Ek Thi Daayan

Once there lived a witch and she promised to return…

Ek Thi Daayan; Pic Source: Wikipedia

“So sweet, I could just eat you up…” how many times have you heard people, especially women say this to cute little kids? It’s meant as a compliment to the kid and nobody cares how sinister it sounds, not even the parents. But when Konkona Sen Sharma says this to a little girl in Ek Thi Daayan, you know she means it. It’s a normal scene and she looks like a regular woman but this time you are scared, just like the kids who are talking to her. That’s where Kannan Iyer’s debut film as a director wins; the sequences that stay close to reality are scary and tense. Once the film starts explaining things, it starts going downwards. A brilliant first half makes Ek Thi Daayan a must watch, even for people like me who don’t enjoy horror as a genre. But post interval, the film starts losing the tension that was built and the climax is a major let-down.

The film revolves around a famous magician named Bobo (Emraan Hashmi) who has a disturbing past… a past that has a mysterious woman who, as he claims, was a Daayan (witch). His girl-friend, Tamara (Huma Qureshi) loves him a lot but is not comfortable with him being secretive. And then there is a young NRI woman, Lisa Dutt (Kalki Koechlin), who shares her name with a woman convicted of murdering children in the 60s. Based on Mukul Sharma’s short story and adapted for screen by Sharma himself and Vishal Bhardwaj, the screenplay is as interesting as it gets till there is time for the conclusion.

Ek Thi Daayan is one of the better horror films made in India. The last good one I remember is Ram Gopal Verma’s Bhoot; the others churned out by the Bhatt camp and the likes are laughable at best. The film’s strength lies in the actors’ performances, especially Konkona who makes evil so deliciously menacing and normal at the same time. She has always been a fine actor who makes it easier for us to relate to the characters she portrays. In this film also, she uses the same quality to make the Daayan so scary by looking and behaving normally. Huma Qureshi is very confident on-screen and it’s good to see her playing a modern character after her small town girl roles in Gangs of Wasseypur and Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. Kalki brings in the right level of mystery and Emraan strikes the balance between a loving boyfriend and a troubled soul. While Kannan Iyer has done justice to the script, somethings appear funny and take away from the seriousness of the film. For instance, it’s difficult to take a brooding hero seriously if he’s called Bobo; then there are scenes where Hashmi loses his cool and goes after women’s braids – there is a perfectly good explanation for the behavior but it still appears funny. The climax appears straight out of co-producer, Ekta Kapoor’s old TV show, Mano Ya Na Mano. Discount that and you have a near perfect horror film.

Vishal Bhardwaj’s music with Gulzar’s lyrics elevates the film further and creates the right mood at the right moment. Rekha Bhardwaj’sLautungi Main…” and “Yaaram…” by Sunidhi Chauhan and Clinton Cerejo are the best songs from the album.

Ek Thi Daayan is a good attempt and is definitely worth a watch. It could have been a brilliant film if the makers took a different approach towards the end; something that could have been more disturbing and open-ended than the current overly simplified end. Still watch it for a riveting first half and a brilliant performance by Konkona Sen Sharma.

PS: If you are scared of lizards, be prepared for an uncomfortable ride.

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana

The case of the missing ‘masala’

Pic Source: Wikipedia

Bollywood has made a habit of churning out irresistibly fun trailers for films that are ordinary at best. The funniest parts of the films are incorporated in the two-and-a-half minute preview and the rest of the 118-minutes dull minutes are served after you shell out a hefty sum for the ticket. That’s the problem with director, Sameer Sharma’s first film, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana (LSTCK). It is not a bad film but does not live up to what one expected after watching the trailer.

LSTCK has a very interesting premise with a man looking for his grand-father’s secret recipe for the famous dish of Chicken Khurana (Hollywood can think about making Ocean’s Fourteen where Clooney and friends go about stealing the secret recipe of KFC’s fried chicken or Coke’s formula). With this interesting premise and a few interestingly written characters, the film is watchable and enjoyable in parts. But it lacks the chutzpah of a fun film with Punjabis as main characters like Vicky Donor, Khosla Ka Ghosla or Oye Lucky Lucky Oye.

Kunal Kapoor plays Omi, a Punjabi guy in London who returns to his village in Punjab to get some money from his family to pay off his debts – a family that he abandoned ten years ago. However, he finds that the source of his family’s fortune – the famous dhaba (highway restaurant), Chicken Khurana, named after his Daarji (grandfather) and his popular chicken dish – is now shut. Daarji (Vinod Nagpal) now suffers from Alzheimer’s disease and no one else has the secret recipe for the dish. He also meets his cousin Jeet (Rahul Bagga) who has a secret of his own; his childhood sweetheart, Harman (Huma Qureshi) who is now engaged to Jeet; his maternal uncle, Titu Mama (Rajesh Sharma) and a great-aunt, Buaji (Dolly Ahluwalia) who is a self-proclaimed spiritual guru.

Writers (Sharma and Sumit Batheja) have developed some good characters but been unable to give them enough witty lines and situations. There is a scene where the whole family expresses concern over Omi not having a change of underwear; then there are a few with Titu Mama that leave you laughing out loud. But that’s about it; the emotional scenes do not do much for you and Omi and Harman’s romance also does not have that spark. The revelation of Chicken Khurana’s recipe is an interesting twist though.

Casting (Mukesh Chhabra) for the film is perfect except for one major role which is Omi’s. I like Kunal Kapoor a lot and his sincerity and charm worked well in Rang De Basanti. However, he seems a misfit in the role of a rascal in this film. Rajesh Sharma as Titu Mama is the highlight of the film and Huma Qureshi has an amazing screen presence. Music by Amit Trivedi is largely based on Punjabi folk and goes well with the film but nothing memorable.

Overall, LSTCK is an average entertainer but I wonder if you’d choose this one over Mr. Bond’s next adventure that hits the theatres on the same day.

Gangs of Wasseypur 2

 

A to Z of Wasseypur

Pic source: Wikipedia

Anurag Kashyap’s Gangs of Wasseypur 2 lives up to the huge expectations set by its prequel; the director once again delivers an entertainer that is full of masala but unlike any other revenge dramas dished out by Bollywood. The film picks up the story of Wasseypur and its goons from where the first film left it. Sardar Khan is killed by those he wanted dead in the first place; Ramadhir Singh continues to gain prominence in politics and the Qureshis are left divided between the Khans and the Singhs. Gangs of Wasseypur 2 (GoW 2) follows the story of Faizal Khan as he picks up and lives his father’s unfulfilled purpose – revenge.

Here’s A to Z of Gangs of Wasseypur 2 (minor spoilers ahead):

A – Anurag Kashyap: Writer, producer, director – Kashyap is truly changing the game for Hindi cinema. His keen eye for detail, amazing story-telling ability, penchant for style of a different kind and quirky sense of humour makes him one of the best filmmakers of this generation. GoW 2 is gory, funny and ironic… all credit to the director for giving us a pair of fine and memorable films this year.

B – Badla: Faizal Khan is not like is father, he is a different man. He likes movies, he likes to live in his own world… but he is given no choice but to follow the destructive path treaded by his father. Revenge (badla) – an emotion that sets the tone of GoW 2 from the first scene itself and consumes each and every character in the film.

C – Ch**iya: The preferred expletive amongst the inhabitants of Wasseypur along with some others. I chose this one specifically as the two main characters; Ramadhir Singh and Faizal Khan use it quite often and with style.

D – Dialogue: Excellent screenplay, peppered with some brilliant dialogue make GoW 2 also quite enjoyable like its prequel. Though there is less fire in the lines as compared to the first film; full credit to Zeishan Quadri, Akhilesh, Sachin Ladia and Anurag Kashyap for infusing humour in a film where there are more gun shots than dialogues.

E – English: These gangsters’ fascination with the English language is simply adorable. There is a whole sequence dedicated to understanding the meaning of the word, ‘Definite’, which incidentally is a character’s name in the film. Then there is this irritatingly sweet song that Mohsina sings for Faizal‘Set Rightva Karo Ji’.

F – Film Festivals: Both GoW films have become the darlings of national and international film festivals – from their premiere at Cannes to Toronto International Film Festival to Sydney to Osian’s Cinefan Film Festival in Delhi; the films have got the film snobs hooked along with the general audience.

G – Guns: From the desi kattas to rifles to AK 47s, there are guns and guns on display and use in the film. People shoot more and talk less in GoW 2. Guns are not the only patakhas in the film, there are apples too… watch to figure out.

H – Huma Qureshi: Delhi girl, Huma Qureshi plays Faizal’s love interest and trophy wife in the film. She is sexy and she knows it… unlike his father, Faizal is a loyal husband and Mohsina stands by him always. He likes to flaunt her with her Ray-Ban sunglasses, carefully styled hair that gives her an unkempt look and bright outfits. She doesn’t have a lengthy role but has great screen presence and is extremely likeable.

I – Ishtyle:  From razor-blade loving young gangsters to the gadget loving mafia dons who flaunt their pagers; Kashyap’s Wasseypur world is carefully designed with small details that show style, reflecting the period and the people’s aspirations. Then there is the gore, Tarantino style – the severed head, the spray of blood and the screw driver in the eye. Faint-hearted be warned.

J – Jail: It is like a comfortable guest-house for the characters in GoW. They walk in and walk out as per convenience and usually use the prison for safety.

K – Keh Ke Loonga: The first film’s attitude stays throughout the sequel as well. Faizal Khan may not want what his father left him but he is not afraid of anything or anyone.

L – Ledar: From the whole soundtrack, ‘Dil Chhi Chha Ledar’ song stands out for me. Not only because it is catchy but it is used with the most amazing chase sequence I have ever seen in Indian cinema.

M – Manoj Bajpayee: While his character, Sardar Khan dies at the end of the first film, one cannot forget him in this saga.

N – Nawazuddin Siddiqui: He had a tough job laid out for him. Manoj Bajpayee was brilliant in the first film but Nawazuddin as Faizal Khan not only met but exceeded expectations. Faizal thinks he is Amitabh Bachchan but the discovery of him being Shashi Kapoor in real life jolts him – the actor brings this alive brilliantly. Honest film award juries will have a tough time choosing the best actor between Bajpayee and Siddiqui next year.

O – For all the moments in the film that make you go – ‘Oh God!’

P – Perpendicular: What a wonderful character and what a wonderful name! Perpendicular is a star – a fourteen-year-old nuisance that plagues Wasseypur and loves a razor blade in his mouth. Aditya Kumar as Perpendicular is fantastic. And where there is Perpendicular, there is Tangent also. Confused? Mathematics nahi padhe ho kya?

Q – Qureshi: There is only one evil Qureshi left in this film, Sultan (Pankaj Tripathi) who is also less menacing than the last film. But he makes up for the entire clan with one heinous act.

R – Richa Chaddha: Where has an actress of this caliber been hiding till now? If Richa Chaddha was good as Nagma Khatun in the first film, she is better in this one. From the fiery wife of Sardar Khan to a vengeful mother, she ages well on-screen. She is fabulous in a scene where she gets emotional while singing a happy wedding song.

S – Sneha Khanwalkar: Her music takes the film to another level. Apart from ‘Dil Chhi Chha Ledar’, I loved ‘Kaala Re’ that she also gave vocals for; and ‘Taar Bijli’, which is folksy and captures the mood well in its two versions.

T – Tigmanshu Dhulia: He has played the most memorable villain in Bollywood in a long-long time. Ramadhir Singh will be remembered like Shakaal and Mogambo. Dhulia plays the character with élan and makes him believable.

U – Unexpected: The first film trained us to expect us the unexpected but GoW 2 does not cease to surprise. Bollywood music at a funeral; characters acting against what is expected and a lot more unexpected fun is packed in the film.

V – Vineet Kumar: While Nawazuddin Siddiqui gets all the attention; this man as Faizal’s elder brother, Danish Khan shines in the first half an hour of the film. He is the one who makes Faizal Amitabh Bachchan feel like Shashi Kapoor. This actor certainly deserves more good roles.

W – Womaniya – Reemma Sen: Hell has no wrath like a woman scorned.

X – Xtra: Just like the first film, GoW 2 is extra long and could have done with some editing.

Y – Yashpal Sharma: Cameo of the year. Period.

Z – Zeishan Quadri: He has not only the man behind the story of the film but also plays one of the most important characters – Definite. A Salman Khan fan, Definite is an enigmatic gangster, who proves most dangerous to both his allies and enemies.