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

May 30, 2015

The stars of ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’ play a round of Family Secrets

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 9:14 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, the Mehras – the dysfunctional family at the centre of Zoya Akhtar’s Dil Dhadakne Do – discuss their new film, the bonds they made shooting on a cruise ship over several weeks, and the reason they couldn’t say no to the script. Ranveer Singh, Priyanka Chopra, Anil Kapoor and Shefali Shah, who play the family in question, also participated in a round of Family Secrets.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

May 29, 2015

Deepika Padukone, tell us a joke!

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:58 pm

In this segment produced by Rajeev Masand, Bollywood star Deepika Padukone tells us a joke.

(This segment first aired on CNN-IBN)

Fools rush in

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

May 29, 2015

Cast: Arshad Warsi, Jackky Bhagnani, Lauren Gottlieb, Dalip Tahil, Ayub Khoso, Adnan Shah

Director: Ashish R Mohan

Blatant stereotyping, infantile humor, and lackluster performances are just three of the problems that plague Welcome 2 Karachi, a comedy about the misadventures of a pair of dim-witted slackers who wake up to find themselves in Pakistan one day.

Dishonorably discharged naval officer Shammi (Arshad Warsi) and the idiot son of an event organizer Kedar (Jackky Bhagnani) are washed ashore on a Karachi beach after their party cruise hits choppy waters. Over the next two hours we watch – in mostly comatose state – how the harebrained duo try to dodge gun-toting locals, a Pakistani intelligence officer (Lauren Gottlieb), some Taliban terrorists, and the CIA, while all along trying to make their way back home to India.

It’s a potentially clever premise, but writer Vrajesh Hirjee and director Ashish R Mohan kill any scope for genuine laughs by relying on juvenile jokes and plain stupidity. To be fair, the film’s low-rent humor is part of the design. Pitched as a desi take on Dumb & Dumber, the film revels in the duo’s foolishness and asks that you do as well. But it’s hard when the writing is as one-note as the actors. All Pakistanis are gun-wielding, India-hating, Muslim fundamentalists. The Americans are all shrewd manipulators. The dialogues are full of Class Five puns, best illustrated in an exchange between our ‘heroes’ and a mujahideen leader. “Mujhe tum pe fakr hai,” he tells them. “No we fakar you,” they respond. “No I fakar you,” he insists…and so it continues until the scene is no longer funny.

The acting too is repetitive and uninspired. Bhagnani grates with a faux Gujarati accent, and makes at least a dozen garba and fafda references. Warsi looks plain disinterested, aside from a few (very few) moments of seemingly spontaneous hilarity. In the film’s best scene, he mistakenly cheers for the Indian team during a cricket match, temporarily forgetting that they’re posing as Pakistanis at the moment.

Such scenes of inspired lunacy are sadly in short supply here. The film drags on incessantly, a bunch of unimpressive songs stretching out the running time. When the lights come back on in the end, you’ll want to run for the exit. I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Welcome 2 Karachi. It’s a big fat bore.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

After schlock!

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:35 pm

May 29, 2015

Cast: Dwayne Johnson, Carla Gugino, Alexandra Daddario, Paul Giamatti, Hugo Johnstone-Burt, Ioan Gruffudd, Archie Panjabi, Art Parkinson

Director: Brad Peyton

What do you call a professional search-and-rescue pilot who ditches his duties and flies off in his work helicopter to save his family when a series of earthquakes rips through California, endangering the lives of thousands? Selfish? Irresponsible? In San Andreas, however, we’re meant to root for the guy in question because he’s played by the irresistibly likeable Dwayne Johnson.

This cheerfully dumb film sees the former wrestler-turned-movie star hopscotch between chopper, plane and boat to rescue his estranged wife (Carla Gugino) from a crumbling LA tower, then their daughter (Alexandra Daddario) from a San Francisco building that’s swiftly submerging in a tsunami.

To be fair, the special effects are impressive and they yield one or two cool set-pieces, particularly a single-take sequence in which the camera follows Gugino as she struggles to make it to the roof of a shaking high-rise. But like every other action blockbuster lately – from Man of Steel to Age of Ultron – this film displays a shocking lack of consequence. Skyscrapers are knocked over, entire cities are flattened, but it’s all surprisingly bloodless; director Brad Peyton never pauses a moment for us to shed a tear, or so much as ponder over those wiped out by this orgy of carnage. It’s especially disconcerting when you consider the recent events of Nepal.

For those seeking nothing else but Roland Emmerich-style mass CGI-destruction, the ‘action’ is relentless in San Andreas. The plot, however, is flimsier than the tank-top Johnson’s daughter finds herself in during the underwater scenes. And the dialogue is so cheesy you spend half the movie rolling your eyes in disbelief. Poor Paul Giamatti shows up in a parallel track as a scientist who predicts earthquakes and sees disaster approaching, but he looks positively embarrassed to be in the film…and understandably so.

San Andreas rests on the broad shoulders of Dwayne Johnson, who works hard to try to keep the film afloat despite the awful script. It’s him, and the more-than-decent VFX that save the film from becoming a complete disaster. I’m going with a generous two out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

May 22, 2015

Irrfan Khan on his recent co-stars Deepika Padukone, and a dinosaur

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:44 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Irrfan Khan talks about how his chemistry with Deepika Padukone helped his performance in Piku, and about his dinosaur co-star in his next film Jurassic World.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bombay Velvet composer Amit Trivedi on the album that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 10:43 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Queen and Bombay Velvet composer Amit Trivedi talks about the one film album that changed his life.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Twice as nice

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:51 pm

May 22, 2015

Cast: R Madhavan, Kangana Ranaut, Jimmy Shergill, Deepak Dobriyal, Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub, Swara Bhaskar, Rajesh Sharma

Director: Anand L Rai

Every once in a while comes a film so disarming, you can’t help but look beyond the contrivances and submit yourself to its infectious charm. Tanu Weds Manu Returns, directed by Anand L Rai, is a crowd-pleaser in every sense of the term. It’s funnier, better acted, and far superior to 2011’s Tanu Weds Manu, which chronicled the unlikely union of its mismatched protagonists.

Hardly surprising then that when the new film opens, we learn that the marriage between high-strung Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) and “boring” doctor Manu (R Madhavan) has gone sour in the four years that they’ve lived together in England. Deserting Manu in a mental healthcare facility, Tanu returns home to Kanpur only to live up to her enfant terrible reputation, even while fanning the flames within the hearts of both her ex-boyfriend Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill), and Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub), a tenant in her parent’s home. A livid Manu, meanwhile, returns to Delhi, where he meets and instantly falls for Kusum aka Datto (also played by Kangana Ranaut), a strong-willed Haryanvi athlete who bears a striking resemblance to Tanu.

Rai and writer Himanshu Sharma serve up a first hour that’s light and breezy. Much humor is mined from the exchanges between Manu and Datto, particularly a scene in which she offers a detailed introduction of herself in chaste Haryanvi – down to her address, but naturally leaving out her telephone number. To be fair, the film is peppered with hilarious one-liners, and Rai delivers an authentic portrait of small-town India, complete with characters that are rooted in the milieu. My favorite among these was Manu’s devoted best friend Pappi, played by a terrific Deepak Dobriyal who gets some of the best moments on screen.

Although there’s a lot going on in the film – a love triangle at the centre, a kidnapping, supporting players with their own crises – admittedly the plot weakens post-intermission. This being the story of Tanu and Manu, you know how things will turn out in the end, yet Sharma’s script takes a predictable route to get there. If the climax works, despite being a rip-off of every love-triangle finale from Saajan to Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, it’s because Kangana Ranaut brings genuine, heartfelt emotion to those scenes.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns is no doubt a showcase for the immense talent of Ranaut, who sinks her teeth into this ‘double-role’ challenge, and creates two strikingly different characters. In Tanu she gives us a wild-child defined by her reckless spirit; a girl hiding her pain behind sheer obnoxiousness. No-nonsense Datto, meanwhile, of the pixie cut, buck teeth, and often indecipherable accent, is instantly endearing. The actress makes you care for both women.

R Madhavan nicely underplays once again as Manu, and the feisty Swara Bhaskar returns as Tanu’s best friend, who’s hiding a secret. Even bit players get a moment or two to shine, and despite the occasionally preachy diversions that the script takes, I have to confess I thoroughly enjoyed the film. This is that rare movie that doesn’t derail despite its speed-bumps because you’re invested in its characters and happy to make the journey with them.

I’m going with four out of five for the flat-out delightful Tanu Weds Manu Returns. I haven’t laughed this hard during any film recently. Watch it for Kangana Ranaut, who’s at the top of her game.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)


May 15, 2015

Varun Dhawan, tell us a joke!

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:50 pm

In this segment produced by Rajeev Masand, Bollywood star Varun Dhawan tells us a joke.

(This segment first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bright lights, big pity

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:40 pm

May 15, 2015

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar, Satyadeep Misra, Kay Kay Menon, Manish Chaudhary, Siddhartha Basu, Vivaan Shah

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Against the flickering light of a black and white movie playing in a theatre, you see the rapt face of petty thief Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) as he watches the climax of the 1939 gangster classic The Roaring Twenties. James Cagney, shot dead, lies in the arms of Priscilla Lane; she tells a cop, visibly heartbroken, “He used to be a big shot.” Balraj is moved, his eyes are moist, and you have a sinking suspicion that you know where director Anurag Kashyap’s Bombay Velvet is headed.

While the opening credits reveal that the script is inspired by historian Gyan Prakash’s book Mumbai Fables, the film itself is primarily about the fictional love story between Ranbir’s Johnny Balraj, now a bonafide gangster, and nightclub singer Rosie Noronha (Anushka Sharma). Their relationship plays out against the backdrop of 1960s Bombay, a city on the threshold of becoming a metropolis. All the action is centered in and around jazz-club Bombay Velvet, owned by conniving newspaper baron and bootlegger Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar), who makes Johnny his flunkey, but gradually becomes obsessed with him.

On the surface, Johnny is the manager of Bombay Velvet, but he actually makes Khambatta’s problems go away – by kidnapping, blackmailing or killing people who stand in the way of Khambatta’s ambition to transform Nariman Point into Bombay’s Manhattan. Other key players include Johnny’s childhood friend and sidekick Chiman (a nicely understated Satyadeep Misra), rival newspaper owner Jimmy Mistry (Manish Chaudhary), and an investigating officer who won’t give up (Kay Kay Menon in great form).

Subterfuge, blackmail, thwarted love, and at least two unconvincing plot twists – the first involving a coveted negative, the second being the sudden appearance of a twin sibling – all add to this dense script. Yet, despite its overcrowded plot, the film is let down because the love story at its centre feels hackneyed.

That’s a shame, because Bombay Velvet has all the trimmings – solid performances, a terrific jazz-soaked soundtrack by Amit Trivedi, and excellent production design that takes you by the hand into the city of the late sixties. But how you wish the script had lingered more on the greedy government-mill-owner-media nexus that took over mill lands to create the urban landscape of Nariman Point. Unfortunately, the film is too often waylaid by Johnny and Rosie’s predictable drama. It’s perplexing – more than once you catch yourself wondering, “What happened to the story of Bombay?”

It seems as if multiple threads in this narrative were left incomplete, possibly chopped away at the editing table. Coherence, or the lack of it, is a big issue in this film. Characters like Mistry and Mayor Romi Mehta (Siddhartha Basu) aren’t entirely convincing, and the Fight Club-inspired underground-boxing subplot is contrived. To be fair, however, the film has some enduring moments: a sweet exchange between Rosie and Johnny in a bathtub, a tense wordless phone call between Johnny and Khambatta, and that mad drum solo that matches the sheer intensity with which Johnny takes on Khambatta, all guns blazing Scarface-style. These are some of the bits that stay with you.

Of the cast, Karan Johar is surprisingly effective in his debut as the snarky, manipulative Khambatta. A scene in which he leaves a room to hide an uncontrollable laughing fit over Johnny’s naivete is one of the best in the film. Anushka Sharma as Rosie never feels like an adequately written character. Despite being one half of the film’s central love story, it’s a part that doesn’t come together and is seldom compelling. The actress does much better expressing Rosie’s pent-up pain in the marvelously realized Dhadam Dhadam number.

Ultimately, it’s Ranbir Kapoor, soldiering on as Johnny Balraj, who infects his part with considerable charm, capturing his hotheaded nature, his bottled fury remarkably. You’re riveted by his display of rage against a slimy photographer who threatens Rosie, and likely moved by his grief when he bids goodbye to a close friend. It’s Ranbir’s performance that glosses over many of the film’s problems.

Bombay Velvet doesn’t have the raw energy or the unforgettable characters of Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur. It’s never as involving a story as Black Friday. And yet what you cannot deny is the sheer craft that Kashyap brings to the enterprise. This is an ambitious saga; skillfully mounted. You’re fascinated by the resemblance to real-life figures, the unwavering attention to detail, and little touches that are vintage Kashyap – like a stand-up comic making political barbs back in the day. The missing piece of the puzzle, sadly, is the inconsistent script…one that never lets us truly care for the characters, one that leaves too many questions unanswered.

I’m going with two-and-a-half out of five for Bombay Velvet. Much of the film dazzles, but I found myself longing for some soul.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Piku director Shoojit Sircar on the film that changed his life

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:38 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Piku director Shoojit Sircar talks about the film — the celebrated trilogy, to be more specific — that changed his life. Sircar reveals how the films have influenced his own cinema, and at the way he looks at life in general.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

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