Thursday, August 11, 2005

Not again!

Nagesh Kukunoor has directed a film. Again. Much as one would want him to go back to being an environmental engineer or whatever he was before he started this unfortunate tryst with movie-making, the man perseveres.

This time, it’s a film called Iqbal, said to be about a deaf and dumb (ok, verbally challenged) village boy who wants to join the Indian cricket team and is trained by a character portrayed by Naseeruddin Shah, who for some inexplicable reason seems to like Nagesh K and the films he makes. He acted in Teen Deewarein before this.

I don’t know what Iqbal will be like; I only have the power to pre-judge it by the other Kukunoor films fate has consistently thrown my way. I saw Hyderabad Blues when I was in first year of college – and along with Bombay Boys, it had seemed, that time, like a breath of fresh air. Yet, there was a nagging feeling somewhere that something was not quite right. I was not in raptures over it, as I was over the infinitely better Bombay Boys. And a second viewing a year later told me why: it was such a shoddy film! I mean, it is all very well to have snappy dialogue in a few scenes, zoom in on a few typical characters of middle class India (eg the pallu-dropping aunt) and talk about NRI angst. But whatever happened to acting, and what about a good script, and some decent production values? Ok, so it was made on a shoestring budget, but is that a good enough excuse for turning out a film that could have been made better just by raising the standards of the few things you don’t need money to: screenplay, dialogue, acting? The dialogue, for instance, though effective in parts, was in general very trite – especially in the scenes that were not meant to be funny. And the standards of acting were lower than those of C-grade Bollywood skin flicks. (An aside here: Nagesh’s partner, professionally, is this charming woman called Elahe Hiptoolah, who likes to remain behind the scenes but is probably forced to do cameos in his films time and again. She has more acting talent in her little finger than most of the other cast he assembles for his amateurish ensemble movies. A genuinely under-used actress, for I haven’t seen her in any other films.)

Ok, but the film still had a breezy snappiness about it that washed down not so badly. Then came Bollywood Calling, again a film that had moments of genuine funniness but the deplorable tendency to sink into complete bathos. I mean, what was all that stuff about that firang guys having stomach cancer and all all about? Sheeesh!

In Teen Deewarein, Kukunoor was clearly out of his depth. And it would have been a better film if he had not made Jackie Shroff’s character spout terrible poetry and had refrained from acting in it himself.

But the worst film Kukunoor has made, till date, is the sequel to Hyderabad Blues. Those who have been unfortunate enough to watch it will know what I am talking about when I say there can be no worse film. It was a travesty of everything film-making has ever stood for, believe me. It had no script, no depth, no genuine insight into marriage (which it was supposedly about), no good acting to redeem it (again, the great director couldn’t stay away from the greasepaint) and was the most unintentionally funny film I have ever seen. Even the unintentional funny moments became a bit tedious after some time, it was that bad.

Now, what amazes me in all this is, how has this man who has consistently churned out bad cinema manage to sustain his credibility not only as a well-known film-maker, but as a ‘serious’ film-maker who is ‘committed to cinema’ and grandiose stuff like that? How does he get people to take him seriously, after making one amateurish film after the other? When it must be apparent to all that ALL his films have that feel of school skits hurriedly put together for a moral science class?

Listen to him go about the underdog in an interview (http://www.indiafm.com/news/2005/08/09/5604/) about his latest film: ““I’ve watched a number of sports-based movies in U.S. (sic) and most of them revolved around underdogs. By an uncanny coincidence, I would be rooting for the underdog in the film, you want him/her to succeed at the end of the day. That’s the essence of IQBAL as well.” What erudition! What insight! What an uncanny coincidence that ninety per cent of us also find ourselves rooting for the underdog ninety per cent of the time!

Even though all this vitriol may give the impression that the man has slighted me personally in the course of my illustrious journalistic career, I actually liked him the one time I met and interviewed him. A bit too full of himself with a tendency to take himself too seriously, but a genuinely likeable fellow in all other ways. At that interview (just after Teen Deewarein was released), he had told me some really great-sounding ideas that were festering within him. One was about an Indian cook in London who falls in love with a white woman; another was about Indian immigrant workers in Florida orange fields. I sincerely hope he turns over these ideas to a more competent film-maker than himself – for he knows how to kill a good idea like no one else.

And with my kind of luck, Iqbal will turn out to be a great film and everybody will hate me for being so mean to Nagesh. Sigh! I live in hope.

46 Comments:

At August 11, 2005 10:51 PM, Blogger the still dancer said...

How could you be so mean to him?? I hate you. I hate you.

 
At August 12, 2005 6:17 AM, Blogger anangbhai said...

You're right on the mark with Kukunoor's films after HBlues. I kinda, sorta liked Blues but after that his work isn't even on level with hammered shit.
He might as well have named it Hyderabad Blues 2: Electric Boogaloo.
The least he could do was try to make money, instead of being stuck in the middle of the artistic/personal and the commercial.

 
At August 12, 2005 5:07 PM, Blogger Tridib said...

It's sheer coincidence that I happened to catch a trailer of Iqbal on Channel V today. And the moment I saw the reference to cricket the first thought that crossed my mind was that this guy is trying to do a Lagaan. Hopefully, Naseer's presence will be able to redeem the film. Quite liked Hyderabad Blues 1 'cause it was pleasantly different. In fact, I would go so far to even call it "path-breaking" for opening the floodgates to the avalanche of cross-over flicks that followed. You forgot to mention Rockford, which he managed to screw up despite the great potential in the story. And had it not been for Om Puri, I don't think I could have sat through Bollywood Calling! Thankfully, I gave Teen Deewarein and HB2 the miss!

 
At August 12, 2005 9:34 PM, Anonymous Blogisite said...

Dear friends,
You guys can become lifetime members of the Hate-the-abominable-Nagesh-Kooknoo Club that I am launching the moment Kuknoo's next film hits the marquee. Activity: We conduct roadblocks and awareness campaigns. We tear off posters of his films. We are also working on a Kuknoo vaccine, that can innoculate one against Kuknoo Fever. Can anybody guess the symptoms? The correct answer will entitle him/her to a lifetime membership to the Hate-the-abominable-Nagesh-Kooknoo Club.
Yours respectfully,
Blogisite
Founder and President
Hate-the-abominable-Nagesh-Kooknoo Club

 
At August 12, 2005 11:16 PM, Blogger Jabberwock said...

Didn't you just love the chilling scene in Teen Deewarein where Juhi Chawla's loutish husband destroys one of her videocassettes in the hardest way possible - by stomping on them with his Kolhapure chappals.
I began my review of the same film with the evocative sentence "The cinema of Nagesh Kukonoor is so full of goodwill, and the man himself so likable, that trashing one of his films feels like clubbing a baby seal to death..." but they cut it out of the piece. (Think they said something about it being in very bad taste. Copy editors, I tell you.)

 
At August 13, 2005 2:59 PM, Anonymous AB said...

I don't have a TV at the moment. Am out of sync with what's happening. So haven't seen any trailers of Kukunoor's latest and the thorn of your eyes;)

 
At August 16, 2005 4:28 PM, Blogger Vignesh said...

Boo !

 
At August 16, 2005 7:18 PM, Blogger n.g. said...

the very thing that was nagesh's trump card when he made his first film has now become the bane of his existence - the fact that he makes 'small', semi-intelligent films, which is really a perception. there was nothing intelligent about hyder. blues, nor rockford, nor bollywood, nor teen deewarein. and HYB2 was the worst film on the face of this earth. why then go people take him seriously? who says ppl take him seriously? he's been slotted as a small filmmaker and when ppl have a crore or so lying around and want to make a film, the call up nagesh. yes, hyderabad blues was a pioneering film for its time, but like you correctly said, you watch it now and its amateurish, badly directed, and sorely lacks in production values. one would have thought at least the 'production value' factor would change with nagesh's subsequent films, but it hasnt. which just goes to show that he's not grown as a filmmaker, he's still sticking to what he thought was right when he made his first film. and after saying all this, there's a very good chance that iqbal will kick ass and silence all of us, and if that happens, ill be the first one to acknowledge that nagesh has matured as a director. but i want to see that for myself before i start screaming my congratulations.

 
At August 16, 2005 8:05 PM, Blogger The ramblings of a shoe fiend said...

thank you thank you thank you
i thought i was alone in my passionate dislike for the man and his movies. i'm sick and tired of having to defend my opinions to friends who think he's brilliant.

 
At August 16, 2005 8:27 PM, Blogger Teleute said...

heh heh heh! 'twas brillig...

 
At August 16, 2005 8:31 PM, Blogger blocs said...

"an Indian cook in London who falls in love with a white woman"

"another was about Indian immigrant workers in Florida orange fields"

"Nagesh Kukunoor"

whoa...desperate *sighs* is all that I can utter...

 
At August 16, 2005 8:45 PM, Blogger Psychotropic said...

Hey, don't know how or where i ambled in from, but i have to concur!! It is a bit baffling that Kuknoor is hailed as an important 'director' despite having such a half assed body of work.

I won't deny he tells stories passably well or at least chooses ones that can be clever and insightful and make him accessible to his audience but personally i think that making the lack of production value and technical efficiency a hallmark of your style is just, i don't know...lazy!!

Still at least he's good for an honest guffaw every once in a while...

 
At August 16, 2005 10:30 PM, Blogger Sinfully Pinstripe said...

Hear! Hear!
I almost physically assaulted my roommate when he said that the only recent neo-hindi movie he could compare Hazaaron with in terms of quality was Teen Deerarein.
I remember friends going into raptures about Teen Deewarein, and I just missed what the fuss was all about. So I am not alone, I see.

Hyd Blues was different. Not great. Rather like a Perizaad Zorabian in the midst of the bollywood frost maidens....

IMHO his best (if could call it so) was Rockford. For all the corny bits, at least it pulled at the heartstrings.

And he cannot act. Agreed.

 
At August 17, 2005 1:45 AM, Blogger @mit said...

Hmm--- I agree with most of it... but I like the 3 dewarein movi ... it was different ....

@mit

 
At August 17, 2005 10:55 AM, Blogger J. Alfred Prufrock said...

La B (and other fellow-spirits here), which was the last Hindi film you watched where the script stood up throughout?

Particularly where the second half stood up to the pressure and wrapped up the film neatly?

Offhand, I can only think of JBDY, which only gets better towards the end (Satish Shah's greatest role? Heh)

J.A.P.

 
At August 17, 2005 12:23 PM, Blogger John said...

Guys, give Nagesh a break, will you? He is learning. Which other director has the courage to experiment with form, and Indian English.

 
At August 17, 2005 1:03 PM, Blogger the still dancer said...

John,
Then let him learn in his own time, at whatever kindergarten they have for film-makers, and not oppress our collective aesthetic sense. Sometimes, one does not need "courage to experiment with form." Stupidity does quite admirably. Of course, no response is necessary to your Indian English comment.

 
At August 17, 2005 9:55 PM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

There's a parallel comment war going on about this on Kaashyapeya's blog. Whatever his failings, it must be said for Kukunoor that he is capable of rousing strong feelings, though entirely inadvertently of course.

Anangbhai: I agree, these pretending-to-be-serious film-makers get my goat too. At least David Dhawan (or his more contemporary brethren) are honest about the films they make and have no pretensions as to their quality.

Blogisite: Joined already. as for 'Kuknoo' fever, I would say the symptoms would be a propensity to put Hyd Blues on personal top 10 movies list. There are people who do that, believe me. Sane, intelligent people.

Jabberwock: You said it much before I did, then. If only if those pestilential copy-editors would understand art when they saw it.

Nish: Thanks for pointing out that bit about how the production values are as abysmal as ever, though he presumably has more money to make his films now. As psychotropic says, he probably thinks it's very cool to have bad production values.

Pinstripe: Your room-mate compared Teen Deewarein with HAZAARON? *looking for number on cell phone* God, where are all the Mumbai dons when you want them?

@mit: different how, pray tell me.

JAP: That question merits a longer discussion. Hold on.

John: Re: Kaashyapeya's comment plus said comment war going on at his blog. Also, the man has made no less than six films and you say he's still learning??

 
At August 18, 2005 1:43 AM, Blogger Joey Tribbiani said...

All said and done.. Kuknoo showed the Indian directors that the public would lap a movie with just a strong common-sensical story line.. That goes for HB1 and Rockfort..

HB2 was just a 'make hay while the sun shines' attempt while trying to show it as an honest attempt at sequel.. Maybe, It was also to show solidarity with those same directors...

 
At August 18, 2005 2:59 PM, Blogger kaushik said...

I am confused.. I have never seen a Nagesh film except Rockford.. And I had seen at after a platter of Ilish Mach and Bhaat. And I quit liked in a dosy kind of way.

Well for me I thought his school of moview will never have fans or anti-fans (sorry I am lost for words).. But here I see a post and an animated discussions around it..

 
At August 18, 2005 4:35 PM, Blogger Anamika Anyone said...

I've seen Teen Deewarein and its wonderful..
How can you be so critical of him?

 
At August 18, 2005 7:28 PM, Blogger the still dancer said...

really, how can you? how, how?

 
At August 19, 2005 12:45 PM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

I can be critical of anybody I like (rather, anybody I don't). I am the marauder and this is MY blog. Muhahahahaha!

 
At August 19, 2005 2:21 PM, Blogger the still dancer said...

ahem...hate to be the one to point it out, but the mighty marauder is showing disctinct signs of becoming semantically challenged. Sigh!! "Age of course, is the fever chill, that every marauder must fear/ for she's better dead than living still, once past her thirty-fifth year. (With apologies to P.A.M. Dirac)

 
At August 19, 2005 10:30 PM, Blogger Anamika Anyone said...

C'mon!
Concentrate your fire on David Dhawan and co.Not Kukunoor!

 
At August 20, 2005 10:44 AM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

Kaashyapeya: Ja baba, ki bhul korlam shetai bujhte parchhi na.

Anamika: I have no more love for David Dhawan's films than you do. But the thing is, David Dhawan and others like him do not pretend to make intelligent films. I will never waste time on even trying to watch a David Dhawan film. His films will not be shown in any film festival. He has never been feted as a director who has made 'path-breaking' cinema.

And my problem with Kukunoor is that he has been the recipient of all the abopve felicitations, that he continues to enjoy the tag of being a serious film-maker without having produced a single film worth the effort of watching it. The one word that describes his film-making is amateurish and I don't see any reason why a director of amateurish films should be hailed as the saviour of serious cinema in India.

 
At August 21, 2005 2:10 PM, Blogger samit said...

bagchi, you made me haul ass to saket and didnt even bother to mention the blog url anywhere. you should just have used cal models or something, no?

 
At August 21, 2005 9:21 PM, Blogger the still dancer said...

ummm..ditto samit. hear, hear.

 
At August 21, 2005 10:54 PM, Blogger the still dancer said...

ummm..samit danced in front of the forum :O

 
At August 22, 2005 2:44 PM, Anonymous Sanket said...

I have watched two of his movies-Hyderabad Blues(first) and Teen Deewarein. I didn't like Hyderabad Blues at all! I thought it was a nothing movie. On the other hand, Teen Deewarein was good. It was different, and was very intense and dramatic, though in glimses, and not consistently throughout.
That movie left an impression on me that Kuknoor has probably improved. But as you said, nothing pathbreaking/great about his direction/movies.

 
At August 24, 2005 12:58 AM, Blogger A fool on the hill said...

Here's my plea to the Kuknoo*:

Out, out, brief candle!
...but a walking shadow, a poor player
That struts and frets his hour upon the stage
And then is heard no more: it is a tale
Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

R.I.P
Nagesh Kukoonur
Filmed school skits
* With apologies to the bard

PS: BTW, Blogisite has a blog now. Thought u'd be interested.

 
At August 24, 2005 3:08 PM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

YOU are Blogisite? You are blogisite? Of all the mean, underhand things to do! And I remember asking Jai in a very concerned manner who he thought this could be and wondering what this chap had against me. Now I know, it's a family feud :D

 
At August 24, 2005 6:03 PM, Blogger The Wall Flower said...

Of course, this is delayed reaction, but you know why that is. Couldn't agree with you more. I really despised Hyderabad Blues 2. I perosnally feel these half-baked phoren-returned Indian filmmakers should sent to Pluto with immediate effect. Actually, no I can sympathise with them. You see, they don't have a perscpective either on the country they belong to (which is US or UK or whatever) or the country that they actually belong to (India). So, they come here in the hope of making this intellectually stimulating different movie in the process but end up doing a bad job of even the stereotypes. So, Kukoo is nothing but a victim of his own ignorances. So forgive him

 
At August 30, 2005 2:06 AM, Anonymous an ordinary man said...

FYI, Iqbal's got a four star rating in the TOI!! Also, heard from some who have already watched the movie - brilliant!! I hope you have small foot!!! And hope it doesn't smell!!!

 
At August 30, 2005 2:06 PM, Blogger The Marauder's Map said...

Four star rating in TOI matters less to me than the opinion of random Neptunites who may have watched the film. As for eating crow, check recentest post.

 
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