Carnage

Appallingly Good

Carnage; Pic Source: Wikipedia

Following a verbal dispute in Brooklyn Bridge Park, 11-year-old Zachary Cowan armed with carrying a stick strikes another 11-year-old boy, Ethan Longstreet in the face*. As responsible and involved parents who see the larger picture, the Longstreets invite the Cowans to their apartment to discuss the fight between the boys. Both sets of parents try to discuss the issue in a civilised manner for the benefit of their children. The Cowans get to the door and thank their hosts who invite them back again for coffee. You know they shouldn’t go back but they do… These are the first five minutes of Roman Polanski’s brilliant black comedy, Carnage, based on a play, God of Carnage by Yasmina Reza.

Carnage is nothing but pure display of acting, writing and directorial prowess. Adapted for screen by Reza and Polanski, the film peels away the layers of civility and etiquette that the four characters display in the first five minutes. Penelope (Jodie Foster) and Michael Longstreet (John C. Reilly) appear happy and perfectly average couple who love each other and take extra interest in their children’s education. Michael has a hardware business and Penelope is a writer who is working a book on Darfur. On the other hand, the CowansNancy (Kate Winslet), a real estate agent and Alan (Cristoph Waltz), a lawyer seem financially more successful but with a strained relationship. Over the next 74-minutes the polite conversation turns venomous and they all display some shocking behaviour.

The four leading actors deliver stellar performance that is expected of artistes of their calibre. Cristoph Waltz however shines as a workaholic and rude man, whose phone keeps buzzing, annoying not only the other three on-screen but the audience that’s watching as well. Kate Winslet brings out maniacal energy on screen and shocks the most with her actions. The other characters who only appear as phone voices also add a lot of flavour, including Michael’s ailing mother and Alan’s work associate, Walter. Then there is a bottle of whisky, a bunch of yellow tulips, some art books, an apple & pear cobbler, a hamster and a hair dryer.

Carnage is an excellent film that shows how superficial and fake people tend to become with not only strangers but also their loved ones. As the film’s tagline says, it is ‘a comedy of no manners’ that spells utter mayhem, chaos and massacre in a brilliant cinematic way.

Do not miss it.

– Shrey Khetarpal

*The first line in this post is almost similar to the film’s opening lines.

 

Vishal Ko 7 Khoon Maaf

Pic Source: Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, I had written a post on The Genius of Vishal Bhardwaj and had great expectations from his next film, ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ based on Ruskin Bond’s short story, ‘Susanna’s Seven Husbands’ (adapted for screen by Vishal and Matthew Robins). It’s been little over a week since the film’s release and a lot has been said about it, good, bad and ugly. Though I did not love the film, I still think Vishal is amongst the best filmmakers we have in India today and his weakest is eons better than many others’ best. So what worked and what did not work for 7 Khoon Maaf… here’s my list of 7 things (plot spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the film)

Screenplay – A killer plot but a very straightforward narrative did not help the film. The whole world knew that Susanna (Priyanka Chopra) is going to murder her seven husbands in the film but one expected some surprises and some twists throughout… the murders were lined up like a multi-course meal and we got entrée after the hors d’ourves as promised; in fact there comes a message at the interval point – ‘4 more to go!’ The film is full of brilliant moments and images like a Persian cat walking down a grave made of snow; John in a blue negligee playing chor-police; Susanna asking her poet husband, “who is Mukarrar” when he praises her couplet by using the Urdu word that means ‘again’; and Neil Nitin Mukesh dangling his amputated leg in his wife’s face, amongst many others. However, they somehow do not come together to leave a hangover like Vishal’s earlier films did.

Priyanka Chopra – She dazzled in Vishal’s Kaminey but could not really pull off a complex character like Susanna. Not her fault, she tried and tried hard but that effort showed and she never became Susanna like she became Sweety in Kaminey or Kareena became Dolly in Omkara or Tabu transformed into Nimmi in Maqbool. She shines in a few scenes but not throughout the film. The writing also did not support her as you neither feel bad for Susanna, nor you hate her. She moves from one marriage to the other but there is just so much happening that you’re left to wonder if she’s started to enjoy it or is a pained soul.

Climax – What saves the day is the superb twist in the end… the film lifts in the last ten minutes and Priyanka also delivers her best especially in the scene where she says, “this time I will drink his blood…” She appears sinister and then the surprise.

Music – A brilliant soundtrack helps the film move forward. Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar once again create magic especially with the song, ‘Daarrling’ (vocals – Usha Uthup and Rekha Bhardwaj) and ‘Bekaraan’ (vocals – Vishal Bhardwaj). The two rock numbers one after the other distract and only one would’ve been sufficient.

Cinematography – The scenes are set to create a mood and the lighting is dim… Vishal conceptualizes the scenes brilliantly and Ranjan Palit shoots them like never before. 7 Khoon Maaf looks like a brilliant piece of art but falls short of being a brilliant piece of cinema.

Make-up – The moment Susanna first appears on screen, you do not notice her but you notice her bad prosthetic make up that makes her look fake. A powerful scene is ruined with everyone discussing her cakey make-up around you. Of course, her journey from a young beautiful army wife to a middle aged frustrated woman requires her to look different but technical flaws like this take away from the emotion.

The husbands, the supporting cast – Some worked and some didn’t but the film has a very interesting ensemble cast. Annu Kapoor as an opportunistic policeman, Keemat Lal is brilliant and so is Irrfan Khan as Wasiullah Khan, a gentle poet by the day and a masochistic lover by the night. Neil Nitin Mukesh as Major Edwin Rodrigues, an insecure and jealous husband is good while the Russian actor, Aleksandr Dyachenko as Nicolai Vronsky is just about ok. Naseeruddin Shah as Dr. Modhusudhon Tarafdar is miscast as you just do not relate to him talking with a Bengali accent; and John Abraham as a drug addict rock star has nothing much to add. Vivaan Shah makes a confident debut and is able to manage the growth in his character over the years (though make up fails him also).

The burden of expectations is such that minor mistakes get magnified and a little disappointment is devastating. 7 Khoon Maaf also suffers from not matching up to the humungous expectations of Vishal’s devoted fans. But Vishal, 7 Khoon Maaf to you as well and we accept your take on Susanna and eagerly await your next with the same expectations (fans never learn, you see)

My rating: *** Three stars on five

The Genius of Vishal Bhardwaj

He is a composer, a playback singer, a writer, a producer and a director; he excels in all these fields and is amongst the finest filmmakers in the country today.

He has directed five brilliant films and his sixth one, 7 Khoon Maaf is already creating a lot of excitement in the filmy circles. He is Vishal Bhardwaj who has made delightful children’s films like Makdee and The Blue Umbrella and films that delve into the dark human emotions such as Maqbool, Omkara and Kaminey.

His adaptations of Shakespeare and Ruskin Bond have opened doors for more literary adaptations in the Hindi film industry. His musical compositions mean different sounds, unusual playback combinations and haunting melodies. The genius of Vishal Bhardwaj has not yet been fully discovered by the Indian film industry and something tells me that soon the whole world will sit and take notice of this brilliant filmmaker.

Here’s a look at his directorial ventures that have helped redefine Bollywood in the last decade…

Click here to read my full post that appeared on nowrunning.com on January 23.

Rom-Com Gone

 

Bollywood’s Romantic Comedies fail to impress in 2010

Romantic comedies or rom-coms have worked well in Hollywood and in the recent past the trend has taken off in Bollywood also with movies like Hum Tum, Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal. With young directors at helm, the concepts are more urbane, the look more stylish and the issues more inane in these films. They have the potential to work as they provide two things to the young audience today – relatable themes, “oh! This happened to my friend” and escapism in the form of beautiful people in designer clothes at fabulous locations; however, this year has seen a spate of disappointing rom-coms. This is what I think of Bollywood’s rom-coms in 2010, starting with this week’s release, Break Ke Baad:

Pic: Kunal Kohli Productions

Break Ke Baad

The girl, Aaliya Khan (Deepika Padukone) is more believable than the guy, Abhay Gulati (Imran Khan)… she is independent, headstrong, enjoys attention but no intervention; the guy is sensitive, caring, packs her undergarments neatly in her bags and has no life other than her. Childhood romance wanes off for the girl but not for the guy; she dumps him but he follows her to win her back. From being every girl’s dream guy, Imran’s character slips into this spineless creature who is described as an ATM machine in the film as machines only give not ask for something. Deepika’s character earns the title of a cold heated b*tch (courtesy: my fellow movie watchers) to a chudail / witch (courtesy: Pammi Bua played by Lillete Dubey). Both actors try hard but their limited acting abilities and a lacklustre script don’t help; the fun elements in the first half appear repetitive and boring in the second.

The world is a ridiculously nice place in this Danish Aslam directed rom-com, where Abhay gets visa on arrival in Australia and stays on to build a chain of successful restaurants from scratch in a couple of months. On the other hand Aaliya comes armed with a full scholarship to the University of Goldcoast; checks into a sea-facing resort like accommodation for just 600 Australian Dollars for six months, gets noticed by a casting director in a college play and becomes an international movie star (really now!)

If the girls watching the film with me found it cute in the beginning, the climax disappointed them also in a big way. Break Ke Baad has a lot of smart lines, some good clothes (and some bad), good locations and an average music score (Vishal Shekhar); the film falters with a thread-bare script, the lack of crackling chemistry between the lead pair and the lamest ending in the recent past. The film has an interesting supporting cast featuring Sharmila Tagore, Lillete Dubey, Shahana Goswami and Yudhishter Urs but that’s not good enough to hold the film together. I won’t write off the film completely as the three girls who watched it with me seemed to like it but it certainly isn’t a film that can make it to anyone’s must-watch list.

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

Pic: Dharma Productions

I Hate Luv Stories

Well what do I say… doesn’t the film’s title says enough? Boy meets girl, girl believes in candy-floss-romance and the boy hates luv stories (please note, he doesn’t hate love stories, smart!) Directed by Punit Malhotra, the film was produced by Dharma Productions and worked well on the box-office, however I am yet to meet anyone who luved this film. Sonam Kapoor plays Simran, a die-hard romantic whose clothes match her boyfriend Raj’s (Samir Dattani) shirts or vice-versa; she is an art director working on a big ticket romantic flick, directed by a Karan Johar like film maker. Jay (Imran Khan) hates such cinema but is still assisting on the film; he also shows off his newly acquired abs to Bruna Abdullah in a song, to make us believe that he is the new age Casanova. Opposites attract and Simran falls for Jay but Jay hates luv stories, end of chapter one. In chapter two, Jay realises his mistake as he luvs love stories but Simran goes back to Raj who buys her white gerberas daily (remember, daily one red balloon in Dil Chahta Hai?) Chapter three… you know what happens. Punit Malhotra and Sonam Kapoor’s twitter squabble with Shobhaa De after she ripped apart the film in print was more interesting than the film itself.

My rating: * * Two stars on five

Pic: Cinergy Productions

Jhootha Hi Sahi

It was Abbas Tyrewala’s next directorial after the hugely successful, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na; John Abraham’s first production with music by maestro, A R Rahman. The expectations were sky high with an interesting working title, 1-800-LOVE. The film eventually came out as Jhootha Hi Sahi and all the expectations came crashing down. The music did not work very well (though I like the Cry Cry song) and everyone wondered who this mature actress opposite John is? She turned out to be the director’s wife who was also credited for the script – Pakhi Tyrewala. After all, it is all about loving your family, eh… wife. The film tried to recreate the magic of American sitcoms like Friends and How I Met Your Mother but somehow couldn’t manage to get the same chilled out feel on-screen largely due to the weak screenplay. Having said that, I love the way London’s beautiful summer is captured in the film.

My rating: * * Two stars on five

Pic: PVR Pictures

Aisha

Fantastic promos, an interesting cast, great publicity stills and a peppy soundtrack… Aisha looked like it is going to be the ultimate chick-flick to come out of Bollywood. Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, the film ended up to be more like a documentary on the lifestyles of the rich and famous young Delhites. The film surely has great clothes on showcase but one can go to Delhi’s Emporio or Select Citywalk mall to see that or can watch The Devil Wears Prada again. Sonam only looked good and Abhay Deol was wasted in this Rajshree Ojha directed film. Producer, Rhea Kapoor is now thinking of desi Alice in Wonderland with sister Sonam and more fabulous clothes. Hmm…

My rating: * * Two stars on five

Pic: Eros International

Anjaana Anjaani

Two suicidal protagonists, Aakash (Ranbir Kapoor) and Kiara (Priyanka Chopra), who decide to have some fun in the last few days of their lives and end up falling in love. They are both poor but wear trendy clothes, visit hep night clubs at New York’s Times Square and Las Vegas… I quite like their lifestyle actually! They try to die by wrapping cling-wrap around their faces (now you know why it isn’t a toy, keep it out of reach of children) and jumping off a bridge, but they don’t. Fifteen minutes into the film, you start praying for them to die so that the film gets over but they don’t; instead Zayed Khan is also unleashed by director, Siddharth Anand on us to increase the Chinese torture. Both Priyanka and Ranbir are good actors and promising stars but they should look hard at the scripts they choose. Siddharth Anand on his part is creating a library of mediocre rom-coms.

My rating: * * Two stars on five

Pic: Yash Raj Films

 

Pyaar Impossible

As a policy I cannot comment on a film I haven’t seen; and I could not drag myself to the theatre for this one after watching the trailers only, despite all my love for Yash Raj Films.

Pic: Yash Raj Films

 

Band Baaja Baaraat is the last rom-com to hit the screens before the year ends, am hoping the year ends on a bright note for this genre.

 

Shrey Khetarpal


PS: Don’t think that I don’t like romance / rom-coms as a genre; I am just a disappointed film buff. Click here to read my earlier post on the best romantic films according to me.

Well Done Abba

 

 Well Done Benegal…

Pic: Reliance Big Pictures; Source: Wikipedia

 

Shyam Benegal was never known for comedies but for meaningful cinema that was labeled art-house and alienated mainstream audience. Films such as Ankur, Suraj Ka Satvan Ghoda, Mandi, Mammo, Sardari Begum and others may have been extremely good but not money spinners at the box office. Even Zubeidaa featuring Karisma Kapoor, which was almost a mainstream Bollywood flick, pleased only the niche Benegal audience and not the masses.  However, with the evolution of the multiplex audience, Benegal has started dabbling with a genre that he hasn’t attempted before – comedy. Well, actually it is satire and he touches upon a lot of relevant issues through his latest films like Welcome to Sajjanpur and Well Done Abba. This new Benegal brand of cinema is extremely refreshing when all we get today are sexist and vulgar jokes in the name of comedies.

Well Done Abba is set in a village called Chikatpalli, somewhere near Hyderabad and focuses on a number of issues such as corruption, water shortage, illiteracy, emancipation of women, amongst others. Boman Irani plays Armaan Ali who is concerned about his daughter, Muskaan Ali’s (Minisha Lamba) marriage and wants to get a baori (well) dug in his fields under a new scheme by the government. The film traces Armaan’s journey as he struggles with the corrupt government machinery and later his battle against the same, which is master-minded by his fiery daughter.

Boman Irani is simply outstanding in the film and proves that the character and the actor playing it are more important than the star. Minisha Lamba is the film’s surprise package and is extremely confident even with the Hyderabadi accent. Other supporting actors like Samir Dattani, Ila Arun and Ravi Kissen are good but fine actors like Rajit Kapoor and Sonali Kulkarni are not given substantial roles.

The film’s strength is its simplicity and situational comedy while its length is its weakness (nearly two and a half hours). The first half of the film moves slowly establishing each of the numerous characters and the film picks up post interval. The editing could have been much better to make the film crisp and more impactful. Music by Shantanu Moitra is nothing great and the songs were not required at all; why couldn’t they just stick to only background score?

Overall, Well Done Abba is a delightfully refreshing film but requires a little patience due to its length.

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

Shrey Khetarpal

 

Kaminey: Movie Review

 

Awefome Kameenapan! 

Pic source: in.movies.yahoo.com

Pic source: in.movies.yahoo.com

Dear Mr. Vishal Bharadwaj,

What have you done with Kaminey? You have created a big problem for rest of the Hindi film industry and the organizers of different movie award nights. How will they not nominate your film for Best Picture (Filmfare and IIFA did not nominate Omkara in the category while Krrish and Dhoom II found mention) and if they do, how will they nominate a 150-crore grossing, mindless-sexist-racist comedy in the same category? This is not fair.

Yours sincerely,
Bollywood well-wisher

Coming back to Kaminey, it is pure cinematic brilliance. Take a bow Vishal Bharadwaj; you have made a classic that will be talked about in the decades to come. From start to finish it is a roller coaster ride and one does not get time to catch a breath. There is not one thing that does not work for this film… story, dialogues, acting, music, lyrics, cinematography, editing, everything is first rate and it all comes together in an absolutely Kameeni film.

Kaminey is about identical twins, Charlie and Guddu (played by Shahid Kapur); the former lisps (says ‘f’ in place of ‘s’) and the latter stutters. Both of them have chosen different paths in life; Charlie is involved in a gang and can do anything to achieve his dream of becoming a bookie at the race course, Guddu on the other hand works with an NGO and loves spending time with his fiery Marathi girlfriend, Sweety (Priyanka Chopra). For Guddu, Charlie is as good as dead and Charlie prefers a Kaali Billi (black cat) to his manhoof(s) (inauspicious) brother. One fateful night their lives get intertwined and they have to save their dreams along with their lives.

In his career best performance, Shahid has done a fantabulous job of bringing alive, two distinct and difficult characters – Charlie and Guddu. He lives up to the super high expectations and is the new superstar (one who can act) on Bollywood’s horizon. Priyanka Chopra is simply delightful as Sweety; she is feisty, romantic, strong and vulnerable, all in one. Once again the best I have seen of her till date. There are many more characters including corrupt police officers, a trio of Bengali gangster brothers, a flamboyant drug-lord and African smugglers, amongst others. But there are two supporting characters that stand out… Amol Gupte as Bhope Bhau, a Maharashtra loving gangster cum aspiring politician who dislikes immigrants in his city especially those from Uttar Pradesh; and Chandan Roy Sanyal as Mikhail, Charlie’s coke-addict, whimsical best friend.

Vishal has done a great job in the writing department. The script based on an idea by Cajetan Boy, a writer from Nairobi, is taut and keeps the viewers hooked with plenty of twists and turns. One cannot afford to go out for popcorn or even answer a text message as the screenplay is arranged like a jigsaw puzzle and you are supposed to fit in all the pieces, no spoon feeding by the director here. There are so many characters and no time to develop them, Vishal does not bother with that and lets you discover them through their actions. There is tremendous attention to detail that builds these characters. For example, Bhope Bhau is shown checking his blood sugar level while barking orders to his gang members, establishing the fact that he is diabetic.

Dialogues in the film are simply mind-blowing, sample these… Charlie says, “Yeh life badi kutti cheez hai” (life is a bitch) and “Paifa kamaane ke do raafte hain, ek fhort cut aur doofra chhota fhort cut” (there are two ways to earn money, short cut and a shorter short cut). Sweety says, “Kya maine rape kiya tha tumhara” (did I rape you?). There are many more moments in the film that will make you laugh out loud and at the same time shock you.

Vishal once again strikes gold in the music and the background score department. Starting with ‘Dhan te nan’ (Sukhwinder Singh and Vishal Dadlani create magic here), the signature tune in the film to the slow numbers (the title track, ‘Mere raaste kaminey’ and the ballad, ‘Pehli baar mohabbat ki hai’), the music is outstanding. What I really loved is the usage of two male and two female voices for the same song, ‘Raat Ke Dhai Baje’ (Rekha Bharadwaj, Sunidhi Chauhan, Kunal Ganjawala and Suresh Wadkar) and ‘Fatak’ (Sukhwinder Singh and Kailash Kher). Gulzar as usual has penned some out-of-the-box and brilliant lyrics. All these songs are weaved beautifully in the narrative and with the crisp editing you are almost left asking for more. The background score uses the ‘Dhan te nan’ theme extremely well and some catchy numbers from the 70s like ‘Duniya mein logo ko dhoka koi ho jaata hai’.

Tassaduq Hussain’s cinematography is amazing and you are not treated to perfect still frames which add to the entire experience. He has mostly used a hand-held camera to capture the rain-drenched city of Mumbai. Meghna Manchanda Sen and A. Sreekar Prasad deliver on the editing, which can make or break a caper like this. Dolly Ahluwalia’s styling and Sham Kaushal’s action are also brilliant.

What elfe fhall I fay about thif film… it if the beft film I have feen fince Aamir Khan’s Taare Zameen Par. Kaminey if a film with an attitude… I ftrongly recommend thif awefome flick, don’t miff it and watch it in a theatre.

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

Pic source: in.movies.yahoo

Pic source: in.movies.yahoo.com