'Saawariya' was poetry, 'OSO' well researched: Amitabh

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By Subhash K. Jha

Mumbai, Dec 1 (IANS) Amitabh Bachchan has been completely floored by the recent Diwali releases - "Saawariya" and "Om Shanti Om" - and cannot stop showering praises on them.

"'Saawariya' was poetry on celluloid. An exquisitely presented Broadway-style musical set within Indian sentiments. It's daring and original and with such a high quotient of aesthetics, beauty and form," Amitabh told IANS.

An ardent admirer of Shah Rukh Khan, Amitabh is also impressed by the latest from the stables of King Khan - "Om Shanti Om"."The depiction of the 1970s (in 'Om Shanti Om') was carefully researched and the ambience played to the galleries. The sarcasm and humour were very much 2007. That's how this generation communicates and it was bound to catch their fancy."

But the other Khan and the Big B are caught in a war of words. Aamir Khan in a recent comment on the award winning film "Black" starring Amitabh termed it "insensitive" and "manipulative".

Amitabh in his characteristic nonchalant manner shrugged off the comments, saying as an individual Aamir is entitled to his own opinion.

"Aamir is a free individual in a free society. He has the freedom to express his opinions. I cannot understand why he finds the film 'insensitive and manipulative'."

Excerpts:

Q: Last week you saw Sanjay Leela Bhansali's "Saawariya". What did you think of your "Black" director's efforts this time?

A: "Saawariya" was poetry on celluloid. An exquisitely presented Broadway-style musical set within Indian sentiments. It boldly defied the routine format of escapist commercial fare, a malaise that all our films have come to be so doggedly accused of. It's daring and original and with such a high quotient of aesthetics, beauty and form!

Q: Why do you think it was panned by a section of critics?

A: It quite unwittingly got caught in the media hyperbole - the strength, might and penetrative influence of which formed viewers' opinion before they had barely stepped out to see the film.

But the two young stars were a breath of fresh air. Ranbir (Kapoor) is spontaneous, original and so free of given encumbrances.

For Bhansali - the conductor of this exquisite symphony - I shall repeat what I wrote to him after seeing the film. He's a genius, will always remain a genius. Ever brilliant, often misunderstood.

Q: You were a small part of the other Diwali release "Om Shanti Om". What did you think of the film's efforts to satirise the Hindi mainstream cinema of the 1970s, an era that largely belonged to you?

A: Shah Rukh called me to the film's trial a few days before the release. It was great fun. A tongue-in-cheek satire constructed around the film industry, adrenaline-pumping, young, a magic-mountain joyride.

I told Shah Rukh I was apprehensive about the audience catching on to the subtle digs on the film fraternity and its happenings. But post-release, it has worked and washed away all apprehensions.

Q: And Deepika Padukone?

A: Deepika was statuesque, regal and endearing but Shah Rukh was competent as always. But I keep telling him that he was best in "Swades" and in portions of "Kabhi Alvidaa Na Kehna".

In this film, the depiction of the 1970s was carefully researched and the ambience played to the galleries. The sarcasm and humour were very much 2007. That's how this generation communicates; it was bound to catch their fancy. As for the 1970s belonging to me, eras never belong to any actor or star. Cinema does.

Q: Aamir Khan recently made some harsh comments on "Black", saying the film is "insensitive" and "manipulative".

A: Aamir is a free individual in a free society. He has the freedom to express his opinions. I cannot understand why he finds the film "insensitive" and "manipulative".

All story-telling at times tends to touch areas that are "sensitive". They could have been done to achieve dramatic impact, emotional expression or effective endings.

Remember, we as filmmakers, dwell almost unabashedly on that unwritten mantra of bringing poetic justice in our stories. That has been the most remarkable quality inhabiting the reason behind the popularity of Indian cinema. Indeed any popular cinema.

Q: Please continue...

A: You see we need to finish the film at some point of time, hopefully within three hours and to demonstrate at the end of it that poetic justice was indeed delivered.

Else we would be waiting for a lifetime, or several lifetimes for it to occur. It's required therefore to put in the insensitivity to restore sensitivity.

We've to put in violence to show its presence and then to overcome it to show its futility. Would the Ramayana be the same without Ravana? We repeatedly, year after year, burn the effigy of Ravana during Ram Lila to stress the victory of good over evil. It would not happen if there were no evil in the world.

I believe it was the insensitivity of certain portions of the film "Black" which were necessary in making it such a sensitive film.

Q: What about Aamir's opinion that "Black" was manipulative?

A: "Manipulative"... hmmm... the clever and sometimes devious means of controlling or influencing people is also an accepted ingredient in a film.

We need the attention of the audience towards the product. We need to sufficiently influence them in order for them to remain attracted to the product till the last. So, in a sense, every film is manipulative. If you know within the first few minutes of a film the villainous nature of a character, why wait till the climax, a few hours away, to straighten him out?

But a screenplay is built to envelope a beginning, middle and an end, in order to have a respectable story. It is an existing form, acknowledged the world over through centuries of exhaustive writing.

Q: Aamir seems unhappy with this traditional way of establishing character and narrative mood.

A: If Aamir is unhappy with this, let him demonstrate otherwise. I would be keen and anxious to educate myself on any prospective change that he might introduce to cinema.

With due respect, all the films that he has featured in and that I have had great pleasure in watching have all adhered to the very qualities that he dislikes in "Black".

From using the distinct handicap, or to be politically correct, challenged condition, of a crippled human in his cricket team in "Lagaan", to the 'sensitivities' of a blind girl in "Fanaa".

Q: Has Aamir expressed his misgivings about "Black" to you?

A: In a private meeting after the release of "Black" Aamir had told me of his reservations on the film. He had not liked it. He had issues, he said. He told me the film did not work for him because he disagreed with the voice over of Rani as soon as the film started. The argument being, if the girl is deaf, dumb and blind how can she have a voiceover!