Monday, October 28, 2013

Mickey Virus

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 25th October, 2013
Time : 135 minutes
Director : Saurabh Varma; Writer: Gaurav Varma, Saurabh Varma, Elvin Raja; Music : Hanif Shaikh
Starring : Manish Paul, Elli Avram, Manish Choudhary, Varun Badola, Puja Gupta, Raghav Kakkar, Vikesh Kumar, Nitesh Pandey

If I take out the conversations involving the amiable, wise-cracking cop Varun Badola and some of the cool T-shirts, there is little to recommend about the film. It’s a nice idea let down by very shoddy execution…in terms of performance (including Manish Paul in the title role), plot (all over the place) and pace (uneven – again the insertion of romance doesn’t help a thriller move forward)…

Its about a hacker. Who falls in love. With a girl (Elli Avram) he sees in a vegetable market. He is also being chased by two Delhi cops (Manish Choudhary and Varun) to help them solve a cyber crimes case. And his core group of friends, involving names like Chutney, Floppy etc (Puja, Raghav, Vikesh) help out when needed, with the Professor (Nitesh) being requisitioned when the virus hits the fan, the data overflow goes over the head etc

The issues with the plot, characterization are manifold – we’re told Manish is lazy but have precious little evidence of that…similarly we’re told he is brilliant (can do stuff that foreign hackers can’t do, even the Professor struggles with) but again that too has to be taken on trust because his personal circumstances, personality don’t match up to that level of intellect…the climax with its multitude of revelations was almost laughable in terms of everything conveniently falling into place…

The best moments involve Varun – who delivers the best performance in the film by far – and his humour laden invective and snappy one-liners. Manish Choudary is convincing as the upright (literally) cop until the end, which just didn’t make sense. The music and songs didn’t work at all. There were other odd moments in the film that were good but they were tucked away amidst a lot that was either unnecessary or left unexplained

Wednesday, October 23, 2013


Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 18th October, 2013
Time : 129 minutes
Director : Hansal Mehta; Writer: Sameer Gautam Singh; Music : Alex Karan Kulkarni
Starring : Rajkumar Yadav, Mohd Zeeshan Ayyub, Prabhleen Sandhu, Baljinder Kaur, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Kay Kay Menon, Vipin Sharma, Shalini Vatsa, Yusuf Husain, Pawan Kumar, Paritosh Sand, Yusuf Husain

Shahid tells the true tale of Shahid Azmi (played by Rajkumar), suspected terrorist, convict and later human rights lawyer and activitst, who’s life went through more twists and turns than most ordinary people do in a few lifetimes.

Whats unique here though is not just the story but the way its told and the issues raised

• When someone does something good or bad, there is no loud music accentuating the fact…it just happens, as in real life

• The family that Shahid belongs to is refreshingly ordinary – no histrionics, a mom who finds his choices tough, and a brother, Ayyub, who is a bit tired of bearing the financial burden of the entire family

• The romance between Rajkumar and Prabhleen is so simple – right upto the proposal in the coffee shop – that its almost funny, unintentionally

• The distance between Rajkumar and the jihadis is never too far. Even in prison, there is an attempt to re-enlist him but luckily Kay Kay and a professor, Yusuf Husain, save him and show him the path towards education

• However, the tag of a terrorist, is not an easy one to shed – leave aside, the innocent people he is trying to save later, even Rajkumar is not spared at times

• I’m not sure at all about the logic and validity of a non-time bound TADA, the whole myth of National Security - as events around the world have shown, it has inverted the whole philosophy of the legal system, one where we are content to let lots of innocent people suffer, as long as we catch a few bad guys in the process. And as pointed out earlier, the tag of a terrorist can stay with you for life, even after you’re found innocent

• There have been enough films on corruption, sadistic cops, the unfair system – this touches upon the same issues yet shows another way out

• Being a lawyer isn’t easy…the bread and butter seems to come from defending the guilty…with only a little time spared, if so inclined, to try and fight against injustice

• Regardless of how ‘liberated’ we are, somehow, there is a tendency to lapse into a hardline religious position when it comes to our parents…the burqua incident was quite telling that way

• Another topic, one close to my heart and one that the director of the film, Hansal Mehta has also personally been through, is the unchecked rise of the radicals in our country…splinter political groups, usually funded or encouraged by the larger mainline political parties, founded on pure muscle, with the sole objective of creating disturbances on minor moral issues to thrust themselves into the limelight (aided and abetted by our non-discerning news channels). These groups, more than anyone else, are responsible for the stifling of Freedom of Speech in our country. There exist enough evidence of hate speeches, hooliganism to put them away behind bars, yet the state machinery looks the other way. And unfortunately, people who are killed or beaten up by these idiots can never get any form of justice

The tone of the entire film is somber, grim…just a few flashes of humour, with most of the movie being shot in dark or not too well lit interiors. I also found the lead character a bit naïve at times – with his intelligence, contacts surely he could’ve taken some of the threats against himself (especially for the sake of his family) a bit more seriously and actually done something ? Also, he seemed to disconnect from his brothers and mom a bit too easily. The acting was good uniformly, with Vipin Sharma and Shalini Vatsa as the two prosecutors standing out in their brief roles.

Its not an easy watch, not really a genre that I’m comfortable with…but am glad I watched it – a little dose of reality is a good thing in the otherwise escapist fantasy world of our Hindi films…

Friday, October 18, 2013

Escape Plan

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 18th October, 2013
Time : 116 minutes
Director : Mikael Hafstrom; Writer: Miles Chapman, Jason Keller; Music : Alex Heffes
Starring : Sylvester Stallone, Arnold Schwarznegger, Jim Caviezel, Vinnie Jones, Faran Tahir, Sam Neill, Vincent D’Onofrio, Amy Ryan, 50 Cent, Caitriona Balfe

This works to the extent it does simply because of the personalities of the two leading men…and a little twist at the end that made a lot of sense…else, it’s a pretty average plot, lots of conversation, very little to show as far as any real ‘action’ goes and a pretty standard prison escape flick, albeit from a prison that is pretty high tech.

Stallone breaks out of prisons for a living, is somewhat of a legend when it comes to defining security protocols. Hence when the CIA wants to test an escape-proof facility for the scum of the Earth, who better to check it out than Sly ? The rest is standard stuff – the prisoner who knows his way around (Arnie), the evil ‘I own your ass’ warden (Caviezel), the sadistic prison guard (Vinnie Jones) and another prisoner, who heads the Muslim inmates (Faran Tahir). A doctor (Sam Neill) and Stallone’s back up team (50 Cent, Amy Ryan, D’Onofrio) have other interesting roles, along with Caitriona, who plays the CIA spook.

Prison movies rarely have a chance to show much humour. Add to that some of the sadism / torture scenes, necessary to establish the evil characters, the dimly lit corridors, cells and interior sequences, and the overall tone of the movie can be quite down. You do, however, want Arnie and Sly to break out, even if for old times sake, and so are reasonably engrossed in the ‘how’ for most parts. Its an average film, lit up only by the sheer heavyweight presence of its two macho, brawny stars, who still strut their stuff convincingly despite being in their sunset years…

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Eighteen Plus Video Promo

Video Promo / Trailer for my upcoming book, Eighteen Plus, releasing Nov' 2013 via Rupa Publications
Pre-order links up at Flipkart, Homeshop18, Amazon and many other online stores

Wednesday, October 16, 2013


Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 16th October, 2013
Time : 144 minutes
Director : Anthony D’Souza; Writer: Farhad-Sajid; Music : Various
Starring : Akshay Kumar, Ronit Roy, Shiv Pundit, Aditi Rao Hydari, Mithun Chakraborty, Danny Dengzopa, Parikshit Sinha, Govind Namdeo, Aakash Dhabade, Johnny Lever

This film is to subtlety what Yo Yo Honey Singh is to melody…the best thing you can say about it is that it isn’t as bad as some of the recent crap that has graced our screens…but then that isn’t saying a lot, is it ?

A scrawny teenager, chucked out by his holier than thou, school-teacher father (Mithun) saves the life of a principled Don type guy (Danny) and becomes his heir and protégé. Danny is known as Big Boss so Akshay’s title is the snappier short form. The makers, not being the shy sort, remind us of this every now and then – Boss has a personalized squad of cheerleaders, a few toughies who never fight but either scream ‘Boss’ or ‘Jai Mata Di’ and become a rocking chair on demand, personalized number plates and also rings which obviously remind him who he is…

In other developments, a tough but corrupt cop, Ronit (easily the best thing about the film), is marrying off his unwilling sister (Aditi) to prize champu (well played by Aakash Dhabade) who is the Home Minister’s (Gobind Namdeo) son but when she, as in all Hindi films, falls instant ‘Louuww’ with Shiv (happens to be Akshay’s estranged brother), Ronit is not very happy and the battle lines get very quickly drawn, with most of the film from then on consisting of various parties threatening each other of all sorts of dire consequences without doing anything of too much consequence…

Legality, time and space continuum, logic are just some of the casualties of the plot. A Delhi cop will peacefully land up in Kurukshetra to nab a criminal and then base himself there. Mithun will land up from whatever village he lives in to Delhi as soon as Ronit has locked his son up, without any prior notice (a good blow for all those who harp on mother’s intuition - see, Dad’s have it too !) and then, in the laughably, slow-motion riddled, long-drawn out climax), someone arrives from the ICU, casually strolling to a god–forsaken location, just to do huggy-wuggy (so sweet !)…

There is a sequence with a punching bag that is funny. Another involving a fake fight with written dialogues (incl a mention of AR Rahman) that also raises a few laughs. But then you have bawdy jokes like a truck named ‘Behen Ki Lauri’, some ribald Johnny Lever ones and numerous item and non-item songs plus unnecessary senti moments to slow down the pace of the film and make you groan with as much pain as those bashed up by Ronit or Akshay.

There is nothing here that you’ve not seen before…the same slow-motion, cable aided stunts, bodies bruised, cracked and flung around by heroes who look scarcely capable of doing so…when someone calls it paisa vasool entertainer, I really wonder kiska paisa, aur kaun vasool kar raha hai !?

Tuesday, October 15, 2013


Rating : 9/10
Release Date : 4th October, 2013
Time : 123 minutes
Director : Ron Howard; Writer: Peter Morgan; Music : Hans Zimmer
Starring : Daniel Bruhl, Chris Hemsworth, Alexandra Maria Lara, Olivia Wilde, Natalie Dormer, Julian Rhind-Tutt, Christian McKay, David Calder

Sex : Breakfast of the Champions

The pure genius of this film lies in showing the contrast between two dramatically different characters and showing where the life choices they made, ultimately lead to…Its enthralling, gripping, nerve-wracking, slick, fast-paced (and how!) and thanks to the interplay between the characters, immensely entertaining and funny !

The closer you are to death, the more alive you feel. It’s a wonderful way to live. It’s the only way to drive.

Hemsworth plays Hunt : gorgeous looking, witty, likeable, lives life to the full, a rare Brit with flair. Bruhl plays Lauda : calculating, blunt, calls a spade a spade, without care of consequence or sentiment, brilliant, understands cars and how to set them up, lives life via making the right choices, playing the percentages, a classic, Germanic Austrian. Their rivalry is sealed when they clash in a Formula 3 cars at the inception of their careers. And is carried on to the Formula One tracks through the Seventies. Hemsworth marries the gorgeous Olivia Wilde after a whirlwind romance, while Daniel makes a most unromantic proposal to wed Alexandra. And then things come dramatically to a head at Nurburgring, Germany in 1976…

Happiness is the enemy

The photography and background sound is so good that this is the closest you can actually come to experiencing F1 without going to a track…the visuals of engines firing up, levers turning, gears meshing, rain flying off tyres and the overtaking manouvers are skillfully done. These visuals contrast well with the drama happening on the tracks as our two protagonists leave no stone unturned to gain an advantage…their individual lives going through many ups and downs even while their career is on a permanent upward trajectory

A wise man can learn more from his enemies than a fool from his friends

The entire sequence where Bruhl meets Alexandra – the ‘ wonderful ass’ comment, her refusal to believe that he is a Formula 1 driver, the people who give them a lift, the whole ‘Its Italy’ remark, the exchange between Alexandra and Bruhl about driving fast…its funny and charming beyond belief. Hemsworth lives the life we all dream of living – born with a talent which means he has to simply roll off the bed, and despite drinks, no practice, sex all night, he can still be the fastest man on the track.

I accept that everytime I get in my car, there is a 20% chance I might die

The end of this film is just about perfect…the two lives and lifestyles coming to a head, at an airplane hangar of all places…its important that right till the end, neither stops being who they are, even for an instant, with Hemsworth’s interaction with a particularly offensive journalist being a moment to savour, where you realize there is more than just animosity between these two champions.

The risk of death turns people on

I loved the choices made by the film-makers here – their choice of incidents, the aspects of the characters highlighted, the mix of professional and personal events shown and also the inspiring message underlying it all…if you’ve not seen the film yet, and there is a chance to catch it on the big screen – please go and see it – you don’t have to be a lover of automobiles or of F1 racing – there is plenty to keep you hooked from the first frame till the last…

Monday, October 14, 2013

War Chhod Na Yaar

Rating : 4/10
Release Date : 11th October, 2013
Time : 119 minutes
Director & Writer: Faraz Haider; Music : Aslam Keyi
Starring : Sharman Joshi, Jaaved Jaafri, Soha Ali Khan, Dalip Tahil, Manoj Pahwa, Sanjay Mishra, Mukul Dev

Its about war, India vs Pakistan, lampoons everyone, including USA, China, our politicians, media and spares no one but the Indian army. The humour though varies from great (few moments) to being repetitive, juvenile, scatological (unnecessary scene of Manoj Pahwa on the pot) and downright ridiculous (Dilip Tahil as the Chinese Minister, amongst his many roles, dons a translation device that allows him to speak in Punjabi). The climax is too simplistic, and too long drawn to make much of an impact…so despite my desire to give this one high ratings due to good intentions, thoughts, it just doesn’t live up to its promise…

We have war-mongering ministers (Dalip Tahil in multiple roles) on either side, keen on illicit commissions from American arms deals, as well as some Chinese support for Pakistan. We have a reporter, Soha, who is invited by the Indian minister to tour the border with him, in anticipation of the war, and who decides to stay back. Only in part due to dashing Captain and Commanding Officer, Sharman Joshi. Who knows when to go for the jugular and when to try some behind the lines diplomacy with his equally wordly wise counterpart (rank wise), Jaaved Jaafri.

The Indian and Pakistan forces have slanging matches, play cards, Antakshari, cross over the border when it suits them, and both sides display an equal desire for peace. There are some terrorists trying to sneak in, led by Mukul Dev, who get foiled by the same wily person – its funny the first time but then gets repetitive. Manoj Pahwa is the Pakistani General, too busy playing video games, Sanjay Mishra is the Pakistani Commanding Officer, busy trying to save his life and stay out of trouble while others in the supporting cast, do their best to lend the movie some gravitas.

Soha seems strangely muted – not knowing whether to smile or frown – given a character that’s important but a bit in no man’s land. Sharman and Jaaved steal the show with their easy camaraderie and humour. The movie, though, despite having the right idea and intentions only ends up ‘stealing’ the ticket price from you…leaving you with a few laughs and not much else…

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Un Plan Parfait

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : October, 2012
Time : 104 minutes
Director : Pascal Chaumeil; Writers : Philippe Mechelen; Music : Klaus Bedelt
Starring : Diane Kruger, Deny Boon, Alice Pol, Robert Plagnol, Jonathan Cohen, Bernadette Le Sache, Etienne Chicot, Laure Calamy

French flair, passion and an ability to do the craziest things with a mere shrug of the shoulders feature repeatedly in this delightful albeit predictable comedy

Since first marriages in her family have never worked out, Diane Kruger, who has been living with her love, Robert Plagnol, for the last eleven years, is determined not to take any chances. And taking her equally ditzy sister, Alice Pol, into confidence, sets off to have a pre-arranged marriage & divorce prior to the real thing. First in Copenhagen, but then when things don’t go as planned, settles on Dany Boon, all round chump and Lonely Planet’s East European guide, who’s being sent to Kenya to file a report. And lets just say things don’t go as planned again…

Jonathan Cohen, Bernadette and Etienne make up the eccentric remaining members of the family who are trying to explain how true love can happen at anytime to a sobbing, sniffling Christmas dinner guest, Laure Calamy, though not always in the politest manner, despite her being Alice’s boss. The acting is excellent throughout, with the scenes from Kenya and Moscow visually delightful as well.

This is one of those films which you know how its going to end from the moment you read the short summary on the plane entertainment magazine. However, the journey there is so delightful, you don’t really care…