What the FINGER Awards – Bollywood Wall of Shame, 2013

The Lazy Critic Blog's What the FINGER Awards Trophy

The Lazy Critic Blog’s What the FINGER Awards Trophy

On the last day of the year, you look back at all the bullshit you have been put through as a member of the audience in this country. 2013 was specifically horrible, as new heights of foolhardy and obnoxious was attained. Wikipedia officially accepts ‘masala’ as a genre now. Could there be anything more shameful than that? The likes of Naseeruddin Shah plop two boobfuls of Sunny Leone on his thighs and hams like an arse in a Kaizad Gustad movie. Hrithik Roshan is still flying around in the third installment of a superhero film. Aamir Khan is tap-dancing in Dhoom 3. The critics are calling The Lunchbox ‘the best film of the decade’… The list of disappointments does not seem to end.

Therefore, to really rub it in their faces, and inspired by the number of times I said ‘what the fornicator!’ while watching this year’s movies, TLC presents the first What the FINGER Awards – Bollywood Wall of Shame. The trophy, crafted by artist Chase Jarvis is a work of art, and should find a proud place on this year’s recipients’ mantelpieces for their fine show of arseholery and bullshitgiri.

Worst Story

And the FINGER goes to –

ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAI DOBAARA!

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Akshay is the big dick. Imraan is his pet dick. While both of them are fucking around, they meet Sonakshi – the flower power from Kashmir. And then begins the grueling two-hour journey from dosti to ishq and mohabbat with oodles of hawas. Finally, tired of cockblocking each other, they fight it out – like mards. Whomever the lady falls and weeps over, begs to stop, wipes blood off with her dupatta, wins. Throw in unnecessary songs in dreams and chawls, sidekicks, sex jokes, and item numbers and you have an old concoction for headache in a new bottle – dobaara!.

Wait a minute. Was this not supposed to be a film on Dawood Ibrahim, by the way? Was it not supposed to be a gangster film, by the way? Was it not supposed to be much much much bigger than a simple love triangle, by the way?

Read complete review here.

 

Worst Lyricist

And the FINGER goes to –

SAMEER ANJAN for God, Allah Aur Bhagwan (KRRISH 3)

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Sample this:

God, Allah aur Bhagwan

Ne banaya ik insaan

Aaya zameen pe lekar woh

Upar waale ka farmaan

Woh doston ka hai dost

Yaaron ka hai yaar

Jiska naam sunke kaanpe har shaitan

 

And it goes on…

 

Woh tujhme bhi hai

Woh mujhme bhi hai

Kahin na kahin woh

Hum sab mein hai

 

Worst Music Director

And the FINGER goes to –

RAJESH ROSHAN for KRRISH 3

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Sounds seventies all the way. Rajesh Roshan needs to retire.

 

Worst Acting Debut – Male

And the FINGER goes to –

GIRISH KUMAR for RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA

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Another rich beta of producer papa bites the dust.

 

Worst Acting Debut – Female

And the FINGER goes to –

PALLAVI SHARDA for BESHARAM

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She knew that in a film that already stars half the Kapoor khaandan, all she had to do was look pretty and make the dance numbers look symmetrical. And like a good girl, that is all she did.

 

Worst Actor in a Supporting Role – Male

And the FINGER goes to –

NAWAZUDDIN SIDDIQUI for THE LUNCHBOX

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Don’t even get me started. Just read my rants here and here.

Special Mention: UDAY CHOPRA and ABHISHEK BACHCHAN for DHOOM 3.

You guys sucked too.

 

Worst Actor in a Supporting Role – Female

And the FINGER goes to –

SONAM KAPOOR for BHAAG MILKHA BHAAG

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If that was the lead role, why was it just for 5 minutes? If that was a supporting role, why can’t I remember what she did in the film other than filling pots with water?

 

Worst Actor in a Leading Role – Male

And the FINGER goes to –

AAMIR KHAN for DHOOM 3

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Be it Samar or Sahir, Elf-eared Khan fell seriously ‘short’ in the acting department.

Overtly melodramatic: Check

Weird facial expressions: Check

Epic fail portrayal of a mentally-challenged character: Check

‘I’m too sexy for my shirt’ sequence: Check

‘Look Ma, I can dance’ (Wannabe dancing moment): Check

An utter miscast for a trapeze artist: Check

Zero chemistry with leading lady: Check

One big fat forgettable performance: Check

 

Worst Actor in a Leading Role – Female

And the FINGER goes to –

SHRUTI HASSAN for RAMAIYA VASTAVAIYA

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I have no idea where Shruti Hassan’s talented acting genes disappeared. Did she poop them all out one day?

Read my detailed experience of watching her performances here.

 

Worst Director

And the FINGER goes to –

RAM GOPAL VARMA for THE ATTACKS OF 26/11

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Do I really need to explain myself?

 

Worst Film

And the FINGER goes to –

GRAND MASTI

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One fateful Sunday afternoon, I decided to watch Grand Masti. I wanted a light watch, I rationalized.

But no, Grand Masti turned out to be quite a hefty intellectual affair. By the end of the film I was left exhausted of my mental faculties. Three young professionals, caged by the trials and tribulation of marriage, decide to attend their college reunion to re-examine their priorities, needs, and the true meaning of life. They question life truths (what A-B-C actually stands for rather than the pseudo-realities taught by society), understand psycho-sexual effects of rodent-looking underwear on feline behaviour, tackle the evils of technology encroaching upon privacy, and finally attain the divine secret of marital bliss. Grand Masti will definitely go down as one of the most raw and honest commentaries of society and pop culture today. The most effective and poignant cameo by one of Hitchcock’s ravens was an intelligent narrative technique. Oberoi, Deshmukh, and Shivdasani are at their acting best, bringing forth such powerhouse performances that I am sure this will be a turning point for their careers.

(By the way, the paragraph above is pure, dripping, scathing, murderous sarcasm. If you didn’t get it and ACTUALLY believed what I said, Grand Masti is your kind of film. You will love it. You will buy posters of it and stick it above your bed. You will even read the book)

What follows the FINGER Awards is the TLC Awards for Achievements in Film and Theatre, 2013. Coming soon.

Images courtesy: Google Images

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Tasher Desh: A Visual Orgasm

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I am a Tagorean. I have been brought up by typical North Calcutta parents. My Father is a student of Dakshini, Calcutta’s premiere school of Rabindrasangeet and still performs with an enviable diction and Tagorean tenor. I have grown up on Tagore’s music, poetry, stories, plays, novels, paintings, essays, films based on his works (primarily by Ray) – and hence, for most of my growing years I remained a purist. I used to be wary of remixes, ‘modern’ renditions, and re-arranged rock ballad versions of his songs or poems. After the expiry of the copyright, purists came under a blitzkrieg of ‘contemporarization’ of his works. I did not take to them immediately. I still believe Bickram Ghosh’s version of Pagla Hawa (Mad winds of the monsoon) for Anjan Dutta’s Bong Connection is an absolute disaster. But I don’t mind Somlata’s Mayabonobiharinihorini (The deer who tramps in the jungle of illusions) in Mainak Bhaumik’s Bedroom. I have slowly opened to possible experiments with Tagore’s works. And yes, even today, I take offense at a bad rendition as if it is a personal insult. That is how close Rabindranath is to me. He is family.

I do not have the highest regard for Quashik Mukherjee. Now that I think of it, I guess that is just what he wants from his audience. Gandu was an abysmal attempt at film making – nothing more than an amateurish attempt to shock. Incidentally, I came to know that he was making Tasher Desh even before I saw Gandu. I came to know that he was making Tasher Desh when a casting director called me over to the Dharma Productions office in Khar to audition for the role of the Merchant Friend – Saudagarputro. Obviously I did not get the part. And after watching Gandu, I felt relieved.

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Quashik uses sex as a tool for entertainment and titillation. In Gandu, sex is the primary feature of the film and is used both as a visual and layered context so frivolously that it borders on unhealthy voyeurism. I was afraid that he will attempt a similar ‘sexualization’ of Tasher Desh. Unlike Ray, who was actually phobic of visually representing sex on screen, Tagore has celebrated physical union, intimacy and pleasure in numerous songs and verses. But rather than being upfront and crass, he used the classier poetic ruse of metaphors – something that is polar opposite to Quashik’s style of textual narration. Therefore, I was both excited and afraid to see what Quashik’s Tasher Desh would be like.

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Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Tagore scripted a children’s play called Tasher Desh (Land of Cards) about a Prince and his Merchant Friend who leave the comforts of royalty for a taste of adventure. Due to a misfortune at sea, they land up at the Land of Cards which is ruled by strong discipline and well, rules. Their alien ideas of freedom and desire fuels a revolution amongst the ranks of cards finally culminating in the victory of desire and action. The play was dedicated to Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose and was a veiled pep talk for the freedom movement against the British which had slumped into inactivity and inertia at that moment. Quashik sticks to this basic storyline, intelligently using the original text (a personal favourite screenplay style) and metamorphosizing it into a modern day revolt against autocracy and censorship, problems faced almost everywhere in the world.

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While the storyline does not throw any surprises, Quashik has definitely established a narrative style that is unique to the country’s cinemascape. The man revels in entropy and creates a visual confusion of motion, colour, expression, and boozy haze. The visual character of Tasher Desh reminds one of Vera Chytilova’s Daisies as the films are akin in their temperament and passionate storytelling through colours and pictures. Quashik also uses subtitles as an integral part of the mise-en-scene, something unseen in contemporary cinema. If Bhansali romances colours, Quashik ensures multiple orgasms. His visuals are so intimate, even the most asexual of subjects attain such a sensuous aura, that he actually draws you into his narrative like a drug. You want to keep watching that scene over and over and over again.

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Which is also his major flaw. His almost sexual relationship with visuals leads him to allow extensive scenes that could be clipped shorter. Also, his repetitive use of dialogue in successive jump cuts seems meaningless. Is it a forced construct of individual style? Why does the same dialogue have to be repeated? I have no idea. While many might argue that the inebriated cinematographic tone that he has adopted for Tasher Desh is unnecessarily avant garde, it does work brilliantly for the film. Yes, it is a difficult text initially, but you soon tune yourself to Quashik’s language. A young prince wants to flee from the overbearing shackles of royalty. He enters his mother’s room and writes his heart’s desires on the mirror and the white bedspread with her red lipstick. You ask, why do that? Why not just deliver the lines rather than doing something so absurd?

Then you wonder: Why not?

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Quashik’s Tasher Desh is definitely the most arresting and relevant interpretations of Tagore’s path breaking play. It captures the fantasy perfectly, and adequately serves it in palatable poetry and contemporary flavours. Yes, the blatant depictions of homosexuality can be questioned, but the hippie-like celebration of sexual freedom followed by a firebrand revolution set to Tagore’s words and lyrics? If that is not a tantalizing cocktail, I don’t know what is. Rii, Joy, Tilottoma Shome, Imaad Shah, and Anubrata deliver uninhibited performances, equally at ease with their bodies and Tagorean Bengali. The interesting casting coup of choosing non-Bengali actors for the cards pays off as their gradual shift to human language in accented and broken Bengali seems natural. The production and costume design of the film (heavily inspired by Dali and Burton) is so well structured and outrageously creative that it lends a global temperament to the cinematography. Although, I don’t understand why Patralekha (The Oracle) had to be a fashion-forward drag. Why could Patralekha not have been a woman? And that cupid-like feathery bow was an eyesore.

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And that brings us to the film’s music. Quashik uses recorded renditions by Rabindrasangeet stalwarts and re-arranged compositions sung by various artists. Gopon kotha ti (The secret) by Susheela Raman is absolute bliss. And who would have thought that Ghoretey bhromor elo (The bee has entered the room) could be a sexual celebration? Quashik’s hypnotic rendition of Ogo shantopashano muroti shundori (O statue-like beauties) captures the mood perfectly. Every song sticks to the original composition by Tagore and has been arranged with such respect and dedication that they have attained a beautiful evolved quality. Special mention must be made of the background score and sound design for creating a dissonance that supported the film immensely. It is such a relief that the debacle that was Gandu circus did not repeat itself.

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I am surprised that I am saying this, but I am proud of Quashik’s Tasher Desh. Such a film has never been made before in India. The man deserves accolades and most importantly, wider audience viewership. A fair warning to Quashik Mukherjee: Don’t you dare screw up your next one.

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Image courtesy: Google Images

Playing the Brain Card

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A recent marketing trend in Bollywood involves hyping movies out of proportion. But what is the selling point of this strategy? Arnesh Ghose investigates.

The furor around The Lunchbox left me completely befuddled. Since it went to the Cannes (and the fact that commercial biggies like Karan Johar and indie maven Anurag Kashyap called it ‘one of India’s best films till date’), the film was the centre of everybody’s attention. Every morning, the newspapers greeted you with at least one story related to the film. People discussed it at every social do, film students excitedly chatted about catching it first-day-first-show, and enthusiastic panelists on TV debates heralded the beginning of a new era in Indian film making. The buzz around the film was tantalizing.

It is natural human tendency to desire individuality. Commercial cinema is entertainment for the ‘mass’ and is looked down upon. The cooler cousin is art house – the intellectual hoity-toity who dine with Tarkovsky and frolic with Godard – and ‘being niche’ is a badge worn with pride. While this divide always existed in Indian film industries, Bollywood is amidst a very interesting trend. The class and the mass are trying to find a common ground, and suddenly, everyone wants to be associated with the deviant. The likes of Manmohan Desai would ridicule the Guru Dutts and Satyajit Rays of the world. Karan Johar and Rohit Shetty are seen with Anurag Kashyap and Anand Gandhi.

While this coming together is very promising, it has not resulted in any decrease of the bogus that the industry produces every month. We still see a Rowdy Rathore, a Krrish 3, and a Boss being a commercial 100-crore blockbuster. Karan Johar still produces a flaky rom com with couture-clad Kareena Kapoor and Imran Khan. Films like The Lunchbox are a product of this pseudo-intellectualism. This need to be intelligent (read: different) in the film fraternity is what fuels producers to make films that are marketed on this underlying pitch. If you went by Bollywood trends, ‘intelligent’ is the new hippie.

To call The Lunchbox a cinematic gem is a major exaggeration. The script is riddled with gaffes, the performances lack energy and interest, and with half-baked characters and a very limp screenplay, it is definitely not a film that should even be considered to represent the country at a global showcase. Yes, it does feature a successful casting coup (and even though they are primarily ‘parallel cinema’, we could not help but drool over the Irrfan-Nawaz combo), but the absolute unnecessity of Nawaz’s character adds to the failures of the film. With a huge media buzz and big names backing its release, The Lunchbox became one of the most awaited films of the year. And when it released, it is not a surprise that shows ran packed with an enthusiastic audience.

Another recent example of a similar marketing strategy was the Ship of Theseus by Anand Gandhi. SoT is definitely a much better film than The Lunchbox, but it played the ‘intelligent-is-the-new-different’ card to the hilt. For starters, Kiran Rao, and not Aamir Khan, presented the film. The Dhobi Ghat film maker is known for her niche interests, immediately making SoT the art house golden boy. The trailers and avant garde poster art, the FB campaigns, the limited release and Vote for your City contest, all added to the film trending on the social media for months prior to its release. The buzz was created about the film’s subject and primarily the contemporary connect it had with Plutarch’s paradox. What is surprising is that, the film’s premiere was hosted by Aamir Khan and the complete Bollywood fraternity was invited. Did the acceptance and approval of the mainstream really matter that much to the film’s makers?

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SoT is a visual masterpiece, but the film maker tries hard to tell too many things in one film. The dialogues are forced and unnatural, the cinematography flitting between realism and forced construction, and the weight of the ideas make it more of a philosophical discourse than a piece of cinema. I have read reviews calling it the ‘best piece of cinema in the last decade’, a compliment that glorifies the film way beyond what it deserves. A tailored marketing strategy backed by a dearth of learned film critics makes it very easy for such films to be generously lauded. It is not too surprising as the bull crap these critics are treated to will definitely make them warm up to anything different. What they should avoid is Bollywood’s obnoxious masala offerings from becoming the yardstick. Unfortunately, that is just what has happened.

Last year, two films had used similar marketing strategies which worked out well for one, but not satisfactorily for the other. Everyone had been waiting with bated breath for Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai, a political thriller with a sterling cast of Abhay Deol, Emraan Hashmi, and Kalki Koechlin. Banerjee’s films always promise food for thought and film buffs were waiting to see what he was following up his past successes with. The marketing strategy was built around the film’s controversial subject and the director’s not-so-massy image. It filled in the seats successfully on the first week but then the film slumped into gradual oblivion. Chittagong, on the other hand, starring Manoj Bajpai and Nawazuddin Siddiqui failed horribly even after having a brilliant cast which was supposed to pull the crowds. The National Award for Best Song remains the only consolation for the film.

Of all the different marketing strategies the industry has put to use, this recent trend of playing the ‘brain card’ is the most interesting till date. Tapping into the primal human need to being unique is a masterstroke. What is unfortunate is that, ‘intelligence’ has become a niche quality. And pseudo-intellectualism is the way people are trying to achieve it.

 

Read the story in the December issue of Go Getter magazine. 

Image courtesy: Google images