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Category: Cinema

Why no one but Bachchan could have done ‘Paa’

The child is father of the Man.

After watching two-and-half-hours of the Amitabh Bachchan-starrer ‘Paa’, William Wordsworth’s lines from ‘The Rainbow’ never felt more true.

Or correct.

Or contextual.

Or more Bachchan. (Not necessarily in that order though!)

Cause these, after all, were simple lines that had inspired many literary, cinematic and musical offerings over the years. And in one moment, the lines symbolised the perfect takeaway from director R Balakrishnan’s ‘Paa’, a tale that dealt with premature ageing disorder, progeria.

And a story that only Bachchan could have done and, beautifully did, justice to.

‘Paa’, in many ways, is an ode to modern India and the relationships that it nurtures. It deals with new-age love. It reiterates that parental love is probably the most unconditional, non-transactional relationship available in today’s complex emotional marketplace. It shows that love often is sacrificed at the altar of politics and domineering parents. And yet again, in simplistic terms, it shows that children often are best crises managers and interlocutors.

For the Big B, as he’s popularly called, donning the garb of a 12-year-old boy and engaging in a child-like act was no mean feat. A man who loves to experiment, Bachchan got into the act from the word action. His movement, body language, contortion of the face — all showed that this was tailor-made for him. And that the thespian had done his homework. And more.

He had stepped into the skin of the character of Auro. He had internalised the character of the different-looking young school-going boy who lives with his single mother and grandmother. And whose outlet for most emotional angst is his PlayStation. The form of the 67-year-old Bachchan was incidental, his inside contains the soul of a young boy trying to hold his ground in an extremely cruel and competitive world.

The entry of a young political leader, who happens to be his biological father, promising to be the agent of change in everyday life throws Auro’s sheltered and cocooned existence into a spate of action. And thus begins his process of self-discovery. There is joy, and horror. And none other than the four-time National Award winner could have done justice to this.

Bachchan carries the simple to the sublime level. In a career spanning over four decades, he has always done that. And the beauty of it lies in his effortlessness. From the wronged son to the angry young man to the jilted lover to the grand doyen of not-so-happy Indian families, Bachchan has played to the gallery, and beyond. And showed that he’s an actor for all seasons, and many reasons.

If ‘Agneepath’ made Vijay Dinanath Chauhan a part of modern Indian lexicon, ‘Paa’ has proved that Auro is Bachchan’s crown. For a non-trademark Bachchan film, minus the baritone, the gravitas and the sheer presence, ‘Paa’ has blurred all divisions.

Today when Bachchan is picked for the National Award – his third as best actor – he has raised the bar. A bar that no one other than him can touch.

And something to which even his son will say, “Thanks, Paa. But you’re the greatest.”

Don’t let your CEO watch Up In The Air

If you are a salaried professional, go and watch Up In The Air. But while you are at it, make sure that the CEO of your company doesn’t watch it. Cause he is sure to get ideas…

For regular folks, George Clooney in Up In The Air has a nightmare of a role.

Seriously.

For here is a guy who goes around firing people from their cushy jobs. And he is hired to do just THAT. And our man does it with a lot of (cinematic) ease. Cause supposedly it’s his (professional) calling. And that’s what he’s getting paid big bucks for. (Well, if you ask me, I think he gets paid zillions to just look the way he does!!!) To ask professionals to look for options even as he himself is flown to different parts of the continent, helping cut costs for the various firms which employ the services of his organisation.

And he executes most of this in pretty much a clinical fashion, with hardly any room for emotional display.
Well it’s definitely a different story that director Jason Reitman realised that he obviously needed someone like Clooney to make a bad job look good (at least on screen). And he sure does a helluva good job, quite convincing as the (rude) reality check.

Cause Up In The Air is a reality check, in ways more than one. It is a film that fits in almost perfectly in today’s milieu. A film of recessionary trends in hard times. A film that could be anybody’s story.
And it is, therefore, a film which India Inc must watch. And swear to try and avoid most of it, if it can be helped. Because after watching the two-hour-long film, most of us who work in the corporate world are bound to come back with a somewhat heavy heart. And wonder why corporations, the world over, are so ruthless in their dealings.

We will also wonder why (individual and collective) shortcomings are easier to remember while success keeps dodging the memory! We will also wonder why rationale and reasoned thinking are not always rewarded the way they should be. And most importantly, we will be left to wonder why compassion has no place in the corporate world.

Desperate times almost always call for desperate measures, they say. And Up In The Air is a good example of that.
Else, why would you have a completely unknown person walk in to tell you that you are not doing a good enough job? And you may be meeting this person for the first and hopefully the last time (unless Providence has some other plans)! If this isn’t intolerable cruelty, then what is?

Being reprimanded or pulled up by superiors for non-performance at the workplace is understandable. Being punished for the same can also be explained. But imagine being told that you aren’t good enough from someone who has zilch clue about what you can do, is really pushing it too far. Apart from denting your confidence, it is sure to make you feel like a victim. And would make you wonder that whatever happened to things like loyalty?

But as Up In The Air actress Vera Farmiga would have us believe that “there is nothing cheap about loyalty”.
Whoever knew that one had to pay such a heavy price for loyalty!

The post originally appeared here

Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin…

It was 1999. The month was mid-August or September, I can’t remember clearly. And I was still in college.

PVR Cinemas still hadn’t become the huge corporate blockbuster of 21st-century India. The Bijli brothers had spared a thought for college-going folks like us, living away from home on a shoestring budget. And were kind enough to price the front two rows of their cinemas (Vasant Vihar and Saket only) at Rs 5.

A friend and I had trooped to PVR Saket, our usual Friday hangout. We’d bunked class and queued up for over 2 hours to buy the tickets to watch the star-studded premiere (yes!) of Jahan Tum Le Chalo. While the other girls lined up drooled over co-star Jimmy Shergill who’d already debuted with Gulzar’s Maachis, my friend and I discussed at length the “unconventional” other guy.

And so were ready to wait. To get a glimpse of the unconventional Nirmal Pandey. Who’d struck our collective fancy with his lean and mean looks in Bandit Queen and his performance in Sudhir Mishra’s Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin.
And so we waited.

Whoever said that youth and patience didn’t go hand in hand should have seen us then. After what seemed like an hour-long wait, the eagle(s) landed.

Jimmy Shergill walked in, flanked by the theatre manager and the film’s publicity folks. Behind him, trooped in Nirmal Pandey. And I held my breath. The swagger was distinctly cowboyish, albeit desi! There was an air of arrogance-meets-boyishness-meets-flamboyance. And the long, dark, black tresses that showed in the pre-John Abrahham days that long-haired men can also look incredibly sexy without trying too hard!.

As he walked past, an eager fan from the front-stall, in a moment of excitement-doubling-up-as-smartness, quipped: “Wah, kya baal hain! Shampoo kaun sa lagata hai? (What lovely hair! Which shampoo do you use?)
Pandey had moved ahead a few paces. On hearing this, he turned. Slanted his face slightly, looked at the smart Alec, gave what I still think is one of the most endearing smiles given by any actor whom I’ve encountered from close quarters, and said with a smile “Badmaash!”.

That was all it took. The auditorium erupted. The front-stalls went ballistic. Catcalls, hooting, wolf-whistles – basically, the works – the floodgates had been opened! Shergill watched from the sidelines, as the unconventional Pandey made his mark, effortlessly. The hooting continued till Pandey himself got up to request the gathering to be silent so that show could go on. The flamboyance was so understated, there, but not there types!

Both actors exited after the interval. My friend and I went and bought a pack of popcorn to share. The movie was nothing to write home about.

But Nirmal Pandey had left an impression. On the people who’d seen him from close quarters. And on two young girls, who were so excited to have seen him so closely for those fleeting moments. We laughed silly, giggled uncontrollably and yapped endlessly on our way back home, reliving our starry moments.

And a strange bond forged that day. Although Pandey ended up playing the baddie, I somehow managed to watch all his flicks, starting from Pyar Kiya Toh Darna Kya, Auzaar, One Two Ka Four Godmother (where I thought he was good) and Shikaari. And I personally thought that it was quite brave of him to having played the bad guy when he could have continued to be good.

But then he was brave.

And only the brave die young. RIP Nirmal Pandey.

When the Big B came, saw and conquered

I am still recovering.

From a reaction to a phenomenon called Amitabh Bachchan –a phenomenon that can leave you numb and completely transport you to another plane. Momentary numbness and awe played havoc with my mental faculties as I joined the ranks of millions of star-struck Indians on Thursday waiting to exhale the out-of-the world phenomenon called the Big B.

Cynicism took a backseat. Reason fell by the wayside. All those feelings of scorn and contempt that I’d had towards lesser-mortals who worship the ground that stars walked on and would go to any crazy length to fulfill their equally crazy filmy wishes, dissipated. Like that.

At that moment, I was one. With the rest of the star-truck souls who’d do anything to catch a glimpse of the man they call the Big B. Like the hundreds of non-Network18 employees who’d converged in the office lobby to catch a fleeting glimpse of the star. And those who waited patiently for more than an hour to just see him wave at them from a distance, record their as-close-as-it-gets-Bachchan moment and go home, contented souls.

The Man didn’t disappoint them. At all. That one fleeting glance of his lit up so many smiles and happiness (even if it was momentary) flowed.

He didn’t disappoint me, either.

One of the lucky (ye, blessed I am!) few who was present in the studio as Bachchan recorded a programme with IBN18 Editor-in-Chief Rajdeep Sardesai, I stood transfixed as the performer in Bachchan got into the act. The disciplined professional in him did not show any sign of irritation as takes and retakes happened.

The baritone was trademark Bachchan, the disarming smile more so. Coupled with a no-nonsense attitude, wit and humour and an affable personality, his genteel disposition proved that he is truly, a cut above the rest. Cuff-links (why on earth have men stopped using that lovely accessory) and brightly polished shoes only enhanced his gentleman-like appeal to me. It also made me realize that the fascination had clearly moved from the reel to the real.

That smile, that conversation and that fleeting eye contact laid to rest any misgivings I’d had about Brand Bachchan being on the wane. No way. Even as I thought the dilemma that existed in the ‘good performer but poor politician’, I instinctively knew that this was a man for all seasons and all reasons. Which is what probably explains his political follies where he trusted his friends more than he should have and his personal fall-outs.
At 68, the gravitas, the intensity and the aura that he has is unbelievable. With the roles that he has essayed in the recent past, he has proved once and again that age is only a state of mind. And those who (only) mark it, need to rewind!

Mr Bachchan, they truly don’t make men like you any more.

The post originally appeared here

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