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Runaway Jury & US Gun Culture

The dozens of shootings that have taken place in last few years, and the number of shootings that take place ever-so-often, begs the question “Do we need a gun rights?”. The latest shootings that took place in a place of worship, a Gurudwara in Wisconsin, and before that in a movie hall in Colorado, is a tragedy of huge proportions. But the failure to act, on the part of the Govt, speaks of a deeper sickness at the willingness to neglect and sideline it in the name of preserving gun rights.

How does a 24 year old PhD student legally buy an assault rifle, a 12 gauge shot gun and two pistols? What justification is there for a young man with no military or police academy training to access weapons whose only purpose is to fight in war? And inspite of such incidents, no one is willing to talk about gun control.

This movie, ‘Runaway Jury’ based on John Grisham’s work, addresses the issue of the gun lobbyists and how easy availability of firearms is making life altering changes to the society. A depressed and psychologically traumatized person with a gun in his hand can take away so many innocent lives. And along with those lives goes the peace and happiness of the families of the victims. How can the victims’ families ever be compensated?

The movie talks of one such shoot-out, but more importantly it was about how a jury can be manipulated to get the desired verdict, for or against. The movie begins with a failed stock trader of a brokerage firm who shows up at his workplace and suddenly opens fire at his colleagues.  The shooting leaves quite a few people dead and others injured. Celeste, the widow of Jacob Wood who died in the shooting, is one such victim; and she takes the Dicksburg Firearms to court on charges of gross negligence. Her attorney Wendell, played by Dustin Hoffman, is fighting for gun control while the defence attorney Durwood is being helped by jury consultant Fitch, played by Gene Hackman. Fitch tries his best to subvert the process so the jury can give a verdict in favor of Dicksburg.

Among the jury memebers is Nicholas[John Cusack], a man who works at an electronics store. His girlfriend Marlee [Rachel Weisz] manipulates things outside the court-room, while Nicholas plays his cards inside the court-room as part of the jury. They both collude to fight Fitch and bring him to his knees while Wendell guides them as the defence lawyer. Both Nicholas & Marlee have a hidden agenda in rigging the jury verdict and that is revealed towards the end of the movie. The wonderful thing is that, even after the movie gets over after a whole lot of action and thrill, the message is not lost; it stays with you.

All the actors did well in the movie, but Gene Hackman as the desperate jury consultant who wanted the jury to be on his side, stood out. His aggression and the recklessness of going to any length, even if it meant wiring 15 million dollars, totally justified the character sketch that Grisham had crafted out. Dustin Hoffman played the helpless lawyer pretty well. Cusack and Weisz went about their work nicely, but nothing extraordinary.

But I must say one thing here, the book was so different from the movie. Actually its the other way round, the movie was so different from the book. While the book ‘Runaway Jury’ concentrated on anti-tobacco brigade, the movie was against the gun culture. The change of theme was probably keeping in mind the prevelant gun rights issue, and it added more drama to the movie.

The number of homicide cases are staggering, and 52% of the suicides in US are executed using a gun. If a student is depressed, he takes his parents’ gun to school and starts firing randomly, if a teenager has been bullied then he picks up a gun to silence the aggressors, sometimes a kid just misfires while toying around with a gun. Gun is the cause of many major incidents and minor accidents.

Its amazing how so many of Grisham’s novels were actually about fighting the system, the corporates and plugging the loopholes in the legal system which were being exploited and how it went against the welfare of the common man.

His indictment of the system and the veiled attack on the flaws of the criminal justice and litigation process was very well highlighted in his works. Grisham continues to write, but off-late his works haven’t made it onscreen. Nevertheless, they are wonderful to read.

This post was also published on MadAboutMoviez

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Posted by on August 10, 2012 in books, hollywood, movies

 

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John Grisham’s Work Onscreen

“I don’t feel stupid, just inadequate. After three years of studying the law, I’m very much aware of how little I know.” — John Grisham (The Rainmaker)

Its amazing how so many works of John Grisham have made it to the big screen. While reading his novels during my college days, I did feel that there was a whole lot of drama, passion and brilliant writing; and that it lent itself into movie format. But what I did not realize back then was the fact that so many of his novels were actually about fighting the system, the corporates and the loopholes in the legal system which were being exploited and how it went against the welfare of the common man. Unlike Perry Mason, Grisham’s novels were not merely about legal proceedings of a murder mystery or a court-room drama.
 
Last Sunday I was glued to the tv for most of the time, watching Grisham’s works. I guess the channel was running a “lawyer” special or something. I watched 3 movies back to back, all John Grisham.
 
Runaway Jury: The book was so different from the movie, actually its the other way round; the movie was so different from the book. While the book concentrated on anti-tobacco brigade, this movie addressed the issue of the gun lobbyists and how easy availability of fire arms is making life altering changes to the society. A depressed and psychologically traumatized person with a gun in his hand can take away so many innocent lives. And along with those lives goes the peace and happiness of the families of the victims. How can the victims’ families ever be compensated?
 
The movie talks of one such shoot-out, but more importantly it was about how jury can be manipulated to get the desired verdict, for or against. While Marlee [Rachel Weisz] manipulates things outside the court-room, Nicholas [John Cusack] plays his cards inside the court-room as part of the jury. They both collude to fight Rankin [Gene Hackman] and bring him to his knees while Wendell [Dustin Hoffman] guides them as the defence lawyer.
All the actors did well in the movie, but Gene Hackman as the desperate lawyer who wanted the jury to be on his side and he could go to any length even if it meant wiring 15 mn dollars, stood out. His aggression totally justified the character sketch that Grisham had crafted out. The wonderful thing is that, even after the movie gets over after a whole lot of action and thrill, the message is not lost; it stays with you.
 
The Rainmaker: This was one of the earlier movies of Matt Damon, just before Goodwill Hunting. And may I say that Matt was fabulous in the movie. He shows the brilliant spark of a fine actor and he has gone onto justify his talent by choosing the right movies.
 
The movie dealt with the rejection of medical claim of Black family and the struggles of Ray Black suffering from leukemia. A bone marrow transplant could have saved his life but the insurance company declines the insurance amount eight times. That’s when Rudy, a jobless lawyer who has recently passed the bar exam, steps in. He takes up the cause and fights till the end, unearthing the dirt of the insurance scams. He exposes the deep set malice in the faulty claim processing system.
 
And while Rudy takes up the case on a professional front, on the personal side he is seen protecting a woman who is a victim of domestic violence. The movie reflects the times and the society that we live in, be it the corporate insurance scam or the wife-beating episode; all harsh realities of life. The only comic relief was the presence of Danny DeVito as the assisstant of Rudy.
 
It was an engrossing movie with fantastic performance by Matt Damon and Jon Voight, the lawyer representing the insurance company. The movie is a must watch for 3 good reasons: Francis Ford Coppola’s direction, Matt’s acting and Grisham’s writing in association with Coppola.
 
The Client: Mark and his younger brother are puffing a cigarette in the wilderness when a car just pulls in, and the
man behind the wheel attempts suicide by asphyxiation. This man, Romi, turns out to be a lawyer who has been defending a gang accused of murdering the senator. And Romi knows the ugly truth of the whereabouts of the senator’s dead body. Mark, an innocent kid, gets entrapped in a game of power, murder and deceit as he witnesses Romi commit suicide.
 
The rights of a child and witness protection program is the main theme here. Mark is hounded by FBI as well as the gang because they think Romi may have mentioned to him about the senator. In defence of the kid steps in Reggie Love, played by Susan Sarandon, an ex-alcoholic who has lost the custody of her kids. Mark played the wannabe ‘punk’ beautifully. He got under the skin of the character with perfect body language and acting skills.

Ultimately its Grisham’s character of Mark that really comes to the fore and makes this movie compelling. Reggie too wins the sympathy of the audience as she narrates her story to Mark. She seeks redemption by trying to protect Mark from the FBI as well as the gang. How she goes about doing this and the hostility with which Mark and Reggie treat each other has been very well captured.

Grisham’s treatment of the subject seemed more at a personal level than a professional one. The movie did not have any court-room scenes, but the tension was palpable. In fact, this along with The Pelican Brief are two most popular non-courtroom dramas of Grisham. While I am at this, let me quickly mention that his work ‘A Time To Kill’ was adapted into a Hindi movie titled ‘Pitaah’ directed by Mahesh Manjrekar.

Grisham popularised the ‘judicial system’ genre and many a tv series was born out of these works. His indictment of the system and the veiled attack on the flaws of the criminal justice and litigation process was very well highlighted in his works. Also, what is noticeable is the fact that all movies based on his work were made on large scale because the studios believed in the projects. Be it Tom Cruise in The Firm or Julia Roberts in The Pelican Brief who were ably supported by the likes of Denzel Washington, Dustin Hoffman, Gene Hackman and many others. Grisham continues to write, but off-late his works haven’t made it onscreen. Nevertheless, they are wonderful to read. Wish someone could buy the rights of his stories/novels and make movies in our movieland.

“In life, finding a voice is speaking and living the truth. Each of you is an original. Each of you has a distinctive voice. When you find it, your story will be told. You will be heard.” – John Grisham, Commencement Address 2010, The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill”

This post was first published on PFC

 
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Posted by on December 8, 2010 in hollywood, movies

 

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aamir khan aur remakes ki daastaan – part 1 of 2

Today, 14th March, is Aamir Khan’s birthday. I wish him a very Happy Birthday.

https://i0.wp.com/oorrkut.com/bollywood/wp-content/uploads/2008/08/aamir-khan.jpgI have wanted to write this article from a long time, to be precise after the release of Mann. Eventually, after the release and the super-success of Ghajini I have got down to writing it. There is something with Aamir and movie remakes, he has consistently been a part of movies which are remakes. Its definitely not his fault that he has featured in them, its the writer-director who were looking for a quick and readymade storylines  and of course the producer for easy money. And let me also say that he is not the only star to feature in remakes, as we all know, but the quality of the remakes is what differentiates him from the rest. Why I have analysed him is because, out of the 40 odd movies that he has made, nearly 10 of them have been remakes which is like 25%. Let me go ahead and write down about these movies in a chronological manner of their release wrt Aamir’s filmography.

1. It Happened One Night – 1934 : Clark Gable played the male lead Peter, he even went on to win the Oscar for the Best Actor. It was a
heart-warming movie with a smiple storyline. A small time reporter Peter is looking for a big story and he meets a high-browed lady Ellie
[Claudette Colbert] who has escaped from the clutches of her dad and is on the run to meet her beau. How they both make the journey from
Florida to NY, the small squabbles that they have and how they eventually fall in love with each other is what the movie is about.The
movie went on to win 5 Oscars; apart from Clark Gable, Claudette won the Best Actress, Frank Capra won the Best Director, it was awarded
the Best Movie and Best Writing/Adaptation.

The formula was a sure-shot success, and so in 1956 a movie named ‘Chori Chori’ starring Raj Kapoor and Nargis was released. Raj Kapoor
played the struggling reporter named Sagar while Nargis was Kammo. The highlight of this movie was the songs and especially the puppet-act of
Raj and Nargis. The movie had some brilliant compositions from Shankar-Jaikishan like ‘Panchhi Banoo Udti Phiroon’, ‘Aaja Sanam Madhur Chandni Mei Hum’, ‘Jahan Mai Jaati Hoon Wahin Chale Aate Ho’ and ‘Rasik Balma’. SJ won the Filmfare for Best Music Director.

If you watch Mehmood’s Bombay To Goa, you can see the same theme where Aruna Irani is trying to escape to meet her lover Shatrughan Sinha and is guided all the way by Amitabh Bachchan. But it was dished out in a different way, they changed the screenplay totally and added the
comedy angle to it. This occured to me just now, wonder why I did not think of it earlier.
Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin
Anyways, the person who did not deviate from the original screenplay was the Robin Bhat-Mahesh Bhat duo. They stayed faithful to IHON and
in 1991 came Dil Hai Ki Manta Nahin starring Aamir Khan as Raghu Jaitley and Pooja Bhatt as Pooja. Aamir exuded the same kind of charm
as Clark Gable. In fact, he went a few notches up in the emotional sequences where he could neither stop Pooja from meeting her lover nor
could he tell her that he has fallen for her. Aamir played the role with gusto beginning with the telephone-booth sequence, then the
request-for-lift scene and ending it with the elopement. The entire journey was fantastic, but the magical moment has to be the one where
he starts humming ‘Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke’ with a cigarette between his lips and Pooja in his arms. Only after this does he realise that he
has started liking Pooja. The movie received 4 Filmfare nominations, for Best Actor, Best Director, Best Comedian [Anupam Kher playing
Pooja’s father] and Best Female Singer. Anuradha Paudwal took home the award for the title track, while the rest just remained nominated.

2. Breaking Away – 1979 : This was a really nice movie about a good-for-nothing dude Dave Stoller [Dennis Christopher] who has no aim
or ambition and leads a non-chalant life. His parents keep reminding him about his responsibilities but he just loves spending time with
his friends and riding the bicycle. He has a chance meeting with a beautiful girl Katherine [Robyn Douglass] and to make friends with her he fakes his identity to be a guitar playing Italian exchange student. While he is dating Katherine an entourage of Italian bikers happen to come to his town for a Little500 race. He loves watching them pratcise and shows his talent with the bicycle. He hopes to get close to them by showing that he can keep up to their pace, but he beats them in a friendly dash; but instead of lauding his effort they just push him into a ditch. That really breaks Dave’s herat and he loses all respect for the Italian cyclists. He decides to take part in the Little500 race wearing the ‘Cutters’ jersey; referring to the lesser privileged people who are not able to complete their education but take pride in hardwork. He ofcourse goes on to win the race and create history. The movie won the Oscar for Best Writing, Screenplay; but it lost in the 4 other categories Best Director, Best Picture, Best Actress and Best Music.

https://i0.wp.com/www.musichouseltd.co.uk/shop/images/JO%20JEETA%20WOHI%20SIKANDAR%20DVD.JPGIn 1992, Mansoor Khan took a lot of inspiration from this movie and made Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikandar. I have used the word ‘inspiration’ because the movie was not a scene-to-scene remake. Lots of new things were introduced, but the plot, storyline and the spirit of the original was kept intact. Mansoor wrote a brilliant screenplay and dialogues by Nasir Hussain were really good, they breathed a life into the Sanjaylal character played by Aamir Khan. They retained the sub-plot of Aamir faking his identity and calling himself a Xavier student so he can go around with Devika[Pooja Bedi] and ultimately she gets to know the truth. The friendship of Sanjaylal and Anjali[Ayesha Jhulka] was handled with maturity and utmost honesty. Mansoor Khan introduced an emotional quotient attaching a prestige to the Annual Cycle Race and added the nostalgia of Sanjaylal’s dad[Kulbhushan Kharbanda] having won the race once upon a time. And the burden of bringing home the cup rested on Ratanlal [Mamik], Sanjay’s elder brother. But when Ratanlal is severely injured from an accident inflicted upon by the Rajput College boys, Sanjaylal takes it upon himself to bring home the coveted honor and take revenge against the Rajput College boys. The movie won the Filmfare for Best Film. Aamir was excellent in the movie, to say the least.

3. Houseboat – 1958 : This movie starred Carry Grant as Tom Winters, who works in the state department of Washington and Sophia Loren as
Cinzia who is the daughter of an Italian conductor. The movie is about Tom whose estranged wife dies in a car crash and he decides to raise the 3 kids, but the kids despise him. In his effort to befriend the kids he takes them to a concert, but the youngest kids get bored and goes out to have some fresh air and play his harmonica. The kid runs into Cinzia who has runaway from home after a small squabble with her dad. Cinzia is able to strike a chord with the kids and since she has nowhere to go, she accepts Tom’s offer of being their housemaid/nanny. After some wandering around and having seen their travelling house [home on wheels] getting destroyed due to a speeding train; they finally move into a houseboat. Tom’s sister-in-law who has a crush on him tries to woo, but slowly and surely Tom finds himself falling for Cinzia. How they get married and how the kids finally accept their dad and new mom is what the rest of the movie is about.

https://i1.wp.com/s.chakpak.com/se_images/13474_-1_564_none/hum-hai-rahi-pyar-ke-wallpaper.jpgIn 1993 a movie titled after a popular Dev Anand song released, the movie was Hum Hain Rahi Pyar Ke. It was again the combination of Robin Bhat-Mahesh Bhat who systematically copied the movie scene-by-scene. The only thing that they changed was that, the kids were Aamir Khan’s nephews and nieces and not his own. And Aamir becomes the caretaker of the kids after the sad demise of his sister and brother-in-law in a car crash. They also introduced the character Mishraji [Mushtaq Khan] who had returned from Japan after getting trained in assembly-line production; and they made use of this by adding the twist of having to deliver the bulk order of 1 lakh shirts. Apart from this, rest of the movie remained faithful to the original. It was so faithful that the Cinzia character’s Italian dialogues were translated to suit Juhi Chawla’s tamil character Vyjayanthi. The concert, mouth-organ playing kid, taking the kids to visit the museum, Vyjayanthi’s advise of treating the kids with maturity were all the same as in the original. All the kids did a great job, especially Kunal Khemu who went onto become an actor. Aamir was also the Assisstant Director of this movie, in fact this was the phase when Mahesh Bhat was considered to be the most busy director, so busy that he was supposedly giving instructions over the phone; that was the reason for Aamir to step-in as Assisstant Director. This did not stop the movie from winning the Filmfare for Best Actress, Best Film and Best Lyricist[Sameer].

4. Kramer Vs Kramer – 1979 : It was a movie about a marriage gone wrong and a divorce case ending up in a courtroom. Dustin Hoffman as
Ted Kramer, a workaholic from advertising industry marries Joanna Kramer, played by Merly Streep. One day when he returns home after being given a big assignment with a new client, he finds his wife walking away. She wishes to walk-out on him, leaving behind her son Billy. Now, its upto Ted to look after Billy. He does so with some help from Margaret, his neighbour. One day, as they sit around the park while the kid is playing, Billy has a minor accident and is bleeding profusely. Ted makes a mad rush to a hospital amidst the traffic and speeding cars. A year and half later, Joanna returns to seek custody of Billy and this is where a bitter court battle ensues. There is a lot of bad blood and lot of vicious remarks being made about Ted’s carelessness in taking care of the baby. Finally, Joanna being a mom, wins the battle on emotional grounds and Ted is left alone. The movie won 5 Oscars, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Director, Best Picture and Best Writing, Screenplay.

https://i1.wp.com/www.musichouseltd.co.uk/shop/images/Akele%20Hum%20Akele%20Tum.jpgMansoor Khan could not resist this movie as well. In 1995 he remade this movie and titled it ‘Akele Hum Akele Tum’. He just changed the fields of interest, i.e., Aamir Khan as Rohit is a promising singer who sings for a club and awaiting his opportunity to sing in a movie. His love interest Kiran, played by Manisha Koirala, is learning classical music. She is a fan of Rohit and she makes it to one of his New Year shows where they meet and falling in love seems inevitable. Soon after the breezy romance they get married and realise that life is not easy. Kiran is ambitious and she is not willing to sacrifice her singing so she walks out on him, leaving Rohit with his son Sunil, played by Aadil. How Rohit and Sunil manage  together and how Kiran comes back into their lives to reclaim Sunil forms rest of the courtroom drama. Aamir gave a very well restrained performance but the same cannot be said of Manisha. The movie had some good songs but was marred by plagiarism where Anu Malik lifted the famous Last Christmas song of George Michael. Also, there was a rubbish spoofing of Nadeem-Shravan duo; Shafi Inamdar and Harish Patel played the crook music directors Amar-Kaushal, who are after Rohit’s composition. I am not sure whose idea it was, TIPS guys or Anu Malik but it was in bad taste. Anyways, the movie bombed at the box-office. Only Aamir and Adil’s performance added some value to the otherwise dull movie.

5. Godfather – 1972 : How does one even start-off talking about a movie like ‘Godfather’. I shall not go into the plot and drama because its totally unnecssary. And I will not be able to say anything that has not already been said.

In 1975 Feroz Khan paid tribute to Godfather with his version named Dharmatma. But he twisted the plot towards the second half, where instead of allying with his father and their forces Feroz plays against them. Feroz Khan repeated the same concept in Jaanbaaz and Yalgaar without much success. In 1992 a movie named Zulm Ki Hukumat was released. The movie starred Dharamendra as Pitamber Kohli and Govinda played Pratap Kohli aka Michael of Godfather. This was one of the first proper remakes of Godfather. The movie fared pretty well and I liked Govinda’s perfromance.

https://i1.wp.com/content6.flixster.com/movie/10/85/20/10852076_pro.jpgEven after all this, we still had Aamir in line to pay tribute to Godfather. So, he acted his part in Atank Hi Atank which released in 1995. He played the role of Michael, which Al Pacino had played. In fact, it was quite fascinating to see Aamir with a moustache and his wet-hair all combed back, he looked like he meant business. This movie had Rajnikanth playing Sonny, I think the only time that Aamir and Rajni have ever worked  together. But none of this could save the movie at the box-office.

to be continued …

Click here for part 2 of 2

This post was first published on PFC

 
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Posted by on March 14, 2010 in bollywood, hollywood, movies

 

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