July 15, 2006



Madhur Bhandarkar's Page 3 was incisive, honest and creative. It deserved the national award. I haven't seen his earlier Chandani Bar, but it was clear that the director is not interested in the boy-meets-girl formula flick. The expectations from his latest movie, Corporate, ran high. When expectations are set, you risk disappointment.

The theme of the movie is rivalry of two business houses. Not rivalry really, as there are no rivals in the business, only competitors. The movie is replete with real world situations and jargon - disinvestment, FDI, stock markets, politics-business nexus, corporate espionage, substandard products, race to reach the top, etc. The movie wants us to believe that this is a pain staking research. But, scratch the surface, and you will see the utter shallowness of the ideas. While disinvestment is real, there are no protests against it. The competitive bidding is a lot transparent than shown in the movie. You need to inform stock exchange when the stake in a listed company increases to 1% and is not dependent on the whims of acquirers. Business awards are not like Filmfare or Oscars where the fate of tycoons is sealed in an envelope and opened in front of audience to declare the winner. The winners are announced quite some time which don't have a shock value. The deals worth hundreds of crores are struck verbally over a dinner. The executive of a company is also an expert on corporate espionage. Another executive working for 11 years quits after a discussion lasting for 11 seconds. The point I am trying to make here is enough homework is not done by the director and his team.

The next big problem with movie is, it is highly judgmental. It passes judgments on everybody and everything and shows them in bad light. I'll list some of them. PSU disinvestment is completely opaque process and politicians sell them as if it is their own property. Protests by NGOs, PILs, demonstrations by anti-MNC organizations, media frenzy are a sham and can be manipulated easily. The business houses are money-seeking leeches and give a damn to anything that comes in between - ethics or people. Skirt-chasing is rampant in the corporates. Everybody can be brought at a price. It is not as if these things figments of Bhandarkar's imagination. But the film tries to convey that all these things are extremely normal in the world of business. It gives an impression that, Bhandarkar, first decided a set of conclusions and then started searching for the reasons to support them. The synopsis of the movie given on the official sites reflects the same - "Welcome to the Corporate World. A battlefield of power hungry people. A world filled with deceit and corrupted minds. Where wealth, fame and success are fought over. And rules don’t exist."

While Bhandarkar proclaims his subject is different, he picks up the Page 3 formula with shameless laziness. Scene after scene you can see the ideas being copied from the earlier movie. Every single thing he has shown in the movie tend to be so high on drama that it makes Johar-Chopra movies look like realistic. I don't know what audience was on his mind when the raunchy item number was added to the movie. It was not only unnecessary, but incongruent, too.

On the other fronts, most of the actors - Kay Kay Menon, Rajat Kapoor, Raj Babbar, Vinay Apte - perform well except the lead, Bipasha Basu. Apparently, Aishwarya Rai was supposed to play that role. Bipasha is perfect replacement for Aishwarya, high on glamour quotient and low on acting skills with most of the dialogues delivered with a glacial face and voice. She makes a mess out of a wonderful opportunity. Seriously, how come the industry survives when there is such a paucity of talented female leads? Music tends to be forgettable, except for one song of Asha.

Mr Bhandarkar takes a strong position on ethics. Ironically, the movie gives liberal space to its partners - all news is beamed on Times Now, everybody is wearing Allen Solly (and Allen Solly store is rendezvous to exchange notes), all the sofas and boardroom furniture is from Durian, and competing companies use only Lenovo laptops (Side note: IBM sold its personal computing business to the Lenovo, a Chinese company). All are the big companies which the movie aspires to unmask.

Take out the audacity of Bhandarkar to pick up a different topic, and this movie is just one of those hundreds of mediocre movies churned by Bollywood.

Update: Minor corrections.

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