A film (Videokaaran) this passionate deserves some passion from each and every film lover, argues Varun Grover

Posted: May 7, 2011 by moifightclub in cinema, film review, Movie Recco, movie reviews, reviews, Trailer
Tags: , , , , , ,

Most of you might not have even heard about the film Videokaaran. We also had no clue. A video link on someone’s FB wall and it quickly spread all over. Varun Grover saw the film, loved it and strongly recommends it. Read on…

“Nahin boloonga – Mera secret hai yaar yeh” – Videokaaran

Before the film: The trailer hit like a bolt. “A film about a slightly unusual film buff” it said, and gave me the biggest blood rush that week. It looked dark, candid, grungy, and very passionate. Aur Hindustan mein film lovers pe film kaun banaata hai? It looked like a story from our own backyard, an original story. The trailer was shared, RTed, discussed, and we all were very curious. A screening at Vikalp, Alliance Francaise Mumbai came up. Not on a weekend, hence only I from among the Mumbai group could make it. And mighty glad that I did. Baaki ki kahaani…cut to.

After the film: Starting with a question. How many of us remember the title song, with antara, of Amitabh Bachhan’s 1992 film ‘Khuda Gawah’ (probably his last good act as a ‘hero’ in Hindi cinema). Think a bit. I am sure some can come close to remembering ‘Ho koi ghulaam…ya ho baadshaah…ishq ke bagair, zindagi gunaah’ lines. (Or was it ‘zindagi tabaah’?) But how many will remember, AND relish, the casually thrown in repeat-phrase ‘wai-wai’ throughout the song? Videokaaran is about a group of film-lovers who not only remember this ‘wai-wai’ bit but also sing it (over a doped out night at one point in the film) with as much respect as the rest of the song. In fact, a lone voice keeps singing ‘wai-wai’ even after the rest of the group has faded off.

Now this may sounds like a frivolous start – especially when the claim is that Videokaaran is the most definitive work you will see on the very complex cinema-fan relationship in India. But the example, much like a zen puzzle, is an answer in itself. It’s about passion for something some of us may consider unpassionworthy. It’s about people, who while living on the edge in their day to day existence, find a bond with moving images, words, tunes, stories, and to use an Arundhati Roy-esque term ‘the collective hysteria of larger-than-life’.

And it’s not a ‘look, they are so unique/ weird/ curio-pieces’ narrative the director goes for at all (the easiest way out, taken by many including the ‘B-Movie-Club’ of Mumbai which shows 80’s films to a group ‘for laughs’, or Anuvab Pal’s latest book on ‘Disco Dancer’ which reads the film as campy fun at its best). The subjects, with Sagai Raj in focus mostly, have been treated with as much respect as a serious film lover/observer deserves.

And the best part – Videokaaran (Video-waalah), doesn’t just stop at cinema. It very incidentally, mostly through the conversations, paints a picture of a world within Mumbai which seems not only time-removed from us, but plane-removed too. The characters, their pains, days, uninhibited laughter seem to hang in a surreal space-time we never cared to check. (But don’t mistake it for an ‘activist’ take on ‘two Indias’ or such. It’s as much fun as you will ever have at the movies.) A real, brass-and-nails world where Rajnikanth is God, and with a very strong reason.

And it helps that the Rajnikanth fan Sagai Raj, the central character of Jagannathan Krishnan’s debut docu-feature, has a unique, intelligent opinion on almost everything to do with cinema. Sagai used to run a Tamil video parlor in Chembur, in the shanties by the railway tracks, and is the kind of Thalaivar fan we have come to smirk at. But the smirk fades off with every passing minute, replaced by friendly warmth.

Sagai talks non-stop, loves porn and slasher flicks, has a quirky tangential mind (“I can’t fool a mad dog by pretending that I am not afraid. Dog’s sixth sense will interact with my sixth sense to let out the truth”), a weirdly original thought process (“porn films are the best indicator of a girl’s mind”), lives in a shady locality where police-raids and death by local trains is a norm, and has a life-story straight out of City of God. But above all, and in the context of Videokaaran, he is the brand ambassador of a class of people who consume cinema differently. And a brand-ambassador who not only was a regular viewer, but somebody who sourced porn to be exhibited, edited out films according to audience tastes at his own machine, marked out escape routes and strategies in case of a police raid, and indulgently, heartbreakingly filmed (on his DV cam) the bulldozer destruction of the very video-parlor he helped grow.

Interspersed with film footage (‘Subramaniapuram’, primarily) and Hindi songs sung by the group of Sagai’s friends on a trippy night in Karjat, Videokaaran is as intimate a piece of documenting a vanishing history as it comes. The astonishing thing is, Jagan had not initially planned to make the film around Sagai. Sagai was just going to be the camera-person for the documentary, and the story was supposed to be about this bunch of Chembur guys who are the standard target audience of single-screen and/or video parlor cinema. And this bunch is equally interesting – comprising of a professional juggler and clown, whom Jagan calls ‘an evolved soul’, a DJ and painter who even designed a camera rig for the shoot on his own instinct, a sadhu baba they chanced upon who loves singing sappy songs from the 90’s hindi films (and whatay voice he has!), and a couple of other friends from the locality. (“We even thought up a sequence where the juggler-clown (name: Alisha) stands outside SRK’s bungalow, wearing an SRK mask, and does the juggling act.”)

But while filming, Jagan stumbled upon Sagai’s story and the camera changed hands. (The film still retains many portions shot by Sagai too.) From then on, it’s Sagai and his worldview – filled with anecdotes that shock, regale, and in a few surprise moments pierce through the hard skins of our snobbery to treat him as an equal, if not greater film lover.

The 70-minute film, culled from 40-hrs of footage, is edited (by Jagan’s life-partner Pallavi Singhal) unconventionally too. No voice-overs, no time-stamps or location-stamps (you won’t see many documentaries this confident about their content), and no fixation with linearity – Indian docus just took a huge leap ahead with Videokaaran.

Watch it wherever you can – jaise bhi. A film this passionate deserves some passion from each and every film lover out there. Options? At a film club or festival screening, by buying the DVD straight from Jagan, or waiting for someone to rip it off and put it up online.

As a final important word – Jagan hopes the film helps Sagai get more work as a photographer and photoshop artist. He is a brilliant, natural artist, as per Jagan. He can be contacted through his FB page: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100002362315963. And Jagan at: http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=781940706. So if any of you have any photoshop or photography gig in Chembur or around, try Sagai.

  1. moifightclub says:

    Dying to watch this one. Missed it at the screening. Now this recco post is like “jale pe nakam”.

  2. […] link: A film (Videokaaran) this passionate deserves some passion from … Esta entrada foi publicada em The last of Google/Yahoo. Adicione o link permanente aos seus […]

  3. Vishal says:

    Looks like one of those silly TV shows on MTV or [V]. Boring.

    • moifightclub says:

      Vishal – if it doesn’t prove you wrong, well, let’s bet anything.

    • Nishant says:

      Most certainly not. Its an original point of view, and far more in-depth than any of those crappy shows can aspire to become. This film is a breakthrough.

  4. stoneksanam says:

    excellent docu. saw it when was screen in calcutta. it teaches one a lot about films from a very different perspective…

  5. DURGA says:

    You won’t get to see everyday a documentary on films and what it means to the masses .

  6. moifightclub says:

    Saw it finally, thanks to Varun. character driven docu and what a character. This one deserves to be seen and hope it gets its due. Must watch.

    • kartik krishnan says:

      Must must must watch. Get in touch with the dir (FB link in post) and buy the dvd from him. Spread the word. Watch watch watch !!!

  7. varun says:

    Wooohooo! Sagai is here! Am smiling broadly now.

  8. Indraneel says:

    I am taking the normal way out. Messaging Jagan on Facebook, sending money and getting it couriered. Simple! I’ll watch da!

  9. --anon-- says:

    We care for our cinema, we wear it on our sleeves. We like(d) their’s as well, but we hate it when they don’t pay to watch good cinema, ‘our’ cinema, or cinema as should be.

    Disappointed and clueless, we look for reasons, we generalize beyond fairness. We rue the fluffy and the escapist. We regret the mass and the easily excitable. And then..

    Then comes Sagai and says: bahanchod, this is who I am and ‘why’ is my secret. I won’t fit in the mould you try to cast me in. There’s a reason to my madness and you won’t get it. He grins and fades away, gyrating to the tunes of an unknown Rajini number. Dhinka chika dhinka chika..

  10. […] A film (Videokaaran) this passionate deserves some passion from each and every film lover, argues Va… […]

  11. pokerface says:

    I love the dialogue “The police don’t have the brains that we criminals have”.lol
    Just like in India the film lovers are always much more gyanee than the film makers; irony.

  12. vraw80 says:

    have heard a lot about it…but still cn’t get to see it..can anyone tell me where can i buy the dvd??

  13. Rasik says:

    Finally saw it at a screening in a slum. What an experience!! Can’t thank you enough for the recco. Loved the write-up too.

    Videokaaran is something you have never seen before. It challenges the definition of a ‘documentary’. I think the editor Pallavi Ghosal deserves as much appreciation as anybody else. Its path-breaking, innovative, marvelous stuff!!!

  14. tarun gupta says:

    I am restless to watch this film…this type of attempts should be happen

  15. madusanka99 says:

    good news, videokaaran had got a silver award

  16. BK says:

    @Jagan – Put this movie on flipkart or any other online store. Let us know when it is done. I am sure you will find multiple takers of a such a movie in Bangalore.

  17. […] Videokaaran – I don’t remember watching anything more exciting than Videokaaran this year. This was the best discovery of the year. Varun Grover found it, saw it, loved it and […]

  18. […] at times feature, this one digs into the power supply problems, a local hero (Loha Singh is the new Sagairaj!), the unpopular IAS Ritu Maheshwari – MD of Kanpur Electricity Board, the dwingling […]

  19. prince shah says:

    brilliant film. brilliant article🙂

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