Cast: Om Puri, Naveen Nischol & Perizaad
Director: Nagesh Kukunoor
Bollywood Calling is a good film for its excellent performances
and meticulous script. It, however, stops short of being
a great or an outstanding film as the other departments
do not quite film as the other departments do not quite
match up to the standards set by these two.
This is Nagesh Kukunoor's third film after Hyderabad
Blues and Rockford. Dipping again into personal experience
(where will Kukunoor go from here?) Bollywood Calling
takes a look at the chaotic world of film making Bollywood
Subramaniam (Subra for short) is producer-turned-director
of a regular masala film, Maut -the death. He has managed
a casting coup by pitting Pat Stormare, a B-grade Hollywood
star against the legendary Manu Kapoor, an ageing superstar.
Pat is an innocent on Bollywood circus and is in for
shock after shock including chronic late coming, sucking
up to the star, the fact that dialogues are written
on the set and the total lack of continuity or reason.
It is a passage to India for Pat with Subramaniam, Manu
and starlet Kajol being his guides.
As mentioned earlier, the performances lift the film
to another level. Om Puri is absolutely brilliant as
the wheeling dealing Subra. Enough cannot this brilliant
actor brings to his character.
Scenes like where he directs the song sequence asking
for "baaalls, baaalls I want more baaalls in the
frame," or the fight sequence where he asks everyone-
hero and villains to have the "bastard, I will
kill you expressinon," are some of the many gems
Navin Nischol has turned in a seasoned performance as
the ageing superstar Manu Kapoor. It was an extraordinarily
brave acting choice to play a character so close to
reality and Nischol has faced up to the challenge unflinchingly.
The surprise packet is Perizaad Zorabian who more than
holds her own as the pragmatic social climber, Kajol.
Among big guns like Puri and Nischol, Perizaad has turned
in a phenomenally confident and mature performance.
The film takes a pot shot at Bollywood's may quirks
- from the title Maut, to the fact that everyone says
the film is "zara hatke." There are the cat
fights, the dirty minded camera man (whose side profiles
start under the starlet's chin), the pampering of the
star ego to little things like Manu Kappor's entry shot
being a rip off of Guru Dutt's famous Pyaasa shot.
The satire is not as biting as say All about Eve. And
this might be a quibble but there is also a sense of
being caught up in a time warp. Daku films with Kutte,
main tera khoon pee jaounga kind of dialogue went out
with the '80s.
Kukunoor could have done well to satirize the wedding
video film of the '90s for a contemporary look and feel.
Bollywood Calling is an entertaining film- there are
no two ways about that.
While there is the disclaimer about the characters bearing
no resemblance to anyone, there is a major kick in trying
to identify the people being lampooned from the make
up man's son who made it big as a producer to the dance
It is great fun and as it is shot on location in Hyderabad,
there is a special thrill in seeing our own city.
Only wish Kukunoor had gone that distance and pushed
the envelope for a truly inspired experience.