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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Three Explosive Women

Question: What do the films Day Night Day Night, The Terrorist and Dil Se have in common?

Answer: All three have female leads who are on a mission to blow themselves up for their cause.

Motives and Organizations:

Neither film clearly spells out the exact reasons and organizations the women are seeking to kill themselves for, with Day Night Day Night being the most vague of the three movies. In Santosh Sivan's The Terrorist we can guess the identity of the group which is training the terrorists because the setting of Southern India & the bombing method evokes memories of how Rajiv Gandhi was assassinated by a woman suicide bomber in 1991. Whereas in Mani Ratnam's Dil Se, a few background scenes gave the cause to be related to conflicts in North Eastern India.

Story:

  • Day Night Day Night

  • : The story is more interested with the character's last day before she heads to New York for her mission. We never meet the people who are directing her for this mission and even though a few of her accomplices come to meet her, they are hidden behind masks. For some reason, everyone in the film is so friendly when talking with the female suicide bomber, who is extremely polite herself in answering questions regarding the mission's execution. She is completely relaxed to go on her mission and only when she reaches New York does she show signs of weakness and nervousness. In one scene, she phones her family but does not have courage to speak on the phone. This is the only film of the three where the girl attempts to query God when she finds herself afraid and weak to carry on with her mission.

  • The Terrorist

  • : The story starts off at the training ground where Malli (Ayesha Dharker) is getting her education in killing people. She is picked to be a human bomber and we follow her as she heads to a village before she will get the call to kill the 'minister'. Along the way, she befriends a little boy and gets better acquainted with a family in the village.

  • Dil Se

  • : A love story which seeks to pierce through the surface and understand what true love is about, including the seven stages of love.

    Character(s) in focus:

  • Day Night Day Night

  • : The movie stays completely focused on the female suicide bomber at all times with her accomplices hidden behind masks.

  • The Terrorist

  • : Even though the center of attention is Malli, the film includes brief screen time for a little boy she befriends, a tiny cameo for a militant boy she has a fling with, an older grandmother in a coma along with Malli's trainers (without masks).

  • Dil Se

  • : Manisha Koirala plays the suicide bomber but since Shah Rukh Khan is present in the movie, the camera clings to him quite a bit. On top of that, most people will remember this film as the debut of Preity Zinta whose bubbly character lights up the screen.

    Locales:

  • Day Night Day Night

  • : Concrete jungle -- a chaotic New York city with the skyscrapers, bright lights and throng of tourists. Also there are plenty of food places for the female character to spend her last few dollars on and also to lessen her stress. A candy apple, two pretzels and a single slice of tomato are the items she feeds on. Incidentally, she gets charged 0.65 cents for a slice of tomato.

  • The Terrorist

  • : Lush Jungle -- the forests of Southern India form both the training ground for terrorists and serve as a beautiful cinematic backdrop. Since Santosh Sivan is one of the best cinematographers in Indian cinema, the background is perfect for him to capture prize shots of lotuses, dew drops on leaves, calm waters and the enchanting forests. On top of that, Sivan uses the environment as symbology to depict certain incidents in the film. For example, a lotus flower sinking in the water foreshadows the coming death of an innocent child.

  • Dil Se

  • : The entire Indian subcontinent is a backdrop for this rich musical. From the heart pounding train song of Chaiyya Chaiyya shot in Ooty (Southern India), to the Indian deserts in Western India to Kashmir in the North with key scenes taking place in the capital New Delhi. Santosh Sivan is the cinematographer of this film which was released a year before his directorial venture The Terrorist.

    Background score and music:

  • Day Night Day Night

  • : Shot with a digital camera, we do not get any background score but only the sounds that echo around the character, be it in her hotel room or in the traffic jammed city.

  • The Terrorist

  • : There is a background score which attempts to raise tension and give clues about the oncoming danger but for me, the film's images were far more memorable and powerful than the music.

  • Dil Se

  • : This film's music and songs have been some of the best to come out of Bollywood in the last decade. Of course, with lyrics by Gulzar and music by A.R Rehman, the songs were sure to leave a lasting impression. But the videos do justice to the poetic lyrics. The most popular song was Chaiyya Chayyia which featured soulful vocals provided by Sukhwinder Singh & Sapna Awasti. Also the memorable video with a dazzling Malaika on top of a train has played countless times on Indian channels around the World.


    Note: Spike Less used Chaiyya Chayyia in the opening credits of Inside Man.

    Even though I love Chaiyya Chayyia, the song that cast a spell on me was E Ajnabi (O Stranger). I can remember quite a few rain soaked nights that I heard this song on.



    Overall impressions & comments:

    Even though I thought highly of the cinematography in The Terrorist, I was not impressed by how the character's decision process was simplified; Malli's decision to take her life was difficult but the emotional hooks used to ease her choice were not to my liking. In fact, I felt the emotional hooks (grandmother in a coma to name one) were typical of most Bollywood films and had no place in a much superior film structure that Sivan was trying to construct.

    Although there are no easy emotional hooks in Day Night Day Night, the overall friendly tone of the film's first half seemed a bit odd to me. I can understand the intent of Day Night Day Night was to remove any political agenda and only focus on the female character but the film appears to be too light weight and more of an experiment to make a meaningful film compared to a film like Paradise Now, which was completely gripping and engaging.

    My most memorable moments of Dil Se center around the songs and a few collected scenes involving the chance encounters between Shah Rukh Khan and Manisha Koirala's characters. The film was supposed to usher in a new wave of Indian film making as it was the first collaboration of heavy weights such as Mani Ratnam, Shekhar Kapur and Ram Gopal Varma. The three directors were supposed to work on more films together but after the box office failure of Dil Se, no other projects between the three took place and they all went on to more fame with their separate paths -- Kapur with Elizabeth; RGV with Satya, Company and other Mumbai underworld films; Mani Ratnam with A Peck on the Cheek, Yuva and Guru.

    2 comments:

    Ridhima said...

    Dats interesting..i have seen dilse, heard of Terrorist anf have no idea about the 3rd one..but now i guess i'll try to get my hands on Terrorist.
    IF you also like to talk about your music then join in Planet Radio City where you can get all the latest info about ur fav music and singer/composer. Also get lyrics and meet others who like your kinda music.

    Sachin said...

    Thanks for dropping by.

    Day Night.. was recently released in N. America on DVD.