Tuesday, October 28, 2008

A Wednesday

After missing it at least five times, I finally saw "A Wednesday" yesterday. The movie has received rave reviews all over and I am not going to repeat all that has been already said.
Naseeruddin Shah and Anupam Kher - its tough to decide who's superior. I am sure the majority will vote for Naseer. But his role is such that it totally 'drives' the character. Anupam Kher on the other hand has to play a role which is itself caught between the person and his formal role. The underplayed tension and frustration of the person and firm purposive actions of his official role is a unique mix and only a Anupam Kher could have carried it off like that.
The editing and cinematography are both just perfect. And the Director (Neeraj Pandey) deserves the credit for staying away from the scourge of a majority of Hindi movies - that of converting a good plot into a three-hour chewing gum! (Ashutosh Gowariker, are you listening?) This movie is just the right length. Even when there are long sequences where nothing 'actually happens', it still retains its crisp edge-of-the-seat feel all through. Oh yes, Thank God there are no songs - item or otherwise!
One thing I was glad about - after many years, there is a movie which portrays our police neither as incompetent fools nor as bumbling pot-bellied comedy artists. Yes, our police are far from perfect, but then. One shouldn't forget that in spite of a multitude of problems, our country of a hundred million people RUNS. Hundreds of trains and aeroplanes carrying millions of passengers leave and reach on time. People go to office and earn money to raise their families. Their children go to school. Elections happen. At least some of the credit for all this goes to the police. One must not forget that behind every failure of the cops which get highlighted by the media, there must be at least a hundred success stories that go unreported. The cops in 'A Wednesday' are shown to be immensely tech savvy (although the hacker who is trying to help them does pity their outdated equipment). I can just hope that our real police are equally, if not more, tech savvy.
Sure, there are glitches in the movie. How does this man coolly leave his large bag right inside the police station loo and get away? That too, in these days of surveillance? How does he calmly rig up a bomb on the Juhu airport tarmac, even if its not a busy airport? Scores of Mumbai-ites will agree with me that Colaba to Malad and back in a Qualis takes a LONG time, and that Jimmy Shergill should be sent to Formula 1 races if he actually makes that journey in the time shown. But then, these questions don't take anything away from the movie.
In the end, while Naseer goes into a moving near-soliloquy, he doesn't fail to make a point and touch many a chord in the viewers. Nevertheless, an essential part of the movie IS very much a fantasy, and one does walk out with a 'but then, come on. This can't happen for real' kind of feeling. In any case, I don't think the Director is suggesting that someone emulates Naseer. He is making another point, which has been made by others too. The list of movies depicting a 'common man' making a difference are on the rise. Rang de Basanti showed this too, albeit in a much more dramatized fashion. Amir (the movie, not the Khan!) and for that matter even Taare Zamin Par have a similar message.
I am no sociologist, but this surely has a connection with the way India and Indians are evolving. Are the days of a Dharmendra or Amitabh-style superhero behind us? They too portrayed common (and angry) men, but their acts were highly uncommon. What's more, they were often highly impossible. The 'common stupid man' portrayed by Naseer may seem impossible, but then, who knows?

Monday, October 6, 2008

Horsing around

Yesterday five of us went to the Pune race course, thanks to a friend who had got passes to the Johnnie Walker Event. It was my first time with horse racing, and most likely, will be the last. Not only because I lost money, but I realized I don't belong to that world.
It was definitely fun, being in a group of five who were all rank amateurs in the world of racing and betting. All around us, the ambience of Page 3 had come alive. We sat looking around, sipping our cocktails and studiously trying to make sense of the cole. This book is far more complicated than a railway time table and we couldn't understand a word of it.
Slowly we got around to understanding about mares, fillies, jockeys, ow
ners, trainers, jackpots, tanala and what all. By the 3rd or 4th race, we were even vehemently arguing amongst ourselves about the next favourite. Of course, any experienced better privy to our conversation would have fainted listening to our 'expert comments'. Our favourites usually got decided like this - "Wow, that black horse looks really nice, I like this one. Yes, but that brown one looked more alert. Really? OK then, lets bet 20 rupees on each of them"...
One of the results was truly hilarious. There were six horses running, and since there were five of us, we decided to single out the one whom we thought would NOT win, and then individually bet on the rest of the five. The idea being - make enough money collectively to have a drink in the evening. So while studying the horses' history, we found that one of them had had an arthroscopy done. Since we had a surgeon amongst us, he was duly called upon to unravel the mysteries of arthroscopy. Hearing him, we were convinced that this horse would be no match for the others. And guess what, THAT VERY HORSE WON THE RACE! So much for our study.
This clearly proved two things. One - we know nothing about horses and racing. Two - the vet who performed that arthroscopy must be damn good!
I am back from the races, 260 rupees minus. Moral of the story - when it comes to gambling I really need to hold my horses !