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Friday, January 29, 2010

In the name of LOVE: "Ābohomaan", "Dorian Gray", and "Ishqiya"

Love rocks!
Love sucks!
Love hurts!
Love kills!
Love debases!
Love eludes!
Love expires!
Love transpires!
Love transcends!

Yes, all the above outbursts are true.
And they couldn't have been truer for me, as these exclamations hold good right now in the consensus reached by my multiple egos after having watched three amazing films:
Ābohomaan [Bangla/ Director: Rituparno Ghosh/ 2010]
Dorian Gray [English/ Director: Oliver Parker/2009]
Ishqiya [Hindi/ Director: Abhishek Chaubey/2010]

The three films are not at all similar, nor do they demand any comparison. Yet, I just happened to see all three in the past week, and have liked them all, albeit in different ways. So, I cannot help talking about them, or rather gushing about them, being a cine-buff as well as a love-obsessed individual.
Is love over-rated? I often ask myself.
The answer is both 'yes' and 'no'. The reason for this dichotomy is the fact that love has strange ways of being perceived. The way it is perceived commonly, as evident in popular culture, is of course too shallow; thus, as a concept, love can be anything but profane and much-abused over time. However, in the purest sense, love is definitely fulfilling and demands to be sought for all the profound reasons.

One of my favorite contemporary directors, Rituparno Ghosh, has explored love, loss, betrayal, and despair beautifully in his recent offering called "Ābohomaan". It takes the eternal Pygmalion premise much ahead as the complex web of relationships interlocked in the backdrop of the creator-muse romance gets explored beautifully & subtly. It is perhaps the director's most mature screenplay till date.
The relationships are wonderfully handled by Ghosh to make the chamber-piece like offering, with multiple past-present dimensions and a complex tapestry of emotions, a treat for the lovers of meaningful cinema. The ensemble cast inludes Deepankar Dey, Mamata Shankar, Ananya Chatterjee, Jisshu Sengupta, Riya Sen, Sumanta Mukherjee, Saswati GuhaThakurta, Soma Chakraborty and Shobha Sen.

"Dorian Gray" is the latest film version of the classic tale by Oscar Wilde that deals with the gothic theme of disfigurement or corruption of soul in the wake of an unnatural pursuit of one's own superficial beauty, with which one is in love. In this latest reworking of that tale, the gothic atmosphere, the visuals, and the acting is flawless. Though the film isn't the best representation of the original content, I would recommend it for those who would find the novel somewhat inaccessible because of its complex layers or its hedonistic and Faustian undertones. Young Ben Barnes, famous for his portrayal of Prince Caspian in the Narnia films, is perfectly cast as Dorian. He is aptly supported by Colin Firth, Ben Chaplin, Rebecca Hall, and Rachel Hurd-Wood. The lovelessness and the debauchery that plagues Dorian, and the lovelorn Basil, who is infatuated by Dorian's beauty and paints his portrait, is too poignant not to touch the viewer.

When I went to catch "Ishqiya" in the theater, I did so as much for Vishal Bharadwaj having written much of the screenplay, along with creating the musical scores that had captured my imagination already with repeated air-plays, as for the coming together of Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi, playing the lead roles. Set in the backdrop of eastern Uttar Pradesh, the film has a noirish romantic plot where individuals get entangled in a web of crime, suspense, passion, and deception. The songs, not only the original scores & the songs but also the eternal Bollywood lovesongs that are featured in the soundtrack, made me chuckle with glee. "Ishqiya" has a rustic feel that is rarely seen in popular films. The cinematography (by Mohana Krishna) and the character-dynamics kept me glued to the screen. I would have to say that the final denouement watered down the fantastic feel by some degrees, yet it is a must-watch film for the sheer thrill and the odd relish that one is undoubtedly rewarded with. Director Abhishek Chaubey deserves a pat in the back for his fine debut.


Satyaki said...

Odd trinity no doubt. Yet, I too liked the three films that you have posted your brief take on. I loved 'Ishqiya' the most; as a matter of fact, I liked it even better than Vishal's own 'Kaminey'.
'Abahamaan' has a brooding second half with the a tendency of the director to try some visual novelty with darkening the screen again & again. The cast of the film is the best thing of the movie.
'Dorian Gray' is eminently watchable. It is brilliantly executed and acted too.

Sharmee said...

I loved Aabahomaan, and Ishqiya too. But am yet to see the other one as it hasn't been released in theaters (and it's unlikely too that it will be released). Will have to wait till the time it gets screened on television (as I do not have the privilege of watching it on home video). I loved the songs that are featured in Aabahomaan too, I don't know why you did not mention them. But, yes, the songs of Ishqiya are a class apart. And the visuals in both the films have contributed much to their overall appeal.

Aniruddh said...

The love in 'DORIAN GRAY' was sickening, it showed decline & decay, and yet it showed love as somewhat overpowering even in the messy, altered psychopathic state of Dorian in the latter half of the film. I wish I had read the original novel, Oscar Wilde had a perspective that was way deeper than most of his literary counterparts.
'ISHQIYA' was refreshing because of the weird sensual chemistry that engages both the men with the so-called femme fatale. The songs and the visuals are more than compensatory for the odd twist towards the end.
Watching 'ABAHOMAN' felt like revisiting the much familiar Rituparno territory, and the detailing in terms of the characters' physical and psychological spaces - mapped out much more efficiently than most of his recent films - notwithstanding, there is an all-pervading feeling of deja vu. The film-within-film parallels won't be too familiar for many in the audience who do not know much about the dynamics between Girish Ghosh & Binodini Daasi.

sudip said...

Rituparno is repetitive, but so are many filmmakers worldwide who have a unique stamp of their own, so I do not mind the particular genre of exploring relationships, as he does, and has done successfully in 'Abahoman'. Nobody complains of Woody Allen touching the same kind of themes again & again, so why complain about Rituparno's obsession with infidelity or betrayal.
About 'Ishqiya', I can safely say that Bollywood has one more young director to be proud of - in Abhishek Chowbey. Being a Vishal Bharadwaj protege, the film has dark humor and romance of the rustic hues, and the film if not a masterpiece is surely a notch above the typically mainstream offerings. It was good to see Kolkata's Rajesh Sharma in its cast.

Abhijit Sengupta said...

I haven't yet watched 'Aabohomaan' and 'Dorian Gray', so can't really comment on them, but 'Ishqiya' was a helluva film. It was super-hot , a perfect 'desi tamancha'! As Anindyo rightly pointed out, the film has a rustic feel that makes it class apart from the run-of-the-mill Bolly flicks. A gripping storyline, award-worthy performances by the lead troika, a brilliant musical score, realistic cinematogrpahy - 'Ishqiya' has everything one wants in a 'good' film. I loved Naseer, Arshad and Vidya. The crackling chemistry between all three of them is something one needs to see to believe. Naseer and Arshad are no doubt amazing actors, but Vidya in 'Ishqiya' was a revelation. What a powerful performance! The songs by Vishal were top-notch, particularly Rekha Bhardwaj's 'badi dheere jali' and 'Ab mujhe koi'. Abhishek Chaubey has emerged as a true protege of Vishal. Although the film at times gave me a deja vu of Vishal's 'Omkara' and 'Kaminey', but Abhishek is certainly a director to watch out for!

Arunima said...

Well..good to see this nice post on movies which have a different or may be not so different take on love..Love perhaps is the most talked about human emotion...Though I liked both the movies Abohoman and Ishqia for different reasons..but the reason was not the depiction of love in both of them for sure..Abohoman has made a mark in my mind as a beautiful father-son story and Ishqiya on the other hand will remind me of a woman's strength always...:)

hassan said...

"Ishqiya" rocks! And it is the most exciting film that has come out of Bollywood this year, in the first quarter. Exceptionally competent performances, haunting melodies, crazy romancing, and Vidya Balan in a sexy avatar - these are the things that make "Ishqiya" stand out from the rest.

aarav said...

Have just seen Abohomaan, and have seen Ishqiya and Dorian Gray prior to that, hence I have to say that the three movies are as dissimilar from one another as can be, and yet they all have in their very core 'love & longing' - but, honestly, which film doesn't? Life is meaningless without love. And so are movies.
In fact, until recently, Bollywood films use to earn a lot of flak as being merely 'boy-meets-girl-falls-in-love' romances, without exploring the diverse nuances of love. Things are different (though marginally) now, thankfully. We are lucky to have films like 'Ishqiya' - which are hot & happening in Bollywood. It is a road movie cum romance cum gun-toting; novel & engaging alright.
'Abohomaan' is languid, passionate, verbose, sentimental, but riveting nonetheless with some wonderful performances. There are scenes that one can carry home in one's memory as one walks out of the theater.
'Dorian Gray' is a tad weaker, according to me, and hence mentioned of in that order, as it tries to gloss over some of the dark and agonizing sections of the original piece. Visually it is very rich, the DI scheme applied gives a artwork like texture to the crucial scenes. I would be glad if more people take up Oscar Wilde's text, after having seen the filmed version.