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

December 29, 2013

The Actors Roundtable 2013

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 8:09 pm


In this interview with Rajeev Masand, the four actors who delivered the strongest performances in 2013 – Irrfan Khan in The Lunchbox, Farhan Akhtar in Bhaag Milkha Bhaag, Ranveer Singh in Lootera & Ram Leela, and Rajkummar Rao in Shahid – sat down to talk about jitters on the first day of filming, their early experiences in front of the camera, and about constructing solid characters for the screen.




(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 27, 2013

Hits & Pits 2013

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 10:45 pm


It’s been a year of some big moneyspinners and a few surprise gems. Unlike 2012, which was a comparatively stronger year what with such unconventional hits as Kahaani, Barfi, Vicky Donor and English Vinglish emerging out of the mainstream, 2013 saw blockbusters like Chennai Express, Krrish 3 and Dhoom 3 offer comfort in the familiar.

Like every other year, the list of big bloated failures is a long one, and picking just five of the worst films was a tough job. Nevertheless, here are the five films I enjoyed most and the five films I most detested this year. Remember, these are personal choices each, not determined by their box-office performance.




At #5 a tie: Ram Leela was a passionate celebration of love, yet it was as much a celebration to mark the return to form of Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who whipped up a cocktail of unabashed melodrama, stunning visuals, and elaborately-choreographed songs for this fiery adaptation of Romeo & Juliet. Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone’s performances crackled with cheeky humour, sexual irreverence, and raw passion. Despite its bloated length, Ram Leela had great style and aesthetic.


Tying at #5 Shuddh Desi Romance: In this nicely textured love story, writer Jaideep Sahni and director Maneesh Sharma turned the conventional notions of marriage and romance on their head. Shuddh Desi Romance stood out as a non-formulaic, charming film with characters that developed cold feet just as easily as they fell in love. Despite the film’s repetitive turn of events, the writing, particularly the dialogues, felt fresh and original. A definite plus was the terrific acting, particularly by Sushant Singh Rajput and Parineeti Chopra who got the sense and tone of small-town India just right, while emerging a romantic pair that refused to conform.


At #4 Shahid: Easily the most powerful film of the year, Shahid was an explosive, uncompromising look at the real-life story of controversial human rights lawyer Shahid Azmi, who was gunned down in cold blood in 2010. Director Hansal Mehta’s gripping story of courage and conviction urged us to confront our own prejudices. Leading man Rajkummar Rao was the soul of this fearless film that oozed the sincerity that you long for in Hindi films.


At #3 Kai Po Che: One of the year’s lingering visuals will be that of three friends leaping off a fort into the sea. Yet Kai Po Che didn’t just rest on the lighthearted moments between these buddies. Director Abhishek Kapoor masterfully built up this tale of childhood pals whose lives are changed irrevocably by the Gujarat earthquake, the Godhra massacre and the 2002 riots, weaving cricket into this patchwork. Kapoor deftly handled the film’s varying moods and extracted competent performances from each of his three leads, even as Sushant Singh Rajput made the biggest impression with sheer confidence and a distinct likeability.


At #2 Lootera: Once there was a boy and a girl, who loved each other despite insurmountable odds…  Lootera was steeped in old-fashioned romance, but it was in the storytelling that writer-director Vikramaditya Motwane wooed you. A bittersweet tale of love, betrayal and redemption told without melodrama, and by skillfully marrying the key tools of cinema – picture, sound and music – the film made a place in the heart despite its second-half speed-bumps. With Sonakshi Sinha and Ranveer Singh delivering their strongest performances yet, Lootera left a lasting impression.


And at first place – #1 on my list of the Hits of 2013 – is The Lunchbox: As much a love letter to Mumbai as it was a searing portrait of loneliness, The Lunchbox relied on scribbled notes tucked into tiffin boxes to deliver a charming love story between a introverted widower and a neglected housewife. First-time writer-director Ritesh Batra made a strong case for lost souls in a city bursting at its seams. Powered by unforgettable, sensitive performances from Irrfan Khan, newcomer Nimrat Kaur, and Nawazuddin Siddiqui, The Lunchbox was a delicious story, flavored with heartfelt emotions.


So there you have it, my top five Hindi films of 2013. There are other honorable mentions too, good films that didn’t make the Top 5 shortlist. They do, however, find a place in the Hall of Fame. A big shout-out to Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola, Special Chabees, Madras Cafe, D-Day, BA Pass, Raanjhanaa, Go Goa Gone, Bombay Talkies, Mere Dad Ki Maruti, Sahib Biwi Aur Gangster Returns, and the terrific Ship of Theseus that didn’t qualify for this list because technically it’s not a Hindi film.




At #5 Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara: This colossally disappointing sequel from director Milan Luthria not only failed to evoke the nostalgia of its times in the way that its predecessor did, but also delivered a limp love triangle that felt so contrived, it was hard to care for any of the three harebrained leads. Akshay Kumar, in the part of a supposedly dreaded gangster, was more comical than menacing, and Imran Khan was never quite convincing as his tapori protégé. Yet no one came off worse than Sonakshi Sinha, as the struggling actress happy to take favors from Akshay but outraged when he reveals he has designs on her. The film’s dialogues felt like a full-fledged assault of rat-a-tat punch lines, and at over 150 minutes Once Upon Ay Time in Mumbai Dobaara was the equivalent of getting a root canal.


At #4 is Besharam: The kind of joyless film that made you wait patiently through a torturous 138 minutes to understand what exactly drew Ranbir Kapoor to sign on the dotted line. The film’s empty plot was likely scribbled on toilet paper during an inspired moment on the pot, and the casting of unimpressive newbie Pallavi Sharda as the film’s heroine was baffling to say the least. Director Abhinav Kashyap followed up Dabangg with this dud comedy that squandered the talents of not only its leading man but of Rishi and Neetu Kapoor who played supporting parts. Besharam showed you what happens when a fat paycheck is the only incentive to go to work.


Coming in at #3 Sajid Khan’s Himmatwala: This puerile reimagining of the 1983 Jeetendra-Sridevi melodrama couldn’t decide if it wanted to be a faithful remake of that film, or a spoof of those Madras potboilers. As a result the film’s tone see-sawed between revenge saga and comedy, never doing justice to either genre. Ajay Devgan as the nostril-flaring, vengeance-seeking hero mouths corny lines, even as the film’s heroine Tamannah carries around a whip yelling “I hate gareebs”. The only Himmatwalas here were those in the audience who survived the entire film without passing out from sheer frustration.


At Number 2, it’s R… Rajkumar: A putrid cocktail of relentless action and crass humor that numbs your brain as it unfolds over an excruciating two-and-a-half hours. Shahid Kapoor must defend his girlfriend’s honor from his gangster boss who becomes determined to marry her. It’s a flimsy premise that translated into a regressive film packed with third-rate dialogue and embarrassing performances, particularly from Sonakshi Sinha who, in one scene, whips off her sari and snarls at Sonu Sood that she’ll willingly strip for him if he can defeat her lover first. This awful film from director Prabhudeva belonged to the 80s, and that’s where it deserves to be left.


Racing up to the top of this shameful list – at the #1 position, my worst film of 2013 – is Zanjeer, a movie so appallingly atrocious that it immediately brought to mind Ramgopal Varma Ki Aag, which I consider the worst Hindi film ever made. Not satisfied with being a hollow imitation of the classic 70s hit Zanjeer, this Apoorva Lakhia-directed remake was embarrassingly ill-conceived and packed with howlers. How Prakash Mehra’s own sons could produce this drivel was a mystery. Forget the wax model-like hero Ram Charan, a portly Sanjay Dutt sleep-walking through the film, or Priyanka Chopra chattering away like a six-year-old on a sugar high, I’m still scarred from villain Prakash Raj’s grotty dialogues, like that unforgettable, eloquent line, “Chicken and chicks are the two meows of life.” Showing scant regard for our intelligence or entertainment, Zanjeer stank like a pile of rotting fish.


So those were the five films I least enjoyed this year, but it’s only fair to list the other honorable mentions that will find their way into the Hall of Shame. Here are some of the other films that were considred, pondered over, but didn’t make it to the final shortlist because they were bad, but not as bad as the ones that did make the list. So a big thumbs down to Inkar, Murder 3, I Me Aur Main, The Attacks of 26/11, Ishq in Paris, Yamla Pagla Deewana 2, Satyagrah, Boss, Rajjo, Satya 2, Gori Tere Pyaar Mein and Grand Masti.



(This feature first aired on CNN-IBN)


December 23, 2013

The Actresses Roundtable 2013

Filed under: What's new — Rajeev @ 11:30 pm


In this interview with Rajeev Masand, four of 2013’s most celebrated leading ladies – Deepika Padukone (Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani/Ram Leela), Vidya Balan (Ghanchakkar), Kangana Ranaut (Krrish 3), and Nimrat Kaur (The Lunchbox) – sit down for a freewheeling chat on botched auditions, helpful co-stars, the shelf life of Hindi film heroines and their insecurities.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 21, 2013

The Actresses Roundtable: on botched auditions, future plans, and why comedy is the prerogative of male actors

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:05 pm

In this excerpt from CNN-IBN’s Actresses Roundtable, four of 2013’s most celebrated leading ladies – Deepika Padukone, Vidya Balan, Kangana Ranaut & Nimrat Kaur – spill the beans on botched auditions, and reveal where they see themselves 10 years from now. The four actresses also discuss comedy, and why it’s usually up to the male actors to deliver the laughs on screen.

The full one-hour episode of The Actresses Roundtable will air on CNN-IBN on Saturday, Dec 21 at 9pm, and on Sunday, Dec 22 at 12 noon and 8pm.

December 20, 2013

Circus mishap

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:03 pm

December 20, 2013

Cast: Aamir Khan, Abhishek Bachchan, Katrina Kaif, Uday Chopra, Jackie Shroff

Director: Vijay Krishna Acharya

Dhoom 3 is a sloppily scripted sandwich of hammy acting and cheesy dialogue. Which wouldn’t have mattered if it was at least as much fun as the previous two films, because this franchise has never promised much more than cool men on fast bikes, and hot women in short skirts. But the new movie lacks the required adrenaline rush of a Fast and Furious-type thriller, instead falling prey to the kind of melodrama and over-plotting that doesn’t belong here.

Saahir (Aamir Khan) is a talented magician who runs an Indian circus in Chicago, also using his unique skills to routinely rob a bank that he holds responsible for his father’s suicide many years ago. He must stay out of the reach of surly cop Jai Dikshit (Abhishek Bachchan) and his motor-mouth sidekick Ali (Uday Chopra), who have been dispatched to the Windy City to crack the case.

Aside from some genuinely cool moments like Aamir’s getaway on a Chicago waterfront or the climax staged on a dam, Dhoom 3 doesn’t offer very much by way of novelty or inventiveness. What’s more, the film’s middle half gets weighed down by Saahir’s dreary revenge agenda which gets derailed once a woman enters the fray. Aliya (Katrina) is part of Saahir’s circus act, contorting her body into Cirque Du Soliel kind of rope gymnastics. But all this mid-air flexing barely drums up excitement. The film is missing the thrills that went hand-in-hand with the outrageous heists, screeching tires, and bad guy attitude associated with Dhoom. It’s hard to go into any more detail about the plot without giving away the film’s big twist, which reveals itself right before interval.

Unlike John Abraham and Hrithik Roshan in the previous films, Aamir doesn’t quite make for a particularly sexy villain, and his character, with its inevitable plot twists, is overwritten and overplayed. Twitches, frowning, stammering are all used as crutches, while the camera lingers unwaveringly on his pecs, abs and bare back. Abhishek Bachchan spends most of the film glowering angrily, while Katrina seems to show up strictly for the song sequences. Uday Chopra is back in tapori mode as Ali, but to give him credit, he gives the character shape.

Ultimately, the film is let down by a convenient script and its inability to deliver solid entertainment. I’m going with a generous two-and-a-half out of five for writer-director Vijay Krishna Acharya’s Dhoom 3. All you expect from the Dhoom movies is a thrill ride, but this one makes you feel like you’re stranded in rush hour traffic.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Animal farm

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 7:34 pm

December 20, 2013

Cast: Voices of Bill Hader, Anna Faris, James Caan, Will Forte

Directors: Cody Cameron & Kris Pearn

In 2009’s Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs, nerdish inventor Flint Lockwood (voiced by Bill Hader) hit upon a plan to turn water into food. But after the initial excitement of skiing over mountains of ice cream, and after everyone in Swallow Falls had had their fill of cheeseburgers, pizzas and doughnuts literally falling from the sky, the reality of the situation began to sink in – their home island had turned into a pile of rotting food. Fortunately, Flint was able to somehow turn off his nifty invention and save the day.

I can’t imagine that anyone was waiting for a sequel to that cute but not-particularly-groundbreaking animation hit, and yet here we are discussing Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2.

After an overlong prologue in which Flint is recruited by his scientific hero, Chester V (Will Forte), our hero, along with his faithful entourage of family and friends, heads off on an expedition to a sort of tropical world, where, his food-creating invention has given birth to a whole range of ‘foodimals’ or food animals! This is the cue for a never-ending string of puns as we’re introduced to tacodiles, flamangoes, shrimpanzees and just about every clever-sounding hybrid the writers could possibly come up with.

The animation is inventive and original, and some set-pieces are particularly funny, including one in which our band of heroes are chased around by a Double Bacon Cheespider. The message of anti-corporatism may be lost on the little ones, at whom this movie is clearly targeted. For anyone older, it’s a test of how many puns you’re willing to endure before you snap.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs 2. It’s got its moments, but I’d say wait for this one to come to DVD.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

December 13, 2013

Huma Qureshi on Madhuri Dixit: “Of course I was nervous about working with her”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:41 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, the leading ladies of Dedh Ishqiya — Madhuri Dixit and Huma Qureshi — talk about breaking the ice and hitting it off on the set. The two actresses also reveal how they prepared for a dance sequence in the film.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Dead on arrival

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:44 pm

December 13, 2013

Cast: Dimple Kapadia, Manu Rishi, Anand Tiwari, Manjot Singh

Director: Gurmmeet Singh

The thought of spending 108 minutes in front of a washing machine watching your clothes spin around as they dry is probably not your idea of entertainment. But it sure beats being trapped in a cinema watching What The Fish! – easily the year’s most exhausting and vacuous film.

Dimple Kapadia lays it on thick as cranky divorcee Sudha Mishra, who entrusts her home to her niece’s fiancé before taking off on a month-long holiday. Her standing instructions are to feed her beloved parrotfish and to water her money plant. The fellow in charge, however, is an irresponsible lout, and before long Mrs Mishra’s home is changing hands from a sleazy real-estate broker (Manu Rishi), to a cross-dressing boxer, and even a tribal family from the North East. When the old biddy returns home, she must solve the mystery of a woman in white who dashes out of her locked bathroom.

As offensive as it is plain pointless, this film has no qualms about making jokes related to leprosy, deaf-mute people, and even innocent small-town girls seduced by cunning city-slickers. To be honest, there’s no redeeming quality to this film: not one scene, not a single character. It’s like an endurance test that director Gurmmeet Singh puts you through.

The big question you’re left pondering as you race for the exit in the end, is how exactly did this movie get made? Did nobody read the script? Was there one to begin with?

My rating, you ask? You’ve got to be kidding…WTF???

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Enter the dragon

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 10:42 pm

December 13, 2013

Cast: Martin Freeman, Richard Armitage, Ian McKellen, Luke Evans, Orlando Bloom, Evangeline Lilly, Aidan Turner, Benedict Cumberbatch (voice only)

Director: Peter Jackson

The highlight of Peter Jackson’s second movie in The Hobbit trilogy was always going to be the appearance of the fire-breathing dragon Smaug, as confirmed by the film’s title. And yet that fateful encounter between the formidable beast and our heroes doesn’t take place until roughly two hours into The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug.

A lot happens in these two hours, though mostly the film sticks to the company of exiled dwarf king Thorin (Richard Armitage) and his crew of dwarves who, along with resourceful hobbit Bilbo Baggins (a consistently charming Martin Freeman), have set out on a quest to reclaim their kingdom of Erebor. Among the obstacles they must face along the way are an army of nasty orcs, and such unpleasant creatures as a swarm of oversized spiders and a shape-shifting bear. In one of the film’s most thrilling scenes, they escape in barrels from the elf dungeons along a raging river…someone ought to turn that into a theme-park ride pronto! Jackson even manages to squeeze in the stirrings of a romance during this tense adventure, between brave elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) and injured dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner) whom she helps nurse back to health.

Expectedly you’re all but exhausted by the time Bilbo and his friends come face to face with Smaug, but this is easily the film’s most gripping portion. Hissing and sneering (in the voice of Benedict Cumberbatch), this magnificent monster chases them through the ruins of Erebor, as Thorin and his dwarves scurry about hatching an impromptu plan to vanquish him.

Despite its butt-numbing length – an unforgiving 2 hours and 41 minutes –The Desolation of Smaug has a pace and a cohesiveness that the previous film, An Unexpected Journey, lacked. Jackson spends more time fleshing out his characters here, and gives us some welcome moments of humor too. But this is, for the most part a solid action picture, and the set-pieces don’t disappoint.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug. By the time the film ends, in a rather abrupt climax, you’ve forgiven its faults, and you’ll be eager to see how it all ends. Until next year then…

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

No sting, no bite

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

December 13, 2013

Cast: Josh Brolin, Sharlto Copley, Samuel L Jackson, Elizabeth Olsen

Director: Spike Lee

Worshipped by a legion of fanboys and cinephiles, Korean master Park Chan-wook’s groundbreaking 2003 thriller Oldboy gets a mostly blah American remake at the hands of Spike Lee. To be honest, Lee’s “reimagining” of the original film isn’t all that imaginative at all – exact shots and entire set-ups from the original film are duplicated – thus prompting you to ask why he bothered to remake it in the first place.

Josh Brolin plays Joe Doucett, an alcoholic advertising executive and all-round asshole who, after a particularly inebriated night, wakes up in a dingy hotel room with a bed, shower, and a television set, but no exit. 20 years later when he is released, just as mysteriously as he was imprisoned, he becomes determined to find out who put him through that hell and why, and also to exact revenge on that person.

Oddly, this remake never bears its filmmaker’s unique stamp, and doesn’t quite achieve the shockingly brutal tone of the original film either, coming off in fact as an unmistakably muted exercise…particularly after the Indian censors have had their way with it. In exploring themes of revenge and redemption, Lee replicates many of the original film’s bloody, violent set pieces – Doucett does some serious damage when he’s out and about with a hammer – but he fails to deliver the same levels of atmosphere or menace.

Samuel L Jackson as one of Joe’s torturers is more of a laugh than anything else, and Elizabeth Olsen as a soulful social worker helping Joe piece together his life, seems too smart to play this trusting sap. Sharlto Copley, however, gets it just right, as the creepy (and occasionally hammy) billionaire with mysterious motives. But it’s Josh Brolin, in the central role, who makes this film somewhat endurable thanks to a fine, intuitive performance. Alas, he’s given so little to work with.

I’m going with two out of five for Spike Lee’s disappointing Oldboy. Like our very own Sanjay Gupta’s desi remake Zinda, this one too is all style over any real substance.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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