Showing posts with label Movie Reviews. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Movie Reviews. Show all posts

Friday, 7 September 2012

The Words - Review

In The WordsBradley Cooper is a writer who has spent years trying to find his voice. He has submitted several manuscripts to publishers and although they are encouraged by his talent, Cooper has failed to sell one book.

Then, on a trip to Paris with his wife (Zoe Saldana), she buys him a tattered leather satchel to use for his work. She hopes it will inspire him to carry his prose to awaiting publishing houses. 

What’s inside the bag will set off a moral dilemma as old as time itself. 

Once home, the happy couple go on with their lives with reality showing its face. Cooper needs to get a job and finds one working the mail room at a publisher. His disdain is clear, but he knows it may be possible to still make it as an author working around the people who make such dreams happen. 

At nights he works on his book. Yet, success continues to elude him. Then, The Words hits its astute question: If no one knew -- or could know -- that you did something wrong… would you still do it? 

Late one frustrating night, Cooper finally pulls out the satchel and inspects it. Inside he finds a manuscript. Not just any manuscript, but filmmakers would have us believe this is something as earth shattering as anything Hemingway or Fitzgerald composed. In an effort to feel what it’s like to write something so powerful, he writes it on his computer, word for word. 

The film never suggests that Cooper had planned to do anything else with the story other use it as an exercise of “writing” a great book. When Saldana finds the work on his computer, he is greeted one evening by a woman filled with tears launched by the brilliance that she believes her husband has crafted. So taken with her reaction, it happens: Cooper passes it off as his own. 

He shows it to an agent at work, they immediately sign him and he becomes an overnight literary sensation. 

As so eloquently laid out in The Words trailer, the film raises many questions. This is a forty-plus year old manuscript. Surely no one will miss it? Or will they? Jeremy Irons shows up after Cooper accepts an esteemed literary award. The Words are in fact… his.

Director Brian Klugman has crafted a film that if it stuck to the story outlined above, it would be utterly brilliant. Unfortunately, interwoven with that story is a narrative with Dennis Quaid who we’re told early on is himself an author. He is narrating a story of his own while Cooper’s tale plays out. It is a confusing plot device and regrettably is a complete distraction. 

It is truly sad because within The Words there is a fantastic film. It’s just not the one presented to audiences. Although Saldana is underused, Cooper is outstanding weaving nuances of emotional resonance throughout his performance. The Hangover star shows his acting mettle. He especially illustrates his talent in scenes where he goes head to head with Irons, who is as always astounding. 

Sticking to the storyline of Cooper and Irons, our The Words review would say that the film is a winner. We adore Quaid, but his element to this morality tale is completely unnecessary. If it can be overlooked, the other aspects of the film are so strikingly strong, audiences could still enjoy the ride.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Jannat 2 - Movie Review

Directer: Kunal Deshmukh
Producer: Mahesh Bhatt and Mukesh Bhatt
Starring: Emraan Hashmi, Esha Gupta, Randeep Hooda
Music: Pritam
Release date: 4 May 2012

Director Kunal Deshmukh’s Jannat 2 might have been a gripping thriller but is hamstrung by a painfully dull romantic track between Emraan Hashmi and newbie Esha Gupta, not to mention the latter’s plastic expressions and pretentious ‘Angelina Jolie’ pout. A barrage of songs pile more misery upon us, but it’s Randeep Hooda who saves the day for Jannat 2 with his explosive portrayal of a tipsy cop on a mission. 

Sonu Dilli aka KKC (Kutti Kameeni Cheez) is an unscrupulous gunrunner in Delhi making an easy buck pushing arms to the folks with violent motive. He is in the crosshairs of a searing cop ACP Pratap Raghuvanshi (Randeep Hooda) who has declared an all out war against the illegal arms traders. Raghuvanshi coerces Sonu to work for him as an undercover informer to help him nab the big fish in the arms trade. But the deal goes awry and Sonu lands behind bars. He later reforms and falls in love with a doctor named Jhanvi (Esha Kapoor), but Raghuvanshi again drags Sonu into the arms trade. Will our hero be able to make a clean break or fall victim to the battle between gun-traders and the vengeful cop? 

Jannat 2 does hit the ground running and Emraan Hashmi as the foul-mouthed hustler in the bylanes of Delhi is fun to watch for sure. Randeep Hooda adds fire to the proceedings with his incendiary portrayal of a broody cop. It’s with the coming of Esha Gupta that the film’s graph begins to plummet. The romantic track between Emraan and Esha, how he woos her and how she simpers and finally succumbs to his advances makes for a boring watch. The writers Shagufta Rafique and Kunal Deshmukh show no imagination in chalking out this love story. On top of this, songs by Pritam hamper the flow of the narrative. The film hits the interval point with a twist. 

The plot meanders in the second half through many twists and turns, some clever, some lousy, but what stands out most is a nail-biting chase sequence through the labyrinthine alleys of a dargah. The dialogues are well penned, but littered with too much abusive language. 

For Emraan Hashmi playing the role of a hustler would have been just another day at job, but one does appreciate the typical north Indian twang he brings in his dialogue delivery. Randeep Hooda is the scene stealer in this crime caper. His gruff demeanor, seething persona set the screen alight every time he appears. The less said about Esha Gupta the better, and Manish Chaudhary as the big fish in the arms trade hams at times. 

So essentially, it’s a see-saw of the positives and negatives in Jannat 2. The film isn’t anything to rave about, but Randeep Hooda’s incredible act all but makes up for the botches. 

Watch Jannat 2 for Randeep Hooda. 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Titanic 3D' more magnificent after 15 years - Review

Film:Titanic 3D 
Cast: Leonardo DiCaprioKate Winslet and Billy Zane 
Director: James Cameron 

Since "Titanic" originally released in 1997, the first question that comes to one's mind is of reasons to 'revisit' the film. The second question is about a film that may have won maximum Oscars, but whether 3D is good enough reason to not buy a DVD instead?

Vivacious Jack (Leonardo DiCaprio) travelling third class on Titanic falls for the beautiful but lonely Rose (Kate Winslet). As the ship hits an iceberg, a battle for survival is waged even as the jealous, industrialist fiancé Cal (Billy Zane) bays for the blood of the two lovers.

Titanic, the film, as the ship in 1914, has become stuff of legends so it's pointless to recount the obvious. Let's try and see the invisible.

The most striking thing about 'Titanic' is the immaculate and almost painful detailing. Like Stanley Kubrick, James Cameron delights both the novice and discerning viewers with the detail in every door knob, every headgear, every marking on every china-plate and every expression on actors faces.

It is thus the mother of all disaster movies not because it is based on a real incident but because of this attention given to so much detail. That is perhaps the reason why, among many other probables, Titanic became first among the classics to gain a 3D restoration.

The already immaculate detailing is enhanced by 3D, increasing engagement and thus the viewer's experience.

Beyond its technology though, 'Titanic' is literally a masterpiece of metaphors. The most obvious and overarching is that of the class segregation in society. Titanic becomes a microcosm of our planet earth and its social, structural divisions.

Even physically the ship represents a class pyramid, with the majority in the lower decks filled with the have-nots, aspirational class forming the base while the higher decks of rich, hedonist and have-all class forming the pyramid's small but affluent, tip. Cameron scathingly points out the hypocrisy of the latter even as he celebrates the giving, caring and sacrificial spirits of the lower class.

"Titanic" is also a very feminist film. Set at a time where women were thought to be nothing better than decorative pieces, it pits two perspective: one where the woman has everything physically at the cost of her freedom and the second where she may not have any worldly riches but has love, beauty and freedom. Rose vacillates between the two perspectives, till finally going with her 'heart'.

Thus the story of 'Titanic' might seem linear and juvenile, but like his later film 'Avatar' Cameron hides layers and layers inside its deceptively simple, sugar-coated shell. And though the acting of our lead pair may not be up there, but their chemistry and youthful and innocent exuberance carries the film through.

Oscar-winning producer of Titanic Jon Landau had told IANS two week back when he was in India to promote the film, that James Cameron had himself supervised every one of the nearly half a million frames that had to be converted to 3D and $18 million and over a year spent in the same. The effort shows as 3D enhances the brilliant detailing, adding an extra shine to an already bright film.

In 1997 people had gone to watch 'Titanic' multiple times. Watch it in 3D on the large screen - on the 100th anniversary of the ship's sinking - and you'll go see it another time for the magic is not only still there, but is enhanced by 3D. 

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Ek Deewana Tha 2012 (Review)

Director: Gautham Menon
Actors: Prateik Babbar, Amy Johnson
The boy, an obsessive, relentless roadside Romeo, having chased the girl from the streets of Mumbai to Mallu-land, finally holds her, jolts her up, pops the winning question: “Kamaal ki chemistry hai hamare beech mein (there’s huge chemistry between us). Can't you see it?" No, she says. He obviously can. That’s a matter between them. Audiences couldn’t care less. We’re beyond midway through the movie: chuck chemistry, all you’re wondering is what the hell’s the story.
The hero (Prateik Babbar, with eyes that look strangely uncomfortable before a camera) is a Maharashtrian brahmin, a film-buff, and an aspiring filmmaker. He wants to intern under director Anurag Kashyap, but his mentor wants him to assist Ramesh Sippy instead, so he can work on films like Sholay and Shaan. Umm, wasn’t that in the ‘70s? Never mind.
The girl (Amy Johnson; stilted, coy) is a Malayali Christian, a year older than him, living in a conservative home, with a dad who wouldn’t allow her to talk to any guy (any guy, ever). Or watch movies, because it’s against their religion (she’s only seen four films!). Hero shadows her all over the place. The brother follows her around like a personal security guard. She’s a working girl. Both the boy and her have evidently been raised in upper middle-class Mumbai. So, go figure.
Romantic Bollywood movies, as you’d know, get their titles from old Hindi film songs (Ek Deewana Tha of course was a beautiful number, like Ek Mein Aur Ek Tu, Bachna Ae Haseeno, or Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham etc). This urban romance gets its subject from old Hindi pictures too. Which would be okay, I guess, except a wee bit similar to setting a village zamindar, wily moneylender and Thakur type picture in south Bombay.
From here, the leading man follows his girl to Kerala. Her extended family talks to him in Malayalam (with subtitles). He talks back in Hindi. This is supposed to be funny. Clearly, there must be a reason why this fable got filmed in the first place. There are plenty.
One, while the conflict for an urban romance is hard to come by – rich boy, poor girl, strict parents, rarely matter anymore – an acceptable poster lover-boy still spells big bucks in Bollywood, will always do. Once in a while, relatively unknown, untested low-budget lead couple, riding on fine writing and direction alone can produce magic of sorts. There is excitement in that unexpectedness. Socha Na Tha, Imtiaz Ali’s debut with Abhay Deol, did that for me, as did Yashraj’s Band Baaja Baraat for many others. This oddly picturised, amateurishly edited, mediocre Mani Ratnam stuff probably won’t cut it for anyone.
But there’s still hope. There is, after all, always an old AR Rahman Tamil soundtrack, waiting to be re-sung in Hindi, with lyrics by Javed Akhtar and the lot! You’ve ‘heard’ these films before. This is one of those.
Song starts, music video plays, hero broods, heroine pouts, both dance. And then we go back to the baffling questions again: Will the couple get together? Won't they? He stalks; she disappears, then reappears, she likes him, but maybe not, gets married, or perhaps doesn’t…. Oh, just get a room, and get it over with.

Gali Gali Chor Hai 2012 (Review)

Director: Rumy Jafry
Actors: Akshaye Khanna, Shreya Sharan

Fade in. Film starts. Camera zooms in on a mysteriously undivided Madhya Pradesh on the Indian map. Either the movie’s set before 2000, or the filmmakers don’t know better. Singer Kailash Kher cranks up the volume with a noisy song that suitably goes, “Corruption, corruption, corruption ka shor hai,” referring to how those who should’ve stayed back in Chambal live in Delhi now. The person you probably think of is bandit queen Phoolan Devi – once a member of parliament, now no more.
The jibe in the song, like in the rest of the cacophonous film, is directed against all politicians. State election is underway in Bhopal. Our leading man Bharat (Akshaye Khanna, with weirdly weaved hair), his wife (Shreya Sharan), and his father (Satish Kaushik), are residents of this beautiful, leafy lake town. The local MLA fighting for re-election wants to set up office at Bharat’s home. Bharat refuses. The vindictive might of the state and a bureaucratic nightmare that follows would make Kafka pee in his grave.
You’ve read up till this far. This shows your interest levels, I guess, so I may as well offer you the plot. Eat this: A cop (Anu Kapoor) knocks on Bharat’s door claiming a thief has been found with an old table fan supposedly stolen from their home. The hero takes rounds of courts each day thereafter, saving himself from tyranny of other cops, chatting up thieves, hobnobbing with lawyers, greasing palms of witnesses and policemen. He’s shelled out Rs 31,000 already for a fan that’s probably not even his – at least he didn’t even know it existed. All this is supposed to contribute to some sort of humour, I presume. It underlines the filmmakers’ aversion towards dirty rotten politicians, and the “system”.
This relentless, blind hatred reflects the Indian middle class’ chief pre-occupation. The under-classes that this film, given the grammar, targets though, probably has fewer such issues with their netas. They consider politicians as feudal patrons of their caste, community or religion. The rest of India finds this hard to understand. The corrupt MLA eventually wins the election.
Jaffery, the director, has been a writer for David Dhawan comedies for decades now (Hero No 1, Coolie No 1, Jodi No 1 etc). His directorial debut God Tussi Great Ho was a Bruce Almighty remake. This one is clearly inspired by Delhi’s Ram Lila ground fast-cum-carnival of 2011. It helps that the bank cashier hero is a part-time actor at the Ram Lila in his town. He’s forced to play Hanuman to a Ram, who’s the MLA’s brother.
At home, his wife gives him hell, for no conceivable reason, over a hot paying guest (Mugdha Ghodse). At night, the third-rate ‘Ram’ screws him over. During the day, rogues of the state do him in. Exploitation is complete. Public mood is adequately captured. Arab Spring threw up brave martyrs. India’s anti-graft, people's movement revealed opportunists through the media such as these.
Before its release, the makers took this film over to the village Ralegan Siddhi to show it to the narcissistic, anti-corruption, anti-Congress, prohibitionist, celibate/bachelor poster-hero, activist Anna Hazare. They rightly removed the ‘item song’ featuring Veena Malik’s wonder-bra, fitted with light bulbs, from that show. Good. They would’ve been taken for a public flogging at the village square otherwise. Hazare loved the movie, I’m told.
He would. After all, it concerns the suffering of the poor, educated, suffocated common man. Who is suppressed and run over, yet can’t open his mouth to clear all misunderstandings at home and outside at once.
Table fan plot gets ludicrously stretched further. Hero’s wife leaves him, house gets sold off, cops continue to slip their dirty fingers into his wallet. He goes, “But I was saying,” “I mean,” “Excuse me, the point is,” “Hello, ah, hear me, "Um, but then… ” Is he an airhead? No, just an actor handed a horrible script. Yeah. Happens.

Sunday, 29 January 2012

Agneepath - Review

Director: Karan Malhotra
Actors: Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, Priyanka Chopra, Katrina Kaif

The ageless, eccentric baldie Kancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt), modeled loosely on the lines of Marlon Brando (Col. Kurtz) in Apocalypse Now, has a thing for the Bhagwad Gita. The line, "Kya lekar aaye the, aur kya lekar jaoge," referring to the perishable human body that's merely a cloth or uniform for the eternal soul, is Kancha's favourite catch-phrase.
The land he lords over looks equally mythical. The absence of the nation-state is worrying. It's clearly Kancha's Lanka, his private North West Frontier that the police find hard to penetrate, fearing for the lives of the locals and their own. The village is Mandwa, not very far from Mumbai, where lynch mobs rule, and Kancha's writ runs.
We're in the early '90s. There are no cell-phones, though more than a few microphones at press conferences. Growing up within the ranks of Mumbai's notorious underbelly is young Vijay (Hrithik Roshan), son of 'siddhantwadi' (principled) Master Dinanath Chauhan, waiting to avenge his father's humiliation and death. Rauf Lala (Rishi Kapoor; intelligent anti-casting) is his mentor; Priyanka Chopra (in an extended cameo) plays his girlfriend.
The philanthropic father was a Gandhian, and would advice his son, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." "Mahatma Gandhi wasn't born in Mandwa," the son would tell him. Little Vijay and his pregnant mother were driven out of their village. Kancha's the Ravan. Vijay must be Ram.
This is the Ramayan in ways that several huge blockbusters have vaguely reinterpreted in the past (Anil Sharma's Gadar, or Prakash Jha's Apaharan, for instance; even the producer of this film Karan Johar's Kabhie Khushi Kabhie Gham, for that matter). It's simple enough to spot Hindu mythology in so many Hindi film stories. Making it too explicit (Mani Ratnam's Raavan) is unnecessary. The popular philosophy - karm, dharm - easily follows.
Vijay has an unusual sympathiser in the city's police commissioner (Om Puri), since they share a common enemy. In return, Vijay saves the commissioner's life. They're probably even now; if not, Vijay tells the cop, he can clear the debt in his next birth. It's not surprising the makers of this film profess to believe in reincarnation. This picture is an unabashed film buff's product of the same thought. It's a 1990 Mob opera, modified, reborn.
The debutant director (Karan Malhotra) is an equally unapologetic devotee of Bollywood's old-world scale and melodrama that few get right. He does, to a great extent, though almost every scene's an announcement, the jarring background score is always in jaagran (or concert) mode, and the camera is constantly at close-up or mid-shot, which can get exhausting to the eye.
The original Agneepath, inspired by Scarface, was directed by the late Mukul Anand, a filmmaker highly influenced by Hollywood's visual detailing and slickness. He was widely regarded in the '90s as a "tech-wizard" of sorts. Which was fair, given he made films like Khuda Gawah in 1992, set in the rugged terrains of Afghanistan, when the biggest hit pictures playing at theatres near you were Beta and Tehelka (the latter gets a nod here)!
Would this movie have the same impact on the young as did Anand's incredible Hum (1991) for the generation before? No. Would this Agneepath suffice still? Yes. Despite its commercial failure, the original had rightly earned the gravel-voiced Amitabh Bachchan his first National Award since his debut in 1969.
The external logic of a star driven, fantasy fed film such as this may not be easy to gulp for many. The internal logic, or the reason you believe it all, depends a lot on the credibility of the headlining performance. Bachchan's irreplaceable, of course. So is Hrithik, India's hardest working, most intense super-star, ever.
In a career spanning 12 years, there's something to be said about an actor for the number of times he's likely to have heard, from masses or critics, that "this is his best performance yet": Koi Mil Gaya, Lakshya, Krishh, Dhoom 2, Jodha Akbar, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Guzaarish. One can safely add this film to the list.
An earnest Vijay Dinanath Chauhan delivers poetic justice before a nearly packed hall on the proverbial 'first day first show'. Audiences at my cinema respond to the cues and lines. The comments passed sometimes distract you from the screen. Everyone guffaws at the same time. This is the kind of genuine theatre experience, now getting rare, which remains most precious in the life of a film-goer. Reason can take over later. I had a ball!

Monday, 16 January 2012

Sadda Adda 2012 - Review

Sadda Adda
Director: Muazzam Beg
Actors: Karan Sharma, Bhaumik Sampat

The setting is a café in Delhi. The girl, a reasonably hot one, eyes the boy sitting at a table across. There are two boys on that table in fact. The wrong one collects the signal, goes after her as she leaves. He realises it’s his buddy she was giving “line” to. She tells him so. That other fellow then runs after her BMW. She stops, sort of exults, “I’ll patao him,” and does. He drinks with his buddies at night, “Bandi phas gayi (I netted the girl)!”
Here’s what you should think, obviously depending on your gender: A) You’ve been hanging out at the wrong coffee shops. B) Delhi boys will get yet more absurd ideas of eyeing-chasing-molesting women from a scene like this. Either way, the rest of the film reveals much about the average young Indian male mind, that is, if you care to probe deeper. So don’t give up yet.
A close local approximation of an American show like Friends, for instance, is likely to be an all-male party that breaks, one by one, as each buddy disappears into a hole as he finds himself a girlfriend, or gets married right away. That's the role women usually play in segregated societies. She breaks your heart, or becomes your housewife (or a wife, at any rate). That’s pretty much the story of the band of boys who share an apartment here, before they break into the real world.
All the guys roughly come from similar, lower middle-class religious homes, and share similar ambitions and outlook towards life. Except one, a studious, hardworking boy who comes from a state (Bihar), where competing at the impossibly risky and tough civil services examination remains still a collective obsession. Another fellow wants to make it in films, which may be harder to do if you’re still stuck in Delhi. But then he’s found himself a talking part in an Angelina Jolie, Will Smith starrer, “40 per cent shot in India”. So it’s not that bad after all.
The others would be happy to get into the corporate grind, drive a fancy car, and go wherever both take them. The premise will resonate with a whole lot of kids, right after college, who find themselves in similar crossroads. Which is good to know, given we live in times when David Dhawan is expected to remake Chashme Buddoor!
The buddies tend to get into fights but they usually look out for each other as they always do. The characters appear believable. Their luck with girls or their professional goals seem equally real. Pyar Ka Punchnama was a similar film, much admired last year. The success of that picture proved every movie needn’t connect with audiences through theatres alone. That one found fame and cult status on torrent, YouTube, mainly because of its lead character Liquid, and a long, lamenting monologue on what women want. A more forgiving TV is usually where good writing truly shines.
The debutant director of this rather patchy, amateurishly filmed, poorly dubbed, artlessly designed picture is a writer as well. It shows. His last work was the awesomely executed Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar. A better filmmaker could’ve tweaked this subject into a finer movie still. This is a great script to read. Which doesn't always make it the best film to watch. Sadly. But you do know where it belongs, so look it up there.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Don 2 - Review

Don 2
Director: Farhan Akhtar
Actors: Shah Rukh Khan, Priyanka Chopra
The vice president of the Deutsche central bank, Germany’s equivalent of the Reserve Bank of India, is a gentleman called Diwan (Aly Khan). He is Indian too? Don’s moll exclaims to her boss. “Kya karein sweetheart,” sighs Don, we're everywhere!
Thank god for that. This gives Bollywood’s big-budget filmmakers an excuse to set their films across the world, knowing there will always be one desi among that many goras in every profession the hero can conduct his business with in Hindi. Language rarely suffers. Characters manage to swiftly infiltrate rank and file of the police, besides other offices, secure in the knowledge that no one will ever find out: one out of six or so in the world is an Indian, isn’t it? It is!
In snapshots so far, we’ve travelled with Don around Thailand, Malaysia, Switzerland. The views remain stunning, throughout. Though you might want to see beyond. This is a film after all. Not an apartment on sale. Don is, we’re told, Asia’s biggest underworld king and drug lord, in Berlin now, to steal currency plates of the Euro from the German central bank. Poof.
I’m not certain why you’ll wish him the best. You understand missions to save our world. This is a goner, loner don looking to score a big buck for himself. Scripts such as these usually drop nuggets and back-stories later for audience’s empathy. This doesn’t. Here’s what we know, besides that Don always speaks of himself in third person, can morph his voice and face into Hrithik Roshan’s.
He loves the comic series Tom And Jerry (we saw this in the first part as well). He has seen Godfather. Surrendering himself to the Interpol, he asks top sleuths (Om Puri, Priyanka Chopra) to make him an offer he can't refuse. Yet, his name bears no link to his profession whatsoever.
Dons are often backed by charm and an astonishing empire of loyalists, network of funds, henchmen, consigliere to see them through. The original Don did. The one in this sequel has given himself up to cops so he can enter jail, find his arch-enemy Vardhan (Boman Irani: in a permanent state of scowl), get to a video clip to blackmail Deutsche Bank’s desi Diwan with. Enough backup dancers celebrate Don’s return with the title track that could be a version of Shankar Ehsaan Loy’s brilliant Aaj Ki Raat.
Still, the only person working for him, besides Vardhan, a computer hacker he’s just met (Kunal Kapoor), the moll who’s a mystery (Lara Dutta), is a hit man, who’d been paid to bump him off. He does intend to share his wealth with the few who stick by him and his whims. That’s our vague deduction of his modus operandi. By the way, this is also how a lot of second-rate, star-driven films get made in Mumbai!
Now that we know Don’s essentially a goofy, demented one-man army of sorts, who could be shot off any second, given that many guns and enemies around, let’s quickly get to slick frames, cold colour tones, and rapid action over a hollow heist and hostage drama. Cars blowing up in mid-street are of course formula fare by this genre’s global standards.
Many, like me, would have clutched tightly to their arm-rests watching the hero dive down Dubai’s Al Burj in the glass-break sequence in Mission Impossible 4 that released two weeks ago. Most things next to it, outside of some huge budget American blockbusters, will seem desperately derivative, wannabe-Hollywood ho-hum. Despite the efforts, this one does. But that was a given. Coolness isn't tight tees and a Tag Heuer ad.
Comparisons are still inevitable. MI:4 starred America’s Shah Rukh Khan and, among others, Anil Kapoor, a Hollywood extra. This one stars India's Tom Cruise. Both Khan and Cruise, leading men, in their late 40s, you can tell, are at similar phases in their careers. Both have had their share of women fans devoted to romantic weepies. They seek core audiences among kids and younger adults, with stunts that may or may not make sense. Merrily going with the flow, suspended in disbelief, is the only way to access a film like MI:4, or Don 2. You do. Or you don't. The latter may be the case here for a good reason.
It wasn’t hard to tell where Farhan Akhtar’s 2006 remake of Chandra Banot's Don (1978) was coming from. The director, among India’s most talented, could interpret an old, clever story on a contemporary visual scale: Common man Vijay, who’s a Mafioso look-alike, gets planted into a dead don’s den. He’s stuck now. The cop who put him there is also dead!
It was Vijay’s story. Salim-Javed’s tight script had a striking plot. The writers here have sub-plots. They continue to stretch and add thought to thought. The picture promises to never end. It gets hard to carry on with inane inventiveness, when you just couldn't care less.
At some point it becomes essential to wonder, as the adorable Vijay might, from the original: "Ee Down Sahab hain con? (Who is this Don?).” Truly. So much for a franchise.

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Lanka - 2011

Direction: Maqbool Khan
Actors: Manoj Bajpayee, Tia Bajpai
The girl's a doctor. So is her dad. Goons guard their house round-the-clock. We’re in a north Indian small town, which like many, we’re
told, is essentially one man, Bhaisaab’s (Manoj Bajpayee’s) personal fiefdom. That fellow rapes the daughter every night. The father, unable to bear this’, rats on the don’s deeds to an investigative agency. The don gets to know of this. He takes the father to a brothel, threatens to sell his girl out at every such bazaar, until she can’t breathe. The girl sits muted. The father can’t believe his misfortune. The place is impenetrable.
In a pithy piece explaining the structure of commercial Hindi cinema, filmmaker Vinay Shukla argues that pretty much all major blockbusters, even recent ones, essentially bear shades of Hindu mythology. There’s Ramayan in Gadar (2001), wherein Ram (Sunny Deol) goes to fetch Sita (Ameesha Patel). The part where young Hrithik Roshan goes to bring his elder brother (Shah Rukh Khan) back into the family's fold is the ‘Bharat Milap episode from the same epic. It’s a fine observation. This picture itself is called Lanka. You can see the Sita in prison. You know Ravan. His protégé (Arjan Bajwa) plays Ram. The dark, humourless badlands belong to western Uttar Pradesh, made mainstream by Vishal Bhardwaj’s Omkara (2006). Picture looks real. Posturing is correct. Accents may be inconsistent, dramebaazi’s full-on.
How about a plot? A bunch of Bhaisaab’s goons try to take over a piece of land. Group gets killed. ‘Ram’ kills off all the farmers. Gang war carries on. That’s the plot.
Local IPS officer’s a slave nincompoop. The doctor whose daughter gets raped each night is the district’s chief medical officer, no less. Surely he could get a transfer, quit his job, move elsewhere as a medical professional, no? No. He asks his girl not to commit suicide. Hence she hasn’t yet. The same rule doesn't apply to him. This looks worse than Uday Hussein’s Iraq (from The Devil’s Double).
“People in Bombay will find this weird… There are so many small town girls in similar Lankas,” the film’s narrator repeatedly promises. If we could be sucked in to believing this story instead, such verbal claims would not be necessary.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

I Am Singh - 2011

Director: Puneet Issar
Actors: Gulzar Chahal, Amy Rasimas
Rating: *
Shaking his head in frustration, the hero complains against racial attacks on sardars by Americans, "Their history and geography is so poor that they can't tell between Arabs, Afghans and Sikhs?"
It's a valid point. The insular average American can confound the neo literate. How the Chinese would be as a super-power is a scarier thought still. Though you do suppose for a second, what the hero is trying to say is, if they'd attacked the Afghans and Arabs instead, it'd still be okay. That's not true. He has Pakistani friends as well. He also tells us in no uncertain terms that he believes in "no voilence, no terrarizam."
His mother explains from a park bench near Ground Zero how world-history, once divided between BC (Before Christ) and AD (After Death), is now split between Before and After 9/11. Every human being has been connected to the event. She shares her connection: three Sikh sons, one killed in racial attack, other one missing, the third (the hero), down from India, currently investigating what happened.
Here's what happened. Members of a highly demented, loud Shakespearean skinheads group attacked them. While we're never sure where this film's set (we keep shifting locations), the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD), we can tell, are terribly rude, racist and incompetent. They make for just as terrible actors.
This After 9/11 situation isn't unique either. One after another, the movie provides us with Aaj Tak type television recreations of various other similar hate crimes against Sikhs, from Arizona to California.
What does the hero do? To start with, he wakes up the sleeping Sikh patriot within him. He imagines warriors holding their swords, marching to the battlefront, with fire lighting up the line of defense, as an angry bird casts its shadow on the troops. After this, he goes to court!
He has to protect his pagdi (turban, pride), his parivaar ki izzat (family's honour). We get the point. No, you don't. The film's audience, apparently Americans, as you know, think Osama bin Laden was Sikh. They need serious education. The characters knock some sense into their heads, read out page after page from Wikipedia, in Hindi and English, on philosophy, history, teachings and scriptures of Sikhism. Skinheads growl from another location. You take notes, and watch. There's nothing else to do. "I am proud to be a Sikh," hero yells. Skinheads growl some more. Breezy item songs thankfully punctuate the cacophony.
There was this hate-crime Bollywood film set in the UK that had a curious title, I Proud To Be An Indian few years ago. Was it from the same director? Oh no, that was Puneet Sira. This one's Puneet Issar, the actor-director who shall go down in history as the stuntman who punched Amitabh Bachchan in the stomach, nearly killed him on the sets of Coolie (1983). A falcon Allah Rakha was a popular character in that bizarre movie. It's there in this one too: the computer-generated angry bird, I told you about. So is Puneet Issar, by the way.
He walks on to the screen, chanting in his inimitably croaky voice, "I'll be the victar in the turban case." This Sikh character was suspended from LAPD because of his turban. He should be commissioned again, right away. Send him back to the cops, please.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Critics' verdict: Rockstar gets mixed reviews

Though Ranbir Kapoor has delivered one of his best peformances so far, the film's script fails to live up to expectations. While AR Rahman's music is a plus point, Nargis Fakhri's performance disappoints. Here's what critics are saying about the movie.
Says Taran Adarsh, Bollywood Hungama, "Alas! Rockstar is a sumptuously shot movie that is disjointed on script level. The problem with Rockstar is that it starts off most impressively, has some terrific moments in between, but the writing gets so erratic and incoherent as it heads towards the conclusion that you wonder, am I really watching an Imtiaz Ali film?"
"What you take back from Rockstar are some terrific moments, a bravura performance (Ranbir Kapoor is a class apart!)and of course, AR Rahman's musical score. Wish one could carry the entire film back in our hearts!," feels Adarsh.
Kaveree Bamzai, India Today, pays a compliment to the film saying that the music is integrated very well with the script. She writes, "Ali has crafted the film as one long song, and nowhere in recent times has the music integrated so well with what he is trying to say. Whether it is Kun Faaya Kun where Janardhan discovers the power of music, or the gorgeous jugalbandi between Shammi Kapoor on shehnai and Ranbir on guitar where you can see two different kinds of talent on display--one natural, almost animal-like, another refined, spiritually-inclined--AR Rahman's music is the soul of the film. What is missing is the spine, leaving just a jelly in place."
Saibal Chatterjee, has an interesting observation to make. He says, "The film, nearly three hours long, traverses long physical distances – from Delhi to Kashmir and from there to Prague and then back again to Delhi as JJ follows his lady love (who gets married quickly enough and settles down to drab matrimony in faraway Czech Republic to make matters difficult) halfway around the world, singing and dancing his woes away. But despite all the frenetic movement in space that Rockstar offers, the film really goes nowehere. It feels strangely static."
Nikhat Kazmi, Times of India goes gaga over the film terming it as an "engaging affair". She writes, "The fact that this romance unfolds on screen in the form of an explosive musical, capturing JJ’s transmutation into Jordan, the edgy artist, makes the film an absolutely engaging affair. The vocals by Mohit Chauhan, the lyrics by Irshad Kamil and the music by AR Rahman are stuff classics are made of. Of course, Sadda Haq is the youth anthem by now, but there are so many beautiful tracks in the film, you get heady and stirred. Ranbir Kapoor displays an amazing growth chart as a performer as he gradually changes from a two-sizes-too-tight jean-clad upstart to a musical genius seared by a love that threatens to scorch his very soul. Nargis Fakhri too stands tall as the delectable Heer who sizzles on screen with her unconventional ways. But eventually, the film is a milestone in Ranbir Kapoor’s career as an actor and a classic cut from the AR Rahman and Mohit Chauhan combo. Shammi Kapoor’s presence as the classical artist enhances the gravitas of the film."
Aniruddha Guha, DNA, feels the film has blended romance with dark reality very well. He writes, "For about 15 minutes in Rockstar, the narrative tends to resort to ‘Bollywoodism’; true love having the power to cure a terminal illness (almost), for example, doesn’t exactly fit with what the rest of the film has to say. Yet, Imtiaz makes it work somehow, interweaving the fantastical romantic part of the film with the more gritty, dark bits deftly. In the end, how much you enjoy Rockstar will largely depend on whether the balance between the story of a broken, unfulfilled musician and the more conventional love story works for you."
Taran Adarsh on Ranbir Kapoor: The secret behind Ranbir's triumph is that he puts his heart and mind into every project he chooses to perform in. Love, resentment, pain, hurt... Ranbir brings a multitude of feelings to his character. It's a role of a lifetime and Ranbir is sure to be immortalized in this story of a rockstar. He glides into the character effortlessly, so much so that you see very little of Ranbir, the actor and more of Janardan/Jordan, the character he represents. His performance is beyond extraordinary.
Taran Adarsh on Nargis: Nargis is a stunner as far as looks are concerned, but isn't persuasive in poignant moments. However, the chemistry between Ranbir and Nargis is exhilarating. Shammi Kapoor is superb in a small but significant role. Aditi Rao Hydari suffers due to an undeveloped characterization. Kumud Mishra is splendid. What a fine actor! Piyush Mishra is, as always, exceptional. Shernaz Patel enacts her part well.
Rituparna Chatterjee (IBNLive) on Ranbir-Nargis: Nargis Fakhri's acting leaves much to be desired. At the heart of the film are the dialogue. Really witty and crisp. But Nargis' acting grates on the nerves. Ranbir Kapoor is a revelation. His slow transformation from a dimwit looking for a heartbreak to an elusive star is excellent. Nargis and Ranbir work visually as a couple but her stuttered acting is as infuriating as Ranbir's is endearing.
"On the whole, Rockstar does not live up to the confidence and expectations from the otherwise very skilled and accomplished film-maker Imtiaz Ali. The film suffers immensely due to a disorderly screenplay, especially in its post-interval portions. However, the silver lining or the comforting prospect is the virtuoso performance by Ranbir Kapoor and the captivating score by AR Rahman, which justify that one extra star," Adarsh sums it up.

Mayank Shekhar's review: Miley Na Miley Hum

Director: Tanveer Khan
Actors: Chirag Paswan, Kangana Ranaut
Rating: *
How many times must a debutant hero emerge from the same screen, to repeatedly announce his arrival: The one here first gets out in slo-mo from a BMW (first shot), then out of a chopper (to meet his mother), on a Lexus convertible (that his mother gifts him), bang in the middle of a wedding dance party (in a village), into the tennis stadium (where he plays the National finals)….
The boy is called Chirag – in life, as in this movie. “Chirag baba” is the oddly uncomfortable, untrained performer, casually low on body movements, high on screen time; he plays a quiet young heir, given to monosyllables and mono-expressions. His father (jaded Kabir Bedi) orders him around in his vineyard. Old man looks like the hammy old-world zamindar.
For the obedient son, the nights belong to floodlit tennis courts, where he practices whacking the tennis racket like a ping pong bat, only backhands, so he can become India No 1 some day: that’s his father’s dream, and his mother’s nightmare.
Excellence at sports is measured on more real, tangible achievements. It’s easy to tell why Sachin Tendulkar is a superstar. He takes care of runs; the runs take care of everything else. Stardom acquired from Indian politics, and cinema (as the hero here seems to be seeking), work differently. Though, in construct, they’re probably both similar to each other.
Firstly, they’re not always based on performance. You could be the world's best actor and yet not make it as a star; most well meaning visionaries may fail at politics. People directly elect their stars, who in turn, play themselves round-the-clock, protecting or perpetuating a particular public image of themselves.
Actor Chirag, I’m told, is the blue-eyed boy of a popular Bihari politician (Ramvilas Paswan). Literally. Unless those are blue contact lenses in his eyes. You can tell why his father must think he could succeed at show business. He has experience at winning elections.
The boy signs land deals, tenders, contracts, in the film. He comes from a super-rich, separated family. The mom (Poonam Dhillon) wants him to date her London buddy's daughter. Their nights out make for lead story on front page of The Times of India. As is everything else they do. Divorced dad wants his boy to marry a pretty Punjabi girl from the pind. That, by the way, is the central conflict in a film also about sport.
Tennis champ “Chirag baba” claims to be in love with a fashion model instead. He’s never quite met her. Daddy, mommy are after this girl. He pays her Rs 20 lakh a day, for 20 days, to carry on with the pretense of being in love with him. That model's Kangna Ranaut. Reports in trade circles suggest she was paid Rs 5 crore to do this movie. Anybody should be.

Mayank Shekhar's review: Tell Me O Khuda

Director: Hema Malini
Actors: Esha Deol, Arjan Bajwa
Rating: *
Here’s the story: The heroine’s an artiste of sorts. Much later in her youth, she figures that she’s in fact an adopted child. Confused by this strange turn of events, she leaves home, generally curious to finally meet her biological parent. Her boyfriend remains by her side. This was Hema Malini’s directorial debut in 1992, with Shah Rukh Khan playing that boyfriend, and Divya Bharti, the leading lady.
Two decades hence, Hema Malini’s the director again; her daughter (Esha Deol) is the heroine. The story remains roughly the same! Which is fair. I don’t think anyone’s interested in telling a story here, commercial hit for the daughter, her re-launch as it were, is more important. It’s easy to tell why this movie got made.
Suddenly, out of the sea in captivating silver overtone, emerges the hot leading lady in ghagra-choli, under a full moonlight. This shows her sensuous side. But she’s not just a pin-up. On a threatening sunny day, in the scorching heat of Rajasthan, this Flying Sikh can dive, land straight onto the back of a running camel set to the chant of “Jai Maa Bhawani”. This is Rekha's Jhansi Ki Rani type stuff from past her glory days.
This lead character, a writer by profession, has just won the famed camel race in a town called Pratapgarh. She’s the first female to do so. The race sequence is delightful. The heroine’s father, in real life, I’m told, has been a member of parliament from Bikaner in Rajasthan. The locations scouted for is understandably stunning. Thrown back in time, she is surrounded by Rajput warriors, rotary phones, massive palace. The king could be her biological father (Vinod Khanna). We don’t know yet.
Or the real dad (Rishi Kapoor) could be an Indian Muslim man in a town called Kas. We’re in Turkey: I mean of course the European country, not this oddly ballistic movie. The scenic beauty seems sponsored by the tourism board. The mother in this half-Indian household went cuckoo when her child died at birth, 24 years before: she carries kiddie books, talks to an empty crib, dances with an infant’s sweater on her chest. She could be the heroine’s real mom. You never know.
There are basically three daddies in contention: Abhay, Altaf, Anthony, much like Amar, Akbar, Anthony. A jobless boyfriend (Arjan Bajwa) and his carefree lackey (Chandan Roy Sanyal) get to vacation, enjoy a free ride, touring on this search. The final destination’s Goa, where the dad could turn out to be a well known dreaded don.
This is when daddy of ‘em all Dharmendra walks into the picture. He, of the “kutte kaminey, main tera khoon pee jaoonga” fame, beats other villains to pulp, knocks down armies. “Oh Jheezes,” you go, as Garam Dharam puts in this pic. It’s a sad parody. The 76-year-old ‘70s superstar did this for his sons Sunny, Bobby in Yamla Pagla Deewana (2011). That unbearable picture was a hinterland hit. He’s giving his best for his luckless daughter this time.
Extreme love for the progeny produces corruption in several societies. It produces some terribly inspired entertainment in India. Few grudge the latter as much, I suppose. They don't have to sit through it, if they don’t wish to. I didn’t have a choice.

Wednesday, 26 October 2011


Movie: Ra.oneDirector: Anubhav Sinha
Actors: Shah Rukh Khan, Kareena Kapoor
Year: 2011
Before adequately warning children against trying any such stunts, the super-hero leapfrogs over and at right angles of a running train.
Background score is ‘70s RD Burman imitation. Brown walls of the majestic Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus eventually start to crack, statue of Queen Victoria alongside falls as the suburban train, running at top speed, its brakes not working, collides on to the CST railhead, juts out of the station, on to the main streets.
Round your lips; curl your tongue; whistle out; loud. Finally, the heroine drops from the sky as the super-hero holds her in her arms. This is the highlight scene of the film. It’s novel, because of the touch of Mumbai local. Disaster movies are usually Hollywood, and set abroad. You must applaud. Except, you’re not sure about the point of this moment, while you do know its purpose. They just haven’t weaved this stunning sequence into a coherent plot for you to truly care.
This super-hero G.One, until now, or thereafter, didn’t exist to save the world. Neither was the super-villain, RA.One, out there to destroy it. Motives of both remain plainly fuzzy, or too tepid, trivial to match their scale.
Strangely, for a film that’s titled after the villain, he has a specific form, but no particular face or body. More on the lines of Terminator 2, he adopts a wandering human being’s body. This completely dilutes RA.One. The fellow's been a Chinese man, for a bit even Kareena Kapoor, and for some crucial, climactic portions, Arjun Rampal. G.One is singularly Shah Rukh Khan. SRK. Make no mistake. Light bulbs at the heart of armoured suits suggest these are all descendants of Iron Man. But all this happens later, after perhaps, half the film is over.
For most parts, this doesn’t seem a super-hero movie at all. It’s more of a weirdly boiled, Bollywood please all: vaguely soppy romance, Salman-type sasta comedy, narcissistic SRK set piece. Die-hard fans of all three genres are likely to be disappointed.
Neither here nor there, everything appears so visibly constructed and all over the place that you can look through the wires, rather than blend in with the experience. The latter may be necessary if you’re not playing this film’s version, available on Playstation 2. Connect with video game’s characters are easily instant; the illusion is under your control. Films demand more. They’re worth your penny, only if that penny drops.
Old-timer Rakesh Roshan has that knack for simplicity. With Krrish (2006), he had a sincere actor, and a one-line plot line – “Baap Ka Badla”, as I suppose is the complicated attempt here. He could see it through successfully. Shankar’s Robot similarly played it straight – cloning sci-fi machines taking over the human world – as Rajnikanth in the film by that name (oh, it was the other way around).
This is a movie from the director of Dus, Tathastu, Cash. Its genre's traditions are western. So is the film's primary location: London, I guess. It’s been converted into 3D as well. I saw it in its two-dimensional glory. Poster of Michael Jackson’s Bad on the wall suggests we’re in circa 1985. Graininess of the big screen sort of confirms the suspicion. A bumbling gaming programmer, south Indian Shekhar Subramaniam (Shah Rukh, expectedly unconvincing) designs a deadly game for his son, where the villain’s stronger than the super-hero. The villain instead develops a life of its own to take on the developer’s son, who was playing against him last.
Flying hero enters earth to save boy. No one in the planet is surprised, or is even aware. The boy’s father’s dead, his colleague’s no more, cars collide. Head of gaming company is busy selling that same software like nothing happened. The only thing the writers are worried about is how G.One will get through security on a frikin’ flight.
Which gets you to think about who G.One really is. This supposedly emotionless, part-time gaming super-hero, in designer suits, regular clothes, human skin does everything, short of actually crying: smiles, hugs, quotes the Gita, shakes his pelvis to ‘You Be My Chamak Chalo’. His nonchalant hostess (Kareena Kapoor), a grieving widow, takes it quite well; it’s like any other day for her.
She understands people have flocked to movie theatres for this! They must have, basically for two reasons: SRK, and the special effects. No surprises, they’re both there, in good measure. Full marks for the effort. But that you already knew. A year of relentless hustling, hype and expectations inevitably numb achievements, whatever they are, into the obvious. You wish to figure if this was worth this much fuss.
Look at the film. The fuss was necessary! Producers make plans of a franchise obvious with the final scene. That, I fear may have G.One with the wind. But then you never know, right? Seriously.