Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi / Oldboy

These two movies might look like strange choices to be paired together but inspite of the differences in language, theme and content, they do share some important traits. They both take risks and emerge unscathed and successful. They turned out to breaths of fresh air considering recent films I've seen in their respective languages. They aren't for everyone. And they feature the best third acts I've seen in movies in a long, long time...

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi

At heart, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi is a familiar love triangle. We have a boy(Sidharth) and girl(Geetha) in love with each other and another boy(Vikram) pining for the girl. But the unfamiliar background, and the effect it has on their lives and their loves, makes for very interesting viewing.

HKA takes place in the turbulent 60s and 70s. While not detailed enough to provide a history lesson, the happenings of the time are always in the background. The political awareness among students, the naxalite movement, the emergency - all these shape not just the country but on a smaller level, the lives of the 3 protagonists. The time period guides the trio’s decisions and fashions their lives. Throw them into a different decade and we would get a completely different - and probably uninteresting - story.

All 3 protagonists are painted in shades of gray. If Sidharth is almost too idealistic and stubborn, Geetha doesn’t mind pursuing her passion whatever the moral repercussions and Vikram's only aim is to climb up the economic ladder. There are times when we applaud them and there are times when we don’t approve of their actions. This kind of characterization lends a certain unpredictability to the proceedings and I was rarely sure of the direction the movie would proceed in.

The movie has a great script(you anticipate this right at the beginning when it starts off finding a horological mistake in Nehru's 'Freedom at Midnight' speech!) with several gems scattered throughout. And it succeeds in making us laugh at the most unexpected moments.

The last half hour of the film is really amazing cinema. The screenplay is almost delicious as it gets the lives of the protagonists to intersect in very imaginative ways. And the way it leads us on with a familiar-sounding letter before showing us that the tables have turned is simply mindblowing. The final denouement is tragic in more ways than one since it marks the death, not of people, but of love, passion and dreams.



OldBoy is a psychological thriller like no other I’ve seen. This originally Korean film is suspenseful, violent and moving in equal parts and is most certainly unforgettable.

OldBoy is the cinematic equivalent of a roller-coaster ride. While it runs, it makes us hold on tight, close our eyes, scream, laugh and even throw up as it zooms through highs and lows. And it ends with a steep dive that is exhilarating and sickening at the same time.

On the way to give his daughter her birthday present, Oh Dae-Su is kidnapped. For 15 years he remains locked up in a room, with no idea why he was kidnapped or who did it. And then just as inexplicably, he is released. With his wife dead(he is the prime suspect) and his daughter adopted by a family in another country, Oh Dae-Su's only aim in life is to track down his kidnapper and kill him. A waitress Mido helps him in his quest.

The film is like Memento in that it places the protagonist in the middle of a huge puzzle and then puts us in his confused shoes. We know only as much as he does. We don’t see his kidnapper(s) and we don’t know why he was abducted. So we understand his single-minded drive to uncover the reasons behind his ordeal and we are with him as he painstakingly unravels the puzzle piece by piece. The suspense moves the film forward even and takes us along with it during the slow portions.

A movie like this, that thrives on suspense for the majority of the running time, must surprise us for all the suspense to seem worthwhile. And boy does Oldboy surprise! It delivers a knockout as it reveals the villain and his diabolical plan. I wasn't sure whether to applaud the audaciousness of the director or be shocked by the actual proceedings. Rarely have I felt so bad about the plight of a film's protagonist. And the movie continues to surprise as it doesn't follow even the usual resolution of the battle between good and evil. But then it doesn't know when to stop and goes in for a convoluted, weird close.

But a word of caution. This movie is certainly not for everyone. There are a couple of scenes of brutal, sadistic violence that made me avert my eyes. A particular dinner scene is sure to make you gag. One scene skirts close to soft-porn. And even the ending, while surprising, will definitely offend those with certain sensibilities.


At 9:03 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am not sure if you know this already, but there is already another Hindi film which has ripped off Oldboy and the copycat direcor Sanjay Gupta has been flayed for it. the movie is Zinda with Sanjay Dutt playing the lead role. For probably the first time, the Korean guys are talking about taking legal actions against Sanjay. If hopefully more people do this, it would be good for Indian cinema.

At 10:55 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

good news

I hope this is some sort of beginning of the end for Vijay. Lets see how his rowdy dad handles this. Obviously he cannot strong-arm the owners from running the movie for 100 days and claim false success any more. Heres wishing "Murasu" a resounding flop.

At 11:14 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

sorry for posting it here but since we have had discussions about this guy in the past..heres more

Vijay refusing to compensate for athi's losses(like Rajni and others did earlier) thereby earning everyone's wrath:

Man I am loving this.

At 6:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

balaji, how come every time you say "you", it excludes *me*? i didn't gag at the octopus scene, and i didn't think it was all that violent. i thought old boy was corny and gimmicky, and like i said in a previous comment, pcw and manirathnam make slick movies that come with gimmicky discussion points, so they get a lot of press.

(bhuvan, nobody knows is japanese).

At 11:22 PM, Blogger ashok said...

first time to ur blog...good work mate...cheers

At 11:57 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

vijay, yep. actually it was news of the remake that made me rent 'oldboy'.

bhuvan, berardinelli had both '3-iron' and 'spring...' on his top-10 lists for the years they were released in. so will definitely watch them soon...

anon, i guess thats why movies r fun. the same movie could mean completely different things to different people and evoke completely different reactions!

At 12:08 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

hey bj

glad you finally were able to catch hka, I agree with your review

along with “d”, it was my fav hindi film of 2005

though I was a little surprised to see no mention of ahuja’s spectacular performance in your review

and just as a side note, you already gave us a tamil top 10 for 2005…. any chance we can also get a hindi top 10 from you?? (or at least a top 5)

and completely agree w/ your review of oldboy also, another excellent film

though I remember when I was watching it, many parts of the film reminded me of alan parker’s “angel heart”

did anyone else get that??

oh and just something completely non-related - ramus next flick ‘shock’ (has nothing to do with the tamil “shock”) releases tomorrow (starring ravi teja, jo, tabu, kota)

check out the promos..

shock promo

song promo

there are also plans for a tamil remake w/ surya and jo - though ramu will not be a part of this one, he has just sold the rights (just like he did w/ bhoot, which resulted in the tamil “shock”)


At 12:29 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

anon, i guess thats why movies r fun. the same movie could mean completely different things to different people and evoke completely different reactions!

then shouldn;t you be saying "i" instead of "sure to make you"?

At 5:50 PM, Blogger Balaji said...

vic, i realized only later that i'd missed out talking about the performances altogether... but yes i thot all 3 gave great performances. very natural...

i venture into a tamil top10 only cos i see most, if not all, tamil films released every yr. but i'm not even close to seeing all the hindi flicks released in a yr. so would be pretty unfair if i did a top 10 of anything in hindi :)

shock's opened to average reviews i guess. but jo's garnered a lotta praise. good for her :)

anon, yes i agree. i did say "me" for the violence and i should've said the same for the "gag" part :)


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