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

October 22, 2012

Yash Chopra: “I see movies today, and I realize that love has changed”

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 2:03 am

AUG 2011 Q&A

Commercial Hindi films back in the day weren’t big on styling, yet you were among the first filmmakers to give your heroines a distinct ‘look’. What inspired that?

I never went out consciously to create a look for my heroines. I wanted to be honest to the script and the characters, but I also wanted to portray my artistes as best as I could visually.

In those days you didn’t have specialized fashion designers to do clothes. Actresses very often wore their own saris in their films, or a costume assistant was hired to buy clothes in bulk that the artistes changed into on the set.

When I first became a director with Dhool Ka Phool in 1959, I used to go shopping for each and every item that was required on set. I was joined by my cameraman, an assistant director and a set designer. I liked to select the props myself because I had a good idea of how I wanted my scenes to look.

While making my first color film Waqt (1965), I remember going to Bhanu Athaiya who was the topmost designer at the time and requesting her to do the clothes for the ladies. I would personally go shopping for clothes with Bhanu and the heroine of the film, Sadhana. I was always aware of the fact that ultimately the audience has to find the picture visually beautiful.

What were your inspirations for the way you made your heroines look in your early films?

When I started working in the later fifties, our only library was older Hollywood films. Closer home, you had the films of Mehboob Khan, Bimal Roy, Raj Kapoor, and my own brother BR Chopra. But I don’t think I ever saw a film and took down notes as future references. I was always inspired by what I saw around me. A film director holds a mirror to society. Perhaps I dipped into the locker of my subconscious.

Research is needed only when your heroine is playing a specific character, if you’re making a film about a culture that you’re unfamiliar with, or when the film is based in a specific period. While making Veer-Zaara, I watched lots of videos of marriages in Pakistan since Preity (Zinta) was playing a girl from a well-off Pakistani family. We also consulted Nasreen Rehman, a professor from Cambridge University who helped us with the finer details of Pakistani culture, how their courts are conducted and the local dialects of that area.

Some of Bollywood’s most popular actresses have looked best in your films — Rekha in Silsila and Sridevi in Chandni are names that come immediately to mind.

I’ve always believed that the woman is the most beautiful thing God has created, second only to nature. It’s your duty as a filmmaker to portray them as beautifully as you can

Rekha and I worked very hard on Silsila. For the songs, she used most of her own jewelry.

While making Chandni, I had a vision of who I wanted this girl to be. I told Sridevi that most of her costumes in the film would be in white. She told me to go ahead with what I had in mind. I reassured her that I wouldn’t make her look like a widow, but her features would be enhanced in white.

You’ve always been partial to white, haven’t you? Apart from Chandni, you’ve dressed every single one of your heroines in white at some point or the other…

Yes, I like the color white as it symbolizes purity. I remember for one classical dance sequence in Chandni, Sridevi was keen to wear a peach-colored dress, but I wanted white. I told the designer to make the same dress in both colors and Sridevi tried both out. Even she agreed that the white one gave the whole sequence a pristine look.

There are times when my cameraman has complained that the whole frame is white – from the heroine’s dress, to the walls in the room. But I tell him: “Arre, tumhaara kaam kab niklega?” (Show me what you can do with this!) I ask him to use his imagination to shoot the scene interestingly.

I like dressing my heroines in white. I always tell them that hairstyles and jewelry don’t make a girl look beautiful, it’s her simplicity that does.

Which heroines posed the biggest challenge when it came to giving them the ‘Yash Chopra makeover’?

I couldn’t easily put my finger on how I wanted Madhuri (Dixit) to look in Dil To Pagal Hai. I remember giving Manish Malhotra a brief on her character, and him bringing various outfits that I rejected outright. It was hard to explain exactly what I had in mind, and I’ve never believed in approving sketches or dresses on a hanger. I have to see the outfit on the heroine. Manish created 54 dresses that I rejected before he came up with the simple salwar kameez that I finally approved, and that became Madhuri’s signature look in the film. We spent so much time and money on that process, but I don’t know any other way.

I’m working with Katrina Kaif in my new film and styling her is going to be a challenge, because she’s one of those actresses who looks beautiful in just about everything. Given that, we have to present her differently.

You were also the first Hindi filmmaker to shoot so extensively abroad. There was a time you shot every film of yours in Switzerland.

Initially I used to shoot my films in Kashmir or Shimla, but with the terrorism threat in Kashmir and the lack of adequate infrastructure for film shoots in Shimla, I had to find an alternate.

When we were planning to shoot Silsila, that line from the song we’d written kept coming back to me: “Dekha ek khwaab toh yeh silsile hue, door tak nigahon mein hai gul khile hue” (I saw a dream that led to this relationship. As far ahead as I look, I only see flowers). I knew I had to shoot this song in the most beautiful place on earth.

I’d done a recce in Switzerland already, but I was looking for a place that could justify the line: “Door tak nigahon mein hai gul khile hue”, so I asked Amit (Amitabh Bachchan) if he knew a suitable location. Amit went home and returned with a mini projector and showed me some footage of a garden that was filled with tulips. Immediately I felt like that line in the song had been written specifically to describe this place. These were the Keukenhof Gardens near Amsterdam, and I instantly knew we had to shoot there.

Subsequently I shot in Switzerland and London, but you’ll note that I’ve always relied on these beautiful European locations strictly for their visuals. My characters, my stories have always remained deeply rooted in the Indian context.

The ‘Yash Chopra heroine’ is considered the epitome of beauty, but women have always existed in your films only to sing and dance, and to fall in love. You rarely give them careers, and they’re seldom independent. It’s a very chauvinistic perspective.

I agree with you. The truth is that in the films of those days, the only profession for a girl was to fall in love. One never focused on any other part of a girl’s life or personality. In later years, Hindi films began slowly moving towards reality and it became important to see a more rounded personality. In Chandni, Sridevi takes a job only when her relationship with Rishi Kapoor breaks up. She takes up a secretarial job. In Dil To Paagal Hai, both Karisma (Kapoor) and Madhuri (Dixit) were professional dancers. In Veer-Zaara, Rani (Mukherjee) was a lawyer.

You’ve repeatedly said that the film closest to your heart is Lamhe, and that its commercial failure hurt you the most. Why do you think the film failed?

It was ahead of its time. When I was making Lamhe, everyone around me thought it was a very interesting idea, but they weren’t confident about the ending. Even Adi (son Aditya Chopra) asked me if I was sure I wanted to go with that ending. I knew I would have it no other way. The film had to end with Anil Kapoor accepting Sridevi romantically, despite his initial reservations over the fact that she was the daughter of the woman he loved. It was a risky ending, but the only ending as far as I was concerned. If I couldn’t have this ending, there was no point in making the film.

With Dil To Pagal Hai, you famously came up with the suggestion that “somewhere, someone is made especially for you”. That theory has formed the basis of so many Hindi films. Yet how relevant is that idea in today’s times when so many marriages end in divorce?

You’re correct, but I grew up in a different generation. I respected my elder brother (BR Chopra) so much that I wouldn’t sit down till he asked me to. I wouldn’t call him my friend, he was my elder brother, guide and teacher.

The way I see love is also then different. I understand that marriages break up quickly today. A husband looks at his wife, and thinks: “I don’t love her anymore. Why are we both miserable? We should end it.”

But we also showed different kinds of love in our films. In Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai (which Yash Raj Films produced), Uday (Chopra) and Bipasha (Basu) played best friends who live together, but are not romantically involved. Even in Dil To Pagal Hai, there’s a scene in which Karisma (Kapoor) looks at Shah Rukh (Khan) and says: “You’re my best friend, and yet when you’re in love, why can’t I feel happy for you?”

I see movies today, and I realize that yes, love has changed.

You’re making a new film now after seven years. What are the challenges you anticipate?

I’m senior in age, and the sensibility of the audience has changed completely. People say that for a film to do well at the box-office today, it needs to be accepted by the youth. So the challenge I see before me is making my kind of movie but in today’s language.

It took some time for me to find a story that suited my temperament; now I need to convey it in a modern way. Adi is writing the film, and he’s definitely more in touch with this generation than I am. But I also believe that the language of emotions is universal so my story won’t be irrelevant to a younger audience.

(An edited version of this interview first appeared in Vogue India’s Oct 2011 issue)

October 19, 2012

Farah Khan on how to shoot a terrific closing credits sequence

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:25 pm

In this interview, Farah Khan — director of Main Hoon Na, Om Shanti Om, and Tees Maar Khan — talks about filming those terrific closing credits sequences of each of her films, and also reveals how she wants to end her next film, a musical titled Happy New Year, that she’ll shoot with Shah Rukh Khan next year.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Pass class

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

October 19, 2012

Cast: Sidharth Malhotra, Varun Dhawan, Alia Bhatt, Rishi Kapoor, Ronit Roy, Ram Kapoor

Director: Karan Johar

The hardest job on a Karan Johar film set must belong to the cleaners, who I imagine spend most of the day on their knees scrubbing floors, dusting furniture, and basically making sure everything is spotless. The director’s new film, Student of the Year, is set on an impossibly chic campus where good-looking teenagers are invariably breaking into song or breaking into fights. Yet you’ll never spot a carelessly strewn cola can or even a stray sheet of paper lying around in the corridors or in the canteen. Oh those poor cleaners!

At St Teresa High School in Dehradun (think that Riverdale-like setting of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, only swankier), trust fund brat Rohan (Varun Dhawan) is the coolest kid with all the hottest toys – a flaming red Ferrari, designer togs, and the prettiest girl in school, Shanaya (Alia Bhatt). That is, until Abhimanyu (Sidharth Malhotra) roars in on his bike. He’s the one with modest means – which is relative in a Karan Johar movie, because while Abhi’s family may not have enough makhan for their parathas, he can still afford the brands. After the typical teething troubles, the two boys become fast friends despite their drastically different ambitions.

What tests their friendship is the Student of the Year competition, an annual event devised by the school’s gay dean Yogendra Vashisht (Rishi Kapoor) to pick the one student who will land a full scholarship to an Ivy League college. Typically, however, it’s the girl…or rather their ishq wala love for Shanaya that drives a wedge between the friends.

Unapologetically aspirational, wearing its pedigree on its sleeve, Student of the Year plays out in a Gossip Girl-like universe, where feelings are surface-level and everyone’s a frenemy. The rich kids live it up extravagantly, while the rest (and even their families) aspire for membership into this exclusive club. In Johar’s world, clearly your biggest crime is being poor. This is the kind of world where the rich kid’s obnoxious dad flies half the campus to Thailand on his private jet to attend his son’s marriage.

But it’s also true that Student of the Year doesn’t ask to be taken seriously. This is Johar’s “holiday movie”; intended to show you a good time. So you have Glee-style introductions to the three leads in snazzily choreographed set pieces, a soundtrack of bubblegum hits, crisply edited sporting sequences, and outrageous humor like a track involving the dean’s crush on a strapping (and married) football coach.

Johar’s secondary players may come off as stereotypes on paper – the rich kid’s chamcha, the heroine’s nerdy best friend, the fat boy everyone makes fun of, and the opportunistic girl who makes a play for someone else’s boyfriend – but more than likely you’ll find traces of yourself or your friends in each of them. And therein lies the film’s secret weapon – look beyond the shiny classrooms and the sun-kissed Thai beaches, the brightly lit song sequences and the repeated shirtless shots of our heroes…and there’s heart to be found, particularly in the film’s second half when Rohan and Abhi truly lean on each other.

Karan Johar displays his trademark flair for light-hearted laughs and prettified emotions, capturing a world he knows inside out. This is the most extravagant launch any newcomer could have asked for. Good for them, Johar doesn’t know how to do things small.

The debutants, in turn, put their best foot forward: Sidharth Malhotra is earnest and has a pleasing presence, while Alia Bhatt is cute as the clueless Shanaya, if a little raw. It’s Varun Dhawan who stands out with a confident, charming turn, able to tackle both comical and vulnerable scenes with ease. Yet if there’s a performance that glues together this film, it’s Rishi Kapoor’s. He never flinches in an unusual role, playing the part for laughs yet also infusing soul into what could have so easily turned into a caricature.

Too long by about twenty minutes, the film could’ve done with some tightening – perhaps the clunky treasure hunt sequence could go? Nitpickings aside, this is a breezy, enjoyable film by a director who knows his craft.

I’m going with three out of five for Karan Johar’s Student of the Year. If fun is what you’re seeking, you won’t be disappointed.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Animal crackers

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

October 19, 2012

Cast: Voices of Govinda, Urmila Matondkar, Boman Irani, Akshaye Khanna, Swini Khara, Sunil Shetty, Prem Chopra, Deepak Dobriyal, Saurabh Shukla

Director: Nikhil Advani

There are more than a few lessons nicely woven into the plot of Delhi Safari, but thankfully this 3D animation film from director Nikhil Advani never talks down to its young audience, or beats them on the head with its overarching message of wildlife and environmental preservation. At a crisp 95 minutes, the film is an enjoyable and entertaining adventure, despite never achieving Pixar-level greatness.

A young leopard cub, Yuvi (voiced by Swini Khara), motivates a group of animals to head to the Capital to protest against the takedown of their wildlife reserve, after their leader, and his father, Sultan (Sunil Shetty), is killed by redevelopers constructing a residential complex in its place. Bajrangi the chimpanzee (Govinda), Bagga the bear (Boman Irani), and Yuvi’s protective mum Begum (Urmila Matondkar) enlist the help of a domesticated talking parrot, Alex (Akshaye Khanna), as they head Delhi-wards to get their plea heard. But it’s a bumpy journey ahead as Bajrangi and Alex repeatedly get into scuffles, and the group encounters all manner of obstacles along the way.

Featuring a gallery of well-etched characters, Delhi Safari benefits from snappy writing and some solid voice work, particularly by Govinda, Akshaye Khanna and Boman Irani, who infuse real personality into their respective beasts. Govinda’s manic senapati monkey is the scene-stealer here with his Bhojpuri-laced dialogues, his devious plotting against Alex, and his interactions with his two cowardly sidekicks. Akshaye Khanna too, appears to be having fun with the part of Alex, who can’t understand why these animals would seek freedom and independence instead of enjoying the luxurious lifestyle of a kept pet. Boman Irani delivers plenty laughs as the posh bear who speaks in an Anglicized accent, and lands some of the film’s best one-liners.

Like so many Hollywood animation films, Delhi Safari is packed with clever pop cultural references and particularly film jokes. But there’s no escape from cultural stereotyping, you discover, as our group of desperate animals encounters a community of Garba-obsessed flamingoes as they’re passing through Kutch. It’s all done affectionately, though, stopping just short of caricature.

The film’s best scene is an Indiana Jones-style set piece in which our protagonists are chased through a quarry by a swarm of angry bees who assume different shapes, like that shoal of fish in Finding Nemo. On the flip side, too many songs stretch the film’s narrative pointlessly, and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy’s score is serviceable at best. The animation itself is good, superior to many Indian animation features, but much bigger budgets may be required to achieve the texture and the detail one sees in films like Ratatouille and Madagascar.

You might overlook the one glaring hole in the film’s premise, a result of film logic clashing with ‘real logic’ – Why did the animals need to recruit a ‘talking’ parrot to convey their problem to the humans, when they speak the same language, and just as eloquently as the parrot?

Despite these quibbles, the film works on account of its charming characters and some hilarious dialogue. I’m going with three out of five for director Nikhil Advani’s Delhi Safari. Take your kids for this one, chances are both of you will come out smiling.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

True lies

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:38 pm

October 19, 2012

Cast: Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan

Director: Ben Affleck

Argo, directed by Ben Affleck, is simply a terrific movie. For his third outing behind the camera, after those excellent Boston-set thrillers Gone Baby Gone and The Town, Affleck chooses this amazing story of one of the most improbable rescue missions in modern history…the kind of story you’d never believe, except that it’s based on true events.

Set during the Iranian revolution, the film opens in 1979, when Islamist militants stormed the US Embassy in Tehran, taking 52 Americans hostage. Six Americans managed to escape, and took refuge inside the home of the Canadian ambassador. This is the story of how these six frightened and desperate escapees were smuggled out of Iran in a daring and outrageous plan hatched by CIA agent Tony Mendez (Affleck himself), who created a fictional film, and had these six pose as the Canadian crew of this movie.

There are three very distinct storylines at play here – the ticking-clock tension of the six refugees in Iran, the machinations of the CIA and US foreign politics in Washington, and the comic relief in Hollywood where a make-up wiz (John Goodman) and a seen-it-all-producer (Alan Arkin) treat this fake movie as a real project. It’s a testament to Affleck’s remarkable directorial skills that he meshes the three tracks seamlessly to create a coherent and gripping film with a tone that alternates nicely between funny and suspenseful.

The acting is top notch from everyone involved. Affleck himself gives a low-key, well-nuanced performance as the conscience of this film; Bryan Cranston is superb as his no-nonsense CIA boss. But it’s John Goodman and Alan Arkin who get all the clever one-liners and all the best laughs as a pair of jaded movie veterans. A word here also for the excellent casting of the actors playing the six American escapees – you’re never given a back-story for these characters but they play their parts competently, and you can’t help rooting for them. In one of the film’s most tense scenes, where they navigate nervously through a busy market in Tehran, their fear is palpable, and you find yourself on the edge of your seat as a result. In the film’s race-against-time climax, you’re literally chewing your nails, hoping for their safety.

Argo takes some liberties with the truth, exaggerating certain incidents, and inventing characters who didn’t exist in the real story (Alan Arkin’s film producer is reportedly a creation by screenwriter Chris Terrio). But Affleck gives the film a lived-in, authentic feel with minute period details and dialogue that never feels scripted.

I’m going with four out of five for Ben Affleck’s Argo. You’ll come out feeling like you’ve just enjoyed a wholesome, satisfying meal. Don’t miss it.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Joy ride

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:37 pm

October 19, 2012

Cast: Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Michael Shannon, Jamie Chung, Dania Ramirez

Director: David Koepp

Through a succession of smart movie choices – (500) Days of Summer, Inception, 50/50, and Looper, to name just a few – Joseph Gordon-Levitt has fast emerged one of those rare young actors whose very name on a film’s poster is all the encouragement one needs to venture into the movie, no matter how obscure, no matter what its genre. Premium Rush, directed by David Koepp, is a respectable addition to the actor’s enviable of CV of unconventional but enjoyable films.

Set in the world of New York’s bicycle messengers who risk their lives daily riding up and down the busy streets of Manhattan hand-delivering urgent packages, Premium Rush sees Gordon-Levitt star as Wilee, an adrenalin junkie with a “no brakes, no gears” policy. One afternoon he gets a seemingly routine call to pick up an envelope from Columbia University Law School that he must drop off at an address all the way down in Chinatown. However, when a shifty NYPD detective (Michael Shannon) tries everything from gentle persuasion to chasing him in a car so he can intercept the envelope, Wilee realizes he has to count on his daredevil cycling skills and his insider knowledge of the city to stay ahead of the cop and to complete his job.

Director David Koepp who collaborated on the scripts of such popular hits as Jurassic Park and Spider-Man, keeps the action in Premium Rush urgent and breathless, following our reckless hero through rush-hour traffic with a sinuously mobile camera. The stunts are thrilling, and look dangerously real, which adds to the fun of this film; not to mention that Koepp has sworn Gordon-Levitt did most of the breakneck riding himself.

What doesn’t necessarily work is the romance between Wilee and a female bike messenger, and the corny “my bike is my life” philosophy that Wilee spouts. It also doesn’t help that the film’s real-time momentum is broken by those repeated flashback scenes.

Still, these are minor complaints in an otherwise tight action film. Joseph Gordon-Levitt makes for an immensely likeable protagonist, and Michael Shannon’s manic cop is a worthy adversary. The plot may be thin, and the big reveal a tad sentimental, but you will enjoy the ride.

I’m going with three out of five for Premium Rush. It’s the kind of film best enjoyed with a big helping of popcorn.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

October 13, 2012

‘Taken 2’ star Liam Neeson on being an action star at 60

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:29 am

In this interview recorded in Seoul (Korea), Liam Neeson, the star of Taken 2, talks about being an action star at 60. The film, which grossed 50 million dollars in its opening weekend domestically, sees Neeson reprise his role as former CIA operative Bryan Mills.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

October 12, 2012

Smell this!

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

October 12, 2012

Cast: Rani Mukherjee, Prithviraj, Nirmiti Sawant, Anita Date

Director: Sachin Kundalkar

It’s love at first smell for college librarian Meenaxi Deshpande (Rani Mukherjee), who falls hook line and sinker for brooding artist Surya (South Indian star Prithviraj) the moment she first catches a whiff of him. Meenaxi, the protagonist of writer-director Sachin Kundalkar’s bizarrely fascinating Aiyyaa, is a middle-class Maharashtrian girl with a heightened sense of smell, and a tendency to slip into a dream-like fantasy world of Bollywood numbers to escape the claustrophobia of her eccentric family.

To be fair, no one’s entirely sane in Kundalkar’s world – not Meenaxi’s kooky parents, not her blind grandmother who zips around in a mechanical wheelchair, and especially not her colleague at the library, a buck-toothed Lady Gaga lookalike who dresses in S&M gear and pines for John Abraham. Meenaxi herself is prone to melodramatic outbursts and filmi nakhras, particularly when she’s being paraded about in front of prospective grooms.

Aiyyaa, with its bright visual palette, its strong female perspective, and its intentionally peculiar humor, is evocative of Almodovar’s quirky cinema, but the plot here is wafer thin, and while some elements work, it never all comes together as a satisfying whole. It certainly doesn’t help that the film unfolds over two hours and thirty minutes…an excruciatingly long running time for what’s essentially a slim story of a one-sided crush.

Yet, in a rare twist for a Bollywood film, it’s the heroine who does all the lusting here, cooking up saucy imaginary scenarios that invariably involve the hero flaunting his well-toned physique. Sportingly offering himself up to be objectified, Prithviraj bumps and grinds and heaves to the beats of at least two deliciously over-the-top song sequences.

Meenaxi, of course, is the film’s juiciest character…a woman conflicted between pursuing the man of her dreams, who barely notices her, and settling for a simple guy with simple tastes who has picked her to be his bride. Rani Mukherjee owns the part with a tremendous, uninhibited performance, switching superbly between the film’s exaggerated and understated moments.

In the end — the impressive camerawork and Amit Trivedi’s winning tunes aside — Aiyyaa is at best an original and promising experiment let down by its many indulgences. I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for director Sachin Kundalkar’s Aiyyaa; an unusual film that could’ve been so much more.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Ghost mortem

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

October 12, 2012

Cast: Manisha Koirala, JD Chakravarthy, Alayana Sharma, Madhu Shalini

Director: Ramgopal Varma

In an interview he gave me two weeks ago, Ramgopal Varma said he thinks horror films “should never have a story”. According to him, an ominous setting alone can do the trick. That’s pretty much all he’s willing to offer in Bhoot Returns, his new film about a family that moves into a house only to discover that it might already be occupied by a supernatural presence.

The ghost in Bhoot Returns is Shabbo, and she is visible only to the six-year-old girl in the house (Alayana Sharma). While the little kid’s mother (Manisha Koirala) loses her patience quickly over repeated mentions of this ‘imaginary friend’, it takes a little longer for the father (Satya’s JD Chakravarthy) to be convinced that not all is well. It’s when things begin to go bump in the night that the family is truly spooked.

The flimsy plotting notwithstanding, Varma succeeds in keeping you on the edge during the first half of the film by relying on old tricks like an eardrum-splitting background score and some crazy camera angles. From above a ceiling fan and under a glass table, to behind a television set and inside a basin, Varma indulges his obsession with unlikely camera placements, and exploits 3D effectively to create a sense of foreboding.

Alas, the film nosedives almost immediately after interval, when Varma throws the oldest stereotype into the mix – a typical buffoon cop who’s insensitive and dismissive of the distressed family’s condition. There’s also some of the hammiest acting in the film’s underwhelming climax, and an abrupt ending barely 90 minutes into the film.

Bhoot Returns is no Paranormal Activity, although it does borrow at least three key moments from that popular horror franchise. It’s not entirely a waste of time either, because Varma does deliver a few good scares. I’m going with two out of five for Bhoot Returns. It’s the kind of film that the phrase ‘time-pass entertainment’ was invented to describe.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

A slice of history

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:38 pm

October 12, 2012

Cast: Manoj Bajpai, Delzad Hiwale, Nawazuddin Siddique, Jaideep Ahlawat, Rajkumar Yadav, Barry John

Director: Bedabrata Pain

Chittagong, directed by Bedabrata Pain, is a story culled straight out of history books, yet the film is so loaded with heart that it easily resonates with you. The theme is familiar – it does, after all, tread the same ground as Ashutosh Gowariker’s Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se (2010), capturing the events surrounding one of the earliest chapters in India’s freedom struggle – the Chittagong uprising of the 1930s, led by school teacher Surya Sen against the mighty British. But the film’s greatest strength is that while it salutes the fervor with which the revolutionaries took on the administration, it never lets us forget that this army was mostly made up of mere school children. Their intent is brave, but their fear is palpable – handling weapons they never have before, the dread over the act of killing, and even the idea that they will have to lay down their young lives for the sake of their motherland. It is in capturing these details with an understated hand that makes Chittagong seem so real.

The film is told from the perspective of Jhunku Roy (Delzad Hiwale), the teenaged, privileged son of a barrister, who is set to follow the family tradition of studying in England. Those plans are waylaid by his association with Surya Sen (Manoj Bajpai), who is recruiting committed patriots for a revolt involving a daring takeover of the British armory.

What is impressive about Chittagong is the solid cast Pain puts together, drawing out convincing performances from dependable actors like Manoj Bajpai, Jaideep Ahlawat, Rajkumar Yadav, and particularly Nawazuddin Siddique as Suriya’s deputy Nirmal Sen. Amidst the otherwise caricaturish portrayals of British officers, only Barry John stands out as the local governor who caught between his duty to the Crown and his empathy for Jhunku.

Shot ever so beautifully, Chittagong is a textured film, but too many songs and an overlong narrative causes your attention to dither towards the end. Pain, an ex-NASA scientist, makes a confident debut with this moving drama. I’m going with three out of five for Chittagong. It’s a significant film that’s worthy of your time.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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