Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Avoid Life, It kills you in the end

Shaitan(2011). Source: filtercoffeebrews.in
Editor's Note: This column was written by Avinash Verma last year, after seeing Anurag Kashyap produced Shaitan.

A question popped up in my mind while watching Shaitan, “Have Darren Aforonsky ever heard the name of Anurag Kashyap?” You would ask what kind of a question is that to come up while watching a film like Shaitan that had nothing to do with Darren Aforonsky or wait, I guess it does have something to do with Shaitan.

In the year 2000, Darren Aronofsky made Requiem for a Dream which is to junkie movies what Godfather is to mafia films. And 11 years later we get to see Shaitan which according to some people I know is the best junkie, drugs, stoner blah blah movie that has ever got made in India. I guess they haven’t seen Paanch otherwise they wouldn’t have made such blasphemous comments. Shaitan too had drugs but compared to Requiem for a Dream’s cocaine or Paanch’s desi charas joints it was like iodex. Yet, for the Indian viewers this film will remain the first true junkie film to get a theatrical release. (No, Dev D was not a junkie film) It was Nambiyar’s good luck that Paanch was stalled because had it gotten released then, he wouldn’t have been able to make Shaitan since both the films have only one difference, that is, Shaitan is technically superior to Paanch but story wise, it was just a reworking of the raw draft that Anurag Kashyap made 10 years ago. Shaitan is not at all a bad film but it’s like comparing Harry Potter to Lord of the Rings. Harry Potter is commercially more successful but Lord of the Rings will always remain the sweetheart of true blue fantasy fans.

Anurag Kashyap submitted ‘Paanch’ to the Censor Board in 2003 knowing little that he still was in Bollywood. (The biggest ‘gross’er of that year was Koi Mil Gaya) The Censor Board suggested major cuts because they found it too vicious and dark to the country’s moral definition (the same year we saw the ‘bad man’ doing a diamond treasure hunt in the valleys of Katrina Kaif’s bosom. Yes, that boosted the country’s morale very much!) and being a stubborn ‘follower of nihilism’ that Anurag Kashyap is, he refused to comply. Result, people today are having the delusion that Shaitan is the best junkie movie ever made in India.

Anurag Kashyap. Source: deccanchronicle.com
Later came Dev D and guess what, Anurag Kashyap decided to remind people of Paanch by making it 'conspicuous by its absence' in the Emotional Atyachar song’s prelude, Ek do teen chaar --- chheee !!! You see that, he had not taken a leaf from “Aamir’s mike testing scene from Dil Chahta Hai”. He had something to say and he said it with panache. Dev D was about, well, Devdas and the parts where people ‘spotted the train’ were to show them what they were missing in terms of excellent cinematography.

But in Shaitan, Anurag Kashyap has produced a film that will be known as the epitome of technical finesse and innovative camera work for years to come. Be it the ball’s POV (in the Bhindi Bazaar room sequence) or the brilliant kidnapping flashback which I think was inspired by Mallory’s back-story from Natural Born Killers’ or the ‘Khoya khoya chand’ slo-mo sequence which have, by now, found a cult status, the film is a lesson for Bollywood to start investing more in the crew than the actors. But alas, until the time we have films like Ready, we won’t see that day.

Paanch was way ahead of its times. I can sense what Anurag Kashyap must have had thought of when he would have seen the script of Paanch. “Ye to main 10 saal pehle kar chuka... Let’s give this kid a chance, kya pata ab tak Censor Board mature ho chukka ho” And thankfully, for us, it has matured.
People are raving about Shaitan’s music (It’s a tough fight between Shaitan and Delhi Belly over the prestigious ‘trippiest album of the year’ award) but let me tell you that Paanch again scored there over Shaitan. KK’s sublime and powerful rendition of ‘Khuda hu main’ with Gulzar Saab’s mesmerizing lyrics is testimony to that. Not to forget Vishal Bhardwaj’s astounding score. And for all those who thought Rock On’s music had anything to do with rock, I am sorry to shatter your misconception, Anurag Kashyap did it way back and he remained true to the ‘rock’ genre unlike Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy who churned out pseudo rock in the name of Rock.

Paanch(2003). Source: mid-day.com
All the craziness shown by all the five characters of Shaitan together is no match to the raw and beastly ‘pagalpan’ portrayed alone by the satanic Luke (Kay Kay Menon). He was a character that scared the shit out of me when I watched Paanch for the first time. This guy deserves much better work than merely spouting translation of Jack Nicholson’s lines for us. (No wonder he did a brilliant job at that too. Confused? Go watch Shaurya). All the characters of Paanch, be it Pondi, Murgi, Joy or even Shueli were etched awesomely and though, they didn’t have any background story, we still understood their motivations somehow and in contrast to them, Amy, KC, Tanya, and all other characters of Shaitan, they all fade away in no time except that of Mathur.

Paanch was a completely unapologetic film. It never tried to justify its characters. It’s a study of anger, sadism, frustration, misery, greed, dope and an attitude of not giving a shit about anything. It’s delightfully trippy. Like a dope movie should be. Like every damn movie should be.

Not to take away the glory away from Shaitan, it is a brilliant film and an example of superior writing but Shaitan, to me, will always remain Anurag Kashyap’s long lost dream which he had to live through someone else’s eyes.

And Paanch will always remain India’s finest answer to films like Requiem for a Dream and, if I may say so, even A Clockwork Orange (Luke, for me was more maniacal than the three droogs and the priceless dance Luke and Joy did at Nikhil’s place. It was an ode to the rape scene of Clockwork by Anurag Kashyap, I guess). If you haven’t seen Paanch yet, do yourself a favour, drop everything and go watch it.

In an interview, Anurag Kashyap said that the foreign audiences find his films ‘mild’. I guess the below lines sums up what Anurag Kashyap must have been thinking today,
"Saans lo, Dum bharo, Chillakar sabse kaho
Sar jhuka, 
Khuda hoon main
Khuda hoon main ...
Aasmaano pe khada hoon main,
Main khuda hoon khuda ... "

And by the way, if you were wondering about the title of the post, go search Paanch on IMDB. J

-Avinash Verma