Archive for September, 2016

Pink

pink-poster

Now only if there was a picture of the women being more prominently featured.

Pink
Release date: September 16, 2016
Directed by: Aniruddha Roy Chowdhury
Cast: Taapsee Pannu, Kirti Kulhari, Andrea Tariang, Angad Bedi, Raashul Tandon, Tushar Pandey, Vijay Verma, Amitabh Bachchan, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Piyush Mishra

The year is 2016 AD, humans have existed for over 200,000 years and the concept of civilization is already 6,000 years old. Or at least, that’s what my Google query springs up as an answer from Universe Today to “how long have humans existed”. And yet, it’s no short of a travesty, that the concept of a woman’s consent is still difficult to digest for many men and the society alike.

If the entire world is still trying to grasp this, then how will the prudish uncles in your Delhi neighbourhood get with the program so fast? And how will the entitled princes of pricey cars and extremely fair complexions have an iota of respect for women and their choices?

In a moment, much towards the final third of the film, Deepak Sehgal (Amitabh Bachchan) says, “Maybe we have been doing it all wrong. Maybe it’s the boys who need to be saved. Only when they are saved, will the girls feel safer.” Maybe he’s not too far off from the truth.

Pink starts off with two different sets of friends rushing to places. An all male group, rushing to the ER with Rajveer (Angad Bedi) and his bleeding head, and the other, the trio of Falak (Kirti Kulhari), Andrea (Andrea Tariang) and Meenal (Taapsee Pannu) asking the cab driver to take them home quickly. Meenal is mentally traumatized, Rajveer has severe head trauma.

The cause of these events is kept undisclosed, and remains self-descriptive, as the film builds as a courtroom drama in the post-intermission half. Rajveer is an influential politico’s son, and naturally dabbles in intimidating people beneath him, first with consequences, and then by getting the dirty job done by his lackeys. The women face the wrath of these men and Deepak is almost a lone witness to the entire ordeal.

When Meenal walks in to a police station to complain about the harassment that she’s facing, the cop at the desk gently shames her into withdrawing her requests for any action to be taken by them. “Anyone can make threats, let barking dogs lie.” or much like, “you could be equally blamed for this.” Falak wants peace and approaches the only calm-headed member of the men’s group to resolve the issues between them. Things come to a head when Rajveer enrages her so much so that she calls off the whole truce pact.

Here starts an all guns blaring campaign by Rich Boys & Daddy to frame the women as perpetrators of physical violence, soliciting and much more. Deepak is an influential figure himself, which is evident in an earlier scene. He vows to come out of his retirement to fight their case and grapple with his “manic depression”.

The court proceedings make up for the rest of the film. The prosecutor (Piyush Mishra) makes arguments that may well remind you of a particular Advocate Chaddha of lore (from Damini), he’s even as ruthless as him, but this isn’t the year 1993, where one of the counsel members tries to beat up the other. They shake hands after the verdict is announced. Minor details of the court are overlooked, possibly to include more of Deepak’s private life, and his ailing wife (?)

Technicalities of the judiciary aren’t the film’s best selling points, but the arguments raised definitely are. All four of the film’s protagonists, i.e. Pannu, Kulhari, Tariang, and Bachchan, present compelling performances. The ladies are strong, yet vulnerable in the face of allegations, and mud-slinging. All three of them have different coping mechanisms, Pannu’s character goes in a shell, with a trembling voice; Andrea rebukes the lies and the accusations vehemently, Kirti agitates at the consistent name-calling and the finger-pointing and ends up debunking the opposition’s argument entirely. Bachchan imbibes the mumbling genius persona of his character and underplays his rage at being a first-hand witness to the abuse that the women face, and still makes for a believable underdog.

There are gentle beings too, like the women’s flat owner in Delhi, the non-supportive Rich Boy friend, but they are only a few and subdued for the most part of the film. Much like the real world, the fair and just voices get outnumbered and perhaps numbed by their surroundings. Pink reins in the exacting issues of the rights of women making decisions for themselves and our reactions to them. Be it moving out of their familial setups, choosing to have a drink with someone that they like, or even just flashing a smile to a member of the opposite sex without meaning anything else.

Pink doesn’t make any new discoveries or present any new insights on the patriarchal regression and domination, yet, it depicts important observations on our times. Labeling, patronization, character assassinations, abuse, molestation and rape are a chain of events that women tread closely with every day, every moment of their lives, and  the film is more than a finely-executed and well-made outing for the debutant director. It’s a compelling commentary that makes for compulsory watching.

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

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Baar Baar Dekho

baar-baar-dekho-movie-poster

Baar Baar Dekho
Release date: September 9, 2016
Directed by: Nitya Mehra
Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Katrina Kaif, Sarika, Ram Kapoor, Sayani Gupta, Rohan Joshi, Taaha Shah, Rajit Kapur

Katrina Kaif’s character keeps asserting that there are two kinds of people in the world, drivers and passengers. She says this to infuse into her husband’s confused demeanor, hoping him to finally take the initiative about something in their marital lives. Similarly, there are two kinds of films, ones that tell a story that we all know, and the others that focus on making something relatively new and light on cliches.

Nitya Mehra, self admittedly is fond of cliches. “I did not go out there thinking, “Oh I need to break away from the mould”. That’s what my upbringing has been and I am very inspired by world cinema. I don’t think there is anything wrong in clichés. Clichés exist because they connect with people. So I actually enjoy the clichés. Certain things like love and family, these are all universal and they are not going to be dated with time.” She says all of this here.

I agree with all of it. She takes old moral lessons and a few contemporary themes and weaves them into an ambitious story that bounces back and forth between the now and the very technologically advanced future. The film starts off with the opening credits along with a small montage of how Jay (Sidharth Malhotra) and Diya (Katrina Kaif) grew up together and fell in love. This footage is so well-made that it could have easily been passed off as a Taylor Swift number from late 2000s and early 2010s. Jay grows into a dork who has a thing for math, or “Vedic Maths” and he thinks that a family is expendable. A career isn’t.

Diya wants to make a marriage out of their decades-long romance. And just like in every other modern work of fiction, where a marriage is involved, we get a person questioning their choice of getting locked down with this another person for the rest of their lives. This has become so common, that every TV show, film, web-series, or a goddamned listicle can’t go without it. I’ll be surprised if someone suddenly shows me two very confident people sticking to their decisions.

Here starts the display of angst-ridden, commitment phobia and plain dickery by Jay who badgers the priest (Rajit Kapur) with questions about the “logic” behind all of the ceremonies in a Hindu wedding. I call it dickery, because he chose to be involved in this. He said yes to the proposal of a wedding from his girlfriend, and this isn’t a Christopher Hitchens invitational. His character could have set his foot down on the do’s and the don’ts of the whole affair, but he didn’t. Instead, he despises every part of the long drawn-out matrimonial procession.

There’s a breaking point for this already broken and feeble protagonist where he makes clear that marriage is a big, bad, ugly mistake. Okay, those may not be his exact words and could be mine, but he says something to that effect. Watching Rajit Kapur play that priest also felt like a big, bad, ugly mistake on the casting director’s part. Jay falls into a time spiral where he keeps taking exponential leaps in the future, and he sees how his life could be if he made different choices or stays unbent in his ways. He seeks the priest’s advice and every time Rajit Kapur spews his redundant verbiage about life and morality and blah blah blah, I couldn’t help grimace.

Minor factual inaccuracies pop up, like making people call the sport “soccer” and not “football” in England, and ordering a butter chicken and butter naan and extra butter and not showing it at all!? Where is all that glorious fat and diabetic goodness of butter and chicken gravy and naan, man?

The film needs to be lauded for its depiction of the future, be it 2018, 2023, or 2047. Technological advancements are omnipresent, reminding you of that large, sentient talking screen in Black Mirror. The scale of visuals is commendable, and the constant effort of burdening Sidharth Malhotra with emoting a lot is a bold decision. I opine that he isn’t a poor actor, but then his character is a confused customer. He only sees clarity in mathematical mumbojumbo, which in a way, contributes largely to him having a range of befuddled expressions throughout the emotional parts of the film.

The writing is potent at times, and even ends up developing a story for the supporting cast as well. The lines, not as much. Katrina Kaif, to her credit, in a role where she has to perform a bunch of feelings over and over again, in a recursive fashion, does mighty well. Though, she is incomprehensible in the scenes where she’s asked to cry and recite lines at the same time.

Baar Baar Dekho, with a cheesy name and a somewhat cheesy plot, isn’t particularly grating to watch. Rather, it’s an interesting film for the huge leap it attempts to make in futuristic storytelling. Then again, the protagonist’s resolution and transformation comes in a little too late and isn’t even fulfilling either. A heavier metamorphosis wouldn’t have necessarily helped the cause either, but the agents or harbingers of change are not very credible here.

A little bit more fun, and a little less labored contemplating would have probably made the film crisper.

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

Akira

Akira Poster

Akira
Release date: September 2, 2016
Directed by: AR Murugadoss
Cast: Sonakshi Sinha, Anurag Kashyap, Konkona Sen Sharma, Ankita Bhargava, Nandu Madhav, Amit Sadh

AR Murugadoss has a reputation for rehashing South Indian blockbusters and infusing them with bone-shattering violence and a few metal rods scattered here and there, for the ease of more, right, violence! Akira, surprisingly, isn’t as loaded on the pow-wow where it could potentially render you indifferent to the proceedings on screen.

For its run-time of 138 minutes, the film crams in a lot of contrivances, themes, and not many didactic messages. Akira, the character’s exposition is laced with a strong little social commentary. The young girl in Jodhpur is enrolled in a martial arts class by her father and a very formative situation leads her to being locked up in the remand home. There’s tremendous scope of using this detail into something bigger for when she grows up, but then the makers choose to fly by all of it in a song sequence. Fortunately, the only song sequence of the film.

Post her return and acquittal, the adult Akira (Sonakshi Sinha) doesn’t face any major social stigma or ostracization. Her family thinks that they are transporting her to Mumbai for her greater good, and maybe, she will have more options in education. Akira is smarter than that. She knows better, yet she relents.

In Mumbai, ACP Rane (Anurag Kashyap) rolls a censored object in a police vehicle, while his subordinates look on, scared for their lives as he insists on driving the car and pulling off a stunt. Rane is the perfect antagonist for any and every protagonist. He is vicious, corrupt, cunning, and sadistically enjoyable to watch. A few hundred things and some terribly grating scenes later, Akira and Rane end up crossing paths and here begins an elaborate attempt to eliminate her.

The deck is heavily stacked against Akira, who, to her credit, never goes soft. Even when her horribly naive family believes a theory concocted by Rane’s men. If there’s ever an sequel to this, please make her abandon them. Rabiya (Konkona Sen Sharma) is a tepid implicit supporting character to Akira’s struggles. She labors her way through a pregnancy and acts all alone to investigate the film’s highlight case.

Did I mention there are a few more badly shot sequences inside a completely caricaturish mental asylum?

To the film’s credit, Akira’s character is never held as a damsel in distress, and never are her combat skills disregarded. In a slightly humorous moment, she even indulges herself in a little humble-brag while beating up chumps in a cafe. The action choreography, and her movements, on the other hand, aren’t as polished as one would expect from an out-and-out action film specialist. Sonakshi is given little range to play around with her facials, as her character remains majorly reticent and brooding in the second half.

Then there are the convenient logical flaws with the story which don’t hurt the plot much, but make it harder to invest thoroughly into the film. At the same time, the film doesn’t try to tick all the boxes of a commercial entertainer, wherein it doesn’t bother to append a mandatory love interest or deviates to a course that completely appears out of place.

Akira isn’t a film about women empowerment or a lesson in equality for female lead characters in Hindi cinema. But the fact that all of its focal story points are women: be it the girl who gets acid thrown in her face by an obnoxiously self-entitled jilted stalker, the girl who Rane exploits, the altruistic Rabiya’s earnest will or even the poorly dubbed transgendered sidekick at the asylum; the issues that these women face, and the strength which they depict and act with, makes it an important and a fairly entertaining watch.

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

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