Thursday, December 01, 2011

Ra.One – Bullet Point Report

  • All the scenes involving Ra.One - except for the climax - are well executed. Sadly, the movie has other scenes too.

  • This has to be one of the worst opening sequences in any film, ever.
    Its official; SRK should not ever do long hair again (unless he plays Lizardman or something similarly reptile-like).

  • The special appearances are yawn inducing. Rajnikanth looks old and haggard – did Red Chillies run out of money to apply the Photoshop touchups ;)?

  • What is it with SRK and Tamilian spoofs? He did a terrible one is OSO, and the one here is only marginally better – at least, in terms of Tamil dialogues (expecting the right accent is too much, I guess). The noodles scene was gross, though.

  • The child acts reasonably well; just the fact that his emotions registered under that hideous wig says a lot.

  • Kareena is terrible here – reminds one of her Khushi days. The sole saving grace is the “Chammak Challo” number. She still delivers that one moment, where she turns and smiles with the red in her eyes.

  • After Cash and Ra.One, it is evident that Anubhav Sinha should stop doing any kind of humor and concentrate only on songs & action sequences. Designing video games would be a good career option as well, IMHO.

  • As for SRK, he tries hard to make the movie work, but succeeds only to some extent. As the bumbling game developer, he is a bit endearing despite the hamming and the Tamil stereotyping etc – especially in the sequences where he tries to reach out to his son. However he screws up G.One by playing him as a mixture of Terminator II and Rahul.

  • It is when you watch the forced humor here that you get to appreciate what someone like Karan Johar can do with his screenplay and dialogue-writing skills.

  • SRK seems to be alluding to the rumors of his being bisexual as he cups Kareena’s breast and Arjun’s balls – both scenes were downright silly.

  • To me, Ra.One was marginally better than Krish and Drona, as it seemed to be spoofing itself most of the time. However, it isn’t even in the same planet as Enthiran. To put things in perspective, Ra.One is sort of the like the mosquito episode in Enthiran.

Monday, November 28, 2011

7-am Arivu: Bullet Point Report

  • 7-am Arivu is Surya’s “Dasavatharam”, and I certainly do not mean that as a compliment. The first 20 minutes is paisa-vasool; but the next 2 hours provide several cringe-worthy moments that almost make you forget the first half.

  • The Chinese song sounds so much like “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star...” . Did Bodhidharman introduce this song to the world too? Just asking ;).

  • The whole circus background was so unnecessary. I initially thought Murugadoss was trying for some parallel to “Apoorva Sahodarargal” , but alas – or perhaps thankfully – not.

  • After the movie I thought this was the 3rd superhero movie during Diwali – for Shruti Hassan could do genetic engineering, history research, ride an elephant, take up cudgels on behalf of Thamizh culture, distract museum guards, pontificate about cancer…wow!

  • Except for the Bodhidharman portions, this was a disappointing performance by Surya – especially considering that he generally manages to impress even in a masala flick like “Singham”.

  • It’s final. Shruti is not – NOT – a chip off the old block. She deserves full marks for trying though – very earnest:).

  • Murugadoss finds a kick-ass villain, and still botches it up big time. First he overdoes the hypnotism bit until the audience groans at the umpteenth hypnotism sequence. Then he does it all over again with the zombie portions. I am sure both ideas sounded great one paper (and they do work well for while), but end up being poorly executed.

  • Music sucks, especially the BGM.

  • At the end of the movie, I fantasized about substituting Surya and Shruti with Vijaykanth and Namitha; the quality of the climax was firmly in “Dharmapuri” area by then. The scene where Shruti berates the scientists for not talking in Tamil was a major contributing factor in this assessment as well.

  • If Aamir Khan remakes this, I’d really like to see what he concocts out of this mess of a movie.

Monday, October 03, 2011

Favorite Nazi Movies

The first week of October is historically significant, for it marked the first crack in the wall for the Nazi regime (Naples fell to the Allies on Oct I, and marked the beginning of the end). I wanted to take this as an inspiration on some of my favorite Nazi movies.

Saving Private Ryan: A Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg collaboration, this one was an absolute masterpiece. The first 15-20 minutes were absolute cinematic genius.

Downfall: This German movie depicts the last days of Hitler holed up in his bunker, and his deterioration from a in-control leader to a spluttering, ineffective old man. Bruno Ganz provides an acting masterclass in the lead role. Also, this is a heavily researched move - several quotes are used.

Schindler’s List: Steven Spielberg goes against type in this brilliant cinematic depiction of Oskar Schindler’s life, as he saves the lives of over a 1000 Jewish/Polish refugees during the war.

Life is Beautiful: A “haunting comedy” based on Jewish persecution during WWII is perhaps the only way one could describe this movie - but mere words do not mete out justice to this masterpiece. Roberto Benigni stars and directs.

American History X: Not a Nazi movie in the strictest sense of the word (although it does involve Neo Nazism), this is more a commentary on white supremacy and bigotry. Ed Norton mesmerizes in a performance that is perhaps his greatest to date (which is a great compliment in itself).

Inglorious Basterds: Only Quentin Tarantino could spin a yarn as far-fetched as this one, and actually pull it off. Christopher Waltz is suitably menacing as Hans Landa, and there are enough dialogues to drive Tarantino fans (such as myself) into raptures.

The Great Dictator: Charlie Chaplin. Enough said.

Boys from Brazil: A truly fantastic plot (saying any more will be a desservice to those who have not read this book); the book by Ira Levin is also a fantastic read.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Conversation with a Saint: Bullet Point Report

  • Pranchiyettan …” is, I believe, director Ranjit giving the finger to those who had labeled him a “Hinduvta” director after a series of movies such as Devasuram, Ravanaprabhu, Nandanam, Prajapathy etc.

  • There have been several movies based on the Kottayam Christian milieu; however movies set in Thrissur are rare. Other than Padmarajan’s Thoovanathumbikal, I can remember no other movie that has used the town and its slang as an important facet in the movie.

  • It is refreshing that the movie has no “villains”. Siddhique is portrayed as Pranchi’s main rival, but Ranjit has resisted the temptation of having either the hero or villain import a dozen ruffians from several different places, and indulge in an outlandish fight sequence.

  • The whole bit about hints around the hypocritical lives lead by Siddhique and Khushboo was uncalled for – a cheap shot, really. Could Pranchi not find his happiness even as his childhood sweetheart and her husband lived happily too?

  • The whole speech sequence was awesome. It reminded me a bit of the iconic “balatkaar” sequence from “3 Idiots”; but the one in “Pranchiyettan…” was more about the fear of public speaking.

  • The whole concept of “Padmashree-chasing” was a riot. Ranjit clearly has a ball here, with digs at all and sundry.

  • Jagathy could have been avoided. He added absolutely nothing to the movie, and did nothing new (other than demonstrate a few Yoga poses) either.

  • Finally, what does one say of Mammootty? This amazing performance is most un-Mammootty-like; in fact it is almost Mohanlal-esque, except for the spotless Thrissur slang (which I think Mohanlal could not have quite managed). We all know that Mammootty excels in statuesque roles, but to see him excel as the self-deprecating Pranchi reminds us that the veteran still has unexplored depths. More innovative scripts please!

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

More Sequels – Malayalam Cinema

The dearth of interesting story lines in Malayalam cinema continues. As a result, there are more sequels being planned in Mollywood:

Pranchiyettan vs. Manickyam: Mammootty in an exciting double role re-enacting his memorable roles from the two blockbusters. A special wig has been ordered from Washington D.C.

Osama: Major Ravi exposes how the real Osama assassination went down in 2011. The focus of the story is Brigadier Mahadevan (Mohanlal), who had personally assisted the US SEAL team in bringing down the fugitive, but ended up losing credit in the end.

CBI Umpteen: K.Madhu, S.N.Swamy, and Mammootty reunite to reprise Sethurama Iyer, one of the most memorable characters of Malayalam cinema.

Indhuchoodan: Amal Neerad brings back the iconic Indhuchoodan. Alphonse is doing a re-mixed version of the Narasimham theme music that is being rendered by Jassie Gift.

Ormayundo Ee Mukham: Suresh Gopi is back as Bharatchandran I.P.S, the character that elevated his career. Renji Panicker directs, and promises a thriller that reflects the latest political happenings in Kerala.

Rajavinte Makan: Shaji Kailas remakes this Mohanlal classic with Prithviraj in the lead.

20-80: Prithviraj Sukumaran stars and produces the sequel to 20-20, and re-unites the entire Malayalam film industry. Dileep will appear in a special item number sung by Aditya Narayan as an additional attraction. The great-grandfather of Malayalam cinema, Mr. Joshiiee, will be directing the sequel as well.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Tees Maar Khan – Review

Much has been talked about of SRK’s split with Farah Khan (heck, SRK even did one of his famous quivering eyebrows teary-eyed act on Koffee with Karan that predictably had Karan sniffing and shedding a few tears of his own – one of the more nauseating television acts I have had the misfortune of seeing), but if all of Farah’s future films are going to be scripted / lifted by her husband, then SRK has probably done the right thing. Kitsch as they might be, MHN and OSO were smart, and had some genuinely funny moments. TMK has (maybe) one LOL moment, and predictably this is a scene without Akshay Kumar in it. But then, even SRK could not have salvaged TMK. SRK definitely has the last laugh here.

The first 10 minutes are fun, and that is about it. The next 2.5 hours leave you reeling with the agony of watching an impossibly painful movie. Don’t believe me? Take one of those mindless Priyadarsan remakes (Hungama, Hulchul etc); multiply the inanity and screaming by around 75%, and substitute Paresh Rawal (who for all his faults can definitely conjure up at least a grin in an hour) with a bunch of un-funny non-actors – you would pretty much get something similar to TMK.

For a non-actor, Akshay Kumar has had a pretty good run at Bollywood. However, he needs to select his scripts with better care. A smart-aleck act and a gummy smile can only be tolerated so far; a few slick action flicks are the want of the day. Frankly, AK is intolerable in TMK.

Katrina Kaif looks hot, and acts as if she is acting badly – not that she has to try too hard. However, all is forgiven with the Sheila Ki Jawani number. Akshaye Khanna hams it up to the hilt; he makes the most of what is really a role meant for Johny Lever. Arya Babbar looks interesting. The rest of the cast deserve to be spoken about (nay abused) in the filthiest of epithets.

Farah Khan has clearly lost her edge; perhaps she cannot do a film that is not a Bollywood spoof. At the very least, she should desist from any future collaboration with her husband (for films!), and write her own scripts. Eating humble pie and teaming up with SRK again would probably be a terrific idea as well.

Verdict: DO.NOT.WATCH.

Thursday, June 03, 2010

Bhramaram (A Circular Journey): Review

After the disappointing “Calcutta News”, Blessy bounces back into some semblance of form with “Bhramaram”. Although “Bhramaram” is certainly not up to the high standards set by the director’s own “Kazhcha” and “Thanmatra”, it is nevertheless an interesting watch ably shouldered by a burly Mohanlal.

From the time Mohanlal (Jose albeit Sivankutty) lands up at stockbroker Unni’s doorstep at Coimbatore, there is an air of foreboding about “Bhramaram”. Lal’s furtive glances and expressions add to the suspense. The movie proceeds on more or less a familiar path, until that stage of the film which reveals that Unni is about to embark upon the journey of his life with Sivankutty – not exactly the most amenable of companions. It is post-intermission that the movie comes on to its own, and hurtles toward the inevitable tragic climax.

*** Spoilers ahead ***
“Bhramaram” falters mainly in its pace. For one, character development is long drawn, and not particularly effective. For instance, Blessy hammers in again and again the fact that Sivankutty loves kids (as if Mohanlal would play a paedophile in a mainstream Malayalam film). In a similar fashion, there is a completely unnecessary sequence involving a run-in with truck drivers – that whole segment ought to have been edited out. The first half of the film totters about with no real aim (except maybe to “tell” the audience again and again that Mohanlal is playing an eccentric, unpredictable character) while the second half is fairly eventful. Worst of all, the sudden “guilt-attack” and subsequent confession looks awfully forced and hurried – almost as if the producer cracked the whip or something! My gut tells me that “Bhamaram” would have worked awfully better as a true road move, with a firm editor holding the scissors. Bharathan’s “Thazhvarom” is an excellent example of a film in a similar genre being handled in a much more controlled manner.

In the end, it is once again Mohanlal who hoists the film to a different level altogether. His burly demeanor, furtive body language, and expressive eyes convey a lot more than most of his dialogues, making them redundant. Mohanlal gets completely into the skin of the eccentric Sivankutty, except during the silly flashback where everybody hams (especially the irritating kid). Suresh Menon does a good job – a very effective foil to Mohanlal.

Verdict: Mohanlal makes this a must-watch, especially as interesting movies from him seem to be becoming extinct.

Wednesday, June 02, 2010

Kerala Cafe: Review

Ranjith (along with Blessy, to a lesser extent) seems to view himself as the torchbearer of quality Malayalam cinema for the future – not that this is a bad thing; amongst execrable fare like “Alexander-The Great”, “Pappi Appacha” and “Pokkiriraja”, Ranjith’s recent films stand tall.

“Kerala Café” is a rare conceit for Malayalam cinema – a collection of short films by an ensemble of directors. The last time we saw several directors at the helm was for “Manichitrathazhu”, which delighted the masses and critics alike. Unfortunately “Kerala Café” is no “Manichitrathazhu”, but is nevertheless an interesting and brave attempt.

M.Padmakumar’s “Nostalgia” focuses on the hypocrisy of a Gulf expatriate (Dileep) who waxes eloquent on his homeland while outside the country, but can only find cause of complaints once in Kerala. Dileep pitches in with a decent performance, but the subject lets him down badly. Not the best way to begin a collection of short stories!

“Island Express” was weird – I need to watch this one again. It probably did not help that I watched this one after a couple of beers on a hot Chennai night! My apologies to writer-director Shankar Ramakrishnan, who has clearly put a lot of thought into over-complicating this short story!

With “Lalitham Hiranmayam”, Shaji Kailas proves beyond doubt that both Suresh Gopi and he are best suited to the loud, overbearing, abusive cop dramas that they have become famous for ever since “Ekalavyan” and “Commissioner”. Suresh Gopi has a perpetual muddled expression here, perhaps reflective of the director’s state of mind. The actresses do what they can to salvage this short film on the emotional consequences of adultery, but to no avail.

“Mritynjayam” shows all signs of a forced entry into this collection, perhaps to include the “horror” genre in this ensemble. While the director Uday gets the mood right, he falters in the selection of the plot, which is not fresh at all. Fazil's son looks a lot less effeminate here though, after his previous outing in "Kaiyyetha Doorathu".

“Happy Journey” by Anjali Menon is – thankfully - refreshing fare. It is a commentary on how easily the average man on the street can be scared with the mere mention of a bomb. Jagathy plays his role with aplomb. Anjali Menon – take a bow!

B.Unnikrishnan helms “Aviraamam”, which is a take on the effects of the economic recession on a family. The actors – Siddhique and Shweta share a warm camaraderie – rescue the weak plot. Moral of the story - one should not expect much from the director of “Madambi“, “IG” etc.

“Off-Season” from Shyamaprasad is once again a take on the economic recession, but an unexpectedly humorous one. Right from the opening scene (a laugh-out-loud motif of a recent Oscar-winner) to the “remixed” version of an eternal classic, this short film entertains. Suraaj is his usual loud, wise-cracking self, but eminently likeable for a pleasant change.

Anwar Rasheed directs the best short film of the collection - “Bridge”. This is one of those few times where I had the experience of watching an Indian (short) film of international quality. The director is scores visually, aesthetically, and – most importantly – conceptually. It would be a pity if Anwar Rasheed goes back to directing mindless potboilers like “Rajamanickyam”, “Chotta Mumbai” etc when he clearly has the potential to do so much more.

Revathy crafts “Makal” - a story of poverty and exploitation that is a tad manipulative, but nevertheless effective. The story begins (spoilers ahead) with the close-up of a waiter @ Kerala Café (which is the common denominator across all the stories, of course), who is then revealed to be a girl set up for adoption. The director manipulates the viewer into a sense of security, before taking the breath out of you by delivering a blow to the solar plexus.

Lal Jose’s “Puram Kazhchakal” ends “Kerala Café” with a flourish – the director just lets the actors (especially Mammootty) be, and cranks up the expectation levels before delivering a wholly unexpected, heart-touching finale.

Verdict: A laudable attempt. Watch it for “Bridge”, “Makal” and “Puram Kazhchakal”.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

3 Idiots

It's probably not very far-fetched to think of Raju Hirani with a wand, infusing his own peculiar brand of humor, cheer and charm into these stories where another director might have probably gone a different route (Farhan Akhtar and Shimit Amin come to mind, for instance). Although "3 Idiots" is not quite as charming as the "Munna-bhai" series, it is neverthless very enjoyable fare.

Aamir Khan acquits himself remarkably well as the college-goer (notwithstanding the rumors of air-brushing the wrinkles). Although he went a little overboard with the shuffling body language initially, it soon wore off and Aamir soon got into character as the "different" Rancho. However, this is probably the zillionth time Aamir has undertaken this character graph - the I-don't-care brat who slowly comes to terms with where he has gone wrong and straightens up (Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikandar, Ghulam, Dil Chahta Hai, Akele Hum Akele Tum etc). Neverthless, he never gives us the "seen-it-before" feel, and summons up a warm camaraderie with the rest of the college-going crowd.

Madhavan is as dependable as ever. He gets some of the best one-liners in the movie (the one after the child-birth scene is priceless). Sharman Joshi, funnily enough, does not get to flex his comical skills much (I thought he was unbeliebably funny in RDB). However, he shone in the "interview sequence". The actor who played Chatur was the best of the lot - he was just spot on. Kareena had nothing much to do. Boman Irani was, quite frankly, a major disappointment - this is a performance unbecoming of his talent.

In the end, this is completely a director's movie (unlike a "Ghajini", where it was the stars who moved the movie forward). There were some superb directorial flourishes - the whole sequence with Sharman's parents was very well conceived; without resorting to the typical cliche, the point was made, and with humor too. Chatur's "balatkaar" speech, the re-union scene, and the many one-liners scattered throughout the movie ensured that there was barely a dull moment.

However, there were quite a few "boring" sessions as well - most of the songs were not required. Sharman awakening from the coma took quite a bit of screen time - this is a flashback, and we have already seen Sharman hale 'n' hearty, for chrissakes! The birth scene, while a nice high-point in the flow of the story that finally showcases Rancho's inventiveness, went on for too long - and the "all is best" motto was downright stupid.

However, all said, this was leagues above the regular stuff that Bollywood turns out. - extremely enjoyable movie.

Back Again

I am back after a brief hiatus, and I hope that I will be able to do justice to this blog. I know that I have been guilty of ignoring this space for the last 6 months or so - all I can say is that I will try my best not to let this happen again.

The last 6 months have been a whirlwind of activity. In fact, it feels like the whole of 2009 has been pretty much so.

In March, my wife and I had our baby daughter Medha. Of course, with the delivery being in the US, much ado was made about every single thing - Lamaze, names, tags, baby seats and what not. With me wise-cracking about the baby's hearing abilities after birth (she never cried even when an alarm bell clanged right next to her, and my family is notoriously semi-deaf) and her then failing a "hearing test" at the hospital (she wanted to give us a brief scare, I guess!), and then the cops pulling me down while taking the baby home from hospital (after all those Grisham and Steve Martini potboilers, I finally got to see a US courtroom first-hand!), March was downright crazy.

In July, we relocated to Chennai, India. Between packing, throwing away stuff and airline restrictions, it feels as if we threw away enough stuff to furnish a new house. A lot of people asked me about adjustment problems - strangely enough, we did not many (except that I miss the weather!! Christ, its hot!). We are pretty much well settled now, with regular work schedule and all that (not much of a schedule, working all the time!). With the baby, its been difficult to catch up with many movies - have started going out to movies again just recently.

What I miss most are libraries and books - its been ages since I discovered a new author or a good book. I checked out a couple of online libraries at Chennai, however either their book collections are not impressive enough (as my wife quips, its pretty hard to have a book collection that satiates me), or they have delivery problems - not within city limits and all that. The nearest library is around 8 10kms away - at my reading speeds, I am still in two minds whether to join up or not.

We are now trying to buy a flat - staying in a rented apartment has its limitations. Negotiations with Arihant are almost through, and hopefully things will work out.

So thats most of my updates over the last few months. Now let's get onto business as usual.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Naan Kadavul

After watching the much hyped 'Naan Kadavul' from Bala, who is one of the few directors whose movies I await, my first impression was - is this all Bala could conjure up after the wonderful 'Pithaamagan'? A lot of the faults that Bala had appeared to shed with Pithaamagan (and with Nandhaa, to a lesser extent) - coarse melodrama, for one, - have resurfaced here with a vengeance.

Rudran (Arya) is abandoned by his father on the recommendation of an astrologer. After 14 years (a 'clever' reference to the Ramayana, no doubt), his family comes to re-claim Rudran. Rudran, however, is an Aghori mystic - which is apparently an excuse for Arya to do his best Chithan impersonation. With much ado and fanfare, Rudran leaves Kasi for a small village in TN.

This village is the abode of a villain who wouldn't be terribly out of place in one of those crass movies that Vinayan gets to make every now and then. He runs a merciless beggars' racket, populating the group with new beggars every now and then. Hamsawalli (Pooja) is one of these new recruits who gets slapped, kicked, and violated in all perverse ways before Rundran finally 'rescues' her.

As far as performances go, the film is alright. Arya does a okayish job (although reminiscent of Chitthan), Pooja is decent. The group of beggars do a marvelous job, and in a couple of sequences they actually manage to make this work. The daily-life humor works quite well - with the beggars, and even with the fake sanyasis.

However, when a director loses the plot, there is little the actors can do. Bala fits in a lot of throwaway references to mysticism, our esteemed epics and gods, exploitation etc. However, a lot of the movie appears so crass and steeped in melodrama (when one expects the finesse showcased in Pithaamagan, no less) that I was completely disillusioned by the proceedings. I do hope Bala recovers and hits his groove next time.

Verdict: Avoidable.