Thursday, April 05, 2007

Stock Market and the Bedroom

Of the two viewings this week, the indie Indian film was certainly a refreshing experience whereas watching the Bollywood movie was painful.

Gafla (2006, Director Sameer Hanchate): Rating a very subjective 8/10

An unheard of film yet just pleasing to watch. Even though this movie about the stock markets lacks the intensity of Wall Street or Boiler Room, it is a worthy watch. The story is tailored around the real life of Harshad Mehta, an ordinary man who rose from poverty to become a driving power behind the Indian stock market. Yet, his decline was as swift as his rise and he was jailed in a large financial scam and eventually died in jail. Circumstances surrounding his imprisonment and even his death were sketchy and seemed straight out of a Ram Gopal Varma film.

In the film, Subodh Mehta (Vinod Sharawat) plays an everyday man is willing to do anything to become rich; he does not want to take baby steps to achieve success but instead dreams of jumping past everyone to the top. Subodh is given a crash course on the workings of the stock market by Hari (Brijendra Kala in a delightful role) and quickly learns the ropes. He is willing to take risks and plans on some clever strategies to reap profits. His new ways draw plenty of fans but even create a few enemies. In the final scenes of his decline, he echoes the same sentiments shown in the recent Mani Ratnam film, Guru, where the main character also complained about the system trying to hold people back. Both Guru and Gafla try to show that sometimes outdated rules have to be broken for individuals and nations to progress. Ethically, these ideas may seem murky but they do contain some truth in that financial models have to be re-evaluated as international economies grow.

Despite the low budget (example: the stock market floor clearly looks like a set), the visuals are sharp and well shot. The opening scenes of Mumbai are breath-taking and some of the best ever shown in recent Indian films. Acting wise, the best performance is by Vikram Gokhale who plays a seasoned stock market pro with enough experience to know when to switch sides. The characters of Subodh, his love interest Vidya (played by Shruti Ulfat) and Hari play their parts well. There are some subtle references in the films that I didn't catch at first. Subodh's love interest is called Vidya which means knowledge. The other woman who enters his life is called Maya (Illusion). The names clearly indicate the two separate paths before him and even foreshadow Subodh's fate. Just like Black Friday, I enjoyed this Independent Indian effort and I am glad that it was made. Even though the movie is not perfect, it is still better cinema than some of the mindless commercial movies that are made.

Red: The Dark Side (2007, Director Vikram Bhatt): 5.5/10

Neel (Aaftab Shivdasani) has a hole in his heart and is facing death. Luckily, his life is saved after the hospital finds a heart donor. Despite all the hospital disclosure rules, Neel is keen to learn about the man whose heart saved his life and seeks out the donor's wife. Safe to say, Neel falls for the widow and is happy to jump into bed with her. After that point, a murder conspiracy mystery is crafted yet right from the outset, it is obvious what is happening.

Some of the night scenes are shot well using only street light. But a few good visuals can't salvage this mess of a film. Yet another disaster from Vikram Bhatt. Celina Jaitley still can't act and the rest of the cast are mere props. Yawn.

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