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Well-made movie, though I have mixed feelings
Tackling the easy part of the review first: looking strictly technically, this movie is very well-made. The suspense is gripping, and the thrills keep you on the edge of your seat. I felt my heart beat faster during the climax! The action scenes are awesome as is the cinematography with so many diverse locales captured so aesthetically around the world. The chaos shown in war-torn Syria is very well-depicted. Direction is also on par with some good performances.
The story is very gripping. Films based on books (Mumbai Avengers) are almost always better than those copied off other films (which unfortunately seems to happen a majority of the time in Bollywood). The machinations behind murders, sequence of events surrounding each incident, and the plot in general is very clever. The final two scenes really pull at your heartstrings and are very powerful.
Phantom brings many disturbing truths to the surface. Most shocking to me is the U.S.'s harboring of terrorists within its borders and using refugee camps as an excuse to supply weapons to jihadists. However, honestly, I am not surprised as the U.S. government is known to spread more violence throughout the world than any other country to profit from the business of bloodshed, and I know the American government gave birth to the Taliban during the Cold War in an effort to crush Russia. It's something that makes me ashamed of being an American.
It must be apparent now that I am not an advocate of war, violence, or hatred. I am a Gandhian and fully believe in the fact that "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." Given that, I do not support the path of vigilante "justice" proposed in Phantom. Bloodshed only gives birth to more terrorists, even if the person dying deserves to be killed. I never supported America's "War on Terrorism" (some paradox that is) nor would I support India carrying out something of this sort. The film raises the point, "If America can do it, why can't we?" My answer to that is, "Two wrongs don't make a right."
In conclusion, the movie is very well-made with a great story and plot. You do cheer for the protagonist--after all he is trying to kill the masterminds of the 26/11 attacks on Mumbai--something very painfully close to all of our hearts. How can one not want to see them die? However, putting aside the passion invoked in the heat of the action scenes, I do not support the message delivered--one that promotes hatred, violence, and revenge. We've had enough of such movies going back to the highly provocative Gadar and all the J.P. Dutta films. Through movies like Bajrangi Bhaijaan, we need to build a peaceful world for future generations.
Top-notch performances and cinematography convey an impactive story
Everything about this movie is excellent. The performances are excellent. Imtiaz Ali extracted the best from the entire cast. While Alia Bhatt didn't make much of an impression in Student of the Year, in Highway she does an outstanding job! Her character has a very unique personality, and the emotions depicted haven't really been relayed before. Still, she delivers flawlessly. Enough cannot be said about Randeep's performance either. He plays the role of a goon in anguish. His terrific acting lets the audience empathize with his pain, successfully turning the antagonist into a protagonist.
Cinematography is mind-blowing. India has some of the world's most spectacular natural beauty, but rarely does it get depicted on screen, with producers flocking to foreign locales. This film captures the magnificent beauty of North India, and this reason alone is good enough to see it on the panoramic big screen. The barren deserts of Rajasthan, the rivers and cultivated lands of Punjab, the hills of Haryana, and the breathtaking views of the Himalayan peaks, gushing waterfalls, and vertical cliffs of Kashmir are a visual treat.
Rahman's music and background score are also brilliant. They are very subtle but powerful, not imposing onto the audience in the typical Bollywood fashion. A roadside group of Sufis singing and a mother's lullaby are among the lovely tracks in this film.
Last but not least, the story and script are top-notch. The irony of the kidnapping is a clever, eye-opening theme. The use of low-quality letterbox video for showing scenes of the life in Delhi convey the artificiality, forced behavior, protocol life, confinement, and claustrophobia that Alia's character is unable to endure.
Kudos to Imtiaz Ali--he has done it again!
Hasee Toh Phasee (2014)
I didn't go in with much expectations for this movie and walked out with a casual "meh." Performances are just average. Parineeti's character needed to be elaborated some more--her performance seemed more of a caricature, while making odd, unnatural faces and expressions. Her character was a good concept, nonetheless--something very different, fresh, and modern. Siddharth was decent but nothing to write home about. He was much better in Student of the Year. Songs are also average. The girl who played the role of Karishma was not too bad but nothing spectacular. What was a bit irksome and left a sour taste in the mouth were some of the subtle values being shown in the film--particularly that it's perfectly justifiable to take as much of your parents' money as you desire (by hook or by crook). I find self-made financial independence more respectable. Also, the climax is extremely farcical.
The only two main positives of the film are Parineeti's innovative character, even if its portrayal was average, and the alternative, random humor. When the scene is starting to drag, you unexpectedly encounter some off-beat humor. These two things are what hold your attention in the first half. In the second half, though, particularly in the final scenes, the film loses whatever momentum it has.
Jab Tak Hai Jaan (2012)
To its credit, a well-made movie, but difficult to relate to
I was slightly disappointed with this film, but I wouldn't write it off completely. Cinematography and music are excellent. Katrina is fabulous. Performances are good. The main weakness of the film is the story. The fault lies not in that it is told poorly or that it is devoid of any intelligence. It just is kind of old-fashioned, and I found it difficult to relate to. Chopra did make a good attempt of trying to address this point with Anushka's character, but she still seemed more of a stereotype of Gen Y rather than a sincere incorporation of its viewpoint. Thank goodness, the climax is well-done and refreshing.
Doesn't live up to high expectations but still a good watch
An ardent Bhandarkar fan, I had extremely high expectations from this. This film is the weakest of the talented director's lot, but I still was not disappointed. He extracted a great performance from Kareena. Comparisons with his earlier Fashion and Page 3 (and Vidya Balan's Dirrty Picture) are inevitable, and all three of these films have done a much more impressive job of exposing the backstabbing nature of the film industry and had better performances and songs, too. Two tracks in this film were good, while the rest were mediocre.
The first half of the film (the flashback) seemed sub-par, especially given Bhandarkar's track record. However, the movie picks up and how in the second half! As always, thorough research has been done for the film, and if you pay close attention, you might figure out the stars upon whom each incident is based upon. The climax is by far the best scene in the movie and does a great job of summing up the theme.
Dhobi Ghat (mumbai diaries) (2010)
Subtle, powerful direction with strong imagery
Mumbai Diaries is a film unlike any other I have seen before. Aptly titled, the film takes a day-by-day account of the lives of very different types of people in the megalopolis, representing its vast socioeconomic spectrum. Each individual person has their own unique story, and they have all been presented with perfection. All four characters have been developed wonderfully.
I particularly enjoyed the wife's video-letters. They clearly illustrate how the large city's loneliness and depression, slowly engulfed and took over her life. Starting with being startled (symbolized by the expensive bangles) and loneliness (celebrating her birthday alone), to dejection (sharing her sorrows with the sea) and wiping away of her identity and liveliness (washing of her name on the beach), and to finally engulfing of her soul (Ganesha submersion).
Eye-catching imagery, an unmistakable trait of a true artist, speaks millions to the audience. For example, a simple image of the broken ceiling fan wire in Aamir's apartment creates horror when he realizes why it has broken. His neighbor, the old lady who never reacts, foreshadows the wife's doom and what the city has in store for her. Her brief glance at Aamir when he starts crying in front of her signals that the city has initiated him. The photographer's finespun single tear towards the end reveals her realization for Prateik's love and her becoming overcome with guilt for possibly leading him on. Prateik's hesitation in kissing and his sliding down the handrail in the subway, while his cousin was on the phone, displays his innocent, naive love. The casting person who pauses only at Prateik's shirtless photo hints at Mumbai's shallowness.
I first had doubts on Prateik's ability to do a convincing job of a dhobi, but he has given an amazing performance and has done full justice to his role. The American girl also was superb and had a very authentic accent, perfect for her role.
Devoid of any melodrama or showcasing, this movie uses subtle, realistic imagery to develop its characters and to narrate their everyday yet captivating stories.
The Dirty Picture (2011)
Vidya is mind-blowing! Witty dialogs!
Definitely Vidya's best performance. She goes all out in accurately depicting Southern sex siren sensation, Silk Smitha. Not only is she able to boldly re-enact the cheesy, campy item songs, the seductive bedroom shots, and the scanty, cleavage-spilling costumes, but she is able to illustrate her passion for films and fame, disgust with society's hypocrite nature, starry-eyed dreams, heartbreaks, disillusionment of her recognition and reputation in the industry, and the devastation of rejection by her family, lovers, directors, costars, and the entire nation as a whole.
Songs are catchy and fun, particularly "Ooh la la." The script and screenplay are brilliant--clever dialogs that will leave you in splits. Tusshar surprisingly gave a great performance. Naseerudin was good, too. Emran was not bad. My favorite scene in the film is Vidya's "award acceptance speech." It reveals how hypocrite society truly is. Can easily watch this film once again.
Some fun, mindless, Salman-style comedy
This movie is nothing to write home about, but is a great Friday flick, just to laugh and unwind. As in Salman's films' unequivocal comic style of absurdly loud, in-your-face satire of Bollywood clichés, you'll find yourself puzzled by, and shortly thereafter resorting to laughing, at the same time embarrassed to find out that you can laugh to such silly comedy. Salman and Asin are both great. Songs are fun and entertaining from Dhinga Chika to Longawach remix. Asin gives a great performance as does Salman. The first half is more entertaining than the second, which starts to become a drag in some parts. All in all, the film's a good timepass.
Another feather in Amitabh's cap
Aarakshan is a film revolving around the highly controversial subject of affirmative action in India's higher education system. When the Supreme Court rules that reserved seating for "backward castes" has been increased greatly, along with all of India, the nation's most prestigious university polarizes into two groups, one for the ruling and one against it. This leaves the diplomatic, fair-grounded principal, Amitabh, torn between the two sides.
The role of Dr. Prabhakar Anand was tailor-made for Amitabh Bachchan, and he, and only he, could pull it off so naturally and with so much grace. Saif Ali Khan was completely miscast. The role of a poor, struggling, pro-affirmative action, hard-worker could not be well- portrayed by the royal Nawab Pathan. Deepika Padukone acted wonderfully as does her mother in the film. Manoj Bajpai was good as well.
What I personally liked the most about the movie is seeing how much India respects and values a good education. Rich, poor, toppers, and "failures" all recognize that one must get the best education possible in order to succeed in life. Amitabh clearly portrayed this feeling in his performance. Though, some parts, especially the final portions, were quite filmi.
So, ultimately, who is right? Are the rich hogging all the university seats? Are the poor being discriminated against and not getting a chance to pursue higher studies? Or are low-scorers being given a free ride without having the merit? Then, can the upper caste ever imagine what those in the slums are going through? Is caste identification encouraging the caste system? The film and its protagonist do take a stance on this controversial matter. Everyone has their opinion. Some might even be persuaded one way or the other by the film. I, too, have my views but won't used IMDb as a political outlet. Save that for another blog, I guess.
Always Kabhi Kabhi (2011)
Didn't live up to its great potential
This movie had it all going for it. Being backed by Gauri/SRK's production house, the movie has a talented and fresh bunch of debut actors. A pretty decent supporting cast also adds. The theme of the film is a relevant, revolutionary one and has been popping up in a few movies recently: pursue your individual dreams, desires, and ambitions. It's time to proclaim our desire for freedom to those suppressing our desires, be it parents, teachers, or any other form of authority. One of the major detractors are the songs. They are not good at all, and the climactic song "Antenna" really just ruins whatever the movie still had going for it. The film needed some editing to make it as fast-paced as it's message is rebellious. Screenplay and dialogs also needed improvement. Costumes, sets, make-up, etc. are all top-notch. Performances are good as well.