September 27, 2010

Shakti - Transcendental Masala Cinema, plus some Daddy Issues!

Yes, I have always loved Amitabh for all his mad death scenes

Once every so often, there is a movie that just goes above all expectations and touches your masala dil, Shakti is one of those films that ran with my heart and induced a Barsaat Cry! I for one am upholder of Masala ideals, wherever there is a missing son/daughter/hamster or a rain song, then you know that I'll be there! (I was trying to copy the whole idealistic speech from Grapes of Wrath, but that would be too much!)

Anyway, Shakti is a film that I wholeheartedly love because it elevates all its masala trappings turns it into a level of cinematic magic. The script was written by masala scribes Salim and Javed, so there are lots of typical and archetypal staples that we get in this film. But somehow due to the performances of the two greatest actors of Indian cinema, Shakti becomes a film of aggression, Oedipal drama as well as some necessary dishoom-dishoom!
Look at my Anil cho chweet!

So lets start off with Ashwini Kumar(Dilip) telling his grandson(Anil Kapoor-looking soo young) abour his father. I like how I was able to foretell that Anil and Dilip would also be in another favorite of mine, full of drama and dace-offs in Mashaal, I'm just that good y'all!! Ashwini and his wife Maa(Rakhee) have a very peaceful life along with their son Vijay(Master Raju-my filmi baccha son). Ashwini is a police officer and is always getting into tussles with JK(Amrish Puri) and KD Narang(Kulbhushan Kharbanda), when he arrests their right hand man, and my favorite villain from Toofan, Goga Kapoor!
Goga Kapoor with some better hair and getup than Toofan

Ashwini manages to lock up Goga, to the ire of the principal baddies JK n KD, so the two men decide to kidnap Vijay in exchange for Goga. Ashwini is worried, and what follows is such a strong scene to shape the rest of the film. Ashwini refuses to let Goga go, and shouts on the phone, "Go kill him if you dare, just kill him" about his son, which Vijay hears and is really shaken by, that his father cares more for his job than his son.
My son Master Raju about to become a Vigilante!
Awww it's all downhill from here!

Vijay manages to break free, and is saved by KD who lets him go. Vijay manages to get home before Ashwini comes to save him, and the next day, Vijay keeps replaying the phone call in his head. This small incident mushrooms later when Vijay grows up and drifts apart from his father, Ashwini on the other hand acts like nothing happened and doesn't see why his son is so darn angry all day long. This was great writing on Salim n Javed's part because they seem to blur the lines of who's right and wrong. Vijay, who holds that incident against his father and Ashwini, who ignores his son for his duty.
My only quibble: Rakhee as Amitabh's maa? NAHIEE!

Also its good to see the focus on father-son issues rather than the always brilliant but usual dependence on the mother figure. Though Rakhee puts some gray makeup on, she does a brilliant job of trying to mediate between the two men in her life, and another point addressed is how she just accepts that her husband is more focused on his job and neglects his home life and her.
The other woman of the piece is Roma(Smita Patil) who meets Vijay on the train, and then is rescued by him from some thugs!
What health and safety conscious thugs these are!
The nicest and most down-to-earth jodi ever!

Amitabh n Smita have such a easygoing jodi that worked really well here, and their courtship scenes are so wonderful because they are universal and real. The two of them walk home, and awkwardly and flirtaciously get to know each other, this was definitely refreshing to see and though there's a flower n dancing in the trees song later, there is a good progression towards their love, its not "WOAH I LOVE YOU RIGHT THIS MINUTE, LETS SING!!!" Even though its a small supporting role, Smita gives it her all, and her character isn't a usual condescending heroine that begs Vijay to leave his bad world, they live together and have a shotgun wedding but I definitely liked this change!

But getting back to the story, Vijay is jobless till he lands a job with KD, who hires him on the spot at his hotel. KD is a smuggler and this doesn't go down well with Ashwini who goes on a lecture about how Vijay will shame him if accepts the job, and Vijay quite rightly tells him to get lost and of course he's kicked out of the ghar!
WOAH Dilip just pulled out the "Extreme Daddy Issues for Life" card!

Vijay leaves home and is spotted by Roma who lets him live with her! Oooo progressive! Tensions between the two men become increasingly fractured, when Vijay is accused of the murder of some drunk guy that hassled Roma, Ashwini again spares his personal feelings no thought and jails his own innocent son. KD now bails Vijay out and tells him that JK is responsible for this mayhem. And as we all know when Amitabh is named Vijay, he naturally turns into ire personified Vigilante Vijay. I was able to overlook this for a bit, because I understood that Vijay was supremely hurt that JK would humiliate him in front of his father by framing him! And the crucial moment here was that KD was rubbing it in Ashwini's face that Vijay had found a new father figure! BOOOM!

JK now is upset with his former partner KD and Vijay and tries to kill them! Of course this is hilarious because Amrish is in full anger mode and roaring out his lines!
Can you imagine how angry he sounded!
Amitabh doing his amazing leaping about!
KD now thinks of Vijay as his son for saving him, but Vijay has a great line about how the word son has become a gaali or swearword for him. What follows is some amazing drama and face-offs between Dilip and Amitabh.
Good positioning and fabulous actors!

Its usually troublesome to have two amazing actors on screen together in a film, for example who was the sappiest but best in Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham or Mashaal with my Anil and Dilip, there's usually a telling scene where one actor goes the extra mile than the other. But in Shakti you have two of the most competent actors ever not competing but just adding to the drama, to make it almost Shakespearian(yes it's OTT but there's so much good acting here!). Dilip, master of the method acting and emotional delivery is stellar as Ashwini Kumar, he makes the character human instead of masala caricature of an egregiously horrid father, when his wife dies and he's crying for her is an example of just how solid a performer Dilip is. We empathize with Ashwini, who's let his career interfere with his relationships and how he's unable to rectify them till the end.
One of the best scenes ever!

Amitabh too imbues such pathos into Vijay, sure people can say its another variation of the many vengeful Vijay's that he's played before. But really you'd be missing the point, this Vijay is more anguished than the Vijay from Zanjeer or the calculating Vijay from Trishul. This Vijay is jaded and bitter and crushed that he can't live up to his father's ideals and instead decides to "act out" in the general sense against his father. But what struck me was how Amitabh played him as strong in pursuing his own identity however opposing from his fathers. In one of the more famous scenes in the film, Vijay tells Roma that his father has two wives, his mum and the law, and that his father loves his "step brother" his pride more than Vijay, and this could be another moment of AB doing his typical angry Sharaabi shtick but it was revealing in his pain and I loved it!

There's a moment from the screencap above, where these two actors just join forces in making this film transcendental. Vijay has been released for a short while to attend his maa's funeral, and he sees his father crying and joins him in mourning. Its these quiet moments where these two titans of the screen play off each other so well, and it makes me love films even more if in one scene with these two can elevate the lousiest film in the world to art, then I'm happy.
The famous drunken sadness scene!

I could be going overboard in my praise but I really haven't seen a film where two actors have just burned the screen by sheer intensity of powerful acting, that too in a dressed down masala film like this. Sure there are astounding moments in arthouse films and middle of the road cinema that can be equally as amazing. But with this film I was just jolted up that this was Amitabh Bachchan and Dilip Kumar both crying and mourning together and facing off together in a normal film like this.

I'll try and recover from all that cinephile gush, perhaps it because I was reading my Bhagwan Francois Truffaut's book on films that made me hyperventilate and spew with praise. ANYWAYS masala films always have stunts or thrills that make your adrenaline somewhat rise up if you're not laughing at the extra who fell over that wasn't even hit. This film has got lots of thrills that are actually good and made me go "Ooo watch out Amitabh!!" or make me go "Woah now thats some action!"Vijay being chased around by a mad tractor! Transformers gone WILD!
Amitabh going all Dirty Vijay on us!

The film was really thrilling towards the end with a chase in the Mumbai Airport, where planes are actually about to take off and Dilip and Amitabh are running around and in between them, very well done!
If Dadamoni is in the film even for a paycheque role, it stills classes up the joint!

Kids, when I like a movie I REALLYY like a movie, and I know everyone's masala intake is different but me I can take it by the tonne-load, but this is a really fabulous film showcasing the two best actors of Bollywood playing off each other very well, and disguising the masala trappings into a really intense narrative.
I leave you with an imploringly wet and sexy Amitabh to beckon you to see the film:
Aaja re aa zara!


bollywooddeewana said...

Lol at Woah i love you right at this moment commentarty

I love this film to bits too, i reviewed it a while ago but i didn't go as indepth as you did, nonethelss this is a very interesting and fab write up, it feels good we're on par on this film as we do make similar points about it, if i had to choose between this and Deewaar, Shakti would win a hundred times over

Ness said...

Yep, you've convinced me I NEED to see this one, bahen. The imploringly wet and sexy Amitabh was just the icing on the masala cake.

Rum said...

Bollywooddeewana - Aww thanks! This film is just so powerful and it really works because the actors are so in sync with their character. I think I might say Deewar n Shakti are both excellent because they show many different shades of the Vijay character through his mummy and daddy issues!!

Ness - I wouldn't urge you if it wasn't soo SUBLIME, WONDERFUL, N SHAKESPEARIAN! Heehee a wet Amitabh was about to jump on Smita in that scene, its a lot sexier than him old and wet in Ganga Jamuna Saraswati!