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Thread: That man and his wife
09-04-2011, 12:33 AM #1
That man and his wife650,000. That's the figure Anurag Kashyap has come up with to indicate the number of tickets that need to sell for TGIYB so that he (and indeed, others) may continue to make independent - aka indie - films.
The amount collected will be miniscule compared to the (week)day and yet a film like TGIYB will struggle to hit the mark precisely because it is indie/arthouse.
In America, indie's are defined as films made without studio support. It's a little more complicated here and the one interpretation would be categorising films that are sans stars and mainstream elements (such as lip-sync songs) as Indian indies. So even though a studio has eventually backed TGIYB, given its cost of production and no nonsense approach, it is an independent film by any yardstick. Given this context, TGIYB works.
TGIYB is the story of British-born Ruth (Koechlin), who is now in Mumbai. In the short time she's here, she gets herself a job at a seedy parlour giving 'happy ending' massages to clients, learns the ways of the street, gets herself a junkie boyfriend, and lands up in trouble with gangsters.
This is her way of paying the price for her real mission: to find her Indian father. She has no memory of what he looks like; just an age-old letter from him that is her 'happy place' she often retreats to.
The film is more suspense than thriller, a search for identity, grim and dark. Even when you chuckle, it will be cautious and usually at the cost of a character's loss of dignity.
Ruth is remarkably complex. The film tries to infiltrate and unravel her mind while the character keeps fending off. The only way to distill her essence is to observe the way she reacts to situations: she is overly bold when gangsters invade her house; and cowers when a gentle, fatherly figure berates her when he finds out that she offers her clients more than just innocent massages. Both these scenes are also among the stronger moments in the film. The first for its dark humour as Chitiappa, the lead goon, fumbles to switch on the TV before demonstrating who's boss. The second for the internally suppressed guilt that Ruth is refusing to face up to.
Known faces appear as red herrings and there are several suspects. But once you get used to the rhythm, it's not too difficult to guess the sordid climax the story is headed towards. Given the theme TGIYB eventually settles on, Kashyap seems to have held back. Certainly it could've been darker, more physical and relentless. Also, major diverging tracks though relevant to understanding Ruth, are inconsequential to the plot.
The film, shot in less than two weeks, is no technical masterpiece. The camerawork is conventional, accommodating itself in the tight spaces of the real locations and working with a palette of primary colours.
Stylistically, Kashyap opts for lengthy takes leaving the editor scrambling to cut to the next scene as soon as she's allowed. It's always spot on; however, sometimes it just takes too long to get there. Sound design could be cleaner and the restrained score is singular but occasionally out of place.
Kalki undertakes the role with grace but its Gulshan Devaiah who is the pick of the actors. There is a fluidity about him that makes him menacing and endearing all at once. Puja Swarup and her logorrhea deserve mention too.
Not that it is an entirely justified comparison, but TGIYB is not quite in the league of Black Friday and Gulal which rate among the best films in the last decade. It seems a movie that Kashyap had to get out of his system and one that he could direct in his sleep. If nothing else, to assure a steady stream of solid non-Bollywood cinema.
The film is more suspense than thriller, a search for identity, grim and dark.
09-06-2011, 06:17 AM #2