Look at that. The two films I’ve seen this week actually can be strung together to make a sentence. Sort of.
Here’s the unsurprising part: I liked Race 2 better. Not only is it more fun than Midnight’s Children, it may actually be a better movie, but to say this with any degree of conviction, I’d have to think about Midnight’s Children (in order to compare it to Race 2, parts of which are indelibly imprinted upon my brain) and no Deepa Mehta film deserves that treatment.
Mehta has a special skill as a director. No matter how low I place the bar of expectations, her films manage to sink lower. To say her films are disappointing would be incorrect. They’re just bad and Midnight’s Children is no exception. The acting is appallingly bad. The cinematography is so-so. Nitin Sawhney’s soundtrack barely registers and when Picture Singh (Kulbhushan Kharbanda) says, “Curses be upon us!”, everyone in the audience must have said “Ditto.” Midnight’s Children is made considerably worse courtesy Salman Rushdie’s screenplay, which is horrific. To think the man who wrote the book could actually butcher it so ruthlessly and then declare “I’m very proud of this film” is a revelation. (That said, I don’t suppose he could really have said “I think this movie is a monumental mistake” in publicity material.) In an effort to streamline the novel, Rushdie dispenses with nuance, logic and pretty much every quality of the novel. The mutilated mess of the story is rendered virtually unwatchable by the uniformly terrible acting. Rushdie’s voiceover is the only good part because it’s a reminder of how beautiful the language in the book is. If there was ever a film that made you want to read the book, this is probably it. That is, if you actually make any sense of the film and survive it till the end.
You could say that Abbas-Mustan are pretty darn ghastly as far as filmmaking goes, to which I will say this: Race 2 opens with a sniper dropping his gun and choosing to race across a city because an unarmed man with flared nostrils (flared nostrils = fury. Obviously) is chasing him. Wouldn’t it be easier for sniper to just shoot the angry man who’s on foot and has no cover? ‘Course it would but then there’d be no chase sequence, ergo. This is actually one of the smaller leaps of faith the film demands of us, since one of the key twists in the tale involve stealing the shroud of Turin — yes, the Shroud of Turin — by faking a bomb scare. Despite all this, Race 2 made more sense than Midnight’s Children. One could probably argue it’s more magic realism than Midnight’s Children. But I suspect for anyone who has ever seen a Deepa Mehta film, none of this is unexpected.
Now for the surprising parts.
1. A ticket to see the weekend show of film at PVR cinemas costs Rs. 380! That’s insane. Why on earth are we not taking to the streets to protest this kind of rubbish, prohibitive pricing? It’s rideffingculous.
2. Abbas-Mustan are running out of twists. That’s the only explanation I have for the fact that post-interval, Race 2 had only one twist (if I remember correctly). If you’ve seen Race, this is about as weird as a three-legged sheep. I saw Race while on the worst flight I’ve ever been on — die, Lufthansa, die — and the experience was hugely improved because a fellow passenger and I decided to indulge in a drinking game while watching Race. Every time, a character revealed that they weren’t who they claimed to be or that their relationship with another character wasn’t what it seemed to be, we knocked back our glasses. When we were getting off in Frankfurt, my fellow passenger was still curled into their extremely uncomfortable seat. And I’m reasonably certain there was at least one yellow tweetie bird flapping its wings around air hostess’ head. Race 2 seemed to be heading in that direction initially, but then for something like 40 minutes, there were no revelations or twists. Gasp!
3. Satya Bhabha, star of Midnight’s Children and son of legendary postcolonial theorist Homi Bhabha (who traumatised months of my life with his polysyllables and compound sentences), does a sing-song Indian accent that makes him sound like someone dropped him on the head when he was a kid. There are few ironies that can match up to this. In fact, if someone will show me a video of Bhabha’s face as he watches Midnight’s Children and watching his son’s performance transform Saleem Sinai into an expressionless and strangely effete not-quite-brown man, I might just suffer watching the film again.
4. Anil Kapoor no longer has any body hair. You heard me. No body hair. He’s shirtless in one sequence of Race 2 and there is no hair anywhere except on his underarms. (Yes, he lifts his arm and places it behind his head so that we can all be wowed by his sexy boddeh.) Not a one. For those who don’t know or have forgotten what was bestowed upon Anil Kapoor by nature, click here.
Dear god. I just googled “Anil Kapoor shirtless”. I’m at work. Ah well. It’s all going to hell anyway.
5. Abbas-Mustan are fans of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang! Who’d have thunk? How do I know, you ask? Well, allow me to describe to you the most climaxy moment of Race 2. A plane is about to crash. In the plane are Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, a lot of wreckage and a car. I’m not very well-versed with cars, but even I can tell it’s big, fancy and it’s a convertible. Now, Abbas-Mustan are grounded enough in reality to know that a car can’t drive on thin air. BUT they have thought of an alternative. Out of the plane, comes fancy car and POOF! Rising from the four corners of said car are four red parachutes, teeny ones that seem just about right for an adventure sport-loving garden gnome. They plump up and make an entire car with two full-grown adults in it float in mid-air while a plane explodes in the background. If that isn’t an ode to Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, I don’t know what is.
6. According to director Deepa Mehta and screenwriter Salman Rushdie, Zulfikar Bhutto was the love child of Apu from The Simpsons and Johnny Bravo. At least that’s what I got while watching Rahul Bose play that part. In fact, Johnny Bravo is probably a little less cartoonish than Bose as Bhutto.
7. Having seen the poster above of Race 2, I thought actress Chitrangada Singh was in the film. So I’m watching the film and expecting a twist that will introduce her into the plot. But it turns out the woman I thought was Singh in the poster is actually Jacqueline Fernandez. This I realised only once the film ended and there was no further scope of a character popping out of nowhere. Sheesh.
And now I’m going home.