Review: Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai neither asks nor answers

Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai

There are probably more people who have heard the title than have actually seen the film,’ Naseeruddin Shah writes in his memoir, And Then One Day.

Indeed, people are more familiar with Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai and its increased pop culture value since Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron than the slowly building angst of his titular hero in Saeed Mirza’s art-house classic. Director Soumitra Ranade doesn’t fall in this category.

Mirza’s life-like pace and conversations revolving around Christian minorities against the backdrop of Mumbai’s textile mills spoke of political awareness and urban exploitation. Unfortunately, Ranade’s affection for the movie doesn’t translate into a compelling remake. It is hardly even a remake and bears little resemblance to the tone, texture or ideals of the original.

While Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyoon Aata Hai inflamed the sparks of rebellion, the new one spelling — Kyoon as Kyon — treads a reckless path to justify dubious outrage. Ranade’s depiction of Albert Pinto’s temperamental existential crisis across zigzag flashbacks creates an infuriatingly disjointed picture of the man and his mind.

Between Albert Pinto, played by (Manav Kaul), hitting the road with Saurabh Shukla in pursuit of scamsters, his family members discussing his sudden disappearance to a cop and haphazardly introduced flashbacks, the script is an incoherent mess.

The new-age Pinto’s arguments aren’t out of line. He doesn’t see the point in procreation in an increasingly corrupt, consumerist world. He is put off by public apathy and storms in sarcasm. Except what should seem like the ire of an exasperated common man appear as hysterical ramblings of an unhinged human. Albert Pinto labours hard to be metaphoric and of significance.

The road trip as well as the people and problems he encounters are something like a journey into his stream of consciousness. But its tendency to veer off into bizarre spaces like paedophilia and then move ahead without concern rankle no end.

Dangling between profound and profane, Albert Pinto’s focus is neither intimate nor idiosyncratic to pull off the bizarre flights of imagination in which the sore titular hero sees his girlfriend in every other woman.

Also, those who haven’t watched Mirza’s 1980 creation will miss the context of Ranade’s allusions to characters only named here.

Despite the serious faults in Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai‘s manufactured despair, the cast saves it from becoming a work of complete pretentiousness.

Manav Kaul’s intensity shines and engages even when the subtext to his outburst is poorly established. He could be Albert, Akbar or Amar, ethnicity is hardly of any consequence. Nandita Das may be a bit too clever for the part, but her easy-going presence makes the inadequacy slightly easier to endure. But it is a brilliant Saurabh Shukla’s comfort in portraying sickening depravity that stands out in a movie that doesn’t know where to go.

Backdrops change, problems change but Albert Pintos continue to spawn in the unending cycle of subjugation and subversion. Ranade fails to develop it beyond a thought. Relevance isn’t enough. Response matters too.

Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai neither asks nor answers.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Notebook review: Wow visuals, wooden leads!

A still from Notebook

Kashmir’s soulful beauty seems so far removed from its volatile reality; it’s easy to believe a quiet love story could blossom here between an individual and a stranger’s diary. Much in the vein of recent Kashmir stories, Laila Majnu and Hamid, the troubled paradise is a photogenic metaphor for Notebook‘s isolated imagery and persisting hopes.

Director Nitin Kakkar’s official adaptation of the Thai drama, Teacher’s Diaryretains the serene, meditative ambience of its source, but colours it, if only mildly, in the aftermath of a region’s longstanding conflict.

Exodus of Kashmiri Hindus, rampant militancy, sight of army men strewn all across Srinagar and locals lamenting the lack of upbeat ‘mausam‘ and ‘mahaul‘ mark the proceedings in a manner that depicts them as more damaged than destructive. It’s only natural it opens with a character waking up from a bad dream.

Sadly, Notebook‘s more introspective and humane aspects remain confined to the backdrop to accommodate a lacklustre romance.

Kabir (Zaheer Iqbal) is a soldier who quits the army and takes up a teacher’s post in a remotely located, rickety houseboat school. A handful of apple-cheeked students, of varying age and academic requirements, show up and the customary ‘starting off on the wrong foot’ ensues until all’s well that ends well.

The new teacher discovers Firdaus (Pranutan Bahl), his predecessor’s diary — more like a tween’s autograph book full of cute doodles and poems — and is drawn to her so-called original thoughts. Especially the bit about darkness cannot drive darkness. Clearly, neither has ever heard of Martin Luther King Jr.

Considering the duo don’t meet for most part, Notebook abruptly veers off to squeeze in an awkward comic track featuring Kabir’s cheating girlfriend or forewarn us about the growing incompatibility between Firdaus and her fiancé. The coast is clear, but do we care?

A little charm from the debuting actors and Notebook would actually be worthy of note. Too bad they’re stiff as stick.

Pranutan is expressionless and Zaheer’s got big eyes — there’s a scene where they grow so big, I feared they might fall off. But that’s about it.

Of its predominantly Kashmiri cast, the kids are simply adorable. The few times the focus is on their innocence, mischief and desire for education, Notebookbecomes the film you want to see.

But Kakkar’s compulsion to showcase the passive affections between its expressionless leads insists we watch a gazillion solo shots of the two gazing into the stunning landscapes or silky sunsets one song after another.

It’s all very music video-y, where the soundtrack is lilting but the sentiment falls short.

What doesn’t is the photography. Manoj Kumar Khatoi’s camerawork is a treat for the eyes. Arresting visuals of wooden houses, poetic lakes, snug boats, chinar gardens and imposing mountains create an elegant, mystical mood.

More photobook than notebook, this.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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Gone Kesh Review: Bald & beautiful

A still from Gone Kesh

Losing hair may not be as extreme as losing eyesight, but its trauma can crush a person’s self-confidence. Even if one isn’t seduced by the idea of vanity or its burdens, it’s natural to want to hold on to what one always had.

Depressing as that may be, how long can a person focus on what’s gone and allow society’s set standards on beauty (or normal) to pull down one’s morale? You are what you feel and not how you look is easier said than done in a world fixated on light complexion, size zero and Rapunzel’s hair.

It’s tougher on young women given how a guy can be dark and handsome, bald and Bruce Willis. And yet to look into the mirror without someone else’s expectation is, perhaps, the only way to fight it.

Written and directed by Qasim Khallow, Gone Kesh is a good-natured coming-of-age tale about a Siliguri girl diagnosed with alopecia leading to acute hair loss and baldness.

A constant feeling of embarrassment has turned Inakshi (Shweta Tripathi) somewhat evasive and cast a shadow on her effervescent spirit. The only thing that seems to light up her face is a dance competition at the local mall where she is employed as a salesperson of a cosmetic department. Dancing is her passion and Inakshi is keen to participate even if company rules do not allow. It’s a minor setback for someone who has known worse.

Through frequent flashbacks of her teenage years, we witness the harrowing time she has had at school. Classmates make fun of the growing ‘brown island’ on her scalp and tease her Gone Kesh, a cruel wordplay on ‘gone case’.

Her father is initially dismissive and even darkens the patch using a sketch pen. Her mother is distressed at the sight of clogged hair in the sink. Ignorant physicians attribute it to generic deficiency and prescribe a diet of fruits and milk. Another treats it as an infection and suggests cream and carrots.

With masala out of her life and boiled eggs galore, Inakshi’s glum face wonders what she did to deserve all this baldness and blandness.

More than a social commentary though, Gone Kesh plays out like a personal account of a nightmarish decade in a young girl’s life as her condition becomes detrimental to her daily life and dreams.

Teenage is a tender time where even a jaw clip mocks and your best friend casually tying her tresses in a bun can be a painful reminder. What is nice is how director Khallow doesn’t see this as an opportunity to turn the premise into a soppy melodrama. His approach is poignant yet pragmatic and sprinkled with just enough humour to allow an easy, amusing interaction among average, uncomplicated people.

The happy-go-lucky inhabitants of Siliguri’s cosy, close-knit ambience dream as humbly as they speak. Inakshi wants to dance in a modest mall contest. Her father wants to travel in a plane. Her mom wants to see the Taj Mahal. And the boy (Jeetu, a rather likeable lad), who secretly crushes on Inakshi since college simply wants to take her on a momos date at a stall named Wong Kar Wai.

Despite the seriousness of the subject, Gone Kesh isn’t gloomy fare. Much of its warm, affable mood comes from Inakshi’s affectionate parents, played by Vipin Sharma and Deepika Amin.

Sharma is particularly remarkable as a simple shopkeeper and doting daddy vowing to get the best possible treatment for his daughter. Amin is a picture of motherly love and doesn’t even have to try.

Their effortless, authentic devotion to their unhappy child and Shweta Tripathi’s gentle understanding of unwanted physical transformation are Gone Kesh‘s greatest strength. Though it is marvelous how she continues to pull off schoolgirl parts half her age movie after movie.

It’s a bit disappointing then how Gone Kesh dilutes its sweet, straightforward momentum for a predictable climax and amplified sentimentality. Still, what it is conveying holds good. Not all Rapunzels need hair to break free.

This review was first published on rediff.com.

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