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

May 3, 2013

For love of the movies

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:00 pm

May 03, 2013

Cast: Rani Mukherjee, Randeep Hooda, Saqib Saleem, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Naman Jain, Ranvir Shorey, Vineet Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan

Dirs: Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar & Anurag Kashyap

Two men shift nervously, seldom making eye contact, as they listen to a beggar girl at a railway station footbridge singing an old Lata Mangeshkar gem whose words seem to have particular significance in their unlikely situation. A father, determined to enthrall his bored daughter, narrates a story in mime, his energy palpable, his excitement contagious. A little boy, attired in his sister’s dress and his mother’s make-up and heels, shakes his hips to the beats of a popular dance number, blissfully naïve to the likely reaction of his family. And a young out-of-towner is reduced to tears as he pleads earnestly to the security guards manning the gates of a superstar’s home for one meeting with the legend. It’s these images that linger in your mind long after you’ve watched Bombay Talkies, a charming omnibus of four short films that celebrate the centenary year of Indian cinema.

The stories, each roughly thirty minutes in duration, have no common link, except for a shared love and celebration of the movies. In Karan Johar’s film, Rani Mukherjee and Randeep Hooda are an urban couple in a passionless marriage. A friendship with the new intern at her workplace (Saqib Saleem) leads to a disturbing revelation about Rani’s relationship with her distant husband. Uncharacteristically mature for a film by Johar, and bristling with uncomfortable honesty, this story benefits from solid acting, sharp dialogue, and the fitting use of two evergreen music numbers. Despite its predictable resolution, the film is deeply affecting.

Dibakar Banerjee’s film, based on a short story by Satyajit Ray, stars the terrific Nawazuddin Siddiqui as a one-time theatre actor and failed entrepreneur seeking a job – any job – in an unforgiving city. When he strays into a film shoot one day and lands a bit part, he has a life-changing epiphany. Banerjee’s film subtly weaves in the magic of cinema and the dedication of an artiste, while setting the story in the ordinariness of everyday life. The director’s strength is in capturing real moments and it’s accentuated in this achingly beautiful narrative.

In Zoya Akhtar’s story, a little boy (Naman Jain) finds his true calling in a darkened cinema hall, when he watches Katrina Kaif gyrate to Sheila ki jawaani. It’s his indefinable connection to the actress that helps the boy understand that it’s okay to chase his dream, however strange it may seem to everyone around him. Through this sweet story, Akhtar also extracts touching performances from the kid and his older sister.

Anurag Kashyap’s ode to a cinematic legend ties up this omnibus neatly. His film is centered on a youth from Allahabad, Vijay (Vineet Kumar), seeking an audience with Amitabh Bachchan, determined to make the star taste his mother’s murabba in a jar that he cradles carefully over days. Vijay camps outside Bachchan’s house, just so he can fulfill his father’s outlandish dream. Kashyap blends extraordinary comic touches with pathos, showing the love, the devotion reserved for a cinematic idol. And yet, here again, life plays an even bigger role than cinema, as seen in the film’s interesting end.

You may have a favorite amongst the four stories, because yes, this is cinema, and it touches different chords in different individuals. But there’s no denying that Bombay Talkies is a breath of fresh air – a wonderful gift to audiences on the 100th birthday of Indian cinema. I’m going with three and half out of five for Bombay Talkies. Through four consummate storytellers, we’re reminded just how much the movies mean to us.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


  1. KJo’s wasn’t as amazing as people made out, it had weak points, but cuz it was so different for him & cuz the topic was so risky, it stands out. Rani was gorgeous & gave another flawless performance. It would’ve been cool if you’d written a bit more about the performances in Kjo’s film

    Comment by Maya — May 3, 2013 @ 11:45 pm

  2. That’s not a review, that’s a summary!
    quite disappointed at Mr M for once,

    Comment by Ank — May 4, 2013 @ 12:43 am

  3. As an individual movie I loved all the concept and the art of storytelling. But don’t you the link between the 100 years of cinema and the short stories should have been more blatant?

    I don’t wish to sounds like a hater (and I’m not) but this opportunity could have been better utilised to better tell the tale of Indian cinema since its conception.

    Just my humble opinion.

    Comment by Raj Juneja — May 4, 2013 @ 2:21 am

  4. Rajeev, if there’s no significant flaw, then why u give 3.5 stars. The review (which is basically a synopsis) and the rating do not corroborate. Maybe you need to change your rating scale to a maximum at 3.5 stars.

    Comment by Haider — May 4, 2013 @ 1:41 pm

  5. This film was not as riveting as I expected it to be. Dibakar’s narrative is bit slow. Nevertheless a good watch. I guess 3.5 is bit overrated.

    Comment by Zareef Ahmed — May 4, 2013 @ 4:03 pm

  6. http://bollyspice.com/58557/bombay-talkies-movie-review

    Comment by nithya — May 4, 2013 @ 11:25 pm

  7. Rajeev shall we have the review plz…

    Comment by Parul Kumar — May 5, 2013 @ 10:39 am

  8. really awesome story…………..

    Comment by kaushal kishore — May 5, 2013 @ 10:40 am

  9. Dibakar’s piece was outstanding ‘Aye’ to that !!

    Comment by Arshad — May 5, 2013 @ 12:03 pm

  10. You have given 3.5 on 5. I thought 3.5 on 10 would be more appropriate. Only good point of the movie is Rani and the last song.

    Comment by KCD — May 5, 2013 @ 2:18 pm

  11. Rani Mukherjee was bloody brilliant! Her ending scene where she gets her self worth is one of he most brilliant moment of the movie. But dibakar’s film penetrators your heart like no one else’s. Zoyq Akhtar story was very poorly written but extremely good performances from the kids. Kashyap proves his brilliance yet again. A very good and enriching experience overall. Cheers 🙂

    Comment by Aditya K — May 5, 2013 @ 8:58 pm

  12. What happens when 4 talented directors get together? Chaos…usually. Chaos of brilliance.Chaos of substance.Chaos of ideas. And somewhere along the way comes out a story which you just watch to absorb, digestion comes later,and appreciation even later. Bombay Talkies perhaps falls in that bucket.

    I did feel maybe somewhere the stories would tie in. Either in theme, or characters or maybe messages.Or it could be I didn’t get it. Bombay Talkies a like flash fiction or micro fiction. Where a whole narrative has to fit in quick time.Therefore the traditional introduction,body,conclusion is out of a question. You just cut to the chase, and come to the point. The common thing with a flash fiction is of course the twist in the end.And you go -aha! However, unlike micro-fiction Bombay Talkies did not have any twist in any of the stories.Perhaps the end credits are a twist where a song sequence is shot as a tribute to the film industry.

    Story 1 -Karan Johar.

    We got to know Randeep Hooda can act (albeit in certain roles) and the trapped intensity was good.WE knew Rani could act, so no surprises there.A litttle bit of weight (if that was by design,then it was a great attention to detail) on her looks fabulous for the role.A coming out of the closet story,started haphazardly,and slowly settled down towards the end.Some secenes were intense ,like the kissing scene Saqib and Randeep did well to convey trapped passion, and Rani Mukherjee’s look in the mirror scene.Some scenes did not convey the message as they should have – like the girl on the Dadar railway over bridge (or was it some other station?)

    It didnt help that the audience was giggling when the intimate scenes were on between the two leads.Just like the filmmakers are maturing,wonder when will the audience mature and watch a movie quietly? Anyways, my rating would be 3/5 – primarily for a good storyline and good acting, and not 5/5 because it didnt leave us with a lump in the throat,or hit hard that kept you wondering. ( I can hear Kjo defending it was not meant to be )

    Story 2 – Dibakar Banerjee.

    When you have Satyajit Ray, or leverage something even closely related to him,it probably has a touch of class,poignancy,and intellect. Add to that you have Sadashiv Amrapurkar and Nawazuddin Siddique, it calls for some explosive shots.It did. The garbage scene interaction between the two was excellent.One wanted a bit more.Each episode being of 30 odd minutes,the narrative had to move on. A bit of tragedy,a bit of irony and a bit of lets,move on , defined this story.My rating for this is a tad higher 4/5 just as a tribute to Ray,to Sadashiv and to Siddique though not in the same breath or depth.

    Story 3 – Zoya Akhtar.

    Fundamental flaw – never take your kid to watch Farah Khan’s Tees Maar Khan.But that apart, Naman Jain,the young wannabe dancer, who is trapped in a football field was nicely done.Again,being a short story,not much background information is given as to why a character is behaving in a particular way, it is what it is.The interaction between the kid and the father had more scope to evoke emotion.But it didnt. Until the last sequence,when the stage show is on in slow motion.The camera beautifully captures how the kid enjoyed his freedom.Overall, I will go with 3/5, some good sensitive scenes,odd moments,but not enough to grip you and care for the childs success.

    Story 4 – Anurag Kashyap.

    It wouldn’t take too much research to find out crazy stories about Amitabh Bachchan’s crazy fan following around the world.This one was a bit of a much ado about nothing.But anyways, Anurag being Anurag,he will bring in his style,flavor of a rustic background. (Note to self – Will wait for Anurag Kashyap to show his versatility by making something like a simple love story) Vineet Kumar as the dutiful son does a commendable job.IF only his script was written better.The intent of such passion is usually a result of a massive impact in childhood.No such scenes were shown.So somewhere one felt,all that Murrabba brouhaha was unnecessary,much like the crispy dialogue exchange on his return from Mumbai with his father where he says ‘achar ke dabbey mein murrabba nahi daltey’…Overall my rating would be 3 /5 primarily for Vineet Kumars emotions when he was beginning to get desparate.

    So there you have it,Bombay Talkies, see it if you must or wait for DVD release a bit later.It is a movie to be watched without being disturbed.Absorbed and perhaps a bit later appreciated.Certainly these directors are talented, and they have done wonderful movies.They should or could probably think of a movie with a common thread,which could perhaps make it a tad more interesting.


    Comment by Gyanban — May 6, 2013 @ 4:51 pm

  13. really rajeev this mvie was really kool, esply dibakar banerjee story i thought was best!
    bt still you havnt reviewed IRON MAN3 yet!!!!!
    major diassapointment over there!

    Comment by nikhil — May 6, 2013 @ 11:18 pm

  14. Zoya’s story- too many things unspoken, could have cleared a little bit more to have a lingering effect on audience’s mind.
    Karan’s- Too many are spoken, nothing to realize or absorb on your own, typical commercial KKKK.. movie makers experience overlaps here.
    Dibakar- most brilliant story, the interaction between Sadashiv and Nawaz, truly amazing, riveting.
    Anurag– Once again a simple rustic story told like a potlibaba/ nani’s story telling style .. you almost know the end, but the progress toward the end simply so touching that you just cant move.

    Comment by CK — May 8, 2013 @ 3:12 pm

  15. Bombay Talkies was very disappointing. And to think that it was a tribute to 100 years of cinema?? I expected something of the sort “Harishchandrachi Factory” which actually depicts how the indian cinema was born.
    I truly feel that Bombay Talkies is very much overhyped and the reviews are rigged probably due to the influence of four big directors!

    Comment by Gorab — May 9, 2013 @ 2:31 pm

  16. BT is classic example of Directors wasting talent of main stream actors. It also validates following theory :We have actors, who can deliver as good as Hollywood but we don’t have Directors, who can research & direct the topic well.
    I stopped watching after the end of story II, boy what a waste of time! I don’t think KJO has slightest idea about how interns are treated in office. Kind of chemistry portrayed between Rani and intern is highly impossible to digest.
    BTW why was an Ostrich displayed in the second story?

    Comment by Rahul — May 11, 2013 @ 12:46 pm

  17. Expected so much more from a movie that was touted as a tribute to the Indian cinema. It was a let down. KJo’s subject was..erm, sensitive, and though it was dealt with maturity, and good performances, I thought didn’t fit with the other three. And the audience’s reactions to it were cringe-worthy. It will be years before such a movie is received as it should be around here. Imagine Dibakar’s Purandar or Ranvir Shoray from Zoya’s movie watching this one. Get my point?

    Dibakar’s was great. Amazing performance by Nawazuddin, well no surprise there. Nothing to add or delete here. It was just great!

    Zoya’s was good. The kids were amazing. The kid reminds me of my own little brother who used to think Jaadu from Koi Mil Gaya existed and wanted a ‘pet’ like him.

    Anurag’s was perfect as a tribute to Indian cinema. That is how we Indians are. We take our cinema seriously, and our actors even more seriously. I liked his story till the point in the train where things go down. Didn’t like that guy throwing his murabba and all that followed. What? I like believing in miracles. I choose to believe that Vijay’s grandfather lived because of the honey that was tasted by his super star. 🙂

    Didn’t exactly live up to my expectations and more importantly, the hype around it. But like I said, we Indians take our cinema very seriously. Four directors? As a tribute to 100 yrs of Indian Cinema? Gone! For me, the best scene was Purandar(Nawazuddin) sleeping peacefully after narrating the story to his daughter. 2.5 or 3 on 5. Parts of each of the movies are god, but they could have been so much more! 🙂

    Comment by Chitra — May 14, 2013 @ 4:29 pm

  18. i really like the film and the review off-course . All Four stories are really touching & shows how our lives is connected or influenced by cinema. Truely for d cinemalovers

    Comment by rohit bamane — May 22, 2013 @ 9:48 pm

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