“The Dark Knight Rises” Falls

First up, before you all go up in arms against me, remember that you’re talking to a die hard fan who has just come out after watching two back to back shows of the movie (one at a regular PVR and the other at IMAX), who’s debated the ins and outs of all three movies with friends over the years (and hours). That aside, I think the facebook based endearment of TDKR has failed to resonate with me. It’s almost a series of fanboys (like me) who are afraid of saying that the movie is not even in the same zipcode as what Nolan delivers so consistently. The movie is strictly OK. Not an epic finale to an epic trilogy. Nolan has given us the Joker. And Inception. And Nolan has given us a lot more. And with that barometer, normalized for time and scale, this might be his worst outing ever. And Nolan’s worst outing being an epic finale, seems like a mindless conclusion to me. We know he is capable of better.

YES. I could not help but compare it with the epic greatness that Nolan and Ledger delivered the last time. The scale of story-telling, the characters, and the field of vision of TDK were at a different scale. And so were the action sequences. The first movie had Ra’s-Al-Ghul played by Liam Neeson, who torments Bruce Wayne/ Batman. You cherish his doubt. You loath his moral high ground. Second movie had Joker. ‘Nuff said. This movie has Bane. And Talia. And the biggest bane of Bane is that one moment where he is reduced to being a monster in love, and Talia is reduced to being a carrier of her father’s will. The motives, though aligned with the league of shadows, are petty. For you know clearly that the motive is not the league. It is revenge.

No. I did not find the action to be jaw-dropping. The first sequence with the airplane is OK. The stadium sequence is wonderful. The end action sequence with the scale of manhattan, is OK OK. Haven’t we seen destruction at a bigger scale in Avengers, or Transformers already? So, what’s the jaw dropping part? Huh? Come again? Huh? No, I don’t agree…

TDKR has too many long and indulgent dialogues. It seems like people are talking and talking and talking. Quite frequently, the conversation tries to be profound. Like we are used to them being profound when Nolan’s writing. But its only every now and then that it actually is. Beyond a point, it plays with your patience.

And beyond a point, the story started resembling Jigar. Remember that Ajay Devgan movie. Back broken, dude fights back. All for revenge. Or, the Ganga Jamuna Saraswati style Amitabh. Can overcome all physical odds and a broken vertebrae fixed through with a punch, like only pahalwans on Najafgarh Road can do. The fact that Ra’s Al Ghul was mentioned and not Superman’s dad as the reason why Bane/ Talia decided to go rogue does not make it a tight plot. People need their reasons, as Joker would remind them.

The high point is the absolutely crackling Selina Kyle. She delivers. As a vixen thief with a heart. And looks perfectly natural in the action sequences. Marilon Coutillard’s La Vie En Rose is a piece to remember her for. Not TDKR. The usual suspects are the usual suspects. Though I must say that I like Levitt’s balance in acting.

And yeah, Hans Zimmer’s background score is phenomenal. Again.

You know a problem with a performance appraisal system? When you ace it in an year, you also build an expectation. SO, when you fail it next year, your fall from grace is harder. I won’t say that you should not watch the movie. Even if you sleep through it or read only the subtitles that Mumbai movie theaters have graciously started showing for language noobs like me, TDKR is a lot better than subjecting yourself to a Cocktail or Rowdy Rathore. Or, Kya Super Kool Hain Hum.

Supermen, Untouchables, and Cocktails

I had a mixed bag weekend. Of the three movies that I watched, two left me speechless, and the third left me speechless too.

Let’s start the evening with Cocktails

I will start with the worst one. It is called Cocktail. It starred a star who’s started looking like a teen din purana naan (3-day old stale naan) – layers of rubber that stretch all you want without breaking, and is a bad idea for a good meal – Saif Ali. You can keep chewing on it, but it won’t get over. No, it won’t. Like this movie. Naan-sense movies should not be given ratins, but Naan-rating. It also stars Ms. Deepika Padukone, who I believe is going to be the biggest whistleblower for the industry someday (given the number of guys she has been associated with and actually knows a good deal about the performance(s) of). And then there is the new girl – Diana Penty. Enough has been said about her surname already, so I will spare her on that one. One of the things I have inferred about casting in bollywood is this – when they audition someone for a lead actress role, they surely would be asking a lot of questions – including surname, most likely. They definitely check your looks, the length of your legs, and the length of the shortest thing you’d wear to cover those legs. But somewhere they forget to ask a question, which should be the question – Can you act? That’s the only justification for Aishwarya, Deepika, Katrina, and the likes. Diana seems to be a protege of the Katrina school, and Deepika is already on her way to be the next Katrina. Deepika is in a hurry though, and started trying out acting too soon, I think. Why don’t you just come, do some jiggy wiggy chiggy wiggy, and get to take the hero home in the end? Agar yehi safedi, yahi jhaag, kam daamo mein mile to koi wo kyon le, ye na le? Btw, that slice advertisement that runs during every big cinema movie interval (yeah, the one with Katrina Kaif), could well be a saree, a condom, a vacation, or well, as an afterthought, a mango drink ad. It’s funny how the creative directors thought of the last option as the first.

The movie is so bad that there is only one thing that saved it from my wrath. The audience. Right behind me, we had a rather “vocal journalist” from burrp. He ensured that his reaction to every scene of the movie could be measured by the quality of his burrps. For a bad scene, two resounding burrps, and a small tiny one for the less harming scenes. Also, there were enough people in the theater who found something funny in every other scene. I envy them. They can find joy where none exists. They all are the true hermits. Siddhartha! Nevertheless, I shall move on to the joy that I could discover. On a somewhat positive note, the song Jugni was quite good. And finally, I conclude, it’s band jawani (of band baaja kinds). Not banned jawani, or behan jawani, or pained jawani, or something else.

From Naan to Supermen

What a movie!!! Really… Malegaon ka Superman runs close to 70 minutes or so. Getting up early and driving to Juhu was all worth the effort (and without breakfast too). Even PVR’s extremely messed up service level that early in the morning (9AM) could not take the taste away. The movie is almost a docu-movie. Handheld cameras, shaky angles, unplanned shots, candid camera moments, and the works. Loaded with innocence, the irony of movie making, an entire expose on 50K-100K movies, rural aspirations, society and life, the contradictions that people live every day, the small joys that keep them going. It never seems like the cast is acting, because most likely, they are not. Or maybe they are, and they are just too good. There is a point in the movie where the camera falls in water and the shoot is cancelled. Naseer, the director, is absolutely devastated who keeps convincing himself that it will be fine. And while keeping at it positively, he also keeps talking about the shooting delays of 2 days it might cause. All this while, the poor superman, shivering with cold, is floating on water on a tyre tube, trying to wade himself to the shore. That sequence tugs so hard at you with its poignant and ironical sense of humor that’s difficult to explain. The scene where the cinema (or video parlour) owners/ attendants run for their life just after they open the shutters, as throngs of people run each other over to get to the best seat in the parlour, and the expressions shown on their face (later in the movie) as they are watching a dubbed english movie, the shadow of the cigarette smoke, are priceless. Or, the four day delay caused because superman is getting married. I can keep going on forever about how a tightly edited, honestly crafted 70 minute movie(?) cobbled together with no stars whatsoever is worth more than hundreds of skin-shows like Cocktails that bollywood graces us with. The movie was screened under PVR’s Director’s Rare initiative (and the ticket was all of 70 bucks for the 9AM show). Yes, such movies are a rarity in our country. Rarely do people pack their bags and say thank you when they are done saying what they had to say. So, thank you Nasir Shaikh. For introducing us to the supermen of malegaon.

Touch the Intouchables

Intouchables touches you. And how beautifully. The movie doesn’t try to do too many things. It explores the relationship between an unlikey duo – a low society-from the projects-criminal background man taking care of and becoming a great friend to a filthy rich paraplegic. The story is full of pain and pity, and yet there is none. The movie overflows with genuine moments of connect between two people – not forced sentimental long dialogues, but two people who connect because they connect. Because there’s a spark to their conversations. Because they are naturally different. The lead actors are absolutely brilliant. Even the dubbing was quite fine, but I wouldn’t mind just the subtitles as well. One thing that needs a mention – background score. It was pitch perfect. And the strip down of most melodramatic moments is brilliant. There are some butchered sacred cows as well – the way Driss replaces Chopin, Beethoven and Mozart with the music from Kool and the gand and the likes, and gets the drab party on its feet, or Phillip’s hitler moustache moment, or the furious laughter during an opera. The movie has such comic moments that you forget the tragedy that underlies them. Right from the way Driss lifts Phillippe like a puppet and his body hangs about limply, to the life in the projects, and the coversations between Driss and Lyovanne. Here’s one from Driss – “There’s no way I am emptying another man’s ass. It’s a matter of Principle. Stockings were bad, but I did it. But there’s no way I am emptying another man’s ass.”

It’s a beautifully told true story. So, if you think you just wasted 300 bucks on Cocktail, please go and watch Intouchables. There aren’t too many shows of that movie, and most likely it will be off the screens this Friday, once the Dark Knight returns.


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