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

August 10, 2013

‘Kai Po Che’ director Abhishek Kapoor on the film that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:43 am

In this interview, Rock On! and Kai Po Che director Abhishek Kapoor talks about the film that changed his life. He picks an evergreen Hollywood film that he says has inspired and influenced him greatly.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 9, 2013

Off the rails

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

August 09, 2013

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Nikitin Dheer, Sathyaraj, Mukesh Tiwari

Director: Rohit Shetty

Some films are hard to make sense of. Others are just nonsense. Chennai Express, directed by Rohit Shetty, ticks both boxes. More than a quarter of the film is in Tamil, and hence incomprehensible if you’re unfamiliar with the language. The rest is a stew of puerile humor, lazy stereotypes, and way-over-the-top acting from a star who appears to be trying too hard.

Shah Rukh Khan, who’s provided enough evidence to convince us that he can do comedy effortlessly (remember Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa, DDLJ, and Main Hoon Na?), spends a chunk of this film referencing his earlier hits, and bouncing off the walls like the Energizer bunny. Could he possibly be overworking himself to compensate for the film’s tired writing? Because it’s clear from Chennai Express that Shetty has launched an elaborate expedition with a plot so thin, it could give a paper dosa a run for its money.

That plot involves SRK’s character, Rahul (yes, again!) boarding the Chennai Express, intending to sneak off to Goa to vacation with his buddies, although he’s tasked with immersing his grandpa’s ashes in Rameswaram. But when he encounters Meena (Deepika Padukone), who’s on the run from her father (Sathyaraj), a don in a Tamil Nadu village, Rahul is tricked into going back with her and pretending to be her fiance. This comes with its own set of complications – Meena is betrothed to the hulking, glowering Thangabali (Niketan Dheer), which is why she made a mad dash from her village in the first place. As Rahul and Meena scramble all over South India to escape daddy’s goons, we struggle to catch up.

Chennai Express attempts to marry the puppy-dog sentimentality of a typical Shah Rukh Khan romance with the broad humor and the crash-bang-boom thrills of a Rohit Shetty action comedy. But the film does little justice to either genre. A big reason for that is the lethargic pacing. Shetty has pulled off cornier stories in the past, delivering gags and stunts at breakneck speed. This film, however, is a tough slog because the jokes aren’t funny, and the set pieces entirely rehashed. In place of a real performance, Shan Rukh resorts to the sort of facial gymnastics that could shame an Olympian. To endure this indulgence, you have to be a die-hard fan.

Deepika Padukone, meanwhile, stays firmly in character throughout. Her heavily accented Meena delivers some genuine laughs, particularly during one terrific scene in which she sleep-talks as if she were possessed. Six years after debuting opposite Shah Rukh in Om Shanti Om, she displays comic chops to rival his.

The pair doesn’t get much scope to ignite romantic chemistry, save for one scene after interval, when Shah Rukh carries Deepika in his arms, and proceeds to climb up 300 steps to a temple on the top of a hill. His face bathed in sweat, his eyes alive with intensity, Shah Rukh takes each step with unflappable commitment, and Deepika can’t take her eyes off him.

Alas, moments like these are in short supply here. What you get are insipid songs, a long sermon on women empowerment, more cars being flipped like pancakes and so many references to Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge that you wish you were sitting in Maratha Mandir watching that film instead.

I’m going with a generous two out of five for Chennai Express. How to put this politely? It’s a big, fat bore. A bloated vanity project for an actor capable of so much more.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 3, 2013

“There’s a lot at stake for everyone involved,” Rohit Shetty on Chennai Express

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:30 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Golmaal director Rohit Shetty reveals the trepidation he’s feeling as the release of his new film Chennai Express draws closer. Shetty also explains why it isn’t inconvenient being friends with both Shah Rukh Khan and Ajay Devgan, and insists he won’t make a film like Golmaal Returns again.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Neil Patrick Harris on The Smurfs 2

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 1:25 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand recorded in Cancun (Mexico), Neil Patrick Harris – the star of the popular American sitcom How I Met Your Mother – reveals that a new fan base opened up for him since he made the Smurfs movies. The actor also talks about why the message in The Smurfs 2 has a particular resonance within his own home.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

August 2, 2013

Sex, lies and betrayal

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

August 02, 2013

Cast: Shilpa Shukla, Shadab Kamal, Dibyendu Chatterjee, Rajesh Sharma, Geeta Sharma, Deepti Naval

Director: Ajay Bahl

In a voiceover during the film’s opening scene, as he stares emptily at his parents’ corpses before him, Mukesh, the protagonist of BA Pass describes their untimely deaths as a betrayal. It’s the first of many to come for this unsuspecting young boy, played by Shadab Kamal, who’s at the cusp of discovering that it’s every man for himself in the world outside.

Adapted from a short story by Mohan Sikka titled Railway Aunty, which appeared in the 2009 anthology Delhi Noir, the film traverses the neon-lit streets of Paharganj, even poking and probing its way into the city’s posh parts to ultimately lift the veil on the seemingly simple veneer of middle class life in Delhi.

Taken in reluctantly by his aunt after being orphaned, Mukesh seems destined to live a life of humiliation and quiet desperation, until one day he encounters bored housewife Sarika (Chak De India’s Shilpa Shukla), who seduces him Mrs Robinson-style. What starts off as an illicit affair quickly spirals into a dangerous web of prostitution and deceit, and we’re mostly transfixed by this tale of innocence lost and conscience compromised.

A little over ninety minutes, BA Pass is crisp and compelling because director Ajay Bahl, also the cinematographer of the film, reveals a firm grasp over the unflinching narrative. With minimal flourish or show-off, Bahl creates a moody noir that is at once irresistible. Yet, where the film slips is in the superficial, surface-level manner in which it addresses macro themes like empty marriages, sexual power games, and the frustration caused by extreme poverty.

It doesn’t help either that Shadab Kamal delivers a one-note performance as Mukesh, turning him into a singularly uninteresting fellow, and seldom allowing us a glimpse into his heart. Shilpa Shukla, as the ravenous cougar, is inscrutable throughout…but that approach works for her character, whose motives must remain sketchy till the end. The pair is surrounded by good actors in bit roles, including Geeta Sharma as Mukesh’s unwelcoming aunt, Dibyendu Chatterjee as a chess-loving undertaker, and Rajesh Sharma as an angry husband who must take charge.

BA Pass exposes a cold, dark, and bleak universe that is in equal measure grotesque and intriguing. Bahl creates the right mood, but doesn’t leave you with much to think about when it’s all over. Still I’m going with three out of five. Not perfect, but nicely done.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Forget Paris

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:44 pm

August 02, 2013

Cast: Neil Patrick Harris, Hank Azaria, Brendan Gleeson, Jayma Mays, and featuring the voices of Katy Perry, Christina Ricci, Jonathan Winters, Anton Yelchin

Director: Raja Gosnell

Like the earlier film in 2011, The Smurfs 2 is a harmless but far-from-delightful kiddies picture that appears to have a cash register where its heart ought to be. It’s formulaic and cutesy but never treads new ground, sticking closely to the template of the previous film that grossed $564 million dollars. The plot, once again, involves the little blue fellas venturing out into the “real world” to save their species from their lifelong nemesis, the evil wizard Gargamel.

Hank Azaria, easily the best thing in the movie, returns to play the deliciously over-the-top cackling Gargamel, who dispatches his minions, Vexy and Hackus, to Smurf Village to kidnap Smurfette (voiced by Katy Perry) so he can extract her essence and rule the world. The adventure unfolds in Paris, where Gargamel is presenting his magic show at the Opera House, so Papa Smurf, accompanied by three other Smurfs, enlists the help of their human pal Patrick (Neil Patrick Harris), and together they head out to the French capital to rescue Smurfette.

Amidst all the slapstick gags and exhausting puns, the film also finds the time to deliver sermons on family, identity and parenting. Smurfette must decide if her adopted father Papa Smurf means more to her than Gargamel, who originally created her, while Patrick works through similar issues with his own step-dad Victor (Brendan Gleeson). It’s all resolved quite easily, but not before director Raja Gosnell can throw in at least a few set pieces for young ones to chuckle at. These include a disruption at a candy store, the take-over of a giant ferris wheel, and one nicely done airborne sequence through Paris, the only portion that justifies the gratuitous 3D.

Neil Patrick Harris, virtually sleepwalking through the film, is a disappointment, and there’s not much the newcomers bring to the table either, including self-obsessed Smurf, Vanity.

I’m going with two-a-half out of five for The Smurfs 2. Best suited for the little ones; parents must just endure it for their sake.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Fear factor

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:43 pm

August 02, 2013

Cast: Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, Ron Livingston, Lili Taylor, Mackenzie Foy, Joey King

Director: James Wan

The problem with most modern horror films is that they’ve stopped trying to scare you; they want to gross you out instead with elaborate and explicit torture and killings. The Saw franchise, and even the repugnant Human Centipede movies seem to pride themselves on just how many times you have to turn away in sheer disgust at what’s unfolding on screen. It takes a film as old fashioned and as classically structured as The Conjuring to remind us that it’s the little things that can deliver the biggest scares.

Claiming to be based on a true-life story, the film stars Patrick Wilson and Vera Farmiga as married couple Ed and Lorraine Warren, a pair of ghostbusters renowned for their extensive research on the supernatural, and for the success they’ve had ferreting out spirits from where they don’t belong. In 1971, they’re recruited by Roger and Carolyn Perron (Ron Livingston and Lili Taylor), who, after moving into their new home in Rhode Island, find themselves and their five daughters being terrorized by strange smells, unexplained bruises, and visions of dead people.

Director James Wan, who gave us the first Saw film, uses the camera niftily to create an eerie sense of foreboding, and employs music and sound effects shrewdly to heighten the shock. It’s true we’ve seen creaking floorboards and dusty basements a thousand times before, but he knows just how to exploit them for maximum effect. I’m not easily scared, but more than once during The Conjuring I found myself jumping in my seat.

The film also works because there’s a level of acting here that’s rarely seen in films like this. Lili Taylor cuts a sympathetic figure as a helpless mother, and Vera Farmiga is nothing short of terrific as a woman whose special abilities make her both powerful and vulnerable. Sure the last half hour feels heavily borrowed from The Exorcist and Poltergeist, but it’s all done with such style, you’ll forget you’ve seen it before.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for The Conjuring. It’s a nice throwback to the moody horror films of the 70s. Wear long sleeves when you go to the cinema, or you risk your date digging her nails into your arm.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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