Raazi – A Review

Image result for raazi posterMeghna Gulzar directs Alia Bhatt in Raazi. Based on a book “Calling Sehemat” by Harinder Sikka the screenplay written by Meghna Gulzar and Bhavani Iyer tells the story of a 20-something Kashmiri girl who is inducted into the covert Indian spy network that was responsible for the defeat of Pakistan in the war of 1971 at the hands of the Indian armed forces.

Alia Bhatt plays Sehemat Khan – the daughter of Hidayat Khan played by Rajit Kapoor. Hidayat is friends with the Pakistan Army Brigadier Syed. Dying of cancer, Hidayat asks his friend to get his youngest son married to his only daughter. Vicky Kaushal plays Iqbal Syed, Sehemat’s betrothed. Sehemat gets married and is embedded in potentially one of the most influential households in the Pakistani army. Once there she starts passing on crucial pieces of information through many secretive channels back to Indian Intelligence Agency, and eventually saving the Indian armed forces from a deadly blow and consequentially causing Pakistan’s defeat in the 1971 war.

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Alia Bhatt plays Sehemat with a quiet confidence, she is not a natural spy and she doesn’t play pretend either. What she is though is a brilliant student with and eidetic memory. She learns quickly and masters the spy-craft. Once beyond enemy lines, there is a palpable sense of danger lurking every moment she goes trying to gather intelligence to pass back to India. You see her afraid and remorseful. You see her be resourceful and determined as well. And through it all you see her fall in love with her husband. Vicky Kaushal plays Iqbal with absolute honesty. He never overplays his hand in any scene. There is a surprising restraint to his performance which makes the budding romance seem even more real and even tenderer. It is therefore just as shocking when the climax comes around. The supporting cast is absolutely solid. Rajit Kapoor who plays Hidayat Sehemat’s father, Shishir Sharma who plays Brigadier Syed, Amruta Khanvilkar who plays Munira Syed, Aman Vashisht who plays Nikhil Bakshi and Jaideep Ahlawat who plays Khalid Mir are all exceptional. Soni Razdan, Alia’s real life mother plays her reel life mother Teji!

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The story is based off of Harinder Sikka’s novel Calling Sehemat, a based on true events tale that Sikka came across while embedded as a journalist during the Kargil war of 1999. The story of Sehemat as recounted by Sikka is fascinating. But what makes this translation on screen such a riveting watch is Meghna Gulzar’s Screenplay and Direction. I first fell in love with Gulzar’s craft with her debut movie Filhaal. A path breaking movie for its time in Bollywood. Gulzar then disappeared until she resurfaced with Talwar a couple of years ago and with Raazi she has established herself as someone to watch out for. Her detailed and believable translation from Sikka’s book to Alia’s portrayal on screen is absolutely thrilling. The spy-thriller genre is almost unheard of in Bollywood and Gulzar faithfully recreates the period and gets the grammar of the movie right. Despite a slightly shaky start once Gulzar reigns in the narrative she doesn’t let it and the audience’s attention slip even for a moment.

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The camera work isn’t the best – it comes in too close in most scenes and you lose the atmosphere a little because of it. Cinematographer Jay I Patel however shines in the more panoramic shots. The production and set design are fantastic and the selection of vintage cars a wonderful touch.  The music is classic Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy, non-intrusive yet very effective. And Dilbaro is a brilliant song.

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A triumph in every aspect this is a movie for the ages. Alia continues to astound with the choices she makes in the roles she picks and depicts a maturity that belies her fresh looks. I cannot wait for Meghna to continue to defy expectations and chose varied subject matter and make movies that entertain and educate its audience in equal measure.

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Black Panther – A Review

Image result for black pantherRyan Coogler directs Chadwick Boseman, Lupita Nyong’o, Danai Gurira and Michael B Jordan in Black Panther. Black Panther first made appearance in Marvel Cineverse with the Civil Wars and sees him return to the mythical African country of Wakanda to take to the throne after the death of its king T’Chaka.

 

Ryan Coogler has made quite an impact with his first two movies, Fruitvale Station and Creed, both movies pushing the boundaries with furthering the African-American representation in mainstream movies. Here again he teams up with his favoured actor Michael B Jordan. In Jordan, Coogler fleshes out Erik Killmonger in such a way that despite his villainous turn, the audience ends up being invested in him. Teaming with Black actors Coogler pulls off quite a stunning feat. The movie is lush and textured, it proudly embraces the African roots of T’Challa. The myths and motifs of African culture are in every scene. The battle scenes are choreographed to the tune of war drums, the subjects of Wakanda wear the most colourful garb and tribal jewellery. All actors wear their hair natural. The importance of this cannot be overstated. What Wonder Women did to represent the women as super hero, Black Panther does that for people of colour. There are only two white actors, Andy Serkis and Martin Freeman and for once they are relegated to unimportant roles.

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Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa is regal, lithe and ferocious all qualities befitting the Black Panther. Lupita Nyong’o as Nakia, the daughter of the tribe leader and T’Challa’s love interest is determined, industrious and benevolent all qualities that make a perfect queen of Wakanda. Danai Gurira as Okoye the general of the Milaje – the all women royal guard, is the stand out star of the movie for me. She is fierce in every possible way. She is a fierce warrior and she is Sasha Fierce, she flits like a butterfly and stings like a bee. Her spear handling is just as deadly as her deadpan humour. If only we can get a spin-off series for Okoye all will be well with this world. Angela Bassett as Queen mother is phenomenal and Letitia Wright as the whiz-kid princess Shuri, T’Challa’s sister is to Black Panther what Q is to James Bond and then some. Michael B Jordan is the perfect Erik Killmonger. He has a heart-breaking back story and he manages to balance that with sheer evil. The scenes between him and Boseman evoke the sense of Lion King-esque déjà vu

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I went in hoping to be blown away by the music, the trailer promised that it would have a very urban contemporary, rap, hip-hop feel to it but the overall soundtrack pales in comparison to that used for the trailer. In parts the story loses steam, especially when setting up the origin story and there are elements that feel a bit repetitive, the multiple visits to ancestral land, the ritual combat sequences, the final combat between T’Challa and Killmonger. Also Forrest Whitaker is as over the top as you would expect him to be. But it is easily overcome with the battle over ground with Rhinos involved and Okoye kicking serious ass! The CGI, especially around the Black Panther suit is phenomenal.

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While not quite on the same story telling scale as Nolan’s Batman Trilogy Black Panther does manage to lend a sense of mythical epic in the marvel universe. The humour which is the hallmark of Marvel takes a back seat to a story with a heart, a heart that throbs to the drumbeats and tribal calls of Africa. A new king has indeed risen and his name is Ryan Coogler! Wakanda Forever!

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Padman – A Review

Related imageBalki directs Akshay Kumar, Radhika Apte and Sonam Kapoor in Padman, the story based on Padma Shri awardee Arunachalam Muruganantham, the innovator of low-cost sanitary pads.

 

Balki and Swanand Kirkire base the story on the short story written by Twinkle Khanna the wife of Akshay Kumar and also the producer of the movie. Akshay Kumar plays Lakshmikant Chauhan the eponymous Padman. Lakshmi is newly married and besotted with his wife Gayatri played by Radhika Apte. When she experiences her periods for the first time at her married home, he tries to talk her out of using a dirty rag and get her to use a store bought sanitary pad. She balks at price of it and tries to talk him out of it due to the high price. Lakshmi then embarks upon a quest to prototype his low-cost sanitary pad. The journey that Lakshmi undertakes all the way from being shamed out of his village to delivering a rousing “Linglish” speech at the united nation is fascinating.

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Akshay Kumar is fantastic as Lakshmi and brings a level of earnestness that lifts every scene he is in. The opening sequence song “Aaj se Teri” sets up Akshay’s character arc where he earnestly tries alleviate every single one of her problems, building a wooden seat for her to sit on his bicycle, a monkey toy onion chopper. He might be lacking in the formal education department but he makes up for that in his inquisitiveness. Radhika Apte plays Gayatri and she couldn’t be more of a contrast to Akshay Kumar. She is one note, whiny and overplays the ever silently suffering wife. For almost every scene she is in she is either crying her eyes out or passive aggressively berating Lakshmi for trying to help her. The whole “shame is worse than disease” cudgel she keeps beating over Lakshmi and the audience’s head gets really tiresome. Sonam Kapoor who makes an entry in the second half of the movie moves breezily from one scene to another. She is entirely believable as the college student who sees potential in Lakshmi’s reinvention of the Pad making machine and immensely likable – no small fete considering her previous work. Amitabh Bachchan who is a permanent fixture in every Balki movie chews up the scenery in the 2 minutes he is on screen. His screen presence is unparalleled and his baritone a calming balm on the frayed nerves after Apte’s annoying performance.

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The first half is hugely problematic with its pacing and overly regressive storyline. The whole premise of women using unhygienic rags is setup so tactlessly that it becomes impossible to feel anything for either the women who are suffering this plight or the one man who is trying his best to change the status quo. It is only when Lakshmi is left to his own devices that the movie really picks up steam in the second half. The writing is abysmal and the epiphanies that Lakshmi experiences when his boss at the garage spouts pearls of wisdoms is too on the nose. If not for Sonam Kapoor and Akshay Kumar the movie would have fallen in the same unfulfilled promise category as Balki’s previous Ki and Kaa. The music is catchy and does well to buttress the flailing script and the camera work is fantastic. Every scene is alive and vibrant. The locales of Madhya Pradesh lend a wonderful aesthetic backdrop to the rural setting lifting it out of poverty porn.

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A fascinating story, a decent second half and a strong acting turn from Akshay Kumar and Sonam makes this bearable outing. Balki ought to take directing lessons from his wife Gauri Shinde who knows how to let story translate on screen organically. Also I wish Balki took a page out of Oliver Stone’s book and got the real Padman deliver a final speech.

50 Shades of Grey – A Review

Sam Taylor Johnson directs Jamie Dornan and Dakota Johnson in the on screen adaptation of E.L.James’ BDSM fantasy novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Dornan plays Christian Grey a 27 year old Billionaire and Dakota Johnson plays Anastasia Steele a fresh college graduate and a hardware store employee.

 

E.L.James wrote this novel as a Fan Fiction inspired by Twilight and the story suffers the same banality that was the cornerstone of Stephenie Meyer’s work. The entire proceeding seems derivative and uninspired and reads more like a smattering of different stories one would have heard over the years and they are pieced together with no objective other than to titillate a few desperate housewives. There is no sense of romance, no sense of danger or even intrigue as the characters are written as flatly as possible. There are hints of dark humour as Anastasia “negotiates” the contract with Christian – the premise as absurd as it is would have been made immensely bearable and almost believable had Ana continued to mock and make fun of the specifics of the contract but instead the flickering flame of hope is soon doused by a multitude of lip-biting and toe-curling reactions from Ana.

I fail to understand what is the point of this – not just the movie but also the book. The Christian grey as presented here has no redeeming quality other than that he is rich and moderately good looking, in fiction land they are dim a dozen and better written. Also women – who comprise the large portion of James’ fandom- how can they associate with Anastasia Steele – I mean I am all for toe-curling action between the sheets but wouldn’t they find it objectionable to be portrayed as Steele is portrayed here? I can understand men wanting women to be as naïve and easy but I would find that women would find that demeaning and insulting.

I was told that the screenwriting is an improvement on the actual novel and that the many references to “her inner goddess doing the tango” which are missing from the screenplay are a welcome change I cannot even begin to imagine what the source would have been. Jamie Dornan who hit the headlines with his Calvin Klein Advert during the super bowl is honestly less impressive here as the hunky Christian Grey than his 30 sec Superbowl advert. His dialogue delivery is dry and he fails to infuse any element of mystery. Dakota Johnson as Anastasia shows promise but squanders it all with her lip-biting and heavy breathing and writhing. What Marcia Gay Harden is doing in this stinking pile of dung is beyond my understanding – an actress of her standing should have stayed as far away from this as possible. The insufferable Rita Ora makes her blink-and-miss debut as Grey’s France-returned sister who is about as believable as Ora’s current self-proclaimed diva status.

The one thing I was looking forward to was the music and Beyoncé’s vocals do make the visual imagery slightly more bearable. Outside of that there is really nothing to be gained from this cinematic outing. There is no thrill, no excitement, no romance and no intrigue. It is one mechanical over-simulated sex-scene after the other where Dornan is completely out of it and Johnson too into it. The chemistry is entirely lacking and there is no character development and the story goes nowhere. Even with the pile of garbage that was James’ original novel there was scope that this movie would be a parody of itself and by virtue of that be at least half-interesting, but that is not the case. And to the scores of women who packed the theatres over the valentine day weekend – please wake up – you deserve better – I am not even insinuating a Jane Austen type feminist caper but at least something that doesn’t insult your intelligence.

Chef – A Review

Jon Favreau directs himself in a script written by him in and as Chef. That might sound off-putting but please let that not be the reason why you do refrain from checking out this little gem of a movie that is one of the best and most innocuous feel-good movie I have come across in a long time.

With a playbill that is stacked with the likes of Dustin Hoffman, Robert downey Jr., John Leguizamo, Oliver Platt, Sofia Vergara and Scarlett Johanson (no pun intended!) the movie is the story of a once-celebrated chef Carl Casper whose food inspired people one among who is a would be food critic Ramsey Michel. After 10 years in the industry Carl and Ramsey cross paths again and the result is far from palatable. What ensues is the main plot of the movie and it would be stupid of me to lay it out here in the review.

Jon F, John L and Amjay Anthony who plays Carl’s son Percy go on a road trip of sorts which acts as a journey of discovery of sorts. Carl finds his mojo back cooking the food he loves and finds in Martin a trusted sidekick and a friend for life. But more importantly, during the course of this journey he finds a way to connect to his kid, a way to pass on his passion for food onto the little apprentice who ends up being the main hero of the story as it were.

The movie does justice to the food it sets out to serve by highlighting the local specialties like the Miami’s little Havana’s Cuban Sandwiches, New Orleans’ Beignet and Austin Texas’ barbequed  Brisket. But the movie does not limit itself to the food, the self-discovery and the coming closer of a father and son, it goes on to make a point about social media. The new beast that can make instant celebrities out of regular food-eaters, movie-goers, compulsive-shoppers by allowing them their “blogging” space but also make instant fools out of people who in a moment of madness lose control and their actions are forever on the internet to taunt them and to trivialize any other achievement they may have had outside of that moment. But through Percy we see the power of social media which also allows the same fallen hero to rise up again.

Ultimately this is a movie that is not burdened by the compulsions of giving the myriad of stars their space on the reel; it is not burdened by clichés of which there are aplenty. It is a movie about a father and son taking a road trip eating their way through America and filling our hearts with a warm and gooey feeling that is not dissimilar to eating a chocolate lava cake.  This is an unmissable movie especially if you have a food dream like I do.  Take a bow Jon Favreau or a Michelin star if you must!

 

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)

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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:

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 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!

 

 

A Single Man

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

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

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

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

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

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

This article is a reproduction from my facebook account.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Kai Po Che – A Review

ImageCricket, politics, religion and passion collide in Abhishek Kapoor’s Kai Po Che based on Chetan Bhagat’s novel three mistakes of my life. The movie stars Sushant Raj Singh, Amit Sadh and Raj Kumar Yadav as the three friends and their travails through life.

Right off the bat the movie sets the tone right with the understated opening sequence with wide spanning vistas and I was floored by the visual artistry on display. All through the movie there are scenes of such beauty that will take your breath away. The music while limited in terms of the number of songs for a Hindi movie are perfect accompaniment to the rustic Ahmedabad and kick up a notch when garba comes calling.

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Of the acting all three actors are brilliant and the very embodiment of bromance that it is impossible to tell them apart. Sushant Singh Rajput’s dreamer cricketer Ishaan is the perfect foil to Raj Kumar Yadav’s business acumen displaying but clueless about love Govind. The standout for me though is Amit Sadh’s Omi who goes from being the charlatan and joker of the group to becoming the politician on the rise and the reluctant fundamentalist. The final scene and the quite breakdown in front of Vidya is understated but equivalent of an eruption of an emotional volcano. Another standout and the real heart of the movie is the young Digvijay Deshmukh who plays the gifted child cricket protégé Ali the common thread that brings the entire movie together. Amrita Puri as Vidya, Ishaan’s sister also does full justice to her role. For me personally a sign of a good movie is when the supporting cast is as strong as the lead actors, with Kai Po Che there is a plethora of memorable supporting actors essaying roles that provide more than just a plot point to move the story along but rather help weave the complete fabric of the story, be it the politician mamaji, the priest father, the Muslim leader and father of Ali, all come together to make Kai Po Che a storytelling success.

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Having gone in unfamiliar with Bhagat’s source material I was sufficiently full of dread as I hated Three Idiots and in general stay as far away from Chetan Bhagat as possible because of his novels.  But Abhishek Kapoor does a brilliant job translating the story to the screen and still managing to keep it relevant, realistic and uplifting. For those who are not familiar with the novel Three Mistakes of My Life I will not go into too many details but sufficient to say that it recreates some of the most memorable moments of the first decade of the new millennium in Gujarat and while doing so does not take a side and only makes a dispassionate commentary on the events that shape the lives of these 3 friends, events that would have no doubt affected many other young men who lived through that period.

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There is vibrancy to this movie and naturalness to the performances that make everything absolutely believable, something that I found lacking in both Three Idiots (Bhagat’s first novel to be adapted for the big screen) and Rock On (Kapoor’s previous movie). By taking on relative new comers to the essay the roles of Ish Omi and Govi Abhishek Kapoor is able to get the best possible performances out of them.

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To me this movie this early on in the year is hopefully a sign of things to come – I herald it as the next step in the evolution of the Indian film industry in its 100th year.  Go see the movie because this is probably one of the best movies this year and Abhishek Kapoor is a director who has got my attention