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)

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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.

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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: 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.

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.

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.

Kai Po Che – A Casting Story

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More often than not, overhyping a movie tends to kill it for the viewers who watch a movie late. And in these times of high information consumption, much as you try, those facebook status updates, or blogger reviews, or media soundbytes do reveal more than you would care to know about a particular movie. KaiPoChe was at risk. It was overhyped.

And it did spoil a few things. But not a lot.

Kai Po Che, for me, is a good example of how right casting makes huge difference to a movie. One of my gripes with 3idiots would always be that barring Shrman Joshi, the other two did not really seem well cast. Kareen Kapoor even more so. However, almost an accident since the big stars did not want this movie, the entire cast of Kai Po Che is near perfect in their aura. It was difficult to not like the movie. Now the question is – did I walk in wanting to not like the movie? Yes. I hated the book– The Three Mistakes Of My Life by Chetan Bhagat. Of the many really average books he has written, I think 3 mistakes is the worst. So, I did not want to see such a bad book turn into a good movie. In some corner of my mind, I was hoping that this movie would be as big a disaster as Hello (which is based on “One Night AtThe Call Center”, the second worst book by CB).
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Sushant Singh Rajput as Ishan, the obsessed cricket fan, is excellent. His angst, and the futility of his existence (for what else is it, if you’re a failed fanatic who can demolish even the things you really loves in a moment of frenzy), and his silent apologies – he works well to deliver the central character. There is a certain amount of energy, almost Shahrukh-ish (the early career). Rajkumar Yadav as the bumbling young man, who, for a non-gujju, is the quintessential gujju – the obsession with money matters, the persistence, the brilliant understanding of pennies, and a can-go-to-any-length-kinda-friend. Unsure in the company of Vidya (Amrita Puri), and the enterprising one – Govind is the perfect shadow in the movie. He keeps it real. Vidya is a perfect balance of caring and cunning naughtiness, and has a refreshing screen presence. She was pretty good in aisha too.
But the standout performance for me was Amit Sadh as Omi. In a way, his is the only character that evolves over the movie. The others carry their personality through the movie. Omi, however, graduates from being someone who almost follows anything that Ishan says, to an unsure and reluctant politician, to an enraged fanatic, to a scarred for life young man well beyond his years. His body language, expressions, dialogue delivery, and intensity evolve from frame to frame. Excellent performance!

Credit must be given to Abhishek Kapoor, and whoever else is the dialogue writer of the movie. The screen play does not deviate much from the movie, though the level of detailing is quite good. Despite the enormity of the events, their handling (which is praiseworthy given the quiet and peripheral handling of Gujarat riots and Godhara) never deviates from the core story of friendship.
Music by Amit Trivedi is excellent as usual. At the end of it, Manjha is the song that stays with you for very long. Swanand Kirkire’s lyrics add their magic to the notes.

Barring occasional pace issues, the movie is an extremely enjoyable watch. And watching Harbhajan take wickets was like an encounter with an alternate universe.

Can surely be watched and enjoyed. A 4-star kinda movie.

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