Monday, March 09, 2009

13B: MOVIE REVIEW


Cast: R. Madhavan, Neetu Chandra, Poonam Dhillon, Sachin Khedekar, Murali Sharma
Director: Vikram K. Kumar
Runtime: 146 min. (citation needed)
Rating: ***
Genre: Horror, Thriller

        Believe me, there’s no detail, no reference, nothing you are going to miss in 13B. You don’t need to pay attention because the film is doing that for you. Even if you take a yawn, or blink your eyes, or wander of into the restroom, or care to buy a bag of popcorn, or pass a silly remark to your friend, or you are more interested in holding the hands of your brand new date, you still wouldn’t miss anything. The film makes sure that you get the point. This film is anti-subtle. The pictures hanging on the wall in the background of people who matter to the narrative are so large that you would be blind to miss them, or not wonder about the size. Okay forget Mahatma's. But everything else, every other hint, or every other motif (the number 13) is not left to be discovered by us. This isn’t self service by any means. This is the anti-self-service. You miss it in a long-shot, you shall get a medium shot, and if you’ve still managed to miss it somehow, you shall get the unmissable close-up.
        Let us get this straight. 13B is far from skillful. There’re large parts that are downright awful. Every which way. The acting is bad. Really, really bad. Everybody is phoning it in. Big time. Is that supposed to be some clever reference? I mean, the film is based on the television and the television soap culture that has become so much of a part of our daily lives, and you would agree that the acting in those serials wouldn’t necessarily revolutionize the acting books. So, you tell me.
        Of course, the film has no sense of framing either. For some odd reason the color is desaturated and it only works against the film. The lines spoken are cringe-worthy, as if no one took the pain how these ridiculous lines would sound. But then, let us forget about it. That comes with the territory. Who said good films are supposed to be skillful? If anybody did, tell them they’re wrong. So let us get on with it.
        Manohar (Mr. Madhavan) and his family – his wife, his elder brother and his wife and their kids, his sister and his mother – all walk into a brand new Rs. 20 lakhs flat, which in times like these feels like dirt cheap. The film spends no time in letting us know why it is both dirt and cheap. The flat number is 13-B. If you are wondering why ‘B’, try wondering again. You’ll get your answer. There’s only one rule – nothing is subtle. The flat is possessed. Every time Manohar’s nephew takes a picture of him within the premises of the flat, the image is crying out loud that there’s more than the natural at work here. As in, supernatural. Basically all things that have anything to do with an exodus of electrons through them are possessed. The kind of them – the television. Right at the stroke of…no, not midnight…but 1300, some channel with some new television serial pops up. The name, and you got to appreciate the sense of humor not because how funny it is but because how dumb it is. The name is Sab Khairiyat Hai. Ha! So much for irony. The television, with its opaque glass dividing what’s inside from what’s outside begins to act like a mirror, reflecting and eventually foretelling what’s in store for the family. Manohar, the poor guy who is facing the brunt of this wicked activity on the part of the flat, learns about this strange predicament, and gets on behind this mystery.
        Enough of the plot. For that matter enough of the film. Let us talk about television. Given a choice folks, what would you prefer. Friends or Titanic? Even in the films, there’s a reason why a series or a trilogy is dearer to an audience then say, a single shot story. Say for example, The Godfather, which is treasured more by the audience as a saga (1, 2 and 3). For that matter Star Wars. The thing is, the more we have of someone, the more real they get for us. More so with serials because they end up so familiar owing to the fact that they’re part of our living rooms, and dinners. There is their length that makes them a part of us, and we start believing even when it is outrageous, we start laughing even when it is unfunny, we start feeling even when it is minor trite drama, because they’re someone we know and care about. Television is a strange form of fiction. I speak of this not from experience but from observation. We love familiar surroundings, somewhere we feel a part of. Is fact and fiction being merged here? I think yes, where the image of one is influencing the other and vice versa. We sure are living in fascinating times, influenced and guided by fascinating things. Television is one of them. It is funny, it is stupid, it is dumb, it is informative and it is a huge part of our lives. It is a fact of our life.
        I am sure the guys behind 13B thought along those lines. Pity they didn’t take the satire the full distance. Or maybe they just didn’t know what to do with it, and ended up making a serviceable horror film. And in that process hiding the very thing that they shouldn’t have. That it is not a dumb film by any means, except for that it isn’t really sure how to be smart.

5 comments:

Atrisa said...

1 star to Slumdog and 3 stars to this. A little unfair doncha think?

Sadanand Renapurkar said...

"Friends or Titanic? Even in the films, there’s a reason why a series or a trilogy is dearer to an audience then say, a single shot story. Say for example, The Godfather, which is treasured more by the audience as a saga (1, 2 and 3). For that matter Star Wars. The thing is, the more we have of someone, the more real they get for us. More so with serials because they end up so familiar owing to the fact that they’re part of our living rooms, and dinners. There is their length that makes them a part of us, and we start believing even when it is outrageous, we start laughing even when it is unfunny, we start feeling even when it is minor trite drama, because they’re someone we know and care about."

So so so true. And the choice you have given, now the answer would be FRIENDS. Before 3 yrs or so it used to be Titanic.
The way you have given words to the feeling when I still sit down to watch an episode or two of FRIENDS is accurate. They are a big part of my life. It's like a routine.
Who can live without those one-liners of Chandler, obsessive, cleanliness freak Monica, Divorce guy Ross, weird Phoebe, girlie, sweet, looks conscious Rachel and stupid yet a guy's guy Joseph. Man!!

man in the iron mask said...

Oh lady, you got me you got me you got me.

The thing is I actually do not pay an awful lot of attention to my stars. You know, it is all relative. I mean, quantifying something means attaching an absolute reference to it, which feels kinda ridiculous to me. That is why I use stars (usually the 3-4 ones) as a nod of recommendation that you could watch it. The ones I really pay extra attention to are the 1, and the 5(and 5-masterpeice) ones. For that matter even 41/2.

Here, if you look at my review, I am actually saying it is a trashy film but isn’t bad because of it. I mean, good (watchable) films can be poorly made (here) and well-made films can be really really awful (Seven Pounds).

Now comes Slumdog Millionaire. I really HATED that movie. And not because I was offended or anything, but because I hate pretentious films. That was a film was awfully made. Honestly, it had problems at a filmmaking level.

So when someone asks me how is Slumdog Millionaire, he is actually asking me not as an absolute (say vis-à-vis Terminator 2) but he is asking relatively, as in how good a prestige production it is. A regular movie-goer, one who actually cares what movie he is watching and not just venturing in there to make out, already has the framework of a reference within his mind and all he is asking is how does a particular film fare by those standards. So when someone asks me how good is Spiderman 3, he is not just asking me how good it is with reference to X-Men, but he’s also asking me how does it stand upto Spiderman 1 & 2.

I think film discussion for a large part got to be relative, as most other things.


But I guess I got to tighten on my star ratings, or got to chuck it altogether. I cannot and should not have it both ways.

Sadanand Renapurkar said...

Bring on Synecdoche man. I'm getting bored here.

Atrisa said...

Well I shall not comment on Slumdog. I just feel it is a waste of time having opinions on something as widely covered as SM, it might be cuz I preserve them, it just might be cuz I'm plain lazy. So I have no opinions on it. NONE. OK maybe one, or two.

a) Second half of the movie killed it, seemed like a good build up but kinda crashed face first later

b) I, unlike you, thought that the direction was the saving grace of the movie. I have a thing for those shot-by-shot, fleeting scenes a-la Memento(?) (Please there is very little I know about direction but I don't care how much you say Kieslowski is a genius, I don't get his movies)

On second thoughts, these are not really solid opinions. But my marketing teacher never said I was good at deriving "Insights" from the "Observations"

As for 13B I never planned on watching it anyway but my awesome awesome Communications teacher somehow watches every movie that is released and when asked why, he says "You never know when a gem is created, look at Johnny Gaddar" :)

Who cares about the stars anyway? It is totally objective. Don't beat yourself up over it!