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.

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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!

 

 

Ship Of Theseus – A Review

Anand Gandhi directs “Ship Of Theseus” based on a story he wrote which is based on a Grecian Paradox which was first explored by Plutarch as “whether a ship which was restored by replacing all and every of its wooden parts, remained the same ship.” This has been further explored by many other philosophers most notably by Thomas Hobbs as “what would happen if the original planks were gathered up after they were replaced, and used to build a second ship. Which ship, if either, is the original Ship of Theseus?”

To take such a high concept philosophical paradox and to translate that into a story about identity, belief and Organ Donation and while doing so still managing to get a rousing applause from the audience at 1 am in the night on a Wednesday is a thing that is unheard of in the world of Indian film making. But that is exactly what Anand Gandhi has achieved. Perfection.

The story follows three individuals, an Egyptian photographer who relies on the sounds to take photographs because of her vision impairment, a Jain monk who opposes clinical testing on animals and refuses medicine produced by the companies violating the animal cruelty act and a money minded share broker who is content in life with making money and being compassionate to only those nearest to him.

In each of the stories the protagonist is in need of an organ. The photographer is in need of eyes, the Monk is in need of a liver due to an ailment and the share broker is in need of a kidney. To reduce the movie to being that about organ donation would be an over simplification of the central message of the movie, it is not the organs that are the planks of the ship that is the human body but rather the ideology, the thought, the belief which form the planks of the ship that is the human soul, the consciousness, the overall being of an individual. How Gandhi draws parallels to the planks being replaced is done in the most unassuming of ways and it takes time to wholly soak it in.

While the story is brilliant it would be rendered artsy and moody in the hands of an incompetent cinematographer. Pankaj Kumar frames each shot like it is a work of art, there were audible gasps during the wide panoramic shots in the story of the Monk. Kumar transitions beautifully from close ups to wide open spaces with mountains and snow and rivers to the chaotic city life to tranquil country sides with lush greenery to narrow and claustrophobic slums to that brilliant tracking shot of the streets of Stockholm. I despise hand held camera because it is very off putting but here for the very first time the hand held camera work in certain scenes actually adds to the tension and texture of the moment in storytelling.

The background score by Naren Chandavarkar and Benedict Taylor is the perfect accompaniment to the overall mood of the story it never overpowers the narrative and allows the visual artistry to achieve its crescendo by enhancing the sensory experience.

Of the actors the Photographer played by Aida El-Kashef and the Monk played by Neeraj Kabi are brilliant with Kabi undergoing a drastic physical transformation. The rest of the cast is also brilliant with a special mention to Vinay Shukla who plays the young lawyer intern and Sohum Shah who plays the final protagonist

I had read about Ship of Theseus and how the other film makers who saw the movie felt incompetent by the mastery of the Gandhi’s craft and I thought that is a little dramatic but after seeing the movie I can only say that every single one of those hyperbolic reactions to this is justified. I personally have not seen a more accomplished piece of film making.

See it because even with the movies that I loved the most I was rarely speechless but with this I was rendered utterly speechless and in awe of what Anand Gandhi had created. Watch it for the compelling story the stunning visuals and the pinnacle of film making in Indian Cinema.  Anand Gandhi Take a Bow Sir!

This HAS got to be India’s selection to the Oscars for the foreign language film.  It is a film that is universal in its message and a film that every Indian should be proud of and support. Please go watch this in a theatre near you and support people like Anand Gandhi to get a wider distribution

Bombay Talkies – A Review

Bombay Talkies is a compilation of 4 diverse short stories directed by 4 of the most diverse filmmakers in terms of the kind of movies they’ve made in the past. Karan Johar  the king of over the top melodramatic high-gloss NRI-story telling, Zoya Akhtar the prodigal daughter telling coming of age stories grounded in Novae  Urbanist India, Dibaker Banerjee the gritty realistic maverick film maker and Anurag Kashyap the ever controversial irreverent auteur.

Karan Johar’s: my least favorite of the four but still one of the best Karan Johar has done in terms of portraying realistic relationship dynamics. The story starts of jarringly with the lead protagonist walking out of his house for his father’s disapproval of who he is. The story also features an upwardly mobile DINK couple of the newspaper columnist Rani Mukherjee and Political Analyst Randeep Hooda. Without going into too many details it suffices to say that Karan Johar pushes the envelope with pun intended double entendres which has most of the audience squirming and giggling uncomfortably. Some call it autobiographical but I couldn’t care less. Had it been a little less on the nose and little more subtle with the characters it would have easily been the best story of the four. I only wish that Karan Johar continues to challenge himself and his audience with more diverse story telling than just over-grown college kids.

Dibaker Banerjee’s: this features my favorite performance of the entire movie in the form of Nawazzudin Siddiqui. This guy is just phenomenal how he transforms from one role to another is a thing of marvel. Here he plays Purandare a loving father of a very sick girl who just wants a new story from her dad every night, a lovable husband to a wife who brings home the bacon, a budding business man with one last surviving emu which eats the neighbor’s besan. In a chance encounter he is offered a role opposite Ranbir which brings the inner demons he is battling to the fore and what ensues is brilliant acting, storytelling and directing that has wiped Banerjee’s slate clean after the disaster that was Love Sex and Dhoka. This movie brought me so much joy that I wish it was fleshed out into a fuller story. Mission accomplished!

Zoya Akhtar’s: This one’s about following your dreams no matter what the obstacles and also about the bond the siblings share as each one looks out for the other whether it is the Katrina Kaif poster or putting ones resources to the best use to make sure the other’s dreams come true. The child artist who plays the brother is amazing. The easy charm that one must expect from children but the one thing that Indian Cinema has failed more often than not in delivering from a child artist is on display by the truck loads! This is what kids are supposed to be like not precocious little know-it-alls with annoying voices! This was a joint second for me along with Kashyap’s

Anurag Kashyap’s: how do you do an ode to Indian Cinema without a reference to Amitabh Bachchan? You cannot. Even today driving past juhu you will see hordes of crowd patiently waiting for that one glimpse of the greatest superstar of Indian Cinema, Thousands come to the maximum city with the hopes of making it as big as the angry young man himself. The story is that of one man’s journey to meet Amitabh Bachchan to ensure that he eats his mother’s murabba as it is his dying father’s last wish. Like a dutiful son Vijay goes through what countless cinema-hopefuls go through every day.

This movie is touted as the ode to 100 years of Indian Cinema, it does that through the stories it weaves, and Johar’s uses the music of Indian Cinema as a central element, narrating the story that the dialogues don’t. Banerjee’s does by using the stories of the movies being the ones that are as popular as the great epics for the kids’ bedtime stories. These are worlds of fantasy come alive which always seem within touching distance. Akhtar’s uses the power of dreams that many dream seeing their idol’s dreams being realized on a scale unimagined. Kashyap’s story uses the power of celebrity, the crazy fan following that Indian cinema’s icons enjoy with there being temple’s being erected in their honor to their stories-tall posters being worshiped with milk and garlands.

For me there was one more common thread, that of lies. Some lies are told to protect self, some lies are told to make our loved ones happy, and some lies are told because those around us do not understand our truth and some lies are told to protect the feelings of those we love.  Because what is cinema if not the lies we tell to make up for the truth we imagined.

Do not miss out on the new wave of movie making in Indian Cinema , do not miss this movie.