The name 'Martin Scorcese' was a familiar one but to be honest, I had never actually seen a film made by him. "The Departed" was a first and it certainly won't be the last.
It's a film which takes the movie-set-in-a-mafia milieu to a new level. Instead of a cops vs robbers story, it's a tale of two cops - Billy Costigan (Leonardo di Caprio) and Jack Sullivan (Matt Damon).
Costigan is the 'good guy' who is convinced that he will serve his country better by getting chucked out of the police force. Thing is, he has the perfect 'family background' - crime inclined cousins and an uncle who once worked for mafia boss Frank Costello (Jack Nicholson). So he makes a convincing entry into life on the other side of the tracks, although actually operating as an undercover.
Sullivan, on the other hand, appears to be the classic good guy but is not. He owes a childhood debt to Costello, who was 'like a father' to him. When he joins the state police force, his allegiance is clearly elsewhere.
The fun begins when both sides realise there is a mole on the other side but don't know who. There are many classic 'Hindi movie' moments like for example, both guys falling for the same girl. And Sullivan being made in charge of finding the mole in the police department a.k.a. himself!
Complication: The only two people who know Costigan's real identity are Captain Queenan (Martin Sheen) and Sergeant Dignam (Mark Wahlberg). One dies, the other resigns. Our man is out in the cold, without an identity. Without giving anything more away, lemme just say you will be hooked to the twists and turns in the film.
There is a lot of violence, throughout. The scene where Costello and his men break Costigan's already broken arm to check if he is carrying a wire is truly chilling.
Even then, the final 10 minutes come as a surprise although considering the title of the movie- they shouldn't!
Concepts like 'good' and 'evil' get turned around on their head and in such a scenario, you can scarcely expect a happy ending.
The director's touch is evident - the film remains taut and never get cheesy. Leonardo 'babyface' di Caprio has grown up - and how. I can finally think of him without automatically associating the word 'titanic'. Mark Wahlberg as the foul-mouthed sergeant is extremely good and Jack Nicholson, of course, outstanding. Actually, all of the actors are excellent.
The most interesting thing is that 'The Departed' is a remake of the Hong Kong film 'Infernal Affairs'. Yet, those who have seen both say there definitely is 'originality' in this version. Looks like Scorcese is walking a path similar to that of Indian directors remaking old classics like Don, Umrao Jaan etc.
'The Departed' is of course a cross cultural transplantation but the trend is to take an idea and refine it/ give it your own unique touch. For example, setting the story in Boston, with an Irish mafia - as opposed to New York and its done-to-death Italian gangs. Of course, there will be people who prefer this or that version .
The point is, we could well have an Indian director also doing the honours.. coz neither the Chinese or English versions will reach the Indian masses.
I happened to see 'The Departed' on a Saturday night at Cathay Cine Leisure. The ticket at this upscale theatre on Singapore's Orchard Road cost $ 9 SGD. ie approximately Rs 250. This is the same price at which you'd get a ticket at INOX or PVR on a Saturday nite.
But consider the fact that 1 Singapore Dollar = 28 Indian rupees and you realise prices are shockingly high in India. The mall-multiplex culture is in fact fast
becoming a 'dollar economy'. Whatever supposed cost advantage is becoming less attractive as we expect to lead 'international quality' lifestyles on rupee salaries in India. Which means compensations are rapidly galloping..
The trouble is that while we may feel we are in London or Singapore while on the plush carpeted hallways of an INOX where a popcorn and Coke costs Rs 75 ($3 SGD), the moment we step out of the cocoon we are back to the Indian side of the economy. Potholed roads, population pressure and non-functioning essential services (we have a 3 hour daily power cut in New Bombay!) and of course, people, just too many people everywhere.
So yes, when more than one friend in Singapore mentioned India has beome 'expensive', I would agree. A parallel 'cheap' India still exists but those of us with the right education and employabliity are rapidly distancing ourselves from it. When was the last time you went to buy wholesale to save a few bucks. Or shopped at the chaotic Dadar market?
The upside is, Singapore will not seem 'expensive' - it did when I visited 5 years ago. Now, I am so inured to spending 200 bucks on taxi in Mumbai or 500 rupees on a meal the mental conversion calculator does not send up red flags that often!
Of course, I am sure the same would not apply if I went to Europe... which I plan to next year. Sigh!
P.S. Am back in India and will be posting as usual, interspersed with some more 'Snapshots from Singapore'.