Saturday, December 25, 2010

Tees Maar Khan

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 24th December, 2010
Time : 135 minutes
Director : Farah Khan; Writer : Shirish Kunder; Music : Vishal – Shekhar & Shirish Kunder (background & title track)
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif, Akshaye Khanna, Arya Babbar

There are three great moments in the film. First, I loved the opening credits (quite innovative) and funky with the title track playing in the background. Second were the end credits, with Farah Khan continuing her tradition of filming everyone during the roll, right from the lightboy to herself. Third was Sheila ki Jawani. Watching Katrina pulsate and groove on the big screen, with her dresses slung impossibly low (even lower than Shilpa Shetty’s sarees), was something special. The rest of the film was terrible.

The story is pure nonsense. A great con-man, played by Akshay Kumar (we’re never given any proof of his exploits apart from a very very silly airplane caper) is hired by the evil Siamese twins (Raghu & his twin brother) to recover their loot from the cops (the most bumbling kind you’ll ever see) who are transporting all 10,000 kgs via train. Apparently Akshay is the only guy who can do this. He concocts a truly artrocious, hare-brained scheme, enlists the support of a famous actor (Akshaye Khanna), who has an Oscar fetish, and a whole village of idiots to try to steal back the treasure. Will he succeed ? What will the evil brothers do ? Don’t hold your breath, it aint worth it…

Akshay over acted, tried too hard and was too loud in keeping with the general tenor of the film. Katrina, playing Askhay’s girlfriend and a wannabe item girl, was very good, both in terms of looks and performance, playing the bimbette to perfection. Akshaye demonstrated once more why he is a fantastic actor, wish we saw more of him and in better roles.

The jokes & even the capers are silly, crass and crude. Tawaif’s, dumb cops, lipstick marks, loud, almost fluorescent clothes. The only time the jokes are funny is when they’re the insider industry jokes and most of them are against SRK. His angst at missing out on Slumdog, the craving for an Oscar, the six packs. But sadly these moments are far and few in between.

This film is another of those where I’m left full of regret at what could’ve been. What a platform this film had built in terms of excitement, hype and music. It had brought the audiences flocking back to the screens. Alas, its life is likely to be even shorter than Shelia’s now infamous Jawani…

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Band Baaja Baaraat

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 10th December, 2010
Time : 140 minutes
Director : Maneesh Sharma; Writer : Habib Faisal; Music : Salim Sulaiman
Starring : Anushka, Ranveer

Chai main dooba hua biscuit ho gaya
Main to ainvey ainvey ainvey ainvey lut gaya

This film has its heart in the right place, captures the essence of Delhi (the dhinchak Janakpuri part) and the event that brings out the most flashy, gregarious part of Punjabi’s, the weddings. The story is interesting in the first half, meanders and becomes too predictable in the second but still makes a nice film overall.

Anushka wants to open up a wedding planning business, has a tight deadline as her family wants her to get married and so has no time for love or other such niceties. Through a twist of fate and thanks to his Saharanpur relatives, she takes on Ranveer as a partner. They split various departments, resolve to never fall in love (jahan vyapar wahan na karo pyar, bread pakode ki kasam) and set up a roaring business. Around the interval they kiss. They then spend the next half then dealing with the ramifications & figuring out what to do.

I liked the freshness of the lead pair, seemed to make it more real. While they acted well, there were moments where they did seem to be hamming it a bit but they looked fine together. And the assorted ensemble cast does a fine job. Whether it’s the brother who reminds Ranveer when he’s threatening suicide that no one ever died jumping from the first floor or the rich kids from Sainik farms who want roses showered on a revolving stage after the jaimala or Anushka’s mom who has a single-minded focus on getting her daughter married or the decorater & caterer who soon form the backbone of ‘Shaadi Mubaarak’, the best wedding planners in town.

The music is nice, some songs stretch a bit but again nothing too bad. It doesn’t get too serious at any time, keeps going at a decent pace, some crisis or other at a wedding keeping us & the lead pair occupied. The writing is what makes the film stand out the most – lingo like ‘kaand’, ‘ganne chusiyo’, ‘speed le, gyaan na de’ or even the ‘shit bolti hai to bhi lagta hai FM baj raha hai’ and things like The Delhi university setting, the lousy hostel food, the wedding crashing, the U-Specials, brought back memories of a forgotten era.

I like the attempt behind this movie, using a hero & heroine who almost look like the girl & boy next door, a script that has some authentic lingo thrown in and direction / camera-work that captures the uniqueness of Delhi. Just for that alone its worth a watch.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 3rd December, 2010
Time : 160 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : Ashutosh Gowarikar; Co-writer : (Based on the book ‘Do and Die’ by Manini Chatterjee) Raoul V Randolf; Music : Sohail Sen
Starring : Abhishek Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Sikander Kher, Vishaka Dutta, Mahinder Singh, Shreyas Pandit, Samrat Mukherjee, Feroz Wahid Khan

Disclaimer 1 : Nothing I’m writing here is any reflection on the actual people involved in the Chittagong uprising. I’ve not read the book nor am acquainted with the facts of this chapter in our freedom struggle. I hold in deep awe and respect each freedom fighter. All my comments are based completely on the movie & its characters, not the real martyrs.

Disclaimer 2 : In most freedom fight movies that I see, even Lagaan, my blood reaches boiling point extremely easily. First, by watching the atrocities heaped upon us by the British. Second, watching how easily we were duped and deceived by them. And third, watching Indians (including soldiers) carry out their cruel bidding – independence could’ve been far more easily obtained if no Indian had chosen to work for them. Obviously, then, this is not my favourite genre as its very hard to appreciate a film where you watch most of the film in silent rage.

This film is about an uprising that happened in Chittagong in 1930 where a group of people, led by a teacher (Abhishek Bachchan), tried to seize control of the town and send a message to the British. In this effort some teenagers (as young as thirteen, fourteen year olds) also took part as did a couple of women.

The first half moves along at a nice clip, is edited well, has some nice Q&A when the revolutionary recruitment drive is being carried out, some nice moments of humour. The second half, which deals with the actual attempt and its fallout, stretches and meanders and completely ruins the cinematic experience. You’re not sure at all of the true impact of what they were trying, of the significance of the attempt and its consequences.

A lot of questions remain unanswered, some key characters remain under developed. Abhishek, for example, why did he choose to go against Mahatma Gandhi’s decree of non-violence ? What was his logic and how come he got so many people to join him without any debate or discussion ? Also, based on the events as they turned out, he came across as a very poor leader – his planning had some obvious flaws (some extremely glaring ones), when in trouble he never seemed to be able to come up with the answers and had to rely constantly on the sacrifice of those around him and there was never any back up plan. He was hardly inspiring, he had no special gifts or talents that he brought to the fore. Similarly, all the other senior revolutionaries and the characters portrayed by Deepika and Vishaka, came across as unthinking, blind follow-the-leader kind of people. Ready to lay down their life but not totally clear or questioning enough about the methods being adopted to achieve their objective

The acting performances were very good – from Abhishek to Deepika to each of the teenage boys to senior artistes alike , they all looked and felt the part of idealistic early twentieth century revolutionaries. However, apart from Abhishek’s role, all other roles are cameos. Music is ordinary. The feel, the sets and the atmosphere though is brilliantly done. You do feel transported to another era.

This story, to make it a more interesting film needed some fictionalising. Maybe beefing up the romance a bit, for example or adding some other dramatic points apart from the uprising itself. In its current form, the second half truly pulls the film down, making it an almost unwatchable experience.

Postscript : My son didn’t enjoy the movie so much (more for the bloodshed shown in the second half) but was sufficiently fired up by the movie to write a short essay about the British rule for his classwork and a short poem about the freedom struggle. A better made film could surely inspire a few thousand more like him.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Break Ke Baad

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 26th November, 2010
Time : 115 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : Danish Aslam; Co-writer : Renuka Kunzru; Music : Vishal - Shekhar
Starring : Imran Khan, Deepika Padukone, Lilette Dubey, Shahana Goswami, Yudhistr Urs, Navin Nischol, Sharmila Tagore

This is one of the films where you know exactly how everything will turn out from the beginning. You know the central characters love each other right from the opening credits, you know how every twist and turn will resolve itself. And your only hope is that the director & script writer make it so much fun that you still enjoy yourself. They try but don’t succeed.

Imran is Deepika’s neighbour and classmate from time immemorial. He’s the calm, measured one, the one who sorts things out, the one who makes sure the relationship keeps going ahead. Imran works with his Dad at their cinema hall, hates it there but doesn’t know what he wants to do. Deepika is the fiery, flighty one. She is very sure she’s going to be an actress, even though her mom (Sharmila) is dead against it. She gets admission in a course in mass-comm in Australia and decides to go for it. How does Imran & her relationship survive this huge test ? Will their love survive ?

I liked the opening credits but hated the opening scene (Imran in front of a mirror, very corny). Deepika came across nicely, pulled her role off and looked stunning, right from her opening scene in a low slung sari. All characters were so half baked, however, that it doesn’t hold your attention. All conflicts are storms in a teacup as well and in real life would never threaten a lifelong relationship. So what we’re left with is the music (v uninspiring), the acting (Deepika was good, the rest were patchy) or the jokes (few funny moments, some from Yudhistr, some from Deepika and a couple from Lilette)

So, we’re left with a sometimes funny, rarel interesting, mostly boring film which struggles to hold our interest, especially break ke baad….

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Three Kings

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 1st Oct, 1999
Time : 114 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : David O. Russell; Co-writer : John Ridley; Music : Carter Burwell
Starring : George Clooney, Mark Wahlberg, Ice Cube, Spike Jonze, Cliff Curtis, Nora Dunn

Quite simply one of the best war movies that I have seen. Illustrates extremely simply the emotions and consequences of war – bereavement, loss, pain, suffering, abuse of power, the question of there being no right or wrong, greed, corruption, camaraderie, loyalty, ethics and most of all, the fallacy of war itself. The hollowness of the thought that war leads to peace or comes without significant collateral damage.

George Clooney and three other soldiers discover a map which points to locations where they believe Saddam has stashed gold stolen from Kuwait. They decide to make an unauthorised trip to get the same for themselves. However, they soon find out that things are not that easy or what they seem and find themselves dragged into the thick of things between local Kuwaiti’s and the remnants of the Iraqi Republican Guard. A journalist is also tracking the story and along with the entire setting and other cast also help add to the overall tension.

The scripting, performances, photography and editing of this film is exemplary. George Clooney is every inch the smooth soldier, who is calm, not hawkish or blood thirsty, the man with the plan, who is looking to look the other way but then when some events occur, is equally unflinching in his decision to dive right in purely on humanitarian grounds. Mark Wahlberg is really good as the trigger happy soldier, the new father who just wants to go home and would rather not get involved. Ice Cube plays an interesting character as well. Ready to follow but yet has a mind of his own. And the fourth soldier, well-meaning white trash, Spike Jonze is clueless, absolutely willing to follow his idol, Mark Wahlberg to the ends of the earth.

Script-wise, the most amazing thing is that it brings out messages very subtly – America’s clueless foreign policy, Saddam’s greed, the blind, unthinking way soldiers follow instructions and how power just always seems to corrupt. Editing ensures that the edge of your seat and you become inseparable. And the sets throw up one surprise after another – the caves that they visit are reminiscent of Aladdin’s caves – yielding one surprise after another.

The film is intelligent, well thought out and well planned. It provokes thoughts by planting stimulus rather than hammering it in. I really wish we could make Indian films like this…


Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 19th Nov, 2010
Time : 135 minutes
Director, Writer & Music : Sanjay Leela Bhansali;
Starring : Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Aditya Roy Kapur, Shernaz Patel, Suhel Seth, Monikangana Datta

Imagine a collection of beautiful still photo’s featuring the same people in different settings. Now set them on slide show. Add some music in the background. Could you now call it a feature film ? That’s my biggest issue with Guzaarish…

I’m struggling hard to articulate all the things I didn’t like about this film politely. The fact that it’s a senseless film masquerading as a pseudo-intellectual one ? Or its picture perfect in terms of sets, camera angles, lighting at all times (even in court or while brushing teeth, anytime, anywhere) ! Or all that humbug about it teaching you to love life (it most definitely doesn’t) ? Or the fact that it desperately tries to manipulate you emotionally, leaving no tear undropped during the film ? I think every character in the film sheds a tear or two, even if they come for a couple of minutes only…I mean everyone ! That must be a record of sorts ?

Even the acting prowess of India’s best looking and most electric screen lead pair is not able to redeem the film. The music is nice (a bit too jazz-ish, a bit too heavy at times) but its nice. And as mentioned before, its stunningly picturesque – every production set designer should learn from this film on how to spend money by building lavish sets, colour coding everything etc.

Hrithik is a quadriplegic for the last 12 years (some confusion on whether its 12 or 14 but let that pass) ever since a magic trick went wrong. He used to be the worlds best magician and now, thanks to damage to his spine, he cannot do any physical function apart from controlling his neck, even though his mental faculties remain intact. Aishwarya is the devoted nurse who looks after him, taking complete care of him. Hrithik seems to have coped well – he’s written a book, given speeches on how to live with dignity and also runs his own radio station. One day, suddenly, without any catalyst or reason, he decides he wants to die and appeals for euthanasia. Most of the film is about this ‘fight’, the battle to choose his own death.

Other sundry characters include Suhel Seth as a simpering doctor who alternates between huge grins and sad faces with moist eyes, Shernaz, as Hrithiks lawyer, who alternates between feistiness and sad faces with moist eyes, and Aditya who comes out of the blue as Hrithik’s student for magic and alternates between inane jokes, silly behaviour and sad faces with moist eyes. You get the idea ?

What gets my goat is that its un-intelligently made. With a little bit of more thought, less creative push, it could’ve actually been an interesting film. Most galling is the lack of character development. What is the paraplegic thinking, what goes on in the nurses mind ? Why are the doing what they’re doing ? Most things in the film, Hrithik’s behaviour, Aishwarya’s actions, Shernaz, Suhel even the lawyer and the judge, never make sense or we have no way of knowing their motivations. And since we cant understand any of it, the film drags, like a Chinese water torture (shown in the film), it dulls the mind, scene by excruciating scene. And the dark colours of the film aid and abet depression.

I really think that no one in the industry moves better than Hrithik. There is a grace and ease of movement about him, a fluidity while dancing or even just shimmying around, that places him head and shoulders above everybody. This is aptly demonstrated once again in the film. I really do believe that Aishwarya remains the most beautiful woman on screen. And her emoting has steadliy got better. Again, this film does everything to convince you of the same. Apart from that its tough to find a single redeeming feature

This is a storyteller who, possessed by an idea, didn’t bother to flesh it out properly. Either that or I’m one of those dumb idiots who just does not get it, who cannot recognize a thing of beauty if it waltzed right in front of my eyes.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Due Date

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 5th Nov, 2010
Time : 100 minutes
Directors: Todd Phillips; Writers : Alan R Cohen, Alan Freedland; Music : Christophe Beck
Starring : Robert Downey Jr, Zach Galifianikis, Michelle Monaghan, Jamie Foxx, Juliette Lewis

“Dad, you were like a father to me”

Robert Downey Jr is a very angry man. Due to a series of unfortunate events, he was chucked off from his flight, shot by a federal marshall (albeit with a rubber bullet), put on a no-fly list and is now without any ID, wallet, credit cards or money. And he has to get back home in time for his baby’s birth. Also, his only choice is to drive cross country with the man responsible for all of this, Zach Galifianikis (and his dog).

Surreal, very funny scenes are the order of the day. While buying weed (for his glaucoma), Zach (an aspiring actor for Two and a Half Men) recites paragraphs from Godfather for the dealer (Juliette Lewis). The response, when he finishes, is worth the price of the ticket. Or the tete a tete Robert has with Juliette’s kids while she and Zach are conducting their business.
Or the whole sequence in Western Union. Or the conversation about perms. Or the car masturbation sccene. Shakespeare the pirate. The man-made Grand Canyon. The Hoover dam built by the piligrims. The confusion between Mexico and Texaco. The Dads ashes in the coffee can and that leading to the ‘Circle of Life’. How a conversation about Robert’s wife’s possible infidelity leads on to a question about San Diego zoo.

There is no end to truly laugh out loud moments. However, it does get a bit unreal and too over the top towards the end, a bit too much to digest. But even in those moments it keeps you laughing and since it manages to connect you with its lead pair, painting their characters quite well, it manages to keep you interested.

While this one doesn’t have the cohesiveness, brilliance or longevity of ‘The Hangover’, it does have some of its madness and its unexpected, irreverent brand of humor. An enjoyable watch that will make you leave the theatre smiling…