We were bit clueless about how to approach this film. Sudhish Kamath is a good friend and that means we will do whatever we can to support the release of the film and make it more visible. But how good or bad the film is – that’s a completely different question where friendship has no space. You can be our best friend and make the worst film that we will not endorse publicly. And you might be the biggest dodooth* in the town and deliver the best film which we will happily endorse. Also, to be honest and fair with your friends’ films is quite a difficult task. And while we were in this dharam-sankat, Shubhodeep offered to review it. We were more than happy to share the burden. This is his second post here. To read the first one, click here.
The guy introduces himself as Turia to the girl. I wonder aloud what the name means. Indeed, whether it means anything at all. A couple of minutes later, the girl says: “What kind of a name is Turia?” I grin and prepare myself for their night-long conversation.
Sudhish Kamath’s Good Night Good Morning is that kind of a movie. Shot in gorgeous black and white (curiously under-produced at a couple of spots) it surprises, amuses and frequently offers situations and dialogue that resonate with déjà vu. All this in accompaniment to a jazz soundtrack that sweeps across the movie and infuses it with much life.
The story straddles New Year in New York: a time usually defined by merriment and debauchery. Neither element is present as this story begins. He is a hopeless romantic unable to get over a broken relationship. She is, at least on the exterior, a cynic who doesn’t believe in relationships. They both have troubled pasts. Both of them appear to be in need of comforting company. We’ve met both characters before in reel as well as real life; nevertheless, the two occupy these comfortably stereotypical characters with an unexpectedly invigorating freshness. He drunk dials her number while riding in a car with three sloshed friends. What follows is an engaging and witty conversation that almost anyone will identify with. I’m certain the movie had snatches of conversations that I’ve actually had verbatim in “real” life. Love, losing love, the oft-perceived hopelessness and uselessness of relationships, are sensitively articulated in the movie. It’s easy to lose yourself in a melee of your own ruminations once you start thinking with them.
As the movie progressed, I became acutely aware of the two writers at work, weaving their words on a fabric so tenuous as to not exist at all. Writing near-endless lines of dialogue, interspersed with little or no action, can be a forbidding task. Not only have Shilpa Rathnam and Sudhish Kamath managed to veer away from schmaltz, they’ve done a telling job of keeping the pace of conversation mostly even. I remember reading that the screenplay of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunset (which, along with Before Sunrise, is perhaps the best “conversation movie” of the past two decades and is indeed referenced in GNGM as well) were largely written by the two leads, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy, who drew on their “real” lives for parts of the story. I might be grossly overstating my case but the writing in GNGM seems to suggest that Messrs Kamath and Rathnam share an affectionate camaraderie that has helped them produce a truly well-written script. The chemistry of their writing shines through in the virtual chemistry of the protagonists.
The only real gripe, and a minor one at that, I have with the movie is that it could so easily have been even more relatable and enjoyable had the writers (and director) chosen to do it Hindi (or even Tamil). Indeed, half-way through the movie I was dreaming up a gloriously fun Hindi movie on the lines of GNGM. Even though the dialogues and situation were overwhelmingly familiar, I found it hard to find any sense of belonging to the boroughs of New York. Perhaps because this is a film by an Indian filmmaker I really pined to see a more “accessible” movie as far as the setting was concerned. Of course, choosing what to make and where is a decision that is best left to the filmmaker, but I feel this movie could have stayed indie and yet explored a more Indian setting precisely because it had the potential to be quite a successful entertainer for the masses.
However, back to the movie. Conversation flows freely in GNGM. The lines are incisive and intelligent – sometimes a bit too intelligent – but never over-smart. That is one of the most enduring virtues of the film. Apart from a few moments that fall prey to kitsch, the dialogues sparkle with vim and wit, throwing in memorable lines now and then: “Long-distance success stories are a work of fiction my boy”. “Stories are meant to be simple.” When the dialogues become laborious, the action cleverly changes to the antics of Turia’s three inebriated companions in the car. It’s curious however that the best lines seem to have been reserved (by design or chance) for Seema Rehmani who occupies, with glorious vitality, a character that has been done to death.
Ms Rehmani does a star turn, outshining her male counterpart and keeps us interested in the movie till the end. Manu Narayan is reliably consistent, and even remarkably good at places, but I wish the script had more for hm. Raja Sen and gang exhibit much promise initially but are eventually let down by the script. They’re efficient in the beginning – with Mr Sen turning in a few sharp lines accompanied by epic expressions magnified by his magnificent tache – but seem to dwindle in importance and utility as the story progresses. Ultimately, their tomfoolery becomes mildly irritating in a movie that stands out due to its consistently winsome glow.
GNGM is not a movie that will make you froth at the mouth with amazement or feel giddy with euphoria. Indeed, that is perhaps its most becoming virtue. It neither wallows in conceit nor lays claim to greatness. Instead, like the rising warmth of a hot cup of coffee, its fingertips will lovingly graze your skin like that of a soulmate and that sensation will linger many hours after you’ve watched it. And like the tender glow of a winter sun descending into the fog, it will lure you into cosying up to it again on a rainy day.
I’m eagerly waiting for that day.
The film has been released by PVR Cinemas and is currently showing in Mumbai, Delhi, Gurgaon, Ahmedabad, Bangalore and Chennai.
(PS – If you still haven’t read Sudhish’s now famous rant (The Truth About Films : Ungrateful. F***ing. Bitches), click here.
(PS2 – Karan Johar reviewed the film for Rediff as Raja Sen makes his on screen debut in this one. Click here)
(*doodoth = dodo + ch**th the word has been devised for that rare tribe)