Bollywood


The Dark Knight Rises, but that has a lot to do with all the fluff.

To be honest, I think it’s a victim of the success of the last instalment. But whichever way I look at it, it’s a poorer film than the last one. Not just thematically, but otherwise as well.

The Dark Knight, I thought, was a fantastic film. And while I admit that it would be very difficult for a sequel to live up to that, one would have expected Nolan to have done a better job.

As is often the case, the problem starts with the script. For starters, unlike the last time, when we were confronted with the question of how to deal with Evil that exists purely for the thrill of doing evil, and with no other ambition or motive, this time we are treated to an unconvincing Revenge Drama reminiscent of dhishoom dhishoom Bollywood.

As if this weren’t bad enough, clumsily woven into the narrative from the very beginning is this angst of the 99% against the 1%, starting with Hathaway spouting her equivalent of  the “main chor paida nahin hui milord, mujhe samaj ne chor banaya”  dialogue. That strand is picked up later, culminating in the liberté, égalité, fraternité bits, complete with the storming of the Bastille and Guillotine sentencings.

The characterisations are nothing to write home about either. The whole Bane thing was another throwback to the good ol’ Hindi flicks of the 70s and 80s, where villains like Shakaal, Mugambo, Kancha Cheena and Whatsisname terrorised the local population until they had their comeuppance. That scene in the stadium was reminiscent of Evil Thakur holding sway in Village Square, with Hirsute Henchmen terrorising Helpless Villagers with their Double-Barrelled Guns before spiriting away Voluptuous Village Belle on horseback. Please, Nolan. Been there, done that.

And while it is par for the course today for a movie to have that obligatory twist in the end, must Nolan have fallen prey to that clichéd and desperate attempt of filmmakers to extract some more oohs and aaahs from the audience?  And if it had to be done, it should at least have been done well. As it happens, I guessed the twist(s) fairly early on. Yes, all of them.

Even the action was not as great as it was the last time. Remember the moments leading up to the revelation of the Batpod in The Dark Knight? Nothing close to that here. There’s an extended sequence towards the end with the Batpod, the Bat, a Truck and some other armoured car type thingies that’s good, but not great.

So – not a great script, no great action, mostly pedestrian acting. All in all, a disappointing effort. Coming from a director whom I really admire, the only rationalisation I have is that Nolan is fatigued.

He is fatigued because a franchise kills your creativity. How do you excel in your craft when you are constrained by the specifics of the franchise, hemmed in by the constructs of the initial instalments, and yet under pressure to match not only your own previous works, but also the other I-am-a-Superhero-battling-my-own-demons-and-flirting-with-the-dark-side franchises that seem to be crawling out of the woodwork?

And that’s the problem with The Dark Knight Rises. It’s a product of fatigue. Nolan’s fatigue is evident, as is Bale’s. And when the director and the star both seem to be going through the motions, what more can one expect?

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Trans-sexuality in a Bollywood film is a no-no. (Films about hijras – e.g. Tamanna and Darmeyan – notwithstanding.) So our hero – Aamir Khan – is a secret agent in drag out to save India from the scourge of terrorism. (I wish he’d save us from rising inflation first).

Whilst battling these terrorists – in drag – in a remote town in the hills (it’s always a remote town in the hills), he comes to know, in a suitably dramatic way, of the existence of a daughter he never knew he had. The daughter’s going to seed. We can’t show her wanting to become a prostitute (Laaga Chunari Main Daag bombed!), much less a gay one at that. (We make good clean family films. The rapes, incest and molestation happen after the movies!). So what’s the next “bad”, yet redeemable, thing she wants to do? Voilà, she wants to be an item girl in Hindi films – à la Rakhi Sawant, with oodles of fat in all the right places to send Indian men into an erotic frenzy. For which she needs to get to Mumbai. Rakhi Sawant is the obvious choice for the role. Made to order.

Now, Aamir is horrified at her choice of career, but he’s in drag. Who’s gonna take him seriously? He wants to bond with his daughter, and so decides the best way is to offer her a ride to Mumbai, the city of her dreams. That suits Rakhi, so she agrees.

During the journey, Aamir drops subtle hints that he (in the guise of a she) is not who Rakhi thinks she (he) is, and launches into discourses about the tough choices young parents have to make when they are unprepared to have children – “ek bhool ki vajah se”! (Love these Hindi euphemisms for unprotected teenage sex.) For the Hindi-challenged, the phrase means “because of one mistake”. Pensive looking Aamir has a flashback where he’s cavorting with Rakhi’s mother, Rani Mukherjee, and how they end up having sex – you know, close-ups of fire, birds cooing, close-up of a hand clutching a crumpled bed-sheet at the climax. (Of the song too!)(Song No 1)

Anyway, Rakhi Sawant not being as dumb as she pretends to be, figures out that the clues Aamir’s dropping point to Aamir being her mother….and reacts accordingly. Anger, hurt, recrimination. Then mother-daughter talks on chumming, boyfriends, methods of contraception, with the audience howling with laughter at Aamir’s discomfiture. Rakhi ups the rebelliousness quotient. At one point, Aamir loses his wallet, and Rakhi Sawant pays for their meal by doing an item number (Song No 2) at this dhaba (Translation: rural roadside eatery) and comes away with enough money to travel to Mumbai in style.

This is not quite the bonding Aamir was hoping for. Anyway, at this moment, tragedy strikes – the terrorists attack, and the car plunges down a steep cliff into a roaring river.

Cut to – the famous Hindi film temple, with Rani (who else?) praying for the lives of these two people miraculously washed ashore at the temple, one of whom she’s recognised as her long-lost partner in an oft-remembered sexual – but “pure”, don’t ask me how – escapade. Rani asks God for justice in her life, now that she’s finally found the love of her life again….(Song No 3).

The flower falls from the idol, like in every Hindi film since time immemorial, and the Aamir-Rakhi duo awakens, sputtering out some water they had swallowed. Tearful reconciliation between Aamir and Rani. Introduction of Rakhi and Rani to each other. More tears. (Including people like me tearing my hair out.) Rakhi’s confusion at this point is complete. If Rani is her mum, who’s this other woman-parent? (Aamir’s in drag, remember?) Is she the adoptive daughter of a lesbian couple? Just as she’s getting fucked in the head, Aamir pulls out his falsies and the family has another tearful hug. (Misty eyes in the audience now.)

Huge special-effects martial-arts sequence at climax as terrorists (who have no religion!) attack the temple. Aamir saves the day, ably assisted by some comical fight-antics from the mother-daughter duo.

End with a happy family song (Song No 4) with all three of them in happily-ever-after mode, with a fully clothed, “reformed” Rakhi now at medical school, complete with that ridiculous white coat, glasses and a stethoscope.

All’s well that ends well.

So should I quit my day job, folks? What say?