Aneesh Chaganty

Movie #185 Company

In Uncategorized on April 12, 2011 at 9:58 PM

Movie #185 Company

(2002, India, d. Ram Gopal Varma)

“What. Was. That” read a Facebook status update of a classmate of mine after the screening of this film in “History of International Cinema”. It wasn’t a rare reaction; in fact, most of the people I spoke to were raving over the ridiculousness of the entire thing. However, when it comes to Indian cinema, there are always two ways of looking at it: from a Western perspective and from an Indian perspective. One has to keep in mind that mainstream Indian films aren’t being catered to mainstream Americans (at least when this film was made; now it’s shifting a LITTLE). Mainstream Indian audiences aren’t composed of college-educated, thinking audiences. Rather, they are catered to lower classes, who are searching for something much different than realism: escapism. Company, though marketed like an intelligent, underworld crime thriller, should be kept in its original context. It’s the story of Chandu (played by Vivek Oberoi) who – like any anti-hero in a gangster rise-and-fall story – is quickly initiated into a ruthless gang, but falls out afterwards, having to fight his way out. Malik (played by Ajay Devgan) is his don. Viewed in my class as mostly as intitation into Bollywood, this is not a classic film in any genre. It is not purely a crime film for Western audiences (it’s comedic interruptions and brief dance scenes take away from that) nor is is a classic Bollywood film. In fact, to Indian audiences, it was marketed as a smart, underworld crime thriller. I find it especially difficult to critique a film out of a culture I am so used to analyzing – the use of fish-eye lens may be a norm for action sequences across the Pacific, but here it is jarring. The overt use of editing and score fall into the same category. In terms of enjoyment, however, once the audience is able to step back and immerse into the Indian style of filmmaking, there is a lot of cool stuff here. Though Company will never be praised for its originality – it borrows far too much from Goodfellas and Scarface for that – it should be marked as a milestone in Indian cinema. Though not without its mainstream qualities, Company marks one of the first few steps the country has taken to appeal to a more realistic, intelligent, and worldwide audience. As a final note, don’t dismiss director Ram Gopal Varma from this directorial effort. One of India’s premiere auteurs, Varma’s most admirable quality is confidence to experiment with expectations and mainstream style.

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