Friday, September 12, 2014

Finding Fanny

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 12th September, 2014
Time : 102 minutes
Director: Homi Adajania; Writer : Homi Adajania, Kersi Khambatta; Music : Mathias Duplessy
Starring : Deepika Padukone, Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Kapur, Arjun Kapoor, Anand Tiwari, Ankur Tewari

Naseeruddin Shah : is a shy, solemn loner, the post master in a village where no one posts or receives any mail, still is a choirboy singer even though his days of being a boy are well behind him. And he brays, nay, sobs inconsolably as he receives a marriage proposal he’d made to his beloved Fanny via mail, forty-six years ago. It was never posted ! And the only one who understands him, is willing to help him is the girl he considers to be like a daughter, who he thinks will make one lucky bugger a great wife…Deepika…

Deepika Padukone : ethereal, leggy, flashing that dimpled smile of hers, a vision in floral dresses, floating through their tiny Goan village, remains upbeat despite all that’s happened to her, with her husband choking to death on her wedding day, she till today isn’t sure whether she should’ve accepted her hubby’s proposal or gone with his friend instead, her quiet admirer, the quiet, quite infatuated… Arjun….

Arjun Kapoor : left town the day Deepika was going to get married. Rumour has it he went to Mumbai and was successful in some business. Is now back in their village. Not happy about how things have turned out. Prone to angry outbursts. Alone in his dilapidated house, which is falling apart. And working on his old car, which is also falling apart. Which he’s just sold to…Pankaj….

Pankaj Kapur : is the new man in town, an award winning artist, a painter who earns huge sums for his every brush stroke. Is enjoying his solitude, the idyllic sylvan surroundings, his alcohol. And is also indulging in his fetish for ‘big’ women…by ogling at Dimple…

Dimple Kapadia : who does have a really large ass ! Also happens to be Deepika’s mother in law and house mate, the woman who makes the tiny village tick, the one who organizes everything and loves being the centre of attention…the type who will try to commit suicide but will cough first to make sure someone is watching…the stingy type who will hide the cookies if she thinks her guest is eating too many…the type who feels too many drinks don’t agree with her legs. Gout? Inquires Pankaj, solicitously ? No, she laughs, it makes them spread open…

These five quirky characters set off on a drive to locate Naseer’s precious Fanny. In the dilapidated car. From the village that we’re assured is so tiny, you cant locate it on a map. And interesting things happen on the way.

This is one of those delicious movies where its not so much about the story but more about the characters and the conversations. Where the script and the dialogue is, quite refreshingly, actually king. Where the music sets the mood but doesn’t overpower. Where the performances by the stalwarts, Pankaj, Naseer are every bit what you would expect – they get into the skin of their assigned roles, changing body language, their walk, their way of talking to ensure we believe in them. Pankaj, in particular, has more scope to display his intensity, especially in a little bit towards the end.

Dimple is very good too, dominating yet hesitantly finding her way through the challenges life has thrown at her. Arjun has probably the most unidimensional role and he does it credit. In acting chops, probably the one who has to go the furthest, but he can still hold his head high after this one. And Deepika…ah, sweet, lovely, Deepika! Anyone who doubts whether she can act…I mean, really act…better be advised to watch this one. None of the histrionics, over the top gestures and mannerisms of say, Chennai Express…just subtle changes of expressions, a slightly quizzical mien of inner happiness with just a smidgen of indecision.

This is one of those films which is about journeys, self-discovery, life and more. The lessons made easy with the humour and the idiosyncratic dramatis personae. Set in a place where we all wish we could be…simpler, where time seems to stand still. And its not so much about Finding Fanny, but finding love…at any age…

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Mary Kom

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 5th September, 2014
Time : 123 minutes
Director: Omung Kumar; Writer : Saiwyn Quadras; Music : Shashi-Shivamm
Starring : Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumaar, Sunil Thapa, Rajni Basumatary, Shishir Sharma, Robin Das, Shakti Sinha

There is a lot to like about Mary Kom, the movie, based, of course, on the real life of our famous Indian boxer from a tiny village in Manipur. Its inspiring, am sure, to all women who watch the film, sends the right message. Priyanka, in the lead role, gets the feistiness spot on, showing the hot-bloodedness in normal life, which is probably what made her such a terror in the ring. The idyllic surrounding, the discouragement from the father, the simple hamlet she hails from, the odds she overcame, the amazingly supportive husband (hard to imagine anyone not from the North East being half as encouraging), the bulldog of a coach who turns the fighter into a boxer, the corrupt, good for nothing Boxing Federation, headed by one of the nastiest individuals you could encounter, the political instability of the region and, most of all, the many triumphs of the lion-hearted boxer. It all comes through.

However, you do wish they’d made some of the things a little less melodramatic, a tad less filmy. And while Priyanka does overall justice to the role, there are some parts where she looks / behaves / has the body language more of a supermodel than a boxer. I also wish there was a bit more about how she actually developed into a world class boxer in the first place - it happens almost too easily here, one moment she joins the coaching clinic, the next she is in the National’s pummelling her opponents. Finally, instead of making the film try and convey almost every facet of her life, I wish, like most other successful biopics, the makers had instead focused more on one or two incidents which truly made Mary Kom one of India’s more revered sportspersons. I could well imagine a film simply on her life post motherhood since that is what made her truly an unprecedented legend…

Some of the supporting cast were exceptional. The husband, Darshan, came across as a really sweet chap (perhaps too sweet?), the coach, Sunil Thapa, as sufficiently bull headed, the Federation official, Shakti Sinha, sufficiently hateful, and the mother, Rajni, sufficiently maternal, all deserving special mention. There was some talk about Danny being chosen for the coach’s role but having a relatively unknown person in the role made it more credible.

I applaud the central message, the thought behind taking one of our female sporting icons, from one of our most neglected states and making a feature film. However, at the end, most sports films suffer from a bit too much melodrama, usually an over-enthusiastic sound track and a bit of a standard plot structure, predictability. This one, is no different !

PS : Couldn't resist putting one of the real hero

Friday, August 29, 2014

Raja Natwarlal

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 29th August, 2014
Time : 141 minutes
Director: Kunal Deshmukh; Writer : Sanjay Masoom; Music : Yuvan Shankar Raja
Starring : Emraan Hashmi, Humaima Malick, Paresh Rawal, Kay Kay Menon, Deepak Tijori

A good Indian con film needs several ingredients to make it work, none of which are found in this one. Neither a strong lead pair (Emraan is ok while Humaima looks decent but is otherwise wooden), nor an unrelenting pace (broken up by mushiness, many lip locks – its an Emraan Hashmi film after all - and many extremely average songs), or a great con…in this day and age, its rather hard to believe what transpired is actually possible, even though with their last explanation they did move the needle from ludicrous to unbelievably far fetched.

Emraan, a small time con artist, and his partner in crime / mentor, Deepak Tijori, go for the big one but steal from the wrong man. Kay Kay Menon. A Cape Town based Mafioso. Emraan now is on the run but seeking revenge. And enlists the help of another con artist, Paresh Rawal. They decide to prey on Kay Kay’s love for all things cricket to lure him in. What transpires has to be seen to be believed…or in this case, not believed…

Emraan’s love interest, Humaima, a dancer at a dance bar also, some corrupt cops, who want a piece of the action and Zeeshan Ayyub, a hired gun, are all the other pieces of the jigsaw puzzle that never truly comes together. Actually, apart from Deepak’s brief cameo, nothing in this film really rings true – everything somehow strikes a false note. From Paresh Rawal’s retired conman, to Emraan’s desire for revenge, Humaima’s anger at what Emraan does and even the whole con set up. In this day and age, there are not less than fifty loopholes, which anyone with half a brain and an internet connection couldn’t have seen through.

The pace drags too, the film being at least 30-40 minutes too long with the unnecessary, contrived songs and emotional drama, seen as so critical to the masala our films are expected to have, taking their toll here. The humour quotient is also missing, so critical to a good con movie (Oceans Eleven, Khosla Ka Ghosla, to point out two very different con films). So in the end you’re left with a rather lame film, which limps through to a finale which, even though its unexpected, fails to rescue the previous two hours…the con, unfortunately on this holiday weekend, seems to be on us !

November Man

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 29th August, 2014
Time : 108 minutes
Director: Roger Donalson; Writers : Michael Finch, Karl Gajdusek, based on Bill Granger’s book “There Are No Spies”; Music : Marco Beltrami
Starring : Pierce Brosnan, Olga Kurylenko, Luke Bracey,Bill Smitrovich, Lazar Ristovski, Will Patton, Mediha Musliovic

An ageing Pierce Brosnan is unable to convince us that he could still pass off as a Bond style secret agent, who comes out of his retirement for one last assignment. A wafer thin plot, full of more holes than Rahul Gandhi’s election strategy, borders on the ridiculous at times, and is only given a tinge of seriousness by Luke Bracey’s menacing presence.

Everyone seems to have a secret in this one. A Russian general, Lazar Ristovski, on the brink of becoming the President, has one. The CIA head of the Belgrade office, Bill Smitrovich also has one. Even Pierce Brosnan, who retired from active service, has one. And everyone is after Mediha, who wants to reveal Lazar’s secret, with Olga, an aid worker in Belgrade, turning out to be a key person as well.

I think I’ve reached the point, where political conspiracy films rarely shock me anymore. Most revelations barely making me, like Jeeves, raise my eyebrow by a miniscule millimeter. In this film, I doubt if any of the spilt secrets would even induce a yawn in anyone. Would, after what’s happened in Afghanistan, Pakistan Iran, Iraq, Syria, Palestine, the fact that the CIA helped foment a war, with a power hungry General in a former Soviet nation, come as a surprise to anyone ?

Also, imagine the same General, now also a Presidential candidate, staying in a hotel in Belgrade for a major energy summit. Protected only by 4 guards. Whom Pierce Brosnan casually walks up and shoots. With a gun without a silencer. Then proceeds to interrogate the General in his room. Without being disturbed by anyone –hotel security / cops / no one. Then CIA operatives brandishing guns run inside the same hotel. Again, are stopped by no one, no alarms are raised. And proceed to have another gun battle with Pierce. Again, without anyone interfering. I mean, I know he’s a former James Bond, but don’t you give up your license to kill when you retire from the role ?

Pierce’s big secret too, buried from his employers (including close friends in the agency) for over 20 years, is discovered within a few minutes, from, don’t hold your breath, file photographs, which were on record. Its just all too easy, too convenient and much ado about nothing.

The locations are nice. Olga looks great, especially when she walks into the hotel wearing a dress that does full justice to her lovely long legs, but seems uncomfortable in the scenes which require her to emote. Luke, playing Pierce’s protégé in the CIA, is the only one who actually fits his role perfectly – ice cold, menacing, with a bee in his bonnet to prove that the student has surpassed the teacher. Wish that was what the movie was actually about rather than the rather convoluted plot they actually came up with. It even sorely lacks the sense of humour, one liners that made Pierce so devastatingly good in most of his other films. This one unfortunately just doesn’t work in any month…November or otherwise…

Saturday, August 23, 2014


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 22nd August, 2014
Time : 113 minutes
Director: Pradeep Sarkar; Writer : Gopi Puthran; Music : Salim-Sulaiman
Starring : Rani Mukherjee, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Priyanka Sharma, Jishu Sengupta, Anil George

Its Taken (if you’d like to know more about that film, click here) but Indianized. Its Rani Mukherjee, instead of Liam Neeson, playing a Mumbai cop. Not the daughter but someone who is daughter jaisi (wonder why ?). Add a huge amount of melodrama, teary music to an otherwise decent portrayal and you have a film which is decent, has good performances but, thanks to the above melodrama, never really builds up any tension or tautness to make you live the experience.

I like the way they built Rani’s character. Right from the opening raid to nab a criminal, the way she worked with her unit, her planning. The way she isn’t scared of getting her hands dirty. How she doesn’t really lose her cool, staying focused on the job at hand, battling bureaucracy, seniors and apart from one preachy scene, she mostly just gets on with it. The girl who gets kidnapped, Priyanka, someone she’d ‘adopted’, who lives at an orphanage but meets the family, including Rani’s niece who lives with them, frequently.

Her performance is matched by Tahir’s chilling, efficient and ‘its only business portrayal, the chief villain. He’s very good. Suggesting a better method of killing herself to a victim who threatens to commit suicide. Having phone conversations with Rani, trying to persuade her to drop the case.

What the film does well is make us care for the characters. Build them up nicely. Even people who appear in minute roles manage to make a mark, like Tahir’s mom, or the lady who takes care of the girls, or the police unit Rani works with, or the car dealer who is the front for the syndicate in Mumbai. What doesn’t work well are the slightly gratuitous scenes of the young girls undressing (well, perhaps necessary to show how the system works), the beauty parade they go through, the attempts to wring a tear, which actually dissipate any tension that was being built up.

I may be pilloried for this but child trafficking is probably a crime worse than rape and happens a lot more often (apparently one every eight minutes in India). Without as much media noise, police prevention effort going behind it. This one does a fair job of bringing this heinous deed to the forefront, describing the modus operandi, the organized nature of the syndicates running it and also the end users, mostly rich, well-connected, sick b****rds ! Probably just for that, it deserves an audience and a decent rating.

PS : The Nth time I’m saying this, but our celebrity obsessed culture really needs to change. Why is it so difficult to get names of the entire cast, as you can do on countless websites for English / French / German films. According to the YRF website the film only stars Rani & Tahir. Quite a few ‘big’ sites, in fact, only name Rani as the cast…which I don’t think is respectful to the other actors who sweat it out and perform in the film…

Friday, August 22, 2014

Expendables 3

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 22nd August, 2014
Time : 126 minutes
Director: Patrick Hughes; Writers : Sylvester Stallone, Creighton Rothenberger, Katrin Benedikt; Music : Brian Tyler
Starring : Sylvester Stallone, Jason Statham, Jet Li, Dolph Lungdren, Antonio Banderas, Wesley Snipes, Kelsey Grammer, Randy Couture, Terry Crews, Glen Powell, Victor Ortiz, Ronda Rousey, Kellan Lutz, Harrison Ford, Mel Gibson, Arnold Schwarznegger

The storyline, for whatever its worth, is childishly simple. Mel Gibson is the bad guy. Everyone else mentioned above are the good guys chasing him. So we have a two hour brawn-fest where people are killed, heavy artillery brought up, bombs dropped & thrown, cars & other larger vehicles blown up (Rohit Shetty, eat your heart out) and big buildings get demolished.

The climax is in fact so ludicrous, implausible that the good guys might as well be holding a placard which says ‘We’re the heroes, we cant be shot, hurt or scratched’

There are a few funny moments. And its nice, nostalgic to see the great action heroes of the past keep popping up, interacting with each other. Some of the action sequences are good. But overall, the film wears thin after a while, tries to take itself too seriously for something which is a tongue in cheek romp. You do wonder why some guys like Dolph, Antonio took the roles offered to them – they were major stars in their own right and their characters here aren’t very flattering. The moments spent trying to make us care, add an emotional quotient, don’t really work due to the wafer thin storyline.

This is almost like a video game in terms of the way people get killed, things get blown up. Only for Die Hard action fans, pun intended…