Tag Archives: movies

The last superstar standing

I returned from a show of Dabangg a while back. The move is a throwback to the ’70s pot-boilers/masala movies with the usual elements of (step)brothers, estranged family relations, political machinations and brawn thrown in. The only difference is that it is an all-out celebration of the personality of a superstar who renders the cast useless by sheer swagger. Salman Khan is the last superstar standing.

If “Wanted” was any indication the self-deprecating, wise-cracking act that he pulls is multiplied in this family produced/acted entertainer. And I’m pretty much sure that no other director would have been able to pull off that in-jokes (in the middle of a hilarious action sequence he dances wildly to a ring-tone set to “Jalwa” from Wanted !) or even celebrate the exaggerated machismo of Salman. You’ve to give it to the man to dare his single-screen theatre going fans to throng the multiplexes and cheer, wolf whistle, hoot and generally make the “paisa wasool” kind of merriment that you don’t often see in these cushy and comfortable movie screens. Dabangg works because Salman’s comic timing is back and, he doesn’t shy away from making fun of his actual larger than life persona. There is a whole bunch of sneaky insider jokes and cheeky throw-backs to the Bollywood of old (the inhaler for example) to dismiss the movie as a mindless blood-n-gore movie.

This is a must watch. In fact if you are feeling couch potato-ish, take out Wanted and wait for this to be released on DVD.

While the backstory for the movie is quickly set providing the motive/rationale behind the character traits (just like those old times – straight, simple and no complications) our hero makes an entrance worthy of any great star – he charges and knocks down the door and then walks straight over the outstretched fingers of a henchman while the sound effects are bone shattering. What follows next is a set of over-the-top action sequences borrowed from Romeo Must Die (oh Jet Li ! if only you saw Salman do the firehose trick) and, Transporter (Jason Statham needed to take off his top, our hero just rolls around) and sets his signature RayBan swirling style in place. There is not much to go on from here. Small town political machinations wrap around both brothers and their family and it is left to Robinhood aka Chulbul Pandey to set things straight with his sheer fearlessness. In between there are cameos from Om Puri, Anupam Kher and Mahesh Manjrekar. The latter being the heroine’s father has the job of giving the story a quick turn and get it going. In between there is the obligatory item number (from Malaika Arora Khan no less and she, I think, makes a hash job of it) and you have been brought forward fairly quickly and without being bored to the grand fight at the end.

The grand fight at the end where the hero takes on the villain and prevails has been a classic cinematic device. Used for both fun and serious action it lends itself well to grand sequences. Dabangg does no less. Grand explosions and set piece sequences where Sonu Sood and Salman strip off their shirts to get to the muscle mess are well done.

At the end of the day what the crowd would remember are Salman’s cheeky dialogues, his interactions with his police posse and, of course the swagger. The heroine, Sonakshi Sinha looks good but cannot act or emote much. But then she doesn’t really have much to do. Dimple Kapadia overdoes and hams the part of the mother. Arbaaz Khan is insanely miscast and that too with a moustache that is extraordinarily quirky. Vinod Khanna probably didn’t know that he was in a movie. As did Mahie Gill. Sonu Sood actually does his role with sincere effort. That is a plus in the movie. Which basically means that not for nothing is this a hard core Salman Khan fan movie. It doesn’t have a coherent story and yet it is fast paced. It doesn’t have great settings but it makes do with witty conversations and sometimes graphic humor. It doesn’t have great music but it has great background music (beat that !). You go into the movie with your pop-corn and soft drinks and re-fill during interval and come out without feeling that the movie sapped you. That’s why this is a hit. If you still haven’t watched it, you’d want to book your tickets.

An old song

I spent some time yesterday rummaging through my collection of music. The actual intent was to search for an elusive recording of Layla (live at some concert). I have this fascinating obsession with the song and end up listening to various versions of it through the years including some cover versions where I’d have gladly throttled the lead vocals.

The end result was that I stumbled on to some of my favorites from the old hindi movies and particularly this. It is a perfectly safe for work link to a Youtube video of the song Aaj Sajan Mohe from the movie Pyaasa. The single point about this song is that I more or less remember the day when I first heard this. And, thereafter discovered that there was a cassette at the house of the movie. And I played it over and over again. The song isn’t any special by virtue of the lyrics. It is just that each time I listen to it – the opening sequence with Geeta Dutt’s voice and, then the music blending in makes it very goose-bumpy. Pyaasa was an interesting movie because I watched long long after I had heard each of the songs of the movie – their variety, their lyrics and, somehow formed a visual representation of the story. Imagine my surprise when long after I was watching the movie and the songs started lining up I figured out that the visual picture was similar to the actual one. The sad part is that I have never come across a version of the song that isn’t scratchy or, grainy.

My Blueberry Nights – not the usual WKW fare but wonderful enough nonetheless

I finally got around to watching My Blueberry Nights. I have watched only a few Wong Kar Wai movies and have always liked the strong character centric story flows that are there. In addition to that his framing of shots or, composition is always nice to see and learn from. This being his first English feature film, I guess it suffers from a translation gap in the culture – the typical WKW sequences and their layouts seem a bit out of place in small town America. That takes nothing away from the movie though – Norah Jones was lovely (that was a surprise !) as was Jude Law. The colors in the segments involving David Straithairn were amazing in bringing out aspects of character which did not require actual dialogues to be in place.

In short it was time well spent. Now I need to watch Chungking Express again.

A few good movies

Continuing with the earlier thread of uplifting content here’s a few good movies along similar lines. The criteria for selection is trivial – these are movies that I can watch on any given day.

  • Chariots of Fire – that iconic background score and, meaty acting. It can never get better
  • Glory Road – amazingly intense and focussed acting from Josh Lucas. Even the cliche set-piece moments come out well
  • Remember The Titans – slightly over the top but organized acting by Denzel Washington sees this through
  • Gridiron Gang – Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson holds this one together with a very composed act
  • Miracle – although it is centred around Herb Brooks, Kurt Russell isn’t the one who keeps the movie alive. The cast is just perfect
  • Rocky Balboa – the first and third of the Rocky series were my favorites till this one came along. Somewhat moody, nostalgic and self-deprecating this was nuggets of folksy wisdom and, a will to live life on one’s own terms that makes it a sweet movie
  • Any Given Sunday – I did not like it the first time I watched it. A repeat view on HBO allowed me to focus on the characters rather than the story. In spite of all the flashy editing and the rushed pace of the story, the theme is the one that holds this up.

By now the trend should be transparent. It is a list of movies associated with sports and ones which build up on the notion of ‘impossible is nothing’ in various forms. Movies which make you believe in that even if for a fleeting moment are the ones that stay with you.

And then of course there is this quote:

Let me tell you something you already know. The world ain’t all sunshine and rainbows. It’s a very mean and nasty place and I don’t care how tough you are it will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me, or nobody is gonna hit as hard as life. But it ain’t about how hard ya hit. It’s about how hard you can get it and keep moving forward. How much you can take and keep moving forward. That’s how winning is done! Now if you know what you’re worth then go out and get what you’re worth. But ya gotta be willing to take the hits, and not pointing fingers saying you ain’t where you wanna be because of him, or her, or anybody! Cowards do that and that ain’t you! You’re better than that!

Rajneeti – too long and too tame an ending

We went to watch Rajneeti today and all through the movie two things nagged me. The first – why could they have not made it a bit more tight and snappy. The second – Kalyug was so much a better movie.

The problem with basing anything on Mahabharata is that given the huge span of emotions and labyrinth of stories that it has, anything can be said to be based on it. Having indicative elements of a ‘discarded first born’ brought up ‘in poverty and backward-ness’ as a non-elite, the arrogance and ruthlessness of the elite ruling cabal and of course, the helplessness of the patriarch are not the only things that make a movie based on the epic.

And then of course there is the pace of the movie. It plods along predictable lines with the characters striving to stick to what has been dished out to them as the roles. And then of course there is the mash-up created via Godfather inspired sequences. The problem is exacerbated with the long drawn introduction that happens. For instance, Bhaskar Sanyal (which is a strange cameo by Naseruddin Shah) is built up as a firebrand leader but the movie does no justice to either his reputation or, his sudden self-imposed exile which does lead to devastating consequences for the ruling family.

Among the cast, barring Ajay Devgn and to some extent Katrina Kaif, most do an excellent job. Nana Patekar especially develops his character of Brijgopal (the ‘so called’ brother of the essential ‘mother’ character) with care and nuances that are a treat to watch. Arjun Rampal is belligerent and, a far better actor than his previous movies. Ranbir Kapoor’s SamarPratap is an essentially dark character which fails to shine through with the reason for him to indulge in whatever he does.  Ajay Devgn takes his role far too seriously and that is evident in his scenes with Manoj Bajpai who essays his character with a self-indulgent charm and venom. The seething rage which he lets through in singular scenes is a well choreographed one. Katrina Kaif does a better job than being mere eye-candy and, it is either her or, the script which she got that makes her character development unbelievably rapid. I’d like to see the actor who played the role of Bharti (the mother) in a few more movies. Her sequences with Nana Patekar were good.

At the end, I had two questions – with Shruti Seth’s future uncertain, who was elected from Sitapur (and, from which party) and of course, was SamarPratap able to defend his PhD ?

Interestingly enough, although during the campaign she’s introduced as Indu Prithvi Pratap, during the swearing in ceremony, the Prithvi is dropped.

Could have been a better movie – Ishqiya

We watched Ishqiya yesterday at the Bollywood E-Square at Kharadi. This was the first time I went there and, I liked the Screen 1. It has that Nandan 2 like feeling (without the smug intellectuals). The hall was reasonably empty really, which was a surprise to me.

Anyways, Ishqiya is a dark movie. Every character, in spite of occasional moments of genuine joy have their own agendas to fulfil. And, the movie itself has the undercurrents of soon-to-happen deceit that keeps you watching. Technically, there is nothing much to say about it given the pedigree. From a story perspective it lacks that punch which you think would come soon, but when it does, it comes in late and, a bit too soft.

Arshad Warsi is good. He excels in quirky roles and, the character of Babban fits him. Naseruddin Shah doesn’t seem to exert himself at all and, builds more on the character of Khaalujaan when he doesn’t say much and the camera just pans his face. In my book Vidya Balan as the femme-fatale is the weakest link. There is no studied cunning or evil in the way she brings her character on-screen. The songs seem a bit forced.

In short it is a good movie but not a great one.

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The Wrestler – movie of the weekend

Zee Studio was running a promo about The Wrestler being telecast this weekend. They started the movie with the disclaimer about “suitably modified for family viewing” which, to me, seems like a short-hand for “we have butchered the movie into meaningless sequences infrequently”. With all that handicap, it was a movie to sit through. Poignant, touching and fairly gritty it had inspired acting from Mickey Rourke (till date perhaps best known for the noir film 9 and 1/2 weeks) and Marisa Tomei. The movie has enough of lump-in-the-throat moments and yet it doesn’t make you feel that way. Good watch.

Yesterday I caught A Woman in Winter. A very quirky movie.

It is a Monday today. Mondays make me fill up with dread. One is expected to shed away the comfort and warmth of a weekend and plunge headlong into the maverick nature of work. That is somewhat of a bother on most Mondays. Today especially. I feel I could do with a bit of sleep and, perhaps with a bit of hot chocolate. Yes, hot chocolate would be a good thing to have.

Avatar – Mind-boggling 3D effects.Just that !

Watched Avatar in 3D last night. That link has the story details. Do (re)read the concept of avatar as well. It was a rum crowd in the movie hall – boorish and annoyingly ill-mannered. At some point it would become the bane of the movies – high ticket prices do not generally guarantee a civil crowd.

The story of Avatar isn’t original or, one that has not been told before. High on morality, spiced with tales of indigenous or, native legends, it is a tale well known. Did one require such tremendous amounts of monies and technical wizardry to tell the tale ? At the end of the effects-fest you remain dazzled by the panoramas that unfold but would you remember the story ? If you are a bit of a geek or, have read about rendering and computation farms used during movie production, would you be marveling at the raw CPU power thrown to paint the screen in the lushest possible way with the minutest possible detailing or, would you absorb the environment theme of the movie ? I don’t know.

To me Avatar is like an into-the-future car. One that would bring about massive technological changes in the ways movies are made, viewed and even presented. Similar to what happens when an set of innovations push the envelope and, you end up seeing ripple effects. Avatar could be the first pebble in that pond. And, just like books have been written about Pixar changing the technical boundaries of animated movies, Avatar would have its place in history. But, that is all what I think of it.

The movie has competent acting but the characters are weakly fleshed out and saved the complexities of having to question or, doubt themselves – they reach decisions fairly quickly. The lead character has shades that were seen in John Connor (from The Terminator) – an everyday guy who figures that it is up to him to make things happen. However, the biggest let-down for me was the music by James Horner. He disappoints greatly. The somewhat lack of diversity in the background score and, the absence of musical juxtaposition that actually ends up elevating the scene beyond the mundane was missing. I’d expect much more of that.

Having said that, I’d be interested in obtaining the DVD should it be out soon. The backstory behind the language of the natives and, their music should be as interesting as it was for LoTR.

A good movie even if it is good to watch once

We went to watch Wake Up Sid ! on the Saturday. Aside from the larger than usual crowd at the multiplex it was a good experience – I got to sip Mirinda as well. So all is good.

Wake Up Sid ! is a movie good for at least a single watch. Now, before you wriggle and roll at that funny condition – here’s why. A movie about a college going kid whose life is easy, luxurious and carefree and, who, through a series of incidents and interactions manages to find the first step of what could be an interesting turn to his life, is not going to get repeat viewers. Yes, the story is somewhat cliche, the situations are not so fresh. However, the production values are classy, the script is reasonably tight, the dialogues are contemporary and, the acting isn’t stereotyped. The last is the bit that can make you sit through the movie even though you can probably predict the ending. For what it is worth, I loved Supriya Pathak. Anupam Kher turns in a textbook performance as does Konkona Sen Sharma. Rahul Khanna seems to have overdone the “cool” but within limits of reason. The gaggle of Sid’s pals portray characters that are reasonably real – that is a real attraction – these actors can relate to the lines or, situations they have been asked to handle (including the girl who resents Sid because he got the seat through his connections as opposed to hard-work)

In spite of the high production values there are little glitches in continuity. Ranbir Kapoor/Sid’s watch keeps on doing an appearing-disappearing act. There are subtle changes of lights that are not possible when shooting indoors with daylight outside.

All said and done, watch the movie once and, be sure to listen to the music. Especially the way the Iktara track gets on the screen. That, is a touch of genius and understatement.

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