Saturday, April 04, 2009

Why Does He Do It? (Movie review for 8 X 10 Tasveer)

My Rating: 2/5

*ing: Akshay Kumar, Ayesha Takia, Sharmila Tagore
Written and Directed by Nagesh Kukunoor

There's a fast food restaurant near my place. Basically Gujarati fare, but more of a hybrid place that serves up South Indian snacks, Punjabi meals and even Pizza. A few days ago, I felt like having Idli-Upma, so I went to this place. You know what Idli-Upma is? Leftover idlis at home are semi-crushed and fried in a spicy tadka and your mom names it Idli-Upma so that you'll feel good about it. You should try it sometime. Tastes good! Some joints in Mumbai serve it too.

Anyway, so I looked it up on the menu and spotted 'Fried Idli'. I said to myself, 'Bingo!' and squeaked 'un plato de Fried Idli!'

Ten minutes later, a regrettable manifestation of crispy brown chunks of what were once fluffy idlis land up on my table to my horror! Taking the semantics of the word literally, the chef deep fried the idlis, disregarding the very basic idea behind steaming them in the first place. So much for my cravings! I told a friend that I shouldn't have gone to a West Indian food joint of hybrid hues to serve up the inner secrets of frugal South Indian kitchens! I gave up after three bites.

Today, I felt like eating an evening snack again and looked up the menu. Right below the 'Fried Idli' was the tempting 'Spicy Tadka Idli'. 'Ah!' I said. 'Ah! Here it is and I missed it by whiskers last time!' So I rang up the prodigal food-giver and home-ordered un plato of the correct one this time.

When I opened the plastic container, I discovered that the thing inside was almost alive. Red, slimy and visually disturbing. The dish was no doubt a conspiracy hatched by dark characters lurking the dirty streets of Mumbai, forbidden kitchens of China and the sweaty by-lanes of Chennai. This monstrosity was clearly a threat to public at large and was a fit case for the National Security Act.

Now, what kind of a movie review is this, you are wondering!

I'll explain myself.

Nagesh Kukunoor should realise after Tasveer that he isn't up to it. He should stick to his forte, which is human drama, mellowing down spectacular scenery to fit his laid back narrative, faint negativity in everyday characters and the innate good natured humour in all of us. OK, most of us! I mean, I like this guy, Kukunoor. He's talented and he means well.

But he is getting beside himself with these experiments. This is what I wrote about Bombay to Bangkok last year:

Watching Tasveer, I felt the same kind of exasperation. This isn't professional behaviour!

The movie combines mystery, family drama, deception and supernatural powers. It definitely had potential. And given the presence of good actors like Akshay Kumar, Ayesha, Sharmila etc. it could definitely have been a thriller that the director set out to make it to be.

Only, it is too tame. Kukunoor fails to build any kind of excitement around the supernatural powers Jai (Akshay) possesses. And while you are trying to figure out what is it that he is doing, his father dies due to a cardiac arrest and subsequent drowning on a boating trip. They all promptly pay respects and pollute a serene Canadian lake with the ashes.

A former detective, Javed Jaffery, arrives and starts calling it a murder for no reason. No reason, I say, cause he failed to convince me why he got suspicious in the first place. Anyway, Akshay sets out to find the truth and keeps suspecting everyone around him. And using his powers, he enters the photograph taken moments before the death to see what went on until the time of the death. That's his speciality in the film.

I'll not reveal the plot here ofcourse. The movie goes through the usual course of dead ends and startling (?) discoveries before the mystery is revealed.

Kukunoor relies on the cliche to build the thrill. Like a car parked in the shadows moves in after the house is empty, everyone seems to have a secret beyond the obvious etc. I hardly felt any suspense in the air during the first half of the movie. And I failed to understand why a guy would abandon search for the killer just because his girl friend is upset, when he has hard evidence of cars trying to run over him and visual proof (albeit only in his mind) of his dad being drugged.

The director clearly fails in one more aspect. In building realistic emotions when needed. To Kukunoor's fault, he relies a lot on the strength of the word and less on the expression and body language. Sample this. Akshay walks in on his mom (Tagore) hugging his dad's best friend (Karnad), within days after the dad's death. Karnad turns around in a split second after the entry and without alarm or anger, says, 'It isn't what it seems to be!'. Stale! Taken straight from the Clichepedia! You aren't to be blamed if you expect some fireworks in this scene. On the contrary, the characters proceed to mouth a few lines, as if they're having a coffee table conversation about a haircut. Totally docile body language, and tones of voice resembling Heads of State exchanging pleasantries. I was disappointed!

The director too, like the chef in my fast food joint, needs to understand what he does well and stick to it. Experimenting too much, though good in the beginning, will diminish one's ability to be taken seriously by people around. I mean, we all should know what our limits are. Or life will beat the shit out of you until you get back to where you belong!

Not just the director, there are a few other departments that make it to the honours list. Music for one, is unconvincing overall. The camera angles, though brilliant in capturing the splendour of Canadian landscape and Fall colours, are too open and have too much light for a mystery movie. I mean, you'd want some camouflage, some metaphoric shadows, some sudden movements to support the narration. OK, now I'm demanding the cliche itself, after criticising it elsewhere! Even if not the cliche, there's some support for the narration that is totally lacking in the camera department.

The second half though, moves at brisker pace and background score suddenly tunes into the theme of the movie. It proceeds to the end well, until when the mystery is revealed. After which, the movie falls victim to a bit of melodrama. I was also wondering why the murderer had to murder anyone at all to get what he/she was after! All it could have taken was to walk up to the dead guy (before the death, i.e.) and claim it all legally. At which point, you see too many holes in the plot and lose respect for the director's ability to recognise your intelligence (or utter lack of it, considering the price shelled out for the ticket).

That's when you start laughing at what the characters are saying because it does sound funny at times. I couldn't control myself when Akshay's character says 'This story doesn't have to end like this!' in the end. Ha ha ha! Insightful! You said it all dude!!!

1 comment:

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