Posts Tagged ‘ Sharat Katariya ’

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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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)

Titli

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Titli
Release date: October 30, 2015
Directed by: Kanu Behl
Cast: Shashank Arora, Ranvir Shorey, Amit Sial, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Sumit Gulati, Lalit Behl

Titli’ as we know, in Hindi, is the whimsical sounding word which translates to ‘butterfly’. The creature itself is often addressed with a prefixed adjective, ‘chanchal’ (fickle in English), in Hindi folklore and in a bazillion poems and lyrics over the years. In Kanu Behl’s debut feature, the title character is hardly ever chanchal. Titli (Shashank Arora) is mercurial in only a few situations. Some of these change the course of his life, and some affect others as well.

Titli is unflinching and uncompromising. The youngest son in a lower middle class family, down by the nullah on the other side of the Yamuna in Delhi; he admits that his name was originally meant for a daughter that his mother always wanted. The mother is dead, and there’s not a single archetypal photograph of hers with a garland on it in the house. The name lives on. Much like the name, Titli’s dream of owning a parking lot in an under construction mall lives on, no matter what hurdles lie in front of him.

It’s a unique aspiration in itself, even unclear at the very start. You’re then introduced to his family, a crew of hustlers and bustlers who moonlight as carjackers. They have respectable day jobs too, but violence and crime are long-accepted entities in their lives. Initially, there’s a scene where Vikram (Ranvir Shorey) has a stupid argument with a delivery guy, which ends in a bloody brawl laced with expletives. Titli tries to meddle and ends up with a bleeding nose. It’s hilarious to watch because you think of this instance as an exceptional burst of anger and deem it as outrageous.

The humorous appeal ends when you’re exposed to the violence in much greater amounts. They are bad and they are gruesome. Titli is perhaps the least apathetic of the three. His family frowns at his desire of getting out of the “narak” (hell) that his surroundings are. They decide that getting him married will get his mind out of having dreams and end up entrapped in matrimonial affairs. They also consider the aspect of inducting his wife Neelu (Shivani Raghuvanshi) in the gang.

The new bride has her own aspirations to fulfill, if not as convoluted, they can surely be labelled as “immoral” by the societal standards. Titli is a smart customer who tries to figure out a way to turn this abyss into a goldmine as well.

Sharat Katariya and Kanu Behl try to turn their story on to the path of resurrection. At a taut running length of 124 minutes, the film is perfectly compelling. You could replace the city with your own and still see all of it making sense. Where economic growth and development of real estate takes place at the expense of slums and farms, you can see the poor reeling and seething at the injustice meted out to them in their own eyes.

In their debut outings, Shashank Arora and Shivani Raghuvanshi perform extremely well. Arora, with his wiry frame and steely eyes that almost never blink, casts a grim fervour over the proceedings. He embodies his character’s small-but-tough persona. And yet, he’s relatively the least violent, even when he proposes breaking another character’s hand. It’s in this scene, where the reason for all brutalities becomes self-evident. It’s just a way of life, when things can’t be controlled, you slap/punch/beat the crap out of the person you can’t deal with.

Ranvir Shorey puts up a display of a lifetime. In a recent interview, he claimed to be a “struggler” for his entire career. He acts as if this is his first film, or potentially even his last film. He gives it all. Amit Sial’s Pradeep has the most secretive private life as compared to his brothers, like how Vikram is facing a divorce, their father is facing acidic burps and a lungs-propelling cough. Sial shows why he deserves more work in the industry.

Titli, on the lines of Khosla Ka Ghosla, NH10, and even Aurangzeb, depicts what it’s like to exist when the growth of an ecosystem threatens to leave behind its inhabitants; it forces them to, as the cliché goes, adapt or perish.

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

Dum Laga Ke Haisha

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Dum Laga Ke Haisha
Release date: February 27, 2015
Directed by: Sharat Katariya
Cast: Ayushmann Khurrana, Bhumi Pednekar, Sanjay Mishra, Seema Pahwa

As a kid growing up in the 90’s in a yet obsolete suburb of Mumbai, I watched a lot of Hindi films and I loitered as much, emulating the trends of the films that I saw; often around boys who were much older than me. There were some who had given up education, dropped out of school and didn’t do much. Not very ambitious, not swashbuckling in the slightest of quantities. And my grandfather attended the “morning shakhas” in his khakhi shorts. These are my roots which I see thickly embroiled in the universe of Dum Laga Ke Haisha.

Prem Prakash Tiwari (Ayushmann Khurrana) is just one of those dropouts that I knew, clueless about his life, whiling away his hours at his father’s cassette shop in 1995. Except, he’s in Haridwar. He embodies the ‘small town’ naivete and is a man-boy who still doesn’t get to make his decisions, he’s literally browbeaten to marry a girl he doesn’t find attractive. A girl who’s more educated than he is, a girl who even speaks English well. What’s the dealbreaker, you ask? She’s just a tad too “healthy”, code for ‘overweight’ in middle class families.

Sandhya Verma (Bhumi Pednekar) is the girl in the equation. She’s evidently superior to our irritatingly Ganga Kinaare wala laundaa, in the “nature” and qualifications department. The incredibly shaky institution of arranged marriage unites this unlikely pair, at a community marriage ceremony, where a fifty other couples are also taking the rounds of the sacred fire. I’ve possibly listed a lot of quirks from the film at the risk of spoiling the film, but they are simply so delectable, it’d be injustice to them if I didn’t tell you how much character they add to every portion of the story.

Prem doesn’t understand the gravity of raising a family with his sperm, just like a substantially great number of other Indian men. He’s frustrated at his own insecurities and he piles them on his new bride’s physical appearance. It’s a difficult relationship, and the family members, just like in a majority of dwindling actual Indian marriages, offer their suggestions on how to salvage the situation so that they don’t have to face the stupid/stoneage ignominy of being the bearers of children who couldn’t keep up the charade of a perfect marriage, no matter how miserably, for their entire lives.

Set in Haridwar, the characters converse in country-accented Hindi, mirroring their friendships and the dynamics of the sweet-and-sour nature of closely-knit intricate families of the city. The cassettes are beginning to go out of favour and the Compact Disks are starting to roll in. Kumar Sanu is still hot property though. Anu Malik provides the modern soundtrack with Varun Grover’s whimsical lyrics. They successfully recreate the decade masterfully with Sanu and Sadhana Sargam, and juxtapose them with haunting tunes as themes to Prem and Sandhya. Andrea Guerra’s background score, as a few kids on the internet say, “is on fleek”. Pleasantly rhythmical and not at all over-the-top.

A strong ensemble cast, like the one in this film, can never be a bad thing. A good ensemble, like families, provides the constant badgering and the continuous kick-on-the-butt, which this film’s Tiwari and Verma clans keep doing. There is the mother’s emotionally manipulative BS, and another mother’s insufferable sobbing. There’s one father’s shoe-beating, and another brother’s teenage petty cribbing. Sanjay Mishra and Seema Pahwa, after last year’s Aankhon Dekhi, are just invaluably indispensable additions to any film, in any capacity.

Khurrana’s Prem is a particularly unlikeable lad, often with no redeeming qualities. The maker’s goal isn’t that, they don’t want to cause a turnaround in him, nor the viewer’s perception of him. He tries to pick up his studies from where he left them, but he suddenly doesn’t become the goddamn class-topper with his determination. He can’t conquer every hurdle that is thrown in his path, even though he does manage to overcome some of his prejudices–which is perhaps a bigger victory for him. Again, he isn’t likeable, he’s just real.

Bhumi Pednekar’s Sandhya is the thriving girl who finds herself on her groom’s bed wondering what to do. She’s reticent, and yet makes an exemplary effort in making a move to consummate her liaison. She knows that she isn’t in the right place, but she makes the effort to hang in there. She makes Sandhya real and affable.

Sharat Katariya presents what we know, what we’ve seen around. Dum Laga Ke Haisha is enjoyable and accomplishes well what it sets out to do, it succeeds in telling a story which is relateable and yet novel and effectively original.

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

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