Saturday, September 25, 2010

Terrorism and the Ordinary Man

There has been an excess of movies approaching the theme of terrorism lately, for various obvious reasons. We've always had movies like Dil Se, Fanaa, Roja, Tahaan or Vedam, that use terrorism (to a wider or lesser extent) as a backdrop for telling a story. But in this new trend, I am thinking about films like Aamir, A Wednesday and to a certain extent Kurbaan (though the latter in my opinion glamorously failed in dealing with the topic), where terrorism is the story. (Leaving out New York because I haven't seen it.)

I was watching Aamir recently and I realized that there is something about Aamir and A Wednesday that makes both these films so interesting to me as a Westerner. Hollywood movies and American TV shows like "24" have been talking about terrorism forever, and I was watching this stuff for a while with a more or less excited disposition. Some made interesting points, some were just well done in terms of building up suspense ("Body of Lies" is one of my favourites, though I could be biased because of one of the main leads), some were just propaganda (ok, a lot of them were just that). But even if I was into them while watching, none of these films spoke to me on a personal level. They are fiction. Period.

On the other hand, I've always said that Indian movies are so much better at presenting the other side of the coin whether it is because they reveal the complicated path that leads to one becoming a terrorist, or the inner struggle of the ones who find themselves being a part of a fight that is not necessarily theirs. Regardless, I find Indian movies to be more fair in their search for what motivates one to commit unforgivable deeds in the name of a cause or of a religion. 




But Aamir and A Wednesday don't even do that. They talk about terrorism just like American movies do: it's wrong and it has no justification. And still, they managed to affect me on a much more personal level. I'm thinking that's because in American movies we always see the hero fighting against terrorism. Whether he's a cop, or an agent of some organization, or even if it's not his job to be a part of this war, he is an everyday hero in the American sense of the word.

Aamir and A Wednesday don't have a hero. Even when they are in danger of looking like one, it's simple brilliant images like running into a poll while chasing the bad guy or drinking chai out of a thermos that keep these men from crossing into hero territory. Both films are about an ordinary man, someone like you and me, who is trying to make his way out of the maze that has entrapped him in this new world of faceless irrational enemies. They're not selfless and brave, they're not trained in martial arts and they're certainly not exciting to watch. In fact I find both movies to be extremely slow in terms of build-up.

 
But precisely because I don't see these guys as heroes, because it is evident that any of them could be you or me, I am left thinking at the end of the film: what would I do? And for better or worse, I find that in both movies these anti-heroes react just like any other ordinary man: anger, distrust, cowardice, revenge, such basic emotions that influence our actions every day. It's not courage or self-abnegation that make us human, and it's certainly not what makes me identify with a character. It's the anti-hero's shortcomings and the moments when he behaves like I would (as opposed to when he behaves like I should) that make him remarkable. Even when what he does is wrong, I can't help but cheer for a hero (or an anti-hero) that is such a sincere embodiment of human nature.




Aamir and A Wednesday, despite what the trailers will tell you, are not action movies, not even thrillers, they're thinking movies. And that's what in my book makes them far superior to their Hollywood counterparts even if they will keep far less people on the edge of their seats (or even on their seats) until the end. But whoever makes it to the end is guaranteed a far more rewarding intellectual experience than the thrills and chills that an American movie will deliver. Certainly more memorable.

34 comments:

rameshram said...

Aamir is a shot by shot copy of cavite.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0428303/

not that what you say isn't valid, in the phillipine context , but ..needed saying..

Dolce and Namak said...

Ohh.. interesting piece of information there. (And the poster certainly looks familiar too :)). I'll have to do some research on that.

rameshram said...

The "poster " is stalking your blog on google reader haha..

If there's one thing I can't stand, its a multiplex film that insults the intelligence of its audience.Aren't these films supposed to be for the more refined well informed cinephile audiences? or do they think multiplex audiences are basically hicks wearing city clothes?

What I can't go and rent "dinner game" or "cavite"(in India I can BUY them for cheaper than I can rent them , in bootleg shops) that you need to go to Big entretainment and get a 2 crore budget to remake the film shot by shot?!

I do't have a problem with say Sanjay Bhansali redoing la notte bianchi into saawariya because the la notte was never as blue or peacock turquoise as even one shot in saw(as the sony publicist kept calling it in their pre release press conferences.)

But someone (non desi one) in Toronto seems to have seen the Indian remake and was impressed enough to think it was original, so the filmmaker obviously was doing something right.

Dolce and Namak said...

LOL I meant the movie poster :) The one with the machine gun, same colours as the Aamir poster.

Well, Saawariya IS an exception because it credits the original source which is Dostoevsky's short story, and judging by the title (Le Notti Bianhe means White Nights), the source of inspiration for the Italian movie. So in that SLB did no wrong.

But I totally hear your objection when it comes to other movies. On this particular one (Aamir) I can't comment because many stories sound the same in a synopsis and I haven't seen the other one, so I can't have an opinion. But it is sad that originality doesn't seem to be a pre-requisite for films anywhere in the world (tons of HW movies rip off Asian ones without crediting as well). And let's not even go to music writing!... Heh...

rameshram said...

Oh the MOVIE poster..Ah.. never saw it. rented it off an Indian store shelf.

What I also meant was that a remake works best if the remaker has something original to say when he remakes a film. (the Eye or let the right one in are examples of empty remakes) sometimes a cover is interesting just for the people playing in it (phantom of the opera with gerad butler comes to mind)..or if , say youre musicalizing a Jane austen(kandukondein)or if youre samurai-izing shakesphere(Ran)... but as an end in itself...

Dolce and Namak said...

Ah, I see, yes, that's true, I also tolerate it better when they do something different with the original. But regardless, a remake is still a remake and it should be credited as such, whether it improves on the original or not.

rameshram said...

although it must hurt when bappi da(lahiri) or pritamda come up with this really original tune and then find not only that ABBA cut a platinum disc with the exact same song twenty years ago, but that everybody that hears it thinks its an ABBA song that PRITAM is ripping off.

enough to turn a man to violence.

Roxanita said...

You guys might think i'm in the wrong here but... do you really think that many Indians watch Filipino movies?? it is said originality is dead anyway, so taking that aside, if you take an already used story and make a good movie, believable, well acted and directed (which i think Aamir is) what does it matter? I never knew Aamir was a remake yet i thought it was a great movie. It left me pretty depressed, as well as New York, which in my opinion was good as well... but i think Dolce is right, these movies are supposed to make you think about the world and what it became and hopefully how we can make it better.
I think Dolce and Namak would have a field day with New York...
I do believe that if the movie is inspired (or frame by frame remade) credit should be given to the screen writers, i don't know if it's the case, if it isn't the author can sue, just like that..
I'll take your advice Dolce and watch A Wednesday. I've been playing with the idea but kept postponing it for Aamir's movies (there's only dolce in me, can't find anything to criticize lol)

rameshram said...

I loved new york.( like many movies i love at the time of release,) I was in a minority.(wrote abt it too somewhere on my blog..called it counterpropaganda).

Re remakes, my philosophy has always been: remake but attribute. Is that so hard?

Dolce and Namak said...

Roxanita, I know what you're saying, we do live in a post modern world where everything has been done before. But I'm with Ramesh on this one: it doesn't cost anything to credit. Borrow by all means, but give some credit.

And definitely see A Wednesday. I like it ten times better than Aamir, and quite a bit more than many other terrorism movies I've seen. It's not very long, but you may feel like it's too slow around the middle. Don't give up though. The last 45 minutes or so are the best part! Plus because it's so short, you'll even have time for a Dil Chahta Hai afterwards to make life good again ;) (Plus, believe me, when you get to the pre-1995 AK movies, you'll be dying for a good movie for a change :P)

@ Ramesh: New York and Mumbaai Meri Jaan are the last ones on my list from this trend. NY seemed much too gory and graphic for me though, that's why I've been avoiding it. One day... I keep telling myself... one day I will see them both.

rameshram said...

dolce,

says someone who hasn't seen the film yet!

if its one thing new york is not, its not unpalatably gory. it may be unpalatable for other reasons to you(ideological ones..maybe)

in any case, a couple of guys called prabhas and tarak were looking for you. seems you have a south indian movie watcher card which you need to turn in on count of extreme wusness.

Dolce and Namak said...

Really? NY seemed pretty graphic from the trailer... I had to cover my eyes a few times.

And those boys can't revoke my membership because they're all in the doghouse! Prabhas and Arjun until Darling and Vedam get released and those other two until next weekend when I might be persuaded to forgive them. :P

Jokes aside though, violence in Tollywood isn't really violence, it's more like Tom and Jerry. :) So it's universes away from the blood and gore that the NY trailer was advertising. But maybe they put the worst stuff in the trailer, who knows...

rameshram said...

oh right! you second class citizens havent seen vedam yet! (snicker snort)

New york is a pretty stylish film with lovely performances by Irfan Khan , John abraham and (dont laugh) katrina Kaif. it works like a standard hollywood thriller standing the ideology of hollywood films on its head.

Its also a remake of the more gritty "Khuda Ke Liye" (pakistani film).

Re south Indian films and violence. one day I can visualize you rationalizing all my faults away like that ;)

Dolce and Namak said...

Hah! Wipe that smirk off your face! Of COURSE I saw Vedam in the theatre! Sheesh! You give me no credit. After all the Allu Arjun promotion I do on this blog, do you really think I would miss one of his movies if it was within a 100 km radius? No chance!! But I do reserve judgement on the movie and on the way it deals with terrorism (cliche or not cliche?) until I see it with subtitles.

But back to the terrorism movies, I actually have Khuda ke Liye in my queue, I didn't know New York was a remake. In that case I will probably not bother with both.

rameshram said...

Nope.

trying too hard.

We just cross the road and theres a theater complex that plays two first run telugu films. now vedam for instance? I came back from work and just after dinner i strolled down and bought a half price ticket to on a tuesday...(but Im totally showing off)

If you have to see one then you'd probably better off seeing new york(seeing as you are anti raw, anall.)

Roxanita said...

yeah rameshram, you're showing off... i lost the chance of watching Peepli live because it was about a 2 hour drive and none of my friends that like indian movies wanted to go so... don't "put salt on my wound" yaar...
@dolce... ohh you know me so well... i had to watch Deewana Mujh sa Nahin tonight because last night i watched Dear Frankie with Gerard Butler (ahhHUNKchu) and it was a beautiful movie but way to grim and gray.. i had to disconnect my brain tonight.
So much talk about south indian cinema, i hope i won't catch the bug.. between Bollywood and spanish soap-operas i hardly have a life LOL..

rameshram said...

Two hours? there are people in the serengetti who hike longer for a pot of water. tarahumra indians of the copper canyon run for a full DAY before they get to eat. South indians get a serious technology education and intense training in software, travel halfway across the world, and then wear silly tee shirts do aiirplanes andand throw cash at rajinikanth films. So while i see your sufferring, i dontparticularly sympathize.

I hear there are two first run telugu films releasing this weekend....maybe i'll go and look at the posters...and decide if i want to see either ;)

mukundh said...

Speaking abt terrorism, you should see Roja...

Roxanita said...

hahahaha i just didn't want to go alone and nobody eased my suffering :(

Dolce and Namak said...

Hey, look who's back! :) Hey Mukundh! I have seen Roja, it's one of my favourite Mani Ratnam films (but I'm told I have yet to see his best ones). But for the purposes of this post, I didn't think it fit because I felt that the main story was about the husband and wife, with terrorism as the backdrop. Good movie though.

@Ramesh: no no, that's next weekend! See how nice I am: wouldn't want you to waste your time crossing the street for nothing on Saturday :P And play nice with my other guests, eh? No picking on people who have to jump through hoops to see Indian movies just because some of us are privileged :)

@ Roxanita: Peepli Live was so depressing that I went home afterwards and just curled up in bed. Literally. So perhaps it was for the best that you didn't go by yourself, you probably would have had the urge to throw yourself off a bridge on the way back or something. Wait for the DVD and have some warm cocoa to your right and a friend to your left to watch it.

rameshram said...

hehehe Im sure roxanita wouldn't mind being given some old fashioned peptalk right before heading out on a two hour trek ;)

I used to have to walk across, be disappointed and then treat myself to a bucket of cold stone creamery ice cream(founders favorite- I live on the stuff) but then I downloaded an ap? and its so awesome? and gives me showtimes? and Im like OMG Im Shooooooo privilagedddd....

;)

rameshram said...

You know which movie you need to see oro? Fiza. Its made by my facebook friend Khalid mohammed, stars Hritik and Kareena(not paired) and has this absolutely awesome song in it...

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wuHiARr1vjo

and you get me numbers of all your friends that want to thank me personally for showing them it.

;)

PS: its about terrorism too.

Dolce and Namak said...

LOL Ramesh, I have no idea what ap is short for, but the way that sentence was phrased cracked me up :)

In re to Fiza: ayyo, seriously? Why would you wish that movie upon anyone? I saw it and spent most of the movie wondering if I will ever love Bollywood again. I do like the soundtrack though. Sushmita's item (because I am oh, so shallow) - awesome! And the song right at the beginning is really good too. But the movie was unbearable. Hrithik's last scene with Karishma - seriously? THAT's what this movie has been working towards? *headdesk* Wow... I didn't think it could get any worse, and then that scene came...
I much prefer the plot in Mission Kashmir (there's that terrorism theme again) even if Hrithik had not yet learned how to act (seems he went to acting school sometime before Lakshya) and the melodrama quotient towards the end was enough to rival one of Roxanita's Spanish soaps. But at least the story made more sense.

Anonymous said...

either you're trying to show me up on my legendary spelling skills( how hard can it be to spell app) or you're older than my granma. ( I do older women but they gotta exhibit some spunk..you know?)

it's a pity you don't like mournful films about inner city muslim youth abd terrorism(bet youda loved precious) because there's a filmgaram hawa you might have enjoyed too.

now if you'll excuse me privilege pulls me to the first showing of a certain film.

aiyaio...nice.

rameshram

Dolce and Namak said...

Oh... APP!!! LOL Didn't think it was missing a letter. My bad.

Enjoy the crazy snake thingamajiggy! :)

Anonymous said...

don't you love it when the light goes on like that gentlemen! **what a gal!** :)
I'm going more to see if the lines are serpentine and filled with cheering white people, than to see the actual film..but thanks! :)

rameshram

Roxanita said...

Dolce... the movies are their acting school lol... but.. i'll forgive anything if it concerning my bf Hritik. You just need to look into those lamby hazel eyes and melt. I was dissapointed by the ending in Fiza and looking at Karisma i was just expecting Aamir to pop on the screen and give her probably the longest kiss in Bollywood...

Talking about my telenovelas.. there was a time when i'd watch anything, but now i'm picky about my soaps so.... there are 2 favorite actors (because let's face it, i don't even look at the women, because they're too good looking and they make me mad hehe) that are... gorgeous (almost as good looking as Aamir) and also good actors.

mukundh said...

But it deserves a mention since it was prob the first film in India combining Terrorism with the normal storyline.
And ya, u will never get to appreciate Mani's best even if u watch it.. Iruvar, is so entwined with Tamil history that only people wit a fair amount of knowledge about it's history will appreciate it

Dolce and Namak said...

@ Mukundh: Believe it or not, I really liked Iruvar. But you're totally right, I only "got it" on the friendship and human interaction level. I didn't get the political side of it at all (and even less the random muting of dialogue). I was explained afterwards why that was, and part of the political stuff, but even without that, I appreciate a movie that can be interesting even when you're not getting some of the references.

@ Roxanita: Ok, now I must ask (even if I have no cable TV and will probably never stumble across your favourite latino actors) who are these two favourites?
And sort of back to the topic (wow, how did we manage to get so far off this time? LOL) - you should watch Mission Kashmir: the melodrama will probably not bother you as it did me, and the story is actually pretty interesting. Oh and some cool songs to boot :P
LOL @ Karisma and Aamir: can you imagine that! I visualized it after that last scene and just about died laughing! Ah, Fiza is such a bad movie! :)

rameshram said...

iruvar can't be about terrorism (unless its some terrible tamil poetry recitation by arvind swamy) although kannathil muthamittal(another film i liked but might be entirely too mournful for you dolce) is about the rebels in sri lanka (who have now been wiped out..killed ) . speaking of wiping out people, the film aayirattil oruvan is an unusual take on the business of mass killings.

mukundh said...

U can appreciate it but, never fully understand it. Also u should watch Alaipayuthey.Dono if you will like it. but it was a trend setter in many ways.
Speaking of 1000il oruvan, rameshram, u gotta me kidding me unless that comment was meant to be sarcastic !!!!

Anonymous said...

no.

Rameshram.

Roxanita said...

@Dolce.. i watched Mission Kashmir a long time ago (ejem about 4 months ago) when i had just started to watch indian movies, mainly due to my huge crush on Hritik.. it was a fairly good movie, i thought..

Now about my favorite latin lovers: one is Eduardo Palomo that died a few years ago at a very young age (44) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xsNsYBXLQKg and the other is Fernando Colunga that (same as Aamir) only gets better with age http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MN_8Bo52rN8&feature=related ..
I predict this is going to be a good winter for me.. between the hindi movies and re-watching all my fav soaps.. uy uy uy

Dolce and Namak said...

@ Ramesh - Iruvar is definitely not about terrorism, that was just Mukundh an I going on a tangent about (good) Mani Ratnam films :) And a movie about mass killings? Charming... but I think I'll pass... for now.

@ Roxanita - I saw Mission Kashmir for the exact same reason. Luckily I have been cured of that ailment since. But still consider it one of the better movies in the Hrithik pile (not that most of them are any good, so that's not really a compliment :P)
Re: soaps actors. Aha! I knew one of them. Never seen the other. Haha! Yes, it does look like a rather enjoyable winter for you :D

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