Friday, February 26, 2010

When Karthik Calls Karthik Does He Need A Psychiatrist?

Hindi cinema tries to portray mental illness in 'Karthik Calling Karthik.' I am sceptical of mainstream Indian cinema trying to take up a serious issue like this. And subjects like mental illness can be used to make films which appeal to the voyeuristic instinct in the audience. I doubt that this film will make a mark among the classes and definitely not among the masses. Farhan Akhtar (the son of Javed Akhtar and the step son of Shabana Azmi), the protagonist in this film, shows that he is a good actor besides being a director with a professional touch. And the dusky Deepika Padukone who plays his girlfriend is lovely but thats all that she was supposed to be in this film. She was meant to portray a modern urban Indian girl who is going through her own heartbreaks as she searches for a 'gentle and caring' man.

Farhan Akhtar's acting is the redeeming feature and I would watch the film again just to see him. The end does became a bit text-bookish what with all the explanations. Nikhat Kazmi gives the film a 3.5 out of 5 in his review in The Times of India. Click here to see the review. I would give it a 3 (grudgingly).

[A promotional poster for Karthik Calling Karthik.]

The film also exemplifies something which has especially been seen in recent Bollywood films - technical excellence and a certain slickness which was totally absent till the 2000s. Call it a positive fall out of globalisation. Its a level playing field now as far as technology and gizmos are concerned. However most Bollywood films continue to remain of the kind that make one feel like gnashing one's teeth. The difference nowadays is in the number of good films which are being produced. This was impossible in the single-cinema days, the multiplexes today are able to absorb the loss which such films may incur thanks to the 300 plus crore rupees that '3 Idiots' can rake in in three weeks or the 120 crores that 'My Name is Khan' can bring in in a week.

I do not remember any really good mainstream Indian film about mental illness. I do remember a Kannada film I saw during the early nineties which was, if I remember rightly, about a man who got his kicks by making his wife have sex with other men and then hearing her talk about it. Girish Karnad had played the role of the psychiatrist in the same film. There was also Khamoshi, a Hindi film, in which Waheeda Rehman plays a nurse in a mental asylum who gets too close to a patient.

p.s. I realised later that Feb 26, the day I saw the film, was the date it was released all over India. This is another novelty. Couldn't imagine this some years ago. Hundreds, nay thousands of prints, being released in theatres all over the country and downloaded through satellite. The balcony ticket in Dreamland Cinema, Mhow costs Rupees Thirty. And the snacks in the canteen were all within Rupees ten a piece. The ambience of a small town, including the odd mosquitio, while watching the latest film. What more does one want? If only I were a fan of Bollywood.