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

January 29, 2011

Chitrangda Singh on why she’s got to work with the Big B

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:31 am

In this interview the stunning Chitrangda Singh talks about collaborating with her Hazaaron Khwaishen Aisi director Sudhir Mishra once again for Yeh Saali Zindagi. Soon to start shooting with Akshay Kumar for a comedy titled Desi Boyz, she reveals why she’s just got to do a film with Amitabh Bachchan.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 28, 2011

Laugh a little

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:58 pm

January 28, 2011

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Emran Hashmi, Omi Vaidya, Tisca Chopra, Shruti Haasan, Shazahn Padamsee, Shraddha Das

Director: Madhur Bhandarkar

With Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, Madhur Bhandarkar may have ditched those voyeuristic, exposé themes to try his hand at comedy, but his jokes are mostly packed with sexual innuendo and needless homophobia.

In an early voice-over we are introduced to a character who we’re told is only interested in the 3 Fs of life: fun, flirting, and the last one we’re asked to guess ourselves. In another scene at a funeral, a young chap introduces himself to the person standing beside him. “How do you do?” he asks. “Any way you like it,” the flaming gay man replies, rolling his eyes and licking his lips.

Not nearly as bawdy as The Hangover, and missing the innocent charm of a film like Chashme Buddoor, Bhandarkar’s Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji is an occasionally entertaining comedy about three single men and their misadventures with the ladies. Ajay Devgan is an introverted banker on the verge of divorce who becomes besotted with a young intern at his workplace. Emran Hashmi is a playboy gym instructor who must dump his rich girlfriend when he falls for her stepdaughter. And Omi Vaidya is an innocent virgin who has his heart set on a friendly radio jockey who’s shamelessly using him.

Subtlety isn’t one of Bhandarkar’s strengths, and he isn’t exactly known for writing layered characters either. Every character acts according to type in Dil To Baccha Hai Ji. So the Catholic intern (played by Shazahn Padamsee) enjoys wine with every meal and offers free salsa lessons to her boss. A former supermodel trapped in a loveless marriage (played by Tisca Chopra) picks up toy-boys to keep herself engaged. And an NRI ‘today’s girl’ (played by Shruti Haasan) doesn’t attach love or commitment to sex.

Despite relying on familiar tropes, Bhandarkar does create some lovely moments. The track between Devgan and Padamsee, for one, is surprisingly tender. His awkwardness at mingling with her younger friends, the heartbreaking discovery he makes at her grandmother’s home, even his initial efforts to draw her attention are played out nicely by Devgan, who makes the part his own.

Dil To Baccha Hai Ji is too long for a light-hearted comedy, and the dialogue is pedestrian. Still it’s not a complete waste of time; there are some laughs to be had. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for director Madhur Bhandarkar’s Dil To Baccha Hai Ji. Don’t go in expecting too much, and perhaps you won’t be too disappointed.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Rock steady

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:52 pm

January 28, 2011

Cast: James Franco, Amber Tamblyn, Kate Mara

Director: Danny Boyle

Some films transport you to the centre of their action, and watching 127 Hours your mind repeatedly goes over the same thought: What if it was me there? What would I have done?

Danny Boyle’s new film is based on a memoir by American engineer and mountaineer Aron Ralston. In 2003, without telling anyone of his destination, Ralston headed into the Utah desert to climb through the remote Blue John Canyon. Trapped in a small crevice with a heavy boulder pinning his arm to the canyon wall, he spent five days trying to break free and call for help before finally using a blunt knife to cut off his arm.

Just thinking about it is horrific enough, but Boyle has said that anyone in Ralston’s place would do the same. I hope I never have to find out.

127 Hours stars James Franco, who is magnificent as Aron Ralston. In the first 20 minutes of the film, we see that he’s a daredevil, a free-spirited soul who enjoys the thrill of adventure. He has a reckless charm that’s irresistible to the two ladies he meets that first afternoon at the canyon, before he is stuck and his ordeal begins.

For the next 70 minutes or so, we watch as he struggles to free himself. When nothing works and death seems imminent, his life flashes before his eyes.

Using hallucinations, flashbacks, and a frenetic editing style, director Danny Boyle turns a grim, static situation into a thrilling emotional and visual ride. Surprisingly, there are moments of humor too, and they never appear fake. In one of the film’s best scenes Ralston, who is recording heartfelt video messages to his family on a small camera, impersonates a radio broadcast in which he does all the voices.

Everything of course is building up to that harrowing scene where Ralston decides to sever his limb. Those who’re squeamish about the sight of blood should know that Boyle doesn’t shy away from showing the amputation. We see Ralston picking through nerves and chipping away at the bone breathlessly until, just like that, he is separated from the arm, which remains stuck behind the rock.

127 Hours is an overwhelming tale of courage under fire. It’s about hope, survival, and about choosing life. Boyle tells this claustrophobic story with such visual and dramatic zeal that in the end, it amounts to so much more than just the horror of that amputation. Indeed the image that ultimately chokes you up isn’t that of the blade slicing through flesh, but of Ralston seeing help in the end and finding his voice to summon it.

The extraordinary cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak, and AR Rahman’s haunting score complement Boyle’s rich and imaginative storytelling style. And James Franco who appears in more or less every scene delivers a performance nothing short of spellbinding. Franco invests everything he’s got; he sheds his pride, and gives up every last trace of vanity to create the most compelling character he’s played on screen.

I’m going with four out of five for Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours. It’s an experience strictly for the big screen. Prepare to be overwhelmed.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Frazzle dazzle

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:46 pm

January 28, 2011

Cast: Cher, Christina Aguilera, Kristen Bell, Cam Gigandet, Eric Dane, Stanley Tucci

Director: Steve Antin

A musical with such a stellar cast has no excuse for being boring, but Burlesque starring Cher and Christina Aguilera is a tough slog. Neither inventive in its plot or its treatment, the film borrows heavily from such iconic musicals as Cabaret and Chicago, but can’t seem to replicate even the sheer energy of those films.

Aguilera stars as Ali, a small-town waitress with big dreams who buys a one-way bus ticket to Los Angeles, determined to change her life. She sets her sights on a job at the Burlesque Lounge, an establishment on Sunset Strip run by the tough talking Tess (played by Cher, looking straight out of a Tim Burton film), who takes her under her wing subsequently and turns her into a star.

There’s an unnecessary subplot about a property developer threatening to take over the club if Tess can’t pay the bills, and another one involving an inevitable rivalry between the club’s reigning star Nikki (played by Kristen Bell) and the new entrant. Equally predictable is the heroine’s romantic track with a caring co-worker that is threatened when she’s wooed by a Richie Rich big-shot.

The script is old and dated, but the musical set-pieces are occasionally entertaining. We know Aguilera can belt out a tune, and she gets a dozen opportunities to show off; sadly Cher doesn’t get more than two. On the whole, Burlesque is cloaked in a sense of been-there-done-that, because everything feels so familiar.

I’m going with two out of five for Burlesque. It’s got an assembly line of dancing girls showing skin, and it’s still not much fun. Such a shame!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 22, 2011

“We had difficult days,” say Aamir & Kiran on Dhobi Ghat

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 1:47 am


Aamir Khan and Kiran Rao say it isn’t all smooth sailing when you’re a married couple that’s making a movie together. In this interview they talk about the hiccups they went through while working on Dhobi Ghat.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Prateik Babbar on the mother he never knew, Smita Patil

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:33 am

Prateik Babbar, the talented young star of Dhobi Ghat, lost his mother when he was still a baby. He has formed a mental picture of her based on conversations with friends and family, and based on the films of hers that he’s seen. In this interview, Prateik talks about the mother he never knew, Smita Patil.

Madhur Bhandarkar plans a film about the business of Bollywood awards

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:29 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, director Madhur Bhandarkar reveals what prompted him to make a comedy like Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji, and reveals that he’s planning a film that will blow the lid off Bollywood awards next.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

The lives of others

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 1:13 am

January 21, 2011

Cast: Aamir Khan, Monica Dogra, Prateik Babbar, Kriti Malhotra

Director: Kiran Rao

In Dhobi Ghat, written and directed by Kiran Rao, Mumbai city is as much a character as the four protagonists whose lives intersect during the film’s 95 minute running time.

Shai (played by Monica Dogra) is a wealthy NRI investment banker who is in town on a sabbatical from her job, to indulge her passion for photography. She spends the night with brooding artist Arun (played by Aamir Khan), who regrets the one-night stand. But Shai, although hurt, feels like they made a connection. Munna (played by Prateik Babbar) is a dhobi nursing acting ambitions, who agrees to introduce Shai to the city, and ends up with a crush on her. Yasmin (played by Kriti Malhotra) is a young Muslim girl who has moved to Mumbai from a small town in Uttar Pradesh, and is recording video diaries for her brother back home. We only see Yasmin in this recorded footage that Arun stumbles onto and becomes obsessed with.

Unfolding against the city’s bustling geography, these stories reveal an intimate and sometimes unpleasant portrait of Mumbai. The issue of class difference rears its ugly head as Shai and Munna become friends. Lack of privacy is another key theme, as is the migrant experience.

Director Kiran Rao makes some interesting points, but there are a few things that just don’t work. The overuse of coincidence, for one. In a city bursting at the seams, the characters in this film seem to be running into each other just about everywhere. Also, Munna is a dhobi, who works nights as a rat-catcher; at one point it’s even insinuated that he’s sleeping with a housewife possibly for cash. Is there any job this guy doesn’t do? And yet he’s available on call to provide tourist-guide services to Shai.

Arun’s obsession with Yasmin is another tricky area. His curiosity about her life may be understandable given that he appears to have no life of his own, but the reaction to his ultimate discovery about her appears contrived.

To be honest, Arun is the only character in the film that strikes me as awkward. He’s saddled with clunky dialogue, and played uncomfortably by Aamir Khan, who surprisingly comes off as too conscious. Monica Dogra as Shai takes some getting used to, but finds her feet along the way. It’s Kriti Malhotra as Yasmin who strikes the perfect note, and whose haunting influence can be felt long after the film is over. Prateik Babbar as Munna oozes charisma and confidence, and your heart goes out to his character in the end when reality puts a break on his dreams.

Beautifully shot and aided by an evocative background score, Dhobi Ghat is occasionally indulgent and moves at a glacial pace. Yet Rao creates some endearing characters, and embraces Mumbai despite its dichotomies. The result is a film that slowly grows on you.

I’m going with three out of five for director Kiran Rao’s Dhobi Ghat. If you have an open mind and an appetite for the experimental, take a bite out of this one.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Unfunny people

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 12:24 am

January 21, 2011

Cast: Ben Stiller, Teri Polo, Robert DeNiro, Blythe Danner, Owen Wilson, Dustin Hoffman, Barbra Streisand, Jessica Alba, Laura Dern

Director: Paul Weitz

Little Fockers is the third film in the Meet The Parents franchise, and it’s also the least funny of the lot. Even today it’s hard not to smile when you remember those hilarious scenes from the first film in which Ben Stiller must take a polygraph test from his suspicious father-in-law Robert DeNiro, or in which Stiller accidentally knocks down an urn containing DeNiro’s mother’s ashes.

The jokes have all but dried up by now. In this film, Stiller and his wife are preparing for a party to celebrate the fifth birthday of their twins. Robert DeNiro has a heart condition, and that prompts him to prepare his disappointing son-in-law to take his place at the head of the family. Jessica Alba shows up as a pharmaceutical representative who offers Stiller (who’s a nurse, remember?) the opportunity to endorse a new erectile dysfunction drug; and Dustin Hoffman and Barbara Streisand return as Stiller’s parents.

There’s an awkward gag in which Stiller must give DeNiro a penile injection, and another one in which Stiller’s mom discusses her son’s inadequacies in the bedroom department on her television show. There is much punning on the Focker name, and at one point DeNiro anoints Stiller ‘The Godfocker’ of the family which leads to some silly Brando riffs. None of this unfortunately is funny.

The only real laughs in this film involve Owen Wilson’s character Kevin, the pretentious hippie ex-boyfriend of Stiller’s wife, who shows up with a tattoo of her face on his back. And do wait for the end credits sequence in which DeNiro logs onto the Internet and catches a remix version of a speech Stiller made at a pharma convention. These are the only times you’ll smile through this dreadful film.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Little Fockers. By the end you really couldn’t care less for these characters – to hell with these Fockers!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

January 21, 2011

Hairy good fun!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:20 pm

January 21, 20110

Cast: Voices of Mandy Moore, Zachary Levi, Donna Murphy

Directors: Nathan Greno and Byron Howard

Tangled is Disney’s 50th animated feature, and it’s a rollicking take on the Grimm Brothers fairy tale Rapunzel.

A baby princess is kidnapped from the royal palace by an old biddy who locks her in an isolated tower, and uses her long golden hair to stay young. Mandy Moore voices the sassy heroine Rapunzel, who is desperate to see the outside world, and who gets her wish on her eighteenth birthday, when she’s rescued by a lovable thief.

The film may be missing the naughty wit and the smart pop-culture references that Pixar does so well, but in the tradition of the best Disney musicals, Tangled is a simply-told story elevated by some excellent musical set-pieces.

Not that you expect any less when you see the name on the credits – the soundtrack is composed by eight-time Academy Award winner Alan Menken, who provided the score for such films as The Little Mermaid and Beauty and the Beast. Menken gives the film’s real showstopper ‘Mother knows best’ to Broadway performer Donna Murphy, who voices the evil kidnapper Goethel, and who brings life to that track. But my favorite number is ‘I have a dream’, which our heroine breaks into at a vikings pub named Snuggly Duckling where she reaches out to the softer side in those hulking giants.

The animation is clean, the 3D gives depth to the beautiful imagery, and there is an array of kooky, colorful characters – including a horse with attitude named Maximus, and the chameleon Pascal who everyone refers to as a frog.

I’m going with three out of five for Tangled. It’s predictable, but also very good fun.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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