Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Chittagong, my 1 min review

Chittagong is a true story of a real revolution. It is the tale of a few unlikely warriors who took up arms against the British empire in the town of Chittagong, now in Bangladesh - and actually freed it for one April day in 1930.
They were around 50 boys between 12 and 14 years of age, led by a schoolteacher named Surya Sen they called Masterda. Two girls, Preetilata

 and Kalpana, became part of their cause. There were perhaps five grown men in their fight.
These people raided the armoury in Chittagong, took it over, captured the telegraph office, and disrupted rail communications. They were surrounded by a British Gurkha army battalion but managed to fight them off until they were outgunned with machine guns.
There is obviously enough drama in this story. In Chittagong, the film, it has been told in a documentary fashion. Used as we are to highly stylised, dramatised, action sequences, it becomes odd and unrealistic to see action sequences without superheroes. There is no Salman ‘Tiger’ Khan here, no Batman or Spiderman. It’s just these very regular boys and a few scrawny Bengali men. They may be heroes, but they don't look it.
Manoj Bajpai, who plays Masterda, is understated, perhaps too much so, like most of the cast, including Nawazuddin Siddiqui.
The striking thing about the film is how matter of fact life and death is.
The pacing of the narrative in the first half is too rapid to allow moods to build. In the second half, events take on a dramatic tension that comes through in spite of the undramatic storytelling. The narrative, told through the eyes of a 14 year old boy who was part of this, is circular and ends on a purely documentary note.
I wish director Bedabrata Pain had made it either a quieter, slower film...or a louder, more exciting one. A little more of Zatoichi or Kill Bill might have built mood and atmosphere more effectively.
We aren’t used to our heroes and heroines biting their cyanide capsules, or taking their bullets, and dying without murmur. We are from what Soren Kierkegaard, mourning the death of rebellion, prematurely or presciently lamented in The Present Age.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Aiyya, my 1 min review

The first half hour left me cringing and thinking aiyya, why did I come here, and aiyyo, when will this end...but the film and its band of quirky characters gradually grew on me. Rani Mukherjee is cute in her role of Meenaxi, an ordinary girl with a tendency to escape into her own mental, filmy wonderland. The handsome and fragrant (!) Prithviraj enters her real and fantasy worlds 
and all is soon chaos.
The references to Alice in Wonderland make this a layered narrative, more sophisticated than it appears at first. The film is entertaining with its over the top songs and dances, but in the end it is the quieter moments and scenes that work better for the most part. The only exception is towards the climax of the film, where one sharp descent into madness is dark and edgy.
The ending is too pat, the beginning too abrupt, but somewhere in the middle there's a film that aficionados of cheap desi cinema, like me, would enjoy.