Mardaani – A Review

Pradeep Sarkar directs Rani Mukherjee in Mardaani where she plays a crime branch inspector shivani shivaji roy for whom the issue of human trafficking becomes personal when a girl from a shelter who she treats as her own daughter gets kidnapped and gets sold into sex trade.

I am pleasantly surprised to say that on a day when I saw two movies about femme fatales Rani Mukherjee tops Scarlet Johansson.

Sarkar known more for his period romance Parineeta than action capers also pleasantly surprises in this edge of seat cat and mouse chase which feels fresh and devoid of clichés. Sarkar chooses his antagonist perfectly as a smooth talking, Breaking Bad loving , tech savvy, fresh faced yet ruthless “Under-19 team ka 12th player” aka Kid ( as helpfully supplied by the subtitles) played marvelously by Tahir Raj Bhasin.

Without delving too deeply into the story of one-upmanship that ensues between Shivani and the Kid it is suffice to say that not for a minute will you be bored in this brilliantly crafted gem.

Sarkar tackles the demon of Children being abducted and sold into Sex-trade and tackles it with such deft and finesse that he achieves the impossible – getting the message across without grossing out the audience or holding up cue cards to navigate them to the moral dilemma or the much-favored hammering the point home so hard that by the end the audience doesn’t give a damn. I was physically shaken and left trembling by the final minutes as the climax unravels and to me that is a clear sign of the movie being impactful.

Rani Mukherjee delivers what I believe is her careers best performance. She is subtle and sharp witted at the same time. Her performance is nuanced to the point where she doesn’t need to mouth a single word or need to bawl to express her anguish, a single tear as she comes face to face with her brother/husband ( I am confused as to who he was supposed to be) who is made a pawn in this game against a criminal mastermind.

The ability to infuse the sense of urgency and the clear and present danger in the first few minutes as bodies begin dropping without the slightest of bangs is near perfection. Sarkar manages to create an atmosphere of intrigue with ease. Also the first phone conversation Shivani has with the Kid as she is unpacking dinner is sheer delight as Rani unperturbed continues as if catching up with an old mate rather the man responsible for having kidnapped her daughter.

I could continue heaping platitudes on the virtues of this movie and it wouldn’t do justice to just how wonderfully surprised I was to come across this days after being subjected to the torture that was Singham Returns. It is movies like these that keep the hope alive that Bollywood still can produce meaningful cinema. If ever there was a need for a sequel this is the franchise. What Sarkar and Rani have created will continue to bear fruits for year to come as long as Sarkar continues to treat each of the forthcoming (hopefully) outings with the same intelligence and freshness as this one.

Do yourself and India as a whole a favor and go watch this movie not only because it is brilliantly directed, acted and crafted, but also because this is a subject matter that has been debated to death but cinema one of the most impactful mediums was doing nothing to spread the awareness and it has finally picked up the gauntlet and with such panache.  

Lucy – A Review

Lucy Movie PosterLuc Besson directs Scarlet Johansson in and as Lucy – ironically named after the first woman ever ( a fact shared in the film of which there are many). Lucy is the first human to ever access more than 10% of their brain power. Morgan Freeman joins along for the ride as the a professor who specializes in similar subject matter.

Besson dreams up themes which have been part of many a spirited debate in the theoretical sciences which argue that human’s aren’t done evolving yet and that once we are able to unlock the additional capacity that our brain possesses, we shall be able to accomplish hitherto unimaginable feats. But the choices Besson makes turn this sci-fi high concept into nothing more than a high adrenaline slick action caper.

Scarlet Johansson who accomplished so much more in last year much loved sci-fi romcom Her with just her voice, channels her inner Keanu Reeves with the mandatory wooden expression. I am yet unable to understand why do sci-fi creators always feature protagonist with no ability to express emotions? If we are going to be more evolved in the future wouldn’t we be more expressive? More emotive? More human? But she packs a serious punch as she whoops ass wushi ( that’s samurai in chinese) style.

Morgan Freeman can recite the phone book at it would sound exciting as hell. Here he reprises his role as the voice over for IMAX documentaries and acts as a narrator so that the audiences can garner some semblance of what the hell is going on. Is Freeman really the go to guy for any science related stuff in Hollywood? Or perhaps he is chosen for his abilities to make the most inane of mumbo-jumbo sound legit.

Besson makes a lot of poor choices which even under the guise of sci-fi creative license are inexcusable. Like the first time lucy walks into the hospital she just suddenly develops the ability to read Mandarin?  Couldn’t Besson just provide Lucy with some light reading on the taxi ride to the hospital so that it seems like she learnt Chinese? I mean even Small Wonder had more sense than Besson shows here.  The action is fine and fun and at 88 minutes the movie never ones drags but at times feels like logic was sacrificed at the floors of the editing room.

Despite the minor flaws the movie is entirely entertaining and Scarlet Johansson is on the screen slowly walking up and down corridors for a good part of the 88 minute run. And just for that go see Lucy.

Singham Returns – A Review

 Rohit Shetty directs Ajay Devgn and Kareena Kapoor Khan in Singham Returns would be an overstatement as he doesn’t do much directing but instead decides which corny dialogue to be delivered in the worst possible way by which of his comically stereotyped characters along with which of India’s social woes as the background.

Not having seen the 2011 blockbuster Singham, but having heard rave reviews about the same and also having been recently enjoyed the guilt trip that was Kick I decided to give this one a try. Very few movies have the ability to make me feel physically sick and Singham Returns manages to do just that. The only actor not hamming it is Anupam Kher who decides very early on that this is too messy even for him to be a part of and decides to off himself.

Amol Gupte who is quickly losing all credibility as an actor (and a director) plays a nirmal-baba like character who needs a few laxatives thrown in with his mugs of beer because he seems severely constipated while trying to deliver lines that give Anu Malik’s shayaris a run for its money in terms of how badly constructed they are. Zakir Hussain as Prakash Rao is ridiculously caricatured politician who verbalizes every thought that crosses the peas in his head that he calls brain. Ashwini Kalsekar as the Barkha Dutt wannabe journo with a penchant for being as loud and intolerable as Arnab Goswami has more of a role to play in the movie than Kareena Kapoor Khan but is in equal parts annoying. Speaking of Kareena Kapoor Khan the superstar who can only be afforded by masala blockbusters; she has played the same annoying character in numerous other outings and the results are entirely banal. KKK (if your brain grey matter is the racial minority then Kareena Kapoor Khan is the violent assault on it) has lost the size zero look, the pout and all semblance of being a perfect bimbo which is what got her so far – she literally has nothing going for her here – might as well retire to the Pataudi Palace.

Ajay Devgn shows signs of being a tolerable actor when he looks all grim and speaks minimally but then loses all his marbles the minute he has to do his signature “aata maazi satakli” and other moves. He is ridiculous. Mahesh Manjarekar does the impossible – in this ham-fest he rises above and refuses to ham and comes off looking as the better actor amongst all. The only redemption to be found is towards the end where Dayanand Shetty AKA Daya-the-darwaza-todoing-expert is asked to break the doors down – I’ll admit I clapped.

Daya Breaking Doors in Singham Returns 3

Rohit Shetty tries to make a bullet point presentation of all of India’s woes and all of the current affairs news blimps :

  • Corruption in the political system
  • Communal tensions
  • Black Money
  • Introduction of fresh blood in politics inspired by a saintly figure hell-bent on fixing points 1 & 3
  • Judicial impotence
  • Media overreach

The one news item he misses out on is that of sexual assault – but he achieves that by assaulting the audiences’ intelligence in the most horrific of ways.

I cannot emphasize strongly enough that there is absolutely no reason why you should want to go watch this movie. There is nothing to be gained by subjecting yourselves to such an unevolved attempt at movie making. If you need alternative ways to kill time consider these : watch kick instead, watch CID on TV Daya breaks more doors there, Knit – winter’s coming or at least it feels so here.

Kick – A Review

 Sajid Nadiadwala the producer with the Midas touch dons the director’s hat for the very first time and directs Salman Khan, Jacqueline Fernandez, Randeep Hooda and Nawazuddin Siddiqui in Kick.

A Salman Khan movie defies explanation here is a fully grown man nearing 50s and he still acts like a precocious child and still runs circles around the young bloods of Bollywood when it comes to action sequences.  He has insane (not in a good way) dance moves and facial expressions which are more ham than a quarter pound hamburger. But still Salman is arguably the most loved of the three khans in Bollywood today. And with kick he firmly establishes his creds as the king khan of Bollywood.

Salman Khan Movie Kick Review and Release date

Nadiadwala, Rajat Arora and Keith Gomes adapt a 2009 Telugu hit of the same name and kick the adrenaline levels up a few notches.  Salman plays Devi Lal Singh a genius of extraordinary proportions who cannot keep a job because he needs a constant ‘kick’ to justify his existence. He finds this in helping friends to elope with their girlfriends, by being the Good Samaritan and protecting the women folk from the evil eyes of pumped up goons. He meets and falls in love with Shaina played by the surprisingly beautiful Jacqueline Fernandez.  Through curious circumstances Shaina meets Ace Cop Himanshu played by Randeep Hooda who is on the trail of a masked vigilante. What follows is a game of cat and mouse with enough wisecracks and witty one-liners to fill an entire season of Comedy nights with Kapil.

The action is fast paced and the exhilarating. The chase through the narrow lanes of Delhi and the stark streets of Warsaw is gripping to say the least. There are many visual influences from Hollywood action capers and blockbusters which are very apparent to the trained eye – like the underground police headquarters is curiously similar to the one in skyfall after the MI6 is blown up, the scene with the slo-mo pigeons is textbook john wu, Nawazuddin’s Shiv Gajra is clearly heath ledger’s joker inspired. But the inspirations here do not distract and are rather used masterfully to augment the adrenaline factor. Ayananaka Bose’s work behind the camera is exceptional it is soft and romantic in the Hangover song and it is gripping and thrilling in the action sequences, the tracking shots, the slo-mo action shots are all done exceptionally well. Himesh Reshamiya’s music also plays a good supporting role to the entire movie and the songs don’t seem to appear without a rhyme or a reason. The only real sore spot in the entire movie is Nargis Fakhri’s item number – the girl as pretty as she is cannot dance.  But I am happy to overlook that because what we get in that less than a minute of Jacqueline’s Latin routine in the Jumme ki Raat had me picking my jaw up from the floor.

Like I said in the beginning – A Salman Khan movie defies explanation any reason and cannot be critiqued but all said and done the acting is good, the action is great and Jacqueline is a revelation. Dhoom 3 be damned – this has to be the highest grossing Indian movie of all time – because Kick is infinitely better than the Amir Khan caper.

Watch it for a full “Paisa Vasool” entertainment that does not really need you to keep your brain at home – it does not insult your senses (except for a London bus in warsaw) and still manages to be funny, sexy, slick and thrilling at the same time.

 

Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya – A Review

Shashank Khaitan directs Student of the year alums Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt in
Humpty Sharma Ki Dulhaniya which fashions itself as a tribute to the much-loved Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge but at times comes off looking like a spoof of the said inspiration.

Produced by Karan Johar this has all the trappings of a Dharma Production quick-gratification entertainment blockbuster, strapping lads and lissome ladies, slick cinematography and sexy costumes and a frothy and entirely superficial yet immensely enjoyable story.  The first half of the movie whilst disjointed is immensely funny as Humpty aka Varun meets Ambala hailing Kavya Pratap Singh aka Alia Bhatt who agrees to be wed to an NRI dude on the one condition that her wedding lehenga be a designer outfit similar to her screen idol Kareena Kapoor.

Humpty aided by able sidekicks Shonty and Poplu try every trick in the Bollywood romcom 101 book to woo and win the affections of Kavya and are successful eventually but how they get there with the blackmailing the blackmailer boyfriend of the best friend and other such interesting side stories is where the movie could have risen above the regular KJo McMovie.

The second half of the movie in all honesty is quite a drag and the only real reason for it to even exist in the form that it does is to showcase KJo’s latest wet dream – Siddharth Shukla. This Siddharth fares much worse than the one he launched in Student of the year. Where the charisma came naturally to Malhotra everything Shukla does makes me cringe. It is Poplu who saves the day with his witty one-liners and questionable orientation.

Of the actors Varun proves yet again that the comedy gene runs strong in the Dhawan family with an amazing knack for comic timing. Alia is reigning princess of Bollywood she oozes charm and charisma and carries the haughty pretty girl attitude with aplomb.  There are many comparisons to Kareena Kapoor and I think they do her a disservice Kareena only once displayed that natural magnetism and it was in Jab We Met and outside of that she has left me cold. This is the third Alia movie I am seeing and she just seems to go from strength to strength – sure her repertoire might be limited but even within those limitations she has managed to somehow blow me away with her honesty and earnest portrayal of a spoilt bratty pretty girl. Siddharth Shukla makes an entirely forgettable debut and a wholly unnecessary one as well I would much prefer Malhotra thank-you-very-much.  Ashutosh Rana as the grumpy father of the bride turns in an impressive performance.  Gaurav Pandey as Shonty and Sahil Vaid as Poplu are the friends you’d want by your side when trying to woo a girl ala SRK.  I wish the story had ended differently.

Spoiler alert: (highlight below to read the content)

I wish after the date night scene Varun had the conversation with Ashutosh Rana and left for the station and then the whole DDLJ “Ja Jee Le Apni Zindagi” bit had happened.  It would have just felt a little less tired than it ended up feeling in the movie.

Spoiler Over:

The movie manages to infuse humor in the tired old formulaic love story and makes it entertaining. Samjhawan and Saturday are the only two songs which work and are memorable and the rest are just plain jarring with no real reason to exist and aren’t even that good.  Varun and Alia carry the movie on their shoulders with their youthful energy. Watch this for these two wonderful actors and to relive and DDLJ nostalgia that you might have.

X-Men : Days of Future Past – A Reivew

Bryan Singer returns to the X-men universe to direct X-Men: Days of Future Past after having directed X-men and the X-men 2 and then handed over the reins to Brett Ratner who according to most nearly killed the franchise ( I had no such problems with The Last Stand though) . Armed the cast from the present-day X-men universe and the younger versions of the same characters introduced in Matthew Vaughn’s brilliant X-Men: First Class and with a crisp script by Simon Kinberg, Singer undoes a lot of the dead-end story arcs that Ratner took  with Last Stand.

The movie is set in the future where the mutants are under attack from an army of Mutant Machines dubbed The Sentinels invented by a man named Bolivar Trask played by the amazing Peter Dinklage. The Mutants must band together to time travel and stop the events that lead to these unbeatable machines from being made in the first place. Singer does not dwell on introducing the various mutants and their powers like Whedon does in the Avengers universe. We are thrown summarily in the midst of an ongoing battle with a Vegas-sized buffet of Mutants to choose from and are asked to go along for the ride as the mutants become familiar and their powers self-explanatory.  This is easily where Singer and Kinberg could have wasted precious minutes and possibly alienated a already super-hero-fatigued audience, instead they drop hints and several nods to those loyal to the franchise to know and get familiar with the universe. One scene in particular had me laugh out loud ( and probably be one of the first ones in the theatre I was in to react ) was that of Wolverine walking through a metal-detector.

Unlike the previous movies which focused primarily on Xavier and Magneto this one focuses more on Raven/Mystique. Jennifer Lawrence as the young Mystique is quite phenomenal; however a tad more humor on her part would have just been the most perfect thing ever.  Hugh Jackman gets the loudest reaction from the audience and deservedly so – he is the embodiment of Wolverine I cannot think of another actor playing him physically or physiologically. James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender once again prove why they are the perfect choice to take on the roles of Xavier and Magneto that Patrick Stewart and Sir Ian McKellen – the two stalwarts have made their own.

Newton Thomas Sigel mans the camera and does a fine job of transitioning between the apocalyptic future and the 70’s. the production design on these  big-budget apocalyptic movies are pretty standard but by straddling the 70’s John Myre faithfully recreates the era and actually does a better and more believable job than the X-Men : First Class. Of Particular note is John Ottman who dons two caps – those of being the editor and the music composer. As the editor Ottman does a fine job of chopping of whatever possible flab there was to deliver a concise and coherent story with a fairly consistent time-travel story arc. As the music composer he goes the route of Hans Zimmer with the big booming  sound pieces that have come to be the staple of the action/thriller genre. Not that it distracts from the action but nothing particularly original.

This is the super hero movie of the year! You cannot afford to miss it as every X-Men movie in itself is very good but this one while playing homage to all its predecessors manages to stand on its own and still chart a new path forward by undoing the ending of Last Stand. All the tenses get turned on their head as the has becomes had and the he gets becomes will he get? This is an intelligent movie which does not compromise on the entertainment aspect and still does not dumb it down for the audience.  Watch it as the Future and Past of the X-Men universe collide and result in a big bang that will rewrite where the series goes from here.

Hawaa Hawaai – A Review

Amole Gupte directs his son Partho and Saqib Saleem in Hawaa Hawaai. Taking on the themes of rural poverty, child labor and the growing socio-economic divide in the country the movie is ambitious to say the least. But it is this ambition which is the undoing of what could potentially have been a wonderful movie.

Gupte makes many a directorial choices which had me cringing at the cheesiness or laughing out loud at the sheer ridiculousness of certain situations. After a visually stunning opening sequence underscored by a “roshesh-like” song  we are jarringly moved from the idyllic rural surroundings to the claustrophobic environs of the dharavi slums. This move is perhaps one of the very few good decisions Gupte makes where he does not rely on a paint-by-numbers narrative and leaves the symbolisms to be deciphered by the audience.

Once in Mumbai it all goes belly up. Arjun Harishchandra Waghmare played ably by Gupte’s son Partho is working as a waiter cum cleaner at a tea vendor’s stall. After a grueling first day when he asks permission to leave, the vendor asks him to wait around because the business is about to pick up. In comes Lucky Bhargav skating coach extraordinaire played by the Over the Top Saqib Saleem. Partho is immediately mesmerized by a pair of inline skates. The desire to own and ride a pair of skates is immediate and not entirely believable – had they showed a few days pass by with Arjun seeing the kids perform all sorts of stunts it would have made more sense – but sadly Gupte or his editors decided that was way too much time to spend on developing the central theme of the movie.

Arjun and his gang of friends (again no time spent in establishing how they came to know each other and how they formed such a bond) use their considerable talents to come up with a pair of skates to realize Arjun’s dreams. What follows is a series of incoherent rants between Lucky and his great American Keeda brother about how passion means more than earning a decent livelihood (sermons delivered from the balcony of a sea-facing apartment).  Also there is this off-tangent plot about a drunken rich kid running over lucky while he tried to protect his skating students and how he lets the kid go because his sister is earnest upon her return from outside the country and most importantly HOT. From here on it follows a fairly predictable plot of championing the underdog. All the choices Gupte makes story-wise do not feel original with a hint of Iqbal (a brilliant movie) or bhaag milkha bhaag (a forgettable affair)

In all this disappointment there are two stand outs for me – Neha Joshi who plays Arjun’s mother is brilliant and feels very real with her demeanor and carefully understated portrayal and Anuj Sachdeva who while minimal in his presence on screen makes an impact without needing to shout from the rooftops.

The film tries to force moral issues down your throat with a sequence that juxtaposes shots of kids rummaging through garbage to kids taking rickshaws to school, kids selling gajaras at signals to kids performing science experiments in school. It tries to highlight the plight of the farmers but seems dishonest in doing so. I had huge hopes in terms of the sensitivity and maturity in portrayal of children’s issues from the man behind Taare Zameen Par but here nothing seems to be further away.

The Amazing Spider-man 2 – A Review

Marc Webb directs Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone in their second outing as the masked crusader Spider-man in the Amazing Spider-man 2.  The problems which plagued an otherwise fun first movie are addressed here with the introduction of Electro as the main antagonist to Garfield’s Spidey. However Webb now has a problem of plenty with the introduction of Harry Osborne AKA The Green Goblin and also the much rumored Rhino.

I have been a champion for Webb’s work after falling head over heels in love with his directorial debut 500 hundred days of summer. I even loved his first outing directing The Amazing Spiderman which a lot of critics outright panned. But here my feelings for both Webb and the Web-crawler aren’t as strongly positive and that has a lot to do with the story telling. Ever since Nolan directed the Dark Knight trilogy he reshaped the superhero genre with a greater emphasis on story telling than on the razzle dazzle and that is squarely where the movie fails – that and the editing.

The movie feels like 2-3 different movies which Webb was juggling with and the end result is a half-baked effort which sees neither to conclusion. There is the usual tongue-in-cheek Spiderman dry wit, then there is the electro-funk music and explosions extravaganza that is more befitting a Bay or a Snyder and then there is the mopey-weepy rom-com Spiderman more suited to Raimi’s third outing.

Andrew Garfield is still strong as both Peter Parker and Spider-man and gives very little to complain about. My problems lie with Webb’s injudicious use of Garfield on the screen – sometimes there isn’t enough of him on the screen and at times there is perhaps a little too much. Emma Stone makes me go Jim Carrey once more – I mean can she do no wrong? As Gwen Stacey she is funny, witty, charming, and disarming with those big blue eyes and that laugh and those bangs and that cute little nose of hers… wait what were we talking of again? Oh yes the movie – she is brilliant.

Jamie Foxx as electro is ineffective if you ask me – he brings nothing special to the screen in either his Max Dillon or Electro avatar and is mostly over the top. even the writers attempt at giving electro a backstory is merely an unnecessary distraction.  Sally Fields who had reigned in the histrionics she is so known for lets them loose here and is mostly cloyingly annoying. The revelation for me however is Dane DeHann who as Harry Osborne channels the young Leonardo DiCaprio from Romeo+Juliet and The Beach and is talent to watch out for in coming years. I had mentioned about his striking resemblance in the Place beyond the Pines.

Hans Zimmer and the Magnificent Six (that sounds like a superhero tag team to me) including Pharrell Williams provide the background and music. Zimmer’s work is always fantastic for me and here too he does quite well but the whole electro vibe does tend to go overboard at times. The songs are lovely too but this somehow doesn’t feel like the movie for it. Perhaps Webb goes back to doing something similar to 500 days of summer again and treats us to some magnificent music.

To be honest the superhero fatigue is starting to show and it is about time someone reinvents the genre again. I have my hopes in Singer and his X-men but only time will tell. As for The Amazing Spiderman 2 watch it for Emma Stone. And also for Andrew Garfield who still is a better Spiderman than Tobey Maguire ever was. And if you are a fan of the comic books I am pretty sure there were some massive easter eggs left in there towards the end to figure out what is to happen in 2015.

Queen – A Review

Vikas Bahl directs Kangana Ranaut in Queen a flipped on its head Euro-trip movie which puts the female lead in all the same positions that were exclusively male bastions. Happy women’s day indeed.

Queen starts off with an upbeat “London Thumakda” by Amit Trivedi shot to show a Delhi household in the middle of wedding preparations. Right from the get go you know that this is going to be a fun ride. Everything feels real, organic almost in the same way as band baaja barat did, but more so. This is not a YRF-Johar wedding household this is very Delhi and very real and very relatable.  What follows is the main premise of the movie and it would be a crime to leak it because it ends up being a very fun turn of events – well not so much for Rani.  Well that is until she decides to go on her honeymoon by herself to fulfill her lifelong dream of seeing Paris.

Kangana plays Rani the eponymous Queen who goes from being a naïve home-science girl from Rajauli, Delhi to being the globetrotting backpacking Chick in the due course of the movie. Kangana lives and breathes Rani so much so that it is impossible to imagine this role to be played by anyone else. She is restrained while still being uninhibited and in that one scene where she gets drunk and goes off on a rant – in my books it ranks right up there with Mr. Bachchan’ drunken rant about liver problems. Yep she is THAT good. Not for once you would believe her to be putting on an act – Bahl and Kangana have both put in a lot of thought in terms of the smallest idiosyncrasies that define the quintessential first time “abroad” travelling naïve Indian girl. Take the insistence on hanging onto her purse for dear life whether it is while getting mugged or while doing a faux-strip tease where she stuffs her sweater in the purse. This is Kangana at her absolute best and honestly I would argue that it ranks right up there with one of the best female performances of the year when the year concludes.

Kangana is supported by an assortment of characters who she crosses paths with on her Euro trip – there is Lisa Haydon who plays Vijaya Lakshmi the Indian-French-Spanish hybrid who eases Rani into the Parisian way of life. Then there are the Troika of hostel mates Oleksander – the Russian artist, Taka the Japanese tourist and Tim the French Musician who help Rani forge the unlikeliest of Bromance while in Amsterdam. Rajkumar Rao plays Vijay – Kangana’s fiancé and is quite effective yet again. He is an actor who has a knack of picking superb roles without giving a second thought to the length of the role and always comes off as earnest.

Bahl packs a solid punch in the first half where the laughs come easy and you fall in love with Rani. The second half is where a little more thought would have made this movie perfect. The sub-plot with Rukhsar the red-light district exotic dancer was almost entirely unnecessary. Also in final adventure that Bahl puts Rani on I feel he tries to be too ambitious and it chips away a little bit the honesty with which he has built the whole thing up. But it is a minor complaint when compared to the enormously entertaining and entirely believable journey that Bahl takes Rani on. Also I would like to believe the “Alice in Wonderland” Sweatshirt that Bahl put Rani in wasnt a mere co-incidence and that is the level of detail that makes this a movie worth revisiting so that you can pour over the details and soak in its richness.

Watch this movie for the fantastic Kangana Ranaut. Watch this as it takes Euro Road Trip, Drunken street antics, and platonic bromance from the tightly held grasps of the male leads of Bollywood and puts in the closely guarded purse of Rani from Rajauli Delhi!

 

Oscar 2014 Predictions!

Roll out the red carpet and put on your best ball gown the little golden man is rolling into the nokia center this Sunday night.Another year rolls by and the 86th annual academy awards are upon us. While there is more mindless franchise trash than the previous year, there are also several leaps made in terms of meaningful cinema with artistic and technical prowess on full display. A casual glance at the best movie category validates this assessment where we have a futuristic love story competing against a love story and a story of human triumph set against the dark days of black slavery, we have a story of personal greed and depravity set to square off against a space adventure which tests the limits of human resilience. And plus when there is Ellen DeGeneres hosting it is bound to be a party. Plus P!nk is going to perform her aerial acrobatics so you cannot miss this Oscars night (early Monday morning YAWN!!!) .

This year’s Oscar race is a little more curious than most years – there is a clear cinematic landmark in the shape of 12 years a slave but it is a movie that most people are finding hard to watch and there is a possibility that this might hurt the film’s chances at a major win. The best actresses race which is usually the most fiercely competitive field seems to have the most talented actresses this year too with Blanchet, Dench, Adams, Bullock and Streep competing and with such stellar performances it should be a more closely fought race – but it seems to not be the case and the one with the lobbying power of the Weinstein’s will win. The best actor’s race which is generally a lone horse race seems to be the one that is too close to call with a 3 way fight between DiCaprio ( long overdue), McConaughey( on a comeback) and Ejiofor ( the most demanding role of them all).
Each year I try and come up with a list of who I think should win and will win and in most cases it matches but in some it doesn’t. This year too I will take you through the categories and draw up my list of winners and on the morning of 3rd March you will either hear me fist-pumping and cheering as my favorites win or hear me hurl abuses or laugh out loud (if the undeserved ones trip on their way up to the podium – I am looking at you Lawrence)

Actress in a Supporting Role
Sally Hawkins in “Blue Jasmine”
Jennifer Lawrence in “American Hustle”
Lupita Nyong’o in “12 Years a Slave”
Julia Roberts in “August: Osage County”
June Squibb in “Nebraska”

This is one of my favorite category as usually in an ensemble cast the supporting actor’s role can easily be swapped with that of the leading actor’s and that is what makes this a very prestigious award indeed.
Who Should Win : Roberts for August: Osage County – any actor who can say “Eat Fish B*tch” to Meryl and lives to tell the tale should win the award. But jokes aside, she delivers a phenomenal performance the likes of which were only seen from her in Erin Brokovich.
Who Will Win: This is a tough one – Nyong’o or Lawrence . I don’t think Lawrence should firstly because she walked away with the leading trophy last year and also because her role in American Hustle isn’t that substantial. Nyong’o certainly was the reason why we felt as bad as we did for Solomon. Tough call indeed but I would be happy if it was either Roberts or Nyong’o

Actor in a Supporting Role

Barkhad Abdi in “Captain Phillips”
Bradley Cooper in “American Hustle”
Michael Fassbender in “12 Years a Slave”
Jonah Hill in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Who Should/Will Win: Jared Leto if you physically transform yourself to a point where you are unrecognizable and you deliver a smashing performance you should start practicing your acceptance speech from the minute the production wraps up.

Animated Feature Film

“The Croods” Chris Sanders, Kirk DeMicco and Kristine Belson
“Despicable Me 2” Chris Renaud, Pierre Coffin and Chris Meledandri
“Ernest & Celestine” Benjamin Renner and Didier Brunner
“Frozen” Chris Buck, Jennifer Lee and Peter Del Vecho
“The Wind Rises” Hayao Miyazaki and Toshio Suzuki

This is one category that almost always baffles me with the inclusion of a French animated movie – do the laws of foreign language film not apply to this category? anywho!

Who Should/Will Win : Frozen it has everything that is the hallmark of a Disney classic – a princess, a dashing prince, talking inanimate object and a brilliant song “Let It Be”.

Cinematography

“The Grandmaster” Philippe Le Sourd
“Gravity” Emmanuel Lubezki
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Bruno Delbonnel
“Nebraska” Phedon Papamichael
“Prisoners” Roger A. Deakins

This is one aspect of filmmaking that more often than not finds a mention in my reviews because to be this is one of the most important components that makes or breaks the movie. The director’s vision is only as good as the DoP being able to translate it to the big screen. I loved Deakin’s work in prisoners and am so glad he found a nomination here but…

Who Should/Will Win : Emmanuel Lubezki the man who took us to space and tossed us around like a lone sock in a tumble dry washing machine! Gravity is a visual phenomenon and makes perfect use of every inch of the IMAX screen space.

Visual Effects

“Gravity” Tim Webber, Chris Lawrence, David Shirk and Neil Corbould
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Joe Letteri, Eric Saindon, David Clayton and Eric Reynolds
“Iron Man 3” Christopher Townsend, Guy Williams, Erik Nash and Dan Sudick
“The Lone Ranger” Tim Alexander, Gary Brozenich, Edson Williams and John Frazier
“Star Trek Into Darkness” Roger Guyett, Patrick Tubach, Ben Grossmann and Burt Dalton

Who Should/Will Win : Gravity to me the beauty of the visual effect is in it being so inseparable from the main visuals that it does not feel unnatural and jarring and that was achieved by the team behind Gravity who transformed a giant sink tank into the unending blackness of the space.

Documentary Feature

“The Act of Killing”Joshua Oppenheimer and Signe Byrge Sørensen
“Cutie and the Boxer” Zachary Heinzerling and Lydia Dean Pilcher
“Dirty Wars” Richard Rowley and Jeremy Scahill
“The Square” Jehane Noujaim and Karim Amer
“20 Feet from Stardom” Morgan Neville, Gil Friesen and Caitrin Rogers

Another fantastic genre in movie making that turns in some of the most amazing films – the Act of Killing is a disturbing look into the psyche of the khmer rogue leaders who perpetrated some of the most heinous crimes against humanity. 20 feet from stardom is a fantastic feature about the background singers which had me experiences many bouts of goosebumps with some of the most amazing voices ever heard but hardly recognized.

Who Should Win : Act of Killing
Who Will Win : 20 Feet from Stardom

Foreign Language Film

“The Broken Circle Breakdown” Belgium
“The Great Beauty” Italy
“The Hunt” Denmark
“The Missing Picture” Cambodia
“Omar” Palestine

The category that many a times reflects the political affiliations of the members of the academy more than the technical merit of the winner .

Who Should Win : The Hunt
Who Will Win : The Great Beauty

Sound Editing

“All Is Lost” Steve Boeddeker and Richard Hymns
“Captain Phillips” Oliver Tarney
“Gravity” Glenn Freemantle
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Brent Burge and Chris Ward
“Lone Survivor” Wylie Stateman

Sound Mixing

“Captain Phillips” Chris Burdon, Mark Taylor, Mike Prestwood Smith and Chris Munro
“Gravity” Skip Lievsay, Niv Adiri, Christopher Benstead and Chris Munro
“The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug” Christopher Boyes, Michael Hedges, Michael Semanick and Tony Johnson
“Inside Llewyn Davis” Skip Lievsay, Greg Orloff and Peter F. Kurland
“Lone Survivor” Andy Koyama, Beau Borders and David Brownlow

The two categories that make the least amount of sense to me but still turned out to be the biggest shocker last year with tie. I think the sound editing and mixing is probably going to go to the one that sweeps the most technical awards and in that case Gravity seems like a natural choice

Who Should/Will Win : Gravity

Music (Original Score)

“The Book Thief” John Williams
“Gravity” Steven Price
“Her” William Butler and Owen Pallett
“Philomena” Alexandre Desplat
“Saving Mr. Banks” Thomas Newman

The category that has me wondering always why the academy hates Hans Zimmer – he either gets shut out of the nominations entirely or gets nominated and doesn’t win even though he deserves it. Here too he got shut out of 12 Years a Slave. However with the wonderful music by Arcade Fire I am hopeful that I will not be too disappointed.

Who Should Win : Her
Who Will Win: Gravity

Music (Original Song)

“Happy” from “Despicable Me 2”
Music and Lyric by Pharrell Williams
“Let It Go” from “Frozen”
Music and Lyric by Kristen Anderson-Lopez and Robert Lopez
“The Moon Song” from “Her”
Music by Karen O; Lyric by Karen O and Spike Jonze
“Ordinary Love” from “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom”
Music by Paul Hewson, Dave Evans, Adam Clayton and Larry Mullen; Lyric by Paul Hewson

Idna menzel performing at the Oscars – after Adele performed last year – it’s like my dreams are coming true! Her performance of Let It Go would have to win the gold! If only she can switch into the witches outfit with green makeup and do an encore of defying gravity – now that would be PERFECT!

Who Should/Will Win : Let It Go

Film Editing

“American Hustle” Jay Cassidy, Crispin Struthers and Alan Baumgarten
“Captain Phillips” Christopher Rouse
“Dallas Buyers Club” John Mac McMurphy and Martin Pensa
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and Mark Sanger
“12 Years a Slave” Joe Walker

This has got to be Gravity – a film so tightly cut that not one moment feels bloated or unnecessary

Who Should/Will Win: Gravity

Writing (Adapted Screenplay)

“Before Midnight” Written by Richard Linklater, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
“Captain Phillips” Screenplay by Billy Ray
“Philomena” Screenplay by Steve Coogan and Jeff Pope
“12 Years a Slave” Screenplay by John Ridley
“The Wolf of Wall Street” Screenplay by Terence Winter

Who Should Win : Before Midnight show some love to the troika of Linklater, Delpy and Hawke who have worked for 18 years to come up with a trilogy that is essentially a personal journey in the lives of two amazingly written characters.
Who Will Win : 12 Years A Slave

Writing (Original Screenplay)

“American Hustle” Written by Eric Warren Singer and David O. Russell
“Blue Jasmine” Written by Woody Allen
“Dallas Buyers Club” Written by Craig Borten & Melisa Wallack
“Her” Written by Spike Jonze
“Nebraska” Written by Bob Nelson

This has got to be Her – it cannot be anything else – a story so original yet so beautifully written that it feels almost commonplace , the future does not feel completely alien and love gets a whole new meaning.
Who Should/Will Win : Her

Now come the big guns!

Directing

“American Hustle” David O. Russell
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón
“Nebraska” Alexander Payne
“12 Years a Slave” Steve McQueen
“The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese

It is a crying shame that Russell and Payne find a place here and Jonze is shut out of a nomination. In a perfect world Russell and Payne would get replaced by Frears and Jonze or even a Linklater for his phenomenal third movie in the Before/After series.
Who Should Win : McQueen/Cuarón
Who Will Win : Cuaron

Actress in a Leading Role

Amy Adams in “American Hustle”
Cate Blanchett in “Blue Jasmine”
Sandra Bullock in “Gravity”
Judi Dench in “Philomena”
Meryl Streep in “August: Osage County”

A 5-time nominated actress, 2 previous winners, A Dame and a goddess with 18 nominations and 3 wins – this one heck of a category to choose from. With each of the actresses turning in a stellar performance it becomes a question of who wants it the most and who has the ability to campaign the most, And more importantly than not who has the weight of the Weinsteins behind her. If anyone has seen Meryl’s performance as Violet Weston and thinks she does not deserve to win this award then that person is delusional.

Who Should Win: Meryl Streep
Who Will Win: Cate Blanchet ( I love you Cate but watch out for the steps girl)

Actor in a Leading Role

Christian Bale in “American Hustle”
Bruce Dern in “Nebraska”
Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Wolf of Wall Street”
Chiwetel Ejiofor in “12 Years a Slave”
Matthew McConaughey in “Dallas Buyers Club”

Replace Dern with Robert Redford for “All is lost” and even though I love Bale but replace him with Joaquin Phoenix for “Her” we would have the most perfect leading man’s nominee club in a long long time. But be that as it may of the 5 nominated here it is a 2 horse race between McConaughey and Ejiofor with the possibility of DiCaprio pulling an upset ( seems unlikely )

Who Should Win : Chiwetel Ejiofor – Physical transformation may be hard but getting into the psyche of Solomon Northup would’ve been harder.
Who Will Win: I am going to stick my neck out on this one and say that Ejiofor takes home the gold.

Best Picture

“American Hustle” Charles Roven, Richard Suckle, Megan Ellison and Jonathan Gordon, Producers
“Captain Phillips” Scott Rudin, Dana Brunetti and Michael De Luca, Producers
“Dallas Buyers Club” Robbie Brenner and Rachel Winter, Producers
“Gravity” Alfonso Cuarón and David Heyman, Producers
“Her” Megan Ellison, Spike Jonze and Vincent Landay, Producers
“Nebraska” Albert Berger and Ron Yerxa, Producers
“Philomena” Gabrielle Tana, Steve Coogan and Tracey Seaward, Producers
“12 Years a Slave” Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Jeremy Kleiner, Steve McQueen and Anthony Katagas, Producers
“The Wolf of Wall Street” Martin Scorsese, Leonardo DiCaprio, Joey McFarland and Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Producers

My top 5
12 Years a Slave
Dallas Buyers Club
Gravity
Her
The Wolf of Wall Street

There is an interesting article out in the blogosphere about how many academy members are unable to bring themselves to see 12 Years a Slave because of the unrelenting nature of McQueen’s portrayal of slavery and how this might ruin its chances of winning the best picture and how Gravity might take it home instead. While I loved Gravity I do not think it is worthy of a best picture win, it is a landmark for cinema no doubt but I find it hard to believe that it can take home the big prize but then its got Clooney so stranger things have happened.

Who Should Win : 12 Years A Slave
Who Will Win: like with Ejiofor I have faith that 12 Years A Slave will win the big prize and McQueen will be vindicated for Hunger and Shame.

So there you have it! My predictions for the 86th annual academy awards

Category Should Win Will Win
Best Picture 12 Years a Slave 12 Years a Slave
Best Director McQueen/Cuaron Cuaron
Best Actor Chiwetel Ejiofor Chiwetel Ejiofor
Best Actress Meryl Streep Cate Blanchet
Best Supporting Actor Jared Leto Jared Leto
Best Supporting Actress Julia Roberts Lupita Nyong’o
Best Writing – Original Screenplay Spike Jonze Spike Jonze
Best Writing – Adapted Screenplay Before Midnight -Delpy/Linklater/Hawke 12 Years a Slave – Joe Walker
Best Animated Feature Film Frozen Frozen
Best Foreign Language Film The Hunt The Great Beauty
Best Documentary – Feature Act Of Killing 20 Feet from Stardom
Best Documentary – Short Subject (havent seen any and the will win is based on buzz) The Lady in Number 6
Best Live Action Short Film (havent seen any and the will win is based on buzz) Avant Que De Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything).
Best Animated Short Film Get A Horse Mr Hublot
Best Original Score Arcade Fire – Her Steven Price Gravity
Best Original Song Let it Go – Frozen Let it Go – Frozen
Best Sound Editing Gravity Gravity
Best Sound Mixing Gravity Gravity
Best Production Design The Great Gatsby The Great Gatsby
Best Cinematography Emannuel Lubezki – Gravity Emannuel Lubezki – Gravity
Best Makeup and Hairstyling Dallas Buyers Club Dallas Buyers Club
Best Costume Design The Great Gatsby 12 Years a Slave
Best Film Editing Gravity Gravity
Best Visual Effects Gravity Gravity

I will be for the first time attempting to live tweet the event so come follow me on twitter and join in on the madness! Don’t forget to let me know what you think in the comments below!