Talking Movies

Talking Movies
Talking movies

Monday, 7 August 2017

Jab Harry Met Sejal: Why SRK's loser act and Anushka's Gujju accent worked for me

 (First published in DailyO )

In the only ever so slightly emotional scene in the otherwise lighter than popcorn movie, JHMS, Harry (Shah Rukh Khan) stands at a seashore and yells out to the horizon—“hello…India..”. He is on European shores and misses his home, his Punjab, his younger turbaned avatar with dreams. Just when he starts telling the deeper truth of his feelings for Sejal (Anushka Sharma), the scene is rudely interrupted by a blow on his head. The spoiler here is not this little detail, but the moment rendered incomplete. This is typically Imtiaz Ali. There is always a gem of an idea, the spark of an insight, which shines and seduces you to the story. But, dare to go close and the plot digresses and heads further into Europe’s trams, with no real purpose.

Like his previous film, ‘Tamasha’, the boy and the girl are on holiday. They met in the beautiful Corsica earlier and indulged in a lot of role-play bordering into a bipolarity of sorts. Thankfully, the characters in JHMS, are more rooted, with just enough complexity to keep us engaged. They are also holidaying. This time, across 5 countries: Prague, Amsterdam, Vienna, Lisbon and Budapest. Tamasha’s Ranbir and Deepika are quite clear that they will strictly have a holiday romance and nothing more. JHMS’s Harry and Sejal have  a somewhat similar pact. Sejal has a fiancĂ© back home amongst rich Gujju diamond merchants. She calls it  fa-i-mily business.

As Harry points out, she is ‘sweet’. And pretty like porcelain vase. The ones you admire but don’t touch. In Harry, she discovers the desire to be desirable…”laayak” as they put it politely. “Laayak” is the kind of girl who is hot. So she tries to do some cool moves.

Again, there is a momentary glimpse of a fun character to explore here. A so called good girl who wants to be selfish and have some ‘bad’ moments before she goes back to the mundane dhokla- paatra, gold and diamond life of a girl who thinks Amsterdam is in France (Gujjus may hate the gentle mockery here but this part is genuinely funny).

But Imtiaz refuses to go into Sejal’s wilder side and plays it safe. Likewise, with Harry. Shahrukh’s Harry is a world weary, seasoned Romeo who is a tour guide in Europe. He would rather drive a tractor across the fields of Punjab and sing louder than the sound of the tractor. Ever since Subhash Ghai’s ‘Pardes’ and Aditya Chopra’s ‘Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge’, the stories are written with one eye at the NRI box office. Which sadly, has Harry with one foot  and a dimple charming every female client in Europe and the other itching to do bhangra with his only true love as desi as the makhhan or dhokla.

Whenever the real, lonely Harry emerges and allows himself to be vulnerable enough to ask for a simple hug from the sweet Sejal, the duo come closer to a romance more mature than a teenybopper lost-in-the- woods ride.

Shahrukh’s sense of comic timing, his ‘trying to be cheap’ body language, overrides his past work as the typical romantic hero with his arms spread wide. For most part of the film, he is simply engaged in a conversation with the heroine. There is not much of plot here and it would have been one monotonous version of “Before Sunrise” if it wasn’t for the interesting characters and both the actors bringing in a fresh energy that bounces off each other beautifully and the two tango better than “Rab ne bana de Jodi” and “Jab Tak Hai Jaan’.

Hopefully, in Imtiaz’s next film, we will see a wilder Sejal and a more intense Harry in a story that actually has some answers. Where they can go beyond “ tractor se unchi awaaz’ and “ gote kinare ki chunari’ on the Yash Chopra tinted Punjab fields. Until then, Anushka’s dumb Sejal ben and Shahrukh’s loser Harinder charm us enough with all the seeking and soul searching.

Sunday, 23 July 2017



Imagine a world of equals
It’s easy if you try
No burkhas, no double standards
Feel free to dream and fly
Imagine all the men, respecting their women

Imagine there’s no shame
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to stop a 55 year old widow
From enjoying secret pulp heroine ,Rosie, too
Imagine all the Rosies living their fantasies….you..

You may say, Rosie is a dreamer
But she’s not the only one
She is the teen burkha clad girl who is denied jeans
Lipstick and Miley Cyrus are her ideas of freedom

Imagine no restrictions
Men feel impotent if you can
No fear of forced marital rapes without condoms
By husbands who wham bam and also f##k another ma’m
Imagine all the Rosies
 Free to wear swimsuits and dive into sexual fantasies…you

You may say ‘Lipstick Under A Burkha’ is the work of a half-dreamer
She is not the only one
I hope there are women who dare to dream more
Who can say along with men, we are one…

Imagine a film so real
The scenes not so abrupt
Where men are less stereotype
And women can spout and erupt
Purdah be damned n lipstick not wiped

You may enjoy mild Hindi porn as a delightful voiceover
“Lipstick Waale Sapne”, something..”waale sapne”
Rock as guilty pleasure book titles
With voices choked by orthodox mere apne
The film could be a Manto like winner…

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Dear Zindagi review: Shah Rukh Khan hops on the 'gyan' bandwagon yet charms with his presence

(First published in

 It all started with Aamir Khan in 3 Idiots and followed by the over-the-top, preachy guru gyan in PK. Next came Amitabh Bachchan in Pink, the dialogue delivery master disguised as a lawyer whose booming speech on ‘NO’ was met with an equally resounding “YES” from audiences - young and old, men and women. Papas can preach.

 Provided they are superstars. Now comes Shah Rukh Khan, dropping every hamming trick from his Rahul dictionary, completely sidestepping out of the heroine’s way (Huge Leap for the Bollywood Hero) and yet saying 'main hoon na' with equal charm, style and confidence and oozing that superstar screen presence while staying silent and simply listening. True charisma, that.

 In Dear Zindagi, Alia Bhatt represents today’s young, liberated woman who seems to have it all and is yet lost, alone, confused and very, very scared. She is a talented cinematographer but believes that she is not taken seriously because she is also hot. She has tall and handsome lovers (Kunal Kapoor, Angad Bedi, Ali Zafar) willing to go the extra mile for her but she always ends up breaking up with them.

In other words, she is complicated. At some point, she starts getting sleepless nights and decides to see a therapist. Who better than the charming and easy going Dr Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) who is completely at home playing kabaddi with the waves, cycling along and giving life lessons on love. A character like Alia’s makes for a very contemporary premise and when cast opposite the King of romance, it’s a double whammy. Director Gauri Shinde, who has earlier worked with an equally delightful Sridevi in her debut gem English Vinglish, works her magic with a wonderful casting coup, the second time too. Both these movies remind me of Queen where the protagonist is a helpless woman who finds herself through some soul searching. What’s remarkable and gratifying about these stories is that they have an underlying and a very subtle feminist tone without being in the male bashing territory

.One could always argue that both Pink and Dear Zindagi needed and resorted to a male mentor or that superstar knight with lots of gyan to support and rescue the hapless, young heroine. Would these stories work without that father figure if not the romantic hero? And would these stories work without the iconic presence of Bachchan and Shahrukh? They would not raise that much curiosity or interest or footfalls in the theatre, perhaps. Imagine both the movies having a female lawyer or therapist as in the case of Jodie Foster starer The Accused. Would Priyanka Chopra as a lawyer inspire the same confidence in the subject as Amitabh Bachchan did?

That’s a risk which filmmakers are probably not ready to take yet. When Rani Mukherjee played the journalist backing Vidya Balan’s character in No One Killed Jessica, it made for interesting viewing but had few takers. In Dear Zindagi, the subject itself, while being the most relevant today, lends itself to a very urban, multiplex audience. Hence a lot hinges on the casting and Ms Shinde is fully aware of this. Also, to his credit, the gracious superstar Khan brings out the best in Alia, just like their characters, Jehangir and Kaira.

 Watch how Alia springs alive like the fresh, white daisies on her table, with every shade of emotion possible; nervously declares… “I like you…. I really like you”, looking vulnerable and hopeful at the same time; or speaks with a voice hoarse with unexpressed, deep sadness.

The fact that a superstar like Shahrukh Khan is willing to play a supportive role that lasts a mere 40 minutes on screen, is by itself an applaud worthy change in Hindi cinema. Thanks to a woman (Shinde).

 So what if you still need a man to tell a woman that it’s okay to date more than one man. That’s okay too.