Monday, October 19, 2009

Main Aur Mrs Khanna

Rating : 2/10
Release Date : 16th Oct, 2009
Time : 130 minutes
Director & Writer : Prem Soni; Music : Sajid-Wajid
Starring : Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Sohail Khan, Nauheed Cyrusi

This film shouldn’t have been given the censor certificate. All the paying audience, about 30 of us in the show I attended, should’ve been given our money back. Implausibility follows implausibility, stupidity follows asininess before an end that makes you cringe…the film is so bad that I’m lost for words

Salman meets Kareena and there is love at first sight. After a really stupid / implausible ‘separation’ of sorts, Sohail meets Kareena and again falls in love. Yet, he doesn’t tell her but chooses to help her, while she waits for miyan to return. Silly plot element follows dumb twists – including Bappi Lahiri as a duty free shop owner, a person pretending to be a Julia Roberts look alike and Preity Zinta pretending to be an item dancer a la Kajra Re…but not one character evokes sympathy, credibility or even a shred of connect with the audience…

Even the two points are purely because Kareena looks hot and because they’ve used a lovely song (from Saregama's collection, Bade Ache Lagte Hain…from the film Balika Badhu) twice in the background score…Sohail was decent, but he can be so much better. I can’t believe UTV bought and distributed this one… The film is so shallow that my toe couldn’t skinny dip in this pool…

All The Best

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 16th Oct, 2009
Time : 144 minutes
Director : Rohit Shetty; Writer : Robin Bhatt, Yunus Sejawal; Music : Pritam
Starring : Ajay Devgn, Fardeen Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Mugdha Godse, Bipasha Basu, Johnny Lever, Mukesh Tiwari, Ashwini Kalsekar, Sanjay Mishra, Vijay Patkar, Atul Parchure

Its silliness will get to you and make you laugh. The plot is nonsensical, implausible. Half the jokes will not appeal to you. But the other half will, so you’re assured a fairly decent two hours spent, watching the antics of Ajay, Fardeen and Sanjay sparking off each other, while watching the widely assorted supporting cast of Bips, Mugdha (who looked slightly ill at ease), Asrani, Johnny Lever, Atul Parchure and Sanjay Mishra, prance, dance and get beaten

The story is irrelevant so I wont get into it. Lets just say it involves a rich brother, mistaken identities and eccentric villains, tenants, music bands and a car race. The film is actually just a string of assorted gags, jokes and situations. Sample : What is a PhD : Phata Hua Dhol. MBA : Maha Bekaar Aadmi. When someone serving tea asks, ‘kitne chamach ?’, pat comes the reply, ‘bhai, chamach to ek hi lekin cheeni do dena..’…

The male trio here, Ajay, Fardeen and Sanjay are the ones who really carry the movie on their shoulders, reducing all others to necessary extra’s. Ajay’s laconic nature and deadpan expression suits him well as does the Sanjay’s more expressive nature. The antipathy between the two is nicely built up and provides for several of the funnier moments. Fardeen does a good job in his role but is second fiddle to the two seniors.

There are plenty of slapstick moments – you get the ‘dog chasing a guy in boxers’, the ‘man on man moment’ etc but thankfully the bulk of the film relies more on the silly, goofy moments and snappy one liners.

Decent, worth a watch and you’re assured a few laughs…you may try to resist, but the silliness does overcome all stiffness and eventually you join the ride…All the Best…


Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 16th Oct, 2009
Time : 117 minutes
Director & Co-Writer: Anthony D’Souza; Co-writer : Jasmine D’Souza; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Sanjay Dutt, Lara Dutta, Rahul Dev, Zayed Khan, Katrina Kaif (special appearance)

The audience verdict on this one is likely to be split. For the people like me, who are completely in touch with Hollywood, who’ve seen films like ‘Into the Blue’, who’ve seen National Geographic and Discovery undersea documentaries, we’re going to find nothing new here in terms of locales / settings and a very weak storyline. For all the others, it promises to showcase the beauty of the big blue, as never seen before on Indian screens and a story that is about average when compared to most other Indian films and so likely to be a commercial hit...

The story involves the mystery of a treasure ship, ‘Lady in Blue’, a mysterious character named Aarav (Akshay) who seems to be rich, but no one is sure of how much or even how, Saagar (Sanjay Dutt), who is befriended and employed by Aarav, but has a mysterious reluctance to share the whereabouts of the missing treasure ship. Then there is Sam (Zayed Khan), Saagar’s younger brother, who wants to be all mysterious and cool but ends up coming across like a spoilt brat, the kind who are good for nothing and assume the world owe’s them a living. All he does in the film is get the bad guys to come after the good. Gulshan (Rahul Dev) is the official bad man, a role he plays well. Mona (Lara Dutta) is the official eye candy, while Katrina tries to be the eye candy but the miniscule length of her role and her dreadlocks seem to impede her from doing so.

What the film does well is the underwater shots – its beautiful, nice, aesthetic and sensuous. Apparently, the first question Akshay had asked when the script was narrated was ‘can you pull this off ?’ and here his worries proved to be unfounded as debutant director Anthony D’Souza manages to get this part right. My only crib here, in fact would be that there wasn’t enough action sequences set underwater. It also does justice to its two locales, Bahamas and Bangkok, capturing the relaxed Bohemian spirit and the natural beauty of the former. And the contrasting concrete jungle, seedy underbelly / steaminess of the latter.

Where it is a let down is in terms of the script / story…too complicated / unnecessary sub-plots (involving the parents of some of the characters) and even worse, not enough done with all the ‘mystery’ – the answers to the treasure / Aarav’s past / Saagar’s reluctance are too trite, lacking depth and therefore leave you with an incomplete feeling. Also, none of the characters are built up well enough – you feel nothing for any of them – it is critical for us to care for the main leads of an ‘action’ film else they become nothing but ‘action figurines’, which sadly enough, they do in this case.

Finally, casting is a serious issue in terms of Sanjay Dutt, who I fear is no longer suitable for action roles – he is clearly overweight and unfit and it shows. Also, his nickname in the film is ‘Sethji’ ? What was that about ? He is also way too old for Lara and so their romantic scenes together leave you bemused more than anything else. Akshay is fine but here he was let down by his poorly fleshed out role and also, once again, by his desire to look cool – his goatee doesn’t suit him and neither do some of his costumes. Rahul Dev, in the most uncomplicated / straightforward role, is actually done well. And Lara is lovely – bubbly, easy on the eye and refreshing in a bikini. Always looking good.

This film seemed intent on spending a lot of money. The whole sequence with Kylie was unnecessary, fitted even less into the story than Denise Richards in Kambakkth Ishq. There were several vehicles blown up, which didn’t need to be. They should’ve spent more time and money fixing the script, maybe even eliminating some of the characters (Zayed ?). Then, even with possibly half the production budget and definitely a fourth of the marketing budget, it would’ve been a better film and a bigger hit.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Das Leben der Anderen

Rating : 10/10
Release Date : March, 2006
Time : 137 minutes
Director & Writer: Florian Henckel Von Donnersmarck; Music :
Starring : Ulrich Muhe, Martina Gedeck, Sebastian Koch, Ulrich Tukur, Thomas Thieme, Hans-Uwe Bauer, Charly Hubner, Volkmar Kleinert

“Because they decide what we play. Who is to act. And who is to direct “

“The state office for statistics at Hans-Beimler Strasse counts everything, knows everything.
How many shoes I buy a year…. 2.3.
How many books we read….. 3.2.
How many pupils graduate with straight A’s…. 6347.
But if you ask the office about the number of suicides per year, the statistics department on Beimler Strasse falls strangely silent”

“Prison Conditions for Subversive Artists. A dissertation. Did you know there are 5 types of artists ?”

This is the best film I’ve seen since I’ve begun reviewing and is a gripping watch, one which tests your bladder as you fear missing a single scene.

‘The Lives of Others’ is set in GDR, a few years prior to Glasnost and shows us the working of the Stasi, the East German secret police with 100,000 employees and 200,000 informers, whose mission is “to know everything”. This much we learn in the introductory text. The rest is learnt through five key characters.

1. Minister Hempf. A slimy, loathsome creature, much like most of our politicians, unable to look beyond personal interests. Rude to his subordinates, throws his weight around. He has a sweet tooth for an actress and unfortunately the Stasi cultural division, entrusted with spying on artists, reports into him.
2. Herr Grubitz : the person looking after the cultural division, reporting to Hempf. Only concerned about his career advancement. Is also repulsive but quite a few degrees lower than Hempf. And his intellect is not to be trifled with…his instinct usually leads him to the right answer…Also, in deference to the Minister’s wishes, he has to place the actress’ house under surveillance.
3. Christa-Maria Sieland (CMS) : the unfortunate centre (maybe I should say victim ?) of the minister’s attention. She’s very good-looking without being stunning, is a very good actress but not very sure about herself and realises she needs to be on the right side of ‘the system’. Lives with, loves and is loved dearly by Georg Dreyman
4. Georg Dreyman : one of the best writers of the GDR, writes plays and occasional books / articles. Is so good that he could easily go to the West but chooses to stay on. Knows where to draw the line, and doesn’t write or say anything inappropriate, to be treated as subversive, but does it without compromising his creativity. Loves CMS, who also stars in his play. He knows about the minister’s crush on her and has to find a way to deal with it.
5. Weislar : The man in charge of the surveillance on Dreyman / CMS. Grubitz’s right hand man since their early days in Stasi’s school, where he now teaches part-time and in the opening sequence is shown demonstrating how he breaks down prisoner #227 systematically, efficiently and remorselessly. He leads a spartan, grey and unloved existence but seems absolutely at peace with it. But as he watches over the Dreyman house, he begins to get involved…

In this film everything was perfect. The casting. Everyone was brilliant. Each of the people above, and even the extra’s, including the jovial Udo, who is assisting the surveillance and prefers to watch over artistes vs priests and peace activitists because of their ‘extra-curricular’ activties. Or the assistant in the Stasi canteen, who recites a joke with unfortunate consequences. Or Jerska, Dreyman’s preferred director who is now unfortunately blacklisted for the last seven years. Or his friend Hauser, who cannot always keep his emotions under control and encourages Dreyman to take a stand. Or even the script expert who knows all there is to know about typewriters.

But the person who stands out, who’s steady, unblinking gaze conveys a thousand thoughts and steely resolve, who steals the show and holds the film together, lending it much of its gripping quality, is Ulrich Muhe as Hauptman Gerd Wieslar. This man deserved an Oscar…not just for ‘Best Actor in a Foreign Film’ but ‘Best Actor’ per se…However, as the recent Nobel Prize decision has shown us, not all juries are as impartial as they should be.

There are also three other things which transform this film from very good to really great. First is editing. The pace of the film, about something as boring as surveillance, never lags and even though no character ever breaks into so much as a jog, the film simply breezes through its 2 hour duration. The second is the dry German humour, beautifully exemplified in the dialogue, from place to place, very naturally, which ensures the film never gets too heavy. And third, probably the most important, is the script. Fantastic for its simplicity and for the depth of characters it paints, the amount of emotion it makes us invest in each of them. And for the numerous twists it throws up, especially when you least expect it. Like the end, which leaves you with a touching, bitter-sweet smile on your face. This film re-invigorated my belief that if you have a great script, the rest can fall into place…

Just as The Shawshank Redemption is set for the most part inside the four walls of a prison but its ultimate message is about hope, this film is set in an entire country (GDR) which functions like a prison with a literal wall guarding a border…and yet, offers the same message. Amidst all the greyness, all the desolation, all the grime, sadness and systemic oppression. Hope. That most powerful of human emotions. Which almost never dies…

BTW, this did win the Oscar, for Best Foreign Film in 2007…but I stand firm on what I said above about the 'Best Actor'

Friday, October 09, 2009

Acid Factory

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 9th Oct, 2009
Time : ~145 minutes
Director & Co-writer: Suparn Verma; Writer :Sanjay Gupta; Music : Bappi Lahiri, Shamir Tandon, Gourov Dasgupta, Manasi Scott
Starring : Fardeen Khan, Dino Morea, Dia Mirza, Manoj Bajpai, Danny Dengzopa, Aftab Shivdasani, Irrfan Khan, Gulshan Grover

What I like about this film is that it stayed true to its script (and its inspiration, the film Unknown)…apart from adding a couple of redundant item numbers, it didn’t stray from its main storyline and add sub-plots, emotion, drama just to spice things up. And, probably for the umpteenth time, here is a film with an interesting premise, which doesn’t live up to its full promise, in this case due to a weak ending and possibly flawed editing.

This is a story about some characters, all toughies, who wake up with temporary memory loss, in a sealed acid factory and have no idea who they are or why they are there. Two are bound, the others are free, but they cannot go out of the premises or make any calls. Slowly, they figure out what their next steps should be, both collectively and individually. And they have to figure out who to trust and who to watch out for. They have different characteristics as well, each one defined reasonably clearly. One is more a ‘detective’, one a ‘scientist’, another is dressed as a Casanova, one is a tapori and one just a regular tough guy.

The flashback technique was inappropriate for me, in this film, as it gave too much away. And the ending was tame, you wait for a big twist but its just a tame one (faulty editing being the culprit for me) and it doesn’t make the two hours or so worth it.

This is yet another film which unnecessarily chooses a fancy locale (South Africa) with no reason at all (apart from a willing producer) why this film (75% of which is in a warehouse) couldn’t have been shot completely locally. The cast, comprising exclusively of the ‘almost famous’ and ‘has beens’ delivers quite well, no complaints here. And the opening titles sequence is interesting, using a ‘green negative’ kind of effect which is interesting.

What this film needed though was a spectacular ending, to make the whole experience worthwhile. Currently, you leave with the impression of a couple of hours spent reasonably, but not entirely worth it. So near, yet so far...

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Do Knot Disturb

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 2nd Oct, 2009
Time : 126 minutes
Director : David Dhawan; Writer : Yunus Sejawal; Music : Nadeem Shravan
Starring : Govinda, Lara Dutta, Ritesh Deshmukh, Sushmita Sen, Manoj Pahwa, Rajpal Yadav, Ranvir Shorey, Sohail Khan

Its whats popularly passes in the name of comedy now – loud, a little vulgar, crass, slapstick, a weak plot and even weaker jokes. However, there were quite a few people who were laughing in all the desired places in the hall, so I guess I’m not the target audience.

The only reason for me to watch this film : Lara, she still sizzles

The many reasons not to watch the film

A highly overweight Sush
One of Ranvir's worst performances / roles

Govinda looks overweight, jaded and has lost his spontaniety. Rajpal continues to ham and do the same exact thing he's done in 10 previous films

Two people who kind of kept their head afloat in the film : Both Ritesh and Sohail at least did justice to their silly roles.

A non-existent asinine plot. An extremely loud film. Lots of skin shown. Lots of slapstick. I believe the correct term is a ‘timepass film’ but for me watching paint dry would be a better alternative

Inglourious Basterds

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 2nd Oct, 2009 (India)
Time : 153 minutes
Director & Writer : Quentin Tarantino; Music Supervisor : Mary Ramos
Starring : Brad Pitt, Melanie Laurent, Christoph Waltz, Eli Roth, Michael Fassbender, Diane Kruger, Til Schweiger, Daniel Bruhl, Jacky Ido, Dennis Menochet

What demented, kinky and perverted mind comes up with a story like this ? Pure genius ! Who else but Tarantino could use blood and gore to paint such a picture, that captivates you from frame 1 and doesn’t let up till the very end, making you feel throughout the film as if you’re sitting on a lit powder keg.

There are several stories which merge into one, all set in Nazi occupied France, from 1941 onwards till shortly before the end of the war. It’s the story of a Jewish family caught hiding and butchered mercilessly and the story of a survivor of that butchery. Its the story of a extremely engaging yet cold-blooded SS Colonel, Hans Landa, who is also known as a Jew hunter, because of his ability to ferret out the Jews from their hiding places. Its the story of an American, Lt Aldo Reine (Brad Pitt), who puts together a daredevil bunch of Jews to hunt down the Nazi’s using guerrilla warfare tactics (they are called the Basterds - whether Glourious or Inglourious is upto you...and I have no idea why its misspelt). And its also the story of a premeire of a German film which stars and outlines the heroics of a German soldier who single handedly killed 250 American troops. How all these stories come together is what the film is about.

Tarantino’s reputation does precede him. You feel tension, even when someone is drinking milk and engaging in what seems polite chit chat. You feel tense even though there is no scary music in the background, there are bright sunlit blue skies and pretty girls (briefly) in the foreground. Even simple acts like washing up, lighting up pipes to smoke and the ‘routine’ questions being asked in Chapter 1, seem laden with menace. The stories move swiftly but again, they keep us on a knife edge as we see the brutal interrogation of a Nazi at the hands of the Basterds. We see a German actress trying to help a British service agent in a tavern full of Germans and play light hearted games while making us dizzy with tension.

Special mentions for the photography (amazing angles used), the background score (some known and unknown numbers provide all the atmosphere you need) and the acting. While everyone was very very good, Christoph Waltz, who played Hans Landa was simply outstanding, stealing the show from some of his more famous co-stars. My only gripes would be for the excessive violence and gore shown and for the fact that they kind of altered history towards the end (which I don’t think is a done thing).

I don’t know of anyone else who could have thought of this film and romanticised the blood and brutality the way Tarantino did. Humour is used throughout the film to make sure that despite the tension the film doesn’t become too intense. Its an amazing plot, brilliantly told and like all Tarantino films, makes its way very swiftly in to a ‘Must Watch’ list. Catch it on the big screen for the right impact and be warned, its not for the faint hearted.

Friday, October 02, 2009

Wake Up Sid

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 2nd Oct, 2009
Time : 140 minutes
Director & Writer : Ayan Mukerji; Music : Shankar Ehsaan Loy
Starring : Ranbir Kapoor, Konkona Sen Sharma, Anupam Kher, Supriya Pathak, Namit Das, Shikha Talsania, Rahul Khanna

I sometimes feel that the world, and especially India, is full of people who don’t know what they want to do. They know what they want – lots of money, a fancy car etc but are clueless on how to get it and desperately seek a shortcut. A quick course or the right headhunter that can get them the right job, preferably one where they don’t have to work too hard.

I appeared as a guest on a career advice show (Stay Hungry, hosted by Rashmi Bansal, on UTVi News every Thursday at 1730) – where we were asked similar questions including ‘which course / institute can offer you the best ROI ?’ and other such confused queries. And then co-incidentally I went for this film where we met Sid, who’s equally confused about what he wants to do in life. He’s academically challenged, loves to party, goes to a cool college, has cool friends but has no idea of what he wants to do with his life. And there is one very important difference vs the other people described above. He is the only son of very rich, doting / indulgent parents. His father (Anupam Kher) fought his way up from a very poor chawl background to establish India’s best bathroom fittings company, which helps most Indians bathe. But none of his missionary zeal has rubbed off on his son who is happy being waited upon by the chirpy Chottu (the man Friday of the house) or playing video games or driving his fancy SUV and coveting an even better one.

And then something happens and he has to Wake Up. By then he’s made friends with Konkona, whom he met on her first day in Mumbai. She’s come from Kolkata, middle class background, is reasonably focused, clear what she wants and gets her dream job. Now Sid has to figure out what he wants. And he has to change.

In the first half, debutant director Ayan, got the lingo, the college environment, the whole atmosphere just right. The characters are engaging, the tone peppy and upbeat. The humour good, several smile moments. ‘Tum hero ban jao, waise bhi kuch nahin karte’. Or Konkona in her job interview ‘main bahut creatively clean karungi yeh desk’. Or ‘Bas pata nahin itni nervous hungi aur aap itne handsome’ in the same interview. Or even Ranbir’s colourful boxers.

In the second half, though, Ayan doesn’t seem as sure footed, the film suffers from a certain aimlessness and a huge dollop of predictability. Things change too easily, everything, including success, finding focus, realisation, love etc happens without any of the grit, sweat or toil we are accustomed to in real life. The solutions and the dialogues are a bit too pat. The film offers a very rose-tinted outlook, it persists with remaining light hearted and peppy, which is not a bad thing, but even in the ‘tough parts’. And the end is too predictable, too formulaic, too cheesy. Leaves you empty, emotionless as you walk out of the hall.

However, some other good points were the scenes / pictures of Mumbai, showcasing the nice, quirky parts without the grime. The music, which really helps contribute to the general frothiness. And the casting. All of the ensemble was excellent – the parents, the neighbours, the friends (including Tiku Talsania’s daughter), and Rahul Khanna as the sophisticated, slightly supercilious boss, all came across very credibly. Konkona continues to impress, she has one of the most expressive faces in the Hindi film industry and manages to communicate all emotions very naturally. She brings that Bengali gravitas and sensuousness to the role – a truly good choice for this part. Ranbir was good. He had not more than 2-3 expressions in the first half of the film, a blank look and a slightly frowning one and he brought off both well. For me, he’s still weak in the emotive parts but good enough overall here.

This one is at best a one time watch and suffers in comparison to other films of its ilk like Lakshya and Dil Chahta Hai, which can bear unlimited multiple viewings. A lot of the youth of today, though, will identify with the aimlessness of Sid in the first half. And will aspire to the short, easy way he got everything in the second half and pray similar improbable miracles will happen to them as well. Good luck to them…