Archive for July, 2013

Ship of Theseus

ship-of-theseus-poster
Ship of Theseus
Release date: July 19, 2013
Directed by: Anand Gandhi
Cast: Aida El-Kashef, Neeraj Kabi, Sohum Shah, Amba Sanyal, Faraz Khan, Vinay Shukla, Sameer Khurana, Sunip Sen, Ramnik Parekh

After pondering over what buzzwords to include in my introductory paragraph of this review for quite a long time, I eventually decided to pour out my introspective reflections and cinematic observations without making a comment about the film’s probable long-term effects on anything.

Ship of Theseus is the Greek interrogative paradox of  whether an object which has had all its components replaced remains fundamentally the same object. The film presents three different cases of replacement where organs of the human body stand to get replaced and how does the said decision of getting the replacement moulds their perspective.

Aliyaa (Aida El-Kashef), a blind photographer living in a foreign city is still bothered at not yet being a “complete” photographer even while she’s garnering accolades for her black and white images. She yearns to see the world that she clicks. Her subsequent cornea transplant changes her feelings about the same world.

Maitreya (Neeraj Kabi) is a monk of a fictitious religion with its roots thickly based in the theory of equality and freedom of choice and consent for all species alike. He fights for the cause he believes in, with a young apprentice at a law firm, Charvaka (Vinay Shukla) and his fellow godmen at the monastery, highly dipped in irony and a tongue-in-cheek battle with the ever-prevalent cynicism of the modern world. After a bout of illness, Maitreya faces a dilemma of getting a transplant which strongly contradicts his ideals.

The third protagonist, Navin (Sohum Shah) is a practically capitalistic businessman who gets a kidney transplant and is confronted by his own grandmother’s beliefs and a consequential doubt of his kidney being stolen. He embarks on a personal interrogation of the whole crime racket and tries to provide a solution to one of the victims. The individual screenplays merge at the end to give a befitting conclusion to the film.

Director of Photography and co-writer Pankaj Kumar chases the characters with his camera for long periods of extended dialogue and extremely ordinary activities. The imagery, no matter how visually sombre, is extremely moving. The character backgrounds of each protagonist are entirely based in Mumbai, yet they have a deeply disconnected social and moralistic outlook at life. It is perhaps this disconnection that captivates you through each of the tracks.

The performances of all the actors along with the less focused upon supporting cast are completely organic and terribly realistic. Special props to Neeraj Kabi’s physical transformation for his role’s requirement. The production and sound design carefully alleviate the film to make it a spiritual experience. From Aliya’s irritation and anxiety to Maitreya’s silent self-doubt and Navin’s newfound empathy, everything transcends the barrier of the celluloid screen.

Ship of Theseus may not necessarily be life-altering or even inquisitive  for you, but it surely questions, enlightens and enthralls you how great cinema should. It’s stay in the theaters may be limited, it definitely won’t disappear from your subconscious any soon.

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

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D-Day

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D-Day
Release date: July 19, 2013
Directed by: Nikhil Advani
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Arjun Rampal, Nasser, Huma Qureshi, Shruti Haasan, Rishi Kapoor, Chandan Roy Sanyal, K. K. Raina, Imran Hasnee, Shriswara, Dwij

Nikhil Advani’s D-Day starts off  with a literal bang in the form of Duma Dum Mast Kalandar being performed (read as lip synced) by Rajpal Yadav as a member of a wedding band, in a plush Pakistani hotel on Goldman’s son Salim’s pre-marriage party and a secret op occurring in the background. Making you expect a muscling adrenaline infected punch-and-kick extravaganza.

As Goldman (Rishi Kapoor) is almost in trouble as are the special agents, the film goes in a reflective flashback. Building a backstory for all the major characters, namely Wali Khan (Irrfan Khan), Rudra Pratap Singh (Arjun Rampal), Zoya Rehman (Huma Qureshi) the screenplay becomes more inclusive and appears to be dragging. But much later in the second half, they use the same over-ripe character sketches to provide for a twist in the plot.

Rishi Kapoor plays the you-know-who India’s most wanted criminal and with his rose tinted glasses, he seems cut out for the role of an evolved and aging Dawood Ibrahim. Irrfan doles out fine emotions when needed and a mean streak when it gets heavy. He plays the soothing husband to the fittingly casted Shriswara and a spoiling father to Dwij. There are flaws in the plot and the usual “I am calling off the operation, but you don’t have to stop it.” line gets too cheesy for me.

Though the second half is bereft of any such explicit glitches, D-Day embarks on a fantasy trip of defeating the targeted criminals in an overbearing way turning out to be pleasantly (not exactly pleasant, but rather tightly) entertaining. The final story is gripping and glues your butt to the seat. Also, the short monologue by Goldman is utterly hilarious for a satirical tirade along with the final message in Arjun Rampal’s voice just sums up our audiences in a line. Pay attention to that.

The direction is smart and subtle, Advani pits parallel tracks stealthily distracting from the situational music numbers. And given the number of songs with Rampal and Haasan together, bless him for not succumbing to feature in a song and dance fiesta.  The mise en scene renders a hazy texture to the thriller saga and thereby catalyzes Tushar Kanti Ray’s stylish cinematography.

D-Day is intelligent and intentionally non-preachy. Never straying from the agenda, a very strong addition to the very limited Hindi action thriller category.

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

Shorts

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Shorts
Release date: July 12, 2013
Directed by: Shlok Sharma, Siddharth Gupt, Anirban Roy, Rohit Pandey, Neeraj Ghaywan
Cast: Huma Qureshi, Satya Anand, Swheta Tripathi, Aditya Kumar,  Richa Chaddha, Arjun Shrivastav, Murari Kumar, Preeti Singh, Shankar Debnath, Kanchan Mullick, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Aditi Khanna, Vineet Singh and Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Guneet Monga

As the release date shows, Shorts–a compilation of five short films, released 6 days back and I have only managed to catch it today. My viewpoints are a clear reflection of the angst and despair that I simply can’t keep to myself even though this film is out of screens in just a few hours.

A joint venture by the ever-expanding AKFPL and Tumbhi along with PVR Directors Rare, Shorts is an anthology of five different stories. Aimed at constructing a market for new filmmakers to market their skills, Shorts proves to be just that, a showreel of psychedelic lighting, voyeuristic camera angles, some acting here and there and over-dependence on nothing but background score.

The storylines present (or absent in a few) in the individual features have no connective theme and that’s not the part that’s frustrating, it’s actually usual for such a production to pack in different flavors, giving the audiences a chance to enjoy varied tastes and characters. But Shorts is plainly frustrating.

Shlok Sharma’s Sujata tries to build the entire narrative in flashbacks and constant cut-ins to the current setting. It deals with a complex theme of sexual abuse, but yet shies away from being naked in its sharpness. The said faults aren’t as distracting as the logical inconsistencies here.

Siddharth Gupt’s Epilogue is supposedly abstract and mysterious, but as the relationship drama starts to develop, it becomes unbearably repetitive and non-contextual. Richa Chadda’s sensuality isn’t enough to captivate you with a third symbolic character meandering with a shovel. The players are potentially most fascinating, but the said potential kills itself by self-aggrandizing.

Audacity directed by Anirban Roy tells a teenage-girl rebelling against her self-glorifying chauvinist father. Humor is an underlying theme in this feature as the girl defies the norms in her own way by capitalizing on the same beliefs of middle class Calcutta which restrict them in the first place. Again, the cultural background and a reasoning behind the characters’ activities aren’t established here as well.

Rohit Pandey’s Mehfuz also aims at being a subtle, minimal dialogue presentation like Epilogue and doesn’t quite fail as much. A blue and yellow tint is maintained throughout without making an ounce of an effort to actually ponder over its hokey appearance and contriving vibes. Mehfuz also carries on for the same duration that feels like a hundred eons. Only the choice of the protagonist’s profession is appealing.

The final film in this tiring experience is Neeraj Ghaywan’s Shor. The characters are boorish and real, the story isn’t pretentiously groundbreaking, yet it has a flow unlike most of the other parts. The only feature to have an extended dialogue and is explicitly reflective in its approach, turns out to be a good ending to the unseemly collaboration.

The incumbent ambition of the makers to popularize the concept of such initiatives shoots itself in the foot as the selection that they have preferred to come out with is woefully hit-and-miss (majorly miss) and amateurish. The ordinary uninformed masses won’t take the same number of risks in making their decisions though.

My rating: ** (2 out of 5)

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag

bhaag milkha bhaag poster
Bhaag Milkha Bhaag
Release date: July 12, 2013
Directed by: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra
Cast: Farhan Akhtar, Pawan Malhotra, Yograj Singh, Prakash Raj, Divya Dutta, Rebecca Breeds, Meesha Shafi, Dalip Tahil, Sonam Kapoor, Nawab Khan, Art Malik

Bhaag Milkha Bhaag starts from a race and keeps building toward another race. Based upon Milkha Singh, a former track and field sprinter, it chronicles his glory days right through thick and thin. The timeline of events in non-linear though.

In the freshly partitioned landscapes of Pakistan, a young Milkha makes his way to India. He’s a tough kid, he gains a street cred by fitting in with the local teenagers. Isri Kaur (Divya Dutta) is Milkha’s much older and married sister who looks after him. Reveling in his cheap tricks, Milkha starts growing up. Beero (Sonam Kapoor) makes Milkha fall in love with her and he wants to straighten his ways just to impress her.

Much later in the army, he sleeps looking at her photograph. His running abilities have got him out of predicaments and all of the memorable situations that made him bhaag (run) are depicted at separate junctures throughout the narrative. One such interesting tale helps Milkha get selected for the defense sports team.

The film captures Milkha’s failures and victories along the way, all building up to a much hyped contest in Pakistan and why he won’t run in Pakistan. That is supposedly the film’s major and prime conflict which doesn’t connect you with his struggle. The intended suspense isn’t unpredictable or unforeseen, and you always have an inkling what is about to happen. And that’s the approach the makers have taken, they’re reaching a known conclusion by simply portraying Milkha’s journey and his outrightly likable demanour.

They play up his inner demons liberally and try to make the film all about it. Reasons for Milkha to run are presented to us and his urge to attain closure are what carry the film forward to its impending end. I usually don’t complain about a film’s running length if it is taut and riveting. BMB with all its heavy drama and beauteous picturization of the running sequences couldn’t warrant a three hour runtime if it hadn’t been for the number of subplots they’ve decided to show.

BMB is heavy on emotions and I am a sucker for them, but the dialogues couldn’t evoke the aimed empathy at times. Was it the writing or the delivery and casting, I gets hard to make out. Art Malik’s part as Milkha’s father was painful to watch for me, the extras were annoying especially towards the end in a press conference sequence. These flaws were more than compensated by Pawan Malhotra and Divya Dutta’s performances. Malhotra as Milkha’s guiding light is utterly captivating to watch.

Above all Farhan Akhtar’s acting grows on you, as you expect a typical loudmouth Sikh from him and instead he delves in his underplaying qualities and therefore helping Milkha’s character to grow. Not to mention his Hercules-like sculpted body. The amount of pain that his character is suffering, the strides in his run and his super sit-ups and push-ups finely accentuate Milkha’s disciplined drive for the sport.  For a period film, BMB doesn’t look particularly detailed. Binod Pradhan instead uses the easily available visuals and capitalizes on their unnoticed inherent appeal.

Is this a masterpiece by the standards of world biopics? No, it isn’t. Rather it grounds the title character. He is not an out-and-out-do-gooder hero, and the same can be said about the film. Bhaag Milkha … isn’t an enlightening lesson in history, it is more of a tale of true emotions and a story that deserves attention, not necessarily in this way.

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

Lootera

Lootera (2013) Movie Poster
Lootera
Released date: July 5, 2013
Directed by: Vikramaditya Motwane
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha, Adil Hussain, Arif Zakaria, Vikrant Massey, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Shirin Guha

As one of the two on-the-run men is fallen, and the accomplice manages to escape, snowflakes start falling. A pensive autumn tree losing its leaves being looked upon from the misty windows of a house in Dalhousie. The restless fiddling with a light switch depicting a young lady’s constant reveling in the same. These are just a few from a series of charmingly beautiful visuals from Lootera.

Set in newly independent India of the 50s, in an affluent zamindaar household of bright and sunny Calcutta, Pakhi Roychoudhry (Sonakshi Sinha) is an aspiring writer with gleaming eyes and perfectly tucked in saris. She is playful yet contained, portraying an innocence of a bygone era. Cushioned by a formerly royal lineage, she makes time to cherish the smaller things.

Varun Shrivastav (Ranveer Singh) is a state archaeologist in search for ancient figures and in that pursuit lands in front of the Roychoudhry house. He starts his excavation on the property and finds a soft spot with the hospitable hosts. He creates a wooden canvas on his every assignment, and on being asked about his interest with blank canvases, he reveals he’s waiting to draw an eventual masterpiece.

From a head-on collision in a chance encounter to charring Varun’s hand deliberately; from stealing glances to sitting next to each other by the lakeside and whispering sweet nothings; from being passionately in love to forcibly injecting asthma curing drugs– it is this natural progression of Pakhi and Varun’s story that renders an intimate and uncontrived vibe to it. Abstaining from heavy declarations of feelings, Lootera thrives on situations and their power of carrying them through without unnatural dialogue.

Motwane and his cinematographer Mahendra J. Shetty elicit a vibrantly enthusiastic feel to the first half and at the same time juxtapose them with darker shades to consistently maintain a contrast that goes with the different characters. Open spaces are highlighted as diligently as the confined rooms and windowpanes. Amit Trivedi’s music and background score is more of a match tailor made for the film.

Sonakshi Sinha delivers one of her most valuable performances as she ranges between being young and chirpy, and morbid and gloomy. She is in such form that you’re often distracted by her expressions from her ethereal appearance. Ranveer Singh is not on her level here though, but even that’s enough to hold your attention. O. Henry’s short story, “The Last Leaf” is finely woven into the film’s narrative, so much that you relinquish a certain emotion and start cheering for one of the protagonists in a certain scene. (I don’t give away any spoilers.)

As much adjectives I’ve used up to this point to describe Lootera’s brilliance, I’m still left with a few more. But I’d rather not delve in the depths of its excellence again for that will simply not end. There may be a blemish or two, which I won’t tell you.

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

P.S. Excuse the shoddy rhyme in the last line and go watch Lootera with compassion and all silence.

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