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Thursday, October 16, 2008

A New Innings: Kafkaesque at PFC

It's out in the open folks: I have a new blog! This is at PFC or and I was beyond thrilled when the Editors of the site invited me to be a part of the team.....especially as I had been following this website for some time now........and had submitted a few articles(like this one , and this) which they graciously published. And I am in very good company indeed: The authors on this site include many people directly associated with the film industry, directors like Anurag Kashyap, Sudhir Mishra, Navdeep Singh, Onir; as well as prominent movie journos like Pratim D. Gupta and Khalid Mohammad. I hope this is the beginning of a long innings!

Here's my first article as a PFC author(redirected from this page at

The Legend Of Johnny Depp

I was about 10 when I saw “Edward Scissorhands” for the first time.(It was also one of the first Hollywood movies I saw) The modern-day fairytale style of narration, I’m sure went a long way towards holding a child’s attention, and the novelty value of seeing a freakish guy with dozens of scissors dangling where his hands should have been…… all in all, it was a dazzling experience.However, even then, what really grabbed me, what really gave me shivers was the image of a chalk-faced, confused, vulnerable….. and so deeply child-like Johnny Depp. This performance would prove to be a turning point in what is already one of the most remarkable careers of his generation.

As my taste grew more evolved, I watched many more films featuring this amazingly versatile actor. The first among these, some three years ago, when I was in Class XI, was “Ed Wood”(not Pirates of The Caribbean, imagine!), Tim Burton’s marvellously funny and touching portrait of the maverick, flamboyant movie-maker of the 50’s(By then, I already had a retro fetish, for both Bollywood and Hollywood ). Depp’s performance in this film has to be seen to be believed. Talk about getting under the skin of the character…… from the moment he waltzs in on the screen, all you can do is sit and watch……and try to close your mouth. Depp’s chameleon-like ability to master, but not overdo, almost any accent(notice the finely-nuanced Scottish one he pulls off to perfection in “Finding Neverland”, almost a decade after Ed Wood) coupled with his manic energy and obvious emoting gifts are on display here.

After being completely swept off my feet by this film, I saw the infinitely more “mainstream” and “commercial” Pirates Of The Caribbean trilogy, in which Depp played the character for which he is perhaps best known now: the irrepressible, witty, swaggering and sometimes treacherous pirate Jack Sparrow. Now the POC trilogy very much falls into the big-budget Hollywood fare category. Consequently, it has all the pitfalls and cliches that one associates with said company. However, it is Johnny Depp, who steers the ship, so to speak, all the way along, especially in the first film “The Curse Of The Black Pearl”.(In fact, one of the principal criticisms of the later films in the franchise was that they had too little of Sparrow!) The overwhelming praise Depp generated culminated even got him an Oscar nomination, in which he eventually lost out to Sean Penn for “Mystic River” . (Perhaps it’s just my Depp bias speaking, but is this another example of an out-and-out comic role losing out in the Oscar stakes to a more quote-unquote serious role?)

In the last year or so, I have watched half-a-dozen more Johnny Depp movies, including “Sweeney Todd”, (my personal favourite among them), which was a departure of sorts for Depp. For the first time, he worked in a musical, and even though he has an untrained voice, did splendidly, garnering kudos from all over, and yet another Oscar nomination(NOT that it mattered). The cold fury in his eyes bring out the angst and the pent-up bile of a broken man to perfection…..and the songs were fun, too!

The other usual suspects included “Finding Neverland” a somewhat weary but genuinely touching and often brilliant take on Sir James Barrie, the man who created the immortal play “Peter Pan”. Once again Depp delivers in style as the shy genius who crafted amazing worlds through the sheer power of his imagination. “Charlie and The Chocolate Factory” was a joy-ride through and through, and Depp literally let his hair down as Willy Wonka, the wildly creative but reclusive chocolatier.

Some were more quirky(than usual, by Depp’s standards), like playing legendary Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson’s fictional alter-ego Raoul Duke in the screen adaptation of “Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas”. Then there was “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape” another gripping drama, in which Depp was overshadowed for once, by a 19-year old by the name of Leonardo Di Caprio……

Along the way, Depp has forged a highly productive partnership with director Tim Burton, one which has already given us films like Edward Scissorhands, Ed Wood and Sweeney Todd. I am eagerly awaiting the upcoming projects like “Public Enemies”, from Michael Mann, the director of the majestic “Heat” and “Collateral”. Also on the anvil are “Shantaram” where we have the intriguing prospect of seeing Johnny Depp and Amitabh Bachchan share screen space. But the one to watch out for, in my opinion is, Tim Burton’s next film, “Alice in Wonderland” where Depp plays the Mad Hatter(who else?).

Long live the legend of Johnny Depp!

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