Popular Posts

Monday, July 29, 2013

'Issaq': 'Romeo and Juliet' revisited

With 'Issaq', William Shakespeare's famous tragedy has been revisited but has the outcome been laudable...... or laughable? Will it make Shakespeare turn in his grave?
Read on, for I've just poured my take on this new film.

It is a daunting task to transcreate a Shakespearean text for the Indian screen. And, I am saying this despite most of our mainstream films having had a lot to borrow from Shakespeare, consciously or unconsciously. We have done to death the Romeo and Juliet love story without really making a proper cinematic adaptation of the bard's text. Hence, when the promos of 'Issaq' first started airing with the name William Shakespeare highlighted, I was super-excited. I liked the casting too. Prateik Babbar, Ravi Kissen, Prashant Narayanan, Makarand Deshpande, Sudhir Pande, Neena Gupta, Vineet Kumar Singh, Evelyn Sharma were in the cast - known names who raised expectations, and the newcomer Amyra Dasur was cast as Juliet. Prateik and Amyra looked good together as the eponymous lovers in the songs that whetted my appetite. The songs were quite good too, especially the title track sung by Mohit Chauhan (other songs were situational numbers, all with the rustic flavor of Banaras which formed the backdrop in this transcreation).

Finally, as soon as the film arrived in the theater, I rushed to the nearest multiplex to catch the drama unfold. Again, the classic tale of doomed romance, of star-crossed lovers. Mind you, I wasn't a fan of it when I had read a retelling of the drama, in my school book, but warmed up to it only after reading the original play, as an outcome of my new-found fondness for Baz Luhrmann's 1996 film 'Romeo + Juliet'
As I entered the auditorium, I mentally lauded the makers for daring to boast that theirs was an authentic adaptation of Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet, set in the Indian context, with guns and bullets, and the politician-goonda nexus, and the sand mafia, and the colors of Banaras. But then the film began...... and, as it progressed, came the disappointment, disgust and despair, in varying degrees.

Alas! The filmmaker (Manish Tiwary) seems to have been catapulted by an imagination fermented by the bard alright but he has definitely failed to exploit the potential that the concept offered. The idea was to Indianize the text with contemporary realistic touches, and that yielded itself to portions which do manage to generate interest. However, the worst part was that that the film suffers from faulty scripting, sloppy editing, and a complete lack of credibility and coherence. Maybe the pressure to deliver was too much to handle. An improper weightage given to complex characters, and half-baked associations to eke out the rich dramatic intensity and texture of the Shakespearean play have tragically rendered chastisement by critics and masses inescapable. I am feeling particularly sorry for Prateik Babbar whose Romeo act has been lampooned and some viewers (which even includes the person I went to see the film with) have even christened him desi Spiderman for having attempted to scale the walls so bravely....... hahaha.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

'Ship of Theseus': Cinema at its very best

'Ship of Theseus' has finally arrived in Indian cinemas, in a wide-yet-limited release, nothing short of a mean feat because it is cinema at its very best, in its purest, a celebration of cinema from the land of escapist romances. Its being backed by Kiran Rao, more widely known as the better half of Aamir Khan, has made its sailing somewhat smooth, as it is not just a film without compromises of the basest kind, but is also what can be labelled niche cinema, one that uses multiple languages (and hence, mandatorily, subtitles), represents multiple ethnicities, weaves hard-core issues in a somewhat loosely-structured narrative, is bereft of saleable names in its list of cast-members, and explores a philosophical paradox.

This multi-layered film energizes and challenges the viewer like few other films have done in the recent past. There are so many ideas (in fact, too many to be honest) that have been packed in, that it may baffle and bewilder the complacent viewer. But look deep, or stay patient, and the film starts to converse with its use of cinematic idioms. It stimulates intellectually, and positively, and it does that even to the ones in whom the appreciative spirit for all good things (like good cinema or good music) may have apparently been hibernating for long.

It is difficult for me not to wax eloquent about a film like 'Ship of Theseus', however hard I may try. Suffice to say that if this happens to be cinema, then what we keep going gaga about most of the times are nothing but cinema of a lesser kind. Superlatives have been showered on the film and all its major aspects at many a forum, national and international, so I am not going to go on and on, I just ask all cinema-lovers to embrace it in their own way.
Let the film engage you in a conversation, maybe with just your own self, after you have experienced it. Fractured lives, segmented narratives have rarely seemed so whole, so harmonious. Watch 'Ship of Theseus' and join me in thanking writer-director Anand Gandhi, producer Sohum Shah, and presenter Kiran Rao (these three most of all) for making us truly proud about our cinema.