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

June 20, 2010

BFTP: M Night Shyamalan on The Village

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 3:17 pm


The first time I met M Night Shyamalan was in New York in September 2004, when I interviewed him about The Village. Confession time: I’m among those who enjoyed The Village. I found the idea very intriguing – of a community going through this elaborate deceit to shut themselves out from the big, bad world. I also enjoyed immensely the eerie tone of the film.

(This interview first aired on Star News)

In Om Shanti Om, what is the name of the film at whose premiere junior artiste Omi Prakash Makhija first seess superstar Shanti Priya in person?

Filed under: Quiz — Rajeev @ 4:15 am

Hrithik out of Paani?

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 4:07 am


Shekhar Kapur (sometime brilliant director of Masoom/Mr India/Bandit Queen, sometime announcer of projects that never materialize) has driven us sick with incessant talk of his dream project Paani. It’s a film he’s been wanting to make for years. Kapur has said Paani is a thriller set in the near future, when water will become the most coveted commodity. He envisions his film as a clash between the haves and the have-nots. An upstairs-downstairs conflict.

After shopping the script around local Indian studios for over five years with little luck (producers balked at the film’s Rs 100-crore-plus budget and the director’s reputation for leaving films incomplete), Kapur finally managed to raise a significant part of the budget from foreign investors, and even made an announcement (yes, another one!!!) at Cannes in May. His Paani, he said would now be an international film, but set in India.

He also revealed – never on record though – that Hrithik Roshan would play the lead.

HOWEVER, news is trickling in that Kapur’s foreign investors have now said NO to Hrithik’s alleged fee. The actor is believed to have asked for roughly USD 4 million (20 crore rupees) to star in the film. But for that princely sum, investors say they could attract a mid-level Hollywood star who’d have a much wider market than Hrithik. (Think Orlando Bloom or nearabouts!)

Add to that the abysmal failure of Kites (both domestic and international versions), and insiders are saying Hrithik’s Hollywood crossover will have to wait!

June 20, 2010

(This blog is based on off-the-record conversations with film industry sources who requested anonymity)

Shahid’s loss was Ranbir’s gain?

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 2:55 am


Highly placed sources in the biz reveal that both Ranbir Kapoor blockbusters – Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and Raajneeti – were first offered to Shahid Kapoor, who turned them down.

Shahid is believed to have said no to his mentor Ramesh Taurani (producer of Ishq Vishk) when he came to him with Ajab. Reason being: Shahid felt it sounded too similar to Jab We Met‘s ‘boy-likes-girl-but-helps-unite-her-with-her-boyfriend’ plot. Considering the stinky turd that Ajab was (its blockbuster success notwithstanding), one can’t really blame Shahid for not jumping out of his seat with excitement on reading the script (assuming there was one!)

But let’s not give Shahid too much credit either. Same guy thought  Dil Bole HadippaChance Pe Dance, Paathshaala and Badmaash Company were good enough to do!!!

Anyways, by then Ranbir Kapoor had already proved that given three good songs and a half-decent premise (and that still might be a rather generous way to describe Bachna Ae Haseeno), he could open a film. So Taurani trotted off to the RK kid and offered him Ajab next.

Story goes, Ranbir wasn’t bursting with enthusiasm over the project either. But Saawariya had tanked, Bachna Ae Haseeno may have opened well but didn’t appear to have legs, and the Rs 7-crore cheque that Taurani was dangling before him was too good an offer to refuse. The rest as they say is history. Including the well-known fact that RK didn’t get a good feeling about Ajab all through its making, and dissed it openly before its release.

In his defence, RK still admits it’s his least favorite film, and that he’s surprised it went on to become such a moneyspinner.

But, the coincidences don’t end there. My source says these stories that Prakash Jha confirmed Ranbir for Raajneeti shortly after Saawariya are untrue. While he may have approached RK after his dud debut, the director is also believed to have met Shahid Kapoor for the same role. Apparently Shahid felt the film was “too serious” for his image. (I’d have thought that’s a good thing!)

Ranbir, fortunately, had no such issues.

We could sit here and hypothetically discuss the good that Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani and Raajneeti might have done for Shahid’s resume. But the fact is, he didn’t do them. Because he didn’t think they were good enough.

And to be fair, Ranbir Kapoor would have turned out the Most Promising Young Actor that he is anyway, even if he’d lost those two films. (Don’t forget his quirky choices: Wake Up Sid and the grossly under-appreciated Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year).

To quote Oscar-winning screenwriter William Goldman on what he famously said about the film business: “Nobody knows anything.” Truer words were never spoken.

June 20, 2010

(This blog is based on off-the-record conversations with film industry sources who requested anonymity)

June 19, 2010

French connection

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 9:27 pm

Paris Je t’aime (meaning Paris, I love you) is a collection of 18 short films by filmmakers from across the world, and like the title suggests, all films are about love and they’re set in various different parts of the beautiful French capital. It’s an omnibus, an anthology of 18 films, each roughly five to seven minutes long, each directed by one of the finest filmmakers in the world, each set in one of Paris’ most distinctive neighborhoods, and many starring very famous actors from across the globe.

There’s Gurinder Chadha’s short film Qais de Seine which is a very relevant comment on the foolishness of racial and religious stereotyping. There’s also the typical unintended humor of Joel & Ethan Coen in their short which stars Steve Buscemi as an American tourist who gets a taste of French hospitality in one of Paris’ famous tube stations.

I was particularly moved by the very poignant story of immigrant servants in Walter Salles and Daniela Thomas’ film, even the twist at the end of Alfonso Cuaron’s film which stars Nick Nolte. Then there’s the lovely romance between the American actress and the blind French boy in Tom Tykwer’s film.

My favourite of all 18 shorts is Quartier Latin, directed by Gerard Depardieu and Frederic Auburtin – it’s the one that stars Gena Rowlands and Ben Gazzara as an older couple who’re about to get divorced. It’s beautiful because you can see these two know each other inside out, and they have such a vibe, and yet they’re not meant to be together.

I think the beauty of Paris Je t’aime lies in the fact that although every one of these short films is about love, each deals with a very different kind of love and each is heart-felt in its own way.

Paris Je t’aime is a must-watch!

Art for heart’s sake

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 7:03 pm

One of my favorite filmmakers ever is Hong Kong director Wong Kar-Wai whose visual style of storytelling is absolutely unparalleled, in my opinion.

Chunking Express, his 1994 film, is regarded by many as one of his best films after In The Mood For Love. Set in Hong Kong, the film comprises two loosely interlinked stories, both about lovelorn cops who get involved with women who are completely wrong for them.

The first story is about a superstitious policeman who bumps into, and becomes enamored by, a woman in a big blonde wig, sporting bright red lips and sunglasses. That woman, incidentally, is a drug smuggler who’s spent the most part of the night looking for drug consignments that have gone missing.

The second story is about a cop who frequents a fast-food joint in Hong Kong, where an attractive waitress develops a crush on him. He barely notices her, but she manages to get the keys to his apartment. She moves in when he isn’t there, and she pretty much takes over the place, cleaning it and redecorating it herself.

Now the common themes in both stories are those of loneliness and disconnection, and what strikes you immediately about the film is the manner in which it’s been shot. Stylish and pacy, Chunking Express has a restless feel to it, much like an MTV music video.

If you’ve seen Wong Kar-Wai’s In The Mood For Love, you’ll agree that film has a distinct visual style – it’s poetic and poignant. His images have always remained his biggest strength: the flourish, the specific look and styling he invests into every film of his.

Watch Chunking Express not only for unusual yet unique visual flair, but also for its characters who suck you into their lives.

Mothers & daughters

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 5:35 pm

Widely regarded as one of the most important filmmakers that ever lived, Swedish director Ingmar Bergman found both bleakness and comedy, despair and hope in his masterful films that explored the human condition.

His repertoire of films includes such gems as The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries which are popularly considered masterpieces. But the film I want to recommend today is one of my favourite Bergman films,Autumn Sonata, the story of a neglectful pianist mother, played by Ingrid Bergman who after the death of her lover, pays a visit to the married daughter she hasn’t seen for years played by Liv Ullman.

Legend has it that actress Ingrid Bergman reacted with shock when she first read the Autumn Sonata screenplay, in which the director described her character as a self-centred musician who had neglected her children in favour of her profession.

Eventually, however, her performance as Charlotte is so heart-breaking that by the end of the film you can’t decide who your sympathies lie with, between Charlotte and her daughter Eve.

Nobody puts baby in the corner!

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 5:21 pm

This weekend open your heart to Tsotsi, a deeply moving drama about a ruthless young gang-leader who rediscovers his capacity to love when he accidentally kidnaps a baby.

This South African film that won an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2006, centres on a local thug in Soweto, who discovers he’s inadvertently kidnapped an infant when he steals a car. This thug, who kills and maims without so much as blinking an eyelid, finds himself unable to abandon the baby even though it’s an inconvenience to his life.

An uplifting tale of humanity set against the most stark of environments, Tsotsi may be sentimental, but it’s also very engaging and more than likely it’ll leave you with a lump in your throat when you’re done watching it.

Another helping, please!

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 2:02 am

See if you can lay your hands on a DVD of Eat Drink Man Woman, it’s one of three films that Ang Lee made about the friction within traditional Chinese families caused by the influence of Western culture on the younger generation.

Eat Drink Man Woman is an ensemble piece, it’s the story of Chu, the best chef in Taipei, and his three daughters. Chu is a great chef, but a lousy communicator — he has no clue what’s happening with his daughters. His only real interaction with them is through the elaborate meal he prepares for them every Sunday, but at each dinner, the family members become more and more distanced from one another.

The eldest daughter, a school teacher by profession, is nursing a broken heart until she becomes interested in the volleyball coach at her school. The middle daughter, a successful director in an airline company is having casual sex with an ex-boyfriend, and has developed a close relationship with a married colleague at work. The youngest daughter, who works at a fast-food joint to pay her college fees, is in a relationship with her best friend’s boyfriend. Each of the girls is convinced she will be the first to leave home and establish an independent life.

Eat Drink Man Woman is really a comedy about these ladies who become involved with their respective men outside the house, and then come home and make bold announcements at their father’s dinner table. Chu, of course, reacts with horror. Later it’s revealed that Chu has a secret of his own, which I’m going to let you find out for yourself.

It’s an entertaining film about the changing dynamics of family life, very simple to follow and very easy to appreciate, but it’s also one of the best films you’ll see about food. In fact, you’ll be sold from the very opening scene of the film in which Chu is shown preparing his famous Sunday dinner.

These scenes look straight out of those glossy cookbooks, and believe me you’ll find yourself craving for a delicious Chinese meal after you’re done watching this film.

June 18, 2010

Headache times 10

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 9:37 pm

June 18, 2010

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai, Vikram, Govinda, Ravi Kissen

Director: Mani Ratnam

Sitting in your seat watching Mani Ratnam’s “Raavan” unfold before you, is like craning your neck out of your car to catch a glimpse of the wreckage in a road accident on the other side. Filled with a perverse sense of curiosity, you can’t take your eyes off the damage.

Alas, “Raavan” – despite a relatively modest running time of 2 hours and 10 minutes – is a crushing bore of a film, a disappointment on virtually every count.

In this rather literal adaptation of a slice of Hindu mythology, Ratnam casts Abhishek Bachchan as feared outlaw Beera who kidnaps the local police chief’s feisty wife Ragini (played by Aishwarya Rai) in retaliation for a crime against a loved one. The tough cop Dev (played by Tamil star Vikram) sets out to get his wife back, making a journey into the dense forest, even as Beera finds his heart melting for Ragini.

Never one to paint his characters black or white, Ratnam gives both Dev and Beera ambiguous character traits that make it hard to pigeonhole them as entirely good or bad. So Raavan-figure Beera has a conscience that stops him from having his way with Ragini although he desires her, and Ram-inspired Dev is so hell-bent on achieving his goal that he will resort to deceit and betrayal in order to get there.

But what might have truly turned this film into a brave, daring effort is a less ‘darpok’ handling of Ragini’s change-of-heart towards Beera. While she does soften considerably when she understands his provocation for revenge, Ratnam never quite turns it into a Stockholm-syndrome situation that might have made for a far stronger central conflict. As it currently stands, “Raavan” is a predictable revenge drama that stays too safe to ever surprise you.

Despite some eye-watering camerawork and a stunning action piece in the film’s climax, the film — especially its first half — is a carelessly edited mess of long scenes that make little sense when strung together. Abhishek plays Beera as an eccentric, unpredictable fellow prone to sudden outbursts; he channels Heath Ledger’s Joker from “The Dark Knight”, but comes nowhere close to replicating a similar sinister charm. Aishwarya, despite being the film’s leading lady and the very cause of the film’s conflict, has nothing much to do. She’s left to scream and shriek and hiss and spit out her dialogue while looking lovely in every frame.

Surprisingly, AR Rahman delivers his most uninspired score in years, which probably explains why Ratnam wasn’t inspired enough to shoot his songs as innovatively as he usually does.

The director sticks so faithfully to the “Ramayana” that we get embarrassing scenes like the one in which the suspicious husband asks his wife to take a polygraph test to prove her purity. Other portions, adapted literally, include the humiliation of the Surpanakha character, which is only marginally better handled.

Of the cast, it’s Ravi Kissen and Govinda, who play Beera and Dev’s right-hand men respectively, who stand out with the film’s most engaging performances. Both men, particularly Ravi Kissen, make flesh-and-blood characters out of their parts, investing them with sincerity and dodging stereotypes at every turn. Vikram, meanwhile, oozes screen presence but is shortchanged with cardboard characterization, and pretty much spends the entire film chasing after Beera in slo-mo, sporting trendy Ray Bans.

Burdened with pedestrian dialogue and too conventional a screenplay, “Raavan” is painfully dull and fails to engage at any level. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Mani Ratnam’s “Raavan”. It’s too simplistic a film from a director whose biggest strength used to be his multilayered relationships.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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