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SOME LIGHT, SOME HEAVY: While `Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji' (left) is mildly entertaining but does not impress as a Madhur Bhandarkar film, director Danny Boyle and music director A. R. Rahman successfully bring out the taste of pain and courage in `127 hours' (right).
DIL TOH BACCHA
Known to look at reality through the lens of a voyeur, Madhur Bhandarkar continues to play with his stereotypical “middle class” outlook about the world around. In this tale of three men caught in a cobweb of love and longing, he has this time round acquired a comic tone but the pitch remains the same – strident with his stamp of in-your-face realism. He designs it remarkably well when he has some hard facts, some newspaper headlines to bank upon, but in a fictional world a nuanced approach is expected. To his credit, Madhur aspires to carve a harsher take on matters of the heart. It is not as simplistic as an average Bollywood candy floss but not as wholesome as a Madhur Bhandarkar film either.
In an attempt to reach out to a larger audience, Madhur has joined hands with the likes of Sanjay Chhel for dialogue, who give their best in the company of Govinda and David Dhawan. Here this obtuse company jars and the film falls between two stools, sorry, schools of film-making. Or are we mistaken because David Dhawan has yet to show his serious side!
The screenplay is built on an interesting premise with a few life-like characters giving it solid support but an uneven treatment and at times crass tone makes it a brittle experiment. It is somewhat salvaged by some credible performances by Ajay Devgn, Omi Vaidya and Tisca Chopra; otherwise it could have been a ham masterpiece.
After a hackneyed start interspersed with gay jokes that have run out of steam, the track between Naren and his bubbly intern June (Shahzahn Padamsee looks the part but overdoes it) hooks you into the male bastion where Naren and his two paying guests are at different stages of figuring out love. Ajay Devgn is a revelation as a banker going through mid-life crises. In a role which reminds you of good old Amol Palekar and Sanjeev Kumar, he has imbibed the self-consciousness of going with a girl, who was just three when he lost his innocence, pretty well. The way he looks at himself in the rear view mirror of the car, the way he gives in to dance lessons with June and the way he sings “ Koi Hota Jisko Apna….” in a discotheque rings a bell of authenticity.
Omi Vaidya as the virgin boy looking for true love endears with his innocent approach. When he is used by a selfish, ambitious wannabe actress (Shraddha Das), it has a tinge of reality but it's too long to hold your interest as Madhur uses predictable devices to prove the girl's opportunist nature. Plus, Omi's juvenile poetry doesn't go with the mood of the film. Similarly, the track of gym trainer Abhay (Emraan Hashmi is his usual self as the commitment phobic playboy), the Casanova who renders his services to a much-married former Miss India (Tisca Chopra) before he falls head over heels for his step daughter (Shruti Haasan is in form as the no-nonsense girl) is worth exploring and for a few moments the treatment takes you by surprise but eventually it turns out to be inconsistent, unsubstantiated and rather contrived primarily because Madhur sticks to types. If it's the new age girl she won't bring morality to the bedroom; a Goan girl has to be frivolous…. Tisca looks too dignified to indulge in toy boys and the character graph doesn't do justice to her talent. Bad, for Madhur is known for his well fleshed out female characters. Also, this time Madhur's trademark side characters, a distinctive feature of his cinema, don't add any freshness to the film except for the scene where a waiter (Manoj Joshi) offers an unsolicited Bollywoodish advice to Omi when his love walks out on him.
In the end it turns out to be a mildly entertaining film that sporadically brings smiles if you keep your expectations in check.
Life has meaning only in the struggle. Who knows it better than Danny Boyle? The auteur celebrates struggle like no other. Adapted from Aron Ralston's memoirs Between a Rock and a Hard Place, it's about a young mountain climber (James Franco) who finds himself trapped in a remote canyon in Utah.
For five days, with one of his arms pinned down by a boulder, he wriggles about in pain in a crevice and tries hard to pull away. Nothing works.
When he runs out of water, he relies on his urine, when he runs out of patience he applies his sense of humour and when he runs out of his painful present he finds refuge in his eventful past – the moments spent with his girl friend and his parents. We spend almost 70 minutes with Franco in a crevice but there is never a dull moment. From the word go we are splashed with an adrenaline rush encompassing the celluloid. With cameras mounted at strategic places on the undulated landscape and A. R. Rahman pulsating beats rising at the right moments we become one with Aaron's highs and lows. Such is the magic of Boyle's imaginative storytelling and Franco's performance! Franco has invested almost everything into making this character his own. No wonder both are in race for the Academy Award and so is our Rahman.
Eventually Aaron uses a blunt made-in-China knife to chop off part of his arm. It's somewhat predictable but still heart-wrenching and the way Boyle goes about it, the dismembering doesn't conjure up sympathy for Franco but comes across as an act of taking pride in being alive, whatever it takes.
Excellent cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak complement Boyle's layered storytelling and for a large part it works as a documentary decked up with realistic drama but at times it does give an effect of pornography of pain, where a smart mind is using the colour of blood and sound of nerves to manipulate a real life struggle as avant garde cinema. That's why it's uplifting, life affirming but not something I can give my arm for!
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