Movie Review: Raazi

Meghana Gulzar’s making a name for herself in tackling the tough topics people talk about, wonder about but don’t always want to dramatize for a Bollywood consumer; their usual diet being movie that have 5 songs, dancing on mountains and always a happy ending.

With Raazi she achieves a narrative that doesn’t falter, she touches on patriotism without becoming rabid and she coaxes good performances out of her already capable cast.

The movie however, isn’t superlative. Alia’s fear, vulnerability and soldiering on in the face of danger is portrayed well enough. But is it a very taut performance? Not entirely. Her constantly looking around and observing the comings and goings while she spies, is a bit obvious and repetitive. Her guilt at the extreme step of taking a life is also portrayed quite convincingly. People who help her shine are actors I hadn’t come across earlier but who clearly are good at their craft viz Jaideep Ahlawat. Arif Zakaria is underutilized in his role. He of the expressive eyes and the rhetoric, could have been given a better deal in this movie. He’s sadly almost a prop.

Soni Razdan, Rajit Kapur, Shishir Sharma come in when they’re supposed to, do their bit and leave but barring Shishir Sharma they don’t really have any meaty roles or dialogues and are around to hold up their bit in the story.

So what’s good about the movie? The dialogues, the OST (Dilbaro is a song one can listen to again and again), Alia, the locales, the restrained story telling and not portraying Pakistan as the Devil’s Incarnate all adds up to an interesting watch. And with each movie, Alia proves how effortless she can slip in and out of roles in movies like Student of the Year, Highway, Badrinath ki Dulhania and Raazi. She has a good range of emotions and brings a freshness to her characterizations.

Will wait till the next Meghna Gulzar movie to see what else she has up her sleeve. This movie? 3 out of 5.

 

Movie Review: Veere Di Wedding

I almost didn’t watch this movie. Kareena Kapoor, Sonam Kapoor aren’t quite the draw for me personally. Add to it, the reviews had been less than stellar and I didn’t want to watch a badly made chick-flick when I could use those 2 hours to sleep or read instead…color me pleasantly surprised!

Now this movie isn’t a must-watch or even a repeat-watch but for a one-time watch with a buncha gals or even guys who get the Punju colloquialisms, it’s worth the money. The rest of the movie is about relationships. Between friends who become family. Between parent and child and definitely between a woman today and the world around her.- Bottom line? It’s entertaining and that’s what’s to be remembered about movies. Thought-provoking or not-they serve to entertain.

Is this movie hatke? Well…it is woman-centric for one. Guys are a part of their lives the same way they happen to be in real-life rather than a larger-than life reel-life man with bulging muscles who romances onscreen for a 3-minute song spanning from Switzerland to Botswana with 5 attire changes which often includes a sari pallu longer than Princess Diana’s wedding train. Phew! Head-spinning global lau (Gujju-ishtlye love).

This is a story about women who are believable; especially in this day and age. There are plenty of them out there who run from marriage, structure, socially sanctioned relationships and having to do Mata ki chowki at the drop of a pin! And Bollywood being Bollywood, would have them all be from the upper crest as well so impromptu trips abroad are also viable.

I was watching this movie with a Dally-based (aka New Delhi) friend (she’s a veere too I guess if one goes by the definition in this movie) and she, amidst gales of laughter, assured me the depiction of Wast (West) Dally (Delhi) was a very apt caricature.

And let’s not even get to the bling…if there’s no bling, there’s no big fat Indian wedding at all. All families have their skeletons and dirty secrets, every couple has stuff that rips at their seams, every girl is prevailed upon at some point in her life to “get-married already” by her mother. Same as the characters in VDW.

I’d read somewhere that the F-bombs in the movie seemed contrived or excessive. I guess it’s a matter of perspective. My gal pal reminded me how “unpolished” my own speech was before the advent of motherhood. It contained allusions to human anatomy and mothers and sisters quite a bit. Something I engage in now primarily while driving.

I think people should watch this movie. It’s fun. It has a lively pace. It’s not excessively dramatic or melodramatic and I made a fun memory watching it with someone with whom I have a 17-year-old history. That’s what makes this movie relevant. It won’t win Oscars. But it wasn’t meant to.

I left the theater dancing and laughing. Paisa vasool.

 

Movie Review: Sonu Ke Titu Ki Sweety

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First question? Why did I watch it and 2) Why am I bothering to review it either?

Answers: 1) My kid’s school still hasn’t opened so am just gasping for things that distract me and we’re both (mother and son) tripping on Bom Diggy Diggy  song from the movie so why not? 2) I just wanted to see the misogyny that’s been touted so much in this movie.

If someone wants mindless entertainment where you laugh, wince and tap your feet to peppy songs and the Punju dialogues that seems to be a staple of any Bollywood movie; this movie isn’t a bad choice. With the emphasis on the word ‘mindless’. However, the ‘bros before hoes’ notion is played to the hilt here which can and probably does annoy most women. But keep in mind women do behave in the manner shown…controlling…taking over her bf’s life out of the goodness of her heart and for his overall improvement.

Get it tight with a girl and she’ll have your family history out of you because she wants to interface. A guy? Not so much. He’ll want to make-out, have fun and keep it light. And this movie does the same but the conclusion could have been handled better with all parties coming to an agreeing-to disagree funda. Most movies of the Housefull and Golmaal ilk are mysogynistic in their portrayal of women-props, quasi or totally slutty and barely able to keep the clothes on their bodies and perpetually getting into sinuous movements to entice the musclebound moron of a guy or the deadbeat kinds aka Tusshar Kapoor and Riteish Deshmukh et al.

But all lecture aside, let’s move onto the movie which is about Titu (Sunny Singh) who’s a nice guy but makes the same mistakes with the opposite sex all the time and gets his heart broken. Enter his BFF Sonu (Karthik Aaryan) who steps in to clean up the damage and often preemptively tries to brings things to a closure with the kind of girls he thinks are going to be problematic. Their bond is tight but then enters Sweety (Nushrat Bharucha) – who becomes Titu’s fiance and has the social sanction to make changes and integrate herself deeper and deeper into Titu’s life and loosening Sonu’s hold on his friend. Neither wants to back down and at the grand finale, ultimatums are given and one is followed. Alok Nath as a non-sanskari grandfather is refreshing-ish.

Sweety isn’t shown as a harpy but from Sonu’s point of view she’s making changes which aren’t needed and more importantly, his space is diminishing in his friend’s life and the cause falls squarely on the girl. It’s a major power struggle and shows people as selfish, grasping, needy, insecure and afraid of change. It’s misogynistic if one really wants to see it only as that and nothing else. But how many Bollywood mainstream movies showcase its female talent to its proper extent anyhow? Maybe 1 in 10 if that?

Watch this movie without judgement especially if you’re the kind of person who has also watched Race 3 and sat through the Welcome-2 without flinching! It’s entertainment pure and simple. No one said anything about it having to be classy as well.

Movie Review: Blackmail (2018)

A madcap black comedy that’s refreshing amongst the usual Bollywood shtick of songs and dance-that’s Blackmail for you.

But before I lavish too much praise on it, the movie does suffer towards the end with too-much-a-good-thing syndrome in the form of the same idea being circulated once too many times to keep being interested. Scroll down for the spoiler…

Irrfan Khan is a disenchanted man who seems to have become one of the many rats in the rat race. Zombie-like he stays put at work because going home to his wife doesn’t seem like a balm either.

The one day he does deviate from his late night routine and heads home to catch up with his wife forms the crux of the rest of the story unfolding.

Finding her in bed with her old boyfriend (Arunoday Singh in a musclebound quasi-moronic but humorous turn) shakes him out of his funk and instead of getting mad, he decides to get even; by blackmailing her and her boyfriend. But seldom do things go the way they’re supposed to.

With an oblivious-to-his failings boss (played obnoxiously and ably by Omi Vaidya) and co-workers who get him in deeper trouble by jumping on the blackmail bandwagon; Irrfan’s character is a person everyone ends up feeling sorry for. Even his fetishes of spending “quality time” on and for himself in the loo with the filched images of his co-workers’ spouses don’t deter us from rueing his unending bad luck of getting blackmailed by every Tom, Dick and Harry.

Others in the cast like Divya Dutta (playing Arunoday’s wife) add a punchy feel to the movie and keep the pace from slowing down too much.

Go watch it just to do some “shake-my-head” gestures at a bunch of selfish people; some of whom do get their comeuppance.

Movie Review: Padmaavat

Dropping the “i” from the title didn’t provide much relief to the Karni Sena am guessing,  but it certainly generated more buzz around an already buzzing hive of wasps and hornets.

But getting back to the movie- it’s epic! In its grandiosity, its conception and sadly, its mediocrity. And yet, it still works. And how!

IMHO despite being the eponymous character, Deepika doesn’t have as much screen time as one would think. She occupies screen time in dialogues uttered by other characters and hers is a stiff upper lip that Brits may kill for. She runs and glides along wearing a steely resolve and heavy ghaghras and looks pretty. She is stoic in the face of widowhood, childish and raw in the face of love and courtship and soppy in the arms of her husband at times. But hey..I didn’t live all those years ago..who am I judge how Rajput women conducted themselves. Maybe I should ask the Karni Sena *taps chin ponderingly*

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Shahid Kapoor- he’s a hunk with a body that’s made to be flaunted and the kolh-rimmed eyes are HOT! But in the role of the honor-bound Rawal who is the upholder of values, traditions and legacy of the clan, he falls short. He isn’t believable after a point. You keep waiting for him to finish speaking so Ranveer gets to repartee. And repartee him good!

Ranveer Singh- the mainstay. The obsession, the mockery, the clowning around and the utter disdain for anything beyond his own hedonistic pleasure is brought to life by this man. It’s highly dramatic, that’s true, but the other male leads in Bollywood (barring Aamir Khan) don’t really have the acting chops to pull off this kind of lunacy and bullheadedness on-screen.

Jim Sarbh- with his sly gestures and words (and good looks) the character of Malik Kafur is quite entertainingly portrayed by this Parsi hunk. Now I want to see Death in the Gunj as well to see how he tackles different roles.

i-like-people-who-dont-fear-death-laughing-colours-trying-29371441I have wanted to see the movie for a while now. Just held myself back because watching in a movie hall meant no fast forwarding of songs I didn’t want to sit through. Lo and behold! Amazon came to the rescue. Since I’d visited Chittorgarh town and fort eons ago; watching a dramatized version of what may have happened there, with dollops of creative licenses taken with the lives of the original characters had pinged my curious nerve a few times.

Am glad I gave into the impulse to watch it because it is entertaining. It’s longish, it’s slow, it’s got bits that didn’t need to make the final cut- like the Bin Te Dil song. It’s a good peppy song but to devote screen time to it wasn’t entirely the best call. It’d already been established that in the movie Khilji was a womanizer and took his pleasures where he could find them. It was just more time of seeing Malik Kafur (Jim Sarbh) lust after Khilji while still doing his hedonistic bidding.

So what does recommend this movie? The scale on which things have been conceptualized and carried is quite a lot to take in when you see how movies are used to being made in India. The acting isn’t the worst part of it either. It sticks to what is required- drama, drama and more drama. It’s not just grand, it’s grandiose but it does evoke interest, curiosity and a feeling of paisa wasool. So go on and stream it…it’s worth one bowl of popcorn.

 

Tech-Savvy Woes

I’ve written earlier about the advent of Alexa in our lives. Red was in the market for good quality speakers and was considering buying Sonos and then suddenly got his head turned by the cute lil dot that now talks to us in a STRONG American accent and frequently gets our song choices wrong because she doesn’t get us much. And that’s funny because the offspring has his own twangy accent that sounds kind of like Alexa and yet they don’t always communicate correctly.

Properly enunciated crisp diction rings her bells though. Take for example, MLM wanting to hear Ra.One’s Chhammak Chhallo. He yelled out into the general direction of Alexa, “AlexaplaymeChamakChalo” and pat came the reply, “I’m sorry. I am unable to understand you.” El Brato grumbled, “Stupid Alexa” and then yelled out to me, “Ayu…come and tell Alexa the song I want to hear. It’s not listening to me.”

And there I was, speaking to the dot, yet again, telling her to play Chhammak Challo, said with tight lips and no hint of any accent anywhere. And she popped up saying, “Here’s ChamakChalo from VishalShaker”. I swear there was no difference between her and MLM but someone must have a hearing problem somewhere so I’m still running interference for them both and waiting till he asks me to tell her to play ‘Rashke Qamar’. Last time he asked her to play the song she played Paula Abdul’s Rush Rush

For my troubles, I get to hear the dratted song on loop till my brains start to leak out of my ears. *rolls eyes*

Signing off!

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Movie Review: Pari

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This movie is Prosit Roy’s love affair with the older parts of Calcutta, the bits that make it stand apart from every other city in India. It is strangely enough, also an ode to the nail cutter and umbrellas. Never has the humble implement of hand and foot hygiene received so much spotlight neither, for that matter, has so much water fallen on the city of Calcutta.

I fully expect the sales of nail cutters and umbrellas to go through the roof post people watching the movie.

The devil is invoked. He of the run-of -the-mill horned-head fame and blood thirst, comes (excuse the pun) and impregnates women (poor, low-income…take your pick) whose gestation period lasts for all of one month (the only bright spot in the movie) and then a belly button-less and umbilical cord-less child comes forth into the world. Their goal? To increase the progeny of their father. But all banality aside, the Devil needs his flesh and blood to aid in eventual world domination. The world domination bit isn’t referred to but why be the Devil if you can’t rule over the world, am I right?

That in a nutshell is Pari. The tagline claims that it’s not a fairy tale but fairy tales are replete with angst-ridden, unhappy characters who utter curses as easily as they breathe.

So why is this movie not a write-off? Because the cinematography sets the tone and mood of the entire movie without having to resort to cheap gimmicks of blood and gore to live up the “horror” genre.

The by-lanes of Calcutta, the moss-laden walls, the sooty shutters and a slightly sleepy, lethargic ambience lull you into the story only to be jarred from the calm and into the world of the preternatural. Compared to RGV’s Bhoot and movies of it’s ilk, Pari doesn’t rely on a sudden loud noise which has you clutching your heart in fear.

Anushka Sharma’s vulnerability makes you wish the bad juju doesn’t catch up with her and gulp her down. This movie is Anushka’s vehicle but she has to work at being creepy and you feel sorry for her plight. She can be de-glam but she still has to nail being ferocious.

The rest of the cast is passable with Mansi Multani (Kalapori) and Rajat Kapoor standing out for their respective roles. They are by turns creepy, scary and the chief ingredients needed to bring in a bit of shiveriness to an otherwise droll “horror” movie. Kapoor with his fake eye, stoic and almost amused-countenance is a true reflection on how normal people can become evangelical and take on a mantle of evil themselves under the guise of the greater good.

The role of the crone playing Kaali Pori (Mansi Multani) has been enacted well with her entry coming in sporadically to scare the life out of Anushka. That and her sing song voice while she plays the conduit for the demon is well portrayed.

The male lead-Parambrata and Ritabhari (Piyali) do justice to their roles with the former playing a person with values and morals but still dragging his feet throughout life and becoming proactive when you least expect him to. He seems confused through most of the movie and even his repentance at the end seems to fall flat.

But all this dissection aside- kudos to Anushka for not going the expected path of KJo-type movies alone. She can emote and emote well.

Pari is all about her. But I give it half a thumbs-up because a horror movie shouldn’t just be about pathos…it should be a bit jarring. Pari fails to do that.

Alexa Mornings…

Red bought an Echo Dot for th house last year. Suffice to say it’s the digital pet. The offspring has bonded with Alexa quite a bit. I keep hearing his voice trilling , “Alexaaaa” on and off right from the time he’s up in the mornings.

Echo Dot has more capabilities that can be tapped into if you’re an US-based user. Lesser so in India. But apparently this year Amazon Music will be making its entry into the Indian market and then this kid will really go wild. Now there’s a Bluetooth sync with my phone and the songs which are saved on a separate song app or on my phone can be played. But we have to be far more hands on. And we’re all about remote management in this house. If we can just park our butts somewhere and just ask for songs to be played, it would be a pretty darn good thing!

This morning the offspring woke to a house with an absent father (courtesy a business trip) and he sat and pouted about missing the parent for a bit. And in an effort to cheer himself up, he turned the house into a dance club, playing Bollywood hits before 6:30 am. All courtesy Alexa.

Where’s the parental settings people? Is that in the next upgrade?

In the meanwhile, Kala Chashma gets looped sun up to sun down just because Alexa can!

Yo!

A Few Words From A SAHM

I am a SAHM. I like writing the abbreviation rather than typing out the whole shebang viz Stay At Home Mom. And I think quite a bit of time and effort is being spent on Mira Rajput and her choice of words regarding her own daughter.

I suppose if I wanted to, I could extrapolate, that when Mira Rajput used the word “puppy” in reference to leaving her child behind at home while she went out to work, she was likening all the children “left behind ” to puppies. It could also be that it was a less than tactful choice of words to describe a situation which is touchy, difficult and something that women can genuinely never really come to terms with, IMHO.

But again IMHO, Mira Rajput is neither a role model for women, of any age, to emulate; nor is she an expert in parenting. She is merely a young woman who is thrust into the limelight because of the man she married and because of whom each and every action of hers is scrutinized and dissected.

Do I think it was an unfortunate choice of words? Yes. Do I think it was maliciously meant and demeaning to women around the world? No. Why not? Because I don’t give a fig about Mira Rajput or her opinions! I am too busy “working” as a SAHM raising my own “puppy”.

Ladies, with all the nonsense that surrounds us in the world these days; can’t we ever let go of the stuff that the media reports? Choose not to get wounded when nouveau celebs express their opinions about random things. Because it’s on their radar, doesn’t mean it should resonate so strongly with you. Or jar you so badly. These people aren’t the last word. Let’s stop giving them the podium and pulpit.

*mike drop*

 

Movie Review: Tridev

After a looooooooooong time I turned the telly on last Sunday in a rush thinking I’d missed out on the Oscars and found Tridev was playing.

Released in 1989 and a blockbuster by the yardstick prevalent back in the day; the movie is a laugh and minute even during the scenes which are supposed to be very high on the emotional quotient.

Madhuri Dixit, Jackie Shroff, Sunny Deol, Amrish Puri, Anupam Kher and a plethora of other chamaktey sitaarey (shining stars) of the era come together to make a 2 hour plus movie which is replete with the all the symbols of the 80s; and therefore was a total trip down nostalgia alley for me.

These are the tropes in the movies of the 80s and early 90s that I remember vividly-

  • Minimum 3-4 outfit changes for the female lead in the course of a song.
  • Each outfit quite outlandish and fairly garish and gaudy.
  • Villains are OTT evil and had to have a trademark evil laughter. Said trademark had to occur with each evil soliloquy.
  • Women are props. Used to pretty up a scene or as lures to get the male lead to come and duke it out with the bad guy. Women also need to sing during their captivity.
  • The police always arrive after everything ends and essentially are clean-up crews.
  • The back-up dancers are drab-faced people who end up dancing either like they are on meth or are stoned and never vary from either of these two extremes.
  • There is *always* love at first sight.
  • Love is expressed via song. At Least twice. First time: Initial expression. Second time: Reiteration.
  • The fight sequence is totally of comic book proportions without the blurbs spelling out the KAPOWS.
  • Each time anyone gets hit, they fly through the air a la The Matrix and the resulting sound effect is LOUD!
  • There is no anti-hero: there is black or white.
  • There is a weird depiction of a jungle tribe replete with loin cloths, tiger-striped clothing and jungle drums.
  • The jungle tribe utters inane stuff like Jinga Lala Boom etc.
  • Party scenes are usually where everyone is standing still like statues and one person moving about tipsy and singing an alcohol-related song.
  • Patriotism is also OTT.
  • The level and diction of the spoken Hindi is far superior than that spoken these days.
  • The music is catchy and unashamedly borrowed (bits and pieces) from dance hits famous overseas.

Since the advance in special effects hadn’t happened to the extent it has nowadays, things looked made-up and really clichéd but still entertained in a way many movies of today don’t.

While I may have laughed at Sunny Deol’s “angst” at finding his dead father, Amrish Puri’s Bhujang-avatar or even Sangeeta Bijlani’s determination to find her dead brother’s killer by becoming a gangster’s moll; the fact remains is that those movies entertain!

Oye oye!

Image courtesy- madaboutmoviez.wordpress.com