Bareily Ki Barfi – A Review

Image result for bareilly ki barfi posterAshwiny Iyer Tiwari directs Ayushmann Khurrana, Kriti Sanon and Rajkummar Rao in Bareily Ki Barfi. Set in the small town of Bareily in northern India this is the story of Bitti played by Kriti who isn’t like other domesticated Indian girls. As the narrator says “She’s her mother’s daughter and her father’s son”.

 

Seema Pahwa plays Bitti’s mother Shushila Mishra and is woe-begotten with worry about getting Bitti married. Pankaj Tripathi plays Narottam Mishra Bitti’s father who is torn between his desire to let his daughter live her life by her standards and the society’s expectations of what constitutes a good girl. If that sounds dreary and drab – don’t let that fool you – this movie is a hoot and a half! When Bitti tries to run away from home she picks up a novel about a free-spirited girl from Bareily and she is convinced this is her story. She wants to meet the writer. Enter Chirag Dubey played by Ayushmann Khurana who owns the printing press where the book was published. Bitti convinces Chirag to get her to meet with Pritam Vidrohi played by Rajkummar Rao who wrote the book, and thus hilarity ensues. This much is clear from the trailer – and saying anymore would be a great disservice to the movie.

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Written by the writing team behind Dangal, Nitish Tiwari and Shreyas Jain this movie exceeds the 1500-crore earner by a clear mile when it comes to pure writing. Given the realtively smaller stars the movie is un-encumbered with trying to satiate star-egos and as a result the audience is the real winner. I honestly cannot remember the last time I heard the audience guffaw so loudly and at times that warranted laughter. Of the actors Kriti Sanon is a revelation – I have not seen any of her previous work and really wasn’t too keen on her either – but I am a convert now. Ayushmann is solid as ever. But the real hero of the film is Rajkummar Rao – his transitions between the two Pritam Vidrohis is so seamless it’s a real treat to watch. The supporting cast is brilliant as well. Seema Pahwa, Pankaj Tripathi, Swati Semwal as Bitti’s friend Rama and Rohit Chaudhary as Chirag’s Man-Friday Munna are all brilliantly nuanced in the small but crucial roles.

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The music doesn’t let you down, Sweety tera drama and Twist Kamariya will have you tapping your feet to its beat and Nazm Nazm will stay with you long after the screen credits as well. The screenplay is precise and very cleverly written, the editing very sharp and together they don’t let the pace slacken even slightly.

A still from Bareilly Ki Barfi

Very cleverly written, ably acted and genuinely funny this one has definitely repeat watchability in the vein of Band Baaja Baraat. There really is absolutely nothing I can fault this movie for. Go watch it for Kriti who is not only easy on the eyes but has acting chops to back as well. Watch it for Ayushmann who really should be doing more movies than he is already. But more than anything else watch it for Rajkummar Rao – this guy is a national treasure!

 

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Dear Zindagi – A Review

Image result for Dear Zindagi posterGauri Shinde directs Alia Bhatt and Shah Rukh Khan in Dear Zindagi, her sophomoric film after the incredible English Vinglish. In the days of big budget star vehicles aimed at the hundreds of crore at box office filmmakers like Gauri are a welcome relief when they make what are essentially indie movies with a heart.

 

We are introduced to Kaira, played by the ever charming Alia who is an up and coming cinematographer who is brought in to do patch work on an assignment because the main cinematographer has fallen ill. We see her impatience and almost combative nature when it comes to looking for a big break to shoot her own movie. To put her visual stamp on something of her own. There are hints of a budding romance in the awkward conversations she shares with Raghuvendra played by the handsome Kunal Kapoor. Alia breaks up with her current boyfriend Sid a restaurateur played by Angad Bedi after confessing to have slept with Raghuvendra. Through her maid we are led to believe that there is an ongoing parade of handsome men who go in and out of her life, spending a brief moment being tacked on a pin-board. The first quarter of the movie is spent setting up the millennial context of independent living and being free of conventional moral guilt. Kaira is surrounded by a pack of very interesting characters, there is Fatima the stylist, Jackie the rich bohemian kid, A troubled teen coming to grips with his sexuality and the token Fat nerdy friend. Yashaswini Dayama who plays Jackie is absolutely precious as the counterpoint to Kaira and Ira Dubey as Fatima is wonderful as well. Kaira is kicked out of her rented apartment because the society has decided not to rent flats to bachelors, another millennial struggle. Reluctantly she moves back to Goa to stay with her family and this is where things come to a boil. Rohit Saraf who plays Kiddo, Alia’s brother is hugely effective in a tiny role.

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Through curious coincidences she ends up listening in on Dr. Jehangir Khan talking about Mental Health. Being unable to sleep Kaira books an appointment with Dr. Khan. Dr Khan, aka Jug played by Shah Rukh Khan is surprisingly Vegan – devoid of all Ham and Cheese that is trademark SRK. In a very restrained and refined performance Jug unpicks the complicated cross-wires of Kaira’s life. This is where Gauri Shinde’s subtle direction really shines. For viewers who are familiar with western dramas it might come across as a bit clichéd but in the Indian context there is a sense of novelty. There is commitment phobia, familial conflicts, sibling jealousy, dreams of falling off buildings. Every single situation feels organic and not forced. There is no mocking, no sermonising, even the one situation where there is a gay character is handled surprisingly sensitively.

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To me English Vinglish was one of the best debut movies and even the best movie of 2012. There was absolutely nothing that I could find fault with. With Dear Zindagi there are a few things that left me wanting more. While the songs of English Vinglish were lyrically contextual they were still incredibly memorable and hummable, not so with Dear Zindagi. Only “Love you Zindagi” has any appeal. For a movie whose main character is supposed to be a talented cinematographer the cinematography in the first quarter of the movie is surprisingly subpar. But these two minor misgivings are quickly forgotten when Alia is onscreen. It is hard to believe that Alia is only 7 movies old. She is immensely watchable and extremely relatable. The range she has exhibited from Student of the Year to Udta Punjab is incredible. She has mastered the art of emotional outburst, first seen with that pivotal scene in Highway and now with this scene around the dinner guests.

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Hopefully thanks to Alia the taboo subject of mental illness will become more of an open discussion in India. Gauri Shinde’s nuanced direction and sensitive portrayal does more than just pay lip-service to the subject. With this movie Shah Rukh Khan understands that this is where his talents are more suited to. The definition of entertaining is different for different people. I found it massively entertaining seeing actors and the director at the top of their craft. Even if this is not entertaining in the conventional sense this is in my opinion an important movie, a movie that pushes forth an agenda rarely touched upon openly and does so in a way that is palatable and relatable and frankly beautiful to look at. This is the therapy we all need.  This the grown up letter to life that has evolved from the pages of a teeny angst-filled diary.

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Piku – A Review

Shoojit Sircar directs Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone and Irrfan Khan in Piku a bitter sweet road trip comedy that reflects on the dysfunctional family dynamics of the Indian families. Juhi Chaturvedi who penned the story and script for Sircar’s glorious Vicky Donor dons the pen once again and the results are just as glorious.

Far too often the films coming out of Bollywood tend to focus on the “humko-sabse-Pyaar-hai”( we love everyone) aspect of  Indian families with larger than life celebrations of everything including the house maid’s. I for the life of me cannot remember any movie trying to portray life with parents as anything other than either completely devotional or an arduous hell. Piku is different.

Amitabh plays Bhashkor Banerjee a Bengali retired widower living in Delhi with his dotting and ever-suffering daughter played by the radiant Deepika Padukone who plays the eponymous Piku. Bhashkor and Piku knock heads everyday over a myriad of his ailments, sometimes it is his imaginary Blood pressure and most times it is about his incessant reporting on the movements of his bowels or the lack there off. While Piku is successful and quite desirable it is her 70-year old child Bhashkor who keeps getting in her way of any serious romantic relationship. Vying for her attention are her business partner cum friend-with-benefit Syed and the owner of the taxi company whose drivers Piku traumatizes on a daily basis, Rana played by Irrfan.

When news comes from Kolkata that builders want to buy their ancestral home and tear it down to build an apartment building, they embark on a 1500 Km long road trip armed with half their house and Bhashkor’s port-a-potty. Rana is the first guy who does not run away at the thought of having to deal with the over-bearing Bhashkor and it gives Piku the courage to speak her mind as well.

The strength of the movie lies in Juhi Chaturvedi’s script. Every aspect of a familial life which seems so mundane is given a theatrical flair and yet comes off as being natural and believable. The supporting cast of Moushumi Chatterjee as Piku’s maternal aunt and Raghubir Yadav (of Mungerilal fame) as Dr. Srivashtava are fleshed out so brilliantly that it never feels contrived. They are given as much to do as Bhashkor or Piku and in some instance even more so. The first half is crackling with energy and it only slightly fizzles out in the second half. I wish they had turned the dial up on the histrionics a little bit more in the second half and the editing in the second half been a little crisper. But it is Sircar’s abilities to tackle the novae India’s bold-realities without too much of a song and dance. with Vicky Donor he tackled sperm donation, IVF and life-in relations and with Piku he takes on Friends with benefits without much of a preamble or hysteria for such nuances I forgive Sircar the slight slacking of pace in the second half.

Deepika acts with such confidence that it is no wonder that she is the ruling queen of Bollywood. With every movie she seems to be getting stronger and stronger, choosing a wide variety of roles that truly allow her to sink her teeth in. Amitabh is a true master of his craft as Bhashkor. He is senile and cynical at the same time witty and sharp. He lends a softness to his tough exterior when on his dead wife’s birthday while criticizing how she gave up her entire persona to serve him he is chided by Piku and her aunt he reveals he still loves her and that is why is wearing the kurta his wife gave him many years ago and then he starts with his barbs again. A well written character as befits a legend of his stature. Irrfan Khan has a small but a very important role and he is a consummate professional. His handling of his longing glances at Piku and the ability to admonish and beguile Bhashkor Da are equally fascinating.

Kamaljeet Negi who with Madras Cafe gave me a total recall of Full Metal Alchemist handles the camera just as deftly here. His work here is more akin to Vicky Donor where he romances the everyday Delhi and Kolkata. A Special mention to Veera Kumar who has done the costumes for the film, her styling of Deepika is so quintessentially Arty-Bengali-in-Delhi/Mumbai that it is perfect and adds another layer of realness to the ongoings.

If English Vinglish was the best homage to the Indian Mothers then Piku serves as a quirky take on Indian Fathers. From personal and anecdotal experience it does seem that the movement of the bowels is as great an obsession for the Indian fathers as was the movement of the stars for the ancient Aztec civilizations. Watch this movie for a fantastic and genuinely funny script and outstanding acting from all its leads. Watch it for Amitabh Bachchan whose transition from Angry Young Man of the 80s to the Angry Old Man of the 21st Century has been the greatest journey of any living actor.

PK – A Review (contains spoilers)

Rajkumar Hirani directs Aamir Khan and Anushka Sharma in P.K. a curious tale of an alien who lands on earth from a planet far far away to do research on the human inhabitants just as we endeavor to send missions to mars and take on interstellar travels to figure out who if anyone is out there. P.K. does not have such high sci-fi ambitions. In true Rajkumar Hirani fashion all that this movie aspires to do is to shine a mirror on the woes that have befallen the Indian society like the questionable ethics of the medical education and practice in Munnabhai MBBS and the land mafia in Lage Raho Munnabhai. With P.K. Hirani mounts an assault on the god men of India.  Not entirely original but wholly enjoyable.

The story focuses on Aamir Khan and his encounter with a TV journalist Jaggu played by Anushka Sharma. Tired of doing absurd stories on suicidal dogs Jaggu is intrigued by Aamir who is distributing pamphlets on the Delhi metro.  Trusting her journalistic instincts she chases the story to understand who this strange man is and what his motivations are.  While in a jail cell PK narrates his story to Jaggu who takes him to be mentally unstable, until he proves himself by reading her thoughts. Jaggu believes PK when he says that something of great importance is with a famous god-man Tapasviji, played by Saurabh Shukla in a surprisingly restrained role for what is essentially a caricature on the infamous Nirmal baba. This same Tapasviji was the reason for the rift between Jaggu and her father and also the reason for the attack on her news channel’s head when he questioned his tactics. She and her boss (played by Boman Irani) use PK as bait to goad Tapasviji to try and expose him.

Aamir Khan the self-proclaimed perfectionist of Bollywood created quite a stir with his naked appearance on the posters of the movie with his modesty barely protected by an ancient looking transistor radio. Thankfully that there isn’t much reliance on shock value in the movie outside of the opening sequence which is shot with a sense of humor not usually associated with Bollywood movies. It is almost a Kyle XY moment and done tastefully.  I’ve long suspected Aamir’s acting to be the emperor’s new clothes and here too he does nothing special. He isn’t as particularly bad as he was with Dhoom 3 with his pained expressions but his protruding eyes and a permanently arched eyebrow here beg explanation. His strange Bhojpuri accent and an even stranger sartorial sense are justified while he narrates his story to Jaggu but nothing is said about his eyes and they are a distraction. Anushka Sharma carries forward her brash news anchor shtick from Jab Tak hai Jaan but is less annoying given that Aamir does most of the heavy lifting here.  This movie relies far less on its lead actors and their individual talents and is carried above mediocrity by its witty writing and an easily identifiable screenplay by Hirani and Ajitab Joshi.

For a movie that is trying to tackle such a huge problem as organized religion it relies too heavily on gaffes and clichés. While in Delhi looking for the lost belongings Aamir seems to take on a pilgrimage to every corner of India over the course of one song and it makes no sense.  The frequent cuts to songs also are a little disingenuous and break the flow of the story. The supporting cast is poorly chosen and underwritten with the exception of Sanjay Dutt who in a brief appearance as Bhairon Singh is brilliant. The movie walks a fine line on the safe side of becoming too preachy when espousing the same popular arguments of “why waste milk on stone idols when hundreds are hungry” and “if god has a master plan then why buy a book of mantras for Rs.10 to have a male child instead of a female child” and adds a new Malala-inspired “Itna chota nahin ho sakta hamara khuda, ki use hamare school jaane pe aitraaz ho”. My biggest gripe with the movie was the heavy reliance on the voice-over, it is lazy, uninspiring and worse of all patronizing by assuming your audience needs directions to follow the story. Where it succeeds unanimously is the juxtaposing of rituals of the Hindu, Christian and Muslim religion both in terms of the prayer offering and the choice of colors the women wear to indicate their marital status.

This is a perfectly enjoyable movie with inoffensive acting by its lead pair. An entirely satisfying climax which I saw coming from the time Anushka was waiting in the marriage registrar’s office – but it has the potential to surprise people nevertheless. This movie does not take a real stand against the god-men and their ilk like OMG did but it gets the message across. However what I fear is that it might get lost in the humor that this movie wishes to peddle at a higher premium. Stay away from hyperboles this is neither Hirani’s or Aamir’s best work till date nor is it the best movie of 2014 – take it for what it is and enjoy the movie.

Hasee Toh Phasee – A review

First timer ad-film maker Vinil Matthew directs the yashraj-blue eyed girl Parineeti Chopra and the Dharma Production’s blue eyed boy wonder Siddharth Malhotra in the quirky RomCom Hasee Toh Phasee.

The film is a story based on Meeta and Nikhil who find it difficult to fit in to their respective families and happen to cross paths when Meeta is running away from her sister’s wedding which Nikhil is attending. This chance encounter is the conventional meet-cute that any decent romantic comedy is incomplete without.  Nikhil happens to fall in love at the same wedding with Meeta’s other sister Karishma who he courts for another 7 years through EMI-like monthly breakups yet he stays faithful to the whims and fancies of the wannabe TV star. Meeta reappears as the wedding preparations of Karishma and Nikhil are kicking off and she kicks off a storm in her wake as she mysteriously converses in Chinese with someone on the phone and over video chat, curiously and thankfully the subtitles are left out during the Chinese conversations which add to the mystery that surrounds Meeta. Also a masterful touch is the undiagnosed condition which Meeta obviously suffers from or the fact that she could easily be termed a highly functional autistic person or someone with Asperger’s syndrome but it is left for the audience to diagnose looking at her quirks. What unfolds is a pretty harmless and mostly hilarious fare with a well etched supporting cast with a former policeman father, a grandmother with a twin, an Indian Idol-aspiring cousin from Kanpur, a boastful Guajarati uncle and a Gujarati uncle who has nothing to talk about but wants to make small talk.

The Karan Johar touches are evident with the shot of the empty trains, a foot-over bridge and the early dawn shot overlooking the city below – these are the same visuals that made Johar’s segment on Bombay talkies so memorable. Also the Punjabi wedding song is reminiscent of the Radha song from Student of the Year. The fact is that Johar specializes in making harmless, glitzy, feel-good movies that are a welcome inclusion to the Indian movie scene. Vinil Matthew’s distinctive style may take a while to develop but he does well to remind the audience of the Johar trademarks.

Parineeti is wonderful in this role which could easily have become a slapstick and an over the top portrayal of a mental illness. She treads a fine balance and manages to generate the most guffaws from the audience. She reminds me of the plump Punjabi Dimpy Chaddha that I fell in love with from Ladies Vs Ricky Behl from the minute she said LOL. Siddharth Malhotra looks smashing in every frame and it is no wonder why girls everywhere are going crazy over him – he is like the perfect mix of the shahid Kapoor chocolate boy looks with the physique of a Hrithik Roshan and the boy can act decently as well.  He isn’t given too much of a challenge with the script here but he does well to come off as earnest and honest. Adah Sharma as Karishma the sister Malhotra is going to get married to did not impress me too much. She was mostly there for the glam quotient with her 2 sizes too small saree blouses and the Post-makeover Jassi (Mona Singh) look.

The music by Vishal and Shekhar isn’t as good as Johar’s last and Malhotra’s first- Student of the year with only two songs with any recall-value “Drama Queen” and “Punjabi Wedding Song”. The cinematography by Sanu John Varughese is fresh and in keeping with the Johar Memo of keeping the lighting soft and the colors pastel-ly.

The side plot involving the mysterious reason why Meeta ran off and why she came back and who she is conversing with in Chinese is also fairly intelligent and not a complete throw away.

Watch this movie because Parineeti and Malhotra share a fantastic chemistry and the humor is effortless for most part. Watch it because it is inoffensive light hearted entertainment that is mostly missing from all the slapstick comedies out there. Watch it for Chopra and Malhotra chemistry.

August: Osage County – A Review

John Wells directs a director’s dream cast including Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Margot Martindale, Abigail Breslin, Ewan McGregor, Benedict Cumberbatch, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper and Julianne Nicholson in a script adapted by Tracey Letts based on his original material written as a play for the stage in August: Osage County.

The story unfolds as Beverley Weston played by Sam Shepard hires a house keeper to take care of his sick wife Violet Weston played by the magnificent Meryl Streep. Bev goes missing and then is found dead. This brings his and Violet’s three daughters together to come and support their mother in grief and attend the funeral.

Meryl Streep gets a nomination every time she descends on the silver screen and there are enough detractors out there who feel she is over rated or over-loved if there is such a thing. To them I say watch this movie and then come talk to me. She is in a form which very few actresses can ever hope to reach. This is the peak of her performance. As the cancer stricken, pill popping, dementia ridden Violet Weston, she is vicious with her insults and barbs and acidic comments on all those gathered at the lunch table. She is  rude and callous one moment and in need of our sympathies at the very next as you can see the years of hard living, a tough childhood a far-from-ideal marriage and the betrayal she feels at the hands of her daughters who have all moved away. Take it from an ardent Streep lover – this is Meryl at her absolute best. Having seen blue jasmine starring Cate Blanchett (who I love as well) is the betting favorite to take home the trophy but if there is any justice in the world then the battle of the psychotic breakdown should land in the favor of Meryl Streep.

A strong supporting cast carries the movie along onto a different level altogether once the pace has been sent by Streep. Roberts with her return to the screen with a meaty role really digs her heels in as the eldest daughter of the Weston household with a rebellious teenager for daughter a husband with whom she is going through a separation, a dead father and a mother who is quickly losing her wits about herself Roberts take upon herself to steady the ship. The lunch table brawl between Roberts and Streep is the stuff of cinematic legends it is raw, high adrenaline and heartbreaking at the same time. Margot Martindale as Violet’s sister with a deep secret is smashing in her turn as Mattie Fae. Martindale and Cooper’s outburst over their son is brilliant as well. This is a movie packed with so many moments that it is impossible to pick your favorite my top three would have to be the lunch time brawl, the midnight spade-attack and the lets all break things.

The screenplay is so cleverly written that it surprises you at every turn of the story. The story of the plains is anything but a plain story, it is a multi-layered multi-faceted tale of a dysfunctional family the likes of which have not been seen on the screen. It is a fantastically intertwined tale of such hopeless despair that there would seem like there is no way out yet the story lifts itself with such light moments as the one where the three girls share in their mother’s childhood story of her crush which while still ends up being heartbreaking gives you hope that the family will still pull it together and somehow survive. But bear in mind this is not one of your happy endings stories this is a fast unraveling of a messy family drama with top notch performances which leave you in awe of entire ensemble cast who put on a stellar show.

There is a minor misstep in direction which has generated a fairly interesting conversation on the internet. It is rumored that Roberts wanted to get the lead nom over Streep so she arm-twisted the Weinsteins who in turn put pressure on Wells to add a final scene focusing on Roberts instead of cutting to credit after Violet breaks down in the arms of her house keeper. And to be honest it would have been a more satisfying end if the movie ended as originally intended by the screen writer Tracy Letts with Violet broken down and leaving the audience to grapple with the questions of what will happen. And whether the daughters will return or whether Violet will survive on her own or will she not. Focusing on Roberts is a faulty move and could have been avoided.

The cinematography by Adriano Goldman beautifully captures the darkened out Weston household and in those long tracking shots of the Oklahoma plains does magic to capture the stark and unremarkable landscape to evoke a sense of helplessness that envelopes the central characters of the narrative. Stark yet beautiful.  The score by Gustavo Santaolalla is subtle and does not invade the dramatic space to tell us when to feel what – it is a competent partner to the most potent of storytelling and only really makes its presence felt in one moment when nothing is spoken and family is driving back from the doctors. The Kings of Leon song which plays at the credit scene “Last Mile Home” should have earned the rock band a nomination for original song but it curiously didn’t.

Watch this movie because this is Meryl Streep at her absolute best. This should be reason enough for anyone to want to watch the movie but it is not the only reason the movie provides. If you are not swayed yet watch it because it boasts a supporting cast the strengths of which are rarely on display. Watch it because it is a fantastically written and a brilliantly directed film. Did I mention already WATCH IT FOR MERYL STREEP!

2013 – A Review

Pop that bubbly and kiss 2013 good bye and bring out those notepads to make the resolutions for 2014! I am not the sorts to make resolution and even unlikely to keep one all through the year. But 2013 must be an exception to that rule and what I am hoping is a turning point for me. Back in jan 2013 I made a resolution to write about every movie I saw and as a result I started my blog. Since its inception the blog has generated 4600+ hits and given me many a joy as a result.

There were many highlights like when Ashok Banker posted my review of his 8-part Ramayana series on his facebook page! That was the push I needed to convince myself that I was onto something good. But even before that the blog’s very first post was a fresh and refreshing movie which has continued to be the benchmark against which all other movies I saw this year were compared to – Kai Po Che.

In a year of 100 crore plus blockbusters which required as many aspirins to overcome the headaches they caused there were little indie gems ( can’t believe I am using the word Indie in the indian cinematic context!) which made the year a lot more bearable.

Summarized below are my top 10 picks , my bottom 5 and the 3 biggest disappointments. This is not the whole catalogue of movies released in 2013 – just the ones I made an effort to go watch, there are still Oscar heavy hitters like 12 years a slave, August Osage County , The Wolf of Wall Street  which I am yet to watch and review.

Top 10 : (in alphabetical order) top 10

Bombay Talkies : a first of sorts where 4 mainstream big-name directors came together to present 4 short stories which celebrated the 100 years of Indian Cinema. Each story holding its own and neither director trying to one-up the other  but rather trying to tell an earnest story. Incidentally this is also one my most shared reviews and some people commented that they didn’t immediately see the connect I made between the four stories but did definitely agree afterwards.

Fukrey : A serious rib-tickler thanks to the antics of Choocha and Bholi Punjaban. And featuring the song of the year “Ambarsariya” this one was the most surprising as we went in expecting very little and came out clutching our sides which hurt from laughing out loud. A comedy that did not depend on physical gags and potty humor – my pick for the best comedy of the year!

Gravity : the opening 12-minute sequence is an experience that cannot be compared to any that we have had in theaters ever. A trip to space that we had only imagined so far but was brought life in glorious IMAX by the visionary Alonso Cuarón. Sandra Bullock should trade in her Oscar for best actress for blind side and ask for a new one for this one.  The magic of cinema as it was meant to be.

Go Goa Gone : A zombie movie made in india? You have got to be kidding me! And no Ramsay-fication of the same? Get out of here! This was a close second to the comedy of the year pick. Again went in with very little expectation came out with goosebumps from the gross zombies and a hurting jaw from all the laughing.

Kai Po Che :  I hate Chetan Bhagat and his brand of Indian-English Lit. but to take his story “3 mistakes of my life” and to make it into a sensitive, humorous and realistic tale of friendship, politics and redemption is not mean task.  This introduced us to 3 promising actors and redeemed a director after his overrated RockOn debut.  My personal favorite of the year, and a movie that will only get better with time.

Madras Café : this almost made it to the most disappointing because of the over simplification and the lack of cloak and daggers that I wanted from a smartly crafted and a beautifully shot political thriller. But I cannot take away from the fact that sujoy ghosh made a smart movie with believable performances from 2 of the worst actors.

Prisoners  : comparisons to Zodiac and Se7en are always going to bode well for any movie in my book and this dark and violent thriller about a man on rampage after his little girl goes missing is something that still gives me the chills when I recall the look of abject hatred on Hugh Jackman’s beautiful face. My pick for the best ensemble acting of the year, Jackman, Melissa leo, Paulo dano, viola davis, maria bello all bloody brilliant and I don’t hate Jake Gyllenhall anymore!

RamLeela :  This one is a controversial pick I know. Many people have written off Sanjay Leela Bhansali as a director more consumed with erecting humungous set pieces and working in monochromatic mode than concentrating on the story and character development. I disagree, and strongly at that. RamLeela , a Shakespearean adaptation of Romeo and Juliet set in rural Gujarat between warring clans of Rajadi and Saneda and a opulent multi-hued visual spectacle is the best Bhansali has done in years. This is devdas and HDDCS good. Most definitely the best soundtrack of the year with every single song a win in my book. Give it a watch without preconceived notions against Bhansali and you will be happier for it.

Rush :  Nothing – the answer to the question what can Ron Howard not do? To a person who detests Formula one this was definitely one of the best sporting movies ever made. The rivalry between Niki Lauda and James Hunt captured beautifully without playing the sympathy card for either of the protagonists. Daneil Bruhl turning in one of the best supporting acting all year. Beautifully shot, exquisitely scored – this was a highlight of the year without a doubt.

Ship Of Theseus :  The redemption of Bollywood in its 100 years of existence which has been marred by either blatantly plagiarized Hollywood fluff or story-less superstar billed histrionic orgy. Ship of theseus took a Grecian paradox ( had people googling what the hell a paradox is ) and turned it into poignant moving cinema which proved to the masses that you don’t need a small country’s GDP-equivalent budget or big-name stars to make a beautiful and technically adept movie. You need a brilliant director, a strong script and absolute dedication to your craft. Karan Johar rightly said – this movie makes every other filmmaker feel inferior. This should have been India’s entry to the Oscars’ foreign language category.

 

Bottom 5 ( In alphabetical order)

bottom 5

B.A. Pass : what promised to be a sensual Noir film ended up being a one-note repetitive mess which went no were and failed because the director was more consumed by trying to make a stylized movie which tried to touch upon every cliché possible rather than to make a simple story told in layers.

Bhag Milkha Bhag : the trailer set the pulse racing with a buffed up Farhan Akhtar running with a tyre tied to his waist against the stark ladhak landscapes. What was promised as a sporting bio-pic ended up being a boring meaningless mess. I had  such high hopes and I was left clutching at straws trying to find any redeeming factors about this movie.

 Chashme Baddoor : how can you take a Farooq Sheikh and Deepti Naval classic and butcher it so that it bears no resemblance to the original movie from which it was adapted from.  Chashme Baddoor is how.  

Dhoom : 3 : I knew this was going to be bad – but so bad that I had to take notes for my review! Every single thing about this movie was an absolute stinking turd. The only saving grace? The world now is in on the secret I knew for years! Aamir Khan is a conman who in guise of perfectionism is a hack who has only gotten lucky with a few good films and is essentially a worthless actor.

Satyagraha : Amitabh is good the rest is bad and Prakash Jha is  quickly become a tiresome director to sit through and when the new channels rehash the same political conundrum the nation is going through better than a national award winning director there is something definitely wrong with the movie.

Biggest Disappointments:

disappointment

 Lunchbox :  the end product failed to live up to all the hype surrounding the release of the movie and the hue and cry that followed afterwards when this movie was not selected as India’s official entry to the oscars. sure it is a cute little story but it did not live up to the potential that it held and ultimately the biggest disappointment for me for the year.

Man Of Steel : Snyder sullied the name of Nolan by making this mess of a movie. The perfect choice for superman Henry Cavill was not given enough to do in the movie which was more Snyder & Goyer  and less Nolan (chris and jonathan both) . a BIG disappointment all around.

 Nautanki Saala! :  the rising star of the last year Aayushman Khurana fails to entertain and the movie overall is just a giant mess. Less than catchy tunes and a story that had the potential but fails to deliver is the reason why this movie makes it to my list of big disappointments.

 

So there you have it – I wish I had seen more movies this year than I did and that is a resolution I am certain to make for 2014 and as a result more reviews to write and read. I will try to add more variety than just movie reviews and there is an exciting prospect under development which when accomplished I will be very very very happy to share with all!  Here is wishing all you readers of my blog a very happy new year and good luck with those resolutions! Make a resolution because it feels great at the end of the year when you sit down to look at what you have accomplished!

 

 

Fukrey – A Review

Mrigdeep Singh Lamba directs a cast of relative unknowns in Fukrey.  The story focuses primarily on Honey and Choocha played admirably by TV’s Pulkit Samrath and Varun Sharma and their hilarious dream interpretation schemes at winning lottery tickets.  Ali Fazal and Manjot Singh round out the quartet of lovable losers.

The story is based in Delhi and the characters are caricature delhites with loud and brash demeanor yet an inimitable lovable persona. Honey and Choocha are class 12 students having spent 3 years in the same year while dreaming of making it to the college and leaving the uniforms and the all-male classmates and hanging with the girls.

The movie is everything Delhi Belly wanted to be but couldn’t be. Honey with his bravado and Choocha with his insanity are the perfect foil for each other. Pulkit Samrath who shows promises in the same vein as Aayushmann Khuranna is the rough around the edges but still charm personified . Varun Sharma who makes his debut with this movie elicits the loudest laughs and if you were in the show with me I apologies for my fits of giggles courtesy Sharma. Manjot Singh as the correspondence student dreaming of joining his childhood sweetheart at her college is also amazing as Laali. Ali Fazal plays Zafar the budding musician who has  lost his muse, Fazal impressed me the most as he has been entrusted with the movie’s only emotionally heavy moment and he carries it off with such ease and élan that I hope he gets more challenging role which allow him to show a range which he obviously possesses.

Another comparison where Fukrey does Delhi Belly one better is with its portrayal of its female characters. Vishakha Singh plays Neetu a college professor and has the smallest of the roles of the other actors but is still quite competent. Priya Anand who impressed with her turn in English Vinglish is again in top form going a full 180 and playing the naïve Delhi damsel who willingly falls for the charms of Honey and unwittingly becomes embroiled in the madness that ensues. Richa Chaddha plays Bholi Punjaban and is perhaps the best of the cast along with Sharma. She with her animal print clothing which are supposed to reflect her ferocity and the fear she instills in people who come across her, she with her African henchmen , she with her broken English, she with her Sinderalla tattoo to remind the viewers of her girlish charms as well. The scenes with her and Sharma are so amazing that I am willing to sit through a 3 hour movie starring just these two fantastic characters! A special mention also to Pankaj Tripathi who plays Pandit the college guard who brings these four Fukras together and lands them Bholi Punjaban’s lap.

The movie is shot beautifully capturing the earthy hues of old Delhi by K U Mohan after his beautiful work on Talaash last year. The dialogues fresh and crisp and not reliant on toilet humor to elicit laughs.  Music by Ram Sampath is fantastic for that Punjabi folk song Ambarsariya alone and does well to provide other tracks which work well in the context of the movie.

We went into the movie with absolutely no expectations of it being great or even consistently entertaining and we were surprised to say the least. I cannot remember when I last laughed out this loudly in a theatre and when I walked away from the theatre with such a grin on my face.

Go see this movie because in all honesty it is the best comedy this year (so far) and in my opinion one of the best comedies in the last few years. Go see it for Choocha and Bholi’s chemistry and the madness that ensues. Go see it because everyone needs to lighten up and have a roaring belly laugh!

Go Goa Gone – A Review

Saif Ali Khan produces and stars in what is perhaps India’s first ever mainstream Zombie Movie Go Goa Gone  directed by duo Krishna D K & Raj Nidimoru. The film stars Saif Ali Khan in a special but pivotal role that of Boris ( pronounced Baris) the Russian Mafia who organizes a rave party in Goa. It also stars Kunal Khemu as Hardik, Vir Das as Luv and Anand Tiwari as Bunny a Trio of friends who end up in the middle of the undead Goa. Puja Gupta makes an impressive debut as Luna the love interest.

The movie starts off with cringe inducing stoner behavior that was clearly inspired by Pineapple Express. Through uninspiring circumstances the three friends end up in Goa to make a presentation, mend a broken heart, and continue to be super sleazy. The dialogue witty and realistic in terms of how friends would speak to each other begs the question as to how it passed the notorious censor board of India.

The movie really comes alive when the undead arrive. The dialogue which seemed like a crutch becomes unnecessary as all that is required is screams and pantings. The one on one facetime with supposedly clever one liners is replaced with chaotic and manic running away from foreign bhoot. The action is relentless and high adrenaline with many moments that will make you jump out of your skin.

Off the three actors Kunal Khemu is clearly in top form with spot on comedic timing and an impish approach to playing the Casanova.  Vir Das and Anand Tiwari are competent and have their moments as well. Puja Gupta is a sight for the sore eyes as she provides the eye candy without any real missteps.  Saif Ali Khan is a delight for the most parts and his put-on –russian accent is a genius touch.  A special mention to jigar and sachin for delivering a fresh soundtrack which kicks Monday-blues’ Ass!

Directing duo Krishna D. K. and Raj Nidimoru do a wonderful job following up their successful Shor in the City last year with interesting characters, beautifully shot visuals and a simple story executed well. They would do well to pay attention to the non-zombie bits of the movie because they were seriously lacking there. Also the whole bit about “drugs are bad for you” while I appreciate the sentiment , the directors conveniently side stepped that “drugs can save you” (I do not endorse drug use in the slightest)

Walking into the movie I was all bravado and bluster as the one who can sit through a “horror” movie even dissuading friends as it might be too much for them – turns out I am a chicken! But a I still enjoyed myself getting grossed out with every passing scene and would recommend that you watch this movie on an empty stomach and take a long hot shower afterwards because you’ll need it.

Nautanki Saala! – A Review

Nautanki Saala directed by Rohan Sippy holds a lot of promises with the current next-big-thing Ayushmann Khurana taking on the titular role of the theater actor/director. The movie has all the elements that made Ayushmann’s last movie such a massive success, him in a leading role (that of a Delhi dude), a relative unknown but very pretty co-star (times 3 this time around well) , him lending his vocals to some very good songs.  What could go wrong? Nothing but just a tiny almost insignificant component that set Vicky Donor apart – this movie suffers because there isn’t Juhi Chaturvedi doing the script/screenplay or someone just as competent.

The story starts off with Ayushmann coming across Kunal Roy Kapoor (Mandar Lele) while the latter is trying to commit suicide, being the Good Samaritan that he is Ram Parmar a.k.a RP (Ayushmann) brings Mandar home. This reminded me distinctly of that Zach Galifianakis and Robert Downey Jr. Starrer Due Date. And that comparison does not bode well for any movie.

The cast includes Shulbha Arya as the Grandmother to Mandar and she does her best to ham out the 1 minute that she is on the screen, it includes new comer Pooja Salvi as Mandar’s object of affection and one of the angles of the pentagon ( Chitra-Ram-Nandini-Mandar-Loli) and is the definition of the bimbo. She supposedly is this modern woman who owns her own business and lives in a posh society by herself but goes from loving the looser Mandar to getting ready to get married to the cheat Loli to falling for the ruffian charms of a stray customer who walks in to make a purchase. Gaelyne Mendonca is passable and does not irritate too much. Evelyn Sharma as the Seetha in the Stage show RPis acting and directing is the prettiest of the lots and a part which has barely couple of spoken words does that job effectively. The only character of any merit was Sanjeev Bhatt as Chandra the producer – sure he is ham but then atleast he doesn’t pretend to be anything else and the way he commits to his character enables some genuine funny moments.

Kunal Roy Kapoor is the biggest reason why I found the movie to be almost unbearable. I disliked him in delhi belly and here he does nothing to change my mind. His lethargic loser portrayal of Mandar also suffers because the only glimpse into his psyche or the reason why he is who is a is via Shulbha Arya mouthing “jo kuch nahi kar sakta vo actor hi ban sakta hai”. That one line is supposed to make up for all the strange behavior being displayed by him. He is quickly becoming the Zach Galifianakis for me .

The music is good with Ayushmann delivering another hit. But overall the music is a distraction and hinders the story progression it does make for a good listen on a long drive.

What bothered me the most was the obvious disconnect between the different characters, their motivations for whatever actions they took and the reliance of the script on coincidences.  There was a Ramayan play to be used as subtext and if it was then it was lost on me.  What I did like was the way the movie was shot, the high production values and the elaborate set decoration.

My advice? Skip it – pop in Vicky Donor one more time as it is way more entertaining than this insipid fare. Ayushmann I had higher expectations.