Friday, June 10, 2011

West Is West review

Director: Andy DeEmmony
Starring: Om Puri, Aqib Khan, Linda Bassett, Ila Arun, Vijay Raaz
Rating: ***

In East Is East we saw a harried Jehangir Khan aka George (Om Puri) with his dysfunctional Anglo Pakistani family, running his shop along with his firang wife Ella (Linda Bassett), and trying fruitlessly to instill a sense of Muslim rootedness and tradition in his seven children. The family lives in Salford, UK in lower middle class circumstances.

Twelve years later, the makers have come up with the sequel to the British comic-drama, where Jehangir is disappointed that most of children have turned completely English. The period is still 1970s. His last hope rests with his youngest son, Sajid (Aqib Khan). He is keen that the teenager should develop pride for his Pakistani roots. However Sajid is a tough cookie, and is already upset at being referred to as 'Paki by a few school bullies. He is not willing to bend down to his father's tyrannical ways.

The scene ends in a showdown, and Jehangir is determined than ever before to turn his son around. He brings him to his village in Pakistan (the shooting happened in Chandigarh) to the house where his first wife (Ila Arun) and her daughters live. The script doesn't shy away from bringing out Jehangir's callousness in dumping his family and not bothering to visit them in 30 years. He sends them money, but beyond that, he’s been largely unconcerned about them all these years. His grown-up daughters are surprised at his visit and cannot hide their resentment. They accept his small, token gifts with forced smiles.

There's a wonderfully poignant scene where his first wife --- though irrevocably scarred --- for the first time in years perhaps bothers to check her weather-beaten face in the mirror and make herself presentable before her husband. She enters his room tentatively, with the hope he might need her in bed. You realise her own despondency of living without a man for so many years. Jehangir senses this, and gets uncomfortable. Without meeting her eyes, he says he's very tired and shifts in the bed. The wife comes out and weeps quietly, knowing nothing can change now. This is the single-most effective scene in the film.

In the meanwhile, Jehangir wants his younger son to adapt to his new surroundings and entrusts him with a sage. Sajid initially hates the new place calling it a 'dump, but slowly warms up to it. Meanwhile, Jehangir is also looking for an appropriate bride for his eldest and most obedient of all his sons, who has been staying in Pakistan for a year. In all this, his British wife, Ella comes down and some more chaos follows.

West Is West is languorous, spacious film, never in a hurry to fill up the time. Most characters are shown to speak in English, even if it is broken. This seems unrealistic, but can be viewed as permissable cinematic liberty. When the two wives come together, there are the obvious fireworks, but in a few days, both slip into an empathetic calm and even have a heart to heart chat. Even though Ella has stayed with her husband, she points out to the Pakistani women - in a moment of agony - that she too has suffered and that her life has been no easier.

In all this, it is easy to detest Om Puri's character, but you don't. There is an innate warm-heartedness to him. He is very vain and proud, which makes him seem acutely vulnerable and pathetic when his importance is undermined. The film has flaws - the sub plot about his eldest son and his marriage hunt is not too well-etched. Also the theme of identity and belongingness that the writer tries to bring forth through Sajid's character is somewhat half-baked. But there are enough nuances and subtleties to carry the film through and make it interesting enough.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Interview Ram Sampat

The success of D K Bose and Delhi Belly's soundtrack has elated music composer Ram Sampat. He talks to Sandhya Iyer about getting a new lease of life, and takes on director Anubhav Sinha for making remarks about Aamir Khan

The first time one really heard of Ram Sampat was when he took on the might of the Roshans and dragged them to court over a plaigirism issue. Rakesh Roshan had to cough up four crores for the Krazzy 4 number, which angered a section of Bollywood hitherto not used to being held accountable. Though Sampat was a known name in advertising circles, the period after the controversy proved to be an especially trying one for him. "I was out of work for a while. What I felt was pure indignation. I was upset that so much disrespect was being shown. Here, I am asking for credit for what I have created and is genuinely mine. It made me wonder why I am in this business at all? It was great the way the judiciary acted. I just needed to present facts and the decision was made," he says, recollecting the incident with mingled emotions.

The industry was divided over the issue. Some supported him, some didn't. "And among those who did was Aamir Khan," he says. When the actor offered him Delhi Belly, it meant the world to Sampat. "I was struggling at the fringes, so bagging Delhi Belly was huge. In the beginning, there was supposed to be just one song in the film, and the background music. The song was Jaa Chudail... After doing that, I was pretty much left to my own devices. As I went through the script again, I realised that a lot could be developed. Meanwhile, the film's writer, Akshat (Verma) had left a few hook words for me like Jaa Chudail and Teri Tirchi Nazar and Bhag D K Bose...they were just ideas which he thought we could work on. The film was still developing at this stage and was going through an edit change. Aamir was busy with Ghajini, and I asked him if he could hear some of the songs I had created. He heard it and was like 'Wow'. He was very excited," he says.
But Delhi Belly's music is not what one would immediately associate with Aamir Khan, isn't it?. "That's the thing. He's anything but conservative. He's a hip guy and a hip producer," says Sampat.
Once Aamir gave him the go ahead, the composer swung into full action, and created seven highly original and experimental tracks. The theme of the underdog in the film and the accompanying frustration fuelled his imagination. "Sure, I was going though the same feeling," he laughs, "But basically, the tracks came out of a strong feeling to express myself. I was sick of music that said nothing. Also, there were highly talented people who I wanted to introduce through this album. Besides creating something fresh and original, the idea was to reinvent the way songs are used," he says. Now that the tracks are out, he's thrilled with the way the songs are being promoted, with special music videos.
But the popularity of D K Bose has also seen a controversy cropping up, with filmmaker Anubhav Sinha going hammer and tongs at Aamir Khan for being 'irresponsible' for airing the song on prime time TV. Sampat has decided to take on the Cash and Ra.One director head on. Aamir himself is shooting in Pondicherry for his upcoming film, and the composer says that the actor himself would have laughed off Sinha's comments. "But I was very angry when I saw what he said, and I asked Aamir if I could express my opinion. He said 'okay'."
"Of course, I feel protective about Aamir and the whole Delhi Belly team. Also, here I had clawed my way back into the industry from the wilderness. I did it on my own terms. So I really do take this very seriously. Anubhav Sinha - if he has a problem - must argue this factually, not get into cheap mud-slinging. The censors have approved what they have to. I don't find anything wrong with D K Bose. It's a very honest song. It's about underdogs, who have taken blows in life. That one line in it ' Yeh Bheja Garden Hai, Aur Tension Maali Hai' is a profound one, and better than anything I've heard," he says.

Sampat is especially upset because he feels Anubhav Sinha has no right for moral policing when his own films like Cash and Dus have had titillating songs and lyrics. "It's laughable and blatant hypocrisy. What about lyrics like Saiyyan Saiyaan, love the way you touch me' He didn't have an issue with his son listening to it then? Why pick on a hit song, when he has regularly churned out meaningless crap," he retorts.

The composer is not sure why Sinha would want to speak against the film. "It does seem like an attempt to garner cheap publicity. I wouldn't know why else he is doing it. There is hidden agenda for sure, but that only Mr Sinha with his great 'anubhav' can tell and enlighten us. It's not for me to say whether he did it to promote Ra One. His film has to stand its own ground when it releases. There's no point trying to pull others down. It's a petty mentality. We hope Ra. One does well. We want all the films to do well.," he says.

Besides Delhi Belly, Sampat has also signed Reema Kagti's next starring Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Kareena Kapoor. "Yes it was Aamir who recommended me to Reema, but he only asked her to see if I suited the bill. So I had to impress Reema. Fortunately, we hit it off really well. The film has a fabulous script and great scope for music, and is the polar opposite of Delhi Belly," he says.
Other offers are pouring in for the hit composer but Sampat says two films a year is all he can handle. "Script is important to me In fact, the first thing Reema and Amair said to me is 'Go through the script and see if you 'd like to be a part of the film' I'd want to be choosy. For now, these two films are more than enough I think," he says.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Review: Ready

Ready, very unsteady

Director: Anees Bazmi
Starring: Salman Khan, Asin, Paresh Rawal, Mahesh Manjrekar, Sharat Saxena, Akhilendra Mishra, Anuradha Patel, Arya Babbar
Stars: **

Ready is exactly the kind of film that gets made when a lead star is going through a lucky purple patch in his career. The script then moves along with a smug consciousness of having a superstar as its chief mover and shaker. The assumption is that most of the film will revolve around the star, who will play to the gallery and draw heavily upon his various signature styles. Not that Salman Khan's films are known for their scripts, but Ready particularly hopes to ride on its male lead's shoulders without bothering to come up with anything new or remotely interesting.

In many ways, Ready looks like a residue and cheap imitation of some of Govinda's 90s romcoms, which anyway had far more spunk and humour. Right from the tacky title credits to the stale script and insipid treatment, Ready seems like a blast from an unwelcome past. The first half is especially trying, as the film drags along endlessly with unfunny gags and a nonsensical plot-line. The second half gathers some pace, and there are the occasional scenes which elicit a faint smile, but none of that pulls the film from its mire of inanity.

Prem (Salman Khan) belongs to a large, extended family, who are keen to get him married. He himself is reluctant and shows no interest when he is packed off to receive a girl at the airport. Simultaneously, a runaway bride, Sanjana (Asin) is desperate for a place to hide, as she is being chased by a few goons. She poses as Salman's proposed bahu and joins his family, who take a great liking to her. Salman stays aloof towards her, but warms up once she tells him about her two warring gangster-uncles (Sharat Saxena, Akhilendra Mishra). Each of them wants her to marry their respective sons for her wealth, and have been chasing her around the town. If you can get past this ludicrous plot, the rest of it revolves around Salman's efforts to bring the uncouth uncles around and create a Hum Saath Saath Hain out of the Kaminey families.

In many ways, Ready is a watered down version of director Anees Bazmee's own Welcome, an infinitely funnier comedy. It stays marginally watchable of course, thanks to a few individual scenes. There are a couple of characters, including the one of Paresh Rawal, who reveal Bazmee's talent for comic writing. But this is all very few and far in between, and much of what goes on is childish and puerile to the extreme.

Coming to the man of the moment, Salman Khan surprisingly seems a little out of form at the start of the film. He looks too bulky and the role of a 'young' bachelor-in-the-house -- that the 45 year old Khan has played in countless films -- heightens the sense of deja vu. He gradually slips into the part, but the role is unlikely to gain as much favour as Wanted or Dabangg. The choice of Asin works quite well for a film that is urgently in need of some freshness.

Calling it a 'time-pass' flick in some ways denotes that it probably isn't high art, but entertains reasonably well. Ready can't even be called that. Fans of Salman may find it bearable enough, but really, this is low IQ tripe that is one, long, pointless exercise.