Category Archives: Review

Sairat-Aattach-Baya-Ka-Baavarala-Song-Promo

Sairat – A completely hungover review

I have generally been wary of regional cinema for a variety of reasons.

Most regional films have subtitles that give you existential doubts, the nuances and references are lost in translation, and you end up experiencing a truncated version of the original work.

Sairat has been running in exactly one cinema hall in Hyderabad for the last two months. One show in one cinema hall, and yet, booking a ticket has proven a Herculean task. After a series of futile attempts, we managed to book tickets to the film.

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It didn’t help that Lady Luck had plans to sabotage the entire exercise. It happened to be Telangana formation day, and the entire city was decked up to celebrate their surprise independence. Traffic was diverted from normal roads to AnuragKashyapish lanes, and the mall we went to happened to be the worst mall in the history of human civilisation. A series of lifts with minds of their own, and a Tolkienish adventure later, we found ourselves 20 minutes late into the movie. Being a finicky cinema-goer, I usually resort to skipping the entire movie and stuffing my stomach instead.

But a voice told me that I must go watch the movie. And dragged me by the arm into a dark hall filled with giggling people. As I snuggled into my seat, it was as if I’d been present right from the beginning.

Director Nagraj Manjule takes his own sweet time establishing his characters, like a confident paan-wallah adding layers of delicacies for an indulgent customer. It’s a refreshing change from the usual tripe of Hindi cinema, where character is established with the help of an item number. He teases and reveals, and restricts and reveals even more, and before I knew it, I had begun caring for the leads. Even the interval in the film is strategically placed so as to retain the director’s iron grip over the audience’s attention.

Manjule gives a wonderful spin to the classic rural love story, flipping it on its head. Starring lead pair that seems born to do the film, Sairat benefits from the painstaking efforts the director takes to make you feel for the character. So they end up not mere characters, but breathing-walking people you’ve have met at some point in your life. When they smile, you smile with them. When they dance, you want to dance with them (but can’t, thanks to the fat uncle next to you who can’t stop being Louis CK for his family!).

Neither dumbing itself down for regional audiences, nor biting off more than it can eschew like Bengali art-house cinema, Sairat begins on solid footing and soars from there on. Within minutes, I sat back in my seat. This was pure, old-fashioned storytelling. No frills, no bullshit.

*

There are a number of reasons why Sairat works, but none as important as the casting of the film. In the performance of the year, Rinku Rajguru is a debutant with the swagger of a Meryl Streep. She straddles every scene and grabs it by the horns, making you want to scream, hoot and whistle for her. And yet, it is not ‘in-your-face’. She conveys more by her silences, a cocking of the head, a lilt in her voice. Such is her brilliance that she overshadows, nay completely eclipses an otherwise solid performance by the lead Akash Thosar.

To add to the glitz of the proceedings are Ajay-Atul the sibling duo who stir up a stunning soundtrack for the film. At once rousing and riveting and randy, the soundtrack acts like the nervous system of the film, infusing life, joy and drama into a glorious film by itself.

And yet, above all, Sairat is a gigantic bitch-slap to the face of our nation. A nation that believes it possesses ‘the greatest culture in the world’ even though nobody except ourselves told us so. A nation so blinded by imaginary fables that it refuses to notice that it follows the most regressive discriminatory system in the entire world. A society so caught up sucking up to their parents and living their lives through borrowed ideals, that we never stop to think that we are the only country that follows a system as cruel and outrageously horrifying as the Caste system.

Please watch Sairat. Brave the rains if you have to, brave the tyrannical distance of the only cinema hall that’s screening the film. It’s well worth it. Very rarely does a film thrill you, and shake you up at the same time.

Sairat is a story waiting to be heard.

Sea of poppies

Amitav Ghosh’s ‘Sea of Poppies’ – A Completely Biased Review

I am sorry for disturbing you at Lunch Break with a seemingly profound question. But if I were to tell you that I recently came to possess an electronic device that has changed my life, would you believe me?

Perhaps not. It is the trap of using the words ‘life’ and ‘change’ in the same sentence, and that comes with its own baggage.

But how about this? How about if I told you that the electronic device has turned my life topsy turvy, if only in the most blissful of ways? May be that would be a more digestible sentence. The device in question is the Kindle eBook reader, and I’d require an entire blog to recount in great detail the many ways I’m completely obsessed with it. It has fragmented my life into three parts, and I find myself either reading, writing or doing stand up comedy. So lost am I in this Bermuda Triangle of sinful pleasure, that I have been able to finish a book every two days.

I am aware of the desensitisation of reading too much, too soon. That if you switch from one book to the other, you’re robbing yourself of the true experience of reading a book. You aren’t giving yourself time to savour and relish the essence of the book. You’re robbing yourself of the experience of sitting back and contemplating and concreting your thoughts on the book. That it gets reduced to a mechanical process.

These are all wonderfully valid points. But I’d have to disagree with them. I hope I’m able to make my point clear at the end of this post, but without much ado, let us dive in to the review for the book. I have never reviewed a book, except to recommend them to friends, when I adorn the avatar of an Amway salesman.

If you’re the literary sort, this review might not be what you’re expecting. I’m unaware of the literary nuances of a book review, but like Himesh Reshammiya might say, ‘Chuck it, Jai Mata Di, Let’s Rock!’.

*
My first exposure to an Amitav Ghosh book was a rather strange occurrence.

We had congregated at Bakul Children’s Library – a voluntary organisation that also happens to be the noisiest, and my most favourite library in the entire world. There was a talk by an inspirational and spiritual talker.

I am not a fan of the tribe, but I’d tagged along anyway. The speaker, a pretty young woman, was speaking in the language that motivational speakers do – Vaguelish – a bunch of vague quotations and philosophical musings strung together for a bunch of impressionable minds.

One particular exercise in the entire routine was to ‘find answers’ for our ‘deepest questions’. For this, we were to pick up a random book, close our eyes, and think of a number, and the question that was most disturbing us. We were then to open to the page number that the universe had conspired to whisper in our ears, and lo and behold! – we would find the answer to the questions that were gnawing at our less-evolved minds.

I walked up to the rack of books and scanned through them. Suddenly, it was an audition. These great writers across lands and ages, vying for my attention for a few moments. I wasn’t going to spend time with them, read and ruminate over their thoughts – No. I was merely going to use them for a few moments for an utterly selfish motive. I remember smiling throughout, at how beautifully absurd the entire exercise was.

I had read merely two authors in the entire rack – RK Narayan and JK Rowling – but I chose to ignore them. I didn’t want my greatest question in life to be answered thus –

‘When will become of me in a few years?’

‘Adava Kedavra!’ he shrieked, and all that remained of the body was smoke and dust.

So I took my time running through the books till I chose Amitav Ghosh’s The Glass Palace, probably due to its intriguingly beautiful cover. Dressed in a pretentious white kurta, blue jeans and thick-rimmed glasses, I chose to find my answers by judging a book by its cover.

I don’t remember what my question was, or what reply the universe chose to bestow upon me that hot afternoon. But I never touched an Amitav Ghosh book again.

*

Cut to 2015, and as part of my MPhil in Diaspora Studies, a professor mentions Amitav Ghosh and his work. Much of our course deals with the times of indentured labour, when the British steered the first intercontinental exoduses to feed their farms and plantations across the world.

Perhaps there is a time for everything. Just as I was flirting with the idea of a historical novel, I chanced upon Sea of Poppies. One glance at the number of pages (the other way that I often judge a book), and I knew I wasn’t going to be able to finish the book in two days. It would take longer than that, and might require a little more investment than the ones I’d read so far on my newly purchased, life-changing, electronic device.

I clicked on the cover, and set sail on the journey.

*

The year is 1938, and many parts of the Ganga basin have been consumed by poppy cultivation. Funded and regulated by the East India Company, Opium has become the magic potion that keeps the East India Company robust.

Deeti is married to an opium-addicted former sepoy who isn’t going to last too long. His brother has his eyes on Deeti, and she has to choose between agreeing to his conditions, or setting herself alight in the funeral pyre of her husband.

Raja Neel Ruttan is a zamindar who owns lands, people, and runs their lives, blissfully cocooned from the rest of the world. He spends his time collecting books, discussing the affairs of the world, making love to his concubine, and flying kites with his little son. But the picture is too perfect in a world that is beginning to witness tectonic shifts, and he is stripped of everything he prided himself upon.

Zachary is a sailor from America who set sail with a ship – Ibis, and plans to spend the rest of his life on it. He is young, indispensable, and seems to be liked by each and every person he meets. Is he just a large-hearted American sailor? Or is he the avatar of Lord Krishna?

But Amitav Ghosh uses the characters as mere garnishing – to sprinkle over the already simmering pot of conflict. There is the British Empire that is working on attacking China in what would be known as the Opium Wars. There is the sea itself, calm and serene like a mother’s lap one moment, and vicious and unforgiving the next. There is the ship Ibis – the mothership that carries in its womb these fragmented lives that have come together under bizarre circumstances. Travelling to an unknown land where it is rumoured that they will be friend and eaten. Or made to work like slaves without care or comfort.

Then there is the language that Ghosh chooses to stir everything together with. Using folk songs from Bhojpuri, swearwords in Hindusthani, afflictions from Britain, and the sycophantic ‘Indian-English’, the author concocts a wonderful language that could only be spoken by men who live on waters all their lives. The language is representative of the people on the ship – strung together from all parts, forced to live together.

Sea of Poppies is the first real epic Indian English novel that I’ve read. It was a question that would trouble me often in the last few years, when I decided to read books with more seriousness. I would wonder why no Indian author chose to write a sweeping epic based on people from our wonderfully diverse country, surely it must be a goldmine for a writer!

This book turned out to be the answer to my questions. The book made me experience the thrill of going back to it book after a short break, like being reunited with your partner after a few days. I spent the last four days lying on my back, chewing on tasteless vadas, and sipping on phony pineapple juice, all the while traveling with the characters on a journey that was going to alter their lives forever. I finished the book a few hours ago, and all I wanted to do was write about it.

Not a flashy, snarky blog where I make snide remarks at people. But a piece where I could revel in converting my thoughts into words, just watching the black letters form words and ideas on the white paper.

*

Going back to the question I had raised at the beginning of the post, on why I am reading with a mad frenzy, without break or pause.

All through my life, I have gravitated towards people who possessed two defining qualities. It wasn’t a conscious decision, but they were all women who loved animals; and were able to express their thoughts in the most beautiful manner. None of them want to be writers today (which is rather unfortunate), but if I try to put my head around what attracted me to them, it is perhaps this very quality. The ability to string together words in a manner that they could light up the insides of the other person’s head. It is a superpower that even superheroes do not possess.

I would often wonder how they did it. How were they able to convey their deepest thoughts in such a flowing, lucid style? Why did I have to struggle to mask my thoughts with humour, or lace them with abuse and sarcasm?

As I finished Sea of Poppies, it struck me why they were all better at expressing their thoughts. It was because they had grown up reading beautiful books. Those books had influenced the manner in which they thought, spoke, and reacted.

And as I think back to myself at that age, I was a coward. I did not have the courage to even consider studying Literature, choosing instead to spend five years pursuing the one course chosen by people who have no clue what they want to become – B.Com.

Now, I feel like I am permanently playing catch-up. For some reason, people assume I’ve read a lot of books, and everytime the conversation steers towards books and authors, I end up making long mental notes of books and authors. Sometimes, I didn’t have the time. Other times, I didn’t have the resources.

But now that I have the greatest electronic device invented by man in my hands, I do not want to stop. I can probably live without the introspection and the savouring. May be it is a luxury I robbed myself of. But that’s alright.

There’s a lot of catching up to do, and my Kindle tells me there are 3 hours 22 minutes left in the next book I’m reading!

premratan6

A very late review of ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’

I often think of myself as a timid man. One without the guts to go watch some of the movies that get released in our country. I know what most people say – ‘It’s just entertainment, leave your brains/kidney/urinary tract at home and watch them’ .  But I often back out of such ventures, my pusillanimous sense of aesthetics afraid to venture further than my comfort zone.

But last night, as I was waiting for sleep to seduce me, I discovered the film on Hotstar. Perhaps some things are destined. May be I was supposed to watch the film on a Sunday night, after two good joints and a day of fulfilling work.

Here is a very late review of ‘Prem Ratan Dhan Payo’. If you have watched the film, good for you. If you haven’t, don’t fucking bother. It’s only interesting if you like Trash movies.

And Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is top quality trash. Top draw, big budget, operatic trash that you can sit back and relish after a good dinner and some sweets. If you don’t like Trash, you might feel like cutting your stomach open and eating your liver.

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When the iconic 21st Century Fox logo flashes with its iconic tune and trumpets, you realise Bhai is going to piss over all the childhood memories attached to it.

In the Opening Credits, you realise who the film is going to be about. One frame in the Credits reads: ‘Salman Khan’s Costume – XYZ, Salman Khan’s Legal Counsel – XYZ, Salman Khan’s Service Tax Counsel – XYZ’.

Within 5 minutes, our man is dancing with men dressed as women in a song called Prem Leela. I turned around on my bed to lie down on my front, and pulled up my blanket, this was going to be a Trashfest of glorious proportions!
*
Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is vintage Salman Khan.

It is Salman Khan not giving a fuck about you, himself, the cosmos, and Einstein’s Gravitational Waves.

This is Salman Khan in and as Salman KhanWhether it is waltzing from bone-crunching action to a song named

‘Meena ho Rajjo ho, ya ho Sheela…

(wait for it) …Prem Leela…Prem Leela

Or dancing in the middle of a dialogue, sending you back to painful memories of Hello Brother and Yeh Hai Jalwa. Or using random English words in the middle of a sentence even though he plays a village simpleton.

And in a glorious bit of Troll-casting, Bhai is joined by none other than Sonam Kapoor. That woman with such an enigmatic voice that when she talks, you’re unsure if she’s saying something/asking you a question/suffering due to a scarcity of Hajmola.

Sonam Kapoor and Salman Khan share the same initials, and acting abilities. In this film, Sonam Kapoor runs an NGO, flies in a chopper, and does ‘nice’ stuff, like distributing clothes and food to poor children. Salman Khan wants to thank her for her good nature and begins to behave like an 8 year old on cocaine – making faces at the camera, smiling, twitching, doing Prabhudeva steps in the middle of a monologue. Uski marzi.

After a while, the entire enterprise seems like a school’s Annual Day drama, where the Principal’s son is the hero, and the rest of the school is playing along. You think you are set for a regular Salman Khan film.

BUT
(Dhan Dhan Dhan…)
There is another Salman Khan. A sophisticated prince who speaks English.

In order to pull off the highly complex task of portraying another character, the makers resort to the classic Bollywood trick – giving the ‘other guy’ a moustache. This other Salman Khan is calm and composed. For eg, after a fencing match with Neil Nitin Mukesh, he says, ‘That was close, Ajay. Good job’.

This prince uses words like ‘Ranjishein’, and visits people on a horse drawn carriage, fully aware of man’s developments in the domain of automobile cars. Because, Salman Khan.

What follows is a classic case of dual identity, with Salman Khan playing both the roles with such nuance that you can’t tell who’s who. You can’t even tell who you are, after a point. In an effortless performance, Salman Khan skilfully walks the middle line between four lines of coke and six lines of coke.

There are other actors thrown in so that Prem doesn’t feel lonely on the sets.
There is Anupam Kher playing a desi Alfred, offering sagely advice to Batman Khan. I wasn’t surprised to see Anupam Kher essay the role, because honestly, I have only seen Anupam Kher essay ridiculously asinine characters all my life.

And it is surprising that he won a Padma recently even though there are SO many actors who have achieved much more. You’d think that only Congress and Communists did stuff like this – rewarding their Yes-men with rewards. And giving Anupam Kher a Padma doesn’t stink of sycophancy at all.

But let us not besmirch a Salman Khan film by looking at it through a socio-political lens.

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is more than that. Watching the film reminded me of the time I had gone to a circus for the first time. I had never been to a circus, but I had read stories, and watched Mera Naam Joker across its runtime of four centuries, so I was excited. I wasn’t a kid or anything – must’ve been around 23, and there was this girl who I thought was cute, and she for some reason wanted to go watch the circus, so I tagged along.

It was a very self-aware experience. I was amazed that they still do stuff like that – elephants balancing on cycles, and clowns whose pants slip off and dwarfs on unicycles on ropes. After a little while, I was transfixed. I had let go of my self-aware, I’mGoingToBlogAboutThis avatar, and enjoyed the entire show.

Watching Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is a bit like that.

At one level, it is a film that has Salman Khan in it. But at a deeper subliminal level, it is also Salman Khan educating the nation about the various varied effects of psychotropic substances. When he is listening to other people talk, for example, it is the perfect expression of a person who has smoked one too many of Shiva’s Regals. When he is fighting, it is a perfect demonstration of coke-rage. When he is singing songs, it is to display the wonderful effects of Ecstasy. When he is being romantic, he smiles with the glee of a sublime blot of Amsterdam acid. It’s a layered performance in the truest sense.

Bhai is showing us as a nation how to handle life’s complexities. He has chosen the largest mass-medium in the country to spread the message.

Bhai is, after all, being human.

A very high human.

***

Baahubali Movie Review

If there is one thing that I absolutely hate in a cinema hall – it is kids.

They wail, and cry, or decide to take a walk between the seats and touch your hair, and expect you to turn around and pet them. Every time I notice there are kids around me in a hall, I pray that they die before the film starts.

Which was why, when I arrived in the hall for Baahubali, and found there were two kids near my seat, I prayed that they die. When the movie began, I had to double-check if they actually died, because they were silent all through. It is a testimony to how engrossing the film’s beginning is, that even those stupid kids kept shut. (But of course, they are kids, so they decided to cry later on in the movie!).

For a little context, Rajamouli is huge in Telugu cinema. For more than a decade, he has been churning out classic Good vs Evil, Prodigal Son stories that have all been hits – not even one of his films have been average grossers.

Rajamouli’s films more or less maintain similar themes – reincarnation, retribution, and a grand climax. He has perfected the archetype of the hero, villain, and most importantly, the Mother.

When I first saw the trailers of Baahubali, I was sceptical. The graphics didn’t look all that impressive, and I was worried it might just be another Telugu film that had ambitiously bitten off more than it could chew – like his earlier outing Eega.

I am not a huge fan of the ‘Big Budget’ theory. I fail to understand why people rave about terms like ‘Biggest Budget’, ‘Most expensive film’. Having a large budget doesn’t mean anything.

This scepticism comes from having watched earlier ‘most expensive’ films – Blue, starring a pregnant Sanjay Dutt and coke-glazed Zayed Khan, or Ra.One, which was so bad, they should have released a sequel called Tut.Two.

 

Clearly, having a huge budget is not a big deal. If you get a funder, you can make a film on as large a budget as you want, but it’s what you do with the budget that really makes a difference.

Rajamouli has painstakingly invested most of the money on his vision – lavish sets, the epic war scene. He doesn’t let you take your eyes off the screen even for a single moment.

If there was a grudge I had, it was to do with the slight compromises he had to make, to fit in songs. Perhaps we are not hindered by budgets and stories, but our own cinematic sensibilities. The songs seemed force-fed, and were definite speed-breakers in a film that was cruising along smoothly.

Which then brings me to the second part of any huge action film – inspirations.

There have been talks of action scenes ‘inspired’ from LOTR, and 300.

I don’t invest too much thought in such discussions. Cinema, like any art, builds up on its ancestors. For example, for a decade after Matrix released, all action movies had the slow-mo bullet flying in air shot. Even today, most Chinese-Hong Kong action films build on the Bruce Lee style of quick, hand-to-hand combat mode.

So I wasn’t too picky about which scene was inspired from where.

For me, all that matters is if it hasn’t been shamelessly lifted (without any context, just to latch on to an idea). Yes, there are a few shots that remind you of other action films, but the war scene is much more than that. In a way, right from the beginning, you are waiting for the war. And when it does come, it stays on for a good 30 minutes.

The performances, as in most Rajamouli’s films, are consistent – probably because most characters in his movies are archetypes. Prabhas is consistent, and Rana is a shade better. But it is Ramyakrishna and Satyaraj who take larger chunks of meat than they were promised.

If there was one complaint, it was of Tamannah. To watch her walk like a warrior, or use her sword, were laughably amateurish. It’s probably a grave she dug for herself – if you keep playing dandy, simpering doormat roles, it’s going to be difficult to be taken seriously when you actually put in the effort. Tamannah (What’s with the name change? It sounds like an orgasm!) sticks out like a sore thumb in a film with otherwise consistent performances.

Unlike most other hyped movies, you don’t feel cheated with Baahubali.

The best scenes aren’t the ones already shown in the trailers. The film is over before you know it, and that is saying something for the largest budget film in the country.

Rajamouli has his work cut out for the sequel.

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Dil Dhadakne Do – First World Armageddon

Farhan and Zoya Akhtar make films about First World Problems.

Dil Chahta Hai dealt with three overgrown college-goers dealing with life. Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara dealt with three rich Mumbai kids discovering their true calling through a trip to Spain. Rock On! dealt with a bunch of guys whose problem in life is that their rock band couldn’t click.

Not that I have a problem with it. I have made peace with the fact that a filmmaker will mostly derive from his/her own upbringing in life.

Which is why the Akhtars make films about South Bombay dudes and Anurag Kashyap makes films about factories, slaughter-houses, and gangsters in Bihar. Which leads me to think – if I ever make a film, it’ll probably be about cats and masturbation.

But getting back to the topic at hand, I don’t really have a problem with first world problem films. The Akhtars have always ensured that their scripts are tightly written. The screenplay exploits the conflict through sharp lines, beautiful locations, and music accompanied to Javed Akhtar’s lofty, if slightly dopey, lyrics.

Dil-Dhadakne-Do1 (1)

Sadly, with Dil Dhadakne Do, there is a feeling of Been There, Done That. A multi-starrer depends heavily on its characters, and unfortunately, the characters in Dil Dhadakne Do seem jaded, un-fresh.

Ranveer Singh plays a soft, rich youngster. Now, Ranveer Singh essentially has two voices. One – the loud Gunday voice, the second the raspy, soft Lootera voice. He uses the Lootera voice, and yet slips every now and then.

Priyanka Chopra and Anushka Sharma play feisty independent characters, both of whom we have seen in umpteen movies. And frankly, after you see Sharma bashing goons with an iron rod, this is going to seem a bit tepid.

Farhan Akhtar, of course, plays what he always plays. The urban, non-conformist, liberal cool dude.

It’s like yesterday’s gajar halwa that was kept in the fridge overnight. It’s still gajar halwa, but there’s something amiss.

Interestingly, it’s the seniors of the film who salvage the movie.

Parmeet Sethi and Manoj Pahwa, saddled with bit-roles, put in their best.

Anil Kapoor, who seems to have let down his narcissistic guard after all these years, shines in every single frame. But the star of the show is Shefali Shah, playing Anil Kapoor’s wife. Watch her in the scene where she stuffs herself with cake, and you feel a yearning for what the film could have been.

Sadly, Dil Dhadakne Do never manages to cruise over its troubled, haphazard script. It’s just another First World Problem film that Farhan Akhtar stars in.

But that’s ok, because he’ll grow a moustache and play Veerappan, and win awards for it.

***********

A Very Late Review: Tanu Weds Manu Returns

tanu weds manu returns

Not to sound picky, but there’s something about grammatically wrong movie titles that gets my goat.

Like a Sohail Khan movie released a decade ago named ‘I Proud To Be Indian’. I understand that the story, the production, the budget – is yours. But how much does it cost to add an ‘am’ in the middle. Or may be a comma?

The makers of this film could have named it ‘Tanu Weds Manu Again’, or ‘Tanu Weds Manu After Returning’. ‘Tanu Weds Manu Returns’ makes no sense.

Right. Now that I’ve gotten that off my chest, here’s what I thought about the movie.

*

There are a few things Anand L. Rai gets bang-on in his films.

Casting, for one.  If one were to forget his first two forgettable films, director Anand L. Rai has a knack for casting people who fit the role, even though it might not seem right in the beginning.

Another thing he gets right, is the sharp dialogues. His films are laced with interesting lines, mouthed by interesting characters. Tanu Weds Manu is no exception.

After reading the universally rave reviews, I got to watch the film very late in the day. And I’m sorry to say, I wasn’t blown away by it or anything.

I know the usual argument. That it is better than your average Bollywood fare. But somehow, over the years of watching, analysing, and writing about cinema, that lame description doesn’t cut it for me any more.

Tanu Weds Manu does the classic Bollywood trick of raising your expectations and slamming it down on your head with a gigantic Thud! at the end. I had problems with Manu’s choices in the film, but I’ll get to that later.

Deepak Dobriyal is a fine, fine actor. But I’m tired of seeing him as the hero’s sidekick. He has done it in OmkaraTanu Weds Manu, and this one again. But if you’ve watched him in Teen They Bhai, or Shaurya, you’ll know he’s capable of much, much more.

Kangana Ranaut is undoubtedly the hero of the film. She reminds you of the time when Sridevi would make films with less famous actors and carry the film on her shoulders.

Having perfected the crazy-girl-with-big-heart role, Kangana nails the fiesty, if slightly cranky Tanu. As someone who has found her immensely watchable from her very first film, I am scared if it will get tiring after a point.

Which brings us to the second Kangana in the film – Kusum.

Tanu was probably an exaggerated stereotype on purpose. Because when Kusum comes on screen, she steals your heart. Ranaut puts so much into the role, that you forget it’s the same person at one point. Kusum is vulnerable, attractive, strong, and steals your breath away.

And when Manu (Madhavan playing the nice guy, a role he’s been playing since he was a sperm) has to choose between the two, is when my problems with the film really begin. Why would he choose the crazy, psycho, alcoholic Tanu when he has gone through the pains of getting married to another lovely girl?

I’m not trying to be Mohan Bhagwat here, but let’s do a comparison.

Tanu is moody, clearly dim-witted, critical and caustic, and uses men in her life because they are attracted to her. She also walks about the streets at night after getting drunk, and eats chow mein, which a Sanskari Indian girl shouldn’t do. 

Kusum on the other hand, is independent, caring and mature. She doesn’t shy away from fighting for her love, and most importantly – is superfantastico, smoldering hot. She’s so hot, she makes Tanu seem like a loud, insecure starlet in comparison. Then why would Manu choose Tanu over her?

I failed to put my head around this.

Ah! Because, love.

Love is supposed to be blind, and biased, and doesn’t need to follow logic or reasoning. I’m hardly an authority on love. Like Mahishasura, most of my decisions are driven by lust.

Love might be blind, and deaf, and HIV positive, but all that love bullshit is what ruins Tanu Weds Manu Returns as a finished product. If Manu chose Komal, I’d have been impressed. But with its present ending, the film is just about Meh!

I am waiting for the director to release a third part – Tanu Weds Manu and Returns with Komal. 

#Threesome

#SorryIKnowThatsATerribleThought

#KarnaPadtaHai

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Review : Bombay Velvet

Long before Anurag Kashyap became the cult hero that is today, I have been supporting and defending him.

I watched Paanch around 2007, and it was the same year that my ex girlfriend mentioned that she wanted to watch Black Friday. It was a phase when I would watch Shah Rukh Khan movies, and I scoffed at her poor taste in cinema.

Black Friday changed the way I looked at cinema. It was the first film that shook me in the real sense. Ever since, I have defended Anurag Kashyap in debates and discussions. I loved No Smoking, though I’m still yet to put a finger on why. I watched Gulaal twice, and felt a strange pride when the four others in the hall applauded at the end.

Somewhere along the line, DevD released. Though it was clearly not his best work, it shot him into pop-culture hero-dom. Anurag Kashyap today is the face of the indie movement, he is the voice of freedom of expression in films, and seems like a sane voice who is finally getting his due. For millions of viewers, Anurag Kashyap is a ray of hope in a tunnel that is filled with shit every Friday.

And so when Bombay Velvet released, and got panned by everybody, I wanted to go watch the movie.

I wanted to like the movie, and write a passionate blog about how everybody else who didn’t like it were basically idiots.

I wanted to like Bombay Velvet. But like the prettiest girl in class, Bombay Velvet didn’t give a flying fuck about me. Bombay Velvet is so caught up in its own trip, in being pretty and trippy and grand and epic, that I had no other option.

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bombay velvet

For a film that has four writers, two editors, and three accomplished directors as producers, Bombay Velvet fails on so many levels, you are reduced to tears as an earnest fan.

Sample this. Ranbir Kapoor doesn’t get a single line till 25 minutes into the movie, and Anushka Sharma 40 minutes into the film. I understand that these are creative calls that the director takes, but how am I supposed to empathise with the leads when I feel nothing for them?

And Anurag Kashyap has consistently given us characters that we fell in love with. Whether it is Baba Bangaali in No Smoking, or the spectacular Nagma Khatoon in Gangs of Wasseypur, or Ransa Singh in Gulaal, Anurag Kashyap has a knack of creating stellar characters.

The leads in Bombay Velvet seem too caught up in their own trips. It’s as if they realized that this is their moment. That they’ve left behind the world of Yash Raj and have broken into the indie scene. And that’s enough.

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Bombay Velvet is utterly disappointing. Not because it fails as a film. But because it pays you no respect as a viewer. You could plug in and listen to your favourite song for all the film cared.

The film is plagued with lazy writing, sloppy editing, and doesn’t give a fuck about you as a viewer.

And that is very hard to come to terms with.

I am waiting for Anurag Kashyap’s next film. I know it will be better.

Anything will be better than Bombay Velvet.

Movie Review – Piku

Personally, I have never been a huge fan of Amitabh Bachchan.

I couldn’t connect with his 70s ‘Angry Young Man’ image. I have watched Zanjeer, Kaalia, Deewar, and Don, and thought he was terrific in them. But ever since I have started actively following films, Amitabh Bachchan was just a caricature.

He would do the same role – the powerful patriarch with the powerful voice – over and over again. Every single director who signed him would give him a different version of the same role.

Black was a shitty film with terrible acting. Sarkar was just RGV fusing his AB and Godfather fetishes into one dimly lit movie. Baghban made me want to pull my hair out in frustration, and then reach for my neighbour’s.

Piku, surprisingly, does away with the AB frills.

In a film that stars tall actors, Amitabh Bachchan towers over the others in every way possible. Given a role by director Shoojit Sircar that lets him stretch his hands out and have fun, Amitabh Bachchan slips into his character and stubbornly refuses to step out of it.

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piku

Piku talks about parents, but chooses a path that no other film earlier has dealt with.

We have been shown films where parents are sacrificing, idealistic, loving and caring. But no film has ever touched upon one important aspect of Indian parents – that they are stubborn. That they refuse to budge from their standpoint, even if times around them have changed, even if their children are a different generation.

Our scriptures expect us to respect our parents just because they are parents. Matru Devo Bhava, Pitru Devo Bhava – we are told. I have always been baffled by this idea. Anybody can marry and have kids. It requires no special skills. How then does the simple act of reproducing elevate you to the level of a God?

There is no nice way to put this. But Indian parents are selfish.

And Piku brings this point out beautifully.

I will leave out the details so that you can go watch it (if you haven’t already), but let it suffice to say that director Shoojit Sircar finally paints a realistic picture of Indian households. And the transitional pains we face on a daily basis. The wide chasm between age old morals and the hustle-bustle of the modern world and its demands.

Deepika Padukone barely puts a foot wrong. Surprisingly, Irrfan Khan seems like the weak link in the film. His newly found English accent is a little difficult to come to terms with, especially since he speaks his Hindi lines in the same old Vodafone Chhota Recharge kar lo voice. And his English lines (A’right) seem a little forced.

Minor hiccups if you aren’t a picky viewer, because Irrfan Khan does more with his eyes than his voice. Moushumi Chatterjee is spot on as the party-popping Bengali aunt, as are Raghubir Yadav as the doctor who attends to AB’s idiosyncrasies.

But finally, Piku belongs to a 70 year old man. A 70 year old man who has finally found a reason to stretch his hands out and have fun.

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Movie Review : PK. Mostly OK, but a little pheekay.

Five minutes into PK, you feel a familiar sense of joy.

There are very few filmmakers in India who transport you into a different world like Hirani does. Of course, there is Bhansali, but the worlds he attempts to transport you to seem like the shreds of a bad MDMA trip.

Hirani, meanwhile, is a good tab on a sunny winter morning, where you can feel the chill on your skin, and the warmth in your eyes. And as you look around you, everything in your vicinity transforms into a joyous, delightful utopia.

Hirani’s films are distinct in their imagery – you could tell a Hirani film just by looking at a frame. The skies are blue, the clouds carelessly white. The buildings blemishless, the people good natured. And amidst the wonderland, is a hero who sets out to make you think.

image

I shall waste no time in going through the premise, as most reviewers and channels must have done it for you. What I’d rather say is that PK grips you from the very first frame. A joyride that barely lets you take a breather, PK is a winner all the way.

Watching it in a single screen theatre in Bhubaneswar, PK reminded me of the magical quality of films. There is no director in present day India who elicits the whistles, hoots, applause, laughter and tears in the way Rajkumar Hirani does.

Watching PK was cathartic for me. A throwback to the days when films could move an entire audience in a tidal wave of emotions. In a time of such attention deficiency when even two free seconds mean a quick message sent over the phone.

The person sitting next to me had his phone out in the beginning of the movie. But ten minutes in, he couldn’t do it anymore. He slipped his phone into his pocket, and his abnormally large elbow on the arm of the chair.

Every few minutes, his elbow would jiggle. And somewhere in the climax, he moved his elbow, ran his fingers along his face, and quickly brought the elbow back to the arm.

Sitting right next to me was a living testimony to what Hirani does with the medium of cinema, in a way that only he can.

If you haven’t watched PK yet, please go ahead and watch it.
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Please do not read any further if you haven’t watched the movie. I’m serious. It’ll ruin your experience, and a brave, endearing film as PK deserves to be watched for an honest, unbiased first experience. You can always come back to read this section after watching the film, and tell me if it makes sense.
Good. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, here is another opinion on the film.

I laughed and hooted and cheered, but deep within, I felt a pang of pain. After the interval, the film slipped into familiar rhetoric territory. Somewhere in the beginning of the second half, I knew how the story would end. In my mind, I drew gigantic story arcs, connecting dots and covering up loopholes.

Deep within, I was fighting the greatest fear I have for a filmmaker – predictability.

In his last four films, Hirani has used a fairly simple but utterly remarkable formula. A charming hero who takes on a gigantic systemic bull by the horns and brings it to its knees in the most humane manner possible. Through the journey, Hirani makes you laugh, cry, and question a few things.

And yet, in PK, even though the theme is a pet peeve of mine, I felt uneasy. An hour into the film, I recognised the villain. Hirani’s villains are not so much characters, as they are ideas that prevail in our society. After that, it was a case of how, and not what.

My biggest fear is that Hirani will turn into a Madhur Bhandarkar – who uses the same character (a vulnerable pretty girl in a bad-wolf world) in different scenarios. Or a Shankar, whose hero singlehandedly sets right cancerous illnesses in society.

There’s nothing wrong in being a Bhandarkar, or a Shankar. Only, it kills the joy of listening to a story. Of having it throw you off your feet.

It was a wonderful film, Mr. Hirani, but may be it is time to show Vidhu Vinod Chopra the finger. He has made crores and crores riding on your immense talent, and spawned off many bastard children with the golden cow you gave him.

May be it’s time, Mr. Hirani, to do a quirky crime thriller next. Or a gut-wrenching epic saga. The pothole is right in front of you, Mr. Hirani, each getting larger with every outing of yours.

Please be a Woody Allen, whose only predictability is his brilliance. Not a Madhur Bhandarkar, who, well, is a bit of an idiot.

Reviewing Fanny

I always thought Indians would connect to Finding Fanny. The men, at least.

Since the time we turn 18, much of our energies, talents and thoughts are expended on chasing pussy.

Now that I have made the customary first joke so that you open the link, here’s the review.

I have been mostly ambivalent towards Homi Adajania’s films. Being Cyrus was mildly interesting, but it didn’t blow my mind or anything. Just about tickled it with a feather, probably. Cocktail was problematic on different levels.

Finding Fanny, right from the first scene, makes it clear that it isn’t going to pander to you. You have to sit through the man sitting three rows behind you slurp on his Coke and say ‘Slow hai, behenchod’.

The film takes its time picking itself up, which could either pique your interest, or leave you bored. At the risk of doing a Rajeev Masand, who has a spectacular knack for revealing important plot points, let me try to summarise the plot.

Or wait, fuck it. Why should I?

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Finding Fanny Movie Cast Poster Wallpaper

One look at the trailer, and you know there are interesting things in store for you. A cast of Naseeruddin Shah and Pankaj Kapur is a coup on any given day. The others – Dimple Kapadia, Deepika Padukone, and Arjun Kapoor – are merely playing catch up with the senior pro bros.

Watching Finding Fanny is a reflection of the difference between great and moderate actors. You see Dimple Kapadia act out a scene, just managing to walk the tightrope, in a laborious, onerous manner. And then Pankaj Kapur turns to her, smiles, and waltzes through his scene.

Deepika Padukone is skating on thin ice throughout the film. There are scenes where she spins around in a beautiful routine. And then there are others where her shoe is stuck in a soft patch of ice. But that could also be because I watched the Hindi version and when there is no link between lips moving and sound coming, I feel ill at ease.

What Padukone manages spot on, however, is to look smashingly pretty throughout. Which also makes you wonder, when someone is so naturally pretty, why do other directors paint her face till she looks like an Anime vamp ?

Arjun Kapoor, the actor who last gave us the heartwarming 2 States – The Story of My Two Expressions, puts in an honest effort. But there isn’t much you can do when your face doesn’t emote too much. He looks stoned all through, which might not be such a bad thing since he is [random Goan generalisation about Goa, hash, hippie, peace yo, cool brother, Boom Shiva].

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Most of the reviews I hear from people said that the film didn’t move them enough. Which makes me wonder – are we constantly looking for films to move us? For films to shake the foundations of our emotional core in three hours? Look at our biggest hits, and most of them are epic, grandiose, larger than wife.

Finding Fanny might have its problems, but just the fact that the casting team did their work right, should give you enough reason to watch the film.

Don’t go in looking for the film to transform your life. One, it’s stupid. Two, if a three hour film can transform your life, you shouldn’t be walking into theatres. What with Arbaaz Khan directing Salman Khan in an Sohail Khan production, you might be a threat to society around you.

Finding Fanny is bold, and it is cheeky, and it expects a friend of you, not a devotee.

In a way, the film is like ordering food in a Goan shack. The cook steps out every half an hour, smokes a cigarette, and then walks back to the kitchen. When you ask him how long, he smiles.

The food finally arrives, slowly, swinging from this side to that.

How much you enjoy it depends on how hungry you are.

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