Shape up for the ship saga
Scenes from "Master and Commander" now showing at cinema halls across Delhi.
MASTER AND COMMANDER
(At Satyam Cineplex and other Delhi theatres)
THE BEST thing one can say about Peter Weir's film is it gives you reason to remember "Titanic". Shot largely aboard a ship in the middle of a rumbling ocean, this film, based on Patrick O'Brien's novel is a work of a master tactician, a man of great wonder. Initially, it moves you through stillness, speaks through silence. The French Acheron is after the British HMS Surprise. But there is not a noise in the distance. Everything is still, eerie. That is the way Weir takes his viewers into the film. He relies not on destruction to elicit awes from them. He simply takes them by force, by action that exhilarates, and a narrative that rouses. The action here is uncomfortably close to life; it is almost too realistic for you and me to be just passive viewers. Yet the violence is not gory. Not even when the surgeon performs a brain surgery or directs removal of a bullet in his abdomen using a mirror.
This film has a canvas which is grand. Grander still is the director's vision. It is so high on details that he could be forgiven if he had for a moment lost sight of the larger aim - in this one, the French crew is raiding the British off the coast of Brazil, and taking them by surprise more than once. Yet Weir stays the course, and weaves his ocean battle storyline with such finesse that the viewers get engrossed even in the personal battles and banter between Russell Crowe and Paul Batteny.
If Crowe's Captain Aubrey is pragmatic, and a fair leader of men in times of crisis, a man who won't flinch from a debate yet quell that with a straight face, Batteny's Maturin is a passive companion in search of birds and beetles. But he is lacking neither in courage nor gumption. Crowe's expectedly brilliant but it is Batteny who steals everybody's thunder. As a bespectacled guy, he has none of the swagger of a sailor. Not for him the unkempt looks of some of his companions, the uncouth behaviour of others. His pain with the bullet in his abdomen, his steadfastness in the hour of crisis is a stunning spectacle of reality.
There have been so many war films. There have been many shots of the ocean and the ships in combat. Yet hardly anybody has matched Weir's film in majesty, in grandeur, in its human touch, in its ability to arouse, to shock. Time and tide may wait for none but this film may just drop anchor at the box office. Shape up, watch this ship saga at leisure.
EK HASINA THI
(At Chanakya and other Delhi theatres)
Scenes from "Ek Hasina Thi"
EK HASINA Thi Urmila Matondkar. She conveyed a lot through her swaying and swerving figure in Ramgopal Varma's "Rangeela". Years later she is still beautiful - the face is unlined, the eyes appealing, the figure quite attractive. Her ways are beautiful too. And in Sriram Raghavan's "Ek Hasina Thi" she has a durable passport with her fans who might have been a shade annoyed for her less-than-cultured performance in "Tehzeeb". She is winsome and vivacious here to Saif Ali Khan's beguiling charmer.
With these two amiable protagonists, Raghavan mounts a film that is plausible all through, pleasant in parts, and a pleasure often. It starts off as a series of interchanging praises between Saif's smart-talking, upwardly mobile talker, and Urmila's alluring acquiescing girl. Before she realises the travel professional had undertaken a journey where with the man where a delight is promised at every turn, though a little bumpy may just be round the corner too. However, the mutual admiration club soon gives way to a mean streak, the lady is cornered, the man is not exactly a hero.
How she realises his worth, and how she comes to terms with vendetta on her agenda makes this a fairly engrossing journey where the cinematographer is an able ally, and background score often comes to the fore to add to the impact. Yes, do watch "Ek Hasina Thi". It has none of the gruesome things often associated with thrillers. It does not have the expletives often found in films with an anti-hero at the centre. It has none of the disquieting, disturbing song and dance sequences. What it has is a fresh, rejuvenated Urmila in a controlled performance. And Saif Ali Khan does a safe job of an unsafe role.
ZIYA US SALAM
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