Step into Rahul Bose's parlour
Watch out for Everybody Says I'm Fine
Subhash K Jha
We know him as the actor from Dev Benegal's English August and Split Wide Open, and more recently, Kaizad Gustad's Bombay Boys.
Now Rahul Bose is ready to release his directorial debut, Everybody Says I'm Fine. The film is a slice of suburban artifice, served with a dash of spice. The characters are self-delusory creatures of the metropolitan muddle. And Bose successfully unravels the chaos in their heads.
Located in a beauty salon in the heart of Mumbai city, nobody is fine in Everybody Says I'm Fine. The characters are completely out of sync with the inner rhythms of their heart.
Zen (Rehaan Engineer) is a salon owner and hairstylist, whose dreams of becoming a musician go up in smoke after a recording studio catches fire.
He now busies himself with his customers --- catty, benign socialities; rebellious, oversexed youngsters; ambitious professionals and twisted businesspersons.
The only normal character is the cashier Monica, frowning as her gentle boss waives away payments, matchmakes and matches wits with a crazed wannabe filmstar Rage (played with pathos by Bose himself).
Bose's cryptic world of innocence and corruption nourishes and feeds the well executed plot. In the best-written character of Tanya (Pooja Bhatt), we see a deep-rooted ingenuity as well as disarming innocence.
Some of the film's most humane moments feature Tanya's unmasking ceremony as the camera (well manned by Vikas Sivaraman), trails her through the streets of Mumbai to unconver the tragic truth behind her socialite's charade. When Zen rescues her from public humiliation, Tanya turns to him with gratitude and love. Other beautiful moments are the growing fondness between Zen and distraught wild child Nikita (newcomer Koel Purie).
Bose's eye for detail is apparent in this film. He successfully captures the pungent flavour of parlour chatter. To put Tanya down, the vicious Misha (Anahita Uberoi), says, "I love what you are wearing. It has always been one of my favourites."
When Zen bails Tanya out of a tight situation by slipping in an incriminating note into a copy of a film magazine, Tanya smiles, "Nowadays, film magazines carry some real spicy stuff."
Everybody Says I'm Fine is an inverted morality play where people do not abide by codes of morality, but try to accommodate the ethics of existence into their twisted lives. Bose's characters are lucid in spite of their perverse priorities and distorted vision.
The film does not lose track of the theme's human core. The characters are always changing and never bore you. And the sequence between Zen and Nikita is arguably the most moving sexual encounter ever seen in an Indian film.
That brings us to a question: how Indian is Rahul Bose's film anyway? The attitudes that the characters assume, the feelings and thoughts they put forward are all typical of metropolitan life. That Bose is awkward with the conventions of mainstream cinema becomes apparent when Nikita and her friend enact a Hindi film melodrama before Zen.
The film's many arresting points include a marvellous music score by tabla mestro Ustad Zakir Husain, which goes with the flow of the characters' minds. The musical pieces used in the lovemaking sequence, and when Zen spies Nikita partying from his window, are attuned to the film's reality.
Pooja Bhatt, Rahul Bose, theatre actor Boman Irani (doing a rare non-comic role as an abusive father), Rehaan Engineer and Koel Purie, turn in superlative performances.
In sum, Rahul Bose's directorial debut is very welcome.