Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pushpak(a Vinamam) - the silent movie that speaks.

The title for this review comes from the boast written on my VCD's cover - one that was sent to me by Ramsu, who I am indebted to for telling me about this film in the first place and later providing me with a copy.

The boast is about right, for Singeetham Srinivasa Rao's Pushpak (occasionally going by its full title Pushpaka Vimanam) does manage to convey volumes without any dialogue. It's a black comedy with a social conscious, and though it contains a couple of symbolic moments that aren't precisely subtle, it all the same manages to entertain and provoke thought. The title card comes up in Telugu, as do the credits, but as the film is silent, it's essentially without language, relying on background music indicating certain things and gestures to work as primary communication between characters.

The title also has a Hindu mythological meaning, for pushpaka vimanam or "flowery chariot" is the flying chariot that Raavan stole and eventually rode on. Inside the film, there's a titular luxury hotel with the same name - a hotel whose owner used to just run a tea stall, the film seems to imply.

The nameless unemployed young man (Kamal Hassan) seems rather fed up with his existence when he stumbles upon a drunkard millionaire. In a rather twisted turn of events, he holds the millionaire captive in his small apartment while he lives it up at the Pushpak hotel, in room 3035, using the millionaire's money to make himself more presentable to a girl he likes (Amala), a magician's daughter. He's blissfully unaware that a hitman has been hired to kill the man who rooms in room 3035 of the Pushpak hotel..

Young Kamal is in this as I usually find him: absolutely effortless in his acting, rather likable and charming, but still not quite to push him into the category of favourites in my eyes. He is perfect for the role, though - starting out a little pathetic, then flamboyant in his rich turnabout. The romance with magician's daughter rather adorable, but the best part is the magician himself, whose little tricks kept me laughing out loud. The killer was also bizarrely hilarious. I won't name his weapon of choice, but it's really quite priceless.

If I had to level a criticism at the movie, it's slow-moving at times. This is probably a feature of the era more than a deliberate choice, though.

The social consciousness that the film possesses is of a world where money matters. We see Kamal's character hopelessly seeking a job in a market where there are only a few available, and a mass to vie for those available positions. Money buys him temporary status, but it's a rather hollow one. The character of the beggar, pictured here, is central to this motif. Much like the other well-remembered 80's black comedy with a social consciousness, Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, this film lives in a rather grim world.

The dichotomy is strange, but interesting: the film pushes you to consider all these things, but at the same time provides pure entertainment.


Ramsu said...

You're most welcome! Glad to hear you liked it.

Watch Jacques Tati's films in case you haven't seen any yet. Monsieur Hulot's Holiday would be a good place to begin. His style is probably the biggest inspiration for Pushpak.


veracious said...

Haha, blasphemy though it may be, I've actually seen that film and wasn't a fan. :/

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