Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Friday, 30 March 2012

BLOOD MONEY: BHATT REHASH


 Blood Money. The title spells gore and thrill. The B grade poster with bikini clad models surrounding bare chested Kunal Khemu lures with  seductive promise for the front benchers. But then promises are meant to be broken.
Forget sex, forget sleaze, forget innumerable kisses, forget entertainment. All  expectations of cheap thrills as well as any effort to stay a Bhatt loyalist go crashing with the first scene itself and never gets redeemed in this no blood, no money glitter less  flick  by debut director Vishal Mahadkar.
There is a scene in which Kunal (Kunal Khemu),is desperate to be understood for his drunken one night stand (what’s new) and his wife, Arzoo (Amrita Puri) simply shrugs, ”I don’t care.” Neither do you. You don’t care if this earnest but ambitious cute looking boy of “Kalyug”  fame feels guilty about his behavior or if he repents choosing the fast lane with his Gujju boss, Zaveri alias Zakaria (Manish Choudhary)in Cape Town or if his life is in danger. You don’t care if his sweet, bored (and boring)wife is lonely and neglected .You don’t care if there is a diamond mafia even if the two bosses try to look and behave like sinister devils. You stop caring about the music which is good as always in a Bhatt movie. Probably because Bhatt doesn’t care himself anymore and it shows.
There is not a single character or a scene you haven’t seen before in all the Bhatt movies put together. Switch “Jannat” with this one and you won’t know the difference except that “Jannat” had some moments and some novice value. The plot, written by Upendra Sidhye, remains the same. Take a happy couple in love and put them in a situation full of riches and bad men, in this case diamond merchants of Cape Town.
Or as the film never tires of explaining as if everyone watching is  a moron, it’s about Hansel and Gretel  who in their attempt to eat the chocolate house, find themselves trapped by the old, ugly witch. Dialogues  like, “main yehaan se vidhwa banke lautna nahin chahti” by a tearful Amrita draw loud guffaws in the theatre instead of sympathies. Flat characters and flat scenes take this predictable screenplay nowhere near either a romance or a thriller. Repetitive long dialogues (Sanjay Masoom)from the two bad bosses drag the story more than taking it forward.
 Kunal Khemu plays it simple and controlled and manages to make his presence felt both with his looks and confident performance. Amrita Puri  is still stuck with the dumb drawl that she has picked up from overplayed character in “Aisha”. Manish  Choudhary and Sandip Sikand provide more entertainment  than the rest in their villainy acts which they  clearly enjoy performing.
Music by Jeet Ganguly  is the only plus. The song by Rahet Fateh Ali  has a Sufi quality about it and lyrics(Sayeed Qadri) like “main to bas teri chahat mein “ have more passion than the story.”Gunaah” penned by both Qadri and Kumaar, brings out pain and pathos in the mood . “Teri yaadon se” is a complete winner with its heart rending lyrics (Qadri);“Yeh woh baarish hai,deti banjar hai,bheegke hoga kya haasil,tujhe hi nahi jab meri aarzoo hai.., Mustafa’s voice and upcoming composer, Pranay’s  soulful music.
Overall, Blood Money is anything but paisa wasool. Same spin, same song. Emraan  Hashmi and his never ending kisses are truly missed in this lazy Bhatt movies rehash. The viewer is advised to spend his money on the much discussed Hansel and Gretel fairy tale instead. 
After all, who can resist chocolates and witches?

Friday, 23 March 2012

AGENT VINOD:VINTAGE EXOTICA

             (This article is also published in http://www.fwa.co.in/SitePages/Agent-Vinod.aspx )
Different names. Exotic countries. Couple of hot chicks. Some poker faced jokes. Several villains. Sexy bikes, fuming cars, snazzy helicopters and beautiful trains. Several stunts.
One handsome spy and a budding romance.
More than enough to sustain an almost three hour long spy flick part inspired from James Bond, part Bourne.
Agent Vinod is no Bond though. There are no gadgets, no sexual innuendoes, few gals and plenty of moving vehicles. But this desi agent disarms you with his guns and unrestrained emotions . 
Agent Vinod’s title is a throwback to the seventies movie about a spy called Mahinder Sandhu. This name amongst others like Kapil Dev, Anthony Gonsalves,Vinod Khanna, Freddy Khambata are tossed around throughout as our nonchalant agent keeps getting into trouble with as many goons as the countries.
The movie opens to an impressive action sequence sprinkled with humour and thrill in a beautifully shot Afghanistan landscape with Agent Vinod successfully escaping and driving off with a beautiful woman in a jeep. A perfect opening credit music sets the tone to this drama that moves to Russia, Morocco, Riga, Pakistan, London and eventually India, at a pace faster than Agent Vinod’s guns and cars. Vintage villains like Prem Chopra and Ranjit make memorable appearances with exotic names and costumes along with dying camels and gajras with hidden microphones.
A quest for a mysterious code 242 and Rubaiyat, a bomb detonator, follows and is chased around by Agent Vinod, spinning you into a tizzy tour around the world.
Agent Vinod comes with high expectations from a very capable director, Sriram Raghavan who last spinned out a clever movie like Johnny Gaddaar with small stars and small budget. It also carries Hollywood standard expectations of a spy thriller slick on production and style. Agent Vinod maintains the clever and cool style with scintillating cinematography, direction and action, faltering only just as a spy would; at the hands of a femme fatale. Iram Parveen Bilall (what a name), played by Kareena Kapoor looks suitably hot astride super hot wheels behind stylish Saif. Her character and mysterious plotline tends to distract though with some emotional gratification which a movie of this genre usually lacks.
Albeit a plot overkill, the writing (Sriram and Arijit Biswas) includes good side characters, funny moments and sparsely used dialogues that include occasional one liners..”aap kataar mein hain..” (Sriram, Arijit Biswas,Pooja,Dhirendra Diwedi).Unlike a regular spy thriller, both Agent Vinod and Iram are given a history and mild character layering which at one level gets you involved in their romance but at another level, takes away from the cool style of a not so cold spy. The scenes that work the best are the ones with no dialogues, like a tension filled one with Agent Vinod literally being a sitting target at one point. The action sequence playing to the tune of “Raabta”, is simply brilliant.
Saif starts off promisingly as the mysterious, charming spy armed with a killer smile and clever stunts but falls short in being convincing enough and ends up as the thanda beer that loses fizz in a paper cup (reference to a  scene).Kareena passes off well as more than the  hot babe on wheels with Saif and does sufficient justice to her somewhat stretched role. Prem Chopra hasn’t forgotten his villainous act of the seventies and succesfully makes his presence felt as Kazaan. Adil Hussain plays it just right as calculating and calm Colonel. As for the other supposedly sexy sirens,Marium Zakaria and  Malika Haydon, they don’t quite make the cut at par with Bond’s  super glorious women
The best parts of the movie belong to the thrilling soundtrack(Daniel B George), grand  cinematography(C.K.Muralidharan)  explosive action, slick ,stylised production design, great visual effects(prime Focus) light and  groovy music(Pritam)all of which make Agent Vinod worth a watch. The edit  (Pooja Ladhaa Surti) could  use some ruthless chopping of this somewhat lengthy chase.
The lyrics(Amitabh Bhattacharya)  vary from being funny ( nice: kahaan chali pyaar ki pungi baja kar)  to romantic(disappointing,Kuch to hai tujhse raabta).The latter is the reason to watch this movie, not for the song but the fabulously shot scenes accompanying it.
Agent Vinod would have been a complete joyride if it had more of Sriram Raghavan’s trademark clever storytelling. Nevertheless, it retains the adventure and the excitement that comes with this genre. End of the day, here is what matters. On the first day of the show, the hall is packed. The audience laughs at every joke. There is a loud gasp at a particularly emotional scene towards the end. All signs of a successful action flick.




Friday, 9 March 2012

KAHAANI: KILLER PLOT

                                (This article is published in http://www.fwa.co.in/SitePages/Kahaani.aspx)
“Kahaani” heavily pitched and expected as a Vidya Balan film, following the grand success of “The Dirty Picture”, ends up emerging as “Jhankar Beats” writer/director, Sujoy Ghosh’s film all the way. Keeping aside expectations of a mastermind mystery, “Kahaani” is a deeply engaging whodunit story.
Mystery genre is usually a tricky genre which very few filmmakers in India have mastered without resorting to amateurish sound effect techniques and silly gimmicks. Sujoy Ghosh with his carefully thought out plot comes up a winner in both story and direction. A good director needs to get two basics right before he takes his crew to the sets; casting and script. “Kahaani”  has a good plot and  fantastic casting(Roshmi Banerjee).Every character, right from the contract killer to a regular constable to a chaiwala kid to that of Vidya Balan as a determined pregnant woman in search of her missing husband, is well cast with the exception of the actor who plays Vidya’s husband(best unrevealed).
The movie opens to very quick shots of a deadly gas experiment on rats, moves quickly to an everyday scene in the noisy Kalighat metro railway station in Kolkata. Seconds later, thousands are dead inside a local train. The terrorist mastermind remains unarrested. The soundtrack to the opening credits, and Usha Uthup’s strong voice singing “ Kolkata strong hai, powerful hai, phir bhi laachaar hai..aami shoti bolchi..”(lyrics,Anvita Dutt Guptan) ,sets an exciting tone to the movie. Next we see a heavily pregnant woman arrive at  Kolkata, struggle  with her baggage  and take a cab straight to the police station. Vidya Venkatesan Bagchi,constantly mispronounced as Bidya (there is a lot weaved in with the typical Bengali way with  names), reports the case of her missing husband.A willing, ever helpful and sweet constable, Rana (Parambrata Chattopadhyay, very  engaging,)who is 6 months into his job, gets involved with her search.Rapidly, an entire slew of characters including the arrogant intelligence officer Khan (Nawazuddin Siddiqui, powerful presence)adding spice with his rude conversations, harmless and insipid looking contract killer Bob Biswas(Saswata Chatterjee, brilliant)come alive in this intriguing tale of the missing husband who apparently has a resemblance to the missing terrorist.
 Here is a woman, walking tirelessly with a huge baby bump, tense over the increasing impossible task of finding her husband, sometimes naughty with the constable and kids, a resourceful hacker and lock breaker, a software analyst and terribly angry and vulnerable all rolled into one. Who can resist such a character? The gripping narrative peels off layers after layers and gets you totally involved with Bidya’s Arnab Bagchi and you end up joining the by now smitten cop, the “running water” (boy running with  hot water kettle in a seedy guesthouse)and chaiwala kid in the suspenseful search. This kind of instant audience involvement is a sure sign of good storytelling.
A mystery genre demands certain  settings that include shady motels and suspicious characters and works only if the suspense revealed in the end is satisfying enough. “Kahaani” uses these devices well and spins an engrossing story(written by Ghosh and Advait Kala, additional screenplay/dialogues Suresh Nair, Nikhil Vyas and Sutapa Sikdar), chasing another story chasing more stories. The crucial ending though falls short of  disappointing with a twist that leaves you feeling cheated, borders on being almost over the top and dramatic and succeeds purely because of the emotional content and justification given and performed convincingly.
The film skillfully weaves in the emotional quotient with the plot, replete with heartwarming small interactions with minor characters, lifts it above an average script  and ensures that it doesn’t become just another forgettable ‘whodunit’ plot. Kolkata is used beautifully as the city where Durga is worshipped as the ultimate mother who destroys all evil and adds a meaningful though clich├ęd dimension to Vidya’s strength as woman. The famous track of Rabindranath Tagore’s “Ekla Chalo Re” in AB’s fabulous voice, is used at the right moment when Vidya finds herself most alone and looks down from her window at Durga’s diety being carried across the bustling busy street, as if seeking divine intervention.
 The movie is a constant reminder of Kolkata’s energy with its  yellow taxis, cutting chai, double names, sweet human interactions, red, bordered white sarees, big bindis, old buildings, and crowded bylanes.
The use of handheld camera movements  with brief shots of the Howrah Bridge and few stunning images of Durga(Setu)as well as rapid edits(Namrata Rao) are good though a bit distracting. The sound (Sanjay Mourya,Allwyn Rego)background score and music (Vishal Shekhar)complements the script very well, especially in the chase sequences complete with real, short, fight scenes in the crowded alleys of the city.
With  this film, Vidya Balan  emerges yet again as a one woman show who can carry a film without a hero and make it a success. The girl who started her career as a rejected bride in Parinita, got lost in between after Munnabhai and found her way back with experimental daring roles in Ishqiya, Paa and The Dirty Picture, is here to defy every rule in the casting book, sans makeup, sporting unkempt hair and a  huge belly bulge.
Watch this one heroine film that delivers several heroes- script, direction, great supporting actors. Do make sure you don’t leave the hall until you hear the entire track of “ekla chaalo re” playing with the closing credits.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

LPNY:SWEET CANDY


There are movies that you like for the content,there are movies that you sit through for the star and there are movies that you enjoy simply for the fresh, young, positive, feel good energy.
London, Paris, New York falls in the third category.
 As the name implies, LPNY is set in all three beautiful cities where boy meets girl and doesn’t quite move beyond that. Despite that, it comes across as a watchable, sweet romantic movie. With a cast like the talented, innocent looking Aditi Rao Hydari and an earnest and  charming Ali Zafar who is also the lyricist and singer(the best part of the film),it’s impossible not to like it.
The film opens at an awkward note with young Nikhil (Ali),spoilt and pampered son of rich film producer, at London Airport starting a casual conversation with first time traveler, middle class Tam Brahm Lalita (Aditi)who is forced to wait in London before her connecting flight to New York. She is an idealist who wants to change the world and has strong feminist opinions. He is a chilled out guy who lives in the moment and has trouble recalling the President’s name. He reads Mills & Boons. She is what he calls “Lalitapedia”. He is fun, she is a bore. But both have one thing in common. They want to be away from their parents and want to enjoy their newfound freedom. So they meet, they talk, they go sightseeing, they sing and they part. A minor hitch and two years later, they meet at Paris and we are acquainted with beautiful shade of red lipstick, short hair wig ,a smattering of French sentences and an ugly goatee. Another minor hitch and two years later, the two meet in New York. A pair of thick rimmed glasses  is introduced.
So what happens? Simple. Love happens. In three nights in a span of 5-6 years. What happens in between is something like a tiff that happens in every relationship. The fact that an entire script has been written around it, is itself quite a marvel and quite a challenge  for any writer; more so for a debut director/writer. Anu Menon bravely takes it up and emerges as an upcoming director to watch out for. It’s best not to expect “Before Sunrise” here, which is built on spontaneity and improvisation.
 Leaving aside story technicalities like a lack of real conflict and weak characterisation and not expecting answers to the mystery around  Nikhil’s dead brother, enjoy the stunning cinematography(Sameer Arya) that offers great  sightseeing. The film provides mild entertainment in the form of sweet, hummable songs, a refreshing  cast and simple, sometimes awkward, sometimes funny, sometimes cute and   normal conversation between a charming  couple. The dialogues(Anu Menon and Ritu Bhatia) when not forced, are fairly fresh with good usage of regular lingo. One particular climax scene sums up how well used lingo can completely lift a scene.
Aditi who made quite an impact in supporting roles like as the bua in Delhi-6 and as an angry wife who is constantly kissed passionately by her wayward husband in “Yeh Saali Zindagi”, manages to hold her own in the main lead. Her pairing with Ali Zafar works as both carry of their incomplete, sketchy characters with complete confidence and share perfect chemistry. Between the two, Zafar lags behind as he focuses very obviously on starry charm and cute looks which does appeal, though. What he lacks in performance, he makes up with his charm and his music composition, singing and lyrics which are in keeping with the mood and the theme. The title song lyrics along with “ thehri si zandagi” and ‘aaja” infuses the movie with just the right feel good, romantic touch.
Aditi manages to be honest to her somewhat confused character and is one of the two reasons  to watch the film. The lyrics “dekhne mein seedhi saadi lagti.."are well suited to her. The second reason being “unspeakable” words used in the confessional romantic speech in the end  by Ali Zafar. It’s a brief  glimpse into a  good piece of writing, complete with characteristic, contemporary insight into the way a young, regular guy thinks, and talks. That kind of language and expression defines metropolitan youth  today, in India as well as  London, Paris and New York.
Watch LPNY for its intrinsic endearing quality.After all who wants to miss three romantic nights in three beautiful cities across continents?

Friday, 2 March 2012

PAAN SINGH TOMAR: GET,SET,GO.

              (This review is published in http://www.fwa.co.in/SitePages/Paan-Singh-Tomar.aspx)
The poster of “Paan Singh Tomar” with Irrfan’s  wild bull like giant leap and the director, Tigmanshu Dhulia’s film history makes you go for an otherwise low key film that hasn’t made as much noise as it should. Even when you buy the ticket, the counter guy confidently tells you to sit wherever you want as he expects you to be the solo audience.Happily, he is wrong. Here is a film that grabs you, moves you and shakes you up.
Tigmanshu Dhulia once again succeeds in doing what he did with his debut film, "Haasil.” He picks up a hard hitting subject and tells it straight like a bullet that is hard not to bite. Here is a fine example of a true story well told with brilliant justice done by actor Irrfan who seems to have dropped  “Khan’ from the credits. Having been a casting director with Bandit Queen, Dhulia’s experience has paid off well. Every character along with Irrfan has been cast aptly to add sufficient authenticity.
The story drawn from true incidents  and screenplay written by Dhulia and Sanjay Chauhan, takes its time building up, leading the audience into Paan Singh Tomar’s character. It is deliberately paced to give more than a glimpse into Tomar’s character and a loving life with his wife(Mahie Gill, suitably played with simplicity) and mother  in a small village in 1950s.Opening with an edgy, scared journalist (nicely performed by  Brijendra Kala) interviewing Tomar about what turned  a national champion into a dacoit, Tomar replies, “Baaghi bante hain beehar mein, dacait bante hain parliament mein.” The casually made strong statement spoken with rustic humour sets the tone for the story that it is: intense, violent yet tender and compassionate, even gently funny, just like Tomar’s character.
 Paan Singh Tomar is a simple man of Bundelkhand soil, nephew of a “baaghi “ (rebel) who he proudly claims, could not be caught by the police. Little does he know that he is on his way to be one, forced by a cruel family feud that is reflective of the Indian social and political system. He  shifts from a Subedaar’s job  to sports because there is unlimited food to meet his more than normal appetite. He is more than welcome on the tracks because he can run with an ice-cream pack and deliver it before it melts. When he wins his first 3000 km national game steeplechase run(seven water pits and 28 hurdles that only horses can cross), his only words to his coach  are, “maa behan ki gaali mat do, goli  chal jaati hai “.  Simple, earnest, dialogues spoken in Bundelkhand dialect bring this script the authenticity that draws you into rooting for this innocent, honest, rare seven time  athletic  national champion  turned dacoit who has been deeply wronged by our brutal, corrupt political and socially backward society . The writing balances out the seriousness and violence with light romance reminding you of charming scenes in ‘Haasil’ and weaves in rustic humour wherever possible.
Set in the wild, rough terrain of Chambal valley in Madhya Pradesh,  the production design and  cinematography(Aseem Misra) captures  its harsh, unyielding, relentless character. Some great shots of Irrfan racing during his sports days and later as a dacoit making an escape with his gang across a river, make for  an engrossing view. Smooth editing by Aarti Bajaj  keeps the flow just right. The background score and music by Abhishek Ray  brings in the necessary drama and feel with sparingly used lyrics like “teri akhiyaan do naal,teri batiya do naal” and “duniya mane bura to goli maaro”(originally written by Javed Akhtar for the film “Arjun”).An extra brownie point to UTV Spotboy for backing a non commercial biopic.
The script with distracting English subtitles, remains raw at one level, loses its grip slightly in the second half as it travels every single step towards Tomar’s exploits as a dacoit but quickly regains intensity with two fabulous scenes that makes this film stand out. A father-son scene between Tomar and his army recruit son( Swapnil Kotriwal)  is a heartbreaking scene of distance and longing, as both the actors’ body language, controlled expressions and attempt at normal conversation, simple  lines tug at your heart more  than any melodrama seen before.
A crucial question is raised in Tomar’s confrontation scene with his cousin whom he asks tormented  and anguished for the answers to the injustice wrought upon him. The lack of answers  leave you deeply disturbed, bringing out the helpless dilemma of sportsmen giving their lives to the country (“desh ke liye faaltu bhaage kya”), winning medals, bringing pride, only to be turned victims caught in a corrupt social system,even chased and hunted like Tomar. But then Tomar is an exception. He is an outstanding runner who always finishes a race no matter what the hurdle. His memorable medal is an ice-cream packet for his family given by his army boss(Vipin Sharma, convincing), a deeply melting moment. Something that the country and the local, corrupt police officer looking at his gold medals, don’t understand and dismiss with  “haan to diya na gold medal”. Indeed, the medals have come, along with the stamp of neglect , disrespect and humiliation to Indian sports.
Irrfan who started his career as a lanky lad in Mira Nair’s “Salaam Bombay”, made his mark both on television and Bollywood with unforgettable characters in films like “Maqbool”, “Life in a Metro”, “Saat Khoon Maaf”; continues to raise new standards in Hollywood with films like “A mighty heart” .In “Paan Singh Tomar” he  brings his easy, unassuming style to Tomar’s character and gives it complete credibility with an endearing sincerity and enduring energy,proving his mettle as one lambi race ka ghoda.
As  Tomar orders his gang  gently in the film, “kaho haan”, here is a huge nod to both this brave, unfortunate champion and the film.
 ”Haan