Twisted Cinema

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Shreydder reviews Chak de phatte

‘Chak De India’ ne Chak Diye Phatte...
From a typical Yashraj film deduct the following:
§ Romance
§ Family Drama
§ Elaborate wedding / festive sequences
§ Designer costumes
§ Song and dance sequences
§ Snow capped mountains
§ A beautiful heroine (read A list) dressed in chiffon
And add the following:
§ Game of Hockey
§ 16 unknown or little known actresses (most of them new to the film industry)
§ A second time director, Shimit Amin whose last film 'Ab Tak Chappan' was seen by exactly chappan (56) people
§ Shah Rukh Khan (SRK)

Frankly, with this recipe, I really didn't have many expectations from 'Chak De India'. And in fact if the last ingredient i.e. SRK was missing, probably no one would have gone to watch the film, including me. But there was a surprise element in the film - a really really good script and the film exceeded my expectations in each aspect. This is one of the finest films I have seen this year, the other being Mani Ratnam's ‘Guru’.
Read entire review

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Wednesday, May 30, 2007

I see married men...

Like Cole Sear in Sixth Sense - M Night Shyamalan's (only) scary movie - sees dead people all the time and is understandably spooked, I am spooked too. Each time I look at our Hindi film industry, from the leading men (or men) we have to the movies we are making, I am constantly on an, 'I see married people' spook-trip. Then of course there is the case of the Bee-dom...

Like earlier, when deciding what movie to go for, the question used to be, "Are we going for a Hollywood or a Bollywood movie?" Then it became, "Is it small budget, big budget, or an independent film?" Or developed into a , "Khan or non-Khan movie?" Till the debate was over, "Ram Gopal Verma or Karan Johar?" And now finally, Fridays have become about, "Bachchan or no Bachchan?" Even international films come with voice-overs in the Big Bee's voice. I hear him in my sleep too.

And if a constant Bee Barrage was not enough, there is the other rather spooky-fying factor... The fact(or) that all our leading men are married (and ageing). Look around: while the girls are getting younger by the day - Jiah Khan is supposedly 18 and there's that 16-year-old TV-star-who-played-double-role who is apparently the latest 'it' woman (woman?) to flutter many a mundu down south.

Now just because older men CAN romance younger women - and because we don't have any young men in the industry - does it mean that we will have the lead pair with a visibly huge age gap?

We've already had an almost-post-pubescent girl romance grandpa (Nishabd), a pre-menopausal 30-something romance a mentor-figure (Cheeni Kum) and a borderline-body-clock case 29-year-old romance a dignified judge (Jogger's Park)... Next, what will we have? A 15-year-old and the English teacher, age 34? Or a legally-adult 18-year-old and midlife crisis type 42-year-old? Whatever happened to the good, old college romance or even young-adult romance, or 'normal' relationship stories?

I mean, if you don't care about What Will Happen To Our Movies, at least think about entertainment value. How fair is it, while the men get one poster girl after another, there is no poster boy for the women? No amount of working-out can change the fact that Sallu 'baba' is neither a boy nor a 'baba' anymore. At least if they did something new in their movies, not the same old...

Yes, there are good movies being made, but then audience memory is short! Between one good movie (and another that will be banned) and 15 mad ones - and Big Bee in at least eight of them - I really don't know what's happening. Other than noticing that ALL lead actors are married! And please, don't name Abhay Deol, Emran Hashmi or Shahid Kapur as answers to anything, that's even spookier.

Hmm... though given the Age Gap Genre, my all-time favourite, still, is Yash Chopra's Lamhe. The chemistry between Sridevi-Anil Kapoor-Anupam Kher still rocks. It still makes me laugh. And feel bad for mooch-less Kunwarji when Pallo married the pilot. And wonder why couldn't they dub Deepak Chopra's voice? And it's the only desi movie so far where I CAN see the confusion of the older man and understand why the younger woman likes him too. And it did not have Big Bee!

What say people?
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Saturday, November 18, 2006

The name is Blonde, James Blonde

"Look for the twitch, look for the twitch," cried M, who had now been defaced, de-passworded and left completely perplexed by the how-does-he-do-that, recently promoted, new 007, James Blonde. Between scowling, killing people and getting into Highly Unsophisticated Situations that were so not-Bond (Bond does not get caught like THAT!), Blonde goes on to The Mission for the movie... find True Love and prove to the world how he is human after all. And all this while we thought he was a superspy.

(a) the original 007s were Lady's men and now 00Craig is all for women's equality: surprisingly, despite the rather action-oriented, sex-loving-butt-kicking turn the Bond women had taken in the movies before Casino Royale, our current lady goes all demure, and fires on all cylinders, but only of the brain-cell powered kind.

(b) So does Craig work as the new 007? On a certain level — and given what he was asked to do — yes, we have a new Bond. Last night there was Octopussy on TV; and despite not being a Roger Moore fan, his Bond was the Bond I like: suave, charming, funny, loves his toys and knows his job well. Unlike 00Craig who has no sense of humour, we mentioned the embarrassing situations above, is impossibly gaunt and looks like a guerrila warrior in an Armani or Reid& Taylor or whoever-did-the-suits.

(c) Did someone say toys? While earlier Bonds have always had an array of supertech stuff to save the world with, 00Craig only has this ugly looking Samsung phone, which is this Master Key like thing that can get into any account, crack any password, locate got the picture. 00Craig even manages to break into M's secret files and all she says is, "How does he do it?" Funny, MI6 doesnt seem too bothered about sensitive information being compromised.

(d) Speaking of M, highly irritating to see her as this flustered woman. First reaction when you see the new M with 00Craig: Dude, the lady is too old for her job. And that's not a nice feeling; M is unflappable. Please keep her like that.

(e) Despite the fact that Bond falls for an Obviously Smart Female: they made her an accountant, she does not know how to shoot guns and even cries when she sees a dead body (and dude, can we have not have Macbeth and cant-get-the-blood-off-my-hands please?!) — it's sad that Casino Royale might actually push back whatever "liberation" the Bond girls had achieved. So all the progress that the Bond girls had made — their looks could kill and so could the chikas (Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, Michele Yeoh) — all comes back to naught. If you want Bad Boy Bonds to fall, you gotta be a lady. Sick.

(f) yea, yea, this was the original book and all that, but was I the only one who thought the movie was confused? Uganda, parkour (SEXY chase scene, why couldnt they keep that pace through the entire movie?), beaches to everywhere it still doesnt sit together. Just too much happening. And when Le Chiffre dies (the investment banker who wants to win huge sums of money to fund international terror), you feel that the movie wraps. The pace suddenly falls and the script flounders. That's also the time the director SUDDENLY decides to go in for the romantic overkill and loses his audience. He definitely lost me.

(g) Bond is a superspy, let him BE that. There are too many of us humans around. At least he wasn't boring!

00Craig to waiter: Vodka martini.
Waiter: Shaken or stirred?
00Craig: I dont really care.

I tell you 00Craig is a fraud. Where's my Bond?

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Missing, the Madhubala Quotient

I had once asked director Ram Gopal Varma what worked better for him - adaa or attitude. Varma replied, "Attitude," and then said, "What is adaa?" Adaa , Mr Varma, and those who like him either don't know or have forgotten - is the art of coyness, of saying things without using words. It is conveying emotions through gestures... be it the twitch of one's lips, the lowering of the lashes, the flashing of the eyes, a demure smile, a throaty laugh, a mischievous twinkle...
We could go on with the poetic diarrhoea and the entire thing could still be lost on you. To put adaa into perspective and to stick to the word count - think Madhubala.

Madhubala was adaa personified - from her twinkling eyes, to her thousand-watt smile, to her glorious hair, to the structure of her face, and her tinkling laughter - she could be the tragedy queen, the comedienne or the seductress with equal ease. With the release of the digitally reworked Mughal-e-Azam (MEA) last Diwali, Madhubala once again ruled the screen and proved that she could still give the present day heroines a run for their money. Which brings us to - the current day heroines.

If suppose, a Veer-Zaara or an Aitraaz were released 40 years from today, would these heroines have it in them to draw back the audience? Do they have the Madhubala Quotient (MQ)? A pick of the five of Bollywood's top actresses today (talent notwithstanding). Which of these heroines do YOU think comes closest to Madhubala? Mark your favourite on the MQ Meter.

Aishwarya Rai: The Miss World who refuses to let go of her crown. Princess Propah who refuses to do kissing scenes (that's changing we've been told), is arguably Bollywood's most prominent face in international circles. Labelled as Plasti-Queen - for her amazing ability to 'not' emote - she has won a National Award for best actress.

Kareena Kapoor: Miss Foot-In-the-Mouth is a progeny of Bollywood's oldest families. Madam Motor Mouth has more talent with the tongue than on-screen. Everyone agrees she is yet to prove herself; and everyone agrees she is a born superstar. Baby Bebo strives to sign movies that always flop (or maybe because of her) and still manages to bag a cool 2.5 crore.

Preity Zinta: The Dimpled Brat took the cute-act a step further from where Juhi Chawla left it.
She's known for (trying to) changing her looks in her movies. Two of the biggest Bollywood hits of recent times had her in the lead, though the credit in both went to either the actor, the director, the script, the co-stars, the... and we saw her in Veer-Zara and I wansn't really convinced.

Priyanka Chopra: This Screen Scorcher fits into the 'catch 'em young and watch them grow' bracket. Her being pretty works in her favour as it keeps the audiences' attention off her (non-present) acting skills. That said, while most have been surprised with her recent 'rock me baby' avatar, others say it's just a little while before the cub grows up. Her recent Roma act does nothing for us to understand if she can have attitude and adaa both.

Rani Mukerji: Little Miss Perfect never says a bad word about anyone and bags the best roles (that's the secret?). Give her a reasonably good director and this pint-sized actress can pack a punch in her performance. But give her a bad dress designer and she can threaten to spill out or split out at the seams. Now that you have got the brief low-down on your favourites (or even if they aren't!); which of these heroines do YOU think comes closest to Madhubala... and why?

Sunday, November 05, 2006

The Departed: Eats, shoots and leaves

Oh Bloody Baby OH! Whattafuckin movie! Read on....
1. Never miss a chance to see a Scorsese's film on the big screen.
2. Dont miss The Departed on the big screen.
3. You can always buy a pirated CD -- but since I like Scorsese and particularly recommend this one --- lets wait for the original DVD, yeah? Once that is out -- buy the movie.
5. As with Scorsese, you get to see another sizeable chunk of Irish living -- those who want to break out of their bloody inheritance and those who learnt to live with the scars and show them off too...
6. Do not talk at all during the movie -- you are likely to miss out on some excellent fuckin lines.
7. Mark Wahlberg and Jack Nicholson have the best lines.
8. What Bollywood must learn -- When you gotta blow someone's brains out, Just DO IT, dont waste time saying Don ko pakadna...
9. Be prepared for the twist in the movie. And the twist in the movie!
10. Watch out for some cool lines to try on your boss or the Colleague You Absolulely Cannot Stand. Wahlberg tells you exactly how to say those too.
11. Bollywood villains: Please take tips on how to be perfectly sleazy from Nicholson
12. Storyline and narrative: taut, gripping, involving the audience and yet keeping a step ahead and keeping them engrossed. The characters and their motivations and attention to detail to every single person is fucking brilliant. And look at the casting! Three of the hottest young stars -- would not have been easy handling different egos. Scene transitions dont smack of any special technical briliance and that's the brilliance. Transitions are very smooth.
13. What happened to the letter Will Costigan writes for the Good Doctor?
14. Matt Damon is no nonchalantly, charmingly fucking evil, you want him REAL bad. :)
15. the use of close ups, spotlights, shadow play and then sudden pan shots...all in the same scene makes you sit up...then the twist makes you fall off your chair.

Since Bollywood will copy the movie, here are some friendly suggestions:
Mahesh Bhatt director
Action sequences by Ram Gopal Verma
Script and screenplay by Farhan Akhtar and Anurag Kashyap
Background score by Sandeep Chowta and Paki band Strings, Menwhopause's Father Monologue for chase sequences
Mark Walhberg = Akshay Kumar;
Matt Damon = Saif Ali;
Leo DiCaprio: Shiny Ahuja/Aby Jr.
Jack Nicholson = though the obvious choice for a sexy old man is Amitabh Bachchan, how about an unobviously sexy man? Boman Irani!!! I can almost see him as this crude, trying to be suave, absolulte psycho, mob-boss bastard... "Do you have your period yet?" haha/
Alex Baldwin = Anupam Kher and
Martin Sheen = Amitabh Bachchan.
Enough! Lookin forward to a second watching....

Friday, October 20, 2006

It's bleak for Bhansali's Black

Funny that the movie went on to win a slew of Filmfare and other awards. And SL Bhansali as heralded as the best thing to happen to Indian cinema. Still have nothing personal against his films and still stick to what I had to say back then....

Movie name: Black
Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukerji, Ayesha Kapur
Rating: ** 1/2
Plot: Eight-year-old Michelle is uncontrollable because she cannot communicate – she is blind and deaf and consequently, mute. In comes teacher Sahai who turns her life around.
Setting: An Anglo-Indian house in Shimla.

Black was one of the most awaited movies of 2005, not so much as a film that could bail Bollywood out of its cashless doldrums, but as the work of a director known for his visual, monetary and emotional extravagance. While Black – unlike a Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or a Devdas – is not exploding with colours, the director does not let his brush rest just yet. The difference this time around is that Bhansali swathes the canvas with the deeper, darker hues of his palette. There are no fuchsias or turquoises, but there is rich chocolate brown, matted blues and blood-clot maroons. The smart filmmaker that Bhansali is, he takes his protagonists and us to the late '40s or early '50s, so that the colours, costumes and props blend with the era to make everything look delectably quaint. The costumes comprise frilly collars, buttoned-to-the-neck, elbow-length blouses, checkered blazers and all. The props include ornate woodwork, busts and statues, screens and section partitions with Biblical themes and wooden house floors that are waxed daily. Butlers and a house- keeper complete the picture. Yet another favourite trick of Bhansali is to make his characters belong to one particular ethnicity to be able to play around with the foibles of that particular people.
There was the Gujarati family in Hum Dil... , the Bengali traditions in Devdas . In Black , he goes back to his Christian family we were first introduced to in Khamoshi . It's just that the family is now based in Simla than in Goa – perhaps because white snow complements the movie's theme better than sandy beaches would have? Visually, Black does not disappoint. A little, adult Michelle McNally (Rani), evokes a certain protectiveness when you see her ambling down the cobbled lanes of a supposed Simla in a very obviously Chaplin-esque walk. There is a scene where a poster of a Chaplin film and Rani are shown in the same frame to make sure the point or poignancy is not lost: A perfect instance of directorial gimmickry at work. Another illustration of an affected directorial attempt is the eccentricity of each character. There is kooky teacher Mr Debraj Sahai (Bachchan) with his militant belief that he can illuminate Michelle's black existence. The equally militant father (Dhritiman Chatterjee) who wants to tie a bell around Michelle's waist and wants nothing to do with the brusque Sahai. The overly emotional mother (Shernaz Patel) who feels and cries so much for her first born that she ignores her second daughter (Nandana Deb Sen). But despite the eccentricities, the characters are sketchy.

Except perhaps for Michelle, and we don't mean Rani. It's child artiste Ayesha Kapur who plays the eight-year-old Michelle who strikes a chord with the audience, who brings out the helplessness of a child who is otherwise healthy but cannot communicate with anyone.
Ayesha is brilliant and that's an understatement. The best scenes in the movie are between her and Bachchan and she steals the scene. But why was she not spoken about as much as the other stars in the movie? Was it a deliberate move? Was she supposed to be the surprise element of the movie? We don't know. What we do know is that the star of the movie is not Bhansali, Bachchan or Rani – it is Ayesha.

Rani's performance has been much written about even before anyone saw the movie. She did cut a diminutive yet striking picture with the cap, the structured black outfits and of course the no make-up look. But we have a question. Would this performance have been touted so much had it not been Rani – an otherwise 'glamorous and commercial' actress - doing the role? What if it was a rank newcomer? How much of our reaction to Rani as Michelle is based or biased on the fact that we are seeing a popular actress leave the pan cake and use the white stick instead? Each time Aishwarya, Tabu, Sushmita, Kareena and other 'alluring' actresses go the 'no make up' way, their performances are strangely supposed to be good. But perhaps generalising is being unfair to Rani. It is unusual and unusually daring for an actress to not just leave the safety of her already formed and loved image, but to play a blind-deaf-mute person as well. It's an A+ plus for Rani for taking on the challenge. But where Michelle the child makes you sit up and notice, Rani as Michelle the adult does not inspire, motivate or move.

Bachchan as Sahai left us discontented as well. He provides for some light moments in the film, his fanaticism comes through, but the basis of his zealous interest in the little girl's case is lost in the drama. As for the 'older' Sahai in the latter part of the movie – if Shah Rukh Khan was intolerable as the grey-haired Veer in Veer-Zaara , Bachchan as the ailing, octogenarian in Black is atrocious. We have seen better from you, sir. Black was perhaps supposed to be the tale of a student who does not have light in her life and her teacher who is looking for light in his life.
Sahai's aim in life is to make Michelle 'normal', to get her to become a graduate from a regular college. But there are unnecessary subplots that irritate and make us want to scream out, Mr Bhansali, just tell us their story please. We don't want to know about the insecurities of her sibling, we don't want to see Sahai lose his memory, we just want to see Michelle triumph. though she does triumph after labouring for long years, the significance of the moment is lost because Bhansali needlessly introduces Alzheimer's and a summary of the entire movie in the form of a graduation speech.

Much like Nana Patekar's sign-language speech in Khamoshi , Rani's graduation 'speech' is more to make the audience stand-up and applaud rather than to add to the story. And then of course there is the excessive use of English, which almost makes this an English film with a couple of dialogues in Hindi. An attempt to be 'international' perhaps? Sanjeev Kumar and Jaya Bhaduri riveted us without words in the original Koshish . Kamal Haasan made us laugh aloud with his silent Pushpak . But Black with its constant background narration seems affected. The posters had given us goose bumps and hope; we came in wanting to be inspired, to be touched, Black did neither