It's not hard to reason this one but you migh...
Karan Anshuman (Filmmaker/movie critic),
Karan Anshuman is a film critic for Mumbai Mirror. He's worked on a bunch of movie projects, none of which you've ever seen...yet! He's a history, photography, squash, web 2.0, food, and gaming enthusiast who would trade his soul to travel the world.
SUPERMEN OF MALEGAON: The Irony of Superman
Director: Faiza Ahmad Khan; Cast: Shakeel Bharati, Farogh Jafri
In a city overrun by social and economical issues, escapism comes in the form of modest video remakes of popular Bollywood and Hollywood films that are showcased in makeshift screening rooms and greeted to endless applause by a cinema-crazy local audience.
Obsession with films runs high in these parts: from posters lining every public wallto kites made of posters (price based strictly on the popularity of the actor featured) and also, naturally, spills over into filmmaking. Chronicling this industrial town’s singular romance with the craft is director Faiza Ahmad Khan’s lovely little documentary titled Supermen of Malegaon.
Khan’s small team follows the making of a film titled Malegaon ka Superman, which, as is easy to guess, is a remake of the original Superman starring Christopher Reeve. Armed with a handycam and building on the success of his Malegaon Ke Sholay, local filmmaker Shaikh Nasir’s ambition--despite his lack of knowhow and funds--is no less superhero-like.
In his Superman, he casts a power loom worker, Shaikh Shafique, who grabs his shot at being famous by stepping into a customized suit with loose red boxers and complete with an ‘M’ logo. Unfortunately for Shafique, because of a lack of resources, his job description goes a beyond being simply an actor. On different occasions he is made to carry props, is forgotten mid-shot and left helplessly in the middle of a pond as everyone fusses over a wet camera, and made to do his own painful ‘stunts’; Nasir allowing him his only discretion when he has to get married at the cost of two days that could otherwise be used for filming.
This is the funniest film I’ve seen in a while, and yet it is laced with the kind of irony and pathos that, should you for even a moment sidestep the superficial aspect, will make you weep. Every single person interviewed talks of their love for films while sitting surrounded by squalor. A writer says, “I have to go to Bombay, do something. 300 kms. For 15 years, I've been heading towards Bombay. But Bombay isn’t any closer.” A beautiful interlude of sudden philosophy amidst a huddle around a bonfire provides pause for such introspection.
Malegaon’s love for films is an aberration when the town is nothing but a reflection India’s own social mess. Women in purdah, a literal religious divide in the form of a river, poverty, a lack of infrastructure for industry, the list is endless. At a runtime of 65 minutes, SoM is much too short. Would it have been better had Khan delved more deep into these aspects instead of merely touching upon them incidentally in her focused ‘making of’ story? Possibly.
And returning to irony, as if mighty Christopher Reeve dying a quadriplegic wasn’t enough, the death of ShaikhShafique--the Superman of Malegaon who fights the tobacco mafia in the film--due to throat cancer on the day he saw himself on a big screen reminds us that we are, after all, human.
A film on film, a genre I’m particularly partial to, Supermen of Malegaon is a perfect foil to that other superhero releasing this week, The Amazing Spiderman. A must watch.
MAXIMUM: Maximum is Average
Director: Kabeer Kaushik; Cast: Sonu Sood, Naseeruddin Shah, Neha Dhupia, Vinay Pathak
Recounting the years when the city equated encounter specialists with messiahs, Maximum focuses on two of the ilk who loved to hate each other more than they loved murdering a common enemy. The premise holds much promise and the protagonists are allowed a delicious range with real life stories to draw from. But the film fails at many levels.
Maximum’s problems start right up front. You have no idea where the story is heading because there is no crisis created, no path or goal imagined. Too many close-ups early on disengage viewers from getting their bearings. The dialogue is often and unnecessarily cryptic and the decision to cut the movie in a non-linear manner muddles the story and doesn’t help matters. Not exactly wise choices when your main characters are straight talking cops.
Director Kabeer Kaushik uses all sorts of tricks to keep us hooked: an animated sequence, a Shakespeare soliloquy by the sea, 26/11 documentary footage... but instead of enriching the narrative, it serves merely to distract. And for a film about two policemen practically competing against each other in notching up encounter kills, Maximum is too much conversation, and too little action.
Even though it was nice to see dance bars in a film after a long time, there is an overdose of it. The Hindi version of the Tamil Aa Ante item song is just plain awful. Here is a line: “Main hoon atom bomb, aaja kare tara rum pom pom.”
Ultimately, Maximum fails because of poor craft. Flatly lit cinematography, often unintentionally out-of-focus, pathetic audio design (example: sounds of tennis balls being hit and bouncing on a squash court!) and an overall lack of cohesiveness between scenes are its undoing.
Naseeruddin Shah is shortchanged in this role that looks as if it were written with someone else in mind. Sonu Sood continues to look like a young Amitabh Bachchan but his interpretation of being a ‘grey’ character is merely being flat with his delivery. He’s a better actor than this. Amit Sadh brings some cheer though, as the unassuming reporter who follows the story of the cops from beginning to end.
There’s nothing maximum about Maximum. If anything, it should’ve been called Average.
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