Monday, February 22, 2010
The ground realities of My Name Is Khan
(Sorry for going off road from the "Road, Movie" diary)
Inside a single screen theatre in Ernakulam on a weekday. The Balcony is Full. The Stall almost. On screen Rizwan Khan with all the gimmicks that his cynics often blame him for: “Very Bad…Bad…” Seeing SRK I thank god that the normal masses do not follow the cynics. They see him doing “Very Bad..Bad..” and instantly applaud. A little later, more gimmicks follow: More applause. Clearly Shah Rukh Khan is a man loved in Eranakulam. I was genuinely surprised. In the land of a thousand Mohanlal and Mamooty fan clubs, here is this Mr. Ham being applauded for the gimmicks that most of the Bombay-Delhi India is done with and tired. When I go to restaurants, food stalls, bus stands, railway stations, airports – half of them do not understand hindi at all, and here in this theatre, not just enjoying they are loving him.
Outside the theatre there is a banner – The Shah Rukh Khan Fan club of Ernakulam welcomes you to My Name is Khan. Amazing isn’t it? And then the news: MNIK doing better business than 3 Idiots overseas. To be frank, I (like the cynics) wasn’t clearly enjoying the movie. Yea, it had some good moments, some genuine moments: like the “Marry me…” Needless to say, it’s over-the-top, exaggerated and all that. As Kajol asks SRK: “Marry Me!”. The young woman behind me sighed: “Wow, how sweet!” Ha. Remember those two women who had come out blazing all guns on Kaminey and how pathetic they found the movie. But watching Shah Rukh Khan do that sunrise scene, it made me smile and made me thought of this star who still can make people fall in love, even after so many clichéd, stupid and god knows what kinds of movies he has done. As my friend will tell you: “no one can love like shah rukh khan”
Aseem Chhabra in Mumbai Mirror says: “MNIK is not at all a crossover film”. I think Shah Rukh Khan and Karan Johar are crossover, their films aren’t and the films need not be also. Was K3G or any other of SRK’s film crossover? No of course not. Its only the Indian diaspora who watches it. That’s the way it has been. Forget crossover K3G toh ghar ka bhi nahi tha. Son coming out of helicopter and all that you know more. Infact many are not fond of all Karan Johar films being based in US, like as if he stays more in LA than Khar-Bandra. But shooting in US and making his stories happen there make him crossover? No. Yes. Maybe. But his films, No. Never. Infact I have never liked a single film the writer of MNIK has written. Sorry lady. You just don’t work for me. And add to that Dharma’s new pathetic animation film trailer: Cootchi Cootchi Hota Hai. Disaster written all over it.
Now coming to the more controversial part of the film. There is no point cursing MNIK for its stereotypes and caricatures. Guys, really what are you trying to compare here. Vishal Bharadwaj and Karan Johar. Please open your eyes. Big movies have it in them to stereotype and make caricaturized characters. It a part of the propaganda: “please the crowd”. And hello an indepth cinema critic will even tell you how Mr. Bharadwaj has stereotyped so many times in his movies too. I have heard it and have accepted that from one of my professors. By the way, what the hell was Danny Boyle doing in India with that god-knows-how-many Oscar winner film? Combining the wonderful ingredients of child prostitution, forced begging, Hindus slaughtering Muslims, Bliinding of kids, Cricket betting all into one delicious dish called Slumdog, like a Hot Dog. We need to understand the psyche and the concept of shelling millions of rupees in a single movie and how they see the film’s reception by audiences worldwide and then view them in a particular context. Some small magazines, weeklys or one independent person writing on blog has no weight against MNIK, Slumdog or any such big Foxy movies. There is a huge sum of money put in for “crowd pleasing” – whether it is India, world or any target audience. Forget big movies, do not festival filmmakers only make their films for festivals almost depriving the lesser intelligentsia. Like telling them: “oh no no..it aint for the masses.”
And at the outset, let me just clarify before those intellectual bricks come in to hit me. Supporting over the top commercial movies doesnt mean supporting the likes of wide spread disease like Wanted. One cant even take or sit collectively for 15 seconds of Wanted and the deadpan Salman Khan, The movie is extremely gross and Prabhudeva almost finds new lows as a film director. Wow! What a start. But then statisticians will tell you that it was the highest grosser of 2009. That idiot spectacled trade analyst will come and throw figures at you the way Salman throws women all around him. Anyways statisticians are more harmful than critics. Not that critics are any less harmful. That Times of India lady saying: Rizwan is better than Forrest. Ma’am even Forrest hammed big time. So what are we trying to compare here. Let SRK be SRK and let Tom Hanks be what he is. Indians, in their mid 20s or late who have grown up and then went abroad to settle for a ‘better’ future have seen him doing all that and more. But he essentially works. He defines the term bollywood song and dance. Aamir doesn’t. He cant pull it off the way SRK can.
(P.S: I got pissed off on seeing that basketball player as Obama in MNIK, at least Forrest Gump tried their best with visual effects making Forrest meet the President. Not ‘at least’, it was real good.)
Part of the problem is also that many of Indian critics are actually so westernized in their approach and consume Star World and the likes that somehow no one’s sensibility appeals to me except probably Rajeev Masand who I think is a way better critic and analyst than all his contemporaries. The rest either suck up to stars or behave like intellectual sobs or worse: hardly know anything about movies or moviemaking.
Sometimes I wonder whether understanding the commercial films and the way they work is understanding one's own country and the audience’s demand or the way they have been watching movies over the years. But then never bow to the demand else you end up in a nowhere land. As every good director will tell you, that make films for your own self. If you like it, people will like it. If the Dardene brothers makes those wonderful music-less movies, they are brilliant and I love watching it, but in my growing up or hearing and telling stories, music has been an essential part, so whenever I will tell stories they will have to have the musical way of telling it, which brings me to My Name is Khan’s music: It is brilliant. Full stop. Any further arguments would be treated with furious anger and vengeance.
As Great Bong will tell you about Slumdog and I quote: “This crowd-pleasing is done through punching together as many stereotypes that Westerners have about India as is humanly possible” In the same way what’s wrong if My Name is Khan doing that for Americans targeting us who have never been to America or wont be in their lifetime.
The point of the matter is: Remember folks (and these are just my views)
Point no. 1: Great cinema is about grey shades of a character and not about just Black and White and Big Cinema is about Good and Bad, Black and White. Zyada sochoge toh pachtaaoge.
The way Rizwan’s mother explains him. Simple enough, eh?
Point no. 2: Shah Rukh Khan is what he is. As the film comes to an end in the Ernakulam theatre (thank god!), the crowd applauds again and I am surprised again. They all love it. Maybe! I love the music, no doubts. Shankar Mahadevan is my hero.
© Copyrights 2009 www.bhaandgroup.blogspot.com. All Rights Reserved. Hardik Mehta