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)

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.

Jolly LLB – What The Brilliance Shuklaji

jollyThere is a sequence in the movie where Guruji (Sanjay Mishra), a hawaldar, is auctioning the post of SHO Sadar Bazaar to several police inspectors. His condition, in addition to the bid, the person needs to have a clean image. And the inspector who wins has only got an eve-teasing case from Delhi University pending against him. Suitably lauded, he wins the post for 65Lakhs only. Aap sabhi bade afsaron ko hawaldar ka namaskaar”, that’s how he begins the auction.

The simplicity of the proceedings is the heart of Jolly LLB. Jolly LLB is a rather simple movie with a simple idea and a simple script. And simply put, it’s a simple and enjoyable movie.

The movie has its fair share of flaws. Amrita Rao would stand out as the primary. She is not needed. Due to her, there are three songs in the movie and they waste time. And they slow down the movie intolerably. The first half of the movie hence, is slow. You get thepoint of the struggling lawyer, the success of a PIL, a case too strong to hit the headlines, a judiciary so weak that the criminals walk scot free, and a very successful lawyer who’s methods are questionable but his success is not. The part that takes about an hour, could have been done in about 20-25 minutes. Especially because the movie does not mope about anything. It does not over-dramatize anything.

Second half of the movie is much better paced. And with a lot of oddities being there, Subhash Kapoor leaves it to one of the most talented character actors of the industry to seal the case. Saurabh Shukla as the Judge Tripathi. An absolutely brilliant performance that outshines the other two excellent performances from Arshad Warshi (Jolly/ Jagdish Tyagi) and Boman Irani (Rajpal). Towards the end, as he takes subtle control of his courtroom and his bellowing “baith jaiye tejpal sahab. Ye mera courtroom hai” contrast to the burping and conniving judge when he’s introduced, are a joy to behold. It was also softly pleasant to see Ramesh Deo on screen, the man I most remember as Anand and Babu Moshai’s friend.

The other two flaws – Arshad Warsi is good, but is good doing what he has done too many times. His acting/style is not very different from his last few roles. I wonder when he will do another Sehar kind of role. More understated and intense than his lathering blabbering self. The second – here you have a young lawyer who is struggling and unmarried and is dating a school teacher. And Arshad Warsi does not look young. Not in one frame of the movie.

But he compensates for it. Still. It’s a nice movie. Not awesome. But nice.

Special 26: Smart, Tight, and Busy

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When the previous outing of a Director is a movie like A Wednesday, you’re bound to have very high expectations. A Wednesday brought on screen the feelings of a large majority of people without making a political mess of it all.

Special 26 does not appear to be a moralistic or a social commentary. At its heart, it’s a heist movie. However, somewhere, there is a very strong comment on the Indian governmental institutions. About how a man with a gifted mind, takes on the system, cons it, uses it for his own benefit, but has an ethical aspect to his actions all the same. It’s a movie that makes you root for the conmen. And its comical in how easy, or ridiculously simple it might be to con the system. I am surprised that CBI endorses the movie in a way, through the opening disclaimer. Or, did Neeraj con them into not getting offended by the movie ☺

Simply put, it is one of the best heist movies from India. The Ocean series kinds. I don’t remember another one. Bunty Aur Babli? Not quite.

Airtight script leads the way. Set in 1987, with a good use of older parts of the cities, some digitally recreated/ superimposed shots, the movie is inspired by some true reported stories about how some conmen posed as CBI officials and conducted false raids on some businessmen.

Good no-frills editing keeps the movie well paced. The movie cuts between scenes quickly. The dialogues are short, crisp and witty. Barring that odd-ball Punjabi song in the first half, I am struggling to snip out any unwanted parts. The details of every city captured in that 1987 era are quite accurate. And to see Gyani Jail Singh on screen was a nice moment!

Acting nails it. Anupam Kher is mindbogglingly brilliant in the movie. Just watching his body language evolve from scene to scene should be good training for body actos. Here is someone who is a complete antithesis of Katrina Kaif who, for the records, looks exactly the same irrespective of the movie or the emotion or the occasion. This is the first Akshay Kumar movie that I have dared to see in a long time. I have skipped his last 10 movies I believe. And never regretted it for a moment. But this Akshay Kumar reminds you of the Akshay Kumar of Sangharsh, the time he did come across as an actor and not a buffoon. He is a revelation. Manoj Bajpayee, Rajesh Sharma, Jimmy Shergill are rocking. Jimmy is in a rehash of his cop role from A Wednesday. Grumpy, quiet and adequate. Manoj Bajpayee is leaner, meaner and awesome. Rajesh has a small role this time, but he scores. The one who outscores these guys with just 3 dialogues in the movie – Divya Dutta. I don’t know why Kajal Agarwal was needed for this movie. Waste of time. Now I know what I’d have snipped from the movie.SC2

The detail that did not always go right – Airport! ☺ With so many shots of the airport, having the current airport showcased as the 1987 version was a bit of a sadness.

And that’s all I will say without posting any spoilers.

The movie keeps you on the seat, and thinking. And it’s a very smart movie. And as most of the readers of this blog might agree, Bollywood has a serious dearth of smart movies. So. Go ahead. Enjoy the movie. Once the plot is revealed, I am sure it’d still remain a good second time watch. Why, you ask? The level of detailing for everything that you are going to notice in the second run, that’s why. Thank you Neeraj Pandey for another awesome movie.

Rating: 4 on 5.

ABCD – Anybody Can Dance. And boy oh boy, did they!

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I walked in with not too many expectations. I was expecting a bad copy of the Step Up series. I was expecting worse because the attempt was to get a 3D movie going, and I am not a fan of 3D for the sake of 3D. And I came out pleasantly surprised. I had a great time watching ABCD.

The movie does not begin that impressively. The first sequence featuring a couple of dances are not very impressive. And the stage is set with a showdown between Vishnu (Prabhu Deva) and Jahangir (Kay Kay Menon). Enter the bastis and chawls of Mumbai and the talented bunch of rowdy kids that most TV watchers would remember from Dance India Dance – Dharmesh, Salman, Punit, Vrushali, Mayuresh, Prince and co. Laurenne Gottlieb of So You Think You Can Dance fame is introduced almost uncermeoneusly in the beginning – her real introduction reserved for much later. The movie trudges along with songs and dance.

But just before the interval, we are treated to a ‘Down Under’ sequence which features a street/betting based series of dances ending with Prabhu Deva showing us why he is considered one of the best dancers of India. Even at his age. And from hereon, there is one brilliant choreographed sequence after another. And whatay fun it becomes.

There isn’t much to worry by way of the story. As expected. There is a twist towards the end, and there is an inspirational dance performance in the end to win the finale of the championship – Dance Dil Se. Typical underdog story.

This movie is meant for, and only for, those who love to see good dance performances. If you’ve enjoyed the Step Up series or Dance India Dance/ So You Think You Can Dance, you’d love ABCD. The dance sequences are more, almost as good if not better, Indianised enough to not seem like a direct aping of Step Up series, and the acting skills of these dancers is bad, but not as horrible as it is in Step Up series. Acting has primarily been left for Kay Kay Menon, and he acts and overacts at the same time. Ganesh Acharya scores in his role. Prabhu Deva is the pivot that holds the movie together. The other actors are only given a few dialogues, and mostly inane ones.

A big shout out to the music directors Sachin-Jigar who have come up with a truly danceworthy soundtrack. There are two ganpati tracks in the movie, strategically placed, they make you feel rightly pumped up (like the popular Deva Shree Ganesha track from Agneepath), and are not soppy to make you feel overtly religious.

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The 3D need not have been used.  There are a few frames where the finished products looks tacky. Especially the crowd shots. But in certain sequences, the depth of the frame helps you appreciate the choreography a lot more.

There isn’t much to tell you about the movie otherwise. The fact that the movie is not very long helps. And the movie is a “definitely watch” for those who enjoy dances. And support India’s first contemporary dance movie by watching it in theaters. You won’t be disappointed. I want to give  a big round of appreciation for Remo’s debut attempt – there couldn’t be a better tribute to dancing. And a very small piece of detail that he gets perfectly right – he does not give in to the temptation of having trained dancers dancing like trained dancers from the first sequence itself. His dancers evolve with every dance. And his choreography too.

Just for the choreography, the movie has a 4 on 5 from me. Overall, 3 on 5.

Top 10 Bollywood Movies of 2012

It’s been long due. But, thankfully done before the rounding off takes us to 2014.

I saw a total of 26 movies out of the 102 that I have the list of. There were 14 that I kinda missed out on. Which means that I might have seen them when they released, but haven’t for one reason or the other. Sometimes, too much negative sentiment in the first week itself. There are 17 that I had not even heard the name of. And 45 that I couldn’t be bothered about.

Of the 26 that I saw, two get combined into one. Yes. Gangs of Wasseypur. Though, if you ever ask me to compare, I like GoW I more than GoW II. And I am still not sure if there is a way to compare Nawazuddin’s performance with Manoj Bajpayee’s. Both were insanely brilliant.

I wanted to do a top 10, but I will do 11. *Drumrolls*

#11: Arjun – The Warrior Prince
The reason I extended the list to 11. This movie deserves a mention for, finally, doing some good animation work in Hindi. There are parts of movie which are breathtaking and with excellent animation qualities. But it seemed like a case where the budgets ran short at some point, and the quality of animation and editing too. But, I was still very happy to see this movie. The creative interpretation of some of the scenes is wonderful in this one.

#10– Talaash
Aamir Khan’s supernatural suspense thriller had pace issues, but compensated with excellent performances from the entire cast. A wasted Nawazuddin shines in that tiny role (probably the last we see him being so insignificant). A grumpy Aamir does not hog the limelight more than he needed to. Reema Kagti had a winner with this one. (Review)

#9 – English Vinglish
Sridevi had an excellent comeback with this movie. The movie is soppy at its worst, and very light at its best, but managed to keep me entertained for most of the movie. The soundtrack was good. And the support cast was able.

#8 – Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana
With the most known actor being its biggest weakness (Kunal Kapoor), the movie is an endearing watch. Basesar brings back memories of a long gone era, Huma Qureshi is exceptional, and Mamaji owns the movie.

#7 – Shanghai
Dibakar Bannerjee’s latest moved from Delhi and NCR region to Mumbai and Bharat Nagar. Emraan Hashmi was playing way outside his comfort zone, and the movie has the usual DB quirks that we have all come to love.

#6 – Barfi!
For all the DVDs that were contributed for inspiration, Barfi! Is an excellent piece of entertainment. Ranbeer, PC and Ileana keep you rooting. My most difficult moment – should I root for Ileana or should I let Barfi go with PC? (Review)

#5 – Kahaani
An excellent thriller. I am not sure if too many people saw the suspense coming, I did not. And I enjoyed it till the end. Vidya Balan deserves the best actress awards for this one. And Nawazuddin – what an year he’s had. Or, probably, it was long time coming.

#4 – Vicky Donor
Who’d have thought that Baldev Chaddha’s infertility clinic will give us so many laughters. Ayushman Khurana, one hopes, will do justice to his debut. I don’t have much hope from Yami Gautam, though. Pani Da continues to be one of the best songs of the year. And lastly – Tathastu!

#3 – Malegaon Ke Superman
The plight of our multiplexes. Thank you PVR Rare. What A Movie. I would probably have missed this one completely. But was I happy after seeing this movie. It was one of the most honest pieces of brilliance in the cinemas this year. (Review)

#2 – Gangs of Wasseypur
Insanity. Anurag Kashyap gave us something totally unexpected. This was earthy to the core, had minute long characters with week long impact on your mind, a mindboggling soundtrack by Sneha Khanwalkar, phenomenally brilliant performances from Tigmanshu Dhulia (who shall forever be known as Ramadhir Singh – rehne do beta, tumse na ho payega), Manoj Bajpayee (and that moment with Rimi Sen at the pump), Nawazuddin Shaikh (and the rooftop scene), Huma Qureshi (Permission nahi lena padta hai kya) and Richa Chaddha (Ae faijal, khoon nahi khaulta hai re tera). Oh, and Wasseypur. (Great Bong’s Review)

#1 – Paan Singh Tomar
The modha modhis may not remember this movie for the struggle it went through (its release was delayed by a few years), but it is difficult to think of another deserving best actor performance after watching Irrfan Khan here. One of the best screenplays in the recent years that I have seen, superlative cinematography, and top class performances. Paan Singh Tomar was my favorite movie of the year, not by a mile but clearly so.

02 0310 04 05 0601 07 08 09  11

And since I am picking the top 10, a special mention must go out for “Heroine” – for helping me appreciate almost every other movie that I saw this year.

Akaash Vani – Good Premise, Extremely Boring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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