Monday, September 19, 2011

The Jersey Devil (Bengali Post)

I wrote this Bengali blog post on a strange creature supposedly found in the plains of New Jersey. A request to my Bengali readers: if you like my writing and want to read more of it, please follow my other blog independently. I may not be making an announcement like this here every time I write a blog post there. As of now, I am just testing how blogging in Bengali goes. Hopefully, updates will be more frequent in the near future.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Slice of Life?

That's how you enjoy life
Recently I happened to watch the movie "Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara." The movie had been so spectacularly praised by almost everyone around me that I was expecting a pretty much life-changing experience when I sat down to watch it. And what did I feel afterwards? Not only was the movie not great, it was not even ordinary. Cliched and predictable to the last degree, the movie dragged on and at one point I was just wanting it to get over so that I could move on to better things in life. The ordeal lasted a full two-and-a-half hours.

Later, when I confronted a friend who had highly praised it, he said the dialogues were nice and the jokes were hilarious. The actors looked good. What more could anybody ask for?

"A plot? A story, you know, with a beginning and an end. That would have made it really watchable. I don't think you can watch jokes and dialogues for over two hours," I said. "Dude, this is a slice of life movie! That's the way they are supposed to be - no need to have a well-defined storyline. You need to acquire a taste for them." He sounded smug.

Which brings us to the point of this post. Three points actually. Firstly, I know there has been a sudden increase in the number of "different" movies recently with smaller multiplexes and all that, but is just being "different" enough for a movie to be called good? There is no dearth of good looking people willing to act, and if you have money you can go and shoot in scenic locations. But don't you need a story and some semblance of reality to make a good movie? Or are the Hrithik-Farhan-Abhay-Katrina fanboys numerous enough to make any movie containing these stars a success? One of my friends said she loved ZNMD because of the lovely underwater scenes (which account for less than 10 minutes of the movie). "But you can see that even on Discovery Channel," I told her. Her answer was that Discovery Channel could not be seen on a big screen. Then is it enough to show some Discovery Channel-like visuals to make a movie good? Which leads us onto my second point.

My second point is a little controversial. Who decides whether a movie is good? Of course, everyone should have the freedom to like or dislike a movie, and I have no right to say nobody should like ZNMD just because I didn't. But I do have a problem with people saying that the message of the movie was something that I didn't "get." I mean, come on! What is the point of making a movie where your message will be lost in bad film-making and will have to be explained? For me, the message of the movie is what I got from it, and not what somebody else explained to me. To paraphrase Bengali columnist Chandril, directors these days aim to make a movie that will make every viewer feel, "I understood that, but I doubt if the general public will." That's what these so-called offbeat movies are all about- making every viewer feel superior to the others- and this leads to the problem that I am trying to focus on here. The media, the celebrities, the fanboys on Facebook and Twitter, everyone gets together and indulges in something that can only be compared to the story of the emperor's new clothes. If you don't like the film, you are unworthy.

A railway platform in Mumbai
I noticed the same phenomenon recently with the Hindi movie "Delhi Belly" and the Bengali movie "Autograph." I haven't seen the first one and saw the second one but didn't like it. Autograph is a lame attempt at recreating scenes from a Ray classic using a big star. Throw in some good music and things cannot go wrong. However, my point here is not about the quality of the movie itself, but the assertion that some people make that you HAVE to like the movie or you didn't get it. Don't these people realize that they actually do more harm to the movie by raising the expectation? The English movie Slumdog Millionaire is a case that comes to the mind. Is it an enjoyable movie? Yes it is. Does it have a hidden message about triumph of love blah blah blah? Nothing that is not there in the most routine of Bollywood flicks. Is it a realistic depiction of life in India? Nonsense! It is a complete "don't apply your brains" movie as I said before.

Singham: How real people fight
And this is my final point about these "different" movies (and ZNMD in particular). Depiction of reality. Do you know anyone who buys a handbag worth €12,000 for a friend's wife? Have you ever met someone who went skydiving and deep sea diving on the same trip without any prior experience of either? Have you ever heard of a person who could maneuver in free fall and hold hands with other skydivers in mid-air on their maiden jump? Let alone the maneuvers, do you really think anybody would be allowed to jump alone on their first skydive? Do you find it believable that a girl talks with her fiance on phone from India in the morning, and then reaches Spain that very evening to check on him without any prior planning? I wonder if Sonia Gandhi could do it that fast! And the ending sequence that has no relation to the rest of the movie? It's so bad that it's good! Of course, suspension of disbelief is there in every movie, but then why call it a slice of life? Call it fantasy, like Harry Potter or Lord of The Rings. Why is a Dabangg or a Singham or a Robot worse than a ZNMD? Just because they have unrealistic action sequences? What about unrealistic storylines, unbelievable characters and plot holes the size of swimming pools?

So please guys, give me a break. All I want is to draw my own conclusions after watching a movie and not listen to your interpretation of it. If you think I am dumb, so be it, but I will call a spade a spade. And I will not call a movie like ZNMD good.