Thursday, 7 February 2013

Race 2 the Bottom

Some films should end careers. 'Race 2' is one of them. Like a roadside bomb, this calamity should be defused and taken apart and studied before being dumped into the desert and blown into a million pieces.

Aradhna and I hadn't seen a Bollywood film at the cinema for several weeks so I foolishly booked tickets without skimming a single online review (Times of India & Rediff & are reliable red-flag-wavers). Dumb. Almost as dumb as 'Race 2'. No, very little is that dumb. An opened can of white paint is more clever than this film. My lapse of judgment will augment future behaviour but I can guarantee not one person responsible for this self-parody will extract wisdom from his/her cinematic treachery.

Treachery. That's what this film felt like. An act of violence against us, humankind. You need not be religious to believe a day is coming when our legacy as a species will be examined and judged. Who were we? To what did we aspire? What were our values? If 'Race 2' falls into the hands (or flippers or pincers or scanners) of our future evaluators all of humankind is doomed to perpetual ridicule, a meaningless, mean-spirited punch line in a sprawling 'All Recorded Life in the Universe' compilation.

I hesitate to admit Aradhna and I left at the film's interval because criticising a film not seen to end credits invites comparisons to knee-jerk book burners or shrill condemners of anything that draws blood from our fucked up world. But I'd bet the cretins responsible for 'Race 2' don't care who stuck around after laying out their dollars or rupees or wedding jewelry; admission fees aren't calculated on a rolling scale. You pay full price, you take your seat, you get sprayed with garbage, TOUGH TITTIES. By the time I knew 'Race 2' was doing actual physical harm to my nervous system, clipping it strand by strand with every intellect-gouging line uttered by fatuous, integrity-free actors, it was too late. My money and mind were G O N E and weren't coming back.

So I feel no shame venting about this film without knowing its ending. If anything, our early exit was a moral victory, an affirmation of free will, a guilt-free 'Up yours!' to The Mumbai Movie Man.

I won't describe the plot because there is none. 'Race 2' is a collection of loathsome characters who don't say or do anything that deviates from 1) showing how much they deserve to be avenged, or 2) showing how much they crave revenge. Whether it's due to Botox or boredom or both, emotions range from glamorous lassitude to glamorous ennui. These characters are all exceptionally good-looking. They live beneath cloudless skies. They're capable of superhuman powers when threatened. But they're mindless, one-dimensional cut-outs from an unimaginative child's dream. Each male and female glamazon stares just off-camera like a cat eying a dangled piece of string or a model-turned-actor imagining how they're going to screw their agent out of his or her cut. Lots of walking and talking and preening and glowering and pouting -- so much pouting! -- but nobody acts. Imagine being haunted by the inanimate ghosts of a fashion magazine for 3 hours in a darkened theatre. Oh, the paper-thin humanity!

"It looks good" was the consensus of the reviews I belatedly read. The shallowest of compliments and therefore appropriate for ‘Race 2’ -- but only if spoken slowly aloud, with a slight catch in the throat, like your enlightened self is leading a final charge for control of your voicebox so it may reverse course but the words have already been loaded and launched.

A female friend on Facebook wrote 'Race 2' was a "good movie" and mentioned the lead actress’s stellar fashion choices, a salient point if she’d just returned from a runway fashion show. I refuse to label my loathing of this film as a 'guy thing'. Not in 2013, when scores of websites monitor the style hits and misses of paparazzi-chased 'celebrities' around the globe. (Not to mention Aradhna was the first to say, "Let's go.") No. A basic standard for a film is its story, not its wardrobe. "It looks good" is zero justification for seeing a film, unless it's screening on overhead screens at the young adult clothing section of a mainstream department store.

The dearth of acting negates reviewing performances. Hence, a few cheap shots:

Saif Ali Khan: A new drinking game -- every time SAK yanks off his sunglasses, do a shot. You'll be hammered in 4 minutes.

John Abraham: You can dress a gorilla in a suit but it's still a gorilla.

Deepika Padukone: Makes her entrance in a long, white dress that’s slit into ribbons. Her thighs burst forth like sausages bubbling atop boiling water and nearly answer the prayers of every 13-year-boy in India. Maybe her Sharon Stone moment will make the Director’s Cut.

Anil Kapoor. A legend of Hindi cinema reduced to a character ‘hook’ that involves an addiction to fruit salad and making lewd comments to a bosomy, brainless personal assistant whose name is ..... wait for it ... Cherry.

Aradhna and I love seeing Bollywood films on the big screen and don't mind the occasional mindless escapism that Indian filmmakers crank out like samosas at a Hyperabad street market. But 'Race 2' is a blasphemous rebuke to the progressive evolution of Bollywood. It’s a ‘revenge film’ that succeeds only in unleashing a desire for hot vengeance upon its producers, publicists, distributors, and media defenders. Worse, 'Race 2' is the product of a male-dominated, incestuous industry that hates its audience and never met a woman it didn't believe deserved to be debased.

Considering the horror unleashed by a pack of animals last year on a bus in Delhi, and the resultant protests against India's corrupt police and misogynistic culture, you'd think a steaming mess-in-progress like 'Race 2' would have set off alarm bells around the studio. Of course it was shot and edited before that horrible rape and murder occurred but that doesn't excuse its makers from displaying a semblance of sensitivity or understanding of the current zeitgeist.

The truth is they're happy shoveling this shit because it's all they know. Like coal mining companies stripping the tops off of mountains or fishing trawlers laying waste to ancestral breeding grounds, there's neither concern nor responsibility taken for the permanent damage wrought by their avarice. Since vacating the cinema midway through 'Race 2' Aradhna and I have seen 'Zero Dark Thirty' and 'Silver Linings Playbook', a pair of Oscar-nominated films bursting with every imaginable human emotion and intriguing, multi-dimensional characters.

Even when I try to remember, I can't conjure the 'fashions' of either film ... besides the Philadelphia Eagles jerseys that pop up throughout 'Silver Linings Playbook'. I'm a Giants fan -- I've been wary of people in Eagles jerseys since before Bradley Cooper was born. But I'd still trust the judgment of an Eagles fan over someone who watches 'Race 2' and doesn't immediately curse humankind's creation of the moving picture.

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