Archive for May, 2015

Bombay Velvet

Bombay-Velvet-Poster

Bombay Velvet
Release date: May 15, 2015
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Satyadeep Misra, Manish Chaudhari, Karan Johar, Siddhartha Basu, Kay Kay Menon, Vivaan Shah

In an Anurag Kashyap film, you’re kept at an arm’s length from the characters’ psyche and the choice of their actions. When Faizal Khan finishes off Ramadhir Singh in Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), the emotions evoked are somewhat mixed. Faizal finally gets his revenge, on the other hand, the end of Ramadhir feels saddening. Something similar happens when Definite double crosses Faizal after that. The grief is there, yet it’s hollow.

Bombay Velvet takes the same route to build up its protagonists. There are pointers to different parts of Bombay, the city, but not a single direct “15 years later” flashing on the screen when the mini versions of Balraj and Rosie grow up in a few flashes. Perhaps, the city is supposed to take prominence over the people that it’s made up of. But cities don’t breathe, laugh, cry or love, lust and long; the people do.

The spotlight keeps shifting and shuffling between the city and its highly aspirational inhabitants. Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) wants to be a “bigshot”, and has a Tyler Durden-esque underground fighter streak to him. Rosie (Anushka Sharma) covets a lot of things and is confused about the right ways of acquiring the said things. The city dreams of becoming India’s first metropolis. The city isn’t even complete, it still dreams of joining the seven islands.

The city is run by Mayor Romi Patel (Siddhartha Basu) and his cronies. Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar) wants to be on the list of cronies, and a big share in the pie, that is Bombay’s ‘development’. Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhari) is Khambatta’s ideologically opposed rival, who runs vicious attacks on the self-proclaimed capitalist in his newspaper. Screen time is distributed almost evenly between all four quarters, they’re built well. Only in a very dull and serious tone. Unlike how Kashyap films work.

The humor is sucked out of the film to make space for cliched contrivances, impersonal romantic sequences and beautifully shot Hindi-jazz numbers. The first half sets up all its characters for major things to come, only they can be predicted a good ten minutes before they happen, every time, except for the dooziest con-job involving a bomb blast.

Reliable actors are cast, thus ensuring conviction in the characters they enact. Satyadeep Misra as Balraj’s sidekick Chimman is restrained and calm. Ranbir Kapoor wears his hair like Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront, bears his ugly bruises as a champ, and makes good for a mean hack. Anushka Sharma plays the victimized artiste passionately, a stark contrast of Raveena Tandon’s Dahlia. Rosie is not a diva, she just plays one. Dahlia is a completely self-assured performer.

If Karan Johar is going to pursue the acting gig further, I’m not sure if he can find a better character to play than Kaizad Khambatta. His character is perfectly tailor-made for him, he fits the suave, sophisticated, sinister shades, as well as his impeccably stylish suits do. There are real-life parallels referred to, only in subtle bits and parts. Manish Chaudhari tries hard to be the manic paper editor, and ends up trying a tad too hard.

There are numerous references made/homages paid to the gangster films of Hollywood. Violence from Goodfellas, tommy-gun wielding from Scarface and then there’s Sonal Sawant’s brilliant production design that recreates Bombay in the 60s. Rajeev Ravi’s camera picks up every meticulous detail that Sawant gets in the frame. Amit Trivedi enthuses yet another stellar OST and riveting background score that outmatches the action on screen.

The scale and stage of the film is so large, you wonder if it should hang in the balance by a flimsy screenplay, just how the future of the city in the film is going to be determined by a flimsy negative of a photo film. Not the best obtained output from all its entered resources, yet not completely squandered either.

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

Piku

Piku-Movie-Poster

Piku
Release date: May 8, 2015
Directed by: Shoojit Sircar
Cast: Deepika Padukone, Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan, Moushumi Chatterjee, Jishu Sengupta, Raghuvir Yadav, Swaroopa Ghosh

Ambitiously named after the film’s supposed protagonist Piku Banerjee (Deepika Padukone), the film treats the audience as a member of the immediate family of the characters on screen. So much so that it doesn’t even bother telling you Piku’s bhaalo naam or formal name. The drama between the family is open for a balcony view just like how you amuse yourself by eavesdropping on the loud voices emanating from your neighbor’s house.

There are no elaborate “entry sequences” to signify the entrance of any of the film’s characters, it just starts off right in the middle of a chaotic morning at Bhashkor Banerjee’s house in Delhi. There are conversations about bowel movements that your parents usually have with you, and I even take them as far as to my friends and shy barely of making them public to rank strangers. There are conversations about how marriage is futile if you sacrifice on your existence. Then there are annoying conversations, all of these have Bhashkor (Amitabh Bachchan) actively involved in them.

Bhashkor fluctuates between affable, agreeable and outright intolerable. He perfectly captures the spirit of an attention-seeking senior citizen by being as controversial as he can at dinner tables and anniversary soirees, and as authoritarian in a road journey with his daughter Piku and Rana Chowdhary (Irrfan Khan). Except the purpose of this journey is as ill-founded as its outcome. Piku is overworked and over-irked by her father’s theatrics and wants a break. There’s some ancestral house-selling mumbo jumbo, unclear in its detailing, added to the mix.

There are quite a few verbal references to Piku’s sex life, and they seem forced, given the setting of the characters. But it’s just a layer to add to her acceptance towards casual relationships. Moushumi Chatterjee’s Chaubi Masi is too boisterous to be self-deprecating, at least for me. The film itself isn’t quite about a road trip, nor the story of some major transformation or evolution in any of the character graphs. Perhaps, even too simple a story. What helps is that all of it is majorly character-driven.

The principal cast of Bachchan and Padukone nail their Bengali parts darn well. Deepika, in another young single woman role, takes a great deviation in the in-your-face sex appeal of Finding Fanny and is on point with her playful Bengali diction. The most authentic sounding moment is the one where she mouths off “paachcha” at a dinner table and laughs it off in the most unassuming way. Her chemistry with her onscreen father is absolutely superlative. Bachchan delivers an impassioned performance as the grand old man of the Banerjee family. Whereas, Irrfan’s Rana is a tricky hand. He plays a guy who’s much younger than his actual age, yet not too young to be immature. He’s the middling element between the two different sides and he carries it off easily.

Piku (the film) touches upon small quirks very well, like how we may develop the thickest of skins while dealing with family members, but we guard them valiantly anyhow. It is delightful, sweet and enjoyable, but has little success in the “emotion” department, which is a huge dent on its byline — “motion se hi emotion”. The funny family drama, with all its relatable content, could never make me empathize with it.

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

Gabbar is Back

Gabbar_is_back_poster

Gabbar is Back
Release date: May 1, 2015
Directed by: Krish
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Shruti Haasan, Sunil Grover, Ishita Vyas, Suman Talwar, Jaideep Ahlawat

The opening credits start with shots of Gabbar/Aditya (Akshay Kumar) from the film alongside animated titles and a song called Warnaa Gabbar Aa Jaayega. The next ten minutes of the film go on about hovering around his beard, fingers, and other bodily features while he creates a list of “the ten most corrupt ‘Thasildars’ in Maharashtra”. Yes, they managed to spell Tehsildar incorrectly, and no one rectified it in a hundred post-production processes. The deliberated introduction is rather pointless, because the opening credits go over and beyond in introducing him.

The film is the Hindi remake of the Tamil film, Ramanaa, which makes it the third remake of the ‘original’. A. R. Murugadoss wrote the dialogues for the original and now he adapts the entire screenplay in this remake. None of the above two facts can compel you to watch this film though. A ham parade ensues right from the beginning where a lawyer (Shruti Haasan) spews “Google stats” all the time. If a lawyer like this were to ever get you bail, she would end up forcing the judge to imprison you forever.

Gabbar keeps targeting corrupt officials from different departments of the government and is also an athletic physics professor in a college where the students ham too. GabbarAditya has some unearthly abilities too, which are absolutely ludicrous and yet absolutely common, just like the remakes of South Indian films. The film’s most unintentionally funny running gag is where Sunil Grover as a police constable tries to make a suggestion to his bosses on how they can catch Gabbar, and all four of them shut him up in different ways.

I could see those four senior inspectors trying to shut everyone in this film up all day long.

I could just stay better off by trying to pretend they shut up too.

Audience-pandering scenes galore and boring action sequences that never gather the required steam and unoriginal and stoneage SMS forwards used as “witty one liners” further aggravate the proceedings. The Chitrangada Singh item number is gawdy to look at, but Chitrangada is not.  Did I tell you that the police officers ham too?

If Gabbar is Back were a sandwich, you’d die of a stale ham overdose.

My rating: ** (2 out of 5)

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