Friday, April 17, 2015

Review: Mr. X

Mr.Xindia without Mogambo

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

Comparisons with Mr.India are natural and you wish there were a big, bad Mogambo for Mr.X to defeat. But it turned out to be a fun, corny take on something you have seen before. 

Main Review:

The heroine is too thin to do a sensual Kaate Nahi Kat-te Din Ye Raat, so they have a watered down (literally) kissing thing in the shower. 

That out of the way, let me go back to the original lament. There is no big, bad Mogambo who has big villainous plans. So the hero is merely doing the badla thing for people who made him do bad stuff. Give me missiles ready to go off and destroy the planet, give me colorful acid baths, give me hungry tigers ready to make a meal out of hero's mother and sister and unsuspecting villagers... But I digress.

This movie, offers you totally out of context dialog from Mr.India. Now imagine you are in an episode of MST3K where you watch Emraan Hashmi but the dialog is from the original movie... The crowd scenes, the mall scenes, the police Maruti cars are Indian, but the moment Mr.Hashmi and his thin girl get home, we are transported to 'foreign'. But as Mr.India says, 'Ghar... Ghar ke aage balcony...Balcony ke aagey garden...Garden ke aagey samundar!'

The special effects are 2015, so it's fun to see Emraan Hashmi appear and disappear. But after a while they forget what makes him appear and what disappear and that makes you laugh into your nachos and you spill salsa.

I wish this movie had not taken the whole revenge for the wrongful death thing so seriously. Mr.India was so much fun! This is all 'I want to kill them!' Get's tedious after a while because there are only 3 people to be killed and they're practically sitting ducks. So your mind wanders off into the weird science museum in your head, and you ask questions like: How come he is fully clothed when he's invisibile? How come the gun he's carrying is not affected by it? If he's nothing but vapour, then can he lift real objects? Can he make out? 

Then you laugh out loud when he's earnestly telling his girl that his life is now crap because he can't live a normal life, cannot have kids... and he's moved to a half shadow half light scene where the lower portion of his body is invisible! I'm sure they didn't intend this to be funny... But here I was, laughing so much the left over salsa was spilt again. 

Arunoday Singh makes for cute bad guy, but someone needs to tell him that he's not Hulk, and he does not need to stomp his feet quite like what he does during the last fight...

I'm sorry for the spoiler that he's the villain. But when one of the bad guys called Tiwari who drives a Mercedes suddenly starts speaking in Bhojpuri, you realise that this movie is now cornier than Kansas in August.

Wait for the movie to show up on your TV. I like Emraan's earnestness. But seriously, all the songs he sings in all his movies now sound similar. 

It's a very tiring 125 minutes spent. There are twists and turns to Mr.Xindia you have seen in so many movies before, you don't even need google maps to check.

And yes, there's no Mogambo. 



Mani Ratnam Makes Magic Again!

3 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

It's a simple love story. And it is tough to do simple. Especially when you have a jaw dropping filmography weighing you down. But Mani Ratnam and AR Rahman make such beautiful magic, you come away happy.

Main Review:

When was the last time you wanted to fall in love again after you've watched a movie? Not if you've seen plastic heroines faking seduction to gym built heroes in most - no, all - movies you have seen. Songs that draw attention to 'Chittiyaan Kalaiyaan' are really showing you barely covered arms (see the gesture at the start of the refrain, you'd be tempted to offer her a bar of soap!) and all that the women seem to want from the men is shopping and movies.

Not to take away from the popularity of these songs, here I was, watching a Tamil film aided by subtitles making me wish I could really, really understand enough of the language to comprehend the original lyrics. But the subtitles made me cry, 'I asked for water, and you gave me nectar'... touched my cynical heart and made my coffee salty...

AR Rahman's genius is also seen as his little son sings a prayer and Mani Ratnam's magical eye takes us sightseeing in Ahmedabad...

What is surprising is that both the hero and the heroine have real jobs. She is an architect and he's creating a computer game. I grinned to myself when I remembered beautifully manicured long nails belonged to Kareena Kapoor who is supposed to be a surgeon. (Remember that movie? No? Good! You are lucky!)

The dialog of the movie is like a game of ping pong. He (Dulquer Salmaan) says something wicked and flirtatious, and a normal heroine would say, 'Chhi!' to that. But this heroine (Nithya Menon) isn't any ordinary heroine. Her smile is infectious and her eyes are so full of mischief, she says something so wicked it stumps the lad! Now imagine that repartee in a Mumbai local... If you were a mami overhearing that conversation, mama would either have an extra spicy rasam served to him for dinner or you'd be burnt to cinders out of sheer jealousy!

I was jealous. Not just of the easy love they shared, but I wished I were younger and sharper and smart like the two leading young things. This movie shows how Freedom is not just a word, the two young people have actually tasted it. What it also does is make you fall in love with Bombay all over again. I may never ever feed pigeons, but I will take that double decker ride, that much I know.

Of course, in order to show Bombay as a thing of beauty, Mani Ratnam takes many many liberties with the geography (she's walking past the contemporary arts showroom and emerges from the subway near aram vada pau in CST). But who cares! You are stuck on the kissing song. Or stuck on Bhavani aunty (Leela Samson) and Ganapathy uncle's (Prakash Raj) love!

To tell you the truth, I forgave Prakash Raj all the awful OTT villain roles he has played in just about every movie we have seen, because he plays Ganapathy uncle so beautifully and I'm so tempted to tell you that I audibly sighed when I heard his definition of love. Imagine wanting to hug Prakash Raj as we have seen him in the movies... Go see the movie and you'll be a convert too!

This review has gone all over the place, I know. And I started by telling you it's a simple love story. It is. It just affected me in the way a trip to, let's say, the Louvre will affect someone who grew up reading about not just the about Mona Lisa, but Arcimboldo and Delacroix and Raphael and Michelangelo...

So just watch the film (preferably holding hands with someone you love). And if you watch it with similarly soppy girlfriends, or alone, then make sure you call the lads in your life and say, 'OK Kanmani!' even if they don't understand Tamil.

Thursday, April 16, 2015


So disabled people want to have sex, then what?

1.5 stars

Mini Review:

Kalki can act. But the story is so single dimensional, you realise the milk of human kindness inside you is all dried up. There should be more to disabled people than this need for sex, no?

Main Review:

Let's say you and I talked about our sex drive all the time, imagined anyone and everyone of the opposite sex was actually wanting to have sex with us when they but smiled at us as they crossed the street, if we constantly looked up porn sites, cheated on our lovers, we would have no friends left and we would be labeled as sex maniacs or perverts and a film made on us would be relegated to sleaze town. 

This film surely raises the uncomfortable question about the existence and acknowledgement of a disabled person's sex drive. But it cannot, should not be all that the movie is about, isn't it? 

Remember the delightful movie Yellow? The movie is about a little girl who is mentally challenged who loves to play in the water and goes on to win a silver medal at the Olympics for disabled people. Yes, it makes you uncomfortable when you wonder how it would be to have a disabled child at home, and how support comes from unsuspecting sources. The uncle in Yellow scores way more than Laila's mum and Khanum put together.

Here, you can see the effort the actor Kalki has put in, even if you have not seen tv and net clippings of 'making of', 'inspired by', you can nod your heads in approval. This is truly good acting. Heck, Eddie Redmayne got Oscar nominations for his stint in the wheelchair. 

What drove me insane was that the story was stuck on this one need for sex. Laila is desperate for sex. Nothing else. She gets a chance to study at NYU, and she reaches there with her mom who makes sure she has an attendant, and food and that she's comfortable. What does Laila do? Think of sex. You want to box her ears and say, 'We got it. Padhai karo!' And a logical part of you is asking: Wasn't your heart just broken by Nima? You came away to a foreign land to get over that heartbreak. How did you forget so easily?

There are some gorgeous mother-daughter moments: from combing hair to arguing to laughing together. But every time Laila calls her mom, 'Aai', you are reminded that Revathi does not look like Marathi mom from any angle. Why didn't they simply call her 'amma'? It wouldn't have taken anything away from the story.

That brings us back to the story. Laila and her sex life. She has found a lover who is also studying at the Uni. But we see a montage of the discovery of sex and togetherness as though it has never been seen before. Yes, the cynical bit inside your head reminds you to label it 'Festival Circuit: Award Bait' It's 2015 and a lesbian sex with a disabled person will still draw eyeballs. Never mind that 'Blue Is The Warmest Color' has still not found release in India.

By the time Laila's sexual bits turn into tears, you have no empathy left. You just want the selfishness to end. It doesn't. She's dating. Even though her clothes are so cute and her ear-rings pretty, you want to throw something at her for making her bereaved dad go through the drive and the carrying so she could look cute as she begins to love herself and drink Margarita with a straw. 

There should have been something more than sex to Laila. Maybe it would have been as good as Yellow. Maybe more people would have seen the film and not just lustful old men who want to nudge-nudge-wink-wink... 

P.S. I hated myself for thinking that she's going to touch her father inappropriately when he's grieving...


Isme Action Hai, Emotion Hai, Romance Hai, Drama Hai! 
Basically, Russell Crowe Ne Banayi Huyi Hindi Film Hai!

2 stars

Mini Review:

Hollywood is watching so many Hindi films, they are now making masala movies. The only thing that possibly redeems this khichadi movie is that it's a delectable visual feast. 

Main Review:

If you expect Rakhi to show up saying, 'Russell! Mere Karan Arjun waapas lao, we would not be surprised. There'd be Dev Anand of Hum Dono doing his Major Verma thing (here the Turkish Major Hasan) with Russell Crowe singing Kabhi Khud Pe Kabhi Halaat Pe Rona Aaaya...

There would be 'Aaankhon hee aankhon mein' between the gorgoeus Bond girl Olga Kurylenko and Russell Crowe. And if Bollywood had had held stronger sway over the story, we would see Olga's son pray a la Kuch Kuch Hota Hai...

This World War 1 story takes Russell Crowe to beautiful Turkey, and yes, there's a delicious scene filmed at the Blue Mosque. This scene does more for tourism in Turkey than any movie shot there. Speaking of the visuals, the colors of this film are so seductively rich, you will forget this is a war movie. The reds of the fez caps and the jackets, the emerald greens of the clothes, and the delicious light in which the scenes have been shot make even the khaki that the soldiers are wearing wonderful...

The heroine of this film is so gorgeous, you forget this is a war movie. You want to hold your coffee cup and ask to be served a strong, sweet brew...

But as a movie, everything that happens is like a jigsaw puzzle, there are no surprises, no googly that hits you smack in the face... It's a movie you might watch on a romance channel on a lazy Sunday afternoon or if dubbed with Hindi dialog, then on a comedy channel...

In spite of the predictability, Russell Crowe in his first effort as director creates such compelling visuals that you wish to wipe the beads of sweat off his bare back or feel hatred for the Greek bandits, something that Vidhu Vinod Chopra's Broken Horses could not do, despite the movie being Chopra's 10 the directorial venture.

Watch the movie when it shows up on cable... And I'll go look up romantic tales of coffee and Turkish women... 

Review: COURT

Jaw Drop! Court Chaalu Aahe!

3 and a 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

Just when you think movies have become formulaic, along comes a film that does not insult your intelligence, keeps you riveted to the screen, makes you pay attention, and makes your jaws drop as you watch judiciary in action. Watch this film.

Main Review:

They say that once you are caught in the rigmarole of courts and the law, you could spend a lifetime extricating yourself. In astrology too, they say that Saturn casts it lumbering, testing shadow only for seven and a half years (the 'sadhe saati'), but once you get on the wrong side of the law, there's no escape...

Keeping that in your mind, you watch the story unfold in the most non-descript court you have seen. So ordinary and so evil, you wish for the comfort of the courtroom theatrics you have seen in Hindi movies like Damini, Meri Jung, Shahenshah, Insaaf Ki Awaaz, Kanoon, Justice Choudhary, Vishwanath and more... You want lawyers to present evidence dramatically and with a flourish, you want to hear them say, 'Me Lord!' and yell, 'Objection!'...

There is, alas, no drama here. But you watch helplessly as the court insidiously chips away at logic and reason and takes cover behind the most ridiculous laws. You watch the law go after a folk singer with the same cruel certainty as a child's fingers would slowly pull off a dragonfly's wings...

Initially you are quite zapped by the aimless shifts from the goings on at court to something that makes you think, 'What the heck is this?' And then you get it! And you delight in the wickedness of the director. He is deliciously evil as he plays with your emotions and makes you get into every character's head and then turns you upside down when you see that the court remains inhuman even though the characters are all too vulnerable and like the person sitting next to you on the bus...

This movie could do with better subtitles. But the subtitles add to the ordinaryness of the days in the lives of the men and women in the justice system.

You must watch this movie simply because it is a unique piece of cinema. And also because it could happen to you some day...

Friday, April 10, 2015


Cover up. Seriously.

(you looking for a rating?)

Mini Review:

Breasts in feathers heaving, dialog dripping in double entendre, legs spread so far apart you wonder if she walks funny, and you'd laugh if you weren't puking into your popcorn upon hearing the faked orgasms...

Main Review:

There ought to be Rajasthani sand that should never really come out of their unmentionables is the thought as I grit my teeth (ha!) and watch as clothing begins to disappear from the leading lady (and the men on screen) before you can say, 'Sunscreen!'

It's a skin flick. Don't doubt that. 

She has breasts that are continental.
Insert orgasm sound here.
She has legs to rival Grace Jones in A View To A Kill
Insert orgasm sound here. And a grunt.
She has a body that contorts more than a yoga master.
Insert orgasm sound here. Call a chiropractor.
Her painted nails wander all over men's bodies.
Insert orgasm sound here. 
She's been reincarnated the story attempts to say.
Insert orgasm sound here.
Everybody is after her body, they say.
Insert frenetic orgasmic sounds here.
Between hearing orgasmic sounds attempt sarcasm: her acting is so bad, she needed to be born again and again until she can say a damned sentence right.

Sunny The Sleaze Leone might be a tad interesting had she covered up. Why would you pay 250 rupees to see body parts gyrating on screen AND compete with bodies like Rahul Dev who claim her body, her eyes, her color to be theirs when you can see it all and more on the net for free?

PS. Those orgasmic sounds are not made up. They are in the movie. Apologies for using the word 'Insert' so many times. As Sunny says in the movie, 'Agar asaan hota toh...' *puke*

Review: Dharam Sankat Mein

Brilliantly Written, Slips In Execution

2 stars

Mini Review:

There are two stars in this movie: Paresh Rawal and Annu Kapoor. Their interaction is brilliant. Everything else needs a God to save it.

Main Review:

An official adaptation of the British comedy 'The Infidel' Dharam Sankat Mein fails to make a strong argument against the religious rituals and practices as OMG did. Neither does it make you cringe (I did) or squeal with delight (other people) as PK did. It falls through the cracks in execution. 

The saving grace? Paresh Rawal and Annu Kapoor.

The two are neighbors, a little bit like Grumpy Old Men are thrown together because one needs the help of the other. It's a tough thing to swallow that all of a sudden Paresh Rawal actually asks Annu Kapoor for help and how quickly that help is given, but you are glad when you watch the whole segment unfold in front of you. Their friendship is so wonderfully shown, you are willing to forgive Annu Kapoor his role in Shaukeens. You are ready to forgive Paresh Rawal's lame caricature of a family and a role similar to his OMG avatar.

What you will not get over is Naseeruddin Shah hamming. Again. But as someone sitting next to me said, his last good role was the dead dad in Jaane Tu. He gets worse than his Sona Spa cameo here. Even in his supposed best Jaane Bhi Do Yaron, he was upped by Ravi Baswani and Satish Shah. He's awful as Neelanand Baba and chews up footage rapidly. The character is meant to be OTT, but hey, Mithun Chakraborty did a better job in OMG. 

So let's get back to the best part of the movie. The writing. You know you'd like to read the script because Paresh Rawal has brilliant asides so casually thrown in, you miss it because you were paying attention to the Pulp Fiction cushion in the room (how did that get in there?) 

You also love how Annu Kapoor delivers his Urdu zingers. In your head you practice saying,' Joseph aur unki jauza mohtarim jab jahaaz se jazeere par utare toh zalim jalaal apni zaleel soorat liye zanjeeron mein jakda khada tha!

I could go on, but the movie descends into a familiar mess of religious wrongs which are more platitudes than anything else. A desperate need to pacify rather than take head on issues that are promised when a Hindu man discovers that he is born of a Muslim mother. The conflict could have been greater than just a conversion ploy. The story demanded that the audience know Paresh Rawal's yearning to know his father who is still alive. The need seems so forced, you want to be like the wife and go away to her brother's house (go home and watch OMG on dvd). 

Murali Sharma as the mean maulvi does a great job. But his stammering end is not convincing enough. Paresh Rawal's lovelorn son is funny at first, but you pray Neelanand baba's larger than life cutout falls on his head. The others are simply predictable. And that's a terrible thing to do to your audience. I wish they had spent more time in 'getting to know weird and wonderful rituals of the other religions'... Maybe the time is still for the dull 'watan parasti'. 

The part time atheist in me loved Paresh Rawal's dialog,'Dharm chaahe jo bhi ho, topi zaroor pehnata hai!' That's brilliant, simply brilliant.

Thursday, April 09, 2015


If it ain't broke...

1 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

So the story of Parinda has stayed with Vidhu Vinod Chopra for years and he remade it in Hollywood. The cowboys and Mexicans faux Western tries so hard, you wish he had friends who told him, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.'

Main Review:

Vincent D'Onofrio in a Nana Patekar role? You settle down for a five star cinema. The movie begins exactly as Parinda does. Night over cowboy country (In Parinda the night sky over Mumbai). Good, you think. And you hope for the same madness, the same violence, maybe more, because cowboys are sharpshooters and scenes with cool cowboys like the knife wielding James Coburn are etched in your brain, the same brotherly love, the same... What The Kabootars is that? They have begun speaking. Slowly and deliberately. Is this for real? Is this version of Parinda meant for ESL students? 

And then you wish to find solace in the moody visuals. But the super begins to bother you. 'Fifteen years ago' ... Since when, you ask. But you are distracted by Kishen, I mean, Buddy, driving a sedan. Where are the pickup trucks? What red-blooded American cowboy drives a sedan? Why are they driving SUVs like the mafiosos? Those are not 15 years old... But the movie theater they work out of looks at least a hundred and is located in Belen New Mexico  - a town used in the Johnny Depp starrer Transcendence. Now you are confused. 

The badly named Mr. Hench does not own horses, or a ranch or does illegal mining. He doesn't even accused of gun running, human trafficking or smuggling cocaine (something movies and tv shows set in the Mexican border towns have taught us). He just gets Buddy to kill 'bad' people.

You wish there was a rivalry like Moosa and Anna here with someone better than Buddy to defend Anna... Like Suresh Oberoi... But the Mexican Moosa is tame and his smiling henchmen who shoots polaroid pictures of dead men is so not convincing, you want to get into the frame and ask the Mexican Moosa why they aren't using their cell phone cameras?

Did I say cell phones? Yes, the cowboys bandits have cell phones. Don't ask. I was trying to like this Western Parinda. Dammit! The seagulls that fly in formation at the beginning of Pocahontas are more convincing. It gets worse when you think that the curly top violin playing American Anil Kapoor is actually the retarded brother. (Apologies for all intellectually challenged people.)

The interview scene is straight out of any musical audition you have seen on tv or in the movies. But nowhere do the auditioning characters say, 'Don't call us, we'll call you.' Jeeeeejus! Isn't that understood? Did firang Anil Kapoor expect to get the 'Ticket to Hollywood' and a hug from the judges? Come to think of it, a song even like that would have helped in making us feel better about the ghastly characters and the director's penchant for Americana.

An old fashioned tape recorder at the interview, the polaroid camera, the old movie theatre with a black and white film flickering on the screen in the background are pushed at us again and again to tell us how American the movie is. Not to forget the stetson... All at the cost of the story. You remember that even a kiddie flick like Home Alone used movie footage to propel the story forward. Here all these things are just a sign of the movie trying too hard. 

And they are still speaking as though English is alien for the audience. Boss, we have come to accept Salman Khan do the flamenco dance steps to Maria Maria, why shouldn't we accept Americans in Hawaiian shirts in Mexico? But we were promised Parinda, and we get this wannabe. Of course it doesn't 'pump up the jam' as the cool Khan would say it, but we love Govinda's footwork in this song. Desi isn't always bad, mister Chopra... But if you wish for a cowboy song to tell you that, here it is: If It ain't broke, Don't fix it

PS. You may not be a Nana Patekar fan but you gotta admit, his mad final act in Parinda is way better than Vincent D'Onofrio's pale imitation. 

PS. As Anna says, 'Dhande mein koi kisi ka bhai nahi' waise hee yeh movie Parinda ka bhai nahi, pale imitation hai...   

Thursday, April 02, 2015


Dibakar Banerjee Ki Aankh

3 stars

Mini Review:

Very, very stylish whodunit, but in the tradition of Raj Khosla/Guru Dutt's CID. It's like a stew, cooked over fire for nine hours. Tad long but the details will delight you. 

Main Review:

It's a whodunit. So there are red herrings (should I say 'Ilish' since the movie is set in Kolkata?) and blind alleys and you want to be the one who has figured out who did it. But it doesn't matter because Dibakar Banerjee takes you on one heck of a tram ride through the Kolkata of the 40s. 

But before you book your Kolkata trip, here's some preparation. Make a list of people you would want to go to the movies with. Then delete the ones who claim to be sharper than the TV show with Cumberbatch and co. Ruthlessly delete from your list the liars who claim to have seen all 'noir' movies and read all detective books (even Surendra Mohan Pathak ones) and have seen the Rajit Kapoor TV show. Also delete the ones who want 'edge of the seat' excitement (send them to watch Fast and Furious running in screen 3). Keep those who want to enjoy the unraveling of a story without saying,'Mujhe pehle se maloom tha yahi khooni hoga!'

If your friends are like mine - too well read, too smart - then please don't feel sorry for yourself. Book that single ticket. You won't regret it.

I have given it three stars simply because I absolutely, positively hated the end and I do wish our filmmakers would stop being members of a fan club of a certain Hollywood director. It was teeth-grittingly over-done. The rest, aah the rest...

No other director can make you watch a slow moving tram from one side of the vehicle, show you (without getting inside the tram) what is inside the tram, and then also make you watch fascinatedly at the road behind the trams and the alleys even further. And this is just the beginning of the film. You are hooked by the time you meet Byomkesh Bakshy (I actually wondered why no one did to Sherlock Holmes what Ajit Bannerji does to Byomkesh when they first meet.) 

So there is a murder to be solved (oh come on! whodunit hai, murder scores over diamond heists any day), and you get pulled into watching people eat, live, sleep, wear dhoti the bengali way, pull the slatted windows shut without getting off the bed, wear shawls, watch cars and people navigate through Kolkata, watch Bakshy babu hold his dhoti to step aside and walk around garbage, watch college rec room events, stare at the railway canteen cup of chai and alu-bhaja (you will want to eat that big steaming wedge of masala potato which Byomkesh carefully pierces with his fork instead of the popcorn in your lap). 

When red herrings sidetrack the detective, you feel frustrated. When He's seduced into losing his logic, you want to step into the frame and help him. You also know that if you did, you'd be sidetracked by the things on the make-up table, the paan box, the kitchen, the people...

What a cast! Not one out of place. Sushant Singh Rajput and his unibrow are so believable, you instinctively trust him. Anand Tiwari is perfect, so is Neeraj Kabi. The other lodgers at the boarding house, the cops, the politicians, the femme fatale, the damsel in distress, the minor cast (the job hunter, the chemist, the factory guards, the gardener) are also memorable. But the coolest of the lot is the old cook and general dogsbody. He's a reminder of the family retainers that are fast disappearing -- always ready with a thali full of teacups, or alu-bhaja (french fries) -- those who know so much more than they let on...

There is an undercurrent of quiet humor that is ever present, and even when you are smiling at the factory guards you notice that Byomkesh is wearing the pants that belong to the coat Dr. Guha is wearing. You will also love how the servant steps over something towards the end of the movie. Smiles thus induced offer you relief from the consistent action. No, no! This is Kolkata, it is never fast and furious. But the director keeps you glued to the action on screen. Even if it is the lodger pleasurably sinking into the chair after eating paan.

Some will complain about a couple of far-fetched plot points, but it's a murder mystery being solved by a college dude... give yourself a break. Yes, the end was so annoying you want to take the katana and those cigarettes and slash and burn the fan club.

The end credits are beautifully done. Wait before you head out. Dibakar Banerjee ki aaankh for detail will make you a confirmed fan. And yes, I googled pictures of the femme fatale after coming back home. She's something else...

P.S. Sushant Singh Rajput is a good actor. And despite the unibrow the director has given the lad, he's droolworthy.


Friday, March 13, 2015

review: NH 10

Highway To Hell Has Potholes

2 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

Suspend all logic and say, 'Wow, what a role!', 'What revenge!', 'What acting!' but then you're probably paying homage to the production house. Rest of us scrambled hard to find empathy initially but enjoyed the revenge, nonetheless.

Main Review:

If you have grown up watching the angry young man beat up men three times his size and bundle them into an ambulance; if you have seen (and enjoyed) scrawny heroes batter big SUV sized henchmen and made those films 100 crore hits; if you don't mind the mindless blowing up of cars and storage units and buildings in the name of revenge in movies, then you'll love this movie. And you'll want to give it all the stars you've saved up.

So let's say I give this film five stars. But it wants desperately to stay away from the popular 100 crore club color and unbelievable action-song-romance drama. So you begin to look at the film closely. And you soon knock off a star.

Can't keep their hands off one another (in dialog at least, seduction wise) couple Arjun and Meera (Neel Bhoopalam and Anushka Sharma) reluctantly arrive at a party and instead of being glued to each other (puke inducing reality be damned!), party practically separately. The husband is so lame, he lets the wife drive off alone. I think, 'There go your chances of scoring any with the wife forever and ever!'

But this is an arty movie. Maybe she likes her men lame and socially inept.

She presents an understanding of the rural India mindset, and one is impressed. But the husband continues to annoy the audience with his, 'Main in sab ko dikhaata hoon.'

You don't delete one star for foolhardiness, you drop the star because that fancy SUV the two lovebirds drive has no phone charger, and their smartphones have no map assist. 'Oh come on!' you say, 'Eden Lake was made in 2008 and they have Google Maps and the woman advising the couple to 'turn around at the earliest'.

And the husband is shown to make it a habit of leaving without his phone. Erm... How many men today wander even two feet away from their phones? This is not a Rohit Shetty film where a cute, horizontally challenged child steals the hero's phone to type 'meet me' messages to the heroine... This is an art film.

The four star film without a phone map wanders into Haryana where everyone knows how to write 'randi', is a smartmouth, and lawless enough to beat a runaway couple in full public view with baseball bats. This four star movie tells us that people get shot in Gurgaon for asking baddies to pay toll, but the village baddies have no guns, not even desi kattas. And you believe the same production house made Gangs Of Wasseypur? This pothole in the highway to hell made me scratch out another half star.

This three and a half star film now limps around when the hero decides to play Singham without the muscles (and cojones) and go after the baddies. I missed Rohit Shetty here. The slow arty scene with the mentally challenged marigold chomping Chhote brought in sharp focus Adam from Eden Lake. Which was creepier? As proof, I take away yet another half of a star from the movie. How not original this is!

The baddies chasing, beating, injuring the hero and heroine is fun only because you realise you don't care whether the hero and the heroine live or die. Going by the characterization, one expected the fiesty Anushka Sharma to intervene in the fight rather than the lame husband. The 'bad guy slapped me so I'll chase them down and scare them with my gun' is such a daft idea...

But foolhardiness pushes the story forward. Not. We are still lost in the jungles, going round and round (you are so fed up you want the chasers and the chasee to find each other), finding brilliance occasionally (the quarry scene) but you grit your teeth again when the fauji (super acting by Ravi Jhankal) accepts drinking water from a Bihari. For a hugely casteist film, how did they overlook that? They tell you why a Bihari cannot stay within the village, but he can offer water to the upper cast baddies? Oddly convenient that...

That made me scratch out another star from the film.

The two and half star movie finally shows up for what it is: a facepalm worthy homage to Kill Bill. The yellow jacket and the dragging iron rod.

I sigh. But I enjoy watching Deepti Naval steal the whole movie from under the heroine's nose in that little cameo. That is the one point of time when the heroine sits on the bed, clutching a pillow, when I felt scared for the heroine. 

The end is predictable because Uma Thurman dragged the Hanzo and so should Anushka...

I wish this had been a regular chop-schloky fun masala movie like Dabanng, I would have happily forgiven its potholes and enjoyed the bumpy ride. It could have made other heroines want to jump on the action bandwagon. But when the director decides to keep it gritty and arty, then the judging is harsher. It's not original, it has too many obvious mistakes, and the empathy for the heroine seems forced.  

Eden Lake, the Micheal Fassbender and Kelly Reilly movie that inspired this movie is far creepier and superior in its story telling. Watch the trailer here and see for yourself. You will be afraid of 12 year olds forever. But NH10... Sigh... It only raises a feeble voice against the unfairness of patriarchy,  and after two hours, you are wondering how corpses with head wounds on tv shows bleed so much and why the husband in NH10 did not bleed at all...

the Kill Bill inspired scenes, story idea borrowed from creepy revenge cinema like Eden Lake and even Last House On The Left 

If you can watch scrawny heros beat up twenty guys in a regular chop-scholky film then this film is stupendous. Let's say you swallow a whole lot of disbelief and then watch the film

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Review: CHAPPiE

Bots Not To Love About Chappie?

3 stars

Mini Review:

From R2D2 to The Terminator and Wall-E and Eve, we love Robots. And this gangsta robot may come across as a spinoff of Robocop, but has so much heart, you too will fall in love with Chappie as I did.

Main Review:

The movie is set in Johannesburg, South Africa and those not used to the Afrikaan accent /Sowetospeak, will appreciate the subtitles. That said, the story of robot police saving the city from the looters seems like a repeat of Robocop.

But wait! There's Dev Patel... playing the nerd again (nervous, hesitant The Newsroom role flasback) and there's one robot who turns out to be like Johnny 5 (again an Indian nerd owner/maker) of Short Circuit. 

('Dammit!' you think, when you watch Dev Patel do the nerd thing and give his robot real artificial intelligence by programming, failing, re-programming and failing again. 'It just took a short circuit to make Johnny 5 alive, didn't you see that movie?')

In spite of those references of all the robot movies you have seen, Chappie gets under your skin...

I was touched not just by the innocence (Chappie and the stray dog... Chappie says, 'I've got blings?') but by his learning of 'people's ways'...

I was reminded of Pran when I watched how jaw-dropping awful the villain gets. He's vicious with that circular saw. He's vicious with a remote control. He's vicious in his office guy avatar. Yes, I'm talking about the sexy, awesome hero until now: Hugh Jackman.

But it is Chappie who has so much screen presence, you want to take him home...

Watch this film and discover a part of your heart that is still alive and drenched in the milk of human kindness...

p.s.: there is a superb list of robot films here:


Review: FOCUS

Focus Induces ADHD

1/2 star

Mini Review:

Will Smith does not look like the fresh prince any more. The coolness just looks forced and Margot Robbie tries too hard to sizzle. The result is, that the audience would rather focus on their phones...

Main Review:

I must apologise for using the disease 'attention deficit disorder' in a headline, but I couldn't resist it. I spent a whole lot of time wondering why Will Smith looks so battered by time, you wonder if he'll just turn into dust like an unwrapped Egyptian mummy exposed to a mere breeze. He's 46, wiki tells me, and then I'm distracted by lists of con films on the net.

Yes, everything from The Sting is listed. Why is this film attempting to be so cute? Will Smith teaches her all about stealing from people by stealing her ring, her purse, her ring, her shoes, her ring, her sunglasses, her ring. her scarf, her ring, her watch, her ring... I hope you get the picture... And they're doing this on a snow-covered street.

I lose focus because I realise if the hero of a Hindi film were teaching the heroine to steal, or if there was a crowded street where heroine was pickepocketing people's watches and wallets there would be 'jhumka gira re' for distraction, not cleavage.

Now I don't want to sound like our CBFC and object to cleavage, but you'll be so irritated with that constant erasing of sounds which CBFC thinks are harmful to their (and our) collective sensibilities that you begin to lose focus again and check facebook statuses of friends of friends...

meanwhile, here's ten con films you ought to have seen:
(in no order of preference)
The Sting
American Hustler
Ocean's 11
Matchstick Men
The Grifters
The Flim Flam Man
A Fish Called Wanda
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Color Of Money

Thursday, February 19, 2015


Badla Did Not Pour, It Sort Of Drizzled. 
And Slowly.

2.5 stars

Mini Review: 

That a Hindi movie is based on a proper story is like a movie critic's wet dream. Also true to form, the story stretched to kingdom come... But Varun Dhawan is HAWT!

Main Review:

'Rejoice!' The critics are saying, 'Rejoice! There is a STORY in a Hindi film!'

'Chaa gaya yeh Nawauddin!' say people in the audience. 'How funny and wicked he is!' (You will hear people laugh and guffaw at Nawazuddin's antics in the theatre)

And I'm thinking, in Ugly, you felt the immediacy of the incidents, the sense of danger, you hated the characters, you wanted the missing kid to be found, you were aghast at the crassness and ugliness everywhere. Then why didn't I feel that the hawt lad Varun Dhawan could carry the flame of revenge, of hatred inside him for 15 years?

Why did I fail to laugh at the antics of Nawazuddin? Why did I imagine this was Shamitabh each time he ate up that footage preening in the mirror with shirts that tried just as hard as him? He stands in front of the mirror and shakes his head to fix his hair. Snip! Snip! Cut it out, man! Seriously, I used to be a fan of Amitabh Bachchan until he started selling the Rann Of Kutch and then I wanted to sell the damned Rann to anyone who'd save us from that voice. Nawazuddin and his preening was so often you hoped Bipasha Basu would come out of the mirror and bite his head off...

This movie had covered 15 years plus. I wanted to see the Badla.

Yet you heard people in the audience say, 'So twisted! So dark!'

You want to show them a picture of Steve Buscemi smiling and show them what twisted and dark could be. 

Yes, Varun Dhawan proves that he broods beautifully. And sizzles while doing so. But why did his hawtness (love the way he looks when he crosses the street) make me reach for the Fast Forward button on the invisible remote control?

It seems like a spoiler to say this, but if one is going to stalk someone, shouldn't the victim be terrorized slowly and then the fear reach a crescendo? Gawd knows Radhika Apte has the saucer eyes made for fear. And Varun Dhawan's body language is so bang on, you don't want him to smile that knowing smile (the trailer shows how wonderfully scary/creepy he can be). But when Nawazuddin spouts his hundredth wisecrack, or shows how he was best student at acting school, you want the usher in the theater to throw his torch at the screen. Because you have seen plastic sheets in Dexter on TV, and barrels of money in Breaking Bad. 

And you want to tell someone, 'Boss, this idea of about-to-retire cop taking bribes to fix his nest egg is older than Danny Glover and Mel Gibson's Lethal Weapon...

But Varun Dhawan is hawt! So it's okay to ogle at him in a hard hat staring at steel drums in the warehouse, play fooseball in that warehouse while drinking cutting chai with the cop (Ooh! How arty is that?!). He's so hawt, you don't wonder what his job really is, or what happened to his parents and hers, you don't wonder why the floor tiles of his Badlapur house are so new but the walls are distressed...

I loved Varun Dhawan's creepy bedroom scene with Radhika Apte (I cringed at his hand slamming the cupboard)

But then there was so little of this Badla. All we saw was Nawaazuddin watching TV, Nawazuddin washing clothes, bathing, sleeping, being vicious, preening, mocking, jeering, spouting lines here, being nasty there... And then, oh gawd, they make him saintly too. 

Yes, my apologies to the lady sitting next to me, because I puked a little in her open bag after I saw that... 

And yes, I would have happily clapped had Varun killed Nawazuddin's girl, his mom, his pet goat... But I am glad that he didn't because the director would have given us more of Nawazuddin: His grief, his tears, his funeral face, his mad laughter upon discovering the grisly revenge murder of his girl, his mum, his goat...

I know that Nawazuddin is a good actor, one of our best, but without restraint, the character just ended up being a caricature. I wanted to sandpaper the smirk off his face as he sandpapered the chair in the end...

And when you see the timeline of the movie, you just sprout grey hair, unlike Nawazuddin's mum (who doesn't age at all), or his girl (someone actually thought that when a girl cooks bhindi, she's older)... Oh! Sorry! The goat dies (sorry about the spoiler, but even I couldn't keep the animal alive for thaaaat long!).

The pace of the story is so inconsistent, I think I saw Varun Dhawan's beard grow.

You do want to see 'Jee Karda' on screen when the credits roll, but you can get that on the net these days or on cable. Might as well go home or Nawazuddin might come back on screen saying, 'Maine khoon nahi kiya!' and you'd be stuck for the next 15 years. Again...

I tried to like Badlapur. I really did. The whole movie was trying so hard to build an atmosphere, and every time I thought it was good, Ugly reared its head and said, 'I did it so much better. Naturally and easily!'

As junta is wont to say, 'Varun ka 'Badla' was great when it was creepy. Lekin Pur(a) fillum mein Nawazuddinich tha.' 

Or 'Badla accha tha, lekin Pooooraa sade do ghante pakaya!'

P.S. I am not being mean to this movie. I'd rather you wait for the movie to show up on your TV, so you can do other things when Varun stirs his coffee slowly... But if you do see the movie in the theater, tell me if you found the shot of Varun walking with the hammer stuck in his jeans (on the butt) like a gun, totally funny...




4 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

A story about a crazy teacher and a talented student and Jazz drums? What's not to like? Music that will reverberate through your senses and performances that will blow your mind. This is a must watch.

Main Review:

JK Simmons certainly deserves the awards he has been nominated for, and more! As a teacher at a music school who pushes the students to excellence, JK Simmons and his fabulous hands (the director pays homage to them by shining a light directly only on the hands) and bald head (although Patrick Stewart makes a wonderful case, the last time a bald headed man made an impression on the audience was Yul Brynner in The King And I) make a lasting impression.

And his student, the young Miles Teller plays the bright, eager student beautifully. 

The music the teacher and student create together is incredible. 

Here is a sample!

I hope you are listening to it as you book your tickets.

I staggered out my head and heart caught swinging to the extraordinary paradiddles and flams and pataflaflas and expert flam drags...

p.s. The movie isn't rated five stars because the story is predictable until the last twenty minutes and then you have plunged into incredible music and you don't care...  

Review: WILD

Walk Therapy 

4 stars

Mini Review:

It's the most beautiful countryside where there are more trees than the Sun, and more stars than sky at night, and they help you battle demons inside you... This journey is so brilliantly recreated for film, that you need to watch it all alone, and soak it all in.

Main Review:

The Aborigines have a word for it: Walkabout. You step out of your comfort zone and walk into the wilderness and learn to live with the elements, tracing songlines of your ancestors, growing up... You cover miles and the physical effort is jaw-droppingly huge, but the real journey is the one that's happening inside your head...

Reese Witherspoon walks 1,100 miles through the Mojave desert in California on the Pacific Crest Trail all the way to Ashland and Crater Lake and Mount Hood in Oregon to come to terms with her life.

She's not some superwoman or a health freak or a record hungry nut marking a checklist of trails covered, she is just a woman who discovers the life between a sunrise and a sunset. 

What struck a chord with me was how she learns to come to terms with grief and everything related with it. 'I'm more alone in my real life than out here,' Cheryl says to a fellow traveler. And you sit in the dark theater alone, awash with tears when you hear the still gorgeous Laura Dern admit that she's been a mother, a daughter, a wife but has never ever been in the driver's seat of her own life.

This movie is not meant for the average 'Here we are now, entertain us!' type of audience. There's Leonard Cohen and Simon & Garfunkel and the loneliness inside. 

The trail resonated with me personally because I have taken shorter treks on the same trail like all tourists to after the Ashland Shakespeare Festival. It suddenly showed me the difference between car-campers sitting around the campfire with 'smores and the quiet single tent occupants who seemed to be lost. The movie simply makes you realise how little we know about ourselves and how important it is to learn to live with ourselves.

Yes, 'Alone' is a place that exists and it's a place you can be yourself - battlescarred, sad, mean, amazing, loving, lonely, happy, unhappy - but be yourself.

This movie is an adaptation of the book on the journey of Cheryl Strayed, and it will move you more than you will ever realise. It shook me and made me cry, and not that single tear cry, but a break down in the theater bathroom and blubber all over your tea cry.

Go see for yourself and when you hear Cheryl Strayed say, 'The useless days will add up to something. The shitty waitressing jobs. The hours writing in your journal. The long meandering walks. The hours reading poetry and story collections and novels and dead people’s diaries and wondering about sex and God and whether you should shave under your arms or not. These things are your becoming.' you will emerge from the movie smiling.

Friday, February 13, 2015

Review: ROY

Roy is a slow, pseud dude!

1/2 star

Mini Review:

This is a pretentious movie that drags its feet from location to exotic location to spout immeasurably trite dialog feigning philosophy. Basically, a yawn with an accent.

Main Review:

Girl with impeccable red lipstick accent does yoga on the beach. Man with fedora follows her. Sits down next to her.

'Yogaa, haan?'

He looks at the sea for two minutes. 

Then looks at her. She's still doing yoga.

She says, 'I'm going in three days.'

He stares at her for two minutes. Then stares at the sea for two minutes.

'Three days, haan?'

She stares at the sea for two minutes.

'Yes,' She says.

He stares at the sea again. 

Then he looks at her, 'Can you make that four days?'

She looks at the sea, and imagines herself with Roy. He's telling her about khaamoshiyaan between the two of them.

He's staring at the sea too. And imagining himself with Roy as well...

Alas, the last sentence is what the audience is hoping would be true. It would have made the movie so much more interesting.

And the incessant soundtrack which sings, 'Tu Hai Ke Nahi!' reminds us again and again that Ranbir Kapoor is just Arjun Rampal's alter ego, a figment of his imagination, whatever. 

You have stopped caring and are counting snores and heckling in the crowd.

And yes. It's not just pretentious philosophywise. They even have Arjun Rampal a film director who churns out blockbusters about bank robbers sitting down on a typewriter a la Kerouac, cigarette dangling from his mouth. Do not miss the bathrobe and he's still wearing the hat, and he's poured himself some single malt. But this happens right in the beginning of the movie, and that's why I was awake enough to read what desi Kerouac was typing 'cigarette dangling ON his mouth' as he types out his screenplay.

Of course there's a thought provoking dialog where Arjun Rampal says, 'Yeh film kaise ban gayi?'

It's been over 2 hours. The audience is wondering too.

P.S: The 1/2 star awarded to this movie is for Jacqueline Fernandez who pronounces 'Kabir' (Arjun Rampal's name in the movie), 'Kuh-beeh!' without smudging her lipstick.

Thursday, February 12, 2015


This Love Charger Will 
Drain Your Batteries!

Rating: (Really, now!)

Mini Review:

For 197 minutes, you'll gawp at his clothes and his shoes, and groan at his 'miracles' and songs, then emerge from theater with all your batteries drained. 

Main Review:

Buxom lass rips vest open and says, 'See!'

Oh Yes! We see! You want too laugh, but your laughter is strangled by the next dialog: 'Main Tayrrorist Hoon, Pitaji!'

That's when you notice the green and red plastic thingys connected to wires on the vest. Pitaji is a sant. So he hasn't noticed anything else except the vest.

You imagine Shah Rukh and Karan Johar in the audience saying, 'Dekha! Khan is not the terrorist, Muskaan is!'

All kinds of terror is wreaked upon the audience in the film. Unless you are drunk or tripping on what MSG would call, 'Galt' substances.

Pitaji as the Sant Gurmeet Ram Rahim Singh Insaan is called in the movie, converts alcoholics and drug addicts to respectable citizens with a rap song. 

They then agree to marry ex-prostitutes now called Shubh Devis (whom Pitaji has saved from goons and brothel owner). 

There are people donating blood, donating food, donating their time planting trees for him. 

Pitaji is so good, he saves eunuchs and gives them the 'Third Gender' status just by writing to the government. 

Pitaji saves visitor Alice (pronounced 'A-liss') from a hissing cobra who gushes around Pitaji, 'Aapko jab bhi dekhti hoon main pyaar karti hoon'. But she's not the only one. Pitaji has two betis who say they always 'masti karte hain' with Pitaji. Before you facepalm, they are distracted by A-liss who now begins shooting a documentary (sometimes with a still camera, sometimes on video) of Pitaji.
Seeing this, people dance and Pitaji sings a song.

Pitaji even cleans up Delhi and wants to clean the Yamuna. Pitaji even puts his finger down a farmer's throat so he can spew out the 'spray' he drank to kill himself. Pitaji makes water appear in dry wells (Ajit Pawar cannot repeat his famous comment in Sirsa). 

Pitaji spots gunman in a blind man's dark glasses, and shoots his hand without turning around. People dance and Pitaji sings a song.

Pitaji reluctantly agrees for a security cover because the politician politely requests him to. Pitaji makes tea for the neta and takes award winning pictures of eagles in flight and paints fabulous canvases while wearing poster red three fourth tights. Die JMW Turner, die! 

Pitaji invents a new Game called Gul-stick, which looks and acts like Gulli-danda but borrows from Baseball and Cricket. (We want to know more, but Pitaji hits the heck out of the same baddie who tried to shoot him). This poor man's Vin Diesel - as a fellow critic christened him - gets shot, beaten, his limbs, spine fractured, but is never out. He survives on parathas at the villain's house. The villain is a local politician called Chillum something who hates the fact that people are clapping their hands and Pitaji is singing a song.

But Pitaji is more interesting. He drives the coolest cars, and his harmonica is so lethal, bad guys are decimated by the sound.

Pitaji encourages girls to take self defence lessons. Pitaji knows the world is a bad place despite his five crore followers. 

Pitaji encourages people to chant a mantra that defeats a baddie who has a gas spewing snitch from Harry Potter movies. This is after he has sung a song.

Pitaji has the funnest blue gleam that makes bikes fall into holes. Pitaji waves his hands and electrifies the gates of his ashram to prevent baddies from entering the premises. Of course Pitaji beats up all the baddies by freezing them and thawing them one by one. 

People chant his name and Pitaji bursts into another song. Pitaji makes a magic potion that de-addicts people. That's why Pitaji has Five Crore followers. (They say the number so many times, I thought you should hear it from me as well, so you would empathise with me).

Oh yes, his followers chant his mantra and Pitaji, overwhelmed with emotion, sings a song.

Then we come back to the buxom lass who has just confessed to Pitaji that she's wearing a bomb, and Pitaji spends the next half hour asking his five crore followers if he has done anything galt by stopping alochol and drugs and dolphins and prostitutes and bad guys and made people donate blood and food and plant trees and invent gul stick, and ride cool vehicles and wear bling clothes, and make magic potion and the five crore people (and us in the audience) chant his name. But this time he doesn't sing. He flies with the unstoppable bomb vest and his five crore followers are relieved that unlike Batman, he lands safely on his two bling feet.

This melts the hearts of all the baddies and they chant his name. But Pitaji just raises his palm like a hairy laxmi and rays of blessings shower down on everyone.

We are too dazed to ask if the Don of all Sydney baddies was converted too, but maybe that's in the next movie.

So is this really a movie? I don't know. All I know that the vest scene will stop Ridley Scott, Kathryn Bigelow, Clint Eastwood from making movies with bombs in 'em.

Harley Davidson might have to manufacture motorbikes that self immolate especially for Pitaji's rich followers.

We will see Salman bracelets and MSG bracelets compete for sales in Sirsa.

Rohit Shetty will refrain from making cars explode and fly.

Sonam Kapoor will be replaced as fashion icon by Pitaji and will be endorsed by 5 crore followers.

Drag queens all over the world will lay low on the bling should they see this movie.

Imelda Marcos will never appear in public again because Pitaji beats her hollow in his choice and number of shoes.

And you will all want to hug Leela Samson and company when you hear Pitaji raise his hairy arms and ask you to join Dera Saccha Sauda because he will never ever leave you. You too will think that this is a conversion video. 

A Rockstar is born with this . You might want to hit yourself with a rock for choosing to see this movie until you see stars.