Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Scattershot notes on KHELEIN HUM JEE JAAN SE (Hindi; 2010)

I saw the film last night, and was quite disappointed. It certainly deserved a way way better box office fate than it has received (yet again I am appalled at an audience that not only prefers a Golmaal 3 -- that doesn't surprise me in itself -- but prefers it by a tenfold margin (if the box office grosses are any indication)!!!), and some scenes/sequences were definitely big-screen worthy (I liked the whole attack on the armory sequence quite a bit). And in general the second half is much better than the turgid first half. But all in all, this is an earnest, clunky, stagey film. Stated differently, Gowariker's earnestness and stageyness drags it down (I lost track of the number of times character 1 steps forward, recites his dialog; then character 2 does the same to recite his dialog, and so on -- are you fricking kidding me?!) in a way that was more "hidden" (under the costumes and sets) in Jodha Akbar. In the sparser Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se, there is no place to hide...

As an Abhishek fan, I was most disappointed by the fact that it wasn't enough of an "Abhishek film" for me. That's my problem, not Gowariker's, I suppose, but this film doesn't get made without a star, and yet there isn't enough of the star here -- that is, the film ends up seeming curiously de-centered in the second-half, likely because of the director's desire to do justice to as many aspects of the Chittagong insurgency as possible (the same sort of problem bogged down J.P. Dutta's LoC as well), and at the expense of the drama inherent to a film centered around a star.

One caveat to my scorn for the public: at some level, this film isn't just old-school (to the point of quaintness) in its cinematic choices -- it marches to the beat of a drummer that is no longer plausible to many in the contemporary audience. I mean that the notion of Patriotic Freedom Fighters unaffected, un-humanized by anything like psychology, any remotely ordinary motive whatsoever, is JUST NOT CREDIBLE (the only exception is the initial impetus toward the movement for several teenagers, who are aggrieved because their local football ground has been taken over by the military; but even this is not dwelt upon after a few minutes, when it could have been poignantly re-visited at film's end: weren't the children exploited by the adults in the movement? Was a football ground worth dying for?). This isn't about "heros" per se, it is that, except in Gowariker's world, the notion of heroism is inflected differently in 2010 than in 1953. In other words, the real Chittagong rebels were nationalist heros, brave men and women, etc. -- their counterparts in this film seem drawn from the pages of school textbooks. Gowariker claims his film is based on a true story, but it is no less a fable than the Asterix-inspired Lagaan. But that film was not only rescued but legitimized by its unabashed comic book-air; Jodha Akbar too was a fable (Gowariker revealingly cited the Amar Chitra Katha comics as an inspiration in one interview), but the relatively recent milieu of the nationalist movement cannot survive this sort of treatment...Right or wrong, one expects "authenticity" from an evocation of 1930, perhaps because we think (or delude ourselves) that we would more surely spot a false note than we would where a film on the Mauryan emperor Asoka is concerned.

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