Saturday, September 26, 2009

Naach

Naach is not one of Ram Gopal Varma's thrillers, but it sure presents viewers with a humdinger of a mystery: why, in the name of Helen above, would anyone cast Abhishek Bachchan (aspiring film star Abhinav) in a movie whose central motif is dance in films?

Antara is also curious.
I love the man dearly. He's very talented and effective in many ways as a performer - including bodily physical expression when channeled for anger or humor (or even when dancing in a deliberately comic way, like in "Kajra Re" or his mini-AB MotoRockr ad) - but he cannot dance. He certainly tries, which is more than can be said for many heroes of past generations, but it just doesn't work most of the time. Here's some evidence by way of Filmi Girl's fantastic setting of Abhishek clips to "Pappu Can't Dance," in case you've forgotten or remain unconvinced.


Okay, so Naach isn't really about dancing. It's about creating opportunities for the camera to leer at Antara Mali (aspiring choreographer Reva) in sheer, tight, and/or (but usually "and") wet clothing. Classy. And impractical - surely a person built like Antara would need a little more support doing all that lunging and leaping than her feather-weight tube tops can give?

All I could think of was Teri Hatcher's infamous line from Seinfeld: "They're real, and they're spectacular."

Above is from the film's opening scene ("Awara Man Mein"), and for the first hour or so it was kind of hard to shake the feeling that this was simply a peep show, especially when most of the action centers on Reva dancing or Abhinav being entranced by Reva dancing. Even as she starts to school him in her very un-filmi style in preparation for his first crack at being a Bollywood hero, the main point seems to be her body - as discussed, the point couldn't seriously be to watch Abhishek dance. If I were feeling charitable, I could propose that Reva's dancing is the representation of her true inner self - unconventional, determined, strong, always present and in motion - and that it was therefore reasonable and fair to focus on the instrument that expresses these ideas to the viewer. But it'd be a lot easier to be charitable if she hadn't been dressed so revealingly. I expect ridiculous costumes during song picturizations - I'm drawn to them like a moth to a flaming sequin factory - but in the "everyday" scenes a breather from the pointlessly trashy would have been nice.

Speaking of, here are some shots from some of the other songs. I know little about dance, so I can't comment on how well Reva's un-filmi style is done. Weird as her contortions and poses are - "like rhythmic gymnastics," Bollyviewer said - I did enjoy the change from what films usually offer. The filmmakers enjoy it too, contrasting segments of Reva with Abhinav on location doing run-of-the-mill moves

Does this remind anyone else of "Dard-e-Disco"?
with a run-of-the-mill heroine. Again, being charitable, this is a great way to show that even though Abhinav and Reva have different styles/personalities, they fit together well, and too much predictability and matchy-matchiness, as the film describes Abhinav's first hero appearance and the accoutrements and lifestyle it brings, is dull and lifeless. Anyway. The point I was trying to make was that Reva wears some crazy stuff. All I knew about Naach before watching it was that it has some very strange outfits (fugged by Babasko here), but I had no idea I was going to see an acid trip through Helen's storage closets with a touch of the 80s thrown in for good measure. For the faint of sartorial heart, I hereby issue a Beverage Warning - that is, if you are drinking something, put it down and don't take any more sips lest it comes out your nose or you choke.



The painting's top might be bigger than Reva's.
For example, this gold beaded kerchief thing

is going to seem downright tame compared to a blindfold and Sgt. Pepper's bicycle shorts.

Sometimes they're a case of going too far. The "cat's eye crying tears of blood" makeup is one thing,

but giant wings are all together too much.

I can think of two examples of wings in dance numbers (the other is from Kaalaa Pani, e.g. here), and both are bad. What say you?
If they had left this one with just the giant feather headdress and sparkly blue top, everything would have seemed comfortably Helen-in-a-cabaret-ish. But nooo, someone added one-legged fuchsia tights.

These kneesocks might be my favorite.


Totally Filmi and Gebruss, are we going to knit those or what?


Okay, so there's a little skin for the rest of us too. Thanks, RGV.

Tangentially related, even when she isn't in them, the songs Reva dreams up are a little bonkers. Take a look at "Sara Sara."



In this last photo, the women have translucent bags on their heads.

Other than these little challenges to my mental health, I thought this was a good film. It has a tight, personal focus on love and understanding other people's values and figuring out your own priorities. Abhishek is of course a fine fit for any of those tasks, and he makes his character Abhinav adorable and relateable. Pappu can't dance, but boy can he woo and brood.


There must have been other actors who could have made Abhinav as grounded and kept better pace with the steps, but whatever. I really liked Abhishek's work in both Sarkar films, so I'm happy to let RGV have a go at using him in projects now and then. Given their position in the love triangle with Reva, Abhishek and Ritesh Deshmukh (artsy director Divakar) don't have any scenes to take advantage of their excellent rapport; putting much effort into giving them a friendship, only to then test it under the weight of the romantic struggles, would have been silly, so I can forgive its lack.

Though I don't know what to make of her dancing, I really liked both Antara Mali's performance and the character of Reva. Reva is an interesting person - she has an entirely self-directed, self-propelled creative ambition that I haven't seen in many women in Hindi films (though maybe in Main Madhuri Dixit Banna Chahti Hoon, interestingly), and she was absolutely true to her convictions, to what she wanted to do and how she wanted to do it. As his star rises, Abhinav offers to help her out with money and film-world connections, but she's insulted that he won't support her need to fulfill her dreams entirely on her own. This is not a practical stance, obviously, in terms of either career or emotions - apart from not understanding Reva's ethics and thus accidentally offending her when he simply meant to help and share his good fortune, Abhinav is a kind, endearing boyfriend. But Reva isn't an entirely practical person. If she were, she'd find a way to channel her vision into typical song numbers instead of holding out for a chance for her ideas in her own style. She insists on standing absolutely individually as an artist, as a voice, and I admired her for it. Thankfully there's a lot more to this character - and to the entire movie - than her wardrobe would suggest.

16 comments:

red42 said...

I just thought this was all very bizarre. Costumes were odd, and AB was a curious choice. That said, it's a watchable enough movie, but all I can remember now are the weird costumes.
And my word verification is demente - which seems very appropriate!

Rum said...

This movie was a strain on my fashion affected eyes, the socks were the last straw and i had to forward the rest of the songs for fear that i would say Puh-leeze for the millionth time. Though RGV is a competent director, he just loves his muses to a Hitchcock like peeping and fawning shots of them. And poor old Abhishek cant dance saala! And Ritesh looked really serious and studly in those glasses and post-millenium spiky hair that looks so retro now!

6p00d8341ce06c53ef said...

You know, I'd managed to put the socks out of my mind -- prolly not hard to do when you have the images of the other parts of the costumes burning your retinas.

But they make me think: surely Little MissMatched should start a line of Bollysocks, inspired directly by Naach.

As for the film -- Abhishek really didn't do it for me here, so much so that I was really rooting for Reva to end up with Riteish's artsy director (the one who really appreciated her work and who she was). And I knew from that film that I was going to love Riteish in the future. And I was right.

:-)

But I'm with you on the peep show factor. That did rather spoil some of it for me. I suspect I wasn't the target audience for it though....

6p00d8341ce06c53ef said...

Oh, for Pete's sake. No idea what Typekey did there, making me some kind of serial number.

:-P

memsaabstory said...

Ugh I hated this. Did not care about any of the people in it, and the whole film just seemed like an expensive RGV exercise in masturbation. He should just keep it at home to himself, I don't want to see it. And I would not call anything Antara Mali did dancing either. She posed, she gyrated, she writhed. Any "feminist" overtones that her character may have had were completely negated by the totally sleazy picturizations of her. I hated this as much as I hated Haseena, and that is saying a lot.

Banno said...

RGV's films are exercises in filming body parts. Here, it was Antara Mali's bust, in Daud, Urmila Matondkar's butt.

But thanks for the link to Filmi Girl's 'Pappu can't dance'. I missed seeing it earlier, so am going to go that now.

Amrita said...

I think the idea behind Naach was to have a female character in complete control of her every facet - her work, her passion, her sexuality, her dreams - and dance was basically used as a metaphor because it's the most personal of the arts as well as the most painful and draining. You can't dance at the level Antara's supposed to be dancing at without sacrificing a great deal.

But you can't have someone as obsessed with booty as RGV film a movie like that because the results are there for you to see. And imagine - even with all the T&A on display in this movie, nobody could be bothered to watch it. Heh.

Shalini Razdan said...

Sometimes I wonder what would happen if RGV turned gay and started sleeping with wannabe stars instead of starlets; what kind of movies would we get then? Fortunately, my imagination refuses to go there.:-)

Moving on to happier, cleaner thoughts, could I interest you in watching "Ghungroo", a 1983 film with Shashi Kapoor, Smita Patil and Waheeda Rehman? I found this song on You Tube and now must know what led to the "bloody feet" dance.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sIO8Lv-64g4&feature=related

Beth said...

Red - As much as I enjoyed being shocked and confused by the weird costumes, I too ultimately found them distracting. They have too much impact, in a way. The story could have shone through without them.

Demente zindabad!

Rum - Bwahahaha yes, "puh-leeze" is v appropriate here. Good call on Ritesh's look too. So odd!

Totally Filmi - Yes to the sock line! Yes to Ritesh! Either way for her romance, I say - I liked them both, and I do think Abhinav learned his lesson. It was hard to like Ritesh's character too much since he was so glum.

memsaab - Awww. Well, for the movie, anyway. You're bang on re: RGV.

Banno - Wonder if he'll focus on somebody's third toe or something some day? I have no desire to investigate his whole oeuvre, though, so I'd probably miss it if he did.

Amrita - Yeah, I think that's a good take on it. Imagine what would have happened if somebody less skeevy had had a go at the story!

Shalini - Oho! Excellent question.

And indeed yes, you can interest me in that - PPCC and others have recommended it as well. I think I even own a copy. In fact, my project for tonight is to catalog all my unwatched DVDs, so let's hope I find out soon. :)

Shweta Mehrotra Gahlawat said...

I feel v indifferent about Naach- it feels like a rehashed version of Rangeela to me, but serious- in both movies, we have a voyeuristic camera aimed at the girls, which grates after a while- and while Antara isnt bad, Urmila was better and had fashions somewhat easier to the eyes. Antara's character doesnt convince me either- her moralistic high ground appears impractible, especially in a tough city and a tougher business- at leaast AB's character is human. RGV perhaps should just stick to gangster movies :)

Bollyviewer said...

Reva came over more as bloody-minded than strong and feminist to me. And I am with memsaab over Antara Maali's dancing - "writhing" is the right word for it. The only good thing about the film was Abhi who was sane, sensible, practical AND loved Reva enough to apologise for HER bloody-mindedness! Where can I find a boy friend like that? ;-)

Ellie said...

I salute you for getting through this. I think I made it clear how I felt about it, but I have since felt rather badly about not actually finishing it-- it's just that I am SO in agreement with Memsaab and Bollyviewer re: the writhings; and to have them overlaid with a deadly trifecta of 1. Dancer's Musings on Art, 2. the much-commented-on RGV's T&A obsession masquerading as "empowerment" (HA), and 3. what was shaping up, in the first 30 min., to be a story about a girl being conceited and passing it off as integrity while the audience roots for her... it just wasn't what we had planned for a pleasant Saturday night. I am sorry to miss Ritesh (aww) and glad the thing turned into a real story, but I just don't think I'll be able to revisit it. On the other hand, it has given us "Wonderful, fantastic, great!" to add to our household vocabulary, so I guess that's something.

Sujal said...

I think it might be something about Antara Mali.

There was the older version of Dhoondte Reh Jaoge (a Satish Shah led comedy, which I actually enjoyed), and Mr Ya Miss ... she just seems to have something for really awkward dresses.

eliza bennet said...

I may be the lone voice here who actually enjoyed Naach. But then again I usually like RGV films (I have not seen RGV Ki Aag or Nishbaad yet). Yes he is a voyeur of female physique but I look at it as a side effect.

I liked the story and its conclusion.

The thing that really annoyed me in the film is the jabs RGV makes on Karan Johar and Farah Khan I thought it was very bitchy of him.

The costumes were very weird and the make up made post fame Antara look like J-Lo.

Riteish, I can't like no matter what, I hope Rann will change that though.

Hans Meier said...

Another aspect of this one is the very weak plot and papermaché dialogue - so unlike say Company, in Naach Jaideep Sahni contributed only some lyrics. I find it amazing that RGV allows liveless dialogue like in Naach to be actually spoken.

And yes, i was embarrassed too by the film's voyeurism and bizarre costumes. But i couldn't look away for 135 minutes.

Beth said...

Hans - I don't remember problems with dialogue or plot! Hmm. Might be time for a rewatch!