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

February 2, 2013

Farooque Sheikh & Deepti Naval on the ‘Miss Chamko’ scene from ‘Chashme Buddoor’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:00 am

In this interview, actors Farooque Sheikh and Deepti Naval who’ve reunited after nearly 28 years to star in Listen…Amaya, reminisce about their evergreen hits.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

February 1, 2013

Man on fire

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:43 pm

January 01, 2013

Cast: Kamal Haasan, Rahul Bose, Jaideep Ahlawat, Pooja Kumar, Shekhar Kapur, Nassar, Andrea Jeremiah

Director: Kamal Haasan

I’m happy to report that Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroop (the Hindi version of his Tamil film Vishwaroopam that became embroiled in controversy) contains nothing that might offend any community. Set around and after the events of 9/11, the film contains a message of anti-terrorism, but never anti-Muslim.

During a tense moment in the film, a key character casually points out that “Everyone here has a double role to play.” It’s this very element of mystery that lends some excitement to Haasan’s story, especially as the action kicks in. But alas, Vishwaroop quickly loses its way, and more than once during its two-and-a-half hour running time you find yourself asking that familiar question: “What’s going on here?”

As the film’s opening scenes establish, Dr Nirupama (Pooja Kumar) is an oncologist based in New York, who is having her Kathak teacher husband Vishwanathan or Wiz (Kamal Haasan) followed by a private detective because he seems altogether too strange for her. Nirupama is upfront about her marriage – she isn’t attracted to the effeminate and much older Wiz and only got hitched to him because she wanted a green card. Yet there’s more to Wiz than meets the eye, and his past catches up with the two, even as they face dangers far greater than a threat to their marriage.

The twists in Vishwaroop work, and writer-director Haasan shifts between the past and the present in surprising, sometimes spoofy, cuts. The film’s middle portion is set in terror camps in Afghanistan, where Haasan makes a statement for senseless killings in the name of jihad. Like the director’s earlier film Hey Ram, there are a couple of beautifully captured, moving moments…like one in which a teenaged jihadi soldier sways back and forth on a swing, trying to recapture some of his stolen childhood. At the same time, the film is also relentless in its depiction of violence – you’ll often see maimed hands, blown torsos, and men savagely kicking others to death.

There is a technical finesse to the action scenes and to the way in which the attacks in Afghanistan are filmed, but the same can’t be said of the confused screenplay that lingers on a bunch of needless characters who converse exclusively in Arabic. These bits, along with the plot’s return to New York in the final act turn a tired story into an even more trite one.

Of the cast, Rahul Bose hams it up as terrorist mastermind Omar, alternating between menacing and caricature with a raspy voice and the event he makes out of the act of inserting a glass eye into its socket. Omar’s right-hand man is played by the gifted actor Jaideep Ahlawat (last seen in Gangs of Wasseypur), but Shekhar Kapur is stiff in a smaller part. Pooja Kumar is suitably ditzy as Vishwanathan’s wife, giving the film its comical interludes. Expectedly, it’s Kamal Haasan himself who steals the show with his uninhibited performance. He gives the film a heart and its conscience by questioning terrorism. Vishwaroop is his most accessible film in years, even though the script is sadly all over the place.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Kamal Haasan’s Vishwaroop. A lot of it is unabashedly entertaining, although you’ll wish the film was shorter and smarter.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Name game

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:41 pm

January 01, 2013

Cast: Neil Nitin Mukesh, Vinay Virmani, Vikram, Monica Dogra, Isha Sharvani, Tabu, Lara Dutta, Milind Soman, Akarsh Khurana, Nassar, Saurabh Shukla

Director: Bejoy Nambiar

Three stories set in three different time periods, each with a protagonist bearing the same name, is the central idea of director Bejoy Nambiar’s David. The link between the three stories, revealed in the final ten minutes of the film, is a tenuous one, but Nambiar nevertheless throws up interesting ideas, and you can’t accuse the film of being predictable.

The first track, set in 1975 London, is shot in pristine black and white, and stars Neil Nitin Mukesh as David, right-hand man and adopted son of a famed Muslim gangster. Our hero’s loyalty to his boss is tested when he discovers the very foundation of their relationship is based on a lie.

David Number 2 is Vinay Virmani (last seen in Speedy Singhs), who plays a struggling musician in Mumbai in the film’s second track set in the year 1999. The son of a Christian priest, our happy-go-lucky hero finds his life turned upside down when the followers of a Hindu fundamentalist politician assault his innocent father, accusing him of encouraging religious conversions.

And finally in the third track, set in 2010 Goa, Tamil movie-star Vikram plays a loutish alcoholic named David, who falls for his best friend’s deaf-mute fiancée.

Oozing style and technical finesse reminiscent of his earlier film Shaitan, Nambiar’s latest has some genuinely tense moments, but suffers gravely on account of flabby writing. Each track feels unnecessarily stretched, and there are bizarre moments in each story that’ll have you scratching your head in bafflement.

Of the cast, Vikram leaves a big impression as the permanently inebriated fella with a weakness for punching women. He benefits considerably from sharing scenes with Tabu, who ups the game with a memorable cameo as a massage parlor owner and his best friend, committed to giving him romantic advice. Neil Nitin Mukesh, when he isn’t scowling, is nicely understated, and Dhobi Ghaat’s Monica Dogra does well as his convention-defying girlfriend.

David makes a subtle but well-taken point about the growing communal and religious tension of its times, and leaves you pondering your stand on morality and redemption. And yet, the film is never consistently engaging because of its formidable length and script holes.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for director Bejoy Nambiar’s David. There’s much to appreciate here, but you can’t help feeling it could have been so much more.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Pressed between pages

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:40 pm

February 01, 2013

Cast: Satya Bhabha, Siddharth, Shriya Saran, Shahana Goswami, Ronit Roy, Seema Biswas, Rajat Kapoor, Darsheel Safary, Soha Ali Khan

Director: Deepa Mehta

The problem with authors adapting their own books into screenplays is that they’re often so attached to the material, it’s hard for them to yank out what doesn’t necessarily work for the film and stick to the best bits. Midnight’s Children, Salman Rushdie’s look at the history of India and Pakistan as illustrated through the journey of Saleem Sinai, is an unquestionably engrossing tale, but it’s impossible to squeeze it all into a two-and-a-half-hour film without it feeling like a slog.

Directed by Deepa Mehta, the film begins in Kashmir in 1917 with the charming courtship of our protagonist’s grandparents, then quickly moves to the moment of Saleem Sinai’s birth at the stroke of midnight on August 15 1947, when India receives its independence.

Just minutes after coming into the world, the boy is swapped in the hospital with another baby, and lands up in the hands of a wealthy couple (Shahana Goswami and Ronit Roy), while their child is taken home by a poor street-singer. As Saleem grows up, we travel with him from Bombay to Pakistan, to Bangladesh, and to New Delhi around the time of Indira Gandhi’s Emergency.

Saleem, incidentally, has a unique gift – by sniffling his constantly running nose, he can summon the spirits of hundreds of children who, like him, were born at the exact hour of India’s independence. Among these is Shiva (Siddharth), the Sinais’ biological son, who becomes his sworn enemy, and the spell-weaving witch Parvati (Shriya Saran) who Saleem becomes romantically involved with.

Ambitious, but perhaps too much for its own good, the film struggles to incorporate the many subplots of Rushdie’s Booker Prize-winning novel. As a result the film feels overlong and exhausting, many of the characters come off underdeveloped, and the magic-realism element of the story fails to blend seamlessly with its political and cultural sweep.

That’s a shame because the film is beautifully shot, contains charming moments of humor, and Rushdie even manages to slip some of his rich prose into the film’s voiceovers that he’s delivered himself. In explaining how Saleem’s life is metaphorically linked to the fate of the nation, Rushdie says our protagonist was “handcuffed to history”.

It also helps that director Deepa Mehta draws some solid acting from her talented cast. Shahana Goswami skillfully conveys the emotional turmoil of a helpless mother, and Darsheel Safary is particularly touching in the part of young Saleem. But the most moving performance comes from Seema Biswas as the guilt-ridden Nurse Mary, who in a moment of misguided revolutionary fervor changes the destiny of our hero.

As the grown up Saleem, the relatively lesser known Satya Bhabha offers a sensitive turn, but it’s a pity that a fine actor like Siddharth is shortchanged in the half-baked part of Shiva.

Midnight’s Children has an episodic TV serial feel to it, and hits speed-bumps when you get to the clunky magic realism portions. Yet the film is never unwatchable, although your interest does begin to wane after you’ve hit the 100-minute mark.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Deepa Mehta’s Midnight’s Children. Despite the hiccups, it’s a film I recommend that you watch if you have an appetite for the unusual.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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