Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Abbas Mustan: Bollywood's Hitchcock

Alfred Hitchcock was initially considered to be a lesser director – a maker of thrillers and potboilers with only murder, espionage and suchlike. Upliftment of humanity and universal brotherhood were not his scene. He never got an Oscar as director. (Rebecca won Best Film.)
It was only when the maverick critics of Cahiers Du Cinema – part of the French New Wave – started to lionize him as one of the auteurs for his distinctive style that Hollywood started to take notice. The French critics – especially Francois Truffaut, who conducted a book-length interview with him – felt that Hitchcock’s mastery of the medium was complete and his signature style was more clearly visible than any of the other Hollywood directors.
Despite Hitchcock’s elevation as one of the greats, the suspense and thriller genre of movies are rarely seen at the award functions. Their success is limited to the box-office and innumerable re-runs on afternoon television.
What Hitchcock was to Hollywood, Abbas Mustan is to Bollywood. Not a single movie of theirs has won an award but they have one of the best success ratios in Bollywood.

Abbas and Mustan are sons of one Alibhai Burmawalla and the only ‘director duo’ of Bollywood. They seem to have a third brother – Hussain Burmawalla – who is the editor in their films. They are primarily noticed for being dressed in white.
Their lack of a smart English accent and/or a good PR agency mean that nobody has actually sat them down and asked how they direct. There is no info on how are the various activities of direction divided between the two of them, while reams of newsprint are devoted to Aditya Chopra’s efforts for Karan Johar’s KANK. (The biggest help Aditya could have done was probably to burn the negatives.)

IMBD lists 14 films of the duo – of which the first three (Saajan Tara Sambharna, Moti Veerana Chowk and Agneekal) deserve the Bermuda Triangle Award. Nobody knows what went in, where, how and why!!

Their subsequent films became famous for a large number of their signature elements and for being huge box-office successes.

Khiladi: An oft-repeated story of a group of college kids’ prank going awry as one of them end up dead and all the fingers point at the rest. A cook from Bangkok, Rajeev Bhatia debuted to the accompaniment of other small time actors and music directors to make it an unqualified success.

Baazigar: This movie created two superstars out of the lead players – and none out of the directors. It only cemented their reputation as kickers of serious box-office ass!

Daraar: The duo continued to do their forte – take a Hollywood hit, put lots of masala, shake it with great music and serve piping hot. This was one of the seven Indian remakes of Sleeping With The Enemy – and very good. Rishi Kapoor (as the roly poly good guy) saved Juhi Chawla from a nostril-flaring, muscle-baring, dialogue-blaring and always-glaring Arbaaz Khan – and the audience cheered on!

Soldier: I am slightly unsure why this film was so named. Except for the title song (“Soldier, soldier, meethi baatein bol kar…”) and some stray dialogues (“Baatein Soldier ki aur kaam loafer ka?”), Bobby Deol went about his job as a mercenary in traditional Deol style. He killed everyone in sight, chewed their bones and drank their blood – all for a good reason. They tattooed some despicable things on his mother’s forehead! Grrr… remember what Vijay Verma did because they tattooed his arm? Yahaan toh maathe par likh diya!

Badshah: SRK played a comic detective – with a surfeit of gadgets – surrounded by even more comical sidekicks as he tried to act blind, romance Twinkle Khanna and save little children who did not need saving. Just when the movie was going nowhere, the climax turned out to be vintage A&M as SRK had to save the Chief Minister (Raakhee), while pretending to kill her!

Chori Chori Chupke Chupke: This film is everything an Abbas Mustan film should not be. Sentimental socials are not their scene – but maybe they were threatened (along with the rest of the cast) to make this movie, supposedly financed by the underworld. Surrogate motherhood was never so cavalierly treated as the ‘womb-on-rent’ (Preity Zinta) was egged on to have sex by the ‘infertile-woman’ (Rani Mukherjee) with her husband (Salman Khan). Lots of gode-bharaai and glycerine later, a happy ending was put together.

Ajnabee: All the promos screamed ‘wife swapping’ while the film became famous for Bipasha and Kareena’s catfights on the sets. (Kaali billi was one of the epithets bandied around!) It turned out to have only a passing reference to the story. A tight thriller had two major stars turning villains – in true A&M style. Lots of loud humour (by their perennial favourite – Johnny Lever), decent suspense, super-bloody climax and family-audience titillation were all in attendance! And of course, chartbusting music… “Main sirf tera mehboob, tu teri mehbooba…” sang Adnan Sami and put on three more kilos!

Humraaz: Again, a hero turned villain in this remake of The Perfect Murder! Akshayee Khanna – bald pate turned into short hair style statement – sang “Bardaasht nahin kar sakta”, as Amisha simpered and Bobby Deol glowered.

Taarzan: The Wonder Car: This would be definitely their worst film, and nominated for the Worst Films Ever. Why they made this one about a car possessed by Ajay Devgan’s spirit is beyond me. Even the underworld angle does not seem to work!

Aitraaz: This is supposedly based on Disclosure but packed in a lot of pativrataa twists! The other woman thought her career was more important than having children. (Gasp!) The hero wanted to immediately marry his live-in girlfriend because he had impregnated her. And the wife believed in her husband, forgave him and eventually defended him in court. Taaliyaan! Feminists, please excuse!

36 China Town: Their latest is yet another murder mystery – with a whole lot of suspects, usual and otherwise! Kareena teams up with Shahid and gets embroiled in a murder of Madam Sonia in the eponymous address. A whole lot of people sing, dance and get spied upon in a pretty inane film!

A&M harks back to a slightly bygone era.
There is political incorrectness, lots of desi emotion and an apparent ignorance of the multiplex audience. While they drop in a few ‘modern’ themes here and there (wife swapping, sexual harassment, divorce on grounds of impotence etc), they are shown as ‘bad’ and people die by indulging in them! Something like this post here
But they have their fans. Actually, somebody asked when I left them out in an earlier post!

The White Knights live on!


Anonymous said...

Oh Boy... No I am not their pankha... I was the one who had asked about why not Abbas Mustan ;)


OrangeJammies said...

err...educative...i think...