Posts Tagged ‘ Namrata Rao ’

Befikre

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Befikre
Release date: December 9, 2016
Directed by: Aditya Chopra
Cast: Ranveer Singh, Vaani Kapoor, Akarsh Khurana, Ayesha Raza, Armaan Ralhan

Yashraj’s common tropes of using a European destination for chastising the underlying, now sexual, then romantic, experiments of the Indian protagonists; invoking elaborately choreographed dance-offs to ease out tensions in love stories, or making the lovers acknowledge their actual sentiments for each other; and clinging on to straws of traditionalism, while reaching out to the new, morally and culturally progressive; they all find a place in Befikre. In the middle of these cliff notes, there is some humor, much anguish, and an underhanded indie rom-com like “carefree” approach to deliver a film without a hokey antagonist.

The film opens with the much-talked Labon Ka Kaarobaar where innumerable hetero couples kiss, there’s diversity in the kissers’ colors, shapes, and sizes, but not in sexual orientations. Every thing is picture-perfect straight, and then Dharam (Ranveer Singh) lands in Paris, and his flatmates are two very attractive gay women. Dharam being the virile, sex-crazed lad, vividly imagines himself in a threesome with them, winking at the viewers and himself. Could this point to a desi-retelling of a forgotten American Pie sequel, or perhaps something more real that actually turns out an intriguing character study? Sadly, neither.

He gets out to ‘party’ on his first day itself. Even with his well-formed biceps, tailored denims that grip his butt perfectly, and a healthy hairline, he faces rejection. This scene was empowering to watch in particular. More like a soothing Aditya Chopra petting our heads in wistful consolation. Springs in Shyra (Vaani Kapoor), the local, who knows the bars and the city in-and-out. They hook-up over a “dare”, a plot device that’s conveniently brought up again and again to help the protagonists in making bad decisions and some memories for their characters.

Gradually, they decide to live-in together, and mutually pledge that they won’t become the conservative husband and wife, nor do things that conventional lovers do. It is this oath that keeps resurfacing whenever they are consumed with the thought of confronting their feelings for the other. It’s frustrating to watch them see past versions of their younger selves, popping up with a song and dance in French, and yet, commendable, at the commitment to the tomfoolery and the showmanship. If this film had fifteen more minutes of ditty-dancing, it’d qualify as a full-blown musical.

For the lack of any real friends, Dharam and Shyra confide in his professional, cough boring cough, comedy routine and her aloo paraanthe. There’s the usual aggrandizement of grandeur in the way of beach vacations, holiday sea cruises, cosmetic perfection, except for the little black bush of hair in Ranveer Singh’s armpits, leaving hardly any scope for any frame to appear slightly sad, or even melancholic. But can we really blame them for this plastic manufacturing?

Aditya Chopra serves us what he thinks we would like to dish up, at the fag end of the year, in the throes of soft kisses and extremely mellifluous music, a film that is not particularly hollow, just like the millennials that are his target audience and the film’s primary characters. If it weren’t for their superhuman dancing finesse, the baffling excesses, and that mess of a Priyadarshan film-like climax sequence, Befikre could have passed off as a decently watchable experience. A balance that Imtiaz Ali has mastered, Aditya Chopra flounders with this time around.

My rating: ** (2 out of 5)

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Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh

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Kahaani 2: Durga Rani Singh
Release date: December 2, 2016
Directed by: Sujoy Ghosh
Cast: Vidya Balan, Arjun Rampal, Tunisha Sharma, Jugal Hansraj, Kharaj Mukherjee, Tota Roychoudhury, Manini Chadha, Amba Sanyal

In the spring of 2012, or as we in Mumbai call it, the relatively less hot days of the year, Vidya Bagchi sifted through the colorful streets of Kolkata to find her husband with a heavily pregnant womb, and some layers of deception running along. In the created universe, Bagchi was an easily believable protagonist. A vulnerable woman with life growing inside her, considered as the most pious state of womanhood by constantly pushed rhetoric and religious propaganda that bills a woman’s motherhood as an ideal.

This time around, she’s not as two-dimensional. Not half as easily believable. In a small song-montage, Vidya Sinha (Vidya Balan) describes an idyllic Sunday with her paralyzed daughter Mini (Tunisha Sharma). A few minutes later, chaos begins to descend on them, and a car accident later, Sub-Inspector Inderjeet Singh (Arjun Rampal) discovers minute details of Vidya’s life through a diary that she maintained until eight years prior to the day.

Soon, another angle floats to the surface. Inspector Haldar (Kharaj Mukherjee) claims that Durga Rani Singh is a wanted criminal who’s forged a new identity, and is apparently in the sleepy town of Chandanagar; “the town that’s as big as a football field”. Durga bears a stark resemblance to Vidya, and that is me putting it mildly. Inderjeet is conflicted about the two sides to the comatose Vidya/absconding Durga situation.

Eventually, from looking for her husband in Kahaani to looking for her daughter in Kahaani 2, the extensive searching and innocuous prying gives way for a prolonged dark exposition of Durga’s origins. Her punctuated loneliness, her social anxiety and a throbbing sense of grasping on to someone who she empathizes with, who she sees herself as a younger version of her own self. Durga confines herself to a tiny house in the hills of Kalimpong, for reasons initially unclear. Bereft of vanity, and any desire to pursue her interests beyond her job at a school, she struggles to make emotional relationships.

This Vidya is far removed from the amiable, and charming, sundress clad Vidya of the earlier film. Her timidity, attributed to a graver issue, can often be alluded to create an element of doubt in her actions and her statements. A looming sense of suspicion hovers around the affairs, much like noir films of the past. The film deals with sexual abuse from a crystallized point of view, where the crime is openly addressed, and quite openly accepted by the perpetrator as well, separating the enablers from the resistor and the sole condemning agent.

Vidya Balan’s performance scales the heights viewers have come to expect from her over the years. She powers through clumsy, everyday violence-like action sequences, and sets the house on fire, literally and figuratively, with psychotic rage for that one slightly predictable final jolt in the plot. Her passionate display, along with fast, brisk cuts in the build-up to the revelation of her character’s years in Kalimpong, supported by a devious Jugal Hansraj, a mean Kharaj Mukherjee, and a weary Arjun Rampal, with a slightly overtly chirpy Manini Chadha as his wife, keep the film heavily gripping for vast parts.

As comparisons are bound to be made, Kahaani 2 is as different of a film as it is similar to Kahaani. There’s a failed attempt at resurrecting a Bob Biswas like mercenary, a purpose for deception and there is expansive range for Balan to be the boss that she is at this acting job, and the limitedly infringing landscapes of Kolkata. Kahaani 2 is pulp, though not as cheesy as genre films, still somewhere a mix between the traditional and bold, constantly entertaining.

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

Fan

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Fan
Release date: April 15, 2016
Directed by: Maneesh Sharma
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Amin, Yogendra Tiku, Waluscha De Sousa, Shriya Pilgaonkar, Sayani Gupta

First up, there will be people on the internet telling you that this film is inspired by The Fan (1996), and someone might even go as far as claiming that it’s ripped off from Alfred Hitchcock’s Strangers on a Train (1951), just to get a sensationalist reaction. The 1996 film itself was very loosely based on a 1981 horror film titled, again, The Fan. 

All of the Fan films have a celebrity obsessed fan and the said celebrity at the heart of the plot. Each of the respective storylines depict the fan’s obsession taking a life of its own, and thereby lending a tinge of an antagonistic shade to him when he tries to put himself in the celebrity’s life. The similarities end here. Habib Faisal and Maneesh Sharma turn the basic concept on its head by making use of the Celebrity Junior/Senior lore and giving it a relatable flavor. The “junior” is a fan who impersonates the celebrity that he’s crazy about, going as far as earning a livelihood out of the whole shtick. There are competitions that are aimed at honoring the best junior, or as some would say, the best duplicate (of the star).

Gaurav Chandna is the twinkle-eyed youngster, who has a million cutout pictures of his “God” Aryan Khanna, a Bollywood superstar seemingly past his prime. Gaurav isn’t just an admirer of his acting work, he’s a follower of everything that he does, be it an interview from Khanna’s early days, or his latest fight with a contemporary actor. He emulates his mannerisms, and even his charm off screen. Just like his God, Gaurav also does this only on the stage in talent contests. In his routine life, he’s just another ordinary Delhi boy. He can’t get good grades in college, he can’t woo a girl he has feelings for, quite unlike Aryan’s on-screen persona which he seems to imbibe and worship.

After winning the local talent hunt contest for the bazillionth time, he decides to gift his trophy to Khanna on his birthday in Mumbai. Gaurav is a likeable character with his chirpy demeanor and a permanent joie de vivre; the obsessive layers underneath start to unravel when he does a mini life-threatening stunt while insisting to travel ticketless on the train to Mumbai, just because that is how Khanna began his career. Some of what he does is sweet, even endearing. This enjoyable universe becomes darker when Gaurav doesn’t know where to draw a line between being a good one-sided lover and a lover who feels wronged when his attraction isn’t reciprocated.

Fan provides a constant parallel commentary on the over-interfering and overbearing interest in a celebrity’s life, and the plastic psyche of a star who would go to any lengths to be liked by everyone in the world. One of the film’s most masterful moments is when Gaurav mocks Aryan for repeatedly attributing all his success to his fans, and then later in a press conference Aryan pulls back on his urge to repeat the same favorite cliche. Amongst many firsts that the film manages to achieve, it also becomes one of the only films to be shot at Madame Tussauds in London. The whole sequence in the wax museum is a little exaggerated to be easily believed in, but it has a hilarious millisecond frame of a Salman Khan wax model standing spectator to a situation which could have easily done with some vigilance by an action hero of any kind.

While that’s just a first in aesthetic vanity or marketing, the most commendable first is Shah Rukh Khan’s casting as the 20-something super-fan and the 50-something super-star. Of course, he’s wearing prosthetic makeup and his face is 3D scanned, but the man underneath is the same Khan who has to juggle between an almost autobiographical character and a boy who keeps jumping as if he’s on an invisible trampoline throughout the film. Gaurav is creepy, Aryan is cocky. Gaurav is naive, Aryan is mature. Gaurav is a maniac, Aryan is an unflinching douchebag. There’s so much of Aryan Khanna that rings close to Khan’s career trajectory and the controversies that he’s found himself in.

A violent bust up with a coworker? Check. Being unabashed about dancing at high-budget weddings? Check. Being detained in a foreign country? Check.

Again, the always heartwarming story of him finding stupendous success in a city where he arrived as a vagrant is also inimitable. The stardom of Shah Rukh Khan makes this film greater than it is. The screenplay is too far-fetched at times, and it even tugs at your patience with the number of chase sequences between different sets of characters, and an always predictable outcome. The last act is also not without its flaws, where the fan is always just too smart for his own good. Much of this is compensated by the deft casting of Deepika Amin and Yogendra Tiku as Gaurav’s affable parents, and Waluscha De Sousa as the glamorous star-wife and Shriya Pilgaonkar as the friendly girl next door.

Fan is an out-and-out Shah Rukh Khan masterclass though, with Maneesh Sharma’s beguiling direction and Manu Anand’s occasionally experimentative cinematography.

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

Katiyabaaz

Katiyabaaz
Katiyabaaz
Release date: August 22, 2014
Directed by: Deepti Kakkar and Fahad Mustafa
Cast: Loha Singh, Ritu Maheshwari and their families, along with many more families from Kanpur.

The irregular supply of electricity through major parts of India, as we know it, is an often tucked under the carpet harsh reality that we choose to turn a blind eye to. We as Indians, even participate in the Ice Bucket Challenge, which has its concerns firmly rooted in ‘the West’ , but no electricity? It’s too common, yo!

Katiyabaaz/Powerless is half-documentary-half-enactment of Loha Singh’s constant tussle with the transformers and phase connections of Kanpur Electricity Board, which is just a metaphor for the entire city’s struggle for power. Ritu Maheshwari is the head of affairs on the other end (KESCO) and she’s out on her own middle path of bringing about a change in the proverbially inefficient system.

Owing to the city’s power deficit, the citizens start acquiring illegal connections with the much needed assistance of katiyas–who make cuts on live wires and provide for power, only it’s illegal. Maheshwari orders for fines on these cuts and thus starts a crackdown on katiyas. Her meetings with her subordinates where she iterates her stand time and again, are shown right from the conference halls. Loha’s nails are filled with dirt, yet they aren’t half as disturbing as the blemishes, burns and abrasions on his fingers show marks of his battles with the flying sparks of electric current.

There’s also a third party involved in the conflict of the system and the revolting masses, it’s that of a local representative of the people, Irfan Solanki. His election campaign and his upfront stance in favor of his people adds an interesting dimension. All three parties are depicted with a sense of balance and there ain’t no preaching done by the mama (directors)

Figures about the deteriorating condition of Kanpur’s infrastructure and its diminishing reputation in terms of its commercial output never run down the city as a whole. On the other hand, the depiction of scary mobs, and incessantly disgruntled locales with no silver lining whatsoever don’t do any favors to the city either. The line between what’s real and what’s not is blurred at moments, perhaps to extract humor and sympathy in a manner which just doesn’t harbor on continuously asking questions to the protagonists, how other documentaries do.

Your concern for Loha’s daredevilry is reflected in a scene where Loha has a bittersweet conversation with his mother. It’s unpredictably contrived, yet it’s absorbing. One piece of trivia tells you that Kanpur is one of world’s top ten dirtiest cities, even then, the photography is vivid and extremely pleasing. Majorly shot on real locations, Maria Trieb lends a very intimate vibe to the film.

Katiyabaaz is majorly informative, somehow it tells you a conventional story as well. Only with no real outright antagonists.

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

Shanghai


Shanghai
Release Date: June 8, 2012
Directed by: Dibakar Banerjee
Cast: Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin, Emraan Hashmi, Farooq Shaikh, Pitobash, Prasenjit Chatterjee, Tillotama Shome

Before I start this, as the film progressed in the second half, I heard a few carcasses mumble, “Kabhi experiment nahi karunga next time. Masala film hi dekhni chahiye thi.” (I shouldn’t walk in to serious films that revolve around a certain plot. I should have gone in for some song-dance rubbish.)
A minute later, one of them finally said, “Isse acha to Rowdy Rathore dekhne jaate the.” (We should have rather gone for Rowdy Rathore) That’s where I loudly grunted “Oh Bhenchod!” Five minutes later, everyone starts clapping at a line from the film. Vindication perhaps.

Let’s start rolling now. For a change, we see our frontal characters driven by a certain reason for what they do in this film. May it be personal vendetta, lust, love or simply anger. Shanghai goes on to show how actually how all of us become a part of a bandwagon, unknowingly, that could possibly steer into a dark abyss. The tone of the film remains subtle, right from the background score to the performances put in by the protagonists.

The editing is as crisp as a Sada Dosa. The characters’ self-reflective moments aren’t strapped with a thick voice-over, instead, there are pauses. The defining seconds that Shalini Sahay (Kalki) uses to think upon the foreseen deterioration of circumstances, or that small moment where T.A. Krishnan (Abhay Deol) goes back in his seat to take the morally right way or the idyllic path, this is how Shanghai works. Jogi Parmar (Emraan Hashmi) has perhaps one of the most layered and complex persona. You see him  dancing, videotaping and running. All with a blitzkrieg of ragingly different emotions.

Dibakar Banerjee assorts pieces of his script and puts together a boiling exclamation point, that could be deciphered as a question mark as well. The modern political debauchery is handled with the utmost irrelevance that it deserves. Nikos Andritsakis’s camera work and Namrata Rao’s editing get the hat-tips along with Abhay Deol’s perfect depiction of a South Indian. Again, he doesn’t go overboard, but he gets every detail right.

No bottom lines here, Shanghai is the winner.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5) 

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