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

November 27, 2010

‘The original is always the best,” says Asha Bhosle on remixes

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:24 pm

In this interview, legendary singer Asha Bhosle finally shares her opinion on the remixes of her hit songs that Bollywood continues to use in the movies. Revealing that she wasn’t even aware that a cover version of her song was used in Once Upon A Time in Mumbaai recently, she insists the original is always the best.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 26, 2010

Break down

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

November 26, 2010

Cast: Imran Khan, Deepika Padukone, Sharmila Tagore, , Lillette Dubey, Yudhishtar Urs, Shahana Goswami

Director: Danish Aslam

As romantic comedies go Break Ke Baad, starring Imran Khan and Deepika Padukone, is arguably more engaging than recent films of this genre – Aisha, Anjaana Anjaani and Jhootha Hi Sahi. Yet this film suffers from one key problem that plagued all those movies – clumsy writing.

Imran and Deepika play Abhay and Aaliya, movie-besotted childhood friends who’ve been seeing each other for some ten-odd years. He’s thoughtful and romantic, she’s rebellious and attention-seeking. Their relationship hits a snag when she takes off to Australia to enroll at university, and he follows after her obsessively until she breaks up with him.

The film’s first half coasts along breezily, drawing its strength from the sheer charm of its leads. So even though the dialogue occasionally has a labored feel to it, and struggles to strum up a coolness that the script doesn’t inherently possess, you’re willing to overlook these lapses because you’re distracted by the stars’ pleasant chemistry.

The real problems surface when co-writer/director Danish Aslam resorts to using tired clichés as key conflicts between the film’s characters. In a regressive subplot, Aaliya wants to be an actress, but her fading-star mum (played by Sharmila Tagore) doesn’t want her daughter to repeat her mistakes. Mummy, you see, blames her acting career for her husband’s infidelity, and for the failure of her marriage!

Deepika Padukone plays Aaliya with a confidence you haven’t seen in her performances before, and creates a solid, believable character that’s somewhat misguided but endearing nonetheless. Break Ke Baad is essentially Aaliya’s story, with Abhay playing a supporting part in it, and the film works best when she’s at the forefront.

Post-intermission, however, the film loses momentum as the focus shifts abruptly to Abhay’s journey. He stays on in Australia after Aaliya has dumped him, gets a job, starts a business, and continues to pine for her. His is a considerably less interesting character that lacks much spark, and his only distinguishable feature is the fact that he’s a lovesick puppy. To be fair, Abhay only works in context to Aaliya, and yet it is to Imran Khan’s credit that he invests Abhay with an earnestness that makes such a dull character lovable.

The film itself goes off the rails about ten minutes into the second half, when it is clear that the script has run out of ideas. Much time and footage is wasted on secondary characters like Aaliya’s landlords, the brother-sister duo who run a beach shack, and who end up playing cupid to the estranged leads. By the time Abhay and Aaliya realize the error of their ways and get back together in the end, you’re completely exhausted.

Break Ke Baad doesn’t finish with the same promise you glimpsed early on in the film, but it has several moments that are enjoyable. There’s a crackling scene on a building terrace in the film’s first half, that opens on a comical note – with Aaliya giving them new names: Shahrukh for her, Sunita for him – but turns poignant when Abhay asks why he must always be the sensible, practical one. Many laughs are provided by Lillette Dubey, who plays Abhay’s quick-witted aunt, who repeatedly refers to Aaliya as a chudail, and compares today’s young lovers to Devdas!

Director Danish Aslam makes a respectable debut with a reasonably engaging film that is watchable largely for the performance of its leading lady. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Break Ke Baad. You won’t be entirely bored!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The kids are not all right!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:39 pm

November 26, 2010

Cast: Sharman Joshi, Faruk Kabir, Naseeruddin Shah, Atul Kulkarni, Zakir Hussain

Director: Faruk Kabir

In Allah Ke Banday, Vijay and Yakub are two young slum-kids who peddle drugs instead of going to school. When they rob a nearby jeweler, the local gangster demands their loot. A scuffle follows, and the gangster is killed. The kids are sent off to a remand home where they spend the next 11 years learning harsh life lessons, many at the hands of a corrupt warden (played by Naseeruddin Shah).

Now grown men, on their release they hatch a plan to take over the slum by launching an attack on the new don with an army of children.

Unable to decide if it wants to be a hard-hitting, realistic film or a Sanjay Gupta-style filmi actioner, Allah Ke Banday is confused, and equally confusing. Written and directed by Faruk Kabir, the film suffers on account of its excesses. An eardrum-shattering background score, uneven editing, and a plodding screenplay are the chief criminals here.

Sharman Joshi, who stars as the grown up Vijay, is saddled with a silent, brooding character, while Faruk Kabir himself plays Yakub, the more showy role. Both, unfortunately, don’t make much of an impression. Expectedly, you can count on Naseeruddin Shah to show us how it’s done. In a scene in the film’s second half, an adult Vijay encounters the old warden, a frail decrepit man, struggling to dip his bread in tea. It’s the best scene in the film, and one that stands out for the sheer magnificence of Naseer’s performance.

The film, in the end, is well-intentioned but sloppy. I’m going with two out of five for Allah Ke Banday.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Gravy train

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:36 pm

November 26, 2010

Cast: Denzel Washington, Chris Pine, Rosario Dawson

Director: Tony Scott

True to its name, director Tony Scott’s Unstoppable is a fast-paced action thriller that takes a little while to pick up speed, but once moving, rolls along furiously barely allowing you to catch your breath or ponder the silliness of the situation.

The film is loosely based on a real incident that took place in Ohio in 2001, and tells the daring story of two railway workers who raced against the clock to stop an unmanned speeding train loaded with toxic chemicals from crashing into a densely populated town. Denzel Washington stars as a veteran railway engineer and Chris Pine as a newbie conductor who get off on the wrong foot the morning they are paired together on duty. But when the incompetence of two lazy railway employees sends a train down the line without a conductor or brakes, our heroes set off on a seemingly impossible rescue mission that has the nation watching and praying.

Scott uses minimal computer effects, and concentrates instead on raising the pressure every few minutes by creating highly implausible situations that are nevertheless watchable because both actors bring a degree of integrity to their performance. It helps also that Scott uses his camera fearlessly, swooping up and down the hurtling train and throwing you at the center of the action.

Yet I must confess I thought Scott’s previous train-thriller, last year’s The Taking of Pelham 123 was a more satisfying film in terms of nail-biting tension. In my opinion, the thrill of watching your hero work out ways to outsmart the villain is far more enjoyable than the physical dare-devilry involved in stopping a wayward train. Having said that, Unstoppable still works because it’s an unpretentious formulaic film that delivers exactly what it promises.

I’m going with three out of five for Tony Scott’s Unstoppable. If you don’t want to tax your grey cells, here’s a simple enough entertainer that’s fun while it lasts, but hard to remember after you’ve left your seat.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The old guard

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:35 pm

November 26, 2010

Cast: Bruce Willis, Mary Louise-Parker, Morgan Freeman, John Malkovich, Helen Mirren, Brian Cox

Director: Robert Schwentke

Only a few months since The Expendables, that film about a bunch of ageing tough guys still kicking ass, here’s another action movie that sees retirement-home stars playing with heavy guns.

Red (short for Retired, and Extremely Dangerous) stars Bruce Willis as a former CIA operative who spends his time staying in shape and engaging in a polite phone-flirtation with Mary Louise-Parker, who plays a chatty call-centre employee at the pensions department. His dreams of starting a new chapter in his life with her are rudely interrupted when a team of masked hitmen tries to kill him. He deals with them without so much as breaking into a sweat, but can’t seem to figure out why his life is suddenly under threat. Gathering his girlfriend-to-be, he goes on the run and rounds up his old team of mercenaries to help piece together this unexpected puzzle.

His buddies include Morgan Freeman, a mischievous octogenarian with an eye for nurses in his old-age home; John Malkovich, a paranoid eccentric holed up in a bunker, convinced he’s being watched; Brian Cox, a vodka-swiveling Russian agent who insists he hasn’t killed anyone in years; and my favourite, Helen Mirren, a former hitwoman who now runs a bed-and-breakfast, but who misses the action-packed life she once led.

As the oldies reunite to fend off the bad guys, the stage is set for a smart spy caper. Unfortunately, however, the script runs out of steam well before the end, and the silliness becomes tiring. Still there’s enough spark from distinguished older performers who’re obviously not taking it too seriously. Nothing can beat the sight of the 65-year-old British thesp and Oscar-winning actress Helen Mirren aiming to fire an Uzi, dressed in an elegant white ball-gown. It’s stray moments like these that make you smile.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Red. The action isn’t particularly thrilling, and the cartoonish violence is fun, but only in spurts. Watch it if you’re in the mood for silly!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

High horse

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:30 pm

November 26, 2010

Cast: Diane Lane, John Malkovich, Otto Thorwath, Nelsan Ellis, Dylan Walsh, Dylan Baker

Director: Randall Wallace

In 1973, a 3-year-old chestnut stallion made headlines across America when it became the first racehorse in 25 years to win the coveted Triple Crown, beating out the competition at the Belmont Stakes by a jaw-dropping 31 lengths. That record remains unbeaten till date, and Secretariat – named after the legendary horse – traces the inspirational back-story behind that historical achievement.

Formulaic from start to end, this film is nevertheless compelling because it pushes all the right emotional buttons. Diane Lane stars as Penny Chenery, the Denver housewife and mom, who took over her father’s horse farm in Virginia when he became too ill to run it. Despite her family’s misgivings about sticking with the loss-making ranch, she gathered a team of allies and started to pull things together. It helped that losing a coin toss to a wealthy local businessman put her in possession of two colts, the younger of which – Big Red – went on to become the great Secretariat.

The film’s key themes of standing up to opposition and hanging on to one’s dreams, are likely to appeal to those who find comfort in the familiar. There’s also a winning performance by John Malkovich who plays the eccentric trainer Lucien Laurin, whom Penny convinced to take on her horse. But the real reason why this film works is the thrilling recreation of those Triple Crown races that Secretariat dominated with such style. There is a genuine nail-biting urgency to those scenes that appear to be filmed from every conceivable angle.

Although Secretariat isn’t as original or inventive as 2003’s Seabiscuit, it keeps you fascinated and engaged because it’s a true story. I’m going with three out of five of Secretariat. Even the most cynical viewers won’t be able to resist cheering for that great horse in the final race!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

“That kissing scene with Deepika was awkward,” says Imran

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 2:37 am


In this interview, Imran Khan and Deepika Padukone talk about shooting their film, Break Ke Baad in Mauritius over 60 days. The actors discuss the awkwardness involved in filming a kissing scene, and reveal how much they are like the characters they play on screen.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 20, 2010

“I was offered Black, but I was busy then,” says Aishwarya

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 11:22 am


In this interview shortly before the release of Guzaarish, Aishwarya Rai talks about the choc-a-bloc year she’s just had. She explains how she dealt with the failure of Raavan, what she learnt from Rajnikant working with him in Robot, and why she took that role opposite Akshay Kumar in Action Replayy. Bet you didn’t know she was offered Black too….she reveals why she didn’t do the film!

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

November 19, 2010

Not worth dying for!

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:01 pm

November 19, 2010

Cast: Hrithik Roshan, Aishwarya Rai, Aditya Roy Kapur, Shernaz Patel, Suhel Seth

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s recent films have famously existed in a world of his own creation, a world cut off from the one we inhabit, a world where logic is often a hindrance. Guzaarish, his latest offering, may be less esoteric than his last film, Saawariya, but it’s still an unsatisfying effort because the filmmaker continues to invest more in the appearance of every frame than in the emotional truth of his characters.

Apparently set in current day Goa (although this is a very different Goa from the one we saw in Bhansali’s earliest and most sincere film, Khamoshi), much of this plot unfolds in the sprawling Mehboob Studios bungalow-set that stands in as the home of our protagonist. Ethan Mascarenhas (played by Hrithik Roshan) is a renowned magician who has been living as a quadriplegic for the last 14 years, after he suffered a terrible accident at the peak of his career. Between dishing out upbeat life lessons on a radio show he hosts, and cracking naughty jokes to his feisty nurse Sophiya (played by Aishwarya Rai), Ethan decides he wants to end his life.

His lawyer friend Devyani (played by the excellent Shernaz Patel) is instructed to file a plea for euthanasia. Meanwhile Ethan also takes in a young apprentice (played by Aditya Roy Kapoor), who is desperate to learn magic from him.

Its various subplots inspired from different films, Guzaarish is a mash-up of many interesting ideas. From Christopher Nolan’s The Prestige, Bhansali borrows the sabotage angle between rival magicians, but that culminates in an over-simplistic redemption that adds nothing of any value to the core plot of this film. From The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Bhansali steals memorable moments like the one in which the wheelchair-bound hero struggles with a stubborn fly, until he resigns himself to live with it. But it’s the Oscar-winning Spanish film The Sea Inside that the director plunders most liberally from, taking full scenes and the dynamics between key characters too.

While you may be willing to overlook the plagiarism (although you shouldn’t!), it’s hard to forgive the sloppy writing. Euthanasia is a delicate and controversial issue, but the film never quite comes to grips with its theme of mercy killing. More than one character talks about an individual’s right to pull the plug, but those scenes fail to punch you in the gut because the dialogues are so predictable and superficial.

Guzaarish is beautifully shot and has a larger-than-life operatic feel to it. But it’s also shamelessly manipulative. It’s hard to care for Bhansali’s characters because the emotions never feel real. Hrithik Roshan’s silences are deeper than the corny dialogues he’s saddled with, but for the most part he appears awkward offering a theatrical pitch to match the film’s OTT sensibilities. A terrific, subtle actor, Hrithik looks uncomfortable in this melodramatic space.

Aishwarya Rai’s performance meanwhile, is completely in sync with the film’s heightened sense of drama; the actress evidently benefitting from her previous experiences of working with the director.

For a Bhansali film, Guzaarish has a surprisingly uninspired soundtrack (composed by the director himself, incidentally), and the screenplay has enough holes in it for it to work as a fishing net. But to be fair, there are some lovely moments that jump out and surprise you. Like that crackling scene in which Ethan pretends to be aroused when Sophiya’s massaging his feet, to which she responds by offering some suggestive moans herself. Or that lump-in-the-throat portion in which Ethan wrestles with the rain dripping in through a hole in the roof.

Unfortunately moments like these are few and far between in what is ultimately a slow, silly film. I’m going with two out of five for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Guzaarish. The magic is missing in this one!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Street dreams

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:32 pm

November 19, 2010

Cast: Pritika Chawla, Sanjay Dadheech, Choyoti Ghosh, Makarand Deshpande, Shah Rukh Khan

Director: Makarand Deshpande

Who wouldn’t be curious about a film with a title like Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu? But like they say, never judge a book by its cover. Directed by theatre actor-director Makarand Deshpande, the film is constructed around an interesting premise – our obsession with celebrities – but it never rises above its one-line idea.

Laali (played by Pritika Chawla) is a feisty flower-seller at a traffic signal in Mumbai, whose life changes one day, when her favourite movie-star Shah Rukh Khan stops at a light and says a kind word to her. Now over the moon, Laali starts building sandcastles in the air. But her misguided arrogance puts her in trouble when a jealous admirer attacks her with a knife.

Deshpande’s film has a taste for the unusual, but can’t seem to pull itself out of an abysss of silliness. A delusional Laali can’t stop mooning about Shah Rukh Khan, while her admirer John (played by Sanjay Dadheech) turns into a real-life Devdas, spurning the advances of a bar-dancer who loves him, and drinking himself silly over a woman he can’t have.

Even though the film is set in the slums of Mumbai, it strongly needs a reality check. A subplot about a local journalist relentlessly pursuing Laali’s story doesn’t ring true, and the film’s muddled climax makes little sense. Deshpande shows a glimmer of promise, particularly in his convincing representation of secondary characters, but the story runs out of steam quite early on. Even Shah Rukh Khan himself, popping up in a tiny cameo, can’t lend this film any sheen.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Makarand Deshpande’s Shahrukh Bola Khoobsurat Hai Tu. Watch it, but only if you must.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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