November 14, 2010

no smoking, got it?

Just saw Anurag Kashyap's No Smoking and am blown away by it. This is theatre of the absurd. This is kryptonite black humor laced with whimsy. This is surreal. This is a nightmare you emerge from only to find minutes later that you've just been in another nightmare (and so on). This is a guy addicted to smoking, and Baba Bengali's Prayogshala (laboratory) which promises to change his smoking habits (and his life, body, and soul). If you are confused on any point, Baba Bengali will explain all. Smokers will hate this movie or they will laugh at the deliciousness of its madhouse extreme-vision.

If you find the references to Hitler and to gas chambers 'tasteless' or 'gratuitous', I would ask you to think about them allegorically, the tenor being the viciousness of morality-enforcers in contemporary India. Not that such a reading is necessary for the film to work itself inside you. In fact the symbolic in Kashyap's movies insists on breaking away from completing its meaning (I'm thinking also, and especially, of Kashyap's Gulaal, which generated much consternation about the 'meaning' of the ardhanarishwar; hint: he's a counterpart to the talkative fool played by Piyush Mishra, but he's also a delightful repository of non-utilitarianism). Such transgressions are exactly why Kashyap's films are so compelling. I hope he never stops not conforming to the industry that is Bollywood!

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