Friday, September 26, 2008

Welcome to Sajjanpur


Rating : 5/10
Running Time : 133 Minutes
Release Date : 19th September ‘2008
Director & Writer : Shyam Benegal; Music : Shantanu Moitra
Starring : Shreyas Talpade, Ila Arun, Amrita Arora, Divya Dutta, Yashpal Sharma


Without Shreyas Talpade I would probably have gone a notch lower. But as all people who’ve seen him in Dor or Iqbal would testify, he brings so much credibility to his role, such delight on his face that you tend to go with the flow and forget minor niggles like the slowish pace of the film, the too stereotypical characters etc

He is the letter-writer of the village. Having good writing skills since an childhood, laden with the burden of his teachers forecast that one day he will become a famous writer, he now sits under a banyan tree, has a ratecard (Rs2 for a postcard, whether you make him write only on one side or not etc) and uses his writing skills to spice up the message, infuse emotion in the letter to make sure the point hits home when the receiver gets the missive. His skills are now famous and people come from nearby villages as well to get him to write

Since all people come to get him to write – in one case a man comes to even get him to type an SMS – we pretty much get to know all that’s happening in the village.
 The elections, where Yashpal Sharma, ex-Sarpanch and strongman / toughie of the village (again ? he’s more talented and should get more variety in his roles) is making his wife stand for the elections (I never understood why he couldn’t stand himself again ?) and faces opposition from an unlikely quarter, a eunuch named Munni Bai
 The attraction between a compounder and the Subedar’s widowed daughter in law, including a ‘ticklish’ examination
 The ‘missing’ husband, where an old classmate (from the IInd standard), Kamla (Amrita Rao), gets Mahadev to write letters to her husband, who left shortly after marriage to work as a labourer in Mumbai and now has been gone for four years. Again, I never understood why they didn’t know of each other despite living so near each other or why she didn’t start writing to him earlier and waited four years.
 The manglik daughter, where a frantic Ila Arun is trying to get her daughter, a sassy Divya Dutta in pigtails who rides a scooterette, get married but obviously needs advice on what rituals to be performed prior to the wedding to get rid of the ‘manglik’ status

We meet all of them and some other zany characters. However, I found the whole thing a bit ‘forced’ – its like how just getting a person to speak in a rustic dialect (the humra’s and the bitwa’s etc) doesn’t make a true villager, the whole rural village thing came across as something too sweet, too syrupy, almost as if we were watching through rose tinted glasses. And again, it’s a slice of life with nothing major happening – just a steady stream of day to day incidents as described above.

This one is at best a one time watch. It makes you chuckle a few times but rarely laugh.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Saas, Bahu Aur Sensex


Rating : 5/10
Running Time : 144 Minutes
Release Date : 19th September ‘2008
Director & Writer : Shona Urvashi; Writer : Shashi Deshpande ; Music : Blaaze, Bipin, Randolph Correa
Starring : Farouque Shaikh, Kirron Kher, Lilette Dubey, Tanushree Dutta


You always know where you’re heading with one and they didn’t make the journey fun enough. The whole sensex – women part is interesting but not much is made of it, its actually misleading as there is very little more to this part vs what you see in the trailers. The bulk of the movie is about Kirron Kher, freshly divorced, with twenty-something daughter (Tanushree), moving to Mumbai from Kolkotta and then its about the different people they encounter there. Tanushree, who hates her mom for leaving dad and coming to Mumbai, meets nice guy next door (Ankur Khanna), who’s heart is with someone else (Masumeh Makhija, playing a wealth chasing hottie).

Kirron meets a variety of women in the colony (all housewives, not desperate) including the always elegant Lilette, a mother-in-law / daughter-in-law combination who are always trying to outdo each other and a punjabi stereotypical housewife, named Jasbeer Brar, ‘don’t forget the R’. There is also a south Indian housewife who is desperate but again not much is made of this. Kirron also meets Farouque Shaikh, a stockbroker, Parsi stereotype, through whom she tries to sell shares. And then she tries to learn about shares and her kitty party club also then becomes involved. How all of them interact is what the rest of the film is about.

Good points are Kirron Kher not playing a Punjabi housewife, thank God, even she must have been tired of it. She’s Bengali in this one. Lillete, Farooque and she are clearly a notch above the rest of the cast in acting ability. Some of the jokes are good – there’s a shopping trip where there are some sarcastic comments regarding plastic surgery and also the saas-bahu hilariously try to outdo each other. The serial everyone watches is called ‘Saas bhi kabhi kanya thi’ and is a good ripoff the material Balaji Productions specializes in putting on TV.

But a weak script, very ordinary plot and a pace that borders on the slower side combine to make this film not very appealing. I wish they’d gone deeper into the whole sensex angle. Making money quickly is what the sensex is about, from the little that I’ve seen of it. Unfortunately the movie, overall, also gives the impression of one trying to cash in on a fad, without putting the work behind it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Happy Hour

video

For those suffering from insomnia
My recent interview, appearing on UTVi News, part of a series known as Happy Hour
~22 minutes long.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Last Lear


Rating : 5/10
Running Time : 142 Minutes
Release Date : 12 September ‘08
Director & co-writer : Rituparno Ghosh; Writer (Play) : Utpal Dutt; Music : Raja Narayan Deb, Sanjoy Das
Starring : Amitabh Bachchan, Arjun Rampal, Shefali Shah, Preity Zinta, Divya Dutta


If nothing else, this film makes you feel like picking up Shakespeare again. It’s a story less about the situations and more about the conversations and the thoughts of a few individuals and how they interact.

We meet the mesmeric Amitabh Bachchan, a theatre artist par excellence, who lives and breathes Shakespeare. An artist who left the stage in a huff, who seems to live in a museum like house, tries new things (the bell outside his house). Doesn’t like people pissing against the wall. And who is lured out of retirement to act in his first movie by Arjun Rampal.

Arjun is an intense film director, the type who will wind up people if he feels it will result in a better shot. For him the craft dominates the commercial aspects and he is reluctant to meet the press, is happy to keep them waiting till he is ready etc. The premiere of his film, though, is not attended by his heroine, Preity Zinta.

Preity spends the night of the premiere at Amitabh’s house. She regrets somethings that happened during the shoot, had enjoyed Amitabh’s company and had even learnt something from him. She’s one of the sweet souls who’s stuck in a bad marriage, probably with a man who can’t tolerate her success. And as she leaves for Amitabh’s house, he douses her with perfume, literally sprays it vindictively all over her and this irritates Shefali Shah.

Shefali lives with Amitabh Bachchan and is now his caretaker / guardian, saw him on stage and just decided to shift in with him. Her expressive eyes convey a thousand emotions as she rails against Preity (is this the way to visit sick people ? doused in perfume ?) or the nurse or film directors or anyone and everyone. Clearly hurt by the events that have happened, she is also clear that she can cope with whatever life throws at her

Most of the movie is like this. Flashes of conversation, a little story movement, past mixed with present, dark and brooding. And though the performances are very, very good, it doesn’t really make you feel anything much – maybe a little sympathy for Amitabh, alittle angst against the perfectionist Arjun, some empathy for the nurse (well played by Divya Dutta). Its nice, maybe worth a watch once, if you’re into this kind of a thing but its also equally probable that you don’t get hooked by it and decide to power nap instead.

Drishti


Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 171 Minutes
Release Date : August ‘90
Director & co-writer : Govind Nihalani Writer : Shashi Deshpande ; Music : Kishori Amonkar
Starring : Dimple Kapadia, Shekhar Kapur, Irfan Khan, Mita Vasisht and Vijay Kashyap


Some very frank and realistic conversations about men, women, why they cant be just friends (possibly inspired by 'When Harry Met Sally'), affairs, break-ups and reconciliation of sorts amongst very middle class Mumbai households. And above all, if all else fails, there is the simmering sensuality of Dimple Kapadia, as the camera caresses her, delves into her eyes and conveys a thousand emotions softly and subtly. You dont care that its inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 'Scenes from a Marriage'

The movie is about Shekhar Kapur and his wife Dimple. They have a good marriage, especially if you compare it to the one their close friends (Mita Vasisht and Vijay Kashyap) have where wedlock has deteriorated into a mélange of sarcastic barbs, excuses and assorted incidents. Shekhar and Dimple have a eight year old daughter and their life seems fairly idyllic with lots of love between them, respect for each other and some realistic display of affection between them. However, both have affairs. Dimple has one with a budding classical musician (a youthful Irfan), it last only for a brief while but brings spice into her life, makes her radiant and as she confides in her friend, makes her feel alive and wanted once more.

Shekhar’s affair, with his lab assistant is far more disruptive. He walks in on an unsuspecting Dimple, coldly informs her that he’s having an affair, cant live with her anymore and walks off, separating with immediate effect. The rest of the movie is about how they both cope with life and move on, shown only in the form of conversations and meetings between Dimple and Shekhar.

Dimple was truly amazing in the film, very credible, able to translate her feelings beautifully in front of the camera. In fact, if you didn’t know better, you would almost accuse the camera of having an affair with her. And she could teach the yound actresses of today a thing or two about how to emanate sensuality without revealing any flesh. Shekhar is understated as you would expect, mono-syllabic in parts, not truly revealing whats going on in his mind, the balanced one till the affair unbalances him.

There are some lovely touches of middle class existence, things like the suitcases on top of the Godrej cupboards, the Premier Padmini, the small dining tables, the ethnic, tasteful yet inexpensive furniture. The music, by Kishori Amonkar, is haunting in parts and ok in others

The movie has several messages. About how affairs can ruin marriages and result in happiness to no one. How, if done discretely, they can rejuvenate you. How it may be better to break a marriage (the type like their friends have) than live in an almost claustrophobic, stifling relationship on an everyday basis. And how, sometimes, it may make sense to have a clean break and that may even be better for the kids. Probably better to watch this one vs the trip to the marriage counselor.

Paheli


Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 134 Minutes
Release Date : June ‘05
Director : Amol Palekar ; Vijayadan Detha ; Music : MM Kreem and Adesh Shrivastava
Starring : Shahrukh Khan, Rani Mukherjee, Anupam Kher, Juhi Chawla


I think as far as unusual plots go, this one takes the cake. Rani Mukherjee’s wedding procession stops to rest at a banyan tree, which in legend and in reality is inhabited by ghosts. One becomes infatuated by her. The next day, when her husband (Shahrukh Khan), leaves for a five year business trip and also stops at the same tree to rest, the ghost see’s its chance, assumes his likeness and lands up at Rani’s house, with the real husband carrying on to Gujarat to set up his business there.

Now, in the part that I liked the most, the ghost makes an honest confession to Rani (about him being a ghost etc) prior to beginning physical intimacies with her. And a distraught Rani chooses five years of companionship from an infatuated ghost vs five years of loneliness from a daddy’s boy and accounts obsessed flesh and blood husband. All this takes place within 20 minutes or so of the start and most of the rest of the movie is about how their relationship develops, how he gets his dominating and money minded dad (Anupam Kher) to agree to several things and then finally what happens when the real husband lands up after five years.

It’s a story nicely told, moves along at a nice pace and doesn’t dwell too long on any one sub-plot. It doesn’t get soppy with the ghost/Rani love story, nor does it become completely around Shahrukh charming the rest of the household or about the real husband’s dismay at being completely forgotten by his family as obviously, no one writes or visits him. It blends these three pieces quite well and gives a nice contrast between the real and the ghostly Shahrukh, as also the intricacies of a ‘baniya’ household where clearly money rules the roost. Where else would a newly wed husband agree to leave the next day after marriage (because Dad said so and it’s a very auspicious time) or refuse to consummate their marriage on their wedding night (because Mom said why ignite physical passion when there is to be five years of separation).

Having said all that, I didn’t like the end. It was too obvious and also the whole drama with the goatherd etc was unnecessary. I wish there had been some other twist added here, some spark. The viewers obviously have to park their skepticism against ghosts to one side and also not ask other ‘real’ questions like if the ghosts could assume any identity and was not tied up to the tree, then pray, why was he permanently inhabiting the tree till Rani came along. Cast these doubts aside and immerse yourself in a nice, little story (apparently derived from a classic Rajasthani folktale), set in a world very different from the one we inhabit everyday.

Bas Ek Pal


Rating : 3/10
Running Time : 142 Minutes
Release Date : September ‘06
Director & co-writer : Onir; Writer : Irene Dhar Malik; Music : Vivek Philip & Mithoon
Starring : Juhi Chawla, Urmila Matondkar, Sanjay Suri, Jimmy Shergill, Rehaan Engineer


If the director wanted to show that one moment can irrevocably change your life, he could’ve chosen other better ways to show it. Sanjay Suri, fresh back from an MBA in Boston, meets up with childhood friend Jimmy. As he pursues a ‘mystery’ woman, Urmilla, a scuffle ensues between Sanjay, Jimmy, Urmilla’s date and Jimmy’s business partner (Rehaan). A shot gets fired. Jimmy is a wheelchair cripple for life. Sanjay spends three years in jail where all sorts of bad things happen to him. Rehaan’s wife, Juhi, bails him out. Urmilla is now about to get married to Jimmy. Sanjay can’t get her out of his mind. And Rehaan is an abusive, suspicious, wife-hitting man who now suspects Juhi of having an affair with Sanjay.

The conversation is nice and realistic, especially in the beginning, before the madness begins. The film gets darker and more morbid as time progresses and makes for painful watching. The only relief comes from the song ‘Tere Bin’ and some good performances from Urmilla, Juhi and Sanjay. But you don’t understand any of the five principal characters in the film – each one seeming more psychotic than the other.

They could have also called the film ‘Lets see who lives’ or ‘How much craziness can people put up with’. This one leaves a bad taste in the mouth and it took me two sittings to be able to go through this one.

Monday, September 08, 2008

Road to Perdition


Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 117 Minutes
Release Date : July ‘02
Director : Sam Mendes ; Writers : Max Allan Collins & Richard Piers Rayner (graphic novel)
Starring : Tom Hanks, Paul Newman, Daniel Craig, Jude Law, Tyler Hoechlin


Tom Hanks’ masterful performance and the overall dark, gloomy setting of the American gangster era, light up the screen and make for riveting viewing in this otherwise predictable movie.

Tom owes everything he has to Paul Newman, who picked him off the streets and treats him like his son. In return, he gets Tom’s unflinching loyalty and one of the best enforcers in the business. Paul’s real son, a weak, effeminate Daniel Craig, is a bit hot headed and during a simple business meeting ends up shooting a loyal business partner. Trouble erupts when he realises that Tom Hanks elder son has witnessed the entire episode. Soon Tom and his elder son are fleeing the bleak, wintry countryside to avoid a contract killer and pondering what to do next.

Tom Hanks is brilliant as a quiet, undemonstrative man who gets the job done. They say ‘still waters run deep’, though, and we see how this man is determined to follow things to their logical end without flinching. A tiny furrow on his forehead is about all the emotion we see as he copes with the loss of the life he had built over the years. I also loved the way the father-son relationship is shown, it is so devoid of physical contact or open displays of affection, so undemonstrative vs the Indian / Eastern / Latino way of raising kids. A couple of conversations also stand out, especially the one between the son and father while they’re on the run.

Despite the lack of much dialogue or special effects / stunts, the film has a very nice pace and an almost hypnotic effect, keeping you glued to the screen, as Sam Mendes follows up American Beauty with another masterpiece. We also see how unreasonable parents get when it comes to their offspring and in essence that’s what the movie is about. After all, they also say ‘Blood is thicker than Water’…

Tahaan


Rating : 5/10
Running Time : 105 Minutes
Release Date : 5th September ‘08
Director & Co-Writer : Santosh Sivan ; Music : Taufique Qureshi
Starring : Anupam Kher, Rahul Bose, Sarika, Ankush Dubey, with Purav Bhandare in the title role

The movie has lovely photography and portrays, without getting too heavy, the sad state of affairs in Kashmir. However, it is a bit slow and it failed to sustain my attention throughout the film – there are parts where you’re looking around, watching the (I wanted to say crowd but that would be an exaggeration) few other people in the hall.

Tahaan is inseparable from his donkey, Birbal. However, with his dad missing for a few years and the death of his grandfather, his mom has no choice but to sell off most of her assets to partly repay a loan and that includes the donkey. Tahaan now has to try to earn back the donkey. The cuteness of this premise is of course offset by the reality of Kashmir, where the army personnel seem to outnumber the residents, we can hear frequent gun-fire in the background and we see several checks and terrorist searches carried out by the army. The kids there even play army and terrorists vs the old fashioned cops and robbers.


The photography, done by the director himself, is breathtaking, reminding us of why this state has the sobriquet of ‘Paradise on Earth’. Some lovely shots of the ice melting into water stand out in memory. The performances overall though, seemed a bit lackluster, except for Sarika’s, who was very good. And I adored the opening credits, where beautiful watercolour paintings form and fade with each passing name.

The film is a nice slice-of-life with an almost fable-like quality but fails to make too much of an impression and you wonder at the point of it all when you leave the hall.

Friday, September 05, 2008

A Wednesday !


Rating : 8/10
Running Time : ~100 Minutes
Release Date : 5th September ‘08
Director & Writer : Neeraj Pandey; Music : Sanjoy Chowdhury
Starring : Anupam Kher, Naseeruddin Shah, Jimmy Sheirgill, Aamir Bashir, Deepal Shaw


I don’t think I’ve smiled so broadly after watching a non-comedy for ages. Sadly, I don’t think this is going to set the box-office alight (due to the lack of a bankable star) but it surely lit up my world and I’m going to recommend it to everyone.

A man (Naseeruddin Shah) calls up the police HQ, speaks to the Comissioner of Police (Anupam Kher) and advises him that he has planted 5 bombs across Mumbai and will detonate them until his demands are met. The only demand he makes is that four known terrorists are gathered together. All the cops, their intelligence, the Chief Minister etc are not able to trace this person or get any information about him. What does he do next ? Who will win, this unknown person who has been planning his act for sometime or the wily commissioner, who has all the resources of the state at his disposal ?

The movie doesn’t really start till about the fortieth minute mark, just plods along till then. But then once it begins, it manages to keep the tension alive very nicely. I haven’t seen too many hindi movies with a central control room or a good cop and bad cop routine (ably played by Aamir and Jimmy respectively) and this one pulls off both quite nicely. Also, it thankfully remains focused on the plot and doesn’t deviate for any item songs or normal songs or romantic interludes. There are several nice touches as well – the CM’s exclamation, ‘He Parmeswara’, when informed about the crisis. The whole ‘Electric Baba’ thing. Or the way the terrorists identify themselves to Naseer (will let you find that out for yourself) or the way the director litters a few red herrings around. Great acting by everyone, great editing and camera work and very well put together.

I’ve had similar thoughts as the film’s lead character a few times. Maybe not as drastic but getting there, give me time, this film has merely watered a germinating seed. I would love to talk more, expound on what I’m feeling but am forcing myself to desist. This is one of the pleasures of being a reviewer, the ability to introduce a rare, hidden gem to the audience. Please see it before you find out how it ends.

Thursday, September 04, 2008

Chamku


Rating : 4/10
Running Time : 134 Minutes
Release Date : 29th August ‘08
Director & Writer : Kabeer Kaushik; Music : Monty Sharma
Starring : Bobby Deol, Irrfan Khan, Priyanka Chopra, Akhilendra Mishra


Not bad but with a little effort could’ve been great.
Its about a kid who watches his father get shot in front of him and then grows up to become a hitman, first for the Naxalites in Bihar and later on for a covert government department headed by Irfaan Khan. Bobby Deol, the lead character, is also one of those guys who just refuses to die – he is shot twice but survives miraculously. He also falls in love with Priyanka in fast forward mode – one second they’re saying ‘Hi’ and shaking hands, the next they are singing romantic songs.
The movie is studded with very good character actors (Vishnu Mohan, Danny Dengzopa, Suhasini Mulay, Akhilendra Misra etc) but very poor character building – we get to know / like or dislike no one. There are unnecessary sub-plots – I’m even of the opinion that Priyanka’s character is to an extent redundant. Bobby plays his part well, with a nice deadpan expression, but is given little to play with. Songs and Irrfan’s performance were terrible. They should’ve kept it slick, shown more of his kills (the planning / the thought process), given us a reason to love or hate a couple of more characters and cut out the crap. Then it would’ve at least worked as a good action thriller.
Having said all that, I went with very low expectations which were exceeded slightly, in no small means due to the start, which was very well done and unexpected – about the only unpredictable thing in the movie. Watch if a fan of Bobby or a die hard fan of Priyanka. Or, even better, wait till its out on TV and watch just the start.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Mumbai Meri Jaan



Rating : 8/10
Running Time : 142 Minutes
Release Date : 22nd August ‘08
Director : Nishikant Kamat ; Writer : Yogesh Vinayak Joshi; Music : Sameer Phaterpekar
Starring : Madhavan, Kay Kay Menon, Irfaan Khan, Paresh Rawal, Soha Ali Khan

Till the interval, I was wondering what this movie was about. I know it was about Mumbai and the aftermath to the 7 bomb blasts in the local trains in July, 2006 but I couldn’t see the point of the film. And then in the second half, they masterfully brought it together, each sub-plot by sub-plot, thread by thread and stitched it up nicely.

They’ve chosen not to focus on the blasts themselves or who was behind them or the police help that was late or the government apathy that followed but rather on a few human sub-plots which drive home some points quite nicely, without getting too heavy. And some nice Mumbaiyya humour ensures that watching never becomes a drag, there are enough chuckles to lighten the mood and keep you hooked.

The sub-plots are

Soha Ali Khan plays a TV journalist (if you can call them that. Having met quite a few now, I have nothing but contempt for most of them and their sheer vaccuousness. They can primp and preen but rarely provide any insights into their subject matter unlike some of their print counterparts. End of tirade, sorry for that...). Soha, like others of her ilk, specializes in being intrusive, asking next of kin ‘how are you feeling’ when they’ve just been bereaved (there was a nice take on this habit even in Dhoop). She also is out there, covering the event after the blasts when they realize her fiancée is missing. And then, suddenly, Soha realizes what its like to be on the other side of a sensationalized news story.

Paresh Rawal, in a performance which shows us yet again what this fine actor is capable of, plays an about-to-retire, weary, wordly wise cop, full of soft jokes, snappy one-liners, the man who’s seen it all. He also tries to take under his wing an idealistic, intense new recruit (well played by Vijay Maurya)who's questions make Paresh re-think a bit.

Kay Kay plays a man who’s not doing that well – has a computer business but doesn’t really have any orders. Aided partly by the blasts and partly by his being down and out, he starts to develop a thing against Muslims and begins to suspect the ones he sees at the chai shop he frequents with his friends. Even goes to one’s house and follows another on a motorbike suspecting them of having a hand in the blasts. And he refuses to take business orders from another Muslim he meets. And then we have a meeting between Paresh Rawal and himself in a police van, in a scene which for me was one of the highlights of the film.

Madhavan plays one of the ‘patriotic’ Indian young execs, the type who refuses jobs abroad, who lectures the vegetable vendors not to use plastic bags, who refuse to buy a car as trains are more convenient. And then he is on one of the ‘blast’ trains and escapes harm narrowly, while a friend gets disabled. This shakes him in more ways than one, as he begins to question whether he made a mistake by not looking westwards. He can’t travel by train anymore. He becomes withdrawn, a bit shell-shocked. Until one of his friends comes over from the USA and they have a frank discussion.

Irrfan’s character uses the blasts to start making hoax bomb calls to get even with mall owners who, in his perception, had treated him wrongly. Until something happens which makes him realize the error of his ways. This character is probably the weakest sub-plot.

Whats nice is how the director / writer / editor let each sub-plot be and don’t forcefully try to link them, but let each one ever so gently make a different point, show us another facet of the aftermath. Also, by skilful editing and flitting back and forth between the sub-plots, they ensure the pace is maintained, interest sustained and the jokes ensure nothing gets too heavy. There are a few scenes of gore, showing the blood, the limbs and the horror of the blasts close-up. But not in a sensationalist way and the abiding thought when you walk out of the film is one of peace, as if all is right with the world. And that above all, we must be happy to be alive and well in the miracle called India. And that’s a sentiment, as someone who's happy to be back here, I can’t really disagree with.

Monday, September 01, 2008

Wall-E


Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 98 Minutes
Release Date : 29th August ‘08
Director & Writer : Andrew Stanton ; Music : Thomas Newman
Starring (Voices of) : Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Sigourney Weaver

The imagination and creativity of Disney and Pixar continues to astound as they create this futuristic, endearing and very funny love story amongst two robots who are separated by a technological generation gap


All humans have left earth and reside on a vast spaceship somewhere in space. Wall-E is the last surviving robot and is basically a junk compactor in an era when Earth is nothing but a vast junkyard. However, being somewhat of a romantic, he loves watching old musicals and has built a nice little home full of toys he has found in his junk forays. And he longs for the day he too can hold hands with someone. And then enters Eve. Sleek, modern, futuristic – she is a probe robot, left on earth to scan earth by a rocket ship. The two meet and Wall-E’s first romantic overtures are hilarious as are the scenes when Eve first enters Wall-E’s house. And then things change when Wall-E shows her a plant he discovered in a fridge. I don’t want to spoil it by telling you more since one of the enjoyable things in the film was the way the story unfolded – the unexpected twists and turns.


We also get to see the kind of life the humans lead on the spaceship – and it’s a delicious take on a future which I definitely see most Americans and upper-class Indians encountering – one of obscene obesity as either machines or servants cater to our every whim. The part about the ‘crazy robots’ was also really nice. And I found it amazing how, with almost no words throughout the movie, so much of emotion was shown. I’m also glad that no really mega-stars were used for the few voices / dialogue that were there in the film.

This film continues the proud tradition of Disney/Pixar where there are layers in their films – one set of jokes for the kids and some more for more mature audiences – I love this ability of theirs and admire them for their consistency. For me, this was a notch above Kung-Fu Panda and the only reason I wouldn’t go higher is the lack of real emotion / stickiness in the film vs say a Finding Nemo or even Monsters Inc (the former, coincidentally, written and directed by Andrew as well.I sometimes feel I’m stuck in a time warp as nothing really compares to these classics).

Also, special mention must be made of the short film preceding the main feature, the one with the magician and the rabbit. It was the carrot on the cake, pun intended…

Dhoop



Rating : 6/10
Running Time : 127 Minutes
Release Date : November ‘03
Director : Ashwani Chaudhary ; Writer : Kumud Chaudhary; Music : Lalit Sen
Starring : Om Puri, Gul Panag, Revathi, Sanjay Suri, Paritosh Sand, Rohitashva Gaur

It’s a somber film, based on the true story of Capt Anuj Nayyar (recipient of MahaVir Chakra) and his father S.K. Nayyar and one with a message. There are two stories intertwined in here. How the parents cope with the death of their beloved army officer son, who’s killed in Kargil. And later, when they decide to accept the petrol pump given as compensation, their struggle in actually getting it up and running in the face of indifferent army and callous government bureaucrats, who each demand their pound of flesh.

In between, we have the debut of the delectable Gul Panag, who lights up the screen with her smile and later looks lovely even in grief as she plays the ‘widowed’ fiancee. Om Puri excels as the father who alternates between grief and fury at the way the government works. He decides that come what may, he wont pay a bribe and that leads to the expected consequences in terms of delays, abuse, his being made the butt of jokes and later, when he starts talking to the media, even physical threats and intimidation of his family. Revathi, was really good as well, as the mother who at first is left dazed by the death but later begins to find her feet. Special mentions of Sanjay Suri who played the son well in his brief cameo and also Rohitashva Gaur and Paritosh Sand who played two army personnel quite nicely (and you’ve no idea how much trouble I had in tracking down their names). I hope for our country’s sake that most army folk are like them and not some of the others shown in the movie – going by the couple of friends who joined the armed forces and other people I’ve interacted with, I believe that to still be true.

It’s a movie that moves slowly, is punctuated too frequently by songs which are one-dimensional. However, the situation is shown very realistically – the conversation between the different bureaucrats and the father is more truth than fiction. And it raises a topic which we would rather push under the carpet. Of how corruption in the country has pervaded every pore of the country’s mechanism, how the lure of lucre has replaced every human emotion of the babu’s that rule us. Sometimes my father, who was an honest aberration amongst the civil servants, used to say that the country runs on the 1% honest and dedicated people in the services. After watching movies like this, I’m inclined to agree with him.