The Dirty Picture

Vidya Balan is Silk, and Silk is entertainment

The Dirty Picture; Source: Wikipedia

“Silk is the only hero in this industry”, says a film journalist in The Dirty Picture and after watching the film, I can also say, Vidya Balan is the only hero in the Hindi film industry. Not because she has ‘dared to bare’ but the conviction with which she’s played the character of Silk – a dancing star from the eighties who knows her sexuality is her biggest strength. While most actors claim to prepare for their roles, there is rarely a performance where an actor completely lets go of any inhibitions and becomes the character on screen. This is where Vidya wins; she looks good, she looks fat, she looks ugly, but she looks and behaves like the charater, Silk in the film.

Apart from Vidya, The Dirty Picture works because of its entertainment factor and Rajat Arora’s sassy writing plays a major role. The dialogues are provocative, shocking and dirty, true to the film’s name. Director, Milan Luthria packs a punch in the first half; however the film goes downward like the lead character’s career in the second half. It starts with a village girl, Reshma (Balan) coming to Madras with big dreams. She struggles, sleeps hungry and almost gives up, till someone offers her Rs. 20 to sleep with him. Her life changes, she gets a big break and the attention of the reigning superstar, Suryakant (Naseeruddin Shah). Silk’s journey to the heights of stardom is extremely entertaining and engaging where two other men appear in her life; Ramakant (Tusshar sans Kapoor), an upcoming writer in awe of her persona and Abraham (Emraan Hashmi), a director who hates Silk and what she stands for. The film soars in the first hour and a half but the last hour is poorly executed as suddenly you feel disconnected from Silk while you’re supposed to empathise with her.

Naseeruddin Shah once again delivers a spectacular performance as a manipulative and selfish star, for whom, women are just objects to entertain. He also has the best lines in the film and manages to match up to Vidya’s pizzazz in an elaborate dance number with kitschy costumes, over the top sets and raunchy moves. The song, ‘Ooh La La…’ is the film’s highlight (Vishal Shekhar – music composers); Bappi Lahiri and Shreya Ghoshal capture the mood perfectly with their vocals and lyrics by Rajat Arora. The other song that works is ‘Nakka Mukka’, which is borrowed (legally) from a Tamil film; it has a catchy beat and helps showcase Silk’sbombaat’ attitude at various intervals during the film. The rest of the soundtrack is nothing great. Coming back to the actors, Emraan Hashmi does a fairly decent job and proves that he can be taken seriously as an actor now. Tusshar tries hard but fades in front of Vidya and Naseer’s powerhouse performances.

The film’s costume designer, Niharika Khan deserves a special mention for capturing the tackiness and razzmatazz of that era and the characters. There is a lot of cleavage on show but I guess that’s another reason the makers (producer, Ekta Kapoor) chose Vidya as the leading lady – her traditional and family oriented off-screen image helped keep the focus on the character and not on the sleaze.

The Dirty Picture is a brave film and shows how Indian filmmakers and the censors have grown – a heroine centric film can be commercially successful and Indians can handle bold subject matter. Go watch the film for three things, as clearly articulated by Silk“entertainment, entertainment and entertainment”.

My rating: * * * ½ three and a half on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

Vishal Ko 7 Khoon Maaf

Pic Source: Wikipedia

A couple of weeks ago, I had written a post on The Genius of Vishal Bhardwaj and had great expectations from his next film, ‘7 Khoon Maaf’ based on Ruskin Bond’s short story, ‘Susanna’s Seven Husbands’ (adapted for screen by Vishal and Matthew Robins). It’s been little over a week since the film’s release and a lot has been said about it, good, bad and ugly. Though I did not love the film, I still think Vishal is amongst the best filmmakers we have in India today and his weakest is eons better than many others’ best. So what worked and what did not work for 7 Khoon Maaf… here’s my list of 7 things (plot spoilers ahead for those who haven’t seen the film)

Screenplay – A killer plot but a very straightforward narrative did not help the film. The whole world knew that Susanna (Priyanka Chopra) is going to murder her seven husbands in the film but one expected some surprises and some twists throughout… the murders were lined up like a multi-course meal and we got entrée after the hors d’ourves as promised; in fact there comes a message at the interval point – ‘4 more to go!’ The film is full of brilliant moments and images like a Persian cat walking down a grave made of snow; John in a blue negligee playing chor-police; Susanna asking her poet husband, “who is Mukarrar” when he praises her couplet by using the Urdu word that means ‘again’; and Neil Nitin Mukesh dangling his amputated leg in his wife’s face, amongst many others. However, they somehow do not come together to leave a hangover like Vishal’s earlier films did.

Priyanka Chopra – She dazzled in Vishal’s Kaminey but could not really pull off a complex character like Susanna. Not her fault, she tried and tried hard but that effort showed and she never became Susanna like she became Sweety in Kaminey or Kareena became Dolly in Omkara or Tabu transformed into Nimmi in Maqbool. She shines in a few scenes but not throughout the film. The writing also did not support her as you neither feel bad for Susanna, nor you hate her. She moves from one marriage to the other but there is just so much happening that you’re left to wonder if she’s started to enjoy it or is a pained soul.

Climax – What saves the day is the superb twist in the end… the film lifts in the last ten minutes and Priyanka also delivers her best especially in the scene where she says, “this time I will drink his blood…” She appears sinister and then the surprise.

Music – A brilliant soundtrack helps the film move forward. Vishal Bhardwaj and Gulzar once again create magic especially with the song, ‘Daarrling’ (vocals – Usha Uthup and Rekha Bhardwaj) and ‘Bekaraan’ (vocals – Vishal Bhardwaj). The two rock numbers one after the other distract and only one would’ve been sufficient.

Cinematography – The scenes are set to create a mood and the lighting is dim… Vishal conceptualizes the scenes brilliantly and Ranjan Palit shoots them like never before. 7 Khoon Maaf looks like a brilliant piece of art but falls short of being a brilliant piece of cinema.

Make-up – The moment Susanna first appears on screen, you do not notice her but you notice her bad prosthetic make up that makes her look fake. A powerful scene is ruined with everyone discussing her cakey make-up around you. Of course, her journey from a young beautiful army wife to a middle aged frustrated woman requires her to look different but technical flaws like this take away from the emotion.

The husbands, the supporting cast – Some worked and some didn’t but the film has a very interesting ensemble cast. Annu Kapoor as an opportunistic policeman, Keemat Lal is brilliant and so is Irrfan Khan as Wasiullah Khan, a gentle poet by the day and a masochistic lover by the night. Neil Nitin Mukesh as Major Edwin Rodrigues, an insecure and jealous husband is good while the Russian actor, Aleksandr Dyachenko as Nicolai Vronsky is just about ok. Naseeruddin Shah as Dr. Modhusudhon Tarafdar is miscast as you just do not relate to him talking with a Bengali accent; and John Abraham as a drug addict rock star has nothing much to add. Vivaan Shah makes a confident debut and is able to manage the growth in his character over the years (though make up fails him also).

The burden of expectations is such that minor mistakes get magnified and a little disappointment is devastating. 7 Khoon Maaf also suffers from not matching up to the humungous expectations of Vishal’s devoted fans. But Vishal, 7 Khoon Maaf to you as well and we accept your take on Susanna and eagerly await your next with the same expectations (fans never learn, you see)

My rating: *** Three stars on five

The Genius of Vishal Bhardwaj

He is a composer, a playback singer, a writer, a producer and a director; he excels in all these fields and is amongst the finest filmmakers in the country today.

He has directed five brilliant films and his sixth one, 7 Khoon Maaf is already creating a lot of excitement in the filmy circles. He is Vishal Bhardwaj who has made delightful children’s films like Makdee and The Blue Umbrella and films that delve into the dark human emotions such as Maqbool, Omkara and Kaminey.

His adaptations of Shakespeare and Ruskin Bond have opened doors for more literary adaptations in the Hindi film industry. His musical compositions mean different sounds, unusual playback combinations and haunting melodies. The genius of Vishal Bhardwaj has not yet been fully discovered by the Indian film industry and something tells me that soon the whole world will sit and take notice of this brilliant filmmaker.

Here’s a look at his directorial ventures that have helped redefine Bollywood in the last decade…

Click here to read my full post that appeared on nowrunning.com on January 23.

Raajneeti

 

Lust, Power & Deceit

Pic: Raajneeti; Source: Wikipedia

It is one of the greatest stories ever told and writer-director, Prakash Jha along with co-writer, Anjum Rajabali manages to narrate it again in a fascinating manner. Raajneeti takes its inspiration from Mahabharat and the current state of politics in India; from caste based politics to dynastic rule to horse-trading, the film touches upon a lot of issues. Having said that, Raajneeti is not a boring issue based film but a riveting drama-cum-thriller.  At 2 hours 45 minutes, the film moves at a breakneck pace from the word go, only faltering towards the end. You can predict what is going to happen overall but the clever screenplay still manages to surprise you with sudden twists.

Raajneeti is not about the battle between the good and the evil; it is about the lust for power and how far people can go for it. The first half of the film is taut while the second half has a lot of ups and downs as the director tries to pack in a lot. Those looking for the Gandhi family saga will be disappointed as the film only borrows the dynastic politics theme from the family and Katrina’s look from Sonia Gandhi and Priyanka Vadra.

The real winner in the film is its characterisation; there are no heroes or villains but strong characters that are superbly written and enacted (barring a couple). Nana Patekar makes an impressive comeback with a restrained yet powerful performance (no banging his head business happening here); while Ranbir Kapoor once again proves that he is going to rule the Hindi film industry in the years to come. Arjun Rampal, Manoj Bajpayee and Ajay Devgn, all deliver impressive performances along with Katrina Kaif who fits in the character well with her accent. Special mention for Shruti Seth who manages to shine in a brief role that is completely new to her sensibilities. Nikhila Trikha whose character is inspired by ‘Kunti’ from Mahabharat seems uncomfortable in her role as she is supposed to be at least 20 years older than her real age. In one of the critical scenes towards the climax, her exchange with Ajay’s character is actually funny, while it was supposed to be an emotional one. One actor who didn’t get his due in the film is Naseeruddin Shah who has a guest appearance like role but was promoted like one of the leads.

While I thoroughly enjoyed the film, I have one issue with the script; there is just too much violence as if the police and the judiciary do not exist. It would have been more interesting to see further Machiavellian mind-games and attacks rather than shootouts and bomb blasts. The production design is quite elaborate and you get to see palatial political homes to rallies with thousands of extras braving the heat and dust. Sachin Krishn’s cinematography is impressive and Santosh Mandal’s editing could have been a bit better in the second half. Thankfully, the songs are mostly in the background and do not hamper the narrative except one silly item song featuring Barkha Bisht (why, Mr. Jha, why?) that lasts around a minute only. ‘Mora Piya…’ composed by Aadesh Srivastava and ‘Dhan Dhan Dharti…’ composed by Wayne Sharpe on Vande Mataram theme are two songs to remember.

Raajneeti may not be Prakash Jha’s best work (my favourite is Gangajal) but is definitely his biggest and most commercial film. With the film getting a good opening at the box office, I sincerely hope that we’d get to see more political films in India. Since we are talking politics, my favourite film on the subject is Mani Ratnam’sIruvar’ (The Duo) (1997, Tamil), which was based on the lives of Tamil Nadu politicians, M. G. Ramachandran and M. Karunanidhi. The film bombed at the box office but is considered a masterpiece amongst film lovers. If you haven’t watched it, do try to find a DVD (it is difficult to find one with subtitles, but a big DVD store can get it for you on order. In Mumbai, try Landmark at Palladium); till then do catch Raajneeti on the big screen… it is worth a watch.

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

– Shrey Khetarpal

 

Ishqiya

 

Saucy, Bold and Wild…

Pic: Ishqiya; Source: planetbollywood.com

 

This is a film that teases you, surprises you and even mocks you as it takes unexpected turns throughout its 2-hour plus screenplay. Abhishek Chaubey’s first directorial venture, Ishqiya is a wild film that keeps you hooked from start to finish. Not your usual romance, it mixes the love angles between the principal characters with adventure, humour and bold writing.

Ishqiya is about two thieves, Khalu Jaan (Naseeruddin Shah), a 50-year old romantic and Babban (Arshad Warsi), a lustful rogue. They are on the run from their boss whom they have cheated and find refuge with an old friend’s widow, Krishna (Vidya Balan) near Gorakhpur (Eastern UP). Krishna is not what they had expected; she is a mystery that they both seek to unravel. Is she an innocent damsel in distress or a conniving seductress; is she in love with Khalu or with Babban; the director keeps the audience also guessing till the end. All actors deliver brilliant performances but Vidya walks away with the film as she gets the meatiest character.

The strength of Ishqiya lies in its brilliant writing (Abhishek Chaubey, Vishal Bhardwaj and Sabrina Dhawan) including the screenplay and the caustic dialogue (Vishal again). The only downside is the film’s climax that does not quite live up to the exciting tone of the film. The film’s music is another big strength with Vishal Bhardwaj (music) and Gulzar (lyrics) pairing up again after last year’s superb score of Kaminey. ‘Dil Toh Baccha Hai Ji…’ is rendered beautifully by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan and Rekha Bhardwaj’sAb Mujhe Koi…’ stays with you like a haunting melody.

Highly recommended.

My Rating: * * * * Four stars on five

Shrey Khetarpal