One of the greatest plus points of the National Film Development Corporation of India’s just concluded Film Bazaar here is its offering of oven-fresh movies. And this, in a way, makes the Bazaar much more attractive than the ongoing International Film Festival of India.
One of the most interesting movies which this writer saw at the Bazaar was Soumitra Ranade’s Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai. The name will at once ring a bell. For, who does not remember Saeed Mirza’s 1980 cult classic also called Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai. Apart from a great director like Mirza, the film had excellent actors -- Naseeruddin Shah, Smita Patil and Shabana Azmi. Could one have asked for more?
Mirza used an ordinary motor mechanic to convey the society’s angst, the angst of the poor working class, but Ranade’s Albert is a middleclass man, and the movie highlights India’s corruption -- which unlike in Mirza’s world, is far more widespread and much more deeply entrenched in the community.
While Shah’s Albert had to grapple with the plight of Mumbai’s mill workers (his father was brutalised by rich mill owners), Ranade’s Albert is disillusioned with and distressed by corruption -- which has spread as viciously as cancer. And this makes him angry very angry, much like it did Albert in1980. Naseer’s Albert had a smaller battle to wage, Ranade’s hero has a much, much bigger fight to face.
Ranade’s film centres on Albert (a marvellous piece of performance here by Manav Kaul), who leaves home one fine morning without telling anyone where he is going. His girlfriend, Stella (played by Nandita Das with a touch of excellence), his mother and his brother are worried about him. The movie captures Pinto’s journey in a series of flashbacks and conversations with the worldly-wise driver, Nayar (essayed with his usual brilliance by Saurab Shukla).
And Ranade creates an angry young Albert through Kaul, an Albert who is out to settle scores with the world.
In a chat with this writer here the other day, Ranade says: “My movie is not really a remake of the Mirza classic.” Rather it is a conceptual remake... where I have used anger as a central point of focus like in Mirza’s work. This time, it is the anger of the middleclass, their anger against corruption, exemplified by Albert.”
“Also, the title, Albert Pinto Ko Gussa Kyun Aata Hai is no longer the title of Mirza’s film. It has become a phrase which one uses to describe a man/woman in rage. Like, for example, you read in newspapers, ‘Sonia Gandhi ko gussa kyun aata hai’. So, the title is merely a phrase, a mohavra.”
Going beyond this, there was another reason why Ranade zeroed in on this title. “When I had written about three-fourths of my script, I realised that my hero was very similar to Mirza’s protagonist. This just came to me like a flash, and I thought that it was interesting.” So, well, the title popped of Ranade’s head, and he rewrote his movie, the same story though.
However, when Ranade completed his film, he was not very sure about what he had written. “So, I went to Saeed (Mirza). I have known him for a long time. He is like a father to me. I was apprehensive that he might not like it, but he liked it and asked me to go ahead. He gave me the push.”
Ranade’s work is out and out political. “It elaborates on the times we live in. Unlike Mirza’s creation, which ended on a note of hope, mine does end so. Naseer’s Albert, at the end, joins a procession of Leftists. In the 1980s, people were hopeful of a better India. Left or Right, the ways may have been different, but there was a sense of hope. Today’s Indians have very little hope, and my movie ends very differently.
“The dream of an equal India is long dead. Despite the tremendous progress made on the industrial and technological front, most people in the country are unhappy. There are stupendous price hikes, farmer suicides, the Naxalite movement, the growing regionalism and factionalism; the onslaught of terrorism, questionable women’s safety, the rural poverty and the urban stress, communalism, unrestrained corruption... the list is never ending.
“My film epitomizes all the anger these maladies trigger in the common man in contemporary India. For me, Albert Pinto is the catalyst for transformation - from a despondent middleclass, driven only by the ideology of the rupee -- to an angry class, which begins to ask questions and demand answers. Personally, the movie is a culmination of a prolonged, despairing struggle. As Pinto says in the film, ‘it was as if a bulb had broken inside my stomach’...”
There is classic scene to underline this. On a jeep, driven by Nayar, Albert opens a bottle of beer, and the glass chips at the mouth of the bottle. A wise Nayar tells Albert to throw the beer away. But a stubborn Albert refuses and drinks from the broken bottle. Maybe, he does not care if there is another piece of glass inside his stomach.
This scene is very crucial for it tells us what the plight of a common man will be, what the plight of a protestor can be. It talks about frustration and despondency, even loss of hope!
(Gautaman Bhaskaran covered the NFDC Film Bazaar.)