Recurring Decimals…..

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Internalizing Hindi movies on a lazy Saturday evening….

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..can lead to indigestion! Owing to a bad cold, last weekend was spent quite lazily. Time was well spent by finishing a significant portion of Samit Basu’s ‘The Manticore’s Secret’, but not so much by watching three Hindi movies on Saturday and Sunday evening. However, the Saturday evening Hindi film thing was a nostalgic reminder of the Doordarshan days – when the family and half of the neighbourhood would gather around to watch a movie on our old black and white EC TV. Anyway, here is some short takes on the movies and general ranting about Hindi-filmmakers’ inability to come up with original stuff.

Long before Kaavya Vishwanathan gave us the concept of ‘internalization’, the Bombay film industry, ‘Bollywood’ if you will, had institutionally fine-tuned the practice into an art form . From frame-by-frame scenes to complete plots, storylines and everything in between, foreign films have always been a great source of ‘inspiration’ for the hacks at Bollwyood. One might have hoped the problem would abate with easier availability of Hollywood and other foreign films through DVDs, VCDs and cable TV channles leading to a more discerning audience. But such is not to be and hence it should not have been a big suprise when two of the three films we watched over this lazy weekend turned out to be ‘internalized’ versions of English movies. The Nana Patekar-John Abraham starrer ‘Taxi No. 9 2 11‘ derived its plot from ‘Changing Lanes‘, while ‘Malamaal Weekly‘ is almost a direct copy of the English(Irish) film ‘Waking Ned Divine‘.

Malamaal Weekly‘ has all the hallmarks of Priyadarshan (a man whose overbearing style of direction I simply cannot stand) – a Lagaan-style village where everybody, even the poorest and the starving wear clean clothes, everyone and everything emits a peculiar white glow (which I found the other day, I can introduce in my digital photos with Picasa), everybody talks loudly and overacts. I always thought that ‘Hera-Pheri‘ was overrated as a comedy and the only Priyadarshan film (in Hindi) I liked was Gardish – even that had a lot of exaggerated action. As for this movie, just go and read the plot for Waking Ned Divine. There are some initial attempts in diverging from the original, as the director tries to develop a mood for the rural Indian settings and introduces some novel characters including a greedy ‘thakurain’ and her no good cousin. A little while into the film, however, the spirit of the original simply takes over and you are left with loud acting by the trio of Paresh Rawal, Asrani and Om Puri and much pouting and such-like non-acting by Reema Sen.
While googling the film, I came accross this Rediff interview where Priyadarshan says:

The film has been inspired by R K Laxman’s Malgudi Days. I think it will be the first Indian comedy in a village.

Don’t know if I should laugh or cry. Not only does the guy refuse to acknowledge his source, but drags in Malgudi Days which as far as I remember, was more of a small town than a village with an ambience of childhood innocence that Priyadarshan only wishes he could achieve.

Taxi No 9 2 11‘ at least makes an attempt to take only the outline of the original plot and weave a new story around it. It partially succeeds by trying to construct a story of ‘Mumbai’ and the clash between two types of people coexsiting in the city – the rich, priviledged overlords and the poor underbelly. However, the attempt is unconvincing after the initial Munnabhai-esque voiceover by Sanjay Dutt. As in ‘Changing Lane‘, we find two morally shallow characters coming together under a high-pressure situation. As I was feeling too lazy to go over the plot, I decided to just copy and paste from film web-site……

Raghav Shastri (Nana Patekar), an Insurance Salesman to the world, but a caustic, instinctively witty cabbie in reality, who needs thirty thousand rupees by the end of today…

And Jai Mittal (John Abraham), the equally acidic heir to a resourceful business family, who needs a bit more. Three hundred crores actually.
Also by the end of the day.
Jai needs to contest his father’s will in court.. and Raghu’s cab to get there.
Raghu needs every rich sucker he can get as passenger…..

So the two meet..
And a predictable cab ride kicks off a roller-coaster journey that leaves you laughing in a most unlikely place.. the edge of your seat..

Whoa ! I just realised that the filmmakers intended this as comedy – how innovative – change the original drama into a comedy. Wish I had read this earlier – would have been in the right frame of mind.

Anyway, when you make an uninspiring copy of an unremarkable film, the results are bound to be quite disappointing. John Abraham decidedly cannot act. Sameera Reddy – well lets say she was probably not cast for her acting prowess. I won’t even point out the many logical and factual inaccuracies. If you are in a hurry, just forward to the end of the movie and watch the entertaining music video of Adnan Sani’s ‘Meter Down’, featuring Abraham and Patekar.

Btw, best dialogue in the film: Nana Patekar to his kid who is fielding while playing galli-cricket with friends:
Nana: Bat Kiski Hai?
Kid: Meri
Nana: To bat kyon nahin kar raha hai – Tendulkar ban-neka hai – Kaif nahin ! 🙂

Oh – and there was a third film – ‘Shaadi Se Pehle‘ – an all-out whacky comedy based on the silly premise of misunderstanding a medical diagnosis. Some of the jokes were predictable – but overall highly entertaining. ‘Ultimate time pass’ – as they say. An atonement, if you will, for the dissappointment of the other two films.

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Written by BongoP'o'ndit

May 3, 2006 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Films, India, Rants

4 Responses

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  1. Three in one day? Thats a lot!

    I have not seen any of these movies but I heard some good things about Taxi 9211. You seem disappointed by it.

    Btw, c Herapheri was good. I am not saying it was a patch on something like Jaane bhi do Yarron, quite easily the best and most original satire in Hindi Cinema but over all I really enjoyed it. Since then Priyadarshan has only delivered over the top tripe.

    Interestingly, you devoted the least amount of space to one movies which you seem to have enjoyed the least-Shaadi ke Pahle. 🙂


    May 3, 2006 at 10:25 pm

  2. Confused: Actually watched them over two days. Taxi 9211 had an interesting premise (even if unoriginal) – but lost its way due to bad acting and story development. I can’t imagine why this guy John Abraham is still sround – come on – is he that good looking ?

    Our appreceation of any book/movie is usually colored by the pre-conceived expectations (note the whole arguement over RDB @ GreatBong’s blog) – in case of Hera Pheri – I guess I was expecting a Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron (IMO, along with Golmaal, the best Hindi comedies ever) and was let down. Anyway, I just can’t bring myself to like Priyadarshan – an illogical hatred – but there you go.

    As I said Shaadi Se Pehle has a very silly premise – but very entertaining. I might have liked it so much since the other two let me down – so I am afraid of praising it further.


    May 4, 2006 at 7:33 am

  3. Nice point about the illogical hatred bit. I don’t think I can ever like a movie which David Dhavan makes, I just have too many notions about how stupid he is.

    I am bored of the RDB debate, esepecially since I have not even watched it. But I saw your comment while skimming through it. Apparently you liked the me.

    So tell me, would you hava liked it after you had read/heard all good things about? Or you just liked it because your expectations were so low?


    May 4, 2006 at 8:17 am

  4. Confused: It would be easy to say that I would have still liked it..but I am sure that my . As I mentioned in those comments, I had very little info about RDB when I went into the theatre – I had heard about it from my sister who said she liked it and it was good. Now my sister and I don’t always see eye to eye on movies – so expectations weren’t very high. I was only hoping to get some entertainment.
    But even now, having seen these recent films – I have to say that RDB’s production values were quite good.


    May 4, 2006 at 8:35 am

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