Posts Tagged ‘ButtUpSajid’

As promised, ButtUpSajid is back. With 2nd part of his post on Aamir, Dhobi Ghat and more. Click here to read the first one.

It all started with a column. Yes.

Hello, again folks. So, is Aamir a star only because we’re too dumb? Does he ‘know his audience so well that he confidently feeds them tripe’?

Well, I’ll say he clearly does know his audience pretty darn well. As for feeding them ‘tripe’, perhaps that would be going overboard. Aamir’s films (and I’m obviously not talking Fanaa, Ghajini or his cult-classic Mela here) are anything but tripe. Yet, they’re hardly works of great artistic merit or as daringly different as they’re widely propped up to be, right?

Is he a star because we’re too dumb? I wouldn’t say yes to that, because that would be condescending and not completely true. However, part of the appeal of Aamir’s films is that they make us feel intelligent. They’re clearly way above the average tripe Bollywood serves us, and certainly don’t ask us to ‘leave our brains at home’ like a lot of films do. But they don’t particularly require us to use our brains either. Did we really have to exercise our intellectual capabilities watching Taare Zameen Par, however un/limited they might be?

So, while the content is meaningful and not run-of-the-mill, it’s hardly challenging. Or penetrative. It’s astute entertainment, not quite junk, like the low-fat snacks and cola Mr. Khan so convincingly hawks, but easily digestible and spoon-fed, all the same. In the Great Taran Adarsh Book of Cinema, it fulfills all the three Es: Entertainment, Education and (sic) Enlightenment. But it doesn’t challenge us. And we, the frogs in a well, are happy to believe we’ve just watched something mighty smart and sophisticated. Some find it ‘phenomenal’ and some even feel ‘shell-shocked, challenged and motivated’! Jai Ho!

Which is why Dhobi Ghat– a film that is so far removed from anything Aamir has acted in so far- becomes an important and interesting film to look out for. When Aamir talks about how it’s ‘fine cinema’ and ‘not for everyone’, he’s not just saying it’s out of his audience’s comfort-zone- he is also pointing out that it is way out of his own league and territory.

In the world of Dhobi Ghat, it’s Aamir who’s the real newcomer- a highly capable actor, but one who comes with the layers and baggage of years of ‘popular’ cinema, one who’s used to flashing his schoolboy charm and playing to the gallery when required. Here, he’s in a naked, alien space, without the comfort of the props he’s usually equipped with. It’s natural, the nervousness- right? Far from being condescending, as Raja dramatically puts it, I’d say he’s being very honest… and refreshingly human.

I’ve often been accused to being anti-Aamir. It couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s just that I find the entire ‘perfectionist’ persona and the excess hoopla around his performances/films a little overbearing. But nothing takes away from the fact that he is one of our best mainstream actors. And there’s all the more reason to applaud Aamir, now that he’s actually living up the hype of being ‘different’, at least in his choices as a producer: Peepli Live, Dhobi Ghat and Delhi Belly.

At a time even UTV doesn’t want the tag of making ‘meaningful’ films, Aamir is now admirably backing films that are a marketing nightmare without majorly compromising on their spirit. He managed pretty well with Peepli Live (though Anusha Rizvi’s film, with its earthy, ribald humor had some popular appeal despite its style) and turned a small film big. But Dhobi Ghat and Delhi Belly will be harder to sell, with their moody, urban landscapes and English dialogue. (I’m making an assumption about Delhi Belly, but it reportedly being a dark, urban sex-comedy majorly in English, and the fact that its been completed for a while now gives me a feeling that they’re still figuring what to do with it.) I sure hope he succeeds; these are the kind of films that might help open a lot of new doors, especially for Indian films in English.

Ah, back to the column:

Calling the Indian audience short of sensitivity or emotion is a stretch in any book. We’ve always been suckers for high drama, even in comic scenes. You know, the kind of films where vacuum cleaners birth infants just so caricatured fathers can have changes of heart? Yeah, those wouldn’t work if the audience didn’t react with its heart and forgive all the farce.

Yes, Raja- high drama, the key word here is high, not drama that is subtle, that doesn’t scream its lungs out. Hell, even Rocket Singh, a film that was all heart and soul, a film I know you loved too- failed last year because apart from the poor marketing, it lacked high drama. It was very much mainstream entertainment with generous doses of humor and heart-tugging moments, but its relaxed, non-gimmicky tone wasn’t very appreciated, was it? I’ve even read reviews that described it as an office ‘documentary’. Yes.

And since when did you need to be cine-literate to appreciate a good film? A masterpiece is a masterpiece is a masterpiece, and hits you right between the eyes — and shoves you in the heart with the force of a roundhouse right — no matter what you know about the craft of cinema. A good film is a visceral experience, and you do not need to be aware of technique or predecessors to be overwhelmed by it. Sure, film theorists and critics and their mothers all have different ways of consuming a film, but a solid film — which could be personally smashing for any single one of us — doesn’t need cinematic education to show off its chops. At all.

Oh, come *yaw*on. Are you really that naïve? A masterpiece is a masterpiece is a masterpiece, eh? So whatever happened to Eklavya, which you hailed as one? My God, there’s so much utopian idealism in this one paragraph that it would put Ashutosh Gowariker to shame. One man’s visceral experience can be the other person’s headache, even unintentional laugh riot. Black, anyone? Hell, I’m sure I can find folks who found Dabangg a visceral experience. Gosh.

Then again, as a friend suggests, perhaps this too is strategy on the part of the masterful marketing maestro. Berate the masses, and dare them to come see a film in defiance of the claim that they won’t get it.

Your friend, I’m sorry- and there’s no polite way of putting this- sounds stunningly daft. Yes, film-marketing is done using wildly experimental reverse-psychology methods. Right.

But what bugged me most of all in the column is this bit:

The sheer level of condescension in that quote is alarming. As a member of your audience, Mr Khan, that quote just hurts. It is thoughtless, callous, dismissive and most uncalled for.

Really, Raja- since when did you, of all movie buffs and critics, become such a darling of the masses? You, who has spawned twenty-odd ‘I Hate Raja Sen’ clubs? You, who makes it a point to regularly diss moronic money-spinners (The likes of Rajneeti and my very own bête-noire Sajid Khan’s potty films) and casually throws in American pop-culture references in your reviews (and kindly also provides corresponding Wikipedia links to explain them)? Damn, I bet half the audience you are so bravely standing up for doesn’t even understand the language in your reviews.

Aren’t you the guy who ‘groaned’ a few weeks back, when audiences danced in the aisles watching Dabangg? And so- as someone correctly asked at an online movie forum- you have every right to be condescending to an audience, and Aamir doesn’t? At least Dabanng wasn’t pretentious. It delivered what it promised. This on the other hand is, and Raja, no disrespect, but um, this is total shit. You’ve beaten your friend @MallikaLA’s push-up bras and bustiers, when it comes to making a mountain out of a molehill.

I was tempted to ask: Did you write this column only because you’re dumb? I don’t believe so, because despite appearances, I’m not the founder member of one of those silly hate clubs. Despite your occasional pompousness and self-indulgent writing, (And facepalmy moments like when you award Ghajini’s music 5 star and hail Kisna as ‘a return to form by a director who knows exactly what he’s doing’ for and… well, let it be) the reason some of us liked your writing is that you were bold, fun, and irreverent. You weren’t a sell-out. Your reviews came across as passionate and with solid and convincing arguments- even when we disagreed with you wholeheartedly. Come on man, we are all condescending and elitist at some level, and you know it. Let’s at least not pretend otherwise and be apologetic about it.

#KThanxBai. Or better still- Good Night, and Good Morning, Mr. Sen.

Aamir Ko Darr Kyon Lagta Hai ?

Posted: November 20, 2010 by moifightclub in bollywood, cinema, Special
Tags: , , ,

And so Raja Sen, the movie critic with Rediff, wrote this column for Mumbai Mirror last wednesday. Some of us liked it, thought it made sense, but ButtUpSajid (the self-proclaimed alter-ego of the biggest fartmaker of our time Sajid Khan) felt otherwise and since we believe in giving space to every fart that matters, here is ButtUpSajid’s take on Raja Sen’s column, his debut post. The piece is in two pfarts, smell the first one, he is busy cooking the second one.

Mujhe yeh dar lagta hai ki Dhobi Ghat shaayad audiences ko — matlab jo masses hai — unko pasand nahin aayegi. Kyonki yeh bahut hi fine film hai. Matlab jin logon ko cinema ki samajh hai, jo log sensitive hai, dil se jo jazbaati log hain, unke liye ye film hai.

“I fear that maybe audiences — the masses — won’t like Dhobi Ghat. Because it’s a very fine film. I mean people who have knowledge of cinema, who are sensitive, who think from the heart and are emotional, this film is for them.”

An innocuous quote, which generally wouldn’t make much difference to anyone. But this statement comes from Aamir Khan, so I guess it must be fussed over, eh? Clearly, our friend Raja Sen thought so, in his column in this week’s Mumbai Mirror.

A thoroughly silly piece focusing more on indulgent wordplay than logic, the column seriously pissed me off. I guess it was meant to elicit some reaction, considering how it played to the gallery, but what was appalling was not its hare-brained logic, but how much it stank of pure hypocrisy at every level. More on that later.

Let’s look at what Aamir actually said first. Granted, it wasn’t say, the smartest choice of words. He struggled to put across what he wanted to say, especially in Hindi: that Dhobi Ghat is not remotely mainstream stuff, its not even the kind of stuff we generally tag as ‘offbeat’ cinema: which encompasses everything from Taare Zameen Par to A Wednesday to (gulp) even a My Name Is Khan sometimes- all pretty mainstream for my money. Its format and treatment- from what one hears of it, and from what one sees in the lovely, just-released trailer- is clearly not mainstream ‘entertainment’- at least not in the Bollywood sense. By her own admission, Kiran Rao’s style is more attuned to art-house world cinema, and that shows in the first look of the film- a low-key feel, grainy, intimate visuals, a quaint, tender approach- and I’m glad to note: a distinct (woman’s) touch.

It’s a low-budget film that would normally have been finding a hard time creating buzz back home, getting a little publicity through fest-coverage perhaps. What’s made all the difference is one man: Aamir Khan, who hasn’t just produced Dhobi Ghat, but also features in it as a major character. The problem is rare: that of too much buzz, more than the makers actually want. It’s a legitimate concern, and that explains the nervousness on Aamir’s part, considering his matinee-idol status. For the first time, the widely acknowledged marketing whiz has to actually under-sell a film. Simply because- as I heard him say a few months back- ‘It’s not (a film) for everyone’.

Brand Aamir is a fascinating thing, an image cultivated with smart, calculated risk-taking, admirable foresight and a commendable consistency in churning out films with a certain amount of substance to them. Aamir has- in most of his films- maintained a certain standard of quality throughout his body of work, especially post the epoch-making Lagaan, which he courageously backed and produced, creating a watershed moment in Bollywood cinema. In the process, he also developed this image of an ‘intellectual’, thinking actor, or as they call him- the ‘perfectionist’. This could be attributed to his playing ‘hard-to-get’ with his audience by being super-selective with his work and also perhaps through his involvement with a cinema that has some social relevance- or at least seems to. (While it may seem otherwise, we really are an audience that loves being preached to.)

To be honest, of the Khans- Aamir doesn’t come close to say, a Shah Rukh or Salman when it comes to charisma or ‘star quality’- and Shah Rukh comes across as way more articulate and well read- I can’t imagine him, for example- making a statement as clumsy as the one quoted above. But where Aamir has stolen a march over them is in his superb choice of films. None of his films have been particularly risky. (Except, perhaps Lagaan, considering the time when it released- though then again- wasn’t it, after all- a formulaic, classic feel-good Hindi film?)

But Aamir’s had the smarts to recognize potential in films like Rang De Basanti and Taare Zameen Par– films that our other top heroes would consider dicey- and back them with gusto. At the same time, he’s also shrewdly thrown in a Fanaa and Ghajini in the mix. Even as a producer, he never jumped on the ‘big-movie’ bandwagon after Lagaan and launched say, a couple of monster-budgeted biggies featuring himself. Contrast this with Shah Rukh Khan, who, for all his shrewdness couldn’t resist starring in even a Billu, a small film turned into a mangled mess of set-pieces and item-songs.

Aamir Khan stands for consistency, because his steady body of work defines his stardom more than his persona. The average viewer walks into an Aamir Khan film (produced by/ starring him), knowing for sure that he/she’ll get ‘sensible’, quality entertainment. That belief is so strong that a shamelessly crowd-pleasing 3 Idiots or even a crude potboiler like Ghajini – is often passed off by a large number of people as serious, ‘cerebral’ cinema. It’s the Aamir stamp at work. He has miraculously managed to condition his audience to take his films seriously. We’ll still buy a forty-plus actor as a college student without much fuss-… because it’s Aamir. And there’s nothing that Ghajini-kant do, right?

(I’ll get back to where I started- the column. And Dhobi Ghat. To be continued.)

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Well, this part was more about Brand Aamir and his cinema, ButtUpSajid has promised that the next one will be on Raja’s column. ButtUpSajid ke fart ki kasam!