The Motorcycle Diaries (Diarios de motocicleta)

US Presidential hopefuls take RVs, Che went on a motorcycle. The point is you need to go on a road trip to become a successful leader of the people

Ee Adutha Kalathu (Recently)

Strange and familiar make an appearance together for the first time in Malayalam cinema and the pair is a hit

Ladies Vs Ricky Bahl

Four feisty ladies, upbeat music and a handsome conman. Anushka gets Ranveer. Bollywood gets Parineeti

Das Boot (The Boat)

Best WWII film ever, in fact the best war film ever. In true German fashion, restraint is applied by shooting the entire movie inside a U-boat

Neelathamara (Blue Lotus)

Blue lotus shares the same stature of blue moon in Malayalam, so do good remakes. This one bucks the trend.

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Aug 31, 2008

Salaam E Ishq

Salaam E Ishq was my earthing cable. Spending 2+ hours 'trying' to watch this movie will you kept me earth bound, free of any high-flying fantasies that I may have had of Bollwood. Bollywood still swears by the same naach-gaana,missing locket,amnesia routine. You were wrong, reality didn't make any pit-stops at Bollywood. You were watching the wrong movie. This one is the right one, nothing has changed. And Salman Khan is still totally in love with himself, with accented Hindi to the boot and many a time he wears just that - accented Hindi and the boots, no threads attached I mean clothes.

Aug 27, 2008

Jodha Akbar

They had the money and they made good use of it. Jodha Akbar is the kind of movie you don't get to see very often these days in Bollywood or in any other wood for that matter. A historical romance with larger than life characters, grand-eloquent scenes that overflow the confines of screen, thousands of extras (and the rest CGI?), intricately detailed magnificent sets are just a few factors that make up the grand procession of a movie that is Jodha Akbar.


It tells the story of love between the famed Mughal emperor of India, Akbar and his Hindu Rajput wife, Jodha Bai, a story the film points out that history chose to ignore in favor of the bloodier battles and magnanimous conquests. There are plenty of interpretations of Jodha Bai's story and being India, all of these serve as reasons for protests and bans on the film. Akbar might not have been as handsome as Hrithik Roshan, the actor who plays him in the movie nor Jodha could've been an ex-Miss India as Aishwarya Rai who plays her role was. Neither of them are great actors, but they have done justice to their roles in this movie.

The opening battle-scene is impressive, probably the first of its kind in India. The sets of Diwan-e-Am and Jodha's quarters are very detailed. I have been to Agra Fort and I find that they have made an excellent copy of Diwan-e-Am and its environs. Although we get to see some historical figures like the minister Todarmal, some are noted by their absence like Beerbal or Tansen. Then again the film covers just a few months in the life of Akbar and Jodha, soon after their marriage. My review, I had expected not to like the film but it impressed me, the way the money had been spent to bring a classic of DeMillian proportions. That doesn't happen everyday.

Aug 15, 2008

Roger and Me

Flint, Michigan - I came to know about the existence of this town and the role it played in American auto industry through Michael Moore's later documentaries like Bowling for Columbine and Farenheit9/11. It took me almost twenty years to watch the documentary that kick-started the Michael Moore phenomenon, Roger and Me, way back from 1989, part of which Moore financed mortgaging his home.

Roger and Me is a personal statement for Moore who was born and brought up in Flint and is the son of a former GM employee. It is his first documentary film, the one which changed the way the world viewed documentaries. However big the anti-Michael Moore camp is, one thing is for certain, the man has talent and his works are crowd-pullers or ask Miramax, Lions Gate, MGM or the Weinstein Company or any company who financed him assured of the whopping returns.

Documentaries started beeping in the ordinary film buff's radar after Moore started making them. Of the top five highest grossing documentaries of all time - three are made by Michael Moore (Farenheit 9/11, Sicko and Bowling for Columbine.) So what was it about Roger and Me that clicked?

It was an emotional response of a Flint native who had just been let off from his job in San Francisco, returns home to find that the backbone of economy in his Michigan hometown, General Motors is closing their plant and laying off 30,000 workers. The man had good reason to be angry. Out of his anger and his sense for social justice comes the documentary Roger and Me. Through out the length of the movie Moore is trying to track down GM's then chairman Roger Smith and to make him come down to Flint to witness what the result of his one action(ie closing the plant which was not making any losses per se) had on the community.

Before he beings his quest he presents his credentials, from the old home-movie clips of toddler Michael Moore, black and white photos of his Dad working at GM factory, his job in San Francisco - a city where everyone has a job and although that job seems to be drinking lattes in cafes and how he was let off, to come back as a disgruntled young man back to Flint only to find out things are much worse off in Flint. The scene is set. The journey begins. The destination is Roger Smith. No spoilers here, if you didn't find time to watch this documentary in the last 20 years, don't hesitate now, it won't fail you.

Personally I like the narrative style of Moore, I think that is what brings him his audience. Though he has been accused presenting a world view to support his arguments, almost all the time Moore sides with the victims and the vanquished not the victors. Contrary to what Churchill famously said, history needs to be written by both sides.

Aug 14, 2008

Taare Zameen Par

Whether it was the hype surrounding it or whether I was too late in watching it that I had become saturated with reviews that called the movie, 'exceptional' I think Taare Zameen Par is a well-made Hindi movie, nothing beyond that. I'd reserve the use of superlative adjectives for some other times. Good movie from a first time director, Aamir Khan.

I am not a big fan of self-righteous movies where the hero tells people (or rather teaches thru' a series of magic strokes / scenes) how wrong they were and how right he is. The central theme, that of a dyslexic child, is new to Indian movie-goers and it is a good idea that Aamir decided to turn the spotlight on dyslexia, an 'invisible' disease, not usually recognized by Indian society.

Darsheel Safary, the child actor who has the central role does his job well. Probably the first time a commercial Hindi movie has been successfully carried on the shoulders of a little boy, although it has happened many a time in our regional languages like Malayalam, Tamil, Marathi etc. Since many of the Hindi film-goers are unaware of the existence of such movies or their pint-size actors, Darsheel is touted as a phenomenon. Remember Manjunath as Swamy or Kumar in Deshadanam or Shyamili in Anjali. Probably not, except for Swamy none of these were Hindi movies.

Part of Darsheel's success should also be attributed to Aamir Khan. The way Aamir directed the boy tapping on to his talent produced the winning combo. I have seen a lot of Iranian directors excel in this aspect, making successful movies with just the child actors as their main focus - Jafar Panahi's White Balloon, Majid Majidi's Children of Heaven, Bahman Ghobadi's Turtles Can Fly etc all use the fresh innocent world view of kids. If executed correctly it is a sure-fire recipe for success, but to win over Bollywood audience you need to accentuate the extreme. The good is really good as Nikumb the art teacher played by the director himself and the autistic little boy wronged by the whole society, the bad is really bad - here it is the father of the kid, an insensitive moron bend on making successes out of his boys and the school authorities in general.

Somehow TZP failed to click with me, it is too much black and white, devoid of shades of gray which is there in every situation like this. But then greys don't sell in Bollywood. My review although not negative is not positive either and ofcourse I understand Aamir Khan needs to make a film that sells.

Aug 13, 2008

Aamir


Aamir is one of those films that merits a review the moment one finishes watching it. But I have the usual every-(wo)man excuse, ‘didn’t get time.’ Excellent movie, nail-biting and laden with dollops of tension at every turn, Aamir is another fine specimen that records the evolution of Hindi movie from not-so-good to best.

Every time we watch a path-breaking Hindi movie the first question is, is it an original or an Indianized Hollywood adaptation? The makers say it is 100% desi as shudh ghee. Although in the internet community there is strong buzz that it is based on Philippino film by the name, Cavite.

We have a fresh-faced hero, Rajeev Khandelwal. Fresh to us, who have not watched Hindi network TV after ‘Shanti’ hit the tube. For most people back in Bharat Varsh, he is a familiar face in Hindi soaps like Kahin To Hoga, Kya Hadsa Kya etc. Basically it is his movie, except for a few supporting characters necessary for the story Khandelwal has the whole movie to himself. He shines in the role with a restrained yet strong performance.

During the first few minutes of the movie I was wondering whether this movie was lifted off of Phone Booth. Although there is no phone booth in the movie, ie no fixed geographic position, the protagonists in both the films are bound to a phone, only difference seemed to be, one was a LAN line while other was a cellphone. But the similarity doesn’t go far, Aamir is an Indian story, shot in the gallis of Mumbai(esp. the Muslim areas of the city like Dongri), the dirt and the grime and the cause and the result are indigenous. My bad, it is not Phone Booth from any angle, phones have starred in many movies. These days a cell phone is just an extension of the human ear and ‘chaining’(not physically) a man to a phone has been exploited in numerous movies like Cellular, Phone Booth, Nick of Time, Cavite etc. Running from something or running to escape something was pioneered by Run Lola Run. There was a quote which can be used to sum up the situation ( I don’t remember the original quote, the rough translation follows.) "Original is the one who can best hide his source."

The film keeps its pace, sustains viewer’s interest and deals with a contemporary issue. For a first time director Raj Kumar Gupta did a neat job. Music by Amit Trivedi sets the tone for the events and is refreshing. Good enough for me.

Aug 12, 2008

Taste of Cherry

Taste of Cherry belongs to an earlier era of masterpieces, when life flowed slower. That it was released in 1998 and was hailed as one cinematic work of genius makes me want to question my cinematic senses, which might not be as evolved as I have led myself to believe. The long takes and the slow moving story reminded me of international films of the sixties, seventies and eighties which won standing ovations at exotic film festivals like Cannes and Locarno.

Maybe it is my years of living in the US of A, my interpretation of the film is very different from what it could have been had I never left India. First few minutes of the movie, I had a bad feeling about the lead actor’s intention (ofcourse looking thru’ American tinted glasses one may say). The rest of the movie was too slow moving to sustain my interest. Review: Way over my head to get the gist. Sorry Mr.Kiarostami. My bad.

Aug 5, 2008

Om Shanti Om

Today is so not an Om-Shanti-Om day. It is overcast,cloudy and even the rain has forgotten how to unburden itself, typical of the summer this year. In contrast, Om Shanti Om(here after called OSO) is all summery, colorful, cheery, loud, bombastic, groovy, best served by Bollywood and only Bollywood.

OSO has everything Bollywood is famous for - a double dose of a superstar (Shah Rukh Khan in a double role), a beautiful leading lady (debutante Deepika Padukone). The hero is accessorized by a filmy Mom(Kirron Kher), an entertaining side-kick(played by Shreyas Talpade) who has no aspirations for himself, the centuries old hangover of the obedient Lakshman serving the King Ram(ref:Ramayana).The sweet innocence and overwhelming charm of the hero is held in check by a villian who as usual is more sophisticated and westernized(thereby really really evil) than the hero himself. This time that mantle falls on Arjun Rampal.

Like the hero and the heroine, plot is also BOGO(Buy One Get One Free.) Well, that's how the hero and the heroine got double roles in the first place. Multiple choice question: Reincarnation or Twins? The director-story writer Farah Khan chose reincarnation, it gives better mileage across decades. Made in the 'Karz' template(is there a more successful reincarnation movie than Karz ever?), we start in the seventies where Shah Rukh Khan is Om Prakash Makhija, a junior artist who wants to make it big in Bollywood one day. He is in love with his screen idol - Shantipriya(most of Bollywoods #1 heroines except Madhuri Dixit were from South India, thus a South-Indian name, I guess.) Deepika Padukone is fresh, beautiful and an Indian a face you could ask for in a Bollywood heroine. I failed to mention talented, especially for a new-comer. His 'dashingness' Mr.Arjun Rampal is her object of affection in the film. Not going to reveal the story much further, as if there is anyone left in the Indian subcontinent and the NRI continent who has not seen this already.

It's fun to see the Bollywood of the yester-years in color, 'Shantipriya' digitally inserted into old movie clips(Forrest Gump style) cavorting with leading men long gone. There are jabs at all the famous actors, careless hints about famous movies placed at careful spots through out the script, a song that brings in the old and the new faces of Bollywood - lots of color and music in a fast groovy tempo. Vishal-Shekar's music is catchy and blends in(and adds) to the hungama of the movie.

Shahrukh reincarnates as Om Kapoor - a Bollywood heart-throb and Deepika(aka Shantipriya) comes back as Sandy,a wannabe actress. With the reversal of roles and fortunes, King Khan has more power - which means more songs, more masti and a sure defeat of the villian in the cards, who unfortunately ages 30 years, no reincarnation for him, but luckily looks just as handsome. I loved the way movie ended where everyone from the hero to the spot-boy walks down the red-carpet.

Whatever the reviews, Om Shanti Om ruled the domestic and international box-office at the fag end of 2007, continues the same with DVD sales. A winner for Farah, ShahRukh and the team. Leave your brain at the door, enter the world of Bollywood masala, don't wear seat-belts(you might feel an involuntary urge to get up and dance), forget Kurosawa, Ray, Bergman, Scorsese(if you can't, get out, this movie is not for you anyway) and enjoy the ride. Review: Well done, Farah.