Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bajirao Mastani

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 4th December, 2015
Time : 158 minutes
Director & Writer: Sanjay Leela Bhansali (based on the book ‘Rau’ by NS Inamdar); Music : Sanchit Balhara;
Starring : Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Priyanka Chopra, Tanvi Azmi, Milind Soman, Vaibbhav Tatwawdi, Mahesh Manjrekar

The film is a visual delight – the sets, the camera angles, the costumes, the look – everything mesmerizes. Sadly, the story itself – a classic tragedy, in line with most of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s other films – fails to excite.

Deepika Padukone, Mastani, a princess from Bundelkhand, half Rajput, half Muslim falls in love with Ranveer Singh. The Peshwa. Especially after he and his army rescue her homeland from Muslim invaders. She falls for him so badly that she arrives as a ‘gift’, unannounced to his home in Pune, despite knowing that he’s married (to Priyanka) and has a kid. The conservative Maratha folk, of course, don’t accept her at all – led by the Peshwa’s mother, a sinister Tanvi Azmi and Vaibbhav (playing his younger brother).

What’s sad about the film is how two strong, fascinating characters – Mastani and Peshwa – are both shown losing their essence as they pursue their mad, crazy, unacceptable love. How a strong-willed, warrior princess becomes a weak supplicant, how a headstrong but wise ruler becomes almost an object of ridicule, not doing right by those who stood by him earlier, including Priyanka.

Deepika is iridescent. Illuminating. Flawless. Looks almost like someone not of this world. Ranveer, especially in the first half, is magnificent- his haughty walk, jerky movements and manner of speaking making his character come alive. Priyanka doesn’t get so much to play with but she does a fantastic job of the screen time she does get. Tanvi’s the show stealer – she’s ominous and exudes malevolence towards Deepika from the moment she sets eyes on her. Milind Soman is a surprise, is very good, as is Vaibbhav. The sets, costumes and colours bedazzle. The songs are good, though too many. And the second half could easily have had a lot of fat trimmed off it. However, special mention of the diction, the way the characters spoke - the lilting Marathi accent - was one of the most engaging aspects of the film.

What’s truly tragic about the story is that (if any part of it is historically true), then we lost two superb persons to petty jealousies, court politics and what is commonly practiced as religion in this country. The saddest part being, of course, that nothing has really changed in our nation.


Rating : 5/10
Release Date : 18th December, 2015
Time : 154 minutes
Director : Rohit Shetty; Writer : Yunus Sajawal; Music : Amar Mohile;
Starring : Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Varun Dhawan, Kriti Sanon, 21 cars that topple, fly and turn upside down, Varun Sharma, Mukesh Tiwari, Pankaj Tripathi, Boman Irani, Vinod Khanna, Kabir Bedi, Johnny Lever, Sanjay Mishra

The story doesn’t make any sense. Any. What is it about ? Gangsters or brothers or lovers ? The twists are so predictable that everyone in the hall feels clairvoyant. Even the dialogues are guessable, ordinary and hammy. And it’s stretched longer than the Great Wall of China – songs at every possible juncture – when lovers meet, separate or even think about meeting (or separating) – and an end that just refuses to come, but is a damp squib when it does.

If you still choose to watch it, you’re doing so purely for the star power of Shahrukh and Kajol – the film makers know it – and they make sure they really milk those scenes (pack them with oohs, aahs, trembling voices and lambi, thandi saansein). Apart from two memorable comic sequences (both in the second half), there is precious little to recommend in the film.

SRK used to be a gangster. Had something with Kajol but all that is now over, is the stuff of nightmares. Is now settled in Goa. Has a car modification business. Has two close friends / associates (Mukesh, Pankaj) from the past living next to him. And loves his younger brother, Varun, has taken care of him for the past 15 years. Varun loves his elder brother too. Falls in love with Kriti (a total PYT). And spends most of the first half trying to woo her with best buddy, Varun Sharma. However, can the past really ever remain hidden (in Hindi films)? With Sanjay Mishra, Johnny Lever trying to provide comedy with lame jokes and Boman Irani trying to provide comic menace as the local don in Goa, the film then goes around in circles in the second half before ending as you predicted it would fifteen minutes into the movie.

The best comic sequence involves Mukesh, Pankaj and the two Varun’s when they’re trying to ferret SRK’s past. A close second is Varun Sharma’s Pyaar Ka Punchnama-esque rant against women / dating. The rest is lame, very Golmaal-ish. And very loud - the film is like an overall assault on all senses.

SRK, for a change, looks good. Had been looking haggard, drawn off late. Kajol looks and acts like a million bucks. Dhawan Jr does what he’s asked to do (look cute) as does Kriti (look pretty). Mukesh and Pankaj are excellent, as is Boman in a tough cameo. The other cameo, a must in any Rohit Shetty film, are the multitude of cars and villains that fly all over – this one has more than enough of those but nothing you’ve not seen before.

You wonder how long the script took to finalize in films like these. And then you wish they’d cooked it a little more. It’s not terrible but just very ordinary and very stretched.

Saturday, December 05, 2015

Angry Indian Goddesses

Rating : 7/10
Release Date : 4th December, 2015
Time : 121 minutes
Director & Writer: Pan Nalin; Music : Cyril Morin;
Starring : Rajshri Deshpande, Tannishtha Chatterjee, Sarah-Jane Dias, Pavleen Gujral, Amrit Maghera, Anushka Manchanda, Sandhya Mridul, Nia Dhime, Anuj Choudhry, Adil Hussain, Arjun Mathur

This one is as much about the journey as the end (which I didn’t quite like). A few angry, frustrated (non-sexually) women get together in Goa and vent, heal, laugh, chat, discover some answers to the challenges life throws towards females in our country before a plot twist changes things fundamentally.

The women are from wildly varied walks of life, despite most having been college mates. Pavleen, the married housewife, who has some of the funniest lines, is a mild, peaceful sort – got married in the flow of things (parents) and feels sometimes that instead of the varmala, she actually put her college gold medal around her husband’s neck, as she didn’t do anything with her talent after that. Anushka is a singer, trying for Bollywood but relegated to doing tours in hotels etc, where she doesn’t exactly encounter the crème de la crème – her music career isn’t really going anywhere and she’s more than a little depressed because of that.

Sandhya Mridul, the fiery one, runs a mining company and has balls of steel – tearing papers up in meetings, firing people left, right and centre. She’s also a single mom and is equally fierce with her young daughter, Nia. We know very little about Tannishtha, apart from the fact that she is an activist and fiercely opposes one of the mining sites that Sandhya’s company is involved with. Sarah-Jane is the one who’s got everyone together at her place in Goa – she’s a photographer who’s chasing her dream and is holding certain cards close to her chest. Amrit, her half-Indian cousin, a British national, is trying to make her career in Bollywood as an actress – sometimes with hilarious effects. And last but not the least, Rajshri is the maid, a bit of a ball crusher (literally) but also has a soft side and a bit of a past which can make her see red very quickly.

You get the usual issues – restrictions on dress, unequal split of chores, marriage, exploitation, Section 377, how the victims of sexual crimes are viewed – and a few new ones. Most of it’s interspersed with giant dollops of humour (the rain dance between the underwear clad Amrit and the sari clad Rajshri, the conservative reactions of Pavleen, including the epic ‘Yaar, tum karte kaise ho ?’, the reaction to the sexy neighbor (Anuj) washing his car, and the frail bai who washes their clothes), which ensures the film rarely has a dull moment, also thanks in part to a great music score.

However, ugly India does intrude into their idyllic vacation, rearing it’s ugly head in paradise – some molesters in the middle of the film and the reactions of Adil Hussain, a cop, towards the end. I don’t think the final plot twist was necessary – it left me with a sour taste. Also, some solutions (the mining debate, the parenting style, the viral video) were all too pat, too easy, a bit contrived. And the last scene in the church is more than a bit filmy, would’ve ended very differently in real life. The performances were very good overall – Amrit, Rajshri and Pavleen especially catching the eye, while Sarah-Jane is quite enchanting in an under-stated role.

It’s well-paced, neatly strung together – moments of emotion, pathos nicely balanced with fun, laughter. Instances of anger mixed up with moments of just being. Quite nice to get the woman’s point of view too – especially since it came via a man (writer, director Pan Nalin).

PS : Rant Coming Up : Here, right from the opening credits you know you’re in for censorship butchery. If it’s an A film, why do any swear words have to be beeped out ? Are all adults in India not exposed to colourful cuss words of all languages ? And what was this whole drama about blanking out the images of Indian gods, goddesses – even in the opening credits – beggars belief ? The frequent cuts really do intrude into the atmosphere created by the film. About time the Board realizes it’s there for certification and not censorship.

Good Dinosaur

Rating : 6/10
Release Date : 4th December, 2015
Time : 93 minutes
Director & Co-Writer: Peter Sohn; Co-Writers : Erik Benson, Meg LeFauve, Kelsey Mann, Bob Peterson (original concept); Music : Jeff & Mychael Danna;
Starring : (Voices Of): Raymond Ochoa, Jack Bright, Jeffrey Wright, Frances McDormand, Marcus Scribner, Peter Sohn, Steve Zahn, AJ Buckley, Anna Paquin, Sam Elliot, Maleah Nipay-Padilla

This one just about passes muster. The humour is middling, the central message (overcome your fears) delivered in too straight-forward a fashion (and repeatedly), the end predictable. It’s the interplay between the human kid and the dinosaur that engages, along with the quality of animation (truly top notch).

Young, weak, scared dinosaur, Arlo (Raymond Ochoa), loses his loving dad (Jeffrey Wright) in a Simba-esque moment. And has to grow up fast, finding his feet during an unexpected journey away from home, as he battles and later befriends a human critter (Jack Bright) who’s been stealing their corn.

On the way they encounter longhorn herding dinosaurs, rustlers, pterodactyls who are eyeing human prey, and, of course, the vagaries of Mother Nature. All the while trying to get back to his family – mother (Frances McDormand), brother (Marcus) and sister (Maleah).

The music score is quite ordinary but the visuals are anything but. The scenes in the water, above the clouds or atop a mountain are stunning in their realism. But the very average storyline and dialogues ensure the film will appeal only to really young ones.

One really interesting aspect, though, is the way the dinosaurs are organized – Arlo’s family are farmers, another family (Sam Elliot’s the father) run a herd – while humans are essentially shown as scavengers. If the meteor crash hadn’t wiped out dinosaurs, would that have been the way the world would’ve evolved ?