THE YEAR OF WATCH­ING MOVIES

Film jour­nal­ist Anna MM Vet­ti­cad sets her­self an un­en­vi­able task and man­ages to sur­vive with her hu­mour in­tact, says JAI AR­JUN SINGH

Tehelka - - BOOKS - 230 295

The Ad­ven­tures of an In­trepid Film Critic chron­i­cles some of the high and low points of that jour­ney. This is not a com­pre­hen­sive study, or in­tended to be — it is a col­lec­tion of vi­gnettes about the lit­tle worlds that ex­ist be­tween the cracks of what we call “Bol­ly­wood”, the bizarre work­ings of the in­dus­try’s PR ma­chin­ery and the strug­gles of out­siders. It opens a win­dow to a place well be­yond the purview of most mul­ti­plex-go­ers — a place where halls may refuse to screen a film be­cause only one ticket has been sold, or where once-big stars like Jackie Shroff might do un­fath­omable walk-on parts in barely-di­rected movies as a sop to an ac­quain­tance.

Vet­ti­cad en­coun­ters such char­ac­ters as a Mozam­bique­based busi­ness­man, who fi­nanced a tacky film (with the tagline ‘For the first time on the In­dian screen, an ac­tor arises from Africa’) and bet­ter-known fig­ures like di­rec­tor Ro­hit Shetty, who has a laugh­ably un­re­fined view of criticism. She dis­cov­ers won­der­ful child ac­tors in an un­her­alded film, Kac­cha Lim­boo, and has a re­veal­ing con­ver­sa­tion with Onir, di­rec­tor of the sen­si­tive I Am. There’s even an ap­pendix with the text of the pseudo-sci­en­tific con­cept note for a film ti­tled Im­pa­tient Vivek (“junk genes” is not a com­ment on the lead­ing man, but it could have been).

The chatty, blog-like struc­ture — with de­tours, el­lipses and paren­the­ses — is well-suited to this ma­te­rial, con­vey­ing a sense of the con­flict­ing things go­ing on in her head as she drifts from one empty the­atre to an­other, and the few for­ays into overly ca­sual writ­ing — a cry of “Hal­leluiah”, a sen­tence be­gin­ning, “C’mon, doc, I mean...” — are leav­ened by a re­fined sen­si­bil­ity. As some­one who thinks about the is­sues sur­round­ing re­view­ing, I en­joyed Vet­ti­cad’s re­flec­tions on the nuts and bolts of her work, in­clud­ing her un­com­pli­cated ex­pla­na­tion for why she never dis­cusses a film un­til she has fin­ished her piece. One of the book’s pleas­ingly un­ob­tru­sive il­lus­tra­tions — a de­pic­tion of the au­thor hold­ing up a mag­ni­fy­ing glass to the screen to scru­ti­nise the pim­ples on Em­raan Hashmi’s torso — seems to ex­em­plify the bird-like at­ten­tive­ness that lay be­hind this project.

“To my mind, this book is a cel­e­bra­tion of the small film,” Vet­ti­cad says san­guinely, while ac­knowl­edg­ing that there is lit­tle to cel­e­brate about the ex­is­tence of such films as the rape-joke-laden Be-Care­ful. In­deed, her book is most en­gag­ing when it throws up eye-pop­ping — and some­times poignant — tid­bits about poseurs, no-hop­ers and peo­ple who de­serve wider recog­ni­tion (such as the hearingim­paired So­hail Lakhani, who trained Ran­bir Kapoor for Barfi!). It is less en­gag­ing when it in­cludes generic in­ter­views with high-pro­file stars like Vidya Balan and Priyanka Cho­pra. But if you feel that some of these pages might’ve been bet­ter utilised, it’s a good idea to sup­ple­ment this read with Vet­ti­cad’s blog, where you’ll find tan­ta­lis­ing nuggets about films like Cy­cle Kick, Aashiqui.in and Happy Hus­bands. None of which, as far as I know, fea­tures Jackie Shroff in a tiny role.

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