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Mumbai Police film review – daringly different


Amnesia has been a great way to start a movie. Mumbai Police, the taut Malayalam thriller written by Bobby-Sanjay and directed by Rosshan Andrrews takes this subject and delivers one of the finest movies, not just in Malayalam, but Indian cinema. The entire movie is seamlessly stitched together in a way that a viewer would forget to eat her caramel popcorn or his nachos.
From the moment ACP Antony Moses aka Rascal Moses (Prithviraj) wakes up with amnesia after an accident, he leads us into a labyrinth of unexpected and unfortunate incidents within his life that unravel like a thousand-petalled lotus. Except that the awakening is never pleasant but leads into a further chakravyuh. For the accident happens just before he could name a murderer. Therein, lies ensconced the heart of the mystery that rivets you to the screen.
Through Prithvi’s eyes, the viewer realizes that his senior, the Police Commissioner Farhan Aman, played brilliantly by the once-upon-a-time chocolate hero Rahman, is his brother-in-law. For reasons unknown to us, the enigmatic Farhan forces Moses, despite his amnesia, to single-handedly figure out the name of the murderer who shot their mutual friend Assistant Commissioner Aaryan; a role ably played by the talented Jayasurya. Both, Rehman and Jayasurya, play well-rounded characters that leave an indelible mark  on the viewer.

Prithvi rules
But it is Prithvi who steals the thunder yet again – scene by scene. His confusion, his fear and anger, his shock start becoming part of your psyche as you watch the plot unfold. Being an unabashed fan, my favourite list of his movies includes Chocolate, City of God, Anwar, Urumi, Arjunan Sakshi and Kerala Café and I have always admired his choice of eclectic roles over the years; even his dreamum wakeuppam wakda dance in Aiyya. But it is in Mumbai Police, that Prithvi breaks the barrier of convention and attempts a role that has never ever been attempted by a Malayalam hero. The best parts of the movie are whenever Moses figures out that the Moses before the amnesia was not a very likeable person. And each time, when he brushes away a part of his past with a good deed, a new and ugly truth starts to unravel its ugly head.
Like a compass that has gone haywire, the twists in the tale turn the needle of suspicion towards one direction and then another. The cinematography by G. Diwakaran is brilliant and well-supported by the tight editing. Produced by Nisad Haneefa and co-produced by Nivas Haneefa and Niyas Haneefa, the background score is composed by Gopi Sunder. The tension in the plot could thankfully develop in leaps and bounds due to the marked absence of any songs – item numbers or otherwise. One must also commend Kunjan and Aparna Nair for their excellent character roles. The tale of three friends finally culminates into an unexpected turn that will leave the auditorium shocked; but no spoilers here.

New age Malayalam cinema
I must add that Mumbai Police together with Trivandrum Lodge, Kerala Café and Chappa Kurishu are harbingers of a new age in Malayalam cinema that does away with tharwad tales, sobbing mothers and overaged actors dancing with young arm candy. This new list of movies catapults Kerala into its new reality. Where the Onam sadya is now ordered as a parcel andwhere the tharwad home has been demolished and sold for the wood; now reinstated as a wing of  a heritage hotel. While the NRI abroad buys banana leaves and sambhar podi and clings to nostalgia of a past that ceased to exist eons ago.

 
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Posted by on July 5, 2013 in Movies

 

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Aiyyaa or plot ki avial-poha – the movie review


In 2009, Sachin Kundalkar directed a movie titled Gandh (the Marathi word for smell) –  a triptych of three short films exploring connections of the olfactory senses with the lives of everyday people. Kundalkar dedicated the film to two of his favourite directors – Wong Kar Wai (known for a genre of film that did not rely on a plot but more on the individual strengths of its many actors and actresses to narrate the story through their seemingly mundane day-to-day activities) and the Polish film-maker Kieslowski who directed Blue. Now why am I telling you all this? Because the first short film in the triptych, Lagnachya Vayachi Mulgi (meaning The Bride To-Be in Marathi), forms the core script and dialogues of Aiyya in 2012. And I saw the Marathi film after seeing the Hindi version.
But therein lies the difference. In 2009, Kundalkar’s version is a 34 minute endearing short film about a girl Veena (Amruta Subhash) who reluctantly dresses up for to-be husbands and serves them poha when not working as a typist at an art college. Her fellow-typist Anita Dave is a more sober version of her 2012 revamped role. She is the “I told you so” type who warns Veena that her ”scented attraction” Girish Kulkarni is an alcoholic. This does not deter Veena from falling in love and following her man in a series of events that alternate between dream and reality. And wraps up well.

The 2012 version – OTT wakda
In circa 2012, Kundalkar decided to up the ante and probably explore the Wong Kar Wai style to its fullest and go for a remake in Hindi titled Aiyyaa. So in the just-released Hindi film, Rani Mukherjee plays the role of Meenakshi, a Maharashtrian librarian who fantasises that she has replaced Sridevi and Madhuri in their famed songs from Tezaab and Mr India – minus the heros. When she is not working in a library with Mynah (Anita Date) – now playing a wakda version of a Lady Gagalike character who practices her Bollywood dance class steps on the library desk and sips vodka from an ugly red monkey plastic water bottle.
Everything is OTT about this movie – Meenakshi’s doddering father who repairs old phones, an endearing mother who extols her daughter’s chef-like qualities to each new suitor till she has to prop her own bored jaws while repeating the same lines, a school dropout brother whose raison d’être is to rescue stray dogs and a intuitively crazy blind grandmother in an electric wheelchair who has willed her golden teeth to Meenakshi. The crazy Mynah who confounds you in every scene, especially, the What to Do number. The endless list of prospective grooms. And then the smouldering Prithviraj Sukumaran who plays a Tamilian art student – seemingly impervious to the besotted Rani while he wanders around looking for inspiration in the college library or the local vegetable market.
The movie is wakda (Marathi for wacky). Two of the songs delight – the raunchy Dreamum Wakeuppam is a pure Tamil dhanchik number that will thrill every autodriver in India and the taporis at heart (moi included). Agga Bai has good choreography. Mahek Bhi is an understated soft number..

Plot ki avial-poha

But the rest of the movie drags endlessly and Kundalkar loses the plot many a time while trying to explain unnecessary details that get twisted into their own corners. The only character who appears normal is Madhav (Subodh Bhave) – he stays grounded whether pruning roses or clapping to Rani’s impromptu singing in Tamil.
Rani is great when it comes to comedy, especially, the scenes where she is learning Tamil or stealing Prithvi’s shirt. Or even when she trails him to a red-light area. The scenes involving the dustbin are really funny. Even the mystery behind the actual scent of her man that drives Rani crazy endlessly also teases the viewer. But she lacks conviction when she cries and looks uncomfortable when portraying a jaded version of her Babli of the ‘Bunty and Babli’ fame.

Prithvi  simply sizzles on the screen when he does not talk. But when he does speak, one is left dumbstruck at the contradictory simplicity of his real life behind the smouldering artsy facade.  Though it is a bit of an anticlimax to know that he had been aware of her obsession all along. But it is Anita Date who steals the show with her sauciness and her one-liners like feeling a “vada-pau type of hunger” or her Lijjat Pappad bunny inspired laugh.

Despite good performances from the entire cast, Aiyyaa as a movie misses the mark with its editing and plot. It forces the audience to feel exactly like the family members who fell asleep at Rani’s engagement – while waiting for her to turn up. In short, plot ki avial-poha.

Rating – 2 stars out of five

 
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Posted by on October 13, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Silk trail and The Dirty Picture – a Dubai review


Being a film buff from childhood, I noticed that Silk Smitha was the shunned topic. Helen was glamorous vamp but always classy. Silk was the snicker on men’s lips, the adult movie with a capital A, the larger than life sleazy poster at a forbidden theatre that you discovered when the bus was forced to take a strange galli (street) when faced with a Mumbai traffic jam..
She was the girl with the oomph factor that screamed bad – never mind, that her shows seemed sold out judging by the crowds of shifty-eyed men standing outside these theatres. The woman whose movies good girls did not watch.
Then along came the biopic The Dirty Picture directed by Milan Luthria, the guy with a penchant for nostalgia. With a decision to take a bold look at her life and an apt choice of heroine. Vidya Balan forces you to re-examine your antiquated perception of the woman called Silk. I watched the story unfold many years later in Dubai, UAE.
Her pauses speak more than her dialogues. If you are not careful, you miss Vidya’s emotive eyes blatantly assessing opportunities as she is eating or walking – such is the actress’ attention to detail. She forces you to see the reality of a woman who played by her rules and accepted that her sexuality will sell the movie but damn her if she chose to walk away from that stereotype.

Her three men
The first man in her life Surya, played by Naseeruddin Shah, is an excellent caricature of a 70s South hero playing young roles way past his prime (not changed much today in Bollywood or South).  His abrupt shift in choosing marital harmony minutes post rendezvous with Silk and forcing her to watch the scene hidden in the bathroom disturbed the men in the theatre. They came looking for a dirty picture but did not want to see another reality.  They left mid-interval.
The next man, Tusshar Kapoor seemed apt for his role – Naseeruddin’s brother and a writer with no identity of his own. He is chosen by Silk to get back at Surya – she is helped by the fact that he is besotted by her.
Emraan Hashmi as usual gets the sensitive and plum role – the critical director who first hates Silk and tries to destroy her rising career. Till she becomes his nemesis and he spouts her dialogues about movies being “only about entertainment” in an interview with Nayla, the film journalist vividly played by Anju Mahendru who secretly supports Silk despite writing vitriolic copy against her to sell her publication.
Some brilliant scenes in the movie include Silk playing saucily to a crowd and stirring the pot outside Nayla’s home after being forbidden to enter the journalist’s home. Or when she is wolfing food paid by a director and gets a satori on how her boldness and few calculated gestures could haze a man’s thoughts.

A travesty
The highlight of the movie is when she weaves through the streets in drugged haze seeing reflections of her youth on various surfaces till the last reflection reveals her current reality to her – a woman misshapen with drink, the inability to make the right noises in society and a travesty of her former self.
Yet Vidya Balan is never vulgar and draws you further and further into her death wish story. She manages to draw a thin veil of dignity around her even in the worst of situations; yet her eyes mock you. All the way up to her suicide.
One can see Ekta’s touch in the parody scenes of the 70s where she has not spared her own father – spoofing the Jitendra Sreedevi/Jaya Prada starrers of yore. Rajat Aroraa’s dialogues are fantastic for most of the movie but the wit seems too contrived at times. There is a brilliant scene where Surya tells the rest that the time has come to do away with vamps and make the heroine dance the item number.

This movie should win Vidya Balan many awards.. She makes the bold very beautiful. The sordid larger than life…
Rating: 9 on 10

 
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Posted by on December 3, 2011 in Movies

 

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Dabangg – Salman makes a comeback


After each trailer, a small kid in some row asked, “What’s the next movie?” But after Dabangg started, all questions stopped. Never having been a great fan of Salman Khan, for the first time I had bought a ticket to watch what I thought was a comedy with some action thrown in. Once the movie started, I was as riveted as the rest of the audience.

Salman Khan plays Chulbul Pandey, a small time corrupt cop, in a larger than life role that will rate as an ekdum chummeshwari performance like DID would say. He mixes machismo and comedy with such élan, a la Rajanikant style, that you forget to eat your caramel popcorn. Except in the emotional scenes between him and his mother, which lack emotion and drag. But the movie is not about emotion.

It is an in-your-face story with wacky comedy and action that does not wallow too much in the traditional soppiness of most Bollywood movies, except at the tail end. The first half is paisa vasool script.

Vinod Khanna marries Dimple Kapadia, a widow, who has a son Chulbul from her first marriage. Quite unlike Sholay and other potboilers, which shy away from the theme of widow remarriage. Anyway, I digress. The second marriage results in Makki, his dim-witted step brother played by Arbaaz Khan showing unexpected moments of cunning. The love hate relation between the two brothers is the central focus of the movie with the stormy relationship between the step father and step son following close behind. But a predictable twist comes in two-thirds into the movie and hence stopped it from going all the way in its kickass approach. Where one feels that the script writer chickened out and wanted to wrap up all the threads on a conventional note.

Coming to Sonakshi Sinha and the love interest of the besotted Pandey. She is 100 per cent woman and the perfect foil to Salman’s Robin Pandey. Sonakshi has a certain confident aura that hooks you into her role as a village belle whose stubborn affection for her drunken father clash with her hidden feelings for Chulbul. A big change from most girly heroines in debut roles.

Dimple and Vinod play very watery roles and seem travesties after their famous pairing in Lekin years ago. The only time Dimple shines is when she explains to a young Chulbul why she married the second time. Also Sonu Sood, who plays Chedi Singh, a politician and a baddie, fails in the half-hearted script penned for a villain. It lacks that edge to make a viewer really hate him.

The movie is scattered with many superb one liners while the comic timing is perfect – like, the ringtone that sets Salman dancing in the middle of a fight or the scene where the cops try to make Sonakshi laugh. Must add a mention of Malaika who makes a great Munni in her item number and the ideal Jhandu balm at a point when the movie gets slightly tedious after which it stumbles towards a predictable happy ending..

Having said that, the fights scenes in Dabangg fall into a class that will satisfy all front and back benchers to set the cash registers ringing. The songs are good but Raahat’s Tere Mast Do Nain will inch up the charts to number one very soon. If Munni Badnaam Hui does not.

Rating : 9 on 10

 
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Posted by on September 12, 2010 in Movies

 

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Peepli Live review – a farmer in his den


We have had some four really good movies in Hindi cinema on journalism. Jaane Bhi Do Yaaron, Tere Bin Laden and Rann with Peepli live now joining that list. While Rann was a sophisticated look at the crude machinations of broadcast media, the other three choose the dark humour route. Jaane Bhi Do has gone on to become a classic with its own fan club on Facebook and elsewhere. Tere Bin Laden was very tongue-in-cheek and one of the most enjoyable movies I have ever seen.

But Peepli Live is in a league of its own taking pot shots at the current news channels. It is an inside out look at the media as a simple villager would see it – the crazy chase for a story, the attempt at an original angle, the worry of being upstaged juxtaposed against the realities of the Indian village. Now don’t expect to see an ethnic bevy of belles giggling at wells, farmers singing in green fields or beautiful sunsets. The village is shown as an unrealistically harsh place with flies buzzing in the background as an unhappy wife washes vessels with mud. The cinematography sticks to a harsh documentary mode except in places and is very disconcerting at times.

The protagonist of the story Natha is also the most unkempt person in the movie with the least dialogue and lets his legs lead his head when in deep trouble. A simple farmer, who in a fit of bravado announces that he will commit suicide and then realises that he has becomes part of a larger scale of other peoples agenda.  While the movie starts with the viewer and the news channels looking into his life, somewhere in between it shifts to Natha holed in his den viewing the outer stage unfolding in front of his eyes.

The best scenes are when his old mother smokes a beedi with nonchalance while a television anchor tries somehow to read meaning into her actions, when Natha hungrily eyes the boiled eggs at a local politician’s meeting instead of asking for a loan, his friend telling a channel that he will miss smoking pot with him and the snide dig at awarding the contract to Sonmanto seeds.

The ending is abrupt and inexplicable. After all, the man who died in the blast was a journalist and his news channel would have found that out.

Rating: 8 on 10

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in Movies

 

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Inception review– Silva Method meets the Spotless Mind


Those familiar with the Silva Method might ally themselves with much of the philosophy in Inception. Such as the lift going down till the basement (the method used to plumb the various levels of the subconscious mind) and the kick mechanism (quite like the NLP click used to get you into the zone). The other déjà vu feelings will come from scenes that are reminiscent of fighting scenes from films such as Batman, The Matrix and the ‘warped relationship’ scenes from the oh-so-brilliant Eternal Sunshine of a Spotless Mind.

So we have the brilliant Christopher Nolan taking us through the life of an architect, Leonardo DiCaprio, as the complex Cobb, who is set upon an assignment by corporate magnate Saito (Ken Watanabe) where he has to plant an idea in the brain of Robert Fischer Jr. (Cillian Murphy), who has just inherited the corporate empire built by his father (Pete Posthelthwaite). Quite like the Simon and Garfunkle line in Sounds of Silence. “And the vision, that was planted in his brain…”

As payment, Cobb will be able to return to his children and his home in the US. DiCaprio plays the role of a man who has the ability to extract secrets from his subject’s subconscious mind. But he also has to deal with his own secrets that are intertwined with his memories of his dead wife played by Marion Cotillard turning up at the most inappropriate moment while he does his work – she is the literal spoke in the wheel.

To get into Fischer’s mind, he seeks the help of Arthur (Joseph-Gordon Levitt) and Ariadne (Ellen Page), another architect who comes recommended by Cobb’s father-in-law (Michael Caine). He also joins hands with Eames (Tom Hardy), who can impersonate anyone in a dream and Yusef (Dileep Rao), a chemist whose knows how to use drugs to keep sleepers sedated on alternating levels or bring them back to wakefulness.

The cinematography is brilliant and so is the script for a good part of the movie. In the end, all the characters could be the levels of our own subconscious mind.

Fischer has his unresolved relationship with his father. Cotillard, plays a woman who, at first is enchanted with the perfection created by herself and her husband and then gets sickened of the same perfection and thus keeps her first home to retain her identity in his perfect paradise. The scene where they show the two walking down this perfect boulevard is a dig at those perfect couple ads shown by developers to sell their project.

Cobb first plays the Pygmalion husband who believes that he deeply loves his dead wife but then later realises that he himself has the push and pull feelings that come up in every relationship that leaves no room to grow.

Ariadne is the child woman who knows no boundaries and is not equipped to deal with the consequences of impulse but grows up faster than Cobb and Fischer before the end of the tale. Eames is the risk taker who will take the extreme step when necessary while Arthur is the practical side, the voice of reason and the thread that binds. Yusuf is the compassionate one, who does not judge the needy.

Having said all that, the movie is interesting to a point. Somewhere it gets too long-winded, too gimmicky and certain parts are too loud or too cerebral with a very contrived ending. The characters also stay pretty two dimensional most of the time.

Eames seems the only one with spirit while Yusef and the chase in Zanzibar or Saito’s party seem like stereotypes of two cultures. The entire army and snow chase should have been cut. Period. Maybe, then we would have a crisper movie ending instead of a Bollywood styled one.

Rating 7/10

 
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Posted by on August 13, 2010 in Movies

 

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Once upon a time in Mumbaai – review from UAE


It is a struggle to decide who steals the thunder. Ajay Devgn or the new dark horse Randeep Hooda. One smoulders with his one liners while the other reminds you of the old black and white movie days when cops were lean, mean machines with side parting et al.

The movie takes time to explore the nuances of the various relationships in life  – beloved and loved, cops and mafia, ambition and the code of honour among criminals – in a slow buildup of scenes that start to speed up, crisscross lives and culminate in betrayal and death.

Mumbai never looked so once upon a time.. the roads, rains, the heaving Arabian sea, bazaars, old ads on walls. Some street scenes are so familiar for those who grew up in Mumbai, seen violent moments unveil in front of one’s eyes and learnt to avert the gaze.

Kangana loks gorgeous but the odd lisp slows down her intensity. Prachi does a good job of the girl friend who loves Emraan blindly. Emraan strangely lacks conviction in many scenes except as lover.. The music is excellent with Pee Loon taking it to the top.

 
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Posted by on August 7, 2010 in Movies

 

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