Subhash K Jha’s Lockdown Blueschasers

Movies to watch during lockdown season

PK(2014): Noticed how the word God rhymes with fraud? PK is a film DESIGNED to warm the cackles of the heart. And I use the word ‘designed’ on purpose ,and with emphasis.Many times you feel the aura of childlike innocence that emanates from Aamir Khan’s character is deliberately manipulating our feelings by questioning the sacred cows and haloed institutions in that tone we often hear little children adopt in ads for insurance schemes.

Let’s straightaway say this. Raj Hirani and Abhijat Joshi’s writing is smooth skilled and attractive….Quite like what Katrina Kaif achieved in her Chikni chameli item song. You can see the words being polished snd sparkled and flaunted, just like Katrina’s waist line. She gyrated with her hips. Aamir does from the lips.

In his state of innocence accentuated by his Gandhiji-meets-Dr Spock ears Aamir looks as spaced out as Munnabhai on speed. And that is not an undesirable thing at all. The film requires the outsider to be chronically bewildered by all the things that we earthlings take for granted.

Why do we depend on god-men to take us to God when God is supposed to be omnipresent? This is not the first time that theological questions have been raised in a satirical film. Umesh Shukla did it with a lot of….to use a a term from Haidar..chutzpah. PK does it with a lot more tenderness. In fact the mood gets perceptibly treacly specially towards the end when our alien hero turns all moony-eyed over the television-journalist.He’s in love although he thinks it’s ‘bhest of time’.

The story moves forward in episodic abundance, not caring whether it would all finally come together at the end or not. Of course , it all does. Effortlessly. The plot winds breezily through episodes like ‘PK Meets Bhairav Singh’(cue for Sanjay Dutt to get all bovine and boisterous as a traditionally-dressed Rajasthani), ‘PK Challenges Godman Tapsavi’(Saurabh Shukla plays the religious fraud without cheesy overtures)….

This could well have been a television serial about an alien who delivers some down-to-earth homilies.While Aamir owns most of the narrative as though born to play the alien, the film’s most tightly narrated episode is the Sushant-Anushka Indo-Pak love story. The efficacy of the relationship is substantially dependent in Sushant Singh Rajput who brings an endearing and effortless warmth to what would otherwise have been just a boyfriend’s role.

Watch out for an amusing cameo appearance by Ram Sethi(the Big B’s sidekick in many Prakash Mehra blockbusters)in the Sushant-Anushka episode. And yes watch out for a very prominent mention of the father and son Harivansh Rai and Amitabh Bachchan in this episode.

There are dozens of brilliant actors making fleeting appearances in what must have seemed like a god-sent opportunity to work with one of India’s finest filmmakers. I wish Hirani wouldn’t be so conscious of his reputation as a creative genius whose films are extended jadoo ki jhappis. Many of the benign characters in PK seem like they are spillovers from Munnabhai and 3 Idiots, making an all-out effort to be good souls.

Sadly even the brilliant Boman Irani is reduced to a playing a minuscule part as Anushka’s channel boss . But here’s the thing.Watch Boman respond to Aamir’s blatantly glorified theological arguments in their sequence together , and you realize why capable stars need brilliant supporting actors to shine on screen.

And shine, Aamir certainly does , in spite of the exaggerated Bhojpuri dialect that seems to have been put there to get applause.And yes , those crimson-red lips look like they’ve been designed by lipstick rather than stained by paan.

And what,pray, is that cameo by Ranbir Kapoor in the end? A signal for a sequel? Not such a bad idea.

Eventhough PK left me underwhelmed at times, there is no denying its utter sincerity of purpose.That feeling when you’re effortlessly floating in the air….In PK director Raj Kumar Hirani makes us feel good about life.And that, in these troubled times , is not short of a miracle. Following the zany, kooky escapades of an alien PK takes us into every day life as seen through the eyes of a gentle compassionate outsider. This is revisionist cinema at its most inspiring. It tells us, life is beautiful even when it seems to suck. Provocative and yet gentle, evocative and quite often, heartbreakinglly artless, PK is just what the healers ordered PK is all heart.

Ugly(2014): Unexpectedness is a given in Anurag Kashypa’s world of the dreadful and the damned. Ugly begins with Tejaswini Kolhapure—making a stunning comeback after years of uncertainty—contemplating death . Later, closer to the end, she tries to kill the person responsible for driving her beyond the brink.

Every character in Ugly is…well , ugly. Do not look for redemptive escape-routes in this film. Moving radically away from last week’s all-is-well-in-the-world premise in PK Ugly tells us what Shakespeare did centuries ago. Human nature is by its very nature rotten at and to the core. You cannot escape your basic nature of self-serving greed.

Everyone in Ugly craves for something more than what he or she has in life. It may not be a better life. But there is a hankering for escape. Hence the aforementioned wife Shalini(Tejaswini) trapped in a loveless marriage to a cop who is not unkind , simply insensitive to her needs, reveals an ugly side to her personality with a suddenness that leaves us repelled.

Fathers , mothers, friends and lovers were never meant to behave the way they do in Kashyap’s kingdom of the doomed and the damned. The camera(Nikos Andritsakis) looks on with brazen brutality at the below-the-belt antics of an inebriated unbalanced mother(Tejaswini Kolhapure), her cop-husband(Ronit Roy, sturdy and sinister) , her former husband(Rahul Bhat, immersed in angst) and his best friend(the natural-born scenestealer Vineet Kumar Singh).

Wait. There are others. Like Kashyap’s other parable of perverse times the plot is glutted with characters, each played with such astute unassumingness that they had to be cast by a master caster, certainly not Chaitanya(Vineet Kumar) the self-employed casting director in Ugly who, like others characters, plays his own games of avaricious one-upmanship when a 10-year girl disappears from her father’s car in a crowded street of Mumbai.

Who knows where karma can overtake you and your life takes a U-turn?

True to its corroded deceptive heart , the narrative is shot in the pokey bylanes and buildings of Mumbai that have seen better days. So have the characters, if you ask me. All of them seem to have a happier back-story which given the present crisis-ridden context in their lives seems like a cruel joke.

It would be criminal to reveal more of the plot .Suffice it to say the film requires immense concentration from us . It’s not just the writers who have toiled on the nuances. It’s the actors who bring to every scene a certain unrehearsed turmoil.Towards the start of the cat-and-mouse chase to the ‘fiendish’ line there is a very lengthy scene where Rahul and Chaitanya , frantic with worry after the former’s daughter disappears, try to patiently explain to the cop on duty the bizarre chain of events that have transpired.You know these characters are played by actors. And that there is a camera recording their activities. But you let yourself believe this is not make-believe.

There is much more to the lie than meets the eye.Ugly is a film of many surprises,most of them unpleasant sordid and unsavoury. The actors are not acting for the camera. But their characters seem to be constantly play-acting with one another.Deception seems to run through the gamut of sordid characters. It’s a master-stroke to cast Rahul Bhat as a Bollywood struggler. That’s what he has been ‘playing’ for years in real life. The bitter rage that the character expresses is so bonafide that the line dividing the actor and character seem blurred. Vineet Kumar Singh as Rahul’s best friend has the film’s lengthiest most dramatic scenes. The hungry actor juices the scenes for all they are worth.The same is true of Tejaswini Kohapuri.Ravaged and ruined, her face expresses the unmitigated grief of a woman scorned, spurned and rejected. She is dangerous.

In one sequence where she asks her husband why he married her, Tejaswini’s imploring eyes reminded me of Meena Kumari in Sahib Bibi Aur Ghulam.And what a Sahib Ronit Roy makes! Chauvinistic,sadistic , brutal and yet revealing himself to be the only morally healthy character among the protagonists…Ronit again after Udaan proves himself to be that actor explorer who can find a moral centre in the most undesirable character.

Every actor is brilliant .Take the chubby guy who plays the item girl Raakhi(the embarrassingly saucy Surveen Chawla)’s husband . He looks at his wife with such desperate horniness, we instantly know she has him by his balls. Special mention must be made of Girish Kulkarni as Inspector Jadhav, the cop on duty who is so full of cynical shit you never want to be in a police station in your life.

Funny, how some of the most memorable characters in recent times are played by actors in supporting roles as cops.Funnier how films that address the absolute erosion of values in current times, to the extent that even the parent-child relationship is compromised in Ugly, scare the audience.

I know this is the season of being jolly. But take some time off from the euphoria of PK to let grim sobering thoughts crowd your mind as you watch people from your own life leap out of the screen to confront your most suppressed demons.Ugly is a beautiful portrayal of the squalor that swamps the human soul. The characters are ruthless dark desperate and dangerous ,more to themselves than others.

This is a thriller which leaves us with a sense of utter futility about the quality of life that we lead. Anurag Kashyap’s most incisive exploration of human relationships Ugly boasts of some of the most skilled performances in recent times, so skilled that they do not seem to be performances at all. These are actors who must be seen more often. Or their souls would be broken beyond repair… just like the characters that they play so well they don’t seem to be playing them at all.