Over the past 3-4 weeks, I ended up seeing 4 Hindi movies from 2006 that really shook me out of my ennui in their own unique ways and left me appreciating one of the most wonderful year’s in Bollywood cinema.

One Rang De Basanti would have sufficed to make 2006 memorable, the year saw other movies vie for the sublime – Omkara, Dor, Lage Raho Munnabhai and Gangster are the 4 I have had the pleasure of viewing thus far – and I have not even seen the big box office grossers such as Fanaa, Krrish and Dhoom 2 nor other acclaimed ones like Khosla Ka Ghosla and Pyar Ke Side Effects.

Nagesh Kukunoor’s journey into the Hindi film industry is itself worth a movie one day. How many of us engineers had the courage of conviction, and the passion, to chuck it all and get back to following one’s heart. Where Nagesh Kukunoor’s heart has taken him is to the very apex of Hindi filmdom. I always thought having Subhash Ghai produce a movie (Iqbal) would be difficult to top. I liked Iqbal a lot, as much as I have liked every movie made by Nagesh from his first Hyderabad Blues. “Dor” is something in a league of its own. A must-watch movie if ever there was one.

The three central characters, Gul Panag, Ayesha Takia and Shreyas Talpade, have together delivered one of the most plausible, lilting and uplifting human dramas in Indian cinemas since Ketan Mehta’s Bhavni Bhavai (with the likes of Naseeruddin Shah and Smita Patil in key roles!). Not once does Dor degenerate into the maudlin, and not once does the cerebral director ever let his intellect come in the way of a simple and straightforward narrative.

Girish Karnad as Ayesha’s decadent father-in-law is a classic case where the director could have been tempted to put more meat into a character. By leaving this under-developed, the focus stays squarely on the interplay of emotions and attitudes between Ayesha and Gul Panag. The story of “Dor” is that of these two young women, diametrically opposite in temperament, upbringing and experience, joined together by sheer destiny. In their very tragedy is the triumph of human spirit and attitude. Gul’s stately and measured approach to life is brought to its knees when confronted with the otherwise demure and waif-like Ayesha’s unexpected intransigence.

Salim-Sulaiman’s outstanding music, Shreyas Talpade brilliant cameo as the bahuroopiya who takes Gul Panag to her destination, and everything else fades into the background as the riveting evolution of the personalities of Ayesha’s Meera and Gul’s Zeenat occupies centerstage in this outstanding movie from one of the great years in Hindi Cinema.

I doubt whether we will ever see better performances from either Ms Takia or Ms Panag than this. I hope I am wrong though – there is so much inner steel in the petite Ayesha Takia’s histrionic ability that she could easily emerge as the Shabana Azmi of this generation of actresses. Likewise, I cannot think of too many contemporary actressses who could have essayed the character of Zeenat without giving in to the temptation to overact – that she could do so in what is only her second movie to date is a real tribute to Gul Panag.

Above all, this marks the high-point in the continuing evolution of Nagesh Kukunoor, the film-maker. He has stayed true to his intellectual roots by not sacrificing the plausible at the altar of expedience. Can’t wait to see what he has up his sleeves for 2007!

and the comments/discussion…

Aruna said…
I am so glad u liked this movie! Could manage to see it only on my flight back from London and i loved it…Ayesha Takia was a revelation wasnt she?!! Every bit of that movie was fantastic…But there was one thing in this post of yours that i kind of dont agree with…rang de basanti making 2006 memorable. no doubt it was refreshing movie, full of fresh energy and vigour…i couldnt kind of bring myself to accepting that the youth of today have no option but to take to violence to get their message across… somehow i couldnt digest that even though it was only a movie!!

11:29 AM

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Anonymous said…
Lage Raho!I’m quite a movie buff and enjoy movies of various genres, be it drama, comedy, action, romance…the comedy lot is much more enjoyable than the rest! Chupke Chupke, Gol Maal, Angoor, Padosan are memorable hindi comedies ever made. Rarely though have I come across a movie that left me with a ‘WOW!’ feeling. ‘Lage Raho Munna Bhai’ is one such movie that is going to remain on the top of my ‘WOW!’ list for some time to come.

There are good movies and bad movies. Hilarious. Thought-provoking. Fun. Sad. Terrible. All sorts of adjectives are possible. My top-of-mind adjectives for LRMB are: Extraordinary and brilliant! Extraordinary because of the sheer enjoyment and entertainment that the movie provides. And brilliant, because I’ve never seen a better balancing act of comedy and a serious social message. This movie touches the Gandhi ideology without even one hurting slang!! Even the first Munna Bhai got too serious and tragic in parts – you felt like skipping those bits during the second or third watch. But in this one – you just can’t miss any of it…. again and again!!

The feel-good element in the Munna Bhai movies is so strong precisely because none of its characters are ever bad; they have flaws but are never evil. Boman Irani’s Lucky Singh is a conniving builder, but is ultimately a doting father to Simran. Boman Irani, having less to do here than he did as Dr. Asthana in Munna Bhai M.B.B.S., is terrific yet again. He slips easily into his Punjabi character and displays peculiar ticks that are a treat to watch. The other actor from the original making reappearance is Jimmy Shergill who is just as earnest as he was in the previous. One hopes that he’s written a meatier part in the third installment. Various other supporting actors come back in different avatars, and fans of the first will have a good time identifying them. Of the newer lot, Dilip Prabhavalkar makes the most of his role and gives us a Gandhi that we have never witnessed before. Those familiar with this Marathi theatre stalwart’s work know that his supreme asset is becoming the character he plays without falling back on reference points. Dilip does exactly that with his portrayal of Gandhi. His Gandhi is not a cheap impersonation of Ben Kingsley, or a mimic of the several other Gandhi acts that we have witnessed. Dilip plays Gandhi in his own style, and in doing so creates an authentic one. In addition to working on his body language, he has also put in an effort into talking like Gandhi. Kudos to the make-up artist (Vidyadhar Bhatte) who against convention chooses to present Gandhi the way he was, and not as we have been led to believe. Vidya Balan as the love-interest has little to do, but she does well with what she has. Special mention must be made of Vidya’s voice-modulation; she truly sounds like an RJ. Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Saurabh Shukla and Parikishit Sahni turn up in supporting roles. Abhishek Bachchan makes a cameo appearance too!
This movie prompted a long-winded discussion among some friends and then the whole of India about the man himself – the Mahatma, Bapu, Gandhiji. Was the man great, or were his ideals? Was he right because history worked to his advantage, or was he right irrespective of the outcome? Are his values relevant today? Or, his macro-economical vision for the nation, for that matter? In the same situation today, would what he did back then work? Well, it’s a matter of debate with no real black-and-white answer.

One of the thoughts that came to my mind during this conversation regarding his approach: He advocated sticking to one’s stance without resorting to violence. I feel that the greatness of this idea is in its contradiction to the two most natural and instinctive human reactions – fight or flee. He preached a third path – simple, but difficult and requiring great strength and resilience.
Look forward to more of such “Wow” movies…

To sign off with a quote from the man himself:

First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win
– MKG

7:41 AM

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