Friday, November 27, 2015


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 27th November, 2015
Time : 151 minutes
Director & Writer: Imtiaz Ali; Music : A R Rahman;
Starring : Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Piyush Mishra, Yash Sehgal, Piyush Mishra, Javed Sheikh

I got the central message but not the way the delivery has been,
I loved, in minutes, the first ten and five, and the last fifteen
But sadly very little of what’s in between…

After a slightly surreal opening sequence about a young boy (Yash Sehgal playing a young Ranbir) and a storyteller (Piyush Mishra), which kind of sets the mood for what lies ahead, btw, we arrive in Corsica. Beautiful, sun-drenched, summery, full of old world charm, cobbled streets, pristine waterfalls, a very leggy, vivacious Deepika Padukone, a charming Ranbir Kapoor, emerald green seas, gorgeous vistas…and did I mention Deepika’s legs, that go on for miles ?

Anyways, they meet, have fun, set boundaries, break them, romance, mention Asterix in Corsica and all the while don’t tell each other who they are. Then they leave and we are treated to a fabulous, mad-cap song, Heer To Badi Sad Hai

…And then they meet again…and it gets quite boring, very normal (despite all the stuff about it not being the same old story). Things perking up again only just before the end…

It’s kind of a gender - reverse complicated version of Jab We Met (kind of). It’s about doing what makes you happy, finding your mojo, recognizing your own special story, chasing your own dreams, writing your own story, shunning mediocrity, pursuing excellence.

But as someone who’s chosen paths of the beaten track, I found issue even with the way that is depicted (rant coming up, you’ve been warned). It’s not a binary equation, is it ? There is a way to find happiness / pursue your passion outside the confines of the workplace (which circumstances may have forced on you). So the solution offered – the break free – may not necessarily be the only option, nay, can probably be a very dangerous course to recommend. And what is this fixation about being the best ? Do whatever you’ve chosen to do well, have fun doing it – if you’ve chosen a line because you want to enjoy life then why put this additional pressure of trying to be the best – just be the best you can be, no ? Revel in the fact that you’ve chosen a different option and find happiness in your own unique way (apologies to Mr Tolstoy).

And that brings us to what for me is the fatal flaw in the movie - the character played by Ranbir doesnt really ring true...the one we saw in Corsica and the one we see in Delhi can simply not be the same person ! Dont want to give anything away, so please message / comment here if you'd like more discussion on why I think so...

All in all, Imtiaz Ali here chooses a rather convoluted way to tell us a story – normally he’s quite direct, well thought out and it seems to come from the heart – this one falls somewhere in between. Thank God, as a saving grace, for AR Rahman’s kickass soundtrack, the impish charm of Ranbir and the sizzling, perky Deepika (you were waiting for me to mention the legs again, weren’t you ?

The Hunger Games : Mockingjay Part 2

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 27th November, 2015
Time : 137 minutes
Director : Francis Lawrence; Writers : Peter Craig, Danny Strong and Suzanne Collins (based on the book series by Suzanne Collins); Music : James Newton Howard;
Starring : Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Donald Sutherland, Julianne Moore, Liam Hemsworth, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Sam Claflin, Elizabeth Banks, Mahershala Ali, Jena Malone, Jeffrey Wright, Woody Harrelson

It’s Jennifer Lawrence vs Donald Sutherland. The darling of the masses, the fighter, twice victor of the Hunger Games, the ordinary girl from District 12 versus the smooth-talking tyrant, the man who shows no compunction, gives no quarter and is the President of all districts. Or is it ? Who is really on her side and who is just using her ? Who can she really trust ? And is he even the real enemy ?

With Josh, rescued but brain-washed, out for her blood. Julianne Moore, the leader of the rebels, determined to have her own way. Philip Hoffman, reduced to watching from the sidelines. Is Liam, her childhood sweetheart, going to be by her side ? Or is it going to be either of Jeffrey or Sam or Jena (from the second Hunger Games) or even Mahershala (the man exuded calm in House of Cards and does so here too). In any case, the battle lines are clearly drawn and with Donald Sutherland determined to make the last stand a deadly game of cat and mouse, it makes for grim but gripping viewing…

It has more than a touch of the indestructible hero complex – there are situations where logic takes a far-removed backseat and Jennifer, against all odds, despite all the bullets and bombs (and zombies) against her, simply soldiers on. It’s all very dark, very tortured – the movie is quite dialogue intensive at moments when you wish there was just some straight-forward action. You really do wonder why it was made in 3D – there are no moments at all which make use of that technology.

In the end, though, the message is loud and clear. Retribution isn’t the best way to make a fresh start but seems to be an unquenchable human need. And beware of who replaces the tyrant…some habits can rub off from your predecessor, knowingly or not !

Friday, November 20, 2015


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 20th November, 2015
Time : 146 minutes
Director : Sam Mendes; Writers : Josh Logan, Neal Purvis, Jez Butterworth (based on the character created by Ian Fleming); Music : Thomas Newman;
Starring : Daniel Craig, Christoph Waltz, Lea Seydoux, Dave Bautista, Rory Kinnear, Jesper Christensen

When you light a firecracker named Bond, you don’t quite expect it to fizzle out as badly as this one did. Rarely has the end been as much of a damp squib, where you wonder what it was all about or why Bond villains repeating the mistakes their predecessors of twenty years ago.

Daniel Craig, while on the heels of a villain in Mexico, causes unauthorized carnage. His boss, Ralph Fiennes (M), isn’t too happy, especially as there is a major restructuring of intelligence services underway and his new boss, the young, cocky Andrew Scott (C) is looking for excuses to shut down the Double O programme. However, Mr Craig has his own agenda – and with the sometimes unwilling assistance of Ben Whishaw (Q) and Naomie Harris (Moneypenny) – he’s hot on the heels of Christoph Waltz and his shadowy organization, Spectre. Encountering, along the way, a couple of damsels in distress – Monica Bellucci and Lea Seydoux.

There is a sense of foreboding through the film, particularly in the first half. A kind of tingling anticipation of great things to come, evil villainy, grand masterplans of world or interstellar domination, sizzling secrets and adventurous action. Which is why, given an actor like Waltz (wasn’t he just delicious in Inglourious Basterds and Django Unchained?), the second half is doubly disappointing. Action wise, there was nothing new either – no sequence which stands out in memory (the opening with the helicopter was quite tame compared to say, Goldeneye) and the opening credits were weak with the song positively mournful. And thanks to our censors, in particular the idiotic brown-nosing buffoon, Pahlaj Nihalani, we dont really get to see either Lea or Monica (who has a blink and you miss role) do their stuff.

I like Daniel Craig. I simply adore Christoph Waltz. And have had a crush on Monica Bellucci, like forever. But unfortunately, Sam Mendes and his band of writers are not able to do to Bond what Christopher Nolan managed to do to Batman – take it up a couple of notches and then keep going higher, into the stratosphere. Perhaps naming the previous one Skyfall turned out to be prophetic ?

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo

Rating : 2/10
Release Date : 12th November, 2015
Time : 174 minutes
Director, Writer : Sooraj Barjatya; Music : Himesh Reshammiya;
Starring : Salman Khan, Sonam Kapoor, Anupam Kher, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Swara Bhaskar, Deepak Dobriyal, Armaan Kohli, Aashika Bhatia

This is not just a silly story, it’s a flawed, silly story dipped in gulab jamun ki chasni. It’s death with a thousand, slow, torturous cuts, and each cut is coated with sugar. It’s the same old, packaged as the same old – no attempts to give the story a modern twist – the heroine still simpers and makes semi-orgasmic expressions when the hero touches her and the hero still speaks as if he’s stuck in the black and white era. Nothing bad happens in the film but everything occurs in agonizing slow-motion, with camera shots from three different angles, music at every turn and characters looking like they are all in a Maanyavar ad.

Salman Khan has two roles. For his first one, he doesn’t have to stray too far from his previous film (Bajrangi Bhaijaan) and is a Ram-bhakt, expert participant of his local village Ram-Leela. Who fell in love with a princess, Sonam, as she descended from the steps of a helicopter (impeccably dressed) while conducting flood relief operations for her charity. He decides he’s going to meet her (with his side-kick Deepak Dobriyal), as she’s going to attend her fiancée, a big-shot prince’s (the other Salman) crowning ceremony. However, evil forces are trying to take the life of this prince – there is a dastardly attack – and Ram-Leela Avatar is forced to step into the shoes of the Prince by the kingdom’s loyal advisor, Anupam Kher.

The Ram Bhakt soon realizes the Prince’s forte wasn’t human relationships - he has to mend quite a few fences – first with the Princess, Sonam, who’s mad at him for some past errors. Then with his step-sisters (Swara and Aashika) and then also with his step-brother (Neil). He proceeds to do this in full nautanki style, behaving illogically, inappropriately at every occasion. Like converting a formal function into a football match between men and women. Doing everything the Prince didn’t do – eat spicy food, cook, roam around with his fiancée etc etc. We then have a couple of very predictable twists, dealt with in an equally predictable manner – some tears, some muscles, some melodrama – followed by an even more predictable ending.

Sonam continues to irritate. And display her lack of acting prowess. The fact that she also looks less than half her hero’s age doesn’t help the film. Salman has either of two expressions in the film – one is his beatific one, with folded hands, asking for forgiveness / love / help etc (in the villager role). The other is angry (in the Prince role). Anupam Kher takes over the Alok Nath sanskaari role, while Neil Nitin tries unsuccessfully to look angry while leading the spoilt, rich lifestyle.

Nothing, of course, makes any sense. You can begin with the logical questions (what was the villain’s grand plan at the end?). And then ask a few existential ones (why does Sonam get so many roles despite her impressive failure rate and equally impressive lack of acting skills ? Or even, Why do films like this get made at all ?)

There are a few moments of mirth but they are too far and few and are sandwiched between many minutes of agony. Every scene is stretched, really ridiculous songs are inserted at every possible opportunity (there is one song – I’ve named it the chaatwala song – where basically Deepak Dobriyal and Salman recount all the different kinds of savouries you get in India), tears milked whenever the chance presents itself – and it’s really a gooey, syrupy painful film where the hero can do and experience nothing bad. Apart from his heroine.

My review of the film in one sentence is presented in this audio file : Click Here

Friday, November 06, 2015

Charlie Kay Chakkar Mein

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 30th October, 2015
Time : 123 minutes
Director, Writer : Manish Shrivasta; Co-Writer : Amit Sial; Music : Manish Tipu;
Starring : Naseeruddin Shah, Disha Arora, Auroshikha Dey, Subrat Dutta, Nishant Lal, Siraj Mustafa, Anchal Nadrajog, Manasi Rachh, Amit Sial, Sanam Singh Talwar, Anand Tiwari

You know that old one, when to demonstrate something convoluted, the person, instead of holding his right ear with his right hand, twists his hand around the back of the head and holds the left ear instead ? Lets just say, to keep the analogy going, that in this one the person is upside down, in a bendy yoga pose, while underwater and being attacked by piranhas while attempting to hold the left ear with his left foot…that’s how complicated they make it…

The cops, led by Naseeruddin Shah, find a video recording, in some parking lot, where two men and two women end up shooting and killing each other. Along with this footage, they also find footage of some previous days, where those same characters were involved in a cocaine deal of some sort. And then they, the cops, spend the next 110 minutes trying to decipher what actually transpired…

The opening credits are quite sensuous – showing a woman (Elena Roxanna) in sexy black lingerie just lolling around. But then as soon as they end, we’re jerkily taken to this grimy parking lot and some blood, gore. Amit Sial, Nishant Lal, Manasi Rachh and Anchal are the four individuals there. Then we see the cops (Auroshikha is one of them aiding Naseeruddin Shah) trying to decipher the messy, jerky home made videos (all shot by Nishant). There is also a gangland killing, a don based out of Dubai (where else) and characters like Anand Tiwari, Subrat Dutta, Sanam Singh Talwar and Siraj Mustafa who play important roles of varying lengths.

The logical flaws with the plot are too many to recount. The video recordings are hard to watch after a while, as they are jarring, bumpy and, especially in one particular sequence, nausea-inducing. It’s also tough to believe that the characters would let themselves be filmed the way they did (even in intimate moments and conversations) by their tharki friend. What can be appreciated though, is that the actors turn in good performances and the film doesn’t stray from its rather complicated plot – it’s crisp from that POV, no unnecessary back stories or item songs.

There are shades of Usual Suspects in here, though this is not remotely a copy. It’s not a bad attempt but is made an even harder watch by too many hazy, drug snorting scenes. And I do wish there was a simpler storyline – you really have your head spinning (literally) when you leave the hall…

Hotel Transylvania 2

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 6th November, 2015
Time : 89 minutes
Director : Genndy Tartakovsky; Writers : Robert Smigel, Adam Sandler; Music : Mark Mothersbaugh;
Starring : Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Selena Gomez, Kevin James, Steve Buscemi, David Spade, Asher Blinkoff, Dana Carvey, Fran Drescher, Molly Shannon, Mel Brooks

One of the worst things that can happen to you, as a movie-goer, is the realization that the trailer was the best part. A ghoulishly unimaginative script, scarily stale jokes and monstrously mournful music ensure that the laugh quotient versus the first one is guillotined into less than half.

The Count marries off his daughter, Mavis, to the human, Johnny, and is delighted when she bears a son, Dennis, thrilled that the Dracula bloodline will continue. However, Mavis, a classic over-protective mom, gently points out that there is a high probability that the baby could be human too. And when a couple of years pass by, without any of the vampire signs (fangs, for instance), Dracula decides to take Dennis to his old haunts, after sending the parents away, in the hope that it will tilt him to the other side…

One of the jokes involves Dracula’s inability to do anything with his new smartphone, thanks to his long nails. The first time you chuckle but by the time the same joke is repeated a third time, you’re ready to set the phone ablaze. It’s mildly amusing, and you share Dracula’s angst, as he observes how all his old haunts (like a campsite) have become tamer, more human (cost of insurance, as the gay campsite manager informs him) but there is nothing which actually makes you laugh out loud.

This may work for kids but unlikely to for any adults. A trailer is supposed to be representative of what lies in the film, so when you find it actually contained the best bits, you almost feel cheated, lied to. It’s tantamount to fraud, isn’t it, and you want your money back…

Friday, October 30, 2015

Main Aur Charles

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 30th October, 2015
Time : 123 minutes
Director : Prawaal Raman; Music : Various;
Starring : Randeep Hooda, Richa Chadha, Adil Hussain, Alexx O’Nell, Vipin Sharma, Tisca Chopra, Mandana Karimi, Lucky Morani, Dijana Dejanovic, Kanika Kapoor, Nandu Madhav, Anastasia Fomina, Sandeep Punia, Heeral Mei, Saurabh Sarkar

An interesting story but the narrative style gives the film a highly disjointed feel and we never really get to know the enigmatic title character – no attempts to fathom what / how Charles is thinking / doing – just moving from one episode to another, from one woman / sexual escapade to another.

Supposedly on the life of Charles Sobhraj, the movie focuses on his jailbreak from Delhi, his escape to Goa (and the partying there), his relationship with Richa Chaddha and the attempts of Adil Hussain and Madhav to catch him – the rest of his life is largely ignored and not referred to. The relentless back and forth (too many flashbacks) also don’t help us get a clear picture.

Randeep’s look is quite cool and his expressions are bang on but his accent doesn’t work / jars. Richa, Adil, Vipin, Alexx and Madhav are very good in their roles as are the bevy of beauties we encounter on Charles trail. The soundtrack is excellent as is the styling, mood, look of the film. The scenes between Tisca (Adil’s wife) and Adil, especially when she is unabashedly showing her interest in the life of Charles, were the pick of the movie.

Unfortunately, by focusing more on the sexual conquests, the bikinis and the backless scenes, than anything else, the makers reveal their intent. They don’t really engage us with the complete story or the brain behind the man but revel in the more salacious aspects of the story.

In India we’re normally not very good at biopics – either trying to present the entire life or falling prey to hero-worship. This one, at least, selects a part of his life – chooses which aspects of his personality to communicate. It does glorify a criminal, someone seen as a psychopath and a cold-blooded killer. But thankfully, thanks to the episodic nature of story-telling adopted by the director, we don’t really feel too much or too strongly about anything happening on the screen