Day 39: And so it is the shorter story

It’s been an age since a Hindi movie left me spellbound and with zero complaints. I’ve actually mostly given up on Bollywood. That coupled with just how much effort it takes to get to the movies in Bangalore (compared to the 10-minute impulsive affair it was in Goa) has meant I’ve been really disinterested. But when Mukkabaaz finally released, I knew it was worth making the effort. And I was not disappointed.

Mukkabaaz, in classic Anurag Kashyap style, tells a story of pure, unbridled defiance. Fuelled by raw passion, young, blind love and a punishing kind of determination to go against all odds to get what one wants. The film, about the struggles of a boxer from rural UP, trying to make it to the national circuit, navigating a bureaucratic and deeply political landscape riddled with caste and religious power equations, was gritty, gripping and just downright amazing.

The film was an example of how even the most simple stories can be carried through by craft. Witty writing, extremely clever and editing made for an exhilarating edge-of-the-seat kind of watch that left me breathless with excitement.

If going to the movies has become a rare event for me, the only thing rarer is VC suddenly wanting to go to the movies. We made an exception on a particularly long weekend to watch Downsizing. What a bloody mistake it turned out to be, because I think Matt Damon was high when he agreed to be a part of this film. Either that, or he was temporarily abducted by aliens, and a body double went pretending to be him, about making grave errors such as signing on this ridiculous movie.

I wish I could tell you a little bit about the movie, but I can’t, simply because I have no idea myself. It’s one of those films whose trailer has virtually nothing to do with the film itself. In fact it’s one of those films whose first half has nothing to do with the second half. It’s one of those films that had so much happening, so fast, and so arbitrarily that you’re convinced the writers were all high on acid wanting to scrunch in every random idea that crossed their mind while on that trip. Despite a great cast full of potential, the lack of a story and a visible plot line of any kind, makes the movie an abject failure.

Yesterday, it rained in Bangalore. Out of the blue. I guess it had to, because we had decided to travel across town to Koramangala, at 5.30 pm, to catch an evening show. That was too many incredible events in one day for the skies to handle, I suppose.

We went to watch The Post, because I was convinced this is the last week we’ll be able to. And I am so glad that we did. It was a gripping, critical film about the free press, told through the story of the Pentagon Papers that were leaked during Nixon’s presidency. Beautifully told, very well shot, bringing to life all the old world charm of the 60s and 70s, especially the good old era of print journalism, the movie had just the right amount of suspense, surprise and excitement. Classic Spielberg direction showed in the visualisation and art, and the understated yet powerful performances by Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks made it one cracker of a film.

***

On the back of this, I’m a bit weary of what’s going on in Bollywood. I was briefly curious to see what SLB has done with Padmavati. I can get myself to enjoy his films for what they’re usually great at — the grandeur, scale and sheer beauty of art direction. But in the light of all the debate that’s erupted about the incredibly regressive portrayal in the final scenes, I’ve decided I’m going to give this one a miss. I can no longer casually throw my money at art that doesn’t do something for me. More specifically, art that stands for values that don’t match with mine.

I find that when I complain about Hindi movies always falling short, I’m always told I’m not the audience. I’ve gone into debates about who might be making movies for audiences that I am a part of, because I know I am not alone in feeling this severe lack. I’ve also wondered what it might take to raise the bar, diversify and bring a better quality of storytelling, to bring some finesse, sensitivity and greater craft into our movies. I think refusing to spend your money on substandard shit is one thing to do.

By that logic, I’m also feeling a bit iffy about Pad Man. I am very curious to see what they’ve done with the story of Arunachalam Muruganantham, but if I am to make a wild guess, Twinkle and Akshay Khanna won’t miss this opportunity to make this film about themselves. Or somehow tie it into some kind of nationalist propaganda, like they did with Toilet. The whole thing just reeks of extreme privilege, and much as I love Radhika Apte, I’m going to refrain from watching this one too.

So where does that leave me? Have you watched something in recent times that you’d recommend?

Two years ago: Day 39: Time bubble

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