Shine On: reviewing Superstar


It’s not fashionable to sing praises to Kunal Khemu. Its certainly not cool to rave about a movie called Superstar especially when its released on the same Friday as a Ranvir Shorey, Vinay Pathak Mithya which of course has to be a sophisticated and superbly hilarious movie meant only for the self proclaimed classes.
So probably Rohit Jugraj would not get the due credit for making a roller coaster of a drama which reflects the ethos of a typical Bollywood masala much better than OSO claimed to.
One reason why he deserves the accolades is because it would not have been easy to recover from James to make Superstar. No one held back in slamming the movie which it probably deserved and his own mentor RGV disowned him (that the latter then remade the movie himself as Shiva which met with an equally disastrous fate is an amusing story in itself)
With Superstar, Rohit has redeemed himself. He can only go up from here.
There has not been a movie in quite some time where you could identify nay feel with the central characters. (ok, leave TZP aside for a moment). In Superstar you laugh when Kunal laughs, you cry (at least shed a tear) when he cries and your heart actually sinks every time his dreams are shattered.
The secret to the visual craft of Rohit Jugraj lies in its rawness. In James it was at display in the brutal punches but he went overboard there. In Superstar, he has started to learn the beauty of subtlety. So here when the dreams of the middle class struggler are crashed because of his look-alike becoming a star you get a close up of Kunal’s face with his head on the edge of roof and a single tear rolls out his right eye. There are a few more of these subtle touches like the shot of Marv from Sin City before Kunal takes on a bunch of goons or the portrait in rich Kunal’s room which clearly show that the director was in no hurry when he made the movie.
When the need arises to go lavish, Rohit does it in style again with near picture perfect frames. Despite being an out and out masala movie, Superstar avoids a number of clichés. So the rich brat is not exactly spoilt and though lonely he is not filled with self pity. Again, despite being a bumbling actor, he is not stupid and nor is he apologetic for his undeserved riches as he explains to his middle class look alike, “I’m just lucky, not stupid”.
In supporting cast, Sharat Saxena shines in the role of a middle class father who is ashamed of his son being a struggler. One scene stands out, when he explains why he never praised his son but is showing off his achievements when he is dead, he says, “Kya karen, middle class jo hain…sharm kuch zyada hi aati hai…” touché.
Tulip Joshi is so beautiful and not a bad actress at all as she proves yet again, so why she’s not seen more often and in bigger productions makes one suspicious of the ‘skills’ of the other actresses who do manage that.
The music again is quite good and gells really well with the mood of the movie (if you think this is a standard line, watch Welcome and you’ll realize what happens when the music is totally out of sync with the movie).
So in a nutshell Superstar rocks and if it had names like SRK or Farhan Akhtar associated with it, it probably would have been one of the year’s biggest hits but now it’ll be just one of those movies which came and went. But just as well, because it does mark the birth of two new stars, Kunal Khemu and Rohit Jugraj.

PS: This got published in April 2, 2008 Filmfare. They cut it down quite a bit actually. Took out most of the sting and the barbs leaving it quite bland. To be fair to them some of the portions they left out were not exactly "movie review".

The Colour of Love is Red: short story


The End
An abrupt squall with deafening noise of screeching tires forced the old man on the bicycle to close his eyes as he felt a train thundering past him. He opened them just in time to see the scarlet Skoda crashing into the crumbling boundry of the small puliya, about a hundred meters ahead of him. It dangled from the edge for a moment as he watched, reflecting the morning sun and then slowly tipped over to fall in the deep valley. ‘At least I don’t have to worry about getting any rescuers now’, thought the old man.

The Beginning
It was a match made in heaven. When they bumped into the dusty narrow corridors on the first day of the college, both of them fell down. She was the first one to get up. She did not offer her hand to him but rather took his hand and pulled him on his feet even as she kept cursing him for having made a mess of her favorite red dress. A week later she surprised him by kissing him just as he was talking about his failed attempts at understanding poetry. For the rest of the five years at law school they were almost always seen together so much so that the rare public appearances that they made separately would spark off hopes of their break up in the cynical gangs of the college, all of which and all of whom would be crushed the next day when they would be spotted back together. When the job offers were being made in the final year, it was quite expected when both of them chose the same law firm in London.
A year later, after a day of hard fought rounds of negotiation in the office while they were waiting for the tube on a windy London night, she gave him the option of a dingy Chinese place or a slightly better Italian one as she said they were too tired to cook anything. He surprised her for the first time in a long long time by telling her that he had already made reservations at a posh continental restaurant. As they stepped inside the elegant interiors of the restaurant, she suspected there was something wrong with his head and when she saw the exorbitant items on the menu, her fears were confirmed. Twenty minutes later when they were sipping on an exclusive claret, she got her second surprise of the night as she found her drink spiked with a platinum ring. Rohit’s eyes asked a question and Shweta smiled a “yes”. They got married in Bombay a month later. Two months later, they started a new law firm there along with three of their batch mates from college.
The first time Atul saw Mahak, she was standing stiff upright dressed in a sari, awkwardly trying to smile without showing her teeth. He did not like the photo and told his mother that he would never marry an ugly girl like that. He had to soften his position after he was shown around twenty probables over the next six months, all of whom made her look like a fairy tale princess in comparison. The second time when he was forced by his parents to see her, he realized that she did not look as bad in person as she did in the photo. It certainly didn’t hurt her looks that her father was the biggest supplier of rotators for his father’s wind turbine company. Also as she had done MBA from Australia, after marriage she could help in managing the family business. So, three months later they were gotten married.

The middle (what else!)
One of the first major challenges that Atul had to face after taking charge of the company after his father’s death was that of dealing with the strike in one of the factories. It was a tough time for him. Till his father was there, he had been working with an attitude of a carefree employee and never took seriously his advice to take part in the management of the company. Sensing this to be a perfect opportunity, the other major shareholder launched a bid to takeover the company which led to a bitter legal battle.
His domestic life was also in dire state. Mahak turned out to be the typical rich snooty wife he had had nightmares about marrying. It was futile to expect her to help him out or even understand his problems. She was completely preoccupied with her own passion of socializing from parties to charity dinners to art exhibitions. Of course what mattered to her were not the malnourished babies or abstract expressionism rather being seen in the right places with the right people.
But then someone came in his life and one by one all the clouds got cleared. To begin with their relationship was strictly professional but soon she became a personal friend and it was not long before that they realized that they had something special between them. Words which are often exaggerated as a mode of communication had minimal importance for them. Even through the most tense times, they could share comfortable silence. A mere glance at his face and she would be able to sense if there was something wrong, a mere glance at her and a smile would cross his face. So almost a year after she had walked into his life, Atul gathered up the courage to ask her if she would marry him, of course after he had divorced his wife. He was expecting a ‘no’, though hoping for a ‘yes’ but was shattered when Shweta replied that she was already married. But why had she kept it hidden from him? Before he could ask her, she had left the room.
It did not take him long to find out the reason. Just six months after Shweta’s marriage, her husband met with a terrible accident which left him nearly dead. After some time the doctors gave up almost all hopes of him making a recovery but somehow he had been holding on in that vegetative state; a constant reminder of the cruel joke played on them by fate. Slowly, Shweta tried to pick up the pieces of her life again but she got tired of the sympathies of her friends and colleagues. That was the time when she quit and joined Atul’s company as a legal adviser.

“You have to move on, how long can you go on like this?” Atul pleaded with Shweta.
But how could she? It has already been four years and yet it did not sink in. Sometimes she would wake up in the middle of the night and think that it was all just a bad dream and everything would be normal in the morning as it had been. She still remembered the awkward manner in which Rohit had reacted when they had kissed for the first time. She could still clearly hear his laughter in her ears; feel his touch on her skin.
Of course time had slowly and quietly taken its toll. It always does. Even the strongest of emotions or memories become faded over the years. Then again there are times when one’s refusal to let go of the past starts distorting it. She started becoming unsure of how his voice was. Because she wanted to hold on to his memories so much that she could not accept the fact that she may have forgotten how he exactly sounded. To delude herself, without knowing she started putting a voice to his face in her memories which was quite different from his real one.


Somehow Mahak felt suspicious. It was nothing in particular that concerned her but he seemed to be a bit different recently. Now, that she was thinking about it she was surprised that she hadn’t noticed that sooner. While, earlier he used to get quite irritated with her social life which often lead to heated altercations between them, off late he had almost stopped bothering her. He had also started behaving with her with a touch of politeness which made one of her friends remark that it was as if he was talking to his neighbor’s wife. She had taken all this as a victory over him, a sign of his submission to her dominance in their relationship. But now all of a sudden she felt uneasy. Though she did not understand it but it was the fear of losing Atul that made her nervous. Of course she took him for granted but that did not mean he did not matter to her. She was married to him for life and the thought of separating from him never even crossed her mind. Love has many manifestations. Possession may not be the most dignified of them and certainly not as beautiful an expression as sacrifice but it still is love.
So it was quite expected that when she found it, her world came shattering down. Actually, it was nothing much but in her mind clouded with suspicion no testimony would have been more reliable. Atul’s cell phone bill showed an alarmingly high frequency of calls to a number which she knew to be of his beautiful legal adviser. Also, a number of them were made late in the night convincing her that something was amiss. A sudden rush of blood in her head made her go almost blind as she jumped into her Skoda, hoping to confront Atul in his office or better still catch him in the act with his lover early morning.
She had been sitting there for quite some time and probably had fallen asleep for a while but could not be sure. He was lying in front of her. Sometimes he would open his eyes. The doctors said that he could recognize faces. But even if he did there was no acknowledgement of it on his face. Those blank eyes would keep staring at nothing in particular. It appeared as if life was draining out of those eyes ever so slowly. Those were the eyes that had once reflected dreams, hopes and promises of future.
She got up and twisted the knob that controlled the amount of oxygen being forced into his lungs. She wanted to hold on to his gaze all this time, accompany him till the threshold. For a second she felt she saw an expression of gratitude in them but soon his eyes were closed. It was as if he did not want her to see death in his eyes. For a brief while his body seemed to struggle. Then the thrashing stopped almost as suddenly as it had started. She reopened the knob and walked out of the room.
BLANK. It was as if all her senses had stopped working all of a sudden. No sound reached her ears; her brain registered the whiteness of the morning sun and nothing else. She felt light and free like she had never before. She did not even realize when she got into her car and started driving. Of course, she had no idea where she was going.