Movie Preview : Befikre (releases December 9th)

Aditya Chopra’s Befikre releases next month. It features the lovely Vaani Kapoor and the chameleon-esque Ranveer Singh. Stuff about living in Paris, loving and living life to the hilt. Hopefully it will live up to the hype.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, Previews | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Befikre (releases December 9th)

Movie Preview : Dear Zindagi (releases November 23)

Dear Zindagi features Alia Bhatt and Shahrukh Khan, two people who seem incongruous in one frame if romantically linked. This film is directed by Gauri Shinde, who did such a marvelous job with English Vinglish, so there’s hope. The trailers look try-too-hard, but then again (I repeat myself) there’s hope.

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Movie Review : Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (2016)

Rating : 3.2/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 38 minutes
Director : Karan Johar
Cast : Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Fawad Khan
Kid rating: PG-13

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil reminds me of Jude Law’s “Closer”, which was touted by some as a love story for adults. Ae Dil is then, a love story for adults in the Indian context. I found Closer dispiriting and not a pleasure to watch. Ae Dil fares better, but I’m having trouble gunning up much enthusiasm for it.

Ayaan Sanger (Ranbir) is a super-rich dilettante who meets lovely Alizeh (Anushka) at a party. Neither of them have any compunctions hooking up, despite being in relationships with other people. The anticipated roll in the hay turns into a friendly chat/pub-hopping session, and the two eventually become good friends. In their friendship, Alizeh is the stronger individual, brave and bindaas. Her only weakness, she tells Ayaan, is her ex-boyfriend Ali. When Ali turns up wanting to patch up, Alizeh and Ayaan’s friendship is severely tested.

The first half of the film is spent building up Ayaan and Alizeh’s relationship. It is full of supposedly smart quips, which sadly land only some of the time (hence the supposedly). I think Johar went for sharp and edgy but it just came through as trying too hard. The second half got better, but not by much.

Ae Dil is not your usual Johar-fare. This time he’s gone deeper than before, and me thinks lost that balance of slick and thoughtful that he had had going for him. Still I’m ready to go down the garden-path with this director hoping he’ll taking it somewhere meaningful. He doesn’t. Story-wise, Ae Dil may not be what I wanted, but seemed believable enough, right up until the very end, when Johar shoehorns medical melodrama into the film.

ADHM is a sad film about unrequited love. Ranbir, Anushka, Fawad and Aishwarya are the four coolth-oozing vertices of this narcissistic merry go around, but despite their charismatic star-power, I can’t really feel for any of them. I get that Ayaan, Alizeh and Sabah (Aishwarya) are decent people in their own right, and I feel perfunctory sympathy at the emotional ups and downs each one suffers in their quest for amore. But the sympathy I feel is only skin deep; I haven’t quite connected with any of them. And for this I blame the limited character development. We get to see each of these four only in “love-situations”. We don’t get to see what these people are really like, what they think, what redeeming characteristics they possess if any, and why we should be “on their side”, so to speak.

Ranbir Kapoor has a face made for sad love stories, and he makes good use of it. Anushka always seems honest and real in her portrayals. Fawad is impressive in his little screen time. I don’t consider Aishwarya much of an actress but, all things considered, she did good here in the itty-bitty part she had. Also, she looked gorgeous.

This love-tale featured 4 good-looking charismatic people, and they did what they were asked to do. However Johar has them so wrapped up in their own little love/lust filled worlds that they aren’t humanized enough to be real people we can relate to. There is enough anguish in this film’s situations to power a 100 melodramas, and yet it goes untapped.

Despite all the beauty, the hipness, the slow crooning of love ballads, this film fell short of what I was expecting. Bummer!

Kidwise: Some love-making etc. but nothing explicit.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, drama, rating-PG13, romance | 3 Comments

Movie Review : Parched (2016)

 photo parched_zpsgnrzxisf.jpg Rating : 3/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 27 minutes
Director : Leena Yadav
Cast : Tannishtha Chatterjee, Radhika Apte, Surveen Chawla, Riddhi Sen, Mahesh Balraj, Lehar Khan, Sumeet Vyas
Kid rating: R

Parched is about three female friends living in a rural, dusty, desert village, presumably in Rajasthan. Rani (Chatterjee), a young widow of 32 is arranging the marriage of her son Gulaab to Janaki (Khan), a beautiful 15 year old from the neighboring village. Lajjo (Apte) is a childless woman constantly taunted and beaten up by her husband Manoj (Balraj) for being barren. Bijli (Chawla) is a dancer/prostitute who with her touring troupe sets up temporary residence outside the village at regular intervals.

The film focuses on events in these 3 lives, and we gain a sense of the repressive, misogynistic society it is. The men of the village (save one) are all narrow-minded, boozing, womanizing wife-beaters. The women (and this includes our three protagonists) have lived abusive lives and are resigned to their daughters living the same way. There is one scene in which the village panchayat sends back a woman (played by Sayani Gupta) to her husband’s home even when she reports that her husband keeps a mistress, and that she (the woman) is being sexually abused by the other men of the household (father/brother-in-law).

Parched has a feminist theme because the three protagonists, despite all the misogynistic brain-washing, begin to question the status quo. There is natural sympathy for them, but I, for all my trying, don’t feel connected enough to feel empathetic. Chatterjee and Apte are very good actors, and their roles are decently fleshed out. Chawla has the difficult job of portraying a female wise-ass, who seems outwardly independent but is abjectly powerless. She doesn’t quite succeed.

Another curious thing about this film is the juxtaposition of crude reality with somewhat fantastical scenery. On one hand, we see Manoj mercilessly batter Lajjo, and on the other there is this surreal love-scene in a golden, glow-lit cave. I imagine a cave in a remote village as being dark, uncomfortable, rife with twittering mice and bats, not quite this golden love-nest. Very unrealistic, and it does take the hard-hitting edge off of the film.

There is a natural progression to this feminist tale, but it didn’t quite flow. At first we see the women subjected to patriarchal horrors. They murmur in subdued tones, mostly amongst themselves, about the injustice of it all but they don’t see a way out. Towards the end of the film, there is flat out liberation, but I’ve missed the self-reflection which brings about the liberation. Showing the anger, the urgency, the driving need for justice (because it must be urgent and driving to bring about the liberation) is essential to connecting the cause and the action – and this is where Parched stumbles. I’m glad that Rani, Lajjo and Bijli reach the point of no return, but am a little sad that I couldn’t be more involved in their journey. I so wanted to be.

Kidwise: This is adults only because of the nudity and sexual imagery.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, drama, feminism, Hindi movies on Netflix | 1 Comment

Movie Review : Pink (2016)

 photo pink_zps9rwnhcxx.jpg Rating : 4.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 16 minutes
Director : Aniruddha Roy Chaudhary
Cast : Kirti Kulhari, Taapsee Pannu, Andrea Tariang, Amitabh Bachchan, Piyush Mishra, Dhritiman Chatterjee, Angad Bedi
Kid rating: PG 13

Minal Arora (Pannu), Falak Ali (Kulhari) and Andrea (Tariang) are flatmates living and working in Delhi. On an evening out, the three meet a few friends for dinner and drinks. The evening ends in a violent altercation, and the three rush home in panic. Each day after that day is leaden, and clouded with fearful repercussions from that unpleasant evening. Things come to a head when Minal is arrested. Falak and Andrea at their wits end, sans family and support, seek help from a neighborhood lawyer.

The film starts off with the three girls rushing home from an incident. We, the viewers, have no knowledge of the event that has caused the stir, we only hear references to it. Then we witness the threats and the intimidation the girls face. The film, post-intermission, becomes a courtroom drama as the lawyers from both parties (Bachchan as the girls’ lawyer) battle it out.

Pink is a film that tells it like it is. And this telling has long been overdue. It questions society’s hypocritical morality and double standards, the “boys-will-be-boys” notion that makes Delhi (and India) so unsafe for women. It exposes the blood-curling hypocrisy that resides behind suave, moneyed exteriors. They might talk nice, but scratch the surface and a regressive patriarchal mindset comes oozing out. Pink underscores a woman’s right to her own sexuality, her right to say no and have everyone respect it, regardless of what she is wearing/drinking, or where she is. This goes hand-in-hand with the need for empowerment, the need for law and order and uniform justice for all, unimpeded by the police-politics nexus.

Pink makes all these points well, and movingly. Great acting helps. Versatile actress Kirti Kulhari (you might remember her from Anurag Kashyap’s Shaitaan) is fantastic as Falak, the lovely Pannu veers away from masala films here and does well as the brave and outspoken Minal, and Tariang depicts a Meghalayan bearing the brunt of the “loose, North-Eastern” girl stereotype. Each of them elicit, from us, sympathy for their characters, as they bravely stand their ground inspite of character-besmirching campaigns and threats. Bachchan turns in a decent performance; he is a fine orator and makes his (and Pink’s) point in his booming voice.

The film is well-directed, and keeps up the momentum, sans fripperies. There are 4 songs, and all aptly fit the film in mood and lyrics. I loved the poem in Bachchan’s voice, which is heard as the credits roll (here is a translation).

I highly recommend Pink – this is the must-see Hindi film of 2016.

Kidwise: There is some language here. Violence is referenced and implied but not shown front and center. Courtroom dialog features words like virginity, sex, rape, molestation etc.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, drama, feminism, outstanding, rating-PG13, recommended, social issues, women | 2 Comments

Movie Preview : Ae Dil Hai Mushkil (releases 28th Oct 2016)

Quite a smoldering trailer, that one! Karan Johar gets deeper with each movie :-)

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, Previews, romance | 3 Comments

Movie Preview : M. S. Dhoni (releases September 30, 2016)

Neeraj Pandey (of Special 26, A Wednesday fame) directs this bio-pic of Mahindra Singh Dhoni. Sushant Singh Rajput plays the lead role.

Posted in 2016, bio-pic, bollywood, directors, Previews, sports | 2 Comments

Movie Review : Baar Baar Dekho (2016)

 photo baar_baar_dekho_zpserafqedh.jpg
Rating : 3.5/5
Genre : Romance
Year : 2016
Running time : 2 hours 27 minutes
Director : Nitya Mehra
Cast : Katrina Kaif, Siddharth Malhotra, Sarika, Rajit Kapoor, Ram Kapoor, Sayani Gupta
Kid rating: PG

I heard someone say that this was like The Time Traveller’s Wife, but know that it is not. Yes, there is time-travel in this Bollywood film – the mind boggles – but it is inserted in here in a very desi fashion; there is a moral to the story.

Jai Verma (Malhotra) and Diya Kapoor (Kaif) are childhood friends turned sweethearts. They do the expected thing and get hitched, more on her insistence than on his. When he, overwhelmed with the wedding festivities and the ultra-protective Punjabi Papa, threatens a break-up pre-wedding ceremony, she storms off in a huff. Is this the start to a rocky relationship, husband-wifely though it may be?

Post-tiff, we hop, skip and jump through time with Jai, who has an uncanny, uncontrollable knack for time-travel. Along the way, he relates actions to consequences – the question is: will he be able to fix the life problems he can now foresee?

Director Mehra does a pretty decent job with this ambitious project, because this film does move around quite a bit, timewise – so keeping it straight and all tied together and flowing smoothly is an accomplishment in itself. There are a few hiccups, like the long, stretchy, overdone scenes pre-interval where the film almost stood still. But then there were also some beautiful, heart-string-pulling scenes like the one where Jai, in the midst of a chaotic morning, finally gives in to his little daughter who’s tugging at his pant-leg wanting to be picked up. The camera lingers over the happy father-daughter smiling beatifically at each other as the morning sun streams in. Very nicely done; I teared up bigtime.

The big flaw in the film is the acting, or lack thereof. Kaif and Malhotra are probably the most attractive specimens in the Hindi film industry, but they can’t act, she more than he. While Kaif’s performance in this film is probably one of her best, she is still atrocious at actually emoting. Plus, even when apparently in the thick of it, she gives off this Ice-Maidenly, detached vibe. Malhotra has gotten better, and while passable here, can’t get us to care about him as much as we should. Since the film is really about the romance, the unbreakable bond between the two, it was imperative that we feel their chemistry. Sadly, we don’t.

Mehra has tried to compensate with a strong supporting cast – Sarika, Rajit and Ram Kapoor, but it doesn’t quite suffice; they are called “supporting” for a reason. The songs are pretty nice – loved “Kho Gaye Hum Kahan”.

Baar Baar Dekho started off with such a whiff of freshness that I had high hopes. It is a pleasant watch, but with a Anushka or Deepika instead this film would have been a class apart.

Kidwise: Almost family-friendly. A few (lame) lip-locks here and there, but nothing to scar the kids with.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, directors, rating-PG, romance, sci-fi, watchable | Comments Off on Movie Review : Baar Baar Dekho (2016)

Movie Preview : Baar Baar Dekho

From Nitya Mehra, the director of 24: India (television series) comes Bollywood’s foray into time-travel: Baar Baar Dekho.

Posted in 2016, bollywood, Previews, romance, sci-fi | Comments Off on Movie Preview : Baar Baar Dekho

Movie Review : Margarita with a Straw (2014)

 photo mwas_zpsalvuzmoh.jpgRating : 3.5/5
Genre : Drama
Year : 2014
Running time : 1 hour 40 minutes
Director : Shonali Bose
Cast : Kalki Koechlin, Revathy, Kuljeet Singh, Sayani Gupta, Hussain Dalal, Tenzing Dalha, William Moseley, Malhar Khushu
Kid rating: R, A

This is Shonali Bose’s second directorial venture after Amu, which I wan’t a raving fan of. I’d heard so much about Margerita With A Straw that I had to watch once it became available to watch here, courtesy Netflix. Post-watch, I have to conclude that MWAS suffers from some of the same problems that Amu had; it is an important tale to tell, but dithers its way towards the end.

The lead character of this film is agile-minded Laila. Laila suffers from cerebral palsy, so while her mind runs free, her body doesn’t quite cooperate. Laila, luckily, has her supportive family around her. Her mother (Revathy), who is only referred to as “Aai” in the film is a tower of strength. We see her immersed in the care-taking, driving Laila around in a van fitted with a wheelchair ramp.

Laila is an intelligent, curious, plucky girl who enjoys her Delhi college experience despite the peculiar vagaries brought about by the disability-unfriendly environment. We see a prime example of this 10 minutes into the film, as Laila is physically carried up the stairs of her college, wheelchair and all, by 3-4 out-of-breath men, when the elevator is out of service. The camera focuses only on her face as she is hoisted into the air, and it is a study in embarrassment and stoicism.

When Laila gains admission into NYU, she comes to New York with her mother. By the time Aai settles her in and leaves, Laila has gained new friends and even a lover. A new phase of her life has begun.

MWAS is a coming of age story, and addresses 3 issues. One deals with physical disability, and the problems one encounters when living in a city/country where the law does not enforce any conveniences for the differently abled – no ramps, no ramp-equipped public transport etc. The second questions the popular perception that the disabled lead mundane, sexless, desire-less lives. The third touches upon homosexuality. The fact that all three issues are entwined with Laila’s already complicated life, makes this a one-of-kind film, atleast in the Indian context.

Given all that, Kalki is a fabulous choice for Laila. She is tremendous. Then there’s Revathy as Aai – also fantastic. In fact, I can’t fault any actors in the film, they were all so believable.

The film, though, had rough edges. It began pretty well, but as it progressed, the waters got muddier. Bose tries to portray Laila as a young adult finding her footing in the world. And Laila makes mistakes, dithers. Which is natural and realistic, but it does take away from the emphatic impact of the denouement.

Also, at the beginning I could keep up with events in Laila’s life. Towards the second half, events and happenings pile up, and the impact of each on Laila gets blurred. The flow is choppy. Laila is working up to being a free, independent adult in NYC, and she gets there. To a viewer like me, her journey (what is she really thinking?) is not transparent, and that is a problem.

Still, a decent watch.

Kidwise: This is rated R, because of the sex and nudity.

Posted in 2014, All Netflix, bollywood, drama, Hindi movies on Netflix, Netflix Recommendations, rating-A, rating-R, social issues, watchable, WhaTWON, women | Comments Off on Movie Review : Margarita with a Straw (2014)