Posts Tagged ‘ Manoj Bajpayee ’

Aligarh

Aligarh-poster

Aligarh
Release date: February 26, 2016
Directed by: Hansal Mehta
Cast: Manoj Bajpayee, Rajkummar Rao, Ashish Vidyarthi, Dilnaz Irani

Two men walk toward a building in the dark of the night in the foggy town of Aligarh. They speak in muffled voices about the character of a particular woman. It’s difficult to make sense of it, and isn’t really a pleasant conversation to be a part of. The same men walk in from a distance to Professor Siras’s house, to bust his sexual relationship with another man. Two men with questionable integrity assume the position of authority over another man’s actions.

Their self-righteous vigilantism is intended at shaming the Professor throughout the university, and in the society as a whole. In the small-town Islamic community of the university and the city, indulging in acts of passion and lust with a person of the same sex is often shown to be called an “immoral activity”. Siras (Manoj Bajpayee) is relieved of his duties as the chairman of the linguistics department. His co-employee suggests that he write a small apology letter for his “mistake”, to which Siras questions what wrong has he done.

The supposedly minor incident’s repercussions don’t stop at the firing. As he’s just a few months away from his retirement, the after-effects of the entire fiasco begin to manifest in almost every aspect of his life. His sense of loneliness is only aggravated, his state of mind worsened at this great backlash from the university to which he’s devoted more than thirty years of his life. Amidst constant chaos, Siras tries to restore some sanity by, as they say in Hindi, Maahaul Banaanaa, or turning on some sweet Lata Mangeshkar with a little marketable whiskey in his hands.

The camera stays with him, as he rhythmically taps his feet, singing along Aapki Nazaron Ne Samjhaa in a trembling voice that collapses at times to give way to wistfulness. These fixed closeups divulge only as much as you can make yourself see, refusing to break into single person monologues just for the heck of establishing what’s going on in his mind. The pace of the film is deliberated, just like the general speed of time is, in a tier-2 city that strives to be a tier-1 metropolis during the day, and falls back to its cold and misty, thoroughly tamed, dull and uneventful darkness when the sun sets. Silences are powerfully emphasized, instead of resorting to mushy, background scores.

Deepu Sebastian (Rajkummar Rao) is a young intern at a newspaper publication who wants to follow Siras’s story. The professor doesn’t warm up immediately to him and their first meeting ends up in him almost breaking down. Siras’s struggle to get reinstated at the university gains national headlines as a lawyer, who got the Delhi High Court to decriminalize homosexuality, decides to take up his case. A greater conspiracy by university officials starts to unearth as the case is actually contested in the Allahabad High Court.

Manoj Bajpayee embodies his 64 year old’s character’s mannerisms beautifully. He sinks his shoulders in, clenches on to his objects tightly, blushes cutely when someone compliments him and inculcates an effeminate Marathi accent. The writing keeps Siras sane, composed, and even lets him retain a certain sense of humor. Though, with the dialogue, the film rarely scratches below the surface of the issues at hand. Cliched statements about love, poetry, and people’s need to label relationships and sexual orientations spring up, even in perfectly relevant situations.

Rao, as the young South Indian, drops only a single “Ayyo”, and a charming Hindi diction. The makers depict a camaraderie between Siras and Deepu which is engaging, but slightly contrived, so as to keep the dynamic as non-homoerotic as they can. Their conversations throw the most light on Siras’s traits and his ideologies. Props to the guys who did the post production VFX for keeping the breaking news section on a news channel contextual to the happenings of 2010.

Mr. Shrinivas Ramchandra Siras’s moving story makes for a very strong picturization for the level of isolation the minorities, of the sexual or any other kind, can be subjected to by our prudish “collective morality”. The film rises higher than just being a character-study or a biographical drama, yet the subtlety of it all stops short of making you want to let your eyes well up. Nevertheless, it’s an extremely important film for our times, when the Supreme Court has again criminalized homosexuality.

My rating: ***1/2 (3.5 out of 5)

Advertisements

Special 26

special-26-poster
Special 26
Release date: February 8, 2013
Directed by: Neeraj Pandey
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Anupam Kher, Manoj Bajpayee, Jimmy Shergill, Rajesh Sharma, Kishore Kadam,  Kajal Aggarwal, Divya Dutta

A quartet of conmen who conduct heists while pretending to be government officers are the gutsy fantastic four of Neeraj Pandey’s reality inspired suspense-thriller. Though embellished with a few quite passable songs, the film runs for a long time without feeling slow and boring.

As each character is introduced at the start, Ajay (Akshay Kumar), P.K. Sharma (Anupam Kher), Iqbal (Kishore Kadam), Joginder (Rajesh Sharma) present themselves as no-nonsense CBI officials on a mission to raid a minister’s house. They’re accompanied by Inspector Ranvir Singh (Jimmy Shergill) and Shanti (Divya Dutta) with a small troop of constables. Soon the raids increase and the victims refuse to report these instances. Ranvir Singh & Shanti face the brunt and are suspended from duty.

Actual CBI officer Waseem Khan (Manoj Bajpayee) is a straight-faced man who doesn’t like her wife’s cleavage showing. Hey, that’s in the actual plot! He’s contacted by Singh after he starts his private investigation against the gang’s various outings across India. Soon, two teams are set up and the fight to the finish ensues. The fake CBI are now up for a ‘final’ raid with a mega scale and that’s where the Special 26 is established.

The plot isn’t too thrilling itself, but it depicts the finer traits in a subtle but detailed manner. For example, the scene where the group lands to loot a place that is already being raided by authentic officials. This shows the over-confidence and charming capabilities of Ajay, but at the same time shows that they go in unprepared to steal millions. The latter detail, probably undesired, shows pivotal flaws in the narrative.

The writing isn’t too great, with another basic flaw at the end, and without any fresh or impactful lines. But all of these shortcomings are compensated by the many individual characters and performances. Akshay Kumar’s character is the flashy one, and disappointingly we don’t get to see much from his acting side, though the rest have been given meatier roles. Kher, Shergill along with Sharma and Kadam are subtle and particularly suiting.

Whereas Kajal Aggarwal who plays Ajay’s love interest doesn’t have much to do. The same goes for Divya Dutta’s character, she’s almost reduced to a caricature. Bobby Singh’s cinematography is pleasing, yet mundane at certain moments. There are filler music videos which don’t serve much purpose except for providing a breather to the much relaxed narrative; thereby becoming pointless and not required.

All in all, the film isn’t too high on adrenaline nor filled with any jump-out-of-the-seat points but yet manages to remain pact and entertaining. Special 26 isn’t a classic, though it’s fairly good at what it aims to do and is entertaining.

My rating: *** (3 out of 5) 

Advertisements
%d bloggers like this: