Monday, September 29, 2008

Welcome to Sajjanpur

If you have read my blogs, you’d know that I analyse critically the movies I see. I highlight the bloopers in the movie, and sometimes even suggest what could have been done to make the movie better. But this time I have no criticism and no suggestions. Welcome to Sajjanpur is a welcome respite from the senseless, meaningless movies releasing like people from projects in IT companies.

Welcome to Sajjanpur uses humor (as opposed to misuse, as done by a lot of movies these days) to tell grave realities of our society. Shyam Benegal, intricately weaves - a political saga, a child-widow problem, a human organs business, harassment of girls due to superstition and aspirations of an educated average village youth - by humour. Most comic sequences in the movie not only tickle you but also pose some thought provoking questions about the society we live in. The hegemony of the illiterate, Hindu MLA candidate, the helplessness of the Muslim opponent and the pains of the eunuch who finally wins the election – all points to the problems prevalent in the political space. Another heart throbbing story was that of a child widow who got a decent suitor. Both the families were more than happy with the relation but the couple was hung alive from tree by the society who took widow remarriage as a crime. The story of a woman whose husband goes to the city for work, not only describes the emotional trauma a woman (and more so a man) separated from her (his) spouse for four years go through but also hints at the organ-sale racket when her husband writes her that he is going to sell his kidney to buy a house for them. The most humouros of the stories, the story of a girl who was not getting a suitor because she was a “mangalik”, hints at the superstition of which our society is a victim. The girl, diagnosed as mangalik was prescribed to marry a dog born on a Saturday!

The movie ends in an overall positive note. The letter writer turns into a novelist. The manglik gets married (to this writer). Munni wins the election and is influential in the parliament (though Benegal doesn’t say whether the influence was good or bad). However, the hanging of the couple sensitizes the audience about the backwardness of our society.

I have purposely avoided using the names of the character or actor which played the roles. The characters represent average villagers – not only of Sajjanpur but of any place in India. All the actors did full justice to their characters. Sreyas Talpade, Amrita Rao, Rajeshwari Shachdev, Illa Arun, and all the others did an amazing work.

The music of the movie is good – not outstanding. The lyrics of the songs are really meaningful and add to the overall flow of the movie. I, especially, remember one song sung by the eunuch while campaigning. The song goes something like – “Pehle raja aye, phir rani aayi – ab munni jitegi”. It means – first there was the kingdom of “kings” – probably hinting at the Mughal rulers – all male. Then came the Queen – probably hinting at the British Queen and now Munni (the eunuch) is going to win.
If I still had to find one thing in the movie which I liked comparatively less was the dripping of nose instead of eyes of Illa Arun. But, still I think, it did good job in lightening the issue at hand. See, I still cannot find one clear “flaw”. The light but realistic treatment given to such heavy, grave subjects is really amazing. I had not seen such an amazing movie with such varied shades and colors in recent times – some part of the movie being painted with bright, cheerful colors, some with grim, dark ones and some with obscured colors whose myriad shades pose serious questions to the audience. You must have guessed by now (given the number of times I used the word ‘amazing’) that I found the movie, well, amazing :)

Monday, September 15, 2008

Rocking Rock-On

A shaadi-ka-song in a rock album – this is exactly what Rock On turned out to be. The switching of the storyline between the “rocking” past and the mundane present was brilliantly done. This aroused curiousity in the audience to find out what went wrong among the friends. The characters of the film were well-designed. I could, kind of, associate myself with KD or Aditya. Now, don’t get me wrong here. I don’t mean that I am as rich as Aditya/KD are shown – nor I was part of a rock band – nor were the characters inspired by me – I bet u didn’t see my name in acknowledgements. But, rock was an integral part of our college life - rock competitions during fests, rock performances during freshers’/farewell, rock songs played in gachhtolas and canteens. I was never and am still not into rock, but somehow, rock did get into me, though very little. And now, I am leading a corporate life where disco nights have taken over rock shows and cafeteria over canteen. Outwardly, it all appears great. But somehow, there is a yearning to go back to the good ole days. This was portrayed in both KD’s and Aditya’s character.

The movie went well , given that it was targeted for not-so-rock-savvy Indian audience who thinks that Boyzone in a rock band. It doesn’t get into the darker/harsher side of the rock genre. The music was good and went well with the story – kudos to Shankar Ehsaan Loy. The movie and the friendship did reminded me of DCH but then, any movie showing urban-contemporary friendship is bound to be compared to or associated with DCH.

But. the brain tumor thing was too much of melodrama – though not explicit. The movie could have been just about a rock band. Why does someone need to have brain tumor, of all the deseases? This was similar to the stand of the music company owner. When Magik won the Channel V contest and was offered an album , the audio company asked it to add a shaadi-ka-gaana to the rock album. C’mon, this is the limit. This is highly unrealistic. Given the era in which the movie was set, it unrealistic and irrational of the audio company owner to insist for a marriage song to a rock album. The company should have analyzed the taste of rock fans. Which rock fan would have bought that album if it had a marriage song? Also, which non-rock fan would have bought it if it had 7 rock songs? – This reminds me of the behavior of a lot of politicians! Similar to this shaadi-ka-gaana thing was the brain-tumor saga. This made the film lose it’s realistic treatment it was given before Rob’s tumor case. Also, the PJs cracked by KD do not go well with rock stars – I don’t blame the director/writer for this - as the kind of jokes rock stars crack wouldn’t have got censor certificate. Also, the “response” of the audiences shown in the rock concert was too made-up. No headbangs, no rock-on gesture by hands. Rock show is not complete without these. The director/choreographer should have visited at least one proper rock show.

Overall, I’d rate this movie 7/8 (in proportion to 7 rock songs out of 8 songs in the album and 1/8 of the film having the brain-tumor stuff. The treatment of the film is fairly realistic. The music is superb – goes well with the movie. The acting of each of the actors is brilliant. The screenplay is amazing as wel. You don’t feel guilty of wasting some 2.5 hrs. I’d say it’s worth spending not only for the ticket but also for cola and popcorn

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