Saturday, October 31, 2015

My Annual Pilgrimage Begins: The Mumbai Film Festival Day One

The Second Mother (Que Horas Ela Volta)



and... Titli

The moment the festival catalog drops into your lap, you know you are done in. Cinema from around the world at your doorstep. All you have to do is step into the dark, cool theater, and forget about 500 other people breathing in the same joy that you are feeling.

I hugged the catalog, forgetting that there were two strangers in the elevator that took me up to PVR Juhu for the first film of the day. The strangers looked away at so much weird pda...

I stood in the rapidly snaking queue, and i tried to distract myself from the practically non existent air conditioning by imagining i was part of the 8 bit snake game.

Just when Deepa arrived with her catalog and delegate pass, the hitherto orderly queue for The Second Mother suddenly disintegrated. Show cancelled!

But the young girl at the door was rather poised. She directed people nicely to other shows.

Deepa and I looked at each other and realised that the Universe was sending us a sign:



Drove across town to Regal and drowned the wait in Chardonnay.

If Closed Curtain (Parde) showed us an angry, bitter Jafar Panahi, what would Taxi be?


'We need to feel like we are with him in the taxi,' was a prompt from Vikarm and we knew it was an excuse for sitting right up front in the theater. 

I saw a wicked side of the director, mocking the system with a calm strength... 

'Ohhhh, mister Panahi! You driving a taxi because you cannot make movies any more!' 

okay that's telling you too much already!

Watch the film! And then as you emerge marveling at his chutzpah, you get a call from your local jack sparrow, 'Madam! The movie you asked for is not yet in single, but you can watch it in combos!'

You choke over the coincidence.

'Sordid Realism' is a phrase you add to your vocabulary. 

Taxi was a brilliant, brilliant start to day 1 at Mami!

Dibakar Banerjee's Titli was playing at INOX and who could resist this week's Bollywood release?

'Why did they name you Titli?' The new wife asks the young man.

'Why do we need to see every member of the family brush, gag, gargle, spit?' I asked. 

'Why don't I care about the fate of any of these 'low-life', 'down and out lads attempting to live a life of crime', 'high on life violent lads low on cash'?' 

The second half of the film manages to instill some purpose to these pointless lives but then I had stopped caring (the five women in the row ahead left before the intermission).

Ranveer Shorey is phenomenal, and so is Amit Syal. You want to like Shashank Arora, but cannot. The Bhabi and the dad are far more interesting. But all of them lacked the real ugliness that we saw in Anurag Kashyap's Ugly.

I loved Ugly. It made me believe that we can be really that. Here, it was like watching cockroaches die after you have sprayed them with insecticide. You know they are going to die, and you'll have to sweep them on to the tray and dump them. You just don't know when they'll succumb.

Thank goodness there was Aligarh to go back to.

Regal had a huge huge line of people outside and the last person in the line explained: They're letting only celebs in.

Someone, and thank goodness for that someone, said that it was a line for those who did not have tickets. Deepa ran ahead and checked. She waved at me frantically, and whew! It was indeed a queue for those who did not have tickets.

The young people from Book My Show scanned the bar code on the delegate passes, and we were in! The best thing ever! With the films booked through until Sunday, looking through the text messages was a nightmare!

Yes, yes, the screening was delayed. By celebrities arriving late ('We are waiting for the theater to fill up' the poor MC announced). Manoj Bajpayi introduced the crew on stage and finally the screening began. But not before you wondered why no one on the stage mentioned the name of the professor whose life story was about to unfold on screen.

The disclaimer stated that this was fiction.

Manoj Bajpayi just took over our lives for the next hour and a half. His loneliness dominated the screen like a living thing. Every gesture, every look, every defeated step he took, every lock and latch on his doors and windows, every song he sipped every evening stayed with you. 

You ventured out of the movie into the darkness of the night helpless at the way things are. But on the journey back home, you did not sink into the comfort of air-conditioning in your car. You rolled down the windows and let the hot air assault you because you could still feel claustrophobic from those cage like apartments Manoj Bajpai lived in. 

The movie is slow and the courtroom scenes grated (they were necessary, but after having watched 'Court' not too long ago, the melodrama was tough to take)...

Manoj Bajpai in his introduction mentioned how he has spent years on stage. The camera stays so up close to him in the movie, that experience shows! He also says that Rajkummar Rao wasn't even born when Ashish Vidyarthi (plays the role of his lawyer in the film) and he were working the stage, and boy! That shows too! Rajkummar Rao seems like a rookie here. 

The movie stays with you long after you have come home. So do the songs. And Manoj Bajpai's very mood. Even when he is embarrassed, shy, in despair, exhausted, lost in thought, snoring, asleep, unable to find words for what he's feeling. 

In the movie, he laughs at young people who express everything as being 'fantastic, fabulous, cool, superb, super and awesome'. I think these words sum up his performance.

'Me maz harapun basale ga' is an old favorite Marathi song. Manoj Bajpai trumps Asha Bhosle's rendition. In fact, he's so good, I'm hearing it right now as I get ready to take on another wave of marvelous cinema at Mami Day 2


Saturday, October 24, 2015


Spectacularly Baaaad!

2 stars

Mini Review:

It's Vin Diesel! He is here to save the world from seriously evil witches with the help of a good witch and a priest. Even though the story is cheesy, it is accompanied by some spectacular special effects, which makes the movie a fun watch.

Main Review:

After smarmy romances of witches and vampires and lycans, it is fun to watch a bad movie about witch hunting.

Vin Diesel is so good with the green screen! The special effects are really cool. I especially loved the magical bakery and the baker who wanders about bottles of beautiful butterflies...

I loved the set of the haunted tree. And had you seen Manhattan turned all green and luscious, covered with creepers, the cars junked because there is a forest growing on the road, you too would have fallen in love with it. The witch queen wasn't terrible after all, you'd think. She actually turned the concrete jungle into something green... With creepy burning branches for hands, and worms crawling in and out of her body one is supposed to be afraid of the witch queen, but one is not. Her need to rule the world seems not too valid. After all, if you are going to kill everyone on the planet, who will you rule? 

Thankfully, Vin Diesel is there in really natty suits to save you from certain death. There's some fun magic in the bar that we wish we could actually see in real life, and lots of cheesy 'memory potion' and 'magic rune' moments to keep you munching popcorn.

I was a little creeped out by the spidery jewel that turns into... Well... You watch it because sometimes you need such mindless madness that is so bad, it's fun. Go ahead judge this questionable star rating that one has given to this terrible film. But it made me munch happily at popcorn, made me want to join a coven that makes plants blossom and gave me fun ideas for Halloween that is around the corner...

Friday, October 23, 2015



1/2 star

Mini Review:

If you thought the TV show Homeland was racist and presented the Pakistanis and Middle Eastern people in a partisan way, then this movie will make you cringe and cringe about the 'white saviour' who saves the uncivilized Afghans... You will absolutely hate Bill Murray. I did.

Main Review:

So it takes a white man (a man down on his luck and a conman at that) to go to a conflict zone and 'save' a Pashto girl from her repressive family and society and get a chance to sing in Afghan Star, a popular TV show like 'American Idol'

It is based on a story of a real person Setara Hussainzada who broke all tradition and appeared on the wildly popular Afghan Star. But to watch Bill Murray hustle in a space clearly not meant for him is simply awful.

Bill Murray plays the part of a smooth talking (NOT!) music agent who has a reluctant Zooey Deschanel (in the worst role ever!) working for him. They are contracted to a multi-city tour in Afghanistan. 

And in a really really annoying introduction to Afghanis, we are shown Zooey throwup because it is a 'hellish' flight. The flight is full of people who look like the quintessential al quaeda terrorists: turbans, beards, angry looks...

They land in Kabul and the airport is made to look like a hole in the corner, where luggage is brought in with push-carts, and of course Bill Murray's luggage is lost. There's more stereotyping with the hotel (the man at the reception accepts a bribe to get them room upgrades and the room looks hellish, really). Of course there are mercenaries and gun runners and Zooey run away with all of Bill's money. I hated her act, so was happy to see her vanish from the screen. But there were more cliches to come. Kate Hudson is a prostitute named Merci with a golden heart... 

Of course, the story is about how Murray 'discovers' a beautiful singing voice in a Pashto girl and smuggles her to Kabul and inspires her and helps her appear in the singing contest. You won't believe it really happened, so you look for some beautiful Afghan landcapes...

There is not much relief there as well. The Afghan mercenaries, the villagers who look mostly angry, the feasting at night where Bill Murray ruins 'Smoke On The Water' forever and ever... What's worse, there's Bruce Willis who looks like he's trying hard to not laugh or has a mouthful of superglue he wants to spit out but cannot...

Either way it's an awful movie. If you want to see how amazing this young woman is, watch the documentary on her brave appearance here:

Thursday, October 22, 2015

review: KHWADA

Anything For His Flock

3 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

Tending to his sheep wherever he is allowed, this shepherd also looks after his two grown up sons, a wife, a daughter in law and two grandkids. His life is hard and the challenges that come his way make for a brilliant little portrait of rural life...

Main Review:

This is a story of a shepherd who has lost his lands to a forced takeover by the forest department is now wandering about the countryside with his flock of sheep and his family.

He is crotchety and irritable and does not want to wander about with other shepherds because he wants to find the best grazing lands for his sheep, and is carving his own path with the help of his two sons.

Shashank Shende plays the part of the shepherd Raghu Karhe so well, you are convinced he was born with the shepherd's headgear and stick in his hand. 

Raghu has two sons, and Balu the younger is ready to be hitched and his head is full of dreams when his dad accepts an offer for his marriage from a villager. Balu is a character which makes writers wish they had written him up. He's like a happy ram in heat, preening into every mirror he can see. The simplicity of his dreams make him instantly likeable.

But all is not well in this already rough counrtyside life. The villain is a local politician who owns an wrestling team that seems to win the money in all the local contests. Balu's dream of making money by wrestling earns the politician's wrath...

What happens next is like being in an avalanche. You are so relaxed by the slow grazing of the goats, the friendly spats between Raghu the patriarch and his wife, Raghu and his sons, you are quite taken aback by the events that follow Balu and his encounter with the politician. 

You stare at the screen unable to shake your head in disbelief at the events and you are compelled to throw away all screenwriting gyan you have learnt. The call to action, the rapid escalation of the events and the climax happen in the last half hour. And you realise that you've been lulled by the pace of the film and the action will surely amaze you.

This is a debut film for writer/director Bhaurao Karhade, and what a superb understated debut it is.

The pace of the film is as sedate as watching goats grazing under the sun. But the story is enough to stay in your head long after the sun has set on the little village. 

The film releases with subtitles, and it's a must see. Khwada means obstacle... nothing more than a pebble in your sandal. It's perfectly named. Go see it and you'll know why...



1/2 star

Mini Review:

There is a singular lack of original thought in this almost parody of movies movie. Such a shame that they took Haider and Veera Tripathi and turned them into caricatures. This film is like an auntyji dressed in a mini skirt. It's comes with giant hastags: #failed and #desperate (spelled 'despo').

Main Review:

Trouble with this movie is that there is no single original thought driving the story and the holes in the characters and plot are so wide you could drive a bus through them...

A rich family attempts to get their daughter married to another rich family in a big splashy wedding to hide that they are really bankrupt. The other rich family is also just as bankrupt.

Movies as old as the hills ('Lady For A Day' to The Titanic) use this mock millionaire trope. But I'm sure the directors and the producers have never heard the dialog: Naam toh suna hoga...

Oh also, the filmmakers have not watched Lea De Laria from Orange Is The New Black strip, or watched the viral video of Amy Pence Brown (a large woman stripping down to say she likes being fat and she feels beautiful... What is worse, Halloween H2O, a mostly forgettable film did the dialog about fat girl liking food way better than in this movie. Sarah says, 'I love food. I hope you won't mind if I get really big and dumpy. It's like my life's ambition.' 
Here, the large bride vacillates between being sad and fat and being happy and fat. I wish the filmmakers had watched Chicago and had drawn inspiration from Queen Latifah's Matron 'Mama' Morton character, or from the obvious reference to My Big Fat Greek Wedding.

Like I said, there is nothing original here...

And, it's Dussehra time, so Vikas Behl draws inspiration from Hanuman and hopes it will attract audiences a tad older when he animates flashbacks. But he forgets that the audiences have already been skewered by an animated parrot as far back as Main Prem Ki Deewani Hoon. Obviously Mr. Behl and his entire unit have not seen the recent release Puli which also has a frog, and that's why they do not know the sweet Aalia Bhatt holding a frog is NOT going to be cute. 

An uncomfortable looking Pankaj Kapoor has to spout dialog like, 'Main tumhara baap hoon...' to Shahid, who is back to hamming in attempt to gain back the young girls who used to sigh all over his photographs before he was married. Shahid, who is shown to speak perfectly normal English with cops, is suddenly shown to not comprehend 'Insomniac'. A young fashion design student Hemanti, who was sitting next to me in the theater, sighed and said, 'After Haider, he does this?!'

A sentiment I echoed about Aalia as well. After Highway, she chooses this?

And the language... Oh, the language they use... The 'OMGs', 'Like Totallys' on anyone over ten (okay, twelve) saying it is like watching auntyjis in mini skirts. And it's not funny. Truly not funny. Plus, they were so lazy, they didn't even use the urban dictionary to check that 'Preggers' is a word from the 70s and the 80s. Today, it's 'in the duff' and other unpalatable words... I'm surprised they did not use 'Lol' as a verb...

Obviously the whole team had a super holiday living it up in some European castle (smaller budgets take Wedding Pullav to Thailand), and did not have to put in any effort at all. After all, it has comedy! The Punjab-Sindh connect is funny without ever cracking a joke, na? But they have the 'other' Kapoor to caricature Anil Kapoor's character in movies like Welcome (which of course the filmmakers have not seen) to fall back on. He's loud and funny. NOT. And neither is the very, very lame take on Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron dead body joke. Even Singh Is Kinng uses the inert Javed Jafferi on a wheelchair in funnier ways than here.

Maybe they have not seen that movie either...

Such a shame! They would have spared themselves the agony of the lazy, tedious, humorless blingy junk they have made.

If you know anyone who boasts about being high on 'shrooms' or 'organic cookies', be sure to show them this movie. They will be cured of the habit (of boasting). In fact, the 'episode' is so badly done, the government could use the clips in de-addiction camps. 

Although I cringed into my coffee cups (bless the PVR ECX Andheri lads who brought me coffee after coffee without complaining) to see cliches like pillow feathers flying everywhere after hero and heroine fight 'playfully', a gay uncle who designs clothes, motorbike inside the room (such a big castle, he had to park the bike inside the room?!) (not to be reminded of motorbike inside an apartment in a hi-rise in Pyaar Ka Punchnama2), and a self obsessed gym rat groom (the filmmakers never imagined it to be a well established trope), there is one shining beacon in this movie.

The half star goes to the happy dance by Aalia Bhatt on the song Eena Meena Dika.

You're so drained by the effort of watching the movie you secretly wonder if Aishwarya Rai's green Jazbaa will be the Mother India for this generation... There's no 'Shaan' but only Shame' in making such a terrible movie. 

P.S. This week, Vin Diesel brings you his spectacularly awful Last Witch Hunter. You wish he'd show up in this movie and kill the idiotic kid who shows up randomly with a bow and arrow...


Friday, October 16, 2015

review: Pyar Ka Punchnama 2

Dumb and Despicable Again

1 star

Mini Review:

3 dumb men fall in love with 3 despicable women who manipulate them and manipulate them and manipulate them and manipulate them and manipulate them and manipulate them until you wish they would end your misery by ending their relationships...

Main Review:

Your trying to extricate the last cookie from the jar and your hand gets stuck. Before you can ask for help by stepping out of the office pantry, the obnoxious gang that shares crude, misogynistic jokes *nudge, nudge, wink, wink* enters and infests the doorway sharing offensive 'jokes'. You can't possibly ask them for help, so you're stuck between a fridge that's emanating heat and a sink full of stinky coffee cups.

Watching Pyar Ka Punchnama 2 was an experience that is somewhat similar. Part one was funny up to a point (like the cookie you have your hands on) because it was refreshing to see how desperate young men get when they find love and want to keep it at all costs. This part just starts out to be offensive and stays there like a record stuck in a pro-dumb men/anti women track.

So this time too there are 3 dumb but happy men who share an apartment that has a pointless motorbike parked inside. 

They each meet despicable women who are 
one: dizzy and manipulative, 
two: avaricious and manipulative and 
three: manipulative twice over.

The 3 dumb but happy men are happy to be manipulated by these obviously manipulative women simply because they cannot believe their luck. They shop for the girls, they change their tv habits, their clothes, their eating habits, their lives while the girls blithely go about their own lives, promising much and giving nothing. The men look progressively miserable.

The funny bits come from the men realising that they've been had. So you laugh at their helplessness: the girls call them love names like 'go-go', ask them to 'record the cricket match and take me shopping instead', 'fix the printer', 'change facebook status'

But the manipulation and the misery goes on and on like a stuck record and after a while the funny jokes just become a plain anti-women tirade. And the funny frustrated speech in part one (most googled you tube video, methinks) repeated again just sounds tiresome and harpy-like. 

The men don't lose out completely. The girls put out and the three men do get something out of that holiday in Thailand (as they did in Goa in part 1), but they're back to square one again.

It takes another 45 minutes for the 3 dumb men to sort of get out of the clutches of these awful women. They look sadder than when they started. They look sadder because the good part of rom-coms is hope. And by making girls really nasty and the boys all good makes it impossible for the audience to step away from the movie happy. This is an anti rom-com. Maybe that's why the movie ends up leaving the audience feeling punched in the gut. And unhappily so.    

P.S. The star goes to Sunny Singh, who is the most understated of the lot.

Review: Wedding Pullav

Something's rotting in this wedding kitchen...

1/2 star

Mini Review:

A horrendous attempt at recreating the magic of the Yash Raj/Dharma wedding feasts that ends up clogging the kitchen sink. The only saving grace is the leading lad's dimples.

Main Review:

Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaayenge was made in 1995 and they're making Himani Shivpuri play the same role. Parmeet Sethi has graduated to becoming someone's dad, but he's still the same angry Kuljeet.

If that doesn't smell like ingredients way past their sell by date, there's Rishi Kapoor popping up in a role you have seen him, Anupam Kapoor and other 'Unclejis of Bollywood' perform without a single quiver of their grey cells. 

Am not even getting into why Upasana Singh and Satish Kaushik show up in the roles that are meant to be comic but are emetic.

And wedding guests getting off a bus in Thailand is so overdone, you want to secretly call the embassy and tell them these trashy movies are ruining the image of the country.

So the story is that of a group of friends (yes, the proverbial one fat guy, one nerd, the hero, one inconsequential girl and the heroine) who are celebrating the hero's wedding to outside girl. Yes. Sigh. The hero has to realise he's in love with the heroine, but the process (the film) is so tiresome, we have noticed the ghastly cheap wedding jewelry, sat through inane songs and really tacky 'what did you do on your honeymoon' supposed banter without upchucking. 

You want to take some tissue and wipe off all that extra lipstick on the young women's mouths. You want to laugh at Louis Vuitton print on a salwar kameez. You want to laugh at the twin ponytails of one of the young men... You cannot. The whole wedding feast is just rancid.   

The only saving grace is the young hero's dimples. He's a good looking lad, but too young to being groom in any sort of wedding, and you feel terrible that the boy is part of such a film. 


Review: Bridge Of Spies

It's fine dining cinema. Made delectable by the Masterchef himself.

4 stars

Mini Review:

If there were Michelin stars offered to cinema, this cold war docu-drama would win every star. Steven Spielberg lays out a feast - unhurried storytelling, understated acting, superb comic touches - with the ever dependable Tom Hanks. It's a world of spies in the time of no-trust recreated superbly.

Main Review:

Tom Hanks works in a law office that will remind you of your dad (or your grandfather's) office. Typewriters, files, dark wood paneled doors... And you are hooked. 

A non-descript man going about the city painting is being followed by a swarm of men who look like undercover cops. He seems harmless and yet you are shown - without any fuss - the reason why he's being followed. You are immediately drawn into the world of spies...

Tom Hanks is forced to be legal counsel to the man (Mark Rylance*, in a performance so awesome, every line on his face ought to be nominated for an Oscar). Meanwhile there is an American spy plane that is...

Steven Spielberg recreates the Wall, the fear of being in East Germany, the Soviet distrust, the anxiety on the faces of the people, the cold war and its effect on the everyday American life so effortlessly, you are transported to that world. 

What made my jaw drop was the portrayal of young people at that time. The thugs on the cold streets, the innocent children at school compelled to learn about the bomb, the young people separated by a wall being built through the city, the need to be patriotic, the idea of killing yourself for your nation, the earnest terrified workforce... The generation that was growing up in the shadow of hate and mistrust is so beautifully shown, your heart will well up with empathy. 

Yes, you do wish there was more to the end, more than just explanation as to what happened to the spies, the lawyer, the negotiator after the event. But the movie is already two hours and forty five minutes long. And I suppose the Masterchef always leaves the diners hankering for more.


*I knew I had seen the face somewhere, but could not remember it. Thank goodness for google. Mark Rylance starred in a weird movie called The Institute Benjamenta where he joins to become a butler, and discovers odd secrets which he must learn to keep...

Friday, October 09, 2015

Review: JAZBAA


1 reluctant star

Mini Review:

Everything about the movie is overdone: the color, the dialog, the background score, the acting... You need to have an active imagination in order to enjoy this green goop.

Main Review:

The one star of bravery is to be shared between Aishwarya Rai and Irrfan Khan for agreeing to act in this stupid courtroom-kidnap goop.

That said, let me confess. I thoroughly enjoyed the movie.

Each time Aishwarya 'acted' with her eyes glaring, staring, glaring, staring , I imagined her training hard before the movie. Except that the audience helped by doing the 'rolling your eyes' part of the gruelling exercises.

I got much practice of the 'roll your eyes' routine. Looks like they must have whipped the screenwriter if there wasn't a dhaansu dialog about everything.

'Just as he did his zindagi, Dad also liked to feel the coffee with his naked fingers, naa?' 

(I'm giving up coffee,now!)

There was dialog about everything. And poor Irrfan Khan, he actually said things like, 'Choozon! agar mujhe arrest kar loge toh dedh karod ka intezam kaun karega?'

Hats off to the director for ensuring that he got full paisa vasool from Irrfan Khan. Saare dialog Irrfan Khan se.

The poor actor's relief is visible, palpable in the last dialog he spouts: 'Arre pagle! Agar zid hoti toh baahon mein hoti. Yeh love hai, isiliye jaane diya!'

Then instead of looking into the horizon, he grins, because the movie is over.

Like I said, I had fun! I could imagine the director saying, 'Chillao! Aur chillao!' and the heroine agreeing.


That scream woke up the dormant Dilophosurus in me and i spat out my coffee on to the unsuspecting person sitting next to me, a la Jurassic Park

Had the Mumbai decibel lady holding on to her hand held device checking for noise pollution been in the theater she would have been dancing in the aisle. 

When I heard her scream for her daughter, I was sure somewhere in the world of Titans, Liam Neeson had just bellowed, 'Release the Kracken!'

The suddenly hysterical, suddenly sadistic villains are there to distract you from the actual culprit. The row of tapori kids sitting behind me (someone had given the tickets away!) guessed who the bad-guy is way before the bad guy begins to give clever sideways glances. Their comments are unprintable, but they observed fun things like, 'shabana maushi ke paas sari bahut hai, lekin earring ekich hai.' 

With Jackie Shroff in the same frame during the maushi comment, I was hi-5ing the taporis in my head.

It's true that we are sending the superb marathi movie Court as India's entry to the Oscars, but obviously the director has not seen it. They're still operating from Damini days. 

Maybe I would have liked it better had it been made in the style of Nagin Ka Badla Sapere Ki Vaat... It would have been apt because I imagined the hiss and the raising of an imaginary hood each time the heroine glared with her bloodshot eyes and said, 'Yeh Casesssssss Ek Maaaaaa Lad Rahi Haiisssssssss!'

P.S: You've seen the green tinted trailer. The movie is green tinted too. If there was some subliminal 'save our environment' message in that, I've missed it.    



Encounter with the brave ones

4 stars

Mini Review:

You've seen many movies with encounter cops. But not like this one. This is perhaps one of the most jaw-droppingly awesome movies about guns, and drugs and the ethics of encounter...

Main Review:

It is very easy to write the review of a bad film. When it comes to telling the story of a war on drugs that is swept under the blanket and carries with it a 'plausible deniability' clause, and telling it well, the review is hardest to write.

The opening scene is so visceral, you can actually smell the smells the SWAT team does. And you are immediately offered to take sides. You too, like the heroine, volunteer to do what she does. And...

The truth is laid bare and you discover that the somewhere between what is right and what is wrong is where the director leaves you. You see it from both sides of the border...

I never thought a story about encounter cops could be at once so human and so kill-or-be-killed

I never thought I could feel suffocated in the tunnel when watching a movie.

I never thought someone carrying a water canister could be sinister.

I never thought I could hate Benecio del Toro and still love him.

I never thought a movie like this would affect my so deeply. 

Watch it.    

Review: PAN

Hooked On Blackbeard

2 and 1/2 stars

Mini Review:

I never did like the story of Peter Pan, the boy who refused to grow up, so I went in hoping Blackbeard would win. They stick to the story, alas, but the colorful spectacle is rather fun. And you will - as I did - fall for the sinister Blackbeard.

Main Review:

Hugh Jackman plays Blackbeard, pirate of the skies, and does so spectacularly. From his costume, his boots and his gold topped ugly teeth. JM Barrie wrote about the boy who did not want to grow up, but something inside me has always hated that. It's an excuse for irresponsibility in real life and rather charmless. Thankfully, in this movie there is less of that entitlement and lots of 'am I really a hero' type questioning.

But am not sure this movie is made for little kids. Even I was alarmed at the pirates bungee jumping and kidnapping the kids. But then, the way some kids are today, a good fear of 'warna Blackbeard utha le jaayega' is necessary.

I've studied in a school run by nuns and they were scary too. Peter lives in an orphanage where the nuns are in cahoots with the pirates and there's a veritable treasure in her room. The pirates bring him to a mountain which is being mined for pixie dust...

But you'll see all that, won't you? Better than the awful fare Bollywood tends to dish up for the weekend. But this week Blackbeard will fight for box office gains with the brilliant Sicario and the vertigo inducing The Walk.

I loved the story arc of Blackbeard. It is perhaps the best part of the movie even though it is called Pan, and offers no room to give us more about why Blackbeard became the way he is, how did he find the rejuventor and so on...

Blackbeard chews up the scenery effortlessly. And what awesome scenery it is! The special effects are really special. I loved the sword fight scenes, the mermaids and was terrified of the creatures in the sea, the stars may not have been as magnificent as in Life of Pi, but made you feel as if you were really in magical skies. The fairy mountain scenes are amazing.

What is predictable is Peter Pan himself. He's fresh-faced all right, but we've seen a cute kid in Bajrangi Bhaijaan too, so he has to work harder to impress the audience. I loved his bird ride and there are a couple of scenes where he learns to stand up and face his fears. But I did want the villain to win...

Watch it for the spectacle, and for Blackbeard who hams it up delighfully. And for the songs that show up unexpectedly and make you clap!


Review: The Walk

The Walk will make you cling to your seat for dear life! 

3 stars

Mini Review:

Hold on to the armrests! The dizzying views in the movie will have even the most cast iron stomachs and strongest hearts wish to escape through the mouth...  

Main Review:

Read this revu az eef yu arr Franch, and you will see how everything becomes tres magnifique because the hero... he is Franch.

So Franch, there are baguettes and croissants coming out auf the screen. Who am I kidding? It took me three minutes before I got used to the strange French accent Joseph Gordon Levitt was sporting as he narrates the whole movie calmly from the balcony (no longer accessible to the public) of the torch the Statue of Liberty carries. 

By the time you say, 'What the heck is he doing up there!' you are slowly given to understand that he is going to do something 'illegal and dangerous' (best heard said in a French accent)  

So you'll hear how the critics have a problem with French characters in the movie speaking English. Well, maybe that's all they did. 'Hear' the characters speak. Their eyes must have been closed to the awesome, most awesome 3D effects they have seen. 

If they mention Marsh's documentary 'Man On Wire' it is because the documentary captured faithfully what Philippe Petit's friend managed to capture on his still camera. Now imagine Zemeckis recreating the vertigo inducing act on film.  

And Joseph Gordon Levitt is so beautifully cast, you will surprised to see the uncanny resemblance between the real Philippe Petit and the actor.

I'm wary of 3D. It is mostly an afterthought where broken parts of buildings, airplanes, dishes come at you in the final showdown between the good guys and the bad guys, and by then, your ears and the bridge of your nose are weighed down by the glasses.

But here, you simply forget that you are wearing the glasses. The director's vision in IMAX is extraordinary. He recreates the twin towers, and then gives us dizzying views of the buildings, shows us how beautifully designed these towers were, and offers a glimpse of the awe-inducing views from the top of the towers.

The story sort of struggles a bit in the beginning, just like Philippe Petit learning to walk on the tightrope, and the romance seems rather filmi, but it all comes together marvelously and as you clutch at your heart that threatens to leap out of your mouth several times. And it is not only during the final act of bravado. You worry about them getting caught, you worry about everything. 

The final act? If I were his mom, I'd beat him with a rolling pin as they do in cartoons, that's for sure. I was so worried for him. And that hasn't happened to me in a very very long time in the movies.

Without drowning into some patriotic, sentimental balderdash, the movie pays a quiet tribute to the towers. And that I liked too. 

Take your time getting off the seat in the theater. Give your insides time to settle back down in their rightful place, and your legs a chance to not walk as if you are person on a wire...

P.S. The tightrope walkers on our streets have practically disappeared, but if you do see them perform on the street, don't just swear at them for occupying the street. Who knows...    

Friday, October 02, 2015


Singh Is Bleaaargh!

1 and 1/2 star

Mini Review: 

Akshay Kumar stars in a movie that has some pjs, mostly crass comedy and some terrible bad guys. Your tolerance for everything is tested severely.

Main Review:

Half a star for Akshay Kumar, who manages to look good no matter what he wears. Lungis, shalwaars, floral shorts, tees, suit, or kurtas, this man wears them all with an ease and seems to enjoy the stupid roles he plays. He even wears a turban with style. He plays the lovable buffoon without ever losing his masculinity. He's like a male Madhuri Dixit when it comes to his smile. 

But when he chooses to act in movies like this, you want to rush back and watch his hairy Mohra and Khiladi films or even the pink shirted punjab da puttar act in Namaste London.

The other half star goes to Lara Dutta who plays Emily the translator. She seems to have so much fun in the movie, you cannot help but respond to her antics

The last but not the least, the third 1/2 star goes to whoever thought of making Amy Jackson not speak a word of Hindi. She's not able, and hearing her would have been worse than watching Shruti Haasan dance in Puli.

The other things in the movie are so crass you cannot but hear Neil Young's refrain of 'Helpless, Helpless, Helpless' play inside your head.

The internet pj about a dog dressed up as a lion, the sleepwalking nympho joke, the girl sitting on hero's lap and slapping him when she realises he's aroused... everything in the script seems to be written by a Whatsapp group.

Then there's Kay Kay Menon who seems to bring his generic bad guy role to every screen. He doesn't even need rehearsals in doing silly things, wearing silly clothes and even doing the silly thing with his hat...

Please. Save yourself the trouble. Watch Akshay Kumar's awesome dance with generic Katrina role gal on tv or something. He looks great in a purple shalwaar, and even when he's being kissed by a camel.

If you have the stomach for generic sardar tropes or talking cows, watch the film. If you do, then I swear that you too will hope Raftaar Singh to suddenly spout an awesome speech in English about how amazing India is, or at least Amy Jackson to say the ' Ishq da Mitraan' speech just so you make some sense of the stupid movie...



Review: PULI

Is it a children's movie? Or a movie mashup quiz for grown- ups?

1/2 star

Mini Review:

This movie is slower than the roadworks undertaken by the Public Works Department of any city. You need to wear coolers over your eyes to deal with the garish colors and bring ear plugs.

Main Review:

Just because you can afford to VFX, does not mean you have to. Because the VFX are such an assault to your senses, you wonder if the filmmakers are competing for a Guinness record for most colors available in one frame.

Trees, flowers, leaves, grass, dirt, sky, stone, people, clothes is all fake. And you wonder how the actors must have felt acting with a green screen.

Shruti Haasan is a punishment to behold. Each time she opens her mouth, you want to stuff a banana sideways to shut her up. Every time she attempts to dance, you access her father's drunken dance on the edge of a well just to get the images of Shruti hips shake from damaging your brain cells. 'The second half gets better', a fellow critic said, ' Because she's tied to a sacrificial table, drugged and motionless.'

Puli looks like a children's fairy tale gone horribly wrong. It's a mish-mash of several stories, and not one gives any pleasure. And as a grown up watching the movie you idly wonder if kids today will enjoy anything from the movie.

There are blue-eyed vampires who look like Prakash Raj's goondas and all the romantic notions you had about being loved for ever and ever fly out of the window faster than they can bare their fangs. And you unkindly think, 'Do these vampires eat at Military canteens, or do their moms make them Taair Saadam?'

The people live in Hans Christian Anderson like villages and dress like they're in Vellore where leather goods are manufactured. If they wear shirts at all, it is evident that they do not know the art of hemming the edges of clothes.

There's Arwen's leaf pendant from Lord Of The Rings which becomes a mangalsutra here...

There's Gulliver's Travels for the kids in the theater. Except that the whole Lilliput thang makes the grown ups choke on the peanuts they are scarfing down when they see the peanut shell bras on the Lilliputian women.

There's the vampire castle and its furniture inspired by Game of Thrones.

There is a giant Cyclops from Atlantis, The Wise Turtle character borrowed from OVA (the anime game) or Kung Fu Panda, 

There's the Indiana Jones leap of faith bridge across the void.

There are talking birds from awful movies too ghastly to name. There are magical frogs too ('Pudine ki chutney samajh kar chaat jao' one guy tells another and only then will the frog show them the way! And I thought frog-licking was a hallucingenic). There is a VFX panther. The less said about that creature, the better! 

There is an evil queen who is all super arched eyebrows and glitter eyesh adow and strange gowns who is in reality plain ole Mrs Bennett from Pride & Prejudice wanting to get her daughter married off to the best suitor. And the daughter dances with the hero singing, 'Main teri Mandakini!'

There is dialog given to baddies which is so bad you cannot help but laugh: Main Bhayanak Darinda hoon!

There are fights that remind you of Shaolin movies made by Golden Harvest in the seventies...

And no matter how hard Vijay tries to dance or fight to impress, he doesn't. No matter how broody Sudeep likes to think he is, he makes me want to get up and buy him a bunch of butterfly clips to tie up his silly hair. And Sridevi? You wonder if it is the same woman who was in English Vinglish.

The half star is for having the cojones to say that this is an original story. 

Review: TALVAR

Justice Denied. To The Audience.

2 stars

Mini Review:

So the filmmakers want to show that the Arushi Murder Case was bungled by cops and the parents have been denied justice. But the caricaturish treatment of the cops and some obvious plotholes are so off putting, you want to punish the filmmaker to some developmental hell.

Main Review:

Pan chewing cops, corruptible cops, easily distracted by cell-phone cops, selfie-taking cops, posing for camera cops, cops who don't know simple procedure cops, inefficient cops, out of shape cops, cops who sleep on the job, agencies helping cops making typos, upright cop who gets shunted, and all other tropes of cops is what you will see in this murder investigation.

We've seen this in the movies, right? But this movie puts them all in one case, in one place and that makes you want to say, 'Come on!'

Pan chewing cop who looks like he'd rather be elsewhere is first on the scene and his team says crass things like, 'Your mattress, your house, do whatever you want!' 

Maybe that happened, but knowing how power-hungry the small 'thullas' are, they probably would say, 'Sahab aa rahe hain, wait karo. Aur tab tak mere liye chai laao.'

But no. They just do really stupid things like let the neighbors take the blood-stained mattress up on the terrace to dry. Erm... Who does that? Were the Tandons going to reuse the mattress on which their child was killed? What were they thinking?

The cops take away the body in a jeep. Not even in the most lawless Delhi do they do that. There are designated 'shav vahinis'. No cop would want to do someone else's work. If they are shown to be so damned lazy, why would they take the body away in a jeep? And if they did, then how come they handed the body back so easily to the Tandons to cremate? The director missed a huge Saransh moment here where cop harassment and cop callousness could be shown...

Photo Op cops are so stupid they forget they took pictures of the the bloody pawprint on the terrace. 

Now cops are stupid, but they know how to make an extra buck or be recognised for work done because they're hoping for a promotion. How come the police photographer does not remember or expect a pay hike for having found the bloody pawprint? The director forgot that completely! The pan-chewing careless cop takes pictures of the pawprint with his cellphone but forgets about those pictures even when his arse is being whipped by CDI officer Irrfan Khan?

The movie takes sides. And I don't mind that. In fact, you begin to wonder about the incompetence of the cops because the good cop unearths the real culprits. 

What brings the movie down is the really tenuous reason for the cops to pursue the 'honor killing' theme doggedly. Even B-grade movies give bad cops some motive to 'phansaao' the good guys. There is no politician who gains from the Tandons going to jail, there is no bribe being paid by some super-rich Nepali don who is protecting the servants who are the real culprits. There is nothing. No reason why the new head of CDI wants to put the parents of the murdered kid behind bars.

Oh yes, there is, you will say. Remember the sardar who is a batchmate? Who asked the new head of CDI over for a drink of foreign daaru? Maybe he asked the shady CDI guy to cover for the mistakes he made...

I had by now begun to wish so many cool names weren't involved in making of this film. Vishal Bhardwaj wrote and produced it, Gulzar produced the director, Irrfan Khan acts in the movie. So does Konkona and the Ship Of Theseus monk...

So many people will call it 'taut' and 'shocking in its revelations', 'best drama' and so on. But if you've watched enough Savdhaan India or Crime Patrol or any of the cop shows on TV, you will find better tales told more realistically that this caricature cops bungling justice story.

I killed myself on this Talvar. Maybe you'll feel kinder.


Review: The Martian

Home Alone On Mars
Predictable as heck, but Ridley Scott!

3 stars

Mini Review:

This Martian is Home Alone and does not once scream like Macauley Culkin. He's chirpy and sweet and amazing. But so are the people who left him alone, and the people who put them all there are amazing and the audience is amazing because Ridley Scott is amazing...

Main Review:

They say Home Alone is the highest grossing comedy. And because it is Ridley Scott making the movie, it's gotta have a larger canvas and not some small white-picket fenced suburb. And it will be drama, not some cheap comedy where baddies slip on ice. Therefore, Man Alone On Mars.

The director gets down to business right away and the 3D storm wows us. Mars is baaaad news. Hero is dead. What? Mebbe the whole movie is a flashback. But that's how Home Alone begins a well, no?

They say, 'In space, no one can hear you scream.' Mebbe that's why he doesn't. And then there is that darned helmet which comes in the way of the scream and the audience...

As in all generic space movies, there will be one guy on the top who will say no, which gives the amazing team that rebels behind the scenes to find a solution because they have all read the commando/war comics you and I read while growing up where the gruff sergeant is the one who risks everything to 'get the last man out'. In this case it is the token African American/Indian guy (in this case, it is one person, not two). 

Like Aliens/Predator movies, there's no Charles Bishop Wayland but NASA who is happy to announce a death and a funeral. They have to eat crow in front of a noisy bunch of generic TV camera crews. Which means three generic cities: London, Beijing and America has people parking themselves in front of giant screens anxious for news of man home alone in Mars. Hush! It will take months to put together some sort of mission to rescue him, send him food, but people are waiting in front of gigantic TVs around the world.

Meanwhile like Wall-E our marooned Martian learns to nurture a plant... He needs to grow food. As his potatoes grow, I begin to wonder why a botanist has been sent with the mission in the first place. Shouldn't NASA know that there is no plant life on Mars? Was the marooned Martian's mission to try and grow stuff there? If it was, then should he have not had equipment to help farm? You know, earthworms and fertilizers and seeds... Mebbe the earthworms could have taken to the red soil and grown into giant beings and turned the planet into a Planet Of The Giant Earthworms...

Obviously, he is successful in growing food, because he's an amazing American, right? Then more amazing things happen. The Chinese want in on this adjective, so they decide to help. The boomerang theory that reminds you of Star Trek is used. And the amazing scientists at the jet propulsion lab and at NASA are happy to make cute yet amazing references to Lord Of The Rings...

And I'm wondering why our marooned Martian hasn't fallen in love with the Operating System and named it Samantha yet. Joaquim Phoenix did in Her, remember? That's the least he could do. But no! This guy is so amazing, he doesn't even go through the madness that Tom Hanks goes through because he's fed up of speaking with a Volleyball. Yes, he does talk about dying alone and please tell my mom and dad, but there's no craziness like The Shining. And dammit, Castaway and The Shining are set on a planet which is inhabited. This man on Mars is so amazing he carries out a mission using so much amazing science that women all over the world vow to have babies who become scientists.

The rescue team is amazing too and the screenwriters make them so by infusing so much humor that we forget and forgive everything and begin to hope that they will 'get their boy'. But there's some dodgy math involved which turns into some fine Yash Raj moments in space (hint: DDLJ train scene)

Did I like the movie? I guess no one can dislike a rescue film which has a canvas that is so stupendous and the humor in loneliness brilliantly done. My attention wandered in many places because of the predictability.

It would been superlative had George Clooney showed up in space sitting in a chair towards the end, having survived by boomeranging in and out of wormholes (and that would have somehow kept him single and still gorgeous IRL), eating stardust! 

P.S. The math about food supply and days the man spends on the planet were just wrong for me. Someone please share gyan after you see the movie!