Super Filmi Week: Prepping for Padmavati!

Prepping for Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Padmavati, remembering Rajesh Khanna and Raaj Kumar’s exclusive tramp club and picking Ranbir Kapoor’s best performance in my Super Filmi Week.


As I behold the cinematic pomp of Padmavati‘s posters, I am convinced its director Sanjay Leela Bhansali dreams with his eyes wide open.

Not everyone may be a fan of his opulent ways but there’s plenty to get excited about this 14th century costume drama starring Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor and Ranveer Singh.

Whether it adheres to Malik Muhammad Jayasi’s epic Padmavat or speculates over its protagonist’s existence in the manner of Galadriel’s ‘history became legend, legend became myth’ allusions is immaterial. This is, first, a fascinating story of love, lust and honour. And given Bhansali’s eye for splendour, one hopes for nothing but movie magic.

To whet my curiosity, I dig into some earlier adaptations of how one glimpse of Chittor’s renowned beauty Rani Padmavati drives Delhi Sultan Alauddin Khilji crazy enough to lay siege on her home and husband Ratan Sen’s empire.

Jaswant Jhaveri’s Maharani Padmini (1964) opens with a poorly structured ‘apology’ that mentions ‘it has bridged over certain prejudices of history dictators and flattery made by historians so as to treat this subject on purely logical lines.’

Stuffed with an indifferent soundtrack and stagy performances (Anita Guha, Jairaj, Shyama and Sajjan) the trick to enjoy this hotchpotch of severed heads and knee-high martyrs is fast forward all the songs.

On the other hand, Shyam Benegal’s artistic account in Bharat Ek Khoj plays out in Om Puri’s imposing presence as Khilji and Rajendra Gupta’s strictly adequate Ratan Sen. Seema Kelkar’s insipid portrayal of the pretty-faced catalyst though is a complete downer.

What’s not is Bhansali’s association with the episode. The director worked as one of the editing assistants on Benegal’s magnum opus for Doordarshan.

Tuesday

Once I wrote about things we no longer see in Hindi movies. Every now and then I keep finding more stuff to add to that list.

Here’s a brand new one — the beggarly face of guilt and regret.

Heartbreak is tough, especially when you are responsible for it. But in the good old days, the hero was condemned to eternal damnation. He could never stop atoning for his mistakes until he resembled a destitute yeti wrapped in a lowly shawl.

Depiction of such extreme remorse can be found in the final scenes of Rajesh Khanna’s Aap Ki Kasam, Raaj Kumar’s Lal Patthar, Jeetendra’s Mere Huzoor and Sanjay Dutt’s Sahibaan.

Wednesday

At a theatre close to home, I rush to catch an early morning show of Mahesh Babu’s latest Telugu masala, Spyder. Given how maligned and misunderstood the genre is, it’s always nice when someone understands its potential for riveting cinema.

Spyder is a classic take on the good versus evil conflict where director A R Murugadoss pits its clean-cut hero with a creepy-smiled villain in a manner that’s evocative of the Batman-Joker dynamic in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight.

Except it’s not Bruce Wayne but the bad guy’s murky backstory and the evil it extends into in S J Suryah’s delightfully showy performance that lends Spyder its true edge.

It’s as I said in my review, ‘Some stories never get old if told well.’

Thursday

It’s Ranbir Kapoor’s birthday!

To mark the occasion, I compiled a list of ten of his best performances ranging from Rockstar to Rajneeti. As the results of the poll show, most people I asked answered Barfi, Rockstar and Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year.

I can see why.

I, too, love how Ranbir disappears to become Harpreet Singh Bedi in Rocket Singh, the affection in his eyes for Priyanka Chopra when she doesn’t move during his odd friendship test in Barfi and his muddled state of mind as he talks to Kumud Mishra in the middle of a fast growing crowd of admirers in Rockstar.

Daddy Rishi Kapoor may not approve of his box office unsafe choices but the 35-year-old has set the bar high enough for fans to expect his films to be as solid as his acting.

Friday

There used to be a time when audiences happily lapped up half a dozen songs and a crazy mix of action, romance and comedy picturised on popular stars and foreign locations.

David Dhawan has recycled the formula for years now. From Judwaa to Judwaa 2, his filmmaking has neither grown nor changed. Except he’s still laughing his way to the bank, so what does that say?

While watching the shoddy remake, I am struck by the diligence with which his offspring impersonates its original star Salman Khan.

Like I wrote in my review, ‘You can almost hear David instructing his son, ‘Beta Varun, do a Salman.’

‘How does Govinda say that line?’

The upshot is a compliant son and committed mimic foregoing his individuality to assume the skin of two actors David has worked with most prolifically.’

Saturday

I’ve just finished gulping down a glass of milk and lift my cell phone from the bedside to check the time when the news of Tom Alter’s death flashes before me in a text from work.

Sometime back, I asked the folks on Twitter to name a celebrity they don’t know personally but believe must be a genuinely good person in real life. I do believe Tom Alter — the Indian who played foreigner — would qualify as one.

What a warm, well-spoken and well-informed figure.

My earliest memory of him is Manoj Kumar’s Kranti, where he plays a typically nasty British officer. He’s a lot friendlier in Satyajit Ray’s I where the difference in the two director’s sensibilities is a case study in ends of a spectrum.

Alter is exquisite in the scene he translates Nawab Wajid Ali Shah’s poem for Richard Attenborough’s General Outram:

Wound not my bleeding body 
Throw flowers gently on my grave.
Though mingled with the earth I rose up to the skies. 
People mistook my rising dust for the heavens.

RIP, Sir.

Sunday

The most pleasant day of the week begins with the sight of Manorama and Om Prakash coming dangerously close to ruining Lamhe for me.

And ends with a drab inaugural episode of Bigg Boss 11 hosted by a sleepy Salman Khan who looks like he’s had enough of engaging with publicity-hungry loons.

Can’t say he’s the only one.

This column was first published on rediff.com.

Previously:
Alia, Bhumi, Kriti, Shraddha’s Sisterhood of Travelling Pants!
Kudos to Kangana
Gulzar’s gussa, Tendukar’s tears
When Akshay met his scientist fan
John Wick’s Amar Akbar Anthony moment
When the bride cried Sallu
Imagining Ranbir Kapoor as Balraj Sahni
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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