Friday, May 13, 2016

#100days100scenes: Shahenshah of comedy also

Its absolutely amazing that the same Amitabh Bachchan who kicks the chair from Sher Khan when he is about to sit in Zanjeer creates rib tickling comedy as a bumbling cop in Shahenshah 17 years later . Combining the Soorma Bhopali style of Sholay into his own manneris, Amitabh plays a different Vijay who just talks a lot but doesnt pack a punch.

Shahenshah was a comeback movie for the superstar who had a tryst with politics and was desperate for a hit. The costume he had for Shahenshah as the vigilante crusader of the night was the highlight alongwith the introduction dialogue ' Rishte main hum tumhare baap lagte hai , naam hai shahenshah'

This scene is just brilliance from Amitabh and how he made all the comedians disappear during his time by doing it himself. Watch the paan led expressions , the buffoonery, the stuttering bumbling dialogue , the hand movements.

Rishte mein to baap , but comedy ka bade baap - Shahenshah.

#100days100scenes: badass pandey

Just like Sanjay Dutt was born to play Munnabhai, Salman Khan was born to play Chulbul Pandey.

Chulbul Pandey is once in a lifetime character written in Indian cinema, creating a cop who was corrupt but likeable because like Robinhood, he takes the money from the rich , puts it in the protection fund to protect the poor. He doesnt mince words , has a flair for pulling peoples leg but can break them if required.

By keeping the setting very UP where harami, kaminey, chor are survival strategies or personality development modules , Chulbul Pandey blended into the environment like a natural chameleon who changed colours based on who was talking to him.

The best part of the movie that it never took itsself serriously but neither was it an unabashed star vehicle. It seemed natural yet provided seeti maar moments. Taking the small town South Indian  template  that are simple vendetta movies with over the top action sequences with the tadka of the UP language and the persona of Salman Khan , the movie was dhaba time.

Love this sequence of dialogues with chaubeji and pandeyji.

Sunday, May 08, 2016

#100days100scenes: the encounter cop

If there was a cop segment that was made in India for Indians by Indians , it is the tale of encounter killings by an encounter cop. Heavily used in Mumbai during the notorious gang war between the D-company, Arun Gawli gang  , Amar Naik gang and Chota Rajan gang , it originates from the department created under Mumbai Police called the Detection Unit. The Detection Unit or the encounter squad was instrumental in reducing the crime rate in the 80s and 90s in Mumbai city by surrounding gangsters and then poking them and then opening retaliatory or self-defence fire to eliminate them.

It was used in many situations to send a clear message to the underworld who had smuggled sophisticated weapons that the police was not a portly onlooker with an unusable old rifle but a trained encounter cop who could sharp shoot.

This also solved the Chakravyuh problem since now the police had the tools to take on the mafia. So they created a parallel 'system' that eliminated their moral dilemma. Rather than waiting for the court to try and charge a dreaded criminal, they could provide instant 'insaaf' and it was 'allowed' by the government as the only way to tackle the menace.

Encounter cops like Daya Nayak provided ample fodder for Indian cinema. And it needed an old hand to play the level headedness and guile to play a realistic encounter cop who is not unfazed at the situation. Ab Tak Chhappan was a movie that did complete justice to the aura of an encounter cop.

Titled aptly as Ab Tak Chhappan to show that 56 was the running count of the number of encounters the cop had completed, the movie used realistic Mumbai language with all the abuses you will find in such dealings. Nana Patekar riding a late bloomer hero phase after Krantiveer, played the cop perfectly getting both the Mumbai diction  and the doggedness of the cop right mixed with the manic intensity that he could only muster. Almost the 'sarfira' type who could 'thok daalo' anyone.

#100days100scenes: the angry young man persona

No Indian cop series can be complete without referencing Zanjeer. Marking Amitabhs first entry as an angry young man where the intensity , the voice, his lanky yet determined physicality and the quick movements combine to create an impact that was unseen on Indian cinema.

The earlier actors took too much time nodding or waving whereas Vijay whether he played cop or otherwise was always quicker and meant business. Zanjeer was offered to all these earlier stars - Raaj Kumar, Dharmendra, Rajesh Khanna and Deve Anand, before falling on the lap of the man who had shown in a previous movie called Bombay to Goa that when he lands a punch , he punches with the determination of the guy who knows he is punching above his body weight.

Indian cinema changed forever after Zanjeer. What Amitabh brought to the table , yes pun definitely intended if you can guess the scene I am going to talk about, was that ability to connect with you at an emotional level - in Zanjeer he is plagued by the nightmare he gets of his parents death, he was decidedly different - he was deep, contemplated ,sure of himself without a swagger yet conflicted by his emotion -  somewhat of a Batmanish trait  that went unnoticed since no one analyzed it that way. Either a smart or serendipitious manner, Amitabh let his body language do the talking rather than his lanky body.

And that body language is very clear in this scene , on how Amitabh Bachchan without the physique towers over a Pathan and that too played by Pran , a master at carrying himself.  And incidentally Pran was paid more than Amitabh's remuneration for this movie.

Watch in minute 1 the kick of the chair. Watch the simmering intensity from minute 2 onwards, that determined walk,.

Friday, May 06, 2016

#100days100scenes: ArdhSatya

Although we have seen glamorous cops mouthing dialogues and practically taking the law in their hands in the name of law,  the best cop movies are the ones where they are also part of the system and struggle with it despite their sense of duty . Its not just a fight against the criminals but its also with the rotting system around them and also with themselves.  Its that trapped feeling, the nexus between politicians, cops and mafia so strong that you are helpless to fight it alone even if you have the bravery and even if you get one side of this nexus solved , it does nothing to the nexus.

Ardh Satya by Govind Nihalani stars Om Puri as a cop who takes on the wily Sadashiv Amrapurkar. Its one of the most pragmatic cop movies since it also shows the realistic side of the cops actual helplessnness to take on the system. Its not that the cop succumbs immediately but slowly the tentacles get stronger and he is stuck not knowing whats the best path.

My favourite scene in this movie is where Om Puri goes to arrest Sadashiv based on a testimony by a victim . Sadashiv Amrapurkar nonchalantly says ' Kal aana' in such a dismissive way that this scene is still etched in my end. It just shows how crippled the police force really is. A day of bravura cannot save years of systemic erosion. And if you want to act against the system you face a tough dilemma.

And the dilemma perfectly captured in the poem Chakravyuh.

Chakravyuh mein ghusne se pehle,
kaun tha mein aur kaisa tha,
yeh mujhe yaad hi na rahega.
Chakravyuh mein ghusne ke baad,
mere aur chakravyuh ke beech,
sirf ek jaanleva nikat’ta thi,
iska mujhe pata hi na chalega.
Chakravyuh se nikalne ke baad,
main mukt ho jaoon bhale hi,
phir bhi chakravyuh ki rachna mein
farq hi na padega.
Ek palde mein napunsakta,
ek palde mein paurush,
aur theek taraazu ke kaante par
ardh satya.

#100days100scenes: Singham of all cops

The best scenes in moviedom involve a tough as nails cop taking on the evil villains with bravura, smarts and machismo. From Dirty Harry to Lethal Weapon Die Hard we enjoy these movies. Of course in parallel you also have the breed of intelligence officers/ spies/ agents who lead impossible missions and come out on top with the help of sophisticated gadgets and all knowledgeable hackers.

But think of the cop as the feature phone of moviedom. They have more talk time than think time. They have radio signals rather than internet signals. They have to carry a lot of weight of a weak team and cannot crack like glass in front of criminals.

In Indian movies, the khaki uniform can be compared to the unremovable kavach (armour) of Karna that forms a bond between duty, mind and body like none other making the upright police officer the noblest soul in a quagmire of corruption. Hence Indian cop movies have that mix of swagger and justness that make them irresistible. And in the best cop movies,

The best cop movie that captures that is Singham. A mass action vehicle designed for Suriya fans the movie had crackling dialogues with villains and superiors. And Suriya played this with such intensity and ferocity that the movie set the pulse racing. There are cops and there is DuraiSingham.

Following the Thakur template ( I dont have to be a cop to earn a living, I have my ancestral crops), watch Duraisingam operate without having the fear of being fired . Also drawing parallels between his name Singham and the lion and the 3 lions that adorn the Ashoka Chokra, this is a dialogue that you can cherish for a long time.

Saturday, April 30, 2016

#100days100scenes: That drop everything moment in Swades

I ended my last post with what do we believe strongly in our urge to build the nation. To eliminate the dismal statistics that present itself as follows

41% of Indian children dont study upto class 5 , compared to 25% in Burkina Faso

65% Indian Adult Literacy rate compared to 68% in Uganda

We rank below 100 in the Human Development Index

We cant provide the basics of water, electricity and food to number that is the size of UK and US put together.

I used the word 'we' because we are part of India. We cant blame the system. We see poverty on the street but waste food. Sometimes we feel city poverty is self inflicted , so take that road trip from Mumbai . Instead of Lavasa go to Latur to see what a real farm looks like. One Starbucks coffee can feed a family for 2 days.

Yes there are many 'what an idea sirjee' moments like keeping a free refrigerator outside a hotel for people to eat leftover food. There are missions and foundations who are institutionalizing such approaches connecting donors to the needy or providing vocational training to people without access to education and finding them employment.

But those moments are so far and few between. Thats because not many of us have had that moment where we see the futility of the goals we set for ourselves. Even if we see it and have the urge , the magnitude of the task is overwhelming and you move on to the next goal or destination.

We all get that Nudge. But we want to remove poverty by sitting on an armchair. Monetary contribution is easy, contribution of time is difficult, change is possible at a micro level but macro level transformation is elusive. And most of us dont have a front seat view on what is really needed because we have never spent 1 week doing something. Yes people take the first step by volunteering, some take a step by sabbaticals and then decide whats next.

This is the Nudge worthy moment from the movie Swades. Swades gave us back Shahrukh the actor who was held hostage by Chopra-Johar camp.The original peddler of the NRI dream was back from NASA to help his loved ones in India. In the village he sees the poverty and decides to make a difference by bringing electricity to the village using his engineering degree to good use.

Earnest direction by Ashutosh Gowariker helped us focus on tender emotional moments.

The other scene I really like in the movie, is the scene where the electricity in the village lights up the bulb in a poor villagers home. There are wrinkles on her face , there is some hope but not much, she is more surprised than happy or almost emotionless.  Of course they deserve better.