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India Today Entertainment and the Arts

India Today
March 2, 1998

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CINEMA: REVIEWS
Colours of Chaos

Colours of ChaosA messy plot and sketchy characters mar the film

Movie: SAAT RANG KE SAPNE
Director: Priyadarshan
Cast: Anupam Kher, Arvind Swamy, Juhi Chawla

Priyadarshan is fast becoming Bollywood's rural specialist. In this Yash Chopra- dictated decade of gossamer romances, MTV-hip glamour and foreign locations, Priyan (as he is better known in the film industry) is busy scouting obscure villages. Last year's sleeper hit Viraasat was a rural-based story, although driven by foreign-returned characters. But now, with his new romantic comedy, Saat Rang Ke Sapne (SRKS), he has gone rustic all the way.

SRKS takes place in the quintessential Bollywood designer village, where women in strategically low-cut mirror-work cholis draw water and every house looks like it's been furnished by Gurjari or the Rajasthan Emporium. Priyan is not a stickler for the authentic -- the film is set against a Rajasthani backdrop but for one song sequence, Manipuri dancers who drop in and tribals living close-by seem directly imported from the south.

The colours, however, are glorious. Priyan and his award-winning cameraman Ravi K. Chandran paint a riot in the desert sands -- blood-red turbans, Bandhini chunnis, breathtaking sunsets. The only problem is Priyan's story, which seems to have stepped out of the black and white era.

Two men, a master (Anupam Kher) and his servant (Arvind Swamy) fall in love with the same nautanki dancer (Juhi Chawla), unknown to each other of course. They bring her home and naturally, trouble ensues. With a sultry siren, a disgruntled servant, an ex-lover, a fortune-reading parrot and a long-suffering sister thrown in between, the web gets more and more tangled until even the camels begin to look a little exhausted.

Priyan captures a few powerful moments but an inconsistent characterisation and a clunky plot progression hobble the film. Unlike Kamalahasan's powerful Thevar Magan script which inspired Viraasat, srks is unnecessarily convoluted and too dependent on unfortunate coincidences. The incessant tourist brochure-style scenery also begins to pall after sometime.

Swamy, plump but not awkward, Chawla, beautiful in her mating-game-gone-wrong misery and Kher, the benevolent master distorted by lust, work hard to keep the proceedings afloat. But it's a difficult task. Despite all the sweat and energy, Priyan's canvas is a colourful mess.

--Anupama Chopra

Lone Battle

A seriously watchable film

Movie: Samaantharangal
Director: Balachandra Menon
Cast: Balachandra Menon, Renuka

Malayalam cinema seems to be witnessing reverse migrations. Several directors in the commercial circuit suddenly have discovered virtues in what they knocked down most: serious cinema. Jayaraj who started the trend last year with Desaadanam seems ensconsed in the world of parallel cinema with this year's impressive Kaliyattam. And now Balachandra Menon, the ace commercial film director, has joined the bandwagon with what he has termed as his magnum opus -- Samaantharangal meaning parallel lines. Menon has not only produced, directed and played the lead in the film, but has also done the screenplay, music and editing.

Due for release in April, Samaantharangal is the story of an obstinately upright railway station master Ismail, played by Menon. Ismail's high principles are always at conflict with the unscrupulous world outside. So much so that even his family members find his views unrealistic. The use of railway lines as a metaphor for the parallel value system underlines this conflict. Ismail does emerge victorious but not before paying a heavy price.

Though melodramatic, the story is relevant to the times. While Menon turns in an impressive performance in his role of a 60-year-old man, the other characters are reduced to insignificance. He even stretches the theme linking it with weighty issues like communalism. Happily, the film is devoid of stereotypes. Both in content and form, Samaantharangal marks a distinct departure from Menon's earlier films.

-- M.G. Radhakrishnan

 

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