Thursday, March 8, 2007

Nishabd - Pushing the Envelope

Nishabd is hardly a great cinema. It is just about good, though at times it is patchy (jerky eiditing) and looks in a haste. Cinema is a piece of art which evokes certain emotions in us and stays with us some time after we have left the cinema hall. Cinema presents some aspect of our life or reality seen from a perspective. Movies on the other hands are more of entertainment products, and more commercially driven. We watch such movies just for the stars, the glamour, and the entertainment value and to be transported and escape into a fantasy world. For example Bollywood movie like Dhoom2. It defies anything called reality or logic or even gravity but it became a big hit in India simply because it was a great fantasy product for mass consumption. It had some nicely choreographed stunts; some lovely song a dance and some scantily presented great toned bodies. It was great spectacle to be enjoyed over popcorns.

What makes Nishabd a landmark movie in context of Bollywood is the fact that it is a mainstream Bollywood movie with megastar Amitabh Bachchan, which deals with quite an unusual topic by Bollywood standards and also does not play in typical format of song and dance routine. For long Bollywood has churned out movies which has always played safe and offered romanticized and glamorized world for audience looking to see some nice dance and sequences and mostly they stayed away from any topic which could be remotely introspective, disruptive, though provoking or disturbing for audience or society. It is only recently in past few years that a new breed of filmmakers has emerged who are experimenting and succeeding with newer and much bolder themes. By bold theme I don’t mean sexuality but anything which is not afraid of dealing with controversial or grayer side of our society. In Bollywood context it also means a deviation from standard, off-the-mill masala ways of making movies where families are always happy, heroines are always beautiful, heroes always win and clich├ęs always prevail.

In India the movie stars have larger than life persona. Masses are so much in awe of stars and their onscreen persona that the even forget that star is merely actor who plays out certain role. This also makes stars to play safe by straitjacketing into a particular image which audiences have found acceptable. For example Shah Rukh Khan has literally played himself for years since it has worked for him with audiences.

Coming back to Nishabd, the movie is about a 60 yrs old photographer's love with an 18 yrs old girl which happens to be his daughter's friend. There are some genuinely great moments in the film like the one where Bachchan can not stop laughing after playing footsie with the young girl on dinner table. Bachchan is first rate like he usually is in most of his movies and Jiah Khan is ok for a first timer. Cinematography is good and enhances the mood of the movie. Bigger question is would Indian audience accept a film where a man old enough to be girl's dad is shown falling in love with her! I think no. The reason is that this is too much of a taboo for us. Some of us might be repelled by such an idea, after all , doesn't it sound like an old man sexually exploiting a young kid! Though there is nothing sexual between the characters in the movie. After the movie released there has been spate of TV interviews where Bachchan had to face all and sundry questions from public and "defend" himself. In one of interviews, a member of public almost castigated Bachchan for spoiling his "image" by doing "such a role" at "his age". Another guy asked him what he would do if he is faced with same circumstance in his real life. As if this is really important what Bachchan does in his private life and considering how conservative Bachchans are, I find it funny that somebody could think that Bachchan is capable of such a thing after all. As expected audience has not been able to accept Bachchan in a role which most of them would consider demeaning and undignified for his stature. This is typical of Indian audience where they can not see the difference between the star and the role he is enacting. And if left to audience, only role Bachchan , who is 65 , should play is that of nice, loving, grandfather. Now how interesting and challenging that would be on screen for an actor who is one of best of our times. For most of Indian audience a hero is always strong and righteous whereas Bachchan’s character would be called “morally weak", something which stars in India are always wary of playing as audiences "reject" such heroes.

Indian society is extremely function and role driven which are clearly defined with corresponding moral codes. Here father of a girl also by default becomes a father for friends of his daughters. And once he is a father that identity (dharma!!) of his becomes paramount over all other identities he might have. So how can we Indian audience ever accept the idea that a father like man is romancing daughter like girl!! In fact I am not surprised that were calls on banning such a movie which is "against Indian cultural values". Also lot of audiences would have complained that this is not a movie they can watch with families as movies should always be made only for families as unit of audience and never for an individual. In India families are sacrosanct and above everything, certainly above an individual.


Upasana said...

Hi Gaurav, thanks for viewing my blog! Please do let me know about some of the "less touristed" areas in Himachal! Do you speak Dogri? Gaddi?

Anonymous said...

Rightly said...But have you ever saw the movie "Joggers Park". I think that movie has beautifully presented the relationship between the people of different generation and taste.As compair to this movie, the new star cast makes everyone to hate the concept.It is not the concept which people hates but it is way it is presented was very pathatic.No doubt Amitabh acted well...
If you are fond of this kind of movies then you should see Richard Gere's "Autumn in New York" . Hope you will find it good.

Gaurav said...

Yes, I have seen joggers park and it is good movie. I think when you say that new movie , that is, Nishabd, has not presented the relationship the way jogger's park has, you imply the sexual undercurrents and may be the way felame pratognist dresses. I personally didn't find any problems with that. Considering how females are presented in bollywood movies, where thet are used purely to en hance galmorous quotient of the movie, Nishabd is still way better.

Also Joggers's park was a "multiplex" movie and not a mainstream bollywood movie. Its target audience was very different than an Amitabh starrer movie like Nishabd. A local paan wala, autoriksaw wala would not bother watching A Jogger's Park but they would go for an Amitabh's movie. Point of my post was to say that it is that audience (non-multiplex) which would have rejected the idea of film right away and for them Amitabh playing such a immoral hero would have been revolting. And thats what happened anyway.

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