Posts Tagged ‘ Nawazuddin Siddiqui ’

Raman Raghav 2.0

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Raman Raghav 2.0
Release date: June 24, 2016
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vicky Kaushal, Sobhita Dhulipala, Amruta Subhash, Ashok Lokhande, Mukesh Chhabra

Raman Raghav was a serial killer in the ’60s and the rest you can Google for yourself. Raman Raghav 2.0, with a disclaimer, tells us that this film is NOT about him. It’s inspired from his brutalities, and in turn lead to an inspired character who looks up to the notorious criminal.

Ramanna (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) is mostly unnamed through the film, even when he pays a visit to his sister after being away from her for a period of seven years. His sister (Amruta Subhash) isn’t particularly happy to see him; nor her little son and old husband (Ashok Lokhande) but yet he makes himself feel welcomed, if not with his harsh words, then with a car jack and a motorcycle helmet.

Little is given away about his troubled past with his sister, and his individual past. He calls himself Sindhi Dalwai, an alias that the original Raman Raghav went by in his time. He maintains a small diary where he lists down his conquests, often giving them made-up names, as he kills indiscriminately. Or when he gets a call from god, as he claims.

On the other hand, is ACP Raghavan (Vicky Kaushal) who crosses paths with Ramanna, not by chance though. Raghavan is a cop with serious issues. He cokes up at a crime scene. He has an obnoxiously ignorant view on birth control and protected sex. And he has consistent daddy issues, so much so that his father (Vipin Sharma) still gets to threaten him and talk about what a great fuck up he is, in a room filled with strangers.

In an interview, Kashyap claimed this film to be a love story. Ramanna perceives Raghavan to be like him. He feels that they are made for each other because they are both killers. One of them is licensed to kill, and the other one finds killing to be a natural instinct. Just like eating, shitting and fornicating, killing is important too. His act of getting Raghavan to like him sets off the stereotypical cat and mouse chase between the supposed protagonist and the antagonist.

Kashyap even references a little shtick from his Black Friday, in the sardined shanties of Mumbai, brimming with filth and poverty. He plays to his strengths, which are packing in uncomfortable conversations and making them entertaining. Ramanna has a child-like glow when he confesses his transgressions. Simi (Sobhita Dhulipala), Raghavan’s girlfriend, cuts him off in the middle of a, what appears like a usual act of abuse he’d partake in any other night, and attends to a phone call by taking a timeout. You wouldn’t know if you should laugh level dark comedy is his strong point.

The women appear as mere props in the path of destruction, but they both have character. Amruta Subhash playing Raman’s conflicted sister is scared of him, yet she wouldn’t stand by as a spectator while he wreaks havoc in her house. Simi shares a volatile relationship with Raghav. She knows when to tighten the leash around his neck and when to hold back. Only detail they probably missed out on was her profession. A very small, yet confusing flaw.

The performances of all actors involved are thoroughly ingrained with their parts. The camera holds tight frames, fixed on the characters’ faces. The focus, though, slips away from the face to reduce the amount of gore on screen, and substitutes it with powerful sound. Basic storytelling rule done good. You flinch, and your toes curl up. You may even clatter your teeth. Nawazuddin lends a lot to that effect with his towering portrayal of a manic voyeur and a relentlessly honest truthfulness to his reality. The Hindi film industry would do better with some more Amruta Subhash around. She’s extremely gritty and nuanced in the only extended sequence of the film that she is in.

Side note: Mukesh Chhabra was in two films in two weeks. And this performance was a hoot!

Dhulipala has a strong presence and is quite potent in her role. Vicky Kaushal is trusted with a lot of heavy lifting, and he fits in as much as he can without fracturing his back. He is asked to be asserting, authoritative and simultaneously an addict. Again, that’s a flaw I find with the writing. A grouse that I have with the execution of the murders is that there is a consistent effort to dilute the gravity of every act of barbarism with a piece of background music. It’s not on the level that American Psycho did it, where there was absolutely no worth to the loss of humans in the film. But then it’s a recurring theme, which steals some of the investment from the viewer.

Raman Raghav 2.0 is Kashyap toying with a setting that he’s most comfortable in, and just how none of his films are, even this one isn’t about a moral lesson in living your life in a certain way, or not committing forty odd murders on the streets of a city. It’s a purely sadistic slasher film with a perfectly acceptable twist at the end, and with Kashyap’s brand of humor and wit.

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

Manjhi – The Mountain Man

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Manjhi – The Mountain Man
Release date: August 21, 2015
Directed by: Ketan Mehta
Cast: Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Radhika Apte, Ashraf-Ul-Haque, Tigmanshu Dhulia, Pankaj Tripathi, Gaurav Dwivedi, Prashant Narayanan

If you belong to the internet generation, which came across Dashrath Manjhi through a shared ‘viral’ post, you’ve seen him through the one dimensional spectrum of greatness that is alluded to him. And if you’ve managed to stay unaware of him, he, almost singlehandedly, broke a mountain in Bihar. The why, and the how of this fact makes up the entire film.

Again, it was a ‘viral’ post that put this man back into popular discourse, and each of these posts are manufactured for certain motives, and Manjhi – The Mountain Man reeks of a similar vibe as well. Right from the initial few minutes, where a voiceover explains things to you, and until the introduction of the adult Dashrath Manjhi (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) and he’s made to look like a complete jock. Sure, it was done to make him appear “entertaining”, but it doesn’t feel organic. It’s almost uncomfortable to look at.

On his first day back in his village, he chances upon Phaguniya (Radhika Apte) selling handmade toys by the bus stand. Here starts the shaky romantic angle and more hokey attempts at meshing shallow humor. The love story is quite believable and has some flesh in it, but the gag-like moments in the first half appear to be mere tools for making the film just commercially viable.

The film starts earning its ticket money when it gets serious. The serious “parts” keep showing up in between as the film paces in non-linear fashion. The parallel tracks make things confusing as at one point the film seems to be telling you three separate stories about the same person, simultaneously. Sandesh Shandilya’s background score and music is cussword-ing awful. Instead of adding to the moments on screen, it subtracts legitimacy with its unimaginatively titled Phaguniya sounding off every time Dashrath thinks of her. The generic sounds would have passed off in a student short film, not here.

The drama is powerful and even smart in spurts, one such scene is when the country’s then prime minister comes visiting to Manjhi’s hamlet. The whole sequence doesn’t overstay its welcome and is satirical in a subtle way. His struggle to survive, after facing abandonment on multiple fronts, in the mountains in extreme conditions is very well depicted. The earlier back and forth between the parallel tracks makes the film’s tone difficult to grasp. Once it leaves that approach and simply focuses on Dashrath’s journey, it starts to become compelling to watch.

Siddiqui is wasted in pulling off antics similar to the ones that he’s excelled in Gangs of Wasseypur and The Lunchbox. I’ll say the same thing again, he finds new strengths when he does things that he hasn’t done before; when he shreds the persona of being a goof. That, precisely, is the issue with the entire film. It tries to be many things that it shouldn’t have bothered to be. It casts Tigmanshu Dhulia, Pankaj Tripathi as the classic antagonists, to add more subtext to the plot, and to perhaps offer opportunities to build character actions and choices.

Manjhi – The Mountain Man isn’t as daunting and taxing to watch as breaking a hill, but it’s surely less effective as a film than what it could have been.

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

Badlapur

Badlapur Poster

Badlapur
Release date: February 20, 2015
Directed by: Sriram Raghavan
Cast: Yami Gautam, Varun Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Vinay Pathak, Huma Qureshi, Pratima Kazmi, Radhika Apte, Ashwini Kalsekar, Murli Sharma, Divya Dutta

In a war, there are excesses. In the modern world, these war crimes amount to conviction and greater ignominy. Badlapur harbors on being a metaphoric representation of that. Two forces of Raghu (Varun Dhawan) and Liak (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) against each other, the initially wronged force goes to extents that go far beyond the narrative of a hero’s struggle (revenge here)

Raghu’s wife and kid are victims of a bank robbery outrun involving Liak and his partner. Liak is caught and jailed, Raghu is caught in the web of his misery and jails himself in faraway Badlapur until he exacts revenge. Liak is unrepentant, and unwilling to give up his charade even in prison. Raghu plots and schemes his vendetta methodically by tracing everyone who is beloved to Liak.

Right from the beginning, there are no shades of white and black attached to the supposed protagonist and antagonist; the deeds of the protagonist border on misogynistic and outright psychotic, and even the antagonist might claim that even he wouldn’t go so far.Kanchan (Radhika Apte) and Jhimli (Huma Qureshi) are women who defend their men for any crime they may or may not have done. Raghu viciously uses their vulnerability to inflict pain and humiliation on the men they love.

The cause behind the revenge is sympathetic, yet the revenge itself isn’t as sympathetic. All of this imbalance in a conventionally stacked universe is what makes Badlapur greater than it actually is. Extensively shot in rainy conditions, the mood is rightly kept grim and so is the look on Raghu’s face. All of the ensemble cast, which is lined up to relay good performances, have quirks and traits that flesh their individual characters with broad strokes.

Varun Dhawan is being lauded for “making a brave choice” by playing Raghu, rather it should be the other way round. His portrayal of Raghu lends credibility to his  so-far-one-dimensional acting profile. Nawazuddin Siddiqui cannot be ever praised enough for his performances, and I am not even going to try to read out his strenghts as Liak. As neither Dhawan’s part is a complete pity-case, nor is Siddiqui’s Liak an entirely unlikable bad guy.

Sachin-Jigar’s background score sets the mood perfectly well for the ghastly acts of violence and/or the relatively new (for mainstream Hindi films at least) moments of hate-sex. The violence on display in this quite literal revenge porn is scarce and powerful, owing to its intricately shot techniques. Director Sriram Raghavan extracts long continuous takes in confined spaces such as a basement, a bathroom and an open street, thus rendering a chaotic feel to the order of events.

Badlapur also traverses a time period of almost twenty years in its runtime, and yet doesn’t resort to cliched flashbacks to the start of the story or any other overused instruments of raking mystery. Raghavan smartly touches upon incidences of solitary confinement for Liak in prison and yet doesn’t delve indulgently. He knows that this is the age of understating, and throwing melodrama out of the window, and he executes it darn well.

In all its glory, Badlapur is adamant on hammering the point by ‘telling’ and not ‘showing’–breaking a basic rule of filmmaking. Though, this isn’t the only rule it breaks here. Only this one seems slightly unpleasant at the end with a character verbally spelling out what the climax means.

This here, is a very fun filled revenge story, except the definition of fun is slightly different.

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

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)

Shorts

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Shorts
Release date: July 12, 2013
Directed by: Shlok Sharma, Siddharth Gupt, Anirban Roy, Rohit Pandey, Neeraj Ghaywan
Cast: Huma Qureshi, Satya Anand, Swheta Tripathi, Aditya Kumar,  Richa Chaddha, Arjun Shrivastav, Murari Kumar, Preeti Singh, Shankar Debnath, Kanchan Mullick, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Aditi Khanna, Vineet Singh and Ratnabali Bhattacharjee, Guneet Monga

As the release date shows, Shorts–a compilation of five short films, released 6 days back and I have only managed to catch it today. My viewpoints are a clear reflection of the angst and despair that I simply can’t keep to myself even though this film is out of screens in just a few hours.

A joint venture by the ever-expanding AKFPL and Tumbhi along with PVR Directors Rare, Shorts is an anthology of five different stories. Aimed at constructing a market for new filmmakers to market their skills, Shorts proves to be just that, a showreel of psychedelic lighting, voyeuristic camera angles, some acting here and there and over-dependence on nothing but background score.

The storylines present (or absent in a few) in the individual features have no connective theme and that’s not the part that’s frustrating, it’s actually usual for such a production to pack in different flavors, giving the audiences a chance to enjoy varied tastes and characters. But Shorts is plainly frustrating.

Shlok Sharma’s Sujata tries to build the entire narrative in flashbacks and constant cut-ins to the current setting. It deals with a complex theme of sexual abuse, but yet shies away from being naked in its sharpness. The said faults aren’t as distracting as the logical inconsistencies here.

Siddharth Gupt’s Epilogue is supposedly abstract and mysterious, but as the relationship drama starts to develop, it becomes unbearably repetitive and non-contextual. Richa Chadda’s sensuality isn’t enough to captivate you with a third symbolic character meandering with a shovel. The players are potentially most fascinating, but the said potential kills itself by self-aggrandizing.

Audacity directed by Anirban Roy tells a teenage-girl rebelling against her self-glorifying chauvinist father. Humor is an underlying theme in this feature as the girl defies the norms in her own way by capitalizing on the same beliefs of middle class Calcutta which restrict them in the first place. Again, the cultural background and a reasoning behind the characters’ activities aren’t established here as well.

Rohit Pandey’s Mehfuz also aims at being a subtle, minimal dialogue presentation like Epilogue and doesn’t quite fail as much. A blue and yellow tint is maintained throughout without making an ounce of an effort to actually ponder over its hokey appearance and contriving vibes. Mehfuz also carries on for the same duration that feels like a hundred eons. Only the choice of the protagonist’s profession is appealing.

The final film in this tiring experience is Neeraj Ghaywan’s Shor. The characters are boorish and real, the story isn’t pretentiously groundbreaking, yet it has a flow unlike most of the other parts. The only feature to have an extended dialogue and is explicitly reflective in its approach, turns out to be a good ending to the unseemly collaboration.

The incumbent ambition of the makers to popularize the concept of such initiatives shoots itself in the foot as the selection that they have preferred to come out with is woefully hit-and-miss (majorly miss) and amateurish. The ordinary uninformed masses won’t take the same number of risks in making their decisions though.

My rating: ** (2 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) 

Aatma

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Aatma
Release date: March 22, 2013
Directed by: Suparn Verma
Cast: Bipasha Basu, Doyel Dhawan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Shernaz Patel, Jaideep Ahlawat, Mohan Kapoor, Dashan Jariwala, Shivkumar Subramaniam

Aatma, as the title suggests, has something to do with souls and the supernatural. A child thrown in the mix along with ghosts, does sound similar to the staple films of the horror genre and Aatma has the same premise.

Maya (Bipasha Basu) and Abhay (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) are a couple with marital problems. Their daughter, Nia (Doyel Dhawan) is a one dimensional, ordinary child character with nothing much to do except for forcibly crying and being just a cute kid. After instances of domestic violence, Maya decides to separate from Abhay.

After the divorce, Abhay’s love for Nia is still the reason why he can’t let go of her and accept the court’s order; as much as outrightly disregarding the law in front of the judge. The custody is rested with Maya and Abhay simply can’t take it. Scared by her husband’s obsession, so much that even after his death Maya has an inherent fear and soon the aatma (soul) business starts.

There’s a strong list of names in the supporting cast category here, but that’s wasted by the sloppy and inconclusive writing which has an absurdly high number of pleasantries exchanged at very awkward junctures. It’s almost as a murder happening in the next room, and you ask them to keep it low, and thank them for obliging. The last example isn’t an exact scene from the film, but you get the gist.

The Hindi dialogue is so vague, and cliché that you just can’t take it seriously. The spooky bits are limited and satisfying, but the plot devices are jaded and repetitive. Nawazuddin’s character, though limited, is well etched. His first frame makes for an impact which is more than  Shernaz Patel, Shivkumar Subramaniam and Bipasha Basu’s combined first thirty minutes.

Suparn Verma’s attempt at developing the emotional aspect rather than just deploying jaw-dropping, cringe-inducing VFX is commendable, but the conversations that take forward the narrative range from absolutely painful to barely passable. Sophie Winqvist’s lingering camerawork creates the much required haunted theme, thus rendering a special touch to the overall mediocrity.

Aatma also cuts down on the usual screaming by not sticking to a jarring background score. The minimalistic approach could have led to a better product, which the entire horror genre could have referenced for a new direction, but it’s just another misspent venture.

My rating: ** (2 stars out of 5)

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