Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Friday, 27 March 2015


 Once upon a time, an innocent, wide eyed, tall and lissome, really pretty girl with dimples that would melt the hardest of hearts; appeared on the silver screen opposite the biggest film star, Shah Rukh Khan, in a whopping double role. When she enacted the spoof, “Ek chutki sindoor..”in OM Shanti Om, with great gusto and confidence, it was enough to establish Deepika Padukone as an upcoming Bollywood star.

Last year, during India Today Conclave 2014,she inspired her fans with a discussion on her success. No one knew that she had just sat alone and had cried for no apparent reason.

Few days back, when the 29 year old superstar’s dimpled cheeks were wet with painful tears, on National Television, it was more touching and frighteningly more real than Julia Roberts saying to Hugh Grant in Nottin’ Hill,”I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

Deepika confessed, “The scariest thing for me was trying to find out where this was coming from, it was this heaviness… this burden I was carrying. Every minute was exhausting.”

The young star was just a girl asking to be understood by a nation who easily judges and sweeps everything ‘shameful’ under the carpet. She was asking, not for herself, but for the alleged 36 percent of Indian population who suffers from depression. She was there to face the huge bias against mental illness and tear down the tag of the unspeakable and simply encourage people to seek help like they would for any physical ailment. Her support came from her mother, Ujjala Padukone, and her doctors, Dr Shyam Bhatt and Dr Anna Chandy, who accompanied her to talk about depression.

Calling it a brave move would be an understatement. A one hour interview with Barkha Dutt known to prod into uncomfortable emotions during Mumbai’s 26.11 days, by itself may have been a coup for a news channel riding on TRPs based on a huge film star’s tears. But, Deepika and her mother did not lose sight of their larger goal of reaching out to those in distress.

When Deepika said she had “been to hell and back”, she was not being dramatic. She was courageous enough to allow herself to be vulnerable in front of the new cameras, her fans, a cruel industry waiting to pounce on any sign of weakness and the more intimidating and not so tactful host.

Ms Dutt wasted no time in getting Deepika to talk about her star value and image getting affected by her decision to talk about her bout of depression. But Deepika, through her teary eyes and charming smile, stayed undeterred and kept her slim shoulders square and strong.

She quietly brought the focus back to the subject of mental illness, the need to discuss it, the need to face it, the need to reach out, the need to build a support system and the help available at the doctor’s doorstep.

Some of the most valuable things she said were:

“This interview is not about me, it’s about people going through depression, it’s about families trying to deal with this ailment.”

“If someone is breaking down repeatedly, don’t say they’re doing it for attention. There’s a huge difference between being sad and being depressed.”

“Depression is a lonely, isolated condition where no one can talk about in the family – if this stigma will remain, we will soon have an epidemic”.

To help remove this stigma, misplaced prejudice and shame attached to mental illness, Deepika has launched Live, Laugh, Love Foundation to create awareness and save lives.

Through the best and the most honest interview - a first of its kind in Indian media, Deepika has turned around her pain to bring back smiles as cheery as her dimples. And that is a matter of great pride for all of us.

A true star is born.

Friday, 20 March 2015


He’s her first lover post her first marriage; she tells him earnestly. Her big, beautiful 50 or 60 plus eyes couldn’t be more virginal and innocent. He smiles, ever so slightly, with a hint of a dimpled crease. Gently, he tells her, she is not his first after his ex wife but she is definitely the last one.
When silver haired, Hollywood heartthrob, Richard Gere and the talented and attractive Indian actor in a glittering orange and gold sari, Lilette Dubey, confess their feelings for each other, it would put even the most Victorian clichéd love story to shame. It might even be funny if it wasn’t for the underlying theme of deep compassion for love, loss, and loneliness in old age that runs through the overcrowded The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel.
Plenty of subplots include an eclectic ensemble cast of Judy Dench, Maggie Smith, Bill Nighy, Celia Imrie and Penelope Wilton amongst many more. Their practiced performances and even more predictable story lines refuse to deter the director, John Madden from over killing the cliché.
Yet, the film is surprisingly as irrepressibly sweet as its young protagonist, Sonny (Dev Patel of Slumdog Millionaire fame). It is replete with clichés, scene after scene and yet, there is sufficient charm and meaning that leaves your heart as warm as home baked bread. Or hot daal baati, if you please. After all, this is a Hollywood film sequel, set in Rajasthan with an Indian, Sonny, as the central character.
Sonny is a young, sprightly, over enthusiastic lad who speaks in the most embarrassingly exaggerated Indian English and constantly oversells his hotel and hospitality, which is anything but exotic.“Why die here (abroad), when you can die there (his hotel)?” he tactlessly pitches. As the original title goes, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel(based on a book by Deborah Moggach), he runs the best place in town. Or so, he along with his aging and salty tongued co manager, (the delightful Maggie Smith) want an American hotel funding agency to believe, in the sequel.
The hotel does have its USP. It provides a second home to British pensioners so old that young Sonny takes a roll call every morning to check if they are alive. Age has been accepted and even turned into a joke at times.
In the midst of the reigning chaos in each hotel resident’s life, an American writer, Guy Chambers (Richard Gere) arrives. Sonny suspects him to be an undercover hotel Inspector and tries to impress him. Guy in turn wants to woo Sonny’s mom(Lillete). To top it all, there is also Sonny’s own upcoming wedding. The great Indian wedding, complete with sangeet et al, is loosely used to structure the rather lengthy screenplay. No complains, though. It provides a welcome break in the form of our own Bollywood song and dance routine with songs like “Jhoom barabar jhoom” and “Yeh ishq haaye” replayed with unabashed flourish.
Downton Abbey fans may be delighted to see both Smith and Penelope Wilton appear in absolutely contrasting roles from that of the series. Wilton, especially turns a small scene into a memorable one by displaying deep vulnerability in her otherwise unpopular character as a bitter wife.
With the script as crammed as a heavy Rajasthani thaali, there is no choice but to sit back and enjoy the finer moments of engaging exchanges amongst the British characters played Smith and Dench. Like the following:
“How was America?
“It made death more tempting.”


(This article first appeared in
Shobha, a simple, “round faced, light haired” young girl, has just checked into a hotel room, with the help of a stranger she met at an airport. She thanks him and waits for him to leave. Instead he looks around for a coffee maker. Politely, she asks him if he wants coffee. He nods and she promptly orders a coffee for him as room service. While she does so, she sits sideways on the bed and leans towards the phone. The camera follows her T-shirt pulled slightly to reveal her well-rounded, track pant clad hips. His eyes are glued to the sight. Unaware of her body movement’s impact of him, she starts massaging her neck. He asks her if he can help. She refuses and turns away as the coffee arrives. The camera is now just on the back of her neck. Suddenly his hand is in the frame. She turns around in surprise. (Please note, she is not shocked or freaked out).
That is the way this average looking guy in a simple shirt, spectacles and a forced goatee, looks at every single woman.
By now you would have thought Shobha would be shocked, freaked out or perhaps as interested in him. But no, she is simply being polite with a strange half smile on her lips.
This is where Hunterrr falters. The writer, director, Harshvardhan Kulkarni (writer of Hansee to Phansi) does a decent job of showing us the making and the trappings of an indecent, lusty man who refuses to wake up from his teenage wet dreams. But there is this utterly ridiculous belief underlying the entire script that any woman is happily game to be the object of lust.
According to Hunterrr, if a man is lusty, the woman is equally horny. There is a “cat call”(meeeow..main aaaoo) thrown in too for good measure.
The “hero”’s (Gulshan Devaiah) name is Mandar. He boastfully claims to be a “vaasu”. Because he can smell what a woman needs; which is pretty much himself. He is so driven by his own…errr… sexual drive that he even tells his fiancé, “Main ch@#u hoon”.
Enough to put any woman off. Or not.
Mandar has a hit list under his perpetually open belt. The scores (“100 not out”) include Babita, Priya, Sushma, Alka, Sheela, Lovely aunty, Savita Bhabhi, Parul and Jyotsna.
The last two figure prominently in his past: his college life in the 90s. Parul (Veera Saxena) is young, buxom, curly haired student, who he jumps onto, literally. Having eyed each other a few times, he spots her one fine day in an auto rickshaw and simply jumps into the moving vehicle. Instead of being alarmed at his impudence, she welcomes it with shocking alacrity. Very soon, she is in his bedroom, allowing him to look for a mole on her chest and navel.
Mandar’s inspiration came early in his growing days when he met Kshitij. Peeing publicly and masturbating  under his sheet were Kshitij’s favourite activities. “Thande thande paani mein garam garam su su” was Kshitij’s idea of fun. Mandar moves on from being disciple to being the sex guru and an expert in “vaasugiri”. His time spent watching C grade films like Hawas ki Rani, gives him the confidence to grow into a full-blown stud.
The screenplay moves endlessly from his present day time with Trupti (Radhika Aapte)-his parents’ arranged match for his marriage, to his past flings that includes a sexy, married woman, Jyotsna (Sai Tamhankar).
With Jyotsna’s entry, the camera and the lusty male gaze take centre stage again. The lens move from a balcony top angle a sari clad Jyotsna, whose fleshy waist and open back in deep neck blouse are Mandar’s feasty obsessions. Full marks to both the actors and the director to enact a heavily bold and a most convincing love making scene on a kitchen platform. The chemistry between the two sizzles and drips with lusty sweat.
However, despite the absolute randy treatment which the subject requires, it is the music and the lyrics which lift the film above a “Hawas ki Rani’ grade and style. Every situation is addressed with perfect words …. “Don’t reject me, I’m a learner” sung by Bappi Lahiri, including a particularly emotional one….. “doodh ki moochon wala”.
At another level, there are efforts to make the film a different audiovisual experience. At one point the sound of crows is elevated to a degree and momentarily gives the film a more serious feel. However, that doesn’t last much and is entirely unnecessary to the theme and the tone.
 As the story takes a more conventional love angle, it tries to cling to its original form by introducing Shobha at the airport and completely loses the plot.
Gulshan Devaiah slips into his rather difficult part of sick, sex crazed guy cured by love, with surprising ease. Amongst the actresses, Veera and Sai stand out with their comfort on screen. Radhika Aapte, who was excellent in Badlapur, is good but not in her best element.
Hunterrr could have been great as a man’s ultimate wet dream and even naughty, but borders on creepy and disgusting. Anything but a turn on.

Thursday, 12 March 2015


Meera (Anushka Sharma) runs on a dark, lone Haryana highway road, in search for help to stay alive, for most part of the film. It’s no ordinary highway either. It’s a 400 km long highway National Highway 10 from Delhi to Pakistan border in Punjab, which crosses Haryana. This perfect location is the best and the scariest character in NH10. A small railway tunnel, the sound of a train rushing by and a long shot of Meera and her injured husband looking tiny and helpless, is particularly noteworthy.
When Meera is not running, she gets the barest of respite  on a bed of gravel and you take a deep breath of relief filled oxygen with her. Moments later, she finds herself climbing up a steep, hard rock to escape four Haryanvi goons pelting stones at her. The strength of sheer desperation pushes her up across and on her feet.
It is the most ironical, hilarious, ridiculous and pathetic sight at once, to watch her singlehandedly throw stones back at the men below her.
A city woman pitted against village goons in a lawless area, on the night of her fateful birthday, makes director Navdeep Singh’s NH10 a rivetting and a relentless watch. Yet, not one can carry back, once out of the theatres.
NH10 adheres to the kind of dark cinema which holds your fascination for the kind of violence the Haryanvi hinterland is capable of but does nothing to make you care. The screenplay is pregnant with strong tension and deep fear of attack and stays so focused on constant buildup that the real baby of emotional connection, gets forgotten.
Axes, iron rods, kicks and slaps that look and feel too real and frightening, are used with a vengeance. At the centre of it all, is Meera who is not spared a few hard kicks, herself. All because she and her husband, Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam)- happened to be witnesses to a gruesome honour killing.
When we first see the yuppie couple (actually we only hear them for a good five minutes while the camera takes us through a stylized drive around Delhi by night) Meera is flirting with her husband. Arjun enjoys the banter but his response is not satisfactory enough for Meera. Neither is his lack of  eventual response, great for the plot that folds ahead, when the two take off from Gurgaon, armed with a gun for safety (because a police officer tells them after an incident of random attack on Meera, “yeh shaher badhta bachcha hai) and a pack of cigarettes (they have the best role).
Their lunch break at a dhaba is interrupted by four goons headed by Darshan Kumar, dragging a young couple to car. When Arjun tries to stop them, he gets a hard resounding slap on his face. The face off turns into a nightmarish road trip ever taken by any urbanite.
The sketchy script does not bother much with Arjun and Meera’s characters and their backdrop, nor does it go into the lives of the law breakers, right till the end. It simply moves from plot point to plot point of instilling more danger. By the time, the end comes, which satisfies the filmy but disrupts the real tone maintained so far, there is not much to connect with or care for.
Anushka Sharma is brave and impressive as a fighter who never quits both as an actor and also as a producer. She literally throws herself out of comfort zones both of the pocket and performance, dressed in one basic but striking costume of a yellow jacket, black pants and red-laced sneakers. Neil Bhoopalam is the weakest link and no match for her. Darshan Kumar as the ruthless killer has a terrific screen presence and is a welcome surprise after his milder role in Mary Kom. Deepti Naval makes an interesting and powerful appearance.
NH10 may not make you care, but does grip you with its taut pace and very relevance of safety issues. Watchable, if only for the three good moments when there is smoking on screen—one briefly romantic in a car, another provocative in a public toilet and the last, most gratifying.
Just like a much-craved long puff.

Sunday, 8 March 2015


 There is a shadow of half a second’s flinch on Mukesh Singh’s otherwise impassive face as the list of the injuries inflicted on Jyoti (Nirbhaya) Singh, are read out to him.

This, after all, is not the now famous rapist’s shame alone. It is India’s shame, which the Government is now so desperate to hide, ban and bury.

Too late. BBC 4 documentary, ”India’s Daughter” on the 2012 Delhi gang rape incident and it’s aftermath, has been seen, thanks to the Internet, by lakhs of people.

If it wasn’t for the ban, the documentary might have been recognized as a very average piece of journalism and filmmaking as it does not go beyond already known specifics.

It starts by revealing the rape victim’s name. Her brave parents are shown not objecting to it either. The mother, Ashadevi, is seen shedding tears of helplessness and the father, Badrinath Singh, valiantly articulate.

Their daughter is recalled as a feisty feminist studying to be a doctor. Her upbringing and a last few hours watching “Life of Pi” before the fateful nightmare on the bus, is juxtaposed against the poverty ridden backdrop of the group of rapists and their drunken evening.

In between a few sound bytes from Leila Seth, Kavita Krishnan, Sheela Dixit, a juvenile rapist’s wife, another rapist’s mother, a couple of investigating officers; the focus stays on Jyoti’s parents, Mukesh Singh’s interview and two defence lawyers: M.L.Sharma and A.P.Singh. Their brazen misogynist blame-the-woman views are as condemnable as the crime itself.
"A woman is like a diamond. If you leave her on the street, the dogs will come and take her," says Sharma.

"We have the best culture. In our culture, there is no place for a woman. “He adds.

"The death penalty will make things even more dangerous for girls. Now when they rape, they won't leave the girl like we did. They will kill her." Threatens the rapist, Mukesh Singh.

These kinds of regressive views, which reflect the mindset of Indian society at large, are nothing new. If the idea of the documentary was to get into the mind of a criminal, all it does is repel and admittedly reaffirm how scary and unsafe this country is becoming for the Indian woman.

Does it propel some kind of a momentum for change and rebellion? No. Instead, the film ends with visuals of Ashadevi’s teary face and a burning pyre and Jyoti’s father philosophizing the value of the word “jyoti”.

The documentary could easily have highlighted the huge protest wave in Delhi; something it recapsules quickly in the beginning. A wider perspective that also reflects the political and social milieu, gender inequality and the rise of new wave feminist voice in India, would have given a more rounded version to the story of Jyoti Singh.

What the documentary has achieved instead, is the following:

-The maker, Leslee Udwin, has fled the country post the ban and parliament furore.

_BBC has garnered great eyeballs.

_The film will premier in the U.S and will be attended by Meryl Streep and Frieda Pinto, global ambassadors of “Because I am a girl” campaign.

-Bollywood personalities like Kirron Kher and Jaya Bachchan got a chance to display their histrionics.

-The Government has chosen to be an Ostrich by banning the film in India. This is the most dangerous stance, as it will only harm both the country’s rape situation and its worldwide image.

-TV channels like Times Now and NDTV have a field day with opposing views and debate dramatics.

-Unnecessary controversy regarding the rapist getting fame, and prison rules have taken centre stage.The more important matter of violence against women and the Government stand and action, have got sidelined.

Meanwhile, Jyoti Singh’s parents will slowly fade away in their tragedy. 

People like A.P.Singh and there are many, will continue to blame a pair of jeans and the woman within. 

Everything except the rapist. And that is India’s shame.