My Name Is Khan, Love Sex Aur Dhoka, Udaan: 3 Mood Changers To Watch During Lockdown - Part 19

Here's a list of three films that you should watch to stay entertained during the lockdown

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My Name Is Khan, Love Sex Aur Dhoka, Udaan: 3 Mood Changers To Watch During Lockdown - Part 19
My Name Is Khan(2010): He repairs almost anything, including irreparably damaged  relationships . But this film is about damaged lives that need no repairing.  My Name Is Khan is a flawless work, as perfect in content, tone and treatment as  any  film can get. The ‘message’ of humanism doesn’t come across in long pedantic speeches. The film’s longest monologue has our damaged but exceptionally coherent hero Rizwan telling a congregation of Black American church-goers about his dead son.

 And if that moment moves us to tears because the emotions are neither manipulative nor flamboyant. It isn’t because Rizwan’s son Sameer perished in a racial attack. It isn’t even because Shah Rukh Khan delivers his life’s best performance in that moment of reckoning. Rizwan’s heartfelt rhetorics are not about changing the world with words. Born with a physical disability this is a man on the move. And boy, does he move!

 In what is possibly the most touching testament on film to the spirit of world peace and humanism (lofty ideals to achieve in the massy-masala format but see how  pitch-perfect Johar gets it) Rizwan takes off on a picaresque journey to meet  the US President with a message that initially strikes us as being too naïve for reiteration.

But look closer. Some of life’s basic values have been lost in recent times. Writer Shibani Bathija’s  seamless screenplay, arguably the best piece of writing since Rakeysh Mehra’s Rang De Basanti, recovers  that  long-lost   message of  loving your fellow human being unconditionally without getting trite around the edges. Sex and politics have nothing to do with  it. It’s okay to hug your neighbour.

First and foremost My Name Is Khan is a wonderful story told with  a flair and flourish  that leave  a lingering impact on the viewer. Almost every  frame is  composed with  a mix of mind and  heart creating an irresistible progression of  moments so tender and forcible  we’re simply  swept away in the tides of  the  tale about   a  very special man  who undertakes a  very special journey.
My Names Is Khan opens with  Rizwan  boarding an American flight being frisked after a suspicious co-passenger hears him chanting religious passages. Before we begin to suspect  this to be one more  film on the persecution of  the  innocent Muslim, Karan Johar   doing a  smart and  slick spin away from his trademark content and style, takes  his  hero on a  journey that crosses several emotional,political and geographical borders before stopping with breathless integrity to say, life doesn’t go on, it  changes  colours and textures with  the moral values that the individual chooses to  confer  on the  life given to him.

Superbly scripted by Bathija with pithy outstanding dialogues  by Niranjan Iyenger, the film is  edited by Deepa Bhatia with  just that  much  amount of time allotted to the character’s and their  thought processes to make them appear warm humane and  tangible without over-punctuating their presence.

Karan Johar, always a master of overstatement, for once holds back. The silences in My Name Is Khan often speak far more eloquently  than the spoken words.The relationships that the inarticulate Rizwan forms during the course of his life from child to  husband to father to a political individual  are contoured with a luminous lack of laboriousness. Whether it’s young Rizwan (played  sensitively by Tanay Cheda) and his mother (Zarina Wahab, memorable in her brief appearance) or much later, Rizvan and his step-son(brilliant young discovery Yuvaan Makar) the traditional relationships are done-up in  striking but  subtle shades. We look at every moment in the film(even the clumsily-done flood sequences) as special because they are part of  vision that goes far beyond the realm of hop-in-hop-out entertainment.

The director swerves out of  his comfort zone without the sound of screechy wheels. Karan Johar’s unconventional take  on modern marital mores  in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna faltered  due to over-statement . In Khan he doesn’t try hard. The characters and their predicament as America gets increasingly suspicious and hostile  about the Muslim presence,  are  portrayed   with a lightness of  touch that lights up almost every sequence.

Then there is Kajol to provide the kind of natural light to every frame that no amount of artificial light can  supplement. As Rizwan’s  Hindu wife Mandira with a smart intelligent son she has  a distinctly secondary role to Shah Rukh Khan. She leaves a lasting impact as a divorcee  and later  an angry wife and grieving mother, as only Kajol can .

The scenes of courtship between Mandira and  Rizwan work so beautifully because of the exceptional chemistry between the two actors. More than a strong political statement and moving message of peace, My Name Is Khan is a love story of a man who can’t  express his love through words, only deeds. This is a film that Frank Capra would’ve made if he had lived  long enough to see 9/11 happen.

The narration is  carpeted with virtues, both invisible and  visible. Ravi K Chandran’s cinematography  captures the incandescent soul of the pure-hearted protagonist as effectively as   the stubbornly unbroken spirit of unknown  passersby  on  the  streets of America.

Rizwan, we are told, is petrified of the yellow colour. The offending colour recurs with just a hint of insistence. Rizwan  wears shocking pink  because he hears Mandira’s buddy(Navneet Nishan) say it suits her. He  proposes  marriage and sex(in that order) at the most inopportune moments. He suggests  Mandira have her dinner when she’s traumatized by grief. He wears his dead son’s shoes  as he takes off  to meet the President. Rizwan moves by his clock. But his tale is timeless.

Shah Rukh Khan doesn’t PLAY  Rizwan. He becomes one with the character’s subconscious, portraying the man and his spirit with  strokes of  an invisible paint brush until what we see is what we cannot forget. Undoubtedly   this is   Shah Rukh’s  best performance ever.

This  is no ordinary hero. And My Name Is Khan is no  ordinary film. Long after  the  wary-of-physical-touch  Rizwan has finally shaken hands with President Obama, long after the heat and dust of racial and communal hatred has settled down, the core of humanism that  the film secretes  stays with  you. Yes, we  finally know what they mean by a feel good  film.

Love Sex Aur Dokha(2008): There  is no love in any quickly-digestible packages, little  on-screen  sex, and  a whole lot of dhokha   in Dibakar Banerjee third and most tricky film…Tricky,  because  the  characters  are constantly talking and living their lives on  camera. We see them as they are, stripped of all vanity ,ridiculously  self-serving but  still capable of  bouts of guilt and  caring.
 Love Sex Aur Dhokha is  a mirror-image ,and more, of a  world  that has made up its mind to sell its heart and most of  its soul to the camera .  There are  three stories  in  the film rolled together less by  design than chance. Unlike other episodic  films this one doesn’t flirt with finesse. Instead Banerjee fornicates with ferocious  realism born out of a desperate generation’s craving to make a  place  in  a society that recognizes  you for your financial rather than  emotional or  intellectual prosperity.

The first story entitled  Superhit Pyar hits you  in the solar-plexus when the  father  of the rich girl Shruti(Shruti)  and her  newly-married  husband Rahul(Anshuman Jha) are taken to  a desolate highway and  hacked to pieces. This, after we see Rahul  the director making a film with Shruti in the lead that looks like a Bhojpuri version of Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge. Love does just hurt,it hacks.

 Nothing that has come before prepares us for the  savagery  of the dying moments. Banerjee’s narrative is relentless in its pursuit of  a cinematic language that comes closest to the unalloyed colloquialisms  of  every- day life. These are characters you’ve probably seen  melt in the melee of  the humdrum. Nikos  Andritsakis’ cinematography  picks out these characters  from their  allotted anonymity  to place them  in positions  that are always  compromising, sometimes poignant and funny but brutally honest. It couldn’t have been easy for the cinematographer to  deliberately distort the images on screen as per the camera-recordings of  the characters. Imperfection in this case, is a given. Distortion a demand of destiny.

The spoofy spirit of the pre-climactic segment of the first story Superhit Pyar  shifts gears  in  the second story Paap  Ki Dukaan  where  a  desperate social climber  ironically named Adarsh(Raj Kumar Yadav) lures  an innocent  salesgirl in a supermarket Rashmi(Neha Chauhan) into the backroom for some MMS sex.

Significantly  the man who wants to  make money out of on-camera sex, is   half in love with the  clueless  girl, and  is tempted to switch off the camera when he  finally gets to the sex.

But the conscience can go to hell. It  will find plenty of company there. The third and by far the most well-rounded and  incisive story Badnaam Shohrat finally  throws forward a conscientious protagonist. The growing fondness between the closet-idealist  of a journalist  Prabhat(Amit Sial) and the miserably unhappy  item girl Naina(Arya Devdutta) is a savage  indictment of ‘news’ as we see it today on television.Go take a bite of this sound byte. The grotesquely caricatural pop singer Loki Local(Herry Tengri) in the third story is  a savagely satirical symptom of a sick society looking for instant  gratification.

It isn’t as  if  every  moment in this  tightly packed sardine-can of  excitable emotions is savage, brutal and aggressive. The sensitive moments just creep up on the creepy moments nourishing bathing  and mollifying the savage exterior of a world gone ruthlessly and desperately selfish and immoral.

Dibakar Banerjee creates a digital world resorting to desperate measures. His characters are ordinary people extraordinarily challenged by the sheer  obligation  of  day-to-day living. While  these characters—social  ‘mess’-fits symptomatic  of a new materialistic ‘muddle’ class—record all their moves and action on  self-operated cameras(shaky, hazy, lazy and sometime crazy but always a window to their souls) the director  records their stories  without  overt cinematic interventions.

This is where the film’s main problems props up. The director's vision is so unified to the way the characters see themselves that a  section  of the audience may feel it’s watching  a hugely self-indulgent  work that wants to keep the ‘cinema’ out  of the cinema.

The material  binding the three stories is edited  like  a home video where the relevance of the characters  depends on our off-camera  familiarity with them. The people in Love Sex Aur Dhokha need no introduction  or back-projection. They are who they are, without   the  participation of  cinematic devices. Banerjee almost sneaks  in  on these  people to violate  their non-privatized lives.

The characters' personal spaces are already violated  by  self-deployed  cameras. Dibakar Banerjee  doesn’t act the  voyeuristic  director even when the  girl in the supermarket is  on the ground making love with the  desperate guy who  has spent all his time and effort to get her there.

Why is there no triumph in his love-making? Love Sex Aur Dhokha is not a  film about  celebrating the end of  an individual’s right to privacy. It’s a rigorously  recorded  pseudo-documentary  about people who have thrown all caution and  discretion  to the winds because they’ve  no choice.

 The  film never belittles or sentimentalizes the characters’ lack of  choices. While inventing a unique format of  cinematic expression Dibakar Banerjee has not emotionally emasculated the  characters. Even when they’re doing it for a camera their emotions are  not  out of  our range of  vision. In terms of  technique this film gets as rough and jolting as  any film can. The actors look like reality-show rejects making a last-bid attempt to  prove  their worth.They got the point.This is a film that has no-reference point. Except the people we see all around us.

Udaan(2010): Udaan is a ballsy debut by  Vikramaditya Motwane who once assisted  the angst-laden Sanjay Leela Bhansali and then his angst-cousin Anurag Kashyap. You can see the  lasting impression of both the senior creators in the way Motwane  designs  the uneasy and violent relationship between  the  17-year  old  Rohan(Rajat Barmecha) and his tyrannical father (Ronit Roy) who’s  almost villainous in his despotism.

When  Udaan is not busy trying to be  a regular nudge-nudge-wink-wink coming-of-age film (Billy Elliot-goes-to-Jamshedpur)  it gives us some great moments of  cinema , done in shades that  leave the camera lens far behind to  romance the very core of  middle class life(no doubt corroded and  outdated)  in  the soporific  ‘steel town’.

 The  film starts with a mildly amusing boys-disastrous-night-out-from-boarding- school sequence  and then quickly gets down  to the  serious business of  telling  us  that Rohan’s father has not  met his son for eight years. Why? We never really get to know each other. And this remains  the otherwise-exemplary  work’s  one biggest  flaw. Though played with  energetic antipathy  by Ronit Roy, the father’s unreasonable  autocracy  makes  the man appear  as no  more than a subtle caricature  of   lousy parenting.

 The delicate  moments emerge in the tale  of self-realization through Rohan’s inner  moral  churning  and of course through the young actor Rajat Barmecha’s instinctive understanding of his character’s turmoil. Barmecha’s expressions  of  anguish, rage, helplessness and finally retaliation and  protest   are so  smoothly conveyed, you  almost feel he is playing  a  character he  knows first-hand.

Barmecha gives the  narrative a compelling  consistency. Director Motwane does the rest. His eye for  visual and emotional detail  is never over-punctuated. A certain delicacy even when  tackling a subject as thorny as the father-child domestic  violence, runs through the narrative, rendering the  characterizations and their motivations not only lucid but eminently palatable and engaging.

 It’s interesting to see how Motwane employs the traditional misunderstood-protagonist-against-a-heartless-word formula to the coming-of-age saga. Barmecha’s poet-hero is  a clever subverted  carryover of  Guru Dutt in Pyasa.

In Pyasa  Dutt stood up  to an insensitive world. Here it is  the  boorish father who  won’t let his son be  a poet. This rare and precious  film about  straitjacketed claustrophobic middle class values derives  its strength from the unpunctuated uncluttered dramatic force that  emerges from the main relationships.

 By the time Rohan walks out on his loutish father with his little step brother we are no longer looking at  Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan’s uneasy father-son rapport in Ramesh Sippy’s Shakti. We are on to something far more disturbing and contemporary.

Each time the despotic father in Udaan raises a hand to toast terror  he raises uncomfortable  questions on  child abuse and its parameters within the Great Indian Middleclass Family.

In Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s Anupama  the  disgruntled father Tarun Bose would not look at his  traumatized daughter Sharmila Tagore because he lost his beloved wife during childbirth.

 In Udaan the father holds the son culpable for crimes that we can only decode in the  detailed episodes showing the son’s  rebellious  streak. If God lies in the details, so does the  devil.

Image source: IMDb