Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Thomson Reuters)
The worst thing to happen while watching a murder mystery is someone telling you the twist in the tale even before the movie began. The second-worst thing is when you figure out the twist yourself, halfway through the film.
Call it a result of watching too many whodunits as a kid, but the twist in Reema Kagti’s “Talaash” was apparent an hour before it ended. After that it was just a matter of waiting to see how it plays out. No surprises there either. Kagti makes a stylised film, a murder mystery that also has an emotional undercurrent and borrows strongly from well-known Hollywood films of the genre (I won’t say which ones for fear of revealing the plot).
Aamir Khan plays troubled police inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat, who moves to Mumbai after his son’s death in a freak boating accident. Wracked by guilt, he roams the streets of the city that never sleeps at night, leaving his wife Roshni (Rani Mukerji) to deal with the tragedy on her own.
Almost three years since his last full-length release “3 Idiots”, actor Aamir Khan is back with a new film. In between, he’s had a baby, produced a couple of movies, made his debut on Indian television, met the prime minister and appeared on the cover of Time magazine.
“Talaash” is a psychological thriller, directed by Reema Kagti (a Farhan Akhtar protégé who previously directed “Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd”), and stars Khan as a police inspector trying to solve a difficult case while he battles his personal demons. Rani Mukerji and Kareena Kapoor also have pivotal roles in the film.
Film-maker Madhur Bhandarkar said during an interview that “Indian audiences don’t like to see reality on screen, they see enough of that in life”. Bhandarkar is known for making “real” films, but he might have hit the nail on the head. Perhaps that is why Indian TV doesn’t normally depict “reality” on screen — preferring instead to hide behind yards of brocade sarees and scheming mothers-in-law and coy brides.
On Sunday though, Bollywood actor Aamir Khan chose to tell the story of a different kind of Indian woman — one that doesn’t get to live. On the first episode of his new talk show “Satyamev Jayate”, Khan chose to talk about female foeticide, a rampant issue in India, where the sex ratio is currently at its lowest since independence.
There’s a charming scene in Kiran Rao’s “Dhobi Ghat”, where Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra) is filming her maid-servant and her daughter for a video tape she’s making for her family back home. While the maid is suitably coy about being on film, she’s also equally anxious to finish off with the niceties, and do what she’s there to do — work, earn her living and move on to the next house.
That scene for me epitomises Mumbai in so many ways. It’s a city always in a rush as Yasmin says — there’s no time to waste on getting to know your neighbours or sharing gossip with them — not when there’s money to be earned and a living to be made.
I must admit I had apprehensions going in to watch Rajkumar Hirani’s ‘3 Idiots’, inspite of the immense buzz that has surrounded the film.
One of my biggest qualms was how the director could hope to get away with casting middle aged men as college going boys.
This is a first. Aamir Khan has gone the Shah Rukh Khan and Akshay Kumar way — the actor in him has given way to the star. He’s finally starred in a film that totally rides on his star power and as you discover once you’ve watched “Ghajini”, it’s not such a bad thing after all.
Khan plays Sanjay Singhania, a telecom tycoon, who we are told suffers from short-term memory loss. Singhania’s memory is wiped clean after every 15 minutes and to keep himself updated with his life, he has to continuously take pictures of his surroundings, write notes to himself and tattoo important facts on his torso.
The transformation is amazing. Aamir Khan was known as one of the most reclusive stars in Bollywood – he shunned film magazines, rarely gave interviews and was generally unavailable.This year, he appeared on the cover of a film magazine, granted interviews to all and sundry for a film that didn’t even star him (nephew Imran Khan’s debut film “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na”), and is now one of the most media savvy stars in the country.Take Monday, for example. A day after his directorial venture “Taare Zameen Par” was chosen as India’s entry to the Oscars, Aamir addressed a press conference, seeking suggestions from the media on how to promote the film to the Academy. He asked for their support and talked about everything from SRK to Raj Thackeray. All of it, with a smile on his face and twinkle in his eyes.When he was referred to as the “King of Bollywood” by a gushing journo, he laughed and said, “Don’t say that, you will upset Shah Rukh Khan.”That was not all. He had a go at Ashutosh Gowariker, saying he preferred ”Mumbai Meri Jaan” over the “Lagaan” director’s epic “Jodha Akbar”.Raj Thackeray wasn’t spared either. “Politicians who divide us are not speaking for the country, they are speaking for themselves. We should vote for those who unite us,” Aamir said, referring to the politician’s campaign against the Bachchans.He was even sporting enough to answer a question about whether Saif and Kareena had gotten married over the weekend, saying “didn’t you find anyone else to ask this question”.The one question he didn’t answer was about younger brother Faisal, telling a reporter firmly that it was a personal matter and he didn’t want to answer it.At the end of it, I came away smiling and impressed. Here is a star who can utilise the media to his advantage (I don’t want to get into what that says about us in the media), and one who is not afraid to speak his mind. Yet, he does know where he wants to draw the line. He has my grudging admiration.
A few years ago, my brother Jose met a girl at an acting workshop in Delhi. He was surprised to learn of her name and couldn’t stop himself from revealing that our neighbour’s dog was also called Sheena.