Gautaman Bhaskaran
an indian journalist
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© Copyright 2004

 

INDIAN CINEMA

Cinema in General

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Pans & Tilts…No Smoking, Laaga Chunari Mein Daag, Star affairs and publicity, Salman Tarzan…

Director Anurag Kashyap believes in living life on his terms, and making cinema that may not please everybody. His first two films – “Paanch” (Five) and “Black
No Smoking 1
John Abraham
Friday” – ran into massive problems with the Indian movie censors. The first was denied a certificate on six grounds, including abusive language and glorification of violence. His second feature made in early 2000 on the police investigations after the Mumbai serial blasts of 1993 was not permitted to screen for a couple of years because of the sensitive nature of its subject. When “Black Friday” finally opened last year it got rave reviews.

Scripting his latest movie, “No Smoking”, Kashyap must have realized that open confrontation with the authorities does not quite pay. So, he plays around with words and actions, and presents what seems like a strong indictment of cigarette smoking. But scratch this layer, and what unfolds is quite another thing. To premiere at the Rome International Film Festival (opened October 18), “No Smoking” is experimental that tries out unique colour tones and editing possibilities, but the picture is unlikely to get into the commercial circuit. It will possibly fare very well in festivals and go on to attract critical attention.

Kashyap, who is better known in Indian cinema circles as a writer (he penned the dialogues for Deepa Mehta’s “Water” among others), portrays K (model-turned-actor John Abraham) as an arrogant, insensitive executive, whose chain smoking habit irks his pretty wife, Anjali, (Ayesha Takia). When she can take it no more, she enlists the help of a detoxification centre, run by an autocratic godman, Shri Shri Prakash Guru Ghantal Baba Bangali Sealdah Wale (Paresh Rawal).

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Director Pradeep Sarkar makes look and feel good cinema. If his earlier “Parineeta” (The Married Woman) adapts a 1914 Bengali novella by Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay and sets it in the Kolkata (Calcutta) of early 1960s, his latest “ Laaga Chunari Mein Daag” (Journey of a Woman) cuts to more modern times. Set in the holiest of Indian cities, Varanasi, the work, however, pans across Mumbai (Bombay), Switzerland and Spain, dramatically effecting a clash of tradition and modernism, of subjugation and freedom. Emotional and spirited, the movie mounted on colourful sets that turn Varanasi into an ethereal, lamp-lit city is unlikely to step into the arthouse circuit, though its box-office potential within the country and outside seems promising, given the eye-catching costumes and breathtaking locales. Song sequences in Switzerland and Spain appear as marvellous picture postcards, but are hardly relevant to the plot.

“Laaga Chunari Mein Daag” – which literally means “stain on my veil” (a term used for a fallen woman) – tries hard to project the modern Indian woman, but does not quite succeed because it appears to have been scripted a good 10 years ago, borrowing the ideas and ideals long buried.

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Bollywood is always on the lookout for publicity, and could there be better promotion than star affairs. Admittedly some are fabricated, conceived and created in the minds of publicists. Years ago, when Raj Kapoor made “Sangam”, a rumour (so they say) of a torrid affair between Raj and Vyjayanthimala was spread, and this really evoked public curiosity, pushing up ticket sales. The lady writes in her just released autobiography, “Bonding…A Memoir”, “It was all the manipulative doing of the Raj Kapoor banner’s PR drive…”. Today, we see that all over again: making use of stars and their love relationships to generate a buzz around movies. With Shahid and Kareena breaking up, their latest, “Jab We Met”, to open worldwide October 26, is hot. With Kareen now holding Saif’s hand, Chopra’s next venture, “Tashan”, is bound to tingle. Cinema is magic all right, and with stars providing enough fodder for fertile minds, there is no end to enchantment and thrill.

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Tailpiece: Salman Khan will play Tarzan, in a film titled “Tarzan”, to be helmed by Anees Bazmee. Salman says that he has always been a great fan of the jungle man, who made friends with animals and a lover out of Jane. I wonder who Salman’s Jane will be. Katrina Kaif, I presume. But before Salman can fling his shirt away and show off his chest, he might, just might, have to don the jail dress for a while.

(Webposted October 25 2007)