Monday, November 25, 2013

#EighteenPlus book launch : Pune, Bangalore and Gurgaon / Delhi




A panel discussion on Sensuality, Entertainment and India awaits us at all patterns !

Look forward to seeing you there...

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Goliyon Ki Ras-leela : Ram-Leela

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 15th November, 2013
Time : 155 minutes
Director, Writer, Music : Sanjay Leela Bhansali; Co-writers : Siddharth-Garima
Starring : Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Supriya Pathak, Richa Chaddha, Gulshan Devaiah, Brakha Bisht, Abhimanyu Singh

1. Romeo, Oh Romeo…wherefore art thou : it’s a non-standard re-issue of the bard’s star-crossed lovers…the outline is the same but with enough Indian-ized twists added on to make sure the story doesn’t bore you. There are attempts to flee, an almost-rape, betrayal and a rise to the seat of power that keep the story part of it interesting.

2. Ye Kahaan aa gaye hum : its some remote village in the Rann of Kutch, where the 2 warring factions both deal in arms, smuggling, where guns are found in every able hand and bullets stored even in flour and under the drying red chillies.

3. La bella vita (Life is Beautiful) : The film is a visual delight, SLB doing what he does best, with towering statues, picturesque temples, a riot of colours, glorious multi-hued turbans and backless blouses.

4. The Curse of the Second-Half : Why doesn’t he call or sms ? If it was so easy to wipe out the other side, wouldn’t you have done so anyways ? Why the betrayal, when did that seed germinate since there were male heirs on either side ? The same characters who made sense a while back, now become puppets at some script-writers command, moving in strange, alien, unfathomable ways

5. Humne Tumko Dekha, Tumne Humko Dekha… : They fall in violent love, as in most Hindi films, moving from ‘Do I know you?’ to ‘I cant live without you!’ in about 5 screen minutes. Ranveer has the kind of buffed body, shown at every possible occasion, with as many square inches as possible (could you really tie a dhoti that low ?) that makes even the Gujju ben’s of their town lust for him, want to touch him, swoon over him. Deepika looks stunning as always – seems to have a mind of her own except when around her man. Both characters lose any remaining shred of credibility in the second half.

6. If music be the food of love…: The romance gets at least three songs. Then there is an item number, a finale song, another to introduce our hero with his multiple abs. The background music is excellent. Very loud, omnipresent but something different, with a nice local flavour. I even enjoyed most of the songs – different beats, glorious people, very aesthetically done / treated. The only issue was when performers, while doing something nice and very ethnic, would suddenly break out into a very Bollywood, filmy step. Nowhere more apparent than Priyanka’s item number

7. On the side, but not forgotten : Supriya Pathak as the woman head of one clan is excellent, evoking fear and respect with her rapid changes in mood, none more so than when she uses a betel nut cracker to lop a finger off. Richa Chaddha, as the daughter-in-law catches the eye…an assured performance, at least here even the character remains consistent. Barkha Bisht does the same role for the other clan, but with a touch less spice and a tad more emotion (at the end). Gulshan Devaiah is good too but let down by his role somewhat

8. Dialogue-baazi : Some very good humour keeps it light hearted for most of the first half, with snappy dialogue, crisp repartee in almost every frame. Then it all becomes bombastic, emotional, sentimental, weepy and loses it. The light touch of the first half is sorely missed in the second. And the length doesn’t help either, the movie could easily have been a half hour shorter.

9. What’s in a name : ‘Goliyon Ki Ras-leela’ - This entire bit of the film’s name was an after-thought, added on simply because the director, before announcing the project, didn’t bother to check that another person (my friend, Mukul Abhyankar) had already registered the title Ramleela. And then a combination of hubris and a desire to not pay up or change the title, led to this add-on line.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Captain Phillips

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 18th October, 2013
Time : 134 minutes
Director : Paul Greengrass; Writer: Billy Ray (based on the book ‘A Captain’s Duty’ by Richard Phillips and Stephan Talty); Music : Henry Jackman
Starring : Tom Hanks, Barkhad Abdi, Barkhad Abdirahman, Faysal Ahmad, Mahat M Ali, Michael Chernus, Max Martini, Yul Vazquez, David Warshofsky, Corey Johnson, Catherine Keener

Whew !! A simple, true story – of a container ship sailing off the Somalian coast, being boarded by pirates and the Captain’s (Tom Hanks) battle to get them off his ship – is transformed into a great cinematic experience, thanks to wonderful performances and superb editing which never lets the pace or the tension flag for even a second.

It was great to see how the various characters were built up…the Captain, a veteran, safety conscious, running a tight ship. His First Officer (Chernus), enthusiastic and ensuring his boss’s bidding is carried out. The Chief Engineer (Warshofsky), who carries out his duties admirably. And some of the crew, who try to revolt / complain, but are dealt with a firm hand.

Even the pirates, under pressure from the war lords back home to bring in another ship (they got $6mn for the last one a month ago) – the selection process by which they pick their comrades, their internal dynamics, one loose cannon – everything adding to the tension palpable through the film.

It is strange to imagine a small dinghy with four armed pirates subduing a mammoth container ship with 30+ crew but such is the reality of life in those parts and the power of automatic weapons. The end is a little filmy – and not every nation would unleash the kind of firepower sent to free the Captain – but it does make for a fitting finale

Tom Hanks is excellent in the title role, felt he got it just right, managed to emote without over-acting. The pirates were great as well, very convincing in their desperation, wanting to do business but not afraid to use force when needed.

The realism of the whole adventure was confirmed by my brother, who’s a shippie himself and has sailed those waters (around the same time, coincidentally)…while I haven’t read the book (the true account of Captain Richard Phillips) I cant help but marvel at the choices made by the film makers of which incidents to include in the film and which to leave out…makes a world of difference in keeping you hooked from start to finish !

Saturday, November 09, 2013

Thor : The Dark World

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 8th November, 2013
Time : 112 minutes
Director : Alan Taylor; Writers : Don Payne, Robert Rodat, based on the comic characters created by Stan Lee, Jack Kirby and Larry Lieber ; Music : Brian Tyler
Starring : Chris Hemsworth, Natalie Portman, Tom Hiddleston, Anthony Hopkins, Idris Elba, Rene Russo, Kat Dennings, Christopher Eccleston, Jaimie Alexander, Zachary Levi, Ray Stevenson, Stellan Skarsgard, Jonathan Howard

And that’s how you make a superhero film….

Lots of action, an interesting plot, very pacy, packed with sibling rivalry (with Loki really coming into his own) and laced with generous dollops of brilliant humour, this is a film that works for the young and old alike – with enough layers in the dialogue and the story to keep both segments entertained

There are some evil Dark Elves, led by Malekith (Eccleston), seeking to turn the entire universe into darkness, using a powerful substance known as Aether, when the nine planets are in alignment. They failed once, but now it’s the time of Convergence once more (happens every 5000 years), Natalie Portman finds the Aether and the only thing standing between the Dark Elves and her is Thor…with a little help from and unlikely source.

It’s the sheer charisma of the leads – Hemsworth and Hiddleston in particular – that sets the film alight…the showcasing of the sibling rivalry is really well depicted, the cut and thrust of their jibes and the potential of betrayal spicing things up…Natalie doesn’t have much of a role, but that is more than made up by great cameos by several fine character actors including Rene Russo (Thor’s mother), Kat (asst to Natalie), Jonathan (her intern), Jaimie, Zachary and Ray (Thor’s gang) and even Skarsgard playing the nutty professor well. There is even a conversation to treasure - one where Anthony Hopkins bemoans his legacy as a father - which has added poignancy due to the moment it occurs and what happens after...

The action and special effects are great to watch but what keeps you riveted is the humour…some of it coming in the conversations (and a short walk) between Hemsworth, Hiddlestone. Other priceless moments coming via the whimsical Kat Dennings or while Thor moves around in London (hanging his hammer on a coat hook, catching the Tube) or when his gang warns Loki of the consequences of betrayal…

There are some fantastical co-incidences…the Aether could’ve been anywhere in the nine realms but is found by Natalie Portman, similarly a certain gateway opened up during the convergence turns out to be a very convenient location too. But you’re having so much fun watching some very good looking people battle it out and match wits, that these pale into the background. I know its unfair to compare Krrish3 and Thor 2 – the budgets are a tenth, for example, but surely in terms of plot and character development, we could do better ? The end-credits were beautifully done as well and they’re worth the wait as a little teaser at the end makes you wish even more that the Third of the series released quickly !

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Krrish 3

Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 1st November, 2013
Time : 152 minutes
Director & Writer : Rakesh Roshan; Music : Rajesh Roshan
Starring : Hrithik Roshan, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut, Vivek Oberoi

To really like this one, you either have to be around ten years old, or a huge fan of Hrithik (with his finely chiseled abs shown multiple times), or someone who’s never watched English superhero films or a student of advertising (with numerous brands, product placements shown time and again). All others will find this one just about okay, with the movie reminiscent of the older, formulaic superhero films from Hollywood, filled with caricatures and black and white characters and innumerable moments of sentimental schmaltz.

Hrithik, in his masked Krrish avatar, is the perennial do-gooder, living with wife, Priyanka, and Dad (himself in a double role), who is a top scientist. He is mostly confined to the Mumbai area – living in an impossibly scenic and sprawling bungalow – and also struggles to keep any job in his normal identity due to his penchant for running around doing good deeds (foiling a jewelry store robbery, helping an aircraft land etc).

Kaal, Vivek Oberoi, is just pure evil. With a paralyzed body, the power of telekinesis and a burning desire to cure himself (needs an elusive kind of bone marrow for that). However, during his search for the bone marrow, he has created many mutants – everytime someone says ‘Maanvar’ (the name given to these mutants), I was cracking up – by combining animal strains with his own DNA. And he makes money by creating deadly virus, spreading them and then supplying the antidote…

A key role is played by the most interesting mutant, the shape morphing, curvaceous Kangana (she really stood out in the film, dresses, figure and acting wise). Eventually Kaal’s and Krrish’s paths cross, there is the fight to the finish… and lots of scientific mumbo jumbo, sentimentality and impossible stuff happening before things draw to a close.

Barring one song, made interesting by fantastic locales, Kangana’s cleavage and a smoking hot Hrithik, the other ones are terrible, slowing down the pace of the film. There are many scenes where emotional moments are milked for all they are worth, with many kids (including one very irritating one who keeps popping up through the film) / babies used to get the heart-strings going. The pace of the film is uneven as a result – its quite a stretch at two and a half hours – with not enough action, lots of ‘There is a Krrish in all of us’ kind of dialogue and other distractions. The special effects are good – they’re not up there with Hollywood but definitely a notch better than Ra-One or the previous Krrish

There is little to stay with you from the film – its one of those you forget easily when you walk out from the hall. The characters are unidimensional, non-introspective and thus, for a seasoned Hollywood observer, boring. But maybe that is being unfair…after all just ten-fifteen years ago, the films there had similar over-the-top heroes and villains…and in India, this genre is still nascent.

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 na├»ve 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…