Movie Preview : Kill Dil (November 14th, 2014)

Hold your horses people – this is not a sequel to Kill Bill :-). This is a very inventively named movie starring Ranveer singh, Parineeti Chopra, Govinda and Ali Zafar. The only saving grace here appears to be director Shaad Ali, who’s had a pretty decent track record. I loved Saathiya, and liked “Bunty aur Babli” and “Jhoom Barabar Jhoom”.

Kill / Dil comes from Yash Raj Films; the dialogs are already making me a little queasy. Ranveer Singh appears in yet another “young gun” role. Parineeti speaks the most atrocious Punjabi, for a Punjabi kudi, that is. This one sounds like a hit.

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Movie Preview : The Shaukeens (November 7th, 2014)

This is a film I might regret showcasing here. I do it because director Abhishek Sharma (he also directed “Tere bin Laden”) shows promise, and because this appears to be a spinoff of the 1982 Rati Agnihotri starrer “Shaukeen”. The original Shaukeen was a Basu Chatterjee film and was a story of 3 “tharki” old men. The lasvicious old men exist in this modern avatar too, and with the story-line the way it is, “The Shaukeens” could easily go south. I hope it doesn’t, and I hope the director treads a fine line between the funny and the risqué.

Here’s hoping for the best.

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Movie Review : Haider (2014)

Haider (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Rating : Good (3.5/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 40 minutes
Director : Vishal Bhardwaj
Cast : Tabu, Shahid Kapoor, Narendra Jha, Kaykay Menon, Shraddha Kapoor, Ashish Vidyarthi, Aamir Bashir, Irrfan Khan

Director Vishal Bahrdwaj has made two previous films inspired by William Shakespeare’s plays : Maqbool (based on Macbeth) and Omkara (based on Othello). Haider is based on Hamlet, and set in Kashmir circa 1995.

Aligarh University student Haider (Shahid Kapoor) has returned home to Anantnag after his father’s disappearance. His father Dr. Hilal Meer (Jha) has been arrested by the Indian Army, after harboring a known terrorist in his home. The doctor’s whereabouts are now unknown. Haider meets his grieving mother Ghazala (Tabu) at his Chacha Khurram Meer’s (Menon) home, where he realises that there is more to his father’s disappearance than meets the eye.

Haider reminded me faintly of Gulzar’s Maachis, in it’s man-against-system story telling. Bhardwaj has situated the Bard’s story amid the disruption of the Kashmir valley. The Indian Army is out in full force. Roadblocks, searches and curfews are a way of life. It is a time of suspicion and unrest.

Haider is long and tragic, and maintains a depressive mood throughout with the snow and the starkness. The plot events are tragic, there is much sadness and crying, angst and anger. It moves slowly, but still manages to engross until about the last 1/4th of the film. Like in his earlier films, here too Bhardwaj creates memorable characters and casts them beautifully. Tabu is superb as the happy/sad Ghazala Meer with the perpetually moist eyes. Kaykay Menon is marvelous as the politically wily Khurram. And Irrfan Khan as the limping Roohdar is impressive even in his short role. Even minor characters like the video-parlor owning brothers Salman & Salman, with their “Maine Pyar Kiya” fetish, are uniquely interesting.

While Shahid is acceptable as Haider, his character failed to elicit much of a response from me. Shahid is a fine actor (remember “Kaminey”?), so I’m going to blame character development here. Shraddha Kapoor as Haider’s sympathetic lady-love Arshee also fails to bring the heft required by the role. Kulbhushan Kharbanda appears fleetingly; it was disappointing to not see more of him.

I did like the film although it falls short when compared to Maqbool or Omkara. Bhardwaj is a genius, and creates an atmospheric film, pulling the viewer into the deep end with him. I do think that he goes a little OTT towards the end (the singing grave-diggers etc.), but then finishes off the movie very strongly. I did not feel an emotional pull for the hero, although he is wronged. And that I can partially chalk up to the fact that the movie seems sympathetic to the terrorists and mildly anti-Indian-Army. Bhardwaj also takes on AFSPA, and it’s human rights implications, so the plot is muddied a bit; this is not just Hamlet, this is Hamlet in the time of terrorism.

Haider has an impressive soundtrack and a gorgeous background score. Bhardwaj also provides the music, imbuing each song with the hopelessness of the characters singing them.

This movie is a large dose of gloom and doom, delivered in Bhardwaj’s characteristic style, and well worth a watch.

Kidwise : Lots of bullet and bomb-filled violence, and shots of bloodied corpses. Some love-making scenes, although it is all pretty decently done.

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Movie Review : Revolver Rani (2014)

Revolver Rani (DVD)Rating : Average (2.5/5)
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 2 hours 12 minutes
Director : Sai Kabir
Cast : Kangana Ranaut, Vir Das, Zakir Hussain, Piyush Mishra

I had high expectations from this film. It had Kangana Ranaut, a bevy of talented actors, and a strong female lead character. This should have been one of those quirky cult films which you remember long after its release. Well, quirky it is, but all its quirky bits fit together so awkwardly that the film does not rise above mediocrity, if that.

Ranaut plays Alka Singh, a trigger-happy political candidate from the Chambal area. Her political prowess is largely due to the guidance of her wily uncle, Bali Mama (Piyush Mishra), who wishes to realize his own dreams of wealth and power through his niece. Alka’s political ambitions get sidetracked when she falls for wannabe-Bollywood-hero Rohan Mehra (Das). She declares that her political career will take second place to her home life; she wants to be a wife and mother first. This enrages Bali who sees this as the death knell to his ambitions, especially when the opposition party is gaining strength. Her declarations of wanting a homely life also put Rohan in a fix, since he is seducing Alka only to further his career.

Alka Singh’s character is eccentric and foolhardy, impulsive and trusting. Kangana, with her wiry frame and wildly curling hair imbues Alka with a ferocious energy. Her vernacular accent and her artificially darkened skin color (which looked fake, btw) give us the impression that Alka is a small-town girl who has risen to power. That power, unfortunately, has gone to her head. Piyush Mishra is fantastic as the shrewd Bali Mama. Zakir Hussain, another fine actor, treads a fine line between comedy and brutishness as Udaybhan Tomar, Alka’s political nemesis. Vir Das plays fickle toy boy Rohan with ease. The rest of the cast is just as impeccable.

Revolver Rani is part satire, part spoof. It makes pointed jabs at petty politics, the apathetic government, social conditions and Bollywood. The satire is cloaked in dark humor, but some scenes do get pretty brutish. The film’s plot is unpredictable, but does get quite bizarre. Even though Alka is boorish and stupid in her own right, I still felt for her predicament, so Ranaut succeeded there. Unfortunately, the film is so clunkily put together, that it is hard to really like it.

This was not an uninteresting film, but oh, it could have been so much better.

Kidwise : This film is not for a younger audience. There is a fair amount of violence, and brutality against women, as well as situations of a sexual nature.

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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.

Posted in 2014, bollywood, directors, Previews | 4 Comments

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