Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Revisiting a dear cousin

No one pulls the wool over the eyes of a Gambini. Especially this one.

This piece of news. Somehow it doesn't make me too happy. Maybe because the film about to be remade is a great big personal favorite. Maybe because I'd wanted to make it in Bollywood when I grew up. Maybe because I just cannot look at Ravi Chopra without a certain amount of disdain. He of the B-films. (This is something I just noticed, but all Mr. Chopra's films now seem to start with a B, not unlike Ms. eKta K-apoor.)

But first things first. Do I have reservations against Govinda playing Joe Pesci's role? Let's see, in all of Joe's illustrated career, this will perhaps be rated as one of his two finest roles (the other of course, being Goodfellas). Can Chi-Chi be quite as good? (Will he look too old? C'mon, surely nobody can look older than Joe?) Well, I'm prepared to give him a proper go at it, with a proper director and all. I have faith in him, I do. Not in Mr. Chopra's sensibilities, I don't.

Up next. Is that Lara there playing Marisa Tomei's character, or Tabu? Either way, where is the role for the other? I can't conceive of one. Another sweet brainwave of Mr. Chopra? Look, we can't play much with Ms. Tomei's role here, can we? It was her winning the Academy on an outside chance for this role, remember?

Remember these immortal lines?

Vinny Gambini: What about these pants I got on? You think they're okay?
Mona Lisa Vito: Imagine you're a deer. You're prancing along. You get thirsty. You spot a little brook. You put your little deer lips down to the cool, clear water - BAM. A fuckin' bullet rips off part of your head. Your brains are lying on the ground in little bloody pieces. Now I ask ya, would you give a fuck what kind of pants the son-of-a-bitch who shot you was wearing?

Delicate delicate stuff, constructing this character. Doesn't make it any easier when you want to distribute footage between the lawyer's fiancee' and the defendant's girlfriend.Or is Tabu playing Judge Chamberlain Haller, by an wild stretch of imagination? That, would be fun to watch.

Apart from the lead actors, then, and every other peripheral detail, the film is about two Americas looking at each other with a lot of distrust and hostility. The southerner's attitude to the big city slickers who, as a matter of fact, are Italian-Americans, or worse, Jews, borders on xenophobia. And the City slickers? Their take on these hicks is best summed up by this line:

Vinny Gambini: Hey Stan, you're in Ala-Fuckin-Bama. You come from New York. You killed a good old boy. There is no way this is not going to trial.

Hard to be set into an Indian context, but then, you're reminded of our own north-south divide and you're reminded of Ek Duje Ke Liye and you say, OK, not that hard.

On another level, this is the story of the underdog winning against unsurmountable odds. Because he has truth on his side. Because of John 8.32."ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free". Whenever in my limited power of appreciation for works of art I've had doubts about the quality of something, I've asked myself this:

Does it bring a lump to my throat? Did I come back with a tear in my eyes?

Yes, it does. In more ways than one. And I'd always wanted this dear cousin to be revisited like that. With a tear of joy. Somehow, I find it hard to believe Mr. Chopra and team will be able to recreate that ethos.