Friday, March 20, 2009

Firaaq - THREE and 1/2 stars

Nandita Das has made sure through her directorial debut that she won't state the obvious , even if she is dabbling in a notoriously well known theme

Before you go to watch this movie with pre conceived notions about what a Gujarat pogrom movie should/would look like, let me tell you -- this one is different

The cinematography, art direction, music...just do their role of carrying a well written story with subtlety. They do not overwhelm you or take your attention away or distract you from the situation at hand. Ravi K Chandran has done a fabulous job with the camera, showing only as much as is required -- not more not less. A principle that seems to be the highlight of the film. Firaaq 's characters don't say or do any more than is required. The script, screenplay etc. don't ever insult the audience's intelligence, in fact a lot is left to our imagination and interpretation. Strangely most of us will still conclude/interpret it in the same way. I would say this is one of Nandita's biggest achievements with Firaaq.
Ravi K Chandran seems to get the mood of very varied movie themes right, every time. He is the same guy who cinematographed Ghajini, Jodha Akbar and Saawariya -- believe it or not.

There are many stories in this movie, all weaved together without much drama but with lots of sensitivity. Gory has been portrayed without the gore and without making you cringe in your seat. She has also done justice to all the stories she has brought together and has validated her claim that it is a fictitious tale about a 1000 real stories -- varied stories that cut across different ages, classes etc.

One wonders if both sides of the story were told adequately, but that is a healthy debate which the movie can trigger. Also I think we should grant her the benefit of the doubt that she showed more of the side that [in this case] suffered the most. So it is okay, I think.

The movie ends brilliantly, with an important child character staring into your eyes -- the meaning of this too will fire a debate, mind you. I don't know if Nandita aimed at triggering discussions/debates but that is one of the interesting by products of the film, surely. Try seeing it with a group of people and you'll know what I mean

A lot of research has definitely and rightly gone into a movie that handles a real life incident such as this, and it shows. You feel completely "in place" in Ahmedabad with details like the manner of speaking/accents done correctly...all this aptly supported by believable art direction and incidents.
Her attention to detail is so high and effortless, that you will miss it easily if you don't pay similar attention to detail :)

Paresh Rawal plays his role very honestly, and you will swear that he was the guy he was playing. And Shahana Goswami reassures you that her Rock On performance was not a fluke

A movie like this could have become preachy, gory, one sided, docu-like and hence boring...Nandita has risen above all these temptations and has come out a winner.

I was not impressed with Parzania, an earlier movie on similar lines...but let me assure you that Firaaq belongs to another league altogether.

Through their roles, Naseeuddin Shah and Deepti Naval remind you of the 80's when parallel cinema thinking actors like them regularly took simple roles to extraordinary heights. It will be difficult to forget Naseer's nonchalant line in this movie, "Insaan ne insaan ko mara"...not just because of the meaning but more because of the way he says it -- without any drama.

The movie also has its amusing moments like the scene where a group of angry young men dispute over who should get a gun with its solitary bullet and also sharpen the bullet to make it fit the gun.

Don't miss the symbolic shot early on, in the form of a "lotus" design on the front of the lorry carrying dead bodies.

I am consciously not branding this movie a docu-drama, because it is neither...simply put, it is just a MUST SEE. ONCE

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Little Zizou - THREE stars

A cute film about Parsis through the eyes of boy who calls himself little Zizou. You will enjoy and comprehend this movie more if you are familiar with the Parsi community.

One might easily misunderstand the movie theme through its rushes and ads and conclude that it is a sports film about a boy trying to be Zidane. Only one little thread of the movie story is actually in this space viz., little Zizou loves playing soccer, is obsessed with Zidane and wants him to come to India. There are several other angles to this movie about 2 different religious viewpoints within a shrinking community.

You'll love all the goings on in Zizou's life -- simple,well stated, and short.

The movie is interestingly captured with a format of illustrations connecting them to reel life. You won't find any great cinematography, music, art direction etc. etc. but you will find very simple takes on the everyday crazy events in and around the little boy's life.

Just when I decided Prateik Babbar [janne tu ya jaane na] was going to be the future thinking actor all of us have to look out for, we suddenly have Naseerduddin's son [Imaad Shah] jump into the scene with a bang. He has given a stellar performance before also.
He acts, speaks just like his father and yet has his own unique commendable approach to acting. It was like both Smita Patil and Nasseer had decided that they wouldn't leave an empty space after they left the Indian film scene!

The movie has some sensitive moments, some fun moments but you will be left wondering why there is no all encompassing strong storyline. The story moves from one place to another, yes they are all connected but one fails to hold on to any one strong theme.

One of the several funny moments, is a scene where you learn what password Imaad uses for his father hating blog...for security reasons I won't tell you what it is ;)

Director Sooni has also cleverly used famous Parsis for cameos, like Shiamak Davar, Gary Lawyer, even 1/2 Bawa John Abraham...and not to mention a picture of Zubin Mehta!

Boman Irani does his best as usual, one wonders how someone like him is not given more opportunities where he gets to carry the entire movie on his shoulders

There are some lovely scenes, like the Alzheimer's ridden old Parsi woman still dressing up for dinner in her "Hotel Mejestic" which is completely run down [but not for her loving eyes]. Or the scene where little Zizou explains to his friend on the Udwada beach, why she should not hate him. And a few others like these.

The movie is definitely not a MUST see, but I assure you if you do see it you will not regret it.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Benjamin Button - TWO stars

Now I know why a 3 star movie like Slumdog won the Oscars -- it had serious 2 star contenders like "Curious case of Benjamin Button" to compete with

While the core idea, thought and in this case just that...a case...was wonders how far you can stretch a teeny weeny good idea...into a more than 2 hour film?...hardly!

Well you may argue that the length of a film is of no consequence for a good film and there hiddeth moi point [and there hides my point, for those of you who are single lingual...singlingual]

Tell me how far can great cinematography, performances, and other production values carry a very minuscule idea? It reminds me of the story "the emperor's new clothes", only this is like an exact opposite scenario to that...he was wearing all the finery in the world, but somehow he himself was not there

At the end of the movie you are left wondering...everything was great...but what?...WHY?...and more importantly SO WHAT?

Believe me if this movie was made in Hindi even with all its production finery, we would have laughed our guts out. Which my family and I anyways did...toward the end we began ad libbing funny Bollywood dialogues and laughed at our own jokes -- more than we have laughed for any comedy

The movie has everything -- war scenes, a hurricane, missionary miracles...but yet feels like it has nothing...maybe in Oscar jury language this means something!

Delhi 6 - TWO and a half stars

Was waiting for this to arrive as the promos just made you want to see it...even a solitary poster was Rakeysh definitely got the PR and mktg right

The first 80% of the movie is cute, beautifully connecting everyday events with one non everyday event. The music makes the ride memorable and like any other Rakeysh film the cinematography, art direction, screenplay are luverly

He has gotten out of AR Rahman a kind of music that sounds hip, new, cool -- which settles over the film like a sensual silky piece of cloth. The music will ring in your ears long after you leave the cinema hall

There is an unforgettable song which is an Abhishek dream sequence, the whole song is like a painting and captures exactly those events -- ones we would normally see in a dream which are a bhel puri of the happenings of the previous few days

Sonam Kapoor looks good and acts just fine. Some new actors don't go down too well just because they don't have a voice and diction to match other huge talents. But not this girl, she is a "complete" talented package. Watch out for her and remember you saw it here first.
Trust Rakeysh to make simplicity look gorgeous and aspirational eg. how Sonam was picturised

I also wonder who designed Sonam's salwar khameezes - lovely and simple using unusual color palates and designs

Abhishek was his usual cool self, the role seemed tailor made for him. He carried the American accent well, without over pronouncing and made it look effortless. His impromptu dance steps in the terrace song "gende ka phool" was also cool

And then we come to the last 20% and you just say...WHY OH WHY?
Why did Rakeysh have to suddenly jump into the "explanation" mode which not only explains scenes which could have very well been left to the viewers imagination but also goes on to "preach" about everything in between. The last 1/2 hour is quite unbearable and almost makes you forget the breezy and nice earlier bits. Even the normally cool dude Abhishek looked strange mouthing off preachy dialogues. He had the "am I really saying all these things?" look on his face throughout those painful scenes

AND I don't want to hear anyone say that if we don't explain "so called" symbolic scenes then Indian audiences wont understand it. I completely disagree

On another note, I also don't like people saying "audiences have changed" , such movies [eg. DCH, RDB, Chak De] couldn't be made in the 80s...I ask -- if the film makers were not prepared to take risks then the audience had to make do with what was available. NOW better movies are available and hence people are appreciating them. It is like saying India can never have honest politicians because we as citizens won't appreciate them. What choice do we have if we have to choose between thieves, dacoits and murderers?
Henceforward if anyone throws these arguments at you, you know what to say!

Dev D - FOUR stars

A cool new interpretation of the classic loser story. Anurag Kashyap gets everything right - the cast, the new avataar, screenplay, music etc. etc.

Abhay Deol rocks as the loser who tries to get a life. The new actors Kalki and Mahi are superb adding a "devil may care" panache to their roles that established actors can almost never get right.

The cinematography carries you into the psychedelic experiences of Abhay Deol -- all without your knowledge.

I particularly loved how Anurag has been successful in weaving songs into scenes not for song-and-dance reasons but he has used them instead of dialogues to explain a feeling/emotion - eg. what Abhay is feeling at a particular moment of loss etc.

Many movies have experimented with the "back and forth in time" sequencing of events and editing. Anurag uses this but how! You almost don't realize it and are gently glided in and out of it.

Anurag powerfully demonstrates male chauvinism and feminism through events and doesn't "tell" about them -- something many other directors would have been tempted to do

The movie is also bold and touches on topics and lingo not oft used in Hindi movies. It was refreshing to hear the cast speak like us normal people and not wannabe Hindi/Urdu poets

Just be careful, don't see it with someone who can't handle adult lingo or scenes in the presence of company

Anurag has also gotten the locales just right, they are SO believable

He has smartly and aptly used some recent real life incidents to modernize the plot and they don't look out of place at all

Though many of you may find out that there are scenes lifted from "leaving las vegas", you'll still love the movie -- it is a one of its kind movie. This goes to show that even when you plagiarize, as long as you remain within context and do it well, people will accept it

I just wish he had also gone ahead and explored the relationship between Paro & Chanda... I was not happy that the movie ended I guess, I wanted more

Luck by chance - FOUR stars

Fabulous movie by Zoya Akhtar, one wonders what their mother fed them [her and Farhan] when they were kids - I think it was a dizzying muesli of world movies :)

There are SO many characters in this movie and yet Zoya has been able to sensibly detail every one of them. Though it was very easy to turn a movie like this into a complete caricature of the film industry she has dealt with it with great sensitivity. It is not a spoof, please remember.

Farhan has acted far better than his attempt in Rock On. He is now going to give all young Hindi cinema actors a run for their money. First the directors had to compete with him, then actors - not fair at all.

As expected the movie has amazing cinematography, music, art direction and overall aesthetics. The circus song was painted with all colors and was yet music for the eyes.

Konkana acts like nobody's business and carries a "not always a winner" role fabulously on her very talented shoulders.

The ending is very profound and off beat.

All characters are fleshed out realistically displaying the black, white and grey within us.

Zoya has also indirectly paid tribute to the bounty that is available as locales for movies within India...a thumbs up for that too! :)

Review Rate Card

Why I decide to watch a movie depends on various things and merits a blog of its own.

The following is the rate card I will be using to review the movies:

FIVE stars [Excellent] - path breaking, standard setting, MUST see more than once CLASSIC

FOUR stars [Very Good] - almost a five star, but not there completely

THREE stars [Good] - worth watching once

TWO stars [OK] - try and not go

ONE star [...] - don't even go near a cinema showing it!

A rating I give in between any of the above has to be interpreted as such i.e. in between

Thus I'll share my experience of the movie with you which will be a "why you should" or "why you shouldn't" watch it.