Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani

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

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani;
Pic Source: Wikipedia

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

We accept the love we think we deserve…

Pic Source: Wikipedia

Stephen Chbosky’s beautiful novel (1999), The Perks of Being a Wallflower, can be summed up in this one line from the book – “We accept the love we think we deserve”. Told from the point of view of a freshman year student, Charlie, it is a coming-of-age story about friendship and love, insecurities and fear, exclusion and acceptance. Last year, the author managed to do something exceptional – he adapted (screenplay, direction) the acclaimed novel to a superior motion picture. Yes, in my opinion The Perks of Being a Wallflower is one of those rare films that surpass the beauty of its much-loved source material. It is also the most ignored film of 2012 with none of the major film award shows acknowledging the film and the fine performances by the three lead actors. For me it is not only one of the best films of 2012 but also among my favourite films of all time.

Charlie (Logan Lerman) is a shy teenager who in his own words is both happy and sad. He is nervous about high-school and his only real friend committed suicide a year ago. He hates school till he meets two seniors, Sam (Emma Watson) and Patrick (Ezra Miller), who become his best friends and much more. Sam is a free-spirited girl with excellent taste in music; she is smart, beautiful but not popular because of her excesses in the freshman year. Her step-brother, Patrick is flamboyant, witty and in love with a jock from the school football team. Sam and Patrick welcome Charlie to the island of misfit toys and for the first time Charlie feels like he belongs somewhere. They understand him and celebrate him for what he is – a wallflower that sees things, keeps quiet about them and understands.

Writer-director, Chbosky makes us a part of this intimate group of friends and we find ourselves driving with them through a tunnel, listening to mix tapes and feeling infinite; drinking and playing truth-and-dare; having a crush and falling in love; sharing their disappointments and consoling them when they suffer heartbreaks. The Perks of Being a Wallflower is sincere, heartfelt and very well acted. Emma Watson manages to break free from the image of Hermione (Harry Potter series) and delivers a mature performance… for me she is no longer a young witch from Hogwarts but Sam of “Slut and the Falcon” fame (watch the trailer below to know why, or better watch the film).  Logan Lerman is also the introvert Charlie now and not Percy Jackson (which isn’t a great franchise in my opinion anyway). But the show stealer is Ezra Miller who has the smartest lines and gets to showcase a wide range of emotions. He is one fine actor who is at equal ease with a likeable character like Patrick and a disturbing one like Kevin in 2011’s We Need to Talk About Kevin. The film has an interesting cast of supporting actors including Paul Rudd as Charlie’s English teacher, Joan Cusack as his psychiatrist, Mae Whitman and Johnny Simmons as other students.

The film has an interesting soundtrack; it’s actually a mix tape with songs by various artists and original score by Michael Brook. My favourite track is the catchy song that plays in the film’s trailer also; it’s called “It’s Time” by a band named Imagine Dragons. The cinematography is nice with Andrew Dunn maintaining an intimate feel along with the 90s look for the film. Congratulations to Mr. Rudd Productions (the guys who made Juno) and Summit Entertainment (distribution) for backing this gem of a film.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is now available on DVD in the US and for digital download on iTunes/amazon. I also recommend reading the book, which is simply unputdownable.

Udaan

Fly High…

Pic: UTV Spotboy; Source: Wikipedia

There are a very few films that stay on your mind for hours, days and even more after you’ve watched them… Debutant director, Vikramaditya Motwane’s Udaan is one such film. Its beauty is in its simplicity and honesty that touches your heart. Udaan wins in each and every aspect but the real winner is the story/screenplay (credit shared by Motwane and the film’s producer, Anurag Kashyap). It is a coming-of-age film, a genre rarely touched upon by Indian filmmakers; a couple of good ones I remember are Wake Up Sid (2009) starring Ranbir Kapoor and Saaheb (1985) starring Anil Kapoor. Udaan was also screened at the Cannes Film Festival this year under the Un Certain Regard category, which is how it got noticed in India and am glad it opened well in cinemas this week.

Udaan is the story of a 17-year-old motherless boy, Rohan (Rajat Barmecha), his dreams and aspirations. The film opens in a boarding school in Simla where Rohan has spent 8 years without anyone visiting him. His friends are his family and the initial few scenes of him breaking school rules with his friends involve you instantly in the story as you connect with Rohan and his friend Muninder (Manjot Singh of Oye Lucky Lucky Oye fame). Rohan is made to return to his father, Bhairav Singh (Ronit Roy) in the industrial town of Jamshedpur. Life changes for Rohan from this point onwards as his dreams of becoming a writer are shot down by his authoritarian father who prefers being addressed as Sir. He is forced to attend an engineering college and work in his father’s steel factory. In Jamshedpur, he also meets his younger step-brother, Arjun (Aayan Boradia) whose existence was not known to him earlier. An abusive relationship with his father, hardships at work and distance from his friends do not limit Rohan’s imagination as he struggles to find his way to break free.

Rajat Barmecha makes a brilliant debut in the film as he brings alive the vulnerability, the hatred, the spirit and the dreams of Rohan’s character on-screen. The little kid, Aayan Boradia is also very good and is able to emote well in all his silent sequences. Hats off to Ronit Roy for taking up a complex character like Bhairav, who you end up hating and also feel sorry for. The casting is perfect (Jogi) and so is the setting (production designer – Aditya Kanwar) that suits the mood of the film. The director is able to bring alive the thinking of a frustrated business man from a small town and contrast it well with a free-spirited youngster. The scenes between Rohan and Bhairav are tense and disturbing at times; imagine a drunken father slapping his son and ridiculing him for being a virgin; he says, “Sex kiye ho… nahin! Ladki saala!” (Have you had sex… no! What a wimp). But mind you, Udaan is not depressing; it is anything but that; it is a film about the triumph of spirit.

Technically also, Udaan is perfect with good cinematography (Mahendra J Shetty) that captures the changing moods through the rains and fine editing (Dipika Kalra). Amit Trivedi’s music is also beautiful, not as popular as his Dev D but a really good soundtrack. Sample these motivating lyrics (Amitabh Bhattacharya) that sum up the film… ‘kahaani khatm hai, ya shuruaat hone ko hai…’ (Is the story coming to an end or is it the beginning…) Go watch Udaan, you won’t regret it…

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

– Shrey Khetarpal