April 11, 2012: Abhay, Aisha, and Crap, on the Road

Jenny K:  I don’t know…the world must be coming to an end. I watched Delhi Belly the other day and didn’t hate it near as much as I thought I would.  Yes, it’s disgusting and gross, just like I thought…practically a Hindi Dumb, Dumber and Dumbest. However, it was pretty tightly scripted for one of those things, and the cameo appearances were good. I especially liked Vijay Raaz (Monsoon Wedding) as Cowboy the thwarted drug baron. He was really evil in a very charming way.  And, even covered with plaster dust, Imraan is always Imraan.

Short synopsis. Three slacker friends live in one incredibly dirty apartment in Delhi. Taashi (Imraan Khan), the semi-normal one, has a very rich girly fiancee, Sonia (Shenaaz Treasury). Sonia smuggles something into the country, as a favor for a friend. She has no idea what she’s carrying. She passes the delivery on to Taashi, who is very busy trying to be a “real reporter” not just a gossip journo, and passes it to his photographer and roommate, Nitin (Kunal Roy Kapoor), who has eaten something dangerously bad (any roach-riddled thing in their kitchen!) and is nursing the worst case of Delhi Belly on record. His bowels play the actual soundtrack to the film. Almost not kidding.

Due to his frequent emergency dashes to the loo, Nitin passes the delivery on to their other roommate, Arup (Vir Das) an unassuming cartoonist, silently seething in incipient anarchy against his boor of a boss. At the same time, he’s to deliver Nitin’s stool sample to the doctor’s office, and, of course, mixes up the two packages and delivers the crap to the drug baron. The whole rest of the movie is the plotting that goes on, trying to trade the drugs for hostages, money, etc. And it’s pretty fun, if gross, to watch. And yes, Aamir’s cameo at the end in “Return of the Disco Fighter” is fun, but not really necessary.

Julie M:  I’ll watch for it at my library but the out-and-out Indian comedies tend to make me squirm, and I’m not a fan of extended poo jokes. I can barely stand the comic-relief characters in more serious movies. Yes, I’m looking at you, fat guy from Bodyguard. But having said that, the trailer looks fun. Unless it’s one of those situations when the trailer shows all the good parts and the rest is just bad.  Like almost every Judd Apatow movie.

  

Jenny K:  No, it’s definitely better than those…trust me.  I’m not a full-out slapstick fan, either.

 

Julie M:  My recent film was Road, Movie (2009) with (sigh) Abhay Deol, who I had wanted to see more of every since Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, my first experience with him.  Road is a great “film festival” type film, full of finely drawn characters and beautiful cinematography, a main character who finds himself during a journey, and plenty of heart. Here’s the trailer.

Vishnu (Abhay) is a young, middle-class city dweller who yearns for more out of life than slotting into his father’s barely-there hair-oil business. When his uncle needs to transport his old mobile-cinema truck to a museum on the other side of the country, Vishnu jumps at the chance for a solo road trip and maybe some adventure along the way.

He picks up a young runaway (Mohammad Faizal) who is his complete personality opposite, and when the truck breaks down an elderly mechanic (Satish Kaushik) bails him out for the price of a ride through the Rajasthan landscape. They get lost and wander without food or water, get picked up by the cops for having no papers, meet a gypsy woman (Tannishtha Chatterjee) on the run from an evil water-lord (Yashpal Sharma), conjure up a carnival and, like Sheherezade, find that they constantly have to show films in order to live for another day. By the end Vishnu learns to appreciate friendship offered with no strings and realizes what being a man really means.

In addition to lovely, quiet performances from the stellar ensemble cast and constant, very lush visuals (including Abhay Deol), Road, Movie has some great stuff to offer the Bollywood film fan. I counted clips from no less than five classic films I had seen including Deewar, Umrao Jaan and Pyaasa plus many others I have not yet seen. In fact, hair oil as a theme and metaphor pops up throughout the film, not in the least of which is through the wonderful song “Sar Jo Tera Chakraye” from Pyaasa, which gets a pop remix in addition to showing the original number. Here’s the music video.

The film moves fairly slowly and the camera lingers on the landscape and Deol’s sweaty, dusty frame far too often—I mean, often enough for me but maybe too much for someone else—however, I would recommend it for a nice change of pace away from romantic comedies and gangster shoot-em-ups. And it’s only about an hour and a half investment of one’s time.

Road, Movie is available free on Youtube, unfortunately without subtitles.  

 

Jenny K:  I watched Road, Movie on Netflix and it was an unusual one.  I loved the dreamy, almost surrealistic quality of the road trip, with the women with the water pots on their heads appearing every so often, from nowhere without notice.  I liked Abhay Deol and all the leads, especially Satish Kaushik as Om, were very good at their roles.  The visuals were mesmerizing, with the director, Dev Benegal and the cinematographer, Michel Amathieu painting color-drenched murals behind the silhouetted truck.  Remind me never to go to that endless plate of sun-parched salt where the mela “appeared”…I shuddered just looking at it.  Why would I want to go there?  Why would they? 

That is, in a nutshell, what the problem with this film is for me…dreamy as it is to look at, it didn’t make much sense.  And the nonsensical quality wasn’t whimsically charming, as perhaps what they were going for, it just interrupted my “suspension of disbelief,” so often it became mildly annoying.  

Why was Abhay’s character so clueless?  He didn’t seem actually stupid, yet seemed set on alienating all of those best placed to help him on his trip.  Why, if he’s so self-absorbed, would he agree to keep driving for what seemed like days at a time, aimlessly into the desert, until they were all but dead from dehydration?  And in the middle of nowhere…where did those carnival folk come from, and go to?    Were they there at all?  Who knows?  Oh, dear.  I’ve never liked magic realism much…

Julie M:  I guess that’s another difference between us.  I was perfectly willing to suspend my disbelief and just enjoy the scenery (including Abhay), and let the possibilities wash over me.  I’m not even 100% sure the carnival was real—it might well have been a thirst-induced hallucination—and I felt that the dry, endless desert represented how Vishnu perceived his life, dull and devoid of joy, and these other characters were personifications of lessons he had to learn in order to bring himself back into balance…the filmmaking technique certainly could lead one to think in that direction.

I have to interject at this point, briefly, that after Road, Movie I saw Brick Lane (2007), also with Satish Kaushik and Tannishtha Chatterjee, this time as a Bangladeshi immigrant couple living in London with their children.  Here’s the trailer.

Brick Lane was a dazzling showcase for Tannishtha’s talents, and both of them acted extremely well and almost entirely in English. Overall, though, I found it not nearly as fascinating as the book.  A.O. Scott from the NYT agrees with me.    And that’s all I’m going to say on that.  It’s available online, for $2.99 on YouTube.  

[after a few more days]

Jenny K:  Pat and Kathy and I tiptoed through my Netflix queue the other day and gave into Pat’s not-so-secret crush on Shahid…we put in Kismat Konnection (2008), and only lasted about fifteen minutes before she herself was screaming for a change. Part of it was, I will admit, the Netflix subtitle cut-off problem on my tv. However, the plot was so weak, that I’ve blocked the whole thing out of my mind.

  

Julie M:  I found it on YouTube, free, subtitled, in parts.  Maybe this will solve your subtitle issue, but not the screamingly bad issue. So you’re saying that I should nix my own Shahid leanings and avoid it, eh?  Pity.

Jenny K:  Well, you seem to be willing to overlook his weaker movies, if he’s cute enough…so, you might still like it.  We ended up ditching Shahid in favor of Aisha (2010) also starring our boy, Abhay Deol. It’s an adaptation of Emma, the novel by Jane Austen…or rather, it’s a remake of Clueless (1995) which was a better adaptation of Emma.

The star, Sonam Kapoor, was less absent than she was in Mausam (but still as giraffe-like) as our rich girl Emma, I mean Aisha, gleefully filling her idle hours as a matchmaker to her shy, lower caste friend Shefali. It wasn’t obvious to a non-desi like me what was so low-caste about her; Shefali seemed nicer and prettier than our Emma’s crabby best friend Pinky (Ira Dubey), and so we lost a critical bit of the plot motivator, IMO. And because her father was not a stay-at-home recluse, why didn’t Aisha want to get married herself? No clue. 

Abhay played their version of Mr. Knightley quite well, but wasn’t really old enough to convey the “surprise” element of their romance. He wasn’t any kind of guiding/restraining hand for Aisha as Knightley was in Emma. They still fought cute, but you were mighty good and ready for them to realize their mutual affection, well before the end. Most of the supporting cast members were interesting, if not earthshakingly so. I particularly liked Arunoday Singh as Druv (the putative Frank Churchill) who was not nearly as reprehensible in his behavior as FC in the novel. Arunoday was quite buff and dapper with his red shirt and the spiffy Panama hat he wears in the dance number below. He has a better looking Gregory Hines thing going on.

So, I liked Aisha, on the whole, as I like most BollyAusten remakes (Bride and Prejudice, Kandukondain Kandukondain), but thought it could have made the connections a bit tighter and therefore clearer. I can’t even fathom how a plan to fix up Shefali with her “Mr. Elton,” Randhir (Cyrus Sahukar, who isn’t as big a dud as he should be), could consist of stranding the two of them alone at a hotel and making overnight reservations for them…in INDIA? WTHeck was Aisha thinking would happen???? Nice kids, they walked home, understandably tired and grumpy about her treatment of them. Clueless, indeed…

  

Julie M:  I have to come clean and admit here that I am SO not an Austen fan and have never read Emma. I did see Clueless, though, so am somewhat familiar with the story. I have tried to get through P&P at least four times and not made it past the first few chapters, and perish the thought of anything else like Sense and Sensibility (although the recent version that adds sea-monsters might be more to my liking). So anything Austen, or twists on Austen, whoosh right over my head at least in their comparison to the original.  I loved B&P, loved KK, and maybe I loved them more because I had absolutely no expectations.

  

Jenny K:  Not like Austen? Are you sure you’re a girl??  Does B know???  That sea-monsters comment is a dead give-away, BTW.  Next you’ll be asking for zombies in Devdas!

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4 Comments

  1. […] of you who have heard us rhapsodizing over Nawazuddin Siddiqui (Peepli Live, Kahaani) and Tannishtha Chatterjee (Road, Movie and Brick Lane), knows I’ll be there for Mangesh Hadewale’s Dekh Indian […]

  2. […] like Road, Movie in the collection of oddly assorted travellers, that we reviewed earlier in our Abhay Deol Fest. The intimate interaction between relative strangers is there in all three films. Get it if you […]

  3. […] M:  I’m a huge Tannishtha fan.  Loved her in Road, Movie and Brick Lane.  This film seems a bit self-indulgent for me to truly enjoy (a writer writing a film about a […]

  4. Awesome things here. I am very satisfied to see your article.
    Thank you so much and I’m having a look ahead. Will you please drop me a e-mail?


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