Part 3! Gonna see if I can manage to get through more than one page of notes in one post. At least a page and a half. I don’t want to get too ambitious. (full listing of Luck By Chance posts here)
I ended the last section with the start of production of Rishi and Juhi and Sanjay’s new film. This is the main “plot” that carries through the film, the agonies of getting this film produced and how it changes the lives of the people who pass it’s way. And now we get to start seeing how that happens!
First Note, page 3: “Zoya? Reema? as dance master”
There is someone I vaguely recognize playing the female dance master with two lines, and I really feel like it is Zoya. Maybe Reema. Or, maybe somebody who is actually a dance master like Vaibhavi Merchant or someone.
More importantly, we get to see the dynamics of the song shoot, the top layer and the middle layer. On top, the dance master is ordering people around, Rishi and Juhi and Dimple are somewhere in the background, and Hrithik is learning the steps. But then down in the middle is Konkona with one line in the scene, and her friend the dance master’s assistant who is excited because Hrithik himself asked her to show him the moves. And the invisible bottom layer are the dressman and the spot boys and everyone else we saw in that opening song.
It’s the middle layer that is the “worst”. Rishi and Juhi and Dimple, they just want to get this film made and made as well as possible. In an odd way, they are complete unselfish. Everything they do, every decision they make, is in service of the film, not their own personal ambitions. Because they are at the point where their own personal ambitions are the film, and the film is the whole industry. The bottom layer, they just want to work. Zoya said in her making of thing about that song, that she loves the people who work in Indian film, a lot of them are really good, and a lot of them don’t know much of anything, but they all love movies. That’s the bottom layer, they are just happy with their life and happy to be here and don’t want anything else.
And then there’s the people in the middle. Konkona and her friend, and even Hrithik a little bit. Konkona, she is pushing for more lines, focused on her character, her part. She doesn’t care about the rest of the film. Her friend is focused on getting the chance to work directly with Hrithik, what it might mean for her career ambitions, how fast she can move up to the next rung. And then there’s Hrithik. He is nearing the top, close enough that he is beginning to see the big picture, willing to reach down and help other people come up. But not so high that it has all become one thing, that his ambitions are the film and the film is the industry and so on and so forth. This is a theme we will see over and over again, the “real” industry, the top people, they are beyond personal ambitions and feelings. And so are the lower people. But the deadly types are the ones in the middle.
Next Note! “Malang circus look before Malang”
Not much to explain here, there is a song for this fake movie, and it is super super similar to “Malang”. Including the trapeze hoop thing. Although that’s more because Isha is a trapeze hoop thing acrobat artist, which is how she got her big break in Kisna.
What I found really interesting is that Rishi introduced this song as a “big broadway type number” and then it is clearly circus inspired. Which is either a continuity kind of mistake, or a clever commentary on how all song concepts are kind of interchangeable in the minds of the producer, it is the song artists who actually make it happen.
Next Note! “Love Birds Akshaye-Kareena”
This is the other movie that keeps being mentioned, the new release that just came out and everyone is talking about. And it’s brilliant, because “Love Birds” is exactly the kind of title you would expect, and Akshaye-Kareena is exactly the kind of cast you would expect. This was also one of the first times I noticed how many second generation stars were in this film playing themselves. At first I thought it was a cool meta-commentary on nepotism, but then I realized that it was just because Zoya was asking her friends, and they tended to be fellow second generation artists. Or, put it another way, the kind of people likely to agree to be in a movie as a favor are the second generation types. Going back to my previous section, the ones securely on top who can see the whole industry, not the ones in the middle focused purely on their own desires.
Next Note! “Talaash Actress as wife”
Sheeba Chaddha! That’s her name. She was the best part of Talaash, easily stole the movie not just from Aamir and Kareena but even Nawazuddin Siddiqui. She doesn’t have a huge role in that, but it is a lot bigger than her part in this. She barely has a role and yet, once again, steals the movie.
(Uff, her and Nawaz are so amazing together)
She is the wife of Alyy, Konkona’s sleazey producer-mentor-boyfriend. And she is also the younger sister of Juhi. Meaning that Rishi and Juhi try to help out Alyy, because they want to help their sister. And which is probably why Alyy agreed to marry this sweet simple woman in the first place. And, again, a sign of the “real” industry people versus the “fake” people. Rishi and Juhi have no selfish motivations in helping Alyy and Sheeba. It’s just because they want Sheeba to be happy. Alyy is another one of those “middle” types. He has married into a top family. Simple Sheeba has a better sense of what the industry is all about and how to move within it than Alyy just because of where she came from. And her natural personality, everyone loves Sheeba because she is the kind of innocent good person that they aspire to be.
And in this scene, it is Sheeba that really makes it happen. Alyy is awkwardly trying to ask Rishi for help in meeting with a corporate funding house. But Sheeba is naturally talking to Juhi, sincerely asking for help, and Juhi can’t resist it. Which means Rishi can’t resist it.
Next Note! “The director is a close friend of John”
This is Alyy’s sales pitch for his movie. He has already signed a star, the most important part of getting a movie made. But the phrasing is what jumped out at me. First, the director doesn’t even have a name because to Alyy, the director is meaningless. Everyone is meaningless except for the big stars whose names he drops, “John”. Most of the movie people we see don’t name drop in exactly this way, this person means something to them. Rishi is wants to work with Hrithik not just because he is a big star, but because he is an old friend. But for Alyy, it’s just the name of a famous person. He doesn’t care what kind of talent and abilities John would bring to the film, or what kind of a person he is in real life, he just wants the name.
Next note! “Loins of Punjab Director”
Manish Acharya!!! Directed and starred in Loins of Punjab, that surprisingly good movie. I love that he is in this, it’s such an offbeat cameo. Remember my comment about the second generation stars being nice enough to be willing to do these cameos? And Zoya knowing them well enough? Here’s a total outsider who is also doing a cameo. Because he “gets” it, he is someone who knows how to enjoy just being part of the industry without wanting anything for himself.
(Manish Acharya plays “the Businessman”. Also, watch this movie!)
Next note! “Hollywood script=property”
This is at the meeting with Manish and another cameo I can’t recognize. Rishi and Alyy are there, Rishi with his bad dye job and Alyy with his overly “cool” look. And on the other side of the table, Manish and not-Manish in their corporate suits. Talking about how films should be built on stories, they will buy the “property”. And then an explanation for confused Rishi that “property” is what they say in Hollywood.
This is such a great moment. Setting aside what it says about corporate guys for my next note, let’s look at what it says about Rishi. Rishi is the one who set up this meeting, Rishi is the one who Alyy went to for help, Rishi is the one who found and made star Hrithik, Rishi is the one doing all the work of actually putting together this movie. And yet he doesn’t know the terminology “property”, this is the one small thing that they can lord over him, the weakness they can exploit.
Next Note! “Corporate Guys to Give Money”
Okay, NOW I can talk about the corporate guys! This meeting is so interesting. It’s an attempt at being a “real” movie industry. You go to some big corporate place, you have a meeting in a conference room, you talk about “properties” and stuff like that. And back in 2009, these were the guys everyone had to bow and scrape in front of to get the money to actually go out there and make the movies and provide the content that keeps it all going.
What’s really funny, and probably not a coincidence, is in the years since, Farhan and Zoya have learned to effortlessly work these corporate goobers. I mean, if they made this movie in 2009, making fun of the idiots in suits who have no idea what filmmaking is really about and just like throwing around Hollywood terms, not surprising in 2016 they have learned to take them for tens of crore for any film they want to make, no matter whether or not it will actually make a profit (Baar Baar Dekho, for instance. Eros Entertainment footed the bill for that one and Farhan and Ritesh laughed all the way to the bank).
(Great song, still shouldn’t have gotten that much money for production)
Next note! “Stuntman dead-producer not returning calls”
And we are back to the lowly folks! Farhan is hanging out at his friends place and manages to talk his way into Konkona’s apartment. She offers him a drink, but has to get it from the neighbor, because her fridge is broken. She explains that she pays the neighbor a small amount every week to rent space in her fridge. And that the neighbor is the widow of a stuntman, he died on the job but the producer won’t even return her calls, so while she is waiting for money, she does what she can to get by, like renting fridge space to Konkona.
This whole thing is fascinating! Let’s start with the invisible part of it. The acceptance that it is the producer’s responsibility to take care of this widow for the rest of her life. I don’t disagree with this, you understand, but the expectation is something I wouldn’t see in a Hollywood industry or anywhere else. The personal responsibility, she isn’t suing some faceless corporation, she is begging for help from a particular person whose phone number she has.
And then there’s the back and forth of this fridge barter system. There is dignity on both sides, Konkona is paying for it and the neighbor is offering something, but within it is the give and take that is the heart of everything. Rishi helping out his brother-in-law and Konkona giving a few rupees a week to the widow next door, it’s all part of the same thing.
And finally, there is the matter of fact way Konkona tells this story. Farhan sees the film industry as this magical place that will give him happiness and fame and so on. But he never thought about the people who literally die for it. Konkona does, Konkona sees all of that. And she wants to get away from it, to get back up to the top where she doesn’t have to think about these things any more. She hasn’t learned that there is a different kind of value in being down where she is.
Shoot! That’s the end of page 3, and I’m at two thousand words. Oh well, maybe next post I will get over one page of notes. Anyway, the slower I go, the longer it lasts!