Saturday, January 02, 2016

The King is Dead, Long Live the King as The Force Awakens

I have never been a great fan of the Star Wars Fanchisee.  However, I must admit that I have seen all the six episodes either on DVD or on Theatres, sometimes accompanying my friends, or at other times, watching these movies when I had nothing better to do.  I must also admit that the First three Star Wars trilogies (surprisingly, they are numbered as Episode 4, 5, 6), as the following editions were prequels.  If I think I am confusing anyone here, then here is the chronological list of full six episodes of Star Wars which were released prior to this 2015 edition. 

(a)          Star Wars
(b)          Star Wars – The Empire Strikes Back
(c)           Star Wars – The Return of the Jedi
(d)          Star Wars – The Phantom Menace (Episode I)
(e)          Star Wars – Attack of the Clones (Episode II)
(f)           Star Wars – The Revenge of the Sith (Episode III). 

Anyways, I must admit that the initial three versions of the movie were a real fun, with George Lucas directing them and which featured Alec Guinness, Harrison Ford etc.  However, may things changed after the trilogy as Alec Guinness died and Harrison Ford moved on to feature in Spielberg’s Indiana Jones Series and more earthy characters.   The franchise was dead!

However Lucas tried to revive it by directing the prequels, but they were not comparable to the originals and was such a bore.  Sometime in between, I read that Lucas had sold the rights of his movie to Disney, which has then engaged JJ Abrams, who is an expert in reviving franchises.  He has tried to bring in elements of the original trilogy by bringing in Harrison Ford, bringing in a lot of references to the Episodes 4 to 6 and has now called his new movie – The Force Awakens – as the Episode VII. 

Coming back to the instant, let me tell you, the movie is invigorating with 3D Effects and is comparable to the effects seen in The Avatar.  Harrison Ford continues to mesmerize and he is the soul of the film as he returns as Han Solo.  The surprise entry of Han Solo when you least expect it and references to the father-son duel of the Episode 4 and the treachery has been brought back adding to the spice of the movie.  Daisy Ridley as Rey, the Scavenger is a pleasure to watch and Adam Driver as Kylo Ren, the Dark Warrior heading the Storm-troopers, is also exhilarating.  The light saber duels are captivating and so are some of the locales, while the Droid BB-8 will make you giggle here and there.  In all, a must watch movie for this generation and for the old one alike, who may like some nostalgia.    The King is Dead, Long live the King.  

Friday, November 30, 2012

Life of Pi : An Adventure and some great lessons in Life!

After the creative extravaganza of ‘The Avtar’ and the ‘Three Musketeers’, here comes another Hollywood movie, that promises a lot on the unlimited possibilities the 3D Technology and the CGI Technology offer the viewers.  Having seen, the movie, I must say, the movie has impressed me, almost as much as ‘The Avtar’ did!

The Plot
Based on the best selling novel by Yan Martel (not just best selling, but Man-Booker Prize Winner too), the initial part of the story is set in India, Pondicherry. 

To go further, Pi (played by Irrfan Khan) is having a conversation with his french Author-friend and tells him how he survived 227 days on a life boat with only a Bengal Tiger (Richard Parker, the tiger is named) for company. He is also picked up by two Japanese Maritime Officials so as to investigate how the ship sank.  The Officials don’t believe his outlandish story and dismisses him.  But what exactly is Pi’ story, and that’s what the movie is all about. 

Son of a Zoo-Keeper, Santosh Patel, Pi of Piscene Patel is born to an affluent family.  The boy is, pretty aware of the need to co-exist in a world with animals and also is quite understanding of their needs.  Raised as a Hindu, he is also introduced to Islam and Christianity and is a believer of the ‘Vasudeva Kudumbakom’, in true Indian Psychology! The family, one fine day, decide to relocate to Canada due to political turmoil in their native place and sells some of their animals, and also carrying some with them on their journey in the high seas.  Their ship encounters a heavy storm and is wrecked and his family along with the ship and the crew sinks.  Pi soon finds himself stranded on a life boat in the high seas with four animals, a Hyena, a Zebra, an Orangutan and a Bengal Tiger.

The rest of the Pi’s tale is how he survives 227 days on the sea with the Tiger (He names the tiger as Richard Parker).  All the while, Pi assigns in each animal, a distinctive personality based upon his observations and the people in his own life.  The other animals die as the Hyena kills the Zebra and the Orangutan out of hunger.   The Hyena inturn gets killed by Richard Parker.  Pi now realises the need to keep Richard Parker in good humour in order to save himself, and feeds him fish. He eventually develops a bond of friendship with Parker and they both realise and appreciate the need of each other for their own survival. 

They ultimately reach the coast of mexico soon, Richard Parker escapes into a jungle without looking back at Pi leaving him in distress and even making him question their friendship itself.

The Cast

Irrfan Khan plays the role of the grown-up Pi, who is being quizzed by the Japanese Officials about the ship wreck and his tale of survival.  The officials don’t believe his story of survival along with the Bengal Tiger, so Irrfan then substitutes his tale with another one with people in his real life and asks whether the story is more believable now.  He is absolutely fantastic with his accent and does a fantastic job.  After ‘The Namesake’, an excellent performance from him. 

Tabu, plays the role of Pi’s mother, Gita Patel, with aplomb and is impressive.  Adil Hussain is Santosh Patel, Pi’s father.

In spite of this luminous star-cast, Suraj Sharma as the teen-aged Pi is the back-bone of the movie and is fantastic.  French and Hollywood actor, Gerard Dipardieu appears in a Cameo as the Cook of the Ship and no word is required to describe how this wonderful actor has performed.  

Underlying layers in the story

Just as the boy finds that his class-mates in Pondicherry is quite amused as to how someone could be named ‘Pissing Patel’, he shortens his name to Pi, the mathematical constant, having ‘no end’.  The story, too, has lots of inner-layers to it, and each animal represents a different character or a person in Pi’s life.  The tale of surviving 227 days with a tiger is as much a tale of how to see with-in and to survive in adversities and believing in one-self.  The number of days that Pi spends in the life-boat itself is quite significant.  Have a look at the digits.. they are 2, 2 and 7, which represents Pi itself (22/7 = 3.14, which is the value of Pi). It is a wonderful story of growing-up and survival and is a must watch! If you have not read the book already that is.

Many have asked me, as to what is so grand, about a boy being castaway with a Bengal Tiger for company, and I would say, this is not just a fantasy story. The life-boat represents our life itself, the calm seas and the storms, its ups and downs.  The floating island represents a 'false sense of security', and how the luxuries of life can lull you into that.  Pi doesn't succumb to the temptation of finding life in the 'floating island', and he decides to go in search for a better future.  The Tiger, Richard Parker is Pi’s often Self-Destructive and often Animalistic Alter Ego, which helps him survive the adversities   The movie is all about how one should spend his life,  fighting and taming the destructive self.  It is a story about courage, and self-belief as much as it is a story of spiritual and philosophical overtures. 

Directed by Ang Lee, who won Oscars for his ‘CrouchingTiger, Hidden Dragon’ and has directed ‘Sense and Sensibility’ and ‘Brokeback Mountain’, The Life of Pi, overall, is a wonderful movie, can be enjoyed by everyone alike and IS A MUST WATCH.  

The only thing that i was miffed with was because, for some unknown reason, Gerard Depardieu has been given such an insignificant role.  He appears in just one scene, and it cannot even be called a Guest Appearance.  Such a great actor, and he has nothing to do here! 

Buy still, Embark on this adventure and discover yourself along with Pi, on a journey that knows no end! Miss it, and you have missed one of the best movies that has come out in recent times! 

Sunday, July 01, 2012

Shanghai (2012)

Directed by :- Dibakar Banerjee
*ing : Emraan Hashmi, Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechelin, Prosenajit Chatterjee

At a time when movies like Ferrari Ki Sawari and Rowdy Rathore were pulling in the crowds to the theaters, with mindless fare, Director Dibakar Banerjee tries to evoke the audiences’ grey matter with his slick and classy Shanghai.  The movie at best, can be termed as a reflection of the current state of our country.  The fictional town of ‘BharatNagar’ could be anywhere in India, drawing parallels with places in Orissa, Jharkhand, Chattisgargh or even BengalDibakar Banerjee sees through the state of affairs and indeed dares to speak up about the corporates-politician nexus. 

The movie follows Dr Ahmadi, a social activist who is leading a people’s protest against an SEZ (Special Economic Zone) which is about to displace a huge population in a fictional town called Bharatnagar.  The SEZ is, but, projected as a for-development by the ruling party.  This is evident from the very start, but not from the story line, but rather through the billboards that we see on the roads when the camera pans ‘Bharatnagar’.  The movie is full of such minute details and symbolisms that we audience tend to know about only on closer introspection.  See for example the very first scene of the movie where the character played by Pitobash Tripathy, ransacks a book-shop and blackens the face of the owner of the shop.  All we see is a book on the background with the title ‘Kiski Pragati Kiska Desh’ with the picture of the author, Dr Ahmadi (Played brilliantly by Prosenajit Chatterjee) on the cover.   We immediately know that the rioting and the ‘bandh’ is against his anti-SEZ protest and we instantly know who Dr Ahmadi is without even showing him on the screen. Or sample this scene where Kalki calls Emraan on his cellphone.  Nowhere in the movie we are told or shown anything about Emraan’s interest for Kalki, but we come to know when the caller-id of his phone flases Kalki’s name as DREEEMGIRL, with extra E’s. 

Soon, Dr Ahmadi lands in Bharatnagar to address a public gathering and he is killed in full public gathering by a truck driven by a drunkard.  The Government constitute a committee, headed by the IAS Officer TA Krishnan (Abhey Deol in a sedate performance) with a brief to wind up the investigation into his murder in double quick time by terming it as an rogue accident.  But Krishnan dwells deeper and finds out the truth.  Kalki Koechelin who plays Dr Ahmadi’s student and his love interest and a porn-videographer, Jogi Parmar (Emraan Hashmi) assists the bureaucrat  in unraveling the knots of the conspiracy of Dr Ahmadi’s murder. 

The beauty of the movie is in the details as mentioned earlier and also because no character is either Black or White. Even Dr Ahmadi has his own failings and is shown having a weakness for attractive students.  He married one of his students (played by Tilotama Shome) and is simultaneously tagging along Kalki.  

Emraan Hashmi’s performance as Jogi Parmar is absolutely stupendous.  Here is the serial kisser, the way we know him, playing a character with a low self-esteem and quite surprisingly, sports a Pot-Belly and ugly teeth.  I have always liked his ambitious chracters played in various movies who always laid women earning the tag of serial kisser, but here he left me absolutely speechless with his performance. He surely deserves a Best Actor Award. 

Apart from the above, Abhay Deol as TA Krishnan, the IAS Officer, and the two cameos by Supriya Pathak as the woman Chief Minister and Farookh Sheikh as her Political Secretary is worth a hundred mentions and makes the movie that much more delectable.  Pitobash Tripathy as a street-smart party man dazzles.  Prosenajit Chatterjee is a veteran and he plays his part as is expected from an actor of his statute. 

The movie, is dark, stark and it is a classic stuff and is simply the best movie of the year.  Don’t miss it at any cost.  It will entertain you, and at the same time, open your eyes as well as to what is happening around you.         

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Good Night, Good Morning - A Movie to remember

Director : Sudhish Kamath

In between my transit and my stay at various places in Kerala, I happened to see the movie 'GOOD NIGHT, GOOD MORNING'. It was one of those Indian English movies or rather what we simply call as NRI movies.  A noted film-critic with ‘The Hindu’, ‘GOOD NIGHT, GOOD MORNING’ is Sudhish Kamath’s second movie, and as a regular reader of his movie reviews in 'The Hindu', I was naturally attracted to this second venture of his.  

The title as well as the poster caught my attention and so did the synopsis, as I delved into this movie which is entirely shot in black and white. The Black and White narration seemed to be an anachronism at first, but it essentially turns out to be the movie's USP. It adds to the romanticism of the plot as only the dreamy sequences and the flashbacks are in color. The film employs the ‘Split-Screen’ narrative, where the entire story is shown happening side by side.  Plot wise, the movie is original, engrossing and entertaining.

The movie is based in US, New York and the main protagonists are NRI's which help strike an instant chord with the urbane multiplex hopping young Indians.  The story revolves around the female character Moira (played brilliantly by Seema Rehman), who stops by in New York while on her transit. There she meets Turiya (played by Manu Narayanan), who along with two of his friends is on a wild night celebration spree. The guys manage to get her hotel room number and there by her phone number.

While on their drive back, in an intoxicated state, the guys decide to call her. Turiya calls her and after an initial hesitation, the Moira engages in conversation with him. The rest of the movie is about their phone conversation which is gripping, self reflective as also romantic. The topics of their conversation range from their mutual attraction, to discussion about 'The Matrix', spiritual stuff as also their individual problems.  In the course, they both discover themselves and each other as a subtle romance takes over.

'GOOD NIGHT, GOOD MORNING' is a very subtle movie, depicting the nuances of relationships that happen just out of the blue - with people whom we never meet or never thought about meeting, but still happens - and then leaves a lasting impression in our lives making us wonder, how life can be so strange. Sudhish Kamath's narrative is fresh, romantic and engrossing while, performances of both the lead actors, Seema Rehmani and Manu Narayan are compelling and original.  

It is one of those movies that have to be relished like a crunchy and creamy ice-cream sandwich. A must see movie.

Thursday, December 15, 2011

The Avatar

Dir : James Cameron
Starring : Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, Signourney Weaver, Giovani Ribisi

Though it may just be a quite coincidence that the world-wide release of the Movie was synchronized with the World Earth Summit of Copenhagen, 2009, the movie still made news for its technical brilliance and its 3D rendering. Avatar is an epic movie that borrows scenes and even the story-line from various other movies and incidents that happened around the world, upgraded them with brilliant 3D projection systems and delivered it on the silver screen like never before. Perhaps this is the reason for such a grand success of the movie, and the world that has been created for the movie - The Pandora - makes us to explore more of it. I would agree with the person who sat next to me at the movie hall that he felt as if he was back on earth once the movie was over.

There is nothing much to mention about the story though as it is just a re-hash of so many other Hollywood movies that came and went, showing us jaw-dropping technologies that we saw in other Hollywood movies. Avatar the movie creates beautiful world or rather a moon called Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na’vis, a Paleolithic species. Na'vis are 12 feet tall, tailed, blue skinned humanoids who live in harmony with Nature and worships their goddess called Eywa. These aspects of the Na'vi's give them an Indian touch with the Na'vi themselves resembling our monkey-gods as also the culture of worshipping female goddess.

The Avtar's story is about a handicapped US Marine, Jake Sully (played by Sam Worthington) who has been genetically engineered to control his Avatar. His Avatar has been transported to the Moon Pandora as a spy, infiltrating the clan Omaticaya to be specific. His main objective is to induce the native Na'vi's to migrate from Pandora so that Earthly humans (or rather US) can get their hold on the mineral unobtanium, a valuable mineral which costs up to a million dollars for a kilo. Once inside the clan, Jake falls in love with World, its customs and of course the beautiful Princess Neytiri (played brilliantly by Zoe Saldana). It is this love that ultimately inspires Jake to fight against his own people and save Pandora from humans who are ultimately driven away.

Avatar has been immensely inspired from other Hollywood flicks. The theme of controlling one's virtual-self through minds have been shown to us through the Matrix Trilogies and the battle scenes remind us of Lord of the Rings and the Star Wars. Perhaps the biggest inspiration for this movie has been the Kevin Costner classic 'Dances With Wolves' where an injured US Marine trapped within a tribal clan gets drawn to the culture he was initially fighting against. Along the way, I found that the movie is an implicit criticism of America's lost cause in the Vietnam War as also its War on Terror.

All this apart, Avatar is a movie that one should watch and one should let their children watch, for the simple reason that the movie carries a message - A message that we as part of the nature should respect and love it, and we destroy it and our fellow creatures at our own peril. So watch this classic, enjoy it, and applaud its brilliance in the end, because that is why we all go to see the movie in the theatre. It just won’t disappoint a wee bit.

Tags & Links :- Avtar the MovieJames CameronDances With WolvesVietnam Colony

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Heavenly Creatures

Dir : Peter Jackson
Starring : Kate Winslet, Melanie Lynskie

Perhaps you might be wondering why I am writing a review of a movie which was released way back in 1994.  Today morning, with nothing else to do, I decided watch this movie on youtube and felt I should be writing about this (one of the most) under-rated movies ever.

"Heavenly Creatures" is made by the man who directed Lord of the Rings trilogy - Peter Jackson. The movie is about the famous 'Parker-Hulme Murder Case' where in Parker and Hulme, together murders Parker's mother, Peirse.

Pauline Parker and Juliet Hulme are two 14 year old girls played by Kate Winslet and Melanie Lynskey respectively. They meet in school and become fast friends immediately. They create a secret fantasy world and become obsessive about it and each other. As their friendship grow, even bordering on homosexuality, and their fantasy land Borovnia seems real to them just as the real world outside, their parents grow concerned and try to seperate the pair. Resenting this, they plan revenge on one of the mothers. Their form of revenge...ultimate...Murder!

What sets the film apart is the fantasy world the girls create - the world named Borovnia. Kate quotes "I'm going to the fourth world. it's a sort of a heaven, only better, coz there aren't any christians!"

The fantasies get darker and darker as the girls get seperated and the movie gets more and more difficult to watch...but you can't tear ur eyes away from the scenes coz Peter Jackson creates a 'what will happen next' with delicious frissions created by the girls restlessness underneath.

The film deserves to be seen not just once but more than that, if not for all the above reasons, for Kate winslet's performance. As the smarter of the two girls, she dominates every frame and lights up each one of them. Pity about TITANIC, as she got the maximum adulation for the worst role that she did in her career.  Her performance in Heavenly Creatures,being her debut too, deserved an Oscar. 

Picture Courtesy :


Sunday, December 04, 2011

The Dirty Picture

It is commonly believed that heroine (read women) oriented films are never a guarantee for success, especially in Bollywood.  But here is one movie that is out there to prove us all wrong.  'Dirty Picture' is a look back at the 1980's when plus-sized heroines as well as dance-girls posed as sex-sirens on the screen ensured a movies success.  The southern Starlet Silk Smitha was an undisputed queen of this crowd and this movie was a good  attempt at focusing on her life and times . 

Pic Courtesy :

Dirty Picture is a semi-biography of sorts about this actress who used her oomph and sexuality to good measure, leaving men panting, and marking her presence in tamil movies as an instant guarantee for cash registers ringing. Vidya Balan, who is otherwise known for her non-conformist and clean image, plays the role of Reshma or just 'Silk' to good effect in this thought provoking film.  At these times, when her peers are running after size-zero, Vidya Balan is gutsy enough to add 12 Kilos to and flaunt it too.

The Story

The story follows Reshma (Vidya Balan), a run-away bride, landing herself in a Movie set asking for a role . She is turned off from the sets for being ugly and un-glamorous.  She is resolute to make it big  and continues her struggle until she gets a role as a female dancer complete with pouting lips and revealing attire.  The raunchy song becomes an instant success, and thus was born 'Silk'. Through out her life, many men fill in her days only to cause distress and those include her childhood idol Suryakant (Nasiruddin Shah), RamaKant (Tussar Kapoor) who is the brother of Suryakant.  Ramakant genuinely loves Silk and wants to marry her, but his parents are embarrassed by her wild ways.  Abraham(Emraan Hashmi), is another person who enters Silk's later life and it is Abraham who stays till her end helping her mother to cremate her dead body in the finale.  

The story basically is about Reshma(Silk), from being a make-up girl to her rise to stardom, and ultimately to her tragic death by swallowing sleeping pills.  It is the story of a woman, who had a care-free attitude, and lived her life without thinking twice (sample this dialogue where Silk says : "ज़िन्दगी  एक  बार  मिलती  हे, तो  दो  बार  क्यूँ  सोचना ?).  Dirty Picture is also about the portrayal of women as objects of 'Entertainment' and how  women start accepting this as a way of life.  Silk ultimately had to succumb to the society's bad-mouthing and exploitative nature.  

Dirty Picture is basically a tight rope-walk between the sensual silk and her life as an exploited woman.  The movie Shows her short-lived rise to fame as also the contradiction of her as the object of male fantasy and her quest for love, only to find infidelity and unfaithfulness from the men she love. This catalysis  her fall from 'grace' and leads her towards loneliness and ultimately to suicide.  The film reeks of the apparent hypocrisy that exist in the society as a whole.  She is crestfallen by this duplicity of being revered by the people whom she feeds with her sexuality, but the very same people, wearing a mask of bogusness, is ever ready to put a question mark on her character.    

My Take

All in all, the movie is pure entertainment, intertwined with humour (not at all crass) and mimicry of the old times.  Vidya Balan literally lives the character and does full justice to the role of Silk and carries the film from start to finish.  Having given the job of playing a sex-siren, Vidya Balan carries it wonderfully, and never makes her character look vulgar on screen.  Instead she oozes sensuality. Nasiruddhin Shah is wonderful as the ageing superstar and having given the brief to mimic a certain style of acting which was prevelant at that time, he does it with aplomb.  Emraan Hashmi and Tussar Kapoor play their part well and this is just another instance where Emraan shows us that he can act and very well indeed.  Anju Mahendroo's cameo as the Fashion Journalist is worth mentioning.  Just like the 'lady-in-the-lead', Dialogues are hard-hitting and is another attraction.  The music is over-hyped and is an average fare. The good thing about the movie is that it is never judgmental anywhere about the life of Silk.   

The movie is surely worth a watch, just for Vidya Balan's performance and will be a trend-setter of sorts, hoping that, this will inspire more movie-makers to try and experiment with women-oriented subjects.    That would indeed be a real turn-around for Bollywood.

...Prasanth Menon

Tags & Links : Vidya Balan, Nasiruddhin Shah, Emraan Hashmi, Dirty Picture at ImdbMilan Luthria
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