Saturday, December 18, 2004

We, the people

I am MIGHTY PISSED.

(3 minutes later)

Still SEETHING WITH ANGER.

A few deep breaths...Nopes... not done. Someone's got to put that idiot in place. Let me first send that mail across to Taran Adarsh about his so called pretending-to-be-a-review on Swades.

(A minute later)

:-)) That was easy.. Just went to Thesaurus and found out 5 choice expletives, peppered them across the contents of the mail and pressed the SEND button.

:-))

So do I hear you asking "How was SWADES?" ? Loved the movie. Wait. That doesn't quite say it the way I want it to. LOVED THE MOVIE.

On Jan 20 1961, a wise man who went by the name of John F Kennedy in his address to the people of America said "Ask not what the country can do for you, ask what you can do for the country". 33 years have passed and those stirring lines still hold relevance in our lives, whichever country we belong to. Remember the last time we cribbed about paying taxes without seeing any change in the quality of life. Remember the numerous occasions when we have blamed the "system" for the total lack of development. Remember the innumerable times we have laid the blame on everyone's doors but ours for the lack of progress around us. Why is it that we prefer to be arm chair critics who have given up without even trying to make a difference ? Why is it that we remain content to fall back on our celebrated past, our long standing values and our glorious traditions when the need of the hour is to focus on the future.

Swades: We, the people tackles all these questions through the issues of development at the grass roots and is a lesson on how small efforts at a micro level can bring about change and help us achieve the great heights that we are surely capable of.

Some myths dispelled:

* Swades is not a story about NRIs and the awakening of their conscience - On the contrary its a story about the need for every Indian to rise up and do his bit.

* Swades is not arty fare - it cannot and should not be slotted so simply because it is not the usual "meet cutes + song & dance + fight routine" - IMHO, there can only be two categories: Good movies & Bad movies - Swades, quite clearly, belongs to the former.

* Swades is not a drag - at 3 hrs and 20 mts it might be longer than most of the Hindi movies we've seen but every character sketch has been properly crafted and every sequence carefully constructed that it would not do the film and its weighty theme any justice by arbitrarily trimming it to suit commercial interests. In fact, any such measure would only be at the cost of detail and drama whcih would be very cruel indeed.

* Lastly but most importantly, Swades does not pale in comparison to Lagaan - Infact, I would even stick my neck out and swear that its a follow-up Ashutosh can be proud of. Comparisons, though odious, are inevitable but let me take particular pain to emphasise that both movies are based on a strong story line that can stir up genuine emotions. (nothing psuedo like the love that lasts 22 years in a Pakistani prison.. Gimme a breakkkkk) At the heart of both the stories is the theme of the human spirit triumphing over everything else - In Lagaan it was about a team of underdogs fighting for their village against their oppressive colonial rulers (so conveniently we had villains), in Swades it is about a village divided by caste and steeped in past glory realising the need to unite and work for their common good (here the demons are in their mind and attitudes)

So here are my 7 reasons on why Swades is a MUST-WATCH

* Cinematography - The montage of visuals in some of the songs, especially Yeh Jo Des and Saawariya is brilliant to say the least. Wait. Before you get me wrong, let me clarify that its not sheer candy floss, rich shots - the camera of Mahesh Aney goes beyond all this and captures the soul of the rural milleu.

* Costume design (and its influence on our eyes) - The astonishingly simple n beautiful salwars / cotton sarees of Gayatri Joshi, the endearingly earthy dresses of the supporting cast and the starkly contrasting Levi designer jeans and Gucci shoes of SRK show the meticulous attention to detail given by the costuming department.

* Music (and the way it pulls the story along) - Well, the music was already a rage and I can only say that after watching the movies, I am of the firm opinion that this has to rank as one of ARR's top 3 efforts in Hindi (Now dont ask me wot are the other two - Taal and Dil se ? Yeah.. Not even Lagaan). Even a situational number like Pal Pal has come out wonderfully well. The BGM with deft usage of percussion and shehnai is mindblowing in certain scenes.

* Lyrics (and the mood they seem to so easily fit in) - I could say so much about Javed Akhtar's awesome lyrics and still it would not be enough praise. Purely from a screenplay stand point, the point at which Yeh Tara Woh Tara comes is without any doubt is the lyrical high point of the movie.

Boond-Boond Milne Se Banta Ek Dariya Hai
Boond-Boond Sagar Hai Varna Yeh Sagar Kya Hai
Samjho Is Paheli Ko, Boond Ho Akeli To
Ek Boond Jaise Kuch Bhi Nahin

* Screenplay, Dialogues and Characterisation - In a theme as heart-rending as this, what's amazing is that there is no excessive melodrama, no long and boring rhetoric and almost very little sermonising. Each single character - minor or lead - is utterly believable be it the cynical Panchayat elder, the firebrand heroine, the Indian friend of the hero at NASA - they all behave and react exactly like how we would if we were put in that position and that, believe me, is a very difficult thing to successfully get across. Full marks to Ashutosh G, M G Satya and the team.

* The casting and the performances (minus SRK) - The best part of Swades is the fact that most of the cast except the hero are faces that are relatively unknown to the vast cinema going public. As a result it becomes much more easy to identify them as characters rather than as stars. Dayashankar Pandey as Mela Ram, the village cook with phoren ambitions and Rajesh Vivek as the local postmaster Nivaran are such wonderful scene stealers that its a delight watching them everytime they light up the screen. Kishori Billal as Kaveriamma is amazingly restrained in the emotional sequences and makes one yearn for such realistic "mothers" in Hindi cinema. Gayatri Joshi as Gita looks a dream and delivers a performance that would easily do a 100 film veteran proud.

* SRK - The only reason I did not include him in the previous point was that he deserved to be mentioned separately. Without any doubt, he is the real surprise packet of the film. Though its well chronicled that SRK was not first choice for this role, I have to admit that I personally feel Aamir would not have done as good a job as SRK has. To be honest, there are a few occasions when the star in him surfaced but in a 24 reel movie, I would gladly settle for jes a few of those blips.

Watch out for him in two immemorable sequences: scenes that have left an impact on me even a day after watching the film.

- his reaction as he watches a small kid sell water in a mutka at Ajite Railway station during the return train journey back to his village
- his infectious enthusiasm in the song Yeh Tara Woh Tara (one scene where Aamir would not have been able to pull it off)

You can take a bow, Mr Khan. You have my vote for this year's best acting honors (and that's ahead of Aby baby in Yuva)

* The Captain of the Ship (and his astute touch) - What's the secret formula for a successful movie ? If you can marry drama, emotions, humour, music in the right proportion, pack it with the right punch and deliver it with decent production values, your chances of success are very high... But at the end of the day, its those small, simple touches that give a movie its soul..And this, Swades has in ample measure. Full credit to Ashutosh Gowariker for working the Lagaan magic again.

It needs a lot of guts to stand by one's conviction of telling a meaningful story with a strong social message through this fickle medium called cinema. It takes even more guts to put your money where your foot is and produce such an ambitious venture. Three cheers to Ashutosh G, Ronnie Screwala, Deven Khote and Zarina Mehta.

I've deliberately refrained from writnig a complete movie review simply because before I started this one, I chanced to read one of the most balanced view points on Swades on the net. This review by Mayank in the Mid-Day, in fact, mentions most of what I wanted to say so have purposefuly refrained from repeating it instead focussing on aspects like why i liked Swades.

Wowwww... dat was one loooooong, passionate rant..Neway watch the movie asap and let me know your views on the film peepul ;-)

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Me going for the movie today:D..!!!!

Anonymous said...

Me going for the movie today:D..!!!!

Divya

dumbs said...

forget taran adarsh. he knows nothing. wonder how people can go by his opinion.

Anonymous said...

I know nobody’s pointing a gun at me. I don’t have to read, and its your blog, and you liked the movie...

But my big mouth just can’t stop saying; how do you even watch stuff like this and write a long review too?

Venks said...

Mama,

Loved it too...espicially the Electricity generation part. Thanks for not responding to my sms.Got a 50 Rs Front Stall late on Sun night...I think I will check it out again...