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

July 5, 2014

AR Rahman: “I wanted a picture with Michelle Obama, but security stopped me”

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 2:49 am


In this interview with Rajeev Masand, AR Rahman – arguably India’s most popular composer – talks about the goals he still has to meet, the projects he’s excited to be working on, and why some friends he can never say no to despite his incredibly busy schedule. Rahman also reveals the moment he was most starstruck in his life, and the one film soundtrack he’s been humming lately.



(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

July 4, 2014

Detective dilemma

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

July 04, 2014

Cast: Vidya Balan, Ali Fazal, Rajendra Gupta, Kiran Kumar, Supriya Pathak, Tanvi Azmi, Arjan Bajwa, Zarina Wahab

Director: Samar Shaikh

From a bearded old maulvi in the film’s opening scene, to a beggar, a bangle-seller, a giant-bosomed TV show producer, even a buck-toothed and balding palm reader, Vidya Balan assumes multiple disguises for her role as an amateur sleuth in Bobby Jasoos. It’s the kind of part a challenge-seeking leading lady would grab with both hands, and Balan sinks her teeth into it.

She plays Bilquis aka Bobby, a feisty 30-year-old, and the oldest of three daughters in a Muslim home in Hyderabad’s busy Moghulpura locality. Bobby wants to be a professional detective; she’s tired of taking small snooping assignments from suspicious wives and protective mothers. But it’s not a woman’s job, she’s reminded by her disapproving abba (Rajendra Gupta), and by the head of a private detective agency in the neighborhood, who turns her away repeatedly, insisting she doesn’t have the necessary qualifications. But when she lands a well-paying assignment from a mysterious man, Anees Khan (Kiran Kumar), to find a missing girl in the crowded city, Bobby is on her way to proving her naysayers wrong. Khan continues to pay her handsomely to track down young girls, until Bobby becomes concerned about his interest in these folks.

First-time director Samar Shaikh paints a richly textured portrait of Old City Hyderabad, complete with bustling markets, lived-in homes, roza-keeping families, and street-side eateries serving up piping hot biryani. The actors get their Hyderabadi accent mostly right, dutifully slipping words like tereku and kaiyo into their lines, also liberally throwing around such distinctly local barbs as “shaitaan ki khaala”.

The problems arise when the real plot kicks in, as Bobby embarks on a mission to uncover Khan’s secret, recruiting local TV anchor, and a client of hers, Tasavvur (Fukrey’s Ali Fazal) to help her. The investigation is all very simplistic, the sort that would make Arthur Conan Doyle turn in his grave. It’s also sadly lacking in thrills. As for the big reveal in the end, it turns out to be a whimper. Bobby’s own romantic track with Tasavvur plays out interestingly, but the narrative is weighed down by too many songs.

Fine actors like Supriya Pathak, Tanvi Azmi and Zarina Wahab get bit roles as assorted mums and aunts, but they bring an authenticity in dialogue and performance that the film benefits from. Ali Fazal holds his own alongside Vidya, but Arjan Bajwa is a laughable caricature as the kohl-wearing neighborhood goonda. Expectedly, it’s the film’s leading lady who is the star performer here. Whether goofing off with her motley bunch of accomplices, or making an impassioned plea to her stubborn father, Vidya is consistently watchable without ever hogging your attention away from the story.

It’s a shame then that she’s let down by the very script itself, which — despite raising important questions about gender equality, financial independence of women, and parental obsession with marriage – fizzles out post-intermission. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Bobby Jasoos. It needed more humor and more meat, but Vidya Balan comes out tops again.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

On-off lovers

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:39 pm

July 04, 2014

Cast: Armaan Jain, Deeksha Seth, Kumud Mishra, Rohini Hattangadi, Sudeep Sahir

Director: Arif Ali

Remember Saathiya, in which Vivek Oberoi and Rani Mukherjee played young sweethearts who elope and marry, only to find themselves constantly bickering and regretting their hasty decision? Now take that film and drain out the crackling chemistry of its leads, wipe out every genuinely affecting moment scripted by Mani Ratnam, and ask AR Rahman to come up with a lesser soundtrack than the one he composed then. What you’re left with is Lekar Hum Deewana Dil, a bland, uninspired concoction that is predictable every step of the way, yet plods on for an unforgivable 2 hours and 20 minutes.

Best friends Dino (Armaan Jain) and Karishma (Deeksha Seth) are your typical 20-year-old rich kids who spend more time partying in nightclubs than attending lectures in college. When her family arranges her marriage to a man she neither knows nor cares for, Karishma elopes with Dino, both convinced they’re made for each other. From Goa to Nagpur to the forests of Chhattisgarh, the freshly married couple hits the road, trying to stay ahead of their families. But starting with disagreements over sex (he wants it, she won’t give it to him) and hygiene (he leaves the toilet smelling, she doesn’t clean out her hairbrush), the two quickly fall out of love and become desperate to end their marriage.

Of the multiple reasons why this film never works, most crucial is the lazy scripting by writer-director Arif Ali (brother of Imtiaz Ali), who brings neither originality nor flair to the mothballed premise. Armaan Jain (a grandson of Raj Kapoor) has a likeable presence, and appears uninhibited on the screen, while Deeksha Seth displays unmistakable confidence. Still both are too raw, and unable to muster up the requisite charm to rise above the flawed material. Ali is particularly unkind to his female protagonist, painting her as the kind of spoilt brat and overall shrew who you’ll wish would have a run-in with Ritesh Deshmukh’s screwdriver-wielding serial killer from last week’s Ek Villain.

Stuffed with unnecessary distractions, including a romantic subplot for Dino’s bumbling older brother, and an unintentionally laughable encounter with a band of Naxals, the film feels bloated on account of its own indulgences. Of the cast, Rohini Hattangadi makes a nice cameo as a perceptive judge in the family court. She’s the single authentic character in a film populated with stereotypes.

Forget Saathiya, which felt honest and real in the manner that it addressed young love and an impulsive marriage; Lekar Hum Deewana Dil isn’t even a satisfying rom-com about squabbling lovers. The humor is consistently juvenile, the climax so obvious you’ve guessed it long before it arrives, and the dialogue phoney despite being peppered with modern-day slang.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five. You’ll be bored out of your mind.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Tear factor

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

July 04, 2014

Cast: Shailene Woodley, Ansel Elgort, Laura Dern, Sam Trammell, Nat Wolff, Willem Dafoe

Director: Josh Boone

The Fault in Our Stars, a love story between two dying teenagers, opens with a voiceover from its leading lady Shailene Woodley, promising that this isn’t your typical melodrama that “sugarcoats” the hard bits or uses sappy music to tug at your heartstrings. For the most part, the film keeps that promise, using humor as a tool to address the harsh reality of its protagonists. But by the end, it’s all reduced to a heap of unashamed mawkishness, leaving you struggling to fight back tears.

Woodley plays Hazel Grace Lancaster, a depressed 16-year-old suffering from thyroid cancer, who must wear tubes in her nose and lug around an oxygen tank. When her mum (Laura Dern) forces her to attend a cancer support group, she meets Augustus Waters (Ansel Elgort), a charming 18-year-old who’s lost one of his legs to cancer, but succeeds in sweeping her off her feet.

Based on the bestselling novel by John Green, the film works because Woodley and Elgort talk and act like real teens, infusing the film with an authenticity that often negates the mush factor. Smart, caustic, funny, love-struck, sometimes bitter, the protagonists play it consistently real, seldom encouraging feelings of pity on the part of the viewer. There’s broad humor in the scenes with Issac (Nat Wolff), a friend of Gus, who’s lost his vision to cancer, but is more upset about being dumped by his selfish girlfriend.

It’s in the last act that director Josh Boone lays it on thick, giving us scenes that’ll make you cringe. While visiting the Anne Frank museum in Amsterdam while on a trip to meet with an author whose book has deeply affected them (a terrific Willem Dafoe), Hazel and Gus share a shrewdly-timed kiss in a scene that has the subtlety of a sledgehammer. More sniffling follows in later portions, but the affecting performances of Elgort and particularly Woodley save the film from completely drowning in cheese.

I’m going with three out of five for The Fault in Our Stars. Take along some tissues and prepare to be manipulated.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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