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.

SPECTRE: Movie Review

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When you go to see a James Bond movie, you don’t get to ask certain questions. Like, how is it that props like sofas and nets are always present at the right spots to break his fall from heights? Or, why are the roads in Rome so vacant when our hero is in a car-chase but filled with traffic just moments after? Or even, why does Bond have to bed every woman that comes his way?

This is not to say that the Bond movies have always been about high-IQ and logic, and we should be able to let all of these remarks slide. Because the man in question – James Bond – is above all of this, and we can forgive little plot slips as long as we are entertained. And he is entertained. So scratch my last question, with all the stress and hard-work he puts himself through, it’s only natural to need to have a release once in a while. Right? Right?

Well, even with all of the glitz and the glamour and the adrenaline-pumping action, Spectre still doesn’t rise up as a worthy installment in the franchise. And certainly not a worthy successor to the amazement that was Skyfall. Halfway through the movie, I realized that I had seen this movie before in countless forms. The screen play was getting so generic and predictable, I actually yawned. And not just that, the script is just so similar to the recent Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation that I seriously wonder how nobody saw it. In any case, what pulls the movie down is the lethargic writing. There is nothing that screams creative or innovative in the script, and even though the movie might leave you oddly satisfied at the experience, it never gives you the high.

There’s one thing I liked most in Skyfall and that’s the introduction of a humane angle to Bond. Putting him through emotional tight spaces that he’s not accustomed to. Thankfully, that endeavour continues in Spectre as well and we get an inkling of his past through the antagonist (Christoph Waltz playing Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the mastermind behind Spectre), who I should say was menacing, but not enough. The one to beat is Andrew Scott (playing Max Denbigh, a vile British Government official), whose creepy smile is something not very easy to get over. (If you didn’t know, he’s the same guy who plays Moriarty in BBC’s Sherlock)

The rest of the cast including Daniel Craig, of course, are spectacular in their respective roles and make the movie eminently watchable. Lea Seydoux as Dr. Madeline Swann, the Bond girl this time is interesting in that she challenges James and makes him see a different side to himself. And she also proves to be quite resourceful herself, even saving Bond’s ass in one fight. The other highlight is the thumping score by Thomas Newman, which the movie never lets go.

Spectre starts off stunningly with a massively mounted opening sequence in Mexico City, a MacGuffin for our Bond. But it never really takes off from there and insists on staying content with being just-another-Bond-movie. You do get some thrills and a world tour, but there’s nothing to make you want to sit through the movie again.

The Walk – Movie Review

There are three things that need to be mentioned with regards to The Walk that impressed me a lot –

  1. Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s impeccable French accent.
  2. The ultra realistic visual effects.
  3. Clever use of 3D

Having followed Joseph since his Mysterious Skin days, it’s delightful to see him blossom into this mature and endearing actor that he is. One can’t help but marvel at how precise he is in everything he does. And also how versatile. If he makes you believe that he really is this free-spirited, funny and ambitious French lad who wants to walk a high-wire between the two Word Trade Center towers, then it’s entirely up to the way he wears the character he’s playing. You don’t see Joseph Gordon Levitt, you see Philippe Petit.

Then talk about the visual effects. The WTC buildings do not exist today, and yet anyone who sees the movie would find it difficult to believe that everything you see is computer generated. And it’s not only about the buildings, but about the view from the top too. New York City does look absolutely spectacular from that height and getting that bird’s eye view had really been a special moment.

Now a word about the 3D. You know how the usage of 3D has become a fad now-a-days. Every one wants to do 3D even when it adds zero to the film experience. Not to mention the dark hue the movie takes under those glasses. But this movie was destined for a 3D experience. In fact, don’t watch the movie unless you’re wearing your 3D glasses! It’s that good! When was the last time you jumped from your seat because something from the screen came out at you?

Now that I’ve dealt with the physical aspects of it, let me talk about the movie’s heart. Philippe Petit is a wonder, no matter how you cut it. What he attempts and achieves tells a lot about human capability if only one sets their mind onto their goal. To know that he had spent 6 years of his lifetime just to prepare for “le coup” as he calls it, all the spying and research and planning, it absolutely blows my mind. This man had a simple but deadly goal, to walk a rope between the two tallest buildings of the time. A walk of 140 feet, 110 stories above the ground! Just how much confidence, courage, dedication and peace of mind one needs to possess to even attempt something like that, I cannot say. But we cannot deny the fact that he is an inspiration for everyone of us out here. We may never reach the heights he did, but we all can implement his ideals in our own way.

Don’t miss this one.

The Martian – Movie Review

the martian

Mark Watney may hate disco music with all his heart, but I think I have finally come to appreciate Commander Lewis’ love for it. I mean, it sounds perfectly groovy. And probably the best music to have when you’re stuck on a lonely planet like Mars. Just saying.

I guess with NASA announcing that they’ve finally found water on the red planet last week, it can only spell serendipity for the film. Just as well, because this is the most fun space movie you would have seen in a long while. You might not walk away from the theater with a heavy heart – like what Gravity and Interstellar do to you – but you will have had a great time nevertheless, watching the travails and comedic outbursts of Mark Watney, the man destined to be remain in history as one of the coolest protagonists ever.

The Story:

Well the story is pretty obvious by now I suppose. In the not so distant future, on one of NASA’s manned missions to Mars named ARES 3, a heavy sand storm hits the base jeopardizing their return to Earth if they don’t abort immediately. But then, just as they are making their way to the Mars Ascent Vehicle (MAV), a stray antenna hits Mark Watney and he gets carried over by the storm. The other members, deeming him dead, leave the planet. Only, he’s alive and kicking, a truth that will shake NASA and subsequently the whole world. With four years for the next manned mission to Mars that could rescue him, fast depleting food and water-  how is this guy ever gonna survive? That is something best seen on the screen.

You may check out my in-depth review of the novel that discusses the story in more detail :

The Martian – Book Review

The Analysis:

First off, I think they nailed the casting. And at least for me, a lot of them were familiar faces.

  • Commander Lewis (Jessica Chastain) was none other than Murphy Cooper from Interstellar!
  • Johannsen (Kate Mara) is Zoe from House of Cards.
  • Martinez (Micheal Pena) was that funny guy from Ant-Man.
  • Mitch (Sean Bean) is Boromir from LOTR! And also the first one to die in Game of Thrones!
  • And Mark Watney (Matt Damon) is…well he’s Matt Damon!

And I know that Irrfan Khan was supposed to play the role of Venkat Kapoor, but unfortunately due to scheduling conflicts with a Bollywood film of his, they had to cast Chiwetel Ejiofor and had to tweak his name to Vincent Kapoor (LOL!) so that now he’s half-Hindu and half-Jewish. But I’m not really pissed as Chiwetel is indeed a very competent actor and brings across the required intensity to his role.

And you couldn’t have imagined a better Mark Watney than Matt Damon. Period. He brings just the right amount of brilliance and smart-assery that’s required for the role. And I was eagerly waiting for all the f-bombs, to be honest, but they did cut back a lot as I think they wanted to maintain that PG-13 rating. But I did really miss that one final “F*** you, Mars” when he’s facing the red planet from the orbit in the end.

The movie also scrapes over most of the science stuff, as expected. Books are different as they have all the time in the world to explain and establish concepts, but in movies you can’t stop to explain all the time. And I think they did strike a fine balance. The set work is fantastic, and The Hab and Rover were really well done. As are the sweeping vistas of Mars.

If I have one concern with the movie is that it never really made me feel the gravitas of the situation that Mark is in. The book does it considerably well. But in the movie, somehow, you believe that this guy has the chops to make it out alive. Maybe it’s because of the inherent optimism that runs through the movie and maybe it’s because they missed to include one of the biggest problems that Mark Watney faces i.e the huge storm on the way to Schiaparelli Crater. So yes, like I said before, this is not a heavy movie. There are problems, and our hero solves them, one after the other. And was the epilogue required? Probably not. But my sister did say that she would have killed the writers had they ended the movie where the book did.

Maze Runner: The Scorch Trials – Movie Review

Well as they say, there’s a day for everything. And today, for the first time ever I saw a movie without having read the book first! Just as well. Because when it comes to this series, the movies are definitely better than books. Yes you heard me right. When I read the first Maze Runner book, I did like the premise but everything else fell flat for me – the characterization, the pacing, everything. But the movie corrected a lot of those mistakes and actually turned out be quite fun. So when the sequel The Scorch Trials was announced, I was ready to watch it without reading the book as I had an inkling that this would surely be the superior experience out of the two.

Now I don’t know if I am right or not, but the movie was actually pretty good!

The Story

We pick up right where left off at the end of the first movie. After the maze trials, Thomas and his friends along with Teresa are brought on-board a safe-house run by a man called Jansen (the audience immediately recognized the actor, as he’s none other than Aiden Gillen who plays Petyr in GoT). He tells the kids that they’re in safe hands now and finally out of reach of W.C.K.D (that’s pronounced Wicked, an evil group that captures kids immune to the Flare virus to harvest the cure out of them). But nothing seems to be as it appears. A secret is discovered, which takes our protagonists out into the open. What is the Flare virus? Who is on whose side? And how do you tell the good people from the bad? This forms the crux of the film.

The Analysis

I am not sure what the Flare virus actually does to people, but this movie plays out like an episode right out of ‘The Walking Dead’. People affected by the virus behave like zombies and a bite will infect you as well. But with that aside, I have to say that the movie mostly succeeds in keeping you glued to your seat till the very end. There’s very little character development and people we already know from the first film don’t do anything that’s too surprising. But I welcomed the introduction of new characters, especially Giancarlo Esposito playing Jorge, a character that’s right up his alley. The new girl Brenda was quite good too and we actually spend quite a lot of time with her than Teresa.

Hollywood has now become a master of creating something out of nothing and making it seem like it’s all real so let’s just say that the Visual Effects are good! I mean, the maze did really look magnificent in the first movie and here it’s the city-in-ruins that gets special mention. Everything feels organic. The background score was okay too, and very good in some parts.

If I have a problem with the film it’s only that the emotional graph is not maintained very well. Now this may have been something that’s carried over from the books, but you never quite reach the emotional high in the climax as the action insists to jog back and forth. (Remember that final scene in Catching Fire where Katniss shoots an arrow into the dome? How electrifying (pun intended) was that!) Stuff like that goes sorely missing here but still it’s not too bad. The final scene does make you want to watch the next movie, so that’s good enough.

*Images sourced from foxmovies.com

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!

Baahubali: The Beginning – A Movie Review

Baahubali has been termed India’s Largest Motion Picture yet. And it sure feels like one. Made on a whopping budget of 40 million USD, the theatrical trailer floored everyone with its breathtaking visuals and CGI. But does the movie live up to the hype?

Ok, let us get the most important question out of the way. Should you watch Baahubali?  YES!! Without any hesitation. Simply put, it’s one of the greatest and most ambitious movies to have come out of Indian cinema ever! But how many more times you are gonna watch this film will depend on how much you can stomach typical filmi mass elements, item songs that pop out of nowhere and yes, hero apotheosis that is such a trade mark of S.S. Rajamouli that I couldn’t help myself from slightly cringing every moment someone put a display of “reverence” towards our hero on screen. Oh wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s start at the very beginning.

The Story In A Nutshell

Once upon a time in India, a time when deserts and snow capped mountains co-existed side by side, there had been a prosperous kingdom called Mahishmathi. The king dies, and the kingdom has two eligible princes to choose from to grace the throne next. Bhallaladeva (Rana), the older and evil-er with a blind desire to be King. And then you have Baahubali (Prabas), the man with a heart, strong arms notwithstanding. And I’ll stop right here. To tell anymore of the story would be giving away too much of the too little that it has. If you’re surprised, then you don’t really know Rajamouli. I will get to this in detail later. But where the director scores in in the screenplay! Even with the predictable plot, I found it hard to not concentrate on the screen 100% of the time. It’s that good!! The first takes take time to establish all the characters but once that is one, we’re off to one racy ride ending in that high-octane climax!

But are you ready for this other tid-bit? The director actually pulls off the longest intermission ever for any movie. No, I’m not talking about the intermission in this one, I’m talking about the one between The Beginning and The Conclusion. Why do I feel this way is because what you get in this movie is only half of the story. But that’s how all multi-part movies are, no? You ask. No. Each of the parts need to have a closure in some form of the other, I mean it should tell one whole of a smaller story. But what Baahubali is – it’s a big setup. All it does, albeit successfully, is to establish the characters to make way for the big conclusion. For which we have to wait one whole year. Same time, 2016. And that is cruel. For all my ambivalence towards the movie, at the end of the 2 hours and 40 minutes runtime, I was charged up enough to sit through another three hours to watch the entire plot unfold. I couldn’t just digest that the movie ended where it did. There was a nice enough twist that’s going to keep the audience’s mind occupied with fan theories for a while though.

CAST AND PERFORMANCES

For once, I liked that a lot of people other than the “hero” get ample screen time to showcase their talent. So this is my opinion on the major cast, in no particular order of preference –

PRABHAS: This guy had never been a great performer. And it continues in this film as well. He has at most four expressions on his face throughout: confused face, stupid smiley face, serious brood face, I’m-going-to-rip-you-apart face. I honestly can’t think of anymore.

Prabhas was cast simply and mainly for his physique. You need a guy who sells Baahubali, this towering hunk of a prince who defies all laws of physics. He lifts hundred feet statues, tears apart boulders like they are wood and does superman like leaps in the air. And Prabhas at least fits the bill in this regard. You never once doubt Baahubali’s capabilities.

RANA DAGGUBATI: A welcome change from the deadpan that is Prabhas, Rana gets a more meatier role in the antagonist Bhallala Deva and does an impressive job of it too. He also benefits from getting a multi-layered character and better lines than the hero.

If anything, this movie is going to give Rana that long awaited break. He arrives with aplomb and how!

RAMYA KRISHNA: No words; she is just spectacular as Sivagami, the queen regent. It’s all in those eyes.

SATHYARAJ: What a refined performance. Kattappa is an interestingly written character, something that is quite new. Sathyaraj shines throughout – a twinkle in the eye, a twist of the lip, he does it all with perfection. Somehow reminded me of Davos from Game of Thrones.

TAMANNAH – I always believed her to be a capable performer and she does an okay job here. In a nice surprise, she gets to play the role of a warrior on a mission. She was a bit too stiff, probably deliberately, for my tastes but she does make her impact felt.

ANUSHKA – We all know that the best is yet to come. Devasena in this movie is an old, wizened and in-rags woman who’s been kept captive by Bhallala Deva for 25 years. We know very less of her except for the fact that she had been the love interest of both Bhallala Deva and Baahubali once. Anushka has very little to do in terms of acting, but she does say a lot with her eyes. And I guess special mention has to go to the makeup and costume team too.

VISUAL EFFECTS:

Probably the one USP of this movie and something that’s got everyone’s interest piqued. I would say the graphics were very good indeed for a movie of this scale and grandiosity. I can totally see the amount of work that has gone into visualizing and creating these worlds that do not really exist. You totally buy the entire landscape, from the Mashismathi kingdom to the supertall waterfalls. Everything looks coherent and believable. And I think that’s a crowning achievement for a movie that’s made on a fraction of what a Hollywood film would spend.

Mahishmati

The final war sequence is every bit epic as I expected it to be. There’s a lot of Tolkien and Peter Jackson about it, down to the fabricated language. I loved how the battleground had been clearly laid out, those house sigils, the battle line formations, the hand signals – it felt like a proper war.

But even after all this, I think I can still nitpick so let me have a go.

  • Mashishmathi looked like a matte painting most of the times. You could always tell that is was computer generated. Probably also because it was so huge, when compared with Udayghad for instance. Also, you never see much of the kingdom from the inside except for one or two fake looking streets and that big courtyard. I guess all we needed was one continuous pan of the camera  from sky-level to street-level, but that never happens. There’s a cut in between and you know that’s where the CGI ends.
  • The reflection and gleam on the golden statue of Bhallala Deva is completely wrong.
  • In one twilight scene, there are snow-clad mountains in the distance that looked like a bad cut-and-paste job.

MUSIC AND SCORE:

Keeravani disappoints, big time. The songs were not required at all in the first place, especially that horrific item number in the second half. It’s mind boggling how Rajamouli snuck that one in. Sure, the good guy is chasing the bad guy. Bad guy walks into a bar. Good guy starts drinking. An exotic woman appears out of nowhere (three women in this case). The good guy starts to sing and dance to a sleazy lyric. Song ends, bad guy runs out of bar. Good guy chases after him. So inventive, Rajamouli!!! Uff.

I expected at least better stuff from the background score but alas, it is a disappointment too. It just lacks the grandiosity that a movie like this warrants. There is no single musical theme that stands out distinctively and Keeravani rehashes most of the tunes from the songs as background too. I understand that the guy is getting old, but this is just lazy. Especially when you compare it with the more comprehensive musical scores of Hollywood. Where is the Baahubali Theme, I ask.

And here’s everything else:

  • Why do most of the action movies have to be revenge dramas? Isn’t there any other kind of movie? I think it’s a cop out on the part of the story writers. A revenge storyline gives ample scope to build empathy for the leading guy. They want us to root for the hero. And that happens inevitably in revenge sagas. For once, I want to see someone attempt something different.
  • I’m sorry but what’s wrong with a warrior woman who maybe sidelined her feminine side to pursue a noble cause. Does she need to be reminded that she is still a “woman”? And that her beauty matters more than her heart? Cue the worst scene in movie history. Prabhas undressing Tamannah’s armour, letting her hair lose, putting some red on her lips with crushed berry juice, finally turning her into a sex object. Great job everyone. Take a bow!
  • Oh, and is that reason enough for a woman to fall in love with a man? And that he’s also scaled the heights of the waterfall just for her? And suddenly, she’s happy to let her man do her job? And she doesn’t even say, “I’ll come with you”? Poori from Athadu had a much better conscience.
  • The male-to-female ratio of Kunthala is messed up, yo.
  • Mahishmathi is not explained. We see that the general populace is not too happy with their king but why? Yes we all know that he is bad, but what exactly does he do? Apart from getting people chained, that is. This will probably be explained in the sequel.
  • I loved the symbology in that statue-erection moment though. The statue stands tall while his pride crumbles down.
  • When you want to hold someone from escaping your kingdom, you close the drawbridge. You don’t put burning haystacks in the path. Don’t you know that Indian film heroes defy fire like it’s nothing?
  • Prabhas unsheathing the sword mid-air. That one scene is enough to watch this movie!
  • Giving his protagonists dedicated weaponry is Rajamouli’s stamp. Here too, you see Baahubali with a sword while Bhallala Deva rocks his chained mace. And Kalakeya looks menacing with his lance and mallet.
Isn’t this Game of Thrones good?

To sum it up, Baahubali is a visual extravaganza that pushes the envelope of Indian cinema for sure. But it lacks emotional connect and feels a bit too hollow and gratuitous at times. But that in no way is a deal breaker though. Here is finally a director who is gutsy enough to imagine a magnificent canvas and worked hard to bring to it to fruition. I know that I have written a highly conflicting review, but the truth is that I really did enjoy this movie and you will too.

Oh, and don’t forget, Jai Mahishmathi!!

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! 🙂

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.

Avengers has been watched. Fun was had. :D

Avengers-Age-Of-Ultron-Poster\

The fact that Avengers: Age of Ultron had been my most awaited movie for 2015 is an understatement! I mean, come on, it’s the AVENGERS! You cannot bring the best superheroes of all time together and have a bad movie at your hands. They’re pure awesome sauce on screen. And I’m back in Hyderabad this weekend, so got to catch the movie in IMAX too! It was marvelous!! (See what I did there 😛 )

Would I call it better than the first movie? Probably not. The first one had a sense of delight all along, and it had a very intriguing antagonist as well in Loki. This one is s bit grim, the villain being plain one-dimensional, and you don’t really feel the same emotional connect over the resolution to the conflict. But hey, it doesn’t matter! You don’t go to an Avengers movie to worry about the Villan. 🙂

In that regard, the movie scores well as our primary heroes are a delight to watch here again. And the best thing is that each of them gets their due this time, no one feels highlighted or sidelined. Even Hawkeye, who’s secret will warm your hearts instantly. And of course, there are a lot of witty dialogues sprinkled throughout that keep things light-hearted even during moments of distress. Most of these are relegated to Tony Stark, and he rocks as usual!

What’s also interesting is the range of themes the movie touches upon. It talks of loss, of familial bonds, of love, of companionship, and most importantly of ‘togetherness’. Of what can be achieved when you have people with you. So yes, this movie is not just about action and kicking the bad guy’s ass, the emotions it brings forth will resonate with you even after you’ve the cinema. I can’t help but adore Marvel for not turning these movies into mindless action cesspools.

And you might have thought you’ve seen all variations of the “cataclysmic” Hollywood climax battles, but wait till you watch this one! It’s epicness of a different level altogether! *claps*

Of course you’ll watch this movie whether I tell you or not, but in case you’re still in splits – just go already! You don’t want to miss this action on the big screen.

To put you in the right mood, here’s the electrifying Avengers Theme. A true masterpiece of a score, especially from 1:04.