Bombay Talkies (BT) celebrates Bollywood’s centenary – by deconstructing Bollywood’s formula. Loving families, skin-tight genders, glittering stardom and happy endings get tossed about by the four directors here. Does this work? Yes – and no.
Straight up, Karan Johar’s film smashes his own mould – forget about loving your parents, Johar shows a gay youth Avinash (Saqib Saleem) pummeling his father while quitting home. Avinash befriends glamorous Gayatri (Rani), wife to Dev (Hooda) with whom she has passionless, infrequent sex. Avinash meets Dev – sparks fly. While Saqib convincingly portrays odd-ball Avinash, Hooda simmers with tangible tension. It all ends in tears, delightful coming from the archetype of extra cheese himself. This is Karan Johar unleashed – and impressive with his taut film.
He’s followed by Dibakar Bannerjee, adapting a Satyajit Ray story, featuring Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Purandhar, dreamer with a theatrical past – and a tiny Bollywood role. Dibakar quietly underlines how talent needn’t dazzle the world but simply please the people we love. Siddiqui and Amrapurkar – popping up in a vision – crackle while Nawaz’s act sans words is superb. However, elements like an emu are lost in translation, leaving you wanting less whimsy, more control.
Zoya Akhtar presents better balance. Little Vicky (Naman) loves being a girly dancer. Katrina Kaif’s his muse – his manly dad isn’t amused. This unpretentious flick explores childhood’s innocence facing magical, kitschy stars. There’s some meandering but tight acting makes up.
That isn’t so with Anurag Kashyap’s short from stereotypically scatological small-town-land. Vijay from Allahabad must have Amitabh Bachchan taste a (possibly fungal) murabba to please pitaji – he succeeds but fails. The trouble is, neither the dialogues nor the acting move you enough to care. Kashyap indulges himself and eulogizes the Big B – but also has chota shehris looking pretty banal. On the upside, BT’s best song amidst a lackluster score’s here – but there’s too much sugar for this short to stay crisp.
So, BT’s a good experiment, celebrating movies, mindsets and Mumbai’s moods – but it isn’t the coolest film doing so. Woh picture abhi baaqi hai, mere dost.
Four directors, four shorts – big enough for Bollywood’s 100 years?
You may not like this film if you like Bollywood inside its formula.
The Times of India