India Uncut

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Saturday, April 30, 2005

Not a man from DVD Land

Via Rahul Tyagi, I came across this Rediff interview of Sudhir Mishra, the director of Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, in which he discusses, among many other fascinating things, the film Black:
I don't like hamming in films, and it's [Black's] a film where everybody's hamming, including the cameraman. Everything is setup for effect -- 'look how sensitive I am.'

It's not really a film about the girl who's blind. It's like you make a film about a guy who's lame, then you take the crutches away, then you hit him on the head, and he falls and you point and say, 'look how he's suffering.' When everything is for effect, it becomes boring. As a filmmaker, you start predicting.

For me, it's a very manipulative film. It's always manipulating me to cry. It's asking for too much sympathy, and I don't have that much sympathy to give. It's like emotional blackmail all the time, and I find that very unattractive. Some people might really like it, but it's not for me.

I enjoyed reading this because, as regular readers of this blog would remember, I expressed pretty much these same feelings in my review of Black a couple of months ago, right down to calling it manipulative. I'm glad to see someone agrees with me.

The rest of Mishra's interview is excellent as well. About Hazaaron... he says:
[T]his is one film I've made where I don't give a damn about anybody's opinion. I found my metre in this film, so I don't care. I know when you turn back 30 years, and you'll want to see a film about India as it was, then there's no other film. Because every young filmmaker is making a film in 'DVD land.'

About Shekhar Kapoor he says:
I regret that Shekhar Kapur doesn't make films more often. Because he's one filmmaker I admire. The problem is that he admires himself so much he doesn't make films more often.

And now, dear reader, you will surely ask how I found Hazaaron.... Well, despite most of the people around me not liking the film, I enjoyed it. I thought it was a good story with strong characters, and evoked that period in history well. The screenplay was superb, with the narrative developing at just the right pace.

One drawback in my enjoyment of the film was that I never warmed to the characters Kaykay Menon and Chitrangada Singh played. I knew people like that in college, and I disliked them. But even if they weren't likeable (to me), they were real. The acting was superb, with Shiney Ahuja being the pick of the lot. I suspect, though, that his good looks will come in the way of his being recognised as the talented actor he clearly is. Interesting trivia: Ahuja had auditioned for the role that Akshaye Khanna eventually played in Dil Chahta Hai.

Many of the reasons why people disliked the film had to do with expectations. One friend told me that he was expecting an epic, and this wasn't one. Another said that she was expecting a film to deal with the emergency years, and Hazaaron... didn't. And so on.

Expectations bugger up any work of art. A film or a book should be evaluated for what it is, by itself, regardless of the hype around it or the expectations it raises. Sadly, this seldom happens. With books, for example, the news of a writer getting a big advance or a Booker nomination invariably colours our attitude towards the book, introducing either a negative bias because of jealousy, or a positive one because the sheen of that associated event rubs itself off on the work. That's a pity.
amit varma, 11:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage

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