Saturday, June 19, 2010


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 18th June, 2010
Time : 140 minutes
Director & Writer : Mani Ratnam; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Vikram, Ravi Kishen, Govinda, Nikhil Dwivedi, Priyamani

The lack of a coherent story, a weak script, wafer-thin characters and unexplained relationships are counter balanced by some of the most beautiful locales you’re likely to see within India, some stunning camera-work and an Aishwarya who looks better than anything she has in the past 3 years (and yes, I am hopelessly biased on the last aspect, so you’ve been warned) !

Abhishek is a guerrilla warrior, lives in jungles, amongst the tribals. He kidnaps the new SP (Vikram’s) wife, Aishwarya to settle some scores with him. He intends to kill her but instead becomes mesmerized by her. They travel from hideout to hideout, with Vikram in hot pursuit, aided by trusted lieutenant Nikhil Dwivedi and a forest tracker (Govinda). While Abhishek, has his two brothers, (the elder one is Ravi Kishen) and to assist him. Abhishek soon is openly in love with Aishwarya, besotted by her, unable to think of anything else, asking her point blank if she also feels the same way, questioning her about her husband. Aishwarya will soon have to make a choice, between this simple tribal leader and her policeman husband.

Where the film fails is in building either of the three central characters, giving them any depth, any life, any attributes that we can really identify them. Instead it chooses to give us really broad stereotypes and just leaves us with that. The whole Ramayan angle is also very ham handed, a bit forced. Abhishek’s character is not sufficiently Raavan-ish, the cop husband far from being Ram and even the side characters (Govinda being named ‘Sanjivani’ or the whole Abhishek’s sister being humiliated via the nose a la Suroopnakha), none of it worked

What works is the lush countryside, the amazing ruins, the fine mist / water that surrounds most of the film, the clouds that seem to float mid-air and mid-set and the rivers and waterfalls that seem to be be omnipresent throughout. The innovative camera angles & the play with light and shadow also add to the charm, for example in one of the opening sequences we seem to descend on a boat from up above, only to realise later that it was the viewpoint of an eagle and then moments later we go underwater to track the boats progress. Kudo’s to Santosh Sivan for this.

I wouldn’t go so far as to say this is the best Aishwarya has ever looked, but she sure looks lovely, sensuous, a woman worth chasing. Her acting was fine, but even I found issues with her voice – shreiky, screechy, not matching the sensuousness of her character / her face at all. Abhishek is good, a bit over the top, but maybe that was the character as well, the look, eccentricites, style of talking not really helping to endear him to the audience. Vikram is a bit too stiff, unable to look convincing as the vulnerable husband but coming across just fine as the ruthless cop. Nikhil Dwivedi, Govinda, Ravi Kishen do their bits well, Priyamani looks & does a good job as the sprightly sister.

Funnily enough, I found it amusing that most film-makers go for exotic loaclaes abroad and spend a packet while Mani Ratnam found the most stunning scenery in India itself. I think it’s the weight of expectation combined with a genuinely weak script (plus a farcical, unconvincing ending) that leaves you with an unfulfilled taste as you leave the hall. I would watch it at least once though, just for the visual spectacle, story be damned…

Friday, June 04, 2010


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 4th June, 2010
Time : ~170 minutes
Director & Writer : Prakash Jha; Co-Writer : Anjum Rajaballi; Music : Shantanu Moitra, Pritam, Wayne Sharp, Aadesh Shrivastav
Starring : Ranbir Kapoor, Manoj Bajpai, Katrina Kaif, Arjun Rampal, Nana Patekar, Nikhila Trikha

Weaving the stories of Mahabharat and Godfather together in a fast paced political thriller is a brilliant idea. Getting a high profile starcast together to essay the roles is a master stroke. The length, predictability and heaviness of subject matter are definitely issues. But some searing performances, most notably by Katrina Kaif and Manoj Bajpai, help overcome even the fact that at its core, there is no new message in the film. Its about politics…the grim, dirty, gory side of a power struggle between different factions.

So, lets get to know the contestants.
Faction one is led by Arjun Rampal, after his father’s death. Arjun is short tempered, urbane, feisty, prone to falling prey to some eye candy but inherently straightforward. He loves his younger brother, Ranbir, who’s busy with his PhD on Victorian poetry in USA and couldn’t care less about the politics at home. Both are guided by Nana Patekar, who’s unstintingly loyal to the family and happy to remain behind the scenes.

Faction two is led by Manoj Bajpai, after the unfortunate paralysis of his father, who until then was the leader of his party and of his family (and Arjun's dads elder brother). Manoj is single-minded in pursuit of power, very clear that he wants to rule, not let his uncle or his sons take over and determined to have his own way. He is joined by Ajay Devgn, the secret illegitimate elder brother of Arjun / Ranbir, an upcoming Dalit leader and strong arm man.

Katrina Kaif is the impulsive, spoilt daughter of one of the states wealthiest men and kingmaker, very much in love with Ranbir since childhood. However, Ranbir’s heart lies with Sarah Thomson, his girlfriend in USA.

The film is about the naked lust for power, the unquenchable thirst and love for occupying the seat of Chief Minister. All other emotions, grief, fairness, and even love, are sacrificed at the altar of politics.

Arjun Rampal was good, intense to watch, but at times slightly over the top. Ranbir delivers a controlled performance but, more due to his character’s fault than his acting, we’re not able to totally go along with his metamorphosis from nice, clean, apolitical man to scheming, conniving, killing machine. Ajay Devgn and Nana Patekar are both very good in slightly subdued roles. Nikhila Trikha, in the role of Arjun / Ranbir’s mom, is the weakest link, with a very insipid performance. But Katrina and Manoj are outstanding. Katrina also has to transform during the film. From being impetuous she has to become controlled. From being mistress of her own destiny, she has to bow to the wishes of others around her. And she does it all flawlessly, looking like a million bucks. And when she gives her first political speech, she does it with panache, making you root for her, as does the crowd. Manoj Bajpai is mesmerising, almost hypnotic, leaves no ambiguity about his character, plays him to a T, transforming into a person who’s lust for power is out of control.

Good photography, gritty & beautiful locales, panoramic crowd shots and reasonably tight editing works for the film. It does stretch the credibility though in quite a few places, is fairly predictable, there are quite a few threads left loose (the whole Dalit angle, the thoughts of Nana Patekar and why is he so loyal etc) and its definitely heavy, especially after the second half where it perhaps has a few turns, blasts and dead bodies too many. When you leave the hall, your head is heavy, there is no joy or exhilaration and its not the story but the performances and some of the characters that stay with you. Some of the key characters and plot lines weren’t developed enough – Ajay Devgn’s or even Arjun Rampal’s being cases in point.

It’s like tasting two familiar wines in known bottles but only they’re mixed together to create some new flavours and the glass in which its served is entirely new, adding to the entire taste and experience. And as with the wine, if you’re not careful, it could leave you slightly heavy-headed…