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NANDINI KRISHNAN
Cinema Scope

Politics of Kaam Sutra

19th Jan 2013

Inkaar

Director: Sudhir Mishra

Starring: Arjun Rampal, Chitrangada Singh, Deepti Naval

The easiest way for a woman to undermine a man's reputation is by accusing him of sexual harassment. Make the right noises, shed the tears, and overnight, he's the tharki, she the victim. On the other hand, have women really broken the glass ceiling? Is there equity in salaries, in career opportunities, in office romances? And if a woman and man were in a relationship at some point, is he allowed making a move on her after they break up? The subject is a complex one, and Sudhir Mishra isn't afraid of the grey shades.

Inkaar, which was originally titled Kaam, weaves between the past and present, and we see so many versions of what may have happened that we're not quite sure where the blame lies, if at all blame is to be laid on anyone. Most of the action happens at a hearing presided over by social worker Mrs Kamdar (Deepti Naval). As they recount what happened to a committee that comprises two men and two women, Rahul Verma (Arjun Rampal) and Maya Luthra (Chitrangada Singh) play on sympathies and weaknesses, layering the story with possibilities.

Mishra raises crucial questions in this film, and explores the idea of gender bias. Are women the only ones who suffer from biases? When you mould a protégé into becoming what he or she is, how much does the protégé owe you? Can a romance between boss and subordinate take on a different power equation out of office? Does that affect office relations? If there's a spark between two people in different grades, is it genuine love, manipulation, or power play?

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Mishra raises crucial questions in this film, and explores the idea of gender bias.

The fact that both Rahul and Maya are small town kids with strong ambitions brings in another dimension. However, one wishes that Maya's roots and her dynamic with her mother had been illustrated as well as Rahul's with his family. The film is well cast – both Arjun Rampal and Chitrangada Singh look the part of the characters they play. Rampal's grown tremendously as an actor over the years and his portrayal of the character is nuanced. We see an arrogant, assertive man who can also be caring and introspective. Chitrangada Singh tends to overdo the sultry looks and hard talk, but carries off the role nevertheless.

Sadly, the film shies away from the brutal end it needed – like the cruel assertion of human nature we saw in Hazaaron Khwaahishein Aisi.

The Verdict: The end strikes an odd note, but this is a gutsy film, one that should be seen.

Big guns, no fire

Gangster Squad

Director: Ruben Fleischer

Starring: Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Sean Penn, Nick Nolte and others

Given Ruben Fleischer's penchant for comedy, I suspected Gangster Squad was a spoof when it opened with a tough-guy voiceover and the trembling of ancient muscles, followed by a man being torn apart like a Christmas cracker. No. Turns out they're really serious about this one. And from quoting Edmund Burke's "All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing", to spouting lines like, "You'll wake up one morning with your best part stuffed into your mouth", the film doesn't skirt a single gangster movie cliché.

Now, that's all very well if you like watching four men walk tough as a fifth smokes nonchalantly, leaning against a car while another blows up in the background. Or, if you like violent fights choreographed to opera music, with blood squirting out in ballet leaps. But this offers us nothing new, nothing that hasn't been done – and done better – before. There are some delicious lines, and the comic timing of the screenplay stands testimony to Fleischer's skill in that genre. However, in aspiring to gangster kitsch, the film has way too many ridiculous set pieces.

When a film claims to be based on real events, perhaps the way to go about it is to pare down the drama of it all, like the makers of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy did. Guns, bowler hats and trench coats are dramatic enough, without studiedly suspicious glances, the constant rattle of machine guns, and the biting out of lines as if carrots were stuck to the actors' palates.

The other problem I have with the setting is that, while the production quality is quite wonderful, the dialogue is at odds with the era. The costumes, colours, signboards, and music take us back to 1949, when Hollywood was 'Hollywoodland', but the star cast is stuck in the wrong decade. Their drawls are not the staccato of the Forties and Fifties. And all the hair gel in the world won't disguise an anachronism like, "All good things have to be burned to the ground one day for the insurance money."

At times, the story shows promise, but it's undermined by unlikely twists, and confused character sketches. I mean, I get why a wife would break a dinner plate when her cop husband decides to take on a ruthless criminal, but I don't see how she could be cheerfully shortlisting prospective comrades over breakfast. The nail in the coffin is a saccharine final voiceover that wouldn't be out of place in a Disney production.

The Verdict: Yet another run-of-the-mill tribute to the great gangster films that catapulted Hollywood's Italian-origin bad boys to fame.

 
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