June 18, 2010

Mani Ratnam's Bollywood and me

I like Mani Ratnam, and I will probably watch Raavanan, though I'm not too keen on Raavan.

You see, until now, I've not been too happy with his Bollywood products, but in bliss with the Tamil versions. Even though both versions of the movie are supposed to be mirror images of the other, my experience with Mani's Bollywood has simply not been satisfactory.

My problem with his Bollywood movies? The movies begin well, with great songs, great cinematography, great plots, develop into complex situations, and build to a crescendo of a climax. But the end comes quickly- so quickly, that the resolution appears simplistic, when it should be anything but that. Here are my examples, full of the "lovely":

Roja (1992)

Madhoo is a lovely girl of the lovely Southern villages, and marries Arvind, who is in Intelligence, with an "I." Love, songs and great scenery happen. They are transferred to Kashmir for his work, where he is kidnapped by Punkaj Kapur playing terrorist (not that he looks remotely Islamic/Kashmiri/Pakistinian- no matter, maybe he got transferred from another Indian state too). Roja raises hell to have him found, and he goes through hell to get out of the terrorists' clutches, and we are all on the edge of our seats when the climax comes- anything can happen!
And then the terrorist simply lets Arvind go. Right. WTH.


Bombay (1995)

Arvind again! and in the South again! Only this time he is from an Orthodox Hindu family, while his love, a drop-dead gorgeous Manisha, is from a orthodox Muslim family. Lots of tension, lovely songs, lovely scenery and love (inevitably) happen.They run away to grimy Bombay, have lovely (that word keeps coming up- cant help it- its Mani Ratnam- everything is gorgeous) twins. More adorable songs happen- and then the Bombay riots occur. Lots of stress, quite enough dying. The couple even manage to misplace their kids. In the middle of the riots!
And then they find the kids, and its all resolved in a short, snappy speech. WTH.

Dil Se (1998)

Manisha again! But this time in the gorgeous North East! Laddakh! Bodos! Shahrukh plays a radio journalist from New Delhi, who falls in love with her, not knowing her name, or where she is from, or what she does (not knowing which last would turn out to be a huge issue later, but whatevers). Love happens, as it will, among (again), lovely songs and lovely scenery. And then- she turns out to be a terrorist- out to bust out bombs as a live-bomb herself in the Independence Day festivities in Delhi.
And then, Shahrukh waylays her on her way to the dastardly deed. They are ABSOLUTELY ALONE in the open, in one of the world's busiest cities on one of the city's busiest days. Right. He can figure out no other way to stop her except by a long-ish speech, followed by hugging her real hard and them dying with her in the subsequent blast. And no one interrupts them or even spots them. WTH.

Yuva (2004)
In Calcutta now! 3 heroes and 3 heroines for the price of 1 movie! Ajay is a college man(and looks 40, but OK), in love with Esha and into student and state politics. He is Christian, and its nice to meet a Christian in a Bolly movie who is still alive by the end of said movie. Alls well, sincere and positive. But Om Puri is a bad man. And Abhishek, who is married to Rani, works for Om. Vivek joins Ajay and is in love with Kareena. More stress, murder attempts and political ambitions follow, all fringed by love for all 3 couples, lovely (sigh) songs, and some darn good cinematography. And then- Ajay must win the elections, Om will not let it happen, and Abhishek must kill off Ajay.
Abhishek cant quite kill Ajay, having been foiled by Vivek. Ajay wins the elections, because having been foiled once, Om appears to not try much harder to kill off Ajay and his group. Ajay, Vivek and a random guy saunter into State parliament as the credits roll. Right. Om could have hired another henchman, and had all 3 guys killed before parliament. But whatever. And when did Vivek get a ticket to contest elections? overnight? he barely met Ajay! Whatevers.

Guru (2007)

Abhishek again! in Gujrat now, out to make a buck. Aishwariya is beautiful. They marry. He is ambitious and makes lots of $ in business. They are lovely (!), sing lots of lovely songs and lovely love abounds. Years pass. And then- Abhishek's friend Mithun and his mentee Madhavan (love him! love him!) decide to bust abhishek's corrupt chops and put an end to his business empire. The Indian IRS dump themselves like a ton of bricks on Abhishek, who suffers a paralytic attack!
Abhishek gets out of the whole mess by barely a couple cler moves, but primarily a spiffy speech. Everything comes out roses. No casualties. WTH.


You'd think that all these characters, having found themselves in a corner, would have a TAD MORE struggle to get out of said corner! Fabulous movies, every one, and ridiculous paths to resolutions for each! Argh!

And therefore, I am comfortable looking forward to watch Raavanan- dunno about Raavan quite yet.


bollywooddeewana said...

Bombay is my fave of his so far, its not a perfect film but the songs, the message, he acting everything came together rather nicely that its hard for me to hate on it. I'm yet to see Roja, Dil se and Yuva, and as for Guru its one i couldn't quite get my head over, you described my feelings about it perfectly in your last sentence.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Bollywooddeewana: Bombay is so lyrical and so pretty! and I am sure once u see all of these, you will like them for sure. Unfortunately, they all end in such cop outs that they frustrate me.

Anonymous said...

Great post! I've seen all of these, except Roja, and have yet to see Raavan or Raavanan but will see both. I know I tend to prefer the Tamil versions of the soundtrack, maybe because I've heard them first and more often, and even thought I don't speak Hindi or Tamil, I just think they sound prettier in Tamil, go figure. I prefer


Anyway, the music preference issue is really more of a Rahman vs. Ratnam thing anyway, but it's interesting that like the movies, the Tamil may be "better" and that's probably due to the fact that maybe their true message and essence was conceived in Tamil and it's thus a better form for the films? I have read in a book of the history of Bollywood that south Indian cinema has more of a tendency to accept the non happy ending, and there were times in the past when movies where cut with a different "happy" ending for the Bollywood audience. I will eventually find that quote from the source and do a post on it sometime. Did you prefer Alaipayuthey to Saathiya? I liked Alaipayuthey a bit more. :)

All the best!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Sitaji: thank u! Yes, I do agree that the songs r somehow prettier in Tamil. I'll be seeing the tamil version sometime the end of the coming week. And I do prefer Alaipauthey to Saathiya, which may perhaps be because I'd prefer Madhavan any day at all :Dhe was so so cute in that movie (eeps). The songs in Alaipauthey are far sweeter than the Hindi version, at least to me :)

Pessimisissimo said...

Shweta, I'm with you on the two Mani movies I've seen, Dil Se and Guru: lovely (that word again) images, but someone forgot to write a complete script.

Guru is a portrait of a driven, corrupt, self-involved, amoral business tycoon, who gives a sentimental speech at the end which is supposed to make everything all better? WTH indeed.

Dil Se is a portrait of l'amour fou, so perhaps it doesn't have to make sense. Still, it's a big leap when we're supposed to understand that SRK's character prefers rejection, vicious beatings, and finally mutual destruction to a life with Preity Zinta. Not the choice I'd make...

At least Dil Se has "Chaiyya Chaiyya," a song picturization that I've used to convert many a friend and relative to Bollywood.

Despite my mixed experiences with his Hindi-language films, I'm eagerly looking forward to seeing Mani's Alaipayuthey--thanks for the recommendation!



Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Pessimisissimo: Thanks! I'm sure you will enjoy Alaipayuthey. I do admire Mani Ratnam very much- he has truly amazing vision. Its just that it feels as if bby the end of the movie everyone got tired and threw in the towel. Im w/ u a 100% on Dil Se- I'm not sure if Manisha's character even likes SRK's character v much in that one, so dying for her seems a bit extreme :) and certainly not when Priety would be an option :D

Nicki said...

Wow Shweta!! What an awesome post. I love it. The idea of narrowing down Mani's films like that with description is a brilliant idea. I have not seen Roja yet and it's been a while since I've seen Bombay. I agree with BD that it is a wonderful film.

Thanks for the tip to watch the Tamil version instead of the Hindi one :)

mimi said...

While I do find Mani's movies somewhat incomplete, I think they are perfect in their imperfection. It's hard to describe it, really. I've never viewed them objectively, I find myself too absorbed in them so it doesn't really matter to me what the end is.

Pretty excited for Raavan. Won't be getting Raavanan up in the North. It's strange, I haven't seen any of his Tamil films. Need to fix that immediately!

Oh and he needs to stop casting Aishwarya Rai.

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Nicki: You, as the blog queen of Southern cinema have far more knowledge than me! Roja is as lyrical as Bombay, tho arguably not as extremely pretty. Im totally seeing Ravanan this coming week- just cant find anyone out here who will go with me :)

Mimi: Thats v true, what u said. It is hard to see Mani's hindi movies objectively, because they hypnotise one with their poetry. Nevertheless, Im always left feeling a tad unsatisfied, and it was necessary for me to write this post to zero on to the reason. I agree, he need to quite his Rai habit :D

yves said...

Nice idea you had of putting all these movies together!
I wouldn't have said that the resolution of all these films is ridiculous though, or if that's the case, then lets' say 80% of all BW films have a ridiculous resolution.
I too am looking forward to watching Raavana!
Maybe in a year or two though!

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

Yves: I agree that 80% of BWmovies have a rediculous resolution. BUT Mani begins v sensibly in all his movies, and there is a logical continuum that he builds, right up to the climax. Example: i expect nothing but insanity from bad horror movies from the ramsays- cos they are flawed to begin with. However, I have expectations from Mani, since he tells really good stories, far better than most of BWood. I wouldnt be peeved by his resolutions if he wasnt so perfect otherwise. Cheers!