Monday, December 16, 2013

Bullet Raja Review

** This is repost from review**
As a south filmgoer and Bollywood naach-gaana fanatic, masala fest movies are not new to me. Yet even when a film has all the trimmings of a throwback action film, there are guarantees it will work. Sajid Khan’s Himmatwala is testimony to that. Tigmanshu Dhulia is stepping into the commercial arena with Bullet Raja starring Saif Ali Khan, Jimmy Shergill and Sonakshi Sinha. The intention is to make a masala topped entertainer. The result is a film that throws at you every known cliche possible while bringing back some of the Dhulia style.
Raja (Saif Ali Khan) aka Bullet Raja and his best bud Rudra (Jimmy Shergill) lead this rise of a commoner to become a dreaded gangster with the love angle covered by Mitali played by Sonakshi Sinha. But for every rise, there is a fall and that’s where Sharp Shooter-come-local law enforcement Inspector (Vidyut Jamwal) comes in. How this happens and who becomes the unsuspecting friend in need and foe in sheeps clothing forms the rest of the story.
The one thing you can bank on in a Tigmashu directorial is a surprise package and fireball writing. The stuff that made the greats known for their commercial success. Saif Ali Khan may not be known for his masalafest films but everyone remember his killer performance of Langda Tiyagi when you mention Omkara. Probably his most ruffian role to date, it is matched and taken up a notch with Bullet Raja. But the surprise packet isn’t his transformation. It’s not even Sonakshi Sinha, who may be the exception from the norm in modern day heroine types but she still doesn’t get to do much with this film. It’s Jimmy Shergill once again. The actor has played sidekick, best friend, miniscule role that has no significance so many times but we have secretly wished for more from the actor. Yes, he is the best friend bud the actor plays his role of Rudra to the T. Vidyut Jamwal is a professional martial artist and you know he does his stunts with precision and care, yet the is nothing to stop you from gasping and going ‘woah’ from the moves he makes. Ravi Kishan and Chunkey Pandey do what they need to and that’s what you get. Although Ravi doubles up on the screen time with his ‘Radha’ performance. It’s nice to see Gulshan Grover back on the big screen but i was expecting more. The rest are apt.
Yet even as you think that’s nice about the performances, you know something is missing. It’s not completely the writing (Tigmanshu Dhulia and Amaresh Misra) since the firebrand writing is visible even in the dialogue and excuses the infinite versions of the story we have seen before. The music is by Sajid-Wajid is as dime a dozen as they can get so it does register as a component. When you think about it boils down to one simple fact. The name Tigmanshu Dhulia. Synonymous with some highly critically acclaimed films like Paan Singh Tomar and Saheb, Biwi and Gangster, you expect something from him. Something will knock you socks off. Nothing grand required but something. That is what’s missing. As mentioned, the film has all the trimmings that the aam-janta want. So in essence, the deal is done for the director saheb. But not for someone expecting his brand of films.
So take a deep breath, forget the past and you will walk away from the film thinking ‘time-pass’. Otherwise, you will be severely disappointed with there being nothing new at all. Just a bunch of performers, trying to make a kid’s toy gun look real.
Our rating:

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Gori Tere Pyaar Mein Review

*** This review is a repost from Bollyspice***
Redefining a genre is a huge and extremely difficult task but quite possible when you have a strong hold on the story of a film. Even if its with a basic plot and handful of actors. Punit Malhotra has said his latest offering of Gori Tere Pyaar Mein had the capability to do so. This writer is wondering what made him think so after seeing the final product.
The tour guide version of casanova boy meets social activist girl, their clashes, fun times, 2 songs, a few loving looks, a taboo topic and finally the fight that broke them up is told to Vasudha played Shraddha Kapoor like episodes of a tv drama. Tickles the interest with some catchy tunes, random wittiness and pretty scenes but doesn’t show the loopholes of depth. Just when you thought you had enough of the rather predictable love story proceedings of Sriram Venkat (Imran Khan) and Dia Sharma(Kareena Kapoor Khan), we are taken to Jhumli, a village in Gujarat where the Casanova, i mean Imran Khan becomes your average aam janta on a mission to get his girl, redeem himself and build a bridge for the townsfolk.
Amongst the predictability, and possibly the saving grace, is Nizhalgal Ravi and Anupam Kher who switch from comic relief to character artist/ villain respectively at random moments. Shraddha Kapoor is absolutely stunning but sleep walks throughout. Unfortunately the rest of the cast are a blur due to overcrowded-ness or lack of dimension. But of course the star attraction is our Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu duo making a comeback to the screen, Imran Khan and Kareena Kapoor Khan.
Imran Khan is supposed to play an American return Bangalorean Tamil, but neither sounds nor looks the part. Yes, yes we know the logic, or lack of, factor in rom-coms but besides the word Appa, both parent actors break out more Tamil than Imran and he looks like the misfit more than the actor he calls a misfit in the film. The actor does score points as he lets loose the awkwardness in the latter part of the film but he struggles for the most part, especially in his focus shots. The Kareena Kapoor Khan title has a certain ring to it but her character lacks punch. Leading lady and noted actress no doubt, her trainer has worked her out well and she looks a million bucks. Yet for all the hoopla about her 6 costumes and meaty role, you don’t walk away loving her character or her for doing it. Standing around with papers in hand, pouting or haphazardly trying to continue construction work doesn’t count when trying to show the strength of a character or conviction. Shame since her character could have given the story the necessary focus.
The two actors clearly are trying to make some sort of chemistry but nothing works. Even as they slip in the ‘she’s older’ lines to explain Kareena looking like Imran’s older sister than love interest, you don’t feel the mushy love bug emotion when they flirt or bashfully smile at each other. Even as they separate, you feel indifferent and the reason falls back onto the writing. While the wittiness helped the light hearted moments, there wasn’t much worthwhile in the story to root for them. And neither Manish Malhotra nor Salim-Sulaiman can help. The focus flutters from self analysis to society concerns to going the distance for love, without enough time or impact to make you feel this is important.
But what am I saying. This was always meant to be a love story. The social issues/family issues were simply a facade to cover a story known since Grandmother India. The editing that need to cut back the predictability, only worked for crisp scene alignment. The cinematography wasn’t supposed to show things as they really were, just make a brown village have colour block moments to go along with funny moments everything else like a Karan Johar Production, vibrant and beautiful. Right up to an awkward stanced Imran, running in a vetti (southern style dhotti). Even Vishal Shekhar are right on cue with bringing to table everything the movie needed at the set intervals, whether it be a dance number, a romantic melody or a Gujarati folk song. No comments on the lyrics but ‘Main Nahin Jaana’ has your foot tapping, like it was meant to. Yet, none of it matters how the film had no depth and overshadows the direction. Not even the fact it connects with audience on an entertaining level as much as lotto numbers are. You simply are supposed to laugh at people and customs being ridiculed, imitate the latest fashions and then walk out thinking ‘Next!’.
So take it as it is and you might enjoy Punit Malhotra mash up the first half of Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai with a dash of southern stereotypes and Swades into an ‘original’ film. But then again, you might not. Either way, regardless if you will be able to turn off your thinking cap on the film, it leads back to the cliche but upgrades to stale wine in a bottle of Moët.
Our rating:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Zanjeer Review

**This is a repost from original on**
The biggest hurdle that a remake has to cross is the passion of the fans of the original. Zanjeer 1974 was no ordinary film. There was so much to this film that made it extraordinary: classic in status, the Angry Young Man icon for Amitabh Bachchan, the genre shift from romance to action with story-telling and let’s not forget Mona Darling. Pretty hefty stuff if you think about it. Nevertheless, the fresh team for Zanjeer 2013 headed by Apoorva Lakhia, has had a debut, a comeback of sorts and enough off screen drama to give a bit of original hype to the remake. But hype doesn’t make up for audience impact nor an entertaining story. Ok so the original film was of the same simple story of revenge and action and yes, it had a bigger hand in Amitabh’s life than played by Ram Charan. But in the end, the fact that this remake falls prey to being a poorly made remake shows that not all films can be adapted to the times and times have changed.
The story has been seen enough times for anyone to pick a screenshot and know what is to happen next so no attempt to bore with the details will be made.
Most people will tell you that doing cliche is no rocket science, something this writer too has done in the past. Yet it comes back to one thing. The era of films have changed. The audience has changed. So yes, Zanjeer is your typical masaledaar fest with enough throwback to show respect to the original but enough ingenuity to pack in its own garam quotient. However it all falls flat on the questionable writing skill of Suresh Nair and Apoorva Lakhia. There is no suspense, no build up to the climax, not even a smoky effect of ‘expect the unexpected’. Everything just goes by the checklist and like the dialogue, makes no bones about being crass. Right from the Shaqila Bano item number to the logic-lessness.
Yet the good versus evil caper has its moments and that is thanks to the cast and their performance. Namely evil Sanjay Dutt turned good Sanjay Dutt and the two junior artists that play Amar and Prem. Playing the Pathan ‘Sher Khan’ is like cheesecake for Sanjay and he turns out to be the only one that stays in character for the entire film. Right from lead Ram Charan, who goes from being strict and stern as Vijay Khanna then comical when Amar-Prem turn up for rib-tickling, to Prakashraj, as he goes from being nothing but evil with confidence Teja in one scene to an old guy with a penchant to rhyme everything he says. Even Atul Kulkarni, playing a street-smart journalist with integrity Jay Dev, has a blonde moment.
But also, even with the cast, one has to wonder what was going on in the minds of the makers. Fair enough, Ram Charan steps back into the newbie-ville he catapulted out of with his Telugu film Magadheera, with his Hindi debut and the actor does try very hard. But when it comes to acting, if your face is motionless, your voice plays a huge role in saving you and his dubbing voice simply falls flat. A decision that cost Ram Charan crucial brownie points. Not to mention it was barely in sync with his lip movement. Priyanka Chopra was probably having starter troubles with the return to leading lady or was too preoccupied with her music career to notice how ridiculous her ‘simple NRI ladki role was, even if it was fleshed out more than Jaya Bachchan’s in the original. Mahi Gill was only there for shock value and a few funnies but there was no shock to add value.
It’s not to say these people aren’t talented since each has their respective filmographies does show it and that may be the reason for Gautam Parvi for casting them. But what happened, Apoorva? Resources to make worthy return to direction after 5 years, and we get nothing. Lack of vision maybe. Due credit should be given and in this case, the cinematography by R.J. Gururaj is crisp. Editing or production design by Chintu Singh and Sunil Nigevkar respectively werent half bad but for dollar value floating in the rumour mill, one would have expected much more. Yet when the ships captain is directing you into the iceberg, it doesn’t matter if the Titanic looked good.
Final call for Zanjeer boils down to simple things. Noone could undo self inflicted shackles. And Sanjay Dutt is the savior among the slaughtered.
Our rating:

Muting The Demon

Sometimes it’s hard to put to words what you feel when you dismiss it to be ridiculous and/or unimportant for yourself. I mean I know the importance people have in my life but where can I guarantee someone will consider me in the same way. I miss the time when it didn't hurt not to have someone nearby. I think the ignorance stabilized it all in an insane way and I was content.

But then I felt something. It wasn't much. Just the reassurance and concept someone was there. A friend. A guide. My mum was that person for a while. It was fun. I could tell her pretty much anything. Well almost. But then things changed. Someone else took over. Some close in age. Some were of different background. The world that I saw, experienced and grew into felt like more than just a few happy nights on the town. It became a reality that I was aware could go away but somehow didn't think it would.

It did. And I was left alone in a crowd. To fend for myself. Feel, emote, decide, establish. There were no exceptions anymore. What was right was right for everyone. What was wrong, was condemned for one and all. I no longer had a separate bubble of exception. It got to a point where I even could see the flaws in me that I used to think nothing off. Not that I began to act on it all. I just became the bad guy not worthy enough to judge so no comment was made. Actually, more like someone who was not worthy of anything in particular. Talent was a fluke. Credit was never due. Compliments never taken well. 

I slowly have become very similar to who I am now. I say this because I seem to be changing a little when I look back at issues. After all change is the biggest constant. It hurts sometimes. Not knowing if you will make it to that cloud of happiness. Not knowing if those that are with you will stay. So I tend to over compensate when I am. Not really buying their love, time or affection. Just reminding them how I feel for them. Trying to keep my own demons at bay.

I still cant get over them though. Those moments. Even after working to make sure I am the best me, I can be. I have them till this day. And most likely, will have them till I breathe my last.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Mayakkam Enna - My Take on The Film

The best way for me to describe my understanding of Mayakkam Enna doesn't come from explaining the story or the acting. It comes from the reaction of one character in the film. She plays the protagonist, Karthik's (Dhanush) sister Ramya. You will see at varying points the inclusion of his friends and their reaction to the events but this particular character is what determined this writer's understanding of the story and along with it, a simple message.

The life and struggle of a wild life photographer maybe the main point in the story but this character shows you that there is never one constant state of mind for people in your life. There is always going to be change. It maybe intensely displayed or just subtle. For cinematic purposes, Ramya, alongwith the other characters have a rather extreme change and reaction to everything. From when Sundar (Sundar Ramu) introduces Yamini (Richa) and Karthik reacts badly to when he returns after running away because of an intimate encounter to the same Yamini he developed feelings for. 

But life is not always about the love stories in our life and it most certainly isn't all roses. Besides being robbed of a prestigious award and recognition from the man he called his idol, Mathesh Krishnaswamy (Ravi Prasad), Karthik meets with an accident and loses the control most people would have of their emotions. Yes, I know its depicted like he is crazy but considering the so-called 'transformation' he goes through, its can be accepted if only in a loose format. After all, desperation and devastation can change any human being to a speck of their former self.  Coming back to the point, people are bound to change with situations. And Ramya once again changes from the sister who was so scared and pissed off at her brother for leaving her to one that makes subtle yet sharp comments at her by then sister-in-law Yamini. Even to the point when she in a fit of rage says that he should be institutionalised. If this isnt enough, her jealous streak comes out as well when the same brother receives a world renowned award, a much bigger achievement that of her husband, Sundar.
 So what's the message? Life is life. Challenging, beautiful, turbulent and unpredictable. So there is no point in thinking people will always be the same. Those that stick it out for a length of time arent surviving because they are the same person. Its because they work at themselves and through it all. The good, the bad, the ugly. Yamini and Karthik may be fictional characters but they go through turbulences that any married couple would go through. Some more severe than others.

But hey, this writer saw the life lesson in a film some may have thought was too long. Yes it needed a few snips here and there even while you enjoyed the picturesque-ness [Ramji], inebriating music [G.V.Prakash Kumar] and soul-stirring performances by the lead cast, but at the end of the day, Mayakkam Enna isn't anything different from Selvaraghavan's filmogrpahy. He doesn't follow trends and you can never guess what type of film you will expect when the mastermind is at the helm of things. He does things his own way and nothing quite prepares you for Selvaraghavan's films beyond knowing what he did before. Very little frills or splashes in the water but a whole lot of emotionally charged story-telling. That is the case with Mayakkam Enna, and as usual, brilliance is the current that works his magical waves.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Viswaroopam Review

Being a Kamal Hassan film, Viswaroopam had interests invested in it way before the filming started. The knack that Kamal Hassan has at bringing something new to the industry through film was evident again so while I am one of those that loves a good commercial film, Viswaroopam clearly was nothing of the sort. With Rajkamal International coming back to produce this Kamal Hassan written and directed feature, the film is as action packed and suspenseful as the trailer led us to believe.

The movie opens with Dr Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) talking to her psychiatrist about her husband Vishwanath aka Wiz (Kamal Hassan). Married to him out of the convenience he was a green card holder in the US, she overlooked his age and other issues but when it came to the point when she finds the right person that she feels for, she wanted to be sure she wasn't the only one doing the dirty deed. Now, the psychiatrist is confused and so are we. After all, domestics are common and rationalizing an affair is what most unhappy partners do. That is till Kamal Hassan makes his entrance. Then everything sinks in. His age, his behaviour and his manner that makes you think his preference lies elsewhere. Nirupama advises her doctor, and us, she hired a private investigator to do the digging and he becomes our main story follow character. But what seems like a domestic issue between 2 individuals that are bound by marriage, turns into much more when the private investigator loses his target but ends up getting killed on his pursuit a secretive group of men seeming to be working for a disabled man named Omar (Rahul Bose). Why was he killed? Who is Omar? And how this all links back to Wiz? Is something that must be seen to be understood.

The normal format I take in a review consists of discussing a bit about the performance of each character then moving onto the crew. But with Kamal Hassan at the helm, one can't really find words that haven't been said before. As Wiz, he cannot be seen as anything more than what he shows you but the catch is how much more he actually is. Not once has he overdone his role. Pooja Kumar who plays his wife may not have been around for a long time but there is nothing short on her skill. It would not be fair to say she provides the comic relief in the film since it’s the dialogue is what gives you the giggles. Andreah Jeremiah makes a beautiful entrance as a Kathak dancer Ashmita in Kamal’s class but as the story unfolds, a hidden extra kick in attitude comes up her character. Shekhar Kapur follows suit but next the main man Kamal Hassan, its Rahul Bose that stand out the biggest for obvious reasons. The stern, sinister and calculative exterior is only enhanced by prosthetic makeup. Yet you will be farfetched to find another actor that shines as much under all the restrictions. Jaideep Alhawat downplays the second in charge well while still retaining his own identity in the film. Samrat Chakrabarti is apt.

From here, we move on to the technical side of things. Honestly speaking, there is very little that is to be said about the technical side of the film. The reason? Sheer brilliance. Right from the cinematography (Sanu Varghese) to music/background score (Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy). The way the team has come together and become the backbone support to the mastermind behind the camera is something definitely worth watching and I personally, would love to see again. Each aspect is crisp clear and balances the film. Editing by Mahesh Narayanan is only person that could have used his craft a little better. With a story teller like Kamal at the helm, we mustn’t forget that the proceedings need to be taught as well as captivating. The trailer showed that there is more than meets the eye for this film and its characters and that's what Kamal delivers. The sensibility and detailing he has as an actor is common knowledge and Viswaroopam he brings it to the fore as a writer and director once again after his 2004 critical and commercial hit Virumaandi. An example can be seen in the pigeons that are seen in the posters. Another seen-to-be-believed act of brilliance by the legend.

It would be juvenile to say Viswaroopam is not without flaws. However, what unfolds in front of your eyes stays with you longer than the editing that needs a little work. Some may even complain of repetition with a few scenes. In defence though, one would not have figured out the proceedings without them. One thing can be said, this feature is not for mindless movie lovers. You need to use your brain a little. Yet, this is not a setback for some to dismiss it as a little boring in parts. Viswaroopam can be commended for many things as even beyond the controversy that surrounds it with the content, you can be safe in saying that you have watched a film that is both up to date in content but in technical brilliance. While some may say this is an Indian version of Mission Impossible, this writer would prefer to step away from comparisons since the story has not been handled with such maturity and sophistication before in her lifetime.

Even as this reviewer finishes with a big thumbs up for the suspense action flick from the Maverick that is Kamal Hassan, the only thing that leaves a feeling of disappointment after watching Viswaroopam is the delay, and subsequent anticipation, for the release of Part 2.

Rating: 4/5
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