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

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)

A Mandatory Pre-Academy Awards Post

I just want this to be in time before the show begins. I have not watched all, but a few of the oscar nominations. The list is – The Imitation Game, The Theory Of Everything, Foxcatcher, Birdman, American Sniper. And then, the minor contenders like Interstellar, Guardians Of The Galaxy, Dawn Of The Planet of Apes, XMen Days Of Future Past, Gone Girl, etc.

So, I really don’t have a valid opinion on the best movie category. But I definitely have one on the best actor and a couple of other categories. But before that, a quick roundup and opinions about the primary five.

First things first. Mostly, they are all average fair that, even if you’d seen them before the list was announced, you would know straight away that more than honest cinema, they are a well planned attempt to win an oscar. They tick on all the basic parameters… Apparently true or theo-philosophical, perfect use of long silences, a level of darkness or morosity, a fundamentally flawed centerpiece, method acting…

But thats what you come to expect of oscar lists over a period of time. Therre is a patterrn to them. Almost like how Shahrukh Khan gets nominated for most awards even after delivering a Happy New Year. Or how Stardust looks at the last minute attendance confirmation to decide the optimal allocation of the available trophies. Everyone should get a return gift for having attended the ceremony. Even Tiger Shroff. or, Abhishek Bachchan.

Second, four of the movies are based on true stories, and one is a semi tragicomical shoutout to hollywood, with Keaton who played Batman once upon a time taking a dig at the superheroes and the larger than life supermormal hollywoodian personalities like himself and others as they try to discover true art, that is, broadway… And if you extend the logic a bit, Academy awards maybe.

Anyways, I am trying to come across as someone who is contending for the oscars for the best oscar blogppst. Profound and shit like that.

Actors… Redmayne is avearge. For a change, so is Cumberbatch. Cooper doesnt belong. That leaves us with Keaton and Carrell. I want Carrell to win, but I think Keaton has a better chance.

Supporting actor.. Hulk Norton is up against Hulk Ruffalo. I am rooting for Ruffalo. I think Ethan hawke might be the real contender. But I want Ruffalo to win.

Director.. Inarritu for Birdman from my list. Or, maybe Linklater for Boyhood. I have only seen parts of boyhood, and I am impressed. Will wrap it up soon.

And by that logic, the other person or movie could win the best film. It will be too obvious to give the same movie both the awards. And Academy folks hate being seen as Obvious.

For the other categories, I do not have enough data points. I did find Felicity Jones brilliant in The Theory Of Everything. Way better than Redmayne. Definitely better than Rosamund Pike.

I don’t think either Keira Knightley or Emma Stone deserve supporting actress award.

Oh and yes, best visual effects, I am torn between Interstellar and Dawn Of The Planet Of Apes. And for the best makeup, I think Guardians of the Galaxy is what I would vote for.

What do you guys thnk? Who gets your vote?

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.

 

 

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.

Movie Review: American Hustle

As a child, my trips back to my native village involved a 2 hours+/ 40+kms leg on the narrow gauge train connecting the railhead of Darbhanga with the interiors of Darbhanga and Madhubani. On this leg, there would be vendors selling eatables that I’d not find elsewhere. Like – 12 masala 13 swaad (12 spices 13 flavors). It was a collection of 13 candies (the tiny hard candies, the most famous of them being the orange candies that most of us would have had as kids) – with the first 12 being individually flavored and colored, and the thirteenth being a mixed flavor (almost the equivalent of garam masala)!

I watched American hustle with a lot of expectations. The star cast seemed intriguing, and so did the setup. And the movie is 12 masala 13 swaad.

This year’s oscar battle now has two stark black comedies. Set in the 70s, the movie about two cons, Bale and Adams, caught and further enlisted by FBI agent Cooper, to bring down several congressmen, mayor and the mafia. Lawrence plays Bale’s wife (referred to as the Picasso of Passive Agressive Karate) in an interestingly complex marriage. Because thats what they do. They fight and they fuck.

AH1The movie is hilarious, and the drama perfect. The actors are brilliant. The cinematography realistic. The script average. There are many flaws, but they don’t matter so much, when the entertainment value is so high.

Renner is the Mayor, of italian descent, who is trying to do a lot for New Jersey, and Bale and Cooper set up a sting operation to nab him and others. How this entire operation unfolds, and what it means for the Adams – Bale relationship, the facades of each character, and the layers underneath that, the unfinished ice-fishing tale,  the conclusion- thats what its all about. Its a savory delight, and you have to relish it.

The movie’s opening shot, involving bale’s comb over, is a quirkily funny moment which sets the context for whats coming our way. Bale is in good form throughout the movie, having put on a significant amount of weight and a paunch to fit the role. Amy adams is delightful as Edith/ Sydney, and brings oodles of deceit, sexiness and vulnerability to the character. I haven’t seen silver linings, so this was my first real exposure to Jennifer Lawrence. And boy of boy! Is she brilliant in this one? She is a rockstar in this movie, and probably some of the most hilarious moments of the movie ride on her. Renner and Bradley ooper are good foils, but are heavily overshadowed by the three in top form.

The other piece thats near perfect is the contextual setting, right with the get ups and the hotels and the neighborhoods, to the language and the dialogues. The incident was semi-ready-made, but the treatment is what makes the movie is a joy. There seems to be a new trend in the US where the revisit to the retros is the new new. Probably given a shot in the arm by Mad men.

What did not work for me is the oversimplified plot and the corresponding plotholes. Some of the con jobs that are pulled off are too simplistic. Makes you wonder if the folks at the receiving end were that naive back then. Maybe. Maybe not, because the focus of the movie seems to be the stylistic narrative, the subtle and not-so-subtle humor, definitely not the script.

The movie does keep you glued and thoroughly entertained, and one can see why it would be one of the favorites for the oscars. Enjoy it. And while I saw the screener version (and hence the uncut version), I am sure the deleted scenes from this movie wont affect the movie as much as the deleted scenes of Wolfie did.

Feel like having Biryani? Watch Dedh Ishqiya

Agar batman mar gaya to joker kya karega. Aata goondega?

Agar batman mar gaya to joker kya karega. Aata goondega?

Dedh Ishqiya is a delightful movie. Flows like water, grows like wine.

If you had a doubt that Babban and Khalu’s chemistry won’t be the same the second time over, worry not. The sparks still fly as you continue to marvel at the real undercurrents of their relationship. Naseer and Arshad continue to razzle dazzle you with the best bro-act. You don’t get to say this often- Ghaaghre Ka Pissu Babban stands taller this time, even though the movie belongs to the Nawab of Chandpur Khalujaan.

If you thought Mushtaq Bhai was funny only the first time, think again. He delivers one of the finer Batman moments of the movie right at the beginning

Instead of one, there are two ladies – but it’d be unfair to Vidya Balan to say that they score over her. I am an ardent Madhuri admirer, but Begum Para is only a shadow of the Madhuri of Mrityudand, Beta, and many more. Huma Qureshi almost sleepwalks through her role which doesn’t make her do anything beyond her Wasseypur shades. In her dancing moments, Madhuri continues to be the gold standard. In the Humri Atariya sequence, one cannot but notice the remarkable difference in the grace, style and expressions with which she dances, and Huma is almost an eyesore in that song. However, Vidya Balan, in the previous edition, had a level of evil and vixen-ness that is clearly missing from the leading ladies this time. That said, if the trailer of Gulaab Gang is anything to go by, I have a feeling we are getting closer to the Madhuri Dixit of yore.

The surprise package of the movie (not so much, really!) is Vijay Raj in the role of Jaan Bhai. I have never really written on how brilliant his comic timing can be. Remember Raghu Romeo. Better still, remember the only watchable parts of that horrible movie “Run” ? Vijay Raj is amazingly awesome as the local MLA/ suitor of Begum Para.

Moving on to the non-people parts of the movie – the star of the movie, like the last time, is the quality of screenplay and dialogues. The chemistry of Khalu and Babban would be only half as explosive if not for the dialogues. However, one most not forget the beautiful use of Urdu – the language of the nawabs. The ingredients – nafaasat, adab, tehzeeb aur salika – are all present in their glory, only to be immediately replaced by Khalu and Babban’s Bhopali Hindi with consummate ease. The English subtitles (forced upon me in Dhanbad, of all the places!) destroy the beauty of those dialogues. But if you can avoid getting burnt by the subtitles, Dedh Ishqiya has one of the best written dialogues in the recent times. . I am glad that they enlisted Bashir Badr as the writer for the Urdu ghazals/ nazms. Bulk of the poetry/ selection is exquisite.

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Khalu to Babban: Zara lihaaf hi maang lo

One cannot but marvel at the mini salute to Ismat Chugtai’s Lihaaf towards the end, and the various mini allegories thrown every now and then. Noor Mohammad Italvi (Manoj Pahwa of Bhatia Saab fame) being one of them – kyonki humari ammi Sonia ji ki badi achi dost hain. Munira’s Kaagzi Begum reference, and Jaan Bhai’s quest to be a true nawab.

Dedh Ishqiya’s music isn’t as big a chartbuster as Ishqiya’s music was. That does not mean it is not as soulful. Dil ka mizaaj ishqiya may not be an equal of dil to bacha hai ji, but stands tall as a beautiful ballad. The problem with it is that it’s too similar to the earlier one. What one misses is Mika’s ibn-e-batuta anchor, which Honey Singh fails to provide. Humri Atariya, Zabaan Jale Hai, and Jagaave Saari Raina are good parallels to the music of Ishqiya. Unfortunately Begum Akhtar’s Atariya is probably more touching than Rekha Bhardwaj’s. The music blends as effortlessly as any other good soundtrack you’d remember. The qawwali, which does seem out of place when you hear the audio compilation, also merges well with the movie.

The movie runs at a very even pace, and does not slow down anywhere. A copycat moment of sorts is towards the end, where an action sequence has a traditional “Wo Jo Hum Mein Tum Mein Qaraar Tha” by Begum Akhtar (written by Momin) playing in the background.

To sum it up, Dedh Ishqiya, is like Awadhi biryani. Cooked to perfection, each morsel exploding like a million flavors in your mouth.

Movie Review: The Wolf of Wall Street

Wolfie! Wolfie! Wolfie! Wolfie!! Woohoo!

Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio) simplifies the uberpaced life on the wall street by showing how to create a pump-and-dump “trading” business  with a bunch of no-gooders, and in the process, snorting his and many others’ way to a big money, decadent lifestyles, wine women drugs and glory.

The story of Jordan Belfort is out there, in his own words, for those who want to read it. The penny-stock-broker-swindler-sales-guru, has been the subject of two movies now, and is the inspiration for many, I’d think. His was a life of excesses. And hence, it makes for great storytelling. The exaggerated sex, drugs and money – its all interesting. Its an anti-hero, and like most sinful guilty pleasures, there is joy in rooting for the perceived villain who seems to be winning all the time. In a way, Belfort represents our own deeper darker desires.

Back to the movie, the stamp of Scorcese is there, and the movie is undeniably funny almost all throughout. The narration in some of the serious moments of movie can make you fall off the chair, especially scenes like the one where Jordan crawls to his car after ODing on Lemmons 714. The cast is super-awesome, with Donnie (Jonah Hill) worth a million bucks, and Max Belfort, Brad, Rugrat and others adding to almost every scene’s worth. Matthew McConaughey in a short cameo is great fun.

DiCaprio pulls off another oscar-nomination-worthy performance. Though, I often got a feeling of a repeat. A feeling that I had seen this act before. That over-emphasized dialogue delivery, those expressions. I didn’t see anything new.

The best thing about the movie is the clarity with which each of the part-characters is developed. You can’t but not notice how the decadent soullessness of Jordan and Donnie is different from that of others like Rugrat, Pinhead, Chester and Brad.

The downer of the movie is its length. At a full 3 hours, with about 150 minutes of drugs, profanity, and zoned out conversations, there are several times when the movie seems to be stretching thin. The dragged out relationship with Naomi, the multiple identical looking scenes on the trading floor, etc. slow the movie down. There is also an overdose of the overdose. The drugs seem to be the central prop running throughout the movie. Naomi could have been a good counterfoil, but she is not.

The chopped off scenes might have made me understand the movie a little differently, but nevertheless. Wolfie is shameless fun to watch, and Belfort is that poster that you’d want to but will never put on the wall.

I’d go with a 4 on 5 for this one.

 

 

Movie Review: 47 Ronin

To say 47 Ronin is good – would be wrong. TO say 47 Ronin is bad – wouldn’t be right either.

There are three things that you expect from a Samurai movie –

1. Major philosophical discourse about pride and honour. Check.

2. Lots of high quality sword fight sequences. Not Check.

3. High quality art of war kinda strategy. Not check.

So, 1 on 3. That should be bad. What makes it worse is the unwanted element of Tengu (demon) forests and shapeshifting witches. And a Keanu Reeves who’s shuffling with Matrix part trois and Constantine. He talks in a laboriously husky voice, and an air of mystique. Not required.

ImageSo, in short, the movie doesn’t quite deliver what I had expected it to deliver. And hence, it’s a bad movie.

So, what makes me take a somewhat neutral stand? The production values are slick. Some of the cinematography is top class. The short but sweet action sequence towards the end is very well done.

The movie is long. There is no need for you to go for the 3D version on this one.  I would recommend that you skip this one. If you want an alternate recommendation, I’d go with 13 Assassins, or Red Cliff.

The Greatest Movie Ever Made – rewatched.

And the verdict is- it stays so. And hence, it should not be reviewed.

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I saw it again. On big screen. In 3d. And it didn’t change a damn thing. Sholay is mindblowingly awesome fun. You know every scene, every dialogue, every twist and turn. You know the funny ones and the poignant ones. There are no surprises.

Yet, you long for the Jai-Radha romance once again. Yet, you laugh at Basanti’s yun ki once again. Yet again you fall in love with Gabbar. And Imam Saheb- itna sannata kyun hai bhai. The death of Ahmad still affects. And you still shed a secret tear when Jai dies. You still remember the susaad of veeru, and the haath-nahi-faansi-ka-fandaa-hai wala thakur. You are wont to concede that mehbooba mehbooba is one of the finest item numbers of all times. And Soorma Bhopali and angrejon ke jamaane ka jailor are the most important shortest comic acts of all times. Jaya might have delivered one of the finest silent scenes of all times. And Sambha probabkly is the most iconic sidekick of a villain ever. With just one dialogue in the movie! And you secretly (or vocally) mouth all the dialogues.

What can one say about this movie that hasnt been said before. I spent another 3hours+ trying to find flaws. I managed to find one.

The 3D wasn’t needed.

Movie Review: The Secret Life of Walter Mitty

Ben Stiller- you surprised me on this one. Excellent performance. Absolutely wonderful.

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In a simple way, the movie is an underdog story of sorts. Look at it another way, its a movie of self discovery. Walter, a negative asset manager at the Life magazine, is a witty, charming, world saving guy, all in his head. In reality, he is a general nobody, who has a habit of zoning out at key moments into the secret life. That is, until he finds himself on a journey to recover a negative, the number 25, that must be the cover of the last edition of LIfe.

Ben is astoundingly brilliant as Walter, and adds a level of comic timing and maturity to his role that i haven’t associated with him so far. For me, he has always been a bit of a goofball, who does movies like Meet The Fockers, or A Night At The Museum. SLOWM is not a goofy comedy. Its a pleasant and nice movie, with some hilariously comic moments that are not antics backed, but are script and screenplay backed. However, the part that impressed me more is when Walter Mitty is being the real Walter and not the subconcious one. Down to his pocket notebook, where he keeps his expenses, or replies in a matter of fact way that he chose Yemen as his route because of the $84 airfare.

The rest of the cast is fairly average, with the exception of the three minutes of Sean Penn. “When I like something, personally, myself, I stay in it. I find the camera to be a distraction.” The love interest, the sister, the mother, the colleagues, the transition manager, etc etc etc. – all of them are strictly average. But, such is the towering presence of Ben Stiller in the movie, that you dont mind these props.

The movie has some breathtaking cinematography. If there was ever to be made a case for Greenland, Iceland and Afghanistan as a tourist destination, this movie is one. Some of the shots are breathtaking. And the shots of Iceland before the eruption of the volcano are picture perfect.

Its a taut, nice and fluid movie, and and an immensely enjoyable one. A heartearming tale. I would go with a 3.5 on 5 for this one. Go watch it.

Chashme Baddoor. Or Bad Odour

The new Chasme Baddoor is so bad, that it makes you wonder whether David Dhawan has really seen the original one. Or, did someone just give him the script of the older one?

The classic. The one that Sai Paranjpe made. The one that had Farookh Shaikh, Dipti Naval, Ravi Vasvani, Rakesh Bedi, and Saeed Jaffrey. The one that had only a few songs but even that tiny number included two classics – Kahan Se Aaye Badra, and Kaali Ghodi Dwaar Khadi. The one that was so natural that it seemed like it was happening in your neighborhood. The one that featured one of the most iconic non-existent brands ever – Chamko – jhaagwala, khushbudaar Chamko. The one where the smallest of acts, like the one of sharing a cigarette, or going on a bike together was given a magical touch of endearment. The one… Yeah. You get it.

The one.. was subtle. This one is loud and juvenile. The one … was understated. This one is an attack on the senses. This one has pathetic and randomly thrown music, compared to the adequate and beautiful music of The One.
The only thing where I do not want to blame this one is that at least two of the four central figures have tried to act. And the peripherals show up with decent preparation. Remember Saeed Jaffrey. Remember the short powerful sequences at the Paan Bidi shop. This one has Rishi Kapoor running a bar in Goa. And because David Dhawan did not trust him enough, a Lillette Dubey is added as his romantic interest. And two Anupam Khers. And Bharti Achrekar. Not that they are bad, but it just tells you that some calculation has gone wrong, when one powerful Saeed Jaffrey cannot be sufficiently replaced by five good actors. And I can never get over the fact Directors like David Dhawan always reduce such a fine actor as Anupam Kher to such caricaturish characters. The most disappointing presence of the lot, though, is – not the leading lady (even though “dam nahi hai boss!”) – Ali Zafar. Even Arjun Rampal would seem to have more variety to his expressions. In comparison. If you want to. That is. But why would you!!

Long after it got over, I asked myself if my hatred is so high because of the comparision with The One. Yes. Halo effect did happen. BUT. Even if I try to think about the positives, to be honest, I can only think of two – my first experience of watching Siddharth act as a buffoon and a crass lad, and Divyendu Barua, quasi repeating his Pyaar Ka Panchnama act. They do try hard to salvage.
Please do not watch it. I implore you. Let’s not encourage such travesties as David Dhawan’s Chashme Baddoor and RGV Ki Aag.

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