Thursday, January 12, 2012


We're on Indian film again tonight.  I promise some other topics, but I must talk about the film I just saw.

I don't know if either Amitabh Bachchan or Ram Gopal Varma should ever work with anyone but each other.  This is the third collaboration I've seen (after the two Sarkar films), and maybe the best.

Part of the reason I like RGV so much is that he speaks the language of American film.  I may have said before that he was greatly influenced by American genre film, but my new cinematic cohort used the word "noir," which is absolutely on target.  And boy, you don't see a lot of noir in Indian film.

RGV also seems to understand Amitabh's strengths as an actor and has cast him in roles where he really shines.  I've read online that some people don't think he's much of an actor.  In a lot of his earlier roles, the challenge of the acting may have been less; at times, he seemed more like a personality, persona and presence that a great actor.  But no one can see this film and deny that he's a very, very fine actor.

Also -- no small thing -- AB looks really, really, really great in the three RGV films I've seen, which are all from the '00s.  It has something to do with costume, hair, makeup, lighting, and photography, but it's the director who makes sure all of it is right.  Oh, and he makes sure you can see the guy's eyes.  Anyone who lets Bachchan wear dark glasses in a movie should be shot, and anyone who suggests it is an idiot.  You can quote me.

The movie is pretty much a remake of Poison Ivy.  Teenage girl brings home teenage friend to spend some time, and the girl seduces the father.  Except that Nishabd is much more of a love story, and the girl in Poison Ivy was evil and manipulative, not just a sexy schoolgirl who thinks she's in love.  Another major difference was that the star in the American movie was playing the girl (Drew Barrymore), and the star in the Indian movie is playing the father.

Sidebar:  the US film industry doesn't have the kind of large and long-lived acting families as the Hindi film industry, but the Barrymores are one.  From  Daughter of John Drew Barrymore and Jaid Barrymore. Half-sister of Jessica, Blythe Dolores and John Blyth Barrymore. Niece of actress Diana Barrymore. Granddaughter of actor John Barrymore and Dolores Costello, on her father's side. Great-granddaughter of silent film actor Maurice Costello and Mae Costello. Great-niece of famed actors, Ethel Barrymore and Lionel Barrymore.

John Barrymore was hugely famous in his day, kind of an earlier Laurence Olivier -- stage, then silents, and some talkies before he drank himself to death.  His wife, Dolores Costello, did silents and then played a lead role in Orson Welles' second-best movie, The Magnificent Ambersons

Drew Barrymore started acting as a very young child and was in the Steven Spielberg film E.T.

Nishabd did seem to bounce around a bit between romantic and sexy.  There was even a brief kiss on the lips, which was pleasantly shocking.  Poison Ivy, of course, was a lot more explicit...and I've seen Indian movies with a lot more touching, kissing on the neck and so forth.  I guess the girl's character was very sexy, but the father was very romantic.

The scenes where the father (big surprise, his name is Vijay) can't stop giggling because the girl has been flirting with him -- really crazy and great.  It's not an expected reaction, but it makes a lot of sense, and is overt in a way that is more unique than sexy scenes.  And Amitabh just nails it, goes big and succeeds.

I don't think this movie went over very big in India.  Maybe it's too noir, too genre, too American.

n.b. Wikipedia says it was based on American Beauty, and also mentions Lolita, a 1986 film called Anosha Riska, and a Bengali film called Nisshabd (whose director sued RGV for infringement).  Say what you will, RGV steals wisely.

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