Digital Promotion: Happy Ending

Every now and then, I get these requests from agencies to promote some material on my website. Usually, as you can notice, I am averse to the idea of putting random stuff on my blog.

 

Last week, an agency sent out the links to some initial images, motion posters, trailers for Happy Ending (Illuminati Films’ and Eros International’s next – Directed by Raj & DK (?), starring Saif Ali Khan, Illeana D’Cruz, Govinda, Ranveer Shorey and Kalki Koechelin ). The reason I am posting it here – is not Saif or Illeana. Its Govinda!!!!!

I hope someone brings a bit of Govinda-ism back to the movies.

 

So, I am going to leave you with 4 things -

a) Trailer of Happy Ending

 

b) Motion Poster of Happy Ending

c) The 1st Poster of Happy Ending

happy ending

Click to see full size

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

d) A priceless Govinda scene from Jodi No. 1 :)

 

*******

 [Update Oct 16, 2014]: Song released from the movie – Paaji Tussi Such A Pussycat.

Prediction: Chartbuster

 

 

Movie Review: Haidar – The smartest movie of the year

Haider 2

How these things came about: so shall you hear
Of carnal, bloody, and unnatural acts,
Of accidental judgments, casual slaughters,
Of deaths put on by cunning and forced cause,
And, in this upshot, purposes mistook
Fall’n on the inventors’ reads: all this can I
Truly deliver.

(Horatio, in Hamlet: Act 5, Scene 2)

 

Faiz Ahmed Faiz, imprisoned at Central Jail in Hyderabad (the one in Pakistan), wrote this in his book Dasht-e-Sabaa -

Maqaam faiz koi raah mein jaNchaa hi nahiN
Jo ko-e-yaar se nikle to su-e-daar chale

मुकाम फैज़ कोई राह में जँचा ही नहीं
जो कू -ए -यार से निकले तो सू -ए -दार चले

I didn’t care much for the stopovers on the way; So, I departed from the lanes of the beloved, towards the welcoming gallows

When you read Faiz, the revolutionary poet who was one of the pall bearers of progressive literature, often makes you think that his ghazals and nazms are romantic. Truth be told, they are one of the most definitive fusion of romance and revolution. One would never know for sure if gulon mein rang bhare was written as his yearning for his wife, or his yearning for freedom.

Somewhere, Dr. Meer is singing the same ghazal in an unidentifiably named prison MAMA2, and somewhere else in the movie, a young Haider/ Hamlet is expected to complete the couplet – chale bhi aao ke gulshan ka kaarobaar chale. And , roohdaar (Irrfan Khan – rooh= Ghost, daar = gallows/ house), the prison mate of Dr. Meer/ the ghost of King Hamlet, narrates the backstory.

Tell me now, why wouldn’t you fall in love with this movie?

Haider 1

The juxtaposition of scenes and characters is brilliant.

The movie begins with Dr. Meer (King Hamlet of Denmark) getting picked up by the army under AFSPA and disappearing after that, Ghazala/ Gertrude (Tabu) watching on as Zahoor prays while his band of extremists are taken out by the army and her house is blown up, a bearded hairy Haider/ Hamlet returning to find his father gone and his memories burnt to ashes, Arshia/ Ophelia (Shraddha) fighting for her independence while really being a stooge in a patriarchial society, General Parvez Lone/ Polonius (Lalit Parimu) playing the fine role of a suave strategist army man who would go any lengths to get his way, and finally, Khurram/ Claudius (Kay Kay), who is the slimy conniving uncle that he needs to be. The splitting of Horatio into two Salmans(Salman Khan wannabes) copying the dance steps of “mere rang mein rangne wali”  is as brilliant a take as was the conversion of the three Macbethian witches into the two inspectors of Maqbool – “satta ke santulan ke liye aag ke liye paani ka bhay jaroori hai”.

And the final nail – Roohdaar, as the ghost of the dead King (Irrfan), whose puffed burnt eyes that are not able to sleep in the night.

 

Why would you not fall in love with this movie?

The acting is special. Even from Shahid Kapoor who everyone thinks will destroy his father’s rich legacy. Irrfan, Kay Kay, Tabu, Shraddha, Lalit Parimu and the others – they all just fit the piece.

The music, with the exception of ‘kabhi khul toh’, is intricately woven with the movie. A special standout mention for Bismil, So Jao and Jhelum. [on a separate note, purist as I am about ghazals, I think Arijit Singh has done a rather fine rendition of Gulon Mein]

The cinematography, coming from the man who gave us Ship of Thesus, brings the tragical beauty of Kashmir to life that few others have done.

The dialogues. Subhanallah. Almost poetic. Right from Chutzpah to Intequaam.

Editing – Again, with the exception of that one song, spot on. There are things left unsaid, unexplained. The audience is assumed to be smart enough to interpret or hypothesize. BTW, who was the man behind the mask? Does your heart go out for Dr. Meer who was supporting a terrorist? Oh wait, was that man a terrorist? Oh, but the army still did something horribly wrong, no? Wait, why are we discussing all this? Isn’t it about Haider’s search for his father and the revenge for what what was done to him? By his own brother? Was there a unrequited romance between Ghazala and Haider?

 

Who cares!! Enjoy the smartest movie of the year my friends! Movies like Haider, with the depth of screenplay, the finesse of dialogues, the detailing of characters, and beautiful visual storytelling, do not happen too often in Bollywood. That it’s a beautiful adaptation of Hamlet makes it more droolworthy*. That I was able to enjoy the movie so much despite me and the biwi having to take turns to play with Laddoo (who was exceptionally energetic all through the show only to drop off to sleep in the last 15 minutes of the movie) should stand testament to the brilliance of Haider.

 

[ *I never thought there could be another droolworthy adaptation of Hamlet after Hamlet-The Clown Prince.]

[Note: I don’t know which moron came up with the #BoycottHaider campaign. But then I don’t know why there is so much outrage on facebook and twitter about most inconsequential things either.]

 

 

Movie Review: Amazing Spider-Man2

I am a sucker for superhero movies. I rarely ever dislike them. So, my reviews are unabashedly biased in their favour. More often than not.

But this time, that’s not the case. Because Amazing Spider-Man is not really a super-hero movie. It’s a Romtion movie. I am not sure if I am coining a new term. But what I mean is that AS-2 is a romance drama disguised or wrapped up as an action movie.

Why do I say so?

A big part of the movie is dedicated to Peter’s estranged (and non-existent) relationship with his parents who left him at his uncle/aunt’s doorsteps, his maturing relationship with Aunt May, his on and off and on and off romance with Gwen Stacy, a confused friend (Harry Osborn), a distraught fan (Electro/ Max) and life in New York. Somewhere in there is a bit of a thriller plot about what’s really going on at Oscorp, the power politics, the hidden secret projects, a dying Norman Osborn, and so on. And somewhere towards the end, are a few well choreographed action sequences. And a mechano-Rhino.

Should that matter?

Not quite. A the Dark Knight taught us, Superhero movies can be as much about heroic action as they can be about the internal conflicts, the moral tussles and great character depth.

Is AS-2 that then?

No. The movie drags on for most part.

So, what went wrong?

While Peter’s story has always been the conflict between his personal sacrifices and the greater good, one wonders whether the construct is stretched too thin. Next, the adversaries. In the spiderman arc, most of his archnemesis have a human side too, whether its Otto Octavius or Norman Osborn. So is the case of Max/ Electro this time. However, unlike the other instalments, Max does not ring a strong connect this time round, and his self-obsessed insecurity complex works only because Jamie Foxx desperately tries to pull it off. Jamie Foxx is wasted as Electro, even as he shines as Max. Harry Osborn on the other hand is blah, at the best.

Andy Garfield, I think, is a finer spiderman, with a little more of the spidey charisma and humor quotient than Tobey Maguire. And he plays the conflicted yet responsible Spidey very well. Emma Stone seems continuously clearheaded about not having too many expressions, but is probably still an improvement over Kirsten Dunst in the looks department. Jamie Foxx, in his effort to make Electro credible, makes a worse caricature of himself than Suniel Shetty. Dane DeHaan shows promise as Harry, only to make it a rather unfulfilled one by the end of it as the new Green Goblin.

One expects long shots and droolworthy action sequences. And when they are there, they are as good as any that you’ve seen. But they are fewer.

The editing leaves a lot to be desired.

And before I forget, James Jonah Jameson has no role this time. How could you Webb?

 

Net net – the movie did not work for me. Slower pace, confused positioning on the dark side for a rather clean super hero, lack of action, and not so awesome electric adversaries.

 

 

Book Review: Love @ Air Force

“This book review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program. To get free books log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.com

 

“A heart is a more sophisticated device than a Sukhoi”

“The violent romance of the Fighter planes with the clouds in sky… the pulchritudinous Officers walking around arrogantly… the runway with the logo constituted by the concentric tricolored circles in the background… is the spectacle meets our eyes at the feeble mention of the Air Force but there is more about the Air Force besides these…” – Official book blurb

 

Love @ Air Force is Gaurav Sharma’s debut novel, and is a love story set against the backdrop of the actual and perceived hierarchies at an air force base station. Most of us would have heard stories about what hierarchy and order means in the armed forces. Most of us are familiar with the world of class based societies where the rich and the poor don’t mingle, the masters and the servants don’t, and so on. And we are familiar with the fact that some of these divides and biases flow from one generation to another. A King’s daughter doesn’t marry a foot soldier’s son.

Such is the premise of the book, and Gaurav weaves a simple tale of unfulfilled love and compromises about JWOs and Seargants and Officers. The book is written with a lot of heart, and one can feel the personal nature of this story. Gaurav’s father was a JWO in the Indian Air Force for more than 26 years, and the narration for most part seems autobiographical.

The central theme of the plot is disarmingly simple. It does not have many layers, neither for the characters, nor for the story. One hopes for the author’s sake that such a plot lends itself to being a Bollywood romance drama, wherein an old-ish Shahrukh Khan gives up on his love for Madhuri Dixit to find happiness with Sri Devi. Or something like that. The question is – would you want to watch that movie? Or read that script?

When the theme is simple, the narration takes precedence over the story. The language, the imagery, the characters, the conversations. And that’s where the book fails to delivery. The quality of editing is horrendously disappointing. Without reading the book with great attention, I could find more than 20 glaring mistakes. A 50-page shorter version with crisper editing, a scrupulous editor with zero tolerance for grammatical errors and irrelevant flowery prose would have made the book so much more bearable. I had a tough time finishing the book, simply because halfway through the book, one could foresee the end. The quality of prose was far from being noteworthy. And unfortunately, the excitement that the air force delivers on a screen was completely missing from the narration, as most of the book is a bland narration of a love story come undone by the class distinctions of a military society.

 

I will go with a 1 on 5 for this one. Passable. Breaks my heart to say this, but your first and the freshest piece has got to deliver a little more passion.

 

“This book review is a part of The Readers Cosmos Book Review Program. To get free books log on to thereaderscosmos.blogspot.com

Names, Urdu, Religion and Us

The other day, I was thinking about the strong religious connotations a name has. Or, a regional connotation. Almost everyone I meet, thinks of me as a bengali, because of my supremely common name combined with a supremely common bengali surname. It’s a different matter that Das can be a bengali, bihari, oriya, assamese (and others?). Now, imagine the confusion someone who would be in if I had an urdu first name and my original surname. Or, my original first name and an otherwise urdu surname. Amit Shah Zafar, or Justjoo Das.

Which leads me to the conundrum I faced several months back. As me and the missus were going through names for laddoo, we were stuck on Guthli (the seed) as his or her pet name. But the formal name was a challenge. My love for urdu language in general, and ghazals as a a genre of poetry meant that I would often come up with (beautiful) names that would be immediately considered muslim. Not that me and the Missus have a problem with that, but this would have meant a lifetime of questions for the poor laddoo/ guthli. Imagine being asked five times a day, “you aren’t going for your namaaz? You are a non believer, eh?” or, “your parents are hindus, but you are a muslim! how?”. Imagine him repeating many more times in a day – My surname is Das and I am not a Bengali.

Just imagine the possibilities of beautiful names if such forced observations could be done away with. Instead of the Aaravs and Aanyas who have replaced Amits and Nehas these days, we could experiment with Arsh, Nihaa, Soz, Ghazal, Ashaar, Rehbar… Irrespective of the irreparable damage a boring surname like Das would have done to a Ghazal, an Ashaar Das would probably still sound beautiful. Imagine a Gurumurthy down south being called Soz Ramakrishnan – the firy Ramakrishnan. Or, Jatinder up north being called Sabr Singh- the patient lion. Such joy. Lost.

I just think that when you (can) bring other languages to your own, in an increasingly cosmopolitan world, it has the possibility to make it so much more beautiful. Alas, the only accepted confluence is english. So, David Patel or Arlene Mehrotra might be ok, but we will have to wait some more for a  Naaz Tendulkar or a Shoorveer Ahmad.

*It’s odd to be posting this at the fading end of a political debate where one gentleman is an extremist Hindu with a reasonably well documented hatred towards Muslims, another whose party has a long history of promoting religious/regional divide and rule, and a rookie whose name has been lent to an egg based delicacy at a place which claims to serve the food of the Greek gods.

Movie Review: Queen (2014)

kangana1Rani’s (Kangna Ranaut) fiancée Vijay (Rajkumar Rao/ Yadav) dumps her on the eve of her wedding, he being a London dwelling engineer and she being a Rajori Garden types. Rani is crestfallen, having danced through her pre-wedding functions. She mopes for a night, and then decides to do the thing that she had always wanted to do. Go to Paris for her honeymoon. So what if the marriage did not work out. She has a ticket. And a desire.

 

Queen is all about Kangana. Her character, her personality, her dialogues, her foils. The movie has many perfectly placed set pieces, each acting their part out with aplomb, and making Kangana win over an audience that has hitherto found her largely devoid of talent.

 

Kangana had a good debut with Gangster. However, after Gangster, things never really evolved, and even I had little hopes of seeing an evolving actress. That being said, she continues to be one of those that I find to be extremely beautiful in real life (not reel life). Ethereal almost. She had a good one with Krish 3, playing the vamp turned good one, making more of a presence than Priyanka. But her performance in Queen is something else.

 

Queen is, most likely, the performance of the year. She has taken a rather mundane role played by many actors and actresses over the years, and added layers of texture to it, either by design or by accident. The end result is an extremely happy movie that does not depend on Rani becoming a role model for anyone, but on making you live her life. The movie keeps you smiling, even in the somewhat  tragic moments. Like when Rani’s grandmother is trying to give her advice after her fiancée has dumped her. Or, right after a street bum tries to snatch Rani’s purse and she fights tooth and nail to protect it, she narrates a pure-dilli style story to Lakshmi. Lisa Hayden as Lakshmi impresses, and so does Taka, the Japanese guy. Rani’s father, brother, mother are all excellent in their characterization.

queen1-dec22

The movie has some really amazingly detailed sequences. There is one where Rani wants to know what Heeng is called in Hindi, and tries to wake her mother up on a long distance call to figure it out. And in the Hungama ho gaya sequence, the way Rani puts the sweater back in her bag after waving it over her head is priceless.

 

Interestingly, Kangana is also credited with dialogue writing in the film.

 

Amit Trivedi has scored another winner with the music of Queen. While the promos seemed too keen on promoting London Thumakda and O Gujariya, the album is an out and out winner, whether it be the revisit of Hungama Ho Gaya or Raanjha or Taake Jhaanke. And Amit Trivedi is mastering that oft missing skill of blending the soundtrack of the movie seamlessly with the movie.

 

One must spare a thought for the salwar-suit that Rani is shown wearing in the pub. I hope it survived the shoot to be someday sold in an auction. Kyonki, with this movie, Hungama Ho Gaya!!!!

 

Go ahead. Enjoy it. On a DVD, or through the numerous TV reruns that will happen.

Book Review: The Other Side by Faraz Kazi and Vivek Bannerjee

<I was sent a copy of the book by the authors for an honest review. Blimey! Honesty? In this age and time?>

The other side

I hardly ever read horror, macabre, spooky and such books. I haven’t really read a lot of Stephen King, and/or his imitators. Nor, GreatBong’s The Mine. So, when Faraz requested me to review his book, I gave him as much of a disclaimer.  That being said, the merit of a book is in its ability to retain you while its unfinished, and stay with you once its over. So, I picked it up.

 

I got down to reading the book one fine afternoon, and thankfully, rather than being a long gut twisting novel, TOS is a compendium of shorter stories. Expectedly enough, it has (unlucky) thirteen stories. The stories range from spooky to macabre, but mostly dealing with the kind of urban legends, old wives’ tales, etc. that we have most likely heard growing up. Don’t go near that well because it’s cursed, or there is an old lady in white sari that comes by the graveyard every night and takes away little children that cry too much. I managed to finish the book in two settings, which is testimony to the book being able to retain me.

 

The prologue of the book starts with a casual chat between Vivek and Faraz as they start telling each other some spooky stories from their respective childhood. The genesis of the novel, it would seem.

 

The book is an easy read, and is hardly the kind of gruesome that I was expecting when I picked it up. Its audience seems to be decidedly on the younger side. But then, the authors are young too! And the narrative style as well.

 

Except for a story or two, it plays on one of two things – either a twist in the tale spookiness, or a tale of confrontation with the other side (the undead dead). The narratives are simple. The stories always seem familiar but have a measure of newness. Interestingly, recently, there was a link floating around on Facebook and other soial networks that captured really short two line horror stories, and many of them were mind bogglingly brilliant. As you read the book, I couldn’t help but think that many of these stories could have been condensed to give a more brutal and chilling effect.

 

For instance, the story about the girl in the village (Unfulfilled Desires) drags. And so does the story about the little girl by the banyan tree (Possession). However, some of the other stories are well edited and leave you either wondering or smiling at the end. In fact the first half of the book comes across as better edited than the second half. “The Fateful Night”, “The Long Weekend”, “The Mark Of The Beast”, etc. are enjoyable, while the “Dream Girl’ was disappointing.

 

The biggest success of the book is the variety of spook that is delivered. The stories are not carved off a single mould, and are not of a single flavour. The failure of the book – the inconsisteny of the experience. After the first couple of stories one comes to expect a twist in the tale format, but many of the remaining tales are extremely linearly narrated, and hence the horror is never really delivered.

 

At the same time, one must acknowledge that the genre by itself is a less explored one in the Indian English literary scene, and Vivek and Faraz have done a good job bringing together a bouquet of these quintessentially Indian tales, full of bhatakti aatmas, tantriks, and bhootiya havelis.

 

If you enjoy watching the horror films, give it a read. It may seem juvenile at times, but is an enjoyable read.

 

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