Friday, December 30, 2011

Sherlock Holmes : A Game of Shadows

Rating : 10/10
Release Date : 30th December, 2011
Time : 129 minutes
Director : Guy Ritchie; Writer : Michele & Kieran Mulroney (based on characters created by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle); Music : Hans Zimmer
Starring : Robert Downey Jr, Jude Law, Jared Harris, Noomi Rapace, Stephen Fry, Rachel Mc Adams, Kelly Reilly

A cracking story, crackling performances, the spirit of Conan Doyle’s memorable characters, a sequel that takes off from the last film left off and takes it forward. In the immortal words of the sleuth, the game is truly afoot…

Unlike most thrillers, here we know who the villain is. We’re just not sure what he’s upto or how. How an assassination in India is linked to a bombing in Strasbourg, to a murder of a renowned doctor in London. This duel between Moriarity and Sherlock is epic, carefully constructed, full of mutual respect and admiration, encompassing several cities and very hard to describe further without giving it away. I simply loved the fact that it stayed true to the ethos, the essence of the characters created by the author and even incorporated a couple of crucial scenes from a particular story.

Mycroft Holmes also makes an appearance. A gypsy woman enthrals. A sharpshooter. A Cossack assassin. An anarchist who seems to have found his higher purpose. Another who feels trapped in a deal with the devil. Mary Watson, who’s planned honeymoon in Brighton, doesn’t quite seem to go as desired.

Most fascinating of all, is the relationship between Holmes and Watson. Giving Watson a spine, a purpose, removing him from Holmes’ shadow and breathing some life into him is perhaps the biggest masterstroke by Guy Ritchie and his merry men. Holmes continuing opposition to Watson’s impending marriage, his attempts to constantly involve him in his investigations is equalled only by Watson’s firm rejection of the former and only semi-reluctant acceptance of the latter. Even Moriarity is not quite sure of what to make of Watson.

Their repartee lights up an otherwise dark film, played out in the shadows (as the title suggests) or at night. Jokes fly thick and fast, whether verbal or written. ‘Come if convenient. If inconvenient, come all the same’ or ‘how many times are you going to kill Gladstone ?’ or the masterpiece ‘Did you just kill my wife ?’; ‘I timed it perfectly’.

Cinematically, the film is a visual delight ! Simple sequences are given an interesting camera perspective. A chase sequence through the woods is slowed down to enhance the thrill. Sparks, the workings of inner mechanisms, the clinking of wheels, gears meshing are all used to accentuate an action and create an optical thrill of something otherwise routine. Tight editing ensures your interest doesn’t flag for even a second. The soundtrack runs through your head hours after you’ve left the hall. And the device used in the previous film, of Holmes forseeing the entire sequence of events before their execution, is used a few times in this film to spectacular effect, yet with enough twists (‘breakfast is served’) to not let it get it repetitive.

Guy Ritchie, I have loved each one of your three previous films (the first one having spawned a thousand imitations) but this one, more than any other. And the last second of this film, the last action, the mere addition of an interjection, says / explains why.

There is a freshness about characters that I have known since childhood. A reinterpretation without taking away their endearing qualities. A modernisation without taking away the period. An idea that is executed in the best way possible, with a cast that is picture perfect. The standing ovation by the audience in the show we attended said it all…

Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Dirty Picture

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 2nd December, 2011
Time : 144 minutes
Director : Milan Luthria; Writer : Rajat Arora; Music : Vishal-Shekhar
Starring : Vidya Balan, Naseeruddin Shah, Emraan Hashmi, Tusshar Kapoor, Rajesh Sharma, Anju Mahendru

“Hero ho ya villain, har kahani ki vamp sirf main hoon”

The story is quite well known. Vidya Balan wants to be a film actress. At any cost. Gets her chance and grabs it with both hands, pun intended. She encounters the mega star of the era and her childhood crush, Naseeruddin Shah. Goes for him, ensuring her rapid rise to stardom, along the way making a few enemies like Emraan Hashmi, a director who wants to make meaningful cinema and stay clear of item numbers etc. However, after an incident involving Naseer’s wife, she decides to go for his younger brother, the diffident, underconfident Tusshar.

“Public kahin aur khujlana chahti hai aur tu unka dimag khujlane main laga hai”

A mix of booze, arrogance, unprofessionalism, wayward ways, the passage of time, the addition of a few kilos on the waistline and the entry of new girls soon sees the demise of her popularity and we watch her struggle to cope with the new reality in most of the second half.

“Dikh raha hai kitne mazdooron ne kaam kiya hai is khet main”

Its time to pay homage to a few masterstrokes by the film-makers of The Dirty Picture. First is the name itself, adding at least a couple of crores to the box office intake. Next is the casting, brilliant for its choice of unusual suspects – right from Vidya for the lead role of a bare-all vamp, Naseer for the role of a lecherous superstar and Emraan for the role of a director who hates smut. In the film itself, what stands out is the dialogue, which is pithy, punchy, raunchy, laden with double entendre and very funny. And the way the story is told, with enough smattering of South Indian film ethnicity yet being almost universal in its essential outline, is also commendable

“Kya tum ne suna nahi ? Maine 500 ladkiyon ke saath ‘tuning’ ki hui hai !”
“Par kya aapne ek hi ladki ke saath 500 baar ‘tuning’ ki hai ?”

The film was too long. By the time the interval happened, I had genuinely thought that they were (like Dhobi Ghat or Delhi Belly) going to go ahead without a halftime. The end also prolongs, and maybe chopping off 20 minutes could’ve made it a better film. Apart from the sensational ‘Ooh La La, Ooh La La’, the other songs struggle to hold their own, the one with the dance off, in the second half being possibly the worst in terms of musical aesthetics and necessity in storyline.

“Jab devi swayam saamne prakat ho, to mandir ko kya dekhna”

The film is illuminated though by its performances, each of the actors deliver in their roles. Vidya never looked so young (first half) or so carefree (all of the film), doing the matka / jhatkas and short hemlines, low necklines with élan and surprising comfort. Naseer shows once more how he is one of the best chameleons of our time, behaving just as you would expect a superstar to behave. Special mention for Rajesh Sharma, the producer who ‘finds’ and names Vidya, he gives a great performance (as always, as in Khosla Ka Ghosla, NOKJ amongst others).

“Raat ko to 12 baje ki suiyon ki tarah chipke rahte ho, aur din main 6 baje ki tarah, bilkul alag”

Its not all about titillation. There are several interesting comments about the film world. The sycophancy and ‘respect’ accorded to the megastars, the arrogance that success breeds, the illusionary comfort that addictive substances bring when alone (cigarettes, booze etc) and also how success is only temporary and in the bad times the only thing that can tide you over is your behaviour in the good times. There is a story here, an interesting one, one which describes the hypocricy of our wealthy elite well. As Naseer comments in the film ‘jab kapde utarne lagte hain, to sab se zyada maza to sharifon ko hi aata hai’.

“Teri biwi tere bare main theek hi kehti hai, ‘Holi khelne ka shauk hai, par pichkari main dum nahin hai’”

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Desi Boyz

Rating : See Below
Release Date : 25th November, 2011
Time : 125 minutes
Director & Writer : Rohit Dhawan; Music : Pritam
Starring : Akshay Kumar, John Abraham, Deepika Padukone, Chitrangdha, Sanjay Dutt, Anupam Kher, Master Veeraj Desai, Omi Vaidya

I’m going to give 5 points just for Chitrangdha. Another 5 for a decent storyline and the crisp one liners which manage to stay on the opposite side of mindlessness, crudity and vulgarity (for a change). Then I’m going to deduct 2 points for making it unnecessarily emotional in parts and another 1 for bringing on Chitrangdha only in the second half.

Recession, a demanding girlfriend with expensive tastes and a fight to retain guardianship of his dead sister’s child force John and Akshay, friends since college and current room mates, to take the extreme step of becoming male escorts for the Desi Boyz service. However, soon the girlfriend (Deepika) and the childs social care worker find out about their ignoble profession and eject John & Akshay from their lives. The second half outlines what happens next…

Interesting cameos further light up the screen space. Sanjay Dutt is great as the larger than life, Crocodile Dundee style, boss of Desi Boyz. Anupam Kher brings that little extra zing to the role of Deepika’s father. Satish Kaushik plays a part in the exact replication of an old and very funny western ad. Omi Vaidya displays his comic talents. And even the mom, in only for the briefest of scenes, manages to make an impression.

The true stars though are the script, which manages to keep it loosely plausible and coherent, and the dialogue, which manages to be goofy without insulting anyone’s sensibilities.

Deepika, Chitrangdha, John manage to bring the right amount of seriousness and craziness in their roles, but after a long time, Akshay gets his balance right, delivering his lines with the élan he was once known for

I went in expecting the worst and was pleasantly surprised. I still think the emotional parts could’ve been reduced, the songs executed better (lyrics & voices), the movie made crisper. But overall, it manages to entertain without irritating. And maybe my standards have lowered but that’s worth the price of a ticket…

Twilight : Breaking Dawn Part 1

Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 25th November, 2011
Time : 117 minutes
Director : Bill Condon; Writers : Melissa Rosenberg, Stephenie Meyer; Music : Carter Burwell
Starring : Kirsten Stewart, Robert Pattinson, Taylor Lautner

This is a fifteen minute storyline stretched out unbearably to almost two hours. Its the first film I’ve seen of this series, had seen a 5 minute clip of one of the previous ones, but even that was more exciting than what happened here

The entire movie seems to be happening in slow motion. The actors (cant even say people) look perpetually worried, scowling either at each other or just generally moping around. Smiles are rare even though there is a wedding and a prolonged honeymoon and an even more prolonged pregnancy. There is the promise of action but it never materialises.

I cant say more for fear of giving the story away but there was barely enough material for a 30 minute Tv episode here and instead a full-blown movie was forced upon us. Some nice locales are the only relief in this otherwise extremely dull movie.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 11th November, 2011
Time : 155 minutes
Director : Imtiaz Ali; Writers : Imtiaz Ali, M Beg; Music : A R Rahman
Starring : Ranbir Kapoor, Nargis Fakhri, Aditi Rao, Piyush Mishra, Kumud Mishra, Shernaz Patel, Shammi Kapoor

Despite its length, numerous logical and other flaws, what kept me hooked was the scintillating music, Ranbir’s performance and the crazy, goofy, improbable love between the ‘hi fi', 'neat & clean’ Nargis Fakhri and the Jat boy from Pitampura who wants to be a musician

The love begins as an unlikely friendship. She is the poster girl of the college, coveted by all in a very physical sense. He is more often than not the butt of jokes, spends most of his time in the canteen. However, the soon-to-be-married Nargis strikes a deal with this cartoonish lad to fulfil a few of her baser desires (no, its not what you think). Ranbir goes along for the ride. And we find through the movie that the ride never quite stops….

Ranbir’s growth as a musician juxtaposes with the different emotions he goes through. Expulsion and numerous thrashings by his family. Life as an unwanted wasterel in a dargah. Separation from Nargis. A trip to Prague, where she is now settled after marriage. Meeting her again. Then again. And his rising star in the music world, along with the growing sense of being incomplete without her.

Its hard to imagine any other actor of the younger lot being able to carry this role out. Ranbir manages to look good in just about anything (though full credit to Aki Narula for his threads). His locks & looks change length and character as frequently as he is forced to. From the bumbling, innocent kid to the friend for life to the castaway wastrel to the assured musician to the angry young man who has it all. From looking goofy to innocent to angry to cool, sometimes in a matter of minutes. I also liked the realism of the Delhi University setting, the terms used (palangtod, jannat hai yahan etc), the different characters, the foggy mornings and the idea of college being a place more for extra curriculars than for studies (I think we saw the inside of a classroom for all of 2 seconds).

And rising above all this, almost linking it together is AR Rahman’s near mystical music, haunting, enthralling, with a life of its own. From the divine ‘Kun Faaya Kun’ to the angst driven ‘Naadan Parindey’ to the self doubting ‘Jo Bhi Main’ to the funny ‘Katiya Kahun’ to the rousing, angry, anthem like ‘Sadda Haq’. Excellent lyrics by Irshad Kamil. And kudos to Imtiaz / ARR for keeping Mohit Chauhan’s voice constant for Ranbir. It helps build the character, make it more real.

It did get repetitive towards the end. You wished the two would make up their mind. The illness angle was possibly not desired, though I loved the stupidly romantic notion of a relationship where you feel so incomplete without the other that you fall physically sick and all the wealth / fame in the world doesnt seem enough. You wished it was edited better, a few jerks & jumps and also the length, with the film seeming longer than its actual running time. All the fun moments are concentrated in the first half, with the second mostly running on raw music & emotion.

It worked for me. I didnt want to miss a single frame, or its stunning locales, or the expressions or the musical notes (listen to the shehnai piece, in the background in the movie, from the CD, its just amazing). It works partly because its Ranbir. But sure its not for everyone.

Friday, November 11, 2011


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 11th November, 2011
Time : 110 minutes
Director : Tarsem Dhandwar Singh; Writers :Charley & Vlas Parlapanides, Vlas; Music : Trevor Morris
Starring : Henry Cavill, Mickey Rourke, Stephen Dorff, Freida Pinto, Luke Evans, John Hurt, Isabel Lucas, Joseph Morgan, Greg Bryk, Daniel Sharman

I’m biased because of I’m a huge fan of Greek mythology (grew up identifying with the Illiad as closely as the Mahabharat) and also of the visual delights that Tarsem has consistently offered in all his films. That said, apart from a few breathtaking sequences and the overall storyline, the movie does disappoint in its details, leaving not much to take away home.

The movie is as much about a battle between humans, with Hyperion (Mickey Rourke) & his savage army battling Theseus (Henry Cavill), the peasant and his small band of followers as it is between humans and the Gods. Both Theseus and Hyperion have reasons to hate the Gods, or not believe in them. Add to this a virgin oracle, Phaedra (Freida Pinto) and her disturbing visions, the dilemma of Zeus (Luke Evans) on whether to interfere or not, the Epirus bow, which is the only way to awaken the Titans and then defeat the Gods and we have all the ingredients for a rip roaring adventure.

While this story works at a macro level, where it fails is the details, unable to provide enough intrigue or suspense in every frame to be able to sustain interest, beyond the overall story. We also don’t relate to the characters, neither Theseus or Hyperion, engaging us enough to really care what happens to them. However, what does work, beyond doubt are the stunningly choreographed fight sequences and the equally stunning backdrops, visual imagery which is Tarsem’s forte.

I haven’t seen 300 but this seems to be on similar lines, valour, honour, rousing speeches and one finely sculpted torso decapitating another in bloody battle. At the end, all that remains as you walk out is one fight sequence after another, with all its goriness and grittiness highlighted in 3D. But surely with a backdrop as rich as Greek mythology and visuals as stunning as Tarsem’s, there should have been more in terms of the characters and storyline that stayed with you as you walked out of the hall.