Archive for November, 2012

Life of Pi

Life of Pi
Release date: November 21, 2012
Directed by: Ang Lee
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Suraj Sharma, Tabu, Adil Hussain, Gérard Depardieu, Rafe Spall

Caution: Please don’t hyperventilate at the generous use of the word ‘beautiful’.

Life of Pi, adapted from its original namesake book, has a premise that borders on theism (rather, believing in yourself) and the contrast it shares with realism.

The plot is built upon a particular trying predicament in the life of Piscine Patel (Irrfan Khan) that solidified his faith and belief. He gets his name from Piscine Molitor – a swimming pool in France. How he’s rechristened to Pi is an endearing tale in itself. Pi’s mother (Tabu) reveres her religion and revels in the exuberant Hindu mythology by reciting tales of Vishnu to his brother Ravi and him.

Piscine’s father (Adil Hussain) is a businessman in Pondicherry, where the French colonial tastes still prevail. He starts a zoo within a restaurant as an attraction and gets a wide range of animals, i.e. a Royal Bengal Tiger, a zebra, orangutans, hyenas and  monkeys of course! Due to the Emergency of ’75 and the economic hardships of running a zoo in a cash-crunched country gets difficult for them, and Pi’s parents decide to relocate to Canada. What happens on their journey to Canada is what holds the spine of the film.

In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, dangling against winds and waves, Life of Pi makes the optimum use of 3D effects. Whether it’s the underwater or radiant blue skies  with the sun shining and fading away, you’re immersed into the scenic gallery of nature’s wonders.  You absorb the sounds and somber background  score, gasping and heaving at the thrilling encounters on the boat. Dialogue takes a backseat and the narrative does manage to make it look sensible and perfect.

Adil Hussain gets a balanced Tamil dialect to his English, Suraj Sharma displays tenacity and desperation as the young Pi. Though the start of the story does seem a bit clunky, but the visual imagery is beautiful throughout. The underlying theme might appear as something which establishes a ground for religion and its relevance but it entirely isn’t that. I won’t reveal what it is for it’ll just give you freeloaders a kick.

To sum up, Life of Pi is what the title tells us, which he calls “Irrational as pi (the numeric value of 22/7)” And you don’t actually need to know what mathematical background pi belongs to. Life of Pi is enchanting and surreal, yet ethereal and binding. Watch this beautiful fest of marvelous creations to wonder about.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5)

Jab Tak Hai Jaan

Jab Tak Hai Jaan
Release date: November 13, 2012
Directed by: Yash Chopra
Cast: Shahrukh Khan, Katrina Kaif, Anushka Sharma

Placed in the midst of ginormous expectations and sour comments over the initial release of its videos, Jab Tak Hai Jaan had a lot of roadblocks as challenges in its way, even before hitting the screens. Did it live up to the expectations? Sure, read on!

Set in London around 10 years ago, Samar Anand (Shahrukh Khan) is a youngster who’s looking for a job to break his family tradition of being an officer in the army because his mother doesn’t want any more military deaths in her family. Or so he says. He does odd jobs and tries to earn as much as he can. And while doing one such cleaning job, he comes across Meera Thapad (Katrina Kaif) heading into a church. She’s got her own way with God where she asks for things and gives up a thing in return to please him.

After a song and a rare smoking sequence featuring our lead actress in her engagement dress, Meera and Samar have their first real conversation. Along the way they pull off the brilliantly captured dance sequence preceding Ishq Shava and the scenery around it. Katrina dances with much oomph and you are pretty much shocked. This is where the protagonists’  feelings get convoluted and the much obscure hurdles now start surfacing. There are no tyrannical fathers and uncles, but there are spiritual (?) issues.

Akira (Anushka Sharma) is a peppy, self-proclaimed ‘heartless bitch’ who bears a stark contrast to Samar and Meera’s approach to love and relationships. She’s not scared of jumping out of relationships and doesn’t care about anything beyond sex.  And she isn’t scared of jumping into ice-cold water for a dare too! Uh, okay. Akira is acquainted with a much calm and serious layer of Samar’s personality as now he defuses bombs without protective gear. But he has his reasons for that. She’s intrigued about him and decides to share this story of a fearless man who’s diffused 98 bombs so far.

What you see in this plot isn’t hunky-dory bubblegum material crap, you get to watch people in their actual habitats: cussing, enjoying, kissing and sharing private humor. Which is where the strength of the film lies, the women aren’t insecure about their man’s choices, and independent in their own element. Meera is grounded yet confident about her decisions, Akira flirts to the extent of picking up Samar to make him get into his element. Yes, there’s the part where Samar calls Akira by ‘Kurosawa’.

Anil Mehta’s cinematography is brilliant and so artistically pleasing that sometimes, you forget there’s also a floundering story playing on the same screen. More than the music, the instrumental theme of JTHJ is more catchy and melodious. Even Challa isn’t a video capturing London’s scenery, it serves a purpose and yes, Shahrukh strums the guitar when the guitar’s playing in the back, unlike the cutsized promos. Saans shows you immaculate chemistry between the characters and I’ve already praised the entire Ishq Shava sequence. There’s light witty comedy as well, but it’s only subtle.

Yash Chopra shows how he’s evolved since his last film Veer-Zaara, he doesn’t hold back from letting his characters cuss like youngsters usually do and making them unpretentious and more real. There is no dancing around trees in chiffon sarees for the heroines and no cringe-in-your-seat moment. Shahrukh shows the shift in his character’s evolution with charm, Katrina looks like a million bucks and retains the grace associated with quintessential Yashraj heroines. Anushka plays her chirpy and upfront brash character smoothly.

Finally, Jab Tak Hai Jaan is a love story based on the conflict between a woman’s beliefs and love, and a man’s undying passion. It’s a film laced with its own imperfections and pivotal flaws with the screenplay, although perfectly finished in many departments. Yashji’s final outing as a director is quite watchable.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

The Ramblings of an Indian Pro Wrestling Fan

Author’s disclaimer: This article isn’t a hardlined prophecy by a wrestling nerd.

Pro wrestling or rather WWE (WWF before 2002) for casual viewers is associated with megalomaniacal storylines revolving around caricatured steroid-injected Davids and genetically freakish Goliaths, thrown in with buxomly ladies. A major section of the  wrestling demograph is built up of especially pre-adolescent freshly testosterone invigorated young boys in schools. The charm of gravity-defying high-flying moonsaults and hard bumps to the ring mat present an exciting entertainment-cum-inspiration source for a lot of these viewers. To do something that isn’t realistically possible in their disciplined and inactive school life hooks them onto the product for the latter viewing experience.

Billy Kidman off the top rope with The Shooting Star Press.

After a few years  and a few revelations later (read as THE INTERNET!), the naive wrestling fans get “educated” about the base realities of the sport and some of them take that as if they’ve been told Santa Claus or the Tooth Fairy aren’t real. [By the way, if you didn’t understand what that meant, I was hinting at the part when we realize wrestling isn’t all real and the winners are determined beforehand.] They become disillusioned with the entire product as a whole and disconnect themselves from it by terming it as a step in the process of “growing up”. I digress. Also I digress because I’ve wanted to use this thing because it’s quite cool these days! Okay, let me digress back to the story. But my noble engineering compatriots, the process of growing up isn’t actually that easy.

That’s Mick Foley falling from a height of 20 feet.

The basic underlining concept behind every wrestling match is a good guy going against a bad guy, which is similar to your any television programme like Dexter, Sherlock Holmes, Mandira Bedi’s Shanti and almost every mythical story ever told. The good guy might get siphoned off by the bad guy’s corrupt practices, and other subversive ways. But the money lies in the former defeating the latter eventually at a major event. As governments and economics changed, the characters became more convoluted and rooted to our lives, for example, perhaps the greatest superstar of all times: Stone Cold Steve Austin. Austin wasn’t glamorous or a Hulk Hogan with sculpted biceps, running on the beaches of Daytona in yellow-and-red, brother. He was just a bald guy with a small beard and a black vest with black boots by entering the ring to a straight guitar riff following the sound of glass-break, who gave the finger to his tyrannical boss and kicked his derriere (this article isn’t NSFW, what else do you expect to read?) for everyone’s good!

Stone Cold! Stone Cold! Stone Cold!

The character was simply a hardcore mean machine and the audiences never gave a more resoundingly unanimous loud positive reaction to anyone else.  The point that I’m trying to make is how different yet same the wrestling product is. There’s comedy, romance (ugh), action (obviously) suspense, anticipation and most importantly a conflict for the viewers which guy do they like more, often cheering for the villains rather than the quintessential white knight of the company. To look down upon wrestling fans isn’t too uncommon globally, but our breed has a nasty image of taking the entire show business very close to our hearts. The obsession with the stars has waned out through the years but I kid you not when I claim wrestling fans are more extreme than Justin Bieber (or One Direction / Weezy/ Brezzy / Deezy / Whateverzy) fans.

CM Punk is a straight-edge, punk-rock loving ‘current day Stone Cold.’

I’ve seen toddlers, punk rock chicks, heavily tattooed dudes, freakishly awesome bearded guys (yours truly is a proud member of this category), mothers, and even grannies in the same arena chanting for their favourite superstars. But the Indian scene is quite different, most of the viewers are derivatives of the XY-chromosome and usually young. If you’re a wrestling fan and you tell your friends that you can’t go out with them because there’s a pay-per-view (monthly major attraction show) on TV, you must really be prone to supposedly demeaning jibes like “What are you? Ten?” and a cocky laugh. Or the lamest of them all, “Man, wrestling isn’t real.” Yes, whiz kid, you must be Arnold from Terminator who’s arrived to save me from the fake world. You must also observe how I avoided attempting to type his surname. Who’s the real whiz kid now?

Did you say, “wrestling isn’t real?”

Pro wrestling’s also had a deep bond with rock music, except for the occasional Flo-Rida and Limp Bizkit, it’s all smooth Rollin’. (Another inside joke) Sure we do have our Undertakers, Kanes, Ultimate Warriors and Papa Shangos but who doesn’t? Aren’t Indian films and TV shows filled with larger-than-life-ridiculously-powerful villains and vamps? And those who complain how wrestling isn’t the ‘same’ as to what it was back in their day simply need to roll their eyes and take a whiff of their surroundings, it’s 2012. Kids have i-Phones!

Papa Shango

Fair enough?

So sit back, reminisce the old days on Youtube, or watch the new product on television or the internet. There’s TNA, ROH and a lot more independent stuff too. And for the sake of whatever you believe in, don’t ever taunt wrestling fans with a “That isn’t real.”, because you could be right in the middle of a real fight if your friend’s flipped to the right amount.

P.S. This is my entry for my college magazine.

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana
Release date: November 2, 2012
Directed by: Sameer Sharma
Cast: Kunal Kapoor, Huma Qureshi, Rajesh Sharma, Vinod Nagpal, Rahul Bagga, Dolly Ahluwalia, Munish Makhija.

Chicken, fun flowing cinema, a man who doesn’t wear underwear, Amit Trivedi doing Punjabi music – what else do you need to instantly like this film? Ah, never mind. I’ll write out the reasons more extensively, because hey, review blog!

The story starts in London where Omi Khurana (Kunal Kapoor) is “livin’ it up” and is ironically a lot of money DOWN in loans to Shenti bhai (Munish Makhija) He’s given a limited period to repay him back and this makes Omi land back to his family home in Punjab, India. He’s greeted with changes and a new servant with a cool heavy name. His doting grandfather Darji (Vinod Nagpal) is now demented and doesn’t remember anything much, except for his dhaaba, Chicken Khurana.

Chicken Khurana is also the name of this joint’s most famous presentation, with a secret ingredient that only the old man knew and now is suppressed inside his retired mind. Omi’s aunt accepts him with love and treats him as he never did any wrong while stealing money from their own house and running away to London. His cousin Jeet (Rahul Bagga) is about to be married to Harman (Huma Qureshi) and there are buried emotions between her and Omi which leads to awkward or odd encounters.

And there’s Titu Mama (Rajesh Sharma) who claims to be mentally retarded at his sister’s life. He doesn’t like to wear underwear – boxers/trunks/ANYTHING! He eats, pees and lives the life of a hero. Or let’s just say, my hero. Days pass on and the noose tightens around Omi’s neck and he’s desperate to find a way out of his debt situation. After scrounging for a few days, he finally gets a light of hope when he’s offered one crore rupees (Rs. 1,00,00,000) for his grandfather’s secret recipe by their age-old rival Kehar Singh (Vipin Sharma).

Kunal Kapoor plays the part of a somewhat-wannabe-UK-return-Punjabi finely except for his stiff voice in volatile sequences. Huma Qureshi (gasp) looks as good as she did in Gangs of Wasseypur and depicts the transition of a pissed off doctor to a helping cook gracefully. The ensemble cast is as good, with the plot not being irrationally complicated the straightforward story moves on with no big glitches except for a few certain long conversations that could possibly give away the grip on your attention.

LSTCK isn’t just a comedy, it connects with you in its limited emotional sequences so much that you might even shed a precipitated liquid from your eye. The film is fun, unpretentious and does what it aims to do: entertain you. Anyone else saying otherwise is probably a douchebag that I won’t like for the rest of my life.

So, chicken, cinema, Titu Mama and Amit Trivedi should make you go watch this light and connective film.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

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