Archive for May, 2013

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

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Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani
Release date: May 31, 2013
Directed by: Ayan Mukherji
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Ranbir Kapoor, Kalki Koechlin, Dolly Ahluwalia, Aditya Roy Kapur, Kunaal Roy Kapur, Evelyn Sharma, Poorna Jagannathan, Faarooq Shaikh, Tanvi Azmi

A romcom about four youngsters transcending mountains, weddings and lavish costumes is what Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani appears to be from the outside. And that’s what it pretty much is.

Bunny/Kabir Thapad (Ranbir Kapoor) wants to be a globetrotter, while his friends: Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) and Avi (Aditya Roy Kapur) don’t have a set goal except for livin’ it up. On a chance meeting with the vagrantish Aditi, Naina (Deepika Padukone) who is an eternal nerd realizes what she’s been missing out on. She joins them on a trek to Manali and tries to fit in with the rambunctious trio.

And as normal people with normal hormones, there’s an attraction between the characters here as well. Only they are lopsided. Bunny decides to take a major step towards fulfilling his dreams and moves out for further studies. How all of them change and if they can reconnect after a period of eight years form the remaining tale.

The writers aim to accomplish quite a few stories here, as it always is with films with such number of leading characters. Bunny’s non-conformance to a regular lifestyle, Aditi’s suppressed feelings and her subsequent transformation, Avi’s refusal to accept his old friend, and Naina’s need to enjoy the smaller joys of life. The film’s pace is indulgent and perhaps dampening to its mood.

Ranbir and Kalki are in fine form, except for her jarred introduction. Even the smaller roles, like that of Kunaal Roy Kapur as the bumbling Taran and Faarooq Shaikh as Bunny’s father add to the narrative. Special mention for Deepika Padukone who simply looks, walks and moves like a cliche million bucks. I couldn’t comprehend for a few hours if I could ever complete this review without getting an anxiety attack while reconstructing her scenes and songs. Oh yes, the songs! They are aplenty and baffling given their length. Albeit colorful and entertaining, the dance numbers’ presence in such a capacity cannot be justified.

Also all of  Ranbir’s scenes have a ‘grand introductory scene’ like feel to them. Maybe not all of them, but a lot of them. The lines are witty and liberally funny. Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is shot beautifully, it lacks that finish which would have made it a more complete experience. I am not saying YJHD is not enjoyable and fun, it’s just that it could have been *that* bit better.

My rating: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

P.S. Evelyn Sharma’s unabashed hotness.
P.P.S. The P.S. deserves to be in this review goddammit!

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Aurangzeb

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Aurangzeb
Release date: May 17, 2013
Directed by: Atul Sabharwal
Cast: Arjun Kapoor, Rishi Kapoor, Prithviraj, Sasheh Agha, Sikandar Kher, Tanvi Azmi, Amrita Singh, Jackie Shroff, Deepti Naval, Swara Bhaskar, Sumeet Vyas, Kavi Shastri

Aurangzeb takes comfort in describing itself as an action thriller film, but it’s more of an etched out drama. Encasing an Indian family dispute into a game of power and a fight to the finish, definitely abiding by the long inculcated principles.

Prithviraj’s character Arya Phogat – a police inspector; plays the involved narrator who’s also one of the lead players of the story. His dying father (a brief guest appearance by Anupam Kher) asks of him a promise and Arya unwillingly starts his way towards fulfilling it. His uncle Ravikant (Rishi Kapoor) knows all about this and is also in the police. In fact Ravikant’s son Dev (Sikandar Kher) and son-in-law Vishnu (Sumeet Vyas) are also cops.

This isn’t good cop bad cop. Yet. Arya’s step brother Vishal and his long-lost twin brother Ajay – both the characters played by Arjun Kapoor; are the biological sons of Veera (Tanvi Azmi) and Yashvardhan (Jackie Shroff) who are separated due to some incidents and now they are required to swap themselves and convince the world around them. Sasheh Agha plays Ritu, Ajay’s girlfriend who is now used to his sadist tendencies.

The first half starts out with heavy drama and a few theatrical introductions, eventually building some intrigue at the halfway mark. Being the film that it is, the number of people in the cast is extensive but abused at times. Like Deepti Naval portraying a nameless wife to Ravikant, faces a shock that their son-in-law’s death wasn’t a suicide. She has a brief reaction in the background, probably aimed for greater consequences but sheared at the editor’s table.

That wasn’t the only awkward cut in Aurangzeb though. There are a few more loose ends and you begin to lose hope that this is just another semblance of family reunion fluff of the seventies, but the makers decide to emphasize on the builder-government-police corruption angle in Gurgaon’s ‘booming’ infrastructure sector and a beckon for the cops to act with a backbone and opt out of the influential cut.

Arjun Kapoor in his double role is flexible in ranging his emotions from the demure Vishal to the outlandishly cocky Ajay. Rishi Kapoor is entrusted to utter the forced Aurangzeb ideologies here and he doesn’t disappoint. What you take away with you after the film has ended, are the individual performances. Amrita Singh and Jackie Shroff shine here as well.

All in all, Aurangzeb has a story to tell, and with very less light moments, it does accomplish to make you believe in the what-is-he-going-to-do-next moments. For a film that takes itself so seriously, it flounders with technical absurdities at important junctures. (I haven’t specified because they could result in being spoilers)

My rating: *** (3 out of 5 stars)

Go Goa Gone

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Go Goa Gone
Release date: May 10, 2013
Directed by: Raj Nidimoru and Krishna D.K.
Cast: Anand Tiwari, Vir Das, Kunal Khemu, Puja Gupta, Saif Ali Khan

Ever since the initial trailer, Go Goa Gone aimed at being India’s first ever “zomcom”; bewildering for many, but nonetheless amusing on paper and in the rushes too.

Three friends who liberally consume marijuana and alcohol, at least two of them do so even at the workplace that they share. The two being Luv (Vir Das) and Hardik (Kunal Khemu) and Bunny (Anand Tiwari) being the hardworking misfit who’s pretty high only on preparing pretty presentations.

As things fall into place the trio is on their way to Goa. None of this happens in the way I’ve typed out until here. Once there, Luv is acquainted with Luna (Puja Gupta) in a hilarious fashion. Hilarious is the underlying adjective in every paragraph here, the film remains endlessly laughs-inducing.

The introduction of the zombies makes you cringe for a while, fearing the generic shifting of gears into a sad usual horror film. But they aren’t ghosts! And this film isn’t sad! There are so many lines that are simply great, with the peppering of SMS slang and the bashing of stereotypes.

I’d point out individual scenes and piece of dialogue that stood out, but I’ll just ask you to keep an eye out for the condom purchasing scene and the line where one of the character asks aloud, “Who do Russians worship?” only to get an insipid “Stalin?” in response.

The individual performances justly add to the overall goodness of the screenplay. The camaraderie among the male leads looks enjoyable and not forced. There’s a very subtle social message that runs through right till the end. If anyone tells you its about showing Goa in a bad light, extend your virtual killstreak by bringing them under the headcount.

Also, I appeal for a special award be dished out to Saif Ali Khan for attempting to put up a phony Russian accent and converting his famous arm-tattoo to something in Russian, as method as an actor can get! The visuals can’t get any better without Dan Macarthur’s flashy camerawork.

To add to the infinite praises for Sachin-Jigar’s music score, I’ll unabashedly just state the obvious; the tracks are a bonus feature on the entire film. Go Goa Gone is undoubtedly one of the most entertaining films that you’ll see this year.

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

Bombay Talkies

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Bombay Talkies
Release date: May 3, 2013
Directed by: Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Rani Mukherji, Randeep Hooda, Saqib Saleem, Shivkumar Subramaniam, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Shubhangi Bhujbal, Naman Jain, Ranvir Shorey, Vineet Kumar, Sudhir Pandey

To type a personal paragraph(s) on what I love about films or not to type: that is the question.

Indian cinema, since its inception in 1913 has come a long way. Be it technically or professionally, whether it has made advancement in telling contemporary stories in a hard hitting fashion is not to be passed upon here. Bombay Talkies tries going in for the latter parameter and that is why you should love the film in its entirety for.

There are four directors with their own separate films, not all of them exactly revolving around cinema’s impact on us, but taking on different characters’ struggles and individual tales of varying emotions. The first one is Karan Johar’s film hedlining Rani, Randeep and the fresh Saqib from Mere Dad Ki Maruti. It starts off with a pumped up confrontational opening and his camera chasing Saqib.

With a style uncharacteristic to his, Johar maneuvers a telling tale of dysfunctional relationships and the society’s collective inability of accepting things as they are. He operates in a urban setting with the idealistic middle class mentality and equates it to the high classes’ apparent double standards. The actors save the plot from becoming clunky at times.

Dibakar Banerjee explores the chawls of Mumbai, where his protagonist (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) has a pet emu named Anjali. Oh how I love his subtle comedy! Nawazuddin plays an uninspired actor and a failed businessman (sic) with limited means to support his family. It’s his apparent gumption and the inner battles that form this amusing feature.

Sadashiv Amrapukar comes out of his spiritual and literal dumpsters to give him a reality check, obviously laced with good lines. It’s the ending that simply transcends into another dimension of its own. It is divine, fulfilling and succulent. The detailing is so brilliant along with Nawaz’s simmering performance, you rejoice every moment of his swaggering presence.

Post interval, Zoya Akhtar follows up with her story of a small family whose patriarch wants his son to get ‘tough’ by making him attend football sessions in school by sacrificing the daughter’s allowance for a history trip. The boy is enamored by Katrina Kaif and wants to emulate her dance performances in his fantasyland.

The approach for establishing plot devices is a bit faulty and rushed at times, but what Akhtar captures beautifully is the sibling’s relationship. It’s a simple I-look-your-back-you-look-mine one, but it’s charming, delightful and uh, heartwarming! Kaif delivers a special message in a fairy outfit and that is an added incentive to the joyful end of this film.

Indians love their films and they worship their actors with reverence and treat them as an abstract family member. Kashyap’s film is just about that. A son carries a jar of Murabba for his father’s idol (Amitabh Bachchan) to Mumbai. The reasoning for this task is what crazy fan fictions are made up of. Vineet Kumar plays the Bachchan obsessed Sudhir Pandey’s son Vijay.

He makes his trip to Mumbai from Allahabad to realize there are just a two dozen strong other Vijays hanging outside Bachchan’s house, awaiting their chance to have a few moments with The Man. Again, the finish scene with Kumar’s return to his father is purely frolicky.

Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap work a dark and cheery screenplay respectively; not their customary styles, which could cause some disappointments or surprise among their loyal viewers who could be expecting something more of the usual. I count it as one of the film’s strengths and a welcome change.

Altogether, Bombay Talkies is a great tribute that doesn’t focus on being one. And that is why it turns out to be so good.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5 stars) 

Celluloid Man

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Celluloid Man
Release date: May 3, 2013
Directed by: Shivendra Singh Dungarpur
Cast: P.K. Nair, Krzysztof Zanussi, Naseeruddin Shah, Saeed Akhtar Mirza, Jaya Bachchan, Rajkumar Hirani, Jahnu Barua, Balu Mahendra, Basu Chatterjee, Mrinal Sen, Santosh Sivan, Kumar Shahani, Ketan Mehta, Shyam Benegal, Girish Kasaravalli, Yash Chopra, Kamal Haasan, Ramesh Sippy, Mahesh Bhatt, Gulzar, Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Hariharan

Celluloid Man is about Paramesh Krishnan Nair’s undying passion for preserving India’s earliest films and going to unknown extents to acquire that one particular print of a forgotten movie. His said love wasn’t limited to the smell of nitrate films, it was way more intimate.

As Nair walks into the opening frame with his walking stick, he describes the years that have passed on in terms of his cinematic journey. He calls his initial fascination as a wonderment at the magic of moving images; his working years driven by an obsession and how he’s learnt to understand people better with his knowledge of cinema. He cuts a soft-spoken yet no-nonsense figure. And that’s how his students/friends have always known him to be.

Interspersed with clips from Hindi film industry’s earliest marvels – be it Dadasaheb Phalke’s Raja Harishchandra and Kaliya Mardan, or Bombay Talkies features like Jeevan Naiyya, Achhut Kanya and Kismet or S.S. Vasan’s Chandralekha – all of these being his acquisitions for the National Archives, a visual evolution of Indian cinema is on display along with Nair’s personal course. Not only the specifically relevant ones, but also the “C films” find a place here. Just how the man says it, you can have a rich past only when you have a rich history.

Jaya Bachchan reminisces the time when she was the only girl allowed to sit for the late night screenings with a handful of others in FTII (Film and Television Institute of India) Pune because she was the only one who’d actually attend the screenings and not go around gallivanting. Naseeruddin Shah has more than just one tale to tell. Balu Mahendra cherishes the times when he got to sit for the early morning first viewings of the newly brought in world cinema reels, “I would be watching a Norwegian film with the toothbrush in my mouth.” The personal anecdotes and experiences by stalwarts and Nair’s admirers are numerous and beautifully interesting.

The biographical documentary soon turned into a relatable story for me as I have the same habit as that of Nair’s, that is of collecting movie tickets as souvenirs. Dungarpur uses a lot of scenes from various films archives to resonate the feelings of the situations and facts in his film. Echoing screams of “I want to live” in Bengali from Ritwik Ghatak’s Meghe Dhaka Tara superimposed on stills of cobwebs hanging around celluloid reels in a lonely section of the archives, thus creating a deafening metaphor.

The Heggodu Movement begun by theater activist KV Subanna for the purpose of making the disconnected rural audiences familiar with the magnificence of Bicycle Thieves and Rashomon is also vividly recalled by the members of the participating audience members. A short montage in the later timeline depicts major themes like song, dance, action, romance and brace yourselves, members of the self-righteous moral police, full frontal Kissing from the films of black and white days. The most grande scene is perhaps the one with Nair mouthing off lines from Citizen Kane while the film plays on the screen behind him.

Just like how Mr. Nair didn’t discriminate on any basis while collecting films for the archive, Celluloid Man is an important film from a historical and cultural standpoint. It weaves his larger than life affair with cinema, simultaneously painting a picture of the sorry state of archiving as a wholly neglected activity in India. May 3, 2013 marks hundred years of Indian cinema and this film makes for compulsory viewing from every person who’s ever enjoyed a moment of theatrical magic in any form.

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

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