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.

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Barfi!


Of rainy afternoons, chai, fireflies & soap bubbles…

Pic source: Wikipedia

He loves her… she loves him too but is confused. She is practical, he is not. She cannot help but calculate; he doesn’t know that math… His love is in abundance and can only be cherished by someone who loves without thinking. Love, heartbreak, loss and a chance to win love back… That’s writer-director, Anurag Basu’s Barfi for you – it is beautiful, it is feel-good and thankfully devoid of any ‘screaming for sympathy’ antics despite differently-abled protagonists.

Barfi is a heart-warming film about a deaf and mute young man called Murphy aka Barfi, played by Ranbir Kapoor. His life may be without any sound but is not dark; he lives with his father who is a chauffeur in Darjeeling. He is mischievous and is aware of his good looks and charm, which he uses to impress the new girl in town – Shruti (Ileana D’Cruz). Then there is Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra), the autistic grand-child of a rich businessman; she loves origami, dislikes getting her footwear soiled and is friends with their chauffeur’s son.

It is an unlikely love triangle that makes you sad one minute and smile the next. Ranbir once again delivers a brilliant performance, which exudes Chaplinesque charm and sincerity that we are used to seeing in him. I cannot think of another Indian actor who could have played Barfi and played better than him. Priyanka maintains restraint and communicates effectively what goes in Jhilmil’s mind through her expressions. Like Barfi, she also has little or no dialogue but you feel all that she does… kudos to the director for treating autism sensitively and not going over the top. This is also Priyanka’s best performance till date, right next to her character, Sweety in Kaminey. Ileana looks great in the second half and has some brilliant scenes… her dilemma is portrayed beautifully by the director, accompanied by a lovely track, ‘Phir Le Aaya  Dil…’ at one point in the film. She seems awkward in the first half of the film and with Ranbir shining bright, she looks a bit dull; but all that goes away as the film progresses.

Basu creates a special mood with the film that takes you back in time when life was simpler, childhood meant chasing fireflies and playing with soap bubbles. Darjeeling looks breathtakingly beautiful through the lens of cinematographer, Ravi Varman and production designer, Rajat Poddar adds the details to re-create the delightful 70s. Like its setting, the film moves at a leisurely pace, which is perfect; however a little bit of pruning in the second half could have helped (editing – Akiv Ali). Music by Pritam is first rate and his choice of singers is brilliant – from the fabulous versions of ‘Phir Le Aaya Dil’ by Arijit Singh and Rekha Bhardwaj to Papon’sKyon’ and ‘Ala Barfi’ by Mohit Chauhan and another version by Swanand Kirkire (also the lyricist). The soundtrack not only goes wonderfully with the film but is a perfect accompaniment to spend a rain drenched afternoon, reading a book and sipping tea.

If I have to criticize Barfi, then I will blame the length a bit and the criss-cross narrative that complicates things unnecessarily. But all that can be easily ignored as this Barfi has just about right sweetness… So, watch the film and get hold of the music!

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

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.

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

 

Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year

 

Yash Raj Ke Pocket Mein Rocket Hai!

Pic: Yash Raj Films

 

Remember the wonderful films of the 70s about the hopes and struggles of the middle class man, often played by Amol Palekar? Basu Chatterjee’s ‘Chhoti Si Baat’, ‘Baaton Baaton Mein’ or Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s ‘Golmaal’? The beauty of these films lies in their simplicity and the relatable situations, away from the glitz and glamour that Bollywood often piles on to its films. Yash Raj Films’ latest offering may not be in the league of the classics I just mentioned above but it does have its heart in place. ‘Rocket Singh: Salesman of the Year’ is an entertainer which shows that simple can be special and it pays to be good. Congratulations to the team of Shimit Amin (director) and Jaideep Sahni (screenplay, dialogues, lyrics) for welcoming the simple salesman into our imagination.

The film is about Harpreet Singh (Ranbir Kapoor), an aspiring salesman who is aware of his abilities as well as his limits; he is confident of his persuasion skills and does not let his not so good mark-sheets affect his dream of earning Rs 40,000 a month. He joins as a sales trainee in a computer firm called AYS (At Your Service) and hopes to reach the top through dedication and hard work. He soon realizes that life is not that simple and is mocked, ridiculed, insulted and threatened for being honest. After a point, he decides to get even in his own unique, ‘good’ way.

With Rocket Singh, Ranbir once again proves how watchable he is on-screen and puts a lot of sincerity in Harpreet’s character. The other key characters are also very well defined and the actors do full justice to them; Mukesh Bhatt as the peon and Naveen Kaushik as the go-getter salesman are both good. D Santosh as the download obsessed, IT support guy is brilliant and Gauhar Khan shines in a stellar performance as a firebrand receptionist. Debutante, Shahzahn Padamsee, sadly has nothing much to do except to cook Maggi for an unknown salesman (see, good people are still out there). Prem Chopra makes a rare on-screen appearance and adds authenticity to the Sikh/Punjabi household setting. Overall, it is a character driven film and full marks for Jaideep for writing it, except the climax which is a little disappointing.

It is an offbeat film that attempts to showcase a slice of life – life of a salesman and other regular employees in a regular office. It is not a laugh riot as I expected it to be but is not a let down either; the humour is subtle, the performances sincere and the situations close to real. It is definitely worth a watch.

Question for the makers: Why is the ‘Pocket Mein Rocket Hai’ song NOT in the film?

My Rating: * * * ½ Three and a half 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