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D O N' T P A N I C

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Kambakht Ishq: Kambakht everything...

There are many cinematic ‘firsts’ that Kambakht Ishq manages to achieve:
1. Last many decades have seen Sylvester Stallone saving the world, US and Afghanistan. Now, finally, see him save a damsel in distress from some goons who, mysteriously, find the lead girl, despite her chronic anemia, worthy of the trouble.
2. Sylvester Stallone also gets to do a Sunny Paaji in the pre-climax. He gets to uproot a lamp-post (a la the legendary handpump-ukhado scene from maha-legendary Gadar) and beat the goons to pulp…it’s a classic east-meets-west moment.
3. Sylvester Stallone finally says something comprehensible (his utterly unforgettable and incomprehensible outburst in Rambo First Blood is still haunting my subconscious)… and it’s Hindi that comes to his rescue.
4. A typical verbal exchange between our hero and heroine borrows from a very realistic vocabulary such as stuck-up bitch, dog, sick bastard, asshole etc. When it comes to progressive and modern cinema, this is right up there.
5. Hindi mainstream cinema gets its first rectal search. Clearly, if it’s funny enough for our director, we must laugh our heads off.
6. It’s a liberating experience to see a stunt man making so much money and leading a lifestyle of a rock star. They must be paid really well in Hollywood. There is hope in this world…er…in America.
7. And finally, it’s not really a first. After Neal ‘n’ Nikki, Censor board has done it again (and hence proved that they are not biased towards YRF). U/A certificate to a movie which decidedly pursues the higher goal of sex awareness among our juveniles and adolescents. When Simrita (that, my friends, is our heroine’s name) tells her sister “Men want only one thing from women” and points towards that area below the abdomen, our little ones would have asked “Momma, what do men want? What is she talking about?”. Great stuff, this. It also surpasses the great cinematic moment in Billu (no-more-Barber) when Om Puri offers to display the eighth wonder and points to his own reproductive organ (ah, evaded that uncomfortable word).
The young boy (with twinkle in his youthful eyes) shrieked with joy when opening credits started rolling. Reason: there were shots from one of those Hollywood award functions. This guy was enjoying watching them all and excitedly naming them. So we (me and my colleague) joined him. Tom Cruise appeared. We shouted “Sylvester Stallone”. He gently, smugly corrected us “Tom Cruise”.
And we realized that this wasn’t a movie meant to work for us.
And since we have walked out long before the end credits could roll, I can assure you reasonably well, it didn’t work for me. To begin with, it’s a crass movie…which in itself is not a bad thing. But the problem is that it tries to be too many things. First half is full of bad-ass language (which gets repetitive after a point) and gross, dirty sex jokes (with not enough wit) and the second half is half-cooked mushy romance. The clash between the two protagonists does not have enough sparks. Akshay Kumar looks tired and is suffering from a perpetual bad hair day (literally). He does manage to bring some liveliness to the proceedings. But he is starting to look old, especially in front of Kareena. Kareena, to her credit, revives her irritating “Poo” act from K3G and is pain in the ass right from the word go. Amrita Arora exposes sufficiently but fails to look hot. Thankfully there is very little of Javed Jaffery’s irrelevant, unfunny character. I remember some songs too but I will not comment on them since I forced myself to think about eradicating poverty during those sublime moments.
I haven’t found the key to eradicate poverty, but I can save you some of your hard earned money in these days of recession. However, if you have made up your charitable mind to donate that money to already rich Mr. Nadiadwala, don’t take your kids along. Or be prepared to squirm in your seat when they ask you “What did that black Aunty do to Akshay while searching for the drugs that he is unable to walk properly”.


Thursday, July 02, 2009

Tashan: Or how I survived the movie and lived to tell the tale

The fact that I am writing this is testimony to the fact that movies can’t kill. But they can come very close to crushing your desire to live. Tashan did exactly that. The only reason I refrain from calling it the worst movie of our times is because I haven’t seen Jhoom Barabar Jhoom, which well-wishers assure me (with a haunted look), is in a class of its own.
I don’t have the courage to go through the storyline because none exists. What does exist is some convoluted reason for two guys to fight over some moolah and a starved bebo, sorry, babe. Add an excuse of a ‘Bhai’ who is behind all this, and you have it. And who do we get for this Bhaiya don? Our very own tapori Anil Kapoor who graduates to play a don who can’t speak English but speak in English he must. One: He is not Sanjay Dutt. Two: Only his dialogue writer could understand his dialogues. They should have given sub-titles for his dialogues or should have supplied babel fish with each ticket…nice mythical creatues, these fish… But then that would have meant giving a thought about the audience, which is, as the circumstantial evidence points out, unlikely!
Saif Ali Khan, after a string of successful movies, goes back to his pre-DCH days and plays the second fiddle to our cool-dude superstar Akshay. It’s a role worse than what he has already done in Tu Chor Main Sipahi movies. Akshay is the only saving grace. Aint he always :o). He comes in from UP, idolizing the BhaiyyaJi, plays the role of a recovery agent to recover the money from Bebo, only to discover his long lost lady love. Amidst all this, he also runs through millions of bullets unscathed, does spiderman-ish stunts and must have killed the villain by the time credits rolled. I wouldn’t know, for I must have fallen asleep.
There were times when I wondered why people populating the screen were doing what they were indeed doing. Truth be told, I also know that movie making is not always about logic. However, it is when your hands unconsciously grab your head, in a weak moment of exasperation; you know that you are onto something special. It happened with me twice in the movie.
To cut the non-existent story short: STAY AWAY for this Tashan. Instead try to decipher what your doctor wrote last time you visited her, read your company’s quality manuals or study the mutual fund offer document carefully. That’s far more fulfilling.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

New York. Really?

(*ing: Neil Nitin Mukesh, John Abraham, Katrina Kaif, Irrfan Khan and a bunch of smirking, scowling firang extras)
DISCLAIMER: If you haven’t seen the movie and determined to watch it, then please don’t go any further because I don’t want to deprive the film industry of your hard earned money. Also, I may give away whatever little twist this movie has to offer.
I am desperately trying to like the movie. It’s been more than two and a half months since a half-decent movie got released (well, there was one delightful ‘99’). But my best efforts to get involved in the movie, to feel for the protagonists are in vain. In summary, I find ‘New York’ to be a superficial, shallow movie.
At the outset, the story has been set in post-9/11 New York but as I settled down in my rattling seat (in a post-apocalypse single screen in Surat), I realized that I had seen this story elsewhere. At a superficial level the movie is indeed about the way Muslims have been treated in the USA post 9/11 but at a more basic level the movie is just about a mole being planted in a criminal organization. Now, where have we seen that? Vikram Bhatt’s Footpath, Hansal Mehta’s Chhal and numerous other equally forgettable movies. Kabir Khan believes that by merely setting the story in the post-9/11 scenario, he would be able to make a profound statement on the society.
New York does not engage me emotionally. And the three lead non-actors are NOT the only reasons. For a topical movie to work, dialogues have to be top grade. Here, the dialogues are cringe-worthy. There are justifications abound for everyone’s non-American accent in the movie. I could have overlooked it but in one scene it’s almost like the director is apologizing for Irrfan Khan’s hinterland-desi accent (Irrfan, incidentally turns an indifferent, bored performance). Movie also suffers from a jarring background score. The composer seems to be giving the score for a MTV music video. Script also does not answer many obvious questions any sane mind would raise. Abbas Mastan’s Race seems to be more logical in comparison. Katrina Kaif goes around cheerfully, knowing fully well that her husband is planning a terror attack…and HOPING that he will give up his wrong ways. FBI, fully aware about the plot being hatched, waits for ‘something’. Nobody knows what they were waiting for. Well, on my part I was waiting for the end credits.
Kabir Khan disappoints big time. His last outing, Kabul Express, was at least a road movie, if nothing else. That movie also failed to make any profound statement on Afghanistan, yet it entertained. And it was original. This time around Kabir chooses to lift two sequences from two brilliant movies. John’s introduction scene is lifted frame by frame from Chariots of Fire (the race in the college building) and later he lifts the tense cop-fondling-the-black-lady scene from Crash. The latter scene has no bearing on the main story but it looked like Kabir Khan was impressed by the possibilities that one scene offered and chose to shoot it. It must have been retained because this is probably the only poignant scene even if it is a straight lift. It kills me to see that even these new-age directors are not above cheap plagiarism.
In nutshell, I guess Kabir Khan has taken his nascent reputation of ‘issue-based’ filmmaker too seriously (he seems to be going the Madhur Bhandarkar way) and trying too hard to live up to this image. It will do him good if he takes it easy next time and spare any such serious issue. For YRF, all I can say is that it is embarrassing to admit that our most prestigious production house is behind a movie which turns the whole issue into an unintentional joke.
Skip it.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

1971: The movie

Every once in a while there comes a movie that surprises you. It surprises you because you never gave the movie any chance. It surprises you because it tells a new story (not borrowed from the nearby DVD library…even the recently celebrated Bheja Fry is after all an imitation of a european comedy) and it tells you the story with a honesty that wins your heart.
Some years ago Arshad Warsi immortalised his ‘circuit’ in the Munnabhai franchise and we thought that he was a great comedian. Till I happened to see this brilliant movie ‘Seher’. Leading a motley crew of superb character artistes (including Pankaj Kapoor and Sushant Singh), Warsi turned in a lifetime performance. The movie was undoubtedly a result of meticulous research and was told straight from heart. Unfortunately, very few actually watched it. It remains one of my favourites to this day.
And so it happened with an obscure movie that got released earlier this year: 1971. Although coming from the house of Ramanand Sagar, this movie had surprisingly been a decidedly low key affair. As I personally hold responsible Mr. Ramanand Sagar for the now popular three-slow-motion-shots-from-three-different-angles-with drumbeats-with same-expressions as the vamps in today’s serials plan their next moves, I wasn’t very sure what to expect from this another ‘Sagar’. My fears were unfounded, as it turned out. Amrit Sagar, in fact, is a genius.
Let me say it: 1971 is a great movie. Undoubtedly the most engaging war related movie to come out in a decade or so. Actually, its not so much about war. Its about Indian POWs languishing in the Pakistani Jails from the 1971 war. The movie is all about the attempt of six indian POWs to escape the prison and hoping to make it to their motherland: Hindustan.
The first thing that Amrit Sagar gets right is the casting. Manoj Bajpayee and Ravi Kissen being the two most identifiable faces but more than ably supported by the other character actors who give the movie the most authentic feel. Watch them breaking into a jig as the news of their imminent release reaches them. Sure to bring tears to your eyes. Tears of joy, I mean. They escape the camp and as the chase turn more desperate, one by one the soldiers go down fighting for the larger goal. As it nears the end, you increasingly begin to hope against hope for their safe escape but you know the truth. The end is heart-breaking and as the credits roll on the screen, you can’t help but think about the fate of those unlucky, forgotten ones on the other side of the fence.
Its very close to being a perfect movie. Like Seher this one also stays with you long after its over. The movie never loses its pace, no sidetracks about the love interests of the PoWs and keeps you glued.
You start wondering why was this movie such a big failure at the box office.
Was it the absence of a 14 minute song picturised on soldiers about their longing for their homes?
Was it the absence of a interlude where each POW goes into flashback and makes love to his spouse?
Was it the absence of a screaming Punjab-da-puttar that failed to bring the masses to the theatre?

Whatever it was, it’s the loss for those who love good cinema.
Watch it.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Bye Bye Mr. President

He is a rockstar and I don’t say this because of his hairstyle. Even before he took up the responsibilities bestowed upon him by the for-once-they-were-right politicians, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam was already the hero of Indian middle class. With the Pokharan II nuclear tests, Dr. Kalam had come to symbolize the assertion of a young and hopeful Indian youth. I remember waking up to the news of nuclear tests being conducted in Pokharan and suddenly feeling very very proud.
As he moved into the highest office (and the largest piece of real estate) in our country five years back, many of us had misgivings about how would a scientist handle this office. In the limited powers that he would be given as the President of this country, would he be able to handle the nasty politics?
I am not a political columnist but as a citizen of this country I feel that he has been the best thing that happened to the post of President. He was the most popular President we have had and he opened the doors of the Rashtrapati Bhawan to the common man. He converted one room into a multimedia lab where he could be in touch with anyone across the country.
He visited people across the breadth of the country, especially children and talked to them in a language they understood. Wherever he went, he talked about his vision of making India a super power by 2020, he urged the youth to work towards the goal…his biggest grouse with the indian political leaders is that they seldom talk about the vision for India (are they listening???).
When he met the heads of other states, being a true technocrat, he made powerpoint presentations. When he talked, he wasn’t merely reading the speech prepared by his aides, he spoke with a passion seldom witnessed in his predecessors.
As we stride forward to a tentative future where our country is poised to play a much larger role in the world economy than ever before, we replace our scientist President with a superstitious yes-man-puppet who claims that she has been talking to some ‘baba’ spirit... Can it get worse than this? Well, we have seen worse days!!!
It is with a sense of deep loss that we say good-bye to a great man and hope that he continues to inspire the indian populace.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

A Mumbai-ite in Delhi

You know you are in Delhi when:
  • You are standing at the inner circle in CP and asking the shopowners and hawkers for directions to inner circle and none of them seem to know it.
  • You walk out of airport terminal and experience something as painfully hearbreaking as hundreds of hammers crashing onto a new car bonet (later you will realize that its not their fault, its their language!)
  • The dude sitting next to you in a swanky multiplex in a posh area surprises you with a shout (louder than the opening shot of earth-shattering bomb blast at Mumbai’s Dalal Street): “ke karrraaa hai? Pikture shuru ho gayee hai be! Khana chor ke aaja”. If only you could get the guy who invented mobile phones!
  • Newspapers only talk about how difficult it is to get the admissions for the male children.
    Your colleague complain about how bad the roads are. It took him 40 minutes to cover a distance of 26 km
  • When your friend is desparately trying to install an AC (to face the summers) in her old Maruti 800 (which produces a princely 36 bhp). The mechanic is embarresed and chooses to keep the shop closed.
  • When at a party you bump into your old friends who live in three different states…and no, they aren’t there on a visit to Delhi.

You know you are in Mumbai when:

  • You ask for directions to Juhu Chowpati, everyone suggests “its around that corner” (baaju mein hai) but that blasted beach seems to be slipping away at each turn.
  • Your colleague is elated today because it took him only 1 hr. 40 min. to cover a distance of 26 km
  • When just before the monsoons, the municipality seems to acknowledge the plight of its citizens and digs the road, to repair them...after the monsoons
  • Your newspaper still covers the inane statements made by a certain Mr. Thackrey who seems to have lost his relevance and mind, among other things.
  • After every calamity/disaster, all the newpapers and new channels are suddenly talking about something elusive yet omnipresent: Spirit of Mumbai. And you feel nauseating at every mention of this thing.
  • A restaurant named as ordinarily as Mahesh Lunch Home turns out to be as expensive as a four star eatery, if not more.
  • All mankind is headed southward in the morning and northbound in the evening

Monday, February 05, 2007

Morning blues

Morning 6:30 am
I am sleepily ironing the shirt and trousers. The steam iron is pretty hot but on today's cotton clothes, creases don't go away so easily, so the iron is on the hottest setting.
Cellphone rings.
Tring tring tring
I answer the call.
Aaaaaah...Shit. %$#@%^&
The cellphone is surprisingly hot and spewing steam.
Tring tring tring

Cursing, I pull the iron away from my erstwhile cheek and ears. I run to the mirror. How bad can it be?
Its not too bad. A smart red gash across the cheek. Adds to my masculine personality.

Day begins.