Posts Tagged ‘Gulshan Devaiya’

Forget Salman Khan, even Fatema Kagalwala is on a roll. One day, two posts. Click here to read her hilarious dissection of Bodyguard, and scroll down to read her post on Anurag Kashyap’s latest release, That Girl In Yellow Boots.

Seedy is not Mumbai’s underbelly, it is the defining aspect of its identity. In this quagmire is a young girl struggling to survive. An English citizen in a strange city, she is but twenty years old. At a time when most of us our dreaming of building fancy careers, watching our weight, worrying about skin/hair problems while striving to date that hot bod, she is fighting to stay afloat in the dense-ness of red tape and sexual exploitation.

She is Ruth, Anurag Kashyap’s protagonist in his latest film, ‘That Girl in Yellow Boots’. She is as vulnerable as she is steely and as undaunted as she is brittle. She meets exploitation at every corner, simply because she is young, female, single and white-skinned. She is looking for her father who abandoned her when she was five. There is darkness everywhere she turns and she buys some light with the money she earns by giving massages and handjobs to willing customers, what she ironically calls, ‘happy endings’. As the official synopsis reads ‘everyone wants a piece of her’, and she obliges – if it will lead her to father.

Anurag Kashyap lays it out thick. Grime, blood, sweat and semen. Loss, pain, failures and trauma. Darkness is no stranger to the film-maker, his oeuvre almost revels in it. He always says it as it is, sometimes even too much. But TGYIB doesn’t suffer from over-doing. Ruth’s world is murky and steeped in pain but there is spirit in her struggle. Her existence seems doomed but there is assurance in her steps. There is an emptiness in her eyes and a desperation in her heart but her mind is focused. She is love-less but not lost. She is gathered and determined.

So is the narrative. It follows its story with focus even though it becomes unstructured and loose at times. It doesn’t give into impulsive cinematic expressions at the cost of her character’s journey and that seems to be symptomatic of a creative evolution of the maker. For that alone, this can be called a notable film.

This time round there is no shying away from emotions. There is no uncomfortable distance from vulnerability and neediness is not wrong. There is a unique objectivity which is a hallmark frame of reference with Anurag Kashyap’s films, something that made Black Friday the classic it is. Along with this objectivity there was also apparent a seeming reluctance to engage emotionally with the character. Hence Dev simply remained a lost drunkard, Chanda an unapologetic fighter and Paro’s vulnerability never found the sure footing to blossom enough.

But Ruth is not like that. She is almost life and blood. I say almost because she falls prey to a lot of unsure moments in the film which keep her from blossoming fully. Her interactions with her boyfriend seem half-heartedly performed and the fault does not lie with the protagonist but the choreography and uncultivated chemistry between actors. Her denouement is not intense enough but while she is on unsure ground she is also explored from more ways than one. However, she is not sentimentalised and therein lies the strength of the film. Wouldn’t that have simply undone the very premise of her character?

Kashyap employs child abuse as a prominent theme, perhaps to enforce yet another layer of brutality to the already dismal world of the film. But this he juxtaposes with a fatherly figure, Ruth’s only male massage customer who is affectionate to her without objectifying her. Female strength finds yet another towering personification in the massage parlour owner, Maya (A brilliant, effortless and sparklingly honest Puja Sarup). Their identification and subsequent bond speaks volumes about the opposing forces of exploitation and survival.

Cinematic elements come together in harmony to tell the story of Ruth’s journey. Even as Rajiv Ravi’s digital camera caresses Ruth’s dismal life with an expressive graininess, Wasiq Khan’s seamless production design melts grunge with the dullness of the ordinary. We notice the torn beige sofa and the darkly-lit, narrow parlour lounge almost becoming metaphors of Ruth’s dislocated life.

In the pursuit of defining its protagonist’s journey, the film however fails it’s peripheral characters. Shiv Subramaniam, Mushtaq Khan, Divya Jagdale, Makrand Deshpande, Piyush Mishra, all remain mere tools of the exploitative environment without completing an experience. This singularity becomes representative and seems forced and has much to do with broad-stroked writing, seeming to take the ‘easy’ way out.

There is also the sketchily written character of Kannadiga ganglord Chitiappa explosively performed by Gulshan Devaiah, easily the star of the film. He settles in instantly and shines through till the end, effortlessly balancing the Nana Patekar-esque eccentric stereotype with the defencelessness of a school boy. This balance is what Prashant Prakash never gets right unfortunately. His see-sawing volatile character had immense scope to capture a spectrum of moods, emotions, swings and even personalities but he never really manages to get under our skin.

The film begins on an unsure footing, taking us slowly into Ruth’s world, introducing it through her encounters. Dialogues are many a times listless, almost murdering moments. Improvisation shows in the body language of actors and sync sound catches the uncertain intonations of lines made up on the spur of the moment. For a film crafted to evoke a response beyond the intellectual and focused on following Ruth’s path to her father, this serves as an undoing.

The film largely works because of its choice of actors. Kalki’s oval-faced innocence, a full-mouth unable to hide the Bugs Bunny teeth and the clear sad eyes looking at you become synonymous with Ruth right from the beginning. The actress wears her character unlike any other she has done before, and it is this certain ‘giving up to the character’ that one senses, which becomes the most appealing. We never cry with her or hurt for her but somewhere the film convinces us to feel enough for her to know what will happen to her and silently wish her well. As a takeaway, that is big.

Luis Bunuel said – “Fortunately, somewhere between chance and mystery lies imagination, the only thing that protects our freedom, despite the fact that people keep trying to reduce it or kill it off altogether.” Team TGYIB uses theirs very well to give us a world that is precisely between chance and mystery. 

And worst even, why should Bodyguard be his benchmark?

Is that even a nursery level contest – to make a film better than Bodyguard?

And if it’s so, you are on the wrong page. Like other film buffs, i have been following his campaign to sell 6,50,000 tickets so that he can keep on making his kind of cinema. Well, i hope it happens. And we need it to happen. Because as my twitter buddy @rmanish1 tweeted, kyunki har ek cinema zaroori hota hai.

But that should not be the reason to celebrate a mediocre attempt as the best thing to have happened to our cinema in recent times.

Anurag Kashyap and his brand of cinema needs no introduction. Few directors in this country can claim to have genuine fanboys. And believe it or not, a friend told me that a classmate of his from St Xavier’s even had a poster of AK in his room. To some extent, one of the reason is that everyone loves a good underdog story. He represents that. Everyone loves a good middle finger to be shown to the world that they hate but can’t do. He is been there, done that. And then there’s his filmography. Long list of films written and directed by him.

In the last few years he has almost become the messiah of everything independent. But since we are not sure how to define “indie” in India, let’s just say he is the strongest voice for anyone struggling to make a film. He is also easily the best filmmaking school in the country. Plus his talent to spot and back some of the best talents in front and behind the camera. Amit Trivedi, Amitabh Bhattacharya, Rajeev Ravi, Mahie Gill, Vikramaditya Motwane among many others.

Also, at a time when we are dying to find a connect with the auteurs of the world cinema and the film fests,  he became our window to the world. Name the fests, the actors or the filmmakers, and he is there.  The list is again long – Quentin Tarantino, Michael Winterbottom, Ang Lee, Wong Kar Wai, Tilda Swinton, Danis Tanovic and others.

So what do you expect from the filmmaker?

His last film released almost two years back. And in those two years, the cinema world map and awareness has also changed accordingly. With various legal and illegal means to source the best cinema from across the world, why should our benchmark be so low for any film, made in India or outside? And that’s why That Girl In Yellow Boots fails miserably.

I had read the script too. Well, only because he is one filmmaker who doesn’t fuss about his scripts being read and he will even happily show his unreleased film to anyone. All respect for that. Even when i read the script, i could not believe it was written by AK. Scenes would start and end with, Hi. Hello. Ok. Blah blah blah. Bye. I had to fight with a friend because i could not believe it was written by AK.

Then i saw the film. Twice. For me, it’s his most simplistic tale till date. Shocking? Morality? Huh! And i still can’t find the point of the film. What’s the motive behind making the film? What’s the point of telling this story? Hell yeah, what *exactly* are you trying to tell? I know, all artists have all the rights to do whatever they want. But to ponder and blabber over it, that’s mine.

Selling shock? There are Korean Masters.

Selling sex? There is Lars Von Trier. And then the French are there.

Selling indie? There is Once. Monster.And many many more. It doesn’t even come close.

Selling struggle? Jafar Panahi is in jail.

So where does TGIYB stands in the context of the world cinema, the cinema that we know, talk, discuss, follow, love and get excited by and aspire to be ? Sadly, nowhere.

TGIYB’s magic is only in the making. Someone can get the cast and crew excited about the script and complete the shoot in just two weeks, that’s a great achievement. But why should i count your struggle in my film viewing experience?

Gulshan Devaiya and Puja Sarup are just delicious. The film belongs to them even though they hardly matter in the main story. Dear Bollywood, can we please see them more? Kalki’s acting is uneven. In some scenes she is the perfect Ruth, you can’t think of anyone else, and then there are scenes that make you feel that she is Kashyap’s wife. Taken for granted. Prashant Prakash is so loud and theatrical. Someone needs to tell him that it’s not stage, there is a camera that register every nerve movement. AK’s brand of dry humour elevates the impact of many scenes but he fails in the finale. The scene which is designed to give the final blow, you cringe in your seat wondering how could he let it pass because the actor looks so clueless. It seems nobody was sure about his emotions.

With AK, you don’t need to worry about the craft, the sound or the visuals. Loved the scene where Kalki and Puja are on the phone, both talking to two different persons but it follows so smoothly. That’s the mark of a good director.

But all you worry about is why TGIYB is even a feature film? Why it couldn’t be a short? Some of the best filmmakers worldwide indulge in shorts whenever they feel like. TGIYB’s story even follows the pattern of a short. Then?

Was it designed to woo the fests? He should have sent his Black Friday then. Was it written/directed as a gift to Kalki? People do crazy things in love. It’s ok then. Or was it really written because he and Kalki felt like telling this story? Then it’s quite a lazy piece of writing.

To quote Kashyap’s review of Black, i would say TGIYB is best (or shocking or whatever you want to call) for those who haven’t seen better.

Let me quote few more lines from the same review,

On a day such as this, I can only hope we make better films than statements. Our best is far, far away from the world’s best cinema. They are not even a mile within the threshold of the top 100 films of world cinema.

It was written in 2005. We are still struggling. And the filmmaker who wrote these lines, if he can’t deliver, then whom do we expect to do it? Why should he get a concession?

Though it’s a great thrill to see the names of some of your best friends in the opening credits but why should that be a reason for not shouting out about the emperor’s clothes.

And strangely, for the fans of Salman Khan and Anurag Kashyap, who belong to two different extremes, one thing is common this weekend – disappointment. Both deserve much much better.

Finally here it is! The official trailer of Anurag Kashyap’s new film That Girl In Yellow Boots is out.

It stars Kalki Koechlin (as Ruth) alongwith Naseeruddin Shah, Prashant Prakash, Gulshan Devaiya, Shivkumar Subramaniam, Divya Jagdale, Kumud Mishra and Kartik Krishnan amongst others.

The film is going to have it world premiere at Venice Film Festival and then North American premiere at Toronto International Film Festival. Its written by  Anurag Kashyap and Kalki Koechlin. Music of the film is by Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor, and the cinematography is by Rajeev Ravi.  Check it out.

And here is the official synopsis of the film….

That Girl in Yellow Boots is a thriller tracing Ruth’s (Kalki Koechlin) search for her father – a man she hardly knew but cannot forget. Desperation drives her to work without a permit, at a massage parlour. Torn between several schisms, Mumbai becomes the alien but yet strangely familiar backdrop for Ruth’s quest. She struggles to find her independence and space even as she is sucked deeper into the labyrinthine politics of the city’s underbelly. A city that feeds on her misery, a love that eludes her and above all, a devastating truth that she must encounter. And everyone wants a piece of her.

Do let us know what do you think about it.

First came the good news…here and here. Venice & Toronto. And now here is the first look of the film! No teaser or trailer but few scenes from the film. Thanks to Umar for the tip.

The movie stars Kalki Koechlin (as Ruth) alongwith Naseeruddin Shah, Prashant Prakash, Gulshan Devaiya, Shivkumar Subramaniam, Divya Jagdale, Kumud Mishra and Kartik Krishnan amongst others.

Its written by  Anurag Kashyap and Kalki Koechlin. Music of the film is by Naren Chandavarkar and the cinematography is by Rajeev Ravi.  Play.

And here is the official synopsis…

That Girl in Yellow Boots is a thriller tracing Ruth’s (Kalki Koechlin) search for her father – a man she hardly knew but cannot forget. Desperation drives her to work without a permit, at a massage parlour. Torn between several schisms, Mumbai becomes the alien but yet strangely familiar backdrop for Ruth’s quest. She struggles to find her independence and space even as she is sucked deeper into the labyrinthine politics of the city’s underbelly. A city that feeds on her misery, a love that eludes her and above all, a devastating truth that she must encounter. And everyone wants a piece of her.