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Skyfall- 007 Reloaded!
'Could we discuss the next part of your performance over that drink?' asks the glittering Severine (Berenice Marlohe) from a suave tuxedoed James Bond (Daniel Craig). And indeed, this 23rd Bond outing, superbly directed by the usually reliable Sam Mendes, does just that, pausing appropriately to settle down leisurely over a drink, for some flirtation, some tense verbal confrontation, some self-reflection and brooding just before cutting away to some clean-cut, thrilling action. The result is the uniquely named 'Skyfall' a Bond film so full of the vintage charm and charisma yet fashioned in modern, urban and instantly accessible style that it ends up being one of the finest films of the franchise.
Yes, Mendes' film is a solid revamp of the Bond franchise, bringing in welcome dollops of humor, luxury and sensuality that went missing from the franchise with the last outing. And impressively enough, there is enough emotion without slowing things down, enough tension and action without making it too frenetic and the pacing is so, so perfect that you seldom feel the film falling short or dragging too long.
Pretty much everyone would agree that the 60s were the heyday of the Bond films. Those Sean Connery-starrers were primarily all about the leading man and his ladies but each was fashioned with such a slick ease, wise-ass humor and layer-cakes of moments that we embraced them all as subversive classics. 'Skyfall' fortunately, is a film that reaches up to that caliber.
Clearly, the best thing about the film is the pacing. Mendes is in no hurry to let the film unravel. The story begins in Istanbul, with Bond and his side-kick Eve Moneypenny (a sharp-tongued Naomie Harris, smarter than ever), chasing down a man with a list. The action scenes come in neatly and the opening pursuit shifts from a hectic bike chase on the rooftops to the cliff-hanging fight on top of the train and it all looks truly spectacular.
The plot is simple enough- MI6 is under attack from a former agent- a renegade named Silva (Javier Bardem) who has a knack for orchestrating terrorist attacks with a simple click of the mouse. But trust me, this has to be one of the smoothest Bond outings in recent years; Mendes smartly and adroitly navigates the action from Istanbul to alternately grey and sunny London and from the stunning Shanghai to the villain's lair- ideally an abandoned island and finally in Bond's ancestral home in rural Scotland's foggy moors, setting the stage for a truly dramatic experience.
And, boy, it delivers. For all the charm that it delivers, this has to be one of the most intimately dramatic Bond outing since ages. The plot is about how the ubiquitous computer can be used as a weapon for security breach but more importantly, this is a film that pairs both Bond and his nemesis in the same light- both are tortured souls, both were MI6 heroes who had been left for the dead in the name of protocol and duty and M, played superbly by Judi Dench, looms like a domineering matriarch over both the men. Silva's angst is against M's cold-blooded dedication to her duty, and Bond feels some of it as well but the latter clings to his morals out of loyalty to his nation. The stakes are downright personal and high and clearly each scene of action or searing tension feels immediate, urgent and the film gels with us on a personal level.
But none of it jars. Smartly enough, everything is on an even keel- the action feels perfectly urgent but it does not stretch, the drama is poignant and painful, the humor comes in like a fresh breath into the taut proceedings and it all works impeccably as smoothly as the click of a mouse itself.
'Skyfall' also proves quite what everyone is saying since 2006's 'Casino Royale- that Daniel Craig is the best Bond we had since Connery. This is a film where he is never as before- instead of the hardened, brutal action hero we were handed last time, here is a more relaxed Bond, clearly at greater ease, flirting with women and sparring with M and Q (an impressive Ben Whishaw) with equal dry charm and sarcasm. He makes his one-liners blaze and his quieter moments are played out with a subtlety. He rules the film without trying too hard. It is a solid, compelling act.
And he is matched by the villain as well. Super performer Javier Bardem shows up in an unforgettable role as the menacing Silva, a man whom you might cringe at yet a character who stays with us as long as he is there in the film. He flips between smooth talking to a nasty edge with superb ease and his confrontation with Bond is clearly the highlight of the film.
This is also an action film where the cinematographer also stands out. The work of veteran lens-man Roger Deakins is clearly one of the best things in this film. Deakins bathes each frame, from the action and suspense to the more reflective and emotional sequences with a fantastic play of light, shadow, shade, texture and perspective. Everything looks stunning, perfectly placed and in balance yet urgent and explosive.
'Skyfall' is clearly a Bond film for the ages. The layer-cakes of vintage moments are perfectly underlined with a modern style- the scene between Q and Bond is a moment of self-reflexive humor, clearly revealing the generation gap between the two and the one between the new and the old Bond. Clearly, this is a film that has something for both the fans of old and fans of new. And that is a grandstanding achievement itself.
Thank you, Daniel Craig. Thank You, Javier Bardem and thank you, Sam Mendes, for making me believe in James Bond again.
Now, give us some more.
Ah! It was worth the wait.
Why I Love WALL-E
Here is why I love WALL-E, both the chunky robot and the marvelous film built around him. Because like a really feel-good and mushy rom-com Andrew Stanton's film does not merely touch us. It embraces us and wills us to believe in love at first sight and love that knows no language ..
And yet, despite that overwhelming warmth, this is still a film full of ingenuity, nuance and emotion that it actually makes an everlasting impression on you. Not to mention, the film is an absolute triumph of filmmaking wonder.
Let's also not forget that it is most unusual romance we have seen in ages.
It is 2700 AD and humans have officially left an over-polluted Planet Earth. Defunct satellites cram up the atmosphere while land has become one huge dumping ground. Humans exist, or rather thrive, in a grandstanding utopia in the form of massive spaceships that are up away in open space- that is what the advertisements tell us. It is a bleak world, littered with our wastes but still striking. It is benign and calm but strikingly barren and empty. And for a hardworking robot cleaning and sorting out the trash, it is also pretty lonely.
Enter WALL-E. No, don't bother yourself with memorizing the full name. Shaped like a solid chunk of rusted and dirty metal with binocular eyes that light up with wide-eyed curiosity and wonder here is a hero to root for. WALL-E is self-aware and that is exactly why he has survived longer than his other monotonous counterparts. He is falling prey to the routine task of cleaning up the Earth, but a plucky roach ends up being a good buddy. But still our unlikely hero is a loner.
Until . The sky lights up and a massive rocket lands. And here enters a new robot. Eve is a sleek and shiny machine with a mission. She is alert, a bit paranoid but nevertheless charming. And you know the rest. WALL-E inevitably falls for her and vows to win her love, even if it takes him to the universe.
Sure, one may be thinking of this as regular rom-com stuff but once the plot actually kicks in, the viewer is swept of his feet. The screenplay by Stanton himself is one of the finest scripts we ever had in recent times. Stanton is best known so far as one of the minds behind the rapid-fire witty banter in films like 'Toy Story' and its sequels. But here, he keeps it silent throughout while wonderfully conjuring up the romance between WALL-E and EVE and the background behind them. It is a superb script packed with little touches of detail and nuance in the romance between the two. And as the story continues in the second half, whisking us away into the reaches of deep space utopia, the films remains solidly scripted and taut as ever, once again scoring in nuance and emotion.
This brings me to talk about the animation. Well, Pixar, I have got to hand it to you. The film sparkles thanks to Stanton's vision and how he and his team of artists, designers and illustrators bring to life a world that is downright spectacular yet utterly believable. The barren, trash-littered landscape of Earth, WALL-E's den inside a freight container with a rack full of the items that he has salvaged from rubbish and an improvised TV set, and finally, the space and the immense spaceship Axiom with its buzzing, futuristic cityscapes and hyperactive robots, all look truly spectacular and mesmerizing. And believe me, there is an urgent, immediate style to the film that lends it even credibility. The hand-held and urgent swipes and shots capture WALL-E's routine life with a fast pace while the textured animation and fluid character animation knock us off.
Like most Pixar films, the little visual touches are forever present and Stanton is admirably unafraid to make them work in the entire process of storytelling. Together with the meticulously detailed animation work and his nuanced writing, he gives us layer-cakes of moments. Just take this. WALL-E finds a ring from the trash. But, as much as he is a helpless romantic (yeah, he even watches a romantic clip from 'Hello Polly', oh, Wow!), he find the hinges of the box far more interesting. It is a classic revelation and Stanton drives it home with gutsy simplicity. Or in WALL-E and Eve's first rendezvous inside his container home, where he introduces her to his TV set and even hands her objects like a bubble film and a bulb! The film does dabble with themes of pollution and later, as the film takes off to space, there is a darkly comic vision of people driven to lethargy over centuries of easy living. But Stanton has smartly kept the themes in check while ensuring that we react to everything from the humor and romance to even the darker moments with wide-eyed (no, WALL-E-eyed) wonder. And boy, he delivers a miracle that grabs our eyeball till the end.
Much of WALL-E feels like as if Charlie Chaplin's comic and romantic misadventures are relocated to a Mad Max-like dystopia and later to deep space which has never looked so deep and wonderful since 2001 A Space Odyssey (some influences from that iconic film are present). But Stanton's film is eventually much more than an amalgamation of ideas. It is certainly not just an experiment, unlike 2001 and it is not just a heartfelt comedy. It is much more than any of these and this is why it is one of the best films of the last decade.
Quantum of Solace (2008)
Quantum Of Solace- Licensed To Kill, Not Thrill
Pre-credit sequences did serve a purpose.
In almost every film, before those creatively designed titles and credits would pour in the scene, there would be a short sequence introducing the man James Bond to the audience. There are also a number of times when the opening scene has introduced the villains and even provided us clues to the rest of the plot. But, while it might have been indulgent to let Bond settle down to business, it did lend the entire franchise a lot of charm.
And charm is what is essentially missing in Marc Foster's 'Quantum Of Solace', a film which , right from its name, does not sound or even is halfway as charming as the films of the past. The film is so desperately keen to prove itself a serious film, a film that refutes the trademark elements that it ends up being easily the worst film in the series. Yes, sir, even 'Die Another Day' was better than this.
Indeed, it is the first scene that ruins it completely. It is of course an opening scene but unlike any other. In the past, we saw Bond flirting with gadgets, cars, women and smart-ass lines, proving why 'Nobody Does It Better'. It was hilarious.
But instead we cut right away to a frenetic chase scene on roads and tunnels that wind across Lake Como and we are immediately, unnecessarily lurched to a world of thundering gears and gun-play. Excuse me, sir, but this is a Bond movie and not a 'Need For Speed' installment. And I was desperately crying out for some gimmicks in the car that can beat the bad guys. But, no, I was left without the old-time charm of those movies.
The entire film functions like a sequel to 'Casino Royale'(which I found to be more fun) and this spoils it as well. We are thrust a plot about Bond pursuing the mastermind who had sent out his lover Vesper Lynd as a spy to deceive him and MI6. 30 years ago, 'Diamonds Are Forever' began with a scene chronicling Bond taking his revenge against Blofeld for killing his wife in the previous film. It was so much fun and Bond, played memorably by Sean Connery, sealed it unforgettably with 'Welcome To Hell, Blofeld'. It was an instant classic.
But no, the revenge story plods on and gives enough excuse to Bond to beat up bad guys. The locations are perfectly shot with all their beauty and grittiness but the relentless purges of violence may sicken even a fan of Bourne films. Yeah, even Connery was brutal and ruthless at times but Craig is completely different. There is something mechanical about him. He is lacking the real soul and essence that made James Bond a true legend with us.
Blame it on the writers indeed to assign him a world-weary look but Craig, despite being a fine actor, can hardly bring any versatility to his character. There are times when he carries on smart banter with M or a woman who is supposed to be his guide in La Paz but the rest seems simply a character who can't wait to use his fists again. And he uses them an awful lot! Sigh!
That is only one of the problems. The problem also lies with the female lead in the film. Olga Kurylenko as Camille is undoubtedly attractive. However, she too tries too hard to be a serious girl that we end up losing all interest in her. It could have been the role of a beautiful woman with no brains, a beautiful woman whom Bond, with his flair for heroics and misogyny is supposed to save from the villain. But, no, there is no romance between the two; Both Bond and Camille are too busy with avenging the people they have lost and this sudden dramatic rhythm only slows down the film's thrill factor.
And then there is the villain. Like Craig, Mathieu Almaric has been given a role that is a complete waste of his potential. A true Bond villain is a man menacing enough to command a screen presence and make Bond cringe. But all we get is a faint presence which makes the expected confrontation a routine affair. Perhaps, that is why the climax is such a dull affair! Indeed, how I miss those times! The action scenes are nicely shot but I have to say that they are too fast and hectic. The problem is that you get little time to marvel any masterstroke of storyboarding, unlike the neatly cut action scenes of the past films. It is all too hurried and harried instead of making any real sense. And yes sir, they drag a lot!
On an overall, it is not a bad film. That is if you are not a true Bond fan and you just want to watch the action and get out of the theaters. The visuals are plain fantastic but we only get to glean in the locations while the rest of the film whizzes by in a forgettable way.
As I said, the 007 series has hit a new-low. For, even escapism is not about being pretentiously serious. It is about being smart and irresistibly charming. Bond has always the license to thrill, than just kill. But here is a film that kills all the soul while failing to thrill us as well. Not letting Bond linger on his martini seems to be unpardonable crime itself.
A Romance That Is Fiery, Not Breezy!
I don't know what is the problem with critics. Some are calling this film sexist, others are calling it a film that goes awry in the second half. Well, guys, why can't you enjoy the show with popcorn and hankies? Why can't you guys join in the fun with whistles and applause? This is after all a romantic film coming from Yash Raj Films and in fact, I found this film way, way better than most of the mediocre stuff rolled out every week.
Indeed, by most virtues, Ishaqzaade is a romantic film that roped me completely in. I remember being awed by 'Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na' as the last romantic film which I found entertaining on every time I watched it. 'Ishaqzaade', despite a somewhat tried-and-tested premise, turns out to be a rather unconventional romance. Far from being a breezy tale of romance set in idyllic locations, the film is instead set in small-town UP where there is little or no respite from the constant strife.
Political rivalry rules the town of Almore and right from the word 'Go', writer-director Habib Faisal dives in and shows us the lawless land from differing perspectives. The political families Chauhans and Qureshis squabble over matters as trivial as cans of diesel or a prostitute performing in social gatherings. Clearly, Faisal sets up the setting with an eye for detail and ear for rapid-fire wit. This is a land of generators running on diesel, a house populated predominantly with men, handguns that can be bought as easily as earrings and a strange world where a brothel is the safest place to hide from vested, self-centered malevolence.
Indeed, the scramble for Almore's throne decides the fortunes of our unlike eponymous couple. In the gruff and unkempt Parma and the spunky Zoya, Faisal gives us a couple that will remain in our memory for a long time to come. Both run wild, both sport handguns like mobile phones and both are a cause of concern for their families. Parma's aging, wizened grandfather reprimands him for his errant ways while Zoya is restrained by her elders from going blazing. By assigning each credible character development, dialogs bursting with wit and local dialect, Faisal makes the characters look as real and rusty as the steel revolvers they sport. And the pair is equally deadly.
Faisal ratchets up a terrific chemistry between his leads. He lets the romance progress in an unpredictable format. There is betrayal involved but then again, Faisal pairs the duo together as they flee from people hell-bent on killing them. It is remarkably like the clever rapport we saw in 'Butch Cassidy and Sundance Kid' as well as 'Bonnie And Clyde'. As in those films, Faisal keeps the chemistry sparky while creating an authentic background as well.
The film reeks of the flavor of UP but Faisal keeps the ingredients superbly in balance while the romance crackles. Faisal touches a number of sensitive themes like the religious disparity, social stigma and political opportunism and the resulting mix thickens the plot and makes the film authentic and realistic. And there is always the fiery pairing to keep us thrilled.
As Parma, Arjun Kapoor makes a stellar debut. He captures the small-town, grungy essence perfectly in his body language and the gritty dialog delivery rocks. He embodies the scoundrel perfectly while his change of heart is also believable later. Parineeti Chopra, as Zoya, exudes a natural confidence and enthusiasm that sets the stage on fire. Under Faisal's capable directorial hand, she performs freely, blazing her dialogs and yet being vulnerable as well.
Faisal's direction sparkles in other places as well. The action and romantic sequences are shot with energy while the drama is captured realistically without sinking into melodrama. Faisal keeps the pace steady and balanced as well and crafts the film with his trademark flair for detail. Amit Trivedi's music is alternately zingy and poetic, while Hemant Chaturvedi's visuals capture the small-town sights and locations with grittiness.
On a whole, Ishaqzaade is not just a film. It is a sensation. It overwhelms you and leaves you thrilled.
The King's Speech (2010)
Simply The Best Film Of The Year!
I admit to have been slightly disappointed when I found out that this modest and low-key film won the top honors beating the much loved films like 'The Social Network', 'True Grit', 'Inception' and 'Black Swan'. But I remembered what James Cameron said about the Oscars. They are meant to celebrate films, which the world would not see, but must see.
It took me some time to get the film on my pen-drives, but like the eponymous King himself and his devoted wife the Queen Elizabeth, it always takes to close shut another door of the elevator to reach the destination. And the results were well worth the wait.
We begin in misty 1925, a nervous Duke Of York, called as Bertie by his family, walks up to a rostrum to address an epilogue to the speech made by his father, none other than the King George V. The anxious Duke keeps on rehearsing his writeup, while the BBC guys fix everything up for the much anticipated broadcast. The sheer and meticulous detail amazes us while the Duke's diffidence feels authentic than ever.
The so-called Duke would be crowned in time as the much lauded and loved George VI. But before he can achieve those heights, Tom Hooper's film shows us a vulnerable and awkward side to this great and celebrated monarch of England. We see Bertie struggling with a speech impediment that renders him unable to give speeches and smoothly or even narrate a fairy tale to his daughters with elan. Yeah, the family might not think about the man's difficulties but the world cannot think too highly about a future monarch who cannot even speak to to his subjects.
Hooper and writer David Seidler create a genuine situation of alarm for this struggling and dejected aristocrat, beautifully played by Colin Firth. The Duke is not just a man with a problem that has destroyed his confidence. He is intrinsically a small boy who is unable to muster up enough resolve for both kingship and also his problem to be solved. Yet, he also wants to overcome his difficulties and do what his domineering father, his careless and callous sibling Edward, and the whole Empire demands from him. Firth plays his role to perfection, embodying the pain and helplessness in his awkwardness and a childlike obstinacy in his arguments. It is a role that won him the Oscar. Deservedly!
Hooper provide another angle to the man's hopes and aspirations. This is the Australian teacher Lionel Logue, who tutors him to overcome the stutter both medically and psychologically. The relationship between the two unlikely friends begins to develop and change with every twist of the plot but Logue's inspiring, if radical, methods shape the new King's confidence and his personal redemption. It is he who compels him to overcome his inner complexities and embrace his obligations fully.
Hooper and Seidler have made a fascinating film that inspires us to look deep and explore our strengths and weaknesses. But this is not a film that explores only Bertie's transformation. They also examine his relationships with people around him, his wife who stands by him right till the end and the brother, who cares little about his improvements. Guy Pierce deserves a mention for his malicious role as the self-centered Edward but next to Firth, only one man stands tall. This is Geoffrey Rush as Logue. The actor displays patience, resilience and even abundant wit as he stands parallel to Bertie's inner difficulties.
The King's Speech is truly the best film of 2010. It is a beautifully crafted story of how there is a weaker man inside every legendary figure and how weaknesses have to be overcome to achieve the destined greatness. The cinematography is wonderfully atmospheric and also metaphorical to Bertie's transformation. Hooper creates mesmerizing sequences which heighten the emotions and the conversations between Logue and Bertie are packed with emotion, revelations and a genuine rapport.
And as the climactic speech commences, we are gripped thoroughly as a man wakes up and inspires the world and the kingdom under his command. Wow!
The Informant! (2009)
Less Informative, More Ingenious!
In Doug Liman's thrilling adaptation of Robert Rudlum's 'The Bourne Identity', there is a nicely edgy scene. Franka Potente playing a freewheeling driver says to Bourne (Matt Damon), 'Nobody does the right thing'. It is somewhat ironic given how she first meets Bourne offering her money for a ride to Paris. On the way, he insists how he can do everything like a spy yet cannot remember who he really is. But rewind a couple of scenes back from the conversation and we find Bourne in the midst of a tense fistfight. Well, that is good reason enough.
Leaving aside the ironies, it is amazing to see the incredibly talented Matt Damon play a number of characters, who wear masks over masks. Yet, never has it been more fun or intense than this fantastic film.
The credit goes to the actor for making his twisted and clueless character a real hoot. Damon starts as Mark Whitacre, a nerdy biochemist at ADM. He is a dedicated desk guy trying to solve what appears to be a case of corporate sabotage in his firm. His bosses shout orders at him to 'Fix It'! He tries his best and even risks his phones getting tapped. Then, all of a sudden, he becomes willing enough to pull the covers off the nexus of price fixing in the food additive industry.
But that is not all. Whitacre messes up things again. He fumbles with hidden cameras and tapes. He desperately tries to avoid running more investigations. He does bounce back as a dedicated undercover agent, convinced that he is super-intelligent. Then, just when things seem to be improving for FBI........
Damon is superb in every scene and every line. Watch him insist to his wife that he will be crowned as the next head of the company after everyone is caught guilty, or succumb politely to the demands of both job and his covert life. You will see how the actor lives the character instead of just impersonating him. The man was a real-life mystery but while we know the facts, Damon blends his everyguy, toned-down essence with goofy charm, sly wit and obsessive narcissism to create an aura of real enigma around him. His performance asks more questions than reveal the answers. But that is what makes his character undecipherable and really enigmatic right till the end. He really deserved an Oscar for this.
And this might also be the return of Steven Soderbergh back to his dynamic filmmaking style. He had been making a string of films based on specific genres for a long time. 'The Informant' sees him blending his hilarious visual gimmickry with an intense and solidly built narrative force. This is the closest that the director has got to his original inspiration- Alfred Hitchcock. The delightfully garish titles, the plush and colorful interiors and images and Marvin Hamlisch's roaring and fun-filled score might remind one of the happy and witty spy films of the 60s and even the early James Bond outings.
But like Hitchcock, Soderbergh also knows how to keep the surprises genuinely shocking and bewildering. There is also a constant streak of dark humor which makes the proceedings rather intense and also macabre, Soderbergh is known for those sombre long shots which add a sudden sense of poignancy into the scenario. Scott Z Burns' screenplay is also razor sharp and funny- just hear Whitacre's narration, which aids the film yet only explains Whitacre's nerdiness rather than his problems.
'The Informant' is not for those, who expect it to be a detailed corporate thriller. It is rather a film that examines an individual and how he ruins what could have been a great conspiracy. It is a dark, brilliant and satiric portrait of such a man and what he does rather than why he does it.
Beautiful, Spirited and Moving!
The legendary Bob Dylan would have been proud.
The ace singer and guitarist loved to lament the state of things with his acoustic ballads. However, he was also a moody personality, with little reverence to the managers who fell to their knees, or to the star-struck fans, who rushed at him from all corners. Only difference is that Janardhan Jakhar, aka Jordan, does not lament the state of things. He cries his heart out and with his guitar, sets the stage on fire with his profound agony.
Imtiaz Ali's Rockstar is the beautiful , moving story of this boyish, impulsive and romantic performer. It is the story of how a simpleton, who struggles to pose up with his beloved companion- the guitar itself- in front of a jeering audience, transforms as the wild-eyed, angry musician, who has everything for him, but there is something amiss in his life and he complains out aloud.
And we listen as well. 'Rockstar' benefits largely from its lead actor, a boy growing up into a man, while retaining that youthful essence and vulnerability firmly in place. Ranbir Kapoor had fascinated us with his idyllic idealist roles in 'Rocket Singh' and 'Wake Up Sid'. But here, his role is not that of the simple, happy-go-lucky youngster. Here is a musician who finds an exquisite melody in his pain. It is a person, who seems to be a man willing to forge his own path, determined for his free will. Yet, beneath the surface, there is an impulsive boy brooding over loss of first love.
And Ranbir does it all with such convincing ease, that it is hard to believe how smoothly it goes. From the Simple Simon,sweater clad avatar, who says the wrong things at the wrong time, to an infuriated and melancholic lover boy, Ranbir acts with a dazzling blend of emotions, expressions and confidence that makes his arc so believable that we eventually side up him.
A problem is the female lead in the film. As Janardhan/Jordan's love interest, Nargis Fakhri's Heer is a character that holds potential. Like Geet in Jab We Met, Ali has written a girl who is both free-spirited and vulnerable. However, while I did not expect Kareena Kapoor's credibility and chutzpah, I also did not expect it to be so flat as well. Nargis Fakhri is undeniably pretty, if one can overlook the upper lip pout. However, when it comes to stun us with some sharp histrionics, we get all pomp, no show. Sure, she smiles gaily, as she watches the B-Grade film sleaze in a seedy theater, or gulps down the bottles of 'Desi Daru' with Jordan. But her dialogue scenes seem contrived and strained. And of course, her simpers and sobs further ruin the impact.
But Ali makes up amply in his supporting cast. Piyush Mishra is alternately funny and vicious as the music industry tycoon, who exploits Jordan's talent and anguish to the fullest. Kumud Mishra has a nice turn as Jordan's understanding mentor Khatana. And yesteryear's rock and roll legend Shammi Kapoor has an unforgettable duo as a venerated musician, who finds that Jordan has It. Ali even lets the two Kapoors dominate the frames in a number of sequences, most notably in a mesmeric duet, the legend with the Shehnai and the younger star with his faithful guitar.
Ali has been a master in experimenting with tried and tested formula in his own credible and warm approach. 'Rockstar' is no different. While it is a predictable story, Ali has the ability to make us feel for its characters. Ali keeps most of the characters extremely life-like and believable. He also pens layer cakes of dialogues that are spiced up by ribald humor, naiveté and earthy simplicity as well. There are times, where he grapples with the more mushy and melodramatic moments. However, he amply makes up with his sharp eye and deft hand for detail and nuance. The film surprises and delights us with its nice, neat observations of its characters- from Janardhan playfully doing rounds with black glasses to Khatana's clavicle smeared with talcum powder, as he answers a questioning reporter and from Piyush Mishra's big wig to the pseudo-helpful recording artist, who punctuates, as a music director corrects Janardhan's renditions, with sounds of Oomph, Taahh! As a result, we end up believing in the film despite its more contrived moments.
The writer-director has showed a penchant for beautiful and show-stopping song sequences as much as for images that capture the ups and downs of young love. Here, he is aided by veteran cinematographer Anil Mehta, whose work spans from the landscapes to the anguish and longing in Jordan's face, and from the excited crowds to the softer and impassioned moments of intimacy. And, miraculously, composer AR Rahman is back on scintillating and superb form. The ace composer has made a worthy comeback with rhythms and melodies that celebrate young love, echoes pain and disillusionment and also voices inspiration and salvation. It is a beautiful work of music and Ali uses it fully to stir and captivate us. You can feel the thump of angst for free will in 'Sadda Haq', feel the mood for mischief with 'Katiya Karoon', feel invigorated and enlightened by the Sufi ballad 'Kun Faya Kun', set beautifully in the Nizamuddin Auliya Dargah and moved to tears by the epic finale of 'Nadaan Parinde'
Rockstar may not be a perfect film. Its world is a mix of fantasy and the real world we live in. While Ali cooks up the blend expertly, he does struggle at times. At the same time, it is also a film that, all of a sudden, tugs you in into its pain and passion. And while it may be a bit idyllic like most of the love stories , it is worth watching for Ali's heartfelt, nuanced filmmaking, music that wins our hearts and an actor who conquers our souls.