Well, well. January 2012 releases this far have been anything but spectacular, barring Chaalis Chaurasi. And this week was supposed to draw a blank with no new releases. And then a friend called from India suggesting I (re)view an Indie flick. She had seen it in 2010 at a film festival. A movie reviewer is often tempted with free advanced viewing with other perks to tantalise and write excellent reviews to promote and publicise films (more so a small-budget movie). Not that it'd've mattered. I was willing to be my sceptical best given the mediocre fare being churned out regularly.
Two critics traded sides – one became a debutant actor, the other second time director. One made me laugh with his act, while the other has fecund imagination and creativity but miles to go to hone his skills. I had read neither of their reviews and that was good. I liked what I saw in the new light. More than the storyline, it was the actors, who infused life in an otherwise insipid fare. My hand invariably reached for 'friend request' on my FB page. I enjoyed this Indie new age masalain English. I knew not these actors but after viewing the movie, I wanted to get to know them better.
LIGHTS! CAMERA!! WATCH!!! (sorry, LISTEN). The action takes place over the course of a night (remember, Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin 1996). Turiya (Manu Narayan) along with his friends Hussain (Vasant Santosham), JC (Raja Sen) and Abhishek D Shah come to a New York hotel to celebrate New Year. They meet Moira (Seema Rahmani), who shows the least interest in them. On their way back to Philadelphia (in a car), Turiya calls Moira (strange names for East Indians) on the hotel line and engages in a conversation, where barriers are broken and new understanding takes place. It goes to the credit of the friends that they can bear with this one-sided conversation for about six hours. And what better way to do it than humor. The morning arrives and Moira has to take a flight to Mumbai. So what happens in the end? Does the twain meet? Frankly, I didn't care. The journey was so interesting that destination didn't matter.
The movie is made in black/white interspersed with colored dream sequences. And the entire action is over the cell phone with split screen showing the other side's telephone. I did wonder about Turiya's cell phone bill (something to munch over). While the four friends' home is the car, Moira's home is represented by the hotel room. This is neither Hollywoodian nor Bollywoodian fare. This is not even Naseeruddin Shah's parallel cinema. This is truly new age flick where we can relate to the characters. And while on characters, I'd like to give the devils, their due.
Manu Narayan has already done films and this role must've been cake-walk for him. But to sound subtle and carry on a monotonous role requires shades. Manu displays a whole range of colours that totally immerses a viewer. He goes from being a regular guy discussing day-today affairs to someone, who wants to take the relationship to its right end. What a polished actor! This movie'll definitely open newer/wider acting doors for him.
Seema Rahmani comes like a whiff of fresh air. She is natural and makes an instant contact with the viewer. Her canvas is limited to the hotel room but she makes it seem like a world stage. That is the power of a versatile actor, who comes sans limitations. I went gaga over her spoof on the now-classic SRK-Kajol scene from KKHH. Truly Bollywoodian stuff but what a dynamic take especially when it goes in reverse order. That slap on Manu's face is actually on Bollywood's tepid fare. Seema is here to stay for a very very long time. For she knows the pulse of the viewers.
Raja Sen: Had I read his reviews, may be his debutant role wouldn't've made an impact. Could anyone be so endearing in their debuting comic act. I let my hair down. I didn't laugh politely. I actually LAUGHED. I remembered Cyrus Broacha. Move over Bro, Raja is here. If ever Raja needs an alternative career, he knows where to head. I may not read his reviews, but I definitely look forward to his next movie.
Vasant Santosham makes for a fine actor. No pretensions, no high-brow stuff. He flows with the situation. He is definitely endearing and affable. So what's next Vaz!
Well, critic/director Sudhish Kamath's work was half done with this set of talented actors. The other half of technical side left one wanting…for more. Why do East Indians look towards Hollywood (read white actors) for inspiration when everything is available at home. This is the centenary year of Hindi Cinema. The first B/W silent Indian film Raja Harishchandra was released on May 3 1913. And it becomes significant that I watch another B/W GNGM albeit in its foreignic avatar. Radio announcer Ameen Sayani'd've made a better alternative to Billy Wilder. And the setting should've been in any village in India, where the masses reside.
GNGM in its B/W avatar with a split screen and a cell phone invited a song a la Gope- Nigar Sultana's Mere Pia Gaye Rangoon (Patanaga 1949) or Jalte Hain Jiske Liye (Sujata 1959). A cell phone song is what the doctor ordered. And when you go retro, silences convey a lot more than talk. Kamalhasan had done it in his masterpiece/classic Pushpak (1987).
Indian cinema made for either masses (Rajnikant/Salman Khan) or classes (Naseeruddin Shah/Aamir Khan) have entered desis territory (NRIs- SRK fare). Its reach is vast but lack of promotion and publicity relegates many to the festival fare. We are left unaware of great stuff and are left to view and review crass fare. I Am Kalam made me aware of the festival fare. I am sure, a new age cinema is on the verge to be explored. It'll be an entity on its own and won't compete with Hollywood and Bollywood. It'll find its own financiers, who'll invest in it on merit. And there is a ready-made viewership for it waiting for an alternative to Hollywood/Bollywood.
PVR release is fine but only the paying classy public'll view the movie. What about the masses and the word of mouth? To reach out to the masses, make use of the Internet and release it on YouTube just like FALTU (paid, 2011) and Project 11 (free, 2011, budget Rs 9 lakh). Single screen release'd only better commercial prospects. But first GNGM needs to create awareness. Any new venture needs capital. Lack of it doesn't mean you whine. Look out for alternatives and find your way. A big newspaper name is backing enough to circulate in film festivals, be considered for multiplex release and garner rave reviews. Many talented Indians don't've any backing and even die unsung. And viewer remains ignorant of the undiscovered masterpieces.
Satish displays initiative and acts on it. The movie'd've been crisp in an hour-long duration instead of little less than 90 minutes. The ending leaves a lot to be desired. Suffice it to say, it may lead Satish to make bigger better new age movies. Everything is available in India. It is a director's experimental initiative but it is actors' special. GNGM reaffirms my faith that small-budget movies are here to stay (remember Phas Gaye Re Obama, Tere Bin Laden, A Wednesday, Allah Ke Bandey, The Dirty Picture, Chaalis Chaurasi…). And Hollywood'll be LORDed over by South Asians especially East 'brown' Indians. Republic Day too is nearing.
I dedicate this review to my friend, who suggested me to (re)view GNGM. This is my heartfelt New Year gift to her. I'm reaching out for my Blackberry. It has its own uses-phoning, internet, texting…my other friends to view GNGM. From one word of mouth to another. From one eyeball to another.
Good Night. Good Morning. Good Try. A New Year. A Newbie.