Posts Tagged ‘ Varun Grover ’

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)

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Masaan

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Masaan
Release date: July 24, 2015
Directed by: Neeraj Ghaywan
Cast: Rich Chadda, Sanjay Mishra, Shweta Tripathi, Vicky Kaushal, Pankaj Tripathi, Nikhil Sahni

Death, relocation, and even a certain kind of trauma all have one thing in common; they can be the catalysts to change. I wrote about change in my review of Killaa Marathi film directed by Avinash Arun, who is also the DP of Masaan. He shoots Neeraj Ghaywan’s film, co-incidentally themed on the similar premise of forbearing to the thrusting waves of change and shaping one’s existence in the ways circumstantial activities force themselves upon the cinematic universe.

This universe is thickly veiled in realistic dimensions, subtly trying to grapple with the major forces of caste-barriers, a narrow-minded populace in a highly idealized place of pilgrimage and plays with innocuous young love. Devi Pathak (Richa Chadda) is the well-mannered, soft spoken daughter of a high-caste Brahman, Vidyadhar Pathak (Sanjay Mishra) who manages to work the computer by the day, eventually earning much more than her father and is more ambitious than he could ever be. In the midst of harboring this ambition, she sees herself in a bad predicament. A predicament which wouldn’t make much sense to a first-world inhabitant, but is a very grave situation for a young lady who aspires to a simple life where she wants to be enabled of leading her life with not much fuss.

On another bank of the Ganges, lives Deepak Chaudhary (Vicky Kaushal) of the Dom community, which has been unceremoniously handed the duty of crushing skulls of bodies that burn in the funeral pyre at the Ghats, so the souls of the dead can leave their bodies, as a character points out. He’s a mechanical engineering student vying for an urbane job that would possibly elevate him from his surroundings into a somewhat fair world where he’ll be judged by his potential and work.

Both of the parallel protagonists are closely connected by the common chord of a form of loss. They face a certain transformation brought along by the loss and try to sail along the calm waters of the Sangam. Devi’s conflict sets in motion at the start of the film, whereas Deepak’s surfaces in the later portion. Deepak’s infatuation and adoration for Shalu (Shweta Tripathi) is perhaps the dynamic that a lot of people in small cities have in their first romantic relationship, one that Devi could have shared with the boy at her workplace, which is never shown. The young love manifests itself very cutely, filled with prized gestures and amateur kissing skills.

Debutantes Vicky Kaushal and Shweta Tripathi enact their well-etched parts with equal portions of grace and charm. Never do they let you in on the jitters or any hints of discomfort. Chadda and Mishra are restrained as the emotionally wounded daughter and father. And little Jhonta (Nikhil Sahni) and Sadhya (Pankaj Tripathi) are delightful support players.

These characters indicate the strength in the writing of the film and the execution of combating with grief and other morbid objects isn’t gravely morose as it could have been. The film doesn’t steer clear of heavy drama, unlike stereotyped ‘film-festival’ movies. Neeraj Ghaywan and Varun Grover know when to delve deeper into the confrontations and when to pull back, when there’s a requirement for a breakdown and when there’s a need to stay composed.

Masaan never lets the backdrop of its location, i.e. the town of Banaras, or the shocks of the narrative, take precedence over the entire film. As one of the film’s featured musical composition goes, “Tu kisi rail si guzarti hai, main kisi pul saa… thartharaataa hun.” the film passes by melancholically and rattles you gently.

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

Bombay Velvet

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Bombay Velvet
Release date: May 15, 2015
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Satyadeep Misra, Manish Chaudhari, Karan Johar, Siddhartha Basu, Kay Kay Menon, Vivaan Shah

In an Anurag Kashyap film, you’re kept at an arm’s length from the characters’ psyche and the choice of their actions. When Faizal Khan finishes off Ramadhir Singh in Gangs of Wasseypur (2012), the emotions evoked are somewhat mixed. Faizal finally gets his revenge, on the other hand, the end of Ramadhir feels saddening. Something similar happens when Definite double crosses Faizal after that. The grief is there, yet it’s hollow.

Bombay Velvet takes the same route to build up its protagonists. There are pointers to different parts of Bombay, the city, but not a single direct “15 years later” flashing on the screen when the mini versions of Balraj and Rosie grow up in a few flashes. Perhaps, the city is supposed to take prominence over the people that it’s made up of. But cities don’t breathe, laugh, cry or love, lust and long; the people do.

The spotlight keeps shifting and shuffling between the city and its highly aspirational inhabitants. Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) wants to be a “bigshot”, and has a Tyler Durden-esque underground fighter streak to him. Rosie (Anushka Sharma) covets a lot of things and is confused about the right ways of acquiring the said things. The city dreams of becoming India’s first metropolis. The city isn’t even complete, it still dreams of joining the seven islands.

The city is run by Mayor Romi Patel (Siddhartha Basu) and his cronies. Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar) wants to be on the list of cronies, and a big share in the pie, that is Bombay’s ‘development’. Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhari) is Khambatta’s ideologically opposed rival, who runs vicious attacks on the self-proclaimed capitalist in his newspaper. Screen time is distributed almost evenly between all four quarters, they’re built well. Only in a very dull and serious tone. Unlike how Kashyap films work.

The humor is sucked out of the film to make space for cliched contrivances, impersonal romantic sequences and beautifully shot Hindi-jazz numbers. The first half sets up all its characters for major things to come, only they can be predicted a good ten minutes before they happen, every time, except for the dooziest con-job involving a bomb blast.

Reliable actors are cast, thus ensuring conviction in the characters they enact. Satyadeep Misra as Balraj’s sidekick Chimman is restrained and calm. Ranbir Kapoor wears his hair like Terry Malloy in On The Waterfront, bears his ugly bruises as a champ, and makes good for a mean hack. Anushka Sharma plays the victimized artiste passionately, a stark contrast of Raveena Tandon’s Dahlia. Rosie is not a diva, she just plays one. Dahlia is a completely self-assured performer.

If Karan Johar is going to pursue the acting gig further, I’m not sure if he can find a better character to play than Kaizad Khambatta. His character is perfectly tailor-made for him, he fits the suave, sophisticated, sinister shades, as well as his impeccably stylish suits do. There are real-life parallels referred to, only in subtle bits and parts. Manish Chaudhari tries hard to be the manic paper editor, and ends up trying a tad too hard.

There are numerous references made/homages paid to the gangster films of Hollywood. Violence from Goodfellas, tommy-gun wielding from Scarface and then there’s Sonal Sawant’s brilliant production design that recreates Bombay in the 60s. Rajeev Ravi’s camera picks up every meticulous detail that Sawant gets in the frame. Amit Trivedi enthuses yet another stellar OST and riveting background score that outmatches the action on screen.

The scale and stage of the film is so large, you wonder if it should hang in the balance by a flimsy screenplay, just how the future of the city in the film is going to be determined by a flimsy negative of a photo film. Not the best obtained output from all its entered resources, yet not completely squandered either.

My rating: **1/2 (2.5 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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