Bhonsle : Bleak Realities

Big cities can be intimidating, not just emotionally but physically too. It hits you the most when you’re a stranger to the land you set foot in. Mumbai is one such city. If the vastness of the Universe and the insignificance of our planet and the organisms that throng it’s surfaces and depths, in the grand scheme of things were concepts that you read somewhere but failed to quite fathom in their true sense, Mumbai can change that for you in the blink of an eye. Add to this a dash of alienation and a scoop of xenophobia and you have the perfect recipe for a miserable nightmare of an existence where the system doesn’t make any distinction between it’s less fortunate natives and even more unfortunate immigrants. It’s this nightmare that Devashish Makhija invites the viewer to be a part of in his feature Bhonsle.

There are filmmakers who use the latest advancements in audiovisual engineering and technology to bring about an immersive experience for their viewers and then there’s Makhija. He doesn’t need IMAX or 3D to do this. With basic visuals and sound and extraordinary diligence he recreates the life in the ramshackle chawls of Mumbai to such an extent that by the time he’s done, the viewer is a character too, a resident of the very same chawl, mentally. And he does take his sweet time to do this, in a cinematic process that’s organic to the core in execution and writing. There’s almost a rhythm to the frame progression and sequence, albeit melancholic. Makhija reminds you of that teacher from school who repeated that formula again and again, and again till as they say in our part of the world, “thorough”. At the core of the narrative is plight of the average human being, the insignificant lots of this world who are in significant numbers. There are actually no antagonists or protagonists in this film which is ironically eponymously titled after it’s protagonist, only victims. Churchill Chawl is that backyard of every affluent city in every corner of the world where neither dreams nor ambitions thrive and only survival matters. Human beings will always find reasons to divide themselves and when politics is a business where conflict is currency, situations like the one depicted in Bhonsle arise.

Manoj Bajpai in his National Award winning turn transforms himself physically into the frail yet stoic Bhonsle. While there isn’t much scope for emoting here in this role and even fewer spoken lines, Bajpai uses his body, posture and gait to express the thoughts of the character. Santosh Juvekar plays the bad guy you end up feeling sorry for almost, Vilas. It’s his have-nots that drive him and politics is his ticket out of his miserable, marginalised existence. Ipsita Chakraborty is Sita who for no fault of her own, like millions of helpless individuals out there in the real world, finds herself at the receiving end of hatred fuelled by xenophobia spawned by men in high castles and finds a father figure in Bhonsle. Her younger brother Lalu is played by Virat Vaibhav and Makhija uses him to drive the narrative on more occasions than one. Makhija’s surreal quirky sense of humor comes to the fore in the scene where Lalu finds a passed out Bhonsle when the residents of the chawl are engrossed in the Ganesh Chathurthi celebrations. Abhishek Banerjee gets to channel his creepy vibes yet again as Rajendra. These characters may have been placed in a chawl in Mumbai by Makhija but their plight and conflicts resonate beyond the barriers of language and geography. Bhonsle is not cinema, it is the grim reality that’s around us.

Bhonsle #SonyLiv

Bhaagi 2: I Chose Not To Run This Time.

So I just got back from watching my first Tiger Shroff movie. Hollywood has superhero franchises and Bollywood has Bollywood movies with Bollywood heroes. Bhaagi 2’s trailer looked good, reminded me of one of those Hollywood action movies from the 90s, and seeing Tiger in action in the trailer had me thinking that the much touted Rambo remake would be something to look forward to. And there were glimpses of Manoj Bajpai and Randeep Hooda too, in the trailer. What else then can a fickle mind do but book tickets, and that’s exactly what I did.

The movie begins with the kidnapping of a child in Goa. The child’s mom happens to be Tiger’s ex girlfriend, the bad guys chose the wrong kid indeed. There, thats the plot of the movie if I may call it that. Tiger is a commando stationed at the Kashmir border and still prefers to keep actual photographs of his ex in his trunk. This is one smart soldier who knows that privacy is a myth when it comes to smarphones or maybe he’s just being resourceful for the days when his phone runs out of battery. After a display of his mean skills as a soldier with a heart and mind of his own, he sets out to meet his troubled ex girlfriend in Goa. He is a one-man army, as proudly advertised by his superior officer who also doubles up as a therapist with a shoulder to cry on later when Tiger runs out of villains to beat up.

Tiger starts off the investigation into the kidnapping by kicking and punching a bunch of policemen inside their police station, which ultimately turns out to be a sneaky plan by Tiger to show off his sculpted body during third degree, which he confesses is just warm up as far his gym hardened body is concerned. The action sequences which lured me into the movie hall took the longest time to pop up and I guess Tiger was frustrated too when I saw him kicking dead bad guys up screaming “Tum Mar Nahi Sakte”. Obviously he had’nt kicked and punched them to his heart’s content. His climactic showdown is set in a gangster hideout deep in Goan jungles. The economic slowdown has hit the Mafia too it seems when you see that they have gone for outsouricing, the henchmen are all Asians and the few Russian gangsters are saved for the final punches. The greatest twist in the film is that it’s not the soldier who is suffering from PTSD, its the soldier’s ex gf. In fact the ex’s current husband has to explain the acronym to Tiger. Mind bending role-reversing stuff that you get to see only in Bollywood.

The hidden gems in Bhaagi 2 are Manoj Bajpai and Randeep Hooda,reminded me of Om Puri’s turn as a cop in Gupt but that’s another time and another director entierly. They hold the movie together until Tiger does his thing in the climax. Manoj Bajpai doesn’t get to stretch his acting muscles as much as we would’ve liked him to but he still owns every scene he is in. Randeep Hooda on the other hand matches Tiger’s acrobatics with his swag. If it were not for the lines and roles of Hooda and Bajpai I would’ve turned into a Bhaagi myself, out of the exit. Hooda just waltzes through the role here and his exchanges with Bosco, the unseen cop are hilarious. In fact I feel they should make a whole movie based on the Hooda cop character. Those are the scenes where you actually feel the presence of writers in a movie that otherwise looked and talked like one filmed by stunt coordinators entirely.