Saturday, January 16, 2010

some impressions of a non-functioning, unsubtitled screening of NTR Jr's Adhurs

It's almost unfair that I say anything about Adhurs at all. I knew going in that it was unsubtitled and I would therefore miss a lot, even though the plot about twin brothers separated at birth (and one is a tough guy while the other lives with priests) sounded awfully familiar; on top of that, our screening was beset by massive technical difficulties. We made it aaaaalmost through the first song -

which offered the motto "Life Is a Cocktail" in its chorus and reminded me of Bluffmaster's "Boro Boro" with fedora-ed strongmen posse

and skankily-attired writhing ladies surrounding the hero in a nightclub, but with a lot more kicking in the dance steps - when the sound cut out. And then the picture stopped. And then the house lights came up. Pause for five minutes. Picture, no sound. Pause. Sound, no picture. Etc. The film lurched along like this for another half hour or so, and the theater staff came out to apologize and explain that the projection equipment cannot go backwards, meaning we couldn't backtrack to catch the bits we had missed. Long story short: no dialogue and inconsistent visualization of plot = huh? Even in the sections that worked properly, there was obviously a lot to this film I didn't catch.

But I gotta say, even after the pragmatics got ironed out and the film was running smoothly (I'd estimate at about 45 minutes in), I was not inspired to stay past interval. I had read in several reviews that this film, like so many others, suffers from The Curse of the Second Half (meaning it's really not as good after the break), its greatest strength was comedy (which I knew I had no hope of understanding without subtitles), and the best song was in the first bit, so my friend and I cut our losses and went for cocoa with no regrets whatsoever.

Here's what I did manage to get: the credo of this cast and crew seems to be "Why do an interesting thing once when you can do it at least four times? MORE IS MORE!!!!!! Why would you...

And so on. (And yes, I realize the irony of me giving so many, many examples of how more is more.) I assume the answer to all of these questions is paisa vasool. It is not the fault of Adhurs that my experience of it was too incoherent to appreciate all the effort that got put into it, but unfortunately I was just too confused and annoyed at the situation to appreciate all the glee. Given what I've seen of Telugu films in isolated clips on youtube, I suspect my reaction to this would have been a slightly perplexed pronouncement that "it's a bit much, but I sure did love the army of red pleather-trousered, shrug-wearing male backup dancers," but that really isn't fair in this case. Fortunately, the theater manager announced he was going to try to show at least one Indian film per month, so it sounds like I might get to try again soon!

[Pause to bask in the joyful glow of the opportunity to see an Indian film in the theater every month. This is big, big news for a city of 100,000 people in the middle of Illinois!]

To end, an ethnographic note: even though I didn't have any idea of it when I started watching Hindi films, I quickly discovered that Indians in the cinema are, behaviorally, my people. I have always been an exuberant movie talker and thus shushed, glared at, and generally avoided in my home culture and everywhere else in the world I've seen films. Except India - and, gloriously, in American theaters full of Indians! I love it! Want to have a running commentary with your friends? No problem! And why should it be? Art is supposed to inspire thought and exchange! Side note: my favorite take on this difference between American and Indian cinema audiences comes from a friend from Delhi, who said "We're a much bigger country. You can't shush all of us!" The communicativeness of the audience is my favorite part of the experience. When NTR Jr. made his entrance, people hooted and clapped (and a bunch of stuff exploded and flipped over). (No such treatment for the heroines, interestingly. Not a blip.) My usual experience of technical difficulties in US midwestern theaters is that we all sit quietly trying to figure out, without talking, who will get up and tell the staff about the problem, and it's a battle of unspoken internal worries about appearing too bossy or demanding. On the other hand, when the sound and picture crapped out in Adhurs, people booed, kids ran around, and everyone just turned calmly to their neighbors and resumed the chats they had started before the film began. Yesss! That is the way to deal with obstacles to one's afternoon happiness. It's also just an amusing experience to be a visible minority without leaving my own town, where I am generally indistinguishable at a quick glance from a large proportion of the other residents. But whenever an Indian film plays, the numbers and colors flip-flop, and I get a little taste of what it's like to stick out and get stared at. And in its usual generous and beneficent way, Bollywood culture has somehow arranged for this to be a good thing for me most of the time: sometimes I make new friends before the show starts when people lean over and say "Do you understand these movies?" or our usual film organizer (whom I am dying to interview!), who recognizes me, pushes through crowds to hand me a ticket when the queue system breaks down (which it often does, another fascinating flip of standard US event procedure - see my post on the Unforgettable Tour for a scarier instance). He wasn't there today, and this time, when I walked up to the ticket counter and said "One, please," the man with the roll of tickets started and said "For the Telugu film?" You betcha, yaar! And for next time, will someone please teach me how to say that in Telugu?

10 comments:

filmizest said...

Great list, Why indeed. lol

It's a shame your first experience turned out badly and didn't get to see the film fully. The reviews are all about the comedy in the first half so subtitling would be handy.

Hope it didn't put you totally off Telugu films and you give another one with subs a try. Tamil/Telugu films are a lot about the experience in the theatre so at least you got a feel of that.

Maybe saving the claps for the item number instead of Nayan lol.

I am not a great ntr fan but will see most major films in theatre. I hope I like it more than you.

jensc00t said...

Unfortunately, in the States, only Hindi films are subtitled for their theater runs. However, I have it on high authority--a Desi guy who was extracting film reels out of an Acura to deliver to my local cinema--that they are trying to get Tamil films translated.

I might just start going regardless. There are some Telugu fantasy genre films that look interesting (gods bless CGI.) As someone who loves sci-fi/fantasy AND films involving shiny shiny dance scenes, I can't really go wrong.

Vishal said...

Like anime, Telegu films (and South Indian films in general) have an audiovisual shorthand that can be baffling to first-time viewers. I have seen never even seen a whole Telugu movie, and everything in your bullet-point list was already familiar to me, some of it due to the inevitable creep of South Indian directors and styles to Bollywood, but mostly from similar subtitle-less sojourns into late night Telugu TV channels during India visits.

I tweeted to you that Telugu films have an energy and weirdness factor that even trumps Tamil films from what I've seen. If Tarantino is Tamil to Bollywood's Michael Bay, Telugu cinema is certainly... hmm, Tarantino & Rodriguez's super-weird Japanese protege? Yeah, that works.

But they do have some interesting films coming out. Look up Magadheera for what is easily the most accomplished FX works in India yet.

Beth said...

filmizest - The praise for the comedy worried me before I even set foot in the theater. Comedy is notoriously difficult to translate linguistically, let alone the cultural references. I did get the reference to Amitabh's Cheeni Kum character, at least, since it was entirely visual. ;)

If you get to see it, do write it up for us all!

jensc00t - Yeah, that's what I hear. I had to giggle at your high authority because that is exactly the kind of insider information I too long to get and rejoice when I have - and then I have to laugh at myself for my delight at having conversations with guys in alleys over car trunks. Because THAT is what is comes to sometimes! Like I needed another analogy for films being like drugs.

I say: you should definitely go. The theater experience is always interesting, even if it doesn't help you much with actual comprehension. I had a great moment yesterday of desperately trying to figure out why the audience was laughing so much before my memory lost what had happened 1...3...10...15 seconds ago and then just having to shrug mentally and move on.

Vishal - I've seen four whole Telugu films, all involving Siddharth (I was visiting one of the Vienna bloggers who's a huge fan). But none of them was as WTF as this (and possibly more Archie comics-like, now that I think about it?), so I was not quite as prepared as I thought I was. That is by no means a complaint - it's fabulous to get to be surprised by things.

Please don't put "Bollywood" and "Michael Bay" together anymore. I pout and scrunch my nose. ;) By "super-weird Japanese protege," do you mean the guys who did Funky Forest? I would love to see Magadheera - I read a writeup that makes it sound supercrazydivine.

allvishal said...

Funky Forest is exactly the kind of thing I'm talking about! (I mentioned Ishii in my Spider-Man post)

This Archie influence thing is so far-reaching I may have to start a whole 'nother site just to cover it :P -- but ideas are brewing, especially with regards to why Archie caught hold, and there may be a post in upcoming weeks if all thoughts congeal.

Louella said...

Well, as NTR dance is awesome, his movies mostly sucks. OK, Yamadonga and Ashok were fab, but the rest I've seen was just bad.

LOL, The Curse of the Second Half xD It's big problem in Tollywood actually... Large number of latest movies were superb in 1st hours but after interval there were just unwatchable.

Vinayak, director of it, makes hits but as far I've seen 5 his movies and none of them was good. I alwyas keep my figers crossed when rumours about his new movies with my fav heros come - I want them to be false:P

Only 4? So you weren't prepared right for Adhurs :P As far I has some knowledge in telugu industry, I can rescommend you recover form it some other good movies for AP like Pokiri, Kotha Bangaru Lokam, some works of Venky or Anukokunda oka roju.

Louella said...

Raa is telugu yaar, no idea about betcha ;)

shell said...

I've yet to see anything outside the Hindi film arena (Lord knows you could watch a movie every day of the year and never catch up!), but it's certainly interesting to hear about how different the styles of film making are.

Also, I totally get your bit about the movie theatre experience. I often feel like I have to be so quiet when I venture to see a Hollywood production (even being shushed by my husband), but the Hindi film experience is so much more liberating. Laugh as loud as you want, talk to your neighbor about whether or not the heroine's outfit it too trashy, sing along with the music's lyrics, it's all good! I have this fantasy about getting up out of my seat and dancing my fool heart out ala Om Prakash during Dhoom Taana and hearing the crowd roar with enthusiasm!

Erin Georgia said...

Haha, the film alone, despite your experaince looks too fun for words. I'm a sucker for "more is more is MORE!"

I have to agree that there is nothing more entertaining and enlivning that sitting in a theatre with Indians! It literally breathes life into the film. My family has always made fun of me for laughing aloud in movies, so what? Isn't that the point? The first BW I saw in theatres I noticed the audience interaction and then I knew: there was no going back, I had found my people! Thank goodness I did!

MP said...

I saw this one in a theater too.....I understand Telugu pretty well (though I dont speak it well) and I was *bored* to tears.
The story was straight from the 1970's, NTR's dances need to catch up to Allu Arjun and Ram Charan's slicker moves and he seemed to lack any sort of charisma at all.
I love me some OTT but most of it in this movie were cringe-worthy.
Totally recommend Magadheera if you get a chance esp on a big screen.