Once upon a time, the excitement of watching a Ram Gopal Varma film used to give goose bumps. Now, the thought of enduring a Varma film gives some. As he rewrites his postcard to posterity, the master of underworld tales fires a flurry of blank shots. It lacks the raw appeal of Satya and the polish of Company .
Those familiar with his crime sagas would know that it is a template that extols underworld as the business of fear and talks about vanquishing the thought rather than eliminating people. Here again he dresses up his mise-en-scene of crime but the probing eyes can easily see through the charade.
For the uninitiated, the original was about the pawns who run the underworld business and how one of them shoots up the hierarchy. Varma revisits the idea in 2013, when a new Satya arrives in Mumbai at a time when the underworld is in doldrums. Once in the circle of businessmen with shady connections, his idea, unlike his predecessors, is to flaunt the fear and not the face. Debutant Puneet Singh Ratn has the cold eyes like J.D. Chakravarthy but he lacks the intensity, the suppressed anger that his predecessor’s silence generated. And there is no Bhiku Mahatre here to balance the cold-blooded approach of the lead protagonist. As a result, this Satya sounds like an empty vessel. Satya had a lively contrasting life beyond crime. Here, characters like Chitra (Anaika Soti) Nara and Special (Aradhana Gupta) look made up to fill in the blanks. Only Mahesh Thakur stands out as Satya’s mentor.
Of course the intent is explosive, and this time the subversive element is much more palpable with an unmistakable anti-establishment tone in the second half, but Varma’s sledge hammer treatment leaves little room for introspection, and the fear hardly permeates through the screen. In fact, for a large part in the first half, it remains a laughable experiment, which only evokes nostalgia about a master who has become a prisoner of his image. The usual Varma fetishes come to fore while focusing on the female form, the same old shrieking background sound and chronic repetition of words like dar and soch interspersed with cuss words . In short, it is full of staple elements, which now conjure up ennui rather than emotions.
On and off Varma does come up with a master stroke like the way he has picturised Mumbai in the opening montage where through the eagle eye camera of Vikash Saraf, the pot-holed roads give an impression of a minefield running parallel to the skyscrapers or the pockmarks on the face of a city that houses the glamour industry. His ability to find something arresting in the midst of the mundane is intact as one discovers in the shot where a packet of chips is resting next to the idol of Ganesha. Similarly, the way he has characterised the counterpoint of Satya as an ageing policeman called Purshottam with a back problem, it comes across as a glaring metaphor for the wilting system. Also, the talk of an emerging structure within the system, which is run by anonymous faces joined by their will to avenge the atrocities, does hint at a dark alternative reality, but by the time Varma comes to the point, the debate becomes largely pointless in terms of the narrative and Puneet’s ability to carry it on his shoulders.
It is better than what Varma has delivered in the recent past, but then this is hardly a consolation because, in the process, he has massacred the memories of a film that made him a cult figure in Bollywood.
THOR: THE DARK WORLD
Once again a fantasy adventure where the producers have invested more in effects than writing, director Alan Taylor has come up with a safe sequel to Thor . The idea seems to be giving the audience a dose of easy humour, compelling CGI and a Nordic God with an American attitude. The narrative is derived out of pop myths where the god of thunder is turned into a Hollywood superhero for popcorn entertainment.
As the nine realms of the world are about to undergo a convergence, Dark Elves, led by evil Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), wake up to seize the Aether. Meanwhile, in London, Jane Foster (Natalie Portman) finds that the world is suddenly going crazy and before she could realise she is teleported to another world. When Thor (Chris Hemmsworth), free from his galactic battles, learns this and brings her to Asgard. His adoptive brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) is imprisoned for his crimes on earth but the two have to join hands to take on the evil forces after Frigga (Rene Russo), Thor’s mother, sacrifices her life while saving Foster from the elves.
Chris has got the body to justify the scale and thunder. The hammer is an odd weapon to flaunt but with Chris it goes with his personality. The computer-generated imagery is so effusive that at times it diffuses the melodrama. Like while watching the scene of the funeral of Frigga, you don’t know whether to shed a tear or marvel at the grandeur generated by special effects. So much so that the dark world seems to sound like a misnomer.
Portman looks a little disinterested and her romantic dalliance with Chris doesn’t create much of a flutter but warhorses like Anthony Hopkins (as Thor’s father, Odin), Eccleston and Tom Hiddleston know how to blend with the larger-than-life scenarios. Eccleston brings a tragic quality to his portrayal of the leader of the dark forces. They chew the scenery like there is no tomorrow, making it a jolly good ride as long as you are not looking for a solid context in your cinema and a sound reason to spend on a multiplex ticket.