Archive for February, 2015

Dum Laga Ke Haisha

DumLagaKeHaisha_Poster

Dum Laga Ke Haisha
Release date: February 27, 2015
Directed by: Sharat Katariya
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Sanjay Mishra, Seema Pahwa

As a kid growing up in the 90’s in a yet obsolete suburb of Mumbai, I watched a lot of Hindi films and I loitered as much, emulating the trends of the films that I saw; often around boys who were much older than me. There were some who had given up education, dropped out of school and didn’t do much. Not very ambitious, not swashbuckling in the slightest of quantities. And my grandfather attended the “morning shakhas” in his khakhi shorts. These are my roots which I see thickly embroiled in the universe of Dum Laga Ke Haisha.

Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) is just one of those dropouts that I knew, clueless about his life, whiling away his hours at his father’s cassette shop in 1995. Except, he’s in Haridwar. He embodies the ‘small town’ naivete and is a man-boy who still doesn’t get to make his decisions, he’s literally browbeaten to marry a girl he doesn’t find attractive. A girl who’s more educated than he is, a girl who even speaks English well. What’s the dealbreaker, you ask? She’s just a tad too “healthy”, code for ‘overweight’ in middle class families.

Sandhya Verma (Bhumi Pednekar) is the girl in the equation. She’s evidently superior to our irritatingly Ganga Kinaare wala laundaa, in the “nature” and qualifications department. The incredibly shaky institution of arranged marriage unites this unlikely pair, at a community marriage ceremony, where a fifty other couples are also taking the rounds of the sacred fire. I’ve possibly listed a lot of quirks from the film at the risk of spoiling the film, but they are simply so delectable, it’d be injustice to them if I didn’t tell you how much character they add to every portion of the story.

Prem doesn’t understand the gravity of raising a family with his sperm, just like a substantially great number of other Indian men. He’s frustrated at his own insecurities and he piles them on his new bride’s physical appearance. It’s a difficult relationship, and the family members, just like in a majority of dwindling actual Indian marriages, offer their suggestions on how to salvage the situation so that they don’t have to face the stupid/stoneage ignominy of being the bearers of children who couldn’t keep up the charade of a perfect marriage, no matter how miserably, for their entire lives.

Set in Haridwar, the characters converse in country-accented Hindi, mirroring their friendships and the dynamics of the sweet-and-sour nature of closely-knit intricate families of the city. The cassettes are beginning to go out of favour and the Compact Disks are starting to roll in. Kumar Sanu is still hot property though. Anu Malik provides the modern soundtrack with Varun Grover’s whimsical lyrics. They successfully recreate the decade masterfully with Sanu and Sadhana Sargam, and juxtapose them with haunting tunes as themes to Prem and Sandhya. Andrea Guerra’s background score, as a few kids on the internet say, “is on fleek”. Pleasantly rhythmical and not at all over-the-top.

A strong ensemble cast, like the one in this film, can never be a bad thing. A good ensemble, like families, provides the constant badgering and the continuous kick-on-the-butt, which this film’s Tiwari and Verma clans keep doing. There is the mother’s emotionally manipulative BS, and another mother’s insufferable sobbing. There’s one father’s shoe-beating, and another brother’s teenage petty cribbing. Sanjay Mishra and Seema Pahwa, after last year’s Aankhon Dekhi, are just invaluably indispensable additions to any film, in any capacity.

Khurrana’s Prem is a particularly unlikeable lad, often with no redeeming qualities. The maker’s goal isn’t that, they don’t want to cause a turnaround in him, nor the viewer’s perception of him. He tries to pick up his studies from where he left them, but he suddenly doesn’t become the goddamn class-topper with his determination. He can’t conquer every hurdle that is thrown in his path, even though he does manage to overcome some of his prejudices–which is perhaps a bigger victory for him. Again, he isn’t likeable, he’s just real.

Bhumi Pednekar’s Sandhya is the thriving girl who finds herself on her groom’s bed wondering what to do. She’s reticent, and yet makes an exemplary effort in making a move to consummate her liaison. She knows that she isn’t in the right place, but she makes the effort to hang in there. She makes Sandhya real and affable.

Sharat Katariya presents what we know, what we’ve seen around. Dum Laga Ke Haisha is enjoyable and accomplishes well what it sets out to do, it succeeds in telling a story which is relateable and yet novel and effectively original.

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

Badlapur

Badlapur Poster

Badlapur
Release date: February 20, 2015
Directed by: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Yami Gautam, Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vinay Pathak, Huma Qureshi, Pratima Kazmi, Radhika Apte, Ashwini Kalsekar, Murli Sharma, Divya Dutta

In a war, there are excesses. In the modern world, these war crimes amount to conviction and greater ignominy. Badlapur harbors on being a metaphoric representation of that. Two forces of Raghu (Varun Dhawan) and Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) against each other, the initially wronged force goes to extents that go far beyond the narrative of a hero’s struggle (revenge here)

Raghu’s wife and kid are victims of a bank robbery outrun involving Liak and his partner. Liak is caught and jailed, Raghu is caught in the web of his misery and jails himself in faraway Badlapur until he exacts revenge. Liak is unrepentant, and unwilling to give up his charade even in prison. Raghu plots and schemes his vendetta methodically by tracing everyone who is beloved to Liak.

Right from the beginning, there are no shades of white and black attached to the supposed protagonist and antagonist; the deeds of the protagonist border on misogynistic and outright psychotic, and even the antagonist might claim that even he wouldn’t go so far.Kanchan (Radhika Apte) and Jhimli (Huma Qureshi) are women who defend their men for any crime they may or may not have done. Raghu viciously uses their vulnerability to inflict pain and humiliation on the men they love.

The cause behind the revenge is sympathetic, yet the revenge itself isn’t as sympathetic. All of this imbalance in a conventionally stacked universe is what makes Badlapur greater than it actually is. Extensively shot in rainy conditions, the mood is rightly kept grim and so is the look on Raghu’s face. All of the ensemble cast, which is lined up to relay good performances, have quirks and traits that flesh their individual characters with broad strokes.

Varun Dhawan is being lauded for “making a brave choice” by playing Raghu, rather it should be the other way round. His portrayal of Raghu lends credibility to his  so-far-one-dimensional acting profile. Nawazuddin Siddiqui cannot be ever praised enough for his performances, and I am not even going to try to read out his strenghts as Liak. As neither Dhawan’s part is a complete pity-case, nor is Siddiqui’s Liak an entirely unlikable bad guy.

Sachin-Jigar’s background score sets the mood perfectly well for the ghastly acts of violence and/or the relatively new (for mainstream Hindi films at least) moments of hate-sex. The violence on display in this quite literal revenge porn is scarce and powerful, owing to its intricately shot techniques. Director Sriram Raghavan extracts long continuous takes in confined spaces such as a basement, a bathroom and an open street, thus rendering a chaotic feel to the order of events.

Badlapur also traverses a time period of almost twenty years in its runtime, and yet doesn’t resort to cliched flashbacks to the start of the story or any other overused instruments of raking mystery. Raghavan smartly touches upon incidences of solitary confinement for Liak in prison and yet doesn’t delve indulgently. He knows that this is the age of understating, and throwing melodrama out of the window, and he executes it darn well.

In all its glory, Badlapur is adamant on hammering the point by ‘telling’ and not ‘showing’–breaking a basic rule of filmmaking. Though, this isn’t the only rule it breaks here. Only this one seems slightly unpleasant at the end with a character verbally spelling out what the climax means.

This here, is a very fun filled revenge story, except the definition of fun is slightly different.

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

Roy

Roy_film_poster

Roy
Release date: February 13, 2015
Directed by: Vikramjit Singh
Cast: Arjun Rampal, Jacqueline Fernandez, Ranbir Kapoor, Shernaz Patel, Shibani Dandekar, Rajit Kapur, Anupam Kher

Crying babies and ringing mobile phones are an avid cinema viewer’s worst nightmare. There was one crying baby right behind me when I went in to watch Roy. I feared how it would ruin my whole movie experience. In the initial few scenes, I do admit to be disturbed by the shrieking and weeping of the kid.

As the film progressed, the baby was the least of my concerns.

Placed between heavy articulated and glossy ‘artsy’ sceneries, Roy is supposedly a romantic-thriller that offers absolutely no thrill or enduring romance. Kabir (Arjun Rampal) is an unchallenged filmmaker who rambles about some robbery on a talk show and that robbery is forcibly woven into a fictional character’s existence. The said fictional character is Roy, created by Kabir for his hit film franchise.

Kabir is incredibly pretentious and right until the end, he has no redeemable qualities to build any affinity or sympathy for him. He starts writing his next film’s script after fixing the cast and crew. There is a very pointless conversation about ‘inspiration’ with his father (Anupam Kher is wasted as the father here.) Once inspired, on the sets of his film, he meets Ayesha (Jacqueline Fernandez) who is also a filmmaker, except she’s an “intellectual”; which just means that she wears reading glasses and read books with a glass of wine in her hand. Some love involuntarily happens, some parallel track with Ayesha’s lookalike keeps developing. Will you care? Nope.

Kabir is said to have had 22 casual flings before he meets Ayesha, and then by some god-knows-what wizardry, he falls in ‘love’ with Ayesha. There is no insight on why he feels like how he does, no reasoning for why he was a complete douchebag before his heartbreak. The alternative parallel track has Kabir playing out moments from his real life in a cinematic manner, through the eyes of his film’s protagonist. He keeps incorporating events from his life into Roy’s life. The ‘smart’ Ayesha also breaks into rambunctious Hindi filmish song-and-dance too!

The relationships between Kabir and Ayesha, and Roy and Tia are shown to be the headlining points of the film, yet there’s virtually nothing between their conversations that should keep you interested in the proceedings. The characters mouth philosophical lines about, often ending these lines abruptly. Is it done to create a sense of mystery around them, I asked myself at various junctures, only to realize that there is nothing on offer.

In a certain scene, Kabir says to his assistant/deputy that he hasn’t even started writing the screenplay of a film which he’s just days away from shooting. This confession seems increasingly true as Roy (the film) keeps meandering directionless. No actor has any material to chew into, only stylish clothes to wear and exotic locations to roam around.

There is not a single indication of what the actual conflict of the film is, or what the payoff can possibly be. There are no real obstacles to conquer. There is absolutely nothing here. Just a bunch of well-dressed people playing “Let’s make a hollow film but just pretend to be serious about it.”

Ever come across someone who keeps talking in riddles, and those mindbenders have no clear answers or a purpose? If Roy–the film– were a person, it would be just like that. After the halfway mark, I couldn’t care about the crying baby because I was numbed with the constant frustration induced by the constant stream of garbage on screen.

My rating: ½ (0.5 out of 5)

Shamitabh

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Shamitabh
Release date: February 6, 2015
Directed by: R. Balki
Cast: Dhanush, Akshara Haasan, Amitabh Bachchan

Far in the open classroom under the village sun, his teacher asks him who was Mahatma Gandhi’s wife. Braving the ire of his schoolteacher, the young boy has the audacity to answer “Rohini Hattangadi”. Does he know the right answer, maybe. Is he obsessed with the movies, aw-frikin-yeah. Only, this young boy is speech-impaired.

Shamitabh is built on eccentrics, theatricals and (somewhat) satire. Even in this universe, it’s difficult to get top star’s dates to make a film; the stars throw tantrums when they don’t get the attention they think they deserve. The scrawny Dhanush plays Danish, who romances the celluloid with all his senses. He’s reprehended at every step, constantly reminded that a person who looks like him can’t become a proverbial Bollywood Superstar. Even his ‘voice’tells him to have a look at himself in the mirror.

The extremely affable goth assistant director Akshara (Akshara Haasan) plays his support plank. She knows of a particular speech therapy that can help Danish to overcome that one major hurdle that seems to be stopping him from all the potential greatness. In their search for help, they fumble upon a homeless Amitabh (Amitabh Bachchan) who also moved to Mumbai to pursue his acting dreams.

The initial setup of Danish and Amitabh’s wizardry is charming to watch. There are inside references in the form of forced dance item numbers being devised to pull in the ‘masses’ for a film that is meant for the ‘classes’. Also, the film plays out as a self-descriptive depiction of the protagonist to a gathered set of media journalists, who clap even at the snidest of the usual boring condescending remarks which paint them as blood-sucking parasites. This is just one of the many forced narratives of this film.

A clash of egos, which was imminent right from the start, takes place around the halfway mark. Danish and Amitabh share a love-hate relationship right from the start. Instead of making this confrontation of heads seem vicious, it’s all passive-aggressive. Everyone knows what passive-aggressive does. It just carries on and on and on. The innovative technological premise which is used to form the base of all conflict could have been perfectly suitable for a Broadway-esque metaphorical skirmish of the two strong-headed men.

An easy excuse for all the constant-logging of heads could be that how even the bluest of collar wielding underdogs can let fame get to their head. But even that gets tedious to bear with with the developing stagnancy of the film. The film descends into an all out pestering attempt at going into an unnecessary overdrive of emotions. The emphatic individual performances of Bachchan, Dhanush and the surprisingly natural Haasan cannot salvage the overall film.

The dialogue is part philosophical and part witty; out of which Bachchan scores the most ones. But he goes the extra mile with his portrayal too, it’s not just a change of wardrobe and hair here. Dhanush completes the transformation of a young, bhajiya selling film buff to a manipulative, suave megastar without ever uttering a word in his own voice. There is simply nothing to hate about Akshara’s character. How she prioritizes her choices and how she gels the two warring titular characters with her all-black determined gumption.

There are portions which I loved, characters that I adored, and then there is the film that left me feel slighted.

My rating: **3/4 (2.75 out of 5) 

PS: The final rating was indulgently influenced by the beautiful picturization of the Ishq-E-Phillum number.

 

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