Most wanted

Back when I was effing around with not much by way of employment, I used to spend a heck of a lot of time on Tamil and Malayalam movie sets. A friend I made then was producer-director Thampi Kannanthanam, a master of mindless pulp who, after a disastrous beginning that rendered him near bankrupt, turned things around with two Mohanlal-starring underworld actioners, Rajavinte Makan and Bhoomiyile Rajakanmaar.

Great character, Thampi. He once had an itinerant magician teach him basic tricks, so he could keep his stars amused during lulls in the shooting. One day, in course of a random chat, he told me the solution to my employment problem was to turn script-writer. I don’t know how, I protested. What is to know, he shrugged, and then initiated me into the formula. His words, as I remember them:

“The first decision to make is whether to make the boy rich or the girl rich. The solution is simple — pick the girl. After all, even the richest of boys can only wear pants and shirts anyway, but you can dress up a rich girl in a dozen different ways.

“So you have a rich girl and a poor boy, and you have your set for a nominal amount — any college, during the summer holidays. When does college reopen in Kerala? In May. What else happens in May? It rains. So that’s your opening sequence — rich girl drives to work, splashes poor boy dressed in his best clothes.

“What else happens during the rains? Roads are flooded, the lights go off. So there you go: rich girl’s car is stuck. Goons harass her. Poor boy comes running to the rescue. At this point, you just write ‘Fight’, and the stunt director will take care of the next 5 minutes of screen time.

“Then what happens? Rich girl goes home, has shower [four minutes]. She dressed in flimsy nightgown and goes to bed [3 minutes]. Then she thinks of the heroic boy. Now write ‘Song’, and that’s another five minutes of run time courtesy the music director, playback singers and dance master.

“That’s all there is to it — calculate the length of your film, write Song… Fight… Song… Song… Fight, and then write the little bits that move the hero and heroine from song to fight and vice versa. At the end, write Climax, 12 minutes, and there you go.”

Prabhu Deva, I thought while watching Wanted yesterday, must have graduated summa cum laude from the Kannanthanam school of film-making. And I don’t mean that in a sneery, superior kind of way. Some of Thampi’s films were fun; I’ll even admit to having seen a couple of them more than once, and not just because the director was a friend and so I could get free tickets. Similarly, Wanted [where Prabhu Deva mercifully cleans up the ridiculous Vadivelu-driven comedy track from the Tamil version Pokkiri but, barring a couple of minor tweaks and an additional fight sequence, stays true to the original storyboard] was fun, in a bizarre, retro kind of way that takes you back to the no-frills storytelling of the late seventies and early to mid eighties.

Great Bong saved me the trouble of doing a review. A choice clip:

Its DNA contains the nucleotides of Action, Song and Random Act of Villainy arranged in a repeating pattern. There is no ambiguity, no non-linearity, no homo-erotic friendships and absolutely no attempt at character or narrative development. …

Did I say Neanderthal? I think I did. If you believe that women should be characterized  as well-rounded independent people in a movie then maybe “Wanted” is not for you. Well let me qualify that.  Women are represented as “well rounded” but that’s about it.In a throw-back to the 80s, there is nothing size-zero (except perhaps the magnitude of her histrionic abilities) about the heroine Ayesha Takia (the hero calls her a “zyada charbi-wala gosht” in one scene and in another sparklingly classy sequence tells her “Aisa dhakka naheen maarne ka..hum log mens log hain na…delicate delicate jagga main taqleef pohunchta hai”) and the only reason she is in the movie is because there are two reasons she is in the movie. And the camera spends a lot of time highlighting those facts.

One thought on “Most wanted

  1. Not sure if you’ve seen the Telugu version of Pokkiri, but its infinitely superior to the Tamil version IMHO. The comedy and Mahesh Babu were clearly superior to the Tamil version; where Vijay was trying his best to imitate Mahesh Babu; and failing miserably.
    I believe its Tollywood’s highest grosser, and I think it totally deserves that position. It was a perfect “entertainer”.
    I’m guessing there’s a comparable loss of quality in the Hindi version from the Tamil version. I haven’t watched it (the Hindi version); but Salman Khan in the lead? arrgh!

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