B.A. PASS

Mature woman seducing a young boy, the emotional travails of a gigolo…Hindi cinema mostly skims the skin when it comes to lust, enticing the voyeur in the audience. It mostly deals with the carnal desires of a woman as something exotic that cannot happen in a middle-class neighbourhood.

Director Ajay Bahl has come up with an exception. Here is a film which aspires to be watched for its content and not “scenes”, but falls short of its target. Bahl takes us right in the middle of the action in a sundry Delhi neighbourhood, where an aunty turns a graduation student next door into a toy boy to spice up her bedroom boredom.

Such films usually suffer from lack of details, but here in Mohan Sikka’s short story Railway Aunty , Bahl has some real ammunition. The contours in the staircase that lead to Sarika’s (Shilpa Shukla) house suggest that she will suck the hormones out of poor orphan Mohan (Shadab Kamal) without the boy ever realising what he is getting into.

The literary layering helps Bahl come out of tight spots in a realistic fashion. Like the way he intercuts Mohan’s love for chess with Sarika’s passion play or the way Sarika’s husband (Rajesh Sharma) handles the situation when he comes to know about her escapades.

But after a taut build up, with Bahl capturing the erotica with a degree of sensitivity and creativity (without compromising on the crudeness of empty relationships), the narrative gets drowned in the neon lights of Paharganj. The money that Mohan once rejected as dirty becomes his mehnat ki kamai by the second half, but there is nobody to question this change. Not even his conscience, for he never really tries to come out of this web. When the aunties free him, he starts looking for uncles with very little gap in between.

There is a proverb — once bitten, twice shy — but Bahl is in no mood to give his protagonist a chance. Yes, poverty and responsibility of kin can do strange things to a man, but they also make him street-smart. Short stories can do with a series of dark characters, each trying to rob the protagonist, but here it becomes almost a deliberate effort to keep the positivity out of the picture.

Deepti Naval turns up to give us a twist in the tale, but you can pretty much guess it. So is Dibyendu Bhattacharya’s turn as a grave digger. Nice actors short-changed by lack of depth in writing.

Shilpa effortlessly brings the man-eater quality that is required for the role, but that is about all. There is no second layer for the competent actor, whose face can hide a hundred emotions, to dig into. Shadab has brought out the vulnerability of Mohan well, but when it comes to pressing the second gear he is found wanting.

As the title suggests, Bahl just about manages to pass this test!

CHOR CHOR

SUPER CHOR

The modus operandi of pickpockets is explosive material for a Bollywood pot-boiler. Director K. Rajesh attempts to humanise the characters that remain invisible, but whose craft makes its presence felt.

In Deepak Dobriyal, he has an actor to deliver the goods. The way Dobriyal breaks the celluloid barrier is unmatched. His best comes when the character is hurt and trying to convey it to the person responsible without actually putting it in words.

Unfortunately, after showing initial promise, the film-maker’s goal is reduced to figure out the hero material in Dobriyal. There is very little value addition to our knowledge of con jobs. Also, the actors around Dobriyal seem to inhabit another space. There is plenty of overacting and shadow boxing in a film that starts as a realistic slice of life cinema but ends up as a ridiculous war between two gangs. One tries to follow some ethics in the illegal business, while the other is solely governed by greed.

In between Satbir (Dobriyal), who is trying to move away from the business falls in love with a girl (Priya Bathija). She makes use of his naivety and puts him and his gang members in jeopardy.

When Satbir tries to get even by employing the methods of reality television, the film loses its bite and starts looking at audience as a herd of bakras . Remember that MTV show, which is now available in various formats on FM stations?

Nothing super, but provides some kicks in a week when Bollywood is clearing its shelf to create space for festival fare.

THE CONJURING

After a long time, one has come across a horror film that doesn’t treat its characters as pawns ready to be poached by a spirit to satiate the guilty pleasures of those who have dared to buy the ticket. Yes, it does start with the usual “leg pulling” by a demonic spirit, a doll which acquires life of its own and, of course, the creaking doors, which have never come in contact with anything greasy, but eventually director James Van draws us into the atmospherics and generates a mood where we start caring for the well-being of the Perron family.

And once you begin to feel for the characters, the horror of losing them brings you to the edge. There is nothing more brutal than a mother baying for the blood of her daughter. Van plays with the idea without pre-empting the chills or overdoing the gruesome part. The fact that it is loosely based on the supposed real life events surrounding experts in investigating paranormal activities, Ed and Lorraine Warren (Vera Farmiga and Patrick Wilson) give the film that extra dimension where the director tries to suggest that it could be real and we buy it.

Set in 1971, Carolyn and Roger Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor) move into an old farmhouse in Rhode Island with their five daughters. As expected the dog sees “it” coming and moans to death. The girls find a spooky cellar and after that it is a chilly ride as the temperature in the house starts dropping and the members start sensing a rancid odour. Instead of computer-generated imagery, Van relies on old school tricks of light and shadow, sound and silence, and a haunting background score to create the impact and play with audience psychology. The template is dated, but the impact is not.

Shot in a part of the world where you can sense that there is something sinister in the air, Van manages to jolt you every time you feel you have figured out the movements of the demon. Ed and Lorraine are called in and the real game begins. As they try to hunt the evil down, it changes shapes and travels right into their bedroom.

Farmiga and Wilson imbue the required depth to the Warrens. Unlike most ghost experts on screen, they don’t talk down to the troubled. Instead they show empathy for the family, which looks genuine. They look like as one amongst us who have a daughter and a mother to care for. And most importantly, they don’t overstate the merits of solution. As a result, the fight looks real and equal.

If you feel you have seen it all that is buried in the cinematic cellar, try this one!