Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Being Cyrus: A Review and a Caveat

You might be aware of the media blitzkrieg that accompanied the release of Being Cyrus and also continued unabated in the next few days or was it weeks. In this age of information over load we are plagued by media intrusions in all aspects of our life and our opinions are shaped by them in rather dominant ways.

The film Being Cyrus and the media reaction or to be more specific the press coverage that The Times of India gave it puzzled me at first and later disgusted me. The hype that was built around this Homi Adjania whodunit film about Parisis was way too loud and ethically wrong. However, being susceptible as all of us are, I fell for it and decided to watch the film on the day of its release.

It was in the very first reel of the movie that my heart sank, it really did cause it was only then I realized that the movie was produced by Time Infotainment, a subsidiary of the Times Group and I realized that I had been taken for a ride.

Being Cyrus (BC) is important for a number of reasons. First, being the fact that it had a big Hindi film box office star Saif Ali Khan in a 'different' role. The other reasons being the great star ensemble that included Boman Irani, Nasseruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia . It held promise to be a good film and definitely above the average film that Bombay throws up. Being Cyrus was also important as it was in that genre of films made in Bombay which is in English, a rather minuscule number by any standards.

BC is an interesting effort on part of debutant director Adjania. His characterization is brave yet superficial compared to the possibilities and abilities of the actors he had in hand. It is not a suspense murder mystery in the generic way rather you see the murder taking place and the person responsible but the larger story in the context is what is the puzzle behind the film. The film begins very well, in what reminded me of a Rohinton Mistry novel but loses way and steam somewhere in between. Adjani himself a Parsi has his research well done but it is in conceiving the story that he falls flat in his effort to be snazzy, short and thrilling. The various characters, the intrigues, the power play and the relationships between the characters had awe inspiring potential, somewhere in the league of stories from Firoz Shah Bagh (A book of short stories by Rohinton Mistry called Tales of Firoz Shah Bagh). I thought at this critical juncture that, I was watching quiet literally an awe some script but it degenerates into a rather tacky and smart ass effort though by Hindi film industry standards it is commendable. But in that context of world cinema, you could give the movie a go, it aint that important.

I understand that a lot of the above criticisms, take the director or the scriptwriter (Adjania himself) to task beyond what he intended to do. He intended to make a tight, whodunit movie with Parsi characters. Yet, even in that effort what we get is a sketchy, stereotypical portrayal of the Parsis community and the surprise at the end of the film is not really such a big surprise if you could think out the moves the writer was going to make and the possibilities that existed within the script.

Saif Ali Khan's role is well different without doubt considering what our run of the mill Hindi film actors are capable of. Saif does a good job, it’s a treat to watch this man evolve with the years and his range of emotions though limited at an absolute scale is far richer and deeper than what Shah Rukh and Aamir would ever reach considering their physical appearances. There are a number of positives in the movie and the director shows credibility to handle actors like Boman Irani and Nasseruddin Shah with confidence, they do a wonderful job at their roles. In the final analysis, it is a good film worth a watch.

But I need to emphasize the point, that it is not what the Times Group is making the film out to be. The film is not brilliant, nor does the director show such skills. It is in that genre of modern Hollywood influenced genre of films that are increasingly being made over the past five years. Ram Gopal Verma would be the best example in this genre but who does things far better than Adjania can live upto in his first film. So in my opinion while media hype about a film is something we cannot help, in this instance it is actually cheating.

In this particular instance it was a conflict of interest about the journalism of the Times of India and the fact that Times Infotainment produced the movie. But the newspaper carried a lot of pieces on BC without warning us that they have a stake in the movie which in my opinion is bad ethics.

The Irony

In an ironic twist of events, Times Now, the Times group news channel, broke the story of the Election Commissioner Navin Chawla who runs a trust in his wife's name and received funds from some Congress party MP's. The crime in this case is a serious conflict of interest between the Election Commissioner's job of superintending free and fair election which is compromised by the fact that his wife accepted money from a particular party. In a similar manner the Times group should understand that it has behaved irresponsibly by selling to its readers as news what was clearly a marketing tool for them. I agree that this isn’t the first time they have done so. A caveat by the group in such instances would help, else already fighting low credibility, Times is on the path to becoming a newspaper that auctions its space to the highest bidder.


aya said...

yeah, I agree with you. I thought the film was OK whereas the TOI was saying that it is a revolutionary film. It maybe true that it is different from conventional Hindi films but those critics do not realize that the fact itself can lose a value of film. I mean, if it is in a category of English films,we judge it by standard of English films. It is not a good film in that standard.

I did not like the scene which protagonists express what in mind in black and white picture. The director just used (or copycat from one of avant-grade film) them to make the film "cool" without context.

However, as you said, we can enjoy watching those actors. The film owe a lot to them but not to script.

DON said...

Satya i have been waiting for the review since the day i spotted you in PVR loo :)
Quite frankly you dont live upto the promise you show at your gangadhaba sessions :) ..anyway coming back to the review..
iam surprised that you haven't become immune to the media promotion that happens these days before a film's release..dont take Times of India and journalism in the same breath..gone are the days..it just remains an advertorial isn't it? iam sorry that you got cheated..that's exactly what i said with reference to RDB..there's no fucking revolution around the corner as the media wants us to believe...
BC for me was good in parts and as whole it just sucks..unlike you i have a different take at the first-timers..before you get your first chance to direct a movie, you actually dream about it for long..you should be passionate about it and imagine each day about making a movie in future..and when the chance comes by you have so many brilliant ideas that you will have to drop many to keep few..it should be a case of excess..but if your first movie sucks then there is no talent in you..if you have inherited movie making profession then you end up making a shitty movie..the people who have failed with their first movies have succeeded later if they had atleast shown some good promise..there are both type of cases..Ramu is a case of a great debut..his ideas were piling up since his school and college days as he confessed...there is a case of Maniratnam..his debut bombed..it was a movie called 'Pallavi-anupallavi' starring Anil kapoor and 'julie' fame Lakshmi..it bombed and people thought it was way ahead of its times..he realised and then sobered down..he didn't turn back..
first movie even if it is a bad one should be an original attempt..BC i dont think is a very originalattempt..considering that he was a script writer-director he should have gone for better dialogues..especially that 'pawn and the king goes back into the same box' etc etc the 'waxing and candles joke' was funny but nothing to rave about..given a choice you and I can come up with 1001 such jokes...come on it's your first movie after all..where is the effort?..What we don't realise is that in english we have lots of freedom [compared to hindi]and it's easy to evoke a few laughs..i say that bcoz you can get away with profanities and sexual innuendoes..the only time when most of the people laughed was when he talks about Dimple's you know what..though it was promoted as a darkhumour-movie there were no good ones...that is considering that he is a scriptwriter..if you recall 'BOOM' one character looking at somebody's shirt label says "versace..made in India"..that's the kind of tongue in cheek satire we expect..ofcourse boom was a shitty movie though..BC isn't a patch on gustad's 'Bombay Boys', if we are seeing them as being the same genre..
I won't forgive a first timer if he shows no originality..he must have had it real easy..some dad or uncle in showbiz must have helped..i hate those kinds..
coming to stereotypes..i think unless and until it is a genuinely original stuff one can't do away with them...stereotypes have a grain of truth and thats how majority understand the particualr community...i havent seen a madrasi who is portrayed as non-accented,sophisticated,suave and smart and who is FAIR...it just doesnt go down well with the north indians who imagine them to be dark,moustachioed,potbellied accented guys...if you try to say that there are guys who are otherwise then you are in for a trouble...so steretypes are essential for some stories, for most of the stories infact..
there could be another reason why he has employed stereotypes...if you make a movie on Biharis would you leave out all that stereotypes? it is said that best humour is something which comes out of mocking at oneself...it could be that or a pseudo's attempt at saying that iam above my inferior community...mostly it is former.. The movie tried to be many things..the scene where saif eats his sandwich sitting infront of the dead old man fell flat..the way cyrus beats the law with the fingerprint thing was too much for this movie..too much of a hollywood thing...

svety said...

i completely agree with u.

believe me i'm a hard core movie buff and what a let down. Not because it was bad but because it just wasn't good enuf. its like u get caught in a creation of urs because its urs and forget the rest.

saif is brilliant. naseer always is.

i'm oky with seeing a saawan and laughing through it, the tragedy is when u don't laugh through black humour.

keep reviewing pal

xanjukta said...

So i shouldn't go and see BC... or i'll get caight up in writing a review is your blog... hahaha

what say you about Syriana and Munich both to be released this friday...chalna hai??

Abhigyan said...

Well, am surprised that u took such great offence to Times' tricks...Remember when they had led the campaign against ED and FERA when senior Ashok Jain was being harassed by the department..I thought it was a good enough issue, but if they had chosen a more opportune moment to undertake the campaign.

Times is the only media publication which has a legally exisiting cell to sell news space, an entity called Medianet. And although it is sort of public news that most space in HT City is also similarly sold, no other self-respecting media house can legalize this phenomena the way Times has done.

I agree with your reveiew sort of...and Don sorry I guess you are being very harsh. I underdstand your angst for not showing a first-time original passion, but the idea of smart performances is not to show all your wares in the first go.

Being Cyrus is possibly above-average (three stars for me), but fails when compared to global cinema and literature (I hated the climax in particular, where Simone Singh acts nuttily at seeing Saif. Very immature I thought.)

And the bottomline - in spite of all the flaws, the movie is a hit. And I am sure the appeal is not to the Gadar & K3G-lovers....If only Times had undertaken a similar exercise for Hazaaron Khwaishein....maybe let's get in touch with Today.

PRAVEEN said...

"satya said...
Terribly cute,just like you are.

Rajnikant is mostly a South Indian hero and has acted in few Hindi films and trust me Hindi film actors are not dark,fat and ugly,only the South Indian ones are like that.

Also we as kids loved Ranjnikant because he was very stylish. He lit ciggreates with guns and put them between his lips in great style,also wore goggles and was dead serious when it came to fighting the villains. He was quiet popularin North India when I was a kid.In some films has done a great job. Now a days I hear he does mostly trash Tamil movies which are made for his fans.He hardly acts in Hindi films now, I think his last hindi film was ten years ago and that too a dubbed Tamil movie.

He was a bus conductor in Chennai or Bangalore as I have been told. Meaning he sold bus tickets when he was discovered by some great director or writer, I dont know which.

4:55 PM "

PRAVEEN said...
Hey Satya,

Your comments are simple unacceptable. If you dont know anything about rajnikant, shut your trap.
"trust me Hindi film actors are not dark,fat and ugly,only the South Indian ones are like that.
" - What does this mean? Is this a proper comment to make.?

'Now a days I hear he does mostly trash Tamil movies which are made for his fans" - and this one??
What the fuck do you know about our Superstar? HE is far far far better than all the chubby faced actors in Bollywood.And dont you dare enter Tamil NAdu ever in your life. I might end up killing you.

Last piece of Information: The Dark, Ugly looking Superstar of Tamil Nadu is originally a North Indian whose real name is Shivaji Rao Gaekwad....

SuperStar Rajni Fan,
Tamil Nadu

4:42 PM

satya said...

ok, guys Dhonty aka Praveen is playing tricks now. This is a comment I left on someone else's blog. This is grossly unfair and please note apart from asking me to shut my trap he has nothing worthwhile to defend rajnikant with. I express my admiration quiet clearly for Rajni's skills. I dont know if I did express a caveat for being largely unware of South Indian films. If I didnt I record it now.

But I do wish to record an apology for Praveen and not Rajnikant if I have offened him.

DON said...

Abhigyan everybody is entitled to their opinion..I didn't know that this blog is so popular..those comments were intended for a dialogue..

Anyway...what the hell is going on here? Satya are you pulling a fast one on me? I don't sign in as Praveen but only as DON...Not every praveen is me..i haven't visited any other blog..

satya said...

Don, I have no clue what it happening on this blog either.

I 'll need security in Tamil Nadu now, exciting prospect. But then who would want to go to Tamil Nadu, I am interested in Pondicherry, does the threat work there too!

DON said...

i guess so..it's just an hour's drive from Chennai..or else...you can pass off as Raghuvaran's little brother...

aya said...

well, I am the one who said that Rajinikant is chubby and ugly. I am the one whom should be attacked.

People watch films seeking different things. It is just there is nothing that I am seeking for in Tamil films. Not like I am criticizing them.