Every man’s Actor called Om Puri

  In possibly the zaniest scene from Kundan Shah’s cult film #JaaneBhiDoYaaron, Om Puri’s perpetually drunk builder barges into the middle of a mythological play on stage to serenade the very, fat and dead body of the city’s Mayor (a deadpan Satish Shah) draped in a saree. It was ‘Theatre of the Absurd’ and truly so. In a film that had an ensemble of some of the finest stage actors of the country, Puri stood out with a performance that required him to ham all the way through. The consummate actor that he was, Puri showed that one could go over the top and still make it look nuanced. The year was #1983, significant because it was in the same year that Puri won a #NationalAward for Best Actor. For his role as an upright cop in Govind Nihalani’s gut wrenching ‘Ardh Satya’ That was the genius of this every man’s actor called #OmPuri. From the sublime to the ridiculous he could play it all, with panache.

The first week of this year brought us the sad news. A heart attack had led to the untimely death of the legendary Om Puri and one says untimely simply because the actor was not ailing as such and had, in fact been busy with some acting assignments at the time of death. In a career spanning four decades and over two hundred films Puri wowed audiences the world over and is rightfully called as India’s first crossover actor. It was his marvelous acting in films like ‘City of Joy’ and ‘East is East’ that endeared him to western audiences. One still remembers his haunting cameo as an angry peasant in Richard Attenborough’s Oscar Award winning biopic #Gandhi where appearing for all of 90 seconds running time, Puri leaves a indelible impression on the audience. Regardless of the length, Om Puri had the ability to breathe life into a role and make it memorable.

Coming from a lesser privileged background, Puri had to make ends meet doing odd jobs from a very young age of seven. But what held him in good stead was the education that he managed to complete from respected film institutes like the #NationalSchoolofDrama & #FTII. Though his initial days in films were far from easy due to his ordinary looks, he was also fortunate to be an integral part of what came to be known as #The ParallelCinemaMovement of the late 70s and the 1980s. This in turn was the tail end of the neo-realistic Bengali films of the 1950s & 60s that had roots in Italian neorealism. These were all film known for rejecting the song and dance routine of commercial films and for embracing realism and serious subjects. With directors like Shyam Benegal, Gulzar, MS Sathyu and Mrinal Sen and Mani Kaul and actors (and actresses) like #NaseeruddinShah, Shabana Azmi and #SmitaPatil for company, Puri delivered some stellar performances. Till the movement died.

From the late 80s began another glorious chapter in Puri’s career. Where on one hand he was seen playing stellar roles in ventures in international ventures, he also made a successful crossover to commercial Hindi films. Where the lead role eluded him but the actor in Puri made sure he got the author backed roles in which he shone. From playing the archetypal villain of the piece to essaying goofy characters intended to raise a good laugh Puri did what was expected of him. With aplomb. The greatest contribution of Puri to Indian cinema will be having inspired not so good looking great actors to try their hand in big, bad #Bollywood. From Manoj Bajpai to #IrrfanKhan, #NawazuddinSiddiqui to Rajkumar Rao the list is long. So when the #AcademyAwards paid a warm and touching tribute to the splendid Puri this year but not one of the dozen odd Indian film awards deemed it fit to do so, one feels a little disappointed. Even in death, life is a struggle for Puri.

Remix comes back to haunt Bollywood

 Scene one in a packed cineplex playing the latest rom-com (romantic comedy for the uninformed) starring #Alia&Varun, the hit pair of the month in Bollywood. High point of the movie is supposedly a club song that the better half is excited to watch on the big screen. It is no sooner that the song begins that one realises that the song #TammaTamma is a remixed version of what itself was a strictly average song from an equally average film from the 80s.

Scene two while heading back home and the car radio is loudly blaring out the latest hit starring the lead pair of #Aashiqui2. The song is an #ARRehman chartbuster song #HummaHumma remixed (groan) Wait a minute. Neither was this song too old nor was it too bad and it was quite popular with the ‘smartphone’ generation too. So what was the purpose of the remix? None of this seemed to matter much to the better half who thought that the rap by singer #Badshah was cute.

Scene three at a friend’s dinner party where the DJ decides to play the hottest song of 2017(her
words)and asks all of us to hit the floor, which we do. The song was ‘Tu Cheez Badi Hai Mast Mast’ Dismayed as one was, the way things had been panning out this should have probably been expected. Clearly there was something wrong with the world as one knew it. What was the reason for this new found penchant for trashing trashy music?

One has always believed that when one is #Remixing music, one is killing the essence of the original. No matter if the remix was done by the same artist who composed the original song. A remix is still a remix. Here one must draw the distinction between songs composed for an Indian film versus say an original soundtrack for a film in the West. Or for that matter between Indian and western music. Where a lot of Indian music is melody (rather than rhythm) based, on the classical styles of Carnatic & Hindustani music. Which is why unlike western music, the Indian sounds do not lend themselves as well to remix. So for those who have not heard the original a remix song might seem all right, those who have will always feel something missing.

But what all these remix pundits are basically saying is that if you have heard the original, so what? Grin and bear it while they play the remix for the ‘smartphone’ generation. Be that as it may this new development in mainstream Hindi cinema is not a new one. In the late 80s and early 90s remix music had reared it’s ugly head for the first time. It came under the garb of pop music with bands like Instant Karma and artists like Bally Sagoo leading the pack. This was the era when video piracy was rampant and people bitten by the television bug had stopped going to the cinema halls. This was also the era when a young boy named Sonu Nigam was making waves singing his idol Mohammed Rafi’s songs. On tape and on stage. Fortunately this era of boorish music in Hindi films did not last too long and it took maverick director #MaheshBhatt’s #Aashiqui to break the shackles.

That was in 1990 and for almost three decades now, Hindi films have largely stayed away from remix music, barring minor aberrations here and there. With the recent lows that Hindi film music has seen it seems like things can only get better. And it will probably require another musical revolution on the lines of Bhatt’s #Aashiqui (that terrible film with terrific music) to turn the tide. Till then let us all sway to the tunes of Kala Chashma from Miss Kaif’s Baar Baar Dekho. At least it is an original. OK it is not but who has heard the original song? Not yours truly.

Return of the Ageing Superstars

In the first month of this year one saw the release of a Telugu film titled ‘Khaidi No 150’ starring the biggest superstar of the industry, Konidela Sivasankara Varaprasada famous as Chiranjeevi. Called the Boss by his adoring fans Chiranjeevi is making a comeback of sorts with this film as it comes a good decade after his last film Shankerdada Zindabad. And that film received a lukewarm response from the paying public. Predictably, even before it released, naysayers were quick to announce it’s demise owing to the superstar devoting more time to his political career in the interim. They were all proven wrong as Khaidi no 150 (named so also as it is #Chiranjeevi’s 150th film) broke all existing records at the box office falling just short of that behemoth called Bahubali. In a industry where ‘out of sight is out of mind’ applies to the biggest of them, it is incredible how #TheBoss has managed to keep his fanbase intact.

For the longest time, Malayalam cinema has led from the front when it comes to original cinema rooted in the culture and ethos unique to Kerala with great filmmakers like Bharatan, #AdoorGopalkrishnan, Ramu Kariat & Sethumadhavan just to name a few. Though formulaic commercial films do not rule the roost in the Kerala industry as much as it’s neighbouring Tamil & Telugu industries there are still some actors whose films are more eagerly awaited than the others. In fact for the longest time (over two decades) Malayalam films have been a two legged race with superstars #Mohanlal and #Mammooty currying favor with the masses and classes alike. In fact be it commercial, middle of the road or even art films both these actors have done it all, encompassing in their respective careers all possible genres of cinema. And in the year 2017 they are not doing too badly for themselves either. Mohanlal’s latest film #Pulimurugan has turned out to be the first #MalayalamFilm to gross a hundred crores at the box office. And this man has done over three hundred odd movies (320 at last count)

Artists from the film industry in #TamilNadu have always enjoyed demi god status among the masses. And not surprisingly some of the tallest politicians of the state have almost all had a glorious first innings as leading actors, actresses and writers. Be it the late MG Ramachandran (MGR) or the recently deceased ‘Amma’ J.Jayalalitha their onscreen persona has had a direct bearing on how they get perceived in real life as well. For the last few decades much like in Kerala, Tamil cinema has come to be known by it’s two marquee stars, #Rajnikanth and #KamalHassan. Interestingly enough inspite to enjoying great popularity among the people at large both have been reluctant to step into politics. Fans of the former have tried to interpret signs in each film of the superstar as proof that Rajni will join politics, but no avail. Rajnikanth whose last film #Kabali is said to have been underwhelmed at the box office yet ended up grossing over 200 crores is perhaps happy doing what he knows best. Wowing the masses.

In the commercial land of Bollywood it is all about numbers. Did the film gross 100 crores? Or was it 200 crores or even 300? At the end of the day, it all boils down to how much a movie can make over the weekend? Not as much about quality of the product itself and considering that box office can be a very fickle item on the menu for an actor,it is quite fascinating to see three actors stand tall for what is a good 25 years now. They are the #KhanTriumvirate of Aamir, Salman and Shahrukh (in order of appearance on the big screen) Call it charm, chutzpah, choice of film or mere talent these three actors have been part of all the most successful films that have ever got made. With all three being a huge draw worldwide, films starring these actors have the potential to make moolah like never before. And they are. Like Aamir’s #P.K. which made a staggering 800 crores worldwide.

And as we mention all these huge stars, how can one forget the biggest of them all, Big B? The evergreen Amitabh Bachchan missed the National Award by a proverbial whisker for his epic performance in the seminal film ‘Pink’ And he is just 75.

Ten years of a juggernaut called the IPL

  As we look back at ten years of the zany cricketing extravanza called the Indian Premier League (IPL) must admit that it has been one roller coaster of a ride for one and all. For the franchisee owners, for the cricketers (and ex cricketers) the sponsors & advertisers and above all the paying public. It has been a heady decade filled with fun, frolic, controversy, colour, glamour and big bucks. And a bit of cricket along the way. But more about that later. The IPL owes it’s inception to a rebel league called the Indian Cricket League (‎ICL) started an year before, in 2007 to be exact. Also modelled on Twenty20 format, the ICL was threatening the very existence of the official cricket board in India (read BCCI) and the BCCI got controversial businessman and sports administrator Lalit Modi on board. He proposed the IPL which was evidently inspired by the franchisee model of the NFL in the US (right down to the cheerleaders) The year was 2008.

It was high drama (some would call it cacophony) it was completely unpredictable and it was superb entertainment. It was organised chaos. It was reality television in the best sense of the term. The world of cricket (and it is not a big world with seven and a half countries playing it really) had not seen anything like the IPL, not even close. And if you thought that watching an IPL match on the telly was great fun, make sure to watch one live in a stadium. The atmosphere in these places is quite electric & not all that different from a carnival. Here you have lots of people dancing, singing, drinking and making merry while egging on their favorite team. More often than not, the accent is on having a jolly good time and less about who won in the end. In most Twenty20 matches, there are so many twists and turns that at the end of it all it is the enthralled crowd that turns out to be the winner. The first season of the IPL was a historic success.

The second season ran into trouble with dates (of March 2009) of the IPL clashing with the general elections in India. At what was the nth hour, the chairman of IPL Modi took an unprecedented decision to move the whole tournament to South Africa. Belying all expectations the tournament was well received with those in the know saying that it made more money for all than the first time around. IPL was the darling of the advertisers as well with unheard of sums being asked for and paid to back the event. The biggest of cricketers got auctioned (happily) and made the kind of money that would put an investment banker to shame. By the end of the third year there were widespread rumors of match fixing and black money in IPL. The chairman of the IPL found himself at the centre of all the allegations, was made to resign and subsequently as legal cases resumed in court, Lalit Modi left for London.

In the middle of all this what kept IPL going (and strong) was the quality of talent that the tourney was able to unearth, year after year. Purists would scoff at the slam-bam variety of bombastic cricket that Twenty20 seems to espouse but truth is that this 50 day (or is it 45?)long cricketing spectacle has proved to be a great platform for uncapped players to rub shoulders with the best in the game. Of course the big bucks is a part of the attraction too but be that as it may the world of cricket owes it to the IPL for making it a sport to pursue professionally and make a career out of. That is no less achievement. The range of shots that batsmen have in their armour nowadays, the deception that bowlers have added to their skills and the high standards of fielding that has become a norm all must give due credit to Twenty20 cricket in general and IPL in particular.

Now in the year 2017 that the IPL completes ten glorious years, there is a new question doing the
rounds. Is it time for DRS (Decision Review System) in IPL? Watch this space for more. Much more.

Have the National Film Awards become a big farce?

It is that time of the year. Again. When the National Awards for contribution to cinema are given away. Correction, announced. In a curious pattern that has been followed for god knows how many years the National Awards are announced a good two months before they are actually given away, in a glittering ceremony that is held at the Vigyan Bhavan in the national capital. And that the awards are handed to the winners by the honorable President of India in person makes these awards that much more coveted. No wonder that they are sometimes referred to as the Indian equivalent of the Oscar Awards. But (there is always the big, fat BUT) many observers from the industry opine that (in light of the spate of controversies of late) National Film Awards has lost it’s sheen and this ceremony that was conceived by the Indian government to promote Indian art and culture has today become like any of the dozen odd private film awards around. Like this year itself where the award for Best Actor going to popular matinee idol Akshay Kumar has got cynics alleging a fixed match.

There have been murmurs for some time that quality regional cinema has been overlooked in favour of bland Bollywood (that trashy word for commercial Hindi films) cinema. And the murmurs have only got louder in the last ten years. It is these poignant regional films, usually made on a shoe string budget, that showcase the real India and yet ironically, the National Awards which were instituted to encourage such work are ignoring them. As it is regional films have to face the heat in cinema halls in most parts of the country where Bollywood always hogs the limelight (gets the maximum screens) It is no surprise that the general perception internationally of Indian cinema is that it is all song-and dance and mere escapist fare. One is guessing that not many would have seen Oriya, Malayalam, Bengali or Konkani films. Which is perhaps why the country that is the producer of the largest number of films in the world has not won a single Academy Award(for best Foreign Language Film) in 60 years, and counting.

In the year 2003, when actor Ajay Devgan won his second National Award for the title role in a biopic on freedom fighter Bhagat Singh, veteran art filmmaker Adoor Gopalkrishnan was quick to object against the presence of director Prakash Jha as head of the jury deciding on the awards. The reason being that the actor was shooting for an under production film of Jha’s, titled Gangaajal at that time. Then there was the time that actress Raveena Tandon won the National Award for Best Actress in a little seen or appreciated film called Daman. It was alleged that her uncle and veteran actor MacMohan who was on the awarding jury had swung things in her favour. In that sense what is being alleged with this year’s winner is on similar lines. Where the head of the jury, director Priyadarshan who has worked in half a dozen films with Kumar is said to have influenced the final decision.

When one looks at all these controversies surrounding the National Awards it becomes abundantly clear that the issue lies with the jury. One feels strongly that the time has come to do something similar to the Academy has with it’s members. Why does the government have to choose a new jury every year? Instead why not have one permanent one with members from all the major film departments of the country as part of this jury? Let us hold that thought.

An enigmatic soothsayer called Nostradamus

 It is not always that a blog authored by a little known European scribe about a 15th century French soothsayer creates ripples in the Indian subcontinent. But that is exactly what happened with a blog written by a certain Mr Francois Gautier and it was about the very famous Nostradamus. In this blog of his, Gautier makes a startling revelation that while sifting through an old trunk of his, he stumbled upon some ‘hidden’ manuscripts of the 15th century soothsayer. Then liberally quoting passages from those manuscripts, Gautier points out that Nostradamus had actually predicted about the emergence of a ‘supreme’ leader from the state of Gujarat. And when he adds that the first name happens to be Narendrus, it leaves no doubt in one’s mind about who Gautier is referring to, in the blog. Media channels, print & television, picked up the story and started running it and before you knew it there was just one name on everyone’s lips. No not Gautier, not even Modi. But Nostradamus.

It was at the beginning of this decade (read 2010) that this #15thCenturySoothsayer first gained
worldwide popularity when word spread that he had predicted in his writings about the world coming to an end in the year 2012. Before you knew it every big, small and large media group, TV channel and filmmaker jumped into the fray all wanting to cash in by playing up the fears of the public at large. Not one person bothered to check the fact that there is no mention of the year 2012 in any of his writings let alone a word about the end of our world. Ask anybody who knows a bit about Nostradamus and they will tell you that most of his prophecies are all completely undated and it is this one facet of this French soothsayer that makes him so popular more than 500 years after his death.

There was another thing too. Fearing a backlash by powerful leaders of that time (both political & religious)for his many predictions, Nostradamus deliberately used a mixture of various languages like Latin, Greek and Italian with the objective of making the meaning of his writings as vague & obscure as possible. Professional astrologers from his time like Laurens Videl did not think highly of Nostradamus and his work calling him out for his incompetence on the subject of astrology. With the meaning of his writings being open to all kinds of interpretation, it is no wonder that in every era there have been those who have interpreted a momentous event as one that was already predicted by Nostradamus. Simply because it suited them. Truth of the matter is that #Nostradamus probably had no great powers that allowed him to peek into the future. Nostradamus was a con artist, nothing more.

Which brings us back to that blog by this gentleman called Gautier and what were the motivations behind this ‘old trunk’ tale that he had cooked up. Turns out that the very same ‘old trunk’ had quite mysteriously appeared in a 2003 book written by Gautier and ironically the title was ‘Rewriting Indian history’ #FrancoisGautier who came to India in the late 60s as a 19 year old and has been here since is more an Indian than a Frenchman, really. A self confessed supporter of the controversial Hindutva ideology that aims to establish the hegemony of the majority in the country, he has been misinterpreting Nostradamus to suit his political ideology for over two decades now. What is baffling is that people still keep falling for his trick after all these years! More baffling is how this fake blog made it’s way to the columns of the largest English-language daily in the world?! Times of India? You betcha.

Hindi Medium – Zabaan Sambhalke please!

  But if thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought – George Orwell

INTRO

HINDI MEDIUM seems like a natural progression for director Saket Chaudhary’s protagonist where only the lead actors playing them have changed hands. If in 2006 the hero was warning us about the pitfalls of falling in love (#PYAARKESIDEEFFECTS) a few years he was back with his escapades post marriage (#SHAADIKESIDEEFFECTS) Now in 2017 it seems like that protagonist is back. This time, grappling with issues as a parent.

WARNING – SPOILERS AHEAD

STORY

The biggest strength of this director is in choosing subjects that are relatable. In HINDI MEDIUM, Irrfan and Saba the lead actors play the Batras from #ChandniChowk who are consumed by a desire to get their daughter admitted to a good #EnglishMediumSchool in #Delhi. Which parent today doesn’t? The film follows the couple’s shenanigans which get increasingly bizarre and desperate.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

Both the writer Zeenat Lakhani (who was co-writer of SHAADI KE SIDE EFFECTS) & director Chaudhary come from a background in writing for #Television. In HINDI MEDIUM the writing is engaging, bereft of balderdash in the name of comedy and there are genuinely funny moments throughout the 172 minute duration of the film. There are no unnecessary sub plots nor are there any characters added simply to make up numbers. Both the actors playing the parents seems like flesh and blood characters that the audience can easily identify with. Though the film does go a little off kilter in the last portions it is an enjoyable journey three fourths of the way. The monologue by Irrfan in the climax though contrived almost works thanks to the actor’s brilliance.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

Music directors and brothers #SachinJigar are on a roll. Their last three films (#BADLAPUR, #ABCD2 and #AFLYINGJATT) all had rocking music and though HINDI MEDIUM has little scope for music they still impress. Though the song that is burning the charts #TenuSuitSuitKarda has been credited to Punjabi singer and composer #GuruRandhawa. #MaddockFilms of #DineshVijan has been associated with films of impeccable production values and HINDI MEDIUM is no exception. For veteran editor A Sreekar Prasad the film is a triumph for he never really lets the film get too self indulgent and keeps it tight.

PERFORMANCES

If you thought as Pappi in TANU WEDS MANU, #DeepakDobriyal was great wait till you see him in HINDI MEDIUM. His scenes with Irrfan where he teaches the couple how to act poor and convincingly at that, are a riot and are one of the highlights of the film. In recent years quite a few actresses from across the border have tried to make a crossover to Bollywood with the latest being Mahira Khan with #RAEES earlier this year. But none has been nearly as impressive as #SabaQamar who is the real surprise package of the film. Far from getting intimidated by having to match wits with an actor of Irrfan’s pedigree, Saba stands her own in scene after scene. She has an innate charm and compliments Irrfan’s dead pan style of humor with her over the top reactions perfectly. My favorite scene of hers is her awkward reaction when she bumps into an old flame (Sanjay Suri in a guest appearance) which leaves the audience guessing as to what might have transpired between the two.

Like in most of his recent films, #Irrfan is lord of all that he surveys in HINDI MEDIUM as well. That he has great timing when it comes to comedy was first in evidence in LIFE IN A METRO. From the opening scene that is a flashback of sorts about how Irrfan met his future wife to the interview scene with the principal of an elite school (Amrita Singh in a teeny weeny role) and his priceless reactions to the character of Deepak Dobriyal, Irrfan lends credence and sanity to many scenes that would have fallen flat in the hands of a lesser actor.

DIRECTION

#SaketChaudhary had surprised everyone with his quirky and sharp writing in his directorial debut more than a decade ago with PYAAR KE SIDE EFFECTS. Which is why the eight year long gap before he made his second was quite inexplicable. Especially since when SHAADI KE SIDE EFFECTS was not half as good. Yes there are some blemishes towards the closing portions where the film gets all mushy on you but that is quite all right. Saket seems to have learnt his lesson with HINDI MEDIUM which boasts of excellent performances, splendid writing and is probably his best film yet.

VERDICT

HINDI MEDIUM is a good weekend watch, one that will have you exiting the theatres with a smile on your face. Though the subject is universal the style of treatment is quite urban which means that the film should appeal to the multiplex audience immensely. And a strong word of mouth should see the film sail through at the box office too. Good one time watch!

ALIEN COVENANT – Ridley Scott is back with a bang

 Get away from her, you b***ch – Ellen Ripley in the ALIENS

INTRO

39 years ago, Sir Ridley Scott directed what was only his second film and it was called #ALIEN. Widely considered to be the greatest #Sci-Fi #Horror film of all time it spawned a sequel seven years later called the #ALIENS which the visionary #JamesCameron made and it became an instant classic. 25 years and half a dozen unimpressive sequels later Scott returned to direct the ALIEN series with #PROMETHEUS in #2012. Though visually path breaking the film could not sustain audience interest and it failed to provide the spark needed to revitalise the franchise. Undeterred the British filmmaker is back with ALIEN COVENANT a film whose teasers have got audiences agog with excitement of the kind not seen in decades.

STORY

The year is #2104. #Covenant is a colony ship that is on a space voyage (which will take approximately seven years to complete if everything goes to plan)to some remote planet looking for human settlement with over 2000 people in deep freeze sleep with a thousand odd embryos to boot. To nobody’s surprise the ill fated ship meets with an accident and the inhabitants make a disastrous decision to detour to a completely different planet. And so begins the mayhem, carnage and blood letting. Sounds familiar? Absolutely.

SCRIPT & SCREENPLAY

Does one have to see PROMETHEUS to make sense of what is happening in #ALIENCOVENANT? Fortunately, not and this works quite well as a stand alone film. The sombre opening sequence involving a philosophical debate between the character of #MichaelFassbender (reprising his role from PROMETHEUS) and his father (Guy Pearce in a fleeting appearance) does nothing to prepare the audiences for what is to follow. Over the next two hours there is hardly a dull moment in the film which has it’s requisite share of scream-out-loud moments. And the writers John Logan and Dante Harper do a fantastic job in sticking to the brief given by Scott. ALIEN COVENANT never becomes drab, heavy handed and boring. Which is exactly what the problem with PROMETHEUS was.

One of the big reasons for the unprecedented success of the original ALIEN films was the superb character of the fiesty, never-say-die #Ripley brought to life by #SigourneyWeaver. And let us be frank, #KatherineWaterston might have her own charm but she cannot hold a candle to Ripley. Ridley Scott seems to realise this only too well. Which is why he introduces the double whammy of Michael Fassbender into ALIEN COVENANT. How successful this film eventually turns out will depend to a large extent on how well the characters of David and Walter are received by fans.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

One of the big pluses of the original ALIEN was it’s extraordinary soundtrack composed by the great #JerryGoldsmith. Which is why the choice of Australian singer and song writer #JedKurzel is an inspired one and he sure does not disappoint. There are enough moments throughout ALIEN COVENANT where the dark, eerie score will remind you of the 1979 original. Like all other Scott films and PROMETHEUS in particular this one also is a scorcher when it comes to visual extravagance. The eye catching landscapes, breathtaking mountains and water bodies that dot this mysterious planet are all proof that when it comes to production values Scott is still master of all that he surveys.

PERFORMANCES

Compare Katherine’s Daniel to Weaver’s Ripley and you will find her falling way short but see her performance in isolation and it is quite a good job she does. But ALIEN COVENANT well and truly belongs to the identical looking twins played by Michael Fassbender and he manages to keep audiences glued right till the end credits with his magnetic performance. With two more prequels on the cards, Fassbender is one big reason to look forward to.

DIRECTION

With directors like #ClintEastwood, #WoodyAllen, #JeanGodard and now Ridley Scott all directing films well into their 80s sure seems like it is just a number for these evergreen filmmakers. Scott who seemed to have blown the chance to breathe life into the ALIEN franchise five years ago doggedly persists with ALIEN COVENANT which clearly is the best film in this franchise since #1986. The success of this film will pave the way for the two mammoth prequels that are in the pipeline. Whether Scott himself helms them remains to be seen.

VERDICT

ALIEN COVENANT is a worthy third film in the trilogy that consists of the 1979 original ALIEN and the 1986 smash hit ALIENS. Watch it to relive the horror unleashed by the #Xenomorphs. All over again.

SARKAR 3 – The Nagre saga ends with a whimper

  Behind every successful fortune there is a crime – Mario Puzo, The Godfather

INTRO

Twelve years ago, maverick director Ram Gopal Verma directed a film called #SARKAR. It was his most acclaimed film since the brilliant #SATYA seven eight years ago before that. Like many filmmakers around the world RGV drew inspiration from the #FrancisFordCoppola gangster epic #THEGODFATHER and in 2008 when SARKAR RAJ released it followed the narrative of the Coppola film right till the end when the director quite inadvertently decided to bump off the younger son, Shanker (modelled after Pacino’s #MichaelCorleone) Thanks to this unforeseen scripting gaffe it took a good nine years for the maker to come up with a plausible, coherent script that would take the story ahead. That is what SARKAR 3 is.

STORY

Strangely enough the writers of SARKAR 3 seem to forgotten to watch how #SARKARRAJ ended and the character of Anita (played by #AishwaryaRai) is conspicuous by her absence. The aging patriarch Subhash Nagre and his now frail wife (an average Supriya Pathak) are taking life one day at a time but he still seems to have a penchant for making enemies both within the family and outside it. So while you have Nagre’s own grandson (an underwhelming Amit Sadh) and his paramour (#YamiGautam miscast in a half baked role) both baying for Nagre’s blood, there are others like an NRI businessman(a terribly irritating #JackieShroff) a shrewd politician (#ManojBajpai)not to mention Nagre’s most trusted lieutanant (Ronit Roy who is as impressive as ever) who are all waiting to take over Nagre’s empire. The remainder of SARKAR 3 is about how Nagre and his fight for survival.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

The screenplay is by RGV himself and a gentleman called Nilesh Girkar (who has written duds such as DEPARTMENT, AGYAAT and AB TAK CHAPPAN 2) is passable and engaging at places. Fortunately at just over 2 hours (132 minutes of running time) SARKAR 3 does not get too over bearing. The dialogues are a bit of mixed bag with some of the lines spoken by the character of Jackie Shroff coming across as downright silly. In addition the plot contrivances are predictably similar to those in the earlier parts so when the betrayals come (and they come thick and fast) the viewers is left with a feeling of #DejaVu. The new characters, be it that of Nagre’s grandson, his trusted strong man or his enemies seems to be poorly written thus coming across as almost caricaturish.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

In many of RGV’s films his weird shot composition has rendered some excellent work by the technicians involved redundant. Like his excessive use of Sanskrit shlokas and chantings in the background music (there is more of that in SARKAR 3) and the penchant for placing the camera at odd angles thus diluting the overall impact of the scene itself. SARKAR passes muster but only just. DOP Amol Rathod does a swell job especially when one considers how RGV likes to mess around and the stunning sequence of the Ganesh arathi by Bachchan is a gem. Editor Anwar Ali who also has worked with RGV before (in VEERAPPAN) does a fair job and the film does not lag much.

PERFORMANCES

Both the first two films boasted of an ensemble of some very talented actors and SARKAR 3 is no exception either. #RaviKale played the role of Nagre’s strong man in the previous parts and in this part that role is taken up by Ronit Roy. As Gokul the man who secretly wants to head the organisation, Ronit Roy’s role takes off on a very interesting note before petering off. The women in this enterprise all get a raw deal- be it Yami as the revenge seeking lover, the veteran actress Rohini Hattangady or even Nagre’s wife played by Supriya Pathak. None of these roles take off the way they could, and should have.

Not that the men fare any better. Amit Sadh’s Nagre grandson seems all muddled up. Does he want to avenge his father’s death. Or does he simply want to be Sarkar? One is not too sure. Also he simply does not have the aura of either the Big B or junior Bachchan and seems ill suited to don the mantle he so desires. Jackie Shroff’s Michael Vallya is not just badly written but is equally badly acted too with Shroff sleepwalking through the role. Manoj Bajpai has his moments and tries his best to rise above his badly written role. The scene in which he mimics ‘Sarkar’ before the people is fab.

In the end it is Amitabh Bachchan as #SubhashNagre who brings much needed gravitas to the mundane onscreen drama. In his trademark black kurtas, Bachchan wows as he dispenses pearls of wisdom while slurping on tea from the plate. Be it anger, agony, pain, joy or love he expresses it all with remarkable restraint in the process making the character of Subhash Nagre his own.

DIRECTION

It has been some time since the world of cinema found out that #RGV is a one-trick pony. His best was in the distant past and one cannot quite understand his compulsions to keep churning out what are shoddy remakes of his own cult films. #Ghouls and #Gangsters are the only things that seem to excite him and he seems to have done both these genres to death. Some time ago. SARKAR 3 is again at best an average to middling effort which you will forget as soon as you step out of the theatre. The world seems to have forgotten RGV and moved on. Wish he would too.

VERDICT

Do not expect any fireworks from SARKAR 3 at the box office. The content needed to be powerful for word of mouth to kick off but no such luck here. One just hopes that with this film RGV stops flogging a dead horse which is what the SARKAR franchise has been reduced to. But knowing RGV, expect just the opposite. Avoidable!

Crisis in job sector – Is there a way out?

 It was one of the big electoral promises by the then Prime Ministerial candidate #NarendraModi. In the runup to the general elections of 2014 he announced that if voted to power, his party (the BJP) would provide a #Crore jobs to the unemployed youth of the country. That India has a population of over #130Crores of which a vast majority are under the age of 35 made it a promise that could change the fortunes of a nation if implemented in the right spirit. Three years down the line it seems like that promise has been belied. In a report published by the #LabourBureau in 2015 that covered eight of the key non farming sectors of India it was found that #Unemployment has instead risen alarmingly to a five year high of 5%. And their latest findings show that jobs grew by a paltry 1.1% in the last one year. With estimates that in the largest state of India #UttarPradesh itself there are over a crore unemployed people things are clearly not getting better. Any time soon.

And then there is the whole factor of #. Not quite the same as unemployment but as worrisome, it has to do with people working in jobs that not just pay less wages but are also low skill jobs. Case in point being the city of #Allahabad (in UP) where in December of last year over a lakh people applied for the job of #ContractualSweepers, many of whom were post graduates, engineers and some even had master’s degrees. And the number of vacancies – just 119. The Labour Bureau report states that under employment has gone up by 35% in the last couple of years which means thousands of young, skilled workers are languishing in jobs that offer neither job satisfaction, good money nor are there better career prospects for them. Their present is full of hardships and the future is bleak.

It is said that when it rains, it pours. A recent study predicts that about two lakh workers in the #IT sector are expected to lose jobs every year, for the next three years. First there was the recent change of guard in the US presidential elections which has resulted in unprecedented visa restrictions thanks to which even Indian companies doing business there have started employing local talent. In addition the global slowdown in IT services has also hit India hard. This will adversely affect the educated middle class in the country’s urban areas who have all benefited from the IT boom in the last two and a half decades. The first step that has to be taken to fix this crisis is to first acknowledge that there is one. And it is a big one that requires the present government to walk the talk. For once.

To be fair to the BJP it is not they have done nothing. On the contrary there have been a slew of initiatives by the government to try and address the rising unemployment problems. In fact the #MakeInIndia campaign is easily one of the flagship programs launched by Prime Minister Modi. Also this regime has taken many measures to bring in FDI but unless the foreign companies and investors are mandated to manufacture a chunk of their products in India itself this move by itself will not bear great dividends. Hope also stems from the skill development program of this government that has an ambitious aim of being able to create a skilled work force of one crore in the next three years. But be sure of one thing. Time is running out. And unless we act and fast dark days lie ahead.