Posts Tagged ‘ Vishal Bhardwaj ’

Talvar

Talvar-Poster

Talvar
Release date: October 2, 2015
Directed by: Meghna Gulzar
Cast: Irrfan Khan, Konkona Sensharma, Neeraj Kabi, Sohum Shah, Shishir Sharma, Prakash Belawadi, Gajraj Rao, Tabu, Atul Kumar, Sumit Gulati

In the summer of 2008, a juggernaut hit the Indian TV waves. It was the Indian Premier League (IPL) and as one of the many theories suggested, the domestic helps in the Arushi-Hemraj double murders were bonding over a cricket match, on the night the mysterious killings took place. There was another theory which suggested that Arushi wanted to get back at her parents for something real bad. All of these theories, some debunked, some not, were polar opposites of the other.

The selection of the right theory is perhaps the part where a case is said to be solved. That selection is corroborated with some testimonies, and/or material evidence. Some cases are “easy” to crack, either by force or by a criminal confession. When proven right, the entire process is a treat to watch at the cinema halls and a great read in the papers. When the investigation goes awry, it’s a disturbing fact to consume that someone innocent could be punished for someone else’s transgressions, or “justice will be denied” forever.

Names of the characters are tweaked by a letter or two, and Talvar takes an outsider view at the whole murder mystery. There are several vantage points, and none from the inside. There’s the Kanhaiya (Krishna in the actual story, played by Sumit Gulati) angle, then there’s the local police’s bumbling perspective, ‘CDI’ investigator Ashwin Kumar (Arun Kumar from CBI, enacted by Irrfan Khan) piecing together the puzzle with his own story, and the chaste Hindi speaking CDI officer Paul (Atul Kumar).

Every perspective plays out in Rashomon fashion, always adding layers to what’s known to the world. Every time the story is retold, the order of events is changed, the agenda is changed, and even the killer. The film does take a stand, after making its point in an eight minute long debate between the two separate teams of investigators; both of them biased towards their own findings and prejudiced towards the other’s methods and observations. The stellar performances of all the cast members keep the proceedings engaging, even with the grim content at hand.

The state of affairs is only alleviated, with Vishal Bharadwaj at the helm of the writing department. In the midst of horrid allegations and depictions, there are sardonic lines from our lives that lighten the tone of events. Gajraj Rao, Sumit Gulati and Atul Kumar are vital bit players that hold the film well with their respective performances. Khan is at the center of the film, not just in terms of current star power, but also in terms of his character’s positioning. He’s shown to be the beacon of light, no matter how realistically fallible.

Ship of Theseus actors Neeraj Kabi as Ramesh and Sohum Shah as Ashwin Kumar’s junior have their hands full and they deliver well. Konkona Sensharma blends in with every shade that is given to her character, in the way of different ‘flashbacks’.

Talvar reiterates symbolically, that solving crime is just another job for some. At the same time, it’s a job with an inevitable but disallowed margin of error. How an actual murder mystery unveils in ‘real life’. Definitely not like an episode from Sherlock. 

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

Haider

haider-poster

Haider
Release date: October 2, 2014
Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Tabu, Narendra Jha, Shahid Kapoor, Kay Kay Menon, Shraddha Kapoor, Aamir Bashir, Lalit Parimoo, Sumit Kaul, Rajat Bhagat, Irrfan Khan, Ashish Vidyarthi, Kulbhushan Kharbanda

Before you proceed to read this review, and try to form your opinion about the film, I’d like to give you three strong reasons to just get off your seat and go watch Haider. Except you’re in the theater waiting for the film to start.

“Inteqaam sirf inteqaam laataa hai, aazaadi nahin.”

“Jhuk ke jab jhumka main choom raha tha
Der tak gulmohar jhoom raha tha…”

“Chota na bada
Koi lamba hai na bona hai
Kabar ke dadab mein lambi neend so na hai”

If these three pieces of literary genius don’t propel you into the stratosphere of Haider, you should read on.

In a land struck with insurgency, and forceful counter-insurgency measures by the army, heavily under surveillance throughout all times, Vishal Bhardwaj replaces the conflicted land of Denmark with an equally conflicted region of Kashmir in his adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet.

Haider could have simply been the story of the title character’s revenge against his Uncle Claudius from the play, i.e. Khurram (Kay Kay Menon) avenging the death of his father Dr. Hilal Meer (Narendra Jha); but it isn’t just that. Bhardwaj and his co-writer Basharat Peer choose to play up Hamlet’s mother Gertrude’s undecided nature about the men in her life, be it her son or her husband or her brother-in-law. Gertrude is called Ghazala in this universe and she’s vital right till the end.

Haider-Ghazala

Arshia (Shraddha Kapoor) is the hijab wearing lover of Haider, her brother (Aamir Bashir) much like Laertes from the play has traveled to another town for his studies after initially opposing strongly to Arshia’s affections for Haider. Interspersed with the Kashmeeri accent, every actor brings a certain earthy charm to the characters they are playing. Arshia dancing with gay abandon in Haider’s clothes is one of those moments which brings that earthy charm with a hip touch.

Haider’s ‘antic disposition’  starts off with the rattling of the provisions and powers of the Kashmir Pact from 1948, the Geneva Agreement succeeding that and the final nail in Kashmir’s coffin, the Armed Forces Special Powers Act (AFSPA) and Section 370 of the Indian Constitution. Shahid Kapoor picks up the intensity of a fire-breathing dragon and never cowers down hence that moment. He picks up the bottled, and timid Haider and transforms into this all-knowing mad man. The faces that he makes, mixed in a potent combination of naive innocence and sheer viciousness when the moment asks.

Providing an emphatic social commentary on the state of affairs in the region, Haider is beautifully poetic in its dialogues, photography and song picturizations. Be it the melancholic Jhelum which sings of the blood soaked and the screams muffled by the river Jhelum, or Arijit Singh’s most soulful composition of this year ‘Khul Kabhi To’ in a Casablanca-ish setting, or the explosive puppet dance drama in Bismil, I have never enjoyed the traditional Hindi song-and-dance routine as much, ever before.

Khul kabhi toh...

Pankaj Kumar photographs Haider with a broadly extensive repertoire of angles. My personal favorites again coming from the continuous tracking of the camera during Shahid’s storytelling in Bismil, the shades and shots used to create a certain unease between Ghazala and her son, and also Arshi’s dementia. The red scarf, the red hood and the red knitting cloth are so eerie, you don’t need a vivid emotion to tell you what happens next.

How well is Bismil shot!

Bhardwaj retains the individual traits of the characters from Hamlet, yet refusing to dwell on a very far-flung climax sequence, and even the murders with said poisons that curdle a man’s blood, he utilizes the real-time scenario of his Hamlet’s geography. Shakespeare is present in spirit, with a constant Hindi rendition of “To be or not to be” which Haider refers to question the existence of the being. The background score plays the theme from Aao Na and is so tantalizing that you simply want the song to start playing with THAT powerful entry of Khan.

The film employs the services of many actors, some in bits and some in chunks, Kay Kay Menon and Shraddha Kapoor embody Khurram and Arshi to a fault, while Shahid and Tabu own their characters by customizing them. The film in its entirety is a surreal depiction of a revenge-drama which could possibly eclipse all of Bhardwaj’s earlier adaptations and creations. Haider is a telling story with political undertones, and a film that is perhaps the most bold and vivid attempt at integrating the gloom of Kashmir with that of a character as conflicted about his rage as the people of that region about their identities and the collective concept of mainstream nationalism.

Witty, smart, poetic, scenic, passionate, and relevant, I can embellish this piece with more adjectives for Haider all day long.

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

Dedh Ishqiya

Dedh Ishqiya movie hd poster
Dedh Ishqiya
Release date: January 10, 2014
Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey
Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Madhuri Dixit-Nene, Huma Qureshi, Vijay Raaz, Manoj Pahwa, Salman Shahid

Be it Ishqiya or Dedh Ishqiya, both the films have an ‘Ishqiya’ in their titles and what is Ishqiya (love) without an underlying element of fun in it? There is constant admiration, respect, longing and an eventual appreciation of each other’s choices. Similarities are aplenty between the prequel and this sequel, Krishna (Vidya Balan) was the center of Iftekhaar or Khalu Jaan (Naseeruddin Shah) and Razzakh or Babban’s (Arshad Warsi) romantic interests. She was poised and a firebrand simultaneously. In this film, both of them have separate women to catch their attention. Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit-Nene) is elegant and poised, Munira (Huma Qureshi) is the thrill-seeker realist who grounds her man.

There are the differences too. Quite in your face at that as well. Khalu Jaan transforms into his own as Iftekhaar and wants to live for himself. Khalu almost surrendered his feelings for Babban’s attraction for Krishna, here Babban is helping Iftekhaar acquire his unrequited love for Begum Para. There’s an evolution in Babban’s growth in subtlety. The original flavour is retained, yet the flavours are left out to evolve.

Begum Para is a royal widow who has to crown a new king for her subjects and Iftekhaar lands up in lieu of dillagi. He has his underhanded ambitions, little does he know the queen has her own ambitions too. Jaan Mohammed (Vijay Raaz) will go to any extent to become the said king of Mahmoudabad. Babban reaches Mahmoudabad to get his Khaalu Jaan back with him.  Munira is Begum’s confidant, comforter and closest associate. Every character has murky waters surrounding them. The suspicion is thus born.

The organized celebration of selecting a new king for the queen has a wondrous mushaayara in Urdu, patented by the soft Nawabs of every remaining province. This is the foundation of the poetic theme to the film. Some poets pretending to be Nawabs, some pretending to be poets, some pretending everything. In this fantasyland, Babban teases Munira about having a iPhone 2 in the times of 5s. The Begum tells of a story about an neo-homoerotic king and handles her panic attacks with as much anxiety as a commoner. She charms her suitors with equal panache and class. Yet, she fraternizes with her lower-ly servant-cum-friend in her quarters with cheap rum. Munira knows what she wants from men, and it isn’t long-term smothering love.

The writers have sketched out such a colourful character palette that Setu’s brilliant photography blends hand-in-hand with. I started out this review by comparing this film with its predecessor and halfway down, I have concluded that Dedh Ishqiya is perhaps the greatest of all sequels made in Indian cinema. Shah’s gentle humility equates his innocuous playfulness. Arshad Warsi reprises his role with glorious fervour and infinite energy. Dixit has strong competition from all her co-actors and does she stand her ground like a resilient Rocky Balboa. I have a strong aftertaste of the film left in me, so much that I almost suffixed revering ji‘s to every actor’s name.

Vijay Raaz is handed over a rare role and he laps it up sharply. I am consciously avoiding anything about Huma Qureshi’s sexy balance between being all that she is in the film. She is the extra-joyful little girl after her first night with a new guy, she is the hugging consoler like a warm mother. And she is the calculative, smart modern woman. The plot avoids overbearing displays of physicality, but it uses silhouettes and beauteous subtle underplaying to put its point through.

One of the film’s subtle and most powerful messages is portrayed very gently and in minute detailing. For the sake of not letting out spoilers, I prefer not to divulge on it. Also, there’s a modern take on the “Pehle aap peehle aap mein train nikal gayi.” and a desi-Mexican-standoff that only ends in no bloodshed. Dedh Ishqiya’s original poetry, original plot devices and smart punches are just what could possibly take the Ishqiya franchise forward in the best way. I am absolutely in love with this film.

My rating: **** (4 out of 5) 

EK Thi Daayan

Ek Thi Daayan Movie Poster
Ek Thi Daayan
Release date: April 15, 2013
Directed by: Kannan Iyer
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Konkona Sen Sharma, Huma Qureshi, Kalki Koechlin, Pavan Malhotra, Visshesh Tiwari

Kannan Iyer’s directorial debut is a film that obviously deals with a Daayan (witch) what remains to be seen is how he uses the age old gimmick in a modern setting. Ek Thi Daayan is indeed based around a contemporary background.

Bejoy Mathur (Emraan Hashmi) is an accomplished magician under the stage name of Bobo The Baffler. He baffles his audience with his tricks and plays, while he continues to be baffled by events in his personal life. Baffler, baffled. Let the chuckles flow, maybe? There are flashes from his childhood and he can’t help zoning out. He seeks professional help and gives us an entire retelling of events from the eleven year old Bobo’s point of view.

The younger Bobo – played out by Visshesh Tiwari, gives us an account over his fascination for the dark world of ghosts, his belief in the philosophy of a local hell for every building where the troublesome oldies who object to children playing and sleepy guards reside. Cute and eerie at the same time. He addresses his issues with his governess Diana (Konkona Sen Sharma) by objectifying her as a Daayan.

The consultant points out that all of what bad he attributes to Diana could possibly be his hatred for a “stepmom” taking over and this is where a small doubt is created in your mind if Bobo is actually stable. Running perfectly until here, it captures the obvious ludicrousness of the plot consciously by inducing humor at various points. Huma Qureshi’s portrayal of Tamara, Bobo’s fiancee is fine by me and there’s not much ham-and-cheese by any of the actors. Konkona is the right muse that contains her character’s mystique.

The younger Bobo and his older counterpart are visually different, yet fitting in their emotional depictions. Kalki with her ‘obsessed fan’ persona puts up right amount of crazy. All problems with the much subtle horror approach spring up when the grand finale ensues, a fight between relatively unrealistic jumps and falls. Again, it’s all got to do with your suspension of disbelief but compared to the sophisticated handling of the topic until the climax, it might make you feel disconnected with a strongly supernatural flavor to it.

Ek Thi Daayan gives you the chills and also doesn’t put you off with a loud background score. It does go down the same beaten path of spirits and black magic rituals, but there’s a story with nuanced undertones. Simply put, it’s watchable and entertaining.

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

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

MKBKM poster

MKBKM poster

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola
Release date: January 11, 2013
Directed by: Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast: Pankaj Kapur, Anushka Sharma, Imran Khan, Shabana Azmi, Arya Babbar

With a rustic settlement and background of a liquor store in the middle of a farm and a limousine in the foreground, this is how the film aims at being ‘unpredictable’ right from the start. And it somewhat comes through as that, given the commercial viability of it. Yes, Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola (MKBKM) is comparably the most commercial venture in Vishal Bhardwaj’s catalogue. No, it isn’t neo-noir or supremely grim in its black comedy.

The plot covers a drunkard, Hari Mandola (Pankaj Kapur) who has rechristened himself to a more English Harry Mandola. The juxtaposition of his both sides, i.e. Hari and Harry are absolutely contradicting. When he drinks, he becomes an earthy cuss word mouthing locale where he even calls himself a selfish person, and the royal Harry is a tough whip-bearing admonisher. He’s hired Matru (Imran Khan) primarily to keep an eye on his drinking habits, or so he says.

The village in which they live in is named after Mandola himself. Just like any other ‘progressive’ state’s farmers face the issue of relocation and giving up their land for the creation of Special Economic Zones and the eventual setup of a production plant, Mandola’s farmers have the same problems. They aren’t pleased with the state and try to reach out to a mercenary Mao. Though not a direct representation of Maoists, but the character is surely symbolic. Bijlee (Anushka Sharma) is Mandola’s daughter who’s about to get married for the mutual benefit of her father and Chaudhary Devi (Shabana Azmi) to her son Baadal (Arya Babbar).

The cinematography remains brilliant and vivid throughout the length of the film. The best display of photography is during the, okay wait (for you to judge) The writing keeps varying between satire and pure realism to completely hilarious debaucheries. Except for Navneet Nishan’s pink wardrobe shtick almost everything is acceptable. Pankaj Kapur’s acting prowess is on outright display and there’s no reason to complain. His inebriated Haryanvi mouthings are perhaps the heart of his character. Many will complain about Anushka Sharma’s portrayal of Bijlee or rather complain about seeing her play out the exact same person that she did in Jab Tak Hai Jaan. But it’s not really her fault or is it.

Imran Khan has not much meat in what’s written for him or his beautiful beard conceals any secret heavy emotions he’s played out. I am fairly confused. The second half has moments that slow down the course of the film and the climax takes the age-old approach of crashing a wedding, but it’s quite fun. There’s mush at the end, but it isn’t cringe-inducing mush. Also, there are immaculate beards all around the village.

MKBKM isn’t a dark-themed out and out draining emotional drama, but is rather a tutorial for our writers on how they can infuse genuine wit and black comedy without sucking out the life from the narrative of the film. It’s a fun-filled entertainer that has its brain in the right place.

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

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