Thursday, March 20, 2014

Bombay Talkie

Directed by James Ivory and written by Ivory and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Bombay Talkie is the story about a British author who meets and falls for a Bollywood actor during her research on the Bollywood film industry. The film is an exploration into the world of Bollywood where an outsider tries to figure out its impact in Britain while finds herself in an affair that becomes very complicated. Starring Jennifer Kendal, Shashi Kapoor, Aparna Sen, Zia Mohyeddin, and Utpal Dutt. Bombay Talkie is an extraordinary film from the Merchant-Ivory team.

The film is about a British author who travels to Bombay to discover the world of Bollywood where she falls for one of the industry’s top actors as they would embark into a love affair that is complicated when an Indian writer also has feelings for her. There, things become more troubling as the actor’s marriage starts to fall apart as does his affair where the author goes into a spiritual retreat to find herself. It’s a film that explores a world of different cultures meeting together where the author Lucia Lane (Jennifer Kendal) goes to India to learn about the industry as accompanying her is a writer named Hari (Zia Mohyeddin) who has feelings for her. Yet, the presence of Vikram (Shashi Kapoor) would have Lucia go into places that would lead her to a lot of trouble as it would also create tension between Hari and Vikram.

The film’s screenplay doesn’t just play into a woman’s world where she is definitely an outsider that’s been through a lot as she wants to go somewhere that is unfamiliar. Though Lucia isn’t an entirely bad person as she often means well, she is very na├»ve over the way things are in India as her love for Vikram would cause a lot of trouble as Vikram’s marriage to Mala (Aparna Sen) is becoming rocky as she wants a child. Lucia’s presence only makes Mala very uneasy as Lucia is unaware of how much trouble she is causing where she briefly goes into a spiritual retreat causing Vikram to worry as Hari is the only person that knows where she went. While Hari at times can lose his cool, he is the most level-headed person in the film as opposed to the more self-involved Vikram who cares about living the good life yet complicates himself in his love for both Mala and Lucia.

James Ivory’s direction opens with this elaborate and rich credits sequence where a group of men are carrying the title card onto the streets and then feature pictures of cast and crew members involved in the film as it’s shot on location in Bombay. Much of it would feature some entrancing medium and wide shots as well as some striking close-ups to play into some of the emotional aspects of the film. There’s also moments of humor that is involved such as this extravagant set piece on the set of a film where Vikram is performing on a large typewriter for a dance number. While there’s elements of the film that does drag a bit such as Lucia’s own flightiness in her spiritual retreat as well as the way Vikram behaves when Lucia isn’t around. There is a payoff towards the end for a birthday celebration for Lucia where Vikram and Hari are taking part yet it would involve some very heavy moments for all three individuals. Overall, Ivory crafts a very delightful yet somber film about a love triangle in India that becomes very messy.

Cinematographer Subrata Mitra does excellent work with the film‘s very colorful cinematography with its use of natural lights for some of its exteriors to some exotic lighting schemes and moods for some of the film‘s nighttime interior/exterior scenes. Editor David Gladwell does wonderful work with the editing in creating something that is straightforward in its approach to cutting while going for methodical rhythms to build up some of the film‘s emotional moments. Production designer A. Rangaraj does brilliant work with the look of the homes that the characters live in as well as the large typewriter for a set piece that Vikram is dancing on.

Sound editor Prabhakar Supare does nice work with the sound to play into the natural atmosphere of the film‘s locations. The film’s music by Shankar Jalkishan is fantastic for its mixture of pop and traditional Indian music with some orchestral flourishes that include some lively Bollywood numbers as well as soothing opening theme that is composed by filmmaker Satyajit Ray while the soundtrack also includes some rock music from Santana and Janis Joplin.

The film’s superb cast includes appearances from producer Ismail Merchant as a producer on a film set, Nadira as a friend of Vikram who tries to get him to see reason, Pincho Kapoor as a swami that Lucia goes to in her spiritual retreat, and Utpal Dutt as a corrupt film producer who tries to stir things around for Mala and Vikram. Aparna Sen is wonderful as Vikram’s wife Mala as a woman who despises Lucia as she struggles with Vikram’s feelings for her as well as being barren. Zia Mohyeddin is excellent as the screenwriter Hari who is in love with Lucia as he tries to keep his feelings intact while noticing how erratic Vikram is as he tries to get him to be with Lucia.

Shashi Kapoor is terrific as the Bollywood star Vikram who has fallen for Lucia but deals with his marriage to Mala as he tries to comprehend everything only to give in to his own selfishness. Finally, there’s Jennifer Kendal in a radiant performance as Lucia Lane as this woman who tries to find herself in India only to be in a love triangle and unknowingly cause trouble for herself and the men she’s with.

Bombay Talkie is a rich and majestic film from James Ivory and the Merchant-Ivory team. Thanks to its excellent cast and a phenomenal film soundtrack, it’s a film that has a lot of charm and wit into the world of Bollywood with a dash of melodrama over a romantic love-triangle though the two stories do make it an uneven film. Still, Bombay Talkie is a superb film from James Ivory.

James Ivory Films: The Householder - (The Dehli Way) - Shakespeare Wallah - (The Guru) - (Adventures of a Brown Man in Search of Civilization) - (Savages (1972 film)) - (Autobiography of a Princess) - (The Wild Party) - (Roseland) - (Hullabaloo Over Georgie and Bonnie’s Pictures) - (The Five Forty-Eight) - (The Europeans) - (Jane Austen in Manhattan) - (Quartet (1981 film)) - (Heat and Dust) - (The Bostonians) - A Room With a View - Maurice - (Slaves of New York) - (Mr. & Mrs. Bridges) - Howards End - The Remains of the Day - (Jefferson in Paris) - (Surviving Picasso) - (A Soldier’s Daughter Never Cries) - (The Golden Bowl) - (Le Divorce) - (The White Countess) - (The City of Your Final Destination)

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