Saturday, July 5, 2008

You can take the Rathod out of Ranjhor, but you cannot take the Ranjhor out of Rathod

It is not exaggarating at all to say that this can be called the DIL CHAHTA HAI of the year. It is dew fresh, it is immensely enjoyable and entertaining minus any form of saccharine or sugar coated romance (which has been almost synonymous with Bollywood). JAANE TU is a breathe of fresh air with a ton load of mint. And the best part of it is, it doesn’t act as a tailor made launch vehicle for Imraan Khan (unlike the other debut releasing this week, yeah the 2050 movie) , but as a whole ensemble entertainer with the perfect choice of actors to play the characters- some unknown, and some very familiar. And oh yes, Jaane Tu is not the debut for Imraan only. It also marks the debut for Pratiek Babbar (son of late Smita Patil) and welcomes back to the screen -Anooradha Patel, Kitu Gidwani and frames Naseeruddin Shah as Ajay Singh Rathod in a painting. Beat that!

Now where do I begin. Of course, from the oil pastel effects when the opening credits are shown. Love all around you in different hues as Rahman’s Jazz settles you down. You need 5 seconds at best to feel it, the smile on your face emerges and you just know it, that this is going to be good. And good it is not, it is GREAT. Of course, we are by now swept by the melody of “Kabhi Kabhi Aditi” to that extent that I have become a bit repulsive to it. But the movie brought it all back. The movie also has a secret character in it- and that is BOMBAY- the roads wet with rain, and reflecting back the streetlights, the necklace at Marine Drive, Sanatcruz Airport, and well, St.Xavier’s picturesque Basketball court. I say -”Aise main Koi Kaise NAA Muskuraye” (How can one not smile at this ). The cinematography is simply put - brilliant.

Next up: Casting Dir. Pakhi. Give her all the adjectives ..the good ones. Excellent job. Because it doesn’t matter if a good actor has got enough footage or not enough lines to speak. It is if he/she can make an impact in even a 2 second appearance. Kitu Gidwani and Rajat Kapoor play the unhappy couple and just a 2 minute conversation is enough for you to believe. Jayant Kripalani and Anooradha Patel on the other hand come across as the coolest parents. Sounds and seems true. Ratna Pathak Shah and Naseeruddin Shah play Imraan’s parents. Ratna Pathak is the “Professor turned Naari Shakti” types which suits her to the last inch. And well, what can I say about Mr.Shah. Even in an oil painting, he is able to infuse life. He speaks, I listen, I laugh and then I applaud. Even the silly Khan Bros as Marlboro Men from Ranjhor made me chuckle with the AID..a.S joke. And yes, it is a welcome relief when Paresh Rawal is not considered as the Dean of Comic Affairs and not handed over with the entire comedy department.

As for the new league of actors included, the one that stands out the most has to be Jiggy (Jignesh Patel) played by Nirav Mehta, a typical Gujju in the gang of pals, who naturally stands out with his streaks and off-beat fashion and of course his accent ( Says Sushant as Soo..saant). Stereotype you say, I know a few exact ones in real. The nicknames are even fresh-Bombs, Meow, Rats, Rotlu, Jiggy. Damn it feels like back in college and it feels good. Only that we had a couple of Non veg suffixes and prefixes. But not to forget, in a very short screentime, Prateik Babbar manages to leave a mark. He feels very confident onscreen and doesn’t try to go overboard.And well, Manjari does manage to make my heart skip a beat. As for Soo..sant (actor name unknown), he is the daftest prick ever. Or so did Mr.Tyrewalla intend him to be. :) And it is these set of actors which give all the moments in the movie, from the Hum Paanch-esque picture talking, to the Gujju Surprise Birthday party, to the three doctrines of Ranjhors. I will not reveal anymore.

And when it comes to the dazzling part, it is indeed the lead pair which scorches the screen. First up,Imraan. The only actor to have showed his butt on Indian cinema (in Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander, source: Channel V interview), Imraan is no lame ass actor making a debut on a Chacha Jaan’s publicity boat. Imraan lives the role with the same credibility as Chachajaan Aamir’s Aakash of Dil Chahta Hai . And thank God, that we are finally over actors aged 40 playing college kids. For a time, I started believing that all actors were doing their PhD and somehow their research work dissertation got stolen. Imraan is a charm to see, not at all methodical, and very real. Of course, half of the credit goes to the director Mr.Abbas Tyrewalla and the writer-Mr.Abbas Tyrewalla. Genelia on the other hand, as the chirpy, over the top types, loud gal of the gang is again very real and is not at all filmsy (you know when reel tries to copy real and in an attempt to spice things up makes the curry inedible). Her yuppiness, envy, anger and most importantly confusion is all visible in her eyes. And damn! she does it so effortlessly. Bravo Bravo!!

To wind up, I’d just say “go watch this one”. Because we have all seen this done before, but never before in such a way. Yeah , another college romance. Yeah, another- boy meets girl-boy and girl confused and fall for someone else-and realisation at climax-boy and girl come of age to unite-kinda story. Yeah, in the words of Mr.James Hetfield -So F***ing What!! You’ll love the narrative and the style of story telling, much like Mala did in the climax and hugged Genelia saying Meow, even when she hasn’t met them even once. And you’d for sure be singing-Tera Mujhse Hai Pehle Ka Naata Koi, without caring for your pitch and scale.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

The Shuarya--- Worth a Watch!

Let's clear a misconception before we get down to reviewing Shaurya. It's not a war film. It's not jingoistic. It doesn't spew venom on the neighboring country. It doesn't show mutilated bodies or blood-soaked faces and limbs.

Sure, Shaurya has the backdrop of the armed forces. But it's about a court martial. It's about two friends, who're pitched against each other in a courtroom. The 'culprit', in turn, doesn't want to defend himself and remains a mute spectator for reasons best known to him.

Shaurya is a serious film and raises a serious issue in the penultimate 20 minutes. And that's where it scores. Director Samar Khan gradually builds up the tension and when it explodes in the finale, it leaves you stunned and speechless. Most importantly, it makes you uncomfortable… perhaps, that's one of the reasons why it succeeds.

Shaurya is about the common man, but as a cinematic experience, it's more for the discerning viewer looking for a hatke theme, thirsting for a story in those 2 hours. Most importantly, it does justice to the tagline - 'It takes courage to make right... right'.

Captain Javed Khan [Deepak Dobriyal] is charged with mutiny, treason and killing a fellow officer. Even when he is held for court martial, he refuses to speak in his defense as the secret he holds is too powerful for the establishment to handle. Assigned for this task are Sid [Rahul Bose] and Akash [Jaaved Jaaferi], two best friends, lawyers and very ambitious individuals who have contrasting views on life.

Nevertheless, this one case changes their lives forever. The case takes them to Srinagar. While Akash, for whom winning the case matters the most, follows the blueprint, Sid discovers new meaning in life, Kavya, Javed and of course, the man in question, Brigadier Pratap [Kay Kay Menon].

Why is Javed silent? What is the truth of that night? Why is Brigadier Pratap hell-bent on getting Javed convicted? Will Sid have the courage to save Javed's life?

Shaurya isn't a flawless script. But it has been treated with utmost realism and sensitivity by Samar Khan. Talking of the narrative, the film could've done without the item song at the very start [and what was Pawan Malhotra doing in this song?]. Besides, one fails to understand why Deepak Dobriyal doesn't confide to his mother, since the family has always taken pride in the fact that they've adhered to principles all their lives. Besides, the film could've been shorter by at least 15/20 minutes. The second hour drags at places!

Despite the hiccups, Shaurya delivers what it promises. At the end of the screening, you actually pinch yourself. Did the same guy who helmed this riveting fare called Shaurya, direct Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye, a bitter cinematic experience? The execution of Shaurya is impressive and Samar also succeeds in extracting stellar performances from the ensemble cast.

Despite the shortcomings, the screenplay is tight, not deviating from the core issue. The reason that compels Deepak Dobriyal to shoot a fellow officer and also the powerful climax prove that the writers [Jaydeep Sarkar, Aparnaa Malhotra and Samar Khan] know their job well. There's not much scope for music in a film like this, therefore the two songs don't make much of an impression. However, in terms of melody [Adnan Sami], 'Dheere Dheere' has a soothing effect on the listener. Carlos Catalan's cinematography is topnotch.

The story rests on five actors - Rahul Bose Kay Kay Menon, Jaaved Jafferi, Deepak Dobriyal and Minissha Lamba. Rahul excels in a role that fits him like a glove. In fact, this performance easily ranks as one of his finest works. Kay Kay is dynamic. Watch him explode in the climax and you realize the potential this actor possesses.

Jaaved does a decent job. However, his character is relegated to the backseat after a point. Deepak conveys a lot even when silent - that's the sign of a fine actor. Minissha is effective. Besides, she looks the character. Amrita Rao handles her part with maturity. She's first-rate. Seema Biswas, as always, is a complete natural.

On the whole, Shaurya is a well-made film that will have to rely on a strong word of mouth to sustain in the coming days. However, the film deserves to be tax-exempted since it's a genuinely deserving case.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Taare Zameen Par is unique

Mighty nice, Mr Khan, mighty nice.

Taare Zameen [Images] Par is an impressive debut indeed for filmmaker Aamir Khan [Images], and showcases a brilliant performance by the young Darsheel Safary -- one of those child actors you can't possibly resist. More than just dyslexia, the film is a look at childhood dreamers who feel shunted out by the rest of the world, the cruel world that doesn't understand them. At some level, I guess we all relate. And this ends up a nice watch -- sincere, even if somewhat simplistic.

Aamir is particularly gifted with imagery. The film opens with Darsheel's character, the impish Ishaan Awasthi fishing from a naala, and heading home to literally feed dogs his homework. The child doesn't talk much but is strikingly imaginative -- a Calvin without his Hobbes -- and given to art. Misunderstood at almost every step, he stands up to a local bully defiantly, as scrappy as the strays that chewed upon his test papers. His parents have their hands full, choosing instead to concentrate on their elder son, an achiever of Complan-Boy levels.

Darsheel is superb in the role as we see him bewildered, then hurt, then frustrated with constant rejection. Khan, who handles the school sections of the film with relatable nostalgia, reels us in with poignant, simple visuals and makes us feel the child's pained confusion. A song bursts onto the scene, cut smartly like an edgy music video, showing Ishaan's father (played by Vipin Sharma) get ready for a business trip, while his harrowed mother (Tisca Chopra) gets eggs and bread ready for first father then each son, in turn. All while Ishaan is blissfully oblivious to the need of the hour, or the hour itself. By this point, we're hooked.

A still from Taare Zameen ParIt is hard to know, as a director, when there can be too much of a good thing. Khan indulges himself with his nice little visual flourishes significantly in the first half, to the point of repetition. There is the clever device of the child -- being shunted off to boarding school against his desperate pleas -- making a flipbook which shows a family with one kid moving away, as the pages turn. It's a strong, simple touch, yet Khan chooses to show it to us again and again, showing the audience the flipbook every time any character sees it.

While Ishaan stands in a corridor, punished, some seniors walk by. Each of them -- every single one -- points and laughs at our protagonist, which is depressingly overdone and unreal -- even social outcasts aren't picked on by everyone; a lot of the kids just wouldn't give him a second look. The first few times the teachers rebuke Ishaan or are frustrated by him, it works. But we are forced to see everything again: pain in English class, Maths, Hindi... and so on. Flip, flipbook, flip. It doesn't help that outside of Darsheel and Tisca (and later, of course, Aamir), the rest of the performances seem either amateurish or over-the-top.

The director himself enters neatly at halftime, shushing us to announce intermission. Aamir plays temporary Art teacher Ramshankar Nikumbh, one who works part-time with a special-needs school, and wants Ishaan and his buddies to open up. Khan plays the role in just the right key, a sympathetic teacher who notices a problem but doesn't want to force himself through the child's shell. It is he who realises Ishaan has dyslexia, and goes to meet the Awasthis.

Aamir now balances his own character speaking like a Public Service Announcement with Ishaan's father spouting lines seemingly written for... laughs? Sure, they are laughs at his ignorance and a look at his lack of conviction, but the sharp contrast between the two seems contrived. The child's mother rapidly goes from confused-but-undoubtedly-caring to one who thinks googling dyslexia is enough. In fact, the whole parental angle is left considerably half-baked, seeming to serve only for a few good comebacks the teacher gets to make.

A still from Taare Zameen ParYet, let's discount that as nitpicking. This is the story of the child and his teacher, and Nikumbh stands at a blackboard and shows pictures of Albert Einstein and Abhishek Bachchan [Images] and tells us -- and the kids -- that dyslexia is more common than we think, and that it can be helped given the proper aid. Nikumbh speaks to the faculties, asks that Ishaan be given a little more time, and, after having educating the audience thoroughly on dyslexia, proceeds to charm Ishaan out of it.

Though I really wish Nikumbh didn't confess to himself having grown up with the disability; it makes it feel like only ones who have experienced it can empathise with the condition.

All great, except he does this over the length of one song. There are far too many musical digressions in this film anyway -- and while most are touching interludes to enhance the narrative, they end up stroking what's already been touched -- yet this is wrong in particular, to show and identify the problem and then dismiss it in a manner of minutes. It is all very well to depict that love and care will conquer all, but the process cannot be as simple as making plasticine elephants.

The songs are good, however, and Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy do a bang-up job, as does lyricist Prasoon Joshi. Scriptwriter and conceptualiser Amole Gupte has clearly written a heartfelt script, and his imprint lies all over the film, even visually -- outside of the two final paintings painted by Samir Mondal, all of Ishaan's artwork is done either by Gupte or his wife Deepa, who also edited the film. This is clearly a labour of love for them.

Highly watchable and -- again, because of Darsheel and Aamir's knack for sentimental imagery -- warmly likeable, Taare flounders fatally at the end. Sure, it's okay to appease the masses with a tacked-on and cheesy ending, but for a film which stresses that we need to give our kids their space and not force themselves into constant comparisons, a film which asks them to take their time to find their talents, the climax becomes about a competition, about how winning magically makes everything better. And that's a scary thought, in context of what the film tries to say, overall.

Taare Zameen Par is, above all else, an earnest film.

Aamir brings us the debut of both a great child actor and a budding director with a fine eye, though he seems slightly Ashutosh'd in terms of pace. Economy is the one thing this film cries out for. Crisper, tighter, and less repetitive, and we'd have a very good movie on our hands. For now, we have a director with clear potential for solid work. And we need as many of those as we can get.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Om Shanti Om scores and how!

Farah Khan likes her films to have everything -- drama, dance, dreams, dishoom-dishoom, dudes, dhoom-dhamaka etc

Perhaps her vast experience as a choreographer has taught her to view everything in concurrent rhythm. This quality which was unmistakable in Main Hoon Na gains further prominence in Om Shanti Om.

OSO begins in the seventies where we are introduced to the starry-eyed Om Prakash Makhija (Shah Rukh Khan). An actor by profession, Om jives on a giant compact disc, a la Rishi Kapoor [Images], to the beats of Om Shanti Om in Subhash Ghai's [Images] Karz, (which incidentally, involuntarily, influences the outline of the film's actual story).

A few reels later, he's sporting a dacoit's moustache and screeching 'Bhaaaago' to a crazy mob dispersing in various directions.

Some more reels later, he slips into red leather to essay a self-styled cowboy, Quick Gun Murugan mouthing multiple 'Mind its' whilst tackling a seriously stuffed tiger prop.

During these various cuts and takes, he rescues the heroine from a fire mishap (just like Sunil Dutt saved Nargis [Images] on the sets of Mother India), has dreamy conversations with 'Dreamy Girl' film posters and finally takes her on a marvelous studio date against the backdrop of resplendent sets and cutting chai served in wine glasses. Om's best buddy, Pappu Master (Shreyas Talpade [Images]) pitches in as the butler.

Confused? There's a glitch. Om Prakash is a 'junior' actor by profession. That, however, doesn't deter a smitten Om from gallantly pursuing his lady love and Bollywood's top heroine, Shantipriya (Deepika Padukone). Just when you think a Raja Hindustani moment is around the corner, cunning producer Mukesh Mehra (Arjun Rampal [Images] blended into a mix of Ranjeet and Prem Chopra) steps in to spoil the party.

Obviously, something goes wrong. What? We won't tell you. Except sidekick Om Prakash Makhija is reborn as superstar Om Kapoor (SRK [Images]) to settle old accounts with his adversaries from past birth. While Sandy (Padukone again) becomes the new face of old timer, Shanti.

Does that mean you should go and watch OSO? Absolutely!

The film celebrates everything the eclectic seventies represent -- stars, colours, madness, implausibility, fantasy, music (Vishal-Shekhar's soundtrack is as rocking as it gets), romance, camaraderie, grandeur or simply put -- masala. Even the all-in-good-fun jokes cracked at Govinda [Images], Manoj Kumar, Rajesh Khanna and Sooraj Barjatya's expense are executed with taste in addition to cheek.

In fact, time-travelling to the 70s is so much fun; you almost hate to see 'Interval' pop up on screen. And that is one of the reasons why the contemporary second half requires welcome gimmicks like SRK's six-pack or gazillion film stars (from Dharmendra [Images] and Karisma Kapoor to Salman Khan [Images] to Kajol [Images]) showing up in a song sequence or Abhishek Bachchan [Images] (for Dhoom 5), Akshay Kumar [Images] (for Return of the Khiladi) and SRK (for Phir Bhi Dil Hai NRI and Main Bhi Hoon Na) furiously competing for a Best Actor Filmfare trophy at an awards function.

Speaking of Akshay, if there was some award for Best Performance in a 30 second cameo, he'd win it in a jiffy. He's first-rate, really!

Those are the compliments reserved for film's technicians as well. The screen is a sight to behold when art director Sabu Cyril's lavish imagination is paired with cinematographer V Maniknandan's luminous camerawork. The latter especially brings out an ethereal quality to newcomer Deepika Padukone's [Images] intrinsic beauty.

While she doesn't have much to contribute in the histrionics department, Padukone delivers as an exceptionally attractive and everyman's celluloid fantasy here. Give her five films and she'll be playing her 'numero uno' character real time.

Villains have never been menacing enough in Farah's movies. Be it Suniel Shetty's [Images] long haired terrorist in Main Hoon Na or Arjun Rampal's silver streaked businessman in OSO. Rampal's persona exudes too much warmth to pass off as a cold-blooded antagonist. Others like Shreyas Talpade are expectedly endearing but wasted while Kirron Kher exaggerates the filmi mom with palpable pleasure.

No, I have not forgotten Shah Rukh Khan [Images]. How can I? No one could have played Om other than him. He does exactly what a seventies superstar in a Manmohan Desai film would. Grab the viewer by his collar and make him a part of Om's unbelievable highs and impossible lows. He is the 'hero', super-hero; actually, if you count his turn as Mohabbat-Man.

But by all means, Farah is the hard working heart and soul of OSO. Every scene details her enthusiasm and knowledge for/of the movies and not just the specific era -- the seventies, around which it is centered. Here and there, we spy special tributes to the mystery and magic of classics like Madhumati, Gone with the Wind, Titanic [Images] and Maine Pyaar Kiya.

For all the grand entertainment it offers, OSO is also a zany study of the 70s film making in terms of style, attitude and values.

The spirited filmmaker puts Shah Rukh Khan and his finances to skillful use with this visually spectacular, cleverly orchestrated and star-studded reincarnation saga. Her chemistry with SRK and their combined ability to both humour (watch out for the Apahij Pyaar episode) and worship (a stupefying climatic twist) this extraordinary medium of make-believe makes for a delightful entertainer.

The idea of watching a massively-promoted Diwali release is to come out of the theatre feeling entertained. And for just that alone, Om Shanti Om definitely scores.