As soon as I saw the first few scenes of Vishal Bharadwaj’s RANGOON featuring Russi Bilimoria, played brilliantly by Saif Ali Khan, a question struck me suddenly. Why does Vishal get the best out of Saif only when he is playing the role of a physically impaired person? Is it that that his character’s grey hues become greyer with that little impairment added? Those of you who have seen Vishal’s OMKARA will perhaps understand my question. But Saif is not the only one to essay perfectly the characters of RANGOON, based on a story by Matthew Robbins. Shahid Kapoor, who is a favourite of Vishal Bharadwaj (KAMINEY, HAIDER), Kangna Ranaut (from whom we have begun to expect nothing less than a stellar act) and Richard McCabe (a British Theatre actor) who play the other important characters of the period story excel in their performances. Just when I was beginning to think as to how come Vishal has freed himself of his deep desire to have something connected to Shakespeare in all his ventures, it struck me that even RANGOON had a little to do with Shakespeare: Richard McCabe is an Associate Artist of The Royal Shakespeare Company!!!

Music is another important component of Vishal Bharadwaj’s movies and although none of the songs in his movies are real hits on the hit parade, they sound extremely apt on the screen. The same is true of the music of RANGOON; as an additional bonus, we get to hear different versions of our National Anthem. The photography is also excellent and so are the dialogues by Vishal himself (sample this: Apni Jaan se bhi keemti kuch aur hai kya? Hai, wo jiske liye mar sake!)

Despite all this, taken as a whole, RANGOON doesn’t quite take off. And the problem is the story itself. The so called love story against a war background isn’t a passionate love story. The relationships are more based on conveniences rather than what a love story should be based on. Having perhaps realized this, Vishal tries to weave in the patriotic aspect and is perhaps trying to tell us that this love story is not between individuals as much as it is love for the nation. He succeeds, but only partially. In fact the first half becomes onerous at times and the second half hurtles towards a foregone conclusion, leaving the viewer in a “lost” situation: what is the movie all about? Thankfully, unlike Vishal’s earlier movies, which warranted two viewings to understand the real tale, here one viewing is sufficient to see that there isn’t much to see even the first time!

February 25th, 2017

RATING: 3 out of 5

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The inevitable has happened: the clash between Hrithik Roshan’s KAABIL and Shah Rukh Khan’s RAEES is beginning to take its toll and in a few days and weeks, we will know who is the winner at the box-office. But, purely from the cinematic angle, KAABIL scores better than RAEES on all counts. I know comparisons can be odious and each movie must be evaluated on its own. But when two mega stars decide to release their movies on the same day (which according to me was totally avoidable: RAEES was slated to be released last year and had an option not to time it with KAABIL’s release), and you get to watch both movies within twenty four hours, comparisons are inevitable.

In a way, the themes of both RAEES and KAABIL sound more appropriate to the eighties. KAABIL’s rape and revenge melodrama and RAEES’s glorification of a Robin Hood character have seen many avatars in the past. KAABIL brings in a certain freshness in dealing with the theme and the lead actors Hrithik and Yami Gautam do full justice to their respective roles. It is not the first time that Hrithik has acted in a revenge drama: his AGNEEPATH was quite powerfully enacted. And, here in KAABIL, he puts up his best ever performance till date. His face is his biggest asset; the ease with which his light eyes exude child-like innocence, romance, angst and anger is remarkable. Because of this, we have several situations where Hrithik’s face covers a large part of the screen and the audience gets to see all the fine nuances.

The first half of KAABIL is refreshingly breezy (the song Mon Amor and the dance accompanying it is representative of the child-like excitement in the love story between challenged individuals) and the director Sanjay Gupta reveals his penchant for doing non-action oriented scenes just as well. The positioning of the lead characters is also different: challenged, they may be, but they are not yearning for sympathy. Contrast this with the script of RAEES, where there is a deliberate attempt to invoke sympathy for the wrong doer. The second half is full of gory action and possibilities which strain and stretch one’s imagination. That perhaps is the only weak spot in this otherwise gripping presentation. The Roy brothers (Rohit and Ronit) look decently menacing and are KAABIL of being hated!! And Urvashi Rautela’s item number in the rehashed version of YAARANA’s famous song SAARA ZAMANA (composed by KAABIL’s music director Rajesh Roshan) is a tad better than Sunny Leone’s antics in the rehashed number LAILA O LAILA in RAEES.

So for more reasons than one, KAABIL is certainly a KAABIL movie to watch!

RATING: 4 out of 5

January 27, 2017

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The extent to which THE STATE vs JOLLY LLB 2 is fast becoming a much talked about movie can be gauged not merely by how it has come close to becoming a member of the 100 crore club, but also by how it’s extremely witty dialogues are being quoted in numerous places. In fact, no other movie in the recent past has such an abundance of one-liners. And if one of the popular dialogues in the movie mouthed by the defense lawyer (played quite adeptly by Annu Kapoor), finds a mention in a defamatory suit filed recently by the shoe maker, Bata India Limited, you can be sure that not only are the dialogues laden with dark humour, but are also being taken rather seriously in some quarters!! Subhash Kapoor, who has written and directed this sequel hasn’t perhaps quite forgotten the controversy of an actress slapping him (exactly three years back in February 2014) after alleging that he had molested her and therefore has a slapping sequence soon after the famous Bata dialogue in THE STATE vs JOLLY LLB 2!

I have already mentioned about the dialogues of the movie, but there are also several other plusses. The acting (particularly of Akshay Kumar and Saurabh Shukla) is excellent and so are their characterizations. With this combination, it would be but natural to expect that the movie as a whole to have been an excellent satire. Unfortunately, Subhash Kapoor gets a bit carried away and the story as it develops in the second half is riddled with too much of unrealistic happenings and coincidences. This is a sore distraction and weighs rather heavily as the movie unfolds. That the movie is still watchable is indeed a tribute to the noteworthiness of the theme and the superb casting. If only the movie had continued in the same strain as it had started off in the first half, this sequel would have been an unmissable movie. Subhash Kapoor does deserve kudos for all the positives: the idiosyncrasies are portrayed in a manner that is not offensive; even the shoe throwing incident (I don’t know as to whether Bata will take umbrage against this) and its consequences is a telling commentary on the sad state of affairs in our courts! And Subhash Kapoor drills this fact strongly without losing out on the humorous narration! It is a jolly good first half!!

RATING: 3.5 out of 5

February 16, 2017


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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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