Sunday, May 05, 2013

Bombay Talkies: Four callow directors pay uncouth tribute to Hindi cinema

The four directors -- Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap -- have made their mark in today's cinema with nicely mediocre. Johar has done the regular Hindi cinema of songs and dance and melodrama, Zoya Akhtar like her brother Farhan, tries to give a college-going student's with and vitality to telling what they think to be today's stories. Banerjee and Kashyap lived in self-deluded worlds of their own and they make movies which have been appreciated by brainless critics as good. Now these four have made half-hour movies and put them under a single title Bombay Talkies, their tribute to 100 years of Indian cinema they proclaimed. At the end of the four short movies, you have stupid anthem praising Hindi mainstream cinema with all the stars taking their turn to lip-sync a song sans poetry. Johar has dealt with homosexuality where an open gay and repressed gay come face to face and the anguished wife feels that her sexuality has been vindicated by the exposure of the husband, and Akhtar attempts a gender bender where a boy wants to be a girl, dance like Katrina Kaif in the song "Sheela ki jawani" when the father wants his son to play football and cricket. There is an echo of the Pakistani film 'Bol' in Akhtar's theme which could be a pure coincidence. These two movies of Johar and Akhtar are not particularly witty though there are throwaway lines which evoke a snigger at the most. They are supposed to be moving tales but they do not connect with the audience because the Hindi cinema audience wants simple entertainment. Johar and Akhtar seem to be like those clever students who stump their college mates with stuff which they think to be clever. That is where the callowness comes. Banerjee and Kashyap try to deal with themes dealing with cinema's illusion and the drab reality, and they try to connect the two with tales of stale pathos. In Banarejee's tale, a stage actor struggles to do some business by selling emu eggs which he keeps in his tenement in the chawl and when he gets a chance to be an extra in a movie, feels the anguish of the thwarted stage artist. Kashyap handles the Amitabh Bachchan phenomenon through the Allhabad connection and how people sustain their own lies-myths. These short movies could have passed off as good graduate productions of a film school, the FTII variety. They do not stand up as a heartfelt tribute to the great tradition of entertainment and joy that mainstream Hindi cinema has been in the last 100 years. There is no music to speak, the theme song at the end is pathetic, and there is no romance or anything worth noting about human relationships and society. Johar and Akhtar have handled themes which are favoured in Hollywood, Banerjee and Kashyap indulge in self-deprecatory references to cinema and real life. On any other occasion they would have impressed the uneducated film critics. But they cannot be allowed to pass as a tribute to a great tradition. One was reminded of college students paying tribute to the college where they are studying in its centenary year. What they consider clever and deep is just callow offering.

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