Saturday, November 28, 2009

De Dana Dan

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 27th Nov, 2009
Time : 165 minutes
Director & Writer : Priyadarshan; Music : Pritam
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Suneil Shetty, Sameera Reddy, Asrani, Johnny Lever, Rajpal Yadav, Archana Puran Singh, Chunky Pandey, Paresh Rawal, Shakti Kapoor, Neha Dhupia, Aditi Govitrikar, Sharat Saxena, Vikram Gokhale

I’ve liked some of Priyadarshan’s comedies before – Hera Pheri and Bhool Bhoolaiyan were both v good. But I didn’t like Bhagam Bhag and I most certainly didn’t like this. Very very loud (a very shreiky Archana Puran Singh in particular managing to crack the pain barrier a few times), very very slapstick, full of facial contortions, sleazy and vulgar in parts and completely storyless and also completely over the top.

Akshay and Suneil are both down and out, strugglers in Singapore. They both have rich girlfriends though (Katrina and Sameera respectively), and in order to make their marriages materialise, they decide to kidnap Akshay’s employers beloved dog. Things go wrong, both the girls are engaged to marry Chunky Pandey, who is a scamster businessman, Paresh Rawal’s son, who in turn is being chased by a cop for cheque bouncing. The mafia (Asrani) also gets involved, along with his hitman (Johnny Lever). And everyone lands up at the Pan Pacific hotel.

I don’t think they left out any comedian in the industry yet managed to produce an unfunny film. Terrible songs (really terrible), desperate hamming in the name of acting and a brainless plot combine to make a film that was painful to watch.

However, fair to point out that my kids had a rollicking time as did a few others in the hall, so perhaps my poison is another man’s tea…

Monday, November 23, 2009


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 20th Nov, 2009
Time : 158 minutes
Director : Roland Emmerich; Writer : Roland Emmerich & Harald Kloser; Music : Harald Kloser & Thomas Wanker
Starring : John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Thandie Newton, Oliver Platt, Woody Harrelson, Danny Glover, Zlato Buric, Johann Urb, Beatrice Rosen, Liam James, Morgan Lily, Chin Han, Osric Chau, Jimi Mistry

Its cheesiness personified, it’s a ‘disaster movie’, very filmi, very Americanised, and very predictable. Yet, through the charms of John Cusack, the non-stop tension built up, the amazing special effects and great acting by most of the supporting cast, it still manages to tug at your heart strings, makes you care…

The Mayans predicted it, modern scientists discovered it recently, that due to a unique line up of planets, occurring every 640,000 years, the world is about to come to an end in 2012. The Earths crust is going to be displaced, massive earthquakes, tsunamis, melting of the Earth’s core are just some of the scenarios predicted. A scientist in India (Jimi Mistry, with a horrible Americanised Hindi accent) is the first to connect the dots, he works with Chiwitel who in turn works with Oliver Platt who in turn works with the US President, Danny Glover as they tackle this crisis.

The key ‘human angle’ plot involves a divorced, failed novelist, cum limo driver, John Cusack taking his kids out camping with the permission of his ex-wife, Amanda Peet, and her new husband. How he gets involved in the whole thing and then tries to save his family. Further sub-plots include a Tibetan monk in China, the getting together of the worlds G8 nations, the relationship between John Cusack and his son, who seems to be closer to his new step-dad and Woody Harrelson as the secret reporter, who knows what the G8 nations are upto…

Yet again, apart from one very minor thing about the Tibetan monk, all sub-plots involved Americans or in one case a Russian, based out of the USA. And that bugged me, for some reason. Americans lead the entire planet saving effort and the whole world more or less listens and dances to their tune. That bugged me as well. The movie could’ve been a lot better, if it had some more ‘global’ sub-plots, a more global feel. The special effects are great. And they don’t stop coming…one after another, they just keep throwing them at you (pun intended)…The ending was more than a bit corny but still finds a way to make you feel good.

Its not bad, worth a look see and it does manage to evoke some emotions, makes us fall in love with mankind, with life itself. And since the scale is what sets it apart, definitely in the cinema vs a DVD.

Sunday, November 22, 2009


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : Nov, 2007
Time : 109 minutes
Director : Robert Zemeckis; Writer : Neil Gaiman & Roger Avary (based on an Old English tale); Music : Alan Silvestri
Starring : Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins, John Malkovich, Robin Wright-Penn, Brendan Gleeson, Alison Lohman, Angelina Jolie

Some legends invoke feelings of heroism, adventure, make goose-bumps come all over and entice you to prance around with swords and helmets, slaying imaginary dragons. This tale is one of them. For added incentive, its ‘motion-capture’ animation leads to as life like imagery as animation can get and its star-studded ensemble cast, including the likes of Ray Winstone, Anthony Hopkins and Brendan Gleeson, not only lend voice, but also form and faces to the characters.

A monster named Grendel (who interestingly only speaks in Old English), terrorises the kingdom ruled by Hrothgar (Hopkins), an ageing king who loves mead (wine), women and the occasional party. However, the noise from his merry-making is exactly what provokes Grendel to visit, thus making his mead-hall also a place of sorrow. Along comes Beowulf, a Geat warrior, one of the true adventurers and slayers of several creatures. Overcoming Ungerlaf’s (John Malkovich as the kings advisor) scepticism (“tell me, is it true that you lost a swimming match vs Braac ?”)and also putting aside the obvious admiration of the lovely queen Whealthow (Robin Wright-Penn), he now prepares for the battle with Grendel by opening up the mead-hall and getting his men to sing, loudly.

We witness fights with not only Grendel, but also Grendel’s vengeful mother (Angelina Jolie) and a fire-spewing vicious dragon. We see the ice-cold, frigid countryside being lit up by these amazing battles. And we see some fascinating relationships, how Beowulf copes with advancing age and responsiblity, his relationship with the steady, even-headed queen, the exchange between him and the king Hrothgar and finally, his camaraderie with his fierce and trusted lieutenant, Wiglaf (Gleeson).

There are moments when you have to blink and remind yourself that you’re watching animation – the characters are so life like, with true skin colour and the actual faces. And it’s a gripping story, not letting up for even a moment, enveloping you into its world and not slowing down – either you’re involved in the action or a fascinating relationship progression.

A great music score and a superb ending only serve to enhance the film. Excellent, almost impassive, performances by Winstone and Gleeson, as well as Wright-Penn stand out in our memory while Jolie’s little cameo lends the film its undeniable oomph factor…our first glimpse of her, as she steps out of the pool, her form encased in liquid gold is hard to forget. John Malkovich’s role wasn’t totally fleshed out, too little was made of this. Also, didn’t totally understand the significance of the Golden Horn. But neither distracted from the enjoyment of the film.

It’s a bit vicious, gory and dark, especially in the first half hour, but once it picks up, there’s no stopping the roller coaster ride. This one is ‘A’ film and definitely unsuitable for children, both for its extreme violence as well as for its sexual overtones and imagery. I’ve grown up watching animation features from Disney and Pixar, but even for me this was a new experience. One I’m not going to forget in a hurry…

Saturday, November 21, 2009


Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 13th Nov, 2009
Time : 160 minutes
Director : Rensil D’Silva; Writer : Karan Johar & Rensil D’Silva; Music : Salim Sulaiman
Starring : Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Om Puri, Vivek Oberoi, Kirron Kher

Pure drivel and tommyrot in the garb of a slick and serious film. An extremely patchy script, pathetic ending – and I mean not just the end but the whole sequence, and weak acting leads to a film which makes you wonder, after its over, what was the message, what was the point it was trying to make ?

A very clichéd and hurried romance in Delhi leads to a Hindu professor, Kareena getting married to a co-professor, Saif, a Muslim, and then jetting off to NY as Kareena has an offer to teach there. Saif proposes to teach a course on Islam, which is accepted by the same univ. They also make friends with some neighbours, also Muslims, and soon Kareena realises there is something wrong going on. And then she realises Saif is involved. And Vivek Oberoi is the person who has to make things ok.

The plot is filled, I mean really packed, with implausibilities…the FBI, for example, has a photo of a terrorist but is struggling to locate him even though he has a Social Security registration, is likely to have a driving licence and is registered to teach as a prof in a univ ? Vivek Oberoi knows who are the terrorists, its clear that they’ve killed a person and bombed a flight but chooses to try and handle them himself vs calling the FBI / cops ? There are so many silly scenes – a shootout with cops that’s lame / implausible (cops cant use the registration # to locate the terrorists ? And burning corpses erases dental records ?). And don’t even get me started on the whole ending sequence…its lame, downright silly, filmi, and even from a relationship point of view, didn’t make any sense at all.

Saif looks stony and old. His romance with Kareena lacks the warmth & mischief which he normally brings to such portions. Vivek Oberoi was a huge casting mistake as his character needed to be able to emote, not just look like a scared scarecrow, which was pretty much his expression throughout most of the second half.

Om Puri and Kirron act well. Kareena is probably the only one who looked good and acted well. For her, respect !

The film made me squirm uneasily throughout its length. The directors point of view regarding Islamic fundamentalism was also unclear. Which side was he on ? What was the message he was trying to convey ? There is a sequence in Saif’s class on Islam that leaves you confused – is he actually supporting what the fundamentalists are doing ? ? And just because the Americans are doing it – in Iraq and Afghanistan – does that justify terror strikes against innocent people ?

Senseless, the film is even potentially dangerous in terms of its lack of message. The only target audience I can envisage enjoying this currently live in caves in Afghanistan and northwest Pakistan…

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Tum Mile

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 13th Nov, 2009
Time : 132 minutes
Director : Kunal Deshmukh; Writer : Ankur Tiwari; Music : Pritam
Starring : Emraan Hashmi, Soha Ali Khan, Sachin Khedekar, Mantra

One of India’s few ‘disaster’ movies, the only other ones I could think of were oldies like ‘The Burning Train’ & ‘Kala Pathar'. This one combines a love story, the chance meeting again between two old flames, Emraan and Soha, caught in the turbulence of the Mumbai downpour of 2005, when for a couple of days it seemed like the heavens opened up and the city drowned

I really liked the way they wove both the stories in literally within the first few frames, and then through repeated flashbacks intercut with the present kept us engrossed to whats happening on the screen. The dark grey skies of Mumbai are also contrasted cleverly with the sunny blue cheerful skies of Cape Town (where most of the romance is shown) to ensure we don’t feel too weighed in by the darkness. The music is nice, the title song in particular v hummable. We’re spared item numbers and no song stops the story, but actually progress it.

The water scenes, mostly second half, were well shot. Couple of good shots, showcased in the promos, of the special effects, which show the city grinding to a standstill. The second half dragged a bit, especially the love story. When one of the characters, Emraan in this case, is shown to be introspective, its never really clear what he’s thinking and why the relationship is bothering him. It was kind of inevitable that the couple was heading to a breakup and could’ve got there, perhaps, with a few frames to spare.

Also, in terms of the ‘disaster’ angle, they exaggerated it as far as they could – buses toppling over, raging currents on a street, a wall breaking down – but they obviously couldn’t provide a spectacle that wowed you…a big moment that took your breath away (like the destruction of Empire State building in Armageddon). A disaster of scale is required also for the lead pair to discover something about themselves that was not known before and that was lacking. The night of the rains passes all too quickly and it seems life will revert back to normal equally quickly.

Soha & Emraan look good together, Cape Town looking as lovely as always and a friend, Mantra, keeps us smiling with his one-liners. Its worth a one time watch, as at least its attempting something different, a genre rarely explored by the industry.


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 6th Nov, 2009
Time : 120 minutes
Director : Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury; Writer : Shyamal Sengupta; Music : Shantanu Moitra
Starring : Rahul Bose, Aparna Sen, Sharmila Tagore, Radhika Apte, Kalyan Ray, Shauvik Kundgrani, Shalini Apte

This is a beautifully shot and crafted film which deserved a better resolution. In the eyes of the writer / director, Aniruddha Roy Choudhury, we are always waiting for someone, our special someone. For him, this is the unending wait…Antaheen. He shows dysfunctional couples, couples who’ve separated but are still bound by an umbilical cord and another who’ve chosen to remain strangers on the internet. None of them are happy in their relationships

Most of the film is extremely bright, chirpy and fun. It celebrates Bong-ness, even pokes gentle fun at Kolkata. Beautiful shots of rain, lovely long tresses, relaxed parties with people who are comfortable in their own skin. Even a villain who’s not really one…

We meet Rahul Bose, an articulate, quick thinking, well-mannered and intellectual cop, the type who in his spare time is either found sipping his coffee and a book in CCD or chatting on the net with a stranger. And he prefers to remain a stranger, though its clear, there is a strong connection between the two. His internet chat-mate is Radhika, pretty, vivacious, feisty, works for a news channel, is an investigative reporter, is the one with the dark, curling tresses.
Currently her big assignment is to investigate the flouting of norms by the ‘El Dorado’ project, which is being brought up by a new builder in town. The project is resulting in relocation for a lot of people and also has certain aspects, which if become known to media or NGO’s, would create havoc. Aparna Sen plays a photographer & romantic at heart, who now runs the TV channel our reporter works in. Age seems to have made her more practical, while earlier going off to Tibet for a photo-shoot is how she preferred to get her kicks. And despite being separated for many years from her husband, Kalyan Ray, she still thinks nothing of dropping over, cleaning / tidying his house and can get upset if he doesn’t help her with an important decision. She is also Rahul’s sister-in-law.

There are some more characters – Sharmila is the mausi who looks after Rahul, while the builders wife is still struggling to cope with the loss of her daughter. Aparna’s estranged husband lives the life of a happy loner, enjoying his Chivas, books and the stock exchange.

Each of the characters is extremely well-painted, very likeable and understandable. The camera captures well the dilemma each one faces, the life each one chooses to lead. And we see a beautiful Kolkata, rain-kissed, where even the beggars carry a smile and bright, radiant red roses, where a man in starched white kurta pajama, who has tea at a roadside stall everyday, manages to radiate such peace and calm, that it affects those passing him by. And even though this is a film about relationships, it moves along at a nice clip, involving you in its world without letting the pace slacken. The music is lovely – maybe one song too many but lovely to listen to anyways

What I didn’t like was the end. Unneccessary, I thought. Revealing once again, the darker, tragic sensibility that seems to lurk in every Bengali person and film…

For someone who could find such beauty, even in the splendid ‘ruins’ of Kolkata, I found it amazing that he chose to focus on the dark side of relationships. But maybe its just me…I remain a sucker for happy endings and even I’m old enough to know that life isn’t always like that…

Friday, November 06, 2009

Ajab Prem Ki Gazab Kahani

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 6th Nov, 2009
Time : 165 minutes
Director & Writer : Rajkumar Santoshi; Music : Pritam
Starring : Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Darshan Jariwala, Zakir Hussain, Govind Namdeo


Its silly, its implausible, it starts off quite badly and suffers from some clichéd slapstick. But all this is overcome by some great, really funny laugh out loud moments and an excellent performance (slightly over the top) by Ranbir, who almost single-handedly carries the film on his shoulders.

Prem (Ranbir) is good for nothing but is happy being the President of ‘Happy Club’ where he chills in the company of four of his friends. His Dad wants him to do something useful but his mother pampers him as only Indian screen and real-life mom’s can their sons. In Prem’s existence steps in Jennifer or Jenny, an adopted daughter who is constantly reminded of her status by her cruel step-mom. They both become friends. Prem helps Jenny a lot. But Jenny is being forcibly married to someone else and later, tells Prem a secret that makes him fall off a balcony. And Prem continues helping her, battling cruel dons (Zakir Husain), opportunistic Hindutva spouting politicians, Jenny’s parents and assorted other troubles that afflict her.

Some of the hilarious, unmissable moments.
• Salman’s guest appearance, especially the repartee about who’s girlfriend is
• The whole sequence where Katrina invites Ranbir for a dance party. Its funny for two reasons, Ranbir keeps dancing non-stop (trying to impress her with his dancing) even when there is no music playing, really crazy steps, a mix of John Travolta / Elvis on speed. And how he keeps rebuffing Katrina’s suitor, the parental choice one.
• There is a brief shouting match between the Dad’s, egged on by the mom’s
• The way Ranbir’s mom delays his Dad from going for a bath leading to the fashionable top Ranbir then has to wear
• The part where Ranbir takes a job to impress Katrina, his dress, demeanour and how he works / changes dress etc is wonderfully picturised…
• The sensational ringtone of the politicians secretary
• The special appearance by Jesus (I’m waiting for the Christian Society to protest though)

In a way the above moments are what truly make the film, the rest is ordinary / ok.

This really is Ranbir’s film, after the forgettable opening sequence he shines and is almost perfect. Anyone else would’ve faltered in this role but he gets it spot on. Katrina flutters her eyelashes a hundred times and does it decently. The supporting cast does their bit with great gusto. There is a harum scarum ending, complete slapstick, some funny moments there too. But it’s a bit too long. Upen, in his brief role, was very forgettable, especially the voice. Songs were ordinary, nothing that sears itself on your mind.

Zany, crazy, fun, slapstick. Be prepared to relax and enjoy it. Like I said before, goofy…

Monday, November 02, 2009

London Dreams

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 30th Oct, 2009
Time : ~180 minutes
Director : Vipul Amrutlal Shah; Writer : Suresh Nair & Ritesh Shah; Music : Shankar – Ehsaan - Loy
Starring : Ajay Devgn, Salman Khan, Asin, Ranvijay, Aditya Roy Kapur, Manoj Pahwa

Didn’t quite know what to make of this one. Interesting premise – that of a serious guy who aspires to be a musician, works towards it all his life but then finds naturally talented, happy go lucky friend coming and usurping his band / fame and even girl (Asin) – is partially undone by v weak ending and a minor descent into the dark side which involves self-flagellation and drugs…

London Dreams is nicely set up by two kids who act naturally and look their parts. Ajay’s family is strictly against music and beat him to stay away from it, while Salman’s chases him to take it up. Ajay is taken to London by a relative after the death of his father but when he realises the same antipathy towards music, he makes a dash for it and starts to live on his own (as an aside, the ‘dash’ takes him from LHR to canary wharf…he clearly missed a career in athletics and maybe his relatives wouldn’t have been so upset about this one ?). As they grow, Ajay’s character becomes a bit too intense and broody while Salman’s retains fun and spontaneity. In fact the highlight of the film was Salman’s plane ride to London and the best parts involved him (I cant believe I’m saying this but its true).

The camera angles bring out the vibrancy of Punjab and London quite well. For a musical though, the quality of songs was quite uneven. Khanabadosh and Man ko Ati Bhavey were very nice, very well picturised but the others are merely indistinguishable background stuff.

Surely there are simpler ways to deal with the situation Ajay faced other than the route he chose ? Surely then, the ending would be different vs the clichéd one shown ? Surely they could’ve given Asin a slightly meatier role – what did she feel about the whole thing anyways? And equally surely, couldn’t they’ve done away with the various implausibilities shown in the film – hushing up a ‘drugs’ case in Amsterdam, being a penniless kid on the streets of London not knowing English being ones which I can talk about without giving the story away ?

Thankfully, the director here focuses on the story rather than the clothes, look and accessories of its stars. So brownie points for that. He makes the characters behave consistently through the film so brownie points for that too. He makes us laugh with Salman which was a good thing. He tries to make us connect with Ajay but then, maybe due to the way I am, I never connect with such introverted dry personalities. And he presents a soppy, implausible ending which spoils it big time.

Still, not a bad effort and lets rejoice in the good rather than dwell on the bad…


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 30th Oct, 2009
Time : ~135 minutes
Director & Writer : Sujoy Ghosh; Music : Vishal-Shekhar
Starring : Riteish Deshmukh, Amitabh Bachchan, Sanjay Dutt, Jacqueline Fernandez, Sahil Khan

This is a kids movie, one which they can enjoy but lacks any depth or even a story to be able to appeal to anyone older. The makers here unfortunately assumed that suspension of disbelief and rampant implausibility are one and the same thing. And they forgot that simplicity, explanation of superpowers is key to the enjoyment of any ‘super hero’ film – ie what can or cant the Genie do, what does the villain want to do & why are treated with a cavalier-ness which bemused me.

So, we are treated to a beautiful special effects created city called Khwaish where a character named Aladin, because his parents believed in the magic lamp (as did his grand dad, proving once and for all that madness is hereditary), is still tortured by classmates to rub lamps. One day a pretty young thing, an exchange student named Jasmine, arrives on campus and becomes the object of affection for Aladin and his chief torturer. Soon after Aladin is actually given the magic lamp and soon disbelievingly encounters a very hip genie named Genius, who wears cool threads and goes ‘Yo, Bro !’. All should be well, happily ever after, except there is a weird character called Ringmaster, accompanied by some dangerous circus freaks, who also want the lamp.

The special effects are nice. The circus freaks interesting in their conception. I applaud the fact that they made it without any A-list stars. Sanjay Dutt imparts as much life as is possible to the Ringmaster’s role. And Amitabh Bachchan probably imparts a tad too much life into the genie. Jacqueline looks pretty as intended while Riteish looks weepy, behaves like a wimp throughout the film and it comes as a surprise when she falls for him in the film (proving once again beyond doubt that ‘love is blind’). We never understand why the ringmaster wants the lamp or the connection of the comet to the whole thing, we never realise the extent of the Genies powers or the force field that magically comes around him when certain conditions apply.

The names, Genius, Khwaish imply a degree of childishness. This is confirmed by the lyrics of most songs like ‘Aladin, din din de taali’ and the quality of dialogue throughout the film…I mean, how many times can you use ‘agar usne palat ke dekha to matlab who tumse pyaar karti hai’ ? It was cute in DDLJ but that was 14 years ago !

I know you shouldn’t compare but in the Disney cartoon, Aladin was a street smart, lovable rascal. You cheered for him, felt elation at his success. In this film, the makers chose instead to make us feel pity for him, to be touched by his loneliness. On that one account alone, the film loses its spark, its life.

Give me the Disney cartoon of the same name anyday.