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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Jab Tak Hai Jaan

This is not how I will remember Yash Chopra

Pic source: Yashraj Films

For me Yash Chopra’s cinema is not Waqt, it is not Deewar… it is Lamhe, Chandni and Darr. I grew up watching his beautifully shot romances where the protagonists holiday in Switzerland and London; women wear gorgeous chiffons in pastel colours and men love passionately. I fell in love with the movies after watching Lamhe as a kid and that love continues to grow strong till date. His films are not about logic, they are not about reality… they are about beauty, about visuals that stay with you and music that plays in your ears long after you have left the cinema. He was the master of drama and emotions… remember the scene where Pooja and Anita meet in a shopping mall and discuss the object of their affection, Viren?  This is not homage to the filmmaker who recently passed away but is what went through my mind right after watching his last film, Jab Tak Hai Jaan that released in theatres today. I will miss Yash Chopra and I missed him in his last film; Jab Tak Hai Jaan is not how I will remember the master of romance.

Jab Tak Hai Jaan is about Samar Anand (Shah Rukh Khan), a man who finds his soul-mate and loses her; his undying love for her keeps him alive and also kills him every day. Meera (Katrina Kaif) loves her man more than her happiness with him and Akira (Anushka Sharma) cannot help but fall for the guy who is hopelessly in love with another woman. All three characters in the film do things that are unexplainable, of course in a Yash Chopra romance you expect people to go beyond the normal for love but situations here seem weak and unconvincing. Aditya Chopra and Devika Bhagat’s screenplay is extremely weak and full of loopholes. In the hands of a lesser director, the film would have been a disaster but Yash Chopra manages to make his characters engaging and for him you stay with the film.

Katrina looks beautiful and is perfectly styled (Manish Malhotra) in true Yashraj tradition… she is presented like a dream but seems a little uncomfortable in the extensive emotional scenes. Shah Rukh is effortlessly charming and romances Katrina like she has never been loved on-screen before.  He is in fact the strongest part of the film and shows he still is the best romantic heroe we have in Hindi cinema. Anushka’s character is a little irritating and she does not get the dream Yashraj supporting actress role that Karisma Kapoor got in Dil Toh Pagal Hai and Rani Mukerji in Veer Zaara.

Anil Mehta’s cinematography is breathtakingly beautiful but that’s no surprise… Yash Chopra knew how to set up elegant scenes. Editing by Namrata Rao is not the best as the film gets tedious in the second half. The other big disappointment in the film came from the music department. With names like A R Rahman (music) and Gulzar (lyrics) attached, one expected magic but we got a mediocre album at best keeping in mind the genius of these two artists.

Overall, Jab Tak Hai Jaan disappoints which can be attributed to the sky-high expectations and the unbelievable story. Watch it for Yash Chopra but I am sure you will remember him fondly for his earlier work… jab tak hai jaan.

Don 2

The King is back… or is he not?

Don 2; Source: Wikipedia

Shah Rukh Khan’s second outing as Don may not be an edge-of-the-seat thriller but it has enough action and style to qualify as an average entertainer. Directed by Farhan Akhtar, Don 2 suffers from the same old Bollywood problem – a weak script (story & screenplay – Ameet Mehta, Ambrish Shah and Akhtar himself). Instead we are offered fancy locales, exciting stunts and oodles of style… oh, and of course, King Khan.

While the first Don (2006) was a remake of Amitabh Bachchan starrer of the same name (1978); it packed a lot more punch and a killer twist in the end as compared to its sequel. The biggest strength of the film is SRK who seems to enjoy playing the bad guy. He is effortlessly cool and sinister in most sequences but has some cringe-worthy moments towards the end where his ‘love-interest’, Roma is involved. Priyanka Chopra reprises the role of Roma, the tough Interpol cop who is still licking her wounds after being fooled by Don in the first film. She has nothing much to do in the film except being called ‘Jungli Billi’ (wild cat) by Don and a little am-a-cop-and-I-can-kick-ass sequence towards the end. Lara Dutta in her brief role steals Ms. Chopra’s thunder in the glamour department and sheer screen presence. Newcomer, Saahil Shroff sadly doesn’t get enough scope and other actors including Om Puri, Boman Irani and Kunal Kapoor are fine in their respective roles.

The film’s other strength is its style quotient for which the Akhtar siblings are well known for. Don 2 is the first Hindi film to be shot in Germany (Berlin) and naturally the locales look refreshing. There are some interesting stunts including SRK’s 300 metre jump from a skyscraper (though it pales in front of Tom Cruise’s Burj Khalifa adventures that we recently witnessed in MI4) and an elaborate car chase sequence where sponsor, Hyundai’s cars prove to be the best. There is an elaborate bank robbery meets 26/11-style hostage crisis sequence that forms the second half of the film. The actors’ styling in the film is quite impressive including Don’s menacing long-haired and un-kept look in the Malaysian jail, followed by well fitted jackets and over coats. Lara looks stunning while Priyanka has some off moments, including one where she chases Don in a slinky designer gown (costume: Jaimal Odedra; hair: Walter Dorairaj, Diane Commisariat). Cinematography by Jason West is also first grade with fantastic aerial shots of Berlin, Thailand and Malaysia.

While the film scores high on style, its slow pace and the length prove detrimental (editing: Anand Sobaya). Despite borrowing heavily from the first film’s soundtrack, music director trio of Shankar, Ehsaan and Loy deliver a below average music score.

Overall, Don 2 disappoints and is certainly not a fitting return for the King. However, it is also not a bad film and is definitely a one-time watch for fans of the franchise and SRK.

My rating: * * * Three on five

– Shrey Khetarpal

Ra.One

Pic: Ra.One; Source: Wikipedia

Open letter to Shah Rukh Khan…

Dear Shah Rukh Khan,

Firstly congratulations for the spectacular opening of Ra.One and hope you manage to recover all the money you spent on the film. Not because it is a good film, but because you dared to dream and put your might behind a risky venture. You said it right, if you don’t make mega budget blockbusters in Bollywood, then who will?

Coming to the film, it is a major disappointment but don’t worry the masses in India are used to watching not-so-great or even silly films as long as they have their favourite stars; take the example of the recent Salman starrers, Ready & Bodyguard, and Rajnikanth’s Robot. Also, your film is a lot better than Shirish ‘Fizzle’ Kunder and Farah Khan’s masterpiece, Tees Maar Khan and Bollywood’s last sci-fi outing, Love Story 2050 (how I shudder at the thought of that film!)

You must praise your marketing team that kept the buzz alive around the film for over seven months. They did their job a little too well, as by the end of it, the whole country said, “Please stop, we’ll watch Ra.One”. They deserve a bonus. Others who deserve praise are your special effects team for creating some good sequences; I particularly like the scene where Ra.One regenerates with little Lego like digital cubes (too big to be called pixels). The few action scenes in the film are also nice and I hope the folks at Volkswagen are happy the way their cars were smashed. Kareena Kapoor did her best to look good and sizzle the screen in the Chammak Challo song; I believe that was the brief to her! Her make-up artist went beyond the brief to make her look smashing with blow-dried hair after she is rescued from a train wreck. Your villain, Arjun Rampal deserves a big fat bonus too as he proved to be the best thing about the film. Pity he didn’t get too much screen time.

Now coming to those whose payment you should put on hold. The director, Anubhav Sinha; firstly why did you hire him to lead a 150-crore project? His last film was called Cash, which didn’t earn any cash at the box-office! If it was because he wrote the story, that’s not an acceptable excuse as the story was nothing great with a concept borrowed from Hollywood (yes, we all watched Tron Legacy if not the original Tron). He did even worse with the screenplay where he had three accomplices (Kanika Dhillon, Mushtaq Sheikh & David Benullo); patchy writing peppered with crude jokes and lines that fell flat! You hired an Academy Award winner, Martin Walsh (Chicago) who edited all the wrong things (read action) from the film; part of the blame on the Indian editor, Sanjay Sharma; the film dragged and could’ve been good 20-minutes shorter. If you are thinking of a sequel, please do not work with any of them.

Regarding music, please give a show-cause notice to Vishal-Shekhar as well for doing a half baked job. One hit song does not create a great album but they just managed to save themselves with Chammak Challo, which became a bigger hit because of Akon and Kareena. Raftaarein and Dildara were also good songs but not smash-hits that are expected for a film like this. And what was that Criminal song? Choreographer Ganesh Hegde made it look like a B-grade party number focusing on everyone’s bum! Also, I hope you didn’t pay for any of the special appearances as all of them were disappointing. Priyanka Chopra, Sanjay Dutt and Rajnikanth, all were wasted in their cameos. If you did pay, please deduct from Mr. Sinha’s pay package.

Your charm worked in the film and made it watchable but your decision to wear that horrible wig in the first half is beyond me. I understand that you tried to please everyone with this film but that’s not possible. But keep trying different things, some will work and some won’t but that’s how generations will remember you, apart from the guy who brought romance back to Hindi cinema.

Sincerely,

A fan

My rating for the film: ** ½ Two and a half 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.

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

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