September 17, 2011: I Remember Nana…Patekar


Julie M:  Finally finished Khamoshi: The Musical. Took me three sessions, and I’m still not sure whether I liked it. It was very rhona-dhona, which I don’t like, but Nana Patekar and Manisha Koirala were amazing in their roles. The songs were not translated, and since easily half the movie was sung (and the rest completely backgrounded–it felt like an opera), I think that I missed a lot.

But the real surprise was that I liked, actually liked, a young Salman Khan, and I realize this is the earliest movie I’ve seen him in. Pre-bulbous-muscles and with good hair, and a wonderfully refreshing youthful sweetness, I now see why he’s so beloved. People must see him and keep remembering him in his prime. Even in this film, though, he displays that weird sartorial sense. His costumers must ask him what he wants to wear, because some of the ensembles looked very odd and similar to his “civilian” clothes.

See what I mean in this number: 

Jenny K:  You’re so funny…”remembering Salman in his prime”…he’s a bigger money maker now than he ever was back then. But I agree, he’s too muscular now.  That musclebound walk in Bodyguard, with biceps so big the arms wouldn’t go down was a joke, but I can’t deny that he looked sweeter and more vulnerable back in Khamoshi.

 

Julie M:  Prime LOOKS. I don’t doubt that he’s big box office now, but his rep had to come from somewhere. ICK on his muscles, though. Also, I recalled seeing Nana Patekar in something and liking him, not an Indian film though, but his filmography isn’t helping me figure that out.

I also liked this song from Khamoshi, since Manisha is usually so serious:

But man, overall this movie was such a bummer. Just when you thought things were OK, someone dies or disappoints someone else and cue the sighing and gnashing of teeth.

So: liked a couple of the performances, hated the bulk of the storyline, missed the point of most of the songs, and as usual I liked the look of a SLB-directed film whereas most everything else did not live up for me.

 

Jenny K:  Well, I am sorry that your 100th movie wasn’t more of a thumbs up. Congratulations, by the way!

 

Julie M:  Thanks for the congrats! 100, wow. Glad you’re keeping count because I’m not.

 

Jenny K:  Khamoshi is a very unusual film for what was going on at the time, not very many films made at all about the deaf, and then making it a full-out musical! The casting was very non-traditional, too with Nana and Seema in the leads. It was very early in both of their careers, and they always give wonderful performances.

Seema always plays tough women, either mentally or physically. She was the best part of Water, the only one who made me cry, and you can’t have a tougher debut than playing Phoolan Devi in Shekhar Kapur’s Bandit Queen! It’s based on a true story about a woman who was abducted by bandits and ended up becoming one, herself, lived a violent life, went to prison and after she got out, became a politician! I haven’t seen the film, but have heard it was very controversial when it came out. Phoolan Devi, herself, said that it wasn’t accurate, but it made her very famous. It’s on Youtube, but only in pieces.

Nana Patekar, too, doesn’t tend to do nice guys. I remember finding his role in Salaam Bombay by Mira Nair as very animal, very sensual, and rather sick. Always gives a very layered performance, even in films like Shakti (bad movie, good performance) and Bluffmaster!

Salaam Bombay is online, too.

Not sure which “not Indian” films Nana would have been in. I saw Salaam Bombay years before I started watching Indian films as an alternative vocation…Mira Nair’s first big film. I saw it in a standard theater. Much later I realized that Nana was “that same guy, but much younger.” I saw a clip from it on YouTube and Irfaan Khan had a tiny role in it too, as a sidewalk letter-writer-for-hire.

Nana also did a film called The Pool, which had an American director, Chris Smith, but I still think I saw it at a film festival, because it didn’t release wide. It made inroads at Sundance, too. Nice quiet little film.   Oh, and I remember you did say something about his performance in Bluffmaster! That’s the only one I remember you commenting on.

 

Julie M:  Maybe that was it. But I could have sworn it was a non-Indian film…Irfaan Khan, I definitely remembered from The Namesake, also Tabu. And the actors from Bend It Like Beckham were all NRI except for the dad, Anupam Kher, right?

 

Jenny K:  I think all the actors from BILB have careers in American television serials… Parminder Nagra in ER, Archie Panjabi winning Emmys for The Good Wife, Jonathan Rhys Myers on The Tudors, and one could argue for Keira Knightley’s Pirates of the Caribbean films as being serialistic.  End of non-sequitur.

As far as I can tell Nana has never been in an English language film, though occasionally I hear him speak English, but as far as I remember, he seems to get the majority of his roles in Hindi or another dialect. And he does a lot of “country” roles like Disha that I sent you. It’s a bleak but interesting story about a family (husband-Om Puri, wife-Shabana Azmi, his brother-Raghuvir Yadav) who run out of work in the country, and send their younger family members to work in the city…Nana is another local who follows Raghuvir to work in a city factory…and then they find that the urban promised land is no better than the poverty they left…just more crowded. Very good cast and performances.

[a few days later]

Julie M:  OK, so I watched Disha (The Uprooted, 1990) tonight. I liked Raghuvir Yadav’s performance better than Nana Patekar’s, actually, although Nana’s was pretty good too. Shabana Azmi (yes! who I remembered from 15 Park Avenue—I’m not totally  hopeless) had maybe one good scene and otherwise spent the whole film in the kitchen, alternately cooking and sniping at Om Puri.  Overall I felt the film could have been better. It was a hyper-realistic look at a certain and largely invisible segment of Mumbai’s masses and how they came to be there (immigration into the big city because of lack of work in the countryside), and so was worth seeing from a cultural perspective, but it seemed to me to have been rendered in a monotone. There were joyful moments but they seemed devoid of real joy, even the celebration near the end, and the potentially dramatic moments seemed flattened as well.

I kept waiting for something to really happen to these people, but it never did—it was mostly a collection of low-key interactions, many without any dialogue—and then it ended.  Suddenly.  Even the two songs were a bit on the pathetic side (as in, evoking pathos) even though they were supposed to be celebratory. I came away very depressed.  B watched the first half (or so) with me and said that it was more like a documentary than a fiction film.

And what happened at the end? The only thing I can figure out is that [spoiler alert] Phoolwanti had started sleeping with her boss from the beedi factory to keep her job, and that’s why Nana’s character suddenly came back. [end spoilers] Too bad: he was a bit of a romantic optimist through the whole movie, and you could tell that his life was shattered. And you said Nana didn’t play nice guys: he was definitely a nice guy in this.

 

Jenny K:  No, he just doesn’t specialize in nice guys. I bet he’d say the bad guys are more interesting. I’m not sure about the ending to this one. It has been a long time since I watched it. It was sad, I grant you. I don’t even remember songs being in there. It just had such a good cast, and good performances, and it’s an example of a type of Indian film that should be checked out from time to time. It balances out the overly filmi side of Bollywood. Do Bigha Zameen by Bimal Roy is I think the best of the genre of poor farmer being taken advantage of by fate/The Man/etc. films. It’s sort of cleansing in its aesthetic. Here’s the opening number of the film. From the look of it, I’d say that Aamir drew a lot of Lagaan‘s look from it.

And if you wanted it, this is the whole movie with subtitles.

 

Julie M:  I’ll have to watch that one, since it’s free online and all…

There were only two songs in Disha.  One was early on, at Nana’s character’s wedding, and it was kind of weird—the female singer had an outwardly happy face and the music was bright, but the lyrics were double-entendre about how awful life is.  The other one was in the men’s dorm where they used the click-clack of the machines to inspire a clapping/syncopated rhythm song/dance (a pretty long one). The latter song really seemed like a desperate attempt to inject levity into what is a horrible existence–not a life, existence is the correct word.   So basically—the songs made you feel worse instead of better.

 

Jenny K: Dear me, sounds even more dismal than I remembered.  But, I have some interesting news on the book to film front which looks rather exciting.  Don’t know why I haven’t heard of it so far.

I couldn’t believe I had only sent you two films with Shabana Azmi in it, as she’s sort of the Arts & Literature Queen of Indian cinema (in multiple dialects, of course) and she’s been in over one hundred of them.  So, I checked on IMDb to be certain and there it was!  She’s in the new Deepa Mehta film adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children!  Holy Caroley…the cast list looks good, with Shabana and Seema, wonderful character actors like Rahul Bose, Rajat Kapoor (the uncle in DCH and Monsoon Wedding) and Ronit Roy (Udaan) plus newcomers like Siddarth and Soha Ali Khan from Rang De Basanti, and even the little kid from Taare Zameen Par, Darsheel Safary.

Here’s a short clip of Salman Rushdie speaking of adapting the book.

And there’s also a longer, more film-scholarly interview with the director, Deepa Mehta, and later in it Mr. Rushdie, if you have a spare hour. 

You’ve probably read Midnight’s Children, with your love of Indian literature, but I was wondering if, with the film coming up, maybe I should finally read it and we do our first literature post.  What do you think?

 

Julie M:   I most certainly HAVE read Midnight’s Children and now have got to keep from piddling with excitement  for more than a year until the film releases.   I have a stack of other Indian books to read (sitting on my bedside table at this very moment is A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry and The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, and I’m trying to clear some time so I can finally dive into Vikram Seth’s lengthy A Suitable Boy–I guess that’s what winter is for!), but will excavate my copy and re-read it so I can discuss it semi-intelligently with you.  Let’s do it!

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6 Comments

  1. Hey, I saw that you follow a few Bollywood blogs that I also follow!

    Check out my blog at: http://bollyhooha.com ,

    Where I poke fun at the Bollywood and give attention to those Zero Screentime Walas!

    Cheers
    The Bolly Hood

    • Thanks for dropping by, BH! I stopped by your site, looks fun…I’ll check it out more when it’s not so late!

  2. Very nice exchange that one, I do like the way you knit your references and ideas, and it all ended up here with that promise of Midnight Children becoming a film! This is the one important Indian book which I haven’t yet read (but I will!) and then with the allusion to your going to read lots of other books that I have loved, especially A suitable boy. Go check them on my blog if you want – well, only the ones you’ve read of course, because I never care about spoilers but people reading what I write know it by now I think 🙂
    cheers

    • Ah, a literature buff, too…Julie is definitely going to want to chat with you! 🙂 I watch more than I read, at least so far, and I’ve gotten half way through Midnight’s Children. Maybe when we both finish it, we can hold our own with Ms. Jule and compare notes! I definitely will check out your blog, Yves. Looking forward to it.

    • Thanks, Yves! Check the “Indian Literature” tab on the blog for our book discussions, since we have already talked about A Suitable Boy. Here’s a heads-up on my next literature post, which will be reviews of two Chetan Bhagat books (Two Point Someone and One Night at the Call Center with references to the two films that used them as inspirations, 3 Idiots and Hello respectively. I have not seen Hello yet but will try to do so before the post. I know Chetan Bhagat is not exactly literature, but he’s very popular and provides a fascinating window onto contemporary Indian urban middle/upper class youth culture. I also have, ready to read, Thrity Umrigar’s The Space Between Us, which I have been assured is excellent and will be the basis of another book review post in a few weeks. Meanwhile I have subscribed to your blog and look forward to going through back posts and reading the new ones as they come through.

  3. […] old favorite of mine for its classic cast and solid performances was Disha (1990), our review, here. Puri’s performance as the “crazy” older brother, Parshuram or “Pagal Parsa” who sticks to […]


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