Archive for October, 2015

Talvar

Talvar-Poster

Talvar
Release date: October 2, 2015
Directed by: Meghna Gulzar
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sensharma, Neeraj Kabi, Sohum Shah, Shishir Sharma, Prakash Belawadi, Gajraj Rao, Tabu, Atul Kumar, Sumit Gulati

In the summer of 2008, a juggernaut hit the Indian TV waves. It was the Indian Premier League (IPL) and as one of the many theories suggested, the domestic helps in the Arushi-Hemraj double murders were bonding over a cricket match, on the night the mysterious killings took place. There was another theory which suggested that Arushi wanted to get back at her parents for something real bad. All of these theories, some debunked, some not, were polar opposites of the other.

The selection of the right theory is perhaps the part where a case is said to be solved. That selection is corroborated with some testimonies, and/or material evidence. Some cases are “easy” to crack, either by force or by a criminal confession. When proven right, the entire process is a treat to watch at the cinema halls and a great read in the papers. When the investigation goes awry, it’s a disturbing fact to consume that someone innocent could be punished for someone else’s transgressions, or “justice will be denied” forever.

Names of the characters are tweaked by a letter or two, and Talvar takes an outsider view at the whole murder mystery. There are several vantage points, and none from the inside. There’s the Kanhaiya (Krishna in the actual story, played by Sumit Gulati) angle, then there’s the local police’s bumbling perspective, ‘CDI’ investigator Ashwin Kumar (Arun Kumar from CBI, enacted by Irrfan Khan) piecing together the puzzle with his own story, and the chaste Hindi speaking CDI officer Paul (Atul Kumar).

Every perspective plays out in Rashomon fashion, always adding layers to what’s known to the world. Every time the story is retold, the order of events is changed, the agenda is changed, and even the killer. The film does take a stand, after making its point in an eight minute long debate between the two separate teams of investigators; both of them biased towards their own findings and prejudiced towards the other’s methods and observations. The stellar performances of all the cast members keep the proceedings engaging, even with the grim content at hand.

The state of affairs is only alleviated, with Vishal Bharadwaj at the helm of the writing department. In the midst of horrid allegations and depictions, there are sardonic lines from our lives that lighten the tone of events. Gajraj Rao, Sumit Gulati and Atul Kumar are vital bit players that hold the film well with their respective performances. Khan is at the center of the film, not just in terms of current star power, but also in terms of his character’s positioning. He’s shown to be the beacon of light, no matter how realistically fallible.

Ship of Theseus actors Neeraj Kabi as Ramesh and Sohum Shah as Ashwin Kumar’s junior have their hands full and they deliver well. Konkona Sensharma blends in with every shade that is given to her character, in the way of different ‘flashbacks’.

Talvar reiterates symbolically, that solving crime is just another job for some. At the same time, it’s a job with an inevitable but disallowed margin of error. How an actual murder mystery unveils in ‘real life’. Definitely not like an episode from Sherlock. 

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

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The Martian

martian-poster

The Martian
Release date: October 2, 2015
Directed by: Ridley Scott
Cast: Matt Damon, Jessica Chastain, Kate Mara, Jeff Daniels, Michael Pena, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Kristen Wiig, Donald Glover, Sebastian Stan, Mackenzie Davis, Benedict Wong, Sean Bean

In the last three weeks, I have seen three films: Katti Batti (atrociously plodding), Everest (good), and The Intern (yawn-inducing level bore). I couldn’t find the time, and/or I wasn’t motivated enough to get my fingers to waltz on my keyboard. Hollywood’s fixation with delivering movies themed on the events that happen with stranded astronauts, continues. Gravity (2013) and Interstellar (2014) both came out in the fall season, and The Martian follows suit.

With the common link of a stranded astronaut being left behind, things are slightly different (obviously). Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is a botanist who’s a part of Commander Melissa Lewis’ space expedition team. While the entire team is feeling ut the surface of Mars, they’re struck by a storm. They attempt to escape, and on reaching inside the capsule, they presume that Mark is probably dead. Their journey continues and they move ahead. Watney is pronounced dead on national television by the director of NASA, Teddy Sanders (Jeff Daniels).

There’s just something about Teddy Sanders’ speeches that reminds me of Will McAvoy from ACN.

And Teddy does show some fine elocution.

Meanwhile in Mars, Mark is using staple guns to stitch him up, inventing water and ‘colonizing’ the ‘earth’ on the Red Planet. He’s stranded for days, weeks and months, and shows very little signs of fatigue, be it emotional or physical. It would be even wrong to expect a thoroughly trained space-hero to shed tears incessantly, but the head-on approach that Watney takes to living on Mars, right from day one is kinda beguiling and yet incredulous.

Mark Watney is also super-confident while recording his video log, he’s also witty. He’s the Chuck Norris and the temporarily vegetarian Bear Grylls. The focus shifts from his inventions and escapades to the continuous back and forth discussions between Vincent Kapoor (Chiwetel Ejiofor), Sanders, and Bruce (Benedict Wong) on how to get Watney back.

Plans fail and plans are reworked. Kate Mara gets the sidekick romance with one of her crew members and Jessica Chastain loves Disco music. Big ups for the disco music though. Unpredictability is not a virtue that The Martian looks to aim for, it compromises in being fairly good with all its predictability.

There’s no major space mumbo jumbo here, just a simple story that throws a few surprises at you along the way.

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

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