The Dark Knight Rises

A Fitting Finale

The world is not known for equality… there are the haves and the have-nots; there are the rich in pent-houses and there are the homeless; there are the Michelin starred meals and there are deaths due to hunger. We live in this world everyday and it is more apparent in a country like India. There is latent anger in a large number of people towards this inequality and financial disparity. We have heard and read about the Occupy Wall Street protest movement in New York, where the activists are protesting against greed, corruption and economic inequality. Closer home, Anna Hazare stages regular protests against corruption which brought the Government almost to its knees. What if this anger takes a violent form; moves from protests to terrorism? A storm comes and attempts to change the world order, creating complete chaos… The question actually may not be ‘what if’ but ‘when’. Christopher Nolan’s third and final installment in the Batman trilogy, The Dark Knight Rises takes us in the middle of one such attack that threatens to destroy the financial system and the world as we know it. Similar thoughts were brought up in the first film, Batman Begins (2005) as we understood the motives of the League of Shadows and its leader, Ra’s al Ghul. Unlike the earlier films where the city of Gotham is under threat and faces a few attack; in this film Nolan lets Batman’s city burn and destruct by the hands of a terrorist, Bane who aims to restore the balance in the world by destroying it, and particularly the Gotham city. The film’s tone and the conflict is captured in this one scene where Selina Kyle or Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) tells the billionaire, Bruce Wayne or Batman (Christian Bale), “There’s a storm coming, Mr. Wayne… when it hits, you’re all going to wonder how you could live so large and leave so little for the rest of us”.

Bruce Wayne faces the biggest challenges in this film, both at the physical as well as emotional level. The film is set, eight years after the events in The Dark Knight, where Harvey Dent is hailed as a hero who gave his life for the city of Gotham and Batman labeled as his murderer and a hero gone rogue. Bruce lives the life of a recluse until the clouds of war start looming again and his friend, Commissioner James Gordon (Gary Oldman) faces the masked terrorist, Bane (Tom Hardy). He realises that his city needs Batman again and his company, Wayne Enterprises needs a strong person to lead it and save its potentially dangerous defense assets. Miranda Tate (Marion Cotillard), an environmentalist and a business woman shows hope for both Wayne Enterprises and the troubled soul of Bruce. Apart from the Batman film regulars like scientist and President of Wayne Enterprises, Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) and Bruce’s butler and father figure, Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine); we are introduced to a young police officer, John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) who senses the danger his city is in, much before everyone else.

John Blake and Miranda Tate: http://www.thedarkknightrises.com

Amongst the cast, everyone is pitch perfect and Christian Bale once again shows his versatility as an actor; he is the strong, the invincible Batman and also the broken Wayne. Michael Caine brings emotions to the forefront while Gordon-Levitt adds freshness to the series. Marion Cotillard is enigmatic and beautiful as ever; a little bit more of her would not have hurt. Tom Hardy as Bane looks and behaves like a monster; he is not like the maniacal Joker and comparisons with Heath Ledger (who played Joker in The Dark Knight, 2008) are unfair. It’s a pity we get to see Hardy’s face only once in the film. The bright spark in the film however is CatwomanAnne Hathaway has done a fantastic job with the character; she is witty, unpredictable and kicks a**.

Christopher and Jonathan Nolan’s script links back to many elements from the earlier films and closes many loops. The film does slow down in the middle but does not get boring. There are many predictable moments but an equal number of small and big surprises. Batman’s new air-borne vehicle, the Bat is beyond cool and so is his Batcycle. Spectacular special effects and scenes of destruction make your jaw drop and there are many moments that make you nervous. Hans Zimmer’s music is good and the Bane chant pumps up the tension. At about 164-minutes, it is a long film but I am not complaining.

For all its symbolism and grave themes, The Dark Knight Rises entertains and is a fitting finale to the best Batman story ever told on screen.

PS: Read my post on how Nolan made me a Batman fan here.

PPS: Do look out for the ‘Man of Steel’ (new Superman film) trailer with The Dark Knight Rises

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The Amazing Spiderman

New Spidey works…

Pic source: Wikipedia

The masked vigilante is back… with similar story elements and emotions that we have seen earlier. However, director Marc Webb’s reboot of the successful Spiderman franchise does not fail to impress. Written by James Vanderbilt, Alvin Sargent and Steve Kloves, The Amazing Spiderman re-tells the story of a teenager becoming a superhero in an engaging manner. Apart from the director, credit goes to the film’s lead actor, Andrew Garfield for making us forget the old Peter Parker (Tobey Maguire) and becoming a good Spidey. Garfield is extremely good with emotions (as we have seen in his earlier film, Never Let Me Go) and he makes it is easier for the audience to empathise with Peter Parker. Whether it is the nervousness in front of the girl he likes or the frustration related to his long-lost parents or the guilt related to a dear one’s death; the actor makes it all convincing. Looking at his earlier work, I was not sure if he’d be good with action but he does well; and the dash of humour is refreshing as he teases and plays with his enemies.

Along with the same basic story about Peter Parker’s journey from a reclusive student to a responsible hero; The Amazing Spiderman gets its villain also in the same fashion as earlier films. A science experiment to help humanity goes wrong and we get a new villain called The Lizard, played by Rhys Ifans. The Lizard does what the usual villains in Spidey films do but he is not that menacing as the Green Goblin was in the old Spiderman. The action sequences are also less in the film and you are left asking for more. Some of the sequences are very well shot and you are given Spidey’s perspective as he jumps from heights. While the film is shot in 3D, it doesn’t add to the film, apart from the scenes where depth is required, which are good.

Another big change in the film is Peter Parker’s love interest; instead of Mary Jane, we get to meet Gwen Stacy, played by Emma Stone. Like Garfied, Stone also does full justice to her role and makes you forget Kirsten Dunst who played Mary Jane in earlier films. Gwen is intelligent, strong headed and fearless; casting Stone was perhaps the best decision for the makers.

Indian actor, Irrfan Khan’s much talked about role in the film as Dr. Ratha is nothing more than a cameo. While Dr. Ratha’s character is important to the story, there is surprisingly less attention paid to him. One does not know what happens to him after a point in the film but I don’t think anyone cares except for the Indian audience.

Overall, The Amazing Spiderman is an enjoyable film but is surely not the best superhero film we have seen this summer. Definitely watch it for a good time at the movies, but do not expect a lot; I guess that is left to the sequel. In true Marvel style, a teaser to the next film is left in the middle of the end-credits; so do not leave the theatre immediately after the film ends.

Viewing recommendations:

Spidey fans in the UK can enjoy the film at Odeon which has more IMAX screens in the country than any other cinema chain. For more information on ticket and viewing options check the The Amazing Spiderman 3D at Odeon web page. In India, choose a good theatre for 3D; PVR in my experience is better and have got lighter 3D glasses and if you have an IMAX screen in your city, go for it.

The Avengers

Superheroes unite to do what they do best…

Save Manhattan… sorry Earth!

Pic: Marvel; Source: Wikipedia

The world is under threat (again!) and a bunch of superheroes get together to save it. Like all superhero movies, this is the plot of Marvel’s much awaited summer blockbuster, The Avengers, directed by Joss Whedon (of Buffy the Vampire Slayer fame). You know what happens in the end as well! So, why watch The Avengers? Here are my top reasons:

A Great Ensemble: It’s good to see so many superheroes in one frame… so many superpowers and so many egos! What happens when a god, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and a megalomaniac superhero, Iron Man start fighting? Or when the Hulk gets pissed off with Black Widow! There are too many interesting characters and they all add to the action sequences with their different powers.

The Show Stealers: Tony Stark / Iron Man, played by Robert Downey Jr. and Dr. Bruce Banner / Hulk, played by Mark Ruffalo rule the film. Stark as usual (like in Iron Man and Iron Man 2), has some very smart lines and he gets to do some pretty cool action stuff in the film. Ruffalo on the other hand is playing Hulk for the first time but makes you forget other actors who played the character in earlier films (Eric Bana, Edward Norton). He carries the load of Dr. Banner’s pained existence well and brings out the Hulk’s madness in a fantastic manner. Going by the cheers and the applause amongst the audience, especially kids, Hulk emerges as the show stealer in the film.

Scarlett, Cobie or Gwyneth: Yes, the ladies… though the superheroes leave limited space for them in the film, they are all fabulous. Scarlett Johansson as Agent Natasha Romanov / Black Widow is brilliant in her fight and interrogation sequences. She does not have any superpowers but is someone with whom nobody would like to mess with. Cobie Smulders (Robin of How I Met Your Mother) has a small role as an agent (Maria Hill) with S.H.I.E.L.D – an espionage & law enforcement organization, led by Nick Fury (Samuel L Jackson) that brings together the Avengers. She has a limited role but fans of Robin will be happy to see her away from Ted and Barney for a change. Gwyneth Paltrow makes a cameo appearance as Pepper Potts, Tony Stark’s girlfriend… she’s hardly there but I am biased when it comes to Ms. Paltrow!

A fantabulous second half: The action sequences are fabulously shot and there is not a dull moment when the Avengers face Loki’s (Thor’s adopted brother and arch rival; played by Tom Hiddleston) army from another world. The island of Manhattan is under attack (of course, where else will the aliens decide to appear) and our superheroes put up a great fight. Captain America (Chris Evans) leads the team and the evacuation plan; Iron Man ensures the fight doesn’t go beyond a certain radius; hammer-wielding god, Thor brings down the lightening while Black Widow kicks some alien ass; Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) shoots his arrows like an assassin on fast-forward mode while Hulk does what he does the best – SMASH! The grand finale of the film is complete paisa-vasool.

Despite all these great things, The Avengers falls short of being a perfect superhero entertainer. The film drags in the first half and I almost fell asleep with too much talk on-screen and hardly any action. The first part focuses more on the Avengers coming together but lacks the excitement we saw in a similar situation in last year’s X-Men First Class. Jeremy Renner, who is such a fine actor (The Hurt Locker, The Town) is wasted here, just like in Mission Impossible 4. Then there is Hollywood’s silly interpretation of India! In one sequence a little girl runs through a crowded market place to find Dr. Bruce Banner. She speaks in heavily accented Hindi and talks about her dying father. Calcutta is presented as a mega-slum, afflicted by all sorts of deadly diseases; and of course the shooting happened in a studio set in New Mexico! Is that revenge for Karan Johar creating Georgia floods in Filmcity for My Name is Khan?

Anyway, do not miss The Avengers on the big screen…

PS: The new promos of The Dark Knight Rises and The Amazing Spiderman are not linked to the prints in India. These will be shown when The Avengers releases in the US on May 4.

 

Agent Vinod

Of Bond, Bebo and Audience Ki Pungi…

Agent Vinod; Pic: Wikipedia

Much awaited Bollywood spy thriller, Agent Vinod, written and directed by Sriram Raghavan released this weekend. Saif Ali Khan has not only acted in the film but also produced it. The film also stars Kareena Kapoor and a series of supporting actors including Prem Chopra, Gulshan Grover, Ravi Kishan and Ram Kapoor amongst others. I was going to review it but then someone sent me this so called secret transcript of telephone conversations between Saif, Sriram and Kareena. It obviously looks like a spoof to me as films are not made like this; but I leave it to you to decide…

Saif Ali Khan (SAK): Hey Sriram! Wanna make a cool thriller? I’ll produce it… Love Aaj Kal made good money.

Sriram Raghavan (SR): I already made two cool thrillers but despite all the good reviews, they don’t earn much at the box office.

SAK: Yeah man! Ek Haseena Thi and Johnny Gaddar were good… maybe you need to make a James Bond style thriller starring me. I mean look at Farhan and Shah Rukh’s Don, it became a hit and now they’re working on a sequel!

SR: Hmm… I think we can do better than them.

SAK: Exactly, and with your credentials, my star power and a lot of style, we can actually make a James Bond style film in India.

SR: Of course, now that the James Bond films also look and feel like Bolly thrillers from the 70s.

SAK: Done deal! So what do we call the film?

SR: I don’t know; let me start writing the film first…

SAK: Umm…  Ok but please make me an agent in the film. I’d like to be a secret agent, Bebo loves that kinda stuff.

SR: Ok, let’s call it Agent Vinod then; it was a hit spy thriller in 1977. It’s cool and retro.

SAK: Superb! People will call it a remake and after a while we’ll deny it… think of the double publicity… ok, hold on a minute, Bebo is saying something.

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SAK: Sorry, Bebo says she also wants to be in the film and since she’s already done a Helen aunty style cabaret in Don; she wants a Jayshree T style mujra song in the film. Oh, and she also wants to be an agent. She says she liked Eva Green in Casino Royale, so please write something interesting for her.

SR: Hmm… Ok, I’ll do that. I am not sure about Jayshree T style mujra though.

SAK: Listen, I can’t disturb the peace in my household; I’ll ask Pritam to start working on the mujra and a couple of other fancy tunes inspired by music the world over as we must shoot the film in 12 countries at least!

SR: 12 countries! Ok, I’ll incorporate that in my story.

SAK: Yes, please do that. To make it easier for you, Bebo is discussing the countries she wants to visit with Lolo and Babita aunty. She’ll mail you the list.

SR: Uh… Ok! Anything else?

SAK: No I think, this is enough for now… I’ll ask my team to start working on the brand integrations so that you can keep them in mind too.

SR: Ok, bye.

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A few days later…

SR: Hello!

Kareena Kapoor aka Bebo: Hi Sriram, hope you got my list of countries… I included Russia as Saifu keeps talking about Bond movies having Russian villains. But please do not take me there, it’s too cold and I’ll have to wear jackets; that will make me look fat, no? I’d like to shoot in Europe during summer as I’d like to wear a nice sexy gown for a chase sequence. Manish (Malhotra) was over last night for cocktails and we discussed some ideas. He’s the best you know!

SR: Oh, your character is from Pakistan and an agent so I thought you’d like more rugged stuff, like jackets and all… but it is ok, a gown it is for the chase sequence.

Bebo: You’re such a darling… LOL! Accha, talk to Saifu now… I am off to shoot an action sequence for Bodyguard. They have a killer helicopter robot chasing me during the scene today; you also think of something cool like a deadly box of chocolates or something. OK, Ciao!

SR: Ok Kareena, I will. Thanks!

SAK: Hi Sriram. I have seen loads of DVDs now and I want you to include the following… a Bo Derek style swimsuit sequence, where we’ll have a hot model emerging from the sea in a two piece bikini; and don’t think of Bebo doing it! I watched In Bruges, so let’s have some sort of shoot out sequence in middle of an exotic European city square. The opening title sequence should be at par with a Bond film! We definitely need to have a car chase, a bike chase and a helicopter… Of course, the plot should have the villain planning a nuclear war or something that I’ll thwart. Oh! And I have already placed an order for a Savile Row tuxedo, Casino Royale style… so include a sequence where Bebo and I go for a fancy function or something; Manish is doing a slinky dress for her in gold.

SR: Yes, I will. Anything else?

SAK: Oh yeah! Pritam has got some really original inspirations this time… he’s doing something on the lines of Boney M’s Rasputin and a special item song for me based on some Iranian band number he discovered on YouTube. Bebo’s mujra is also shaping up well; she even chose a fuchsia dress. And Pritam says we can give a retro touch by using old Hindi numbers in the back ground score. I think it’s ingenious! Your views?

SR: It’s your film buddy! I am only the writer, director.

SAK: Good! I promise we’ll make money on this one… I have a good feeling about it.

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March 26, 2012 – After the first weekend of Agent Vinod’s release

Audience:

Agent Vinod should have been called Travel Agent Vinod! (Read on Twitter and Facebook)

Agent Vinod ne pungi baja di… I’m never getting my Rs. 250 and three hours back…

Critics:

Sriram Raghavan what have you done? We fanboys are disappointed…

Producer’s Office:

Film’s budget + promotion: Rs. 50 Crore + 12 Crore = 62 Crore approx

Music & Satellite rights sold: Rs. 30 Crore approx

First weekend worldwide collections: over Rs.  25 Crore approx

We’ll make a profit hopefully…

Agneepath

Outdated and unintentionally funny…

Agneepath; Dharma Productions; Source: Wikipedia

Hrithik Roshan starrer Agneepath was an unintentional funny film for me. No, I am not really a big fan of the original (1990; directed by Mukul Anand) starring Amitabh Bachchan but if we are talking remakes then the earlier version still wins. Karan Malhotra’s new Agneepath is full of plot holes and has the 80s-90s film-making sensibility that makes you cringe. I am a big fan of the original masala style of Bollywood film-making but the new Agneepath seems more outdated than the original one. Of course, the new film is also set in the 90s (1992 to be precise) but in a thriller made in 2012, one expects the filmmaker to respect the intellect of the audience. Let me list down a few gaffes to illustrate my point (spoilers ahead).

Before I do that let me share a brief synopsis for those not familiar with the plot. Agneepath is a revenge drama that begins in a tiny island near Mumbai called, Mandwa. A greedy landlord cum goon, Kaancha Cheena (Sanjay Dutt) falsely blames a conscientious school teacher and village leader, Deenanath Chauhan of rape and murder. Led by Kaancha Cheena, the village mob lynches the teacher whose pregnant wife and young son, Vijay escape to Mumbai. Years later, Vijay returns to extract revenge and to win back Mandwa. And here are some of the goofs that did not allow me to take the film seriously:

  • Inspector Gaitonde (Om Puri) makes a presentation on the gang wars in Mumbai and in the slide show, presents a photograph of an emerging young gangster, Vijay Deenanath Chauhan (played by Hrithik Roshan). Unfortunately, the picture is not the latest one but of a 12-year-old Vijay (Arish Bhiwandiwala) as they haven’t been able to get a recent photo of him (he is now shown to be 27-years old). Gaitonde goes on to describe everything about the gangster, down to his address and the charitable trust he runs. 10-minutes later, Vijay pays what-seems-like a regular visit to the inspector at the police station. But, they haven’t been able to get a picture!
  • Inspector Gaitonde in his detailed slide show also talks about Mandwa, which apparently is run by Kaancha Cheena like Hitler’s concentration camp. Really! And the Government of India sits pretty? As per him, they do not raid Mandwa as last time they tried, it led to many civilians dying in cross fire and human rights commission created a ruckus. So, now they decide to let Mandwa be.
  • In the second half, Vijay’s mother, Suhasini Chauhan (Zarina Wahab) while watching TV recognises a gangster murdered by Vijay as Surya from Mandwa. Please note when she left Mandwa, 15-years-ago, Surya was a kid and did not look anything like his grown up version. Neither did Suhasini stay in touch with folks in Mandwa who’d send her photographs (also Facebook wasn’t there in 1992). Heck, she didn’t even stay in touch with her own son!
  • After recognising Surya on TV, Suhasini for some reason goes to the police station to explain Vijay’s revenge plan to Inspector Gaitonde. Why? I don’t know. Why does she explain it to the first police man she sees (who is on pay rolls of Kaancha) I don’t know!
  • Hrithik has abs made of steel! In a fight with Kaancha, Vijay gets stabbed by at least a 12-inch long and 2-inch wide knife but after his shirt is torn (yes ladies, the abs are on display) you only see a hint of blood and lots of black soot.

Let’s leave all this aside and agree that the director wanted to make a 90s style film and didn’t care much about logic. After all Bollywood is about taking a leap of faith! Even then the film doesn’t shine much as both the build up and the climax are long and tedious (screenplay: Karan Malhotra, Ila Dutta Bedi; editing: Akiv Ali). Cinematography by Kiran Deohans is excellent but the production design lets it down. Sabu Cyril’s sets are so unbelievable that you forgive Omung Kumar’s over the top designs for Bhansali films. The fake banyan tree and Kaancha Cheena’s den look silly and well… fake! Music by Ajay-Atul is just about ok and the songs hinder the narrative (lyrics by Amitabh Bhattacharya). The much talked about item song, Chikni Chameli (featuring Katrina Kaif) does what it was meant to – help in film marketing and support a dragging second half. Being an action film, you’d expect some memorable stunts or fight sequences but you get none; there is just a lot of blood and gore (action: Abbas Ali Moghul).

Coming to the acting department; I think Karan Johar did well by choosing Hrithik Roshan over Abhishek Bachchan, son of the original Vijay Deenanath Chauhan. Hrithik does a good job and is believable in a local, gritty character that is cunning and opportunistic. Priyanka Chopra as Kaali is forgettable; she had a small role in Kaminey also and we remember Sweety but here you don’t connect with her, you don’t care for her. Sanjay Dutt as Kaancha Cheena is menacing and looks-wise reminds you of Marlon Brando in Apocalypse Now and Ralph Fiennes as Voldemort in Harry Potter. The real star of the film however is Rishi Kapoor who plays Rauf Lala, a ruthless drug lord in Mumbai. His is a new character that did not exist in the original film but leaves an impact.

Watch Agneepath if you’re a Hrithik fan and also for Rishi Kapoor.

My rating: * * * Almost three on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Don 2

The King is back… or is he not?

Don 2; Source: Wikipedia

Shah Rukh Khan’s second outing as Don may not be an edge-of-the-seat thriller but it has enough action and style to qualify as an average entertainer. Directed by Farhan Akhtar, Don 2 suffers from the same old Bollywood problem – a weak script (story & screenplay – Ameet Mehta, Ambrish Shah and Akhtar himself). Instead we are offered fancy locales, exciting stunts and oodles of style… oh, and of course, King Khan.

While the first Don (2006) was a remake of Amitabh Bachchan starrer of the same name (1978); it packed a lot more punch and a killer twist in the end as compared to its sequel. The biggest strength of the film is SRK who seems to enjoy playing the bad guy. He is effortlessly cool and sinister in most sequences but has some cringe-worthy moments towards the end where his ‘love-interest’, Roma is involved. Priyanka Chopra reprises the role of Roma, the tough Interpol cop who is still licking her wounds after being fooled by Don in the first film. She has nothing much to do in the film except being called ‘Jungli Billi’ (wild cat) by Don and a little am-a-cop-and-I-can-kick-ass sequence towards the end. Lara Dutta in her brief role steals Ms. Chopra’s thunder in the glamour department and sheer screen presence. Newcomer, Saahil Shroff sadly doesn’t get enough scope and other actors including Om Puri, Boman Irani and Kunal Kapoor are fine in their respective roles.

The film’s other strength is its style quotient for which the Akhtar siblings are well known for. Don 2 is the first Hindi film to be shot in Germany (Berlin) and naturally the locales look refreshing. There are some interesting stunts including SRK’s 300 metre jump from a skyscraper (though it pales in front of Tom Cruise’s Burj Khalifa adventures that we recently witnessed in MI4) and an elaborate car chase sequence where sponsor, Hyundai’s cars prove to be the best. There is an elaborate bank robbery meets 26/11-style hostage crisis sequence that forms the second half of the film. The actors’ styling in the film is quite impressive including Don’s menacing long-haired and un-kept look in the Malaysian jail, followed by well fitted jackets and over coats. Lara looks stunning while Priyanka has some off moments, including one where she chases Don in a slinky designer gown (costume: Jaimal Odedra; hair: Walter Dorairaj, Diane Commisariat). Cinematography by Jason West is also first grade with fantastic aerial shots of Berlin, Thailand and Malaysia.

While the film scores high on style, its slow pace and the length prove detrimental (editing: Anand Sobaya). Despite borrowing heavily from the first film’s soundtrack, music director trio of Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy deliver a below average music score.

Overall, Don 2 disappoints and is certainly not a fitting return for the King. However, it is also not a bad film and is definitely a one-time watch for fans of the franchise and SRK.

My rating: * * * Three on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

Ra.One

Pic: Ra.One; Source: Wikipedia

Open letter to Shah Rukh Khan…

Dear Shah Rukh Khan,

Firstly congratulations for the spectacular opening of Ra.One and hope you manage to recover all the money you spent on the film. Not because it is a good film, but because you dared to dream and put your might behind a risky venture. You said it right, if you don’t make mega budget blockbusters in Bollywood, then who will?

Coming to the film, it is a major disappointment but don’t worry the masses in India are used to watching not-so-great or even silly films as long as they have their favourite stars; take the example of the recent Salman starrers, Ready & Bodyguard, and Rajnikanth’s Robot. Also, your film is a lot better than Shirish ‘Fizzle’ Kunder and Farah Khan’s masterpiece, Tees Maar Khan and Bollywood’s last sci-fi outing, Love Story 2050 (how I shudder at the thought of that film!)

You must praise your marketing team that kept the buzz alive around the film for over seven months. They did their job a little too well, as by the end of it, the whole country said, “Please stop, we’ll watch Ra.One”. They deserve a bonus. Others who deserve praise are your special effects team for creating some good sequences; I particularly like the scene where Ra.One regenerates with little Lego like digital cubes (too big to be called pixels). The few action scenes in the film are also nice and I hope the folks at Volkswagen are happy the way their cars were smashed. Kareena Kapoor did her best to look good and sizzle the screen in the Chammak Challo song; I believe that was the brief to her! Her make-up artist went beyond the brief to make her look smashing with blow-dried hair after she is rescued from a train wreck. Your villain, Arjun Rampal deserves a big fat bonus too as he proved to be the best thing about the film. Pity he didn’t get too much screen time.

Now coming to those whose payment you should put on hold. The director, Anubhav Sinha; firstly why did you hire him to lead a 150-crore project? His last film was called Cash, which didn’t earn any cash at the box-office! If it was because he wrote the story, that’s not an acceptable excuse as the story was nothing great with a concept borrowed from Hollywood (yes, we all watched Tron Legacy if not the original Tron). He did even worse with the screenplay where he had three accomplices (Kanika Dhillon, Mushtaq Sheikh & David Benullo); patchy writing peppered with crude jokes and lines that fell flat! You hired an Academy Award winner, Martin Walsh (Chicago) who edited all the wrong things (read action) from the film; part of the blame on the Indian editor, Sanjay Sharma; the film dragged and could’ve been good 20-minutes shorter. If you are thinking of a sequel, please do not work with any of them.

Regarding music, please give a show-cause notice to Vishal-Shekhar as well for doing a half baked job. One hit song does not create a great album but they just managed to save themselves with Chammak Challo, which became a bigger hit because of Akon and Kareena. Raftaarein and Dildara were also good songs but not smash-hits that are expected for a film like this. And what was that Criminal song? Choreographer Ganesh Hegde made it look like a B-grade party number focusing on everyone’s bum! Also, I hope you didn’t pay for any of the special appearances as all of them were disappointing. Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt and Rajnikanth, all were wasted in their cameos. If you did pay, please deduct from Mr. Sinha’s pay package.

Your charm worked in the film and made it watchable but your decision to wear that horrible wig in the first half is beyond me. I understand that you tried to please everyone with this film but that’s not possible. But keep trying different things, some will work and some won’t but that’s how generations will remember you, apart from the guy who brought romance back to Hindi cinema.

Sincerely,

A fan

My rating for the film: ** ½ Two and a half on five

Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey

 

Good intentions may not result in a good film

Pic: Ashutosh Gowarikar Productions

Lagaan’s Bhuvan, Swades’ Mohan Bhargava, Jodhaa and Akbar are some of the most memorable characters seen in the Indian cinema in the last decade. All these characters were created and brought alive by the same man, Ashutosh Gowarikar who became one of the most sought after filmmakers because of these characters and films. This is where the director fails with his latest offering, Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Sey (KHJJS). The film’s screenplay is adapted by Gowarikar himself from the book, ‘Do and Die’ by Manini Chatterjee, which is based on the Chittagong (in Bengal) Uprising of 1930. KHJJS presents the facts and happenings that led to the historical incident and what happened after that. In trying to cover these events with so many characters, the filmmaker does not focus on a few leading ones and as a result you do not connect with any as a viewer. It is not that he does not set the context but he tries to do that with all the characters and there are over twenty-five of them.

If Surjya Sen (Abhishek Bachchan) is the central character, then very little time is spent on building his story; it is revealed in the beginning that he is the leader of a freedom fighters’ group but in the rest of the film he just appears in between the sequences passing orders or looking somber. Kalpana Dutta (Deepika Padukone) is another revolutionary but again it seems that the director forgets about her in the middle of the film. If only some time was spent on developing these two characters, probably one would have related to them more. What kind of people were they; were they angry or scared or hurt at different occasions; all that is left to the viewers to decide. The uprising began with a group of sixteen teenagers approaching Surjya Sen to help them get their play-ground back, which the British soldiers had taken over. They want the freedom to play and in the bargain willing to help free Chittagong and the country. The first half of the film is all about introducing all these characters and them getting ready for the attacks on British establishments; the second half focuses on the attack and then what happens to each of the characters. Despite the two-hour fifty-five minute running time, the film does not do justice to any of them and makes for a tedious watch.   The good thing about the film is that not many people were aware of the Chittagong uprising and it has helped create that awareness; however as an entertainer the film does not work.

Performance wise, Abhishek and Deepika are very average and from the rest of the grown up supporting cast, only Vishakha Singh who plays Pritilata shines; Sikander Kher as Nirmal Sen is also fine except he doesn’t have many impactful scenes. The teenagers are very good and are the only ones you feel connected to, more because of their innocent motive and age.

Music by Sohail Sen is not very memorable and the only song you remember is the title track as that got played in the promos all the time. In the technical department also you do not see anything spectacular, cinematography is fine (Kiran Deohans) while editing is abrupt at times (Dilip Deo). Neeta Lulla’s costumes seem sponsored by a washing powder brand as they are very clean and white for the most part. Imagine a group of teenagers playing football and their dhotis stay absolutely white! However, in one scene you can notice a deliberate ink stain on Abhishek’s kurta as he is shown writing on his desk. The only thing that comes to your mind is, “Daag acche hain”. The dialogues are in flawless Hindi with the actors using a few odd Bengali words here and there and pronouncing ‘a’ as ‘o’ while taking names. Of course the film could not have been in Bengali keeping in mind the commercial aspect but at least their manner of speaking Hindi could have been adopted well. Maybe they really spoke good Hindi back then but am not aware so would not comment any further.

KHJJS is not what I’d like to remember Gowarikar for and like his last year’s disastrous film, What’s Your Rashee? I’d like to forget this one also.  I hope the director of Oscar nominated Lagaan comes back with a film worthy of this tag.

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Raavan

The master falters, but…

Pic: Raavan; Reliance Big Pictures

A lot is being said about Mani Ratnam’s Raavan and the movie’s fate has become front page news material… it almost seems like everyone was waiting for the master film maker to fall once to rip him apart. Critics and fans blamed Ratnam for losing his maverick style by focusing more on the commercial aspects and staying away of any direct political undertones. Raavan may not be what an Iruvar or Roja or Bombay or even a Guru was but it is a film that took a lot of effort to make, which went completely unnoticed. I am not saying that we should like a film because it was a difficult one to make but let’s not be so harsh on a filmmaker whom we have revered for so long. Mani Ratnam is one of the finest filmmakers we have in India and that is indisputable.

Based on the Ramayana, Raavan is set in a fictitious town called Lal Maati, surrounded by dense rain forests and is unofficially ruled by a tribal leader named Beera aka Raavan (Abhishek Bachchan). Beera fights against the system and the forces for the injustice done towards the locals who worship him like a god. The conflict resembles the Naxalite movement; however the director steers clear of any direct reference. Beera abducts the local police superintendent, Dev aka Ram’s (Vikram) wife, Ragini aka Sita (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan) to extract revenge. While Dev embarks on a search for his wife and her kidnapper; Beera finds himself drawn towards his beautiful and brave hostage.  Raavan is partly a love story and partly a story about the good and the evil that resides inside all of us. The concept is interesting, however the screenplay gets too literal at times, such as the sequence where Govinda’s character (Sanjeevni Kumar aka Hanuman) is shown jumping from tree to tree.

Raavan is a visually stunning film and the two cinematographers, V. Manikanandan and Santosh Sivan have well captured the natural beauty of the locales as well as the harsh conditions faced by the actors. Music by A. R. Rahman with lyrics by Gulzar is a winner too with the songs presented in a breath-taking manner, especially ‘Kata Kata…’ and ‘Thok De Killi…’ What does not work very well is the film’s editing (Sreekar Prasad) and the screenplay (Mani Ratnam) as the first half moves at an extremely slow pace and the climax not that impactful. The actors have all worked very hard and it clearly shows on screen. Abhishek is good but does not seem menacing enough that one would expect from a character based on a demon; Aishwarya emotes well, while Vikram only grunts. Nikhil Dwivedi in Lakshman’s character is good and so is Ravi Kishen as Beera’s brother; Govinda in Hanuman’s character does not work very well but that’s probably because his character is not that convincing in its modern avatar. Priyamani as Jamunia (Beera’s sister) is an important find for the Hindi film industry this year; she has great screen presence and I am looking forward to seeing her more often in Bollywood.

The film may not match up to the high expectations we have from Mani Ratnam but I agree with what I read online, ‘his worst is also better than the best works of some other directors’.

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

– Shrey Khetarpal


Kites

  

A mish-mash tribute to Hrithik

 

Kites; Pic: Filmkraft, Source: Wikipedia

 

Indian critics have ripped it apart, while American critics have been kind to the film… Hrithik Roshan’s much hyped crossover flick, Kites fails to soar but is it really that bad? I don’t think so. It certainly is not a good film but is also a victim of too much hype and extremely high expectations. Filmmakers should really be careful about marketing their films; too much or too little does not work… coming back to the film, Kites is a tribute to Hrithik Roshan, his physique, his dancing, his green eyes and even his singing, which by the way is not that great. It may work well for the actor as a PR exercise in Hollywood as his international looks have been fully exploited here. The film’s leading lady, the much talked about Mexican actress, Barbara Mori also manages to get some screen space alongside Junior Roshan. She is undoubtedly hot and manages to hold your attention.

Kites is actually a brave attempt by director, Anurag Basu and writer-producer, Rakesh Roshan; while they have tried to reach out to the global audience, they have alienated a large chunk of Hindi speaking viewers as over 60 percent of the film is in English or Spanish and there are no Hindi subtitles. The film tries to offer a bit of everything… romance, action, comedy, dancing but does not manage to excel in anything. The promos said ‘passion knows no language’, and how I expected the film to live up to that. Stealing shy glances and a few kisses here and there do not define passion. Passion is what Penelope Cruz and Javier Bardem displayed in Vicky Christina Barcelona or Jonathan Rhys Myers and Scarlett Johansson shared in Matchpoint, both Woody Allen films. Talking of Matchpoint, Kites shares a similarity in the plot where two gold diggers attach themselves to rich siblings but end up falling for each other. Another film with striking similarities is Thelma & Louise; Kites heavily borrows its second half from this Ridley Scott classic. Having said that, Kites lacks the edge and the chutzpah of both these films.  

I have a major problem with the dialogue in the film as well; who in this world talks like this: “Don’t leave me my love… stay with me my love”, are we thinking of modern Romeo & Juliet here and that too in Vegas! The lead pair looks stunning in the film thanks to their natural good looks and breathtaking cinematography by Ayananka Bose. However, they are shabbily dressed for most part, which is unpardonable in a film that is supposed to be high on the style quotient (fashion director – Suneet Varma with additional styling by Anaita Shroff Adajania for Hrithik). The supporting cast seems straight out of a Feroz Khan film in the eighties (Kabir Bedi, Nick Brown)… fake accents and names like Tony and Bob (what breed, I wanted to ask). Kangana Ranaut hardly has a role and does not get to say ‘You Besterd’ even once.

Coming to the dancing. Hrithik plays a dance instructor and one expected some hot moves in this supposedly ‘passion’ driven film. Here also, we do not get much; there is a dance sequence with Hrithik and Kangana but there are so many cuts in the shots that you can’t follow an impressive move completely (they could’ve taken some inspiration from Dirty Dancing as well). Rajesh Roshan’s music also disappoints and I wish there was a lot of fusion of Spanish and Indian sounds. Anyways, once again Bollywood teaches us a lesson, leave your expectations out of the cinema hall.  

Overall, Kites is a below average film but do watch it if you’re a Hrithik fan.

My rating: ** two stars on five

– Shrey Khetarpal