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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Nov 26, 2008

Welcome to Sajjanpur

Ok, this is what happens when old timers decide to wear new clothes of the new times. I am trying to think of Shyam Benegal of Yatra, Mandi and Bhumika. Sajjanpur is far cry from all those, although the camera is still firmly planted in the heartland of India. I had never thought of his 2001 film, Zubeida as a genuine Benegal, from my perspective it belonged to Khalid Mohamed.. For me this is the real Benegal movie after almost a decade.

The strong alternate Indian movie current of the 80s has lost its momentum. Ketan Mehta, Govind Nihalani, Shyam Benegal - all the aging stalwarts of Hindi indies have been resting on their laurels. Meanwhile many commercial Bollywood movies have been bold and successful enough to cross into the territory of Independent films which is indeed a welcome change.

With Sajjanpur,we have an example how these older generation of film-makers would fare if they were to make a comeback. If you just look at the box-office statistics, Benegal's adaptation as a post-2000 Bollywood director can be touted as a success. But if I were to compare Welcome to Sajjanpur's quality with his earlier works, I'd rate this as a canned Bollywood product.

Sajjanpur is a typical northern Indian village but I as watched the movie it was hard not being able to shake off the feeling that it was just a set of a village. All the villagers who start moving as soon as the camera pans into the scene were just extras draped in the accepted contemporary rural attire. Shreyas Talpade, the hero of the movie, a letter-writer who helped illiterate people by writing their mails and postcards, comes out a little too polished with his clean shaven looks. Most of the actors played parts well (Amrita Rao, Ila Arun, Rajeshwari Sachdev, Yashpal Sharma, Divya Dutta) but something didn't jive. Was it their pancake make-up which looked out of place or their clothes which didn't seem to have been worn more than once, something about that village was not right.

The story is an interesting one. It has tried to bring to focus certain topical issues yet the same time remains entertaining.Review : 3 stars

Nov 20, 2008

Rock On

Rock On has a straight forward title, it is about Rock or rather an Indian rock band. The story is of current interest. In the mid 2000s local rock bands started exploding on the Indian music scene. You'd say it is not a new phenomenon. Yes, we did have Indus Creed and Indian Ocean in the nineties. But now there is a plethora of rock bands out there and many of them can draw a sizable crowd of followers irrespective of the language of their songs.

The glaring difference between the real rock bands and the rock-band in Rock On is the songs. The band in the movie is called Magik and is comprised of Farhan Akhtar as the lead singer, Aditya, Arjun Rampal on lead guitar as Joseph Mascerenhas with Purab Kohli(KD) and Luke Kenny(Rob) making up the rest of the team. It is well-made film, not-so-bad script and camera and the actors don't overdo either.

My problem with it? It falls flat on its premise. With such pathetic songs there is no way they could've been a successful rock band. Rock doesn't mean you interject some jarring guitar chords every now and then. I wish they had used a real rock band for composing the music for the film. Anyway Rock On did make an impression on the masses and the producers seem to have gotten back their money's worth.
Review: 3 stars.

Nov 19, 2008

Chak De India

I went through a barrage of movies last month and do not have an ounce of motivation to write reviews except for one - probably the best Bollywood movie I've seen in a while after Aamir - the film that made me hit the computer key board again is Chak De India. This Shah Rukh Khan starrer, with a predictable story line about the rise of an under-dog sports team is one of the well-made, perfectly balanced movies in the recent years.

Like the story, the movie is also the triumph of team effort. You have the Bollywood superstar King Khan, his signature 'King' mannerisms toned down to the bare minimum or practically naught. The film-makers have put together a believable team of girls as the national Women's hockey team picked from various parts of India. I do not know how they went about casting this team, it is so diverse and perfectly cast that it is hard to believe this is not a real team! I reserve my best of the best awards to the script-writer Jaideep Sahni and the director Shimit Amin - they are the ones who had the power to make or break this movie and they did what they wanted to do!

It is a run-of-the-mill story about an under-dog team coming from behind and beating the odds and giving a fitting reply to its detractors. Hindi movies have successfully tried to showcase the underdog sports-person, like in Jo Jeeta Wahi Sikander(which was a well-adapted copy of Breaking Away) but Jo Jeeta... was not a true sports film. It had ample Bollywood romance and villainy, buxom girls prancing around trees and dreamy-eyed boys chasing them, sports just added an additional flavor like the desi-favorite Cassata icecream. Then there was Lagaan(India's Oscar entry in 2002) where I'd say Aamir Khan directed his role himself instead of the director, Ashutosh Gowariker. Lagaan because of its sweet 'syrupiness' didn't make as much an impact on me as it did on the rest of the Indian populace, but it was a well-made film that made use of our nation's cricket fever and penchant for breaking off into songs at the drop of a err..ball.

On the contrary Chak De India has nothing but sports and for a change, it is not cricket! India's national game - field hockey finally gets its due and a Bollywood movie starring Shah Rukh Khan! It is the game which won India it's first Olympic gold (Men's hockey,1928 Amsterdam) but is often forgotten under the shadow of the other more popular game in India - cricket.

Chak De India is a loaded movie, the messages it tries to pass on are subtly conveyed, quite opposite to what the conventional Bollywood wisdom would advise. The movie is one of the few which has taken up the cause of the dark horse without explicitly coming on to your face with its messages. In fact there is more than one dark horse. Field hockey is one, women as a gender is another, being the representative of a misunderstood minority(Kabir Khan - the role of the coach played by Shah Rukh Khan) is another.

None of these issues are thrust on to the viewer. If you belong to 'time-pass' denomination you might never see the issues the film tries to bring to light and would be able view it as a pure entertainment package tinged with excitement of a sports event. If you are the serious kind, it has material for intellectual rumination as well. The success (it was the third highest grossing movie of 2007) of the movie is that it was able to tap into both kind of audience,which is a very rare event in Hindi film-dom.

Although the title is Chak De "India", thanks to the story and the script there is no over-the-top nationalistic jingoism. That is what amazes me the most about this movie, its restraint on a subject which could've easily been over-done, like a perfectly cooked shrimp(:-P) in this aspect Review: Chak de!