Wednesday, August 31, 2011


Rating : 3/10
Release Date : 31st August, 2011
Time : 150 minutes
Director & Writer : Siddique ; Music : Himesh Reshammiya, Pritam
Starring : Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Raj Babbar, Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Rajat Rawail, Asrani, Reema Debnath, Rose Dawn

Its sometimes a fine line between being idiotic and being funny. Being a clever spoof or a film trying too hard to be cool. Pushing the edge a bit or being just plain crass. Bodyguard, in each of the above choices, manages to find the lower, worse path with unerring accuracy.

There is nothing more to the story, no depth, beyond what we’ve seen in the promos. Salman Khan is a bodyguard to Kareena, daughter of his benefactor, Raj Babbar. Kareena, as a game, and partly out of irritation at Salman, pretends to be in love with him, without revealing her identity, despite her friend, Rose, warning her not to do so. The bad guys, Mahesh & Aditya, make sporadic, half hearted attempts without any clear motivation or finesse / brains to do so. Salman keeps beating them up. The end is bizarre, silly, idiotic. Pretty much like the rest of the movie…

I would give credit points to Salman’s bicep move and Kareena’s looks. I would deduct major points for weak characters, a love story without sizzle, showpiece songs that don’t fit, a slow pace that drags, jokes that are crude & tasteless, a villain who’s either plain dumb or well, dumber for his inability to strike, fight scenes that are overdone (too many aerial kicks & flips & somersaults). And nothing really seems to make sense. Special mention of bad acting and tastelessness in general of Rajat Rawail...

This is a movie that had great potential but decided to go the masala route, appease the single screen audience. In its current form, it falls kind of in no mans land, in between genres, audiences and stories.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 12th August, 2011
Time : 113 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Prakash Jha; Co-Writer : Anjum Rajaballi; Music : Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy
Starring : Amitabh Bachchan, Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Prateik, Manoj Bajpai, Yashpal Sharma, Tanvi Azmi, Mukesh Tiwari, Chetan Pandit, Darshan Jariwala, Saurabh Shukla

Imagine a film that doesn’t even mention its title subject matter in a longish second half. Aarakshan, raises the issue of reservation in the first and then harps on the malaise of private tuitions, the commercialisation of education in the second. It does so in an extremely melodramatic style, through ill-etched, unreal characters and complicates things with sub plots that don’t need to exist. Needless to say, its predictable ending (I predicted it 10 minutes into the film) arrives far too late and the film overall fails to enthral.

Amitabh is head of a college, the best in Bhopal and has been for several years (different numbers are bandied about as to how long he’s been with the college : 35, 32 even though a board in his office suggests its only 25). He has now reached venerable Guru ji status in the field of education, is well respected, bows to no one, runs the place as per his strict principles & teaches kids who need remedial coaching for free in his house. He’s very fond of Saif, (Dalit honours student, seeking to do his PhD in USA and is currently employed as Asst Professor in the college) who in turn reciprocates by being very fond of his daughter (Deepika) who returns the affection whole-heartedly. Prateik is a mutual college friend and is also the son of a rich trustee of the college.

The villains of the piece are the rich trustees who don’t like the way Amitabh overrules or scoffs at their suggestions (including admission requests), a home minister who’s used to having his way and their man in the college, Manoj Bajpai, who runs a lucrative coaching centre (in violation of the college norms) and is promoted to Vice Principal, setting off a power struggle of sorts.

Against this background, when the sceptre of reservation comes up (as the Supreme Court declares that further to the 27% existing reservation for SC/ST, another 22% is to be sanctioned for OBC’s), battlelines are drawn quickly, and nothing is ever the same

All the characters seem permanently emotionally overcharged, launching into dialogue baazi & ultimatums at the slightest provocation, changing allegiances & years of friendship or tutorship with scarcely a reason. Saif (lapses into Dalit champion mode too easily), Pratiek (what was his character about ? what was that between deepika and him ?), SM Zaheer & his family (who were they ? why were eminent, rich people there at his funeral ? why did his family backstab the one person who was helping them ?) and last but not least, Amitabh, (he didn’t know that one of his professor’s wasn’t taking any classes for 3 weeks ? couldn’t he get another job when things got rough ?)

Questions, questions…

I found the music atrocious, not fitting the movie in the first half. I found the acting ordinary, not helped by the weak characters. I found the film dragging, heavy and wasteful of the considerable talent at its disposal. It did make me think, asks us the question on where we are on the subject of reservation, but rather than delving into the topic further, makes the second half ‘commerical’ (pun intended).

PS : I think it’s a shame though that the film is being subjected to bans by states & moral policemen. There is nothing objectionable in the film, it provides both sides of the story on its core topic & I’m appalled that despite clearance by the Censor Board, it has to go through all this. Bollywood needs to put its foot down and make the Govt and Police do its job and protect freedom of expression.

Friday, August 05, 2011

The Adjustment Bureau

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 4th March, 2011
Time : 106 minutes
Director & Writer : George Nolfi; (based on the short story by Phillip K Dick); Music : Thomas Newman
Starring : Matt Damon, Emily Blunt, Harry Mitchell, Anthony Mackie

A delightful, yet far-fetched concept. Imagine a God. Now imagine he has a Bureau which makes sure everything is on track, which maps out who’s doing what, meeting whom, their future & thus the worlds future

Now imagine a person, Matt Damon, from whom great things are expected. A politician running for Senate. And then, due to an error by a bureau staff, he goes off the plan. Starts to fall for someone (Emily) he wasn’t supposed to. And that threatens the great things planned for both of them. The bureau is forced to step in. Reveal themselves to Matt. And now, he has a tough choice to make

His love or his career ? More importantly, the concept of free will or the reality he is faced with of everything being controlled ?

I like Matt Damon, he always seems to act within his skills and comes across as a genuine, likeable person. Emily Blunt is a revelation, looking stunning in her role & bringing a joy to her character that is contagious. Full marks for the concept and some of the conversations Matt has with various people in the Bureau regarding it.

What makes it come down a bit are some glaring loopholes in the way the concept is executed. The error that happens in the Bureau surely could’ve been sorted simply ? What powers do they have exactly ? And there is something about doors, almost akin to Monsters Inc, which is not explained fully.

The movie definitely needs a suspension of disbelief. But to those who enjoy being exposed to new concepts, its worth a watch

Lincoln Lawyer

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 18th March, 2011
Time : 118 minutes
Director : Brad Furman; Writer : John Romano, Michael Connelly; Music : Cliff Martinez
Starring : Mathew McConaughey, Marisa Tomei, Ryan Phillipe, William Macy, John Leguizamo

A rich guy is being framed. He asks for a particular lawyer, a hustler, street smart and full of himself, one who is not used to working with such big shot clients. There is circumstantial evidence against the client but he refuses to do any kind of deals, which, incidentally, is the lawyers speciality.

Twist follows turn as cross follows double-cross. Nothing turns out to be what it seems. Yet there is nothing we have not already seen, especially in this genre. The acting is good, remember enjoying Mathew’s turn as a lawyer in ‘A Time to Kill’ and he’s good to watch here as well, none more so when he is engineering the ‘surprise’ end.

Ryan Phillipe came across as slightly too cocky, full of himself but then maybe that was the character. William Macy, for an actor of his calibre, is strangely underutilised.

Its gripping, slick, fast paced but lacks soul, warmth. You’re cheering for no one, the villain is painted too black with no explanation for the way he is and hence the movie itself blends with the night, nothing staying with us in particular.


Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 12th August, 2009
Time : 85 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Catherine Corsini; Co-Writer : Gaelle Mace;
Starring : Kristin Scott Thomas, Sergi Lopez, Yvan Attal

(A French film, also titled 'Leaving')

There is something marvellously tragic about Kristin Scott Thomas that makes her great for understated, sad, sentimental roles. Remember ‘The English Patient’ or even her dry, sarcastic wit-laced turn as the unfulfilled lover in ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ ?

In this role, she is a housewife, mother of two teenage kids, trying to re-start her work (physiotherapy) as an assistant to a doctor, married to a successful, moneyed, powerful, well-connected self obsessed prick, Yvan.

She decides to build a physiotherapy studio in the outhouse, the husband cribs about the cost and so the builder, to cut corners, hires an illegal immigrant from Spain (Sergi) to do the actual work. One thing leads to another and Kristin and Sergi become lovers and later fall in love.

So far so good.

However, at a certain point, and its not understood when or why, he becomes the love of Kristin’s life, she is unable to live without him, tells her insufferable husband about him, agrees never to meet Sergi again and then realises she’s too deeply in love to be able to do so.

The story then takes some unexpected turns, including an end that is slightly unexpected.

The movie is quite French, with love or passion taking precedence over baser needs and hence appearing quite silly to more pragmatic minds. While we are able to follow what Kristin does, we’re not really able to comprehend or understand why ? I mean, its perfectly understandable for her to look out, to seek an affair. But why the builder ? What is it about him that makes him the all-consuming love of her life ?

He is for sure not blessed with Adonis looks, nor is successful or moneyed or witty or articulate. He is just an ordinary guy, with ordinary needs and a very ordinary life. Yet he becomes her love and he reciprocates fully, even when the going, thanks to the husband, becomes very tough.

And maybe that is the point. How love can occur anytime. At the most unlikely stage of your life, in the most unlikely place and with the unlikeliest of persons. Such is love and such is life.

Love & Other Drugs

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 24th November, 2010
Time : 112 minutes
Director & Co-writer : Edward Zwick; Co-Writer : Charles Randolph, Marshall Herskovitz (based on the book ‘Hard Sell : The Evolution of a Viagra Salesman’ by Jamie Reidy); Music : James Newton Howard
Starring : Jake Gyllenhall, Anne Hathway, Oliver Platt, Hank Azaria, Josh Gad, Gabriel Macht, Kathryn Winnick, Kate Jennings Grant

He gets into trouble when, while pretending to be an intern, he stares at her naked breast for too long.

Jake, a good looking rake, is at loose ends, not sure of where life is leading him and unsure of what skills he possesses apart from the art of seduction. He finds his way into the drug industry, working as a salesman, discovers his skill-set has its uses even in his new job.

Anne is a bit bohemian, suffering from Parkinsons, steeling herself for what lies ahead but also determined not to miss out on life while she has all her faculties.

The story then follows a typical plot of them agreeing to be friends & lovers, agreeing that they will not fall in love and then later doing precisely that. Interesting subplots include Jake’s relationship with his crazy, geeky ultra rich brother and the launch of Viagra with all its consequences.

Midway through this film I remember wondering how Pfizer agreed to do this film (or did they?) and how miscast the lead pair was for this role. Jake looks the part of a hot guy but seems to lack any depth or ability to emote. Anne doesn’t look reckless enough though puts her heart into the lovemaking scenes.

The movie goes along expected lines and I found it interesting only for its chronicling of the impact Viagra had on the drugs market and the sex lives of Americans.


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 18th February, 2011
Time : 113 minutes
Director : Jaume Collet-Serra; Writers : Oliver Butcher, Stephen Cornwell (based on the novel ‘Out of My Head’ by Didier Van Cauwelaert); Music : John Ottman, Alexander Rudd
Starring : Liam Neeson, Diane Kruger, January Jones, Bruno Ganz, Sebastian Koch, Aidan Quinn, Mido Hamada

This one is intriguing but too farfetched and requires logic to be pushed nearly completely aside.

An American professor in Berlin is almost drowned when his taxi plunges into the river. When he comes to, three days have elapsed and his memory of the past seems hazy. More worryingly, when he does get his memory back, his wife doesn’t recognize him at all and is with another man who has all the ID to prove that actually he is the professor.

The movie moves at a good pace, gathers steam and Liam’s acting is a definite plus. The issues start when you ask yourself ‘Why’ or ‘Couldn’t they have done it another way’ (both the villain & the hero) ? Some endearing, well-etched but stereotypical characters – the old man, ex-Stasi, who is now a private investigator or the pretty Polish immigrant who drives a taxi to earn a living – help us to keep watching till the closing credits.

However, the ending is particularly funny, though unintentionally so. Such an elaborate plot for this ? Surely there was an easier way to have done this ? Reminded me of the adage in Hindi which loosely translated means "dug a mountain to find only a rat"...