Kung Fu Panda 3: Movie Review

Po and his exciting companions are back in the third iteration of the fun-filled Kung Fu Panda series.

Jack Black’s Po remains one of the most adorable animated characters to have come out of DreamWorks Studios and he is fantastic here as well.  As always, one of the most endearing aspect of these films has always been the clever one liners and there are an ample servings of them in this one too.

Coming to the story, we’re back in familiar waters. To keep it as spoiler-free as possible: Kai (who kinda looks like a bull?)  is an ancient foe who has been banished to the spirit realm by Master Oogway. But now he’s back with a vengeance, planning to take down the Jade Palace. Now it’s upto Po to master a secret magic to defeat Kai once and for all.

But lest I forget, we finally get to visit the much anticipated Panda village with Po reuniting with his biological father Li Shan (voiced by the wonderful Bryan Cranston). In a movie filled with so much fun and frolic, some of the best moments are the incredibly subtle but emotional callbacks to Po’s childhood and his late mother.

I also loved the music with its Chinese touch; Hans Zimmer keeps the tempo lively and even though there weren’t any standout motifs, the music wonderfully accentuates the film. The same goes for the great use of 3D, there are only a few movies out there that can justify their use of adding that extra dimension and Kung Fu Panda is definitely one of them. I dunno if this is the conclusion to the series but I’ll miss the colorful world with its cute anthropomorphic animals and the delicious food references.

If I have a minor problem with this third film, it’s only this: I would have loved for the writers to up the ante in this one, to kinda beef up the emotional aspect. But the series adamantly sticks to primarily cater to the younger crowd. Granted, the adults will enjoy this film but there’s just not enough that lingers in your mind once you’re out of the cinema.

Charlie – Movie Review

charlie1

Charlie (Dulquer Salmaan) is a free-spirited vagabond, the quintessential do-gooder who lives to see the sparkle in others’ eyes. Tessa (Parvathy) is a free-spirited vagabond too who effortlessly flits between cities and careers in search of new experiences.  The similarities go even further as they’re both graphic artists and are both incredibly passionate people! But there’s one primal difference between Charlie and Tessa that’s easy to miss – Charlie is selfless, Tessa is anything but.

But the movie doesn’t ask you to do all of those deductions. Charlie is a kind of movie that you go sit and trust the director to take you on a soul-quenching ride. And what an eyeful it is too. Starting from the incredibly gorgeous looking title card, down to the teeny tiny marvelous touches like how a pair of pliers turn into antlers for a deer sketch, this is one fabulously mounted film. And I’ve not seen many Malayalam films but Cochin has never looked better in my opinion. There is something to be said about what a movie can achieve when it’s got a tasteful cinematographer. There are probably way too many slow-mo shots but I never did complain and I couldn’t stop staring at the screen.

The movie unfolds in an unconventional way. Tessa’s relentless search for Charlie (the mysterious/intriguing previous occupant of her apartment) was handled nicely.  In bits and pieces, the backstory to Charlie is revealed which I thought was a great framing device in that we always have something to look forward to. It’s not perfect by any measure though, as there were a couple of places where I felt that the movie was getting too indulgent for its own good.

charlie2

As for the performances, everyone brings their A-game to the table. I’ve always been a big admirer of Parvathy and her incredibly expressive eyes, and she doesn’t disappoint. Her rustic appearance comes into play wonderfully for Tessa, the almost hippy. Dulquer is charming and completely owns the frames that he is in, though I think now is the time for him to do something different. Nedumudi Venu is always a delight and I loved how his sub-plot turns the tables around for Charlie. The actress who played Kani was also effective.

But the man of the movie for me is probably Gopi Sundar, the music director, who lends an almost ethereal background score and equally impressive songs  that gel so well with the mood of the film.

Charlie might not feature in the greatest Malayalam films of 2015, but it sure has got its heart in the right place and delivers on its promise to feed you a delectable meal for your senses.

 

Why can’t people just shut up at the movies?

I know this is a topic I bring up time and again, but my brain’s gonna explode one of these days.

I mean, I totally understand if it’s a movie of your favourite star and you are whistling and cheering along. This is what I call non-disruptive noise. It puts the audience in the mood and basically everyone has a good time. Indian masala movies are supposed to be watched this way.

BUT! There’s a creed of moviegoers (suppressing a lot of swear words, all starting with F) who talk, comment, giggle, make audible gasps/sobs. Like, seriously? Do these people think that they’re in their homes? Don’t they have even a shred of common sense? Can people really be so callous? Don’t they realize that they’re probably ruining the experience for everyone else? Can somebody please get me off this damn planet?

I mean I go to the Mission Impossible movie today thinking of having a good time. I should have known my fate when a group of over excited teenagers settled in the row before me. I thought what’s the worst that could happen. Oh, little did I know!

It was like somebody was filming ‘Excited teenagers react to Mission Impossible movie!!!

No amount of ‘Shussshing’ from the audience could stop these imbeciles from making a comment on every scene in the movie. They had to say ‘Awwwwwwwww, cute’ when Benji appears in a red shirt. They had to gasp in horror when Ethan is being hit. They had to giggle loudly at every joke. Oh and they had to yell ‘BITCH!’ at the screen when Elise escapes with the data. At which point I had enough, and killed them all (in my head, that is).

But are these people even trying to understand the movie, I wonder?

The thing is, they weren’t even drunk. I would have understood the behaviour otherwise. But these were just a bunch of reckless and probably spoiled teens who think the world is their stage. Now I need something remarkably good to happen to restore the little bit of faith lost in humanity today.

Oh well.

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!!

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.

Blogging 101: Day 1 – Hello, World.

He ruffles his unruly hair, staring into the white void that is the ‘New Post’ text area, wondering what he could say about himself that he hasn’t said before. He gives up almost immediately, a huge yawn overtaking his conscious. Sleep was beckoning him, and his brain was almost sapped of all the energy. So he flexes his fingers and starts writing, quite unremarkably… 

Hi! This is Uday Kanth and am 24 years old. I write code by day, and blog by night. 🙂 Though if you asked me which one I liked doing more, I won’t be able to give you a conclusive answer. Though I can’t deny that writing as a profession seems quite intriguing as well. I have started this blog around three months back to give a voice to my opinions, something that I’d always kept suppressed within my mind. Even though I did know for a fact for a long time now that I enjoyed writing, I was never able to fully dedicate a portion of my life to it until very recently. But now I’m so glad that I did!

Before this, I’ve also done ‘Writing 101’ which opened up my brain to all the facets of writing as well and was quite fun to delve into my conscious everyday to bring out a piece of writing that meant something to me. It was a highly fun period and I’m elated to have found some amazing people from across the globe who stood by me and cheered me along, without which I would have easily lost the motivation to write more. (I guess no matter how much one tells oneself that they are writing for themselves first, ultimately it’s the response you get that makes or breaks you).

I already have written quite a bit about me and my interests in my About page, so I won’t repeat it here. This blog is a reflection of my persona, my thoughts, interests, and short bursts of creative fiction. I worried if my blog was a bit too random for people to easily identify it with a certain type of content but then I realized that I can never be content with writing about only one thing so yes, for now, it’ll remain very umbrella-esque. I usually write about music (predominantly Indian, but I cover others as well), movies, books, photography, and some other random musings. I also write fiction and you’d see a flash fiction piece now and then.

I’m also doing Photo 101 and an online course on Writing Fiction – it certainly does feel like l’m biting off more than what I can chew but I think I can just – just – pull it off! Fingers-crossed. If you’ve made it thus far, then I thank you for your time and hope to see you again!

He checks the word count – 460. Well that’s the most I’ve written in 15 minutes, he thinks smugly. And continues to publish the post…


Today’s assignment: write and publish a “who I am and why I’m here” post on your blog.

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.

OK Kanmani/OK Bangaram – Movie Review

Adithya Varadarajan and Tara We-Don’t-Know-Her-Last-Name! They really are going to remain in people’s memories for a very long time to come. Because Mani Rathnam has done it yet again! He gives us a classic couple, someone we root for till the end, someone we wish would end up happily together, and someone we see ourselves in, if only sporadically.

Where do I even begin to analyze the amazing piece of art that is OK Kanmani? This film just has everything going for it. Think of a negative? Nope! There is not a single thing in this movie that I disliked. And I think most of this is down to the director and his meticulous script-writing. His amazingly refreshing casting. The way he composes and frames each scene. And of course, the way he extracts the best out of PC Sreeram and A R Rahman. They form the holy trinity that hold this movie together. Knock off one, and it wouldn’t be the same.

Because what you see on screen is simply sheer love and passion for the art. It’s been a lot of time indeed that I’ve seen a move crafted with such beauty. Literally and figuratively.

I realize I do have to tackle this from one end so here I go –

CHARACTERS:

This movie is all about the characters. Their actions and decisions propel the story forward. So yes, this is a very important section indeed! First up – Adithya!

Now Adi is not your regular Indian movie hero. He’s well-educated, smart and pragmatic but also very down-to-earth at the same time. And he is a Video Game developer! (just how cool is that!). There’s an earnestness in him that attracts people towards him. And did I say he’s a great lover too?

Then we have the Kanmani herself. Miss Tara. One of the idealistic qualities about her is that she always follows her heart. No matter what. She is very much today’s woman. Mature, feisty, doesn’t build walls in her mind so pretty much lives life to the fullest. She works for an Architecture firm and dreams to take up higher education in Paris. Let me just pause for a moment and give my hats off to Mani Rathnam for giving our protagonists such cool and interesting careers.

Now just imagine what would happen when you bring Adi and Tara together! It’s fireworks and magic.

The other two important characters in this movie are Ganapathy (a retired bank professional) and his wife Bhavani, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. The modern love story unfolds with the backdrop of this old and aging couple and their love towards each other.

CASTING:

Well it’s out now. Dulquer Salmaan has become an instant heart throb and deservedly so! He is so effortless in his role as Adi and brings much of the earnestness that’s required for the part. But who really walks away with honors this time is Nithya Menon! I’ve been a long time fan of her work, but here she just makes you believe that she really is Tara, flesh and bones, and not Nithya the actress. She is so adept and intricate in her emoting that you can’t help but lose yourself in her.

Both Dulquer and Nithya say so much with their eyes that sometimes dialogues become unnecessary. Think of the scene where Tara suddenly spots Adi on the train to Ahmedabad. They both exchange a lot of dialogues without actually talking. They do it with just their eyes. I thought that was pretty amazing. You actually notice this in pretty much every scene, if you observe closely. You see the love, the zest, the desire, and also the turmoil that they go through. Nithya, especially, aces with her expressions. In one brief scene, she gives a wholehearted smile to Dulquer but all you see is the sadness inside. It’s just these little things that make Tara and Adi seem like real people and not just characters in a movie. If I’m not wrong, they both have already reserved all the best acting awards for this year.

Prakash Raj is adorable in his role as Ganapthy but it’s Leela Samson who blows you away in the role of a mentally ill patient.

MANI RATHNAM:

Yes, he gets a separate section for himself. Because this movie is definitely his soul and blood. You see him in every frame. You realize how this man has got such a deft handle of things that he does everything just right. Emotions translate easily to the screen and leave you utterly mesmerized.

Let’s take a case study – the way the song Mental Manadhil was shot. The whole song is in stop motion with motion blur added. What does this say? This particular song comes at a moment when Tara and Adi are having their first sparks. The moment is care-free, effervescent and completely focused on them. When you see the song, you can actually feel all of these things. The stop motion effect adds a sense of flying high and the motion blur fades everything in the background keeping the focus on these two people alone. It also adds a sense of vagueness because at this point, their relationship still does not have a clear direction. You may think I’m probably over-analyzing this, but we cannot deny that there was some genius at play while constructing this song.

And of course, talk about setting the mood. Notice how he uses bright sunlight to punctuate moments of joy and then relentless rain during times of turmoil. The whole climax gets elevated to an other level just because of the rain element. It lets the characters pour out their frustrations, conflicts and also their deepest desires. Which brings me to…

CINEMATOGRAPHY

Now P.C Sreeram is a wizard! The movie is set in Mumbai and yet you don’t get any sweeping shots of the skyline or the surroundings. The camera always stays closely focused on the characters, because its them who matter. The movie could have really be set in any other city and would still have the same impact.

And he gets the color tone absolutely pitch perfect too. I lost count of the times they had a closed window with sunlight streaming in. And that once scene in train where Tara and Adi’s faces are just illuminated by the evening orange sun.

MUSIC

Rahman is a genius so I don’t even have to say anything about this one. The music has been rocking the charts ever since it came out. You can read my review that I did earlier. Now that I’ve seen the movie, I can definitely see the reason behind some of the music choices. I thought that the songs were used so very well, not a single one seems out of place. And not a single song halts the flow of the movie. Each one carries the story forward beautifully.

And someone really needs to release the background score of this movie, please! I loved how Rahman used violins throughout the score. It was subtle and evocative and some of the scenes were brought up a notch simply because of it.


So there you go. I think I’ve covered most of what I wanted to say as soon as I finished watching the film. It’s pretty rare these days that you feel like going backwards and watching the movie again right after you’ve seen it but OK Kanmani is one such film. I’d definitely say don’t miss it!! The degree of your liking may vary but you will definitely like it!

Here are some of the other small things that stood out in the film for me:
  • How adorable was it when Adi says apologetically to a restaurant waiter  – “Naanga kal vaapas varum!” LOL
  • How refreshing is it that there was absolutely no melodrama?
  • How good was it to see that Tara and Adi never beat around the bush. They speak their mind even if it is an awkward topic. And even if they don’t really want to see themselves say it out loud.
  •  How wonderful is it that the movie doesn’t end with a cliched airport scene! Especially when the whole movie was leading towards it!
  • And how beautiful was it that the resolution of the movie happens with Adi and Tara staring at each other in the mirror. No heavy emotions, no loud music in the background. Just a simple confession.
  • The whole Mumbai 2.0 video game, which even though looked cheesy had pretty good graphics and was later expanded to form the epilogue to the movie. Don’t walk out of the theater as soon as the credits roll if you want to know how it all ends! 

VERDICT: Triple OK!!