Padmaavat – A Review

Image resultSanjay Leela Bhansali directs Deepika Padukone, Ranveer Singh & Shahid Kapoor in Padmaavat, the cinematic adaptation of the opera that Bhansali was invited to direct in 2008 which is based on a 1540 poem by poet Malik Muhammad Jayasi. The epic poem tells the story of the beauty and valor of Princess Padmavati of the kingdom of Singhal who later becomes the queen of Mewar, the pride of Rajput king Raja Ratan Singh and the lust of Allaudin Khilji.

 

Deepika plays Rani Padmavati, Shahid plays Raja Ratan Singh and Ranveer plays Allaudin Khilji. The movie has courted enormous controversy and walking out of the theatre I couldn’t understand why. If anything this is a movie that ought to be cherished by the very people who are protesting in the streets. It glorifies the Rajputs of ancient India who never gave into the Mughals. Those who threatened bodily harm to Deepika for what they deemed mischaracterisation of the queen goddess owe her an unconditional apology. Her portrayal as the proud Rajput queen would make any Rajput walk two feet taller.

Ranveer Singh plays Allauddin Khilji in Padmavati.

Ranveer Singh brings a barbaric, manic and frenetic interpretation to Allaudin Khilji. There is an animalistic madness in his eyes and he tends to push it a little too far with that misplaced dance number but overall at no point do you sympathise with this lustful power crazed barbarian who thinks he owns the world. Ranveer is competent as ever and it is indeed hard to imagine any other actor being able to pull off a character so over the top.

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Shahid Kapoor is stoic and regal as the king of Mewar. Even when he is besotted with his beloved Padmavati he does not put on school boy airs. He carries himself with such grace and dignity and presents a polar opposite to Khilji. His words are measured and his intense gaze does most of the talking.

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Deepika Padukone is fantastic and back to top form. After a brief Hollywood stint the queen is back to rule Bollywood. To be laden with such opulent costumes and jewellery that probably weighs more than her she still manages to shine through from under all that Bhansali extravagance. The doe-eyed beauty transforms into goddess-incarnate filled with raging pride when she delivers the final sermon. Her walk to the jauhar pyre will give everyone the chills.

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The story while loosely based on an epic poem does not shy away from topics that most other directors would either have swept under the rug or made a caricature out of. Take for instance Khilji’s penchant for effeminate boy-slaves. Jim Sarbh plays Mallik Kafur who seems infatuated by Khilji. Aditi Rao Haidari plays Khilji’s cousin who he marries and mistreats. Anupriya Goenka who plays Nagmati, Ratan Singh’s first wife leaves a lot to be desired. A strong seasoned actress would have elevated the one scene where she is supposed to be have shined.

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Sanjay Leela Bhansali is a visual maestro – every frame of his is visual poetry. Every detail is meticulously crafted. The oil-lamp lit vistas of the Ghoomar song are jaw-dropping. Small nuances like the small pool right outside the private chambers, the carvings of hands outside the temple – these are details that anyone who has visited Rajasthan can attest to as being authentic.  However the controversy surrounding the movie which began from the very first shoot must have weighed heavily on the director’s mind. The screenplay seems flabby at the start. The pacing is off. The scenes between Khilji and Ratan Singh too long and too repetitive. He manages to rouse the passions towards the second half and pulls it all together visually and narratively towards the end. The sea of red saree clad women making the final walk through the different niches of the temple is unrivalled for it absolute beauty.

Image result for padmavatiThis might not be Bhansali’s best story telling but visually it is peerless. Shahid and Ranveer turn in fantastic performances but it is Deepika Padukone whose fire burns the brightest. The beauty, grace, dignity and pride with which she portrays the famed Queen Padmavati is one for the annals of cinematic history.

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2015 A Year in Review

Lifein70mm primarily is my journey through that delightful medium that makes us all laugh, cry, smile and frown in joyous wonderment. The blog head mast reads my views, reviews and other noises in my head and when I set out to write I had hoped to do more than just movie reviews but alas it has only been a documentation of my travels through celluloid and nothing more. But in 2015 that changed slightly because more than movies actual travelling took up more and more of my time and there are many a half written travelogues that are gathering the digital dust on the folder marked blog stuff on my trusted desktop. Hopefully in 2016 I can put together a half decent blog post on the many wonderful travels that I have undertaken and the many more I shall embark on. So for now for 2015 here is my list of top 10 films and 5 films that disappointed me the most. I hope you would enjoy reading this post and let me know what your top films and biggest disappointments were for 2015.

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Bajirao Mastani: A Sanjay Leela Bhansali Movie is a big screen spectacle that deserves to be seen on the largest screen possible. If there is on director working in India today who makes movies that ought to compel you to part with you hard earned cash in theatre it is SLB. Everything is on an enormous scale, the grandest of sets, the most intricate of attire, the most spectacularly choreographed dance numbers and the most Epic of romances, SLB doesn’t do middle of the road mediocre. A movie that he wanted to make for 10 years finally comes to fruition at the hands of pair of actors who were unheard of 10 years ago and are now arguably the most versatile and talented of the current lot. This is the first of the Deepika Padukone Entry on my list and there is a reason why she makes an appearance 3 times – she is justifiably the queen of Bollywood today.

 

Bajrangi Bhaijan: aah yes another year and another Salman Khan Movie makes my top 10. I must not be a very discerning viewer if I find a Salman Khan movie worthy of the top 10. But kid you not – the Salman Khan renaissance is a reality. Last year with Kick and this year with Bajrangi Bhaijan Salman manages to make absurd palatable and completely enjoyable. Supported by the cutest child artist the industry has seen in ages this one is for the entire family and it is shot beautifully. Salman Khan is a lesson in the Importance of being Earnest and it works well in his favour.

 

Inside Out: Disney Pixar is known to make well-crafted animated movies that are a little to saccharine for my favour but are entertaining nonetheless. But with Inside Out they have taken a giant leap forward with the story telling. A narratively complex story about the inner workings of the human brain is boiled down to 5 primary emotions inside the heard of a little girl. Jam packed with vocal talents this one is not just for the kids, on the contrary this one is for those especially who are planning a kid, have a kid who they don’t seem to understand or ever were a kid so essentially everyone . This masterful storytelling transcends the age boundaries. Another sure fire winner in the best animated category for Pixar.

 

Into the woods: Meryl Streep doing a Steven Sondheim musical? Oh YES! And she is brilliant as are Anna Kendrick, Emily Blunt and James Cordon in this stunning musical that picks up after the fairy tales end. It is compelling in its story telling, stunning in set and costume design and delightful in its singing. If you need a single movie to convince you why the musical medium is receiving a much needed revival then this is it. Do not miss it.

 

Mad Max Fury Road: I came out of this movie with a crazy head rush. This adrenaline fuelled caper with the most arresting visuals I have ever laid my eyes on. What is even more amazing is that these visuals required very little CGI it was almost all practical effects. But it is not all about visuals, Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron and Nicolas Hoult put in impressive performances as well. But coming back to the visuals once more if there is one visual memory I will have of 2015 it will be that crazy guitarist hanging off the front of the attack truck! I am getting a head rush all over again!

 

Piku: Deepika Padukone and Amitabh Bachchan talking about constipated bowels for nearly 2 hours is not the first thought that comes to your mind when you think of compelling storytelling. But with deft direction by Soojit Sircar is what takes this dysfunctional family road trip with a port-a-potty chair such a charming tale of father-daughter bonding. Deepika once again is stunning in a role very unlike all her previous poised and poignant ones. Here she is very real, very angry and very organic. Amitabh is the embodiment of every Indian father and once again proves why he is a national treasure.

 

Steve Jobs: Aaron Sorkin is a divisive force. His critics call him a misogynist, repetitive and trying to be overly smart but devoted fans like me will find his Sorkinisms unique and enjoyable. He is a master of language and his characters seem to be infused with an electric energy that is rarely seen on screen. This is more his movie than it is Danny Boyle’s and Michael Fassbender is exceptional, and his German aloofness serves him well as Steve jobs and Kate Winslet is exceptional as well. This is my biopic of the year.

 

Tamasha: Another Deepika movie in the list – Deepika was undoubtedly the queen of 2015! And with Tamasha Ranbir captures some of the lost ground. This is one of Ranbir Kapoor’s finest performances. He embodies the struggles of the millennial that are constantly trying to balance what is your core value, your innermost desire and the societal pressure to achieve success in your job, your relationship. His schizophrenic portrayal and Deepika’s breakdown during Agar Tum Saath Ho are two of the rawest performances this year. And Imtiaz Ali does romance like no one does Romance.

 

The Martian: this is what I wanted Interstellar to be. Matt Damon is brilliant the humour is brilliant the supporting characters are brilliant. Riddley scot manages to make a space caper light and family friendly – the director of sci-fi milestone like Alien manages to make space accessible and less scary that it really is. I honestly think Matt Damon ought to be nominated for the Oscars this year.

 

The Theory of Everything: Before I saw Steve Jobs this was the biopic of the year for me. True that it released last year and won Eddie Redmayne a very well deserved Oscar for his portrayal of Stephen Hawking but this is a sweet love story that stuck with me all through the year primarily because of Felicity Jones’s strength in her portrayal. One of the most remarkable men gets a fitting tribute in this movie and this movie almost didn’t find a place on my list because I saw it so long ago but then nothing else came half as close to this so it sits here on my top 10.

 

With the good comes the bad!

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Bombay Velvet: Anurag Kashyap directing Ranbir Kapoor in a gangster caper that tells the story of the beginning of the Mumbai underworld and builders nexus should make for an interesting time at the cinemas right? Wrong. This is anything but that. Badly written, poorly edited and terribly acted this is a mess in every possible way.

 

50 Shades of Grey: I wouldn’t call 50 Shades a disappointment – I went in expecting it to be bad and it was bad. It’s just that it was one of the worse movies I have ever had the displeasure of watching. I want to say nothing more. Uggh!

 

Foxcatcher: the trailer promised a slow burning master piece from Bennett Miller whose last movie was Moneyball which was outstanding. Despite all the potential this movie was one of the biggest disappointments for me. The lasting memory I have of this movie is feeling like it was a few hours into the movie and I looked at my watch and it was just 15 minutes. A complete snooze fest that should have been more compelling.

 

Shaandaar: Shahid Kapur, Alia Bhatt and Vikas Bahl were 3 of my favourite things from 2014 with Haider, Highway and Queen. But Shaandaar is possibly the most pointless movies this year.

 

Spectre: A James Bond Movie is supposed to deliver one thing and one thing alone. Endless thrills and adventure. The movie opens perfectly with a stunning day of the dead celebration in Mexico but then it just goes haywire as Sam Mendes tries to infuse dysfunctional family dynamics into bond-verse. The only two things I hope for is that Sam Mendes is done with Bond and that Craig isn’t.

 

So there that was my 2015 in review – let me know what you top movies were what your biggest disappointments were and if there are any movies that I missed on this list of reviewing and what you would want to read from lifein70mm in 2016.

 

 

Bajirao Mastani – A Review

Sanjay Leela Bhansali directs Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone and Priyanka Chopra in his long gestating magnum opus Bajirao Mastani based on the fabled romance of Bajirao Peshwa the great Maratha warrior and Mastani Bai the warrior princess of Bundelkhand. SLB is a master of star crossed lovers and breath-taking visuals that are second to none. It is no secret that SLB has likened Bajirao as a seminal tribute to the greatest Indian movie Mughl-e-Azam, a comparison that few would dare to want to draw to their own movies lest it fall short of the ShahJehan and Anarkali romance that shook the foundations of the Mughal dynasty.

 

Bajirao Mastani is stunning exercise in visual mastery that one has come to expect from SLB. While earlier Bhansali has relied primarily on enormous sets with ostentatious production values here he goes more for the panoramic shots of the horizon upon which many a battles erupt and end rather violently but the faint pinkish hue of the sky somehow applies a calming touch to the bloodshed. There is a shot where Bajirao mounts an attack on the Mughal king attacking Bundelkhand which has featured prominently in the trailers as well that shot is worthy of a LOTR comparison in terms of the fight choreography and the scene composition. There are many a visual cues that evoke a 300 or LOTR like vibe but not because they are replicated like in those Hollywood movies but more so because of the cleanness and the competence of the craft involved.

But war is not what Bhansali specialises in – Romance is where the auteur’s signature touch comes through. The main characters are introduced in such a casual fashion that it is clear that in Bhansali’s universe the story comes first and its stars later.

Speaking of its stars there are clear stand outs. Ranveer is fantastic once again as Bajirao Peshwa – the sword of the Maratha Empire that at once threatened to overthrow both the British and the Mughal invaders from India. Ranveer manages to strike a respectable restraint when portraying the poignant Maratha warrior and does not render him as a caricature but rather as someone worthy of the awe that surrounds him. Deepika as Mastani continues her winning streak with her ability to get to the essence of each of her characters and to pull each one off with an exquisite elegance. Madhubala she is not but the grace and poise with which she carries herself in royal courts is brilliantly juxtaposed by the fierce warrior that she is on the field. Deepika either has some magical powers or all the cinematographers she works with love her and are able to light her in ways that not even the most famed beauties have ever been shot as. There is a luminosity to her which seems to emanate from within her rather than from the outside. Priyanka Chopra as Kashibai, Bajirao’s first wife is also wonderfully restrained. She carries her proud self while still letting slip her vulnerability in moments when she confronts Bajirao after he marries Mastani. While Deepika’s gestures are more languid and lyrical befitting a Muslim princess, those of Priyanka are more energetic and exaggerated as one would expect the women of Maharashtra to embody. Their dance off in Pinga is SLB’s directional nuances at his best. Priyanka wears a silk blouse while Deepika wears a velvet one, Deepika holds her head high while Priyanka bobs hers enthusiastically, Deepika arches her back yet manages to look long and lean while Priyanka goes in for the more energetic hip action. Both similar yet strikingly different. This is why when people complain that Bhansali goes for mostly ostentatious sets they seem to miss the minute details that he puts in to etching out his characters. Milind Soman as Pant Pradhan to Peshwa and Tanvi Azmi as Peshwa’s mother are important characters in the story and the choice of the actors couldn’t be any better. Milind Soman is rather unrecognizable yet entirely impressive.

No Bhansali movie is complete without a smashing sound track with memorable songs and tunes that linger on in your head long after you have left the theatre. And Bajirao Mastani is no different. Deewani Mastani is without a doubt the most visually stunning song, Pinga evokes a Dola Re déjà vu and has a catchy hook. Albela Sajan seems to be a straight lift from Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam but with the reworked music works well. The only sore spot is the Malhari song, that song has no place in the final cut of the movie it should have been left on the chopping floors.

Camera work by cinematographer Sudeep Chaterjee is beautiful. The scenes with Priyanka coming forth with the Aarti to welcome Bajirao, the slicing of the peacock feather and the dagger thrown at Chimmaji Appa are particularly captivating but it is the entire sequence in the Aaina mahal during Deewani Mastani and the triple jump and slash scene in the battle field are so good that they will become the hallmarks against which future cinematic references will be made.

The story and particularly the climax evokes strong Devdas vibes, The nods to Mughl-e-Azam are more than a few the Holi Song is Mohe Panghat pe, The jailing of Mastani is Utho hamara salam le lo. But despite these minor flaws this is a stunning piece of cinema and without a doubt the best I have seen this year coming out of Bollywood.

Watch this for Bhansali who for me is the best director working in Bollywood today who delivers with a consistency, a visionary who makes going to cinema worth it. Watch it for Ranveer who continues to defy expectations and delivers a performance that is equal parts abandon and equal parts restraint. Watch it for Priyanka who shines like a finely cut diamond in the hands of the master craftsman. And watch it for Deepika Padukone who continues to defy the law of averages and keeps getting better with each movie and is at present peer-less in Bollywood and the queen continues to reign supreme as the warrior princess.

Tamasha – A Review

Imtiaz Ali directs Ranbir Kapoor and Deepika Padukone in Tamasha, in a love story that promises to be unlike other love stories. Bold aspirations indeed, seeing how Imtiaz has directed Ranbir in the angst filled Rockstar, Ranbir has played the rebel with a cause, the one who goes against the grain, Also Deepika has played the counterbalance to Ranbir in a fair few times. But therein lies the magic. You take ingredients that have worked on some level or the other and you refine them over the course of time and what you get is a concoctions that has the sparks of magic flying through it.

 

To dissect Tamasha into its four acts is simple but look a little deeper and you can see what each of those acts represent. Human life is divided into 4 stages or Ashrams, Bramhacharaya Ashram, Grihasta Ashram, Vanprasta Ashram and Sanyasa Ashram. Each of the Ashrams represent a central pursuit or struggle.

Teja ka Sona is Ranbir living out his Bramhacharaya Ashram – we meet the young Ranbir who admittedly is rubbish at maths but loves spending his time listening to stories from an old man who sits under a tree in Shimla. We see him grow up and meet Deepika Padukone in Corsica where they decide to not exchange identities and instead live out their days together feigning different Bollywood stereotypes while slowly falling for each other. They agree that what happens in Corsica stays in Corsica. Here Imtiaz also takes us on a Richard Linklater style Before Sunrise journey where two strangers meet but where Ethan Hawke and Judy Delpy had the power of words here a lot more is said in the moments where not a word is spoken.

A few years pass and we enter Grihasta Ashram. In Ishq Wala Love we meet a domesticated Ranbir aka Ved. Deepika and Ved meet and go through the motions of falling in love but something is missing –And in one fell swoop Imtiaz skips Before Sunset and takes us straight into Before Midnight territory where the illusion of love comes crashing down.

Andar Ki Baat is Ranbir’s Vanprastha Ashram. As he slowly self-destructs first by displaying schizophrenic behaviour in business meetings and then an outright bipolar behaviour as he finally breaks the chains that are binding him.

With Don Returns Ranbir enters Sanyas Ashram with divine realisation upon him he finds his driving force and realises his true potential.

 

Imtiaz Ali is a master of parent child conflict and he has played on this from several angles starting with Jab We Met to Rockstar and now again with Tamasha. He treads a fine line of becoming too preachy and manages to strike a balance between the pent up angst that Ranbir feels as a child, as teenager and then as a young man and the reconciliation that finally happens when he finally opens up to his father. The opening sequence featuring a Tin-man Ranbir is a masterstroke. What may appear as jarring and out of place and narratively disjointed is reminiscent of the iconic Apple ad of 1984. There is a line towards the end of the movie which is dropped in very casually “the bipolar behaviour of the modern consumer” this is how you need to view the movie – the bipolar behaviour where you internalize your true desires and externalize what is socially expected and accepted. There is a constant struggle that every individual goes through and while it is heightened in case of some individuals like in the case of Ranbir here, I am sure everyone can find something to relate to.

Deepika Padukone just keeps getting better with every movie. Here she is brilliant in more of a supporting role to Ranbir, her rambling school girl moment when she runs into Ranbir the second time is so perfect that you feel her exhilaration and embarrassment at the same time. Ranbir Kapoor is perfectly cast as Ved, his restraint when he vents his frustration. His polite and proper Ved is just as meticulous then when he unravels and spirals out you see the dual personalities coming out and you see feel his struggle as the two Veds try to overpower one another. Seeing this side of Ranbir makes me yearn for him to an outright dark role he certainly has the chops for it. Like American Psycho or something on similar lines it would be Fan-freaking-tastic.

A R Rehman’s last collaboration with Ali was pure cinematic magic with Rockstar, here the songs are not that memorable nor easily hummable except perhaps Mattargashti and Heer is Sad but they are more lyrical and aid the progress of the story. S Ravi Varman’s work behind the camera isn’t as quirky and enticing as Barfi! But he brings a dark energy to when Ranbir is going through dark times, there is a lightness when he shoots the sequences in Corsica and then the scenes which are a parallel narrative with the Rickshaw driver who sees himself as a singer, the theatre scenes they have a Gasper Noe’s Enter the Void like psychedelic energy.

I really fail to see why this movie is getting mixed review or even negative ones. This for me rights the narrative wrongs of Rockstar where the female lead was poorly written. This is brilliantly acted and meticulously directed, in times of remakes and superstar vehicles where nothing other than the names on the playbill matter this is a movie that stands strong on its brave approach to storytelling.

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.

Finding Fanny – A Review

Homi Adajania directs Deepika Padukone, Arjun Kapoor, Naseeruddin Shah and Pankaj Kapur in the the dark comedy Finding Fanny. In a clear departure from his last outing as director where Homi directed Deepika in cocktail, he goes back to territory he first explored with his directorial debut Being Cyrus.

Finding Fanny is the story of Ferdie played immaculately by Naseeruddin who is the oldest choir boy and post-master of a small goan village. Ferdie discovers a letter he wrote to the love of his life Stephanie, the eponymous Fanny, was never delivered to her.   Lamenting a unrequited love Ferdie confides in his best friend Angie played by the lissome Deepika Padukone. Together with her larger than life mother-in-law Rosie played by the ever-enchanting Dimple Kapadia, childhood friend Savio played by the brooding Arjun Kapoor and the lecherous Don Pedro an artist of international acclaim played to perfection by Pankaj Kapur, Angie and Ferdie set out to find Fanny.

This road trip takes us along the beautiful and scenic vistas of Goa reminding us once again that Goa is not only about beaches and booze. Other than Ferdie who is searching for the love of his life, every character is on a personal quest of sorts and they each manage to find it in a strange sort of way.

Don Pedro and his Ruben-esque love for the voluptuous Rosie is definitely the most guffaw inducing with his hammed-up, lecherous antics. There were two scenes which had me baffled and wondering if the director needed more time to resolve the outbursts. The first one involved Pedro finally finishing his portrait of Madame Rosaline and thus dubbing her vapid and empty – I think it should have been more about her insecurities and the lies she had bundled up to maintain appearances. The second was Rosie berating Savio about how he should have died instead of her own son Gabo, it seemed to be too abrupt with no real preamble or conclusion.

Deepika Padukone seems to be going from strength to strength with each movie and for her own good I hope she manages to strike a balance between box office blockbusters like Chennai Express and pseudo-indie movie like Finding Fanny because they help her grow as an actress. Here she lights up every scene she is in just by the slightest of knowing smiles as she adoringly indulges the lovable Fredie. There is an inner strength and conviction in her own craft that is clearly visible in her poise and composure throughout the movie. For me Deepika Padukone has well and truly arrived as the Queen Bee of Bollywood. Arjun Kapoor is surprisingly good as the brooding and pouty Savio and gets the job done. With Deepika around, Kapoor ends up being a supporting actor than a lead.  The trifecta of veterans Shah, Kapadia and Kapur are what lifts the movie from being a comedy of errors to a dark and brilliant comedy. Their craft is so nuanced that it leaves me baffled that they are not doing more movies.

Anil Mehta’s work behind the camera is brilliant as he takes on a journey through the leafy bylanes of rural goa and frames the perfect sunsets beautifully. The production on the movie is also top notch with kitschy and retro props that help transport the audience to rustic goa where the time literally stands still as no one is in a rush to do anything, Susegad as they say.

Finding Fanny feels more like a taut short story than an elaborate movie but is thoroughly entertaining. Deepika Padukone is reason enough to shell out your hard earned cash to catch this on the big screen. Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Kapur and Naseerudding Shah are added bonus. Watch this movie because brave movies like these need the audience love and support to encourage directors like Homi Adajania to keep on this path and not steer off-course to cocktail land.

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!

 

 

RamLeela – A Review

Sanjay Leela Bhansali directs Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone in the “goliyon ki Rasleela – Ram Leela” an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. And after the directorial misstep that was Guzarish and the producing abomination that was Rowdy Rathore Bhansali retreads the familiar paths he etched with “Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam” and “Devdas” and the result is a richly layered and textured visual masterpiece that manages to strike a balance in catering to the masses and appealing to the classes as well.

Ram as played by a mustard-oil drenched Ranveer Singh and Leela as played by the statuesque Deepika Padukone play the Romeo and Juliet belonging to the opposing clans of a village in Gujarat whose rivalry goes back 500 years. The ill-fated lovers lay eyes upon each other on holi-day and what unfolds is a tragic romance that has found innumerable adaptations and countless influences when it comes to love stories.

The story by Siddharth and Garima and also the screenplay steers clear of the clichéd and predictable tropes for most parts and manages to even surprise once or twice with you holding your breath as what unravels was so far away from the expected that the result is spectacular. I wish they had worked on giving the opening sequence a bit more dynamism than a person relaying the backstory and context to someone else via a telephone call. Also the second half really needed to be cut short to drive home the impact even more effectively but these are minor grievances.

Bhansali and Ravi Varman capture stunning visuals that are nobody’s business. There is no better visual auteur in India today who understands how to frame a beautiful shot than Sanjay Leela Bhansali. Every shot is a painting that can be hung up on a wall. Every scene is visual poetry. The dance sequences are framed and shot with such throbbing vibrancy that you cannot help but take a sharp intake of breath as the set pieces unveil and the scenery is laid bare before you to soak in.  No one does water reflection shots like Bhansali does – from the glittering havelis of the tavayafs of chitpur from devdas to that one tracking shot in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam from the song “Dholi Taro” and here to Udaipur become Jantara and the lights of the city palace reflect like precious jewels in Lake Pichola. STUNNING! Another spectacular shot is that of Kesar running away from her pursuers and the rolling of the pot along with her – like I said visual poetry.

All this visual artistry would be wasted if it wasn’t for the solid acting chops on display. Ranveer who always makes me cringe with his off-screen presence (interviews et al) still manages to strike a balance between playing a playboy and transforming to the titular Ram (yes of the mythic Ramayana). Deepika just takes your breath away every time she is on screen with her beauty but she has grown in the acting department and how! This is perhaps the best she has ever been and she manages to carry most of the movie on her shoulder while Ranveer is focusing more on thrusting his pelvis every chance he gets.  Richa Chaddha and Barkha Bhisht who play the daughters- in – law of the Saneda and Rajadi clans respectively are brilliant in their respective roles. Supriya Pathak Kapur who plays Dhankor the clan-mother of the Saneda clan is power personified. She plays the lioness like Dhankor with such aplomb that I was going into giddy fits every time she appeared on screen. I would pay top dollar to watch Supriya Pathak’s Dhankor vs Shabana Azmi’s Santok Jadeja the fight of the godmothers would make Brando blush.

Another very important element of the movie is the music and the songs. Every song with the exception of Ishqiyaon Dhishkiyaon is perfectly suited to the movie and given that the lyrics were written by Siddharth and Garima who share story credits as well every song helps in furthering the story. The background score by Monty and the actual music by Bhansali himself infuse Gujarati Folk songs into every note that the movie pulsates with a rhythmic frenzy that can only be witnessed during the final notes of a Garba dance. The costumes deserve a special mention because utmost care is taken to champion the traditional handloom techniques of the different regions of Gujarat, from the Kutchi-threadwork to block prints, Patola-weaving to many other exquisite techniques that only act to enhance Deepika’s beauty.

While this is not a perfect movie and the opening sequence and the second half needed more care from Bhansali and the character of Ram didn’t need those many pelvic thrusts, this is a movie that must not be missed. Watch it for Bhansali who makes a triumphant return to directing epic love stories like only he can. Watch it for Deepika Padukone. Watch it for the visual artistry that does not rely on exotic foreign locales; watch it for set pieces that are unparalleled in Bollywood today. Watch it for this is a beautiful adaptation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani – A Review

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani(YJHD) is Ayan Mukherjee’s sophomore attempt at telling a new millennia coming of age story with Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Aditya Roy Kapur and Kalki Koechlin. Ayan Mukherjee grabbed all the right headlines with his rooted in reality Wake Up Sid(WuS) which also acted as the first real Ranbir Kapoor launchpad.

Unlike WuS, YJHD suffers from what I’d assume is the Johar effect of fake accents, loud Manish Malhotra couture and outlandish wedding celebrations. I want to get the bad parts out of the way first so that I can then talk of the movie’s redeeming factor. Considering that UTV is the production house under whose banner this movie is distributed the roy-kapur nepotism threatens to derail the story with a drunk Aditya Roy-Kapur ( once again) and a bumbling buffoon Kunal Roy-Kapur ( once again). The introduction of the Evelyn Sharma to the movie serves no purpose and is about as subtle as nails on a chalkboard.

 With that out of the way I want to dedicate the rest of the review to the biggest revelation of the movie – Deepika Padukone’s Naina who goes from geek to chic with such casual ease and confident demeanor that it is a breath of fresh air. Not once did I find anything to fault her for. She essentially carries the entire movie on her shoulders and once again it goes to show that no matter how much Ayan Mukherjee says he wrote the movie with Ranbir in mind it is quite clear that Ayan Mukherjee writes her leading ladies as strong level headed rooted in reality. She is essentially the heart of the movie and she melts yours with her dimpled reluctant smiles. Even in her limited role Kalki Koechlin is effective and again proves why she leaves a lasting impression in the itsy bitsy roles.

Ranbir who is charisma personified struggles with Kabir and is not as natural with the role as he was with Sid. In order to portray the carefree, adrenaline-chasing thrill-seeking travel enthusiast he often comes off as rather cocky and at times insensitive. He does manage to reel in the cocky arrogance and exudes that legendary Kapoor charm and manages to salvage the movie in the second half.

The other saving grace of the movie is the combination of what is arguably the best music album of year courtesy Pritam and some of the most breathtaking visuals captured through the lenses of Manikandan, the sweeping panoramas of Himalayas, the dazzling lights of Paris and the scenic sunsets of Udaipur has not been better served on the Indian screens.

Watch this movie because despite its pitfalls this is a beautifully told story of friendship, love, powered by one hell of a soundtrack Watch it because even if Ranbir is slightly off his game he is still better than all his peers and seniors by a clear mile. Watch it for an acting turn by Deepika that is an even bigger delight than the return to the big screen of the dancing diva Madhuri Dixit