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Ashok Banker’s Ramayana Series

Indian Authors are finally having their moment in the sun where they are big news and attracting the attention of the publishing houses, production houses and the readers in general.

Chetan Bhagat’s novel “3 mistakes of my life” was beautifully adapted into a poignant and moving motion picture Kai Po Che by Abhishek Kapoor. Bhagat’s previous novel was adapted into one of the highest grossing Indian movies of all times 3 idiots. I am neither a fan of Bhagat nor of 3 Idiots but Kai Po Che was a wonderful movie.

Couple of days ago, Amish Tripathi was paid a whopping 5Cr. an amount unheard of as an advance for his future books (which Amish says he hasn’t decided on the subject matter). This is due to the hugely popular Shiva Trilogy which reimagines the myth of Shiva and concocts a thriller-like story. Amish is being heralded as Indian Literary scene’s newest pop star.  Something akin to a Lady Gaga if I may draw that comparison – because while entertaining the Shiva Trilogy’s first two books are a disappointment when it comes to the prose. The story is gripping but big reveal of the second book was visible to me from a mile away – was still good but pop-star ish.

Now let me come to the reason why I set out to write this piece. When I read about the pop-star comment being made I immediately made the Lady Gaga vs. Adele comparison. And in this case Ashok Banker is analogous to Adele. A person so talented that their work will live on for decades to come.

I recently finished the 8-part Ramayana Series and am presently a few pages into Krishna Coriolis Series. What follows is a summary of the 8 books of the Ramayana Series with my overall review of the books.

Prince of Ayodhya: This is the kick off to the big adventure and Ramanand Sagar’s Ramayana being my only exposure to the great epic of India I was a relative novice to the various nuances and supporting characters outside of Ram, Sita and Laxman. The story begins with the arrival of Vishwamitra to Ayodhya to ask Dashratha to send Ram with the Rishi to provide protection to his ashram from the demoness Tataka in the feared Bhayanak Van. Banker takes liberties with many elements from the “accepted” version of Valmiki/Tulsidas versions of Ramayana but the end result is a 70 mm rendering of the story that deserves the histrionics on display. Ram is not the god we have come to know him of. But he is on his way of reaching mythical status.  The story ends on a cliffhanger with Vishwamitra announcing their departure for mithila to attend a wedding – when Ram asks whose wedding The Rishi answers matter-of-factly “Yours”

Siege of Mithila: The second novel starts off shattering the damsel-in-distress image of Sita. Sita is as formidable an ally for Ram as Lakshman is. The delicate bond that forms between Ram and Sita on their journey back to Mithila while Sita is incognito is beautifully written. The Introduction of the demonic Ravana, his plans to invade the Aryan nations, his appearance at Sita’s Swayamwar are stuff of magic. There is a lot of Magic also on display. A chapter of great note is the rescuing of Ahilya from her banishment as a stone at the bottom of the river and the vetal attacks. This book is dark and only a precursor of things to come. The story ends with the Ram & Lakshman unleashing the Bramha-astra to annihilate Ravana’s advancing armies.  And the newly married brothers and their consorts proceed to Ayodhya.

Demons of Chitrakut: the story picks up as the wedding party that left from Mithila for Ayodhya is stopped by Parshuram, the legendary Axe-wielding avatar of Vishnu who is incensed that Ram broke the bow of Shiva during the Swayamwar with Sita. The passage about the wedding party’s arrival at Ayodhya the very visual description of the Raag Deepak that was specifically created to welcome Ram home comes alive in front of your eyes as you read each word.  What follows is perhaps the second most famous scene from Ramayana, the banishment of Ram for 14 years by the treacherous Kaikeyi. Here too Banker takes liberties in firmly establishing the good vs. the evil and painting Kaikeyi as the hapless tragic heroine under the sorcerous spell of Manthara.  Once in exile the story slows down with a few brief incidents of high drama, the shaming of Surpankha, the fight with the last surviving group of Rakshaasas who are goaded by Suparnaka to fight Ram. The story jumps a decade of living in exile in a few paragraphs and finishes with Ram making the final stand at Janasthan.

Armies of Hanuman: Hanuman is perhaps more loved than his Idol Ram. Banker spends considerable time lovingly and carefully building up the character of Hanuman. The story sees Ram, Sita and Lakshman retire to Panchvati after their battle with the Rakshaasas, Ratnakaran – the bear killer retires to meditate and will return later in the story as Valmiki himself.  Armies of Hanuman also features the most retold bit of the Ramayana story – the kidnapping of Sita by Ravana in the pushpak vahan. The way it is described is intense and thrilling. There is something almost voyeuristic about being outside and watching the story unfold.  The Story ends with Ram making the journey to Kishkinda to kill Vali and reinstate Sugreeva as the king of the vanar kingdom. This is military strategy at its best – Rama not having finished 14 years in exile does not want to ask Ayodhya for her army to rescue Sita from Lanka and instead tries to bring in the Vanar Army. It is here that Ram is anointed Siyavar Ramachandra – and the scene leading up to it is brilliantly written, wherein you wait on every word that ram utters urging the vanars to help him rescue his beloved.

Bridge of Rama: This story takes place 2 weeks after the events of Armies of Hanuman. Ram having successfully killed Vali and gaining the trust and respect of Sugreeva and his kingdom starts on a journey to the Lanka to rescue Sita. Thanks to Sugreeva and Hanuman vanar armies of other kingdoms also join Ram’s cause and each of the vanar species is described in exquisite detail. Hanuman goes from being a loyal Vanar friend of Ram to becoming the Vanar-Deva hybrid – the son of Vayu the god of wind. With his super-human powers Hanuman is able to accomplish spectacular fetes which form the most thrilling part of the novel. Hanuman through his great meditation in the cave  summons Jambvan to his cause and the bear armies. This rag tag army proceeds to the southern tip of the arya nation to build a bridge. When at the behest of Ravana the sea god Varun wreaks havoc and destroys the bridge Rama unleashes the arrows of celestial power given to him by Ansuya and causes Varun to line up Whales to allow Ram’s army to pass to land ashore Lanka.  This novel also features the devastation of Lanka after Hanuman’s tail is set on fire. The novel’s pace slackens a bit and there is a lot of talking that is going on and not enough action, but the beauty of Banker’s prose lifts the tedious passages several notches and delivers such moving moments as the point where Ram is anointed Maryada Purushottam .

King Of Ayodhya : upon landing in Lanka Ram’s army is surprised to find lanka to be a lush green paradise and not the hell that myths and legends proclaimed it to be.  But soon with the use of Maya Ravana raises a 1000 ft. wall to box in the army of vanars and bears and manages to kill scores of them. This novel makes up for the lack of action in Bridges by setting the stage for the final confrontation between Ram and Ravana. Many characters are introduced to the mix and each is beautifully fleshed out. This is the hallmark of Banker’s writing style where he goes to great detail to describe the physical attributes and the mannerism so that you are not merely reading about a character you are actually watching the army general vajradant charging at Ram’s army. Kumbhkaran, Indrajit, Mandodari are all fleshed out in the greatest of details possible.  The battle scenes, the final killing of Ravana, Sita’s return to Ram, the Agnipariksha and the return to Ayodhya after Vibhishena is appointed as the king of Lanka are magical under the penmanship of Banker.

This is where Banker decided to leave the Ramayana series and goes on to extol the reasons why. His forewords and the afterword to King of Ayodhya are so beautifully worded that it feels like a personal conversation with the author. When he tells you that he cannot bring himself to the idea that the Ram who waged a war to save his beloved Sita would so cruelly banish her based on rumors you tend to nod your head in agreement or want to argue with him that it was Dharma that compelled Ram to do so but it is because all through the 6 books Banker like a wonderful story teller has brought you in to this magical fantastical world that he has taken meticulous details to bring to life.

However like Valmiki added the Uttarakand, Banker goes on to write two more books to explore the circumstances in which Ram could go from the Siyavar to Sita banisher.

The Vengeance of Ravana: This 7th book of the Ramayana series appears to be mostly imagined as none of the events from this book come to mind when I try to remember the TV series from an age gone by. This is more sci-fi than mythology but still a gripping read. There are threats that are coming to fruition as part of some master plan that Ravana set in motion even before Ram was born. Here the notions of Fate and Karma are explored; here Ram is made aware that he is in fact a Vishnu-avatar. Banker in his foreword mentions that this book may leave you frustrated because it will not give you any answers but leave more questions – I tend to agree with him because there are several parallel threads which seem to going on without any connection to each other. While seemingly incomplete the book is not without its thrills. The story of Aatikeya a character I was completely unaware about is interesting; the part where they see parallel universes through the vortal is mind-bending sci-fi.

Sons of Sita: The unavailability of this book had me going from bookstore to bookstore asking to be put on the list to be notified when the book became available, finally after not being able to find the book I bought the book off Amazon for my Kindle app on my iPod and it starts off with a Ram so unrecognizable from Banker’s earlier books that it takes a while to fully comprehend how much time has passed and how changed Samrath Ramachandra is. This book introduces us to Luv and Kush the twin sons of Sita borne in exile at the ashram of Valmiki. Their youthful exuberance and childish innocence is the perfect foil for the events that will soon unfold as Ram embarks on an expansion campaign via the Ashwamegha Yagna. The Ashwamegha Yagna takes perhaps the most distant route from the versions in Valmiki’s version but it also adds a sense of adventure on a grand scale. The subsequent reconciliation of Ram and Sita, the final Agnipariksha that is asked off Sita, her sense of betrayal and the vanishing act by urging her mother earth to swallow her all bear the Banker Trademark that of detailed descriptive writing which paints more pictures than most authors. my favourite line from the book that still runs a chill down my spine is uttered by Sita ” Then be forever a broken god”  just before she is swallowed by the earth … and this is also perhaps the reason why Ram is a flawed god.

While Ashok Banker takes many liberties with the Ramayana Series he does acknowledge them at the very outset. I wasn’t affected in the least because I had no history of having read Ramayana earlier and only patchy memory of watching the Ramayana on Sunday morning as a kid. As someone who loves movies these novels are like reading screenplay, each scene is vividly described and comes alive in front of your eyes, you feel like you’ve known every character intimately and are invested in the outcome of each of their journeys.  This Ramayana series was the reason why I am now obsessed with the Indian mythology as a store of fantastic stories, and the fact that Banker has a personal mission of writing a 65 book library of everything mythology is making me salivate as to when I will be able to get through reading all of it. Mr. Banker Thank you for all the wonderful adventures in Ayodhya and Lanka and everywhere enroute, I’ll see you in Dwarka and then we shall proceed to Hastinapur.

X-Men First Class

Matthew Vaughn tries to breathe new life into a super-hero franchise which under the able direction of Bryan singer was promising to turn into one of the biggest movie franchises because of its rich and varied source material, died an almost agonizing death at the hands of Brett Ratner. There was an attempt to resuscitate it with the enigmatic Hugh Jackman and his spin-off Wolverine Origins movie but the results were less than satisfactory.

Matthew Vaughn has had somewhat of a hit track record; his previous Kick-Ass was indeed that – it kicked Major Ass! And stardust was a fun take on a fairy-tale genre. With the story credits to Bryan Singer Matthew Vaughn delivers a blockbuster worthy of its predecessors (1 and 2).

The movie is essentially a prequel to the X-Men franchise which traces back to how Xavier and Magneto came to what they were. The story traces the origins of the Mutant Vs Humans conundrum and packs a serious punch in the acting department.

The earlier ( or is it the later considering this is the prequel) X-Men movies had thespians like Patrick Stewart ( Charles Xavier ) and Sir Ian McKellan (Magneto) in its lead roles and it is only right that modern day acting protégés James McAvoy (The Last King of Scotland ) and Michael Fassbender ( Hunger) are to take over from them. Both of then doing such perfect justice to their roles that it is hard to imagine anyone else but them being suitable to essay that role.

The movie benefits from excellent casting choices. McAvoy and Fassbender are great. Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw is excellent and drops a major Story-Origins spoiler which took me by surprise (cause I am not a comic book loving nerd! ) . Nicholas Hoult (About a Boy) is charming as the young Beast, January Jones (Mad Men) is sexy, seductive and scary as Emma Frost, rising star and Oscar Nominee Jennifer Lawrence (Winter’s Bone) as the young Raven/Mystique is good but not slinky enough for my liking ( I mean no one does full-blue-body-paint justice like Rebecca Romijn!!) also the host of other itsy-bitsy mutant characters are well chosen and have a ready chemistry to blend with the stellar cast.

The Screenplay is excellent, the dialogues witty and delivered with a tongue-in-cheek fashion and are a whole lot of fun (Kinky!, You know what they say about big feet)

Two thumbs up to the Very Special Guest appearance by the crowd-favorite Adamantium infused super-hero and a very very VERY special appearance by Rebecca Romijn (tell me I wasn’t the only one who noticed!). Also I am absolutely certain I saw a young storm in the cerebro sequence.

Overall an excellent movie and a fun time spent at the cinema, only wish there was a little more action and some more mutant options thrown into the already lavish buffet spread.

One parting thought though – Matthew Vaughn might have done too good a job with this movie. I mean the movie ties up the beginning to the original X-men so perfectly that it does not really leave much room to add new dimensions to take the story/franchise forward. Oh well here is to Matthew Vaughn and his KickAss-2 and to the faithful Hollywood producers who know how to milk a franchise dry – so there is hope after all!

A Single Man

A Single man is the story that follows a day in the life of an English professor in the 1960s in the middle of the Cuban missile crisis. A year after the death of his lover the professor is finding it hard to go through life without his lover of over 10 years.

We are slowly drawn into his lonely world as we see him move through the paces of life, delving on his past with his memories of the time spent with Jim. Jim died over a year ago in a freak accident and his family was not going to inform Nick of the death and the service but Jim’s cousin calls up Nick and lets him know that his partner has passed away. Love Loss and closure are often potent mix for a powerful emotionally explosive story. Same is the case here but rather than exploding outwards Fashion designer extraordinaire and a first time director Tom Ford does a brilliant job of adapting Christopher Isherwood’s Novel and the emotional explosions are not outward showing of dramatic histrionics but rather subtle and nuanced inward implosions.

Colin Firth plays Nick the English professor and was nominated for this brilliant role. Matthew goode plays the dead lover Jim who is memorable in the few scenes he shares with Firth. Julianne Moore plays Nick’s old friend Charly whose affection towards nick is questionably more than just platonic, as a old single (divorced) Charly, Moore is brilliant in making the viewer feel her loneliness without having to ever shed a tear. Perhaps the most memorable character for me is Nicholas Hoult’s young Student Kenny. I had a hard time believing that Hoult was the same person as the one who played the Boy in About a boy with Hugh grant. His earnestness is beyond endearing.

I will be the first to admit I have no clue who Abel Korzeniowski is or what his previous credits are but in this movie his musical score is worthy of a Alexandre Desplat comparison. The music rises every time we switch back to Nick and Jim together and falls every time we see him struggling to get through his day. The throwback to the 1960 records to which Charly and Nick dance is pure joy.

For someone directing his first film Tom ford has quite an eye for details. My favorite feature of the movie is the play on the brightness of the colors – the colors are dull and muted and almost grayed out but when Nick feels the warmth or affection towards any person the colors seems to spring to life the lips become brighter the eyes shinier and the close-up shots of all the beautiful people in this movie only emphasize the beauty of the tragedy that is about to unfold.

A beautiful story of the inner turmoil of the man who has lost the love of his life and the bitter sweet ending to this story is a must watch. I cannot wait for what movie Tom Ford decides to make next. And mark my words “Nicholas Hoult Future Super Star”. I am certain to be returning to this movie several times more as this was the best of the five films I saw this weekend and among those five was Meryl Streep in music of the heart – now that’s saying quite something!

This article is a reproduction from my facebook account.

7 khoon maaf

7 khoof maaf – vishal bharadwaj’s latest is a movie based on the novel Susana’s seven husbands a novel by Ruskin bond. The movie sees Bharadwaj reteaming with his Kaminey Lead actress Priyanka who plays the titular role of Susana.

Bharadwaj’s previous work includes Makadi a critically acclaimed children’s movie a genre almost unknown in india, Maqbool a reinterpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Omkara a Othello reinterpretation and the hugely successful Kaminey. So understandably the expectations from 7 Khoon Maaf were extremely high, Sitting in a half empty theatre on a Saturday night of the first week of the movie’s release is not necessarily a good sign in these dire economic times. But regardless of the box office outcome of the movie the director deserves kudos for introducing cinema noir .

The husbands played by neil nitin mukesh, an axle-rose inspired John Abraham , A S&M obsessed Irrfan khan, a hindi-speaking-bollywood-crazy Russian spy, a lecherous annu kapoor and the magic mushroom brewing naseerudding shah all pitch in super cameo appearances. Special mention to John Abraham for his almost Christian bale’s machinist inspired emaciated look as a recovering drug addict.

Susana is not alone in her killing spree she is ably assisted by an almost unrecognizable Usha Utthap as Maggie aunty, the butler khan saab and the jockey goonga. New comer Vivaan shah who plays Arun Kumar who adopted by Susana as child harbors a crush on her for all his life and return to do her one last favour is a revelation.

But the movie belongs to Priyanka Chopra who proves her mettle as an actress with this movie. She transitions from a grieving daughter to a battered woman with such ease that it is unnerving . Her scenes with Naseeruddin shah and one with the Russian are simply acting gold. The madness the malice the mirth that drips from her eyes as she circles her prey like the black mamba is unnerving and a little scary as well as a little saddening to see.

Bharadwaj does a brilliant job of keeping the pacing sharp and tight considering you have 6 weddings to go through and albeit 6 murders! I will still maintain that bharadwaj is way too smart for the Indian audiences and he sometimes has to spell out his next(or last ) move so that people would follow – case in point the little blue pill in annu kapoor’s hands does need spelling out but he had to.. and the side effects of taking the little blue pill are also spelled out lest the plot stalls. This I say because the director leaves an unspoken analogy which I am sure a lot of people will miss… so… the scene where Arun returns from St Petersburg he sees a spider on the desk – a Black Mamba spider – a deadly species in which he female spider kills the male spider after mating… this black mamba is crushed by arun using a book he bought as a gift. See really clever right?

This is not a movie that you “go and watch after a week of hectic work to sit back and relax without applying your mind” (not my choice of words). This is a movie that challenges your intelligence and rewards you if you apply yourself. Plus the ending leaves you wondering what exactly happened.

Go see this movie because this may very well be a benchmark for what female performance in Indian movies should be compared against. The physical transformations that Priyanka goes through over the years is sheer commitment to the art. Bravo Priyanka Bravo!

This article is a reproduction from my facebook account.

Kick Ass

Kick Ass by Mathew Vaughn is another one of the movies in the presently over exploited genre of Super heroes. But what could have been a underwhelming adaptation of the Marvel comics turns out to be super entertaining and very surprisingly fresh take on the Genre – kind of like what Nolan’s Batman did. Now any movie that gets compared to Nolan’s work is worthy of attention.

Kick Ass is the story of Dave Lizewski , an ordinary New York high school kid who “has no power and thus no responsibilities” and his only real super power is “a slightly heightened ability to take kicking”. Following a mugging incident he resolves to fight crime and becomes a masked vigilante. His first super-heroic attempt at saving a man’s life while fighting off 3 villains is captured on cell phone cameras by teenagers in a diner and he suddenly becomes an internet sensation!( how very 21st century). When not donning the green wet-suit he plays the gay bff to Katie the girl he wants to score in high school.

Without going too much into the story and spoiling it for the ones who have not seen it – the story also features Nicholas cage who for once doesn’t bore me half to death and is quite solid in his itsy bitsy role. Cage plays “Big Daddy” to Chloe Grace-Mortez’s foul mouthed “Hit Girl”

Kick ass does feel at times like homage to “The Dark Knight” with subtle hints at the masterpiece in terms of the choice of background score and the wide sweeping shots of the newyork skyline (TDK has chicago) and also in not-so-subtle ways like the bat-suit that “Big Daddy” dons.

Aaron Johnson who plays Dave/KickAss is solid as a geeky super hero and his awkwardness feels genuine. Christopher Mintz-Plasse reprises his Mclovin persona from Superbad ( a movie that I wasn’t a big fan of) as the son of the crime kingpin Franco D’Amcio played ably by the most able of the super-villains Mark Strong ( Sherlock Holmes, Stardust). Chole Grace-Mortez is a revelation as the pigtailed-cutie who kicks some serious ass. This movie was rated R for its strong language and violence and Chloe wasn’t allowed to see the movie herself (amjustsaying).

I enjoyed Matthew Vaughn’s previous Stardust more than I should’ve but it also featured and ensemble of characters whose casting seemed unusual at first ( Robert Di Nero as a closet cross-dresser I mean come on!) and similarly the casting here is also a little unusual , its unpredictable and that’s why it is so much fun. Plus unlike (the overhyped) Scott Pilgrim VS the world where Michael Cera played the hapless super-hero ( well since he fought super-villains) this movie doesn’t feel the least bit forced. Its awkward humor doesn’t seem forced. This has increased by excitement a million times over for the next Matthew Vaughn feature “X-Men First Class”.

Kick Ass Kicked some major ASS!

This article is a reproduction from my facebook account.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

So it all ends. And boy does it end spectacularly!! David Yates presents his fourth of the series and the final chapter in the story of the boy who lived. A journey that began 10 years ago with a nationwide search in Great Britain for those three special kids who would essay the roles of Harry Ron and Hermione. When they found their starring cast it was magic from then on and onwards. We’ve seen Daniel Radcliffe, Rupert Grint and Emma Watson grow from adorable awkward kids to gritty and mature adults. Rarely has there ever been a series that has so captivated the psyche of young and old alike all over the world be it on the pages in the words of J K Rowling or on the screen with such luminaries as Chris Columbus, Alonso Cuaron, Mike Newell, and finally David Yates

The series has benefited greatly by the one condition Rowling put when trusting her material in the hands of the producers David Heyman and David Baron – The cast be all british. And such magnificent talents as Richard Harris , Michael Gambon, David Thewlis , Maggie Smith, Emma Thompson, Helena Bonham Carter , Ralph Fiennes Alan Rickman, Gary Oldman , Fiona Shaw, Brendon Gleeson , Robbie Coltrane, Imelda Stauton amongst many many more have graced the halls of Hogwarts castle at some point or the other and made the world of Harry potter that much more magical for the cine-goers.

This last movie is essentially the second half of ONE good final movie. The first movie which a lot of people somehow didn’t like as much was arguably one of the best of the series a closer adaptation to the book in terms of the story characters and the mood than any other. The second is the epic and grand sendoff that the series deserved.

So the story starts of where the first one had left of – Dobby’s dead and Harry has just learnt about the deathly hallows while already on his quest to find and destroy the horcruxes. There are some spectacular scenes including the one at the Gringotts. A special mention here to the marvelously talented Helena Bonham Carter who walks into gringotts as Hermione who is polyjuice-potioned as Bellatrix and the transformation is brilliant. Gone is the usual swagger and strut of Bellatrix and the brilliantly awkward and scared demeanor of Hermione. Watch the scene and you will know what I am talking about.

The fight sequences at Hogwarts give the audiences a lot to cheer for and some of the favorites get to kick some major ass! Professor McGonagall is feisty as she unleashes some badass magic and it is truly a moment to holler out loud! Also that one line delivered by Molly Wesley towards the very end is worth the cost of the ticket.

Ralph Fiennes reinstates the old actor’s adage ” its better to play the villain than the hero” and as Voldemort he is Spine chillingly brilliant. The madness and the danger in his eyes is exactly how I’d imagined Voldemort’s to be from the first time I read Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone all those years ago. Like Harry Ron and Hermione he has stuck through the series doing full justice to the series. Voldemort’s exaggerated gliding movements and fluid gestures would’ve been ridiculous on a lesser actor but not on Ralph Fiennes – he is Lord Voldemort’s incarnate and he is Evil!

A special mention also to the genius that is Alan Rickman – he has a very big part to play in the final chapter but is on the screen for a precious few minutes only. The way he eschews his words and makes the audience hang on for the next one shows off his consummate craft. It would be hard to find a replacement for any of the case members that have appeared on screen for the 8 harry potter movies but it would be impossible to find anyone to replace Alan Rickman as Severus Snape.

In my previous review I’d complained about the score by Alexandre Desplat – I take it all back. The opening Score when you get a bird’s eye view of Hogwarts swooping in through the skies past the dementors evokes a sense of grand epic tragedy about to unfold. It is no wonder that I am reminded of the haunting collaboration of Howard Shore and Enya for LOTR (the first time I was just crazy hyped up on adrenaline).

I’d also complained of the 3D rendering and how instead of adding to the experience it took so much away from it because the projection of the movie when I saw it in the preview screening was so dark that a lot of the details were lost. That was NOT the case when I went it for the IMAX screening of the movie. The 3D was brilliant there were a couple of gimmicky coming-at-you scenes but then there are scenes like the scene towards the end where the Snitch opens up – this is what 3 should be used for this adds that extra dimension to the traditional 2d screening. Also there is something about the IMAX dimensions which brings out the details more clearly than the regular screen.

There has been a lot of speculation whether the final conclusion of the harry potter saga will garner the same critical acclaim that “the return of the king” did I hardly believe the academy will be moved to honor this brilliant series with any Oscar nods but this is the series adored by billions and when that translates to box office numbers it is hardly going to matter.

I cannot wait for when some Theatre Chain would do a marathon screening of all 8 movies back-to-back-to-back, I’ll be there first in the line waiting to be transported to the magical world that can be accessed through platform 9 and three quarters.

Pyaar ka Punchnama

Pyar ka punchnama – a film by first time director Luv Ranjan has been garnering a lot praise and word of mouth recommendation from the yuppie crowd, the IT folks and other stereotypical target groups that the movie is aimed at. The story is that of 3 guys Vikrant, Nishant and Raja urf Rajjo Rani and their “Man-Handling” at the hands of their love interests. If Bard were alive I am sure he would rechristen this “Loves Labor Lost”.

I was told by countless IT friends that this movie so typically embodies their lives – the same “kutta” like existence and it came to me hugely recommended. Now the last movie that I came across with such strong word of mouth turned out to be refreshingly delightful Band Baaja Barat so I decided to give this one a go and see for myself if I had indeed been missing out on a generational movie.

Luckily for me I didn’t have to scour out a movie theatre and had the comfort of my bed from where to watch this on a lazy Sunday morning. Because had I gone into a theatre I am sure I would have to woken up by the cleaning staff. This is not to say that the movie didn’t have some entertainment value – but rather that this is a reallllllllllllllllllly long movie that seems to keep going back to same plot devices which begin to grate on your nerves after a while – that of the scheming manipulating uses-sex-as-a-weapon depiction of the fairer sex.

So the story begins harmlessly enough with 3 guys who are living together and seem to having a good time hanging out in their boxers and less, chugging beers and basically being boys. Then walk in 3 lovely (and I do mean 2 out of 3 are indeed very lovely) lasses and all hell breaks loose. What ensues is fairly predictable but I am not sure how accurate.
You have the hapless romantic Nishant who is hung up on a girl who is in a relationship with someone else but gives nishant enough rope to keep hanging himself over and over and still there is enough left for her to tug him back to her. Then there is Rajjo Rani who has a clingy needy and a shrill girl friend who he moves in with and is basically neutered ( well that’s what happens to dogs anyways right?) . then there is the angst ridden guitarist Vikrant who is in a twisted relationship with a girl who still heaves hot and cold for her ex. All very typical and mostly forgettable.

The movie feels amateurish with its staccato dialogue and repetition of the same story angles. However there are a few good things about the movie. There is some gorgeous cinematography especially in some of the song sequences and also some of the desi rock songs are quite good and would make for an interesting listen on a long drive on a rainy day! My favorite part about the movie was the agitated outburst of Rajat ( who will always be rajjo raani for me) who vents out about “Aurat Jaat” which is demeaning but still fun and the part where Vikrant says “ ye ungli vaala mere saath bhi hua hai “ .

All in all this is a mildly amusing and remotely entertaining fluff with no cohesive story or character development (besides the occupation of the IT guy I have no clue what anyone does!) which begins to get tiresome very quickly. This movie would have gained supremely from a 20 minute cut in its run time.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

The last time I was this happy was a week ago and then I went in an saw Delhi Belly which was foul, unfunny and a complete bore. Today was an extra special day and I went in for Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – dreading the outcome because the promos had been far from flattering – cheap product placement ( Mishu Mishu Yahoo video chat – Skype’s better and then the darr ke aage jeet hai Sprite placement uggh!). Read on..

Abhay Deol , Farhan Akhtar and Hritik Roshan are three childhood friends who’ve made a pact to select a adventure sport each that the other two also have to compulsorily participate in. This is in the backdrop of Abhay’s Kabir proposing to the very fetching Kalki Koelchin. After Hritik’s stock broker from the 90’s act of buy buy sell sell and a lot pouting and slouching the three end up in Spain each carrying a lot of baggage – not the sort which the airline make you pay a thousand bucks a kilo.

All the three Adventure-sports sequence are thrilling and the camera work is probably some of the best in recent use in Indian movies. However I never was and never will be a fan of the bourne-ish hand-held camera work it just is dizzying and there are enough sequence where the cinematographer seems to have forgotten the basic of frame making ( you do not shoot a moving object by zooming in and moving in a different plane – the effect is nausea-inducing). But that misstep aside the movie is highly stylized which captures the majestic views of Spain in their full Mediterranean glory.

The songs which didn’t sound very catchy or memorable as standalone music videos work fantastically in the context of the movie – none of them jarring or out of place. The scenes with the various latin dances from flamenco to Paso to Tango work well with the setting. This is a lesson a certain Bhansali could learn – you don’t need lavish sets to set the mood right each time .

Of the three leads Abhay is slightly awkward especially when the deol genes kick in during the dancing sequences. Hritik is pretentious with his London buoy uptight avatar. Farhan is a revelation with his natural charm and goofy demeanor. Kalki is good as the annoying girlfriend and Katrina is a goddess who can make the flimsiest of peasant dresses look like the robes that a renaissance artist would’ve carved out of a block of marble for while working on the statues of the Athenian deities. And any movie becomes a hundred times more awesome that has the name Naseerudin shah associated with itself Deepti Naval is a bonus.

My favorite scene from the movie is the scene where Farhan after his big revelation sits atop a gorge with the sunrise magic unfolding in the background. Reminded me of “into the wild” in a very very good way. It’s the same solemn tranquil feeling that I felt then and that I felt today watching that particularly beautiful scene unfold. The lack of traditional bollywood histrionics of the big aha moments and the change of hearts is a refreshing change.

The comparisons to Dil Chahata Hai are obvious and not completely out of place. This is a bromance with a kick of adrenaline. This maynot achieve the cult status that DCH did but it might get very close and proves that talent really is a genetic thing atleast the Akhtar household proves so. Zoya’s Sophomore attempt is a solid one and one that manages to fill the cinema halls at 10:15 PM on a Tuesday night in Pune (now that is saying quite something) so it is doing something right.

Just a bit of trivia – if anyone is wondering why they thanked Hermes in the beginning of the movie? Well bag-vati is a Birkin Bag – the most recognizable and sought after bag in the world –a Bag which has a 4-6 year long waiting list. It’s handmade by the good folks at Hermes Fashion house in Paris.

Ignore the sometimes preachy sermons about seizing the day and enjoy the beautiful vistas of Spain, the obvious chemistry amongst its leads – some seriously laugh out loud moments and a refreshingly entertaining fair. Oh and a scene I am not going to forget in a long long time KATRINA-SPAIN-TOMATINA FESTIVAL.

This article is a reproduction from my facebook account.

Dum Maaro Dum

Dum maaro Dum the reteaming of Abhishek Bachhan and Rohan sippy after the hit Bluffmaster understandably had the people excited. AB baby ( here onwards referred to as ABb) did a bit of rap back then and does a little of it here too was novel then is annoying now. But look on the bright side ( very few ) he’s looking leaner either he has a new fitness regimen that I need to get on or he is wearing one of those annoying “I lost 4 dress sizes contraptions that are on sale every morning.

DMD is the story of the previously corrupt but now gone straight cop Vishnu Kamat (ABb), he is called in to clean-up Goa and its rave and drug culture. Director Rohan sippy goes through the motions and introduces the various characters in the most haphazard way possible. Perhaps the editor was on the same shit that was easily lowing around on the sets, there is no sense of pacing either the movie takes too long to introduce and setup one particular angle or it goes about disregarding the facts in order to save precious reels ( like in 2 days after you get an invite for a US college you are on your way – nothing to do with I20s or Visas or such. )

Let me get to the goods first as there are so few . ABb is solid in his angry young amitabh oops man role. He does cut a good figure as a fearless cop always on the edge of exploding. Here too he is solid and there aren’t too many complaints with him in either the acting or the styling department ( Dhoom2 and Dosatana anyone?) . Bipasha basu is strikingly beautiful! This is probably the first time I found her remotely attractive. She doesn’t have a very big role but her acting is not half bad. Rana Duggabatti will also appear on the not-so-good list a little ahead but he makes an impressive bollywood debut. He is easy on the eyes in a kunal kapoor scruffy kinda way and has immense screen presence.

Now the bad stuff, I was just thinking to myself the other day now every movie in Hollywood is either being shot in 3D Imax or is atleast post converted to 3D . There are talks of shooting in 64fps (frames per second ) and Peter Jackson is already shooting The Hobbit in 48fps( all movies are shot on 24fps-frames per second). Hollywood dallied with the hand held method of shooting with the Bourne movies and the result was initially good but ultimately nauseating. This was a few years ago and we are now being introduced to the hand held cinematography and it is immediately bile-inducing. Half the movie is shot in the dark and nothing can be seen.

The Acting – Pratiek Babbar is supremely annoying with that voice of his. Aditya pancholi does the hunchback of notredam meets gabbar act in the cheesiest possible way. And Rana Daggubatti who while is very powerful visually on the screen needs to get a diction and vocal coach ASAP because the way he delivers dialogues it feels like I am watching a kannada movie dubbed in hindi. It lacks any and all emotions.

The story and direction is all style and no substance and the style too seems all too borrowed to me. The scene where all the drug lords are gathered (all races represented) feels very similar to our introduction to the joker and his disappearing pen trick from The Dark Knight. Joki mobilizing the forces on bikes to be his eyes and ears and how that cuts to a larger screen with multiple Picture-in-Picture also resembles the scene between batman and Fox. And the finale is reminiscent of Marty’s The Departed.

And I have been meaning to vent this for a long time now. Who the hell wrote the lyrics to the reimagined “dum maro dum”song. “uche se ucha banda potty pe baithe nanga… fir kahe ki society..” Tagore must be proud. Deepika fizzles more than sizzles and I would much rather watch a back-to-back-to-back of munni and shila than “kheecho her skirt”. There should be a law against butchering old classics especially Zeenat Aman ones, first DMD and now Laila!

This article is a reproduction from my facebook account.