Lust, Caution

 

Ang Lee at his best…

Lust, Caution; Pic Source: Wikipedia

2007, Chinese with English subtitles

Directed by the master filmmaker, Ang Lee, ‘Lust, Caution’ is an intense espionage / love story (or shall I say lust story) set in Shanghai and Hong Kong during the period of the second SinoJapanese war (the film is set between 1938 and 1942, while the war happened between 1937 and 1945). During this period, China was ruled by a puppet government led by Wang Jingwei.

The film traces a group of Chinese university students who decide to make a contribution to the war by assassinating a high ranking official in the puppet government, Mr. Yee (played by Tony Leung ChiuWai). An elaborate plan is made and a young, shy student, Wong Chia Chi (played by Tang Wei) is chosen to play the most important and dangerous part. She is transformed into a glamourous and rich society lady by the name of Mrs. Mak who is supposed to find her way into the Yee household. All actors are brilliant, especially Tang Wei who has an extremely complex role. Unlike other espionage films, there is not much action but each scene is full of tension. Such is the power of great writing, editing and of course direction. Ang Lee proves that you need not have gun chase sequences to make a good thriller; it is all in the mind.

Lust, Caution is beautifully shot and each frame is just perfect. The production design is outstanding as you are transported in another era. The styling is just perfect, capturing the contrast between the war-striken poor and the glamourously dressed society ladies. The background score also goes extremely well with the mood of the film.

The film won the top prize at the Venice Film Festival, the Golden Lion and was widely acclaimed the world over. The film garnered a lot of press, thanks to the explicit sex scenes, however there is much more to the film. It is a masterpiece and one of the finest movies I have seen. A must watch.

My Rating: * * * * 1/2 Four and a half stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal

PS: Anupam Kher has a cameo in the film

My Name Is Khan

A triumph of love, faith and determination…

Pic: MNIK; Source: planetbollywood.com

“My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist” – this is what Rizwan Khan wants to tell the President of the United States of America and you join him in his journey from the moment the film starts. Gripping, heartrending and moving, My Name Is Khan (MNIK) is director, Karan Johar’s best film till date with career best performances by the lead pair, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. The film has its flaws from the cinematic point of view but who is interested in all that crap! My Name Is Khan goes straight for your heart and affects you emotionally; it makes a statement that is not new but is made in a bold manner; it is a film that will make history.

Shah Rukh Khan plays Rizwan Khan, a Muslim man suffering from Asperger Syndrome* who loves his wife, Mandira (Kajol) to death; though he does not like to talk about death. Their world is full of love and happiness but it all changes after the 9/11 attacks. Tragedy strikes and they drift apart; and Khan embarks on a seemingly impossible journey to meet the President and win back his love.

Written by Shibani Bhathija, MNIK is a brave film with an unusual plot that hopefully will encourage other film makers to try something new and relevant. Overall, the film has an arresting screenplay that falters a bit in the second half but in the end it all comes together. Hats off to Karan Johar for handling the script so well that could have become quite preachy; with this film he moves away from his usual candy-floss style (though not entirely) but remembers that it has to be entertaining as well.

Shah Rukh and Kajol once again prove that they truly are the best on-screen pair, which makes their love story extremely convincing and endearing. Kajol is simply outstanding as a strong woman of substance who goes through a lot of ups and downs in her life. Shah Rukh Khan disappears from the film after the opening credits as you do not notice the star but only Rizwan Khan. The film also boasts of a fine supporting cast with Sonya Jehan (as Hasina, Khan’s sister-in-law), Zarina Wahab (as Khan’s mother) and child actors, Tanay Chheda (as young Khan), Yuvaan Makar (as Sameer, Mandira and Khan’s son) and Kenton Duty (as Reese, Sameer’s best friend) delivering good performances.

Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy’s music goes extremely well with the mood of the film. Not the usual chart-busters, the Sufi style songs are soulful and grow on you as you watch the film. While ‘Sajda…’ became an instant hit during the promotions of the film, ‘Tere Naina…’ is the song you take with you after leaving the theatre (Lyrics: Niranjan Iyenger). Ravi K Chandran’s cinematography is brilliant and so is the editing by Deepa Bhatia. Manish Malhotra (styling) and Mickey Contractor (make-up) make Kajol look fabulous.

My Name Is Khan is about love, tolerance and peace; it is easily one of the most significant films in the recent times. Go watch it and you would find yourself rooting for Khan, laughing with him and crying for him.

My rating of MNIK as a film: * * * * Four stars on five

My rating of MNIK as a fan: * * * * * Five stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal

*An autism spectrum disorder, people with it show significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests – Source: Wikipedia

Ishqiya

 

Saucy, Bold and Wild…

Pic: Ishqiya; Source: planetbollywood.com

 

This is a film that teases you, surprises you and even mocks you as it takes unexpected turns throughout its 2-hour plus screenplay. Abhishek Chaubey’s first directorial venture, Ishqiya is a wild film that keeps you hooked from start to finish. Not your usual romance, it mixes the love angles between the principal characters with adventure, humour and bold writing.

Ishqiya is about two thieves, Khalu Jaan (Naseeruddin Shah), a 50-year old romantic and Babban (Arshad Warsi), a lustful rogue. They are on the run from their boss whom they have cheated and find refuge with an old friend’s widow, Krishna (Vidya Balan) near Gorakhpur (Eastern UP). Krishna is not what they had expected; she is a mystery that they both seek to unravel. Is she an innocent damsel in distress or a conniving seductress; is she in love with Khalu or with Babban; the director keeps the audience also guessing till the end. All actors deliver brilliant performances but Vidya walks away with the film as she gets the meatiest character.

The strength of Ishqiya lies in its brilliant writing (Abhishek Chaubey, Vishal Bhardwaj and Sabrina Dhawan) including the screenplay and the caustic dialogue (Vishal again). The only downside is the film’s climax that does not quite live up to the exciting tone of the film. The film’s music is another big strength with Vishal Bhardwaj (music) and Gulzar (lyrics) pairing up again after last year’s superb score of Kaminey. ‘Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji…’ is rendered beautifully by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Rekha Bhardwaj’sAb Mujhe Koi…’ stays with you like a haunting melody.

Highly recommended.

My Rating: * * * * Four stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal

 

The Blind Side

 

All heart…

Pic: The Blind Side; Source: Wikipedia

This is one of those rare films that win your heart with so much warmth and goodness. The Blind Side is a beautiful film about love, family and compassion. Director, John Lee Hancock’s film is based on a true story about a homeless African-American teenager who is supported by a well-to-do white family.

Michael Oher (Quinton Aaron) is a 17-year old boy with a troubled past. He is helped by Leigh Anne Tuohy (Sandra Bullock) and her family to become a successful football player. The film is about Michael’s extraordinary journey where he discovers the real meaning of having a family and experiences unconditional love.

In her career best performance, Sandra Bullock is extremely convincing as a rich interior designer who is passionate about football since her cheer-leading days in college. She is strong, confident and runs her family her own way. Her bond with Michael is extremely special as she becomes more of a mother to him than her real children. Quinton Aaron is also brilliant as Michael and you are able to empathise with him, the moment he comes on screen.

Sandra Bullock has already won the Screen Actors Guild and the Golden Globe awards amongst others for this film and is a favourite to bag an Oscar too. This is the first time I would be happy if Meryl Streep (Julie & Julia) does not win at the awards.

Do yourself a favour, watch The Blind Side and leave all your cynicism outside the theatre.

My Rating: * * * * Four stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal

Rann

 

Is Rann Mein Nahin Zyaada Dum Hai

Pic: Rann; Source: Wikipedia

 

The camera goes in a tizzy… swings left and then right, focuses on the table and then Amitabh Bachchan and then the table again. Ram Gopal Varma’s Rann can give you motion sickness, not because it is a bad film but his camera does not stay still. Jokes apart, I like his style of using the camera (Cinematography – Amit Roy), giving the film a handy cam feel, which actually goes well with the film’s subject – the broadcast media.

Rann boasts of an ensemble cast with heavyweights like Amitabh Bachchan (good, as usual) and Paresh Rawal (good again); a range of actors playing small yet significant roles including Rajat Kapoor (likes playing baddie), Mohnish Behl (his most significant role since Hum Aapke Hain Koun), Riteish Deshmukh (I thought he was the lead, but…), Rajpal Yadav (funny, his character makes the real comment on the TV news channels) and Suchitra Krishnamurthy (yes, Anna of Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na); and then there are the guest appearances (or they seemed like that) by Simone Singh (graceful as ever), Neetu Chandra (dressed in lingerie most of the times, no reason) and Gul Panag (I think she got a raw deal, such a small role). All of them are good but there is one actor who shines in the film, Kannada actor, Sudeep. He plays an ambitious media baron who does not agree with his father’s (Bachchan) ideologies and chooses the wrong path to get those viewership ratings. Sudeep’s is probably the most significant character in the film and he makes it even better with his fine performance.

Now, coming back to the film; it set out to be an exposé of the TV media that could have been explosive and hard hitting. The film starts strong as we are introduced to a number of interesting characters (written by Rohit G Banawlikar); an interesting plot begins to form, which disintegrates completely in the second half. The film questions the value and the credibility of media today, especially the TV news channels; it showcases what greed can do and all possible poster boys of greed including corrupt politicians and cold businessmen are shown. However, the film falls short of making that powerful comment that forces you to think and generate emotion. The intent is good here but once again, a weak script spoils the game.

Though there is not much scope for music, whatever is there does not impress. The music is forgettable and the lyrics are quite bad (maybe an experiment that didn’t work). 

Overall, it is an average film and I would recommend it as a one time watch, just for Sudeep.

My Rating: * * * Three stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal