Life as it ain't

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“What nice? Mice are nice yaar”

Posted by Ronak M Soni on December 21, 2009

Poster for 'Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year'

Generally, I don’t bother enough to write about movies I didn’t think anything of, but I just watched a movie so hilariously bad that I have to write a short review. It’s a Hindi movie called Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year, one of the biggest Bollywood movies this year. There are basically two problems: the writing – done by Jaideep Sahni – and the dialogue delivery.

It’s about a Sikh (Ranbir Kapoor) who becomes a salesman and screws up when … it’s clichéd, unimportant stuff, the point is that he screws up and is more or less a Pariah in his company. So, he siphons off a bit of the company’s resources and forms his own company called Rocket Sales Corporation. Because all his co-workers are throwing rockets at him.

If I caught you rolling your eyes there, I might as well make it clear that such a thing can work (think Indiana Jones’ hat). It’s in the tradition of what is known as the catch-phrase, and catch-phrases (which are rarely, if ever, phrases) do capture our imagination. “Show me the money” from Jerry Maguire, or “I’m going to make you an offer you can’t refuse” from The Godfather. The difference is, these were written as dialogue, not as catch-phrases; something about their rendition on screen and their content caught the public imagination, and they became catch-phrases. Rocket Singh, however, has a catch-phrase, or a rhyming dialogue, every five lines. No, seriously, these were written to be catch-phrases, there’s no other explanation for it.

And then, there’s the monologues: they reminded me of the long answers our teachers used to expect us to write in one of the more run-of-the mill schools (I shifted to a better school in my seventh, but the horror still hasn’t left me), containing enough points to fill five out of the requisite fifteen lines, and repetition consisting of rearranging a sentence two sentences after last using it.

The other problem is more subtle, I suspect that a lot of people didn’t like it for this reason, but have no idea about it. Let us consider of the world two parts: the West, and India. The West has a long tradition of what is known as stiff-neckedness on the part of men. This is weaker in the US, but still there. These people generally speak from their throats, the Brits from the bottom of the throat and the back of the mouth, and the Americans from somewhat higher up. And then there’s the Indians (and some ethnic groups like the Italians), who have no such tradition, and who speak from their chest. Now, with globalisation, we have Indian men who speak from their throats and Americans who speak from their chests, but we still see something: the ones who speak from their throats are the ones who aren’t showing much emotion, and the chest-speakers are (I’ve said that Hindi speakers sound more frank, and now I realise this is exactly what I meant). An example that comes to mind is the American TV series House, M.D., which consists of the two characters House and Wilson (Holmes and Watson renamed for the hospital). Wilson expresses his emotion, and House bottles it all up. Now watch the first scene in this video.

Now, back to the movie, we see Ranbir Kapoor… speaking from his throat. Admittedly, his lower throat, but his throat nonetheless. And, did I mention? The movie is a melodrama. So, we have the wrong voice speaking the wrong dialogues… big boom, big bad-a-boom.

However, despite my eye-rolling reaction to the movie, I have to admit: this is the biggest step ahead I’ve seen for Bollywood, and Ranbir Kapoor (son of Rishi Kapoor, grandson of Raj Kapoor, great-grandson of Prithviraj Kapoor, all great actors) is the best thing a star could be. Whatever you say about its merits as a movie, Rocket Singh’s set-up rings true, the characterisations are strong, and the movie is actually quite funny. I, in addition, have to admit, that if this was the meat of Bolywood, I wouldn’t look down on it half as much.

Okay, I don’t feel like ending on a good note, so let me tell you about the SloMO team saunter:

Depending on when in the movie this occurs, this sequence has two meanings. At the beginning of the movie, over the title credits, the SloMo Team Saunter is designed for us to see “The Team” as a single unit, so that later, we know who the Good Guys are. In an action/adventure movie, the SloMo Team Saunter will let us know that training has finished, and that some serious butt-kicking is about to commence. In sports, especially kid-based sports movies, the SMTS is designed to let us know that the disparite collection of misfits has come together as one, and also, serious butt-kicking is about to commence. In any movie made after “Reservoir Dogs,” with saunter will resemble the gait and placement of the characters in that movie. DAWSON RAMBO, Tucson, Ariz

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