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

August 31, 2013

Parineeti Chopra: “I don’t live my life by the Bollywood rule book”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:08 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Ishaqzaade and Ladies vs Ricky Bahl star Parineeti Chopra insists she doesn’t live her life by the Bollywood rule book. The actress, who next stars in Shuddh Desi Romance, says she has nothing but affection for her cousin Priyanka Chopra whose new film releases the same day as hers.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 30, 2013


Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:42 pm

August 30, 2013

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Ajay Devgan, Kareena Kapoor, Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpai, Amrita Rao, Indraneil Sengupta

Director: Prakash Jha

With Satyagraha director Prakash Jha once again raids the headlines, this time turning his gaze on the growing public resentment towards the deep-rooted corruption in the system. Jha borrows liberally from real events and the lives of real people, including famed anti-corruption crusader Anna Hazare and the Jan Lokpal Andolan he inspired. Unfortunately Jha’s heavy-handed direction turns this well-intentioned drama into a plodding sermon.

Amitabh Bachchan stars as Dwarka Anand, a principled school teacher in Ambikapur, who not only stands up for what he believes in, but verbally pummels anyone who doesn’t fall in line with his strong views. At one point, his son’s friend Manav (Ajay Devgan), who is staying at their home, must pack up his things and leave in the middle of the night for clashing with the old man’s ideology. Rather extreme, don’t you think?

When Dwarka is arrested for assaulting a district collector some years later, Manav returns to help. Along with a youth leader (Arjun Rampal), he mobilizes a truth-seeking movement led by Dwarka, who demands that the local government clean up its act and empower the people. Their campaign gains momentum when prominent TV journalist Yasmin Ahmed (Kareena Kapoor) reports from the scene. Even as Dwarka, or Dadu as he’s rechristened by his swarm of supporters, goes on a hunger strike to protest the government’s inaction, smarmy minister Balram Singh (Manoj Bajpai) tries every trick in the book to scuttle the movement.

Like Aarakshan and Chakravyuh before it, Satyagraha too suffers from Jha’s tendency to overstuff the film with too many ideas. In his attempt to hold a mirror to our troubled times, Jha alludes to such varied incidents as the 2G scam, whistleblower Satyendra Dubey’s murder, and Arvind Kejriwal’s alignment with Anna Hazare’s cause, linking the events with a not-always convincing thread. Apart from this, the director dilutes the film’s core issue by throwing in a gratuitous romance between Manav and Yasmin, as well as an excuse of an item number for the opening credits sequence. And in what has become another Prakash Jha staple, his characters don’t talk to each other, they speechify with lofty dialogue.

The story flounders as the drama builds up, and collapses like a house of cards in its clunky, overblown climax. Satyagraha, which starts off as a realistic film, gets shrill along the way and, disappointingly, offers no satisfying resolutions at the end of this long slog.

There are, however, some strengths in this endeavour, notably in the way Amitabh Bachchan and Manoj Bajpai approach their roles. Bachchan infuses Dadu with righteous anger and heart-wrenching pathos, while Bajpai, saddled with the part of a caricaturish politician, evokes the required contempt. Ajay Devgan, as the ambitious entrepreneur who finds his calling in social reform, delivers a committed performance. Kareena Kapoor, and Amrita Rao in the part of Dadu’s widowed daughter-in-law, are sincere, yet stuck with boringly-sketched characters, and Rampal ably reprises the role of the hot-headed political leader he played in Raajneeti.

In Satyagraha, Jha effectively meshes the urban angst witnessed on social media platforms like Twitter and Facebook with the ground realities of India’s heartland, but the plot subsequently loses its way. Sadly, the director’s storytelling has become so hackneyed that his cinema now merely pays lip service to issues instead of making a stronger comment.

I’m going with two out of five for Satyagraha. It may be coming from a good place, but it doesn’t know where it’s going.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Family lies

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

August 30, 2013

Cast: Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Emma Robers, Will Poulter, Ed Helms, Nick Offerman, Kathryn Hahn

Director: Rawson Marshall Thurber

We’re The Millers is a crude road-trip comedy that alternates between outrageously funny and plain silly. I didn’t think I could laugh at a situation where an adult practically pimps a teenage boy to a homosexual police officer, but that scene is written and performed so competently, you’ll be on the floor guffawing uncontrollably. Alas, not every joke sticks; inconsistency is this film’s biggest crime.

Jason Sudeikis is David, a middle-aged pot dealer who owes a lot of cash to a ruthless drug lord played by Ed Helms. To wipe out his debt, David is forced to go to Mexico to smuggle a stash of weed into the US. On arriving at the idea that he needs some sort of cover, David recruits a fake family that includes his stripper neighbor Rose (Jennifer Aniston) who must pose as his wife, a homeless girl, Casey (Emma Roberts), who pretends to be his daughter, and a dorky kid from the apartment below named Kenny (Will Poulter) who offers to play his son. The plan is to pass off as a vacationing family, so border patrol doesn’t suspect they’re moving drugs.

The actors form a terrific collective: Sudeikis slips nicely into the part of the selfish David, and Aniston generates laughs simply from her reactions to unbelievable situations…like the time she’s caught kissing her fake son, or when another couple misunderstands why Rose and David have crept into their tent at night. But the film’s biggest strength is Poulter, who’s terrific as the dim-witted Kenny. A scene in which a tarantula spider creeps up his shorts is predictable and not particularly funny, but just watch as he’s routinely swayed by Sudeikis into going along with many a harebrained plan.

What doesn’t work at all is a clunky subplot involving the Millers being pursued by a pair of Mexican drug thugs. And while it doesn’t take a genius to guess that this make-believe family will eventually develop a close bond, you can’t help but feeling cheated when the writers embrace the very clichés they poked fun of in earlier scenes.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for We’re The Millers. For some, the sight of Jennifer Aniston working a pole in her lacy lingerie may be worth the price of a ticket. But if you expect more from your comedies, rent the far superior Horrible Bosses on DVD. Aniston is sexier and way funnier in that one.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 24, 2013

15 years since Chaiyya Chaiyya

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:15 am

In this feature by Rajeev Masand, the team behind the iconic Chaiyya Chaiyya track from Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se reflect on the making of that evergreen hit. Actor Shah Rukh Khan, composer AR Rahman, choreographer Farah Khan, and cinematographer Santosh Sivan reveal what went behind the creation of one of the finest film songs ever picturized in India.

(This feature first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 23, 2013

Harsh reality

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:42 pm

August 23, 2013

Cast: John Abraham, Nargis Fakhri, Ajay Ratnam, Siddhartha Basu, Prakash Belawadi, Raashi Khanna, Piyush Pandey

Director: Shoojit Sircar

Unlike in the West, it’s hard to make films on real-life historical events in India. Political pressures and sensitive groups invariably throw a spanner in the works. Which is why it’s commendable what director Shoojit Sircar has undertaken with Madras Café. Set in the late 80s and early 90s during the civil war in Sri Lanka, the film meshes fact and fiction competently to present a dramatized account of the real-life conspiracy behind the assassination of Rajiv Gandhi.

There’s a lot going on in this dense script (by Somnath Dey and Shubhendu Bhattacharya) which spends the first half hour or so of the film laying out the geopolitical history of the region and the times. Through voiceovers and occasionally confusing scenes, we’re provided a background to the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka, led by rebel group LTTE, who’re referred to as LTF in this film. We’re also told of the IPKF (or the Indian Peace Keeping Force) that was deployed to cool off the tension in Sri Lanka, but who got in the way of the LTTE. And we’re introduced to Anna (Ajay Ratnam), head of the LTF, modeled so closely after LTTE chief Prabhakaran who famously masterminded that dastardly killing.

But the film’s plot kicks in when military intelligence officer Vikram Singh (John Abraham) is dispatched to Jaffna on a covert mission to weaken Anna’s stranglehold on the region. With the help of a British Asian journalist (Nargis Fakhri), Vikram uncovers a daring conspiracy involving foreign players and key figures in the Indian bureaucracy.

Despite the crisp pacing, the film’s first half will likely be a slog for anyone unfamiliar with the subcontinent’s recent political history. It doesn’t help that the writers stuff too much information into these portions, often digressing from the central assassination conspiracy, which remains the film’s key strength.

Madras Café feels more surefooted in its second half when it slips into race-against-time thriller mode. The unfolding of the assassination plot, the decoding of crucial intel, and the chilling explosion itself is remarkably shot and edited, and leaves you shaken despite the inevitability of that climax. What feels clunky, however, is the framing device Sircar employs to tell his story. A grizzly Vikram narrates the events in flashback, thereby diluting the emotional impact of the terrifying assassination scene. Portions featuring Vikram and his wife slacken the pace, particularly one clumsily written love scene. But these are minor complaints in an otherwise slick film that gets so many things just right.

Sircar avoids over-familiar faces in the film, and makes interesting casting choices across the board, particularly Siddhartha Basu in the part of R&AW chief Robin Dutt. John Abraham himself nicely slips into the skin of a committed officer tasked with protecting the nation, and he’s particularly at ease in scenes where he’s out there in the trenches facing the enemy, gun in hand. Even Nargis Fakhri is pleasantly competent as the strictly English-speaking reporter.

Solidly directed by Sircar, who steers clear of typical Bollywood machismo and avoids oversimplifying characters or their motives, the film – at a little over two hours – is a compelling watch. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Madras Café. Until the climate is more conducive for filmmakers to boldly make real-life stories without fear of controversy or censorship, this may be the best way to approach important stories that must be told.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bad job!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

August 23, 2013

Cast: Ashton Kutcher, Josh Gad, Dermot Mulroney, Ahna O’Reilly, Matthew Modine, JK Simmons, Lukas Haas

Director: Joshua Michael Stern

The very idea of a Steve Jobs film is exciting for the simple reason that he was such a fascinating man. The Apple co-founder who died less than two years ago to pancreatic cancer at the age of 56, is regarded as the pioneer of the personal computer revolution, and he was of course the brain behind such visionary inventions as the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad. Which is why it pains me to report that Jobs, starring Ashton Kutcher as the celebrated tech guru, is everything that the man himself tried not to be: unimaginative, predictable, and boring.

To be fair, the fault doesn’t lie so much with Kutcher who, surprisingly, does a decent imitation of Steve Jobs. From his hunched-over style of walking, and his distinct hand gestures, to his steely gaze and his explosive temper, Kutcher evokes familiar images. Yet, he can’t rise above the flawed script that never really gives us a sense of what made the man tick. His drive, his perfectionism is dutifully referred to, but never adequately explored. This is, at best, surface-level storytelling.

Directed by Joshua Michael Stern, the film whisks us through the early years, starting with Jobs and his childhood friend Steve Wozniak (Josh Gad) setting up shop in a garage to build the first compact computer. Instead of focusing on the thrill of innovation, the film appears obsessed with boardroom politics. So we watch as the company they started with stuffy businessman Mark Markkula (Dermot Mulroney) expands, then flounders. Jobs is ousted by his own board of directors, until eventually, in a hurried finale, he returns to save the sinking brand.

The script, which feels like an extended Wikipedia entry, only briefly touches upon key moments from his life and career: his continuing battle with Microsoft’s Bill Gates, his abandonment of his pregnant girlfriend, and a reunion with his daughter. There’s only a passing reference to the invention of the iPod in 2001, but nothing thereon. Unlike The Social Network, even personal fallouts and betrayals in Jobs’ life are rushed through without so much as attempting to answer the crucial question: Why?

Steve Jobs deserved a 360-degree portrait. You won’t find that here. I’m going with two out of five for Jobs. Kutcher is earnest. But the film is a snore.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 16, 2013

Vivek, Ritesh & Aftab: “We can only hope they’ll forgive us for making this film”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:19 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Vivek Oberoi, Ritesh Deshmukh and Aftab Shivdasani – the stars of Grand Masti – spill all the dirty secrets behind the making of their profane, risque sequel to 2004’s Masti.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 15, 2013

Ayaan Mukerji on the film that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:44 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Ayan Mukerji, the 29-year-old director of the recent blockbuster Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani talks about the film that changed his life. He picks a modern Bollywood classic and reveals how it inspired and influenced his own debut film, Wake Up Sid.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Three’s a crowd!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 7:40 pm

August 15, 2013

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Imran Khan, Sonakshi Sinha, Mahesh Manjrekar, Sophie Chowdhary, Pitobash Tripathi, Sonali Bendre, Tiku Talsania

Director: Milan Luthria

Characters in Hindi movies tend to be more naïve than the audience that’s watching them on screen. The audience will guess early on that the most earnest cop in the unit is the traitor who’s been leaking information to the bad guy. Or that the person who talks about living life to the fullest will be diagnosed with a fatal condition. Or that two best friends who swear never to let anything come between them will find their relationship tested. The characters on screen are always the last to know; they invariably figure out these things well after the audience does. It’s an accepted fact in storytelling.

Yet the three protagonists in Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara aren’t just naïve, they’re plain stupid.

This disappointing sequel to 2010’s Ajay Devgan-Emran Hashmi starrer is constructed around the premise of a love triangle…the laziest love triangle you could possibly imagine. Shoaib (Akshay Kumar) is a mob boss. Aslam (Imran Khan) is his loyal protégé. Both men develop feelings for struggling actress Jasmine (Sonakshi Sinha), who is close to Shoaib and Aslam. But Jasmin doesn’t know that Shoaib is a don, or that Aslam works for him, or even that Shoaib has designs on her. Shoaib and Aslam, meanwhile, are unaware that they’re both in love with the same girl. That’s way too many clueless people in one film!

The earlier installment, also directed by Milan Luthria, was nicely evocative of 70s nostalgia helped no doubt by Ajay Devgan’s insouciant take on a dreaded gangster. Akshay Kumar, on the other hand, replaces Devgan’s sexy nonchalance with in-your-face flamboyance. Dark glasses perched permanently on his nose, puffing away on a cigarette, Akshay swaggers into the frame as Shoaib, offering the promise of a deliciously unapologetic anti-hero.

It doesn’t help that writer Rajat Arora, as if to compensate for the flimsy plot, goes into overkill mode with wise-ass dialogues. Unlike the earlier film, which paid homage to the Salim-Javed era of memorable one-liners, this sequel is a full-fledged assault of rat-a-tat punch lines. When asked by a flunkie why he’s recruited two young kids to join his gang, Shoaib responds: “Doodh mein nimboo jisne daala, paneer uski”. On the changing face of the city, he says: “Yeh bambai, Kumkum se Kimi Katkar mein badal gayi hai”, and on love he delivers this gem: “Pyaar aaj kal naukrani jaise ban gaya hai. Aata hai, bell bajata hai, kaam karke chala jaata hai.”

If the love triangle isn’t particularly compelling, it’s because it’s hard to get to the real emotions of the characters, buried as they are beneath all that cockiness. Imran Khan as Aslam, ostensibly the hero of this film, appears ill at ease rolling those corny lines off his tongue, and resembling a rich urban kid slumming it out as a tapori at a dress-up party. Sonakshi Sinha’s Jasmine has got to be the most pea-brained woman you’ve ever met. She happily lets Shoaib rig awards for her, and thinks it’s cute when he turns up on her set and halts shooting. She hangs out with him at his home, takes lifts with him in his car, but claims to be outraged when he says he has feelings for her. Fresh off her terrific performance in Lootera, Sonakshi constructs a singularly contemptible character in Jasmine. Akshay Kumar, for all those sinister threats, ultimately turns Shoaib into a laughable cliché. He goes on and on about being a villain, but we never see him get truly down and dirty.

The film does have a few strong bits, including an inspired cameo by Sonali Bendre, and a clever scene in which Shoaib walks into a police station intending to surrender himself. But these are small mercies in a major misfire as this. Too long at over 150 minutes, and way too predictable to ever surprise you, Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara is the equivalent of getting a root canal.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five. Call me cynical, call me a spoilt-sport, but don’t call me if they decide to make Once Upon A Time in Mumbai 3!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 10, 2013

Hrithik Roshan on his recent brain surgery, on continuing to do stunts, and Krrish 3

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:40 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Hrithik Roshan talks about the recent surgery he underwent for a blood clot in his brain. The actor reveals his attitude towards stunts from this point onwards, and also discusses his film Krrish 3 that’ll release in November.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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