Movie Preview : Shaandaar (Releases Oct 22nd 2015)

Not too gaga about the trailer, because there is very little happening in it. A bit of tomfoolery, attempts at humor, but then the leads are so very likable. Let’s hope for the best. Given Karan Johar’s penchant for shiny, pretty things, we should have a decent entertainer.

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Movie Preview : Talvar (releases 2nd Oct 2015)

Directed by Meghna Gulzar, written and produced by Vishal Bharadwaj, Talvar is based on the real-life Aarushi murder case. It stars Konkons Sen Sharma, Neeraj Kabi and Irrfan Khan.

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Movie Review : Phantom (2015)

Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 28 minutes
Director : Kabir Khan
Cast : Saif Ali Khan, Katrina Kaif, Zeeshan Ayub,
Kidwise Rating: PG-13

Phantom is based on Hussain Zaidi’s book “Mumbai Avengers” (Zaidi also wrote Black Friday, which was made into the movie of the same name) where a team of handpicked agents avenge 26/11 by killing terrorists responsible for the carnage. For the film, director Kabir Khan boils this team down to one agent, Daniyal Khan. As a result, Phantom tends to be the poor man’s D-day, simplistic and inauthentic, despite some tension-filled moments.

Saif Ali Khan plays Daniyal Khan, a dishonorably discharged Army officer looking to regain his honor. Khan’s character is quite the super-agent, but he sails through the film on auto-pilot, nary a trace of emotion anywhere. Katrina Kaif plays Parsi Nawaz Mistry, who gets involved in Daniyal’s mission because she has fond memories of the time spent with her late father on the Mumbai shoreline. As Mistry, she is wooden, which is not totally unexpected from her.

The film starts off with a car chase in the US. We see Saif Ali Khan, on of the drivers, then jailed for manslaughter. As things become clearer we realize that Saif’s character, under various guises is on a mission. The mission itself is the brainchild of earnest RAW agent Samit (Zeeshan Ayub). Much of the film is comprised of Daniel Khan traipsing all over the world tried to get rid of the baddies. Towards the end the action moves inside Pakistan. There are some genuinely interesting moments here as Nawaz and Daniyal work with other embedded RAW agents to achieve their goal.

Truth be told, I didn’t dislike Phantom. I am put off by its naivete, though. And comparisons with D-day are but natural. Where D-day had sophistication, depth, and attention to detail, Phantom feels superficial and cosmetic, like made by someone using only half his brain. There is a time post-interval, when the film starts to get a little stupid, but it recovers thankfully. I cannot quite feel for Nawaz and Daniyal, partly because Khan and Kaif perform poorly, and partly because the director doesn’t build characters we can look up to or root for. We are told who they are and why they do what they do, but can’t quite feel it for ourselves.

While Phantom is interesting, and works in parts, it remains a film where the actors mainly go through their motions. It doesn’t distinguish itself in any way. There are better films on the same subject, and Phantom pales in comparison.

Kidwise: Lots of violence. Not a film for the little ones.

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Movie Preview : Katti Batti (releases 18th September 2015)

From the director of the fantastic D-Day comes romance Katti Batti. Yes, Katti Batti is a very different genre from D-Day, but here’s hoping Nikhil Advani comes through again!

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Movie Preview : The Martian (releases October 2nd 2015)

The Martian courtesy

The Martian courtesy

If you are a reader of my Book Blog, “Review Room”, you already know that I LOVED “The Martian”, and that it dethroned Ender’s Game as my favorite sci-fi book of all time. Combine that with the fact that I cannot think of anyone better than Matt Damon to play Mark Watney, and this becomes a film I cannot wait for. I wish it were releasing sooner.

There is one Indian character in the book, Mars Mission Director Venkat Kapoor. Rumor has it that in the film they have changed the original “Venkat Kapoor” to “Vincent Kapoor”, and that Irrfan Khan was initially approached to play this role, but he declined because he was shooting for Piku at the time. Kapoor is now being played by Chwiwetel Ejiofor, because apparently Ridley Scott couldn’t find another Indian actor to play this Indian character. The mind boggles, and is so very annoyed.

In the book, Venkat Kapoor is Hindu, but can’t say whether author Andy Weir intended him to be a 1st Gen Indian American (an immigrant) or 2nd Gen (son of immigrants).

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Movie Review : Drishyam (2015)

Rating : 3.7/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 43 minutes
Director : Jeethu Joseph
Cast : Ajay Devgan, Shriya Saran, Tabu, Rajat Kapoor
Kidwise Rating: PG-13

Drishyam is a remake of a Malayalam film, and even though in Hindi, feels drenched in Southie-Movie culture. The location is a small Goan village. The protagonist Vijay Salgaonkar (Devgn), a 4th class fail, self-made man is a cable TV operator, who may or may not reach home in the evening depending on whether he gets too engrossed in watching movies in the office. His wife (Saran) thinks it all par for the course, and appears perky and bright and smiling, dressed in saris, forever cooking in the kitchen. She depends on him to be the bread-winner, the one to take her on shopping trips to Panjim, and essentially the lord and master. Vijay is that, although, it appears, a just and loving one.

When Vijay’s teenage daughter gets into a situation with a boy, she calls in reinforcements, i.e.; her mother, because daddy is in the office watching movies, and has the phone off the hook. Mom and daughter, essentially abject and powerless, aren’t able to resolve the situation and Vijay must step in at the last moment. The boy goes missing, and soon Vijay and his family are being hounded by the police for answers, because as it turns out, the troublesome boy was the spoilt son of IG Police Meera Deshmukh (Tabu).

The first half of the film builds up slowly, with many of the qualities, especially pertaining to showing docile, powerless women, and omnipotent men, which set my teeth on edge. The second half is where Drishyam actually shines. The narrative is tight and Drishyam actually turns into an engrossing, tension-filled crime drama. It dwells upon the fine distinction between right and wrong, and shows a mirror to corrupt society, with its gender-insensitivity and weak justice system.

Ajay Devgn is one-dimensional as Vijay; there are no fine nuances to his family-man character that I could detect. His protagonist would have been a lot more interesting had we been privy to his inner struggle, which we weren’t. Shriya Saran I didn’t particularly care for either, although she played good-little-wifey to the hilt (which was probably what the director wanted). Tabu is great as always, but her character appears to veer between emotional mom and hard-hearted policewoman rather sharply – not her fault though, I think, the director’s. I actually liked Rajat Kapoor the best here, because of the way he inhabits the character he portrays, the father of the missing boy, yes, but also a decent human being.

I actually did like the film. My rating is not all that high though because there is an element of distaste, stemming from the fact that the film’s story revolves around a woman’s perceived honor in patriarchal Indian society, and the protagonist is an adherent of that regressive culture. It is not that other societies are not patriarchal, but combine Drishyam’s portrayal of abjectly powerless women literally on their knees, with its portrayal of young men powerfully drunk on liberal societal “boys-will-be-boys” sanction, and the film’s acceptance of the skewed status-quo (via the hero’s thought process), and it makes me want to retch.

This is still a decent film, so if you are on the fence, do watch it.

Kidwise: This film, as I said, is a tad distasteful. I can’t recommend it for a younger audience.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, drama, rating-PG13, remake, social issues, suspense | 1 Comment

Movie Preview : All Is Well (releases 21st August 2015)

All Is Well is directed by Umesh Shukla, who also directed OMG. Now I wasn’t too impressed with OMG, but All Is Well looks pretty interesting, so here’s hoping. Also, what’s with Shukla and the titular pithy aphorisms? One theory : he’s eaten too many fortune cookies.

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