Saturday, May 30, 2015

San Andreas

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 29th May, 2015
Time : 114 minutes
Director : Brad Peyton; Writer : Andre Fabrizio, Jeremy Passmore; Music : Andrew Lockington
Starring : Dwayne Johnson, Alexandra Daddario, Carla Gugino, Paul Giamatti, Archie Panjabi, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Art Parkinson, Ioan Gruffudd

Watch it for an adrenalin rush, super special effects, the reassuring presence of Dwayne Johnson and the lovely persona of Alexandra (of Percy Jackson fame).

Don’t watch it if you like your films to be totally logical, things to make sense, be neatly tied up and you don’t like the main characters becoming almost super-heroes.

Right from opening sequence its clear that your heart is going to get a good workout and that Dwayne is going to be Captain Splendid. He captains a rescue chopper in LA. And when the chips are down he is the man you want on your side. Though his soon-to-be ex-wife, Carla, doesn’t think so as she is about to move in with her Richie Rich boyfriend, Ioan, having tried to make their relationship work after the an unfortunate accident but finally giving up. Alexandra, their daughter, is very attached to both parents, a bit of a Daddy’s Girl but cant say no when Ioan offers to drop her to Frisco when Dwayne is suddenly called away on an emergency…a seismic event at the Hoover Dam, where there are no known fault lines…and where Paul Giamatti, a seismology expert, is trying to verify his theory about earthquake prediction…

And that’s just the beginning…

It was nice to see Archie Panjabi in a prominent role, as a TV reporter – had liked her in A Good Year too. Carla is good, as always, and Hugo and Art are very good as brothers who befriend Alexandra while she is in San Francisco. Paul’s role is surprisingly miniscule. The dialogue is nothing to write home about – full of ‘Hurry Up’ or ‘Are You Ok?’ or a slight variant of that ‘Are You Hurt?’…but the true beauty of the film lies in its glorious life-like effects – whether it’s the buildings collapsing or waters flooding or the helicopter action sequences…and the most spectacular one for me was the fault line in the middle of the road…incredibly real and equally scary…

I like the way most American movies showcasing mega-cataclysmic events manage to make it about certain individuals and families – the rest of the the people. This is one of them. It also tries to sanitize disaster – you don’t see the really ugly side. And nothing bad happens to good folk, nothing really bad anyways…

Welcome 2 Karachi

Rating : Unrated
Release Date : 29th May, 2015
Time : Walked Out At Half-time
Director : Ashish R Mohan; Writer : Vrajesh Hirjee; Music : Various
Starring : Arshad Warsi, Jackky Bhagnani, Dalip Tahil, Lauren Gottlieb

There is something that will make you laugh every fifteen minutes or so. But its bearing the intervening period – full of ludicrous plot situations, insanity and bad PJs that really takes its toll on you.

Arshad Warsi is a disgraced Navy commander. Pilots a ship (yacht, really) for rich businessman Dalip Tahil, who rents it out for parties. Whose son, Jackky, has got to be about the most foolish, stoned out guys possible. Both Arshad and Jackky, following a maritime disaster, land up in Karachi…and then mayhem happens – story wise, PJ wise and otherwise…

Sad to see Arshad’s excellent comic and acting skills wasted this way. Its a mindless comedy, one of those where you are supposed to leave your brain at home. There were quite a few in the audience in splits.
We walked out during halftime, three of us, by unanimous consent

Friday, May 22, 2015

Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 22nd May, 2015
Time : 120 minutes
Director : Anand L Rai; Writer : Himanshu Sharma; Music : Krsna, Tanishk-Vayu
Starring : Kangana Ranaut, R Madhavan, Deepak Dobriyal, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Jimmy Shergill, K K Raina, Rajesh Sharma, Swara Bhaskar, Eijaz Khan, Dipti Mishra, Rajendra Gupta, Navni Parihar

"Bas karo yeh havas ka nanga naach !"

A crackling first half deteriorates quite badly midway through the second…becoming unnecessarily maudlin, sentimental, and ruins the overall message of the film…There is still much to admire in the film, though, especially the situations woven (incl the tantalizing intermission point) and the sizzling dialogue which, in the good old days, would’ve led to a chavanniyon ki baarish every 5 minutes or so !

"Tu dinosaur ki biradri ka hove, ke doosri biradri se shaadi kar lai to extinct ho javega ?"

Kangana and Madhavan break up while settled in the UK. He goes to an asylum there, while she returns to Kanpur. And when, at the instigation of best mate, Deepak Dobriyal, he serves her divorce papers, she decides to revisit her good, old days (and friends), with Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub (an illegal tenant in her parents place)…everything is going swimmingly until she meets old flame, Jimmy Shergill once again. And Madhavan meets her doppelganger – a young, Harvanyi spouting girl from Jhajjar, a bob-cut version of Kangana…and then things are never the same again !

"Sex ? Woh to do saal pehle, Bhaiyya Dooj ke din…."

The true hero of the film are the one-liners…mostly delivered via Deepak Dobriyal, who also delivers amongst the best performances of the film. Kangana breathes fire, especially in her hockey wielding, college going avatar – the other one I don’t quite get, who thodi baavli si hai. Zeeshan Ayyub gives a riveting performance in a small but meaty role, while Jimmy Shergill and Rajesh Sharma (has a couple of great scenes) catch the eye despite having miniscule screen time. The whole bit around Swara Bhaskar and her husband (Eijaz) was unnecessary, as was the ‘Komal’ angle and extremely long drawn out final wedding sequence…

"Yeh kya mazaak hai ? Original bhi mera aur duplicate bhi mera ?"

There are some scenes which really stand out…Rajesh Sharma’s speech to his village elders…the non-stop diatribe by Madhavan’s mom (Dipti Mishra) to her husband, the (hold your breath) pony-tailed KK Raina and his final riposte… the ‘dekh, kabootar’ trick…There were also some great messages not too subtly delivered - about self-reliant, independent women, about progress and inter-caste marriage – too bad the end let the tempo drop and kind of diluted it all…still worth a watch, though, and with a peppy soundtrack, not bad as sequels go.

"Aa, tujhe Batman ke saare legend dikhati hoon.."

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Bombay Velvet

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 15th May, 2015
Time : 151 minutes
Director, Writer : Anurag Kashyap; Co-Writers : Vasan Bala, Gyan Prakash Thani; Music : Amit Trivedi
Starring : Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar, Siddharth Basu, Manish Chaudhary, Satyadeep Misra, Kay Kay Menon, Vivaan Shah, Denzil Smith

Recipe for Bombay Velvet, a nouveau-riche cocktail…
➢ Take assorted good-looking characters – Ranbir, Anushka, Kay Kay, Manish Chaudhary - and do your best to make them unrecognizable
➢ Add oodles of inspiration from every famous American gangster movie & a few film noir classics – Scarface, Once Upon A Time in America, Chinatown – leave nothing out, as another such opportunity may not present itself
➢ Throw in tons of style – taken from above films – so what if its completely incongruous to the setting, surrounding
➢ Insert jazz – simply, just (perhaps its your favourite?)…So what if its Bombay in 1969
➢ Now, in probably the only ode to context, ignore everything above – and make the film a love story – (coz that’s what Indians really love, ‘innit ?)
➢ Actually – I correct myself – in another ode to context – give everyone back stories – force the audience to feel for the characters (coz Indian’s otherwise won't get it, would we?)
➢ Finally, to give it a rather unique flavor, add your olive equivalent – Karan Johar – only, again, make him unrecognizable, hide what really makes him tick…give him a serious face, make him look really odd, stilt his spontaneity

What comes out, not surprisingly, is green gooey gunk (reference : Rene Russo’s preferred early morning pick-me-up drink in Thomas Crown Affair – aha! – we have our own cinematic inspirations too !)…only this one has a few pieces of glitter floating around to try to make it look good…

Bombay Velvet is a right royal mess…tries to do too much, without getting the basics right – its like watching a pupil with three piano lessons attempting Bach…there is no character who you remotely understand, far less feel for – and with that kind of a fatal flaw, you can try as much style as you like, ultimately, the film's going to fall flat !

Ranbir is a kid, growing up in a brothel, who wants more. Gets into the company of Satyadeep, a street toughie. Then gets semi-adopted by Karan (why?), made the manager of the swankiest nightclub, Bombay Velvet (incomprehensibly so), but he still wants more. Finds the love of his life, Anushka (a singer, jazz of course, is there any other kind?), loses her, then gets her – and then plays she loves me, she loves me not with a 1969 petalled flower in the eminently forgettable second half – while we watch in what excruciatingly seems like slow motion… Oh – and in the middle of all this – he kills a lot of people, goes regularly to a ‘Fight Club’ kind of bare-knuckle fighting arena where he more often than not gets thulped…(other people listen to music to unwind, Ranbir enjoys getting pulped)

Meanwhile, in the real action, Karan, a businessman, is trying to crack the big leagues, get in on the action where Bombay is being divvied up and sold to various builders. A powerful mayor, Siddharth Basu, and some supposedly incorruptible ministers and upright union folks are easily flipped or removed – but the only real thorn is Manish – who writes a English tabloid – and is communist by leaning and deplores all that is capitalist – but like most true communnists, lives in a really swanky pad and doesn’t mind a bit of action on the side…the other piece in the puzzle is Kay Kay Menon, a CBI inspector, who pretty much struts around and watches all the action from the sidelines. The last time we see him, he is, quite appropriately, throwing his hat on the road in disgust… Oh, and I did mention, right – everyone wears hats… In Bombay, in 1949 – 1969…its part of the American Gangsta styling…which btw, are also the kind of movies shown in ordinary theatres in the city...

At many points during the film, and then with vehemence at the end, you wonder what the hell is going on…how can you take one of the most like-able faces / personalities in our film industry (Ranbir) and turn him into this deeply flawed, near psychotic character, that no one can understand ? If you wanted to make a up-market gangster film – laudable, understandable desire to progress from Wasseypur to Bombay – why not make a crisp, action, film-noir styled thriller – why attempt thirty things in it ?

There are great sets but sadly no person you can relate to (Satyadeep is probably the only actor who can walk away with his head held high – in part because you understood him!)…the only moment which rang true was one where Karan, trying to keep a straight face at Ranbir’s broken English, has to go out to have a hearty laugh…everything else smacked of being forced, contrived. Vivaan Shah, in a bit part as a driver, for example, wears threads that are out of Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai and behaves like anything but a driver (drinks whiskey in expensive nightclubs, for example)… and there are about fifty jarring moments like this…

Sadly, this could’ve been brilliant…will lay half the blame straight away on the script…and the other half at the feet of the celebrated director, who unfortunately made this a bloated vanity project – one which seems was made keeping more than half an eye on the foreign awards, juries where he is such a darling...

PS : Why on earth was this shot for so many (over 60 days, for sure) in Sri Lanka ? Anyone ?

Saturday, May 09, 2015


Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 8th May, 2015
Time : 125 minutes
Director : Shoojit Sircar; Writer : Juhi Chaturvedi; Music : Anupam Roy
Starring : Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan, Moushumi Chatterjee, Jishu Sen, Balendra Singh, Raghuvir Yadav

Piku is a funny, incident filled look at life, relationships, family, ancestral homes, roots, parenting, how to cope with parents, the cycle of life, marriage, hypochondriacs, Bengali’s, Kolkata, road journeys and above all, constipation !

To say Deepika Padukone, playing the title character, is aggressive would be a gross understatement. She is used to getting her own way – whether at work, (with boss / lover / friend with benefits, Jishu), or even with drivers of her taxi service (whom she relentlessly bullies into speeding and accidents). Except with her Dad. Amitabh Bachchan. An eccentric Bengali. Who more than holds his own.

He doesn’t want her to get married (“It's what women of low IQ aspire for”). Is an A Grade hypochondriac, disappointed to receive a medical report that reveals no issues. Bosses around the help at home (hilarious scene where maid accused by him of stealing (hold your breath) phenyl, yells if she wanted to steal, why wouldn’t she steal laptops instead). Needs help from long time servant, Balendra Singh, to do most routine things (an incredible scene at a roadside toilet). He suffers from constipations so his bowel movements govern his and his households life. He shares an easy camaraderie with his doctor, Raghubir Yadav, with whom he spends many a happy hour discussing frequency, colour and viscosity of his motions. And thinks nothing of leaving updates with Deepika’s office receptionist about the same.

Also, unlike Deepika, he doesn’t want to sell his ancestral home in Kolkata. And this necessitates a road trip there from their current abode in Delhi, since he refuses to fly or take the train. Which brings our UP ke bhaiya, Irrfan into the equation. He is the helpless owner of the taxi stand which suffers from Deepika’s haranguing regularly. And after a fleeting meeting with her, he is also haplessly smitten. And when none of his drivers turn up, he decides to escape his own household circumstances and do the drive himself. Though he regrets it on many occasions, especially after a knife throwing incident !

What is excellent about the film is that it firmly stays grounded in the here and now. An episodic, almost incident by incident manner of narration, helps avoid most of the ailments that normally afflict Hindi film-makers – there are no cumbersome flashbacks, no moments of morbid sentimentality, no reveling in some silly sentimentality. Like life, shit happens (or in this case, doesn’t), and you move on.

The performances are excellent – Deepika is outstanding - not a single expression out of place, whether being close to breakdown, scolding the driver, battling with her father or gazing in amusement at Irrfan who’s desperately trying to impress her. Amitabh Bachchan over-acts, in line with his character – he is loud, over-bearing, and if you’d met him at a dinner party, you would never want to meet him again. Irrfan’s dead-pan expressions suit his on-screen persona perfectly and special praise for Balendra, who delivers simply the most brilliant portrayal of a typical Bengali long time help – willing to do anything or everything for his masters, without flinching or a change of expression. Moushumi, a host of other assorted characters and the music are all like jokers in a deck of cards – you never know what you’re going to get next – and it keeps the fun and the surprise element going through the film.

I thought the end missed a trick – wanted something or someone to be able to tie everything we had witnessed together. For me, it isn’t about the desire for a traditional happy ending here but more a moment of epiphany, which would put everything in perspective. This is a very touchy topic in traditional India – where the children are expected to take care of their parents but struggle to do so amongst the pressures of urban India and the waves of generational change assailing us. However, its so rare to get a film like this, where its almost as if Shoojit and Juhi (the director and writer) chose not to take sides, just narrate the incidents and let you make up your own mind… Very nicely done !

Friday, May 01, 2015

Gabbar Is Back

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 1st May, 2015
Time : 130 minutes
Director : Krish; Writer : Rajat Arora (remake of Ramana by A R Murugadoss); Music : Chirantan Bhatt, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Manj Musik
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Shruti Hassan, Suman Talwar, Jaideep Ahlawat, Sunil Grover

Five Reasons Why You Should Watch Gabbar

1. Its on the right topic – corruption in our country has become so ubiquitous we don’t even notice it, think about it anymore – and it truly is an evil that needs to be eradicated
2. The solution suggested – ie we individually have to get up and do something about it – not just start a chat group or hashtag on Twitter but actually shake off our inertia and take some concrete steps. Our politicians, bureaucrats & big businessmen are living in too much of a cozy “You scratch my back, I scratch yours” relationship to ever really break things up. Different political solutions have been tried and failed – each one has vested interests…
3. Akshay gives a decent performance – manages to be understated even while delivering the crowd pleasing lines. Jaideep and Sunil, both of whom play cops, also lend credibility to their roles

4. The story remains reasonably true to the topic – a crusade against corruption. Few diversions do come up (a back story, a romantic angle), but thankfully it doesn’t stray too far. There is also a hospital sequence that was great fun, will resonate with many!
5. One song – Teri Meri Kahani - is sung and pictured very nicely ! Enjoyed watching it for a change – else normally songs in most Hindi films are a great moment to catch up with the rest of the world for the audience.

Five Reasons Why You Should Not Watch Gabbar

1. There is nothing really new in the film. Nothing not seen in five hundred films on corruption, one man crusades, revenge sagas. Not a single new thought or visual. Action wise – it’s the same old – people flying all over the place with the aid of cables, dialogue wise, it really couldn’t get cheesier than some of the lines (Hamara system baby ke diaper ki tarah ho gaya hai – kahin se geela aur kahin se dheela!)
2. Lots of things really stretch credibility. The size of his team / staunch supporters, the college angle, the kind of people he manages to catch & kill with impunity – all of this beggars belief. And he, of course, acquires miraculous powers when he chooses, decimating gangs of villains single-handedly...
3. Our cops have to be the dumbest in the world – they really are shown to be the sort who literally sit with their heads in their hands, and eat samosa with lal chutney, while top officials get kidnapped and killed around them. Even their top CBI guy seems clueless on what specifically to do…

4. What is Shruti Hassan doing here? What is her role – apart from one song in Lavasa, what does she really bring to the party ? Wonder why film-makers feel forced to add an unnecessary romantic track. I also thought Suman made for a very weak villain…quite ordinary…
5. There is a really crass, crude, vulgar item song - Aao Raja – starring my one time hot favourite Chitrangda (of all people). Am surprised with the kind of visuals and lyrics it has (and it wasn’t even needed in the film, was a kind of force-fit), the film got away with a less than A rating. And why, pray why, Chitrangda, are you stooping to this level ?

Overall, I went with really low expectations but the film, thankfully, wasn’t all that bad, or maybe my standards have dropped in terms of what Hindi commercial, masala films can deliver