Bollywood of the 60s. A glitzy film award function followed by a glam-infested cocktail party where two rival heroines (Chandni and Zara) contending for super stardom fall out with each other. Soon after the cat fight one of them is found lying dead on the rocky sea shore at the back of the hotel where the celebration is taking place. Suspects are many but who is the actual culprit need be exposed, of course, in due time.
While watching the movie Xposé, had I not been reminded of many a yester year films, novels and sensational news head-lines, I might have wholeheartedly endorsed the originality of the story-line. And that is what makes me mention a hugely forgettable and indubitably unforgivable movie in this post because it reminded me of those memorable golden classics ( in bits and pieces), be it film or book, which have time and again proven to be inerasable and unmatchable benchmarks for authors and filmmakers, book-lovers and movie-buffs alike.
Xpose is a fine example of flawed direction will be an understatement of the century. As the narration shuttles back and forth from flashback to the present and back, intermittently and cluelessly, viewers like me, can only be excused for remaining glued to the screen because of those sudden glimpses of the extraordinary strewn here and there, noticeable not by virtue of a strong script but because these seem to be straightaway lifted and punched in to make a mock-tail of a murder mystery which could have otherwise been unraveled through superlative craftsmanship had the movie been reposed in the hands of ace directors like Ramesh Sippy, Ravi Tandon, O. P. Ralhan and others of their league (Aah! the Old Is Gold tribe!).
A girl (Sonali Raut) in drunken stupor pushed out of the terrace of a hotel in the dead of the night preceded by a rowdy altercation with another (in this case, girl) is vividly reminiscent of a similar situation so brilliantly put together in Teesri Manzil, the super-duper suspense packed hit of the 60s, directed by the Alfred Hitchcock of Hindi Cinema, Vijay Anand, with trendsetting music by R.D. Burman. Vijay Anand, as I have said many times over, is one of the most underrated directors of Hindi cinema. But can Anant Mahadevan take over from where Goldie Anand left ? Not by any means.
Intended or unintended, a drunken girl staggering off a high rise and losing her life in the prime of her youth also reminds one of the unfortunate Divya Bharati case of the early 90s when the promising super-star purportedly in inebriated state lost her balance and slipped off the balcony of her fifth floor Versova apartment. It is said that she was not alone when the mishap occurred and had there not been an ulterior motive a young life could have been saved on time. As usual the matter was quickly hushed up. But rumours are still afloat…
The tinsel town, with its shades of black and grey, has always been mystifying and dangerously alluring. It is now that being elevated to the stature of an Industry, the film fraternity has come of age and employed various progressive management techniques like image makeover and brand building etc., majorly borrowed from the West, I suppose, to appear more professional and upbeat in their public profile. But it was not so earlier, in the 50s and the 60s, when professional rivalry and jealousy used to get the better of cordiality, camaraderie and sportsman spirit. Resultantly, drunken brawls, mud slinging and brick batting in public were not uncommon. Pivoting around this plot is Xpose with a horde of unremarkable and to some extent clichéd characters who are perennially insecure and suspicious of each other.
Again, at the expense of being a suspense spoiler, the actual expose of the murderer(s) strongly reminds one of Christie’s The Oriental Express, where every character on the train had a motive and an inclination to collaborate in a foolproof murder.
However, Xpose has its own bunch of spellbinders and amongst them the potentially most impactful and mesmeric is of course our own Himmesss Bhai, who in the film is a go-between super stars Rajanikanth and Rajesh Khanna. An ex-cop who takes to films because his ego is too big for his scrawny, average built, sky-rockets to super stardom in the South and now wishes to take over Bollywood by storm. A string of inexcusably gross punch-lines replete with double innuendos (which make you wonder whether you are supposed to laugh or cry) later, Himmess Bhai, the super-cop-turned-super-hero, in the final act, exposes all and sundry before the blindfolded Lady Justice. Meanwhile, he manages to not only fall in love with the many times youthful and ‘innocent’ Chandni (Zoya Afroz) but also save her ultimately from being truly exposed. Incidentally, Himmess Bhai is also the music composer of this film. Consequently, the immense injustice done to the awful lyrics is something which needs to be heard to be believed.
All said and done, as Himmess Bhai and Chandni walk arm in arm, in the last scene, stiff like a pair of bamboo sticks, the viewers are left agape puzzling out who exposed whom and how! And long after the film is over, resonates behind an uncanny nagging feeling that there was more to be exposed which was left unexposed and it could have been more fulfilling had the audience been left to decide who should have exposed whom and why!!
Confused? So was I and greatly thankful for the “The End” which took one hour and twenty odd minutes to appear on the screen.