Pyaar Ka Punchnama 2 (2013): Between the first and the second part, something happened. Kartik Aaryan broke free to become one of the most watchable actors of the post-Ranbir generation. By the time Kartik Aaryan’s ‘penis monologue’(as opposed to Eve Ensler’s Vagina Monologues) comes on full-throttle, we are so bloody hooked to the very familiar very mortifying and yet very comforting love life of our three protagonists, especially Kartik, that we are positively rooting for the underdogs. Big applause for the male victims of gender inequality. Meet Anshul(Kartik Aaryan), Siddharth(Sunny Singh) and Tarun(Omkar Kapoor), the regular metro-sexual hetero-sexual flat-mates looking for love…and finding more than what they had bargained for. A spirit of sassy exploration runs through this extremely enjoyable vaguely misogynistic comedy. Pyaar Ka Punchnaama 2(PKP2) is not just bolder more provocative than the first part. It’s a lot sexier and smarter. Chirpy chutzpah cuts through the sharply written narrative creating a credible and disturbing argument against urban relationships of convenience. The way writer-director Ranjan shows his three heroes being exploited by their girlfriends may seem extreme. But the film is not saying every woman is a schemer. God and Madhu Kishwar forbid! It’s only asking for a fair reading of gender dynamics. Men DO get caught in situations where they must compromise with everything from their ego to their bank balance. They do suffer and bleed, you know. And yes they get raped too. Though in this film it isn’t done literally.
So here’s the lovers’ dilemma. Anshul’s new love interest (Nushrratt Bharuccha, playing the thankless role of the airheaded deceiver with a squeaky sincerity) insists on hanging around with her best friends 24/7. She even has her male best friend sleep with her in her bedroom while her boyfriend looks on helplessly. So when Kartik Aaryan as Anshul asks on behalf of all men who have to deal with their Significant Other’s male BFF (ask Shah Rukh Khan whose wife Madhuri Dixit in Hum Tumhare Hain Sanam insisted on best friend Salman Khan hanging around constantly) why it is okay for women to have male best friends and not okay for men to have female best friends, Anshul puts forward a valid point. Luv Ranjan’s romp into the confusing mind of women mines into areas of everyday gender interaction with an insider’s knowledge of how manipulative and lopsided relationships can get in a competitive society. When Anshul wonders why men say sorry to women without knowing what wrong they’ve done he echoes what Abhishek Bachchan said about the key to a successful marriage. “Just say sorry to your wives every night for whatever she may think you’ve done wrong.” Surreptitiously but surely the plot constructs for itself a spiral of anecdotes and incidents, all insightful intuitive and funny, indicating serious blind spots in the gender equation.
A lot of the credit for making muting the movie’s misogyny to a mellow decibel goes to the three male leads, each one delivering a polished performance. With his looks and ability to give a face to male anguish so effectively I wonder what keeps Kartik Aaryan from getting to the top. Giving him inspired company are Sunny Singh and Omkar Kapoor. Sunny’s ‘almost-Sardar’ act brings in a bit of Dhanush from Raanjhana. His hopeless devotion to the Punjabi kudi (Sonnalli Saygal) and her demanding parents (Sharat Saxena, Mona Ambegaonkar) are so heftily humorous and heartbreaking, the young actor with his forlorn eyes and Didi tera devar caller tune on his phone creates an immediate connection with the audience. Omkar Kapoor as a practical sensible rich boy who gets trapped by a girl(Ishita Sharma, very attractive) by a clever gold-digger is a surprise. Yesterday’s child actor is now sure-shot star material. Omkar and Ishita’s private striptease performance has to be seen to believed. Very very tantalizing. The believability quotient in the film is heightened and complemented by its aesthetics. More than anything else PKP2 is a very good looking film with actors and actresses who are easy on the eyes and can actually act. The dialogues by Rahul Mody, Tarun Jain and Luv Ranjan poke fun at conventional definitions of love and commitment without causing any offence to anyone. And yes, if anyone does choose to get offended, then too bad. This film doesn’t really care about what spoilsports think. Just when we think we know what women want, or don’t want, or want but pretend not to want, they surprise us with some more unpredictable behaviour. Luv Ranjan’s Pyaar Ka Punchnaama in 2011 was the surprise success of the year. A gritty look-while-we-leap dare devilish work challenging feminist /postfeminist notions of gender equality, the film ripped open all the ‘nice’ conventional notions of the man-woman equation to reveal a deep and devilish cleft between what men desire and women actually deliver. Once again writer-director Luv Ranjan walks dangerously close to misogyny and comes up trumps. The tightly wound script once again wraps itself around the minds hearts and thighs of three girls and guys who can’t see that love is nothing but self-interest in disguise. Many episodes of this terrific treatise on gender aberrations stand out. The last 30 minutes when the laughter kind of evaporates to expose the hollowness of relationships based on self-satisfaction, are rousing and melancholic. I came away with a huge chuckle and a deep sigh from the film, and with images of Kartik Aaryan’s ‘love dance’ with his deceiving girlfriend and her two sahelis. As Aaryan twirled and pirouetted with the ladies he seemed to be tokenizing the Great Modern Urban Tragedy.
Drishyam (2013): The truth is, that very fine director Nishikant Kamat is not with us anymore. Truth, they say, has many faces. The same is true about a story about the many faces of truth. We have seen 4 versions of Drishyam, a film about how truth can be convincingly recreated on the canvas of life if the painter is persuasive, including an outstandingly enacted Tamil version of Papanasam just a month ago. Who would think the Hindi remake of the repeatedly-told story would be capable of such a resounding impact? Nishikant Kamat’s Drishyam is an outright winner. It is not just a remarkably resonant remake but also a unique stand-alone experience. I saw Papanasam just a month ago and yet I was riveted to my seat as I watched Ajay Devgn playing a school drop-out with a passion for movies (in very fine form indeed) take on the law to prove it can be subverted to accommodate the guilt of an innocent crime. Wait. Let me explain. The reason why Jeethu Joseph’s original story about a messy crime in an ordinary family and an impeccable cover-up, worked was that it showed the helplessness and anguish of a happy nuclear family where a crime is committed out of sheer desperation. The editing is exceedingly clever. We see each crucial turning point in the narrative after it has occurred and impacted the characters’ lives. So we are constantly searching for answers while the plot pulls another fast one on us. It is a very sharp clever and dangerous premise because what the film does is to build a case for a perfect cover-up just because the writer feels crime is ‘relative’. If someone close to you commits a crime it is your duty to go all-out to protect the victim. And never mind if the protector is ‘Chautthi fail’(Class 4 drop-out), a point hammered in repeatedly as though there is a connection between an individual’s educational qualification and street wisdom.
“My family is everything to me,” Devgan playing the commonest Common Man of his career, tells the aggrieved parents of a boy who has been murdered in Devgn’s home. As luck—and High Drama—would have it, the cheesy murder victim’s mother is a powerful police officer. At an interval point in the true hero-wala entry, Tabu steps in to claim the role with an arrogant authority that only she can muster and master. This is a good a time as any to say she lifts Nishikant Kamat’s remake to a realm where the character’s emotions are so vividly mapped on the actress’ face that you cease to see Tabu. All you see is the hard-as-nails cop Meera Deshmukh. A mother first, a law-enforcer later, Tabu merges the two roles in her character into a compelling portrait of a working woman’s domestic trauma. Devgn too is marvellously underplayed—it’s the only way this actor knows how to be comfortable on-screen-- even in his most dramatic scenes where Meera Deshmukh’s over-zealous colleague(the evil incarnate Kamlesh Sawant) tries to crack him and his family, including a little girl(tauba!) with a shower of blows. But I wonder how Devgan’s fans are going to react to seeing their Singham on the wrong side of the law, being beaten up by the bullied by a khaki-clad goon. Kamat keeps a firm grip on the proceedings. Except for toning down Devgn and his family’s interrogation torture scenes the Hindi version of the original story pretty much remains faithful to the original, so much so that many of the fringe characters(the cocky cable-boy, the kind-hearted Catholic canteen owner, the hero’s activist brother-in-law, etc) crowd the canvas in a jostling bunch. However, it all comes together, thanks to the original plot which confines the crime conflict to the subtext of the family crisis without letting go of the dramatic tensions that emerge all around the family.
While the frisson between Devgn and Tabu is every bit crackling and provides a sturdy epicentre to the plot, Shriya Saran is hopelessly miscast as Devgn’s wife. Rather than appear to be a devoted traumatized wife Shriya in her low-cut blouses sensuously designed dialogue delivery and full make-up looks like the third daughter of the house. Also objectionable is the casting of a dark-complexioned physically unattractive actor as the villainous cop. It about time our cinema broke out of such stereotypes, especially when the director at the helm is a sensible clutter-breaking visionary. Nishikant Kamat knows how to use the cinematic space to tell a story that never loses its momentum. Kamat’s vision of family under attack is substantially aided by Avinash Arun’s cinematography. He shoots the picturesque Konkan seaside with as much of a counter-touristic passion as he shot the burning ghats of Varanasi in last week’s masterpiece Masaan. After Baahubali, Bajrangi Bhaijaan and Masaan, Drishyam is the fourth remarkable film this July. The story of an ordinary family under extraordinary stress, Kamat puts his finger on the pulse of the original Malayalam film to convert it into an all-new gripping thriller. Drishyam tells us that the lessons learnt at the movies are often applicable to real life. If only we pay attention. Watch Drishyam closely. It may one day help you bail a dear one out of an unforeseen crisis. And to do that you don’t have to be a ‘chautthi fail.’
Image Source: imdb, youtube/zeemusiccompany/viacom18studios
Image Source: imdb, youtube/zeemusiccompany/viacom18studios