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

December 6, 2013

Shraddha Kapoor on breaking her YRF contract for Aashiqui 2: “People were convinced I’d made a big mistake”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:45 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, the breakout star of Aashiqui 2, Shradha Kapoor, talks about making choices based on instinct, and picking films from the heart. The young actress also reveals the flip side of coming from a film family.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

R for Rubbish!

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

December 06, 2013

Cast: Shahid Kapoor, Sonakshi Sinha, Sonu Sood, Ashish Vidyarthi

Director: Prabhu Deva

R… Rajkumar, directed by Prabhu Deva, is a film so relentlessly ugly, you have to wonder how it qualifies as entertainment of any sort. Like the worst video games, the action scenes here go on and on and on till your brain and your senses are numbed by all the stabbing and punching and pummeling. And just in case there’s still a part of you that doesn’t feel entirely abused, the film’s crass humor will take care of that.

Not unlike Rowdy Rathore, the director’s last blockbuster hit, this film doesn’t offer much by way of plot or characters. A beefed up Shahid Kapoor (looking redder than a cooked lobster) plays Rajkumar, a mysterious fellow who shows up in a lawless village one day, and quickly lands a job in the gang of a local opium smuggler and all-round goonda, Shivraj (Sonu Sood), the kind of villain who’s given to delivering such corny lines like: “Mere mooh mat lagna, main sahat ke liye bahut haneekarak hoon.” When his boss becomes determined to marry the girl our hero has given his heart to, battle lines are drawn.

It’s bewildering why both Rajkumar and Shivraj bear such passion for Chanda (Sonakshi Sinha), especially since she has no respect for herself. In a scene so appalling it’ll make you cringe, she throws off her pallu and snarls at Shivraj, promising to strip down for him herself if he can defeat her lover. In another scene, she taunts him by describing how Rajkumar will make love to her on their honeymoon.

The scenarios in this film – including one scene in which a police officer is raping a woman in a jail cell when he is interrupted by an urgent telephone call – are so putrid I had to pinch myself to make sure I wasn’t going through a bad dream. To dismiss R… Rajkumar merely as a throwback to those cheerfully low-IQ 80s potboilers would mean letting off the makers too easily, for this is cinema of the most exhausting kind. The climax alone carries on for over 15 minutes, in which Shahid is repeatedly stabbed, and then whacked around with everything from iron rods to wooden planks. He survives, but you almost don’t.

I’m going with half out of five for Prabhu Deva’s R… Rajkumar. The half star is strictly for Pritam’s music, the only bright spot in this excruciating film.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Seniors project

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:42 pm

December 06, 2013

Cast: Farooque Shaikh, Sarika, Raghuveer Yadav, Sharat Saxena, Satish Shah, Tinnu Anand, Vineet Kumar, Suhasini Mulay, Zarina Wahab, Himani Shivpuri, Harsh Chhaya

Director: Sanjay Tripathy

Club 60, starring Farooque Shaikh and Sarika, drives an unmistakably heartfelt message home. This is a story about accepting the hand fate has dealt you and making the most out of life. The actors play a married couple struggling to come to terms with the death of their young son. Tariq (Farooque) becomes a bitter recluse, unable to go back to work, unwilling to engage with the world. Saira (Sarika) decides to return to her job, desperately seeking ways for them to move on with their lives. In a particularly poignant scene, delicately performed by Sarika, she asks their psychiatrist if there’s something wrong with her because she doesn’t sink into depression like her husband does.

The story takes a turn when their over-zealous neighbor Manubhai (Raghuveer Yadav) storms into their lives and drags Tariq to a recreation club for seniors that he frequents with his friends. This motley bunch of cheery oldies – an oversexed retired army man (Sharat Saxena), a stingy Sindhi stockbroker (Satish Shah), a former income tax commissioner obsessed with SMS jokes (Vineet Kumar), and a soulful shayyar always ready with a couplet (Tinnu Anand) – is each hiding a sad back-story that expectedly convinces Tariq that life must go on.

It’s the solid acting from this ensemble of veterans that compels you to overlook the film’s many shortcomings, particularly the indulgent screenplay that packs too many songs and some misguided sexual humor. The camaraderie between Manubhai and his buddies has a nice, authentic feel to it, their constant bickering and name-calling stemming from an obvious affection for each other. Raghuveer Yadav strikes the right balance between overbearing and endearing, his loud man-child one of the film’s genuine pleasures.

Yet it’s Farooque Shaikh and Sarika who get the juiciest parts, and ample opportunity to showcase their tremendous range. Both actors wring your heart in the film’s more somber moments, particularly during a scene in which Saira confronts Tariq over their shared grief. This is terrific acting, and the two stars are riveting in these bits.

Unfortunately writer-director Sanjay Tripathy can’t lift this script from its quicksand of predictability, and can’t avoid the mawkish melodrama that stories like these inevitably slip into. That, along with a clumsy, overlong climax, makes Club 60 a rather dull affair in the end. I’m going with two out of five – it’s a sincere film, but one that could’ve benefited from smarter writing and slicker treatment.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

No sloppy seconds

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

December 06, 2013

Cast: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, Sam Claflin, Woody Harrelson, Elizabeth Banks, Donald Sutherland, Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Lenny Kravitz, Jena Malone

Director: Francis Lawrence

“You never get off this train,” says mentor Haymitch (Woody Harrelson) to the new champions Katniss and Peeta in Catching Fire, the thrilling sequel to last year’s Hunger Games. This is bad news because Katniss (Jennifer Lawrence) and Peeta (Josh Hutcherson) must continue the charade of being a couple before their country Panem, and also toe the line set by insidious dictator President Snow (Donald Sutherland).

Catching Fire picks up immediately after Katniss wins that death-defying championship with her bow and arrow in the earlier film. This is the middle movie, setting up the background for the next two films, and already we see that a revolution is stirring in Panem. Rebellious Katniss gives her people hope, and so an enraged President Snow wants her out of the way. Enter the new Gamesmaker Plutarch Heavensbee (played enigmatically by Phillip Seymour Hoffman), who introduces a twist in the 75th Hunger Games: Past winners from different districts will have to duel once again, in a fight for their lives. Gladiators, reality television, the Olympics, nasty dictatorships, and concentration camps; all these ideas get rolled into one compelling movie.

Director Francis Lawrence (replacing The Hunger Games’ Gary Ross) is armed with a much tighter screenplay than the 2012 film, and sets up the sequel on a larger scale with greater challenges. In one genuinely tense scene, the tributes are forced to fight an army of snarling primates. Catching Fire has more than a few gripping set-pieces, but its strength is its solid cast and the lasting impression they make. Stanley Tucci sparkles as the ebullient game show host Caesar, as does Elizabeth Banks as the heavily-costumed, yet caring PR-agent Effie. Woody Harrelson, Donald Sutherland, and Phillip Seymour Hoffman are seasoned actors who bring intriguing layers to their performances.

And still the heart of Catching Fire remains the courageous, conflicted Katniss…and Jennifer Lawrence pours herself into the part. Torn between her men — fellow winner Peeta, and the strapping Gale, played by Liam Hemsworth — Katniss also faces the unenviable task of standing up to the formidable Snow. Lawrence gives a fierce performance, brilliantly balancing defiance and fear.

I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for The Hunger Games: Catching Fire. This sequel ends on a promising note, leaving you hungry for the next instalment.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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