Sunday, October 01, 2006

Was that a question?

Two and a bit weeks ago I checked the net for the review for a Hindi film I had been waiting for. To my surprise there was another film releasing on the same day which I hadn't been aware of. This was strange considering that it was produced and directed by the acclaimed Ram Gopal Varma.

Later that day, I was listening to the BBC Asian Network when a presenter mentioned that the film was having a London premiere. It was to be held the following day at a cinema nearby and RGV would be present for a Q and A session, along with Mohit Ahlawat, the film's lead actor.

I walked over to the cinema immediately in the hope of getting a ticket. There were plenty available and the cost was the same as a regular movie ticket. I expressed my amazement to the guy at the counter. He looked at me like I was a complete weirdo.

When I arrived at the cinema the following day I was struggling to control my excitement. Waiting for the film to begin, I started chatting to the lady next to me, happy to find someone who understood the importance of the occasion.

When it was announced that the director was sick and would not be present we shared our disappointment. As the film started, the star was also nowhere to be seen. Ten minutes into the film, Mohit Ahlawat strode in, sitting just two rows in front of me.

The film was about an honest police officer beating all the corruption out of the Mumbai police force with his bare fists. It was well shot but the plot and acting were terrible. Surprisingly for a RGV film, it was pure masala, an unsatisfying mix of violence, comedy and flesh. To my amusement, Mohit left the cinema for the duration of the sleazy post-wedding song. This may have had something to do with the presence of his family members in the audience.

At the conclusion of the film, my friend and I moved down to the second row for the Q and A session. I was determined to compliment the hero's performance and ask intelligent questions.

As the questions started, I realised that I knew more about RGV's work and Mohit's career than the rest of the audience. Except, that was, for a complete sycophant in the front row who professed his love for Mohit's previous film, a critically-damned flop, which he claimed to have watched three times.

Determined not to be such a suck up, my first question came out sounding harsher than I had anticipated. I mentioned that his upcoming role seemed to be very similar to the two he had played so far. Did he have plans to move beyond the 'angry young man' thing?

His answer was a little curt and I regretted my question.

My friend then expressed her surprise at the number of songs in the film and the inclusion of a wet sari number. Ram Gopal Varma criticises other directors for stuffing their films with unnecessary songs. Did Mohit think that the songs added value to the film? Was he planning to become a regular dancing hero?

The hero professed that he would have liked less songs. He reassured us that he was not about to start dancing around trees. 'Dancing isn't necessary for success' he said. 'Look at Shahid Kapoor. He's a great dancer but his career has not taken off. The necessary thing to success is ability to act'.

I wasn't convinced. Shahid Kapoor has a big Diwali release coming up and he is dating megastar Katrina Kapoor. He's even managed a high-profile kissing video scandal, conservative India's equivalent of the Paris Hilton sex tapes.

Mohit, on the other hand, has starred in two spectacular flops, despite his proud claim that a riot had occured in Andhra Pradesh outside a cinema showing 'Shiva'.

At this point, I made a fatal mistake, forgetting my intention to ask intelligent yet flattering questions.

'Don't you think you are restricting your role options if you don't dance?' I asked.

'I can dance' he barked back, causing the audience to laugh.

I was in shock. I had insulted an idol! How could I repair the damage?

'I suppose I was talking about intention rather than ability' I said.

Then it happened. Silence. He stared at me. I stared at him. He obviously hadn't grasped my meaning. I was burning with awkward embarrassment.

After what seemed like minutes he spoke.

'What that a question?'

'No, no', I mumbled, 'I'm finished'.

Question time finished shortly after. Forgetting my plans to ask for an autograph and photo I ran out of the cinema in embarrassment. It's taken two weeks for me to be able to tell the story...


Iqbal Khaldun said...

From what you write here it doesn't sound like you overstepped the mark, I mean isn't Q & A meant to be for legitimate film-as-art questions?

PS - I had no idea how attractive the lead actress was! Damn, I should've come.

Joe said...

Yes, you're right. Had certain circumstances been, um, different I wouldn't have worried about my questions at all.

If Nisha Kothari had been at the premiere I would have dragged you along. You'd do better just getting the DVD and watching the songs. Or going to youtube:

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