Thursday, November 01, 2007

Nobody tells me what to do

After watching No Smoking, I remembered what had most stayed with me after I had seen 2001: A space odyssey: the director had real balls. More so, when he has in his reportoire one film that was never released and another that ran into big problems with the censor board; because until he strikes gold, everything he touches is looked at with circumspect. More importantly, Stanley Kubrick could afford to produce 2001 himself, and his name did command an audience in 1968. Anurag Kashyap is a much poorer cousin who has dared to present before an audience that is quite content with neatly packaged routines a very selfishly made 140-odd minutes of footage. I stress the minutes because it takes hardly one to turn a viewer away from the hours of thought and effort invested in filming that footage. Also, these days, it takes just one bad/thanda review to drive viewers away from an outing at the theater. In the last five days, I’ve listened to more than a few people talk about No Smoking’s poor ratings when I’ve asked them if they were interested in watching it.

The film says nothing about smoking. Some other personal habit could’ve been shown without altering the import of the movie. And it is definitely not a film that carries a social message: smoking is bad. If they show it, and you’ve heard it on TV, then its probably a marketing gimmick, or just a ploy to please the powers that be, or simply the flavor of the season.

No Smoking, to me, is about insolence. As K, the chain-smoking dapper protagonist, asserts before the mirror, Nobody tells me what to do.

I’m not sure about the stereotype, but a male chain smoker isn’t always as in-your-face as K is in the movie. There are subdued, subconsciously apologetic, smokers who are almost sorry about their habit. But K takes the crux of the matter and shakes every vestigial and societal aspect off it. He is man in his most unmoderated form, untamed too. He elicits very strong, definte opinions because he doesn’t bother to round off the edges, nor cover the blemishes. He blows smoke on his wife’s face; yet it has got nothing to do with his love for her. He loves her, as he does love his brother; yet, he will not change for them. Without a hint of apology.

What does society—the living beast that manifests itself through appointed and sometimes self-appointed sentinels—do to such an impertinent man? It tries to prune him, chop off his fingers, snatch away his remote control. If he gives in, then his existence is rendered incomplete. He then is admitted into a diabolic fellowship and looks for another to pare down so that he can be recompensed for his own deficiency. Imagine losing your fingers in an exercise but having the chance to get them back if you refer another, who then will indoctrinate yet another and so on, for the same undertaking. It’s an unending cycle. However, there’s a catch. The spirit cannot recover; only the body can. Once sacrificed, the essence of existence cannot be procured again. This is all that No Smoking has to say.

I’m not even trying to separate the quality of the film from its intent. Because this film has been made for the love of the art. So self-indulgent and so striking.

6 comments:

Pscyhe said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Psyche said...

i deleted the last one cuz i hate that my blogger id was mispelt.. anyway... what i had said earlier was i wanna watch the movie now more than before...

satyajit said...

psyche: ya, go watch it!

PritS said...

Have you heard about the gold coin busniess "Quest"? Isn't the finger sequence same as that. :)

Yes, I went for the movie just coz I had decided that I had to watch it. And I really enjoyed it.
For movies, Nobody tells me what to do... [ofcourse I am talking about reviews on websites and in newspapers]

satyajit said...

prits: ya, a more dangerous version; its not that huge a distortion of reality

"no smoking" has got such a bad response. what a pity!

Nasal Crooner said...

'mujhe talab.. haan talab..
jabhi cigarette jalti hai..'

abstract shite i must say...
and i've 1 simple funda..

"wat i dont understand simbly SUXXXXXXXXXX"
same goes for the Matrix trilogy.. and LOTR trilogy by me :)