The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The old & the beautiful

Pic Source: Wikipedia

There should be a separate genre of films called ‘heartwarming’, where we can put films like ‘We Bought a Zoo’, ‘50/50’ and ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. These films do not brush aside life’s problems but treat them in a sensitive and uplifting manner… the stories are always simple, yet touch your heart and I am not at all embarrassed to say that they make me cry. These are not depressing films and the tears are more often related to joy and the eventual triumph of the human spirit. John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one such film that is sweet, simple, heartwarming and entertaining.

The film follows seven British retirees who decide to spend their autumn years in exotic and affordable India. From a recently widowed housewife to a racist retired housekeeper; a former high court judge to a bitter couple and two old-birds in search of love and one-night stands; there are plenty of interesting characters in the film. After an eventful journey, they all land up at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, a crumbling property that is nothing like the photo-shopped images they saw online. The dilapidated hotel is run by an ambitious yet scatterbrained manager cum owner, Sonny (Dev Patel) who has this interesting business plan of outsourcing retirement.

Written by Ol Parker, the film has a stellar cast comprising of some of the finest British actors including Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup. Needless to say, they all are fabulous and each one has a touching story. However, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith steal the show. Dev Patel has the required energy but his accent distracts from his ‘Indian’ character. Tena Desae plays Sonny’s love interest, Sunaina, a confident girl who works in a call centre and Lillete Dubey plays his mother.

The film exaggerates and exploits all clichés about India but then you must remember that the film is from the point of view of British retirees. Riot of colours, beggars, rickety bus rides, Indians using incorrect English (and interestingly street urchins talking in British accent)… all this and more, the film packs a lot of real and imaginary India. Some of it may irritate you but if you look past all this, it is an interestingly presented film. Cinematography by Ben Davis is beautiful and he uses the typical exotic India imagery to the fullest. Music by Thomas Newman is also like those documentaries on India we get to see on Nat Geo and Discovery; but again it does create the desired effect.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a simple film with plenty of emotions and Rajasthan tourism brochure as the background. Watch it if you enjoy crying at the movies.

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Ishaqzaade

New stars are born in this old-fashioned love story

Pic source: Wikipedia

Habib Faisal’s Ishaqzaade is an old fashioned love story that we have seen many times on-screen. It is not exactly an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet but the basic premise of lovers from warring clans is the same. Faisal (director and co-writer with Aditya Chopra) has set the story in a fictitious small town, Almore in Uttar Pradesh where only the law of the gun works. His characters are violent with the background of political and religious conflict. There are other twists and turns but you largely know where the film is headed, especially after the interval.

So is Ishaqzaade worth a watch? For me, yes! Newcomer, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra are compelling as Parma Chauhan and Zoya Qureshi respectively, who inherit the legacy of hatred but later fall in love. Kapoor makes a confident debut and has good screen presence; he is not perfect as an actor yet but for his first film he does justice to the character. After winning accolades for her small role in Ladies vs Ricky Behl, Parineeti Chopra confirms with this film that she is here for the long run. She is simply brilliant as a firebrand, small town girl who dreams of following her father’s footsteps in politics. She looks good, emotes well and owns the screen whenever she is there in the scene. Surely after this film, she will not be known as the cousin of another B-town actress. The director’s decision of having an all new supporting cast works as they all are believable – from helpless mothers to loathsome head of the families for whom political ambitions are more important than anyone’s life, including their own children. Gauhar Khan is the only known face in the supporting cast and is likeable in her clichéd role of a courtesan with a golden heart.

Faisal gets the details right of small town northern India, from the language to the clothes to the locations. There are the mandatory dance numbers but they do not take away from the feel of the film. Amit Trivedi’s music is outstanding with ‘Main Pareshan…’ and the title track, ‘Ishaqzaade…’ being the best songs. Cinematography by Hemant Chaturvedi is nice but the film could do with some brutal editing (Aarti Bajaj).

Ishaqzaade has nothing new to offer but for me a love story wins if you find yourself empathizing with both, and I repeat both the lead characters. The film works for me on that parameter and is a one-time watch.

Hugo

Movies, Magic & Dreams

Hugo; Source: Wikipedia

Movies – it’s like seeing your dreams in middle of the day. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a love letter from the master filmmaker to cinema. The film reminded me of why I love the movies so much and even after the end credits rolled, the magic stayed with me. A few weeks ago, Jahan Bakshi wrote a beautiful post on ‘The Joy of Crying at the Movies’ and I could not agree more… this weekend when I watched Hugo, after almost giving up on the chance of it releasing in India, I re-discovered the joy of getting lost in someone else’s dream, someone else’s vision. That is what cinema is – magic!

Hugo is based on a historical fiction book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by American author, Brian Selznick (adapted for screen by John Logan). It follows the adventures of a young orphan boy, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) who lives between the walls of a railway station in Paris. Hugo likes to fix things and maintains the clocks in the station, something his alcoholic uncle is supposed to do. His purpose is to fix an automaton, a robot like mechanical man that can write, in the hope of finding a message from his father (Jude Law), a master clockmaker who died in a museum fire. He is joined in this adventure by a young girl, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is the goddaughter of Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), a toy shop owner at the station. While trying to retrieve a message from his father, Hugo finds another purpose – to fix a man who has lost his raison d’être in life. There are many other fascinating characters in Hugo’s world, including the station inspector, Gustave (Sacha Baron Cohen); the florist, Lisette (Emily Mortimer); the café owner, Madame Emile (Frances de la Tour); the bookshop owner, Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee); newsstand owner, Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths); Papa Georges’ wife, Mama Jeanne (Helen McCrory); film historian and author, René Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Macmillan, the station inspector’s Doberman (Blackie).

Hugo is technically perfect and has the best 3D I have ever seen. Unlike other films where 3D is a gimmick to raise ticket prices, the technology is used well to aid the narrative in this film. Martin Scorsese takes you inside Hugo’s world and you can’t help but admire each frame. From the depths of the clock tower to the intricate clockwork of the automaton, to the soot from a burnt notebook, everything looks and feels spectacular in 3D. Cinematography by Robert Richardson is simply magical and takes you to the Paris of 1930s with music by Howard Shore and art direction by a team of master craftsmen.

Grand in scale and imagination, Hugo is a very personal film that showcases the passion of a filmmaker as well as the characters in his film. The film moves slowly and lets you soak into the ambience created. Despite its leisurely pace, I can assure you that you wouldn’t want the film to end and would catch yourself admiring the work on-screen with a smile plastered on your face.

Watch Hugo in 3D on the big screen, the way it is intended to be seen and you’ll experience the real magic of cinema.

Hats off Monsieur Scorsese!