Sunday, May 27, 2007

Shootout at Lokhandwalla

Its gritty, realistic but completely pointless. I hate being misled or ripped off and this feeling was highly prominent as I was walking out of the cinema hall.

The name should’ve been ‘all shoot-outs in Mumbai’ or ‘every encounter in Mumbai from 1990-93’. The opening scene shows a PYT somberly telling us about the shoot-out at Lokhandwala – how 3000 rounds were fired, 112 people endangered, 6 gangsters killed etc. Bunkum, bakwaas ! We witnessed about 5000 rounds being fired, about 20 chase sequences through the slums of Mumbai, about 50 quick deaths and 20 really gruesome ones. And you know what ? I felt nothing for anyone, for any character on the screen. I felt no sympathy or trepidation or any other emotion as I watched one human being kill or maim each other. Because no character is developed, even for the main characters, we have no clue what they are like, what drives them, what makes them do the things they do. The movie just stumbles from one killing / one incident to another with item numbers (4 very boring tuneless songs) used in place of punctuation marks.

There is no story in the first place – and whatever little is there is completely ruined by the directors choice of narrative style – which is flashbacks intermingled with the present day scenario. This takes the suspense out completely (as you know how it ends / who lives and who dies etc) and also makes the story very disjointed / fragmented – you struggle to follow one sub-plot before the other one kicks off. We’re told about the set-up of the ATS (anti-terrorist squad) led by Sanjay Dutt (and how he recruited only the best of the best etc, based on the Los Angeles SWAT teams) and how they became a judge, jury and executioner (or in Page 3 terms, encounter specialists). We first see them battle sikh terrorists and then move on to the Mumbai underworld without warning (why would the underworld be in the domain of ATS beggars belief, but then I think the director assumed a brainless audience). Through 80% of the movie we follow the ATS chase an underworld gang led by Vivek Oberoi, who used to be a trusty lieutenant of you-know-who (he lives in dubai, has a moustache and wears goggles all the time) but is now trying to establish his own gang. This gang kills / robs / kidnaps just for fun. Plus they act terribly – Vivek Oberoi and Tusshar Kapoor have yet to learn that to be menacing, you don’t have to scowl fiercely or look constipated, you can do this quite naturally. Yet when the time comes, we’re expected to weep for them / forgive them ? Abhishek is present only in a blink and you miss him role and Amitabh in a five minute longer version of the same.

There is not one new thought or narrative style in the film and you struggle to the see point of it all. Why was it made ? What was the director / script-writer trying to say ? Why did they subject us to 3 hours of torture ? And why did good actors (the Bachchan’s, Sanjay baba, Suneil Shetty etc) agree to act in this movie. I guess some things, like the Bermuda Triangle or women’s love for shopping are never meant to be answered. Avoid this one like the plague !

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Cheeni Kum

What do you say about a two and a half hour movie that just got over ? That it was beautiful ? Brilliant ? Exquisite ? Or that it reminded me of Four Weddings and a Funeral or When Harry Met Sally or even the conversational brilliance of Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, though not necessarily in that order ?

This movie is a novelty for India, a movie comprising mostly of intelligent, dialogue based humour rather than on situations (like Khosla ka Ghosla) or slapstick (most of the other Hindi movies that pretend to be comedies). Amitabh Bachchan is a crabby 64 year old chef / owner of an Indian restaurant in London. The first half depicts the growing relationship between himself and Tabu, a 34 year old woman from Delhi in London on a holiday. The second half primarily depicts Tabu’s 58 year old father, Paresh Rawal’s viewpoint on the relationship. There – that’s it as far as the story goes…nothing more, nothing less…

The true brilliance of the movie lies in the life / spark infused in even the simplest of situations or the simplest of characters. Whether it’s the interaction amongst the chef’s in the restaurant, the waiter hilariously nicknamed Colgate because of his protruding teeth and the jokes at their expense (‘iske liye dimaag ki zaroorat hai, daant ki nahin’, he is gently admonished on one occasion), the sardarji pharmacist and Amitabh’s interactions with him, Amitabh’s mom’s fascination with the gym in the face of her sons obvious reluctance to go anywhere near it, his acerbic comments on his mom’s cooking (‘yeh Tihar Jail waali daal ?’), Paresh Rawal’s love of cricket and Gandhism. I can go on and on. I was in near-hysterical splits on no less than 10 occasions. I’m still laughing as I remember some of the jokes….

And I haven’t even mentioned Amitabh and Tabu – their running joke around the umbrella, the ruthless way she teases him the first time he tries to ask her out, their almost every conversation was beautifully constructed. The movie also captures amazingly well the highs and lows of falling in love. Will she come or wont she ? Will she say yes ? The mood swings, the heartache and the sheer exhilaration and joy when its all ok, when you’re with your newfound love.

I think one of the casting coup’s of the movie was Tabu. I watched this movie with a school friend of mine (Prashant) and we discussed her at length after the movie. The parts of the conversation I can print here involved her sheer beauty, her classic features (high cheekbones, eyes) and her subtleness…her understated yet enigmatic presence. She brings reality and a certain mystique to her character, makes acting seem so easy. I don’t think there is another Bollywood actress who could have done justice to her role.

However, this doesn’t detract in any way from any of the other performances in the movie. Everyone was excellent – from Amitabh to Paresh Rawal to each chef / waiter in the restaurant, Amitabh’s neighbour and his daughter (a nice sub-plot here and at last we get a real child who talks like today’s kids actually do, unlike the saccharine mumblings of the girl in TaraRumPum). The music, with the title song playing constantly in the background, the settings (even Qutab Minar looks beautiful in the movie), everything, like spices, enhance the brilliance of the dialogue.

Take a bow, Mr Balki (an admaker and first time director). The entire audience gave a standing ovation when the movie ended. Is movie main kuch bhi kum nahin tha !

Ek Chaalis Ki Last Local

This is a movie which makes you smile quite often but very rarely does it manage to convert that smile into laughter. It tries very hard to be a comedy, to be quirky, to push the boundaries, has liberal doses of Mumbai humour and even creates a series of potentially funny situations, but it still doesn’t manage to elicit the belly-moving laughter.

Its about Abhay Deol, who misses the last local (train) at night from Kurla to Vikhroli (in Mumbai), tries to take an auto-rickshaw and meets Neha Dhupia, who is also co-incidentally trying to get to Vikhroli. The auto’s are on strike, so they decide to start walking together till they find an auto willing to go. They then encounter different situations – rain, some charsi’s (druggies), a bar, some more rain, an old friend, a card game, corrupt cops, denizens of the underworld among others. These don’t come thick and fast, its not a non-stop action movie, and while some situations stretch the realms of possibility, none are completely impossible.

So while this assures you of some good entertainment, and some good moments, I don’t think its one for the DVD collection. I think Abhay Deol overacts, doesn’t have the flair to pull off his role. You can see why they chose him – his seedha boy innocent looks – but then this doesn’t help when they want to show him ogling at Neha’s plunging neckline or dying for a beer – doesn’t fit with his dimpled smile and shy demeanour. Everyone else was ok in the movie, I think some of characters were deliberately over the top. There was this Eunuch / Pimp who was good and a character named Mangesh Bhai had his moments but most turned in average performances. The script is a bit forced, uses too much Mumbai language for my liking. The songs are ok, nothing stands out. The situations, though, are interesting for sure. You do wonder whats coming next. But even here I think the director missed a trick by showing the movie in flashback form – the opening sequence shows Abhay talking to us about what he has just been through and for me that spoilt to a degree the suspense of what lay ahead.

So, what are we left with ? As with most of the movies these days it’s a bit different. It doesn’t make you think too much, the grey cells can safely be left at home. I think a few people will go home smacking their forehead and thinking ‘what crap !’ and about the same number, probably younger profile people will go away thinking ‘wow, that was brilliant !’. But most, I think, like me will go home thinking it was ok, it was a movie that tried too hard to be funny.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Metro (Life in a Metro)

I think love is a fascinating topic if handled well. There is something amazing about all of us and our universal quest for love. Maybe its that we’re never sure when we find true love ? Or maybe, as we’re never content (true to the human spirit of progress etc), even when we’ve found our life partner / are married, we still find ways to make ourselves unhappy and search for something else. Or maybe its even that we often confuse lust with love ?

The title could easily be ‘The hunt for love in a big city’. It showcases 3 / 4 different yet interlinked storylines showing how different characters search for this elusive, missing commodity in their lives. Some are even married – but as any married couple knows, that doesn’t necessarily mean that love is still alive.

What I liked in the movie

  • The depiction is very realistic. Very. When one character starts shouting at her husband, he just turns around and says ‘you must be having you periods’.

  • The storyline is very crisp – the pace never flags, you don’t feel bored and it lasts only 130/140 mts

  • They show a very nice mix of characters – from the BPO crowd to assistants to a housewife. The dialogues were very well written, very true to life

  • The music is very good – the song ‘in dino’ is exceptional

  • The performances are outstanding – Sharman Joshi, Kay Kay Menon, Shilpa Shetty, Konkona Sen, Kangana Raut were all terrific. However the one who stole the show was Irfaan Khan – he was simply brilliant. For one sequence, when he and Konkana are sitting on some rocks by the sea, towards the end, the audience literally got up and started applauding.

  • All three leading ladies looked very good. I'll be nice and wont make anymore politically insensitive remarks

  • The movie, despite the serious nature of the topic, doesn’t get too ‘heavy’. There are enough light moments, especially driven by Irfaan’s character (and Sharman’s in the initial part).

  • Even though, one of the storylines is blatantly copied from one of my favourite classic movies (The Apartment, starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley Maclaine, directed by Billy Wilder), they copy it / adapt to the current Indian milieu well

What I didn’t like

  • I think the Dharmendra / Nafisa Ali storyline didn’t really add much to the movie. I also thought both (especially Dharmendra) overacted a bit.

  • All the songs were picturised on the singers while showing the movie / characters in the background – pretty much like a music video. For me, that made the songs more like a break in the film, rather than a part of it.

  • I wish they had made Shilpa Shetty’s character a bit stronger / more independent. She cried too much / was too forgiving for my liking.

As an aside, I saw this movie in Priya PVR (in Vasant Vihar, Delhi) and I thanked my stars that multiplexes are now so common in India. They’re just so much more convenient for the consumer and the screen, even if you’re in the front, is so much easier to see.

I’ve always been a fan of interlinked stories and this one is executed very well. Unlike Salaam-E-Ishq, for example, which is just about the concept / big stars, this one has more meat, more substance. And what do you know, it may make you understand / appreciate the love of your life just that little bit more.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Bheja Fry

I saw this movie at 2200 hours in Bangalore, where I saw about 150 sullen, tired, mentally exhausted people come in and leave 2 hours later happy, smiling and refreshed.

Its definitely funny, relying more on dialogue, situations and the sheer screen personality of Bharat Bhushan (brilliantly played by Vinay Pathak – who also excelled in the other great comedy, Khosla ka Ghosla). The story is truly about Bharat Bhushan’s interactions with Ranjeet Thadani (very well played by Rajat Kapoor – remember Mahesh from Dil Chahta Hai). Ranjeet is a music talent agent, married to Sheetal (Sarika) and his main stress buster is his Friday night dinner with some friends – where they usually get an idiot / non-talented person, get him to perform and amuse themselves making fun of him (without hurting his feelings, if Ranjeet is to be believed). Based on an acquaintances recommendation, Ranjeet invites Bharat to come along to his dinner. Bharat works in the income tax department, is a very sincere self-styled singer and has some, lets just say ‘unique’ habits. He comes over to meet Ranjeet at his place before the dinner and that’s when things start to go wrong.

This is not a laugh a minute movie – it takes time to build but soon you start smiling and then suddenly, almost inspite yourself, you begin to laugh. You laugh at Ranjeet’s helplessness (his back gives way), at Bharat’s well-intentioned but usually misfiring attempts to help and most of all the amazing character of Bharat himself – they don’t make them like him anymore !

Among the unique habits Bharat possesses is his desire to show his ‘album’ to everyone he meets, the way the album is wrapped in a shaadi ki mithai wala polythene, the way he shuts his suitcase, the way he calls people up (the glee with which he always informs Ramesh ‘its ringing’ is contagious), his vocabulary (shudh Hindi), his repeated references to his Dad, his forgetfulness and the way he just never loses faith / never stops trying to help…And Ranjeet, despite desperately wanting to get rid of him, just has to keep on approaching him for help as one problem gives way to another !

I think we all identify with bits of Mr Bharat Bhushan – we’ve all probably encountered people who’ve got some traits of his. Also, and I don’t know if its just me, but the one thing that for me makes this movie just reach ‘Very Good’ and not ‘Great’ is that I do not like laughing too much at someone else’s expense…I cannot make fun of idiots like Ranjeet and so there were some moments where I did squirm / did not identify at all with him.

The rest though, was pure fun. Its apparently a remake of a French movie ‘Le Dinner de cons’ but that doesn’t matter. It was almost a shame when the movie ended !

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Spiderman 3

I think this is one sequel too many and wish they had not made it all. It probes no new territory in terms of the personal life of Peter Parker (he has the same personal dilemma’s as in 2 – can he have a sustaining relationship with MJ / can he and Harry be friends). And there is nothing special in terms of the villains on offer, in fact there are too many of them and that is one of the key contributors towards its bloated 150 minute length.

There are one or two great humorous sequences – the one that sticks out involves the editor of the Daily Bugle, his secretary and some pills. However, there is not enough in the movie to keep the interest sustained – its too gory / introspective in parts to keep the kids involved and not deep enough (a la ‘Batman Begins’) to interest the adults.

I wish they had stopped at 2.

Darwaza Bandh Rakho

Just saw this movie – a decent comedy that slipped into oblivion for some reason or the other. It’s a 2006 production by RGV Film Factory, directed by Chekravarthy.

It has a very interesting plot where a gang of four kidnap a rich heiress, seek shelter in a Gujju bhai’s house and are forced to keep him and his whole family hostage as well. One complication follows another (the father of the heiress has gone to America and so is not contactable for a start) and slowly the number of people being held hostage increases….

It’s very nicely done with great performances by a mostly ‘no big name’ cast – though it includes Chunky Pandey / Manisha Koirala / Aftab Shivdasani. The first hour has several very good one-liners (Ishrat Ali is fantastic as the Gujju bhai) but the movie does plod a little towards the end. I think they dragged it a little too long + the end does not really live up to the great start. Nice watch though if you’re in the mood for something different, especially if you’re in a group.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Tara RumPum

It’s a clich├ęd movie with several good moments.

It’s about RV – short for Raj Vir Singh (played by Saif), a NASCAR racing driver in the USA, who after winning 50 races on the trot, suffers an accident and then cannot stop losing. He’s married to Radhika (Rani Mukherjee), with two ultra sweet kids Champ and Princess. Money dries up, there are several problems – school fees to be paid, they lose their perfect upstate New York house, no money for food, no jobs etc. Will RV be able to race again ? Will the good times return to this once picture perfect family ? What do you think ? C’mon, take a guess…you may even be right…

There are several parallel stories – RV is a live for today / who cares about tomorrow kind of guy – buys everything on instalments, blows money on nice cars / fancy rings etc. Radhika, even though she is the daughter of a very successful businessman, is stingy (maybe ‘value-obsessed’ would be more politically correct ?), the planning type of person – for ex: was planning to be a pianist since she was ten. Also, the father (the rich businessman) strictly disapproves of RV – he has no degree, has the wrong attitude, cannot plan for the future etc. Who do you think is right ? Which way of life is better ?

There are some other niggles I had but the main one was that the kids (Champ & Princess, aged about 4 and 8 approximately) are completely from another planet – they are too saccharine / too understanding / too doll-like, so nice that you feel like shaking them up. Both have that ‘kuch kuch hota hai’ type halting way of speaking with the exaggerated gestures and it’s just too fake !

The good moments

  • Jaaved Jaafri (he’s changed his spelling) was very good at least initially, with several very good one-liners as a Gujju taxi-driver / team manager.
  • A couple of the car races were real adrenalin pumping, high-voltage sequences.
  • They touched on several valid issues – the importance of having a degree / planning for the future / ensuring you have things like insurance (especially medical) / not over-extending yourself on credit cards & loans, even though it was in passing.

Saif does what he does best, playing a lovable ruffian as only he can, the man with several flaws but with a heart of gold. Rani turns in a good performance but the mini-skirts in the initial bits really did not suit her. Also, her character was not developed properly, I mean what was she doing when her hubby was racing / winning all those years – where were her planning / her saving instincts ? Why wasn’t she completing her piano degree, paying off the bills, forcing Saif to also save something / invest in insurance etc ? The music was a disappointment as well – nothing that hummable and nothing that will survive a couple of months. There are too many other logical flaws but I cannot give those away without disclosing the whole movie / story (what I’ve given away above may seem like too much but you would get as much by even watching the trailer).

It’s a movie which I think couldn’t make its mind up – it should have either tried to be an out and out action-filled thriller a la Dhoom2 / Don or a family drama about the clash of life-styles between Saif / Rani a la Hum Tum. It tries to be both and so doesn’t succeed in either.

One last point – in the final race, the whole Saif team is sporting the Indian tri-colour in their uniform ? Are they allowed to do that ? They also kissed each other in the movie - now surely thats not allowed as well ? Shouldn’t we be burning some effigies here ? Whats the world coming to if people can display their patriotism for India / their affections for each other so openly ?

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Good Bye Lenin

This is one of the movies which makes you wish you knew its original language (German), since it was so good even through the English sub-titles, that you can only imagine how good it must be in its native German…

Its about a single-parent family in East Germany a few months before the collapse of communism. The mother, an idealistic socialist / party worker, goes into coma when she watches her teen-age son get arrested. Her coma lasts eight months during which time the world as she knows changes completely – the Berlin wall is broken down, Germany is reunited, communism is replaced by capitalism etc. Doctors warn her children that any further shock can be fatal, so her son decides to protect her from all the recent developments and recreates her old world for her in her room at home. One thing leads to another, the deception soon acquires a life of its own with hilarious consequences and keeps getting bigger as the mother becomes more active (she wants to watch TV / starts to walk).

The sub-titles are brilliantly written – dripping with sarcasm and one-liners. The plot is outstanding – there are situations like the Coca cola banner which is unfurled over a nearby building / the Spreewald pickles / the mom’s birthday which are superbly tackled. You really admire the son’s determination to protect his mother at all costs and his ingenuity in coming up with solutions to all the problems – even as his sister and his girlfriend want him to tell her the truth.

Its simply compulsive watching and leaves you marveling at the creative idea behind the film… hats off to Wolfgang Becker for co-writing and directing this masterpiece.