Thursday, November 7, 2013

Reel Asian 2013 Film Review - Bombay Talkies

Commissioned to celebrate 100 years of Indian Cinema Bombay Talkies is divided into four short films by a roster of India's leading directors Karan Johar, Zoya Akhtar, Dibakar Banerjee and Anurag Kasyap.

The Johar offering begins with a bang. A young gay man storms into his parents house looking for his father pulling him out of is bed and throwing him against a wall screaming that he is a homosexual and not a eunuch. The young man Avinash (Saqib Saleem) goes to intern at gossip magazine working closely with the editor Gayatri played by Bollywood superstar (Rani Mukerji). Gayatri spends her days emerged in salacious details of celebrities lives but has none of that at home in stuck in a sterile marriage to her television presenter Husband Dev (Randeep Hooda). Avinash comes to dinner at their home on his birthday night turning their uneventful home life on its side. A highlight is the angelic singing of old Hindi songs by a young beggar girl (Alisha Shaikh) perched on a bridge situated over a set of train tracks.

The best of the four shorts is the Dibakar piece that features Nawazuddin Siddiqui who was a standout in The Lunchbox that played at this years Toronto International Film Festival.  Siddiqui plays Purandar who is jobless, sleeps on the balcony of his small home and has a bedridden daughter. He goes out to find work but arrives late at the location to discover that the posting is already filled. On the way home he is drafted into a film as a featured extra, gains some wisdom and a one on one encounter with an action star. Purandar now new material to tell is daughter in and engrossing pantomime breaking the repetitiveness of the usual bedtime story routine.

The other two shorts are uneven and uneventful, the Akhtar one by the only female director in the group focuses on gender issues. A father (Ranvir Shorey) will not fund his daughter Kavya (Khushi Dubey) school history trip. Instead he pays for soccer training for his disinterested slight son Vijay (Naman Jain) who is obsessed with Katrina Kaif and would rather dance than play sports. The two siblings work together to ensure that each gets what they really want.

The Kasyap entry focuses on the cult of celebrity. Vijay (Vineet Kumar Singh) is sent from his small town of Allahabad to Mumbai by his father to ask legendary actor Amitabh Bachchan to take a bite of Vijay's mothers Murabba (preserved fruit) believing his illness will be cured if he takes the next bite. Vijay's father had done the same venturing to the City to have superstar actor Dilip Kumar lick from a jar of honey on his father's behalf. Vijay ends up begging for entry over a series of days at the gate of Bachchan home ending up having to improvise as his father did a generation before.

The big dance number at the end features a slew of Bollywood legends singing the theme song of the film amongst clips from Bollywood films over the last 10 decades. The theme of the project is the effect that cinema has had over the years on the common man.  In the end the offering is mixed and not a film that I can recommend in it's entirety.

**1/2 out of 4.

Bombay Talkies | Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar  Anurag Kashyap India | 2013| 128 Minutes.

100 years of Indian Cinema, Bollywood, Legendary Actors, Homophobia, Quest, Celebrity Worship. Sexism.

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