Rowdy Rathore

Rain is good, film is bad…

Pic source: Wikipedia

I enjoyed Wanted and Dabangg and Singham… so I am not against big budget masala films that have exaggerated, and at times ridiculous plots. But I am against badly made films that are made with one assumption in mind – that the audience is dumb. Prabhudheva’s Rowdy Rathore featuring Akshay Kumar and Sonakshi Sinha falls in the latter category. Mindless entertainment if done well works but that also requires some thought and not mindless collation of scenes like Rowdy Rathore (RR) – 15 comic, 12 emotional, 11½ action (½ extra for slow motion), 10 regressive, 5 sexist, 35 WTF was that, peppered with a zillion average songs (music – Sajid Wajid).

I have talked about the best ways to enjoy such films earlier  in my post about Salman Khan’s Ready; it essentially tells you to give in and laugh at the stupidity you see on screen. I tried doing all that during RR but with limited success. The first forty-five minutes of the film are unbearably bad and require all your will power and laziness combined to not leave the theatre.

At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to Shiva (Akshay), a small time thief / con-man who has this weird theme song-cum-slogan – Chin Ta Ta Chita Chita (the director very kindly explains the meaning in the second half). We are also introduced to Paro (Sonakshi), a girl from Patna who is visiting Mumbai for a wedding and falls for the first guy she sees on the streets; it doesn’t matter if he’s a thug, in fact his honesty about his ‘profession’ impresses her the most. Her hobbies include displaying her ample midriff and dancing skills. Ok, now forget Sonakshi till the last half an hour of the film where she’ll make an appearance again for 3 scenes and another dance number. At this point, the director adds a lot of confusion with an ornate wooden trunk full of teddy bears and a little girl; a case of mistaken identity (we meet Akshay Kumar 2 aka Vikram Rathore); angry weapon-wielding goons from Bihar, running around the streets of Mumbai. There is however one scene before the interval that is thoroughly enjoyable, where our hero is badly injured – has been stabbed by a 15-inch knife and has some trouble with a blood vessel in his brain. But just like Jaadu, the sunlight loving alien from Koi Mil Gaya, he regains his energy and powers with rain drops. I must applaud the special effects team for creating the most impressive first rain drop in that sequence and tracing its journey from the clouds to Rathore’s forehead.

The action shifts to a small lawless town in Bihar in the second half; and we get to solve the mystery of the mad goons who visit Mumbai with swords, axes and lathis. Writer, Shiraz Ahmed and director, Prabhudheva add everything here to make it 90s style masala potboiler – there’s abduction, rape, murder, ugly giant villain, song, dance, forced comedy, car blasts, dhishoom-dhishoom and a lot more. All this also does not make RR an enjoyable, mindless flick.

Rowdy Rathore is amongst the worst films I have seen in the recent times but it still doesn’t beat Akshay’s other best worst films – Chandni Chowk To China and Tees Maar Khan. Watch it if you are a big Akshay fan or just save your hard earned money.

 

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The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel

The old & the beautiful

Pic Source: Wikipedia

There should be a separate genre of films called ‘heartwarming’, where we can put films like ‘We Bought a Zoo’, ‘50/50’ and ‘The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel’. These films do not brush aside life’s problems but treat them in a sensitive and uplifting manner… the stories are always simple, yet touch your heart and I am not at all embarrassed to say that they make me cry. These are not depressing films and the tears are more often related to joy and the eventual triumph of the human spirit. John Madden’s The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is one such film that is sweet, simple, heartwarming and entertaining.

The film follows seven British retirees who decide to spend their autumn years in exotic and affordable India. From a recently widowed housewife to a racist retired housekeeper; a former high court judge to a bitter couple and two old-birds in search of love and one-night stands; there are plenty of interesting characters in the film. After an eventful journey, they all land up at The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel in Jaipur, a crumbling property that is nothing like the photo-shopped images they saw online. The dilapidated hotel is run by an ambitious yet scatterbrained manager cum owner, Sonny (Dev Patel) who has this interesting business plan of outsourcing retirement.

Written by Ol Parker, the film has a stellar cast comprising of some of the finest British actors including Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson, Bill Nighy, Maggie Smith, Penelope Wilton, Celia Imrie and Ronald Pickup. Needless to say, they all are fabulous and each one has a touching story. However, Judi Dench, Tom Wilkinson and Maggie Smith steal the show. Dev Patel has the required energy but his accent distracts from his ‘Indian’ character. Tena Desae plays Sonny’s love interest, Sunaina, a confident girl who works in a call centre and Lillete Dubey plays his mother.

The film exaggerates and exploits all clichés about India but then you must remember that the film is from the point of view of British retirees. Riot of colours, beggars, rickety bus rides, Indians using incorrect English (and interestingly street urchins talking in British accent)… all this and more, the film packs a lot of real and imaginary India. Some of it may irritate you but if you look past all this, it is an interestingly presented film. Cinematography by Ben Davis is beautiful and he uses the typical exotic India imagery to the fullest. Music by Thomas Newman is also like those documentaries on India we get to see on Nat Geo and Discovery; but again it does create the desired effect.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is a simple film with plenty of emotions and Rajasthan tourism brochure as the background. Watch it if you enjoy crying at the movies.

Ishaqzaade

New stars are born in this old-fashioned love story

Pic source: Wikipedia

Habib Faisal’s Ishaqzaade is an old fashioned love story that we have seen many times on-screen. It is not exactly an adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet but the basic premise of lovers from warring clans is the same. Faisal (director and co-writer with Aditya Chopra) has set the story in a fictitious small town, Almore in Uttar Pradesh where only the law of the gun works. His characters are violent with the background of political and religious conflict. There are other twists and turns but you largely know where the film is headed, especially after the interval.

So is Ishaqzaade worth a watch? For me, yes! Newcomer, Arjun Kapoor and Parineeti Chopra are compelling as Parma Chauhan and Zoya Qureshi respectively, who inherit the legacy of hatred but later fall in love. Kapoor makes a confident debut and has good screen presence; he is not perfect as an actor yet but for his first film he does justice to the character. After winning accolades for her small role in Ladies vs Ricky Behl, Parineeti Chopra confirms with this film that she is here for the long run. She is simply brilliant as a firebrand, small town girl who dreams of following her father’s footsteps in politics. She looks good, emotes well and owns the screen whenever she is there in the scene. Surely after this film, she will not be known as the cousin of another B-town actress. The director’s decision of having an all new supporting cast works as they all are believable – from helpless mothers to loathsome head of the families for whom political ambitions are more important than anyone’s life, including their own children. Gauhar Khan is the only known face in the supporting cast and is likeable in her clichéd role of a courtesan with a golden heart.

Faisal gets the details right of small town northern India, from the language to the clothes to the locations. There are the mandatory dance numbers but they do not take away from the feel of the film. Amit Trivedi’s music is outstanding with ‘Main Pareshan…’ and the title track, ‘Ishaqzaade…’ being the best songs. Cinematography by Hemant Chaturvedi is nice but the film could do with some brutal editing (Aarti Bajaj).

Ishaqzaade has nothing new to offer but for me a love story wins if you find yourself empathizing with both, and I repeat both the lead characters. The film works for me on that parameter and is a one-time watch.

Hugo

Movies, Magic & Dreams

Hugo; Source: Wikipedia

Movies – it’s like seeing your dreams in middle of the day. Martin Scorsese’s Hugo is a love letter from the master filmmaker to cinema. The film reminded me of why I love the movies so much and even after the end credits rolled, the magic stayed with me. A few weeks ago, Jahan Bakshi wrote a beautiful post on ‘The Joy of Crying at the Movies’ and I could not agree more… this weekend when I watched Hugo, after almost giving up on the chance of it releasing in India, I re-discovered the joy of getting lost in someone else’s dream, someone else’s vision. That is what cinema is – magic!

Hugo is based on a historical fiction book, The Invention of Hugo Cabret by American author, Brian Selznick (adapted for screen by John Logan). It follows the adventures of a young orphan boy, Hugo Cabret (Asa Butterfield) who lives between the walls of a railway station in Paris. Hugo likes to fix things and maintains the clocks in the station, something his alcoholic uncle is supposed to do. His purpose is to fix an automaton, a robot like mechanical man that can write, in the hope of finding a message from his father (Jude Law), a master clockmaker who died in a museum fire. He is joined in this adventure by a young girl, Isabelle (Chloë Grace Moretz) who is the goddaughter of Georges Méliès (Ben Kingsley), a toy shop owner at the station. While trying to retrieve a message from his father, Hugo finds another purpose – to fix a man who has lost his raison d’être in life. There are many other fascinating characters in Hugo’s world, including the station inspector, Gustave (Sacha Baron Cohen); the florist, Lisette (Emily Mortimer); the café owner, Madame Emile (Frances de la Tour); the bookshop owner, Monsieur Labisse (Christopher Lee); newsstand owner, Monsieur Frick (Richard Griffiths); Papa Georges’ wife, Mama Jeanne (Helen McCrory); film historian and author, René Tabard (Michael Stuhlbarg) and Macmillan, the station inspector’s Doberman (Blackie).

Hugo is technically perfect and has the best 3D I have ever seen. Unlike other films where 3D is a gimmick to raise ticket prices, the technology is used well to aid the narrative in this film. Martin Scorsese takes you inside Hugo’s world and you can’t help but admire each frame. From the depths of the clock tower to the intricate clockwork of the automaton, to the soot from a burnt notebook, everything looks and feels spectacular in 3D. Cinematography by Robert Richardson is simply magical and takes you to the Paris of 1930s with music by Howard Shore and art direction by a team of master craftsmen.

Grand in scale and imagination, Hugo is a very personal film that showcases the passion of a filmmaker as well as the characters in his film. The film moves slowly and lets you soak into the ambience created. Despite its leisurely pace, I can assure you that you wouldn’t want the film to end and would catch yourself admiring the work on-screen with a smile plastered on your face.

Watch Hugo in 3D on the big screen, the way it is intended to be seen and you’ll experience the real magic of cinema.

Hats off Monsieur Scorsese!

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.

 

The Descendants

Tragic & Heartwarming

Pic: Fox Searchlight; Source: Wikipedia

A teenage girl sunbathes on the beach, her kid sister playing in the sea; their father sits a few meters away, wearing a printed Hawaiian shirt. They are on what you can call a holiday but they are not happy.

The same teenage girl sits on the edge of the pool in her big beautiful house. She’s on phone when her father comes in and wants to talk to her about something serious. She tells him the pool is dirty.

This is Alexander Payne’s masterpiece, The Descendants, based on a novel of the same name by Kaui Hart Hemmings. Set in the rain drenched and sun kissed islands of Hawaii, Payne’s film overflows with the beauty of its setting. This beauty is in contrast with the tragic situation the film’s key characters find themselves in. The director involves viewers as spectators as the King family drama unfolds in a bitter-sweet manner.

Matt King (George Clooney) is a lawyer who is also a descendant of the Hawaiian royal family. He is the sole trustee of the King family trust that controls 25,000 acres of land on the island of Kauai. The trust will dissolve in seven years due to a rule against perpetuities and the extended family decides to sell the land and share the proceeds. While Matt is involved in making the major decision to sell his ancestral land, his wife meets with a boating accident and slips into a coma. Matt suddenly finds himself dealing with the tragedy and also his two daughters, a ten-year-old (Amara Miller as Scottie King) who doesn’t understand the extent of her mother’s illness and a seventeen-year-old (Shailene Woodley as Alex King) who is bitter and has drug/alcohol issues.

The Descendants is brilliantly adapted for screen by Payne, Nat Faxon and Jim Rash; it moves at a slow pace letting you absorb the setting and giving you time to feel the protagonist’s pain and dilemma. At the same time, the use of subtle humour and Hawaiian music does not let the film slip into the depressing drama territory.

Watch The Descendants for a beautifully crafted and presented story; watch it for its emotions and the themes it touches – love, loyalty, responsibility and family. Do not watch it for a suave Clooney as he’s anything but that in the film; but watch it for his fine performance of a man who is re-discovering his relationship with his daughters and his land.

Watch it if you love cinema.

PS: I have not rated this film as I find the star system flawed. However, please share your views if you think it should be there. I’ll follow what you decide going forward.

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

 

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

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

 

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