Sunday, December 10, 2017

SHORT FILM Review: THAT GUSTY MORNING


It's In Assamese. But The Message Is Universal

Beyond stars

Link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9l_zNkftGo&t=53s


We Hide Everything. 'Take Her Inside!', 'What If People Get To Know?'

Jahnu Barua shows us a side of ourselves we do not wish to acknowledge. And the brilliant Seema Biswas is so perfect for the role, it made me watch again because the first time I watched it I could not see most of the film because I was bawling.

Now that's something because most films numb you to any sort of feeling. The romances are trash, the action is on wire, the story a single liner, the humor is plain forgettable and central conflict? What conflict? 

So back to This Gusty Morning. I don't buy that title. Am disconnected. Maybe there is a Assamese language metaphor or story that I'm missing here... 

The beginning intrigues. Why is this man erasing markings on what is clearly answer sheets of an exam.

The lighting, the setting is brilliant. Even the window clattering against the frame tells us that something is about to happen. 

The father-daughter conversation about not everyone is alike made me pause the film and call my dad just to see how he was. He asked what film I was watching now that I had called 'just like that'. Dads are smart. I waffled, and came back to the third watch of the film, determined that I would watch it without bawling as if tears were going out of style.

The Daughter Who Is Battling Demons Herself

How does a young woman who has an unwell mother and an older father fall in love and hope to get married? The young woman is a wonderful actor. Understated to boot. No nonsense like Hindi film heroines who need a soft focus lens on them at all times.

How many actors of today can do justice as this young girl has? I have not been able to think of one.

The Film Is Brilliant

I don't think star rating will do this film any justice. Just watch it. The lumps in your throat should make you realise how much can be said in a short film.



Friday, December 08, 2017

SHORT FILM Review: BULBUL


Trailer Was Terrible, But The Film Turned Out To Be Just Fine

2.5 stars

Hai Hai Yeh Trailer...

When we watched the trailer in the movie theater, there was puzzlement all around. Why is a seemingly grown-up person doing such strange things (climbs gates, wears a bizarre wig, ride a scooter into a shop) and is this a Bollywood film? With comedic sounds making the whole experience rather dumb.    

Turns Out, It's A Short Film

Bulbul is on YouTube. Chanced upon it when bingewatching short films to get over the ghastly offering by Bollywood this week.

Not bad.

No dialog!

A silly light bulb flashes above my head. That's why the comedy sound track. Before I facepalm and go on to the next film, the luminescent heroine stops me. I watch.

Obsessed With A Lad

She likes him. And she's going to do some really foolish things to get him. I sigh and remember the first time I had a crush and he left an orange ice cream stick in my office desk drawer. The whole office sniggered as the sweet gooey, sticky orange colored liquid created a gigantic stain on my new white levis.

I'm not confessing to the dumb things I did for love. 

I turn the sound down a notch because the comic sounds are grating on my nerves.

The heroine has very, very expressive eyes. And she does the pregnant act rather well. Heck, she even yawns prettily. The lad though is in love with someone else.

The Climax Is 'Dil Ko Chhoo Lene Wala'

Time sort of stopped for me when I watched Bulbul realise that hero cannot be hers. It is perhaps the most romantic scene I have seen all this year in cinema.

I swallow a lump in my throat. Art has indeed imitated life.

  

Review: FUKREY RETURNS


Nahi Waapas Aata Toh Accha Hota!

1 star

Mini Review:

The trouble with sequels is that they need to take the story forward
or put the protagonists in a new setting. Fukrey, the original mayhem
was fun because the protagonists were losers and yet they had a
knack of getting out of trouble. This film alas has none of the
original humor, the jokes seem forced and out of really bad
Whatsapp forwards, the characters have no redeeming qualities
and despite a bigger budget the story seems forced.

Main Review:

Fukrey had come out of nowhere in 2013 and hit every funny bone
just right. Two lads who are just not good enough for girls or money
or success. They team up with a young Sardar and a lad who has
overstayed in college. But then one of them dreams up of numbers.
They play the lottery and win big. They even manage to get the
attention of a bad girl: Bholi Punjaban. She bets on them and there
are drugs and more money and cops and mayhem that was fun.

In Fukrey Returns, Bholi makes a deal with a crooked politician
and comes out of jail with vengeance on her mind. Why did she stay
in jail for a whole year you wonder, but you let it be hoping she’d go
straight for the jugular. But then vengeance gets diluted when they
show dumb things like her henchmen are now traveling in an
auto-rickshaw instead of a car.

Kaali Naagin Bum Par He Kaategi. Because Cheap Laughs.

Meanwhile we get to see more closeups of Choocha’s (Varun
Sharma) body hair and acne/heat rash filled back in the name of
humor. Sucking snake venom off anyone’s butt (they’re defecating
in the bushes) is funny maybe if you are a ten year old.
And showing it twice is even more pathetic.

Pulkit Samrat, Ali Fazal and Manjot Singh had equal footage in
the original film. Their stories were fun. Here, they seem to occupy
the screen mostly having nothing to say or contribute to the story.
The heroines (Priya Anand and Vishakha Singh) too are now
cardboard cutouts and when they suddenly appear for the treasure
hunt (how did they know there was to be a hunt at all? The Lads
have not been in touch with them. And Choocha’s crush on Bholi
Punjaban is milked until death. Of the film that is.

Bechari Audience. Not. A. Single. Laugh.

Richa Chadda tries hard, but even she looks baffled at the goings on.
The super talented Pankaj Tripathi who plays Panditji, fails too because
he has to deliver really pathetic, unfunny lines. When will Bollywood
understand that speaking broken English is not comedy. Or for that
matter having African origin actors as henchmen and a dark skinned
guy giving mouth to mouth (again to Choocha who supposedly does
not brush his teeth for weeks) is more than insulting. It’s racist.   

All in all Fukrey Returns is like being offered water from Mantriji’s
pedicure bowl as a drink. It’s disgusting and it stinks.



(This review sans subheads appears on nowrunning.com)

Review: BORG vs MCENROE


FABULOUS SPORTS FILM. AWESOME IF YOU LOVE TENNIS.


3.5 stars


Mini Review:


The legend Bjorn Borg was supposed to be icy cool on court and
is still considered to be one of the greats. His on-court rivalry with
John McEnroe and the Wimbledon finals matches are a lesson is
tennis that is inspiring. This human face behind the two legends
is skewed in favor of Borg, but then Shia LeBeouf plays McEnroe
which makes the film a creepy watch. Or else this film would have
earned a couple more stars.


Main Review:


I’m  a tennis freak. Have bookmarked Roger Federer As A
Religious Experience by David Foster Wallace. I can miss
cheesecake if there’s Wimbledon on…


This film is about a lad who ruled the world of tennis since he was
15. Never got to see him play but the matches are on the net. And
the film catches him at his most vulnerable. When he wants to win
so bad, but thinks he cannot. And he’s beautiful. Sverrir Gudnason
as Borg has such a magnificent screen presence, we know they
had to cast Stellan Skarsgard as his coach. Young Borg too looks
so vulnerable, you want to wipe his tears away.


Personally, I just don’t like Shia Lebeouf. That’s why it is okay
to hate his guts as he plays John McEnroe. He doesn’t at all look
like young John McEnroe so his being in the film simply rankles.


That apart, I watched the tennis mesmerised, as if I had been
transported back in time. The overhead shots are mindblowingly
brilliant and watching the iconic picture of Borg on his knees come
alive on screen will bring you to tears, as it did to me.


Watching this is as good or even better than Rush or any other
sports movie. You don’t need to eat strawberries and cream (tho
it’s the weather for it!), just book your tickets and experience
Wimbledon for yourself.

(watch out you're not holding your breath too much. you'll feel
giddy emerging from the theatre like I did)

Review: DADDY’S HOME 2


Too Many Daddies Spoil Christmas


No stars


Mini Review:


Father’s kissing grown up sons on the mouth. Again. And again.
And again. Christmas gone wrong. Kids who are so badly
behaved you want to bring back the old fashioned paddling.
Moms are irrelevant because the film is about ‘Daddies’. This
is a broth called disaster. Drunk kids and ‘accidents’ with
chainsaws is not funny at all. For anyone.


Main Review:


Christmases gone wrong have given us really wonderful, funny,
heartwarming films (and I am including Home Alone in the list),
but this isn’t one of them. In fact, it is worse than the Bad Moms
Christmas that appeared a couple of months ago and vanished
in ignominy (as it should have).


This film has a gigantic checklist of everything you want to hate
about Christmas films:
  1. Fairy lights have to come crashing down.
  2. Snowman/men are built and heads will be chopped off
  3. Children get drunk on eggnog
  4. Grown-ups get drunk
  5. Grown-ups get angry and hidden thoughts emerge
  6. Someone hates Christmas songs
  7. Someone overdoes the decoration
  8. Someone thinks tree decoration is a pain
  9. Snowball fights
  10. Most loathed grownup gets hit during snowball fights
  11. Christmas tree crash
  12. Someone will get electrocuted
  13. Someone will slip in the snow, pants left behind
  14. The presents are age-inappropriate
  15. Kids will be really badly behaved.
  16. Christmas pageant at school is disastrous
  17. A Christmas carol/song will fix every problem
  18. Grown ups who fought will make up in the end
  19. Children who fought/were rude will turn new leaf
  20. Group hugs and/or songs as credits roll


Add to the list the strangest father son ritual: kissing on the
mouth making, ‘Mmmmm...mmmm...mmm...mmm!’ sounds.
It is certainly odd, but is it supposed to be funny?

If someone used this film as an excuse to mass shoot extended
families at Christmas, I would be the first one to pardon them.
The film is so bad it takes you in the ‘kill everyone’ zone.
Give this film a miss and have yourselves a wonderful Christmas.



Friday, November 17, 2017

Review: TUMHARI SULU


Sulu, Sulu Ka Husband, Sulu Ki Boss, Sulu Ke Co-workers
Sulu Ki Ideas, Sab Acche Hain!

3 stars

Mini Review:

Sulochana likes to compete, and she wins at most things. Whether it is a Pressure Cooker for a Radio Call In show or a spoon and lemon race at her son’s school. She takes a chance and becomes an RJ too. Her sexy late night call-in job alarms her rather middle class family and you’ll love her dexterity in handling them all. Delightful watch.

Main Review:

Vidya Balan is Sulochana. She’s a wonderful everywoman. Cooks for her husband and child while listening to the radio, singing along, does the groceries, and has a happy home until her family shows up. They’re not overachievers, but everyone is ‘settled’ at better jobs (in banks), better located homes, and everyone reminds Sulochana how she failed high school not once, not twice but three times.

While Vidya lashes out at her family ineffectively, practically everyone in the audience has instantly empathy with her. After who doesn’t have a family that won’t let you forget your flaws? Thankfully her husband Ashok, played wonderfully by Manav Kaul, is a great foil to her bubbly energy. They share such a wonderful relationship, you will want to call your spouse and confess your love to them. It’s very rare to see so much comfort between the two protagonists, and kudos to the writer/director: Suresh Triveni.

As Sulochana picks up her radio call-in prize, she notices this ‘You Can Be An RJ too!’ Her competitive instinct rises up and she asks, no demands, that she be given a chance. She wears a saree, she looks so unlike what you’d think a ‘cool’ radio jockey might look like, that you understand RJ Malishka (a real life radio jockey, who plays Albeli Anjali in the film), Neha Dhupia (who marvelously plays the head of the radio station) and Vijay Maurya is brilliant as the Radio Producer/Writer who at first hates, then tolerates and then falls in love with Sulu.

The best part of the film is now how Sulu finds her inner Helen to seduce the late night callers. It is not even Vidya Balan’s fight to doing what she thinks is right for her. It is not how her face is so expressive and her joys and sorrows and regrets are written in her eyes. The best part of the film could be her polite (but nasty) family, the lovely lady cabbie, the receptionist who juggles an angry argument with the canteen chap and politely answers the phone in the middle of that argument. The best part of the film is not how film references are made to Sridevi and Hema Malini. It is when Manav Kaul strips to seduce his wife. The whole sequence is so unique and so brilliantly done, that the song doesn’t intrude on our senses, it feels like a natural extension.

Then comes the part where there’s guilt, jealousy and you see the fun household falling apart. This is where the second half of the film gets really predictable. And you wish they had done things differently. But then, which housewife gets a job as an RJ? You are swept along with the tide, laughing and crying and laughing again with the ebullient Vidya Balan and Manav Kaul.

Yes, Sulu laughs a little too much and for too long, overdoes the ‘happy happy joy joy’ bit. But Vidya Balan’s talent shines through and you are happy to let the warmth of the film envelop you like your favorite quilt.  
 


(This review appears on nowrunning dot com)
           

Review: PANCHLAIT


Fake Village. Fake Villagers. Death Of The Small Film.

1 star

Mini Review:

Based on a short story by Phanishwarnath Renu, this film attempts to bring the simple village life from 1954 to life and ends up looking fake, worse than a high-school amateur hour. Unfortunately, the ensemble cast are stellar actors. To see them over-do the we-are-simpleton-villagers act is jarring.

Main Review:

Brijendra Kala, Rajesh Sharma, Yashpal Sharma, Ravi Jhankal, Malini Sengupta are all familiar faces. Character actors who have proven their mettle in many Bollywood films. They have the ability to meld into the character they play. Alas, the ensemble cast here just fails on every level.

The setting is like an antiseptic village. The village mud houses are too clean, not a single brick out of place. The ‘Mahto’ caste were at that time declared as a scheduled tribe and were not meant to be rich. Yet Yashpal Sharma’s house looks rather fancy, and wife wears colored lenses. Really? He has a straggly cow kept in the inner courtyard of the house. It looks like a village house, but it’s like a film set.

Why is Rajesh Sharma dressed up like a village version of the writer Phanishwarnath Renu (in an awful wig), no one knows. As a village bard, he gets to ham it up.

The less said about Brijendra Kala’s overacting the better.

The love story between the hero Godhan (played by Amitosh Nagpal who is so awful he plays the role as if he were inadvertently giving anti-acting lessons) and heroine Mundari (played by Anuradha Mukherjee who is through the film made to look like she were a pea plant - so many tendrils in her hair!) is so boring, you wish for the Spanish Inquisition to show up from a Monty Python show and arrest them for boring the audience to death.

That brings us to the story. The story is simple. Set in 1954, The village wants a Hurricane Lantern also called Gas Light or Panch Light (pronounced ‘lait’). The elders of the villagers buy one but no one knows how to light the lamp. They have outcast the one and only lad who could  because he’s an the outsider and because he’s a flirt and won’t comply with rules…

The film drags on and on, and you notice how when the hero and heroine are romancing their footwear appears and disappears at will, how everyone in the village is wearing brand new clothes carefully selected to look like what someone urban thinks villagers might wear. If the film annoyed you, it would be a good thing. This film is just so flat, so dull, you watch everyone as if they were a sleepy cow, who you’re hoping will regurgitate something and begin to chew again.



(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)

Review: AKSAR 2


Na Sar Hai Na Pair!

1 star

Mini Review:

The film is a ‘sequel’ to the 2006 film of the same name. Sheena and Ricky are in this film too, and so are the same convoluted plot about money, seduction and murder. While that film had memorable music, this one has nothing. It has pointless twists and in the end, you don’t care, but laugh at the terrible fare on the screen.

Main Review:

If you enter the theatre hoping to watch a possessive wife, a husband who wants out of the marriage, a lover for hire, betrayal and especially music that makes the nonsensical plot worthwhile, then you will be sadly mistaken. There is no Himesh singing, ‘Jhalak Dikhlaa Ja!’ or KK belting out ‘Soniye’. There is no Udita Goswami in her super svelte avatar emerging from the sea a la Bo Derek. No dialog like, ‘Aise kya dekh rahe ho? Aaj toh sirf barah din huye hain, kal tumhare pyaar ki teravi hai.’

You’ll discover instead the sleaziest kissing between Ricky (an expressionless Abhinav Shukla) and Sheena (Zarine Khan who distracts the audience from her dubious acting skills by wearing clothes and underthings at least three sizes too small). You’ll discover disgraced cricketer Sreesanth in a role of a lawyer as if he were a robot. He had more expressions when arguing on the cricket field. Gautam Rode who plays the Investment Banker, Patrick Sharma whose first audible dialog is, ‘Call me Pat.’ He tries so hard to be cool, you end up laughing. And you wonder why he has tears-filled eyes every time his lies are caught. In the lies is one more person, Bacchan Singh, who wanders about the house doing nothing but is dressed in a waistcoat. The weirdest part is that Bachchan Singh doesn’t blink.

They’re all planning to kill Dolly Khambatta for her riches. But if you saw the film you’d know that they want to kill her for her ghastly wig. It’s Lillette Dubey hamming it to the hilt in a grey wig leftover from some Gothic horror drama.

So chunky peanut butter keg, Sheena Roy and Ricky are lovers, plotting to get a foot in Dolly Khambatta’s door. Pat the banker wants Sheena because he gets her the job as the old lady’s governess. Sreesanth the lawyer is often found visiting the old lady. The old lady plays the piano and signs papers without looking. The creepy Bachchan Singh (Mohit Madaan) is in the kill the old lady and earn money plot. One by one characters die because everyone is trying to double cross each other. Of course Arijit Singh sings desultory generic songs that don’t leave an impression at all. By the time you realise how chunky chick’s bank balance got chunkier, the credits roll and we see chunky writhing in tropical sands somewhere. You leave because you could do with a proper meal.



(this review appears on nowrunning dot com)