Mardaani – A Review

Pradeep Sarkar directs Rani Mukherjee in Mardaani where she plays a crime branch inspector shivani shivaji roy for whom the issue of human trafficking becomes personal when a girl from a shelter who she treats as her own daughter gets kidnapped and gets sold into sex trade.

I am pleasantly surprised to say that on a day when I saw two movies about femme fatales Rani Mukherjee tops Scarlet Johansson.

Sarkar known more for his period romance Parineeta than action capers also pleasantly surprises in this edge of seat cat and mouse chase which feels fresh and devoid of clichés. Sarkar chooses his antagonist perfectly as a smooth talking, Breaking Bad loving , tech savvy, fresh faced yet ruthless “Under-19 team ka 12th player” aka Kid ( as helpfully supplied by the subtitles) played marvelously by Tahir Raj Bhasin.

Without delving too deeply into the story of one-upmanship that ensues between Shivani and the Kid it is suffice to say that not for a minute will you be bored in this brilliantly crafted gem.

Sarkar tackles the demon of Children being abducted and sold into Sex-trade and tackles it with such deft and finesse that he achieves the impossible – getting the message across without grossing out the audience or holding up cue cards to navigate them to the moral dilemma or the much-favored hammering the point home so hard that by the end the audience doesn’t give a damn. I was physically shaken and left trembling by the final minutes as the climax unravels and to me that is a clear sign of the movie being impactful.

Rani Mukherjee delivers what I believe is her careers best performance. She is subtle and sharp witted at the same time. Her performance is nuanced to the point where she doesn’t need to mouth a single word or need to bawl to express her anguish, a single tear as she comes face to face with her brother/husband ( I am confused as to who he was supposed to be) who is made a pawn in this game against a criminal mastermind.

The ability to infuse the sense of urgency and the clear and present danger in the first few minutes as bodies begin dropping without the slightest of bangs is near perfection. Sarkar manages to create an atmosphere of intrigue with ease. Also the first phone conversation Shivani has with the Kid as she is unpacking dinner is sheer delight as Rani unperturbed continues as if catching up with an old mate rather the man responsible for having kidnapped her daughter.

I could continue heaping platitudes on the virtues of this movie and it wouldn’t do justice to just how wonderfully surprised I was to come across this days after being subjected to the torture that was Singham Returns. It is movies like these that keep the hope alive that Bollywood still can produce meaningful cinema. If ever there was a need for a sequel this is the franchise. What Sarkar and Rani have created will continue to bear fruits for year to come as long as Sarkar continues to treat each of the forthcoming (hopefully) outings with the same intelligence and freshness as this one.

Do yourself and India as a whole a favor and go watch this movie not only because it is brilliantly directed, acted and crafted, but also because this is a subject matter that has been debated to death but cinema one of the most impactful mediums was doing nothing to spread the awareness and it has finally picked up the gauntlet and with such panache.  

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.