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

May 15, 2015

Just deserts

Filed under: Their Films — Rajeev @ 8:37 pm

May 15, 2015

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult, Hugh Keays-Byrne, Rosie Huntington-Whiteley, Zoe Kravitz

Director: George Miller

With Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller, creator of the original Mad Max trilogy, delivers another jolt of demented originality. Arriving 30 years after Mel Gibson drifted into the horizon in Mad Max Beyond Thunderdrome, this reboot of Miller’s seminal post-apocalyptic saga is 120 minutes of non-stop, noisy, over-the-top action that evokes feelings of exhilaration, disbelief, and exhaustion. It’s a film that hits the ground running and never takes its foot off the accelerator.

Set in a grim dystopian future, the film stars Tom Hardy as road warrior Max, whom we first spot driving around the vast desert wasteland in a rusty, rattling car. Any doubts you may have had about the potential of the franchise to still engage after all these years are quickly laid to rest within the film’s opening minutes, when he’s chased and captured by a gang of skeletal punk-thugs called “War Boys”. It’s one of those hyperkinetic, breathless sequences that sets the tone for what will follow.

Hardy may have the titular role here, but it’s Charlize Theron, playing badass female lead Imperator Furiosa, who is the film’s real hero. She’s freed a group of five women, the wives of tyrannical dictator Immoran Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne), and she’s racing across the desert with them, chased by the villain’s gang. A captured Max, being used as a “blood bank” for one of the dictator’s henchmen Nux (Nicholas Hoult), escapes and teams up with Furiosa. The film then is one long car chase across the desert, filled with stunts and car wrecks and explosions that are surprisingly very good fun.

Sure it’s a slim plot, and there’s very little dialogue, but the writers do a good job constructing a surprisingly feminist tale. At its core, Fury Road is about women reclaiming their independence from an oppressive bully to whom they are no more than “breeders”.

Expectedly the real pleasure of the film lies in its maniacal action, its impossible stunts, and the sort of images that tend to stay embedded in your memory. There’s utter chaos in the attack scenes, which defy both logic and gravity and yet seem to make perfect sense in the world Miller has set up. It’s truly a roller coaster ride of a film, and I’m happy to report that the 3D never feels intrusive. Shot against mostly bright, saturated landscapes, the film has a very different visual palette from the first Mad Max movie.

Hardy does a lot without saying much; he has terrific presence, and brings complexity to a character that could’ve easily been one-dimensional. Theron appears to be having a good time playing an action hero, while still bringing depth to the part.

I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Mad Max: Fury Road. It’s brutal and relentless, and delivers a surefire adrenalin rush. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

May 8, 2015

Bombay Velvet’s Ranbir, Anusha, KJo & Anurag play ‘Never Have I Ever’

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

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, the principal cast of Bombay Velvet – Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar – and director Anurag Kashyap explain why they felt so strongly about this story, and weigh in on the inspired casting (Karan Johar as a villain???) The four also play an entertaining round of ‘Never Have I Ever’.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Ayushmann Khurrana: A movie I love that more people should see

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 11:02 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, Dum Laga Ke Haisha star Ayushmann Khurrana talks about a film he loves that he thinks more people should see.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Poop dreams

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 10:03 pm

May 08, 2015

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Irrfan Khan, Deepika Padukone, Moushmi Chatterjee, Jisshu Sengupta, Raghuvir Yadav, Balendra Singh

Director: Shoojit Sircar

One hardly expects to be rewarded with warmth and genuine sweetness from a film about a cantankerous old man and his exasperated grown-up daughter who spend most of their time arguing about his bowel movements. But Piku, directed by Shoojit Sircar, is a charming, unpredictable comedy that – like Sircar’s Vicky Donor – mines humor from the unlikeliest of places.

Deepika Padukone is Piku, a successful architect struggling to manage both her career and the responsibility of her 70-year-old father Bhashkor Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan), who can be quite the handful. The cranky Bengali senior is a hypochondriac, and also happens to be perpetually constipated. His motions, or lack thereof, are the subject of virtually every conversation in their Chittaranjan Park home. He’s obsessed with details of the color, the texture, the size, and the consistency of his poop, which he insists on sharing with his daughter even when she’s at work or out on a date.

Bachchan is pretty terrific as Bhashkor, who reminds you of that oddball uncle that you nevertheless have a soft spot for. He bickers with the maids, harrows his hapless helper, and expects that Piku stay unmarried so she can attend to him. At one point, to ward off a possible suitor, he casually mentions that his daughter isn’t a virgin; that she’s financially independent and sexually independent too. Bachchan embraces the character’s many idiosyncrasies, never once slipping into caricature while all along delivering big laughs thanks to his spot-on comic timing.

Also bringing his best game to the film is Irrfan Khan as Rana Chowdhary, the owner of a private taxi company who volunteers to drive Piku and her father all the way from Delhi to Kolkata when the old man insists on visiting his ancestral home. The film takes the shape of a road-trip movie from this point on, and it’s Khan – applying his trademark dry humor – who gets some of the best moments here. Amused by Bhashkor’s fixation on his tummy issues, Rana explains the merits of squatting on a Indian-style toilet, and in another hilarious scene draws out the entire digestive route of food for a fascinated Bhashkor.

But it’s with the character of Piku that writer Juhi Chaturvedi pushes the envelope farthest, giving us a fully flesh-and-blood modern woman. Unembarrassed to admit she has sexual needs, unafraid to pursue a casual relationship with a colleague, and never shy of snapping back at her patience-testing father, Piku is a refreshing character in the movies, and Padukone plays her without a hint of artifice. It’s a performance that never feels like a performance; she’s that good in the film.

Into this richly layered script, Chaturvedi sneaks pertinent questions about ageing, the shifting dynamics of responsibility between parent and offspring, and the line between duty and sacrifice. Sircar keeps a breezy, light-hearted tone throughout, infusing a hint of humor even in the decidedly emotional bits. He surrounds his leads with strong supporting players (including a feisty Moushmi Chatterjee as Piku’s thrice-divorced aunt), and shoots relatively long conversation scenes in a manner that feels real and honest and unaffected.

I’m going with four out of five for Piku. Although obsessed with all the wrong body parts, it’s a film that’s full of heart.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

May 2, 2015

‘Arjun’ director Rahul Rawail on shooting that iconic chase through a sea of umbrellas

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 12:53 am

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, film director Rahul Rawail talks about shooting that iconic chase scene through a sea of umbrellas for the 1985 Sunny Deol starrer Arjun.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

May 1, 2015

Kamal Haasan: “There won’t be an autobiography, because I can’t lie. I would hurt too many people”

Filed under: Video Vault — Rajeev @ 8:59 pm

In this interview with Rajeev Masand, legendary star Kamal Haasan talks about his new Tamil film Uttama Villain, and about finally fulfilling his life’s goal of acting alongside his mentor, the late filmmaker K Balachander. Haasan, who turned 60 in November, also weighs in on the debate over censorship in the arts, and reveals why he won’t be writing an autobiography anytime soon.

(This interview first aired on CNN-IBN)

Death by boredom

Filed under: Our FIlms — Rajeev @ 8:38 pm

May 01, 2015

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Shruti Haasan, Jaideep Ahlawat, Suman Talwar, Sunil Grover

Director: Krish

To everyone who thinks that movie critics have the best jobs in the world, I’d like to say only this – Gabbar is Back.

Sure, getting paid to watch movies for a living beats the hell out of sitting at a desk all day. But remember, freedom of choice is a luxury that movie critics don’t enjoy. You get to watch the films you want to. We must watch everything, so you don’t have to. Which brings me to Gabbar is Back, the new Akshay Kumar film that I can bet is only a slight improvement on watching two hours of CCTV footage of an airport baggage carousel.

Even the most unconditional Akshay Kumar fans will likely agree that the film’s premise – a wronged man becomes a vigilante to weed out corruption from the system – feels dated, and devoid of any original insight. Hardly surprising, given that the film is a remake of Ghajni director AR Murgadoss’ Tamil hit Ramana from all the way back in 2002 – yes, 13 years ago.

Borrowing the alias of Hindi cinema’s most enduring villain, but bringing none of his dangerous appeal, Akshay plays a college professor who moonlights discreetly as a dispenser of justice, handpicking corrupt government officials and hanging them publicly to spread fear among the dishonest. It makes him a sort of hero of the masses, even as the police struggles to uncover his identity and bring him to task. Eventually Gabbar finds himself on the wrong side of a ruthless builder (Suman Talwar) who becomes obsessed with exacting revenge on him for tarnishing his business reputation.

I’ll spare you the details, except to say that director Radhakrishna Jagarlamudi (aka Krish) paints in broad strokes, giving us conflicts that feel too exaggerated and resolutions that are too simplistic. A scene in which our protagonist exposes the malpractices in a prestigious private hospital by staging an entrapment plan is far-fetched and frankly unconvincing, even if it does tap into the very real sentiment of one’s frustration against the medical system. There isn’t one quiet moment or even a hint of subtlety in the film’s 130-minute running time, its blaring background music only emphasizing the melodrama. There are clap-trap lines peppered throughout the film that front-benchers will inevitably cheer, and you’re left with the feeling of being pounded on the head repeatedly with a message that’s questionable to say the least.

The stray moments of humor in this film are strictly unintentional, particularly those bits in which our protagonist’s chief nemesis bandies on repeatedly about his “brand value”. At one point during the final confrontation between the two, Akshay rubs his rival’s face in the fact that “Gabbar is a bigger brand than you!” Television funnyman Sunil Grover gets a few good moments as an enterprising constable, but the same can’t be said for the film’s leading lady Shruti Haasan, who plays a Google-quoting dimwit. Even worse is the raw deal handed out to poor Chitrangada Singh, who is left to shake and shimmy to a sleazy-sounding item song.

From the clumsy plotting and a manipulative back-story featuring a visibly disinterested Kareena Kapoor, to the been-there-seen-that action scenes and the uninspired score, there’s little to recommend in this movie. At best, Akshay Kumar lays on the charm in a few well-timed sequences. But it’s too small a reward in exchange for sitting through this boring film.

I’m going with one-and-a-half out of five for Gabbar is Back. Not surprisingly, your migraine’s back too!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

The coming of age

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

May 01, 2015

Cast: Ben Stiller, Naomi Watts, Adam Driver, Amanda Seyfried, Charles Grodin, Adam Horovitz

Director: Noah Baumbach

There’s a distinct Woody Allen-esque vibe to writer-director Noah Baumbach’s charming comedy While We’re Young, which takes a funny, sometimes bittersweet, and occasionally brutal look at the inevitable reality that is ageing.

Ben Stiller and Naomi Watts are Josh and Cornelia, a childless New York couple in their forties, who feel alienated from their similar-aged friends whose lives now revolve completely around their toddlers. Josh, a documentary filmmaker, has been working to complete his latest project for close to ten years, and it doesn’t help that Cornelia’s father, a legendary documentarian, casts a long shadow. But things change when the pair meets and befriends Jamie (Adam Driver) and Darby (Amanda Seyfried), a free-spirited couple in their twenties who remind them of all the things they used to be.

Baumbach exploits this scenario to make some sharp observations about both generations, mining laughs out of Josh and Cornelia’s desperate attempts to recapture their youth. Like some of Woody Allen’s best films, this is an intelligent movie packed with witty one-liners, but there are more than a few scenes of laugh-out-loud physical comedy too.

Stiller and Watts both offer compelling performances, with Stiller nicely underplaying, and Watts drawing both humor and pathos from her character. As is typical of the director’s films, there’s scathing honesty beneath the witty exterior, and aside from a clunky portion in which the two couples embark on a spiritual retreat where they “vomit up demons”, Baumbach’s script seldom misses a beat.

Anyone feeling wistful about their youth will likely relate to the many truths this film holds a mirror to, more than once cutting too close to the bone. I’m going with three-and-a-half out of five for While We’re Young. I came out feeling wiser and enriched. I think you will too.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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