Thursday, May 31, 2007

Metro - Life in Oscar's Apartment

Read an article in some TOI publication today that the script of UTV's "Life in a Metro (2007)" has been selected for preservation in the Oscar Script Library. It is one of very few Indian films to make it. Couldn't find this news on any online forum, so it probably is one of those 'sponsored' news inserts. It better be, because it is too fantastic to believe!

Metro has been one the most debated movies in 2007 (which in itself is an achievement, na?). Everyone I know either hates it or loves it. Even Anurag Kashyap has blogged in favor of Metro's technical finesse. This is ironic, since the only reason I went to see Metro was a misconception that it was an Anurag Kashyap film. By the end of this predictable soap-opera, I was aghast how AK could have gone so weak. Turns out the movie was, in fact, by soap-opera king Anurag Basu. I am still aghast; original Anurag actually liked this movie! Maybe I need to see it again...

My list of disappointments with the movie goes as follows:

1. There were essentially three story lines. The first one was a direct lift from 'The Apartment (1960)", even including minor plot points. I fail to understand how dumb Basu thinks the audience is, that he can pass off a movie made in 1950's as "slice of life in Mumbai 2007". This killed my respect for Basu as a story-teller. I felt cheated since I expected an auteur's original take on contemporary living. This was merely a product from Bollywood Factory-- K.C. Bokadia could have done it better!

P.S. Fans of the movie claim "copy hai, magar acchhi copy hai"; hmmm, did Basu get the pulse right, after all? :-)

2. The second story line was married-woman meets young-man, falls in love, feels guilty, goes back to save marriage. To take the cliche forward, she is trapped in a loveless love marriage, suffers an infidel husband and has a "sirf tum mujhe samajhte ho" kind of relationship with the (predictably) struggling-actor/ loser who is not understood by his ex-wife. Ends predictably with husband coming back, wife feeling ultra-guilty and everyone being forgiven. Do people seriously believe they have not seen this story rehashed a zillion times before? Educate me, what did I miss here??

3. The characters of Kangana Raut and Shiney Ahuja were not built-up well. They took Kangana for her "innocence" and let that be a justification for everything else. Her sweet behavior and suicidal actions did not sync with her gold-digging, back-stabbing, self-centered character. There was a lot of scope here, but the movie fails to develop the "what is a nice girl like you doing in a place like this" theme convincingly.
Similarly, the story does not justify how the angst, lust and quest inside loser-actor Shiney Ahuja transforms into lust and longing for Shilpa Shetty. Basu skipped some chapters from "Art Movie 101 for Dummies" and uses the "samajhdar ko ishara hi kaafi hai" technique half-heartedly. These characters could have worked beautifully had they attempted some uncomfortable, unexpected traits for both and not hid behind tired cliches.

Note: Watch "Hazaron Khwahishein Aisi (2003)" for a beautiful study of undercurrents in licit-illicit relationships and expected drivers behind unexpected actions. Shiney and KK at their best!!

4. Finally there was the Konkana Sen Sharma and Irrfan Khan story. I am sure this is where seed of this movie was sown, this is the story that Basu felt for. It was the only story rooted in reality, peppered with the right amount of tragi-comic sentiments and sharp analysis of Konkana's character. This is what the rest of Metro wanted to become...!
Then suddenly, the climax starts with Konkana declaring her love for the groom DURING his shaadi to someone else. From this point on, the climax was hijacked by Chopra-Ghai camp. Can't believe they couldn't wrap up more sensibly. The only thing missing was fat cops bumbling into the frame before end-credits!!

Metro came with a very 'Page-3' or 'Corporate' style promo and cast, a very contemporary premise and excellent performances. Even the music was brilliant, with new voices and soul rock by Pritam. The 3 rockers popping up every now and then as adhunik sutradhars were an innovative and refreshing touch. This was a part of the movie I found extremely apt, cinematically attractive and memorable. Unlike Bhandarkar's movies, though, Basu did not have the courage to take the story where no man (or horse) has gone before. Bhandarkar's stories are entertaining tippani on his perception of modern society. Basu stays true to his soap-opera roots, simply picking up tried and tested (tired and tasteless?) stereotypes of high-society.

There have been many more original and under-appreciated scripts out of India in recent times. Perhaps I shall list a list in a future blog. What prompted this blog was my sadness that MPAA would deem a plagiarised and cliched script worthy of representing modern Indian film-making!

What I did like in Metro were the production qualities, transitions, scene-setup and delicious locations in Bombay for the breath-taking backdrop of the story. It definitely is a technically well-made picture.

As a piece of Cinematic Art, it has the aesthetic appeal of a Rs.250 Venus de Milo sold at Big Bazaar.

1 comment:

beanstalk said...

Now that you have recovered from the shock of someone actually having left a comment...let me douse you with cold water. It's me. And if old buddies don't come to each other's rescue who will? Right? Good blog. Write more.