Friday, August 21, 2009

Kaminey - FOUR ftarf ;)

My first impression of Kaminey was that it was a good quality Hollywood movie wearing Indian clothes. If we have a chance of ever winning the Oscars, it will be Vishal Bharadwaj who brings it home for us. Do please remember that you read that here first :)

Vishal Bharadwaj’s style of movie making in Kaminey feels like it has been inspired by Hollywood movies like Pulp Fiction and others in its genre and even though you know that the style is somewhat copied, you’ll want to give him full marks for contextualizing the style and using it effectively. Vishal always gets the cinematography, music and screenplay right in his movies, so no surprises there. I must admit that the music and cinematography did remind me of Alejandro González Iñárritu’s Babel.

Mumbai [slums, railway stations et al] has been shown like you would have seen in no other Bollywood movie. The slums etc. have not been used as props but are just naturally part of Kaminey’s multi pronged storyline. We Mumbaikars take the pace and energy of our city for granted, it is only through movies like this, that we realize how energetic it is and how it operates at break neck speed without too much breakage. The city has been captured objectively and wonderfully, from the eyes of a man born and brought up, up North.

I liked Shahid Kapoor’s acting for the first time only in Jab We Met, though I didn’t like the movie. I knew then that this guy will go places if he has even a slightly deep role and a good director. Vishal has catapulted Shahid into another league with Kaminey. Shahid’s lisp and stuttering sound very natural unlike all those Bollywood movies where a caricature is made of people with such speech impediments. He plays 2 very different roles with great skill and one does forget that it is being played by the same person. You actually suffer when he stutters and your heart goes out to him. Shahid will definitely walk away with at least a couple awards for this performance. One of the most memorable scenes in the movie is when a corrupt narcotics officer makes Guddu [Shahid] sing out information, to avoid his stuttering.

Vishal has also successfully stayed away from caricaturing characters, which must have been a herculean task given that this is a thriller with a shade of humor. Everyone has a reason to be where they are and the humor emanates from tricky situations rather than naught ;) . Even when Bhope the gangster politician teases Charlie [Shahid] on his lisping, it doesn’t sound condescending but actually sounds funny – all because Vishal makes everything fit into place very well.

I have never been impressed with Priyanka Chopra’s acting skills and have wondered how she laps up one award after another. I am aware that she is immensely popular, almost everyone I know likes her but I have never really been convinced of her acting prowess. She surprised me in Kaminey, looks like she too needs a thinking director to get the best out of her. She definitely puts a lot into her character and makes it look real and believable. As ever, she looks great so the guys don’t need to worry about her non glamorous get up.

Almost everyone in this movie has given a good performance. Amol Gupte [the brains behind Taare Zameen Par] who plays Bhope will dazzle you with his perfect rendition of a Maharashtrian gangster turned politico. The actors who play Bengali gangters also do a great job.

Vishal has also broken some stereotypes with this movie, it is not your usual Bollywood twins fare, and Bengalis who are normally some kind of artists in most movies are gangsters in this one! He has researched his movie and demonstrates well his knowledge of the Bengali gangs and their personality. Also, many languages are spoken in this film including Marathi, Bengali, Afrikaan and Portuguese. Though one can guess what is being said, I do wish he had provided subtitles everywhere for more clarity.

Looks like Vishal wanted to use the film medium to discuss the Bihari’s and UPites not welcome in Mumbai debate. He addresses the issue without getting preachy and by weaving it beautifully into the storyline.

So then why have I given this amazing movie a 4 and not a 5, you ask? According to me Maqbool is still Vishal’s best film, the only one worthy of a 5 star rating. Kaminey is fabulous but hasn’t attained the heights [depths?] of a Maqbool.

Also, I wonder if he has done more explaining than is required in attempting to make Kaminey a commercial success. His movies have always received critical acclaim, but have not exactly been jingling the cash registers. So he has tried some commercialism tricks like explaining scenes and using more than necessary songs. I think the movie could have been made crisper and tauter [and riskier?] eg., the title song could have very well been combined with the entire father dying explanation episode.

All said, do please go and watch this movie, you may want to watch it more than once. It has been strangely given an “A” rating even though movies with more adult content have slipped through the censors untagged [eg. Gajjini was given a U/A!!]. Don’t let the swine flu scare worry you too much, just carry a large handkerchief and cover your mouth and nose while you watch this superb movie :)

I feel Vishal would have taken more risks and would include more adult content if he weren’t making movies for the Indian film industry. He does sometimes seem like he is containing himself and showing only glimpses of what he would have otherwise dared to honestly show. This is a genuine hurdle that he and other filmmakers like him must be suffering, as creative people. Must be very hard for him to come up with winners like Kaminey given such constraints.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Love Aaj Kal - TWO stars

Before you growl and jeer at me for giving this popular movie a 2 star rating, let me provoke you further by confessing that I didn't like Jab We Met either! [this reminds me of another popular movie I didn't like long ago - Hum Aapke Hain Kaun, my husband and I were the only 2 people snoring in a festive atmosphered jam packed cinema hall].
It is not that I don't like brainless TP movies, I do watch some of them and there are some I have even liked eg. SRK starrer Om Shanti the point is, even if they are brainless I like them if they have a heart hidden somewhere...

If you are objective and hence are still continuing to read this blog then here is a longish bullet pointed review of Love Aaj Kal [LAK] :)
  • You might wonder why I went to see another Imitiaz Ali movie, not having liked his Jab We Met [JWM]. After JWM, I had seen Imitiaz's interviews and was convinced the guy would get better with every movie given that he comes across as being sensitive and very open to learning.
  • For all of you who didn't know, Imtiaz said in a recent interview that he himself is not a great fan of Jab We Met. So he and I do agree ;)
  • To be fair to Imtiaz, LAK is better than JWM [I can hear the boo sounds rising]...let me humbly admit that Imtiaz has improved since his last film
  • By now you must have heard of the highly talked about and loved break up party scene in the movie, it was very uninteresting, unfunny & unimaginative to say the least. Imtiaz admitted in the same interview that this was something that he would have liked to do differently had he the chance, I agree with him again! [he too (like me) found it amusing that people were going gaga over this scene]
  • Saif Ali Khan who acted brilliantly in almost all his movies since Dil Chahta Hai, was actually uncomfortable in some parts [of his non Sardar role] eg. when Rishi Kapoor starts narrating his love story to him in the airport, Saif looks ill at ease doesn't know what pose he should sport...almost like he can't believe he agreed to mouth such dialogues and carry such scenes. Or maybe he just can't be objective when he is also producing a movie in which he is acting...and it shows. He acts well otherwise through most of the movie, especially as the Sardar. He also has 2 meaty roles, so I won't blame him for making the [al]most of it.
  • Don't believe what anyone says about Deepika Padukone, she has acted very well, she looks lovely and has set some cool dressing trends with her simple yet sheek style. Unfortunately, she does not have a well thought through role to play, Saif and she share no chemistry whatsoever, and she cant really be blamed if the film itself is mediocre. I feel sad [for her] that she is part of a film which has turned out to be a smash hit, but she is herself getting lots of flak for her acting skills. Her real life beau [Ranbir] on the other hand had an exact opposite experience with Saawariya, if you recall :)
  • Rishi Kapoor floored me in Luck By Chance [LBC] and I was looking forward to seeing him again in LAK, but here he looks like he is not too serious about the role he is playing and is just filling in for someone else temporarily. I think Imtiaz has lifted 2 things from LBC viz., Rishi Kapoor and the template of the fabulous and apt LBC circus song -- mindlessly misplaced in LAK ofcourse
  • This review is incomplete if I don't mention the mystery girl who turns out to be a Brazilian model in real life...Giselle who plays Harleen in the film is fresh, charming and fits the role like a was smart of Imtiaz to keep her identity a secret till the movie had been seen by some of us at least [to see if we could figure out that she was not Indian, I guess]
  • The music of the movie is good, supplemented with some interesting, innovative dance steps. So Imtiaz does get some bits of his movies consistently right - music, cinematography, screenplay and some of the humor
  • So what is it that goes wrong?: His films leave me empty. I don't feel anything for any of the characters and a lot of his so called humor is do I say it...not funny at all. I do find a handful of his scenes good and even funny sometimes, but not enough to make me like the whole movie. Also his effort to copy paste everyday lingo into Bollywood style movie making is somehow not getting integrated properly and looks unconvincing. Others have done this with panache in the past.
  • Ahem, need I say more? avoid this movie if you can, see his interviews instead, at least they will give you some hope for the future...and in any case LAK will appear on Moser Baer and on TV sooner and cheaper than you just wait, don't spend pots in a multiplex -- that too on a precious weekend, please!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince - THREE stars

  • A lot of people who have read the book, didn't like the movie. The movie has received mixed reviews. I saw it with a mini HP maniac not having read the books myself. Both of us loved the movie and wondered how someone who has read it [or not] can't love it.
  • For those of you out there like me, who haven't read any HP book, please understand the basics before watching an HP movie, like my little HP maniac says there is more to HP than magic. Magic is only the template JKR uses to drive home some age old philosophies, says she :)
  • There are many ways to interpret the HP series, 1. The victory of good over evil 2. How the process to achieve something is more important than the goal itself 3. How heroes don't always come announced or know of their powers themselves, i.e. anyone can be a hero 4. No amount of ESP devices can overthrow a good heart nurtured painfully with love 5. If you believe you are lucky you will behave like you are [Ron's match winning]...etc. etc. etc. All this must be difficult enough to put into a book in an honest way, imagine what it must be like to translate that into a motion picture. The movie stays very true to the spirit of the book, even I [someone who hasn't read the book] can confidently say that. It just has that authentic feel about it.
  • They say HP stories and movies are too complicated and dark for kids, but the fact that kids enjoy and swear by them is a clear indicator that kids can process complicated and dark things far better than adults can, simply because they have not been overpowered by staid education in the mind numbing lives of adults. The kids I saw in the cinema couldn't have been dragged out of there midway, even if there was a bomb scare. This was just TOO important to them. And I could clearly see why. The applause they gave when the names rolled on the screen created an energy you must experience to believe.
  • The story on which this movie is based is very dark and hence understandably the makers have tried their best to paint it [in most places] with cheerful teenage romantic antics, to make it less depressing. But JKR loyalists might find this a bit too much and unnecessary, they would have wanted the movie to remain as dark as the book. I guess the pressures of commercialisms would have forced the makers to choose this shift, given that the movie [unlike the book] has to cater to non HP readers too.
  • The scene where Dumbledore is killed is very well done, just like the rest of the movie - no over dramatization with time wasting tactics, every minute of this movie has been used well. I can only imagine what HP fans must have felt when they read about this scene for the first time, not knowing that it would happen, gosh!
  • How the director and script writers decide what to include and what to keep out of the film [and yet stay true to it], from a book of such stature, beats me.
  • Fabulous movie, MUST see...even for non HP fans/readers.

Hangover - THREE and HALF stars

Henceforward, for some movies I will give bullet pointed reviews -- not because the reviewed movies don't deserve any better but because I may not have found the time for a detailed review OR may have just found it good enough to write a review this way:

  • Fabulous comedy cum thriller which strangely manages to keep you laughing at the edge of your seat
  • No big Hollywood comedy names, hence it is fresh hilariousness
  • If you don't pay attention to the dialogues well, you may miss some diamond wits and will then need to see the movie again, which in any case is a good excuse to see it again :)
  • Avoid watching it with people who may be embarrassed by unparliamentary language, the film uses such language generously and unpretentiously
  • Don't remember seeing such a funny movie with a strong storyline, for a long time
  • I personally fell in love with the character played by Zach Galifianakis [bro of the bride-to-be] simply because he is bright and dim and hilarious all at the same time, reminds me of someone I know [you know who you are! :)]
  • The format of the film and the credits are very appropriate and interesting, kept simple and creative -- a far cry from the complicated, irritating templates used nowadays in the name of novelty
  • An absolutely MUST see!