Bollywood and culture in an emerging India
Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra‘s biopic of Milkha Singh is one of the few sports movies to come out of the Indian film industry. It is also a perfect example of how not to make a sports biopic, and a telling comment on the compulsion of most filmmakers to “Bollywoodise” what starts off as an unusual subject and premise.
It seems Mehra and writer Prasoon Joshi started off with the noble intention of making a gritty film on India’s most successful athlete, but fell back to their Bollywood ways. They added a bit of romance here, a song there, topped off with over-the-top melodrama, and convinced themselves that this was the heart-wrenching story of a man who fought against all odds to succeed at the international level.
Far from it.
Mehra and Joshi incorporated so many details and incidents into a three-hour film that somewhere, the story gets lost and it is the trimmings that seem to get all the importance. To dramatise any real-life story, you have to take cinematic liberties, but to have Milkha Singh dancing at an Australian pub with the granddaughter of one of his coaches is taking things a bit too far.
“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag“, which chronicles Singh’s rise and struggle to attain closure over the deaths of his parents during the country’s partition in 1947, is depicted by Mehra in a manipulative, almost tacky manner.
It’s been a while since Bollywood dished out a slick, fast-paced action film. Wait, who am I kidding? Bollywood doesn’t do fast-paced action films any more, we just turn to Hollywood to get our share of those. So kudos to Farhan Akhtar that he thought of attempting it — not once but twice.
While the first was a remake of the 70s hit “Don”, the sequel is an entirely new story, and doesn’t have too many connections with the previous film, except for some of the characters who make a comeback.
It’s been a little more than a year since the last Shah Rukh Khan movie released but this year the star has two big releases — “Ra One” and “Don 2″.
Farhan Akhtar has now come to be associated with a particular kind of cinema – slick production values, quirky characters and smart writing. So when I went in to watch his latest production, “Karthik Calling Karthik”, I was expecting something similar. While I got to see the first two aspects, the third, and the most important was gravely missing.
The film, a thriller about a meek, submissive man called Karthik, whose life changes when he gets phone calls from an anonymous caller who also calls himself Karthik, starts off well, and is engaging enough, but for some bad writing and corny dialogues, which take away from the edge-of-the-seat thrill that a film like this should give you.
And that’s not just because he is brilliant in the part — he is. But the scenes capture perfectly the subtle performances and nuanced characters this film is bursting with.