Movie Preview : Haider (2nd October 2014)

After making superb film adaptations of many of the Bard’s plays (Maqbool, Omkara) , Vishal Bharadwaj returns with an adaptation of “Hamlet”. The film is set in Kashmir, and stars Shahid Kapoor, Tabu, Kay Kay Menon and Shraddha Kapoor.

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Movie Review : Khoobsurat (2014)

 photo khoobsurat_sonal_fawad2014_zpsc285d81c.jpgRating : Average (2.5/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 7 minutes
Director : Shashanka Ghosh
Cast : Sonam Kapoor, Fawad Khan, Kirron Kher, Ratna Pathak-Shah, Aamir Raza Hussain

If you read my post previewing “Khoobsurat”, you might recall that I used the word “nausea-inducing” in there. Now, don’t go getting all worried, because that would be looking at the glass half-empty. Even so, I must be developing prophetic powers, because this film did indeed cause me to throw up in my mouth. A little. Or maybe it’s GERD; that’s my optimism kicking in.

Khoobsurat is a modernized version of the 1980 version, starring Rekha and Rakesh Roshan (for all you young ones, that’s Hrithik Roshan’s dad). That Khoobsurat had Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s stamp all over it, meaning it was light-weight and fun. This modern-day version alas, is not a patch on that one.

Physio-therapist Dr. Mrinalini “Mili” Chakraborty (Sonam) lands up at the Palace, to help Raja Shekhar Singh Rathore gain better use of his legs. The Palace and estate is run efficiently by Rani Nirmala Devi Rathore (Pathak-Shah) who’s a stickler for punctuality, order and restraint. Impulsive Mili Chakravarty is the un-royal misfit in the palace as she runs around giggling and knocking various antiques over. She wants to call the sari-ed and pearl-ed, butter-won’t-melt-in-her-mouth Rani-Sa “Aunty” and her handsome son, Prince Vikram Singh Rathore “Viku”. Viku is a little more amenable to the flippant title than his mother. Of course he is engaged to the lovely Kiara (Aditi Rao Hydari in a fleeting role), so the “friendship” with Mili won’t really count.

I’m all for romantic stories; I adore “Pride and Prejudice”. The Khoobsurat tale is a spinoff of the old P&P, because there’s a meeting of two very different people, temperamentally speaking of course. There’s unrestrainedly passionate Mili, and the rather reserved Prince Vikram. Opposites attract . . . blah, blah, blah. Sonam fits the role to a T here, and Fawad Khan doesn’t do a bad job either. So whither the problem?

Disney, me thinks. When every scene (I kid you not) starts with pip-squeaky, Disney-ish music which makes me wonder whether I’m watching “Tom and Jerry” instead of a made-for-adults movie, it gets a little tiring.  And I have no problems with Mili being impulsive and giggly but does she have to be brainless and perpetually-dressed-in-primary-colors too? I mean, I get the part about fluff, but too much of a good thing . . .

Vikram’s character is all bearded and solemn, and styled with a hair “puff” that could serve as a bird shelter in the rain (they’d have to really small birds, but still). Fawad Khan  looks and acts severe but I didn’t detect any chemistry between the two. And that’s the problem with the film, it is an idea, but there isn’t substance to it. There are no real scenes where one is tempted to believe that they are really falling in love.  But then that’s just me – the gaggle of teenagers seated in the row behind me didn’t seem to agree. They were practically swooning every time a romantic scene ensued on screen. How could I tell? From all the exclamations and the gasps that emanated from them – they were very vocal. The supporting cast – Ratna Pathak-Shah, Hussain and Kirron Kher are great. Kher as Mili’s mother Manju, who’s played the overwrought Punjabi Ma role umpteen times, still manages to infuse this version with some joie de vivre, and that’s a miracle in itself.

In summary, Khoobsurat is a little bit of brightly colored sugary fluff, taken to ridiculous heights (not a compliment) by the combined “talents” of Disney and Anil Kapoor Films. I’m sure they’ll be raking it in, because films like this do very well. I could just about tolerate it, and you might agree if you are as jaded as I am, or not a teenager.

I predict a hit.

Kidwise : Clean. Some kissing, but decently done. No vulgarity and nothing obscene, which is nice. Very kid safe.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, family-friendly, juvenile, rating-G, romance, women | Leave a comment

What to Watch on Netflix Instant : Edition #20

Barbara- Barbara (Germany, 2012)

It is 1980s East Germany, some years before the fall of the Berlin Wall, and Dr. Barbara Wolff has been assigned to work at a provincial hospital as punishment for expressing a desire to move to the West. The Stasi keep a close eye on her, subjecting her to humiliating and invasive searches. The head of the hospital Dr. Andre Reiser is a sympathetic character, but Barbara, hoping to defect soon, keeps aloof from the hospital staff.

This was a fantastic film, well-framed, atmospheric, and subtly done. And I didn’t quite see the turn coming.

L'Auberge Espagnole (The Spanish Apartment)- The Spanish Apartment (“L’Auberge Espagnole”, France/Spain, 2002)

Xavier, a young French man (Romain Duris) comes to Barcelona to study in an exchange program. His girlfriend Martine (Audrey Tatou) stays behind and they promise to not let the physical distance affect the relationship.

On the flight Xavier meets some interesting people, but in Barcelona, he is thrust into a veritable European melting-pot when he shares an apartment with a bunch of students from diverse cultures and speaking different languages. His adventures make up this light-hearted, quirky comedy.

The Conversation- The Conversation (USA, 1974)

Gene Hackman stars in this slow-paced, dark Francis Ford Coppola production. Hackman is Harry Caul, a surveillance expert, well-known in the business for his expertise as well as his introverted and private ways. Harry is going about doing his job, when he comes to suspect that the young couple he is spying on will be killed. Now his conscience won’t let him rest.

This movie doesn’t have the trappings or the “oomph” of modern-day noir, but still manages to hold interest. I’m a big Hackman fan, so this film was a real treat.

Fever Pitch- Fever Pitch (UK, 1997)

Strait-laced, by-the-book English teacher Sarah Hughes (Ruth Gemmell) meets big-hearted, impulsive, soccer-crazy Arsenal fan Paul Ashworth (Colin Firth). She can’t stand the oaf, and that is problematic since he is teaching in the classroom right next to hers.

Fever Pitch is based on Nick Hornby’s autobiographical novel, and makes a charming film. Colin Firth appears in a curly-haired, shaggy, scruffy avatar as Arsenal devotee Paul; you might not have seen him quite like this.

Rang De Basanti (Bollywood Movie / Indian Cinema / Hindi Film / DVD)- Rang de Basanti (India, 2006)

An English film-maker, Sue, comes to India to make a film on the revolutionaries of the Indian Independence struggle. She meets a group of friends, and through them witnesses the despair and frustration sweeping the youth. Her goal incites interest among the group and they decide to do something to improve the country’s lot.

This moving, patriotic film was India’s official entry to the Oscars for Best Foreign Language Film. Full review here.

Posted in 2014, All Netflix, bollywood, comedy, drama, english, german, Hindi movies on Netflix, mini-reviews, mystery, Netflix Recommendations, politics, quirky, romance, spanish, thriller, WhaTWON | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Finding Fanny (2014)

Finding Fanny
Rating : Poor (0/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 1 hour 54 minutes
Director : Homi Adajania
Cast : Naseeruddin Shah, Dimple Kapadia, Arjun Kapoor, Dimple Kapadia, Pankaj Kapoor

So, Being Cyrus was OK. Not spectacular – just watchable. And then one hopes that after Cocktail, director Adajania would have honed his skill. Yeah, well, he hasn’t.

Adajani comes back to familiar territory and his Parsi/Goan roots. And pulls a cast of his favorites together: Naseeruddin Shah & Dimple Kapadia. Arjun Kapoor and Deepika are new to this setup, as is Pankaj Kapoor. The story is kinda simple and about a bunch of lost strangers who find their way, metaphorically of course. It is supposed (emphasis on “supposed”) to awaken in us an appreciation for life and lost chances (i.e.; there aren’t any lost chances).

In the small, sleepy Goan village of Pocolim lives young widow Angie (dimpled Padukone), her mom-in-law Rosie (a well-padded Kapadia), aging post-master Ferdie (Shah), and recently-returned-from-the-big-city Savio (Arjun Kapoor). When a letter arrives unopened after 46 years, it causes Ferdie grievous heartbreak, a situation Angie needs to correct. So she cobbles together a road-trip with 5 unlikely passengers. And off they go.

This is one of those whimsical films which one would imagine, would have us getting all soppy and emotional, and frolicking in the milk of human kindness etc. You know, when one dabs a tear from one’s eyes while smiling mistily, resolving to get out and build a better world. Well, that balmy illusion slowly dies as the film progresses.

I didn’t think that this film would rocket through. I knew that it would take it’s time delivering it’s semi-serious messages. What I was not prepared for was the glacial pace. Grass grows faster. I was bored out of my mind. The characters are as dull as ditchwater. They might have been more interesting had they been detailed out more. As it were, we catch a few glimpses of their real selves here and there but it doesn’t come together to form a clear picture.

Quirk is attempted in the form of artist Don Pedro (Pankaj Kapoor) who’s in search of his muse. Shambling Kapoor gives us an almost exact rendition of glazed-eyed Harry in Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola, minus the accent – something I’m getting quite tired off, by the way. The forced eccentricities in “Finding Fanny” remind me of the pink buffalo sightings in that film – unnecessary and irksome. Kapadia is a bad fit for her role, and hams it up quite a bit. Shah is immaculate and it isn’t his fault that this film is such a stinker. Arjun Kapoor actually does quite well. But truly, only Deepika shines here, as much as any actor could shine in a film as tedious as this.

There is some humor here. And some witty dialog-baazi – I loved the moments where Angie and Savio finally get to have their say; would’t mind seeing a film on their love story. But the moments are sparse and short, and then the film continues on relentlessly. The film’s poster says “If you’re looking for love . . . get lost!”. Well, lost I am, just not in the way I thought I would be.

If you adore heartwarming stories about ordinary people, there are better films out there. If you don’t, you wouldn’t chance this anyway. Either way, keep away from this mind-numbing crap.

Kidwise : This film is almost clean. A couple of lip locks with implied love-making. There is one scene where Deepika strips off her shirt, but she is wearing way more than women wear nowadays in most commercial film dance numbers – so there will be no need to gouge out your eyes.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, drama, english, goofy, humor, rating-PG13, romance, stinker | Leave a comment

The Music of Begin Again

Begin Again is a romantic musical starring Keira Knightley, Mark Ruffalo and Adam Levine. Knightley makes her singing debut and Levine his film one. I can’t say that Begin Again worked for me as a romantic musical, although there is a vaguely heartbreaking quality to this film. What I did like about this movie though is the soundtrack, sung mostly by Levine, who’s the lead vocalist for Maroon 5, and the luminous Ms. Knightley herself.

The entire soundtrack is pretty good, but “Lost Stars”, “Like a Fool” and “A Step You Can’t Take Back” are exceptional.

Posted in 2014, film festival, hollywood, music, musical, romance | 1 Comment

Movie Preview : Khoobsurat (releases 19th September 2014)

A rom-com courtesy Disney Pictures and Anil Kapoor Films, this one might be interesting if it does not get too juvenile/cheesy/nausea-inducing. Sonam Kapoor and Fawad Khan star.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, Previews, romance | 1 Comment

Movie Review : Mardaani (2014)

mardaaniRating : Good (4/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 1 hour 54 minutes
Director : Pradeep Sarkar
Cast : Rani Mukherjee, Tahir Raj Bhasin, Anil George, Jishu Sengupta
Kidwise : PG-15

Shivani Shivaji Roy (Mukerji) is a senior police officer with the crime branch. She lives with her doctor husband (Sengupta) and her school-going niece. In search of Pyari, a missing child, Shivani stumbles onto a child sex trafficking ring. The child Pyaari has been abducted by this ring, but there are many more children affected. The ring runs deep and wide with friends in high places, and has strength enough to threaten Shivani’s life and family.

Shivani, of course, will not let go.

The film is fast-paced, with nary a boring moment. From the moment Shivani gets a hint of the actual ring, she is on the case, investigating, researching, and dredging up information to present to her seniors so she can get departmental support and action. Director Sarkar (of Parineeta, Laga Chunari Mein Daag fame) balances out Shivani’s work and home life, giving her a realistic personality and she comes across almost believably. I say almost, because as expected of Hindi films, the bravado and swagger are overdone, especially for a female cop.

This film has only one star – Rani Mukherjee. And that is enough because Rani carries the entire film very ably; a very fine performance indeed. Not that we expected any less. Her character is thankfully not made to sing and dance, so we tend to take her more seriously that the Chulbul Pandey types. Shivani is gutsy and fearless and doesn’t back down – a great role model.

As the film opens, we see her joshing with her fellow officers, cursing like a seasoned hand, yet asserting her authority. Some disbelief is natural, when in an initial scene she is shown slapping a trouble-maker without him trying to fight back. In the second half, Rani gets to do most of the stuff that Hindi film cop heroes are shown doing – chases through crowded streets, physical fighting – kicks and punches and good old dhishum-dhishum. And she does them well.

The bad guy in the film is played by Tahir Bhasin who does a remarkable job. And he was apparently in “One by Two”, although I don’t remember his character in that film. Bhasin’s character in Mardaani is a suave, educated, well-heeled English speaking drop-out from Hindu college. Cool, composed and unflinchingly vile, this man addresses Shivani with superficial decorum, but finds the chinks in her armor and targets them. Bhasin plays him with subtle menace.

There are many uncomfortable scenes in Mardaani, but they were probably necessary to emphasize the evil of trafficking. Towards the end, statistics about sex trafficking appear on screen. One of those, is that India is the hub of this crime.

Mardaani is an interesting watch. Now, I might be asking for the moon and the stars (but where would we be if we didn’t even ask?) but there could be improvements – like what if we had as a cop heroine, a female character akin to the soft-spoken yet competent Inspector Devrat Kulkarni of Talaash?

And of course, go watch this film.

Kidwise : I believe the censor board rates this an “A” film. And as I said above, there are some very hard to watch scenes in this film.  Some visuals might be disturbing for younger children.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, crime, rating-PG15, recommended | 2 Comments