Thursday, August 25, 2011

#185: Not a Love Story

It is news whenever Ramgopal Verma directs a movie. After being hailed as one of the most brilliant and indigenous auteurs of Indian cinema, somehow the ill-will he generated after rehashing Sholay (to this day I am made fun of in the office for owning a DVD of RGV Ki Aag) is yet to leave him. It is not considered elite enough if one doesn't make fun of Ramgopal Verma in a cinematic discussion. The truth however is that the man loves telling stories on the silver screen and he digs in deep to make these stories. So whether it is the story of a Andhra gangster spread over two movies or the story of a crime of passion in a Mumbai suburb, he will give his heart and soul into making it happen.

Based on the now famous Neeraj Grover murder, Not a Love Story is a fairly accurate depiction of the events leading upto the murder and it's aftermath on the families of the key accused. The accused in the movie are played by Mahie Gill and Deepak Dobriyal and the movie is shot mostly on-location in the western suburb of Malad in Mumbai. Mahie Gill plays a star-struck aspiring actress who comes to Mumbai only to see her dreams vaporizing in a matter of months. She is not only subjected to casting couch but even after giving numerous auditions and doing well, somehow there is not gold to be found at the end of the rainbow. Her boyfriend Deepak plays a short-tempered possessive lover who takes time to accept the fact that his beloved wants to spread her wings in an alien city. The first half of the movie sets the context for these key characters that also include Ajay Gehi, playing an executive in a film production company, towards whom Mahie takes an apparent harmless liking to. The second half then purely takes the shape of a murder mystery being handled adroitly by Inspector Mane (Zakir Hussain).

There are two bedrocks in Not a Love Story on the basis of which the I thought the movie worked. The first is the performances that RGV extracts from his actors, right from the supporting cast that includes yet another incisive turn from the all-weather Zakir Hussain, to it's lead actors, they are all very much on the mark. Deepak is the idiotic obsessive lover who is as chilling as the ruthless schemer. Considering this is Mahie's first solo lead role, her performance would very nearly touch you with her fallibility. The second is that RGV's story has the right inflection points necessary to arrive at offering a movie that is quite complete in itself without actually closing the loop with the final court verdict. Now the one thing that puts paid to both these points is the way the movie is shot. If RGV's idea of presenting a story on camera is to put things out of focus, place camera right under Mahie Gill's skirt and do a hundred other idiotic things with it, either I am not equipped enough to understand the artistry of it or the cameraman was simply drunk. In other words, I know very few movies that have been as poorly shot.

I believe a crime of passion would always make for a good story and if it is a true-life incident, it becomes even better. And to be fair to RGV, it is a decent adaptation. The fact is that if RGV had shot the same movie with the exact storyline and identical performances with a slightly more conventional approach, we would have had a better movie. With that caveat in place, I would still recommend Not a Love Story.

Rating: 6.3/10

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