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Deep in the heart of the Vatican,dark conspiracies are being hatched. Shrouded in whites and blacks,priests and cardinals nod knowingly at each other while the candlelight casts an eerie glow on their faces.

Demons of Past
Film:
Angels and Demons
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks,Ewan Mc Gregor,Stellan Skarsgard
Rating: **
Running at: Roxy,Menoka

Deep in the heart of the Vatican,dark conspiracies are being hatched. Shrouded in whites and blacks,priests and cardinals nod knowingly at each other while the candlelight casts an eerie glow on their faces. Somewhere,a flock of pigeons fly away,unwittingly exposing a dead body with cryptic symbols carved on it. Time to call Professor Robert Langdon,the James Bond of the conspiracy-riddled Catholic world. And what do you know,like the super sleuth,the professor too has a thing for speedos,albeit skimpy black ones. He is flown to the seat of the most powerful religion of the world,Vatican City,in a chopper to investigate the mysterious doings of an underground religious cult,and he does so with trademark panache — Langdon runs from one Roman architectural wonder to another to gather clues to solve a somewhat obvious puzzle. However,who are we to questions Langdon’s remarkable deductive abilities. Within hours he solves the case,exposes a heinous,changing-the-fate-of-humanity proportioned conspiracy and order is restored. Langdon flashes a smile at a group of fawning priests while a skinny damsel (who happens to be a scientist),simpers beside him. With a wave,Langdon flies away to Paris to solve another life-changingly important case.

Okay,so the above recounting of events isn’t exactly accurate,but does it really matter? Dan Brown and plausible plots — no. Ron Howard and crime thrillers — no. Tom Hanks as an action hero — let’s not even go there. Displaying the same kind of imagination that gave the world a thoroughly uninspired adaptation of a plebian novel (The Da Vinci Code),Angels and Demons tries to piggyback on Hank’s star power. Bad idea. If there is anything more painful than following the contrived plot of the film,it’s watching the slow but definite drift into irrelevance of one of the most important actors of our times.

Furthermore Angels and Demons manages to blow most of its accumulated readership goodwill in a ludicrously extended pseudo-spiritual climax that should simultaneously offend believers and thoroughly irritate non-Christians. The film (and the book) keeps asking whether faith or force will save the human race,before hedging its bets and insisting on both.

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Interestingly,by now most Hollywood fans are used to the convention that the Roman Catholic hierarchy is best prepared to combat any kind of national disaster,what with its dagger and gun wielding priests. But Howard decides to go much deeper and dumber than that,grinding the Christian symbolism into our faces like a drunk putting out a cigarette on a bar floor.

The Children of Tomorrow
Film:
Madly Bangalee
Director: Anjan Dutt
Cast: Anjan Dutt,Soumyak Kanti De Biswas,Tanaji Dasgupta,Anubrata Basu,Sumeet Thakur,Roshni Bose,Anusuya,Supriya Devi,Saswata Chatterjee
Rating: ****
Running at: Inox (Forum,City Centre,Swabhumi)

The lives that we are given to live out are mostly not prefixes to some gorgeous ever-after. Soul searching isn’t essentially poetic,beautiful and suchlike — don’t be surprised if it’s brutal or outright nasty. Twenty-year-olds are not all shiny and happy people. And success is neither absolute nor everlasting. This is not to say that Anjan Dutt’s Madly Bangalee makes tragic heroes out of gawky twenty-year-olds or makes teenage angst look like a sadly overlooked national crisis. But it also doesn’t flinch even once while slicing through their dreams to reveal the wispy,infirm core. The root of all problems,the root of all excitement too.

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The story belongs to Baji (Sumeet Thakur),Benji (Anubrata Basu),Pablo (Soumyak Kanti De Biswas) and Neon (Tanaji Dasgupta) who have a band they call Madly Bangalee. Like most obsessed,overconfident and dreamy college-goers,they want to make Bengali rock music,they want to be famous,they want all the good and glitzy things in life. Like most college-next-door boy bands they spike and streak their hair red,find themselves cool girlfriends,hop,skip and slouch their way across roads,speak stilted Anglicised Bengali and squirm around the microphone while breathing out ballads of love and loss. But under their all-too-familiar romantically flawed little world are their own stories. Stories not even distantly similar to the twenty-first century fairytale they try to live,and live forever. Pablo’s parents separate after prolonged bickering,Neon’s father turns out to be a jobless alcoholic and Baji’s brother is arrested for helping terrorists. Trouble brews in their own small world they thought they had secured by a shared love for music. Pablo’s girlfriend turns out to be a better singer than he is,the garage that was the band’s den stands the threat of being pulled down,and a stranger Sandip (Anjan Dutt) drops in almost from nowhere to mess up their convenient albeit imperfect routine.

Dutt’s characters take turns to narrate their story. The narrative is taut,occasionally resting in course of its linear movement,to dwell upon the characters and their lives beyond the band. The music,scored by Neel Dutt is bound to linger on for some time now.

The characters,easily,are what holds the film together. Complemented by the cast,Madly Bangalee,leaves you with a strange and warm feeling of déjà vu,of having lived the confusion,of having survived the meaningless euphoria. Soumyak Kanti as the cocky,talented yet stuck-up poet-musician,rudely flawed by a ton-and-a-half of ego makes it difficult to imagine anybody else stepping into Pablo’s shoes. Tanaji effortlessly slips in and out of the two lives Neon leads in the film — that of a calm,brooding guitarist and that of a moody,swearing boy dealing with substance abuse. Sumeet delivers a controlled performance as a level-headed young boy,straight off the slums seeking refuge in his music. Anubrata as the bungling,smart alecky Benji who ends up impregnating his seventeen-year-old precocious girlfriend Joy is totally entertaining. Saswata Chatterjee is an actor above par,he proves again in the film.

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This is not the first time Dutt tries defining his Bengali,the Bengali of our times,in cinema. Nor is this his maiden brush with music and Kolkata,on screen. While his subjects lend themselves extraordinarily to clichés – Dutt manages to take the path around them and find the Kolkata that now lives off flyovers and manipulated rock music competitions.

His ‘Bangali’ girl doesn’t fill up buckets over an abortion,his Bengali father weeps in front of his teenage son,his Bengali boy catches up on life over whiskey with the dad. His Bengali has finally pushed the textbook aside. And how.

First published on: 30-05-2009 at 02:46:57 am
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