Thursday, November 16, 2017

Step out of your Khidkee | Khidkee Short Film Review

Still frames, pensive silences and two open windows constitute the soul of Khidkee,  a masterful short film by Mumbai based director, Rohan Kanawade.

If you have lived in a crowded city, you are very familiar with spaces that are not exactly private - homes that awkwardly peek into one another, offering enough glimpses to spark your imagination about the people who might live there, but never enough to offer any insight - personal or real. This voyeuristic side of Mumbai's urban middle class lifestyle builds Khidkee's tense narrative that teases, and tempts the characters and audience alike.

Who are these men that visit her so often? Why does a scruffy young man drink all day? What are silhouettes telling you and what are they hiding? The characters yearn and the audience learns.

As a viewer, you hear both sides of the story and wish you could step in and clarify, or help. The tension, the anxiety, the uneasiness, engulfs you to a very potent climax ably held together with sharp editing and ambient music that build to the crescendo.

Actors Veena Nair and Lalit Prabhakar lend credible performances to their very real and relatable characters, and Abhay Kulkarni does a terrific job in a difficult role.

Rohan Kanawade's success lies rousing the curiousity of the audience and making them wonder what if... and as the credits roll you will find yourself asking, how many such loaded perceptions you may have had in your life.

Step out of your Khidkee. There is a lot, you don't know!

Khidkee is among the 16 non-feature films selected for Indian Panorama section at the coveted 48th International Film Festival of India (IFFI) 2017 (Goa). which is scheduled to take place from 20th to 28th November, 2017.

Watch the trailer here:

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Baahubali 2 - the tale of a promising second date!

You've been there. A wonderful first date. An experience you want to relive again and again. You think it can't get better and the date ends with the line, let's meet again. Soon. And then the wait begins. Waiting for Bahubali 2 has been like waiting for that date. 

As I waited, I relived the film many times. My eyes sparkled every time I remembered the larger than life waterfall, the breathtaking visuals, the sheer opulence. Will the second film be just as great? Will it have the same level of music, action and drama? Will it make me want to whistle, woot and scream, "Jai Mahishmati!"  

The second film, much like the second date, in my opinion, was weighed down by the greatness of the first one. Yes, in a single word, this is no comparison to the first film. So unlike the first date, I haven't come back feeling I've found something special. And in a way, I'm glad there's no part 3. 

Don't get me wrong! Let's call a spade a spade: the graphics, production and quality in most departments easily surpasses the average Indian commercial cinema benchmark. And of course, it's not a waste of your money. The tragedy however, is that it was meant to continue a rather brilliant franchise. 

While, the first film was not a flawless outing, it was almost there and clearly a new benchmark for everyone in the Indian commercial movie market. There was a sense of daring drraminess in the vision, a clever plot line and a screenplay that built up to an amazing climatic pause : why did katappa kill bahubali. 

In doing so, not only did the director build expectations, but he also built memorable characters - the righteous Bahubali, and his ambitious replica of son, the almost-winner-but-loser Bhallaldev, the strong and loyal Kattappa, the tactful, staunch and strong figurehead Shivgami- to name a few. 

So when you went for B2, you expected not only the movie, but also these characters. And oh, the disappointment! The story telling which was the strength of the first one, takes somewhat of a backseat as the plot wants you to see the tale of Bahubali falling in love with Devsena. It's borderline cute alright, but Katappa who I had loved and respected is almost jarring in his second fiddle first half that sees the actor ham and overact. Katappa, shut-up pa! 

The plot of a cunning, sore lose trying to vindicate is clever and hinges on one thing alone : Shivgami's dumbness. She's not dumb! At least in the first part, she wasn't. In this one, she's almost a reactive woman, waiting to be manipulated. The sharpness and astute thinking she had has jumped off the CGI waterfall and she's all but an angry aunty to say the most. Devsana, emerges as the firebrand female character in this one whose beauty is matched by her bravery. Her sharp tongue compliments her royal arrogance and she is a treat! But here's the thing: nothing is even brand new here. Oh, yes, there is a ship/space-ship song, (but ain't no blue butterflies from the dheevara song.) Sigh. But all that does lead to kahani mein twist interval moment. 

The second half builds up to a war and it doesn't disappoint. Visually of course, it's a lot of wow moments. We learn about the twists that made Katappa do what he did and then see the rise of the new bahubali. But something about both the bahubali: what the director owes to CGI, the warrior hero owes to the flexibility of Pine trees. Ok pine, sorry! :P 

But back to calling a spade a spade, it's not a bad film. Watch it for its amusement, grandeur and wow moments. You won't be disappointed. 

The problem you see, the first date was awesome. Have you ever wondered that if the second date was in fact the first time you met, you wouldn't feel so bad. But thank god, this wasn't actually a date. I can still watch Bahubali: the beginning. Again. 

3 Stars. Sorry. 

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Ae dil hai mushkil - nothing new, nothing terrible.

(Spoiler alert.) 

Presenting the ae dil hai mushkil story loop:
  1. Boy meets girl 
  2. Boy loves girl 
  3. Girl doesn't love boy 
  4. Boy demands love 
  5. Girl Denies
  6. Go back to step one
In  the NRI (private jet owning NRI) world that Karan Johar weaves his stories in, there is little novelty in the content. "Pya dosti hai!", cooed a caricatured character Mrs. Briganza in the directors debut Kuch Kuch Hota hai. And here we are two decades and a handful of similar movies by the director later: the lead characters of Ae dil hai mushkil alizeh (Anushka Sharma) and Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) argue exactly the same line, in a non caricature mode. That is perhaps the director's real personal achievement and growth on his own bio data - that while the subject hasn't changed , the intensity, passion, lust and love has all become more mature. It's not about cheerleaders going "rahul aur anjali ka jhagda" but middle fingers being shown to a bride. And tujhe yaad na meri aai, becomes the break up song. 

What works like a charm is the casting and performance of the lead trio. Ranbir kapoor is a canvas of expressions and can literally emote every punctuation mark in the script. His ability to convey his yearning and longing even without speaking is topclass. Anushka as Alizeh is the quintessential happy go lucky girl and she does adequately well for us to believe her choices. The first half sees the two make us fall in love with their chemistry. We like Ranbir, assume love is the natural next step. Because, you know, pyar dosti hai. Right? 


Pyar complicated hai. Pyar ex hai. Pyar future hai. Pyar shaayra hai. Enter poetess Saba, Aishwarya Rai in the second half after  two failed attempts of the ADHM loop mentioned above. Single handedly, she and her character elevate the grace, beauty and poetic quotient of the film. The same, unfortunately can not be said about the pace and grip of the movie. The second half suffers from the "what's the point syndrome". This is where kuch kuch hota hai meets Rockstar and suddenly it is about Ayan discovering  pain and poetry while behaving like a hurt eccentric lover who can neither get or get over his love for his best friend. Even surprise cameo of SRK only adds to the already slowing  momentum. (In contrast, the highlight of the first half is the Lisa Haydon cameo that has the vatavaran in splits. Damn, I love her!)

So after a few failed attempts at the ADHM loop, pyar complicated hota hai takes a climatic refuge in the line "pyar cancer ki tarah failta hai". Errrr what.. Let's just say that, the last act is the weakest. Almost in a way trying to somehow end the loop. 

To me the key problem with ADHM is that the characters while all very intense (non caricature) still are not well rounded. While saba's past is a mystery, Ali's now in now out mode from the film (as well as Alizeh's life), leavea you wondering why he does what he does. Why, even the lead pairs depth is undiscovered except their perspective on friendship and love. Their blink N miss family backgrounds are conspicuous in their absence. The melancholy of character is a "given" and not something the audience discovers (or expected to care about). That is why the drama towards the end seems more induced than natural. 

I don't think this is a great movie. It's certainly good enough up there among the top 5 movies of the year so far. The music and performances are worth your spend on the movie ticket - and dare I say, Aishwarya's  beauty on celluloid is worth the pop corn! A super entertaining first half. A somewhat stretched second half and an awkward climax that sticks out in an otherwise above average film, Ae dil hai mushkil is a good one time watch. 

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sairat - adorable yet heartbreaking, shaking, shocking.

So I am no expert on Marathi movies. Haven't seen many classics to be sure of my cinematic references, but like everyone else, can tell a good film from a bad film. In the past few years I've loved a number of Marathi movies. My favorites have been Balak Palak, Jogwa, Natrang, Mumbai-pune-Mumbai; and more recently Katyar kaaljat ghusali and Court. By that list, you probably know that I don't follow the industry so closely, but whenever a movie gets critical or mass acclaimed, I end up wanting to watch it. 

Sairat - had acclaim from both masses and critics. Why last weekend I couldn't reach the box office to get tickets for another Hindi movie in time simply because the queue for this movie so long! So there, I was geared to watch what will unfold. 

With very little background I went in and what I experienced is so diverse that a small post wouldn't do justice. So a blogpost it is: Sairat navigates from a satire on rural Maharashtra to a cute teenage romance to a torrid love story and eventually to a heartbreaking drama - all in one movie. No mean feat. 

Not having seen enough Marathi cinema it is tough to conclude if the story is singularly unique, but there are certainly some Bollywood parallels one could draw. We've seen parts of the story here and there in other films, but the gaavran cocktail is an original mix. And it's soul is its lead pair. 

Newcomers Akash Thosar and Rinku Rajguru are the key reason this movie is as impactful as it is. As the goody boy Parshya and the fiesty Archi, the duo own the celluloid with their chemistry. It's QSQT meets Omkara, if you may, and their naive romance contrasts almost incredulously with the caste drama that is conspicuous even if it isn't uttered much in their bubbling romance in the first half. 

Smartly directed by Nagraj Manjule, the film makes you love the lead pair and you find yourself struggling with them. Your heart goes out to them for every triumph, trials or trebulations they face, however big, small or outright brutal. It's like a fairytale suddenly becomes a reality show with guns and goons. As if the couple lives in two spaces in time simultaneously - one where they can't take eyes off each other, Can't imagine a moment without each other and where they mean the world to eachother. Another, where they can't stand anything about each other, let alone the dumpy circumstances that they've been forced into, and the overbearing world has diminished their love story. They believe in the first but are constantly living the second. Even as the heroine makes obvious mistakes, you can't help but see her Naive heart that wants to believe that there will be a happy ending. 

Without giving away much and delving into the details, It is safe to say makes you question why our society is the way it is? Why is a couple's love the centre stage of a whole village? Why can't we let people be and let them love who they wish to? And eventually what did the society really achieve by interfering in what was pure, genuine and unadulterated. 

Perhaps the success of the film is that these questions apply in contexts way beyond just the plot of this film, which heavily draws on caste. But the same can be said about the other divides that exist in our society over class, status and even gender. Sairat is a heartbreaking realisation that love isn't all you need to survive. Acceptance of your love is more important than your love itself. 

The cinematic highlight is probably the  final sequence that in my view could single handedly be responsible for its acclaim. It's understated and bold at the same time. Innocent and explicit at the same time. Hours later, the visuals still won't leave my mind. 
The film runs close to 3 hours and you wonder if it could've been tighter?.. I say, yes. That is possibly the only critique along with the somewhat familiar moments in the initial part of the film. 

It would be unfair to end the review without mentioning the musical duo Ajay-Atul, who alongside creating some great melodies have also made the lives of gully DJs  easy by giving them the go-to-street-dance-song of the season. Make way to Zing zing zingaat- super catchy beats. The other songs too make a good impact. 

Overall, I am lost between wether I adore the film or am shocked with the eventual message. There were times in the film I felt I want to watch it again and in the end I didn't know if I can ever go through such a celluloid heartbreak again. Definitely a very good film that will first make you fall in love and then want to wonder if there is such a thing as living in love or is it just stuff of fairy tales. I'll end by sharing what my friend said to me when I still had a grim face long after the movie - , "Get over it, it's just a movie!" 

Bravo team Sairat! 
4 stars 

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Ki and Ka - Romcom gone dramatically average!

So in the incredibly awesome Jab We Met, a phoney station master opines, "Zindagi ek rail ki patri hai. Ek inch ka bend, aur meelon ki doori.."  Funny, but apt. And Ki and Ka visually keeps reminding us of how relationships are like train journeys.. Two tracks that must support a huge vehicle called marriage. Two tracks that are separate yet act as one.. A great thought and a nice premise to make a film on. 

Ki and Ka - if not completely novel, is certainly a full blown attempt at role reversals. A guy runs the house so his wife can follow her career aspirations. That's a great idea and that's the best thing about the film. The rest is somewhat incidental and an almost diametrically opposite version of age old stereotypes, that end up making the caricatures - except with genders reversed. Ki and Ka is lost between trying to make a strong point about gender roles one hand and trying to still be funny (and almost gimmicky) on the other. Eventually it is a romcom that decides to get dramatic and in the end delivers averagely on both counts. 

Everything about the boy meets girl (or shall we say girl meets guy), is uncoventional. And even as the Kabir (ka - Arjun Kapoor) reminds his new interest Kia (ki- Kareena Kapoor) that he is not gay, he is very clear that he wants to make a home, and not get into a career of any sort. As much as he wants to sound feminist, it is hard to ignore that it really seems Ka's personal choice and it seems to work mainly because his Ki is fine with it. What with the man insisting on wearing a mangalsutra and all.. To each his own.

And after the film has set its tone, there's not of a plot in the first half. Yes, we meet his chauvinist father and her progressive mother - again both extreme opposites. One asks the son to check his genitals to reassure his manliness and the other confirms if the daughter has had sex with her  husband-to-be to ensure all' a well before marriage. The supposed slice of life treatment ends up served as episodes of one situation after the other. All in all the first half seems like a feel-good romcom, something that director R Balki excelled in with his debut Cheeni Kum

Ki and Ka takes a dramatic turn in the second half and treads along the gender reversed Abhimaan track -  the yesteryears classic on the shifting balance of ego and self worth in a married couple. That the resolution for Ki and Ka should come from the real life couple - Amitabh and Jaya Bachan playing themselves in an endearing cameo, is another feel good moment in the largely easygoing experience that this movie is. The conflicts, the resolutions and everything in between has a sense of ease, which dare I say, shows somewhat lack of imagination. 

All in all, it's a film that starts with, thrives on and ends with a few preachy mini monologues on gender roles. That said,  the film is not boring and the monologues are relevant. It's kudos to the team of actors who make these caricatures somewhat relatable. 

Arjun Kapoor pulls off the high heeled act with high testosterone and credible sensitivity. Kudos to casting and the actor for accepting a role that makes the message even more strong. He's not the quintessential metrosexual. He's rugged and all brawn and yet a homemaker at heart. Kareena is effervescent as the ambitious yet boisterous Kia, and she is particularly great in the second half when her character starts to feel insecure and ego gets the better of her. 

The music by maestro Ilayaraja doesn't have the signature timelessness except for the Ji huzoori track, which has some fine lyrics too by Sayeed Quadri. Technically the film seems average but the art direction of the film is special in that it creates a fantasy like home of Ki and Ka, perhaps a fitting metaphor that a couple like this is just as impossible to find in real as a house like that. And I don't know if the print in the auditorium I saw was bad, but the editing seemed choppy. 

In the end, I think you won't regret watching Ki and Ka, but you won't regret missing it either. 2.5 stars. If you spend between 150 and 200 bucks you won't complain :-) 

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Kapoor & Sons : Refreshingly dysfunctional!

After Piku and Dil Dhadakne Do, now Kapoor & Sons cements the fact that dysfunctional families have arrived in our mainstream cinema. This is far from sugar coated Hum Aapke Hai kaun, where gaudily dressed bunch of men n women are plotting how to camouflage shoes in a box of sweets. Here an angry wife literally throws biscuits on her husband because she can't stand the thought of him being with another woman - she's not shy or subtle about her rage in a so called family gathering. That this should come from the same banner who once famously told us, "it's all about loving your family", is a fitting testimony to how far Bollywood has come within a few decades. Bravo! (Alternate title: Hum Aapke kyu hain?)

Rishi Kapoor, the eldest Kapoor is the grandfather admittedly awaiting his death, why, even rehearsing it. He has but only one small last wish.  He wants his family to be photographed and to read, Kapoor & sons, since 1921. But nothing is simple when each of the Kapoor clan is a complex whirlpool of baggages, complexes and vulnerabilities. None extreme, but each potentially heartbreaking. Stuff that can totally break the already strained family ties. 

Ratna Pathak Shah and Rajat Kapoor are the Kapoor parents, who can't have a conversation without fighting. Be it over a breakfast table, or instructing a plumber - each must prove the other incapable. Why? Perhaps even they can't tell anymore. 

Siddhart Malhotra and Fawad khan are the Kapoor sons who you can tell were great friends in childhood. But sibling rivalry - some genuine, some self induced, has forced them apart. Both in separate corners of the world, both writers - one struggling because of the other. 

So when the motley bunch comes together to fulfill the grandfathers request, there is tension galore in the humble abode. Add to the mix a chirpy Alia Bhatt, whose drunk escapade leads to a triangle between the brothers. 

The film thrives on chemistry and the lack of it and the cast is in perfect sync. They're the family next door. Smiling, trying to party, trying to be nice in public but constantly on the edge. A family that has come together after 5 years, has a lot share, a lot to hide and a lot that can't/shouldn't be hidden anymore. Affairs, alternative lifestyle choices, vulnerabilities that have snowballed into complexes, and even a promiscuous night out with a local hottie. So much is in the unsaid that you can empathise with each of the flawed character. 

It's an unconventional family drama that deals with mature subplots with sensitivity that is rare to Bollywood. Again, that this comes from a banner that thrived on sexual stereotypes, that one must praise this heartfelt attempt to portray a real character - the core of the film, who is scared, tired and yet, strong and independent. Fawad Khan takes the cake with a solid rendition as Rahul, the perfect (?) son -  a character with subtle nuances. His delicate yet potent conversations with his mother, brother and father in the second half are tear jerkers. Hardly a dry eye in the auditorium. 

The rest of the cast, is just as good. An almost perfect ensemble. Alia is a delight, Ratna Pathak Shah and Rajat Kapoor sink into their characters with effortless ease as ever, and an almost unrecognisable Rishi Kapoor is a sweetheart of a grandfather, full of life even as he awaits death. Watch him excitedly talk of his lust for the semiclad Mandakini of Ram Teri Ganga maili - hilarious. Sidharth Malhotra, while mostly credible is yet to pass with flying colours from the Karan Johar school of acting. He'll be there soon. So near.  

Director Shakun Batra with co writer Ayesha Devitre Dhillon deserve credit for making the most sensitive family drama of recent times. There's no melodrama and nothing incredulous either. It's an art to capture real conversations without sounding too mundane on one hand and loud or garish on the other. The writer and director walk the thin line with expert finesse. Extra extra extra brownie points for the scene with the plumber where each character takes centre stage and stamps their authority, including the plumber ;). 

It's such a good film. Watch it. Warning: you're bound to remember your brother, mother, father, grandfather through the film so keep the tissues and calling cards ready. :-) 

4 star. I spent 300 bucks on the ticket. I think the money deserves it. 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Neerja - Amazing, Important!

When I walked out of the theatre, moved and somewhat speechless, my friend added, "It's almost like we don't know our real life heroes." That's what makes a film like Neerja both amazing and important. Amazing because as a film, it is a worthy gripping story that keeps your attention and hope held until the very end. 

And important, because it is a humble reminder to Bollywood that there is so much content that we haven't even thought about. Stories like that of Neerja must be told!

In times like today, where nationalism and patriotism (and dare I say jingoism) is the name of the game, Neerja's heroism is a shining beacon of duty, courage and most importantly, humanity. It's a story that not just the youth, but even some of our leaders must look to draw from. 

Back to the film itself:  It must be said that the story is the winner here. It would take special talent to not make a good film on this subject. But director Ram Madhvani does more than justice to the subject and handles the taut script with imaginative direction. What we see outside the flight is somehow more important than what we see happen inside. Neerja is really a story of a worried mother and her brave daughter. 

Running between two timelines that draw parallels between Neerja's disturbing past personal life and unfortunately present predicament, Neerja is a triumph in the writing department. Bravo Saiwyn Quadras!  The film doesn't take time to get to the point but still manages to give you peeps into the person behind the hero - full of  vulnerabilities, likes and dislike. That she was just another 23 year old is what makes her story even more inspiring. 

On the technical side, the clever unsteady camera work (Mitesh Mirchandani) and the potent background music are the secret ingredients behind the lurking sense of doom and despair that haunts the passengers in the flight and the family at home waiting by the phone to hear something. (Can you imagine not having live updates in today's world. I can't think how I would survive a situation of family crisis without being "connected".) The razor sharp editing (Monisha R Baldawa) adds to the nervous momentum. 

And finally the performances: Sonam Kapoor brings Neerja to life and shows considerable improvement from her previous works. She doesn't let the script Down. The actors who play the terrorists (esp. Jim Sarbh as Khalil) hit all the right notes, as do the other members of the family. But (in an obvious outcome), the film Neerja really belongs to her mother played on screen by the veteran Shabana Azmi. 

Everyone will find a little bit of his or her mother in Azmi's portrayal. She is singularly responsible for all the wet eyes (almost all) in the auditorium. Just like Nana Patekar with Natsamrat, here is another veteran who shows how to own the celluloid. Ever sigh she heaves and every tremble of her sad face makes you want to hope no mother ever goes through what she did. 

In the end, you come out thinking how life is so cruel to some. Why would Neerja, who saved so many lives not be given a chance. And the blogger in me thinks, why doesn't Bollywood give real stories a chance. The film, like the protagonist, rises to the occasion. And how! 

Every year on our Republic Day, the President presents awards for bravery. Neerja won one. Thanks to this movie, we know her story. Here's hoping bravehearts like director Madhvani continue to use the medium for entertainment that is also empowering, moving and inspiring. Bravo team Neerja. 
4.5 stars