At last some great commercial Hindi cinema

Is the classic Bollywood love triangle still feasible in new India?? Can you still sell movies that are high on aesthetics and low on noise??? Can you earn critical acclaim with a film that has no express social message?? Above all, can a movie sans SRK and/or sex succeed at the box office??? The answer to all of the above is three words: Jab We Met. 

Now, I must disgress a bit before I get back to the topic. I have had a small craving for long: would I be able to see a contemporary romantic flick that would actually be satisfying and at the same time not essentially deviate from the love story formula?? You see, whatever romantic pics I have seen over the years were either not “quite the thing” or they were crossed with a divergent sub-plot,i.e, hybrid.  Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa was probably my first vivid experience of a romantic movie and it was great. After that: Yes Boss – essentially comedy, Ghulam -gangster/dadagiri angle, Kaho Naa Pyaar Hai –  lookalike/murder twist, Dil Chahtha Hai – friendship, Cheeni Kum – age gulf and its perception in society…thus, all these films had something other than the love story to keep them going. On the other hand, classic love stories that didn’t quite do it for me – DDLJ, Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, Raja Hindustani.  Yes, I am aware that these films were landmark blockbusters , but every blockbuster is not necessarily a good film; even if it is, it need not have an universal appeal.

That said, I went to Jab We Met with absolutely no expectations. I had, as mentioned in my earlier post, burnt my fingers with OSO, though the reviews were universally gung-ho. Plus, I was wary of what to expect from the Shahid-Kareena  jodi. Above all, ironically, it was just A love story, how good could it be anyway. As the opening scenes captured a depressed Shahid ambling down Bombay’s streets aimlessly, my fears appeared to be confirmed. And then, as Kareena jumped onto the train she never missed in life, it suddenly seemed to take off and then seemingly skipped all halts en route to the destination. When the movie was over, not only did I feel it was money well-spent, I felt good and refreshed (though not too good a thing when the movie is getting over at 11 in the night :D). What happened??

Well, it is a love story alright, but one told with lot of conviction and sincerity. At no point did I get the impression that the crew were going through the motions, looking to complete just another romantic flick. On the other hand, the movie was bubbling with life in every frame and exuded palpable energy without getting too boisterous or too loud for its own good.

Ah, that’s the other great thing about the movie. Somehow, in Himesh-era Bollywood, these guys had the guts to actually make a movie that is not too loud, too jarring. Particularly, the songs and the background score are cheerful and breezy without getting on your nerves while even the flow of dialogues is crisp and fast but uncluttered and devoid of overt melodrama.

I also noted a tastefulness in ‘executing’ the frames quite unusual for a commercial flick like this. For instance, the choreography for the songs is graceful, elegant and colourful rather than loud and attention-grabbing. The lighting too finds the perfect balance of the gaudy and the grim – or rather it looks REAL. Most importantly, this ‘tastefulness’ finds its way into the acting – a casting coup, if you will. Everybody seems to be perfectly cast and go through the frames naturally, without the shrill histrionics of perhaps a decade earlier.  Particularly the lead pair deliver a pleasant shock: Shahid and Kareena, whatever be their status as a pair off-screen, share some amazing chemistry.

Wait, there’s still something else. You know what, I was wrong: the conventional love story devoid of sub-plots doesn’t really exist. The sub-text in this movie is in two parts: one being the positive, albeit dreamy, attitude of Kareena’s character prior to rejection, the other being the repeated displays of great character by Shahid. Be it supporting a girl he has never met before to help her fulfil her dream, be it understanding and respecting his mother, be it being honest to the girl’s family and taking on the responsibility of searching her out or be it stepping out of her way to join hands with the man he thinks is her true love.  Perhaps, in our increasingly amoral times, this nice man who does a lot of good things without the pomp that generally comes with it in the movies strikes a chord at some level. For instance, today I let a guy who was in a hurry to get his train go ahead of me at the ticket queue because his need was greater than mine. Let’s face it, one part of us wants to be nice to everybody but circumstances conspire to make us less hospitable, so the rich industrialist scion with a golden heart seems to be a great ideal to look upto?? Don’t know, but what I do know is these moments of great character make the movie stand apart from the mundane, from the run-of-the-mill – it enables the characters to transcend the formulaic and come across as real people you actually relate to.  And when the predictable happily-ever-after ending eventually transpires, you are not grumbling,”Bah, I knew this was how it would end.” You feel happy for the imaginary couple in spite of yourself.

That, there, is the hallmark of good cinema. No, it need not have a powerful message, it need have no impact on society, it need not take cinema places technically, all it needs to do is get you to buy into the story, buy into the dream…for all commercial cinema is just one big fantasy ride. Difference is, most of the rides are boring, some are so awful they make you wanna puke, a very few like Jab We Met leave you with that “Wow” feeling when you’re through. What are you waiting, take the ride and enjoy it whole-heartedly before Yashraj films and Madhuri Nene nee Dixit take you for yet another marketing ride (oh, how I wish they would prove me wrong :/ ).

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2 Responses to “At last some great commercial Hindi cinema”

  1. aditya Says:

    enough to make me watch the movie a second time

    rgds & cheers

    aditya

  2. rothrocks Says:

    lol…hope it doesn’t disappoint you this time around because of higher expectations. 😀

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