Friday, September 13, 2019

The Altered Reality of Saaho: Why I love the film!

Saaho - Kartik Dayanand Boddapati

It’s a little over two weeks since Saaho released. I already watched the film twice in the theatres and I plan to watch it at least one more time on the big screen. I thought it was a kickass thriller, with a screenplay unlike anything we’ve seen so far in Indian cinema.

The critics had something else to say though. They all hated it.

I suspect that they haven't grasped anything about the movie at all.

This blogpost is actually a lament about them and not a movie review in the conventional sense.

I speak about the film, but more to set a context as to how the critics went horribly wrong this time. I just couldn’t resist the urge to write about this topic.

Here it goes...


Critics, critics, and critics:


Do film critics matter these days?

Conventional wisdom would say NO. Everyone is a critic these days, thanks to social media.

But truth is - there is so much noise and manipulation on social media that it is hard to trust any trend or voice as a genuine one at first glance. The vast majority are left with no choice but to gravitate towards these big media houses, or those with considerable influence in terms of follower count.

Film critics are still considered influential enough to alter the outcome of most movies at the box office. We have ample proof of that when we see promotional material of movies carrying star ratings of these critics.

Film criticism is a tricky business though; multiple factors come into play - ranging from analyzing techniques, to aesthetic preferences, to someone’s personal beliefs clashing with the content of the film as it happened in the case of Kabir Singh recently.

There is an element of suspension of disbelief that comes into play too – you don’t go in expecting to see a SLB film while going to watch a RGV film, or mix up a Farah Khan film with a Zoya Akthar film, and so on. One’s expectations are set based on the filmmakers’ and the actors’ past work. If there is a mismatch – then one might get pleasantly surprised or utterly disappointed.

In the case of Saaho – maybe because of a mismatch in the suspension of disbelief, or in their hurry to share their point of view, most critics (almost all) forgot to watch the movie properly. Instead of providing their expert insights and helping the viewers to catch the nuances of the film and its structure, they outrightly misled everyone.

Let me now tell you why I find Saaho to be so unique, and what the critics missed.

There are no spoilers ahead; it’s safe to read even if you haven’t seen the film.

The Heart of Saaho:


Remember this scene? It’s there in the trailer too. Shraddha points a gun at Prabhas and then…


Tumhe yahaa maar ke koi faidaay nahi….
(No use shooting you here…points at the heart)


kyon ki sab yahaan hai
(Because everything is here…points at the brain)


Boom!

This scene, in a nutshell, explains what Saaho is all about. We go in expecting emotions; all we get is a heartbreak. We exercise our brains; a rollercoaster ride awaits us.

Not an easy thing to comprehend for a regular audience looking for simple escapist entertainment.

I’ve written about this phenomenon in the past too when I spoke about Manirathnam’s Raavan. Click Here to read that post. I called that movie an iPhone, and that it needs an internet connection (our brains) to make sense.

Some movies just demand that attention from us. We are not always ready for it.

The beauty of Saaho lies in reflection; and without that reflection it makes minimal sense.

Let me explain further.

The Structure of Saaho:


Pause for a moment and read this poem by Chanie Gorkin.

Worst Day Ever?

Today was the absolute worst day ever
And don't try to convince me that
There's something good in every day
Because, when you take a closer look,
This world is a pretty evil place.
Even if
Some goodness does shine through once in a while
Satisfaction and happiness don't last.
And it's not true that
It's all in the mind and heart
Because
True happiness can be attained
Only if one's surroundings are good.
It's not true that good exists
I'm sure you can agree that
The reality
Creates
My attitude
It's all beyond my control
And you'll never in a million years hear me say that
Today was a very good day.

I am assuming you read every line of this poem, from start to the end.

Now assume this poem is the story of Saaho.

The poem paints a negative picture of the world…it is called the ‘Worst Day Ever’ so what else could this be. You formed an opinion on the poem and the poet and raced ahead to share that with the world.

Now here’s the twist.

Read that poem again – this time from bottom to top, the other way.

Read it…don’t cheat.

Surprised, right? Everything we assumed so far has turned out to be different. The whole meaning of the poem changes, from one of despondency to hope. Every line seems important in relation to the other, and it feels like a jigsaw puzzle has automatically rearranged itself. Everything changes.

That is exactly the structure of the screenplay of Saaho. It is a story told in the opposite direction. Nothing is what it seems at first glance. Everything needs to be revaluated based on new info that’s presented to us.

Depending on whether we choose to use our heart or our brains, and our capacity to process the events of the film - Saaho can either become an exhausting or an exhilarating ride.

My very first reaction after watching Saaho for the first time was – I am going to watch it again for sure. There’s a certain joy in discovering the way writer-director Sujeeth placed multiple Easter eggs throughout the film. He was literally teasing us – telling us to look at the surface, not even beneath the surface, but we keep getting fooled repeatedly.

There are amazing nuances in the film that make sense only in the second viewing.

For instance, the best acting scene in the film involves no dialogue but only eye contact between the characters of Arun Vijay and Lal when they meet for the first time. On first viewing one wouldn’t even notice their eyes but watching it a second time, after already knowing how the movie ends, the brilliance of that scene hits us like a ton of bricks.

Everything makes sense in hindsight and not while it’s unfolding in real-time.
This is what I call ‘The Altered Reality of Saaho’.

Don’t go by the altered reality of negativity created by the critics and those that didn’t understand the film. Watch Saaho at least twice and you can thank me later.

If you still don’t like the film, then I’ll assume you have a large heart… oh, wait; never mind J.

Till then,
Cheers!!!

Kartik Dayanand Boddapati

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