Two days ago, I was stuck in town between meetings with nothing to do for three hours and the rain pouring down. There was no film playing at any of the multiplexes in the 1 to 2 pm slot, and so it happened that I bought a ticket for Kambakkht Ishq at Eros, and experienced the new low that Hindi cinema has plumbed.
I won't waste my time and yours saying much more about this piece of cinematic garbage, besides letting you in on a crucial plot detail. Kareena Kapoor, studying to be a surgeon in Los Angeles, operates on Akshay Kumar, a top Hollywood stuntman, and accidentally leaves her pendant watch inside his abdominal cavity while stitching him up. The watch sounds a periodic chime, a mantra, which must be magical because it travels through blood and guts to be audible at a distance of many meters from Akshay. Not able to figure out where the sound is coming from, the stuntman wrecks his house trying to find the source of the maddening chant. Much of the film involves Kareena trying to get Akshay back on the surgical bed in order to retrieve her watch.
Needless to say, the film is a hit.
The next evening, I watched Gabhricha Paus (The Damned Rain) at a theatre near my home, and a greater contrast from Kambakkht Ishq can hardly be imagined. While the Bollywood multi-starrer is set among the mansions and high rises of LA, the low-budget Marathi film concentrates on a village in Vidarbha where farmers are been driven to suicide by debt. It is praiseworthy that a film-maker has sought to bring to life the extraordinary difficulties farmers in India face, but unfortunately he has done so with no cinematic imagination. The story reads like a school lesson in the various ways in which farmers might lose their crop: the rain could fail; or, on the other hand, a flood could wipe out most of the crop. Pumps fixed to irrigate the land won't do their job because of power cuts. Procurement prices are low. The administration is corrupt. And so on. Each of these obstacles merits a scene or two. But nowhere do we feel the heat of central India before the rains or the pure joy of the first cloudburst. An old tree is spoken of as a brother, but merits no close-up. When it has to be sold for timber, we do not see the axe strike its base. Everything that could forge a bond between audience and characters is given short shrift.
Thinking back on the script I realise there's a black comedy there waiting to burst out of the drab happenings, but the director is clearly scared of gallows humour, and has strangled those bits through underplaying.
Needless to say, Gabhricha Paus has won a number of awards and citations on the festival circuit.