Bombay Boys (English) LIDO
Bombay Boys misfires. After a rousing first fifteen minutes, it doesn’t have a story to tell. The movie completely fails to connect with the audience in the way Hyderabad Blues did. What’s clear is that writer-director Kaizad Gustad is an outsider.
The movie doesn’t seem to be happening in any India that we know. A pity — the movie had potential: it’s stylish, the acting is pretty good and the film is shot really well.
Rahul Bose (of English August fame) Naveen Andrews and Andrew Fellows are three young Indians born and brought up in respectively, Sydney, New York, and London.
They’ve come to Bombay searching for different things — Bose wants to locate his missing brother, Andrews to act in Indian films, and Fellows to find himself — he doesn’t know if he’s gay or straight. Joining them in their Mumbai adventure are Naseerudin Shah, Roshan Seth and Tara Deshpande.
Bombay Boys undermines its own premise when the story takes a dark turn and never recovers. Shah and Seth are wasted. Shah’s movie mogul with underworld connections is a bad caricature.
Why the movie isn’t about India as experienced by these three foreign-born Indians is baffling, irritating — after all that was the premise. The movie has a couple of good laughs and once in a while even puts its finger on things we, as insiders, don’t notice, but strike the outsider. Like when the three guys look at paying guest accommodations advertised in a paper and one of them remarks:
“Contradiction if ever there was one: you can’t be a guest and pay, can you?”
Going by the crowds flocking to see it, its clear that Indian audiences have begun to expect good things from Indian English films. But this is one they are going to be disappointed with.
Zakhm (Hindi) AJANTHA
A powerful theme sadly diluted into a constricted tale. Mahesh Bhatt’s last directorial venture is just that. And with this he has lost the opportunity to make an impact with his last film— assuming he doesn’t change his decision about direction. That he himself badly needs some direction is a different thing.
The story is set in Mumbai during the 1992-93 riots, when humans turned beasts and the city burnt in communal orgies. Ajay (Ajay Devgan) is an artiste married to Sonali Bendre. Sonali is firm about delivering her child in the secular air of London. Ajay doesn’t take the idea lightly. While these two squabble over the issue, Ajay’s mother (Pooja Bhatt), is torched in a street by a Muslim mob.
Ajay and his brother (Akshay Anand) are shaken. Hot-headed Akshay, who is a member of a right-wing party headed by Subodh (Ashutosh Rana), scouts the place for the culprits. And when he finds one of them, brother Ajay comes to the latter’s rescue. Angry and baffled. Akshay pours scorn on his brother.
To give us the reason for Ajay’s ‘noble’ act, we are transported to his disturbed childhood. From then on, one simply oscillates between the hospital and Ajay’s past.
Ajay has got a taste of what it is to have Hindu-Muslim parentage rather early in life. To add to his woes he is born out of wedlock. His dad is a film artiste (Nagarjuna). His secular mother (Pooja) hides her Muslim identity from him for a long time. Just when Nagarjuna finally decides to defy his domineering mother and marry Pooja, he dies in an accident. When Ajay learns of his mother’s Muslim identity, she makes him swear that he will not reveal it to anybody, not even to his infant brother.
Now, back to the future. Things go out of control at the hospital. Subodh (Ashutosh Rana), incites his followers, including Akshay, to get cracking. Akshay sees reason only when Ajay breaks the promise he made to his mother.
Ajay Devgan is excellent while Pooja Bhatt turns in a fine performance.
Mahesh Bhatt foolishly swerves and rams the brakes while cruising along a solid theme. By making it personalized, he fails to tackle the wider ramifications of divisive politics and fritters away the opportunity to make a masterpiece of his swansong.
Veerappanaika (Kannada) KAPALI
This film is a tremendous opening for the Kannada film industry in 1999 It is dedicated to the unknown weavers of our national tricolour in Garaga village near the Ballahongal taluk. Despite the fact that there is growing unrest and discontent among educated Indians today, this film, directed by S Narayan, instils in everyone a sense of respect and love for the country.
Veerappanaika (Vishnuvardhan) is a kind of feudal lord with a difference. He is a good samaritan who is also a true patriot. Villagers reciprocate by showering him with love and respect. The director takes us to the small-time village of Garage, the only place in the country, where our national flags are woven.
Veerappa’s patriotic fervour is disturbed with Shambunaika (Shobhraj) and his cronies wreak havoc in the village on Independence Day. They hold black flag demonstrations. Veerappa amputates Shambus hand, when he tries to burn the national flag. Meanwhile, sprightly, young Shruthi is in love with Veeranaika and manages to win him over into marriage.
After their son is born, the father appoints a set of teachers for him. The mother wants her son to be ‘free’. She instructs the teachers to do as her son pleases. When the father sees the teachers play marbles with his son, he gets annoyed and slaps his wife on the street. Shruthi is humiliated.
Both of them take a vow to bring up the child in their own way. The mother wants the child to have his freedom, while the father wants discipline. A scuffle ensues between the man and the wife. Their egos get the better of them and they stop communicating with each other for years.
Eighteen years pass by. ,The son get involved in anti-national and secessionist activities. The mother is in a dilemma, over whether she should protect her son or pay heed to her husband’s diktats, though they do not talk to each other.
The son escapes from the house to save his face. He seeks refuge with his mother. He is jailed after the mother ‘acts dirty’ with her son. On hearing that his wife was responsible for his son’s arrest, Veerappa feels elated.
Meanwhile, the son flees from jail and kills his own mother, even as she gets decked up to meet her husband and communicate with him after a long time.
The audience is bound to be shaken by Vishnuvardhan’s thundering performance — an award-winning one. Shruthi has given a mature performance too — a true departure from her earlier tearjerkers, thanks to Narayan. Hema Chowdhari is also good. Rajesh’s musical score is in tune with the narration. R Girl’s camerawork is good and S Narayan leaves a lasting impression.
The film is truly worthy of the weavers of our national tricolour!
Kanasulu neene manasulu neene (Kannada) NANDA (morning show)
The title has been taken from a popular Kannada song. It suggests that the film, has been made with young people in mind. But the film is mindless and colourless, while the screenplay, story and direction have been badly handled by K Nanjunda.
The film fails to engage the viewer’s interest despite names like Ravichandran, Ramesh, Prakash Rai and Ayesha Jhulka from Bollywood. The less said about the characterisation or the story, the better.
Raghunandan (Vineet), a college student, is in love with Chandana (Ayesha Jhulka) but is unable to express his love. A college incident brings them closer but an unscrupulous businessman, Lankesh (Prakash Rai). falls head over heels in love with Chandana, because she slaps him for using her photo without permission.
Raghu and Chandana get engaged, but the wayward businessman, Lankesh, makes life difficult for the lovers. Lankesh even kidnaps Chandana and pleads for her attention. She does not respond.
When Lankesh realises that his efforts are in vain, he leaves her alone. Lankesh ropes in S P Balasubramanium to sing for his lover. Though unwilling initially, SPB does sing for them.
On the eve of their marriage, Lankesh saves Raghu from a gang’s attack. The rest of the film is dull and boring.
The dialogues are just not in tune with our changing pace of life. For instance, a college student lectures her younger sisters about the significance of drawing rangoli in front of the house,
Prakash Rat is the only performer in this film. He puts life into a lifeless movie. Vineet has nothing much to do except dance and dream. Ayesha is dumb and has little to say. One feels sorry for her!
On the whole, it is mindless and boring fare!
Puthumai pithan (Tamil) ARUNA
Puthumai Pithan brings to mind the dictum that the suggestive meanings of a work of art are superior to its literal meanings. All the literal meanings of this film are crass, cliched and badly constructed. But within this clumsy, noisy mess lies an enticing possibility — that of awakening the better world that lives within this violent, corrupt, insensitive one.
Puthumai Pithan is about a man of principles, setting out to undo evil, and setting good to work, through peace and the will of the people. It also has a sub-plot of vengeance — where the hero avenges the ruin and death of his family through a series of Count-of-Monte-Cristo moves.
The clumsy Parthiban plays the role of Bharath, the hero. He has three heroines — Devyani in the role of the girl he loves and loses, Priya Raman in the role of the girl who saves his life, and Roja in the role of the girl whose life he saves.
Puthumai Pithan (suggestive of the poet of this name, which means crazy for newness) is a very ‘male’ film — Man saves country, man saves woman (or woman’s honour) man renounces power, man avenges family's ruin.
The film is often downright silly, when not crass, but it has a kind of senseless appeal. To be honest, it hasn’t gone as far overboard as it could have with its masala mix. It, commendably, has no scenes of communal violence, no religious chauvinism, and its single rape scene is cut short by the mother shooting dead her about-to-be-raped daughter.
One responds to Puthumai Pithan in the same irrational way that one responds to Veerapandaya Kattabomman or Shivaji (and hopefully to Kamalahasan’s approaching Marudanayagarn!)
It’s impossible not to respond because patriotism is less of the mind and more in the blood, of the instincts. And most of us would like to see corruption, poverty and violence rooted out, replaced by a better order of things through peaceful means.
Every time we see a hero o in the Bharath mould, whose absolute conviction in peace and righteousness can bend the will of the people, one realises that Gandhi still has no replacement. Puthumai Pithan has colourless songs, and its women are all stereotypes, but in many ways it has a lot of self-restraint, its intentions are good. There is one hilarious scene, when out of the blue, in a meeting of party MLAs, one sleeping MLA suddenly breaks into a Vairamuthu dialogue, in a Vairamuthu voice, breaks a flowerpot and then goes back to sleep.
The film is full of political innuendos, annotations, jokes and suggestions. (The super Suruli in the film, is it super star Rajini or superman Sharath Kumar? Or someone else?)
Anyway, in the New Year, one is simply happy to see a film about a better world, to see good win over evil. Jai Hind! Or should one say Vande Mataram? Perhaps the day will come when both suggest the same thing!
Kala Krishnan Ramesh