Sunday, July 14, 2013

Running for Good

It is a common piece of advice "running from your problems is never gonna do any good,"
The Flying Sikh
well obviously it doesn't apply to someone like Milkha Singh. Once the army discovered his talent, the 'Flying Sikh' lived his amazing life through the sport and constantly ran over the obstacles in his path. Being an international Indian athlete of his stature, at a time when India was in the process of finding its feet, was an achievement that most of us today can not quite comprehend.

It is perhaps the same audience that Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra targets in his film Bhaag Milka Bhaag. Now making a biopic on a sportsman is not as easy as it sounds with casting beinga crucial call. Anyone who views the film can vouch for the fact that Farhan Akhtar was spot on. His metamorphosis is awe-inspiring, not just the detail to physical but also other subtle nuances that created a living breathing version of the legend he was to portray. Now this is a person who has so far, both as a director and actor, defined urban cool, and his uncouth ways here are quite endearing. There were other notable hits like Divya Dutta, Master Jabtej Singh, Pawan Malhotra, Dev Gill and surprisingly Prakash Raj. The misses were major, Dalip Tahil as Nehru was such an obvious misfit that it is surprising to see how he was still part of the final film. The other major shocker was Art Malik, who played Milkha's father and you will find truth in these words once you see the film.

Well cast

The sports field requires intense discipline,hardwork, patience and resilience.
The fire of passion
One of this films biggest achievements is that these words have been brought alive. It is common to see a protagonist in today's film flitting through life (e.g. in Wake Up Sid Ranbir Kapoor walks out of his fathers house, immediately finds a place to stay and when asked to be more productive finds an internship and just like that this intern's pictures are published in the magazine too and he goes back and easily reconciles with his parents). In most films blood, sweat and tears are implied, but here they are for all to see. Milkha Singh is termed a natural, but in no terms is his path to glory easy. He trains and trains and even that is not enough, he requires focus and nerves of steel to endure all the stones hurled in his path. What aids him is the faith and direction that the army constantly provides.

Another major facet of this film is that it deals with three periods namely; pre-partition, partition and post partition. The pre-partition part is fine, the period is established and some vignettes of life are portrayed. The partition in itself may seem jingoistic to some, but with what I have heard and read in reality it was far more traumatic and surreal. There is great attention to emotional detail in some aspects of the post partition period. The mass-exodus, finding your own in a sea of people, the grief of loss, the state of the refugees and finding a way to survive have all found their way in. 

Progressing further, the film weaves in a love story which is in tune
Simple and feel-good love
with the times portrayed. A subtle comment is made on the state of women, which ofcourse this being India, is pretty bad. But it is in this part that the film falters the most. The viewer is constantly searching for answers as several unlikely or unexplained incidents flash on screen. Most often under the scanner is Milkha's relationship with his sister and brother-in-law, his livelihood and how he suddenly finds himself in the army. Several loose ends have been left just like that and they feel ungracefully jarring.

Creating a storm
The film constantly picks up during Milkha's training and  his setting of records. Here too a few incidents feel like a stretch, others are educative. Binod Pradhan is in fine form and creates visuals which leave an impression. As Milkha's wins stack up, one ceases to see him as just a man who lost an Olympic medal. Despite excluding his later romantic life, the film draws him as a rounded individual and charts his personal journey to achievement, self-awareness and global exposure.

 The music keeps up, the numbers are a mix of uptempo and romantic ballads and 'Zinda Hai toh' and 'Milkha Bhaag' have rightly turned into anthems. On the whole the movie feels a tad long, especially because it does not cover Milkha's post-glory period, needing the editor to do some explaining. Clarity is not a strong point in either the screenplay or execution of the film, it has an inconsistent tone, masquerading as a western style film sometimes and at others turning on full-blown bollywood masala. Attention to detail has not been implemented as a norm and seems to be added on whim. Director Mr Mehra also retreats to constant flashback tone ala his RDB, it works while portraying Milkha's post-traumatic stress, but does not fit everywhere. The film also fails to tie the numerous threads of its story yarn in the end. 

Final verdict: Watch it like a filmbuff and you will surely feel a sense of pride and the power of passion. Definitely worth one watch. 

Monday, September 29, 2008

A Wednesday

Sometimes a movie comes along that shocks the wits out of you, not just because its brilliant, but because its brave. John Milton said that destroying a book is even more heinous than killing someone as it entails killing an idea (On Books: "he who destroyes a good book, kills reason itself."). Well, I don't care if what surveys say as most people I know discuss more than books. And so his words are applicable to A Wednesday. And if you haven't caught it yet, you should.

In my book it joins the league of important movies like Swades and Taare Zameen Par . These movies are important because they are ruthlessly honest in their noble intentions, true to their art. And that is a tough thing to do, not just in Bollywood, but every sphere of life.
Is life really meant to be a compromise?
Do we really have the power to stand up and make a difference?
Are we victims or survivors?
Do we really have a choice?
These are some of the questions the movie punches in your face and forces you to think. Sometimes its not about the answers given but the questions raised. And A Wednesday does that quite impactfully.

Every actor except Gaurav Kapoor (too comic and unconvincing as a superstar) pitches in note-worthy performance. And Neeraj Pandeys vision never waivers. All in all a rare treat at the cinemas.

Thursday, September 21, 2006


Is it some kind of joke? Why should a movie called Wide Awake make you struggle to avoid sleep! I was conned into seeing it because of the tag written and directed by Manoj Night Shyamalan.

Yup the movie belongs to his pre-sixth-sense days, a time when he was little known and struggling. And it is easy to see why.

The movie is about a little boy who cannot over his grandfather’s death. He seeks out God to check if grandpa is ok.

So there are some poignant scenes like when he gets back from school and Dons his grandpa’s robe and sits on his chair. It is an attempt to reclaim what is now beyond reach.

A story so rich in emotional depth could have been a masterpiece. Instead it becomes endless, wimpy, and, a strong competitor to sleeping pills. Which is pretty weird as Shyamalan is now known for his expertise in handling emotional depth ala The Sixth Sense. And it is the direction which slips the most.
The movie is a perfect combination of deathly boring (ignore the pun) and, never ending.
But its not all bad (nothing is, really!). the kid Joshua has done a pretty good job. Shyamalan’s ease in making kids emote is visible here. Joshua’s scenes with his best friend are also cute. There is a bit of innocence captured in their childhood skirmishes.

The fact that some of his classmates question god despite studying in a Catholic School (“God is our homework.”) is both interesting and funny. The other notable performance is that of Rosie ‘O Donnel, who plays the cute Nun.

The end has the trademark Shymalan twist and, a hint of the supernatural. And yes, your verbal reaction will be like the one after The Sixth Sense (“Whaaaaaaaaaaaaaat”). But it would not be in the same emotional vein. But you will recover soon enough to enjoy the fact that it has finally over.

So yes, the end is the best part. All in all a movie best avoided. Unless, you wanna follow Shyamlan’s journey from awww.. to wow!