Movie Preview : Udta Punjab (releases 17th June)

Long and meandering trailer, but the film looks good. Director Abhishek Chaubey has also made “Ishqiya” and “Dedh Ishqiya”.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, Previews, social issues | Leave a comment

What To Watch On Netflix Instant – Edition #28

 photo katiyabaaz netflix_zpsmk0cugl5.jpg

Katiyabaaz (2013, India)
Directors: Deepti Kakkar, Fahad Mustafa

In India, electric wires supplying electricity to homes run above ground. Illegal connections and electricity theft is commonplace, and done by calling in a “katiyabaaz” who will splice up a connection to your home, by hooking a “katiya” or wire, to an existing connection.

So yes, the film is about a “katiyabaaz” but it is also about the electricity/energy crisis in Kanpur, a city in Uttar Pradesh, India. We see Loha Singh, a runt of a man, busy providing katiyas to the folks of Kanpur. Then there is Ritu Maheshwari, an IAS officer, posted as the MD of KESCO (Kanpur Electricity Supply Company) who wants to end the illegal tampering and theft of electricity.

The problem is this – there is limited electricity and too many people who want it but don’t want to pay for it. So Loha Singh and the folks of Kanpur who utilize his services see KESCO and Maheshwari as the problem, citing the corruption of the state. Adding fuel to the fire is the vote-seeking local MLA, Irfan Solanki, who “sides” with the people and opposes Ms. Maheshwari.

The Netflix synopsis of this film touts it as a battle between the CEO (Maheshwari) and a modern-day Robinhood (Loha Singh), and that comparison is wrong and extremely troubling. The “evil CEO” is an honest Government officer (a rarity in itself, in India) and the “Robinhood” is aiding people in using electricity for which they do not want to pay. Yes, there is more to it than that, and yes, all-pervading corruption is a big reason why the people of Kanpur are in this mess in the first place.

For a detailed analysis on the actual problem Katiyabaaz exposes, see this article.

Posted in 2013, All Netflix, documentary, Hindi movies on Netflix, Netflix Recommendations, rating-PG13, real-life-based, recommended, social issues, WhaTWON | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Masaan (2015)

 photo masaan_zpsua3j9sz1.jpg
Rating : 4.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours
Director : Neeraj Ghaywan
Cast : Richa Chadda, Sanjay Mishra, Vicky Kaushal, Bhagwan Tiwari, Pankaj Tripathi, Nikhil Sahni
Kid rating: PG-15

Devi Pathak (Chaddha) is a computer instructor at a local coaching institute. Her life is turned upside down when a carefully planned sexual tryst goes awry. The police rush in to the hotel room where she and her partner are ensconced, beat up the guy, film her in a state of undress, and take them to the police station, threatening to “expose” them for their “indecency”.

In a parallel storyline, we see Deepak (Kaushal), son of a lower-caste Dom family, trying to break free of the caste-ordained profession (cremating bodies on the banks of the Ganges). He is in love with a higher-caste girl, but that love-story is destined to fail.

Both stories are located in Banaras, a small town in Uttar Pradesh known chiefly for its religious bent and cultural orthodoxy. Devi and Deepak are caught up in fighting this orthodoxy, in their own ways. She seems almost rebellious and unashamed of her sexual proclivities (unlike a “good girl”), while he dares to defy the caste system.

It is not surprising to see Devi and Deepak’s hapless lives unfold on screen, because that is what small-town India is like. Sexual repression is the norm. Women must be “pure” and keep their “honor” (like their hymen) intact, i.e.; sex and thoughts about sex are taboo. Society enforces tacit rules of caste and class. We know this, and yet it is disturbing to see those visceral images on screen. Devi’s humiliation and her old impoverished father’s (Mishra) helplessness is hard to watch. Deepak’s desperation makes me squirm.

Director Ghaywan tells it like it is. And this is why the film succeeds. I feel for Devi and Deepak, wrapped up in their anger against the all-pervading corruption, system, society which makes living life as you see fit so, so difficult. But there is also courage and hope. And that is quite something.

I highly recommend Masaan for its fabulous truth-telling, great direction and incredible cast. Kudos!

Kidwise: This is obviously not kid-friendly material, although older teens might appreciate the film.

Posted in 2015, bollywood, directors, drama, film festival, outstanding, rating-PG15, recommended, social issues, women | 1 Comment

What To Watch On Netflix Instant – Edition #27

Gangs of Wasseypur NetflixGangs of Wasseypur – This is on Netflix as an 8 part series, each episode approximately 40 minutes or so. This series is actually 2 Bollywood movies (5 hours in total) which have been split up to make them easily palatable.

Gangs of Wasseypur is a tale of the Indian mafia, so to speak. It is immaculate so it needs no comparisons. If you still want to know what it “feels” like, its kinda like The Godfather, but Indian. It has a great storyline and screenplay, a talented cast, adept characterization, and an attention to detail from a director who knows what he is doing.

Here are my reviews for Gangs of Wasseypur 1 and 2.

Posted in 2016, All Netflix, bollywood, crime, directors, drama, Hindi movies on Netflix, Netflix Recommendations, outstanding, rating-A, rating-R, recommended, WhaTWON | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Ki & Ka (releases April 1st, 2016)

This challenge to Hindustani “sabhyata” hits theaters April 1st. Given that this comes via R.Balki, it will actually do what it says it will, and not go the usual Bollywood way.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, Previews | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Kapoor and Sons (2016)

 photo kapoor and sons_zpsja5ugpun.jpg
Rating : 4.2/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 12 minutes
Director : Shakun Batra
Cast : Rishi Kapoor, Alia Bhatt, Ratna Pathak Shah, Rajat Kapoor, Siddharth Malhotra, Fawad Khan
Kid rating: PG-13

Kapoor & Sons is, as the name suggests, about the patriarch Amarjeet Kapoor (Rishi Kapoor) and his sons, and the rest of the parivaar. There are 2 scions to this clan – the elder Harsh (Rajat Kapoor) and the younger Shashi. Harsh and his wife (Pathak Shah) aren’t quite the happily married couple, and their sons Rahul (Khan) and Arjun (Malhotra) live abroad. When Dadu is hospitalized, the grandsons make a trip back home, and all the hidden jealousies and insecurities come to the forefront. It doesn’t help that they both appear to be in love with the same girl.

Kapoor and Sons is a fine film, with heart and a story and an emotional rollercoaster of a ride. The film is well-paced so there is always something going on. The clan-members are charismatic and vivacious, especially the head, Dadu. Rishi Kapoor plays the role of affectionate, “naughty” grandfather with panache, and belts out the humorous one-liners at regular intervals. Rajat Kapooor and Ratna Pathak are Bollywood veterans with immaculate track records, and they don’t falter here either. Fawad Khan is a superb actor and he shows it in this film. Ditto for Alia Bhatt. As for Siddharth Malhotra, I could see he was really trying to emote here :).

For a Dharma Production movie, “Kapoor & Sons” was a “serious” drama, with few songs. There was little background music and I kinda missed that. The dialog filled scenes without any musical refrains in the background seemed very un-Karan-Johar-ish and gave this film an “arty” feel. The songs were just about OK.

This film shows us the emotional pull-and-tug in a family, the stuff we mask when we go into the outside world. Families have problems, and director Batra shows us the problems of this particular one. I appreciate that he does this with such empathy, building up our hopes with lovely bonding scenes like the one where the family jam together on a golden oldie. We see the issues, but we don’t fault the people; we feel for them.

Ergo, Kapoor & Sons succeeds. Go forth and watch!

Kidwise: There are references to porn (a line or two), Mandakini’s waterfall scene in “Ram Teri Ganga Maili”. A life-size cut-out of Mandakini in a drenched saree features in the film.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, rating-PG13 | Leave a comment

Movie Review : Titli (2015)

 photo titli_zps8kdryykh.jpgRating : 4.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2015
Running time : 2 hours 7 minutes
Director : Kanu Behl
Cast : Shashank Arora, Ranvir Shorey, Shivani Raghuvanshi, Lali Behl, Prashant Singh, Amit Sial
Kid rating: R

“Titli” is the youngest son of a lower-middle class Delhi family. The elder two sons, Vikram (Shorey) and Bawla(Sial) are engaged in various violent con-schemes, car-jacking one of them. Titli is desperately trying to escape this “hellhole of a home”, but doing that will take money, money he doesn’t have. He is railroaded into marrying Neelu (Raghuvanshi), to bring a female accomplice into their gang. She, however, has her own agenda.There is a way for him and her to get what they want, but it’s going to be messy.

Shashank Arora is magnificent as Titli, the relative softie of the lot, a dour-faced young man looking for a way out. Shorey is the extremely violent eldest brother Vikram, and Amit Sial the pacifist middle brother, calming Vikram down from his rage-filled fits. Lalit Behl (the director’s own father) is the parasitic pater, seen watching tv, ingesting copious amounts of tea and lingering just long enough to make sure his wants are met. Shivani Raghuvanshi portraying Neelu steals the limelight, as the docile-looking homely bahu, who turns out not to be so pliable after all.

Titli is a dark film, filled with lowlifes, but I do feel for the characters. What gets me is the abject wretchedness of the whole thing. There is no straight and easy road; crime is the natural alternative. They don’t know any better than violence, and their way of life is a spiral downwards, stripping them of basic compassion and empathy along the way. Basic survival is the big concern, the niceties of life put paid to by the every-day brutality. Each character reeks of helpless rage, and you can’t be anything but transfixed as the drama unfolds on screen.

Titli is one unpredictable ride. I will say that it ends on a hopeful note, which is great; I like movies that show that even after being buffeted by unforgiving circumstances, the conscience survives.

Kidwise: Some scenes in this film are pretty gory (the hammer used as a weapon) and bloody – it was hard to watch. Not for a younger audience at all.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, crime, directors, drama, rating-A, rating-R, recommended | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Kapoor & Sons (releases March 18th, 2016)

Dharma Productions touts it as a “dramedy with soul”. One can always hope, I suppose.

Regardless, Kapoor and Sons should be an entertainer, ablaze the way it is with star power. Rishi Kapoor, Rajat Kapoor, Sidharth Malhotra, Ratna Pathak Shah, Alia Bhatt. AND Fawad Khan. Need I say more?

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, Previews | 1 Comment

Movie Review : Neerja (2016)

 photo neerja_zpsam9dg9mw.jpgRating : 4.5/5
Genre : Drama/Bio-pic
Year : 2016
Running time : 1 hour 42 minutes
Director : Ram Madhvani
Cast : Shabana Azmi, Sonam Kapoor, Tikku
Kid rating: PG-13

Neerja is based on the real-life story of courageous airflight purser Neerja Bhanot, who helped rescue most of the passengers aboard her hijacked plane. She died in the process.

This happened in 1986, the pre-internet era, when the news was gleaned via newspapers and emails had yet to replace the handwritten letter. I was a child then, and I don’t have clear memories of this incident although it must have been all over the newspapers. After seeing the film, I’m amazed that it took so long to make a movie on this brave young woman!

There are no unexpected twists and turns in this film, because we know of Neerja’s story, but I was taken quite by surprise at the excellent quality of the film. Neerja is so realistic. The film starts off showing Neerja’s middle-class neighborhood, and her loving family. I identified with their life. In her parents I saw shades of mine. In one of the scenes, her brother teases her, saying she looks like “such an aunty”, a typical brotherly thing to say.

The impact of the film comes from its portrayal of events in gritty detail. There’s Neerja herself, of course, but then there are also her flight crew, the pilots and the stewardesses, the passengers. Each of them is humanized, and given a personality (as much of that as possible). The film details out Neerja’s personality as a good person, who’s had a traumatic past (a marriage), but is surrounded by loving family and looking forward to a hopeful future. To see it cut short so tragically, is immensely saddening. I wept buckets.

Neerja has a magnificent cast, with Shabana Azmi leading. As Neerja’s mother Rama, she is superb. Neerja is her lamb, her precious daughter, and she showers her with love. When news of the hijacking filters in, she is dumbstruck, for a few seconds too dazed to know what she is doing. Also Sonam, whom I’ve always thought a fine actress, is really very good here.

This is an incredible film. Do go see.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, drama, rating-PG13, real-life-based, recommended, thriller, women | Leave a comment

Movie Preview : Jai Gangaajal (releases Mar 4th, 2016)

From the director who brought you middling films like Raajneeti and Gangajal comes Jai Gangajal. Why am I featuring this, you ask, if they were only middling? Because they did have flashes of brilliance and I hope that that brilliance might, one day, overwhelm the entire film.

Also, Priyanka is really flexing her muscles in this one.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, drama, Previews, social issues, women | Leave a comment