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.

Bombay Talkies

Celebrating the art of story-telling with 100-years of Indian cinema

Bombay Talkies; Pic source: Wikipedia

Indian cinema is not only about song and dance, colourful costumes and overtly emotional characters. I am glad that the film made to commemorate hundred-years of our cinema looks beyond all these clichés and focuses on story-telling. Bombay Talkies has four interesting short films by four directors who represent the modern Indian cinema (read Bollywood in this case) – Karan Johar, Dibakar Banerjee, Zoya Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap. While a true tribute would have been filmmakers from other regions also participating (think of an anthology with films in Hindi, Bengali, Marathi, Tamil and English), it would have been a tough project to sell commercially. Maybe, we’ll see something like that soon but for now I applaud the effort called Bombay Talkies, which is not an outstanding film but is a brave attempt that needs to be appreciated.

My views on the four short films in Bombay Talkies, in order of my preference (minor spoilers ahead):

Star by Dibakar Banerjee

Based on Satyajit Ray’s short story, Patol Babu Filmstar, Dibakar Banerjee’s Star is as much about failed ambitions as it is about hope and happiness. It is a poignant tale about a father who does not have a new bedtime story for his ailing daughter… it is about a failed actor who gets a shot at stardom in his own small way. Nawazuddin Siddiqui as Purandar is simply outstanding and the last two minutes of this short are bound to leave you teary-eyed and in awe of this actor’s talent. It is also great to see Sadashiv Amrapurkar return to screen in a well written cameo. Banerjee’s style is lucid and the story touches you emotionally more than the others in the film. He puts an emu in the chawl to describe the lead character’s failure in business and you see the bird again in another important scene. Banerjee grows with each film and is not afraid to experiment; from Khosla Ka Ghosla to Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye; Love, Sex Aur Dhoka to Shanghai and now Star, he is what the Doctor prescribed for Bollywood’s problem of recycling everything.

Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh by Karan Johar

He who makes multi-million dollar blockbusters that are known for their flamboyance than cinematic artistry, has turned the tables with this small-budget, realistic short film. With this film, we discover a new Karan Johar where he doesn’t have to stress about the three hundred Caucasian dancers in designer Indian costumes or the waist size of his gorgeous leading lady. He is focused on telling a story here, he is focused on dismantling all that is Karan-Joharesque about his cinema… However, he hasn’t given up on the quality and the people he works with; ace cinematographer, Anil Mehta has shot the film, Manish Malhotra has styled Rani Mukherjee, who herself is a Dharma Productions regular. It is also a film where Johar steps out of a cliché ridden world where homosexuality is about effeminate caricatures (Rishi Kapoor in Student of the Year), scandalizing domestic help (Kanta Ben in Kal Ho Na Ho) or Punjabi mothers (Maa Da Laadla Bigad Gaya in Dostana). He takes a bold approach and establishes the main protaganist’s sexuality in the first scene itself. Saqib Saleem is a great new find; I say new as this is the film that will get him noticed and not his earlier outings like Mujhse Fraandship Karoge and Mere Dad Ki Maruti. He is confident and comfortable with the character he plays – an intern at a Bollywood tabloid who strikes an unlikely friendship with his associate editor. The other male actor in this story, Randeep Hooda is also well cast as a serious news presenter who loves old Hindi music and leads a predictable, loveless life. Rani Mukherjee returns to what she does the best… she is natural and relatable. She plays a wife who knows that her marriage is dead but keeps up the appearances. This is Karan Johar that we have never seen before and hope to see more in future.

Sheila Ki Jawani by Zoya Akhtar

It’s a story about a little boy who dreams of becoming a dancer while his strict father (Ranvir Shorey) wants him to do something ‘appropriate’ for a boy. It is also a story about the relationship between a brother and a sister, biases and unfair societal norms – “a boy should be interested in sports while a girl should be happy with a doll”; “it’s better to invest in a boy’s future than a girl who will eventually go away”. The boy finds himself burdened with his father’s expectations but is not willing to give up on his dreams. He gets this strength from his supportive sister, a year or two elder to him and an unlikely guardian angel, Katrina Kaif. Akhtar’s last film, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara was a big hit and it wasn’t only because of the star power and the breathtaking locales; this director knows how to tell stories, which was clear from her critically acclaimed, yet commercially average first film, Luck By Chance. Here, she simply works with an idea and not a fleshed out story, but with her superior narrative style and the lovely performances by the two child actors (Naman Jain and Khushi Dubey), the film works.

Murabba by Anurag Kashyap

Here’s a filmmaker who is truly changing the face of Hindi cinema. His films are bold, have daring or unexpected themes and usually feature new talent. He is what Ram Gopal Verma was to the Hindi film industry in his prime – a promise of changing the way films are made and watched in India; a promise to break the mold and cross the boundaries to create truly international cinema. Where RGV failed, Kashyap seems to be succeeding… films produced and directed by him are a regular feature at prestigious international film festivals including Cannes; Indian audience is open to buying a ticket for a film made by him despite no big film stars. That is why I was most curious about his short film, Murabba in Bombay Talkies. I liked the film but not as much as I liked the other three. Murabba looks at the Indian film-goers and their connection with cinema. We say cricket is a religion in India and so is cinema; nothing binds our people more than these two passions that most Indians are born with. A young man from Illahabad, Vijay (Vineet Kumar Singh), comes to meet Amitabh Bachchan in Mumbai to offer him a piece of murabba (sweet fruit pickle) as per his ailing father’s wish. He stands outside the mega star’s house and waits for a chance to meet him for two-minutes. He is confident of a warm reception on his arrival as he hails from the same city and colony where Bachchan came from originally. He is let down when the star’s guards shoo him away but he doesn’t give up. The other interesting angle in the film is how we Indians like to brag and tell stories. It is an absurd story that holds your interest till a certain point but then it leaves you unsatisfied unlike the other three stories.

Bombay Talkies is good experiment that largely works and in the hope of seeing more such collaborations and innovation by our filmmakers, I urge you all to buy a ticket and see this film.

PS: Please walk out of the theatre before the terrible title song video featuring about twenty stars comes on-screen with the end credits.

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu

Average is Good…

Pic: Dharma Productions; Source: Wikipedia

“Average is good”, says Riana Braganza (Kareena Kapoor) to Rahul Kapoor (Imran Khan) and that line sums up the film for me. Shakun Batra’s Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu is not a brilliantly made film, nor is it bad. It is average and average in a good way. The film manages to entertain but not delight; people wear good clothes, look good and deal with day to day issues of life, except they deal with it by getting drunk and getting married in Las Vegas!

Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu (EMAET) is not like What Happens in Vegas, except the getting drunk and marrying a stranger part. It is also not like 500 Days of Summer, except the day-wise narrative style (linear here though). It is also not like Jab We Met, except the full of life female lead who teaches the guy how to live… EMAET is all this strung together in an interesting screenplay (Shakun Batra, Ayesha Devitre) and a refreshing treatment for a Hindi film.

Rahul is a young architect who works in a leading firm in Las Vegas; despite staying in one of the most exciting cities in the world, he leads a dull life. Riana on the other hand likes to live life on her own terms; she is a hairstylist by profession and a serial dater. Both of them meet one day, get drunk and married. As expected, cupid strikes while they help and sort out each other… this is where the director does something different (and makes the film interesting) by taking the road less travelled.

The film’s supporting cast entertains the most… Boman Irani, Ratna Pathak Shah and Kareena’s family members (whose names I do not know) are brilliant. I am usually not very impressed with Imran’s acting skills but he does well in this film as a tedious guy with parent issues. Kareena is good but I am surprised with how much more attention the director has showered on Imran as compared to her. Amit Trivedi’s music goes well with the film but nothing memorable. EMAET looks good, thanks to the cinematography by David Mac Donald, production design (read great looking houses and locations) by Shashank Tere and fabulous clothes by Manish Malhotra and Shiraz Siddique.

The film works on the rom-com meter and has some fun moments. It is short and crisp with under two-hours running time that keeps it from dragging. Go watch it for some light entertainment…

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

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

 

Rom-Com Gone

 

Bollywood’s Romantic Comedies fail to impress in 2010

Romantic comedies or rom-coms have worked well in Hollywood and in the recent past the trend has taken off in Bollywood also with movies like Hum Tum, Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal. With young directors at helm, the concepts are more urbane, the look more stylish and the issues more inane in these films. They have the potential to work as they provide two things to the young audience today – relatable themes, “oh! This happened to my friend” and escapism in the form of beautiful people in designer clothes at fabulous locations; however, this year has seen a spate of disappointing rom-coms. This is what I think of Bollywood’s rom-coms in 2010, starting with this week’s release, Break Ke Baad:

Pic: Kunal Kohli Productions

Break Ke Baad

The girl, Aaliya Khan (Deepika Padukone) is more believable than the guy, Abhay Gulati (Imran Khan)… she is independent, headstrong, enjoys attention but no intervention; the guy is sensitive, caring, packs her undergarments neatly in her bags and has no life other than her. Childhood romance wanes off for the girl but not for the guy; she dumps him but he follows her to win her back. From being every girl’s dream guy, Imran’s character slips into this spineless creature who is described as an ATM machine in the film as machines only give not ask for something. Deepika’s character earns the title of a cold heated b*tch (courtesy: my fellow movie watchers) to a chudail / witch (courtesy: Pammi Bua played by Lillete Dubey). Both actors try hard but their limited acting abilities and a lacklustre script don’t help; the fun elements in the first half appear repetitive and boring in the second.

The world is a ridiculously nice place in this Danish Aslam directed rom-com, where Abhay gets visa on arrival in Australia and stays on to build a chain of successful restaurants from scratch in a couple of months. On the other hand Aaliya comes armed with a full scholarship to the University of Goldcoast; checks into a sea-facing resort like accommodation for just 600 Australian Dollars for six months, gets noticed by a casting director in a college play and becomes an international movie star (really now!)

If the girls watching the film with me found it cute in the beginning, the climax disappointed them also in a big way. Break Ke Baad has a lot of smart lines, some good clothes (and some bad), good locations and an average music score (Vishal Shekhar); the film falters with a thread-bare script, the lack of crackling chemistry between the lead pair and the lamest ending in the recent past. The film has an interesting supporting cast featuring Sharmila Tagore, Lillete Dubey, Shahana Goswami and Yudhishter Urs but that’s not good enough to hold the film together. I won’t write off the film completely as the three girls who watched it with me seemed to like it but it certainly isn’t a film that can make it to anyone’s must-watch list.

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

Pic: Dharma Productions

I Hate Luv Stories

Well what do I say… doesn’t the film’s title says enough? Boy meets girl, girl believes in candy-floss-romance and the boy hates luv stories (please note, he doesn’t hate love stories, smart!) Directed by Punit Malhotra, the film was produced by Dharma Productions and worked well on the box-office, however I am yet to meet anyone who luved this film. Sonam Kapoor plays Simran, a die-hard romantic whose clothes match her boyfriend Raj’s (Samir Dattani) shirts or vice-versa; she is an art director working on a big ticket romantic flick, directed by a Karan Johar like film maker. Jay (Imran Khan) hates such cinema but is still assisting on the film; he also shows off his newly acquired abs to Bruna Abdullah in a song, to make us believe that he is the new age Casanova. Opposites attract and Simran falls for Jay but Jay hates luv stories, end of chapter one. In chapter two, Jay realises his mistake as he luvs love stories but Simran goes back to Raj who buys her white gerberas daily (remember, daily one red balloon in Dil Chahta Hai?) Chapter three… you know what happens. Punit Malhotra and Sonam Kapoor’s twitter squabble with Shobhaa De after she ripped apart the film in print was more interesting than the film itself.

My rating: * * Two stars on five

Pic: Cinergy Productions

Jhootha Hi Sahi

It was Abbas Tyrewala’s next directorial after the hugely successful, Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na; John Abraham’s first production with music by maestro, A R Rahman. The expectations were sky high with an interesting working title, 1-800-LOVE. The film eventually came out as Jhootha Hi Sahi and all the expectations came crashing down. The music did not work very well (though I like the Cry Cry song) and everyone wondered who this mature actress opposite John is? She turned out to be the director’s wife who was also credited for the script – Pakhi Tyrewala. After all, it is all about loving your family, eh… wife. The film tried to recreate the magic of American sitcoms like Friends and How I Met Your Mother but somehow couldn’t manage to get the same chilled out feel on-screen largely due to the weak screenplay. Having said that, I love the way London’s beautiful summer is captured in the film.

My rating: * * Two stars on five

Pic: PVR Pictures

Aisha

Fantastic promos, an interesting cast, great publicity stills and a peppy soundtrack… Aisha looked like it is going to be the ultimate chick-flick to come out of Bollywood. Inspired by Jane Austen’s Emma, the film ended up to be more like a documentary on the lifestyles of the rich and famous young Delhites. The film surely has great clothes on showcase but one can go to Delhi’s Emporio or Select Citywalk mall to see that or can watch The Devil Wears Prada again. Sonam only looked good and Abhay Deol was wasted in this Rajshree Ojha directed film. Producer, Rhea Kapoor is now thinking of desi Alice in Wonderland with sister Sonam and more fabulous clothes. Hmm…

My rating: * * Two stars on five

Pic: Eros International

Anjaana Anjaani

Two suicidal protagonists, Aakash (Ranbir Kapoor) and Kiara (Priyanka Chopra), who decide to have some fun in the last few days of their lives and end up falling in love. They are both poor but wear trendy clothes, visit hep night clubs at New York’s Times Square and Las Vegas… I quite like their lifestyle actually! They try to die by wrapping cling-wrap around their faces (now you know why it isn’t a toy, keep it out of reach of children) and jumping off a bridge, but they don’t. Fifteen minutes into the film, you start praying for them to die so that the film gets over but they don’t; instead Zayed Khan is also unleashed by director, Siddharth Anand on us to increase the Chinese torture. Both Priyanka and Ranbir are good actors and promising stars but they should look hard at the scripts they choose. Siddharth Anand on his part is creating a library of mediocre rom-coms.

My rating: * * Two stars on five

Pic: Yash Raj Films

 

Pyaar Impossible

As a policy I cannot comment on a film I haven’t seen; and I could not drag myself to the theatre for this one after watching the trailers only, despite all my love for Yash Raj Films.

Pic: Yash Raj Films

 

Band Baaja Baaraat is the last rom-com to hit the screens before the year ends, am hoping the year ends on a bright note for this genre.

 

Shrey Khetarpal


PS: Don’t think that I don’t like romance / rom-coms as a genre; I am just a disappointed film buff. Click here to read my earlier post on the best romantic films according to me.

My Name Is Khan

A triumph of love, faith and determination…

Pic: MNIK; Source: planetbollywood.com

“My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist” – this is what Rizwan Khan wants to tell the President of the United States of America and you join him in his journey from the moment the film starts. Gripping, heartrending and moving, My Name Is Khan (MNIK) is director, Karan Johar’s best film till date with career best performances by the lead pair, Shah Rukh Khan and Kajol. The film has its flaws from the cinematic point of view but who is interested in all that crap! My Name Is Khan goes straight for your heart and affects you emotionally; it makes a statement that is not new but is made in a bold manner; it is a film that will make history.

Shah Rukh Khan plays Rizwan Khan, a Muslim man suffering from Asperger Syndrome* who loves his wife, Mandira (Kajol) to death; though he does not like to talk about death. Their world is full of love and happiness but it all changes after the 9/11 attacks. Tragedy strikes and they drift apart; and Khan embarks on a seemingly impossible journey to meet the President and win back his love.

Written by Shibani Bhathija, MNIK is a brave film with an unusual plot that hopefully will encourage other film makers to try something new and relevant. Overall, the film has an arresting screenplay that falters a bit in the second half but in the end it all comes together. Hats off to Karan Johar for handling the script so well that could have become quite preachy; with this film he moves away from his usual candy-floss style (though not entirely) but remembers that it has to be entertaining as well.

Shah Rukh and Kajol once again prove that they truly are the best on-screen pair, which makes their love story extremely convincing and endearing. Kajol is simply outstanding as a strong woman of substance who goes through a lot of ups and downs in her life. Shah Rukh Khan disappears from the film after the opening credits as you do not notice the star but only Rizwan Khan. The film also boasts of a fine supporting cast with Sonya Jehan (as Hasina, Khan’s sister-in-law), Zarina Wahab (as Khan’s mother) and child actors, Tanay Chheda (as young Khan), Yuvaan Makar (as Sameer, Mandira and Khan’s son) and Kenton Duty (as Reese, Sameer’s best friend) delivering good performances.

Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy’s music goes extremely well with the mood of the film. Not the usual chart-busters, the Sufi style songs are soulful and grow on you as you watch the film. While ‘Sajda…’ became an instant hit during the promotions of the film, ‘Tere Naina…’ is the song you take with you after leaving the theatre (Lyrics: Niranjan Iyenger). Ravi K Chandran’s cinematography is brilliant and so is the editing by Deepa Bhatia. Manish Malhotra (styling) and Mickey Contractor (make-up) make Kajol look fabulous.

My Name Is Khan is about love, tolerance and peace; it is easily one of the most significant films in the recent times. Go watch it and you would find yourself rooting for Khan, laughing with him and crying for him.

My rating of MNIK as a film: * * * * Four stars on five

My rating of MNIK as a fan: * * * * * Five stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal

*An autism spectrum disorder, people with it show significant difficulties in social interaction, along with restricted and repetitive patterns of behavior and interests – Source: Wikipedia

Kurbaan

 

It is not about Saifeena alone…

Pic: Dharma Productions; Source: planetbollywood.com

Rensil D’Silva’s directorial debut, Kurbaan thankfully goes beyond the pre-release hype created by the film’s posters and the saree presented to Kareena Kapoor by some Shiv Sainiks. It is a film about the discord between the western world, specifically the USA and the Islamic world. Does it do full justice to the subject of ‘Islamic Jihad’? I don’t think so but it does manage to come out as a gripping thriller with a message.

Kurbaan is about Avantika (Kareena Kapoor), a Psychology professor who marries Ehsaan (Saif Ali Khan), a professor on Islam and its influence on the modern world. Avantika is extremely happy with her life till she discovers a disturbing truth about her husband. From this point onwards the film transforms from a love story to a thriller. The director takes the first forty-five minutes to set up the love story and introduces the other characters; by this time you start getting tired of the slow pace and suddenly the film picks up. There are many twists in the plot, some predictable and some surprise you, leading up to an action packed climax.

The film has many similarities with Kabir Khan’s New York; apart from the basic premise, there are similarities in the plot, however the treatment and the circumstances are quite different. I could not help but compare the two films. While Kurbaan manages to keep the tension alive throughout and the climax is several notches superior; New York scores in creating an emotional connect with the lead characters.

Saif and Kareena are both good in their characters and have a good supporting cast of Viveik Oberoi, Kirron Kher and Om Puri to complete the picture. Kirron’s Afghani accent is not convincing but the fanaticism displayed by her character is. Viveik worked hard on his American accent, which again is a bit annoying but he does a decent job.

Technically, Hemant Chaturvedi’s cinematography is good and so is SalimSulaiman’s music, which does not interrupt the narrative. Screenplay by Rensil D’Silva drags a bit in the beginning but maintains the tension of a thriller in the rest of the film. There are a few loopholes in the storyline and certain decisions taken by the lead characters seem extremely unrealistic but that’s a Bollywood film for you.

Overall, Kurbaan is one of the better films released this year. It leaves much to be desired as far as cinematic excellence is concerned but is a good one-time watch.  

My Rating: * * * Three stars (on five)

Shrey Khetarpal

 

Wake Up Sid

A refreshing, feel good film…

Pic: Dharma Productions; Source: planetbollywood.com
Pic: Dharma Productions; Source: planetbollywood.com

A film about a rich kid who does not know what to do with his life apart from hanging out with his friends… nothing new there! However, what makes Wake Up Sid extremely fresh and enjoyable is its treatment. You know what exactly is going to happen in the film but you are hooked to see how it happens. Take a bow, Ayan Mukerji, your directorial debut is a winner.

Wake Up Sid (written by Ayan Mukerji and Niranjan Iyenger) is far removed from the so called filmy clichés and is held together by moments that seem real and relatable; moments between a mother and her son, a father and his son, between friends and between two people who are falling in love.

The film traces the journey of Siddharth Mehra aka Sid (Ranbir Kapoor), from being a carefree college guy who simply spends his father’s money to someone who finds his true calling in life. His journey is complemented by fiercely independent, Aisha Banerjee (Konkona Sen Sharma), an aspiring writer from Kolkata who wants to make a new life in Bombay aka Mumbai.  Together both of them discover what they want in life and eventually find it.

Performance wise, everyone seems comfortable with the characters they play. Konkona is as usual fantastic but the real surprise is Ranbir who not only manages to bring alive the character but also shines amongst his excellent co-actors. Supriya Pathak as Sid’s mother who likes to speak with her son in broken English is extremely endearing.

While the film is unpretentious, one can see that a lot of attention has been paid to the details. From the styling of the lead actors (Priyanjali Lahiri and Manish Malhotra) to the production design (Amrita Mahal Nakai), everything is in accordance to the respective characters. While the music (Shankar, Ehsaan, Loy) may not be topping the charts by Dharma Productions standards, it goes well with the mood of the film and does not obstruct the narrative. Cinematography by Anil Mehta is as usual first rate. Overall, Wake Up Sid is a great feel good film and is highly recommended.

My Rating: * * * * Four stars (on five)

Shrey Khetarpal

 

Romance On Screen

 

Before Sunrise, Before Sunset
and some of the best celluloid romances

Before Sunrise; Picture Courtesy: www.movieposter.com

Before Sunrise; Picture Courtesy: http://www.movieposter.com

I watched two beautiful films today, Before Sunrise (1995) and its sequel, Before Sunset (2004) starring Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy. ‘Before Sunrise’ is about an American guy, Jesse (Hawke) and a French girl, Celine (Delpy) who meet on a train in Europe. They decide to spend an evening together, exploring the city (Vienna) before going their own ways in the morning. As they spend time together, talking to each other about things ranging from the gender war, sex, family, ex-boyfriend/girlfriend and more, they fall in love. However, they realise that they have different lives in different parts of the world and only have that one evening to spend together. They do not want to end what they have started and promise to see each other after six months at the same place, the train station. That is how the film ends and it is up to the viewer to decide whether they meet or not. There are only these two characters and the whole film is about the conversations they have. That is where the brilliance of the film lays, the script (Richard Linklater and Kim Krizan) and the effortless acting by the lead pair. You almost believe that these are two people who have just met and you get to know them better as each scene unfolds.

Director, Richard Linklater returns with the sequel, ‘Before Sunset’ with the same mood that the first film had set, nine years earlier (Delpy and Hawke share the writing credits with Linklater in this one). Set in Paris this time, Jesse and Celine meet again and as earlier, they have a few hours before Jesse returns to America. The film retains the freshness of the first one with an equally engaging screenplay. I strongly recommend both these films to all, even those who are not big fans of romantic films.

On the topic of celluloid romance, let me list down some fine romantic films both in Hollywood and Bollywood (fairly recent ones)…

Pic: WikipediaPic: movieposter.com
pics: movieposter.com

As Good As It Gets  (1997) – It is a comedy and a romance but not like any other rom-coms that Hollywood produces. A homophobic-racist-OCD suffering novelist, a waitress who is a single mother, a gay artist and a dog… this is a weird film. Jack Nicholson, Helen Hunt and Greg Kinnear give performances that light up the screen. I have only one word to describe this film: supercalifragilisticexpialidocious!

Shakespeare In Love (1998) – Was Shakespeare in love when he wrote Romeo & Juliet? Joseph Fiennes as Will Shakespeare and Gwyneth Paltrow as his muse are a delight to watch. Judi Dench, Ben Affleck, Colin Firth and Geoffrey Rush form a brilliant supporting cast.

Pic: movieposter.com

pic: movieposter.com

Love Story (1970) – Ok, this film is not that new but it inspired many more romantic movies, especially in India. Rich boy (Ryan O’Neal) meets poor girl (Ali MacGraw), they fall in love and marry against his parents’ wishes… the girl dies of leukemia. One of most romantic and tragic films, it is scripted by Erich Segal who wrote his best-selling novel of the same name while the film was being made. Francis Lai’s background score is simply outstanding.

Dirty Dancing (1987) – A girl-meets-boy story with dance as the backdrop… Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze star in this stellar film with a fantastic background score (remember the song, ‘Time of my life’) and dance sequences.  

Pretty Woman (1990) – Ladies and gentlemen… presenting Julia Roberts. By the way, Richard Gere was also there. Everything about this film is iconic… this is the baap of so-called ‘chick flicks’.

Pic: movieposter.com  

pics: movieposter.com

Pride and Prejudice (1995) – Not the one starring Keira Knightley, actually I am not talking about the film. I am talking about BBC’s short series starring Jennifer Ehle and Colin Firth. With six hour-long episodes, the series does full justice to Jane Austen’s most famous novel. The tension between Darcy and Lizzy, the witty exchanges and the feel of that era is very well captured here. CD / DVD sets are easily available at all leading music/film stores.

Pic: bbc.co.uk
Pride and Prejudice; Pic: bbc.co.uk

Lamhe (1991) – This film is the reason behind me writing this blog. I watched it first when I was just eight years old. I loved the colours, the funny portions in the second half set in London; as I grew up and watched it again and again, I understood the film and the emotions. This is probably Yash Chopra’s finest film till date and also one of the biggest commercial flops of his career. While it failed in India, Lamhe worked extremely well in the UK and other overseas market. Written by Honey Irani, the film has career best performances by Sridevi and Anil Kapoor. The film is about unexpressed love and has a complicated plot involving a girl who loves a much older man, who was in love with her mother. The film was even labeled incestuous at the time of its release. 

Pic: planetbollywood.com

Lamhe; pic: planetbollywood.com

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (1995) – Jesse aka Ethan Hawke met Celine aka Julie Delpy on a Eurorail journey in Before Sunrise; in the same year Raj (Shah Rukh Khan) met Simran (Kajol) on a Eurorail trip again. Aditya Chopra’s DDLJ changed the way Bollywood made films… NRIs came into focus and Indian values were in vogue again. Simran wanted to elope with Raj and her mother was more than willing to help; Raj on the other hand wanted her father’s blessings…  

DDLJ; Pic: planetbollywood.com

DDLJ; pic: planetbollywood.com

Hum Tum (2004) – When Harry Met Sally meets Before Sunrise meets Before Sunset… there is not much original about the film apart from the chemistry between the lead pair. Rani Mukherjee dominates every frame in which she appears, sidelining Saif Ali Khan who also does a good job. It is probably the first Hindi film where the heroine does not think that pre-marital sex is a good enough reason to get married.

Hum Tum; Pic: planetbollywood.com

Hum Tum; pic: planetbollywood.com

Saathiya (2002) – What happens when Mani Ratnam (Producer, Screenplay), Yash Chopra (Producer), A R Rahman (Music), Gulzar (Lyrics, Dialogues), Anil Mehta (Cinematography) and Rani Mukherjee get together for a film? Saathiya takes an intimate and realistic look at a young married couple’s life. First time director, Shaad Ali did a great job and so did the lead pair, Rani and Vivek Oberoi.

Saathiya; Pic: planetbollywood.com

Saathiya; pic: planetbollywood.com

Silsila (1981) – Another Yash Chopra romance that failed to set the cash registers ringing. Just like Lamhe, it is one of his finest works. Amitabh Bachchan is married to Jaya Bachchan and Rekha is married to Sanjeev Kumar; yet sparks fly between Rekha and Amitabh. Fact and fiction merged with this extra marital affair saga. As a nation are we not ready to see infidelity on screen? Both Silsila and Karan Johar’s recent Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna faced criticism due to the same reason.

Silsila; Pic: planetbollywood.com

Silsila; pic: planetbollywood.com

These are some of my favourite romantic flicks. Interestingly all Hindi ones have come out from the same production house, Yash Raj Films. Some of the other romantic movies I like include Notting Hill (1999), Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994), Titanic (1997), Chandni (1989; Yash Raj again), Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam (1999) and Saawariya (2007), amongst others. Do share what you think about these films and any others that you think fit the list.

– Shrey Khetarpal