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SRK and Karan Johar are trying
24 February 2010
5 reasons why you should see My Name is Khan (MNIK):

(1) MNIK is an important film in the journey of deconstruction of SRK into an actor. (2) His critics would hate to read this but the truth is Karan Johar is one of the best we have. He is in total control of every frame of each his films. MNIK is no exception. Sadly, his deconstruction has not started yet. (3) We get to see actors like Vinay Pathak and Arif Zakaria play roles with hardly 5 minutes of screen time. The importance given to characters roles is amazing. Also amazing is the fact that actor are valuing the meat of the role rather than duration. Good start! (4) Ravi K Chandran's cinematography. He shows us things differently every time he is behind the lens. The arial shot where SRK is walking through the maze of electricity towers and wires in the Arizona desert is a work of a master. We don't have directors to challenge Chandran enough. (5) Strong messages.

5 reasons why you should not see My Name is Khan (MNIK):

(1) It assumes Hindi is the second language of USA - everybody speaks and understands it, including the 'Mr. President'. (2) Either they should not have shown George W Bush in the original or they should not have faked Obama. And what a fake, he looked a basket ball player more. An intelligent option would have been to always show Obama's back, never show his face. That would have been true to history completely. (3) If there is a place in their country that the US administration cannot reach to provide relief, trust me, a bunch of enthusiasts just cannot reach there with plastic covered cartons on their backs (Ref: The flooded Georgia town rescue scene). (4) The truth is that even our PM cannot meet the 'Mr. President' just because he wants to, leave alone one of us immigrating into that country. (5) A film with such strong and relevant message should be rooted in reality to be relevant over time. At the end, MINK is still masala messaging.
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Up (2009)
A humane story amid a color riot
20 September 2009
It is difficult to get the image of that flying house suspended by countless colorful balloons off your head, once you see Up. I guess, it would stay with me for the rest of my life.

Up easily climbs up to claim a place amongst the finest animation films ever. Not surprisingly, it comes from Pixar, the team that gave us Wall-E, Ratatouille and Finding Nemo. Also, after a quite a long time, its about 'people' as against a garbage-crusher, a rat and fishes respectively earlier. Up is as colorful as an animation film ever was. What a color riot! Some frames just stay with you, the mastery of their composition impossible to miss.

The choice of characters itself breaks clichés. A grumpy old man as the hero and an amiable obese kid as his ally completely contrast against what one would have thought would be the choice for characters who are supposed to be on an adventure trip to South America. Both characters endear themselves to us as the story moves along.

Two things that stood out for me - (a) The initial sequence that chronicles the life of Fredrickson and Ellie together is a master-stroke. As it ends, it leaves the eyes moist - and all that without a word spoken. (b) The closing shot with the house perched besides the paradise falls - it is one for the textbooks; probably one of the best closing shots ever.

Not to be missed at any cost.
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Kaminey (2009)
Stylish, Dark Thriller
17 August 2009
It is hard to follow Omkara, even for someone like Vishal Bharadwaj. So he takes a very predictable, though risky route - do something completely different with no trace of his past works. Thankfully, he does well.

I guess, there are two ways in which we may look back at 'Kaminey' a few years from now (depending on how those few years turn out): (a) The coming-of-age film for Shahid Kapoor; (b) The watershed film for 'Indianized' thrillers.

There are very few who would bet on Shahid Kapoor in a role other than that of a lover boy. Fewer still who could pull it off. Vishal Bharadwaj unveils a Shahid Kapoor we never knew. He (the latter) does a fantastic job in the double roles of Charlie and Guddu. In fact, none of the actors disappoint. All get under the skin of their characters.

In last few years, we have been made to endure endless crap in the name of thrillers or worse still comic-thrillers (e.g. Tashan, all Sanjay Gupta films, all films with Sanjay Dutt as 'bhai', etc). Indian directors have been desperately trying to create stylish, sleek thrillers but ended up with cheap Hollywood imitations studded with expensive cars, Armani suits and aerial shots of America/Europe. Style comes naturally to 'Kaminey' through its pace, realistic locations, brilliantly sketched characters and smart screenplay.

Vishal Bharadwaj is extremely and variously talented. The risks he takes without being carried away (why am I thinking of Anurag Kashyap?) makes him probably the best we have. Kaminey is definitely not an Omkara or Maqbool or Blue Umbrella. But it is original, funny, stylish and dark. A must watch.
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Love Aaj Kal (2009)
Of the Mango People
13 August 2009
The three films that Imtiaz Ali has directed so far have a common theme running through them - the protagonists do not realize that they are in love till the very end. In all three the real drama is not in how the lovers meet or fall in love or the peripheral characters (like family or friends). It is about realization. That he does it successfully third time in a row probably tells that Imtiaz Ali either feels very strongly about the concept or that he has had some real life experience of his own.

Love Aajkal starts with Jai (Saif) and Meera (Deepika) breaking up. They are apparently very practical about their relationship and plan it such that it goes along with their other plans for life. Only that life, as always, has plans of its own. The more time they spend away from each other, the more they realize they are meant to be together. To catalyze the Jai's end of the realization process we have an amiable old café owner, Veer (Rishi Kapoor). Veer's love story in flashback is a parallel track to Jai-Meera's. Both the stories run juxtaposed with each other to a predictable but nevertheless heart warming climax.

Saif plays both Jai and the young Veer. He is top notch in both roles. Flambouyance comes naturally to him when he plays Jai and he is very convincing as the rugged and (at times) clumsy Veer. Deepika is at ease in the role of Meera. It seems as if she is playing herself. At the dramatic scenes, however, like the one immediately after her marriage where she is impatient to talk to Jai, and the scene following that when she is talking to Jai over the phone, she betrays that she still needs to learn the ropes. She looks stunning in every frame. Perfect foil to the glamorous Meera is the docile and beautiful Harleen. She is pretty as a picture, though she hardly speaks in the entire film.

Imtiaz Ali is an inspired director. He knows his characters and his story. He is more focused on technique this time, compared to Jab We Met or Socha Na Tha. I guess that is because he was aware that he has a weaker story in hand. He handles the two tracks brilliantly, managing to keep both engaging. His editor delivers the goods for him to achieve that. A noteworthy good work by the editor is the sequence at the beginning where we see the cast and crew credits. It is a collage of scenes from the complete film.

The songs go well with the film (though with Pritam, I don't know how much of it is original). The background score could have been more imaginative.

Love Aajkal is easily the best romantic comedy of the year so far. Worth watching.
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New York (2009)
Loss of humanity in times of crisis
8 July 2009
Finally a Yashraj film that has a New York setting for a reason! New York is a very welcome film to end the long drought of films because of the producers-multiplexes tussle. It has a young and fresh cast comprising of John Abraham, Neil Nitin Mukesh and Katrina Kaif, a good story and very able hands of the director Kabir Khan.

The story is set in New York (duh!) and chronicles the impact of 9/11 on the lives of 3 people of Indian origin living in the city. It has good pace and never drags. The story does not need the actors to do much and hence the three lead actors pull it off well. Neil Nitin Mukesh would be the pick of the three, though you see the chinks when he has to speak out long dialogs in a stretch. Katrina Kaif is very natural; it is almost like she is playing herself and hence is very good at it. The climax requires her to do a little bit and you see her limitations as an actor. John Abraham matches up to his co-stars. Standing up against the lead star cast is the character actor Irfan Khan - easily an excellent choice for the role he plays. Not surprising then that Irfan gets some of the most poignant lines of the whole film.

Kabir Khan follows up his last film 'Kabul Express' well with New York. Both are Yashraj productions and Kabir Khan is definitely one of the best directors in that banner. Both his films have a strong script (a lesson for other Yashraj directors) and very neat execution. A good job done.
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Delhi-6 (2009)
Last lap lets you down
27 March 2009
The last 30 minutes or so of Delhi 6 undo all the good work that the film does that far. As a result, my feelings are mixed for this film since I can't ignore either of the two parts. I would anyway recommend this film for the following reasons.

It has a great ensemble of actors seen in quite a long time. Some of the finest character actors of the time - Om Puri, Pawan Malhotra, Deepak Dobriyal, Atul Kulkarni, Supriya Pathak, Vijay Raaz - are featured. The reason, I guess, most of them accepted their roles in spite of limited screen time is because they were well defined and Rakesh Mehra's (the director) formidable reputation. It is sheer pleasure to watch these actors perform in the same frame. Then there is the graceful Waheeda Rahman. At the outset it would seem that probably the lead actors, Abhishek Bachchan and Sonam Kapoor, are the weakest in the team. But that is not how it turns out.

Abhishek's character is more like a spectator than a participant. It is a challenge because it requires him to drop all his stardom and be one among the crowd. This probably is also a reason why many viewers felt at the end that he 'did not do much'. His role probably is an example for other stars of the day on how to approach a film with well-written multiple characters. They got to let go. His on and off accent is the only hitch. Sonam Kapoor looks equally comfortable in her bubbly girl next door character. She endears herself to the audience.

In the last half an hour, the story all of sudden tries to impose events and make something 'happen'. This is where it goes wrong. There is no build-up for the hurried-up events that follow and the audience gets confused. I'd have to say I wonder what was Rakesh Mehra thinking.

Delhi 6, by the way, is not a tribute to Delhi. It can be set in any friendly neighborhood. But the city of Delhi does get its song in 'Ye Delhi hai mere yaar'. The high point of the film, in fact, is its music. This is probably one of A. R. Rahman's best works ever. The variety and quality of his compositions is amazing to say the least.

The city of Delhi still awaits its film.
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Frost/Nixon (2008)
The Story of a Confession
24 March 2009
I'm not sure how America looks at Nixon now. I was not aware that Nixon confessed to his countrymen in his interview to Frost. Confession does not undo the wrongs but is still indicative of integrity, or at least leftover integrity, especially when coming from men of highest offices. I say this because my own country has such a long list of scandals, scams, corruption and moral impropriety from politicians and bureaucrats, that it's people have grown almost immune. And, nobody expects that anybody will ever confess anything, even if convicted. At least I don't remember any. The closing scenes of Frost/Nixon show the courage it takes for Nixon to confess and how it drains him completely at the end. But at least, coming out of the interview, I guess, he would have been at last at peace with himself.

Frost/Nixon is a part fictional and part factual intense drama. It is told primarily from Frost's angle. More time is spent on showing us his background, preparation and events. That may have been because there is already so much said about Nixon, this film too spending time on him would not have added anything new. As a result, the film is also about how his interview with Nixon catapults Frost into the big league.

Ron Howard is a great director. He, assisted by his editor, brings in pace and drama to the film. He uses documentary-style participant interviews placed throughout the film. These characters look back at the events leading up to the interview and the interview itself and comment. They provide the footnotes to the main content.

The film hinges on solid performances from Frank Langella and Michael Sheen. Langella brings out so many facets of Nixon's character. We see varieties of Nixon's confidence - ingrained, faked and lost. He is cool, impulsive, outraged, frustrated, calculative and manipulative. Langella lives his character. Sheen brings in a strange mix of cockiness and uncertainty to the role of Frost.

Not to be missed.
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Gulaal (2009)
Wayward Plot
23 March 2009
Gulaal is wayward and unstructured. It holds you for the first 30 minutes and then on becomes a collage of multiple sub-plots. It is not clear what the focus is. At best it looks like an ensemble of adult jokes (some of them old and already heard) and liberal use of obscenities.

There are multiple themes running in Gulaal. There is college politics, vanity of men stripped of royalty, insurgent freedom planning, sexual manipulations, ragging, adultery - basically one too many. What fails is a story that would thread them together sensibly.

Anurag Kashyap, the director, has some good actors at his disposal but they can help only so much. Kay Kay Menon is convincing but is visibly uncomfortable in hurling abuses every ten minutes. Abhimanyu Singh (as Ransa) is the most impressive of the cast. Till the time he is on the screen, there is energy and demands attention. Mahie Gill has been unwise in choosing this film. She performs well but risks being slotted as 'the choice' for raunchy characters.

The music is average, except for the opening mujra. The lyrics attempt to pass too many messages. All in all, this film seems to suffer with a problem of plenty (subjects, characters, messages, etc). Skip this and you won't miss anything.
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Doubt (I) (2008)
Great Acting on Display
23 March 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Doubt has a stellar cast including Merly Streep and Philip Seymour Hoffman. But for such competent actors, it would have been impossible to tell a story so layered and open to interpretations.

The plot is relatively simple. Streep is a strict, orthodox nun who is the Principal of a school where Hoffman is a new and forward thinking sports teacher. Amy Adams, in a wonderful supporting role, is a history teacher who grows suspicious of Hoffman's relation with the only African-American student in her class. The rest of the story revolves around Streep trying to establish the truth behind the suspicion and Hoffman refuting it. Viola Davis puts in a brilliant cameo performance as the mother of the student.

Doubt is a very intelligent and engaging film. Not much is said about the event in question to prevent the audience from taking sides. We are told about the student that 'the nature of the boy' upsets his father. There again a lot is left to guesses and imagination. The film puts the audience as much in doubt as Streep. But she is convinced whereas the audience I'm not sure, probably equally divided.

The arguments between Streep and Hoffman is as much about ego clash and power struggle as it is about the doubt. The climax exposes the human side of Streep's character as opposed to the stern, composed and almost mechanical form we see throughout the film. Hoffman throughout is her counterfoil both through his demeanor and thinking.

At end, we really don't know who was right and what was the truth. It depends on how much doubtful and certain each viewer is. A must watch.
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Dev.D (2009)
Reinterpreting a classic
8 February 2009
Warning: Spoilers
Adaptations of literary works is a rarely ventured territory in Hindi cinema. Going a step further then, as Anurag Kashyap tries to adapt Saratchandra's Bengali classic and place it in the contemporary times, it is no less than a radical step for Hindi film industry. Kashyap's last film, 'No Smoking', was too complex for a regular cine-goer and it suffered as a result. This time around, in 'Dev. D', he has mellowed down in his style and treatment. The outcome, therefore is easy on the mind.

The story begins in the green landscapes of Punjab. Dev is the son of a rich businessman. Paro is his childhood friend. Unable to control Dev's notoriety, his father sends him to London for schooling. The childhood friendship of Dev and Paro blossoms into an adult, long-distance romance. Dev returns and wants to marry Paro but refuses when is blinded by the rumors of a local claiming Paro to be promiscuous. Paro marries a rich widower from Delhi. This sets off Dev on the road of drinking and self-destruction. On this road, he meets Chanda, a prostitute. In Kashyap's 'Dev.D' she also has a scarred history which include a scandalous MMS and father's suicide. Kashyap's Devdas takes a different route thereafter from the book that it is based on.

The first hour of the film is very rustic and rural in its look and feel. Paro (Mahie Gill) is raw, sharp and irresistible. It is easy to see why Dev (Abhay Deol) is floored by her. Some dialogs and situations are probably a bit bold for the Hindi audiences, almost bordering on the lewd, but that is Paro for you - all open for her Dev. It is only obvious then that she reacts with speed and vengeance, without giving Dev any time, when he breaks her heart. We are then introduced to the school girl Lenny (Kalki Koechlin) and witness her transformation to Chanda. All three characters converge in Delhi to set up the second half of the film.

Abhay Deol gets into the skin of Dev. He does not try to add any new dimension to his character but very naturally and effectively brings out the wasted Dev. Mahie Gill is fiery and probably lives out Paro as Kashyap would have wanted. Kalki is very convincing as her character traverses time and emotions.

The Devdas in Saratchandra's novel is a spineless character who cannot stand up to anybody. Kashyap's Dev is a little different. He decides and sticks to it but is weighed down by the consequences of his decisions, unable to bear the outcome. The climax establishes that he is by no way spineless. Kashyap goes to extremes to establish his characters. Dev upgrades to narcotics from alcohol. Paro is bursting with sexual energy, eager to consummate her love for Dev. Chanda is educated, multi-lingual and a realist, unlike the romantic in the book.

Anurag Kashyap's style is what I'd call collage film making. There are so many patches stitched together, it is difficult to carry an image outside the theater with you. All the energy of visuals and the bursts of music thrill you while you watch the film, but like a sparkler only for its lifetime. A very different film and worth your time and money.
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'Raj' yet again from YRF
15 December 2008
Rab Ne opens with a bespectacled SRK with mustaches, wearing trousers and sneakers, alighting a train with his bride. That shot, at once, shatters the image that SRK has had over the years in Yashraj films. I could sense excitement running through my veins. But alas, it was short lived. Very soon, they return to 'Raj' business that we have been made to endure over the years.

SRK impresses as the docile Sukhi but as Raj he varies from flamboyant to a buffoon. The newcomer Anushka Sharma is very impressive. This is easily the best debut performance of the year so far. She is convincing throughout the film and is not intimidated by the towering presence of SRK.

Sukhwinder Singh ('Hole Hole') and Sunidhi Chouhan ('Dance pe Chance') lend their voices to probably the two best sung songs of the year. Both are choreographed equally well.

Rab Ne does have a story but it lacks any subtlety. For some reasons, SRK speaks out all emotions leaving nothing for the viewers to extrapolate. No time is spent on telling us how Taani falls in love with Sukhi. The only apparent explanation is that she sees Sukhi walking towards her in the background of the Golden Temple. It seemed that SRK's character, while playing the Sukhi vs. Raj game, got confused in what he really wanted to achieve after all.

Aditya Chopra is a talented director and I don't doubt that. But Rab Ne is just a box-office pleaser attempt and not anything to test himself.
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Funny ! Crazy !! Wild !!!
5 December 2008
Borat is a brilliantly funny film, one of the funniest I have seen in a long time. Sacha Baron Cohen carries it singularly on his shoulders with exceptional ease.

It is said that most of the sequences in the film are real gags played out on real people at real places. I can only describe as amazing the end result that has come out of such experimental film-making. It takes imagination, conviction and courage to do something like that. The film does look like a series of gags but that does not take away its charm.

There are many obvious ethical questions that can be raised on the film. The questions will make for interesting debate. But such a debate will be surely one-sided in Kazakhistan. However, I see Borat more as a film making fun of an average American's intelligence and awareness rather than of the Kazakhistani people or their culture.

A must watch.
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Dostana (2008)
Desi Girl and Desi Gays
13 November 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Dostana is the story of three friends - Sam (Abhishek Bachchan), Kunal (John Abraham) and Neha (Priyanka Chopra). Their friendship is built on the lie that Sam and Kunal are a gay couple. Things complicate when both the guys fall for the girl and a third straight (apparently and actually) guy enters the scene. Where the lie takes the all four and how it ends is the plot premise of Dostana.

Dostana is very entertaining with adequate laughter material, peppy music, energetic dancing, and panoramic views of Miami. Abhishek Bachchan is easily the pick of the actors. Priyanka looks stunning in every frame.

The film, however, does cater to the stereotypes associated with homosexuality. Gays and their sexual preferences are ingredients for comedy in many of the scenes. I wonder though if the film can be excused because all it is trying is to be funny.

Dostana is the best bet of the season so far from an entertainment perspective and is worth a visit in the cinemas next to you.
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Precious Little Gem
6 November 2008
The Blue Umbrella is an instant classic. It is simple, heart warming and metaphorical at the same time. It is based on a novella by celebrated author Ruskin Bond. Bond's story captures the mood and the uncomplicated lifestyle of a small hill town spot-on and Vishal Bharadwaj renders it on the screen flawlessly.

A little girl (Shreya Sharma) trades her lucky charm for an umbrella with a Japanese tourist. The beauty of the umbrella takes over the whole of the town. Everybody falls for it but none more than the stingy shopkeeper Khatri (Pankaj Kapoor). He wants to have it by hook or crook. What Khatri finds and looses in his quest for the umbrella is the rest of the story.

This film is a reminder of the fact that Pankaj Kapoor never got the recognition he deserves. He is one of the finest actors this country has ever produced. He single-handedly turns 'The Blue Umbrella' from an ordinary film into extra ordinary achievement. The nuances he brings to his role - a twitch of his face, a gait to his walk, everything - works to etch the character in the minds of the viewer. A splendid performance is all I can say in short.

The little Shreya is endearing. We are as heart broken as she is when she looses her umbrella; and we rejoice with her when she dances with it.

The biggest credit of all, however, goes to Vishal Bharadwaj. It takes courage and commitment to make the kind of films he has made so far. A gem of a film !
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Kung Fu Panda (2008)
Pure Fun - No Secret Ingredient
20 September 2008
Kung Fu Panda is pure unadulterated fun. At the center of it is a very likable Panda. He dreams of being a kung fu warrior while working along side his father as a noodles cook. Unknown to him, it is his destiny to be a great kung fu warrior, defeat another evil warrior and bring peace to his town and master.

Jack Black and Dustin Hoffman lend their voices to the film and bring their characters alive. The Panda, in fact feels very much like what Jack Black is in most of his films - a chubby underdog. At the root of it, of course, Kung Fu Panda emphasizes on the simple principles of believing in oneself and victory of good over evil - like all fables and fairy tales.

The animation is high quality and very detailed. The action sequences have pace, are eventful and fantastic.
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WALL·E (2008)
The Endearing Wall-E
8 September 2008
Wall-E is a love story of two robots. That, along the way, they resurrect the human race and the planet earth is something they might not have even realized.

Wall-E is easily the best film of the year so far. It is amazing how a soiled old piece of metallic equipment can keep you engaged for an entire duration of a film, and even tug at your heart at times. Wall-E is a robot who collects trash and compresses them into cubes. He stacks these cubes to build skyscrapers. Apparently he is the only one left on planet earth, other than his pet cockroach. But Wall-E is not a dumb robot. He has his stash of variety of stuff collected from the garbage he works on. Of these is an i-pod that plays an oldie for him. I'd never know for sure what Wall-E feels on watching that video. The best guess is he is reminded of his loneliness. Then one day, Eve appears and Wall-E's tranquil old world is sent into a twirl. It is about at half-time that 'humans' appear. It was then that I realized that all I was hearing till now was clanking of metals.

Wall-E is great animation and brilliant sound engineering. There are many ways to interpret this film but a simple love story, between two unlikely candidates - robots, suits just as good. The way Wall-E and Eve call out each other's names, I guess it is the first time that just names have had that impact on the viewers since Marlon Brando called out Stella in 'A Streetcar Named Desire'.

A must-see.
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Rock On!! (2008)
Breaking into a genre
6 September 2008
Rock On is a story of a rock band of four with Farhan Akhtar playing the lead singer of the band. It traces their origin, peak, fall and regrouping.

The film shows very clear inspiration drawn from Dil Chahta Hai. I wonder whether Farah Akhtar being in the cast is responsible for that. But it is entertaining nevertheless. Credit should go to the writer and director for attempting such a film in Bollywood. But they didn't go all out to the extent of hiring say an actual rock band like Indian Ocean or a milder Euphoria to write music for the film. I guess the commercial viability got the better of them. The story idea itself is novel and probably a first for Bollywood. But besides the idea the twists and turn are predictable and sometimes not well executed. It could also have been a 10-15 minutes shorter in length, which would have added more pace to the film.

Farhan Akhtar makes his debut as an actor in Rock On. He has also sung all his songs in the film. He is easily a much better singer than actor. He needs to work on his dialogue delivery and voice modulation. It is impossible to predict his emotion from hearing him speak. However, as a singer, he rocks. I'd have to say it takes courage to do a role like this, that too in one's debut film. The chances that you'd fall flat on your face are high. Kudos to Farhan for that. The pick of all actors is Arjun Rampal. He usually manages to do well in roles that want him to look serious.

I hope this the foot in the door for a new genre of films in Bollywood.
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Mumbai gets its film
22 August 2008
The great city of Mumbai got its song in 1956. It was written by Majrooh Sultanpuri, composed by O.P. Nayyar and sung by Mohd. Rafi and Geeta Bali - 'Ae dil hai mushkil jeena yahan..' from the film CID. It took more than half a century since then for Mumbai to get its film. 'Mumbai Meri Jaan' is that film.

Nishikant Kamat (director) and Yogesh Joshi (writer) have created a brilliant film. It starts slow and cautious but the graph keeps on rising steadily throughout the duration of the film. 'Mumbai Meri Jaan' chronicles the few days before and after the Mumbai serial blasts of 2006 in the lives of 5 characters played by Kay Kay Menon, Soha Ali Khan, Irfan Khan, Paresh Rawal and Madhavan. That list has some of the very good actors in Hindi film industry today. None of then disappoint. Every one of them has got into the skin of their character, and be assured they are no simple characters.

The story is beautifully written. It gives space to all the characters. Each one is well defined. It captures their fears, failures, prejudices and agony flawlessly. It takes us from one character to the other and all the stories blend seamlessly. The editing is clean, though it could have been a little more stringent to cut the running length of the film a little.

Why Mumbai Meri Jaan really clicks is because it is about real people in a real world. The vast expanses that it covers in its limited premise is amazing. There is a Paresh Rawal who is reflecting at his 36 years as a policeman. When we hear him out completely it is difficult to decide whether he is a loser or winner. The wrinkles on his face, his gray hairs, his spectacle-aided vision - is there a better metaphor than himself for the city he lives in? There is a Madhavan who can get what he wants. He has the money to buy a car, has the opportunities to migrate to Europe or America. But should he? We don't really know at the end. It is for some reason that a tear drop sliding over his cheeks is the closing shot of the film. Kay Kay Menon and Irfan Khan are great actors. They have added dimensions to their characters which I doubt even the writer knew existed. The Soha Ali Khan segment takes a dig at the news channels of today. It is raises a lot of obvious questions.

Nishikant Kamat is a director to look out for. He uses various devices like close-ups, short quick cuts, looking upwards shots, silence, stills, jarring music, almost everything. But all are in moderation. So the end result looks plain and clean - possibly the most difficult thing to do in Hindi film industry today.

It was only befitting that the film end with the C.I.D song. A must watch.
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Behold King Kumar
9 August 2008
There are very few in Hindi film industry today who have a screen presence to match Akshay Kumar. He is probably the only star in Bollywood today who can pull off a solo hit, does not need big banners, can sell masala without pretending to be selling something else and stands just at that boundary line where masses and classes meet. Singh is King is a reaffirmation of all this, if not anything else.

Anees Bazmee-Akshay Kumar-Katrina Kaif's last venture, Welcome, was such a crap that it took me some days to recover from it. They have returned with a good entertainer in Singh is King. I guess Bazmee has learned his lesson that having something called a story actually helps. Not that this film has a great script but it does stick and does not fall off right away. Add to it some good casting - Om Puri, Javed Jaffrey, Neha Dhupia, Kiron Kher and Ranvir Sheorey, among others - and you have some good entertainment in your hands.

Happy Singh (Akshay Kumar) is a simple, kind-hearted lad from a village in Punjab. He makes a choice to travel to Australia to bring back his friend from the village who has become a gangster. On his way he meets Sonia (Katrina Kaif) who he falls in love with. The rest of the story is about how he gets his friend and his gang back to their village and how he gets his girl.

Akshay Kumar's comic timing is well known now and he is no different as Happy Singh. Om Puri is his perfect foil in the film. Katrina looks ravishingly beautiful in each frame that she is in. The music is predominantly bhangra, except for a slow romantic number picturized in the backdrop of the pyramids of Egypt. There is a Snoop Dog hip-hop item at the end credits.

Singh is King is a fun film which I'm sure will keep cash registers ringing for its producers this monsoon.
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Absolute Fun
9 August 2008
There are countless stoner movies, drunk college kids movies, one night movies where every thing goes crazy - okay you get the genre. How is Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle any different? The difference is that Harold or Kumar do not have a history. They are total American characters who are not of an American origin. As a result, all along, you are surprised as much as you already know the events belong to the genre that you have seen so many films of.

Harold and Kumar have an amazing night. They ride a leopard for God sake! Their search for White Castle burgers take them from one fun riot to another. You can see that Kumar in spite of his sex and weed fogged mind is a good guy. Harold on the other hand is cautious but for some reason or the other always gives in to his impulsive friend. They are a perfect foil for each other. Together their journey over the night is total fun to watch.
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Forrest Gump (1994)
Life is a box of chocolates
19 July 2008
Forrest Gump was there at every momentous occasion in American history during his lifetime. But he never realizes this. He just walks through them like an evening stroll in the park. But as I watched his life go by, he tugged at my heart like very few film characters have.

When Forrest Gump meets his son, the first thing he wants to know is whether his son is smart. It is 'the' moment of the film and almost moved me to tears. It is shattering to realize that Forrest all along knows what everybody thought of him. At once, we see the courageous person that he is behind his mild demeanor.

Tom Hanks plays the role of his lifetime. He is just perfect. I cannot imagine anybody else as Forrest Gump.

I have seem Forrest Gump about five times till now. The film only grows on me every time I see it. A great film.
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To Heath Ledger
19 July 2008
Batman has human weaknesses and is still a superhero. This, I think, is what endears him to his fans. 'Batman Begins' brings that out beautifully. In 'The Dark Knight' the tension is not within Bruce Wayne, but outside. It is about how Gotham perceives him - the people of the city not liking him; blaming him for deaths, and so on. At this juncture, we see Joker, who apparently is challenging Batman at a moral level. Joker is a criminal for his own sake, not for money or anything else. Just as Batman is a protector of Gotham for his own sake. The plot does not bring out this moral dilemma or conflict of Batman, except in few instances. The plot is in conflict with itself in trying to create an action film and to create a moral war between the hero and the villain.

What makes the film out of the ordinary is Heath Ledger. His interpretation of the character and how he just seems to delve deep into that role is amazing. Few actors have lived out a character like that for the entire duration of a film.
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Fresh Cast, Stale Story
12 July 2008
Jaane Tu..made me realize that I have completely outgrown the films where is the whole issue is about discovering that friendship is actually love. I'm wondering when will film makers outgrow that segment of love stories. Such stories are actually an anti-thesis on their own. They start with a guy and a girl being great friends and they go on say that it is not possible to remain friends for long. I kind of get confused by the whole concept.

Anyway, going back to Jaane is really a fresh film. After a long time we see actors who look and feel the age and times they play. And that is pretty much the high point of Jaane Tu.., other than its music by A.R.Rehman.

The narration device used (friends telling the story) takes the zing away from the story. The plot, the dilemma, the confusion, the climax - we have all seen it so many times, nobody misses anything when going out to get popcorn.

Imraan and Genelia (the lead actors) are fresh and zippy. It will be interesting to see what Imraan does next. He is a typical chocolate-faced hero. Most of that breed don't go too far, his uncle Aamir Khan being an exception. Genelia looks more promising and is a star in the making.

A lot of school/college going kids were watching the film with me. They seemed to be enjoying the film a lot. They were laughing and clapping and tapping their feet to the songs. I guess it evoked in them the promise of finding love in life. Probably Jaane Tu..celebrates the promise of such audience and not the pragmatism of ones like me.
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Pyaasa (1957)
Frustration of an Idealist
12 July 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Pyaasa is a crowning achievement, not only for Guru Dutt, but for whole of the Hindi and World cinema.

Pyaasa is the story of a poet (Vijay played by Guru Dutt) who is an idealist. The world does not seem to care for him or his poetry. It opens with what probably is the best opening sequence in Hindi cinema. Vijay sees a beetle fluttering over flowers, awakening the poet in him. A poem is born, only to be rudely terminated by the beetle being stamped over.

There are two women in Vijay's life. Meena (Mala Sinha) is his lover from college. She leaves him to marry a wealthy publisher. The other is Gulabo (Waheeda Rehman), a prostitute. She loves his poetry and through that, him. Both Mala Sinha and Waheeda Rahman have played roles which must have been real courageous in the 50s. They are women with negative shades. One is selfish and other is not virtuous, unlike how Indian audience wanted to see their women in films during that time.

The theme of failure and frustration of an idealist runs throughout Pyaasa. The pain and anguish of Vijay is because of the materialistic world he lives in. Vijay's story is tragic and Guru Dutt consciously refrains from making a hero of him. Vijay's sacrifice is his revenge on the society. At the end, only Gulabo who is a romantic herself, stands by his side as Vijay prepares to run away from the society.

The songs are a powerful device in Pyaasa to give voice to Vijay's frustration. The musical score from S.D.Burman is brilliant and an important part of the film. Sahir Ludhanavi's lyrics are timeless. He flexes his artistry in both Urdu and Hindi/Awadhi.

Guru Dutt was a master in playing with lights and shadows. He made the colorless world of monochrome more enchanting than the real. To this end, he is brilliantly assisted by his d.o.p V. K. Murthy.

A rare gem from one of the masters of cinema.
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Underworld (2003)
Very Enjoyable
4 July 2008
Sexy Kate Beckinsale is a vampire, perched on a window high up. She tells us about the centuries old war between them and the Lycans (werewolves). What starts from there, is a thoroughly enjoyable dark, mythical, action-adventure film, till the very end.

There is a sufficiently engaging plot. The writers have kept it simple. The vampires, in their story, do not possess any powers that gives then any edge over their rivals. That makes the fight and the struggle almost human. The action sequences are choreographed well. They look stylish and thrilling.

We are given doses of history and flashbacks, intelligently cut not to drag on and ensuring that the story stays in present.

Underworld is not an edge-of-the-seat film but definitely a very neat thriller. Very enjoyable !
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