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.
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.