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My All Time Favorites:
The Shawshank Redemption,
Its A Wonderful Life (1946),
Sleepless in Seattle,
A beautiful mind,
The Godfather (Trilogy),
When Harry Met Sally,
Kramer Vs Kramer,
Other noteworthy mentions:
Rear Window (1954),
Life is Beautiful,
Saving Private Ryan,
The Bucket List,
Gone Baby Gone,
Silence of the Lambs,
The Butterfly Effect,
To Kill A Mockingbird (1961),
Mr. Smith Goes To Washington (1940),
Nuovo Cinema Paradiso (1988),
Slumdog Millionaire (2008),
Kal Ho Naa Ho (Can watch it nytime!)
Dil Chahta Hai,
Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)
A beautiful swan song which is slightly out of tune
Over the past one year, the release of 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' has been an eagerly awaited affair for a multitude of reasons, be it Yash Chopra's announcement of this being his last film & the subsequent unfortunate demise of this legendary filmmaker, Shah Rukh Khan's return to a genre which he has defined over the past two decades and AR Rahman & Gulzar's maiden partnership to bring to life the music of the film. The marketing of the film has been wonderfully planned and executed by Yash Raj Films with the title of the film invoking curiosity, trailers & the song promos generating unprecedented views on YouTube and a lot of pre-release talk on Social Media.
There are certain things you can be sure of when Yash Chopra weaves a film. You would be teleported to a poetic world of goodness where people may be flawed but never villainous, where destiny or fate makes improbable occurrences happen believably, where love is idealistic and flaming with passion. 'Jab Tak Hai Jaan' encompasses itself within these contours and expresses itself in a contemporary manner.
*PLOT SPOILERS BEGIN * The plot gets off to a splendid start as we're introduced to a rugged looking SRK clad in an Army uniform. He plays Samar Anand, a Major in the Bomb Disposal squad of the Indian Army. Samar diffuses bombs with the ease of changing a light bulb. Around this character is an air of mystery and reticence as the film goes into a flashback (10 years back) to establish his roots.
The flashback wonderfully establishes the unlikely love affair between Samar and Meera, played by Katrina. They are from two different worlds. He waits on tables, speaks ludicrous English and is a street singer. She is the daughter of a well to do businessman in London, has some parental issues and seeks God with a childlike earnestness. Circumstances make them meet and spend time with each other. They find this passion & completeness together and end up falling in love. But an unfathomable plot premise centering on the faith in the divine of a woman vs. the ego of a man seeps in. They part ways. Samar loses his zest for life and leaves London to join the Indian Army.
We're back to present day Ladakh where Major Samar Anand meets Akira, a newbie filmmaker working with Discovery Channel. While working on a documentary on Samar, Akira falls for his maturity & intensity. Samar, after the initial phase of being guarded and uptight becomes fond of her, relearning how to smile & dance. They become friends. Just when you think he might be confronted with a decision to decide between clinging to his past or moving on, comes a very contrived plot twist which makes the story come a full circle. What follows is a deliberate attempt to take the safest route to underline the message that "every love has its time to fulfill its destiny".
*PLOT SPOILERS END *
Jab Tak Hai Jaan, despite it's over stretched runtime of 180 minutes and the two disruptive plot twists which are seemingly dichotomous to the contemporary approach of the film, holds together, remains watchable and succeeds thanks to the Director at the helm of affairs. Yash Chopra has honed his craft better than anyone in the business. He knows how and when to bring about the beauty of human emotions on screen.
The performances are the single most redeeming factor of the film. JTHJ has vintage SRK in prime form doing what he does best! He brings in oodles of charm, energy, intensity, passion and a certain degree of restraint to embody the different layers of his character. Just his sheer presence, mannerisms and dialog delivery breathes magic into some mundane scenes.
Katrina really emerges as the surprise package of the film and probably gives her career best performance. Despite the shackles put on Katrina's character by the script, she plays the part of the ethereal, sensuous & unattainable Yash Raj heroine with a lot of panache. Her first time pairing with SRK certainly has sparks flying. Anushka plays a pivotal part in guiding the film to its conclusion. She is a livewire who manages to outdo even SRK's energy in some scenes.
With YRF, the production values are excellent as expected. The cinematography adds so much life to the film. London makes for a young, refreshing background for the love story between SRK and Katrina and lends itself to the contemporary appeal of the film. The barren and haunting beauty of Ladakh & Kashmir respectively is in perfect sync with the state of mind of SRK's reticent army guy act. A.R. Rahman's soundtrack for the film has been very polarizing. Nevertheless, Challa, Ishq Shava & Saans play their own special part to guide the film along.
The film's appeal will primarily lie with a generation of viewers for whom romance has been defined by classical films like 'Silisla', 'Kabhie Kabhie', 'Aradhana' & 'Lamhe' to name a few. Today's youth, who barring 'Jab We Met' haven't seen a true blue good romantic film in recent times might find JTHJ far-fetched. A couple of intelligent tweaks in the script and this had the potential to be a colossal movie going experience which it unfortunately falls short of.
All said and done, JTHJ has a soul and a strong identity unlike most Rs 100 crore grossing mainstream and commercial films coming out of Bollywood pitched as "Masala entertainment". The film is an apt farewell to one of Hindi Cinema's most celebrated filmmakers and his unique & magical style of film-making.
Love Aaj Kal (2009)
The L Word...
Imtiaz Ali was the man behind that very endearing movie - Jab We Met which has become a cult of epic proportions amongst Hindi movie lovers. While Jab We Met was essentially about love effecting and changing two people for the better, Love Aaj Kal takes an altogether different route. It's not the typical boy-meets-girl story. It's what the boy-and-girl-do-when-they-think-that-it's-not-going-to-work-out story.
So what is love? They say Love is happiness, it is bliss, it is life transforming, it is passion, it is pain, and often it is disappointment. Simply put love is so many things put together yet it is inexplicable. Nothing evokes more powerful emotions than love. 'Love Aaj Kal' tries to look at the dynamics of love as it happens and exists today vis-a-vis the love which actually happened and existed ages ago and the kind which exists today only in romantic novels and implausible movie plots.
Does the notion of love which talks about the existence of soul mates, thunderbolt at first sight and loving and living with each other for many lives hold true for this generation where any and everything is ready-made/instant? Is there anything known as true love? Do distances matter in relationships? Does love happen only once in a lifetime? Or can you love someone again with the same amount of intensity? Love Aaj Kal seeks and manages to answer these questions, not in a very emphatic manner though. The ingredient of cheesiness is used to the minimum and the film is devoid of over sappiness and works mostly at a practical level.
Jai Vardhan (Saif Ali Khan) and Meera Pandit (Deepika Padukone) are the in-love-but-ambitious-couple who live in London. Meera has to go to Delhi, India to pursue her career in arts while Jai has always dreamt of settling in the city of the Golden Gate Bridge San Francisco. There ways are meant to part and part is what they amicably do. It's here that the "we-move-on-quickly-with-no-hang-ups" quality of today's youth is shown. The coolio treatment follows whereby the couple throw a "Break Up Party", part ways and encourage each other to find new people and get over each other! But do they really manage to do that? It is at this point that the story is interwoven and stirred gently with another story which takes place some decades ago. It's here where the contrast is beautifully shown of how Gen-X has stopped being patient, of how it has stopped hoping and believing and of how it has adopted a practical (perhaps rightfully) approach to life and relationships.
Saif Ali Khan has truly grown as an actor. From the quirky guy in Dil Chahta Hai and Kal Ho Naa Ho to the intense and villainous Langda Tyagi in Omkaara, Saif has truly matured as an actor and this maturity clearly reflects in his portrayal of the character Jai Vardhan, a very real and relatable character who experiences a range of emotions throughout the story. It is Saif who carries the entire movie on his shoulders. The high point of his performance comes during the scenes when his character is dismayed, wondering what is amiss in his life even though he has achieved his dream of settling in SF. Deepika as the lead actress is a bit of a letdown as she seems to continue in the same mould as her characters in Bachna Ae Haseeno & CC2C by pretty much the same standard looks and expressions. Rishi Kapoor in a pivotal role is endearing but it's the sort of role which has become a cliché for him (Read Hum Tum, Fanaa, Luck By Chance etc.). The role doesn't stretch Rishi Kapoor at all as you'd imagine that a seasoned actor like him would turn up on the sets and get it right in the first take itself.
The film takes place at four places UK, Delhi, Kolkota and San Francisco which makes it an ideal platform for creative and visual excellence in cinematography. Since the film has two stories one of which takes place presumably in the 1950s, the cinematographer does a good job by getting the look and feel of the by-lanes of Delhi and Kolkota during this period right. As a Delhite it is heartening to see that this for long ignored city is now on the radar of major film makers. India Gate, Qutub Minar, the wide open tree lined roads, Dilli Haat, the Gurgaon high rises and the Delhi Metro are all captured brilliantly by the camera.
Music was a high point of Imtiaz Ali's last film - Jab We Met and while the soundtrack doesn't match the brilliance of that movie it does have some tracks which truly sparkle on screen. "Ye Dooriyan" sung by Mohit Chauhan is easily the best song on the soundtrack, though the song could have been strategically better placed in the storyline. Nevertheless 'Ye Dooriyan' is the quintessential track to be played on a winter night remembering each and every dear one's absence from your life. 'Main Kya Hoon' sung by KK is the song which is most perfectly executed in the storyline. 'Chor Bazaari' is peppy, 'Aj Din Chadhiya' is earthy, 'Twist' leaves a lot more to be desired while 'Aaahun Aahun' at the end is no 'Mauja Hi Mauja'.
Overall, Love Aaj Kal is not a letdown. It's fun and understated. At a runtime of 130 minutes, the film is crisp by Hindi Cinema standards. Don't expect the film to overwhelm you like Jab We Met. Love Aaj Kal is like that cup of tea with just the right amount of sugar. But still you might wonder why the sugar was too less/more.
Yeh Shehar Nahi Mehfil Hai!
If one was to ask an avid Hindi film lover about the most awaited movies of 2009, he would say My Name is Khan, 3 Idiots and Delhi 6! Yes, when a director has a film like Rand De Basanti on his back the expectations are huge. So does Delhi 6 live up to these expectations? Yes, in more ways than one. But there is a catch. Delhi 6 is a gem covered with mud and one really has to look through to see the inherent goodness and soul of this film, something which most people wouldn't be able to.
Comparisons are inevitable to two films Swades and Rang De Basanti. Delhi 6 and Swades have the similar storyline of the protagonist returning to their country of origin and rediscovering themselves, In Swades, the lead character Mohan Bhargav played by Shahrukh Khan had a very active presence throughout the movie but in Delhi 6, Roshan played by Abhishek Bachchan has a role which requires him to be passive for the most part.
Roshan Mehra arrives in India from New York with his ailing grandmother and is immediately enthralled by the place and the people of Delhi 6. He is a mere spectator to what's happening around him. In fact it wouldn't be wrong to say his character doesn't arouse the same amount of interest as the other characters of the movie. The director slowly and steadily weaves the story in the first half of the film by keeping it very character centric and that is made possible by some super extraordinary performances by the ensemble cast which includes the likes of Rishi Kapoor, Waheeda Rehman, Pawan Malhotra, Om Puri, Prem Chopra, Divya Dutta, Vijay Raaz and Atul Kulkarni. The aim is to put the viewer in those very by lanes of the walled city and experience firsthand the lives, culture, values and traditions of the people of this charming place. Rakesh successfully establishes and puts on screen the bonhomie that exists between the characters. It goes to his credit when half way into the movie the viewer doesn't have an idea as to where the film is headed.
A very important character of the story is of Sonam Kapoor who plays Bittu a middle class girl with high aspirations. She is like the pigeon with tied wings. It's primarily a role which requires her to do two things look cute and have a childish innocence. She is a girl desperate to break out of the shackles of conservatism but lacks the courage to stand up to her conservative parents. It is Abhishek who tries to establish that courage in her and over the course of the film a subtle romance between the two blooms. This romantic track between the two characters is again handled well by the director and is not given too much or too less attention.
Just like Rang De Basanti had the parallel Bhagat Singh story going with the main story we have the famous Ram Lila of Lal Quila running parallel to the storyline with each part symbolizing what's happening in the movie. But what drives the plot forward is the 'Kala Bandar' or the Monkey Man, a real life episode which created a fear psychosis in the Delhites in 2001 but was later declared as a figment of imagination by the Delhi Police. The Kala Bandar has an anecdotal presence in the first half of the movie but the way the director uses the 'Kala Bandar' and changes the gear of the movie is a stroke of genius! The 'Kala Bandar' symbolizes the triviality and the spark which destroys the fragile bonhomie that exists between the people. What follows is unanticipated, unsettling and shocking.
The film makes a superb comment on the social fabric of the Indian Urban Society. It mocks the caste system, conservatism, the autocratic power of the public servants, the communal tension where all it takes is a spark to set off the fire. It's an in your face commentary which almost makes one feel ashamed being part of that very society. It dares to show the mirror to your face and that is not what most people like being told they are dirty! And that is the biggest achievement of this film.
It is a movie where you can say that the seasoned supporting actors have out shined the lead actors. Sonam has a very endearing screen presence and plays her part well, though it's not the sort of role which fully exploits her acting skills, yet she shows tremendous potential which many did not see in Saawariya. It is tough to criticize Abhishek as his character is written in a way that leaves you asking for more but it is a suave performance nevertheless.
The art direction and cinematography are excellent. Attention has been paid to detail. The lanes of Chandni Chowk are characterized by what the protagonist; Abhishek Bachchan rightly calls when he comes from the US organized chaos. It is a fascinating world and captured brilliantly by the camera. The highlight is that dream scene where the makers show what Chandni Chowk would look like on a Times Square! Much has already been said about the music in the past few days. Masakali is endearing, Dil Gira Gafatan and Rehna Tu are ballads, Dilli 6 is an anthem and Arziyan is divine! A.R. Rehman has again outdone himself! 'Delhi 6' is bigger than its supposed minor or major glitches. It is a film made with the noblest of intentions. Watch this film with some patience, flexibility and leave the skepticism at home.
Another Step Forward for Hindi Cinema
The novel 'Devdas' written by Saratchandra Chatterjee has forever fascinated Indian film-makers. The story has all the ingredients which a film-maker can utilize to create a magnum opus. Directed by Anurag Kashyap, Dev.D is a tweaked version of this legendary novel.
Bimal Roy's Devdas and Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Devdas were the same in terms of the story but differed greatly in treatment. The story was seen and depicted differently by the two directors. Anurag Kashyap, who belongs to the bright new young brigade in Bollywood, a gang which is willing to experiment and truly do different stuff, gives Devdas a smashingly cool urban treatment.
The story has the structural frame of the old Devdas, but the building blocks are different. Devdas is Dev, a rich spoilt brat, a highly complex character, a nymphomaniac who asks his childhood love to send her nude pictures via web cam! Paro is a Jattini, not quite the gentle Paro we know from the previous two versions. This Paro is a real toughie. She is passionate, carries a mattress to the dense farms so that she can make love to her sweetheart Dev and runs around with sticks in her hand beating the crap out of guy trying to assassinate her character! Chandramukhi is 'Chanda', a young girl who becomes a prostitute after her own parents give up on her when she is caught in the web of an infamous MMS scandal.
The tweaked storyline might sound cheesy for many people but Dev.D does successfully and charmingly retain the major ingredients of the original story - of romance, jealousy, egotism, unrequited love, anguish, addiction and tragedy. The film is anything but melodramatic. The story is real in the truest sense of the word and what happens in the protagonists life could very well have happened to someone you know. Even if that is not the case, one has surely heard of true tales of men completely losing it and going down the drains after a heartburn.
The real highlight of Dev.D after the adapted storyline is the brilliance with which it has been shot. Right from the farms of Punjab to the dark creepy lanes of Paharganj in Delhi, Dev.D is a remarkable achievement in Cinematography! In fact, the film captures Delhi in a manner which no film so far has been able to. It is also superb on visuals and art direction. For instance, instead of the clichéd coughing-up-blood-on hand we have the sloshed Dev immersing his face in water and exhaling red bubbles of blood. Yes, that is creative film-making for you! What further supplements the screenplay is an insanely addictive soundtrack incorporated superbly into the storyline.
Dilip Kumar did it in the 1955, Shahrukh Khan did it 2002 and now Abhay Deol has done it by playing Dev.D in 2009. Abhay Deol's character is a highly complex character with many grey shades and it's not a role which you would think is suited to his good-guy-next-door image but he excels and prove his mettle once again. Here is one actor in the Industry who has consistently experimented and delivered the goods over a period of time, be it Socha Na THa, Ek Chaalis, Aahista Aahista or Oye Lucky. Abhay Deol just keeps raising the bar with every film.
The two newcomers who are the female leads are well cast in their respective roles. The beautiful and mesmerizing actress playing Paro is quite a show stealer. It's a performance which comes across as very natural. The other actress playing Chanda after the initial hiccups, settles into the role and ends up leaving a mark.
Dev.D is not by any means an absolutely flawless movie. It has its share of glitches. The major one being the lack of emotional connect with any of the characters, particularly with the character of Dev. But then I don't think it was the intention of the film makers to establish that connect in the first place.
Like Luck By Chance which released last week, Dev.D is again a movie which caters to a niche audience but shows the way forward for Hindi Cinema.
Luck by Chance (2009)
Are you fascinated by the place that is the Hindi Film Industry? Have you obsessed about the superstars there and religiously followed what's happening in their lives? Have you ever wondered how this Industry works? Have you ever secretly harbored ambitions of being in this dream land? If yes, what are your chances of surviving and making it big? Zoya Akhtar's maiden directorial venture 'Luck By Chance' is a thumping answer to these and many more questions!
If Om Shanti Om was a take on Hindi Cinema of the 1970s then 'Luck By Chance' is a highly authentic take on the Hindi Film Industry in the modern era. It's a fantastic behind the scenes journey into this dream land known as Bollywood. No wonder that this authenticity could have only come from one of the well known families of the Industry - the Akhtar family, who are the makers of this film. The tale is essentially of their own immediate environment and it is a story that is told well!
The screenplay revolves around the two central characters played by Farhan Akhtar and Konkona Sharma trying to make it big in Bollywood. Farhan comes to Mumbai from Delhi, lives in his aunt's house and borrows money from all quarters whereas Konkona is in a 'mutually beneficial' relationship with some producer to get a lead role and also has a friend who is a homo-sexual, BUT wait, before you scream 'cliché' and think that this will go the Madhur Bhandarkar way, you realize that the treatment is not as sensationalistic and hovering around extremes as Madhur Bhandarkar's movies. Luck By Chance is subtle but highly effective!
The two lead character's lives take us inside and up-close to the scenes behind the camera. We have the Desi producer played by Rishi Kapoor, a yesteryear's starlet (Dimple Kapadia) who is launching her talentless daughter (Isha Sherwani) and apart from these characters we have the who's who of Bollywood playing themselves. Luck By Chance is a casting coup!
The film is an unabashed take on Hindi Cinema and it does not hold back from mocking it. We have one director saying "What the hell do I have to do with the script, I am not making the film for a film festival!" The same director hands over a Hollywood DVD to the film writer and tells him to Indianise the story! It also shows the corporate culture setting into bollywood, the corporates who want to model themselves after the Hollywood studios and describe the script as the main property only to change their stance later and determine whether to finance or not on the basis of which super-star is playing the lead! Hrithik Roshan is a sport, who in an extended cameo charmingly portrays the character of 'Zaffar Khan', a bratty superstar who walks out of a film and creates enormous trouble for the veteran producer. The same role after being rejected by other established actors and after a series of fortunate circumstances, struggle and talent is bagged by the protagonist Vikram played by Farhan Akhtar.
The story of Luck By Chance is well woven. It wonderfully depicts the journey of each of the characters. The negative shades in each of them are shown, not in implausible extremes, but in a true to life way. How charmingly it captures those very real things jealously and ego battles between friends, relatives who have the word, 'Riddance' on their mind when you live with them away from your home, of how the best of relationships break when individual interests become dominant.
It is surprising to see the high degree of naturalness, intensity and charm that Farhan Akhtar brings to his character. It's an A grade performance which makes you speculate that a few years down the line, Farhan will be known as an actor who also directs and not vice versa. Konkona playing the female lead has a role which was perhaps written with only her in mind and she does an excellent job. The veteran Rishi Kapoor shows us what an enigmatic force he still is behind the camera! Playing the veteran producer his is the most endearing character in the film! The rest of the ensemble cast Dimple Kapadia, Isha Sherwani, Juhi Chawla, and Sanjay Kappot do justice to their roles. A special compliment goes out to the guy who plays Farhan's friend. The flame of jealousy and complexes that this character is meant to convey are tough to depict but he succeeds effortlessly.
The cameos are brilliantly pulled off, with Aamir and SRK shining in their separate parts. Aamir is shown shooting for a period film in a brilliantly setup set and you wish that such period movies were actually made by the Hindi Film Industry. SRK is in a 2 minute cameo, where in a party, in an interaction with the new star that Farhan Akhtar's character has become, gives the most powerful and defining lines in the movie, lines which were perhaps not given to the dialog writers but have been his own firm values that have made him the biggest superstar of this Industry.
As always, Excel Entertainment brings excellent production values to the film in each department. The music composed by the trio of Shankar Ehsaan Loy surely doesn't disappoint and it slowly grows on you after watching the movie. The track 'Yeh Zindagi Bhi' stands out.
Lastly, hats off Zoya Akhtar and Farhan Akhtar for making a film that they knew at the very outset will appeal to only a niche audience. It is this experimentation and willingness to experiment that is required in this Multiplex era.
Luck By Chance is a feast that is a must see for people who are in awe of the Indian film fraternity.
The Wrestler (2008)
Darren Afronosky's film on drug addiction - Requiem for A Dream happens to be one of my favorite films and after hearing so much of appreciation for his new film The Wrestler, I took the plunge and saw it. After having watched it, I can easily say that 'The Wrestler' is one of the finest films I have ever seen! It gave me an inside perspective on the wrestling world, one that made me realize that what we call fake could be the only real thing in these wrestler's lives. The beauty of 'The Wrestler' is that it'll appeal to not only the niche audience of wrestling fans but also the general cine goers with no interest in wrestling.
The Wrestler makes for a fantastic and fascinating character study. The fictional character of Randy 'The Ram' has achieved the pinnacle of fame and success as a wrestler in the 1980s but loses it all and fades into the oblivion. Now, he lives all alone in a trailer park, is poor both materialistically and in terms of relationships. Then Randy despite his fading health, decides to make a big comeback after 20 long years and resurrect his career. The conundrum this character faces of deciding which place he truly belongs the wrestling world where the fans cheer and shout when he jumps from the top of the ring or the actual world where he lives in the wilderness and is just a middle aged man going through financial and emotional crisis, makes for the rest of the plot.
The Wrestler shows you the de-glamorized and behind the rings footage of what actually happens in the wrestling world - of how fights are choreographed and the hazards these athletes take. Essentially, the plot can be divided into three parts Randy's comeback, the stripper played by Marisa Tomei whom Randy visits as a customer but develops feelings for, and his daughter with whom he tries to mend his broken relationship. The turmoil that the protagonist goes through in these three areas of his life truly shakes you. All along you feel and are moved by the entire range of emotions of this character, be it his frustrations, regret, anger, anguish or cynicism. The screenplay is filled with so many deeply moving moments that bring out the tears in your eyes.
Mickey Rourke, the boxer turned actor who plays Andy is pretty much at home playing the tough wrestler and does a great job at that. But what surprises is you is his perfection and brilliance in the scenes where he shows or expresses his emotions. The scene where he confesses his regret to his daughter makes you dig inside your pocket for that handkerchief! It is a phenomenal performance by Mickey Rourke and it would be criminal on the part of the Academy to deny him an Oscar for the 'Best Performance in a leading role.' Other highly noteworthy performances are of Marisa Tomei who plays the stripper and Randy's daughter played by Rachel Wood, who is with her raw emotions in the scene where her father fails to turn up for the dinner he promised they'd take together, deeply impacts you.
Darren Afronosky has got it all right 'The Wrestler'. It is grounded, true to life tale and one of the best, if not the best movies of 2008. And yes I reiterate that there's no one more deserving than Mickey Rourke for the best actor Oscar this year. Its a knock out performance!
Benjamin button's Epic Journey of Life...
An old lady lying in the hospital bed with her daughter besides her is counting her last hours. It's pouring outdoors and the weather report on the Television news channel warns of a hovering hurricane, the destination of which is not known. In the midst of this turbulent backdrop ,the old lady requests her daughter to open the thick diary kept in the corner of the room. The daughter starts reading out and an epic memoir unfolds.
Rewind to the year 1918.....
The story of the life of Benjamin Button, a man who was born old and wrinkled, and ageing backwards epitomizes and philosophizes with a high degree of subtlety the transience of human lives, their relationships and mental faculties. It's like that painting which at first glance you would find vague but on closer examination you can interpret the meaning of each and every stroke made by the painter and admire its true beauty. The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (TCCOBB) is a wonderfully crafted painting, the brilliance of which you can appreciate only if you use all your senses and truly feel the movie.
It is inevitable that while watching this, you are reminded of and draw comparisons to that very endearing film Forrest Gump. Characters of both the movies are naive, gullible, are essentially all alone in their journey of life and have a steady and inextinguishable flame of love for the girl they met and befriended in childhood. But David Fincher's treatment of Benjamin Button is passionate, very artistic and not as feel good as Forrest Gump. David Fincher departs from the dark movies like Se7en, Fight Club and Zodiac which he is known for.
Life is all about those magical moments your first breadth, the first step you take, your first day at school, the first time your heart skips a beat, the first kiss, the first love, the first heartbreak, the first pay cheque, the day you tie the knot, giving birth and raising your own kin and alas facing the inevitable. Benjamin Button's life wonderfully captures these events in reverse order. It is the implausibility of the storyline which brings about the beauty and essence of the film and what it is trying to convey "Life isn't measured in minutes, but in moments." The only problem with 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button' is that for all its artiness, one is never actually at the edge of their seat. The plot and series of events are quite predictable. Don't expect or wait for a scene that'll make you hold your stomach and laugh out loud. Instead what you will be served from time to time is heart warming moments that will emotionally move you.
The casting of each and every character is perfect and their performance brilliant. With so many dimensions to the title in character of Benjamin Button and the time-line of the story it is a very difficult role indeed. But, Brad Pitt does justice to every layer of this character and simply outstands in his portrayal of Benjamin Button. Cate Blanchett also proves why she is one of the most critically appreciated leading actresses around.
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button is also an excellent endeavour in cinematography, background score, dialog writing and screenplay. With the Oscars round the corner it will certainly be in the middle of all the action!
As Engaging and Powerful As It Can Get!!
Changeling has Clint Eastwood donning the director's hat and Angelina Jolie in the lead role. The movie is set in the year 1928 and is based on a true story. Being a Clint Eastwood fan, it is with great expectations that I went and saw this movie. A couple of hours later, the movie ended and there were a plethora of emotions inside of me. Yet another film by Clint Eastwood had had a deep impact on me! The struggle of a woman to find her lost son is a long grueling search that turns into a fight against a corrupt police force and an immoral establishment of the city of Los Angeles in the year of 1928. The film highlights the grave injustice the ordinary citizens had to face during that time by the very establishment that was meant to serve and protect them.
If you thought that L.A Confidential showed the dark side of the Los Angeles Police Department then Changeling shows it as a living hell where the words - justice and morals didn't exist in the dictionary. That such travesties happened in the most powerful democracy in the world is both shocking and shameful.
Changeling is as engaging a drama as it can get! An interesting story is brilliantly executed. The effort put in by the screenplay writer is clearly evident when during the run time of 139 minutes, not once do you feel that the plot is dragging and saying anything too much or too less. Clint Eastwood's school of cinema is often conventional and focuses on the story. Changeling too is a story well told. On one hand Clint shows the shallowness of a corrupt system and on the other hand he shows the strength and perseverance of a mother which serve as a wakeup call to set things right in the system.
It is the toughest challenge to base a movie in the 1920s and make it seem real and the last time it was done well was in the 2001 Tom Hanks starer 'Road to Perdition'. It is the brilliant cinematography in Changeling that gives the film that highly authentic feel in which you are submerged and lost in those 2 hours, witnessing first hand, the mystery unfolding. The backdrop of the city of Los Angeles is after Angelina Jolie, the most important character in the movie. Changeling is high on production values! The film is A + on production values be it the artwork, the cinematography or the costumes and makeup of the characters. It says a lot when you drape the sexiest woman in the world with loose fitted garments and make it seem real!
And let's talk about Angelina Jolie. I, for long have maintained that she due to her sexy body and those luscious lips she has got more than her due and is overrated as an actress. But now, after having watched this movie, I eat my words! From frame to frame Angelina dominates with her intensity and her subtlety. One feels the excruciating pain and desperation of her character. Like in that horror of a scene when you jump out of your seat crying for help when she is about to get the electrical shock at the asylum or in that scene where she screams and asks the convict whether he indeed killed her son or not! Her performance is highly deserving of an Oscar.
The supporting characters of the comforting Reverand, the menace that is Captain Jones, the heinous killer - Northcott, and the morally upright Detective Ybaraa are played well by the different actors and deserve a high amount of praise.
"Changeling" is a rather depressing movie but it inspires tremendous courage in you. Courage to stand up the next time you face injustice!
Slumdog Millionaire (2008)
Deserving of not a Million but Billion applauses!
There are movies and there are movies. Some entertain while some are cinematically brilliant but lack mass appeal. And then there are some like 'Slumdog Millionaire' that transcend all barriers and manage to do both.
At its very core 'Slumdog Millionaire' is a magnificent love story, which seems like a fairytale, yet it is so damn realistic and believable. We have all dreamt of the perfect romance, the kind which blossoms and gets better over time like wine. Slumdog Millionaire is living that dream on celluloid for two hours. It's about the perseverance of the protagonist, a Mumbai slum kid named Jamal portrayed brilliantly by the two child actors and Dev Patel, to unite with the love of his life Latika, whom he met, fell in love and was separated from in the direst of circumstances.
Filmed entirely in India, it captures the life, the spirit, the greatness and the follies of the nation and its people in a way, which perhaps no other foreign film has been able to. In fact the excellent production values achieved by this US-UK and Indian joint venture is something that will put many popular Indian film-makers to shame. Of course, it goes without saying that this venture would not shine without the A Grade effort of the Indian crew right from the assistant director to the lower level technicians. The soundtrack composed by A.R. Rehman is a major highlight of the movie. His brilliance in this foreign venture stands out proving that Indian artists can match the best of the best in the business. Each of Rahman's composition has the effect of cocaine injected into your blood stream.
The British director, Danny Boyle is clearly the captain of the ship. Slumdog has some clear and refined shades of his other highly acclaimed movie Trainspotting. But here Boyle outdoes that effort by perfectly understanding the essence of this Indian story, bringing out its soul, thereby brilliantly executing it. In fact, Indian film maker Madhur Bhandarkar would do well to learn a lesson or two on how not to stereo-type and play the same record again and again.
Coming back to the film, the game show, 'Who Wants To Be a Millionaire' hosted by Anil Kapoor is the pivot around which the story revolves. Jamal, a chaiwala in a call center is on the verge of winning the grand prize in this popular show. But how could a chaiwala, a slum boy possibly do that? His euphoria is short lived as he is arrested on suspicion of cheating and interrogated by the police inspector played by Irrfan Khan. The story goes back and forth, with Jamaal revealing his adventurous journey with his elder brother Salim and Latika, the love of his life. The riveting tale starts from the slums of Mumbai. With a glib charm it gives us an engrossing depiction of their turbulent lives which take unanticipated turns time and again. It is commendable how brilliantly plots like the massacre of Muslims and the organized child- begging business are woven into the story. As is often the case to gain audience's sympathy for the characters, the film-makers do not resort to any emotional manipulation even in the most intense scenes. Instead, they establish a strong and resilient central character of Jamal backed up by equally powerful characters of Salim and Latika. Whenever they are in a spot of bother the viewer is rooting for them with all his heart just like in a football match when one supports a minnow against the league champion.
Slumdog millionaire will uplift you to a feel good pedestal where you are less cynical and in a more positive life state. That there is a thing called DESTINY will force even the cynic to think about once he watches this. Of course, destiny always doesn't have to be as over the top as shown in Slumdog but it does exist in everybody's life and that the elements of the universe conspire for you to achieve your's.
Maybe in that envelope for the 2009 Oscars there is a card where it is written : BEST MOTION PICTURE Slumdog Millionaire.
Plays To The Galleries..
Its one of the most hyped movies in Bollywood history and over the past eight months we've heard and seen it all the hair cut, the jokes about the Aamir-ferocious-look, Aamir's guide to get the 8-Pack abs and the brilliant marketing campaign in build up to the release, which will make for a fascinating case study to be studied by marketing students at the country's premier B-Schools. But talking about the core product itself i.e. the movie Ghajini, one has questions. Is it yet another cinematic masterpiece coming from the Aamir Khan school of cinema? Does it live up to the tremendous hype? Is it the best movie of the year? Unfortunately, as is often the case with over- hyped extravaganzas the answer to all these three questions is NO. But is it a bad movie? Certainly not! That this will be liked by the movie goers by and large and that it will be a blockbuster is a foregone conclusion.
First up, let's set the record straight. Ghajini is a remake of a South Indian movie of the same name which itself is inspired (the favorite word for Indian film-makers when they blatantly copy foreign material) from Christopher Nolan's masterpiece Memento (2000). Therefore, you can't credit it with any points for originality. But director Murgadoss's 'Ghajini' is NOT a scene by scene copy of Memento. And how could it ever be? The film makers realize (or assume) that the average Indian movie goer is too unintelligent to grasp an intriguing, non linear type of storytelling with a twist in the end that would leave him dumb founded. Hence, to rake in the moolah, the film makers turn Ghajini into mishmash of Memento and Masala cinema of the 70's and to add icing on the cake action straight from the Rajnikanth School of Martial Arts. Now that is what makes for entertainment for the masses!
Ghajini's 'Indianised' storyline has all the three hallmarks of a blockbuster, the 3Rs Romance, Revenge and the Righteous ending. It has a back and forth style of storytelling which doesn't warrant a crossword solving approach by the viewer. Sixty percent into the run time and the viewer knows what it will culminate into!
The romance element in the movie is endearing with newcomer Asin doing a great job of playing the chirpy girl next door and Aamir as the ambitious business tycoon mesmerized by her earthy ways. We break into romantic ballads courtesy dream sequences (The tracks, Guzarish and Kaise Mujhe will go down as A.R. Rehman's best works). The romance blossoms, but the inevitable tragedy strikes and a revenge seeking animal is born.
The build up to the climax is great as the screenplay engages the emotions of the viewer making him feel the grief and pain of the terrible tragedy of the protagonist's girl friend brutally murdered in front of his own eyes. You expect one-helluva ending, something like the ending of 'Unforgiven' in which Clint Eastwood left you awe-struck. But Ghajini's climax is laughable! Aamir Khan gets possessed by Rajnikanth. Dhoom-dhaam-dhishum, bodies fly in the air at the touch of a finger! Mission Accomplished! From start to finish, Ghajini is dominated by the one and only, Aamir 'Ferocious' Khan. It is the sort of role only a few can do justice to and performance wise it won't be an understatement to say that even the toughest of men in Hindi cinema like Dharam Paaji (in his prime) or Sunny Deol couldn't play the revenge seeking Sanjay Singhania any better than Aamir Khan! Yes, as always he successfully re-invents himself and hats off to that! But you can't help but wonder what was his motive in selecting this role? Maybe because, its a tailor made role to get the whistles from the 'front rows' and an attempt to establish himself as the biggest undisputed superstar of Hindi Film Industry.
All the dissection done, Ghajini is an entertaining and riveting affair, a onetime watch but nothing beyond that. One expects an Aamir Khan flick to be an intelligent affair and the film-makers (Aamir included) uses this image to masquerade Ghajini as a different, creative and intelligent piece of work which it is certainly not. Ghajini is conveniently contrived and has half a dozen plot holes which if given attention to insult your basic intelligence! Why the pretense? Why not sell it as a no-brainer-masala pot-boiler in the first place?