Categories
cinema

Raat Akeli Hai

As The Swivel Chair Spins #12

Fridays are better than most days. 

Particularly the ones that come with detective movies. 

Raat Akeli Hai is indeed an evocative title, more so for Bollywood buffs of the Dev Anand song, but it hardly captures the movie that follows it. We could push a little more and say it’s a romantic title, much like Inspector Jatil Yadav- who’s secret gaze of women contradicts his lofty expectations from his future wife. “Decent” & “good looking” is what he tells his mother, how difficult would that be to find? 

Later on a lonely night, somewhere in the Gangetic plain,as Jatil bhai sits down to have his reheated dinner, a gruesome muder is reported. 

A large mansion. A dead old patriarch and suspects reaching to the double digits. It’s a classic Christie setting. 

Wait! A short detour into what catapults the best Christie adaptations into classic status, hmm, it’s only five things that we really need.

  1. There’s the idiosyncratic detective (mostly accented) 
  2. There’s the avengers type collection of the best of acting talent and all of them  colorful suspects 

(Maybe you can look up the list from Sidney Lumet’s Murder on the Orient Express) 

  1. Of course, who could forget multiple motives
  2. Easy deception or more deaths 
  3. Finally, climatic exposition of what happened, preferably in the drawing room. 

Netflix’s Raat Akeli Hai has all of the above! Typing this makes us very happy, to see writing that loves genre elements like we do. 

But that’s not all, if it’s classic Christie in part, writer Smitha Singh seems to have been bitten by the Chinatown bug and weaves in Radha (Radhika Apte), a shifty femme fatale and layers of social commentary. 

Hmm, mostly it works well, no one can fault Nawaz as he limps through the small lanes in the search of clues and solve the murder of Raghubeer Singh. Nawaz believably goes from frustrated to sufficiently self confident. 

Where Raat Akeli Hai loses the plot, is in its inability to differentiate the suspects, this is important in a classic Christie setting because the tension is wholly sustained on who the killer is? 

Could it be him? Could it be her? Could it be them? Or could it be one of those unbelievable sleight of hands that Christie does and stumps her reader, just for sakes. 

All of this tension comes from us knowing the characters, glimpses of their lives, their worries and motives from the interviews that the detective would take and frame the narrative. Here, after a point (the third act), it didn’t really matter who the killer really was and our characters are just names painted behind foldable film shooting chairs. 

For the viewer tired of Christie’s Mysteries, there are lots of other things to look at, like the elaborately designed rooms in Thakur saab’s mansion, mirrors and Pankaj Kumar’s effective cinematography.

Yes, but it’s hard to watch this film  and not think about Knives Out.

Raat Akeli Hai is now streaming on Netflix.

Categories
cinema cinema: hindi Music

What’s Music Doc? Tere Bin

I have been fence sitter when it comes to the song or no song debate, I jump sides often (ya it’s me) . My reasons for this are grounded in the hours and hours of political news coverage by national and regional channels. “Issue based support” being the correct phrase, if you please.

This song from Wazir definitely deserves a WMD post.

tere-bin-story_647_120415045355

I do not know if anything else from Wazir deserves writing about, ok that was quite rude.

You can’t get always what you want, so my dream of ‘seeing’ the songs ONLY along with the film is more than always killed. Technically the songs should ONLY work in the boundaries of the film, yeah the song might be great, composed with a mind that has been aided by the hands of the divine or verses that have been taken right from the surface of a calm lake.

All that is ok, but what is the song doing in the movie, yaar?

Wazir has this genius level intro song, there is no prelude to this introduction(prelude to the introduction a? ennada solre), you have no idea who the characters are and there is no associated speak or visual cues for us to identify with; in other words Bejoy Nambiar was on a ‘wing and a prayer’ (we like to use phrases, kid writers we be) when he begins his film on loss of kids masquerading as a thriller with the absolutely wonderful ‘Tere Bin’

Shot in enjoyable slow motion, which although seems forced at the very beginning comes to its own being towards the end of the song; ever since I heard the song I had wanted to see it and ever since I have seen it, I can now never forget it. Which is success in a way.

But I’ll tell you what real success is, these flash backs are one irksome lot in movies, but the thing is most dramatic films can’t do without them, they lend character to the characters, essentially these are parcels of emotions which make us realize the motivations and why a certain character is behaving in a certain way at present. And this takes up a lot of screen time and when done badly makes you wish you were never born.

In 3 minutes Wazir establishes what most movies take a good part of the ‘first quarter of the post interval’ phase (hehe not that technically, buddy), there are no scenes as to how Daanish (Farhan Akhtar, a disoriented ATS officer) and Ruhana (a very oriented Kathak-ist? played by Aditi Rao Hydari) meet, there are no scenes of their courtship period (this being a Delhi film would have been shot in Humayun’s Tomb etc),there are no scenes to show each doting on the other, how their firstborn was cherished like little Simba and how love was so much part of their family like most Bollywood families tend to be; but all this is there in the song ya. ( director laughs like Blofeld who has plans to take over the world but doesn’t know Bond is lurking somewhere in the shadows)

And all this is very necessary for the audience to feel the weight of child loss when the kid is killed a few minutes later in a rather umm ‘This-is-not-supposed-to-happen-now’ moment (OK I spoiled that for you), so now you see that this is a genius move to open with a song that adds something to your movie and more importantly, doesn’t eat up time. Do not know if it will work every time, but here it did!

While Shreya Ghoshal and Sonu Nigam take you through the lives of the protagonist and family, couldn’t help wondering if these moments are like those carefully selected photos that are seen on facebook, highlighting the happy moments, even more stressing to the general populace that happiness is abound. ALWAYS.

But is it?

That’s for another post. but if only Wazir had been quite as amazing as the song and used judiciously the time created by this number.

 

Yeah, here is the song. 

 

 

Categories
Books cinema cinema: hindi

WALLS PEOPLE BUILD

Image

Even in the most formulaic of products cinema can surprise you to lengths that you could have ever imagined.

2 states is no new story, two people from diverse background fall in love and naturally their parents oppose, how the couple convince their parents form the rest of the tale. Yes, how many times have we seen this story? Yet 2 states gets most things right where others slip.

This writer walked in expecting a clash of cultures, a comedy of manners and other such gags, but that was not the case to be. Usually not one to expect authentic portrayal of south Indians in Hindi films, there was really anything for me to complain about.

Most of the films in the same fashion, in fact even with the same story reduce characters to prickly caricatures, taking ample advantage of existing stereotypes, the troubled couple usually have to tread carefully amidst the culture bushes while not rustling them, but trying to win their approval as well.

It is not to say that 2 states does not take the help of the stereotypes, just that they are not gags, like first you think Mr. Swaminathan is the grumpy  simple south Indian dad, then we come to realize that he is not grumpy  because he is south Indian, but he is tired of doing others’ work, likewise  the “middle-class” minded fast talking groom’s mother also begins as a staple, not unlike many Bollywood Mas; but she too just wants some respect after being mistreated for most of her life. Her issue is really not having a ‘Madrasi’ daughter-in-law, but her fear of losing her son’s love and respect, something her husband could never provide. 2 states aptly bring out the motivations behind the stereotypes rather than just painting them in stock expected colors.

When characters are written with respect, it shows on screen! Even if respect did not allow much time for research, the previous clash of the culture films only seek to bring the differences to one common ground for the benefit of the lovers, so much so that we do not really care in the end if the protagonists get married or not.

In the end it is not the diversity of the cultures that is the hindrance; it is the minds of the people who preferred to be safely walled up in the name of society and culture.

Marriage is about individuals, not about culture. Yes it does involve culture, but it is not to be seen as a solid unmovable entity that shuts out people and selectively allows some in. Culture is a result of individuals, accumulated over the years to make things easier, if it makes life a chore; then a lot of rethinking needs to be done.

Well written characters are essayed by finest supporting actors (Ronit Roy, Amrita Singh and Revathy deserve more than special mentions), while the biggest hurrah must go to the likeable lead, Alia ‘light-in-her-eyes’ Bhatt and the surprisingly effectual Arjun Kapoor.

While the film does stop and get into the usual Bollywood song and dance occasionally, all that is forgiven. Also nobody gets married at the Shore Temple, it is a UNESCO world heritage site for God’s sake.

2 States is immensely pleasant even at its length, a film that rightly captures the scenario while not being either youth-rebellious or teacher-preacher in its handling of marriage, that is an achievement.

Yes it also ends well.

PS: Two paragraphs on how good this Alia Bhatt is, as Ananya Swaminathan was written, it was deleted keeping in mind that Arjun Kapoor(Krish Malhotra) too is amazing. Further problems were averted by using simpler adjectives in the piece.

PS 2: Remind yourself that this film is not an ad for YES Bank and Sunsilk, repeat this again please for your benefit.

PS 3: This writer did not read the Chetan Bhagat novel from which the film was adapted from and thus cannot speak about loyalty to text issues.

X Box: Kya Yaar, we also see Hindi films.