Friday, February 25, 2011

Tanu Weds Manu

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 25th February, 2011
Time : 120 minutes
Director : Aanand Rai; Writer : Himanshu Sharma; Music : Krsna
Starring : Kangana Ranaut, Madhavan, Deepak Dobriyal, Eijaz Khan, Swara Bhaskar, KK Raina, Jimmy Shergill

This is yet another film with a Jekyll & Hyde complex. A very good, funny, quirky first half, completely ruined by a second that descends into melodrama, soppiness and farce. The film is fun, though, due to certain likeable characters, none more so than Tanu (Kangana), her best friend Payal (Swara Bhaskar) and Manu’s (Madhavan’s) two buddies, Pappi (Deepak Dobriyal) and Jassi (Eijaz Khan).

Manu, the good doctor from London, has come to India to get married. The first prospective bride he see’s is Tanu and for him the world stops spinning right there and then. On a trip to Vaishno Devi (a hilarious Jai Mata Di sequence), to celebrate the upcoming union, he however finds out she’s not what he’d expected and they have to call it off. However, fate has other things planned for them …

This film belongs to Kangana. She has never looked better (in a very dhinchak way), is for a change not playing a psycho or drunk and acts with aplomb. The way she says ‘Mishra ji’ you never know whether she is mocking him or actually calling him. She is a rebel, someone who in places like Kanpur is called ‘a fast girl’, does all the things which are considered taboo, including a tattoo (“Teri shaadi main daaru peeke ulti nahin ki to kya kiya”). Deepak Dobriyal (“ab ya to bawal karo ya chup chap train se kat lo”) proves his fine acting credentials once more, as does Eijaz (who enjoys tharki songs and pays the price for his tharki ways before his marriage). And Swara brings a fine touch of Patna in her patois (“bhatakti aatma rahogi tum, kabhi chain nahin milega”).

Madhavan acts well but is loaded with a character who doesn’t appeal to me. I’m sure the weepy, silent man has many takers but I am not one of them. I stopped caring for him well before the second half, have no sympathies for those who make long faces and stand in a corner and pine away while the world passes them by. Goddamn it, man, do something. And if you do decide that she is the one for you, woo her, court her, communicate with her. Don’t stand there, looking mournful with puppy eyes ! Again, its nothing against Madhavan’s acting skills but more on the character he’s had to inhabit…

Its almost as if the director couldn’t decide what genre film he wanted to make. The first half is an enjoyable comedy, the second a weepy melodrama. The first has endearing characters, who amuse you with their wit and behaviour, and in the second a couple of them stifle you with an over-reliance on what used to be known as dialogue baazi. The first half is best exemplified by Mika’s peppy Punjabi number, the second by a funeral-like slow song. I am exaggerating a bit here, but only a bit. There is a scene in the second half (buying a wedding dress), which has shades of Four Weddings and a Funeral, but the way its done here versus the English film, demonstrates the difference in thought / genre.

In Tanu Weds Manu, the small town flavour can be tasted constantly, like a good paan, though, again like paan, after a while (especially the second half) you have no option but to spit it out…

Friday, February 18, 2011

7 Khoon Maaf

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 18th February, 2011
Time : 154 minutes
Director, Music & Writer : Vishal Bhardwaj; Co-Writer : Matthew Robbins (based on the story by Ruskin Bond);
Starring : Priyanka Chopra, Vivaan Shah, Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham, Irrfan Khan, Aleksandr Dyachenko, Annu Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Usha Uthup, Shashi Malviya

I really admire the marketing that accompanies certain directors nowadays. It builds up the film to a degree and in a way that it almost makes you feel like you’re a cinematic idiot if you don’t like it. Call me a philistine but I didn’t like it. I didn’t get it. I found it too dark and too long and weird and unreal and unsettling.

Its about Priyanka and her 7 husbands. And yes, she murders them. And she has a loyal entourage (Vivaan Shah, Usha Uthup, Shashi Malviya among others) who accompany her through her travails. I wont tell you anymore about the story, but leave it to you to discover the who’s, the when’s, the how’s and the why’s.

Suffice to say I never understood the why’s. Or the character played by Priyanka. Or her entourage. There were never any conversations between them of any depth (bar one) which tried to make sense of whats happening. I enjoyed looking at her, she looks stunning, acts beautifully but I don’t follow her thoughts or feel any empathy for her, like her or find her coherent. And that’s why the film feels much longer than its two and a half hours.

Since the movie has to go through so many husbands (remember Whats Your Rashee ?), by definition the men have very little time devoted to them and end up being mere caricatures, just getting fattened for the slaughter. Neil and Annu Kapoor stand out though for making their characters come to life a bit more than the others.

Am not sure about the philosophy or thought being propagated by the film as well. Is there one ? Its almost as if murder is the first and only resort and that cannot be ? Its a film rich in music (Darling & the haunting Bekaraan standing out) and lovely atmospherics but again, without characters you like, it doesnt hold you or make it enjoyable. I don’t think every great book will make a great movie. I haven’t read this story but wish this one had been left alone.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

No Strings Attached

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 21st January, 2011
Time : 108 minutes
Director : Ivan Reitman; Writer : Elizabeth Meriwether; Music : John Debney
Starring : Natalie Portman, Ashton Kutcher, Kevin Kline, Greta Gerwig, Lake Bell, Ludacris, Jake M Johnson, Mindy Kaling, Ophelia Lovibond, Ben Lawson, Olivia Thirlby

“Ten years from now you’re going to be having sex with your wife. And its gonna be in the missionary position. And one of you will be asleep”

This film is not about the storyline, which is quite routine, but about the sparkling screenplay, loveable & easily identifiable characters and excellent acting, none more so than the lead pair.

“Remember that when she’s at the hospital, I’ll be right next to her, using big English words and saving lives”

Natalie Portman doesn’t want any relationships. She has no time (is a doctor), doesn’t want complications and doesn’t want to get hurt. There is a guy (Ashton Kutcher) she keeps bumping into. Nice looking, cool, though he seems to be living off and in his famous dad’s (Kevin Kline) shadow. She enjoys having sex with him, decides to proposition him to become her ‘sex friend’, the condition being that they must not fall in love or behave like a couple. Sub plots include her medical roommates, all a bit kooky. His friends, who alternate in giving unwanted advice and attempting to hook themselves up. And his dad, who’s decided to hook up with his ex-girlfriend…

“Are you the guy who had sex with a woman and gave her a balloon?”

I wouldn’t have thought of Natalie and Ashton as a likely couple but they definitely make a good looking pair, a pair you enjoy watching having sex (many times), a pair that seems comfortable together. While having a crush on Natalie since her Star Wars days, for me she really comes into her own here, a romantic leading lady role (am yet to see Black Swan though, a film she’s likely to win an Oscar for). She was really good here. And after this, I will no longer think of Ashton as Demi’s toyboy husband. He’s managed to carve a niche of his own and is beginning to justify having over 5mn Twitter followers.

“But he’s so tall ! Everytime I stand next to him, it looks like a case of kidnapping !”

There are quite a few genuine laugh out loud moments (the period mix, the dinner with Kevin, Ashton & Natalie, even the end of the movie stills), jokes fly thick and fast, the various characters are all crazy yet real enough, the mood light and easy throughout, the dialogue appropriately fizzy and enough unexpected plot twists (including the time Ashton wakes up naked amidst a group of people and cant remember who he had sex with) to keep us amused.

“I think Monogamy goes against our basic biology”

This was the perfect antidote to the weepy manipulative melodrama I was tortured with yesterday. A perfect Valentine’s Day release. One that I’m going to enjoy watching again as I’m not sure I got all the jokes. And I cant say that about many chick flicks…

Friday, February 11, 2011

Patiala House

Rating : 2/10
Release Date : 11th February, 2011
Time : 147 minutes
Director & Writer : Nikhil Advani; Co-writer : Anvita Dutt; Music : Shankar, Ehsaan Loy
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Anushka, Rishi Kapoor, Dimple, Armaan Kirmani, Prem Chopra, Soni Razdan, Tinu Anand, Hard Kaur, Jeneva Talwar

Tripe, balderdash and poppycock

This is about a promising cricketer (Akshay), an Indian origin British citizen, who is told by his autocratic father (Rishi) that he cannot play for England. This is about him leading the next 17 years with a face as long as a cricket bat, working in a convenience store set up for him by the same father. This is about some ten other assorted characters who are forced by the same father to do what he wants them to do rather than what they wish for, but funnily enough they don’t blame themselves for not standing up but blame Akshay instead. And all this changes once Anushka enters their lives and the England team lies in tatters.

This is a film steeped in melodrama. Violins play in the background at every opportunity. Rivers of glycerine flow at the drop of a hat. Every occasion is filled with pathos, no frame seems complete until someone is not shown to be sad, morose or oppressed.

This is also a film steeped in illogicality. Why, if his Dad is so adamant about him not playing for England, is he not able to play for India ? Or at least the counties ? Many people make a career out of just that. If someone hasn’t played competitively for 17 years and is aged 34, what odds would you offer for him to be selected ? Could you imagine someone playing for the national side and yet keeping it a secret from his father ? And how come papa ka ladla isnt married (at 34) when is father happily goes around fixing other people's marriages ?

And then there are other questions I would beg to ask. Why should I, as an Indian, cheer for someone who wants to play in an England shirt ? Even more, why should I, as an audience, feel anything, any sympathy or sense of camaraderie with a person who clearly lived 17 years of his life without a backbone, became the butt of his relatives jokes, lived with drooping shoulders and a face to match ? Why should I care about him ?

Its no surprise then that nothing excites, not the songs (which aren’t that great) nor the cricket (very clichéd coverage) nor any of the side characters. The few moments of fun in the second half come when they’re trying to keep his selection a secret from the Dad, but that lasts barely 5 minutes.

Dimple is wasted. Anushka and Akshay have zero chemistry. Rishi looks the part. The rest are ok

The movie is made with all the subtlety of a sledgehammer. It is clichéd in every aspect and lacks body and soul. Found it very difficult to sit through and am going to probably have to watch another one tonight just to get this out of my head.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

127 Hours

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 28th January, 2011 (India)
Time : 94 minutes
Director & Writer : Danny Boyle; Co-writers : Simon Beaufoy (based on the novel ‘Between a Rock and a Hard Place’ by Aron Ralston); Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Jamie Franco, Kate Mara, Amber Tamblyn

This film is a masterclass in character development, editing, camera work and of course, direction. It takes considerable skill and craft to be able to sustain interest in a film where you know whats going to happen, how it will end. Danny Boyle manages that with ease, helped by some lovely camera angles, great cinematic techniques and a pulsating soundtrack by our very own Rahman.

Aron Ralston (Jamie Franco), an adventure junkie, avid trekker of the Grand Canyon finds himself trapped in a crevice, suspended almost mid air with one hand crushed / trapped under a big, immoveable rock. It’s a freak accident but he is now stuck, low on food, low on water and no one knows where he is….

The reason the film works is because we very quickly fall in love with Aron. His whackiness, sense of adventure, humour, ability to not take himself seriously, his choice of songs, off key singing and most of all, his indomiatable will to live and the steel that lies within. Further meat is added by becoming privy to his thoughts as he finds himself stuck in this strange predicament.

The cinematic techniques used – the split screens, the surreal dream sequences, the water pouring / drinking shots, the pull outs / helicopter shots which reinforce just how big the place really is, the colours – I can really go on – they add so much to the cinematic viewing pleasure. As does the vibrant music, right from the opening track, Rahman is on the ball here.

The film itself works at several levels. You wonder instantly what you would do if caught in the same situation. You ponder about how tenuous our grip on life really is (how dependent we are on things like food, water) ? How much of our life is actually dictated by random events (what if he had answered his mom’s phone, what if he had brought along his Swiss Army knife ) ? How insignificant humans are when pitted against Mother Nature (the vastness of the canyons, the agelessness and tranquillity of the rocks) ?

I liked the way the ‘gory’ parts were shown but glossed over, the way we were spared melodrama, the focus remaining on the will to survive. At the end it was about a guy being stuck behind a rock. That it’s a fascinating watch, despite the inherent dullness of the subject matter, is a tribute to the team behind it !