Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Tuesday, 30 October 2012


“Samar sirf news banayega nahin, news banega bhi.”
“Crime reporter tha, tum logon ne mujhe criminal banaa diya.”
“Jo raakshas ka shikaar karne nikalta hai, khud raakshas ban jaata hai.”
“Jo aadmi risk nahin leta, uska sabkuch risky ho jaata hai.”
“Jab tak main bhaagta rahunga, tum chain se nahin baith paaoge.”

On the nose dialogues, predictable drama, one conflict played several times over. Honest but shrewd, ambitious but ethical young man gets caught in ruthless business of crime. It’s a plot told before several times, last seen in Blood Money.

Every single thing in Rush has been seen before, the story, the hero, the heroine, the villain and the vamp.  Samar Grover, (Emraan Hashmi) is an honest but over eager crime reporter who will do anything to get a breaking news story on TV. He will even face the gun and interview a killer (Murli Sharma).Only to be fired because certain richer and more powerful people running the channel are involved. Samar has a gorgeous girlfriend,Aahana  (Sagarika Ghatge ,a welcome change amongst leads),a painter who loves him enough to give up her work and go to Kuala Lumpur with him for his new job. He is offered a plum job as editor in chief by a seductive Lisa (Neha Dhupia) and her  reckless car racing boss, Roger Khanna  ( Aditya Pancholi,always rocks).

A super swanky office, a BMW, a penthouse: all apparently don’t come on a platter. Samar’s life is now a rush of breaking news, crime and a roller coaster of special effects, loud music, deafening sounds and never ending dialogues; a style as shoddy and tacky as some of our own news channels on TV.

Written and directed by late Shamin Desai, with dialogues by Sanjay Masoom, Rush is clearly a film made in a hurry and rests totally on Emraan’s not so muscular shoulders and half intense expressions. Aditya Pancholi brings in sufficient screen presence . Neha Dhupia looks hot and glamorous ,is cool and competent; her sexy high heels do the rest. Sagarika Ghatge is wasted in a small role.

The film tries hard to be a pacy and hard hitting thriller  and incorporates special effects and rapid cuts but ends up being as tacky as TV news channels. Pritam music  in “Dil to hai fukrah,style hai  wakhra..” written by Kumar and Sayeed Quadri’s  pleasant, Sufiana, “O re Khuda” are nice to listen but not much to watch.

Rush in an attempt to shock, delivers less than run of the mill ‘breaking news’.

Saturday, 27 October 2012


Sometimes one needs a first time, enthusiastic, sensitive Bengali filmmaker to bring the best out of Hindi mainstream actors. Though the best of Dia Mirza in Paanch Adhyay may not be good enough for the viewers but it is certainly an achievement by writer/director, Pratim D Gupta.

Paanch Adhyay (screened during MAMI festival) is a relationship story that has sometimes bookish, sometimes endearing, sometimes old fashioned, sometimes self indulgent pages structured in the form of five chapters of a couple’s life. It attempts to unravel the complications of married life, a subject too intense, with a treatment too casual. A stylized, contemporary narrative form and stunning visuals lifts Paanch Adhyay to an above average watch.

A handsome young film director, Arindam ( Priyanshu Chatterjee)  and a pretty, young school teacher,Ishita  (Dia Mirza)meet at a party. A charming banter  later, Arindam follows Ishita  around with red roses and wins her over. Starting on this rather filmy  and amateurish note, the film moves to real ground. Arindam, now an older and  a successful film director eats lonely meals at home. Opposing ideologies have created a silent rift in his marriage. He casts a young, vivacious new face, Ranjabati(Sampurna Lahiri) in his upcoming film. They fall for each other, thus opening  a challenging chapter in Chatterjee’s  life with Dia Mirza. More complications follow, both predictable and unpredictable, turning around Chatterjee’s concept of lasting love. A simple line in the film puts out an interesting perspective,.. “there is nothing purer than love, sometimes with the same woman..sometimes..”

Besides the story, the film’s take on Satyajit Ray’s Charulata(as one director-played by Soumitra Chatterjee in a fabulous guest appearance, says to Arindam in the film-“how long will Bengalis milk Rabindranath Tagore and Satyajit Ray ”)is a good insight. Arindam’s character in his new film is called Charu. In his own life, Ishita portrays the neglected wife with strong beliefs which challenge his own. This fascination with Ray’s Charulata is brought out well; kind of a half chuckle.

Dia Mirza as Ishita  looks extremely pretty and graceful in elegant cotton sarees but doesn’t quite get into the character’s skin. Likewise, Chatterjee is equally charming in his presence but superficial in his performance. Sampurna Lahiri  as the young newcomer is the most compelling of the three.

Anand Chakravarti  ‘s cinematography makes every frame look like a piece of admirable artwork. Shantanu Moitra’s music lifts the theme wonderfully but at times gets distracting, especially in a serious scene between Mirza and Chatterjee in the end.

Writer/ director, Pratim D Gupta who is also a film critic with The Telegraph, is commendable for  displaying a keen cinematic sensibility and a genuine love for the medium.

Paanch Adhyay has much promise and potential in its style and theme of love redefined but lacks the intensity and maturity the story requires.                    

Friday, 26 October 2012


A young girl loses her eyesight and turns to photography. A monk fighting a case for animal rights would rather die of liver cirhosis than take medicines which are animal tested. A stock broker discovers his kidney donor had his own kidney stolen during an appendix operation. Three different people, three   different lives, each obsessively pursuing a belief and one connection unknown to them. Ship of Theseus explores slowly, gently, humorously and seamlessly   quintessential   life philosophies and the paradox of Theseus through these people.

Written and directed by Anand Gandhi, his first film is deservedly a winner of MAMI organized MFF jury award for technical excellence. It is a film that has its merit in the eye for detail in both script and choice of locations, capturing long vivid images of something as simple as a long walk down a bridge on a rainy night or a centipede struggling its way out of giant shoes treading by or several monks trudging bare feet on dry, hot, stony pathways with windmills towering all over.
Every story(written by Anand Gandhi, Pankaj Kumar, Khushboo Ranka) is an experiment by itself in solitary or quiet moments. The camera follows every protagonist so closely that before one knows it, one is a part of their everyday life, however disturbing or uncomfortable.

Sample some long quiet sequences from each: The first  story has Aliya (Aida El Kashef)who challenges herself by taking up photography after losing her eyesight and is later seen dealing with her loss of  intuitive insight after she regains sight; sitting blindfold in the dark post her successful eye operation. The monk,Maitrya’s (Niraj Kabi,outstanding) story has a long silent sequence where the stark whiteness of his dhoti is marred by yellow bowel stains one night when he wakes up in a severe ailing state of near death. The stockbroker, Navin’s (Sohum Shah) story has him in a silent shot, washing a bed pan, helping his bedridden grandmother pee into it and washing the pan again.

Besides dead serious moments like these are simple conversations that bring out tragic-comic humour and irony. As the monk lies in bed, fighting to breathe, one of his followers comes to touch his feet, desperately seeking answers to the perpetual age old question, ”maharaj, aatma hai ki nahin?”The monk replies simply,  ”pata nahin.”

Several more everyday conversations and hilarious location choices that bring out the irony of life  ever so casually.  When Navin (fabulous, natural performance by Sohum Shah)considers the possibility of his own kidney stolen from a poor patient,  Shankar. He feels responsible for the robbery. He drives down to the slums with his friend to find Shankar. They reach a narrow lane where it’s impossible to take the car any further. They walk into the lane which gets narrower, small rooms on both sides. Asking for directions to Shankar’s house, they climb several steps and shaky ladders and eventually even find the lanes narrowing down to walls on each side with just enough space to squeeze in sideways .  Navin’s overweight friend constantly gets stuck and exasperatedly cries, ”kahan phas gaya?” The absurdity, cruelty of the situation of stolen kidney, the pathetic plight of poor slum dwellers, the new found compassion and mission of humanity all come together in the characters and situation through sheer use of fantastic real dialogues, location and cinematographer , Pankaj Kumar’s camera work.

 Many more scenes like these in all three stories coming together in a wonderful climax sequence, make Anand Gandhi’s debut, Ship of Theseus , a really special cinematic treat and experiment  to enjoy. As for the Theseus’ paradox which raises the question if an object which has all its parts replaced, remains the same object; this film just might have a delightful answer.                

Thursday, 25 October 2012


Director Prakash Jha’s Chakravyuh, like his previous film, Aarakshan, takes up a relevant issue, gives it a sufficient entertainment quotient but refuses to push the political envelope.Nandighat is a village (fictional) taken over by Naxalites who have killed 84 policemen. This powerful backdrop along with a story taken from a few real incidents, immediately draws you in. A cop, Adil (Arjun Rampal) arrests a key Naxalite leader, Govind Suryavanshi (Om Puri). Industrialist, Mahanta (Kabir Bedi) announces grand plans of opening an international university in Nandighat which is in Naxalite hands. Adil is sent to Nadighat to eradicate the place of terrorist leaders including Rajen (Manoj Bajpayee).
 Adil’s close friend, Kabir (Abhay Deol) offers to help him by joining the movement himself and be an undercover informer. Kabir wins over a notorious and fiery leader, Juhi (Anjali Patil) who has killed 49 cops. Here onwards, the film moves to Kabir getting sucked into a Chakravyuh of his own making. Chakravyuh has a good story (Anjum Rajabali), a somewhat convenient, matter of fact screenplay (Prakash Jha, Anjum, Sagar Pandya) and average dialogues (Prakash Jha, Anjum). The plot with good use of action sequences in rustic Chattisgarh locales, gets interesting once it follows Kabir’s involvement and just stops short of advocating Naxalism. 
A scene stands out significantly, showcasing the realities of Adivasis taking up a cause in total ignorance. Kabir while training the tribals, takes his count beyond twenty. A fellow leader tells him to start again from the count of one. ”Why?” Kabir asks. ”Aagey ki ginti nahin jaante hain,” the explanation is simple. Kabir reacts in stupefied wonder, ”Politics..kranti ..samajh mein aata hai..”
However, this is the only scene that comes close to hard hitting truths. The rest of the film ends up merely as an interesting drama involving two friends on opposite sides. The friendship between Adil and Kabir in the beginning is not established well enough to provide any kind of loyalty tug. The story plays safe as it doesn’t venture into exploring the Naxalite voice represented by Bajpayee and Om Puri who remain caricatures mouthing a few speeches. The political, industrial nexus too, remains sketchy and predictable. Kabir’s acceptance into the Naxalite camp is handled with too much ease and convenience. 
What begins as an interesting and honest perspective of both the police/capitalist and Naxalite, essentially doing the same right or wrong, caught in helpless political web of corruption, remains just a bird’s eye view. It would have been an engrossing and excellent drama if the story had moved deeper into Kabir’s shift of ideologies instead of taking refuge in police atrocities. 
Music is in keeping with the film’s tone. A.M.Turaz’s lyrics in ‘mehengayi ‘song says it all-- “Arey humre hi khoon se inka, Humre hi khoon se inka, Engine chale dhakadhak, Aam aadmi ki jeb ho gayi hai safachat”. 
Amongst the cast, Abhay Deol as Kabir does his best but is not quite as effective as his previous film, ‘Shanghai’. Arjun Rampal, and Esha Gupta with their chiseled looks are miscast though they do try hard to be desi cops. 
Manoj Bajpayee and Om Puri are equally unconvincing with belting out repetitive ‘lal salaam’ slogans. Anjali Patil in a strong debut role, is quite competent. 
Chakravyuh at best remains a perfect counter point drama unexplored fully. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012


The school is uber cool. The students are hot. The coach is super hot. The costumes are perfect. The music is a chartbuster. The dialogues are fun. The mood is popcorn light. The style is unabashedly superficial. Gay jokes are in plenty. The film is a ramp walk riot. The hero is the director, Karan Johar. 

Every time Karan Johar makes a movie, it inevitably requires suspension of disbelief. A line in the movie puts it aptly, “ yeh koi normal school nahin tha. Apne aap mein ek alag duniya thi.”

Once one accepts this as a norm in Karan Johar’s world, it’s easy to enjoy any of his films. “Student of the Year” is no different. Super glossy, popcorn light, costume perfect, the film packs in more fun than hot young boys showing off smooth skin and chiseled abs.

St Teresa is a school run by a closet gay dean (Rishi Kapoor). The school is straight out of fairy tales and Vogue magazines. The school owner, Ram Kapoor’s son, Rohan (Varun Dhawan) is rich and popular, arrogant and a playboy. He has a girlfriend, Shanaya (Alia Bhatt) with a Barbie doll life and wardrobe. His rank amongst his peers and girlfriend gets shaky when ‘poor’ and ambitious, orphan boy, Abhimanyu (Siddharth Malhotra, who looks richer than the rich) joins the school. A friendship strikes and is soon tested by a school competition for Student Of The Year. Rohan’s girlfriend, Shanaya finds herself caught in confusion and rivalry. Her own participation in the contest along with other close friends, add fuel to the friendship fire.

The film is a pleasant experience with a decent story, good screenplay (Rensil d’Silva) and entertaining dialogues (Niranjan Iyengar). The characters are familiar (Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na). The actors are not. Fresh new faces along with known television actors and a fabulous role played by Rishi Kapoor, make for a terrific casting.

In the competition amongst all the young hotties, Ronit Roy as the sports coach wins abs down. Rishi Kapoor endears himself instantly, playing a principal with a crush on Ronit. A short jig on his old and famous ‘dafliwaale’ song completes his joyful performance. The 80s most popular ‘Disco Deewane remix is well used except for clumsy dancing by the trio. Lyrics by Anvita Dutt in “Ishq wala love’ are refreshingly nice and simple.

All the newcomers: Siddharth Malhotra, Alia Bhatt and Varun Dhawan are convincing and confident in both style and delivery. Supporting actor, Sana Saeed who had appeared as little Anjali in ‘Kuch Kuch Hota Hai’, is simply outstanding as the seductive Tanya.

Student of the Year scores high on gloss, costumes, entertainment and direction. 

Monday, 15 October 2012


Chittagong is a well intentioned salute to unsung heroes. This, despite a few shortcomings, is one of the reasons the film deserves to be seen.

Another reason is the powerful subject, based on real events: Chittagong uprising in 1930, one of the first amongst many movements towards fighting for Indian independence against the British rule.

Thirdly, it is a story that moves and inspires, told from the perspective of a teenager who along with several youngsters his age, fights against all odds.

Jhunku, (Delzad Hiwale), a 14 year old son of a successful UK educated Indian lawyer, has the rare privilege of good education and future prospects of going to Oxford. He lives amidst the less privileged villagers who are constantly humiliated by the British. He is a silent admirer of a school teacher, Masterda Surya Sen (Manoj Bajpai) who is quietly organising a resistance movement with the help of a handful group of men and teenagers.

Jhunku is painfully aware of the consequences of disobeying the British. But when he witnesses British atrocities spearheaded by his father’s British boss, he sacrifices the much promised future in Oxford to join Masterda’s little army. A small group of school boys train themselves to use barely functional rifles despite watchful eyes in the small village. Soon, in an amazing act of bravado, the inexperienced teenagers, along with a few men, succeed in raiding the British garrison. However, the victory is short lived as the British reinforce themselves with twice the strength. Jhunku finds himself deeper in trouble and has to choose between his commitment to the Independence cause and surrendering to the British.

Debut director/producer/writer Bedabrata Pain, a scientist with NASA, quit his job to pursue filmmaking. His own passion and sincerity is reflected in his first film. However, Pain’s commitment alone is not sufficient to hold the film together. Despite a strong, well researched subject, co written by Pain and Shonali Bose (writer/director, Amu) and some good dialogues by Piyush Misra, the film lacks the required punch. Effortful, forced scenes weaken the patriotic element.

Surprising lazy performances both by Manoj Bajpai and the young protagonist only make it more challenging to believe in the conviction and fire that the revolutionaries had actually displayed. Nawazuddin and Raj Kumar Yadav’s presence don’t help much either. Backed by Anurag Kashyap and Bohra Brothers, the film manages to make its presence felt in the midst of regular commercial fare. Ashutosh Gowarikar’s ‘Khele Hum Jee Jaan Se’ has tackled the same subject from a different perspective but failed to make an impact. Music by Shankar/ Ehsaan/ Loy and Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics, especially ‘Bola Na’ and ‘Ishan’ , complement the narrative quite well.

Chittagong is a significant effort and worth a watch to revisit t the lesser known Indian Independence struggle history. 

Friday, 5 October 2012

ENGLISH VINGLISH: Sridevi Master Class

 The saree clad, wide eyed, lovely lady, stands in front of a New York coffee shop counter, clutching her handbag, excited like a little girl, looking around in awe, waiting to order a cup of coffee. A hefty, impatient woman, barks,  ”Americano, Cappuccino, Latte..?”  The alien words sound more threatening than a machine gun. The excitement wanes, the lovely lady is stunned into stuttering ””.The bully glowers  and rattles off a  menu choice that sounds worse than Greek to the Indian woman who hopelessly struggles to understand both the language and the menu. A simple coffee order turns into an ordeal, ends up in a tray dropped in panic and a heartrending breakdown on a bench.
She is Shashi. A simple Maharashtrian housewife and mother who loves making laddoos as a small enterprise and  hobby. Her more than  happy family loves eating her lovingly cooked meals. But when she mispronounces Jazz ..”jhaaas dance..”..,they make fun of her. When she can’t converse in English at her daughter’s PTA meeting, her daughter gets upset( somewhat farfetched). Unintentionally hurtful, they are unaware of her predicament in an environment predominated by an unspoken snobbery of the English language. Soon, nerves and dignity get all mixed up when Shashi finds herself in the U.S.,unable to communicate her need for a simple cup of coffee.
The simply written coffee shop  scene is the only dramatic scene depicting the humiliation of not knowing English. Written and directed by Gauri Shinde, the film is a simple and sweet story which starts off slow but charms with terrific dialogues and eventually becomes a magical movie experience graced by the mere mesmerising presence of a talent powerhouse that is Sridevi.
In one shy, hesitant look, she transforms into Shashi. The thunder thigh tag, the 70’s Himmatwala image or the funny, charming girl form Mr India dancing in the rain in a blue saree, vanishes into oblivion. Even when there is a Bollywood cinematic moment in a plane when the legendary Amitabh Bachchan makes a special appearance of a kind, old gentleman, you don’t see a second’s glimpse of their magnetic ‘Khuda Gawah pairing. Instead, you just see a scared but excited Indian woman stepping out of wifely duties, into an unknown world for the first time.
The debut direction surprises with the subtle expertise in its simple treatment of both the story,character  and the film. Every frame does marvellous justice to Sridevi’s comeback after 15 years. The camera lingers just long enough on her well maintained waistline, slender fingers, often moves to long distance shots as the film progresses and Shashi joins English speaking classes, showing her walk transform into a confident one with a single, simple gesture of a saree pallu deftly pulled over a shoulder, stronger  than any ‘collar up’ move. Every close up is a treat, watching the expressive large eyes and small mouth dance to every passing emotion with total conviction. The ever so brief jig a la Michael Jackson is like an icing on the laddoo that melts too quickly.
 French actor,Mehdi Nebbou,despite few scenes, is the only one who holds  attention as much as Sridevi, skilfully displaying the  sensitivity of his character. The rest of the supporting cast ,including Adil Hussain who plays her husband, does an adequate job.
The music (Amit Trivedi) and lyrics (Swanand Kirkire) add wonderfully to the light, breezy, feel good tone of the film.
English Vinglish is a master class,both in simple storytelling and Sridevi school of acting ; overwhelming in a disarmingly underwhelming way. Watch. Please Vease.