NEW DELHI

A week of weak connection and more … Cinema

A MIXED BAG: Except for Anjan Dutt’s “The Bong Connection”, other new releases like “Wild Hogs” fail to connect with the audiences.

A MIXED BAG: Except for Anjan Dutt’s “The Bong Connection”, other new releases like “Wild Hogs” fail to connect with the audiences.  

ZIYA US SALAM

THE BONG CONNECTION

(At Spice PVR, Noida; and Delhi theatres)

One of the abiding limitations of serious cinema dogs Anjan Dutt too. His star-less “The Bong Connection” has been ready and waiting for release for almost a year. It was screened at the International Film Festival of India in Goa last year to some glowing reviews. Unfortunately, for all the positive vibes the film failed to find takers at the box office until this week. Meanwhile, the likes of Karan Johar, Vipul Shah, and even Mira Nair stole a march with their very different takes on the Indian Diaspora. After their second generation NRI tales, Anjan gets his moment under the sun with his largely first-generation NRI saga. He comes up with sufficient evidence to tell us that some day, in the not too distant future he would experience the high noon too.

For the moment though “The Bong Connection” comes across as a film subtle, sober and enchantingly beautiful. Each moment is a beautiful experience in itself as the director takes the viewers to two stories, both radically different yet quite similar. On the one side, there is Andy, back from New York with his brand of Baul music. He wants to make it on the music firmament of Kolkata. On the other, there is Apu, an engineer back home, who has arrived in the U.S. to add that proverbial jam to his bread. How one man heads East for salvation and another to the West for satiation makes for an interesting storyline.

The fact that the film does not rise from being a good-watch to a much-watch is primarily because Anjan is not able to juxtapose the agony and the ecstasy with punch. There are too many stereotypes floating around to demand a concentration: the Bengalis in America want to go home yet love their dollars. The Bengalis in Bengal want to go to the U.S. but don’t want to part with the Bengali in them. We have experienced enough of this strand to need another yarn.

Where the director scores is in handling each frame. The interjections between the cast including Shayan Munshi, Raima Sen and Victor Banerji in a smallish role, are all lively and plausible. The frames are bright without being gaudy, the music never really challenges the ear-drums, the film moves on from one bright moment to another.

Lots of style, a dash of substance. “The Bong Connection”, despite its obvious flaws, connects with the audiences this week.

WILD HOGS

(At Spice PVR, Noida; and Delhi theatres)

This is one of the three quiet arrivals from Hollywood this week: “The Grudge 2” and “Epic Movie” being the other two. A few minutes of this John Travolta-starrer and you understand why the release was almost under wraps. It is a simple, straight – well, not quite, if you understand what that means with Travolta around – comedy involving men who are all going downhill: a few years either side of 50 is not what the doctor would recommend for adrenaline pumping fare.

That is, however, what Walt Becker dishes out in a comedy that raises a few low-brow laughs and little else. The guys here set on the road to rediscover themselves, there are bikes and friends: one is tongue tied in front of women, another dominated by them, another who would rather be with machines all the time. They have their share of hiccups along the way: mistaken for gays, is at ease, chased by a cycle gang.

There is some humour, the slapstick variety and the nether regions, with ones of innuendo thrown in about alternate sexuality. The pace in the first half is good, then slackens, reducing the value of this film considerably.

Watch it only if you are a Travolta fan.



BOMBAY TO GOA

(At Regal and other Delhi theatres)

In a season of many a sad song, this has to be the saddest. It hurts, it saddens. It reduces you to tears. It is not a tragedy where a skilful director takes you to another level. Director Raj Pendurkar’s film is a comedy gone horribly, horribly wrong. It is the kind of film that for once, inside the hall, you kick yourself for being gullible enough to pay for admission in the first place.

Nothing but a motley collection of comedians who have had a good run on television, here the script seems to have been written to accommodate their one-liners. The trip to Goa is wholly incidental, the story non-existent. There is a guy who wants to be the best bus driver, another a conductor, a guy who is a doctor, another a bar owner, a couple of were-bar girls! They all head to the sun and sand destination. It is all a sham as Pendurkar’s sole intention is to throw some one-liners for each of his popular comedians to have their moment under the sun. Included among them are the likes of Sunil Pal, Ahsaan Qureshi and Raju Shrivastava, with Jagdeep making an uncalled for comeback.

Worse is to follow. They all speak in a manner good enough to evoke ridicule. The worst comes as the package. The one-liners are trenchant enough to hurt the most elastic of moralities in the hall. They often leave you wondering what are the Censor guys there for? Sexual innuendoes, double entendres, the film is replete with them all.

Vulgar in content, amateurish in technique, poor, very poor in craft. It is crass, crude, crap. In short, “Bombay to Goa”, despite the illustrious name it borrows from a 1970’s film is nothing but a one-way ticket to hell.

MY FRIEND GANESHA

(At Spice PVR, Noida; and Delhi theatres)

Animation is beginning to make waves in our industry. And the deities are loving it. First came Hanuman, flying across the world to the resounding delight of children. Then came Krishna to a more muted welcome. Not is the turn of the Elephant God, Ganesha, the god who lends himself to some endearing animation with all the qualities of wit and wisdom. Unfortunately, director Rajiv Ruia is not able to tap the potential to the fullest. In the bargain “My Friend Ganesha” ends up as a film that promised so much, but fulfils much, much less. Afflicted with the usual discrepancy between words and action that often visits mere mortals?

“My Friend Ganesha” is the story of an eight-year-old child, Ahsaas Channa, who has toys and a lovely home. But he suffers from loneliness, the kind that is often experienced by people much older in metropolises. The help comes in the form of a maid who relates the timeless tale of Shiva and Parvati, Narad and Ganesha. And lo, the child is lonely no longer. There is the Elephant God, after all, to enter in his dreams, to fulfil his wishes, to play and to save.

It is good as long as there is interaction between the boy and his animated deity. The deity laughs, even smiles, runs and slides. However, such moments of good cheer are interspersed with long periods of homilies, paper religion, and the tensions of an urban family. In short, the deity does not get enough of a chance to do his bit. Result? A film that is quite enjoyable in small parts, becomes a shade tedious in many, more significant others. “Hanuman” talked of religion in the spirit of the young. It spoke their language. It clicked. Ruia’s film suffers because he speaks to the children, rather than like them.

Make friends with “Ganesha” only to see that life in cine world is not safe, even with the deities around. You need technical polish, and an editor’s sharp scissors as well.

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