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

June 28, 2013

“Bhaag Milkha Bhaag should inspire an awakening in each of us”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:04 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Farhan Akhtar and director Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra talk about their journey, and the challenges involved in putting celebrated Indian athlete Milkha Singh’s sprawling life on screen in their film Bhaag Milkha Bhaag.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Behind every successful man…

Filed under: Have you seen this? — Rajeev @ 10:55 pm

Anyone who enjoys a bit of Hollywood gossip from the good old days is likely to appreciate Hitchcock, which recounts the legendary filmmaker’s uphill battle to make his biggest hit, Psycho. Like 2011’s My Week With Marilyn, this is no sweeping biopic, or even a documentary on an iconic figure, it’s only a chapter from his great life, but an interesting one.

Set in the Hollywood of the sixties when Alfred Hitchcock was planning his next project after the success of North by Northwest, the film traces his obsession with a book that had got people talking because of its graphic violence and elements of voyeurism and incest. When the studio flatly refused to invest in his planned adaptation of the book, asking him to stick to the suspense genre, the director risked his entire career by funding the film himself.

Directed by Sacha Gervasi, Hitchcock not only takes us behind the scenes of the making of Pyscho, but more interestingly gives us a glimpse into the director’s relationship with his wife of over 50 years, Alma Reville who, as it turns out, may have been his most valued creative collaborator. The film suggests that Alma not only helped her husband with scripting, casting and editing – receiving no credit for any of her contributions – but that she also recommended adding that iconic background score of the piercing violins to the famous shower scene.

Given that this a film about how Psycho was made, it’s surprisingly light and entertaining, and even funny in parts. Anthony Hopkins, who stars as Hitchcock, never mimics the great filmmaker; he gets the essence of the man just right. But according to me, the film belongs to Helen Mirren, who plays Alma with a solid understanding of a woman who knows her worth in her husband’s life yet willingly plays second fiddle out of sheer love for the man.

The film benefits also from fine actors taking supporting roles here. Scarlett Johannson is lovely as blond bombshell Janet Leigh who Hitchcock casts as the lead in Psycho, and has a growing interest in. Jessica Biel plays actress Vera Miles whom the director has a bone to pick with, and Toni Colette is perfect as his loyal secretary.

The subplot about Hitchcock’s jealousy over Alma’s friendship with a smarmy scriptwriter helps give us a better understanding of the couple’s relationship dynamics, but repeated scenes of the director’s imaginary conversations with a famed serial killer only add needless flab to an otherwise crisp film.

Don’t miss Hitchcock. It’s recommended viewing for all film-buffs; not only an enjoyable visit to the set of a horror classic, but also the portrait of a great marriage. A deliciously good watch.

Memory lapse

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:45 pm

June 28, 2013

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balan, Rajesh Sharma, Namit Das

Director: Raj Kumar Gupta

The mystery in Ghanchakkar involves the whereabouts of a suitcase containing stolen cash. Yet, a harder puzzle to crack is figuring out just how so many talented people could make such a disappointing film.

No One Killed Jessica director Raj Kumar Gupta recruits a competent cast, but flounders with a half-cooked script that doesn’t know where to go after setting up its delicious premise. Sanju (Emran Hashmi) is a retired cat burglar-turned-full time couch potato who’s goaded by his pushy wife Neetu (Vidya Balan) into participating in one last job. What follows is a terrific bank robbery scene involving a security guard and a matka kulfi, the inventive use of movie-star masks, and the unscheduled arrival of a cop who almost foils the plan.

Nevertheless, Sanju and his two accomplices – Pandit (Rajesh Sharma) and Idrees (Namit Das) – make off with Rs 35 crores in loot. The entire cash is left with Sanju for the next three months, until the heat from the crime dies down. But when the two goons return to claim their share, they discover Sanju has lost his memory in an accident, and can’t remember either them or where he’s hidden the bounty.

Ghanchakkar has all the ingredients for a dark comedy, yet shaken and stirred they blend like oil and water. The storytelling itself is inconsistent. The plot hits the ground running, never spoon-feeding you with background information you don’t need. Then, when the two goons move into the couple’s flat while Sanju struggles with his amnesia, you have a set-up ripe for laughs. But Gupta squanders this potential with one too many dinner table scenes banging on about the same joke involving Neetu’s cooking.

Frustration sets in during the film’s flabby middle portion where nothing much really happens. The angry goons want their money…Sanju can’t remember a thing…He chases clues that lead nowhere…They bash the living daylights out of him. This routine is repeated over and over again till the line: “Paise kahan hain?” becomes embedded in your brain like a pesky metal chip! And well before it’s ultimately revealed in the film’s climax, you’ve guessed the suspense already.

It’s all such a shame because some things work nicely. The local train becomes an unlikely ‘conference room’ where the goons hatch their plans, and a running joke about a vegetable-bearing commuter is genuinely funny. The cast too, hits all the right notes. Vidya Balan offers a particularly uninhibited performance as the garrulous, fashion-disaster of a housewife; the kind of part few leading ladies would venture near, or competently pull off. Emraan Hashmi is suitably befuddled, but struggles to shine under the limited scope of his role. The two leads slip easily into the shoes of a couple stuck in a humdrum marriage.

As the desperate goons slowly losing their patience, Rajesh Sharma and Namit Das are first-rate. An unlikely team, Sharma’s manner is almost polite as the older Pandit, while Namit Das turns Idrees into a hot-headed, trigger-happy lout. In one scene that goes from icky to whacky, we watch as Idrees, midway through a raunchy phone call, ups and chases after Sanju in his underwear.

These inspired moments then are few and far between in this lazily scripted film that leaves you bored and searching for the nearest exit. I’m going with two out of five for Ghanchakkar. The money is found in the end, but that’s 2 hours and 17 minutes of your life that you’ll never see again!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Guns ‘n’ poses

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

June 28, 2013

Cast: Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Demian Bichir, Marlon Wayans,

Director: Paul Feig

The buddy cop genre has been the sole prerogative of male actors so far, but that formula gets a well-deserved kick in the pants with The Heat. The film stars Sandra Bullock as Ashburn, a by-the-book FBI agent who is reluctantly partnered with Melissa McCarthy’s foul-mouthed Boston cop Mullins while on the hunt for an elusive drug lord.

Anyone who’s a fan of the genre will recognize set ups and plot points raided from the canon of great buddy cop movies like 48 Hrs, Lethal Weapon, Bad Boys and Beverly Hills Cop; director Paul Feig dutifully ticks off all the clichés of the genre. And while the drug-bust plot of The Heat is rather lame, it takes a backseat to the inspired lunacy of its protagonists and their firecracker chemistry.

McCarthy, who landed an Oscar nomination for her breakout performance in Feig’s 2011 sleeper Bridesmaids, hits her stride as the ball-busting street cop with a blatant disregard for protocol and her seniors. In one of the film’s most hilarious scenes, when she’s told she must report to Bullock, she starts sifting through her boss’ office looking for his testicles. Bullock, playing an officer so focused on her job that she’s virtually friendless, sportingly lets McCarthy steal the best moments, and yet delivers plenty laughs herself as the perfect foil.

Like Bridesmaids, which proved that women can do dirty humor just as well as men, what’s interesting about The Heat is that it never shies away from either action or profanity because of the gender of its protagonists. There are a fair number of explosions and bloody shootouts here, and don’t even get me started on McCarthy’s potty mouth.

This isn’t a film that’ll stay with you long after you’ve left the cinema, but it’s two hours well spent. I’m going with three out of five for The Heat. Watch it for the terrific Melissa McCarthy who shines every moment she’s on screen.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 21, 2013

Vidya Balan & Emraan Hashmi on losing their inhibitions for comedy

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:50 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi talk about their new comedy Ghanchakkar, about the chemistry they brought from their time together on The Dirty Picture, and the similarities between them as actors and people.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bleeding heart

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 11:45 pm

June 21, 2013

Cast: Dhanush, Sonam Kapoor, Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub, Swara Bhaskar, Abhay Deol

Director: Anand L Rai

A good way to measure the success of a love story is to ask yourself how much you want its protagonists to end up together. Raanjhanaa is about a young Hindu boy in Benares and his unwavering love for a Muslim girl who doesn’t see him as anything more than a friend. From the moment we’re first introduced to them as children – him dressed as Shiva, her performing namaaz – it becomes clear there can be no love story here. Yet, Kundan (Dhanush) has been crazy about Zoya (Sonam Kapoor) ever since they were little. Convinced she’ll change her mind, he pursues her relentlessly…throughout their school years, and well after she returns from Delhi on completing college, unaware that she’s already in love with a boy she met on campus (Abhay Deol in a cameo).

Tanu Weds Manu director Anand Rai exploits the vibrancy of the holy city, and yet gives us a lived-in feel of Benares, rather than taking the typical travel-brochure approach. He banks as much on the unmistakable charm of his leading man to deliver a terrific first hour that breezes by with plenty comic moments and some genuinely heartfelt scenes.

Kundan’s obsessive pursuit of Zoya is nothing short of stalking. Equally disconcerting is the idea that the filmmakers would endorse slashing one’s wrists as a way to profess love. Yet, truth is, these scenes don’t necessarily ring untrue in the film’s spot-on depiction of small-town India and its Bollywood-bred youth.

The script unfortunately goes off the rails in the film’s second half, when the story shifts to the JNU campus in Delhi, where our protagonists put romance on the backburner and busy themselves with active politics. Some interesting ideas, inspired by real-life current affairs, are explored here – the formation of a citizen’s party, the clash between corruption and idealism, and the oppression of the rural class – but despite the filmmakers’ best intentions, this track doesn’t fit seamlessly into the larger narrative.

If there’s one reason Raanjhanaa doesn’t entirely disappoint in spite of its problems, it’s Dhanush, who offers an uninhibited performance that’s hard to take your eyes off. A National Award winning actor in Tamil cinema, Dhanush slips into the skin of Kundan and owns the part. He’s complemented ably by Sonam Kapoor, who does some of her best work here, going smoothly from innocent to manipulative to cynical, without ever losing Zoya’s inherent vulnerability. The film also benefits from two solid supporting players: Swara Bhaskar, superb as Kundan’s childhood friend Bindiya, who pines for him unashamedly. And No One Killed Jessica’s Mohammad Zeeshan Ayub as Kundan’s best friend Murari, whose rat-a-tat lines provide some of the best laughs.

For its immensely entertaining first half, a winning score by AR Rahman, but most of all for Dhanush, this is a film that’s worth your time. I’m going with three out of five for Raanjhanaa. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Zombie apocalypse

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 11:40 pm

June 21, 2013

Cast: Brad Pitt, Mireille Enos, David Morse, Peter Capaldi

Director: Marc Forster

The probability of a worldwide zombie outbreak may be slim, but the scenario appears eerily real in Brad Pitt’s World War Z. Pitt stars as former UN employee Gerry Lane, who manages to get his family out of Philadelphia and then New York, using his connections to find them a place on a secure American battleship in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, even as hordes of zombies take over the world.

Starting out as a tense thriller about an ordinary family’s struggle for survival amidst a global pandemic, the film quickly becomes an action blockbuster that might as well have been titled Brad Pitt vs the Zombies, given just how many times he narrowly escapes them while zipping across from South Korea to Israel to Wales when his old boss sends him out to investigate the root of the problem.

Based on a bestselling novel by Max Brooks, and helmed by Quantum of Solace director Marc Forster, World War Z has moments of great tension like one during a rooftop escape scene when Gerry accidently gets a zombie’s blood in his mouth. Counting down the few seconds that it takes for the virus to kick in, he rushes to the edge of the roof, prepared to leap off the building at the first sign of infection.

The zombies themselves look terrifying when they’re filmed as a (CGI) swarm. A sequence in Jerusalem where they pile up like ants and scale a high wall is particularly creepy, but not nearly as disturbing as knowing that passengers on an airborne plane may have a flesh-eater for company. The action moves fast and furious for the most part, save for a nice finale that unfolds on a dramatically smaller scale inside a medical research facility.

What World War Z is lacking is real feeling and a sense of loss. Thousands of humans are infected, just as many violently killed, and yet there’s no real grief or sorrow we either witness or feel ourselves, because there’s little pause or quiet time between the noisy set-pieces.

Producer and star Brad Pitt offers a credible performance; he’s at his best in his most vulnerable bits, like his scenes with his two daughters. The film, however, pushes its credibility, asking you not to blink even during such implausible scenes like one in which he and an Israeli soldier emerge the sole survivors of a harrowing plane crash.

But these are small nitpickings in an otherwise engaging action thriller that’s well mounted, and delivers enough bang for your buck. I’d say watch the film in 2D if you want to enjoy the little details.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for World War Z.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 15, 2013

Director Zack Snyder on collaborating with Christopher Nolan for ‘Man of Steel’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:42 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, recorded in Los Angeles, Man of Steel director Zack Snyder reveals what it’s like introducing the most enduring superhero of all time to a new generation. The filmmaker also talks about his collaboration with The Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan (who served as producer on Man of Steel), and explains how the collaboration helped this film.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

June 14, 2013

Henry Cavill on who’d win if Batman and Superman got into a scrap

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:50 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, recorded in Los Angeles, Henry Cavill – the star of the new Superman film, Man of Steel — talks about putting on the suit for the first time, filming the flying portions, and also reveals how he identified with Clark Kent. The 30-year-old Brit also talks about losing the red briefs for this new avatar of the enduring superhero.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Russell Crowe on comparisons to Marlon Brando as Jor-El in ‘Man of Steel’

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:48 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, recorded in Los Angeles, Russell Crowe talks about playing Superman’s father Jor-El in Man of Steel. The actor reveals how his kids reacted when they learnt they’d be sharing their father with Superman, and also talks about comparisons with Marlon Brando who played the same part in Richard Donner’s 1978 film, Superman: The Movie.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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