Wednesday 30 January 2013

Domestic 'Violins'... Sentimental Week At The Movies

Domestic `Violins`... Sentimental Week At The Movies

By Subhash K Jha

While the two highly-controversial epic motion pictures Deepa Mehta's Midnight's Children and Kamal Haasan's Vishwaroop vie for a high-profile viewership this Friday there is another much smaller far more intimate and domesticated battle at the movies, both brought on by first-time directors who enter the portals of middleclass homes to explore the inner and outer spaces that working-class characters occupy on any given day.

The world inhabited by the characters in Mahesh Kodiyal's Mai and Avinash Kumar Singh's Listen... Amaya is nearly identical in extraneous details. And yet as is commonly observed, every household has its own peculiar crises to grapple with. In Mai, singer Asha Bhosle plays a mother whose son refuses to take her in and who must move in with her daughter, played by the talented Padamini Kolhapure making a comeback after many years.

Thereafter begins the spatial and emotion tug 'o' war between the mother and the daughter's husband.

It's a recognizable world inhabited by people whom we know as being part of our world. No item songs here, no 6-packs and dangerous curves... It's all on the normal level and hence not quite the high-end entertainment that movies belonging to the 100-crore club endeavour to inject into the audiences bloodstream.

Director Mahesh Kodiyal says he wanted to court the normal. `Every home has a tragic tale to tell. The old in our society are often not treated with the dignity and respect they deserve. It's a something that bothered me greatly.

I wanted to examine a mother's place in a patriarchal society. Here in Mai the daughter 'dares' to bring her old mother home. She's ready to face the flak. Somewhere getting Ashatai (Bhosle) to play the mother helped me to come to terms with that ground-reality that nags our conscience. Do we give ample respect to our elders?`

Coincidentally Listen... Amaya is also a mother-daughter drama directed by a debutant. Avinash Kumar Singh's film casts the neglected Deepti Naval as a woman and mother seeking a chance to choose a partner at an age when most women don't think of love but retirement. The very talented Swara Bhaskara plays the daughter who has grave objections to her mother being courted by a man who is not her father.

Swara who was a natural-born scenestealer as Kangna Ranaut's best friend in Tanu Weds Manu says she was attracted to shades of grey in her part. `After Tanu Weds Manu I was offered a lot of roles where I had to be the heroine's saheli. But these saheli roles were not half as good as the one in Tanu Weds Manu. `

Swara Bhaskara didn't want to be reduced to being the Nazima of this mellinnium.

Swara met the director and loved her part in Listen... Amaya. `It's a grey character, so challenging. And honestly the knowledge that Farouq Sir and Deepti M'aam would be part of the film was a huge incentive. `

Acting talent of the highest order is on evidence in these two domestic dramas. Television's favourite Ram Kapoor plays Asha Bhosle's son-in-law in Mai. The role had been offered to filmmaker Sanjay Leela Bhansali personally by the songstress. But because he was busy with his directorial dream Ram Leela Bhansali had to refuse the offer.

Would Bhansali regret his decision to refuse an acting debut in Mai? Are enough people interested in watching the singing legend Asha Bhosle make her acting debut? Or in Farouq Shaikh and Deepti Naval coming together in Listen... Amaya 29 years after they last united as a pair in Hrishikesh Mukherjee's Rang Birangi?

It's a huge gamble for these two intimate social dramas that portray the tragedy behind the closed doors of middleclass homes. About the competition Swara Bhaskara says, `Originally only our film Listen... Amaya and Bejoy Nambiar's David were supposed to release on 1 February. Then all these other films Kamal Haasan's Vishawroop, Mahesh Kodiyal's Mai and Deepa Mehta's Midnight's Children also landed on the same Friday. We know we're competing with the biggies. But we've our heart in the right place. `

The question that the film trade needs to ask once again is, does it make any commercial sense to release 5 films on the same Friday. We all know that at least 3 of them are bound to suffer for the sins of excessive choice offered to the audience.

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