Wednesday, June 27, 2007


Could you forgive the murderer of your spouse ? I think thats the key question being asked here, not 'How far would you go to save the one you love?', which i feel is a more obvious question and is what is splashed across the movie posters.

I love movies that take you out of your comfort zone, present a new facet of life and are completely focused on their central premise ie don’t get distracted by songs / stars / sub-plots etc. And you are unlikely to find a movie which sets up the situation or resolves it as beautifully as Dor, a magnificient film by Nagesh Kukunoor.

Meera (Ayesha Takia) is married to Shankar (Anirudh Jaykar), a worker in Saudi and a loving husband, but from a very strict and orthodox Rajasthani family. Over in Himachal, Zeenat (Gul Panag) finally weds Amir (Rushad Rana), after a long courtship, just a day before he too leaves for Saudi Arabia for work. Soon, a couple of phone calls change their lives completely. Shankar is dead and Amir is accused of the murder, likely to be sentenced to death in a few days. We see none of this, are informed about this only by the dry monotone of an officer from the ministry of external affairs, who comes to tell Zeenat about this. He also does say, just before leaving, that there could be one way to get Amir spared. As per Saudi law, if the widow pardons her husband’s killer, then he can be freed. Only hitch is that no one knows where Shankar is from, apart from the fact that he is a Rajasthani. The address on his passport is false and there are no more leads.

All the above happens very quickly – takes no more than 15 minutes. The rest of the movie is a study in the differing forms of strength of the two lead women. Zeenat is overtly strong, a woman used to fighting to get her right and she seizes on this small chance and decides to go search the state of Rajasthan to find the widow. She soon meets a bahrupiya (Shreyas Talpade, a small town con-man and a man of many faces / accents), who decides to help her.

Meera has a more quiet kind of strength, more stoic, accepting of her terrible fate. I don’t think there is likely to be any country so unforgiving in its treatment of widows as India, particularly certain parts like Rajasthan. Not a facet of my country that I’m very proud of, I can assure you. And of course, this is interlaced with the typical bullshit talk of honour (maryada) and principles etc from the elders.

She hardly utters a murmur as she goes through the rituals of widowhood - her clothes are packed away, her bangles broken, her bindi rubbed off. She now needs permission to even step out of the house and is now forced to spend her time shut in a room, in solitary confinement, with minimal food and water. In one poignant scene, when the dadi (grandmother) comes to console her and hugs her, she softly whispers to her that this is the first time in 2 months that anyone has touched her. And all this while her father in law is more preoccupied with how the loss of his son means that he may now never get his ancestral home free of debt.

The movie though would have been ordinary had it not managed to intersperse the tragedy of the story with the beauty of the landscape, the humour (particularly from Shreyas Talpade, the bahrupiya) and some brilliant, realistic, rustic touches. I don’t think the song Kajra Re was ever danced to with more gusto than shown in the movie. Also, the acting is outstanding – both Ayesha and Gul do full justice to their very meaty roles. The supporting cast including Shreyas Talpade as the bahrupiya and even Girish Karnad as the father in law are equally solid in their portrayals. The songs enhance the movie, blend in beautifully. And the end is uplifting, making you smile, forget the tragedy of the previous reels.

For some reason or the other I kept postponing watching the movie – I would urge you not to make the same mistake. They say women are mentally stronger than men, able to go through much more versus the physically stronger gender. On the basis of this movie, you know, I would have to agree completely…I cannot comprehend or find the strength to go through the kind of existence that Meera and many millions like her go through without a murmur. This movie, a bit like Water and very unlike Baabul, helps bring this point to life.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Jhoom Barabar Jhoom

The director and crew were probably on ecstasy, the current recreational drug of choice of the A-list celebs, through most of the making of the movie. There is a sequence during the title song, for example, where they have different characters join a dance competition, including someone dressed as a chef, another dressed as Elvis and a third (my favourite) who was dressed as Dharam (as in Dharam-Veer, the Dharmendra / Jeetendra classic ‘kitsch’ film). They dress Amitabh up as a vagabond with a jacket that’s brighter than a rainbow and grey dreadlocks. They have Abhishek and Bobby Deol ride a motorcycle with a side-car, wearing police helmets, singing ‘Yeh Dosti’ (from Sholay) through the streets of Southall, a rather unique way of following their respective Dad’s footsteps.

However, sadly, apart from a few brief moments, the ecstasy doesn’t translate to the audience. A fairly tortuous first half drags interminably and even though it makes way for a fairly interesting second half, by then the movie is doomed, most viewers including yours truly have lost patience.

Basically its about two people meeting at a railway station, both are waiting for the same train, they start chatting, share their respective ‘love-story’s’ (as it turns out both are waiting for their fiancee’s) and then takes us through some very predictable and other slightly predictable developments. Sounds interesting ? It really could have been…

Somewhere within the storyline, there is the seed of a great film, but unfortunately the director picked style vs content, focused more on the stars vs the characters, inserted too many useless songs, too many sub-plots (the India vs Pakistan angle is one example of a completely unnecessary sub-plot) to really sustain the movie. In fact he also gave the characters too many quirks – like Abhishek’s accent / demeanour - which makes them unrealistic.

There is an effort to be fantastical, have larger than life, over the top characters but the director is not able to pull it off, make the whole film gel. And apart from the title song, none of the others help – they really pull the movie down, break even the limited interest in the story.

Abhishek and Preity still walk away with some credit for me – they do their best, show us glimpses of why they’re superstars (and Preity really should patent her dimples – unbelievably cute !). Bobby Deol and Lara Dutta are wasted, even though towards the end they get a chance to strut their stuff. Amitabh is reduced to mouthing the lines of the title song on railway platforms. Apparently the director or producer is a close friend. That, though, only partially explains it. I would have expected all of stars to have shown more discernment. I would love to hear what they truly think of the finished product.

I predict another flop as we still await the first superhit of 2007.

Saturday, June 09, 2007

Shrek 3

Another great film – I’ve liked all 3 in this series and they still continue to find ways to make you laugh really loud…

The story here is not the strong point – I think the first one excelled here & the second one was also a notch higher. However, you still have a very lovable ogre accompanied as always by the annoyingly lovable Donkey and the suave Puss in Boots. And the jokes are still exceedingly funny…

What I find amazing (in Disney cartoons and Pixar films) is the way they are able to layer the films – the way a 6 year old and a 36 year old are able to watch the film together yet find different parts funny, relate to different jokes. Jungle Book, Finding Nemo, Antz and Shrek have all had this uncanny ability and I continue to be in awe of them.

I’ve met people who tell me quite disdainfully that they don’t watch cartoons. And then they give you a superior, once over look, which says ‘its for kids’. I wish they would watch an animated movie like Shrek 3. It’s a great movie and I would have to be reminded that its a cartoon.

Pirates Of the Caribbean 3 (At World's End)

I think they’ve lost sight of what really made the first one successful. In the original one, there were a few, extremely endearing characters, a simple but gripping storyline and some brilliant one-liners.

This has now been replaced by a very complicated yet predictable story, a plethora of characters, none of whom are developed, and an almost obsessive focus on special effects – they fly in thick and fast, and for me, they become boring after a while. Oh ! and they forgot the one-liners. Even Jack Sparrow becomes boring, they dress up Keira Knightley in weird costumes and Orlando Bloom – well, you can't figure out whether he is a good good guy or a bad good guy.

I know i'm likely to be in a minority but I never saw part2 and I wish I hadn’t seen part 3.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Fool N Final

A terrible, slapstick version of Snatch, Guy Ritchie’s brilliant second film. They’ve taken the broad elements of the film, mangled them almost beyond recognition, added some unnecessary love interests (ie cute young things like Ayesha Takia and Sameera Reddy), some even more unnecessary melodramatic situations, some very terrible last year jokes (mostly between Paresh Rawal and Johnny Lever) and worse of all, inserted 4-5 ‘desperately trying to be cool’ songs.

However, there is a set of people who were enjoying this film thoroughly in the audience.
They say you can Fool all of the people some of the time, and for three hours the producer / director maNaged in this apology of a movie. Unfortunately they’re having the Final laugh, all the way to the bank.