Friday, September 14, 2018

Manmarziyaan – F for flawed

To put it in one line, Manmarziyan is the modern day, Anurag Kashyap version of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam – a love triangle with a feisty Rumi (Tapsee Pannu) , her commitment-phobic lover Vicky (Kaushal) and her goody two-shoes husband Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan). With AK as the director you also get a generous dose of Fyar. Also, as in most AK movies, the characters are realistic and flawed. All three characters are annoyingly indecisive.  This will go down in history as the first love triangle I watched, in which I felt sorry for none.

I get that the name of the movie is Manmarziyan (whims of the mind), but by interval time I felt like screaming “aargh, one of you please make up your mind.” Even after their wedding, when Robbie suspects that Rumi is still in touch with Vicky, he tells her “You make the decision. Koi jaldi nahi hain.”  What do you mean ‘jaldi nahi hain’? Hamein hain!

So many questions that cross the mind - Even after being stood up twice by Vicky, Rumi still feels she can trust him when he says he will elope with her a day before the wedding. Is this madness? Or just fyar? Even after knowing he can’t commit to her and knowing she has finally married someone else, Vicky still interferes in her life. Is this self-centerdness or fyar? And even after knowing she is still in love with Vicky and has told him she doesn't want to marry him, Robbie still wants to marry her and fall into the mess. What is stupidity, if not this?

The script shows a middle finger to the age-old Bollywood mantra of “Love is sacrifice”. My generation (of 40 pluses) will at least watch the movie with an open mind and try to analyze it. But fyar, virginity talk, abortion, deceit and infidelity are sure to make the elders just walk out in disgust. Like the 15+ rating (here in Dubai), there should also be 50- rating, in my honest opinion 😉

As far as the acting is concerned they all do a perfect job. Vicky (Oh Vicky, you’re so fine, you’re so fine..) and Tapsee (at her energetic best) look convincing as the young lovers madly in love. Abhishek tries to shine as the mature husband but his character feels the weakest of the three and demands more conviction. The rest of the cast is decent too, but has not much to do but look over helplessly as the three musketeers continue with their manmarziyaan. The dancing twins (Poonam and Priyanka Shah who first appeared on a dance reality show), make periodic ghost-like appearances in the movie, sometimes to the audience’s bewilderment.  My interpretation is that they represent the mind and the heart. When both are in agreement, they dance in unison. When both are at war, they appear somber. 

What I loved most about the movie is Amit Trivedi’s soundtrack – with my personal favorites – “Halla” followed by “Daryaa”. Many of the songs often continue in the background adding punch to the melodrama. Halla will play in repeat mode in my playlist for the next few days!

To sum it up, AK’s directorial love story as one of the songs put it, is neither Kala na Safed, but in between “Gray wala shade” (uncertain as always!)

My rating: 2.5 stars

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

The quest for 'GOLD'!

Nothing, easier than sports to unite a country. Nothing easier than to do it on the Independence Day.  15th August - what a perfect day to release Gold. As I drove past traffic intersections with street urchins selling everything in tri-color from flags to balloons to pins, the buildup of national pride was inevitable. I was all charged up for ‘Gold’.

Gold, is a fictional dramatized recount of the first time Free India won an Olympic God in hockey. It is the story of a few men and their dream – to win the Gold medal and salute the rising tri color while the national anthem -Jana Gana Mana plays in the background. It is a story of two generations, 10 years apart, one who played for British India and one who will play for free India for the first time.  Gold, is that journey from the 1936 Olympics in Germany to the one in England in 1948. Throughout this journey the story of the rest of the cast builds up with historical events playing catalyst. The story is so beautifully intertwined in the historical time lime that it makes it believable. And not once, does it loose pace. 

What is Gold? Gold is a sports film, and like any other Sports film (Chakk de, Bhaag Milkha and the likes) it too banks on some stereotypical narratives - politics at the management level, egoistic transactions between team mates, and nail-biting last-minute finishes. Gold refreshingly however is different in how it talks about Pakistan. How many times have you seen the audience feel sorry for the loss of Pakistan? Well, this one does. Contrary to typical Bollywood movies where Pakistan bashing draws all the applause, this one makes you realize how similar we are. A small digression – I live in Dubai and my son’s best friend Ali, is from Pakistan. I once asked him how Ali became his friend and his immediate answer was “Cricket”. While students from other nationalities played football and basketball, Ali and my son bonded over cricket. The movie reinforces these common roots.

As for the cast, unlike sports films where the hero plays a pumped-up sports hero, Akshay Kumar plays a Bengali team manager whose love for his bottle is second only to his love for the game. He plays more with his Dhoti and his bottle of Daaru, a la Devdas 😊. Mouni Roy plays his wife with natural Bengali flair. She plays the nagging yet supportive wife with conviction. The rest of the cast that makes up the team play their part as directed - the aristocratic Raghubir Pratap Singh (Amit Sadh) and the hot tempered Himmat Singh (Sunny Kaushal – brother of Vicky Kaushal and an equally promising actor) play pivotal roles in the young generation. Samrat (Kunal Kapoor) and Imtiaz Ali (Vineet Kumar Singh) play the mature senior players who provide solid support not just to the team but to the movie as well. Akshay may be the center forward of this team, but it is the whole cast (under the able direction of Reema Kagti) that bring the Gold for this movie.

The end is predictable but moves the audience, literally to their feet – and voluntarily - for the national anthem. It also ends with a good piece of advice – “A country is made not by it’s borders, but by the common dream and vision of its people.” Let this thought and feeling of national pride stay beyond the theater and beyond 15th August! Vande Mataram.

Rating: 4*

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Dhadak - goodish but unSairatful

When I had watched Sairat, I couldn’t get it out of my head for a week – the story, the songs, the ending! Sridevi has been my all-time favorite actress. So my intention of watching Dhadak was two-fold – to relive Sairat and to find Sridevi (and then we complain of nepotism). It is hard to give an unbiased review of the movie, after being such an ardent fan of the original. So pardon me if I sound like the annoying mom who compares her two children, even when she knows she shouldn't.

The story about star-crossed lovers is not new in Hindi cinema – from Ek duje ke liye to QSQT. It generally offers a good launching pad for debutants too as it makes the viewer go “awwww” and fall in love with them. In Dhadak we have the rich upper caste, Parthavi (Janhavi Kapoor) and middle class lower caste, Madhu (Ishan Khatter) in a love story going wrong for the wrong reasons – caste! The setup, Dharma style is more opulent compared to Manjule’s simple setting - a lavish Udaipur resort here instead of a ‘wada’ (haveli) in a village. I don’t think that hampered the story that much. Some of the aerial shots of the Udaipur are fascinating yet I missed the simplicity in the scenes from Sairat – with the fishing net falling into the lake in slow motion or the flock of birds flying in the distance and Parshya running in the sugarcane fields.

The cast derives praise – especially Ishaan. Fifteen minutes into the film I had forgotten about Parshya and was involved in Madhu’s story. His boyish charm parallels Parshya’s. Parthavi however lacked the spunk of Archi. The loveable haughtiness in Archi is way above Parthavi’s. I went to find Sridevi but ended up searching for Archi – alas she wasn’t there. Parthavi however shines in the post interval drama when she seems to be at ease playing the lover who’s matured too soon thanks to circumstances. Ashutosh Rana as her father and a hard-core politician plays the part of tough, strict father with ease. I missed Parshya’s friends though. Madhu has two best friends too but I missed Sallya and Langdya.

The songs, sorry to say, are no comparison. The music is the same, but the lyrics seem to be stretched and twisted and then stretched a little more, just so they could fit the music losing the naturality of the original songs. The lyrics “pehali baar hain pehali baar hain ji” are no comparison to “yaad laagla yaad lagla ra” the “ji” forced in comparison to the natural “ra”. To compare the cult song Jhingaat (my heart cringes every time a non-Maharashtrian calls it the ‘Zingaat song’. It’s Jhingaat!), I loved the dab step but again the lyrics fail. The title song however is soft and hummable.

One of the highlights of Sairat was the ending. Towards the very end the name ‘Dhadak’ starts making sense as you feel your heart palpitating at twice the rate. It’s like sitting on a roller coaster the second time. You know there is a deep plunge coming up after the climb to the climax, because you have already experienced it once, yet in your heart you hope this would be different; happier. Happy or sad I shall not say as it would be a spoiler - all I will say is this ending is equally ‘impactful’! You'll know what I mean after you see it!

All in all, Dhadak is a good film. I am glad a Marathi film that I loved so much is reaching a larger audience. If you live outside India, and can’t lay your hands on Alphanso, you eat the next best mango available – say Kesar, right? Dhadak is that Kesar for the non-Maharashtrian crowd who couldn’t feast on the Alphonso.

For those who have watched Sairat: 2.5
For those who haven’t watched Sairat: 3.5

Friday, June 29, 2018

Sanju - bole toh, achhi hain!

The two reasons I went to watch Sanju were Ranbir Kapoor and Rajkumar Hirani. The third reason some may go are if they are Baba fans. Sanju, as the makers too mention, is a biopic of the always-in-the-headlines-for-the-wrong-reasons Sanjay Dutt. What they do not tell though is that it is a pick-and-choose biography, where the makers have selected those portions of Sanjay Dutt’s life they felt would make a great story. Forget mention of an actress whose name rhymes with Mr. Fixit, there is no mention even of his first or second wives. With so much to fit in an almost 3-hour film, those story lines have been ignored completely. The biopic touches only three areas - his connection with drugs, his love for women and the 1993 blasts- all vices. But the presentation is such that it feels more like a story about a father and a son and about a friendship that lasts through testing times - well played Hirani.

The three main characters in the movie are Sanju himself (played by Ranbir Kapoor; and if you did not know this, you are from a different planet), Sunil Dutt (Paresh Rawal) and Kamlesh (Vicky Kaushal). It would be unfair to start the review without giving a big round of applause to the Kapoor scion – Ranbir. What an actor, par excellence he is! The way he looks, the way he emotes, bang on! Twenty minutes into the movie, you forget that the man on screen is Ranbir. Ranbir, I see you holding the black lady next year. The other actor who ranks second is Vicky Kaushal who plays Sanju’s best buddy. If you wanted a fourth reason to watch the movie, it should be Vicky. His Gujju dialect, his naivety and his will-die-for-a-friend character make him extremely loveable. Paresh Rawal as Sunil Dutt, performs with conviction to paint the picture of a committed politician and a tired but strong father. Manisha Koirala, Sonam Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Dia Mirza have small roles in bits and pieces. One performance you will hear of even though you do not see the movie is of Anjan Srivastav. He plays a top-class politician with a unique lisp that easily gives away who he is. His portrayal may not go down well with the current government and with the general public who mostly reveres him. I see a controversy being blown out of proportion by the media coming very soon.

The movie is not Hirani’s usual style – this one a lot more serious and impactful. But there are sporadic moments in between where Hirani sprinkles a little bit of laughter in his genuine magical style. The last scene where Kamlesh says to Sanju “Tera beta ekdum tere daddy jaise dikhta hain re” and the reaction that follows will make sure you leave the theater with a smile on your face.
Word of caution - avoid watching the movie to pass a judgement on Sanjay Dutt, else like the media that the movie bashes frequently, we would be no different. Leave that to the judicial system of India. I went into the theater knowing one side of the story that the media had presented. I came out hearing the other side. That’s it. Who am I to judge which side is truthful? Or to decide whether he was really guilty or not. Watch it for a story – about a man who makes a lot of bad choices and pays for it. For whatever reason each of us had, in the jam- packed theater that we sat in, the movie ended with a loud applause.

p.s: Don’t walk out and miss seeing the song “Baba bolta hain bass ho gaya” after the end credits. The lyrics of the song are so relevant and entertaining, I would give just the song an independent 5*.

Overall rating for the movie: 4*, 
For Ranbir: The galaxy isn’t enough!

Friday, June 15, 2018

Race 3 - Allah duhai hain!

Firstly, Eid Mubarak to my friends who are celebrating. It's a long weekend here and salman khan is back with his Eidi. We had not much to do, so we headed out to watch Race3. It was a fight getting tickets and the theater was jam packed (i feel it's important to mention here that we weren't the only idiots) But the movie turned out to be one of the most boring and dull movies i have seen in recent times. first there was no plot. whatever plot there was, came to light in the last 15 minutes. till then, characters came and went. characters fought. characters danced - with no story built up.

when bobby deol and daisy shah started swaying to a meaningless song that goes "ek baar selfish... blah blah blah" i saw a man from my row walk out. wait, that was my husband! when another party song came up a girl in the row said "what! one more?" wait, that was my daughter. and the one boy who normally laughs loud in the theater was awefully quiet - my son. anil kapoor sums up the movie brilliantly in his dehati accent in one of his dialogues, "ee ka bullsit family melodrama karat rahein ho bituwa"

of the star cast, anil kapoor does his job well, as the senior of the family. salman khan is on a leash - he wants to do more for his die hard fans, but the director promised equal footage to all. daisy shah and  deol seem to be trying too hard to make a comeback. bobby looks crooked (did he always look this way?). daisy shah is good in some action scenes but emotes like a parrot. saqib saleem has a few lines and plenty of fast cars. jackie is hot!

The Race franchise is supposed to churn out movies that are full of twists and turns in the plot with shock after shock. The only point in the movie when i felt a shock was when, towards the end, anil kapoor (a la black panther) says "the race is still on", hinting a Race4. Allah duhai hain, fir jaan pe aayi hain!

Some races are best left to the Men in White. abbas mastan we want u back!

Bucket list - a bucket half full

When I first saw the trailer of Bucket List, Madhuri’s first Marathi movie, it showed everything Madhuri is best known for – her style, her grace, her dance. The trailer however gave out almost everything the movie had to offer. There was literally no surprise element left for the viewer paying to watch it in the theater – even the Ranbir cameo had no one squealing in enthusiasm, as everyone in the theater already knew who the hooded man in the bar would be.

The story is simple – a quintessential housewife, Madhura (Madhuri) in a typical Maharashtrian joint family staying on Prabhat Road (where else), undergoes a heart transplant and as a gesture decides to complete her organ donor, Sai’s bucket list – a half completed list of things, the now deceased Sai, wanted to complete before she turned 21. Madhura’s journey, while she completes Sai’s bucket list is fun to watch – learning to ride a Harley, drinking in a pub, getting arrested, going viral –giving the ever-so-charismatic Madhuri Dixit a chance to showcase her talent.

Coming to what I liked in the movie – I was nervous about Madhuri’s Marathi diction considering we haven’t seen her speak much Marathi before, plus the fact that she has lived in the States long enough for the American accent to pop up. However, Madhuri did the Marathi task flawlessly! The second thing I was worried about whether Madhuri’s majestic onscreen persona would fit the role of the simple Marathi “soon” (daughter-in-law). She did that job fine too.  And she still lights up the scene when she plays with her eyes and flirts mischievously with the audience. Of the supporting cast, Vandana Gupte played the mother in law character with ease. The way she speaks Hindi (Marathi style) reminded me a lot of my own mom 😊 Renuka Shahane, as the mother of Sai, was pleasant but making an actress who is best know for her big broad smile look glum because of the loss of her daughter, felt like a wasted resource. Sumeet Raghavan, known for his sweet on-screen persona, fitted the job of the caring husband well. But all in all, the movie was about Madhuri, and Madhuri alone.  Well, that was why the audience was there too!

Coming to where the movie felt short – some of the scenes between Madhura and her teenaged daughter felt straight out of English Vinglish. The song with Madhura and her husband in Malaysia, with wind blowing through 2 yards of saree pallo, seemed awkward and unnecessary. Maybe it was added only for the Dharma stamp. With so many producers name in the credits, I would think the makers had enough money and yet we see Madhuri advertising MakeMyTrip in one of the scenes – it so didn’t suit her class!  And then the bucket list itself – felt so short. One of Sai’s friend clarifies in the beginning “Sai has already completed a few tasks, but a few remain”. And the audience can’t help but feel – “Why did Sai have to do anything, it would have been so much better if Madhura had to finish the entire list”. Why did the bucket have to be half full? The audience leaves the theater yearning for more. We love you Madhuri and we can't have enough.

3.5 stars for the movie, with one star only for the Diva.