Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

“It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it”

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani;
Pic Source: Wikipedia

Writer-Director, Ayan Mukerji has done something interesting with his second film, Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani (his first was the lovely coming-of-age film Wake Up Sid); he has used everything that a typical Bollywood preppy romance has and still managed to keep the film fresh and entertaining. With a predictable screenplay, he has made a film that the country is falling in love with. Partly, the credit goes to the film’s leading man, Ranbir Kapoor who is finally filling the gap left wide open by the erstwhile King of Romance, Shah Rukh Khan. A line in Ayan’s film describes the young Kapoor scion perfectly… “yeh andar se jitna kameena hai, shakal utni hi shareef hai” (he is a roguish devil with an innocent face). He is a perfect mix of talent and other star qualities, just what the Cine-Doctor prescribed for Bollywood. Coming back to the film, it works at many levels and you are able to forget about something called a new story!

Roger Ebert once said, “It’s not what a movie is about, it’s how it is about it”, and Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is a perfect example. It is a rom-com with a story-line we have seen in many Bollywood films, especially the ones featuring Shah Rukh… heck, we have also seen similar locations and styling. But Ayan’s film shines as it has heart and you don’t mind tagging along with these good looking youngsters in gorgeous designer clothes as they discover themselves, realize their dreams and fall in love. The film looks at first-world-problems that the affluent urban youth face, which proves why the film is doing roaring business in multiplexes and even in the international markets. It offers three-hours of escape from work, studies and the other big issues like “he/she-never-called-back”… isn’t that what most people look for in entertainment? A part of me says no but a bigger part crushes that and says, “Hell YES!”

Despite all the gloss and filmy formulas, Ayan succeeds in building likable characters and creates moments with the right amount of sweetness. That’s what differentiates Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani from other cookie cutter romances. Bunny aka Kabir Thapar (Ranbir Kapoor) is an ambitious youngster who wants to see the world and has no time or inclination to settle down; geeky Naina Talwar (Deepika Padukone) discovers her inner heroine, falls in love but wants a simple, rooted life; Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) is spunky, behaves like her guy friends but is a romantic at heart; and Avi (Aditya Roy Kapoor) doesn’t want to grow up. These four take a trip of a lifetime and we just enjoy a memorable holiday with them in Manali (shot in Gulmarg, Kashmir actually) till the intermission.

What next? A wedding, of course. Designers, Manish Malhotra and Samidha Wangnoo bring out the best of Spring Summer 2013 wedding collection – their clothes worn by some of the best looking actors in Bollywood. This display of couture takes place at an equally lavish setting, the Udaivilas Palace in Udaipur, Rajasthan. Party after party, ceremony after ceremony and song after song, we proceed towards the climax. Am I complaining? Not at all! In between all this, the director manages to sneak in lovely moments about friendship, loyalty, romance and heart-break.

Songs in the film are beautifully choreographed (Remo D’Souza, Farah Khan) and well performed by the actors. Pritam’s music is good and Amitabh Bhattacharya’s lyrics are catchy… watch the film and try getting “Balam Pichkari” and “Badtameez Dil” out of your head. Talking about the look of the film, full-crowd-applause for cinematographer, V Manikanandan, and Amrita Mahal Nakai with Rajnish Hedao for production design. Akiv Ali (editor) could have chopped the film a bit more, especially the serious part towards the end (ok, ok I enjoyed the song and dance much more), but it’s not an issue. The film has its flaws but I had so much fun that all those small issues can be ignored.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani is a fun film, it is not great cinema but is a good entertainer. I promise, you’d come out smiling from the theatre.

Bombay Talkies

Celebrating the art of story-telling with 100-years of Indian cinema

Bombay Talkies; Pic source: Wikipedia

Indian cinema is not only about song and dance, colourful costumes and overtly emotional characters. I am glad that the film made to commemorate hundred-years of our cinema looks beyond all these clichés and focuses on story-telling. Bombay Talkies has four interesting short films by four directors who represent the modern Indian cinema (read Bollywood in this case) – Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap. While a true tribute would have been filmmakers from other regions also participating (think of an anthology with films in Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil and English), it would have been a tough project to sell commercially. Maybe, we’ll see something like that soon but for now I applaud the effort called Bombay Talkies, which is not an outstanding film but is a brave attempt that needs to be appreciated.

My views on the four short films in Bombay Talkies, in order of my preference (minor spoilers ahead):

Star by Dibakar Banerjee

Based on Satyajit Ray’s short story, Patol Babu Filmstar, Dibakar Banerjee’s Star is as much about failed ambitions as it is about hope and happiness. It is a poignant tale about a father who does not have a new bedtime story for his ailing daughter… it is about a failed actor who gets a shot at stardom in his own small way. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Purandar is simply outstanding and the last two minutes of this short are bound to leave you teary-eyed and in awe of this actor’s talent. It is also great to see Sadashiv Amrapurkar return to screen in a well written cameo. Banerjee’s style is lucid and the story touches you emotionally more than the others in the film. He puts an emu in the chawl to describe the lead character’s failure in business and you see the bird again in another important scene. Banerjee grows with each film and is not afraid to experiment; from Khosla Ka Ghosla to Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye; Love, Sex Aur Dhoka to Shanghai and now Star, he is what the Doctor prescribed for Bollywood’s problem of recycling everything.

Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh by Karan Johar

He who makes multi-million dollar blockbusters that are known for their flamboyance than cinematic artistry, has turned the tables with this small-budget, realistic short film. With this film, we discover a new Karan Johar where he doesn’t have to stress about the three hundred Caucasian dancers in designer Indian costumes or the waist size of his gorgeous leading lady. He is focused on telling a story here, he is focused on dismantling all that is Karan-Joharesque about his cinema… However, he hasn’t given up on the quality and the people he works with; ace cinematographer, Anil Mehta has shot the film, Manish Malhotra has styled Rani Mukherjee, who herself is a Dharma Productions regular. It is also a film where Johar steps out of a cliché ridden world where homosexuality is about effeminate caricatures (Rishi Kapoor in Student of the Year), scandalizing domestic help (Kanta Ben in Kal Ho Na Ho) or Punjabi mothers (Maa Da Laadla Bigad Gaya in Dostana). He takes a bold approach and establishes the main protaganist’s sexuality in the first scene itself. Saqib Saleem is a great new find; I say new as this is the film that will get him noticed and not his earlier outings like Mujhse Fraandship Karoge and Mere Dad Ki Maruti. He is confident and comfortable with the character he plays – an intern at a Bollywood tabloid who strikes an unlikely friendship with his associate editor. The other male actor in this story, Randeep Hooda is also well cast as a serious news presenter who loves old Hindi music and leads a predictable, loveless life. Rani Mukherjee returns to what she does the best… she is natural and relatable. She plays a wife who knows that her marriage is dead but keeps up the appearances. This is Karan Johar that we have never seen before and hope to see more in future.

Sheila Ki Jawani by Zoya Akhtar

It’s a story about a little boy who dreams of becoming a dancer while his strict father (Ranvir Shorey) wants him to do something ‘appropriate’ for a boy. It is also a story about the relationship between a brother and a sister, biases and unfair societal norms – “a boy should be interested in sports while a girl should be happy with a doll”; “it’s better to invest in a boy’s future than a girl who will eventually go away”. The boy finds himself burdened with his father’s expectations but is not willing to give up on his dreams. He gets this strength from his supportive sister, a year or two elder to him and an unlikely guardian angel, Katrina Kaif. Akhtar’s last film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was a big hit and it wasn’t only because of the star power and the breathtaking locales; this director knows how to tell stories, which was clear from her critically acclaimed, yet commercially average first film, Luck By Chance. Here, she simply works with an idea and not a fleshed out story, but with her superior narrative style and the lovely performances by the two child actors (Naman Jain and Khushi Dubey), the film works.

Murabba by Anurag Kashyap

Here’s a filmmaker who is truly changing the face of Hindi cinema. His films are bold, have daring or unexpected themes and usually feature new talent. He is what Ram Gopal Verma was to the Hindi film industry in his prime – a promise of changing the way films are made and watched in India; a promise to break the mold and cross the boundaries to create truly international cinema. Where RGV failed, Kashyap seems to be succeeding… films produced and directed by him are a regular feature at prestigious international film festivals including Cannes; Indian audience is open to buying a ticket for a film made by him despite no big film stars. That is why I was most curious about his short film, Murabba in Bombay Talkies. I liked the film but not as much as I liked the other three. Murabba looks at the Indian film-goers and their connection with cinema. We say cricket is a religion in India and so is cinema; nothing binds our people more than these two passions that most Indians are born with. A young man from Illahabad, Vijay (Vineet Kumar Singh), comes to meet Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai to offer him a piece of murabba (sweet fruit pickle) as per his ailing father’s wish. He stands outside the mega star’s house and waits for a chance to meet him for two-minutes. He is confident of a warm reception on his arrival as he hails from the same city and colony where Bachchan came from originally. He is let down when the star’s guards shoo him away but he doesn’t give up. The other interesting angle in the film is how we Indians like to brag and tell stories. It is an absurd story that holds your interest till a certain point but then it leaves you unsatisfied unlike the other three stories.

Bombay Talkies is good experiment that largely works and in the hope of seeing more such collaborations and innovation by our filmmakers, I urge you all to buy a ticket and see this film.

PS: Please walk out of the theatre before the terrible title song video featuring about twenty stars comes on-screen with the end credits.

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.

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.

Dabangg 2

Lazy film-making at its best

Pic source: Wikipedia

I watched Dabangg 2 in the heart of Manhattan at a multiplex in Times Square, and did not expect the audience response I witnessed… people whistled, clapped and shouted Salman Khan’s name as the opening credits rolled with visuals from the first film (Dabangg, 2010). That’s the amazing star-power of the film’s lead actor who has the same effect on the desi audience as Edward Cullen on teenage (and slightly older) girls. The cheering returned with the first fight sequence, with the song where Malaika Arora Khan aka ‘Munni’ appears and then later with Kareena Kapoor’sFavicol’ (sic) item song. It seems everyone enjoyed the film or the whole ritual of watching a Salman flick and to be honest, I did too, but films like these are like doing a shot of tequila… you do it because everyone in the party is doing one and then you forget about it. I know, there’s little sense in that comparison but there’s little sense in cinema like the Dabangg franchise.

Dabangg 2 is nothing but an average copy of the much smarter first film. Right after the first fight sequence you know the director, Arbaaz Khan along with the writer, Dilip Shukla, are lazy filmmakers. There is nothing in the film that you haven’t seen before. Abhinav Kashyap, the director of the first film presented it as a cheesy action-comedy-romance that also surprised you at many levels. In this one, there are no clever lines (remember, “thappad se darr nahi lagta saheb, pyaar se lagta hai”) and even the action pales in comparison. It is Salman porn at best and the filmmakers are simply cashing in on that. I don’t have anything to say about the performances by Sonakshi Sinha, Arbaaz Khan, Vinod KhannaPrakash Raj and Deepak Dobriyal, as other characters really don’t matter in this film.

While I enjoyed the experience of watching this film, I wonder if I will ever look back at it as a film-buff. It fits into the convenient category created by Bollywood called, “mindless cinema” and the blame is on the audience. Yes, we may be enjoying this stuff today but we do deserve something better from our filmmakers who have become incredibly lazy and only care about the box office. Movies like Dabangg 2 are like Bollywood’s American Pie and Final Destination series and let’s not let them define what Indian cinema is all about. Come on Bollywood filmmakers, we’ll tolerate and many times enjoy these mindless flicks, but bring out the stuff that makes us think, makes us cry and makes us fall in love again with your art.

 

Talaash

 

There are no mysteries in the age of social media…

Pic source: Wikipedia

Pic source: Wikipedia

Before you read any further: I have tried to keep this post spoiler-free and basic plot points mentioned here are already shown in the film’s trailers. However, if you are going to watch the film regardless of the reviews, I recommend reading this or any other review after you’ve seen it.

Talaash may not be the best thriller we have seen this year (my vote goes to Kahaani) but I am glad the makers (Excel Entertainment, Aamir Khan Productions and Reliance Entertainment) tried to attempt something different with the movie. It has an interesting story, great performances by the cast and an unexpected ending, which thanks to loud-mouths on social media got ruined for many including me. I feel bad for everyone who could have enjoyed the film more if they did not know about the big twist in the end. In the age of Twitter and BBM, it is a challenge for filmmakers also to make suspense thrillers that can stay strong despite the spoiler getting leaked out.

Coming back to Talaash, it is decent film that gets many things right but does not keep you at the edge of your seat. People have been complaining about its slow pace, but it worked for me; writer-director, Reema Kagti (screenplay with Zoya Akhtar) creates a mood that brings together the eeriness of a murder mystery with the personal grief that her main protagonists are going through. Inspector Surjan Singh Shekhawat (Aamir Khan) and his wife, Roshni (Rani Mukerji) are unable to cope with their 8-year-old son’s accidental death, which strains their marriage. Surjan’s investigation of a high-profile death case contributes to his personal troubles as he finds himself drawn to an unlikely friend, a prostitute named Rosie (Kareena Kapoor). Surjan and Roshni’s story is probably the strongest part of the film; their grief is portrayed sensitively by the two actors, especially Rani who has got a role that exploits her talent after very long. Kareena is also good in the film and I hope she continues to choose interesting characters like this, rather than insignificant roles in mega-blockbuster masala films. Regarding Aamir, he is excellent as a cop tormented by his own demons – on one hand he is a tough police officer and on the other a hapless father. Kudos to the casting director (Nandini Shrikent) for also getting a talented supporting cast on board including Shernaz Patel and Nawazuddin Siddiqui – now this man is a chameleon – from a revenge seeking gangster in Gangs of Wasseypur 2 to a pimp’s right-hand man in Talaash, he is a delight to watch.

With superlative performances by all the actors and an interesting plot, Talaash starts on a promising note but does not confuse the audience enough to make it an exciting affair. Surjan keeps finding clue after clue and the film moves in a straight line till the ‘unexpected’ climax. Now, I had a rough idea about the final twist but I was able to piece things together within the first ten minutes of the film. The makers relied too much on the twist, which also is not entirely a fresh idea. Because I had a clue to the end, I may not be completely fair to the film but it is a lukewarm thriller and the murder mystery unfolds in a dull manner, except the surprise element in the end.

Music by Ram Sampath goes well with the mood of the film but is not outstanding (why do most big releases this year have just about average music?) Cinematography by Mohanan is nice and he uses a dull color tone to give a dark and gloomy feel to Mumbai in the film.

Talaash is certainly a one-time watch for the actors’ performances and you may enjoy it more if you don’t know the spoiler. So, go for it before someone tells it to you.

PS: I got my spoiler from a well-known journalist, Kushan Mitra (@KushanMitra) who inadvertently revealed similarities to a Hollywood film on Twitter. So-called actor, producer, Kamaal R Khan (@KamaalRKhan) also tweeted spoilers to the film.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan

This is not how I will remember Yash Chopra

Pic source: Yashraj Films

For me Yash Chopra’s cinema is not Waqt, it is not Deewar… it is Lamhe, Chandni and Darr. I grew up watching his beautifully shot romances where the protagonists holiday in Switzerland and London; women wear gorgeous chiffons in pastel colours and men love passionately. I fell in love with the movies after watching Lamhe as a kid and that love continues to grow strong till date. His films are not about logic, they are not about reality… they are about beauty, about visuals that stay with you and music that plays in your ears long after you have left the cinema. He was the master of drama and emotions… remember the scene where Pooja and Anita meet in a shopping mall and discuss the object of their affection, Viren?  This is not homage to the filmmaker who recently passed away but is what went through my mind right after watching his last film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan that released in theatres today. I will miss Yash Chopra and I missed him in his last film; Jab Tak Hai Jaan is not how I will remember the master of romance.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan is about Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan), a man who finds his soul-mate and loses her; his undying love for her keeps him alive and also kills him every day. Meera (Katrina Kaif) loves her man more than her happiness with him and Akira (Anushka Sharma) cannot help but fall for the guy who is hopelessly in love with another woman. All three characters in the film do things that are unexplainable, of course in a Yash Chopra romance you expect people to go beyond the normal for love but situations here seem weak and unconvincing. Aditya Chopra and Devika Bhagat’s screenplay is extremely weak and full of loopholes. In the hands of a lesser director, the film would have been a disaster but Yash Chopra manages to make his characters engaging and for him you stay with the film.

Katrina looks beautiful and is perfectly styled (Manish Malhotra) in true Yashraj tradition… she is presented like a dream but seems a little uncomfortable in the extensive emotional scenes. Shah Rukh is effortlessly charming and romances Katrina like she has never been loved on-screen before.  He is in fact the strongest part of the film and shows he still is the best romantic heroe we have in Hindi cinema. Anushka’s character is a little irritating and she does not get the dream Yashraj supporting actress role that Karisma Kapoor got in Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Rani Mukerji in Veer Zaara.

Anil Mehta’s cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful but that’s no surprise… Yash Chopra knew how to set up elegant scenes. Editing by Namrata Rao is not the best as the film gets tedious in the second half. The other big disappointment in the film came from the music department. With names like A R Rahman (music) and Gulzar (lyrics) attached, one expected magic but we got a mediocre album at best keeping in mind the genius of these two artists.

Overall, Jab Tak Hai Jaan disappoints which can be attributed to the sky-high expectations and the unbelievable story. Watch it for Yash Chopra but I am sure you will remember him fondly for his earlier work… jab tak hai jaan.

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana

The case of the missing ‘masala’

Pic Source: Wikipedia

Bollywood has made a habit of churning out irresistibly fun trailers for films that are ordinary at best. The funniest parts of the films are incorporated in the two-and-a-half minute preview and the rest of the 118-minutes dull minutes are served after you shell out a hefty sum for the ticket. That’s the problem with director, Sameer Sharma’s first film, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (LSTCK). It is not a bad film but does not live up to what one expected after watching the trailer.

LSTCK has a very interesting premise with a man looking for his grand-father’s secret recipe for the famous dish of Chicken Khurana (Hollywood can think about making Ocean’s Fourteen where Clooney and friends go about stealing the secret recipe of KFC’s fried chicken or Coke’s formula). With this interesting premise and a few interestingly written characters, the film is watchable and enjoyable in parts. But it lacks the chutzpah of a fun film with Punjabis as main characters like Vicky Donor, Khosla Ka Ghosla or Oye Lucky Lucky Oye.

Kunal Kapoor plays Omi, a Punjabi guy in London who returns to his village in Punjab to get some money from his family to pay off his debts – a family that he abandoned ten years ago. However, he finds that the source of his family’s fortune – the famous dhaba (highway restaurant), Chicken Khurana, named after his Daarji (grandfather) and his popular chicken dish – is now shut. Daarji (Vinod Nagpal) now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and no one else has the secret recipe for the dish. He also meets his cousin Jeet (Rahul Bagga) who has a secret of his own; his childhood sweetheart, Harman (Huma Qureshi) who is now engaged to Jeet; his maternal uncle, Titu Mama (Rajesh Sharma) and a great-aunt, Buaji (Dolly Ahluwalia) who is a self-proclaimed spiritual guru.

Writers (Sharma and Sumit Batheja) have developed some good characters but been unable to give them enough witty lines and situations. There is a scene where the whole family expresses concern over Omi not having a change of underwear; then there are a few with Titu Mama that leave you laughing out loud. But that’s about it; the emotional scenes do not do much for you and Omi and Harman’s romance also does not have that spark. The revelation of Chicken Khurana’s recipe is an interesting twist though.

Casting (Mukesh Chhabra) for the film is perfect except for one major role which is Omi’s. I like Kunal Kapoor a lot and his sincerity and charm worked well in Rang De Basanti. However, he seems a misfit in the role of a rascal in this film. Rajesh Sharma as Titu Mama is the highlight of the film and Huma Qureshi has an amazing screen presence. Music by Amit Trivedi is largely based on Punjabi folk and goes well with the film but nothing memorable.

Overall, LSTCK is an average entertainer but I wonder if you’d choose this one over Mr. Bond’s next adventure that hits the theatres on the same day.

Heroine

 

What’s with the tackiness, ‘babes’?

Pic source: Wikipedia

Madhur Bhandarkar made his name with realistic films like Chandni Bar, which got him critical acclaim, and Page 3, which got him both critical and commercial success. He then decided to focus on doing his brand of exposé films like Traffic Signal, Jail and Fashion. He had found a template, which seemed to work for him as well as his actors. However, there is this tackiness that is clearly visible in all his work, with the exception of Chandni Bar. Despite having A-list actresses doing his films and big corporate houses backing them, his films look like B-grade productions. Same is the case with the much talked about Heroine, which is tacky and in some parts, purely down-market.

Heroine traces the journey of a Hindi film star who struggles with the ever-changing power dynamics in the film industry, her limitations as an actor and perils of fame and the lack of it. Kareena Kapoor was possibly the best choice to essay the role of Mahi Arora, a film star full of insecurities. She lights up every scene she appears in and her real life persona of a star rubs off on the film. Her look, designed by Manish Malhotra is another highlight of the film; he makes her look great and from what I read in the papers, spent 10% of the film’s budget on her costumes alone! This possibly explains why the rest of the film looks tawdry and like a college project, put together by amateurs. The dialogues are cringe-worthy and half the film’s characters love calling each other ‘babes’! The gay characters in the film are once again reduced to over-the-top caricatures who either gossip or sleep around. Small time actors are given roles of superstars and big producers; and they all do not fit the bill. There are some interesting characters like Arjun Rampal who plays a superstar and Divya Dutta as a public relations queen (I will not call her a professional). Arjun suits the character as he has the screen presence and Divya acts well as a ruthless ‘brand maker’.  Randeep Hooda as a cricketer is also cast well but who did his hair? Then there are actors like Sanjay Suri, Harsh Chhaya, Lilette Dubey, Shahana Goswami and Ranvir Shorey in two bit roles along with a huge crowd of extras with garish make-up, outfits and over the top performances.

Coming to the story (Madhur Bhandarkar with screenplay by Anuraadha Tewari and Manoj Tyagi), Heroine is a mish mash of gossip that gets published in the entertainment section of newspaper supplements. From a popular 90s’ actress throwing wine on her husband’s ex to a model-turned-actress’ link up with a playboy cricketer; to the chappati counting, stingy wife of a big producer-director; there is enough masala for those who enjoy Bollywood gossip. However, there’s hardly any story apart from a string of these incidents. Mahi Arora, a successful star starts fading in her career and her personal life; she tries to resurrect it and then fails… haven’t we seen all this before?

Music by Salim-Sulaiman is just about ok and nothing that you’d like to play again after the film. Cinematography (Mahesh Limaye) contributes to the B-grade look and feel of the film, which required a lot more brutal editing (Deven Murudeshvar).

Watch Heroine only if you are a Kareena fan or Bhandarkar’s template is acceptable to you, otherwise there is plenty of good stuff in cinemas or on TV.

Barfi!


Of rainy afternoons, chai, fireflies & soap bubbles…

Pic source: Wikipedia

He loves her… she loves him too but is confused. She is practical, he is not. She cannot help but calculate; he doesn’t know that math… His love is in abundance and can only be cherished by someone who loves without thinking. Love, heartbreak, loss and a chance to win love back… That’s writer-director, Anurag Basu’s Barfi for you – it is beautiful, it is feel-good and thankfully devoid of any ‘screaming for sympathy’ antics despite differently-abled protagonists.

Barfi is a heart-warming film about a deaf and mute young man called Murphy aka Barfi, played by Ranbir Kapoor. His life may be without any sound but is not dark; he lives with his father who is a chauffeur in Darjeeling. He is mischievous and is aware of his good looks and charm, which he uses to impress the new girl in town – Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz). Then there is Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra), the autistic grand-child of a rich businessman; she loves origami, dislikes getting her footwear soiled and is friends with their chauffeur’s son.

It is an unlikely love triangle that makes you sad one minute and smile the next. Ranbir once again delivers a brilliant performance, which exudes Chaplinesque charm and sincerity that we are used to seeing in him. I cannot think of another Indian actor who could have played Barfi and played better than him. Priyanka maintains restraint and communicates effectively what goes in Jhilmil’s mind through her expressions. Like Barfi, she also has little or no dialogue but you feel all that she does… kudos to the director for treating autism sensitively and not going over the top. This is also Priyanka’s best performance till date, right next to her character, Sweety in Kaminey. Ileana looks great in the second half and has some brilliant scenes… her dilemma is portrayed beautifully by the director, accompanied by a lovely track, ‘Phir Le Aaya  Dil…’ at one point in the film. She seems awkward in the first half of the film and with Ranbir shining bright, she looks a bit dull; but all that goes away as the film progresses.

Basu creates a special mood with the film that takes you back in time when life was simpler, childhood meant chasing fireflies and playing with soap bubbles. Darjeeling looks breathtakingly beautiful through the lens of cinematographer, Ravi Varman and production designer, Rajat Poddar adds the details to re-create the delightful 70s. Like its setting, the film moves at a leisurely pace, which is perfect; however a little bit of pruning in the second half could have helped (editing – Akiv Ali). Music by Pritam is first rate and his choice of singers is brilliant – from the fabulous versions of ‘Phir Le Aaya Dil’ by Arijit Singh and Rekha Bhardwaj to Papon’sKyon’ and ‘Ala Barfi’ by Mohit Chauhan and another version by Swanand Kirkire (also the lyricist). The soundtrack not only goes wonderfully with the film but is a perfect accompaniment to spend a rain drenched afternoon, reading a book and sipping tea.

If I have to criticize Barfi, then I will blame the length a bit and the criss-cross narrative that complicates things unnecessarily. But all that can be easily ignored as this Barfi has just about right sweetness… So, watch the film and get hold of the music!