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

September 12, 2014

Goan rhapsody

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:32 pm

September 12, 2014

Cast: Deepika Padukone, Arjun Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia

Director: Homi Adajania

Five restless Goans, a ratty ol’ Dodge, and an unfortunate cat…that’s all the ingredients director Homi Adajania employs to whip up the lighthearted soufflé that is Finding Fanny. Sprinkled liberally with uproarious humor, the film makes some rather predictable points about love, straining its already-thin premise.

Ferdy (Naseeruddin Shah), a postmaster in a sleepy Goan village, is heartbroken when he discovers that the love-letter he posted to Stephanie Fernandes 40 years ago, never reached her. Insisting that “no one should have an incomplete love story”, his unlikely best friend, a young widow named Angie (Deepika Padukone), volunteers to help track Fanny down. She enlists the help of her old friend Savio (Arjun Kapoor), who agrees to drive them in his father’s beat-up car. Joining them on the road-trip is Angie’s bossy mother-in-law Rosy (Dimple Kapadia), and famous artist Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapoor) who finds inspiration in Rosy’s ‘full’ figure.

As Angie puts it, these five oddballs set out like “brave adventurers to find love”. But Adajania suggests that life constantly springs surprises, and the best way to deal with it is to look at life through the viewfinder of humor. This is evident in some of the film’s strongest comical scenes. The bit where Rosy’s cat digs its claws into Ferdy’s lap results in a freak accident that is played for laughs. Another hilarious scene is one in which Don Pedro slips into sexual fantasy while describing how he intends to paint Rosy.

But look beyond the obvious and there is much to admire here. The affectionate, respectful relationship between Angie and Rosy, for one, although the marriage that made them family was over in less than a day. Or Savio helping Ferdy find Fanny, which feels like life coming a full circle, if you consider the role of Savio’s father in Ferdy’s unrealized romance. There is a hint of sadness too in each of the protagonists, a bunch of quietly desperate people seeking fulfillment.

Not everything works though. The dialogues often feel like a mouthful, and not always honest to the characters speaking them. Other times they feel too clever. A post-sex conversation between Angie and Savio comes off contrived, unlike Rosy’s cheeky admission about the effect of too much liquor on her legs – it’s easily the film’s best laugh-out-loud moment.

To be fair, Adajania, who nicely captured a slice of Parsi life in his 2006 debut Being Cyrus, turns a perceptive eye to the Goan Catholic community this time. Rosy, described as “the first lady of Pokoli”, is your typical ‘take-charge community leader’, a one-stop-shop for anyone needing any help in the village. Dimple Kapadia occasionally slips into hammy mode playing the voluptuous character, but you genuinely feel for her when she’s humiliated after Don Pedro has painted her. Arjun Kapoor does well as Savio, frustrated from the personal baggage he’s carrying around. Deepika Padukone, lovely in every frame, brings a nice hint of melancholy to her part, but her long voice-overs are weighed down by flat delivery. The film belongs to Naseeruddin Shah and particularly Pankaj Kapoor, who steal every scene they’re in. Naseer, as the painfully timid Ferdy, who ultimately finds himself during this journey to trace Fanny, is consistently endearing. Pankaj, meanwhile, as the boorish Don Pedro, hits all the right notes, giving us a character that’s vulgar yet irresistibly funny.

Set in a world that feels entirely authentic, Finding Fanny is a charming film that starts off slowly but draws you into its drama. At a crisp 105 minutes, it’s a perfectly satisfying watch unlike so many disposable comedies today. I’m going with three out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Monster mayhem

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

September 12, 2014

Cast: Bipasha Basu, Imran Abbas, Mukul Dev

Director: Vikram Bhatt

Steven Spielberg famously explained that his decision to reveal as little of the shark as he possibly could, until one was two-thirds into Jaws, helped escalate the audience’s tension. After all, what really scares you is the stuff you can’t see. Director Vikram Bhatt, however, is clearly no proponent of the “less is more” principle when it comes to monster movies. He doesn’t make us wait too long before giving us the Full Monty in Creature.

Ahana (Bipasha Basu) has invested her every penny in setting up a cozy boutique hotel in the middle of a forest in Himachal. Not long after the first set of guests have checked in that a mysterious beast shows up and sets off a killing spree.

The creature in question, a large, scaly lizard with a human-like head and protrusions on its face that resemble a handlebar moustache, is a “brahmrakshas” we’re informed by a grizzled Mukul Dev, who plays a permanently scowling zoologist. It’s hard to keep a straight face while the ever-so-sullen doc links this mythical beast’s origin to an unshakeable curse and a mowed-down peepal tree. From luring it into an empty bus to chasing after it in a cave, things get progressively silly as Ahana and her pretty-boy love interest (Pakistani actor Imran Abbas), resort to all manner of incredulous plotting to take down the monster, even after it’s become painfully clear that fire is its Kryptonite.

Bhatt’s decision to reveal the creature early on, and to give it virtually as much screen-time as Bipasha gets, robs the film of any surprise or intrigue that it might have otherwise benefitted from. The opening attack scene, on a supplies guy whose truck breaks down in the forest, is nicely creepy because much is left to the imagination. But later scenes – like one in which the beast chases after a speeding jeep in broad daylight – are laughable.

To give credit where it’s due, the VFX work isn’t too bad, and while comparing it to Godzilla might be a stretch, it must be said that some thought has clearly gone into the monster’s design and movement. What doesn’t work is the consistently crummy writing.

Bhatt trades in all the usual stereotypes including mumbo jumbo-spouting villagers, lazy cops who want nothing to do with this mess, and a wise old man dispensing words of wisdom. There are also cutthroat bankers who threaten to seize Ahana’s property when she defaults on a loan. “Bloody vultures,” her boyfriend mutters when they leave the room. “They are vultures, but I’m not a dead body yet,” she replies.

From the unintentionally comical dialogues to the absence of any logic in the script, Creature fails spectacularly in getting the basics right. The film suffers from an overall cheapo aesthetic, as if stuck in a time warp. Educated men bandy on about a Brahma Mandir in Pushkar and about bullets that need to be bathed in holy water on the occasion of Karthik Poornima…you’ll be groaning in pain.

The acting across the board is so wooden you’re counting down for the characters to be killed off one by one. Of the two leads, Imran Abbas has precisely one expression, and Bipasha Basu – her hair perfectly styled, her nails nicely manicured even while she’s struggling with the beast – mostly flares her nostrils and tries to look brave.

Alas the film doesn’t spook you, or deliver so much as a few cheap thrills despite the pop-out 3D effects. This is standard B-movie material that plods on for a full 2 hours and 15 minutes. Still, I’m going with a generous 2 out of five for Creature. It’s an ambitious attempt, weighed down by pedestrian storytelling.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Aditya Roy Kapur & Parineeti Chopra: “We live in this crazy age of Facebook and selfies”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:05 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Daawat-e-Ishq stars Aditya Roy Kapur and Parineeti Chopra talk about the skills required to spin the perfect roomali roti. They also discuss the challenges of navigating a career in the spotlight in the age of rampant privacy-invasion.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 6, 2014

Danis Tanovic: “I didn’t steal India’s Oscar”

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 11:07 am

VIDEO EXCLUSIVE!

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Bosnian filmmaker Danis Tanovic talks about his new film Tigers that opens at the Toronto International Film Festival this weekend. Tanovic directed the war satire No Man’s Land in 2001, beating Aamir Khan’s Lagaan to win the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film that year. Over the years Tanovic has emerged an important international voice whose films have told real, sometimes uncomfortable stories about the world we live in. After struggling for eight years to get his passion project off the ground, he shot Tigers in Patiala last year after Indian producers Guneet Monga and Prashita Chowdhary helped put the finances together. Tanovic also cast Emraan Hashmi in the central role.

 

 

 

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 5, 2014

Deepika & Arjun on Finding Fanny: “We were never intimidated by Naseeruddin Shah”

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

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Finding Fanny director Homi Adajania and his stars Deepika Padukone and Arjun Kapoor talk about their new English language comedy set in Goa. The trio reveals why they wanted to make this film, and talks about working with veterans Naseeruddin Shah, Pankaj Kapoor and Dimple Kapadia.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Tough love

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:31 pm

September 05, 2014

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Darshan Kumar, Sunil Thapa

Director: Omung Kumar

In one scene in Mary Kom, Priyanka Chopra, playing the titular boxer, has just received a letter in the mail with promising news. Too excited to wait till her husband is out of the shower, she relays the information to him even as he cranks open the bathroom door a little, still dripping wet, to respond to the news. Giving him the once-over, she asks mischievously, “Aaj paani thoda thanda tha kya?” (“Was the water too cold today?”)

This throwaway moment, which reveals a surprisingly cheeky sense of humor on her part, is one of very few unpredictable glimpses into the personality of this five-time world champion. Alas, little feels original or unexpected in this sterile film, whose script appears to have been cobbled together from the data on her Wikipedia page.

Early on we learn that this daughter of a poor rice farmer in a small village in Manipur is fascinated with boxing. She has a quick temper and gets into fights with the boys. When she chances upon Coach Narjit Singh (Sunil Thapa, one-note), who runs a boxing academy in a nearby town, she begs him to train her professionally, thus getting on the wrong side of her disapproving dad who is concerned that she will bruise her face and hamper any chances she has to be married.

From this point on, the film rushes through her early career. She goes from amateur to state and then national level champion within minutes. But it all feels hurried, and aside from a stray southpaw reference you never get the slightest sense of what defines her as a boxer, or what her strengths are in the ring. At the peak of her success, Mary Kom marries a local footballer, Onler (Darshan Kumar, charming), and then, like Coach warned her, boxing inevitably makes way for domesticity when Mary becomes pregnant and delivers twins.

A nice scene in which she accidentally overfeeds one of the two babies because she can’t tell the twins apart is an indicator to how she grapples with parenting initially. She learns the ropes soon enough, and seems happy for a while. But there’s clearly a void in her life. In another effective scene, you get a glimpse of a hurt ego when she goes unrecognized in a bus by a young fan of Mary Kom. Spurred on by her husband who offers to tend to the kids, she starts training again and becomes determined to reclaim her past glory.

Co-writer/director Omung Kumar does a serviceable job telling a generic underdog story – a Bollywood melodrama about a woman who overcomes all odds to come out on top. But this is no ‘generic underdog story’. This is a biopic of the great Olympic medalist Mary Kom. However, from the casting of Priyanka Chopra, who looks nothing like Mary, to the mere token references to Manipur’s troubled political landscape, it becomes evident early on that the filmmakers aren’t particularly fussed about authenticity or attention to detail.

The writers use broad brushstrokes to paint pivotal characters like the supportive husband, the angry coach, and the sleazy bureaucrat from the sports federation whose bruised ego leads him to go after our protagonist. Mary herself never feels like an adequately fleshed out character. In one impulsive moment, when she can’t get a grip on her anger, she shaves her head bald. That scene has virtually no dramatic impact because the filmmakers fail to exploit it in a manner that points to Mary’s unpredictability. And yet, despite the bland scripting, Priyanka Chopra does an impressive job in the central role. Lean and lethal, she transforms herself physically, and also skillfully conveys both the rage and vulnerability that the part required.

In the end, the film ticks off each of Mary Kom’s career achievements and key personal struggles, but doesn’t tell you much more about her as a person than the innumerable headlines do. There is blood and sweat and grit in this story, but very little genuine feeling.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for “Mary Kom”. It’s perfectly watchable, but never great like it should’ve been.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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