If this post was an Indian movie, my hero would be Anurag Kashyap. Now being a drooly eyed fanboy, I generally see Anurag Kashyap as Neelkanth (the oceans are being skimmed, everyone gets their riches, Shiva gets poison, who injests it to prevent the world from getting infected) or maybe Lord Jesus (who suffered for your sins). But I do not want the tone to be a tragedy, of potential unrealized, and I do not wish to leave you sombre at the end of it, perhaps repentant at your own part in the sins. On the other hand, I do not want this to be a heroic tale either, say like 300, where the sacrifice of a hero, as a flash across a generation, inspires others into picking up arms. Not that any of them would be wrong, if I played with your feelings enough, but not this particular tale, not here.
So, well what is K doing in this story? Let’s for the moment say, that he is going through this tale of chasms.
That’s it. That’s all I have. That’s a whole day’s work. One of those days last week. I was going to call it Hi! I’m K. Just K. I had been watching this trailer of No Smoking over and over again like a manic obsessive for the last two days, and there had already been some left over angst from reading all those reviews disappointed about Agent Vinod, because they expected better from Sriram Raghavan. Things got mixed up in the head, and what with one brilliant movie after another being unleashed this year, I wanted a bigger picture calming down message sent down to the populace with wikipedia and a torrent connection. That life’s good for fans of the tinsel-town revelry.
I had my anecdote ready, about watching Agneepath in a decrepit theatre in Haridwar (wasn’t able to make head or tail of the film, the screen was too dark, the sound completely off, couldn’t make out a word of what Sanjay Dutt was saying, and yet there was general roar all around every-time Sanju Baba strutted. Kaminey flopped for the same reason. Too dark for most of the screen time, most dialogues too hushed. People just couldn’t follow a movie where you had to concentrate and follow the story through dialogues). After driving the earnest amongst you into despair over the future of artistic endeavor in this country, I would have endeavored to put you on the back foot by saying cinema (in the country especially) is a unique art form. It is putting your money where your mouth in, and sometimes it is big money, and a big mouth, and a big foot to wrap it all up. I would have continued to explain that beyond art, cinema doesn’t work on flights of fancies alone, but in making sure that the flights of fancies are comprehended appreciatively by the audience. As they say, the onus of proving the guilt is on the prosecutor, and not the defendant. So too in cinema, especially commercial cinema, the onus of expressing and making sure that the expression is understood is on the film maker, unlike elsewhere where fans are expected to rise to the level of the artist’s expression. I understand that by this time you would have had fuming arguments within yourself which I would have brushed under the carpet by a charming turn of phrase, and pushed you right into another question, What do you mean, Film maker?, as of course it is not one person that makes a film but a whole team, and when was the last time you got a creative task accomplished by a whole team yourself, huh? Most times because I say so is followed because it is their money and their mouth.
The feeling of confusion and What’s the point in the reader would have aided my scheme at this point where-in somewhere here I would have unleashed the meat of my argument, that film makers are putting more and more of themselves in movies now. I wouldn’t have wasted time in pointing at Shahrukh Khan in Ra-One (kids, and ad spots), Salman Khan in Dabangg (nuttiness in a serious corrupt role in a well scripted story), Saif Ali Khan in Love Aaj Kal and Agent Vinod (we’ll come to that). It’s like everyone has decided they want to make a particular kind of movie, and they are putting more of themselves in their movies instead of making the same films over and over again (well yes, there is Sajid Khan and Akshay Kumar, but we would have glossed over to the next bright point). I like to think of it like Sherlock. When the house is on fire (your movie/money is on the block), you turn to what is most dear to you first. It is around this time you would have re-noticed the name of this blog.
It is a tight rope walk. This staying between the profitable corridor of high artistic creativity and a flop. I would have whisked you away right now to the perfect paragraph for the occasion from Death in the Afternoon, by Hemingway. Which I would now, since he has written it anyway. It is about bullfighting, though you could replace ‘bull’ with ‘film’, and the ‘matador’ with ‘film maker’.
The formal bullfight is a tragedy, not a sport, and the bull is certain to be killed. … It is one hundred to one against the matador de toros or formally invested bullfighter being killed unless he is inexperienced, ignorant, out of training or too old and heavy on his feet. But the matador, if he knows his profession, can increase the amount of the danger of death that he runs exactly as much as he wishes. He should, however, increase this danger, within the rules provided for his protection. In other words, it is to his credit if he does something that he knows how to do in a highly dangerous but still geometrically possible manner. It is to his discredit if he runs danger through ignorance, through disregard of the fundamental fundamental rules, through physical or mental slowness, or through blind folly.
The matador must dominate the bulls by knowledge and science. In the measure in which this domination is accomplished with grace will it be beautiful to watch.
Later, he is talking about a matador who failed in the ring, and it is quite reminiscent of the way rabid critics talk about some film makers.
That night at the cafe I heard no word of sympathy for him. He was ignorant, he was torpid, and he was out of training. Why did he insist of being a bullfighter? Why did he go down on both knees? Because he was a coward, they said. The knees are for cowards. If he was a coward why did he insist on being a bullfighter? There was no natural sympathy for uncontrollable nervousness because he was a paid public performer. It was preferable that he be gored rather than run from the bull. To be gored was honorable; they would have sympathized with him had he been caught in one of his nervous controllable jerky retreats, which although they mocked, they knew were from lack of training, rather than for him to have gone down on his knees. Because the hardest thing when frightened by the bull is to control the feet and let the bull come, and any attempt to control the feet was honorable even though they jeered at it because it looked ridiculous. But when he went on both knees, without the technique to fight from that position, then Hernandorena admitted his nervousness. To show his nervousness was not shameful; only to admit it. When lacking the technique and thereby admitting his inability to control his feet, the matador went down on both knees before the bull the crowd had no more sympathy with him than with a suicide.
That analogy rather went out of hand. Not in the piece I was meaning to write. In that piece, you would emerge from the paragraphs above armed with a whole new insight, sensitivity and kindness, and it is at this point, I would have made you see this trailer.
Then I would have built up some kind of fun collage of his anecdotes, his movie trailers and how he is the hero, the angry young director of this piece.
I would have said that the way last year ended, with Rockstar (Pre and Post) is his legacy. The fact that we’ve been blessed with a hit Pan Singh Tomar, a sizzling superhit in Kahaani, is someway connected to AK tending the garden for so long.
And I had wanted to end this whole mish-mash by claiming that the fact that Saif got nervous, got a fancy action director, re-shot a whole lot of Agent Vinod over three years, and got an item number for himself and a centre stage for Kareena’s cleavage is a good sign. Saif (based on a limited sample of two films) likes to make smart films, helmed by a critically fantastic director, he wants to make a mature film, but he wants to keep it in the absolute fun zone. Nothing wrong with that. These are interesting signs that tightrope walk is being paid more and more attention.
At this point, you would have been nodding your head. But as you can see, it didn’t quite come together.