|It's being called the most expensive and most ornate sleeping pill ever. Though the hype about Saawariya fizzled out long before the Diwali firecrackers did, the jokes about Sanjay 'Neela' Bhansali and his "blue film" refuse to go away. |
I admit I was one of those looking out for 'I Survived Saawariya' T-Shirts after I watched the movie last week - enduring a totally off-key woman beside me, who insisted on screaming out the lyrics of every song.
A rough three-hour ride even for a-movie-a-week person like me. I?ve never been a fan of Bhansali's movies or the distractingly lavish sets he conjures up -- where even the puddles are picture-perfect and where every frame is filled with pretty, useless things. His heroes like a Devdas or a Sameer - who never get the girl - were not really people I rooted for. But a Ranbir Raj, who walks into a bar and asks for milk - Gawd!
After a movie like that, I cringe when I listen to Bhansali's childish attacks on Shah Rukh Khan and the Om Shanti Om team. And worse, when he has the nerve to bring Satyajit Ray into the debate ("The magic of cinema lies in the director's ability to create his own world. And that's the abstract world, which audiences are connecting to in Saawariya. Even in Satyajit Ray's masterpiece Pather Panchali, realism is finally only an illusion.")
But for once, I totally back Bhansali when he tears apart "antiquated" critics who are still mired in the eighties' cinema. Many critics and trade analysts, like Bhansali himself, have been way off the mark in their verdict of audience reactions to recent films like Chak De ("Not hit material") and Salaam-e-Ishq ("A great entertainer").
Reviews of Saawariya have exposed the critics more than the giant-sized holes in Bhansali's film -- Critics who can tell you that a film sucks, but cannot tell you why. One praises the sets sky-high, but goes on to blame them in the next breath for destroying the film. Another shows his lack of sensitivity when he questions the plot by asking: "Why does Rani Mukherjee abandon Ranbir, when he comes knocking on her doors? Why does she lose her temper?" I don?t blame him if he slept through the movie, but does it require a genius to figure out that Rani did not want Ranbir to turn out to be just another client?
Almost all critics insist that Bhansali spell out boring details like the period and place in which his film is set -- questions no one asked of Black. And the focus of most reviews has been personal attacks on Bhansali. Saawariya's failure is being blamed on the director's "self-indulgence" and "excessive vanity". The director, whom these critics called a visionary for making average, star-heavy films like Devdas and Black, is now said to have fallen from his pedestal.
I disagree. I may be an alien on Bhansali-land. But I strongly believe we need more unusual directors who are bold enough to chart their own path, whatever the final outcome. Haven't we had enough of raving about assembly-line masala fare in the name of celebrating Indianness?
Bhansali may have made a boring film. But he remains one of the few directors whose movies have at least some spirited women characters. And while it is true that you?re only as good as your last film, Bollywood could do with a lot more madness and imagination. In any case, what would our workplaces, lives and cinema be without the eccentric people who see what the rest of us don?t?
Supporting Bhansali could seem like an expensive indulgence, but if I?m to believe a Business Standard article, there?s no such thing as a flop anymore.
So, dream on, SLB!
Line of the Week: Backroom Girl is hooked on to pop culture, popcorn and scandal. For entertainment, however, she prefers watching the news, preferably on Hindi news channels! You can write to her at email@example.com
Backroom Girl is hooked on to pop culture, popcorn and scandal. For entertainment, however, she prefers watching the news, preferably on Hindi news channels! You can write to her at firstname.lastname@example.org