Friday, September 28, 2012

OMG Oh My God !

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 28th September, 2012
Time : 140 minutes
Director : Umesh Shukla; Writer :Umesh Shukla, Bhavesh Mandalia based on the latter’s Gujarati play ‘Kanji Viruddh Kanji’; Music : Himesh Reshammiya
Starring : Paresh Rawal, Akshay Kumar, Govind Namdeo, Mithun Chakraborty, Poonam Jhawer, Mahesh Manjrekar, Om Puri, Murli Sharma

The story is very simple. Paresh Rawal, a shopkeeper, loses his shop in an earthquake, and when the insurance company refuses to pay quoting it as an ’Act of God’, given his delicate financial situation, Paresh is left with no option but to file a legal case against God. And then pandemonium erupts…

Paresh is shown as a typical Gujarati businessman, who owns a shop that sells idols of various Gods. He is the type who will happily prey on the insecurities of others, selling tap water as Gangajal. Or pretending a certain statue is a rare, one of a kind piece from Vrindavan to get a higher price etc. Or spreading a rumour about Krishan just to keep his son from doing the Handi. He is an atheist, in a family or society, which is full of very openly devout people, the kind who ‘show-off’ their devotion by participating in all sorts of religious rituals, teerth yatra’s etc. He is a smart, savvy, logical fellow with a sense of humour. When he argues in court or appears on TV, he comes across as a very simple person, who converts his audience to his intuitive points. His responses, his logic when questioned by the opposing lawyer or the media, strike home and make an impact.

There are several moments, big and small through the film, which are very funny. Paresh’s answer, quoting Reliance electricity, while replying to why he doesn’t directly talk to God is brilliant. The various rituals, the knowledge of the Gita, the different scams run by Godmen, even hunger strikes, none of these are spared.

The cameos by various accomplished artistes – Gobind Namdeo (an angry Sadhu), Mithun (a delightful role as a slightly effeminate Godman), Om Puri (a lawyer), all add to the fun. Akshay’s appearance, as God, Krishan Bhagwan, is also extremely well handled, quite good fun. I found the film thought-provoking and in a country like ours, full of blind faith, a necessary mirror of how we behave, choosing to find God in stones, temples and Sadhu’s instead of in our fellow human beings.

I’m being a bit generous with the rating simply because I applaud the objective behind the film, the courage of its producers and also the way they’ve executed it. Crisp editing, very little preachiness and generous dollops of humour ensure that an otherwise heavy topic, passes by very easily with the message getting through.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Dredd 3D

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 21st September, 2012
Time : 95 minutes
Director : Pete Travis; Writer : Alex Garland, based on characters by Carlos Ezquerra and John Wagner; Music : Pritam
Starring : Karl Urban, Olivia Thirlby, Lena Headey, Wood Harris

This is a totally different take on Dredd, the earlier character played by Stallone. It has violence, gore, blood, bullets, explosives, all captured in beautiful, slow motion, filmed in extraordinary, three-dimensional, exquisite detail. There is nothing here that is going to blow your mind, pun intended, but its one of the action films that can make for entertaining repeat viewing if you’re a Boys with Toys kind of a guy.

We have a parched, irradiated earth, a wall created to keep nature away, a teeming megacity which holds 800 million people in Central United States of America. We have complete and utter lawlessness in most parts. We have the judges who try and maintain order. We have Judge Dredd, one of the most feared, kick-ass members. We have a rookie judge, who is only borderline fit to become one, and is assigned to Dredd to assess. We have a triple homicide in one the megablocks (200 storeys high, really massive). We have a new drug, Slo-Mo, that slows the brain, makes things seem to happen at 1% of their normal speed. And we have a really bad-ass mafia boss, known by the alias of Ma-ma. When bad-ass meets kick-ass, sparks fly, and well, you can figure out the rest

I enjoyed the psychic angle given to one of the characters. I enjoyed the stunning camera work as you watched human muscle, water, blood, froth, glass and even smoke waft, ripple, shatter, spread or even smear through air or on concrete. I enjoyed the background music and the setting, the central premise. I enjoyed the action.

However, there is no emotion evoked inside you as you leave the hall, no central thought to carry home. Even the characters are not humanized enough, not given the shades of complexity most of us have. The mind is numb at the end, seeking solace in some silence, even, in some parts, trying to forget what it has just seen. Its extremely violent, but stylishly so. Go for it, if that interests you.


Rating : 2/10
Release Date : 21st September, 2012
Time : 148 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : Madhur Bhandarkar; Co-writers : Anuradha Tiwari, Manoj Tyagi; Music : Salim-Sulaiman
Starring : Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Randeep Hooda, Divya Dutta, Gobind Namdeo, Sanjay Suri, Lillete Dubey, Ranvir Shorey, Shahana Goswami

“What a stupid movie”, my wife exploded, as we left the theatre, “in the first half, we were at least watching her dresses, her jewellery, her looks. Second half didn’t even have that”, she fumed.
Allow me to elaborate further. This is one bad-ass, regressive, depressive, narcissistic, over-indulgent, formulaic and overall, pathetic film. There are at least three occasions when you feel its ended, your spirits soar, only to have them cruelly dashed as it finds another useless story thread to explore. You feel absolutely nothing for any character, least of all the central character, who is shown to be rude, ill-mannered, insecure, manipulative, vacillating constantly between career and love, needy, dependent, unprofessional and about emotionally as stable as a suicide bomber at a security checkpost.

Am not quite sure what the film was about. Kareena, obviously, plays the title role, constantly seeks what she doesn’t have and disregards what she does. Her central motive or motives remain unknown through the film as she runs through commercial films, edgier topics and off-beat films as part of her career. She runs through different men, Arjun Rampal and Randeep Hooda, being the primary. She changes staff and endorsement deals with rapid regularity. Her known temperamentalness obviously causes producers and even her heroes to shy away from her. Her end-goal, right till the end, remains as mysterious as her rise to stardom.

If we are supposed to feel sad at all this, any sympathy for her, then the loud music, constant shrieking, rivers of tears and some extremely hammy acting by some of the character actors (especially the gay designer, journalist) help nip that in the bud admirably.

Normally, the central character performance is what usually redeems such a film, but despite being a huge fan of Kareena’s acting abilities and looks, she is saddled with such a hopeless, flawed character that nothing can be salvaged from it. The only saving grace, if at all, is her constantly careening cleavage, which provided a few moments of solace.

There are so many beautiful things in the industry to explore. I’ve known artistes to work amazing hours, to be ready on time for shots, work round the clock on triple shifts, to be patient, firm, never lose their cool. Like Kareena in real life, they explore different roles, experiment with different looks. But unfortunately, in the eyes of the writer-director, this wouldn’t have made an interesting enough film and so he gives us a caricature of a human being instead, who is deeply troubled psychologically and inflicts mental agony upon the hapless audience as well.

Saturday, September 15, 2012


Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 14th September, 2012
Time : 151 minutes
Director, Writer : Anurag Basu; Music : Pritam
Starring : Ranbir Kapoor, Ileana D’ Cruz, Priyanka Chopra, Saurabh Shukla, Jishu Sengupta

This is a fable, a beautifully shot, light, airy, bubbly fable. It will make you laugh. A lot. And cry, or mist up, a little. If you’re still not a fan of Ranbir, you will walk away as one. And the background songs just don’t stop playing in your head.
There are some deeper layers, as well. Why is it in India that we cannot take care of our disabled children ? Why do we get threatened by them, so scared of social approbation that we are willing to abandon our own flesh and blood, despite having the means to look after them ? Why is it that playing safe seems to be ingrained in our blood ? In love, 9 times out of 10, we will choose the guy who is rich and doesn’t make us cry, to the guy who is poor but makes us laugh ?

Ranbir, a deaf, mute, has never let his disability inhibit him. He is always happy and always upto something, not all if it legal, much to the chagrin of the local cop, Saurabh Shukla, who blames him singlehandedly for reducing his waist size from a respectable 52 to a mundane 42. Ranbir falls in love with the elite, gorgeous girl, visiting Darjeeling, Ileana. She is engaged to be married to Jishu, a prize catch, the dream of every girl in college. But she has never encountered anyone as free spirited as Ranbir.

Ranbir, though, is the son of a lowly driver. Who works for another elite, powerful family. Who have an autistic daughter, Priyanka. Who has been left in an old age home, Muskaan, run by the gentle, ageing, Haradhan Bandhopadhyay. When Priyanka’s nana, the man who runs the house with an iron fist, but has a soft corner for his grand daughter, decides to bring her back due to his ill health, the lives of all the characters get affected and change…

The photography and the music is so good that I’m out of superlatives here. Am sure tourist traffic to Darjeeling is going to increase and the music of this film will be played many years from now, a rarity in todays world, where songs struggle for a shelf life beyond three months. Am not so sure about the editing. The flashbacks, the talking heads. Not sure they were needed in a story which was reasonably fast paced and as entertaining as this. Its almost become a fad now, to not tell a story linearly…

Ranbir is amazing. Gets every expression just right. Whether his happy face, the ridiculous expressions he uses to make others laugh, his angry ‘speech’, or his bewildered look when things go wrong, as they have a tendency to do with him. Ileana is stunning in western dresses, early on in the film. She is nice as the adarsh Bengali nari later on, but didn’t think much of her older avatar. Undeniably a great actress. Priyanka proves her acting chops once again, conveying her battles with her inner demons appropriately
Special praise for Saurabh Shukla. The film would’ve been flat without his Hardy to Ranbir’s Laurel. Or Bhola Raja Sapkota, Ranbir’s comrade in arms and translator in chief. Or Rupa Ganguly, Ilena’s mother, who understands her daughter’s predicament and does what she thinks is best for her. (MAJOR RANT : Why in Hindi films cant we list all the character actors, and especially, as in this film, if they have central roles, have at least a couple of stills for each of them. Why does all publicity material have to be only of the big stars ? Defy you to find a photo of Haradhan, Saurabh, Bhola. RANT OVER)
Amongst the moments of the film are the opening credits (set to the song ‘Film shuru), the comic chase sequences between Saurabh and Ranbir. The Darjeeling scenes between Ranbir and Ileana – on the train, or cycle or even the horse. And the scene when Haradhan bawls his eyes out, when the apple of his eye, Priyanka leaves the ashram, is just touching beyond belief.
After a long time, a film which doesn’t just show perfect, rich, urban people. But people who, despite their imperfections, seem determined to be happy. There is a lesson in there for all of us.


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 14th September, 2012 (India)
Time : 100 minutes
Director, Writer : Nicholas Jarecki; Music : Cliff Martinez
Starring : Richard Gere, Laetitia Casta, Brit Marling, Susan Sarandon, Nate Parker, Tim Roth

Its lonely at the top. Especially, if you only deal in the currency of money (‘What else is there?’) and you have a wife (Susan Sarandon) who needs money for charities (‘But its only 2 mill?’) and head a firm that is broke, shored up by a loan that needs to be repaid and is looking to sell-out while maintaining the all important fa├žade of success, prosperity through it all, even while his own daughter (Brit Marling) is trying to get to the bottom of the fudged accounts.

Add to this an affair with a sexy artist (Laetitia Casta) that goes wrong, thanks to a sleepy mistake, a cop (Tim Roth), who is determined to nail him and the son, (Nate Parker), of an ex-employee, who is in the hot seat thanks to you, life doesn’t seem to be particularly easy for Richard Gere.

And it doesn’t get any easier as he fights everyone who tries to get in his way, his own daughter, the people from the bank trying to buy him, the audit firm going through his books, or his own wife, who suddenly isn’t sure what she really wants from her husband.

The pressures shown are real. The situation shown, realistic. As he points out during a conversation when he is trying to explain how he got in this financial mess, things sometimes just go wrong. One bad decision, leads to losses, leads to your getting in deeper, attempting to cover up that hole and soon…BOOM…you’re in way over your head, while everyone around you, just wants you to continue to be the ATM you’ve always been.
Wealth suits Richard Gere in movies, he just looks the part so much. The other impressive actors here were Nate Parker, really convincing, trying not to snitch even when the going gets tough and Tim Roth, the man responsible for the going getting tough.

Enron. WorldCom. Satyam. The world has seen many real life situations where big, reputed companies have gone under. This is a reel-life explanation, at least in part, of how such things come to pass. I found it gripping, engaging and thought provoking. As in real life, you don’t know till the end, how it will pan out…

Friday, September 07, 2012

To Rome, With Love

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 7th September, 2012 (India)
Time : 111 minutes
Director, Writer : Woody Allen; Music : Uncredited but lovely mix of opera, Italian love songs and jazz
Starring : Alec Baldwin, Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Allen, Judy Davis, Greta Gerwig, Fabio Armiliato, Flavio Parenti, Roberto Benigni, Alison Pill, Alessandro Tiberi, Alessandra Mastronardi, Ellen Page, Penelope Cruz

The following review is best read to the lyrics of Volare

‘Volare oh oh
Cantare oh oh oh oh
Nel blu dipinto di blu
felice di stare lassu’

One of those films where nothing of note happens yet a funny, biting commentary on human existence is delivered through its varied unconnected characters, based in or visiting the Eternal City.

“I would do anything to spend the night with Howard Roark,”
(Scoffing) “You saw the movie of The Fountainhead”

Jesse Eisenberg and Greta Gerwig are happily together, when Greta’s best friend, Ellen Page, an out of work actress who’s recently been through a break up, arrives to stay with them on a visit.

"I don't want to do it here."
"You're going to screw your best friend's boyfriend, does it really matter what the venue is?"
"You will never understand women."
"That's been proven..."

Alec Baldwin, plays this part imaginary, part real character, who’s a successful, famous architect, had lived in Rome during his younger days, and decides to give the benefit of his experience in the matters of the heart to young Jesse, who’s also studying architecture.

“Its better to sleep with him and regret it than to not sleep with him and regret that”

Alessandro has just arrived in Rome, from his nearby small town, along with his lovely wife, Alessandra. He is of nervous disposition, constantly worrying if he is doing the right thing, wondering if he will make the right impression on his uncles and aunts who have employed him. Things take a slightly different path when Alessandra gets lost on the streets of Rome and Penelope Cruz, a hooker, lands up in his room, thanks to a case of mistaken identity.

During the Museum Tour, describing the ceiling frescoes “Can you imagine working all that time on your back?”
Penelope (The Prostitute) “I can.”

In a fascinating commentary of todays now there, now forgotten celebrity culture, a highly opinionated, ordinary, middle-class clerk, Roberto Benigni suddenly becomes a celebrity. The questions he is asked, his replies, their interpretation, the perks of stardom and how he copes with it all is worthy of a PhD thesis by itself.

“I have an IQ of 140, 160.”
“Your thinking in euros, in dollars its much less”

And in the most amusing of cases, Alison Pill meets Flavio while asking for directions, falls in love and decides to get married. It gets very entertaining once her parents, Judy Davis, a psychiatrist and Woody Allen, a quixotic, retired Recording studio executive arrive and meet their prospective in-laws, Fabio, who’s a mortician who loves to sing opera in his shower cubicle and his wife, who doesn’t speak much English but can be fiercely protective of her family.

“The kid’s a communist, the father’s a mortician, does the mother run a leper colony?”

Love is one of the dominant themes, the sexual chemistry between people another. The fickle and inane nature of todays media gets considerable screen time, along with the various perks of modern stars. The ability of American’s to try anything for money is well contrasted with the slightly leftist nature of most Italians. Italy is also one of the few countries, along with India (and maybe, Japan ?), which is full of bathroom singers and also, like most of Europe, men take pride in their mistresses.

“You're lucky ! In a year she would've had you adopting Burmese orphans”

Loved the brand of humour, the seemingly aimless, meandering plot, the various character sketches. I don’t know whether it was the pleasure of listening to the lyrical Italian language again, or seeing the beautiful streets, which are simply made for walking, or just our nostalgia for the country and our friends there, but felt transported to another world while it lasted.