Monday, December 26, 2005

Bluffmaster...

…is pretty good. Don’t know why it’s been panned in most quarters. I thought it was a lot more honest than many other Bollywood films – the ones that almost seem to feel guilty about letting their characters have too much fun, and stick in some faux-moralising every now and then. (Bunty aur Babli being a good example.) There are elements of that in Bluffmaster: at the end of the film it’s clear that the Abhishek Bachchan character, a con man, has been through a therapeutic experience – but there’s also something about his crooked, knowing smile that makes you wonder if there’s another twist just around the corner.

The film incorporates elements from David Fincher’s The Game (with Michael Douglas and Sean Penn) and the underappreciated Nicholas Cage-starrer Matchstick Men (in fact Abhishek’s character even has the same name as Cage’s – Roy) – but it isn’t a shameless rip-off by any means. However, if you’ve seen either of those movies, you’ll probably figure out what the big twist in this one is. I’m not saying any more.

Boman Irani, fine actor though he is, didn’t completely cut it for me in his role as a homily-dispensing doctor. But Ritesh Deshmukh as Roy’s sidekick (a role as nicely written and performed as Arshad Warsi’s Circuit in Munnabhai) and Nana Patekar as a self-worshipping bad guy were delightful to watch, and Abhishek was better than I’ve ever seen him before (certainly much better than his overly solemn turn in Sarkar). Priyanka Chopra was, well, there.

I was afraid this was going to be another entry in the New Bollywood Posturing series: lots of wipes, fancy camerawork and MTV-style visual gimmickry, actors striking fancy poses like in boy-band music videos and making sad attempts to look Cool. There was a little of that but it was done with panache and it never seemed too self-conscious – for instance, Ritesh and Abhishek are so natural (and occasionally so goofy) in some of the dance sequences that it doesn’t feel like they’re reaching for style at the expense of spontaneity. (Contrast this with the woefully intrusive “Nach Baliye” sequence in Bunty aur Babli.) Most of Bluffmaster is like that. It works.


P.S. Here’s a review of Matchstick Men, which I wrote for The Statesman a couple of years ago. It’s never a bad time to revisit that very underrated film.

15 comments:

  1. It works! I completely agree. Yes, the "inspiration" from the Hollywood films is there too. But as a true blue, bonafide Bollywood masala film...it rocks!

    The first thing that struck me was the way he showed Bombay in this film. For once, and for a change, we see Bombay as this hip, fast-paced, urban city with neat flyovers, stylish skyscrapers, the sea that's the USP here, the Gateway and places like Leopold's which now co-exist with Olive and Vie etc. There were a lot of shots on top of high-rises so u can see the skyline almost all the time. A great relief and a tad more credible than the Bombay of RGV films which is very ugly, seamy and murky,filled with dark chawls and ugly, potbellied gangster type men!

    The experiment with music is very refreshing. Using musicians from Sweden and Denmark, moving away from the conventional did work well with the people. And the Right Here Right Now song can safely be called India's first tastefully done kitsch video.

    And Rohan Sippy's cool insouciance as he plugged two of his other films (Kuch Na Kaho and the forthcoming Taxi 9211) in this one, left me grinning!

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  2. Hail! The Jabberwock is watching Hindi films with a vengeance. Sweet justice!

    Which song do you mean by the 'nach baliye' sequence? B&B, with all its failings, produced the most boisterous, spontaneous, foot-thumping item number of all times -- kajarare. How it transformed Miss Goody Two Shoes Rai into the Indian man's wet dream is the biggest mystery in Bollywood today. But you ought to watch it just to see Abhishek's expressions -- rather, his leer. He's superb in the song.

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  3. @jabberwock: Saw it yesterday and I cannot share your enthusiasm--all I saw was a clever reworking of the "Game" . Clever it was in the sense that they did not copy the premise in toto but yet I am always disappointed when I see one more Hollywood copy as if we cannot, for the life of us, come up with one original idea.

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  4. Finally, one more person who thinks Matchstick Men is underrated. Cheers.

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  5. Ah yes, Matchstick Men. Whats there not to like.

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  6. B&B, with all its failings, produced the most boisterous, spontaneous, foot-thumping item number of all times -- kajarare.

    This is where I look upwards and scream WHY, GOD? WHY?. Hrmph.

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  7. Nikhil: ha ha, yes I'd read the "Naach! *cracks whip*" post when you'd first written it. Don't mind the Marauder's Map - she's just in love with junior B. All women are.

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  8. I'm absolutely not in love with Junior B. I feel very protective and motherly about him, that's all. And really, this song is awesome even without Jr B's antics. Sounds exactly like those played by visiting 'orchestra' parties back home on a tinny keyboard.

    Unrest Cure, when you get to my age you'll start appreciating the ribald, raunchy and completely unintellectual stuff like kajarare. Just look at Jabberwock, he's watching films like Bluffmaster and blogging about them too!

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  10. To be honest, I didn't mind it the first sixty/seventy times I heard it playing. Over the next sixty/seventy thousand times, my reaction has changed from 'Not again' to 'Let's get the **** out of here'.

    Not that I'm averse to anything unintellectual. I recently heard this song on repeat for three hours. Am I getting old? :P

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  11. Ok ,I'm a li'l late on this, but Jai, appreciate your sense of judgement. I too liked Bluffmaster. (Ok , so I'm totally totally enamoured by AB Jr and like MM, am at an age where I shamelessly appreciate the ribald, raunchy and completely unintellectual stuff like kajarare) Irrespective of such asides, I think Bluffmaster still makes the cut, even if it is just for its slickness.

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  12. Late to the paty again!
    Bluffmster! The plot! The jokes! The music! The setting! As a true Bombayite, loved Sippy's shots of Bombay -- forgotten corners of Haji Ali, terraces of Colaba buildings, secret spots only known to the Bombnoscenti.
    Didn't know it got panned in India. Out here its been running to packed houses since the last few weeks. Yes, even the one am show. So who cares what party pooper critics have to say. This was one helluva good film.

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  13. Oops Jai. Sorry about the typos in that last comment. Was a little too excited :)

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  14. Nice post. The movie itself however, is a complete lift from the English movie Criminal, which in turn is a lift from the Argentenian movie Nine Queens. Just when you think you can relax....sigh...

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  15. Hey is there anybody out there who liked Ritesh b bit more than Jr B? I say "a bit more" cuz i genuinely liked Jr B but must say i absolutley LOVED ritesh in the movie. Especially in the song sequences.

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