Saturday, October 13, 2012

Aiyyaa is a quirky yet clunky affair

Aiyyaa is directed by Sachin Kundalkar, a two time National Award winning Marathi filmmaker, and produced by Anurag Kashyap's AKFPL, along with Viacom 18. The film starts with Meenakshi (Rani Mukerji) enacting out many hit songs of Sridevi and Madhuri in her dream, which intermittently keeps breaking into her real life. The whole film plays out like a prolonged gearshifting between her dreams where she is following the man of her dreams, just by his smell, and reality where she is living an obnoxious life. At its best, Aiyyaa is experimental cinema that will not work for everyone. More on that later. When the first trailer came out, the lollypop visual style incurred a clumsy labeling for the film wherein people claimed it was ripoff from the success of The Dirty Picture last year. The subsequent songs and promo videos did not help the buildup to this Rani Mukerji release. While the irascible portions of our audience complained that the promos reeked of Rani's desperation, I myself was pretty disappointed by them, yet relentlessly investing my faith in the phalanx working on it. In the end, Aiyyaa turns out to be a movie that leaves you wistfully longing for a better procedure to this tricky experiment, yet its not entirely terrible.

Kundalkar's Marathi drama, Aiyyaa, is possibly the quirkiest film to come out this year. In his world, none of the characters are completely sane, though most definitely warped and crotchety. This triggers a mad barrage of sequences, driven by his indulgent experimentation. The loud uncouth mom, the cynical dad, the eccentric grandmother, the imbecilic brother, the annoyingly dumb co-worker and Meenakshi, the indefatigably filmy daughter who can transport herself into a dream world at the blink of an eye, the world that takes her away from the cluttered heap of her reality. All the insanity churns up a few astute moments in the narrative, but on most other instances, it makes you groan in pain. The missing ruse in this experiment is that the whiff of a plot can be summed up to a short story of 5 minutes. Despite its innovative handling of this wobbly premise of characters, Kundalkar's focus remains concentrated on building the weirdest bunch of oddball characters and sequences, and not on layering the story with more meat. Meenakshi recognizes the love of her life by his smell and fancifully follows him like a creep all through the movie, breaking into a song sporadically. Her family has a zany, peculiar sense of humor that is devoid of the pasty faced hamminess, but works only at times. Her co-worker, Maina, is the peskiest funny character in the film that could make you shoot a bullet on the screen. Kundalkar tries to court the audience with a lot of indulgent weirdness, but not all of his efforts pay off. Some instances work, others dont, never seamlessly adding it up as a whole. The tonal shifts are jarring and the movie seems to drag in a clunky fashion. 

To be fair to him, the intention to portray the lusty side of a forbidden woman, who is paraded everyday in front of potential grooms for them to accept, with a bout of absurd humor, Bollywood kitsch and over the top melodrama, was originally great. The fantasy world of Meenakshi is garish and sexual, while her reality is suffocating and upsetting. While Kundalkar shows much candor in accentuating his narrative with lust and sex, it may not go down well with a lot of Indian audience having to see a female getting her sense of liberated love by smelling her man or the objects he touched, stealing the shirt he wore or the hankerchief he used and immediately breaking into a fantasy. There is a lot of fresh flavor in his direction, his usage of imagery, colors, smell and female desires, but it confoundingly takes ages to ripe and never goes the full hog. There are many absurd and asinine points in the film that will hit you like a tranquilizing dart and make Aiyyaa difficult to consume, but if you have the appetite for the strange, it throws in enjoyable moments almost every 5 minutes. Though a bevy of people have claimed the film and its songs to be racist towards South Indians, I actually thought that some of the boisterous goofiness may be caricaturish but never hurtful. 

Produced by Viacom 18 and AKFPL, Aiyyaa is unlike any film that Anurag Kashyap has been associated with. Music and Background by Amit Trivedi is not his best, but still manages to liven up the screenplay, specially with its smart usage. At many instances, the music stops and continues when Meenakshi's dream continues. Dreammum Wakeuppam is probably the pick of the lot while What To Do is the most unrequired song ever in an Hindi film. Vaibhavi Merchant's choreography for Aga Bai and Sava Dollar is spellbinding fantastic, enhancing the sensuality of the proceedings with much ease. Aiyyaa is a a gimmicky colorful film, that is loaded with eye popping visuals and possibly every color that exists. Amalendu Chaudhary's cinematography is strikingly ebullient capturing some of the finest moments on screen. The multiple close-ups of Meenakshi, the pulpy ripoff of the yesteryears, the leaking colors in southern masala, the serene shades of blue paint in water or the dowdy environments of Meenakshi's house, Chaudhary has marveled this one with a lot of variety. Same goes for Ashok Lokare's Production Design, as this must have been a hard film to work on. The person to be held against a knife is Editor Abhijeet Deshpande, who has allowed Aiyyaa to hit the screens as an overly long ditsy affair of 150 minutes. 

It is unfathomable to imagine Aiyyaa without the energy of Rani Mukerji. Amongst a bout of fresh faces, Rani reinvents and submits herself to Meenakshi, delivering a stellar performance that permeates awesomeness in each screen. She plays the melodramatic queen, the female wanting to break the shackles of her life, the woman lusting after the man of her dreams and the girl with a faint sobbing heart with stunning perfection, re-affirming the talent reserves she always had. She shines, and outshines the movie, through and through. Nimriti Sawant as her mom is smashing, delivering one of the best lines and comic moments all through the movie. Prithviraj Sukumaran makes a confident Hindi debut but doesnt get much scope beyond being an object of desire. Amey Wagh as Meenakshi's brother ranges from hilarious to annoying, while Anita Date as her co-worker tries hard but only manages to get on your nerves. Jyoti Subhash as her grandmother is a lot of fun to watch, specially as she zooms around in her electric wheelchair. Satish Alekar and Subodh Bhave are allright.

Aiyyaa is a rare film that experiments absurd humor instead of chronic gags, but gets quite lost and incoherent somewhere in trying to do a lot with its treatment instead of etching a hefty storyline. The only positives to carry back from this one is technical excellence and the spirited performances of the fresh cast, along with a promise that this experiment can be bettered. The film may have opened well but last week's release English Vinglish is bound to retain its momentum due its word of mouth even this week and it will dent the collections of Aiyyaa. For this one time, my rating may not reflect how much you will like the film because I know people who have liked it a lot. If you are Rani Mukerji fan, dont miss this one. Here is an extra half star for her.

Rating - 2/5

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