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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. He is also an acting and dialogue coach. 

 

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Blue Mountains, Review by Siraj Syed: Colourless Molehills

Blue Mountains, Review by Siraj Syed: Colourless Molehills

Used as a metaphor for distance, apparently unattainable goals, the Blue Mountains of the title prove as elusive and illusory as the real ones the makers project on screen. Lots of colour, lots of singing, lots of dancing, lots of melodrama, and lots of snow do not help Blue Mountains attain any height. Instead, we find ourselves in a cave, at best, or, rather, a gorge.

Som (Yatharth Rastogi), a hill-town boy, and part of a gang of four close school friends, gets accidentally selected in a singing reality TV show, RaagaRock, substituting illegally for his friend Akash, who is busy throwing up in nervous anxiety. Som’s mother (Gracy Singh), a minor celebrity singer of yesteryear, starts dreaming of fulfilling her not-fully-realised ambitions through her son, by egging him on to win the National contest in Mumbai. Her husband (Ranvir Shorey), the ex-guitarist who she married and gave-up her career for, is unsupportive, but she is determined.

‘Akash’ is pushed into the vortex of 'making of a celebrity singer', by everyone, from the sleepy hamlet in snow-bound Himachal Pradesh. But Som's campaign for stardom ends faster than it had begun. He returns to his hometown, unceremoniously, a loser who let-down a horde of supporters who took pains to canvass for him, and voted in bulk via SMS in his favour. Once a strong lad who wanted to reach the zenith by climbing his blue mountains, Som now sinks into the nadir of lowest self-esteem and depression, until everybody rallies around him, from his ‘Hitler’ teacher (Asif Zakaria) to his mother’s guru (Vinod Nagpal) to their family milk-man (Rajpal Yadav), to save his future, even his life.

Co-written by Indranil Goswami and director Suman Ganguli, the film arrives with a coat of arms, having won awards at five minor Indian film festivals. That is either a grave injustice to those festivals or speaks about the dearth of worthy competition. Goswami is Chandigarh-based a TV veteran, by any yardstick, and even runs a Talent Hunt himself, though it is not currently known whether he has done any work in films. He is a Post-Graduate from a Montréal film school. His company is called Blue Winds, lending its colour to the title of the present film. Clearly, shades of his film-scripting talent have not surfaced in this outing at least.

It’s a debut for director Ganguli, not an arrival with a bang by any stretch. Shot over 63 days in Shimla, Lonavla and Khandala, the film took four years to reach theatres. Bright and lush, full of scenic grandeur and typical characters, the film sets off to a false start by introducing you to school-student pranks and an Adolf Hitler act as a take-off on the teacher. It takes another 90 minutes to come back to organic unity, by when it has traversed high-strung stereo-typical situations and tropes galore. And then it takes another 30+ minutes to stagger along, limping to a tame end. Incidentally, the opening song was projected out-of-sync, but we will not hold that against the film, attributing to a technical glitch.

Yatharth Ratnum was asked him to perform a few lines at the auditions, and he read them like he was reading a newspaper. But when he was asked to sing he gave the unit goose-bumps, After all, he had been a runner up of Sa Re Ga Ma Pa Lil Champs 2009 and he had a first-hand experience of losing at the crux of winning. No need to act, really, but acting workshops were in order, for over six months along with the other kids in the film. They are not bad, and their parroty line delivery can be excused, considering their 14-15 age slot. Yatharth has the boy-next-door look and speaks his lines with clarity, even getting his complex words right. If this voice has been dubbed, it is a very good job. On his CV, Blue Mountains may look impressive, but he will need better projects to prove his acting prowess.

Simran Sharma as Oshin, the rare-named love-interest of Som, is barely passable. Vaibhav Hanshu as Akshay is okay. Rishabh Sharma is lamentably type-cast as Humpty. Gracy Singh is graceful, except when she is made to jump up from a nightmare, and why would we blame her for doing it the way the director asked her to? One real old-timer, Vinod Nagpal,  appears in an inconsequential role. Another, Asif Zakaria, has an anaemic, chronically ill presence, and we hope his health is not a concern in real life. A few good, well-conceived, philosophical lines justify his role, in the end. A third, MaheshThakur, refuses to age and enjoys his brief stay on screen.

Ranvir Shorey is usually sincere, but strikes the occasionally falsetto. Rajpal Yadav is tiring his followers by the half-comic, large-hearted servant/vendor roles. He works had, though his accent is neither a local dialect nor Hindi. Lisa-Marie Rettenbacher as the sensuality-oozing half-German nemesis of Som does just that.  

Late Aadesh Shrivastav was to score the entire music for the film. With his demise, the producers were left with just two Aadesh numbers, ‘Vote do’ – where the accent of the song was a blend of Himachali and Punjabi folk, and ‘Shanno’, which is performed by the German ‘item-girl’. The void he left was filled by Monty Sharma (who appears as himself) and Sundeep-Surya. Taking a few liberties in fusion, the score, nevertheless, is hummable and rises above the noise that one is subjected to as a routine week after week.

Lyrics (credits not available) and dialogue tread uneven paths, from the inspired to the pedestrian. Choreographer Raju Khan is in good form, Chandrashekhar Rath captures some brightly lit sets and picture-postcard scenery while Asif Ali Shaikh tries to prevent the proceedings from sagging, though he appears to have given up in the last mile.

Looks exciting from far. As you get nearer, the Blue Mountains turn out to be colorless molehills.

Rating: * ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QBE6wW3kqlk

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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