Category Archives: Film

Like these brothers who couldn't spell 'Israel' because their struggle is rael. They're also not particularly fond of the card game Uno. 

Pic: Dawn.com

The origins of ‘Fuck off to Pakistan!’

‘Fuck off’ has been the nation’s war cry for a long time now.

It is not due to the Surgical Strike in Kashmir or the ‘Sir jee, kal strike’ in Kolkata. For a while now, we have been obsessed with kicking people out. 

The sentiment is not restricted to nationality and jingoism. We do it among ourselves too. Pioneers of this school of thought are the two Senas in Maharashtra – Shiv Sena and Maharashtra Navnirman Sena. Right from the attacks against ‘Madrasis’ 30 years ago, to the present day, they have been playing the ‘Fuck off’ game to stellar effect.

Those who cannot speak Marathi fuck off to your own states. Biharis fuck off from Mumbai. Pakistani cricketers fuck off to your country, or we’ll dig up the pitch – which if you think about it, doesn’t do much good for anybody. If the Shiv Sena really wanted to win the nation’s approval, they should have dug up the pitch just a little. Just enough for Anil Kumble to razzmatazz the fuck out of Pakistani batsmen, dismissing them for 73 runs. That would have been smart, but alas! – Shiv Sena.

But it is not just them. Other ‘Fuck off’ situations are those between Tamil Nadu and Karnataka. Two seemingly developed, mature states that produced stately statesmen like Javagal Srinath and S. Venkataraghavan. The two states have been asking people to fuck off to their own states with the recent Cauvery imbroglio. Telangana people wanted Andhra people to fuck off, Kannada people wanted North-easterns to fuck off. Kashmiri separatists committed an entire genocide to ask Pundits to fuck off. Our primeval response to conflict is ‘Bhai, bahut ho gaya. Ab tum nikal lo’.

Then there is the case of social media and popular opinion. A comment that doesn’t fit the mould of a patriotism is met with – Fuck off to Pakistan. Criticism of The Leader elicits the cry to fuck off. An alternate opinion, and you’re asked to fuck off. Criticise a God, and you’re asked to fuck off.

I do not insinuate that we are the only country with such reactions. Our neighbours across the border have fancy protest too.

Like these brothers who couldn't spell 'Israel' because their struggle is rael. They're also not particularly fond of the card game Uno. Pic: Dawn.com

Like these brothers who couldn’t spell ‘Israel’ because their struggle is rael. They’re also not particularly fond of the card game Uno.
Pic: Dawn.com

Or these dudes, whose slogan 'Go India, Go back' makes you wonder if they're egging us on, or egging us out. Pic: www.latimes.com

Or these dudes, whose slogan ‘Go India, Go back’ makes you wonder if they’re egging us on, or egging us out.
Pic: www.latimes.com

But what really is this obsession with ‘Leave our land’?

Is this an inherently Indian phenomenon? Has it somehow been ingrained into our consciousness?

I think it has to do with the way our families and societies are constructed. We as a culture live with our parents and the cruelest punishment is to banish the child from the house.

Our greatest stories, our oldest epics – from Ramayan to Devdas, involve a son being asked to leave the house. Our films and our novels further propagate this idea.

And perhaps that has seeped into the way we think. Perhaps that is why we as a nation are obsessed with kicking people out of our country, our states, and our screens. The reasons may vary, the conflicts may be diverse, but the response is standard – Nikal lo.

But when there’s a war, or a question raised on our nation, we all stand together. The Bihari banished from Mumbai and the Kannada banished from Chennai. We get together and ask the new enemy to leave the nation. May be ‘ghar se nikal jao’ is a big deal for us. Perhaps it has become our first response.

As the K3G soundtrack plays in the distance, I notice that we had a traitor living amongst us all these days. Time for me to do what I must. 

Tanushree Dutta endorsing Multani mitti. Fuck off to Pakistan, Tanushree Dutta! #PeopleWhoShouldFuckOffToPakistan

A post shared by Hriday Ranjan (@heartranjan) on

received_10154340350001977

What I Hope from the Dhoni Biopic

It doesn’t take an Einstein to understand the rush to make a biopic on Dhoni. There’s something about the guy.

If Sachin made cricket India’s No.1 priority, our national obsession, Dhoni took it to the nation’s grassroots. When historians discuss his career in the future, they’ll acknowledge that MS was no ordinary cricketer.

I detest comparisons, but it is hard to resist a comparison between Dhoni and the only star bigger than him – Sachin Tendulkar.

Sachin might be hallowed today, but he had a firm backing right from his school days. By the time he was 14, Sachin had Gavaskar, Vengsarkar and Ravi Shastri around him. Gifting him bats and pads, and passing on decades of valuable experience. Apart from the immense talent and incredible hard work that he put in, Sachin took five steps, and the sixth step was taken for him.

Dhoni grew up in Bihar.

I don’t mean that as condescence, but as a comparison. Cricket in India has always been an urban, upper class sport. I wonder why a country as vast and poor as ours would choose cricket. A sport that requires a lot of investment in time and equipment. It should make more sense for us to obsess over kabaddi, or soccer.

The history of Indian cricket is replete with Maharajahs captaining the country with their coterie of servants. Scroll further down, and you’ll find that most of our stars came from upper middle class families; from urban spaces that allowed for coaches, nets, and infrastructure.

Dhoni grew up in Bihar.

If Sachin represented India’s awakening as an economy in the 90s, Dhoni proved that cricket had trickled down to India’s interiors. It now flowed in the country’s veins.

Sachin grew up in a time when Indian cricket was far from its peak. With players like Devang Gandhi, Sameer Dighe and Sujith Somasundar in the fray, Sachin was a god among mortals. He stood out like a Liberty statue in a Dharavi slum.

Dhoni came into the team as a small town boy amidst demigods. Against all odds, he went on to lead the team and then form his own coterie. A team comprising cricketers from towns and villages. Sons of clerks, shopkeepers, and farmers.

Not only did Dhoni crash the party, he got up on the table, took off his shirt and flung it in the air! MS Dhoni was the biggest star in the team for nearly a decade. He was polite, but not necessarily humble. He came from simple roots, but loved his cars and mansions.

MS Dhoni the persona evolved with his stature. When he came in, he was a youngster who could cart Shoaib Akhtar over the fence in successive deliveries. By the time he leaves, he’ll be a middle-order batsman who bats with tailenders and has finished the most matches for India.

From a merciless marauder who swung his bat like a double-edged axe, to a backfooted middle-order mainstay with a solid defence. From endorsing Mysore Sandal Soap with shoulder length brown hair, to becoming the richest cricketer in the world. Dhoni survived, and Dhoni evolved.

And not once did he let his emotions come in the way. Not once.

Not once has the man lost his temper or expressed dissent (except to journalists, for whom he reserves the coldest contempt!). Surely, a biopic on the man was a goldmine waiting to be explored.

Neeraj Pandey is a dependable filmmaker, and Sushant Singh Rajput an able actor. I’m glad the film doesn’t aim to dig too deep into his cricketing career (like the godforsaken ‘Azhar’).

received_10154340350001977

But was MS always this guy? Did he always choose to smile at problems? Was he always grounded, or was there a time when he waved a middle finger to his detractors?

How did it feel stepping into a dressing room with Sachin, Ganguly, Dravid, Laxman, Kumble and Sehwag? Why did Sachin recommend his name for captain, when he’d only been playing for a year? What did he see in the boy with Tarzan hair?

And why did MS choose to chop his hair off? Was there more to it than the Brylcreem endorsement deal? Why did he announce his retirement from Tests in the middle of a tour? When did the small town boy become the suave face of a hundred brands?

Who really is MS Dhoni? Does he have just one true face? Or does he wear many masks?

These are the answers I seek from MS Dhoni – the biopic.

You already screwed up the biopic on my childhood hero. Please don’t botch this one up!

***

pellichoopulu-poster

How ‘Pellichoopulu’ is bending the rules of Telugu cinema

In spite of having lived for 16 years of my life in Andhra Pradesh, and having reviewed movies for nine years now, I have never reviewed a Telugu film.

Partly because it took me a few years to understand the nuances of Telugu cinema, and partly because there’s nothing really to review. You could take the script of any Telugu blockbuster and replace it with another; replace any hero with another. The heroine barely has any role to play in the film apart from acting coquettish and seducing the hero. The laughs are generated when the hero bashes up a ‘comedian’ – it’s all absurd to a point where you wonder if the entire unit was smoking pot while the film was being made.

Telugu Cinema is a rather cruel place for an aspiring filmmaker. Dynasticism runs through every film industry but nowhere else is caste a determinant of a star’s pull. Actors, directors, distributors – they’re all gauged through their caste, and yet there is a deafening silence about it everywhere you look.

The hero is expected to fight and dance and mouth long-winding dialogues, even if he’s supposed to have grown up in a chawl. The heroine dances around him and is objectified, stalked, and is nothing more than a doormat. And even if you break into the scene, there’s the oligopoly of distributors who control the release of films across the two Telugu speaking states.

Of course, there are filmmakers who have attempted to break the mould, and yet they’ve sold out – there’s an item number here, an unwanted song there. Every time I have walked out of a Telugu film, I have looked for the nearest bar to get sloshed and drown my memories of the film.

In my frustration, I stopped watching Telugu films, except when they’re played on buses and I have no other option. If you are unacquainted with Telugu cinema, may I kindly lead you to this blog – A Script for Chiranjeevi’s 150th film.

I went to watch Pellichoopulu in a single screen theatre, and was doubly curious to see how people would react. If you’ve watched the trailer, you’d have guessed the tone of the film is urbane and yuppy. Pleasantly surprised that the film had a 93% approval on BookMyShow, and that the popcorn cost a mere 20 Rupees, I walked into the hall.

Single Screen Theatre issues.

A post shared by Hriday Ranjan (@heartranjan) on

*

Pelli Choopulu contains the  most non-glamorous introduction to a hero that I’ve seen in Telugu cinema. There are no songs, no shots panning upwards from boots to biceps – just a regular dude waking up to a life that has fallen asleep.

It takes but a few minutes to get woven into the plot, driven as it is by sharp dialogue and genuine characterisation. We meet the leads as if by chance, just as they stumble into each other. They aren’t heroic, or loud, or driven by any motive. It is a refreshing change, and in minutes, the entire hall sat in hushed silence.

Director Tharun Bhascker uses sharp writing to prove his point, doing away with the bells and whistles one would associate with Telugu cinema. Prashant hops from one incident in his life to another in the slow, careless manner of a water buffalo. Chitra fights every obstacle in her life with the fearsome resolve of a bison. There couldn’t have been a more un-Tollywood like couple!

Pellichoopulu benefits from realism. The characters seem real, and the dialogues hilarious. The humour in the film comes from Priyadarshi Pullikonda’s impeccable comic timing. As the hero’s equally useless buddy, every second he comes on screen is gold, and the audience were giggling in anticipation even before he delivered his lines. And yet, the director never punches below the belt.

In an industry that makes sex-kittens out of talented actresses (check out Ileana D’Cruz in Barfi, and compare it with her Telugu roles), Chitra is a refreshing breath of fresh air. Ritu Verma and Vijay Devarakonda seem so much at ease in their roles, you begin to wonder if they’re acting in the first place.

Pellichoopulu gets a lot of things right, but mostly, it carries balls of steel. The film doesn’t sell out even for a moment, even though it has its weaknesses. The film refuses to bend down to market demands, staying true to its character through every single shot.

*

Tamil, Malayalam and to an extent Hindi cinema enjoy a thriving parallel cinema. For every Sultan and Kabali, there are smaller, sharper films competing in the same arena. Sadly, Telugu cinema never had a parallel movement. Probably because nobody went full-on, and partly because of how demanding and unforgiving the average Telugu film viewer is.

But Pellichoopulu is akin to the smart guy who joins your section in Class 8. He doesn’t bother about the bullies and is smart enough to tackle the 1st ranker in class. The film is running to packed houses, but on a limited release.

If you watch Telugu films, or like me, stopped watching them long ago, please do yourself a favour and watch Pellichoopulu. 

Naseeruddin Shah in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Naseeruddin Shah and the Art of Not Giving a Fuck

The debate regarding Rajesh Khanna’s histrionic abilities has been as dramatic as a 70s potboiler. Twinkle Khanna responding in true Bharatiya Beti style, Naseeruddin Shah not giving a flying fuck, tons of comments on social media about the nature of the debate.

But as an actor, one can sympathise with Naseeruddin Shah’s frustration. Whether you admit it or not, most Bollywood films do not seem to follow any semblance of logic. Proof of this lies in the recent film Sultan where the hero undergoes a month of training and wins the Olympic Gold. Most of our films are more concerned with glorifying our stars than stay true to the reason a film is made – to tell a story.

But here one begs to ask the question – is the story really the motive? Most blockbusters seem to have made their very purpose the glorification of superstars, so one can’t really tell. Since Cinema is an art form, any opinion on it is subjective. It is not scientific research that can be held up to universally accepted standards. One can only have opinions, but I must admit I share Naseeruddin Shah’s opinion.

Bollywood has a knack of squeezing out success from its fraternity. If something works, you’ll do the same thing for decades at stretch. Rajesh Khanna broke through the scene as a charming man with a slightly awkward dancing style. And he did it till he looked seven months pregnant. Shah Rukh Khan played the sweet chocolate boy when he was in his early 30s, and was caught in his avatars of Rahul, Raj and Regina till a few years ago. Amitabh Bachchan played the Angry Young Man right up to the time he was an Angry Old Man.

And these are the biggest guys around. Look beyond them, and you’re left with cardboard caricatures. Shatrughan Sinha played an array of loud, embarrassing roles for much of his career, Sunil Dutt played Daaku Cringe Singh for more than 20 films. Many a talented actor have been sacrificed at this altar of Lakhsmi – Satish Shah, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Navin Nischol and Asrani are a few that come to mind. The only mainstream hero who avoided being typecast in my opinion was Sanjeev Kumar. The man played a wide vista of diverse roles throughout his career, and yet is caricatured as Thakur.

So Naseeruddin Shah is not really off the mark. His autobiography And Then One Day is a brilliant, crackling account of his life and opinions of the industry. In an industry that is perennially bending over backwards to suck each other off, his opinions are refreshing, honest and unforgiving.

Like the time the whole nation was orgasming over Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, a completely mediocre piece of work. Shah, the eternal Thug Life, made a rather unflattering statement about how growing one’s hair and getting a sculpted body doesn’t make you an actor. Or the time he took Aamir Khan’s case for spreading fear psychosis among Muslims of the country. Or how he keeps needling Anupam Kher for his statements. Or when he called Sholay out as the greatest con job, for having directly lifted scenes and shots from Spaghetti Westerns (which is actually 100% true. Ramesh Sippy was a youngster who was exposed to Western cinema, and the characters, scenes, and shots of the film are basically a rip-off of Sergio Leone’s pathbreaking work. Sadly, we in India had no such knowledge and Sholay, which reads, looks and plays like a Spaghetti Western has become the most iconic film – it’s hilariously unfortunate). Or the time when Shah was asked what sort of a legacy he’d like to leave behind, and his answer quite simply was – I don’t give a shit.

Naseeruddin Shah is one actor who doesn’t suck up to the industry, or its so-called superstars. His opinions have been honest, cynical, and hilarious. In fact, if I could choose a personality that best speaks the language of my blog, I’d be choose Naseeruddin Shah.  And Jackie Shroff. Because Jackie.

But this is where things get a little queasy. For you see, Naseeruddin Shah hasn’t exactly been the epitome of versatility in his career spanning thirty years. I chanced upon this while talking to a roommate of mine, who happens to be a Masters in Theatre Arts. It was he who pointed out the fact that Naseeruddin Shah rarely steps out of his comfort zone. And it’s true!

Naseeruddin Shah’s career can be clearly demarcated into three distinct phases. The first phase was in the 70s and early 80s, the truly golden era of Hindi cinema. While India was discovering its first batch of superstars in Rajesh Khanna and Amitabh Bachchan, a motley crew of filmmakers was challenging notions of caste, religion, prejudice and conventions. Shyam Benegal, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Basu Chatterjee, Govind Nihalani, Gulzar – directors who wrote and shot stories that sought not to merely entertain the audience, but to provoke, agitate, soothe, and calm. These filmmakers were supported by stellar performers like Shah himself, Om Puri, Smita Patil, Deepti Naval, Kulbhushan Kharbandha and Shabana Azmi. The fact that this second crop of films ran parallel to the Deewars and Sholays of the time prove that it was a diverse time, a good time to be alive (also, rock music, hippies, and LSD in general).

Such was the impact of this era that even mainstream actors like Hema Malini and Rekha worked with these filmmakers. Dharmendra, Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna acted in movies by Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Probably because it was an era where every film wasn’t compared on collections, opening day earnings, total earnings, NRI box office and other statistical vagaries. The films of the time continue to be my second favourite decade of cinema (after the 90s, for purely biased, nostalgic reasons).

The second phase in Naseeruddin Shah’s career was when he dabbled in commercial cinema, from the late 80s to mid-90s. Naseeruddin Shah stepped down from his leading man status and played second, third and sometimes fourth fiddle to brawny stars with no brains. Films like Zulm Ko Jala Doonga, Vishwatma, Mohra, and Tridev are examples of this phase. The films were trashy, the plots always the same – a bunch of good guys gang up to uproot an evil dictator/drug lord.

These films followed the basic rules of 90s action hits. Like the rule that says,

‘The number of heroes must equal the number of heroines in the film, even if one of them has the screen time of a stray cow on a busy street’.

Or the other rule that states –

If there are more than two heroes in the film, they must sacrifice their lives in the final climax, or die valiantly in the end, as it is impossible to feature more than two pairs in the final ‘The End’ snapshot.

These films are trash-gold if you like watching trashy movies (May I kindly direct you to the wonderful Facebook page – I love trashy Hindi films), but if you aren’t, they are an eye, ear and soul sore.

Perhaps the experience of acting in these films hardened his soul so much, that with the 2000s, Naseeruddin Shah stepped into the third phase, the Don’t Giva Fuck phase.

For the last 15 years, Naseeruddin Shah don’t giva fuck. He has essentially been playing himself in every film.

He is always the old, wisened, wise-crack cracking smart alec. He employs a limited array of expressions, uses his gravelled voice to effect – not too much effort, just a miniscule amount that would make the Salman-crazy crowd to wet their pants.

I can’t remember a single film in the last fifteen years where Naseeruddin Shah didn’t play himself. Here’s a look at his roles in the last fifteen years.

Naseeruddin Shah in Mohra 1994
Naseeruddin Shah in Sarfarosh 1999

Naseeruddin Shah in Iqbal 2005

Naseeruddin Shah in A Wednesday 2011

Naseeruddin Shah in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na

Naseeruddin Shah in Ishqiya 2010

Naseeruddin Shah in DIrty Picture 2011

Naseeruddin Shah in Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Naseeruddin Shah in tHE BLUEBERRY HUNT

The comedy show The Great Indian Laughter Challenge threw up a number of interesting comedians. Their impersonations of popular stars have become a trope, and one finds that the same mannerisms, actions, voices are still being used today to mimic that star.

The winner (albeit completely undeserving) of the show was Sunil Pal, whose set on Veerappan kidnapping Madhuri Dixit acquired a cult viewership. One of the voices in his set was Naseeruddin Shah’s.

Sunil Pal perfectly nails the Shah voice. The voice of Shah in the 90s – when he stepped into the murky world of bad 90s cinema. Unfortunately, that voice remained in the minds of the people. For all his diversity, all the stellar choices he has made as an actor, and the immense repertoire of skills that he possesses, that voice today is the trope that associates itself to Naseeruddin Shah.

For in a country like India, you know you’ve been doing something for far too long when a mimicry artist picks up your nuances.

*

I watched Monsoon Wedding a few days back and was shocked by the Naseeruddin Shah in the film. He seemed to enjoy every single moment on screen. He was affectionate, and vulnerable, and clumsy, and when it mattered the most – strong as steel.

I remember going to sleep that night wondering what happened to that Naseeruddin Shah. And if that guy had been buried long ago.

Today, Naseeruddin Shah essentially plays himself. In that sense, he isn’t vastly different from Salman Khan who plays himself, or Rajesh Khanna who played himself for two straight decades.

And I’m still waiting to watch a film by Naseeruddin Shah in the theatres. Still waiting for him to blow my mind.

***

Blond Rajinikanth

How much more are you going to milk Rajinikanth?

The madness of Kabali has rained down on the nation, and I’m yet to watch the film.

If you’ve been reading my blogs, you’ll know I’m not a fan of over-the-top masala potboilers. I was curious to see how critics would react to the film, as it is utterly futile to review a Rajinikanth film. Like asking Virat Kohli to deliver a speech in Sanskrit, or Salman Khan to solve a calculus problem.

I was curious to see how critics react to Kabali for two reasons – 1. Most of the critics are from up north, and have minimal exposure or understanding of the aesthetics of South Indian cinema. 2. No critic is going to outright bash the film, as they’d a Salman Khan or Sanjay Dutt film.

I watched the trailer of the film, and I’m sorry to say it evoked no interest in me to go watch it. If anything, the news of 50,000 litres of milk being poured over a stupid cardboard cut-out repulsed me.

The first time I came across the Rajinikanth phenomenon was during my school days. My friends from Tamil Nadu would rave about his films, narrate the stories, and enact the scenes. I heard the stories of most of his 90s hits – Padayappa, Baashha, Muthu, Arunachalam – before watching them on television.

In the beginning, I found it all too amusing. That such a man was the biggest star. I found it ridiculous that Kamal Haasan, who puts in so much into his films, is side-lined by a guy who flips cigarettes into the air and shoots them instead of asking for a lighter.

As I grew older and wiser, and studied Film Studies as part of my Masters and MPhil, I have realised that one man’s ridiculous is another man’s norm. That Rajinikanth is not too different from Tom Cruise who keeps saving the world and dating young girls every few years.

But if you remove the settings, every single Rajinikanth film is essentially the same – one man changing the scenario around him. A man without any weakness, flaw, or trait that would take away from the cult that he carries around like an aura.

I understand fan-worship. I understand devoutly devotion to the man, to an extent where the dynamics of the game don’t matter anymore. The 90s created two such superstars – Sachin Tendulkar and Rajinikanth – both demigods for their fans. The two of them are humble, successful, and polite – in short, they symbolise Indian values that have been revered over the ages.

And yet, like Sachin Tendulkar in his last few years, how good has Rajinikanth really been? Endhiran was a Shankar wet-dream, Sivaji was loud to the point of being funny, Lingaa and Kochadaiiyaan fell into the category of My Friend Ganesha and Bal Ganesh.

And yet, every single film of his continues to revolve around him. Every single film expects him to fight goons, send them flying into the air, struggle with dance moves, romance women half his age – it’s all cringe-worthy, to be honest. The best action scenes in his films are laughable, the romantic scenes seem weird at four different levels – does he really need all this?

While it may pass off as devotion in today’s times, history will laugh at these films. The future generation will make jokes and memes about it, since the films are dishonest in their basic motive – to tell a story. Which is why I like to ask Rajinikanth fans – do you really love the man?

Or do you love what you like to see of him?

If you truly loved him, you’d let him age gracefully. You’d let him play his age, choose films where he has to utilise some of the acting chops that got him his fame in the first place. How long is he going to be dancing for you morons? He looks weak, washed out, and uncomfortable in the fight sequences. How long does he have to keep churning out stuff so you guys can put up a fuck-all update on Facebook and feel ‘proud’ about him?

I wonder what he thinks of his movies. I wonder if they get him excited in the first place. He never gives interviews or promotes his films. Even when he does, he is polite and humble, to the extent where he called Aishwarya Rai a tremendous actor. So one will never know!

Let him go, guys!

From a conductor of state-run buses, he has come this far on his own. He didn’t need you, or your stupid Facebook posts, or all those liters of precious milk poured over his cut-out.

The guy deserves a break. A retirement plan. The choice to choose a film where he doesn’t seem like the ambassador for calcium tablets.

Let go of Rajinikanth. He deserves a more benevolent look-back from history.

But mostly, he deserves a break from you guys!

maxresdefault (1)

Mohenjo Daro Music Review

AR Rahman is generally at his best when in partnership with his friends.

His greatest works have come in collaborations with Mani Ratnam, Gautham Menon, Imtiaz Ali, Shankar and Ashutosh Gowariker. It’d be interesting to hypothesize about the success of these filmmakers without Rahman’s music, but that’s for another post.

Ashutosh Gowariker is back with his next film, and it looks like it took him six years to recover from the debacle of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se. He’d earlier taken a six year break after Baazi, coming back with Lagaan.

Gowariker’s earlier stints with Rahman were all major winners, and the two of them come back along with their third musketeer – Javed Akhtar. So does Mohenjo Daro live up to the filmmaker’s earlier collaborations with Rahman?

*

Track 1: Mohenjo Mohenjo

The first track in the album begins with Rahman’s tribal sounds, a set of gibberish accompanied by Shivamani’s thumping beats. In a few seconds, you’re looking forward to what’s coming. You see, listening to a Rahman album for the first time is almost a spiritual experience.

If the songs are good, that is. If they’re not, like Blue or Yuvvraj, you begin to question the purpose of life in the first place. It’s alright to listen to Anu Malik make bad music, but for Rahman to do it, is tragic.

The first track sounds familiar, a bit from Behne De, a bit from Ghanan Ghanan. Arijit Singh croons to Javed Akhtar’s rather simplistic lyrics, a problem I faced throughout the album. Lines like Chand aur Suraj donon ne dekha, Mohenjo Daro mein Rangon ka Mela just don’t cut it anymore. They were in vogue in the early 90s, but the analogies sound rather stale now.

Rahman manages to make Arijit sound the most un-Arijit-like, and that’s what keeps you interested through the track, which ends in a crescendo by Shivamani. All in all, the song feels like a performance in a reality shows, where Rahman seems to half-heartedly smile, like he’s itching to get back to his studio and call Hariharan about a new song idea.

Mohenjo Mohenjo leaves you gasping for more, just as the second track, titled Sindhu Ma takes off.

 

Track 2: Sindhu Ma

Undoubtedly the track of the album, Sindhu Ma begins with Sanah Moidutty’s sensuous overtones, and truly kicks off when Rahman comes into the picture. This is the song that plays in the trailer (though that doesn’t seem like a very bright idea in hindsight!).

Rahman makes even gibberish sound magical, and performs a ‘scat-aalap’ that only he could have. Every Rahman album has that one song that gives you goosebumps, Sindhu Ma is that track in Mohenjo Daro.  

The sound doesn’t sound completely original. There are shades of ‘Tum Ho’ (Rockstar) and ‘Kaise Mujhe’ (Ghajini). The track doesn’t bother with staying true to the time period the film is set in, using violins and synthesisers, but all that’s forgiven since it’s Rahman.

Javed Akhtar’s lyrics continue to disappoint, with lines like Paas aake bhi maun hai tu, Yeh toh bata kaun hai tu. The kind of lyrics Sameer used to churn out in the 90s – Tu hai jeevan mera, Tu hai jaaneman mera.     

The song ends in classic 90s boy-band love-track manner, opting to shift to a higher scale at the end. I felt a tinge of sadness as the song came to an end, perhaps as a premonition about the rest of the album.

 

Track 3: Sarsariya

Crooned by newcomers Shashwat Singh and Shashaa Tirupati, Sarsariya begins on exotic footing – gibberish, flute, and drums. And yet, it has the half-hearted feel of the tracks of Asoka. I have a feeling this track will be used as the heroine’s entry song. Javed Akhtar continues to dish out lazy lyrics with lines that go – Sab hai mere sapne, rang hai sab apne.

Shashwat Singh has an interesting voice, but the track switches tracks too quickly for you to invest in it. In fact, the track is quite annoying and I couldn’t wait for it to end.

 

Track 4: Tu Hai

This is a rehash of Sindhu Ma, but a more sanitised version of the song. It lacks the magical beginning of the Sindhu Ma, and if the trailers are anything to go by, will be sung by the leads when they find love in each other.

There are traces of Rahman’s beauty in the track, but having heard the earlier version, this seems like yesterday’s Chicken Biriyani that’s been refrigerated and reheated. It’s Rahman nonetheless, and I gave it a full listen out of respect for the man.

 

Tracks 5, 6, 7 : Whispers of the Wind, The Shimmer of Sindhu and Lakh Lakh Thora

What sets Rahman apart from his contemporaries are his stunning background tracks. While most music directors lazily employ pieces from songs in the film as background music, Rahman actually composes stunning pieces of music.

Listen to Slumdog Millionaire’s Latika’s Theme, or the haunting Bombay theme, and you’ll know what I’m talking about. Which is why I wanted to listen to the three tracks that come with the album.

However, these are mere rehashes of the songs on the album, and nothing to write home about. You might enjoy Whispers of the Wind if you’re smoking a joint alone in the night. The Shimmer of Sindhu is a rehash of Tu Hai, and Lakh Lakh Thora is the last track of the album.

 

VERDICT:

Mohenjo Daro fails to stir up the kind of emotions that Rahman is used to when collaborating with Ashutosh Gowariker.

If my theory – Rahman Knows – is anything to go by, the album and the impending film might be headed for a disaster. But one can never be sure about these things. The soundtrack of Mohenjo Daro is strictly ordinary, and only for die-hard Rahman fans (which is probably half the nation anyway!).

***

(If you’re a Rahman fan, you should check out other articles on the man – Rahman on Coke Studio, and How I Knew Jab Tak Hai Jaan Would Be Crap)

salman-khan-sultan-820

‘Sultan’ is Shawshank Redemption for poor people

While drafting this piece, I spent considerable time working on the title. Should I use the word ‘poor’?

I’d initially gone for ‘Dumb’, but that’s a broad generalisation. Who am I to determine if those watching the film are dumb? May be they’ve grown up with sad friends, or difficult circumstances. Maybe they got dragged along grudgingly with their friends.

I am not a rich man myself. It’s not Rober Vadra, typing away on a jet while three Congress Pradesh Committee members polish my shoes. But the word ‘poor’ is more encompassing than ‘dumb’. One be financially poor, or even aesthetically.

*

In Sultan, we see Bhai as the Robin Hood of cinematic aesthetics. Stealing from the riches of the West, only to distribute it to the poor here in India. For, how can a youngster in India have access to cinematic gems like Shawshank Redemption?

How does one take time out from gymming to watch sporting wonders like Raging Bull? How can one expect them to watch Rocky – 4, when life throws you Zayed Khan’s Rocky – The Rebel?

Not for sale in Netherlands cos their govt. didn't want citizens to suffer brain damage en masse.

Not for sale in Netherlands cos their govt. didn’t want citizens to suffer brain damage en masse.

How does one take time out from shopping for Being Human T-shirts, when one is merely Lucky – No Time for Love – to survive in today’s times? One needs to carry one’s Garv – Pride and Honour – where’s the time or resources to watch Shawshank Redemption? Or even read the book by Stephen King? By the time one finishes shopping for blue bracelets, one has become Baaghi – A Rebel for Love.

Bhai understands all this.

Precisely why Bhai brought all those films, thrashed them to pulp, squeezed the metal handle of the juicer with his enormous arms, and handed it to his fans.

Which is why the film shows Bhai as a 30 year-old-vagabond who decides to learn wrestling to impress a girl. In a month, he has won the District Wrestling Championship. In a few months, he has won Gold at Asian Games, followed by the 2010 Delhi Commonwealth Games, and (please don’t hold your breath), the London 2012 Olympics. By this time, Bhai is so tired of winning Gold that he actually bites the medal and waves at his fans. I wonder how wrestlers feel about that.

As I watched the scenes and heard the hoots and applause, I felt strangely benevolent. Let them enjoy this, the poor people, I thought, feeling like a kurta-wearing History major from Jadavpur University. Let them enjoy the monsoons, I thought, for they have no access to hot showers and jacuzzis.

*

Irrespective of what I think of the film, Sultan firmly establishes the fact that Salman Khan is truly the biggest superstar in Hindi cinema. When every scene, every line, every shot is created to elicit whistles and applause, it is futile to analyse the film.

We’ve seen this earlier with Rajini Kanth and Chiranjeevi films, but never in Hindi cinema. Bhai is present in each and every scene, his star-status towering over the story, script, director, and the whole point of the film. This can only mean two things.

1. The next few years will be a golden run for Bhai as the biggest superstar. His films will mock film critics to the faces, and run to packed houses irrespective of cinematic techniques.

2. Every film, however, will truly suck. There’s no other way to put it. If one looks at Rajinikanth’s films, they’re all huge hits, but when observed objectively, they’re well and truly shitty films, that do nothing but further elevate a god-man into a god.

Salman Khan is the Dharmendra of our generation. Many years down the line, our children will watch Salman Khan’s films on Zee Cinema, which I have no doubt, will continue to exist. Zee Cinema is the cockroach among Indian TV channels.

Our next generation will wait for us to leave the house, light up joints, watch Sultan win the Olympic Gold, and giggle.

***

sallu bhai

Why are we pissed off with Salman Khan’s statement?

Why does Salman Khan’s statement piss us off?

More than the statement, I am surprised that people are outraging over the man. I mean, he’s uneducated, has killed people, is known to have a violent streak, and destroy people who don’t lick his ass. For decades now, the guy has been getting away with actual crimes – killing animals, threatening them, beating up people – and we are shocked that he made a stray comment about feeling like a rape victim.

What did you expect anyway? A lecture on the Palestinian crisis? A detail thesis to deal with the Venezuelan agricultural crisis? A three-part treatise on the Bhagwad Gita? He’s Salman Khan, for fuck’s sake. The guy would flunk the 7th standard exam if he sat for them!

I don’t mean to sound pompous, but I have never dated a Salman Khan fan. Of course, it’s no sign of greatness, nor am I Ali Zafar. It probably doesn’t make any difference to the eternal bachelor. A bhai who is so bhai that he can’t find a behen to get married to. I’ve always nurtured a rather terrible opinion of Salman Khan and his films. And most Salman Khan fans are like the man himself – slightly less educated, crude, morons who wouldn’t be on Twitter if there was an eligibility test.

And why should Salman give a shit? Honestly, the man has spent his entire life in an industry that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about women. Go through the history of Hindi films, and you’ll find a handful of filmmakers who actually write meaningful roles for women. So gender-skewed are our films, that actresses who have equal dialogues as the heroes in a film are labelled ‘Intelligent’/parallel/arthouse actors.

If Salman Khan’s statement shocked you, I daresay Balakrishna’s statement a few months back wouldn’t make you bat an eyelid. Balakrishna is a bull who has confused screaming and slapping his thighs as acting for more than two decades now.

balakrishna-o

 

Or the statement by Mulayalam Singh Yadav. Or by any other religious guru, be it Hindu or Muslim, when he talks about women. Asaram Bapu, the pedophile Baba wanted women to call their rapists ‘Bhaiyya’. And if it’s insensitive statements that we are worried about, we need to look no further than our Prime Minister. The shining beacon of light and hope and energy and goodness and everything soft and fluffy in the world. Not too long ago, he called out to Sunanda Pushkar, a businesswoman in her own right, as a ‘50 crore ki girlfriend’.

The fact is, we as a nation have a long history of rape culture. Look at our mythology – most of our leading women in mythological stories are either suspected of adultery, or banished, or stripped, or their noses chopped off for expressing love. Gomata has more of our trust that Sita mata ever did.

We are a nation where politicians openly condone rapes as ‘mistakes boys commit’. Every political party fields candidates who have a history of crimes against women. On Twitter, fans of our Prime Minister openly challenge women journalists to statements, followed by threats to rape them.

Those with good hearts use women as shields in an argument. ‘How would you feel if it were your mother and sister?’. That one statement knocks sense into all our heads because, let’s face it, how else can one explain an analogy without bringing in imaginary mothers and sisters? We have sexualised every single woman in mainstream consciousness.

Sportswomen, IAS Officers, police officers, politicians, just about anybody. Search Sania Mirza on the web and you’ll find a genius who records her videos, converts them into 3X slow-motion so he can see her boobs jiggle. Saina Nehwal? Her too. In fact, on the day Tendulkar retired, I remember going to a cafe nearby to rewatch his video, and the first comment that popped up was this – His daughter is hot. She was barely a teenager back then.

The fact is that we have been objectifying women for a long time in our country. And don’t forget, a few years ago, Aamir Khan, our beacon of wisdom, featured an extended balaatkaar joke. Everybody laughed, and went back home happy.

We need to stop expecting our film stars to refrain from making sensible statements. Most of them haven’t really gone to college, read books, participated in discussions. Some of them are certified criminals too.

Arnab Goswami will scream about it tonight. A few articles will feature on PoopScoop, and tomorrow, and tomorrow, we’ll be fussing over Princess Charlotte’s upskirt pictures.

Go home, folks! We live in the age of one-day outrage.

maxresdefault

A lazy, laidback review of ‘Udta Punjab’

In my earlier post, I explained my problem with instant movie reviews. There is no time to think and analyse, and the entire exercise feels like a Social Studies exam where you try to write a certain length (with a handwriting for some grace marks!). Having decided to refrain from the rat race, here’s my opinion of Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab.

The film starts off like most of Chaubey’s work – two minutes and you know you’re in safe hands. While the opening scene evoked a gasp from the audience, if you’re acquainted with Chaubey’s work, you’ll find it is typical Chaubey. His films contain maverick plots, run by hedonistic characters, where the dialogue is heavy and the lives cheap.

Even as the promos came out, I was a little sceptical about the film. The plot of the angry, angsty singer is not new to Bollywood. Whether it is Amitabh Bachchan and his wife crooning songs for, and directed at each other. Or Mithunda’s iconic Jimmy shimmying on the dance floor. Or Aashiqui where Kumar Sanu tried to find his way to your heart, through his nose. Or the second installment of the franchise which made absolutely no sense to me at all. Or the poster-boy of ‘singer movies’ – Rockstar – which I always felt was a mediocre film that began the hype of Imtiaz Ali.

It's been 5 years. And nobody knows why he was angry in the film!

It’s been 5 years. And nobody knows why he was angry in the film!

Bollywood has a knack of portraying singers in a particular fashion – they are all either troubled/crazy/emotional wrecks. We want Kishore Kumars and Michael Jacksons. There’s no place for Mohd. Rafi, who records his songs, buys vegetables for the family, and goes home.

And yet, Chaubey manages to keep Tommy/Gabru fresh. There is a certain craziness that he brings into the role, and yet it is not awe that we feel. It’s a bit of pity, mixed with sadness. Shahid Kapoor’s Tommy is a mix of the craziness of Christian Bale, combined with the cockiness of Zlatan Abramovic, and the IQ of Honey Singh.

And yet, he’s not the most interesting subject of the film. Carefully avoiding yet another spiral down a failed rockstar’s abyss, Udta Punjab sets a veritable trampoline, frequently jumping out of contrived situations with stellar effect.

With all the pre-release hype of the drug problem, I was curious about its depiction in the film. Watching the film after going through the suggested cuts gives you an actual idea about what a gigantic douchebag Pahlaj Nihalani really is. The scenes/lines that were suggested had nothing to do really with drugs, but with swear-words. Because honestly, who uses swear words in really life, behenchod!

The depiction of drugs in Bollywood isn’t new either, and each depiction makes me want to snort a line of coke and go on a rampage. Drugs are always shown as an ambiguous white line, a nameless syringe that infuses crazed emotions in the actor. Or makes them stoop down to unearthly lows. Like Priyanka Chopra in Fashion, who is happily leading a hippie lifestyle, and finds transformation after sleeping with a black man after a drug-filled frenzy. Trust Madhur Bhandarkar to offend both Blacks and Drugs with one scene!

The drugs in Udta Punjab are not a rich man’s pleasure, they are the routine of every strata of society. If there are dudes sniffing before a concert, there are kids looking for a fix while bunking school. Combining the tropes of Punjab with the ease of a master storyteller, Abhishek Chaubey manages to depict the drug problem for what it is – a truly grassroots movement in a state blessed with five rivers, fertile land, loads of money, and a crazy neighbour in Pakistan.

Another Thumbs Up to the lowly, unpaid intern who did the subtitling of the film. Most films spend crores in production, and yet skimp money on subtitles. Subtitles in most Indian films range from the

brutally honest…

Courtesy the hilarious Tumblr page - http://paagalsubtitle.tumblr.com/

Courtesy the hilarious Tumblr page – http://paagalsubtitle.tumblr.com/

to the absurd…

Picture Courtesy

                                                          Picture Courtesy

to silli spelling mistakes…

to hirsute imaginations!

The subtitles in Udta Punjab are smartly done, and I even found a Lucy in the Sky reference. Whoever you are, dear unpaid intern, keep smoking them joints, and please show Kashyap this blog and ask for a raise!

*

The characters of Udta Punjab stand out from the clutter of drug-ridden films, simply because of the life pumped into them by the writers. Irrespective of who they were essayed by, each character possessed character.

Kareena Kapoor’s Preet is probably the worst-written character in the film, and yet she puts in all her experience to play. For brief moments, her eyes light up like they did in Jab We Met, but we’re cruelly brought back to the grim reality of our subject matter, and her eyes sink back into emptiness.

Diljit Dosanjh as the cop does away with regular Punjabi histrionics, and is clearly the one person set to benefit the most from this venture. Shahid Kapoor as Gabru must have had a tough time after playing Hamlet in Haider, incidentally the only Vishal Bharadwaj film that Abhishek Chaubey didn’t assist for.

The role demands not a spectacular performance, but a jittery fidgetiness of a racoon. Shahid Kapoor is predictable in a few scenes, but it is when the scenes are tightly written that he truly shines. Over the years, Chaubey has specialised in creating moments where you’re laughing along, and suddenly feel like a pig for laughing. Like Saurav Ganguly in his final years, Shahid Kapoor waits for these moments, smashing them out of the park.

Rising beyond the film, and the rest of the cast, is Alia Bhat. For someone who began with a prudent film like Prudent of The Year, she has shown great courage in her choice of roles. Udta Punjab does for Alia what Highway couldn’t. As the Bihari migrant, she holds an iron grip over her scenes, not once can you take your eyes off her.

You’ve seen the cast in similar fashion earlier. Kareena’s character looks and talks like she did in Dev, Shahid Kapoor in his Ishq Vishk – Fida days. Alia Bhat looks like she’s still in a hangover from Highway. And yet, the fact that they make the film work is testimony to razor-sharp writing.

The biggest hero of the film, however, is Abhishek Chaubey. Having followed his career for years now, it was sad to see his overshadowed by his mentor Vishal Bharadwaj at every step. Even his two earlier films, the spectacular Ishqiya and Dedh Ishqiya are often wrongly credited to Bharadwaj. With Udta Punjab, he is no more playing under the shadow of Bharadwaj and Gulzar, and truly shines on his own merit.

Udta Punjab is engaging. Is it worth going to a cinema hall when you could download all of it for free on the Internet? That’s a choice you’ll have to make, my friend!

13320830_1726920477593127_7875142962831515729_o

A More Sober Take on ‘Sairat’

 

2016 marks the tenth year of me reviewing movies, and I realize in hindsight the transient nature of film reviews. Most often, the reviews are written in haste, having to ward off competition from other reviewers, and thus emotions are running high. At times, I’m still dazed by the film, and the dark hall, the music, the visuals – they leave a buzz not completely different to a weekend party where you consider a stranger as your closest friend.

As a result, I have decided to review films after a few days of watching the film. It’s my own Litmus Test, to see if the film still resonates with me after a few days. Fan, for example, got near universal good reviews, is really an aging star masturbating furiously for attention. And Housefull 3 which got panned, isn’t very different from the loony films that Salman Khan churns out. And so, like Rahul Dravid in his final years, I have decided to pull out from the quicker format, choosing instead to take some time off to analyse my feelings about a film, and only then pen them down.

The other peeve against film reviews in India, is that most of them are outright dumb. Very rarely will you find a review that doesn’t mention spoilers. Some of Sairat’s reviews contained the headline – ‘A tragic love story’. You moron, the director worked his ass off for three years to make the movie, and it took all of three words and a pea-brained critic to give it all away. I have consistently worked on reviewing films without spoiling them, though I don’t know how good I’ve gotten at that.

*

I had written a passionate review of Sairat, the film of the year for me so far. And yet, I fell into the trap of a conventional review – Introduction, Main Body, Performances, Final verdict. But it’s to the film’s credit that I still watch a few clips from the film, and play the songs after a good joint. And here are a few thoughts that stayed with me.

Kindly tread into the rest of the review carefully. There are spoilers, but the film has been playing for two months now, and I assume you’ve made your decision about whether to watch it or not. If you still nurture any desire to watch it, it’s still playing in theatres.

 

What do we find funny?

Sairat got the ‘look and feel’ spot-on. Most big-budget commercial films resort to cheap imitations of villages. Most times, you can see that the entire set up is merely a set, and it gets rather difficult to believe the film from there on.

Sairat also got the casting spot on. So good, in fact, that is makes Omkara seem like a cheap, high-school play. While the leads are very efficient in their task, I am surprised nobody is talking about the hero’s two friends – Tanaji Galgunde as Pradeep and Arbaj Shaikh as Salya. While Hindi films usually use disability to squeeze out cheap emotions to hide bad writing (Bhansali) or for cheap laughs (Sajid Khan), for the first time, there was an actual fletched out character with a disability.

It is difficult to view a character without the prism of disability, since we in India ensure that the person’s entire persona revolves around it. The actor was terrific and the scenes well-written, and yet the audience laughed every time he walked, every time he was called Langda.

There’s a stirring scene in which Pradeep believes a girl has thrown him a letter, only to break down later – the audience was laughing throughout. Another beautiful scene is the one where Archie asks them to call him by his name – Pradeep – whose face lights up.

I was filled with shame and embarrassment, of sitting in a dark room with hundreds of people whose idea of humour is a man limping, of him being called Langda. Which took me back to Omkara and Saif Ali Khan’s depiction of a limp man. Nobody laughed at Saif Ali Khan, for we all knew he wasn’t really disabled. When Saif Ali Khan essayed the role, people went Wah! Kya acting hai. But here, when the director chose to cast a disabled person, we realized it’s OK to laugh at him.

I thought it was the initial shock value, and yet, the audience continued to laugh. The final shot of the amazing actor is when he’s getting beaten up by the goons – the audience continued to laugh, right till the very end.

*

WHO KILLED ARCHIE?

While I was expecting a tragic ending, thanks to the brilliance of our moronic film critics, when it came, it hit me hard.

The audience that had been giggling all along sat in stunned silence, unable to comprehend what had just happened. How could a director do this to them? A film that had small smiles and little tears, with the occasional lame joke thrown in, how could it take such a savage turn? And yet, I could imagine the director smiling in joy. It is that one scene that encapsulates the movie more than anything else. The director was not here to entertain you. He’s here to cajole and coax you into a joyful ride, much like a pedophile, only to deliver the slap right at the end.

And yet, the film left so many delectable loose threads that I have been thinking about it for weeks now. Who really killed Archie? The obvious finger points to her father and the goons. But is it really that simple?

Could it have been her own mother? We haven’t been shown much of the mother. She’s shown toeing the line, petrified of the patriarch, never once voicing an opinion of her own. Once Archie has run away, she’s shown as a shadow of her earlier ghost-self. Was she so ashamed of her daughter that she gave her away?

Or was it the Panchayat? When Parshya’s father requests them to ‘do anything’ that could make them atone for their sins, the elderly members of the Panchayat nod. Was it them that sent the killers to locate them?

Or perhaps it was Archie’s idea of a perfect home that took her life. The hope that her parents would turn a new leaf and accept them with love and joy. And that’s perhaps the mistake we all make.

We have been taught that our parents are amazing people. That they are good, noble, will stand up for you when the time comes. Which is not necessarily true. This unnecessary worshipping of parents in Hindu culture is responsible for half the problems in the first place. Issues like caste are carried over by families, not through friends. Most of our parents believe in caste, and yet think they’re harmless.

The fact is Indian parents are not the greatest set of parents in the world. Constantly straddling the two worlds of tradition and modernity, they finally resort to what THEIR parents would have done.

Matru Moron Bhava. Pitru Petty Bhava.

And that is what killed Archie.

***

(Featured Image courtesy: Arbaj Shaikh’s Facebook page).