Bombay Talkies - Review

wogma rating: The keen should rent; else TV (?)
quick review:

Four short films. All work wonderfully at some level and don't work as well at other levels. Bombay Talkies worth a watch nevertheless.

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Wogma Review

Could there be a better way to pay tribute to something, than making a contribution to it? Better yet, when the makers' passion for the medium shows in the work. So, then do we show our love for the director who went out of his comfort zone? Or for the one who did what he always does best - engage us by adding quirk to the simplest of stories? Or for the two in between - he who tells the story of a compassionate father or her who makes a son shine despite his father? Or should we talk about the discontent at what was missing or overdone?

Karan Johar steps out of his glamorous shoes which must have been quite difficult. To not resort to lip-sync song and out-of-place dance must have been an effort in itself - even though there was a perfect enough excuse for one, two characters (Rani Mukerji and Saqib Saleem) working on Bollywood gossip. In fact, in contrast to the other three films, the only form in which this short film refers to Bollywood is through songs from yesteryears and dialogue. To top it off, looks like he wasn't allowed to take a trip to snow-capped Europe, much to our relief. (Boy, must that have been a toughie for Karan Johar!) Yet, his is the most chic story in terms of ambiance as he gets to play around with the relatively upper class parts of Bombay. That's as glossy as it gets.

Though Karan Johar's quarter of Bombay Talkies seems like the most personal of the short films, it was over-eager. His account of a homosexual man who meets a woman he hits it off with, felt like a story he was dying to tell. That he had this passion to desensitize the Indian audience to this taboo film is great. But, that it came on so hard - not so great. Unfortunately, once again, Johar's approach to the gay world brought out sniggers and worse, 'eeewwws' and 'yucks'.

Once done with the weakest of the films in terms of stories, we have Dibaker Banerjee's film about a struggler (Nawazzudin Siddiqui) who takes pride in all his struggles. Till he is shown his shortcomings by his own hallucination. This part of the movie was more about two sequences in the film rather than the film itself. One, with a surreal setting in which the lead character is forced to face reality. And the other is a lovely tribute to silent cinema. Of course, there are many other smaller things which you will discover and there are others which don't connect, but these bits stay with you.

Bombay Talkies love for cinema deepens with Zoya Akhtar's Naman, a child stifled by the ambitions of his father. Like many people I know in real life, Naman made lonely and ignored by his parents takes refuge with Bollywood. The God-like stature he assigns to his favorite star is the logical next step. Zoya's gently slaps us as a society, twice. Once with her comment on parents who not only force their ambitions on their children but also corner the kids into lying to them. Then, with us as a society which produces and goes on to popularize songs that shouldn't be heard or seen by kids under ten. It is amazing how we clap while our children dance to these numbers. Her soft and indirect touch to a controversial topic like transvestites too, is pretty brave.

And the best is saved for the last. You can trust Anurag Kashyap to combine two disparate topics with finesse - our fanaticism as fans of stars and our unquestioning regard for our parents wishes. He celebrates and taunts both these aspects at one go. Yet, this is the simplest story of them all. Even though it feels a tad too long, the pace and build-up to the climax is beautiful. Vineet Kumar Singh as Vijay looks like another of Kashyap's finds that we ought to watch out for. His desperation and persistence alone makes this section worth the watch. And of course, you have more bonuses along the way.

All this builds up to the promotional song which I hated the first time I saw it on YouTube. But, with the flow of the film it had a completely different feel to it. Also, the version I saw earlier didn't have the complete version, it left out the charming old times. Yet, it deserved better than the green-screen patch job it got for the last bit. And the signature tune assigned for the current generation of actors still didn't work.

So, while Karan Johar's story on a man's struggle with his sexuality might be the most impressive in terms of how far he's come out of his box, and Dibaker Banerjee & Zoya Akhtar's stories warm you nicely as tributes to our love for cinema, Anurag Kashyap's bitter-sweet reference to our reverence for stars is easily the one I'd like to watch again. Now, it's difficult to put my favoritism for the director aside when asked to compare. But, then again, given the context, this once I'm allowed that. ;)

- meeta, a part of the audience

Parental Guidance:

  • Violence: A couple of fist fights.
  • Language: A few abuses.
  • Nudity & Sexual content: A lip-to-lip between two homosexual men. A couple of making out scenes. Sheila and her jawaani.
  • Concept: Four short stories.
  • General Look and Feel: Contemporary yet a real, rugged feel.

Detailed Ratings (out of 5):

  • Direction: 3.5
  • Story: 3.5
  • Lead Actors: 4
  • Character Artists: 3
  • Dialogues: 3.5
  • Screenplay: 3.5
  • Music Director: 3
  • Lyrics: 3.5

Bombay Talkies - Trailer

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Comments (7)

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StyleDestino:

awesome review (nest Anupama Chopra?)

ahh the movie was by Johar? I didnt know it

Aditto:

I kept feeling till the end that the stories ought to be connected through something in the story (not just the fact that they were all about bollywood). Something like, Babel?
That link would have been perfect!

But all 4 stories were well portrayed, and the actors did a fantastic job! So did the musicians! However, I feel Amit Trivedi's music is getting repetitive now.

Mahaveer:

Wow Meetu, after ages of reading your reviews comes one-rare-review, where I seem to be in disagreement with your views. For me, Dibakar's 'Star' was the star of this collaboration - a solid story equally solid storytelling; amazing casting (not sure when was the last time I was so moved by so many actors' performances in such limited time - Nawaz, we all know is amazing but his wife, Amarapurkar, the little girl and even the bird - were all trying to tell me something, something valuable); fitting opening scene and a level defining scene between a dead father and a seemingly alive son. For me DB's 'Star' itself was a fitting tribute to Indian cinema.
Also I think despite sticking well to the theme, I (being a big cinemaholic and huge fan of AK's storytelling) could not just connect to Murabba story. I went to the hall being an ardent Kashyap fan but left appreciating Karan Johar’s work; such was the impact of KJ's; I so wish the editor had got rid of a couple of lines at the start "gale me mangalshutra....." being one.
Also I'm not sure if I'd pick Bombay Talkies to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema, but the effort definitely is worth a watch (maybe more).
Last thing - I think Luck by Chance opening credits scene OR Om Shanti Om (collage song) were maybe better fit tribute to cinema than the silly work at the end; which only seems to justify one aspect of Bollywood that makers did not want to miss - >>take some stars >> do something....anything with them and people will come watch.

RAJAT SRIVASTAVA:

A movie for selected audience it seems, i haven't watched but i asked few, some said ultimate some said boring..

Anup:

the story by karan and zoya are must watch for,,,,for each individual....The story by dibakar shows the love to cinema,,,,and nawaaz was awsome like always....anurag's story was simplest,,,,doesnt exite u,,,,only shows the crazyness of indian audience for big b

meetu:

@Mahaveer well, it happens... :D

@Rajat Yeah, I can imagine the mixed reactions.

@Anup well, once again 'to each his own'

luke:

All the three stories, barring Dibakar's are completely crappy, KJ's film seems like his wet dream on homosexuals and homosexuality, Anurag Kashyap's story is ridiculous, just for the little twist at the end, so much time is wasted, no aesthetic to the story telling either, a sheer waste of time. Zoya akhtar's story seems to be a very bad adaptation of Billy Elliott. If this is what the talent of Bollywood is about and what with gushing reviewers who do not seem to have watched films in any language barring Hindi and that too not many, one wonders at the celebration of Bollywood junk posing as Indian cinema.

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