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.


  1. Well, I kind of agree with you on the sudden increase in so called different movies which I suppose, no body other than the scriptwriter gets! And when you put it like this, I cant help but realise it was not that good a movie after all. I for one, went in without any expectations, and managed to watch it with a straight face. The jokes were okay, but then, any movie these days have a hand full of those. I agree, there was nothing exceptional about ZNMD, but maybe you felt it a bit too harsh due to the expectations that came crashing down. Maybe!Or maybe I am too used to mediocre movies these days, anyway!

  2. @Sumana: The jokes... well, I am a little bored with these jokes actually. That's one of the things I hated about 3 Idiots. These jokes are floating around the Internet for two decades now, and God knows for how long in print, and then some scriptwriter comes along and wants to weave them into the dialogue of his movie. So you are right about every movie these days having these jokes. I agree that I may have been too harsh due to the hype created. But I have a problem with this pretension of greatness that such very mediocre movies show.

  3. I have one question for you. When I read your article, I found a Rejection letter on a movie in a Complaining tone. Now your rejection is understandable, with your logics & taste. But whom are you complaining to ?
    Let me present my views on yours.

    First of all, I liked the movie. Reason is pretty simple. I enjoyed those 2.5 hours in the theatre. Be it the jokes (no matter how repetitive in today's movies, something interesting is interesting to me always), be it the acting, be it the eye candy locations, or be it the thrills during those skydiving, deep sea diving & bull race moments. To hell with reality. I found them enjoyable. Many found them enjoyable.
    But then many found them ok-ok. And many found them boring. They have their own reasons.

    Now as you said, everyone is entitled to like/dislike a movie, to pass on his/her judgement. It's upto you to listen or ignore other's views. And yes, no matter what the makers would feel about the movie, they would project it as any mother would project her kid.
    Now the point is who said this movie is a Slice of Life ? Either some viewers (critics included), or the makers.

    So if you are listening to the viewers, then it's your problem. And if you are listening to the makers, then it's your foolishness.

    My language may have appeared a bit rough above, but I'm sure you got the gist of what I meant to say.

  4. @Jagrat: My complaint is both against the filmmakers and the viewers. They are, however, different complaints. The filmmakers (or the PR people, media, marketing dept. etc.) are advertising it as a different offbeat movie while it is not really so. It just has some foreign locales (which, as you mentioned, look good in the theatre), catchy music and the jokes.
    But my main complaint is against those viewers who are calling it a slice of life movie. This is for two reasons. Firstly, I do not believe it is a slice of life movie - it is utterly unrealistic and over-the-top. Secondly, and most importantly, I don't accept any film's message that has to be explained to me by others. So if someone enjoyed the movie, and say they liked it, I have no problem. When they say I too must like it, or I didn't understand it at all, then I have a problem.

  5. What is there to “get” in Zindagi na milegi dobara? I can tell you what I “got” looking at Hrithik Roshan. Too much of everything is bad, even good looks.