Saturday, December 27, 2008

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 167 Minutes
Release Date : 12th Dec 2008
Director & Writer : Aditya Chopra; Music : Salim - Sulaiman
Starring : Shahrukh Khan, Anushka Sharma, Vinay Pathak

This one is implausible yet endearing. It is frivolous yet serious, even emotional at times. Its almost three hours long, yet stars only the 3 actors mentioned above. Surinder Sahni (Shahrukh) is an ordinary, middle class bloke who in very unusual circumstances gets married to Taani, a very pretty young thing, full of life and feisty. Quite early on, she declares that though she will be a good wife, she can never really love him. And Shahrukh, aided by his good friend Bobby Khosla (Vinay Pathak in yet another delightful cameo), spends the rest of the movie trying to make her.

Well written & directed by Aditya Chopra himself, the film captures quite well the shy hesitancy of the initial stages of marriage, especially arranged ones. The polite, almost formal language, the awkwardness of suddenly being in a room alone with someone new, the slow ferreting of information about the other (do you like biryani ?) etc. And, as usual, we enjoy watching the contrasting characters of Surinder Sahni and Taani interact, the lovely smile of one vs the shy, almost silent smile of the other. The cool strength of one vs the more volatile temperament of the other. And finally there is this whole dimension about the secret character inside all of us – the one we bury under the formalities and customs of the world, whom we let out for brief moments only in front of the bathroom mirrors or our daydreams. It makes for engaging viewing.

The music is a big plus. The title track, Haule Haule, is excellent, with its music used through the film as background music. The other songs also fit well, provide good entertainment, including the one where old Hindi songs and titles are parodied mercilessly. One of the highlights of the film for me was the Dhoom sequence, for its sheer surprise and freshness. Anushka is very, very good in her first movie, she’s a great find. She is charming, with a really nice 1000 watt smile. And unlike the almost sinful beauty and looks of the Priyanka’s, Kareena’s and Aishwarya’s, her looks are pleasant, engaging and well, charming, I think is a good way to describe them. Shahrukh alternates between understatement and a wildly exaggerated character. The former is fun as we’re not used to seeing a deglamorised SRK (there is a scene where a topless Shahrukh is shown bathing underneath a tap, as far a cry from the Dard-e-Disco days as imaginable). And the latter is fun as Shahrukh overacts as only he can, throwing exaggerated mannerisms, trembling lips and everything but the kitchen sink at the role.

The length of the film (it drags a bit in the second half) and the sheer implausibility of it all, along with the predictability are what pull the movie back somewhat. But its worth noting, that despite the length most of the audience stayed for the photographs during the end-credits (the commentary apparently penned by SRK himself).

That’s as much a tribute to the rich characters created in the film and their sheer lovability as to the fact that you watch most of the film with a smile on your face. I saw the film without any idea as to what it was about, I'd not seen a single promo or trailer of the film, which made it more enjoyable for me.And truly, love does happen in the unlikeliest of places and in the unlikeliest of people. This film is a timely, gentle reminder of that…

Monday, November 17, 2008


Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 145 Minutes
Release Date : 14th Nov 2008
Director & Writer : Tarun Mansukhani; Music : Vishal-Shekhar
Starring : Abhishek Bachchan, Priyanka Chopra, John Abraham, Sushmita Mukherjee, Boman Irani, Bobby Deol, Kirron Kher

When you’re laughing so hard (and I mean really hard) in the first hour or so, half of it is due to some brilliant ones (like Abhishek’s response when Kunal (John Abraham) asks him how he knew his name) and the other half is as you watch the movie take you further in the realm of gay and straight sexual jokes than you ever thought it possible in mainstream Bollywood. And you laugh so hard that you’re willing to forgive the predictability of the plot, the slight overacting, the clichéd ‘gay’ mannerisms shown and the slightly stretched ending.

The story is simple – two straight men (John and Abhishek) have to pretend to be gay to get an apartment on rent in Miami. They share the flat with the landlady’s niece, Priyanka, and the rest of the movie deals with how their relationship with her develops. The story is kept briskly moving in terms of the different sub plots and cameos, such as the delightfully over the top Sushmita Mukherjee as the landlady, the whole thing about Priyanka’s work life and Kirron Kher playing an exaggerated Punjabi mom once again (isn’t she bored of playing this role ? She does it well but isn't she too talented to be stuck playing the same role…?).

The people who really make the movie come alive are Abhishek and Priyanka. Abhishek is at his expressive best, and even though his gay mannerisms are a bit too obvious, you forgive him as he brings a certain energy and vibrance to his role. He has now put together an impressive array of roles in his CV – from Yuva to Sarkar to Dus / Dhoom and now this. Priyanka, trust me on this one, has never looked hotter. I could probably write a page just on her, with maybe a paragraph just on her opening shot where the camera begins with a close-up of her lips and then lovingly caresses other body parts, totally inappropriately for a movie releasing on Children’s Day. The amazing thing is, on a recent flight I was watching parts of Drona, and you almost can't believe it’s the same pair in that film and this – what a change a good director and well-written roles make….

John alternates between his lost-puppy and his naughty-hunk look, seems content to play second fiddle to the smaller B. Boman Irani is a bit too la-di-dah in his gay avatar, I don’t really know if he and the Javier immigration guy were necessary at all. Sushmita provides one of the abiding memories of the film with her Marilyn Monroe photoshoot, and Bobby is a bit too straight (pun intended), too flat and a bit too love-sick in an otherwise mad movie.

The songs are brilliant – really get you going, feet tapping, heart racing and I’m sure I will hear nothing else on the radio stations / discotheques for the next month. The jokes, though, are what really set the movie apart. Such as when Abhishek is asked by this American guy what made him become a nurse or the whole theory about Gabbar being gay or the ‘aur bum ki baat ?’ Freudian slip or even the performance of ‘beedi jalaye le’. There are plenty of moments which stand out for their sheer humour – and its of a slightly more elevated level vs say a Golmaal Returns – not necessarily slapstick.

The best moments are when the three of them are together, especially in the first half, when they’re upto some madcap caper or another. The pace does drop a bit in the second half but at the end of the day, it’s a gay film which makes you feel precisely that – very very gay…though of course in another sense…

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Quantum Of Solace

Rating : 8/10
Running Time : 106 Minutes
Release Date : 7th Nov 2008 (India)
Director : Marc Forster; Writers : Paul Haggis, Neil Purvis, Robert Wade; Music : David Arnold
Starring : Daniel Craig, Olga Kurylenko, Judi Dench, Mathieu Amalric, Gemma Arterton, Giancarlo Giannini

Right from the beautifully done opening sequence by MK12 where sensuous female forms merge in and out of sand dunes, its almost as if someone took a look at the last Bond film (Casino Royale) and then decided to dial everything up a notch. The plot was much better, the women more stunning, the jokes funnier, there were more action sequences with several heart stopping moments and the one liners dripped with sarcasm.

There is a mysterious group, undefined, not truly known to MI6, which is indulging in activities which don’t totally make sense to M and her cohorts, Bond included. Fronted by Mathieu Almaric, they seem to be doing a mix of sponsoring philanthropic activities and the occasional revolution. The CIA, using the expediency that characterized the Bush administration, decides that they can sleep with this group, in return for (of course) their pound of flesh. So now, as expected, its up to Bond to save the world once more, at times even without the backing of the British government.

Dull moments, that is those where your heartbeat is under 100 beats per second, are almost on ration as a car chase in a quarry soon becomes another parkour like sequence on the rooftops of the very picturesque Sienna which in turn swiftly converts into a fight sequence and later on a boat chase in Bolivia. And all this within the first half hour.

Olga Kurylenko and Gemma Arterton provide the eye candy extremely ably. And Daniel Craig – I think I’ll have to take back my comments on him (and agree with what Rohit said in the comments section of Casino Royale) as he really has grown quite beautifully into the part, replacing the suave-ness of the Brosnan era with a very hard, physical Bond, who doesn’t mind killing a lot of people and getting all bruised and cut up.

The difficult thing about Bond movies is that you know how its going to end. The trick remains on how you can make the journey there interesting. And while they stretched the realms of credibility a bit too much with this ending for me, this one works beautifully in making the journey one of the most action packed ones in recent memory.


Rating : 5/10
Running Time : ~120 Minutes
Release Date : 7th Nov 2008
Director & Writer : Saurabh Kabra; Music : Chirantan Bhatt
Starring : Sanjay Dutt, Aashish Chowdhury, Urmila Matondkar, Arjun Rampal, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Neha Uberoi, Manoj Joshi

The film yo-yo’s between being good and mediocre and kind of settles for average. Nice moments like Sanjay struggling to open a bottle of champagne (its funny if you know the man and his experience in the area of alcohol) and some well built storylines are lost in the midst of some forced dialogue and a preachy ending.

Arjun Rampal is a DJ / Casanova and the last of the big spenders, using every conceivable credit card to spend on women, including a very skimpy (pun intended) appearance by Malaika Arora Khan. Aashish Chowdhury plays a man who gets married to Neha Uberoi on loans – one for the car, another for the laptop and a third for the honeymoon. Kulbhushan Kharbanda is a very middle class father who takes a loan to pay for a slightly profligate & big dreaming son’s studies abroad. And Urmila is a widow who takes a loan to convert her husbands suicide into a murder to be able to collect on insurance. All these people are now passed onto ‘Good Recovery Agency’, headed by Sanjay Dutt, which specializes in the strong arm method of loan recovery. Sanjay has political ambitions though, and some advice he’s given changes the way he chooses to collect in these cases.

There are some nice laughs scattered through the film – the supporting cast (like Manoj Joshi and Snehal Dabhi) around Sanjay in his recovery agency provide the bulk of them, with names like ‘Decent’ and ‘Central’ amongst others. The variety of ringtones, the different recovery tactics all help with the amusement. The movie begins a bit flat but then picks up nicely, with each story developed till it makes sense. I found most of the songs a distraction, though, and pace dropped distinctly in the second half with the ending a bit ‘fake’, everything tied up too neatly and too quickly. Sanjay acted well, as always, though looked overweight (this was his first film after his prison stint).

As the storylines unfold, you do wonder if really there are more and more Indians falling into the ‘live on credit’ trap. I hope not, I hope we’re smarter and the frugality that is drilled into us right from the moment we are born, triumphs and prevents us from having too much fun if its on loan….

Saturday, November 01, 2008


Rating : 6/10
Running Time : 160 Minutes
Release Date : 29th Oct 2008
Director & Co-Writer : Madhur Bhandarkar; Writers : Ajay Monga, Anuradha Tiwari; Music : Salim-Sulaiman
Starring : Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Mugdha Godse, Raj Babbar, Arbaaz Khan, Kitu Gidwani, Sameer Soni and Arjan Bajwa

The film is a nice peek into the highly insular and very artificial world of fashion in India (and probably the world). The world of air kisses, tight deadlines, anorexic models, show stoppers and diva designers. All this compounded of course by extreme bitchiness, back-biting and jealousies. While it does a good job of communicating the high adrenalin rush you get from watching a good fashion show (just like in any other live performing art), it unfortunately shows too much of the negatives to make the film a truly pleasurable watch.

It shows, through rose-tinted glasses, the struggle of Priyanka Chopra to become a model (it cant be that bad though when you’re spending your struggling days in Café Coffee Day) and then shows how her rise to supermodel status is accompanied by a similar rise in her super-bitchiness and arrogance, and a parallel fall from grace of another model (Kangana Raut).

You watch the film with a degree of morbid satisfaction – just wondering how bad its going to get, hoping Priyanka’s character will finally see sense or someone will be able to spank some into her. There are some good performances – Priyanka’s, who looks good as always, Kangana, in yet another portrayal of a manic depressive alcoholic (can somebody please give her another role ?) and some lovely cameo’s by Kitu Gidwani, Arbaaz, Mugdha Godse, Sameer Soni and Arjan Bajwa. I really liked the dresses shown as well – quite beautiful and very vibrant colours and different materials and even the shows themselves were well choreographed with stunning backdrops. And the music / songs were nice, not interfering with the movie but enhancing it.

I really wish Madhur Bhandarkar had injected some more moments of humour (for example, in one scene, the models discover ‘made in Bangkok’ tags on the dresses of a major designer about to do a show), dwelt more on the positives (maybe more of Priyanka’s joy at the accessibility of the finer things in life) or even found a better ending / some twist as its too predictable right now. The film is actually uncomfortable to watch and depressing vs being interesting / uplifting and surely that cant be right ?

In the spirit of the festive season, the movie provides a visual depiction of not one but two age-old morals, the types we grew up being told by parents, teachers and all others around us. The first is ‘All that glitters is not gold’ and the other is ‘Pride hath a fall’. Wish someone had drilled that into Priyanka’s or Kangana’s characters as well.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Golmaal Returns

Rating : 6/10
Running Time : 140 Minutes
Release Date : 31st Oct 2008
Director : Rohit Shetty; Writer : Rumi Jaffrey; Music : Asheish Pandit, Pritam, Vishal Dadlani, Shekhar Ravjiani
Starring : Ajay Devgan, Arshad Warsi, Kareena Kapoor, Tusshar Kapoor, Shreyas Talpade, Celina Jetley, Amrita Arora

The rating is so high just because they made me laugh – a lot ! Its asinine for most parts, there are a lot of PJ’s thrown in, the plot has more holes than my socks and it drags a bit towards the end. Yet it manages to entertain, crack enough good ones, poke enough fun at the producers, Saawariya or Balaji films to keep us in a state of mild amusement throughout with several sharp upwards spikes in the middle.

Thankfully, they chose to abandon the earlier storyline and most of the characters – keeping just a few (I thought the first Golmaal was terrible) so you can peacefully watch it without being at a loss. Ajay Devgan is married to Kareena, named Ekta in the film just to allow some merciless leg pulling of Ekta Kapoor and her inane serials. They live with their siblings, Kareena’s brother Tusshar (who’s mute) and Ajay’s sister, Amrita Arora. Kareena always suspects Ajay of having affairs and so one night when he doesn’t return as he was rescuing damsel in distress, he prefers to lie rather than risk the truth. That lie leads to a lot of complications, some of which involve, Arshad Warsi as the cop who doesn’t like Ajay but is in love with his sister, the snake-tattooed guy, a Rani Mukherjee from Saawariya clone, a dead body, men in drag etc etc.

Some of the best moments come when they’re ripping off something – there’s a hilarious sequence when they’re going hell for leather behind the Kingfisher tune (ooh lala le oleo), another where Ajay spouts dialogue mentioning every one of his films, again when Kareena uses all the Hindi serial names or when they use music from ‘Tashan’ and towards the end when they start beating Tusshar just because he’s from Balaji Productions (in real life).

Ajay was very good in this one, Arshad seems to have re-discovered his spontaneity (had been a bit flat in some of his earlier ones), Tusshar was good though I think they over did the mute jokes while Shreyas was wasted in his role – it was too slapstick for his talents. Amongst the women Kareena looked hot (though do you also feel that she's lost too much weight ?), while Celina, thankfully in this one, keeps her clothes on.

I’ll leave you with a couple of PJ’s that are used – they’re both questions really. What would Lara Dutta be called if she married Brian Lara ? Whats the difference between a secretary and a personal secretary ? If the answers (the first one is obvious) can make you smile, then you have a hope of enjoying the film. Else save yourself the effort or the expense.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008


Rating : 6/10
Running Time : 139 Minutes
Release Date : 24th Oct 2008
Director & Writer : Samir Karnik; Music : Sajid & Wajid Ali
Starring : Sohail Khan, Vatsal Sheth, Salman Khan, Sunny Deol, Bobby Deol, Mithun Chakraborty, Preity Zinta, Dino Morea, Dwij Yadav

I walked in expecting disaster but it wasn’t at all that bad. It’s a bit too rah-rah, India-is-my-motherland-and-I-will-defend-it-to-my-dying-breath kind of stuff, but they’ve chosen to give a nice angle to it. Two good for nothing students (Sohail Khan and Vatsal Sheth) at the film institute, who’ve not attended any classes, are told to submit a film or they wont be passed. They choose the topic of ‘why you should not join the Indian army’ and in this connection meet a senior war journalist, who simply gives them three letters, each given to him by a person who died in the war, and asks them to deliver the letters to the respective families. Sohail and Vatsal are off, on their mobike, driving through Punjab, Himachal and Leh to deliver the letters are learn more about why soldiers are willing to die for their country.

Like, I said, it’s a bit over the top, I found the editing a bit jerky, the songs mostly terrible and the dialogue a bit forced. The opening is actually quite badly copied from ‘Friends’ and the book ‘Five-point-someone’ and the opening song is terrible with city slickers bursting inexplicably into Rajasthani folk song. Also, the Punjabi village shown is too stereotypical, with literally every cliché thrown in (the ‘oye Baljeetya’s’, the paratha’s with lots of butter etc) and I’ve never understood why the characters don’t speak proper Punjabi – its like some Punju words thrown in to give the local flavour but mixed with enough Hindi to make sure the non-Punjabi audience can follow it. Even my Punjabi is better than whats mostly shown and that says a lot

But its interesting, they paint decent enough characters through the film to keep you sufficiently gripped and the cinematography is very nice. Sohail was very good, I really like him, he has a nice smile and always manages to lend credibility to whichever role he does. Nice cameo’s by Prateeksha Lonker as Dino’s mom, Preity Zinta, who carries off her role with quiet dignity, and Dwij Yadav who manages to be cute without being syrupy. Wont reveal the other names & their roles as it may take something away from your viewing experience. Couple of nice touches in terms of Sohail’s colourful boxers, the border road signs (‘please be gentle on my curves’) and the way over the top wheel chair fighting sequence, befitting the son of Dharmendra, with almost Hulk-like special effects.

However, I felt, unlike Rang De Basanti for example, this movie was trying too hard to make us feel patriotic, to make us weep, to play on our emotions. Its also too one-sided a story, painting a very rosy picture – the contrast with Dhoop, for example, is amazing with the family of a deceased war hero struggling to get whats rightfully theirs. And it may even be the wrong timing for this film – there is a recession upon us and probably we’re at our least feel-good moment right now.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Roadside Romeo

Rating : 6/10
Running Time : 93 Minutes
Release Date : 24th Oct 2008
Director & Writer : Jugal Hansraj; Music : Salim - Sulaiman
Starring (Voices) : Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Javed Jaaferi

Its stereotypical, predictable and for someone born and brought up on wonderful world of Disney & Pixar, its very ordinary. But I’ll give some bonus brownie points just for trying and for the lovely end-credits (the bloopers section for me was the best section of the film).

Romeo is a happy-go-lucky street dog who falls in love with Laila, who’s beautifully turned out, well-manicured and almost poodle-like in her airs. However, Charlie Anna, the local don, is also a big fan and willing to kill anyone who so much as looks at her…

I think the assumption the makers of the film made was that just seeing something so well animated, with dogs mouthing funny accents etc will be a novelty for the audience. And perhaps that’s why they didn’t bother making the story more interesting or the dialogue funnier – if this same dialogue had been in a ‘human’ film, we would’ve yawned and that’s why, after the novelty wears out, our attention begins to falter. A further negative are the numerous songs, including several item numbers, which don’t really add to the film.

On the plus side, you have the best animation India has ever seen, some funny sequences involving the accents of popular filmstars or scenes from other Yashraj films (Dhoom2, Dilwale Dulhania etc) and even (in the initial stages) the music from popular sound tracks. They’ve added some nice touches as well – the bicycle chain around Anna’s neck, the ‘tussi na jao’ bit, And the blooper section is really funny.

Kids will love it. And the guilt of not taking the kids to this one will easily outweigh the negatives of the film, so might as well go with low expectations and you might even enjoy this one.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Last Samurai

Rating : 9/10
Running Time : 154 Minutes
Release Date : December 2003
Director & co-writer : Edward Zwick; Writer : John Logan; Music : Hans Zimmer
Starring : Tom Cruise, Ken Watanabe, Koyuki, Masato Harada, Bill Connolly

I’d forgotten what epics were like – and what a lovely way to remember. This one is a true epic ! It beautifully depicts the clash between the old values and the modernists, something which can be true of India even today, without really taking sides. It also shows how, unfortunately, humans have chosen to direct their ingenuity to make weapons which can kill more people, faster ! And it does all this by building characters we truly start to care for – people we understand and feel their pain or their confusion.

The Last Samurai traces the journey of disenchanted, alcohol swilling Nathan Algren, who once was forced by his superiors to fire at a village of Indian women and children and since then has always lived with the nightmares of that day. One of those superiors gets him a job training the Japanese Emperor’s army (mostly peasants) as they struggle to fight a Samurai group, led by Katsumoto, which still wants to live by the Samurai code & the old ways while the young emperor is fascinated by all things western. During the first battle, a combination of luck and quick thinking results in Algren being taken prisoner by the Samurai vs being killed. And so begins a new journey as both Katsumoto and Aigren learn about each other, their values, their methods etc. And it leads to a very impressive ending as we mourn the needless loss of life, the end of an era.

The movie scores on all fronts – whether its action sequences, emotional scenes or even just beautiful shots which showcase the beauty of the Orient. The acting is nothing short of sensational. Tom Cruise has this streak in him of coming up with excellent performances while seeming to remain deadpan for most of the film (Rainman and Collateral come to mind). Ken Watanabe looks & acts the part of the brave Samurai, appreciating the beauty of battles and of cherry blossoms in almost the same breath. The whole relationship between Tom Cruise and Koyuki’s kids is beautifully shown, very realistic, nothing over the top. And Koyuki, in a very difficult role, comes through unscathed.

This is a tour-de-force. The movie casts a spell on you, transports you to another time, makes you weep and smile along with the protagonists. Again, I’ve had it in my collection for not less than 3 years but finally saw it only this week. All I can say is that I regret the delay deeply, as something so beautiful could've been a part of me for longer.


Rating : 5/10
Running Time : 120 Minutes
Release Date : December 2004
Director & Writer : Rituparno Ghosh; Music : Debajyoti Misra
Starring : Ajay Devgan, Aishwarya Rai, Annu Kapoor, Mouli Ganguly

It’s a slightly sombre film, though filled with good performances, some enchanting background music (thematic is sung by Shubha Mudgal, some poetry by Gulzar) and a nice, cute ending. Its more a play than a movie actually, inspired by a O’Henry story (will be giving the story away if I tell you which one).

Ajay Devgan, down on his luck, out of a job, weepy, depressive, comes from his village to Kolkatta and is staying over at his college friend’s place. Together, they devise a plan wherein Ajay will go ask their other batchmates for small amounts of money (Rs 5000 or so) to make up the seed capital he needs to start his new business. The friends wife is also very supportive, touched by the state he is in, and gives him her mobile phone and also the raincoat mentioned in the title. Ajay also wants to meet his old flame, Aishwarya, now married for six years, a move not supported by the friend (since she had caused Ajay so much heartache) and he finally relents only on one condition – that Ajay borrow at least 15000 from her alone. Within 20 minutes of the film’s start, Ajay is ringing Aishwarya’s doorbell.

Almost the whole movie goes by in whispered half tones punctuated only by the slightly more vibrant flashbacks. Its somberness somehow gets to you, lowers your own enthusiasm. The friends wife, nicely played by Mouli Ganguly, and the cameo by Annu Kapoor, who plays a very irritating character quite well, are the only relief from the very halting dialogue between the lead characters (even though I found the whole conversation Annu had with Ajay quite implausible).

I’ve always failed to understand why they would take someone as gorgeous as Aishwarya and then completely deglamourize her - dress her up in dowdy clothes, make her look worn out / frumpy and even talk funny. I also think they made the story slower, and excessively depressive than it needed to be, else it would have appealed to a lot more people than it did right now. Nice but not very – if it weren’t for the music, I would probably have gone for a lower rating.

Friday, October 10, 2008


Rating : 8/10
Running Time : 130 Minutes
Release Date : June ‘2005
Director & Co-writer : Pradeep Sarkar; Writer : Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (author, 1914 novella) ; Music : Shantanu Moitra
Starring : Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Vidya Balan, Raima Sen, Dia Mirza

This is a film that reminds us of the strange capacity we humans have to seek unhappiness. We may have everything, all the people we love around us, yet we find ways to make ourselves miserable. Parineeta (translation : The Married Woman, based on Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay’s classic novella) is a tragedy of sorts but not one that’s excessively gloomy or depressing.

It describes the relationship between Shekhar (Saif) and Lolita (Vidya Balan’s debut), inseparable friends & neighbours despite the class gap that yawns between them. Saif is a musically inclined rich kid in a household that is dominated ruthlessly by his businessman father. He loves the piano, keeps trying to compose new tunes and describes himself less as a businessman, more a musician. He finds, right from childhood, an able companion in arms in Lolita. She is the daughter of a middle class, out of work / almost retired father, is a natural at music (according to Shekhar) and is the life and soul of her household (competent, efficient and yet fun). She and Shekhar enjoy a great rapport, to the extent that he gives her the keys to his cupboard and she is free to take money (petty cash) whenever she needs it, without asking for permission.

There are two major events that occur in the film. First is a loan that Shekhar’s father gives to Lolita’s when he needed money and in return gets their house, which is worth much more than the loan amount, as collateral. Lolita’s father knows, especially since he is out of a job, that there is a slim chance of him returning the money and so it weighs heavily on him and his other family members. The other is the arrival of Girish (Sanjay Dutt), the brother of another neighbour, a businessman from London (owns steel mills), a quiet, soft-spoken yet full of life person, who falls head over heels for Lolita. Most importantly, his arrival also causes the equations between Shekhar’s and Lolita’s households to change. To what extent, you’ll have to watch to find out…

Parineeta is one of the movies where every actor fits their part perfectly – you cannot imagine any other actor in their roles. However, even more rarely, you also find it difficult to imagine that actor in any other role, so credible are all the performances. I remember feeling the same way, many years ago, when I saw Dustin Hoffman in Rainman – I ran out to get another Dustin movie as soon as it finished as I couldn’t imagine him as anything but an autistic savant. Sanjay’s portrayal of Girish is so nicely done (I rate this as one of his finest performances) that you cannot imagine him anymore as a gangster or ruffian. Vidya Balan is excellent as Lolita, fits the part of a Bengali beauty effortlessly and Saif gives the first hints of his true acting abilities with his role as Shekhar. Even Dia Mirza plays her part as rich, spoilt kid with nonchalance – the joke about the 6 cooks or 12 was brilliantly told.

Parineeta almost seems like a musical score, with a certain lyrical quality to it. It begins with a flourish, is sweet and innocent at first, has a beautiful mid-piece and then ends with a fitting crescendo. It makes for compulsive viewing, with a lovely recreation of Calcutta in the 60’s and 70’s. Enjoy.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi

Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 118 Minutes
Release Date : 19th September ‘2008
Director & Co-Writer : Sudhir Mishra; Writer : Ruchi Narain ; Music : Shantanu Moitra
Starring : Kay Kay Menon, Shiney Ahuja, Chitrangda Singh, Yashpal Sharma, Saurabh Shukla, Anupam Shyam

It is impossible in this movie not to take sides. It begins in 1969 with two letters being read out, both to the same woman, Geeta (Chitrangda Singh), by two very different men. One is Siddharth (Kay Kay), born with a silver spoon in his mouth (as Vikram points out frequently), the son of a retired judge and a fire-brand college activist and convert to the Naxalite movement. His dream is to go to Bihar and live there. The other is Vikram, very middle class, son of a Gandhivadi father, well connected, the type who knows everyone yet is true friends with no one. The type who, unlike Siddharth etc, don’t want to break out but just want to break in !

And the recipient of the letters, Geeta, is not sure of where she is – a bit lost, very much ‘in love’ with Siddharth, somewhat in love with his ideals, enjoys the attention she gets from the clearly infatuated Vikram but then finds an M.A. in London also beckoning. She clearly needs to sort herself out.

Fast forward four years and we find Siddharth living in Bihar, haunted, skinny, finding real change very hard to implement and on the run from the police, who are a law unto themselves. Vikram is also where he wanted to be, in Delhi, oiling the corridors of power and as he puts it ‘rapidly acquiring power and wealth’. He is a fixer, the man who knows how to get things done, the man whom local politicians are keeping an eye out for, the man who doesn’t really have any beliefs apart from the pursuit of his self-centered goals. And Geeta. She is still a little lost, married, to an IAS officer. Newly returned to India, she meets Vikram by chance at a typical Delhi party and realizes a few truths about herself. And then the movie moves forward. The characters of Vikram and Siddharth are well-drawn and are easy to understand, each being very clear in terms of their goals / ideals etc. Geeta’s character is much tougher to understand. Each time you see her, you sense some indecision. But ultimately, in some ways, she turns out to be the strongest of them all.

The great things about this film are the great performances, the beautiful & enchanting Chitrangda Singh (real life wife of ace Indian golfer Jyoti Randhawa), beautiful soundtrack, lovely dialogue (example : A Maharaja is describing his palace to Vikram and comes to the Harem where the king used to have 700 wives. Vikram asks the obvious question ‘what did the wives do when the king was not around ?’ and gets the deadpan answer ‘they made do with the palace staff except that if any of the staff were caught, their balls were chopped off’. Vikram’s next question is a classic ‘what did they do with the balls ?’). And some very realistic portrayal of the tumultuous early 70’s in which most of the movie is set. Including people being beaten up by the cops in Bihar (excellent cameo by Anupam Shyam as Jhanda Singh, S.H.O. in Bihar) for the murder of an inspector but finding out that the inspector is being brought back completely drunk, on a bullock cart. Or his eye movements when he speaks to Geeta. Or the Delhi upper middle class life & social do’s, where people pontificate on the ill’s of the country over refined English tea and classical music recitals.

The movie is not pretty but its powerful and thought provoking. You do wonder about whats going to happen to the India that we’re not really familiar with, the one that resides in small villages in far off states, where things haven’t really changed that much over the last fifty years. Where the caste system still prevails (hilarious situation shown regarding the thakur and a low caste doctor), where the police or other officials are judge, jury and executioner. And where Independence promised much but has turned out to be a mere mirage. You do wonder whether the people have really had enough. Enough of the principle-bereft politicians, who are willing to sell their soul for a fast buck and change sides even for loose change. Enough of bureaucrats assuming all of the power but none of the responsibility. And enough of all excuses and the stunted growth the country is enjoying. Maybe its time for another revolution. Or maybe it isn’t. Watch it and make up your mind.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

13 Tzameti

Rating : 7/10
Running Time : 86 Minutes
Release Date : January ‘2006
Director & Writer : Gela Babluani;
Starring : George Babluani, Pascal Bongard, Serge Chambon, Olga Legrand, Aurelien Recoing

I’ve rarely seen a film where you didn’t know what the hell it was about till halfway through but still enjoyed it. It even managed to keep my wife from sleeping and many years of marriage can testify that its not a task easily accomplished. Also, when you do find out what is happening it does take your breath away, a bit.

The Georgian director weaves together a really nice black and white film where the lead character, Sebastien (his real life brother), a poor house handyman, upon not getting his full payment takes an envelope meant for the now dead owner of the house. The envelope contains nothing sinister, just train tickets and a hotel address and at first the cloak and dagger routine surprises him. And then when he finds out what its about, he tries to escape but by then its too late.

The brothers seem destined for bigger things in life. Gela directs very well and though the end is kind of predictable, keeps us completely hooked with some deft touches and skilful turns. And George perfects the innocent man, who doesn’t quite know whats happening, merely follows an impulse which lands him in all sorts of trouble. And Aurelien Recoing is excellent as the aggressive, winking #6. Tzameti, by the way, is Georgian for thirteen.

I can imagine what they’ve shown still happening today, in some corner of the developed or developing world. Testosterone, the gambling instinct and a vicarious competitive nature can combine to make us do funny things. Men, after all, will always be men.

Thanks to UTV World Movies for sending me the DVD