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

December 10, 2010

Kristin Scott-Thomas on why she’s ditched Hollywood for French cinema

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 4:21 pm

In this interview recorded in Mumbai, acclaimed actress (and star of such films as The English Patient and Four Weddings and a Funeral) Kristin Scott-Thomas reveals why she’s ditched Hollywood movies for roles in French films, and what’s the one film she’s always recognized for everywhere she goes.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 3, 2010

A hash of history

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:35 pm

December 03, 2010

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sikander Kher, Deepika Padukone, Vishakha Singh, Samrat Mukherjee, Maninder Singh

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, directed by Ashutosh Gowariker, has the earnestness of a school play, but lacks the cinematic sweep of the director’s most accomplished film, Lagaan.

Gowariker delves into the story of the 1930 Chittagong Uprising, a pre-Independence revolt in Bengal, where a local school teacher and his band of fellow revolutionaries galvanized a group of teenagers to rise against the British. This inspiring story, based on Manini Chatterjee’s book Do And Die: The Story of the Chittagong Uprising, details an elaborate plan conceived by Surjya Sen and his team, in which they launched attacks on five power centers of the British in one single night.

Sadly, the real-life patriotic struggle gets lost in translation to the big screen. Even while you admire the courage and fervour behind this little-known revolution, a part of you remains unmoved. Gowariker sets up the background of the Chittagong Uprising painstakingly, yet forgets that one most important detail – he fails to infuse life and passion into his film. Under his heavy-handed approach, most of Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey turns into just what you dreaded – a dry history lesson.

In a rather tedious first half, Gowariker establishes how Surjya Sen, played by Abhishek Bachchan mobilizes the uprising. His patriotic army includes a group of teenage boys who rebel against the idea of a British troop taking over their football field to set up camp. Hearing of Surjya’s Indian Republican Army, they sign up to rise against the goras. Joining Surjya, his friend Nirmal, and the rest of their comrades is Kalpana Dutta (played by Deepika Padukone) and her friend Pritilata Waddedar, the only women in the uprising.

In its second half, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey picks up pace. The plot becomes more involving as the revolutionaries execute the raid into the British armory. Subsequently, the scenes in which they escape, are hunted down, and die as martyrs, are particularly poignant. Yet, clocking in at almost three hours, the film drags its feet. You wish once again that Gowariker exercised more restraint.

To his credit, the director chooses a lesser-known chapter of Indian Independence history and this works in drawing you in to some extent. His characters lack depth, however, and the acting, especially by the younger cast and the English officers is stiff. While Deepika Padukone pours sincerity into her character of Kalpana, Abhishek Bachchan is miscast as the heroic Surjya Sen. He delivers his lines indifferently and makes it hard for you to empathize with him. Sikander Kher, as Nirmal, stands out in comparison, offering his best despite limitations.

Also lending Gowariker’s canvas a flat feel is the lifeless cinematography, and a particularly uninspired soundtrack by Sohail Sen. Watching Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey, it’s hard not to be reminded of the emotional depth that AR Rahman’s stirring soundtracks invested into the director’s previous films.

Alas, despite its important subject, what’s missing in this film is drama, conflict and outrage. It’s precisely why Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey ends up boring. The director who made audiences leap to their feet and cheer as Bhuvan’s team of villagers won that nail-biting match in Lagaan, fails to turn the Chittagong Uprising into engaging cinema.

I’m going with two out of five for Ashutosh Gowariker’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey. It’s a noble effort that gives you a glimpse of forgotten history. But this hero has feet of clay.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Gangster rap

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:34 pm

December 03, 2010

Cast: Rajat Kapoor, Manu Rishi, Sanjay Mishra, Neha Dhupia, Amole Gupte, Amit Sial

Director: Subhash Kapoor

Early on in Phas Gaye Re Obama, a bumbling gangster in Northern India explains just how hard recession has hit the local kidnapping business. His henchmen, he complains, can’t afford to buy bullets for their revolvers, or petrol for their jeeps; even the outgoing-calls facility on their mobile phones has been disbarred.

This deliciously smart comedy from writer-director Subhash Kapoor stars Rajat Kapoor as Om Shastri, a desperate NRI from America, who must sell off his ancestral village property so he can save his home in New Jersey from being repossessed by the bank. Within days of arriving in the village, however, he is kidnapped by local crime-pin Bhaisaab (played by the excellent Sanjay Mishra), who dreams of a fat ransom in exchange for the NRI’s release. When Shastri reveals that he’s lost everything in the recent financial meltdown, Bhaisaab’s dreams are crushed. That is until Shastri himself, along with Bhaisaab’s trusted right-hand man Anni (played by Oye Lucky Lucky Oye’s Manu Rishi), comes up with a shrewd new plan that will make both the kidnapper and the victim richer by several lakhs.

Constructed from a terrific script that’s strong on plot and packed with crackling dialogue, Phas Gaye Re Obama is consistently engaging. Shastri plots his own ‘sale’ from one wisened gangster to the next unsuspecting crook, in what becomes a chain of hilarious cons. Along the way we’re introduced to a string of quirky, original characters that add colour to this palette.

Neha Dhupia stars as Munni, a dreaded don who despises men, and who’s dubbed herself the female Gabbar Singh. She surrounds herself by an army of tough-looking henchwomen with names like Kareena, Deepika, Madhuri, Rani and Preity, and spends her free time chipping away at male statues. Amole Gupte plays a permanently constipated minister who runs a professionally managed kidnapping-and-extortion company, where you’re provided with a receipt on payment of the ransom, and a one-year guarantee against a repeat abduction.

But the star of the film is Manu Rishi, who brings just the perfect degree of naïvete to his role of a gangster’s moderately-educated sidekick yearning for a better life. His character, Anni has his heart set on moving to America, and insists he’s got what it takes – he’s watched reruns of Obama’s famous “Yes we can!” speech repeatedly, he’s taking English lessons at a local coaching class, and he hasn’t missed a single one of Sylvester Stallone’s greatest action hits.

Phas Gaye Re Obama is unpredictable and surprisingly relevant, even if the film’s title (which seems to squarely blame the US President for the recent global recession) is a bit of a stretch. Cleverly written and sharply cast, it’s a film that delivers hearty laughs.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for writer-director Subhash Kapoor’s Phas Gaye Re Obama. Don’t miss it. It’s one of those rare Hindi films that’s funny and smart at the same time!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Blood simple

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

December 03, 2010

Cast: Vivek Oberoi, Surya, Shatrughan Sinha, Priyamani, Radhika Apte, Zarina Wahab

Director: Ramgopal Varma

Ramgopal Varma’s Rakht Charitra 2 arrives just weeks after the first film, a blood-soaked vendetta saga about the rise and rise of gangster-turned-politician Pratap Ravi (played by Vivek Oberoi), a character famously inspired by Andhra icon Paritala Ravi. The new film, which opens with a roughly 25 minute recap of the earlier story, puts the spotlight on his sworn enemy Surya (played by Tamil star Surya), who plots revenge on Ravi for the cold-blooded murder of his family.

Unlike the earlier film, which had some plot to speak of, Rakht Charitra 2 is an unabashed orgy of gory action. Some scenes, however, are thrillingly filmed, like that sequence in a courthouse where a hired killer, dressed as an old woman, attacks Surya. But for the most part this film seriously lacks any real sense of drama, and to make up for that, director Ramgopal Varma once again relies on those crazy camera angles and his trademark booming background score.

Vivek Oberoi – who made his presence felt in the previous film, despite a standout performance by Abhimanyu Singh as the twisted Bukka Reddy – gets step-child treatment in this second instalment. Rakht Charitra 2 belongs to Surya, and is watchable only for the sheer presence of the Southern star, and for the intensity he brings to his part.

The film pits both men against each other, and illustrates how they may have more in common than either would like to believe. It’s an interesting point, and one that’s made in the film’s final scene, almost as a cliffhanger for a third film. But that would be too much to endure. Ramgopal Varma, are you listening..?

I’m going with two out of five for Rakht Charitra 2. More blood and more killings leave you numb in your seat.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The boat that rocked

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

December 03, 2010

Cast: Georgie Henley, Skandar Keynes, Ben Barnes, Will Poulter, voices of Liam Neeson and Simon Pegg

Director: Michael Apted

The Narnia movies adapted from the books by CS Lewis, may have sold fewer tickets than the Harry Potter blockbusters, but are visually inventive, special effects-heavy fantasy sagas that the fans have faithfully embraced.

Third in the series of Narnia films, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader opens in wartime England, and sees the two younger Pevensie siblings, Lucy and Edmund reluctantly staying at the home of their irritating cousin Eustace. The quarrelsome trio is sucked into an animated painting and transported back to Narnia where they find themselves aboard King Caspian’s magnificent ship. The adventure this time involves the retrieval of seven swords that, when laid on the table of Aslan, will rid Narnia of a terrible evil.

There is much by way of CGI thrills in this film, including fire-breathing dragons and nasty sea-monsters; there are also some terrific sword-fighting sequences that work well in 3D. But what’s missing in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is the presence of a formidable villain to raise the stakes. The demons to be destroyed this time are those that lie within our heroes. And while that’s an interesting mature theme that befits the series as it comes of age, there’s nothing quite like a compelling villain to make the action on screen more urgent – think Tilda Swinton as the White Witch in the first film.

The only member of the cast who appears to be having any fun in his role is Will Poulter, the young star of the excellent indie film, Son of Rambow, who plays the snotty cousin Eustace, whose personal transformation drives the narrative in this film.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader moves briskly from one set piece to another, never concentrating enough on its characters and their emotional growth along this journey. It’s not an unwatchable film, just never quite as satisfying as the first in the series.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. Loyal fans are unlikely to miss it; but if you haven’t seen the previous two, this one is hardly your best introduction to the series!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 2, 2010

“Lata could have helped me, but she didn’t,” says Asha Bhosle about her elder sister

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 1:35 am

VIDEO!

In this interview, legendary singer Asha Bhosle recounts her memories of working with the inimitable Kishore Kumar, and also addresses the prickly issue of her relationship and rivalry with her sister, Lata Mangeshkar.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 1, 2010

Dibakar Banerjee on the film that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:26 am

Filmmaker Dibakar Banerjee talks about the film that changed his life.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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