Sunday, August 30, 2009

Quick Gun Murugan

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 28th Aug, 2009
Time : 97 minutes
Director : Shashanka Ghosh; Writer : Rajesh Devraj; Music : Daniel George
Starring : Dr Rajendra Prasad, Naseer, Rambha, Vinay Pathak, Rambha, Anu Menon, Ashwin Musharan, Raju Sundaram, Shanmugaraja

It is the time of the great war. The battle between vegetarianism and non-veg. The non-veg people are forcibly converting all veg restaurants into 100% non-veg places…they are sparing no one and no dish…making even dishes like idli and dosa non-veg…it is the hour of the greatest darkness…the maximum injustice….who will fight against the non-veg gang led by the notorious Rice Plate Reddy ? Dare any one stand up against him and his henchmen ?

Dhan Te Nan….Quick Gun Murugan !!! Loud applause and drumbeats…

This vegetarian cowboy (so called because he protects cows from becoming beef), is a lover of his ‘little flower’ and childhood sweetheart, Anu Locket. His dress sense makes Govinda’s psychedelic clothes look like a hospitals elderly residents wards uniform. His brother and he are both ardent fans of Clint Eastwood. He shoots forward and back with consummate ease. And, oh ! almost forgot. He likes a little more elaichi in his payasam…

He fights people from the coconut tree climbing institute (diploma also available in betel nut tree climbing by the way, in case you were finding coconut tree’s restrictive). He has to use Mango Dolly. And fight Gunpowder. Also Tiffin terrorism. And, last but not the least, Rowdy MBA. This name was a true masterstroke and I feel Shashanka Ghosh, who has worked as a creative in an ad agency, truly used this villain to vent his feelings against the MBA clan, who would’ve made his life miserable in real life.

The film has several laugh out loud, truly zany moments. It is truly out of the box, figuratively and literally (as its derived from a TV character). However, after the first half, it does drag a bit. The ‘Mind Its’ stop being so funny. The plot kind of goes in slow motion – you know how its going to end and it seems to take too long.

I felt that this would’ve been great as a TV serial, kind of great as the half hour weekly dose of madness. It had its moments as a film but not enough to make this really work. However, just for the sheer courage of taking the QGM character from the Channel V ad and making a film, the outlandish plot, the blonde wig of Mango Dolly and the elaichi payasam joke, it deserves its rating….

Love Khichdi

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 28th Aug, 2009
Time : 131 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Srinivas Bhashyam; Co-Writer : Manu Joseph; Music : Pritam
Starring : Randeep Hooda, Sada, Sonali Kulkarni, Riya Sen, Rituparna Sengupta, Divya Dutta, Jesse Randhawa, Kalpana Pandit

Everyone who knows me is aware that I am a hard core non-veg and particularly averse to khichdi which I completely associate with sick man’s food (‘Beta are you ill / nauseous ? Khichdi kha lo…’).

Haryanvi sous chef, speaks good English and therefore becomes chick magnet. Either dreams of encounters of the sexual kind or has them. Long suffering college friend who has crush on him, works in same hotel as receptionist so gets grand stand view of all such going ons. What will happen next ?

What saves this film from being a total disaster is the cameo by Sonali Kulkarni as the man hating, outspoken bai. She is also an object of Randeeps affections (imaginary though) and is responsible for the most hilarious moments of the film (‘Hatne ka’, ‘BMC ko dene ka’ etc).

Else the trite, unrealistic plot, jerky editing, mannequin characterisation and some inspired bad casting choices (beginning with the choice of Randeep Hooda as lead actor), helps propel the film towards its doom. You don’t understand why most characters behave as they do (Rituparna Sengupta being classic case in point) but most of all you wonder why good actors like her and Jesse Randhawa agreed to star in this film.

The movie may actually work for single guys, but they would have to be the really really frustrated or really really gullible kinds to watch this one. Anyways, one thing that got confirmed is that I should continue to avoid khichdi’s of all sorts, even the cinematic variety.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : September ‘08
Time : 154 minutes
Director & Writer : Venkat Prabhu; Music : Yuvan Shankar Raj
Starring : Prakash Raj, Jayaram, Kajal Agarwal, Premji Amaran, Shiva, SPB Charan, Vega Timothia, Nikita Thukral, Vaibhav Reddy, Sampath Raj

If you copy, please copy well. Sa-Ro-Ja is apparently a copy of Judgement Night or at least inspired by its premise but I don’t grudge it one second because its well made. Multiple storylines coming together, various twists and turns, deft editing, a tense / thriller atmosphere well maintained when the movie finally kicks off, some good action sequences, well sketched characters that you care for. But above all, large generous dollops of humour that keeps you entertained while you watch and never lets the film get too heavy.

Daughter of wealthy tycoon is kidnapped. Ransom call comes in and the cops are hindering a trade which the father is all too willing to make. Simultaneously four friends are going to Hyderabad, in their VW camper, to watch India play a cricket match. The four are quite a motley bunch, ranging from a popular TV serial actor who is a bit full of himself to a good for nothing who see’s angels coming around him whenever he witnesses any woman.

The stories intercut and soon, amongst the four, you begin to form an impression about the different personalities. You know who you are rooting for, who you feel you don’t like. And soon, in the case of the four, they literally take a wrong turn and are stuck in a world they wish they hadn’t entered.

The laughs though continue to come thick and fast. The four friends constantly fighting amongst themselves, the lyrics of the songs, the angels coming in (sometimes at inappropriate times) whenever a girl is seen. There is a very funny scene when, in a typical filmi scene, the ‘heroes’ are confronted by a hooligan and in a do or die kind of mode they yell out blood curdling yells, flex their muscles and charge at the hooligan. But what happens next is anything but filmi…

Venkat Prabhu made the endearing Chennai 28 (nice film on gully cricket) and he’s returned with the same gang here. Enjoyable songs. Some gore. Lots of ‘tension’. But very good fun. Despite watching via subtitles...

Saturday, August 22, 2009


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 21st August, ‘09
Time : 110 minutes
Director & Writer : Piyush Jha; Music : Justin-Uday, Sandesh-Shandilya (one song by Shankar Ehsan Loy)
Starring : Parzaan Dastur, Ayesha Kapoor, Sanjay Suri, Madhavan, Arunoday Singh

What I liked about this film is that despite being about Kashmir, the story didn’t follow either the beaten or the expected path. Its not about jihadi’s vs the army. Its not about Islam. Its not about moralising or preaching or delivering a message. Its just a simple story, which has interesting twists and turns, that several times catch you by surprise.

However, what didn’t work was the pace of the film, which was slightly on the slower side, leading to large portions where you literally are willing the movie to get on with it, and parts where you wish you had a FF button to things move forward. The Good thing here, I guess, is that we had characters who were built well enough for us to care about what happens to them, but you wish it all happened a little quicker. I thought the acting was ordinary, apart from the central characters, Sanjay Suri and Madhavan, who did their jobs well. And the surprising thing for a movie set in Kashmir was that there were very few ‘wow’ shots as far as the scenery went…

What we have is a simple story about a boy, a wannabe footballer, who finds a gun lying in the valley and then finds life turned upside down – caught in the middle between the Jehadi’s, the army and a girl he has befriended. The film does make you wish that children could be spared the horrors that adults bring upon them…and for that subtle provocation alone, its worth the 6 points…

Sorry Bhai

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : November, ‘08
Time : 118 minutes
Director : Onir; Writer : Ashwini Malik; Music : Gaurav Dayal, Vivek Phillip
Starring : Chitrangda Singh, Sanjay Suri, Sharman Joshi, Boman Irani, Shabana Azmi

Half the points for the film are dedicated to Chitrangda Singh, the most beautiful actress on the Indian screen today (along with Aishwarya Rai). Then, once we have the above, pre-stated, definite bias, out of the way, we can look at the rest of the film, the plot, the other very fine actors who grace the screen, and we realise we have a film about a very touchy topic, an inherently taboo issue…that of a brother falling in love with his older brothers fiancĂ©e…

It’s a prickly thought, not an idea that you really want to explore and one that demands sensitive handling for sure. Well, you get that, you get beautiful locales (Mauritius), that can distract you from whats unfolding on the screen. And you have Chitrangda. Who, very understandably, can easily make family members go astray without even trying.

So, younger brother (Sharman) and proud parents (Boman and Shabana), land up in Mauritus to celebrate the upcoming wedding of Sanjay Suri with Chitrangda. Sanjay is too busy with work, too involved with a certain office in USA. Chitrangda misses the Sanjay of yore, the romantic, relaxed person who’d wooed her. And finds herself spending time with the much more relaxed and chilled out Sharman as she takes the family around. Tsk tsk…almost inevitable, don’t you think ?

The film handles this part well but it does seem to happen a little too quickly, with some conversation but not a lot. But once they – Sharman and Chitrangda – figure out where they’re heading, as an audience you’re not quite sure where you would like the film to go. Sanjay is not a demon / nothing so bad that he should be ‘betrayed’ like this. And both Chitrangda and Sharman seem reasonably balanced – its not a ‘heat of the moment’ thing, which could be far easier to forgive. And so, we stew a little bit as we watch this plot resolve itself in a manner which does seem a little juvenile.

But at the end of the day, it still remains an icky kind of topic. You cant walk away from the hall exhilarated, thinking ‘Wow, that was so uplifting’. And doesn’t something like this deserve a lot more than just ‘Sorry Bhai’ ?

Monday, August 17, 2009

Ocean's Twelve

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : December, ‘04
Time : 125 minutes
Director : Steven Soderbergh; Writer : George Nolfi
Starring : Brad Pitt, George Clooney, Catherine Zeta Jones, Julia Roberts, Andy Garcia, Matt Damon, Vincent Cassel

Nice. More convoluted than the path-breaking Ocean’s Eleven. More style. Less substance. And more unanswered questions.

Mr Benedict has found out who stole his millions. He finds each one of the eleven and wants it back, with interest, even though insurance made good his loss. And they have two weeks. The gang decides to go for Europe, where they encounter an old flame of Brad Pitt, Catherine Zeta Jones, who works for the Interpol. They also have to pit their wits against Vincent Cassel, who plays a French aristocrat cum daredevil robber, who for some strange reason has it in for them…

As the end is a foregone conclusion, again its about do we have fun watching it ? The answer is yes – in parts. The dialogue is a little jaded vs the first one, I think they try to be a little too cute here – too many things unsaid (there’s this whole bit between George and Brad where they never complete their sentences, understanding where the other is going before he says it). For me, the crucial differentiator though was the singularity of purpose and simplicity of plot, which characterised the first one, and gave a perfect arena for the wonderfully talented ensemble cast to display their skills, is completely missing in this one – till the first half, you’re in fact wondering where the movie is heading.

On the pro side, though, you have Catherine join the fun, looking really svelte and lovely. You have more gorgeous locations – Rome, Amsterdam, Portugal, Lago De Como (I think Bond used the same villa as a location for Casino Royale…).

Kind of fun while you watch it, but not one that will bear repeat viewing, unlike the first one….

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Into The Blue

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : September, ‘05
Time : 128 minutes
Director : John Stockwell; Writer : Matt Johnson
Starring : Jessica Alba, Paul Walker, Scott Caan, Ashley Scott, Josh Brolin, Dwayne Adway, Tyson Beckford, James Frain

There is something lovely and mysterious about the depths of the ocean, what lies beneath the vast expanse of water that covers most of our planet. Without going into the realms of horror or real claustrophobic depth, I don’t think any movie has made the ocean floor its playground as beautifully as ‘Into the Blue’. It’s a nice plot per se, plenty of twists and turns, gangsta’s and buried treasure, a shipwreck, a plane crash, drugs and cops, and a love story, all rolled into one nice coherent whole. But what makes this a notch above the ordinary, is the sight of four bodies in prime shape, exploring the shallow and pristine reefs of the Bahamas, swimming serenely amongst the fish and the undersea flora and fauna, propelling themselves sensuously, dolphin-like, as they explore one of the last remaining frontiers left on Earth.

Samantha (Jessica alba) and Jared (Paul Walker), a couple who both share a love for diving, are battling against rapidly dwindling funds, a boat with a hole and offers which go against their value systems. Along comes Bryce, a well-heeled lawyer and close friend of Jared’s, who brings Amanda, his girl-friend of 14 hours with him. They stay in the lovely pad of one of the people he has helped escape from the law. They go diving. And then lets just say, life is never the same again…

All four characters are etched well and distinctly – Samantha, the romantic, principled gal who would prefer love vs treasure, Bryce, who cant stop getting into one mess after another and doesn’t seem to know when to stop, Jared, who loves Sam dearly, loves the ocean and is probably one of the best divers in the area – able to hold his breath for periods that make you gasp. And Amanda, who loves snorting coke, has no principles at all and is clearly as mercenary as Bryce.

After the movie is over, you realise what makes divers pay exorbitant amounts to go to different exotic locales and dive. The music is good, the villains threatening, the sharks even more intimidating than normal. All in all, very enjoyable, as you vicariously go places where I would figuratively give an arm and a leg to visit…

I hope the Lara/Akshay starrer 'Blue' is not a copy or at least not a bad copy of this one but having looked at the pics seems like a copy for sure ...

Friday, August 14, 2009


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 14th August, ‘09
Time : 135 minutes
Director & Music & Dialogue : Vishal Bhardwaj
Starring : Shahid Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Amole Gupte, Chandan Roy Sanyal, Tenzing Nima, Shiv Subrahmaniam, Hrishikesh Joshi, Deb Mukherjee, Rajatva Dutta, Carlos Paca

I would’ve made this film funnier. Maybe, also, a little less dark. Everyone is good. My respect for Shahid (can look innocent as well as devious quite effortlessly), Priyanka (can look hot in any dress with even less effort) and Vishal Bhardwaj (can weave a good story – well, ok, with a lot of effort…) remains intact. You want to know what happens next, there are enough mad people, yet there is something missing. Needed more moments like the ‘home science topper’…

Twins, Guddu and Charlie, are like chalk and cheese, one works for an NGO the other gambles, wants to be a bookie. One stammers, while the other lisps. And they don’t like each other and are not in touch. Both land up in trouble – Guddu with the cops and Charlie with a local politician / toughie (Amole Gupte) - because of what the other has done. Guddu, for example, has eloped with Gupte’s sister, Priyanka and someone thinks Charlie looks like him so they come get him, kind of mistaken identity. Till half time, its perfectly set-up with a variety of crazy characters – the three mad Bong brothers, none crazier than Mikhail (Chandan Roy Sanyal, wish more was made of this character….) who want to partner Charlie in his ambition to become a bookie, the drug-dealing narcotic cops (Shiv and Hrishikesh) who find a deal rapidly going sour, Tashi (Tenzing Nima) who is obsessed with acquiring certain twins. And of course, Gupte himself, along with his ‘Jai Maharashtra’ horde and his sister Sweety, who is feisty, a 'home science topper' and not entirely in agreement with her brothers ideology or plans for her. And loves Guddu. A lot. And takes several initiatives to make it happen (why dont they make more women like her ?).

The music rocks – Dhan Te Nan has a certain vibrancy and resonates with everyone who is a Hindi film watcher as a familiar, accustomed tune. Other songs tend to grow on you. And its obvious that the characters and the plot is interesting. So what doesn’t work ?

Not enough is done with the characters, for one. There are too many and we don’t really get deep down and personal with any of them. The second half wasn’t really as good as the first – the threads did all tie up but not with a ‘wow’. There was a certain degree of predictability to it. And most of all, just repeating myself, it lacked or rather didn’t have enough humour. This results in a film that is good, above average, does no harm to anyone’s reputation. But doesn’t rise to the level of greatness expected and doesn’t linger in the mind or make itself amenable to multiple viewing. On another day, I may well have rated it a 7, but its somewhere in that range…

Kaminey is in no way copied but clearly inspired by Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels. However, in that film, every character is forever etched in your mind due to their amazing eccentricity. The one-liners never stop coming…so even if the plot confuses you due to multiple characters and plotlines (as it does at times in Kaminey), you just never stop laughing. And the end there leaves you gasping for breath for its sheer wickedness. Kaminey also works, but only just…

PS : compared to all the other stuff we witness on the big and small screen, I don’t think the ‘A’ rating is justified at all. I wouldn’t have a problem with my kids watching the DVD.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Love Aaj Kal

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 30th July, ‘09
Time : 130 minutes
Director & Writer : Imtiaz Ali; Music : Pritam
Starring : Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Giselle Monteiro, Rishi Kapoor, Rahul Khanna, Raj Zutshi

What keeps this film going is the dialogue – its very natural, not filmi, relaxed and very Delhi types lingo. What doesn’t are the character developments, especially in the second half and the situations (which unfortunately were a bit filmi), again, especially in the second half.

Life is a lark for Jai and Meera (Saif and Deepika). They’re based in the UK, they’re young, beautiful and together, all is fine with the world. One day though, they decide to break up. For purely practical reasons. Meera’s job and passion is taking her to India and Jai’s is probably taking him to San Francisco. And they both know long distance relationships don’t work. So, rather than become a mill-stone around each others neck, they decide to be sensible and break up right away, so that they retain good memories of each other. Heck, they even throw a ‘break-up’ party.

Jai now meets Veer ji (Rishi Kapoor), who’s seen the two of them together at his coffee shop and insists Jai is doing the wrong thing by letting her walk away. He tells his story, a kind of flashback, of his courtship in the good old days, when there was shame and modesty and true love. Jai doesn’t really understand the emotion, is not sure what is love, but listens to the story anyways.

Their – Jai’s and Meera’s - lives move on. They date other people. They chat with each other. But the true question is, can they move on from each other, make a new beginning ?

What I liked is that the fun and the sense of humour never really stopped. It never became too serious or too soppy. And Imtiaz Ali clearly knows the pulse of the Punjabi’s – the funny nicknames (Sunny weds Pammi), the obligatory booze in the dickey (boot) in all weddings etc. I loved the advice Jai and Meera gave each other shortly after the break up – they felt free to talk and no longer hesitant to share stuff like ‘your red shoes, which you think are great, are actually terrible and everyone makes fun of them’ or ‘be careful how you use that smile – it can cause havoc in the opposing person’. And the Veerji romance with Harleen Kaur was well depicted, made you smile, was quaint and cute and cuddly.

I also cant fault any of the performances. Saif has this unique ability – as the lovable ruffian / rascal – to really make you believe he is exactly the character being shown on screen. He wins your trust and gains your credibility. Deepika, I felt, performed a lot better than lot of people give her credit for. Not just a pretty face, this babe from Bangalore. Rishi Kapoor reminded us, why he was the original lovable ruffian. And Giselle (curiously not even mentioned on the official website), as Harleen, got her simpering and modest glances down pat.

But I don’t think I really understood what the characters were feeling. Especially Jai. And to an extent Meera. Never understood the thoughts going on inside their head. Some of their reactions came as a bolt from the blue and that didn’t feel right. Some of the situations felt unnatural and that didn’t feel right.

This film suffers from the ghosts of some of the other great ‘romantic comedies’ like Dil Chahta Hai, Jab We Met (Imtiaz’s earlier film) and Hum Tum. And unfortunately, while it has shades of each of the three, it never rises to their level. I don’t think any song has shown the angst of separation as ‘Tanhai’ did in DCH. Or the now on, now off situation like Hum Tum (or ‘When Harry Met Sally’). And the very natural plot construction of ‘Jab We Met’, where you understand the characters and none of their choices seem forced. Its also supposedly borrowed a concept or two from a Taiwanese film ‘Three Times’.

In this one, you feel a bit incomplete when you walk out. It was fun and frothy to an extent. And nice, and charming, and quaint. But not all the way…