Mubarakan – And how Singh is still King

There’s nothing more demonic than two bored twins

– Signed Tamaki

INTRO

Almost all Bollywood films revolving around identical twins take inspiration from two seminal works. Alexander Dumas’s Corsican Brothers and Shakespeare’s Comedy of Errors. Incidentally the Bard himself had twins in real life. And be it #DilipKumar (RAM AUR SHYAM) #DevAnand (HUM DONO) #SanjeevKumar (ANGOOR) #RajeshKhanna (ARADHANA) or #AmitabhBachchan (DON) they have all done these roles. The leading ladies are not too far behind either. From #Nargis (ANHONEE) to #SharmilaTagore (MAUSAM) #HemaMalini (SEETA AUR GEETA) and #Sridevi (CHAALBAAZ) to the recent #KanganaRanaut (TANU WEDS MANU RETURNS) playing two roles is a temptation they clearly cannot resist. Films with mistaken identity as the theme are generally considered a safe bet as long as they are written well. Writer & director #AneesBazmee is another filmmaker to try his hand at this genre with his latest offering, MUBAKARAN. Will it sink or swim?

STORY

Karan & Charan (Arjun Kapoor) are twins who lose their parents at a young age. Their uncle Kartar Singh (#AnilKapoor) decides that one should grow with a sister (#RatnaPathakShah) in London while another grows in sadda Punjab with a brother (#PavanMalhotra) Don’t ask why though. Cut to when they grow old enough to be married. Their uncle messes up things (One has a pagdi and yet confusion reigns. Don’t ask how) by getting the boys engaged to the wrong girl. From which point all hell breaks loose.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

Marriage is a recurring theme in all the recent films of Anees Bazmee (NO ENTRY, WELCOME, SINGH IS KING). And #Mubarakan is no exception. And if you have suffered the ignominy of watching his previous films there is actually a set formula to the madness. Though one cannot quite understand why Bazmee who is no lesser writer of slapstick himself(SHOLA AUR SHABNAM, BOL RADHA BOL, AANKHEN, RAJA BABU, DEEWANA MASTANA) has left the writing to others. Having said that relatively unknown Balwinder Singh Janjua who is credited with both the story & screenplay (23 March 1931:SHAHEED,AB TUMHARE HAWALE WATAN SATHIYO ?) and dialogue writer #RajeshChawla (DELHI HEIGHTS, WARNING, SHARAFAT GAYI TEL LENE ??) seem to work well under Bazmee’s tutelage. The scene in which all three Kapoors come together (Sanjay Kapoor as the ghost in a friendly appearance) is inspired writing. And though the film is over two and a half hours long it has enough to keep the masses entertained. There are too many songs (almost all of which are loud, garish and strictly average) and like most films of Bazmee the wheels start to come off by the time the film stumbles it’s way to a botched up climax.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

Like in most slapstick comedies the music of MUBARAKAN by Amaal Malik, Rishi Rich & Gourov-Roshin is passable (but only just) The background score that goes from loud & louder to are you nuts? (Sorry Michael Jackson) can be jarring to begin with but after a while your ears gets adjusted to the noise. The DOP Himman Dhamija (I,ME AUR MAIN, CHANDNI CHOWK TO CHINA, DAWAAT-E-ISHQ ???) does what is expected of him – make every frame as bright & larger than life as possible. Veteran editor Rameshwar Bhagat (SULTAN, BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN, DHOOM 2) does a good job of keeping a tight lid on things, especially in the pre interval portions.

PERFORMANCES

One thing that Bazmee knows is the value of good actors and however inane his films might be the one thing that salvages them and makes these farcical comedies bearable are the actors. MUBARAKAN is no different. Where Ratna Pathak Shah does what is expected of her as the sophisticated caretaker aunt of the London bred Arjun, Pavan Malhotra hams away to glory as the uncle bringing up the Punjabi Arjun. Rahul ‘The Body’ Dev is wasted in a silly special appearance. Of the three heroines #NehaSharma is strictly average. #AthiyaShetty clearly has inherited her father’s acting genes and is as wooden as wood itself. Ileana who has a meatier role is somewhat better.

Arjun Kapoor has already done a dud called AURANGZEB where he played two roles before. Bazmee saves him the blushes here by giving a ‘pagdi’ to one of the twins. Here is a non actor who has neither the acting chops nor the looks that his uncle had and still does. And his weight issues show that he does not have the discipline either. But hey this is Bollywood where blood is thicker than talent. As expected all the heavy lifting in MUBARAKAN is done by the ageless wonder Anil Kapoor. If you have seen him in Bazmee’s previous ventures like NO ENTRY & WELCOME you know exactly what to expect. And that is exactly what you will get in MUBARAKAN. A jhakaaass performance.

DIRECTION

Anees Bazmee has been doing #Slapstick for so long and been making a success of it that one should probably anoint him the ‘Master of the Absurd’ To his credit he knows his audience and sticks to what he is good at. Making life very uncomplicated for himself and those watching his films. And with MUBARAKAN he again scores. The first half itself has enough punches to do the needful. Though he falters in the second half he uses his trump card (read Anil Kapoor) well to keep the viewer hooked.

VERDICT

MUBARAKAN is not for those who like to ask stupid questions about the absence of logic in the film. Nor is it for those who ask smart questions about the stereotyping of a race like the Punjabis. In fact MUBARAKAN is not for those who ask any questions. If you can resist the temptation to do so you might actually find yourself breaking into a smile every now & then. This one is sure to rake in the moolah and knowing Bazmee that can only mean one thing. A sequel.

Toilet: Ek Prem Katha – Bollywood succumbs to political propoganda

Cleanliness is next to Godliness

– M.K.Gandhi

INTRO

For the last couple of years the going has been good for the ‘Khiladi’ Akshay Kumar in Bollywood. His choice of films (AIRLIFT, RUSTOM, JOLLY LLB2, BABY) have found resonance with the masses and the discerning (to a lesser extent) even garnering him his first National award. That it has created it’s own share of controversy is another matter. With his latest venture TOILET: EK PREM KATHA he joins hands with ace editor Sree Narayan Singh on a subject of great importance to our country. #OpenDefecation. Understandably expectations are high. Does the film meet them? Read on.

STORY

36 year old cycle shop owner Keshav (Akshay Kumar) is desperate to settle down (read get married) but his extremely orthodox family headed by the patriarch, Keshav’s father (Sudhir Pandey) and their age old beliefs are a big hindrance. As luck would have it he falls in love with Jaya (Bhoomi Pednekar) a fairly well educated girl from a neighbouring village and woos her in typical Bollywood style. But their joy is short lived for soon Jaya discovers that her husband’s home does not have a toilet. The young bride gives Keshav an ultimatum – Biwi paas chahiye toh ghar me sandaas chahiye and leaves his house. How Keshav brings her back forms the rest of the narrative.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

The writer duo of Siddharth Singh & Garima Wahal whose claim to fame is the work that they have done for director Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s hit ventures (GOLIYON KI RAASLEELA RAM-LEELA & BAJIRAO MASTANI) have written this film. Frankly a subject as complex as this required deft handling which is clearly missing. Also that the film unabashedly pays an ode to the beloved #SwachBharatAbhiyaan campaign of our Prime Minister is annoying. Not only is it preachy but seeks to put the onus of tackling this problem on us, the people. There are parts which are actually well done but at over 150 minutes of running time the film seems too long and has too many songs that could have been chopped off.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

The music of #ToiletEkPremKatha is scored by Vickey Prasad, Manas-Shikhar, Sachet-Parampara all newbies and inspite of a couple of them being rendered with great earnestness by singer Sonu Nigam they are far from impressive. At best they are average and that is about it. The DOP Anshuman Mahaley who showed great promise in Jolly LLB, GIPPI is all right here. Shree Narayan Singh who is an ace editor himself gets a tad self indulgent with his directorial debut.

PERFORMANCES

The film is salvaged to a great extent by it’s performances. Veteran actor Sudhir Pandey is excellent as the regressive minded patriarch who is outraged at the very thought of having a toilet in the same vicinity as the #Tulsi plant (that is worshipped by Hindus) Divyendu Sharma who showed some promise in his debut film #PYAARKAPUNCHNAMA is very likeable as Akshay Kumar’s younger brother here. Another person who lives up to the promise of her first film is actress #BhumiPednekar. Having lost loads of weight and looking quite fetching she is very good as a wife who is unafraid to speak the truth.

The role of Keshav is tailor made for actor #AkshayKumar who exudes just the right amount of sincerity that is required to pull it off. His choice of roles (of late) which seem to suffer from a overdose of patriotism makes one fear he might just be reduced to becoming a poster boy of the current government and TOILET: EK PREM KATHA only reinforces this. One only hopes that the Khiladi Kumar does not yield to this and spoil what is clearly the best phase of his acting career.

DIRECTION

Considering that this film is the directorial debut of editor Shree Narayan Singh it is a laudable effort. He has been able to extract good work from his actors and the film does have an important message. What is not laudable but rather worrying is how he has left himself and the film be used as a vehicle to wax eloquent about the present government. There is no attempt to delve deeper into issues like #Casteism in the Hindu community or the shocking practice of #HumanScavenging. Instead a wishy washy solution is provided and the government is absolved of any wrongdoings. Worse the film even sings paeans to #Demonetisation which is hard to digest. And if this film makes big bucks at the box office which seems very likely it might just set an unhealthy trend.

VERDICT

In the end TOILET:EK PREM KATHA is an all right one time watch with enough moments to keep the masses entertained. And it is sure to rake in the moolah. For those expecting a satire or a black comedy (on the lines of a JAANE BHI DO YAARON) this one will disappoint.

Will the real Nitish Kumar please stand up?

The year was #2000 and it was on March 10th that the #BiharAssembly witnessed unprecedented scenes when Nitish Kumar the CM of a seven day old government put in his papers on the floor of the house. His minority government had been given a week by a generous Governor to cobble up numbers, which in Indian politics means just one thing – horse trading. But Nitish being Nitish did nothing of the sort in the bargain clinching the high moral ground. Cut to 2017. Something equally dramatic happened a few days ago when the same Nitish Kumar once again resigned from the post of CM. But this time circumstances were totally different. Nitish’s government in alliance with the man, who was his bete noire for most of his political career, #LalooPrasadYadav was in a majority. Before one could fully grasp the implications of this move came another salvo from Nitish. Within 24 hours he became the CM again. But this time with support from the opposition party, BJP. It was a double whammy.

In the year 1956 the then railway minister (and future Prime Minister) #LalBahadurShastri resigned after a tragic train accident in Tamil Nadu claimed over 140 lives. In the 70 years of independent India there have been several such unfortunate incidents and yet, of all the 43 ministers who have handled the #Railway ministry in this period only one another person resigned taking moral responsibility. No prizes for guessing who that was. In 1999 a ghastly train accident in Assam led to over 290 deaths and #NitishKumar promptly put in his papers. The loss was entirely of the railway ministry for while in charge of affairs Nitish had brought in some pathbreaking reforms. It was he who ushered in the era of railway ticketing over the internet. And who can forget his masterstroke, the #TatkalScheme which allows passengers to book train tickets at a short notice.

For 15 years (from 1990-2005) Bihar was in the grip of what observers liked to call the #JungleRaj where the ruling party #RJD was alleged to be corrupt to the hilt with the CM himself being accused of several scams. So much so that in this period kidnapping had become like an industry in itself. Nitish inherited what was a state in terminal sickness. The son of a freedom fighter, an engineering graduate and a product of the #JPMovement, Nitish took up the challenge and over the next decade changed the face of Bihar. From cracking down mercilessly on criminals to sprucing up primary health care centers throughout the state, electrification in villages, building roads and encouraging literacy in women he did it all. Of course his proudest achievements were in the education sector. Getting hundreds and thousands of teachers jobs, meal programs for the underprivileged and gifting cycles to girls who attended school. While he was doing all this the political landscape in the country had changed.

For someone who has elevated resigning from plum posts into a fine art and always emerged stronger from the experience this latest episode has not gone down well, even with staunch supporters of Nitish. The trouble for Nitish and his party has been the inability to win enough seats to make the government on their own steam. So be it the opportunist #Congress, the corruption tainted RJD or the right wingers from BJP Nitish has had to rely on one or the other to stay in the reckoning. This realignment with the ruling party BJP comes at a terrible expense. In all probability Nitish will never become the Prime Minister. Something which seemed possible when his alliance (read #Mahagathbandhan) won handsomely in 2015. But for Nitish Kumar Bihar comes first. Everything else is secondary. All said and done one cannot help but feel that this saga is far from over. Watch this space for more.

Dunkirk – Nolan’s stirring ode to the indefatigable human spirit

War does not determine who is right – only who is left

– Anonymous

INTRO

Still remember thinking that this bloke has finally lost it on hearing that auteur filmmaker #ChristopherNolan was next making a war film. Not that his last few films were not good. DARK KNIGHT RISES, INCEPTION or INTERSTELLAR were all very good, extraordinary in parts even. But then with MEMENTO, PRESTIGE and THE DARK KNIGHT, Nolan had set lofty standards. Nolan’s competition was Nolan himself. And why, pray a #War film? From #DavidLean (BRIDGE ON RIVER KWAI) and #Coppola (APOCALYPSE NOW) to #Kubrick (FULL METAL JACKET) and #Spielberg (SAVING PRIVATE RYAN) not to forget #Tarantino (INGLORIOUS BASTERDS) the greatest in Hollywood had explored all there was to. What new perspective could Nolan possibly bring to this genre? The English-American director answers this emphatically with DUNKIRK. And then some.

WARNING: SPOILERS AHEAD

STORY

Sir #WinstonChurchill is regarded as one of the tallest leaders in world history and not without reason. He became the British #PrimeMinister an year after the Second World War began in the year 1940. And the #BattleOfDunkirk that took place almost as soon as he assumed power was a trial by fire for Churchill, so to speak. Nolan’s film is about the evacuation of more than 3,00,000 #AlliedForces holed up in the French port of Dunkirk. If the Germans who had succeeded Europe would have fallen and who knows, the War itself would have perhaps taken a whole different course. To this day the British take inspiration from what is referred to in local parlance as the #DunkirkSpirit.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

Remember the final act in THE DARK KNIGHT? Where multiple tracks (of the two ferries, Two-Face and the #Joker) all run parallel to each other building up to a deafening crescendo in the climax? Nolan uses this very edgy style of narration throughout the one half forty minutes duration of DUNKIRK. Here the nerve wracking real life incident is told through three different stories. The land, the air and the sea. Here is the catch. The battle on the beach lasts a week while action in the sea got over in a day and the air battle? That got over in an hour. The locations and the time frames are also completely varied. But Nolan, the master of the #NonLinearNarrative weaves all three so seamlessly into the narrative that you would need to pay real close attention to notice. For those who haven’t watched Nolan’s films he is considerate enough to put up the various locations & time frames on the screen.

On top of this Nolan chooses to move away from the standard template when it comes to films in this genre. One, there are no back stories told (It is only in the very end that you learn that the sailor Mr Dawson’s elder son died in battle) Instead Nolan simply air drops the audience right in the middle of the action. Two, there are no pitched gun battles, no body parts flying, no blood letting. Heck you don’t get to see the enemy even once. Three, there are no heroes or villains here. All you see is a bunch of men desperately trying to escape death. And finally the minimal dialogues compensated for by a soundtrack that is a character in it’s own right. #HansZimmer, take a bow. The result is a uniquely immersive viewing experience of the kind that one has not had at the movies. Since James Cameron’s AVATAR. Minus the #VFX. 17 years after writing MEMENTO, Nolan finally has written something that has matched up. In thought, ingenuity and execution.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

It was in the extraordinary 2008 Swedish vampire film LET THE RIGHT ONE IN that one first came to know of the half Dutch half Swedish lensman #HoyteVanHoytema. And his work in Nolan’s last film INTERSTELLAR was magnificent too (remember the stunning visuals of the new planet where the astronauts led by Matthew McConaughey land?) But without a shred of doubt DUNKIRK is Van Hoytema’s finest hour. The aerial scenes of the fighter planes skimming the surface of the sea are itself worth the price of your cinema ticket. Or the horrifying scene where a ship deck filled with soldiers happily tucking into food attacked by a torpedo and meeting a watery grave. Hoytema’s expert lens is intimate when needed and sweeping at other times. The German maestro Hans Zimmer whose best work till date is arguably THE DARK KNIGHT (though it was a collaboration with #JamesNewtonHoward) has ably shouldered the responsibility given to him by Nolan. In a film where very little is spoken it is the haunting soundtrack by Hans Zimmer that spooks audiences creating a sense of foreboding rarely seen before at the movies.

PERFORMANCES

Nolan’s films usually boast of a stellar cast and have featured some of the greatest actors of our times from #MichaelCaine, #RobinWilliams, #GaryOldman & #MorganFreeman to #HeathLedger and Christian Bale. This time Nolan opts for a relatively new cast of lesser known actors. The only big name here is the Irish actor #KennethBranagh as a Commander of the #RoyalNavy. Watch the scene at the end where looking at the hundreds of small fishing boats (famous in history as the little ships of Dunkirk) arriving to rescue his men, a despondent Branagh becomes hopeful at the chance of being able to get home. And gives the film one of it’s only emotional scenes. Poignant! Tom Hardy does not count simply because there is only so much acting you can do with most of your face covered in a plane’s cockpit. What is it that Nolan has against Hardy, one wonders for this is twice in a row (after DARK KNIGHT RISES) this has happened. English theatre veteran #MarkRylance who won an Oscar a couple of years ago for Spielberg’s BRIDGE OF SPIES is rivetting as the sailor determined to play his part in rescuing as many soldiers as possible.

DUNKIRK really belongs to a bunch of newcomers who all shine. Ex boyband singer Harry Styles is surprisingly good in a role with grey shades and comes into his own in the scene where he is holed up in a trawler used by the Germans for ‘target practice’ Nolan regular Cillian Murphy is effective as a on-the-edge soldier rescued at sea by Mr Dawson and his son but his role is limited. Tom Glynn-Carney is solid as Rylance’s son Peter who must show maturity beyond his years in the face of great adversity. The surprise package of the film is the duo of Fionn Whitehead and Aneurin Barnard. In many ways it is through the eyes of these two young lads that the whole action unfolds before the audience. From the incredibly scene right at the start of DUNKIRK where the two carry a wounded man on the stretcher on to a ship about to leave, the narrative follows the various attempts by these two to escape only to end up in a bigger mess. Barnard as the French soldier posing to be a British one named Gibson in order to get to safe shores is outstanding. Inspite of having almost no dialogues in the film you can always sense from his demeanor that something bad is about to happen. Like in the scene where he is monitoring the deck for an escape route while the others are helping themselves to food & drink. The heartbreaking scene where he drowns in the end stays with you long after the film has ended.

DIRECTION

Christopher Nolan has a body of work which other directors can only dream of. His films have grossed upwards of $4 billion in box office receipts. At the same time they are visceral enough to appeal to the most harsh of critics even making him unique in Hollywood. For all those who felt that his last three films did not match up to the gargantuan expectations that a Nolan creation generates DUNKIRK should prove to be a thoroughly invigorating experience. Is this his best film? That is difficult to say given that his films have all traversed a variety of genres but must say that this is his most assured work till date. Watch the way he weaves Winston Churchill’s stirring speech into the narrative at the end and you know that you are watching a master at the peak of his powers. Will end this review with a few lines from that very speech.

” We shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be
We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds
We shall fight in the fields and in the streets
We shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender ”

VERDICT

DUNKIRK is by far the best movie of this year and will be a difficult act to match let alone surpass. It is also among the TOP 3 films of Nolan and it might just get him the nod at the Oscars at the end of the year. If you can, watch it on an IMAX screen for a truly epic viewing experience.

JAB HARRY MET SEJAL – This rom-com is a colossal letdown

Travelling – it leaves you speechless,then turns you into a storyteller

– Ibn Battuta

INTRO

Hollywood is replete with #RoadMovies, so much so that it has become a genre in itself. From the cult #Biking film EASY RIDER to the stunning #Biopic THE MOTORCYCLE DIARIES, from the #Dystopian adrenaline fest that was MAD MAX – FURY ROAD to the very #Feminist THELMA & LOUISE and of course the bitter-sweet tale of LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE road movies are aplenty. Not so with our #Bollywood. Though in recent times with films like ZINDAGI NA MILEGI DOBARA, PIKU, NH-10 and FINDING FANNY this is all set to change. Imtiaz Ali whose own road movie HIGHWAY saw the breakthrough performance of actress #AliaBhatt is in familiar territory with JAB HARRY MET SEJAL.

STORY

The central character in the whole film is actually this engagement #Ring which a girl called Sejal (Anushka Sharma) has lost on her trip to Europe with her family. Enter Harinder Singh Nehra aka Harry who gets coerced into joining Sejal in this quest for the ring. Thus begins a long and arduous (for the viewers)journey during which they fall in love (Surprise!Surprise!) with each other.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

As a writer #ImtiazAli has oscillated from the sublime (SOCHA NA THA, JAB WE MET, HIGHWAY) to the
ridiculous (LOVE AAJ KAL, ROCKSTAR, TAMASHA) with alarming regularity throughout his career. Sadly JAB HARRY MET SEJAL falls under the latter. In fact for most of the 144 minutes of it’s running time, the writing in the film is strictly pedestrian. The basic premise (of the lost ring) itself is flawed and so are the two lead characters of this enterprise. While Shahrukh’s Harry seems like a caricature of what he has played for the last two decades and more it is Anushka’s Sejal who is a huge letdown given that Ali is known to write strong female characters in his film. And the big reason is her overdone ‘Gujju’ accent that annoys and irritates in equal measure. Surely the director & the actress knew this one was going awry. To make matters worse the situations evoke a strong feeling of #DejaVu. The only saving grace are the songs. But after a point even they seem one too many.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

Imtiaz Ali’s movies always deliver when it comes to the soundtrack, the stunning locales and the
fantastic production values. And JAB HARRY MET SEJAL is no exception. The music by #Pritam is the one silver lining and regardless of how the film does songs like SAFAR will be on your playlist for some time yet. KU Mohanan has captured #Amsterdam (and other parts of Europe) extremely well making each song worth a watch on the big screen. The editing by Aarti Bajaj is all right considering that bad films are not particularly easy to cut, chop and snip.

PERFORMANCES

In the 2011 movie ROCKSTAR the writing by Imtiaz Ali was not great either. But it got saved by a
stunning performance by #RanbirKapoor in the lead role and of course, a rousing soundtrack by maestro A.R.Rehman Here there is no such luck. At least as far as the performances go. While the starlet Evelyn Sharma is forgettable in a minor role, it is actor Chandan Roy Sanyal in a negative role who is terrible in a track that could have been edited out of the film even. Sad to see this very talented actor (who wowed us all in KAMINEY and D-DAY) in such inane roles.

Actress #AnushkaSharma who is good even in bad films (and she has had her fair share of them with
BOMBAY VELVET, MATROO KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA & JAB TAK HI JAAN) looks like a million bucks. Where someone like Deepika Padukone was able to pull off her Tamilian accent character with aplomb in CHENNAI EXPRESS, Anushka’s interpretation of her Gujarati character falls flat on it’s face. For superstar #ShahrukhKhan this film is a setback he could have done without. Especially when it seemed like he was turning things around with his last three films, FAN, DEAR ZINDAGI and RAEES all indicating a resurgence. JAB HARRY MET SEJAL is sure sign that the audience has had enough of the serenading.

DIRECTION

Imtiaz Ali has always made romantic albeit quirky films and that he writes them too gives him a measure of control over how the final product will turn out. So there is no excuse really for the half baked, under cooked enterprise that JAB HARRY MET SEJAL is. To use cricketing analogy it is like an opening batsman getting out to a lazy shot on a belter of a pitch where runs are there for the taking. After his last film TAMASHA turned out to be debacle one expected Imtiaz Ali to pull up his socks for this one. Clearly that was not to be. Bollywood can be a cruel place for those who squander opportunities and one only hopes that this director realises this. Before it is too late.

VERDICT

JAB HARRY MET SEJAL has no redeeming features that can be prove to be a saving grace at the box office. It is a very ordinary film with average performances and above average music. As both the audiences & critics have unequivocally given the film a thumbs down, it’s failure is inevitable. Avoidable.

Jagga Jasoos – Make no galti se mistake, this one is special

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact

– Sherlock Holmes

INTRO

The last #Detective film that one saw was Dibakar Banerjee’s #DetectiveByomkeshBakshy! where the
otherwise brilliant filmmaker was constrained by having to stick to a set template and as a result was a colossal letdown. Which is a shame really because there are hardly any notable Hindi films in this genre. Unlike in the west where you have the #SherlockHolmes and the #AgathaChristies who have enthralled us for long. The makers of #JaggaJasoos mentioned in a recent interview that the film was really a #Musical with as many as 29 songs in all. That set the alarm bells ringing. And it is with trepidation that one entered the theatres screening Anurag Basu’s latest offering.

WARNING:SPOILERS AHEAD

STORY

Jagga Jasoos is the story of an orphan (#RanbirKapoor) with a stammering problem who comes across a stranger quite by chance. The stranger who is only known as Tooti-Footi to the kid grows close so much so that they become like father and son. But one day this man goes away just as suddenly as he had appeared. Every year on Jagga’s birthday he sends a videotape to the kid until one day the tape does not come. From there begins Jagga’s incredible journey to find this stranger.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

Jagga Jasoos is co produced by #Disney and is the maiden venture of director-actor duo Anurag Basu-Ranbir Kapoor’s production house called #PictureShuru. And sure enough the film starts with that very memorable credit rolls song from #Barfi. Before you know it you have all characters singing out their dialogues and dancing (which for some strange reason reminded me of Disney’s classic #MaryPoppins) All of this is a little overwhelming and it takes about five minutes or so to get a grip on things. After which the next hour is an exhilarating ride the kind of which one has not experienced in years.Using the real life incident of the 1995 #Purulia arms drop case as a thread around which the whole screenplay is woven, Anurag Basu’s writing is brilliant. For most parts.

Human relationships are Anurag Basu’s forte and even in Jagga Jasoos the best parts are the emotional scenes. Like this whole father & son track. Scenes where characters break into song are especially well written (credit to the very talented #AmitabhBhattacharya) The clock tower mystery song, then the scene where Ranbir barges into Katrina’s house, the post interval Nimboo-mirchi number (which is a sarcastic take on the divisive times we live in) and the unexpectedly delightful singing at Katrina’s dead boyfriend’s birthday party are all inspired writing. Then there are the little touches – like the father curling his toe when lying, #Buddha’s theory of #TheRedCircle and Katrina’s clumsiness which results in many laugh-out-loud moments.

What does not work is the adventure bit. The action scenes seem half heartedly written & executed and do not really make your hair stand on end. The role of Jagga’s arch nemesis who is supposed to be this two headed freak does not intrigue the way it should have (even after the last scene where it is revealed that #NawazuddinSiddiqui is this villain) The whole thread of the international arms race is so-so and the only reason you play along is to know what happened to Jagga’s father. Then there is a lot that defies logic. Like Ranbir & Katrina breaking into a song while they are being hounded by authorities. Then there is this huge build up made about a mixed up video tape that is conveniently forgotten in the end.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

This is a bit of a mixed bag. While the DOP #RaviVarman makes sure that each and every scene be it set in the North East or #Morocco is straight out of a post card the action sequences, the post production work and the CGI are all strictly average. The music by Pritam is very good but Barfi will still remain the best from the Anurag Basu-Pritam duo (who also gave us Life in a Metro & #Gangster) The editing by Akiv Ali is excellent in the first half of the film which has a running length of 160 odd minutes.

PERFORMANCES

The actor who plays the local cop is quite good and the scene where he gets a phone call in the station is quite funny. #SaurabhShukla is one of the finest actors we have and was truly memorable in his last film Barfi. Here his role is sketchy and half baked. Same goes for #KatrinaKaif who is supposed to be this investigative journalist but is mostly playing sidekick to Ranbir’s Jagga. All she does is fall and hurt herself at the drop of a hat. Though it has been used well as a plot device especially while reuniting Jagga with his father.

Though Barfi is a tough act to follow Ranbir Kapoor is quite superb in the title role of Jagga Jasoos. Whether he is sauntering through an empty boy’s hostel on his unique design bike or solving a seemingly tricky case Ranbir is the soul of this film. Watch him break down in a stammering fit in front of the friendly, neighbourhood policeman and you know this man can really, really act. The scene stealer of this enterprise is Bengali actor #SaswataChatterjee who gained immense popularity back home playing Topshe the loveable side kick of the legendary Bengali detective #Feluda (created by #SatyajitRay) Last seen in Hindi films playing a brilliant cameo in Sujoy Ghosh’s #Kahaani he is quite extraordinary in every scene that he appears in. Such is his impact that you as an audience hope fervently that he has not died.

DIRECTION

What to make next ? This is the question that has vexed some of the best directors of Bollywood. Ramesh Sippy made #Sholay when he was 27 and could not make anything half as good afterwards. #AdityaChopra made his debut with the smash hit #DDLJ but has made nothing of significance since. Similar thoughts must have run through director Anurag Basu’s mind after making a sublime Barfi. That was five years ago. Jagga Jasoos is a brave film that attempts to use the whole theatre-like musical format to tell a story and almost succeeds. It is not a perfect film but that is perhaps because Basu has too much on his plate. Yet if Jagga Jasoos works and (it does for most part) all credit must go to him. For sticking his neck out and taking such a huge risk. And to think that we had almost lost this man to cancer in the year 2004. After which is when he has made all his best films. More power to you, dada.

VERDICT

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea but Jagga Jasoos with it’s unique musical style of narration makes for an invigorating watch. It has great performances, good music and is very entertaining for most parts. It falters at places in the latter half but only just. May be it will not appeal to the masses but the gentry, one suspects will love it. Do yourself a favour this weekend. Go watch Jagga Jasoos.

Clear and present dangers of social media overreach

Last week, it was a post on the popular social media platform of #Facebook that flared communal
tensions in the eastern Indian state of #WestBengal. The post made by a #ClassTwelve student from the majority community had hundreds of people of the other community spilling on to the streets. Before one knew it, a mob of supposedly thousands of angry rioters damaged public property, burnt shops and fearing that the situation could turn ugly the government decided to call in #ParamilitaryForces. While the government in Bengal accused the opposition (read the #BJP) of stoking communal tensions and creating a situation that could lead to violence vocal critics of the government have in turn pointed fingers at the apparent appeasement of the minority community which has emboldened some mischievous elements. While that is a matter for debate and discussion what is worrying happens to be the way in which the virtual world is being used increasingly to create trouble in the real one.

Last week was also significant for social networking giant Facebook as it hit the magical #TwoBillion mark as far as #MonthlyUsers worldwide go. Now this comes a good thirteen years after it first came on the scene but more critically just five years after it reached one billion users. Clearly this is a #Behemoth that is growing exponentially with no signs of slowing down anytime soon. And it is not just the entrepreneurs and business community that realises the potential of this platform. Enough trouble makers are clued in to social media and these are trying times. It was only last year that the government in #Israel brought in legislative steps in order to keep a check on those who use social media for inciting violence. In fact, a delegation from Facebook visited the country where both sides discussed ways in which those acting against the law of the land could be thwarted.

The trouble is basic. Though the internet has grown by leaps and bounds in the last decade lawmakers in countries of various parts of the world have not been able to match up this speed. #Cyberlaws were hazy back then and strangely enough continue to be so even to this day. For example if the perpetrators of a crime are away in a foreign land while the crime takes place elsewhere it makes catching up with them difficult and punishing them almost impossible. In the last few years #SeriousCrimes linked to social media have gone up quite drastically. Sample this. In the #UK alone statistics from the police reveal to us that there is a serious crime (murder, blackmail, crimes against women & children) reported by social media users every 45 minutes or so. Now those are worrying numbers, for sure. So what is the way out or should one say forward? What are the checks and balances that need to be put in place?

The need of the hour is to act swiftly and decisively against wrong doers but at the same time governments in these places must be careful not to use this as a pretext to curb the freedom to express free and fair opinions. And surely not to use this settle scores with those critical of the government by getting vindicative. So striking the right balance is key. Social media has the potential for making the world a better place. For every stakeholder, be it the business people, the end user customer and the casual internet surfer too. As long as it continues to be safe, reliable and trustworthy. It is important that people who use the internet use it responsibly and if they do not action has to be taken and appropriately. Be it the real world or the online one, some rules are meant to be.

Jab Harry Met Sejal – Music Review

INTRO

The coming together of two of the biggest #RomanticIcons of our times, that is of director #ImtiazAli and superstar #ShahRukhKhan to make a romantic film is surely cause for celebration. While #KingKhan has made this genre all his own with a number of blockbusters to his name, Imtiaz Ali has shown that subjects dealing with quirky romance are his forte. If the initial teasers & promos, that have been received very well by the fans, are anything to go by we are in for a fun ride.

Imtiaz Ali’s films have always had glorious music from #JabweMet to #LoveAajKal, #Rockstar, #Cocktail & #Highway the soundtrack of these films have won favor with the discerning and the masses alike. Jab Harry Met Sejal (JHMS) also reunites Imtiaz Ali with music director #Pritam(who has hit a purple patch of late) after three films on the trot with A.R.Rehman. So to say that expectations are huge would not be exaggerating. Does JHMS meet these gargantuan expectations? Read on.

1. RADHA: JHMS also brings back the winning combo of ace wordsmith (read lyrics writer) #IrshadKamil who has been a regular feature of possibly all Imtiaz Ali films and seems to understand the quirky nature of his films only too well. Which is quite clearly evident in the song #Radha. Though one must confess that at first hearing one felt that the song was a little underwhelming it does grow on you after a couple of hearings. And yes the way the song is picturised on the lead couple does help too. The alaap at the very start by that mellifluous yet very underused talent #ShahidMallya sets the tone for the entire song. With the character of #Sejal aka Anushka being that of a vivacious girl #SunidhiChauhan fits the bill to a T. Even as one is writing this the song has attained chartbuster status.

2. BEECH BEECH MEIN: In the last few years #Disco numbers that pay a tribute to the swinging 70s and the boisterous 80s have made their way into Hindi films. The first one possibly in this genre was the peppy It’s The Time To Disco from Karan Johar’s #KalHoNaaHo. We recently heard #TeriMeri composed by #VishalShekhar for the Hrithik Roshan starrer #BangBang and it became a big hit too. A personal favorite though is by the same composers for the dud #GoriTerePyaarMein. The song was the pulsating #Dhat Teri Ki which still makes one want to stand up and dance.

Beech Beech Mein brings together the duo of #ArijitSingh (this man never ceases to surprise with his incredible range) and the powerhouse voice of #ShalmaliKholgade in a song that is a slow burner. It is more tap-your-feet-gently kind of music than stand up and dance. But once it settles into a groove, the beats are indeed infectious. This one will only grow in the coming days.

3. SAFAR: The best track in the entire album is this velvety dulcet rendered by, who else Arijit Singh!Setting a mild tempo right from the outset here is a song that portrays what the film is all about, in a nutsell. So to speak. The journey (#Safar) of this free spirited guide along with a sassy traveller is very well explained in this song. The song also has evocative lyrics that will make you treasure this song. And put it on the playlist whenever you are on a road trip. Mesmerising.

4. RADHA(remix): One does not quite understand the compulsions behind adding a remix version to the Radha song. Because it does not really add anything new to the listening experience. Could have been avoided.

VERDICT

Jab Harry Met Sejal is very good while it lasts. How one wishes that the film had a song or two more to add to the listener’s delight. But to be fair to the director his script perhaps does not merit a need for more songs. Of what is on offer here there is a lot to like. And enjoy. Recommended

RATINGS: 3.5/5

MOM – Move over Mother India, Mom is in town

Beware the fury of a patient man – John Dryden

INTRO

It is a sign of how bad things are when film after hard hitting film dealing with heinous crimes
against women are all set in the national capital of #Delhi. From No One Killed Jessica (good) to
#Talvar (very good) and last year’s #Pink (excellent) each was a scathing comment on the appalling state of affairs. Where the rich and powerful often collude with the law makers to deny justice to the hapless victims. Now debutant director #RaviUdyawar decides to base his revenge saga #Mom in the same city. Is it not time the authorities in charge woke up and smelt the stench?

STORY

Life is not easy for Devki(Sridevi) a teacher by profession who is trying to fix a strained relationship with her teenage step daughter Arya (Sajal Ali) So much so that Arya calls her ‘madam’ even at home. But things take a turn for the worse when Arya is brutally violated by four uncouth boys and dumped in the sewage. The grief stricken parents seek justice from the courts but due to insufficient evidence the miscreants go scot free. Devki joins hands with a sympathetic local detective DK (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) to exact revenge. Taking down all the four deviants. One by one.

SCRIPT, SCREENPLAY & DIALOGUES

A few weeks ago we saw the release of #RaveenaTandon starrer #Matr that came and went without a
whimper. Like Matr, Maa also takes inspiration from the 2012 South Korean film #Don’tCryMommy. But Telugu film writer Kona Venkat & Girish Kohli clearly are talented writers and the brilliant first half is indicative of this. One particular line that Sridevi says “Agar aap ko bure aur bahut bure me chunna hota to kise chunte?” stays with you. It defines not just the film but even perhaps the times that we live in today. The second half that goes into the familiar territory of revenge is a little underwhelming. And seems at least 15 minutes longer than it should have been. Plus the climax is a messy affair. In the end it is the strong performances from the cast that salvage the film.

TECHNICAL CREDITS

Mom is technically top notch. Special mention must be made of the DOP #AnayGoswami (Mumbai Cutting, Kai Po Che, No One Killed Jessica) with the composition of the brutal gang rape scene deserving kudos. The scene is hard hitting without having to resort to cheap, exploitative shots. AR Rehman’s music in the film is shockingly pedestrian but he more than makes up for it with his marvelous background score. #MonishaBaldawa the editor (of #Neerja fame) slips up especially in the latter portions but for which this could have been a more taut film.

PERFORMANCES

The biggest strength of Mom is the cast. The Pakistan duo of #AdnanSiddiqui (underplaying wonderfully in the role of Devki’s husband) or #SajalAli as the rape victim who stands her own in every scene with Sridevi are both excellent. Abhimanyu Singh playing the chief tormentor does what is expected of him but frankly, after Anurag Kashyap’s #Gulaal his career has imploded. Akshay Khanna playing a cop who is chasing Sridevi & Nawaz is so good that one wishes there was more of him. The parking lot scene is testament to the pedigree this man possesses. #NawazuddinSiddiqui as DK is virtually unrecognizable in his hideous getup but is in his element here. Like #Badlapur, #BajrangiBhaijaan and #Raees he is able to get into the skin of his character with such alacrity that he makes the length of the role irrelevant. And like in the aforementioned films he almost overshadows Sridevi who has a clearly author backed role. Like the scene in the art gallery that brings the house down.

Sridevi appearing on the big screen five years after the very well received #EnglishVinglish is in sublime form here. In a career spanning five decades (Mom is her 300th film) you would think that she has done it all. Far from. There are enough times you have gooseflesh just looking at the mere twitch of her nose and pursing of the lips. Such is the power of her performance. When one saw #KamalHassan breaking down on seeing his son’s dead body in the cult #Nayakan one thought nobody could ever touch that. Wait till you watch Sridevi break down in the hospital after seeing her daughter lying battered in bed. That one scene alone is worth the price of your movie ticket (and the diet Coke & popcorn) With Mom, Sridevi again proves that a great performance can lift a flawed film.

DIRECTION

After English Vinglish, Sridevi works with another debutant who is also coincidentally an ad film maker The multi talented Ravi Udyawar makes a sparkling debut with Mom. Here he chooses a tough subject that he handles with great finesse and sensitivity. If only the second half was as good as the first, Mom could have been a classic. But having said that Udyawar shows enough promise and delivers a film that works for most parts. A welcome addition, for sure.

VERDICT

Revenge films are surefire hits. The audience loves an underdog who fights and wins. As long as it is well made and Mom is just that. Though it is let down by an iffy script and cliche ridden second half, there is a lot that audiences will love in the film. This is no PINK but nevertheless riding on the back of winsome performances, Mom is sure to be a big hit.

It is time to hang up your boots, MSD

It was the 49th over of the Indian batting, the period of play referred to as slog overs in cricketing lingo. After what was a quiet previous over, Dhoni dispatched England pacer #JamesAnderson’s indipping yorker ball over his head on the leg side for a huge six. The year was 2006 and the shot was the soon-to-become-legendary #HelicopterShot. Many batsmen had attempted it before (including a certain Sachin Tendulkar)but none with such devastating effect. The sight of Dhoni bringing his (high back lift) bat down with great speed to hit the ball while his body swivelled in a direction opposite to that of the shot was something else. The icing was the #365Degree rotation of the bat. Over the last decade MSD has made this shot all his own, a trademark of sorts. And in the process he has built a reputation as one of the best #Finishers that the limited overs game has ever seen.

Of all batsmen who have figured in at least 20 successful run chases in ODI cricket history Dhoni sits right at the top with a #Bradmanesque average of 105. He reads the game better than anyone, is always busy at the crease with his running between wickets and he has all the big shots. Who can forget his masterful 91 in a World Cup winning cause in 2011 while chasing what was a stiff target? Sadly none of this was in evidence at the beginning of the week in #Antigua. Where India’s famed batting lineup messed up what should have been a routine chase of a paltry West Indian score of 190 runs. As Dhoni laboured his way to a half century off more than a 100 balls it seemed evident that he was not half the batsman that he once was. After all he has amassed close to 10,000 runs in his career at a strike rate of 89. Is it time for Dhoni to gracefully step aside and let young talent take his place?

One of the trickiest decisions for any cricketer to make is regarding #Retirement. Hang around too long and tongues start wagging. And fans can be quite unforgiving in this matter even disregarding past achievements. Like how they did with India’s finest all rounder, #KapilDev who was accused of prolonging his career just for the sake of records. Let us discount the fact that Dhoni still runs the fastest between wickets, is the best bet behind them and surely has the sharpest brain in the game. The trouble is the ability to hit big shots at will. Something which Dhoni seems unable to do as regularly as the team would like him to. Remember the previous World Cup where in the semis against the #Aussies Dhoni simply failed to get going? And chasing a huge score of 300 plus, he came a cropper with a run-a-ball 65 before running out. Or the recent #ChampionsTrophy final(in which India got thrashed by arch rivals #Pakistan) where Dhoni seemed all at sea.

To be fair to #MSD he has won everything that there is. Both the ODI and T-20 World Cups and if you add the Champions Trophy (2013) to that it makes him the first captain to win all the three premier #ICC tournaments. He guided his club team #ChennaiSuperKings to #IPL glory twice. No other Indian captain in history has more wins in ODI and T-20 matches. Heck he even had a biopic made on him making him the first cricketer to have this privilege before even retiring. Perhaps it is the motivation that is lacking. The question before the Indian think tank is simple – should MSD be part of the team for #WC2019? The answer, one suspects is far from.