Who said Sunday is a day of rest??? Liar!! I've had the most hectic time yesterday, but am not complaining. It was like a home- coming at Chor Bazar... my first visit after the 26\11 Terror Attacks.What was once my regular and favourite haunt is now a transformed place, virtually deserted except for a few weekend shoppers looking for bargains. The tourists have gone and the wares are being sold at throwaway prices by desolate shop keepers waiting around listlessly for 'dhanda'. Most of my old friends - Ahemedali, Iqbal, Raisullah, are still around... they talked about business being down,down,down since that awful day... and there's no recovery in sight. But the good news is that Ahemedali's two daughters are doing brilliantly ( I have known them since they were little girls), and one of them is now a professor at Wilson College.
So.... what did I buy? Glass jars!!! Gorgeous shapes and sizes ( I have an absolute weakness for glass). I also spotted two wonderful Boondi heads in solid wood ( weighing a ton!), and an old camphor trunk covered in leather with brass rivets. But where do I store my treasures??? Lust and leave - my mantra for 2011!
This appeared in Bombay Times today....
It’s really a sign of our times that public memory has become so alarmingly short, and reference points virtually non-existent. I watched ‘Jessica’ on a Saturday night and was happy to observe a nearly packed hall in a popular multiplex. But ….I didn’t see too many youngsters. Yes, I guess they have far better things to do on a Saturday night than watch a non-masala film about a cause celebre they know nothing about. The two young girls with me were curious up to a point, but from their frequent questions and occasional BBMs, it was obvious they weren’t clued in, nor were they particularly interested. They were there to watch a good film … period. During the interval, I asked them what they thought of the movie and they asked innocently, “But who is Jessica…?” I could forgive them easily for the faux pas when I reminded myself that the Jessica story is over ten years old. These girls were around ten themselves at the time – how would they know …and why should they care? The more important issue is simply this: did the movie work as powerful cinema, devoid of recall or emotional baggage? The answer is a disappointing ‘no’. The script is weak and patchy, with the first half crawling along painfully, establishing nothing more than Vidya Balan’s morose mood. Vidya , who plays Jessica’s sister Sabrina, is projected as a gloomy , angry, bitter woman mourning her sister’s callous murder, while moping around a home that is dark and depressing itself, dressed like a dish rag. Paradoxically, the popular perception of the real life Sabrina is that of an attractive, feisty fighter without whose spirited intervention, the Jessica murder would have been like Aarushi’s – perfect.No suspects, no motives, no arrests.
The weakest link in the film is the role of Manu Sharma, the convicted murderer of Jessica – had the film maker (Ram Kumar Gupta) spent more time giving the audience a slightly more complete backgrounder to the scoundrel, people may have connected better with the story. Instead, what we get is a Babe Film – one ( Rani), a foul mouthed, promiscuous , self styled bitch who takes pride in spewing cuss words liberally and wears her official ‘bitch status’ as a badge of honour ( her maid calls her a ‘kutti’ – and the audience cheers!). The other ( Vidya), a droopy, expressionless , sexless crusader who goes about her commitment glumly and mechanically. There is no passion in her mission, nothing fierce about her desire to vindicate her sister’s murder. The others are mere caricatures… almost childishly etched – from President Kalam and Manmohan Singh to Bina Ramani and Sheila Dixit. The only well written roles belong to the actor playing Shyan Munshi, and the investigating cop. To come to the babes – what can they do if the director sees their characters in a particular way . Rani and Vidya are both seasoned professionals and do the best they can with the material. Rani puts in the more flamboyant performance as a Barkha Dutt clone ( poor Prannoy Roy must have squirmed at his own cameo). Rani’s ‘sheershasan’ scene and the one in which she jumps on to the bonnet of her chief editor’s car, are terrific moments that lift this rather lack luster film from sinking into a tiresome, preachy, verbose docu- drama ( agonizingly turgid court scenes). Given the powerful subject, a more authoritative director could have made a deeply disturbing film chronicling contemporary history in a more engaging way. I came away savouring the few and far between flashes of a newbie called Myra , who plays Jessica with verve and freshness. Had there been more of Myra in the movie, it might have kept more people in the audience absorbed and awake.
The best news on the cultural front is the much awaited revival of that stupendous 1972 classic – Vijay Tendulkar’s “Ghashiram Kotwal’ ( brilliantly directed by Jabbar Patel). I have seen the original production several times… and was hoping Mohan Agashe would once again demonstrate his magnetic stage presence as Nana Phadnavis. Let’s wait and see what Madhav Abhyankar does with the material. This is perhaps the first Facebook generated Marathi play ( actors responded to an appeal posted by Abhyankar ). Nana would have approved of this 21st century strategy!