A film on C-grade industry made with A-grade intent! Director Ashim Ahluwalia humanises a part of the film industry that is scorned at in real life and made fun of in its reel avatar. He shows us what all goes behind the making of Bandh Darwaza without giving easy access to all the doors of his layered narrative. Stylised and slightly indulgent, it is an unfamiliar blend of pulpy narrative treated with art house flavour. A true-blue independent film, on the surface, it employs a familiar Bollywood trope but the way Ashim has projected it, it will test the sensibilities of an audience fed on linear progression, entry and exit, and verbosity. Ashim intrigues you, pokes you and, at times, makes you restless for he is parsimonious with information, but the director never gives in to popular demands.
It is about Duggal brothers, who make films which the law considers illegal. Vicky (Anil George) is successful and dominating but a coward, while Sonu (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is talented but meek. Both have the desire to revolt against the system, run by powerful men in their own way. A mysterious girl called Pinky (Niharika Singh) comes in between the two brothers and their relationship gets scarred for life. She lays the trap of vulnerability and Sonu gets spellbound.
It could have easily been a character-driven piece but it is not. Fleshing out the idea of a criminal filmmaker, who is at the bottom of the social and professional hierarchy, Ashim looks at the transformation of a socialist country to a globalised economy. He recreates not only the Mumbai of the ’80s with its art deco façade and neon lights but also the social mores and body language of the times. The grainy visuals on television and the way the society — even the way the police looked at these purveyors of crass — create a visceral mood on screen. He talks of times when pornography was not in our pocket and people lined up for morning shows to see sex-horror films interpolated with steamy stuff. It is about an exploitative genre but the way Ashim treats the subject is not manipulative. People might seek these films for gratification but the way these films were shot, pleasure was the furthermost thing on the mind of the performers. Slipping in shots of ennui, Ashim reminds of the everydayness in the life of these people who are supposed to set the pulse racing. If you care to notice, the film says a lot. As the genre is governed by their ‘performance’, women are not really the exploited lot.
The casting is spot on. Nawazuddin shines through this amoral world. When his eyes are at play you don’t need the dialogues. Anil George is an interesting find and so is Niharika Singh. She is again someone whose eyes are an asset; she remains an enigma through the film.
Strictly for those who love to experiment with their cinematic diet with an open mind.
These days, Hollywood filmmakers are busy analysing as to where their society went wrong. How they were conned into moral and economic recession. After Martin Scorsese, this week, it is David O Russell’s turn to look back at the frenzied ’70s, with an intoxicating blend of crime and comedy.
Disentangling the complex plot is like fixing the hair of con artist Irving Rosenfeld (Christian Bale). In fact, this interesting opening sequence where Irving is dressing up to con, sets the tone of this crime story that turns comic at times. Drawing from Abscam operation of the late ’70s and early ’80s, when an overzealous FBI agent, using a con man and an agent, carried out a sting operation bringing down seasoned politicians, Russell manages to rustle up our imagination from the word go. He is not only interested in the con job, he is eager to share with us the details of the personal lives of the characters and it is what makes the film a riveting experience. You can feel the manic energy of the disco era in the sound design and costumes, and the emotional tapestry is anything but shallow.
Bale plays a balding and bloated loan shark, Irving Rosenfeld. He joins hands with beautiful and crafty Sydney Prosser (Amy Adams), who has her own secrets to hide. If Irving is cocksure of his talent, Sydney is desperate to get rid of her identity. Both conceal their real self beneath layers of cultivated pretence. As the film grows, the layers go off and it is a poignant experience. As they get ambitious, a high-energy FBI agent named Richie DiMaso (Bradley Cooper) comes into their net and turns the tables on them.
There is more to come. As he tries to use them to bust the bigger evils in the society in lieu of freedom, things begin to get complicated. Irving has a wife called Roslyn (Jennifer Lawrence), who is a strange mixture of being opinionated and clueless at the same time. She hates Sydney’s presence and her eccentricity threatens to blow the lid off the operation. Meanwhile, we realise that not everybody is evil here as Russell is not dealing with cardboards here. Even sidekicks have got flesh and blood. The first fish they trap is New Jersey mayor (Jermey Renner). He is good hearted and is getting into corruption for the good of his constituency. From then on we are in this fascinating in-between world where nothing is absolutely right or wrong, just a point of view. A brilliant undertone of grey comes alive through some masterful performance by a stellar star cast. Like Bale, Adams is also keen for an image makeover from pretty to pert and she does with flair. Cooper is convincing as a conniving officer. But it is Lawrence who inhabits the most complex part and literally nails it. Don’t miss this rich adult entertainment.