When the announcement came over social media, there were whoops and groans. Zoya Akhtar’s
Gully Boy was selected by the august Film Federation Committee in Kolkata.
Let’s get one thing straight. I loved
Gully Boy. The film tells us the story of a young lad who lives in Dharavi and has dreams that are just not considered kosher for his status in life. Everyone tells him to live within his boundaries, but his dreams won’t let him. This is the story of the rapper from Dharavi - Vivian Fernandes - who goes by the stage name of ‘Divine’. The movie touched the heart of so many young people, ‘ Apna time aayega’ became not just a message on tee shirts but has become an anthem for this generation who wants to do something different with their lives.
Ranveer Singh, Siddhant Chaurvedi and Aalia Bhat made magic on the screen. Aptly named ‘Murad’ we begin to identify with the boy who struggles to fit in and then breaks out of the mould.
Gully Boy became one of the biggest hits and breathed life into Bollywood’s fail trail. But when the name was announced, many people including yours truly groaned. Gully Boy is almost like the 2002 film 8 Mile which gave rapper Eminem his Oscar for Best Original Song ‘Almost there’. The idea of ‘Own The Moment’ which Eminem sings in the winning song is not just like ‘ Apna Time Aayega’, all the events in 8 Mile find an echo in Gully Boy too. From the DJ who is a friend (the character Future played by Mekhi Pheifer is like Siddhant Chaturvedi’s MC Sher) to Safina played by Aalia Bhat is like Brittany Murphy’s Alex, from Taryn Manning’s Janeane Kalki’s character Sky everything in Gully Boy seems to be taking off generously from Eminem’s 8 Mile. I loved Gully Boy for it showed Ranveer choke in the first Rap Battle just like Eminem does. I whooped in pure happiness when Ranveer and his friends defaced billboards and ads for fancy products, but the Eminem’s Rabbit and his friends do the same in 8 Mile… These could not be coincidental. Watch 8 Mile and Gully Boy, both available on Netflix now:
Even though the film is Divine’s story, why do we need to send a film to the Oscars when there’s practically nothing original there?
That brings us to the question: which were the other films in contention to represent India at the annual Academy Awards?
The list is here:
VadaChennai, Uyare, Uri: The Surgical Strike, Super Deluxe, Oththa Seruppu Size 7, Kurukshetra, Kesari, Dear Comrade, Badla, Badhaai Ho, Article15 and Andhadhun. Vada Chennai starts out as the story about Crime and Carrom and turns into a fight for people’s rights. Dhanush has a gentleness sans that beard which is rather sweet. But boy! When he’s enraged, he is really something. This revenge against the powerful and the fight for rights make for a compulsive watch. It’s available on Amazon Prime Video with subtitles.
Uyare by fluke because I liked the songs. ‘ Uyare’ in Malayalam means ‘high’ or ‘height’, and since I’ve always wished I could fly airplanes it was such an easy decision to watch this film on Netflix. It has some odd editing, but you have to admit that the story of a woman who fights to top of her class at flight school and has her dreams cut short because of an obsessive boyfriend is different from the hero who saves the world stories we see usually.
Uri: The Surgical Strike is a movie that proudly announces that it is a propaganda film. It’s shot beautifully but has the finesse of a PubG battle. This film does injustice to the acting talent of Vicky Kaushal who plays the leader of the tactical team that sneaks into Pakistan and kills suspected terrorists. Forgetting that this is meant to be a ‘sneak’ attack, this machine gun saga is as loud as it is proud. This kind of Nationalism bothers me, but the film made everyone scream, ‘How’s the josh!’
My favourite of the lot is, of course,
Super Deluxe. It’s a gobsmacking set of interconnected stories that are cleverly woven into one another. Every single actor: Vijay Sethupathi, Samantha Akkineni, Fahadh Faasil, Ramya Krishnan, Vijay Ram, Abdul Jabbar, Noble K James, Naveen and Jayanth form a superb ensemble cast. The story has sex and death and blackmail and skipping school for pornography and secrets to life… The stories are told so brilliantly, you cannot afford to blink. I was like the annoying kid in the movie with a big smile plastered on my face. Such a joy to watch it on Netflix again.
I must admit that I have not watched
Oththa Seruppu Size 7, or OS7 means ‘ Single Slipper Size 7’. It’s a horror film written, directed and acted as a one man performance by R. Parthiepan. This looks interesting, and I am going to try and watch it somehow…
And the Kannada film
Kurukshetra (It’s a historical fantasy film in 3D) has slipped through my watch list because I teach Mahabharata as an epic poem to very reluctant college students and somehow watching the mace fight of Duryodhan and Bheema wasn’t something I wanted to see. But the film has earned a place in the shortlist, so perhaps I will watch it soon…
Kesari made it to the shortlist? I am a tad disappointed now. When the battle for a small fort of Saragarhi showed up on the big screens, I remember writing that the animation film of the battle (it’s on YouTube as a history lesson) is way better than the chest-thumping patriotism of the film. But it’s Akshay Kumar and one of his several servile films to the government programs, so there’s lots of ‘will die for my country’ type scenes. I have tremendous respect for the brave men and women who gave up their lives for freedom, but this is a soulless film.
The super handsome Vijay Devarakonda stars in the Telugu film
Dear Comrade. But the film has the same hero that has anger, drunkenness, rejection in love issues as Arjun Reddy did even though here the lad is a management student. The seething violence makes for triggers and the film ought to come with its own warnings. The film does underhandedly though promote the idea of women standing up for their rights, but the film remains an out and out ‘masala’ flick. Watch it on Amazon Prime Video.
Amitabh Bachchan plays a lawyer who is out to talk to his client Tapsee Pannu who may have killed a young man inadvertently in the Hindi film called
Badla. Sujoy Ghosh directed this taut thriller but it happens to be a remake/adaptation of the Spanish film The Invisible Guest (Contratiempo) which is on Netflix. This fact alone should stop it from making it to the shortlist, but you can watch Badla as well on Netflix and make up your mind.
Badhaai Ho is a cute little film that starts off well but makes you want to go to the nearest door and smash your thumb just to relieve yourself of the boredom. A grown-up young man discovers that his mum is pregnant and overreacts because he is embarrassed. Ayushmann Khurrana, Neena Gupta et al are earnest, but the story just does not move beyond the nudge-nudge, wink-wink, even though it makes an effort to show middle-class lives…
Article 15 on Netflix simply because I wondered why I did not like a movie that defends our Constitution. The article states that no one shall discriminate against another by caste, creed, gender and so on… Ayushmann Khurrana again! But on second viewing the film sort of grew on me. He plays a cop who has had fancy education, but is posted in a godforsaken town where two girls of the lower caste have been raped and murdered and a third is missing… The film is a tad tedious, but worth the watch.
This year has been good to Ayushmann Khurrana whose
Andhadhun manages to make you smile even though people are getting killed every twenty minutes or so. He’s a blind piano player who witnesses a crime of passion. Tabu makes for a wonderful co-actor. But even this film is an adaptation of the French Film The Piano Tuner ( Le ‘Accordeur). Watch it on Netflix.
There are other gems from across India that deserve more attention from the Film Federation. But perhaps
Gully Boy has the muscle power of Bollywood behind it that will help it get screenings for the members of the Academy and all the fees that come with being selected. The team behind Gully Boy has to have deep pockets. As I said, I loved the film, but... Manisha Lakhe is a poet, film critic, traveller, founder of Caferati — an online writer’s forum, hosts Mumbai’s oldest open mic, and teaches advertising, films and communication. Read her columns