Theater Watch: Aadhe Adhure is a tragic and touching play

Aadhe Adhure is a brilliant play by a brilliant author – Mohan Rakesh. You have to read some of his works to understand what you might be missing out on by not having read enough hindi literature.

The play was staged by Prime Time Theater Company and stars Mohan Agashe, Lillette Dubey, Ira Dubey, Rajeev Siddharth and Anushcka as the Nath family – Mahendra, Savitri, Binny, Ashok, and Kinny, a family torn at the seams.

Binny ran away from her home at a tender age with a man she thought she was in love with. Ashok is an aimless young man. Mahendra himself has been an unemployed man, and is a house husband. Kinni is a 14 year old girl not happy with making so many compromises in her everyday life, and crossing the threshold of being just a kid. And Savitri is the bread earner of the family, a woman with many wishes and desires from her and a woman who is perennially unhappy with the fact that the others in the family are not doing their bit. Not enough.

The first half of the play takes you through the threadbare relationships in the family, with Mahendra deciding to leave the family one day (which he does quite often apparently), and Savitri deciding to not care about anyone else’s but her own wishes. The number of times things are left half said makes the plot intriguing and you keep looking for the dirt that has been swept under the carpet. The secrets that every family has, the unexpressed emotions that often explain the expressed ones better.

The second half introduces two new characters – Jagmohan and Juneja. Jagmohan is from Savitri’s past and Juneja is a friend/mentor of Mahendra. How the endgame takes you to a very subtle understanding of human desires and how people keep looking for something more than what they have. The meaning of “Aadhe Adhure” is revealed here. That is what the play is all about.

As a cast, Mohan Agashe who plays 5-6 different characters (including Mahendra, Jagmohan, Juneja, etc.) , Lillette playing Savitri and the Rajeev playing the son are the pick of the lot. Rajeev has the angst of KayKay Menon, the way he carries himself. Lillette is the center piece of the play and is wonderful in her portrayal of a middle class woman, conservative in her life but liberal in her mind and actions. Mohan Agashe, with his subtle changes across the different characters that he plays is phenomenal. The personality swifts from the forgetful but lecherous boss to the playboyish Jagmohan, to the pedantic Juneja, and to the broken/frustrated Mahendra are extremely well played out.

It’s a two act play, and the set (which is the Nath household) is detailed but static. In fact, it is one of the more detailed sets that I have seen in recent times. Maybe, because, it must be a fairly old play. And the set is true to a low income household from a few decades back.

This one is not a comical fun play. Rather, it’s a play that makes you think too hard, and I am sure the Experimental Theater at NCPA (especially the side balcony seats) is not the best place to enjoy it from. But it’s an excellent play and must be enjoyed.

 

I would strongly recommend watching this one.

Movie Review: Lincoln is intense, awesome, and gripping

When I started watching Lincoln this weekend, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect. All I knew was that the movie was centered around the Thirteenth Amendment – which led to the abolition of slavery of colored folks/ blacks in America.

The movie starts with a scene from the civil war, somewhere after the Emancipation Proclamation signed by Lincoln and his famous  Gettysburg Addressthat we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth. And quickly jumps forward to the point where Lincoln has been re-elected (1865) and his first term is nearing an end. It is at this stage that he decides to pursue the passing of the Thirteenth Amendment in the House of Representatives with all his energy, strength of character and conviction, and guile behind it.

The movie does a brilliant job of representing the three facets of Lincoln – the President, the lawyer, and the personal family side. The quality of reasoning, as you’d witness in some of the scenes (with Seward, Stanton, Stephens, Yeaman, Beasley, and others) can  be appreciated way better when you notice the next moment of deep agony and self doubt he has as a father and a husband. The iron hand that deals with the matters of the nation is as weak as any father’s hand when it comes to a quasi-rebellious son who wants to enlist. His relationship with his wife Mary is handled delicately, yet adequately. Daniel Day Lewis brings to life one of the most respected historical figures for not just America, but across the world. As Grant observes – By outward appearance, you’re ten years older than you were an year ago. To which Lincoln replies – Some weariness has bit at my bones.

Lin5Lin4

There is a scene where the attack at Fort Sumter has started and after an inordinately excessive amount of shelling the Fort still is holding up. Waiting for the final confirmation to arriveStanton Is all worked up. And that’s the moment Lincoln chooses to launch into another of his trademark stories. Stanton – “I don’t believe… that I can bear … to listen to another one of your stories right now!” Ah! The moment.

The other standout performances in the movie – Tommy Lee Jones as Thaddeus Stevens is funny as well as deeply relatable. The scene where he holds himself back while absolutely humiliating Wood and Pendleton– “How can I hold that all men are equal, when here before me stands, stinking the moral carcass of the gentleman from Ohio, proof that some men are inferior, endowed by their maker with dim wits, impermeable to reason with cold pallid slime in their veins instead of hot red blood…. So low and flat that the foot of man is incapable of crushing you!”

Stevens sums up the story – “The greatest measure of the nineteenth century, passed by corruption, aided and abetted by the purest man in America”. I was hoping that the movie won’t conclude the way it did, for I did not want to be reminded of the folly of men that leads to assassinations.

The screenplay and dialogues are absolutely impeccable. While the creators might have had it easy with several documented records of what was said on several occasions (speeches and what nots), it’s thir ability to create those moments and the set pieces that lead to those conversations. What elevates the movie further is the acting and the camera work. I am reminded of Side by Side,  and I have a feeling that this movie is shot on film, and not on digital. All the actors have pulled out their finest – Sally Field as the mother, David Straithorn as Seward, Joseph Gordon-Levitt in that tiny role as Bob, James Spader as Bilbo and Bruce Mcgill as Stanton.

Lin1Lin3

As the preacher said, I could write shorter sermons but once I start, I get too lazy to stop. – Lincoln to his Cabinet

I can go on and on and on about why should watch this movie. But the short of it is that you MUST WATCH this movie. This is the kind of movie that gets my 5* rating.

Akaash Vani – Good Premise, Extremely Boring

AkashVani hits at an important issue  – a small town issue. The one that revolves around parents demanding a sacrifice off their children when it comes to matters of marriage, and the apparent sacrifice that some children do make and regret/ hold their parents guilty for. It also touches on the more serious issue of marital rape. Yet, all that is good about the story is undone by the weird snail pace and extremely meandering screenplay.

The first half holds better than the second half. First half takes you through the juvenile and teeny bopper affair of Akaash (Kartik Tiwari) and Vani (Nusrat Bharucha). Barring the inane and randomly corny dialogues, the chemistry of the lead pair keeps the first half together. Towards the end of the first half, the twist is introduced. Vani’s sister elopes on her wedding night, and vani is left to deal with devastated parents being preached at from every possible social angle, a phenomenon very common to urban and semiurban middle class families. With their world devastated, Vani makes the only clichéd compromise she could – she agrees to get married as per her parents’ wishes.

Except that the marriage is a bad idea, and the husband is an educated prick of the worst kind that all real and pseudo feminists would love to hate. He expects the wife to cook, not work, not study further, submit to his carnal desires at night (willingly or otherwise), takes jab at her for everything, and so on and so forth. This is the point where you can witness the quiet marital rape that an entire section of Indian women submit themselves to. Why? Because a divorce would further devastate their parents – ek bhaag gayee aur doosri ka divorce ho gaya! What should Vani do?

The movie just goes on and on and on and on by this time. The entire second half is a disaster in that sense. The same thing, if said, in less than two hours would have been excellent cinema. But by the time its done, you hate the movie for being so bad that you lose your appetite for even Chicken Momos.

Quite like Pyar ka Punchnama, this one loses momentum the moment it decides to move from quips to sentiyapa. Luv Ranjan has to figure out his ability to edit sentimental moments. There is a 5-10 minute capsule which is beautifully cut, but badly edited. It takes you through the life of Vani immediately after marriage. Moving from one day to another and back, and one scenario to another and back, it’s a beautiful scene. Except, that you get the point in the first 2-3 minutes and the rest of it is just excess baggage.

He reminds me of a different version of Sudhir Mishra, whose movies would be a different thing altogether, if he finds himself a good, ruthless and independent editor.

The other sore thumb was the music. All the songs should have had one stanza less. If not in the album, then at least in the movie.

The movie has a few positives – The story does not take the usual course, and in that sense, the script/ central theme is good. The only action sequence is the way Nusrat slaps the prick. It deals with small town sensibilities and the “love marriage issue” in these setups quite well. And also, the end scene is quite brilliant, I’d think.

The lead actors have acted very well. There are times whenImage Kartik Tiwari is not adequate for the intentisty the scene demands, but he holds quite well otherwise. Nusrat Bharucha is quite brilliant this time round. I was not convinced with her in PkP.  The friends and support cast is ok. I hated the entire love-senti section of PkP, and I am convinced now that Luv Ranjan should stick to fun moments  and jabs in his movies.

Overall, extremely passworthy movie. If you have downloaded a copy, keep skipping every now and then and finish the movie in about 45 minutes. You may actually like it then.

I am going with 1 on this one. Its closer to 1.5, but then, why be generous on this one?

Django Unchained… Great, but not quite Awesome

Dj2Why is Chritoph Waltz nominated for best supporting actor. Isn’t he the lead actor? Isn’t he the most noticeable presence in Django? Isn’t he the one that makes Django a finer film than it is?

Django Unchained starts with the freeing up of Django (Jamie Fox) by Schultz (Waltz), goes on to explain what Schultz is doing, and the eventual Django-Schultz relationship that leads them to the search of Broomhilda, Django’s wife sold as a slave to Calvin Candie (Leonardo Dicaprio). Stephens (Samuel Jackson), the slaver/butler of Candie spoils the party for Django, but Django does get unchained.

At its heart, Django Unchained is the story of a freed slave searching for his wife with the help of a bounty hunter, its a stark take on the slave-master relationship, a western style movie. Like most other Quentin Tarantino movies, the devil in the details is what you come to admire. Scenes full of great screen chemistry and extremely intelligent dialogues, a brilliant screenplay, and some over-the-top but exhilarating performances. DJ3
Does it work this time? The style, the blood and gore, the flourishes, the slow sunsets, and the larger than their surrounding pivotal characters of the movie are all there. Yet, the movie does not measure up to what fans like me have come to expect of QT. Or, rather, it measures up, but does not surpass the standards that have already been set. The movie keeps you glued, but not in the way Pulp Fiction or Inglorious Basterds or Kill Bill does. For the QT haters, the movie might be an argument why he is over-hyped.

Waltz’s Schultz owns the movie, even though he is stylistically not very different from Col. Landa of Inglorious. But his charisma supercedes everything else in the movie. Jamie Foxx’s Django is good. Again. But not so good that you remember him long after it’s over. I personally did not like Dicaprio as much here. To the extent that I found his style and intonation inconsistent over the movie. In a rather short role, Samuel Jackson is stand out brilliant (what’s new about that one, you may ask). The slave who cDJ4annot imagine a slave being a free man and being accorded the respect of a free man, his sharp eye that catches the details (like the one of a good butler), and his unwavering loyalty to Candie. In fact, the two people/ characters you remember and think about long after the movie are Schultz and Stephen. Tarantino makes a guest appearance as well and blows himself up. I guess he was having a blast making this one!

Dj1There are three specific scenes that I loved – the first scene where Waltz comes in on a cart looking for Django, the scene where Django and Schultz are having a heart to heart conversation and the deal is struck, and the scene where Django and Schultz meet Candie the first time. Oh and you can add the scene of negotiation that happens later as well. Supremely well crafted scenes.

The most awesome thing about the movie, however, is the soundtrack. Sheer brilliance. It’s western. Its inspired. And its thematic. There are several points in the movie where the soundtrack takes the movie to a different level altogether. It starts in a very The Good, The Bad and The Ugly way, but has the texture of a war film, and the tempo of a period drama.

Tarantino fans – You are going to watch it anyway. Lets again have cerebral debates about every scene. But do tell me if you think its in the expected league or not, honestly and without fanboyism.

This is a clear 4 on 5. I am not yet at decimal points, but otherwise its not quite a 4.5, but higher than 4 movie 😉

And yeah, the D is silent.

Renewal

I had written this one for the Caferati readmeet which I could not go for due to some last minute thing that came up. So, I think I should post it here. The theme for this readmeet was going to be renewal

**********

It was the June of 2004, I think. We were having a chat at the Barista. The one on MG Road in Bangalore. It wasn’t a singularly profound conversation. We were discussing music from the era where Mohd. Rafi was at the peak of his prowess. His flawless voice, and the smooth turns his  voice could take from one song to another and within a particular composition, and that surge of emotion that only he could handle at those high notes. We both loved him. The world might be divided on whether Kishore Kumar was better than Mohammad Rafi, but at the least, the world is not divided on the greatness of Rafi. The discussion started with the song that was playing  in the background – mujhe dard-e-dil ka pata na tha (I knew not of the pain of love, why did you come into my life), mujhe aap kis liye mil gaye! We discussed many more, our favorites, the poetry, the rendition, the love and the tears. And we realized the common favorites in the process. “Aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai, mera dil machal gaya to mera kya kasoor hai”. A new light shines on your beautiful face, how am I at a fault, if my heart did a double take!

And yet, here, today, in 2012, as the end of world is near, we bump into each other. This time, in a crowded mall. R City Mall, it’s known as. Had we been in touch? I wonder. I know all about your vacations, and your son, and the work that’s made you travel from here to there, and the friends you’ve met. I also know about the Thai place where you were dining last week. And I am sure you are clued in about me as well. Though, I haven’t met you in these 8 years. There were those couple of conversations that we had. Yes. But what did we talk about? Guess some congratulations and some work. Do you remember what it was? I don’t. And my guess is the same as yours. That it must have been something really… really important.

We talk about a lot of things. And we talk about the noisy mall. And that we should meet again. At a quieter place. Because there’s much to catch up on. Much beyond the frivolously inane facebook, twitter and foursquare updates. Because we, as individuals, are still the same. It takes a while for us to talk about the real updates from our lives.

It’s at a mall that I visit almost every week. And so do you. And yet we have missed each other almost every time. Except this one. You know what I loved the most – the way the conversation started – “aap ke haseen rukh pe aaj naya noor hai!, we had said almost in a chorus.

******

Someone I met the other day shared a factoid with me – The median number of friends in the pre-facebook era was 4. In the post-facebook era, it’s “0 (zero)”.
There is a little something about Mumbai that you never take time out to appreciate.  You “bump “into your friends invariably at Phoenix Mills, NCPA, R-City Mall, Leopold, Bandstand, etc. The city localizes everything in small pockets, and has these nerve centers for everything. And in this process, this city increases the odds of your bumping into someone. Despite the city being so huge.

Your friends. An accident. A serendipity.

 

Movie Review: Les Miserables

I watched Les Miserables yesterday. And I came out with mixed feelings, even though, the genres don’t affect me much when it comes to liking a movie or not (with the exception of horror movies, that I hate in general).

Few opening remarks
1. I had not read the epic book before watching the movie. I am aware of the theme, the critique and the story in general. But it’s not a literary piece that I have read in depth and have an opinion on.
2. The movie is largely true to the book. Few creative liberties had to be taken to contain the huge canvas
3. The movie is a musical. A lyrically musical movie. 100%. No general dialogues. Is the book like that?

With that out of the way, my real feelings. Oh, it’s a movie that has made with one and just one purpose. To try and win an Oscar. And everyone has given it their best to deserve a place at the podium. Almost the entire star cast is top of the class.

It’s so difficult to imagine Hugh Jackman, the man who played Wolverine, being Jean Valjean. The kind of transformation he goes through from one frame to another is a wonderful lesson in acting. His body and his personality changes with the evolution of Jean Valjean.

Russell Crowe as Javert has one of the more unidimensional characters in the movie, and yet he adds such strain to it that you can feel the depth of his conflict, most in his monologues atop the church and castles.

Anne Hathaway has a short role, and she shines as Fantine. From the mother to the bitter prostitute.

Eddie Raymond as Marius is another revelation. I am not sure about his body of work, but he delivers almost every moment. Except for one. The scene where Jean Valjean tells him his story, and asks him to keep it a secret from Cosette. In that one scene, he falters.

Amanda Seyfried has a pitiable role as Cosette, amongst these stellar characters. Not in the book, but in the cinematic adaptation, Cosette’s story has several flavors. Not here.

The surprise pack for me were the short but extremely beautifully played Eponine (played by Samantha Barks) and Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone). Eponine’s ten minute screen presence makes you root for her a lot more than you’d for Cosette. Huttlestone adds the right amount of innocence to Gavroche. At a certain point, you’re almost sure (if you have no idea where the movie is headed) that the revolution will happen not because of a cause, but because of Gavroche’s rallying voice. And it would be unfair to not mention the Thenardiers – played by Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter (last remembered as Bellatrix Lestrange). While Sacha is top draw, Helena continues in her Bellatrix zone.

YET, and this is the point where I am no longer an intellectual – the movie wasn’t theatrical entertainment. I didn’t really enjoy watching it with nine other folks in the theater. The last similar movie that I saw was “Thoda Sa Roomani Ho Jaaye”. And I saw it on TV. The movie requires a heavy heavy level of concentration. In the lyrical moments, there are such tiny variations that reveal the change of momentum, that when it happened first, I missed the moment of guilt of Valjean.

It’s a movie not for faint hearted. It keeps you on your toes. It works you mind, your vocabulary, and your appreciation of subtlety. It wants you to focus really hard for the whole of 158 minutes of run time. And worse still, if you haven’t read the book, then it jumps. It doesn’t always logically explain, or wait for the explanation to sink in.

It’s a great work of art, but do you really appreciate the art? Or, are you looking for entertainment? If it’s the latter, save this one for a different day. Its a must watch. In peace.

Movie Review: Inkaar

Long long time ago, there was a screeching song – Inkaar nahi karna.. hadh se bhi jyada tum kisi se pyaar nahi karna.

The crew that went for the show loves Chitrangada, and there is a general belief that the ravishing babe knows how to select good scripts. The other factor in consideration was the Director, Mr. Sudhir Mishra, who has traditionally delivered interesting movies based on interesting pretexts – Hazaron Khwahieshin Aisi, Is Raat Ki Subah Nahi, Khoya Khoya Chaand, Chameli, Ye Saali Zindagi, etc.

The movie starts with a sexual harassment case brought upon by Maya (Chitrangada) on Rahul (Arjun Rampal), with Dipti Naval playing Mrs. Kamdar (social worker brought in to help resolve the conundrum). Except that it isn’t as black and white as you would imagine. Arjun ain’t ready to accept, and he is a glib talker. And Maya has too many skeletons in the relationship closet as well. The thin line between “favors are fine” and “you’re harassing me now” is what the movie keeps revolving around.

The goods – Plotline. So, to set the score right, the script is interesting. Yet again, Mishra does it right. Office culture, flirtatious relationships, office romance, sexual favors, harassment suits, etc. have been depicted once by a gentleman with a Bhandarkar surname. Yet, this one is closer to being, rather than the gloomy picture that he loves to showcase. And it is, unlike most trash that wants you to take side, this one is balanced.
The soundtrack is quite good as it gels with the movie, and there are a couple of very good songs. The couple of Kanwaljit scenes are actually brilliant and key to understanding the movie. The climax is good, but could have been better. The first half, where it ends, could have just added 15 more minutes to wrap up the movie. The way the relationship between Maya and Rohit is unveiled is interesting. And rather than show a Maya, Rahul and true version of everything, they’ve kept things reasonably ambiguous throughout.

The bads – First up, horrible editing. The movie should have been at least 40-45 minutes shorter, and it would have been an awesome crisp movie. But then, we haven’t known Mr. Mishra’s movies to be well edited. Read the list again. Then comes the dialogue. The movie has some hilariously bad dialogues that I don’t want to get into. Better dialogues could have saved the movie. Third, the waste of two glam ladies- Dipti Naval and Chitrangada. Dipti Naval almost isn’t herself. She is bad in this movie, which she has never really been anywhere else. Not in my memory. Chitrangada looks as gorgeous as she always does, but she is off color in the acting department this time. No one expects anything, so why waste e-ink on him. Though, to be fair, he is actually decent. Or, maybe its my lower expectations and some halo effect. Even Shivani Tanksale is wasted. The best guy is Vipin Sharma as Guptaji. And lastly, while the movie is setup quite well over a lot of rapidly moving scenes that alternate between versions of the story, the damn things goes on a tad too long before it gets anywhere. The suspense is interesting to start with, but you need newer conflicting angles for things to stay interesting. Not a cat fight. Unless you are into LOLCAT videos.

Endnote – 2 of the 4 enjoyed the movie. 1 is coming around, and saying it wasn’t that bad. And me – well, I wouldn’t have missed not watching it. But it ain’t the too bad. It’s a 2.5 on 5.

%d bloggers like this: