Posts Tagged ‘ Sayani Gupta ’

Jagga Jasoos

Jagga Jasoos
Release date: July 14, 2017
Directed by: Anurag Basu
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif, Saswata Chatterjee, Saurabh Shukla, Sayani Gupta

The audience is unkind, at times even heartless. They don’t care if your film took three years to make, or ten. To pass a nominal litmus test of viewer approval, Jagga Jasoos released this past Friday to not as much shows as you’d expect a potential blockbuster film to do. Perhaps, indicative of the approach of the film, where it greenlights itself straight into musical-mode.

Katrina Kaif, as Shruti, plays the narrator of the story and a journalist in Jagga’s tales of adventures. As she hosts a hall full of children, she sings and recites Jagga’s (Ranbir Kapoor) exploits, and the audience in the cinema hall is treated similarly. Concepts are broken down for the children and viewers to grasp them without letting their mind work or wander. “Is Jagga even real?”, you ask of yourself when Shruti breaks down his life in chapters from a comic anthology.

Right from the get-go, Jagga Jasoos confidently chronicles its protagonist’s journey, with small nods to Harry Potter, as an orphaned, bespectacled Jagga sleeps under a staircase. He doesn’t have a broom tuck between his legs to circumvent the world, but he does have an electric scooter which he rides adeptly on. Little Jagga is too shy to speak, because he stutters. Ironically, he lives in a hospital and is never treated for his speech impediment by the staff who seems to be in love with him, so much so that they let him live on their property ever since the day he was born.

Tooti Footi (Saswata Chatterjee) introduces Jagga to the magical world of singing his words, with rhyme and verse at his disposal, at the behest of some simply brilliant writing. Childhood expositions aren’t supposed to mean much in Bollywood, but this one makes you tear up within the first 30 minutes of the film as little Jagga sings ‘Jhooth, bas jhooth’ when Tooti Footi leaves him at a boarding school.

The overarching plots revolve around international conspiracies, localized militancy, and a boy’s quest to be reunited with his father. As Jagga sings, he becomes a much more self-assured adolescent knockoff of Tintin, reliving his favourite Feluda novels, with his schoolmates. Anurag Basu manages to create a universe that he so ably did in his last outing — Barfi! (2012), a world majorly bereft of texting, mobile phones and also refrains from any dosage of puns or lyrics, consciously written to deliver easy laughs or nudge-winks. With reams of paper that must have been penned while making the film, and I am very sure there must be reams, what the film lacks in a manufactured vibe of tautness, it makes up for in originality, quirk, and simply charming your frowns off with its unadulterated charm.

As the film devolves from an outright musical caper, to more of an action adventure in the post-intermission half, you are welcomed by an incredibly clever piece ‘Nimbu mirchi’ which captures the settling-in chatter of the theatre audiences perfectly, and calls us out for our indifference and irreverence for what goes around us in the real world and in a cinema hall, when we casually display indifference – ‘Humko us se kya?’ – at a blast in Syria, or another brutal gory assault in the city.

The lyrical storytelling reaches its ultimate peak for me, at a birthday party for a dead person, where the ensemble sings in unison, ‘Sab khaanaa kha ke, daru pee ke chale gaye’. And Ranbir captures the philosophy of life in as much singsong fashion.

Anurag makes compromises along the way, as his Jagga sings a little bit less with every passing minute in the “business end” of the things. Chase sequences, elaborate props start substituting moments of genius, to tell a story that goes far away from where it began. But it’s a grand adventure, a comic bestseller, all with meerkats, giraffes, zebras, leopards, fictional African tribes, yearly tips on growing up through VHS tapes by a father to his son, a travelling circus, secret agents, caricaturish comedy sequences and most importantly, conviction.

What makes Jagga Jasoos an experience I will cherish and remember forever are the witty idiosyncrasies, how disabilities are not pity-tear-jerkers, where a bumbling clumsy accomplice isn’t unwanted and most importantly the smile it plastered across my face with its pure passion and a will and heart that can’t and won’t cower, even in the face of real-world meta and in-film difficulties.

The almost three-hour-long runtime of the film benefits greatly from sincere performances from Kapoor, Chatterjee and Saurabh Shukla. But Miss Kaif is as much as part of this brave film as the others. In a lot of content that has been written about the film, she has been dismissed as a Xanax to Ranbir’s cocaine in questions like, “What would have become of the film with a more able actor in place of Katrina?”. In whatever capacity she was initially cast, it’s as much of her film, as it’s any of the other cast members’ film. In some great disservice to her character, there are random dialogue inserts with a dubbing artist’s voice mixed in with her own voice. These inserts are not some chaste Hindu/Urdu couplets, just some completely normal last-minute additions perhaps.

Senior Valecha (yes, my father) made a dad-joke, one that did not take much imagination to woefully rhyme “Jagga Jasoos” with “Hagaa Jasoos”, mentioning the declared hateful verdict of the film on Whatsapp forwards in uncle-groups. The audience is not kind, but Jagga Jasoos surely is. Just like an overwhelming Indian parent with no regard for their child’s privacy or rebellious streak, the film provides with incredible joy, wonder, food (for thought and boxes filled with cakes and treats) and setting us ambitious standards (to look forward to Hindi films of the future)

To borrow from the film, Jagga Jasoos is made from the right-half of the brain, the one which is a little crazy, magical and not necessarily logical.

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

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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)

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)

Margarita With A Straw

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Margarita With A Straw
Release date: April 17, 2015
Directed by: Nilesh Maniyar, Shonali Bose
Cast: Revathy, Kuljeet Singh, Kalki Koechlin, Sayani Gupta, Hussain Dalal, Malhar Khushu, Tenzin Dalha

In a Hindi film universe, where the concept of female sexuality is mostly untouched upon, the makers of Margarita With A Straw present a tale of a physically disabled young woman wresting her sexuality from everyone around her. The free world, that cannot sanely comprehend a woman’s sexuality, now gets to witness a handicapped woman’s sexual dilemmas, and forcibly gets to gulp the uncomfortable lump of truth down its metaphorical throat.

Right on from the first few minutes, the theme of the film starts developing, forsaking the first act of the traditional three act structure. The directors jump straight to what they want to show you, and they don’t sugarcoat it overtly or try to ease it in and slip it somewhere along softly. Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is a young girl who’s fit in with the “normal” kids at a “regular” college even with her Cerebral Palsy. She has a wheelchair-bound friend Dhruv (Hussain Dalal) at the same college who she has known for 450 years, as Dhruv puts it in one scene. She has other physically able friends who don’t patronize her as well.

She has a slur in her speech and a walking disability as a result of her Cerebral Palsy, she writes lyrics for her college band and just like any other “normal” kid, slacks off on the job while lurking on her crush’s Facebook profile. She cries at her first romantic rejection. She doesn’t wanna face the world after her desired lover refuses her advances. Just like any other seemingly normal kid.

Notice how I keep ending almost all my descriptions about Laila with a “Just like any other ‘normal’ kid”? That is exactly the basic struggle of every disabled person’s life. To be treated normally and just with a little care, as Rustom Irani’s recent articles suggested in Mumbai Mirror. We get to witness the same everyday challenges of a wheelchair-bound Laila.

As every disabled person requires some assistance, Laila’s mother wears the additional hat of being her caregiver, helping her bathe, change clothes and carry out her basic routine comfortably. And as many Indian parents can’t understand the idea of privacy, that problem is further heightened here, as being her caregiver, Laila’s mother cannot bring herself to accepting certain barriers with respect to Laila’s sexuality and love life.

The conflict of the story is this simple and yet, so firmly ingrained with the characters’ lives. Thus, this is a thoroughly character-driven film and heavily benefits from the amazing performances of all its cast. Revathy as Laila’s protective and extremely affable mother shines through like a warm, and embracing ray of sunlight. The strong mother is shouldered by an equally charming Kuljeet Singh as Laila’s father. Sayani Gupta, particularly strikes a great presence as the blind activist girlfriend Khanum. She radiates a natural sensuality which brings about a metamorphosis in Laila, and will titillate something in you as well.

Lastly, it is a Kalki Koechlin film here. Present in about every scene, she renders a greatly credible performance in this mammoth of a role. She laughs at the silliest of things some times, and yet it never seems deliberated. Laila is vulnerable, and Laila is strong. Laila’s confused and she’s just trying to find her space. Kalki makes herself irreplaceable with this spirited portrayal.

If you walk in to Margarita With A Straw expecting an inspiring tale of human success where Laila transcends physical barriers of disability, her professional endeavors aren’t a major part of the case-study here, and justifiably so as the film covers a small timeline of events in her life. More than biographical, it’s beautiful slice of life cinema served with a quirky straw.

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

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