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|January 22, 2001||
13 thoughts on watching Zubeidaa
During the course of watching Zubeidaa, and the next hour-and-a-half, approximately 6,500 thoughts passed through my head, ranging from, "Hey, that's a neat piece of editing," to "Mmm, this popcorn tastes good."
Here are just 13 of those thoughts:
1 The question most often asked of Shyam Benegal these days is, "So why have you ditched Parallel cinema and sold out to Commercial cinema?" As far as I'm concerned, so-called Parallel cinema is just a label meant to justify the existence of intellectual farts like Kumar Shahani and Mani Kaul and the kind of self-indulgent crap they have inflicted upon humanity (Maya Darpan, Duvidha, Ashad ka Ek Din, etc). Other than that, the term has no meaning, whatsoever. There is only Good cinema and Bad cinema. What Benegal does is, very clearly, Good cinema. Just because he chooses to cast Karisma Kapoor instead of Shabana Azmi doesn't change anything.
2 Khalid Mohamed is probably the only film critic that I know of (other than Peter Bogdanovich) who has moved to the other side of the camera, to write scripts -- and, if the rumours are correct, to direct Ramgopal Varma's next film. This sort of disproves the theory that those who can make films, make films; those who can't, end up as film critics. It also protects Mohamed from the question irate filmmakers have been asking critics since 1889, "Hey, if you're so bloody smart why don't you try making a film yourself?"
3 The fact that I just mentioned Khalid Mohamed and Peter Bogdanovich in the same sentence does not necessarily mean they are in the same class. It just means that Khalid Mohamed has a very interesting perspective on the craft of filmmaking, and I'd love to see where he goes from here.
4 Yes, Zubeidaa is a good-looking film. But the real-life story on which it is based had an even more spectacular setting. For instance, the Jaipur haveli, where the film is shot is very nice, but it's not a patch on Jodhpur's 350-room Umaid Bhawan Palace -- one of the most spectacular palaces in the world -- where the real-life drama was played out. One case, I guess, where the celluloid version is actually less sumptuous than the reality.
Karisma Kapoor has obviously come a long, long way from her Sarkaiyo khatiya days. She may never become a Shabana Azmi, but she's done a pretty professional job here. Her career is no longer going to depend on her 24-inch waist and her Clinique Skin Lotion complexion.
6 Daboo Kapoor may well be the one of the greatest losers of all time. His grandfather was a big star; his father was a big star; his uncles were both big stars; his brother was a big star; his wife was a big star; and now his daughter is a big star. So how come Fate gave him such a complete bypass? (NB: The lesson in this may be that names can be self-fulfilling prophecies. If you give your child a loser name -- Dabboo, Dhakkan, etc -- he just might decide to live up to it.)
7 The next time some idiot journalist asks Shyam Benegal why he has now sold out to Commercial cinema, he should politely point out that this is nothing new; actually he sold out to commerce way back in the 1950s, when he used to make ad films for Dalda, Lifebuoy, Lux, etc. That ought to shut them up.
8 By the way, cinema owes quite a debt to the advertising industry. Terrific directors like Adrian Lyme (Lolita, Nine And A half Weeks/2 Weeks), Alan Parker (Midnight Express, Mississippi Burning), Ridley Scott (Blade Runner, Thelma & Louise), Tony Scott (Crimson Tide, Top Gun), Hugh Hudson (Chariots Of Fire), and now Tarsem (The Cell) have all honed their craft making advertising films. Not to mention Shyam Benegal, Govind Nihalani and Shekhar Kapur.
9 In fact, the nexus between cinema and advertising goes right back to the early 1900s when George Melies, one of the great pioneers of cinema, also made the world's first ad film, for Nestle. He is also credited with the world's first porno movie... oops, sorry, I think I'm straying from the point.
10. The Filmfare Award for the Best Film has historically been won by brain-softeners like QSQT, HAHK, DDLJ, KKHH, and DTPH. But in the past Shyam Benegal has somehow managed to buck this pattern by winning the Award with Junoon, and Bhumika. Were these films Commercial cinema? Or Parallel cinema? Or some other kind of cinema? I'm just a little confused.
11 Is Shyam Benegal going to repeat things by winning the Best Film award again this year with Zubeidaa? Wanna bet?
12 This whole business about Parallel cinema and Commercial cinema really bugs me. I happen to think that the world's greatest director is Francis Ford Coppola, solely for what he did with Godfather. I mean here was a story that everybody already knew inside out (thanks to its 104 weeks on the bestseller list). And then Coppola takes this same old story and turns it into a film that has everybody absolutely riveted, wondering what the hell's going to happen next. If that isn't what great cinema is all about, you tell me what is.
13 If I'm illiterate enough to think that the greatest film ever directed was Godfather -- rather than something by Bergman or Goddard or Tarkovsky -- what the hell am I doing reviewing films for rediff.com in the first place?
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