Sometimes…when all seems lost…kidnapping a drunk may seem to be the only option.
Available online. This movie goes by many names, such as Pushpaka Vimanamu, Pushpaka Vimanam, Pushpaka Vimana, and Pushpak. I am assuming that this is due to there being various languages in India and this movie hailing from a Telugu-speaking industry, but I don’t know for certain. Approximately 129 minutes.
Our protagonist lives his life at the top…of a not so great apartment complex. He doesn’t even really live in an apartment, just some one-room little shack of a house on the roof. He is a young man, college educated. He has many interests…or at least images of whom he might want to be. He has pictures of bodybuilders like Arnold Schwarzenegger and…uh…Rambo, though he is definitely not all that muscular. He likes martial arts movies, because the fighting sounds help him to sleep. He also has a picture of Karl Marx, though he seems to have no Communist leanings. He certainly has little outward sympathy towards the cleaning woman, though he does seem to be somewhat fond of her butt. He likes mystery novels, but he is kind of stupid. What he does have, however, is a desire to be economically better off than he is. And, physical geography aside, he has nowhere to go but up.
The young man, whom I am going to call Youngman, puts on some middle-class button work clothes, drops some little pebble-like trinkets into his glass of tea (or some drink) so that it looks like he can afford more than a fifth of a glass, and heads out. Unfortunately, having nowhere to go but up also means that one has nowhere to go. So, he just wanders around the city, trying to act as if he is not dirt poor. Youngman eventually enters a shop of…all sorts of fancy things, and just wanders around while the store owner not-so-subtly follows him. Eventually, he notices a man who had just used…uh…magic…to hide from his irritated wife the fact that he has a cigarette. Youngman also notices their daughter, who is trying on some earrings. He manages to act like some sort of fashion judge and, while…Lady seems initially self-conscious around him, she does seem to appreciate his input and takes it seriously. Perhaps being a negging mansplainer does work. Of course, she does not notice when he tries to imitate one of her father’s casual magic tricks, breaks one of the store items as a result, and gets chased out.
The next day, he lines up at this place that advertises 15 temporary vacancies, even though the line is already at least twice that long when he gets there. After an attempt to cut in line gets him sent all the way to the back, he leans dejectedly against some fancy car that is parked there. And who should drive past but the Magician’s family, specifically, Lady. He compliments her on her earrings…which I guess is really important for her…and then he acts like he owns that car that he is leaning on. After the Magician’s family drives off, he wanders over to the super fancy Pushpak hotel, and gazes longingly at the ice cream cone that some drunken rich guest just dropped on the street…along with some cash.
That night, Youngman sees the Rich Man again…passed out outside. Youngman sees the hotel key and comes up with a…well…a terrible idea. He carries the Rich Man all the way up to his crummy apartment and holds him there indefinitely, regularly feeding him through a tube and carrying his human waste out in large boxes. He spends the rest of his time living in the Rich Man’s ridiculously huge hotel room, spending his money, and not doing actual work. Of course, it also turns out that the Magician’s family has rented a room way over on the other wing of the hotel, almost directly across from him. And to top it all off, Lady seems quite interested in Youngman, or at least the person he has successfully presented himself as being so far. How long can he keep up this charade? How long can he keep the real guy cooped up in his own apartment? How is he going to live with himself?
Now, anyone who may be reading this without having seen the movie beforehand may…well, think that the protagonist is a horrible person. But also, anyone might wonder why none of the characters have names. Is it some sort of pretentious gimmick that this movie does not give the characters names? Nope. The pretentious gimmick is that this movie has no actual dialogue. Seriously. Oh, it may lead you to think that it does in the beginning, with the radio playing. The martial arts movie has some dialogue in it. There is some other movie playing at one point that has some dialogue in it. There is some chitter chatter here and there. And there are two or three scenes where Youngman and Lady are pretty much miming a conversation from their respective hotel room balconies while mouthing the important words. But, really there is nothing.
I am not really ready to call it a silent film. Silent films may not have had audible talking, but many had dialogue. This one has some talking, but no dialogue. On the other hand, the style of the movie relies very much on visuals, physical acting, physical humor, musical cues, and musical sound effects. It does not so much imitate the pre-talky era as it does recall it within a 1980s setting. Kind of an update, though not really. Kind of a throwback, but not really. Sometimes, the conceit seems to stretch itself thin, but it retains its charm.
The character whom I call Youngman is quite an interesting one, at least in terms of being a protagonist. Yes, he is an underdog and an inventive striver, representing a generation of Indians living in a time of massive unemployment. At the same time, he is a liar and a cheat. He is not as smart as he thinks he is, and is a bit more arrogant than he has any right to be. He pretends to be someone whom he is not, woos a woman by developing that persona, and maintains that façade by holding captive some guy whose only real sin is drinking too much. Granted, it turns out that he is hardly the worst person in the story, but that this character can remain sympathetic and likeable throughout the runtime is a testament to everyone involved. Of course, not EVERYONE is going to like him, and may have a different take on the ending than those who like him do, but you know what I mean.
It helps that most of the characters of note are a little loopy or quirky themselves. Sure, Lady is…kind of boring as a love interest except maybe during the balcony mime sessions, but there is her Magician father, whose attempts to hide his cigarettes and drinks from her mother are much more impressive than his official magic act. There is homeless man who turns out to have quite a bit of money on him. And then there is this one guy who shows up around halfway through the movie, and that is all I will say about him here.
Too tired for subtitles, but not too tired to keep your eyes peeled? Check this one out. It is a really fun one.
WTF ASIA 40: Memories of Matsuko (Japan: 2006. Approx. 130 minutes). This is my favorite movie, by the way.
Available online…I think…
WTF ASIA 41: The Story of Nampu (Thailand: 1984. Approx. 135 minutes).
Free on Amazon Prime