Sunday, January 23, 2011

Dhobi Ghat - TWO and 3/4th stars

I struggled to rate this movie. Dhobi Ghat is like a restaurant, where everything is par excellence viz., the ambiance, the service, the location, the prices…but the food is not so great!
The film has excellent cinematography, fabulous music by Argentine musician Gustavo Santaolalla, good story, amazing acting from every actor. With all these pluses it is sad that the movie doesn’t wow you.

Aamir Khan was superlative in Lagaan and Earth, after that I thought his acting was flawless only in Dhobi Ghat. He is known as one of the best actors in Bollywood but is not the best actor according to me. His superb performance in Dhobi Ghat could be because wife and director Kiran Rao who obviously knows him well, got out his natural reactions in scenes more than any other director can. But I must admit she has been able to get the best acting out of every single person in the film.

Prateik deserves a special mention and awards for his acting in this film. He reminded me of Dev Patel in Slumdog Millionaire. Urbane, posh accented boy doing the role of an uneducated slum dweller. In both cases the actors proved that you may not look the part, you may not even get the accent right, but you can still touch the audience with sincerity and honesty to the role being portrayed. I had predicted that this was a guy to watch out for after his small role in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. Yes keep looking out for this new hottie on the block. It won’t be long before one of the biggies like the Mira Nairs, Mani Ratnams, Vishal Bharadwajs and Anurag Kashyaps of the world lap him up for their productions.
In fact, all the actors have played their roles commendably.

Kiran Rao has done a brilliant job of selling the film; most people [including me!] even remembered the date of release because of the way the film was marketed, not to mention the blitz of Aamir-Kiran interviews with sudden personal details shouting out from every newspaper. Mind you she is a very good director, but can’t really write the best story & screenplay. She might want to write a book to take care of her creative writing abilities. Her story telling skills seem more suited to book writing than on screen.

So what was the main thing that went wrong???
Though Dhobi Ghat has a decent enough story with somewhat thought out characters, the story seldom touches you or holds you long enough. Let’s just say that Dhobi Ghat touches you, but strangely you don’t feel much.
Kiran Rao should have dived in and made a full length feature film and not just restricted herself [and us] to 90 minutes, to understand/deepen the nuances of her characters. The feeling you are left with is a lot like a scene in the film where Prateik's character comes close to kissing the heroine, but stops just short!

Dhobi Ghat is a one time watch, simply because it is nice to see a debutant director so deft at production values and more - that too on a small 8 crore budget. One could see the influence of classic world movies and master directors like Fellini in her work. There are also some tiny similarities between Dhobi Ghat and the French classic film, Amelie. I will surely look out for movies from Kiran Rao, even though this was not one of the best debuts seen recently.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Golmaal 3 - TWO and HALF stars

Golmaal 3, the third part in the Golmaal sequel is a family comedy that plays upon the ‘can’t stand each other’ element.
Rivalry between two groups and the funniness in what ensues has been captured comically, but only some of the time. Kareena Kapoor plays a snazzy role and is thankfully not in her ultra glamorous guise. Mithun, Arsha Warsi, Shreyas Talpade, Johnny Lever, Tushar Kapoor and Sanjay Mishra contribute to the moments, you will actually find funny.

This movie tries hard to make you laugh in its ride of madness but it gets boring, on and off.

The film is good in parts but does not live up to all the hype. It often felt like Rohit Shetty and the production house were just trying to make a killing on the buildup created by the previous 2 films, in this series.
Interestingly, new characters in this 3rd part were far better than the characters who repeated their act. Some jokes were silly and one does wonder what all is passed of as comedy. An irritating sound which almost acts as a sad reminder to laugh adds to some of the alleged comic confusion. Surely there are some "laugh out loud" moments, but these are few, given that this is supposed to be a good comic movie.

Johnny Lever as Puppy Bhai is fabulously funny with his "short term memory loss" problem punctuated role. Also Mithunda’s ‘I am a Disco Dancer’ and other songs cheerfully take you back to the 80s. A special mention for Sanjay Mishra as Daga, one of the 2 sidekicks for Johnny Lever, he hilariously misspells English words - don’t miss his dialogues, they are funnier than they sound!

The film does seem long and the script, weak. Overall Golmaal 3 is not as funny as it is made out to be. Watch it only if you are a die hard Golmaal fan or of one of the actors, else just wait for it to come on TV, soon.

The Social Network - FOUR stars

If you, like me thought Facebook was just another social networking site created by some Silicon Valley geek, this movie will make you think again.

Actually the beauty of David Fincher’s The Social Network is that it is not just about Facebook, it is about a far bigger question - what drives us to do what we do, and how we do it?

Critics and movie goers alike are going to rave about this movie for sometime, and it will surely create a buzz during Oscar season.
David Fincher’s smooth direction, Reznor and Atticus Ross’ sharp soundtrack and Aaron Sorkin’s slick screenplay present an unbeatable package. Based on the novel “The Accidental Billionaires” by Ben Mezrich, The Social Network beautifully narrates a story of the human drama behind the successful social networking site Facebook.
Love, betrayal, greed, passion, jealousy, ego – all interesting human elements have been explored well in this film. This movie could have easily ended up as a documentary with facts and data being put forth in a boring format, but you’ll notice that this movie runs like a thriller!
The film format glides deftly between various events in different points in time, never reminding the viewer that it is longer than 2 hours. The movie begins and ends, seamlessly – such is the efficiency in direction. Also, the viewer is just told a radiant tale in an unbiased fashion, one that he must assess and judge for himself.
All the actors have done a brilliant job, given that the director apparently does 50 high-speed takes for every scene. Justin Timberlake shines as the savvy Napster creator Sean Parker, his delivery of the role is so fascinating that you forget early on that he is Justin Timberlake.
So go watch this "must see" poignant story of the story behind our beloved Facebook. It is very entertaining with its witty dialogues, amusing moments and that really real people narrative.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Peepli Live - THREE and 1/2 stars

A movie that can make you laugh, think and also kick you in the gut - all at once!

Director Anusha Rizvi takes a serious issue like farmer suicide and presents to us a thoughtfully crafted mirth package. The film is filled with unfamiliar faces who add realness to a painfully real storyline. Except for Raghubir Yadav, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, and Naseeruddin Shah all the other actors are relatively new. One wonders how Anusha has extracted brilliant performances from the entire cast, I for one often forgot that they were acting out roles.

Don’t let the unnecessarily slow beginning put you off, just be a little patient and the screenplay will be running at top speed, taking you along with it

The characters are so beautifully detailed that I was reminded of some of the Hindi Premchand stories one read, in school. This film is well written and excellently executed. Music by Indian Ocean and others is relevant and kept to the minimum. The woman characters dazzle with their appropriateness and genuineness

If there was a mini Oscar for originality in treatment of serious topics with a touch of mirth, this movie will win hands down!

The best part about Peepli Live is that it never gets preachy. It just places circumstances in a satirical format and succeeds in touching the viewer far more than a serious book, documentary, or article on the same theme would have done – to an audience anywhere in the world

It was sad but not very surprising to see very few people in the cinema hall. But the ones that did come out to see this movie, would have gone back with some perspective built, albeit without their own knowledge :)

Definitely a MUST WATCH film!

ps: don’t miss the potshot taken at Monsanto, with a similar sounding name – no, I wont tell you the name here
pps: you will fall in love with an old bed ridden woman who plays the protagonist's mother. She will sway you with her spunk

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Inception - THREE and 1/2 stars

Don’t miss Chris Nolan’s trippy film Inception! This is not a perfect movie, but is surely a one time must see on the big screen.

Inception is a wonderful marriage of a brilliant psychological drama and mind-blowing tech-special effects. The movie’s tag line, “your mind is the scene of the crime” says it all.

If you are a Chris Nolan fan and have adored his Memento, Dark Knight etc. you will love Inception as well. I wonder where he gets his unique movie ideas from, does he steal them from other people’s minds while they're dreaming??

This movie can’t be easily defined, and in this lays its interesting mystery. I was glad to see a packed house for a movie I thought was too complex, and would normally only have a handful of people watching it. People even clapped as some of the technological movie making marvels in it unfolded. I was reminded of Matrix, in the way this movie was made; of course the stories are very different.
Please expect sequels, as this one will go down as a trend-setter in movie making history. And don’t let anyone tell you the story before hand, like I said earlier the fun is in its vagueness. That, some of us might need to be told the story afterward, is not something we’ll discuss in detail here :)

Chris Nolan surely has a way of making films that are interactive more than most directors. He makes you question, think, feel, wonder while he keeps you entertained. Given the complex psycho drama nature of the plot, you’ll find yourself talking about Inception long after you have left the cinema hall.

Inception is 2 ½ hours long and I must admit, for all its visual & musical excellence it did feel a bit elongated somewhere in the middle. Though some amount of vagueness in stories is acceptable, I must say that this one pushed the envelope just a bit. And these by far are the only critique I have for this movie.

Inception the mad movie will surely create an Oscar buzz for all the tech related awards, originality and of course for a stellar performance by Leonardo Di Caprio. Seriously, is there a role this guy can’t pull off?

The zero-g flights in this visual masterpiece and the demonstration of time stoppage in various dream levels will leave you thrilled.
And I am happy that finally someone has taken the issue of dreams seriously enough to make a movie about it. For long I have felt like a lone ranger in these kinds of discussions, not any more I hope!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Raavan - TWO and 1/2 stars

I am not surprised that this movie is getting mixed reviews - it has its wow moments just like it has its mediocre instances. Not one of director Mani Ratnam’s best movies, but Raavan could have been one of his bravest

I have heard a lot of people say that this movie is boring but Raavan with its numerous failings and incongruities, is not dull or dreary

1. Raavan’s cinematography itself makes it worthwhile going to the cinemas to watch it, once. Santosh Sivan and Mani have always been a heady combo, they don’t disappoint as far as the visuals go
2. Brilliant acting by Priyamani, Vikram, Abhishek and Aishwarya. They shine through an otherwise loopholed and flawed movie, cant say the same about Govinda though.
3. A bold story, nice interpretation of an Indian classic. Don’t know what people mean when they criticize the movie for not being contemporary enough. It is Mani’s elucidation of the classic we all know and his interpretation is not bizarre

Not so nice…
1. The movie is overdramatic, in every which way – music, dialogue delivery decibel levels, use of water and other props, cinematography even! Raavan would have been a far more powerful movie had it been subtle in its execution. The essence and complexities of the human element is lost in its overpowering technical wizardry
2. A R Rahman’s music usually has the competency to come out of even a horrific movie unscathed. But in Raavan his music is loud, jarring, unnecessary and confusing in most places. It actually acts as an irritant in an already over-theatrical movie
3. Mani had a great story at hand, but didn’t go all out with it. He should have been braver and shown the various layers of his Raavan’s personality, unashamedly. But he held back maybe because he got too involved in the commercial-technical facets of the movie. Consequently, the movie’s human constituent loses out where production value has gained
4. I wonder if we should forgive Mani for underestimating the knowledge of the Indian audience by spelling out some of the corresponding Ramayana scenes onto our faces
5. And the movie's ending was a complete let down, it was a final proof that by then Mani Ratnam's concentration had moved far away from his creative instincts

So if you are a big fan of classy cinematography, this movie is a must do, that too in a cinema hall. Otherwise do catch it once on TV or DVD just to see what a great movie this could have been, if Mani had stayed with his original idea giving its characters his undivided attention…and not gone overboard with the technicalities, quite literally!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Hurt Locker - THREE stars

Hurt Locker [HL] is a film about war but without the endless mind numbing explosions and gunshot sounds. The explosion sounds and scenes you will hear and see in this film are so aesthetically done that one might forget the seriousness of the situation momentarily, and sit to admire the brilliance with which these are captured.

HL is an Iraq war film with a different perspective. It is not the usual exhaustion inducing, pro or anti Bush rant about the war in Iraq. HL is a story about an elite American bomb disposal squad stationed in Baghdad.

The squad has a recent maverick joinee, Sergeant James, who goes about disposing explosives like he were peeling an orange. Though James is brilliant at what he does, his team is insecure around him because he doesn’t follow the safety norms and is capable of putting his own and other people’s lives in danger.

Director Kathryn Bigelow, who won and Oscar for directing HL concentrates on the events that unfold in the everyday life of the war front liners. She uses the hand held camera and minimal music to keep the authenticity of the happenings intact.

HL is like a thrilling poignant documentary that makes you feel the heat without using too many Hollywood style effect enhancers

This is not a feel good movie, and you are not going to walk home all hopeful and motivated to change the world around you. It is surely worth watching once, given that it is a unique war film which talks about the smaller picture ie an average soldier and does not indulge in the larger so called picture, which as we all know by now was anyways bare. Through the story of a bomb disposal squad, Bigelow accentuates the futility of the Iraq war, without lecturing us about it. Without much ado she is able to silently explain to us why the characters behave the way do - and that in itself is an extraordinary achievement!

All said, I do however cynically wonder if this was a film made just to change the image of the US soldiers demeanor in Iraq, eg. their excesses with the Iraqi prisoners - almost as if Bilgelow wanted to say, "hey, the US soldiers suffered too you know!", that brings me to another question, "is that why she won the Oscar?"