Movie Review : Gippi (2013)

Gippi - DVD (Hindi Movie / Bollywood Film / Indian Cinema) - 2013
Rating : 3.2/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2013
Running time : 1 hour 35 minutes
Director : Sonam Nair
Cast : Divya Dutta, Riya Vij
Kidwise Rating: PG

I’ve been wanting to see this film ever since it released last year. Unfortunately this didn’t release in the US at the time it did in India. But I wanted to see it because it is a unique film, for Bollywood that it, since there are very few Hindi films that are made specifically for young people. And cleanly and classily at that.

Gippi is 14 tear old Gurpreet Kaur, who lives with her beauty-salon-running mom (Divya Dutta) and younger brother Booboo. Her parents are divorced and her dad is on the verge of marrying again. This is a tumultuous time then for teenager Gippi as she deals with a multitude of pressures – the desire to be thin and cute, and attractive to the new boy in her class, and then of course there is the stuff with her parents. When she has a nasty spat with “cool” class-girl Shamira, Gippi must prove that she has what it takes to win.

Given that I really wanted to see this film, I was a little disappointed. It is decent, but not especially well made, as in, it drags, there seems to be little flow or structure. Like other Karan Johar productions this film too takes a challenging situation/problem in the protagonists’s life and sees it through to its resolution. The young protagonist Ms. Vij is pretty effervescent but can’t emote in some of the heavier scenes – I actually liked the young lady playing her best friend Aanchal more. Also there is virtually no star power in this film so you hang in there because you like the protagonist, and hope to see her bloom.

In what this film gets right, there are a bunch of things – nice play on familial love (Divya Dutta is phenomenal as the single mom), cute characters, adorable tweensy dialog, peppy youngish music. I also liked the fact that this film depicts positive characters – her mom is a spunky woman who support her kids as an independent woman and countenances gracefully her ex-husband’s second marriage, and her dad is a loving father although no longer married to her mother. There are no hidden morality messages (and you know Bollywood is rife with those) about marriages/divorces, boyfriends and “being horny”, so we really do take the grown-up viewpoint here, which is nice and refreshing for a Hindi film.

Superficially, Gippi falls in the “coming-of-age” category, but the coming-of-age is so shallowly dealt with that I hesitate to place this film in that category. As far as Hindi films go, you could do worse than Gippi. I only wish I could recommend whole-heartedly, but alas, I can’t.

Kidwise: Clean. I’d recommend this for teenagers.

Posted in 2013, bollywood, drama, family-friendly, rating-PG, watchable | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Dil Dhadakne Do (2015)

Rating : 4.2/5
Genre : Romantic Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 50 minutes
Director : Zoya Akhtar
Cast : Anil Kapoor, Priyanka Chopra, Ranveer Singh, Shefali Chhaya, Anushka Sharma, Zarina Wahab, Farhan Akhtar, Rahul Bose, Parmeet Sethi
Kidwise Rating: PG-13

I was pretty surprised when this film received only lukewarm reviews – it was an Akhtar film, was it not? Post-watch I still can’t understand it although I have to say that Dil Dhadakne Do is a bit of a comedown after the rambunctious blockbuster that was Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara.

DDD is essentially about the Mehras – Kamal (Kapoor), Neelam (Chaya), Kabir (Singh) and Ayesha (Chopra), an ultra-rich Delhite family out celebrating the 30th marriage anniversary of the parental unit. Kamal and Neelam in truth haven’t been on friendly terms for ever so long, but maintain the pretense of the happily married couple. Their son Kabir is the unwilling crown prince to the Mehra industries throne, and his sister Ayesha has been married off in Bombay, and not considered a Mehra anymore in true Punjabi patriarchal style.

The anniversary celebration is in the form of a 10 day cruise of Turkey and Greece, where the Mehra clan is accompanied by friends and family. As the days go by, their lives unravel in spectacular fashion. Life will never be the same again, and that can’t be a good thing can it?

So that’s the nub of it: the implosion of a good-looking nuclear family. It is very prettily done of course. Nice characterizations, some good acting, lovely locales and foot-tapping music. It is a little drawn out at at the beginning, with frequent voiceovers spelling out the obvious to us. Too much telling and not much showing – a big, glaring flaw. I mean I understand that Akhtar wants us to get the nitty-gritty and all, but could she not have worked the voice-over-ish stuff into dialog?

Once you get past that, it’s mostly smooth sailing. I like the Akhtars you know, because when I see their films, even though they get a little too bromance-y, you can tell that they are feminists. In DDD, they actually take it pretty head on. There is an overt questioning of the patriarchy, of the superficial veneer of morality that shrouds society, and of the unequal status of women in Indian society. I loved it.

Anil Kapoor, probably playing his age for the first time ever, is in spectacular form. And Shefali Chaya, as unhappy society wife Neelam, is toe-to-toe with him. Ranveer Singh and Anushka Sharma have great chemistry – they fairly sizzle on screen. There is this scene where the two set eyes on each other for the first time, and all they do is look. It was smolderingly fantastic, and would have been even more so if not for the annoying voice-over. Priyanka Chopra and Rahul Bose do well too, and then there was the fabulous Zarina Wahab as Bose’s mom – an unexpected bonus.

It is new for the Bollywood film industry, this genre of familial fall-outs, and unspooling love-lives (note the plural). And if anyone were to try their hand at it, I’d rather it be Akhtar because she, despite some missteps, seems to display that talent for getting to the heart of the matter. The poignant moments in this film are proof enough of that. I recommend Dil Dhadakne Do – a fun, feel-good film.

Kidwise: This is clean and classy. There are a couple of lip-locks, and a few trysts in the sack (although nothing is too explicit – let’s not carried away now, this is Bollywood after all). My teenagers saw this with me and loved it. Say what you will, but you do have to admit that like other films by Farhan/Zoya Dil Dhadakne Do also makes Desi people seem cool, hip, and possessed of a sense of humor – traits very attractive to the young ones. My kids have now evinced a renewed desire to polish their Hindi skills, because they want to understand the meaning of the song lyrics, and get the inside jokes. And for that, dear Akhtars, I tip my hat.

Posted in 2015, directors, drama, feel-good, humor, rating-PG13, recommended, romance | 2 Comments

Movie Preview : Hamari Adhuri Kahani (19th June 2015)

Hamari Adhuri Kahni comes via director Mohit Suri. While the trailer looks interesting, and the film features a strong star cast, one still doubts. “Aashiqui 2″ was all right, but Suri’s most recent venture “Ek Villain” was extremely painful to watch :-). Still, here’s hoping for the best.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, Previews | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Tanu Weds Manu Returns (2015)

Tanu Weds Manu Returns (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Romantic Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 8 minutes
Director : Aanand L. Rai
Cast : Madhavan, Kangana Ranaut, Jimmy Shergill, Deepak Dobriyal, Swara Bhaskar, Eijaz Khan, Rajendra Gupta, Navni Parihar
Kidwise Rating: PG-13

It is the age of the sequel and so it is that Tanu Weds Manu “returns”. You do know that I quite liked Part 1? That one was quite a sleeper hit, and in anticipation I expected big things from this – which I got, in a manner of speaking.

“Tanu Weds Manu Returns” deals with what happens after “happily ever after”. The lovers have united after fighting their way through fierce obstacles, but till when does the harmony last? Not very long apparently, since at the beginning of this film Tanu, i.e.; Tanuja Trivedi Sharma, has returned to India leaving husband Manu, i.e.; Manoj Sharma, in dire straits in the UK. Manu follows her but finds her distant. Then he meets Kusum, a young college-going girl who is almost Tanu’s twin in physical respects. Manu finds himself falling for the much more pliable Kusum. Tanu meanwhile starts longing for Manu again . . .

If you are rolling your eyes at that story, know that you are not alone. I am a little befuddled when the director tries to bring in the “judwa/look-alike” concept, especially in this realistic genre. The story itself is shaky and not so believable. The whole beginning scene in the UK with the disturbed Manu being led away just seemed false. The characters in TWMR have changed, and not in a good way. This hurts because the characters enthralled us so in the previous film. Manu, ever-so-constant in his love, seems dithering here. Raja Awasthi, that hot-blooded rogue has been tamed down to beyond recognition. And Tanu herself seemed rebellious, but here she also seems flighty and selfish.

The film had a shaky start but seemed to settle down. It does have genuine moments of humor, but largely it seemed like the director was trying very hard to play to the gallery. While that is good in moderation, I watch a film for the director’s vision, not his interpretation of what he thinks I want to see! Originiality is king, and what made the first TWM the film it was. TWMR seems a weaker commercialized wanna-be when compared to it.

Kangana Ranaut carries this film. She is marvelous as both Tanu and Kusum (Dhatto), portraying each one believably with a difference of manner and accent. Madhavan is referred to as an “adrak” (ginger) in the film, because his character seems to grow in every direction. And that is true, he is spreading fast! His charm, of course, is inversely proportional to his corpulence (remember him in Rehna Hai Tere Dil Mein?). Jimmy Shergill looks like he did in TWM and does as well as one could with such a weakly written character. The rest of the cast like the magnificent Dobriyal, Bhaskar, Gupta et. al. remains as dependable as before.

Aanand Rai hasn’t totally lost his touch because the settings and the supporting characters still seem genuine. And there is an emotional pull-and-tug behind it all. However I am disinclined to give it more than 3.5 stars because, IMO, the sanguine charm of the previous film has degraded down to the “massy” appeal of this one. Nothing wrong with massy appeal of course, unless it’s massively contrived, which it is here. The lead characters, the ones in whom we have been invested have changed to the point where I’m not sure I care that much. I actually felt more for Kusum and Raja than Tanu-Manu; maybe Rai should follow up with a sequel about them. Given Rai’s obvious talent, would it have been so hard to actually make a film that stuck to the true and narrow?

Kidwise: Pretty clean, although there is some language.

Posted in 2015, comedy, directors, drama, quirky, rating-PG, sequel | 2 Comments

Movie Preview : Dil Dhadakne Do (5th June 2015)

From the director of the lovely “Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara” comes Dil Dhadakne Do. Lots of big names in here : Priyanka Chopra, Anushka Sharma, Ranvir Singh, Farhan Akhtar, Rahul Bose, Shefali Chaya and Anil Kapoor.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, directors, drama, Previews, romance | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Bombay Velvet (2015)

Bombay Velvet (Original Motion Picture Soundtrack)
Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Romantic Thriller
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 30 minutes
Director : Anurag Kashyap
Cast : Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Kaykay Menon, Karan Johar, Satyadeep Misra, Siddharata Basu, Manish Chaudhary, Vivaan Shah
Kidwise Rating: PG-13

Bombay Velvet has been hyped, talked about and much awaited. There’s the very attractive lead pair in retro-mode and the talented director. Anurag Kashyap is known for making offbeat films. You may or may not like them, but you have to admit that he differentiates himself from the rest of the pack. So it is with Bombay Velvet. It is hatke although I can’t confess to liking it too much.

Ranbir Kapoor is “Johnny” Balraj, a small time conman looking to hit the big time. He is noticed by newspaper mogul and schemer of all things shady Kaizad Khambatta (Johar) who sees fit to put this hot-headed, ambitious young man and his good friend Chimman (Misra) to use carrying out various illegal activities. Johnny eventually comes to run the “Bombay Velvet” club for Khambatta, where lady-love Rosie Noronha (Sharma) is also employed as a jazz singer. Johnny however is unsatisfied, gnawing at the leash, and wanting a partnership in Khambatta’s business. Thus starts the trouble.

Bombay Velvet is based on historian Gyan Prakash’s book “Mumbai Fables”, and Prakash is one of the writers on the film. The noir film mixes in drama and real events (like the Bombay land reclamation) with a story of gangsters, their molls and guns – the look and feel of it reminded me of The Godfather. There’s our hero, who is actually a bad guy hand-in-glove with the Bombay Mafia. The story spins around him. It is not an uninteresting story, so it a pity that the film cannot convey that oomph to us.

As much as I like Ranbir Kapoor’s acting chops (e.g.; Barfi), I have to say that he is ill-cast here. Kapoor cannot quite convey Johnny’s intensity or his all-consuming hunger for power – here he looks like an artificially scruffed up pretty boy playing around with a street side accent. It doesn’t help that Johnny’s character doesn’t appear to have very many redeeming qualities. I felt more sympathetic towards Chimman and Rosie, and even Kaizad, than towards Johnny. So I don’t care about the main character and that’s half the battle lost right there.

Also I don’t think the romance part of this “romantic thriller” worked. The chemistry between the lead pair is virtually undetectable, partly because we see that the guy is a violent lout and the girl is much abused. There are scenes where I feel a twinge of pathos for what could have been (for the characters and for the film), and I get what Kashyap might have been going for, but he is unable to intensify the emotion to a point where I would be truly engaged.

Another problem with Bombay Velvet is its slow pacing. This laggardness, and the way the screenplay juxtaposes events, makes the story slightly incoherent, because you sorta lose the thread between cause and effect. The narrative is eventful, but the events seem drawn out, and put on screen with a dumbed down intensity. At 2.5 hours, this film could have done with major editing, to step up the pace and infuse it with some of that frenetic energy that the characters should have been buzzing around with.

On the positive side Kashyap has paid attention to the details; the sets and locales feel authentic. The music, much of which is sung onscreen by Rosie, has a very nice olde worlde feel to it. Anushka did a great job as the Goan songstress, and Satyadeep Misra was a marvel as staunch friend Chimman. Even Karan Johar who makes his acting debut did well as the married homosexual gangster. The other actors were dependable as well.

For all that, Bombay Velvet falls very short of the cult film it should have been. It is a decent watch, but do not go in expecting the moon (as I did).

Kidwise: Some (apparently) passionate kissing. Lots of violence with guns/knives/blood spattering.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, book to film, crime, directors, historical, rating-PG13, romance, thriller | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Tanu Weds Manu Returns (22nd May 2015)

Remember Part 1? I do. And I hope Part 2 is as good if not better.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, drama, humor, Previews, sequel | 4 Comments