Badrinath Ki Dulhaniya – A Review

Image result for badrinath ki dulhaniya posterShashank Khaitan teams up with Varun Dhawan and Alia Bhatt in Badrinath ki Dulhaniya, the follow up to Humpty Sharma ki Dulhaniya. After successfully parodying and at the same time paying homage to DDLJ, Khaitan Dhawan and Bhatt take on the runaway bride trope.

 

Tackling the social evils of dowry, gender discrimination and overbearing patriarchy the movie never once feels heavy or preachy. The movie hits every right note from the word go. We are introduced to Varun Dhawan as Badrinath Bansal, the second son of Ambarnath Bansal. Badri works as the loan collector for his money lender father. He runs into Vaidehi, played by Alia Bhatt at a wedding where he has gone to collect the money from one of his father’s debtors. What ensues is Badri’s earnest attempt at wooing Vaidehi who playfully and then forcefully rebuffs his advances.

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Alia Bhatt is fantastic and lights up the screen every time she is on the screen. She exhibits the full range of emotion from the playful and taunting to vulnerable and emotional, from the stubborn to acquiescent. With every movie she grows more assured and keeps surprising with the effortlessness with which she essays each role. To me the reign of Deepika Padukone is over and it is now the era of Alia and long may she reign!

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As much as I love Alia in everything she does this movie belongs to Varun Dhawan. It’s his energy which lifts this from being a run of the mill romance. His Badri is a perfect buffoon but with a heart of gold. Torn between an unrequited romance and an overbearing father Varun excels in every scene he is in. It is his innate sense of childlike innocence that makes the funny scenes funnier and the emotional ones more heart-breaking. Varun is ably supported by Sahil Vaid as Somdev his best friend. TV actor Shweta Prasad is superbly cast as Urmila Bansal the wife of Badri’s elder brother Alok Bansal also wonderfully played by Yash Sinha. Swandan Kirkire the lyricist plays Vaidehi’s hapless father and Rituraj Singh plays Badri’s father with suitable rage.

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The traditional Bollywood tropes which were mostly cheesily executed when Karan Johar was directing are now masterfully deployed with him in the producer capacity and Shashank Khaitan as the director. And surprisingly they even make a remixed Tamma Tamma work without losing the 90’s charm and updating it with the mannequin challenge for the millennials. The only trick they missed was having Madhuri Dixit make a cameo in the song itself. That would have made this old Madhuri fan jump up with joy.

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This is a fun movie that is immensely entertaining to watch. It has a serious message at its heart but it never once gets sermonise-y, it does not take itself seriously and yet manages to make the point it never set out to make. Fast paced, beautifully shot and exquisitely acted this one is not to be missed. Cannot wait for the next outing of Varun and his Dulhaniya in a new avatar.

Dear Zindagi – A Review

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

 

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

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

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

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

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The Intern – A Review

Nancy Meyers directs Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro in The Intern. De Niro plays a 70-year old widower who applies for an senior intern outreach program at a tech company and is hired when he sends in a heartfelt cover-video. Assigned to difficult-to-work-with founder of the company Jules Ostein we see how an old dog can teach the new dogs some new tricks.

De Niro’s career graph has been ridiculed with the choices he has been making off late and how he is scurrying away one of the most impressive resumes in the industry by signing up for trash movies. And from the sounds of it The Intern should have joined the long line of disappointing De Niro outings but it doesn’t, instead what we are treated to is a feel-good movie that I frankly haven’t seen the likes of since Meyer’s The Holiday and David Frankell’s  The Devil Wears Prada which incidentally Hathaway starred in as well. And if you know me a TDWP comparison is about as high a praise as one gets from me in terms of rewatchability

What lifts the movie up from the generic banalities that litter the rom-com landscape is Meyer’s nuanced writing and an almost intuitive direction. There are no big moments of epiphany or any similar histrionics. The story pushes a feminist agenda but without bashing your head in with a meat cleaver.  Anne Hathaway (contrary to bitchy bloggers) is immensely likable as the runaway success story of a founder of a e-commerce business who is struggling to keep the successful enterprise and her blissfully happy domestic life chugging along while she continues to take on everything on herself. She is both believable and relatable.

De Niro is the gentlemanly grandfather types who doesn’t act gross or all wise and condescending but rather is trying to fit into a cool Brooklyn startup without giving up his old habits. There are many wonderful moments in the movie and so many come to mind but my favourite has got to be the late night working when Jules comes over and offers Ben a slice of pizza and shows him how to get on Facebook and he in turn shares his story of his days of working for a telephone book company.

Meyers touches on Sexism & Ageism with a delicate flourish that actually make you sit up and take notice rather than those movies where the agenda is front and center and the story is merely a vehicle to push the said agenda forward. I cannot help but compare this to a recent Bollywood movie Ki and Ka where the gender norms are turned on its head and the Man is a stay at home husband and the wife a hotshot executive. that movie was so badly executed that it actually did more of disservice to the message it was trying to convey than do it any justice.  This is how it could have been handled. The only complaint I have with Meyer is her choice in the actor who plays Hathaway’s husband while Andrew Holms is wonderful when he is playing dad to little Paige ( cute as a button) he really lacks the acting chops when it comes to the more dramatic scenes. Also somehow he looks like an understudy next to Anne Hathaway who is akin to a Thespian .

Andrew Rannells who was over the top in The New Normal plays it cool this time around, Adam Devine (Andy from Modern Family ) is brilliant with his comedic timing but it is Rene Russo who gets the the meatier of the supporting roles as Ben’s love interest. She is having a fantastic renaissance of a career after her brilliant turn as a soulless TV reporter in Nightcrawler and now as the wonderful in house masseuse.

Watch this as De Niro delivers a wonderful performance that complements the charming turn by Anne Hathaway. I cannot wait for what Meyers does next. This was a refreshing break of a movie and something I am sure to come back to again, maybe not as much as TDWP.

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.

Pyaar ka Punchnama

Pyar ka punchnama – a film by first time director Luv Ranjan has been garnering a lot praise and word of mouth recommendation from the yuppie crowd, the IT folks and other stereotypical target groups that the movie is aimed at. The story is that of 3 guys Vikrant, Nishant and Raja urf Rajjo Rani and their “Man-Handling” at the hands of their love interests. If Bard were alive I am sure he would rechristen this “Loves Labor Lost”.

I was told by countless IT friends that this movie so typically embodies their lives – the same “kutta” like existence and it came to me hugely recommended. Now the last movie that I came across with such strong word of mouth turned out to be refreshingly delightful Band Baaja Barat so I decided to give this one a go and see for myself if I had indeed been missing out on a generational movie.

Luckily for me I didn’t have to scour out a movie theatre and had the comfort of my bed from where to watch this on a lazy Sunday morning. Because had I gone into a theatre I am sure I would have to woken up by the cleaning staff. This is not to say that the movie didn’t have some entertainment value – but rather that this is a reallllllllllllllllllly long movie that seems to keep going back to same plot devices which begin to grate on your nerves after a while – that of the scheming manipulating uses-sex-as-a-weapon depiction of the fairer sex.

So the story begins harmlessly enough with 3 guys who are living together and seem to having a good time hanging out in their boxers and less, chugging beers and basically being boys. Then walk in 3 lovely (and I do mean 2 out of 3 are indeed very lovely) lasses and all hell breaks loose. What ensues is fairly predictable but I am not sure how accurate.
You have the hapless romantic Nishant who is hung up on a girl who is in a relationship with someone else but gives nishant enough rope to keep hanging himself over and over and still there is enough left for her to tug him back to her. Then there is Rajjo Rani who has a clingy needy and a shrill girl friend who he moves in with and is basically neutered ( well that’s what happens to dogs anyways right?) . then there is the angst ridden guitarist Vikrant who is in a twisted relationship with a girl who still heaves hot and cold for her ex. All very typical and mostly forgettable.

The movie feels amateurish with its staccato dialogue and repetition of the same story angles. However there are a few good things about the movie. There is some gorgeous cinematography especially in some of the song sequences and also some of the desi rock songs are quite good and would make for an interesting listen on a long drive on a rainy day! My favorite part about the movie was the agitated outburst of Rajat ( who will always be rajjo raani for me) who vents out about “Aurat Jaat” which is demeaning but still fun and the part where Vikrant says “ ye ungli vaala mere saath bhi hua hai “ .

All in all this is a mildly amusing and remotely entertaining fluff with no cohesive story or character development (besides the occupation of the IT guy I have no clue what anyone does!) which begins to get tiresome very quickly. This movie would have gained supremely from a 20 minute cut in its run time.

I love you Philip Morris

How is it that trash like “how do you know” and “Leap year” gets such a wide releases and a movie like ILYPM gets buried? This is a movie that can give almost any rom-com a run for its money.

So the story sees our protagonist Jim Carey a church going gospel singing small town cop and father of one make some life altering decisions. Those decisions lead him to a very dark place. While in this dark place he chances upon a creature so delicate and so beautiful that it catches his eye and his heart at the same time. And as they say it is love at the first time. Circumstances keep forcing Steven ( Jim) and his beloved to part ways and Steven concocts one plot after another to get to the love of his life.

Finally when they are together living in domestic harmony Steven’s carefully created charade falls apart as his con is finally caught and his beloved is distraught at all the lies and leaves Steven behind. But soon comes to realize that all Steven did was to make HIM happy. Yeah you see that might have been the problem why this movie was buried. It’s a love story between two men. Jim Carey plays the con artist Steven Russell and Ewan McGregor plays the titular character Philip Morris. Two Hollywood A-listers playing Gay men! gasp! And they are not apologetic or dying of AIDS ?! Blasphemy.

It is oft said that truth is stranger than fiction and the story of ILYPM is a perfect example of it. Based on true events the movie is an account of the number of ways Steven Russell broke the law to get to the one person he loved – Philip Morris. The Lead actors are stalwarts and very very straight men I mean one guy married a porn star and another went on a marathon international bike sojurn. But you wouldn’t guess that when you see them on screen. Jim Carey as the flamboyant gay con artist is the best jim carey we’ve seen in years. Ewan McGregor as the delicate bashful and sweet Philip morris is sheer perfection in method acting. Every detail every single hand gesture , turn of the head makes you scream “THATS SO GAY!” but not in a homophobic sense of the way.

Considering that this movie came out with raving reviews out of Sundance a couple of years ago and upon seeing it I can truly vouch for the talent on display I still fail miserably at understanding that how come this gem of a movie got lost. If it were upto me I would put Ewan up for a Best Supporting actor nom and in my books he would win it. And Jim Carey has always and forever been looked over by the hollywood high brow i mean TRUMAN SHOW! and now ILYPM.

Do not shy away from this movie because of the preference of the lead characters – I highly recommend this brilliantly written directed movie. But more than anything else I recommend it for its two leads who are simply FABULOUS .