The Genius of Vishal Bhardwaj

He is a composer, a playback singer, a writer, a producer and a director; he excels in all these fields and is amongst the finest filmmakers in the country today.

He has directed five brilliant films and his sixth one, 7 Khoon Maaf is already creating a lot of excitement in the filmy circles. He is Vishal Bhardwaj who has made delightful children’s films like Makdee and The Blue Umbrella and films that delve into the dark human emotions such as Maqbool, Omkara and Kaminey.

His adaptations of Shakespeare and Ruskin Bond have opened doors for more literary adaptations in the Hindi film industry. His musical compositions mean different sounds, unusual playback combinations and haunting melodies. The genius of Vishal Bhardwaj has not yet been fully discovered by the Indian film industry and something tells me that soon the whole world will sit and take notice of this brilliant filmmaker.

Here’s a look at his directorial ventures that have helped redefine Bollywood in the last decade…

Click here to read my full post that appeared on on January 23.


Dhobi Ghat

Well Done Prateik…

Dhobi Ghat; Aamir Khan Productions

Kiran Rao’s directorial debut, Dhobi Ghat is an interesting film that doesn’t quite fit into any Bollywood genre. It is shot beautifully and is all about the mood it creates. It doesn’t have a concrete story to tell and doesn’t have a point to make… that’s the USP of the film as it invites you to relax and just soak in the atmosphere on-screen. Having said that, you need patience with the film as it moves at a leisurely pace, despite its short run-time (95 minutes).

Dhobi Ghat is about Mumbai and people from different walks of life who make up the city. Through an interesting narrative, the writer-director connects the four principal characters and their lives. Arun (Aamir Khan) is a reclusive artist who discovers an unlikely muse in Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra), a newly married girl who is adjusting to the city and misses her previous life. Shai (Monica Dogra) is an Indian-American banker on sabbatical who wants to explore the city and its people through her camera; she finds Munna (Prateik Babbar), a dhobi (washer-man) by the day, a rat exterminator by the night and an aspiring actor, to be her guide.

While Aamir is good as usual, the other young actors get more prominence in the film and deliver fine performances. Prateik as Munna is the highlight of the film as you instantly connect with him and his sincerity. A well written character, enacted with ease by Prateik, you relate to Munna’s hopes, dreams and disappointments. The other heroes of the film are its background score and camerawork. Oscar winner, Gustavo Alfredo Santaolalla (Babel, Brokeback Mountain) has created a beautiful soundtrack that helps create the film’s mood with Tushar Kanti Ray’s visuals of rain-drenched Mumbai.

Dhobi Ghat is a nice experiment and thanks to the aggressive promotion is getting in the audiences too. Success of a film like this will certainly encourage other filmmakers to try different genres. However, is it a film that blows your mind? I’d say no; not because it’s not well-made but because it doesn’t seem that it intends to do that. The film sets the mood, there are some sequences that go straight for your heart but overall it stays a bit cold. It is a nice film that is worth watching for its treatment and Prateik Babbar but do not expect something extraordinary.

My rating: * * * Three stars on five


Yamla Pagla Deewana


A huge lassi glass sized disappointment…

Pic: Yamla Pagla Deewana; source: Wikipedia

With Samir Karnik’s Yamla Pagla Deewana, I expected a ‘Balle Balle’ entertainer but got a lame film, which in Punjabi terms can only be compared to cold and soggy Chhole Bhature. The film tries hard to cash on the three Deols coming together, which by the way managed to get the audience inside the theatres. However, spoofing their old films and over-acting does not help if the rest of the script is disastrous. The first half of the film is unbearably bad and a friend of mine fell asleep 15-minutes into the film and left the theatre before the interval. Here’s my appeal to the makers, issued in public interest…

Dear Samir Karnik, Please think hard before you make another film and kindly acquire a very good script. Otherwise, we are not going to say ‘Kyun! Ho Gaya Na’, once again.

Dear Dharmendra ji, Please take roles that suit your stature and age. We would like to remember you for movies like Sholay, Aankhen, Chupke Chupke, amongst others and not for doing a sleazy number called ‘Tinku Jiya’ in a film like Yamla Pagla Deewana. Do roles like you did in Sriram Raghavan’s ‘Johhny Gaddar’; it was small yet impactful.

Dear Sunny paaji, You were the only good thing about this film but your sincere efforts sadly could not save it. Your Matrix meets Ghajini meets Gadar action sequences were good fun and of course your ‘Jatt risky after baalti whisky’ type lines. We’d love to see you back on screen but do choose your films wisely.

Dear Bobby, Why were you setting the world record for over-acting in this film? You knew you were not in a school play then why stress on your lines the way you are supposed to in the annual day stage performances. I can only compare this act of yours with Fardeen Khan’s in ‘No Entry’. And no, that wasn’t funny either. Thought about collaborating with Abbas-Mastan again?

Dear Kulraj Randhawa, You looked good and even tried to do a Kareena Kapoor ‘Jab We Met’ act in the film. Sadly, your character, Saheba’s cousin in the film, Poli (Sucheta Khanna) had a better written role as a ‘Caneda’ obsessed girl from Patiala. Thank the makers for the launch and look for better roles.

Dear Nafisa Ali, Well tried, but it’s a little difficult to displace Kirron Kher from the Punjabi mother characters… You looked the part but a bit too polished; not your fault and would love to see you again but in more urban characters.

Dear Emma Brown Garett, It was nice to hear you swear in Punjabi and your pairing with Sunny Deol was hilarious. Now look forward to your act in Rohan Sippy’s ‘Dum Maro Dum’. However, please be careful and don’t allow Bollywood to reduce you to the neighbor / party guest roles in films that get shot in Filmcity and pass off as Canada.

Dear Anupam Kher, I do not know about your supporting brigade of Mukul Dev and Himanshu Malik (of 17 kisses with Mallika fame), but you certainly deserve better.

Dear Music Directors (Anu Malik, RDB, Nouman Javaid, Sandesh Shandilya, Rahul B. Seth), The only good song in the album is the title track that too is a remixed version of a hit song. I still prefer the original ‘Yamla Pagla Deewana’ (Laxmikant Pyarelal) than this version. What’s with the slow Bhangra number and the pedestrian ‘Tinku Jiya’? Please refer to Singh Is King’s rocking soundtrack that made everyone in the theatre feel like dancing.

Dear fellow film buffs, Watch Yamla Paglaa Deewana if you must but please do not expect anything funnier than what you’ve already seen in the promos.

My rating: * ½ One and a half star on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

No One Killed Jessica



Pic source: UTV Spotboy

Power… this one thing that is more abused in our country than it is used for what it’s meant for. From politicians to traffic cops to telephone linemen to the relatives of a bureaucrat; everybody is somebody in our country. The film, No One Killed Jessica opens with the same thought, albeit about the city of Delhi. Delhi, where no one killed Jessica Lall and no one killed Aarushi Talwar. Is it the city or is it the people or is it the system? Director, Raj Kumar Gupta’s second film after the very well made Aamir (2008) tries to ask the same question. No One Killed Jessica is a great attempt at making a hard hitting and brave film based on a real life incident that shook the nation’s conscience. I say a great attempt as the film makes a point but beyond the emotion, it falls short of achieving cinematic excellence.

The film opens with a spectacular credits sequence with the sensational ‘Dilli Dilli…’ track that sets the tone of the film. In fact, the music by Amit Trivedi with Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics is the film’s one of the biggest strengths. Talking about strengths, the film’s leading ladies, Vidya Balan and Rani Mukerji shine as Sabrina Lall and Meera Gaity, a journalist with striking similarities to NDTV’s Barkha Dutt, respectively. The first half of the film belongs to Vidya who sensitively portrays a girl in her twenties who is vulnerable and at the same time determined to get justice for her sister’s murder. Rani makes a powerful comeback with a fiery character and once again shows what a powerhouse of talent she is. I only wish that she was made to scream a little less.  Rajesh Sharma as the chief investigative officer on the Jessica Lall murder case also deserves a special mention; he is believable as a frustrated cop.

With a powerful subject, good performances and a superb soundtrack, No One Killed Jessica could have been an outstanding film. However, the film is not consistent and has its fabulous and dull moments. The film really moves you but also drags in parts; some of the court sequences actually make you cringe due to the way they are shot with extreme close-ups. The film could have been fifteen minutes shorter for a much more impactful narrative (screenplay – Raj Kumar Gupta; editing – Aarti Bajaj). Having said that, hats off to the director and the producers, UTV Spotboy for making a relevant film like this. It is the right time for Hindi cinema to experiment and present real or realistic stories on screen; no matter if it doesn’t have a hero, people will come to watch as I saw today in a packed theatre. I recommend watching No One Killed Jessica once for the subject matter and the great performances by the cast.

My rating: * * * Three stars on five

A note for fellow film lovers: If you are tired of film awards that are not merit based, it is time to take the decision in your hands. Presenting the Tweeple Film Awards! Truly democratic awards that are ‘Of the People’, ‘By the People’ and ‘For the People’, to honour the most deserving in Hindi Cinema 2010. It’s a movement started by film buffs on Twitter to counter the nonsense that ‘Bollywood’ film awards are.

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Bollywood Wishlist


Expectations from the Hindi Film Industry in the next decade

Tabu in The Namesake

A lot has changed in Bollywood in the last decade and most of it for good. While bad films continued to pour in like a plague, there were many innovations and experiments that took the ‘industry’ to the next level…

Good writing finally gained the importance it deserves; casting started happening according to the characters and not based on the star power, and of course the technical improvements; Bollywood flicks covered a lot of ground in the last ten years. Specifically in 2010, the industry woke up to the power of small films that shadowed the biggies and hope this trend continues where content is the king. However, with so many improvements, there are still some irritants that we can do without.

Here’s my wish-list for Bollywood in the next decade:

Better roles for better actors: There are many good actors but a lot of times they do not get the right roles to play due to silly factors like star camps, favoritism and the actors’ own choices. Case in point Rani Mukherji, a supremely talented actress who did not get any powerful roles post 2005 when she was seen in Black, Bunty aur Babli and Paheli. Hopefully No One Killed Jessica works for her and she gets better films than the Hadippas andChunari Ka Daags of the world.

Similarly for Amitabh Bachchan, it is time that he only takes up quality work and avoids films like Teen Patti, Aladinand God Tussi Great Ho. Another fine actress, Tabu deserves better roles; her performances in Maqbool, Cheeni Kum and Chandni Bar were outstanding and with The Namesake, she garnered international acclaim. She has been signed on by none other than Ang Lee for his ambitious 3D project, Life of Pi; let’s hope that Bollywood also wakes up again to her talent.

Click here to read full post that appeared on on January 3.