Monicaaaaaa….O my darling…..
The most interesting thing about the nostalgic gangsta film(OUATIM) running to packed houses this week, is its admirable restraint. Most films that fall into this genre go overboard with bodies flying around in an orgy of violence. The relative economy of blood-and-gore shots, or guts spilling all over the screen action, marks ‘Once Upon a time…’ as a more mature version of an old formula. The director shrewdly focuses on - surprise, surprise – relationships!Not just romantic ones ( those are secondary), but the strange, complex and compelling attraction between the two men – Don Sr. and his protégé Don Jr. It skillfully shows how monsters are created when a powerful man invests trust in a brash, younger version of himself, only to regret that fatal decision in the end. Betrayal rather than an expose of syndicated crime in Mumbai, is at the core of this film, Betrayal that costs one man his life. It hardly matters whether the characters are based on real Dons, even if the parallels do make it pretty obvious. For this generation of movie goers suffering from a serious case of an attention deficit syndrome (ADS), either a movie works and is deemed ‘paisa vasool’ or they walk out giving gaalis.Going by the spectacular success of ‘Udaan’ ( word of mouth and nothing else has done it for this film), chances of ‘Once….’ making it commercially as an off beat ‘Guy Film’ are pretty good. Male bonding is a subject that is rarely explored in our films – especially if that bonding goes beyond the standard buddy film (‘Sholay’) format. The contradictory impulses between Sultan ( coiled serpent) Mirza and Shoaib (hungry cheetah) are cleverly balanced by the director. And after a long time, audiences are treated to two passionate love stories, with all the old fashioned flourishes that have all but disappeared from our latest slick and fast paced hits, that shout ‘all style’ but have no soul.In fact, the defiantly anti- romance, anti-emotion approach to modern day love stories is making audiences wonder where pyar has gone. In this movie, it stages a triumphant return. But for me, the highpoint was the item song picturised on Gauhar Khan, where she almost outdoes Helen as she wriggles, sizzles and slithers her way through the unforgettable original, ‘ Monicaaaaaa…. O my darling…”
It has taken me months to catch up with a film I have been dying to watch. Well… it finally happened. And I am breathless! ‘Natrang’ is Atul Kulkarni’s tour de force. It is one of the most electrifying performances by any actor in recent memory. And the film itself is brilliant. Like ‘Inception’, it forces you to think. And demands respect. Multi- layered, it draws you as much into your own psyche as into the intimate, closed world of ‘Tamasha’, rural Maharashtra’s dominant folk form. Here, tradition dictates that the role of the ‘Nachya’ ( an exaggeratedly effeminate side kick to the tantalising star dancer ), is played by a campy, painted up male actor referred to as ‘Moushi’. Well, the fascinating twist in ‘Natrang’ is that an alpha male, married father of a teenage son, and a sturdy body builder to boot ,is the chosen one. What follows is a lyrical essay on sexual stereotyping. Mocked as a ‘eunuch’ and chased out by the village ( father, wife and son included), it is a cruel, brutal coming to terms with our own deep rooted prejudices, as the protagonist (Atul Kulkarni) battles several demons to find redemption and love finally. Kulkarni reigns supreme as he deconstructs true ‘manliness’ and tells us the meaning of life itself, when sometimes, following your art and heart can cost you everything you hold most precious. Atul’s transformation is a cinematic miracle. Bravo Atul!!!