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.

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.

Shanghai

A smart political thriller

Pic source: Wikipedia

 If made a decade or two ago, Shanghai would have been bracketed in the art film genre and nobody except the film festival audience and a few intellectual types would have seen it. But Indian audience has evolved; if a Rowdy Rathore does blockbuster business, there are houseful shows for Shanghai as well, at least in the multiplexes. And director, Dibakar Banerjee does not disappoint; he has made a political thriller that is realistic and brave. Congratulations to him and Urmi Juvekar for the fantastic screenplay, which is based on the novel ‘Z’ by Greek writer, Vassilis Vassilikos.

The name, Shanghai is an interesting metaphor used by the filmmaker to describe the hollow promises of development by our politicians. Whether it is turning Mumbai into a world class city, modeled after Shanghai or transforming Gurgaon, the goal has not been reached but the so called progress has its costs. Banerjee’s Shanghai delves deep into the murky political games, scams and crimes that take place in the name of development. Set in a fictitious town called Bharat Nagar, the film reflects the political realities our country faces today. You can identify the real life politicians that have inspired Banerjee while writing the political characters in the film – there’s the lady chief minister who is called ‘madamji’ and has ambitions to become the Prime Minister; then there are the coalition troubles; a South Indian Home Minister and more.

Banerjee has also developed his characters really well and with superb casting, has hit the bull’s eye. There are layers to his characters and the director leaves hints for the audience to figure out more. For instance, Prosenjit Chatterjee plays a political activist named, Dr. Ahmadi; he is a bestselling author, who stays in the US but is passionate about the cause of the poor in India. He travels by a private jet (funded by whom?) to Bharat Nagar; does a photo-op with a Bollywood actress in town for his rival camp and his wife (the fabulous Tillotama Shome of Monsoon Wedding fame) is not convinced of his style of activism. He gives his life for the cause and is given god-like stature but there is more to the character that is left to be imagined. Similarly, the character of T. A. Krishnan, an IAS officer who is in charge of investigating the attack on Dr. Ahmadi is fascinating. Played superbly by Abhay Deol, Krishnan is a devout family man, who is torn between his ambitions and the right thing to do. While Emraan Hashmi has a crowd pleasing role, for me Abhay Deol steals the show with his perfect South Indian accent, mannerisms and restrained performance. Emraan on the other hand plays Joginder, a videographer who makes porn to supplement his income as a freelance media representative. He helps Shalini Sahay (Kalki Koechlin), a close aide of Dr. Ahmadi to unravel the real story behind the attack. Hashmi is good and has proved that he is much more than his serial-kisser image. Kalki also handles the character of an activist well who appears to be more in love with her teacher than his cause. Then there are small yet impactful roles played by Farooq Sheikh, Pitobash Tripathy and Supriya Pathak.

There is tension in each scene of the film and the director successfully maintains it till the end. The songs however could have been used well as background music instead of suddenly appearing in the film. Music by Vishal Shekhar is fine and ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai’ song captures the essence of the film with words like ‘Gud bhi hai gobar bhi, Bharat mata ki jai’ (There is jaggery as well as dung in the country, hail Mother India) (lyrics: Dibakar Banerjee). Editing by Namrata Rao is perfect and cinematography by Nikos Andritsakis good, except the patchy difference in the way ‘Imported Kamariya’ song is shot and the rest of the film (it looks like a separate music video inserted in the film as a second thought).

Shanghai is amongst the best Hindi films I’ve seen in the recent times. Do watch it.

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

 

Shaitan

Hindi cinema is no longer a lesson in moral science…

Pic: Shaitan; Source: Wikipedia

In the seventies, we saw the rise of a Hindi film hero who was anti-establishment and ‘amoral’ (mostly Amitabh Bachchan); but his evil deeds were mostly limited to smuggling of gold or infiltrating the villain’s gang to avenge his father’s murder or his mute sister’s rape. He was never into drugs himself and protected the heroine’s honour with his life. In the nineties, we saw the evil protagonist return with the hero pushing his fiancée off a high rise (Shah Rukh Khan in Baazigar), once again to avenge his father; or the obsessed lover who tries to kill the other guy in order to get the girl (Shah Rukh again in Darr). However, viewers were always given reasons to like the anti-hero with a sad background story… It is only in the new millennium, our filmmakers really started exploring dark themes and the audience started accepting them as well.

New age filmmakers like Vishal Bhardwaj, Anurag Kashyap, Dibakar Banerjee and Sriram Raghavan present their characters as flawed human beings who are jealous, greedy, selfish and at times evil as well. Hindi cinema is no longer a moral science lesson where the good triumphs over the bad but is more real or more fantastical where the good co-exists with the bad. This allows directors, especially the new ones to be brave and present innovative and path breaking ideas. Debutante director, Bejoy Nambiar’s Shaitan also explores something different; it is about the inner evil that over takes all sense and the characters are the victims of their own excesses.

Shaitan is bold, shocking, disturbing and an entertaining thriller… its strength lies in the writers’ (Megha Ramaswamy and Bejoy Nambiar) ability to shock; the principal characters’ vulnerability while they project complete control (great job by all actors); along with the technical finesse. It is a story about five friends who live life on the edge; they trust each other and believe they can do or achieve anything when they are together. They are not go-getters and achievers in the traditional sense but rebels without any cause. Amy (Kalki Koechlin) has not been able to get over her mother’s demise and finds solace or a sense of escape with her new friends in Mumbai; KC (Gulshan Devaiya) is a rich brat who thinks he owns the world and all the women in it; Zubin (Neil Bhopalam) is a geek who is happy to go with what his friends say or do; Tanya (Kirti Kulhari) is bulimic, insecure and dreams about her future with KC; Dash (Shiv Pandit) is the group’s master mind who has nothing to lose but everything to gain from his friends’ insecurities and vulnerability. Things go wrong one day and they need a lot of money to get out of the mess. They plan Amy’s fake kidnapping but things go out of control. An aggressive and sincere cop, Arvind Mathur (Rajeev Khandelwal) gets involved in the whole drama that unfolds in a way that the youngsters had not envisioned.

The film moves at a fast pace apart from the sequences involving Amy’s memories of her mother and Arvind Mathur’s marital discord. While too much focus on Amy’s story distracts from the film’s mood; the scenes between Arvind and his wife are sensitively shot and help empathise with his character. Cinematography by Madhie is outstanding especially a shoot-out sequence in slow motion, set to a remixed version of ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ in the background. Music by Prashant Pillai, Amar Mohile, Ranjit Barot and Anupam Roy is impactful as it works so well with the film’s narrative. The two remixed tracks, ‘Khoya Khoya Chand’ and ‘Hawa Hawai’ (which appears for only a few seconds) are outstanding. Editing by Sreekar Prasad is also good but the second half could be much tighter.

Overall, Shaitan is a well made film and we have a brilliant new director to applaud. Congratulations, Anurag Kashyap (producer along with Viacom18) for introducing new talent like Bejoy Nambiar and Vikramaditya Motwane (Udaan).

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

Video Courtesy: T-Series