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

November 14, 2014

Deep wounds

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 8:40 pm

MS Sathyu’s Garm Hava remains a potent and evocative study of the ramifications of Partition on the lives of ordinary, innocent people. Relevant even today, 41 years after it first released in 1973, the film, now digitally restored, has been re-released theatrically across the country. Deemed controversial initially due to its politically sensitive theme – the plight of Muslims who decided to stay on in India post-Partition – Garm Hava came to be celebrated subsequently for the honest, humanist approach that Sathyu and actor Balraj Sahni brought to this critical story that alternately evokes feelings of anger, helplessness, and hope.

At the heart of the film is Sahni’s moving, restrained performance as Salim Mirza, a local shoe manufacturer in Agra trying to resist the economic pressure and political bigotry that tempts him to abandon his family business and immigrate to Pakistan. Forced to give up his ancestral home, rejected by banks and moneylenders for a loan, and accused of being a Pakistani spy, Salim and his family are victims of the titular scorching winds of communalism and intolerance that gripped the nation at that delicate time. There are stirring performances also by Geeta Kak, playing Salim’s daughter Amina whose love is twice thwarted, and by a young Farooque Shaikh in the role of Salim’s son Sikander, a college graduate struggling to find employment in a prejudiced society.

There are moments of great power and pathos in Garm Hava. Like one in which Salim’s aged mother must be lifted and carried away because she refuses to give up the home she has lived at since she arrived there as a child bride many moons ago. Or the one in which Salim discovers his daughter’s lifeless body. Or the film’s climax, in which Salim, finally having decided to move to Pakistan, finds the reason he needs – a glimmer of hope – to stay on and take charge of his life.

A precursor to the many Hindi films made on the subject, Garm Hava is possibly the most thoughtful cinematic meditation on Partition and its aftermath. It’s an important film for our times, and stands as a scathing reminder of the terrible mistakes we made.

November 8, 2014

Chris Nolan and the stars of Interstellar on their ambitious space saga

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 1:27 am


In these interviews with Rajeev Masand, Interstellar director Christopher Nolan and the film’s stars — Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway and Jessica Chastain — talk about the challenges involved in bringing this ambitious space saga to the screen.




(These interviews first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 7, 2014

Ranveer Singh, Parineeti Chopra & Ali Zafar play ‘Never Have I Ever’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:31 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Kill Dil stars Ranveer Singh, Parineeti Chopra and Ali Zafar reveal startling details about themselves over a revealing game of ‘Never Have I Ever’.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Dirty old men

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:38 pm

November 07, 2014

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Lisa Haydon, Anupam Kher, Piyush Mishra, Annu Kapoor, Rati Agnihotri

Director: Abhishek Sharma

The Shaukeens, directed by Tere Bin Laden’s Abhishek Sharma and written by Tigmanshu Dhulia, is really two films for the price of one. But sadly neither is worth the price of a ticket.

You have the part based on Basu Chatterjee’s Shaukeen, where three dirty old men try to get their grubby paws on a nubile young thing. Then there’s the part involving Akshay Kumar, in which he basically plays himself, a reigning superstar, and uses the opportunity to spoof Bollywood. This track is sporadically funny, but the filmmakers don’t know where to go with it, and end up making a complete mess of things.

Lecherous oldies Laali (Anupam Kher), Pinky (Piyush Mishra) and KD (Annu Kapoor) head for a vacation to Mauritius where they meet bohemian “earth child” Ahana (Lisa Haydon), who instantly becomes the collective object of their desires. Haydon, who was so good in Queen earlier this year, appears to have been cast in this film for no reason other than her willingness to be crassly objectified.

I found myself cringing after a point when the trio of ageing desperados wouldn’t stop begging Ahaana to forget about her romantic woes and slip into a bikini. Or when they gape, open-mouthed and wide-eyed, as she obligingly frolicks in the sea, the camera caressing her every curve. There are ugly close-ups of male crotches in tight swimming trunks, awkward jokes featuring the sexual performance drug Shilajit, and repeated utterances of the words “tharki buddha”.

Don’t ask how this portion of the story converges with the part in which Akshay Kumar, tired of doing the same thing over and over again in his films, seeks street-cred and a National Award by signing a Bengali art film. It’s these bits, in which Akshay sportingly sends himself up, that are the film’s best moments. Now if only the connective tissue between the wildly contrasting narratives were stronger.

I’m going with two out of five for The Shaukeens. There are the odd moments of inspired humor – all crude – between the three senior actors, but for the most part they’re wasted.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Galaxy quest

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

November 07, 2014

Cast: Matthew McConaughey, Anne Hathaway, Jessica Chastain, Michael Caine, Casey Affleck, Mackenzie Foy, Wes Bentley, David Gyasi, John Lithgow

Director: Christopher Nolan

There is something to admire in virtually every frame of Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar. This is a film of soaring ambition, intimate and epic in equal measure; a bold cosmic adventure with plenty wide-eye moments. But it’s also overlong, and densely plotted with concepts of space, time and gravity that are occasionally incomprehensible or make little sense.

Set in a not-so-distant future where the world is choked by dust storms and doomed to extinction, the film stars Matthew McConaughey as Cooper, a former pilot and widowed father of two, who is asked by chief NASA scientist Professor Brand (Michael Caine) to lead a mission through a wormhole in our solar system to search for new planets where mankind could possibly survive. Three other astronauts, including the professor’s daughter (Anne Hathaway), and a witty talking robot join Cooper on this expedition to galaxies far, far away.

Nolan delivers moments of great awe and staggering beauty such as the sight of a spacecraft floating gracefully past the rings of Saturn. He creates nail-biting tension as mountain-sized tidal waves greet the crew after they touch down on a waterlogged planet. Or as they enter, nervously, into a black hole. But he also shows off his ability to match jaw-dropping spectacle with moments of intense human connection. Good luck trying to hold back your tears as you watch McConaughey’s character come up to speed with years of video messages left by his son back on Earth.

It’s Cooper’s deep emotional bond with his beloved daughter Murph, however, that is the emotional heart of the film. Their parting, when he can’t promise the 10-year-old (an excellent Mackenzie Foy) when he’ll return home, is heart wrenching. As is the moment when the now grown-up young woman (Jessica Chastain) makes a devastating discovery of her own.

But it’s in the film’s third act that the cracks begin to show. The science gets positively baffling as the conversation shifts to the fifth dimension, and Nolan takes us through a hokey climax that leaves way too many questions unanswered. At 2 hours and nearly 50 minutes, the film is a real slog occasionally and can feel like a crash course in quantum physics. The earth-bound portions are never as compelling as the space-set scenes, and one subplot involving a scientist that McConaughey and Hathaway’s characters encounter on a new planet is both cheesy and pointless.

And yet, in the end Nolan’s still given us plenty to chew on, leaving us to ponder important questions about love, sacrifice and mortality. Like Inception, this is a film that demands not just to be seen, but experienced. It’s a film that dares you to keep up with it, to navigate through all the heavy-handed cerebral exposition, to spot its many nods, particularly to Stanley Kubrick’s 2001 A Space Odyssey.

In the film’s most pivotal role, Nolan gives us a credible leading man in Matthew McConaughey, who brings just the right mix of action hero gravitas and good-natured compassion. Jessica Chastain is the other standout performer here, bringing both steely resolve and unmistakable vulnerability to the part of Cooper’s hurting daughter.

Interstellar is a sweeping, audacious effort by a filmmaker whose reach inevitably exceeds his grasp. But how can you not applaud its sheer sense of scale, drama, and fearlessness? I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five. Now forget everything you’ve read and heard and go experience it for yourself!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

I (heart) robot

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:36 pm

November 07, 2014

Cast: Voices of Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, TJ Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr, James Cromwell, Maya Rudolph

Directors: Don Hall & Chris Williams

It’s virtually impossible to resist the charm of Big Hero 6, the new film from Walt Disney Animation Studios, at whose center is the touching relationship between a young boy and an oversized inflatable robot.

13-year-old tech genius Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) comes in possession of his inventor brother’s balloon-shaped robot when the older sibling is killed in an accident. Determined to deliver justice to the culprit behind his brother’s death, Hiro decides to upgrade Baymax, this mild-mannered droid, into a crime-fighting ninja.

Based on a short-lived Marvel Comics series, the film, set in the highly stylized make-believe city San Fransokyo, is a nice cocktail of big-ticket action sequences, funny lines, and a feel-good story about friendship, sacrifice and doing the right thing. Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams skillfully mix varying genres and visual styles to give us a movie that appeals to both the heart and the eye.

Hiro finds supportive allies in four of his brother’s friends, each of whom he gives a nifty superhero makeover, creating an Avengers-like ensemble to snare the bad guy. They’re a crazy, eccentric bunch of characters that infuse some snazzy action into the crowded plot. But it’s Baymax, the chip-and-coding robot ironically, that is the film’s big beating heart. Like Wall-E he’s lovable despite being practically expressionless, and the symbol of humanity and sensitivity in a futuristic world of cool gadgets and shiny skyscrapers.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Big Hero 6. You’ll be chuckling throughout, and 95 minutes will fly by.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Creep alert!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:35 pm

November 07, 2014

Cast: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rene Russo, Riz Ahmed, Bill Paxton

Director: Dan Gilroy

There’s a creepy, spine-chilling intensity to Jake Gyllenhaal’s performance in Nightcrawler that’s hard to shake off even hours after you’ve watched the film. Literally transforming himself physically to look bug-eyed, pale, and wiry thin Gyllenhaal becomes Louis Bloom, an awkward but ambitious drifter with no moral compass to speak of.

Driving around the neon-soaked streets of Los Angeles, Lou stumbles across a bloody road accident and watches transfixed as a TV news crew feeds off the carnage. Before you know it, he’s got hold of a camera and a police radio and he’s trawling the city in the dead of the night, seeking out gruesome crime scenes whose footage he sells to Nina (Rene Russo), a producer at a local TV news station.

The film really takes a terrific turn for the unexpected when Lou finds himself at crime sites before the police has shown up. Writer-director Dan Gilroy raises important questions about professional ethics and basic human decency even as the behavior of our utterly amoral but ruthlessly driven anti-hero becomes increasingly twisted and unforgivable. It is to Gyllenhaal’s credit that Lou remains weirdly magnetic even when he’s plumbing the lowest depths of depravity.

American critics have compared Gyllenhaal’s character to iconic screen sociopaths, particularly Travis Bickle from Taxi Driver, but Nightcrawler possesses neither the subtlety nor the delicious complexity of Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece. The film works best as a slick suspenseful thriller, although it’s clearly fashioned as a biting commentary on the inherent cynicism and inhumanity prevalent in the American local-TV news business, as personified by Russo’s conscience-free cutthroat producer.

There’s a nice turn from Riz Ahmed as a young homeless man who becomes Lou’s ‘intern’, and Bill Paxton as a rival cameraman. But this is Gyllenhaal’s show, and he steals it with a cold, unsettling portrayal of a modern day monster. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for Nightcrawler. For his performance alone, this film deserves to be watched.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 3, 2014

Ashutosh Gowariker: “I promise not to make any movie longer than 2 hrs from hereon”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:11 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Ashutosh Gowariker – the director of such films as Lagaan, Swades and Jodhaa Akbar – talks about his latest epic, Everest, which he’s taking to the small screen. Gowariker writes and produces this television show about scaling the world’s highest peak, and in this interview he explains why he chose TV over film for the new project. He also discusses the failure of his last two films Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey and What’s Your Raashee? and promises he won’t make long films anymore. Finally, Gowariker reveals details about his next film, Mohenjodaro, a love story starring Hrithik Roshan set during the Indus Valley Civilization.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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