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.

Advertisements

Delhi Belly

If profanities offend you, please do not read any further…

Pic: UTV, Aamir Khan Productions

(Spoiler alert: basic plotline shared in the post)

Delhi Belly is a story of three fuckers, Tashi (Imran Khan), Nitin (Kunaal Roy Kapur) and Arup (Vir Das) who stay in a shithole in Delhi. Tashi likes to think he’s a serious journalist stuck doing fuck-all feature reporting. He has a dominating girlfriend, Sonya (Shenaz Treasury) but also gets attention from a fellow reporter with an American accent, Menaka (Poorna Jagannathan). Arup is a graphic designer in an advertising agency and doesn’t have the balls to stand up to his mean boss or his witch of a girlfriend. Nitin is a photo-journalist who plans to blackmail his landlord with sleazy pictures of him with a whore, to avoid paying the rent. Shit happens when the three get accidentally involved in a diamond smuggling racket and deliver shit (literally) to a don (Vijay Raaz).

If you do not approve of the language in the paragraph above, then please do not waste your time and money on Delhi Belly. I am not saying that the film’s only highlight is the coarse language but it is what gets the most laughs; and I haven’t used any of the Hindi cuss words the film is peppered with. Delhi Belly is certainly more than the swear words used in its dialogue but its strength is the smart writing (Akshat Verma). The film does not focus on one central character but the ridiculous situations the three room-mates find themselves in. The writer uses shock factor well, whether it’s the language or the numerous farts or the suggested blow-jobs! While the urban Indian audience is used to all this with films like The Hangover but it is certainly shocking for a Bollywood mainstream film to be so daring. The good thing is that the director, Abhinay Deo manages to keep the film light and entertaining and not let it become offensive.

All the actors have done a good job, especially Kunaal Roy Kapur and Vir Das. Kunaal actually has the title role and his expressions on the commode are priceless (and equally disgusting, coupled with the fart sound effects). The girls are good too but the real show-stealer is Vijay Raaz, who apart from being a superb actor, abuses so well that he can be awarded an honorary doctorate in profanities. I am not a big Imran Khan fan but he did a fine job in the film.

Coming back to the shock factor, Delhi Belly’s music also contributes with songs like ‘Bhaag D K Bose D K Bose’,Jaa Chudail’ and ‘Shake Your Biscuit Baby’ (Music by Ram Sampath; lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya, Munna Dhiman, Ram Sampath, Akshat Verma and Chetan Shashital). Music is enjoyable and thankfully plays in the background without disturbing the film’s flow except ‘Jaa Chudail’ that brings back the dream-sequence phenomenon. The much talked about item song by the film’s producer, Aamir Khan comes in the end but wasn’t really required. Cinematography by Jason West is first rate and Huzefa Lokhandwala (editor) maintains the film’s fast pace and crisp length.

There are some scenes in the film where you feel they’re trying too hard to appear cool but you quickly forget that with the next scene. Overall, Delhi Belly is a fun film to watch and it is refreshing to see our Censor board growing up. Go watch it but not with your parents 😉

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

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

 

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 nowrunning.com on January 3.

 

Peepli Live

Good film, better promotion…

Pic: Aamir Khan Productions

Whattay debut bhaiyyaAnusha Rizvi’s first directorial venture, Peepli Live is bahut badhiya! Congratulations to producer, Aamir Khan for backing a project like this and to the promotions team for making it a big success. By attributing the film’s box-office success to promotions (read marketing and public relations), I am not taking away from its good content but just highlighting the contribution it makes to help a film. A few weeks ago, a brilliant film released called ‘Udaan’; unfortunately there were not many people in the cinema halls due to in-sufficient promotional support. Similarly, Shyam Benegal’sWell Done Abba’ also didn’t set the cash registers ringing despite being a good film. In Peepli Live’s case, everything worked out well; after doing the festival rounds, the buzz around the film was kept alive till it got a wide scale release this weekend. I hope that after Peepli Live’s success, producers and corporate houses will put their money behind good content and not only big star cast led duds.

Coming back to the film, Peepli Live is a satire on the issue of farmers’ suicide. The film effectively captures the government’s apathy towards this serious issue and media, especially broadcast media’s opportunist behaviour. The film is smartly written (Rizvi) and well performed by the actors, mostly theatre artistes and newcomers.

Peepli Live is about a poor farmer named Natha who decides to commit suicide so that his family can benefit through a government compensation scheme. Natha’s half-hearted decision gives an opportunity to our ‘exclusive’ hungry media to cover a suicide ‘live’, right before the elections. Keeping the issue in focus, Rizvi’s smart writing ensures that the film doesn’t drag like a documentary but presents the whole situation in a light manner. Sharp dialogue and compelling performances by the cast make the film hilarious and disturbing in equal parts. Omkar Das Manikpuri as Natha and Raghuvir Yadav as Budhia (Natha’s brother) are good but the real winners are the caustic women in Natha’s household, his wife Dhania (Shalini Vatsa) and the venom spewing mother, Amma (Farookh Zafar).

Music by Indian Ocean also deserves a special mention; not your typical filmy score, the music goes well with the mood of the film and is quite enjoyable. Shankar Raman’s cinematography is simple and doesn’t glamourise the real look and feel of the film. Editing (Hemanti Sarkar) could’ve been a bit tighter in the second half as the film gets a bit repetitive.

Overall, Peepli Live is a good film that entertains and at the same time questions us about our ignorance of the real issues affecting our nation. Ironically, the media coverage around the film matches the madness shown in the film itself; check out some of the stories I came across in the last few days:

  • Natha wants to meet Katrina Kaif
  • Not Katrina, Natha now wants to meet Deepika Padukone
  • Natha gets gifts for Deepika and Katrina
  • Property prices go up in Peepli
  • Aamir unable to go to Peepli due to security concerns
  • Aamir did not interfere during the making of the film; only visited the sets once, etc

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

3 Idiots

 

Smile, laugh and cry with these idiots…

Pic: Vinod Chopra Films

3 Idiots is easily one of the finest films in the last few years and what makes it special is its unabashedly commercial style. It is a film that everyone would like, just like Manmohan Desai’s films that made us laugh, cry, sing and dance, all in one go. Despite being a paisa-vasool entertainer, the film also carries a message – a message about our education system and the rat race we all are a part of. With this film, the director, Rajkumar Hirani has got a hat-trick of relevant yet commercially successful cinema; the first two being Munnabhai MBBS, which was a comment on the medical profession and Lage Raho Munnabhai that made Gandhi cool.

Loosely based on Chetan Bhagat’s best-selling novel, Five Point Someone, 3 Idiots is about three engineering students and their tryst with the archaic education system. While the issues raised in the film are serious, the treatment is extremely fun without losing the message. The film is hilarious for most parts but also brings tears in your eyes at one point. Rajkumar Hirani and Abhijit Joshi’s script is the real winner here; of course credit also goes to Chetan who came up with the idea and wrote the book.

Aamir Khan (Rancho), R Madhavan (Farhan) and Sharman Joshi (Raju) play students at Imperial College of Engineering, a fictitious institution that is supposed to be the best in the country. The villain in their life is the director of their college, Viru Sahastrabuddhe aka Virus (Boman Irani) who thinks life is a race and there is no place for number 2. Kareena Kapoor as Virus’ daughter, Pia adds the romantic angle to the film while Farhan and Raju’s family add the melodrama. Actually, Raju’s family adds more comic element than melodrama, do watch out for them. All actors have done a fantastic job in the film and are convincing as college kids despite the actual age difference. While the film focuses a lot on Aamir’s character; Boman Irani and Sharman Joshi shine with their stellar performances.

Technically also, the film is perfect with fine editing by Rajkumar Hirani and cinematography by C. K. Muraleedharan. What disappoints a bit is the music (Shantanu Moitra), which is not exactly memorable but it does sit well with the situations in the film.

Apart from all the masala in the film, what works well for 3 Idiots is the fact that it is so relatable and youth centric, the largest demography in India… from ragging to nagging parents; drinking with buddies to the stress brought by exams; 3 Idiots borrows heavily from the real life and presents it in a light hearted manner. Go watch it with your friends, family, teachers or whoever you can catch hold of… you’d regret if you miss this one.

My Rating: * * * * ½ Four and a half stars (on five)

Shrey Khetarpal