Posts Tagged ‘Movie Review’

Some stories need to be told. Especially, in a country where corruption has conquered the highest echelons of governance and especially when there is one, JUST ONE success story of people power winning over corruption; All the more reason to make a meal out of it.

Honestly, this was a 1 in a million case. Things like this, do not happen in India, coz. in India (as Arvind Adiga aptly explained in White Tiger) people have learnt to live in a cage, like chickens, ready for slaughter. Every time the butcher comes, all the chickens run as far from the gate as possible. Finally, one of the chickens is caught and taken away; and the rest of the chickens then relax thinking “Thank God, it was not me” till the next time the butcher comes again… But that’s for another day. For now, let us appreciate the brilliance of Director Raj Kumar Gupta who made sure that this inspiring ‘miracle’ has some repeat value, for now.

The movie starts off with a visual collage of Delhi and the powerful title track. The voice-over of Rani Mukerji then describes the year 1999 in order to take you back to that period. I think this was done very crisply and smartly, and you get the feeling that the script will not muck around. Shortly thereafter, the horror begins. Bit by bit, scene by scene, the horror of the security and legal system in India is laid threadbare. If this was fiction, you’d still have difficulty believing all of it; I mean, the witnesses being managed, critical evidence lost, it was just a lot of things being screwed up in broad daylight; just that it wasn’t fiction. It is horrifying because you realize that whatever happens in Prakash Jha’s fictional movies in Bihar and UP isn’t really that far from fact. It is even worse because you know there’s no hero who will avenge all those who have been wronged by the end of the movie; Just that in this case, there was / were.

Agreed, the movie got a head start in terms of having an amazing tale to tell; But the way in which it has been translated on screen is commendable. I’m not saying it is perfect, but it is almost there. Especially, there are a few moments in the movie which have great impact and couldn’t have been done better to reflect Indian psyche; one of which I just have to talk about. (Do not read the rest of the paragraph if you intend to watch the movie). Somewhere during the time, the initial trial was underway; the parents of the accused (whose father is a minister in the cabinet) pay a visit to Jessica’s house. The parents of both the killer and the victim sit in this sitting room, without exchanging any words, without even looking at each other. The silence stretches to the length of being awkward, and then Jessica’s father, in his confusion of being overwhelmed at having the killer’s father and a Cabinet minister paying him a visit, suggests “Chai (Tea)”. Take a bow, Mr. Gupta, thinking about the moment you visualized this scene and put it in the screenplay. There are a few others, but this one just blew me away.

On the things that weren’t perfect, well, a little melodrama, a little entertainment doesn’t harm the movie much so we’ll just let that pass. And I’d say, apart from the title track, I was a little let down by the sound track. There isn’t any other song that sticks except the title track and ‘Aali re’. Especially, ‘Aitbaar’ was disappointing; given the nice lyrics it seemed to have.

Rani, Welcome back! She’s in top form and scorches the screen with her presence, be it her colorful language, her look, her attitude, everything is top notch. Vidya, on the other end, plays her behenji part to perfection as well. It was a treat to watch these two women in a woman centric film; and to add to that, Myra was endearing in the role of Jessica.

Once in a while, the Indian film industry does surprise itself. This is one of those rare instances. All I’d say is, Do watch it; if not for the movie, watch it for the tale it tells. Even this tale is one of those rare moments, where India did surprise itself.


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Unbearably loud, horrendously tacky and incomprehensibly silly is how I would describe Raavan in short.  But if short doesn’t do for you, read on…

Unbearably Loud:  Right from the first scene, the sound or rather noise of beating drums starts getting to you.  And then, loud is not only about the noise, the movie is even loud in its appearance, ABHISHEK’S (BEERA’S) MADMAN EXPRESSIONS, AISHWARYA’S (RAGINI’S) SCREECHING, VIKRAM’S (DEV’S) NATHULAL MOUSTACHE, almost everything in the movie SCREAMS at you.  The blaring continues right through to the end, it isn’t reserved for some special scenes.  It is just out and out blaring from start to finish.  There isn’t a moment of respite, not a moment.  There’s a slight hint of peace in a flashback scene between Ragini and Dev but even that is edited in 5 second parts regularly coming back to the present to include the unbearable noise. 

Horrendously Tacky: Santosh Sivan, for one, known for his ability to cover tremendous landscapes (remember Roja) seems to have just one task:  Forget about everything else, focus on the faces.  The cinematography suffers from an overdose of close shots, hand held unstable shots (which especially feels unbearable in action scenes), and lots and LOTS OF RAIN.  He has just worked on the entire film without a wide lens.  In every scene, the FACE occupies 70% of the screen.  Imagine 3 hours of in your face Abhishek who overdoes his long face and bottom lip pout and Aishwarya who overdoes her blue eyes and confused expression with loud drums beating in the background and again… a lot of rain.    There isn’t a single wide lens shot that captures the natural landscape coz. Mani Ratnam just doesn’t want to waver from the first family, or more specifically, their faces. 

Incomprehensibly Silly:  There isn’t a hint of a story in the movie.  If you let go the overdone references to Ramayana, it is just Mani Ratnam’s pretentious version of Road – Remember that movie where a madman (Manoj Bajpai) kidnaps Antara Mali and Vivek Oberoi follows them to get her back; Exactly the same – As silly and as tacky as RGV’s Road.  Just to align it to the Ramayana, there’s a monkey aping Govinda (Sanjeevani), and the unnecessary references to the characters as Raavan and the lie detector test that Dev asks Ragini to take etc.  At least Road didn’t pretend to be serious or an epic and in the process provided a few laughs.  What is disappointing is that at least with Mani Ratnam you do not expect absurdity; I still don’t understand why was Ragini trying to seduce Beera.  The way she looked at him, supposedly angrily, was actually more like seduction.  Dev’s ploy to trick Ragini in going back to Beera is… retarded.  In the climax, an entire special force fires at Beera while Ragini sits below on her knees unharmed by a single bullet.  On top of that, Dev is standing in front of the force while they merrily fire at Beera, from behind him while he’s untouched as well.  And what was Govinda doing in the movie? He doesn’t have a role; other than act as another sorry point of alliance to the Ramayana by his tree jumping antics.

There are bad movies but therein, you can find some respite, some moment that you can speak about or at least a rare fleeting glimpse of what could’ve been a good scene.  But Raavan is entirely incongruous right from the start to the end titles.

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Paathshala – Movie Review

You ever been to a food court?  Yeah and you ever got that feeling, you want to eat everything all at once.  You end up ordering a veg. burger from McDonalds, 2 pieces chicken from KFC and pani poori from Bombay Chowpaty.  At the end of your meal, you feel like the chicken piece that you’d eaten was a vegetarian who had eaten pani poori just before he was slaughtered.  Paatshala is like that feeling.  At least after that kind of meal, you get some entertainment playing ‘Guess what did I have for dinner?’ game, every time you burp.  With Paatshala, I’m still guessing @#$%$ “What the F@#$ was it all about???

Seriously, this movie seems to be like a typical house wife’s grocery shopping trip.  Milind (Director) says to Hanif (Writer) “Dude, did you try this new education subject.  My wife tells me it’s really nice.  She saw TZP and 3 idiots really liked them.”  Hanif sets out in the supermarket and first gets Education from the subject shelf. 

Later in the story maker section, he enters the key word “Education” and clicks on the FIND RELATED THEMES button.  He gets a whole lot of results – Children, Teenage romance, crush on teachers, typical accent teachers, school fees rising, profession vs. commercialization debate, talent hunts, reality TV shows for kids and a whole lot of similar stuff.  He clicks on buy all for special price…

You have Shahid as a school teacher, Ayesha Takia as another, Nana Patekar as the ethical principal, a whole bunch of child actors – the Fanaa boy, the Cheeni Kum girl, the Balika Vadhu girl and they don’t even have proper characters or roles.  The popular Balika Vadhu girl doesn’t even get a single dialogue on screen.  Few cute teenagers as well are in there but just like passing sideys, I don’t even remember any of their names in the movie.  That’s why I say it is like a housewife’s shopping trip.  The director put in everything in the bag not having any proper role for any of them.

And this was just the beginning of clichés; the hero’s name is Rahul, he teaches music, rather holds the guitar as a mannequin and it strums itself, sings songs, makes the entire school happy, girls have a crush on him, teaches cool handshakes to everyone from students to stuck-up geography and hindi teachers… and all this in the first 10 minutes in a happy song.  An ugly kid doesn’t have any friends; the PE teacher is always punctual and carries a stop-watch everywhere; the peon is the good old Wagle (Wagle ki duniya), the principal is ethical, the school trustees are money minded, even the school’s name is “Saraswati Vidya Mandir” and what else could be the movie’s name – Paathshala.  You see, how original everything is.

And listen to this, the writer forgot to pick a music director from the supermarket so he himself makes up some ordinary songs.

There’s no purpose, there’s no flow in the script and no sense to the whole hullabaloo on screen.  And if that’s not enough, the climax is a 5 minute long lecture by the righteous principal about education, commercialization of schools yada yada yada.   It’s so bad, you can’t even doze off.

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Warning: May contain a few spoilers.

I am perplexed whether to talk about the movie – My name is Khan or the issue – My name is Khan.  I’ve been staring at this blank page for almost 15 minutes now and have written and deleted quite a few introductions to my review coz. I’m still not sure whether to talk about the movie or the issue because the movie is strictly ‘Ok – not bad’ to say the least but the best part about it is it treads into a sensitive and very relevant issue. 

It may not have happened on 9/11 as the movie says, but it did happen somewhere near the turn of the century – this religious polarization of the world.  Without getting into the reasons for this happening, one of the results has been that it has become difficult to be a Muslim today.  Celebrating holi, lighting lamps or bursting crackers on Diwali, lining up in temples on Shiv-ratri, wearing a saree or salwar kameez, feasting on a turkey etc. can just be seen as enjoyable traditions or customs but keeping a big beard, praying five times a day, wearing a hijab and celebrating Eid by sacrificing a lamb have become subtle symbols of siding with extremism. 

And if you have Karan Johar – the Lady Gaga of Bollywood, dealing with this extremely sensitive issue, it sure looks like a very bad idea.  Surprisingly though, Karan seems to have finally grown up.  Not that I did not enjoy Kuch Kuch Hota Hai but never thought that he could refrain his cheese when it came to serious subjects. 

On second base, you again had a potential disaster.  Shahrukh Khan, the man who, with every passing day, gets closer to becoming Dev Anand the Second; both of them have two things in common – heart throb status in their 40s and a head that is always at 10 to 6 or 10 past 6.  Give him a condition – Asperger’s syndrome and in all probability, his neck could have disconnected from his body and his head could’ve gone out for a walk, all on its own.  Again, surprise surprise, it didn’t happen.  Actually his condition meant that he could not express emotions and I think that was a neat trick by his director to restrict him.

And then with all the controversy it generated and the initial 5 star reviews which gave the impression that Shahrukh has pulled an Aamir, it was tough to sit and watch the movie without expectations. 

All said and done, the movie is … for want of a better word… ‘Not bad’ and it does try to do justice to the issue it represents.  After a brief ordinary introduction, Shahrukh as Rizwan in the first half is in brilliant form when, he comes to America and starts selling cosmetic products.  There are quite a few similarities with Forrest Gump though, but I didn’t mind it.  After all, don’t all autistic conditions look equally cute on screen.  His expressions of giggling goofily when being confronted with love are indeed special.  Kajol does manage to still look pretty after all these years of being out of action. 

The second half however, I thought, lacked something, I can’t put a finger on it precisely though.  Yes, there are moments where it is difficult to hold back the tears and the lump in the throat just doesn’t go away but still, I feel the portrayal of the issue could have been a lot better.  Kajol, unfortunately seems to have lost the edge.  Her rage at her son’s death when she asks Rizwan to leave, does seem a tad unreal.  It is Shahrukh who excels with his subdued performance as Rizwan.  His speech at the church remembering his son, devoid of any expressions because of his condition, does extract tears and is very hard to watch. 

The problem however, with the movie was that you do feel empathy towards the person Rizwan but there is no empathy generated towards the muslim Rizwan.  I mean, the tears and the hard to watch moments have nothing to do with the issue the movie claims to portray.  The tears flow when he talks of his son but not when he is arrested and tortured in prison.  Actually, his naivety in not comprehending the torture does feel overdone coz. though, he was autistic, he wasn’t dumb.  I guess, this is where the movie could have been a lot better. 

Shankar Ehsan Loy have once again given refreshing music.  Though Sajda is the popular track in this album, I loved the rendition of Noor E Khuda by Shankar and Adnan Sami.  ‘Tere Naina’ is yet another nice and vibrant track.  The music does gel with the movie nicely. 

So I guess, the movie isn’t really SRK’s best performance till date as the 5 star reviews suggest (coz. we still have Swades and Chak De), but it is a fair effort and a reasonably good watch.  Just don’t expect the movie to provide as much entertainment as the controversy it generated and you’ll be fine.

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Paa – Movie Review

“A Hindi movie about a kid with a rare disease wherein his body ages much faster than his age”; This synopsis would any day give me an idea about a melodramatic tissue fest and actually did turn me off even before I saw Paa. But I guess it was the lure of watching it on a huge screen under the winter sky was what made me go for it. I must admit, I was pleasantly surprised. Giving credit to R. Balki, Paa is surprisingly humorous and witty, two adjectives that you’d never expect reading the synopsis. The last 30 minutes or so become a little melodramatic but it is still far from the regular sentimental over the top treatment that such a subject would get from any other director. In that sense, the movie is a winner.

The movie starts off with Jaya Bachchan narrating the titles and this got me real confused. I mean, what were those expressions; somewhere between giggling on an adult joke and trying to suppress the urge to go to the loo. ABCL seems to be hard selling their family package – Sign any two people in the family and the third comes as a guest appearance absolutely free.

Enter Amitabh as Auro and my fears of him being over the top were whisked away after watching him on screen for just ten minutes. It is a relief that he gives a constrained performance. He is obviously not as cute as his class mates (and is not supposed to be either) but the good part is that he’s not repelling and he sort of grows on you through the movie. I’m not sure however about his mannerisms and the way he bends his arms while walking. But overall, he doesn’t seem to overshadow the story and that is good in a way. The other good thing is that the movie is not only about Auro and his disease or what he goes through. The harsh parts of his life have been done away with. The movie is more about his innocence, his friends and the story of his parents and that is what helps it to be refreshing rather than tiresome. It is indeed wonderful that the story focuses on the bright moments in an otherwise supposedly hard life. The best parts of the movie however are not the ones by Amitabh. The take on the media, I thought, was very comical and especially, the character of Auro’s best friend Vishnu – He has the best (funniest) lines in the movie. Children are such natural actors, they don’t really have to worry about comic timing. I wish they had more screen time.

Unfortunately then, the story tries to get serious and the love story between Abhishek and Vidya Balan stretches for a tad too long. When you have to wait for the obvious ending, it really gets boring (especially when you’re not in the cozy cinema seats but in straight back chairs in a lawn). The music isn’t all that great and considering that it is by Illaiyaraaja, it is a huge disappointment.

R. Balakrishnan (R. Balki – the writer and director) comes across as a very mature film maker. His is a unique brand of subtle humour that stems from serious issues and situations; be it the age difference in Cheeni Kum or the rare condition of a little ‘old’ boy in Paa. His stories tend to be positive, always looking at the lighter side. I guess, that is what eventually saves Paa.


And I’m leaving you with some picures of the temporary 400 square metres screen at the Dubai Media City, Amphitheatre…


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Kurbaan – Movie Review

To all the lovely ladies who insisted I watch Kurbaan and review it…
I’ll kill you !

(Can’t help it, I’m in this dumb killer mood after watching a movie that killed all my smart brain cells; even the desire to watch Kareena Kapoor’s bare back was killed by UAE censors.)

I think this concept of the suave and sexy Muslim terrorist luring an unsuspecting demure damsel to further his ends of blowing up a few more people has been done to death now; and ya, even the premise of another Muslim coming to the rescue; Obviously. The movie uses the clichéd modern day plot of Islamic terrorism against the US but then they throw in the love angle which is as absurd as Vinod Kambli in reality TV.

The problem begins with the very first shot. Saif and Kareena have been together for so long that no matter how hard they try to act like strangers; they come across as a couple having a love tiff. It took me a few minutes to realize that they actually were strangers in the movie. But a few coffees and an awkward smooch later, they are in love. But by this time, they actually look like they’re actors just pretending to be in love. I couldn’t really get it whether it was plain bad acting or it was me.

And then since you do not feel any love between them, you do not feel any pain when Kareena discovers that her handsome husband is a member of a terrorist sleeper cell, unlike Fanaa where the initial love story was so sweet that it was hard, not to feel sorry for Kajol.  Throughout the rest of the movie, the director seems unsure whether Kareena loves him or loves him not. And given that Saif was playing a most wanted terrorist, how easily did he give up his objective of blowing up people for saving the girl whom he used to get to the US. The entire premise is so messed up, it doesn’t make any sense.

Saif and Kareena together sure make the hottest couple on and off screen and after the first few minutes, you do start appreciating Kareena’s new designer look and Saif’s royal lineage but if that’s what we wanted to see, we could pick-up any movie magazine and they’re splashed all over the pages like some bad curry stain. And Viveik Ouberoioiooio (why take chances) – man, he clearly is the most grating actor on screen; even more than John Abraham. (Yeah, now imagine how did the world survive Kaal). Simply put, he’s got a weird hairdo, zero acting skills, and expressions that resemble a turd toad. Add to that, he’s given brains of a turd toad (I’m really enjoying this) in the movie. He doesn’t call the police or the FBI when he gets information about suspects behind a bomb but in true 70s style, he goes after the terrorists himself… singlehandedly, infiltrates their group and comes out a winner. And oh ya, he does call the FBI at the end anyways.

Clichéd characters – all terrorists wear pathanis and their wives are Abaya adorning dumb figures; Clichéd dialogues – do people still argue about who is the real terrorist – US or the Taliban? Or how many people died in 9/11 vis-à-vis how many people died in Iraq?; Clichéd acting – the guys playing terrorists speak less and are always angry, the lady terrorist has a pashto accent. Actually this reminds me, what a misfit the Saif seemed in their group wearing Italian cut suits and smart ties.

So I guess, in spite of the screwed up review (if I could call it that), you do get the drift. Thankfully, it is now time for some seriously nice cinema. Dubai International Film Festival begins on 9th December.

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Fresh, inspiring and awfully sweet, debutant director Ayaan Mukherji’s ‘Wake Up Sid’ is sheer genius. Inspite of a simple and predictable story, ‘Wake Up Sid’ manages to feel bright and make you smile a lot. It’s so sweet, it almost hurts.

The story is quite obvious even from the titles and the promos. Sid Mehra (Ranbir) has just finished college and is completely aimless. On the very same day, he has a chance encounter with Aisha Banerjee (Konkona Sen Sharma) who is the exact opposite of what he is. The movie is basically about Sid’s journey from the day he’s out of college to the day he’s finally found his calling. The magic is however in the small moments of his learning; in his failures and his initial denial and later in his acceptance; in his realization of love and the direction of life. Each such moment has been scripted brilliantly and the performances are just right. Neither too loud, nor too subtle, Ayaan Mukherji has managed to brilliantly balance realism with story-telling. For instance, when Sid goes to meet his mom, he doesn’t give her a hug, and that was very like him. At another place, just the expressions on a mom’s face while playing with her son for a picture perfect moment do the talking. No dialogues are said, there isn’t a heavy background score. Just a few light guitar strings and her expressions make the audience feel exactly what Sid is feeling.

Another thing I loved about the movie was that though Sid grows up in the movie, he still remains a kid at heart. He doesn’t grow up beyond his capabilities and become a hero. He just conquers his demons and for him, that’s enough growing up. And again as I said, the magic is in the nuances. At one stage, he looks at Konkona and winks. That one second scene, that subtle mannerism of his, is another step in his personal journey.

Ranbir finally seems to have dug out his dad’s innocence and his mom’s good looks from his gene pool; not to mention the acting talent. Sid Mehra’s boyish and vulnerable charm is very likeable and (I know I’m repeating this but there is no other way to describe it) awfully sweet. Konkona Sen is, as always, a class act. She plays her part to perfection. But this is Ranbir’s movie all along. He alone, is the 10 reasons to watch ‘Wake Up Sid’. And then you’ve got Konkona, and the music.

The music is another super score by Shankar Ehsaan Loy. This trio has somehow sensed the change in music tastes or maybe they are being the change themselves. Right from Taare Zameen Par to Rock On and now to Wake Up Sid, their music is starting to change the feel of movies. What was Pianos in the 1970s was replaced by Violins and Keyboards during the 90s (remember Phir Teri Kahani Yaad Aayi by Anu Malik) and now their music has primarily guitar strings. That is one reason why their music sounds so fresh and new.

If you’re still wondering, I’d say ‘Wake Up Sid’ is definitely a must watch. Yes, the story is predictable and we could’ve done with a little more witty humor considering it features college kids but the magic of the movie is in its feel. It comes across as nice, honest and extremely endearing, just like its protagonist Sid, and you don’t even have to switch off your brains to enjoy it.

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