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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Jun 21, 2017

Raees

Raees is Shah Rukh Khan time traveling to the eighties with aviator style frames (his character has a vision problem), shirts with shoulder epaulettes and several colorful rotary phones at his disposal. Director Rahul Dholakia’s DeLorean-esque powers place Shah Rukh in a coastal town in Gujarat, which is looking for a savior, although the town does not know that yet.

Before we jump into the movie, some trivia action first. Skip on to the next paragraph, if you are not into such 'trivial' stuff. Gujarat, the home state of the current Prime Minister of India Narendra Modi is a realm of contradictions. It has the longest coastline (990 miles) of any Indian state but not many people are into seafood. They prefer thin flat-breads of varying thinness ending with 'la' or 'li' to dead fish any day. It is a state known for its tough Hindu identity politics but also has a sizeable Muslim population; both communities are known for their entrepreneurial spirit. It is also a ‘dry’ state, the sale and consumption of alcohol is banned 24/365, but it remains one of the biggest markets for illicit liquor in India, with special features including home delivery.

Raees Aslam, the main character played by Shah Rukh is a Muslim bootlegger/ multi-talented entrepreneur(all Gujaratis are entrepreneurs of some sort, but not all entrepreneurs are Gujaratis) who insists that he would not mix religion with business and holds true to his word for most of the story. The film is all about Raees-the man aka Shah Rukh Khan. So if you are not into Shah Rukh, beat it. Or better still, hang around, Shah Rukh does give many opportunities in this film for you to trash him with his signature mannerisms  peek-booing into his performance not very infrequently.

Then there is the inimitable Nawazuddin Siddiqui as the honest cop Majmudar who has a weakness for all things in writing. The beautiful Pakistani actress Mahira Khan stars as Shah Rukh's lady love.  Maybe it's make up, maybe it's Mahira (I suspect it is make-up on both sides), while Shah Rukh manages to look younger, Mahira succeeds in looking older thereby bridging their couple of decades worth of age gap in real life rather skillfully. 

The ubiquitous Indian drink - chai (tea), in shot-glass sized cups makes numerous appearances not only as a drink, but as strategic props and pointers to help the chai-drinking bootleggers and co. keep one step ahead in the game of whoever is chasing them at the moment - be it the cops or other really wicked bootleggers. When liquor flows like water it is chai you crave for - is the moral of the story.

Raees is pure Bollywood masala in a realistic setting. The streets of Bhuj where the movie is shot adds an indisputable made in Gujarat seal. Music and songs which can make or  break a Bollywood blockbuster is just the right mix tape, with different music directors or bands composing each song, that DJ ordered for making Raees a success. All in all I'd consider Raees a well-aged Bollywood moonshine.

Jun 5, 2017

Hell Or High Water

West Texas is the romanticized West of twenty first century Hollywood still populated by outlaws, sheriffs and thousands of cows. The edgy element of romance is provided by skeletal still art of derricks dotting the desert-scape, populated by dirt-poor ranchers, slick oilmen and occasionally, in saunters Jeff Bridges in a cowboy hat.

In Hell or High Water, West Texas is played by Eastern New Mexico. Same difference, the same earth under the same sun on either side of an invisible human-drawn administrative line, apparently invisible lines have no effect on geographies.

In addition to the strangely addictive West Texas-Jeff Bridges combo, Hell or High Water has a great cast and a subtly kick-ass script by Hollywood’s true Texan writer – Taylor Sheridan. Directed by David Mackenzie, the movie is about two brothers taking revenge on a financial institution, to put it indirectly staying clear of spoilers.

Chris Pine and Ben Foster work the dynamics of an endearing brothers-in-arms duo, one a happy go lucky ex-con and the other a reserved and protective father. The brothers are balanced on the other side of the law by two Texas rangers – wise-cracking Jeff Bridges and a half Comanche-half Mexican ranger played by Gil Birmingham. There is an interesting tension between these two law men characters  colored with sarcasm and racial jokes yet their banter (mainly one-sided by Bridge's character) has the looking out for each other, brother-from-another-mother quality.

The camera panning the desolate expanse of the desert towns and the story chasing the brothers through the lone star state's western outposts  captures the hopelessness, isolation and rapidly creeping poverty of the region. If you like neo-Westerns (there might or might not be cowboys, by Western I just mean they are shot in the American south west) check out Serpico, True Grit or Nocturnal Animals, the desert is a prominent player in all these remarkable movies.

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