Monday, 29 August 2016

Mandi - Reminiscing old school Hindi cinema

When I was asked to pen down a research paper for my final year project, Shyam Benegal’s much acclaimed movie, Mandi instantly came to my mind sans any clouds of hesitation or doubt. The movie, somehow, holds a very special place in my heart. The piece that is going to follow is something that I wrote almost a year back. Republishing it for the blog has been at the back of my mind ever since. The article will largely attempt at analysing the characters, dialogues and narrative of the film.
A poster of the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet

With a runtime of 162 minutes, Mandi (Marketplace) covers the issues of Indian hypocrisy, female oppression, class oppression, political manipulation, human trafficking, and corruption with rare humour, hard to find in movies addressing heavy issues. Benegal’s style of filmmaking is very intelligent and compelling as is evident from his movies such as Bhumika, Nishant, Ankur, Antardwand, etc. Every character, whether small or big, is crucially important to the plot of the story. One cannot do away with any character as each character adds another layer of meaning to the story, an important feature of parallel cinema. It is very refreshing to view film where no one particular dialogue, sequence or character is without layers. It’s a film heavily loaded with multiple layers of indications, both superficial layer and deeper layer. This makes it very interesting to study a film like Mandi.
The storyline
Mandi (Market Place) is a1983 Hindi movie boasting of an ensemble cast of almost 15 actors who later went on to make national and international mark for themselves. Shabana Azmi(Rukmini Bai), Naseeruddin Shah(Tungroos), Smita Patil(Zeenat), Ratna Pathak(Baby), Om Puri(Ramgopal), Soni Razdan(Nadra), Saed Jaffery(Mr. Agarwal), Kulbhushan Kharbanda(Mr. Gupta), Gita Siddharth(Shanti Devi), Amrish Puri(Baba Khadag Shah), Neena Gupta(Basanti), and introduced Ila Arun and Harsh Patel(Policeman). Based on the Urdu short story Aanandi by writer Ghulam Abbas, the film revolves around Rukmini and the brothel she runs in the heart of a city, an area, Mr. Gupta and Mr. Agarwal wish to convert into a mall. The film is a satirical comedy on politics and prostitution with the underlying themes of human trafficking, Indian hypocrisy, manipulation, lobbying, etc. 
Following is a short clip from the movie.  

The film won the 1984 National Film Award for Best Art Direction. It created waves around the world with it being selected at Indian Panorama at Filmostav, Bombay 1984, and it also got invited to the Los Angeles Exposition (FILMEX), the Hong Kong International Film Festival 1984, and London Film Festival 1983.
About Shyam Benegal
Shyam Benegal. Photo Courtesy: Internet
Shyam Benegal is a noted film director whose work is central to and instrumental in giving shape to alternative cinema/ new cinema/ Indian new wave/ parallel cinema/ realist cinema. The synonyms are endless as described by endless no. of film critics. Satyajit Ray is considered to be the father of this school of filmmaking which dates back to 1950s. Later, film makers like Ritwik Ghatak, Mrinal Sen, Mani Kaul, Girish Karnad, Adoor Gopalakrishnan, Ketan Mehta, Girish Kasaravalli and Shyam Benegal carried on the legacy. These filmmakers aimed for a social change and strong commentary through the use of films. The term ‘parallel’ cinema suggests a genre which runs alongside (not literally) the mainstream cinema which is your commercial cinema. Benegal has always been known to make films centred on strong female characters, be it Rukmini and Zeenat in Mandi or Urvashi in Bhumika or Zubeidaa from Zubeidaa. He was awarded the Padma Shri in 1976 and the Padma Bhushan in 1991. 

Saturday, 27 August 2016

Three shots that shook the entire nation - Rustom

Three shots. Just three shots. That was all that was needed to jostle the nation one fine morning of 1959. The Blitz broke the news to the world with the above headline and continued to carry the news for another three years. Such was the uniqueness of the events; such was the charm it carried that the whole nation keenly followed what was to unfold.The story is from a fairly young and independent India all of 12 years old, the times when Mumbai was still called Bombay and the practice of a bench of jury giving out judgements was still underway, unlike today, where a single judge pronounces the fate of a case. 

The front page of the Blitz newsmagazine that broke the news. Photo Courtesy: Internet

A young Parsi had shot dead another man for having to refuse to marry his wife after having a brief affair with her. The man in question was KM Nanavati, an honest, nation-loving naval officer. The case was one of its kinds, for more reasons than one. The first thing he did after shooting his wife’s lover was to surrender. Surprisingly, the man managed to attract huge crowd support. It is said that the print media played a pivotal role in painting Nanavati as the hero and maligning the lover’s image. This led to the Jury members being influenced (allegedly) by public opinion shaped by the print media.

The front pages of Blitz, the newsmagazine which closely
followed the case for 3 years. Photo Courtesy: Internet

The crux of the arguments thrown by the lawyers was to figure out whether Nanavati shot the lover in the ‘heat of the moment’ or it was a pre-planned, well-thought through murder that was staged. Nanavati was found not guilty by the Bombay sessions court. The case took its course and was reopened in the Bombay High Court and then Supreme Court in the coming three years. The case was a landmark in bringing about important changes in the Indian Judicial system.

A poster of the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Akshay Kumar-starrer Rustom, that hit the theatres last weekend, is based on this infamous incidence, but at the same time exercises its creative freedom to the fullest. A lot of details and sequences in the film are tampered with along with the central characters’ names. For example, Rustom (played by Akshay Kumar) fights his own case in the court without a lawyer which did not happen in real life. Nanavati had a lawyer defending him. The prosecution was led by a young Ram Jethmalani back then.

The media influence in shaping the public opinion is evidently shown with Kumud Mishra killing it with his portrayal of a Parsi middle-aged man, running a leading weekly. The tampering with the story line makes it confusing for the viewer to comprehend what exactly unfolded. Akshay Kumar delivers a fine and believable performance as a Parsi naval officer who dots on his wife. Atif Aslam rejuvenates your life with his soul stirring voice in his romantic renditions. 


Having an extremely powerful and interest invoking case at hand and an actor of Akshay Kumar’s calibre to bring it across on screen, the film still fails to keep you hooked for long, unlike the promising trailer which had sent my expectations skyrocketing. 


But, as they say, there is always a silver lining to every cloud. As far as the weekend goes, go for Happy Bhag Jayegi. You won’t regret.

Tuesday, 26 July 2016

Nil Battey Sannata - A fun watch

Apeksha repels even the thought of studying mathematics much like how mosquitos repel mosquito repellents. Apeksha is a spirited and fun-loving, 15-year-old girl for whom waking up in time for school is an everyday struggle. Her hardworking mother, Chanda, played by Swara Bhaskar, dots on her and has a sole aim in life- to get her daughter work towards one. Chanda is appalled when she discovers that her daughter too thinks of working as a maid when she grows up, just like her mother.

A scene from the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet

What are we talking about?
Nil Battey Sannata is a slang for a good-for-nothing person. It is a Hindi language film about a mother-daughter duo, caught in the cob webs of poverty and everyday struggles. Apeksha’a rhetoric question to her mother, “Do you even have the means to educate me beyond high school?" is hard-hitting. Why should simple necessities of life like education be a privilege for some people?

Scenes that you must not miss on
There is a school assembly scene wherein the school’s principal, Mr. Srivastava, is picking on late-comers and punishing them. Simultaneously, he is silently gesturing to the other students, to stand still during the national anthem. Did you just undergo a déjà vu episode?
It is characters like that of the school principal which act as litmus test for actors. Pankaj Tripathi does an applaud worthy work and has acted it out with nuance, without being a buffoon. His portrayal would leave you smiling from ear-to-ear for his knack of connecting with the masses. Remember all those silly teachers from back school who till date tickle you with their quirky antics as you reminisce the good old days?  
In one of the scenes, Apeksha’s classmate talks about mathematics being fun and how he enjoys playing with numbers. Through this scene, a very interesting life lesson can be derived: Enjoy whatever you do, life would invariably turn out to be fun and not a burden. Try doing that with education!

A still from the film. Photo Courtesy: Internet
The bigger picture
The story tries to reinforce the importance of education in being self-reliant and the value it brings into one’s life. It is light-hearted, easy on the eyes and mind, and heart-touching.  
The best feature about cinema of this kind is that it dares not to be preachy and articulates its message without breaking into a song and dance routine every now and then. In fact, the songs are fun and incorporated well into the script.

Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari’s maiden, simple and fuss-free attempt at bringing out a heart touching film is worth applauding. The movie is finely shot with minimal characters and is intricately detailed. When I got to know that it has been produced by Aanand L Rai, my expectations spiked. Well, when a filmmaker like him backs a project, be assured you will not be disappointed. And with Nil Battey Sannata, he has successfully dodged a bouncer.
Easily relatable and fun to keep the kids engaged with, go watch the film for a fun ride down the memory lane.

Wednesday, 29 June 2016

Sairat: Simplistically beautiful, tragically relevant

Searing. Wild. Innocent. Naïve.
Archie and Parshya’s love for each other is all of the above. Set in a remote village of Maharashtra, their love story is all that Bollywood has explored and over explored since its inception. Archie is the apple of her family’s eyes and belongs to the high caste, Patil, household. Her father is the influential legislator of the village. She is confident, unapologetic, and knows how to ride a bike and tractor, unlike the other village girls. 
A still from the movie. Photo Courtesy : Internet

Parshya, on the other end of the societal spectrum, belongs to a lower caste family, in which, his father does fishing to sustain them and his younger sister helps their mother with household chores. Parshya is a bright kid, a poet at heart, capable of making his cricket team win single handed, and good with studies. His father has high expectations from him as he orders him to find a white collar job, lest he end up fishing like his father. 
It’s love at first sight for Parshya, but in no time Archie reciprocates. And therefore, starts their whirlwind romance, filled with slow motion sequences, magic weaving poetic songs, few fights and more tears.
‘Yad Lagala’ should be declared the romantic anthem of this year. It is a beautiful rendition expressing how the flutters of first time. You have to witness the magical moment when Parshya and Archie are dancing at a party to ‘Zingaat’. The crowd in the theatre goes crazy and they break into a jig as if this is the greatest and only joy. Such is the magic of music and movies, transcending every barrier.

Parshya is absolutely adorable and is sure to leave many young hearts racing.
A still from the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet
You can trust Nagraj Popatrao Manjule to deliver the best and hard-hitting climaxes to a movie. Interesting bit of information: Manjule is also in front of the camera this time. Try spotting him. *winks

They say the essence of emotions gets lost in translations. But, seeing the records the movie is breaking at the box office in terms of revenue it is generating (the movie saw a nationwide release on 29th April 2016 and is still going strong in theatres) and analysing its impact on a wide range of audience, the saying has been proved wrong with this one film.

Nonetheless, it is not better than his first film as a director, Fandry (I highly recommend. Please do a favour to yourself and watch it.). Maybe, that is because the storyline is a little predictable. Having said that, I would also like to honestly admit that Manjule effortlessly and successfully keeps the audience hooked.

It is a finely done piece of art that brings to the silver screen the tragic and harsh realities of our ignorant society.  

Tuesday, 21 June 2016


“There are few films which feed your soul. They make you happy, they inspire you and most importantly, they reaffirm your faith in human relationships. Nagesh Kukunoor's latest venture, Dhanak, is one such film.”

After a LOT of struggle over the weekend, I managed to get a ticket for myself of the small- budget film, Dhanak. I was glad that a film like this, with no ‘big names’ (crowd-pullers), was running houseful in almost every theatre I tired getting a ticket.
I hugely rely on two things before I set my heart to watch a movie: my instincts about the film, and the other, on the vibes it gives me. Being such a sensitive movie-watcher, I felt a little disgusted with the crowd that was coming in to watch, Dhanak. Here is an excerpt of the conversation my fellow viewers where having, right at the start of the film.

Sunday evening. Movie hall. Huge crowd trickling in as others are settling. The starting credits of the film rolling on the screen.
Next to me, in the first row, a family of 2 adults and 3 kids are sitting.
Adult 1: Ye kaunsi movie hai?
Adult 2: …….
Adult 1: Hero kaun hai ismein?...Kya naam hai movie ka? Kya??! Dhanak? Wo kya hota hai?

Not to blame anyone, but a little research would have not hurt! Feeling pity for them and a little disappointed, I decided to concentrate on the film running ahead.
I have faced this dilemma many times. Movies that touch your heart are so difficult to put into words. Masters of the pen can only translate into words what masters of film making translate on the screen. And in that regard, I feel extremely disappointed with myself.

In Pari’s quest to get her younger brother vision back, the kids are out on a mission to tell everyone that the world is really not such a bad place to live. The best part is the brother-sister’s heart-warming chemistry. Not for a second will you doubt these earnest performers.
Every day, on the way to school, they flip a coin to decide whose turn it is — Salman Khan or Shah Rukh Khan. Pari and Chhotu, with their whole heart, worship their respective heroes. He to Salman and she to Shah Rukh. They have blind faith on their heroes, so much so that, after the coin decides whose turn it is, both banter about the superior special powers of their favourite star and then, as they start walking, the story session begins. This sequence in the movie is purely priceless.
A still from the movie. Photo courtesy: Internet

It’s hard not to feel for Chhotu. It’s hard not to feel for Pari’s concern for her younger brother. Their innocence will make you laugh and cry at the same time. They argue and fight daily. But, Pari’s only support is Chhotu and his is Pari.
The way the two kids (Chhotu was 8 years old and Pari was 10 years old when, in 2014, the movie was shot) have been directed, speaks volumes of what expertise the filmmaker, Nagesh Kukunoor, has.
There is a particular scene where Chhotu and his new found friend are playfully stuffing jalebis in each other’s mouth. Krrish Chhabria nails it as Chhotu in this particular scene. What a star performer!
The still from the film where Chhotu nails it. Photo Courtesy: Internet

The album of the film can be pitched to be the richest of the year, so far. Tapas Relia, who has earlier worked with Kukunoor on Lakshmi, delivers a colourful soundtrack that is majorly folk but with a contemporary twist.

Yet another rendition of the classic ‘Mast Kalandar’ with a twist of promoting world peace and compassion for fellow humans, will be the ear-worm from the album, it refuses to leave you mind even afters after you have left the theatre. I found it to be one of the most engaging versions of the song. Actor-musician Chet Dixon rap-sings in this one along with Devu Khan Manganiyar's ethereal voice.
A still from the film, featuring Chet Dixon. Photo Courtesy: Internet

You know that feeling of contentment that overwhelms you when your favourite singer finishes singing your favourite song. The experience is soul-touching and is cherished for long. That sense of gratitude. That sense of satisfaction. Dhanak was one such experience for me.

Films like these need to be encouraged, to reach multiple theatres and be watched by millions of people. It is a film which stands for everyone to have child-like innocence, spread peace, love, optimism, compassion and practice the art of humanity.
Amidst generating headline-hitting curiosity, I know, most of you must have already savoured the bigger release of this weekend, Udta Punjab, but this humble and soulful story of a brother-sister bonding, deserves all your love and attention at the movie theatres.
A delight for every humane heart, this is a must-watch across all age groups.
PS: Not to miss Suresh Menon in a little but soul-stirring performance.  

A still from the film, featuring Suresh Menon. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Sunday, 19 June 2016

Main Aur Charles mein ‘main’ kaun hai?

As perplexing the title may seem the movie, I guarantee, is no less. This should be attributed to bad direction and a very slow narrative.
The 'real' Charles Sobhraj, on whom the movie is based. Photo Courtesy: Internet

No, no, don’t mistake this piece of writing to be a movie review yet again. This is just my way of venting out the disappointment I suffered while I watched the movie. Randeep Hooda playing the celebrated criminal, Charles Sobhraj, sent my expectations soaring high. He did not disappoint. With an actor of his calibre, it did not come as a surprise when he charmed everyone with his flawless, effortless acting; something only expected from him.
Hooda as Charles Sobhraj in the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet
Complementing his portrayal of a suave but equally ingenious Sobhraj is Adil Hussain in the role of a police officer who is in charge of the jail break case. His mannerisms and fine detailing in his acting, made him stand out.
A still from the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Production design is commendable and the only saving grace apart from the impeccable acting on display. Apart from these two delights, there is not much that would hook you to your seat, leave alone push you to a ‘bite-your-nails’ situation. The narrative misses out on opportunities to induce suspense and curiosity with the story at hand.

Hooda is a sheer waste of talent in this one. One time watch, only for him.

This classic song found the beautiful Kanika Kapoor's voice in the recreated version of the film. Have a look, it helped me feel better after the disappointment that cam from watching the film. 

Sunday, 24 April 2016

The Jungle book is back!

“What is meant to be, will be.”

As Raksha speaks these lines to man-cub, Mowgli, nothing has ever, in a long time, sent my heart and mind in a race of flashing childhood memories. I feel it was reason enough for many others to get up so early on a Sunday morning to catch the latest version of the classic children’s story, The Jungle Book, leaving the theatre hall houseful.

And to know that it is doing so good for itself even after facing fierce competition from the much anticipated SRK starrer film, Fan, reinstills my hope and admiration for well-made movies. Kudos, to the entire team!

This story is so special; it has taught me serious life lessons. This evergreen tale by Rudyard Kipling puts across the simplest but crucial lessons of survival in the most uncomplicated and enduring way possible. How difficult it is to understand Mowgli’s grit, the importance of being compassionate and loving towards all regardless of differences, and the striking of the perfect human-nature relationship being pivotal for everyone’s survival?

A still from the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Scarlett Johnsson as Kaa has a miniscule role but her voice blows life into the few lines she is given. Ben Kingsley as Bagheera has to be my second favourite, first favourite being the adorable Indian-origin child artist, Neel Sethi, as he does wonders in the role of the much celebrated, every child’s beloved, Mowgli.

The adorable Neel Sethi as Mowgli. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Remember, ‘Jungle jungle pata chala hai, chaddi pehen ke phool khila hai...’?

I'm sure you will love this version of the song. Recreated by Gulzar and Vishal Bharadwaj, the kid's singing the lovely song is pure magic.

Ohh! Somebody take me back! :’)

And, by the way, on the home front, a small budget filmn( I hate to describe a film that way) starring the very talented Swara Bhaskar has hit the theatres, Nil Battey Sanata. It is giving me good vibes, hence, would be more than happy if you (yes you! who has taken the trouble to read this little piece of writing. I'm grateful, btw, Thanks! :D)  could catch it and tell me what you think about it. What say?

Wednesday, 23 March 2016

Kapoor and Sons: The desperately needed room freshener

This family drama is about a middle class, dysfunctional family; it can be your family, my family, anyone’s family.

A poster of the film. Internet Courtesy: Internet

The signature Kuch Kuch Hota Hia tune that plays in the very beginning when the producer of the film is revealed would give anyone the Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham impression of the film. But thankfully no, it’s Shakun Batra’s treatment of the film that saves the day.

Director Shakun Batra needs to take a bow for successfully instilling in his actors the psyche of the respective character; this makes more than half the work done.
Though, Ratna Pathak as a jealous and tired housewife is a treat to watch with Fawad Khan who, yet again, proves he is here to stay, I fail to pick out one actor who seemed misfit for a character, and that includes Tia’s Nepali house help.  

Alia does not have much to do in this one except get into a zestful, bubbly character with a tragic past. Well that is something that all characters in this family drama have in common: they have their share of problems that each one is struggling with.  

How can I forget to specially mention about the cutest of them all? Daadu (played by Rishi Kapoor) is hilarious in his zest for life and longing to watch porn. He is easily the most entertaining character and would compel you to miss your own grandfather. Are all grandfathers this cute?

Daadu (played by Rishi Kapoor) is so cute in the film! Photo Courtesy: Internet

As for the actor, Rishi Kapoor, he has one more interesting character ticked of his bucket list. This is one aging actor, I feel, who is doing a lot more interesting and enviable work than what he has done in his youthful years.

Thanks to the writers, Shakun Batra and Ayesha Devitre Dhillon, and their meticulous writing, the film does not grow into a yet another rone dhone wala love triangle with equally good looking prospects for the only girl in there. They have done a fabulous job of providing every character with the space and freedom to flourish.

The scenes don’t give the viewer a feel that each and every movement in it is controlled. It’s more of spontaneous acting and screen presence that makes the story so relatable and well shot.

Kar Gayi Chul is the hottest party number on my mind right now and I can’t wait to break into a dance on this one. Bolna is yet another romantic and melodious song to hum in memory of that beloved one.

A still from the song 'Bolna'. Photo Courtesy: Internet

The audience is sure to roll into laughter at the absurdity of a plumber trapped in the middle of a family fight, but this is just one of the many bone-tickling sequences. Basically, the film is down-right entertaining and a huge surprise!

Kapoor and Sons is that desperately in requirement room freshener that appears out of nowhere when you most need it. The film has surely pinned my hopes high of expecting a wave of fresh, renewed and interesting line-up of films in the times to come. Hope others follow suit. 

Tuesday, 26 January 2016

Let’s salute the unsung heroes

25 years into the industry and Akshay Kumar’s choice of movies off late has forced me to admire him with a renowned sense of appreciation. Airlift, his first offering for this year released in India last Friday. The trailer was decent enough to pin my expectations up from the film. And of course, the very pretty and talented Nimrit Kaur gave me a whole new reason to catch the movie the same weekend it released (which is very rare of me to do).

More than any of the above reasons, the plot of the film intrigued me immensely. Airlift is the story of the biggest-ever human evacuation done by India in the history of mankind. Directed by Raja Menon, the movie is about those 1, 70,000 Indians stranded in Kuwait when Saddam Hussein invaded the country in 1990, and kick-started the Gulf War. Ever heard of this incidence? Never had I before I chanced upon the film.

A poster of the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet

The movie starts with chronicling a day in the life of a Kuwait-based Indian businessman Ranjit Katyal played by Akshay Kumar. He is super-rich, resourceful, and has no sense of belonging or attachment to his native country, India. He considers himself a Kuwaiti and prefers listening to Arabic music rather than Bollywood songs. Who knew, one day, the very same Bollywood songs would save Mr. Katyal’s life.

The scenes where Saddam Hussain’s brutal forces exploiting and invading Kuwait successfully establish the fear stricken atmosphere for the story. The callous attitude of an alarmingly slow-to-take-heed Indian state brings a sense of familiarity to our government and even cracks us up a couple of times. The film stands honest to such minute detailing. Congratulations! 

The scenes where Saddam Hussain’s brutal forces exploiting and invading Kuwait successfully establish the fear stricken atmosphere for the story. Photo Courtesy: Internet

The music is bang on. I personally love grooving to the song, De Di and the melodious Soch na sake, though that seemed a bit forced into the narrative. Amal Malik is on a roll, churning out chartbuster albums one after the other. The inclusion of minimal songs helped in not ruining the story.

A still from the song, De di. Photo Courtesy: Internet

With the inclusion of the flag hoisting scene and a new rendition of Vande Mataram, maybe the director wanted to invoke that response from the audience that the climax of Chak de India brought about. But that really falls flat.

The screenplay, I felt, got stagnant for a major part of the narrative which made me kept waiting for a ‘wow’ moment and before I realised the movie came to an end. Not boring, I would say, but it could have been compensated by cutting the movie short by 10-15 minutes.

Purab Kohli in a still from the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet

As the story precedes the nature of relationships undergo transformations as well. As Katyal puts it aptly, “Jab musibat aati hai na, toh bachcha maa ko hi pukaarta hai”. Purab Kohli’s role of the innocently sweet Ibrahim Durani is heart touching. As an actor, we are certain of the immense potential he has. God knows why he is not being offered more interesting characters in the industry. 

Okay, let me put a disclaimer before I proceed with anything else. If the trailers (or anything else) have given you the perception that the movie is about HOW a single man airlifts lakhs of Indians from the war zone areas, then this may lead to some disappointment.  No! Do not expect Argo- like moments that would leave you biting your nails/get you to the edge of your seat/instil in you a new found sense of pride for your country. All that the two movies in comparison have in common is the theme of evacuation. Nothing more meets the eye.

Do not expect Argo- like moments in the Airlift. All that the two movies in comparison have in common is the theme of evacuation. 

The movie is about how a couple of people headed by our common man, Ranjit Katyal, made more than a lakh of Indians safely reach Jordan from the invaded Kuwait to get them airlifted to safer areas.

The film at the end, credits not just one person, but a few other men including people from the Indian govt who had responded to desperate calls and sent help. This movie is not just about one man, Ranjit Katyal. It is about a group of strong, courageous men who together made this mission possible. Don’t push this story to a one man’s heroism tale. It is not.

Neither this tale (the movie which is based on true events) nor the actual event that happened in 1990 was a one man show. According to the director, the Katyal’s character is an amalgamation of two gentlemen, Sunny Mathews and Vedi, who formed an unofficial committee to oversee the evacuation of the stranded Indians. Let’s salute, their spirit and everyone who had even a remotely small hand in making this evacuation a success. And let’s salute the makers of the film for bringing to us this remarkable story of Indian achievement.
There is so much to learn from this extraordinary real life incident, this Republic day. For starters, go watch the film.

Tuesday, 19 January 2016

The Danish Girl: An extraordinary story of two extraordinarily beautiful women

Let's start with The Danish Girl's intriguing trailer which I happened to share a couple of months back right here. Trailer

That slight touch of the frilly frock and silken stockings changed everything: it made Einar, Lilli Elbe.

A still from the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Eddie Redmayne is back this year (in India, that is, otherwise the movie saw a November 27 in the US) as Lilli aka Einar Wegener in the Danish girl after stunning each of us with his incredible portrayal of Stephen hawking in the theory of everything.

One fine day, Gerda asks her husband to fill in for a life model; she was making a portrait of. The ever supportive and loving husband readily agrees and laughingly pulls on a pair of silken stockings and ballet shoes. Einar is teasingly named Lilli while he enjoys all the attention. Together with his partner in crime, Gerda, he cooks up a plan to attend a society ball with Einar dressed as Lilli and introducing himself to the world as Einar’s cousin.

Lilli caresses herself as she admires herself in the mirror. Photo Courtesy: Internet
Gerda decides to paint Lilli and Einar continues to pitch in. Lilli’s portraits are a huge success in the market and they make good money out of it. Life enters a dark phase at a point when Einar just cannot resist being dressed as Lilli. A couple of relationships here and there, Lilli is still trying to find her way into the world. Soon, Einar is lost completely somewhere.
Redmayne is slaying it yet again. An Oscar nomination has already arrived. Very honest in his portrayal of the character, Eddie, it seems was walking on a tight rope and balances just fine.

Not only Redmayne’s but Alicia Vikander's performance in Tom Hooper’s film will draw you into their lives from where you can closely witness their emotional turmoil, both individually and together. Alicia as Einar’s wife, Gerda is the surprise element in the movie, finely showcasing what a woman goes through when her  husband has just discovered that he is a woman from inside. “Can I have my husband back? I want to talk to him”, she pleads. Lilli responds, “I’m sorry”.

Alicia Vikander in The Danish Girl. Photo Courtesy: Internet
Eddie Redmayne in The Danish Girl. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Dated back to 1926, the story chronicles the life of Lilli Elbe, one of the first people to undergo sex reassignment surgery. At its core, the story is a beautifully crafted transformative saga of two extraordinary souls, and the profound love that they share. "Leave it. Let her fly", says Gerda as Lilli's scarf floats away in the breeze. These closing lines of the film says it all.

Your heart goes out for Einar while he is being thrashed by local eve teasers on the roadside for being gay. There comes a conscious giggle from a corner of the theatre hall. Things haven’t changed since Einar’s time. Sigh.

Sunday, 10 January 2016

The only constant: Rajshri

The movie's poster. Image Courtesy: Internet

That joint family, those elaborate song and dance sequences, that one villain, that family bonding, that unflinching love, those virgin lovers, those zillion rishtedaars, that Prem, that Rajshri.

Main wapas aa gaya, main wapas aa gaya...

Main wapas aa gaya, main wapas aa gaya...

Yes, Rajshri’s favourite actor in their perpetual character, Prem, was back on the silver screen after 26 long years to convey, yet again, what every Rajshri movie’s message has been over the years: the saga of unbroken family bonding.
So, we have identical looking Prem Dilwale and Prince Vijaya, so you know where this story is headed. And mind you, the only thing that differentiates the two is the saving grace, moustache, apart from their backgrounds ( Prem Dilwale is an artist in a local nautanki group as opposed to Vijay who is a prince and super rich).
The trailers were already revealing so much. Prince Vijay is deliberately killed in an accident and replaces him the look alike accidently spotted in a market place. Prem Dilwale is brought into prince Vijay’s shoes and he refuses to charge even a penny for this. The reason? His unconditional affection for the pretty princess, Mythili.

A still from the movie. Image Courtesy: Internet
He makes endless efforts to put things right, of course, in his own style: sets their strained relationship with his step-sisters straight, changes his equation with his fiancé for the better and bringing some fun into people’s lives on the way.
Barjatyas never had any grey character in their stories, which stands true for this film too. The evil step brothers take up to that role for the most obvious reason on this planet. Neil Nitin Mukesh needs to keep himself reserved for better roles; after all, we have seen what he can hold in his debut movie itself.
But Bhai, your Ram-bhakt act is getting a bit too repetitive now (read Bhajrangi Bhaijaan). Mind some change? As for Sanjay Mishra and Deepak Dobriyal (who were called in for some comic relief, it seems), this movie is the best example of how to waste extremely talented and powerful performers in negligible roles. And Sonam Kapoor? Let’s just not talk about her.
A still from the movie. Photo Courtesy: Internet

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is as predictable as your milkman’s milk. You know there is glaring amount of water in that. But you still drink it, don’t you? Same was the audience’s response to the movie that went to the theatres to watch it.

‘Hum Aapke Hain Koun’ swept the nation and achieved the cult status in 1994 because of the times in which it was made. It was a breath of fresh air for the audience who had grown sick of the routine, violent fight sequences. This time it was Bhai’s star power and fan following. I don’t know how Barjatya’s movies are going to survive the times.

And that dance step. It’s everywhere.