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Friday, March 10, 2006

CRASH the RdB party?

I know that to many it would be blasphemous to even begin to compare the two big hits of the year (at least as far as our Indian theatres would have us believe), but still, I feel there might be a thread that runs true.
Rang de Basanti opened to much anticipation just over a month ago, primarily due to the presence of the new look Aamir Khan and the directorial skills of so-called genius, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra (there was a time when Rakesh used to be Rakesh). Collections broke records, the music was lauded, the young crop were recognized and ROM was showered with accolades. However, the one thing everybody agreed upon was that the story fell apart towards the end, and the ingestion of pathos merely ensured that the film hurtled towards an unnecessary and maudlin conclusion. It makes you think, they said. I also want to break corruption, voiced the ubiquitous fan. India will change now, resounded from the middle class drawing room. Truth be told (and a cynical truth at that), nothing changed. And nothing will, at least not because of a much-hyped movie with some great tracks. As Shobhaa De reminds us, we are a little too liberal as a nation with our praises. Every second cub mewing in the Bollywood bastion is not a formidable lion. Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra cannot be called a genius on the back of Aks and RdB. Give him time. And in the meanwhile let's not imagine that some social message has gone out to the people. True, credit to RdB for exposing the apathy towards the MIG pilots, but there it stops. Let's hope that the crude message conveyed by the movie is not taken to heart by some long-suffering urban youth who decides to bomb Rashtrapati Bhavan.

On the flip side, CRASH does what RdB hoped to do and failed - send a subtle message of tolerance without attempting to be preachy or clumsy in its treatment. Slowly, through the murky underbelly of Los Angeles, unfolds a story of love, shame, betrayal, loyalty and confusion, all against the backdrop of the racial milieu of the city. Without ignoring the difficult issues of the time, the film commendably captures the stereotypes and biases prevalent in a society with so many historical differences. Unlike in RdB where the Muslim character is abused and then saved by the Hindu nationalist in two separate avatars (incarnations) , Crash does not allow any of its protagonists to inhabit this implausible dichotomy. There are bits of black and specks of white, but what overwhelms us - what envelops us with the sheer force of reality - is the Grey. This is what draws us into the embrace of the film - even while an Indian will not - cannot - identify with the themes of the west coast drama, he/she will understand the futility of the straight and narrow, and accept the truth of the compromises we all make in our daily lives.

It is all very well to call for a better world and attempt to take our steps towards that by cleansing all the black. Fact is, the black isnt all that much. Its the grey that we must aim to reduce. And not by assassinating a Union Minister, but by merely leaving the malaise exposed, with all the causes for it. Only then will you undestand the true picture, and only then will you be in a position to exercise your own choices as to the solution. Crash leaves us discomfited - at times even helpless, but it never makes us believe in fairy tales. For its integrity and its truth, Crash convinces, while RdB fails.

3 Comments:

  • Not having seen RdB, I can't really comment on it. That said, Crash does his its preachy moments. And if you've seen Magnolia, the theme of weaving multiple disparate stories into a common conclusion is hardly original. But, the acting is first-rate and if nothing else, discomforts in a manner that provokes thought.

    An economists take: http://econlog.econlib.org/archives/2005/09/crashing_into_s.html

    By Blogger blr bytes, at 11:32 AM  

  • Ah, will you be taking up a club membership or are you from an affiliated club ?

    By Anonymous alephnull, at 12:57 PM  

  • tho i have seen neither of the films, i enjoyed reading your review (not only because i love you) but because it has helped me save time lost in seeing an unnec film.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:50 PM  

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