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Well made movie
On the night of the 71st Academy Awards (1999), Norman Jewison, who received the Irving Thalberg Award told movie-makers to "just tell stories that move us to laughter or tears and perhaps tell us a bit about ourselves." This movie is a hagiography...a worshipful or idealizing biography. Sir Richard picked his scenes well off the storyboard of Mahatma Gandhi's life. He tried to build up a life history treading two tracks..non-violence and India's freedom struggle. Otherwise, he left out many important facts that could be found given prominence in the man's autobiography. Plus, the short comings of the man were not dealt with.

Sir Richard knew too well to leave out the minuses. I give him full marks for his deliberate attempt at hagiography. He is a master story teller...not a critic. Storytellers tell stories that catch your attention from "once upon a time..." to "thus ends the tale". He used his people well...he would want none less than Nana Palsikar (a revered Indian actor from the yester-years) to play a minuscule but moving role of an old farmer dying of hunger. He created a gripping short story out of the intense Om Puri and his little role. Sir Richard packed too many people into the movie without losing the grip, the story or the simplicity. So much that each time I watch the movie (23 times so far!), I find someone I know whom I had not seen on the movie before.

There is one important tool to visual story-telling...editing. This movie is a text book on movie-editing. The one reason I watch it again and again is because of this. The editor (John Bloom) deserves the Oscar. He made the story simple and dramatic at the same time. Sir Richard used symbolism to the best to narrate the movie. He creates the impact at the beginning itself, with Bloom snipping the film at the right moments. Gandhi's assassination in 3 short scenes and the abrupt break to a massive funeral that starts off with the slow-steps of soldiers accompanying the mortal remains of Gandhi on his final journey. It's dramatic and raises your anticipation. Cut to South Africa...the train and you know, the story is unwinding to tell you why that man shot the old man. That is storytelling.

How do you narrate the passing of time and with it the increased popularity of a man in a movie? The scene where Gandhi arrives at Champaran. The soldier tells the police officer..."He is coming!" (Not exactly, but something similar). No name...no elaborate words to explain who is coming and what his story is. Just these few words and the movie positions Gandhi. Again...story telling.

Another symbolism...the scene where Gandhi meets the Viceroy at the Viceregal House (now the Presidential Palace in India). Just one car with a motor cycle outrider that deposits its sole passenger who ascends the wide steps all alone, in a slow and poised gait, head slightly bowed. There is no one else save for two guards who stand to attention as the man in simple loin cloth and a wrap nears the final step. The scene lasts 20 seconds. It depicts the ascendancy of a simple man...yet another master piece from the movie. A scene with its own short story...

Critics and analysts may go and watch something else. This is a movie for those who grew up reading stories and have not got over it. No wonder this movie has its immense following. It is a simple story of a man.

PS: This one is for fellow Indians...want some comedy tips?...Watch out Sardar Patel's (Saeed Jaffrey) role carefully...he takes harmless but witty side-shots at Gandhi and his quotes...puts up naughty little faces too. Follow his eyes especially when Jinnah is around...looks of a cunning fox that measures up the lion against the tiger and takes sides accordingly. "If I fast I die, if you fast, we will take all sorts of trouble to keep you alive".

Also Check out Nehru's role too...how the selfishness takes over...especially towards the end. In the scene after the riots Gandhi, Nehru and Patel are in conference. As Gandhi gets up to leave, Nehru utters "Bapu, please where are you going?" the tone sounds remonstrative. "Why must I read news like this in the paper?" he says (angrily) upon reading Gandhi's fast unto death. He waits for four days before he goes to Calcutta to meet the fasting Gandhi...why...to wait for his death??????

Kanoon Kya Karega

Mukul Anand's best movie
Forgive the remaking of Cape Fear but this happens to be late Mukul Anand's best movie directorial. "Agneepath" is too cheesy compared to this.

The best things about this movie is the cast...Danny Dengzongpa is one terrific dude when it comes to menacing roles. This guy with his perfect Hindi diction (unaccented, clear, clean and modulated) could put to shame some of the biggest orators of moviedom, despite his Sikkimese background. It is absolutely a treat to hear him in his baritone voice. Of course, terrific body, perfect body language and that super-confidence that he shows on screen in any movie...in short GREAT ACTOR. Mukul gave him a good role...that of a real bad guy without a trace of remorse even after committing a brutal rape...looking at his eyes dilate in glee upon his misdeed makes you despise him thoroughly! The same guy goes through a crash course in patience and sophistication during his incarceration in prison for the rape charge and he comes out as a suave criminal mind capable of causing enough anxiety in his nemesis' mind without stepping an inch out of legal limits. Here is where natural Danny's super confidence helps him sketch out the character of a menacing stalker. And this is where his perfect Hindi diction helps him establish his masked menace.

Suresh Oberoi never played a lead role before or after...but I must give it to this baritone-gifted actor for brining to justice the role of an upright lawyer with a family to protect. Suresh brought out the anguish of a stalked family-man perfectly. The scenes where he loses his normal poise and cool when confronting Danny are wonderful and convey the anguish of a person who knows he is being stalked by a criminal but cannot book him under any law.

This cat and mouse game between the Lawyer (who was a deposing eye-witness to Danny's crime) and the criminal comes to a fitting climax.

A small detour is seen in the story in the form of Deepti Naval as an estranged wife of Suresh Oberoi who re-unite after a long time just before the menace of a stalking Danny starts to disrupt their life. The friction between the couple somehow adds up to the grimness of the situation.

Overall this was a well made movie without much wastage of footage to mindless comedy, songs or tear-jerking emotions. Made in the times when these elements were primary ingredients to a movie, this one goes a whole yard ahead in terms of quality and finish. A good movie for collections.

Namak Halaal

Considering the consideration that India gave Amitabh Bachchan
This movie will tell you why Amitabh Bacchan is a one man industry. This movie will also tell you why Indian movie-goers are astute buyers.

Amitabh was at the peak of his domination of Bollywood when his one-time godfather Prakash Mehra decided to use his image yet again. Prakash has the habit of picking themes and building stories out of it, adding liberal doses of Bollywood sensibilities and clichés to it. Zanzeer saw the making of Angry Young Man. Lawaris was about being a bastard and Namak Halal was about the master-servant loyalties.

But then, the theme was limited to move the screenplay through the regulation three hours of song, dance and drama. What comprised of the movie is a caricature of a Haryanavi who goes to Mumbai and turns into a regulation hero. Amitabh's vocal skills and diction saw this movie earn its big bucks, thanks to his flawless stock Haryanvi accent. To me, this alone is the biggest pull in the movie. The rest all is typical Bollywood screen writing.

Amitabh, by now, had to have some typical comedy scenes in each of his movies. Thanks to Manmohan Desai. This movie had a good dose of them. The shoe caper in the party, the monologue over Vijay Merchant and Vijay Hazare's considerations, The mosquito challenge in the boardroom and the usual drunkard scene that by now has become a standard Amitabh fare.

Shashi Kapoor added an extra mile to the movie with his moody, finicky character (Remember him asking Ranjeet to "Shaaadaaaap" after the poisoned cake incident"). His was the all important role of the master while Amitabh was his loyal servant. But Prakash Mehra knew the Indian mind...and so Shashi had to carry along his act with the rest of the movie. It was one character that could have been more developed to make a serious movie. But this is a caper, remember? And as long as it stayed that way, the people came and saw Amitabh wearing a new hat and went back home happy. The end is always predictable, and the good guys get the gal and the bad ones go to the gaol, the age-old theme of loyalty is once again emphasized and all is well that ends well.

So what is it that makes this movie a near classic? Amitabh Bacchan as the Haryanvi. Prakash Mehra created yet another icon in the name of a story. Chuck the story, the characters and the plot. My marks are for Amitabh alone.

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