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

December 4, 2020

Say Salaam India review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:33 pm

March 30, 2007

Cast: Sanjay Suri, Sandhya Mridul

Director: Subhash Kapoor

The other Bollywood film that’s made it to the cinemas this week is director Subhash Kapoor’s Say Salaam India, an inspiring underdog story about a group of boys from a small town in the Indian interiors whose passion for cricket helps them scale the heights they never thought they could reach.

It’s a film about overcoming all odds and about realizing one’s dreams. It’s also about sportsmanship and about playing sport for the right reasons.

In Say Salaam India, Sanjay Suri plays a dedicated cricket coach who after failing to instill a sense of sportsmanship in a team of rich, spoilt city kids decides to focus his attention on this bunch of small-town school-kids who have the drive and the ambition but not the resources to crack the state-level juniors team.

The coach’s mantra for success is simple: play honestly and diligently, ignore the opposition’s efforts to demoralize you, and aim to play well, not to win. It’s a formula that never fails.

No wonder the underdogs emerge successful after a nail-biting match against the old favourites.

Written and directed like it’s a story straight out of a class six moral science textbook, the problem withSay Salaam India is that it’s such an amateurish effort. I can’t understand why it’s mandatory to paint one person charcoal black in order to show how upright the other is. I’d have thought we’ve outgrown such clichés, but evidently we haven’t.

This film’s plot is as predictable as the weather in Alaska and sadly that’s what makes it such a royal bore. The only warm moments are provided in the interactions between Sanjay Suri and Sandhya Mridul who plays his supportive wife.

By far my favourite bit in the film is that part where he calls her the Rahul Dravid of his life, his strong wall. That apart it’s mostly a manipulative film that shamelessly taps into your emotions at every chance that it has.

And if you’re not seduced by the dark horse story of the kids who win against all odds, or the redemption saga of the coach who proved his point, then believe it or not the writers even throw in a child suffering from cerebral palsy to tap on your tear ducts. A sincere request here to Milind Soman: please stay away from acting if you haven’t learnt any.

In the end I’m going to go with two out of five for Say Salaam India. It’s bad enough the film is most ordinary, even the timing couldn’t be more inappropriate — this picture heralds our Indian cricket stars as heroes of the nation. Really, such bad timing.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Kung Fu Panda review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:32 pm

Jul 11, 2008

Cast: Jack Black, Dustin Hoffman, Jackie Chan, Angelina Jolie and Lucy Liu

Director: Mark Osborne, John Stevenson

It’s hard not to like Kung Fu Panda even though there have been many smarter animation films recently. It tells the story of an overweight panda Po (voiced by Jack Black) who works for his father in a noodle shop, but secretly yearns to be a kung fu fighter.

Which is why he climbs up thousands of steps to the ancient temple where the Dragon Warrior will be chosen to face off against the dreaded villain Tai Lung who is believed to be planning his escape from an Alcatraz-like prison.

Dustin Hoffman lends his voice to Kung fu guru Master Shifu who lines up five of his best students before the temple master for his selection. Shifu’s “Furious Five” comprise Monkey, Tigress, Mantis, Viper and Crane, all highly skilled fighters who could crack open your skull with one deadly move. Yet, as luck would have it, the temple master picks none of them, but roly-poly Po instead to be the Dragon Warrior.

Naturally what ensues are a series of laugh-out-loud moments as this hopeless panda with a total lack of skill is trained in the art of kung fu.

The film is an easy watch, enjoyable even, despite its formulaic ‘against-all-odds’ theme.

The real fun in Kung Fu Panda comes from the action scenes which are packed with energy and full of crazy little moments that’ll have you in splits throughout. The all-star-cast voice talent also includes Jackie Chan,Angelina Jolie and Lucy Liu, but it’s Dustin Hoffman doing his best gruff vocals as Master Shifu who is the finest talent on board.

It’s also impossible not to lose your heart to Po, the klutzy, couch-potato panda who gets his attitude from Jack Black’s amazing voice intonations. Kung Fu Panda is a visually stunning film whose animation is part-computer generated part-hand drawn, it’s the kind of photorealistic 3-D animation that makes characters and locations come alive because they’re so intricately detailed and fantastically executed.

I’m going with three out of five for Kung Fu Panda, if you’re looking for a chance to let your hair down and to just have a good time this weekend, I doubt you’ll find anything else that’ll do the trick.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Provoked review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:30 pm

April 06, 2007

Cast: Aishwarya Rai, Miranda Richardson, Nandita Das

Director: Jagmohan Mundhra

Set in London and based on a real-life story, director Jag Mundhra’s film Provoked stars Aishwarya Rai as a battered Punjabi housewife and mother of two.

Aishwarya plays the role of Kiranjit Ahluwalia, who sets her brutish husband on fire after suffering 10 years of abuse at his hands. Charged with first-degree murder when her husband succumbs to his wounds, Kiranjit is sentenced to life imprisonment.

Despite evidence of repeated abuse, the law doesn’t allow her to claim self-defense as her husband was asleep when Kiranjit set him on fire.

In prison, it’s with the help of a fellow inmate Ronnie, played by veteran British actress Miranda Richardson, that Kiranjit picks up the pieces of her life and learns to stand up to bullies.

Meanwhile, Nandita Das playing a female activist with The Southhall Black Sisters, a support group committed to helping victims of abuse, takes up her cause and persuades Kiranjit to make an appeal.

A little over three years after her arrest, Kiranjit is finally freed by the British judicial system in a landmark case that redefined the word “provocation” in the case of battered women.

Despite its many shortcomings, Provoked is engaging till its very end because it’s such a dramatic story and because it avoids over-sentimentality, a trap that most films of this genre invariably fall into. Thankfully, we’re spared all the Bollywood-style chest-beating and the shameless tugging at heart-strings that most Hindi films of this kind indulge in.

So, even though there are scenes in which Kiranjit begs to be united with her sons, there’s none of that ‘I’ll-die-without-them’ drama. That’s not to say the script is all perfect, in fact it’s far from it actually.

Mundhra wastes too much time setting up those courtroom scenes, and there’s little need to go into the back-stories of every inmate in that prison. Instead it might have helped if the character of Kiranjit’s husband had been more fleshed out.

One moment you see he’s surprising his pregnant wife with their new suburban home. Next thing you know, he’s bashing her up and thrashing her around for no fault of hers.

Also, attributing his violent mood swings and his promiscuous lifestyle to his drinking habit is a little too convenient on the director’s part.

In terms of production value, Provoked comes of looking like one of those filmed-in-your-backyard TV movies, and to be completely honest, Mundhra’s direction is too basic, almost too amateurish to be taken seriously. But because it’s entirely honest and well intended you’re willing to overlook many of these flaws.

Instead, you’re moved by those tender moments between Kiranjit and Ronnie, her protective new friend in prison. You’re stung by the sense of empty loneliness that you see in Kiranjit’s eyes even after she’s released from prison.

In all honesty, Provoked wouldn’t work if it wasn’t for two performances that uplift the film considerably. Miranda Richardson plays Ronnie as a tought-but-tender woman who befriends Kiranjit when she’s falling apart. It’s Richardson who provides some of the film’s most memorable moments, like the one in which she responds to Kiranjit’s bear-hug with a comic line.

Of course, the real star of Provoked is Aishwarya Rai who delivers a performance that is appropriately restrained. I haven’t exactly been a big fan of Aishwarya’s acting, but I’ll say here, she surprises you with what she strums up.

It’s a performance that penetrates into your consciousness because she plays it with a slow-burning passion rather than an all-out flourish. This is easily one of her better acting jobs.

The film works because it’s not preachy and it doesn’t take itself too seriously. So I’ll go with three out of five for Jag Mundhra’s Provoked. It’s a sensitive film about domestic abuse. It’s not a great film by any standards but it’s well intended and it goes about its job with sincerity, and sometimes, just sometimes, that’s enough.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Hancock review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:29 pm

Jul 11, 2008

Cast: Will Smith

Director: Peter Berg

Will Smith stars as an unlikely superhero who drinks and swears and causes mass destruction when he’s saving the world in Hancock. He can fly, he can derail a speeding train, he’s even bulletproof.

But he’s the kind of guy who doesn’t exactly worry or even think about the consequences of his deeds. Like what he does to the stranded whale on the beach. He decides to send it back to sea, but by yanking the thing by its tail and flinging it so hard it lands smack on a yacht in the water.

Naturally Americans hate Hancock. He’s got hundreds of lawsuits pending against him, and the damage he’s inadvertently caused to state property would run into millions of dollars. His life changes when a PR guy he saves in a train accident volunteers to give him an image makeover. Trust Hancock to repay the guy by falling for his wife.

On paper, Hancock is a fantastic idea, the perfect twist to a superhero tale. Some of the scenes in the film are really amusing – like the ones in which Hancock is trained to ask politely before rescuing someone, and to say “good job” even when the person isn’t doing one.

In fact the film’s fairly enjoyable until it gets all serious and makes a completely unexpected plot turn that derails the film in a way that it never recovers from. That’s a pity because Will Smith is in really good form as the boorish superhero and there’s really so much potential here. Hancock promises the real deal, but delivers a lot less.

So that’s two out of five and at best an average rating for Hancock. Watch it for yourself and you’ll understand what I mean when I say they ruined a perfectly good movie and how!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Shakalaka Boom Boom review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:26 pm

April 06, 2007

Cast: Bobby Deol, Upen Patel, Kangana Ranaut, Celina Jaitley

Director: Suneel Darshan

I can safely say you’ve never seen a film like this before, I’m talking about this week’s new Bollywood release, director Suneel Darshan’s Shakalaka Boom Boom in which Bobby Deol plays an insecure pop-star who refuses to come to terms with the fact that there’s a new kid on the block who’s all set to steal his thunder.

Not only does Bobby find himself professionally threatened by up-and-comer Upen Patel, he also loses his dreamgirl Kangana Ranaut to the rising star.

Determined not to give up his top spot, Bobby befriends Upen instead, volunteers to produce his album, then sabotages it when it hits the market.

As yet unaware of Bobby’s act of treachery, Upen once again accepts Bobby’s helping hand in producing his next album.

Hot-headed and immature, Upen refuses to pay heed to his father’s advice, warning him against the perils of over-ambition, and he also dismisses his girlfriend Kangana’s caution against Bobby.

It’s an ambition-meets-ambition drama, which director Suneel Darshan delivers with his over-the-top sensibilities and his trademark 80s-style storytelling.

Now it’s clear Shakalaka Boom Boom is inspired generously from Milos Forman’s classic film Amadeus, in which envious court composer Antonio Salieri becomes obsessed with defeating Mozart.

But director Suneel Darshan’s film is unique because it doesn’t seem to think that a script requires logic, reason or common sense.

How else do you explain the two-dozen or so holes in the plot? Let’s just tackle a few – Why shoot in South Africa but pretend that the film is set in New York?

Why does Upen need archrival Bobby to produce his album if he’s such a talented newcomer?

When Bobby sabotages Upen’s album, is the owner of the music company sleeping through it all? Why does Bobby set his music room on fire after stealing Upen’s original compositions?

None of these questions are answered in the film, and what’s more these aren’t the only problems with the writing.

The film’s dialogue, credited to Anurag Kashyap, is so clunky, you’re surprised the actors don’t burst out laughing while they’re delivering such idiotic lines, because you sure do when you hear them.

After a passionate romp in the back seat of a car, Celina Jaitley tells Upen, “Aaj toh tumne kamaal kar diya” to which Upen replies with a mischevious smile, “I know”, to which Celina once again responds, this time coyly, “Main toh tumhaare club ke performance ki baat kar rahi thi.”

As if that’s not bad enough, the filmmaker constructs such sloppy scenes, even a student at film-school could have come up with better.

Like that scene in which Bobby’s managers spike his drink with an aphrodisiac before his date with Kangana – will someone please tell me why?

Or that scene in which Kangana inadvertently bumps into Upen and drops his ice-cream.

He goes on and on complaining that it was his favourite ice-cream – it’s so irritating, you want to slap his face and throw him a few bucks so he can shut up and get himself another cone.

In all honesty, Shakalaka Boom Boom is not the only Bollywood film held together by such a fractured script – few films in fact can boast of good writing these days.

But problem is, the script isn’t the only thing that lets down Darshan’s film.

Himesh Reshammiya’s soundtrack is a recipe for disaster – barring two hummable tracks, the rest of the numbers are similar-sounding, repetitive and entirely unnecessary to the plot.

Both Bobby and Upen’s costumes look like they’ve been sourced from a bargain basement sale at Pimps-For-Less.

As for the acting, honestly the less said the better. Celina Jaitley playing high-power publicist cum ever-willing bedmate to our pop-star protagonists is as lifeless as a corpse. She shows more skin than she does any acting prowess.

Kangana Ranaut fails to leave an impression, she simpers and whimpers in and out of scenes, evidently uncomfortable in a role that expects nothing out of her.

But it’s the boys who really take the cake. Bobby Deol hams it up as the insecure musician, and he’s looking so haggard, he resembles something they dug up in an archaeological excavation. Those bags under his eyes are large enough to fit my books in.

As for Upen Patel, he’s got one single expression and he uses it for all occasions – when he’s happy, when he’s sad, when he’s angry, when he’s just finished making out, and when he’s been told his father’s dead.

In fact, Upen gives the word ‘stiffness’ a whole new meaning – you want to pinch him just to make sure he’s human and not a wax statue out of Madame Tussauds.

I’m tempted to say Shakalaka Boom Boom is one of the worst films directed by Suneel Darshan but then memories of his previous films Barsaat and Dosti continue to haunt me.

Perhaps I’ll just say it’s one of his most unintentionally entertaining films, because rarely have I laughed as hard as I did while watching Shakalaka Boom Boom– and it’s not even a comedy.

The climax of this film is so bizarre, it involves a disco ball falling on the head of one of the protagonists.

You know, I seriously suspect a similar accident may have befallen the director or the writers while they were working on this film – how else could any sane mind have come up with such a ridiculous piece of work?

I’m going to go with one out of five for director Suneel Darshan’s Shakalaka Boom Boom, the one star is because this film has one merit that separates it from others – you’ve never seen anything like it before. This Shakalaka seems headed for Doom Doom.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Life Mein Kabhie Kabhiee review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:16 pm

April 13, 2007

Cast: Dino Mora, Aftab Shivdasani, Sammir Dattani, Nauheed Cyrusi and Anjori Alagh

Director: Vikram Bhatt

Just over a month since he subjected us to the torture that was his last film, Red, director Vikram Bhatt is back this week, serving up his latest offering, Life Mein Kabhie Kabhiee.

Now this one’s meant to be a coming-of-age drama about five friends who discover the harsh realities of life after graduating from college. It’s a film about the tough choices one must make and about the consequences of one’s choices.

The film stars Dino Mora, Aftab Shivdasani, Sammir Dattani, Nauheed Cyrusi and newcomer Anjori Alagh as this bunch of best buds who decide to meet five years after graduation to see who’s the happiest one of them all based on the direction their life would have taken in the five years ahead.

I’m not going to play the spoilt-sport here by telling you who wins the bet, who emerges the happiest of the five, but I will tell you who’s not terribly happy at the end of the film and that person would be me. It’s way too long, it’s dead boring, it doesn’t tell you anything you didn’t already know, and quite frankly, the film makes its point in such a round-about fashion that you feel like you’re a class five student being forced to attend a moral science lesson.

Films like Life Mein Kabhie Kabhiee make me really angry because I can see the film’s director doesn’t really give a hoot about this film. His disinterest, his indifference is evident in every frame of the film, and forgive me, but how can you expect anyone to give this film a chance, if the man who made it didn’t invest any sincerity in it himself?

I’ve seen many films directed by Vikram Bhatt and several of them have been quite terrible, but in all honesty I haven’t seen one as pointless, as purposeless, as meandering and as indifferent as this one.

To begin with, there’s very little in terms of a plot here, every single character is a stereotype, the screenplay is straight out of a bad eighties film, the production value is as shoddy as a school play, the camerawork is consistently flat, and as far as Vikram Bhatt’s direction is concerned, I suspect he did it in his sleep.

Now remember, cinema is expected to be progressive and forward-moving, but Life Mein Kabhie Kabhieeis like taking two steps backwards. An upcoming actress must compromise on her honour in order to make it in the movies, an ambitious middle-class girl can only achieve her dream of becoming super-rich by conning a millionaire into marrying her.

The only way to get ahead in politics is by sabotaging the opposition, and no business can be a success if you haven’t greased enough palms. Can you imagine, these are the themes of this film! How many times have we seen all this before, and why do we have to see it all over again — especially since the director has nothing new to say?

If you’re brave enough to survive an entire screening of Life Mein Kabhie Kabhiee, then do inform the Limca Book of Records, surely this is exactly the kind of record that deserves mention in their hall of fame. I say this because it’s difficult to sit through a film where you know exactly what’s going to happen next, where you can predict every dialogue and every scene.

I could sit here and analyse much of the film and tell you what works and what doesn’t. But hey, isn’t that what the director should have done after the script was written? If he had actually read the script closely and measured it’s strengths and weaknesses, chances are this film would never have gotten made. And that would have been a favour to everyone associated with it including the actors who simply fail to rise above the damaged script.

That’s a thumbs down and only one out of five for director Vikram Bhatt’s Life Mein Kabhie Kabhiee, it’s exactly the kind of film they stopped making fifteen years ago. If you’re wondering why I’ve been generous enough to give even one star to this travesty, then let’s face it, the zero-star rating is reserved for the truly offensive films — the ones that make your skin crawl and your stomach pain. And this film is only one notch above that. I guess life mein kabhie kabhiee hume aisi bakwas filmon par bhi apna waqt zaya karna padta hai. Kya karen?

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Bheja Fry review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:11 pm

April 13, 2007

Cast: Sarika, Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Ranvir Shorey, Milind Soman, Bhairavi Goswami

Director: Sagar Bellary

Everyone loves a good laugh, and I’m no different. Director Sagar Bellary’s Bheja Fry which opens at cinemas this week is a cleverly-written and competently-enacted comedy which stars Rajat Kapoor as a selfish and insensitive man whose idea of Friday night entertainment involves a party where unsuspecting, dim-witted victims provide laughs to his group of like-minded, shallow friends.

One such victim, Vinay Pathak — an income-tax officer with an annoying singing habit — visits Rajat at his home one Friday, excited to be invited for a dinner party. But the joke turns out to be on Rajat eventually, when he watches his life fall apart just moments after this bumbling fool walks through the door.

His wife decides to leave him, his nympho mistress decides to show up, his back is killing him from an earlier injury, the fear of an income-tax raid is looming over his head, he’s forced to confront a friend he’d wronged some years ago, and this idiot at his home is the man responsible for most of these catastrophes.

While it’s true this film is somewhat entertaining and much of the humour is derived from its rock-solid script, let me be the party-pooper here by revealing that Bheja Fry is a scene-by-scene, dialogue-by-dialogue remake of the superhit French farce The Dinner Game, which, if you remember clearly I’d recommended on this show some months ago.

You see, Bheja Fry isn’t ‘inspired’ or ‘borrowed’ or ‘influenced’ from the original film, it’s an out-and-out remake. One can only hope that remake rights were bought from the makers of the French film, although I didn’t see any acknowledgement of the same in the film’s credits, and in fact I saw this film’s screenplay credited to two persons, which if you ask me is shocking, considering the only real work on the script would be in the form of translation.

Now that I’ve cleared my conscience and made the point about plagiarism, let me confess Bheja Fry does have more than just a handful of hilarious moments, most of which are provided by the imaginative screenplay and dialogue.

The film’s director Sagar Bellary rarely digresses from the plot and the narrative of the original French film, although he does make a few significant changes. Like the fact that Rajat’s wife role is a little more fleshed out in Bheja Fry than it was in the original film — Bellary gives Sarika a career and a back-story, but then he botches it all up by failing to show clearly the building resentment Sarika feels towards her husband, and the reason for this.

The only other major change is that in the original film, the idiot protagonist had the annoying habit of discussing his passion for making matchstick models of famous buildings, but in Bheja Fry, it’s Vinay Pathak’s irritating habit of breaking into a song and his childish enthusiasm at showing off his scrapbook that makes him the perfect candidate for this idiot’s dinner.

If you ask me to nitpick, I’d say I was a little disappointed with Ranvir Shorey’s performance in the film. Which is surprising, I know, because Ranvir is fast emerging a comic genius. But in Bheja Fry where he’s playing Vinay’s best friend and colleague, Ranvir overdoes it a little by playing his part as a caricature and not as a flesh-and-blood character who one might be able to relate to.

Also was it just me or did you also notice how midway through the film, Rajat Kapoor suddenly seems to have recovered from his back injury — in no time at all, he’s walking about and fixing a meal and setting the table. Wasn’t it just moments ago that he was moaning and groaning in pain, unable to move by himself?

Another problem I have with the film is the seemingly insignificant but in reality, the shockingly careless insinuation that Ranvir Shorey is a pro-Pakistan, anti-India cricket-buff simply because he’s Muslim. That may have been only a passing reference in the film, but it’s horribly racist, it’s an unfair stereotype, and it could have been easily avoided.

The funnier moments in Bheja Fry are provided by Vinay Pathak, who manages to give his character a few quirks of his own, even though its more-or-less modeled exactly after the role played by the excellent French actor Jacques Villeret in the original film.

In all fairness, Vinay Pathak is priceless particularly in those scenes in which he packs and unpacks his scrapbook, and then those scenes in which he makes sure nobody’s looking when he’s tackling the combination code on his briefcase.

It’s a testament to the strength of the script that the film doesn’t slip despite mediocre performances by Bhairavi Goswami and Tom Alter who play Rajat’s mistress and his doctor respectively.

Sarika, on the other hand, delivers a credible performance — perhaps the most credible of the lot — when she plays the wife as a real person and not the cliché that we have come to see in most movies these days.

Thankfully, Bheja Fry doesn’t fry your brains like the title threatens to, in fact it’s got a handful of moments that will make you laugh out loud — my favourite is that scene in which Rajat’s mistress is unable to understand a word he’s been using to describe her, until Vinay translates it for her, much to Rajat’s horror.

Or that one in which Ranvir calls up his wife who’s in the middle of an adulterous tryst to tell her he knows what she’s upto. It’s really moments like these that you’ll remember even after you’ve left the cinema. I’m going to go with two out of five for this week’s Bheja Fry, it’s funny in parts so give it a chance. But no points for writing or directing as it’s a faithful remake of an earlier film. I just wish the filmmakers had acknowledged that.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Ta Ra Rum Pum review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:08 pm

April 27, 2007

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Rani Mukherji, Javed Jaffrey

Director: Siddharth Anand

In director Siddharth Anand’s Ta Ra Rum Pum which releases at cinemas this week, New York-based racing-car champion Saif Ali Khan hits a bad spell when he’s injured in a racing accident that leaves him with the kind of emotional scars that he doesn’t quite recover from even a year later when he returns to the racing track.

He’s lost his speed and as a result, he loses his place on the team. With no savings to fall back on, and no job that’ll stick, Saif has no choice but to move his family from a sprawling home in Manhattan to a modest apartment in Queens.

His loving wife Rani Mukherjee stands by him like a rock, they decide to face all hardships with a smile, never once letting their two young kids realize that they’ve fallen upon hard times.

Taking up odd jobs here and there, the couple try their best to make ends meet, until one unfortunate incident involving their child, makes Saif return to the race track to regain his lost glory and save his family forever.

How do you even begin to explain what’s wrong about a film, that does nothing right to begin with? The one, the only, the real problem with Ta Ra Rum Pum is that there’s absolutely nothing new about it.

The plot’s been borrowed generously from such films as Cinderella ManIn America and Life Is Beautiful, but it’s also littered with so many Bollywood clichés that barely twenty minutes into the film, you can predict exactly where it’s going and how it’s going to end.

Another big problem I have with this film is the ooh-so-cute factor which almost made me puke. Kids should behave like kids, and watching them starve themselves to save money, or reach for other people’s half-eaten doughnuts is just not cool.

I know it’s all meant to tap at your tear-ducts and choke you up, but honestly the only feeling you’re overcome with is anger towards the director for his blatant attempt at emotional manipulation.

Also, when will we ever be spared those Bollywood stereotypes – the heroine’s father who insists his daughter has chosen the wrong guy? Then years later when she’s going through a bad patch, he’ll remind her that he’d warned her not to marry this guy.

And the honourable heroine who’ll defend her husband and reject any help that her dad is willing to offer. God help us, surely Siddharth Anand could have done better.

Like so many movies before it, Ta Ra Rum Pum is one of those glossy-but-soulless films which aren’t insufferable to sit through, but they’re an exercise in futility because they fail to touch you or move you or affect you in any way whatsoever.

Even though it’s meant to be an emotional story, you can’t really empathise with the characters because it’s all so plastic, so fake, so calculated and clinical.

This family doesn’t have food to eat but they’re still dressed in designer clothes! Also I’d like to ask the director of this film if he really thinks this film is meant for kids. Dude, what do you want them to take from this? That revenge is okay? That it’s cool to be speeding like a madman even when you’re not on the race-track?

Also, will someone please tell me why everyone’s screaming in the film’s first hour? Rani, Saif, Javed Jaffrey, why’re they all yelling at the top of their lungs?

I understand Ta Ra Rum Pum is a well-intended film and it’s probably even trying to send out a positive message. But the way it goes about doing so is unimaginative and dull, to be honest.

Even the car-racing scenes aren’t particularly impressive – there’s none of that edge-of-the-seat, nail-biting tension that you’d like to see.

In fact I’m going to go so far as to say that there’s a sense of indifference I get from this film. It just seems like nobody cared enough to work hard on this picture.

Vishal-Shekhar’s music is way below average, nothing to sing and dance about.

Rani Mukherjee’s been styled so badly, you can’t help wondering if her designer was getting back at her for something.

Of the performances, neither Saif Ali Khan nor Rani is able to make much of an impression because their characters are so unidimensional and boring.

Saif’s just playing himself all over again and that’s because the writers didn’t bother to give him anything solid to work on.

As for Javed Jaffrey who’s playing Saif’s best friend and team-manager, I don’t know if that kind of humour is funny anymore – speaking English with a smattering of Gujarati thrown in, it’s just annoying if you ask me.

You know, when you leave the cinema after watching Ta Ra Rum Pum , you’re overcome with a sense of exhaustion. You feel like you do after a long, hard day at work. And that’s not a good thing because cinema is meant to entertain you not wear you out.

So I’m going to go with two out of five for director Siddharth Anand’s Ta Ra Rum Pum, it’s old wine in a new bottle. What you take back with you at the end of the film is a pain in the backside because you’ve been stuffed in that seat for so damn long. In fact I came up with a jingle for it – Ta Ra Rum Pum, have mercy on my bum, ta ra rum pum!

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Yatra review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 5:04 pm

May 04, 2007

Cast: Nana Patekar, Rekha

Director: Goutam Ghose

Also at the cinemas this week is respected Bengali filmmaker Goutam Ghose’s Yatra, which stars Nana Patekar as a celebrated novelist who’s invited to the Capital to receive the country’s top literary award for his latest work.

Making the journey from Hyderabad to Delhi, the novelist comes into contact with a young movie-director who’s a great admirer of his writing, and who’s hoping to adapt the new book into a film. The writer and the filmmaker spend the most part of the journey talking about the book, more specifically about the female protagonist of the story, a true-life character whom the writer encountered himself.

Now, the narrative of this film jumps between the present and the past, the plot flirts with both fact and fiction, and on one level the film can be interpreted as a social comment on how consumerism has replaced spirituality in today’s times.

But the problem with Yatra is that it’s too disconnected from reality, and it makes no attempt to hold the viewer’s hand and guide him through this labyrinth tale. Let me confess, sitting in that hall watching this film was hardly a pleasurable experience because it’s a jigsaw that’s hard to piece together.

I think that you’ll agree that over the years we’ve almost stopped using the term ‘art film’ because we’ve found more suitable and more accurate replacements. Words like ‘realistic cinema’, ‘sensible cinema’, ‘non-mainstream movies’, ‘middle-of-the-road films’ – these words seem much more appropriate when it comes to discussing pictures that are non-formulaic, films that don’t feature big stars, and movies that derive their plots from real life itself.

However, when it comes to describing Yatra, I think I’m going to go back and use the word “art film”, because it’s really a very personal work, one that’s non-linear in structure, but most importantly because the filmmaker doesn’t seem to particularly care about the fact that it’s mostly indecipherable — the viewer is really expected to interpret it in any way that he can.

Now I don’t have a problem with art films, with someone’s personal expression, but I would like to be able to figure out the director’s intention after I’ve seen a film. With Yatra, one can only guess what Goutam Ghose was trying to convey, you can’t be certain, because even after watching all two hours of it, you’re still flapping about trying to make sense of what you’ve seen.

No review of Yatra can be complete without discussing the performances of its three lead actors. Nana Patekar as the idealistic novelist is a tad indulgent, but that blame has to be shared with the film’s writer-director for giving him those stream-of-consciousness passages that bore you to death. Then again, Nana adds a few of his own pearls, the kind of lines that make you cringe. A lecherous politician can’t take his eyes off a young girl’s cleavage. Spotting this, Nana asks him, “kyon, maa ki yaad aa gayi?”

But the piece de resistence is unarguably Rekha who plays the nautch girl Lajvanti, the protagonist of Nana’s award-winning novel. The actress hams it up and delivers such an embarrassing performance, you want to beg her to stay home rather than pick such parts.

There was a time people felt nobody does a mujra song better than Rekha, and that was absolutely true. Her dances in Umrao Jaan and Muqaddar Ka Sikander are still held up as the best mujra performances on screen.

But now, years later playing the courtesan again in Yatra, she doesn’t bring the same passion that she did then. I understand one has to make allowances for age and fitness, but where’s the mischief in the eyes, where’s that aankhon ki masti that she was so famous for?

Of the principal cast it’s only Deepti Naval, playing the novelist’s dutiful wife who comes off unscathed but that’s because she’s a Hindi movie cliché – the silently-suffering housewife.

At a little over two hours, the film is far too long, it’s also pretentious and indulgent, and it’s an unworthy follow-up to the director’s previous films. There was an elderly lady sitting beside me in the cinema watching Yatra and for the longest time I thought she’d stopped breathing because I didn’t see a single reaction from her.

She didn’t shift once, she didn’t get up in the interval, she didn’t bat an eyelid. I think she may have been stunned in silence. Anyway, I’m going to go with one out of five and a thumbs down for Goutam Ghose’sYatra, it’s not the kind of film I’d recommend on an evening out. Sure, give it a shot if you have a taste for the odd and the esoteric, but if you want to go by my word, then this Yatra is not a journey you want to take.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

Metro review

Filed under: Our FIlms,Their Films — Rajeev @ 4:53 pm

May 11, 2007

Cast: Shilpa Shetty, Irrfan Khan, Kay Kay Menon, Konkona Sen Sharma, Kangana Ranaut, Shiney Ahuja, Dharmendra, Nafisa Ali, Sharman Joshi

Director: Anurag Basu

Easily one of the best films of the year so far, director Anurag Basu’s Metro is centred around nine-odd people in Mumbai, who’re looking for love and a sense of belonging in the busy, crowded city of Mumbai.

Interestingly, all our nine protagonists are linked to each other in some way, but that you find out as the film unfolds.

Shilpa Shetty and Kay Kay Menon play a couple who have lost the spark in their marriage, thus searching for love in the arms of others.

Sharman Joshi plays a young man, so eager to climb up the corporate ladder that he’s willing to compromise on just about anything. Kangana Ranaut is a young girl involved with a married man in a relationship that can best be described as mutually exploitative.

Konkona Sen Sharma is an almost-30 unmarried girl looking for the perfect groom, while Irrfan Khan just can’t wait to be married and have sex. Shiney Ahuja is a struggling actor who falls for a married woman, while Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali play an older couple who rekindle an old romance.

Like every good film, the biggest strength of Anurag Basu’s Metro is its tight screenplay. Basu doesn’t waste time spoon-feeding his audience by giving us every character’s back-story, instead he plunges right into the plot and unravels each character as he goes along – it’s a lesson that could have benefited Nikhil Advani’s Salaam-e-Ishq considerably.

The other reason Metro engages you from the word go, is because it finds humour in everyday life, in what seems like regular situations. Like the scenes between Konkona and Irrfan mostly, which are easily the film’s warmest.

Take that scene in the second half where they’re sitting by the sea after a shopping expedition. The manner in which Irrfan reacts when he finds out exactly why Konkona had rejected his proposal, and his subsequent attempt to set her up with a friend of his – it’s a classic scene and the actors play it out remarkably.

To get a film with a solid plot that’s also technically competent has become increasingly rare in Bollywood, but Metro merges content and form so seamlessly.

Bobby Singh’s cinematography complements Basu’s narrative, he uses his camera to convey the feeling of solitude, desperation, loneliness and joy that the characters feel in a bustling metro like Mumbai.

More than once you’ll spot the obvious Wong Kar-Wai influence in the way shots are constructed – like the post-coitus scenes between Kay Kay and Kangana, both wrapped in their bedsheets against the window of an apartment overlooking the skyline. Or that scene in which Shiney Ahuja and Shilpa Shetty get cosy in a dingy flat with no light but the one reflected from the neon-sign outside. Truth is, although borrowed, these moments are strikingly beautiful.

Pritam’s soundtrack is easy on the ears and Basu comes with a very imaginative concept of using the band as the narrator, by filming them belt out their tracks as the film unfolds.

It’s a clever idea – although borrowed from the Cameron Diaz-hit There’s Something About Mary – and it would have been perfect had it been used just once or twice in the film. But having the band pop up for every song just defeats the purpose.

Crisply edited and suitably paced, Metro loses its steam only occasionally when the screenplay veers towards cliché. Like that tacky scene in which one of the film’s protagonists discovers the true identity of her lover. For one, the scene has already been done before in Page 3, and secondly because it’s so unimaginative to have a poster of Brokeback Mountain to make the point.

Another slight hitch is in the track between Dharmendra and Nafisa Ali, which is poignant for the most part, but only once goes over-the-top when the couple elopes on a motorbike.

Barring a few such hiccups, Metro is an immensely enjoyable watch, and much of that credit must go to its cast who perform so proficiently. Dharmendra oozes charm and you almost spontaneously break into an applause when you first see him in the film crossing the railway tracks to be reunited with an old sweetheart.

Kangana Ranaut is surprisingly restrained and her silences give meaning to the inner turmoil her character’s feeling. Sharman Joshi springs a pleasant surprise as he effortlessly slips into the role of the conflicted lover.

Then there’s Shilpa Shetty who shines as the hurting housewife. Just watch Shilpa in that scene where Shiney urges her to succumb to desire, watch her respond with a mixture of confusion and shame and remorse, it’s a terrific performance and unquestionably Shilpa’s best to date.

The ones who’ll get the loudest applause are Konkona Sen Sharma and especially Irrfan Khan who complement each other perfectly. They give the film it’s most enjoyable moments and make the most of their characters.

But if there’s one real star of Metro then that’s Anurag Basu who proves with this picture that cinema is after all a director’s medium. With Murder and Gangster he made a definite mark, and now with Metro he’s confirmed that he’s one of the smartest directors working in Bollywood today.

I’m going to go with four out of five and two thumbs up for Anurag Basu’s Metro, it’s a film you must watch. It’s original, it’s entertaining and it’s only two hours long. Don’t miss it, you’ll regret it if you do.

(This review first aired on CNN-IBN)

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