Thursday, July 19, 2007

Freeze Frame #56, #57: Goodfellas, Satya

You might wonder why I did not list both Goodfellas scenes together in my previous post. Let me explain.

Goodfellas and Satya are my favourite gangster movies of all time. They represent, in my opinion, the best of the genre in Hollywood and Hindi cinema. The two scenes I shall talk about here are somewhat similar in how they occur and how they represent a turning point in the proceedings.

An important supporting character in Goodfellas is Tommy DeVito, played by Joe Pesci with a sort of fearsome intensity that makes you squirm sometimes. He is given to sudden bouts of aggression, so much so that even his friends are on their guard with him. However, he seems to be rising quickly in the mob and, owing to his Italian-American lineage, he is the only one among the trio (the other two being Ray Liotta and Robert De Niro) to have a chance to become a "made man". Being a "made man" basically means that you are now a member of the inner circle of the mob and cannot be touched. Clearly a big thing. On the day that he is supposed to receive that honour, so to speak, he dresses up in his best suit and accompanies a couple of mob enforces to the house of a mob chieftan. However, as he steps in, realization dawns. He barely has time to say "Oh, no!" before one of them shoots him in the head. The entire build-up is so impeccable that the scene comes as a complete surprise. You realize later that he had it coming (he killed a "made man" not so long ago), but at that moment, it gives you a jolt.

That scene is also a turning point in the movie. Until then, you've seen how they have all the power and privilege they want. But after that, it's all downhill.

A parallel scene in Satya is the one where Bhiku Mhatre is killed. After much infighting and a lot of death, Bhiku has finally managed to oust his competitor and become the top dog. He is now in such a position that even Bhau, a veteran gangster-turned-politician and his mentor, seems to play by his rules. Just as he basks in his success, right in the middle of a Diwali celebration, Bhau suddenly turns and shoots him in the head when he is least expecting it. Manoj Bajpai gives such an electric performance as Bhiku that the story seems to revolve around him, although his assistant Satya is whom the movie is supposed to be about. His death, although inevitable in hindsight, is sudden and shocking. Much like Tommy DeVito, who basked in his invincibility up until he got shot in the head.

16 comments:

Scorpius Maximus Indicus said...

My freeze moment in Satya, when the cop is interrogating one of the gangsters involved in a shootout. That guy's leg is injured, and he is wincing in pain. The cop keeps asking him "Supari kisne diya", the guy just swears. He swings his lathi, and brings it on his raw wound. The guy screams in agony "Bhiku Mathre". Nothing is shown, but the impact is just so shocking.

Ramsu said...

Yeah, the interesting thing with RGV is that he manages to convey a lot of violence with maximum impact, but shows a lot less than we think he does. Clever editing - lets the mind fill in the gaps.

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