Monday, November 03, 2008

Waiting for the Mahatma

RK Narayan is best known for putting life into the small town that is Malgudi. And within its perimeters he is a master.He could dissect the daily details to nuanced perfection and (if you are a South Indian) you are transported right into the small household on Kabir street. Such is his narration and attention to (otherwise neglected) details. But, that is when he is talking about Swami and his friends. Or say about small town people and their daily chores.

Here, the canvas he has chosen is much wider. The characters he tries to sketch are itching to take a form much larger than routine. The circumstances are such. The backdrop is political. And he tries to set a love story in it. There are quite a few tracks which RKN tries to weave in this story.

1. The protagonists characterization - his coming of age, love for the woman and his inner emotional and moral tribunals
2. The woman - strong-headed, in love and totally dedicated her life to the service of Mahatma, and hence the people
3. The various events in the late pre-independence era

And, this is where he loses touch. His narration style is stuck to Malgudi whereas the protagonist here is no Swami. RKN, though, treats him none too differently. The character is brought out by reading his thoughts aloud. He is a child sitting by the window struggling to come to terms with the world. And he has fallen in love - with the first woman he has come in conversation with. This woman is level headed. Knows what she is doing. He worships her for what she is. And she leads him unto Mahatma Gandhi. She likes him too - but would not nod till the Mahatma gives the go ahead. He is awed and then on the tale revolves around his meanderings amidst the political turmoil. His emotions and state of mind are ventedout as actions. He becomes utterly vulnerable. He fights to find his balance while being shoved around by a revolutionary. There is a fight that is taking place between his ego and his sense of duty. He is blinded in this fight and ends up in jail. Every moment his inner turmoil is marked by reactions to his woman's (imagined) actions. The day he is released he leaves for her and finds her in Delhi. The climax, though predictable, has been well written. As you read the final pages - you know what exactly is going to happen - and hence doesn't punch you hard enough.

The narration is not tight - and at places slackens in both pace and coherence. The power of the plot lies in the character sketch of the protagonist. That comes across quite well. Politics does not look like RKNs playground. Or maybe it wasn't his intention to bring in politics in the least. Either ways - its fleeting presence does not deliver the goods. The socio-economic sketch that the reader envisions has not been given enough verbose backing. The plot doesn't hold you - it flows a bit easily - like the stories set in Malgudi. But here somehow, the style does not suit me. The plot, if it had been much tighter say in like say 'Train to Pakistan' the novel would have risen notches.

All said, this is a very good read - especially for fans of RKN. All those who are in for a dose of light pre-Independence set-up, pick this up.

'Once the wait was over; he bade us good-bye!'


It was Page 3 revisited sans the powerhouse performance and the punches packed in. Nothing special in this 'trying to be gritty' tale about how a Chandigarh di Kudi becomes a diva and after seeing the 'highs' falls hard to the lows - and how!

The movie does start off earnestly albeit in a cliched manner with Meghna Mathur (Priyanka Chopra) leaving her house in small-time Chandigarh to make it big in the City of Dreams - Bombay. Her efforts are sincere - and some cleverly attended parties brings her straight into the company of the Fashion World's high fliers. Her confidence and attitude sees her through the 'struggle period' with charming ease. Her morals are held high and all's well for the damsel. One questionable comment about her morality by a leading designer and she walks away from her first big break! But surprise, surprise - a silent Mr. Sarin (Arbaaz Khan) of the leading designer brand (Panache, nice name - I thought) ropes her right in as their ambassador, terminating Shonali's (Kangana) contract for no apparent reason. Within no time we see Meghna walking the ramps being the show stoppers for most fashion shows littering Bombay. Her attitude builds up and thus slowly, very slowly begins her downfall. Starting from her break-off with her live-in boy-friend right to her going into depression.

Throw in Priyanka sleeping around with a black guy, a whole lot of homo-sexuals, drugs-drinks-smokes and a slip-down on a ramp walk... that is what the movie is all about. The plot on its own is decent enough and lays down a decently wide canvas for the director to paint in. Where Madhur falters, I thought, though is on two counts - there is nothing new shown in this movie. And at nearly 3 hours it is simply too long. The dialogues in the pretext of reality cinema are banal. The screenplayis nothing to talk home about. Music by the talented duo Salim-Suleiman is reminiscent of Page 3 - so are the characters, so are the actors, the scenes, the treatment. Heck, everything.

On the performance front, except for Priyanka and a little bit of Kangana here and there, there is none too much on display. Priyanka gives her best performance till date. Not to say she was brilliant or anything throughout - but let us just say, the rest of her performances till date have been nothing special. As long as Kangana keeps her mouth shut and has to act stoned - she is fine. In fact she meanders in that margin where you might think she might give in a brilliant moment but the director spoils it all by giving her a dialogue or two. (Note: Swearing, especially in English, by all Bollywood actors seems so contrived and unconvincing.) Anyway, one scene warrants special mention. The first time Kangana is shown walking the ramp - she looks all high and disinterested when she has to walk in. Then she takes the 10-odd steps that leads her to the ramp and the camera is right at her face as she takes the turn. Watch her expression change ever so lightly at every step and from being a drunken-little thing backstage she takes her first step on the ramp as if she owns the stage. She walks the ramp and jaws drop. The music in the background that rises to a crescendo is subdued by the mere walk Kangana possesses. That moment - I liked! Priyanka looks a kid - every step an amateur on the ramp.To give her due credit - it suits her image of being a small-town girl and all that. But her walk looks unnatural even during her last supposedly emotional ramp and that looks stupid. Anyway.

As for the director - he is trying to outdo himself and that is apparent. Why - one couldn't fathom. He is doing fine with his relaity bytes cinema - but to merely take a framework and apply it to different scenarios is appalling.You got to treat the subject differently. Show different shades. The protagonist undergoes a character change and that is shown quite well - but it lacks depth at every scene. That - maybe is limitation of the actor, rather than the sketch itself. However, the end result is poor. Humor is pathetic at best. Where he scores is despite the topic - you could watch it with the family. It is glamorous alright, but never vulgar. The fashion world that Madhur has created never looks pretentious. All's fine except the way he has executed. He wants to make a movie rather than tell a story. He takes extreme moral stands and that is probably because that is the way Indian audiences work.

At the end of it all - it doesn't look like the work of a 3 time national award winner. Fashion - lacks the passion.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

The Happening

So, in Central Park people come to a stand still all of a sudden. A lady removes a long sharp object, that is used to hold her hair intact, and pokes herself dead through her throat (the gore, admirably not shown!). So, one (read, Me) is not at fault if one thinks the movie has a lot to reveal, especially if the movie opens with a sequence like the one mentioned above! Anyway, just when the part of the mind which is kept safe and secure to revel in some insightful movie which drops by with the occasional meteor sighting, sets itself up to revel in the likely event of a meteor sighting, you are bombarded with a scene that is an oh-so-cliched version of a science class! And the scene after this was the best of the movie.

Picture this. 3 construction workers are talking; cracking jokes as you would expect them to especially after having done so in innumerable movies before! Which might prompt one to think, why do construction workers always joke when they are in a movie? Anyway, this is probably the only part of the movie, if at all, on which I may spare inflicting sarcasm. Having so decided, let me move on. So, these guys are generally joking and laughing, when one of their colleagues falls to death. "John!" exclaims one of them, only to show he knows his name - for there is no other consequence of that exclamation! He then goes on, as a good samaritan would, to inform medics about this accident, when he hears another sound - another colleague fallen to death. Then another. Another. Another. And the scene I like the most, as the camera moves upwards you see people - in line - walking off the planks from the top floor. Not being pushed. Not thrown. They are walking off; to their own deaths.

And this is exactly when I would request, and in keeping with good humanitarian practices, even beg you all to leave the movie hall. Just get up and leave. Do not worry about the rest of the movie - or the gross amount of money you paid only a few minutes ago. Unless, I know you love this unless, of course you like humor! Because, that is provided aplenty.

It is at this stage that the viewer is introduced to a new character, one which changes color and character all the time. The boom mic. I have seen many a movies, but none like this. None where you can see the boom mic all the time! They appear is various colors and shapes - black, silver, black with a red ring, lolly-pop shaped, a wholesome one, etc. It is really funny, and you have to see it to believe it. It is otherwise impossible that such a thing 'happen's but for in a movie titled so - it is after all the Happening! The laughter in the movie hall reaches hysterical proportions when in a certain scene we can actually see the mic oscillate between actors as they exchange conversations. Frankly, this was the only entertaining part and for one, I could claim that I have indeed seen this phenomenon actually happen!

Disclaimer: This 'happening' though been reported in many a movie halls across the world; some claim that they haven't seen anything that hideous as I describe. So, in case you are one who would risk that - please do at your own cost

Well then, back to the plot! There is a news bulletin (yes yes, like the one in Signs) where some Ph. D. guy from MIT claims that this is due to some toxin released in the air by some, yes you guessed it right, terrorists who are now indulging in bio-chemical warfare. And shortly, there is another comment which says that the pattern (oh yes, this phenomenon is now spreading all through the North East) suggests this is not in fact a terrorist attack. Also, the toxin works in a 3-step process.
1. Person looses short term memory
2. Person is completely disoriented
3. Person gets this immutable drive to kill himself

In the meantime, it attacks the hero's city and they are advised to vacate the city. The way MNS (not of the Sena fame, duh!) has shot this scene is indeed interesting. For once, he does not create panic-filled-helter-skelter-running scenes, instead choosing to show people moving out in numbers very calmly. That, I would submit is indeed soothing.

Now, after their train stops mid-earth and people run from there too (of course the hero and his wife are left behind, duh!); they meet this guy who offers them a lift and some botanical mythical-facts like plants communicate amongst different species and such-like. He says plants react and evolve. When a certain kind of worm attacks the plants, they release a toxin to attract wasps and thus evolve with self-protective mechanisms. Thus, he claims, much to the humor of our hero-heroine jodi, that now plants are reacting to human stimuli. We have wronged them and they are taking revenge! And a few more random scenes-of-people-dying-in-various-ways later, hero finally not just believes in the plant stimuli thingy, but also brings out a pattern wherein the plants react only if a minimum number of people are around.

Oh man! I just realized that my narration doesn't sound half as bad as the film itself! Well, after they are given refuge by an eccentric old lady and surprisingly the 'winds' victimize her (Oh! Her death is irritatingly dramatic!) leaving the hero-heroine untouched! Then what MNS does is bizarre, not only 3 months later does he show that the wife is pregnant but also ends it with a similar Central Park scene in some part of the world!

End of movie.

And, in keeping with my good nature of imparting credit where it is due - I give it to the director for making the movie so effective, in the sense -

Immediately after getting out of the movie hall -
1. I had a short term memory loss
2. I was completely disoriented
3. I got this immutable drive to kill myself and/ or Manoj Night Shyamalan

End of review.

PS: For the keener audience - I loved the plot. The hero-heroine jodi were spared because they are in the process of getting back together and exchanging lovey-dovey sweeteners. And, at some point in the movie the botany-maniac says talking sweetly has a positive effect on the plants and such-like. Hence, probably spared. Or whatever! But for the boom mic, I guess the movie would have been much better!

Monday, June 16, 2008


A wonderfully crafted story narrated with the simplicity of a grandmother! Tingya is about this little boy who loves his bull. And that is all. No; the movie doesn't boast of breath taking cinematography. It doesn't have any intriguing screenplay to keep the viewer engaged. The performances, but for a few scenes, are just adequate. The music is just one song, throughout the movie, sung (or played) in varying moods and tempo.

And yet, the movie is super. Because it relies on what I feel is most fundamental - the plot/ story and more importantly the sincerity of all involved in its treatment. That is where Tingya strikes. None of them, not the director, not the actors, heck - not even the story tries to become bigger than the story to be told. The viewer is engaged because the narrators want the viewer to listen. It is that sincerity that shows. The characters are beautifully developed. Right from the hapless farmer, to his ever understanding wife, the girl next door who plays Tingya's friend and the innocently brave Tigya - the characters are sketched to perfection.

There are scenes written which reach out, without being dramatic. There are lines which are strong, without being preachy. There is a message which is important, without being explicit. The movie is dedicated to the farmers who committed suicide across Maharashtra and Andhra Pradesh, and the movie mentions but only once about the same. The extraordinarily simplistic movie making is what drives it home. The sincerity is so evident, that the movie seems almost documentary-ish. It is clearly not for the popular masses - but as with Shwas, no one can not like it! Such is the movie, that it might put many a film makers to shame, and quite a few to revisit film making!

Do watch!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sarkar Raj

So I came up, close and not too personal with Sarkar Raj on the first night of the release. A lot did I expect from this movie, from RGV especially after the 'Aag' debacle. WIth expectations come disappointments. And besides, RGV is a kind who is nonchalant about falls, unperturbed by the loss and wouldn't care less about the flak. He makes movies for one simple reason - he wants to make it. With an attitude as that, the onus of liking the movie falls head first on the viewers. First things first, I didn't find the movie as bad as the reviews all over portray it to be. It isn't a good movie though, despite a decent plot, strong actors and whimsical camera work.

So, the movie begins with a typical Sarkar like execution sequence where Chote Sarkar (Abhishek) has taken over the mantle and Sarkar is celebrating his birthday! In such a world where people prefer dying falling off trains than to wait a couple of minutes for the next train, Sarkar's birthday does attract a lot of crowd. An inexplicable number of people are seen standing in the Sarkar-Mahal grounds much like in the olden days when the King would come onto the balcony on his birthday. Of course, then the King would throw away gold coins, and other such ostentatiously expensive items and enjoy the ongoing stampede for money and its like, which sort of explains the inexplicable crowd! But no such luck here for Mumbaikars, who after having created much applause and jingoist cheer receive much to their disappointment only the wave of a hand from the Big B! In fact, keen movie goers might even notice a section of the crowd moves out in sheer despair with the sound department doing a very commendable work in cutting out comments like 'What has the world come to...', 'Chya maaila...' etc.! It is then that the Big B announces that there is nothing more joy-giving to a parent than to see his own son take his place and excel; and hence calls Chote Sarkar to give darshan to the audience. This time the already frustrated audience cheers up doubly well and some in fact throw in a couple of cheesy 'Chote Sarkar ki Jai ho' and the likes thinking this might remind them of the duty due to be executed! Oh btw, good work sound department! However, Chote sarkar comes in to give a much 'chota' darshan and immediately leaves to attend another phone call (which, by the way, would make you wonder at the end of the movie as to who the hell was calling him up all the time!). And all this while, the only part you would enjoy is the engaging camerawork.

Now seriously, I doubt if RGV had heard the background score even once before meshing it up with the film. If in Sarkar you felt that the Govinda chants were a bit too many; please, and I mean it sincerely, please take your ear plugs along. Why would someone want to westernize the chants, Amar Mohile is to answer. On top of that, a rural setting with a local leader leading a pack of vollage folks on top of a truck does not warrant a rock sound in the foreground background. The sitar which was sufficiently abused in Sarkar returns, only to annoy the sitarists further. Overall, the only points that the music department garners is for pure audacity. Why would anyone, even if the anyone is Ram Gopal Verma himself, want to do this time and over again, no one can explain! The songs, huh!

The camera is, I felt, the only aspect that keeps the film alive. The angles and the light has to be entirely credited to Ram Gopal, as the indulgence of the maverick (?) clearly shows. If you thought Sarkar was full of close ups, this time around you move at least an inch closer to the characters. While it might irritate some beyond measure; I did find out two things. Abhishek does not have a clear complexion and Aishwarya puts on a hell lot of make up! These apart, the angles surprise you frame after frame. The overly done sepia tone of the movie makes the setting a lot more surreal than the plot itself.

The dialogues in the movie had to be given a re-think. The father-son combo have been given a lot of screen space together and they converse only in punch lines. Good to begin with, cheesy after the first half. IMO at least a couple of them are classics - Faayda wahi hai jo sabka ho and Khoon karna jurm hai; sahi samay par jurm karna - raajniti! That apart, the rest of the cast is hardly given anything noticeable, which focuses all our attention to the father-son duo which didn't make me much too happy.

The performances are good, though Abhishek doesnt seem to be mature enough to handle the chair of Sarkar! One shivers when Aishwarya is seen asking for a cup of tea in the closing scene. Amitabh's role in the movie was weak, despite which he emerges a winner. 'Chander' who enacted the classic opening sequence in the first volume is reduced to unfortunate nothingness.

All said, I loved the plot. It has politics mixed with corporate profit and the rural junta playing scapegoats - all masterminded, of course, by the one whom you would, under ideal conditions, least expect! And there in lies the undoing of the movie too. It is the screenplay to a large extent which doesn't put in enough to weave the crucial sequences into an intelligent sequence. And hence, unfortunately Amitabh in his now-over-heard base voice is left to narrate the whole plot to Aishwarya in one sequence, much as a grandfather would to his granddaughter. It is a plot so cunningly conceived, says the grandpa to granddaughter; only it is not the Mahabharatha now - both sitting in chairs, and we are left listening to the plot unfold in less than a minute while watching the camera focussing through Amitabh's fingers from behind him, or something to that effect!

The direction moves from good to mediocre to amateurish. The only romantic scene before between Abhishek and Aishwarya is forced in only to heighten the effect of Abhishek getting shot; which by the way I felt fell flat. You wouldn't wince once while he gets shot some 5-6 times! And RGV, if the hero is on a terrace with the heroine and saying cheesy lines like all the thorns in our path are gone, no more villains and nobody can stop me - the viewer no longer expects; he knows the hero is gone for the movie!

The closing scene (read Aishwarya may be the next lead in Sarkar Rani (or whatever!)) still sends down shivers and I am left wondering; Shiva, Satya, Company, Sarka, Sarkar Raj - what next?!

PS: Next of course is a movie titled Contract with a tag line that reads 'where underworld meets terrorism'

PPS: Some changes made to the grandpa-granddaughter bit after Harini's inputs

Saturday, May 10, 2008


First things first. The movie is for kids, at best qualifying as a summer vacation family entertainer. And to make sure he caters to the family, the director includes a supposedly tear jerking second half, which in my accordance is the primary undoing for the film which could otherwise have been an out and out kids entertainer. There is something in the DNA of the Indian movie maker that compels him to insert a song here and there, the relevance taking the back seat. Well, to give due credits the opening song has been fantastically directed and shot. Everything from the music to the camera adds to the glam-sham.

The first half is funny, with a couple of scenes just qualifying to the hilarious category. And it is after the initial 35-40 mins that the director's total loss of control over the genre or direction of the movie starts becoming apparent. Why anyone would choose to turn a potential laugh-riot for kids into a 'mukti' seeking 'aatma's story is beyond my intellectual reach. There is not much to review in the movie per se, as the story has been seen, lived a hundred times at least in Hindi movies.

As for the performances, the kid is good. Though only a Mani Ratnam could do full justice as far as eliciting realistic emotions from kids are concerned. Well, now Aamir too. This kid is not Darsheel-good; but the comparison at best would be unfair. Amitabh is really cool as the 'bhoot' in the first half, and keeping in sync with the movie loses it in the second. Juhi, as much as I love her bubbly roles, is slowly getting irritating. Shahrukh sizzles in the measly guest appearance screen time he has. Apart from that the Satish Shah and Rajpal yadav comedy track seems banal. Camera, SFX, sound and other technicalities are just fine, nothing adding to the movie in particular but thankfully not taking anything away from it either. In the music department, Vishal-Shekhar under-perform yet again. Though the background score is efficient.

Overall, the movie is worth a dekho on a weekend night with plenty of kids around so you feel good sitting amidst sounds of laughter riots, at least in the first half.

Friday, May 09, 2008


For those who don't have the time or inclination to read the review... the movie is good. If you haven't watched A Few Good Men (AFGM); do not miss this one. For the rest...

Putting together a cast that any director would die for, Samar Khan pulls together a much better attempt this time than his forgettable Kuch Meetha Ho Jaye! With KK Menon, Rahul Bose and Javed Jaffery the lead powerhouse characters were in place. Minissha Lamba ably plays the second fiddle. The movie overall is a tight piece of work with some good scenes and creditable performances, especially Javed Jaffery. Samar Khan seems to have taken scenes directly from AFGM to the extent that even the dialogues and the delivery seem to be rehashed versions. Technically, the movie is good. Camera work is helped by the very backdrop: Kashmir. The court room scene is well enacted by Rahul and KK, though Tom and Jack in the original leave the viewers astounded. I thought KK had the toughest role to do. Especially because his sequences were almost a replica of Jack's from the original.

As far as the plot goes, the original even today amazes me because nothing is personal there. Whereas, the Indianized version, though tightly woven, has the personal vendetta touch to it, the Hindu-Muslim yet again forming the backdrop. As much as the plot seems to be trite and banal, the director ensures a good flow and does not deviate with unnecessary songs or comedy tracks. Rahul, I feel, is falling with each movie into his own trap. His characterization of the carefree lawyer is very much like the one in Pyar ke Side Effects. He, I advise, has to come out of this self-typecasting. KK, in his introduction is a touch comical which doesn't hold up with his character. But again, holds his class in the scenes that matter the most.

Overall, a very good remake of an excellent movie. Go catch it.