Contagion

Don’t talk to anyone… don’t touch anyone…

Contagion; Pic: Warner Bros.

How many times you touch your face in a day? Three to five times every waking minute says Dr. Erin Mears, an epidemic investigating officer in the film, Contagion; which means about 4,800 times in a day.  What surfaces you touch that can give you a deadly virus… peanuts in a pub, door knobs, handshake with a colleague, your own desk at work… there is no way you can avoid touching things or people… what happens when a deadly virus spreads around the world through surface contact (fomite transmission, explained in the film)? Contagion, a riveting new thriller by Steven Soderbergh presents a similar scenario tracing the lives of the affected families, doctors, scientists and investigators as a global pandemic explodes.

The film begins with a dark screen where you hear a woman coughing. You see a business traveller, Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) at an airport bar sniffling and fighting a bad case of flu. ‘Day 2’ flashes on the screen and the camera focuses on the bowl of peanuts lying in front of her. You know it’s not good. Day 3 and she is dead along with the others in London, Japan and Hong Kong. The reason is unknown and the toll rising very fast. Professionals at the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organisation (WHO) are already having emergency meetings. The film begins at a tense note and stays like that throughout; though serious and scary, the director maintains restraint and avoids sensationalizing the subject. The screenplay moves at a breakneck pace except a few parts in the second half. Contagion scares but presents a very realistic picture of what may happen in a crisis situation of a global pandemic.

The film boasts of an enviable ensemble cast of Academy Award® and Emmy® winners and nominees, but the director ensures that none get precedence over the film’s lead, the deadly virus. Matt Damon plays Mitch Emhoff, a grieving husband who is concerned about his daughter’s safety; Kate Winslet plays Dr. Erin Mears, a scientist for whom duty comes first; Marion Cotillard is WHO’s Dr. Leonora Orantes who is on the job to trace the virus’ origin; Jude Law, a conspiracy theorist and blogger; Laurence Fishburne, Dr. Ellis Cheever, head of CDC who finds himself in moral dilemma; and Jennifer Ehle is Dr. Ally Hextall who is working round the clock to develop a vaccine to fight the virus. There are many plots in this global drama that Soderbergh brings together perfectly without giving too much importance to a particular star or character. Look out for the scene where two scientists in isolation suits discuss their weekend while investigating a deadly virus strain. Also, the scene where Mitch checks his wife’s pictures of her fateful trip to Hong Kong, months after her death.

Contagion’s success lies in creating fear in the minds of the audience without making it appear over the top like other disaster flicks. Scott Z Burns’ screenplay is taut and editing superb (Stephen Mirrione), which along with the gripping background score (Cliff Martinez) makes it a must watch thriller.

My rating: *** ½ Three and a half on five

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Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

Like Flat Cola…

MBKD; Source: Wikipedia

Let me begin by confessing that I have been a big fan of Yash Raj brand of cinema with beautiful people dressed in designer wear, great locales, melodious music, large family celebrations and of course a love story somewhere in all this. Having said that, I also applaud the innovative ideas and fresh concepts they’ve been presenting on-screen over the last decade. However, their latest offering Mere Brother Ki Dulhan doesn’t live up to the high standards of Yash Raj romances, nor it stands out based on an innovative concept.

The film’s title gives away the basic plot, the leading man falls in love with his brother’s bride-to-be; which is something we have seen earlier in Sorry Bhai (2008) and The Family Stone (2005). Of course, all three films are different in their treatment and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (MBKD) appeared to be a light entertainer; it is light, yes; but entertainer? No.

MBKD is a story about two brothers, Luv (Ali Zafar of Tere Bin Laden fame) who is based in London and Kush (Imran Khan), an Indian film maker. The two brothers love and understand each other so much that the elder one, Luv asks the younger one to find him an Indian bride. Here we are treated to Tanu Weds Manu style scenes where Kush and family go from town to town meeting weird girls and their families over samosas and jalebis. Finally he’s able to find a suitable match for his brother, the beautiful and rebellious, Dimple (Katrina Kaif). Luv and Dimple approve the alliance after a short video chat and the two families move into a guest house in Delhi to simultaneously plan and celebrate the wedding. Kush and Dimple immerse themselves into the wedding preparations and having loads of fun before Luv arrives. You can easily guess what happens next so I will stop here with the plot.

The problem with the film is not only the predictable story (writer, director: Ali Abbas Zafar; not the actor) but lack of any excitement and fun. The crackling chemistry we saw between the lead pair in Yash Raj’s last shaadi style film, Band Baaja Baaraat is completely missing in this one. There are good looking actors in the film but they don’t light up the screen together; plus they all appear to be trying too hard to be funny. Even the songs that usually set the tone for a wedding themed film are completely flat and boring (music: Sohail Sen).

Watch it if you are a Katrina fan as she gets maximum scope in the film; though I’d recommend watching Band Baaja Baaraat again on DVD.

My rating: ** Two on five

 

Bodyguard

If you are bored of logic, this is the film for you…

Bodyguard; Reliance Entertainment

By now I hope everyone knows what to expect from an action-comedy starring Salman Khan… if you still look for a decent story or even logic in the film then you are really slow and should get yourself checked (seriously, a dog learns faster than you!) Also, if you are incapable of enjoying such a film without using a shred of your brain then I recommend watching it after a terrible work week / day or under the influence of alcohol. Now coming to the point; this post is supposed to be a review of Salman’s latest blockbuster, Bodyguard and I am tempted to copy-paste my review of Ready. However, in order to sustain the small readership of my blog, I will try (not promising) to write something different unlike the Salman movie template that filmmakers are using so successfully these days.

First things first, I enjoyed Bodyguard. I know I just lost 90 points on the film snob scale but yes I am guilty of helping the film earn over a billion rupees in just 4 days. Before booking the tickets I knew that the film will be a senseless collation of action scenes and crude jokes. That clear setting of expectations helped me not only sit through the film but laugh at it. Management schools and our so called spiritual gurus can use his films and apply these learnings to business and life. More about that later and back to the film for now… Since I have talked about the template to make a hit Salman film; let me share the same with Bodyguard in focus. Please note it is an exclusive reveal for the readers of this blog…

  • Choose a South Indian hit film to remake with Khanon Mein Khan, Salman Khan. If you use the same writer-director then you don’t have to pay extra royalties; economies of scale you see. Bodyguard is written and directed by Siddique who has made the film in three other languages (Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu).
  • Assign a cute name for Salman’s character – Radhe in Wanted, Chulbul Pandey in Dabangg and Lovely Singh in Bodyguard.
  • Be very careful to ensure any amount of authenticity or realistic elements should not creep into the film. Keep it as unrealistic and unbelievable as possible. Action sequences that seem impossible and even ridiculous must be incorporated. Think of stuff like a big wooden crate full of tiny thermocol balls falling on Salman and shattering into pieces. Bodyguard manages to do that very well including a nightclub dhishoom-dhishoom scene where he kills many people without the police getting to know anything.
  • Be innovative in the ways to showcase Salman’s body… usual wind is passé; think of bulging muscles leading to the shirt tearing itself like Dabangg. In Bodyguard, they use a powerful jet of water that throws his shirt away from his body.
  • Never compromise on technology as that’s the future… A killer remote controlled helicopter toy that has razor sharp rotor blades and can cut everything – potted plants, glass doors or the heroine’s delicate neck; Bodyguard nails this part. This is better than Ironman!
  • At least one character who would get beaten up by Salman, by the mob and anyone who appears in the film. This character is designed to endure any sort of humiliation and physical abuse like burning his bum with a hot iron. There is one in Bodyguard too, named Tsunami Singh (Rajat Rawail).
  • A huge list of baddies whom Salman can beat up and break their bones like twigs. They are supposed to be after his life or the heroine’s life without, please note this is important, without any solid reason.
  • Songs that have ridiculous lyrics but are catchy; these can be placed in the film at regular intervals and one need not worry about their connection with the story. Himesh Reshammiya and Pritam have done a good job in Bodyguard and you can’t help but enjoy the title track and the Desi Beat song. However, they are not as iconic as Salman’s Dabangg and Ready numbers.
  • Give a killer line to Salman that all the auto-rickshaw wallahs and cabbies can use and paint on their vehicles. Bodyguard does not disappoint on this front and has given us this gem: “Mujh par ek ehsaan karna, ki mujh par koi ehsaan na karna” (please do me a favour by not doing any favour for me).
  • The heroine – now this is where you can bring variety and there is no fixed description in the template except the low IQ clause for the character. You can either hire an A-lister like Kareena or a newbie like Sonakshi or even a not so successful actress like Ayesha Takia. This completely depends on the filmmaker’s budget. However, I must admit that Kareena looks good in Bodyguard.

The other things that are not very important are good editing and being politically correct in your writing as you can pass off anything under the garb of humour.

This is a perfect template of making an action-comedy blockbuster but ONLY with Salman Khan in the lead. 80% of the film’s success depends on his sheer presence there. His loyal fans ensure that the weekend collections do not disappoint. Do not try this recipe with Viveik Oberoi or any other actor.

Do watch Bodyguard if you are a Salman fan or are simply tired of logic in your life.

My rating: * * ½ Two and a half on five

– Shrey Khetarpal