Movie Review: Shaitaan is a very well shot film. Go, watch it.

The name of the Director is Bejoy Nambiar. But, the movie is stamped with Anurag Kashyap all over. Not just the narration and the screenplay, but the visual treatment of the movie as well. Some extremely creative use of background score, rapidly zagging camera work, dark shots, shots in slow-motion, and some insane music. It almost feels like Anurag Kashyap is continuing with his ode to Tarantino, having taken a pause after Dev D.

I loved the movie. The premise is simple, but not so frequently touched in bollywood. Spoilt brats high on life and high on dope making a mistake which comes back at them in a multi-fanged manner, and some of them (the more spoilts ones) keep adding mistakes over mistakes, and in the end its an unresolvable mess (almost). Somewhere in the canvas is a righteous cop having a tough time adapting to the system, and another one who uses the system to his advantage. A commissioner who cannot but depend on the volatile righteous suspended cop for getting him out of the mess, and a cop friend who is right in just about the right balance. Since I am not here to tell you the story, I would leave it at this.

What makes the movie stand out is the visual narrative. Right from the initial sequences, and the pace at which a social misfit finds her group of homies, the baap ka paisa gang and their antics, rave parties, etc., to one of the most well shot sequences running a brilliant remix of yesteryear’s Khoya Khoya Chand in the background, and two parallel narratives on the screen running on slo-mo. I can almost feel like I have seen such a scene in an English movie before. But then, that does not take the execution credit away from Bejoy and Anurag. It’s a scene that will be run on loop many times by many people.

The ending leaves you with a bit of a cheated feeling. You wanted it to be a little more crisp than it was, but saying any more will risk revealing too much. Go and watch the movie and let me know what you think.

The acting department delivers. Rajeev Khandelwal as the estranged cop is brilliant. So, is Neil Bhoopalam as video gaming trying to fit in the group rich boy. Neil is becoming one of my favourite theatre-to-cinema actors these days (have you see Hamlet The Clown Prince? All in one? No One Killed Jessica?). Shiv Pandit and Gulshan Devaiya are well cast. Gulshan (KC) comes across as a spoilt brat with no regards for anything, but only till nothing goes wrong. Shiv as Dash is a revelation, playing a very restrained act. Kalki is fine. Not great, but not bad either. She needs to work on her hindi diction rather quickly though, if she wants to play a long bollywood inning. She might end up a Kangna Ranaut otherwise. In fact, the little girl playing Kalki’s childhood version deserves a mention, and so does the lady who plays Kalki’s dead mother. I have seen her in several plays (including Vagina Monologues), and she continues to impress me. In fact, Neil, Kalki’s Mother in the movie, Rajit Kapoor, and the guy plays Inspector Mawalankar are all good theatre actors, and its good to see AK giving them a chance. Rajat Barmecha (of Udaan) gets a little cameo as well.

Music is worth highlighting. Right from the excellent remix of Khoya Khoya Chand, to Pintya, Josh, Zindagi and several other background tracks (instrumental ones) used across the movie. Ranjit Barot, and Prashant Pillai should walk away with the best background score for this movie.

Movie has some quippy dialogues as well – kuch dost aise hotein jinhe aap raaat ke do baje bhi phone kar sakte hain, aur kuch dost aise jinhe aap sirf raat ke do baje hi phone kar sakte hain.

I will go with a 8 on 10 for this movie. Very well shot and executed, great music and background score, and some good acting. The only let down is the editing, which could have stripped about 15 minutes from the movie. Go watch it.

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Movie Review: Aaja Nachle…. Madhuri is back!

I have to write this post. Came back home a little while back after having watched Aaja Nachle. And have a flight to catch in an hour or so. So, best use of this one hour would have been to sleep. But then, I claim to be different!

Aaja Nachle re-establishes one of my firmest beliefs about Bollywood – Madhuri Dixit can beat the shit out of all current actresses with both her hands tied behind her back. She just rules the screen from the first shot. Its a Madhuri movie all along with good support from the other well cast actors. I think its a true entertainer of a movie.

A few of the high points of the movie –
1. Choreography – Boo to all those who tried to blast the choreography/music/dances of the movie. This is the best choreography I’ve seen after Devdas. Examples in context – 1. the choregraphy of O Re Pia sung by Rahat. First, its a beautiful song sung amazingly well by Rahat (thats hardly a surprise). Second, the song has beautifully used Ghunghroos in the background. The dancers seem to match the ghungroo ki jhanak perfectly. Madhuri has flawless movements and expressions in the song. The choreography has a classical base, which makes it a delight. Need more reasons? 2. Choreo of the title song – again, a phenomenal use of a talent like Madhuri. 3. Choreo of the long “nritya natika” towards the climax. I think that particular sequence just revives everything that a nritya natika (or, as the refined people would like to think about it – a broadway musical) should be. perfect use of props, individual positions, stage movements, and dance forms. I think the nritya natika on Laila Majnu is the high point of a movie which is all about dance.
2. Performances – Madhuri, undoubtedly, is the queen! But then, there are some refreshing performances by Vinay Pathak, Akshaye Khanna, Ranvir Shorey, Raghuvir Yadav, Yashpal Sharma, Konkona Sen, Kunal Kapoor, Irfan Khan et al. I think the beauty of this movie with a fairly average storyline lies in the characterization as well. The weakest characters in the fold are those of Konkona and Kunal, even though I think they have sleepwalked through their roles with consummate ease.
3. Music – Whatever people say, I think O Re Pia, Ishq Hua, Aaja Nachle, Show me your Jalwa.. all these songs will catch on very soon. Some have already, and some will now!

The enlightened will tell you that the story is weak, and there is an overdose of fantasy. Where does this dilapidated set get all the money and resources to set up such extravagant dances. I dont know. I dont care. The movie entertains. And the elite can go take a skywalk for all I care!

And yeah, just in case I havent given you enough reasons to watch the movie … My final.. nail in the coffin.. last straw to break the camel’s back… aakhiri hichki.. etc etc. argument is ….
GO WATCH IT FOR MADHURI!

Bollywood Gossip – Peeping Tom saw a certain Sonam Kapoor and a certain Ranbir Kapoor at Taj Lands End last night (Dec 3rd) having a noodly and dimsumy hot dinner at Ming Yang. Both were smoking. Since it was Tom Peeping, Sonam was looking extremely ravishing in a black tank top with her mid-riff well exposed with navel piercings and all. Tom wonders – is something brewing? er.. coffee?

Comment of the night – “Having seen her like this, I don’t think Bhansali was able to exploit Sonam completely during Saawariya!”

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Roundup…. No Title

Haven’t been blogging for a while, as the seasonal lethargy takes over. I can’t really blame it on anything else. Anyway, just a roundup of things/people/songs of note –

1. Television – I am in love with the 2 singing competitions on telly these days, Zee Saregamapa 2007 Challenge – Sangeet ka Pratham Vishwayud and Amul Star Voice of India. SVOI is going through a dramatic phase with Gajendra Chauhan ( the pioneer of such singing talent hunt shows) getting confused with his self created frankenstein. However, the singers to watch out for are Toshi Sabri (brought back into SVOI by popular demand, after being ejected on the basis of public voting), Harshit (SVOI), Amaanat Ali (SRGMP, an amazing voice from Pakistan) and Raja Hassan(SRGMP). Raja has the rusticness and purity in his voice, Toshi is probably the best trained and a sufi-genre singer. Harshit will make an awesome playback singer while Amanat probably is the most versatile of the lot, and will surely make a great ghazal singer if given a chance. His rendition of “Tujhse Naaraz Nahi Zindagi” yesterday (6th Oct) was plain simple awesome. The idea behind this long para on these people is to remind you guys that for every Dhoni who came out of Jharkhand, there are several who join Tata Steel on a small stipend! Please support, encourage and look out for these raw talents in the years to come. You can see the videos online here – SRGMP, SVOI

2. Music – 1. Main Agar Kahoon (Om Shanti Om) – beautiful romantic song with a very simple melody and another proof of how good Sonu Nigam is. Especially, when it comes to romantic songs, there are few who are as good. His voice has a certain yearning that others don’t
b. Yoon Shabnami from Saawariya  sung by Parthiv Gohil. A lot of you won’t even know who Parthiv Gohil is. Parthiv is the lost find of 1998 Saregama MegaFinal (youtube videos) (the year Sonu was still hosting the show,  Sanjeevani – another finalist, got a few movies as playback singers (such as Kareeb), and there were some truly amazing singers like Mohd. Vakil, Bela, Mukund and Sudeshna). An year or two after 1998 Shreya Ghoshal became the winner of Saregama. Anyway, Paarthiv had a very strong classical learning background and his rendition of songs like Ketak Gulab Juhi, and Dhanyabhaag Seva ka Awsar Paaya back in 1998 were wonderful. So, Bhansali has given Parthiv a break, along with Monty (the music director, who played some part in the background score of Devdas)
c. Songs from Manorama – 6 feet under.  From a collection of 4 songs (excluding remixes and versions), 3 belong to the category of very good to excellent. Woh Bheege Pal, Dhundhla jo sama bandha, Tere Sawalon Ke.. Try them out.

3. Movie – Johnny Gaddar is definitely my pick from bollywood. Bourne Ultimatum would be the hollywood pick. Johnny G is a wonderful movie which takes you back to the 70s thrillers where things just kept happening all through the movie. Director’s tribute to Vijay Anand and James Hadley Chase is visible throughout the movie. The movie could have been shortened by 15 minutes or so. But, but… its a wonderful movie to see on a weekend.

4. Books – Reading “Of Love and Other Demons” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez right now. Seems good so far, while being standard Marquez narration. Will update later.

However, just in case you got a feeling that this is what is keeping me busy.. Naah!  How many of you out there have lived out of a suitcase to get a house renovated. Working your butt off five days a week to reach home on a weekend (travelling usually in the middle of night both ways) to deal with tiles, cement, paints, designs and woodwork! Ugh.. its not easy!

Btw.. quick emotional outburst – Raikonnen has taken the pole. Hamilton has to wait. Vettel seems a driver to keep an eye on. The last couple of races are going to be amazingly interesting! 😀

Movie review: Bheja Fry

After a long time, a completely comic movie. Even if its a lift-off (as I was told by a friend) of a French movie, lets give it to the director. What a novel concept – a modern age upmarket guy who loves his Fridays like anything. Why? Because that’s when he gets to enjoy at the expense of a simpleton! Even the thought is funny (Yeah Yeah! It’s a little mean! 😉 but funny nevertheless!)

Anyways, back to the movie. Its an extremely inexpensive movie which uses some of the most amazing actors (except Milind Soman, who cannot be put in the same category) that are inexpensive (they are not the ABs, Shahrukhs of the world) in an inexpensive setup (only a couple of rooms/houses where the entire movie is shot!) and in the most involved manner. The movie’s biggest plus point is that it doesn’t require you to think a lot, but cannot be called mindless either.

Talking about the story, as I expressed, I loved the plot. Just look at the tagline- When was the last time you met an idiot? Well, the movie is about Bharat Bhushan (Vinay Pathak), an Income Tax clerk hopelessly in love with singing and hopeless in terms of abilities as well. Add to it the fact that he is a talkative and dumb simpleton.
Thadani (Rajat Kapoor) and his friends meet every Friday to enjoy at the expense of a dumb simpleton. And Harsh Chaya is winning the race for having introduced the best (the most hilarious simpleton) till now, a guy who can spit spot on (into a glass placed several yards away!). Rajat’s friend chances upon Vinay on his bus journey from Pune, where he is subjected to his antics. From that point onwards, the movie is about the interaction between Vinay and Rajat with the additional elements being Rajat’s relationship with his wife (Sarika), a mistress Suman Rao, and Sarika’s ex-interest Anant (Milind Soman). How things turn tables on Rajat when he meets his golden simpleton is what the movie is all about.

The movie moves (I like the sound of it) on at a rapid pace, and is a very short movie (all of 1 hour 40 minutes or so). All the actors are chosen carefully (with the twin objective of performance and economics). The set is simple, consistent and carefully chosen. I don’t remember a single shot of the movie where I could have said why did the director have to get this in. So, full marks to the direction, editing and scripting side of the movie.
But, as some of the unworthy critics (like Khaled Mohammed who directed Fiza once upon a time, and Rajeev Masand) point out, the director should not get points because the movie is a lift-off from “The Dinner Game”, a French movie.

Vinay is the soul of all situational comedy in the movie – be it the shot where is gradually shifting while talking to Suman Rao on phone even when Rajat Kapoor is shouting at him, or his innocent “Its Ringing”. (I can actually imagine some people pulling this on their bosses) The way he opens the briefcase everytime to take out his “Bharat Bhushan ki kahani, geeton ki jubani” is just hilarious. That multicolored polybag which makes an irritating ruffling noise every time he folds it, the way he holds the thread between his teeth, his conscious upward look when is changing the number combination on the lock, everything is a masterpiece.
Rajat is good in his role. He has mastered these roles of urbane middle/upper income class guys with a nice subtle sense of humor. He comes across as the quintessential theater artist who take their body language, movements as seriously as their facial expressions. However, the flip of the movie is when his broken aching back suddenly becomes fine with no explanation given.

Sarika place a nice little cameo (in terms of performance). But nobody bothers to tell us why she is so frustrated with Rajat, a husband with whom she was seen buying a new car the previous week. Surprisingly, the only reference to a fight is the one regarding the Friday sessions.

Milind Soman is not asked to do much. And that’s what he does. He does not spoil the movie with his wooden acting. And so, he is good!

Ranvir Shorey is a little disappointing, and not an iota because of his acting. The disappointment comes from two separate facts – one, he is asked to carry an elongated face. In a movie which is so natural, that was not needed. Two, he is shown as a muslim character who wants Pakistan to win cricket matches against India. Its such a negative and unjustified typecast to be kept in the film. Moreover, in the same vein, he is shown as a tax official of highest integrity and impeccable knowledge. Tch Tch!

Suman Rao (played by Bhairavi Goswami) is a name that you would want to remember as Suman Rao (quite like Baby Doll volume 3 – Sophia of Pyar Ke Side Effects). The actress is pretty hopeless, even though she has one of the most comical moments in the movie. The point where she asks what a thurkey means, and the sheepish response of Vinay is a big comic high point.

And two more scenes that definitely deserve a mention are –
1. Ranvir Shorey, when he realizes that the guy he is auditing is sleeping with his wife
2. “Aayega Aayega mein kitni baar aayega?” (reference to the song “Aayega Aayega” from Mahal)

Extremely simple, but amazingly funny movie. Must Must see!

Theatre Watch: Karode Mein Ek

A Makarand Deshpande play, Karode mein ek is a very sensitive portrayal of a patriarch who has gone insane after losing his wealth due to the betrayal by his own brothers.

The story starts at a point where Bansidhar’s (Makarand) son (Yashpal Sharma) and his daughter-in-law are struggling with the whims and split identities of Bansi, who refuses to believe that he has lost his wealth and stature. He revels in his lost glories, has forgotten his young daughter who cannot stop caring about his father, remembers small anecdotes from his yesteryears, is in love with his younger son’s (an imaginary one) wife(again, imaginary!). Yashpal, on the other hand, is trying to fight for respectable survival, keeps running around courtrooms and people who can help him. The daughter’s husband keeps coming up with ideas that never work. Yashpal’s wife keeps living and enacting multiple identities (mother, daughter, wife, daughter-in-law) to meet Makarand’s whims. Yashpal’s son and daughter are trying to make a name for themselves so that they can earn some money for their family as well. And there is the “Sarkar” angle of a friend for whom Bansi used to write speeches, and who later becomes the parallel government of Mumbai. The story ends at Bansi’s split personality killing his brothers and acting like the police inspector who is in charge of arresting Bansi. Bansi eventually kills himself, and Yashpal, with all his frustrations with his father and of being a failed son, becomes partially insane himself.

It takes a while to realize how much pain everyone is going through. The frustration of loving someone, and the difficulties in dealing with reality are the essence of this play. Makarand, Yashpal and Ayesha take this play to a higher level through their performances. The use of stage is phenomenal with the “other room” where Bansi sits, the partial illumination to give the effect of hope that never dies, and the interplay of shadows to highlight split personalities, being just a few masterstrokes. Background score is good, but could’ve been better. The story does not seem very new, but the dialogues are extremely tight and smooth. The disappointments were some of the support actors like the son-in-law and the (imaginary) daughter-in-law.

If you get a chance, do watch it. Its fairly experimental, with a lot of comic moments and some great performances!

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