Movie Review: Prem Ratan Dhan Payo

Yesterday, I subjected myself to this movie. To survive, I tweeted throughout the movie. Rather than write a review and, in that process, hate myself again, I present to you – the storified tweets.

 

prdp

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Movie review: Masaan is so real that it hurts.

A desolate Deepak is sitting with his friends. His friends are trying to console him. Deepak remembers Dushyant Kumar’s lines, his last conversastion with Shalu, and then screams – ee saala dard khatam kaahe nahi hota hai be. His friend says – chup ho ja be Deepak. Chup ho jao be… nahi to hum maar denge tumko, he stammers. And they all hold him close really hard. Deepak is crying hysterically. Another friend offers – abe tum humra bike lo be. Tum le ke jao… From Deepak’s silence, to his friends’ awkward cajoling, to the outburst, and to the friends again. His friends are in tears. But they are not crying. And they are crying – What. A. Scene. After a long time, I shed a tear drop during a movie scene. Not because the movie was gutwrenching. This particular scene was. It was so real that it hurt.

Masaan is so real that it hurts.

Deepak (Vicky Kaushal), a civil engineering final year student from a polytechnic college, finds his love in Shalu (Shweta Tripathy), a shayari lover, one who talks of Badr, Fazli and Ghalib. Shalu gifts him the lines from Dushyant Kumar – tu kisi rail si guzarti hai… Deepak gifts her an audio recording of their conversations along with a set of his favorite songs… gazab ka hai din dekho zara. Shalu is upper caste, whose entire family goes on annual pilgrimages like Badrinath, Kedarnath, and enjoys the food better if it is run by another Gupta ji – apne caste wale hain na, isliye. Deepak is a dom, who’s spent his entire life dealing with the dead bodies, crushing their skulls and wiping off the stench of their burning flesh from his face. Their love takes flight under the fear of the caste divide of a small town (Kashi), and finds closure on a boat ride at Allahabad.

Devi Pathak (Richa Chaddha) falls in love with Piyush at the coaching center where she teaches at. They decide to check into a hotel, only to be raided and harassed by cops shortly afterwards. Piyush commits suicide, and Devi and her father (Sanjay Mishra) finds themselves dealing with a ransom demand from the cop. Vidyadhar Pathak learns to deal with the financial and, more importantly, social setback of it, and Devi finds closure for something that her heart does not blame her for, through a railway job in the interim and a final ritual at the ghats of Allahabad.

The generational conflicts are everywhere, and so is the conflict between progressive and regressive thoughts. Vidyadhar finds her reconciliation with Devi after an initial outburst of anger. Devi closes the loop with Piyush’s parents, and then sends off Piyush in a touching moment, just as Deepak offers her “paani”. Devi wants to flee to Allahabad. Deepak wants to leave his masaan-ghat life behind. Most moments in Masaan exist without judgements. Exist like reality. Like the facebook friend request and the messages sent to Shalu before she accepts the friendship request. Or that balloon that floats through the air like a proclamation of love. Like Devi’s scroll through Piyush’s facebook photographs. Or the friends quipping – “Guptaji hain!” and reminding later on “wo upper caste hai. Jyada senti mat ho jaaana”. Like that carefully and painfully planned music player for Shalu. Like that guy in Devi’s office – seedhe pooch rahe hain. Degi kya? Or Deepak’s – wo last year strike ho gaya tha na, nahi to ab tak humara final ho chukka hota aur placement bhi. Like Sadhya ji’s – har college group mein ek intellectual gyaani type hota hai. Or Pathak ji’s “humko lag raha hai ki is mahine ho jayega”. Or Deepak’s father, in a moment of drunkenness, saying – “sab tu hi to hau”, and in that moment, summarizing the dreams and aspirations of many underprivileged who have pinned their hopes on their children’s education.

Interestingly, as the movie progresses, the concept of time is made irrelevant. When it ends, you have no idea how much time has gone by, but you can feel the amount of life that has gone by. That’s how time feels, right?

Perfect – Acting, Script, Dialogues, Cinematography,Editing and length!

Not too perfect – Ending – a little too good. I was glad that the movie was not a depressing end, but a positive fall forward. But a little too tied.

Gripe – the brother. It seemed to me that Neeraj Ghaywan (director) and Varun Grover (script) had some ideas about Deepak’s brother Sikander, but those ideas didn’t survive the editing table. Unfortunately, a conflict is shown for about a minute, and is not resolved any further. The only minute in the movie that didn’t seem to belong, as an after-thought.

Absolutely gorgeous – the soundtrack. There are three songs in the movie. Look at their placement and how much they achieve in the movie.

 

Overall – Go watch it. Please go and watch it. Did I say please only once? Please please go and watch it. Please.

 

And as a parting off thought – here are a few links –

“”Main jise odhtaa bichaata hun,

Vo ghazal aapko sunaata hun.

Ek jungal hai teri aankhon me,

Main jahaan raah bhool jaata hoon.

Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai,

Main kisi pul sa thartharaata hun.

Ek baazu ukhad gaya jub se,

aur zyaada wajan uthaata hun.”

– Dushyant Kumar

The full version w/ annotations is here

 

“Ho chuki hai peer parbat si pighalni chahiye, is himalay se koi ganga nikalni chahiye”

The lines though I remember of him often – kaun kehta hai ki asmaan mein suraakh nahi ho sakta, ek pathar to tabiyat se uchaalo yaaro.

And a whole lot of other Dushyant Kumar poems

 

Bajrangi Bhaijaan – The Jaan Is Shahida

bajrangiI think it has been forever that I got down to watch a movie on its release day. And that is not to say that I was so excited by the prospects of watching Bajrangi Bhaijaan on Day 1 that I broke the well-defined norms of parenthood. I went down to watch Baahubali (having heard people rave on and on about its scale and grandeur), and since there were no shows of Baahubali, or any other movie for that matter, I watched a significantly overpriced Bhaijaan. Overpriced has a definition here. Each ticket of PVR Gold Class was 800 bucks. Without any popcorn or cold-drink included in the ticket price. Why did I not turn back? Because I don’t do that. No, I don’t. And if I try to, the missus does not let me do that. Not when movie watching events with just the two of us have become so preciousssss.

Now, you know, I am a fan of Bhaisms. That mindless over the top drama with dialogues like “main dil mein aata hoon, samajh mein nahi” or “mujhpe ek ehsaan karna…”

The movie is about a mute girl from Pakistani who finds herself stranded in India, only to be rescued by Bajrangi Bhaijaan, urf Pavan Kumar Chaturvedi, a naïve lad from Pratapgarh, who lives in Delhi, but finds the girl in Kurukshetra. Bhaijaan promptly decides that it is his duty to take the girl back to Pakistan, against all odds, and help her unite with her parents.

Can you imagine the hand pump sized opportunities here? A Pakistan full of stereotypes, an army full of good for nothing soldiers, an occasional world-unifying-Muslim-with-a-heart-of-gold, and Bajrangi Bhaijaan going “Hulk Smash” on them? The number of grey haired preachy sermons being delivered to tikka and akshat wearing nincompoops?

It does not happen that way.

 

Read the rest of the review with the sarcasmometer aside.

The movie is fairly heart-warming. But for the last 15-20 minutes, its reasonably well-toned and not over the top. The kid-Bhaijaan equation is not full of melodrama. In fact, it’s lovably cute. In fact, it is this that makes the movie very very warm. It’s not a typical Salman movie. [Spoiler alert]: Salman does not bare it all this time. There is a total of 2 minutes of serious Salman kinda violence in the movie at the end of which one guy is found hanging by the electric wires of purani dilli, and a policeman in Chawra, Pakistan is seen nursing his neck and apologising for letting a jasoos escape. Few broken tables and a few broken glass doors. That’s all.

Salman tries to act this time, and not play Thalaivar. And for most of the movie, gets it right. By his sheer charm, not by his acting skills. There is something about his chemistry with Shahida (the kid, Harshaali). Their scenes together are almost perfect. Shahida, by the way, without a dialogue, is so awesomely perfect and cute in this movie that even before she is stranded in Pakistan, you start waiting for her to cheer for Pakistan Team. She is not just a cute prop. It is she who really elevates the movie to being a genuinely lovable movie. I can safely imagine quite a few tears being shed across the theatre, so heart-breaking her pain is in quite a few scenes. On second thoughts, it’s good that she does not have dialogues. Most adult script writers don’t get kiddy dialogues right. They make them either too cute or too preachy. Kareena Kapoor Khan  is an unrequired prop in the movie. She provides enough support to the emotions of the movie, and her eyes still light up the best in the industry.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui. You were waiting to hear about him, right? I think Nawaz confessed in an interview somewhere that commercial movies help pay the bills better than the movies with great scripts and direction. Nawaz is spot on. He more or less always is, these days. He pulls off that “Eid mein Karachi se andruni mulkon ki” video copy. Interestingly, his character is named Chand Nawab (just as it was in the original video here). I was so hoping that they allow him to swear freely, but I guess censor board would not have liked it. In a way, he owns the screens when he is there. And he may just have the problem that Irrfan Khan had some time back. He overshadows the “superstars” too easily. The only place where he falters a bit is that last passionate appeal of his exhorting people to come support Bhaijaan. But by then, it’s all over.

The others in support – Rajesh Sharma, Sharat Saxena, Om Puri, etc. are extremely well cast and right on the money.

For a change, Salman decided to start off with a script this time. Or, maybe, Kabir Khan decided not to throw away the script in his excitement of having signed Salman for a movie which was getting an Eid release.

One of the biggest positives of the movie – it’s neither preachy nor pedantic. Mostly.

The movie has its flaws, the biggest of which is its ending, and the long standing gripe I have against the “need to conclude”. I don’t think there was a need for Shahida to get her speech. I don’t think it was important to have the army general drama about forcefully trying to prove Bajrangi a spy. I don’t think there was a need to apologetically convert a staunch Hindu Bajrangi and make him do an Allah hafiz slow-mo. More importantly, I don’t think there was a need to stretch the movie too long to accommodate all this.

The music is not much to write about. Bhar de jholi meri + Adnan Sami is the high point. Selfie le re will always be the song that you don’t confess to liking, but are bound to hear on every radio channel 15 times a day, just because it’s so popular and catchy.

Camerawork / DOP deserves some mention too. The opening shots, and some of the shots of Pakistan part of the movie (the corn truck scenes/ the sunsets, etc.) are beautifully shot. For some reason, the last shot of the movie, between the two borders, reminded me of Henna.

The movie runs much longer than I would have liked. But the charisma of Bhai is such that directors always think more is better.

 

In short – it’s a very decent, un-Salman movie which has done well to encash his stardom. I do have my doubts about it being a 150Cr movie though. And – “pehle pata karo ye Boo Ali kaun hai”

 

Watch NH10 for Anushka

This scene is not in the movie. Not exactly like this, at least
This scene is not in the movie. Not exactly like this, at least

There are many things that need to happen in the right amount for a movie like NH10 to work. And history suggests that Bollywood has a knack of screwing those many things many times over in many movies.

For instance, in a thriller, should the lead actors necessarily sing and dance around the trees? Or, in a rather dark movie, should the protagonist emerge as a larger than life person taking on some 20-goons at the same time? And beating all of them to an unrecognizable color (black/blue/white/gold)? Or, should a story that can be told in 90 minutes be told in 150+, so that the audience feels that they have got their money’s worth?

 

Thankfully, NH10 manages to avoid most of these pitfalls. It’s a superbly edited edge of the seat dark thriller, elevated a few notches solely by Anushka Sharma’s performance (despite her disconcertingly gone wrong lip job).

Running at an approx. 2 hours length (probably lesser), NH10 moves at a hectic pace almost all through. And not because there are too many characters and too many sub-plots (like Gnags of Wasseypur), but because, for a change, someone hired an editor who knew what editing should do to a movie.

Anushka Sharma hits this one out of the park. Make no mistake, it’s her movie. All the way. Right from having football field size cojones to put her movie in a script like this, to acting out of her Band-Baaja-Baraat-ki-saddi-dilli-wali-bubbly-kudi skin, this is her show. Meera (Anushka) is a better symbol for gender equality than Deepika Padukone’s or Twinkle Khanna’s open letters. Definitely more than Shobha De’s columns.

In a particular scene, a police inspector remarks that “ye shehar ek badhta hua bachcha hai, koodega to hai hi”. The disgust on Meera’s (Anushka) face speaks volumes about how much she has matured as an actor.

The transformation of Meera in the second half of the movie is somewhat heroic and filmy, maybe, but it isn’t a hyperbole of Salman-ian Radhey standards. Her methods, but for the one scene where she climbs the walls of a construction quarry, are more real than Vidya Balan’s last scene transformation in Kahanii. The climax seems a minute too longer and a conclusion too exaggerated, but is probably one of the most lucid and definitive conclusions I have seen in similar bollywood fare. Remember Mardaani? And how the end seemed a little too much? Even for a cop? This one doesn’t. If at all, I expect many women to want to learn driving (really well and not just a car), and working on. You know, it might come handy some day without things really having to become that bad. By the way, let’s be real here. Bollywood finds it natural to have a male actor kick 40 bad guys in a climax. How can you expect them to find credible endings for female protagonists?

Movie has a fantastic cast overall. Neil Bhoopalam is someone I have been wanting to see in a big role. Unfortunately, in this one, he looks and acts more like Rajkumar Yadav (heard he’s changed his name?). That is not bad, but that is not the Neil Bhoopalam I have come to expect from his theatre circuit performances. The villain dudes are pretty good. The cops, better. The creepy guy in Meera’s office – fits. They even have a Deepti Naval thrown in for artistic effects.

The background score is excellent. It helps maintain the tautness of the movie.

If you remember Manorama – Six Feet Under, you can see Navdeep Singh’s imprint all over again. The movie has that shadow almost all through the movie, and you’re almost always on the edge of your seat waiting for something to happen. There’s a point in the movie where Meera stops at a water tap and is splashing her face. It’s the middle of the night, and you spend almost the entire fifteen seconds wondering if something’s about to happen. I won’t throw too many spoilers like these your way.

The music is not meant to be consumed without the movie. And there isn’t much of a distraction. No song and dance sequences to take you off the main course. The mood – continuously sombre.

 

The movie has its share of flaws and generalizations. The good people (Meera and Arjun) are educated, drive a Fortuner, speak English, and go to swanky parties. Interestingly, they have a licensed gun. The bad people, however, are the rural folks/ honor killing kinds, drive around in a trademark Mahindra (Scorpio) vehicle, speak in  colloquial Haryanvi, and watch Ramleela/Nautanki equivalents in their village for entertainment. Oh, and they kill with sickles and iron rods. Fifty Shades of Grey, not! Almost every thing is black and white. Much as the police inspector tries to explain to Meera, the obviousness of certain things is unmistakable.

Deepti Naval is a forced distortion in a movie of this genre. It’s a hat tip to our habit of trying to include every possible dimension. It would not have made any difference if Deepti Naval was replaced by an unknown person of any gender.

Anushka-NH10Some of the page 3 discussions early on in the movie seem forced. But they help establish the characters Meera and Arjun. And thankfully, not a lot of screen time is wasted on that. If I could, on hindsight, I would take out about 10 more minutes from the movie.

 

Overall, highly recommended movie for the week. Watch it to encourage more such movies. Watch it for Anushka.

 

 

(image courtesy – ibnlive and filmibeat)

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: 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.

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