Saturday, 23 May 2015

Film Review - Tanu Weds Manu Returns

Two To Tango

Film: Tanu Weds Manu Returns
Cast: Kangana Ranaut, R. Madhavan, Deepak Dobriyal, Jimmy Shergill
Directed by: Aanand L Rai
Duration: 2 hrs 2 mins
Rating:  *  *  * 

Tanu Weds Manu Returns is yet another remarkable feather in Bollywood’s hat. More interestingly, this is clearly a case where the sequel betters the original by a decent margin and that is something you don’t see too often.

Either by coincidence or otherwise, the former mostly, since Kahaani there have been quite a few women centric films that have stood out not only in terms of quality cinema but they have also triumphed at the box office. Tanu Weds Manu Returns is another film that is dominated (and how!) by one actress playing two characters.

The film opens a few years after Tanu (Kangana Ranaut) and Dr. Manu’s (R. Madhavan) marriage. They are living in England but there is serious trouble in paradise, so much so that the good doctor ends up in a mental asylum for few days while Tanu takes the next flight back home. She couldn’t care less about her better half, without flinching too much she is ready to rekindle her relationship with her old flame Raja (Jimmy Shergill) while Chintu (Mohammed Zeeshan Ayub) who is a part of her support staff, harbors feelings for her.

Meanwhile Manu’s friend Pappi (the fantastic Deepak Dobriyal) rescues him from England and before you can say cheese, Manu falls for Kusum (Kangana again) a Harayanvi athlete who looks like Tanu. The girl is as feisty as they come and a romance blossoms between them leading to a climax where Manu has to choose between the duplicate and the original.

For a large part, the film is breezy, in fact the first half is devoid of a single dull moment. It gets a bit contrived in the second, including some unnecessary song and dance routines but there is enough fodder to keep you entertained. The finale is bit of a predictable cop out but now that we are seeing feisty woman characters, our film makers will push the envelope further with them. 

Full credit goes to the writers, Anand L Rai and Himanshu Sharma for those sparkling dialogues and humor. After being a bit regressive in his previous film Raanjhanaa, Rai turns the tide this time. 

There are several wonderfully crafted scenes in the film but none better than the one where Tanu wanders on the streets in the middle of the night with a bottle in her hand with Geeta Dutt’s melancholic Ja Ja Ja Ja Bewafa (Aar Paar, 1954) playing the background - Tanu doesn’t say a word but yet she speaks volumes.  

It is criminal that we don’t see a talent like Deepak Dobriyal more often on screen, his sense of timing is immaculate. R. Madhavan is apt reprising his previous role. But the show belongs to Kangana Ranaut who steals the thunder, lightning, rain and sunshine. She slips so effortlessly into both those characters that you have to marvel, what a gifted actress she is. 

For her performance as well as for a film that delivers the goods, Tanu Weds Manu Returns is eminently worth a watch.

Published in The Navhind Times on 24th May 2015

Film Review - Tommorowland

Brave New World 

Film: Tomorrowland
Cast: George Clooney, Britt Robertson, Hugh Laurie
Directed by: Brad Bird
Duration:  2 hr 10 mins
Rating:  *  *  *  *
Director Brad Bird has a rather interesting profile – he directed The Incredibles and wrote Ratatouille, two of the most memorable contemporary animation films, and he made his live action debut with Mission Impossible- Ghost Protocol. Now he has ventured into science fiction with Tomorrowland, produced by a studio not known for such films, Disney. In fact, this is a family science fiction film, if such a category exists.

With an original story co-written by Bird, the film has an interesting and refreshing take. We see Frank Walker (George Clooney) tell his story “When I was a kid, the future was different he says.” We then see him displaying his invention at a New York World Fair, which looks like a Disney fair actually. When he is not taken seriously, mysterious girl comes and helps him and gives him a pin badge.

Several years later, Casey (Britt Robertson) the daughter of a NASA engineer receives a similar badge when one of her adventures goes wrong. When she touches it, she is transported to a futuristic world. As the audience, you are also engrossed and wonder where all this is heading.

In a quick montage we are also told about her curiosity in class to question and look for solutions about all the problems plaguing the earth, right from terrorism to environmental issues.  The mysterious girl re-appears, she is the same as she was decades ago and tries to Casey who lands up at Franks doorsteps. The evil robots are closing in, Casey has no idea what is happening and questions everything to which Frank retorts “Do I have to explain everything to you? Can’t you just be amazed?”

There is action, adventure, science fiction and some serious themes about man kind’s survival.  An interesting and a very optimistic point is made amidst all the gloom and doom as see and hear of in real life. Brad Bird may not have an answer but he does have an idea which is the premise of the film.

The film works on two levels, even if kids and teenagers don’t understand the science fiction and other themes, there is enough razzle-dazzle to engage them. Go ahead, and be amazed.

Published in The Navhind Times on 24th May 2015

Film Review - Poltergeist

Boys and Dolls

Film: Poltergeist
Cast: Sam Rockwell, Rosemarie DeWitt
Directed by: Gil Kenan
Duration: 1 hr 33 mins
Rating:  * *
Poltergeist is a remake of Tobe Hooper’s 1982 film (which was co-written by Steven Spielberg) and sadly, it has nothing new to contribute to the original film. It has partly been updated for modern times but that doesn’t bring anything new to the table.

Haunted houses, creaking doors, strange noises in the middle of the night, and scary looking toys in the attics - all this has been done to death in horror films over the years. Poltergeist gives us more of the same. 

The Bowen family, Eric (Sam Rockwell) and Amy (Rosemarie DeWitt) move to a new house after he has been laid off from his job. They have a teenage daughter and a little boy and a girl, needless to say, strange things start happening in the house after a box of clown dolls is found.  

Even if you haven’t seen the original, it is very easy to predict what will happen next because it is all so passé. A group of paranormal investigators are brought in and being a horror film, you know that the ‘spirits’ will have the better of them. 

Surely, films have a major role to play in spreading mumbo-jumbo among gullible people about evil spirits, haunted houses and possessed dolls. 

The climax is the only redeeming factor in this otherwise run of the mill product. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 24th May 2015

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Film Review - Bombay Velvet

Rough and Smooth

Film: Bombay Velvet
Cast:  Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Karan Johar
Directed by: Anurag Kashyap
Duration: 2 hrs 30 mins
Rating: *  *  *

Based on historian Gyan Prakash’s book Mumbai Fables, Bombay Velvet gives us a glimpse of how Bombay became the big bad city in the late 60’s. Against this backdrop, at the heart of the film, there is a love story between a gangster and a jazz club singer. The story oscillates between the love birds and the politics of the city with the prohibition era, politicians joining hands with builders, the mafia taking over. The city aspect of the film wins hands down, the love story is a bit of a downer. 

The film opens with a young boy who goes on to become Johnny Balraj (Ranbir Kapoor) in Bombay, just a couple of years after independence. He along with his side-kick Chiman (Satyadeep Misra) are small time thugs but Johnny boy is harboring big ambitions. He watches James Cagney die in the arms of Pricilla Lane in The Roaring Twenties (1939), “He used to be a big shot” she says. Now Johnny also wants to be one. Like Bachchan’s character in Deewar, another film more or less in the same era, the young man will do anything to make it to the top. The motivation for the same is not very clear or convincing.

He falls in love with Rosie (Anushka Sharma) a jazz crooner with a troubled childhood. She is sent to spy on Johnny by a newspaper editor (Manish Chaudhary) but expectedly, ends up falling in love with him.

Johnny is also a part time cage fighter and by chance, he meets Khambatta (Karan Johar) a ruthless baron who has his finger in many pies, mostly illegal ones. The ambitious young man becomes his right hand man and is given charge of Bombay Velvet, the most happening club in town.

Scrupulous politicians and greedy builders who want to make hay by forcing the sunshine are also a part of the scene. The film uses many real life references right from the prohibition which closed down many clubs in Bombay to mill workers agitation and the land grab that happened to form the famous Nariman Point are all part of the story, which is fabulous.

What doesn’t particularly work well is the love story which is more or less like any another love story but the city angle that Kashyap has explored is unique in many ways. The plot also gets unnecessarily contrived in the second half and the other problem is the characterization – we don’t really know what his motives are and what keeps him ticking –he is like a race driver who wants to finish first but is driving without any strategy in place.    

The production design and period details are from the top draw. This is perhaps as authentic and eye catching as it can get. Constantly, throughout the film, even when the story dips, the visuals grab your attention.

The music and background score by Amit Trivedi fits the bill perfectly, including a rehash of O.P. Nayyars Jaata Kahan Hain Deewane (which was shot for CID but didn’t make it to the final cut). Of the cast, a ravishing Raveena Tandon is seen performing a song and Karan Johar in his maiden appearance makes an impression. The supporting cast of Manish Chaudhary, Kay Kay Menon and especially Satyadev Misra deserve a mention. Anushka Sharma is aptly cast as Rosie and Ranbir Kapoor is good in parts – at times, an actor can only get as good as the character.

All said and seen, this velvet is not very smooth but it is still worth a try. 

Published in The Navhind Times, Goa on 17th May 2015

Film Review - Mad Max:Fury Road

Highway To Hell
Film: Mad Max: Fury Road
Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron
Directed by: George Miller
Duration: 2 hrs
Rating: *  *  *  *

In many aspects, it is incredible that the director who started the franchise with Mad Max in 1979 (followed by a sequel in 1981 and then 1985) can still deliver the goods a thirty five odd years later. In between he dabbled with animation films like Babe: Pig in the city and Happy Feet. 

But with Mad Max: Fury Road, George Miller strikes back and how. There is action and more action and so much of it that it takes time to digest and admire what you have just seen when you walk out of the theatre. Basically it is a chase involving huge armored vehicles and no this is nothing remotely like Fast and Furious. Furious would be like an old Ambassador competing with a Formula 1 car running at turbo speed – Mad Max is a billion light years ahead in every aspect.

Set in the desert in a dystopian world, Max (Tom Hardy) is a lone warrior held captive by men with tonsured skulls called the War boys, he is their ‘blood bank’ because he happens to be a universal donor. We move from 0-100 kmph in a few seconds and the foot is never taken off the accelerator, even for a moment. Immortan Joe (Hugh Keays-Byrne, been there done that as far as Mad Max is concerned) is the boss of the Citadel where people are longing for liquids, primarily water and then oil. Everyone is at the mercy of Immortan Joe and his henchmen in this strange world. Charlize Theron plays Imperator Furiosa a tough cookie who rebels against the chief, she escapes with some young women who are objects of Immortans desire. They are called ‘breeders’ giving a fair idea of what the men think about these women. Max joins hands with Furiosa in the arduous journey till we head towards a spectacular finale in the most barren landscape you will ever see. 

In Mad Max: Fury Road actions speak louder than words. But make no mistake, the film is not only about action, there are various themes that are also dealt with admirable deftness starting from the authoritarian rule of Immortan Joe to rebel women and men akin to suicide bombers.     

The mayhem unleashed on screen is something to savor. Right from the costumes, to those massive vehicles with a range of variety and pole vaulting war boys, not to forget the whacky guitarist on top of a vehicle, Miller pulls it off with elan.

For a change here is a film where you don’t mind the 3D. While Tom Hardy steps in the shoes of Max with ease, Charlize Theron is mighty impressive as Imperator Furiosa. Apparently, another sequel is being planned centered around Furiosa. All one can say is bring it on and bring it on quickly. But meanwhile, enjoy this heck of a joyride. 

Published in The Navhind Times, Goa on 17th May 2015

Saturday, 9 May 2015

Film Review - Piku

Poop and Rock

Film: Piku
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Deepika Padukone, Irrfan Khan
Directed by:  Shoojit Sircar
Duration: 2 hrs 2 mins
Rating: *  *  *  *

Directed by Shoojit Sircar, Piku is a triumph for commercial cinema – It has popular actors and yet the story is not main stream by any stretch of imagination. It may not have much of a story to speak of, it is all character driven, but Juhi Chaturvedi (of Vicky Donor fame) who has written the screenplay and the dialogues, delivers one of the finest films of 2015. 

The devil always lies in the detail and the film makers have got that spot on. Amitabh Bachchan in his most remarkable performance in recent time, plays Bhaskor Bannerjee (note, it is Bhaskor and not Bhaskar) a Bengali settled in Chittaranjan Park, Delhi. To say that he is an eccentric man would be an understatement. Among other issues that he has, the main is constipation. His daughter Piku (Deepika Padukone), a single working woman, has a tough time coping up with the old man’s obsession of sorts with his bowel movements. It doesn’t sound very appetizing but just how the writer director team pulled off the issue of sperm donation in style in Vicky Donor  without ever making you squirm in your seat, constipation is tackled with a great deal of amusement here. 

Piku wants to get on with her life, more often than not she manages to do that. But the next issue related to health or bowel is never too far away, even when she is on a date. 

Irrfan Khan plays Rana, the owner of a taxi service – initially, it is not clear what exactly the relationship between him and Piku is. They are acquaintances but we don’t know if they have a soft corner for each other. 

Bhaskor da decides to take a trip to his ancestral home in Kolkata, since traveling by air is likely to give him palpitations and a train journey is not good for his tummy, they decide to drive down all the way.      

As expected the fun continues on the road as Rana drives them down but it doesn’t unfold in your regular road movie format. There is more to it than just the journey, the destination also matters. 

With those quick cuts and smart dialogues, the tone is set right from the word go. At just over two hours, there is never a dull moment in the film, you are smiling, laughing or a bit emotional towards the climax. It is also refreshing to see an ending that is not exactly in the traditional mould. 

The film makers have also crafted the Bengali’ness perfectly which adds to the milieu. The old man’s character is most fascinating – while he is always overtly bothered about his health, he is also as liberal as a father and has progressive views on just about everything. It also touches upon the issue of children taking care of their parents in old age - it raises questions, as for the  answer, to each his own. 

While the music score is also impressive, it is the cast that takes the cake. With the kind of roles she has been doing recently, Deepika Padukone ascertains herself as one of the best actresses on the scene. The father daughter chemistry between her and Big B is terrific. Irrfan Khan is reliable as always but it is Amitabh Bachchan who stands out in a remarkable performance.  Whether it is the accent, mannerisms, expressions or timing, Bachchan shows that if the role has any potential, he can still make mince-meat of it.

Piku offers the most wonderful time at the cinemas, don’t miss out on it.    

Published in The Navhind Times, Goa on 10th May 2015

Saturday, 2 May 2015

Film Review - Gabbar Is Back


Brand Of Brothers

Film: Gabbar Is Back
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Shruti Hassan
Directed by: Krish
Duration: 2 hrs 20 mins
Rating: * 1 / 2

A remake of the Tamil hit Ramana (2002), Gabbar is Back is a travesty of a film. Why they bothered to do a remake remains a mystery because there is very little going for it. How many flops will it take till producers realize that the South Indian action films don’t quite work in Bollywood? 

Directed by Radhakrishna Jagarlamudi aka Krish, you don’t know if you should laugh or bang your head against the ground while watching the inane proceedings. Sample this – a young lady stops a car so that she help a pregnant lady get to the hospital. The water breaks on the way and a very healthy baby is instantly delivered in the car itself. On reaching the hospital, the young lady (we learn that she is a lawyer, not a doctor) tells the nurse “Maine umbilical cord Swiss army knife se cut kar diya…” (I cut the umbilical cord using a Swiss army knife). 

This was of course mildly better than the heart surgery performed by Vijaykanth using the light from mobile phones, in the original.

But the story is here about Gabbar (Akshay Kumar) who is hell bent on making corrupt officials pay for their sins. To the world, he is just a lecturer but behind the scenes, he runs a different show altogether with the help up some enthusiastic men and women. They kidnap corrupt officials, release most of them but the odd one is hanged. Reminded me of Amitabh Bachchan’s Shahenshah when he drags the culprit and says “Shahenshah jahan khade ho jaate hai ... wahin darbar lag jaate hai” and decides the fate criminal. 

That film also had a similar story of a police officer who turns into a vigilante – and it was so much more fun with some memorable lines

But no such luck with Gabbar. Shruti Hassan fills the mandatory glamour quotient and Kareena Kapoor is seen in a cameo that is best forgotten. Meanwhile the police are trying to hunt for Gabbar, a police driver (Sunil Grover) cracks the mystery like a Sherlock Holmes but is chided by his seniors.   

And then there is the main villain, Digvijay Patil (Suman Talwar) who constantly keeps on harping that is he is a bigger ‘Brand’  Gabbar eventually gets to prove that he is a bigger brand than the guy who claims to be the bigger brand.

There is no subtlety whatsoever in conveying the message everything is hammered and hammered hard. The background music is ear drum shattering and the dialogues are cringe worthy.

Not quite sure which was more embarrassing - Shurti Hassan’s character or her acting. Akshay Kumar tries his best to provide a silver lining but the cloud is as dark as a black hole. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 3rd May 2015