Chasing Rabbits

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Tag: Musings

In Appreciation of Dibakar Banerjee

My body clock has decided that every night I should somehow wake up at around 2, 2:10 am no matter how tired I am.

Tonight was no different. So I decided to listen to the Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! soundtrack.

While listening to the rip-roaring electronic rap track Chase in Chinatown I made up my mind to write this.

I knew Dibakar Banerjee was a filmmaker who directly spoke to me, more than any other contemporary Indian filmmaker, when I saw Oye Lucky Lucky Oye.
Wikipedia lists it as a “black comedy”. Why the film spoke to me was because it was angry. It was angry in a way few Indian films were. It was both angry and funny.


OLLO was about class wars and I identified strongly with the protagonist Lucky, who comes from a lower middle class Delhi suburb, to become a master thief to fulfill his upper class aspirations.

The scene where a young Lucky stares at upper class convent educated girls getting out of a swanky car with their boyfriends stayed with me.

Lucky was strongly motivated to make a name as an upper class Indian playboy type in the highly class conscious Delhi and he knew money talked. He was bitter, angry, sarcastic, scornful – exactly like DB’s films that followed OLLO.

In fact when I think of DB, I conveniently reject the fact that he made Khosla Ka Ghosla because that is NOT Dibakar’s language. That is not Dibakar’s soul. That was Jaideep Sahni’s soul filtered through a debutant filmmaker eager to please the slowly growing multiplex audience.

The real DB can be found in OLLO, LSD and Shanghai and with each film, he grew darker, angrier and stopped giving fucks as far as Bollywood conventions are concerned.
With Detective Byomkesh Bakshy’s promos (First, Second, Third) and the spectacular music album, it seems like he has reached the pinnacle of not giving fucks!

Coming back to OLLO, being a small town lower middle class kid thrust into St. Xavier’s, Kolkata, I received a strong culture shock. The liberal, up-market atmosphere…the people…the world of urbane, stylish, self-confident women, overgrown boys with myriad hairstyles with their perfect English accents, with no tinge of colloquial thickness, freely available weed and alcohol and zero inhibitions towards them, the attitude of it all – it was a stark contrast to where I came from. I didn’t realize it then but I do now – a seed of bitterness grew in my gut that probably has a lot to do with my present scorn for liberal, couch-politics today.

And Dibakar spoke to my soul.

Come LSD. Love, Sex Aur Dhokha. DB challenged Bollywood conventions yet again and wildly, outrageously. He didn’t shout out from the rooftops ten times a day about how Bollywood was trying to buy his soul like Kashyap. He never had that fan following. His films weren’t as pen-and-paper ambitious and didn’t have the veneer of classiness like those of Vishal Bharadwaj’s. LSD was a wild child, produced by what-the-fuck-was-she-thinking Ekta Kapoor and the experiment paid off; if I am not wrong, it made 9 crores off a 1.5 crore budget.

30 x 40 legs_pink_opt_

What struck me this time around apart from the anger was his attention to details. To quote Baradwaj Rangan, my favorite Indian film writer (till I find any better) from his review of DB’s Shanghai, “If God is in the details, then Banerjee’s films are certainly sky-scraping cathedrals”. There was the usual “class wars” present and how! Banerjee scratched the underbelly of India’s caste politics, masculine mentality and contemporary media brouhaha with the precision of a Swiss watchmaker and the no-body-left-alive attitude of a SS Jew killer. He spared nobody. Not even Aditya Chopra. The film was a psychological sledgehammer to my system and I, then in my first year of college, had already decided by then that Banerjee is a filmmaker after my own heart.


Then came Shanghai. DB’s adaptation of Z. When I heard DB was going to adapt Z, I was like “No shit, of course”. The material was perfect for DB to send a Fuck-You to both Bollywood and Indian politics, albeit, in his usual snide and low-key (but not really) manner. The film didn’t make money but any strong follower of DB could see that his films have been seeped of all light. If his debut film Khosla Ka Ghosla was a cotton candy, Shanghai was charred wolf meat fit for medieval vikings. The film was like a Best-Hits-Of-Dibakar-Banerjee. Three-dimensional characters. Even the smallest characters, like the tempo driver or the funny, naive, local goonda played by Pitobash had shades that made them real. The difference between Kashyap and Banerjee is that Kashyap is a wild, reckless train who doesn’t know where to stop with his characters (or films for that matter); his films echo small town India or the seedy metropolitan underbelly as well as Banerjee’s but he seems to be in a mood to parody them. Banerjee shows them exactly as they are without additional embellishments. Banerjee has strong self-control. He knows where to stop with his characters. Shanghai was a master-class in filmmaking. In less than two hours, it said more about Indian democracy than any Indian film had in the last twenty five years. A lot of people didn’t like it, perhaps for the downbeat tone or the so called “twist ending”, but it was more than its individual parts.

The sum of its parts, Shanghai, was a black, pitch black, angry film and I reveled enjoying its menacing madness.

DB is also an exceptional lyricist. To know that you need to get hold of LSD and Shanghai’s music album and listen to the lyrics of Tainu TV Pe, Tu Gandi Acchi Lagti Hai and Bharat Mata Ki.

He is the best of Bangaliyana, the classic Bengali intellectual, without his lazy shortcomings. He is the ubermensch when it comes to the Bengali intellectual filmmaker operating in mainstream Bollywood, a place that could have been like hell to a person like Banerjee if he didn’t know how to operate there.

But he is a sly fucker, the bespectacled guy.

And now, comes Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, a Yash Raj film.

Banerjee, who made fun of Aditya Chopra’s brand of ridiculous cinema in LSD, got the guy to produce it and what a film he seems to have produced. Everything about the film is a gigantic FU to Bollywood conventions, Bollywood music conventions, but most importantly to the legacy of Byomkesh Bakshi. He has revamped the character, jazzed it u…sorry, punk rocked it up and HOW! Cannot wait for April 3rd. Cannot wait for my master to rub his charm on my belly and make me feel warm again.

If DBB scores well with the Indian audience, Dibakar Banerjee, fingers crossed, will turn Bollywood head over heels in the coming years, mark my words.


On Facebook Debates

Facebook is bad place to express your views. Really. More often than not, it will lead you into a debate because of some asshole just like you, desperate to prove a point and very keen to come across as the rare ‘thinker’. Remember what Ramadhir Singh said – “Jaisa loha loha ko kaanta ta hai, waise chutiye chutiye ko marega na?” (The way iron cuts iron, similarly an idiot will take care of an idiot right?). Their idiocy will suck you right down a vortex of endless debating that the virtual onlookers i.e people who just accidentally came across your status and the ensuing comments, will merely glance over because they have a lot of other shit to glance over, AGAIN, just like you. To be honest, halfway down the line you have even stopped caring about the debate. You just want to go sweet talk that girl you have made fraandship with. Or maybe you want to check the funny collegehumor video that has finished buffering. But you can’t. Why? Because the chutiya is not letting you, or to be precise, the chutiya that is YOU is not letting yourself – you dug this grave on your own accord when you invited the friendly neighbourhood spirited Facebook debater to shit all over your timeline. I mean what constructive effect does Facebook debating have? The train of comments is not just an eyesore but it really ticks you and everyone else off, because remember, Facebook is a fun place to be in, for people to engage in fun (or at least, seemingly fun things to do) and that does not include debating over whether Al Pacino was better than Bob De Niro or why Modi shouldn’t be PM (This discussion I’m honestly tired of. Kill me now). If you want to debate about politics, do it on some political site. If it is about cinema, do it on IMDb, Mubi, etc. Comics – some comics site. Books – Goodreads or some such site. The internet is a nice place because it not only has something for everybody, it has a place for every chutiya to exercise his mental and verbal chutiyappa. Just don’t do it on Facebook. It’s not the place for discourse.

Indie Doesn’t Bake My Cookie

My mental constitution, I suppose, does not allow me to accept and internalize new music no matter how good it is. No matter how much an artist or an album is championed by Pitchfork and my hipster buddies (sorry!), I can go to the extent of liking them but never loving them. I cannot dig this new music that’s around, all under the umbrella term ‘indie music’. I cannot fall in love with them like I genuinely loved U2, Radiohead, Pearl Jam, REM, Brian Eno, Nine Inch Nails, Massive Attack, pretty much every great band of the 90’s, be it grunge or Brit-pop or alt.rock or nu-metal, whatever.

I don’t know where the problem lies. Either it’s just me OR (it’s plausible) most of the new music that I’ve heard is good to hear, yes, but can’t boast of any memorable hooklines. It’s all fancy mixing. A mishmash of genres and styles without soul. 90’s was all about attitude and soul. There was a kind of sincerity in, say a song like ‘Alive‘ (Pearl Jam), that I rarely find in contemporary music. I mean an Indie ‘rock’ band has to ROCK, right? These new bands seem to be more interested in making experimental (and often, batfuck crazy, like Animal Collective’s work) soundscapes than actual SONGS, and even then hardened ambient/post-rock artists like Steven Wilson, Sigur Ros and Brian Eno kick more ass in that department than any other contemporary act.

I mean really if we are fortunate enough to have revolutionary, game changing albums like NIN’s The Downward Spiral (’94) or Radiohead’s OK Computer (’97) release in this decade, I can be more kind and optimistic about the future of the music industry. I don’t really consider Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot or Arcade Fire’s Suburbs as game changers.

Interestingly, the most enjoyable music right now, to me, is mainstream pop, particularly from the guys who redefined pop in the early 2000’s. I really liked Kanye West’s Yeezus and Justin Timberlake’s The 20/20 Experience was fantastic. There’s real audacity working in their music – I think that is partly because these guys are pop music veterans and don’t really have anything left to prove. Among new artists, I really like Lana Del Rey, Gotye, Frank Ocean and Lorde (Note: none of that is rock music). Some other artists are, like I said, interesting to listen to but don’t really bake my cookie.


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