Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Being Cyrus

This is an interesting movie but not for those with a queasy, nervous disposition nor those looking for something conventional or a light hearted film for a few laughs.

I saw this at home, with my family, who were squirming / shifting uneasily as the movie progressed, on a DVD kindly sent by Munish Puri (one of the producers, met him through work and we discovered a common passion).

This is an English movie with a fantastic line-up of character actors, starring Saif Ali Khan as Cyrus, an orphan, who along with his sister, has grown up painfully in a series of foster homes. He is now a grown-up drifter and lands up unannounced at the residence of Dinshaw Sethna (Naseeruddin Shah), a once famous, internationally renowned Parsi potter, who now leads the life of a weed-smoking recluse in Panchgani. Cyrus begins to take lessons from him and also befriends his acerbic, frustrated wife, Katy (Dimple Kapadia) who longs for better days and a more social life (preferably in Mumbai). They had seen better days, and Dinshaw’s father used to own a whole building in Mumbai, but now the father is a prisoner of his ultra-aggressive younger son, Farokh Sethna (Boman Irani), who has taken over the property, confined the father to a claustrophobic, dilapidated room and bullies all those around him, including his meek, pretty young wife Tina (Simone Singh).

The movie throughout seems to suggest something going on beyond the superficial. And in the second half, the sinister undertone / motives take over and come to life. It certainly made my family sit up and converted the movie from a less than ordinary movie to something more interesting. And while a combination of having seen too many movies and a hyperactive imagination meant that I was able to predict the end, I enjoyed watching something different, something a little macabre, a little quirky.

One area where I definitely would have done something differently vs Homi Adajania (the first time director of the movie) would have been in the overall mood of the film – I would have opted for a more light hearted approach, especially in the first half. There are quite a few chuckles in the movie but there is still a somber, almost menacing undercurrent which you’re unable to shake-off. I think the audience would have been better entertained by a Jekyll & Hyde movie of two contrasting halves – a brighter, racier first half, followed by the dramatic events of the second.

I wouldn’t have been so impressed by Saif’s Langda Tyagi in Omkara if I’d seen this before. The witty, light-hearted, rascally Saif of movies like Hum Tum and Salaam Namaste is suddenly an unrecognizable, brooding, introspective Cyrus Mistry. I thought he was excellent. Everyone else fulfils their / their characters potential while a special mention must be made of a delightful cameo by Manoj Pahwa as Inspector Maninder Lovely.

If I scan through all the reviews, it is rated as a must watch. I wouldn’t go that far, especially if you’ve seen a few English film noir’s (Maltese Falcon / Body Heat etc) or even some classic Hitchcock’s (Rope / Psycho spring to mind). However, if you’re a pre-dominantly Hindi movie watcher, I would tend to agree. Its not something that’s going to make you go ‘Wow !’, but more like ‘Hmmm, where did that come from…’

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