Posts Tagged ‘ Amit Trivedi ’

Dear Zindagi

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Dear Zindagi
Release date: November 25, 2016
Directed by: Gauri Shinde
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Yashaswini Dayama, Ira Dubey, Shah Rukh Khan, Angad Bedi, Kunal Kapoor, Ali Zafar

In one of the myriad marketing campaigns before its release, the film’s protagonist Kaira’s character was pushed as a ‘verified’ profile on a dating mobile application. All with a descriptive bio about her profession, likes and pet peeves, and pretty stills of Alia Bhatt from Dear Zindagi. Perhaps, in a bid to humanize her on-screen persona, unlike the “heroines” of the past, where a constant effort was made to sanitize and idolize the woman, as an object of desire and worship.

Gauri Shinde’s Kaira (Alia Bhatt) is a cinematographer with fluttering romantic interests, and a remarkable ability to disconnect from these men when they tend to get “serious”. After one of her another shocking departures from a dishy manbun sporting Raghavendra (Kunal Kapoor), Jackie (a charming Yashaswini Dayama) lectures her in an inebriated stupor on how he was the ideal ‘match’ for her. Creating a verbal checklist of qualities that she saw in him, only 2% of the world’s population is good-looking, why would Kaira want to give up on someone who’s in that precious creamy layer.

Of course, Kaira doesn’t have definite answers for her actions, her reasons still unfounded. After being on a momentary career high, things come crashing down for her, thus forcing her to get back to her parents in Goa. Her friends call her the world’s only person who’s averse to the idea of a trip to this Indian beach-haven. Once there, she is faced with exaggerated shaming and cornered into submitting into a wedlock, she continues to act out like a rebelling teenager and a part disgusted young, rich adult. Texts filled with hate, multiple exclamation marks, she types and backspaces before hitting the send button; bottling all her angst for an ex, a landlord, and another ex.

Faced with sleepless nights, she chances upon a gig for a family acquaintance’s hotel, that’s coincidentally hosting a mental health awareness summit. As she waits for the summit to end, she makes light of the serious medicinal jargon being spewn inside. Enters Dr Jehangir Khan (Shah Rukh Khan) in his torn jeans and a scoop-neck t-shirt under his hoodie. Fascinated by his ‘different’ approach towards the business of secrecy and whispers around Rorschach tests, Kaira decides to start seeing him for therapy.

After an elaborate build-up, commences the most fulfilling and, simultaneously, cliche sequence of therapy where Khan repeats lines that we may have come across in TV shows, novels, and even agony-aunt columns in newspapers/magazines. But then, it hasn’t ever been Shah Rukh Khan telling us why we need to date people, opting out of very complex situations, and not letting our past blackmail our present into ruining our future, the pulp of Indian Uncle Whatsapp forwards. His character’s wit still subdued from that of his personal and public high-standards, yet as mature as a wise and accomplished fifty one year old.

Kaira’s development from flagging off her sessions by the classic “I’m asking this for a friend.” and evolving into letting off details of her anxieties and insecurities, slowly, is the fruit of Khan’s casual approach to his job. Not sure how many real shrinks would take their patients on long walks on the beaches of Goa; though, a comfortably-dressed Khan playing Kabaddi with the waves is endearing. The grandeur of a superstar doesn’t take away sheen from what is Alia Bhatt’s virtual diary. After Udta Punjab, she is back to playing a rich-kid, albeit with an underlying professional ambition, to reduce the shine from her character’s economical affluence, only slightly.

She settles into the skin of Kaira, a frustratingly confused millennial, haunted by a fear of abandonment from deep-rooted emotional upheavals. Her character’s journey is complete with a graph of metamorphosis, a little too good to be true, and a song-and-dance flourish to top off the film with a traditional cherry, when it consistently takes the path of being “off-beat”, where even the cliffhanging point of an intermission is also punctuated by a lack of any real conflict.

A trade-off between commercial filmmaking and a settled indie approach is thus achieved. The chopping of the loose flab of commercial celluloid cellulite could have easily rendered a tauter, and an equally relevant film about mental health issues, and the stigma attached to it, in a Hindi film universe, where we still continue to portray mental asylums as either pits of hell filled with delinquents possessed by spirits, or just sparingly exploited for comic relief.

In a society that continuously awards a person who shuts the lid on their vulnerabilities, Dear Zindagi asks us to be accepting of our life’s miseries as openly as we put ourselves out there in a dating pool with billions of other people, hoping to be that one snowflake who captures the imagination of the most right-swipes.

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

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Udta Punjab

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Udta Punjab
Release date: June 17, 2016
Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey
Cast: Alia Bhatt, Shahid Kapoor, Diljit Dosanjh, Kareena Kapoor, Satish Kaushik, Manav Vij, Suhail Nayyar

On the Pakistani side of the Punjab-Pakistan border, a discus throw athlete is brought along to catapult a package of “brown powder” into a farm field in Punjab. On the Indian end, another athlete of her own merit chances upon this thrown contraband while she works as a farmer. The state of non-cricket playing athletes bares stark similarities on both sides of the Line of Control.

A heavily-tattooed pop star glorifies the use of substances, like his western and other global counterparts have done for decades now. He doesn’t have a damaged past that forced him into drug abuse, heck, he had a glorious past. But the life expectancy of all that early glory makes him obsessed with his own cock, figuratively and literally.

A young kid, from a presumably healthy household, starts using just because the drug is too accessible and all his friends are doing it. Another addict is turned into one by brute force and sheer fatality.

A junior police inspector questions his senior if they are also going to turn into powerless bystanders to the Mexican drug mafia like contagion of the Punjabi drug nexus, to which the latter throws open a public display of authority by faking to seize a large consignment of the popular poison, and let’s the carrier of the said consignment get away after grabbing more money and lashing out a few slaps.

These are the central characters of Abhishek Chaubey’s Udta Punjab. Kareena Kapoor’s public helping Dr. Preet Sahni is a collateral to the thoroughly set-in system. There is hardly any glorification, or a positive sentiment attached to the depiction of drug consumption here, and that should give away the intent of the makers. The film keeps bouncing between a dark comedy and grim introspections of the central characters.

The protagonists lead their separate lives, constantly a part of the narcotic environment, where the number of enablers is shockingly high. A political under current runs along the narrative of the film, which isn’t set as the central plot of the film, and it isn’t even treated so. The film doesn’t even finish with a grand exposé to unmask the bad guys disguised as ghosts at the hands of Scooby Doo, or Jackie Chan.

In one slightly contrived romantic moment, Dr Sahni says to Sub Inspector Sartaj (Diljit Dosanjh), there are two wars against drugs going on. The first one is the obvious one, and the second one is the one that people around us are constantly fighting. The urge to have that another hit of their choice of drug. She helps young kids and adults get out of the circle at her rehab center.

Udta Punjab, the film concentrates more on its characters to tell a story of a larger problem. Therefore it focuses more on their individual journeys and how they fall in and out of cocaine/heroin. Amit Trivedi’s powerful music is always mixed with story progression, thereby cutting off some of the most memorable work that he’s done in recent times. Da Da Dasse, Chitta Ve, Has Nach Le and Ikk Kudi are given some footage, whereas Ud Da Punjab and Vadeeya hardly get to be heard.

Chaubey and Sudip Sharma have woven Shiv Kumar Batalvi’s poetry masterfully with a track in the film. Shahid Kapoor as the erratic, and eccentric Tommy Singh, the Gabru MAN, is an eclectic mix of lunacy, and joy. He is the comic relief, and the emotional conditioner, with his one sequence with his uncle just before the halfway mark. The limp in his walk, the slow motion mic throw at one of his audience members, the trembling of his fingers with a gun in his hand, Kapoor owns his character completely.

While Kapoor is supported by Satish Kaushik and Suhail Nayyar in his performance, Diljit shows an earnest spirit with his Sartaj. Even he is supported by a pleasantly vanilla real world snow-white princess like Kareena Kapoor and Manav Vij as the vindictive senior police officer. Alia Bhatt on the other hand, has a deglamorized appearance as compared to the rest of the cast, and perhaps the most complex part of them all. Entrusted with the most heartbreaking character arc, and a particularly very disturbing sequence, Alia pulls off the Bihari accent with a twang and grounds Tommy’s hedonistic ego in the only scene that they share.

Sure, there are kinks with the slightly overlong political angle, but Udta Punjab is so relentless that there are moments where you would want to laugh like a hyena, and yet can’t get yourself to do it because the said moment is very painful at the same time. To inspire humor and sadness, and empathy in the same breath is the greatest achievement of this film.

Screw the censor board.

My rating: ***1/2 (3 & 1/2 out of 5)

Fitoor

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Fitoor
Release date: February 12, 2016
Directed by: Abhishek Kapoor
Cast: Aditya Roy Kapur, Katrina Kaif, Tabu, Mohammed Abrar, RayesMohi Ud Din, Khalida Jaan, Tunisha Sharma, Kunal Khyaan, Lara Dutta, Talat Aziz, Rahul Bhat, Ajaz Rah, Aditi Rao Hyderi, Akshay Oberoi

Charles Dickens’s novel, Great Expectations, has been billed as a coming of age story where young adults were made to respect pacts and trained in “gentlemanly arts”; the protagonist is taught to overcome the class differences of being a lower class citizen and eventually acquire the love of a wealthy eccentric spinster’s daughter. Not a lot of it would make sense in the year 2016, and Abhishek Kapoor and Supratik Sen adapt their screenplay from the book so as to suit our times.

A young Noor (Mohammed Abrar) is good at fine arts and never seems to go to school. His older sister (Khalida Jaan) urges him to work along with her husband. Begum Hazrat (Tabu) stays in her affluent, but doomed mansion, with her young daughter Firdaus (Tunisha Sharma); Noor becomes besotted with the girl, but is warmed of the probable consequences of ‘losing his heart’ to her by none other than Firdaus’s mother. Hazrat shows bipolar tendencies wherein she encourages Noor to pursue his interests and even enjoy the company of her daughter, and at the same time she continuously cautions him against getting too close to her.

The film follows Noor’s boyhood with patience and some detail. The wide-eyed boy soon turns into a hulked-up, disturbingly chiseled artist who still works with his brother in law in Kashmir. Noor (Aditya Roy Kapur) is still infatuated with Firdaus and learns that she’s been in England for years and that she’ll be returning to Delhi in a few days. An anonymous benefactor finds Noor to be worthy of an all expense paid residency program in Delhi. Firdaus (Katrina Kaif) has grown to have dazzling red hair, just like her mother, and is engaged to a Pakistani politician, Bilal (Rahul Bhat). She says that things have changed and they’ve grown up, Noor is just a friend for her now.

We all know it isn’t that simple, because, hey, it’s a film for heaven’s sake. Noor relentlessly pursues her and there are complications and Firdaus is confused, and also manipulated by her mother. The plot gets muddier and many more popular faces start dropping in into the film. The story steers away from the boy-girl drama, and steers toward the India-Pakistan tensions, Hazrat’s extensive backstory and the unraveling of her psyche. Kapur and Kaif’s ‘chemistry’ is more of a sum of individual parts than a collective output. They have limited screen time together, and they both manage to look ‘different’ for their parts, hence bringing a certain element of sizzle naturally. Also, Noor never struggles with the stylized city life of Delhi, not even with his English, given that he never seems to have gone to an actual school, ever.

Amit Trivedi’s wondrous soundtrack is almost exhausted in the first half of the film, so they can get to the heavier end of the screenplay. Right until the halfway mark, things are pretty dry and straight, even the point of intermission lacked to create any real sense of anxiety in me. The proceedings remain promising and extremely enchanting with Anay Goswamy’s cinematography though, as you hope on for something to break the simmering stagnation.

Fitoor plays around well with its drama when it goes the whole nine yards, i.e. going back to showing the origins of Hazrat’s bipolar personality and immersing the viewer into the deep dark secrets of the Dickensian universe. It feels a little late at times, as the universe isn’t quite Dickensian, and love affair between Noor and Firdaus never quite reaches the titular emotion of the film, obsession. Tabu throws her usual masterclass of a performance to support the lead pair, so much so that they could have had her in the poster for the film just by herself.

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Wait, there is one poster of just her.

With all the ingredients for a surefire technically sound magnum opus, Fitoor doesn’t quite run its engines on all cylinders. The film’s storytelling is patient and paced at a haunting speed, only for the payoff to be a sudden momentary stroke of self-realization in one of the protagonists.

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

Bombay Velvet

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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)

My Experiments with Trivedi

(Disclaimer: I have not performed any experiments with Amit Trivedi literally. Yet. Also this is an article for my college magazine so expect it to be gentle.)

Back when I had just crossed the humongous hurdle of tenth standard board exams, what then seemed like the end of a known world, and marked the advent of a new, rebellious universe where I could do whatever pleased me, I was into buying pirated MP3 CDs. The internet wasn’t as big and easy, however charming and enticing. On one of those CDs, with AR Rahman on it, with the score of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na, I chanced upon a certain album called ‘Aamir’. Now kids, piracy isn’t a good thing and I strongly disapprove of it, but greatness has to be experienced some way or the other.  I did not know of the composer or any of the new-sounding voices on the album except that of Shilpa Rao’s in the Ek Lau number.

Rahman’s album sounded incredibly fresh too, it was just too popular, given the amount of promotion it received on TV. The exclusivity of Aamir to just me in my immediate circle made me cherish it more. Also the film looked intriguing in its promos, the OST just added to the feel. Ha Raham, Chakkar Ghumyo, and Haara are constantly repeated in the umpteen ‘youth centric’ TV shows as a background number. I was constantly moving into the “Yeah, rock music is completely superior to anything” mode, but my senses firmly in touch with Hindi sounds just to be aware of the scene. Turn the pages of the calendar to December 2008 and what did we get here? Dev (emphasizing cussword) D!

Why was Dev D such a big deal to me at that time? Because: a) Anurag Kashyap was by then the ostracized prodigy who was trying to be as audacious as he could he be within the boundaries of Indian censorship. That stimulated all my senses. Still does. I try to find my suppressed voice being resonated with the punch of a fifty World Trade Center climbing Godzilla sized monsters. That reference is kinda dated after 9/11, but it’s almost biblical for me. b) The first song-promo that aired on TV had Emotional Atyaachaar in it. It was fun, wacky, and extremely new. I even remember the first time I saw it; it was a wintery dawn of December. The entire soundtrack of Dev D was so refreshingly innovative, just like that of Aamir’s. c) If you listen closely, in sequence of the tracks as they are featured in the film, all 18 of them, they tell stories. Stories that drench you inside the mind of the modern Devdas. d) THE COMPOSER WAS AMIT TRIVEDI!

Honestly, I can go beyond infinity while listing the reasons why I loved all eighteen of Dev D’s compositions. The Shilpa Rao poetically eerie numbers, then dopey ones sung by Trivedi himself, melancholic songs with a neo-postmodern arrangement. Of course, back then I wasn’t reviewing films like I do now (blastatrumpet.wordpress.com is where I write. Hey, a man’s got to sell what he’s making! Right!?) But I knew this; there was a difference between Rahman and Trivedi. I couldn’t put it into words then.

Dev D did win a lot of technical awards that year at the galas; Amit Trivedi found recognition with the Best Background Score ‘Black Lady’ and the RD Burman Award for New Musical Talent. But the cherry on top was the National Award for Best Music Direction. It feels strange when I type these achievements of a person who doesn’t even know of a certain lad (me) acknowledging his greatness for his college magazine. A lot of you connect with it when your favorite football team clinches the league honors after a gap of enter-the-number-of-years-here, or obsessing over the apparent coolness of that particular movie star and waiting for him to get his due. Don’t deny it, even you smug condescending cool ones. We all know you are pulling for that certain someone without any hopes of getting something in return.

Trivedi had now, as they say in the MTV Roadies dialect, “proved himself”. Earned his dues. Now it was time for mainstream ascendancy, and the next year he nailed all the accolades with just one composition, ‘Ik Taara’, in a packed Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy album. With his single song, he did more than the famous triplet could do with an entire compilation of 5 tracks. I was understanding the difference between Rahman and Trivedi but I didn’t bother much about it, because it was the latter churning out excellent melodies one after the other.

With Udaan, he delivered simplistically beautiful symphonies, and embellished varying tastes with Aisha. In India, one of the elementary forms for a family-man to know of the ‘latest hit songs’ is through the music played at wedding parties or by the bandwallahs. And now, Amit Trivedi was breaking into that playlist as well. With the original Emotional Atyachaar, Gal Mithi Mithi Bol from Aisha, then Aa Rela Hai Apun from Chillar Party he was just about to break the glass ceiling of being a ‘classy’ music director to a ‘massy’ composer. He crossed into the Yashraj and Dharma camps by landing up with Ishaqzaade and Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu respectively.

In late 2012, he didn’t stop evolving. His eccentric score for Aiyyaa, surprisingly subdued Punjabi beats in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and barely there songs yet completely skeletal to English Vinglish went on to diversify his repertoire. He brought dubstep and psychedelic flavors and yet didn’t overhaul the tnire scene forcibly. More than a year into reviewing films by this point, around 2013, I started to condense my feelings about the difference between Rahman and Trivedi into words. Only those words weren’t in ink, yet.

He’s the guy who gave you that rock-solid sound to Kai Po Che! with merely three songs. It’s the same person who fleshed out 18 in Dev D. Forward to Ghanchakkar and Lootera last year, the former was a film about a combination of madcaps and the latter was an ageless period love-drama. The films separated by one week in their release, united by their music composer. Ghanchakkar had Altaf Raja and Lootera brought back beauteous and soulful, soothing melodies. His most recent endeavor, Queen, was as good as he’s ever been. The compositions went hand in hand with the protagonist’s crests and troughs and blared at her jubilation.

Now, in 2014, I know the difference between Rahman and Trivedi. Rahman, a master in his own right, can make his score a tad overpowering for a film at times. He can prove to be bigger than a film itself. Trivedi, on the other hand has always seamlessly merged into the narratives and layers of the films that he’s composed for. This piece was just meant for me guiltlessly praising Amit Trivedi and my bond with his entire musical journey. I hope it can merge well with his no-frills music as seamlessly.

Lootera

Lootera (2013) Movie Poster
Lootera
Released date: July 5, 2013
Directed by: Vikramaditya Motwane
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Sonakshi Sinha, Adil Hussain, Arif Zakaria, Vikrant Massey, Dibyendu Bhattacharya, Shirin Guha

As one of the two on-the-run men is fallen, and the accomplice manages to escape, snowflakes start falling. A pensive autumn tree losing its leaves being looked upon from the misty windows of a house in Dalhousie. The restless fiddling with a light switch depicting a young lady’s constant reveling in the same. These are just a few from a series of charmingly beautiful visuals from Lootera.

Set in newly independent India of the 50s, in an affluent zamindaar household of bright and sunny Calcutta, Pakhi Roychoudhry (Sonakshi Sinha) is an aspiring writer with gleaming eyes and perfectly tucked in saris. She is playful yet contained, portraying an innocence of a bygone era. Cushioned by a formerly royal lineage, she makes time to cherish the smaller things.

Varun Shrivastav (Ranveer Singh) is a state archaeologist in search for ancient figures and in that pursuit lands in front of the Roychoudhry house. He starts his excavation on the property and finds a soft spot with the hospitable hosts. He creates a wooden canvas on his every assignment, and on being asked about his interest with blank canvases, he reveals he’s waiting to draw an eventual masterpiece.

From a head-on collision in a chance encounter to charring Varun’s hand deliberately; from stealing glances to sitting next to each other by the lakeside and whispering sweet nothings; from being passionately in love to forcibly injecting asthma curing drugs– it is this natural progression of Pakhi and Varun’s story that renders an intimate and uncontrived vibe to it. Abstaining from heavy declarations of feelings, Lootera thrives on situations and their power of carrying them through without unnatural dialogue.

Motwane and his cinematographer Mahendra J. Shetty elicit a vibrantly enthusiastic feel to the first half and at the same time juxtapose them with darker shades to consistently maintain a contrast that goes with the different characters. Open spaces are highlighted as diligently as the confined rooms and windowpanes. Amit Trivedi’s music and background score is more of a match tailor made for the film.

Sonakshi Sinha delivers one of her most valuable performances as she ranges between being young and chirpy, and morbid and gloomy. She is in such form that you’re often distracted by her expressions from her ethereal appearance. Ranveer Singh is not on her level here though, but even that’s enough to hold your attention. O. Henry’s short story, “The Last Leaf” is finely woven into the film’s narrative, so much that you relinquish a certain emotion and start cheering for one of the protagonists in a certain scene. (I don’t give away any spoilers.)

As much adjectives I’ve used up to this point to describe Lootera’s brilliance, I’m still left with a few more. But I’d rather not delve in the depths of its excellence again for that will simply not end. There may be a blemish or two, which I won’t tell you.

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

P.S. Excuse the shoddy rhyme in the last line and go watch Lootera with compassion and all silence.

Ghanchakkar

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Ghanchakkar
Release date: June 28, 2013
Directed by: Raj Kumar Gupta
Cast: Vidya Balan, Emraan Hashmi, Rajesh Sharma, Namit Das, Parveen Dabbas

Raj Kumar Gupta’s take at comedy, i.e. Ghanchakkar is a murky tale of  a bunch of equally eccentric characters placed in an odd setting together.

Sanju (Emraan Hashmi) is a whiz safe-cracker who is stealth even in his personal life. His wife is the massively fashion-obsessed, heavily Punjabi Neetu (Vidya Balan) always experimenting with her cooking and wigs alike. A sudden call from Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) shakes Sanju’s daily activities out of a self-imposed ban on doing any more robberies.

Idris (Namit Das) is Pandit’s shady accomplice. Armed with a gun, he likes to bully people while the two hold ‘business meetings’ in Mumbai’s local trains during the night. Their introduction is creepy and unfunny. The lines aim for some comic peaks, eventually falling into the valleys. The motive seems unclear here, or perhaps I was fooled.

After their robbery plans go right, there’s a glitch: Sanju has stashed the mega-millions somewhere and due to an accident is suffering from a partial memory loss problem. This memory loss leads to the actual major conflict of the film, ranging from him forgetting his former accomplices to suspecting his closest ones of fleeing away with the money. The said patch leads to interesting situations and laughter fits in bits and pieces.

Vidya Balan carries off her part with expected integrity and power, even Hashmi has the befuddled look throughout perfectly. Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das carefully evolve from the ghoulish beings to parallely stuck pawns in a larger game. The cast may be limited but never falls short of delivering. Setu’s cinematography of a space-crunched Mumbai is shockingly expansive and preys on dark themes. Shockingly, Amit Trivedi’s soundtrack compositions are limited and his dubstep background score is covered more.

The film’s inherent spirit keeps fluctuating from amusing to plain flat, and plain flat to whimsical. You expect it to carry on the same track but it doesn’t. There’s simply not much physical searching for the money, and there’s more of let-me-recall-what-happened-three-months-back-by-sitting-on-my-hands. It makes you want the film to end early, and with the predictable approach that the makers choose to unveil the big bombshells you are outright unimpressed and disappointed.

Blood and gore are used in moderation, and with the silenced cuss words, it appears as if the producers wanted to play safe. Ironically the self-censoring isn’t detrimental to the plot’s success. I will be lying if I don’t admit breaking into an anxiety attack induced by laughing at the phone-sex sequence, but that’s one of the three main highlights along with the individual performances and the cinematography. The writing tries very hard to transcend through the next level, only to stay in mediocrity.

Ghanchakkar aims for greener avenues and ends up straying into dry lands. The flaws aren’t as grave, yet they end up one-upping the innate wit and smartly placed pop references.

My rating: **1/2 (2 and a half out of 5)

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