Direction: Vidhu Vinod Chopra
Cast: Chris Marquette, Anton Yelchin, Vincent D’Onfrio
One of the trailers for Broken Horses mentions that one Hollywood heavyweight, a certain Mr James Cameron, called the film "an artistic triumph"; while Mexican director, and Oscar-winner, Alfonso Cuaron described the experience as "overwhelming". We’re trying to decide whether to doubt the judgment of such stalwarts, or worry about how such eulogies are generated. Either way, we’re going to go out on a limb and assume that neither of the two gentlemen were sent a copy of Parinda (1989), even if they were indeed subjected to Broken Horses.
Parinda is arguably Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s best work as a director. Even now, some of the melodrama and Anil Kapoor’s incredibly hairy chest notwithstanding, it is highly watchable. A tale set in the big, bad city (Mumbai) that corrupts, that takes away innocence, and that provides survival in exchange for a life of crime; a quicksand through which the harder you try to get out, the deeper you’re sucked in. There are clever top shots, gritty scenes, an abundance of dark visuals that work brilliantly in this sinister world.
Watch Parinda trailer:
Chopra, unfortunately, looks devoid of inspiration as he ships plot points and characters "somewhere near the Mexican border", and leaves behind all the clever camera work, and the grit. Instead, there are uncomfortable close shots, a standard dawn-orange quality of light, and performances so flat that we’d rather choose Jackie Shroff’s over-the-top emoting at the other end of the spectrum.
Brothers Buddy (Chris Marquette) and Jakie (Anton Yelchin) are the Hollywood versions of elder brother Kishen (Shroff) and the younger Karan (Kapoor) respectively. Julius Hench (Vincent D’Onfrio), with his cowboy twang, is the evil kingpin, a cigar-smoking version of Anna (Nana Patekar); they are both mortally afraid of fire, to the point that they have someone light their cigars and beedis respectively; both have a dead wife and a child, murdered by burning. In one scene, a candle lit by a priest drives Hench mad; in Parinda, the same involves a pundit.
The similarities are so obvious that you cannot keep up the pretence of watching something new. The fact that Buddy is mentally-challenged, and that horses replace birds as the metaphor of innocence lost is of little consequence.
The other problem, even if you were to judge it purely as an adaptation, is that Chopra doesn’t seem at ease with the western setting the way he did with Mumbai. Kishen’s Malabar Hill flat and the private boat reflect affluence, the Kabootarkhana in the middle of busy Dadar market forms a great epicentre. The settings in Broken Horses are more generic, and seem to say little.
Watch Broken Horses trailer:
Chopra adds a lazy little twist, for the benefit of those who’ve seen the original, perhaps. But if it does anything, it makes you want to watch Parinda again.