Posts Tagged ‘ Karan Johar ’

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil
Release date: October 28, 2016
Directed by: Karan Johar
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Lisa Haydon, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Imran Abbas, Fawad Khan

When he’s not making films, in recent years, Karan Johar maintains a certain visibility all around you throughout the year. Be it a dance reality show, a pan-India talent hunt, his own talk show, promoting others’ films on more reality shows and on social media. Even now, as I type this, there’s a marathon of reruns of his talk show’s last season to build up hype for the upcoming new season. The man is literally omnipresent, just like your Gods.

He’s gone on to point out the flaws in his earlier films, and in his last directorial outing as well. He’s also confessed to yanking out the last tear drop out of his viewers’ eyes with his films. In his first film, he fiddled with love and friendship, he placed them together when Rahul says, “Pyaar dosti hai” (Love is friendship) and ironically, casually goes on to dismiss his good friend’s advances for another girl he’s hardly as good of a friend with. In his second, the comparatively smaller set of main and ensemble cast and scale grew in multiples of tens and hundreds, and yet here, another Rahul dismisses a Naina who loves him. Going on to, ugh, ‘friend-zone’ her.

His cast grew even bigger in numbers with his high school musical, and he played around with similar themes. This time around, he has a very small set of characters. Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) and Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) lay their eyes on each other in a nightclub in London, and proceed to make out, but it doesn’t quite work out and they end up spending the night traversing through different bars around the city and indulging in conversation about anything and everything in between. In an indie film-ish fashion, the film centers heavily around the two of them. They become a part of a complete song-and-dance number in a pub, and yet, go on to poke fun at how actors can dance on mountain tops in sub-zero temperatures. Mind, these are some of the film’s most enjoyable minutes.

Ayan develops feelings of love out of a rapidly growing friendship with Alizeh, but she insists that she values the friendship more than the ephemeral nature of a relationship based on physical attraction to him. She has a tattoo of an ex-boyfriend’s name on her wrist, and points to him as a weakness. She continues to associate a sense of vulnerability to the whole business of love. Things don’t work out how Ayan wants them to, and ends up blocking her on his phone for three months post her wedding.

All through the courtship, the conversations are laced with colloquialisms, informal, and refreshing, sometimes falling back on some cliched moments, but infused with character by their portrayals. The excessive Karan Johar self-referencing seems little too forced even when the protagonists claim to be big fans of Hindi films. Also, the little bit of background music created especially for Lisa Haydon’s character, reminds you of the whole “Miss Braganza” jingle from Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. This isn’t pleasant nostalgia.

Soon, enters Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), an Urdu poetess who obviously mouths some heavy lines in the language. Her dynamic with Ayan is entirely different. She insists that they let the silences and their eyes do the talking. Alizeh wished on being her lover’s zaroorat (need) and not aadat (habit), Saba is quite the opposite, traditional relationships are passe for her. Both of these women are categorically different, and explore different sides of the same man. Alizeh recounts how she was dealt a child out of a troller, while Saba faced a different man. Their first, and only, interaction with each other, is subtle and dramatic at the same time.

The unending conflict of the film is unrequited love, and the complexities around it. A subject which may involve stalking, physical assault and maybe even an acid attack if the “lover” is too jilted (read as: stupid and destructive). Johar does away with the ugliness of it all, and rather focuses the gaze of the camera on the glossy details. The principal characters are also noticeably self-aware, and even self-deprecating. When Alizeh asks Ayan what kind of rich he is, Johar makes him say that he’s outrageously rich. Saba is nonchalantly accepting of the criticism that her literary works are handed out. Alizeh dismissively shuts off Ayan every time he goes over the top, very cute!

The ladies are interestingly written, even though I can’t recall what Anushka Sharma’s profession is in the film. Right from her arrival, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan holds you by the collar, and playfully fidgets with your shirt buttons, until you sweat bullets and run out of tissues. On the other hand, Ranbir Kapoor is doing the whole man-child shtick for the fourth time in as many years. He acts well, and is probably even the best at being the overgrown version of an irritating teenager. The film is unapologetically glamorous; reflecting Johar’s self-confessed affection for showing good looking people dressed in designer clothes, and still makes them appear empathetic.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil doesn’t yank out your soul. At the best, it warrants not more than three cries, and that count doesn’t include the climax of the film, at all. AT ALL. With only one proper choreographed dance routine for the stellar soundtrack, the run time of the film remains well-paced for two thirds of the film.

After 155 minutes in the cinema hall, Karan Johar doesn’t leave you with a moral commentary on Indian familial values, or a grim tale of unrequited love. Instead, he’s delivered an enjoyable film with an underbaked final act that leaves you entertained, even though slightly shorthanded. It’s official, KJo is drifting away from his usual style and it’s gonna take him and us both some time to deal with this. ADHM still has the magical mix of his trademark storytelling with conviction combined with magical music going for it.

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

Baar Baar Dekho

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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)

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)

Shamitabh

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Shamitabh
Release date: February 6, 2015
Directed by: R. Balki
Cast: Dhanush, Akshara Haasan, Amitabh Bachchan

Far in the open classroom under the village sun, his teacher asks him who was Mahatma Gandhi’s wife. Braving the ire of his schoolteacher, the young boy has the audacity to answer “Rohini Hattangadi”. Does he know the right answer, maybe. Is he obsessed with the movies, aw-frikin-yeah. Only, this young boy is speech-impaired.

Shamitabh is built on eccentrics, theatricals and (somewhat) satire. Even in this universe, it’s difficult to get top star’s dates to make a film; the stars throw tantrums when they don’t get the attention they think they deserve. The scrawny Dhanush plays Danish, who romances the celluloid with all his senses. He’s reprehended at every step, constantly reminded that a person who looks like him can’t become a proverbial Bollywood Superstar. Even his ‘voice’tells him to have a look at himself in the mirror.

The extremely affable goth assistant director Akshara (Akshara Haasan) plays his support plank. She knows of a particular speech therapy that can help Danish to overcome that one major hurdle that seems to be stopping him from all the potential greatness. In their search for help, they fumble upon a homeless Amitabh (Amitabh Bachchan) who also moved to Mumbai to pursue his acting dreams.

The initial setup of Danish and Amitabh’s wizardry is charming to watch. There are inside references in the form of forced dance item numbers being devised to pull in the ‘masses’ for a film that is meant for the ‘classes’. Also, the film plays out as a self-descriptive depiction of the protagonist to a gathered set of media journalists, who clap even at the snidest of the usual boring condescending remarks which paint them as blood-sucking parasites. This is just one of the many forced narratives of this film.

A clash of egos, which was imminent right from the start, takes place around the halfway mark. Danish and Amitabh share a love-hate relationship right from the start. Instead of making this confrontation of heads seem vicious, it’s all passive-aggressive. Everyone knows what passive-aggressive does. It just carries on and on and on. The innovative technological premise which is used to form the base of all conflict could have been perfectly suitable for a Broadway-esque metaphorical skirmish of the two strong-headed men.

An easy excuse for all the constant-logging of heads could be that how even the bluest of collar wielding underdogs can let fame get to their head. But even that gets tedious to bear with with the developing stagnancy of the film. The film descends into an all out pestering attempt at going into an unnecessary overdrive of emotions. The emphatic individual performances of Bachchan, Dhanush and the surprisingly natural Haasan cannot salvage the overall film.

The dialogue is part philosophical and part witty; out of which Bachchan scores the most ones. But he goes the extra mile with his portrayal too, it’s not just a change of wardrobe and hair here. Dhanush completes the transformation of a young, bhajiya selling film buff to a manipulative, suave megastar without ever uttering a word in his own voice. There is simply nothing to hate about Akshara’s character. How she prioritizes her choices and how she gels the two warring titular characters with her all-black determined gumption.

There are portions which I loved, characters that I adored, and then there is the film that left me feel slighted.

My rating: **3/4 (2.75 out of 5) 

PS: The final rating was indulgently influenced by the beautiful picturization of the Ishq-E-Phillum number.

 

The Lunchbox

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The Lunchbox
Release date: September 20, 2013
Directed by: Ritesh Batra
Cast: Nimrat Kaur, Irrfan Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Bharati Achrekar, Denzil Smith, Nakul Vaid, Lillete Dubey, Yashvi Puneet Nagar

Delectably assorted tiers of steel boxes, make their way from the homely kitchens to the hustling offices and other workplaces, with the dabbawalas playing the role of the messenger–a regular urban activity, is picked up by Ritesh Batra and he gives vivid roles to all the three parties involved. Where the dabbawala is the inadvertent cupid (in denial) between an unlikely couple.

Ila (Nimrat Kaur) is a modern housewife, in need of validation from her husband Rajiv (Nakul Vaid) She gets the wanted and unwanted advice from the Deshpande Aunty (Bharati Achrekar’s voice) be it cooking or listening to endless cassettes from the 80s and 90s, they do it all together. In a bid to win Rajiv all over again, Ila cooks the most scrumptious meal she has ever cooked yet.

On the other end of the spectrum, rather the receiving end, is Fernandes (Irrfan Khan) a bank employee working for the claims department for the past 35 years, and is about to retire in a month. He’s a widower, who smokes and watches TV while he’s at home in the evening. He doesn’t dole out free smiles either. Two common emotions between these disconnected characters is the longing for a loved one, in the absence or even the presence of that person.

The tiffin packed with the spices and an effervescent letter becomes the ritual and what they bode on are the general changes in Bombay, their personal habits, their fancies. All of it, without seeing each other through the entire film. The actors deliver perfect emotions that resemble intimate moments, even in isolation. Siddiqui plays the enigmatic yet annoying newbie at the bank, Aslam. He keeps pushing Fernandes to the limit only to catch him off guard enjoying his tiffin.

However, as perfect this film appears, I was baffled at the subsided treatment given to the fringe characters, like the co-employees at the bank, thus adding to inconsistencies with Fernandes’s character (with respect to what Aslam says he’s heard from the other guys at the bank). There’s a certain feeling of holding back, the cards seem just a bit too close to the chest. Perhaps more of these flaws get masked by Khan’s crowning realistic acting, Kaur’s timed insecure expression and the sheer delight of receiving yet another letter. If there’s a film about Bombay’s current face and its constant battle with overcoming nostalgia, it cannot be better than The Lunchbox.

Ritesh Batra’s transitions are simplistically captivating. He takes the usual and turns it into fitting devices for the screenplay to forward. Shot on real locations with camerawork that resembles the same innocuous stolen glances which the characters share with the letters exchanged through the lunchbox, Michael Simmonds is impish as he delves into the character’s camaraderie with the same fringe characters, thus making them inclusive again.

I don’t know about Oscar selections or National Awards, but The Lunchbox is as close as a film can get to your heart, even if no one uses a mobile phone in the entire film. It’s just food, Bombay and the memories here.

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

Bombay Talkies

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Bombay Talkies
Release date: May 3, 2013
Directed by: Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar, Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Rani Mukherji, Randeep Hooda, Saqib Saleem, Shivkumar Subramaniam, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Sadashiv Amrapurkar, Shubhangi Bhujbal, Naman Jain, Ranvir Shorey, Vineet Kumar, Sudhir Pandey

To type a personal paragraph(s) on what I love about films or not to type: that is the question.

Indian cinema, since its inception in 1913 has come a long way. Be it technically or professionally, whether it has made advancement in telling contemporary stories in a hard hitting fashion is not to be passed upon here. Bombay Talkies tries going in for the latter parameter and that is why you should love the film in its entirety for.

There are four directors with their own separate films, not all of them exactly revolving around cinema’s impact on us, but taking on different characters’ struggles and individual tales of varying emotions. The first one is Karan Johar’s film hedlining Rani, Randeep and the fresh Saqib from Mere Dad Ki Maruti. It starts off with a pumped up confrontational opening and his camera chasing Saqib.

With a style uncharacteristic to his, Johar maneuvers a telling tale of dysfunctional relationships and the society’s collective inability of accepting things as they are. He operates in a urban setting with the idealistic middle class mentality and equates it to the high classes’ apparent double standards. The actors save the plot from becoming clunky at times.

Dibakar Banerjee explores the chawls of Mumbai, where his protagonist (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) has a pet emu named Anjali. Oh how I love his subtle comedy! Nawazuddin plays an uninspired actor and a failed businessman (sic) with limited means to support his family. It’s his apparent gumption and the inner battles that form this amusing feature.

Sadashiv Amrapukar comes out of his spiritual and literal dumpsters to give him a reality check, obviously laced with good lines. It’s the ending that simply transcends into another dimension of its own. It is divine, fulfilling and succulent. The detailing is so brilliant along with Nawaz’s simmering performance, you rejoice every moment of his swaggering presence.

Post interval, Zoya Akhtar follows up with her story of a small family whose patriarch wants his son to get ‘tough’ by making him attend football sessions in school by sacrificing the daughter’s allowance for a history trip. The boy is enamored by Katrina Kaif and wants to emulate her dance performances in his fantasyland.

The approach for establishing plot devices is a bit faulty and rushed at times, but what Akhtar captures beautifully is the sibling’s relationship. It’s a simple I-look-your-back-you-look-mine one, but it’s charming, delightful and uh, heartwarming! Kaif delivers a special message in a fairy outfit and that is an added incentive to the joyful end of this film.

Indians love their films and they worship their actors with reverence and treat them as an abstract family member. Kashyap’s film is just about that. A son carries a jar of Murabba for his father’s idol (Amitabh Bachchan) to Mumbai. The reasoning for this task is what crazy fan fictions are made up of. Vineet Kumar plays the Bachchan obsessed Sudhir Pandey’s son Vijay.

He makes his trip to Mumbai from Allahabad to realize there are just a two dozen strong other Vijays hanging outside Bachchan’s house, awaiting their chance to have a few moments with The Man. Again, the finish scene with Kumar’s return to his father is purely frolicky.

Karan Johar and Anurag Kashyap work a dark and cheery screenplay respectively; not their customary styles, which could cause some disappointments or surprise among their loyal viewers who could be expecting something more of the usual. I count it as one of the film’s strengths and a welcome change.

Altogether, Bombay Talkies is a great tribute that doesn’t focus on being one. And that is why it turns out to be so good.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5 stars) 

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu Review

ImageEk Main Aur Ekk Tu
Release Date: February 10, 2012
Directed by: Shakun Batra
Cast: Kareena Kapoor, Imran Khan, Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak Shah, Ram Kapoor, Manasi Scott.

Las Vegas, one of the most renowned cities for getting laid, broke and married is the place where our protagonists live, with their dreary jobs. Rahul Kapoor (Imran Khan) is an architect brought up to excel in everything that he does, may it be vanity or swimming or both of them simultaneously. His parents are quite a pair of two different humans as well, played by Boman Irani and Ratna Pathak Shah. Rahul is expected to get a gold medal that his dad has been yearning for. The beasts of burden have always haunted Rahul, he stays to be a bland and dull guy who often fumbles with his words.

Rianna Braganza (Kareena Kapoor), a hair stylist by profession is the ubiquitous opposite of Rahul. They both seek psychological help, albeit for different reasons. That is where their paths cross & you start to think it is gonna be another What Happens in Vegas. Yes, they do get married, but they are on terms for its prompt annulment. The journey that ensues is a lot of fun, since they get married on Christmas.

The film creates a bunch of refreshing situations: one where Rahul’s dad’s friend (Ram Kapoor) tries to help Rahul to get a bit ‘loose’, the date with Rahul’s ex-girlfriend. The story passes by at a steady pace in the form of days. Each day has a certain name attached to it. This rom com doesn’t make you cry, and still provides credibility. Peppered with not too imposing music by Amit Trived, the tracks remain hummable and easy to go on.

I wish not to be killed for saying this, Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu has a new feel to it. It isn’t mushy nor intolerable. Director Shakun Batra attempts at a safe approach for a debut film, but doesn’t go down the tried and tested path all the time. He serves a dessert, that has a few different ingredients with the usual ones, making it scrumptious to eat while it lasts. Watch it for a delighting experience.

My Rating: ***  (3 out of 5)

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