Archive for July, 2015

Masaan

masaan-poster

Masaan
Release date: July 24, 2015
Directed by: Neeraj Ghaywan
Cast: Rich Chadda, Sanjay Mishra, Shweta Tripathi, Vicky Kaushal, Pankaj Tripathi, Nikhil Sahni

Death, relocation, and even a certain kind of trauma all have one thing in common; they can be the catalysts to change. I wrote about change in my review of Killaa Marathi film directed by Avinash Arun, who is also the DP of Masaan. He shoots Neeraj Ghaywan’s film, co-incidentally themed on the similar premise of forbearing to the thrusting waves of change and shaping one’s existence in the ways circumstantial activities force themselves upon the cinematic universe.

This universe is thickly veiled in realistic dimensions, subtly trying to grapple with the major forces of caste-barriers, a narrow-minded populace in a highly idealized place of pilgrimage and plays with innocuous young love. Devi Pathak (Richa Chadda) is the well-mannered, soft spoken daughter of a high-caste Brahman, Vidyadhar Pathak (Sanjay Mishra) who manages to work the computer by the day, eventually earning much more than her father and is more ambitious than he could ever be. In the midst of harboring this ambition, she sees herself in a bad predicament. A predicament which wouldn’t make much sense to a first-world inhabitant, but is a very grave situation for a young lady who aspires to a simple life where she wants to be enabled of leading her life with not much fuss.

On another bank of the Ganges, lives Deepak Chaudhary (Vicky Kaushal) of the Dom community, which has been unceremoniously handed the duty of crushing skulls of bodies that burn in the funeral pyre at the Ghats, so the souls of the dead can leave their bodies, as a character points out. He’s a mechanical engineering student vying for an urbane job that would possibly elevate him from his surroundings into a somewhat fair world where he’ll be judged by his potential and work.

Both of the parallel protagonists are closely connected by the common chord of a form of loss. They face a certain transformation brought along by the loss and try to sail along the calm waters of the Sangam. Devi’s conflict sets in motion at the start of the film, whereas Deepak’s surfaces in the later portion. Deepak’s infatuation and adoration for Shalu (Shweta Tripathi) is perhaps the dynamic that a lot of people in small cities have in their first romantic relationship, one that Devi could have shared with the boy at her workplace, which is never shown. The young love manifests itself very cutely, filled with prized gestures and amateur kissing skills.

Debutantes Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi enact their well-etched parts with equal portions of grace and charm. Never do they let you in on the jitters or any hints of discomfort. Chadda and Mishra are restrained as the emotionally wounded daughter and father. And little Jhonta (Nikhil Sahni) and Sadhya (Pankaj Tripathi) are delightful support players.

These characters indicate the strength in the writing of the film and the execution of combating with grief and other morbid objects isn’t gravely morose as it could have been. The film doesn’t steer clear of heavy drama, unlike stereotyped ‘film-festival’ movies. Neeraj Ghaywan and Varun Grover know when to delve deeper into the confrontations and when to pull back, when there’s a requirement for a breakdown and when there’s a need to stay composed.

Masaan never lets the backdrop of its location, i.e. the town of Banaras, or the shocks of the narrative, take precedence over the entire film. As one of the film’s featured musical composition goes, “Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai, main kisi pul saa… thartharaataa hun.” the film passes by melancholically and rattles you gently.

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

Baahubali: The Beginning

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Baahubali: The Beginning
Release date: July 10, 2015
Directed by: S. S. Rajamouli
Cast: Prabhas, Rana Daggubati, Tamannaah, Anushka Shetty, Sathyaraj, Nassar, Ramya Krishnan, Sudeep

A few months back, some popular bottom-feeder ‘listicle’ websites reported the probability of an Indian TV adaptation of HBO’s Game of Thrones. How credible was that piece of news, you ask; all of the internet and the particular websites just shrug in unison. Director S. S. Rajamouli, on the other hand, with his mighty metaphorical Atlas-like shoulders, lifts the fantasy film heavens from the deeply-rooted in mediocrity Indian epic film genre, and delivers a spectacle of sight and sound and wonder, never seen before in an Indian movie.

Firmly encrusted in war, turmoil, and chaos, the story begins with the mystical emergence of an infant from a pristine river. The child is adopted by a tribal family and raised to be known as Shiva (Prabhas), he’s obsessed with the place where he emerged from, that is, the river. The river is set to be emanating from a place as high as the skies. Shiva is driven by the purpose of exploring the lands beyond the insurmountable water body. Shiva’s progression from a little boy to a full grown hulk is facilitated by this obsession.

Through his attempts and defeats, he pulls off feats of superhuman strength and determination, only to be gifted with the lure of the unknown kingdoms laced with forests, magnanimous castles, sand-colored cities of a royal era. It is here, that the film’s silliest portion leads him to the obstacle of the narrative. He chances upon the highly trained in combat, Avantika (Tamannaah) who’s perfectly unassumingly nonchalant about vanity, until Shiva chauvinistically tells her that he knows she’s a “girl” inside, and a small derogatory love angle develops. He claims that now that they’re both together, her problems are his as well. He will fight alongside her, for her cause.

Individual supporting characters and multiple subplots are allowed to develop simultaneously. There’s the loyal commander Kattappa (Sathyaraj) who has a character defining moment with Aslam Khan (Sudeep) and both of them are slated for bigger things in the future course of the film. Then there’s the massive Bhallala Deva (Rana Dagubati) who fights a freaking bull with his bare hands. And then there’s his churlish father (Nassar) and his just and wise wife Sivagami (Ramya Krishnan) who thwarts rebellion with one hand, and pacifies her newborn with the other.

The city of Mahishmati is built as frighteningly detailed and magnificently as Westeros and Middle Earth from Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings respectively. The drone-like shot of the entire city is enthralling to say the least. The wars are fought immaculately and the costumes are designed with restraint and grace. There are sights scarier and more worthy of emotional investment than the ghastly Jurassic World. Thus, making it greater than the “Highest earning film of all time (yet)” in a flash.

Rana Dagubati’s Bhallala is the Mountain Man quite literally, and Shiva/Baahubali isn’t any far behind in the super-strength department either. He’s the Oberyn Martell in some moments, and the Mountain in a few others. The actors dip themselves into the skin of their heavily-decked up characters and the film keeps running at a good pace from the moment it sheds the tone of being a pandering pretender to turn into the real contender. The real contender worthy of being one of the greatest films ever made in India.

Time to stop waiting for that rumored TV series remake and now it’s the moment to bask in the blinding glow of Baahubali: The Beginning, and await the release of its followup, Baahubali: The Conclusion.

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

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