Wednesday, October 31, 2007

No Smoking

As a certified pirate and shameless copyright violator, I chanced upon a torrent for a movie that I'd a friend of mine talked about a few days ago - No Smoking. He linked me the ongoing internet drama following the release, "between Anurag Kashyap and everyone else", as he put it.

Anurag Kashyap and his cohorts were piling on all their belligerence on a blog-site called passionforcinema, which is populated by film nerds who can also write. I think it's great. Nerds need to fight the good fight, make movies that provoke, and engage other nerds in the movie-making process.

First, the Khalid Mohammed review:

You can’t make out, you don’t care, and you’re fed up of the affectations, the self-indulgence, and the fact that you even bothered to see this Dhumrapan Nishedh bandhi which tells you about Socrates, Plato and then goes Do be Do. I swear on Sinatra’s head. Hey, Kashy actually hears retro-music and wants us to know. Niiice.

Gee, the movie’s so unusual, unconventional and daring. It’s an original guys, original. Get me a double whisky yaar. Gotta celebrate. It’s so very much like Stephen King’s story Quitters’ Inc. which featured as a part of the Cat’s Eye horror movie way back in 1985. What to do Sir Genius? We Idiotic Reviewers, FOOLS, Scum of the Earth, watch DVDs too.

Nicely put there, good to know he's not using that idiotic rhyme format anymore, like he used to for his entire Sunday Times reviewing career. For the record, his debut movie, Fiza, was one long unwatchable turd. For someone who spent his entire life panning formula movies, Fiza was as pedestrian as they come. Booo! You suck too!! If only you knew!!

On the other ringside, we have Anurag Kashyap and his film-nerd clique, who are pissed off that a plebe like TARAN ADARSH (of CAPSLOCK OVERUSE FAME) has reported unfavorably
on No Smoking.

What ails NO SMOKING, did you ask. Simple, it’s the most complicated cinematic experience of 2007. Agreed, the director’s intentions are noble. Cigarette smoking is injurious to health and Kashyap wants to highlight this message loud and clear via his new movie. But what has Kashyap come up with? ”

Actually, no. That's not what No Smoking was about, you idiot. I figured that out because Anurag Kashyap told me so, well before I watched the movie. Yay for Spoilers!!

It's a tale about an arrogant man’s descent into morality.. and the architecture of the moral world is so absurd that it sometimes beats reality.. what happens in the film is a parallel to what happens in the real world.. Taran’s review talks about three E’s which reminds me about the censor board official who asked me why did i make paanch, and then he further said cinema is suppose to be healthy entertainment.. Paanch is niether healthy nor entertaining.. baba bengali is like that man, who has already deciced what kind of cinema should be made and should exist.. the film is about my struggle against the system to have the freedom to (smoke)make films..

Seen from that angle, yes, I dig what Kashyap was trying to do. He's trying to pitch in a allegory here about being creative in a system that expects cookie cutter, templatized, canned scenes. Once the belligerent K (John Abraham) surrenders his habit, he still gets tossed around and chewed up by the system. Moral of the story: There's no beating the machine, might as well get beaten on your own terms. Perhaps the movie is drawing a parallel to theism, equating Baba Bengali's Big brotherlihood to an unforgiving petulant god who is forever watching and judging, where even the smallest transgressions ensure a lifetime of suffering.

Regardless of the intentions, No Smoking misfires terribly at a few points, the sepia tinted flashback scenes with laugh tracks were god-awful, and that whole cigar smoking episode where a Cuba return friend of K holds a press conference for In Fidal castrated cigars was unfunny and sad. And that comic book blurb that popped in every once in a while was also poorly conceived and didn't add an ounce of wit or depth to the scene.

The movie is a bit of the yin-yang thing going, the first twenty minutes have K making convoluted conversation with his wife like a bad Woody Allen movie knockoff, while in second half Baba Bangali (Paresh Rawal) proselytizes in chaste Vajpayee Hindi. The magic realist/surrealist dives into Baba Bangali's dungeon in some Dharavi ghetto were well done, a stark contrast to K's pristine high rise dwelling, which I guess is a subtle way of saying that a man is comfortable when he plays the game by his rules.

I saw a Kurosawa movie a couple of weeks ago - Ran, a movie based on Shakespeare's King Lear. After reading the wiki, I found out that the reason why Kurusowawa chose to make it was because he could relate to the trials of King Lear, whose sudden fall from grace was as heartbreaking as Kurosawa's film making career, once he was on the outs.

It's these little side stories that make art-house movies tolerable to me. Herzog's movies wouldn't be half as much fun without the crazy side-stories about how he made Fitzcarraldo, or his tumultuous relationship with Kinski. No Smoking is about the bloated ego (not necessarily a bad thing) of Anurag Kashyap; a failed experiment based on a laudable stance. John Abraham is no Robert De Niro, he's probably more like Tom Cruise, looks easy on the eyes, but ultimately hard to root for, that photogenic prick. Ayesha Takia was fist-gnawingly irritating, while Paresh Rawal as Baba Bangali was the best cast character of all.

No Smoking epitomizes the new wave of Indian filmmakers who aren't afraid to take risks, or communicate one-on-one with their audience. You've read the blog, now watch the movie!

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