Super filmi week: Getting ready for the Baahubali juggernaut

Prepping for the Baahubali juggernaut, remembering a toddler Vinod Khanna and making Deepika Padukone dance to Jennifer Lopez’s tunes, Sukanya Verma’s super filmi week was pretty eventful.

Monday
No time for Monday blues. After a loooong wait, Baahubali will finally reveal its best kept secret. 

Although, as hyped up that inquiry is, I can’t claim to have undergone any sleepless nights wondering why Katappa did what he did. Rather, I am wildly curious to learn how the revenge pans out.  

Meanwhile, I am revisiting the first part of S S Rajamouli’s epic action fantasy for the second time since its release in 2015 to compose a quiz. Only this time, I skip the clunky Hindi dub to experience its magic in Telugu. Translations are helpful but there’s so much more power and emotion to words when understood in their original form and voice. 

Often after a film blows my mind, I avoid watching it again for this fear of diluted impact or not feeling the original ‘wow’ factor. That’s not the case with Baahubali: The Beginning.

Everything I loved about it — action, ambition, audacity, cinematography, imagination, Prabhas — I still do.

Everything I found problematic — dumbing down of Tamannaah’s character, songs in the second half — remains the same.  

Tuesday
Realisation of the day: Bollywood is a lightsaber-armed villain versus the crossbow-wielding hero. Acting is keeping a straight face through it all. (Courtesy: A film called Iraada.)

Wednesday
I am at a suburban multiplex, attending the Indian premiere of Félicité organised by the MAMI (Mumbai Academy of Moving Image) film club. 

Quite remarkable how the MAMI team is making continuous efforts to bring in acclaimed foreign films for the desi cinephile’s consumption so soon after their appearance on an international platform. 

Recipient of the Silver Bear Grand Jury Prize at the Berlin International Film Festival earlier this year, the Alain Gomis directed French production is a compelling portrait of a woman as much as it is of a city who do not give up on themselves no matter how trying the circumstances. 

Set in the grubby, unhinged Congolese capital of Kinshasa, Félicité documents the ordeal of a single mother struggling to raise funds after her son suffers critical injuries in a motorcycle accident. 

Singing at the local bar not only provides her the means to run a home but a lively outlet to feel alive and express her identity in the midst of throbbing music and an appreciative audience. But in the face of her son’s physically painful condition, the stoic woman is left reeling in despair. 

Gomis gives an internal account of her state and sensitivity, manifesting itself in dimly lit, surreal dreams featuring an okapi even as the scenes intercut between a rousing choir and discordant reality.  

Tough as things may be, they aren’t entirely without hope. 

During this tough period, she finds some unlikely comfort in an unassuming auto mechanic. His silly but endearing attempts to impress her, cheer her desolate kid and fix their conked off fridge provide Félicité its few smiles and a realisation of how life will continue to function even if some things are beyond repair.   

Enchanté.

Thursday
Vinod Khanna has passed away.

As I sit down to pay a tribute to his sparkling personage and cinematic highs, a distant memory returns to me. 

As a kid, disposed to snooping into my parents’ stuff, I had discovered a black and white photograph of a toddler Vinod Khanna. It was neatly tucked in a file belonging to my journalist father along with all his other work-related cuttings, writings and notes. 

Khanna’s name was handwritten on the back of the picture even as his unmistakably shiny mane, striking cleft and poetic eyes graced its front. The actor looked regal and camera-confident even then.

Unfortunately, my dad wasn’t around to tell me the story behind the picture, it was probably part of a feature he wrote. Still, I tried flaunting it amongst a few school friends and neighbours but not everyone bought into its authenticity. 

I am no longer sure where the photograph is any more. Perhaps it’s still lying somewhere in one of my zealously packed cartons I haven’t had the opportunity to open since I moved out. 

RIP Vinod Khanna, you live on in countless such memories. 

Friday
I am not a morning person but when the occasion is Baahubali: The Conclusion, I don’t mind waking up at 7am to catch its first show. Especially when it’s rewarded with the thrill of seeing a hall full of enthusiastic folk breaking into applause at Baahubali’s every move and entry.   

At interval point, I am so psyched by the events in SS Rajamouli’s magnificent telling of the Baahubali mythology, I can barely bring myself to leave the hall and buy a samosa to calm down my breakfast-deprived stomach.

And so the haste with which he winds up the climax is a bit of a downer. The action is grand but Rajamouli’s mastery in mega makes me dismissive towards anything that’s not unprecedented. 

Grievances aside, I am only a little embarrassed to admit I had Baahubali-sized tears rolling down my cheeks when the most asked question concerning the film becomes its most heart-breaking reality.   

As I pointed out in my review, ‘this time, high drama, more than spectacle, is what lends its riveting tale of revenge and glory all its wallop and wizardry.’

Saturday
A fun DIY remix idea pops in my head on seeing Deepika Padukone gyrate seductively to the beats of Raabta’s title track on YouTube. 

Just play the video on mute, set the speed to 1.5 and turn on the Jennifer Lopez song Waiting for Tonight in full blast and what have you — a smooth cocktail of scorching visuals and sexy vocals.   

Sunday
Reading a month or two old interview of Michelle Pfeiffer by her Mother! director Darren Aronofsky and her journey from grocery clerk to beauty pageant winner to Hollywood A-lister is most fascinating. 

She is bright but shy and unconscious of the heady effect she has on people. The star of films like Scarface, The Fabulous Baker Boys, Batman Returns, Age of Innocence, Desperate Liaisons and One Fine Day has a potent presence on screen but off it, she isn’t so sure. 

Where her reserve translates into skillful renditions of complicated characters, Pfeiffer admits a sense of insecurity. ‘I’ve always had this feeling that one day they’re going to find out that I’m really a fraud, that I really don’t know what I’m doing.’ 

Incredibly self-deprecating sentiments coming from an actress about whom filmmaker Tim Burton once gushed, ‘I don’t really go back and look at the movies but her performance in that (Batman Returns) was one of my favourite performances of anything by anyone in any movie that I’ve worked on’ and film critic Roger Ebert wrote, ‘an actress with the ability to make you care about her, to make you feel what she feels.’

This column was first published on rediff.com.
Previously:
Long live Aamir’s Model School Pajamachaaps
King’s Speech by SRK
Getting ready for the Baahubali juggernaut 
Super filmi week with Hit Girl Asha Parekh
Feasting on Achari Alia, Mastani Papdi!
Grace under fire
More power to Anushka Sharma
Rishi Kapoor’s page-turning debut!
Picking Jedi skills from Amitabh Bachchan
Mera wala Shah Rukh
Ranbir-Ranveer, sigh sigh!
When Tabu struggled with a 500 rupee note
Of post-festival blues and toilet titles!
Finding links of life in Dhoni’s Ranchi and Madhuri’s Mujrim!
Inside Dharmendra-Hema’s intensely private world
Power of Pink
The irrepressible cuteness of Pooja Bhatt
Indradhanush was our Stranger Things
When Saif Ali Khan wore Rishi Kapoor’s sweater
Getting nostalgic about the 1980s, Winona Ryder & Kishore Kumar
Rediscovering Gulzar’s Ghalib & finding Free Love
Applauding NTR’s Superman on screen!
Tripping on A R Rahman
A millipede and Kimi Katkar’s monsoon romance
Udta Punjab, worst casting decisions, and naheeee…!
Of warring Khan bhakts and meeting Mogambo!
Ranbir’s forgotten romance in Bachna Ae Haseeno
Funnier than Aishwarya’s lips
Clashing superheroes and crying Khans
OCDing on Neetu Singh’s LPs!
Garam Dharam, Mantrik Origins, Rockstar Cruise

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