Friday, December 18, 2015

Review: Bajirao Mastani

Moochein Ho Toh Bajirao Jaisi!

3 Warrior Stars

Mini Review:

You need a certain kind of mindset to swallow a story of Laila-Majnu, Romeo-Juliet, Devdas-Paro type story in 2015. But when the canvas is lushly painted and gorgeously framed, you grudgingly let the magic transport you to Bajirao's romance with Mastani.

Main Review:

Sheee! You think. Marathi people - who eat extra tame pohe - may not exactly know about 'die for ishq' type love and passion at the edge of swords. All the Marathi stories one has grown up is a 17 year old Shivaji and his 'mavle' who trusted him with their lives. No romance there...

So when you read 'Raaoo', and read about this impossible romance between a warrior king and a woman so gorgeous, her skin so translucent when she swallowed paan, you could see the red streaks sliding down her throat... It seems unbelievable because they lived in Pune. Pune, a city of retired folk. Not exactly created for romance of the 'let me die for love' variety.

But Sanjay Leela Bhansali strikes gold by adopting the same formula as he did in Goliyon ki leela...

Bajirao Peshwa turns out to be a mensch man... And his falling in love with a delicate yet strong woman seems so natural and plausible. 

Ranveer Singh does a superb job, getting into the character. He speaks Hindi with a natural Marathi accent. He walks like a warrior, his actions on the battlefield emphasize his status as a warrior, he has the demeanor of a manly man when he's teasing his wife, laughing, and yes... showering.

You see him bathing topless (except for the sacred thread) and in a dhoti with a copper lota, and feel the temperatures in the theater rise. He has a body that's so manly you know why his wife is standing there ogling him. Heck! Every woman in the theater was ogling him.

And he's in love with Mastani, Deepika Padukone. Warrior, dancer, princess. She's exquisite. No matter what she does. You can predict that brides will want to dress like her, wear jewellery like her and give up those awful colored pictures at holi for the superbly art-directed red only hands...

So their love story has a villain in the form of Bajirao mother (Tanvi Azmi), who takes an instant dislike to Mastani's presence. She loves Bajirao's wife Kashibai (Priyanka Chopra who seems to have curlier and curlier hair with every passing scene)...

There are machinations orchestrated by Bajirao's mom and punditjis... There are bloody battles and there are rivalry wale scenes between Bajirao's love and his wife... There is also a poignant scene between the wife and the hapless in love Bajirao... 

But you don't stop facepalming each time characters walk into water tanks, pools all over palaces. Don't they know they can walk around them? Don't their chappals squish afterwards? Don't they feel uncomfortable walking out wet from those water tanks and dripping everywhere?

But that's the weird part of watching a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film. His quirks show up and you want to drown him in those silly water pools everywhere in the palaces. But when Bajirao in his mad passion stretches his arms to Mastani who steps into the fountain, you forgive him even that...

You think I've lost it? Is this film only good because the gawdawful tacky Dilwale releases alongside?

When you see the work that has gone into the details, you begin to appreciate the awesomeness of the canvas in front of you. You will hear critics complain that it is aping Mughal-e-Azam. Mericifully this criticism is better than the tacky, 'Yeh royal bedroom hai, yeh royal garden hai' from Prem Ratan Dhan Paayo. Nowhere do you doubt the magnificence of the palaces and the events. The grandeur is understated but the colours the director uses are rich. There's no mistaking Mastani's royalty or Bajirao's Peshwai...

Oh yes, Priyanka Chopra gets to play the thwarted yet wonderful wife. She has some brilliant lines of dialog written for her, right from the dagger as sautan bit to the haldi-kumkum ritual ('Enough talk, put the kum kum now!' delivered brilliantly). The trouble was with the very low slung nine yards saree she is made to wear. Every time she appeared in a scene, I was worried for her. Her sarees were so low, I kept imagining a wardrobe malfunction. No matter how beautiful Kashibai is, I did not fancy seeing her buttcrack.

While the first half keeps you riveted, the second half seems to be shot with the screenplay in heavy chains. It drags and drags and drags. The little kids remain little, even vanish, and the older kid suddenly grows up. And of course the death... So prolonged and torturous, you want to jump into the movie with a 'Har, har Mahadev!' and stab Mastani and pray real hard for the ghariyals in the Narmada to gobble up the suffering Bajirao...

If you enjoy slightly poetic dialog about ishq, patriotism, war, and other such royal pursuits, then you will like this epic historical fiction.

If you want to crib about historical inaccuracies (widows did not wear white, the damned forts looked wrong, the palace was within the city and not so huge, there was no such thing as aaina mahal) then you are better off spending movie money on fusion food at a fancy restaurant which is less real but gives you the satisfaction of being called 'foodie'

I enjoyed the spectacle unraveling in front of me, hated the tame ending, loved Ranveer Singh's histrionic talent, was charmed by Deepika and awed by her swordsmanship, sighed over a delicious Milind Soman...And yes, the music was amazing, especially the version of Albela Sajan Aayo Ri! Makes you believe he is really is 'Albela'!

Did not regret the Marathi Talwaron kee Raas Leela at all... Two and a half hours well spent!

P.S. I fell in love with the scene where Bajirao throws his dagger at his younger brother Chimaji Appa and then after maroing a huge dialog about the dagger not missing its mark, but 'rishte beech mein aa gaye thay'. I loved how he politely asks him to f***k off in Marathi: 'Yaa ata!'


Review: Dilwale

Thank God For Rain

1 Super Star and 1/2 Chota star and 1/2 Gagswala star

Mini Review: 

The only star in this movie is Shah Rukh Khan. Him in a beard and a white shirt and blue jeans. And to add to the awesomeness, rain. He wins every wet shirt contest there is. He is just magical. That too without Kajol and everyone else in the film.

Main Review:

They said: It's a Rohit Shetty movie, what did you expect?
Me: Better gags.

I loved all the silly jokes and gags in Golmaal (and its sequels)... Puppy bhai Johnny lever, Dagga bhai Sanjay Mishra, and Teja the Snake tattoo man Vrajesh Hirjee to the awesome Vastav Sanjay Dutt throwback Vasooli bhai are the funniest baddies. The filmy gags with Mithun Chakraborty and Ratna Pathak, the politically incorrect blind-people gags with Paresh Rawal and Sushmita Mukherjee were simply amazing. I don't mind watching these movies on telly again.

Although the usual suspects appear again, they're not funny any more. And when they get beaten up, you want to add one more slap from your side...

Dilwale claims to bring back the magic of DDLJ and ends up looking like a cross between Josh and 'Hum Mafia thay, aur tumne mujhe Ramlaal bana diya!'

The gags are getting Sanjay Mishra to say silly rhyming lines with brand names added in just because. They're so terrible you cringe into your overpriced coffee: 'Something something Kya hai Bey, aaja khaa le McDonalds aur Subway' 

The humor improves to 'let's throw popcorn at the screen' level after the intermission. I did laugh loudly at Oscar - Sanjay Mishra's name in the movie - is made into a gag because it's an award...

I laughed when ex-Vasooli bhai offers different things to a sulky Kajol who is waiting for Shah Rukh to open the door. Also laughed loudly when he's called Poor Man's Jackie Shroff.

I also choked at the TV inspired gag that could have been funnier but then it sort of fizzles out when you realise that a picture of Sanjeev Kumar as Thakur in Sholay does not inspire anyone to say, 'Ramlal'... 

But laughing four times in a span of 2 hours and 38 minutes is not enough to warrant a whole star. 

That brings us to Varun Dhawan. His super comic timing was evident in Main Tera Hero and also in Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya. But here, he has terrific screen presence but the gags are very lame. 'Ishu (his girl Ishita) ke saath issue' is a joke that is repeated so often you want to say, 'Yaar kuch naya batao!' He should be given half a star just for the awful bright clothes he is made to wear.

Speaking of clothes, why is Shah Rukh wearing anything else than white shirts and blue jeans? His younger self (the story spans 15 years) looks a tad weird with so much hair and a face so super-scrubbed, it has to be cgi. When the bearded Shah Rukh shows up on screen there is a collective sigh that you automatically hear is the assurance of a hit movie. But no, his magic works best only when it rains and his white shirt... ahem... 

But that does not save the story: Bulgaria mein do Indian dons settle ho gaye hain (there are only Indians everywhere and no cops!), and the rival gangs ke kids fall in love. Both gangs kill each other and the remnants come to... Goa of the vomited colours! No prizes there. Of course there is a car chop shop, and everyone is trying to do the decent thing, despite the sudden fits of violence among everyone (loved, loved, loved the benign, sweet, dimpled Shah Rukh transforming into a angry don!)... 

Of course you want to see chemistry between Shah Rukh and Kajol, but it's like the Philips ad... the magic is gone. Kajol looks visibly uncomfortable in the role and it feels like she is merely going through the motions (so much so that she even gets off a cab without a bag... how did she pay for the cab? never mind. Rohit Shetty movie need not have logic). The only time you think they're awesome is when they repeat the most famous line from DDLJ... the last line of the movie. You come back home and watch the original again to wipe out memories of the loud, crass car-wreck of a movie.

But watching Shah Rukh in a white shirt and blue jeans, under a rain cloud is something else altogether. Paisa Vasool!


Friday, December 11, 2015

Review: The Peanuts Movie 2015

Stuck In A Time Warp

1 star

Mini Review: 

There's Snoopy and Charlie Brown and Woodstock and Lucy and Linus and every other character you have grown up loving. There's Red Baron and even the red headed girl, but the magic is gone. Even at 88 minutes, this movie is so burdened with nostalgia, it makes for a tedious viewing.

Main Review:

The rest of the world has just watched the brilliant The Good Dinosaur just last week. How can nostalgia and love for characters who have engaged you in a comic strip for years and years (even before one was born, in fact! in 1950) match up? Especially because all the character are doing exactly what they've been doing down the years?

Even the silly Kite-eating tree (made an appearance since Charlie learnt to fly a kite in 1952) is in this movie, still gobbling up kites (but without the eyes and the mouth). 

The lines are what you have read too! From 'Good Grief!', 'Rats!', 'You Blockhead!' and even , 'My sweet Babboo!' and they make you wish you had not seen what looks like a long checklist of all Peanuts popular bits.

Kiddies will not understand why grown ups start misty eyed (the opening credits did make me go, 'Awwwwww!' but the rest of the movie slowly eats up the goodwill built up through the years and makes you wish you weren't feeling so awful when it is over.

I was so exasperated with Charlie's bad luck, I realised we now want more from characters. Arlo from The Good Dinosaur makes mistakes, but we want to travel with him as he learns life's lessons (and we cry when his dad dies, and laugh when he defends the right to keep 'Spot' by naming him). With Charlie Brown, you just want to shut the book and read the next strip some other time.

Snoopy's usual adventure with the Red Baron and his story-writing gig on the roof of his doghouse just doesn't work this time around. Maybe that is why the makers had to add the year to the name of the movie so that people would think it is new.

They say, 'Do not look back!', 'Going back is a mistake'. I wish I had listened.