Note: This is a guest post from asuph. “No Smoking has been a different movie, a far cry from normal bollywood fare. For years everybody complains about the song and dance routine in Hindi movies and still when good movies come, they try to find as many fault as possible. asuph talks about “No Smoking”. Its not a review and the post had first appeared on his blog. Here he talks about reviewing of movies like “No Smoking” and its effect on people.
Over to him.
I wanted to catch No Smoking in the theaters, but I’m a lazy guy. By the time I actually checked out the papers for current movies, it was off the screens. Then last week I went to the DVD store to check out if Jhonny Gaddar’s DVD was out. It was, so just on an impulse I asked if No Smoking is out, and it was too. I guess, once it was out of theaters in a week or two, I should have expected that.
I haven’t watched Black Friday yet. I guess that was a good thing, because when I watched No Smoking, I had no expectations whatsoever of Anurag Kashyap. Sure a lot of people had praised Black Friday, but I tend to keep my mind clean of such praise/scathing. To the extent possible, that is.
Yesterday, finally, I picked up No Smoking DVD. I was alone at home, with nothing better to do (too tired to read, even), and decided to pick up the movie. No Smoking pulled me in right in the first few scenes. And two hours later, I was a satisfied man.
A few days back, I had checked out Kashyap’s post on PFC, and Khalid Mohamed’s review, and some more posts on PFC, castigating Khalid. I ended up satirizing the whole episode on my other blog, KandaBatata. Today, I realize Anurag’s angst, and angst of all those at PFC, who have been supporting him.
I can understand people not ‘getting‘ the movie. I can even understand reviewers not getting the movie. What I cannot understand is the thrashing, the venomous, spiteful dismissal of a work that is as audacious and undertaking as any in the recent past. I cannot think of anything that comes even close.
No, No Smoking isn’t the perfect movie. But then, which movie is perfect? What No Smoking is, is a very intelligent movie. Indulgent, but engrossing. It makes you think. While leafing through some online reviews of the movie, I caught names like Matrix, Memento. But Matrix is a very simple action movie with a little bit of metaphysical expropriation from some Vedic concepts (or its parallels), and a little bit of science fiction thrown in to complete a package. And Memento just had a clever twist in a very normal story played backwards. The film that comes to my mind (and some bloggers have mentioned Lynch, too), is David Lynch’s Mulholland Dr. Incidentally that film is on my top ten list. It’s brilliantly conceived, and there are so many layers, so many interpretations, so many meanings, and yet it’s not random. Watch it intently, and you’ll get it. Get enough of it, anyway, to make sense. And you’ll watch it again, and again, to get it all.
No Smoking, in contrast seems to have a central meaning that’s much more obvious. Sure, there will be many interpretations, but Anurag has left enough clues to drive home what he intended (and then has even spilled the beans in his posts). I cannot claim to have understood the whole movie. It’s definitely a movie to be watched couple of times if not more, going back and forth. Still, it wasn’t that hard to get. Not even for me who hasn’t watched much of European on independent cinema, or Korean or whatever cinema for that matter; who isn’t much versed in the vocabulary of film-making; who isn’t much of an avid movie-watcher (give me a book anyday). And that’s why I cannot really get the likes of Khalid Mohamad pissing all over the pages, and taking pleasure, like a kid taking pleasure in dismantling a meticulously created house of cards.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for criticism. But how many films even try to go where Kashyap has gone? Surely, in an industry where people make meaningless films day in day out, one, even if misplaced attempt (in his evaluation), isn’t going to harm the industry as a whole, or the sanity of the viewers, even? Why this vehemence:
“Too in-depth man, too in-depth, puffing, driving, the sex act, the sex act, fingers being chopped. Kcuf, kcuf.. what’s happening out here? You can’t make out, you don’t care, and you’re fed up of the affectations, the self-indulgence, and the fact that you even bothered to see this Dhumrapan Nishedh bandhi which tells you about Socrates, Plato and then goes Do be Do. I swear on Sinatra’s head. Hey, Kashy actually hears retro-music and wants us to know. Niiice.”
This is a review?
“Ayesha Takia has to stop looking plump.”
WTF? I mean WTF! This is seriously the nadir of mainstream media. This is rotten reviewing (and the fact that it gets through!). This is personal vendetta (and the fact that it gets through). This is absolute misuse of the vantage point (and the fact…). I mean I was never a fan of Khalid Mohamed, but there is harmless idiocy, and there is spite. Make no mistake about it, this isn’t idiocy.
Then there are bloggers who tout like experts calling this film demented and what not! Raised over a spoon-fed pulp of overcooked apple (with strawberry syrup as topping), it’s not totally surprising that these self-proclaimed media-readers will side with the establishment. After all that’s where they want to go, for all the talk of blogging as alternative media. It’s okay not to understand, but please for god’s sake don’t nip in bud experimental cinema that’s ahead of its time, at least in Indian context, just because you don’t understand it.
A prominent blogger in the Indian blah-go-sphere has this to say about No Smoking:
“… yes, it’s a “hatke” film but the problem here is that it is so “hatke” that audience (if any left) ka dimaag satak jayega..” (No Smoking – Injurious to Head)
So it’s okay to be hatke, but just enough hatke for every lazy layperson can understand it while munching on his/her caramel flavored popcorn. Will this all-too-powerful audience ever move a head muscle? Or are they going to be perennially happy watching ‘butts’ and supremely original stories love stories?
And like KM, there is the unnecessary jibe at Takia’s figure:
“Ayesha Takia – Someone please enroll her at the nearest gym”
WTF? I mean, WTF? Yes, I’d love to see her shed a few kilos, but surely she isn’t in this line for her figure. Knowing her potential, post Dor, this has been an easy role for her, but what’s utterly lost on most reviewers is the deliberate “unreal” acting in her role as the secretary. Enough, I’m not going to explain the movie.
No Smoking is a big milestone for Indian cinema, because it has broken the “start-middle-end” monopoly of our scripts. Sure, “Waisa Bhi Hota Hai – Part II” tried similar things, but it didn’t have half the thematic brilliance of No Smoking. It doesn’t make the audience think, beyond maybe exercising a few muscles trying to keep the different threads in mind, but not where it counts: it doesn’t make the viewer think about the larger issues. Not since the demise of the so called parallel cinema have we seen anything close to this. It’s the first metaphorical cinema in a long long time. Least we could do, is be sympathetic to it. For all the emergence of “new cinema”, if people don’t understand this movie, the future is bleak.
Ironically, Anurag Kashyap, who said in one of his blogs that “to be Howard Roark you have to first kill your family”, has made an apocalyptic film, about himself! I just hope, that he’ll have enough perseverance to swallow this bitter pill and move on. Because, if he trusts himself, I think one of these days, we’ll get one of the finest films ever made on Indian screen from this man (the only other contender, albeit strong one, on resume, is Vishal Bharadwaj). I just hope, he’ll survive till then. I’m even ready to pray to a God I don’t believe in. Anurag, hang in there. We need you.
Plot-Theme integration: 4/5
Music: 5/5 (Vishal, you rock!)
Acting: 4/5 (John Abraham: 4/5, whatever anyone says)
Entertainment: 5/5 (intelligent entertainment, that is)
On the whole: 4/5
Some reviews that I found useful:
Watch it, and judge for yourself. Don’t let the media-savants tell you what’s Good cinema and what’s not. At most you’ll blow up 80 bucks and two hours.
Spoilers and random thoughts ahead
On PFC, someone asked: “For eg. How does the ” eunuch throwing coins at John as he awaits a signal” fit in ?”It’s very interesting, when K says he hasn’t got change, the eunuch says he has it and throws it at him saying “kaam aayega”. In the end, K never uses that change (remember 1 rupee cash payment he never did?). Is the change common sense/symbol for conformism? Is the change surrender of the ego? Afterall K never pays a single penny by his volition. He never “chooses” to leave smoking, he just thinks about it. Those who have paid the “bills”, or the change, are exempt from the final wash (out). Of course, that’s my interpretation, but that’s the beauty of this film.