Rajeev Masand – movies that matter : from bollywood, hollywood and everywhere else

September 18, 2010

Akshaye Khanna interview

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 2:00 am

In this candid chat, reclusive star Akshaye Khanna reveals why he likes to be around funny people, and discusses the film he saw recently that blew his mind.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 17, 2010

Shanghai nights

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:30 pm

September 17, 2010

Cast: John Cusack, Chow Yun-Fat, Gong Li, Ken Watanabe, Rinko Kikuchi, Jeffrey Dean Morgan, David Morse

Director: Mikael Hafstrom

Despite its attractive cast and epic feel, World War II drama Shanghai is too simplistic for a nail-biting political thriller, and too conventional for a satisfying romantic saga.

Set in 1941, American spy Paul Soames (played by John Cusack) arrives in Shanghai posing as a journalist, hoping to investigate the murder of his best friend and fellow agent, Connor (played by Jeffrey Dean Morgan). To get to the bottom of the truth, Paul befriends a local gangster Anthony Lan-Ting (played by Chow Yun-Fat), who is close to the Japanese occupiers and who might himself be a collaborator in Connor’s murder. Paul also finds himself smitten by Anthony’s mysterious wife Anna (played by Gong Li), who’s secretly working for the Chinese resistance.

The film is lusciously photographed, and has elegant production design that doesn’t betray the fact that most of the filming was done on constructed sets in Thailand, and not in China. There’s a mood of genuine tension in the air, as Paul noseys around searching for clues that land him directly in the orbit of a Japanese security captain (played by Ken Watanabe), whose drugged-out mistress may hold the secret to Connor’s murder.

On paper, Shanghai may have all the makings of an old-fashioned wartime spy thriller, but unfortunately the screenplay lacks the originality that was required to turn this into something more than a rehash. The plot unfolds leisurely and appears too muddled to fully comprehend, but when it does unravel itself you realize in fact that it’s ridiculously simplistic for this kind of sweeping saga.

The cast is solid, but John Cusack and Gong Li have no real chemistry and it’s hard to root for them. Ken Watanabe, meanwhile, is excellent as the mysterious Japanese captain whose motives are hard to figure out.

If the film fails to work as a Casablanca-style epic, blame it on the pointlessly confusing narrative and the paper-thin characterization of the central players. It’s not a bad film, but one that tests your patience. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Shanghai. Watch it when you’re in a forgiving mood!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Reality bites

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:05 pm

September 17, 2010

Cast: Sarita Choudhury, Adil Hussain, Zoya Hassan, Sriharsh Sharma

Director: Sona Jain

For Real, directed by Sona Jain, is a thought-provoking but amateurish film about the breakdown of a marriage as seen through the eyes of a six-year-old girl.

Sarita Choudhury and Adil Hussain star as a couple struggling to keep a happy public face even as their marriage is slowly crumbling. It’s their impressionable young daughter Shruti (played by Zoya Hassan) who’s having the most trouble understanding the sudden changes, convinced in fact, that her mother’s an alien.

The film is intended as an honest look at the psychological impact of domestic discord on a young child, but it’s betrayed by sluggish pacing, and an indulgent screenplay packed with long scenes containing no dialogue or drama.

The performances, particularly by the older actors, are uninspired; and ultimately it’s the two child actors who provide the film its warmest moments. Shruti and her older brother Paras (played by Sriharsh Sharma) are refreshingly spontaneous, and their scenes together ring remarkably true even when they’re doing nothing of any consequence, merely hanging out and chatting away.

Alas, despite its brave intentions, this film is only moderately engaging. I’m going with two out of five for director Sona Jain’s For Real. Popular films seldom address such uncomfortable subjects honestly. This film has the ambition, but there’s no excuse for boring us!

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Shabana Azmi on the film that changed her life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:00 am

Actress Shabana Azmi talks about the film that changed her life.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 15, 2010

Farah Khan and team receive Oscars for ‘Tees Maar Khan’

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 11:00 am


Irrespective of what you think of her movies, you can’t deny there are few who shoot their songs as imaginatively as Farah Khan. Both as a choreographer and later as a filmmaker, she’s given Bollywood some of its most strikingly original song picturisations.

What she also does better than almost anyone else in Bollywood, is the end-credits sequence. Most filmmakers bung in an item song at the end of their movie with a scroll of the credits.

Not Farah, who recorded and shot a new song with a specific concept for the end credits sequence of both Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om.

In Main Hoon Na, it was the Yeh fizaen number which she filmed against a carnival theme, with each actor and crew member making an appearance and showing off their credit on the film.

In Om Shanti Om, it was the red carpet premiere sequence, set to the tune of Dard-e-disco in which once again every actor and crew member strutted down to show off their credit. The sequence ended with Farah arriving in a limo, and finding the premiere was over, and having to leave in an autorickshaw!

For her latest film Tees Maar Khan, starring Akshay Kumar, Akshaye Khanna and Katrina Kaif, we learn the end credits sequence involves the entire team walking up to collect an Oscar, no less! Apparently hundreds of duplicate trophies were created for this sequence, which was filmed last week in Mumbai.

The picture at the top of this page is one of the filmmaker and her assistant directors, all dressed up in their Oscar best, posing with their trophies on the day of the shoot!

The film may not win any Oscars, but what’s the harm in dreaming big, eh?

September 15, 2010

September 14, 2010

Himesh Reshammiya on the song that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:30 am

Singer-composer Himesh Reshammiya talks about the song that changed his life.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 13, 2010

Vera bad things…

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 11:30 pm

Of all the movies I’ve seen that have deeply disturbed me, Vera Drake is the one that’s most hard to get out of the head. Directed by British thesp Mike Leigh, Vera Drake won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2004, and also earned its leading lady Imelda Staunton the Best Actress Award at the same festival.

The story’s centered on gentle and mild-mannered middle-aged woman in 1950s London, who’s an ideal wife and the perfect mother to her middle-class family. In between caring for her sick neighbors and working as a cleaning lady in the homes of rich people, she also performs abortions for helpless young girls who have nobody to turn to. When she is arrested for performing these illegal abortions, her secret double life is exposed to her family who grapple to deal with this truth in their own way.

This film is riveting primarily because of its protagonist’s performance, which is nothing short of outstanding. Imelda Staunton “becomes” Vera Drake, and arouses your sympathy wholeheartedly.

One of my favorite scenes in the film is the one in which she’s being interrogated by the police who walk into her home while there’s a party on in the other room. Your heart goes out to her when she begs the officer if they could put this matter off until the next day because she doesn’t want to ruin the party for her family.

Or that scene during the police interrogation when she says in all honesty that she would never charge money for performing those abortions – that she doesn’t even think of it as criminal activity, because for her, really it’s about helping young girls who are confused and alone.

The thing about Vera Drake is that it touches your heart and it breaks your heart, both at the same time. It’s deeply unsettling because you cannot deny how dangerous the nature of her home-made surgeries are, and it’s poignant and beautiful because you can’t help but feel overwhelmed by the simplicity and the innocence of her agenda.

Vera Drake leaves you deeply affected. How many films achieve that?

Fooled ya!

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 11:25 pm

Woody Allen is one of my favorite filmmakers, and Scoop is the second film he shot in London recently after Matchpoint. And if Matchpoint surprised his fans because it was such an unlikely thriller coming from him, Scoop is the kind of film one has come to expect from him over the years.

A prominent journalist has just died, but even as he’s heading to his final resting place, he remains committed to pursuing a hot tip on the identity of the mysterious Tarot Card Killer who’s still-at-large in London. But how does he do his legwork now that he’s dead? Very simple — via an American journalism student played by Scarlett Johansson, whom he approaches with the information when she’s volunteering in a magic trick. He gives her the scoop of a lifetime and he urges her to pursue the story.

To chase the story with her, Johansson enlists the help of a stage magician — played by Woody Allen himself, and while she’s working on the story she meets and falls in love with a distinguished young politician played by Hugh Jackman. The only problem is, her new boyfriend just may be the scoop that she’s been working on.

For the most part the film works because of all the hilarious bickering between Woody Allen and Scarlett Johansson who’re posing as father and daughter while tracking the story. Allen, as usual, is full of clever lines, but it’s great to see what a competent comic actress Scarlett Johansson has grown into.

In all fairness, it’s a straightforward, simple story, but it’s the manner in which the director pulls the rug from under your feet at the end of the film that is truly remarkable.

He’s a genius because he sets up a whole scenario, he leads you to believe something, then he surprises you with such a simple and obvious ending that you can’t believe you were being set up all along.

Scoop may not compare with vintage Woody Allen gems Annie Hall or Manhattan, but it’s very enjoyable nevertheless because it’s a film that tricks you when you didn’t even know it.

Farah Khan on the film that changed her life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:00 am

Choreographer-turned-filmmaker Farah Khan talks about the film that changed her life.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 12, 2010

Why James Franco is embarrassed to talk about himself!

Filed under: What I'm Reading — Rajeev @ 3:23 pm
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