Monday, January 28, 2008


Rating : 4/10
Running Time : 135 Minutes
Release Date : 25th Jan ‘08
Director : Rohit Shetty ; Writer : Robin Bhatt ; Music : Shibani Kashyap / Daler Mehndi & others
Starring : Ayesha Takia, Ajay Devgan, Arshad Warsi, Irfan Khan

Or how to remake a brilliant film into a very timepass movie
Sunday is a slightly loose remake of Anukokunda Oka Roju, a fantastic Telugu film which my wife and I saw only a couple of months ago. I say slightly loose because it effortlessly manages to murder the essence, the surprise elements and the ending. It does dial up the comedy – the combined talents of Arshad Warsi and Irfan Khan do have some very funny moments together, but overall it falls far short of what could’ve been…

The basic premise of the movie is simple. A girl goes to a party. When she wakes up in the morning, she’s a bit hazy about what has transpired and then suddenly finds strange unknown people trying to kill her. Piecing together what happened at the party and making sure she remains in one piece then form the basis of most of the film.

Here, the trailers reveal too much about the plot (destroying some of the surprise), there is not enough time spent on the character development of the girl, too much time spent showing off the big star (Ajay Devgan) or the comic talents of Arshad / Irfan. Also, there are far too many stunts in what’s supposed to be a ‘realistic’ story, the ending is completely illogical – at least a couple of life-threatening flaws and there is a desperate attempt at commercialism via 2-3 unnecessary item numbers. Performances are very ordinary, couple of hummable songs and as mentioned before, there are some very funny moments…but then that’s about it….

I think the director / producer got very confused here – should they make a comedy or a thriller ? Should they stay true to the spirit of the original or bow to commercialism ? In both cases, they unfortunately made wrong choices and led to a waste of a Sunday…

Monday, January 14, 2008


Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 103 minutes
Release Date : 8th Jun ‘07
Director : Bhavna Talwar ; Writer : Varun Gautam / Vibha Singh ; Music : Debajyoti Mishra
Starring : Pankaj Kapur, Supriya Pathak Kapur, Hrishta Bhatt, Krish, KK Raina, Dayashankar Pandey, Pankaj Tripathi.

Most people across the world have their religious prejudices and Indians are no exception. The anti-Muslim prejudice is probably the strongest one and the cause of most grief for us over the last 50 years, despite India being the country with the largest Muslim population in the world. And as outlined in the review of Mr & Mrs Iyer, it shows no sign of abating...

Now thats just the common man. What if you're Pandit Chaturvedi (Pankaj Kapur) ? A man with a very strong standing in Benares, the head priest of the local Shiv Mandir. A man who bathes twice if touched by a sweeper, who insists his wife (Supriya Pathak, his real-life wife as well) bathes before serving food, is always punctual no matter what. A man who lives life as per the Manu Smriti, the ancient Hindu text. Fate puts them in charge of an abandoned baby boy, which his wife and daughter manage to persuade him to 'adopt'. At first hesitatingly, but then increasingly, over the next four years, he and the child, named Kartikey, develop a strong bond. Imagine his shock when one day, the child's mother returns to claim him again. And it turns out the child is Muslim....

Bhavna, in her directorial debut is very assured and deft in her handling of this complex topic and manages to communicate the angst and dilemma Pandit Chaturvedi goes through extremely well. Pankaj Kapur is brilliant once again, looking every inch the all-knowing Pandit. I think we're privileged to have him and 3-4 extremely good chamaleonic character actors in our midst currently, including Vinay Pathak, Arshad Warsi, Boman Irani, Rajat Kapur amongst others. KK Raina and Pankaj Tripathi, playing a local rich man and his rebellious, angry son respectively, were also very good as was Dayashankar Pandey as a 'rival' mercenary pandit. The cinematography is breathtaking, calm and serene, a nice contrast to the turmoil Panditji's going through mentally and the communal riots around them. The end left me a bit unfulfilled – however, can't elaborate why without giving it away, so will desist.

I love movies which provoke, engage the brain, force you to choose sides. This is one of them. As the official website says 'Manavta Paramo Dharm' – I cannot agree more and it saddens me that most religions or rather its practioners have drifted from this core. And yes, I think this would have been a more worthy entry for the Oscars instead of Eklavya.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Halla Bol

Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 180 minutes
Release Date : 11th Jan ‘08
Director & Writer : Rajkumar Santoshi ; Music : Sukhwinder Singh
Starring : Ajay Devgan, Vidya Balan, Pankaj Kapur, Darshan Jariwala

The movie made me recall certain incidents I'd heard / seen recently...
1) A politicians son was playing Diwali very recklessly, throwing burning crackers near the neighbours kids. When the neighbour objected, he ignored him and continued. The neighbour went and held his hand to stop him. The son went inside, came back with his four armed to the teeth security guards. One placed a pistol on the neighbours forehead, began to abuse him and ask him how dare he touch the son. Another slapped him a couple of times. And then they told him to go back to his house, shut of his lights as Diwali had ended for him. Only when his family (parents, brother etc) apologised profusely, he was allowed to go back to his house without further damage.
2) There was a traffic jam due to roadworks, where cars were lined up in a very long line, creeping forward inch by inch. Suddenly, on the right (on the wrong side of the road), a Maruti 800 comes roaring up and tries to cut in the line but since there is no space, ends up blocking the traffic going the other way. As everyone yells at the car for making a bad situation worse, the co-passenger of the Maruti gets out of the car, yells back at everyone else, ensures his car breaks the queue and then drives off.
3) A dalit person recently had his eyes gouged out for daring to elope with his upper-class girlfriend.

These are all true incidents, cases of the frightening new reality of 'might is right' and of people in India, especially the soft-bellied middle class choosing to keep quiet as they watch artrocities / injustice happening all around them.

Halla Bol brings to the forefront this very reluctance, this very tapestry of wrongs being inflicted upon our society. So whats new, why should we watch this one ? Its quite well made (very good script), not very preachy and lit up by some outstanding performances. Sameer Khan (Ajay Devgan) is a superstar, at the zenith of his success and doing all the things a celebrity does including make people wait hours for him, taking 'personal' auditions from nubile aspiring starlets, back-stabbing fellow actors, endorsing products purely for money etc etc. In short (and I can vouch for some of the above having dealt with some celebrities recently), he behaves like a typical Bollywood star. Suddenly, an incident happens which forces him to choose a path – he has to either speak out and incur the wrath of the high and mighty or be quiet, lie and take the easy way out. He chooses the latter.
However, he is clearly uncomfortable with the choice and via flashback we see how he has come up in life. How, from doing street plays with his guru, Siddhu (Pankaj Kapur), a fearsome dacoit turned theatrical actor / playwright, he has fought his way to the top. How he changed as a person, from being a bit of a firebrand, believing in causes, to becoming someone who only cares for wealth and fame, becoming estranged from his wife (Vidya Balan), parents and even his guru. What happens next and the consequences is the focus of most of the movie.

Okay, its predictable, the plot is nothing really new but as I said before, there is still something to the movie which keeps you gripped from start to finish. The opening part is very slick, full of light hearted poking at the current Bollywood set-up. The second part is reasonably real and so can be uncomfortable to watch. There are one or two very nice songs – I really liked 'Is Pal ki Soch', sensuously sung by Harshdeep Kaur. Ajay Devgan is very good – he handles the lighter moments with aplomb (there is one scene where for a few seconds he practices a smile in front of a mirror) and later he morph's quite easily into a man torn apart by his choice, bearing the burden of guilt etc. I've realised that Ajay's forte is films which require him to communicate through silence rather than dialogue. As in Omkara, he is very good as the strong / silent hero, managing to communicate a lot just by his demeanour and facial expressions. I dont think anyone broods on screen better than him, and I mean that as a compliment.

However, the true star of the movie for me was Pankaj Kapur – he was simply outstanding. Filling the screen with his personna, alternating between strong silence and powerful outspokenness. The best scene of the movie was when he lapses into baby speak when faced with the carrot and threat scenario from one of the high and was brilliant and he was unrecognizable from the last time I saw him on screen in Blue Umbrella.

Another of the high and mighty is shown to have an uncanny resemblance, appearance and profession wise, to Vijay Mallya. I didn't get / understand the background to that ? Any enlightenment here would be welcome. Also, we took the kids along with us and I dont think that was such a good idea.

I dont think of myself as a coward, am well-educated, well-to-do, fairly well-connected but I, like the many millions alongside me, have developed the knack of looking the other way, of shying away from taking a stand, of taking the easy way out. As Gandhiji's brilliant satyagraha movement proved, its very difficult to get the Indian masses mobilised to actually do something. Its far easier to get them not to do something. Halla Bol puts you face to face with this characteristic of ours. Its not a movie for the squeamish or someone looking for light hearted entertainment. It puts a mirror in front of us individually and, in most cases, we may not like what we see...

My Name is Anthony Gonsalves

Rating : 5/10
Running Time : NA
Release Date : 11th Jan ‘08
Director : E. Niwas ; Writer : Mayur Puri / Lajan Oomen Joseph ; Music : Pritam
Starring : Nikhil Dwivedi, Pawan Mallhotra, Amrita Rao, Anupam Kher, Lillete Dubey, Mithun Chakraborty.

Very predictable, yet better than expected. This tells the story of a wannabe actor, Anthony Gonsalves, and his desire to make it to the top with most of the twists coming from a intertwined storyline about some Mumbai gangsters, including one who has brought up the orphaned Anthony and now employs him in his nightclub.

There is very little substance or anything new in the movie, but it manages to keep you engaged. Nikhil is decent, i thought he carried off being a 'sweet tapori' fairly well. He may struggle, with his looks, to carry off other characters and may well have to take up 'friend' type roles with the A level celebs in future films. Amrita Rao was decent as the love interest / eye candy, looks every part the pretty girl next door but should avoid trying to look the sexy seductress (was laughably attempted in one song). Lillete Dubey, Mithun and Anupam Kher were good, as expected. Star performer of the movie though was definitely Pawan Mallhotra - he was very very good as a Mumbai gangster, exuding menace and intimidation yet displaying a lighter side, some integrity and the stereotypical heart of gold.

For me, this was a good example of a time-pass movie – some non-slapstick laughs (the 'Kaalia' sequence was great), some thrills and spills, all in a very light-hearted vein and you leave the hall after 3 hours with nothing major lost or gained...