Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

December 7, 2007

Short, not sweet

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:03 pm

December 07, 2007

Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Sunil Shetty, Shabana Azmi, Naseeruddin Shah, Jimmy Shergill, Amrita Singh, Aftab Shivdasani

Directors: Sanjay Gupta, Hansal Mehta, Meghna Gulzar, Rohit Roy & more

The most basic problem with Dus Kahaniyaan, the omnibus film featuring ten short stories, is that there is no common theme, nothing at all really, that merits these ten stories to be slapped together as one collection.

Unlike Ramgopal Varma’s Darna Mana Hai or its follow-up Darna Zaroori Hai which were both omnibus films whose short stories centred around one common premise — fear, there is no logical explanation or criteria for the ten shorts in this film to be assembled together.

Now you’re probably wondering why that matters — why should there be a common take-off point for all stories as long as they’re all interesting stories, right?

Well, that’s just it — with nothing at all to rein them in, no boundaries whatsoever to work within, several of the stories turn out bizarre, abstract and pretty much pointless, if you ask me. Had every one of them at least come with a twist ending, you’d have something to look forward to, but barring a handful that do, the rest are either predictable or plain boring.

Let’s talk first about the stories that work. Matrimony, directed by Sanjay Gupta, featuring Arbaaz Khan and Mandira Bedi as a married couple in a tale about faith and betrayal is an enjoyable watch, and comes with a surprise in the end that’s both clever and obvious in retrospect.

Meghna Gulzar’s Pooranmaashi starring Amrita Singh and Minnisha Lamba as mother and daughter in a story about unconditional love, is my favourite of the ten shorts, because it’s such a heartbreaking tale with such a real and solid dilemma at its core.

And Sanjay Gupta’s Manoj Bajpai-Dia Mirza starrer Zahir works because it’s a relatable story, it’s remarkably well shot, but most of all because of that shock ending. Three good stories out of ten, is hardly a report card to be proud of, and honestly it’s not enough to keep your interest alive in Dus Kahaniyaan.

Of the stories that don’t quite cut it is Hansal Mehta’s High on the Highway, a wildly indulgent and completely incohesive tale of two drugged-out lovers starring Jimmy Shergill and Masumeh Makhija, both performing way off-key.

Also Sanjay Gupta’s Neha Dhupia-Mahesh Manjrekar starrer Strangers in the Night, a cheap gimmick of a story that’s even more stupid when you go back and think about it, because if you ask me, the twist in that story is an offensive idea that’s disguised as a noble thought.

Lovedale directed by Jasmeet Dodhi, and starring Aftab Shivdasani and Neha Oberoi is a convenient and predictable story about destiny and divine intervention.

Apoorva Lakhia’s Sex on the Beach starring Dino Morea as the young stud who encounters a mysterious woman promising some guilty pleasure is a tasteless and contrived story that comes off as a cheap shot at skin-show.

Sanjay Gupta’s Gubbare features a heartwarming performance by Nana Patekar, but it’s also an unabashedly manipulative piece that unsuccessfully tries to tug at your heartstrings.

The most ridiculous of the ten stories however, is Rise and Fall starring Sanjay Dutt and Sunil Shetty in the kind of stereotypical roles you’ve seen them play in so many films before. They rattle off lines so indifferently, you can barely hear them as you struggle to make sense of this absurd film that’s all style and no substance.

Wide-angle lenses, sepia-toned photography, sharp cuts. But what the hell is going on? A fair question, I think, to Sanjay Gupta and Hansal Mehta, the two directors it took to come up with this nonsensical short. With six out of ten stories that sorely disappoint, Dus Kahaniyaan isn’t exactly pleasurable viewing.

And then there’s Rice Plate which is an easy watch purely on the strength of its performances. Shamelessly plagiarized from the celebrated short film Lunch Date which won the Palme d’Or at Cannes in 1990 for best short, also an Academy Award the following year, Rice Plate stars Shabana Azmi as a bigoted Tamilian Brahmin woman in a story about prejudices and fear.

Shabana delivers an incredible performance, and is complemented perfectly by Naseeruddin Shah who only appears in two scenes, but it’s the film’s director Rohit Roy who proves that even the finest material in the hands of an incompetent filmmaker can be reduced to nothing much.

He rips off the entire premise of that thought-provoking short film, replacing that film’s classic element — silence — with unnecessary spoon-feeding. The subtlety, the little nuances, the easy charm of the original film is lost under Rohit Roy’s third-class direction where everything must be spelled out.

In the end, how do you judge a film like Dus Kahaniyaan? It’s an interesting experiment, no doubt, but by no stretch of the imagination a successful one.

Look at the delightful portmanteau film Paris Je t’aime, a collection of some 18 shorts centred around the themes of love and Paris, directed by some of the most acclaimed directors from across the world — that film works because you enjoy each director’s individual interpretation of the same theme.

By the same yardstick, Dus Kahaniyaan is dull and boring because for one, there is no common premise, and also because barring maybe two films, there’s very little difference in the shooting or editing of most stories.

All things aside, judged very simply for the entertainment it’s able to provide, I’ll go with one out of five forDus Kahaniyaan; watch it only because it’s a new format and enjoy the handful of stories that do entertain. For the most part though, prepare to be seriously bored.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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