Saturday, February 28, 2015

Kingsman : The Secret Service

Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 27th February, 2015
Time : 129 minutes
Director, Writer : Matthew Vaughn; Co-Writer: Jane Goldman, based on the comic “The Secret Service” by Mark Millar, Dave Gibbons; Music : Henry Jackman, Matthew Margeson
Starring : Colin Firth, Taron Egerton, Mark Strong, Samuel L Jackson, Sofia Boutella, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson

“Manners maketh man”

What an unexpected delight !

Over the top. Cliched. An evil villain with a plan for world domination. Men in suits tying to stop them. Great action. And some deadly British humour…

Colin Firth is an agent with the Kingsman secret service, which isn’t linked to any government anywhere in the world. He owes his life to a young agent who gave his own to protect everyone else. Colin now feels responsible for the wife, young orphan (Taron, when he grows up) the agent has left behind. And so, even when the family falls on bad times, the wife has hooked up with an abusive deadbeat and Taron is a vagrant, having left the Marines, Colin steps in to help out.

“Oxfords Not Brogues”

Of course, in the midst of all this, Samuel L Jackson, a billionaire with a lisp, wants to take over the world. Or something like that. Aided by his deadly assistant, Sofia Boutella, a killing machine with razor sharp prosthetic blade-runner legs, they are planning something but no one knows what…

"If you save the world, We can do it in the asshole"

Some stunning action sequences (surprisingly most starring Colin Firth), cool gadgets great locales and a stunning soundtrack makes sure you enjoy the roller-coaster ride – with several thumbs up the noses of its more famous British brethren, James Bond… taking a dig for being too posh, their fancy cuisines etc

“The suit is the modern gentleman’s armour”

Its over the top, improbable, but somehow the cast, script, director and the jokes just come together to give you a thrill a minute entertainer. Great supporting roles from Mark Strong, Michael Caine, Sophie Cookson and three outstanding action scenes – a surreal one in a church, a rescue in Argentina that ends in an unexpected manner and one in a pub that shows off the various fancy gadgets – work brilliantly, blending classy humour and slick action like a smooth cocktail…Martini, anyone ?

"I always felt that the old Bond films were as good as the villain. As a child, I rather fancied a futuristic colorful megalomaniac"

Dum Laga Ke Haisha

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 27th February, 2015
Time : 111 minutes
Director, Writer : Sharat Katariya; Music : Anu Malik
Starring : Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Sanjay Misra, Alka Amin, Sheeba Chaddha, Seema Pahwa

Ayushmann doesn’t get along with his father (Sanjay Misra) – he feels his life has been ruined because of him, being forced to give up studies early, sitting in their small shop in Haridwar, and now being forced to marry early. To a girl not of his choice.

Bhumi is sweet, vivacious but is plump, with a round face. She met Ayushman in an arranged marriage scenario and even though she is more highly educated, she felt he was nice and so said yes – to a family that is a little less well off vs theirs.

Sanjay Misra, with things not going well with the shop – the era of cassettes slowly giving way to CDs – is keen that his son marry her because it seems like she has a nice demeanour. And because she is a B. Ed, which means she will teach, earn money and be able to help with the household expenses.

After their marriage, she cant understand why he wont talk to her. Snide remarks are made by the family about her education. And Ayushman is a bit of a loser, a sulky one, directionless, resenting everyone around him, jealous of his friends success – when a friend comes and shows a pic of his to-be, svelte bride he feels its only to rub it in as his wife is overweight.

She’s trying her best – including buying new nighties, putting on English pictures on a friends TV / VCR to seduce him but despite her best attempts, he remains sullen, withdrawn. And then one day things get out of hand.

The first half is fantastic. The language. The houses. The by-lanes. The songs. The way they talk to each other – more the insults – Sanjay Misra always ready to use his chappal on his son, Bhumi’s younger brother calling her a chudail when she asks him how she is looking…

The second half completely loses its way – as usual, the director and script-writer don’t seem to know what to do with the lovely characters they’ve created, leading them to an unlikely, filmy climax. Ayushman is good, but his character isn’t someone you really want to be friends with plus you don’t really get what he is upto, why his thought process is the way it is or changes. Sanjay Misra and the rest of the ensemble cast really shine in their roles. But the film truly belongs to Bhumi Pednekar – she lights up the movie with her expressions, dresses, dancing, dialogue delivery…

If cassette shops, Kumar Sanu, arranged marriages at a temple / introductions by a priest, RSS shakha type meetings with men in shorts and a small house where the family sleeps outside on charpai’s mean anything to you, Dum Laga Ke Haisha is definitely going to be fun and will take you down the sweet bylanes of nostalgia.

PS : One of my pet peeves - if you go on the YRF website, you would imagine you should get the entire cast listed, especially if your film is reliant on excellent character actors...shouldn't you ?

Saturday, February 21, 2015


Rating : 8/10
Release Date : 20th February, 2015
Time : 107 minutes
Director, Writer : Damien Chazelle; Music : Justin Hurwitz
Starring : JK Simmons, Miles Teller, Paul Reiser, Melissa Benoist, Nate Lang, Austin Stowell

Has the world become too soft ?
Do we recognize anymore the effort, the hours, the passion that it takes to truly master a discipline, much less produce works of unbridled genius ?
Are we really prepared for the blood, sweat, tears that usually accompany such a journey ? Especially in the world of social media, political correctness, education becoming more a business, over-anxious parents and molly-coddled children, are we really even trying to produce geniuses ?

JK Simmons doesn’t have any of these doubts. He’s the renowned head of the famous Schaeffer Music School, New York. And he’s only in it to produce top musicians, using any and all means at his disposal –including the most awful physical and mental abuse you’re likely to see from a guru

Miles Teller is a drummer, enrolled in the music conservatory. Is from a middling background, product of a broken marriage, has a caring father, not many friends. He fancies himself as a musician. And is spotted, picked up by JK to be a part of the main ensemble.

Nothing prepares you for what follows. Simmons is the kind who preys on his students weaknesses. He pretends to be interested in a student, only to be able to use personal information to abuse you violently. And he relentlessly pushes, drives you to perform, excel…

Nothing has prepared Miles for this. He’s changing as a person. Redefining his relationships – including his loving dad (Paul Reiser) and a recent girlfriend (Melissa). He fancies his chances, even though the competition is intense and he is, at least in the beginning, only the understudy to the main drummer…

So begins almost a game of cat and mouse between the student and teacher. Its gripping. Miles evolves in ways we wouldn’t expect. The story takes a course we definitely don’t anticipate. And we are hooked, right all the way to the astonishing climax. Simmons and Teller are excellent in their roles, believable, epitomizing their parts to the point you can scarcely believe them to be anyone else. And the music, mostly jazz, is great too…

Like the luscious swirls of a bitter-sweet dark chocolate with a mysterious twist… you’re going to need to taste it to figure out if it works for you.. and, as most creative artists would prefer with their work, you’re going to either love it or hate it…

Friday, February 20, 2015


Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 20th February, 2015
Time : 134 minutes
Director, Writer : Sriram Raghavan; Co-Writer: Arijit Biswas, Pooja Surti; Music : Sachin-Jigar
Starring : Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Huma Quereshi, Vinay Pathak, Divya Dutta, Radhika Apte

A chance encounter during a bank robbery leads to unwanted, unnecessary death and a vicious cycle of revenge that lasts over fifteen years. Its not pretty, its not pacy and it most definitely doesn’t follow a path treaded by most Hindi films. However, not everything makes sense and it doesn’t really hold our attention all the way through, though the climax is interesting.

Nawazuddin and Vinay’s getaway after a bank job goes horribly wrong and results in the death of Yami Gautam and her young child. Nawaz is caught, jailed but not before he is able to let his partner escape with the loot. Varun Dhawan is the sadly bereaved husband, father, who’s world comes crashing around him. And the twenty year sentence given to Nawaz for his part in the robbery (he claims his partner did the killing, he was merely the driver), is not enough for Varun…

Kumud Mishra is the police inspector who hates an unsolved case on his record – especially as the cops are never able to track down the partner or the loot. Pratima Kannan is Nawaz’s mother, who can’t believe her son is a killer. Huma is Nawaz’s favourite call-girl, who also doesn’t believe he is a killer. And later in the movie, Vinay Pathak and his wife, Radhika Apte play a critical part, as does Divya Dutta as an NGO worker who works with prisoners.

I really liked Varun in this vengeful avatar – he hit the right buttons in a role outside his comfort zone. Nawazuddin does full justice to a role right up his street, especially in the closing stages. The ensemble cast is excellent. The music really good. But the fatal flaw is you don’t quite understand why some of the characters chose the paths they do – even if the end objective does make sense. And that can really make you wonder, even disconnect with what is shown happening on the screen…

Life can be cruel. Revenge can be salvation. And where better to find it than in Badlapur…

Monday, February 02, 2015

Visiting Faculty, IIM-Ahmedabad

Apologies for posting this so late

I'm currently teaching a course in IIM-Ahmedabad. The course is on innovation, is designed / conceptualized by me over the last year (has a unique twist to it) and am happy to have the renowned Prof Arvind Sahay (Permanent Faculty, Dean External and Alumni Relations, IIM-A) join me for a couple of sessions as well.

My first time teaching, have given several talks before on campuses but never a full course. Am quite enjoying immersing myself in this experience, talking to students, other prof's, attending some lectures, some pre-placement talks, joining in the various events happening around etc. And in the few breaks, am traveling across Gujarat, a state I haven't explored almost at all...

IIM-A also happens to be my alma mater so this makes the whole experience truly special

I will be back in my home, Pune, mid-Feb and will begin my reviews only after that

Many thanks to Reckitt Benckiser (and their brand, Durex), a company I've enjoyed working for, in joining / helping me on this journey

Apologies to my regular readers, hope you understand ! Regards, Love