Monday, July 02, 2012

Nine reasons why I liked Gangs of Wasseypur

(And why i am waiting for part 2)
!!!Spoiler alert!!!!

1. Transition of cultural icons (1941-1985) - Whether it was obvious references to Amitabh Bachchan, be it Fazlu's comment on Zanzeer v Deewar or women blowing kisses in cinemas, Sardar Khan announcing his threat to Ramaadheer Singh to the tune of Mithun's iconic Kasam Paida Karne Waale ki or opening scene circa 2004 showing perhaps the most overated saas bahu serial of our time. However clincher was hero worship of a docoit - "Sultana daaku" in pre independence days in village chaupals a la modern day Robin Hood.

2. Transition of music - Ik Bagal sung by Piyush Mishra is quite reminiscent of the numerous Mukesh songs in 50s. On the other Manmauji is sung in naughty 60s style. 80s are signed off by more electronic “Jiya ho” by ethereal Manoj Tiwary. In addition to these are folksy “Womaniya” and street number in “Aey Jawano’ which transcend eras but Sneha Khanwalkar (who apparently is 4th woman music composer in hindi film industry) has made sure that her music score mirrors the changing times of story weaved around 4 decades.

3. Myth of a monolithic muslim society in India – movie clearly shows fissures not only along Shia Sunni but also a class/ethnicity based divide of Qureshis v Pathans.

4. Pre and Post Independent India – Hardly anything changed for the worker class, be it wages or working conditions, which is a complete contrast to urban middle and upper classes that saw their much wider changes (and opportunities) in their lives.

5. References to sex in living room – as opposed to hindi movies treat this subject either in form of hyper-gyrations of item numbers or almost stupefying shot of two flowers converging as a visual metaphor for coitus. When Nagma gets pregnant, she finally gives in to her husband’s urges and give a reluctant permission to ‘shop’ around. Nice refresher to some of the ignorant people in our midst who have no empathy for either truck drivers (and their wives back in villages).

6. One Bihari culture – A Muslim (Badru Qureshi) gets his daughter’s wedding invite printed in Hindi, replete with a “sher” in devanagri script. Though muslims are shown to be living in ghetto like colonies, convergence of language, culture, clothes (most muslim women are shown in saree) is quite interesting

7. Its all about the economy stupid – Although overarching theme is about hatred and revenge, characters are not chasing each other in Sunny Deol style. As is shown by Sardar Khan’s transformation from being a crude goonda to a strongman who usurps a natural resource (water reservoir in the area) and creates a hegemony by supplying fish to a population whose demographics are changing (from Bihari to fish eating Bengalis).

8. Subtle references to inflation from bounty of 11 rupees in 1941 for a dacoit to “meher” of 1 lakh rupees in 70s.

9. And Last but not least – Hunter. Chutney music is such a refreshing change from overdose of Punjabi funk sounds of the day. With luck, we may see more Bihari musicians from Carib islands, Fiji and even Suriname (Dutch Bihari anyone?)

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Paan Singh Tomar
Let stories be told, I told missus sometime back. Stories of men and women, of their tenacity, struggle, misery and above all their triumph. Especially, heroes among common men and women in post-independence India. Stories in public knowledge are so shallow when it comes to number of such people that have been brought into public light, although all of us have had an opportunity to know a distant relative, an accomplice, a common friend who we may have idolize or atleast be envious in terms of grit and ability to swim against the tide of life’s tragedies.
This is perhaps the reason why I have chosen to write a post on my scantly updated blog on Paan Singh Tomar. This film was chosen despite the fact that I have seen “The Artist” and “Dirty Picture” prior to my visit to Fun Cinemas yesterday, and had not bothered write an ode to either. Despite the cinematic brilliance of “The Artist” and singularly exquisite piece of performance (note, not acting) on part of Sridevi incarnate - Vidya Balan in whose form a female superstar has thus reborn. Coming back to PST, it is neither the performance not the technical excellence that is forcing me to write my less than qualified post. There are three main reasons as to why one should watch this movie:
Firstly it is a bold subject. It’s a story that filmmakers avoid talking or making movies about. It is difficult in execution and it takes lot of research and very calculated imagination to fill the gaps. Stories of sportsmen who fell on bad times are aplenty but rather than talk about an Olympic medallist who died penniless (KD Jadhav), the filmmakers of PST chose to talk about a “rebel” who took up arms instead. This is not to say that justification of such an act is in order, but an action to reverse the flow of circumstances which seem to suck the life out of any middle aged, over the hill sportsman with no means is very much a natural phenomenon. Focus is thus less on his misery, but more on vectors that align and conspire together to force the transformation of an athlete into a dacoit.
Secondly the topography of the terrain. I simply love the fact the ravines of Chambal and thereabouts are still intact to tell a tale of their own. They remain true to their mysterious and violent past. It is vastly superior to Omkara (Western UP) and almost upstages Bandit Queen. Watch out of navigable rivulets and rickety boats taking men, women and children across.
Thirdly is the language. That dialect which cuts through urban hinglish that we use today like a knife through the butter. Earthiness of the words spoken, often by very talented actors like Irfan, Zakir Hussain, Mahi Gill and Bijendra Kala stands out in the movie.
Enough said, watch it before they snuff the picture out of theatres. Strain your ears though, dialect may be a little too caustic for some of us.