Saturday, 27 June 2015

Film Review - Killa

Return To Innocence

Film: Killa (Marathi)
Cast: Archit Deodhar, Parth Bhalerao, Amruta Subhash
Directed by: Avinash Arun
Duration: 1 hr 43 mins
Rating:  * * * * 

Winner of the Crystal Bear at the Berlin Film Festival last year, Killa is another feather in the cap of Marathi cinema. Directed by debutante Avinash Arun who is also a cinematographer, the film is a nostalgic trip down the memory – you will cheer, you will laugh and you will also feel a lump in your throat during the course of the film.  Everyone will relate to the characters, especially the children and their days of innocence.

Set in the Konkan area (the film was shot at Guhagar, in Ratnagiri district) Amruta Subhash plays a widowed mother to little boy Chinmay (Archit Deodhar), he doesn’t like the village one bit and is longing to go back to Pune, where they came from.  She has just been transferred so her job demands that they stay in this idyllic village.

Chinmay makes friends with his classmates who are all of different temperament; Bandya (Parth Bhalerao of Bhoothnath Returns fame) is a loose cannon when it comes to language. Eventually they all become good friends and in that process we see some moments that not only touch the heart but also make us laugh. 

The characterization is superb, each and every one of them stand out in their own right. Chinmay’s mother becomes a victim of corrupt practices evoking enough sympathy. But above everything else, Killa is about childhood memories and while we all have our unique experiences, the screenplay brings it alive in a way you can relate to it. It is also about a sense of belonging and being rooted to one place.  There isn’t a great deal in terms of a story, there are just episodes involving the children but that is more than enough to keep you engaged with nostalgia and help the film sail through.  Full marks to the director, the way in some of the scenes are crafted is admirable. 

Integrating the story with absolutely stunning visuals and a very apt background score (Naren Chandavarkar, Benedict Taylor), the performances top notch. Parth Bhalerao’s acting caught attention even before the film was released and sense of timing and delivery is simply superb. Befittingly, he won a Special Mention at this year’s National Awards.  Archit Deodhar who plays the main protagonist conveys just the right expressions and National Award winner Amruta Subhash makes her presence felt in film that is dominated by the children’s performances.  Her performance is so effortless yet spot on that it takes a second viewing to realize that. 

Among other things, Killa reminds us that the best things in life are indeed free. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 28th June 2015

Film Review - Inside Out

Emotional Rescue

Film: Inside Out
Voices of: Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Richard Kind
Directed by: Pete Docter
Duration: 1 hr 35 mins
Rating:  *  *  * 

Co-written by writer /director Pete Docter, he is also responsible for films like Up, Toy Story and Monsters Inc, which makes for an impressive resume, Pixars latest film has an idea which is as original as it can get.  Much like the other films by Docter, this is also about relationships and human psychology, in this case, a child’s.  But that itself could teach adults a thing or two about how we look at children and also ourselves. It is not often that a film can influence the way you think but to its remarkable credibility, Inside Out manages to do that. 

The central character here is not just the young girl Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias), the voices in her head are equally significant. In fact they play the key role here. So there is Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear, Anger and Disgust all vying for a slice of the pie in her head which is referred to as the ‘Headquarters’ which is sort of like Star Trek’s Bridge. These bunch of Emotions are also appropriately color coded, like Anger has red color. 

It’s all going smoothly for the little girl, her emotions are also in proportionate measure till her parents move from Minnesota where she grew up, to the new neighborhood of San Francisco. 

So Joy and Sadness get lost in this mega maze leaving Riley in turmoil since the other emotions to hold fort but there isn’t much they can do. The two have to get back to ‘headquarters’ before it is too late. Their journey is quite significant as the screenplay constructs some interesting plot points and characters like Bing Bong (Richard Kind), the child’s imaginary friend.  

Signifying positive intent, which is always a good sign, Joy rules the roost with the other emotions pitching in from time to time but it is the former who calls the shots.  Initially, the role of Sadness (whatever she touches goes awry) looks insignificant, what can sadness possibly achieve in anyone’s life?  In a philosophical manner yet subtle manner, the screenplay shows us otherwise.  

The film will undoubtedly appeal more to adults but there is enough fodder to keep the kids engrossed as well. Visually terrific with some very clever designs, Inside Out scores on just about every count. But it scores the highest on the one parameter that makes us love cinema, emotions. 

The Oscar season is still far away but unless there is an upset of gargantuan proportions, the award for the Best Animation Film of the year will go to Inside Out.

Published in The Navhind Times on 28th June 2015

Film Review- Child 44

Working Overtime
Film: Child 44
Cast: Tom Hardy, Noomi Rapace, Gary Oldman
Directed by: Daniel Espinosa
Duration: 2 hrs 17 mins
Rating: * *

Based on the first book of the trilogy by Tom Rob Smith, it hard to imagine how they came up with this kind of a film when such an illustrious cast and not to mention producer Ridley Scott who had the rights.

Firstly, since it is set in Russia, the film shouldn’t have been made in English, those accents fluctuate between atrocious and silly. Secondly, the screenplay is so muddled that it tries to do tell too many things at the same time with a fairly disastrous result.

There are no murders in Paradise, we are told, paradise being the USSR under Stalin. Life after war was not easy there, life during and before the war was not particularly good was not particularly good for Demidov (Tom Hardy), a state security officer. While they are busy chasing dissidents and prosecuting them for treason, a series of child murders occur, but they are all hushed up because of the murders in paradise thing. 

Meanwhile Demidov’s wife (Noomi Rapace) who married him out of fear because he was a secret service agent, is suspected of treason. He gets demoted and is sent to a remote part of the country but the murders still intrigue him. Eventually the plot settles down and it becomes a murder mystery but neither with any conviction nor with the element of suspense.

What should have been a taut thriller ends up with just about every ingredient going wrong. It is almost as if they took random passages from the book and decided to shoot them. The actors just go through the motions you have to admire Tom Hardy for putting in that effort although that accent could vie for one of the worst of all time. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 28th June

Film Review - Insidious: Chapter 3

Spirits in a Material World

Film: Insidious: Chapter 3
Cast: Stefanie Scott, Lin Shaye
Directed by: Leigh Whannel
Duration: 1 hr 37 mins           
Rating: * *

It is hard to tell one horror film from the other these days, they all revolve around haunted houses or possessed dolls. The only distinction is in the storytelling and director James Wan had done a remarkable job with Insidious (2010) although the sequel had gone slightly off the boil. Wan serves as the producer in Chapter 3 which is just a run of the mill horror film.

This is a prequel, as to what happened before the Lambert family got inflicted. It opens with Quinn (Stefanie Scott), a teenage girl who lives with her father, she wants to contact her dead mother and goes to a meet Elise (Lin Shaye) a specialist who knows how to communicate with the ‘other side’. Right off you know there is a whole load of baloney coming up in this film.

The mother doesn’t make any contact but instead another ghoul is on the prowl. When Quinn gets bed ridden due to an accident, the setting is perfect for the demon to make a move. She can’t move, he enjoys scaring her while you wait for her and your ordeal to end. 

Barring one impressive shot where the camera goes back and forth from the window, there is nothing much to write home about in Chapter 3

There is also a whole load of mumbo jumbo about ghosts, spirits, dark side, the world of spirits (which is referred to as Further).   There is little doubt in my mind that most of the superstitions in the world come from silly films like these.  

Published in The Navhind Times on 28th June 2015

Saturday, 20 June 2015

Film Review - ABCD 2

Blood On The Dance Floor

Film: ABCD 2
Cast: Varun Dhawan, Shraddha Kapoor, Prabhudheva, Lauren Gottlieb
Directed by: Remo D’Souza
Duration: 2 hrs 34 mins
Rating:  * * 1 / 2

Riding on the success of ABCD which released just over two years ago, the sequel thrives on what made the first one click – a group of underdogs and non starters fulfilling their dream of making it big. Sure there is dance and more dance in ABCD 2 but just because it is a dance film, there is no excuse for the lame writing, silly dialogues and lack of a story.

The laziness in the writing just gets more and more obvious as the film progresses – usually in a dance film, you are waiting for the climax because that is often the grand piece, but here is no such yearning because you’ve already had enough by then. To be fair, the finale, though it takes a long time to come, is splendidly done. 

From purely the dance point of view, ABCD2 works and works well, but as a film that should have all the ingredients, especially a decent story, there is an axe to grind. 

Inspired by a real life story, the main protagonist this time is Varun Dhawan who plays Suresh - there is nothing like throwing in a bit of star power in our films, that works better at the box office.  His dance troupe is disgraced at a reality show because all their dance steps are copied from other dancers although they vehemently deny it. Suresh’s late mother, a classical dancer (we are told, not once but twice that ‘she died with her ghunguroos on’, those are the precise words) is also dragged into it. We never learn whether they actually did copy or not, but what we do know he is, he determined to redeem himself.

Along with his good friend Vinnie (Shraddha Kapoor) he tries to regroup after he sees Vishnu (Prabhudheva) in action. After the initial denial, which goes on and on (the editor perhaps dozed off on the editing table), Vishnu agrees to mentor them and the troupe has to look out for more members.

They have to overcome the difficulties to getting the funding for their trip but by interval time, their plane takes off for Vegas for the international hip-hop competition (Dubai was already taken in Happy New Year)

Once in the US, everything moves so very predictably – someone has to get injured before the major event and Olive (Lauren Gottlieb from ABCD and last seen in Welcome to Karachi as a Pakistani spy) makes an appearance. Vishnu’s background story and the reasons for his action makes you cringe, it is all like an 80’s film. Not to forget one of the dancers who is suffering from some mysterious illness and literally spouts blood when the final is in progress.  It is only then that the meaning of MJ’s Blood on the dance floor became obvious to me.  

The cardboard characters and the writing leaves a lot to be desired. There has to be an evil team in the competition and this time it is the Germans who get into a fist fight. Or take the scene for instance where Vinnie is jealous of the growing friendship between Suresh and Olive (this is a Bollywood film after all, there has to be romance and it has to be spelt to the last e). The jealousy starts, drags on a bit, then we have a song and even after that the same topic is dwelled upon.

What works in the film are the dances, they are impressively choreographed and everything is bigger and better when it comes to that. In fact, it would be fair to say that the choreography is as good as anything we have seen on the big screen. Except that there is too much of it here.

Of the cast, Varun Dhawan and Shraddha Kapoor have put on a good show and the supporting cast is also up to the mark.

On the whole, if dance is what you like, then it is almost perfect. But then, anybody can dance but not everyone can write and execute a good story.  

Published in The Navhind Times on 21st June 2015

Film Review - Entourage

Hollywood Insights

Film: Entourage
Cast: Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jeremy Piven, Kevin Dillon
Directed by: Doug Ellin
Duration: 1 hr 51 mins
Rating:  * * 1 / 2

At the very outset I must clarify that I have not seen the popular television series from which this film is adapted. A cursory check confirms that the series has won several awards and nominations including a Golden Globe for Jeremy Piven who is again right on the money in the here as well.

Entourage, the film itself though is no great shakes, the idea seems to be to cash on the popularity of the series rather than make new fans with this enterprise. Having seen the film, I for one, am not too keen to catch the television show. 

What chic flicks mean to women, Entourage is to men - mach flicks could be the word?  This film is the male equivalent of Sex And The City

Set in Hollywood, these bunch of men have fast cars, enjoy their holiday on luxury yachts (where women in bikinis far outnumber the men, in bikinis and otherwise) in Spain.  They also sleep with women of their choice, sometimes with two different ones on the same day. 

Vince (Adrian Grenier) is a popular actor with aspirations of directing a film. He gets a $100 million from the studio boss Ari (Jeremy Piven) but that is not enough. He needs some more before he can call it a wrap but the billionaire who is financing the studio refuses to put in any more money. Instead, he sends his son (Haley Joel Osmant of The Sixth Sense fame) to check out if the film is any good.

The entourage consists of Vince’s brother Johnny (Kevin Dillon brother of Matt), his producer manager Eric (Kevin Connolly) and his friend Turtle (Jerry Ferrara) who all are dealing with their own issues. Johnny is an actor whose career hasn’t gone too far while Eric is struggling with his personal life.

While the characters are interesting in their own right, the screenplay just skims the surface. Perhaps that is the outcome of adapting from television to screen where time is of essence and has to be utilized wisely. 

Instead, there is a lot of focus on their glamorous lives with the aim of seducing our senses. The interactions and the track between the studio boss and the director are not only entertaining but it also gives us some insights in Hollywood’s functioning. It may appear far-fetched but some of it could well be true.  

Jeremy Piven and Kevin Dillon steal the show as far as the acting is concerned. A film on their characters would be interesting, minus the entourage. 

Sunday, 14 June 2015

Film Review - Hamari Adhuri Kahani


Strained Relations  
Film: Hamari Adhuri Kahani
Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Vidya Balaan, Rajkummar Rao
Directed by: Mohit suri
Duration: 2 hrs 8 mins
Rating: *

Hamari Adhuri Kahaani which is supposedly based on the lives of Mahesh Bhatt’s parents, offers the most harrowing times at the cinema. We don’t know for sure what exactly happened to the people in real life, whether they actually suffered so much, but with this film, the audience certainly has. It is the kind of cinema that might prompt a teetotaler to go out and have a peg – a Patiala preferably. 

With the story written by Bhatt himself, there are some absolutely cringe worthy and archaic dialogues by Shagufta Rafique who is a regular in the Bhatt camp. The story is about two men in love with one woman and all three are miserable. Told in flashback, we have a single mother Vasudha (Vidya Balan) whose specialty is arranging flowers in a starred hotel. Her husband Hari (Rajkummar Rao) is missing from the scene and it turns out that he has become a ‘terrorist’ in the naxal area. He is the kind of guy who forced her to tattoo his name on her wrist because of their “saat janam ka rishta.” It is obvious that she has had enough of him in this janam itself but won't say so and suffer in silence.

Enter Aarav Ruparel (Emraan Hashmi), owner of more than a hundred luxury hotels around the world. Impressed with her floral and other skills, he offers her a job in Dubai. One thing leads to another and after a couple of depressing Jeet Ganguly / Arijit Singh songs and skirmishes, they fall in love. At one point, she even takes her bag and starts walking in the lonesome desert as if to save taxi fare to the airport. But just as things are about to look rosy for Ms. Floral, expectedly, her naxalite husband makes a comeback.

Not quite sure where there is more turmoil, in your head or on screen, as you watch watching the drama unfold.

The scenes look synthetic and you don’t feel sympathy to any of the characters either. But it is the painful dialogues (and words like miliqiyat, kaaynat) that take the cake. Aarav sounds more like a poet, not a particularly good one I would like to add hastily, than a rich entrepreneur. “Yeh phool humse kuch keh rahe hain” he declares stopping in his tracks as he is about to board a flight in a rush. A cop goes out of his way to help the lovers, why?  “Kyonki kaaynaat bhi sachche pyaar karne waalon ko milaane ki koshish karti hai.” Move over Paulo Coelho, we have our very own one here. ?

The only silver lining was Rajkummar Rao’s acting, he gives it his best shot. Vidya Balan is a fine actress but here, she has the lets-be-done-with-this-and-move-on look. 

The one word to describe Hamari Adhuri Kahani is, avoidable. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 14th June 2015