Monday, March 15, 2010

Kurbaan...It's All About Being Too Much of a Pansy to Say the Right Thing With Your Film

Karan Johar and I are so in a fight!! Too bad he doesn't have a clue who I am because I have a few things to get off my chest about this “film”.

Many of you may argue that this is not Karan's fault because the film was written and directed by Rensil D'Silva, Karan only produced it via Dharma Productions. I say that's crap! (witness the self-control I'm using in avoiding profanity.) This movie has Karan's dirty little fingerprints all over it! I know when I've been Joharred and believe me I have been, and how! But don't take my word for it. There are plenty of articles out there discussing how this originated as Karan's story before Rensil took over. I have my issues with Mr. D'Silva as well which I will get to. For now let me just say that these two making a movie together is as good an idea as say casting Uday Chopra in Jodhaa Akbar instead of Hrithik Roshan...yeah, ponder that one for awhile.

Kurbaan is supposed to be primarily a love story set against a backdrop of “global terrorism”. Charming concept. According to Karan himself,

“Of course the film is conveying an important point of view with an eye on global terrorism. However, at the heart of it all, it's a love story and that itself is its biggest strength too. This is what constitutes for an emotional narrative against the backdrop of terrorism. Of course emotional strength is the film's mainstay but I can confidently state that Kurbaan does scratch the surface more than any other film based on a similar subject. Still, we are not making a political or a social commentary here.”

Can someone explain to me how one makes a film with global terrorism as a “backdrop” without making a political or social commentary? No wait, never mind, I saw Kurbaan. You know what it's called? Irresponsible film making and the worst kind of fence sitting.

Setting the ridiculousness of the film's premise and execution aside for a moment, I want to talk about how Karan and D'Silva portray terrorists and terrorism in their films, the damage done by refusing to take a strong stance and what seems to be Karan's attitude towards Americans in general. When I started watching Kurbaan, I knew it wasn't directed by Karan but I didn't know who the director was or who wrote the script. It didn't take long to figure out. After the terrorists got two impassioned speeches (Riyaaz's argument in Ehsaan's class and Aapa's explanation to Avantika) in which to make their case that even had me thinking “Gee, maybe they have a point” and, to a lesser extent Riyaaz's conversation with his father upon his return from covering the war in Iraq, I got a feeling of deja vu. I thought, “Man, this feels a lot like Rang De Basanti.” Imagine my lack of surprise when I googled the movie afterward and found Rensil D'Silva to be the man behind both films.

I have spoken at length in my Rang De Basanti review about the misplaced and inappropriate romanticism with which D'Silva portrayed characters who were, for all of their school boy charm, still just murderers, terrorists. I took it easy on him there because he was dealing with freedom fighters from another era as well as present day but now I think I was wrong in doing so. I was wrong because he does the same thing in Kurbaan with people who murder their wives and keep the body in the basement until it stinks, imprison their wives to keep them quiet, blow up a plane killing over 200 members of a UN delegation, plan to blow up seven subway stations in New York and all the while justify it by claiming it is but a small repayment to the US for the number of people killed in bombings of Afghanistan and Pakistan.

The justification given for terrorist activities (which 9/11 is confusingly lumped in with) in both big scenes is the personal impact of US bombings of Afghanistan and Pakistan on the characters in the film. When did we bomb Afghanistan and Pakistan before 9/11? The message and motivations are so muddled in this film that at the end, even though the filmmakers proclaim to make no political commentary, they end up making the terrorists look more sympathetic than anyone else in the film. Every reason the terrorists give for their actions either goes unanswered or the response is shot down by further justification until no one opposes the terrorist viewpoint anymore apparently because they have run out of arguments. The scene in Ehsaan's classroom is just painful to watch. So, are we to assume then that the the big counter argument that terrorism is bad is the consequences of the terrorist's actions, death to all? If that's the case, the argument is made pointless by killing so many innocents too. If you're going to be so explicit with your terrorists' arguments for why they do what they do then you have to do the same with condemnation of those acts. Otherwise, you end up with Kurbaan and Rang De Basanti, two films that make terrorism look romantic and patriotic.

But what did I expect from Karan, a man so politically correct and terrified of offending anyone that he issued a written apology to the Shiv Sena goons and posted apologies at the multi-plexes for using the historical name Bombay in Wake Up Sid. Hey, Karan, here's my advice to you, strap on a pair of balls and learn how to use them! And while you're at it, stop looking down your nose at Americans at the same time you use our cities and technology to make your movies. This movie was originally supposed to take place in London but the English denied them filming permission due to sensitivity over recent London tube bombings. I wonder if the story would have been quite so insulting had it been set in England as opposed to the U.S. I have an ugly hunch, it would not have.

It is sadly becoming clear to me, Karan, that you think that all or at least the vast majority of Americans are ignorant, bigoted yokels. The irony here is that you believe you're so much smarter than we are and yet your movies keep proving the opposite. Have you gotten a clue yet as to how offensive your black stereotypes in My Name is Khan are? And am I right that you consistently pick the worst American actors you can find for your films on purpose, giving your audience or your colleagues something to feel superior about? Or is this how you actually see us? Then again, your Indian heroes in this film do some of the dumbest things I have ever seen so maybe you just think you're smarter than everyone. In any case, the irresponsibility, naivete and downright stupidity you have consistently incorporated in your movies of late show you to be the ignorant one and the thing I hate most in this world, a self-oblivious hypocrite.

Examples of film maker's stupidity...I give you, the ridiculousness of Kurbaan:

The background score over the opening credits- When will Hindi films about serious subjects quit using Mission Impossible/Bourne Identity type jaunty tunes to open with? It's inappropriate and sets the wrong mood from the beginning. Terrorism is not a fun adventure romp. Cut it out.

Note to Saif- when you have the surgeon pull your face back that far to get rid of wrinkles, you need to remind him to move your hairline back down. Aiee! That's enough forehead for 3 heroes.

Note to Kareena- Get a new make-up artist. Half of your eyelid should not be covered with black eyeliner no matter how exotic you want to look. Cleopatra would look askance at you. Also, the snot at the end...I guess that's what you think qualifies for great acting and gritty realism? Was gross. I'd rather watch Poo on repeat than see that again.

Saif and Kareena's chemistry was gross. Felt like I was watching Saif and Kareena foreplay as opposed to characters falling in love. Major backfire!

What is with the fade to black and long pause as scene transitions? Horribly amateurish.

Ehsaan's job interview- Horrible American actor is no surprise but the dialog!!! Why don't you just have him come right out and say that Americans are closed-minded bigots who will attack anyone they perceive to be Muslim without a second thought. Oh, I know why. You think you're cleverly veiling your opinion of us. You undercut everything in the film about the dangers of fundamentalism when you make the US out to be full of idiots so xenophobic that the argument could be made that we deserve what we get.

Let's talk about the way Avantika treats Salma's cry for help. She doesn't call Salma's friend immediately as requested, let alone the police and when she does tell Rihana, no one takes it seriously. “Oh, it's probably just a typical case of domestic violence.” (And in what world is THAT an acceptable response anyway?) “Yeah, I'm just over-reacting, teehee.” I've never seen anything so idiotic in my life. Oh wait, yes I have...the way Avantika creeps around the wife beater's house, goes into the cellar, overhears a terrorist cell plotting, finds Salma's dead body, cries out alerting terrorist cell to her presence, runs to home across the street, locks door and stands there staring at it while terrorists break into home. Now, she's stupid enough to deserve what she gets.

If you want to take a moment in your film to make a point about racial profiling in airports, a scene that takes place only days after a plane bombing that kills 200+ members of UN delegation is not going to make the strongest argument. Someone may argue that Riyaaz reacted the way he did in this scene as a way to ingratiate himself to Ehsaan. If that's the case then the direction for the scene is horrible because there is nothing in the performance to suggest that. He doesn't do this until he sits down after the bag search. I'm just guessing because I can't believe any director could be that ham-fisted but I should have suspended this disbelief long ago I suppose.

Karan, I hope if you ever happen upon a terrorist cell's secret plot to blow up a plane and pull off a 9/11-scale subway bombing, that you don't attempt to bust the cell yourself like Riyaaz does. One, because dumb as he is, Riyazz is smarter than you and two, it's the dumbest freaking thing I may have ever scene on CELLULOID.

Let me tell you something so you can pass it on to Riyazz and Avantika, 911 ain't just a new way of marking time in the western world. It's the number you call if you know a plane is about to explode or you discover a terrorist cell operating in the suburbs or terrorists and wife murderers have just chased you into your home.

Where can I buy that nifty first aid kit that Ehsaan and Avantika have in their bathroom cabinet that comes complete with a surgical needle? I'm going to need one of those after I gouge my eyes out watching your next movie.

Am I still supposed to sympathize with your hero after he pulls the trigger on that gun just because the terrorists didn't put bullets in it and the innocent fast food clerk doesn't get his brains blown out for no reason? Seriously?

The car chase- one man versus about 10 policemen. He's pinned down in his bullet-ridden SUV and yet he manages to take them all out and send the SUV up in flames with one shot despite the fact that it had been hit with 20-30 bullets already with no problem. Ok, sure.

Bodies have to be burnt to dust before dental record identification would be ruled out and they certainly wouldn't do so at the crime scene. But maybe I'm just being nit-picky now.

There's more. I know there is but my rage has been vented and I can't vent no more. Let me close with this quote from Karan,

“No, I don't see foresee any controversies around the film since it is only showing things as they are. It has been made with a huge level of sensitivity and I am sure it won't be offending anyone's sensibilities. “

First, you can't make a film about global terrorism without controversy and offending sensibilities. Whose sensibilities are you protecting anyway? There are terrorists and then there is everyone else. So, you're protecting terrorist sensibilities? Great logic. Second, what you have done is offend your audience's sensibilities and intelligence. Cut it out before you have no more audience...oh wait, you didn't have much for this film did you? Learn your lesson please. If you are too frightened or ignorant of an issue to deal with it assertively and clearly, then leave it to someone else. Your love stories are beautiful and of those, I am the biggest fan. So, maybe you should stick to those. And Rensil D'Silva should never ever make a movie about terrorists or freedom fighters or anyone remotely related to any struggle against anything ever again.


Pitu said...

OH! MY! GOD!! I bow to your FANTASTIC review and agree completely with everything you said. Kudos on actually being able to write a review. This movie angered me so much I couldn't even write anything properly without being all stabbity stabbity and I refused to give it a single star. While I truly despise bloglink wh*ring, I must submit my review for your persusal if only to admire your ability to write complete sentences :D

What really pisses me off about terrorism films made by fluffy directors with miniscule IQ is that they do way more harm than good. If you made a stupid romcom, people will just roll their eyes. But when you make a film that puts terrorists on a pedestal, imagine what impact that is going to have on an uneducated, frustrated kid from some podunk town who is tempted to join his friendly local terrorist group.

That's the main reason I was furious. Another crapola film on this topic = Fanaa. This is one reason I think Aamir Khan should take responsibility for his shit films just as he takes credit for his good ones!

You totally need to send a link of your review to KJo thru Twitter. He *really* needs to read it to know what went wrong.

Anonymous said...

"Kurbaan is supposed to be primarily a love story set against a backdrop of 'global terrorism' " I think I read that genre called "terromance" at filmigirl's blog.

Well I can't comment much because I refused to see it. Incidentally, I am also in a fight with Johar, and stopped following him on twitter since seeing his movie MNIK where he also insults much of America. I've decided to ignore him, put him on a time out, and not waste too many keystrokes on that anti-American provocateur. Based on what I saw in MNIK, Johar doesn't seem like he's got the maturity, moral fiber, humanity, nor responsibly make a movie with a scope that goes beyond a lush Bollywood drama, so he should stick to what he does well. I doubt I'll ever see Kubaan, but I have seen Qurbani, and I suggest you cleanse your movie watching palette and see that!

All da best,

Shell said...

Well that solidifies it for me. Though I love me my fluffy Kjo, I really had no desire to see this and now I am so glad. I don't mind movies based around terrorism, they can be done quite well I think, but too many misfired messages are going to kill any film.

Sometimes you have to wade through all the crap to find the gems though.