Just Another Day: ‘A Wednesday’

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A Wednesday

“A Wednesday” Review

Cast

Bomb-Planter……………………….Naseeruddin Shah
Prakash Rathod…………………….Anupam Kher
Arif Khan…………………………….Jimmy Shergill

Credits

Director……………………..…….Neeraj Pandey
Producers…………………….….Shital Bhatia, Anjum RIzvi, Ronnie Screwvala
Writer……………..…………..…..Neeraj Pandey

Well, after ‘Peepli (Live)’, here’s another breathtaking Indian film. “A Wednesday” is a risky film, especially in a land where there can be uproar for the smallest of things; yet, Neeraj Pandey pulls off this difficult movie with aplomb. With a tightly knit screenplay and a fantastic ensemble performance, “A Wednesday” is a brilliant film with an important message for each and every Indian and human being.

The movie revolves around events that occur on a particular Wednesday, events of which there are no record, be it with the police or otherwise. The events are only engrained in the minds of each and every person involved. The story follows a man who phones up the Mumbai police and tells them that he has planted five bombs in five different places in the city. The Commissioner of Police (played excellently by Anupam Kher) suspects that this is a crank call, but is shocked to learn that the bomb-planter is al business, as he has rigged 6kg of RDX to blow in the Mumbai police headquarters.

Knowing now that this is definitely not a crank call, the Commissioner of Police asks the bomb-planter (played incredibly-well by Naseeruddin Shah) what he wants. Shah says that in exchange for the locations of the five bombs, he wants the release of four notorious terrorists, responsible for the murder of thousands of innocent civilians. Release the four terrorists who will kill hundreds more tomorrow, or let the five bombs kill thousands today?

He’s got a real catch22 situation to deal with, and this begins a period of four tense and havoc-filled hours where the Mumbai police try everything to stop this man. They believe that the bomb-planter himself is associated with the four terrorists he wants released, and they suspect him to be linked with the Lashkar-e-Taiba terrorist group. The Mumbai police try everything and use every resource at their disposal to try and beat this man, but eventually are left with no choice but to release these four terrorists.

But when it is time to hand over the terrorists, things begin to take a confusing turn, which raises far more questions than it answers. Who is this man? What does he want? Where are his bombs? Why is he doing all this? These are just some of the questions that come up, and Pandey leaves the viewer guessing all the way until the fantastic, shocking and moving climax.

Neeraj Pandey has created a masterpiece of a script, but what matters more is the execution. Every single member of the entire cast plays his or her role pitch-perfectly, and this comes together to create a brilliant and thrilling film. Indian film legend Anupam Kher is great as Prakash Rathod, the strong-willed yet utterly helpless Commissioner of Police. He excels as the man who spearheads the attack on this unknown bomb-planter. However, the actor who stands out the most and really drives this film is Naseeruddin Shah. His portrayal of the mysterious bomb-planter, and he never sets a foot wrong, much like his character, throughout the film. In addition to this, even the supporting cast was excellent. The supporting cast member I was most impressed with was Jimmy Shergill, who played Arif Khan, one of the police officers at the centre of this whole predicament. He is remarkable as the almost-psychopathic police officer who sometimes pushes the limit in order to catch a perpetrator.

The screenplay, of course, must be commended. It never drags, and is thrilling right from its beginning to when the credits roll. Throughout its 100-minute runtime – a very short in Bollywood terms – there is never an unnecessary scene, never a silly or stupid moment. The end result is a marvellous film that has a significant message. This film makes the viewer think, especially the Indians amongst the audience, and has powerful comments on society, the government, and the entire system.

“A Wednesday” is an important film. It is vital that people see it, for the comments it makes are true and powerful. There are many problems in India and around the world, and some of these problems are brought forth in this psychological thriller. It really makes the audience think, and has a very important message that every person – Indian or not – must hear. Go and watch this film – if not for its message, then for its stellar cast and brilliant narrative. This thought-provoking social thriller is a must-see.

FINAL SCORE:

An Indian Story: ‘Peepli (Live)’

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"Peepli (Live)"

“Peepli (Live)” Review

Cast

Omkar Das Manikpuri…….…….….Natha Das Manikpuri
Raghuvir Yadav……………….…….Buddhia Manikpuri
Malaika Shenoy……………….…….Nandita Malik

Credits

Director………………….….…….Anusha Rizvi
Producers……………….…….….Anusha Rizvi
Writers…………………….….…..Aamir Khan, Kiran Rao

The moment you come upon this review, you might think “Huh? What’s this?” Others may be happy to finally see an appreciation for foreign films on this blog because, after all, foreign films can make you think as well. What both parties have in common, however, is the fact that they are unlikely to have ever heard of “Peepli (Live).” Even in India, this movie passed largely unnoticed, and it may surprise even the Indians that this film was India’s 2011 entry for Best Foreign Film at the Oscars. While it was never recognized and didn’t get a nomination, it nonetheless has an important story to tell.

The film is set in rural India, in a place called Peepli, and follows two brothers, Natha and Buddhia Manikpuri, who are impoverished, and barely have the means to survive. Despite this, with whatever money they do have, the two brother – instead of farming – go out and buy alcohol for themselves. This has been going on for a long time, and it simply could not be sustained; when the government comes and tells the Manikpuri family that they must repay their loans, or their land and home will be seized, the brothers know that they are in deep trouble. Without their land, they know they will be unable to make even the minimal amount of money they are making now and they will fall further into poverty and will not be able to uphold their family.

So when the family hears of a scheme which may get them out of this dilemma, they immediately take notice. The scheme is if a farmer commits suicide, the government gives the family Rs. 100,000 – at today’s conversion rates, that comes to just short of US $2000; that may not really seem like a great deal, especially considering that a whole family needs to be sustained, but that is how it is. The rural headmen of the village feel that this is a good way for the Manikpuris to get some money, and tell the brothers that one of them should commit suicide.

Now, the brothers have to decide which of the two must die, and finally, they reach the conclusion that it must be Natha who dies. However, a news reporter, Rakesh, from Peepli overhears this conversation in a bar, and reports it to his news agency. Immediately, the agency picks up the story in order to get a sensational suicide; farmer suicide stories are, alas, commonplace in rurual India, but to catch a “live” suicide would be making history. However, a rival Hindi news agency fins this story too, and this sparks off a tussle between the agencies for this ‘great’ story. Add to this the fact that there is political turmoil in the state where Peepli is (and where his film is set), and this is a recipe for disaster.

From here on, the story begins to take a very satirical turn, and uses dark humour throughout to get its point across. It takes a darkly humorous and satirical look at Indian media, and how it works, and on the ridiculously loose morals it is based on. It also comments upon the political indecision in the country and shows us just how incredibly stupid politicians and the government can be. And yet, we Indians gobble it all up and just keep on living.

The casting in this film is absolutely fantastic. Two relative unknowns in Bollywood (for those of you that don’t know, Bollywood describes the Hindi film industry in India), Omkar Das Manikpuri and Raghuvir Yadav give us extremely moving performances as Natha and Buddhia Manikpuri respectively. They completely embody their roles, and it makes for an enthralling move experience. The compassionate and sympathetic Rakesh, the reporter who overhears the story, is also played excellently as by another unknown Nawazuddin Siddiqui. The ever-amazing Naseeruddin Shah, an Indian film great, is also on-the-dot in his role as the Federal Agriculture Minister.

The score is also moving, with a pitch-perfect score. Many people feel that Bollywood is all about ramped up choruses and excessively large dance sets. However, this is not the case in “Peepli (Live),” as the music is subtle, and adds to the film very well.

This movie makes a lot of comments on media and politics in India, and on Indian society as a whole. The film really makes the audience think of the state of this nation; despite the fantastic 8% growth story, there is a deeply tragic back-story, and it simply cannot be ignored. It makes the viewers – especially the Indians – reflect on their own lives and the country as a whole. Despite humorous, this film makes us understand the bleak events that surround us at every corner, and that we are not doing anything about it. Unfortunately, suicide stories like this are all too common in India, but nothing ever changes.

This is not the usual garbage that Bollywood spits out. Bollywood, in terms of movies made, outnumbers Hollywood in the ratio 1:8. Yet, most of those movies are complete rubbish, just out to make a quick buck. However, occasionally, one comes upon a film which is deeply moving and makes the audience think – “Peepli (Live)” is just that sort of film. With a fantastic cast, moving story, and apt score, this film succeeds on every level. In the hands of any other director, this film could have turned into a mess, but Anusha Rizvi does the exact opposite, making an excellent film. Aamir Khan – in my opinion, the best actor in Bollywood – must also be given credit for the amazing job he has done as producer.

Many people have never sat through an entire Bollywood film, while others have never begun watching one, for whatever reason. But if anyone ever wants to delve into this industry and wants to see a good Bollywood movie which makes the viewer think, then “Peepli (Live)” is as good as place as any to start.

FINAL SCORE: