Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bobby - Death of a politician

What is is about

"It is impossible to experience one's death objectively and still carry a tune."

- Woody Allen

Guess what? This is not your 10-th grade essay to start with and elaborate on a quotation and Woody Allen is not always right - at least for death in movies.

Robert F Kennedy was fatally shot at Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles on June 5, 1968 following a win in California Primary. I rented "Bobby" today thinking it will probably be a taut political thriller or an overly drawn anti-conspiracy drama like Oliver Stone's JFK. I was wrong too!

In fact, there is not even an actor playing "Bobby". Most of the footages are taken from CBS archive. "Bobby" is all about how America was fighting less in Vietnam and more within herself in the 60s. Racism, Dr King, Vietnam and a divided nation, huge part of the nation still dwelling with poverty, political sub-culture of satisfying media even at the cost of twisting polity, extreme hard work of just about everyone and - as always - immigrants. Written and directed by Emilio Estevez (elder son of Charlie Sheen, ex-brother in law of Denise Richards), "Bobby" shows a day in the lives of about twenty odd people who were in Ambassador Hotel on the day of the assassination. There is the elderly retired hotel employee (Anthony Hopkins) who - like all others in that period - was so much tuned to his job that he still keeps coming to the hotel. There is Sharon Stone (thankfully, she is finally looking of her age!) - a hair dresser in the hotel who exchanges middle-age marriage angst (bitches!) with star performer Demi Moore (who, thankfully, still is not looking even half her age!). Lindsay Lohan plays a teen who marries Elijah Wood in that hotel that same day so he can skip Vietnam! Like everywhere in US then, after assassination of Martin Luther King, there is racial tension among the hotel employees too. In other words, "Bobby" is a "Love Actually" in the backdrop of a real political event.

The movie briefly touches upon Bobby's political beliefs and kind of portrays him as the would have been savior of the nation. The movie is about two hours long. However, rather than depending on the 'conspiracy' angle of the murder or analyzing who did it and why - it spends most of the time with the period and characters that define it. There is also a "hippy" listening to Sitar and trying LSD to find "God". Overall, not a bad movie.

When should I watch

Depends. Do you enjoy political thrillers? Then keep yourself busy with the "Manchurian Candidate"s. Do you like period drama with identifiable events within it? Then watching it should not be a difficult experience.

  • Apparently, Estevez went almost broke producing this movie. He also developed a "writers' block" while writing. Martin Sheen advised him to take off to a remote place and keep trying. He checked in to a random motel and found the check-in lady there was apparently present in the Ambassador ballroom on the night it all happened. Lindsey Lohan's character was based on her! I usually doubt coincidences like this. Problem is, this type of claims are totally unverifiable. How could you possibly disprove the fact that once I talked with P Chidambaram on my Niagara trip? We both were on the same boat for the 'Maid of the Mist' tour of the falls and I introduced myself. He was accompanied by his wife. Well, nobody shot him that day and I am not famous.

  • Though five more people had been shot with Bobby that night in reality, no one else died. In the movie, the other people shot are fictional -- probably because Estevez wanted to save some money by not having to give any fees to the actual people who were shot.

  • We could make so many taut assassination movies in India. So many of them, right? Indira, Sanjay, Rajiv, Lalbahadur Shastri, Gandhi himself. Out of all these, I think Sanjay Gandhi's would make an excellent movie. However, to me the most planned, dramatic and till date unsolved (read - best movie potential) political murder is Lalit Narayan Mishra's. Lalit was Jagannath Mishra's elder brother. He was the then right-hand man of Indira Gandhi, the union railway minister from Bihar.

    Side joke - Q. What's the similarity between Eminem and Ghani Khan Chowdhury?
    A. Eminem is a white rapper, Ghani was a railway minister from outside Bihar.

    Mishra was included in the all powerful CWC (Congress Working Committee) a few days before he was killed by a grenade explosion in an inauguration ceremony. There are still so many questions that need answering. For example, his wounded body was taken to Danapur, and not to much closer Darbhanga. Apparently, the train was also made to stop at several places so that an alive Mishra does not make it to hospital. Bihar, murky politics, assassination, train -- I cannot find a better movie plot!

    I remember reading a few "India Today" pieces on Mishra's assassination. Cannot find any online. But here is the next best - an excellent article from Jan 13, 1975 issue of Time on "Murder in Bihar".

1 comment:

nilendu said...

Forgot to add this "chutkula" on Mishra. Remember the now-famous story of how Dhirubhai Ambani asked for only 5 minutes from a then-belligerent "Mr Clean" and asked what he should do with the Rs 500 crores that Indira asked him to keep? (This was included "Guru" too!).

Mishra was a major fund collector for Congress. Apparently, someone went to Indira and complained to her that her party treasurer Mishra was pocketing for himself five per cent of the money that he was collecting. Story goes that she threw back her head and laughed saying: "Thank God it's just five per cent and not 95 per cent!" What a treasure -- pun totally intended.