Sunday, December 2, 2012

Talaash: Macguffined!

Talaash is really an exploration of loss, grief, redemption and closure that uses the police procedural/murder mystery only as a carrier. The brave whopper at the end that brings it all together would alienate a lot of viewers, as it has many critics - going by the review headings (thankfully I've stopped reading them beyond that). For me it was the ultimate aha! moment, a rare occurrence across the thousands of movies I've seen. An absolute delight throughout!

(A note of advice: Don't go in expecting a high class feature length episode of CID.)

Monday, August 27, 2012

Ek Tha Tiger - The Spy Who Loved Zee

Wow action setpieces. Bondian beginning that matches Bourne. Endearing Salman-Katrina chemistry. This exotic visual feast is among the better films of a year which has had TDKR, Shanghai & GOW. Congratulations Mr. Kabir Khan, Mr. Neelesh Mishra & Mr. Aditya Chopra... waiting for the next Tiger adventure, a full-on save-the-world spy caper. And yes it was great to see Girish Karnad and Roshan Seth in remakarkable roles after long.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Arnab, Milan, Soldier, Spy

Gripping, Edge of the seat, Nail biting, White knuckle thriller are just a few phrases that seem to have been invented to describe movies like Sujoy Ghosh's Kahaani. The best Hindi thriller post Sarfarosh is a puzzle within a puzzle with a solid whack-on-the-head conclusion. It stands tall with the best of international genre cinema. Hollywood are you looking?

Friday, February 3, 2012

Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath, Mukul Anand would have been proud, Martin Scorcese would appreciate

I am a pretty solid fan of Mukul Anand’s Agneepath, so much so that I still keep trawling online and offline stores for VHS tapes that contain the original vision of Mukul Anand with the gravel voiced Amitabh Bachchan. I also welcome the idea of remakes, coloring of movies and so on, because these...gimmicks, for the lack of a politer word, bring old movies to a new generation, and when done well perhaps provide one with a fresh perspective on an old favorite. However, remakes are, as everybody knows, an extremely tricky business, respected filmmakers like David Cronenberg (The Fly) and Martin Scorcese (Departed) have done it successfully, or failed spectacularly like Gus Van Sant (Psycho). Scorcese has been derided for Cape Fear, but his version is now more or less acknowledged at par with if not better than the original. Hitchcock remade his own “The Man Who Knew Too Much” and Cecil B. Demille “The Ten Commandments”. Our legendary filmmakers Mehboob Khan and B.R. Chopra revisited their own works Afsana & Aurat to create Dastaan and Mother India respectively.

There would always be people who would say the earlier “The Man Who Knew Too Much” was better than the later bigger, flashier and longer remake by the same master. Similarly there would be people who would permanently view Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Devdas and Farhan Akhtar’s Don with the blackest of contempt. For most such critics, I have observed, the primary issues are with the obscenely successful and cocky ‘kal ka chokda’ SRK taking over from statesmanly greats like Dilip Kumar and Amitabh Bachchan, somewhat like many from my father’s generation cannot imagine anyone else but Connery as James Bond - Moore (wimp!), Lazenby/Dalton (who?), Brosnan/Craig (Baaaah!)

And how can we forget RGV ki Aag, poor fellow, the whole Hindustan was gunning for him from the day he announced the megalomaniacally titled Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag, it did not help matters that the film was...well it had NISHA KOTHARI filling in for Hema Malini...we’ll pass on the rest. But you would really appreciate our self-styled showman of the 80s, a certain Mr. Subhash Ghai for not shouting from the rooftops when he was working on ‘Karma’ in the early 80s. Clever man and talented filmmaker, he was doing what he should have been doing, making a full blown masala entertainer. If you are a fan of Sholay, do try to watch it and Karma on the same day and you will see how the village of Ramgarh becomes Hindustan, Thakur becomes Col. Vishwapratap Singh (Dilip Kumar), Gabbar Singh is Dr. Dan (Anupam Kher) , Khairuddin Chishti (Naseeruddin Shah) is Jai, Veeru is divided into two - Baiju Thakur (Jackie Shroff) & Johnny/Gyaneshwar Prasad (Anil Kapoor) (it takes two to replace garam Dharam!), we also have a rebooted Sambha in a longer role as Jolly Jagga (Shakti Kapoor) and even Ramlal, as Dharma (Dara Singh). He, he, he, my obsession with Sholay, has led me to watch anything that reeks of that movie, from Seven Samurai & The Magnificent Seven to Mera Gaon Mera Desh/Ramgarh Ke Sholay/Army/RGV ki Aag (the last 3 in theatres) and even ‘Duplicate Sholay’.

So where is Agneepath among all this blabbering? Don’t tell me you didn’t check this blog’s were suitably forewarned...Back to Agneepath, I certainly am not going to commit the blasphemy of placing the Karans - Malhotra & Johar with the illustrious company mentioned in first paragraph, maybe somebody 5 decades down the line would find reason and openings to do so. But to put it straight, Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath had me floored. I did not miss Krishnan Aiyyar Yum Yae! or Amitabh Bachchan’s Vijay or Danny Denzongpa’s Kancha China (big fan of this one too, sad he does not do more movies) or Rohini Hattangady, and of course not the screechy Neelam.

Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath goes beyond being a mere copy-paste job like Gus Van Sant’s Psycho (who needs one when the original grows in reputation with every passing year), its a glorious homage, a true fanboy’s tribute. It is a reinvigorated, respectful, reimagining of a cult classic, the way Navdeep Singh’s Manorama - Six Feet Under was to Polanski’s Chinatown or Cronenberg’s The Fly which took the source material to much higher planes. Yeah you read it right ‘much higher planes’ because I think Agneepath 2.0 is superior to the first one which had problems typical of Mukul Anand’s films. We have entered dangerous territory here - Mukul S. Anand is widely referred to as a director ahead of his times who did not get his due. Having watched every Mukul Anand film, I do not completely subscribe to that view, Mukul Anand was a technical wizard (he was trained in FTII I believe) and he knew his Hollywood, his inspirations include the aforementioned Cape Fear (Kanoon Kya Karega), Dial M for Murder (Aetbaar), Scarface (Agneepath in parts). He made several very bad movies (Main Balwaan, Maa Ki Saugandh, Khoon Ka Karz) the blame for which could be thrust on the producers’ as these movies simply did not reflect the sensibilities of the man who also made Insaaf, Khuda Gawah, Hum and Agneepath. But were these movies really great - my opinion - Mukul Anand was stuck within a perpetual tug-of-war between Hollywood and Bollywood. A common cloud of problems hovers on his better known movies (Khuda Gawah, Hum, Insaaf, Agneepath & Trimurti!!!). All of them have brilliant first acts, the likes of which have never been seen before or after. They have great villains and setpieces. But they all steadily go downhill from the second act, except for Agneepath which sored high in the final act. For me Hum and Trimurti are among the saddest lost opportunities in Bollywood, the former has a solid initial 40 minutes after which enters the holier-than-thou Kadar Khan with his painfully outdated long-winded dialogues, the not-funny-at-all joker/villain Captain Zatak and ‘Bum Chiki Bum Bum’. In the most ridiculous hindi film climaxes ever mother and daughter tied to a ticking time bomb sing ‘bum chik bum bum’ to call the Bro-in-law/Chacha Govinda. Hum has patches of brilliance, from the main villain Danny, who is not totally black, to the real evil people masquerading as buffoons - Anupam Kher and Annu Kapoor. As for Trimurti - it had Kooka (up there with Gabbar & Mogambo) and Satya Devi, a brilliant opening 20 minutes and a very delicately presented relationship between 3 brothers, all of which were scrambled, probably God, Subhash Ghai and Mukul Anand would know why. Similarly, Khuda Gawah had a climax reminiscent of Agneepath and problems similar to Hum and Trimurti. The movie opens with Badshah Khan and Buzkashi and loses its way when the second generation which includes Sridevi, Nagarjuna and Shilpa Shirodkar enters the story - this reminds me of Yash Chopra’s Kabhi Kabhi ;-).

Mukul Anand made his best/closest-to-perfect movie with Agneepath. It was different for it’s times...well okay, we’d had the much superior and original Parinda, a couple of years back, which flopped like Agneepath and has similarly gone on to earn respect over the years. Mukul Anand’s Agneepath is basically hinged on Amitabh Bachchan, the dialogues, the personality, the context everything came together to create a certain alchemy which can never be planned. But apart from that and the awesome setpieces at the beginning, middle and end, it’s not strung together well enough, the patches show. In comparison Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath is a long but tightly woven and singularly focused tale of vengeance. Yes Priyanka Chopra’s character could have been done away with completely but so could have been the Mithun-Neelam love story in the original. The characters are well developed, the three buffoonish villains in the original led by Sharat Saxena cannot hold a candle to Rishi Kapoor’s Rauf Lala (a masterstroke of casting) and even the relationship shared between Lala and Vijay has been developed with great care. The mother played by Zarina Wahab is more believably complex than the one played by Rohini Hattangady, unfortunately she does not get to say awesome stuff like ‘tumhare haath saaf nahi hone wale Vijay” or something like that. The new Vijay, is not a punchline spewing larger than life figure with pain in his eyes. He appears like a regular, unusually quite Joe with deepset trauma, who is also cunning like a fox and has a single mission - revenge, and man does he convey all of that well! When he says “Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, pura naam” I didn’t miss the “hain!” of the original, I didn’t feel like whistling, you don’t, when your bones are chilled. Hrithik makes the character his own, as I see it, where the original Vijay was really Amitabh Bachchan, here Hrithik Roshan is Vijay. Sanjay Dutt as the evil Kancha does his job, there’s not much to discuss about what is basically a one-dimensional character out to scare the bejesus of anyone who crosses his path, his Gita obsession is jarring as it seems to have been thrust upon the character, yeah there was room for improvement there. Apart from that Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath is not a great film,  but it’s a very good film, very well made, and the sincerity shows in every department, from writing to production, to acting to direction. It would be unfair to say that the makers have resorted to remaking movies with established reputations because their creative juices have stopped flowing. It takes a high degree of creativity and even more courage to create a meticulously  reimagined version of a film with such a passionate following and doing it well. Would I watch Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath again, yes, would I watch it again like I make it a point to watch the original Agneepath every few years, no. Mukul Anand’s Agneepath has a lot of history/memories attached to it that adds to its gravitas and that would make me pick up it’s DVD over Karan Malhotra’s Agneepath.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Dreaming in Patiala House

There was a time when Hindi movies began with titles coming up in English, Hindi and Urdu, nowadays they are mostly meant to be read by people familiar with the English alphabet. But Patiala House goes back to the good old days, and that's not the only pleasant surprise it had in store for me. Nikhil Advani strikes back, and how! He makes a movie which while easy to dismiss as just another big budget mainstream Hindi film with songs and dances is a lot more than that. A movie has 'something' if it brings lumps in your throat, and controls your heartbeat and breathing easily. Among other things Patiala House reminds us that even life saving medicines come with expiry dates, after which they turn into poison, and this is especially true about various long-past-expiry-date "this is the propah way to live" systems that at best poison humanity at the grassroots level. Finally, when formula works, nothing can beat it, great dialogues, amazing Akshay, wow Anushka Sharma and awesome Rishi Kapoor backed by a uniformly excellent supporting cast. Patiala House made my Sunday.

The life and husbands of Susanna

It takes a lot to shake up my cinema jaded senses... Vishal Bhardawaj has been able to do that with every movie of his including Saat Khoon Maaf, few filmmakers, whether its Ashutosh Gowariker, Farhan Akthar or Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra, who initially showed brilliance have continued to push the envelope like Mr. Bhardawaj. Though I felt '7 Khoon' got a little tired in the last 15 minutes or so but, what a movie! what a deliciously detailed, wonderfully bizarre movie!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Chitti Chitti Bang Bang

Ideally Robot should have been made in the 80s (at probably 1/100th of its present budget), with less songs and many more punchy dialogues and thumpier scenes. Then it would have been ideal stuff for some pleasantly nostalgic viewings on lazy Sunday afternoons in Set Max/Star Gold/Zee Cinema. Coming as it is, in 2010, it's fun (the first half sprightlier than the second which is frequently shot down by unwelcome songs) but could have used some quality creative imagination on the script level to produce several 'aha' moments, rather than bludgeon the viewers with the combined might of lucre and technology (abundance of resources at disposal tends to blunt creativity, read that somewhere and have over the years found many reasons to believe it) I have a feeling that director Shankar is the kumbh-ke-mele-mein-khoya-hua-bhai of Michael Bay. Yeah, yeah I did not enter the theater expecting subtle and classy cinema. But hey I did not even come across a satisfying number of hoot-worthy scenes like I did in Hindustani or Pokkiri (the frame-by-frame remake 'Wanted' had a wickeder atmosphere and hence methinks it was a definite improvement but that's another story).

Maybe its a cultural remove at work but the intentionally comic scenes in films from South usually turn me off, Robot is no exception (for that that matter the humor present in the Japanese films of Akira Kurosawa also make me cringe; call me racist if you will, which was what a reader called Mayank Shekhar after reading his less-than-enthusiastic review of this film in Hindustan Times). Coming back to those idle Sunday afternoons, if I have a choice between Nagarjuna's Meri Jung 'The One Man Army' and Robot, I would go for the former for my 'paisa vasool' entertainment.