Sunday, December 11, 2011

Book Review: First Day First Show - Writings From The Bollywood Trenches

Anupama Chopra's new book 'First Day First Show' is a collection of her works for various publications for over past two decades. I say 'works' and not 'writings' because it even includes transcripts of her weekly show 'Picture This' on NDTV 24x7.

Anupama Chopra
(image courtesy
Chopra is a seasoned writer. Her book "King of Bollywood:Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema" was published by Warner Books featured on the editor’s choice list of The New York Times’ Sunday Book Review. Her first book, "Sholay: the Making of a Classic", published by Penguin India in 2000 won the prestigious National Award (given by the President of India) for the best book on Cinema.

'First Day First Show' (or FDFS) is chronologically arranged and divided in two parts: 1993-1999 and 2000-2010. While the latter has got more variety in terms of content and publications its the former section that makes the book an endearing look in the celluloid world.

Almost all the articles in first segment were written for and originally published in India Today magazine in the said years which also happen to be my growing-up years and hence the memories they rekindle are precious! Till 2001 when I left home for college, we had a subscription of India Today at home and in absence of satellite TV (though Zee TV was launched in 1992 and DD Metro in late 2003, we didn't have cable connection at home) Chopra's columns about cinema became my only source of information about entertainment industry. So when a book talks about 'Chitralok' and 'Superhit Muqabla' it reminds of the simple joys that were then.

Till 1995, when Outlook magazine was launched, India Today was the only English news weekly on stands and whereas vernacular magazines indulged in only yellow journalism (The who-is-seeing-whom sort) when it came to Bollywood, it was India Today which covered cinema in a much more professional manner, and Chopra was at the forefront of this change.

So you will find article-cum-reviews of movies like 'Aankhein', 'Khalnayak', 'Is Raat Ki Subah Nahin' or 'Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa' and profiles of stars like Shahrukh Khan (after 'Darr'), Govinda (who was at the pinnacle of success after his 'No. 1' films) or  Amitabh Bachchan (after his return vehicle 'Mrityudaata' bombed).

But the finesse of Chopra as a film journalist shines through her reports on topics like changing economics and scale of the films, the trends being set and followed, the fear psyhosis among filmdom after murder of Gulshan Kumar, the poor selection of films in IFFI or even increasing usage of mobile phones among the urban elite!

One of the joys of reading these reports is the benefit of retrospection! You read about 'Koyla' boasting a different story line ('mute boy falling in love with a rich girl') and realize how it was all more of the same. You read about 'Kartoos', a big budget entertainer featuring Sanjay Dutt and Jackie Shroff and remember what a colossal flop it was.

The latter half (2000-2010) consists of similar mix of reports, star profiles and (mostly) reviews (few from 'India Today', mostly from 'Picture This'). Towards end of the decade Chopra went global and most of her reports are for New York Times, Vogue and Los Angeles Times. The style of writing and subjects are more international and focus is less on Bollywood. One of the reports,written for the New York Times, covers the mass hysteia caused by Amitabh Bachchan's ill health, which made country skip more than just a beat, from a very detached perspective. Yet another report is about movie industry of Bhutan!

The writing is undoubtedly higher class but the effect that first part has, is just not there.

Not her fault because then this decade was so different from the previous! Satellite TV had invaded our homes and as if 24-hr movie/music/news channels were not enough 24-hr celebrity/lifestyle channels were pushing more and more Bollywood in our homes. The thin veil of inaccessibility that was between our stars and us was gone and that's why none of the profiles give that insight in any personality, hardly any reports give any new information that was unknown. And Chopra herself talks passionately about this and many more dangers of impending Paparazzi-culture in 'Intimate Strangers' written for Vogue.

If this is not enough to persuade you to pick the book, extracts from Chopra's books about Sholay, 'Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jaaenge' and Shahrukh Khan are part of the book in form of Prologue, Interlude and Epilogue respectively!

All in all, it's a nice book if you want to go on a journey down the memory lane with the rockstar of Indian film journalism!

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kyun Har Bhajan Zaroori Hota Hai!

So yesterday Harbhajan Singh (I will call him Harbhajan, not Bhajji because a) I can't imagine him as a fried snack and b) I don't feel the need to be so personal as to call him with his pet name.) made his appearance on Master Chef.

Totally commendable move, considering he has started early looking for alternative options rather than trying his hand doing 'Annarth' films and then in news channel shows like Vinod Kambli.

But whatever Cricinfo says I still think there is a lot left for Harbhajan to do. In the Indian cricket team that is.

1) He can be taken to Australia just to rile Aussies. Even though there is no Symonds there are still eleven men in Baggy Greens to be called names which sound like some Indian abuses. (Since I am no expert on abuses I suggest you consult some Ghaziabadi for some examples.)

2) Who said he can't bowl? He can. OK he can't spin the ball. But he can bowl a full over without being called for No Ball. That gives captain Dhoni a bowler who can be used to change the bowling ends of his usual wicket-taking bowlers! Doesn't that give a totally new meaning to word 'utility player'?

3) He has got a century right? Play him as a batsman. We did that in England, didn't we? So what's wrong with Australia? Why should we snatch this divine pleasure from our beaten-black-and-blue-for-being-black-and-wearing-blue Indian brethren (and sisteren?) living in Oz land?

4) Play him as captain. Didn't he lead Mumbai Indians to win in Champions League? May be that will improve his bowling too. See what it did to Darren Sammy. In Delhi test he was leading wicket taker in both innings. And didn't Mike Brearly play for England just because he was captain?

5) Remember that saying: Spare the rod and spoil the child. Harbhajan can be kept in team to ensure that these new guys like Ashwin or Ojha and older guys like Srisanth are kept firmly in check. Afterall Harbhajan can land a hand on other people's cheeks. Ask Sri.

These are just five but I am sure you know a few more reasons for Harbhajan to appear on cricket field. I just hope he himself knows a few!

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Lucknow Metro: Don't mind if it is needed or not!

There was a 'Bhoomi Poojan' ceremony of a new upcoming township with 'modern amenities like club house, restaurant, gym' and 'just 15 minutes from proposed Metro station'.

Well I won't blame you if you didn't know about Metro rail being proposed in Lucknow. Like every middle class Indian once aspired to own a Maruti 800, every state capital aspires to have a Metro of its own and believes it has really good reasons to have one. Lucknow is one of them. Kochi, Jaipur, Hyderabad, Kanpur are few others.

I don't know the reasons they are pushing to pass Lucknow Metro as an inevitable mean to solve Lucknow's traffic problems but whatever and however flimsy they are, I know they are not going to be challenged. Even though more than half of the city's road remain encroached, causing massive traffic snarls and traffic police appears only at few VIP junctions and no alternatives are suggested to this massively expensive option, Lucknowites are made to believe that Metro is their only savior.

Unlike Delhi or Bangalore or Hyderabad where there have been debates over viability and necessity of Metro and how the construction will affect the city's heritage and existing transportation mechanisms and commuting patterns, there is going to be no voice asking questioning anything that is going to be fed to press (that is under the thumb of the Government anyway!).

I don't blame the people. Any announcement that is 'perceived' to be related to 'development' is lapped up by people who are hungry to see any kind of development. So much that even if it means massive amount of money that is going to be swindled (and which is perhaps the only reason for some of these projects!) or cause damage to environment is accepted without any murmur. Any protest, if ever, takes place only if the development is hurting their own interests in any manner.

Secondly, Delhi is the ultimate role model for Lucknow and any thing that Delhi has, seems to be a must-have for Lucknowites! Even if Lucknow is just a fraction of Delhi in terms of population and area, they must have a Metro.

Also the fact that there is hardly any interface which promotes dialogue and partnership among people and Government over the issues that concern the city, is a major reason that no discussion or debate ever takes place.

So whenever Lucknow Metro materializes and at whatever costs, both tangible and intangible in terms of cost to heritage and environment, no one will mind it.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

Friendship Day? Really?

So how did you 'celebrate' this 'Friendship Day'?

Mine was a pretty standard fare: got a few forwarded SMSs with flowery messages about friends and friendships, saw some tweets and FB statuses with 'Happy Friendship Day' (some even tried now-so-yawnworthy 'Fraandship' too) and that was it. Hope you did hang out with your friends and I don't mean the group web chat on Google+.

I have become 'wiser' (read 'cynical') with wishing people: Every new year I write 'Happy New Year' to x number of people and then get reply from x/6 number of people. So this time I decided to just reply to people who cared to send me those flowery 'Friendship Day' messages with a not-so-flowery 'Happy Friendship Day to you :)'.

I didn't feel guilty about my cynicism. I justified that by thinking of being brutally honest about my friendships. May be it is the scars I got from the people I called 'friends'. May be I should have moved on by now, may be I have. May be I need to do more about it. May be I have become choosy about the people I want to be friends with. I don't think I have understood and accepted the Facebook culture of friendship. May be I am still old-fashioned and my thoughts/values about friendship are stuck to same old ones. May be I am a jerk!

I know this post presents me as a full on psycho but I really don't care. At the end of the day I am just glad to have talked to some of the friends I value. But for such friends who needs a special 'friendship day'!

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What happened to Imagine TV?

After watching first episode Imagine TV's new reality show 'Gazab Desh Ki Ajab Kahaniyan' (which seemed a rehashed version of its own earlier show 'Rakhee Ka Insaaf' which was infact an Indianised version of 'Judge Amy' on CBS-TV) I felt a tinge of sadness.

Now I understand that after watching a show starring Rakhee
Sawant (who must be now majority share holder or senior office bearer in Imagine TV, if regularity or importance of her shows are any indicators) you can feel anything but sadness. But I felt sad for
the channel. It's like seeing your favorite and once bright student in class getting ruined.

Imagine TV was once my favorite. When launched as NDTV Imagine with much fanfare and Karan Johar as an associate (which meant Karan used to host a show) the channel's line up was so different from its contemporaries and competitors that it was a study in contrast from other newly launched 9X. While 9X had same kind of saas-bahu serials that were running on other leading GECs Star Plus, Zee and Sony, Imagine had a refreshing mix of programs.

The soaps (few of which were women-oriented) had a completely different and fresh feel to them courtesy, a mature treatment and urban setting which ensured that the channel didn't look like yet another GEC clone. And then there were reality shows most notable of which was Farhan
Akhtar's 'Oye It's Friday'. High on production values and higher on entertainment quotient OIF was the crown prince of Imagine's lineu
p. But the show which brought maximum TRP to the channel was a new version of 'Ramayan'! Produced by Sagar Entertainment which kept the style of the show EXACTLY similar to the original series, success of 'Ramayan' surprised everyone. It showed that the channel management was ready to balance between new and old ideas and have a healthy mix of both.

But it seemed the soaps were ahead of their times because it was still the age of 'Kahaani Ghar Ghar Ki' and 'Kyunki..'. Sony had not reformed itself and though clearly ahead of 9X and Real (which hardly was a blip on the GEC radar) Imagine's successes were limited. And with big bang-big budget arrival of Colors even the leader was threatened.

Imagine's shows too began to follow the 'market trend'. If rural setting was in fashion, then we had a village. If social issues were the trend, we had a bunch of those. If middle class was in vogue, then we had a middle class belle. "If you can't beat them, join them" was the mantra. While surfing apart from channel logo, there was nothing in Imagine's programming which would differentiate it from any other GEC.

And then somewhere down the line 'Rakhee Ka Swayamvar' happened! This was both good and bad for the channel. Good because it gave tremendous TRP. Headlines Today (a laggard in English News Channels) topped the tables that week just because they gave the finale of the show massive coverage!!
Bad because it started a trend of bad reality shows on the channel. 'Raaz Pichhle Janam Ka' was another annual atrocity and then last year we had a lame 'Zor Ka Jhatka' (Indianised version of 'Total Wipeout') which even SRK couldn't salvage.

Imagine CEO Sameer Nair had said in an interview once that they want to settle as a competitive 4th or easy 5th (meaning just after Star,Zee, Colors and Sony and well ahead of others) but latest reports say that even Star One and SAB TV beat his channel comprehensively.

And I guess now their hopes are pinned on loudmouth Rakhee who is back on Imagine in a show ('Gazab Desh..) whose PR was focussing around her demands for a particular type of underwear! How low can you stoop...Imagine!

Monday, June 20, 2011

Frying the 'Bheja' of Audience!

’Bheja Fry’ was a shameless ripoff of French film ’Le Dinner de Cons’ and in the ’finest’ trends of Bollywood no credits were given to the original. The film went on to do well and as it usually happens director got infected with ’Blockbusteritis’, an infectious disease that makes directors think that since they are so good that they could make a small budget, no-star movie a hit their next movie will have bigger budget, fancier (and larger) star cast, an overseas shooting location and a surefire superhit tag automatically. The only thing to take a back seat is the writing as it happens!

What director Sagar Ballary forgot is that the simplic
ity of the narrative was what made his protagonist endearing and the humor crackling. The confrontation between him and Mr Smarty pants was the crux of the movie. No more!

But since ’Bheja Fry 2’ was supposed to be a bigger budget movie, we have boatloads of characters, needless subplots to give all these people something to do, a cruise and an island for the setting and a few item numbers (mercilessly not included in the movie or else I would have killed myself!) which as you would have guessed by now, leaves very less time for the aforementioned ’crux’, the confrontation.

The point that this movie could have been better if the director would have been true to the original premise is proven by the fact that the only laughable parts in the entire movie are between KK and his onscreen nemesis Vinay Pathak who are both marooned on an island. The remaining film (and that is a very large part) is spent in establishing the characters and trying veryy hard to make you laugh. This includes Bharat Bhushan (Pathak) and his Malyali colleague Shekharan (Suresh Menon) exchanging innovative expletives to denounce each other’s region!

Vinay Pathak should take a long break because it is getting difficult to separate one of his performance from others. He seemed to continue right from where he left in ’Chalo Dilli’. A simple, talkative, common man having a penchant for singing and annoying habits but with a heart of gold! Similarly KK should do a few roles where he is not doing some evil including being a lecherous man salivating for the heroine. Minisha Lamba who plays Miss Goody Two Shoes is decent but such roles don’t add anything to her kitty. Amol Gupte who plays an eccentric photographer takes the cake in hamming and his character was too much for me to suffer.

At the end of ’Bheja Fry 2’ Bhushan forgives the man who tried to bump him off, I wish I had such a generous attitude towards the makers of this movie!

Saturday, June 11, 2011

'Rang Rasiya' should have been called 'Nach Baliye'!?

(This post is my review of a dance-cum-painting show 'Rang Rasiya' presented by 'Echo..!! India' at LaMakaan, Hyderabad on Sunday 11th June.)

The concept sounded awesome on paper (or rather on my phone screen) which said 'Dance meets painting'. The build up was promising, 'Ghanan Ghanan extended' from 'Lagaan' reinforcing what I had in mind about the show.

The concept was novel. 4 painters doing their paintings while dancers perform on stage. It was in support of an NGO named 'Alambana'. That's very good. The anchor talked about colors and associated emotions and it started in a dignified manner with a 2 minute silence for M.F Husain (It was hardly 30 seconds!)

The first performance was a sufi dance performance on Jodha Akbar's 'Khwaja mere khwaja'. Associated color: white. Fine.

What happened next and continued till last performance was pure disappointment. The dance performances which you see on the myriad TV dance reality shows. One of these 'contemporary' dances even had some acrobatics included! One after the other umpteen Bollywood numbers followed and the dancers flaunted their art with anchor talking randomly about colors which were conspicuous only by their absence. The performance with 'romance' theme (associated color: pink) had dancers in black,white and grey dresses while purple themed performance had the dancer in Gold and Black dress! The songs ended abruptly and a few times the music stopped during the performances. There was not a semblance of any attempt at trying to establish a coherence between colors and performances.

There were lot of loud cheers and applause but almost all the cheers came from the presenter group members. I spent more time in trying to check out the paintings than watching the dances!

The performances were fine but the entire concept of having Bollywood dance numbers accompanying the painters was disgusting. It would have been so much more if the dance and music was soulful, more Indian and aimed at arousing emotions rather than claps! I can't say much about paintings though because I am not an art expert, however atleast one of the paintings remained incomplete, while another seemed overdone. The same seemed to be the case of the show. While the thought process that went on conceptualization seemed half baked, the presentation ceremony went on and on, with a producer's speech that would have made one feel of witnessing a Broadway production!

The last performances ended with dancers splashing dry colors (much to amusement of first benchers) on stage and on each other. The colors finally brought to life a drab show devoid of colors. It ended well, but it definitely wasn't at all well.

(In the pic: painter Sri Murugan doing his painting based on one of the performances)

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dear Bollywood, mind your language (and accent!)

The first thing that impressed me in 'Shor In The City' was the immaculate American accent of Abhay (played by Sendhil Ramamurthy). Ofcourse Sendhil being an American actor helps but the point is that his accent brought to life the NRI character he was playing. Compare that to the American NRI that Abhishek Bachchan played in 'Delhi 6'! Abhishek's accent was limited to rolling his 'R's and that too for about first 5 minutes.

Another standout example from the same film is that of 'Sawan Murthy', a young cricketer who belongs to AP but is in Mumbai from past several years. He speaks fluent Hindi but still has got that tinge of unmistakable Telugu accent.

Talking of contrast. In Ashutosh Gowariker's 'Swades' the poor farmer who (whose home Mohan visits) speaks not only extremely pure but even poetic Hindi, strikes extremely jarring note in otherwise spotless movie. Even his most perfect film to-date 'Lagaan' was sort of inaccurate on this front with characters in 'central India' speaking Awadhi dialogues but it went on fine with the setting of the story and nobody complained. Similarly in RGV's 'Jungle' even though the forest was based somewhere in South India, the bandits spoke in Haryanvi(!) but it was passable.

The importance of correct language and accent can not be overstated but due to some unfathomable reason our mainstream movie makers prefer to take us, the viewers, in a world where people speak chaste Hindi and are completely unaffected by their surroundings and the people living in those surroundings. Wherever they may be.

So in 'Patiala House' even though Bau Ji's whole family has lived and grown up in Britain, they still speak that Punjabi mixed Hindi which Karan Johar made trendy in his NRI films. And in Priyadarshan's shameful remake (if they gave due credits)/ripoff(if they didn't!) of 'Children Of Heaven', 'Bumm Bumm Bole' the setting was definitely a place where they don't speak that good Hindi. (But to be fair in Priyadarshan's asylum of movie making language is perhaps last thing to worry about!)

Can you imagine how depleted would 'Peepli Live' be if Nattha and his village folks, specially Amma ji, didn't talk in that characteristic western U.P. accent, or if the Deccan accent is taken out of the dialogues from 'Well Done Abba'? Or the Himachali taken out of 'The Blue Umbrella'?

Perhaps in mainstream Bollywood, such things as correct pronunciation and proper dialect are somethings not to be fussed about much. Perhaps they still think that public to hero ko 'dekhne' aati hai!

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The broken roads of HITEC City!

The HITEC City area in Hyderabad once used to be the sole hub of IT industry in the city with the presence of best knows corporates in one of the various IT parks in this area. While many other areas like Gachibowli have gained prominence in the recent years with biggies setting up their own campuses in the area, HITEC City still rules in the minds of people.

However on one hand we have the swanky looking glass and aluminium buildings which make the area look really hitech and on the
other hand is the complete Govt. apathy which has ensured the roads of this area are worse than many slum areas!

And if the roads are good enough to rattle your bones the speedbreakers are good enough to break down your vehicles.

There are several foreign honchos who visit companies everyday. On one hand they witness the efficiency of the private companies and on the other they witness the pathetic state of infrastructure outside. Hope the authorities will wake up and see that they spend some of the money they generate from HITEC City on its welfare too!

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Crickwitty! Witty tweets on cricket.

Ever since started #crickwit contest I have put my witty cap on and the result has not been too bad (atleast I think so!) since I was declared crickwitter of the day on two days. Here are some of the tweets hashtagged with #crickwit.

Tell me if you like them!

Punjab team openers consume too much power. One is an AC (Gilchrist) and other is a PC (valthaty)!
30 Apr (KKR vs KXIP)

Now I understand why Queen didn't invite anybody from Punjab team to #RoyalWedding. Afterall they are "King's Eleven"!
30 Apr (KKR vs KXIP)

Did Abhimanyu Mithun learn Disco steps when he was in the womb.
29 Apr (PW vs RCB)

How did Yuvi convince Subrat Roy to take Ryder? He said 'O ji, Jesse jaisi koi nahin'
29 Apr (PW vs RCB)

Now bookies can do spot fixing on things like 'will Deepika kiss Malya today or not' or 'how long the hug will be'!
29 Apr (PW vs RCB)

How much ever slow he may be playing, Pollard is the 'Asha ki Kieron' for Mumbai!
29 Apr (MI vs RR)

Anjali Tendulkar to Warne: pLiz don't hurl(y) any advice towards my husband!
29 Apr (MI vs RR)

If Mumbai lose today will everyone make fun of them saying 'Shane, Shane'
29 Apr (MI vs RR)

The fairplay award should go to Mumbai only. Afterall there is so much 'Sach' in Tendulkar!
29 Apr (MI vs RR)

At a time when Rajasthan Royals should have been trending, British Royals are! #RoyalWedding
29 Apr (MI vs RR)

Both KKR and DD do Brrrr, while their game makes their fans do grrr.
28 Apr (KKR vs DD)

KKR took Morgan hoping for More Gain but he is doing Merely Gone!
28 Apr (KKR vs DD)

Morne Morkel's form has been enough to get him called Mourn(e) Morkel!
28 Apr (KKR vs DD)

What is similarity between Manoj Tiwari,cricketer and Manoj Tiwari the Bhojpuri Singer? Kya yaar, same name hai aur kya!
28 Apr (KKR vs DD)

God forbid if India doesn't do well under new coach, he will be called 'Deccan' Fletcher!
27 Apr (KTK vs DC)

PW has taken players to match their horseman logo: A (Horse)Ryder,Prince (Yuvraaj) and even Robin(hood)!
27 Apr (PW vs CSK)

Pune Warriors have horse in their logo, but the team has become a one horse cart (or a one warrior army!)
27 Apr (PW vs CSK)

Chennai gets so much sun that they should be completely immune to harmful effects of 'Yuvi' rays!
27 Apr (PW vs CSK)

Since CSK has no maidens to support them like RR/RCB/KTK their bowlers have to bowl maidens to keep morale hight!
27 Apr (PW vs CSK)

New #IndiaCoach is quite old. I hope players don't call him Duncan Stretcher! #Fletcher
27 Apr

So should the players organize a party for the new coach since he is Duncan 'Fresher' #Fletcher #IndiaCoach
27 Apr

Sunday, April 03, 2011

If 'Game' rhymes with lame, it's not just coincidence!

I don't know how many of you remember the posters of 'Tera Jadoo Chal Gaya', the second film of Abhishek Bachchan which actually was supposed to be his debut film (that honor(?) went to J.P. Dutta's 'Refugee'). Since the director A. Muthu was an unknown entity in North the posters emphasized the name (and stature) of Vashu Bhagnani, who was bankrolling Govinda's golden year No.1 movies.

I was sane enough in 2000 not to fall for Bhagnani's charade because I was not a fan of his kind of cinema and skipped TJCG, but this time I fell for the producer of Junior Bachchan's latest flick. 'Game' is produced by Excel Entertainment, Farhan Akhtar's production house and though their last film 'Karthick Calling Karthick' is remembered only for making "Murali Karthik stumped by Dinesh Karthick" kind of jokes I still had faith that Akhtar's name stands for sensible and entertaining cinema.

Otherwise why should you watch a movie which has 1) a director whose only claim to fame till now is that he happens to be the director of Amir Khan's 'Delhi Belly' (apart from the fact that he is a hotshot ad film maker), 2) got not more than 2 stars in every single review, 3) doesn't a single hummable song and worst of all, 4) has Kangna Ranaut playing a police officer!

The good things first because we will run through them quite fast. The film is slick and not 'Sanjay Gupta slick' which means enough leather that will require every single cow on the planet to be slaughtered and lots of slow motions shot in sepia. The cinematography of KV Thyagarajan which makes both the locales and ladies look absolutely gorgeous is great. (On second thoughts, you can't go much wrong with Ranaut and Sarah Jane Dias, can you?)

The story by Althea Delmas Kaushal (and that's one person, thank you) is supposedly based on Agatha Christy's 'And There Were None'. And this adaptation has so many loopholes that if Christy would be alive today she would have committed suicide than get her name associated with such a film.

One problem of stylish films is that in order to add the gloss, the makers overlook small details, which come as jarring. So Ms. Ranaut plays Sia Agnihotri a 'Chief Investigation Officer' from something called 'International Vigilance Squad' and comes at a murder scene wearing a shoulder holster and an ID-card like IT employees! A foot chase sequence (exceedingly well shot in Istanbul) so bizarre in its motive that I couldn't understand head or tail of it! (Why would you follow a man in such a way that he finds out you are following him?)

The surveillance mechanism of the International Vigilance Squad is so good that a phone call made to Andheri Police Station immediately finds its way to its officers travelling to Mumbai, but is so bad that a man under scrutiny flies across continents without them being any wiser.

A character who is supposedly 'deep undercover' blows his cover and joins Ms Agnihotri in investigation without batting an eyelid and worrying about his existing operations (about which we are not told anything anyways!)

A man sneaks in the house of a Thai PM candidate, undetected without any apparent external help and bugs his room and phone and then in the apartment of a top Hindi movie star and beats him black and blue (actually pulpy red!) It is these leaps of faith that the film demands and I can not supply. See if you can.

The film tries to establish its characters early in the first half as billionaire Kabir Malhotra invites 4 Indians from different cities (with a letter which has just their names on envelope, no addresses needed you see!) to his island in Greece and holds 3 of them responsible for his abandoned daughter's death (umm.. sir can I ask a question: why did you leave her in first place? Shut up and sit down, no questions) while anointing the 4th as his second daughter. The morning later he is killed. Pretty good mystery you would say. Pretty bad on screen if you dare to watch! The second half goes completely berserk with useless subplot and useless twist. And if you thought the mystery is engrossing you are wrong. You can guess the killer quite early but the motive remains the mystery.

Boman Irani, that fine actor, is reduced to hamming as aforementioned short tempered Thai PM candidate. Jimmy Shergil playing Vikram Kapoor the star, is his usual pitiful soul with blood on his hands (pun intended) while Shahana Goswami plays Tisha, a crime reporter in London (who has got 3 cases of drunken driving in a month and managed to keep her channel oblivious of it).

It was supposed to be Abhishek Bachchan's film but due to colossal disaster named 'Khelein Hum Jee Jaan Se' Eros decided to give equal weightage to other actors in the publicity. And in my opinion the casting director got this role of Neil Menon, an Istanbul based casino owner/drug smuggler perfectly cast but Bachchan is saddled with quite lame dialogues and uninspired writing.

And writing is below par in every form, dialogues by Farhan Akhtar and lyrics by papa Akhtar included! Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy make you want to give them a 'De Ghuma Ke' with completely disappointing score.

There is a scene where Bachchan's character says 'I need some fresh air'. Trust me, he echoed my sentiments!

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

A tale of two tales. Dhobi Ghat and 127 Hours

Last week I watched two movies which evoked extreme reactions from movie goers: 'Dhobi Ghat' and '127 Hours', specially the former.

'Dhobi Ghaat' is a commercial success no doubt but Kiran Rao's maiden directorial venture is not your regular commercial film and with an abstract story line that tries to string the characters very loosely, it wasn't difficult to understand why people were restless. However being restless is one thing and being jackass is another. My whole experience of watching the movie was ruined by people chattering loudly about how lame the film is and laughing where I couldn't even spot the joke. Like a scene where classical music is playing in painter Arun's house. I mean WTF? Since when classical music has become a joke to be laughed at loud? And if you are so annoyed by a film, for God's sake get the hell out of the hall and let those who want to watch it in peace, do so.

It is a film where you have to go with an open mind and give the film a chance to work its charm on you. Prateik Babbar is enthrallingly fresh Monica Dogra get's lion's share of screen time and she is defintely good. However I liked the way the fourth story and character of Muslim girl (played by Kriti Malhotra) has been presented. As a fact this girl is not even a live character in the movie but she has been brought to life by her diaries and though her story doesn't have much of an impact on the course of the plot, it is very engaging and heart wrenching.

Yes, the film is a drag at certain points but then the amazing background score by Oscar winner Gustavo Santolalla is enough to enjoy even those parts.

Second film '127 Hours' didn't have to face such bad reactions however many people considered
it to be slow and dragging. My question to these people is: what the hell did you expect in a story of a man stuck for 5 days in a crevice? I am sure if it was a Bollywood/Tollywood/Kollywood film helmed by some masala director, there would have been plenty of flashbacks where hero's entire life would have been shown to us. A couple of romantic songs and if producer demanded, even an item number!

And the absence of all these distractions is what I loved most about '127 Hours'. Danny Boyle has kept the focus solely on the man trapped. The delusions and devils that are in his minds and how he resolves not to loose his hope and will to survive and how he tries to find humor even in his dire condition. My favorite sequence is when he believes that in his entire life, all his actions have been forcing him to this 'crack on the face of earth'. This thought is gut wrenching and coupled with spectacular shot of the crevice in the Grand Canyon it's impact is multiplied many fold.

Amputation scene is gross and I admit that I could not watch it. James Franco is adjective defyingly good and the cinematography by Anthony Dod Mantle and Enrique Chediak (the sequences shot at close quarters in the crevice are stunning) is superb. I had been hearing the OST of this film but to understand how impressive it is, you must watch the film. A. R. Rahman's music actually enhances the flavor of scenes. It may not win any awards but I really feel it is better than Slumdog Millionaire's.

One last thing. I think Leonardo di Caprio could have played Aron Ralston as good as James Franco, only Franco looks like carbon copy of Ralston. What do you say?