Archive for the ‘bollywood’ Category

HaiderVishal Bhardwaj has clearly earned his place in the Hall of Fame of Indian cinema! I would rate him as one of the most creative filmmakers that we have, and of course, he also is one of our best music composers (to begin with!).

His latest creation, Haider, clearly bears his stamp of class. I have heard people say that this one is Vishal’s best work so far. I would personally not go that far, not because I can pick some other film that deserves that position, but simply because it is a tough call to make. Vishal has made many amazing movies, and Haider does rank amongst bis best works, but I would find it hard to give it a specific number 1 tag.

While the admiration for Vishal Bhardwaj is clear and total, another person that demands an even greater acknowledgement is William Shakespeare!! I have not read much of Shakespeare but of course, recognise his stature! After seeing Haider, I read up a synopsis of Hamlet and realised that Haider was so closely related to the original story. And that is amazing! Haider as a story, is very believable in today’s times, and yet, it’s inspiration was Hamlet, which was written by the Bard of Avon, who lived from 1564 to 1616!! A story written nearly 400 years back, continues to seem relevant in today’s times, is the absolutely mind-boggling fact to appreciate!

VishalbAnd as I now relate to the other works of Shakespeare that Vishal has converted to movies, viz. Omkara and Maqbool, what comes out as a common ground, are the complex characters that he sketched.  Tabu and Irrfan in Maqbool, Ajay Devgan and Saif Ali Khan in Omkara, and Shahid and Tabu here in Haider, play characters with extremely mixed and complex minds, and it is their behaviour that makes the very interesting story-lines.

Salute to the most amazing writer ever, perhaps, William Shakespeare, for writing such timeless beauties!

Having heard and read enough about Haider, I couldn’t wait longer than the morning of the first day of a long weekend, and landed up at a 9-30 am show! And as the canvas opened up, very early, I could sense a similarity with Gulzar’s Maachis, which incidentally was the Bhardwaj’s first major film as a music composer, in 1996.

A society ravaged by terrorism in the names of freedom struggle, the accompanying free hand to the army, and which creates its share of monsters and abuse, the disturbed youth and disturbed life in the region, the helplessness and resigned fates that people feel under the circumstances… all of these were seen in the Punjab of Maachis, and were felt similarly, in the Kashmir of Haider. Gulzar, Vishal and Tabu were the common factors in the two films, as were the snow filled winter mountains!

A67_ssVishal does love to work with his ‘regulars’.

I guess, Shahid Kapoor may do nothing for 3-4 years (or do some inconsequential stuff) before Vishal gives him a great film each time, and he should be happy with that state. After Kaminey, this is the next big one for Shahid with Vishal, and it is indeed, a tremendous, power-packed, central role. Subdued by the character, Shahid needs to bring out a range of emotions, and he does so quite brilliantly.

Tabu is another regular Vishal Bhardwaj favourite, and she is clearly one of the best actors we have. She picks and chooses her films, so we don’t see much of her, and it is always a pleasure to get those rare opportunities of seeing her on screen. Like Maqbool, her character here too is a challenging one, and she is impressive as ever.

While Hamlet apparently had a strong Oedipus complex from the central character, here that aspect is underplayed. But a strong emotional relationship does exist between the two.

Kay Kay Menon is one underrated actor in Bollywood. Over time, across many films, he has shown his acting prowess, and he does so here as well. Shraddha Kapoor also gives a very credible performance, and does look the part of a Kashmiri girl. There are good cameos from Kulbhushan Kharbanda and another Bhardwaj regular, Irrfan Khan.

haider1There are stunning visuals of Kashmir, especially the snow clad mountains and trees, the beautiful foliage. And as the credits conveyed at the end, all of the Kashmir scenes were actually shot in Kashmir, no matter the security issues etc. So we got a chance to see the absolutely fabulous landscapes that Kashmir is about.

Original score from Vishal Bhardwaj had to be good! Specifically, he has brought in tremendous authenticity with sounds and words from the region, which evoke emotions related to the story, even as you hear the songs. Gulzar and Faiz Ahmed Faiz have been credited for the lyrics. Gulzar, of course, had to be there! Vishal’s and Gulzar’s is a strong bond, almost approaching the one that Gulzar shared with R D Burman, maybe..?!

The Bismil song which enacts a scene, so to say, from the story, is quite like the “Janm leke kahi phir woh pahocha wahin..” recap song-scene from Karz. But it is interesting to see that it is not just Vishal Bhardwaj’s way of enacting the story, but that this was part of the original Shakespeare tale!!

And even as you marvel at Hamlet and Shakespeare, and at Vishal Bhardwaj and Shahid Kapoor and Tabu, what is most striking is the reality of life in Kashmir. As a dialogue says, “the entire Kashmir is a jail” or another that urges Haider to go to Aligarh, so as to “experience another India, where there are no day time curfews, and night time closures”. Such has become life in Kashmir, and with it, it has taken a toll of entire generations of people, of trade and tourism, and deprived the world of seeing “Jannat” on the face of earth!! Thank you, Vishal Bhardwaj, for giving us a perspective of all of this..

 

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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?

MKBKL1

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?

Confession: I am an ardent fan of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, and my views may be influenced by this fandom and admiration for his work 🙂

He took us to the beaches of Goa in Khamoshi. And then to small town Saurashtra in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. Both were still close to ‘reality’. I will skip Devdas, the one aberration from SLB!! From Black to Saawariya and now to Guzaarish, Sanjay Leela Bhansali takes us beyond reality. To sets that have a sense of fantasy about them, to places which are imaginary in nature, and yet not quite Harry-Potteresque..

So although Guzaarish is supposed to be based in Goa, it is a Goa that most of us may not be familiar with – not the house, not the people and their dresses, not exactly the beaches-and-feni Goa! So it may as well have been some European country.

But to me, this mystique about the location, is a part of the enigma of SLB. Harry Potter fans love the magic there, I love the magic of SLB’s vision, his fantasies, the mystical world he creates and shows us.

So the first thing I love about the film are the awesome visual effects. The detailing in the house, the wooden floor, the wall with the various frames, the ceiling with the frames and the mirror, the poster bed, the chairs in the room, the radio station with the old style equipments… creates an impact. Also the few outdoor scenes – the time they get into the car and drive by the countryside. The visuals are captured beautifully.

The subject matter itself, about euthanasia, generates enough debate and hence an interest in the treatment given to it. And all in all, it is a balanced treatment. For one who has been reduced to being a vegetable, the choice to die as much as he has the choice to live. Makes a lot of sense.

SLB gets some good performances from the supporting actors. His old favorite, Shenaz Patel, delivers a spunky performance. We have a surprise in the form of Suhel Seth. While we have seen him dramatize his TV shows, it is pleasantly surprising to see him convert that drama to real acting, in his role of Hrithik’s doc.

I have been disappointed by recent performances of Aishwarya. But back in the safe hands of SLB (after HDDCS), she comes up with a good performance, as the extremely devoted and dedicated nurse, serving Hrithik, for 12 long years!

But that brings us to Hrithik. And the film is all about him.

He is absolutely outstanding. Sad for all those actors who had good runs in films that came from January to November, 2010. Because they may have nursed ambitions of winning awards for the year. But late in the year, comes Guzaarish, and a Hrithik performance that is a class apart. Award-winning, stunning, masterful.

He emotes brilliantly, just with his face. Happiness, sheer joy, laughter, anger, depression, tenacity, fight.. these are all conveyed through the eyes and the twitching of the muscles of the face. Now that is acting.

And this is supported by some fabulous voice modulations while delivering the dialogs. He speaks in different tones, at different times. And which is part of his acting. When a dashing, action hero is rendered to ‘deliver’ his performance with just his face and his voice, all of that energy and skill comes to the fore. Brilliant may yet be an understated word to describe his performance!

The few flashback scenes when he is shown to be performing his magic tricks on stage, only remind us of the amazing physical skills that he undoubtedly possesses, the flexibility of his body, the fantastic dancer that he is! And he sings too.. a skill discovered in this film.

So as I said, other actors of this year, are only competing now for the second spot, in terms of the performance of the year!!

And of course, the film is finally all about the director. And as mentioned at the outset, I am a HUGE fan of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s. And he shows again, in this film, why I like his work so much. An absolute penchant for detail, striving for perfection, beautiful editing, getting excellent performances from his cast, all that makes him as good as he is. He conveys his vision beautifully.

And this time, he composes the music too. And does a great job for a first time. We are aware that in all his films, he participates deeply into the music creation. This time, he removes the middleman!! And wields the music baton himself, and creates some magical tunes.

Yes, clearly, I loved the film. And I would highly recommend it…

 

Priyadarshan claims to have not ‘directed’ Aakrosh. He claims to have ‘filmed’ it. If you go by the titles…

Well, film or direct, he has made a good movie, and I enjoyed this power packed, action thriller!

A 10-30 pm show on a working day is a film’s challenge – to keep me awake and attentive. Aakrosh not only kept me awake, but it also kept me engrossed, right from the word go, and till the end. This speaks for excellent editing, where no scene was ‘wasted’. From making comedies, Priyadarshan makes an excellent transition to a reality inspired, action drama.

The story is inspired by the scores of ‘honor killing’ realities that one reads about in the papers. In places like UP, Bihar, Haryana, Delhi, Jharkhand, etc. All those stories make you aware that this is a reality even in modern day India. But for city folks like us, to get a close view of the reality, is shocking, to say the least. That some people in power can so easily take the law in their hands, not care two hoots for media, nor for the CBI or the Centre, and pretty much continue to live their lives, on their own terms, is unnerving. Is this modern India? And if so, why is it that way? Why have we remained these two distinct countries?

What works in the movie?

The story line is thrown open right at the outset. Not much ramble to take you to the core point.

Except for the one romantic song between Ajay and Bipasha (must have been an after thought to cover the box office?), rest of the scenes and the locales look very real.

Even the smaller characters have been developed well, and appear to be very realistic of that life.

Some great action scenes are shot. One awesome foot chase with Ajay going after a goon, is brilliantly captured. In his debut film, Ajay had put his two legs on two motorbikes, and standing on these two moving bikes, he had made an appearance. That was a great scene. In Aakrosh, he stands atop a running jeep, in similar fashion.

Ajay Devgan is a perfect natural for such roles. He has done many similar characters in the past, and does very well, here as well. Akshaye Khanna is good too. Bipasha has a small role. Not much to do.

Paresh Rawal returns to his naughty villain role types. And puts a smashing performance in that.

Overall, the film worked for me. This is the kind of cinema I enjoy.

And I reckon, you might like it too.. !

Yeah, really..life would have been just fine, if Sid had not been woken up, or Mukerji had not made this movie at all.

Or if Karan Johar had not gone grovelling to apologize and put up a big banner at  the beginning of the movie, with the apology. He would have retained self respect, and some of us may have not had to go through the flick!

But they woke him up. And Karan went to Raj’s feet and apologised. And the film got released. And I found myself in that seat watching the proceedings. Which did not really “proceed”.

In fact, they woke up Sid. But let the scriptwriter fall asleep. And because of which the same scenes kind of repeated, and the story seemed to be stuck at a point. If a viewer in the theatre had fallen asleep after the first thirty, there would have been no need to wake him up till the last thirty. He would have not missed anything interim!

So they say, it is a story about the coming of age of a rich spoilt brat kid. Much like Dil Chahta Hai (Aamir’s character, I suppose).

First of all, WUS and DCH should not be used in the same sentence together. Where DCH was a defining moment by a great filmmaker, WUS is not even a pretense. No seriously, if you must compare, think how it would have been, to just make a movie about Saif’s character in DCH. Without adding any more twists or turns. Saif’s character justified that 20% footage in DCH. Mukerji has made an entire film, WUS, out of that kind of a storyline. You get the picture now?

And if the comparison has to continue, lets speak about the music too. Both had Shankar Ehsan Loy. But just having the same music director does not ensure that same quality of music. DCH pretty much had an excellent, consistent score right through, with memorable songs that still come to your lips. WUS has a couple of short term winners, due to an aggressive push on radio, but I assure you, these will be forgotten in exactly 2 months, if not earlier.

In terms of the cast, its really just two people. Rest are furniture. That is the other problem with films like these. No development of other characters! Anyway, Ranbir will get slotted into these stupid roles, if he does not pick his films better. Guys like Imran and even Neel Nitin might steal a march over him, no matter his last name and pedigree!

And Konkona – really, if she must do crass commercial cinema, she can still find better roles than this one. Or why not stick to projects which allow her immense opportunity to showcase the awesome talents that she does have??

So you might ask me, ‘what about those great newspaper reviews?’. Well, I am convinced now, that if Karan Johar will go to the length of losing all self respect and go and apologize publicly, for a writer’s license in using the word “Bombay” instead of “Mumbai”, then what does it take to get a reviewer to write a favorable review?? Especially with publications like TOI, which have become advertorials all through, how much can it cost, to have a great review written??

The week before I had mentioned that if Salman Khan wanted to write a promotional press release, he could have not written a better one than what Avjit Ghosh wrote, supposedly as a review of ‘Wanted’. Likewise is the case, this week, for Avjit’s review of Wake Up Sid. Like a film and a filmmaker could do no wrong, and if there was a lifetime achievement award to be given, it should be given right now, to all the cast and crew of Wake Up Sid!!

A tad too flattering?? What say?

*** Spoiler warning: if you are planning to see Ghajini, don’t read this just yet… ***

After my previous comments on Rab Ne Banadi Jodi, and how I did not like it much, I have come across so many other opinions, many of which are far different from mine.

And now, as I start penning my thoughts on Ghajini, in the face of some flattering reviews and ratings that the film has received, and which I am not quite agreeable to, I am wondering:

– are the fans starved for good films, and anything that has Shah Rukh Khan or Aamir Khan, and meets some base level standards is like an oasis in the desert, and hence gets huge respect, anyway?

– or is it just me, and my expectations from films have become higher, and I am not quite impressed by mundane fair, no matter if it has names like SRK or Aamir, in the titles,

– or once a few reviewers write good things, there is a fundamental opinion base formed, and people tend to not want to be the odd ones out to disagree, and hence fall-in with the initial opinion??

Well, I am searing for answers to this, even as by now, you would have guessed, what I feel about Ghajini.

That it is certainly not as impressive as the reviews and the ratings are calling it out to be.

Again before plunging in to share the thoughts on Ghajini in particular, I must remark this trend in SRK and Aamir films these days. That perhaps out of the fact that they are so expensive as stars, and also because they usually have larger than life characters written for them, the rest of the cast in their films, is relatively obscure (read “cheap”). And the film still carries off, on their own names. Rab Ne, Ghajini, Om Shanti Om, Tare Zameen Par, even Lagaan, Rang De Basanti, etc. are a case in point. SRK has done Karan Johar films, where larger star casts have been packed in, but Aamir in particular, with the rare exception of Fanaa (with Kajol) has worked with lesser entities, more often.

Coming to Ghajini, its a gruesome, violent thriller in a way, and reminds me of Aamir Khan’s Ghulam. Using the medical condition of a type of amnesia, there is creativity in the manner in which the character tries to make best use of that partial and temporary memory to reach his goal of revenge.

Its perhaps the first time, where a film is named after the villain’s name! Ghajini..is the name of the villain in the film! Strange choice, but I guess that is what sounded most unique, and they zeroed in on the same.

Aamir, as expected, delivers a power packed performance. That is only to be expected of him.

But there are too many questions that I could not find answers for, in the narrative:

1. When a CEO comes on a flight, from somewhere, does he have to have so many of his executives standing like servants, receiving him on the airfield?

2. Why does he commute with a cavalcade of 4 cars and executives, wherever he goes? Does Sunil Mittal do that? Does Anil Ambani do that? I find it very strange.

3. Okay, so he looks like being a large cell phone operator, aiming to become the largest. Does he, as CEO, still go to select every hoarding site that they are going to use?

4. Then when a hoarding site is decided, the CEO’s personal executive needs to go to that tenant’s workplace first, and then her home, to convince her, to allow them to use her place for the hoarding. And he has to repeat umpteen times that the CEO himself has sent him, for this purpose.

5. And like in Rab De, here too, the hero masquerades as someone else. He is a famous celebrity of sorts, being a big time CEO, but he moves around everywhere including for parties attended by ad agencies, and nobody recognizes him.

6. The heroine has never seen the photograph of the real CEO. Even though he is seen to be interviewed by television channels?!

7. A medical student gets so keen and interested in his story, that she ventures out knowingly, into the fortress of the violent villain!

8. Where the villain is said to move around murdering quite comfortably, when the hero reaches their hideout, none of the dozens of the villain’s men, nor the villain have a pistol available with them. Which is why the unarmed hero chases them all over and hurts them with his bare hands. Where is the ammo man?

9. How shoddily they show the villain with all his goons, get out from their cars, and this short term memory loss hero, and the medical student go on a piddly scooter, unarmed, and not even wearing a measly helmet! And then they stop right across of the gang, in a narrow alley, but no one spots them. Yeah, you have to believe this.

10. The villain who looks like a proper goonda, in the way he dresses, he talks, the people he moves about with, is supposed to also be a pharma company owner, of big time. Although he is otherwise involved in human body parts, he has been shown several times, inside his pharma factory and actually near machinery. Why is this necessary? Seems so out of place and unlikely?

11. Also this goon of a villain is called as a chief guest at a medical college function. And so that day, he dresses up in a suit too. What a charade?

Sorry..just too many questions that I cannot find answers to. A film can have 1 or 2 of such boo-boos, but having so many of them, makes it a questionable venture, for me!

The heroine Asin, gives a sincere performance, and also has a good screen presence.

A R Rehman delivers one of his average performances, at least by his high standards.

Oh.. there is one more parallel between Rab Ne and Ghajini. In both of these films, the hero has been shown to masquearade as someone else, for extended period of time, just to show his extreme love for the girl. What a coincidence. So is that going to become the default way of expression of love, when both Aamir and SRK are shown to be doing so??

All in all, an Okay film, at best.

– Sanjay