Huh! This trailer is not at all what I predicted and the film looks like it might be far better than expected, in terms of performances, imagination, and topic. Yaaay! I love good movies!
I was gonna ignore Vikas Bahl and his whole rape thing when discussing this movie, but after watching the trailer, I can’t. Because this is not just a boring anyone-could-do-it directing job, this is something innovative and interesting and original. Purely from an artistic side, he deserves to have his name on the film.
Which gets into a larger issue with the way #MeToo is handled. Yes, if you are accused, you should not get work any more both as punishment and (more importantly) as a safety measure for those around you. But film takes such a long time between creation and release, the work you have already done is often sitting there, completed but unreleased, when you are accused. More over, film is collaborative. Is it fair to not release something that multiple people worked on because of the sins of one person? And finally, art is art. Sometimes something which is good and deserves to be seen can be made by a bad person.
This movie ticks all those boxes. It was almost completed at the time Vikas was publicly accused. There was no way to “fire” him, it would still be his film no matter what, he is the one who made it. And presumably he had some kind of a contract that meant he would be paid no matter what. In addition, now that I have seen the trailer, this really does look like a remarkable performance from Hrithik Roshan. Should he be punished, and his performance hidden, because of something he had nothing to do with? Not to mention all the new young actors playing the students who thought this was their big break.
And then there’s the really tricky one, correct credit. Based on the trailer, this movie has a unique look right down to the color tones. There’s an idea of sketching animated images to reflect the ideas in the heads of the students (possibly also why it was in post-production so long), and there’s an overall unique feel to the frames, a crowded claustrophobic feeling that evokes the sense of too many people and not enough chances in life. Heck, there’s things as simple as the low angle shot focusing on the money in the change counter, giving a feeling of ominous power to cash. This is a unique work of art. Should the author of this artwork be allowed to sign his name on it? Is there a right between art and artist which supersedes personal guilt?
To my mind, yes. What has happened has happened and we should not lie to ourselves or try to change the past. Vikas Bahl made a movie, it looks like it might be a good movie, and he made it in a unique way that followed his vision. It is right to release the film, and it is accurate to put his name on it. He should not be allowed to make any more movies ever again, and no one should work with him again, but this movie already happened, it is there in the world, and it should be acknowledged. A person can be a bad human being and a good artist and we need to learn to live with that contradiction. Otherwise it is too easy to fall into the fallacy that all good artists are also good people.
If Reliance had said that, said “we believe in our film and Vikas had a big contribution to it. His personal sins mean we will never work with him again, but he earned the right to have his name on this one movie”, I would respect and agree with them. I don’t know why they decided to say instead “he’s been cleared by a made-up internal committee with no authority over the issue!” but I hope people within the industry read the second statement as really meaning the first, Reliance believed Vikas had a right to have his name on this movie and made up a committee in order to have a defense when folks complained, but they never want to work with him again.
Now, as for the actual trailer? I like the angry class warfare feel of it. I really like that it does not try to treat Anand Kumar as a “mathematician” or any kind of scientist, he is just a good test prep teacher. And Hrithik’s performance impressed me, he un-hottified himself with just a little change of posture and mannerism. He convincingly gave me passion under an awkward manner.
The look of it is something new, always hard to film these “teaching” kind of movies because the actual act of teaching (apologies to the teachers among my readership) is really boring to watch. This time they tried to get us inside the heads of the students, draw us in to that sensation of the world opening up as you learn new ideas. That is both interesting to watch, and thematic, making us feel a connection to these kids and understand that they have big ideas inside their heads.
Of course, I still object to the underlying concept because I think teaching to the test is horrible and ruining the world. But at least the film phrases it as “pass the test, build the revolution” instead of “pass the test, prove your self worth because the test is an accurate measure of worth”. And it also has an acknowledgement that it is the test prep classes that make you pass, not innate intelligence.
Oh, and the music is good too! Watching it, this trailer felt like a combination of Gully Boy and Hitchki. And then I felt bad because this film technically came before both Gully Boy and Hitchki, it has just been trapped in post-production for so long that it missed the window of release ahead of them. Hopefully it still gets credit for its innovation coming third instead of first.