Saturday, October 4, 2014

A treatise on masala, and Kick.

Masala films are like being sucked into a dream taking place in somebody else's head. To say they contain no logic is misinterpreting their own, magical logic, one that relies less on representing things as grounded and flawed, and more on representing them as perfect, idealised to the point of absurdity. Character types instead of characters, formula instead of story.

Devi (Salman Khan) in Kick is a masala hero, working solely as an avatar for dialogue, an empty cup the fantastical mind of the filmi imagination to pour some character traits into, while the audience forgets the character even has a name. He inspires awe from entrance to the closing shot. "Are wah!" we are to exclaim at his herogiri - the dancing, the fighting, the punchy dialogues, the comedy and the romance. A hero is never wrong. It is the flaw of the heroine to think ill of him, even as well-intentioned as her worries are. It is the flaw of the pseudo-antagonist, the Other Guy, or second male lead, to mistake the hero for his villainous actions as actually a bad guy. The Heroine and the Other Guy will eventually understand their mistakes. The Hero stays unquestioned.

Entertainment is the measure: the mirth I felt when that first overly clever, painfully over-thought and constructed piece of dialogue was spoken. It is a meter shooting up and down as the film progresses. The rating goes from fun to none, but the pace is so quick it's hard to concentrate on one irksome miscoming when the film is serving up ten different things in the next scene. The ride is great, but certain masala measures are questionable, such as the romance. Devi elbows his way into our disgruntled heroine's life without much care about how she feels about it all. Jacqueline Fernandes is quite good at disgruntled, confused and possibly a third expression I can't quite place. Happy, maybe? Is she, does the movie give her any reason to be? She just is. Women, eh?
Randeep Hooda (ah, the bias) as the Other Guy musters up enough life to the screen when the heroine seems too lost to be present or when the hero seems too tired to try too hard. His eyes light up with laughter or turn a steely stern gaze, and he's always the bridesmaid never the bride, and yet he seems to have better chemistry with the hero than the heroine. Women, eh? Why write them with personalities when you can just put all that effort into the second male lead, you know?
As a dessert to this hearty meal, we get the actual villain, Nawazuddin Siddiqui's glorious entrance into the hallowed halls of big budget. Given typical masala hay of semi-sadistic horrid rich guy, he spins gold out of it like a veritable Rumpelstiltzkin, and the results are captivating. This is concentrated, unadulterated villainy - potent, slightly nonsensical and all the better for it. I will probably rewatch the whole film just for these scenes. And the songs, and Randeep Hooda, and the dialogues, and pretty much everything. For all the easily detectable snark in this here review, I really did enjoy this.

Modern masala has many an ailment. It's too calculated and superficial to be anything but fun, cool and sexy. Most often it's an attempt at all three, since the concept of 'cool' dies anew with every Race film. It doesn't move to tears, it doesn't reach the great masses, it's just there. But while it's here, why not enjoy it, and remember it, like one remembers a great night that resulted in a hangover. And if you can't stomach it, go watch some other Nawazuddin Siddiqui films. Everybody wins.

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