Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Monday, 27 April 2015

Haryanvi Scarlet Witch and Ultron's 'computari dimaag': Introducing Avengers 2: Kalyug ka Mahayuddh

(This article has first published on
The real hero in Joss Whedon’s dazzling, blue and golden, geometric spectacle of multiple Marvel superheroes, is a smooth, human voice that's silky with deadly, almost friendly menace. He's Ultron, a “computari dimag” or artificial intelligence, created by Tony Stark and now determined to wipe out the human race. Not that he matches the more expressive and dangerously sexy Loki from The Avengers, but the very purpose that defines the villain in the sequel is James Spader’s voice as Ultron.
Match Ultron's insidious evil with Spader’s voice. You're allowed to shiver. Now imagine it in an Indian Bigg Boss-like voice, speaking in Hindi and you witness a destruction of a different and more devastating kind than what Ultron has planned in the Avengers’ universe. Hopefully, when the next Avengers comes along, there will be more invested into the translation and the dubbing. Right now, in Avengers 2: Kalyug ka Mahayuddh, the Hindi dub just means death: by hammer, tongs, shield, arrow and voice.
When Ultron chants, "Nahin hai ab koi dori..main azaad hoon...", it’s a direct translation of the words to the song that is his anthem in the English version (”I've got no strings to hold me down/ to make me fret, or make me frown/ I had strings, but now I'm free/ There are no strings on me”). You might want to react with something stronger than a frown. Maybe something like making a bonfire out of your favourite comic books in protest.
The lines in the Hindi version of Age of Ultron are legendary, for all the wrong reasons. How is anyone supposed to react with anything other than laughter if a villain rasps, “Khoon ke aasoo rulaonga”That’s not all. In Kalyug ka Mahayuddh, you see and hear not just the death of the master villain’s voice, but also that of every Avenger. Lines like Thor’s “Nikal gayi hekdi” and Black Widow’s “Raita tum phailao aur saaf karun main?" are either unintentionally funny or funnier than Whedon intended because of how awkward they sound.
Add to this, the twins - Quicksilver (Aaron Taylor-Johnson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) - who are from the fictional central European country of Sokovia and have a strong Slavic accent in the English original. In Hindi, they get a Haryanvi accent and lines like, “Man-ne na dekhni tasvir…”.
Wonder what Haryana would make of that. Randeep Hooda may want to throw some light here. And some thunder too.
If you’re watching Kalyug ka Mahayuddh for its comedic value, then the film is a party (or “jeet ka jashn” as they call it). Bury your reservations and resign yourself to watching the sexy Black Widow look as seductive as hell in her black, skintight outfit while sounding like a schoolgirl. And saying things like “Tum harey mat ho jaana”, to Bruce Banner. (That's Hindi for "Don't turn green.") No matter how perfect the pout, when “Hi, big guy” becomes ”Hi, pehelwaan”, it just doesn’t sound flirtatious.
With sentiments like, “gussa tez hai par andar se mom (wax)” from Black Widow, the romance between her and Bruce Banner falls spectacularly apart, crashing like entire cities in the film. Even the wordless scenes, like when Black Widow puts her tiny hand in the Hulk’s giant green paw, suffer terribly.
The good part is that the target audience in single screens theatre appears to be enjoying exactly the same jokes as those watching the original English version. At the Avengers’ jeet ka jashn, Stark says that if he rules Asgard, he’ll be “reinstituting prima nocta” in the English original. In Hindi, Stark says, “Sau raaniyan rakhoonga”. Regardless of language, everyone laughs.
The Hindi-dubbed version does have one big advantage. Every silent scene with its stunning visual effects is made more effective as you shift your focus from the audio to what you see before you. All you care about is that the Avengers are back, slimmer and sexier. They don’t just fight and save the earth. They also party, drink, play games, learn ballet, fail, get wounded, cry and fall in love.
Honing in on the film’s impressive visuals, you can appreciate the special attention paid to the choreography of fights; details like the grand finale in which a circular camera motion showcases the ultimate war dance of the Avengers. Whedon is not satisfied with superheroes flying and entire cities crumbling. We also see how he visualises energy and artificial intelligence: shining lines of light that circle and flare, and look hypnotic.
Of course, aside from the sublime, there’s also the ridiculous. Like Iron Man pounding the Hulk after a long chase, and yelling, “So jaa, chal so jaa!” The audience is wide-awake, laughing. It may not be sophisticated, but it certainly is paisa wasool. Especially at 120 bucks, in a single screen.

Thursday, 16 April 2015


Margarita is an intoxicating cocktail made of tequila with orange and lemon flavor. It can be served in any traditional Margarita glass or a wine glass. But when served with special straw to a charming and naughty 19 year old, Laila, it can be heady and fun but far from perfect.
Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is 19, ready to fall in love and get laid. When curious, she drags her best pal, to a college classroom and kisses him. When horny, she logs on to a porn site and pleasures herself. At a shop, she naughtily asks for a vibrator and laughs when the shopkeeper frantically talks about cellphones. Attracted to a hot Assamese singer, she experiences her first heartbreak.
Both Laila and we don’t care within the first 15 minutes of Margarita With a Straw, that she is not “normal”. Laila is not just another adolescent on the threshold of love and sex. She is a wheelchair bound girl with Cerebral Palsy. When reminded of her condition in a pitiful manner at college competition, she simply shows the teacher her middle finger.
That’s exactly what the film attempts, in effect. It challenges the Indian conditioned thinking in a subject matter that most films shy away from; that of exploring one’s sexuality.
The story reaches this point when Laila goes to New York to pursue a scholarship in music and falls in love with a blind Pakistani girl, Khanum. Laila has her first drink on her first date: Margarita. When Khanum moves sensually with the music and dances with wheelchair bound Laila, it certainly becomes a dream date to remember, albeit cliched.
More so, when the two make love the first time. The scene is not just limited to a tender kiss. And that is a first for the Indian censor board itself. The writer, director, co producer, Shonali Bose (her first film was Amu), along with her co-writer-director, Nilesh Maniyar take this beyond a single lovemaking scene. This time, Laila’s lover is a cute English guy (William Moseley). The execution on camera, is simply bold and beautiful.
So far, so good. The scenes are short and sweet. The story is centered on Laila exploring her sexuality. Until the one and only conflict, comes along: her mother’s (Revathy) acceptance.
Laila’s mother has been introduced all along as a feisty Marathi lady who drops her Sikh husband to work and Laila to college every day, in a huge van. She bathes Laila and combs her hair into a neat ponytail and irritates her now and then by breaking into her privacy.
But when it comes to this first and strangely, only conflict in the plot, it gets resolved too easily. In fact, Laila seems to get everything she wants -- faster than Cinderella with wings.
The events move as smoothly as the wheels of her chair. The director attempts not to make a big deal of Laila’s challenges of being handicapped. Small scenes of her getting stuck without a lift in India or in snow in New York, thankfully don’t create unnecessary melodrama. Even when Laila falls (twice), it’s in sheer joy. But this tendency to show Laila’s life like any other, gets overdone to such an extent that everything ends up as more than a bisexual, multiple cakewalk rather than a journey.
Another development concerning the mother, completely digresses from the story and ends up as an easy cop out, eventually. We never really get to know Laila’s lover, Khanum. Who is she, other than blind and gay? Why would Laila fall for her? For a script, honed at a prestigious Sundance Lab, these are glaring loopholes in a very simplistic plot.
Kalki brings in a lovely, fresh approach with a very endearing open-mouthed smile and a brilliant speech default delivery, but occasionally drops the character and look, especially in silent scenes. Revathy as the mother easily shocked by her daughter, is understated and a delight. Kuljit Singh as the Sikh father matches Revathy’s intensity. Sayani Gupta as a gay lover, is convincing within her limited role. It helps that she is a stunner with a seductive voice.
For its very originality and brave attempt, Margarita With a Straw is as sweet and seductive as the drink. Cheers to the coming of sexuality age stories.
It’s a happy hour in Indian cinema.


Taarikh pe taarikh aur taarikh pe taarikh…”
 If you have notions of courtroom proceedings which sound like Sunny Deol screaming these lines and arguing a case with insane hysterics and flourish, then quickly head for a realistic yet more entertaining courtroom drama presented with a mere stationary camera and a liberal dose of vernacular humour.
The multilingual film, (English, Hindi, Gujarati, primarily in Marathi) Court, has made history before its debut in Indian theatres. The film has won 18 awards across festivals including a recent National Film award in India.
27-year-old Chaitanya Tamhane’s debut marks the success of Independent filmmaking. Tamhane started his career with a television serial for Balaji Telefilms and moved on to documentary and a short film before making Court.
The film comes at a relevant time when there has been much debate over Marathi cinema getting prime time screening. No doubt, there has been a spate of best films emerging from here, namely; Shwaas, Harishchandrachi Factory and Fandry.
Court revolves around a song, which is supposed to have driven someone not up the wall but down the manhole. The  Marathi lyrics are loosely translated thus….. “Manhole workers, we should all commit suicide by suffocating inside the gutters.”
65 year old Dalit folk singer and activist, Narayan Kamble (Vira Sathidar, excellent), is arrested all of a sudden after a stage performance in a local Mumbai suburb. Through a lengthy charge in English, read out in a flat tone and heavy Marathi accent, by a public prosecutor  (Geetanjali Kulkarni); we come to know the details. In a very matter of fact tone, it’s suggested that Kamble has incited a sewerage worker to commit suicide through his inflammatory song.
Kamble’s defence lawyer, Vinay Vora (Vivek Gomber, theatre actor and producer) seems to be the only regular English speaking man who sees the bizarreness of it all.
The judge, Sadavarte (Pradeep Joshi), calmly presides amidst dusty old files, in the Lower Court and dictates his conclusions every time to his secretary who types it out on a huge, dated desktop. The proceedings are slower than a passenger train. Kulkarni and Vora speak in turns, without much argument with each other. Witnesses are brought in over weeks and months. The judge gently reprimands a cop for not doing his job. It is understood and accepted that the negligence adds to many months of the accused’s life in jail.
No one questions and no one cares.
The film captures this complacency and the misuse of obsolete laws, with remarkable objectivity. There is only one quiet, emotional scene. Vora sits on the edge of his bed, dressed in a banyan. We just see his back tremble and hear him sob in frustration after a particular, humiliating incident. The cause is more absurd than the charges laid on Kamble.
As the personal lives of all three-the judge, the lawyer and the prosecutors, unfold; the case gets more ridiculous than ever. There are observations regarding the judiciary’s archaic systems, which make a huge comment. In one instance, a lady is not allowed inside the witness box on the grounds of not being “modest” and sober” as she is wearing a sleeveless top.
The scenes outside the courtroom, include extremely natural, daily conversations  which keep the tone light, yet add depth. There is gradual revelation of amazing facts, one of which includes a cockroach in a gutter.
Every scene is shot in the same manner: long, stationary one takes and wide angle frames. A great production design adds wonderful texture to locales used. Mostly, there are non-actors who look and behave the part. One of them is Usha Bane, who plays the dead sewer’s wife. She is believed to have  suffered the same in real life.
This film could easily be mistaken for a documentary.
The director takes his own time to begin and end every scene. Even the fade-outs last more than a few seconds. This leisurely pace makes you get into the deceptively mundane mood of the prime location and subject: the courtroom.
When Court ends, the last shot is perfect in its irrelevance. And that’s a scary and powerful ‘wake-up” call. All over a song.

Thursday, 9 April 2015


(This has first published on

Sing along with me. Twinkle twinkle little star… . Because none of you have reached director Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s IQ level, every exposition in his Hollywood debut, Broken Horses, is overtly laid out.
For example, the film title, Broken Horses, explains the genre. It's about two brothers, set in cowboy land. One is a gun-toting Buddy (Chris Marquette, straight hair) and the other, a violin-playing Jakey (Anton Yelchin, nice curls).
As a child, Buddy naively believes the first lie told by the drug lord Hench (Vincent D’Onofrio), regarding the murder of Buddy and Jake's Sheriff father. Buddy shoots the “killer” and joins Hench’s gang. Younger brother, Jakey is packed off to study music in New York. Years later, Jakey comes back for his wedding. Seeing the two together, Hench suspects he will lose Buddy. So, naturally, he decides to have Jakey killed.
You can take a boy out of Bollywood, but you can’t take Bollywood out of him.
Sometimes, though not often, Chopra opts for subtlety in Broken Horses. For instance, Hench recoils in horror at the sight of a candle flame. A faint background tune — “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” — hints at a past memory and a present fear of fire.
In 1989, Hench's character was brown and introduced to us as Anna (Nana Patekar) in Chopra’s award-winning, Parinda. It won two National awards, five Filmfare awards and was India’s official entry for the 1990 Oscars. But these Americans, they did not see the smart director in Chopra. They only noticed Shekhar Kapur.
Parinda was well-crafted, slickly-written and brilliantly executed. Yes, there were similarities to the 1954 film, On The Waterfront, but the phobic Anna was distinctive and simply volcanic. For some reason, Chopra decided to tone down the fire in Broken Horses and let go of the symbolic pigeons of Parinda. (Kabutar ja ja ja… .)
So, in Broken Horses, Hench is understated. This time, the hero, Buddy, lights a cigar for Hench and Hench simply turns his back. But Chopra has set it up so obviously that even kindergarten kids know what’s coming next.
It turns out, Vincent D’Onofrio is no Nana Patekar. He just goes along with the moves.
One suspects Chopra thinks we are like Buddy. Poor fellow always mixed up his b’s and d’s and spelt his name as Dubby. To underscore this point and make an exhibition of his limited acting skills, Marquette does not move beyond a single, vacuous expression.
But hold your horses, broken as they may be. This film isn’t exactly Parinda. Chopra has actually eliminated all that was great about Parinda in order to be Hollywood-worthy, including the tender, lovemaking finale between Anil Kapoor and Madhuri Dixit. No Hindi film has ever matched the utter pathos of that explosive climax.
Broken Horses does not get into ’80s’ melodrama — except every time Buddy talks in that unconvincing, thick accent; except in that age-old brothers’ theme; except in the plot.
Chopra seems to have a thing for Westerns and so, he tries to try to do a Clint Eastwood by setting his film on the Mexican border, in a ranch, at a vague time period defined as “15 years before” (before what?) and move gradually into the future.
The script is by Chopra and Abhijat Joshi, who may be making an English film set in the West but don’t believe in getting an American co-writer. Who cares if the dialogues sound flat and on the nose? As for horses, a single white ‘unbroken’ horse does make an appearance towards the end. Jakey’s sweet girlfriend (Maria Valverde) gets to ride the beauty. She is half dressed in a shirt, at the time. Not quite Lady Godiva, but hey.
Emmy nominated Mary Vogt did the costumes and manages to ensure none of the characters look dusty, weathered or sun-burnt. So what if they live and work on a ranch. Art director, Christopher Tandon, has previously worked on the Kill Bill films.The lakeside ranch itself looks more like a Disney version of a ranch — pretty but like a fairy-tale setting, which isn't what you expect in a cowboy Western.
Broken Horses also boasts of having Oscar-nominated cinematographer, Tom Stern, who shot Changeling and Million Dollar Baby among others. Stern takes some fine shots of the Mexican landscape. A particular stunning one shows whirling film reels during a murder sequence.
The publicity for the film has included gushing praise from big, Hollywood names. Director James Cameron said, “The film just wraps around you like a snake that squeezes.” Maybe we should send all the Bollywood variations of Nagin to him. It may help Cameron to appreciate the power of song, dance and music in Indian cinema.
If not anything else, Cameron should hear R D Burman’s “Pyaar ke mod pe” from Parinda.
(This writer has decided to rewatch the cult classic Parinda and Khamosh to regain her faith in Chopra. She is opting to forget Eklavya.)

Friday, 3 April 2015


       (This article first appeared in

His introduction is not very impressive. His voice is heard: cut and dry. He is seen eventually over some carom moves. A side parting, a neat moustache, a dull orange sweater jacket over a white dhoti and kurta are enough to make Sushant Singh Rajput look like an ordinary Bengali in early 1940s. So ordinary that he even gets knocked down in the first scene. It’s quite a challenge then that he has to live up to a not so ordinary background of his famous character seen last on television in 1993.
Sushant never quite becomes the legendary Byomkesh Bakshy as created by novelist, Sharadindu Bandyopadhyay in the thirties. While Bandyopadhyay’s Bakshy is as Bengali as a Roy or Dutta phraam a Kolkota phamilee in the original stories, director, Dibakar Banerjee’s Bakshy could belong anywhere. In fact, he quickly switches from the uncaring carom playing, jobless guy to an extremely emotional detective who yells at a household help in a particularly weak moment. However, one significant aspect  from the past, remains consistent. That is, Bakshy’s cigarette.
Unlike a Sherlock Holmes or a Poirot, there are other things about the film beyond the detective, which fascinate and keep you hooked. First and foremost, Banerjee and his set designer, Vandana Kataria, create a convincing and an eerily beautiful dark world of the 40’s Calcutta. Local trams and vintage cars transport us instantly into the interiors of the crowded city. The gradual, unfolding of the case to be solved, is  as intriguing it should be, in this genre. The plot weaves itself into your mind, like a creeper that keeps branching into new and unseen directions. Halfway into the film, there are so many deliberate traps that you lose count of the ones you fall into, along with near hysterical Bakshy.
Bakshy is hired by Ajit to look for his missing father. A nice comic relationship develops between the two as Bakshy's conclusions regarding Ajit’s father being a dubious guy, keeps changing. Bakshy takes up a room in a lodge where the father had stayed. Dr Anukul Guha (Neeraj Kabi—scene stealer) who runs the lodge, along with the other inmates, is quite helpful. A box of paan (perfect Bengal device) leads to the sensuous and mysterious singer, Angoori (Swastika Mukherjee, exquisite).
The lighting gets dimmer, the Kolkata bylanes get murkier and smokier. The noir look, lit to perfection by cinematographer, Nikos Andritsakis, is heightened by a particular background score that accompanies Bakshy’s walk upto a bathtub with the exquisitely made up siren Angoori, covered with soap bubbles. A cigarette exchange between the two makes it complete.
The thick Kolkata air of mystery gets filled with moments of violent drama. A death sequence featuring a man’s legs flapping around helplessly, evoke the sense of deeper trouble looming in lamp lit rooms. Wall paints suggesting blood splatter, take on more meanings.
A simple murder mystery takes up a larger and somewhat unconvincing  dramatic proportions, adding touches of Japan and China  amidst a drug deal. As more and more subplots, guns and even daggers make their way into the story, Bakshy and we are trapped in one confused web.
When suspense unfolds halfway, it’s great but when it comes in the end, it does not hold much surprise. Yet, the unforgettable performance by the villain of the crime piece and a slow motion shootout makes it a gratifying climax.
Dibakar Banerjee, known for his eye for detail, right from Oye Lucky days, does not disappoint. His best work, till date, has been a short film based on a Satyajit Ray story in Bombay Talkies. Dibakar’s foray into mainstream cinema with Yashraj Productions, is a huge step towards more original filmmaking.
Sushant Singh Rajput, made popular after Kai Po Che, is much like the shadows in the film: sometimes steady and earnest, sometimes not.
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is a well stylized Noir that gets stretched into unbelievable dark corners of Bollywood.  Worth the thrill.