Saturday, August 21, 2010

Lafangey Parindey

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 20th August, 2010
Time : 127 minutes
Director : Pradeep Sarkar; Writer : Gopi Puthran; Music : R Anandh
Starring : Neil Nitin Mukesh, Deepika Padukone, Piyush Mishra, Manish Chaudhary, Viraj Adhav, Namit Das, Vinay Sharma, Palomi, Amey Pandya

Welcome to a Yash Raj film without any foreign location, no lip synch songs, no Punjabi khet. But it is a love story. And very predictable, right from frame one you know how its going to turn out. A very good performance from Neil Nitin, though, and some good light hearted tapori moments make sure its not totally boring.

Deepika loves dance-skating and considers it her passport out of the small nukkad she inhabits. Nitin, a co-inhabitant and street fighter, is responsible for making her blind. But keeps it a secret. He along with his friends now work towards trying to make her dream come true. After several paid promo’s of India’s Got Talent, will they find true love ? Will Deepika realise her dream ?

I found the Mumbaiyya bhasha disconcerting at first but jokes like “aajkal respect ki koi valuech hi nahin hai” or ‘Bhai, aapka parcel’ (referring to Deepika) settled me in. The locales are well depicted, the grit and grime and the claustrophobic closeness coming through nicely. Neil was a revelation, despite a role not involving too many words, he managed to convey emotions well. The training sequences of Deepika and Neil Nitin are fun, songs are good (keep the mood light and have a nice rhythm to them), Deepika does a good job, the friends are credible.

But the overall plot isn’t. Everything is a bit too pat. The fight scenes get repetitive. Its implausible (the recovery from the accident, the whole talent show, esp at the end) and there are also some unnecessary sub-plots (Anna’s) or characters (Deepika’s brother).

Its light and fluffy, mildly entertaining but there is nothing here that’s going to stay with you. Apart from some nice tunes (special mention of Man Lafanga here), perhaps…

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Peepli [Live]

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 13th August, 2010
Time : 104 minutes
Director & Writer : Anusha Rizvi; Music : Indian Ocean, Bhadwai Musicians, Mathais Duplessy
Starring : Omkar Das Manikpuri, Raghuvir Yadav, Shalini Vatsa, Malaika Shenoy, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Farukh Jaffar, Sitaram Panchal, Naseeruddin Shah, Jugal Kishore

Near every city lies a village where life couldn’t be more different to what we city slickers are accustomed to. Farmer suicides, an unchanging harsh life, forgotten people, poverty, lack of infrastructure, corrupt cops, all powerful officials and politicians, an agrarian economy, casteist vote banks. Peepli [Live] is a film that re-introduces us to that world once again, very simply, without too much sermonizing and with a great deal of humour

Natha (Omkar) and Budhia (Raghuvir) are two brothers who’s ancestral agricultural land is about to be auctioned off by the nationalised bank due to their defaulting on a loan. They beg the local politician cum don (Sitaram) to save them but he & his henchman jokingly suggest that they commit suicide wherein the govt would give them compensation of Rs one lac. Budhia then tricks his simpleton brother to agree to the suicide unleashing a storm of protest. First from Natha’s feisty wife, Dhaniya (Shalini) and their bed-ridden foul mouthed mother, Amma (Farukh) and then later, when the story breaks, thanks to a local journalist Rakesh (Nawaz), from everyone and anyone. Local politicians, cops, media, the agricultural minister (Naseeruddin Shah), the bureaucracy, the chief minister, all find themselves drawn into the Natha story. But no one seems to care about the real issues, the plight of farmers in general. Will Natha’s threat of suicide lead to any real change ? Will he actually commit suicide or not ?

What charms you straight away is the simplicity of the storyline and narration. The earthy humour, the rustic feel, the genuineness of the characters, the songs and the lovely soundtrack, the choicest abuses, the great performances. And of course, the sheer absurdity of it all. The gift of a handpump, with no help for installation. The gift of a TV with erratic electricity in the village.

Moments that stay with you include Dhania’s aggressiveness and her running dialogue with her daughter in law, the ping pong battle between the CM and the Agriculture Minister, the images of the sweaty, wiry frame of the character named Hori, the sheer number of schemes that different govts have introduced and the little benefit that they have actually brought about. And the last few frames, which seem to tell a story by themselves.

However in the second half, there is an element of fatigue which sets in. The spectacle of 24*7 news coverage of Natha does begin to lose its charm, there is a lack of lack of newness in the second half, which just delivers more of the same as the first. In fact, while the film is interesting, the tv promo’s made the film fairly predictable

I think the film is a must watch if only to shame us city folk to stop complaining about trivial issues and pay heed to the trauma that afflicts most of our brethren in the villages. That it entertains us as well for most of the film can be considered a fitting bonus...

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Despicable Me

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 6th August, 2010
Time : 95 minutes
Director : Pierre Coffin, Chris Renaud; Writer : Sergio Pablos, Ken Daurio, Cinco Paul; Music : Heitor Periera, Pharrell Williams
Starring : (Voices of) : Steve Carell, Jason Segel, Russell Brand, Julie Andrews, Kristen Wiig, Miranda Cosgrove, Dana Gaier, Elsie Fisher

Mr Gru wants to be known as the greatest criminal in the world. So when someone steals the pyramid of Giza, its clear that stealing the moon is the only fitting riposte. He, his army of minions (cute, cuddly creatures) and the scientist, Dr Nefario, begin planning their heist. However, when the Bank of Evil (formerly known as Lehman Brothers), which normally funds their heists, shows a predilection towards younger, hungrier clients like the Vector, it unleashes an unhealthy competition between the two.

Into this otherwise straightforward plot also enter Mr Gru’s very very hard to please mom and three orphan girls (who seem to be the only ones who can get into Vectors house with ease). So, suddenly Gru, who enjoyed bursting balloons to make kids cry, is forced to babysit, tell bedtime stories etc. Will he manage to steal the moon ? More importantly, will he make it in time for the girls dance recital of Swan Lake ?

Wonderfully weird, yet engaging and quite funny in parts, the film is not really a conventional animated film. Including the last one I watched (How to Train Your Dragon) there seems to be a trend towards whacky plots and even whackier titles - a far cry from the days of Pocahontas or Mulan.

Several interesting touches include Mr Gru’s slightly Arabic accent, his desperate need to get his Mom’s approval, the minions who always seem to be upto something or the other (even when given as mundane a task as going to the supermarket) and the three girls who pretty quickly get the hang of being able to get Gru to do their bidding.

Its highly probable that the creators were on some sort of intoxicant while dreaming this one up. But if that’s the case, I wouldn’t mind something of what they were on….

Saturday, August 07, 2010


Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 6th August, 2010
Time : 126 minutes
Director : Rajshree Ojha; Writer : Devika Bhagat (inspired by Jane Austen's 'Emma'); Music : Amit Trivedi
Starring : Sonam Kapoor, Abhay Deol, Ira Dubey, Amrita Puri, Cyrus Sahukar, Anooradha Patel, Yuri, Lisa Haydon, Arunodhan Singh, Anand Tiwari, MK Raina

Lets be clear that style is more important than substance in this film. Its almost a paid promo for Sonam and the brands she endorses.. L’Oreal / Dior / Elle / Louis Vuitton getting as much footage as some of the characters. What keeps it together are some good punch lines and very good performances from Abhay Deol (who basically carries the film on his shoulders), Ira Dubey (plays her part to perfection) and Amrita Puri (who puts heart into the girl from Bahadurgarh).

So Aisha (Sonam) is full of herself. She’s into match making, shopping, wedding planning, animal shelters, river rafting, partying…pretty much aimless and happy to spend Dad’s money as she zips around in her yellow VW Beetle. Her best friend is Pinky (Ira Dubey), also a bit of an airhead, happy to be Aisha’s partner in crime. Aisha now acquires a new project. She is determined to pair up Shefali (Amrita Puri, gawky, plaited girl from Bahadurgarh who continuously makes various faux pas’ and is desperate to get married) with one of their circle, Randhir Gambhir (Cyrus Sahukar, heir to a mithai shop empire, rich but not really with it and has a huge crush on Aisha). While Dad, masi etc watch indulgently, the only one who doesn’t really approve is Arjun (Abhay Deol, childhood friend, smart investment banker, expert polo player, great tango dancer, general cool guy). He wants Aisha to let things be. He doesn’t want her to turn Shefali into a Xerox copy of herself. He wants her to focus on better things / realize her potential. And Aisha doesn’t like being criticised…

Arjun’s girlfriend, Aarti (Lisa Haydon, svelte, sexy in a very Angelina Jolie-esque way) and Dhruv (Arunodhan Singh, Aisha’s masi’s stepson and a guy who thinks he’s cool vs actually being so) provide the other complications in this otherwise straightforward storyline.

They manage to hold it reasonably together till the first half but then it starts to fall apart. Key reason is that we never understand why the characters behave the way they do because character development is sacrificed at the altar of fast paced storytelling. And promoting Sonam, making sure she is always the centre of attention. And its all very predictable.

Sonam is not bad. She seems to embody the Barbie doll characteristics of Aisha, looks nice all dolled up and sulks / pouts to perfection. It’s the scenes where she needs to emote which seem to test her. But she's not bad, especially for this role. Some of the jokes are great, with Abhay having most of the punch lines, right from “mall ka rasta bhool gayi ?” to “I know nothing about girls but a lot about women”. The soundtrack is consistently peppy, some lovely songs (including a soft guitar number) and some scenes are designed to perfection, including the opening wedding, some of the art in the background and Abhay’s snazzy suits.

Love can be one of the most complicated emotions. But not if you watch Aisha. Pithy one liners, people who seem to find their soul mates at the drop of a hat and a central character who seems to be comfortably gainfully unemployed. And an ending that’s too pat. All part of a nice, girly, Lutyen's Delhi paradise.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 30th July, 2010
Time : 135 minutes
Director : Milan Luthria; Writer : Rajat Arora; Music : Pritam
Starring : Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hasmi, Kangana Ranaut, Prachi Desai, Randeep Hooda

Milan Luthria gives an interesting take on the development of the underworld in Mumbai. He seems to suggest that it may not have been just gang warfare that threw up its current rulers but maybe something else. And he recreates the era very well, in terms of the look and feel, making us relive the era of flairs and long sideburns, and does so without the gore we normally associate with gangster films.

It’s a story of 3 men. First is Sultan (Ajay Devgn), a refugee from Chennai who’s fought his way to the top and now rules Mumbai with an iron fist cased in a velvet glove. He has principles, prefers to divide Mumbai amongst the existing Dons rather than indulge in inter-gang warfare and also unlike the rest, has no issues in leading a lavish lifestyle, dating the top heroine of the times, Rehana (a lovely Kangana). The second man is ACP Agnel Wilson (Randeep Hooda), who is determined to break Sultan’s reign. And the third is the weapon he picks to destroy Sultan, Shoiab (Emraan), a brash, cocky Sultan wannabe who is determined to be rich and powerful, no matter the cost or consequences. Shoaib has a supportive girlfriend, Mumtaz (Prachi), but she is a mute spectator to his shenanigans. And lets just say things dont exactly pan out as the cop would've liked...

The good thing is that the movie actually has a point of view, is trying to drive home a message and it does so by merely showing five characters, we hardly see anyone else, yet an engaging story is developed. The ending is not clich├ęd, the styling is retro yet interesting (Kangana looking divine, Ajay in whites, Emraan in the many colours of the rainbow) and the dialogue crisp and in places witty. The performances are very good. I’ve been saying since the days of Omkara, that few brood better on screen than Ajay Devgn. Emraan comes across as quite believable and Kangana demonstrates quite capably that she can play something else other than an alcoholic psychopath (and look great too).

The pace flagged in a few places though. And it wasn’t always clear what was the film we were watching. Was it Sultan vs the other Dons ? Or Sultan vs the ACP ? Or Sultan vs Shoiab ? Right till the end we’re not quite sure. A couple of relationships are also not fully understood / explained – Shoiab and Sultan’s being one of them and Shoaib and Mumtaz being the other. There are hints but no clarity.

This is a mood film though. There was a time when it was aspirational to be a smuggler. When games of ‘cops & robbers’ were played, there were kids who only wanted to be robbers. They coveted the lifestyle of the smugglers, who had it all, lived in big bungalows, dated film stars, threw big parties, had / drank brands which no one else could. And were feared. The film does a great job of recreating that time in Mumbai….