Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Jiah Khan 1988-2013

Sad news about the apparent suicide of a promising Bollywood ingenue, a London resident born in New York who studied at the Lee Strasberg Theatre and Film Institute. She came and went as a medical student working on anterograde amnesia in the Aamir Khan Memento re-make Ghajini (2008). But at that point her career may already have taken a lethal hit from the notorious nature of her 2007 debut movie, which I reviewed for the LA Weekly.

NISHABD Writer-director Ram Gopal Varma’s scandalously anticipated new film was preceded by shrewd tactical whispers to the effect that it was a Bollywood remake of Lolita, with the 64-year-old masculine icon Amitabh Bachchan (think Eastwood or Newman) becoming enamored of a slinky 18-year-old. But Nishabd (The Silence) turns out to be an undeniably stylish, if also dizzyingly uneven, mixed bag, deeply affecting one minute and ludicrous the next; the fetishistic slow-motion shots of ingĂ©nue Jiah Khan cooling herself with a garden hose would not be out of place on a Playboy DVD. The sleek Khan is certainly a von Sternberg–worthy object of obsession, but Varma is locked into presenting her as an emblem of free-spirited modern youth, which for him seems to be synonymous with callow and rude and almost pathologically self-absorbed. For Jiah, Bachchan’s solid and self-contained Vijay is a prize she’s fixed on with a whim of iron, and if Varma had pushed her manipulations a bit further, the movie would be more interesting. In fact, our interest picks up considerably after the halfway point, when the movie teeters on turning into a thriller with the arrival of Jiah’s bouncy young college boyfriend, who hides out on the premises to surprise her unbeknownst to anyone but Vijay. No Hitchcock movie ever had a better setup for a stalk-and-kill finale, but Varma is after a bigger, more slippery fish — the “fear of aging and death” that draws the old man to the young girl. Varma’s honesty and seriousness are impressive, if not his showmanship. (Naz 8) (David Chute)

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