Tuesday, November 4, 2008

On the Director: N.Chandra

Am reviewing 2 key films in the filmography of the director N.Chandra (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N._Chandra). Whose claim to fame could well be: being the catalyst to the emergence of the talent of Nana Patekar and Madhuri Dixit, both of them Maharashtrians; just like the director.

These 2 films are without doubt the most well known (and probably the most successful) of the films that he directed

Ankush (Trident) (1985) (Hindi Film)

A low budget gritty film, this one packs a surprisingly powerful punch aided in no small measure by the promising emergence of the talent of Nana Patekar, one of the main protagonists.

Essentially the story portrays the lives of some characters of the underbelly of the city: 4 youths driven by frustration, the unfairness of society and unemployment to being small-time hoodlums/gangsters. Essentially good at heart, they lose their way. Until in their neighbourhood, arrive the mother-daughter Jodi of Ashalata (the widow) and Nisha Singh, her idealistic daughter. The lives of the 4 take a turn for the better until an unsavoury event shatters their peace again. The girl, NS is raped by some hoodlums and the law turns a blind eye. And the 4 take it upon themselves to deliver justice.

The 4 youths: Nana Patekar and 3 others engage in minor crime and scuffles and this angle is developed during much of the first part of the movie. The next part is where the widow and her daughter form a bond with these scruffy characters and turn them to lead more meaningful lives. The final part is where the dreaded event and its aftermath occurs. The strong value system of the mother-daughter duo serves as a counterpoint to the lack of values of the gang of 4. The film walks on the tightrope between the 2 views on either side.

The film was quite successful in its time. In no small measure due to the presence of Nana Patekar (the new ‘Angry Young Man’) + the impressive way in which the script developed and the direction in which the plot progressed + its simple plot and premise. This was a time of strong frustration in India and all that cathart-ed onto the screen. The movie attempts to address some of the problems of that era: unemployment being the prime one, generic lawlessness, a lack of societal values and a frustration with the system being the others

Although featuring pretty low production standards (including one memorable sequence of scenes in the beginning where an event has part of the scene in the darkness of the night and part of it in broad daylight, alternating: much to my amusement), the film does raise the bar on quite a few fronts. Some crisp editing (no surprises here, the director started his career as an editor), powerful cameos and lead performances give the film its high watchability quotient. It has some fairly authentic location shoots. And a certain raw poignancy that touches your depths.

Subtlety may not be a strong point in most Hindi films but surprisingly is so over here. No romantic angle is even hinted-at. The relationship between the boys and NS is never classified. Whether there is a romantic angle or whether it is a brotherly/sisterly love? That angle is just not explored. And that’s nice, one just accepts it whatever it is.

The rape is depicted in what seemed to me a surprisingly sensitive fashion. Unlike the time-honoured tradition of most Hindi films, Ankush surprisingly does not drool over the rape or present it full of voyeurism or lasciviousness. There are some graphic scenes but sensitively handled. The sensitive dialogues dealing with the rape too. are rare for a Hindi film.

And a couple of its songs are quite hummable:

Itni Shakti Hame Dena Data

Aaya Mazaa Dildara


Madan Jain
Arjun Chakravarti
Nana Patekar
Suhas Palshikar
Nisha Singh

Screenplay: N.Chandra
Idea and Script: Debu Sen
Dialogues: Sayyed Sultan and N.Chandra
Music: Kuldeep Singh
Producer: Subhash Duragkar and N.Chandra
Writer, Editor, Director: N.Chandra

Tezaab (Acid) (1988) (Hindi Film)

Tezaab is a ‘Violent Love Story’ as it proclaims about itself at the beginning. The story and its handling is not of much consequence.

The primary reason why this movie was a super-duper hit was Madhuri Dixit, who arrived with a bang in the Hindi film industry and was to become one of its top heroines in the subsequent decade. The iconic song ‘Ek Do Teen’ and Madhuri’s dancing skills further aided that in no small measure. ‘Mads’ Madhuri Dixit’: Hindi films have never been the same after Mads.

Watching the movie itself some 20 yrs down the line sure is an embarrassing experience. It is sloppy at times, overtly violent, chauvinistic, caricaturist, garish and so on. But during those magical times, Tezaab was a breath of fresh air. And this has more to do with the movies that preceded it. The years prior to Tezaab were when Hindi films reached their nadir. One quote on them would suffice

Those who remember Bollywood of the eighties, remember them with a shudder. The women wore salwars with dhotis, the men had big hair and no one, not even the Khans of our current nostalgia trip, could rescue the films and make them kitsch classics. – Udita Jhunjhunwala

And onto this dreary landscape arrived Madhuri Dixit. Mads was refreshingly daring and not inhibited. Scanty dressing notwithstanding she still managed to appear virginally innocent, which is guess she was !!!!! She signaled the arrival of the Indian MTV generation. In those days her revealing dresses and suggestive moves in this song caused much public outrage and charges of increasing social immorality. By today’s standards however, it is pretty tame. Anyway, while the magic lasted, Mads and her songs were a young boy’s ultimate wet dream.

Her brilliant smile, the youthfulness and energy, the evident sincerity. Years have gone by, much of Tezaab is forgotten. But to some of us, the infatuation for Mads still remains.

And now about the songs:

Ek Do Teen has 2 versions but I could find only one on youtube….the more famous one with Madhuri all the way

The other 2 songs too are quite hummable / watchable.

So Gaya Yeh Jahaan

Keh Do Ke Tum

Other than that, there is some stellar emoting from Anil Kapoor (that is assuming you turn a blind eye to his dancing/prancing), Anupam Kher, Kiran Kumar and the supporting cast. And then there is the terrific chemistry between AK and MD that started with this movie and had so many others incarnations subsequently.

Story, Screenplay: N.Chandra
Dialogues: Kamlesh Pandey
DoP: Baba Azmi
Lyrics: Javed Akhtar
Music: Laxmi-Pyare

So what were the commonalities in both the movies:

There is a strong feeling of earthiness where the characters and inspirations are born from the underbelly of the city. As evidenced by the Bambaiya lingo.

The underdogs are the heroes and the director attempts to resurrect the ‘Angry Young Man’ of yore because the average Indian is angry.

There is a strong antipathy towards law, the police and their impotence and a violent attempt to resist. The wheel however turns a full circle in both films and we see the characters ultimately adhering to acceptable morality.

Sadly N.Chandra sort of faded away after these 2 initial successes. Were he around, Hindi films would have been less elitist and class conscious in these times

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