Sunday, May 10, 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - 2008

I was looking for a good movie to see this weekend. Tasveer and mediocre ones like Aloo Chat are still around. Among the English ones I had a choice between Underworld, Confessions of a Shopaholic and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I tried to cart my son along for Underworld, but he refused to go. So Underworld went out of the window, it's no fun watching a movie of that sort alone.

I would have picked Confessions Of A Shopaholic if it weren't for a comment on a friend's blog that she couldn't watch the movie on DVD as it was so boring. Boring is a word that's really scary. So I settled for Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, as I remembered reading a favorable review somewhere. Frances McDormand's presence on the cast clinched the deal further. It is directed by Bharat Nalluri.
Am I glad I followed my instincts ! Wholeheartedly !

Ms. Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) has lost a job and has been denied the wages for the last week even. She is at the lowest point in her life, having to eat at a soup kitchen, sleep at a train station. She visits her employment agency next morning to find the door slammed in her face, but she nicks a visiting card before she leaves. The visiting card belongs to Delysia Lafosse. She decides to visit Delysia and offer her services.

Just as she rings the bell to Delysia's apartment, she has second thoughts but returns to make another try. The door opens to a beautiful young woman (Amy Adams) who is obviously very flustered. She has one lover in the bed, another on the verge of a visit and another devoted one who waits in the wings, and never the three should meet. She throws her problems right at Guinevere Pettigrew and finds her quite capable of managing them. So Delysia hires Ms. Pettigrew instantly and tags her along with her everywhere for the day.

As it turns out the skittish Ms. Delysia is facing several dilemmas at the moment and is sorely in need of a wise counselor.  She has just done with trying to seduce the son of a famous producer, Phil (Tom Payne) in order to bag the lead role in his play. However, she is also in a thrall of the owner of a nightclub where she sings, Nick (Mark Strong). He keeps her in luxury, the fancy apartment she lives in is his and he is in no hurry to give her up. True Love beckons in the form of her piano player Micheal (the delectable Lee Pace). It is the night of reckoning - who does she finally submit to? Phil and a career on the stage? Nick and Luxury? True love and two tickets to New York with Micheal? She looks at Miss Pettigrew for answers to this and finds her own views changing through various points in the day.

Ms Pettigrew is pretty needy herself. She needs a job, food, security for future. She hasn't eaten in a long time, her soup at the soup kitchen the night before had spilled before she could take a spoonful, Delysia's cupboard is bare and she got only drinks where ever she went. Her genteel hunt for food is a delight to watch. She isn't looking for love but is drawn to handsome and successful Joe (Ciaran Hinds) - a lingerie designer who is a sought after bachelor. In this glittering glamorous world of shallow silly socialites, four people try to find love.

It is a totally feel-good movie, a romance. Despite its breakneck pace, you find yourself finding out almost everything about the characters. The loveless Ms. Pettigrew who has struggled to survive in this heartless world, a successful Joe who is at last fed up of being the darling of the beau monde and wishes to design Gentleman's Socks. Micheal, who just loves Delysia and wants her for himself exclusively. The scheming Edyth who wants Joe for his rich contacts. The young Phil who just wants to be able to sleep around.

Everything is brought to life perfectly. The times, the language, the ambiance, the dresses, the cars are all faultless. Amy Adams looks gorgeous, she plays the simpering silly socialite with her heart in the right place to perfection. Frances McDormand is perfect as ever. She speaks like a true governess here. Her language is a delight to hear. Just after encountering Delysia's naked lover in the bed - She tells her - "He was in the state of nature".

The men look absolutely handsome and yummy, especially Lee Pace.

It reminded me somewhat of Breakfast at Tiffany's, I guess because, Delysia is herself a high society climber and the ambiance is similar.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Oonche Log - High Drama

It was both the RIP Feroze Khan messages on my mobile, and the excellent review of Oonche Log by Memsaab that set me off to hunt down the movie. And what a treat that was.

Major Chandrakant (Ashok Kumar) is a retired major who was wounded in a war and has lost his sight. He has led a disciplined life and has his own moral standards. He cannot bear anyone deviating from them, and his punishment is usually 3 strokes of a whip. He has two sons. The older one, Shrikant (Raj Kumar) is an upright police officer who does not hesitate to rebuke his father if he finds him breaking the law. The younger one, Rajnikant or Rajjo (Feroze Khan) is a student and leads a life given to pleasure. Shrikant senses this and is distaurbed about it, but his love for his younger brother makes him sheild his misdemeanors.

Rajjo is carrying on with a classmate of his Bimla (K R Vijaya), they even holiday in Kodaikanal. This has repercussions when Bimla finds herself pregnant. She asks Rajjo to marry her as he promised. Rajjo is too chicken to broach the subject with his father and tries to brush off Bimla. Shrikant comes of know of the issue and shields his younger brother from the wrath of his father, but insists that Rajjo do the right thing, i.e. marry the poor girl he knocked up. Alas, Rajjo is not as Ooncha (great) as the rest of his family and finds his cowardly ways landing him in a spot he cannot get out of. It even comes close to ruining the integrity of his father and brother.

Of course all I have given here is the kernel of the story. The movie is fleshed out so beautifully, is so beautifully plotted that there are no loose ends. When there was mention of Rajjo's engagement, I wondered why should there be talk of this when the older son was yet unmarried. Right then I hear Major Chandrakant mention that his older son was engaged to a girl of his father's choice. Similarly, the background of the lonely blind Major is conveyed to us in two quick dialogues between father and son when he recounts his encounter with the enemy which left him blind and how he returned from war to find his wife dead.

The movie is shot mostly in interiors, the scene being the house of Chandrakant. It moves outside mostly with Rajjo who is the skittish one. In one telling scene, Rajjo is so pleased to recieve a transistor as a gift from his brother for his birthday, that he hugs the transistor, and dances out to the garden while listening to a lovely song (Hai re tere chanchal). It is almost as if he is the only one of the 3 who can 'stray'.

This is what I liked best about the movie, it goes beyond being just a thriller. It really gets under the skin of the characters. The father, the blind man, cannot see what his younger son is up to. He signifies moral uprightness, and blames Shri for the destruction Rajjo has caused, for keeping quiet when he should spoken up and exposed him. Shri signifies Law, the external control that society imposes upon us. He is constrained to arrest a lawbreaker, even if it is someone dear to him. Rajjo playes the troublemaker - dear to both of them - who really puts their ideals to test.

There are a total of four songs in this movie, all superlative, set to music by Chitragupt with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri.

1. Jaag dile diwana - sung by Mohammad Rafi
2. Aaja re mere pyaar ke rahi - Lata and Mahendra Kapoor
3. Hai re tere chanchal - Lata and Mahendra Kapoor
4. Ajab teri duniya are insaan - Asha and Mahendra Kapoor (maybe, not sure)

Battle of the Hotties
Right at the outset of the movie you realise that the 3 men share an amazing chemistry. Shri and Chandrakant are constantly bantering with each other, playing Police-Major all the time, even calling each other by their titles, 'Inspector-Major' instead of 'Beta-Pitaji'. Rajnikant is fondly called Rajjo - denoting the love the older men have for their youngest, which could have been a factor in spoiling the son. The three men look absolutely hot, Ashok Kumar is blind, but keeps himself spiffy. Raj Kumar looks very trim in his police uniform and handsome. Rajjo the rake is every bit charming and lovable.

In her review, Memsaab points out how the women in the movie stay firmly in the background. Major's wife is dead and a photograph, Shri's wife is a beloved fiance and again, a photograph, Rajjo's girlfriend appears on screen but is usually veiled and makes a brief appearence. A valuable comment on her post by Raja told me that the movie was actually an acclaimed play. The filmmaker - Phani Majumdar - wisely kept the movie taut and focussed like a play which explains why major action takes place in Chandrakant's drawing room and why the dialogue is so 'descriptive'.

This movie is a hidden classic, there is hardly anything about it on IMDB and you can google up barely anything. You simply have to read Memsaabs wonderful review. I have posted the link at the last, because I wanted to keep the readers on my page. BLUSH

Before you go - the climax is absolutely edge-of-seat-biting-your-nails stuff.