Friday, January 17, 2014

The American Hustle

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 17th January, 2014
Time : 138 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : David O Russell; Co-Writer : Eric Singer; Music : Danny Elfman
Starring : Christian Bale, Amy Adams, Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Jeremy Renner, Michael Pena, Louis CK, Alessandro Nivalo, Elisabeth Rohm

It was nice to see people in different roles than what we are used to. And the story wasn’t bad too, though, honestly speaking I was quite distracted by the amazing cleavage on constant display by Amy Adams (and by Jennifer Lawrence when she was on screen).

Con artist, Bale, and his partner, Amy, enjoy playing in the small leagues. Going after desperate men, promising them a loan, using Amy’s non-existent royal English banking connections. Until they are trapped by the Feds. Forced to work for them. And play in leagues where people get hurt.

Bradley is really good as a hyperactive FBI officer, looking to clean up the country, Louis CK is even better as his long suffering boss. Jeremy Renner plays the well meaning Mayor to near perfection. And Jennifer Lawrence is eminently believable as Bale’s ditzy blonde wife, who lives on a slightly different planet from the rest of us – and may cause the world to come crashing around everyone else – much as she does the scientific oven.

There is enough going in the film to keep you engrossed. On a personal front – Bale is torn between his love for Amy and his adopted son. Amy is similarly torn between Bradley and Bale. And then, of course, there is the big con they are setting up. Involving various congressmen, senators. And The Mob.

The film is set in ’78, New York and the look, especially given the normal look for these stars, is almost as interesting as the story. Bale is a hairy-chested, balding, hopelessly unfit, nervous kind of bloke. Bradley Cooper as a curly haired, creepy looking guy, is simply out of control, fuelled high on drinks and drugs. Jennifer Lawrence, a blond in every sense of the word. And lastly, normally good girl Amy Adams, who, in this film, simply lets it all hang out !

The film drags a bit in the second half, the end is slightly too pat but its good viewing nonetheless. Its remarkable how real the emotion, the angst of Bale dealing with the women in his life is portrayed in the film – I like the way most English films manage to do this without too much drama…love, life and the art of luring people in easy chewable-sized bites…

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dedh Ishqiya

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 10th January, 2014
Time : 152 minutes
Director, Co-Writer : Abhishek Chaubey; Co-Writers : Vishal Bhardwaj, Gulzar Music : Vishal Bhardwaj
Starring : Naseeruddin Shah, Madhuri-Dixit Nene, Arshad Warsi, Huma Qureshi, Vijay Raaz, Manoj Pahwa, Salman Shahid

Naseeruddin Shah grandly rattles off the seven stages of love. Arshad Warsi listens intently, obviously impressed with the big sounding Urdu words like ‘Dilkashi’ and ‘Ibaadat’ rolling of his Uncle’s tongue. A while later, though, not able to contain himself, he asks the question which has probably been on his mind since he’d heard this “Par Mamu, isme sex kahan hai ?”

That probably is a great encapsulation of what this film is about – a mix of what is modern and brash, with the ancient, almost forgotten world of Urdu poetry, couplets and sher-o-shayari. A caper film set in the realm of romance, in a world where time seems to have stood still. The nuanced Naseer sahib with the brazen Arshad. The delicate Madhuri with the forward Huma.

The widowed Begum of Mahmudabad, Madhuri, has to fulfill a promise made to her husband on his deathbed. And remarry. A poet. She has held a kavi sammelan for the last couple of years but neither she, nor her constant companion, Huma, have been impressed with the suitors. The most persistent one is Vijay Raaz, local MLA, thug, boss but, despite his best efforts to learn poetry, he doesn’t seem to be getting anywhere. Along comes Naseer, fresh from a heist gone wrong, pretending to be the Nawab of Chandpur, spouting shayari and pleasing poetry, all set to woo the Begum.

Mahmudabad is a town of haveli’s, Nawabs, shayari and a knowledgeable crowd who say Irshad in the right places and also, more out of fear, even cheer Vijay Raaz’s stuttering attempts at poetry. Arshad Warsi and Naseeruddin are at hammer and tongs for most of the film – over how the previous heist ends and a perceived betrayal – but it is partially overcome by the attraction / lust they have for Huma and Madhuri respectively. Salman Shahid, as the man who bankrolls Arshad and Naseer, and wants to cut off their balls for not delivering, and Manoj Pahwa, as a great poet, who is stuck in a peculiar situation, are the other notable roles.

The film belongs to Naseer, for his ability to look like a seventeen year old while playing a seventy, while courting the Begum and Huma, for looking beautiful, hot and feisty at the same time. A delicate veiled look, quickly replaced by a cleavage showing damsel in distress, when appropriate. Arshad is good too, he has most of the funny lines but plays a more uni-dimensional character. Vijay Raaz is excellent as always, the softness of his love contrasted well with his thuggish ways. Am going to reserve judgement on Madhuri, she came across as a little stiff, though it could just be her interpretation of her character.

It’s a wonderful film of contrasts, full of beautiful moments (lovely sets, cinematography), love, romance, classical songs and old-world charm and poetry set off against naked lust, greed, mobile phone lingo and treachery. The humour, of course, is brilliant, rustic and non-stop. We could’ve seen one of the best films of the year in the first year itself !