As we all stay at home and do our bit to keep ourselves and everyone else safe from getting infected from COVID-19, we give you part 10 from our 'feel-good films to watch during the lockdown series.
Honeymoon Travels Pvt Ltd (2007): Reema Kagti’s debut film has enough chutzpah to keep you purring at the blend of parody and pathos. Once you get into the narrative groove of these imperfectly matched couples riding into a hectic horny hilarious honeymoon in Goa, you’re in for a minor treat. The six couples are joined at the hip and the lip by some commanding inflexions that bind the people in a tongue that’s easy to identify …provided you’ve ever been married. Even if you haven’t been on a honeymoon, get a load of these feisty honeymooners, feasting on the first flush of love romance sex and bickering on a trip that makes us smile for a mile and chuckle for a brief way too. What holds the film together is the players. Everyone from the commanding Shabana to the sassy Raima is out to have fun. And there’re some picturesque whispers about how a marriage can go wrong at its startling start. Watch newly married husbands Vikram Chatkwal and Karan Kapoor getting attracted to each other while their respective wives scratch their heads wondering why the bed seems so dead. Sassy, savvy and sometimes slippery….Deftly written scenes and lines carry the narrative forward with nimble savoir-faire. Debutant director Reema Kagti knows her cinema with prideful originality.
The performances are all almost uniformly believably and effervescent. Every actor works within his or her limited to create a portable universe of credible emotions. Kay Kay Menon and Raima as the timid husband and bindaas wife are particularly endearing. And you simply HAVE to see Abhay Deol and Minissha Lamba do the Lambada to know they are made for each other…at least in this film. But you wish Kagti hadn’t turned this made-for-each-the pair into Superman and Supergirl. For Chrissake, if Kagti wanted F-X she could have made Boman’s wig fly into Amisha’s fast-moving mouth. Shabana and Boman create their magic. Though considering their histrionic stature, you wish there was more space for them. The nimble editing allows no space to miss anything beyond the pace. Not breathless but brisk, Honeymoon … moves on confident feet. It doesn’t purport to make serious statements on the quality of life and marriage. Instead, it tells you to loosen up about issues that would generally address a large number of tissues. And you can start looking for a pun in that last sentence only when you stop having fun watching this breed-easy satire.
The Namesake (2007): Sometimes an absence is also a kind of presence. Take The Namesake. Irrfan Khan as Prof Ashoke Ganguly suddenly dies on his wife, leaving what looks like stretches of aching silences in the bereft Ashima’s life. And yet, look at life’s ironies…the death of the patriarch in is malfunctioning Bengali family in New York triggers off a stretch of mending and nurturing that culminates in a kind of healing that signifies a beginning born out of an end. Mira Nair’s film is so tender at heart you often forget these are actors enacting scenes from a well-known Pulitzer-prize-winning novel. The actors lose their plumes so completely, we don’t even get the chance to be astonished by the subtle craft that underlies almost every moment in this mellow migratory drama. The cross-generational conflict between a first-generation Bengali family in the US and their culturally confused kids are aligned by soft hyphenated humour that propels the poignant plot without making the highlights in the Ganguly family’s journey from Kolkata to the US seem like an ostentatious migratory pilgrimage. Mira Nair stays wedded to a muted emotional expression even in the strongest moments of drama. When Ashima, now a Bengali housewife fully acclimatized to the often-peculiar and savagely funny cultural contradictions of America, suddenly loses her husband, Nair takes her actress Tabu into the deserted but brightly lit streets of the US for her breakdown scene. The changes in the climate are never underlined to punctuate the drama. Instead, Nair lets the snow and the sun swathe the film’s moistened canvas.
More than anything else Mira Nair’s film is a homage to the apparently dwindling family ties in the strangely self-serving social structure of modern times where self-gratification almost invariably outdistances the needs of the larger familial unit. The cutting often savagely satirical dialogues slice through the lives of these dis-oriented characters defining their geo-political insolvency in scenes that accentuate the quirky ethnicity of a Bengali family ensconced in the American Dream. Such is the lyrical simplicity of Mira’s storytelling that we are frequently left with a feeling that sequences should’ve gone a little further, a little deeper into the characters’ collective and individual predicament. Yes, the end-game is slightly stifling in its celerity. The episode about Ashoke and Ashima’s son Gogol’s Bengali wife’s extra-marital affair with a French lover seems trifled hurried and out of pace with the gentle swaying movements of the rest of the narration. It’s almost as though time was running out on the people Mira has so lovingly carved into living entities on screen. The sense of unhurried lives moving away from the breathless impulses of a civilization that has no patience with lyricism and literature imbues The Namesake with a feeling of prideful dramatic exploration, equally remarkable for what is said and what remains unsaid. Scenes between Tabu and Irrfan are outstanding in their correct unhurried manoeuvres signifying the long-term momentum of an arranged marriage culminating in a quiet unstated love between the couple. Both Irrfan and Tabu are exceptional. Irrfan replicates the body language and the spoken words of his Bengali NRI’s characterless strenuously than Tabu. But her expressions of wifely devotion and motherly anguish are to die for. Here’s an actress who proves there’s more to acting than meets the eye. Kal Penn as the plot’s fulcrum of cultural displacement gets the gait and the eventual poignancy of historical reclamation right. And so does the rest of the vast cast of seasoned and professional actors who get together to celebrate the rites and rhythms of cultural reclamation. Suffused with superbly sensuous supporting performances and steeped in an ethos of enormous cultural reverberation in The Namesake the acutely lyrical camera takes us from the quiet streets of New York to the picture-postcard bustle of Kolkata, creating in the journey a passage into a world where hands reach out across colours and continents to caress the soul.
Life…In A Metro (2007): What’s the root- cause of Anurag Basu’s obsession with heights? In Murder, Gangster and now Metro, characters are seen hanging down or just lounging from the ledge of vertiginous boundary-less skyscrapers. In Life...In A Metro he even gets his resident rock band to climb atop a building and strum those guitars. And when it isn’t the music from the strings it’s Irrfan and Konkona playing a miss-matched maritally-challenged couple, getting on a rooftop to scream their lungs out. It’s meant to be therapeutic. We’ll take Anurag Basu’s word for it. God knows, the man knows what he’s doing. Metro falters only in parts. Some of the narrative’s punctuation marks are over-emphasized. And the spiral of human relationships often seems to replicate Mike Nichols’ Closer. And yes, Billy Wilder’s romantic comedy The Apartment serves as a direct reference point for the Kay Kay-Kangana-Sharman Joshi triangle. But make no mistake, this is a highly original film with a voice that seems to reverberate across a limitless canvas of feelings derived from the juices that flow and irrigate the people in the concrete jungle. You know you are being sucked into the lives of characters who are largely losers in the garb of white-collar dreamers, looking for love and warmth in a cold heartless city. Rather than go for a fiery flow, Anurag harnesses his narrative into a fiesta of reined-in feelings, all indicating the birth and growth of damnation in a city that cares a damn about your sensitivities. Basu has an incredible eye for performances. Every actor is nearly flawless in his or her appointed place in the chaos of corroded commitments in the city without pity …Always pithy and witty Metro moves through a laconic labyrinth of laughter and some stifled sobs. Sanjeev Dutta’s dialogues are so indicative of the character’s inner world, after a while you aren’t listening to what the characters are saying. The dialogues slice right into the characters’ hearts and give us an insight into the machinations of people so busy realizing their dreams, they forget to sleep.
On the negative side, Metro fails to connect us with the characters beyond their love relationships. If they have a life beyond their heart and below their belts, we don’t see it. Metro should be seen as a mellow melancholic sly and sharp look at love and sex in the city. The characters move in and out of some skillfully written scenes. But sometimes you wish they wouldn’t invest their emotions in thankless un-productive spirals of bed and break-heart. Despite frail chemistry with the over-earnest toy boy Shiney Ahuja, Shilpa Shetty gives a nuanced and ruminative performance. Bobby Singh’s camera captures Shilpa in agonized silhouettes whispering the ultimate flak of life. Kay Kay as her insensitive husband has a thankless role that he performs with rare understanding. While Sharman and Konkona(the latter, disappointingly pale despite her chic styling) are surprisingly chemistry-less in their screen relationships, Irrfan and Konkona come across the warmest and most cuddlesome couple of this gambolling jigsaw of life and a ‘dearth’. Watch them in the seashore sequence, and savour the rites and wrongs of out their outstanding emotive faculties. Metro is manoeuvred forward by a melee of delicious ideas…. like composer Pritam and his rock band appearing as sutradhars to sing their songs. The rain-motif pelts down on the plot creating pockets of pain desire and longing. Umbrellas never seemed to hide so much. Ear firmly to the ground, Metro could’ve done with better editing. Akiv Ali cuts the material brutally …but not deep enough.
Image source: IMDb