In a new series, FC Critics Survey, every few weeks we ask a handful of film critics one question. This week we ask – what's a sorely misunderstood film?
Aiyyaa. It's a film that I often find myself defending which I think has to do with the fact that most people didn't get it. So accustomed we are to seeing what men desire on screen that when writer-director Sachin Kundalkar flips the tropes and makes it all about a woman's desire and her infatuation, there was a sense of incredulity on how can a woman behave like this. That he centred this romance around the olfactory sense rather than the common visual one makes the film more fascinating. It's a love story told from a woman's point of view and by the end it empowers her to seek her heart's content. With the experienced Rani Mukerji at helm, Kundlakar ensures that his dreamy-nosed protagonist's passion is never foul. I love that the film embraces the camp best demonstrated in Amit Trivedi's delightful track "Dreamum Wakeupum".
As a film critic having a contrarian point of view from the majority isn't new. One's response to a film will always be deeply personal and there is never any right or wrong in a review. Yet there are those odd films that one feels were misunderstood or panned a little too harshly.
Lootera – is one of my favourite films that not many loved. There are sequences of extraordinary beauty and the most moving moments in the film are sans words. Lootera works the silent moments masterfully. A gorgeous set up with Vikramaditya Motwane helming the project brilliantly. Also, the way Sonakshi Sinha melts into her role displayed a rare understanding of her character. I still grudge the fact that she hasn't done enough roles that challenge her acting skills. Ranveer Singh was a revelation. At a time when he almost ran the risk of being typecast as the dilli-haryanvi loudmouthed boy next door, he gave his character such a credible potency. Most people found the film slow and boring and I think it's just such a shallow dismissal of a film that breathes so thoughtfully and gets better with multiple viewing.
More often than not, referring to a film as the misunderstood one can be vacuous. It does nothing but showcases a holier than thou attitude on the critic's part. A more appropriate word is probably 'misread'. Films can aim for something, get it wrong and result in glorious misfires. 'Miss' being the operative word. One such film is probably Mani Ratnam's Raavan. Billed as a retelling of the Ramayan, nobody was kind to the film when it came out. Some blamed the too literal translation and others blamed the performances. Raavan went for highly visual, vignette-driven storytelling instead of a plot-driven narrative and that threw people off. It probably didn't do a good or a complete job of its central politics either – flipping the good vs evil narrative, redirecting our sympathies towards Raavanan, his family and his people. I believe the film has gotten better with time and a revisit – this time training our focus in those angles – is bound to be immensely rewarding. Not to mention, it has some of Mani's career-best frames. The film did not deserve the ambush it was subjected to at the time of release.
There are times when the failure of a film makes you knock the doors of existential crisis. Questions like 'why is it that no one is willing to see the subtext of the film which you can see so clearly' make you wonder if you were right to like a film for what it was. If I had to pick one film, then it has to be Mahesh Babu-Trivikram Srinivas' Khaleja, which released in 2010. The film was treated as a 'comeback' for Mahesh Babu after a gap of three years, and the expectations were high considering that Mahesh Babu and Trivikram had worked together in Athadu (2005). When the film released, it was written off as a farce because the idea of a protagonist who's literally treated as a 'God' by everyone around him seemed ludicrous.
Much later, when Trivikram Srinivas explained the idea behind the film – that even though Rama and Krishna ruled their kingdoms for scores of years, we see them as Gods for a very specific period of their lives when they are in battlefields vanquishing demons – the public opinion began to change to an extent. Nine years later, the film has a faithful fan following and several dialogues have become a pop-culture phenomenon. But at the time of its release, the very idea of a modern-day God was grossly misunderstood.