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

December 5, 2014

The write choice

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

December 05, 2014

Cast: Mayank Tewari, Naveen Kasturia, Aditi Vasudev, Karan Mirchandani, Dilip Prabhavarkar

Director: Amit Masurkar

There’s not much by way of a groundbreaking plot in debutant writer-director Amit Masurkar’s Sulemani Keeda, but this tale of two struggling screenwriters seeking a break in Bollywood feels surprisingly astute. Anyone who’s spent an evening hanging out at one of Versova’s many coffee shops – where scripts are being banged out at every second table, and starry-eyed acting hopefuls persuade casting touts for “one chance only” – will likely recognize the world the filmmakers have set up, and possibly the characters that inhabit it too.

Roommates and writing-partners Mainak (Mayank Tewari) and Dulal (Naveen Kasturia) wander around the offices of top producers trying to hawk their script, but they’re repeatedly told they don’t have what it takes. Shooed away by everyone from Mahesh Bhatt to Amrita Rao, the pair catch a lucky break when they’re hired by a highly strung, Tarkovsky-loving son of a leading Bollywood producer to write an “out of the box” film for his acting debut.

When they aren’t brainstorming over new scenes for this script, Mainak and Dulal lurk around bookstores and poetry readings in the hope of picking up girls. It’s at one such gathering that the brooding introverted Dulal meets beautiful photographer Ruma (an excellent Aditi Vasudev), who encourages him to open his mind instead of selling out.

Refreshingly authentic in its portrayal of friendship between grown men, and mature in the manner that it addresses the dashing of one’s dreams, Sulemani Keeda strikes a nice balance between cheeky humor and genuine anguish. The arguments between our protagonists, appropriately sprinkled with cheap profanities, never ring untrue. Much like the performances of Tewari and Kasturia, who’re so natural on screen it’s hard to believe they’re playing roles.

The film coasts along smoothly for the most part of its 90-minute running time, except for the flabby, repetitive middle portion in which Dulal and Ruma engage in profound conversations each time they meet. Slickly shot, capturing a real, lived-in feel of the city, this is a charming little indie that manages to say something important, while never forgetting to make you laugh. I’m going with three out of five for Sulemani Keeda. Give it a chance.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Tragedy revisited

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

December 05, 2014

Cast: Rajpal Yadav, Martin Sheen, Tannistha Chatterjee, Kal Penn, Mischa Barton, Manoj Joshi

Director: Ravi Kumar

This month, it will be exactly 30 years since the Bhopal gas tragedy, the world’s biggest industrial disaster. In September, Warren Anderson died, without ever having faced trial in India for his role in the horrific catastrophe. Anderson was the then-CEO of Union Carbide, the American pesticide factory from which 40 tonnes of toxic methyl isocyanate (MIC) gas leaked out into surrounding shanties, murdering thousands of people and animals, its aftereffects still killing and maiming generations. 30 years, still no justice.

Bhopal: A Prayer For Rain shows how Union Carbide flouted major safety precautions, resulting in the gas leak. The film, directed by Ravi Kumar, is a half-baked, fictionalized retelling, with real protagonists like Warren Anderson (played with depth by Martin Sheen) and the persistent journalist Motwani (Kal Penn), and some created for dramatic effect like the rickshaw puller Dilip (Rajpal Yadav).

This docudrama-like feature follows a typical trajectory, largely told through Dilip’s eyes as he becomes a safety worker at Union Carbide when a co-worker, his own bastiwala, dies of chemical poisoning. Yadav, and Tannistha Chatterjee playing his wife, spark empathy in us as they see hope in the very factory that ultimately crushes them. Anderson is given some altruistic layers and Sheen captures that well, but the character quickly slips into stereotype with trite lines.

In fact, the film falters through its dialogues – the Hindi bits are strong, but it rings fake as the Indian characters slip into English. Another weak link is the stiff Mischa Barton, playing a French journalist who accuses Anderson of running the plant dangerously. Penn gets the tenacious part of Motwani right, but his Hindi is awkward, and his garish shirts give his hard-nosed journalist a caricaturish touch.

There is a sense of drama in the final moments, in the manner that the gas leak is shot: the chaos at the general hospital, the bodies strewn in the slums, on the hospital steps, in the streets. It’s commendable that the film relives the terrible tragedy of the gas leak, but sadly, it has few moments that are extraordinary or even genuinely moving. I’m going with two out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Aishwarya on returning to the sets: “I’ve been preparing Aaradhya. She knows mummy has to go to office”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:19 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan talks about returning to the movies after a 4-year hiatus. The actress also talks about her relationship with Karan Johar whose new film she is set to act in, and about Ranbir Kapoor her co-star in the film, whom she’s known from well before he became an actor. Aishwarya also discusses motherhood, and supporting her husband Abhishek Bachchan in his new sporting endeavours.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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