Archive for March, 2015

Hunterrr

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Hunterrr
Release date: March 20, 2015
Directed by: Harshvardhan Kulkarni
Cast: Gulshan Devaiah, Radhika Apte, Sai Tamhankar, Sagar Deshmukh, Veera Saxena

I never wrote about Richard Linklater’s Boyhood last year. One reason for that was I didn’t watch it firsthand in a theater. Uh, that is the only reason. Boyhood was a great experience in the natural evolution of a character and  spontaneous development of the story. Though, a common grouse raised against it was the lack of a coherent ‘plot’. I couldn’t relate my ‘boyhood’ with the film’s because I am not a white male born and brought up in the US. Hunterrr is my relatable Boyhood.

The film opens with his friends chiding him for being a constant sexual predator always on the hunt, to which Mandar (Gulshan Devaiah) responds that sex is a basic human need, just like defecation. He presents sensible and hilarious points in favor of his argument. This is six months prior to the current day, when he has voluntarily forcibly quit his promiscuous ways and has given in to the pressures of having reached a certain age in a middle-class Indian household, i.e. arranged marriage.

He starts seeing women, often making them recoil and cringe in disbelief when he comes clean about his “some” casual encounters during college. He’s told by his cousin Dilip (Sagar Deshmukh) that it’s a process where he’s required to do the opposite, because “Arranged marriages are virgin-folk’s playground.” He pulls a pretense of being a dating-rookie in front of Tripti (Radhika Apte) who tries to be truthful about her troubled past, but Mandar says it doesn’t matter. He knows it doesn’t matter, because he isn’t telling the truth about his own escapades. Soon that reluctance turns into fear, of losing Tripti. Yet, he struggles with the idea of monogamy and keeps shielding himself from the reality.

Along with the current day, there are flashes from his teenage years, how he spent his summers with his cousins in the village. How he stained his sheets for the first time, and how he got his head shaved by the cops. How he got kicked out of his college hostel, and why he left his new apartment. All of these events have an underlying element of sex and humor to them. Some are innocuously hilarious, and some heartbreaking, none of them crass.  The fact that the acts of adolescence transcend into recurring instances of betrayal and dishonesty for him, prove to be Mandar’s undoing.

Hunterrr is written and directed by Harshvardhan Kulkarni, who’d previously written last year’s Hasee Toh Phasee. He creates zany characters out of his surroundings here as he did in HTP as well. Mandar’s shirt-ripping friend, or be it the one who falls in love with a bar-dancer or even his mother’s flawed pronunciation of certain English words or his father’s grumpiness about everything; they’re all fleshed out to infuse life and wit to a story which could have turned out very different than what it has, if it weren’t for them.

This isn’t a film about a heterosexual man’s sexual emancipation, heck Mandar isn’t even portrayed as a player, or a sex-addict who has to jam his tool into every crevice and nook he spots. He does whatever other teenage boys do: he lusts for an older woman (Sai Tamhankar) more than his own girlfriend (Veera Saxena), he boasts of his adventures to be put on a pedestal by his classmates, he tries to be an ass to one of his exes when he discovers she’s moved on. He isn’t a creature of magnanimous importance, he’s just a lurker and shockingly confident at times. Or maybe that’s his ‘thirst’ that gives him the audacity to approach women, which he lacks in a different setting.

His character lacks a sexual growth which was required as he says he’s a ‘hundred not out’ at the crease of intercourse. Obviously, it would have made it even harder to get a censor certificate, but it’s the constant need of keeping the film “as clean as possible” which dilutes the content on the screen. The film relies on Khamosh Shah’s strong soundtrack to convey what it possibly can’t in grim or candid scenes, and the constant back and forth of the timeline of events is at times distracting and even unnecessary. The music is amazing and the non-linear sequence is fun, but not when it’s excessively exploited. The film resorts to some traditional contrivances and cliches to get out of certain situations, which increases the running length, yet displays the ease at which Kulkarni operates at the helm.

Like every other good film of this year so far, the casting and the performances of everyone from the main leads to the bit players simply prove to be great catalysts. Gulshan Devaiah gets to show off a varied range from his repertoire of emotions. He’s sweet and then he’s slightly deplorable. Radhika Apte turns in a natural showing of whatever she’s asked of. She isn’t hypocritical of other’s life-choices, and she’s a chick who teaches Mandar how to check out women discreetly (sad). Sai Tamhankar as the older Jyotsna is supremely imposing yet her character remains shallow in writing. They infuse more than what’s written for them. The kids playing the younger versions of the characters are as good as the adults.

Hunterrr is the perfect illustration of how a young vaasu might grow up with his imbecile infatuations intact. We’ve all heard and talked about men who are like Mandar, we just don’t care about how they end up. It isn’t how every man is, it’s how most of us fantasize of being. Not the most pleasantly relatable Indian Boyhood perhaps, after all.

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

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NH10

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NH10
Release date: March 13, 2015
Directed by: Navdeep Singh
Cast: Anushka Sharma, Neil Bhoopalam, Darshan Kumar, Deepti Naval

In the cinematic universe, every time a conflicted couple go in for a roadtrip, things are about to get messy. In a similar setting, Navdeep Singh’s NH10 is conceived.

You know something is off, and keep fearing the worst right from the point where Meera (Anushka Sharma) is chased by masked men on an urban freeway. Arjun (Neil Bhoopalam) is her protective husband, who doesn’t see the need to argue with a police officer when he recommends Meera buy a gun for her own safety. The getting a gun advise by a cop makes us laugh in Linklater’s Before Sunset, but here it doesn’t and it doesn’t intend on either.

On their way to a weekend getaway, they are faced with an eerie troubled young girl and a boy. They’re like the last living pair of humans in a haunted house, who are trying to warn the new owners of the doomed property. Except here, they are asking for help, to elope and possibly stay out of their family members’ clutches. Darshan Kumar plays the obsessive Haryanvi brother Satbir, who’s out to right the “wrongs” of his sister. He will kill for honor and he does end up killing for way less than that.

The two disparate sets of characters cross paths when Arjun interferes after once standing up to Satbir and his other relatives’ public humiliation of the troubled young girl and boy. This crossing of paths triggers a confrontation and evolves into a constantly violent and brutal back and forth between the two sides. In the dark and blood-thirsty wild, a police officer echoes the film’s social commentary, i.e. where the malls of Gurgaon end, a land of lawlessness begins. Where every being is governed and “saved” by the caste system, and not the Constitution.

The said violence is extensive, and creates a mood for the film’s final payoff. The metamorphosis of a shriveling Meera to an iron-rod wielding steely eyed avenger is supremely brilliant. Anushka’s character grows from an ordinary ad professional to an unrelenting and an unrepentant crusader, from clean and chic outfits to walking with a limp and blood on her. Stellar performance indeed.

NH10 doesn’t deliver all its sermons in a preach-out-loud fashion, it shows more than it tells. Every woman is equated to a glorified sex-worker in a patriarchal society, where violence against its women is cheered on. The jungle back and forth between Satbir and his other blood-thirsty relatives and Meera and Arjun could be inspired, but the dystopia of life for women being bad is no more imaginary or unreal. The most telling sign of that is where a woman slaps her daughter-in-law and the abused’s own son laughs at that sight.

The detailing on the little things is immaculate here, yet sometimes the protagonist’s escapes seem a little more smart than they should be, and contrived to be a little harsh. But again, the wild goose hunt starts very soon and it’s obvious that the characters have to be sustained to tell the story. NH10’s cinematography is the surreal winner here, right down to the close shots of Meera dragging the iron rod through her numb walk up to the fallen Jats.

The background score is ample, and more than what’s needed here. Thus proving to be unnecessary at certain points, but it’s a bane you can live with. The soundtrack is a complete surprise though. Again, a tad misplaced at times, but it’s still very fresh and plot-centered in its lyrics. Not to forget, Darshan Kumar’s Haryanvi accent along with that of Deepti Naval’s sounds flawless.

NH10 is a thrilling saga with heaps of unflinching gore, and a topical story which could unravel in any part of India, or the world with a gentle tweak of the notes. If there ever were a film as synonymical with the colloquial “hard-hitting”, it is NH10.

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

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