Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Thursday, 21 May 2015


(This first published on
Four years ago in Tanu Weds Manu, Tanu won your heart over with her bad girl image and drinking and schmoozing ways. This year Datto will vie as much for your heart with her endearing tomboy innocence, Haryanvi accent and her smashing knockouts handed to anyone who dares misbehave. It’s a tough competition between Tanu and Datto. Or Kangana vs Kangana. How on earth will second time groom, Manu (Madhavan) choose? Plus there is the gun happy, sexy ex boyfriend, Raja Awashti (Deliciously rakish Jimmy Shergill). To top that, there is a new admirer, Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) smitten with Tanu-the best part of the sequel - Tanu Weds Manu Returns.
It’s all crazy and complicated. So is the impossibly contrived, over the top plot with some good scenes and dialogues which play high and fast to the gallery.
Director Anand Rai, along with a writer, extremely gifted with wit and humour - Himanshu Sharma are experts at creating characters madly and hopelessly in love. Raanjhanaa had Dhanush ,the deewana of Benaras happy to die in Sonam’s arms. Now, in TWMR, there are several of the loony in love characters.
The most dramatic, of course is Tanu. She is seen, a long jacket wrapped around her slim frame, roaming the streets of Kanpur, in the dead of night, a glass of liquor in her hand, lost in the old strains by Geeta Dutt… “ja ja ja bewafaa…” Guru Dutt was definitly smiling from up above, at this haunting tribute.
Then there is Datto, the wisp of an athlete who puts up such a brave fight against her village family rooted in caste beliefs, that you can’t help falling for her, just like Manu. Little wonder, he barely notices the kerosene brought in to burn him alive.
Apparently, Manu’s wedding is never short of death defying adventure. If he almost got shot down during his first wedding in the Tanu Weds Manu, his life is at stake yet again. Not just that, ex-wife (it doesn’t take long on screen for divorces to come through), Tanu, makes sure she dances at his wedding while he watches from atop a ghodi. When Tanu dances here or at a strangers wedding, the fierce rage and anguish in her jhatkas and matkas are enough to win Kangana more admirers and fans.
But another contender for applause is not far behind. When Datto gives a self defiant speech in Haryanvi, fighting for herself respect and says she is an athlete who gets admission in a Delhi college on her own merit and can earn her own living unlike Tanu, writer Himanshu Sharma, has a clear winner. More so, when Kangana sounds like a real Haryanvi. Her fiery spirit, boy cut and big teeth (kudos her stylist)  prove to be tough competition for Tanu’s mad moods, pretty bangles, jhumkas and seductive curls.
Tanu is the proverbial wife who can drive a husband really mad. So mad that he actually lands up in an asylum in London. She thinks nothing of taking off for Kanpur and calling his best friend, Pappy ( Deepak Dobriyal) to come and rescue Manu, more as an afterthought. Once home, she is out to  shock and scandalize and break anyone’s wedding plans in the family. Even if she has to come out in a towel and greet the guests and tell the hapless bride to be to find more adventure in running away, with or without a boyfriend. She herself plans to have an affair and seeks out old flame who she calls Awasthiji.
But there is a twist in the tale, a hilarious blast from the past and TWMR gets wickedly funny at interval point. All hell sets loose but so loose that the director cannot gather it back with conviction.
The film has everything unbelievable, going for it, be it the way Tanu and Manu break up or the way a quick second wedding plans begin for Manu. The ending too has an easy copout.
But the film charms and engages with its insane people riding the streets of Kanpur. There is even a hilarious tug of war between Awasthi and Chintu  with Tanu on the scooter seat. The  art department is visibly efficient all throughout in overcrowded terraced houses and peeling of pea pods by a male family member (Rajendra Gupta). Incidentally, Gupta is Manu’s father who gives a long gyaan on marriage to a running background sound of his wife yelling and nagging. The scene ends with a classic blackout: a solution to marital fights.
The supporting cast is a riot. Swara Bhaskar with a baby related secret, Eijaaz Khan as the Sardar doing dandiya, Zeeshan as the shameless (non) paying guest lawyer and Deepak Dobriyal who squeals out every funny line ,and above all, the gunda charmer who Jimmy Shergill plays suitably subdued with flashes of past behavior. It’s not an easy task to make your presence felt amongst these colourful and talented lot falling over each other to outshine the dynamite packed in wispy Kangana; but Madhavan with his quiet, shy smiles and occasional outbursts, stands his own, comfortable in his 80 kilos presence.
Despite all its mad and hurried, rather unreal wedding drama, Tanu Weds Manu Returns is an entertaining, crazy ride in a double decker with  Kangana as bonus. The queen rocks as drama queen.
With a Geeta Dutt song to boot, who needs band baaja?

Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Is Tollywood a graveyard for older Bollywood heroines?

Twenty-one years ago, she was the first Indian to win the Miss Universe crown. Eleven years ago, she had enough oomph to be the dream Chemistry teacher, dancing in sexy chiffon sarees, in Main Hoon Na. Shah Rukh Khan broke into a R D Burman song every time he set eyes on her in the super hit film. Today, hitting 40, that same Sushmita Sen is happy playing a corpse in the Bengali film, Nirbaak.
It's cruel irony that a SRK song pays an ode to Sen's beauty, albeit with a grim twist, in Nirbaak. The Hindi song, “Tujhe dekha to yeh jaana sanam…” plays on her last admirer’s cellphone, as he gazes at her still form inside a morgue, covered in white sheet, her bare shoulders and face gleaming luminous.
As falls from grace go, this is a painful one. Sen had never bagged the best of roles in Hindi cinema, neither was she particularly well-known for her acting skills. However, her vivacious charm and sex appeal were undeniable, and remain so. Yet, there she lies in Tollygunge morgue forgotten by her Main Hoon Na fans and filmmakers.
Sen is not the first to turn to Tollygunge way after being dismissed by Bollywood. Talent and beauty are not enough when age catches up with a Hindi film heroine. Manisha Koirala had to make do with an ungenerous amount of screen time in Rituparno Ghosh’s Khela in 2008. She was 37 at the time. Despite the few scenes, she made her presence felt, as an unhappy wife who wants a baby. You couldn't help feeling, though, that Ghosh had wasted Koirala and valued her only for the superficial gloss, fading as it might be, that she as a Bollywood actress added to Khela's publicity.
When Bipasha Basu's career slumped after flops like Dhan Dhana Dhan, she tried to gain credibility by dropping her “sex symbol” image and going demure in sarees with long sleeve blouses, complete with big, black bindi, in Rituparno Ghosh’sShob Charitro Kalponik in 2009. The film, surprisingly, won a national award for the best feature film in Bengali. Basu, though, didn’t contributed much to its success. Her beautiful face barely twitched with emotion and Ghosh decided to dub her voice. Perhaps that's why Basu is content, screaming and running in high heels, in B-grade horror movies in Bollywood.
It’s difficult to say though, what’s more horrifying: Basu not being scary enough or Sen playing corpse.
By the time Dia Mirza starred in Pratim Dasgupta’s Paanch Adhyay, she was in that uncomfortable situation where her lead roles were for forgettable films like Hum Tum Aur Ghost, but she was carving a niche for herself in memorable cameos, like her role in Lage Raho Munnabhai. In Dasgupta’s Bengali film, she looked stunning and performed earnestly. Wisely perhaps, Mirza, 33, appears to have cut her losses and go behind the camera.  As producer, she brought us a fairly decent Bobby Jaasoos, starring Vidya Balan who incidentally made her debut in Bengali film, Bhalo Theko in 2003. It probably didn’t bother Balan that trees played more crucial roles than her in the film since she was on the threshold of what was to become a very fine career in Hindi cinema.
It’s a huge pity that Sen has to make do in Nirbaak with a role that requires her to say very few lines while her character is alive and the rest of the time, lie around doing nothing.
Oh, she does a solo dance too. Around a lusty tree, which is in love with her. As though Sen is attractive only to a lump of wood, literally. This amorous tree is shown emitting liquid discharge when Sen is asleep in its shade. And guess who is jealous of Sen in the film? A female dog; that is, a bitch.
Nirbaak is Sen’s first Bengali film. She was last seen in a flop Hindi film called No Problem. It’s been precious five years since then. Perhaps this gap explains why Sen has subjected herself to such a deathly role. Or maybe because the director, Srijit Mukherjee, who is this year’s National Award winner, dedicated Nirbaak to Salvador Dali.
Promoting Nirbaak, Sen was all praise for Tollywood and dismissed Bollywood by saying of actors in the Hindi film industry, “We look good and our job is done.” Sen said she appreciated the way actors got into their characters’ skin in Bengali cinema. Was she referring to the tree or the dog or Jisshu Sengupta who just looks handsome or Anjan Dutt who is simply disgusting in the film? Is this reason enough for her to slip into a morgue, professionally? We can only guess, along with marvelling at her being thankful that the director “made sure he made me part of the film in which I had to speak absolutely nothing.”
If Nirbaak fetches some festival (read: pseudo) award for Sen, it might be worth the actress’ time. But it will be no match for her gorgeous million-watt smile and husky voice, which deserves much more. The trophy will be a small consolation prize for the death of the Bollywood heroine.

Friday, 15 May 2015


(This has first appeared on Firstpost)
There are two shootout sequences in Bombay Velvet. One of them starts with a wonderful drum roll. The camera is on Ranbir Kapoor’s face, which wears the most anticipated expression of determined revenge. Then we see his back as he rises from the floor, armed with a tommy gun in each hand. This is the Scarface moment, the dream action scene every actor loves to play and every Tarantino-struck director loves to shoot.
Kapoor and director Anurag Kashyap are no exceptions. So much so that, Kapoor forgets he is Johnny Balraj here and Kashyap was probably too trigger happy to have his Gangs of Wasseypur moment to care about the timing of the sequence. And so, the only dramatic scene in the movie ends like a gun with a silencer that misfires. The following climax involving Karan Johar, is a unintentionally hilarious version of Gabbar saying, "naach Basanti" in Sholay.
Bombay Velvet follows Balraj (Kapoor) and Rosie’s(Anushka Sharma) stories. She is a nightclub singer and he is a streetfighter turned henchman. Rosie has suffered abuse since she was a little girl and Johnny has survived poverty. He is in a hurry to become a “big shot” and gets picked up by journalist and businessman Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar introduced in a yellow jacket). Khambatta sets up a nightclub called Bombay Velvet, where he can entertain clients who need persuasion and where liquor flows despite prohibition. Johnny and his friend Chimman are given the task of running Bombay Velvet.
Meanwhile, Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chowdhary), Khambatta’s childhood friend, current friend and editor of “Glitz”, makes Rosie his mistress. He then sends her to Bombay Velvet to do some digging about Khambatta. She’s supposed to seduce Johnny for information and she does, only to fall in love with him in earnest. And so begins a love story full of betrayals and danger. (That Mistry conveniently disappears later in the plot is another matter).
Consider the elements that Bombay Velvet has been trumpeting (pun intended). It’s supposed to be an epic love story mounted on a grand, lavish scale set in the Bombay of ’50s and ’60s. The sensational promise of jazz, cabaret, nightclubs; a distressed, heavily made up singer with heavy gowns and big red flower bows in coiffured hair; a perpetually beaten up boxer, madly in love with her; a sly Shylock. The big appeal is the backdrop — the city’s post-independence history of mill strikes, rooted in a non-fiction book, Mumbai Fables by Gyan Prakash.
Sadly, the backdrop is also the biggest sham about the film. Bombay Velvet pretends to show a real Bombay, but is actually as pretty and artificial as a Sanjay Leela Bhansali set, only in lovely sepia tones. Real facts are just touched upon and relegated to a few lines at the end of the film. The song “Sylvia” nods at the infamous Nanavati scandal, but the film doesn’t talk about it. There’s banter that could have been meaningful, but doesn’t end up to be. For instance Khambata calls Mistry “Russia ka tutoo”, and Mistry in turn calls Khambata “American agent”. Had their rivalry been developed, it would have made Bombay Velvet a more interesting film and a better testament to the city’s history than Rosie and Johnny’s love story is.
Instead we get passing references to mill strikes, a reference to Russi Karanjia’s Blitz which is Glitz in the film, named after the real publication-Blitz. Manish Chaudhary plays Jimmy Mistry, clearly modelled upon Karanjia. Only, Chowdhary does not come across even remotely as a Parsi, which is something we’re reminded of each time Johnny calls him “Bawa”.
There has been much talk about the use of jazz in the soundtrack. Apparently, there were live recordings by musicians brought in from Prague, England, Chennai and Mumbai. Music director Amit Trivedi also reworked the famous song from CID, sung by Geeta Dutt, ”Jaata kahan hai deewane…”. Back when CID was released, the censor board did not allow the picturised song as it imagined a word “fiffy’ to have a “double meaning”. Trivedi’s revamped “Fiffy” brings back the original song, but ‘jazzed’ up, it loses half its charm.
Bombay Velvet boasts of 13 months of editing, two edits (Thelma Schoonmaker, Prerna Saigal ), one year of pre-production, 25,000 kilos of costumes and eight years of research. Mumbai was recreated in Sri Lanka, which is quite a feat for the art director and despite the challenging camera work by Rajeev Ravi, it doesn’t quite bring alive the magic of Marine Lines or Colaba.
The backdrop and jazz paraphernalia charm and seduce initially, but quickly becomes tiresome. Balraj and Rosie’s love story is predictable and cliched, but despite all the show of passion — tempers flying, slapping, kissing, bathtub scenes et al — there’s little emotional connect between the audience and the couple. The scenes don’t flow smoothly and the intercrossing cuts serve to disconnect rather than involve. This is particularly disappointing, as the edit does not reflect the craftsmanship expected of a Hollywood editor who has worked with Martin Scorsese.
Sharma and Johar try their intense best and manage to sustain interest, to some extent. Sharma’s expressions in the song “Dhadaam” will tug at your heartstrings and Johar’s private moment of sneaky laughter is delightful. Kapoor, in contrast, is like an injured boxer who does not belong in the ring. His Balraj flounders and crumbles. Raveena Tandon Thadani makes a worthy special appearance in one song, with a giant purple peacock feather as her crowning glory. Satyadeep Misra as Johnny’s loyal friend Chimman and Kay Kay Menon as the Bollywood-loving cop do their part with panache.
Yet, all this isn’t enough to redeem Bombay Velvet, which tries too hard to be a Taj Mahal. Ultimately, though, it just ends up feeling like monumental vanity.

Friday, 8 May 2015


(This has first appeared on
Kolkata’s jhaalmuri is no ordinary bhelpuri. The flavour is tangy, spicy and mouthwateringly addictive. The secret is the pungent mustard oil. One has to acquire a taste for the texture and the strong smell. Piku (Deepika Padukone) is like that hot and tongue burning spicy jhaalmuri and her father, Bhaskor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) is double dose of mustard oil. Difficult to digest or even like initially, but by the time he has properly bulldozed his way into your life, you’ll find yourself longing for that rasping holler of “Pikuuuu!”
This quarrelsome duo never talk. He snarls, she yells. They fight and they scream. The only time they smile together is when they sing a Bengali song. When the two get drunk, expect the time of your life. (The famous Amar Akbar Anthony drunken scene will be forgotten forever. If that was about Amitabh Bachchan’s slurred dialogue delivery, the Piku scene with him dancing in the bedroom is a masterpiece in body language.)
Put a grouchy, old, constipated man, his extremely rude daughter and complaining relatives together at a dining table, and you'd expect some emotional drama and fireworks. At Piku’s table, though, there is only one conversation: on constipation.
How to get satisfactory potty is the subject of every kind of drama here and it’s amazing how director Shoojit Sircar pulls off a 125-minute film, circling around small, daily arguments. Whether it is sperm in Vicky Donor or “motion” in Piku, Sircar and his writer Juhi Chaturvedi are relentless in their focus upon their characters’ obsessions.
The old, constipated man introduces himself simply as “Bhaskor Banerjee, Bangali”. And like a true Bengali, he is proudly critical of anything and everybody. As he puts it, he is “brutal and honest.” So much so that he doesn’t believe in respecting his 30-year-old single daughter’s privacy to ward off a suitor. He bluntly tells the doomed suitor that Piku is “sexually independent”.In fact, this liberated side to Piku is the most intriguing ingredient in her characterization. She looks at sex purely as a “need” and her friend and colleague Syed (Jisshu Sengupta) has an interesting role to play here. The casualness with which the subject is treated, dismissed and not explained in the writing itself, adds a wonderful, unspoken and unseen element that laces this celluloid jhaalmoori.
While Piku is aware of her father’s demanding and selfish need for her to be around forever, she resigns herself to living a single daily drama of her Baba’s major problem — that of achieving the nirvana of a perfect bowel movement. All she asks him daily is, "Hua?” He touches his paunch gingerly and the expression says it all.
Piku’s immediate outlet for her frustration is the cab she takes to work everyday. This results in perpetual taxi wrecks. Somehow, not too convincingly in the screenplay, the wretched owner of the cab company, Rana Chaudhary (Irrfan) finds himself in a nightmarish situation of driving the quarrelsome, weird father and weirder daughter from Delhi to Kolkata.The road trip is accompanied by a big wooden chair with a potty hole in the centre. The kissa kursi ka continues with even more fervour as Rana starts impressing the shamelessly khadoos Bhaskor with his own constipation remedies.
This leads to the most remarkable scene between the two actors — Bachchan and Irrfan — with Irrfan at his candid best, performing the idea of squatting at an Indian toilet, but on a bed and suggesting Bhaskor try the same on the Western commode. The ease of the two actors' comic timing is reminiscent of Bachchan in his older Hrishikesh Mukherjee movies, like Chupke Chupke.
To Sircar’s credit, we don’t glimpse Bachchan’s iconic dialogue delivery or playing to the gallery ways even for a second. All we see is a kurta pyjama-clad, almost disgusting Bhaskor with a big paunch.
One would have thought that these two veterans would take centrestage with their quirky roles. But instead, it is the kohl-eyed Deepika Padukone, with sincerity and deep concern writ on her perpetually-angry face, who steals the show. Moushumi Chatterjee as Piku’s outspoken aunt is a welcome change from the loud Kirron Kher.
Unfortunately, the story while dealing with a most sensitive issue of grownups taking care of ageing parents, does not delve deep into any kind of bonding. Rana’s life at home, with a mother and separated sister (repetition of Vicky Donor’s hero’s aunt) is touched upon, but cursorily. Barring one fantastic scene displaying Bhaskor’s insensitivity towards Rana’s dead father, there isn’t any memorable bonding moment between Bhaskor and Piku.
This lack of deeper emotion and the focus on endless toilet humour takes away from an ending that could have made Piku a film at par with Mili.Interestingly, Sircar chooses not to get cinematic in his use of visuals. The camera ignores all opportunities of classic outdoor shots during the road trip and instead stays close to the characters, in keeping with the intimate, personal drama at the heart of the story. The edit gets a little jerky in its rapid pace in the beginning but the melodious sarod in the opening credits sets the mood of a Bengali household beautifully.
The final stroke at realism comes when Padukone plays badminton like anything but the daughter of an International champion. She is simply Piku.
Sircar’s Piku is khoob bhalo jhaalmuri. Go eat. Digestion guaranteed.