Archive for September, 2014

Daawat-e-Ishq

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Daawat-e-Ishq
Release date: September 19, 2014
Directed by: Habib Faisal
Cast: Anupam Kher, Parineeti Chopra, Aditya Roy Kapur, Karan Wahi

A setup so good that you don’t want to hate the bad bits. That is how Daawat-e-Ishq is built up. It doesn’t have much to do with food either.

Daawat-e-Ishq plays up the concerns of a middle-class Muslim family in the technologically advanced and socially spiraling city of Hyderabad, and it warns you right at the start of the film with a disclaimer. Detailing the intricate bond of the single father-daughter duo of Abbu ji, shortened to Buji (Anupam Kher) and Gulrez shortened to Gullu (Parineeti Chopra), down to them having their nicknames imprinted on their coffee mugs, perhaps from a mall kiosk. Gullu drops her father at the Court and talks of her dreams on their scooter rides. Gullu was a state topper in academics and brilliant in basketball, but all of that doesn’t count for anything in the world of matrimony and sales.

The world of matrimony and sales is painted with caricatures, perhaps in an attempt at keeping the mood light and not too bogged down by the theme. For major parts of the film, right until the halfway mark, they succeed. From the uneducated ones to the ones aspiring for a masters degree in the United States, everyone throws the same condition for marriage. Gullu takes this as a personal insult and begs her father to join her in turning the tables on the suitors around India. Some emotional hogwash helps in turning Buji on Gullu’s side and they concoct a plan to avenge the ignominy imposed upon them by countless families and years of blindly followed stupid tradition.

Many grave realities are dealt with in an offhanded and satirical matter-of-fact manner. All of these realities in themselves can create subplots of their own, but they are kept grounded to make the film seem like a grand con job. And Parineeti and Kher transform into another persona for that con job very well. The real racewinning chemistry is here between them, even the romantic pairings of Chopra-Karan Wahi or Chopra-Kapur fade in comparison.

Ranging between being goody-too goody and compromising their moral fiber, almost all the involved characters have a shade of grey looming around them. The miniscule hints of circumstantial wit is evident throughout the movie, like for when Kapur, a restaurant owner from Lucknow disses the biryani from Hyderabad by calling it zeher and yet licking his fingertips. The delivery and timing of Kher, Chopra and Kapur are laced with local flavors from Hyderabad and Lucknow and they don’t get out of their character for even once.

Out of the songs used, although a bit tedious at times, I loved the placement of the title track and the qawwaali used in a mild chase sequence is a piece of oddball comedy. If I were to give you a review only until that title track, this review would have been a bit shorter and also less critical of the main conflict, which is over-simplified to keep everything sweet, simple and cute, and that only proves to be the film’s undoing. The spunk dies out and cheesy overdrawn cliches unveil themselves towards the end.

Daawat-e-Ishq is a well-intentioned film, which gets only pulled down by its own reluctance at being anything more than just that. It’s your easy watch, only you start feeling too overfilled with it.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)

Finding Fanny

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Finding Fanny
Release date: September 12, 2014
Directed by: Homi Adajania
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Arjun Kapoor, Pankaj Kapur, Anand Tiwari

Deepika Padukone’s voice narrates the story of a bunch of people from a place called Pocolim in Goa, which you shouldn’t bother looking for on a map. Perhaps telling us how it doesn’t really matter if the space exists or not, but paints a picture of how things go at their own pace in this sleepy yet colorful surrounding.

Ferdy (Naseeruddin Shah) is an overgrown choir boy who still hasn’t given up on singing for the church. Angie (Deepika Padukone) catches a rooster from a flock of chickens with her bare hands, and says sorry to him before chopping his head off. Rosalina (Dimple Kapadia) is a hardnosed voluptuous queen bee to the people of Pocolim and a compassionate mother-in-law and a doting mother-like figure to her cat and anyone who needs her. Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapur) is a fledgling painter who’s obsessed about his muses until he’s done painting them. Savio (Ajun Kapoor) is a scorned admirer of Angie who’s inherited 10 dentures and a crumbling house as his family’s legacy.

The five of them leave for an inadvertently selfless road trip in Don Pedro’s car, chauffeured by Savio, which is motivated by Angie’s intentions to help Ferdy know of what happened to the only woman he loved in his life, and what could have happened if his letter professing his love for her had reached the woman. Angie works the wheels around and makes the group of five oddballs assemble, even for their own selfish interests. The premise is thin, and every time Angie says it out loud, you cringe a little.

Their individual traits keep being manifested as they drive further. Often raking up age-old classic comedy shticks and lines of popular deadpan sarcasm, Homi Adajania and Kersi Khambatta place them in a way which makes them seem fit for the characters mouthing those one-liners. Nothing is absurdly serious in the journey, not even death. Finding Fanny prods you to not take life seriously itself, in a whimsically metaphoric way.

The resolution of the final act is too candid and simple, representative of the entire film itself. The resounding message in the end isn’t an unheard or unseen one, yet it’s delectably enjoyable. Mathias Duplessy’s Goan undercurrents to the film’s background score and music soak you in the free-flowing atmosphere. Adajania doesn’t delve extensively in establishing Goa’s aesthetics and lifestyles with his DP Anil Mehta, instead they reduce the clutter by just focusing solely on the protagonists.

Yes, ‘protagonists’. Finding Fanny isn’t just the story of one protagonist, it very well breaks the Bollywood barrier of sticking to one character’s defeats and victories. It’s the collective lives intertwined simply to form a no-frills outright comedy fest with an underline of love. All the mentioned actors are so drenched in the atmosphere of the film, it’s almost as if Pankaj Kapur has always been this sleazy lech, or Mr. Shah has been this fumbling loverboy. Finding Fanny creates a space where you almost forget that all five of them have played so many roles outside the canvas of this film; which in itself is terribly commendable.

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

Mary Kom

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Mary Kom
Release date: September 5, 2014
Directed by: Omung Kumar
Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumar, Rajni Basumatary, Sunil Thapa, Shishir Sharma (WHY ARE THE END CREDITS ROLLING DOWN SO FAST!?)

Biopics always get the viewers’ guard up, be it in terms of factual details or just the chronology of events in the title character’s life as compared to the real timeline of those events in the person’s lifetime. MC Mary Kom is a boxer who still actively competes, and that may have deprived the makers of this film from putting a definitive byline to it. Unlike Paan Singh Tomar or Milkha Singh. Yet, they don’t even make good of what they have at hand.

Mary Kom’s story is shown in a non-linear order, going back and forth between her current maternal state and her humble beginnings. The struggle to attend legitimate training, the opposition of a family member, her ‘love story’ and even her initial round of victories are shown in a matter-of-fact manner; which translates to no empathy/sympathy for the lead character. Everything just happens, and nor any of it is given any depth whatsoever.

If you replaced all of the actually-boxing-in-the-ring parts and substituted them with any other sport, you wouldn’t spot a difference. There’s absolutely no insight on technique, no interesting anecdotes. All of what I just mentioned might appear to be superficial flaws if they stuck with an uncompromising story at the core. But they falter at that too.

Kom’s fight against the Federation has no base to play out on. The disagreement with the officials who don’t select her for her comeback tournament comes up short, even somewhat (unintentionally) sympathetic to the apparently erring officials. An ill-placed self-victimizing racism allegation, in a film where not a single vague racist stereotype is depicted, left me with a strong pungent repulsion for the protagonist in that particular scene.

What’s likeable, you ask. Priyanka Chopra’s grit as Kom, the victory dances and her incoherent and unexplained anger outbursts. With an unnecessary mishmash of two floundering accents, she’s the hero *cough* yes, hero. You don’t have to use ‘heroine’ just because it’s a woman! She has various layers to her, a liberty that almost no other character was bestowed upon. Darshan Kumar, who plays her friend-lover-husband shows shades of range, only to be clipped by the editor or perhaps the writer. Sunil Thapa as M. Narjit Singh is stellar and thank the heaven and hells, he doesn’t have a horrible hybrid accent.Also, lo and behold Keiko Nakahara’s photography. If the film makes you shut up and watch, her frames have a major part to play in that.

The first-half of the film is just a series of shots and scenes highlighting no specific hurdles of Kom, making you question what direction is the film going in. Alas, in the second half, the screenplay starts to assume a certain shape and form. Notwithstanding the formulaic reuse of generic components, the lack of a potent downfall of the athlete and the persistent one-dimensional treatment of major characters, Priyanka Chopra and the spirit of Mary Kom keep fighting to grip you. Do they grip you? Of course they do, because they don’t make movies on influential women in India. Yet.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 out of 5)

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