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 fiancĂ© 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.