Do Dooni Chaar delights, Eat, Pray, Love disappoints, and A Little Less Something…

A mixed bag of big stars, big productions, nostalgia and a bit of cinema from the not so popular theme, up for grabs in Bengaluru this time.

Many in India watched with curiosity as Julia Roberts filmed for Eat, Pray, Love in India. Now, many months later, the film directed by Ryan Murphy and filmed by Brad Pitt is finally here.

Eat, Pray, Love, based on the bestselling novel of the same name by Elizabeth Gilbert, tells the story of Elizabeth’s (Julia Roberts) journey around the world to find herself after a painful divorce.

As the story unfolds on celluloid, the traveler in you can’t help responding to moments in the film with a sense of deja vu. For her part, Julia Roberts brings alive the role of in all its self-doubt and the restlessness of the quest.

Yet your empathy with Eat, Pray, Love ends there. Though well intentioned and accompanied by a sense of humour that makes you laugh in fits and starts, it finally struggles to inspire. This journey to find oneself could do with a little more soul.

Narrative and dialogue ends up sounding vaguely familiar, as one thinks of better made films that pioneered this genre like Chocolat and Under the Tuscan Sun about a decade ago. Since then, Hollywood has said the same thing to the world again many times in different films. All these many repetitions come together to find their place of honour in Eat, Pray, Love

The beauty of Robert Richardson’s cinematography that accompanies the traveler’s quest is blotted out by a script where cliché become an easy metaphor for global cultures. So Italians are great lovers and India has the elephants and yoga. Inevitably it’s the often heard take on the world as the film trudges towards its very predictable climax.

Yet in spite of the staleness of the script, the film has Julia Roberts, some laughs, a touch of romance and good cinematography. So a rating of 2.5 on 5 for Eat, Pray, Love. It’s a possible one time watch if you have nothing else to do on a Saturday evening.

Do Dooni Chaar celebrates the great Indian middle class

Meanwhile, Walt Disney comes to India with  Do Dooni Chaar. The film marks director Habib Faisal’s debut into Hindi cinema. It is Walt Disney’s first live action Hindi feature film. It is also the first film to have Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh as a lead couple after 30 years.

Amidst the segmentation of the Indian audience into categories like rural India, the youth segment and urban India, the most neglected group has probably been the Indian middle class family.  Do Dooni Chaar returns to them with a bang, in a film told in their vocabulary.

The film tells the story of the Duggals, a middle class family in the new shining digital India, whose biggest aspiration in life is simply to own a car. Scattered through this family’s adventure ridden journey to their first car are well loved and familiar characters like the harassed school teacher father Mr Duggal (Rishi Kapoor), the super mom (Neetu Singh) who keeps the hearth warm and still wants a better life, the teenage son (Archit Krishna) and college going daughter (Aditi Vasudev). Their different worlds clash, co-exist and evolve. Yet the film’s real beauty lies in simple ordinariness every step of the way.

There’s humour and soul all woven into a screenplay that is masterfully translated into a cinematic experience by director Habib Faisal. But it is the performances, all straight from the heart, that truly light up this film.

Rishi Kapoor and Neetu Singh come together once again to rekindle a screen magic that has not dulled with the years. They are ably supported by Aditi and Archit. It is also to Habib’s credit that none of them remain cardboard like caricatures, instead all his actors become flesh and blood characters.

So a rating of 4 on 5 for Do Dooni Chaar, a film that celebrates the best traditions of Walt Disney and the television serials that dominated the airwaves in the days when Doordarshan was King. It comes without the hype that has accompanied many of the bigger releases of 2010, but its honest simplicity will resonate with you long after.

A Little Less Something premieres at Suchitra

What’s around the corner?

Coming up is the Spanish Film Festival between October 18 to 24 2010 at Suchitra Film Society. The films to be screened include Casta Nano The new Indian middle class, En Construcción, Los Lunes Al Sol, The Iguazú Effect and Te doy mis ojos.
Time: 6 to 8 pm
Venue: Suchitra Auditorium, B V Karanth Road, Next to Post Office, Banashankari 2nd Stage

Meanwhile away from the huge multiplex releases, another film had its premiere at Suchitra Film Society.

Made by young Bangalorean filmmaker Sidhanth KS, A Little Less Something is a love story. But it not your run-of-the-mill romantic flick because it uses the approach of queer drama to tell of a brush with love between two young men Raghav (Sanjeev Nair) and Alok (Arvind Balakrishnan). It describes itself as the "first ever short film in India, to have dealt with homosexuality", and I honestly can’t think of too many others.

The 47-minute film, was shot over seven months at a budget of just Rs 70,000. Even if it does not have a big commercial release, it remains an interesting experiment in film-making that had all the artistes working on the film without any fee.

Cinema that uses street life in the background dominates the cinematography. There is also improvisation in abundance, like cinematographer Bharath’s creation of home made lighting on the sets, keeping an eye on the film’s tight budget.

But these production aspects aside, director Sidhanth must be congratulated for an unusual concept in his first short film, and telling the story with courage and honesty.

There of course slips in execution. Continuity is sometimes lost in a story that stands in fragments. Stronger performances could also have created a more enduring impression for a powerful concept. Yet, in spite of this, there is fearlessness and conviction to the attempt that must be applauded. If Sidhanth’s first film exists at all, it does so against unimaginable odds.

So we wish him all the best! May many more brave films be created by his lens.

The ratings and what they mean

The ratings are on a scale of 1 to 5 and try to strike that difficult balance between cinematic critique and giving the regular film buff a peek into what’s playing in town and worth a watch.

1: Watch this film only if the director pays you

2: You could safely give this film a miss

2.5: A one time watch

3: Good cinema. Money well spent

4: Great cinema. A standing ovation

5: Simply speechless. A masterpiece

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