Mumbai: Have you seen Joker? And have you, by any chance, seen Kabir Singh as well? It is a joke how the two are being pitted against each other by many reviewers, who believe the latest Hollywood film directed by Todd Phillips is as bad, sinister and morally bankrupt as the Bollywood one.
What a juvenile comparison -- the two are films, that's what they have in common. Beyond this, there are no grounds for comparison. Kabir Singh’s obsession was with his love, from whom he was separated and to win her back, he destroyed everything until his mission was accomplished. It was a story of romantic obsession.
Joker, on the other hand, is a multi-layered offering, depicting how society is sinking into an abyss of darkness. Joaquin Phoenix plays the title role, as Arthur, who tries his hand at stand-up comedy but nothing ever goes right for him and this causes him to inflict pain on himself and others.
But he truly loves and cares for his mother, and only too late, realises she is the root cause of his problems. Say Psycho at this point and you're not far off the mark.
Joaquin is a superb actor and while many have not liked him in this role (though one seriously wonders why), he is as agile as a rubber-band, setting a new benchmark with his convincing portrayal of the tormented torturer.
His agility is a treat for the eyes, as is his toned torso and a knockout posterior, to boot. His bizarre movements add a twist to his craziness.
Comedy is currently trending and pointing fingers at the foibles of others is rather lucrative, but when one makes jokes at another's expense, one must be fully prepared for a no-holds-barred response from the other.
Arthur is one such 'responder'. He remembers all those who had poked fun at him, just to hurt him and he meticulously plots his revenge. The joke is on oneself -- be it Arthur, society or you and me.
Set in Gotham City, the hometown of Batman and Joker, director Phillips has tried to show how the growing class divide plays out in societal interactions.
Joker has a disturbed past, which is connected to a rich and powerful person. The anger simmering within an individual gets impetus through the diabolical social dynamics playing out on the streets.
It may appear to some as though Phillips has gone berserk and is holding up morally corrupt icons. But honestly, every human being has sometime or the other, been hurt by others and longs to teach the perpetrators a lesson, but are either ill-prepared or scared.
But there have been vendetta sagas aplenty in recent times -- Badlapur, Kaabil, Hate Story, Ek Villain, to name a few.
To get back to Joker, the dark humour gets violent and sinister with violence, and after a point, Arthur declares, life doesn’t scare him. He feels free until the next shocker before the end. Robert De Niro also revels in his role as a famous comedy showman.
The end reflects today’s reality, be it political, social or cultural. The anger, envy and resentment towards the elite, be they rich, upper class or caste, is what we are witnessing. The public 'gets' his dark side.
Twitterati mostly approved of the film. A sampling.
@rachelhynds #JokerMovie: "Best film I’ve seen this year! Already can’t wait for the Blu-ray! I might be as bold as to say this was my favourite joker adaptation yet."
Sheraz Farooqui, editor in chief of comic book debate: "Just saw #JOKER at the Warner Media office. Joaquin Phoenix deserves an Oscar for one of the most spellbinding, uncomfortable, & iconic performances as the Clown Prince of Crime An absolute gem, Joker pushes the comic book movie medium further than ever before."
Dennis Tzeng VP of Production - Collider Video: "#JokerMovie is dark, disturbing, & dangerous and it's also one of the best movies of the year. Joaquin Phoenix delivers an unnerving Oscar worthy performance. The film is inspired by Scorsese's Taxi Driver and King of Comedy along with shades of Killing Joke & the Dark Knight."