Ladies vs Ricky Bahl

This is no Band Baaja Baaraat…

Pic: Yash Raj Films; Source: Wikipedia

From the makers of the super-fun, Band Baaja Baaraat (BBB) comes a not-so-fun film, Ladies Vs. Ricky Bahl (LVRB). The latest Ranveer SinghAnushka Sharma starrer promised the same energy, attitude and excitement as the last year’s surprise hit, BBB but sadly failed to do so. It is certainly not a bad film but disappoints by being mediocre, coming from the same team that presented a crackling entertainer not so long ago. I hate to compare the two films but that’s how this film was promoted.

Directed by Maneesh Sharma, the film has an interesting first half where the stories of three women getting conned by the same guy are presented (story, Aditya Chopra; screenplay, Devika Bhagat). However, the second half gets predictable as these three hire another girl to con the original conman. While the plot is nothing new, the treatment could have made the film more engaging and fun. Ranveer Singh as Ricky Bahl who appears in the film in many other characters is good and his hard work shows on screen. Anushka (as Ishika Desai) is her usual confident, bubbly self but needs to break out of this mould in her future films as we’ve seen her do the same thing many times now. The supporting characters include three other actresses who have been cast well. Dipannita Sharma as a successful career woman, Raina Parulekar from Mumbai is good and so is Aditi Sharma who plays a soft spoken widow from Lucknow. But the real star of the film is Parineeti Chopra who owns every scene she appears in; she plays Dimple Chaddha, the spoilt daughter of a rich estate agent from Delhi. Habib Faisal (dialogues) has given her the best lines and she says them in an endearingly tacky manner (what we loved about BBB). I can promise you that the internet term for laughing out loud, ‘LOL’ will not remain the same for you once you’ve seen this film.

Another thing that does not work for the film is its music (Salim-Sulaiman). None of the songs are above average and act as good concession stand / loo breaks. Ladies Vs. Ricky Bahl is a half baked attempt at a con film as the love angle ruins it. Bollywood or Yash Raj Films, can we not have a mean con artist film that is funny but without a sappy love story?

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

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The Dirty Picture

Vidya Balan is Silk, and Silk is entertainment

The Dirty Picture; Source: Wikipedia

“Silk is the only hero in this industry”, says a film journalist in The Dirty Picture and after watching the film, I can also say, Vidya Balan is the only hero in the Hindi film industry. Not because she has ‘dared to bare’ but the conviction with which she’s played the character of Silk – a dancing star from the eighties who knows her sexuality is her biggest strength. While most actors claim to prepare for their roles, there is rarely a performance where an actor completely lets go of any inhibitions and becomes the character on screen. This is where Vidya wins; she looks good, she looks fat, she looks ugly, but she looks and behaves like the charater, Silk in the film.

Apart from Vidya, The Dirty Picture works because of its entertainment factor and Rajat Arora’s sassy writing plays a major role. The dialogues are provocative, shocking and dirty, true to the film’s name. Director, Milan Luthria packs a punch in the first half; however the film goes downward like the lead character’s career in the second half. It starts with a village girl, Reshma (Balan) coming to Madras with big dreams. She struggles, sleeps hungry and almost gives up, till someone offers her Rs. 20 to sleep with him. Her life changes, she gets a big break and the attention of the reigning superstar, Suryakant (Naseeruddin Shah). Silk’s journey to the heights of stardom is extremely entertaining and engaging where two other men appear in her life; Ramakant (Tusshar sans Kapoor), an upcoming writer in awe of her persona and Abraham (Emraan Hashmi), a director who hates Silk and what she stands for. The film soars in the first hour and a half but the last hour is poorly executed as suddenly you feel disconnected from Silk while you’re supposed to empathise with her.

Naseeruddin Shah once again delivers a spectacular performance as a manipulative and selfish star, for whom, women are just objects to entertain. He also has the best lines in the film and manages to match up to Vidya’s pizzazz in an elaborate dance number with kitschy costumes, over the top sets and raunchy moves. The song, ‘Ooh La La…’ is the film’s highlight (Vishal Shekhar – music composers); Bappi Lahiri and Shreya Ghoshal capture the mood perfectly with their vocals and lyrics by Rajat Arora. The other song that works is ‘Nakka Mukka’, which is borrowed (legally) from a Tamil film; it has a catchy beat and helps showcase Silk’sbombaat’ attitude at various intervals during the film. The rest of the soundtrack is nothing great. Coming back to the actors, Emraan Hashmi does a fairly decent job and proves that he can be taken seriously as an actor now. Tusshar tries hard but fades in front of Vidya and Naseer’s powerhouse performances.

The film’s costume designer, Niharika Khan deserves a special mention for capturing the tackiness and razzmatazz of that era and the characters. There is a lot of cleavage on show but I guess that’s another reason the makers (producer, Ekta Kapoor) chose Vidya as the leading lady – her traditional and family oriented off-screen image helped keep the focus on the character and not on the sleaze.

The Dirty Picture is a brave film and shows how Indian filmmakers and the censors have grown – a heroine centric film can be commercially successful and Indians can handle bold subject matter. Go watch the film for three things, as clearly articulated by Silk“entertainment, entertainment and entertainment”.

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

Rockstar

The Magic of Kapoor, Rahman & Chauhan

Imtiaz Ali’s Rockstar features three rockstars – the leading actor, Ranbir Kapoor in his best performance till date; A R Rahman with a brilliant soundtrack and Mohit Chauhan, whose vocals infuse magic in Rahman’s score and Kapoor’s performance. The other thing that works and does not work in equal parts is the film’s screenplay by Ali. The film has a good premise and the first half is engaging; however, the second half drags and you want it to get over quickly.

Writer-director, Imtiaz Ali knows how to handle romance well and like his earlier films (Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met, Love Aaj Kal),

Rockstar also features confused lovers who separate and then re-discover love for each other. However, this film is as much about music, as it is a love story. The film’s most memorable and impactful parts are about Ranbir’s musical journey… from a young aspiring singer who is not sure what his music is lacking to the heart-broken, frustrated and bitter rockstar who does not like himself. Coming back to the love story; while there is Ali’s tried & tested formula and Ranbir’s passionate portrayal of someone madly in love; the romance in the film does not work, mainly because of the leading lady, Nargis Fakhri. She looks beautiful but her complete inability to act does not allow you as a viewer to feel for her character. She fails to bring alive the exuberance of a free-spirited college girl as well as the tragedy of a woman in a doomed romance.

Ranbir Kapoor as Janardhan Jakhar, a young Jat boy from Delhi is charming and endearing. His mispronunciation of English words and the Haryanvi accent highlight the character’s innocence and simplicity. As an actor Ranbir soars as he makes an effortless transition from Janardhan to Jordan – a rising musician to a rebellious star. He brings in a lot of passion and sincerity in his performance, which becomes the film’s biggest strength. Special mention for the film’s stylist, Aki Narula who has done a brilliant job in building the character; he presents Janardhan in cheap denims and hand-knit sweaters, and Jordan in a disheveled, eclectic look.

Ranbir, Shammi Kapoor; http://www.rockstarthefilm.com

The film is full of memorable moments and most of them are linked to its beautiful soundtrack (lyrics: Irshad Kamil). True to the film’s title, A R Rahman uses a lot of guitar in the score but the real magic comes alive with the use of sufi, folk and classical forms. The instrumental, ‘Dichotomy of Fame’ shot with Ranbir on guitar and the late Shammi Kapoor on shehnai is pure cinematic and musical genius (Balesh on shehnai & Kabuli on guitar). ‘Sadda Haq’ by Mohit Chauhan has already reached the levels of a youth anthem; ‘Nadaan Parinde’ with Rahman and Chauhan’s vocals grows on you and so does ‘Katiya Karun’ (Harshdeep Kaur & Sapna Awasthi). However, the big music moment of Rockstar that does not leave your mind long after the film is over, is the sufi track, ‘Kun Faya Kun’ with Rahman, Chauhan and Javed Ali’s voice and a brilliantly shot video at Hazrat Nizamuddin Dargah in Delhi. With nine out of the fourteen tracks featuring his vocals, it is undoubtedly Chauhan’s big album; he brings alive the pain and the agony that matches Kapoor’s sincere performance brilliantly.

While Kapoor, Rahman and Chauhan took the film to the next level; the film’s tedious length, sloppy second half and Ms. Fakhri’s acting pulled it down. Rockstar is a film that could have been great cinema but is still a great piece of art in many departments. It is a film to watch and to watch it in a theatre to experience the music in Dolby digital sound and no less…

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

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

Soundtrack

 

Nice film, which could have been good…

Soundtrack; Pic courtesy: SAREGAMA

First time director, Neerav Ghosh’s Soundtrack is an interesting film… it’s not technically perfect or impactful cinema that makes you think; it’s simply an interesting story told with above average performances. And these days in Bollywood, that’s good enough considering the trash that makes it to the big screen. I am not saying that we promote mediocrity but it’s good that certain filmmakers are experimenting with different stories, formats and genres. Soundtrack is one such film – it has a fresh story (for Bollywood), inspired by the Canadian film, ‘It’s All Gone Pete Tong’, which apparently is based on a true incident.

Soundtrack is about an emerging musician, DJ Raunak (Rajeev Khandelwal) whose career in Bollywood is just about to take off when he suddenly turns deaf. The first half of the film presents Raunak’s story from the time he arrives in Mumbai till he achieves acceptance and success in the music industry. He is not only passionate about his art but is almost arrogant about his talent. His success is accompanied by a so-called ‘rockstar’ lifestyle defined by drugs, alcohol and sex. The film’s second half focuses on Raunak dealing with his handicap and finding music in his life again.

Armed with a super premise, one would expect the filmmaker to deliver an impactful film that shocks and inspires you. However, the film falters on both aspects. The first half is very long and the party sequences look tacky. Rajeev also looks a little uncomfortable playing an arrogant guy who is almost always stoned or drunk or both. However, in the second half he is very good as a man who has lost what he valued the most in his life – his music. The film’s leading lady, Soha Ali Khan is also introduced in the second half and has an interesting character. I will not reveal her role but she does deliver a good performance. Another notable performance in the film is by Mohan Kapoor, who plays the owner of the club where Raunak plays initially and later his friend cum opportunistic manager.

While the basic plot and lead actors’ performances keep Soundtrack engaging; the writers’ (Neerav Ghosh, Rajiv Gopalakrishnan, Chintan Gandhi) attempt to make it smarter and arty pulls the film down. Scenes involving Raunak’s alter-ego, represented by a Joker are boring and silly. Also, the makers did not care about authenticity at all; many sequences, especially the ones on the beach are shot at an exotic location abroad while the film is set in Mumbai. Cinematography (Anshuman Mahaley) is not impressive and the editing (Sanjey Roderick, Ambar Vyas) leaves a lot to be desired. The biggest factor that does not work in Soundtrack’s favour is its soundtrack; the music (Midival Punditz, Karsh Kale) is average and does not impress while in the film, it’s supposed to be chartbuster material. Having said that, Soundtrack is a nice film and I recommend watching it once.

My rating: * * * Almost three on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster

Oh see, they have a script…

Meet Saheb (Jimmy Sheirgill), a royal who has the status but no money; Chhoti Rani (Mahie Gill), his alcoholic and volatile biwi (wife) and Babloo (Randeep Hooda), a local goon (can’t really call him a gangster) who becomes her driver and later, lover. Tigmanshu Dhulia’sSaheb Biwi Aur Gangster’ lives up to the interesting title and keeps you engaged till the last sequence. In a time where film makers struggle to have a basic plot or present downright stupid stuff, Dhulia’s film has an interesting story (written by Dhulia himself and Sanjay Chouhan) and some interesting dialogue (cheesy at times though). Having said that, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster falls short of being a perfect thriller due to its length.

The film’s strength, as mentioned earlier is its writing; while the story is largely predictable, you enjoy the numerous twists and turns in the screenplay. The other good thing about the film is an interesting cast and all of them justify their roles. Jimmy Sheirgill has great screen presence and his stylist helps him get the perfect royal look and demeanour. He is also an interesting choice to play a raja who has different moral yardsticks for himself and others; you don’t dislike him and yet you do not approve of his actions. Mahie Gill is confident and brings equal amount of madness and vulnerability to the character. And lastly, Randeep Hooda who is the surprise factor in the film; he shows how much he has grown as an actor since his first appearance as an NRI in Monsoon Wedding. He is convincing as a cheeky driver who has other motives on mind. His body language changes basis who he interacts with; he is submissive with Saheb and rogue with Saheb’s Biwi. The supporting cast however disappoints a bit as no one stands out; Deepal Shaw is completely wasted in a character that doesn’t grow.

The film’s music is nothing that you’d remember but the opening track, Jugni (vocals: Babbu Maan; music: Jaidev Kumar) is catchy and has some funny lyrics. The songs, especially the one where Saheb’s mistress is introduced could have been avoided. They do not help the movie but act as speed bumps in the otherwise engaging narrative.  Aseem Mishra’s cinematography is nice and so is the production design; they help set the right mood, which could have been a challenge keeping in mind the setting and the low budget of the film. The editor, Rahul Srivastava could have been a little bit more brutal and kept the film under two-hours to maintain the pace. Overall, Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster is an interesting one time watch if you’re willing to forgive some silly things here and there.

My rating: * * * Three on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Mere Brother Ki Dulhan

Like Flat Cola…

MBKD; Source: Wikipedia

Let me begin by confessing that I have been a big fan of Yash Raj brand of cinema with beautiful people dressed in designer wear, great locales, melodious music, large family celebrations and of course a love story somewhere in all this. Having said that, I also applaud the innovative ideas and fresh concepts they’ve been presenting on-screen over the last decade. However, their latest offering Mere Brother Ki Dulhan doesn’t live up to the high standards of Yash Raj romances, nor it stands out based on an innovative concept.

The film’s title gives away the basic plot, the leading man falls in love with his brother’s bride-to-be; which is something we have seen earlier in Sorry Bhai (2008) and The Family Stone (2005). Of course, all three films are different in their treatment and Mere Brother Ki Dulhan (MBKD) appeared to be a light entertainer; it is light, yes; but entertainer? No.

MBKD is a story about two brothers, Luv (Ali Zafar of Tere Bin Laden fame) who is based in London and Kush (Imran Khan), an Indian film maker. The two brothers love and understand each other so much that the elder one, Luv asks the younger one to find him an Indian bride. Here we are treated to Tanu Weds Manu style scenes where Kush and family go from town to town meeting weird girls and their families over samosas and jalebis. Finally he’s able to find a suitable match for his brother, the beautiful and rebellious, Dimple (Katrina Kaif). Luv and Dimple approve the alliance after a short video chat and the two families move into a guest house in Delhi to simultaneously plan and celebrate the wedding. Kush and Dimple immerse themselves into the wedding preparations and having loads of fun before Luv arrives. You can easily guess what happens next so I will stop here with the plot.

The problem with the film is not only the predictable story (writer, director: Ali Abbas Zafar; not the actor) but lack of any excitement and fun. The crackling chemistry we saw between the lead pair in Yash Raj’s last shaadi style film, Band Baaja Baaraat is completely missing in this one. There are good looking actors in the film but they don’t light up the screen together; plus they all appear to be trying too hard to be funny. Even the songs that usually set the tone for a wedding themed film are completely flat and boring (music: Sohail Sen).

Watch it if you are a Katrina fan as she gets maximum scope in the film; though I’d recommend watching Band Baaja Baaraat again on DVD.

My rating: ** Two on five

 

Bodyguard

If you are bored of logic, this is the film for you…

Bodyguard; Reliance Entertainment

By now I hope everyone knows what to expect from an action-comedy starring Salman Khan… if you still look for a decent story or even logic in the film then you are really slow and should get yourself checked (seriously, a dog learns faster than you!) Also, if you are incapable of enjoying such a film without using a shred of your brain then I recommend watching it after a terrible work week / day or under the influence of alcohol. Now coming to the point; this post is supposed to be a review of Salman’s latest blockbuster, Bodyguard and I am tempted to copy-paste my review of Ready. However, in order to sustain the small readership of my blog, I will try (not promising) to write something different unlike the Salman movie template that filmmakers are using so successfully these days.

First things first, I enjoyed Bodyguard. I know I just lost 90 points on the film snob scale but yes I am guilty of helping the film earn over a billion rupees in just 4 days. Before booking the tickets I knew that the film will be a senseless collation of action scenes and crude jokes. That clear setting of expectations helped me not only sit through the film but laugh at it. Management schools and our so called spiritual gurus can use his films and apply these learnings to business and life. More about that later and back to the film for now… Since I have talked about the template to make a hit Salman film; let me share the same with Bodyguard in focus. Please note it is an exclusive reveal for the readers of this blog…

  • Choose a South Indian hit film to remake with Khanon Mein Khan, Salman Khan. If you use the same writer-director then you don’t have to pay extra royalties; economies of scale you see. Bodyguard is written and directed by Siddique who has made the film in three other languages (Malayalam, Tamil and Telugu).
  • Assign a cute name for Salman’s character – Radhe in Wanted, Chulbul Pandey in Dabangg and Lovely Singh in Bodyguard.
  • Be very careful to ensure any amount of authenticity or realistic elements should not creep into the film. Keep it as unrealistic and unbelievable as possible. Action sequences that seem impossible and even ridiculous must be incorporated. Think of stuff like a big wooden crate full of tiny thermocol balls falling on Salman and shattering into pieces. Bodyguard manages to do that very well including a nightclub dhishoom-dhishoom scene where he kills many people without the police getting to know anything.
  • Be innovative in the ways to showcase Salman’s body… usual wind is passé; think of bulging muscles leading to the shirt tearing itself like Dabangg. In Bodyguard, they use a powerful jet of water that throws his shirt away from his body.
  • Never compromise on technology as that’s the future… A killer remote controlled helicopter toy that has razor sharp rotor blades and can cut everything – potted plants, glass doors or the heroine’s delicate neck; Bodyguard nails this part. This is better than Ironman!
  • At least one character who would get beaten up by Salman, by the mob and anyone who appears in the film. This character is designed to endure any sort of humiliation and physical abuse like burning his bum with a hot iron. There is one in Bodyguard too, named Tsunami Singh (Rajat Rawail).
  • A huge list of baddies whom Salman can beat up and break their bones like twigs. They are supposed to be after his life or the heroine’s life without, please note this is important, without any solid reason.
  • Songs that have ridiculous lyrics but are catchy; these can be placed in the film at regular intervals and one need not worry about their connection with the story. Himesh Reshammiya and Pritam have done a good job in Bodyguard and you can’t help but enjoy the title track and the Desi Beat song. However, they are not as iconic as Salman’s Dabangg and Ready numbers.
  • Give a killer line to Salman that all the auto-rickshaw wallahs and cabbies can use and paint on their vehicles. Bodyguard does not disappoint on this front and has given us this gem: “Mujh par ek ehsaan karna, ki mujh par koi ehsaan na karna” (please do me a favour by not doing any favour for me).
  • The heroine – now this is where you can bring variety and there is no fixed description in the template except the low IQ clause for the character. You can either hire an A-lister like Kareena or a newbie like Sonakshi or even a not so successful actress like Ayesha Takia. This completely depends on the filmmaker’s budget. However, I must admit that Kareena looks good in Bodyguard.

The other things that are not very important are good editing and being politically correct in your writing as you can pass off anything under the garb of humour.

This is a perfect template of making an action-comedy blockbuster but ONLY with Salman Khan in the lead. 80% of the film’s success depends on his sheer presence there. His loyal fans ensure that the weekend collections do not disappoint. Do not try this recipe with Viveik Oberoi or any other actor.

Do watch Bodyguard if you are a Salman fan or are simply tired of logic in your life.

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Stanley, Kalam, Books and a Lunchbox

Films that touch your heart…

Pic: I Am Kalam; Smile Foundation

There is Kalam and there is Stanley… one gets to eat but not study, the other gets to go to a school but doesn’t get enough food. I Am Kalam and Stanley Ka Dabba are two brilliant films that sensitively portray issues like hunger, child labour and poverty. However, none go into the depressing documentary mode and the mood in both the films is uplifting, even if they leave your eyes moist.

Directed by Nila Madhab Panda, I Am Kalam is a story about a poor Rajasthani boy named Chhotu who works at a dhaba (roadside food stall) and dreams of becoming a tie-wearing officer. He likes to study but has no means to fulfil his desire to go to a school. He is inspired by President APJ Abdul Kalam’s motivational words that there is nothing called destiny, your life is shaped by your karma (actions). He even names himself after the President and insists on being called Kalam. His learning continues as he interacts and learns from the foreigners who visit the dhaba. He also makes friends with a young prince from an erstwhile royal family who stays in the nearby palace turned heritage hotel.

The filmmaker portrays the stark contrast between the two Indias we live in through these two kids; one who has everything and the other bereft of his basic rights. Without any doubt, the film belongs to the two child artistes, Harsh Mayar (Chhotu / Kalam) and Hussan Saad (Prince Ranvijay); their performance is natural and effortless. In comparison, the adult supporting cast looks amateurish.   Do watch I Am Kalam for its simple story-telling and the big message.

Pic: Stanley Ka Dabba; FOX Star

The other film, Stanley Ka Dabba shows how well the director, Amole Gupte understands kids and how filmmaking can be all heart. As the name suggests, the film is about a school kid, Stanley and his lunch box, actually his non-existent lunch box. While his classmates are kind and share their dabbas (lunch boxes) with him; his Hindi teacher, Verma Sir aka Khadoos (Amole) disapproves and eats their food himself.

Filmed at an actual school during four hour workshops on Saturdays, Stanley Ka Dabba is a triumph of good story telling and simplicity. Partho Gupte is perfect as Stanley and the other kids who play his friends are equally endearing and at ease in front of the camera. Do catch the film on DVD if you missed it on big screen.

My rating:

I Am Kalam: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five

Stanley Ka Dabba: * * * ½ Three and a half stars on five

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara

Philosophy, fun and travel porn… 

Pic: Excel Ent; Source: Wikipedia

Zoya Akhtar (director) gave us Luck By Chance, a beautiful and sensitive film that sadly not many watched… I guess she realized that her off-beat sensibilities need better commercial sheen to appeal to a wider audience in India. Her next film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara (ZNMD) is not a regular potboiler but is packaged like one (smarter though) with beautiful people who travel first class, buy Birkins and drive through exotic locations in vintage cars.

Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara is a film about friendship and discovering what you want from life… after all you only get to live once. It is a story about three friends on a road trip that changes their lives; it is a simple plot but the way it is presented is what makes all the difference (screenplay: Zoya and Reema Kagti).  The film has a light mood, many fun moments and you are constantly reminded that there’s one life to live. All this is packaged beautifully in an extended Spain Tourism show-reel! No, I am not complaining. It is almost like travel porn where beautiful images just keep coming on the screen and you start dreaming about visiting the place (cinematography: Carlos Catalan); from bright yellow corals in blue waters to wild horses running along your car; art galleries, charming cafés to the world’s biggest food fight, La Tomatina.

At about 135 minutes, the film is a bit too long and a little bit of brutal editing would have helped (editing: Anand Subaya); but at the same time the film’s relaxed pace lets you enjoy the moments and the visuals. Dialogues by Farhan Akhtar are witty and bring a smile to your face; a lot of the scenes remind you of your conversations with your friends. That’s where ZNMD wins, the film doesn’t try too hard to make you laugh or cry; it just involves you in what’s happening.

The actors have all done a fine job with Kalki and Katrina emerging as surprise packages. They fit the characters perfectly; Kalki of a SOBO girl who loves her Chanels and Hermés and is possessive of her fiancé; and Katrina of a half-Indian fashion student cum diving instructor. Both the girls appear quite natural and you don’t mind their accents as well. Amongst the boys, Farhan walks away with the coolest lines, except the poetry that wasn’t really required; Abhay is cool and Hrithik is alright. I say alright, because he’s done a fine job except a few scenes where you wonder if the brief to him was to over-act (look out for a scene involving a video-call with a Japanese client). Spanish actress, Adriana Cabrol has a small and likeable role.

Music by Shankar, Ehsaan & Loy grows on you (lyrics: Javed Akhtar); while ‘Dil Dhadakne Do’, ‘Ik Junoon’ and ‘Senorita’ songs have become extremely popular, ‘Khaabon Ke Parindey’ is a beautiful track that stays with you (vocals: Alyssa Mendonsa and Mohit Chauhan). The only funny piece in the otherwise likeable background score is a little instrumental piece from ‘Saare Jahan Se Accha Hindustaan Hamara’ that plays right before the lead actors go for sky-diving.

Overall, ZNMD is an enjoyable film if you don’t get irritated with the whole lifestyle-of-the-rich-and-famous presentation. It has an interesting theme and of course the USP, the breathtakingly beautiful, Spain. 

Nos vemos en España amigos.

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

Pic: Excel Entertainment