Movie Review: Gangubai Kathiawari

When one goes to watch a Sanjay Leela Bhansali (SLB) movie, one goes expecting theatricality but one also expects a narrative that is interesting. I have watched quite a few of SLB’s movies that I’ve had differing reactions to; boredom hadn’t featured in them till date. While the sets are of a particular type, the lights and cinematography done in a particular manner, the acting is usually engrossing. It all fell flat for me today. Even more so because the trailer gives off a vibe of an engaging narrative which the movie fails to build up let alone sustain. Gangubai Kathiawadi could have been so much more. Could have. But it wasn’t.

Let’s start with the positives- the topic. It is the only thing that gets slotted into this category. And yet, it didn’t get the treatment it deserved. It could have been a gritty movie. Made well, with angsty characters and the pain of their suffering, frustration and betrayal underlying the phoenix-like rise of a woman scorned in the infamous red light area of Mumbai.

Moving onto the less than positives: the choice of Alia Bhatt baffles me. While Alia is a good actor and emotes well (Highway etc), this particular character was not something she was cut out for. The pain and the utter fall into degradation and despair is touched upon so glancingly by her that it doesn’t even seem like Gangubai suffered the agonies and indignities that she did in real life.

The music falls flat as well and there’s hardly any chemistry between the actors- whether it’s hatred for the madam that made her into who she became, the old lover who betrayed her or even the new one with whom she’s taken up- they all seem to be going through the motions of acting in a movie without becoming the characters. And that’s the tragedy of a dramatic movie like this; when it fails to live upto its potential and when everyone in it is so obviously acting and that too, not well.

A movie of this type needs to be brutal without necessarily having gratuitous violence and profanity. It needs to be able to show angst and pain without just showing teary-eyed heroines. It needs to show the underbelly of a place which clearly keeps its own rules of justice. But it does none of these things.

I left because I got bored and maybe I should’ve sat through at least more of the footage where Vijay Raaz gets to be on the screen because he’s always quite engrossing but I just didn’t want to. While the critics may be lauding the characterisation and enactment of Gangubai Kathiawadi to the skies, this is just one movie I’ll give a hard NO to. Go watch Spiderman instead. Way better ROI anyday!

Privacy Begets Privacy

Of late one of the trends on social media especially where celebs are concerned, is all about requesting privacy to either celebrate, mourn, deal with, come to terms with, yada yada yada. The interesting thing here is, for all their intrusiveness, paps don’t have access into a person’s house beyond the reach of their telephoto lens. So when people who are taking time apart to mull over their need to stay together or even “consciously uncouple” come out with these statements which naturally go viral, one has to wonder…who gave up the privacy in this particular instance?

Whether it’s celebs couple in India or those abroad, those having kids of their own or via a surrogate; does the world really need to know so much about such intensely personal aspects of their lives? It seems quite a manufactured way of getting in the media in the first place and then requesting that they not be in the public glare. If the recent marriage of two Bollywood actors really was supposed to be so hush-hush, who was leaking the information while the main people in question were ‘no-commenting’ their way from every pap-ambush.

I’m all for privacy and don’t believe that living a highly visible life precludes the expectation of having one’s personal life and activities stay private. But isn’t it silly to give a press conference or release statements in social media and then expect the media people to walk away like lambs and not do anything with that information? I mean they exist to proliferate information about others’ lives, one connects with them so the world around them will know who split up, who adopted, who’s on a break and who went to Maldives and looked hot in a bikini so respect our space and give us privacy is quite the antithetical action to expect here peeps. Just keep your lives to yourself and don’t utter a word…might work better than matching Instagram statements. Just saying…

Reflections At The Gym

If you thought that was a pun, guess what? You’re bang on! The gym I occasionally frequent (inching towards an oxymoron here folks) has mirrors all along one side of a wall and that really helps while you’re checking out your form or lack thereof. It frequently helps me bemoan the state my body’s in although am far from the age where any kind of remedial action is off the table.

The gym also has a couple of tvs on another wall, conveniently lined up with the treadmills and people prefer to watch Bollywood videos while they work out. I usually don’t; audios are fine but videos often throw me off my stride. Either it’s too inane or it just assaults your senses and sensibilities at 6 am. I prefer my sensibilities to be assaulted after breakfast thank you very much, not before.

Even the biopics or more realistic movie plots show relationships in a more theatrical way- the college days, the bike rides (usually an uber expensive muscle bike no matter how un-wealthy the family) and the ability to cross the time barrier multiple times in the course of one three-minute song while hop, skipping and jumping across continents. They may be cinematically aesthetic and appealing but darn it if it doesn’t make you think, “That’s not how it happens at all!!

Take for example two kids from “good” middle class Indian families who would like to spend some time on their own. Managing the logistics is hard enough without some hawk-eyed auntie staring at you while you make your way out of the house so imagine a scenario where you get me-time with your crush let alone have him hoist you up in the air and spin you around in glee. That my friend, is a challenge and a half! And one that remains a daydream for most young adults.

Take it from someone who has had one or two of those magical theatrical moments; it’s all too fleeting and it takes so much doing that at the end of the day you’d rather have the opportunity to hold hands under the table or walk along side by side with an occasional touching of the hands. Way more romantic and definitely more feasible especially when you run into someone you know out of the blue. And you *always* run into someone out of the blue when you’re dating and haven’t yet disclosed it to anyone.

Dating in India is a different kettle of fish or used to be when I had first ventured into it. We were awkward to the hilt and anything that was remotely romantic was blown up to assume epic proportions in one’s mind. Imagine a rainy street, two 20 somethings cuddled up on a bike and cruising along when the bike stops and the guy gets off, kisses the girl and they ride off again- why did he stop? Because he’d read it in a book (Chicken Soup For the Couples’ Soul) and thought it would be a memory worth creating. No matter how jaded you are, you can’t help but smile a tiny bit at the whole thing. It’s sweet. Very sweet. And for those you are saying, “CORNY!” Well…you had to be there.

Dating in any small town or a place with a small town mindset also means those extremely “well-meaning” aunties who watch out for you out of the goodness of their heart and an overwhelming desire to provide the latest dirt during their veggie buying outings.

With their heads on swivel for every boy and girl who walk by, they would put the intelligence agencies to shame with their ability to predict who is going to come to a sticky end, be up to no good or what’s happening behind closed doors in which home. Sadly this level of clairvoyance doesn’t hold good for their own homes. They have the other neighbourhood ladies picking up the slack for them there though so it’s all good.

When I think of the few dates I’d been on in my younger days, it was more of the thrill of doing something, going somewhere or the anticipation of something coming together that makes me smile with nostalgia. Whether it was sitting in a hole-in-the-wall eatery while the date spoke about how he used to have his morning breakfast there before heading to college or trudging through heavy rains while on a scooter and struggling to hold onto camera bags and keep the glasses from fogging over.

It was never about being hoisted into air during a song to feel special. And while that did happen, the guy had to take the day off from work the next day because hoisting buxom Indian girls wasn’t as easy as the movies made it look. Not by half!

Lockdown Entertainment

I eventually got around to watching a movie during the lockdown. Till now I’ve limited myself to watching series which have episodes so I can take a break in between and not feel like I’m going to miss out on an ongoing thread. I’ve started watching Modern Family from the beginning and usually watch while I’m doing something repetitive like washing dishes or ironing. It works out well for me. Each episode is roughly 40 minutes long and that ensures a good amount of dishes and clothes getting done.

But a movie is a different ball game. With a movie there’s a sense of continuity that has to be maintained else it’s no fun. Of course with some movies there is barely any head or tail to start with or the acting is so OTT or weird that you would willingly get up and leave the room because it’s totally a yawn-worthy affair.

I was bored enough to want to watch something like War, thinking that an action flick would be engaging and it would be chock-full of Bollywood-style drama and be humorous without meaning to. And I was right. I was also wrong. Right because it was funny. But not in a funny ha-ha manner. And I was wrong because it was about as engaging as…well similies are failing me because I was bored just thinking about it.

Bored Monsters Inc GIF - Find & Share on GIPHY

Now this movie has garnered a lot of hype and good reviews but it’s hardly as slick as it could have been. I recently saw Special Ops and found it to be quite engrossing. No OTT dialogues. No hissing Hrithik Roshan+Tiger Shroff. I have no idea why those two have to lower their voices to an inaudible register just to express pathos and emotion.

Johnny English - What Is Wrong With You GIF by MikeyMo | Gfycat

Long story short- I didn’t watch it till the end. I think I barely made it past a quarter of it. I moved onto another one called Khandaani Shafakhana. Now this movie wasn’t aces by any means but it was still interesting.

The characters were better etched, the flavor of a small city was captured well and the mindset of our society towards carnal relations was fairly authentically portrayed I felt. What it fell short in capturing was the human element but it also stopped short of becoming a preachy piece on how our thinking needs to change so I called it even. It is one of the VERY few movies where I felt Sonakshi Sinha could actually emote instead of  being a pretty prop in movies like Dabangg.

Of course movies being lengthier and children being little sadistics who like to come and engage their parents in all sorts of inane chatter and activities at the least conducive times; there were four interruptions before Red and I could finally see the whole damn thing all the way through.

Will I be watching anymore movies during this time? Maybe, maybe not. All depends on when the kid sleeps and how much of a glutton for punishment I turn out to be.

 

Movie Review: Judgementall Hai Kya

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Kangana Ranaut has been in the news for so many things in the recent past that any movie of hers is newsworthy mainly because of the gossip around the actor. Although, IMHO, she’s become typecast for her neuroses in the earlier movies; she still manages to deliver a believable performance as person who is psychotic and yet not entirely off her rocker.

Rajkummar Rao fits well into edgier characters as smoothly as he does the feel good ones. His turn in Stree vs ELKDTAL vs JHK are varied as they are well-etched and with their own distinctive feels. He is truly a good actor in every sense of the word. He belongs in each of the movies he does.

The disclaimer at the start of the movie is also something that’s commendable in a place like India where mental health issues are a huge taboo and a dirty secret that’s more liable to be swept under the rug than be tackled head on.

Onto the actual reviewing: The movie is engrossing but it’s no OFOTCN or Nobody’s Child. It is however, a thought provoking look at a life tinged by pain and feelings of not belonging anywhere and being heard by those who matter.

The direction is fairly taut with Kovelamudi dropping the ball only when Rao starts fessing up to all his crimes which were deemed as psychotic ramblings of a delusional woman. Kangana sometimes overdoes it with the wide-eyed stare of a person who lives in a parallel universe inside her own head. Sometimes the scariest people are the ones who remain calm on the surface but are churning with maladaptive thoughts and hallucinations inside; desperately hanging onto shreds of reality.

The ancillary characters mainly make up the comic element in the movie. Whether it’s a long-suffering, hoping-to-get-laid sort-of boyfriend, or the ineffectual, obese cop (Satish Kaushik) who perpetually keeps eating; adding to his weight and his inefficacy. Jimmy Shergill doesn’t add much to the movie; gravitas or otherwise. His cameo needed to be better fleshed out. And for God’s sake, why does Amyra Dastur get work? She makes very little impact. At least someone who could breathe some life into a role needs to be brought in. She fails to strike a chord with the audience at all. The opening sequence of the movie with the blood splatters, spills and the origami is actually more poignant than many things in the entire film.

In the end, Rajkummar Rao with his sociopathic turn and Kangana in her delusional avatar, carry the movie forward and take it a step in the right direction; making mental illness lose its stigma and helping people know that it’s *not* a dirty word.

Rating 3.5/5

Movie Review: Badla

The first thing that strikes you about this movie is that Indian film makers are more than capable of churning out good flicks without the whole song and dance routine that seems to encapsulate Bollywood movies as a genre. Badla (Revenge) is a prime example of that. An adaption of the Spanish movie The Invisible Guest, Badla is fairly well-tuned game of cat and mouse played between Amitabh Bachchan and Taapsee Pannu. But who’s toying with whom is the question that gets answered all the way in the last scene of the movie. And it’s worth the wait.

Based in London and in and around green but grim parts of England, the locales lend themselves to building up the tension in the movie. For once AB doesn’t have bombastic dialogues and fiery rhetoric that dominates the scene. I for one, like this older avatar of AB. His stock-in-trade character of ‘Vijay’ seemed very hackneyed and cliched and without much depth. Not sure calling him fine wine would do justice to his craft, but it’s great to see an actor embrace so much variety at his age and not get typecast to being a grandfather or only an old guy in his movies.

Taapsee with the stubborn tilt of her chin and non-compromising stance comes across as a woman who’ll fight tooth and nail to prove her innocence. She’s another actor who soaks up the essence of every character she plays. She’s defiant, she’s brash and she’s selfish and yet you don’t end up hating her. She’s quite human.

What could have been better was the entire role Amrita Singh played along with Tanveer Ghani (her husband in the movie). They had zero chemistry and their banter was trite and banal with both they seeming to be reading their lines for an audition rather than doing their final takes. One remembers the fiery Amrita of Chameli ki Shaadi and Aaina and wonders where that spontaneity has gone. Her somber dialogues too, fall flat and her emoting is not what it used to be.

Tony Luke (Arjun) is fairly believable as a self-serving, adulterous husband who’s trying to make the best of a bad situation. But one wonders if someone like Vicky Kaushal might have brought more gravitas to the role or even been perfect for it.

But this is one movie that people should watch because the lapses are very few and they don’t impact the flow of the movie enough to break our attention away from what will happen next. You remain hooked, wondering who’s going to walk away as the winner and who gets to have their Badla in the end. Although truth be told, things begin to present themselves fairly quickly in terms of what’s what. It’s hardly The Mousetrap. The ost is subtle and has hummable songs with AB rapping on the opening song Aukaat.

What is evident is this- more directors like Sujoy Ghosh, Zoya Akhtar, Soojit Sircar, Aditya Dhar (Uri), Anurag Kashyap et al should be making as many movies as they can and travesties like Zero and reboots of Judwaa shouldn’t be allowed. Bad things happen in the world these days, let’s not add to more trauma for the unsuspecting people out there. Make good movies people, like this one!

Rating: 3/5

Movie Review: Luka Chuppi

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What happens when you don’t want to get married but test drive being married by living together? What happens when you get caught being ‘pretend-married’ and have to play out the pretense? What happens when you try to get married for real to make things legit but realize that life is conspiring against you? Luka Chuppi happens. But it doesn’t happen all that well, unfortunately.

Set against the backdrop of militant love jihadis who are hellbent on making sure that every relationship kowtows to societal norms and any deviations are dealt with harshly; Luka Chuppi takes on a rather contrived and elaborate path towards a happily ever after.

Kriti Sanon is a little too well put together to be convincing as a small town girl. Her body language, mannerisms always bring to mind airline attendants who wish you a pleasant flight or people in the hospitality business who smile as they give you your room key and wish you a very pleasant stay. Rather fakeish.

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Kartik Aaryan is a bit more believable but not much. He’s scruffy and has hair (along with Aparshakti Khurana) that’s reminiscent of the scene from There’s Something About Mary.

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Apart from a few genuine laughs sporadically sprinkled here and there, the movie goes from one choreographed mishap to another. The rest of the cast however, is pretty damn good. They’re convincing small towners and never deviate from being in character. Vinay Pathak, Aparshakti Khurana, Pankaj Tripathi, Alka Amin, Atul Shrivastav bring a strong, wholesome and realistic small town flavor to the movie and are the glue that holds things together. Guddu (Aaryan) and Rashmi (Sanon) are effectively the leads but they are far more accurately described as props.

The OST is nothing outstanding either with 2 songs repackaged from an earlier era.

This movie is worth waiting for…till it airs on Netflix on Amazon Prime. It’s no barrel of laughs but is entertaining in its own smallish way.

Rating: 1/5

 

Movie Review: Gully Boy

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For everyone who’s been told something’s impossible, unattainable and to get their head out of the clouds because reality bites; Gully Boy is the answer.

Zoya Akhtar’s latest offering takes us deep into Dharavi, without any of the gore and gristle but without adding any glitter either. Ranveer Singh (Murad) shows how deeply he can get under the skin of a character and make it his own. From Simmba to Gully Boy, he peels off layer after layer and shows us how well honed his craft truly is.

Synopsis: Murad, a college-going young man from Dharavi, makes space in his cramped tenement for his mother, younger brother, grandmother and father (Vijay Raaz) and his father’s new, younger wife along with his dreams, hopes and burning desire to be someone. Being a rapper is as alien a concept to the people of Dharavi as are aliens themselves. You either lie and cheat to get ahead or you keep your head down, work hard and join the rat race because money, food in the belly and a roof over your head cancels out having dreams and aspirations over everything else.

His childhood love, Safina (Alia Bhatt),is spirited, unapologetic and unabashedly in love with him and his dreams. Their chemistry is spot on and very real.

How Murad tries toeing the line, doing what is expected out of him and still tries to be true to himself and acknowledge that having a passion is life is not only ok but essential, forms the crux of the movie.

The lingo, the people are all perfectly typecast although there are times when the movie seems to  move slower than one would like. Friendships, loyalty and dreaming the impossible and achieving it are all the takeaways at the end of the reel.

The music: is middling between mediocre to decent. The tunes are catchy, the lyrics are worth pondering on and the acting seamless and without much of histrionics.

One may not like rap as a genre, or even the rappers with their yo-yoing all over the place and hoodie pants, but Gully Boy shows the poets that live within.

Rating: 3/5

 

Lost In Translation#498

Kids extrapolate things based on their own frame of references. Mine does it quite a bit and even more so with words of a different language.

He loves music and at different times we have played hosts to quite a few different earworms of his. One of his old favorites reemerged due to a shuffle in his playlists and we were both humming along with it when he started off with that singsong tone he singsongs more whenever he has a question to ask me, “So A…is the Bulleya song about…?” And I reacted with a mother’s instinct and one honed from dealing with these particular gems- “No baby, it’s not about bulls. It’s about a poet and thinker (because early morning rushes are rushed enough without stopping to explain what a philosopher is) whose words have been put to song and who people sing about.”

And sure enough, came the expected rebuttal which led to this bit of head scratching fun-” But it says Bulleya…BULL-eya. Are you sure it isn’t about bulls?”Am positive! Baba Bulleh Shah didn’t have anything to do with bulls.” “Baba??” That’s what you call P (his nickname for my dad). Why is he called Baba?” “GO TO SCHOOL. BYE BYE. HAVE A GOOD DAY. LOOK IT UP ON WIKIPEDIA.”

Mom over and out. Oh how I miss Red when he’s out of town.

Movie Review: Kedarnath

This post isn’t advocating that you go and see the movie if you’d much rather not. However, it does stress on the aspect of enjoyment you’d get and the surprise you may feel if you did.

Set in the backdrop of the catastrophic floods that ravaged parts of Uttarakhand back in 2013, this movie has people, communal tensions and the fury of nature playing critical roles without anyone giving an inch to the other. If you have star crossed lovers on one side, you have bigotry on the other and everything getting submerged (excuse the pun) under the torrential flows of water.

Sara Ali Khan- is a surprise. Mainly because so many other young debutantes, barring Alia Bhatt and Anushka Sharma, have failed at being convincing or even realistic. She doesn’t sound like an NRI who just got off the plane and neither does she seem uncomfortable in her own skin. Her body language is spot on when playing a devil may care young girl who flouts societal norms and her ‘in your face’ attitude seems to flow naturally.

She could have gone with more modest attire when playing a girl who’s father is a staunch Hindu priest and one who lives in a town built around religion and myths. But if you have Abu Jani and Sandeep Khosla dressing you up for the movies, then the look of a small town girl is probably hard to pull off. She could take a leaf out of Anushka’s book ala Sui Dhaga.

Sushant Singh Rajput as Mansoor is believable as a (pitthoo) guide who lugs the pilgrims up and down the mountains. A lot of Bollywood actors get so used to the urbane, yuppie roles they play that even when they have to go deglam, they can’t get into the skin of the character. Mansoor doesn’t appeal unworldly, far from it, but he does appear to be straight talking and knows who he is. SSR could have avoided the SRK-like posturing towards the fag end of the movie but the scene called for drama and SRK does drama; cliched as it were.

Pooja Gor, Nitish Bharadwaj, Nishant Dahiya, Alka Amin and others round up the cast and bring to life the stronghold that religion has not only on the lives of the people in Kedarnath, but their actions, their thought processes and ultimately what they deem is right or wrong. All these actors with their strong backgrounds in television bring in a whiff of freshness amongst the acting talent that’s been around in Bollywood for a while.

Amit Trivedi’s score for the movie isn’t fantastic but the song Namo Namo certainly is. The visuals are quite breathtaking and made me want to visit the place. Any movie that evokes that kind of a feeling in a viewer must be doing something right.

The images of the lake overflowing, the cloudburst don’t look realistic at all. Even back in the day movies like The Day After Tomorrow was able to make tsunamis and rampant destruction look believable.

But special effects only add to the mix in a movie like this. At the end of the day you still feel bad when the boy and girl fall prey to nature, stigma and society. What remains is a good time that was had, hummable music and lovely visuals!

Rating: 2.5/5