Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Sunday, 27 August 2017

Babumoshai Bandookbaaz: Nawazuddin’s Script Choice misfires

(First published in Firstpost.com)

Nawazuddin Siddiqui has mentioned in his interviews that he watched James Bond movies to get into his character, for the film, ‘Babumoshai Bandookbaaz’. After sitting through the absolutely meaningless film, you wonder just where does the similarity lie? Certainly not in the trigger-happy gun in his hand. That bit is ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’ part three. Perhaps, it’s those steamy scenes with the gals more smoking hot than the gun;—Bidita Bag and Shraddha Das. And there are plenty of those. Not that they match a James Bond kissing scene which was too hot to handle for Pahlaj Nihalani in the last Hollywood release.

But then, who goes for a Nawazuddin movie for the steamy scenes, vulgar language and violence? Ever since Nawazuddin played the title role in Manjhi- The Mountain Man, in 2015, he has been landed with heavyweight films to carry alone on his talented shoulders. ‘Babumoshai Bandookbaaz’ (the title is as pretentious as the film) is his third such film after ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’ and ‘Haraamkhor’.
Are these script choices along with the forgettable “Munna Michael”, really good enough for Nawazuddin?

 ‘Raman Raghav 2.0’ may suit the darker side explored earlier, with some degree of lighter goggle sporting romance in ‘Gangs of Wasseypur’. However, ‘Babumoshai Bandookbaaz’, directed by Kushan Nandy, is obsessed with copying the mindless killings in GOW rather than providing a cohesive story.

Every character in the film, including the women, is more unscrupulous than the other. Nawaz plays Babu, a contract killer. He finds himself pitted against a younger contract killer, Banke (Jatin Goswami) assigned to kill the same targets.

Lust is as prevalent as gunpowder dust in these UP hinterlands. Be it the wife of a local politician who flirts away at parties under the amused eyes of her husband or Banke’s girlfriend (Shraddha Das) as raunchy as Babu’s wife, Fulwa  (Bidita Bag) or the filthy tongued Jiji (Divya Dutta) ready to do it in the fields; the women are as one dimensional and dark as the men. The only redeeming character is the cop with a dozen children; played with natural ease by the pleasant looking Bhagwan Tiwari.

Surrounded by these characters, Nawaz is always in his element. However, nothing matches the ever-pleasing subordinate in Lunch Box or the comic and sincere Pakistani journalist, Chand Nawab in Bajrangi Bhaijaan; or the shameless bad guy of Badlapur; or the hard nosed cop in ‘Raees’; or the funny detective bantering with Sridevi in Mom.

Nawaz is no doubt, one of the best actors who can carry a film on his shoulders without the star baggage. Leave alone a film; he proved his worth with just a two-minute scene rendered unforgettable with the most moving performance in  “New York”. The scene where he describes his torture at the hands of the Americans, owes its poignance , not to his dialogues, but to it’s well timed , slight pauses and indelible pain in Nawaz’s eyes, which don’t resort to, tears alone. Or take the small part of a journalist in Peepli Live, which is far more memorable than an entire two-hour film like Babumoshai Bandookbaaz; sequenced aimlessly with bullets and sex.

In the story of rampant treachery, it is Nawaz, the actor who suffers the biggest betrayal. Besides, his smaller screen time debut in the past, his real strength lies in his give and take with his co-actors. There is something more magnetic about him, when seen sharing the frame with Irrfan Khan, Shahrukh or Sridevi.  His humour seems more improvised than scripted and hence, raw and delightful. Like the way he reacts to a painting in Mom or the way he sings a Shammi Kapoor song…”Yahoo..chaahe mujhe koi junglee…” in the same film. In Lunchbox, he could easily outweigh Irrfan’s presence but remains controlled and is a perfect foil for Irrfan. Likewise, with Shahrukh in “Raees”, every time they share the frame. The pleasure of watching Nawaz, simply reacting to the moment, with a touch of that Nawaz eccentricity, just doubles.

This spontaneous persona is much missing in Babumoshai Bandukbaaz which was clearly made to encash on Nawaz’s image as the actor who will brighten up the screen with the darkest moment. The film, with its pointless plot, can only highlight Nawazuddin’s bad script choices. Hopefully, he will wisen up and let go of the carrot that once enticed the Zubeida lead, Manoj Bajpai—the desire to be a star hero.


Then perhaps, James Bond will also learn a thing or two from Nawazuddin.

Sunday, 20 August 2017

Kajol as the villainous bitch in VIP 2 Lalkar is cinema's female boss stereotype

(First published in DailyO)

 VIP 2 Lalkaar, the Hindi dubbed version of  Tamil film, ‘Velai Illa Pattadhari’, is a cakewalk for Kajol. Literally.

 Every time there is significant scene of victory for her, we see a Mercedes rolling in, along with a fleet of other swanky cars. The car door opens. A pair of high-heeled feet touch the ground. But of course. Our films have always built up that anticipation with the hero’s boots and their sound effects or a child’s feet running and transforming into grown up legs to encompass the time frame. Then, there is the hero sprawling his booted legs atop a table, the feet crossing and uncrossing to provide more drama or rather, heroism. For some reason, cinema has its own idea of power. In VIP 2, it’s in Kajol’s swagger in those stilettoes.

We see those sexy high heels step out of the Mercedes, a toss of the red tinted hair and a slow motion walk. That alone inspires a few appreciative hoots and whistles.

Kajol has clearly mastered the swagger.

 And that’s quite an achievement because the music that accompanies most of her scenes, might make anyone else freeze on the spot. The best unintentional comic part comes with a hilarious music track  when Dhanush sits across her in her office and is about to say something. First, a soundtrack starts playing, something that sounds more like a clap echo replay. Then Dhanush gets up, clearly aping the master—Rajnikanth (the father-in-law), stands leaning on the chair and delivers the lamest of lines: “ Madam, main sher ki dum se zyaada billi kar sar banna pasand karoonga.” Full marks to Kajol for not bursting out giggling .

Instead, she always has a fit when confronted with Dhanush, where she helplessly ends up screeching..”WHAT THE F###?” without even completing the word. The two play rivals in business, where she is the killer shark in designer pants and he is a small Bombil fry in lungi. She is Vasundhara, the chairman of a big construction company and he is an engineer who refuses her job offer. They are well cast in this face-off story. She looks the part of someone dynamic with arrogance that runs in the blood. He looks like any harmless engineer happy enough, driving a moped slower than a bullock cart. Both Kajol and Dhanush perform with full self-awareness of their star appeal and fan following. They are, indeed, the biggest draw in this VIP sequel, which, otherwise does not go beyond dialogues that play to the gallery and song and dance.

Thankfully, there is no love angle in their story. And that’s the real USP here. He is the hero and she is the villain who have the best moment when one rainy night, there is a nice twist in the tale. It comes too easy and too pat. Yet, Kajol makes the most of those 5-10 minutes and makes it as good as her haughty swagger.

The director, Soundarya Rajnikanth, has made the smartest move by tapping the villain in Kajol. Though it does seem like a wasted opportunity when compared to Meryl Streep’s Miranda Priestly in “The Devil Wears Prada”. Meryl was brilliantly terrifying in her icy cool stares, drop dead softly delivered lines and equally authoritative tilt of her famous white- gray haired head.

Kajol’s Vasundhara is reduced to a caricature, which apparently reflects the way women of power, are perceived, as opposed to men of equal status. A male boss usually has the prerogative to be rude and is shrugged of as—‘He’s the boss’. On the other hand, a female boss is invariably the bitch. Hence Vasundhara here, is unscrupulous in her ways, wins every award in the business besides mega bucks and will not think twice before squashing her rivals under her lovely stilettoes.

Even if Vasundhara is stereotyped here, all it needed was to take a leaf from Ekta Kapoor’s famous temper tantrums. One particular incident comes to mind, involving her chasing someone out of her office AND building with her shoe in her hand. Kajol, with her squarish jawline like Ekta’s would have been a perfect carbon copy, in an off shoulder top and straight hair, mouthing words that went beyond the alphabet F.

Unfortunately and inevitably, this shrew in VIP2, needs to be tamed by the holier than thou hero who worships his mother and her ghost too. And there lies, the ultimate folly of perception of man and woman, thanks to Shakespeare.

Well, this Kajol is more delightful as the shrew than as the virginal Simran too scared to defy her father. It is another matter that she does not get to go beyond the swagger.




Monday, 7 August 2017

Jab Harry Met Sejal: Why SRK's loser act and Anushka's Gujju accent worked for me


 (First published in DailyO )

In the only ever so slightly emotional scene in the otherwise lighter than popcorn movie, JHMS, Harry (Shah Rukh Khan) stands at a seashore and yells out to the horizon—“hello…India..”. He is on European shores and misses his home, his Punjab, his younger turbaned avatar with dreams. Just when he starts telling the deeper truth of his feelings for Sejal (Anushka Sharma), the scene is rudely interrupted by a blow on his head. The spoiler here is not this little detail, but the moment rendered incomplete. This is typically Imtiaz Ali. There is always a gem of an idea, the spark of an insight, which shines and seduces you to the story. But, dare to go close and the plot digresses and heads further into Europe’s trams, with no real purpose.

Like his previous film, ‘Tamasha’, the boy and the girl are on holiday. They met in the beautiful Corsica earlier and indulged in a lot of role-play bordering into a bipolarity of sorts. Thankfully, the characters in JHMS, are more rooted, with just enough complexity to keep us engaged. They are also holidaying. This time, across 5 countries: Prague, Amsterdam, Vienna, Lisbon and Budapest. Tamasha’s Ranbir and Deepika are quite clear that they will strictly have a holiday romance and nothing more. JHMS’s Harry and Sejal have  a somewhat similar pact. Sejal has a fiancĂ© back home amongst rich Gujju diamond merchants. She calls it  fa-i-mily business.

As Harry points out, she is ‘sweet’. And pretty like porcelain vase. The ones you admire but don’t touch. In Harry, she discovers the desire to be desirable…”laayak” as they put it politely. “Laayak” is the kind of girl who is hot. So she tries to do some cool moves.

Again, there is a momentary glimpse of a fun character to explore here. A so called good girl who wants to be selfish and have some ‘bad’ moments before she goes back to the mundane dhokla- paatra, gold and diamond life of a girl who thinks Amsterdam is in France (Gujjus may hate the gentle mockery here but this part is genuinely funny).

But Imtiaz refuses to go into Sejal’s wilder side and plays it safe. Likewise, with Harry. Shahrukh’s Harry is a world weary, seasoned Romeo who is a tour guide in Europe. He would rather drive a tractor across the fields of Punjab and sing louder than the sound of the tractor. Ever since Subhash Ghai’s ‘Pardes’ and Aditya Chopra’s ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’, the stories are written with one eye at the NRI box office. Which sadly, has Harry with one foot  and a dimple charming every female client in Europe and the other itching to do bhangra with his only true love as desi as the makhhan or dhokla.

Whenever the real, lonely Harry emerges and allows himself to be vulnerable enough to ask for a simple hug from the sweet Sejal, the duo come closer to a romance more mature than a teenybopper lost-in-the- woods ride.

Shahrukh’s sense of comic timing, his ‘trying to be cheap’ body language, overrides his past work as the typical romantic hero with his arms spread wide. For most part of the film, he is simply engaged in a conversation with the heroine. There is not much of plot here and it would have been one monotonous version of “Before Sunrise” if it wasn’t for the interesting characters and both the actors bringing in a fresh energy that bounces off each other beautifully and the two tango better than “Rab ne bana de Jodi” and “Jab Tak Hai Jaan’.


Hopefully, in Imtiaz’s next film, we will see a wilder Sejal and a more intense Harry in a story that actually has some answers. Where they can go beyond “ tractor se unchi awaaz’ and “ gote kinare ki chunari’ on the Yash Chopra tinted Punjab fields. Until then, Anushka’s dumb Sejal ben and Shahrukh’s loser Harinder charm us enough with all the seeking and soul searching.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

LIPSTICK UNDER MY BURKHA

SHE’S NOT THE ONLY ONE (WITH APOLOGIES TO JOHN LENNON)

Imagine a world of equals
It’s easy if you try
No burkhas, no double standards
Feel free to dream and fly
Imagine all the men, respecting their women

Imagine there’s no shame
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to stop a 55 year old widow
From enjoying secret pulp heroine ,Rosie, too
Imagine all the Rosies living their fantasies….you..

You may say, Rosie is a dreamer
But she’s not the only one
She is the teen burkha clad girl who is denied jeans
Lipstick and Miley Cyrus are her ideas of freedom

Imagine no restrictions
Men feel impotent if you can
No fear of forced marital rapes without condoms
By husbands who wham bam and also f##k another ma’m
Imagine all the Rosies
 Free to wear swimsuits and dive into sexual fantasies…you

You may say ‘Lipstick Under A Burkha’ is the work of a half-dreamer
She is not the only one
I hope there are women who dare to dream more
Who can say along with men, we are one…

Imagine a film so real
The scenes not so abrupt
Where men are less stereotype
And women can spout and erupt
Purdah be damned n lipstick not wiped

You may enjoy mild Hindi porn as a delightful voiceover
“Lipstick Waale Sapne”, something..”waale sapne”
Rock as guilty pleasure book titles
With voices choked by orthodox mere apne
The film could be a Manto like winner…







Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Dear Zindagi review: Shah Rukh Khan hops on the 'gyan' bandwagon yet charms with his presence

(First published in Firstpost.com)

 It all started with Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots and followed by the over-the-top, preachy guru gyan in PK. Next came Amitabh Bachchan in Pink, the dialogue delivery master disguised as a lawyer whose booming speech on ‘NO’ was met with an equally resounding “YES” from audiences - young and old, men and women. Papas can preach.

 Provided they are superstars. Now comes Shah Rukh Khan, dropping every hamming trick from his Rahul dictionary, completely sidestepping out of the heroine’s way (Huge Leap for the Bollywood Hero) and yet saying 'main hoon na' with equal charm, style and confidence and oozing that superstar screen presence while staying silent and simply listening. True charisma, that.

 In Dear Zindagi, Alia Bhatt represents today’s young, liberated woman who seems to have it all and is yet lost, alone, confused and very, very scared. She is a talented cinematographer but believes that she is not taken seriously because she is also hot. She has tall and handsome lovers (Kunal Kapoor, Angad Bedi, Ali Zafar) willing to go the extra mile for her but she always ends up breaking up with them.

In other words, she is complicated. At some point, she starts getting sleepless nights and decides to see a therapist. Who better than the charming and easy going Dr Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) who is completely at home playing kabaddi with the waves, cycling along and giving life lessons on love. A character like Alia’s makes for a very contemporary premise and when cast opposite the King of romance, it’s a double whammy. Director Gauri Shinde, who has earlier worked with an equally delightful Sridevi in her debut gem English Vinglish, works her magic with a wonderful casting coup, the second time too. Both these movies remind me of Queen where the protagonist is a helpless woman who finds herself through some soul searching. What’s remarkable and gratifying about these stories is that they have an underlying and a very subtle feminist tone without being in the male bashing territory

.One could always argue that both Pink and Dear Zindagi needed and resorted to a male mentor or that superstar knight with lots of gyan to support and rescue the hapless, young heroine. Would these stories work without that father figure if not the romantic hero? And would these stories work without the iconic presence of Bachchan and Shahrukh? They would not raise that much curiosity or interest or footfalls in the theatre, perhaps. Imagine both the movies having a female lawyer or therapist as in the case of Jodie Foster starer The Accused. Would Priyanka Chopra as a lawyer inspire the same confidence in the subject as Amitabh Bachchan did?

That’s a risk which filmmakers are probably not ready to take yet. When Rani Mukherjee played the journalist backing Vidya Balan’s character in No One Killed Jessica, it made for interesting viewing but had few takers. In Dear Zindagi, the subject itself, while being the most relevant today, lends itself to a very urban, multiplex audience. Hence a lot hinges on the casting and Ms Shinde is fully aware of this. Also, to his credit, the gracious superstar Khan brings out the best in Alia, just like their characters, Jehangir and Kaira.

 Watch how Alia springs alive like the fresh, white daisies on her table, with every shade of emotion possible; nervously declares… “I like you…. I really like you”, looking vulnerable and hopeful at the same time; or speaks with a voice hoarse with unexpressed, deep sadness.

The fact that a superstar like Shahrukh Khan is willing to play a supportive role that lasts a mere 40 minutes on screen, is by itself an applaud worthy change in Hindi cinema. Thanks to a woman (Shinde).

 So what if you still need a man to tell a woman that it’s okay to date more than one man. That’s okay too.

Sunday, 3 July 2016

"There is no shame in depression" : Shriya Pilgaonkar


Shriya Pilgaonkar, daughter of Sachin Pilgaonkar and Supriya Pilgaonkar, made an impressive debut in Hindi films, opposite Shahrukh Khan in "Fan". She talks to me about happiness and dealing with depression and how she says YES to Life.

Here's the video and the transcription:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CnTNwBfANio



ON HAPPINESS:

Happiness is that unshakeable life condition which is not based on anything. Happiness is hope, a state of gratitude. It's just that feeling of being alive which is not dependent on anything.

LOW MOMENTS:

Firstly  a low is a transient moment, it's going to pass. My dog is my stress buster. I love food, I read a lot. I also meditate a lot when there is too much on my mind.. I find my own corner space, I also pray. I find a lot of peace in praying.

ON CLINICAL DEPRESSION:

I haven't experienced it myself.  The most important thing is awareness and  to talk about it.  There is no shame in being associated with bipolarity or any other form of depression. Communication is the key. ....To be able to talk to people, to have the courage to understand that being clinically depressed is not a finality and one can change it. We have to take complete responsibility to want to feel better, to have a better life and things wont just happen.

ON STRESS IN THE FILM INDUSTRY:

Any work space has its own stress. As actors, the anxiety is much more, you put your insecurity out there and you are put on a pedestal sometimes and you can fall from it. It's important to respect your own journey. There is no point in comparing yourself to other people. If you are aware that anxiety will not help you, then you wouldn't want to feel anxious. As an actor so much about the performance is  the energy and vibe you bring on screen.There is no space for negativity then. If you do feel anxious, you can convert it into a good kind of anxiety. There is good anxiety and there is bad anxiety. You can' t really tear yourself down and be hard on yourself. So you enjoy your work more when you are relaxed.

Please share and subscribe to the video and say YES to life.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCeFAunD8QPAbwY4-LCC0Y4A



Wednesday, 25 May 2016

SAY YES TO..LIFE WITH SAYANI GUPTA


THS IS A NEW LIFE AFFIRMING SERIES WITH CELEBRITIES ON MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL.

HERE'S THE LINK AND TRANSCRIPTION.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kENNlojtgqw&list=PLp0ZWLvyaByAxUg5lrGJ6nBkTXo6Sw5FZ


Transcription of Say Yes to Life with SAYANI GUPTA.

"Say No To Suicide, Say Yes to Life":Sayani


What are your views on happiness?

Happiness, I think, is what makes you feel floaty and really good about yourself. I really believe n having fun, every moment. I don't live in the future, I don't dwell in the past. That's the kind of the person I am.

How do you deal with low moments?

I go out to eat. I have my comfort food which is Bengali food. Or I go eat Sushi or Thai, indulge in lots of sweets. And yeah, sleep. It's the best, ever. You wake up after a good nap and everything seems brighter.

If clinically depressed, would you take help from a doctor?

Absolutely. Our generation needs to be more aware of this because our parents generation did not know much. They thought going to a shrink or a counsellor is something like a mental problem. It's not. What is always important and really helpful is if you can discuss your problems with someone who knows how to tackle it. Depression is so rampant today, every second person is going through depression. It's due to the quality of life we live today, we all have become individualistic, we all want  so much, the want is going up and up and up. Like we are never satisfied with what we have. we are not satisfied with simple things that people used to be happy with.  We are going away from out family. Most of us live alone in big cities.

The biggest blessing you can have from God is -friends. whatever you are going through, you always need people to speak to. It's only that one moment when you might want to take your life away. It's not worth it. It's one life you've got. trust me, this is the best probably you could have got. If you were to exchange lives with someone else, you will still be okay with your set of problems because you don;t know the other's world. Everyone goes through ups and downs. Nobody stays happy unless you have reached a stage of nirvana. The idea is to even enjoy the low moments.
My nani used to say, there is a Rabindranath Tagore line which means ' whoever you give your flag to, give him the strength to bear it also".

When my father passed away, I had imagined many things earlier. Bout his passing away was the most beautiful, most incredible moment of my life.I literally realised what life is about. I believe that even if he is no ore, he actually is, in so many ways. Something gave me enormous strength. whatever doesn't kill you, makes you stronger.

TO SPREAD THIS MESSAGE, PLEASE SHARE THE VIDEO AND SUBSCRIBE TO MY YOUTUBE CHANNEL.

SAY YES TO...LIFE.