It’s that not-so-old and certainly not forgotten feeling of sitting at the edge of my seat in a movie theatre, that this high-fidelity Netflix actioner brought back right into my home. And it’s the most gratifying feeling to be swept into Chris Hemsworth’s incredible action-adventure as he rescues a 14-year old boy from a vicious crime lord in Dhaka, played with chilling menace by Priyanshu Painyulli.
The film, as we all know, was originally titled Dhaka, for obvious reasons. But then, for not so obvious reasons (dial ‘r’ for redtapism) Mumbai was turned into Dhaka, the underlining premise of this geopolitical liberty being, all third world Asian cities exude the same stench of sweaty bustle and underworld crime. Painyulli’s army of underage criminals could be those slum boys from Danny Boyle’s films.
Foreigners always have a fixed way of looking at India and its metropolis. And Extraction is no exception. There are numerous top-shots of vehicles stranded mid-traffic, of pedestrians in bright clothes negotiating the blaring horns and speeding vans…But wait! This is not the firangi film that exploits and misrepresents us poor natives.
As a matter of fact Extraction gives ample room to the Indian actors specially Randeep Hooda who is in fine form in the second lead and young Rudhraksh Jaiswal who is in almost every frame with Hemsworth who in the truest sense of screen heroism, decides to protect the boy’s life from the rush-hour menace, even as Hemsworth’s female partner (Iranian stunner Golshifteh Farahani, wasted) and his friend (David Harbour who makes a very unpleasant guest appearance) warn him to get rid of the boy and run for his life from a city that is controlled by criminals (not Mumbai, Dhaka, so relax).
But is Tyler Rake listening? Hemsworth dives into the mind and action of Tyler with a swimmer’s gusto. I bring up the swimming analogy with reason. Water and its meditative purposes play a big hand in the plot. The plot is a simmering cauldron of discontent, designed to exhibit its leading man’s muscle power. Hemsworth does an exceptionally competent turn as an action star, giving his all to the stunt scenes, and then some more.
The kid, who accompanies Hemsworth everywhere through the hellish journey that takes them from sewage to foliage, should have made a stronger emotional impact, considering he is the reason why everyone is at risk. Somehow Rudrakhsh Jaiswal is unable to imbue his part with the volume of immediacy and charm it requires. I just saw My Spy two nights ago where a little girl Chloe Coleman co-stars with Dave Bautista. And she is a natural-born scene stealer. Can’t say the same about Jaiswal.
Tearing a page and a limb out of Sylvester Stallone’s Rocky and Arnold Schwarzenegger’s Terminator one-man-army theory of celluloid heroism, Extraction keeps us engrossed through its predictable plotting. That we know exactly how this kidnapping saga will pan out does not deter our interest. There is a delectable hint of a sequel at the end.And I am agog.
Yeh Ballet: Sooni Taraporevala who has written many of Mira Nair’s works, made her directorial debut with Little Zizou was at best, an oddity. Ten years later she returns with Yeh Ballet which is not about the Parsee community (though there are a couple of Parsis in the picture) and is very much in the league of Danny Boyle’s supremely touristic Slumdog Millionaire. But lacking Boyle’s sizzling synergy. In fact the foreigner’s gaze on Indian slums is so prominent here, this could well be a part of Danny Boyle’s slum-porn franchise. The poor from the Mumbai slums (who are not the poor in the sense of say, the poor on the streets of Chhattisgarh) are shown to be goodhearted blustering busybodies who have accepted their economic deprivations with the joy of a woman who decides to enjoy the sex with her alcoholic brutal husband. There are repeated evocations of the poor-are-noble premise while the rich are often shown to be mean and insensitive. Check out the snooty mother of one of the female ballet dancers who looks at our slum boy hero like something that the cat dragged in and wonders if ballet has a reservation quota. The film wallows in its own self-righteousness, portraying the slum kids as bindaas, and what have-you.
Subtlety is a leading casualty in the flurry to project the two protagonists in all their aspirational glory. Nishu (Manish Chauhan) and Asif (Achinyta Bose) come across well as two squares in a circle. These actors clearly enjoy their dancing far more than the trite narrative allows them to.
Their initiation into ballet has a quality of crude irony to it. I mean, who associates ballet with slum boys? It’s like feeding caviar to urchins, champagne to hooch drinkers, or whatever. Ms Tarapore never really gets over the irony of it. Almost every frame is clothed in the glow of wondrous amusement. The tone suggests a kind of incredulity we feel when we fund our house help’s child’s education and can’t stop feeling saintly about it. This is the coming-of-age story not just of two underdogs but also their American ballet coach who is wary of all things Indian when he lands in Mumbai. By the time the film ends, Saul is like a Mother Teresa of the ballet world. Ms Taraporevala’s insistence on ceaseless activities in the narration is mildly annoying and exhausting. But when the two young heroes get on the floor to dance they make us forget all the discomforts perpetrated by the hyper-active script. There is too little dancing and too much pontificating and verbal venting in Yeh Ballet. If you can live with that then this film will leave you teary-eyed at times.
Image Source: IMDb, YouTube/NetflixIndia