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

May 22, 2009

Robbing Miss Marple

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 4:37 pm

May 22, 2009

Cast: Ava Mukherjee, Zain Khan, Ankur Nayyar

Director: Romila Mukherjee

Detective Naani, which arrives at the cinemas this weekend, has a title that suggests the movie will be a cute comedy about a feisty grandma blessed with Sherlock Holmes’ crime-solving skills.

If only it were!

It is in reality an excruciatingly unfunny film about a 72-year-old biddy who uncovers a child-kidnapping racket by sniffing around a neighbor’s home, and employing everyone from the local garbage-man to the frisky teenagers in her housing society to gather evidence against the suspicious neighbor.

The premise itself is not entirely a write-off; there is genuine humor to be derived from the situation. But the film’s script – packed with hopeless clichés and contrived dialogue – fails to exploit the central idea in a manner that is either clever or genuinely funny. The characters are all your usual stereotypes, and the protagonist herself is a lame knock-off of Agatha Christie’s iconic fictional heroine, the elderly spinster detective Miss Marple.

The inherent problem with Detective Naani is the filmmaker’s tendency to “cute-fy” the characters and their behavior. Everyone from the precocious kids to the horny teenagers to the ageing grandma seems to have been doused in a vat of sugar syrup so as to come off as extra-sweet and lovable. It doesn’t work.

The amateurish screenplay takes two hours and fifteen odd minutes to fully unfold and by the end, your patience wears very thin. The performances across the board are uninspired, and even the ‘naani’ in question, Ava Mukherjee – who you might remember as the cheery ol’ gran from those ads for Himalay Ayurvedic products – has very little of any consequence to contribute here. More silly than it’s funny, I’ll go with one out of five for director Romila Mukherjee’s Detective Naani. Just surviving it is something of an accomplishment!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

May 8, 2009

Cold and distant

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 4:45 pm

May 08, 2009

Cast: Danny Denzongpa, Gauri, Aungchuk, Yashpal Sharma, Aamir Bashir

Director: Shivajee Chandrabhushan

It’s here at last, a sure-shot cure for insomnia. Frozen, which releases at cinemas this weekend, is a film that tests the patience of even the most strong-willed and artistically inclined.

Set against the stark landscape of Ladakh in the winter, and shot in stunning black-and-white, Frozen is a visually arresting but emotionally inaccessible story of survival. Danny Denzongpa stars as ageing widower Karma who scrapes out a living for himself, his teenage daughter Lasya, and her younger brother Chomo, by making apricot jam. But he’s unable to compete with others in the trade who use machines to make jam, unlike himself who must rely on manual means. Pushed to the brink of desperation by unscrupulous moneylenders who shamelessly volunteer to write off his loans in exchange for his daughter, Karma is at breaking point. When the Indian army sets base close to his house and urges him to move, all hope is lost for the family.

To give credit where it’s due, Frozen makes some important points – one’s attachment and protectiveness towards one’s home, no matter how harsh and bleak the living conditions may be; and also the conflict between simplicity and modernity. But it’s the film’s crushingly slow pace that plays villain here. Sluggish and indulgent, Frozen drags on for the longest 110 minutes of your life, even as you struggle to keep awake. The breathtaking cinematography draws so much attention to itself, you’re often distracted from the story; and in the end it’s difficult to connect with the characters and their circumstances because they don’t leave as lasting an impression as the style and the form of this film.

Danny Denzongpa delivers a moving performance as the debt-stricken Karma but he’s betrayed by a screenplay that’s too loose, and one that relies heavily on such self-indulgent tools as long silences. Director Shivajee Chandrabhushan has a relevant story to tell, but evidently, he has little interest in delivering it in a form that is accessible to most viewers. For the most part, Frozen leaves you cold, and chances are you’ll need time to defrost.

Two out of five for Frozen. Remember: go armed with lots of patience and a comfortable pillow.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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