Thursday, March 25, 2010

5 Films That Changed My Life

Reviewing May I Hebb Your Attention Pliss now is like reviewing a Karan Johar film on Saturday. Half the world and their barbers have already seen/read it. In any case, I realised that my impartiality as a reviewer is under cloud for having gone to the same college as the author. When I tried to defend the book with a friend (who found it 'crass'! What did he expect? Om Jai Jagdish Hare?), he stopped me by saying, "You can hear no ill of your junior."
Stung by such advance criticism, I have decided not to do a review but a reprise of my favourite chapter from the book (with shades of my second fav chapter thrown in, for good measure). Arnab talks about the five films that made him who he is.
Well, these are mine...

Dharam Veer
The biggest disservice that one can do to the memory of Manmohan Desai is to call him a formula-driven entertainer. It can't get any further from truth. His films - under its veneer of entertainment and convoluted formulae - hid deep undertones of deviant sexuality.
And there can't be a better example than Dharam Veer.
Bondage. S&M. Cross-dressing. Trans-gender role-playing. You name it and you get it. A surprisingly advanced film for its times, it even lifted the veil off homosexuality at a time it was considered taboo.
The homosexuality has been described in considerable detail here. The hero tied up in a dungeon almost naked and the heroine whipping him is not something ordinary filmmakers have depicted easily. The second hero's frilly ribbon-laced satin shirt (that looks like a blouse), arousal of horses to perform beyond potential, taming of wild women - *shudder*
A few weeks back, my wife walked in when Dharam Veer was on. She took one disbelieving look at the screen and asked, "Dharmendra in mini skirt. Zeenat in pants. What kind of film is this?"
Yes, really - what kind of film is this?

Awwal Number
I have written about this film several times already. Once, as a sports film. Then, as an Aamir Khan film. But still, I cannot get over the stupendous campiness of the film that had Aamir Khan blowing kisses and hitting sixes intermittently.
It had Pariskhit Sahni as a national selector, wearing a sleeveless t-shirt. It had the fantastic "Yeh hain cricket! Howzzat!" song, performed on screen by Dev Anand and Aditya Pancholi - that made mincemeat of all rhymes and meters but is quite crappily memorable nevertheless. It had an Indian team, who looked like truck drivers and the eleven (or thereabouts) faces changed in every scene. It had Australian cricketers looking exactly like the Indian ones. It had terrorists. It had vamps. It had a helicopter flying over a stadium to bomb it while a cricket match was on.
It also had an ex-cricketer, a Chairman of selectors and a Police Commissioner. The last three named was actually one person, who was also the director and producer of the film. You will never know the meaning of multi-tasking if you don't watch Awwal Number.

Dalaal
Mithun Chakraborty is like Shakespeare. Millions of followers have intensely studied him for centuries (okay, okay - decades, you pedants!) but they are still finding newer and more interesting stuff. Like Shakespeare, obscure canons are being discovered.
In between the flourish of Kanti Shah and his ambitious tackling of global issues, there have been directors who have spread the gospel in a low-key yet effective manner. Dalaal - in Bengali - is one such effort. Directed by Partho Ghosh (of 100 Days fame), the film is a scathing indictment of flesh trade and human trafficking in present day India.
My memory fails me when I try to remember the circumstances in which I ended up seeing this film in my mother tongue but it remains crystal clear when it comes to the scenes. And iconic songs.
And of course, there is the gem of a dialogue - "Ami duto jinish shojjho kortey parina. Ek, amar gramer apamaan. Aar, amar gamchhar apamaan." (Two things of mine can't be defiled. My village. And my towel.)
Yes, yes, I know - a gamchha is not a towel. Just watch the film.

Aankhen
Rarely, very rarely do we come across a work of art that changes us physically. People have joked that lifting War and Peace (or for that matter, A Suitable Boy) has built muscles. But those were just jokes.
Aankhen is that kind of art for me. With three double-roles, three heroines, two Chief Ministers, two water-drenched songs, one monkey and one leather-clad vamp, it expanded my bladder capacity substantially - since I could not tear myself away from the film even for a leak!
With the voluminous Shilpa Shirodkar entreating Govinda to 'come to her home' since her 'doors' and 'backyards' were free and elaborate plastic surgeries being executed to create lookalikes of CMs, I almost stopped breathing. I think I watched this film after a drinking session at a cheap-and-cheerful joint called Green Palace and the intense pressure on my bladder and brain for 180 minutes has made me a better - and sturdier - person.

Saagar
You know you have started to grow up, when you start recognising heroines in films. And usually, there is a specific point which you can look back upon as your first childhood crush. For me, Saagar was that film and Dimple Kapadia that heroine.
Before people get scandalised completely, let me hasten to add that I saw the film some time after its release and not as the 11-year old I was when it came out.
Kamalhaasan's Tamil-infested Hindi, Rishi Kapoor's chubby goodness, RD Burman's scintillating score just paled into insignificance as Dimple took her early morning swim in the shimmering black swimsuit and emerged from the sea in her full glory. Add to that a song in a red chiffon saree that clung to her body then and to my mind ever since, you have hormonal dynamite.
There hasn't been a more impactful heroine in Hindi film history.
Ever.

So, those are my five films.
You have to read MIHYAP for the five films that turned a Computer Engineer called Arnab Ray into a Global Dementor called GreatBong. But, is that all that there is to the book?
Well, Arnab writes honestly and vividly. And he writes about topics that are very dear - and close - to me. But then, I have read several books like that.
What sets MIHYAP apart and what I am really grateful to Arnab for is the fact that he is unapologetic about growing up in Calcutta and in the 1990s. He has actually made my adolescent world cool. What more could I have asked for?
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