“From here on, I am going to remember New Year’s Eve as this night that I had this wild conversation with a random strange boy. Seriously, aren’t you going to remember this night when you got a little high and called a girl in the middle of it to talk about boobs and existence in one breath?”
Dear lord, how the heck do I start writing about this film? Which I adore to bits? Because it’s funny, witty, compelling, intimate, wry, tender, charming and meticulously written and crafted? Like starting a conversation with a stranger, it’s not simple.
Good Night, Good Morning trades in all sorts of pop culture references that are familiar, that allow us to immediately identify with the two main characters, Turiya and Moira, who meet by chance on New Year’s eve in New York, and spend the night carrying on a long and far-reaching conversation by telephone, Turiya in a car with his three friends, on their way back to Philidelphia, and Moira, spending the night in a hotel on a stop-over on her way to Mumbai.
Images of New York, shot in black and white, and set against a smooth, jazzy soundtrack, give this film a hip, contemporary, cosmopolitan feel. I am a huge fan of black and white photography, and Kamath uses it to create an intense environment that allows us to focus on the discussion taking place. But he also intersperses fantasy segments and flashbacks in colour, allowing for a change in pacing, and further emphasising the intimacy created by the use of black and white, contrasting with it. The intimacy of the phone conversation is further intensified by the use of a split screen, not only allowing us to watch both characters, but also serving to underline the changing nature of their conversation and relationship. In the early parts of the film, Turiya and Moira are shown facing away from each other, but gradually, as the film unfolds, they begin to slowly turn around, first facing out, then finally, facing each other.
I’m a fan of the small details, and these are just peppered throughout the film – from the little scene from Some Like it Hot (the good night/good morning scene, from which Kamath’s film takes its title), to the waffles Moira mentions in an off-hand way, and which Turiya orders for her from room service (ask me how much I melted at that moment); to the ring Moira wears, and leaves behind; to Moira’s name -- it means “uncertain” or “bitter”, and she is, by turns, a little bit of both, and we long to find out why, what motivates or propels this lovely young woman, inhabited so splendidly by Seema Rahmani.
Turiya is still hanging on to a relationship with a woman who, three years on, he still believes was the love of his life. But as Moira sharply notes, “Do you realize you always keep saying she “was” the love of your life?” Moira’s past is more secretive, more complicated. She claims to be over her past, but like Turiya, she still carries baggage, though she will deny it. As the night wears on, the two will eventually put down their respective baggage and when morning comes, be prepared to walk out into a new day.
What is lovely about this film is that though we first see Turiya as kind of a hopeless, even hapless, romantic and Moira as a more – if not cynical, then definitely world weary – realist, we come to realize each of them has a wee romantic soul, each of them really believes in romance, though they each define it differently. For Turiya, love is about the journey, not the destination; for Moira, it’s about reaching the sunset of your life and realizing you really have spent it with the person who turned out to be the love of your life.
What makes their night-long roller coaster of a conversation compelling is, certainly, the dialogues (the script was written by Kamath and Shilpa Rathnam), sharply and crisply and pointedly wonderful; but it’s also the film’s two lead actors (Manu Narayan as Turiya and Seema Rahmani as Moira) who make us want to listen, to find out more about them, to see where this conversation will take their characters, as well as us.
And where it takes us? On a free-wheeling ride, from flirtation through philosophy of life and the nature of love and relationships (the film mirrors the stages of a romantic relationship: “The icebreaker,” says Moira. “The honeymoon, the reality check, the break up, the patch-up, the confiding, the great friendship. And the killing confusion”). From Before Sunrise to When Harry Met Sally to The Matrix to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai (oh, how I so love Moira’s reality check on that film).
What makes the film especially compelling, at least for me, is that the conversation between Turiya and Moira rings true, from beginning to end. I’ve had that discussion about The Matrix: “Explain The Matrix to me in four lines,” demands Moira, much as I’ve done myself, agreeing with her belief that “stories are meant to be simple, no matter what kind of bells and whistles they come with.”
And that’s why Good Night, Good Morning is so incredibly engaging as a film: it is a simple story, and the bells and whistles are used precisely to create atmosphere, mood, and pacing. They allow us to identify immediately with the film’s two protagonists. We’ve been where they are – at some point in our lives we have all been Turiya or Moira -- and we want to see how it’s all going to turn out. As Moira might say: "It’s a great ride while it lasts." And it’s a brilliant, delightful, charming ride while it does.
I had the distinct pleasure of seeing this charming film precisely because the folks over at Mela managed to strike a last minute deal with director Sudhish Kamath that saw the film release on Mela's various platforms on the same day as its theatrical release in India. I would love to have seen the film in a theatre, but I likely wouldn't have seen it at all, or not for a good long while, if I hadn't downloaded the Mela iPad app -- which is still available on a free trial until February 10th, 2012. Needless to say, if this is the kind of stuff Mela is going to offer me, I'm going to be downloading the paid app for sure.