V for Vendetta finally released over here this week (but only in one multiplex chain, for no apparent reason). I’m going to watch it today with friends, but last evening we suddenly felt the need to watch a Hindi movie, and with only two choices in theatres here (the other being Humko Deewana Kar Gaye) we chose Pyare Mohan.
Now, I wasn’t too fond of Indra Kumar’s last film, Masti (which Vivek Oberoi described as “A sex comedy without sex” and that should be enough to tell you how lame it was), so despite the cast being the who’s who of underappreciated young Bollywood today (what exactly does Fardeen Khan have to do to get a hit?), I was wary. On the other hand, Indra Kumar also directed Ishq, which was hilarious, so maybe Pyare Mohan would be more like that.
I’m very happy to say that it is. Pyare Mohan is genuinely funny and frequently thrilling, there’s not a groan-inducing double entendre in sight, and it’s a pure distillation of the masala movie dynamic but with a postmodern, slick makeover. The majority of what makes the film work are the two portagonists. In what seems like an eternity, a normal masala movie actually has believable characters as the heroes rather than cardboard cut-out alpha males. Pyare and Mohan are fully realised, likeable, and strong characters from the get-go. Tushar Hiranandani and Milap Zaveri have written them fully aware of the pitfalls of disabled movie characters being iconic poster-chidren for their particular handicap, and strive to make them not only real, but admirable*.
*(so, basically, this means that since none of the disabled people suffer a lot, this film isn’t going to win any awards)
The film is shot in a sunny, wonderfully lit way by Sunil Patel (who did the equally good-looking Salaam Namaste and Hum Tum). Full marks to him for not succumbing to the usual Hindi film formula of shooting the romantic bits one way, the action bits another and a drama bits a third (which is kind-of a given in a masala-movie). There’s excellent use of match-moving during one song, Love You My Angel. See folks, this is why Hollywood slaved for decades to perfect complex special-effects techniques and equipment — so that Indian filmmakers could make their song sequences even more over the top.
The visual look of the film is rock solid, and this extends to the promo work as well (Samir and I are particularly taken by the film’s logo and posters — they make Darna Zaroori Hai‘s already banal posters standing next to them look even worse!).
Anu Malik’s music is good, hummable stuff but I hadn’t heard much of it before going to see the film, which is a rarity (we in India usually know the soundtracks by heart through radio airplay before a film’s release). I have no doubt that it will be getting more play now that the film’s released.
The action is exciting, well choreographed and believeable (filled with humour, too), and comes complete with a bloody climax straight out of a 1985 Sunny Deol movie. My only quibble is that in some shots the wires haven’t been digitally removed (they either ran out of time or money, or both).
If you want to watch a good, solid, funny movie with all the trappings of a masala movie potboiler from the 1970s and 80s — and something your kids will enjoy (the ones in the theatre around me were hysterical throughout) — then go watch it.
But, a part of me feels that Pyare Mohan is more, and that it will never be appreciated for its solid performances by Fardeen Khan and Viveik Annand Oberoi (to give him his credited name), the slickness and consistency of the overall package, the strong characters who really deserve a sequel (since those are in vogue), and the post-modern revamp of the traditional action-comedy-romance-drama masala movie formula that the film’s team has achieved, keeping the zany features of the old but cutting out all the dead wood and grounding it with touches of the straightforward and honest style of ‘New Hindi Cinema’ (like Dil Chahta Hai or Rang De Basanti). Pyare Mohan is crazy and hopelessly filmi, but it’s still manages to be believeable.
In striking this fine balance, Indra Kumar and Co. have managed to create a film that will hold up to repeated viewing and linger on in your head.
Dammit, all I wanted was a bit of fluff to tide me over until V for Vendetta, but now I think I’ll be quietly chuckling along to the memory of Pyare Mohan‘s blind car chase while the opening credits of V are running.