Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Amu… A Quest for Identity

Emotionally provocative and passionately made!

Kaju (Konkona Sensharma), a UCLA graduate is a young girl of Indian origin who is brought up in Los Angeles, USA. She returns to India to visit her maternal relatives in Delhi. Aware of the fact the she was adopted into a Bengali family at the age of three by Keya Roy (Brinda Karat) a social activist, Kaju basically aims to get in touch with her roots and intends to discover her birth place “the real India” through foreign lens. During this pursuit, Kaju comes across signs of hidden secrets related to her past and sets out to trace down her identity.

This critically acclaimed film focuses on the impact of1984 riots that triggered as a result of assassination of the then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, by her Sikh escorts. The film also throws light on the magnitude of political involvement in the massacre; leading to a complete urban-chaos where thousands of Sikhs were brutally killed and their families were ripped-off from their homes.

Amu is definitely a brave attempt by Shonali Bose considering the controversial nature of the content. The handling of the subject matter is intelligent. The riot scenes are neatly done with absolutely no enactment of blood shed and not a single weapon used. Shonali has sensibly kept it symbolic and has utilized just the mob, their shouts and their cries to depict riots, making it devastatingly effective. However the intertwining of the flashback sequences, including the riot scenes and Kaju’s déjà vu shots, with the present could have been better.  

Alongside the portrayal of a heartrending tale, Amu has its share of lighter moments; be it the scene where the girls share their “hep” way of life with Granny, or the one where the little boy in the slums dances on a Bollywood number or Govind bhai’s recital of the famous Gabbar Singh dialogues.

The film could have easily done away with Kabir’s character (Ankur Khanna). The only reason for its inclusion seemed to be unwrapping the political connects from Kaju’s troubled past. Well, there were better ways of achieving that. Nevertheless, Konkona’s exceptional performance makes up for that miss. In an attempt to do justice to her character, Konkona puts on a little American-ish accent in her dialogues; thankfully she does not over-do it and that helps in keeping it natural. Brinda Karat as a social activist and an adoptive mother looks dignified and beautiful; though not much of an actor, she manages to pull off her role well. Yashpal Sharma as Govind Bhai and Bharat Kapoor as the influential politician have also done a good job.

Originally made in English and dubbed in Hindi, this debut movie by Producer-Director Shonali was later squeezed into a novel with the same name by Shonali herself.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Viruddh… Family Comes First

Some movies are so appealing that they manage to pluck the right string in your heart every single time you watch them. Viruddh is one such emotionally touching film about a small close-knit family in Mumbai.

The first half of the movie revolves around the life of an elderly couple in their early sixties; Vidyadhar and Sumitra Patwardhan (Amitabh Bachchan & Sharmila Tagore). Their only son Amar (John Abraham), who is also the narrator of the movie, studies abroad in London and is in love with a girl named Jenny (Anusha Dandekar). Amar returns to India and marries Jenny with the blessings of his parents. The subtle humor that the family shares and the way they derive happiness from the smaller joys of life, is lovely to watch.

In the second half, the life of the Patwardhan household turns topsy-turvy when Amar witnesses a crime and gets killed during unimaginable turn of events.

While the family is coping with this tremendous loss, the media, the society and the dysfunctional system further worsen their life through mental harassment. Amar’s murderer Harshvardhan (Amitabh Dayal) happens to be a leading politician’s son. Political influences are used to set him free and Amar is proved to be a drug peddler. The Patwardhan family collapses and struggles to fight back in the corrupt system. At this juncture, all they want is justice and all they aim is to prove Amar’s innocence.

The creator of ‘Vaastav’, Mahesh Manjrekar though not at his cinematic best in Viruddh, crafts out a decent film and once again demonstrates his mettle in making reality cinema. He sticks to the genre he is best at and delivers just what is needed; with no larger than life characters and no over dramatization.

A well directed film, Viruddh is bundled with an effective background score by Ajay-Atul, a well known music-director duo in Marathi cinema. Amitabh Bachchan is in great form while portraying a man who has lost all, but not his faith. Sharmila Tagore is wonderful as the protective mother and a supporting wife. Our very own Sanju Baba is as endearing as ever in his short yet commendable role as a mechanic. Sachin Khedkar as the inspector, Amitabh Dayal and Anusha Dandekar also leave a mark with their neat performances.

The film did not taste the deserved box-office success, in spite of an intense story line, a series of fabulous performances and a top-notch cast.