REVIEW : 1917
1917 is easily the best movie I have watched in the first 17 days of 2020. That may not be saying much, since I have just watched five movies in this year till date, but if you were to factor the fact that 1917 has won the best picture award at the Golden Globe awards a few weeks back and is a hot contender for the same award at the forthcoming Oscars, you will attach more weight to my statement in the beginning!
1917 is directed by Sam Mendes. If that name doesn’t quite ring a bell, let me take you back to the James Bond movie SCEPTRE (released in 2016). If you have seen SCEPTRE, then it is highly unlikely that you have forgotten the opening scenes filmed in Mexico City on the occasion of the parade of the Day of the Dead celebrations. If you haven’t seen that or if by chance you have forgotten, please see that opening scene. That’s exactly the feeling you experience for the full two hours when you are watching 1917. And SCEPTRE was directed by Sam Mendes!
1917 is about a single day episode in World War 1, and is the best war movie after DUNKIRK. While most war movies focus on a number of characters, 1917 focuses on just two characters. And as these two make their way through the trenches, the brilliant photography makes you believe that you too are actually in the trenches.
1917 is filmed gorgeously, which is actually an oxymoron, considering that the shots feature mud, slush and the dead for the better part. The weak part of 1917 is the story itself, but that doesn’t deter you from noting the outstanding performances of the two lead actors. Of course, you have the famous Benedict Cumberbatch (rumoured to be playing James Bond after Daniel Craig steps down) playing a role, but you will see more of him in the commercial for MG car and SUV than in the movie!!
You need to watch 1917 on the big screen and preferably on IMAX to get a ringside view of what it meant to be on the war fronts those days!
RATING : 4 out of 5
January 21st, 2020
SYE RAA NARASIMHA REDDY (Telugu)
Last week, I saw these three new releases on successive days.. Here is my take on these three movies. In terms of genres, each is very different from the other.
SYE RAA NARASIMHA REDDY (I will call it SRNR in short) is a big budget Telugu production, which has been simultaneously dubbed in Hindi and other South Indian languages. It is a fictitious take on how the protagonist takes on the war mongering chiefs of The East India Company and is widely believed to have been the inspiration behind Jhansi Lakshmi Bai’s revolt later on. It has everything to stir positive feelings amongst the masses, who revel in the hero’s single handed display of valour, powerful dialogues, a huge star cast led by Chiranjeevi ( who ably carries the film on his shoulders), a bevy of beauties from the Tollywood stable (Nayantara, Tamannah, Anushka Shetty), and Amitabh Bachchan, and thumping background music and songs (by Amit Trivedi) and a story that looks like a fable from Amar Chitra Katha comic books. The last bit is what causes a discerning viewer to lose interest in the narration. Everything is exaggerated, when it need not have been, and it becomes clear that his son has made this movie, not with an intention to create a classic, but more to project Chiranjeevi in a larger than life role. Technically, the film is excellent, but we do look for something more than that!
RATING: 3 OUT OF 5
WAR is to Hritik Roshan and Tiger Shroff, what SRNR is to Chiranjeevi. Written exclusively to showcase the dancing talents and the macho handsomeness of its lead actors, WAR sacrifices everything in the process. It is utter nonsense that takes you on a world wide tour of exotic locales. Here again, the theme is good and this could have proved to be a worthy follower in the DHOOM series. But instead, it treads the path of the unsuccessful Hritik starrer BANG BANG and heaps on the viewer incredulities in rapid succession. As is normal in such movies, where the focus is on action and the male characters, the female presence in the form of Vaani Kapoor ( her previous disaster was BEFIKRE) has little to do except flaunt her figure. The action sequences are well executed, and two things are certain. Hritik Roshan does look like a Greek God and Tiger Shroff will stay on in Bollywood for a long time. You need to wage a war with your sensibilities if you have to like WAR!
RATING : 2.5 OUT OF 5
JOKER, contrastingly has superb performances. The script is taut and is as close to reality as close as Gotham is to any other town in the US a couple of decades back. But one must admit that the movie is very, very disturbing and the violence stays with you long after the movie has ended. It is not that we have not been exposed to violence in Hollywood movies in the past. And there have been classics which have had liberal doses of violence. But, where JOKER fails is in its seeming to rationalise or explain such aberrations as what should be expected if society were to continue to heap injustices on the less fortunate. A movie maker is not merely creating a work of art. He has to see what could be the consequences of bringing such a story onto the screen. Will it prevent the creation of characters like JOKER or will it spawn more JOKERS? The latter looks like a more real possibility.
RATING : 3.5 OUT OF 5
October 9th, 2019
In just 27 months, Ayushmann Khuranna has had 7 releases. And not only have I seen all those 7 films, but also enjoyed watching them. It is not without reason that not only is he the most watched star by me, but also by all Bollywood patrons. In each of his last 7 appearances (since August 2017), Ayushmann has played a different character and has done enormous justice to the role. BAREILLY KI BARFI, SHUBH MANGAL SAVDHAN, BADDHAI HO, ANDHADHUN, ARTICLE 15, DREAM GIRL have all been movies worth watching and now BALA gets added to the list. And I am saying this despite my observation that BALA is the weakest of his last seven films.
Why is that so?
That is because, both the writer Niren Bhat and director Amar Kaushik seem more than keen to make sure that the sermons don’t get lost in the otherwise delightful entertainment package. Contrast this with the earlier movies, which were also laden with messages, but which seemed cleverly couched in the script.
Even with this handicap, Ayushmann Khuranna and Yami Gautam come across in flying colours. Bhumi Pednekar’s character comes across as a forcible inclusion so that the message doesn’t get lost. BALA is still an enjoyable watch, but for those who want to see a better made movie on the same theme of premature baldness and its toll on the affected person, I will recommend the Kannada movie ONDU MOTTEYA KATHE. It is available with English subtitles on Netflix.
RATING : 3.5 out of 5
November 8th, 2019
REVIEW: FORD vs FERRARI
Till now, the best movie made on the theme of true car racing related stories, which I had seen was six years ago. That was RUSH. And today after seeing FORD vs FERRARI, I felt that RUSH got pushed one slot lower. To know what that means in my language, FORD vs FERRARI gets a 5 on 5 rating, and should not be missed!
If I were to be the producer, I would have titled this movie FORD vs FORD. This is despite the fact that Ford’s drive to make racing cars (initially triggered by the famed Lee Iacoca’s advise to Mr Ford) became an obsession with Mr Ford after his offer to buy out Ferrari was snubbed by the Italian owner of Ferrari. That’s because, the battles which American automotive designer Caroll Shelby (played by Matt Damon) fights on behalf of his friend and protégé Ken Miles (played by Christian Bale) is with the bureaucracy of the Ford Motor Company, the machinations of the top management and the utter ruthlessness of Mr Ford take the centre stage.
The acting by the lead players is outstanding as also the actor who plays Henry Ford the second. The scripting is taut, despite the run time of the movie exceeding two and a half hours. The finale is set on the extremely arduous track of the French Town of Le Mans and is a 24 hour race of not just speed and skill but reliability of the machine. And the cars cover a distance of over 5000 kilometres in the 24 hour time period.
FORD vs FERRARI isn’t just about high adrenaline; it is more about human drama and the highs and lows of the lead players.
RATING : 5 out of 5
November 19th, 2019
A whole year has passed since we bid goodbye to Oman and I stepped into the so called retired life. But it seems to me that this variety of retirement is keeping us just as busy! We have been to new places, made new friends and spent time in old places with old friends ( we would like to do more of this in 2020). And then there have been classmates get-togethers ( a school mates get together is slated for tomorrow evening)! Of course, there have been the weekly and sometimes bi-weekly visits to the very comfy multiplexes, where we have been treated to good, bad and ugly episodes on the big screen. One significant development that has happened in this year: our TV watching has appreciably increased, thanks to some remarkable fare on Netflix and Amazon Prime.
I am actually revelling in the uncertainty that each new day brings and the entropy that envelops us because of this. A few years back, there was a very set pattern and I felt comfortable with that and I am surprised that I am feeling at home with no set pattern that has set in this year. Will it be different in 2020? I don’t know neither do I want to know. Every morning I get up and feel happy and thankful that I am alive! There have been more body pains and aches, but that is part of growing up!As we bid goodbye to the teens of the 21st century, Lata and Aditya join me in wishing you and your near and dear a healthy and joyous 2020!
REVIEW : CHHAPAAK
Quite contrary to public perception, Meghna Gulzar’s CHHAPAAK is not the first movie on the theme of acid attack survivors. In April 2019, there was a Malayalam movie UYARE, which also was on the same subject.
I hold the trio of female Bollywood directors ( Meghna Gulzar, Zoya Akthar and Ashwini Iyer Tewari) in great awe, for the sensitivity in which they have handled themes. Meghna Gulzar’s last release was the very well made RAAZI, Zoya’s was GULLY BOY and Ashwini’s was BAREILLY KI BARFI. One has therefore begun to accept a particular standard from these names.
And from that point of view, CHHAPAAK doesn’t disappoint. In true Meghna Gulzar style, there isn’t an iota of melodrama despite the gravity of the movie based on the real life story of an acid attack survivor. The scene that tugs at your emotions is the one where Deepika, (who plays the lead role) wants to put on her ear ring and realizes that one ear is not there! But the narration which sans melodrama to such an extent also has the danger of beginning to look like a boring documentary. In several places, CHHAPAAK come close to being that.
This is easily Deepika’s best performance till date and she plays out her character not in a manner to attract sympathy, but to portray the grit to face the world in the face of the oddities in which she finds herself in because of what’s happened to her face. Her male support, played by Vikrant Massey also does a good job, but for me the best part of CHHAPAAK is the outstandingly haunting theme song whose lyrics have been penned by Gulzar and sung by Arijit Singh.
If I were to compare the Malayalam UYARE ( presently available on NETFLIX with English subtitles), with CHHAPAAK, UYARE scores better on all fronts. And Parvathy Menon’s performance is a shade better than Deepika’s!
RATING : 3.5 out of 5
January 17th, 2020
REVIEW: THE SPY ( Mini Series on NETFLIX; six episodes of approximate duration of one hour each)
Sacha Baron Cohen is a well regarded TV actor of Israeli origin, best known for his comic roles. I had seen one comedy movie of his called THE DICTATOR, which despite causing bouts of laughter, would be worthy of being called puerile. Gideon Raff is an Israeli film maker and director, best known as the brain behind the enormously successful TV series HOMELAND.
My closest peek into the life of a real world spy came when I saw the brilliantly made and enacted RAAZI. So when, I started getting prompts about the new Netflix series THE SPY, authored and created by Gideon Raff, I decided to watch it over a few days.
I will be most surprised, if this series does not walk away with a couple of awards. Based on the real life story of a Mossad spy, Eli Cohen, THE SPY manages to hold the viewer’s attention as Sacha Baron( playing his first serious role) gets under the skin of someone, who is initially rejected by the Mossad and his transformation to becoming one of Mossad’s successful agents. Gideon Raff recreates the family pressures of a spy’s life against the background of the Israeli Syrian conflict in the early sixties. It takes sometime to build up the tempo, but after that, it holds you in edge-of-the-seat posture for the better part. All the characters on the Israeli side and the Syrian side look utterly real: the Syrian intelligence head, who is distrustful of “the spy” from the very beginning sends the shivers whenever he comes on the screen. Sacha’s portrayal is sincere to the core and we begin to feel for him even as we know that he is beginning to be reckless. Is that the way, a person who is branded as a failure in the beginning, reacts? Either you give up ( like the son in CHICHORE) or you fight back recklessly…
Eli Cohen’s body was left hanging in a public place for a few days; his coffin hasn’t been returned. Just last year, his watch was returned to his wife. It was found in an auction house.
Not to be missed!
September 12th, 2019