Saturday, July 22, 2006

WHAT IF...?


Hui muddat ke Ghalib mar gaya par aaya yaad aata hai,
Woh har ek baat pe kehna ke yun hota toh kya hota
-Mirza Ghalib

Years after playing the Urdu poet on the small screen Naseeruddin Shah breathes life into his verse on the big screen. Naseer's debut piece has nothing to do with either Ghalib or Urdu poetry; in fact it unreels like a short story.
For an actor who has delighted the classes, masses and critics alike for about three decades - it's hard to take on the task of a director at 57 without building expectations. But thankfully the actor/filmmaker does not disappoint.

Striking a perfect balance between content and style Naseer draws his audience into four disparate tales that finally intertwine for a chilling climax. A structure that's been emulated since Altman and more recently Innaritu's powerful Amores Perros; Naseer adds subtle touches to each narrative. And you know that being the actor he is - would get his casting right to the T.
Irfan as the stock-broker on the run, Konkona as the frustrated new bride, Ankur as the confused graduate and Paresh Rawal as the boisterous showman deliver and how. A couple of story tracks (Irafan and Ankur's) suffer due to what I believe was a few abrupt last minute butchering on the edit table, making them slightly disjointed. The film is also backed by an able second lead of actors including Ratna Pathak, Ayesha Takia, Boman Irani and surprise - Saroj Khan.

What the film majorly loses points on is - repeat value. YHTKH is like a fizzy soft drink - you don't want to return to it for seconds coz the fizz is out and the bubbles' burst. And it's hard to review the film in all aspects since I don't want to riddle my piece with spoilers.
But all said and done Naseer has not played it safe, he's walked the cinematic tightrope marrying entertainment and aesthetics. I believe he's made the successful transition from an actor to filmmaker with aplomb because he stuck to the basics of the medium - telling a good story and telling it well. Here's looking forward to his next (which hopefully will star Naseer himself as well!)

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