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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Mar 27, 2012

Beautiful - Malayalam Movie

Beautiful reminds me a lot of Blessy’s Pranayam albeit with a younger cast. Maybe the presence of an invalid main character, three central characters – two male and one female(female actor exported from a neighboring state) creating a sort of a triangular love story and the abuse/misuse of monsoon might be the reasons. But the film is also thankfully unBlessy by the absence of one dimensional characters and over the top sentimentality.

Anoop Menon, Jayasurya and Megna Raj play the main roles in a movie about a bed-ridden billionaire in search of companionship, music and love. I also like the way supporting roles are etched out with the right amount of detail and dialog.

It is a well-executed film, story, screenplay, direction(V.K.Prakash) and acting departments have worked together to produce a well-rounded product. Though I’d not call it a path breaker(in my world, that title goes to Chappa Kurish) I hope Beautiful will be one of the forerunners who will herald a new beginning for Malayalam cinema.

Mar 23, 2012

Rockstar

Many of today’s pop icons and stars are all style without much substance. Although their medium is music, the music industry too perfects the image first before it tests the sound. Susan Boyle – she of the incredible vocal chords had to fight and claw her way into a talent show in her late forties to make her mark in the music world when Spice Girls (no substance and all style) were picked out to form a music band based just on their looks and stage presence(if they could sing it’d be a bonus but it was optional) while still in their teens. Rockstar Janardhan Jakkar aka Jordan is a documentation of India’s version of such a pop icon, if we ever had one.

For this film, the requirements for the hero were - had to be born a star, with a silver-screen spoon in his mouth, should be able to rock a guitar, lip sync a tune and had to have incredible screen charisma. Given these conditions, in present day Bollywood it became very easy for director Imtiaz Ali and producer Dhillin Mehta to find their leading man. Not many choices really – either a Khan or a Kapoor. 

With most sellable and captivating Khans tending to look more like Steven Tyler and less like Elvis in his prime, they went for the hottest Kapoor on the block. Ranbir Kapoor works his charm and appeal into the skin of Jordan, the rock star. Counter balancing his rock star act is the impossibly beautiful New York based Pakistani–Czech model Nargis Fakri as Kashmir ki kali and college beauty – Heer Kaul. A semi-gori unattainable foreign export kudi is a must have accessory for a successful Bollywood movie.

A.R.Rahman’s music faithfully adheres to my hypothesis about a present day rock star, music is only secondary, the personal style of the star is the more important part. Therefore it’d be safe to say that I didn’t find the songs earth shattering although all the award shows (Apsara, Fimfare, Stardust – you name it) unanimously gave RockStar the best music director award.

Rahman is like Sachin Tendulkar, both are elephants in their own rooms, there is no way getting past them. If Rahman composes music for a major movie in any year, other music directors can kiss their award hopes goodbye. No matter how baffling a Rahman tune(more mysterious the better) is it just adds depth to audience’s musical experience and therefore deserves all the accolades that can be given in a given year.

The story is flimsy, but the script, the dialog and also the lyrics of the songs are the solid scaffolding that prop up the movie. Imtiaz Ali’s direction is also commendable. If you haven’t watched it yet, I’d say “czech it out,” there is more than one czech in the movie – the city of Prague and Nargis Fakri.

Mar 22, 2012

Snehaveedu

I recently saw a clip of Prithviraj’s interview where he said Malayalam’s superstar’s Mohanlal and Mammootty should choose to act in roles that reflect their age. Unlike the majority of Malayali audience and Youtube commenters of that clip I agree one hundred percent with Prithviraj. It surely might have had M&M supporters crying for Prithviraj’s blood but it is a brave statement to make in these perilous age of AMMA, Achchan and other similar career wrecking controversies.

Snehaveedu is kind of like Mohanlal’s answer to Prithviraj.(On a side note I consider Pranchiyettan and the Saint as a movie Mammootty played his age and is one of the best characters he ever emoted on screen.) The veteran actor plays almost his age as an evergreen Gulf returnee bachelor turned entrepreneur agriculturist , Ajayan in a Palakkad village. Simple life, ordinary travails, story-book village/town, neighborly neighbors, good hearted protagonists – all classic features of a Sathyan Anthikkad movie appear without fail in Snehaveedu too.

Sheela’s Ammukutty Amma looks and sounds just like her character, Kochu Thresia from her comeback movie Manasinakkare – another Sathyan Anthikkad vehicle. In fact the core of both the movies is very much the same – a mother son relationship or a relationship along those lines. The picturesque village and affable villagers repeat themselves in both movies, only the element that introduces tension differs slightly in each.

Mohanlal does exhibit caution without going overboard as the village’s favorite bachelor. There are sub stories with Lena, Biju Menon, Innocent, KPAC Lalitha and with Padma Priya who could be nurtured as a love interest at a future date. I am glad the director didn’t let the story develop too much along that path. Debutante Rahul Pillai plays his role well, considering he is acting alongside a stalwart like Mohanlal, the teenager exudes the right amount of vulnerability and rebellion.

Snehaveedu should be a win for Sathyan Anthikkad-Mohanlal team provided the crowds do not get cross at Anthikkad for not letting our 50+ year old super star frolic around the fields with his murapennu half his age.

Mar 20, 2012

Saheb Biwi aur Gangster

Old havelis where they still live out raja rani ki kahani – potent with intrigue, secrets, concubines and political games is a fascinating brew for commoners like me. Saheb, Biwi aur Gangster delivers it promise of the foibles, follies and frivolities of old money in new age of corrupt politicians and gun totting thugs somewhere from the heart of India’s cow belt.

Jimmy Shergill, Mahie Gill and Randeep Hooda give their best portraying the title characters in a film with strong performances from the supporting cast. When I first heard about this movie I thought this might be a remake of Guru Dutt’s Sahib, Biwi aur Ghulam in the lines of Shahrukh’s DevDas. But this is more like how Abhay Deol’s Dev D was to the original Devdas without making it too urbane.

IMHO the best part of the movie once you get past the film’s handsome leading men is the location. The crumbling haveli, the palace grounds, the servants quarters, the lake and the bungalow across the lake looming like a smudge. Where did they find such a beautiful location? Tigmanshu Dhulia’s direction has delivered the whole movie as one taut package. It is definitely a movie worth watching for lovers of serious cinema.

Mar 12, 2012

That Girl in Yellow Boots


A very un-Indian, un-Bollywood movie, neck deep in a subject that Indian films rarely touch. Since I don't deal with spoilers in this blog I'd refrain from mentioning the subject. If you know the theme, the movie will unravel faster than you can say "Shazam". Even without any spoiler I had it figured out(did the director intend it that way?) and thus the end was less of a shocker for me than it was to Kalki Koechlin who plays the protagonist, Ruth.

Kalki has a really meaty role for an actress. She cannot help it if the film is being directed by her boyfriend-turned husband director Anurag Kashyap. The entire movie, shot in 13 days on a borrowed wallet concentrates on Ruth's personal quest for something very near and dear to her while surviving as a young white girl in the dirty underbelly of Mumbai.

There are a lot irrelevant roles. Some of these roles like that of Ruth's junkie boyfriend and the Kannada speaking Mumbai dada Chittiappa can be taken as cinematic liberties to add texture to the plot. I do not understand what Ronit Roy, who is given a scene and a sentence to speak and Rajat Kapoor - no sentences, just gets a passing glance at Ruth, walking by her by at the entrance of an apartment, are doing in the film.

Definitely a movie for mature audience. So mature that many people who lent money to make the film asked to have their names removed from the credits as they were not liberal enough to be associated with such a progressive film. The film released in non-NRI theaters in the US the same day it had its Indian release through the same US distributor, must be a first for an Indian movie?



Mar 6, 2012

The Dirty Picture

If a movie could sell based on its title and its theme, then The Dirty Picture (hereafter called TDP) would explode cash registers. Box office reports prove that this hypothesis was right in TDP's case. Ekta Kapoor's trust in Milan Luthria bears fruit.

If Vidya Balan was going to apply for a job as Silk Smitha and if Ekta Kapoor was not on the interview team, Bipasha Basu would've been easily picked over Vidya. Ms.Basu would then be asked to do corrective surgery to her eyes to replace her North Eastern slant with big eyed South Indian sleepy seductiveness, for the rest she would have been a perfect fit.

If you don't really like Vidya Balan it'll definitely be worth your while to watch TDP and while you are it watch No one killed Jessica as well. Just these two movies are enough to demonstrate the range and sincerity of Vidya as an actress.

If you are a South Indian and have some prior exposure to Silk Smitha's work, please be considerate to Ekta Kapoor, she is only half South Indian and she did not really grow up with Silk Smitha, Disco Shanti or Anuradha nor did she make covers for her school note books with sizzling centerspreads of the aforementioned ladies from Nana or Cinema Express magazines.

If you are looking for knockout one liners, remember neither Silk Smitha nor Rajat Aroraa were/are particularly known for this talent. Some people with really low expectations when it comes to putting together words in a sentence may accuse this movie as having mind bending one liners, but if you ask me, old Chinese proverbs or Mark Twain bent my mind better.

If anyone is having real fun in this movie, it is Naseeruddin Shah and Emraan Hashmi. Shah is at is comic hamming best even though his is not a comic role and Hashmi can't believe his luck playing an intellectual again while sneaking away smooches aplenty.
If Tusshar Kapoor is not Ekta Kapoor's brother and Jeetendra's son he'd still be one of the nicest human beings or so his face says, but as an actor his familial connections are his only hope.

If anything, this movie will make you do a passionate search about Silk Smitha. I watched a few old Tamil interviews with people who introduced or worked with Silk, unearthed old newspaper snippets about the reports of her death and watched dreary old movies again just to catch her luster somewhere in the middle.

Mar 4, 2012

Biutiful



It takes a night (sometimes more) to recover from Inarritu's films. You question your humanity, mortality, chemistry, environment, biology, sociology and other root characters that define you as a human. Your mind's eye is made to rove from Barcelona to China, from Mexico to Egypt and all those far flung places and finally when the film is over you are glad that you are where you are. The immediate effect after watching an Inarritu movie is an odd mix of relief and gratitude. Thankfully, it is not you who is suffering, it is just a movie and those faces who you saw on screen are paid actors.

Biutiful takes place in Barcelona and Javier Bardem has a role of a life time as Uxbal, a small time entrepreneur, husband, divorcee and father of two young children. The acting and the casting is so good that it is hard to believe the actors, especially the children are acting, they are so true to life.

The hallmark of Inarritu films according to me is their very palpable art. Every frame is like a living painting drawn with painstaking detail, with the play of sounds, words and faces adding to its depth. With this film Inarritu has also taken a slight deviation from his usual multi-narrative style. Although there are interwening lives, for most part the film follows Uxbal without any other parallel narrative sharing the focus. With Biutiful Inarritu proves once again that to reach out and produce art with mass appeal you do not have to use pretentious prose or affect psuedo artsiness, life itself if told in simple words and painted with the right palette can produce the greatest art of them all.



Mar 1, 2012

A Better Life

The story of immigrants, displaced people searching for a better life is rich with material for making decent movie if you can find the right story. La Misma Luna and Maria Full of Grace are a couple of heart-wrenching movies where you find people South of the border giving everything up to pursue their American dream. While those two movies rode on the shoulder’s of their female protagonists, A Better Life showcases the bond between an immigrant father and his US born son.

Demian Bichir who plays the father is the life of the movie. Young Jose Julian who has the role of the son is not very far behind talented Mr.Bichir. A Better Life takes you into the slums of LA where illegal immigrants live out their own version of the City of Angels. The film also made it to the 2012 Oscar short list for the best foreign movie of 2011.

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