Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Thursday, 25 December 2014


A young, almost naked, doped-out man (Siddhant Kapoor) dances wildly to loud music, with currency notes hanging out from his undies.The camera moves in such a way that you can feel his numb state.In his delirious trance, he is so deaf and blind to his surroundings that he does not see a team of cops, a foot away from him. Senior cop, Bose (Ronit Roy) has his gun raised, ready to shoot. He is an explosive mix of rage, despair, frustration and determination. The trapped guy stops in amazed horror at the sight of Bose.
The scene ends in a perfect anticlimax.
The sequence reflects the insanely, disturbing subtext that haunts and dictates the film, Ugly, every brutal second of its 128 minutes length.
The money crazy actor, by the way, is Shakti Kapoor’s son, and even creepier than the dad’s screen avtaar.
Ugly, written and directed by Anurag Kashyap, is relentless in its pursuit of all things, bad and ugly in human relationships. After a phenomenally lengthy and grossly violent saga of gangster family generations in the eastern hinterland, Gangs of Wasseypur, Kashyap explores a simpler drama between five immoral characters on the mean streets of Mumbai.
The characters are as twisted as they can be.
Rahul (Rahul Bhat) is a failed actor,desperate for a role. His ex wife, Shalini (TejaswiniKolhapure) is an alcoholic who only bothers about her ten year old daughter, Kali’s well being, when Rahul takes her out. Shalini is a housewife, kept almost captive by an indifferent and controlling second husband, Shaumik Bose (Ronit Roy). He is a cop who keeps tabs on her by leaving a guard with her and tapping her phone. She walks around the house like a corpse forced to live.
The film begins with her attempt at suicide. A strange, cacophonous soundtrack sets the disruptive mood.
Rahul picks up Kali for their regular outing but leaves her alone in his car, to go for an audition. Kali goes missing. Chaitanya, (Vineeth Kumar), his best friend and shady casting director, joins him in his panic driven hunt for Kali.
An engrossing chase sequence (Kashyap’s Black Friday and GOW also have memorable chase scenes) ends up with a suspect dead.
A typically indulgent and humorous, long exchange involving ‘daddy calling’ and cell phones, follows in the police station, between a cop (Girish Kulkarni) and the two complainants. Soon, Kali’s step dad, Bose, enters the screen with a brutality and a force that shakes up both the concerned dad and the plot. Old and bitter college enmity comes to the fore. Dirty consequences lead to several many dead and mean alleys. Every turn leaves you glued to the theatre seat. The unruly locations of Mumbai and faces of minor characters like the local suspect’s aunt, make the film look uncomfortably real.
Some unnecessary diversions related to a character, Rakhi (Surveen Chawla) and her husband, dampen the screenplay’s raw edginess. Further complications come with Shalini’s greedy brother, Siddhant’s involvement.The film gets so entangled with each character’s petty and personal agenda that you forget that amongst the dirty guns, there is also a soft target: Kal. Perhaps this is deliberate and symbolic of the selfishness driving the characters.
Within the genre of dark thrillers, Ugly is a fine film. The deeply fascinating first half, however, leaves you asking for a balanced grey rather than a bleak black hole. This might have helped bring in the otherwise lacking emotional quotient.
Needless to say, both the casting and the acting surpass excellence. Girish Kulkarni as the over smart cop; Vineeth Kumar as the unpredictable friend as well as a foe; Rahul Bhat as the frustrated and vengeful guy and Ronit Roy as the angry but righteous husband; each are a treat to watch. Tejaswini and Surveen have less screen time but make their presence felt.
Ugly is an engrossing thriller with some fine scenes and great twists. Watch if you can handle twisted,morbid characters,too. Just leave behind all notions of morality.

Tuesday, 23 December 2014

Anurag Kashyap on Let's Talk Movies with Gayatri Gauri

"All my films are a little indulgent."Watch Anurag Kashyap talk about his fear of stars, his 'mirchi' side and his upcoming film, Ugly.

Friday, 19 December 2014


Raj Kumar Hirani’s films are entertainingly preachy and clever, cinematic versions of Chicken Soup for the Soul. That’s a given. What makes them all unanimously popular are the endearing lead characters and their own lingo.Munnabhai MBBS’s “Jaadu ki Jhappi” and 3 Idiots’ “all is well” have firmly made their way into every cinema goer’s dictionary.
Hirani’s heroes are basically quite formulaic. They all have a heart of gold which makes you simply fall for them. They come armed with a dozen ways to entertain, to make you laugh and without exception, make you cry. They are all gurus in the guise of Aamir Khan (of late) who leave behind a much-needed message so powerful, that it draws claps from the audiences, without fail. In PK, the line that did the magic was,” kaun Hindu, kaun Musalmaan, kahan hai thappa, dikhao”.
By now, you must have guessed the subject that the PK team kept a mystery. The entire secrecy game and gimmick, right from Aamir Khan’s nude poster to the release; made it quite tiresome. But thankfully, Aamir’s performance, made up for the silly big ears and wide, saucer eyed look.
So the speculations were right .Aamir does play a nameless alien who acquires the name PK (drunk) because of the kind of questions he raises about God. His Bhojpuri dialect has the most bizarre explanation that involves some hand holding with a prostitute. There are several such unbelievable glitches that run through the screenplay. Yet, the ongoing thread of strong sentiments of the perception and corruptive business of religion, makes one overlook the liberty taken in storytelling.
The film opens to Anushka’s voice telling us how PK lands on the sands of Rajasthan, from a spaceship. A shiny, big, blue locket around his neck, is his only accessory. The locket is his remote control, which he can use to call the spaceship to get him back. He belongs to a planet where there is no need to cover the naked body or to lie. A local guy robs his locket and runs away. PK wants his remote control back. Once he has learnt how to speak and dress (starting from a jacket and ghaghra to Rajasthani turbans to unmatching shirts and pants found in ‘dancing cars’), he lodges a complaint with the police. He is told by one and all that only God can help him. PK now starts looking for God, which brings him to the journalist, Jaggu (Anushka Sharma) looking for a ‘breaking news’ story better than that of a depressed dog.
When she spots PK, he is wearing colourful clothes, several rudraksha malas and a bright yellow helmet, hoping to be noticed by God. His bizarre appearance catches her interest and soon his childlike innocence, implausible stories and hard, honest questions, draw her into helping him find his remote control.
Hirani’s favourite, Boman Irani is less interesting as Anushka’s boss, than his previous two films. A couple of his bum jokes fall flat. A throwback to a previous Munnabhai movie, besides a charming and old Sanjay Dutt is the involvement of masses through the media, while PK and Jaggu do some preaching and arguing on the approach to God. PK comes up with a ‘wrong number’ explanation in order to fight against the belief system spread by the likes of Godman Tapasvi (Saurabh Shukla). Incidentally, Tapasvi is also the villain in a brief love story between Jaggu and Sarfaraz (Sushant Singh Rajput).
Some nice songs with great lyrics… “love is a waste of time”, “bhagwan kahan hai tu” and “chaar kadam”, complete the sweet and relevant theme.
Aamir Khan, takes only the first two silent minutes of the film, as walks and runs in the buff; to make a place in one’s heart. His remarkable ease of slipping into childlike innocence is more instrumental in involving you into the otherwise repetitive and over simplistic film. Anushka Sharma’s equally empathetic response to him, is a delight to watch. Her emotional response to a discovery in the end, is touching in particular. The scene, though, is straight from Love Actually.
PK with its few flaws, does dial the right number that reaches the heart. A special appearance in the end, will even make you whistle.

Thursday, 4 December 2014


Likh rahe ho ya kaam kar rahe ho?” says a woman’s derogatory voice on the phone.
The young, meek, half sleepy man on the other end, is trying to relieve himself. The attempt is successful in spurts, depending on how the early morning conversation goes.
It ends with him getting dumped. After all, Dulal (Naveen Kasturia) is a good for nothing boyfriend
This scene in Sulemani Keeda,(means ‘pain in the ass’) sets an urban, casual tone of the film which has travelled across a few film festivals before getting a theatrical release.
Dulal and his friend, Mainak (Mayank Tewari) are struggling film writers who go around knocking filmmakers’ doors, peddling their script titled ‘Sulemani Keeda’. Predictably, they get lectures on life philosophy  from Mahesh Bhatt and can’t get past the gatekeepers at Yashraj (“unke bhai Uday chopra se mila do”…they still try) and if they get lucky, they get a polite reply from actress, Amrita Rao (she is better when she plays herself).
When the duo are not struggling, they are trying to get laid. Book shops are a regular haunt. And that doesn’t help much when Mainak happens to pick up a book on erectile dysfunction.
Things turn hopeful when the duo meet a B grade film producer’s 35 year old son, Gonzo Kapoor (Karan Mirchandani, excellent) hoping to be launched in a film that has shades of “Tarkovsky with orgies”. A visit to his dad’s farmhouse follows. The idea is to think “out of the box”. Gonzo wants a “story without a story”.
How Gonzo does get exactly that, is worth waiting for. The eventual outcome (hint: hero is called Bulbul Chingam) is a telling comment on the current state of Indian cinema.
While the central plot is sketchy and predictable, the film relies heavily on the characters and the hilarious dialogues. Mainak who looks the part (played to perfection by Mayank Tewari, also a writer himself) is the hustler willing to fit himself in any part of “the box”. His efforts to be funny and charm women, are a perfect counterfoil to the more sincere and poetic Dulal who doesn’t mind doing headstands to impress a sweet photographer, Ruma (Aditi Vasudev of Do Dooni Chaar). Dulal is someone you meet all the time. Dreamy and sometimes delusional when in love, he thrives on words but is as lost in life, as any wannabe writer. All four actors-Naveen, Mayank, Aditi and Karan are extremely well cast and lift the film several notches up with their natural and spontaneous acting.
The story reminds one of yesteryear’s Adhaarshila (1982) starring Naseeruddin Shah, in its realistic portrayal, casting and the use of low budget locations. Adhaarshila too revolved around struggling filmmakers and their real world filled with reel dreams.
Debut writer and director, Amit Masurkar displays potential and courage in exploring a subject that’s non commercial by nature. In his own words, this is a ‘Versova Indie’, which pretty much nails and limits its scope in format and reach.
Sulemani Keeda is a riot in parts; great in one-liners, but a letdown in plot. Bollywood insiders may relate and derive plenty of redemptive pleasure. As for the rest, watch for its earnest and refreshing attempt.

Thursday, 20 November 2014


It’s dumb, not funny. It’s disgusting, not funny. It’s pathetic, not funny. The sequel, Dumb and Dumber To, is just not funny. The “To” in the title, is indicative enough. The gags are gross. Potty humour is slapped on, thicker than cow dung. Jim goofy face Carrey tries too hard. Jeff Daniels is actually better. But hey, the plot is the somewhat shining metal under the crap.
Its one thing to have dimwit characters but another, to have ugly, yucky faces twist into unsightly grins, showing dirty teeth and worse: dirty, crappy fingers and annoying sense of humour. By the time you are done watchingDumb and Dumber To, you are left with your sense of smell and vision assaulted in the grossest way, imaginable.
Thankfully, the film does not limit itself to the most slovenly characters who pull a fast one on each other, waiting to say, “got ya”. There is actually a plot, which unfolds quite smoothly and ends up putting the dimwits (same costumes as original film) in a place crowded with brilliance and brains – a scientists’ invention seminar.
But first, there are diapers to be changed (yes, one of them lives in those for a while) and jokes that fall as flat as the girls they push into the bushes. There is actually one girl who might find this funny. That’s a pretty girl called Penny (Rachel Melvin) who does exactly the same thing. Much to our middle aged, daft hero, Lloyd’s (Jim Carrey) surprise and delight. “I love you,” he squeaks to her. She is supposed to be his dumber friend’s lost daughter.
The thing is, Harry (Jeff Daniels) opens a letter sent to him 20 years ago, informing him that a certain woman (Kathleen Turner) he dated, was pregnant. Apparently, he has a grown up daughter now.
The two go kiddo hunting. The reasons are different though. Harry wants a kidney from her. Llyod, after one look at her picture, wants the girl.
A trip to the past involves some return trips. Like ending up at the address where they started, simply because they don’t know about the front or back of their hands or posted envelopes. Only, they are not the ones exasperated. They still find something to gloat over. Like how the resident looks just the same.
This is the mildest of the jokes that might bring a faint smile. Laughter is miles away. There is plenty of disgust, instead. Without one reliving the muck here, suffice it to say, it is splattered, throughout the film.
Add to that, some Pink Panther subplot thrills and moments, and you get onto slippery and slapstick tracks of evil scheming. The crappy twosome finds themselves in the midst of the supposed daughter’s adoptive, rich family with a noble prize winning scientist, Dr Pinchelow (Steve Tom) and proverbial, greedy, foster mom (Laurie Holden). A mystery box is thrown in, which the two nuts must guard with their lives.
Thereon, its one wild goose chase after another. By the time it ends, you are left with the daftest, wildest and fattest goose ever. You can almost hear the filmmakers whoop, “GOT YA”. And that serves Dumber and Dumber To’s desperate purpose.
Sorry, can’t say huh.


Happy Ending is like your morning cup of tea or coffee. You have the same Taj or Nescafe brand every day, with the same amount of water, heated to a certain degree. You even sit in the same corner and sip from the same mug too. Yet it is refreshing and brings you joy.
 A rom-com is no different. Boy meets girl. Boy chases girl. Boy kisses girl. Boy fights with girl. Boy chases girl to the airport. Get the lead hero to play the same role he has played so many times that by now he takes to it, like a Nawab to his land. Take all this sameness and churn in a semi spoof on Hindi films. That’s enough to make Happy Ending a happy unabashed film, all the way.
 Make that double happy. There is a rom-com within a rom-com. There is Saif and there is Govinda. This casting coup is by itself like a double decker ice cream; delightful and sweet. Here’s the best part. There is a Saif you have always seen and there is a Saif you have never seen. The latter is the cherry on the ice-cream (if there is such a dish). 
All the happiness pouring out from the film can be happily attributed to the team behind their last film, Go Goa Gone: writers (Raj, DK, Sita Menon) and directors (Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K, they are also twosome). The dialogues  (Hussain Dalal) range from naughty (includes the word ‘penis’) to funny. The story, as Govinda’s character, demands in the film, is nothing different.. “ladka ladki ko milne de….hat ke kuch nahin hai”.
 The ‘hat ke’ part, lie in the easy, breezy treatment and the female characters. These include a warm ex girlfriend (a mother of triplets never looked as endearing-Preity Zinta), a clingy and blindly optimistic ex girlfriend  (Kalki Koechlin at her best) who doesn’t know she is an ex and a girlfriend (Ileana D’ Cruz, charming) who has the same flaw as the hero.
Yudi (Saif Ali Khan)is an out of work novelist. His sole occupation is to woo one girl after another while he sits on unfinished manuscripts. He is commitment phobic and runs every time a girl utters the most dreaded three words in romance. Life gets worse when his publisher signs on a new writer, Aanchal (Ileana). She happens to be a fraud who tells romantic tales without an ounce of personal belief.
 Yudi’s floundering writing career, has just one savior: a has been hero, Armaan  (Govinda). Armaan wants a “mixed writer”-someone who will write a “kickass” film; “Bollywood story in Hollywood style”. Yudi has no choice, but to turn to his keyboard and some inspiration from his rival, Aanchal . Not to mention, some interesting self talk from a fatter, long bearded alter ego, Yogi. These are like any other scenes written before, except that Saif’s look (stylist gets a brownie point) and performance, beats every cliché hollow, and is one of his best on screen.
Govinda talks in his usual tapori style, is more winsome in his dialogue delivery than ever and goes around chucking his glares every time he ends a conversation. His six pack abs too makes an appearance in the best way possible; a perfect good humoured stunt that pokes fun at Bollywood heroes.
Govinda’s single expression towards the end , during a narration, when he sits up deeply interested, is reason enough to spend 300 bucks on Happy Ending.
 So is his dialogue, “teen sau rupaye mein logon ko jeena mat seekhao.” Now that’s kickass.

Friday, 14 November 2014


There is something about a man lying, bleeding on the streets on a dark night, and watching his beloved wife call out to him lovingly on his cell phone camera.
There is something special about him when he wakes up daily to a little, cute beagle. The same, gifted to him by the beloved wife to help him grieve over her death.
There is something appealing about his deep unrest and anguish when drives his black 1969 Mustang around like a mad man burning in helplessness. After all he is an ex hitman who has sworn off anything bad or wrong.
A speeding swanky car, a dead wife, an adorable dog and a wounded, grieving ex gangster who happens to be The Matrix’s Neo, none other than the cool and sexy Keanu Reeves. Add to that, an image that creates fear and fascination. The name: John Wick.
There is an undoubted adrenalin rush in the blood spilling out of this premise; hard to resist.
So when some rich young Russian brat steals his precious Mustang and kills the dog gifted by his dead wife, you know that it is the ultimate death wish.
When John Wick is someone referred to, in hushed tones, as “he was the guy you called to kill the bogeyman”, by the rich young brat’s father, Wick’s ex mafia Russian boss (Michael Nyqvist); it gets even better.
And indeed this scarier and angrier man than boogeyman gets his long buried guns and shining knives out.
Hell hath no fury like a man whose dog is killed.
Soon there are a few dead bodies lying around on his house floor. When a cop comes calling at night and sees the wreck, he asks casually, ”you working again?” Wick shrugs and replies, “Sorting some stuff out”. The cop bids him good night and walks away.
John Wick is back in the world of crime.
The rest is of course stylised action, gun mayhem that match videogames, the popular as always car chases, a regular Russian villain, a loyal old time friend (Willem Dafoe), a killer of a lady and a dapper and a black suited and scarred Keanu Reeves.
This is one neat retro action flick with slickly choreographed neck breaking scenes thrown in, with the ease of a confident handshake.
An amusing and polite hotel manager is the only light break in the otherwise minimal dialogue, maximum fight film. A neon lit nightclub chase of the victim in a towel, aided by the right soundtrack, is perfect in its killing spree tempo buildup.
There is plenty for all types of audiences: dog lovers, video game addicts, gun fanatics, the car crazy and of course, Keanu Reeves fans.
If nothing else, there is always something about a long shot of a wounded guy walking with a dog, down a rainy street, into the dark night.


The mundane can be momentous. Richard Linklater’s experimental film, Boyhood is subtle in this message. By the time, the nearly three hour long film ends, you will feel like a parent who has seen a boy grow up in your home. You have been through it all; every growing up moment till he turns 18. There is nothing earth shatteringly new about his life either. Yet it is nothing like you have seen before. Like a reality show without any drama, yet without a dull moment. And that’s the true achievement of Boyhood.
The film is also an experiment in incredible patience required to shoot for 12 years. The director of the trilogy-Before Sunrise, Before Sunset and Before Midnight, Richard Linklater, has filmed the same fictional characters over the long period. It is small wonder that the family is compelling and keep you as involved and transfixed as if you are watching your own home video.
Linklater also brings back his favourite actor, Ethan Hawke, in his finest and most charming performance as the summer trip dad to the children brought up by a single mom. Like the earlier trilogy films, he comes across as very real, seems to improvise most lines and talks the way you and I talk.
Mason (Ellar Coltrane) is quite ordinary. We see his formative years in Texas starting from six. They are familiar to every parent, right from his teacher’s complaint of him staring out of the window all day; his first exposure to women in lingerie magazines; his fights with his annoying sister, Samantha (Lorelei, Linklater’s daughter); the school bullies he faces, his camping out with his dad who gives him great tips on impressing girls (“ask lots of questions and really listen”); his embarrassment while his dad gives his awkward teenage sister some clumsy sex education; his quiet acceptance of shifting and moving homes, changing fathers as his mom struggles through their survival bills; his teacher’s long pep talk on career choices in a darkroom and his first heartbreak as he turns adult.
By the time Mason reaches graduation day, you end up feeling as proud as his parents. When Mason’s mom silently breaks down on the day he is leaving home for college, it’s a heartrending leave-the-nest moment.Boyhood achieves all this by capturing the characters’ turning points and resultant growth therein. The noticeable change in their hairstyles, the children getting taller, the mom gaining weight, is remarkably consistent with their aging. Patricia Arquette who plays the mom, is seen transform through every life challenge, with amazing strength, resilience and gentle dignity.
Simple moments of playing video games, discovering new music, smoking pot, drinking beer and lying about sex, with the nonchalance of an adult, developing hobbies like photography; are woven neatly into the narrative. At the same time, intense stuff like abusive, alcoholic step fathers are downplayed, thus making a most effective statement that life goes on, no matter what.
Despite the parents breaking up while the children are small, it comes across a perfect loving family who stand by each other, throughout. Mason’s dad may not be around all the time, but endears himself the moment he tells his children “talk to me” when they don’t go beyond ‘ok’ when he asks them about their lives. This is a family that represents the changing dynamics in family relationships and more than one marriage. In an unwelcome marital situation, Boyhood is a great example of idyllic parenting. Especially by parents who go through self destructive ways to gradual settled lives and grow up along with their children.
Both Mason the character and Coltrane, the actor, are seen on screen from the age six to 18.That’s the marvel and magic of both growing up and the movies. Linklater displays his ingenious understanding of both. His narrative is a brilliant and original, seamless capture of real passage of time.
There is a scene in which the boy, now an adult, asks his dad, ‘what’s the point’? And there is no real answer except that “you’re feeling it”. Likewise, there is no one point really to this film and yet it is replete with meaning.
Such as, there may not be happy endings but there are no sad endings as well. In fact there are just endings and beginnings. Boyhood ends, adulthood begins.
Like a conversation in the film goes, ‘it’s not about seizing the moment, the moment seizes us’.
Just like that, Boyhood seizes you. And leaves you satisfied in an entirely new, intimate way.

Friday, 7 November 2014


The male gaze can be beautiful. The human form can be worthy of worship. Especially when it is captured in a timeless painting. Raja Ravi Varma proved this in the 19th century when he gave God a face. The acclaimed director of “Mirch Masala”, Ketan Mehta, tells the controversial artist’s colourful story by turning the canvas of cinema into a celebration of art and a voice of freedom.
Rang Rasiya is as visually breathtaking and bold as the artist’s work.
Indian filmmakers and the censor board have always shied away from nudity on screen. Rang Rasiya will probably be the landmark film to change that, having awaited the Censor’s approval since 2008.A woman’s bare breast is shown sans any vulgarity, thanks to a very comfortable and sensuous Nandana Sen and wonderful sensitivity in direction and Anil Mehta’s cinematography. The film’s uninhibited take does not stop there. At one point, both Randeep Hooda and Nandana are shown, lying completely nude, their bodies covered in paint. The song and choreography accompanying the sequence is like poetry in motion, with every single frame, which mesmerizes and hypnotizes you into the world of an artist.
The film begins in today’s world where a dramatic and violent riot disrupts an art auction selling Raja Ravi Varma’s paintings. The story cuts back to 1890s when a similar riot takes place and Raja Ravi Varma (Hooda) is arrested and tried in court for painting a half naked woman, Sugandha (Nandana). More flashbacks take us to Varma’s journey that ends up in the court, shamed and powerless. The film, based on a fictitious Marathi novel by Ranjit Desai, does not claim to be an autobiography. It cleverly uses the artist’s life to make its point on the freedom denied to artists in India, be it Raja Ravi Varma or M F Hussain who paid a heavy price for their freedom of artistic expression.
We see Varma, his character shown in all shades of grey, transform from a long haired playboyish husband of a princess in a village in Kerala to a court artist given the title of “Raja” to a well groomed and suited man in Mumbai. Initially, the film takes a while to be believable in its period settings and old world costumes. But post interval when the story takes a dramatic turn, the exquisitely crafted scenes, the crisp and powerful dialogues, the tight focus on the downfall of a man who made religion accessible to the masses through his printing press, enchants and engages, if not shock with its sensational material.
A particular scene showcasing the making of Dadabhai Phalke, the father of cinema, makes a telling remark, most relevant today…. “cinema…ise soch samajh kar istemaal karna.”
While clearly, the writing, direction, the camera’s sweeping magic, the tight edit and the all encompassing music and lyrics take centre stage, both the main actors, Randeep Hooda and Nandana Sen hold their own in sensuousness and controlled performance. Hooda essays a detached artist deftly,to his feminine and emotional muse played gracefully by Sen. Feyna Wazher as Varma’s devoted fan, is noticeable in her pretty screen presence.
If cinema is a canvas, Ketan Mehta’s Rang Rasiya is an aesthetic and relevant work of art.

Friday, 31 October 2014


It does not matter if Super Nani is a film worth watching. It is a one-woman show with a true Bollywood rock star taking centre stage.
When Rekha with bowed head and timid tone, plays maid, nanny and doormat to an overbearing family that includes a complete non-actor like Randhir Kapoor, she deserves all the accolades, just for her complete submission to a ridiculous role, like a true, devoted actor.
When Rekha makes a comeback in her trademark long wavy, thick hair, big red bindi, sindoor, long sleeved blouses, flawless makeup that refuses to reveal a single aging line, she remains the most ‘khoobsurat’ diva on screen.
When Rekha transforms into a ‘modern’ woman, she could easily be the mistress of makeovers and stand as a shining example for all the housewives, moms and grandmoms who hold the thankless job of running a home.
When Rekha delivers the filmiest of dialogues in that ageless husky voice, exactly like the heroine she has always been, she could teach every actor including Big B, a thing or two. Her final roar,“ maano to hum kumkum jaise, na maano to hum raakh se” deserves the loudest clap for the most perfect modulation of the most theatrical 90’s “Beta” like lines.
When Rekha dons various stunning looks in larger than life characters that include Anarkali, she looks the most ravishing, when grime is strategically painted on her face, while playing Nargis’s Mother India and washing utensils. This is beauty at its best.
When Rekha enacts the inevitable scene that mentions her most favourite man, she once again plays up to her naughty and cute, famous obsession. Her “HAAIN” is better than AB style.
When Rekha plays the most unconvincing role in a film with an outdated , loud treatment, and yet carries it effortlessly on her dignified, beautiful shoulders, along with equally remarkable Sharman Joshi and Anupam Kher, you want to salute this humongously brave lady.
This Grand Young Lady deserves every award and salute, for her sheer, actor’s sizzling spirit and never say die, dazzling beauty.

Thursday, 30 October 2014


Murder mysteries are probably easier to solve than spouses who sleep next to you. “What are you thinking? What are you feeling?” These can be potent questions that haunt marriages made in hell.
The screenwriter, of “Gone Girl”, Gillian Flynn, who adapts from her own bestselling novel; clearly enjoys sinking her teeth into the unsolvable and drawing blood. So do you. Every single moment in this 145-minute thriller, keeps you glued, riveted, engrossed and fascinated.
When a married woman goes missing, it can work as a delicious edge of the seat thriller on two levels: a murder mystery as well as a mental trial of a husband and a wife. Is she dead? Did he kill her? The questions playing seesaw move on to deeper questions. Who was right? Who was the wronged one? And ultimately, the best one. Who wins?
Nick Dunne (Ben Affleck), a former freelance writer who runs a bar with his sister in Missourie, finds his wife, Amy (Rosamund Pike) missing on their fifth wedding anniversary. As the detectives start working on the case, Amy’s point of view is shown through her diary notes starting from the time she met Nick. The screenplay slips neatly into two sides: his and hers. The case soon becomes a media trial, with an entire township in Missouri turning into volunteers helping in the search of missing Amy.
He is seen initially, almost like a victim who was deeply unhappy in his marriage. He thinks she is “complicated”. His twin sister reads that as “bitch”.
She is seen as a gorgeous rich girl who has just met the love of her life. Her diary reveals that they were the best-married couple for the first two years. Soon, it is she who is the victim.
Drops of blood and random evidences throw up suspicions of her murder. The case is in full media glare by now. Amy is declared the real victim and Nick, the cheating husband who could well be the murderer.
A well placed, brilliantly shot and perfectly performed twist playing to the most compelling “cool girl” lines (reason enough to read the novel),takes the film into more than whodunit areas. The tension in the shifting narrative gets tauter, tighter and thicker. The characters get more and more layered. Obvious routes, explore dearlier in pulp novels, are taken, only to lead to better and more wicked places and “War of the Roses” territory.
A marriage bedroom and bathroom, are brilliantly used locations. The famous, Hitchcock’s Psycho shower scene, is turned around, like a sharp, freezing spray of cold-blooded water. This remarkable scene is as naked as it can get, both visually and symbolically, about marriages and ugly truths. David Fincher, known for “Seven” and “The Social Network”, is in his element here. Topped with a magical score, slickly shot and edited, the film smoothly captures the dark, the macabre and the unspoken.
The actors, especially Roasamund Hyke, play the perfect, mysterious victims, each. Hyke, deserving of an Oscar, reminds you of Sharon Stone’s aloof sexy presence in Basic Instinct. Affleck at his best keeps it subtle, ambiguous and appeals to the right emotions. Carry Coone as his concerned and loyal, twin sister and Kim Dickens, as the detective who plays fair, make the story believable.
Gone Girl is as delightfully wicked and beautifully packaged Hitchcockian and Sidney Sheldon pulp, as it can get. The more you chew on it, the more delicious are the bloody juices.


“This is the best job I’ve ever had.” A crew of five American soldiers fighting an entire battalion of Germans, keep repeating this to themselves, every time they fight tooth, nail, guns, bombs, cannons from the shell-dusty confines of their ‘home’-a war tank called ‘fury’.
Starring Brad Pitt, this World War II film takes a hard lined, gritty look at Allies relentlessly attacking and battling their way through Nazi Germany. Dirt, grime, scars and bullet marks define each of the five soldiers, led by ‘war daddy’ (Pitt) surviving through North African campaign. They are joined by a young, typist rookie; Norman (Logan Lerman) recruited 8 weeks back.
The raw war virgin is disgusted by the ruthless killings and refuses to participate. War daddy takes it upon himself to force the novice to take to a gun like his former typewriter. The clichéd yet likeable bonding and the transformation of the two (Pitt starts addressing him as ‘son’) along with the other three who curse, quote the Bible and joke around when not fighting, form the crux of the rest of the story.
A lovely, long sequence of a semi forced romance with violent undercurrents, between Norman and a German girl, aided by war daddy, serves as a perfect counterpart to the plot. A brief time at the piano is evocative of what peace looks like, even if it is illusional or temporary in the war ravaged country. This scene lifts the film above an average war film.
The story moves to an explosive climax where the motley crew stuck inside their sole weapon-the Sherman tank turned furnace-find themselves facing a 300 men German army. A small, silent interlude with just the rustle of leaves heightens the danger ahead, faced by the five-soldier family. Heroism and bravery mark this grand horrifying war film, written and directed by David Ayer. Action, horror of dead bodies and blood are smoothly balanced out by the underlying thick human emotion throughout the weary journey across the German countryside.
Those who enjoy war movies and Brad Pitt as a middle-aged war veteran, might want to sit through Fury. But the point remains typically Hollywood: Americans are good and Germans are bad. How much of that, one wants to buy, is a question of choice.

Monday, 27 October 2014


 “Theek se dekhyega,Shahrukh ke 10 pack abs hain.”says Nephew A, all of 13.

“Nahin, 8 pack hain.” Says Nephew B, all of 16.

Auntyji (me) stares hard at the subject of intense discussion.1…2..3.. she gets quickly distracted by the famous eyes. Those confident, intelligent eyes which know exactly which expression turns on millions of fans around the world. If only, oh if only, auntyji could also whistle like the rest of the ‘public’ in a theatre called Jeetendra in a small town called Bokaro Steel city, Jharkhand.

Point to be noted: 6 or 8 or 10,any pack abs do work. Even if they don’t belong to Salman Khan. For that matter, they work on Sonu Sood too. There… the loud whistles go again, one shriller than the other. Much to auntyji’s surprise and delight because she always had a soft corner for the actors with ‘character’ roles, the ones who move to fame and glory through sheer talent. His shirt automatically tears off those muscles at the mention of “maa”.

Another point to be noted.It’s all about mothers in Bollywood.Maa and cine-maa go hand in hand. Dabangg used both the tricks quite well: meri maa(who was killed),mera baap(who didn’t love me).

Time for the next whistle and whoop(W&W) round. No prizes for guessing. None other than the dimpled and sizzling Deepak Padukone has made her grand entry. Her star power seems to match King Khan’s, going by the whoop decibels. Soon, a long silence follows. There she is gyrating around a pole, dressed in her boldest and scantiest dance bar costume. The strategically placed camera on her long legs (interesting that the director is a woman and does not bother with subtlety) heightens the mood and excitement. The “public” is still quiet. So are the nephews. Is it shock or is it embarrassment? Their Chennai Express diva does not quite seem to fit the image of ‘good girl” heroine.

Suddenly, the whoops begin again. The Om Shanti Om girl is making eyes at the hero. His English is like Cupid’s arrow. Well, his eyes are certainly throwing enough love darts to make every female fan melt. At some point, the Marathi leggy girl pats him. His ass is on fire. Farah’s brand of romantic humour from ‘Main Hoon Na’, is working its magic again. The violinists have been replaced by fireworks.This is hot stuff. Whoops!

 One more round of whistles. OH, Abhishek Bachchan is doing a naagin dance. Auntyji looks at AB with new eyes and nods in approval. Yes, he can laugh at himself. That’s a smart boy.

Time for the loudest W&W. ‘Yeh mera India’:the patriotic sentiment, NEVER EVER, EVER EVER, NEVER EVER, fails to work. Subhash Ghai knew that. Farah Khan knows that. So what, if the song “ Indiawaale” is not all that foot tapping. It gets the whoops going. This time for the country. Even if it is at some silly dance competition against Korea and US amongst others.

India rocks. India works. India is the best. King Khan and queen of irreverence, Farah Khan know this emotion runs thick at the box office.Why bother with the plot?

It’s time the anti Bollywood critic in us, accepts it and enjoys it. It’s time to just have a blast. Like the rest of Bokaro and small town India.

Thursday, 2 October 2014


‘Chutzpah’is a fascinating word.It is discussed at length by Haider (Shahid Kapoor) in one of his rare,lighter moments. This comes as a huge relief as Shakespeare’s Hamlet is otherwise a brooding,philosophical character who is forever unsure, introspective, indecisive and passive.
You can have fun,even, when telling the world’s most famous tragedy,Hamlet, seen on screen the world over, at least a dozen times. You can even be poetic in poignancy.And you can display the most bizarre humour in the most unlikely scenario.That’s the director,Vishal Bhardwaj’s ‘chutzpah’.
So when a couple of grave diggers dig a grave in Kashmir’s snow-clad graveyard,they merrily sing, “aao na,ki jaan gayi…”. They beckon death yet Bhardwaj’s music is anything but ominous. The gravediggers lie down inside and say in jest to Haider, “come dig your own grave”. A perfect icy setting for cold and naked truths about death.Here,Haider picks up a skull and renders most casually one of the most famous Hamlet scenes. You are reminded, one of the writers is Shakespeare. The other two are Bhardwaj and Basharat Peer.
Soon when a dead body is brought into a snow clad graveyard and Haider (Shahid Kapoor) enquires,the gravediggers reply,matter of fact,“hoga koimurda”.The deadpan humour changes instantly to the most painful moment when Haider sees the dead body.A sudden turn of events leads to a most pulsating, tension filled sequence.Yet again,Bhardwaj cannot resist a light moment.The gravediggers sing a line again…’aao na’..this time beckoning the enemy in a shootout.
Death is clearly, not to be feared,but mocked at.
Haider, a third in Bhardwaj’s brave adaptations of Shakespearean tragedies, after Maqbool (Macbeth) and Omkara (Othello), is probably the most mellow among the three. Both the violence and the language,as compared to the first two films,are more subdued and subtle.If the abusive hinterland lingo in Omkaraor the Urdu infused dialogues in Maqbool,took centrestage in the writing, it is a marvel that there is more of poetry which flows like Kashmir’s river,Jhelum,in the third of the trilogy.
The gentle language and the deceptively mild tone of the film offset the volatile backdrop of the story: Kashmir in 1995.Haider is a student in Aligarh, born to a Kashmir based doctor who loves poetry.He comes to Kashmir in search of his father who mysteriously disappears after the army capture him. When he sees his mother, Ghazala (Tabu, Gertrude) singing and laughing with his father’s brother (Kay Kay Menon, Claudius), he sets off, tormented, alone to find his father. His childhood girlfriend, Arshia (Shraddha Kapoor, Ophelia) who keeps a diary of poems he has written to her,is his only support.However,her father
and brother oppose their liaison.
There are so many strong threads running through the basic Hamlet plot and Kashmir’s history that the weaving at times leaves a few holes.So we see Hamlet’s initial broodiness transform into a level of madness in Haider who starts looking the part with his shaved head, clownish headgear, enigmatic mannerisms and weird antics.Kashmir’s inherent issues come forth in his mad speeches. The best use of the line “to be or not to be’ is seen in a larger political context.Haider and other Kashmiris including “half widows” stand in protest against the militancy, waiting to hear about their missing relatives. The slogan cry is , “hum hai ke hum nahin”.
However,the Kashmiri issue ends up as too light a backdrop as Haider’s complicated relationship with his mother (integral to Hamlet) takes over the entire plot.While this is used brilliantly to change Hamlet’s ending,it would have been really powerful, had the message sent out finally,been built up throughout the screenplay.
Bhardwaj’s casting as usual is impeccable and each actor slips into their Kashmiri skin and most complicated minds seen on screen.Tabu reigns like a queen of cinema,a scale of emotions mapping her intense face and wrapping you into her complex and contradicting world of deceit and loyalty.There is immense sensitivity and poignancy in the way she and Shahid become a couple and a mother and son at once.The sexual tension between the two somehow easily moves into a painful,unabiding protective love of a mother and son, made most poignant in a particular telephone scene between the two.
Shahid Kapoor essays the mad and the sane Hamlet, the jealous and possessive son and vulnerable lover,with unaffected and controlled ease.Shraddha more than matches him and Tabu in their histrionics and delivers a remarkably real performance as the innocent Kashmiri girl willing to do anything for love.Her Arshia is far more winsome than Hamlet’s Ophelia.
Both Kay Kay Menon and his characterization disappoints as he is made more human than needed. Irrfan Khan as Roohdar (King Hamlet partly)is an interesting adaptation to the original and in keeping with the Kashmiri backdrop. He stays almost as invisible as ‘rooh’ or Hamlet’s ghost with his unassuming performance.A brief appearance with Tabu in the same frame is deeply reminiscent of the magnificent pair they makeon screen.
Bhardwaj’s music, Gulzar’s lyrics and Rekha Bhardwaj’s melodious voice well timed in the end, complete this timeless tragedy.
Haider is a riveting watch at best. “Main rahoon ke main nahin” will sit heavy on the heart for a while.

Friday, 19 September 2014


There is a scene in Daawat-e-Ishq when the tapori 12th fail restaurant owner and wannabe groom, Tariq (Aditya Roy Kapur) walks into a five star hotel suite with a plate of Lucknowi seekh kebabs. The occupants, father (Anupam Kher) and the bride-to-be daughter, Sanya alias Gulrez (Parineeti Chopra), have been conducting interviews with prospective grooms. Sanya launches a tirade of angry protests against Tariq and picks up the phone to call the security. Tariq simply holds out a plate of the luscious kebabs in front of her. A long minute of silence follows as she picks up one and continues to take a bite after another bite of the Lucknowi delicacy.
This is Tariq’s power of ‘ishq’ in all its culinary glory.
A few scenes before this wondrous moment, Gulrez has just kicked out her last prospective groom and his family from her table. “Bloody vegetarian,” she screams as she denies them the burgers and cold drinks she and her father have just paid for. The family and the “English speaking” groom with American accent, had thrown the last straw in the dowry demand line up. They wanted the high court clerk and his shoe salesgirl daughter to pay up Rs 80 lakh in order to get her hitched.
The film opens well, in a middle class Hyderabad house. Booji (Anupam) leads a family up a few flight of stairs to his house. The first word the guest utters is, “kitna?” Booji earnestly tells them he can pay them Rs15 lakh as dowry for his daughter, Gullu. At some point, the guests leave or rather are thrown out by Gullu. No, not because she has any objection to her dad paying his life’s earnings but because the unsuitable boy cannot speak English. She is after all, a topper in her school. Besides, she is fairly independent, works as a sales girl at a footwear shop, rides a scooter and drops her father daily to work after he cooks and packs her dabba. Her dream is to have her own shoe design label in New York.
Gullu, after several humiliating experiences, decides to end the dowry drama by turning the tables and coming up with a plan. She ropes in her partner-in- crime, her reluctant father. An interesting con game begins in Lucknow but ends faster than you can say biryani. A beautifully choreographed title song at interval point promises a lot but fails to deliver in the second half. Quick, easy resolving of the story does not leave any room for conflict. This could have been an intense dowry cum love story flavoured with Hyderabadi and Lucknowi spices but ends up as neither.
Feisty female characters and funny lines are his forte and writer/director Habib Faisal (with story co-writer, Jyoti Kapoor) does not disappoint in that area, after Ishaqzaade. However, his major weakness of faltering in the second half of the screenplay, remains.
Both Aditya and Parineeti serve their best but dish out more fun than chemistry. A rushed up climax renders the duo forgettable by the time you leave the theatre.
Anupam Kher’s performance as a desperate and loving father helps in keeping one engaged and amused throughout.
Daawat-e-Ishq is like the kebab that melts at first bite but lacks enough meat. Good enough to taste. But not enough to raise a toast.


He thinks she is ‘aafat’. She thinks he is ‘khadoos’. That’s the starting point. The thinking continues. He thinks. She thinks. In voiceovers. They say the opposite. It doesn’t take much for them to have second thoughts. The hormones play Cupid. The oldest trick in Hindi movies is used here. She falls into his arms while reaching out for a book. (How original). Not that either of them read much.
One (Mili, Sonam Kapoor) is a physiotherapist, which is supposed to explain why only her upward pointing legs are seen on screen, more than once. The other is Prince Vikram Singh Rathore (Fawad Khan) who is too busy doing ‘business’. But since Shashank Ghosh’s Khoobsurat is a love story where sparks are supposed to fly between opposites, the two don’t care what they really think of each other. When the voiceover thoughts wear out their comic value (yes, there is some), the loud half Punju, thoughtless Mili blurts out to the silent, thoughtful handsome Prince, “mujhe gande khayal aa rahein hain.”
Would Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s vivacious Rekha have ever said this to the mild mannered Rakesh Roshan in the original Khoobsurat? A flutter of her lashes would have done the needful. Romance in those days didn’t boil down to mere attraction. Hormonal rush was created to heighten the moment. You could hear their hearts beating just by the virtue of the unspoken.
Any good love story makes you root for the lovers when the story gives meaning to that thing called love. In this case, it seems to be—opposites can attract and love can override the differences. But then the originalKhoobsurat wasn’t just a romance between two people. It was about a home which runs on rules and how a happy-go-lucky girl brings, love, joy and laughter to the entire family, including the hero. The memorable parts in the film were between this young lively girl (Rekha) and the iron lady of the house (Dina Pathak),which worked their beautiful magic.
Disney produced, Ghosh’s Khoobsurat is totally devoid of any subtlety either in character or presentation. A glossy presentation, grand Rajasthani locales displaying royal palatial surroundings and good looking actors, particularly our Pakistani hero playing a Rajput prince, do succeed in blinding you with the glitter, momentarily. But not long enough.
Every character is a caricature and every scene is a safe cliché. Rani-Sa (Ratna Pathak) in a blunt cut wig with perfect greys, silk sarees, huge pearls; is more of a stereotype royal snob running a palace. Dina Pathak’s strict matriarch act was a far more superior portrayal of a household run by rules and more rules. So when Rekha and the rest of the family sang, “saare niyam tod do, niyam pe chalna chod do..”, it resonated and felt liberating. But when Sonam shakes her hips (she does dance well here) to lyrics like “maaro bum dole” or “bum mein dum hai”, it is anything but liberating.
When Mili is not romping around and dropping things, she is known to have helped the likes of Dhoni and Sehwag on the cricket fields. Her sports therapy is soon forgotten once she sets foot inside the royal place.
So we see Mili drinking wine and more wine, straight from the bottle. She drinks with the wheel chair ridden king whom she has come to treat. She drinks with the prince and keeps thinking how handsome he is. So do we. She drinks some more with another king who is the prince’s business rival. While wine and champagne flow easy, conversations between Mili and Vicku (she calls him that, yes) are limited to shopping and silver.
Rest of the time, she flashes toothpaste, sugar and honey coated smiles and he looks at her long bare legs. “Taad rahe ho?”she reacts. She shares every detail with her louder counterpart, her mom whom she calls Manju (Kirron Kher). The two skype about the handsome prince who happens to be engaged, by the way. The fiancé (Aditi Rao) appears like an afterthought.
So while Manju and her daughter together wreck havoc in the boring household, little attention is paid to the real story of the disciplinarian royal mom. Ratna Pathak Shah does not go beyond a lift of the chin or the shoulders. Her husband (Aamir Raza) is a tad more fun to watch. Fawad who is outstanding in Pakistani serial, Zindagi Gulzar Hai, does little other than looking suitably dashing. It’s a Sonam Kapoor film all the way. Dressed in tight colorful pants, she prances around mostly and charms and engages though not convincingly enough to surpass her previous performances.
The original Khoobsurat remains like old wine, cherished more than ever. As for the remake, it’s bubbly and frothy. The high doesn’t last beyond the interval.