Cocktail

Neither shaken nor stirred!

Pic source: Wikipedia

Beautiful people in high fashion labels, partying at the most happening places do not make a good film. Unfortunately, the makers of Cocktail think otherwise. The film is dull, boring and predictable; there is neither smart writing nor great performances to engage the audience. Director, Homi Adajania has failed to live up to the high expectations that were set with the slickly cut promos and the dazzling visuals. Unfortunately, the best parts of the film are there in the promos only and one keeps waiting for some more excitement in the film.

**Some spoilers ahead**

The film is written by Imtiaz Ali and Sajid Ali but there is nothing new in the story. Protagonists indulging in casual sex, drinking and partying hard may have been novel ideas for Indian cinema in the last decade but not in 2012. Even from the love triangle point of view, there is nothing new… there are no surprises on who gets the guy – the girl who wears short dresses and drinks or the girl who worships and puts a blanket on her friends when they sleep.  Your guess is as good as the makers’.

Cocktail is about three friends – Veronica (Deepika Padukone), a rich party girl with parent issues; Gautam (Saif Ali Khan), a Casanova from Delhi now in London; and Meera (Diana Penty), a newly-wed girl from India who comes to London to be with her husband (Randeep Hooda), who had only married her for dowry (though he gets her a resident permit in the UK, which she uses quite well!) The writers’ have shown the most amount of creativity in showing how these characters meet – but nothing really seems believable. Anyway, after two-three party sequences, one friendship song and a fancy weekend break in Cape Town (very efficient Visa service in the UK I must say for an impromptu holiday plan); the awesome threesome get in a love triangle (yawn!) From this point onwards you can actually predict the next scene; if you’re going in a group, it can also become a game.

One thing I quite liked about the film and also got a bit miffed with is the styling. Indian Vogue’s Fashion Director, Anaita Shroff Adajania has styled the film and the three lead characters do wear good clothes. Deepika is styled well throughout and carries the look of a London based fashionista quite well. Saif as usual is well turned out and you cannot miss the Burberry jackets and trench; he only needs a little more lip balm. Diana looks pretty and her styling follows her BTM (behenjiturned-mod) story. This is where I have a complaint with Anaita – when Meera lands in London, she has no sense of style and even lesser money; even after she finds a job as a graphic designer, I am assuming she doesn’t earn loads; but the stylist thinks it is ok for her to sport luxury labels – a Tod’s bag for instance.

In the acting department, I am quite impressed with Diana as she has delivered an above-average performance in her first film. I just wasn’t convinced with the way her character shaped up; we are supposed to like her and she is supposed to be the conscientious one but then she does betray her best friend (Tequila shots cannot be blamed for it Mr. Director). Deepika still needs diction lessons but she did go beyond her usual range. Regarding Saif, he was mostly irritating and I mainly blame the character; also he is no longer convincing as a 32-year old! My favourite was Dimple Kapadia as Gautam’s mother who essentially did what Kirron Kher usually does as an aggressive Punjabi lady. Boman Irani was good in his short role and Randeep Hooda was completely wasted.

The film’s music by Pritam is nice and adds a dash of fun (lyrics by Irshad Kamil). I enjoyed ‘Tumhi Ho Bandhu’ (vocals – Neeraj Shridhar & Kavita Seth) and ‘Daaru Desi’ (vocals – Benny Dayal & Shalmali Kholgade) tracks. But my favourite song in the film is not an original one but borrowed from another album; it is ‘Angreji Beat’, sung by Gippy Grewal and Yo Yo Honey Singh. I liked the way they introduced Deepika’s character with this fun song. Cinematography by Anil Mehta is brilliant (as expected); London looks even more inviting through his lens and Cape Town simply gorgeous. Editing by Sreekar Prasad is ho-hum; the film just goes on and on in the second half making you crave for a real cocktail!

Overall, the film leaves you cold and disappointed. This Cocktail is not mixed well; watch it if you don’t mind predictable but good looking stuff.

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Agent Vinod

Of Bond, Bebo and Audience Ki Pungi…

Agent Vinod; Pic: Wikipedia

Much awaited Bollywood spy thriller, Agent Vinod, written and directed by Sriram Raghavan released this weekend. Saif Ali Khan has not only acted in the film but also produced it. The film also stars Kareena Kapoor and a series of supporting actors including Prem Chopra, Gulshan Grover, Ravi Kishan and Ram Kapoor amongst others. I was going to review it but then someone sent me this so called secret transcript of telephone conversations between Saif, Sriram and Kareena. It obviously looks like a spoof to me as films are not made like this; but I leave it to you to decide…

Saif Ali Khan (SAK): Hey Sriram! Wanna make a cool thriller? I’ll produce it… Love Aaj Kal made good money.

Sriram Raghavan (SR): I already made two cool thrillers but despite all the good reviews, they don’t earn much at the box office.

SAK: Yeah man! Ek Haseena Thi and Johnny Gaddar were good… maybe you need to make a James Bond style thriller starring me. I mean look at Farhan and Shah Rukh’s Don, it became a hit and now they’re working on a sequel!

SR: Hmm… I think we can do better than them.

SAK: Exactly, and with your credentials, my star power and a lot of style, we can actually make a James Bond style film in India.

SR: Of course, now that the James Bond films also look and feel like Bolly thrillers from the 70s.

SAK: Done deal! So what do we call the film?

SR: I don’t know; let me start writing the film first…

SAK: Umm…  Ok but please make me an agent in the film. I’d like to be a secret agent, Bebo loves that kinda stuff.

SR: Ok, let’s call it Agent Vinod then; it was a hit spy thriller in 1977. It’s cool and retro.

SAK: Superb! People will call it a remake and after a while we’ll deny it… think of the double publicity… ok, hold on a minute, Bebo is saying something.

.

.

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SAK: Sorry, Bebo says she also wants to be in the film and since she’s already done a Helen aunty style cabaret in Don; she wants a Jayshree T style mujra song in the film. Oh, and she also wants to be an agent. She says she liked Eva Green in Casino Royale, so please write something interesting for her.

SR: Hmm… Ok, I’ll do that. I am not sure about Jayshree T style mujra though.

SAK: Listen, I can’t disturb the peace in my household; I’ll ask Pritam to start working on the mujra and a couple of other fancy tunes inspired by music the world over as we must shoot the film in 12 countries at least!

SR: 12 countries! Ok, I’ll incorporate that in my story.

SAK: Yes, please do that. To make it easier for you, Bebo is discussing the countries she wants to visit with Lolo and Babita aunty. She’ll mail you the list.

SR: Uh… Ok! Anything else?

SAK: No I think, this is enough for now… I’ll ask my team to start working on the brand integrations so that you can keep them in mind too.

SR: Ok, bye.

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.

A few days later…

SR: Hello!

Kareena Kapoor aka Bebo: Hi Sriram, hope you got my list of countries… I included Russia as Saifu keeps talking about Bond movies having Russian villains. But please do not take me there, it’s too cold and I’ll have to wear jackets; that will make me look fat, no? I’d like to shoot in Europe during summer as I’d like to wear a nice sexy gown for a chase sequence. Manish (Malhotra) was over last night for cocktails and we discussed some ideas. He’s the best you know!

SR: Oh, your character is from Pakistan and an agent so I thought you’d like more rugged stuff, like jackets and all… but it is ok, a gown it is for the chase sequence.

Bebo: You’re such a darling… LOL! Accha, talk to Saifu now… I am off to shoot an action sequence for Bodyguard. They have a killer helicopter robot chasing me during the scene today; you also think of something cool like a deadly box of chocolates or something. OK, Ciao!

SR: Ok Kareena, I will. Thanks!

SAK: Hi Sriram. I have seen loads of DVDs now and I want you to include the following… a Bo Derek style swimsuit sequence, where we’ll have a hot model emerging from the sea in a two piece bikini; and don’t think of Bebo doing it! I watched In Bruges, so let’s have some sort of shoot out sequence in middle of an exotic European city square. The opening title sequence should be at par with a Bond film! We definitely need to have a car chase, a bike chase and a helicopter… Of course, the plot should have the villain planning a nuclear war or something that I’ll thwart. Oh! And I have already placed an order for a Savile Row tuxedo, Casino Royale style… so include a sequence where Bebo and I go for a fancy function or something; Manish is doing a slinky dress for her in gold.

SR: Yes, I will. Anything else?

SAK: Oh yeah! Pritam has got some really original inspirations this time… he’s doing something on the lines of Boney M’s Rasputin and a special item song for me based on some Iranian band number he discovered on YouTube. Bebo’s mujra is also shaping up well; she even chose a fuchsia dress. And Pritam says we can give a retro touch by using old Hindi numbers in the back ground score. I think it’s ingenious! Your views?

SR: It’s your film buddy! I am only the writer, director.

SAK: Good! I promise we’ll make money on this one… I have a good feeling about it.

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.

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March 26, 2012 – After the first weekend of Agent Vinod’s release

Audience:

Agent Vinod should have been called Travel Agent Vinod! (Read on Twitter and Facebook)

Agent Vinod ne pungi baja di… I’m never getting my Rs. 250 and three hours back…

Critics:

Sriram Raghavan what have you done? We fanboys are disappointed…

Producer’s Office:

Film’s budget + promotion: Rs. 50 Crore + 12 Crore = 62 Crore approx

Music & Satellite rights sold: Rs. 30 Crore approx

First weekend worldwide collections: over Rs.  25 Crore approx

We’ll make a profit hopefully…

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.

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

 

Love Aaj Kal

 

Imtiaz Ali’s Hat Trick

  
Pic: bollywood-stars.net
Pic: bollywood-stars.net

 

I finally watched Love Aaj Kal… watched it in the second week only but it seems too late as most of the people I know have seen it (reminder to self, never miss a film in the first weekend). Some loved it and some did not (someone I know even called it a ‘Snooze Fest’)… The film has also managed a record opening week at the box office, thanks to smart marketing and great expectations from the writer-director, Imtiaz Ali because of his last hit, Jab We Met (2007).

I neither loved the film, nor hated it… I simply enjoyed it. It is a simple film about the confused generation today and the idea of love yesterday and today. Imtiaz has been following this theme of confusion and love since his debut, Socha Na Tha (2005) and later with the blockbuster, Jab We Met. His stories are usually simple, his characters relatable, narrative always interesting; and with this flick, Imtiaz yet again delivers an entertainer.

The highlight of Love Aaj Kal is the love story set in the sixties. Saif Ali Khan plays Veer Pratap Singh, a Sikh boy from old Delhi, madly in love with a local girl, Harleen Kaur (played by Brazilian model, Giselli Monteiro). The idea of love in that era where all conversations happened through stolen glances is beautifully captured in sepia tone. Rishi Kapoor plays Veer Pratap Singh in the current times and as usual is a delight to watch. Neetu Kapoor (Singh) as Harleen shines in her thirty second cameo in one of the most romantic scenes in the film. Giselli looks straight out of a village in Punjab; she is a little raw but endearing. Saif Ali Khan does a great job as Veer and is his usual lover boy as Jai Vardhan Singh in the modern love story part. Deepika Padukone looks great and gives a decent performance as Meera Pandit, a career oriented, modern woman. She might be a fabulous model but is not a great actress; however, she appears quite natural and comfortable in her character.

Apart from the engaging narrative that moves between Kal (yesterday) and Aaj (today), the film’s light, chatty and contemporary (read, non-filmy and melodramatic) dialogues makes it an enjoyable watch. Special mention for the film’s cinematographer, Natarajan Subramaniam who has captured the film beautifully, especially in the sixties part. Music director, Pritam has done a good job and thankfully the songs form a part of the narrative.

I recommend the film to everyone who enjoys Bollywood romances. It is not as good as Jab We Met but is definitely a nice entertainer. I also recommend watching, Socha Na Tha on DVD; it is a delightful film about youngsters confused about love and marriage. Abhay Deol and Ayesha Takia are mint fresh and remind you of Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla from Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak.

My Rating for Love Aaj Kal: * * * ½ Three and a half stars (on five)

– Shrey Khetarpal

Pic: planetbollywood.com
Pic: planetbollywood.com

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