Ek Thi Daayan

Once there lived a witch and she promised to return…

Ek Thi Daayan; Pic Source: Wikipedia

“So sweet, I could just eat you up…” how many times have you heard people, especially women say this to cute little kids? It’s meant as a compliment to the kid and nobody cares how sinister it sounds, not even the parents. But when Konkona Sen Sharma says this to a little girl in Ek Thi Daayan, you know she means it. It’s a normal scene and she looks like a regular woman but this time you are scared, just like the kids who are talking to her. That’s where Kannan Iyer’s debut film as a director wins; the sequences that stay close to reality are scary and tense. Once the film starts explaining things, it starts going downwards. A brilliant first half makes Ek Thi Daayan a must watch, even for people like me who don’t enjoy horror as a genre. But post interval, the film starts losing the tension that was built and the climax is a major let-down.

The film revolves around a famous magician named Bobo (Emraan Hashmi) who has a disturbing past… a past that has a mysterious woman who, as he claims, was a Daayan (witch). His girl-friend, Tamara (Huma Qureshi) loves him a lot but is not comfortable with him being secretive. And then there is a young NRI woman, Lisa Dutt (Kalki Koechlin), who shares her name with a woman convicted of murdering children in the 60s. Based on Mukul Sharma’s short story and adapted for screen by Sharma himself and Vishal Bhardwaj, the screenplay is as interesting as it gets till there is time for the conclusion.

Ek Thi Daayan is one of the better horror films made in India. The last good one I remember is Ram Gopal Verma’s Bhoot; the others churned out by the Bhatt camp and the likes are laughable at best. The film’s strength lies in the actors’ performances, especially Konkona who makes evil so deliciously menacing and normal at the same time. She has always been a fine actor who makes it easier for us to relate to the characters she portrays. In this film also, she uses the same quality to make the Daayan so scary by looking and behaving normally. Huma Qureshi is very confident on-screen and it’s good to see her playing a modern character after her small town girl roles in Gangs of Wasseypur and Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. Kalki brings in the right level of mystery and Emraan strikes the balance between a loving boyfriend and a troubled soul. While Kannan Iyer has done justice to the script, somethings appear funny and take away from the seriousness of the film. For instance, it’s difficult to take a brooding hero seriously if he’s called Bobo; then there are scenes where Hashmi loses his cool and goes after women’s braids – there is a perfectly good explanation for the behavior but it still appears funny. The climax appears straight out of co-producer, Ekta Kapoor’s old TV show, Mano Ya Na Mano. Discount that and you have a near perfect horror film.

Vishal Bhardwaj’s music with Gulzar’s lyrics elevates the film further and creates the right mood at the right moment. Rekha Bhardwaj’sLautungi Main…” and “Yaaram…” by Sunidhi Chauhan and Clinton Cerejo are the best songs from the album.

Ek Thi Daayan is a good attempt and is definitely worth a watch. It could have been a brilliant film if the makers took a different approach towards the end; something that could have been more disturbing and open-ended than the current overly simplified end. Still watch it for a riveting first half and a brilliant performance by Konkona Sen Sharma.

PS: If you are scared of lizards, be prepared for an uncomfortable ride.

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Nautanki Saala

The joke is on us…

Nautanki Saala
Pic Source: Wikipedia

Really! Vicky Donor is a big hit? The lead actor, Ayushmann Khurrana has become an overnight star!
Women like him and men relate to him. Let’s make a film with him. Story? Ok, let’s sign him first and then we’ll find a story. Ok.

You remember the makers of Bheja Fry adapted a French comedy?
Let’s do that and make a fun, small budget film with Khurrana… it will be our little-big film of 2013.

Heard of this funny French film, Après Vous? It means After You. It’s about a guy who saves another guy from committing suicide. The one who wanted to die is a total train-wreck and our hero decides to help him by giving him work and winning his girl back. Ok, what else? A love triangle! Ok, that sounds good; we can throw in some songs. Perfect.

So Ayushmann plays the nice guy; who plays the loser? Kunaal Roy Kapoor, remember his ridiculously funny performance in Delhi Belly? Perfect. And the girls? Anyone will do really as our film is about these two guys. Ok. In the French film, the lead character was a restaurant manager… that’s not very exciting in India, what do we do? We’ll make him a theatre actor and director. That way, we can play with the costumes and create a more whimsical mood. Sounds like a plan. Let’s start shooting. Done.

Lights, camera, action.

“Nautanki Saala” – a new comedy starring Ayushmann Khurrana and Kunaal Roy Kapoor

Selling proposition – a bromance… a comedy of errors… a film for all… a multiplex hit!

Premiere.

Film review:

How much can Ayushmann do to save a drab of a film?

Didn’t they see Après Vous’ Rotten Tomatoes rating before remaking it? Rotten at 57%

Dear Mr. Rohan Sippy, did you think you can make a good film inspired by a mediocre one?

Actually, why blame you when the Indian viewers help mediocre films become big hits.

Look at Dabangg 2… it was essentially a collage of left-over scenes from Dabangg.

Coming back to Nautanki Saala; the film has its moments, has a few jokes to laugh at. First forty-five minutes are good but then the next ninety are painful. Why didn’t they make an hour-long tele-film instead?

Ayushmann Khurrana plays Ram Parmar or RP, the Good Samaritan. He acts well and is likable but tries too hard to save the film. And those Angry Bird slippers!

Kunaal Roy Kapoor plays Mandar Lele, the loser. He is a talented actor and will do better with good scripts.

Other good stuff – Using “So Gaya Yeh Jahan, So Gaya Aasman” from the film, Tezaab in a remix version. Sulbha Arya as Ajji, Mandar’s brutally honest grandmother.

Girl 1 – Chitra played by Gaelyn Mendonca. She can act but is quite irritating in the film.

Girl 2 – Sita played by Evelyn Sharma. The brief to her was to look hot and she did.

Girl 3 – Nandini played by Pooja Salvi. Her scenes can be used in film school to show what not to do.
Check out the scenes where she tries to cry.

Cameo by Abhishek Bachchan – bleh!

They made a comedy film keeping in mind our intellect. Dear Hindi film audience, the joke is on us.

The Place Beyond The Pines

Sins, guilt and redemption

The Place Beyond The Pines;
Pic source: Wikipedia

“If you ride like lightning, you’re going to crash like thunder”, a friend tells Luke. The Place Beyond the Pines opens with an impressive sequence of a local fair where we are introduced to Luke Glanton (Ryan Gosling), a stunt motorcycle driver. We see his tattooed body first – with a ship on his back, his cigarette and his partner – a motorcycle. After performing his act in a “globe of death” for the residents of Schenectady, Glanton comes face to face with Romina (Eva Mendes), a local girl with whom he had a one-night-stand a year ago. He soon discovers he has a son with Romina and decides to take responsibility for both the child and the mother. Glanton’s life of reckless abandon changes forever when he sees Romina with another man, Kofi (Mahershala Ali) at his child’s christening. It is a heart-breaking scene where nothing is said but a lot expressed… that’s the brilliance of director, Derek Cianfrance who has made a crime drama that is emotionally taxing and refuses to give an easy way out, both to his characters and the audience.

Glanton starts using his best “skill” to rob banks and riding away to safety on his trusted bike. We are treated to some stunning escape and chase sequences before we meet Avery Cross (Bradley Cooper), a rookie cop who turns into a local hero. He is uncomfortable with the new developments in his life and the corruption at the Schenectady Police Department. The director makes us empathize with Cross and when we think the story is going in a certain direction, it takes a sharp turn again. The final act, though dramatic and grand, leaves a lot to be desired… but then you can have your own interpretations.

Written by Cianfrance, Ben Coccio and Darius Marder, The Place Beyond the Pines is not an easy film to watch and that’s where lies its brilliance. It is an ambitious film that explores the themes of father-son relationship, crime, remorse and redemption. Gosling delivers a brilliant performance as a brooding criminal who just wants to take care of his girl and his son. Cooper on the other hand has a more complex character and he does full justice to it. In one scene he finds himself holding a baby at a suspect’s house where they are conducting a raid; we can feel his guilt in this wonderfully written, directed and performed scene.  Eva Mendes manages to make her presence felt even while the film essentially focuses on the two male characters. Her scenes, though short, show her as a confused girl to an angry lover and later, a desperate mother.

Cinematography by Sean Bobbitt is another highlight of the film… grand shots of Glanton riding through the pines to the more intimate and disturbing scenes, everything is perfect. Music by Mike Patton is excellent, especially this hauntingly beautiful track “The Snow Angel” that you also get to hear in the film’s trailer. At 140-minutes, it is a long film but if you don’t mind movies that make you uncomfortable, then this is ticket you should buy this weekend.

PS: The Place Beyond the Pines gets its name from Schenectady, a city in the State of New York, which roughly translates to “place beyond the pine plains” in Mohawk language (source: Wikipedia)