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The Filmfare

March 7, 2010

India’s Oscars, in a manner of speaking.

Watched almost the entire thing after a long time. Almost. The ad breaks are tedious. The stars are more famous. The names are more popular and established. And yet public memory is so short.

When the nominees were announced, some of them were surprises. I thought Dilli 6 and DevD released in 2008 or something. I remember only a handful of movies from lat year and most of them were towards the second half. And I remember them because I liked them – Wake Up Sid, Luck By Chance, Kaminey, Love Aaj Kal. I haven’t watched either of the earlier movies mentioned. Some stars are forgotten, some are remembered. The women are younger and the men older.

The women know to dress better… though I must say of all of them wearing western gowns, Bipasha Basu was the only one who could carry it off with elan. It takes more than a good body to wear those dresses. And Vidya Balan flopped again with the sari. The sari was alright, if you could minus some of the zari… but what was that thing around her neck?!

(It may sound shallow to be critiquing the wardrobe of movie stars but hey! this is what they get paid to do and they might as well do it right. I know there are world affairs that need attention, but well…)

There is an interesting fact to note in the way the women dressed – all the arty, talented ‘actresses’ were in saris – Nandita Das, Vidya Balan (though the women have the oomph factor too). The ‘models’ or the commercial people were in dresses with a lot of leg or cleavage. Is this an unconscious divide? Women of yesteryears and the actresses wear the serious dress. Vidya Balan proved with one glance that she could take down any of these sexy women (or men). There is a curious lack of identity and confidence. Yes, there are interesting women out there but they seriously lack the stuff that made divas of Madhuri Dixit, Waheeda Rehman or even Hema Malini. And these were the women who were from the 60s, when women were apparently not ‘liberated’.

They had fantastic careers, they got married and they raised the kids who are struggling in the box office now.

Where did we go wrong?

Yes, we had some fantastic movies this year – Kaminey, Luck by Chance, Wake Up Sid… DevD… but these are directors who were fantastic to start with or were first timers (who got lucky?). With the exception of Shahid, all the actors were known to experiment. Even Ranbir Kapoor – his debut was in an extremely arty Sanjay Leela Bhansali. The movie sank without a trace at every theatre and festival. But Kapoor’s audacity (and bare butt) remained in the really short public memory.

So where are the women of substance? And yes, the Amitabhs of this generation? SRK, as great a businessman he is, cannot act beyond the lover boy roles. He accepts that as well. And Bipasha, as hot as she is, cannot really pull a movie herself either. Nor can the incredibly charming Katrina Kaif (I wonder if Saif and SRK were being sarcastic when they described her as an incredibly talented actress). The woman can charm the pants of anyone or anything off anyone but she can’t act to save her life!

Actresses were the genre of Rekha… who reminded me of Miss Havisham of Dickens’ Great Expectations. The overly made up face, the sparkling kanchivaram saris and the heavy gold jewelry, the flowing tressess and the powder that caked the wrinkling face. The Bacchhan family was conspicously absent (or not?) so we were spared the camera panning to her or Amitabh everytime either of them said something.

The woman was a beautiful actress. Sometimes, all you need is that one role to stay forever in people’s minds. Heath Ledger’s Joker, Anjolina Jolie’s… well she has a few, Julia Roberts’ Pretty Woman, Brad Pitt… he has a few as well but let’s take Troy, Snatch, Babel… One movie. And Rekha’s is perhaps Umrao Jaan. As the music director (forgot his name, sorry) mentioned, the movie would have been flat without Rekha in it. She is perhaps the most mysterious single woman of the Hindi film industry. And which is perhaps why Aishwarya Rai’s remake fell flat. Rai is a tolerable actress, but she absolutely lacks the mystery, the passion and the sensousness it took to be a courtesan which was already played so beautifully by Rekha. Rai lacks that in most movies… what on earth were people thinking when they thought they could cast someone, who is beautiful but passionless, in a movie where half the dialogues are through the eyes!

And that is what makes the industry so beautiful – the stories backstage. The movie is merely a prop to whatever else we want to know. The hook up and breakups, the drama of heartbreak, the cheating, the success and the joy. Which is why the camera pans to the relevant faces every time someone appears on stage.

The stony face of Rakesh Roshan, Hrithik cheering for Shahid – though Hrithik would’ve been a much better person to dance to Michael Jackson’s songs, Shahid’s a good dancer but his style’s different, Hrithik meanwhile has the fluidity that Jackson’s songs requires. I first wondered is Shahid was doing a Charlie Chaplin (you gotta see the video to understand why), Jaya Bacchhan’s stone faced looks when Rekha is on stage (Rekha vs. Jaya Bacchhan – vote now. Who was sexier and who is?)

But the current crowd, I find boring. The warped sense of humor – Neil Nithin Mukesh’s attack on SRK and Saif for a joke they played on him… they are here today and gone in a minute, so who really wants to pay attention to them. They lack… something… which makes movie stars and leaves the rest as mere… people in a movie.

Song of the day: Umrao Jaan: In Aankhon ke masti mein (I wish I could translate this into english but my Hindi isn’t that good. gets lost in translation).

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