Friday, December 17, 2004

Musafir- Should be so lucky

 Right at the beginning, Lucky (Anil Kapoor) proclaims to Lara (Koena Mitra) that after one final job, he will give up a career in crime and settle down with her. When this happens in the first ten minutes, you know that things will not go exactly as planned. Add to that a name like Lucky!

Loosely inspired by Oliver Stone’s U-Turn, Sanjay Gupta’s Musafir is 3 hours of item numbers, swaggering drug-lords, and fights aplenty. All flawless executed, and doing the ilk of Quentin Tarantino proud. Even the tagline from U-Turn has been lifted – ‘Sex.Murder.Betrayal. Everything that makes life worth living’.

At the heart of the story, Lucky is - you guessed it - unlucky with money. It keeps slipping out of his reach at every step. Coming to think of it, he’s not all that lucky with his women either.

Sam (Sameera Reddy) is the quintessential ‘damsel in distress’ albeit with her own secrets. Luka (Mahesh Manjrekar) is her sleazy husband who contracts Lucky to kill her. Billa (Sanjay Dutt), the glib-talking drug lord, holds the reins to Lucky’s freedom. Tiger (Aditya Panscholi) is a corrupt cop, who hopes to ‘get lucky’. Through all this, Lucky plods along, trying to make the best of every situation, while Billa and Tiger pursue him doggedly. That basically sums it up, along with a few interesting twists that keep the pace going.

Sanjay Dutt steals the ceetees with the best lines although his chhuri-twirling gets a bit excessive. Although Anil Kapoor turns out a good performance, his scruffy and unkempt get-up is overshadowed in by the stylish larger-than-life persona of the other characters.

Sameera Reddy is indeed the next Zeenat Aman. She manages to emote quite well, in the midst of all the skin show. She writhes in agony, ecstasy and item numbers with equal skill.

Mahesh Manjrekar, looking very much the unhulky Hulk Hogan with the sideburns, brings Luka’s character alive with his idiosyncrasies and plain-talk.

Some of the scenes between Manjrekar and Reddy, especially the rape, could have been avoided. They slacken the pace especially in the Rashomon-esque sequence where both narrate different versions of a flashback.

Koena Mitra is wooden during the dialogue sections, but comes alive during the item numbers, including one song involving a purple dress, a car and soap suds. Yup, Liv Tyler in One Night at McCools. And yes, those were indeed coins on her dress in the song ‘Saqi Saqi’!

Aditya Panscholi has never looked better. Shakti Kapoor is wasted in a small role.

The background score by Sandeep Chowta is slick, but intrusive in scenes with dialogues. Vishal-Shekhar’s music is zippy and pulsating, with a dash of techno. Rabba is a slow number, has a moderate Kaante hangover but is picturised well. Sanjay Dutt goes off-key for Tez Dhaar, but this is the song that plays in one’s head long after the movie is over.

P.S. Vinod (cinematography) and Tinu Verma (action) deserve kudos, while Bunty Nagi could have tightened the editing a trifle. Bosco Caesar’s choreography keeps the bronzed bodies gyrating to the beat.

Indeed one of the best looking films to date and with quite a few twists to keep you interested. There’s double-crossing, incest, contract killing, murder - all the right ingredients for a noir film.
Here’s who should watch the movie: Sanjay Dutt’s fans. Those who think technically slick movies are only made in Hollywood. Those who require a lesson in styling. And of course, those who want to simply check out the babes.

(edited version published on December 17, 2004 in Madras Plus, the city features supplement of The Economic Times, Chennai)

Saturday, December 04, 2004

Contrapositions - Astad Deboo

"This is my 12th visit to Chennai, and I’ve seen a change in the audience here. It’s not drastic, but they certainly have changed." says Astad Deboo, considered a pioneer of Modern Indian Dance, adding, "However, getting sponsorship from Chennai-based corporates is as difficult as ever!"

Taking some time off rehearsals to chat with us about his latest performance in the city, Astad says, "CONTRAPOSITIONS is based on the nava rasas, to be performed along with me, by eight trained dancers from the Clarke School for the Deaf, Chennai. In the last couple of years, I have collaborated with them, initially for short sequences. But with CONTRAPOSITIONS, for the first time, I’ve choreographed a full-length production for the deaf. A year in the making, it’s all thanks to the generous grant from the Royal Netherlands Embassy that it’s been made possible." 

Says Astad, about the logistics of managing this performance while globe-trotting, "I’ve been visiting Chennai from time-to-time to work on this, but it’s been Lakshmi Mahesh and Narayani Venkatasubramanian, both teachers at the Clarke School, who have sustained the continuity of the process while I’ve been away." 

His association with the hearing impaired community, began 16 years ago, as a one-off workshop for Action Players in Calcutta, and has grown to productions, performance tours and collaborations with the deaf community in India and abroad.  

"There are challenges with working with the hearing impaired, and different groups present different challenges. Not all of it has to do with synchronising movements or simultaneous coordination. For example, the students of the Clarke School for the Deaf are trained dancers, so, they have a basic rhythmic pattern and need to be instructed on the pace – slow or fast. Also, they were introduced non-Indian dance movements, which they were not familiar with. In fact, it has been a collaboration in every sense of the word as they have also been giving inputs. The Action Players in Kolkotta are basically actors who dance, so, the energy and effort they put in, is different. Mind you, both groups have had to work very hard!" he says. 

As for the group’s plans, he says, with pride, "After performing CONTRAPOSITIONS in Bangalore, New Delhi and Mumbai, in January 2005, this same group of dancers, will perform at the opening ceremony of the Deaf Olympics in Melbourne, Australia. After that, it’s on to Malaysia for a show for the deaf community as well as a workshop for deaf students."  

It’s on to Munich after that, for Astad, to perform for a series whose title translates in English to Bringing Public Spaces Alive – and for this, he will perform at an underground station there! 

As Amit Heri’s compositions fill the room, the dancers take their positions to resume rehearsals, and all at once, the line dividing the hearing impaired from the rest, becomes faint. 

CONTRAPOSITIONS premieres in Chennai on December 9, 2004 at 7 p.m. at the Chinmaya Heritage Centre, No. 2, 13th Avenue, Harrington Road, Chetput, Chennai 600031. Tickets are available at Landmark (both outlets) and Odyssey.