view? 

Surprising how someone as hot as Deepika remained (uncomplicatedly) single in those 8 years of separation.  Especially after she had those moments of discovering her own fun side, of love, life and longing. She's just conveniently available. The director teases you with another cameo, but quickly shoves it under the carpet at the risk of “complicating” the story towards the end.

There is no baggage or barometer of her life - except that she and Ranbir have different points of view. That's it - otherwise we know nothing of her new self, 8 years later. On the one hand, she comes across happily single and on the other she jumps at Ranbir’s offer to marry.

And so we are expected to understand that "suddenly" ranbir, who doesn't give (more than) a f*** , has fallen for Deepika. That he's possessive of her. And that she'll take it when he'll say he's changed. Too easy, eh? 

***
Perhaps a more credible end would've made this movie a great movie. Brings me back to my favourite question pertinent of today's Bollywood - how much is too much? How much reality reduces the commercial viability of the movie? Why must near flawless characterizations must fall pray to twists in the plot trying to please everybody. 

Like missing the winning six on the last ball of the innings, the film falls just short of being great. I laud the effort but feel sorry for the team that tried really hard and fell short of being brilliant. Kudos. 

But battameez dil needed a little more. 


Monday, May 13, 2013

Dibakar Banerjee is the “Star” of Bombay Talkies.



I don’t understand why “Bombay Talkies” is hailed as a celebration of 100 years of Indian cinema when it strictly has short stories by Bollywood directors. How great it would have been to see regional short films with subtitles and truly celebrate the diversity that exists even within Indian Cinema? Perhaps the producers didn’t want to completely risk the film’s commercial potential – an innately “bollywood” trait. Sigh.

Having said that, the films do not pay “tribute” to 100 years of Bollywood either, but present the new face of bollywood with a subtle reference to cinema (or its influence) in each story. Take this - Karan Johar’s direction come “out of the closet” – Now that's a first for bollywood and a A-list director.

For me Johar’s “Ajeeb Daastan..” and Zoya Akhtar’s “Sheila ki Jawani” are equal as the third best films of the lot; lead closely by Anurag Kashyap’s “Murabba”. While each of these films achieve a standard above the Bollywood  median, it is Dibakar Banerjee’s “Star” that is by far the best film of the lot for me, by a HUGE margin. (I do not remember the last time when 20 minutes of cinema has worked for me at so many levels!)

***

Have you read Satyajit Ray’s Short story “Patol Babu”? It is the short story that Dibaker Banerjee has adapted into the ~20 minute short film in Bombay Talkies, titled “Star”.

Dibakar takes the essence of the short story and reinvents it with riveting details. Patol Babu becomes Purandar. It takes you a long time to realize he has been an unsuccessful actor – something that Ray’s short story starts with. Dibakar instead, lets the audience watch his struggle. We see an insomniac man reminded by his alarms that he longer needs to pretend that he is peacefully asleep. Life must now resume.

We meet Anjali, the emu, we meet his neighbours who cant mock enough at his failures. We see his sick daughter who isn’t amused with his stories anymore. We also see him reach a tad bit late and lose a job as a watchman – (which he graciously (?) lets go).

Dibaker does not let us sympathise with the character but simply shows us a slice of his life. So when he is picked from the crowd to play an extra-role at a crowded movie location, or when he hopefully unfolds the paper to read his dialogue, the audience is simply laughing at the simpleton. Amused at what fate offered him today, just another day.

But it isn’t just another day. This isn’t just another nameless cameo in a film. Certainly not a meaningless one – for there is nothing meaningless in theatre, in films or in life.

Purandar almost gives up on the role that only requires him to say “Ae!” on colliding absent mindedly with the lead actor, he walks away when a voice stops him and asks him, “Not enough, this dialogue for you, eh?”

It is only after we see him in dialogue with a ghost (from his past), we learn that Purandar is a failed actor, who failed to struggle, who waited for something bigger to come by. When his tragic flaw is exposed, the audience is torn between the melancholy of his failures and the opportunity and hope of the present. Will he be the underdog? Will he find himself? (Not to forget that in his brief role as the ghost from the past, we rediscover Sadashiv Amrapurkar, who finds himself in the most dignified 5 minutes on celluloid of his career – a great actor, who never got his due amid all the villains he played.) But the film belongs to Nawazudin’s Purandar.

The audience is left to see what transpires of Purandar. New found hope, improvisations, make-up – he is suddenly a “performer”. While the renowned actor needs a few takes for the perfect shot, Purandar is a single-shot wonder. It’s a take!

But what happens to him after the shot? Poor he may be, but he doesn’t wait for his payment, for he has found something far more precious.

Could the drums beat any faster on his way back home? Could he fly home? He is in a trance, enthused, possessed by the idea of appreciation - a rediscovery. Like someone with a fading memory suddenly remembered something special. Like you found something that you had lost hope of finding.

The last few minutes of the film are filled with silence and expressions – a simple flute plays and lets you watch the performance after the performance. Infectious spirit of Purandar lights up the room, brings smiles. Purandar’s accomplished theatrics cajoles his daughter into a peaceful slumber. Not much has changed in his life – but tonight Purandar will sleep in peace.

***

In it’s structure, treatment, content and execution – the director leaves no doubt that he is on top of his game. If god lies in the details, this film is a temple – in cinematography, art, costume, dialogue –this is a heartfelt effort – worthy of every superlative. Do not miss the emu in the background of the ghost sequence, the patchy make-up of the ghost, and so on..

I am moved, inspired and in awe of Dibaker Banerjee’s Star – way above the other three films in Bombay Talkies and a great piece to celebrate 100 years of cinema – aptly bringing back some Satyajit Ray touch back to the cinema – via Bollywood!