Movie Review : Tamasha (2015)

tamashaRating : 3.8/5
Genre : Drama/Romance
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 35 minutes
Director : Imtiaz Ali
Cast : Ranbir Kapoor, Deepika Padukone, Piyush Mishra, Javed Sheikh
Kid rating: PG

A man and woman meet in lovely Corsica, she frantic after having lost her purse, passport etc. He helps, order is restored. He introduces himself as Don, she calls herself Mona Darling and they spend a week together, assuming they will never see each other again. After a week she flies away, bereft. Years pass, and she sees him again. Only he isn’t the man she met in Corsica.

Imtiaz Ali’s new tale of romance starts off a little weakly. The Corsican setup is a tad cliched and I couldn’t get the “we’ll never see each other” assumption, what with Facebook, Skype, phones and the connected world in general. I’ll go with it however. The two, Don and Mona, are a little ditzy (we’ll chalk that up to vacationing in Corsica) and have fun together. Of course, the real tale starts off when several years later, still-lovesick Mona sees Don in India. This second meeting triggers some unprecedented soul-searching, and takes the film down an unpredictable path.

I can’t quite call Tamasha a romance; rather it is a coming-of-age film (although the protagonist is an adult) or a “finding yourself” film. The romance between Ved/Don (Kapoor) and Tara/Mona Darling (Padukone), although fun to watch, is more of a catalyst for his character development, rather than the plot for the film. The use of flashbacks nicely ties together various strands of Ved’s life, heightening the crescendo which comes with Tara’s advent into his life. Tara is a bit of a closed book, but then the film isn’t about her.

Director Ali’s films are never straightforward romances; he always takes the scenic, complicated route. Thus Tamasha has depth; you know that someone has thought about this stuff before presenting it to us. In Ali’s deft hands, life encompasses such tragedy, such emotional upheaval! There are some truly heartbreaking moments here, like the one where Tara pours out her heart to a very quiet Ved, realizing suddenly the implications of his silence. It is never easy to see people in anguish, but in Tamasha these poignant moments feel real and troubling, due to the wonderful direction and the equally immaculate acting.

Ali is the master of the milieu. His locales and his people feel so real! Ved’s family seems typical – a typical business class family – strict dad, housewifely mom, warm grandmother. Shimla feels like a smallish, hill station, winding roads with people at every junction – quite the spot for an imaginative little boy to grow up in. Ali also gives us some wry commentary on social mores, like the time when Ved and Tara, still Don and Mona to each other, talk about following societal norms where he is the aggressor trying to get her into bed, and she the shy, “good girl”, because “izzat/lajja hi aurat ka gehna hai”.

Kapoor and Padukone pour themselves into their roles. Deepika seems a little hesitant in the Corsica scenes but really comes into her own later. Ranbir is magnificent here, a flippant charmer as Don, and quite the restrained, nice guy as Ved. A.R. Remains’ music is quite spot-on; my favorite is the energetic “Heer to badi sad hai”.

I quite liked Tamasha, although not as much as Rockstar. While Rockstar is a passionate, true-blue love tale, Tamasha is a lot more heartfelt, and not as much a love-story, although its got a strong love theme.

Kidwise: Tamasha is pretty kid-safe, although it has a few bleeped-out words, and some kissing.

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Movie Preview : Tamasha (releases Nov 25th 2015)

It’s been a while since I could get behind an Imtiaz Ali film. I think this could be the one.
Doesn’t hurt that the film stars the most charismatic couple in Bollywood.

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Movie Review : Bajrangi Bhaijaan

Rating : 3.3/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 43 minutes
Director : Kabir Khan
Cast : Salman Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Harshaali Malhotra, Om Puri, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Kid rating: PG

Yeah, so I finally watched Bajrangi Bhaijaan, and I have to say it wasn’t as terrible as I’d thought it would be. Most of the credit for that goes to the child actor, Harshaali Malhotra. Unlike most other Indian child actors who can be cloyingly irksome, Harshaali is the optimal mix of cuteness and angelic innocence.

The story : affable do-gooder Pawan (Khan) with heart of gold resolves to restore lost child to her home in Pakistan. The catch: child is mute, although fairly expressive. Our macho hero tries the official route to getting little Shahida back home, but when all else fails he decides to hand-deliver her home. Of course that means he has to cross the border, but he being Salman, makes short shrift of that little problem. Bonhomie, good cheer is in the air. Everyone claps, leaves theater.

Salman does what he does best – plays a bumbling simpleton to the hilt. Karen is his kohl-lashed lady-love, weeping for his return from Pakistan. Bajrangi Bhaijaan has mass appeal because it loads the message of cross-border bhai-bhai with liberal doses of simple humor. Lots of drama, lot of emotional appeal, especially with Harshaali involved.

Kidwise: Some violence/gunfire etc.

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Movie Preview : Prem Ratan Dhan Payo (releases Nov 11th 2015)

Rajshri Productions Prem Ratan Dhan Payo hits theatres this Diwali. From the trailer, this is another epic scale production, and reportedly took more than an year to shoot. It promises to be another Barjatya cocktail with grand sets (the palace in the film is a specially constructed set), and the curious mix of orthodoxy and modernity – traditional characters, clothes, values and locales, but modern cars/phones etc; turbo-charged Ram Rajya, if you will.

Here’s what I thought of the last Barjatya production I encountered.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, family-friendly, Previews | 1 Comment

Movie Review: Shaandaar

Rating : 1/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 24 minutes
Director : Vikas Bahl
Cast : Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Pankaj Kapoor, Sanah Kapoor
Kid rating: PG

If you read the subtitles of this film, “Shaandaar” translates to “splendiferous”. Alas, splendiferous it is not. Much to my disappointment (I had expected a “decent entertainer”) this film is boring, Scratch that – it is insufferable!

Alia (Bhatt) is a poor little orphan being brought up in a richie-rich khandaan, loved only by foster-dad Bipin. When Bipin’s elder daughter, Isha’s marriage is arranged with the Fundwani clan’s scion, Robin, Alia meets wedding planner Jagjinder Joginder (Shahid Kapoor). Alia and JJ are both insomniacs and meet more than once during the night, notably once when he is out motor-biking and she is skinny-dipping (** rolls eyes **). Love etc. blooms.

And then what? Then nothing.

No, seriously. Then nothing. Such is the film. It goes nowhere. There is little to no script/story. The lead characters Alia and JJ are as dull as dishwater. Their meetings are Disney-ish, innocent (yes, even when she is skinny-dipping :-)) and non-oomphy, and the conversations unsparkly. The rest of the characters are badly-written, hollow and so very easy to not care about. Shahid and Alia make a charming couple but even they can’t rise above the half-baked writing.

The locale is a grand British castle, where both families have gathered to celebrate the destination wedding. So the film rolls out as a series of wedding related events – the grand picnic, the black-and-white dance night, the sangeet etc. The pity is that while all these glitzy events make for some nice shiny visuals, they fall flat without having a backbone of a story.

The namby-pamby romance takes a backseat to the other issues the film tries to tackle (unsuccessfully) – like the issue of fat-shaming. Then there is the domineering mommy trope, the evil wifey trope, self-esteem issues, and the oh-so-cliched pair of twins muttering “OMG” at every pregnant pause. Need I say more?

It is like the many makers of Shaandaar (too many cooks?) had a brainstorming session where they threw all their ideas at a blank storyboard. All the sad, jaded ideas stuck and were put together in random fashion into this mess of a movie.

Saving grace, you ask? The songs. Catchy and energetically presented. Watch those on Youtube and be done with the film.

Shandaar is directed by Bahl, who also directed Queen – now that was a legitimately splendiferous film! Karan Johar is in here too as is Vikramaditya Motwane (of Udaan fame) and Anurag Kashyap. August company, you think? Never in a million years would I have thought that all these filmmakers could jointly produce a disaster like Shaandaar. Oh, how the mighty have fallen!

Kidwise: Pretty kid safe. Almost “Disneyish”.

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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.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, mystery, Previews | Leave a comment

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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