About ten years back, Rahul Dholakia wrote and directed a very sensitive movie PARZANIA which was themed around the Gujarat Riots. And quite justifiably, he won the National Award for the best directorial effort. The movie was a stark and brutal attempt to bring to the screen a tragic tale and devoid of any make-up of a commercial kind. When commercial movie production houses like Red Chillies Entertainment (Shah Rukh Khan and Gauri Khan) and Excel Entertainment (Ritesh Sidhwani and Farhan Akthar) joined hands and signed up Rahul Dholakia to direct RAEES, I had expected that the output would be sensitive but cloaked in commercialism.

I therefore have no disappointment about the commercial clothing that RAEES dons, but the fact that the movie had no soul or sensitivity at its core certainly saps the movie of its potential to have made a mark. If RAEES (in the manner it has been made) had been released during the eighties, it would have been acceptable and would have scored high on several counts. But cinema making in Bollywood has come a long way from the productions of the eighties. Shah Rukh Khan turns in a convincing performance and Nawazuddin Siddique matches him step for step and in a few frames even gets to better him, thanks to the pithy one-liners in his dialogues. The rest of the cast don’t get their act right or have fairly peripheral roles. There isn’t much effort at detailing; a few scenes in which Shah Rukh Khan manages to move around pretty normally without spectacles seem quite incongruous. The goons and the bad boys don’t look menacing enough; perhaps this was done to make sure that the grey character played by Shah Rukh looks suitably grey.

That brings me to the dilemma which was perhaps faced by the writer: how does one bring the audience to sympathize with the character whose tales of bootlegging in a dry state are not exactly flattering? Remember how are hearts thumped with sympathy for the criminal Vijay in Deewar (played by Amitabh)? That is missing in RAEES. So neither do we have a straight biopic nor a purely commercial presentation. Is that the reason, why as a reflection of how the movie has turned out in the end, Shah Rukh’s first scene shows him beating himself (as part of the rituals during Muharrum), although that scene has no bearing on the rest of the happenings? Alas, King Khan’s quality of performance (paralleling his act in DEAR ZINDAGI and CHAK DE INDIA) cannot rescue the movie from slipping into the list of average movies.

RATING: 3 out of 5

January 25th, 2017

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The first feeling that crosses one’s mind when one comes across a phrase like OK JAANU is whether this is one of those phrases painted on the rear of the trucks in India. If it is meant to be an endearment, the first part OK doesn’t actually sound OK! The Tamil original on which this remake (produced by Mani Ratnam and Karan Johar) was called O KADHAL KANMANI, but shortened to OK KANMANI, for reasons I am not aware of. And just as the remake of Mani Ratnam’s ALAY PAYUTHEY was very differently titled SAATHIYA, this remake could have been just titled JAANU. But would it have made any difference?

The Tamil originals in both these cases were created and crafted by Mani Ratnam and there was a magical romantic touch which pervaded both these movies. And whereas, director SHAAD ALI did a wonderful job in recreating those moods in SAATHIYA, something seems to be missing in OK JAANU. In all fairness, the actors get their act right. Aditya Roy Kapur and Shraddha Kapoor, who play the young leads who initially are not sold on the concept of marriage, bring that spirit well on the screen, although Dulqer Salman’s and Nithya Menon’s act in the original looked more appealing; and Naseeruddin Shah and Leela Samson are good as well as the elderly couple. AR Rahman’s compositions sound good and Gulzar’s lyrics fit well. But put together, the effect doesn’t truly deliver. Perhaps the scripting didn’t allow the romantic portions of the elderly couple to linger on longer; the transformation of the young couple’s thoughts looks very sudden. On second thoughts, these flaws were there even in OK KANMANI, but somehow, one didn’t mind it as much then.

Therefore, one is not quibbling on any one scene or scenes in particular, but on what more could have been done to craft a romantic tale worthy of being remembered and recalled. To begin with, there could have been screen footage devoted to the love story of the elderly couple, with their present situation being seen as a fallout of their long loving relationship. Secondly, the blossoming of the relationship between the youngsters to a live-in status also happens rather quickly and the build-up of their decision in the end could have been shown a little more elaborately. In such a case, we would have lovingly called the movie JAANU rather than saying that it is just OK!

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

January 14th, 2017


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​More about Friday the 13th..and I am more than certain that you will not believe that this is true..looks like material for Ripley’s Believe It or Not!

Yesterday, I posted on Friday 13th and whether that was ominous for Bollywood Film music of 2017, but what I am going to tell you is straight from the flight records.

Yesterday, January 13th was a Friday and at around 13 00 hours local Copenhagen time, Flight 666 of Finn Air took off from Copenhagen to a destination coded HEL in flying parlance ( Helsinki for you and me) and landed safely with a reasonable complement of passengers, who didn’t seem to mind that the aircraft was exactly 13 years old. Now would you have boarded that flight? 

We are all familiar with the number 13, but for those of you not familiar with 666, let me tell you thatit is “the mark of the beast” from the Book of Revelation meant to indicate presence of The Devil. 

And on this “unholy” note, let me wish you and your families a Happy Sankranti and Happy Pongal!!

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Very rarely does one get to see a Hollywood production before it is released in the US and when the opportunity presented itself when THE GREAT WALL came to the Muscat screens, I lost no time in seeing it. And when I was slated to watch it in 3D and on the giant IMAX screen, I was looking forward to a spectacular experience. Part of my expectations were based on the trailer of the movie as also on the director Zhang Yimou, who is credited with directing the opening and closing ceremonies of the 2008 Beijing Olympics and the making of the visually powerful HOUSE OF FLYING DAGGERS.

It turned out to be a very satisfying visual and aural experience and held me in total awe for the just under two hours the spectacle was on the screen. Awe of the photography, awe of the special effects and awe of the simple legend narrated in such a powerful manner. By virtue of the fact that it is a legend being narrated, you will have to be prepared for unreal characters and their unreal abilities. If you prepare for this, then it is very likely that you will enjoy the presentation. Make no mistake: this is not a great piece of cinematic art, neither are the performances (Matt Damon plays the lead role) worthy of being lauded. They are just what are required in an exposition where actions speak more than words!

There are just three Hollywood actors in the ensemble of numerous Chinese actors; Jing Tian who plays the role of a commander is stunningly plain and beautiful. The shots of the flying lanterns stand out for the scale and the impact: one could just see the movie for these shots. The background score is operatic and perfectly matches the atmosphere of the movie. I am told that this is the most expensive movie shot totally in China; the co-producer Legendary Pictures has a Chinese ownership. One more interesting bit of information: Normally, I wait for all the credits to come on the screen in the end, but in this case it appeared to me that the credits were rolling for five minutes and were still continuing when the cleaning staff shooed me away. There were credits for everyone involved in the making: carpenters, painters, welders…..a remarkable way of thanking all those who work behind the scenes and who are seldom remembered!

RATING: 4 out of 5

January 13, 2017


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FRIDAY, JANUARY 13th, 2017


My first blog post for 2017 is being written on Friday 13th. The first of the two such occurrences in 2017 happens to be today; and the last time such an occurrence happened in January was in 2012. Now does that sound ominous for 2017? Hopefully not, but this year hasn’t certainly begun well for Bollywood music. There are three releases in January, which are being looked forward to by audiences. The first is the Maniratnam-Karan Johar presentation OK JAANU, with music by AR Rahman (which I am hoping to see today); the second one is the Hritik Roshan starrer KAABIL, with music by Rajesh Roshan and the third one is SRK’s RAEES, with music by Ram Sampath.

Very strangely, in each of these movies, there is a remix of a hugely popular old filmy hit. In OK JAANU, we have the Humma number from Bombay, in RAEES, we have the Laila O Laila number from Qurbani and in KAABIL, we have two remixed numbers: Saara zamana from Yaarana and Dil Kya kare from Julie. Is this just a coincidence or a reminder that we are running out of new good tunes? And just when we thought that item numbers are passe, all these remix songs are filmed on item girls. In RAEES, it is Sunny Leone, who swings and in KAABIL, it is item girl Urvashi who does the act. In OK JAANU, it is the lead actress Shraddha Kapoor who does an item number sort of an act in front of her beau!

From my writing perspective, Friday the Thirteenth January probably won’t be such an ominous date!

My next post is the review of THE GREAT WALL and hopefully, in the night, I will pen the review of OK JAANU!

January 13, 2017

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It is a little unusual for someone (about whom there is a perception of his being a First Day, First Show personality) to be viewing a Last Day, Last Show. I must say that this happened to a very large extent due to a very gentle desire expressed by my better half to see this movie “LION”. We had both seen the trailer of this movie a few weeks back. While the trailer was interesting about a real life lost and found tale, it did not come under the category of “unmissable” according to me. But for some reason, this trailer had impressed my wife and when I was made aware that we see movies very often based only on my choice and that the last show of LION was on that evening, I decided that I would take her to watch that movie.

When we were walking out of the theatre after watching the two hour movie, I was very grateful to my wife for having expressed the hint of an interest in seeing this. And quite in contrast to my impression on seeing the trailer, LION is just unmissable. And my guess is that this movie will be actively in the running for a few Oscar and Golden Globe awards!

Released exactly a month back in the US, LION is a Hollywood production featuring a real life tale of a kid, Saroo, who gets separated from his family at the age of five in a small town Ganeshtalai near Khandwa in Madhya Pradesh. His accidentally getting on a decommissioned train, which takes him 1600 km away from home to Howrah, his nasty experiences and how he lands up as an adopted child of an Australian couple in Tasmania and rediscovers his roots in 2005 when he is thirty, thanks to Google Earth which was launched that year is the bare plot of this movie. But it is far, far removed from the lost-and-found Manmohan Desai type of Bollywood movies!

The first half is mostly shot in the grime of poverty infested areas of Kolkata (Nawazuddin Siddique and Deepti Naval have brief roles), and reminds us occasionally of SLUMDOG MILLIONAIRE. But the brilliance of the kid Sunny Patel, who plays the lost child grips you from the very beginning. With dialogues in Hindi interspersed by Bengali, in the first half, the director, Garth Davis, in his debut film recreates the scenes in a very realistic fashion. Few of us as kids have not experienced the fear of getting lost and the way Sunny brings the varied expressions on his face stays with you long after the movie is over. Post interval, Dev Patel takes on the role of the grown up kid and a few scenes featuring him and his foster mother played by Nicole Kidman are heart tugging. Of course, the most touching scenes come in the end and the crowning glory is when Garth gets the real life Saroo and his mother on the screen along with his foster mother.

Wonder why the film is titled LION? We are told about this in the end and I will not spoil it by revealing this. Just watch it!

RATING: 4 out of 5

December 24, 2016

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First things First: The last Bollywood release of 2016 comes first! If you are interested to know why, read on. Otherwise, just go to the nearest movie house screening DANGAL and watch it.

In the true tradition of movies produced by Aamir Khan, DANGAL, co-produced by UTV and Disney, comes to us in the last weeks of the calendar year. And manages to sweep you off your feet; it could well be Aamir’s best effort till date.

Bollywood biopics about sports personalities have begun to hold audience interest, ever since SRK’s CHAK DE INDIA started this phenomenon in 2007 and won for him, deservingly, the best actor award on a few platforms. After that, we had well-made productions like PAAN SINGH TOMAR (Irrfan Khan) in 2010 and BHAG MILKHA BHAG in 2013 featuring athletics champions, and MARY KOM (Priyanka Chopra) in 2014 on Boxing. And 2016 has brought in a flood of such movies: the very average AZHAR, the not commercially successful BUDHIA SINGH: BORN TO RUN about the world’s youngest marathon runner,  M S DHONI: THE UNTOLD STORY and now, DANGAL.

Curiously, DANGAL’s biggest appeal comes from its total lack of star filled glamour. And even the star Aamir Khan has deglamorized himself by putting on 30 kilograms of flab to play the role of the ageing Mahavir Singh Phogat who successfully created wrestling champions out of his two daughters, Geeta and Babita. It is not merely the story which is inspirational; not also just the fact that it celebrates the victory of two girls from Haryana, where the birth of girls isn’t greeted with much joy, like in many other places in our country. It is in the virtually flawless execution that DANGAL scores. The credit for this goes to the director Nitesh Tiwari, whose earlier effort was an ordinary BHOOTHNATH RETURNS. Nitesh who has co-scripted the presentation, has re-created the ethos permeating the real life saga in such a faithful and entertaining manner, that you don’t actually mind the 160 minutes running time of the movie. The narration is linear and simple and will therefore appeal to all audiences. Of course, such a creation wouldn’t have been possible without the actors. It is difficult to say as to who has acted better: whether it is Aamir Khan or the equally brilliant performance by Fatima Sana Shaikh as Geeta. Even the child artistes who have played the role of Geeta and Babita are superb.

Pritam’s music matches the tempo of the skillful editing (particularly of the wrestling sequences); and the “Bapuji Haanikarak” lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharyya is an example of how humour can be woven in even a serious biopic.

And on the topic of humour, if anyone is considering a biopic on Priyanka Gandhi, one doesn’t have to look around for an actress to play that role. Fatima Sana Shaikh is an exact look-alike!

RATING: 4.5 out of 5

December 23rd, 2016

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