9 October 2011

Cinemascope: Soundtrack; Love Breakups Zindagi

Full of sound and fury, signifying nothing

Director: Neerav Ghosh
Starring: Rajeev Khandelwal, Soha Ali Khan, Mrinalini Sharma


Debutante director Neerav Ghosh's Soundtrack is a tepid and mostly pointless remake of the Canadian indie It's All Gone Pete Tong (2004). Ghosh seems to have happily adopted not just the plot – the gradual dissolution of a once charismatic DJ – but also the style of the original film: mock-documentary, complete with a parade of real-life talking heads. So we have everyone from Anu Malik to Anurag Kashyap making cameo appearances to discuss, in all seriousness, the dizzying rise and even more vertiginous fall of the fictitious Raunak Kaul, hero of the megaclub dance music scene. Ah yes, the megaclub dance music scene in India, which throws up star DJs with massive fan followings...you know? Actually, you don't.

So the first problem with this film is that it is set in a world that doesn't exist. The 24 hour party scene is actually lived by a small but thriving circuit in Ibiza, where the protagonist of the original film, Frankie Wilde, acquired his short-lived fame in the late 1990s. But in Soundtrack, the nonstop rave parties come off seeming like an excuse for an easily-titillated Hindi film audience to be able to see girls in skimpy clothes play chess games with shot glasses, or have rivers of Scotch poured down their open mouths.

The second problem with the film is the acting. Rajiv Khandelwal, who plays Raunak, is a decent actor by current industry standards, but not once in the film's first half does he manage to give us a sense of the pulsating, maniacal crowd energy that a great DJ ought to be able to whip up. Charlie (Mohan Kapoor) is unbelievably awful, while everyone else sleepwalks through their parts.

Soon, however, the parties start to peter out, and we're supposed to experience the tragedy of our hero as he discovers he has an untreatable condition called tinnitus, and is slowly but surely growing deaf. Unfortunately, this section of the film is filled with fake theatrics: from a ludicrous life-sized clown who shadows Raunak everywhere and with whom he fights imaginary battles (er, yes, himself) to tying dynamite around his head, setting it alight and then jumping into a pool, to the room soundproofed with pillows in which he spends months.

Things are beginning to seem irredeemable – both for Raunak and for us – when Gauri (Soha Ali Khan) enters the picture. Suddenly we're in the midst of an entirely different film, as the deaf-from-birth Gauri teaches Raunak to lip-read and live life. Soha Ali Khan does a surprisingly good job of playing Gauri – sweetness and light without a saccharine overdose – while Khandelwal succeeds in breathing life into Raunak's life-altering discovery that sound can be experienced through vibrations, felt rather than heard. The film's final third is predictably corny, but anything is an improvement on the hamming and gimmicky high-drama that came before. The finale also contains 'Ek Manzil' – the only sort-of memorable song in a film that should be about its music.

Not saved by the bell

Director: Sahil Sangha
Starring: Zayed Khan, Dia Mirza, Cyrus Sahukar, Tisca Chopra


Another debutante director, another tragically lukewarm film. The central premise of Love Breakups Zindagi is the classic rom-com trope about how there's someone out there for everyone – you just have to find them. But as one of its characters pronounces in a moment of high clarity, "relationships are the biggest problem of our generation". So arty photographer-type person Naina Kapoor (Diya Mirza) is going out with investment banker Dhruv (Vaibhav Talwar), who's nice and all, but no matter how many guitars she gifts him, he never seems to take the hint and turn into someone else. Meanwhile, Jai (Zayed Khan) lives in deathly fear of his superwoman girlfriend, stoically accepting her Valentine's Day gifts of management tomes – and silently sitting by while she makes impressively personalised conversation on the phone with each and every one of his relatives. It's a matter of time before Naina and Jai discover they're with the wrong people, and find each other. There's also Jai's friend Govind (Cyrus Sahukar), the movie's obligatory nice guy, who's been divorced twice but doesn't seem to have given up on coupledom. And since everyone must come together – where else but at a wedding?

The leads and second leads are all pleasant enough and we'd have been quite content to play this predictable match-'em-up game, if it wasn't for Sahil Sangha's excruciatingly slow direction: everyone is constantly having to say that they're having fun, because otherwise they might fall asleep. Things are not aided by Sanyukta Shaikh Chawla's wafer-thin screenplay and ham-handed dialogue. ("If you ever need my support, I'll be there, silent but strong," says Jai to Naina in one of Chawla's moments of subtle genius.) Boman Irani makes an appearance, as does Shah Rukh Khan. But this is the sort of dud that cannot be saved by all the good-hearted cameos in the world. As the film's only decent (and thus oft-repeated) line goes: ghanti nahi baji.

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