Creation

13 Dec

Originally posted on passionforcinema.com  on February 5, 2010

The reviews of this film that I read yesterday send me into a contemplation mode. Was Charles Darwin really reduced to a meek, a sick and sweaty Gothic writer, or were the conflicts arising between his theory and religion oversimplified and dumbed down by the film? Many of the reviewers complained of the lack of any stimulating debate and absence of any drama related to the furor, the evolution theory created in those times. I can’t claim they are entirely wrong in their perspective, but what I would say in counter argument is that would any verbal debate or depiction of political consequences of his theory on the society, be able to grasp and convey the actual influence of the idea (which is arguably the single most powerful idea of the history of mankind) on our entire outlook towards the creation of a human being. The debates would have surely theorized the effects a great deal, but at the end of the day it would be just plain theory. Whenever we focus on external effects of any particular incident, we tend to take a scholarly turn and start theorizing. This is exactly what Creation, the film, avoids and in turn internalizes and humanizes all the conflicts and ramifications of the ‘Origin of Species’ theory.

If the theory was supposed to affect people of those times, there was no way Charles Darwin himself could have casually discovered some patterns and then cheerfully arrived at a theory which ripped apart our very faith in the presence of the basic human ‘divinity’. He wasn’t some crazy mad scientist who didn’t care a hoot about people. He was infact a very sensitive, loving and caring human being not necessarily very religious. When his theory slowly started taking shape, he was shaken. His faith in human goodness was questioned. His very existence came under scrutiny. Such questions don’t easily let go a person. But still he lived with those questions cheerfully like a kid struck by wonder. Life and death of organisms became objects of his daily observations, thus installing in him a certain sense of objectivity and detachment towards life and death. Once he takes his kids to the jungle and makes them witness a fox killing a rabbit. Seeing this, one of his daughters starts crying, “That’s not fair!!” But his other daughter, Annie, whom Charles sees as his special child, explains, “The fox is supposed to kill the rabbit. If the fox doesn’t, the babies of the fox would die of hunger.” Annie is Charles’ perfect student. She understands him in a very special way. Annie is also a sort of manifestation of the child inside Charles. And thus there is a ‘soul-mate’ attachment between them.

Then one day Anne becomes sick and her sickness extends over several months and then finally she dies. When Anne was born, Charles used to make notes daily of her physiological progress every day. His wife used to casually allege him of treating the child as a specimen. And now, the child, who had grown up to become a bright 10 years old, had died. Charles is shattered, apparently beyond repair. Years pass by, but still Charles can’t get over Annie’s death. His wife has come to terms with the death and has already turned her focus to the other kids showering them with equal affection. Charles has lost faith in God long ago, whereas his wife is a devout Christian and here is where one of the most potent questions arises regarding science and religion. Religion has surely seeped deep inside us and maybe affected our evolution. May be we have evolved to become more sensitive beings because of millions of years of God worship. Can our scientific awareness erase that sensitiveness in matter of a few hundred years? Can we do away with the need of God, not in terms of support system, but in terms of just plain faith in a superior power? If science does seep deep inside, will we turn into robot-like creatures in another million years? If that seems to far fetched, answer this. Can we reduce a human being to just a mere functional organism like others around us. How much does our human consciousness weigh in the cycle of nature? The scope of the questions spiral up from science vs religion to human vs nature.

Let us analyze (theorise?) how the film goes about in raising the human vs nature question. One day Charles meets up a pigeon breeder who reveals his secret of breeding evolved pigeons in just about 4-5 generation breeding. He tells Charles that he inter breeds his birds, brothers with sisters. The risk here is that the resultant birds could be weak and he would loose a couple of them. As a human with strong scientific inclinations, Charles marries his first cousin and gives birth to their first child under the belief that he is making a ‘special’ child. But nature has its own ways, and Anne dies at a very tender age of 10. This guilt of his contributes majorly to his inability to get over Annie’s death. Along with it, he is persuaded by a publisher to immediately gather his notes and come up with a book explaining comprehensively his ‘Origin of Species’ theory and thus wipe of all mankind’s notions about God.

This was what THE Charles Darwin had to go through while coming up with his theory. He was torn between his human instincts, his human tendencies and his fool-proof theory about the natural creation of humans. His own theory, though a pretty evidenced truth, lead to his eventual breakdown. But the characteristic human dogged determination and the love for wife and kids helped him rise from the pits, and finally publish ‘Origin of Species’. It was indeed a triumph. Triumph, of course of a revolutionary idea but also the triumph of our very human existence.

End of theory lesson 😐

Taking Woodstock: Mother of all feel good movies

13 Dec

Originally posted on December 11, 2009

taking_woodstock

Do you remember the dizziness that you experienced when suddenly your life was barraged by limitless happiness in just a matter of few days? The things which you never imagine would happen to you were actually happening along with the things you desperately wanted to happen. All the oft used phrases like ‘bhagwaan deta hai toh chappar phaadke’ or ‘Love makes my world will go round’ are literally applicable for that duration. The events take you by such a surprise that you don’t have even a moment to sit back and soak in the moment and tell yourself “Today, I’m happy!” You are not actually with yourself; you are actually, as often said, living the moment without any awareness of yourself. You are flowing with things happening around you. Now that, I would term as pure ECSTASY.

Scene-from-Taking-Woodsto-001Woodstock festival, was indeed pure ecstacy for the hundreds of thousands of ‘hippies’ from around America. And Taking Woodstock captures this with so much heart and goodness, that it was overwhelming to see the event unfold and experience the era, without seeing a single stage performance at the Woodstock. That is what the film also does; it doesn’t even show a single live performance. The whole festival is seen from the eyes of Elliot Tiber, owner of the motel where many of the hippies crashed before and during the festival. His depressing mortgage-blues filled life suddenly transforms into a thrill ride of his life. And this is why the movie succeeds like it does. It focuses on this specific character and builds the whole event around it. 370-taking_woodstock.standalone.prod_affiliate.8As Roger Ebert says, more the film is specific, more effective it is. I’m just imagining how less effective a multi POV narrative would be in this case. The film could easily have taken the route of narrating multiple stories with the common thread being the festival. But it doesn’t and that is why it is so damn thrilling along with being just enjoyable.

Woodstock_redmond_stageThe things which we so often say about movies, like ‘this certain movie transported me to that era’ or ‘that certain film put me into the character shoes’, are not just applicable to this film, the film actually sets towering benchmarks for the above statements. I’m slowly realizing that this post is shaping as a big hyperbole. But I can confidently vouch that everything written is true, if you see it from my eyes ;)

Elliot Tiber is quite a dynamic person when it comes to his local town affairs. With help of his parents, he runs the motel. His mother is an uptight rude old lady, while his father is a kinda laid back, given-up-on-life old man. When Elliot reads in the paper that the Woodstock festival guys were driven away from Wallkill, New York, his enterprising mind immediately jumps on the idea of inviting the festival guys to hold their festival in his town White Lake, New York. After quite a few hurdles, the Woodstock Venture finally books Elliot’s entire Motel and an expansive farmland few miles from the motel to setup the festival. The sudden cash inflow rejuvenates Elliot and his parents. This is actually just the beginning of the journey of Elliot’s character.

I believe, true happiness is in motion. It is in being in motion, working towards something, creating something. It is in the time when you are not aware of yourself and completely lost in your activity. It is in the restlessness and anxiety of whether your target will be achieved or not. It is in the intoxication of the weed which you smoke to run away from those anxieties. It is in the work that you grudgingly do the next day, with a major hangover still in your head. It is in that break you take from work to just calm yourself down. It is in the time which zooms past you without you being aware of it. In short I believe happiness is in the time when you are busy creating your dream.

Then when you witness your dream, created in front of you, you feel the satisfaction and immense pride in yourself. When all the anxiety is done with; you are awake the whole night enjoying the achievement, and then you watch the early morning sky which changes with every minute towards the sunrise, with country music playing on the radio. That is bliss. That early morning is what everyone strives for. The aftermath is what all of us term as happiness, at that moment. But in retrospect, you won’t remember the early morning. You will always cherish the busy days. And then recalling those days, you’ll say to yourself, “I was so happy then!” So let me revise my opinion, true happiness is always felt in retrospective. The best retrospective being the immediate retrospective, that early morning.

And that is why when we see the closing frames of the movie, of the rag pickers cleaning the messed up farmland after the festival, we feel that early morning calm with the thrill in your immediate memories. It may not be the quintessential peak of the crescendo, but its more like a flat crescendo, you are at the top but your feet are still grounded.

takingwoodstock2

Note: Taking Woodstock has an amazingly shot intoxication scene, when Elliot meets couple of hippies who give him some drug and invite him into their van (as above). It is one of the best I’ve seen in my limited movie watching. Till yesterday it was the Pulp fiction montage of Vincent shooting heroin in his veins intercut with a close up of Vincent driving his car. The slow infusion of blood in the syringe, his drugged eyes and the music made it helluva intoxicating for the viewer.

Bring Back the Bard puhleez!!!

13 Dec

Originally posted on passionforcinema.com on December 10th, 2009

One question I would like to ask Vishal Bharadwaj. “What’s the big rush sirjee?”
Kaminey felt like such a rush job. It is in so much hurry that most of the scenes become a hodge-podge series of shots which desperately scream at you “Look I’m so snappy. Look I’m so trippy. Look I’m so smart and look I’m faster than you. Dare you blink!”
Of course it is one helluva ride, but the ride doesn’t give a damn whether you are with it or trying to cling onto any thread you see. The ride wants to any freakin how reach its destination within a given deadline.

*SPOILER ALERT START*

Consider the ending shots. The shootout is over. Charlie is hit. In the next shot we see a bullet being removed. Immediately cut to, twins CU – Guddu CU – Priyanka CU, cut to Charlie betting in the crowd with a board of Mikhail and Co, cut to Fofhie. THE END.
These above images just rush through as if its job is just to inform. “What’s the big rush sirjee?”

*SPOILER ALERT END*

Surprisingly, though my initial words seem harsh towards Kaminey, my immediate reaction was far from negative. I really liked the 2nd half, except few things at the end. But when I started discussing it with my sister, the haze of ‘why didn’t Kaminey crack it’ slowly started to clear and I became more confident about my problems with the film.

I rarely come across Bharadwaj Rangan’s reviews in my daily surfing, but for Kaminey, I made it a point to read his opinion. And he gets one insight dead right.
“Kaminey is best experienced as a minor movie with major, character-driven set pieces. But there are times you are left with the niggling feeling that Bhardwaj is attempting to inflate this minor material into a major movie. “
Kaminey tries to give weight to the otherwise mean, quirky and frivolous characters. Along with this it also tries to bring some gravitas into a Guy Ritchie-esque plot. It tries to evoke a sense of traumatic childhood, brother vs brother, kameena panti, right and wrong, ambitions and love. And this is exactly where it messes up. The dynamics between the brothers rest on a clichéd (I never thought I would use this word for Kaminey) and a contrived guilt laden flashback. The love angle works better as a plot propeller rather than evoking any emotions (ala True Romance. The love angle was so freakin intense). And what was the big deal about the kameeneys. Were they that Kameeney? Have we not seen more kameeneys in our bollywood. Take for example Sayaji Shinde from Shool. And now compare it with Bhope Bhau. Bhope bhau could be termed as more entertaining, but who would you term a proper Kameena. Bhope bhau acted more like a chindi politician playing chindi power games. Tashi was just going around with his business. Lele Lobo were the becharaas stuck in a situation. What was the most Kameena thing these guys did in the movie?

So, my point is, why make a big deal about the whole thing, why play the profoundly worded title song amidst this chaos, “Why so serious sirjee?” If the screenplay were treated a bit more farcically, a bit lighter handedly this would have become a far more potent film.

My final problem with the film would be the shaky and headache inducing cinematography + editing. Tassaduq Hussain and Meghna Sen do complete disservice to the screenplay. Now I know why Mr. Anurag Kashyap referred to Kaminey as a Guy Ritchie meets Paul Greengrass. And for Kaminey there shouldn’t have been any Greengrass influence. This ain’t a Bourne Ultimatum or a United 93. Then why shake the hell out of the viewer. Why all the fast cuts and the constant barraging of ‘cool’ looking out-of-focus shots. Please keep the camera still and let us soak in the crackling chemistry between the characters. “Sirjee, you don’t need these gimmicks to be cool. Your raapchik dialogues and the quasi edgy direction are enough sirjee!” The need for more cool and calm editing is accentuated by the presence of the non-spoonfeeding screenplay. The screenplay doesn’t divulge all details and keep many things hanging around trusting (sometimes over trusting) the audiences sensory, cerebral and emotional receptors. In such cases the character dynamics have to be soaked in by the viewers so as not to be hindered by the lack of details. And this needs still shots to maintain the overall clarity of the going ons.

Okay, enough of bitching. Actually all this bitching is more of a natural retaliation to the insurmountable praise it’s been receiving. Even my most trusted people like Raja Sen and Rajeev Masand couldn’t find a fault in the film. I respect them so much for their Bollywood reviews that I sometimes doubt my own reasoning. But to hell with the critiquing and lets delve into why Kaminey is a screamer in its own right.

The screenplay (barring the above mentioned issues) is indeed imaginative and many a times rib tickingly audacious. When characters run into each other there is always an inherent tension and they end up in a crackling showdown. Watch out for Mikhail vs Bhope bhau. Each character is supposedly the Dude in his vicinity and that results into a strong underlying energy throughout. And the actors make a feast out of it. Not a single one looking outta place. Shahid Kapoor delivers a visceral performance as Charlie and also oozes sincerirty as Guddu. Priyanka plays her bit with mast bindass honesty. Her feisty and earthy marathi rendering made me go weak down the knees. Enough has been said about the rest of the cast. I would just like to add that each one commands his screen space in presence of others and come up with jhakaas performances.

Kaminey surely takes hindi cinema a notch up with its narrative and plot structuring, but doesn’t reach in the vicinity of cinematic class. It mish-mashes genres rather unspectacularly. (IMO Mithya did that spectaculary) But anyways the energy, which is maintained on high levels throughout, ensure that not a dull moment is delivered. And finally it has upped my respect for Mr Tarantino ten fold.

The Best Hindi Films of the Decade 2000-2009

13 Dec

Originally posted on passionforcinema.com on December 31st, 2009

To accommodate as many as possible, I couldn’t help but come up with different categories, because I wanted to have Kya Kool Hai Hum too somewhere in the list. To come up with films right from 2000 I have referred Wikipedia’s list of Bollywood films released each year. I hope I haven’t missed any. You would surely find some odd entries here and there based on my personal taste. But my decade’s best is mostly keeping both my likes and the general rating among cinephiles and general audience. No personal tweaks there.


Runner-ups

This category formed when I ran out of category names. The films mentioned in here are a mix of personal favorites and films which are exceptional in parts but don’t crack it as a whole.

(The films are ordered according to their year of release)

Monsoon Wedding
If for nothing else, just for the celebration dance on Aaja Nachle followed by Sukhwinder’s song of the decade, Kawa Kawa.

Saathiya
The end was a bummer, but till then it was disturbingly real.

Khakee
If this is an original screenplay, I’m impressed. And even if not, Amitabh Bacchan’s taking-a-nap-on-stage scene and the explosive monologue at the police station, makes this Rajkumar Santoshi’s best since his Sunny days.

D
I fell in love with Randeep Hooda after this film. His performance fit perfectly as a prequel to the epic Malik character in Company. Some dialogues and scenes are for the keeps. “Main dhande ke liye marne ko tayyar hoon… kya tu sirf muje maarne ke liye marne ko tayyar hai?”

My Brother Nikhil
I cry buckets each and every time I see this film. The main reason being I have a very Juhi Chawlaesque elder sister. Get it?

Gangster
It’s a solid drama. Superbly shot, with a killer soundtrack. Shiney Ahuja’s arrest scene is gut-wrenching. The twist at the end was superb too but then the Emraan Hashmi’s over the top abusive encounter with Kangana at the end killed it for me.

Yun Hota toh kya hota
I simply loved the film. When I saw the film for the first time I had no clue about the stories linked with 9/11. So the end was completely heart wrenching.

Pyaar ke side effects
It took quite a long for apna bollywood to come up with a pitch perfect crisp romantic comedy.

Namastey London
Extremely satisfying hindi pickchur with an underdog hero and a diva like heroine. Easily Akshay’s best during his stint as a superstar.

Cheeni Kum
A crackling first half precedes an over the top farce in the second half. Amitabh and Tabu hit off with each other in a delightful tête-à-tête throughout the film.

Life in a Metro
A very enjoyable urbane filmy hyperlinked narrative laced by a killer Pritam soundtrack. Irfan and Konkana pair up to deliver the most delightful scenes. And Sharman with his brooding honesty won my heart.

The Blue Umbrella
Only if I had watched it on a big screen, I would have promoted it to the higher categories. Pankaj Kapur picks up the pahaadi accent so amazingly that I couldn’t stop myself from smiling every time he said something.

Aamir
It’s fast and it’s gritty. Puts you into the character’s shoes and suffocates you in the bylanes of Mumbai. I found the end moments stretched beyond a point. All the pressure and the anxiety vanished. If the end had worked for me, Aamir would have been way up my list.

Oye Lucky Lucky Oye
Something was amiss in this film. There was some vague disconnect which I couldn’t point out. But anyways, the first 20 minutes by themselves deserve to be in the list.

Firaaq
It was a really well made film, but it only rose occasionally to shattering levels. Maybe it was supposed to be that way. I appreciated the film to great lengths but it didn’t really shake me or shatter me.

Little Zizzou
Oh! A delightful warm and fuzzy Parsi movie. I watched it twice and enjoyed it thoroughly.

Pardon my stupid category names. See the movies listed and bhavnaaon ko samjo.


Guilty Pleasures

These are not actually ‘good’ films but I have a good time with them even today.

Nayak: The real hero
The Sanskrit chant which plays every time the CM kicks ass, is what I refer to as epic goosebump inducing background score. Anil Kapoor is very convincing as the morally upright socially responsible citizen. Shankar’s hindi debut is high on so-bad-its-good quotient too.

Rehna hai tere dil mein
I used to worship this as a teenager but then have grown out of it, but still each and every scene brings out the old memories and a smile.

Zameen
This was the time when I was an Abhishek fan. I still remember coming home after a first day last show of Zameen and shouting excitedly to my Mom “Abhishek has got his first hit!” People cheered throughout the whole movie. But alas I was wrong, it didn’t manage great business except for some territories.

Kya Kool Hai Hum
This is an absolute hooter of a film. Raunchiness levels hit through the roofs in this film. It is filled with gross double meaning PJs, but till today it gives me the kicks.


Best of Kickass

These are the films which brought back the kickass grit in bollywood this decade. These films feature greyer characters along with plain badass villians. Its not always good vs bad, but even if it is that, these films grind the good to torturous levels thus amplifying the payoff at the end.

Kaante
Sanjay Gupta has style. Period.
And a special mention for Milap Zhaveri for those acidic, kickass dialogues. Some were translated but some were, “sawaal yeh nahi ki bar mein kitni daaru hai, sawaal yeh hai ki tu kitni pee sakta hai.” I hope this isn’t a translated one too!

Ek Hasina thi
Saif Ali Khan’s best role on par with Langda tyaagi. He has some villianish bone for sure. The soundtrack was never recorded. The title sequence song ‘chaha bhanwar’ was astoundingly atmospheric.

Gangajal
The interval scene, where the cops pour acid in eyes of the imprisoned, is one of my favorite scenes. The whole build up where Mukesh Tiwari gets into a verbal duel with the goon and then simmering with anger goes out and brings the acid from his car battery, is purely exhilarating. It gave me the chills.

Apaharan
This film has tremendous repeat value. Its badass and fast paced. Nana Patekar and Ajay Devgan deliver powerhouse performances. Yashpal Sharma as always provides a pitch perfect haraami performance, to give us a superb interval payoff.


The Specials

These films are in general small in budget, indie films. Their achievement may not be as major as the decade’s best but still they are special in their own way. They are the little gems close to my heart.

Waisa Bhi Hota Hai Part 2
This was one of the decade’s earlier new wave films, with a soundtrack more famous than the film itself. Nonetheless it was filled with tongue-in-cheek humor and an adman’s crazy imagination.

Socha Na Tha
What a whiff of fresh air! The casualness with which things went forward in the film was refreshing. Not many people saw this when it came out, but those who did couldn’t stop raving.

Home Delivery
I met Sujoy Ghosh at the Hangover premiere in Mumbai. I told him that unlike many I love his Home Delivery. He started laughing. He said ‘Don’t let others hear this, or they will laugh!” The film had a very distinct rhythm to its proceedings, and the Mahima Choudhary scenes are hilarious. And this may be the only movie which leads upto Diwali at the end.

1971
I missed it on a big screen and I regret it. And I can’t figure out why the producer’s didn’t promote it, because it was a perfect crowd pleaser along with being superbly detailed and acted.

Dil Dosti Etc.
Campus is sooper fun. Why don’t more movies explore the campus, in a more real way like Dil Dosti etc. Shreyas Talpade surprisingly pulled off a Bihari role effortlessly. And the women in the film were hot. Period.

Ek Chaalis ki Last Local
Wild and entertaining. It also has a superb repeat value. A voice over was never so much fun in a hindi pickchur.

Johnny Gaddar
Sriram Raghavan reverses the whodunit gloriously. Instead of the audience, the characters in the film are clueless about the killer, which made the film extremely fun to watch.

Manorama: Six feet under
Abhay Deol biking through a Yana-Gupta-pouring-water-on-her-body mirage. Can one setup the environment, the premise, the characters more deftly?


Invoking mass Hysteria

These are the films which along with becoming monstrous hits, created massive mass hysteria during their theatrical run. These movies may stick to old-school hind film making but assure you the kicks.

Kaho Na Pyaar Hai
I stiil remember the euphoria this movie created in its second week. People from nearby villages were making trips to Pune to catch this film. All kinds of shops started selling Hritik posters. Such was the hysteria. And the movie itself was very neatly and sensibly plotted for a done to death double-role movie genre. Rakesh Roshan is one director who gets the audience pulse right. He is the master of old-school hindi film making. No farce to be found here.

Gadar
Sunny’s career defining movie and Anil Sharma’s career making movie. I remember reading on indiafm.com, a week before the release of Gadar and Lagaan, that the advance booking in Punjab for the first 3 days was already full. I was dumbstruck, why would Gadar invoke any excitement, and that too when Lagaan too is releasing on the same day. But then as Gadar entered its second week the hysteria spread countrywide and theatres started reverberating with serious whistling and hooting. Along with Pakistan bashing, Anil Sharma took care to lace it up with a strong emotional core. And that is why it worked so friggin well when Sunny Paaji took on the whole Pakistan army with just his roar.


Memorable Theater going Experiences

These are the films which completely zapped me in their first theatrical viewings, may be on account of the hype, the mood I was in or the public reaction. On repeat viewings they fail to recreate that effect, but there must be something special in the films which created the initial fizz.

Bhoot
There was a drunk guy seated in the row front of me. The film started and so his lewd comments on Urmila. But after the first Manjeet appearance below the stairs, he couldn’t utter a single word. He saw the rest in dead silence. My exams had finished and I had run to book the tickets for the night show. The mood was so upbeat that I was totally zapped by the Bhoot experience and reveled in it for days.

Darna Mana Hai
This was a total WTF movie. I still remember the moment when the title song started with the visual of blood pouring out of an apple. I was awestruck. The film started with a pretty well done Sohail-Antara story, but then came the ‘No smoking story’ followed by the Raghuvir Yaadav one. I was like WTF did I just see. Totally crazy stories. And they were surely creepy. In the interval, my friend asked me “Were the stories good?” He was totally dumbstruck; he just didn’t know what to make of the stories. But everyone got their paisa vassol in the Vivek-Nana story. Personally I’m a fan of No smoking and the Raghuvir Yaadav one. Apart from their story, they were so precisely shot and edited. The sound design needs a special mention.

Dev D
Excitement had gone through the roof. Following is the first para of my rave review of DEV D

“After a tumultuous day (I banged my car into another, my bike got picked up from No Parking and finally when I reached Rahul I saw HOUSEFULL board, bought tickets in black, but by mistake booked 1 ticket less, when I realised, it was late, everything was sold out, I gave the tickets to my friends and I fleed to Mangala) when I settled in my seat to witness the spectacle, I couldn’t help but feel the buzz, the excitement in the dim lit cinema hall, with people shouting hooting singing EA even before the movie started. I was damn sure, this was gonna be a helluva ride.”

I’ve seen DEV D 3 times since, but it hasn’t really grown on me. The last time I saw, I couldn’t stand the movie. Everything felt very artificial and inert. IMO Amit Trivedi outshone Anurag Kashyap in this film.


How can I forget these?

There are some movies I love but also agree to the fact that they aren’t actually masterpieces. In case of some of the following I’m convinced by the critics about the flaws. A couple of them are here because I didn’t want to overload my final Decade’s best list which is in perfect shape.

Haasil
Irfan Khan arrived with this amazing campus movie. And this wasn’t the fun campus movie. It was grim and real. I debated with myself about including this one in decade’s best but then I haven’t seen this enough number of times. So here it is.

Lakshya
There are two scenes in particular which define this movie. The scene when Hritik comes back to meet Priety Zinta after running from the academy. And the other scene being the phone conversation between Hritik and Boman towards the end. These scenes have stayed with me for a long time. The war scenes were much more convincing and polished than the J.P. Dutta films.

Maqbool
This is Vishal Bharadwaj’s masterpiece. I have no particular reason of not including it in the Decade’s Best. Just a gut feeling I guess. I was just awestruck by Pankaj Kapoor’s Abbaji act. I was like ‘Where the hell was he all these years!!’ This was the first time I noticed Piyush Mishra. The scene when Irfan kills Abbaji is chilling.

Swades
This is more of a personal movie than a decade’s best. It may be simplistic for few but one can’t doubt Ashutosh Gowarikar’s honesty and goodness reflected in the film. It surely is idealistic but very relevant and uplifting too. There was a new found respect for Shahrukh in my eyes after watching this film.

Rang De Basanti
Rakeysh Mehra and Aamir Khan put themselves on line with this one. It was a totally outlandish idea for a big budget mainstream film. The second half went completely overboard but still worked gloriously. The broad strokes the film employed helped in generating protests and movements on the streets. And that actually shows the impact of the film. The soundtrack was arguably Rahman’s best. The moment when RooBaRoo kicks in towards the end was simply liberating.

Chak De India
This Shimit Amin follow up to Ab Tak Chappan was simply a case outstanding film-making. Superb character development and ensemble performance. The thing that stops me from including this in the decade’s best is that at the end of the day it is a formulaic sports movie. What actually blew us was the detailed writing and a girl’s hockey team. I may be wrong here. But anyways, the decade’s best has equally and more worthy films.

Taare Zameen Par
I’m aware of all the criticisms TZP has received. There is some truth in every one of them. But I just can’t deny the fact that the film completely drained me. I cried at many junctures. The title song requires a special mention. I cry each and every time I see the kids performing on the stage. And it still matters to me to know how much was Amol Gupte and how much was Aamir Khan in the film.

Rock On!
I can’t get myself convinced that Farhan Akhtar hasn’t directed this film. Only when I see Abhishek Kapoor’s next I’ll be able to figure out the real hands behind the film. Someone told me its a guy’s chick flick. I don’t know whether it is that or not but it surely is a sooper buddy/nostalgic/musical film. For the superbly shot stage songs itself it deserves a place in the list. It feels really good to see things essential to a story, like the rock music and the rock band, depicted with details. After Rock On do you expect audiences to accept the haphazard rock band depiction and Ajay Devgan as a rock star in London Dreams?

Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na
Abbaas Tyrewala showed us how enjoyable a clichéd airport climax can be, in these times too. He gave Genelia D’souza a well deserved crackling role. And he also made us believe that Imran Khan could act.

Decade’s Best

So finally we arrive at the Decade’s 11 best films. These films along with being box office hits, also have a huge cult following. Some are trendsetters while some are every Indian film buff’s wet dream. Most of them if you juxtapose with world cinema, fall way short of innovation, or even formal expertise. But they standout when judged against Indian milieu. Lately I have been asking myself, why I judge Indian films and foreign films in different light. Frankly speaking I just can’t make myself judge an English film and a hindi film for just what they actually are, films. For me hindi cinema is a different domain altogether. I despise myself for this skewed perspective. I’m trying to grow out of this, but as of now let’s take a look at apna Bollywood’s best from 2000 to 2009.

Hera Pheri

After a lukewarm 1st week, Hera Pheri picked up like a wild fire. People had never laughed this much in a film for a long time. The scene, where Baburao blindly fires the machine gun on the ground, literally ejected people off their seat with laughter. It is hands down the best comedy of the decade. For a change I quite liked Sunil Shetty in this film. Akshay Kumar didn’t have to behave as a sole comedy torchbearer, which was so much better. But the star of the film was Baburao Ganapatrao Apte. Paresh Raval let himself loose for this character and delivered priceless dialogues throughout. It really pains me to see the same Paresh Raval screeching and screaming in De Dana Dan. Please Priyan, give us one more Hera Pheri. Please!!!

Lagaan

This one is a bona fide epic, a labor of love. Ashutosh Gowarikar captured the nation’s imagination with this sprawling historic cricket duel. The theatres across the country turned into stadiums. Every soul in the theatre knew that Bhuvan’s XI was surely going to win, but still they sighed at every wicket and cheered every boundary with equal passion. It has quite a good repeat value considering it has nearly a 4 hours running time. On a lighter note, a special mention here for Captain Russell and Kulbhushan Kharbanda. Captain Russell’s accent laden Hindi and Kulbhushan’s constipated dialogue delivery has guaranteed laughs in many filmy conversations 😉

Dil Chahta Hai

This was an obvious trendsetter. For a change there were no poor people just for the heck of complementing the presence of rich people. It was actually the first true mainstream multiplex film to hit the marquee. All of us identified with the buddy camaraderie depicted in the film, the all guys trip to goa, the father lecturing about career on breakfast table and so many other specifics. These were just specifics to hook you up, but the film rose above these specifics to become a moving tale of chaddi friends parting and then getting together again. The theme wasn’t pathbreaking, but the treatment was, on basis of which I think it warrants a place in decade’s best.

Company

In 1998 there was Satya, and in 2002 there was Company. Both of them masterpieces of gangster film-making. The reason I can’t place anyone above the other is because they both are on different planes of evolution. Satya was on the streets, while Company was in offices. Satya was raw, while Company was refined. Company is a perfect evolutionary successor of Satya. I remember whining about RGV casting Ajay Devgan in Company, but I was so wrong. Ajay Devgan was born to play Malik bhai. And what a way for us to discover Mohanlal! “Bayalees tape hai tere aur uske hello hi ki” Aah!! Priceless. Special mentions here include, Jaideep Sahani, Sandeep Chowta, Vivek Oberoi and Manisha Koirala.

Munnabhai MBBS

Lage Raho was surely more beefed up and entertaining, but the first one was more earnest and less preachy. And no scene in Lage Raho could match the moment in Munnabhai MBBS when Sanju Baba walks in and the whole class stands up. I still remember the deafening roar of laughs in the theatre at this particular moment. The whole premise of a goon going to college was fresh and funny and it was explored fully with lots of wit and laughs. This was both Sanjay Dutt’s and Arshad Warsi’s redemption role in terms of box office. They found new lease in their career. Sadly it did nothing great for Gracy Singh. She was last seen in Desh Drohi. Special mention here would be the carom scene after which Rustam’s Dad drinks the mango juice and then says “Jamvaano Laavni… Bhook laagi che.” I wonder how that scene would have read on paper.

Ab Tak Chappan

What a crackerjack screenplay this one is! The man behind it is Sandeep Srivastava. I can’t imagine he is the same guy who wrote New York. Really? Anyways, Shimit Amin breaks in the industry with this taut, slick and tense encounter cop’s story. On a formal technical level, this is the best directorial debut in ages. And no words here can commend Nana Patekar’s act in this film. It’s one kickass role he has been given and when it comes to kicking ass no one does it matters that Nana. Few moments back a friend of mine compared Yeshwant and Bad Lieutenant and declared Yeshwant as a masterpiece in front of the Nicolas Cage starrer. Nana commands your eyes and ears like very few do. He is a powerhouse. Every time it plays on TV I cannot help but stay glued to this masterpiece.

Black Friday

This film is way above other films on Anurag Kashyap’s filmography, at least on the basis of the directorial command over an entire film. This may be his only film where he does not find the need to convey his angst or ideologies to the viewers. Rebellious? Yes, but in terms of film making, not on the content front. This film literally blew me away with its sheer power. Critics complained about the slack 2nd half, but I couldn’t stop raving about the change of pace and perspective the film took in its second half. Tiger Memon spit fire with an intensity never seen before. Pawan Malhotra tore apart the viewer with his act. Special mention here would be Indian Ocean and Anurag Kashyap again for the opening scene and the foot chase scene. Only he can do that.

Sehar

One of the best cop dramas of Indian cinema. The setting of Uttar Pradesh lends a well deserved break from Mumbai. I now realize how detailing elevates our Indian movie goers experience manifold. The lack of detailing unlike before now irks everyone. And that is a step up for our cinema. Sehar was in a way a gentle, yet intimate look at the UP crime scene. It gets really gruesome and intense only in the final train sequence. An that is why it stands out from other cop dramas like Ab Tak Chappan. In a way it is actually a bit aloof from a hard core genre movie. It ends gruesomely but still isn’t very grim in totality. The music is always a very good indication to the overall feel of a movie. And in Sehar it is gentle and the film ends up with a very hopeful song ‘Sapno ka sheher’. Special mentions here are obviously Arshad Warsi and Pankaj Kapur.

Khosla Ka Ghosla

Detailing again! The feel of our capital city permeates throughout this gem of a film. It actually isn’t a major film. It follows the done to death incite and payoff path, but with a very delightful restraint and specifics. There are no broad strokes. The restraint which I’m talking about is missing from Rocket Singh. At a level Boman Irani and Puri (Ranbir’s top boss) have a similar role in the bigger picture, but Puri goes over the top with the in your face haraamipanti. Anupam Kher is also bullied mercilessly in this film, but still it rings more havoc than Ranbir getting bullied. Anyways, Khosla ka Ghosla though being a minor film is full of life, full of true to life character and radiates unique warmth which we usually tag with classic gems.

Jab We Met

“Tum muje bahout like karte ho na!!” Aah!! Which guy wouldn’t like such an acknowledgement. Jab We Met is our quintessential filmy romantic comedy. If someone has to go filmy, please go it the Jab We Met way. Imtiaz Ali pours all the desi charm in this fun-filled road romance. I guess this was the first time Kareena Kapoor garnered universal acclaim. And she ought too. She just chewed the scenery with her Geet act. And the scene where she is laughing and then slowly becomes serious and starts crying is a wonderful example of spontaneous acting. Till date I have liked Shahid in Ishq Vishq and Jab we met. Imtiaz Ali uses his boyish awkwardness to great effect. Like Taare Zameen Par, the first hour of this film is an absolute clincher.

The Namesake

Though it is an English language film, the presence of Tabu and Irfaan Khan compels me to place this heartfelt coming of age film in this list. It is a perfectly nuanced film which explores an Indian family away from their motherland. The issues they face, though similar to that of Indian families, are amplified by the cultural differences. But good people understand, adjust, compromise rather than letting their egos take prominence. It tackles so many issues and conflicts on so many levels. And above that, it is so beautifully shot. It even captures Calcutta so befittingly in those few scenes. Special mentions here would be Tabu and Irfan Khan.

Gully Boy – Authentic Body, Fake Soul

28 Jun

Originally published at http://madaboutmoviez.com/2019/02/23/gully-boy-authentic-body-fake-soul/.

Gully Boy’s aim at authenticity is commendable. The locations, the texture, the music all build up an authentic world of the origin of Gully rap. But the protagonist, the Gully Boy himself is fake and hollow. Not false in the way many of the gully rappers are, wearing their hoodies and flat-rimmed caps just imitating the hip-hop pioneers, but in a way how clean-cut he is without any spunk, neither has a single negative nor a rebellious streak in him. Zoya Akhtar and co. have created a character out of their imagination of how an ideal rapper is, or rather ‘ought’ to be as per their standards.

Continue reading

Arjun Reddy – Fallen GOD

28 Jun

Originally published on https://madaboutmoviez.wordpress.com/2019/06/22/arjun-reddy-a-fallen-god/

There is a very fundamental difference between Hindi films and South (I mostly mean Tamil/Telugu) films. South films are more connected to the id (unconscious driving force to fulfill basic urges). They are more upfront and honest about sexuality. I am not talking about the obvious sexual expression of love-making, making out or talking about sex. Because the new era Hindi movie characters do these things very flippantly which makes it damn routine (maybe Hindi films have grown past it and I still haven’t). The south movies on the other hand, do not show any action, but always carry a sexual charge, never failing to acknowledge the sexual tension. Of course, they make a big deal out of it, but that’s what most of us do in real life. A very simple innocuous example would be the first physical contact between boy and girl. It does not carry much weight nowadays in Hindi films. However, a South film treats it as a dramatic beat with slow motion, music drowning out etc.

I start conversation on Arjun Reddy with this is because Arjun Reddy clearly carries the burden of sexual taboo, and it stands right at the cusp of the north-south mainstream film divide. It tries hard to handle sexual expression the Hindi film way, but is held back by the weight of the milieu. It actively tries to rescue kissing from the burden of social taboo, by having the lead pair kiss in every scene (even on poster!). I could clearly see how hard it was trying to normalize kissing and bring it to the level of a hug. Whether it succeeds or not completely depends on the eyes of the beholder. But the rebellion has a candor and naivety that is difficult not to empathize with.

Arjun Reddy has obvious similarities to Dev D. Where Dev D is more indivualistic in its approach, Arjun Reddy approaches its subject from a collectivistic cultural perspective. Arjun Reddy (titular character) is almost a force of nature, which rips apart this collectivism and debunks politically correct scales of behavior. He stands out as a raging bull. He treasures id satisfaction over any other reward. He sees himself as a superior being trapped in the ways of the civilized world. When he is denied the thing he feels he has an indisputable right on, hell breaks loose and he just cannot accept this with his chin up. It is a failure of massive proportion, which sends him on a trip of pain and RAGE. He is angry on not only himself, but also the people around who denied him his right and now asking him to move on. It seems unacceptable to him. Still he is never able to tear himself away from the people. There is a constant intrusion of the outside world into his space of manic rage. Sometimes it mitigates, sometimes it aggravates. He has to eventually make peace with the outside world.

Earlier I compared Arjun Reddy (the character) to a raging bull. Along with the obvious metaphorical meaning of it, there is a strong sense of animalistic gratification and an archetypal alpha animal ruling the jungle, throughout the movie. The most in-your-face example is a stunningly staged sequence where all the fresher girls (first year) line up for breakfast in a serpentine queue around a bench, where Arjun Reddy is seated behaving all alpha (posturing, smoking). In slow motion, we see him checking out each girl, making eye contact with everyone. Then finally fixing his eyes on one of them and following her throughout the moving line. To today’s progressive eyes this might feel disgusting, but we have all been to college, where world does not confirm to today’s politically correct standards. There are obviously guys trying to score, and there is a prevailing hierarchy dominated by seniors who feel entitled to impose them on the freshers. You might ask, why glorify it? Same reason violence is in movies. Movies do play a role in giving a visual to fantasies. Good, bad, ugly. Hyper masculinity connects viscerally with the audience, both men and women.

Reactionary digressions aside, this scene – set to the beautiful semi-classical ‘Madhuram’ – really sets up the movie and the character on path to the sublime, destruction and redemption. The movie’s absolute single-minded focus on the protagonist almost builds him up as a fallen GOD. Arjun Reddy is a genius (college topper and top surgeon) which we all wish we were. He acts out on all impulses, good bad and ugly, which we secretly wish we could. As we saw Khaleesi – another victim of God complex – lighting up Kings landing, here our guy lights up himself with unlimited drugs, cigarettes and alcohol, ultimately leading to his fall. It all catches up when he botches up a surgery in drunk stupor. He truly falls down in his own eyes, which is very important, because until then it really does not matter to him what the world around him talks or thinks about him, he feels he is a GOD. Interestingly, his progressive ideas of caste-less society, individual freedom etc. add up building the god complex within. He gives sermons to his best friend explaining why no one around understands him, and are trying to control his fate. Many of these things are not new to Indian cinema, numerous versions of Devdas and more importantly the critical darling Dev D. I think what sets Arjun Reddy apart is the doggedness of staying away from self-pity. Anger is something that he uses frequently to shield himself from pity. Until the surgery accident, he does not allow us to feel any pity or sympathy for him, which makes it difficult for the audience.

This brings us to the climax. Devdas does not get his girl, nor does Dev D (I know he finds redemption with Chandramukhi instead). But our man Arjun Reddy gets her, which many commentators took objection with. ‘He is getting away with all the bad behavior and also getting the girl?’ However, it is a terribly heart-breaking moment when he finally meets her. While Arjun Reddy was drowning his sorrows in style, Preethi is the one who truly suffers, but maintaining dignity. She runs away from her wedding, realizes she is pregnant, and stays a solitary life trying to give stability for the baby in her womb. Suddenly the nature’s inequality hits us. Sex is always without consequences for the man, but it could change a woman’s life forever. It is truly a humbling end for Arjun, as well as for us.

Addendum: I did not feel the need talk about the woman’s perspective, because I thought her motivations, though not underlined, were pretty self-evident. But the latest uproar in the hind film critic fraternity requires me to respond to some concerns (believe me I’m not strawman-ing their concerns)

  • Is she really in love or is she hostage in the relationship (Stockholm syndrome)? At the start of the relationship there are circumstances which could pressurize the girl into consent (seniors pressure, whole campus watching), but on the other hand some perks (rise in hierarchy by dating college stud, campus protection) too. And finally primitive attraction to the alpha male, and how he is mild and tamed with her. So I would say it is a mixture of all this, which is honestly depicted.
  • Why does she accept him? Deep inside, she would have of course wanted the guy to show remorse and ask her to come back, right? If you feel her self-respect should have overridden that, you need to understand that, she does get the moral victory over him at the end. That should be enough to assuage her hurt self-respect.
  • She has no agency; she is always a victim of her environment, always under pressure from either lover or parents. Agree that she is the victim of her environment, but why do you discount her brave decision (agency) to run away from her marriage and raise a child on her own? Regarding parental pressure, of course in some areas like marriage, women are more restricted. It is a cultural thing. The woman has to leave comfort and venture into the unknown. So obviously, parents get protective and hence more restrictive. Do you want the film to denounce it? If you look closely, it does, emphatically! Arjun Reddy throughout his phase of pain and rage gives sermons about how this society holds back individuals from attaining their happiness.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil Movie Review : Karan Johar re-invented

1 Dec

Are emotions inherently adolescent? Karan Johar thinks so, as he gets Ranbir Kapoor – who has built his career playing the man-child needing a relationship to grow up – to play his surrogate. He names his character Ayan – of course after his still-growing-up protege Ayan Mukherjee (director of 2 movies starring Ranbir getting life lessons from sorted women) – who is an adolescent navigating a world of adult relationships, finding it impossible to deal with his one-sided love. In the process of making Ayan realise “That’s life buddy!!!”, Karan Johar comes up with a movie which is essentially a distillation of all Imtiaz Ali movies into a tremendously clear minded closure to unrequited love and everything that comes along with it. Continue reading

Sairat

1 Dec

*** Major spoilers ahead 

Sairat is a very easy movie to respond emotionally. Nagraj exhibits tremendous control on the craft of mainstream cinematic tropes in the first hour, that the viewers have no choice but to surrender and submit themselves to the movie. And in doing so they are at the mercy of Nagraj, who takes advantage of this and takes unsuspecting casual movie viewers on a stark journey leading to a soul crushing defeatist ending. It took me almost 3 days to recover emotionally, gather my thoughts and make sense of things intellectually. Like many of us, I crave to relive the movies emotionally. Sometimes I get desperate and watch a movie multiple times in a theater just to relive the emotion I felt for the first time. I fail most of the times. Continue reading

2015 – Hindi movies

4 Jan

deewanitvm_640x480_81432153246

There are the Hindi films I liked in their entirety (start to end), and which had some thematic or cinematic value which would be cherished after a decade

  1. Bajirao Mastani – delivers a cinematic experience with great dialogues, searing emotions and spectacular production values
  2. Tanu Weds Manu Returns – a hilarious, full-fledged hindi pickchur with incisive commentary on identity politics and a tour-de-force performance from Kangana Ranaut
  3. Hunterr – Provocative, at the same time intimate and heartfelt. Explores sex in a patriarchal cultural framework, refreshingly in a realistic setting without going ‘Anurag Kashyap’ on the viewer.
  4. Talvar – A solid police procedural. Highly biased, but the complete immersion in information (and the process of accumulation) is thrilling.

These are the films which stirred me enough to think about them after they finished, but didn’t have any lasting value.

Continue reading

Bajirao Mastani – An emotional juggernaut. A blockbuster!

24 Dec

1442308541_ranveer-singh-gajanana-song-bajirao-mastaniMost of the times I do not pen my thoughts on movies which are an experience (for me) rather than an exercise (for me). Reason being, I have nothing specific to say about them. I’m awed by them, they transport me to a place and I’m in the film-maker’s control for the entire length, I’m not viewing it critically, I’m just experiencing it (like the good ol’ 90s). So instead of wasting time in hyperboles and adjectives like stupendous, fantastic, amazing, I just lay low with a brief little Facebook status hailing the film. (Probably I’m not breaking these movies down, so as not to ruin my experience, because I’m still that guy who is insecure about his favorite movies). So that’s what I did with Bajirao Mastani. Just a provocative statement on FB “SLB makes Rajamouli look like an amateur” and I was done. But the general indifference and reserved/hesitant praise from our mainstream movie critics (probably the worst in the world) and the Bollywood blog scene towards Bajirao Mastani has made me angry enough to write this piece.

Continue reading