Monday, January 18, 2010

देश के जोशीले नौजवानों के नाम

देश के नौजवानों, गौर से देखो इस तस्वीर को और हमारी नसीहत याद रखो कि हमें इस बात से कोई लेना देना नहीं हैं कि तुम अपने काम में दक्षता रखते हो और तुम्हारे बल-बूते पर ही हम अपनी पीठ भी ठोका करते हैं. तुम यह कैसे भूल सकते हो कि तुम एक महान लाल फीता शाह देश के निवासी हो जहां पर तुम्हारा अस्तित्व तुम्हारे आकाओं की कृपा पर निर्भर करता है. इस लड़के को देखो, यह सोचता है कि अपने ढंग से काम करके यह हमारे लिए फिर वैसा ही कमाल कर दिखाएगा जैसा इसने दो साल पहले उस देश में जाकर किया था जिसके हाथों रणभूमि में आधी सदी पहले पराजित हो कर हम शर्मसार हुए थे. इस नादाँ को यह समझना चाहिए कि शर्म का एहसास हम लोगों को अपनी सुविधा के अनुसार होता है. और हमें सबसे ज्यादा शर्मिंदगी होती है काबिलियत से. काबिलियत हमें अपने खुद के नक्कारापन से रुबरु कर देती है जो कि हमारे लिए नाकाबिल-ए-बर्दाश्त है. इसलिए हमसे काबिलियत की बात तो करो ही मत. और यह भी याद रखो कि तुम यदि केवल अपने काम में बेहतर प्रदर्शन के लिए कानून तोड़ने की बात करोगे तो सज़ा भुगतोगे. हाँ, आका बन जाओ तब कानून तोड़ो, चाहे जितना मर्ज़ी हो. कोई तुमसे सवाल नहीं करेगा.  आगे से याद रहे, तुम्हारा पाला एक ऐसे तंत्र से पडा है जो कुक्कुरधर्मिता में विश्वास रखता है. सिंह का चरित्र रखोगे तो ऐसे ही रौंद दिए जाओगे. 
                 धमकियों और लानत-मलामतों के साथ,
                        तुम्हारे हुक्मरान 

Sunday, January 17, 2010

"Rocket Singh", much more than what the title suggests

"Rocket Singh -Salesman of the Year" is a deceptively titled gem. I call the title deceptive because it gives the impression of a laugh riot, a sort of comic fairy tale where the hero achieves success despite, or rather because of, his naivete and simplicity. There are sequences that evoke laughter, no doubt, but they hit you hard instead of tickling you. I feel compelled to commit the blasphemy of comparing director Shimit Amin with the likes of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Basu Chatterjee. These maestros of yore had helped Hindi cinema beautifully bridge the gap between entertainment and realism. In his own way, with ample help from scriptwriter Jaideep Sahni, Amin reminds us of the giants of the 1970s and 1980s by telling a story wherein the Indian middle class makes an authentic comeback. It is ironical that the middle class, despite being the target audience, has rarely been portrayed realistically in movies of the recent past. Amin and Sahni, who had earlier collaborated to come out with the unconventional "Chak De India", have this time performed the miracle of portraying mundane characters and events with a remarkable freshness. They deserve praise for showing the courage to have as their protagonist a sardar, who is totally at variance with all the stereotypes of this community. He is neither a macho patriot, nor a buffoon mechanic or taxi driver nor a dimwit head of a family whose members seem to be competing with him in terms of stupidity. Harpreet Singh Bedi is a quintessential boy-next-door with ambitions and concerns all of us can relate to. He is gifted with no exceptional talents, but is, nevertheless, a man of courage and persistence and also a strong sense of ethics. Through his eyes, we get to see the corruption and depravity that pervades the corporate world, a worrying reality of our times, which has not found as much expression in our films as the other great social malady - political corruption. We get to see the ugly side of the much-extolled corporate ethics, which believes that end justifies the means. The end here refers to maximising profit and means range from bribery to jobbery. The distraught young man tries to blow the whistle and to his horror discovers that it was nothing short of a cardinal sin in the eyes of his employers. The distraught sardar is asked by his friends to change the job as he was too nice for the evil system. However, he displays a heroic resilience and refuses to give up. Realising that the evil was widespread and that mere change of job need not necessarily bring the elusive happiness to his life, he looks deep within and also takes a hard look at his surroundings. This makes him realise that even amidst the all-pervading cynicism, people do crave for sincerity, honesty and trustworthiness. He also gets to understand that the brutality of the system was in no small measure responsible for the unscrupulousness in their nature.
Armed with these two modern day noble truths, he ventures out to float a company of his own (surreptitiously, without resigning from his organisation). By virtue of the human touch reflective of the founder's own personality, "Rocket Sales Corp" starts giving the company, where all the turbaned gentleman and his companions continue to work, a run for its money. Their boss Puri, a ruthless and cunning go-getter, becomes desperate to finish off this unlikely rival. He finally gets on to find out what has been going right under his nose and blackmails Bedi into selling the company to him, with the promise that he himself and more importantly his supportive, yet hapless colleagues would be spared from legal action. However, Puri finds that his own cynical business acumen may have helped him take over Rocket Sales Corp., but the clients of this fancy-free company are not impressed as they keep complaining that the brand name may have remained but the character has been lost. Puri tries to trick Bedi to return to his company, but the young man does not fall into his trap and tells him that for him "business is about people and not merely profit". Puri concedes defeat and walks away but not without giving Rocket Sales Corp back to its creator. Thereafter, Bedi is shown making a new beginning, of course with the help of his colleagues whom he had helped reclaim their dignity and self-respect. Verbal description can hardly do justice to this gem of a movie which is marked by a great eye for details and very well etched out characters. This is of course, in addition to a brilliant script, fine direction and convincing performances from all the artistes who do full justice to their roles no matter how much footage they may have been given. The movie deserves to be watched by all, not just connoisseurs, as it convincingly shows that honesty and dignity are as relevant to our times as they were ever before.

Monday, January 11, 2010

The magic of 3 idiots

There is nothing new in movies being inspired from works of fiction. However, rarely do celluloid versions surpass the books on which they are based. 3 idiots is one such rare instance. Due apologies to Mr Chetan Bhagat who is already sulking over the insufficiency of the “credit” he has been given by the makers of the film. He is bound to cringe upon hearing that the movie has turned out to be even more riveting than his debut novel which, to be fair, was not an uninteresting piece at all. Leaving aside comparisons, one would add that dissimilarities between the movie and the novel far outnumber the similarities. It would not be an exaggeration to say that Rajkumar Hirani, who made no little impact with his “Munnabhai” series, has delivered what has so far been his best.

The movie is much more than a critique of Indian education system. It does criticize the system but does not tie itself into knots by suggesting an alternative model. It however, exhorts one to dare to be different. It encourages people to be, as the famous 1980s song had put it, “just a man and his will to survive”. The protagonist Rancho, played by Amir Khan, is a non-conformist but not a Hippie-style rebel. He has his own convictions and defends his friends’ right to have theirs. He is courageous enough to question and the pedantic style of his teacher in the classroom of his engineering college and irreverent enough to accost the boss of the institution whose rebuke drives a hapless student to suicide. His uniqueness does not make him a misfit. Instead, his malleability endears him to all and helps him survive the sniggers of those who disapprove of his ways. His ability to imagine and improvise helps him perform tasks that win the hearts of his worst critics and his most bitter rivals. His infectious vivacity rubs on his close friends who gather the courage to follow their hearts instead of treading the beaten track. He succeeds in convincing his friends, and the viewers as well, that if you tell yourself “all is well”, you get the courage to face your problems head-on even if not the ability to solve them. In an era when we, as Oscar Wilde had said “know the price of everything and the value of nothing”, he reaffirms the supremacy of “excellence” over “success”.

There is something magical about Hirani. He weaves a tale of improbabilities with an aplomb that compels the viewer to suspend disbelief. Can it be possible for a rich brat’s gardener to go to an engineering college bearing his name and getting a degree with that fake identity? Is it really possible to escape the humiliation of ragging by playing a nasty trick upon seniors hell bent upon bullying the freshers? Can one survive, let alone come out with flying colours, in an institute for four years after saying and doing everything that is close to the bone of teachers? There are many such episodes which appear absurd only when one has finished watching and is equipped with the wisdom of hindsight. The absurdities escape the incredulity of the viewer while the movie is being watched. And this is its biggest strength. Hirani did it in “Munnabhai MBBS” which saw the protagonist infusing life, and hence compassion as well, into a medical college and hospital in a way that was too silly to be true. He has repeated the magic with even greater success. Full marks to Mr Amir Khan who has played a character half his age with the conviction that only he is capable of. Compared with Khan’s act, how incongruous Rajendra Kumar and Jeetendra were when they played college-going characters in their hey day. Efforts of Madhavan and Sharman Joshi too need to be acknowledged. They were not playing their age either. They have got into their roles without displaying the frustration that comes while playing second fiddle to a more celebrated co-star. Omi Vaidya is a really good find while Boman Irani once again demonstrates his finesse at playing ruthless eccentricity. Dialogues are brilliant for which Hirani shares the credit with Abhijat Joshi. The musical score may not be of the best quality but Swanand Kirkire truly deserves a pat on his back for so beautifully capturing the various moods of the film, especially “give me some sunshine” and “behti hawa sa thaa wo”. Those who have not yet watched it are missing something of real value. So hurry!

Thursday, January 7, 2010

बिमल रॉय: एक विनम्र श्रद्धांजलि

आज से 34 साल पहले इसी दिन दिवंगत हुए बिमल रॉय उन विलक्षण फिल्मकारों में अग्रणी थे जिनकी बदौलत हिंदी सिनेमा का आज अंतर्राष्ट्रीय स्तर पर एक मुकाम है। रॉय ने "देवदास", "परिणीता", "बिराज बहू" और "बंदिनी" जैसी उत्कृष्ट साहित्यिक कृतियों पर फिल्में बनाकर यह साबित किया कि सिनेमा की भूमिका केवल मनोरंजन तक ही सीमित है। स्वयं एक प्रतिभाशाली फिल्मकार होने के अलावा वे निस्संदेह प्रतिभा के अद्भुत पारखी भी थे जो कि इस बात से प्रमाणित होता है कि मूल रूप से संगीतकार के रूप में ख्यातिप्राप्त सलिल चौधरी के लेखन की ताकत को उन्होंने पहचाना जिसके फलस्वरूप आज भारत के पास "दो बीघा ज़मीन" जैसा अमूल्य रत्न है। जैसे साहित्य के क्षेत्र में "गोदान" का नायक "होरी" अभावग्रस्त और चिर संघर्षरत भारतीय किसान का प्रतीक बन चुका है वैसे ही ग्रामीण सामंती व्यवस्था और नगरों के नृशंस पूँजीवाद के बीच पिसते श्रमिक वर्ग के प्रतिनिधि का दर्ज़ा "दो बीघा ज़मीन" के शम्भू को प्राप्त है। जिन लोगों को यह भ्रम है कि गत वर्ष एक अँगरेज़ के द्वारा बनाई गयी एक अति साधारण फिल्म के ओस्कार जीतने के बाद ही वैश्विक पटल पर हिंदी सिनेमा (आज की भाषा में बॉलीवुड) को प्रतिष्ठा मिलने का दौर शुरू हुआ है, उनको इस बात पर ध्यान देना चाहिए कि "दो बीघा ज़मीन" पचपन वर्ष पहले ही अंतर्राष्ट्रीय फिल्म समारोहों में अपना डंका बजा चुकी थी। यदि प्रगतिशील साहित्य की तरह "प्रगतिशील सिनेमा" की बात की जाए तो बिमल रॉय निस्संदेह इसके पुरोधा माने जायेंगे। "दो बीघा ज़मीन" के साथ ही उनकी दूसरी प्रसिद्द फिल्म "सुजाता" को देखिये। अस्पृश्यता की समस्या, जो भारतीय समाज की एक अजीबो-गरीब विभीषिका रही है, इतने बेजोड़ ढंग से शायद ही कहीं और दिखाई गयी हो। "सुजाता " की खासियत यह है कि एक गुरुतम विषय को बेहद सहज ढंग से पेश किया गया है जिससे दर्शक बगैर ऊबे हुए सोचने पर मजबूर हो जाता है। और यदि आप कहीं यह मान बैठे हैं कि बिमल रॉय तो अपने ज़माने के श्याम बेनेगल थे जिनकी फिल्में केवल कलात्मक हो सकती हैं, मनोरंजक नहीं, तो "बंदिनी" देख लीजिये। और "यहूदी" को हम कैसे भूल सकते हैं? रोमन साम्राज्य की पृष्ठभूमि पर बनी हुई यह अनोखी फिल्म हास्यास्पद हो गयी होती अगर किसी औसत योग्यता वाले निर्देशक ने इसकी कमान संभाली होती। लेकिन बिमल रॉय ने एक बार फिर साबित कर दिया के फिल्म बनाने के मामले में वे हरफनमौला हैं। उन्हें हमारी विनम्र श्रद्धांजलि।