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

January 13, 2014

Salim Khan & Javed Akhtar’s first interview together since splitting up in the early 80s

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 9:26 pm


In their first interview since splitting up as writing partners in the early 80s, scriptwriters Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar talk to Rajeev Masand about their memories of Sholay, their most successful film, and also talk about their reputation as cocky and arrogant upstarts in the industry. In a particularly poignant moment, the former partners also talk about their split as friends and professional collaborators, and explain how they might have averted the breakup had they acted with maturity.




(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Leonardo DiCaprio on playing the debauched hero of WOWS: “I did have reservations”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:05 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, recorded in New York, The Wolf of Wall Street star Leonardo DiCaprio talks about his collaborations with Martin Scorsese and how he’s grown as a result of these, about playing debauched characters that are nevertheless magnetic, and about any reservations he might have had pushing the limits in his new film.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 12, 2014

Martin Scorsese: “I like Anurag Kashyap’s films”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:04 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, recorded in New York, The Wolf of Wall Street director Martin Scorsese talks about his collaborations with Leonardo DiCaprio, about creating amoral characters that are nevertheless magnetic, and about enjoying Anurag Kashyap’s films.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Jonah Hill, on the day Spielberg dropped in on the set of The Wolf of Wall Street: “It was intense”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:02 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, recorded in New York, Hollywood star Jonah Hill reveals why he was drawn to the part of debauched stockbroker-sidekick Donnie Azoff in The Wolf of Wall Street, how he got over his nerves working with Scorsese and DiCaprio, and what it was like on the day Steven Spielberg dropped in on the set.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 10, 2014

Punch drunk love

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

January 10, 2014

Cast: Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Madhuri Dixit, Huma Qureshi, Vijay Raaz, Manoj Pahwa

Director: Abhishek Chaubey

Who can possibly resist the promise of another rollicking adventure with Khaluj and Babban? Writer-director Abhishek Chaubey and co-writer Vishal Bhardwaj have come up with two ingenuous, delightful con men, one uncle, the other nephew, one the brains, the other the brawn. Actors Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi have made these characters completely their own. Khalujaan and Babban aren’t Munna and Circuit, Veeru and Jai, Starsky and Hutch, or Tango and Cash. They’re small-time thieves with one gigantic flaw — their minds turn to mush when they fall in love.

It’s this common thread that ran through 2010’s Ishqiya and also runs through its sequel, Dedh Ishqiya. But if the earlier film benefited from an element of surprise – astonishing the audience with saucy comedy, and unpredictable twists and turns – the new one invites you to settle into your seat to savor the delicious Urdu wordplay and the naughty lines, even as you wait for the rug to be pulled from under your feet.

After a fairly lengthy but enjoyable prologue in which they’re separated during a jewelry store robbery, the plot of Dedh Ishqiya kicks in with Khalujaan and Babban still on the run from their boss. Khalujaan is the man with a plan. He’s come away to Mahmudabad, intending to win a nawabi swayamvar for the hand of the beautiful widow Begum Para (Madhuri Dixit), who has organized a shayari competition at her palace.

The Begum is shadowed by her protective aide Muniya (Huma Qureishi), and Babban instantly falls in love — and lust – with this feisty girl. Khalujaan, who is himself smitten by the Begum, schemes with Babban to live off her inheritance once he wins her over. But to complicate affairs of the heart and estate, there’s the nouveau riche gangster Jaan Mohammed (Vijay Raaz), who’s desperate to buy some respectability by marrying the Begum and becoming a nawab.

The film’s crackling humor, set to Bhardwaj’s terrific dialogues, is its biggest strength. From laugh-out-loud punch-lines to cheeky repartee, Dedh Ishqiya has some of the most inspired writing you’ve seen on screen recently. In one of the movie’s best scenes, a stand-off between two factions that has lasted all night is interrupted by the shrill notes of a school assembly singing Hum ko mann ki shakti dena. Touche!

Gorgeously shot, crisply edited, and handsomely mounted, large portions of the film are evocative of a nawabi culture and lifestyle alas seldom seen in the movies now. As with Ishqiya, Bhardwaj’s lilting music adds character to the film, even without the presence of a ‘hit’ number like Dil toh bacha hai ji or Ibn batuta. Against this backdrop, Chaubey and his writers set up a story that packs in everything from a kidnapping plot and a love triangle to a violent shootout. But it’s a tad indulgent; no wonder the film feels stretched in parts, dragging where it should’ve moved briskly.

It’s Naseeruddin Shah’s character that suffers from these lagging portions, coming off almost tired in some scenes, yet convincingly earnest in others. Once the plot thickens, Khalujaan’s chemistry with Babban is potent. Arshad is particularly brilliant, pulling off naïve and smooth with equal ease. Madhuri Dixit is heartfelt as the vulnerable, stunning widow, and yet, as you peel the layers, you have to applaud her sheer bravura. She’s offset by a fierce Huma, playing Muniya with such a sharp tongue and firecracker energy. The unforgettable performance is from Vijay Raaz, consummately comical as the blundering, loutish gangster.

Dedh Ishqiya gives the UP badlands a light cloak of humor and, to the viewer – we’re happy to note – a bold reveal that is more suggested than emphasized. The twist in the tale is one you can spot from a mile away, but it’s nicely done. I’m going with four out of five for director Abhishek Chaubey’s Dedh Ishqiya. Like heady wine, it delivers a welcome kick.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Folk off!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:38 pm

January 10, 2014

Cast: Oscar Issac, Carey Mulligan, Justin Timberlake, John Goodman, Garrett Hedlund

Director: Joel & Ethan Coen

Inside Llewyn Davis, directed by the Coen Brothers, follows a Greenwich Village folk musician as he crashes on friends’ couches and plays smoky nightclubs while struggling to catch a break. The film, set in early 1960s New York, doesn’t have much plot to speak of, just a piercing, evocative sense of a time and place and the characters that inhabit it.

Anyone who’s a fan of the Coen Brothers’ movies will tell you that they have no interest in upbeat stories, choosing mostly to view the world through dark glasses. It’s this cynicism that has defined some of their best films over the years, and they apply it skillfully once again to this tale. Llewyn Davis (Oscar Isaac) is a musician trying to make a solo career, since the suicide of his singing partner. Llewyn is grieving this death, but spews out his depression by being inconsiderate, testy and even downright rude to those around him. This is the guy who may or may not have accidentally got his friend’s wife Jean (Carey Mulligan, darkly funny) pregnant. “Everything you touch turns to shit,” she tells Llewyn viciously. You feel his failure and yet, relish the humor that comes out of the situations Llewyn puts himself in. “Look, I’m not a trained poodle,” he tells his kind dinner-table hosts when they persuade him to sing for their guests.

The sweetness in this pitch-black comedy, set in a wintry, bleak America, comes from the music. When Llewyn sings, his heart in his raspy voice, there is the sparkle of a true artist. Yet you know that the popular melody of 500 Miles, sung by Jean and her husband Jim (Justin Timberlake) will be the hit, not Llewyn’s soulful Hang Me Oh Hang Me. This irony is felt more keenly when the Coens show you how a young Bob Dylan is playing at the same Village clubs, on the cusp of discovery, even as recognition always eludes Llewyn. He takes a ride all the way to Chicago to give a moving audition before a music mogul. As the song ends, the producer tells him, “I don’t see a lot of money here.” Llewyn accepts the rejection as if he’d seen it coming.

If there’s a discordant note, it is the indulgent middle portion, when Llewyn takes this road trip. The characters he meets — like the unpleasant junkie and jazz musician (a terrific John Goodman) and his pensive valet (Garrett Hedlund) — stand out, but their journey slackens the story. A lovely subplot running throughout the film involves a fugitive pet cat that Llewyn takes to, almost desperately.

With a superb ensemble cast and a leading man in excellent form, the Coens come up with yet another unforgettable portrait of America. Oscar Isaac embodies Llewyn’s unique spirit with a singularly lasting performance, and there’s little question that the film’s brilliant musical soundtrack will sweep the awards. I’m going with four out of five for Inside Llewyn Davis. To the Coens, whose exceptional body of work keeps growing with every new film, one can only say…keep ‘em coming.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Angry old men

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:36 pm

January 10, 2014

Cast: Robert De Niro, Sylvester Stallone, Kim Basinger, Alan Arkin, Kevin Hart, Jon Bernthal

Director: Peter Segal

Go on, admit it…the prospect of watching Sylvester Stallone and Robert De Niro play a pair of retirement-age boxers coaxed back into the ring makes you giddy with excitement. De Niro, after all, won an Oscar for his performance as the volatile pugilist Jake LaMotta in Raging Bull. And is there really another character that has defined Stallone’s career in the way that Rocky Balboa has?

Grudge Match probably won’t be remembered in the way that those films are, but it’s a competent sports comedy in which De Niro, now 70, and Stallone, currently 67, star as longtime boxing rivals who have unfinished business between them. The pair is briefly thrown back into the spotlight when a YouTube video of the two oldies getting into a spat during a promotional shoot goes viral. Eager to cash in on their newfound popularity, a smarmy agent signs them on for a novelty rematch.

Expectedly there’s a stream of ageing jokes as the two veterans prepare to slug it out in the ring once again, but what’s pleasantly surprising is the genuine feeling that creeps into the movie unannounced. De Niro’s character, Billy, connects with the son and grandson he never knew, while Stallone’s Razor rekindles romance with a former girlfriend (a lovely Kim Basinger) who never stopped carrying a torch for him. None of this is particularly new or even inspired, but both leading men put their hearts into it, making the film consistently watchable even when it’s at its most formulaic. De Niro and Stallone have a nice chemistry between them, and the portions in which they exchange rat-a-tat verbal barbs are some of the most enjoyable in the film.

By the time we get to the big bout in the end, you’re more or less expecting mawkish sentimentality. But to give director Peter Segal credit, he keeps the cheesiness to a minimum.

I’m going with three out of five for Grudge Match. It’s funny and moving in parts, and two hours fly by quite easily.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Salim Khan & Javed Akhtar on their respective children, and on Ramgopal Varma Ki Aag

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:15 pm

In this excerpt from the first joint interview together since their professional split in the early 1980s, scriptwriters Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar talk about creating the Angry Young Man image in Hindi cinema, and discuss their respective children. The writers of Sholay, also share their views on Ramgopal Varma’s appalling remake of that classic.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 8, 2014

Salim Khan & Javed Akhtar on Sholay, and on the end of their writing partnership

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:00 am

In this excerpt from their first interview together since splitting up as writing partners in the early 80s, Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar talk to Rajeev Masand about revisiting Sholay during its re-release recently, and get emotional when discussing the end of their writing partnership.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 3, 2014

No Joe!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:45 pm

January 03, 2014

Cast: Arshad Warsi, Soha Ali Khan, Javed Jaffrey, Vijay Raaz, Shakti Kapoor, Geeta Basra, Snehal Dhabi

Director: Samir Tewari

You might consider knocking back a few before heading out to watch Mr Joe B Carvalho, the sort of misguided madcap comedy that can only be endured in a state of semi-intoxication.

Arshad Warsi, the film’s titular hero, is a bumbling detective hired by a rich businessman to search for his daughter who has eloped with the family cook. Meanwhile an obese General, who goes by the name Copa Bhalerao Gabana (Snehal Dhabi), has recruited an international criminal, Carlos (Javed Jaffrey), to break up the impending nuptials of a girl who broke his heart. Vijay Raaz is a local don who’s been hired by Gabana to assist Carlos in this mission, but unwilling to play second fiddle he’s determined to take Carlos down. There’s also Soha Ali Khan, playing police inspector Shantipriya Phadnis, who must arrest Carlos except that she mistakes Joe for him, who happens to be her ex.

Is this too much to take in all at once? Well, now you know how I felt watching the film!

The dialogues here are juvenile, the humor is of the pedestrian variety. At one point Arshad tells Soha: “Tumhara pyaar underwear ki tarah nikla, jiska elastic aakhir dheela padh hi gaya.” Arshad’s mother (Himani Shivpuri) is blind, but she’s the only one who doesn’t seem to notice, insisting on watching television and going to the movies although she can’t so much as aim popcorn into her mouth. Some of these jokes might have worked in an unsparing black comedy, but Mr Joe B Carvalho, directed by Samir Tewari, is nowhere as smart as that.

The film’s only bright spot is Javed Jaffrey, who at least tries to do something with his role. As the master of disguise Carlos, he’s often in drag, and pulls it off convincingly too. The other actors however, particularly Arshad Warsi, go through their scenes looking like they’ve been forced to make this film.

I’m going with one out of five for Mr Joe B Carvalho. At the point when Arshad got into a punching match with an unborn baby in its mother’s tummy, I decided nothing can save this movie.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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