Thursday, January 31, 2008
The logical next step was to compile a list of my favourite films and I did that as well! This was met with widespread approval though my father cribbed that I should qualified it with the language of the films.
As a 'logical' next step, I tried to come up with a list of Hindi films that were 'announced' but never made. Some of them had flashy mahurats, all of them had more stars than Andromeda galaxy and they had story lines rivaling the greatest of epics. They had everything going for them - except that they never got made. Dates and egos, deaths and eccentricities got in the way of these brilliant films, which may have re-written the box-office if they released.
Ek - Devdas (made for Rs 50 Crores) was the first Hindi film, which used a film's budget as a selling point. Not one to miss any marketing gimmick, Ramgopal Verma announced a film on international terrorism around the same time with a budget of - hold your breath - Rs 100 Crores.
Amitabh Bachchan, Nana Patekar, Ajay Devgan and a top-billing international cast was supposed to zoom across the major capitals of the world in a saga involving the Al Qaeda, CIA and RAW.
When a journalist gasped at the budget, RGV pointed out that the budget was actually only $20 million and a top star like George Clooney or Julia Roberts got that kind of money for a film.
Maybe, but no producer - neither Ramsay nor Warner Bros - came forward to pick up the tab. And after RGV Ki Aag, they probably never will.
64 Squares - Imagine playing a game of chess with death. Okay, not too much imagining here because Mr Bergman has already shown a compelling version in The Seventh Seal. But Vinod Chopra felt that his first English language film - starring Amitabh Bachchan and Anupam Kher - should explore the emotions of two people across a chess-board. Amitabh and Anupam Kher have acted in several films together but none of them really pit them against each other and this movie would have been the first time.
Initially titled Chess, it was subsequently called Move 5 and now the website of Vinod Chopra Productions list it in their forthcoming projects as 64 Squares. If they are changing names so often, it probably means that the film is on the anvil and not in cold storage. And we may get to see Amitabh Bachchan fight death. One more time.
Galti Se / Jaan Boojh Ke - The film, which released as My Wife's Murder, was intended with a twist quite unique to cinema in general, not only Indian cinema. It is for things like this, that we see Ramgopal Verma get such massive bhao in the industry.
RGV intended to make two films, both of which started identically, about a man and his nagging wife. After the initial mood setting, the wife dies in both the film. But in the first one, the husband kills him accidentally while in the second, it is a planned murder. The plots diverge from there and you never know where they end. He intended to release both the films (with identical casts) on the same day and invite the audience to sample one or both.
This reminds me of a Jeffrey Archer short story (One Man's Meat) in which there were four different endings to the same story.
What eventually released was a tame story of an accidental murderer, that sunk at the box office. What was the point?
Bajirao Mastani - When Sanjay Leela Bhansali announced this film, my first thought was whether Salman would still have his American accent while playing the Maratha chieftain. But if working on accents and understanding his character's motivation had been Salman's strengths, he wouldn't have had a statue at Madame Tussaud's.
A Maratha warrior's affair with a courtesan promised to be a great story. Sanjay Leela Bhansali directing a period film added to the allure. And if there was anything missing, then the casting ping-pong made up for it.
After the success of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, it was Salman Khan and Aishwarya Rai at first. Then, Sallu beat up Ash and she walked off. Kareena agreed to sacrifice her multi-crore fees to work with Bhansali. Salman stayed on. Bhansali got engaged in Black and to pacify Salman, he even gave him a walk-on part in Saawariya. In the meantime, Kareena had walked off. When last heard, Salman had screamed "I am not Bajirao" and sauntered off.
Breaking News: Abhishek and Aishwarya are being considered as the lead pair.
Allwyn Kalicharan - At one point of time, Anurag Kashyap had an impressive body of critically acclaimed works, none of which had released. Paanch and Black Friday hit the courts and Censor Boards with the regularity of a metronome before the latter got a release and Anurag was hailed as the greatest thing to happen to Bollywood since Macmohan.
With a reputation like that, he launched a sci-fi film with Anil Kapoor in the lead. He was supposed to play a cop in a Delhi of the future and sneak-preview-watchers swore that Delhi never looked as apocalyptic as it did in this film.
The name itself was a twist on the famous refrigerator brand and a pun on the West Indian brand. And there was supposed to be some reason for it as well - which we are supposed to see on silver screen.
The original producer blanched after the initial shoots at the massive budget required to get the futuristic feel of the film. With Anurag's reputation, there was enough hope that someone else would have stepped in but then, he directed No Smoking.
Time Machine - After the super success of Mr India, Shekhar Kapur consolidated his post-Masoom reputation as a director of intelligent, commercially successful films. Extending the mildly sci-fi theme of Invisible Man, he launched Time Machine - starring no less than Aamir Khan and Raveena Tandon. No film on time travel can ever be boring and this was slated to be a cracker.
Except that Shekhar was a brooding, plodding director and Aamir Khan was slowing upping his perfectionist gear as well. So, the scenes took a lot of time getting canned, made worse by the fact that Shekhar also had international ambitions.
In the end, Aamir started to doing one film a year. Raveena got married and had a kid. Shekhar got an Oscar nomination and did not want to make masala films.
And India still awaits a film on time travel.
There were at least two movies that were launched with Amitabh Bachchan and Madhuri Dixit in the lead. And both of them had an amazing third lead.
There was Tinnu Anand's Shanakht with AB, MD and Rajanikanth. And there was Inder Kumar's Rishta with Aamir Khan as the third star.
But some jinx prevented this box-office dynamite duo from having a release together (unless you count the Makhana song in Bade Miyan Chhote Miyan). But with her comeback, we may still have one soon.
As a post-script, I think I will add the story of a title that never was.
After the success of Hazaaron Khwahishein Aisi, Sudhir Mishra wrote a film about the Bollywood of the 1950s, got a financier, shot it in a hurry and released it as Khoya Khoya Chand.
If I ever get the chance, I want to ask him why he changed the original title, which was supposed to be Bahut Nikle Mere Armaan...
Now, I am extremely paranoid about using the word ‘Best’ since one man’s meat is the other man’s Uttapam. That's why I have paraphrased it into My Favourite Films of all times – which is more personal and maybe non-controversial.
One question, why 13?
Just. It’s my blog. I will put 17.6 films I choose to.
A police commissioner’s son is a gemological expert and looks exactly like an international burglar. The girl he falls in love with is actually in love with the burglar.
Confused? Just watch the film for its mind-blowing music (SD at his peak), Dev Anand’s suave swagger (before he degenerated into a caricature) and Tanuja’s blink-and-miss appearance. The story will suck you in and we realize why they still dedicate films to Vijay Anand.
Rajesh Khanna tilted just right. Sharmila simpered just enough. SD (the man again!) delivered probably his best soundtrack. A clichéd story of unrequited love spanning two generations made stars out of the first two – and reaffirmed faith of the industry in the third.
While on the topic, you might as well read about one of the best entries of a hero in a Hindi film. As well as about one of the questions that has intrigued mankind most since the disappearance of Atlantis.
I penned down some thoughts on the Most Perfect Hindi Screenplay after viewing the film for the 72nd time here.
What can you say about a film that copied its story from earlier Hindi and Hollywood films? Surely, not The Greatest Story Ever Told.
What can you say about a film that stars a flop hero as second lead and a complete newcomer as the main villain? Surely, not the Greatest Star Cast Ever Assembled.
So, where does that leave Sholay? Go figure.
Its title song – Golmaal hain bhai, sab golmaal hain – was a favourite of mine, which I sang with passion and completely out of tune! But by the time Utpal Dutt calls a cop a Foolish Officer in the climax, you are totally and entirely out of breath from laughing. Dashrath Prasad Sharma’s two sons are mindblowing enough to make a comeback almost three decades later.
And don’t forget RD-Gulzar’s ‘Aanewala pal jaanewala hain’ – arguably, the best film song ever composed.
When I asked for the cassette at Gupta Video Parlour, the jerk at the counter said, “Oh – the one in which Om Puri is the murderer?” and all through the movie, I thought that the guy was wrong. BTW, relax – Om Puri is not even in the film!
A wonderful ensemble cast played a film crew assembled at a Kashmiri hill station to shoot a typically masala film and one by one, people started getting bumped off. A detective arrives, people’s drug addiction comes to light, the heroine walks in her sleep, shady waiters add to the complication… and you have a cracker of a film.
Trivia: All the characters are named after the actors who play them!
Mr Chopra – stop discussing Eklavya and make one more film like Khamosh.
Contrary to the perception of those times, the film was not about a body builder. It was about an Invisible Man, his reporter girlfriend (who worked for a newspaper called The Crimes Of India!) and a bunch of cute kids who sang spoofs of Hindi film songs to get their football back.
And not only Mogambo, har koi khush hua!
At a time when the entire film output consisted of college romances, a wonderfully stylish film about a young man falling in love with an older woman was too good to be true. And then, the woman’s daughter fell in love with the man. Wow!
Yash Chopra brought a twist to his chiffon-and-roses brand of romance and backed it up with great music (by Shiv-Hari). Anil Kapoor shaved off his moustache and made a smooth transition from tapori Munna-bhai to Kunwar Virendra Pratap Singh. Sridevi looked a million dollars but why she wanted to marry a squeaky-voiced Deepak Malhotra was not quite explained.
On second thoughts, all Class IX students are not in love with their history teachers. If they were, they would have all watched Lamhe and it wouldn’t have been such a flop.
Q. Which player has scored six goals for Mohan Bagan in an IFA Shield Final?
Q. What is the specialty of Vasco Da Gama’s gun?
Q. Given a choice, would you want to go to New York or America?
For none of the answers and some thoughts on the people who love the film, you may want to read this.
I watched the film in Priya Cinema with a friend, who is a bit of an Scorces-Kubrick man. How and why he agreed to come with me for the film eludes me right now but I do remember him asking me (after the film) if that was the general level of humour I appreciated. I had to shamefacedly admit my absolute enjoyment of the same!
I am still a connoisseur of the same kind of humour, so you could call me one of the early patrons. Like Dr Prem Khurana, iss dhande mein bahut purana!
It made an eerily gripping tale of duty and honour, set in the background of infiltrating a terrorist group. Naseeruddin Shah and Om Puri returned to a Govind Nihalini film together for the first time since Aakrosh – and the results were just as explosive.
I remember watching the movie in Roxy Cinema of Calcutta and being very impressed with Ashish Vidyarthi and Meeta Vashisht. They, of course, betrayed me completely and went on to act in Bicchhoo and Oops.
The biggest tribute to the film came from my dad when he saw the film and said, “Even Ritwik Ghatak couldn’t have done better.” And that’s saying a lot.
The first time I watched it was when the film was in its first weekend at Inox in Calcutta. I paid Rs 200 each for the tickets and as I swiped a credit card for the first time to buy movie tickets, I felt a little nostalgic (like old people do) about the five-rupee tickets at Nandan.
But by the time Amitabh Bachchan met Selvamani, I was willing to pay more. After all, it was not a film I was watching but a concept. “Subhash Nagre ek insaan ka naam hain. Aur Sarkar ek soch.”
My wife, on the other hand, pronounced that Abhishek Bachchan runs even better than his father. Just for the record, I don’t agree.
And I realise that Bollywood Ka Boss is a woman.
Thursday, January 24, 2008
Hell - I did not even know what would make her daughter happy!
Actually, I did. In a superficial sense and felt relieved that the same things made me deliriously happy as well. But then - come to think of it - jumbo prawns at Mainland China would make ANYBODY ecstatic.
That is the wonder of arranged matches in India. You have insufficient data but in an overwhelming majority of the cases, you do an extrapolation that works out just fine. I mean, look at our case.
When I told Nilendu that I am about to chat with the girl to 'get to know her better', he said I was so badly doomed that it was not even funny. (Yes, he is a bit of an extremist.)
So, I asked him what should I ask to figure out if the girl was 'my type'.
Nilendu suggested that I should ask her about her favourite drink.
If she mentioned any form of juice, I should run as if Devil was after me. If she knew the name of any one cocktail, I might still be in with a chance.
To my eternal delight, the girl in question had replied, "Bacardi on the rocks..."
But, the food and drink are only a small part of what can be called a seemingly endless Saga of Incompatibility.
She likes The Beatles. I like the Burmans.
Her favourite shopping destination is Benetton. Mine is Landmark.
She is an Army kid, up at the stroke of six. I usually go to sleep at that time.
She boils at room temperature. I remain cool even in very explosive situations.
Her favourite is Pretty Woman. Mine is Andaz Apna Apna.
The list is just endless...
I am told people have split marriages on grounds of excessive snoring or wet towels on the bed. We seem to have run the entire gamut of annoyance (I so hate the fact that she does not delete read messages in her inbox) and aggravation (she just can't stand my not shaving on weekends) without ever contemplating divorce.
Murder, yes. Suicide, yes. Divorce, never!
In this roller-coaster, the five years seems to have passed in a flash. And the last sixteen months at the speed of light.
That's probably because we have had conflicting opinions on everything starting with the 16-month-old's delivery to his education and even his marriage. Yes, we don't believe in having an argument tomorrow which we can have today!
Traditionally, the fifth anniversary is called the Wooden Anniversary. I guess the reason would lie in having a gradual progression from paper (1st) to wood (5th) to ivory (15th) to silver and gold.
But for me, it would probably have something to do with that one has done fine till now and should touch wood to keep the good times rolling!
Tuesday, January 22, 2008
For once, the hype was 100% justified. Every single reviewer, awards committee, friend and passer-by had called it the Worst Movie Ever and I naively thought it to be the hyperbole that typifies today's media.
They were bang-on, dead-on correct. It is indeed the Worst Movie Ever Made - at least in my book.
I define a bad movie as one which gets etched on to your memory and comes back to haunt you after decades.
A bad movie is, by no means, a boring movie. It may even be riveting at points but only in the context that somebody stubbing a cigarette on your forearm is also rather riveting. It engages you to scar you for life. It staples your eyelids apart to make you watch their horrors
So, I pulled out of my hat a series of a dozen films, which has the dubious distinction of being the Worst Movies I Have Had the Misfortune of Viewing!
In alphabetical order, they are:
Aakarshan - It was supposed to be a 'hot' film starring Sonu Walia as an upcoming actress, who falls in love with a top star (played by Akbar Khan). The first hurdle is, of course, accepting Akbar Khan as a star, let alone top star. And on top of that, him gluing on to Sonu Walia in valleys, haystacks, convertibles, bedrooms with all the passion of a leather jacket was disconcerting, to say the least.
Was there a storyline? Unfortunately, yes. It was about Sonu Walia marrying the hero despite opposition from her sister (played with arched-eyebrow perfection by Rohini Hattangadi) and then nursing him to health when he gets afflicted with paralysis.
You will never know the meaning of the word 'wooden' till you see this lead pair in action!
Andaaz - Long before Nishabd, came this tale where a (supposedly) teenaged Karishma Kapoor falls in love with her teacher - Anil Kapoor wearing oversized glasses to signify maturity. Of course, he is married and in love with Juhi Chawla.
To add to the mayhem, there are dozens of 30-year-old junior artistes playing school children and they were led by Shakti Kapoor, whose age was justified by millions of flunked years. There was a nincompoop of a villain, who held this despicable school to ransom, and had to eliminated (in the film, though the audience wanted to do it themselves)! And just in case that was not enough, there were enough tasteless jokes on male virility, female anatomy and even menstruation.
Ek Chhotisi Love Story - Manish Koirala waters her plants. Manisha Koirala walks to her workplace. Manisha Koirala argues with her milkman. Manisha Koirala hangs her clothes out to dry. Manisha Koirala gets blank calls. Manisha Koirala's body double has sex.
All to the accompaniment of some avant-garde background music, which consists of a single string going 'ploink-ploink-ploink'... Amazing! Oh - did I mention that all of the above happens from the point of view of a hormonal adolescent who is spying on her with a telescope? And the kid's grandmother continues a toothless monologue while he goes about spying his buxom neighbour.
Stupendously bad - even by Shashilal Nair's 'high' standards. There was an avalanche of protest over the obscenity in the film and the use of a body double without consent. The film should have been banned not for being obscene (which it was) but for being mind-alteringly bad.
Insaaniyat - Chunky Pandey and Sunny Deol are rival gang leaders, who are being brought together by Amitabh Bachchan (in the longest guest appearance in history). How? By singing a song. "Tere dil mein yeh / Iske dil mein tu / Dono yun milte rahenge / Tu hain iska bhaiiii / Yeh hain tera bhaiiii..."
Amitabh aged by some ten years in the making of the film and some of the scenes shot a decade apart were consecutive in the film. Of course, that was nothing compared to the kick-ass bad acting by Sunny and Chunky. Produced by Tito and directed by Tony, this film sounds like a mohalla play but in reality, it is much worse.
Joggers' Park - Again, an interesting theme of an older-man-younger-woman adulterous liaison steam-rolled into shit, despite valiant attempts from Victor Banerjee and Perizad Zorabian in the lead roles.
The movie starts with a retired judge addressing a law college and instead of Intellectual Property Rights, he ends up exhorting them 'not to fall in love, but to rise in love'. Aficionados would recognise this line from producer Subhash Ghai's Taal and everybody would be aghast at the rock star reception that a judge gets. Victor Banerjee has aged quite well but even Shahrukh Khan would not get mobbed as badly as he was in the first scene.
And guess what? The film goes downhill from there.
Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna - Karan Johar's 'mature' take on adultery tuned out to be one of the worst messes of all times. K Jo went blue in the face trying to defend Rani Mukherjee's decision to fall in love with a ill-tempered wimp (while she was married to Adonis Bachchan). Nobody in the media asked how one blindfold-and-whip session initiated by her was ample evidence that she tried to 'repair her breaking marriage'. BDSM as marriage therapy is something only Karan Johar can come up with... and we will not dwell upon how SRK's (usually lovable) hamming can look devastatingly bad when it is used on a hapless kid.
Add to that Sexy Sam's leopard-printed handcuffs and you get rather curious about the director's kinks. Hmmm...
Madam X - There is a Good Rekha. There is a Bad Rekha. Bad Rekha is caught by the police. Good Rekha is inserted in her place. Bad Rekha escapes. Now, Bad Rekha kidnaps Good Rekha's brother...
Wait! That is the story of Don. Did you not say that Don has one of the most interesting stories of all time.
Umm... Err... Yes. But but...
No buts - why are you putting a movie with the same storyline on this list? Just because Mohsin Khan is the hero? And the ex-opener from Pakistan can't act to save his life? And because Rekha had a Bad Hair Year during the making of the film? And because the villain's chief henchman (Macmohan) was called Jhakaas? And because the film had so few takers that the theatres took off it on the Monday of the first week?
The prosecution rests.
Pati, Patni Aur Tawaiif - Mithun Chakraborty is a 'sensitive' film director. He is also happily married with a son. He discovers a talented prostitute. No, no - not THAT kind of talent, you pervert!
So, he launches this musically gifted tawaiif, makes her a big star, marries her in front of bhagwaan and has a daughter with her. His wife - obviously not a reader of this blog - suffers silently. And then the director flops badly while the tawaiif becomes a big star. The gold-digging tawaiif promptly abandons him for some other sugar-daddy. Director goes back to wife (with daughter in tow) and is welcomed with a reception at Wankhede.
Logic: He was obviously a pious man because he screwed a woman after he 'married' her. The bitch deserved to die because she did it for money. Where does that leave bigamy? Go figure!
Oh - the tawaiif was played by Salma Agha, the husky voice of Nikaah now beginning to sound like a whipped donkey.
Ramgopal Verma Ki Aag - For a large part of the film, I actually thought that RGV was pulling a fast one by making a movie that was so bad that it was good. But once Amitabh started digging his nose and making small pellets out of the stuff, I went from the frying pan to the Aag.
And that Aag had dialogues like - "... aur woh paisa iss liye hain ki iss shaher ka har police wala ka biwi apne pati ki lambi umar ke liye karwa chauth nahin, Babban ka vrat rakhte hain...". To paraphrase another dialogue from the original - "Ending kab hain? Kab hain ending?"
Any redeeming feature? The blurb on the back of the VCD cover. Actually, not even the full blurb but Babban's character sketch in it is very nicely written.
Tarzaan The Wonder Car - I may have erred in the number of A's that are supposed to be there in the name of the car but there is no error in the choice of this film as one of the worst ever made. And wonder of wonders, it was directed by Abbas-Mustan - known for their edge-of-the-seat thrillers.
But this story of Ajay Devgan (an auto-scientist) getting killed by the villains looking for the elusive Formulaa is a total disaster. (Note: Formulaa is an all-purpose Hindi movie term for a scientific discovery / device the wonders of which would put Thomas Alva Edison to shame!) Anyways, Ajay Devgan dies and his ghost haunts the eponymous car, which is driven by Ayesha Takia's boyfriend. The car winks, the car blinks, the car chases villains, the car does matchmaking, the car swims underwater, the car makes a vodka martini - no, not the last one!
And last but not the least, the car drives itself while Ayesha Takia's boyfriend scratches impossible parts of her body. I told you the movie is bad...
Tehalka - Aditya Pancholi, Javed Jaffrey and Naseeruddin Shah in drag. You want to hear more? Yes? Oh you masochist bastard!
I have talked about it before and would like to be excused from the trauma of reliving the pain of seeing Amrish Puri in a Fu Manchu avatar, singing a song and playing the sitar till his fingers bled.
Intrigued? Go and watch the movie if you dare!
Yalgaar - How much older do you think Feroze Khan is to Mukesh Khanna (Bhishma from the TV serial)? After all, FK was a star in the 1960s and carried on full blast till the 90's. At conservative estimates, he must have been 60 when he acted in this film. He played Mukesh Khanna's SON in this movie! (Nilendu has written about his accented Daaad here.)
Sanjay Dutt and Nagma sang a rain song, which is one of the worst choreographed and most tuneless ever. Kabir Bedi played an anglicised villain with no emotion, though there is some doubt whether that was intentional or not. Oh - and Manisha Koirala showed the first signs of her puppy fat becoming doggy fat in this movie. What a historical film, I say!
Of all these, I have walked out of only one - Ek Chhoti Si Love Story. Considering that I watched RGV Ki Aag fully, I would have to demote it to No. 2 spot and make ECSLS the Worst Movie I Ever Watched.
Food for Thought: If I make a list of a dozen of My Favourite Movies, Sarkar and/or Satya might feature in it. That makes RGV the only director who has films touching the zenith and nadir of cinematic achievement. His range, for once, cannot be faulted!
Note: I have been told that Buddha Mar Gaya (released last year) or Mr Prime Minister (Dev Anand's latest) are also deserving candidates for this honour list. But after hearing Om Puri has played a bisexual baba in the first film and Dev Anand a Latur shoemaker who becomes the PM in the second, I have not been able to muster the courage to watch the films.
Sunday, January 20, 2008
After the brilliant win, papers are falling over each other to find puns on Perth. ‘Aussies Knocked Off Their Perth’ said TOI while HT came up with ‘Perth-shattering’! The only one left out was – Mirth At Perth!
On that happy note, there are more thoughts…
*If Michael Hussey is trapped LBW – maybe on 99, for good measure – then, would the Hindi newspapers headline “Hussey to Phansi”?
* Bastard is okay. Monkey is not. Which means, I can comment on your father’s antecedents and precedents, but not on your forefathers’!
* In any case, why is such a big deal being made about the ‘monkey’ taunt?
About four decades ago, India’s greatest showman and his heroine sang about marrying off their pet monkeys, which they had named after the holy rivers of India… “Tera monkey Ganga aur mera monkey Jamuna ka – bol Radha bol – sangam hoga ki nahin..."
Heard a brilliant joke about the competitive Aussies –
Apparently, Sunil Gavaskar was invited to attend the premiere of a film he had made and the film was called Gavaskar. Sunny was very flattered that an Aussie director had made a film on his achievements. So, despite a lot of other commitments, he managed to fly down to Sydney for the show.
He was ushered into the theatre by the crew and the film started. It was some arbit movie about some Aussie blokes in the desert, drinking beer and watching kangaroos. No cricket or any mention of Sunny. Went on and on. The interval happened and still, no cricket. Gavaskar thought there would probably be a change in plot in the second half. Again – nothing. The movie started and ended with a nice story about some Aussie way of life.
Completely flummoxed at the film, Sunny asked the director of the film – “Boss, there is nothing in this film about me. Why have you named it after me?”
And the competitive Aussie replied in tremendous anger – “You Bastard. You guys also made a film called Border. Did you show anything about Allan there?”
And to move from cricket to Bollwyood…
Shyam Benegal ran into trouble with his film on Subhash Chandra Bose after the Bengalis objected to the leader being called A Forgotten Hero. So, he contemplated adding an item number, a bar brawl, car chase scenes, wedding songs and calling the film Bollywood Ka Bose.