Dir:Vinta Nanda. India-UK. 2004. 108mins.
A litmus test of how Indian cinema is changing in the MTV and satellite era,White Noise has all the New Bollywood ingredients: a feisty, sexuallyliberated, working heroine, a hip and sensitive male love interest who hasbroken away from his traditional family, satirical digs at contemporary IndianTV culture, and English-language dialogue.
Itshould appeal to urban multiplex audiences at home - where it is released nextmonth - who either share or aspire tothe Westernised lifestyle and ethics depicted on screen. South Asian diasporadistribution is also likely.
Well-receivedat the Karachi festival, the film was given its European premiere at theenterprising River To River Indian Film Festival in Florence. And though it waspolitely applauded, it was obvious that New Bollywood sophistication is nevergoing to be sophisticated enough for Western audiences, who prefer either theout-and-out traditionalism of stirring epics like Lagaan or theout-and-out arthouse approach of Mira Nair.
DirectorVinta Nanda draws on her previous life as writer and director of Tara, one ofIndia's most successful TV soaps, to flesh out the character of Gauri (Purie),a scriptwriter called in to inject some new life into a flagging daytime soap.
Gauriis going through a bad patch following the break-up of her relationship withformer boss Pawan, and when sensitive and principled film editor Karan (RahulBose) develops an interest in her, she spurns him, preferring self-destruction(through alcohol and excessive exposure to Jim Morrison lyrics) to theattentions of this excessively nice guy - a role which is a faithful reprise ofBose's character in another recent New Bollywood film, Chameli.
WhiteNoise chicanes through various setbacks to the inevitable happy ending,alternating romantic duet scenes - in which Gauri's fragile and impetuouscharacter is pushed to mannerist extremes - with more comedy-tinged ensemblescenes set in the TV studio.
Thescript's a bit too loose - particularly in its efforts to relate the "whitenoise" metaphor to the central relationship - and the fact that female leadKoel Purie was brought in a week before shooting started (after the director'sfirst choice, Tabu, left the project) is sometimes all too evident.
Apartfrom a couple of entertaining soap insets, the satire is curiously blunt -perhaps because stock characters like tyranical studio boss Pallavi seem tohave stepped out of the same soap tradition which is being held up forcriticism.
Theusual song-and-dance numbers are replaced by montage and flashback scenes setto an Indian electro-rock soundtrack with echoes of Depeche Mode; but like thejump cut editing and flashbulb white-out fades, or the trendy "pads" theprotagonists live in, with their purple sofas and bay views, this feels likecontemporary seasoning rather a truly innovative main course.
Prodcos: Qedmetamozez,Troiiika Picture Company, Asian Pictures International
Int'l sales contact: c/o Asian Pictures International
Exec prod: Preeti Maroo
Prods: MohnajitSingh, Vinta Nanda, Uday Watsa
Scr: VintaNandaa, Mohanjit Singh, Uday Watsa
Prod des: Jayant Deshmukh
Music: AshutoshPhatak, Dhruv Ghanekar
Main cast: Rahul Bose, Koel Purie, Aryan Vaid, Mona Ambegaonkar, Jatin Siyal