TAMASHA – Movie Review

To call Tamasha ‘old wine in a new bottle’ might be doing the film a disservice. Not too much, but a little. In any case, the joke is not lost on Imtiaz Ali for asking us ‘Why always the same story?’ all along. We thought he was being meta and referring to the story of the film. But turns out, he meant the story of our protagonist. And we’ve seen it countless times before.

But what Imtiaz does, rather effectively, is give Ved (Ranbir) a thoroughly refreshing and layered characterization. He goes to establish from the start of the film (and even before, if you’ve heard the music) that our male lead has a fascination for stories. Listening and telling and living in one, as well. He grows up on Ramayan and  Romeo & Juliet and every thing in between, narrated by a friendly old-man who charges ten rupees per 30 minutes of story session. But of course, life happens and he gets veered into a different course and dons a new character trait. He loses his real self and becomes – as the movie puts it – a mediocre everyday-man. Life goes on like this for many a years. But what happens when somebody comes along and questions his very existence? That all of his life has been a farce? This, as you guessed, forms the crux of the story.

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And the somebody, you guessed it again, is Tara (Deepika). Unfortunately, Tara doesn’t get the same treatment as Ved and falls flat as a character. What also hurts is that she absolutely has no character graph through the length of the film. Some of the details are nice, like the fact that she is not some mysterious girl but has an actual high-profile job (in a tea company, no less), but we never really get to witness what goes on in her mind.

In fact, if it wasn’t for Ranbir and Deepika’s stellar performances, the movie would surely have hit the dirt. Ranbir has already established himself as an extremely capable actor, and it’s a joy to watch him ease-in and out of the many character variations that he is put through. As for Deepika, most of her portions should have been a cake-walk and her biggest strength has always been to make it seem so effortless anyway. She especially shines in the more serious scenes, and the one integral moment in the latter half where she lays Tara’s vulnerability bare. And then there’s the chemistry she shares with Ranbir which is still very palpable and lends so much to making them a likeable pair.

But there’s someone else who takes a major chunk of the limelight and that is A.R.Rahman. I think Imtiaz has a natural sense for good music which explains why all of his movies have chartbusting songs. In Tamasha, the music plays a very important role as it pushes the story forward when needed, and helps in taking a pause to contemplate when it is time to do so. I also just loved the way the songs were placed, punctuating many a beautiful moments. Just notice the way the song Tu Koi Aur Hai adds intensity and nostalgia to the closing scene, and you’ll know what I mean. It makes me marvel at how precisely Imtiaz and Rahman got down to add music to each scene because nothing feels random. The background score, too, is breezy and acoustic and basically everything that is good about Rahman. There was even an instruments-only version of Safarnama used in background that sounded magical, but I may never lay my hands on it as Indian films hardly ever release their musical scores officially.

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Coming to the other technical departments, cinematography wins highly for the beautifully shot moments in Corsica and adding a rare finesse to the scenes in New Delhi. The editing work was stupendous too, flitting between snippets of past to present so seamlessly. Technically, the film is sound. Where it disappoints is the uninspiring writing. Don’t get me wrong, Imtiaz’s writing is still very cerebral (a prime example being the very first scene of the film, which takes on a bigger meaning by the movie’s climax) and has some of the wonderful quirks that we have come to associate with him. But the resolution to the movie had an air of deja-vu and comes off as very simplistic to a non-problem, in the first place.

How much you will like this movie will depend on what’s the primary reason for your visit. If you’re there for Ranbir, you get your money’s worth. If you’re there for Deepika, you get your money’s worth. And ditto for Rahman.  Even otherwise, if all you wanted was to watch a good movie, you will get that too. Just don’t expect your mind to be blown away.

TAMASHA – A.R. Rahman – Music Review

Click here for the movie review -> Tamasha Movie Review

I wont’s spend too much time on the intro, but let’s just say that this album was something I’d been looking forward to ever since I saw the trailer. Imtiaz Ali and Rahman gave a knock-out album in Rockstar and I was too eager to find out what delights Tamasha hid in its quiver. So onto the songs without any further ado then –

Matargashti 

Another Masakali in the making, this is one of those instantly likable tunes from Rahman. It starts off with a motif that I like to call the ‘Theme of Tamasha’, which also forms the base for the chorus. While Mohit Chauhan has a blast at the vocals, it’s Rahman who transports you to the Mediterranean with thoroughly imaginative orchestration. There’s the usual suspects like the harmonica and accordion, lending a distinct European spice to the song. But he also intersperses it with very Indian string work and the fusion just sings.Read More »

Drishyam and Masaan – Movie Reviews

Today was one of those rare back-to-back movie days. But what was I to do, a lot of good movies have come out lately and I absolutely love the cinema experience. Watching in on the tiny screen of my computer just does not cut it.

I’m gonna keep it crisp and to the point, as it’s 2AM in the morning and I’m too exhausted for a comprehensive analysis.

First up:

DRISHYAM

Having already seen the original Malayalam and the Telugu adaptations, I ventured to see the Hindi version purely for the performances as I know that this is not a script that you can twist much. It’s pretty darn perfect and brilliant in the first place that all the adaptations follow it to the T, with only minor trivial changes if any. So here are my observations:

  • Watch it for Tabu!! This lady knows how to act, period. I concede that all the women who played the role of I.G in different versions were incredibly good but Tabu was just so much more better in my opinion. She brings out all of those minor as well as major emotions so splendidly on to the screen. And that climax scene, where she doesn’t utter a word and yet says so much through her eyes.
  • Ajay Devgan played the role with the right amount of restraint and solemnity. Mohanlal was still the best though. Shriya Saran was pretty and acted quite well, but I was seriously disturbed by all the lipstick she wore all the frickin’ time. I mean, even while going for a police interrogation?
  • The little girl. Not really impressed. The expressions looked very labored.
  • The movie’s set in Goa, so the locations were quite good and I also loved their house with that ochre paint!
  • As far as the adaptation goes, it’s quite faithful and does justice to the original. Watch it because this is one movie where the script is hero.

MASAAN:

  • First of all, how glad am I to see movies of this sort being made! Sometimes one does really need to step back, slow things down and look at life from a different perspective. Deserves every bit of the Cannes applause.
  • Dreamy, poignant, poetic, lyrical, stark, austere, grimy, gritty, symmetrical (and also cemetery-cal)  – are some of the adjectives I’d use.
  • Coming to the story, it’s about two people – a man and a woman – who separately commit two reprehensible mistakes. One has to pay its price. The other will remain scarred for life. How it all ends is what you have to see on screen.
  • Set in Varanasi, this is one well-researched film!
  • The performances are all top-notch. Richa Chadda felt too tepid at the beginning, but once you come to know that there are more layers to her it all makes sense. Vicky Kaushal is a revelation. Rooted and earnest, he is sure to steal hearts. The rest of the cast was perfect too.
  • I thought was background score reflected the tone of the film perfectly. Muted, and springing up only when necessary.
  • The setting, the cinematography were all apt and I couldn’t help but notice how beautifully framed each scene was. There is not a lot of beauty in the actual movie; but the craft, you bet!
  • I liked that there was proper kissing. And that they didn’t shy away from showing it. This is how you do it, Bollywood directors!
  • There’s one scene where Devi(Richa) enters a house but the camera stays outside. We hear dialogues but we don’t see it happening. That was one splendid touch.
  • Now that I am home and am retrospecting, I cannot say assuredly what this movie really is about. It talks of a lot of things, and I think each one interprets in their own way, but I see it was a story of people not finding the closure they seek.
  • The only issue I had was that I was waiting for a bang ending, and did not get it. But it at least ends on a hopeful note.

So there you go, two really good movies and I’m so happy I got to see them. Did you already watch these? If yes, lemme know in the comments what you thought. If no, then you should be at the cinemas already!

Hamari Adhuri Kahaani – Movie Review – Incomplete and Imperfect

Have you seen the trailer of Hamari Adhuri Kahani? That should suffice for now, as you’ve already seen the best the movie has to offer. Sometimes the trailers look so promising that when you finally watch the movie, you’ll realize why you should never never judge a film by its trailer.

But would I call it a bad film? No. Most certainly not.

HAK has its heart in the right place and tries to tell a very poignant tale of forlorn love. The emotion is all there, with all its intensity. Vidya Balan and Emraan Hashmi pour their heart and soul into their roles and I might have just developed a new-found appreciation for Emraan as well.

What the movie gets terribly wrong though, is in the way it tells the story.

I have a big problem with movies that decide to tell rather than show the story. 

Yes, this is an issue that plagues not just books but movies as well. Whatever happened to subtlety? I want movies to give me the chance to unravel the characters and their thoughts by myself, by reading the expressions on their face. I don’t like to be told what I’m supposed to be feeling. With this movie, you never have to think too much. The writers are pretty much like, “Want to know what this character might be feeling inside right now? Let us put that in a dialogue for you!”

Seriously, the number of times I’ve felt that that a dialogue was just over-the-top is astounding.

Why do people talk like they’re characters in an 80’s novel?

I mean, seriously, hadn’t the director thought for one second that this movie was a tad anachronistic? Though I’m just being polite here, it’s more than a “tad”. I mean I can understand one reflective observation once in a while, but when the entire film reeks of “supposedly” poetic dialogue, it’s just too much to handle.

It just feels artificial. Like these people are reading lines from a bad soap opera. And no one in real life speak like that. So the youth will definitely not be able to connect with anything either Vidya or Emraan are uttering. I appreciate the shunning of Hinglish, but does it have to be so gratuitous?

Why so many plot holes? 

I want to see the bound script of this movie, please? If there had been any, that is.

No one can read the story from beginning to end and go, “Wow that’s a real tight screenplay.” Indian movie audience are used to cinematic liberties, but this one just gives it a free hit. A lot of things don’t make sense, for eg. Vasudha’s husband writing down stuff in his diary what he couldn’t possibly have known.

You start to think even for one second, the plot holes begin to stare right back at you.

Weren’t we past cookie-cutter characters yet?

Each one of the characters is typecast. They are not allowed to be complex. So the first thing you hear about Aarav (Emraan) is that he’s the most eligible bachelor in the country. Yea, thanks for spoon-feeding that as well!! Vasudha is the damsel in distress. Who is loyal to the husband she hates. Wow. Powerful stuff. Hari, her husband, is your quintessential misogynist. And the less talked about Saanj, their son, the better.

Looks like I have more problems with the movie than what I’d thought when I’d started this.

Now for the good:

The Music

It’s a given that any Mohit Suri film is gonna have good music. This one’s no exception. The songs and the background score in particular are what salvage this film. Right from the very first frame till the end, the music never leaves hold of you. It sounds pristine, and wonderfully complements the emotions on screen.

Go on, listen to this song once more. You know you love it.

The Performances

Well, credit has to be given where due. Almost all of the characters walk away with their heads high. Vidya Balan again proves why she rules over anyone when it comes to sheer acting prowess. She is relegated to a crying mess in the second half but she shines nevertheless, adding layers to an otherwise poorly written character. The same goes for Emraan Hashmi and Rajkumar Rao. Emraan, in particular, shows amazing restraint. But lays his soul bare wherever required.

The whole romanticism of it all

Flowers being used as metaphors for a woman is nothing new. But I enjoyed the way it was done in this movie. It does get over-the-top in some places, but it serves an important thread. Aarav first sees Vasudha when she’s setting a bouquet of Arum Lily flowers. From then on, he has a new found meaning for those flowers. He sees her in them, and gets comforted at their sight. But how the same flowers also cost him his life has to be seen on screen.

So, there you go. I feel very ambivalent about this movie. It had so much potential and it’s baffling how someone can get something so wrong sometimes. Were the dialogues really written in the 80’s? And no one bothered to modernize them?

All I can say that is that this wasn’t a boring film. Never once did the proceedings drag, never once did I restlessly check the watch. This is an intriguing movie that got mired in the method of making. It’s one of those ‘if only’ movies.

Other things that stood out in the film:

1) Apoorva! This guy rocks. He gets the best lines in the movie and left the audience in splits. Just notice the way he stares at Aarav. This guy genuinely cared about his friend, and was his reality check most of the times. He also says something to Aarav that I completely agree with, “I don’t get you, man. I don’t get you.” 

2) Vasudha’s mangalsutra, and her mannerism of stroking it whenever she fees lost. Or impure.

3) This dialogue. Aarav shows Vasudha a beautiful Japanese garden and asks her why it doesn’t feel complete. She replies back – “This garden is missing fallen leaves and dried up flowers. Because anything that’s too perfect doesn’t feel real. It’s the imperfections that add character to anything.”  Well said.

4) Amala Akkineni’s appearance was a surprise! She plays Aarav’s mom and makes a good job of it too.

Tanu Weds Manu Returns – Movie Review – Kangana strikes again

Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Trust Anand L Rai(director) for giving us some of the most flawed on-screen characters ever.

Now I haven’t seen the original Tanu Weds Manu so my knowledge of the first movie and the characters is pretty much limited to the Wikipedia synopsis that I’ve read on the day of watching the movie. But five minutes into the movie and I was able to identify the differentiating traits of both the protagonists Tanu and Manu. Credit also duely goes to actors Kangana and Madhavan for bringing these people true to life. I think the first movie ends with the promise of a marriage between Tanu and Manu and this sequel starts off with the wedding, filmed in a typical retro style. Anyway, for anyone who’s seen the first movie, it should be pretty much apparent that nothing is gonna be dandy going forward for the couple, given their hugely questionable and contradictory intentions.

So staying true to our assumptions, ithe movie starts off in London four years after the wedding in a mental asylum (which is strange, whatever happened to marriage counselors?) where Tanu and Manu are practically cribbing about each other in front of a doctor. This was a great scene, though, and I loved how it immediately sheds light on what has transpired since the wedding and tells us about the characters in particular as well. Long story short, it doesn’t end well for Manu and he gets admitted into the mental asylum and Tanu returns to India when she realizes how boring she is all by herself. Enter Pappi (or is it Puppy?), the delightful sidekick to Manu who first has to get to London to release Manu from the asylum. The real fun starts when Manu returns to India and comes across a Tanu look-alike in Delhi. The highly spirited athlete named Kusum. He’s enthralled by her persona and attitude and quite immediately falls in love! I think this part is very interesting and if given some thought will make us understand the climax a bit better. I will say no more of the story though, you really have to watch it on the big screen. It’s a love-pentagon (yes gone are the days of simple love-triangles!) that makes sense.

I really liked the dichotomy that exists between Tanu/Manu and also Tanu/Kusum. And the whole movie basically rests on this understanding of ours. While Tanu’s self-indulgence is what makes or breaks her, Manu’s reluctance to take control of his life is something that puts him in a fix often. And Kusum, well… she is someone who has her heart in the right place. Some might call her inspiring, but what I really adored was her fearlessness in following her instincts. All the while possessing enough wisdom to know when to let go of things. She is practically the anti-thesis of Tanu.

So it was mind-blowing indeed to see that Kangana plays both Tanu and Kusum. 

Yes! There have been lots of Indian actors who’ve done dual roles before but in my humble opnion, none have shown such breathtaking distinctiveness between the two roles as she does. Infact, it’s extremely easy for anyone to assume that Kusum is played by a totally different actress, unless you know better. If Kangana was a revelation in Queen, she takes it several notches higher in this one. She gets the characters down to the T, be it Tanu’s disdain or Kusum’s earnestness. I have only one word for her. Stellar.

As for Madhavan, I thought he was okay. I don’t undestand why so many are ogling over him though. Yes, he still retains his cuteness factor but from a performance point of view, there was nothing to get excited about. I actually loved the presence of Pappi who brightened every scene he was in with funny one-liners. The rest of the cast were perfectly suited too.

As for the other departments – the narrative never slackens, and even when it does feel like it’s going nowhere at times, there’s always Kangana in one frame or the other to hold your attention. So you will never realize the time pass by. Much of the credit has to go to the screenwriters for keeping the proceedings varied enough to be engaging but not gratuitous enough to be boring. Even the subplot involving Pappi’s love interest is nicely woven into the main storyline.

As of my writing, the movie has already crossed a box-office collection of 100 Crore rupees and it’s still growing day by day. As they say, the proof is the pudding. You won’t take away any life lessons from this one but I can promise that you will definitely have a jolly good time. And some of you might just revel at the juxtaposition of some of the more interesting characters written in recent times.

Other things that stood out in the movie:

  1. The music was very functional and never broke the flow. Also loved the usage of old Hindi songs in the background, especially in that midnight drunken walk scene.
  2. I dunno if it was intended, but I thought the usage of cramped localiites and narrow roads in the second half somehow added to the effect of the constriction that Tanu and Manu were going through.
  3. The whole makeup department for bringing out that visual difference between Tanu and Kusum.
  4. Kusum’s Haryanvi accent, and the way Kangana does it to perfection.
  5. The interval twist. You won’t see it coming! 🙂

Song of the Week – Sun Saathiya, ABCD 2

ABCD stands for Any Body Can Dance, so yes this is a dance oriented movie indeed. (A Bollywood version of Step Up, if you will)

So imagine my delight to have found such a sweet little love ballad in this film. It has got a mesmerizing tune, great vocals by Priya Saraiya and an overall nice foot-tapping feel to it.

But also staying true to the movie’s theme, the song is heavily and brilliantly choreographed but in a way that doesn’t seem too distracting. Shraddha Kapoor twists her body in precision to each and every note and trust me when I say that a single watch is not enough to take it all in. This lady can dance!!

Great thing is, even without the dance, the song makes for a wonderful listen. Sachin-Jigar strike gold this time.

That Sitar music from Piku everyone is raving about!

When a beautiful movie has beautiful music too, isn’t that the most wonderful thing ever!

Ever since I’ve written an article on Bezubaan, I noticed that I was getting a lot of hits through a Google search of “opening credits sitar piku” and the like. It piqued my interest and I wondered what really was so striking about that bit.

Sarod

And today I finally came to know.

This is every bit beautiful and I loved it every time it appeared as a background score in the movie. And apparently the instrument is Sarod and not Sitar like what I thought before! But man, does this sound hauntingly beautiful! Totally enamored by this.

Listen and fall in love with music once again!

Piku Movie Review – Simple and Poignant!

If you landed here looking for the opening credits sitar music, then you will find it here.

In one reflective scene on the banks of Varanasi, a slightly smitten Rana (Irrfan Khan) walks up to the deeply lost-in-thought Piku (Deepika Padukone) trying to strike up a casual conversation. She curtly responds, “Can we sit together without talking, please?” But two seconds later, she starts a conversation. And this for me, basically sums up the essence of Piku (the movie, not just the protagonist). The essence being that our thoughts are fluid. They flow, they blend with others, and sometimes they even tend to change their course. But through it all, it still remains what it was when it began. And the movie Piku embraces this wonderfully.

But let’s start with the characters first. I don’t think Bollywood has seen a protagonist like Piku in a long while,if not ever! But the truly remarkable thing is that, she is just a simple, everyday woman. She’s not “sweet”, “cheerful”, “inspiring”, or even “ravishing”, as most of the film directors would want you to believe is a trait of a typical heroine. She just is. We don’t really get to know her real name as she just goes by the curious nickname Piku, even at work (it seems to be the season of Architects, first Tara and now Piku). She does normal household work when she’s back home – and worries about little things like yogurt going sour because it was not put in the fridge. And I think I have to give a big shout-out here to director Shoojit for bringing real life so closely to the screen. Almost every scene in this movie feels like it could happen in reality. Anyway, where was I? Yes, so if I could use one adjective for Piku it would be “spirited”. She’s also pretty much unapologetic about everything she does. It was also nice to see to see that she’s friends-with-benefits with one of her workmates but no one seems to have a problem with it. Even her father. Which brings me to…

The cantankerous Bhaskor Banerjee! The one who has no problem introducing her daughter to others as, “This is my daughter Piku and she’s not a virgin!” And you understand he does this because he doesn’t want to lose his daughter by his side. As he knows that he won’t be able to make it without her. Endearing? or Selfish? It’s up to the audience to decide. Oh and he suffers from constipation. I should have mentioned this tidbit first, as the movie revolves around this one problem of his.

The movie is both literally and figuratively about Bhaskor’s shit. 

And if potty humor is not really up your really, then you might be slightly off-putted. But that’s no reason to hold off from watching this movie, though.

Rana is the owner of a cab company who inadvertently ends up driving Piku and Bhaskot to Kolkata from Delhi. I think I forgot to mention that this was a road movie. He acts as a nice reflection to both Piku and Bhaskor and ultimately becomes a driving force for much of what happens in the latter half. We don’t really know much of his character but I was glad of his presence as he added a nice third person POV to the father and daughter pair.

For me, what stands out in this movie is how unpredictable it is. Remember the essence I mentioned in my opening paragraph? See, with a movie like this, you typically expect it to end with a teary realization and a change-of-heart. Ending with Piku and Bhaskor finally embracing what they mean to each other. But the movie never goes there. The characters we know of at the beginning are still the same by the time we wrap-up. No apologies required. The greatness lies in making you root for these people, no matter what. And that you wholeheartedly do.

A word must be said on the performances as well, without which the movie would have collapsed like a pack of cards. But fortunately for us, this movie was wonderfully cast and every single cast member feels believable in his/her role. While Amitabh is irreplaceable in his role- his accent and body-language so in tune with Bhaskor –  Deepika too is a joy to watch. She outdoes herself this time with a very subtle and tasteful performance. How great is it when you can tell so much of what a character is thinking just by reading the actor’s face! Irrfan is delightful, as he can only be.

OTHER THINGS THAT STOOD OUT IN THE MOVIE!

  • The MUSIC!! While everyone knows that I went gaga over the songs, Anupam Roy has a winner in the background score too. That Sitar music at the opening credits is a total earworm. I dunno what’s the Bengali connection to Sitar is but I remember even The Namesake had wonderful Sitar music.
  • I loved how the characters were fully “aware” of their deeds. They know that they’re being a pain in the ass, they know how much they’re sacrificing for the other.
  • That red bindi. And of course the blue colored one that Deepika pulls off with oomph.
  • Notice how the camera pauses for a second on each of the food items during their initial dinner party. Man, they look delicious!
  • I loved the way Kolkata was shown in the movie. People always say that it is one chaotic city but it has a charm of its own. I wanna visit one day.
  • If you remember the sitar music that comes midway of the song Bezubaan, it is reserved for the most uplifting scene in the movie, trust me. Someone knows how to use music to their advantage.
  • A lot of dialogues about responsibility and not abandoning parents in their old age ring very true.

Final Note: When was the last time you walked out of a cinema feeling utterly satisfied? Piku gives you just that.

Song of the Week – Bezubaan, Piku

I’m late this time for SOTW! Initially started off as an Every-Saturday feature, it took a beating last week as I was visiting my parents and was busy with – you know – all the stuff that one does when they visit their parents! 🙂 I haven’t listened to any new music up until then anyway.

You know you hear a lot of “hit” music these days and almost all of it sounds like – well this is catchy, but it feels like I have heard something like this before! It’s a fact that truly original music is almost on the verge of disappearing. And yet, out of all this, there comes a song suddenly that really takes your breath away with its beauty. And it has happened again when I listened to a new Hindi song recently. I think the last time this happened was also for a Bollywood movie – Badlapur! Those songs haunt me to this day!

The Song of the Week for me is unequivocally – Bezubaan, from the movie Piku.

I love the layers in this. How the composer Anupam Roy subtly underlays guitars and sitar, the way his voice soars oh-so-beautifully, and most importantly the section starting at 3:40 – starting off with simple Sitar pattern and eventually ending in that wonderful crescendo!! (somehow reminding me of a Kodaline song)

This is exactly the reason I had to embed the full jukebox of the album here, as the other standalone versions of the song seem to miss this bit! But thankfully, it’s the first song so you don’t have to click anything!

But the whole album is so good that I really recommend you give all of the songs a go!

Good music, Good times.