Anuj Kumar

THE INTERNATIONAL

(Spice, Noida, and other theatres in Delhi and elsewhere)

Early in this film, a menacing man says “I am comfortable tense”. This sets the tone for this fast-paced thriller which nails the nefarious activities of a multinational bank.

Usually banks are shown as centres of financial scams, but here director Tom Tykwer talks of a bank which deals in weapons and the murky world of global terrorism. No, it is not about controlling the conflicts in different regions. It is all about controlling debt, which every conflict ultimately leads to. An arresting idea really, dealt with exactitude.

Clive Owen plays Louis Salinger, an Interpol officer who is out to crack the case, but every time he closes in on the target his connecting link is bumped off. The System doesn’t help him and puts obstacles in the path. As the chase switches between three continents he realises that irrespective of the ideology, everybody wants to deal with the bank. His only realistic support is attorney Eleanor Whitman (Naomi Watts). As the confusion about which bridge to build and which to burn heightens, Louis decides to take the law in his own hands not minding the collateral damage that will ensue. He gets to the target only to discover individuals don’t matter in this battle. It’s about mutual interests and their demand creates its own supply chain.

It’s not that similar subjects have not been tried by film-makers before, but what makes Tom’s effort convincing is the elegance of the package and the intellect of the sub-text. Even as the second half of the film gets a little jumbled up, he manages to keep us engrossed about the final outcome.

There are only two action sequences but both are outstanding. It is rare to find action scenes which utilise the aesthetic beauty of the background. The climax on the parapets of Istanbul is a treat to watch. Owen is rock solid and relentless in his pursuit to keep the edgy element – the tension – going!

Get smart, go International!

COFFEE HOUSE

(PVR Saket, Delhi, and other theatres)

One of the boons of globalisation is that coffee house culture is back and running. Here director Gurbir Singh Grewal uses these addas of urban India to brew some revolutionary ideas. His point is that an Indian has become a minority in the country where everybody is asserting for caste, religious and language identities. In the election season, the intent and timing are right on target, but the outcome is far from it. Grewal has pulled too many strings to weave a cohesive script.

A coffee house is frequented by an array of groups. The oldies discuss failures of the government; youngsters want to change the order, some by force, some by hook and by crook, and others through democratic platforms like theatre. An activist couple (Ashutosh Rana and Saakshi Tanwar) are the centre of attraction as they guide the youth that it is time to assert like an Indian but let the elixir of awareness vanquish the poison of hatred.

Loosely inspired by the life of Safdar Hashmi, Ashutosh Rana plays an uncompromising journalist and theatre activist Kamal Kishore, who refuses to shake hands with political groups and market forces to keep his newspaper and theatre group running. All is well till Grewal leaves the central plot to bring out the plight of an old couple ill-treated by their son and an ambitious girl who compromises her love and values to rise up the ladder.

In the interim, he gives in to market compulsions as an item song arrives without motivation. All this leaves him with little time to establish how Kamal’s ideas stir a storm in higher political circles.

But what really hurts this well-intentioned exercise are its over-stretched scenes and preachy tone which reeks of a wretched television serial. Kamal rants that coffee houses discussions alone will not bring a change. One has to make a difference at the grassroots but Grewal himself sticks to unending debates, which get tedious after a point, for a large part of the film.

Ashutosh Rana is his usual self, Saakshi of TV fame has nothing much to do here but it’s a delight to watch S. M. Zahir and Vinod Nagpal reviving memories of the good old days when Doordarshan ruled the air waves.

Give it a chance for the sincerity of the soul even if the body is outdated.

EK SE BURE DO

(Fun, Moti Nagar, and other theatres)

The ongoing tussle between multiplex owners and producers has resulted in some pedestrian stuff making its way to theatres this weekend. Debutant director Tarique’s enterprise here is one such moth-eaten venture that has been retrieved from the cans to keep the show going. It is the kind of venture that makes one feel whatever one endured in the past was a classic.

On the surface it is about two small-time conmen (Arshad Warsi and Rajpal Yadav) who are hired by a bumbling don (Govind Namdeo) to steal the map of a treasure. The guys get greedy and decide to double-cross the don. They give him a fake map which leads the don to the jungles and a bankrupt dacoit (Virendra Saxena). Meanwhile, our conmen reach the site of the treasure – a mansion where a wealthy businessman (Namdeo again) lives with his two nieces. The businessman is out on pilgrimage. The guys feel they have got both the money and the honey but task is not as effortless as it appears to be.

The director is not even true to what he has set out to achieve – a B-grade thriller. There is no saving grace, not even Arshad, as it turns out to be an incoherent effort marred by some cheesy dialogues, hackneyed plots and moronic acting. As the title makes an exponential growth, item numbers crop up without notice and the script takes turns without an iota of reason.

SCHOOL DAYS

(PVR Europa, Gurgaon, and other theatres)

The positive side of the ongoing conflict in Bollywood is that very small budget ventures and young independent film-makers are getting an opportunity to showcase their honest efforts. Dilip Sood is one such emerging director who takes us to those innocent days when emotions bear fruit – crush on the teacher, unalloyed passion for a classmate and that rebellion against the system.

Very much like Taare Zameen Par, Dilip talks of square pegs being forced to go into rounds holes, how talent in sports goes unrewarded if the student fails in academics. What a pity his effort was gathering dust in the cans so far.

Dilip stays clear of the preachy tone and lets the story do the needful. He has got some untested talent in Rajiv Sethi, Shailly Sehgal and Pankaj Sharma which inadvertently imparts credibility to the proceedings. Unfortunately, the poor quality of the print and the paucity of resources, which reflect in the repetition of visuals, make it look like a lacklustre effort.

It might not find much space in theatres, but school libraries would do well to create some space for “School Days”.

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