Friday, February 9, 2018


The basic concept of the film is quite good. A not-so-young single lady trying to find a match on the Internet. Finding a partner through the online medium is the reality of our times and the fact that it addresses a generation that is a bit over-the-age makes it interesting. Also, it’s novel as it’s driven from the perspective of a woman.
After introducing the protagonist’s problem quickly, the film’s progression falters as there isn’t much tension that builds up and keeps us engaged with the struggles of the characters. It banks on the ‘funniness’ factor, with an attempt to show two opposite characters going on a unique journey together. However, the characters’ idiosyncrasies and the funny situations don’t work, as the story development or discovering new aspects of characters isn’t properly dealt with.
I am convinced that if this film was 20 minutes shorter, it still would have felt long.
(I will write my comments, and even specify the areas, which technically in a coverage are not mentioned).


Storyline / Concept / Conflict
The idea of Jaya and Yogi going on a journey together looks good as one can showcase various settings and the fact that they will get to know each other better. For this to work, the goals not only have to be clear to the audience but importantly, the stakes have to be set. Accomplishing this over the entire story needs to come across through dealing with obstacles ensuring that there is a strong dramatic conflict.
What does it mean for Jaya to find a partner? What happens if she fails to find one? What is stopping Jaya from overcoming her problem? The latter, in this specific story, drives the central conflict, which is internal – she needs to overcome her inner issues or change to be more open. Unfortunately, the conflict is not pronounced. The stakes are amiss. These critical questions on what it will mean for Jaya don’t clearly come across.
Jaya is supposed to be stuck with the past, with her husband who has passed away, but this is only a lip service done in the beginning and when Yogi brings it about. In the end, it resolves too conveniently. You don’t see Jaya struggling with it. She is also shown to have certain characteristics, which she is likely to overcome in the end, but these don’t have an impact. Like not sharing water bottle, which eventually happens in the end. What are these limitations doing for the story or even for her character?
Yes, there is one element that is highlighted – Yogi’s carefree demeanor versus a guarded Jaya, and by the nature of going on a trip with him, she is challenged. This does result in a change, but this payoff isn’t a big one. Jaya is an independent lady. She lives on her own. She does decide to go with him. Showing her surprised over Yogi's different-from-her's attitude can work for a bit or two but not all the way.
The wise-crack Yogi is also supposed to change in the end when on hearing the word ‘boyfriend’ he takes action. Again, his struggle or hang-ups are not set up and explored appropriately. As such the payoff is weak.
The critical question – what is the story about – is not answered to fruition. One doesn’t feel engaged with the problems or tensions of the characters in the middle. As such, the end seems hurried and resolution tame.
The story needed deep work, if not in the beginning itself, then during the 2nd Act. The problem is made clear at the start – Jaya has been single for a while and after a push from her friend (archetype – angel) she attempts to find a partner. But how much it matters to her, what are the stakes, what happens if she gives up the chase? These are the questions not coming out strongly. Even if it’s in her subconscious, they ought to come across, be it in an indirect or subtle manner.
The 2nd Act starts when she goes on the trip with Yogi but mainly, the focus throughout is on playing out fun situations, scene after scene. The emotional heft brought about what she feels or displayed by why is she doing this trip, is missing. Be it taking a flight, a train or a cab, the scenes do not deliver insight into character’s growth or highlight conflict explicitly.
The middle act needs to raise the tempo. Jaya’s desire to have a companion should be emphasized. There are situations that show her losing the company of Yogi in the midst of the travel, which was a good opportunity to reveal her inner conflicts. She wants company. She goes with a man who is a polar opposite. She is, perhaps, miffed with his personality and regrets being with him. But when she loses him, even for a few hours, a nice twist, that was chance to throw insights into her.
There could have been subplots to explore her issues deeply. Instead of a supportive brother, some problem with him may have helped to put some momentum in the middle, which could have resolved in the final act, rounding off her better.
What is being resolved in the end and how does it affect Jaya in the middle or beginning is lacking amidst the leg-pulling or cute-fights that is not doing much for the story. There is no view of the conflict rising and great character revelation occurring.
In the final act, one can see a predictable end, which doesn’t deliver. In fact, Jaya’s outburst at Yogi, is quite out of line, by what we have been shown throughout the film. If this was actually a setup, which would be paid off by getting together with Yogi, all happening in the last 10 minutes, then it was a long time coming. Besides, showing a fight over his demeanor earlier, maybe as a good turning point at the midpoint would have clarified the issues of Jaya clearly and even put Yogi on an alert.
Everything turning out fine in the end, with no proper setup, is a feeble resolution. Besides, the lack of roles for other two characters - ex-friends of the two, who crop up in the end also seemed forced; as if the realization happened that the story didn’t have much momentum and it was perhaps better to close the story.
Who is the protagonist of the film? This question highlights a problem with the story. When you set up a character as your central figure, in this film Jaya, she is the one who needs to be driving the action.
From beginning to middle and interestingly, even at the end, when Yogi runs to go for her, she tends to be a passive character. This stems from the fact that Jaya’s character lacks the will. As such the character is not driving the action.
She does set the ball rolling by making her profile, but once the Yogi character comes into play, she is reactive for most of the story. It’s evident that Yogi, the male character is the quirky one, who tends to be more engrossing to watch, but if he takes the important calls, then it gets difficult to identify with Jaya. Not putting Jaya at the forefront also robbed us of viewing her dealing with her conflicts, even if she is reactive. We need to see her struggle, the challenges she faces and how she deals with and eventually resolves.  
The other characters, her friends, including the salon circle, are present to bring laughs by expressing a certain setting. She isn’t comfortable with it, and sure, in the end, she will learn to deal with it, but there should have been more depth with at least one or two side characters. They would have helped in fleshing out Jaya much more.
The big opportunity lost was in the brother of her character. If you take him out, it wouldn’t have made much difference to the story. We could have seen Jaya being more active. That backstory, of her family, wasn’t needed. Yet, video chatting with the brother, the new norm of today was definitely an interesting device. Adding some conflict with him could have opened new doors for us to see the development of Jaya. Strangely, the brother becomes an angel for Yogi, which is not unconvincing, but again, we don’t see it coming as such from Yogi.
It is to the credit of Irrfan Khan that he brings a certain demeanor, the pauses, that does show his character being conflicted or lost. So when the brother mentions the word, boyfriend, it hits him and he goes chasing Jaya at the end, which seems to work. But again, it is a problem – if Jaya is the primary protagonist, she is the one who should be doing the running. Her character arc (growth) is quite all over the place.
Bringing an ex-flame of Jaya at the end and justifying that as her reason to go with Yogi (to Gangtok) perhaps was an intended twist to surprise audience. Does it work? It would if it reveals some unique aspect of her character or takes the plot forward. Coming just at the end it doesn’t mean much. As a plot device, it may have had merits – creating a rift for the supposedly indifferent Yogi or showing Jaya’s longing for a man. This ‘chilled or cool’ friendship between two old friends doesn’t add any drama.
Others Angles
The tone of the film is of course, light-hearted, but by filling it up with silly characters and such situations, it doesn’t augur well if we don’t relate with Jaya’s character, her predicament. The journey is for a reason. The interaction on the trip will shape her and perhaps, even him. But by focusing too sharply on the funny, it fails to bring in the dramatic truths about her character.
As the stakes are not strong, the pace seems tardy. How much can one watch the same (humorous) acts if it doesn’t raise the tension? The change of settings is refreshing but as the story progresses in the (challenging) middle act, it ought to reveal more and present more obstacles.
Eventually, what’s the story about? What’s the underlying idea or theme of the film? Is it that you ought to come out of your comfort zone and experience life as it flows? Or is it that you can only find a new partner or a new beginning when you let go of the past? Well, intellectually, one may draw various inferences, but when you watch a film, nothing sits well.
Some parts also look contrived for effects. The (typical?) Jaya drunken scene. Her sudden outburst at the end. If we meet two ex-girlfriends of Yogi why is the 3rd one missing, when that’s what has been set up right from the beginning – going to meet his three female friends? Likely, while editing they realized that the flow was not fluid.
I am sure, the filmmakers, maybe Zee as well thought that this can be a great film. You have two good actors. Nice, novel concept. Going on a journey, shooting at different places and showing new terrains to the audience, appears to be a positive factor. However, if your characters are not in sync with their goals, if their problems are not pronounced and if we don’t see them struggling through till the end, then it sure is very difficult to pull through. Eventually, you need to set up, respect and pay off the dramatic conflict.
Even with Irrfan Khan wanting to be a co-producer and actor, this screenplay should not have been approved until it was sorted out. It required a lot of slog.
Building a strong script requires going back and forth many times to ensure the dramatic conflict is clear and it helps if you work extra hard on it. Zee Films may see it differently and so may Irrfan Khan Production but the response also shows that the film didn’t hit its mark. It had a potential with its concept and two skilled leads but the challenge was in crafting a dramatic story. 

If it doesn’t work on the paper, it will not on the screen.


(This post was in response to a blog – Ace in the Hole (no 7))

I for one see Chuck as someone who has a heart. It’s submerged for most of the film. However, Wilder foreshadows a lot of things and carefully expresses instinctual moments of Chuck, which reveals, at times of him being ‘lost’. He sure is cynical. His actions are ruthless but there’s a bit of humanity in him even if it may not seem so. This itself reflects the brilliance of Wilder and Douglas.

Ace in the Hole follows (Joseph) Campbell’s The Hero Journey’s steps to a great extent. Chuck has a want, a goal. He has a call to adventure and literally gets into the cave and crosses the threshold. Eventually, he shall have to deal with his shadow. Only, in this case, he doesn’t come back with a positive reward. One may argue that he does – learns about what life’s supposed to teach him.

Some points on how they show Chuck’s humane side in contrast to most of his actions till the end:
– His relationship with the rookie reporter, who looks up to him, isn’t totally one-sided. He unconsciously is his mentor but also fair. When given a chance – he tells the rookie to not work for him. Also, him directing the kid to the chair also shows his humanity
– When he realizes the man may not survive, his amorality turns around; he is genuinely angry at the wife. Sure he used her but when the crisis reaches the peak, he wants her to be kind to her nice hubby
– Interestingly, when the wife comes to thank him and Chuck wants her to play the weeping wife, it’s Chuck’s expressions that show – he is not amused. Why? That’s also a part of his inherent nature. In fact, she is there in admiration of Chuck, willing to sleep with him. But what does Chuck do? Slap her!
– The big one and this is where the screenwriters and Wilder as director and Douglas as actor walk the delicate path of showcasing his ‘heart’. In the very first instance when he meets Leo, what’s Chuck’s instinct? To save the man. Though when he reaches back to the kid, he becomes his ‘normal’ self
As the situations get more complicated with Leo not doing well, Chuck is tested. And there’s a moment in the middle of the film when Leo calls him his best friend. You have to observe Chuck’s expression – guilt is written on his face. This is where the writers start to push it in. But does he change instantly? Nope. Wilder knows better and instead of giving us a contrived change, he carefully arcs Chuck’s character.
There’s also his interactions with Leo’s dad over the film. A kind man, who is honored and grateful to Chuck for his attempt to save his son’s life. This is an interesting strategy – in one way, it shows how ruthless Chuck is, but slowly this builds a sort of pressure on him, arcing him subtly and slowly, highlighting – trust/faith in a con-man has the potential to change him.
What happens when he returns sensing that Leo isn’t doing good and meets the dad? He lies and…see how he feels guilty. Now he takes it forward – by boozing. In comes his conscience keeper, his boss, who counters him. Boss is upright and Chuck is low, out of control. Chuck’s life has started to go out of control – he has started to discover or sense his shadow. And complications will only get worse when he shall have to choose – to get another rocking piece of news or save the man.
This all is built up brilliantly by writers and the director. This all is built up brilliantly by writers and the director. Consider again the expression of Chuck immediately post his celebratory gesture when the mother comes and lights the candle. Our man’s not happy within. There’s some sort of sanity residing in him.
For all the ills he has done, he now has to pay a price to correct what he can and do what he must – try saving the man. Sure his ‘mode’ lets him lie (make him seem honest) to the Sherif that he can’t have a dead-man for the story. But…the man’s changed. Again they don’t bring it out up front, on the nose kinds.
Again, brilliant stuff. Wilder piles on the agony. So much so that Chuck tans the Sherif in anger and when the contractor comes in and informs Chuck that now the short-solution can’t work, this is when the floor is wiped below him. Wilder from total brightness brings in a shadow to cover half his face and then…he turns around and hits the printer with his towel. The machine goes on and on…printing
Chuck now gives one last desperate shot inside the cave. Angry, trying to save the man on his own. Almost crying. Shouting at Leo to make him breathe. This is the final frontier for Chuck to not commit the biggest crime. And then goes off to fulfill the dying man’s wish.
Eventually, Chuck is willing to get stabbed and instead of seeking help, all he wants is for Leo to meet the Father. It’s not Leo who is being read the sermon, it’s more of Chuck. What does Leo say – Bless me father, for I have sinned. Who is the camera pointed to and what are the expressions? It’s Chuck. Feeling the same. And he shall not be forgiven.
Lastly, the theme of the film needs to be addressed. For all the cynicism being expressed by Wilder against the media and people, he shows the way – Tell the Truth.
Chuck makes all the effort – wounded more so in his soul – and reaches the height to proclaim to the world about Leo’s death. He is still not ready to let out completely and goes to the media to speak who refuse to listen.
Eventually, he dies in the very office, where he read the words, Tell the Truth. On the verge of telling the truth to everyone, he doesn’t get that chance. How ironic is that? And…this is where Wilder is expressing the premise: lying doesn’t pay. One’s soul will forever be in the dark if you don’t go with the truth.


(Written on June 22, 2012)
The cinema is a deep, dark mystery that we auteurists are attempting to solve, and, what is infinitely more difficult, to report our findings in readable prose – Sarris
(AP Photo/New York Times, Fred R. Conrad)
I have been aware of Andrew Sarris though never dug his works. He has been celebrated as the pioneer of film criticism and his demise has led to some good pieces on him that reflect on his invaluable contribution.
Below are insightful excerpts from Jim Emerson’s blogon Sarris and here’s Ebert on him. Early this week I read an old blog of David Bordwell and he acknowledges that his movie-manic life changed, got direction, when he started reading Sarris.
Sarris was the person who propagated the auteur theory in America – director is the chief architect in film-making – and brought attention to the American directors, which changed the way how movies were looked at. However, interestingly it’s not as if he ignores the other crew and their valuable inputs.
My own interpretation of the auteur theory was based originally on the weird notion that good movies did not just happen by accident; nor were they the products of some mindless beehive of activity. I proposed instead a pattern theory in constant flux to explain certain stylistic signs of personal creativity in what had otherwise been dismissed as an industrial assembly line. My business was history, not prophecy. After looking at a score of films directed by Alfred Hitchcock, a score of films directed by John Ford, and a score of films directed by Howard Hawks, no one could tell me that Hitchcock, Ford, and Hawks were not authentic auteurs. This was not to denigrate the role of the actor, the writer, the cinematographer, the editor, the composer of the music, the sound technician, the set designer, and the myriad artistic and technical contributors to the finished motion picture. There were instances, in fact, in which the true auteur of the film was not the director at all, but a producer like Selznick, a cinematographer like Lee Garmes or Gregg Toland, a set designer like William Cameron Menzies, a special effects wizard like Frank Bashevi, a composer like Miklos Rozsa or Max Steiner, a writer like Ben Hecht, or actors like Garbo and Cagney, Sullavan and Stewart, Leigh and Olivier, Hepburn and Tracy, Dunne and Grant, Arthur and Boyer. My “theory” was intended as the first step rather than the last stop of film scholarship. […]
His comments on the theory highlights what films ought to be and emphasizes on ‘interior meaning’.
… [The] ultimate premise of the auteur theory is concerned with interior meaning, the ultimate glory of the cinema as an art. Interior meaning is extrapolated from the tension between a director’s personality and his material. This conception of interior meaning comes close to what Astruc defines as mise en scène, but not quite. It is not quite the vision of the world a director projects nor quite his attitude toward life. It is ambiguous, in any literary sense, because part of it is imbedded in the stuff of the cinema and cannot be rendered in noncinematic terms. Truffaut has called it the temperature of the director on the set, and that is a close approximation of its professional aspect. Dare I come out and say what I think it to be is an élan of the soul?
Lest I seem unduly mystical, let me hasten to add that all I mean by “soul” is that intangible difference between one personality and another, all other things being equal. Sometimes, this difference is expressed by no more than a beat’s hesitation in the rhythm of a film. In one sequence of “La Règle du Jeu,” Renoir gallops up the stairs, turns to his right with a lurching movement, stops in hipline uncertainty when his name is called by a coquettish maid, and, then, with marvelous postreflex continuity, resumes his bearishly shambling journey to the heroine’s boudoir. If I could describe the musical grace note of that momentary suspension, and I can’t, I might be able to provide a more precise definition of the auteur theory. As it is, all I can do is point at the specific beauties of interior meaning on the screen and, later, catalogue the moments of recognition.
The three premises of the auteur theory may be visualized as three concentric circles: the outer circle as technique; the middle circle, personal style; and the inner circle, interior meaning. The corresponding roles of the director may be designated as those of a technician, a stylist, and an auteur…. Technique is simply the ability to put a film together with some clarity and coherence.
He talks about direction in contemporary times (which was 1960s) but it’s as relevant today.
Nowadays, it is possible to become a director without knowing too much about the technical side, even the crucial functions of photography and editing. An expert production crew could probably cover up for a chimpanzee in the director’s chair. How do you tell the genuine director from the quasichampanzee? After a given number of films, a pattern is established.
Indian CinemaThis has a huge relevance for Indian cinema. Two points. One – You don’t need to be aware of the skills. Just direct, deal with actors, who shall do their bit and in a similar vein interact with the crew, who shall do their role. The director is happy to have his designation. It’s a badge of honor. And as long as you execute something that is good enough. Two – Patterns are formed as you work, of how you work – the evidence is on the screens and one can see where the affinity lies.
Film-making is hard. Every one slogs. Yet the results of story-telling are the evidence that the skill-sets of our crew, especially the auteur – director and his main partner, writer are lacking too much. Else, even if not box office successes we would have stories that would impact the audience.
What’s needed is emphasis on the learning. What’s required is to someone show the light. In an era, where noise is what sets the standard – greater, the better, we are extremely satisfied, maybe also indifferent, with what we get to digest. When we are conditioned for nonsense, we seek more of it. The few people who take different paths unfortunately either haven’t mastered the skills or / and themselves succumb to the 4-seconds of fame they achieve.
What’s missing and importantly, what’s negatively impacting our society: strong story-telling. This is a medium of magic, of internal meaning, of a medium that can create moments, capture life in tidbits that has the capacity to see us our soul, to be truly entertained and have some personal meaning.
Hope we get folks, who can be Sarris for our nation, can do the needful. Perhaps the need of the hour is even more than ever. With an audience that’s dispassionate and disinterested we need critics who can throw the spotlight on what’s black and what’s white. Even more significantly, inspire the makers to do justice to themselves.


(Written on June 22, 2012)
I wasn’t too keen to see the flick but a couple of friends insisted that I should. It was supposed to be great and had been a big success at the box office. They loved the flick but after struggling to watch it, I didn’t.
I consider it a badly made film – loose (no-tension) plot, fake character transformations, playing cute for the heck of it, contrived situations, over-the-top cranky-&-saintly characters…
Obviously, Shoojit Sircar in love with Delhi and its people and Bollywood’s affection for Delhi lingo made Dilli-giri the focus. However, after a bit, it gets too tedious to watch.
Shanghai shines like gold before it even though I didn’t fancy the film; the multiple narrative tracks and the camera/editing style messed up the emotional impact. However, Shanghai was a pretty challenging story to tell and Banerjee put an effort. For sure. I can go and watch it again.
This one is one helluva drag; seems to me they wrote the script in 7-days. Looks like a lazy attempt. It does something for the sperm-donor subject, but give me a break if that makes it a good story told!
Of course, the world loved the characters and the lingo and made it a big hit. But boy…the story-telling sucks.
In some ways, it’s worrisome that it doesn’t matter much to the audience. Is it because they are so used to seeing the nonsense that even if something is done right, or they see something refreshing, they fall for it? What’s interesting is that many people I know, who are also exposed to ‘good’ cinema, also don’t register the poor execution. Perhaps they are too much in love with certain aspects – characters + lingo, in this case – and ignore the rest.
Vicky Donor suffers from not having an active protagonist. This implies that the goal that the protagonist will chase isn’t going to be driving the character and as such the stakes aren’t high. What this does for a story is that the characters are not compelling. They are made interesting courtesy their behavior, their lingo and whatever antics they may do.
Considering how folks love Delhi and it’s people on the screen – mainly their mannerisms, every other film based on Delhi, overdoes it. The same happened in Band Baaja Baraat. When the effort should have been in building conflict, the makers enjoyed what they witnessed – cute dialogues and fights, even if contrived and…kept going onwards with that.
Vicky Donor, story-wise doesn’t go anywhere. At all. Sure…it’s about sperm-donation. Sure they use humor to explain this subject that people would have felt repulsed with and that’s about the smart thing they did with respect to the story. It helps when they have actors who can be convincing in their over-the-top behavior.
However, one returns to the point – what’s the story about? And who is it about? Going by the actions the protagonist is Dr. Chaddha, not Vicky, though the story-teller sure want the guy to be at the forefront. It’s Dr. Chaddha who has a goal. Who has complications when Vicky goes off and Dr. Chaddha is the man, who gets him back and sets his world right.
In a way, it’s absolutely fine but when you focus the movie on Vicky and his family and his love life, then he should be driving the engine. Not just the sperms! The writer/director are clearly in love with the characters and settings and kept playing around the same.
It’s more of a documentary, though even good ones have rising tension. In this, there are just cute and supposedly-funny (which worked with the audience) dialogues exchanges between the family and Vicky. As for the love angle, it’s totally dry. There’s no logic for a banking girl to fall for a good-for-nothing guy. Well…one may say that can happen. Ok. But…how does a relationship evolve and grow and how the two interact? How the two fall in love? One guy pesters. The other one doesn’t respond and isn’t amused. Then a friend points out – he is cute and there you go. she starts to go around with the dude.
Some critics have loved the writing and the direction. Precisely two departments that falter massively. Lame dialogues. Worse is using the crutch of verbose to get a relationship going! There’s no concrete action. It’s all superfluous. And…the movie drags big time.
From another perspective, Vicky Donor sets or continues to set a dangerous precedent. A smart, educated girl falls for a guy who flirts and that’s it. All the reaction that happens, post their relationship getting serious, including marriage, tends to be a joke.
The writing/direction is lazy and they could have done a huge favor by working in hard on characters, their interaction, provided them with flaws, struggle and given convincing reasons on why the two matter to each other.
The inference. The girl is hot. The guy is a tapori. And there’s the best match!
I could even take-in such nonsense if the plot progresses forward, if the obstacles rise, but this is where the question arises: whose story is it? Dr. Chaddha is the guy who is running around but we now focus on the romance. Contrived and farcical, it takes the story nowhere.
What you get is Punju-Bengali issues dealt with humorously so as to be applauded by the audience. And this gets so contrived and character transformations happen over instant. One moment they hate each other. Next, they are loving ’em, for no rhyme or reason.
Vicky Donor is a very interesting film in Bollywood. Lauded for being a ‘fresh’ flick, with no star, concerned with ‘serious subject, it has become a big hit.
But what’s the learning – create loud, over-the-top characters, focus on jokes, almost like stand-up comics, show ’em cute, put some songs, show some emotions, it doesn’t matter if it’s fake, if the story is one-dimensional, just create an upbeat flick with some good tempo, bad fast-paced editing is fine, and have some music, get some Punju angle and stupid humor and…there you go!
Delhi’s best deal has been Khosla Ka Ghosla. Anyone seriously interested in screenwriting or film-making should study the two films side-by-side. It would be clear like the difference between heaven and hell that this one’s not a patch.


(Written on June 21, 2012)
I consider Dibakar Banerjee (DB) with the best storytelling sense in Bollywood. He has that knack and with varied topics has managed to tell good stories. However, for once I was disappointed, with Shanghai.
I believe that this was his toughest story to ‘show’ – commenting on the politics of our times; the scope is very broad and challenging. Both in terms of setting and characters of the story ‘Z’.
He has followed ‘Z’ (the film) to a good extent except for one big change: creating the (Kalki) character of Shalini, a lover, who takes forth the battle to get the criminal behind bars. Or well…she is supposed to.
This is a problem, or a challenge very difficult to deal with: trying to put a passive character at the center of the story. Then…dealing with multiple narratives and intending to focus on stories of other key figures. The danger is in keeping track of the core of the story.
The big flaw for me is his strategy of execution to tell the story. With regards to cinematography and editing.
He goes hand-held for most of the times, which gets jarring over the time; worse, it takes you away from the characters. I am sure the Shanghai crew will back their strategy but shakiness, all the way, even if justified, is very hard to execute. It can work if the characters are developed and arc well; you need emotional resonance. Shanghai doesn’t exude that.
Hand-held relates to certain tension and for most parts, the tension isn’t there. Even though to be fair there’s a conflict at play. What hampers this is the editing. The quick-paced editing takes you out of scenes too quick to feel the (emotional) impact. Again, either they didn’t get good footage (!) or it was deliberate, which I would like to believe. There are moments when the characters (especially, Shalini) seem to linger on too much on the camera. Besides, the transitions seemed to take you out of things. Now…that could very well be what DB wanted but they do take you out. At least me.
For me, Kalki was alright. I thought the direction and editing made things seems bad for her. As for Hashmi, he was effective but at times DB went the Kashyap way, which I can’t relate to – focusing on character traits that ought to appear cute/funny – taking you out of the story; this is highlighted especially by the (lame?) dialogues.
It’s admirable that he tried to tell this story. For trying multiple narratives. For making a comment on the system at play. For getting good performances. Well even for the ‘detailing’, which many critics have stressed on; sometimes I don’t know what’s the big deal – you need that stuff. I mean, yes, I appreciate the sets and the real locations, which I salute DB a lot for but you need that for the sake of the story; plus it’s not Wake Up Sid stuff, where struggling young adults have a house that should have a rent of 50K/month! But then…those films are another genre.
One angle as some have pointed out – some of the stuff seems naive. This is a serious picture in a way. Focusing on realism. I am not disturbed by the songs et al. In fact, I won’t be surprised to find that the Bollywood dance show actually happens. Am sure it can be worse. Is Shalini plain dumb to not understand how the system works?
Krishnan is the smart cookie and Deol plays him well but what spoils stuff is the weak writing and quick cuts. I don’t know why Krishnan avoids talking to the activists till the very end. One cliched masala-movie stuff: quick resolution when Deol takes on Sheikh – “I know you have done this, I know you have nexus et al…” What’s the point? To be impressed that our man has integrity. Well, you were on the right track – here’s a character caught in-between, here’s a dude who stands for the principles you stand for, but does DB emphasize the struggle? He highlights it for sure but the turn-around is too quick and goes for a quick-fix.
The big point – Which characters you relate to? How emotionally affecting the story is? He was there and…wasn’t. I thought the story had meat but it was poor execution. Trying too much. Doing too much. Moving around too much – the camera, literally!
I was pretty curious to know how the highly acclaimed ‘Z’ was and well, it’s fully available on YT:
Made in 1969, the scale, when it comes to having gang-fights is kind of bigger. But DB follows the film to a good deal. The big difference is the narrative flow. ‘Z’ flows simply even though it’s a complex film – no straight-forward protagonist. However, by making the judge (Krishnan) the key guy, who keeps following up, you are more in sync with the story. Garvas does less and achieves much more.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Pandora’s digital box: Notes on NOCs | David Bordwell

Bordwell on how Network Operations Center (if control of projection is given to them) may affect the exhibition industry, especially in usa, where they may not be much choice for the exhibitor.

Wonder how the scenario will pan out in India. With each for himself, and with not much unity within the particular domains (exhibitors or distributors,) it would be interesting to see how things pan out, especially when some folks control both the sectors. I guess there's still some time left before substantial shake-ups happen.

Observations on film art : Pandora's digital box: Notes on NOCs