Fenil and Bollywood

Posts Tagged ‘unprofessional

VIR SANGHVI (Hindustan Times)

Here are two images you may remember from television. The first was the Oscar ceremony. Simon Beaufoy won the Oscar for best adapted screenplay for Slumdog Millionaire. It is no secret that Beaufoy’s script differed significantly from the book by Vikas Swarup on which Slumdog was based. But Beaufoy made it a point to thank Swarup on stage and to say that without his book there would be no screenplay, no movie, and no Oscars.

Later that same night Slumdog director Danny Boyle, while accepting his own Oscar, apologised to the choreographer Longinus, whose name had been left out of the end credits of Slumdog. When the film won the Best Picture Oscar, the entire unit went on stage including Vikas Swarup who had been flown in to Los Angeles by the makers of the film at their expense.

And here is a second image. It is a press conference in Noida on Friday. The cast and makers of 3 Idiots are answering questions from the press as part of the publicity campaign for the film. When journos keep asking about the lack of recognition accorded to author Chetan Bhagat, on whose book the film is based, producer Vidhu Vinod Chopra stands up, points a finger at an inquisitive journalist and shouts ‘Shut up’. Chopra is prevented from saying much more by his colleagues and Aamir Khan then swings into damage control mode. He tries to sound reasonable but manages to abuse Chetan Bhagat, calls him publicity hungry — a bit rich considering the stunts Aamir staged to gain publicity for 3 Idiots — and berates journos for believing Bhagat.

What is the difference between the two images?

I think one word sums it up: grace.

Danny Boyle, Simon Beaufoy and the Slumdog unit behaved with grace. Vinod Chopra and his star behaved with a complete lack of grace.

If you’ve missed the controversy, here’s what it is about. Vidhu Vinod Chopra bought the rights to Chetan Bhagat’s novel and then turned it into 3 Idiots. Nobody disputes that 3 Idiots is based on the Bhagat novel and indeed Bhagat is credited as such in the movie.

The point of discord is the placing of the credit. Bhagat suggests that it should have been at the beginning along with all the other writer credits. Instead it appears at the very end.

In his defence, Chopra says that the end is an appropriate place for the credit because his scriptwriters, including Rajkumar Hirani, the film’s director, changed so much of the story that the final film has little to do with Bhagat’s novel.

Bhagat says that this is not true. Yes of course there is a lot in the film that he did not write but it is still recognisably his story and on his blog he lists several points of similarity.

For the purposes of argument, I am quite prepared to believe Aamir and Chopra when they deny Bhagat’s version of events. I am also prepared to accept that the screenplay is significantly different from Bhagat’s novel.

But here’s the thing: it shouldn’t make a difference.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra is contractually obliged to give Bhagat credit as the writer of the source material for the movie. So, the issue is not whether the script is 95 per cent based on the book or 25 per cent derived from Bhagat’s novel. The only issue is one of placing. Should Bhagat have been part of the opening credits? And was it graceless to bury his name in the end credits?

In Hollywood, it is not uncommon for scriptwriters to significantly alter the plots of source material or to only use a part of the book. Slumdog differs significantly from Vikas Swarup’s Q&A. The Firm dispenses with John Grisham’s ending and invents a new one. In Papillon, a major character who was not even in the book was invented by the scriptwriters. David Lean’s Dr Zhivago junked the second half of the book. The recent My Sister’s Keeper differs substantially from Jodi Picoult’s bestseller of the same name.

In every single case, however, the original novel was properly credited and the author mentioned in the opening credits. Nobody believed that this detracted in any way from the screenwriter’s achievements. It just demonstrated a certain grace and honesty on the part of the movie’s maker.

So why, you may well ask, is Vidhu Vinod Chopra being so bloody-minded about denying Chetan Bhagat his opening credit?

The honest answer is I simply cannot understand Chopra’s pettiness.

I hold no brief for any of the principals in this drama. At the HT, we’ve had a bad experience with Chetan Bhagat, who we believe behaved unprofessionally when he was a columnist. On the other hand, I have met Vinod Chopra, have worked with his wife and have always thought well of him. Personally, I have the highest regard and admiration for Aamir Khan, whom I know slightly.

So, this is not about personalities. It’s not even about principle — Chopra has conceded the principle by giving Bhagat his credit even if he has buried it in the end.

It is about grace.

What does it cost the makers of 3 Idiots to give Chetan Bhagat his credit in the space where a writer’s credit is traditionally placed in the international movie business? It would make no difference to the movie’s massive box-office performance. We would not think any less of Rajkumar Hirani, a fine director with a great track record. And Aamir’s reputation as the most consistently successful star of our times would remain intact.

Finally, it comes down to how big a human being is prepared to be. Even people who did not think much of Slumdog Millionaire were overwhelmed when Danny Boyle used the Oscar platform to say sorry to Longinus for leaving his name out of the credits. That was the single-biggest night in Boyle’s life, a culmination of everything he had worked for. And he still found the time to mention an Indian dance director he would probably never meet again.

That’s what I call class.

Our own film industry, however, has not covered itself in glory by the way in which it has behaved over Bhagat’s credit. Our producers, directors and actors have come across as mean-spirited and petty and ready to get into fights over something as minor as the placing of a credit.

Just as India has the potential to become a superpower in the 21st century so Bollywood has the opportunity to become the world’s leading film industry in this century. Certainly, we are not short of talent or of audiences.

What we are short of, however, is grace. And our directors need to learn that no amount of box-office success can buy you class. Our film industry will never hit the big time if its leading lights continue to think like small-timers.

It’s time for Aamir, Chopra and Hirani to show some grace. Otherwise they risk coming across as three idiots.

The views expressed by the author are personal

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3 Idiots’ Omi is an established actor in the US, now in Bollywood

By Lekha Menon (MUMBAI MIRROR; December 30, 2009)


His distorted Hindi speech is one of the biggest talking points in the recently released 3 Idiots. In reality, it was an almost similar monologue that fetched Omi Vaidya,  (who prefers to be called Omi) an LA- based actor, the role of Chatur Ramalingam in the Aamir Khan-starrer.

On a trip to Mumbai to check out the Bollywood scene, Omi was asked by a friend to appear for an audition. The first audition went off without a hitch, but at the second he was given a dialogue from Munnabhai… to mouth. “I just rattled it off without exactly understanding the words… almost like the speech scene in the film,” says Omi. The next thing he knew, he was pencilled in for the role of the accented, mark-obsessed NRI geek in the film.

The instructions he received from the makers were clear: Don’t take Hindi classes, stop watching Hindi movies and put on weight.

Omi followed them to the T and now of course, he is revelling in the compliments coming his way for his role in the blockbuster. “I am still flabbergasted by the response. I guess people have liked the character because he is so relatable. In a way, this character’s negativity brought out the essence of the message more forcefully,” says Omi.

Incidentally, he began his acting career at the age of six, performing for Marathi Mandals in the US (also the reason why his Marathi is much better than his Hindi). He pursued a serious acting career in his teens, graduated in film studies from NYU and did roles in  Bones, CSI Las Vegas, The Office and Arrested Development, besides ads.

But being Asian or Indian, it’s still a tough task to break into Hollywood,  says Omi. “It’s difficult for Indians to get into the mainstream. At the most, you might be cast as an IT professional or other stereotypes.”

Omi in 3Idiots

That’s when he thought of exploring Bollywood, though there were other apprehensions. “The Hindi film industry is still not taken that seriously in the West. There are myths that it is unprofessional, and is mainly about songs and dances.”

But all his fears were put to rest once he joined the cast. “Here, there is a personal touch, unlike Hollywood. Even if they don’t pay you by the hour and there is no extra time, there is warmth and care. I basically saw my Bollywood innings as a challenge. A lot of credit also goes to Raju and Abhijat Joshi for the way the character came across on screen.”

Not surprisingly, after the stupendous success and appreciation, he is here for the long haul. Omi, plans to divide his time between the US and India and work in films ‘that don’t necessarily typecast him as an NRI but are dynamic and enjoyable.’

And for the record, he has now started taking Hindi classes as well.

It’s always a pleasure to see a meaningful flick which entertains as well enlightens. Rajkumar Hirani is the master of such flicks (his forthcoming 3 Idiots is also expected to be the same). Rocket Singh also falls in this category. Although it is laden with some glitches, overall it gives you a great time and also teaches you some valuable lessons which we may have forgotten or ignored because of living in this fast-paced urban ‘corporatized’ life!

The story of the movie: Harpreet Singh Bedi (Ranbir Kapoor) has just graduated with low marks but is determined to enter into the world of sales. He justified himself as ‘number kam hai dimaag nahi’! With his confidence and ‘never quit’ attitude, he lands as a trainee in the reputed company, AYS. But he soon realizes that in this professional field, the people worked with the most unprofessional attitude! He always believed in working honestly and caring for the customers. He even attempted to apply his principles which received a sharp reaction from his seniors. Harpreet was then denounced and humiliated. And this is when he realized that instead of merely being an observer, he’ll be the change he wants to see! From here begins the journey of Harpreet aka Rocket Singh!

One won’t take to Rocket Singh instantly, esp in the first hour. This hour focuses more on establishing characters. Also the film hasn’t applied sync sound system well due to which one has difficulty in deciphering some of the dialogues. But after some time in the film, we get ‘accustomed’ to it!

But there are some sequences in the first hour that deserve a mention. The ‘complaint’ scene was great and the boss’ (Manish Choudhari) angry reaction looked quite real. Also watch out when Ranbir is humiliated by the boss with his ‘zero-value’ theory. It was a bit over the top but made an impact.

But the second hour is when the film rocks big time! Ranbir creating a company within a company and popularizing it with his honest ways and making partners was damn interesting. The pre-climax wonderfully built up tension but the climax was dragged a bit. Maybe, the lengthy dialogue should have been a bit crisp. It would have made a better impact.

But nonetheless, the film manages to put its message across in a cool manner. It’s a must for all in the sales field or anyone dealing with customers…maybe it will inspire them to adopt more ‘human’ and honest ways of working!

Without a doubt, it’s Ranbir Kapoor who carried the film fabulously on his shoulders and came up with a great performance. He looked charming even in his sardar look and managed to do a great job-as great as he did in Wake Up Sid and Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani. The film may unfortunately not work at the BO but Ranbir will surely be appreciated and Rocket Singh will be remembered as one of his best performances!

Prem Chopra as Ranbir’s paa played his part well. D. Santosh (famous for his Rajguru act in The Legend of Bhagat Singh) was outstanding! In fact, he delivers better performance than Ranbir in many of the scenes involving both of them! Watch out for him!

Besides these, the rest of actors were all newbies but leave a mark. Gauhar Khan as Koyna looks stunning and gives a top-class performance. Her career in Bollywood is on the right track with this film! Shazahn Padamsee gets very little scope but manages to impress. Mukesh Bhatt as Chotelal was just brilliant! And finally, the other two actors who leave a maximum impact as Ranbir and Santosh are Naveen Kaushik (as Nitin) and Manish Choudhari. Both were wonderful and if the film impresses, then they are also to be credited!

Salim-Sulaiman’s music doesn’t make a mark as song-and-dance isn’t part of this film. Pocket Mein Rocket is missing from the film. But their background score like everytime was fabulous.

Vikash Nowlakha’s cinematography was flawless. Manas Choudhury, the sync sound recordist, could have done a better job.

Jaideep Sahni has written the story, screenplay, dialogues and lyrics. His work was exceptional in all four. Only the screenplay could have been a tighter in the climax and easy in the initial portions. But the best part is-his Khosla Ka Ghosla magic is wonderfully seen in some of the scenes which really makes the film impressive.

This is Shimit Amin’s weakest directorial venture, simply because his last two flicks, Ab Tak Chappan and Chak De! India are considered as classics. But still even in his weak performance, he impresses! Watch out for how he has paid attention to little details to make the film look as realistic and closer to real life as possible. Watch out for the beginning portions when the credits appear-observe how the simple articles found in every household are impressively highlighted. Overall, a good job, could have been better and best wishes for the next project!

Some of the best scenes of the film:
1.     Harpreet’s first interview
2.     Harpreet’s complaint box ‘kaarnama
3.     Boss reacts to Harpreet’s kaarnama!
4.     Colleagues scold Harpreet
5.     The intermission point
6.     Koyna joins Harpreet
7.     Harpreet and his boss’ telephonic conversation (best scene of the film!)
8.     Boss finds out the truth (amazing!)
9.     The final scene

On the whole, Rocket Singh is a feel-good film and should be seen by all sales professionals and corporates. A must watch for Ranbir too. Go for it to have a different kinda experience!

My rating-*** out of 5!

This review first appeared on MouthShut.com: http://www.mouthshut.com/review/Rocket_Singh-181580-1.html


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