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

September 25, 2015

Dev Patel is Srinivas Ramanujan in The Man Who Knew Infinity

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:40 pm

In this report by Rajeev Masand from the Zurich Film Festival 2015, we take a look at The Man Who Knew Infinity, a new film based on the life of celebrated early 20th century Indian mathematician Srinivas Ramanujan. The film opened ZFF2015 and stars Dev Patel and Jeremy Irons spoke about preparing for their roles.

(This report first aired on CNN-IBN)

Akshay Kumar: “Greed got the better of me. I wanted more and more”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:08 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Akshay Kumar explains why he makes more movies per year than his contemporaries, how greed got the better of him for a considerable period during his 25 year acting career, and why he admires his wife Twinkle Khanna for giving up her career as an actress.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Good one, boss!

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

September 25, 2015

Cast: Robert De Niro, Anne Hathaway, Rene Russo, Adam DeVine, Andrew Rannells, Anders Holm

Director: Nancy Meyers

The Intern, starring Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway, is the sort of breezy, feel-good film that you’d typically stack in the rom-com pile, except that there’s no romance here…not between the leads anyway. I had a big smile plastered on my face during much of the film because I was pleasantly surprised by how real and authentic these characters felt, in the kind of movie that tends to give us broad stereotypes in place of flesh-and-blood humans.

De Niro stars as Ben Whittaker, a retired, widowed 70-year-old who signs up for an internship at an e-commerce fashion start-up run by Jules Ostin (Anne Hathaway). She’s a committed entrepreneur, overworked to the point of exhaustion, and struggling to juggle family time with the demands of a rapidly growing business.

It doesn’t take a rocket-scientist to figure out that Jules, despite her initial resistance, will come to form a trusting working relationship with Ben that will subsequently blossom into a genuine friendship. You already know that Ben, with the wisdom and experience of his years, will “rescue” Jules.

Let’s face it: in a different film, the character of Ben would exist only to teach Jules the value of family and home, and to remind her that being a parent and wife comes above everything else. But writer-director Nancy Meyers isn’t interested in those cobwebbed clichés. So while it’s true that Ben does “rescue” Jules, it’s not in the way that you imagine. And, to be fair, she ends up changing him as much as he does her.

Much of the film’s charm, expectedly, comes from the heartfelt performances of both stars, particularly De Niro who’s pretty terrific even when he’s just smiling stoically. In scenes where Ben’s maturity benefits his younger coworkers, De Niro makes sure never to come off as patronizing. And he has a lovely romantic subplot with Rene Russo, playing the office masseuse. Hathaway’s in very good form too, successfully humanizing a not-easily-likeable character, and bringing genuine depth and pathos to scenes where Jules reveals her vulnerabilities.

The Intern is light-hearted and frothy for the most part, but poignant when it needs to be. Meyers, who’s made such enjoyable films as Something’s Gotta Give and It’s Complicated, nicely avoids melodrama even in scenarios where the script could’ve easily gone down that route. Instead she chooses to stage mature conversations between her characters that feel refreshingly honest

Not everything’s perfect though. A mid-film sequence, in which Ben and the boys from work break into Jules’ mother’s home, is played for laughs, but it sticks out sorely as if it belonged in a different film. And there’s a little too much manipulative weepy-weepy in the second hour that makes you cringe.

But these are minor nigglings in a film that otherwise left me feeling all warm and fuzzy, and also hopeful that more writers would similarly reinvent the traditional rom-com format. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for The Intern. I was surprised how much I enjoyed this film.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 18, 2015

Madhur Bhandarkar: “The Sheena Bora murder would make for a fascinating film”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:23 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Madhur Bhandarkar, the director of such National Award-winning films as Page 3 and Fashion, defends himself against accusations of repetition and sleazy sensationalism. The filmmaker also reveals what led him to make his new film Calendar Girls, and explains why the Sheena Bora murder case would make for a fascinating film.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

(138) Minutes of Boredom

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:36 pm

September 18, 2015

Cast: Imran Khan, Kangana Ranaut, Vivan Bhatena, Bugs Bhargava, Manasvi Mamgai

Director: Nikhil Advani

In Roger Ebert’s glowing review of (500) Days of Summer, he asked his readers if like him, they get impatient when a movie is on autopilot. “How long can the characters pretend they don’t know how the story will end?” It’s a fitting question that applies to so many Hindi films, but it’s especially ironic in the case of Katti Batti, directed by Nikhil Advani, which leans so heavily on that American rom-com for inspiration.

Like Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s character, Maddy (Imran Khan) is struggling to come to terms with the fact that his relationship with Payal (Kangana Ranaut) – whom he truly, madly, deeply loves – may be over. She left him without warning one day, after five years of living together. Like Zooey Deschanel in that film, Payal is beautiful but erratic, and it’s often hard to tell what’s going on in her head.

The film opens nicely, as Maddy flashbacks to the past, remembering key moments and happier times between the two. Like that charming bit when he offered to drop her to the campus library but his bike wouldn’t start. Or when he first told her that he loved her, but she offered a “time-pass” relationship instead.

As it turns out, Katti Batti is not content with letting Maddy merely reflect on his time with Payal. Like a true-blue Hindi film hero, he must do something about the situation. That involves a failed suicide attempt, torturing a baby in order to secure Payal’s new number, peeing in a gold-plated toilet (don’t even ask!), and crashing her wedding disguised as a bandwala. Not a lot of this is very funny, unfortunately, and it all gets very tiring very soon.

Some of the film’s most enjoyable bits, not surprisingly, are when Kangana Ranaut is on screen, and particularly the scenes between Imran and her. Oddly there’s not enough of that, especially in the film’s first half, and instead the script wastes precious screen time on way too many insignificant supporting characters that add to the flab. You’ll want to pull your hair out each time Bugs Bhargava shows up, hamming away as Maddy’s buffoonish boss. It’s impossible not to take an instant dislike to Maddy’s dominating younger sister (another (500) Days of Summer nod), and don’t get me started on pet-shop owner Roger and his musical band of “frustrated one-sided losers” who volunteer to help Maddy win Payal back.

But then, in the film’s last thirty minutes, as if aware that your patience is fast wearing out with the infantile humor and the cringing melodrama, director Nikhil Advani turns to his own debut film Kal Ho Naa Ho for a final-act twist – a shrewd plot-turn – that serves multiple purposes. Intended not only to turn you into a weeping, slobbering mess, it also finally gives our heroine some meat to sink her teeth into. While the elaborate mechanism employed to hide the twist is entirely preposterous and unconvincing, you’d have to have a cold, cynical heart not to get at least a little teary-eyed as the deliberately manipulative climax rolls out.

Imran Khan, who is relied upon to do most of the heavy lifting in the film, has an affable charm and is convincing as the hopeless romantic. This is one of his better performances, even if the script does occasionally reduce the character to a pathetic whiner. Kangana Ranaut is mostly underutilized in a role that’s lacking depth. She’s great in scenes that tap into her terrific comic timing, but it’s a shame she didn’t have more to do here.

Katti Batti has some nice tracks (by Shankar Ehsaan Loy), slick production design, and stray moments of wit. But its merits are far outweighed by its numerous contrivances, and by its hollow writing that only appears modern on paper. The film’s inventive 4-minute opening scene shot on a handicam offers promise, but little that follows lives up to it.

I’m going with two out of five for Katti Batti. It doesn’t say much about a romantic comedy if the smartest joke they could come up with is the name of a pet turtle.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Peak performance

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

September 18, 2015

Cast: Jason Clarke, Josh Brolin, John Hawkes, Jake Gyllenhaal, Martin Henderson, Sam Worthington, Keira Knightley, Robin Wright, Emily Watson

Director: Baltasar Kormakur

As I sat riveted in my seat by the sight of a dozen odd adventure junkies struggling to survive the punishing climb and the potentially fatal weather conditions on their way to the peak in Everest, one question came back to me repeatedly: Why would anyone put themselves through this?

Helmed by Icelandic director Baltasar Kormakur, Everest tells the true story of a 1996 climbing expedition that left eight people dead. Expectedly then, an air of doom hangs over the film, as seasoned mountaineer Rob Hall (Jason Clarke) leads a team of tourists to the world’s highest peak at 29,000 feet. Familiar faces include Josh Brolin as a rich Texan, and John Hawkes as an unassuming postman whose last attempt at conquering the summit was unsuccessful. There’s also Jake Gyllenhaal as a rival group leader and extreme-sports enthusiast, who agrees to work with Hall, pooling in resources and manpower to avoid over-crowding on the mountain.

The film’s flabby first-half introduces us to the large ensemble of characters, and yet you realize you don’t really know anyone, apart from a basic trait or two. To be fair though, one isn’t expecting character depth and human drama from a film that’s shot in the IMAX format, and Everest relies heavily on awe, special effects and 3D.

At the cost of sounding insensitive, the film hits its stride in the second hour when our protagonists, having reached the peak, find it hard to make their way down as a brutal storm sweeps in. More than once you’ll find yourself clutching your armrest as climbers teeter dangerously close to the edge of the mountain, or when the camera swoops threateningly over bottomless drops. Bundled up tightly in parkas, their bearded faces covered in ice and snow, it’s often hard to tell the characters apart in the film’s harrowing final act.

The women in the film are relegated to supporting roles, yet Keira Knightley and Robin Wright bring emotional depth as anxious wives waiting for their husbands to return home, and Emily Watson is nicely cast as the group’s coordinator standing by the radio at base-camp. In between the scenes of chilling tragedy, Kormakur cuts routinely to the wives as if asking us never to forget how many lives were irreparably affected by these events.

In the end though, while Everest is testing brutal and spectacular in portions, there’s never enough tension to keep you consistently invested in the drama. The thrills too are fewer than you’d expect from what’s essentially a disaster film, and we never get one compelling central character to root for.

Still, I’m going with three out of five for Everest. It works despite its problems and that may just be because of the magnificence of the beast.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

September 17, 2015

Imran Khan, Kangana Ranaut & Nikhil advani play the ‘Katti Batti’ game

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:06 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, the team of Katti Batti – stars Imran Khan, Kangana Ranaut and director Nikhil Advani – play the Katti Batti game, revealing their ‘friendship status’ with some famous Bollywoodwalas.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Ayushmann Khurrana, tell us a joke!

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:04 am

In this segment produced by Rajeev Masand, Bollywood star Aayushmann Khurrana tells us a joke.

(This segment first aired on CNN-IBN)

Sooraj Pancholi & Athiya Shetty: “At this stage we only want to be accepted”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:03 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, debutants Sooraj Pancholi and Athiya Shetty who were handpicked by Salman Khan to star in a remake of Hero, talk about first-film anxieties and the limitations of star-kids.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

‘Queen’ director Vikas Bahl on the film that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:01 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Queen director Vikas Bahl talks about the film that opened his eyes to the power of cinema. Bahl says the film has had a profound impact on him since he first saw it, and it continues to motivate him to this day.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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