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 √©lan 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’”