Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Copycats and angry directors

Recently watched Dus Kahaniyan which is to put it politely not worth writing about or wasting time watching. Around the same time I also read this interview by one of the many (mis) directors and producer Mr. Sanjay Gupta who was a very angry man.

In his own words

“At a time when everyone is ripping off films, I'm still being called a 'DVD director'! Every story in DK is original. The other day I met people from an awards jury who told me they couldn't give my "Zinda" any awards because it was a remake of a Korean film. What are some of the recent Yash Raj Films?”

Q: You sound bitter.
A: I've every right to be……..Just because I don't come from a filmy background I'm given a raw deal. I've been attacked for no reason. All I do is make my films. And I'm having a blast. If today I'm called successful, my success lies in being able to make offbeat films like "Pankh", "Great Indian Butterfly" and "Dus Kahaniyaan".”

A very angry (not so) young man indeed. Err but what was the reason for the anger here?? In all fairness I think of Guptajee’s filmography and my stream of consciousness thoughts runs thus….

1) Debut movie - Aatish - a lift from John Woo’s breakthrough classic (and one of the best Hong Kong gangster flicks, your taste is undeniable) A Better Tomorrow…..
2) Biggest hit Kaante is all Reservoir Dogs except for the first 20 minutes which are very precisely lifted from The Usual Suspects. (To be fair you did not savage either Reservoir Dogs or the Usual Suspects the way Vivek Agnihotri did to the latter in Chocolate, but then a more precise job of wringing out every bit of style, substance and logic out of a great movie and finding finance for producing what is left is not a gift given to everyone),
3) Musafir is copied from Oliver Stone’s U Turn (it is probably his worst movie but still better than any of yours)
4) Ram Shastra – Hard to Kill (I think I am one of the very few people to have seen it so you cannot call me prejudiced sir, I am a dedicated consumer of your products)
5) Zinda – supposedly a scene to scent copy of the Korean Oldboy, whose DVD I have been unable to lay hands on (don’t have your contacts sir you see)
6) Hamesha – hmm slightly difficult because rebirth stories essentially have the same story. I am prepared to acknowledge a slight setback here
7) Khauff – This disappeared from the theatres so fast that I really could not catch it there, not that I wanted to and well I haven’t seen it entirely on cable either but the plot from what I little I saw is like The Juror. But I haven’t seen this so I pass.
8) Have I covered everything – I check IMDB just to be sure and surprise surprise, you also directed Jung. That’s Desperate Measures alright…

So, well the score reads 6 to the chaps who call u DVD director or whatever and 2 no results. Leading to the point that what are you really complaining about man? That other people also have access to DVD’s? Or is it that they do not consider your subtle changes as transforming the flick into an original?

Coming to the topic of changes I think one example should rest the issue. Towards the climax of A Better Tomorrow Chow Yun Fat and the lead chap whose name I forget (basically Aditya Panscholi and Sanjay Dutt) are in a church when lead chap asks Chow “Do you believe in God?” Chow with the trademark cigarette dangling from his face gives a piercing stare, the trademark John Woo pigeons fly around, and he says “Sure I believe in God, I am God, any person who believes in himself is God.” Cool… In your version everything goes as per script till Aditya opens his mouth to answer “Tu mera bhagwan hai Baba (that’s Sanjay), mera dost mera bhagwan hai.” Both wipe tearful eyes and hug with an understandably embarrassed Sanjay muttering “Kya bol raha hai yaar.” Should we talk about inspiration…sorry Sanjay ji inspiration is not a word for this.

So save the anger man and rent a DVD….

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Roman History

Just finished reading a book about Rome, rather the Roman Empire and the whole experience has fused all my past knowledge of the Roman empire(literary and cinematic) to create a collage of Roman history in my mind, something like pasting lots of news snippets on a storyboard and creating a tale from those snippets using your imagination to fill the gaps. It may not make you knowledgeable but its fun.

The book is called Imperium by Robert Harris (who is currently my favourite thriller writer, more about his work some other day), and is about a lawyer called Marcus Cicero and his career in Roman politics. Well then in Rome one rose in politics only if you were from an aristocratic family or had lots of money (you will note things haven’t changed much in 2000 + years) but Cicero having no assets except the gift of the gab and an overwhelming ambition (also pretty good resources, mind you) still tried to fight his way up the ladder. Now while the story was definitely very fascinating, fast paced, what made it neater for me were all the characters I had read about earlier or seen in movies who kept popping up for special appearances. There was Crassus (from Kubrik’s Spartacus) and Spartacus himself is mentioned as well as Pompey the great and Julius Caesar before he became the Julius Caesar. And like today, politics had no permanent friends or enemies, everyone is full of deception (the wheels within wheels kind) and continually tries to outplay everyone else.

I love that Roman history has so much drama (beating any soap opera hands down) that it all almost seems unreal. Now I have read a bit about the Roman era, from Robert Graves’ ‘I Claudius’, which is about the Roman era from the reign of Augustus, Tiberus and the very (in)famous Caligula followed by the crowning of Claudius himself, and its inferior sequel, Claudius the God and the very scholarly ‘Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire’. Through all of them I have liberally dropped my jaw in disbelief as to whether all this actually happened, though I loved them all.

So I was quite stunned yet again when the notes at the end of the novel mentioned that all the events actually happened and there was no liberal garnishing of fiction into the storyline with real characters thrown in for effect. So when I wikipediaed and found that not only did the entire Cicero story (more or less) actually happen but what happened to Cicero after this book ends is 10 times more dramatic than the book, I dropped my jaw again albeit for the opposite reason. This is possibly the only time in life I will actually be very disappointed and pissed if there isn’t a sequel. Now how many books can you say that about?

Chennai travails

I spent a bit of last month in Chennai, which is not my favorite city in the world, by any stretch of imagination. The only thing which in the past has made my trips bearable is browsing in Landmark, which is (or atleast was) by far the best book store in India. Now what literally broke my heart is the serious decline in the range of books. This place used to have a phenomenal selection of Scifi/fantasy and now it was even beneath Crossword standards. NOEL TATA WHAT ARE YOU DOING???? I even mentioned it to the staff, who actually seemed sheepish and muttered something about inventory. Buck up guys…..


But when God and Satan close a door they open a window. I discovered a killer dosa joint, Saravana Bhavan, which very surprisingly has branches in Canada, USA, Singapore, Malaysia and I think also London& Dubai. The Ghee Roast Masala dosa fried in pure ghee isn’t light on the waist but boy does it taste heavenly. Not to be missed…

Could not see Sivaji – the Boss, only running for matinee L When is the bloody Hindi version releasing????

Btw had a historic low of one argument with an Chennai auto driver. No, neither have developed human qualities of honesty and judiciousness nor have I become a better bargainer. I just hired a taxi for the whole trip.