Posts Tagged ‘film’

Ram-Leela (and I am not going to bother with the long form name forced on it!) could easily have been christened Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam 2.

Not in the sense of being a sequel, but having a whole lot of similarities – from a tale of romance, from a proud parent who will not allow the daughter to marry someone she loves (including the SAME dialogue, “tum mera garoor ho..”!), from the Saurashtra / Kutch base of the story, the songs and the dances, the colours and the music, the vivid pictorials of the desert, etc. I absolutely loved (continue to do so, in fact) Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam, and considering that backdrop, I also liked Ram-Leela, though of course, it was nowhere close to the original HDDCS.

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Highlights of the film for me, in 7 points below:

1. The film has the Sanjay Leela Bhansali stamp all over. In fact, you can see it in the credits to begin with. From editing to screenplay, production, direction, and even the music, its Sanjay Leela Bhansali all over. The rich sets, the colourful clothes, folk music and dance, etc. all bear his stamp.. and his class!

2. The story / plot / theme has been done before. SLB gives credit for inspiration to Romeo and Juliet in the titles. That may be the case, but there is again a unique way of presenting the same plot / story, and which SLB does well. In addition to HDDCS, there are shades of Virasat, QSQT among others..

3. My forefathers come from Saurashtra. I have not spent any decent time in Saurashtra, but I am fascinated by the place, and like in HDDCS, SLB brings out the richness of the culture really well. I love the traditional clothing (of men and women), the music (nagara and dhol to the fore), the dances (yes, amazing garbas), the beautiful visuals of the desert stretching out far and wide, the language, the names, etc. All of these tug at my heart, as there are few films that actually focus on Gujarat and Saurashtra and Kutch, to any extent.

4. Supriya Pathak has a brilliant role. She’s clearly an actress who has been grossly under-utilised by industry. After noteworthy supporting roles in films like Bazar, Sarkar, Wake Up Sid and the slapstick comedy, Khichdi (on TV and on the big screen), she’s got a big opportunity here, and plays an extremely strong character of Dhankorba, very competently. (I remember my childhood days, and vacations spent at Balodyan near 5-gardens, run by Supriya’s mama, Dr. Vipin Gandhi, and where, I had the occasion to work with Supriya, on some puppet shows that we did together!).

5. SLB ground his teeth with Vidhu Vinod Chopra, assisting him on films like Parinda and 1942-A Love Story. One thing I’ve admired about Vidhu Vinod Chopra is his ability to get his heroines look their best (for the films he directed). SLB has learnt that well. From Manisha in Khamoshi to Aishwarya and Madhuri and others, SLB excels in bringing out the inner beauty of his heroines. Does so again with Deepika here. And also makes her emote well, and dance really well too!

6. In Ranveer, we have a solid actor, who puts is hard work and dedication to do justice to his character. Had liked him a lot in Band Baaja Baraat, and he was not lacking here as well.

7. I am sure SLB and team would have agonised about the end. And I am not sure if they picked the best option. Like in case of Sholay, the end will continue to be debated for this film as well. As I don’t want to spoil it for those who have not seen it yet, won’t say more here.

In summary, I would say that SLB has made better films in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (his best), Black and Khamoshi. But would rate Ram-Leela as a good one too, perhaps as his 4th best one. I never like Devdas as a movie that much, though I had enjoyed individual performances there!

At a time when decent movies are rare to come by, I would rate Ram-Leela as one that makes the cut, and would recommend seeing it.

special26**Spoiler Alert: will refer to parts of the film here; if you intend to see it (“if you must”!), then you may like to not read this post!**

I started seeing posts about Special 26 from Friday. About how it’s such a great movie. And there were several, and they still keep coming. And some of those updates made me get to the theatre to see Special 26.

And as I have conveyed elsewhere, I found the movie to be “average”. And then I wonder what made people say that the film was so great?

Here are just some of the issues I have with Special 26:

  • The various capers that the group pulls off. Made to look so simple. Get a few rubber stamps, walk in, and walk out with cash and kind. And do so nearly 50 times, and nobody can sniff them out? Really? So you’d say that this was based on real-life incidents. So be it. You are not making a documentary. You are making a feature film. And so even if the original incident was just this simple (which I very much doubt!), you can still make it look a little more effort, a little more challenge? 
  • When filmmakers make films based on real life, can they not make some changes and make it look more real / interesting / believable? I saw it earlier in English Vinglish, where the Tamilian accented Sridevi had to play a Maharashtrian lady, struggling with her English. Why the hell could she not have been a Tamilian struggling with English? Likewise here. Even assuming that the real incidents by the fake CBI guys few years back were indeed so simply done, they could have added some smarts into the capers here!
  • I’m spoilt on this, perhaps. Viewing crime series like White Collar, Mentalist and others, you realise that planning a crime takes a lot of effort and planning and then you can still get caught. Man, wish it was as simple as Special 26 makes it look!
  • So, what was the reason these guys were doing all these capers? At the end of the film we are told that Akshay Kumar’s character had been rejected for a job with the CBI. First of all, is that motivation enough? Also right through the film, there are no hints that “he is getting back at them for what they did to him”. Nothing in terms of a revenge script or anything. And then, what about the other three? Why were they doing these? What were their motivations?
  • If money was it, why do we not see through the film, what actually happens to the money? For all the large hauls they make, where do those boxes go? The characters seem to go back to their washing clothes or walking through a crowded terrace of sleeping people! No hints of what happens to the money?! No need to tell us, eh?
  • What IS the deal with the guy washing clothes and being nagged by his wife? Or the other character walking through sleeping people on the terrace? Or Manoj Bajpayee asking his wife to put on a dupatta.. what’s with all that randomness? Aise-icch? Chalo theek hai..
  • And what about that large family of Anupam Kher? 8-1/2 kids or something? How was THAT relevant? Really..? And at the end, what HAPPENS to the kids? Do they all scoot off to Sharjah / Dubai? Or they are abandoned for the cops to grill?
  • So they go away out of the country? Permanently? If that is so, fine…
  • As regards the climax, again, it was too convenient, no? Couldn’t the real CBI not put enough people to follow the bus, follow any other vehicle that the team takes? Why are they viewing the hotel only from the top of the terrace with the binoculars and not from a lower level, to see that all of the gang have not boarded the bus?
  • The romantic interlude with Akshay was a waste, of course. But other than that, the film was just a flat, one caper after another. Nothing else. No other story or character development.
  • Since the director is the same one who made A Wednesday, there is certainly a huge drop in the quality of his work, from A Wednesday to Special 26…

Coming back to the title of this post. So with all these issues, it can still be an “okay” film. What is the explanation then, to the rave reviews that some are giving to Special 26?

A hint to the reason was found in one of the Facebook conversations on the subject. Where one wrote that “compared to the crap that we have been seeing, this was so good”!

Ok, that explains it then.

By constantly bringing down the quality, we have pulled our benchmark levels so low, that an average performance starts looking like an Oscar winner.. !

Ok, that must be it..

What do you say??

The biggest motivator for me, to get into the theatre and see Matru ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (yes, that’s a mouthful, isn’t it?) was Vishal Bhardwaj. I have been an unabashed admirer of the man’s work, and have blogged about it in the past.

M_Id_116521_vishal_bhardwajNot that I have liked all of his work, and have even shared my misgivings.

But irrespective of some wins and some losses, overall, I believe that Vishal Bhardwaj is one of the most creative persons in the film industry today. As a composer, as a director and as a producer, he has a fabulous body of work. Maqbool, Omkara, Ishqiya, The Blue Umbrella, Makdee, Kaminey, etc. are films that have left a mark.

Coming from that background, and promising to be something different this time, MKBKM was worth viewing. And while it was indeed very different from most of his previous works, I enjoyed the film thoroughly.

There are some standard Bhardwaj elements in the film – Gulzar (of course!!), Pankaj Kapur (Maqbool, The Blue Umbrella), Shabana Azmi (Makdee), the small town / village based story and accompanying language style including expletives (Ishqiya, Omkara, etc.). I guess some of these are what Bhardwaj identifies well personally (he has small town beginnings, and has an amazing rags-to-riches and accidental discovery story), and thrives in depicting these.

So what does Bhardwaj cook for us in MKBKM?

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Well, a fun and whacky look at a Haryana village where the property becomes attractive to a politician, at the potential cost of the farmers there, and what then becomes, the typical efforts by the good guys to save the day.

The story is not that much, but I just love the outrageousness of it all.

The characters are well developed, even some of the smaller ones. And all deliver well. Imran is impressive. He has a powerful voice and looks sharp. Anushka’s great talent for sure. She can be exuberant as well as sensitive and fits this role well. Shabana Azmi lives her character well. Well, she is too good an actress, and this role does not stretch her much!

But the top honours are definitely reserved for Pankaj Kapur. Given a good role and room, he can deliver an astute performance, and which is what he does here. I guess, he can be compared to his co-brother, Naseeruddin Shah, in terms of that talent (respective wives, Supriya and Ratna are sisters). MKBKM2

The music is good, and the title song at the end, after the movie ends, is a lot of fun, in particular.

Most importantly there is a fun element right through, with strong Haryanvi language, including a liberal dose of expletives! Some may not appreciate the language or the madness that goes around. Which is why I saw the diverse reviews – good and bad – before I went for the movie.

My own verdict is positive, and I would recommend this movie.

What’s your view?

** Spoiler alert ** : There is some mention of the storyline here, and if you do not want to get any such hints, and you do plan to see the film, then you shouldn’t read this blog post!

I have little memory of the old Agneepath. Except for the legendary dialog that spoke, “Vijay Dinanath Chavan.. aaj maut ke saath apna appintment hai.. appintment!”, there is not much else that I remembered of that film.

Yet, the new Agneepath brought back memories of the 1980s, and the angry young man genre that Amitabh lived and thrived on. And while that was good for nostalgia sake, the genre: a) is out of place in today’s age of style and panache, even in thrill, and b) has Amitabh written all over it, whether you like it or not!

That seems to be the movie’s biggest challenge to overcome.

With no decent film releasing in recent times, and with the Hrithik magic, and the Agneepath remake curiosity,  full houses were ensured on the first day, which happened to be a national holiday as well. Whether the initial will convert into reasonable sustenance of a couple of weeks or not, is questionable?

So let’s look at the good parts first.

It is an out and out action film. To the point of saying that it is one of the most violent Hindi films released in recent times. Lots of blood, knives, bullets, punches.. in short, gore. Now, I put this in the good part, and also in the bad, I guess. Good, because as pure action genre, it is power packed. But beyond a point, it gets to be a little much.

Priyanka in her small role, does a good spunky Mumbai chawl, bindaas girl. Like K3G’s Kajol was from Chandni Chowk!

Sanjay Dutt looks a menacing Kancha. Yes, after a long time, a Hindi film has shown a truly villainous look. Compliments to the visualizer of the look.

It is nice to see Rishi Kapoor coming up with a good performances, every now and then. Also good to see him getting nice, meaty roles.

Another old timer, Zarina Wahab is seen on screen after a long time. But her role is miniscule, with not much room to emote!

Katrina Kaif’s Cheekni Chameli had become a hit well before the release of the film. Unlike a lot of other item girls who do not put much energy into their dances, but let the movement of the camera and the glamour of the look (think Deepika in Dum Maro Dum) make it happen for them, one has to grant Katrina full marks for hard work. With a Brit accent, hardly being able to speak decent Hindi, if she has made it to the top today, it is not just because of her looks, but also because of the intense effort she seems to be putting into her work. This song is an example of the same.

My only worry about this song is.. no, my fear in fact.. that this will be played a lot at parties. And I shudder to see socialite women making the moves that Katrina makes in this song. Oh my God!!

Finally, Hrithik is fabulous as an action hero. Quiet, intense, angry.. he brings alive the Amitabh of the 1980s.

So that said, what are the minuses then?

The extreme violence for one. It gets to be too much!

Also that where the storyline is based, is certainly not contemporary, and would not quite qualify as ‘period’. And which is where it hangs in the middle, sort of. We don’t know whether to view it as a ‘now’ story – it isn’t – and whether to view it as historical – which again, it isn’t.

Rauf Lala peddling drugs galore AND doing human flesh trade openly in Mumbai, and the police being aware, but unable to do anything, seemed strange. Unless I have NO idea of what the real Mumbai was / is like?!

Also where the protagonist, the angry man looking for revenge, attempts to get sympathy / understanding from the audience, that he is killing many with his cocaine trade (while he is shown to release the girls from the flesh trade of Rauf Lala) is questionable.

Finally, the way I see it, for a movie that has anger as an undertone throughout, the anger itself is not very visible. The storyline is not developed that well, or the emotions do not come out that strongly, somehow. Unlike say, a Deewar, where Amitabh’s anger is permanent virtually.

So all in all, if you can tolerate oodles of violence, do give it a shot. And if you can’t, then you must totally avoid this one.

Here’s an uncharacteristic (for me) Short review of The Dirty Picture: certainly brings alive the Silk Smitha days, Vidya Balan’s got an awesome role for herself and she does well (like she did in Ishqiya), certainly there’s a lot of oomph, story could have had some more depth (post interval, story meanders), awesome dialogs right through. Works reasonably well overall, because as the movie itself says, it’s all about Entertainment, Entertainment, Entertainment. Story no matter! One thing that intrigues me though: a lot of (80′s style, landline) telephone dialing is shown. And the phones connect each time. On first attempt. No.. that wasn’t how it was, in the 80s, was it?? :-)

P.S.: I could have used another (bolder) image here, but I am not about to use Silk to ‘sell my blog’.. lol.

 

It’s become fashionable to find faults in a film and protest till the film has to cut scenes (no matter what that does to the story) or have the producer apologize or pay-up! It appears that every other film generates some such reaction, from some part of our country.

Can anyone stop and think that the film is “fiction” after all?! That its a story line, and in a story, you can have positive and negative characters, and positive and negative emotions as well..

Why is it that people freak out, and take all films and film stories so sensitively?

What if this becomes a trend, and extends beyond objections to “Bombay” or about reservations, or about Karnataka…? What if ordinary people also get sensitive to the portrayals on screens?

Imagine the possibilities:

….

1. The ladies outside the theatre were shouting loud slogans. When the TV reporter put a mike in front of them, the leader said, “how can they have such scenes in the film? It is a complete insult to all of us. What will the world think of us?”

As she said these, the other women started shouting in chorus. “Yes, yes, this film must be banned. Down with the film.. “

After a lot of the sloganeering, finally the reporter was able to get the actual, final reason for the protest, from the leader…

“We hear that there are scenes in the film where a mother-in-law is shown mistreating the daughter-in-law. It so damages the reputation of all mothers-in-law. Seeing the film, no daughter-in-law will like to maintain relations with the m-i-l. In fact, they will take the son and walk away to stay separate. This film is having such dangerous connotations. We cannot allow this. They have to cut those scenes, change the story line, or we will not allow this screening… “

2. The scene outside Rahul Cinema was very strange. It appeared as if all the black marketeer ticket sellers were gathered outside the cinema, and were selling tickets only at this one theatre.

But wait, they were not really selling tickets.

The tight T-shirts, handkerchief bandana wielding “bhais” also had some posters and banners in their hands. In their typical language, they had the messages out “Is philum ko aapun nahi chalne dega, kya?!” and “Saala, ye philum laga to usko khalllas kar dega, samjha kya..?”

The petite TV reporter looked like a midget in between the bhais. But she managed to get her question in, amidst the loud shouting of “down with the film” that they were doing.

She said, “sir, but why are you asking for the film to be pulled down?”

Bhai: “ae taklya, ye kya bol rayli hai re? usko samjha, ye koi inglis gherao nahi hai. Bhai ke saath bambaiya baat karne ka, kya?!”

She gets it. And attempts “Sir.. ye film aap kyo rukvana chahte ho?”

Bhai: “Rokego hi na, saala.. apun ki bhi koi ijjat hai.. “

He continues: “Is philum me bhai logo ko comediyan jaisa bataya hai.. kya hum log itne ch**iye hai kya? Isko dekhne ke baad public aapun se daregi thodi? Mazak karegi aapunka.. ye pikchar ko to hum bandh karvake hi rahenge.. koi bhi is pikchar ko dekhne jaayega to usko hum khullas kar denge..!”

And scenarios of this kind.

What do you think? What will be the next protest?

It’s a little late. But I was thinking I could still protest against Rocket Singh Salesman. As a marketer, it was little insulting.. Maybe I can block the home video release? What say?

** Spoiler Warning: Scenes and stories of the film, I Am, are described as part of this review. If you intend to watch the film and do not want to know about this, you should stop right here. Perhaps read this after you see the film, and share your thoughts about the film. **

Having seen previous works of Onir (Sorry Bhai and My Brother Nikhil), it did not take much persuasion for me to get to the cinema, when his new film, I Am released this week.

The very few screens that the film was showing at (had to go to a new cinema, where I’ve never been to catch this show), and the sparsely occupied first Saturday evening show after the release, is an indication of his kind of cinema being a niche variety.

But as it turned out, I Am is the exact kind of cinema that I like.

I like stories of real people, their challenges, their weaknesses, their struggles, their emotions.

I like these better than science fiction (someone going into the past and changing things or whatever) or fantasy (magic wands and flying people in strange lands) or stories of people having the rarest of rare diseases, etc.

I Am on the other hand, depicts a story which is more commonplace, something that doesn’t demand a lot of imagination to understand or appreciate.

There is just so much happening in real life around us, all of us have stories to tell, there is drama, there is emotion, there is joy and fear and insecurity and what not. Why do we need to go to out of space or in some strange lands to create movies.

So, thanks to Onir for a real-life story.

Oh wait.. was it one story or many stories??

Yes, that actually is a question. And I am almost tempted to feel that Onir was working on multiple ideas (have seen this often in very creative people) to perhaps make multiple screenplays. And either there was not enough material to do 5 different films, or he just did not want to wait for so long. And hence, he fitted them into a single film, I Am!!

And I did not realize this part. So half-way after the interval, I am still wondering.. “is there going to be some interesting end, where all of these are going to combine into some kind of climax?”. But they don’t and which is fine.

So there are a few independent stories of characters who are thinly – very thinly – connected to each other. And those connections are shown. The only purpose of showing this could be that, while we feel, we are the ones carrying the biggest burdens of stress on our heads, the reality could be that there is a struggle inside each of us. Maybe we just don’t show it, or we don’t notice these in the people we meet and interact with. But if there was a way to glance inside the opposite person’s life, there is perhaps, an equal if not bigger struggle right there.

So with the different characters, Onir takes on some major issues, all at one time:

  • Lady with a bad experience of a relationship, has sworn off men but still wants a child of her own. And believes that the genes of the donor sperm will impact the child, so struggles to want the right person, and struggles with her own decision, of doing it her way. Nandita Das in this role, is brilliant. She is of course, one of India’s best talents. And has that classic Bengali look. Thoughtful, deep thinking, artistic, yet sensual. Onir shows her without much make up, and in some of the scenes (especially the one with a background score, where she is going through Kolkata, in the metro, mostly), the creases on the face show, and she actually looks ‘old’. But this may have been by choice, to depict the dilemma inside her, and the accompanying stress. In this episode, we also see a subdued character depicted by Purab Kohli. Well played again. After Rock On, here’s another good performance by the man, though in a small role here. Aerial shots of Kolkata at dusk, are quite brilliant.
  • Then, there is this other story of a Kashmiri Pundit (Juhi Chawla) who has migrated out of Srinagar during the times when things got very difficult for the Pundits to stay there. And who returns to finally sell off her old family property there. And meets her childhood friend (Manisha Koirala) and her Kashmiri Muslim family there. After so many years, the relationship is stressful. Somewhere deep inside, Juhi feels that Manisha and her family and their kind, were responsible for driving her and her family out of their homes here. Till Manisha talks about her side, and what her life has been reduced to. Without any flashbacks, but just showing facial expressions, as they walk around the now-changed favorite childhood locales, the angst can be appreciated. Juhi and Manisha, both are brilliant here. Also if the Srinagar shown here, and the people of Srinagar shown here, are realities, then it is really, really sad. Streets full of security personnel, fundamental suspicion all around, basically sad faces, dirty barren Dal lake. True, as the Kashmiri says, “meri jannat ko kisiki bahut buri nazar lag gayi”. The destruction of paradise, as it were.
  • We have the story of Sanjay Suri, and the issue addressed here, is about child sexual abuse. And particularly about how, the character abused, learns to first gets gratification for his acts, then learns to demand, and ultimately masters the art of exploiting the elder, in return! As he says later in life, “at age 13, I became a slut”!
  • And then there is the character of Rahul Bose, corporate head honcho, having the best of life. And he’s gay. Pre-homosexuality acceptance bill, we see his struggle to keep this a secret, and a particular harrowing episode of a run-in with the cops. And his feeling of freedom, post the passage of the bill. Interesting to see the evolution of permissiveness on Indian cinema screens. I still remember how a flower would come between the camera and kissing lips, or the long hair of the actress covering the embrace of the couple, as the lip-lock was taboo on the screen. That’s left far behind. Almost seems laughable in today’s times. We have seen so much more, since those old days. So not sure if this was a new first. A gay kiss on screen, between Rahul Bose and his partner. And Bollywood and Indian society move to the next level – will not say, if the next level is up or down. Leave it to your own moral judgment on the matter!!
To summarize, Onir spins an interesting set of stories, in I Am. Extracts excellent performances from all the cast. And that’s important, as it is all about acting and about emotions, and hence totally dependent on the actors to deliver. Which they do.
Seeing performances of Nandita Das, Juhi Chawla and Manisha Koirala, you are left wishing that they would get more good projects, and we get to see a lot more of these trio of good actors!
In terms of a recommendation to see or not, clearly this film is not for everyone. If you’re the Source Code or the Harry Potter or a Shor in the City or a Naughty at 40 kind, you can safely give this one a miss. I Am is chalk and cheese different from all of those kinds. But like me, if you are a sucker for some good storytelling, good acting, real-life depiction, then go for I Am. You will not regret it.

When I saw Harishchandrachi Factory, I was reminded of Roald Amundsen, the Norwegian who sailed all the way to the South Pole. Legend has it that when they started off, everyone thought they were going to the North Pole. Only Amundsen knew that he wanted to go to the South Pole, since the North Pole (far nearer to Norway) had already been conquered.

Such are the adventurers of the world, the pioneers, those that go into unchartered waters and create new pathways for the world to follow.

Dadasaheb Phalke, who was India’s first filmmaker, was one such maverick. And the story of his life, Harishchandrachi Factory, is a story of inspiration. To any individual. To a filmmaker, who can owe it to him, to have accelerated the advent of the film industry in India. And most of all, to an entrepreneur.

“Entrepreneur?”, you question?! Yes, indeed. Check my tribute to Dadasaheb Phalke, in terms of the great entrepreneurship learnings that we can pick up from him:

For more information on the movie, check out the official website, and for more about Dadasaheb Phalke, check the wikipedia link or his details on IMDB.

Would love to read your comments on the subject.