Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
There are a lot of nuances in Anusha Rizvi’s “Peepli Live” that you may not get at once. There will be a comment on the health system in villages or the lack of hygiene but they are so subtle that it may escape the notice of the less attentive viewer.
It will be your loss if you do miss out on these small details because this film thrives on subtlety — something we aren’t too used to as viewers.
To be able to see the (dark) humour in a situation like farmer suicides without actually laughing at the issue is a tough act to pull off and fortunately for her and her audience, Rizvi does it with aplomb.
Omkar Das plays Natha, a down-on-his-luck farmer who can barely manage to feed his family, let alone save his ancestral property due to an upaid loan. When a local politician laughingly advises him to commit suicide so that he can claim compensation from the government, he grudgingly agrees. Egged on by his elder brother Budhia (Raghuveer Yadav), he makes his intentions public and is overheard by a local reporter.
Abhishek Sharma’s “Tere Bin Laden” is a sporadically funny but badly made film that tries a little too hard to draw out laughs from the audience and fails for precisely that reason.
The plot revolves around a young Pakistani reporter Ali whose biggest dream is to go to America and make it big but after an incident on a plane involving a knife, he is deported back to his homeland.
Gurinder Chadha’s “It’s a Wonderful Afterlife” (‘Hai Marjaawaan’ in Hindi) is a comedy about a harassed Indian mother, who is so obsessed with marrying off her only daughter that she kills off anyone who dares to reject her.
Those killing methods are so corny, you want to puke when you see a victim’s stomach burst open due to an overdose of curry and another one stabbed with a skewer of chicken tikka kebabs. The victims come back to haunt her, chicken tikka skewers intact. They cannot be reincarnated unless their killer dies but Mrs Sethi doesn’t want to kill herself before her daughter is “settled”.
There is a song in Sajid Khan’s “Housefull” with the lyrics “volume kam kar” (turn down the volume). Wouldn’t it be nice if the director and actors had imbibed this simple message? That would have made this alleged comedy easier to tolerate.
Instead every character in the film either screams, laughs or cries so loudly, and for seemingly no reason, that you want to hit the mute button.
Shyam Benegal’s last two films have had similar themes — humour coupled with a social message (actually lots of social messages). The last one “Welcome to Sajjanpur” was a delightful watch, with neither the humour nor the social message getting too overpowering.
But in his latest film “Well Done Abba”, Benegal doesn’t quite manage to recreate the same magic, cramming in too many messages, because of which the humour accompanying it spreads out too thin.
This audience doesn’t really mind that Archana Puran Singh uses foul language or that people randomly slap their husbands and wives or that there is really no logic to speak of. They found all of the above hilarious.
Fifteen years later, Santoshi is back with another comic caper, this time starring Ranbir Kapoor and Katrina Kaif. But if you are expecting another “Andaz Apna Apna”, you will be sorely disappointed.
The sequel to the 2006 comedy “Golmaal” stars the trio of Ajay Devgan, Tusshar Kapoor and Arshad Warsi, with Sharman Joshi choosing not to reprise his role.
In retrospect, I should have just switched off the television. But I didn’t. I watched “Pyaar Ke Side Effects” in its entirety – barely 24 hours before I was treated to the wannabe version of the film – “Ugly Aur Pagli”.
Naturally, the whole thing was doomed from the start.This is not to say the two films have similar storylines, but the producers and lead actress are the same, and you can’t help get the feeling the second film is trying hard to measure up to the first.