Thursday, March 23, 2006

Being Cyrus

The dark comedy Being Cyrus centers around the lives of a Parsi family, the Sethnas. From the film's name, expectations that conjure up are about a typical Parsi existence. But as the film gets underway and the plot unravels, you realize that it is far from that. The story brings out the dark sides of some seemingly ordinary characters, who eventually go to unbelievable lengths to achieve their goals.

Cyrus (Saif) shows up at the Sethna's at their Panchgani bungalow, and offers to be an assistant to pot maker Dinshaw (Naseeruddin Shah). He spends a year with them and in the process a romance seemingly brews between him and Katy (Dimple Kapadia), Dinshaw's wife. Other clandestine activities coincide with this; Cyrus receives some money for an undisclosed reason, and he is shown working on something in a lab setting. He then arrives at Dinshaw's brother, Faroq's (Boman Irani) house in a very Parsi locality in Mumbai. Faroq takes care of their father who lives in a room in their Mumbai apartment, and does not treat him too well. Cyrus befriends the father but Faroq loathes his proximity. Katy on the other hand, gets frequent calls from Mumbai, in a parallel unexpected development. Tina(Simone Singh) who is Faroq's wife, befriends a policeman Lovely (Manoj Pahwa), and their interactions provide good comic relief. In what follows, the plot slowly unfurls, revealing morbid and unanticipated sides of many personalities. The movie takes a shocking turn at one juncture and the few minutes around that scene unravel a range of unforeseen occurrences.

Saif's fist English movie, his lead character transitions from carefree sculptor's assistant to a starkly more somber character in a span of a few minutes. Naseeruddin Shah again plays the intoxicated old man following Iqbal; he is a reclusive pot sculptor who is hooked to a different kind of pot. Dimple Kapadia fulfills the role of middle aged vain Parsi lady, but her character could have been more believable. Boman Irani, originally Parsi, is at home with the characters and dialog delivery in this film. There is a scene where he gets into an argument with a Parsi lady about her pet dog which captivates the viewer with its authenticity and comedy. Simone Singh gives a good performance of an unassuming bride who transforms into something very different.

The film does not have songs, but the soundtrack is effective and did justice to the different moods. Some scenes could have used a more topical background score to build up and establish the importance of the scene. The use of English, not all actors' first language, causes some parts to come across as unnatural.

For a directorial debut, Homi Adajania's work is commendable and one wonders how he managed to clinch such a stellar cast on his initiation. He has shown his versatility in comedy and drama scenes as well as evocative dream sequences. Considering how unpredictable the plot is, it has been stitched together well.

On the whole, the movie has a few things going for it - the star cast, the plot and the direction. This one is not to be missed - an offbeat stunner with true box office potential.



Friday, March 10, 2006

Maalamal Weekly

Despite a story that has the potential of binding a viewer to the screen, Priyadarshan’s latest comedy Malamaal Weekly turns out to be nothing more than a timepass entertainer.

The movie stars Ritesh Deshmukh , Reema Sen , Paresh Rawal , Om Puri , Arbaaz Khan , Shakti Kapoor , Asrani and Rajpal Yadav .

On paper, the story of ‘Maalamal Weekly’ sounds quite interesting and holds a substantial potential for comedy. A dead man wins a lottery ticket and everyone in the village wants a share of the windfall.

But what translates on to the screen is far less engaging than what one expects, particularly considering the ensemble of actors like Paresh Rawal, Om Puri, Asrani and Ritesh Deshmukh, all of who have their own unique flair for comedy.

Laholi is a village inhabited by the poor and uneducated, save for Lilaram (Paresh Rawal), allegedly the most literate of them all. Lilaram earns his living by selling Maalamal Weekly lottery tickets.

One day, Lilaram comes to know that one of the lotteries he has sold has won rupees One Crore prize. Suddenly the thinking bulb inside this village bumpkin’s head flickers and he devices an ingenious plan to find out who has the winning ticket.

It turns out that the possessor of the ticket is a drunkard named Anthony who dies before claiming the winning amount.

Lilaram wants to steal the winning ticket but the village milkman Balwant (Om Puri) comes to know the secret and wants a share in the money.

Before the two could hide Anthony’s dead body, Kanhaiya (Ritesh Deshmukh) – a good-for-nothing youngster in love with Balwant’s daughter (Reema Sen) – sees them. Now, he too wants a share of the amount.

Gradually, the ‘secret’ spreads in the entire village and everyone is in race for riches. But then inspector Jayesh (Arbaaz Khan) comes to the village to find the truth.

As the story progresses, the situations, the jokes and gags are truly hilarious at times, but the overall impact of a hearty and rejuvenating comedy is clearly missing.

Paresh Rawal has been given the best dialogues, followed by Om Puri and Asrani. Rawal acquits himself with yet another notable performance, but Om Puri goes over the top in certain scenes. Ritesh Deshmukh stays subdued except in one sequence.

‘Maalamal Weekly’ is based on an original story by Priyadarshan and is not a remake of any south film. What could have been a riveting story turns out to be a humdrum fare because Priyadarshan has focused more than needed on several sub-plots, the inclusion of which adds new offshoots to the story and stretches the movie to the limit that tests a viewer’s patience.

By Aparajita Ghosh in