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Saturday, 26 December 2015

For Your Consideration: Bajrangi Bhaijaan [2015]

HIndie Awards 2016

For Your Consideration: Bajrangi Bhaijaan [2015]


There's a few movies on these series of posts I am going to find difficult being subjective about. 

So here goes; 

In all honesty I didn't think that Bajrangi Bhaijaan would be that great and it isn't. Still there are traces of a film worthy of viewing and awards consideration. 

Bajrangi Bhaijaan stems from the sort of grandness one expects from a masala film without the conventional elements being trapped by a post-modern sensibility of winking and nudging to the audiences. 

What I mean by this is that the film tends to respect the genre. The new influx of Masala films in this generation are from people who are fans of the genre but stuck in a place where the audience blindly and vehemently demand logical situations and a sense of modernity. As such filmmakers are forced to make the kind of Masala movies that also deride the genre;

So when an illogical step is taken, the makers both tip a hat to the genre convention while telling audience; logic might not be there, but fun is. It's like being apologetic for taking cinematic liberties and providing escapism. 

I like this pertinent quote from well known writer and blogger Jai Arjun Singh; 

"I’m bemused by the snobbery directed at “escapism”, or by the idea that watching such a film or reading such a book entails leaving your brain elsewhere. No, it doesn’t – you need to engage, just as you do for the overtly serious stuff"

It highlights the important issue that is in effect destroying mainstream Hindi cinema culture from both sides; by the mildly intellectual viewer and the genre obsessed film makers. 

In essence we end up with hollow masala films that feel nothing like the old classics nor adhere to a new generation as they so wished to. 

Yet coming back to the film; somewhere Bajrangi Bhaijaan captures that, it helps that it comes from the Rajkumar Hirani school of thought which in itself comes from Hrishikesh Mukherjee's 'Middle of the road' cinema that as the name suggests includes both populist mass sensibilities and insightful sensible cinema. 

It captures these flavors, but also somewhat seems to lose itself at points. The third act goes all the way and in my opinion falls flat with the titular characters capture and false death. At the same time a certain dark scene while much appreciated nearly becomes tonally misplaced as well as just a showcase for Salman Khan to do what Salman Khan does best. 

In the event of all this, a few things do come across;

-Kabir Khan has good if not great directorial sensibilities. He also has a knack for getting the casting of supporting roles right whether they be Salman Shahid [Kabul Express], Nawazuddin Siddiqui [New York], Ranvir Shorey [Ek Tha Tiger], Sohaila Kapoor [Phantom] or coming back full circle to Nawazuddin Siddiqui [Bajrangi Bhaijaan]. 

-He tends to take pieces inspired or set in a real sociological world as is seen with his past films and in this he adds a neat wrinkle; the inspired use of journalist Chand Nawab for the character played by Siddiqui. Giving the scene stealing actor one hell of a role to play. 

-Also thankfully there's no outright villain for a typical Salman to face and thank god it's not Nawazuddin Siddiqui either as rumors had attested to. Instead we get some genuine chemistry between the, trio of actors; isn't Harshaali Malhotra an adorable winner in this film?

So those were a few notes, if you are still interested [in my madness], then below you will find the complete post on what awards EROS International will contend this film for. The idea being that I will reflect on each potential nominees from an objective perspective taking into account the audience/critics/relevant reviews and not my own thoughts. 

So let's get it started...

Best Picture [Comedy/Romantic]: Salman Khan and Rockline Venkatesh for Bajrangi Bhaijaan [EROS International]

Bajrangi Bhaijaan is a feel good comedy/drama film produced by Salman Khan Films and Kabir Khan films. 

It tells the story of Pawan Singh Chaturvedi [Khan] AKA Bajrangi, a dim witted but well meaning man who meets a young mute girl he names Munni [Harshaali Malhotra] and tries to help her find her parents. As things begin to look futile, Pawan is made to realize that Munni actually has come from Pakistan and has been left behind. 

Now with an uphill task in front of him, the golden heart Pawan rises to the occasion to take Munni back to her family; on the way coming across some cross border politics trouble and through the help of Pakistani news reporter Chand Nawab [Siddiqui] realizing that the two countries are not that different. 

EROS International has a packed campaign slate this year; with three other films in this particular category. 

Yet while not its most critically loved; Bajrangi Bhaijaan is EROS's biggest film and hence bound to be a heavily campaigned product beginning with a much sought after nod in the Best Picture category. 

It all of course depends on how every element of the film falls into place. 

Still stiff competition from within [especially with the romantic genre inclusion] means a tough ask; Tanu Weds Manu Returns, Bajirao Mastani and Shamitabh...and also tough competition from the outside; Tamasha, Piku, Dil Dhadakne Do e.t.c.

Best Director: Kabir Khan

Drilling into the mainstream; Kabir Khan still remains that, a director with all heart and honesty trying [key word; trying] to reflect on certain social issues of the world. He did it with his earlier documentaries and then fictionalized them into; films on Kabul and the Taliban to India-Pakistan relationships. 

Despite his intentions; Khan's work has never been the finest in a given year, especially considering his flash bang approach where heightened emotions, tension and melodrama never match to the kind of level of care he expects from us for his watered down characters. 

Here he handles the film with a sense of humanness that doesn't dilute the high stakes and commercial drama of the film but enhances it. It's a mix of probably his learned experiences as a mainstream director and his early work Kabul Express; which was very much a sober if at times to bland a film [one I expressly like]. 

Yet even when his work is a notch above, it's a year in which tougher competition exists and that too in a commercial bent; whether we are looking at Anand L. Rai [Tanu Weds Manu Returns] to Neeraj Pandey [Baby]. 

The new brigade of Genre filmmakers who are in an essence Middle of the Road [on a different road from Hrishida's] would be a tough nut to crack.

Of course not to mention; Kabir Khan's own work in Phantom is being contested as well. Which while could not be nominated, can create a difference because of its opposite message of conflict that it breeds in retaliation to the one in this film. 

Best Screenplay [Comedy/Romantic]: K.V. Vijayendra Prasad, Kabir Khan and Parveez Sheikh

Though it isn't expressly noted anywhere; I am guessing the latter two Khan and Sheikh are the dialogue writers/translators of the film. 

Vijayendra Prasad whose son [Baahubali director SS Rajamouli] had a notable year was also in the big game, the man behind the Bajrangi story. No wonder then that the film is able to secure more heart and brain in its Masala genre format, that is littered with stupidity in this decade. 

The films story is very heart warming and thankfully does not cater to the whims of its star, instead enveloping him into the conflict through organic manner. It also gives rise to a narrative that doesn't feel threadbare in connection but rather with elements playing off one another. There's distinctive use of setup's and pay off's such as Shahida/Munni's fascination with lambs setting her up to nicely sketched arcs that see Pawan on a learning curve just like the audience on how neither country nor religion should create a barrier between peace and love. 

Despite what has been skewed as a story to actually serve for its star as propaganda highlighting his goodness. 

The screenplay works for most of its parts. 

Best Cinematography: Aseem Mishra

Aseem Mishra is a key winner for Bajrangi Bhaijaan because not only does his lens capture the gorgeous frames but it also does the one thing that the screenplay merely speaks of; it reflects the two countries drawing both wonderful parallels and similarities that enhance the overall tone and message of the film. 

It is cinematography in the service of the story and that is best. 

If EROS is looking to a best picture and especially director nomination then a Cinematography push is key because the framing, lighting, camera work in the film is exquisite and a higher percentage chance for a nomination. 

Best Actor [Male] in A Leading Role [Comedy/Romantic]: Salman Khan as Pawan Kumar Chaturvedi

Touted as Salman Khans finest performance ever and vouched for by not only Industry veterans and biggies but a number of critics, Salman Khan despite some stiff competition is going to get some major props and backing from EROS to bank on his first HIndie Award. 

The star has a knack for good comedy, but those days have long past him. Now stuck in a complacent rut of meaningless cinema; Khan's latest sees him like with last years Kick, actually put some energy into his so called performance. 

He brings his X-Factor to the table but channels in it in a form that makes Pawan endearing; though it is definitely not top notch quintessential acting as such. It's at least not normally that which Khan does best. 

In a year where it is increasingly difficult to find award worthy candidates especially in this category, can a different but only mildly amusing turn from Khan sneak in?

Best Actor [Female] in A Leading Role [Comedy/Romantic]: Harshaali Malhotra as Shahida/Munni

From its first poster to trailer; the indication was quite clear that the young and adorable Harshaali is in fact very much the catalyst for the films narrative and also its leading lady despite Kareena Kapoor's star power. 

Malhotra is a bundle of energy and joy, who plays off well with Salman Khan; bringing the film some much needed laugh out loud moments with her silent expressions and gestures [e.g. slapping her head with the somewhat dimness of her helper].

She's as much a subtle delight in the emotional moments owing of course to her characters inability to speak. It's a cute turn worthy of acknowledgment, and can still go for the award dependent on how strong this year's leading ladies are. 

Best Actor [Male] in A Supporting Role [Comedy/Romantic]: Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Chand Nawab

Honestly, can this man do any wrong?

Last year; Nawazuddin Siddiqui's foray into a meaty role in a Masala movie yielded positive results, he was the only one who truly threw himself into the manic energy of a film like Kick. 

This year he gets to channel the comedic chops he displayed in The Lunchbox [one that secured him this award the last time] to another level and direction with Bajrangi Bhaijaan. The man creates some wonderful chemistry with co-star Salman Khan, once again threatening to run away with the film. 

Already a top contender in both dramatic acting categories, a third nomination here could seal the deal for another phenomenal year. 

Nawazuddin is a former four time nominee; with a win as aforementioned in this category and another nomination in it [for Peepli Live].

Best Actor [Female] in A Supporting Role [Comedy/Romantic]: Kareena Kapoor Khan as Rasika

Despite a limited and very much thankless role, Kareena Kapoor on the rocket of her stardom is being contested for the usually most congested female acting category of the HIndie Awards. 

So is it fair to consider this one, Kareena Kapoor is already a former four time nominee and honestly in weak years. 

Also with her finally taking reigns of her career to better heights next year [Ki and Ka as well as Udta Punjab]. This might honestly just be a round out by EROS for an acting category sweep to strengthen other chances.

Best Original Song: 'Tu Jo Mila' by KK and Kausar Munir [Lyrics] and 'Zindagi' by Jubin Nautiyal, Pritam and Neelesh Mishra [Lyrics]

Tu Jo Mila is very much the idea of the heart and soul of the film. The song tethers on the sweet father-daughter like relationship of Pawan and Munni. 

Sung by KK with his soothing and soft voice, it encompasses all that the film is about and manages to accomplish with its message through the characters. In a very varied album [some good, some bad], this one is a wonderful stand out. 

Equally terrific is Zindagi, a track that accompanies its staggering visuals with a grandeur and power once again highlighting the films core strength; the relationship between the two protagonists. 

P.S.: 'Bhar do Joli Meri' is excluded because it is not an Original Song. 

So there it is; Best Picture [Comedy/Romantic], Best Director, Best Screenplay [Comedy/Romantic], Best Actor [Male] in A Leading Role [Comedy/Romantic], Best Actor [Female] in A Leading Role [Comedy/Romantic], Best Actor [Male] in A Supporting Role [Comedy/Romantic], Best Actor [Female] in A Supporting Role [Comedy/Romantic], Best Original Song[s]

Surprisingly going through this list, reminded me that I enjoyed Bajrangi Bhaijaan very much and that at a point it can contend for at the least four categories with it being quite a good Masala film for this day and age especially.

P.S.: I made the posters before I decided on the genre change and I was to lazy to re-do them. 

'Nuff Said

Aneesh Raikundalia 

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