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Overall Rating

Awesome: 12.5%
Worth A Look: 12.5%
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Total Crap: 0%

1 review, 2 user ratings

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Being Cyrus
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by Abhishek Bandekar

"Less Parsiana…more Americana"
3 stars

We Indians are a deprived lot in many ways. With decent cinema, we have it the worst. That is why, anytime we see something that is remotely promising, we go to great lengths canonizing it. 'Being Cyrus', the English-Indian film from debutante director Homi Adajania is one such example. It’s good. It’s not great. And that is the thin line between a classic and a premature favourite.

Adajania’s film provides a unique experience for the average Bollywood movie-goer. Hindi films are rarely concerned with the impulses of its characters. It’s a pleasant departure then to get to know a lead character from within. Being Cyrus! Cyrus(Saif Ali Khan), an aimless nomad drifts into the Sethna household at Panchgani. In no time he finds his hands full; assisting the burnt-out once avant-garde sculptor now lost dope Dinshaw(Naseeruddin Shah), and simultaneously satisfying the Mrs. Robinson syndrome of Katy(Dimple Kapadia), Dinshaw’s much younger wife. The deeper Cyrus gets involved with the Sethnas- that include Dinshaw’s brother Farokh(Boman Irani), his very young wife Tina(Simone Singh) and the old senile Sethna patriarch Fardounji(Honey Chhaya) – the more Cyrus learns of the complex tangle that the family has tied itself in. Katy living an abandoned existence, since Dinshaw’s around only in body but never in spirit, is carrying a long distance affair with Farokh who lives in Mumbai with his plain wife and decaying father. Katy, with a Pollyanna expectation of a rich future, plots a plan alongwith Cyrus to bump off the old ‘parasite feeding off the young’, the ungainly Farokh and his irritatingly sweet wife. Apparently, as is with most Parsis in Mumbai, Fardounji is sitting on a gold mine of a fortune yet living like a pauper, regaling only in tales of his past and in particular his father’s lesson in chess- “In the end, the king and the pawn go back into the same box!”

Homi and Kersi(who wrote this as a short-story, which was rejected by a popular magazine) being Parsis themselves capture the Parsi lifestyle impeccably and it’s those moments of Parsiana that make the film a sheer delight. The old antique car, the derelict ambiance, the petty quarrels with neighbours, the cookies at the Irani restaurant and the jagged frankness- these are peculiarities that Homi and Kersi etch out perfectly. Where they falter is in the dialogues. Although poetry to the ears, people just don’t talk the way in life the way they do in Being Cyrus. Apart from Boman Irani, who’s avoided the pitfall brilliantly(more about him later), every cast member mouths lines that are academic. There are statements in particular that’d sound erudite even to an English Literature student. Eg. Cyrus describes Katy as someone whose “tits are the front-desk…who can’t complete a single sentence without relying on an inappropriate cliché”. This and many other dialogues do not complement the characters that mouth them at all. The lines are all pretty and would make great reading in a novella, but in a film they only make the experience fabricated.

The other disconcerting factor is the abrupt jumping of genres towards the latter quarter of the proceedings. What had been until now a bitter-sweet black comedy with a tongue-in-cheek attitude, albeit Hollywood-ish, suddenly becomes an all out spoon-feeding thriller. Every preceding accomplishment, especially a trippingly hallucinatory Freudian surreal dream sequence, is rendered meaningless by the unnecessary snafu.

Homi Adajania is evidently enthused by American films. His handling of the material, heavily inspired by American Beauty and movies of the ilk, give the film a unique look. Even the background score resembles the works of Thomas Newman. Jehangir Chowdhury’s cinematography is half the experience. The other half is in the performances. Saif Ali Khan once again shows his versatility as an actor and his willingness to experiment with his image unlike another Khan in the industry who thinks he’s a King! Since his successful break-out role as the comical lover-boy Sameer in Dil Chahta Hai, Saif has played a scheming casanova(Ek Hasina Thi), a strait-jacketed multi-dimensional character in a period piece(Parineeta) and now this, including many others. Naseeruddin Shah proves that the knowledge an actor gains doing theatre is irreplaceable. Naseer dives into his small role and creates a character that is his own. He is delightfully absent most of the times, and achingly melancholy at others. Dimple Kapadia, still looking mighty fine, doesn’t do justice to her character. She fits the role physically but her acting only sucks out our interest in her. Simone Singh on the other hand is very efficient. Honey Chhaya and Manoj Pahwa are able in their limited screen-time. The performance of Boman Irani however is one that stands so tall, it makes the rest look diminutive and wish the movie were about Being Farokh. Boman, a Parsi, doesn’t get into the role…he becomes it. Grabbing our attention from the minute he appears on-screen and utters “Pappa” in true Parsi style, it’s his experimentation with his character’s physicality which is outstanding. Hanging his lower lip like Bubba from Forrest Gump, words come out of his mouth like a smorgasbord of varying degrees of anger.

A famed critic mentioned that Being Cyrus is very similar to Spike Jonze’s Being John Malkovich. The comparison is quite weird; only the title sounds similar. Other than that, this movie cannot even fathom to reach the bizarre psycho-analytic stratosphere that Jonze’s work on Kaufman’s script does. If anything, there’s a Hughes Mearns poem that was used in John Cusack’s (the star of ‘Being John Malkovich’) another film, Identity.

'Being Cyrus' is a novel film for the Indian Film industry. But it’s nothing more than that. It could’ve been, had it not compromised and not been so obviously American. Go Be Cyrus then, if only to meet Boman’s Farokh!

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originally posted: 04/09/06 16:24:04
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User Comments

12/25/06 Cosmic Conundrum What a relief from the usual crap 4 stars
4/08/06 Jenice It isbest film I have ever seen. If the film becomes hit in US, it can BEST OSCAR FILM 5 stars
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  DVD: 08-May-2006



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