Sunday, December 2, 2012

Book Review: Arrack in the Afternoon

I was told by someone that Mathew Vincent Menacherry's mother is a celebrated Malayalam writer but I am not too sure. Well, as for Menacherry's debut novel I still remember the lazy Saturday afternoon where I was reading a favorable review of his book on the Week and my friend, Kiron called me up suddenly asking me to recommend a book which he could redeem for a free coupon at the Landmark.

That was a couple of years back, Kiron bought the book, read it, liked it and lent it to me but it was not until a week back that I decided to read the book. After devouring it eagerly, I dont know whether I am too pleased.

While Arrack in the Afternoon has its dark humor in place and has an unlikely hero in someone- Varghese Konnikara- who has failed in everything and who is anything that a hero or a protagonist is- lazy, disinterested, spineless, well I could go on...

I really liked the way Varghese's life progresses is nothing short of a fairy tale...if it could happen to me, I would be thrilled. And Mathew's natural flair for satire comes through with the creation of the industrialist couple who owned a 30 storey building for a residence and the Bhai saheb who lives for Maharashtra.

But there are a few basic stuff I couldnt agree with- Mathew's fixation with his protagonist's physique which is described graphically everytime a new character meets the protagonist and the unnecessary pages dedicated to Patricia's backstory esp when she comes across as an irrelevant character in the way the plot unfolds.

That said, it is quite interesting to see how Menachery develops his character slowly but surely to a Godman who influences the city and the country at large and exposes his frailty as an individual in the middle of all of it. The finale where Varghese realizes who and what matters to him really and how he copes up with his loss makes for good reading. I however feel Menachery could have made this part a little more detailed considering it talks all about life in general.

Arrack in the Afternoon is humorous, satirical, philosophical, entertaining, kitschy...all rolled into one. It is definitely engaging reading but I feel with a little more care Menachery could have made it a lot more impactful. Still...not bad for a debutant!

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The rustic Superhero

You know what to expect from Ilaiya Thalapathy Vijay who releases his movies around Pongal and Deepavali every year...add to it the fact that Family man M Raja helms this movie produced by Aascar Ravichandran, you start watching expecting a masala entertainer that has something for everyone.

That is precisely what you get from Velayudham- it has the age old sister sentiment, a female lead who's only purpose is to show ample skin during well choreographed and hummable song sequences, the hero's side kick who glorifies the hero while handling the comedy department, a coterie of villains who always roll their eyes and shout at the top of their voices, a pressing social issue thrown in for good measure and our hero's illogical ways of fighting the villains and the issue on hand...

In spite of all of this, you sit through Velayudham without realizing the downright silliness of the plot and the illogicality with which the sequences have been strung through...thanks to the charm and the effortlessness of Vijay who rises above everything else in the movie and never lets you take your eyes off him. M Raja very cleverly takes a backseat and lets his superstar carry the film on his shoulders. Vijay Antony's music has it all- the glorifying entry song, a hummable romantic song, the customary rustic village song with the heroine for the front benchers- and he scores it big especially with the Mulachu Moonu melody.

As for other departments, they all do their part in glorifying the hero and at the end of it all, actor Vijay's fans come out beaming. As for others, well, all of us need our share of meaningless masala entertainment, don't we?

Teenage Trauma

It is sad that Vazhakku No: 18/9 (Case No: 18/9) did not get a wide release in Kerala in spite of being presented by UTV, produced by Thiruppathi Brothers (Noted director N Lingusaamy and his brothers) and directed by Balaji Sakthivel (who gave us Kaadhal and Kalloori in the past). I had heard so much about the movie and now with someone like Manianpillai Raju producing the Malayalam remake being helmed by M Renjith (Noted producer and actor Chippy's husband), I thought Vazhakku had something in it.

Thanks to Emirates, finally managed to catch the movie on the flight. Vazhakku is a summary of what happens to Teenagers in today's world with misuse of mobile phones and absolute absence of parental care. It is so close to reality that it shocks and you may end up worrying about your teenage kids, cousins or acquaintances.

Moving back and forth in time, Balaji Sakthivel narrates the story of Velu, a teenager who works on a platform food stall and is silently in love with Jyothi, the housemaid who crosses his shop everyday while on her way to work in the apartment complex. It doesn't help that Jyothi dismisses Velu as another roadside romeo and her foul mouthed mother misunderstands the relationship that Velu shares with Rosy Akka, a sex worker who saves him from death.

On the other hand, you have Aarti, a +2 student who is constantly being followed by Dinesh, the rich teenage boy with a fancy mobile, a fancier car, a super rich single mom who never cares for him and his coterie of friends who always appreciate his ability to charm girls and record their private moments on his mobile camera.

With great difficulty, Dinesh manages to make Aarti fall for his charm but things go awfully wrong when Aarti comes to know about Dinesh's true intentions. How this affects Velu and Jyothi forms the rest of the movie. Giving out anything further would be damaging to the viewer especially since a Malayalam remake is on its way.

What works in favor of Vazhakku is the fact that the storyline and the events in the movie are easily identifiable. It could happen to anyone around us and that is what makes it scary. The characters and the situations are so close to real life and there has absolutely not been any cinematic liberties taken. It helps that the entire starcast comprises of newcomers, there is not even a single known actor even playing supporting roles. This brings a rare freshness and that "real life" feeling to the movie. In spite of being a teenage love story at its core, there are no aberrations in the form of meaningless duets and there is not even the compulsory kuthu pattu that is being forced into Tamil movies these days.

It is not just the lead cast that shines, it is also the supporting cast, because every character is deep rooted and has a "character" that is so rare in today's mainstream commercial cinema- be it the owner of the street shop, the helper boy- a koothu pattu artiste, Jyothi's mother who lets out her insecurity and frustration in bringing up a teenage daughter all alone by picking up fights with Velu, Aarti's working mother who has little time for anything or Dinesh's upmarket mother who in the guise of a school correspondent is actually the concubine of a minister and runs flesh trade.

It also helps that all departments synchronize very well to put up a fabulous movie- be it the camera that captures the streets and slums of Chennai, the sharp editing which is a pre requisite to keep you engaged in a narrative that moves back and forth, the sound recording that captures the background noise so well that you feel you are hearing a conversation that happens around you, the make up and costumes that have been kept as real as real can be and the background score that enhances your involvement in the proceedings...

The actors shine but all credit to Balaji Sakthivel who takes charge of the writing department and the direction. He proves that he is not a flash in the pan and has more aces up his sleeve. Here is looking forward to more from the maverick director...he is already in the league of yesteryear stalwarts like Mahendran & K Balachander who always made socially relevant cinema without following to the diktats of commercial cinema and still made popular films...A big salute to you, Mr. Sakthivel. Keep them coming...

Its been such a long time!!!

I honestly don't know whether there is anyone taking a look at this blog. It feels strange to me that I have not posted anything on the blog in the past 3 years. That's quite a long time of inaction considering the frenzy with which I used to post early.

2010 was an year that brought a lot of change in life and changes continued to happen especially on the personal front...sister's wedding, spending more time at work, watching too many movies over the weekend leaving little time to post reviews on this blog and my own wedding slowed me down a terms of posting on the blog, that is.

Sitting here in Lincoln, UK on a lazy Sunday evening with very little to do...thats when I thought about revisiting this blog and boy I should tell you this...I had forgotten how it looked. Anyways, I am posting this today hoping against hope that I continue posting with a certain regularity.

Had the chance to catch 2 exciting movies on the flight. Let me start with writing something about them. So, here I go with my take on 2 most recently watched movies (though not recently released)...

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Udit and Deepa Narayan in concert...

JT PAC gave me one more opportunity to cheer- Udit and Deepa Narayan in concert along with Rachna Chopra and Shashi Suman. Being the Bollywood fan that I am, I had a blast at the concert. Udit made a dramatic entry crooning his first hit "Papa Kehte Hain" from QSQT and followed it with one superhit after another- Tere Naam (Tere Naam), Ruk Jaa (Papa Kehte Hain), Nazar Nazar (Fida), Jadoo Teri Nazar (Darr), National Award Winning O Mitwah (Lagaan), Pehla Nasha (Jo Jeeta Wohi Sikander), Khaike Paan (Don), Aye Ajnabee (Dil Se), Mein Nikla (Gadar- Ek Prem Katha), Chand Chupa (Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam), Kab Tak Jawaani (Mujhse Shaadi Karogi) and finished it up with Chilambolikkatte (CID Moosa- Malayalam).

He was ably supported by Deepa Narayan, his wife and a singer herself who started with Its Rocking (Kya Love Story Hain) and joined Udit to croon Sahana (Sivaji- Tamil), Punidhu Punidhu (Mungaru Male- Kannada), Rama Chelakamma (Telugu) and moved on to Hindi duets like Humko Humi se (Mohabbatein), Lal Dupatta, Kaho Naa Pyar Hai, Bole Choodiyaan (Kabhi Khushi Kabhie Ghum), Koi Mil Gayaa (Kuch Kuch Hota Hai) and finished it off with Dekho Dekho (Om Shanti Om).

Rachna Chopra was in retro mood and tried doing an Asha Bhonsle with a fair amount of success. She belted out numbers like Chura Liya (Yaadon Ki Baraat), Yeh Mera Dil (Don), Raat Baaki (Namak Halaal) and Shaam hai (Don- The Chase Begins). She was joined by Shashi Suman to sing the foot tapping Beedi Jalai Le (Omkara) and from there Shashi took over to Mitwah (Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna), Teri Diwani (Kailash Kher) and joined Deepa to sing Teri Ore (Singh is King) and Udit to sing the title track of Partner.

The orchestra was just perfect and the excellent acoustics at JT PAC complemented the singers and the orchestra. Add to it, the excellent crowd support to the foot tapping numbers, this one turned out to be a memorable evening not just for the audience but also for the performers :-)

Hamlet: the play by Rajat Kapoor

It was not with much expectations that I went to the Fine Arts Hall, Kochi with 2 colleagues of mine to take a dekho at Rajat Kapoor's play (Dil Chahta Hai fame) "Hamlet" in English and Gibberish. But I came out laughing and I kept laughing at the jokes for the next 3 days. I was narrating the jokes to everyone I met for the next 3 days and kept on laughing with them.

Who would have thought that the biggest Shakespearean tragedy could be turned into a rib tickling comedy, that too of the below the belt kind, by an Indian stage person? Rajat Kapoor does the unthinkable and he does it in style without compromising on the characteristics of any of his lead players- thus, Hamlet is his undecided, spineless self; Ophelia dies professing her love for Hamlet; Gertrude is Hamlet's mother who cheats on his father and Cladius is the scheming uncle who takes over the throne from King Hamlet and plots to get Prince Hamlet too killed.

The best thing in the play is the Gibberish and also the immediate connection that the actors establish with the audience. They even bring references to Kochi, Kerala, Fine Arts Hall, the food and the traffic into their dialogues and make sure they don't slip or move away from the main plot at any point of time. With its English and Gibberish dialogues, this one is more of a talkathlon for each of its actors who have the audience in splits everytime they utter a dialogue.

This is good time pass and a very good way of spreading awareness about a timeless classic which no one will otherwise bother to read or listen to. Even the bard will smile in his grave in appreciation of Kapoor's talent...

Book Review: The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay

All is not lost with Indian English authors- that is what Siddharth Dhanvant Shanghvi tries to tell us through his brilliantly drafted "The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay" (LFB). Loosely based on the Jessica Lal murder, LFB is a candid look at the underbelly of Mumbai's high society life through the eyes of a photographer, Karan.

Mr. Shanghvi has a unique way with words- his prose has a lyrical quality to it that flows uninterruptedly like a water stream and takes you, the reader, along with it. His characters are all very well etched out and he brings out their emotions very passionately.

Be it his protagonist, Karan or the gay piano player, Samir, or his actress girl friend Zaira, or Karan's own girlfriend- Rhea- all of them are created in flesh and blood and you start owning them with all their minuses and short comings.

The relationships are unexplained but you can feel the togetherness between Samir and Zaira, Karan and Zaira or Karan and Rhea and you end choked up with emotions when these characters go through tough times. The best part of the narrative is how Bombay itself becomes a character in the book- be it the narrow bylanes of Chor Bazaar or the cozy interiors of Samir's palatial house or the Sewri seaside- Shanghvi's narrative is poetic enough for you to paint a beautiful picture in your minds!

Imaginative writing rooted in realism that reflects today's society and youth- that in a nutshell is what "The Lost Flamingoes of Bombay" is. Need I say more?

Book Review: My Friend Sancho

What is it with these popular bloggers that one fine morning they get up and decide they are going to be writers? Don't publishers learn from one such debacle? These are the questions that keep coming back to your mind as you glance through Amit Varma's (India Uncut fame!) "My Friend Sancho".

The good thing about Sancho is that you don't have to read the entire book to know what is happening. All you need to glance through is the last 10 pages of this 217 page punishment to understand what it is all about. The narrative moves around in circles and not even once manages to find its centre. This could have well been another post on Mr. Varma's celebrated blog. Spare the book reading public please...

Oh Shit, Not Again!

It indeed was very thoughtful on the part of Mandar Kokate to name his first (and hopefully, only) book "Oh Shit, Not Again!" for that's precisely what you feel when you have been through this apology for a novel once.

Published by some non entity based in Pune and about a group of horny friends out to have some fun, the book does not give any insights into friendship or provide any moment of fun. Instead it leaves you feeling idiotic at having bought this one and frustrated for having read through the entire stuff. The less said about its pointless narrative, the better.

Time to get environment friendly guys, crap of this kind should not be published. Let us save Paper and also some currency! Do not even recommend this to your worst enemy!!!

Book Review: 2 States- the story of My Marriage

With the recent brouhaha that Mr. Chetan Bhagat has been creating all over the media for not being creditted for 3 Idiots, we have to understand one thing- Mr. Bhagat has a lot of time at his disposal after quitting his high paying job at an Investment bank which he uses either in picking up fights with Bollywood or writing books like "2 States- The Story of My Marriage"

Now don't get me wrong- 2 States is not half bad. The book has its few moments especially where Bhagat chooses to take potshots at the Punjabi and Tamil culture with intelligent 3rd party insights into most of their time barred rituals! But, havent we seen and read similar stuff in all his earlier works? If 3 mistakes of my Life was about Gujju culture, Five Point Someone and One Night@ the call centre were about the youth of today.

2 States also starts from the IIM and then meanders meaninglessly between Chennai, Pondicherry and Punjab and after an extended climax, finally ends in the wedding of its 2 protagonists- Krish and Ananya.

There definitely are laugh out loud moments in the narrative just like Bhagat's earlier outings but just when we thought Bhagat had matured a little bit with 3 Mistakes of My Life comes this one which sounds and feels so much like it was written by someone totally new to the craft. Recommended only for strong CB fans (and I used to be one of them till very recently!)

Zenith of Cinematic Brilliance!

How else can one describe James Cameron's "Avatar" which is even beyond what a common man can dream? At the core, "Avatar" is just another sci- fi movie that Hollywood churns out with a certain regularity- It talks about a different planet, a different race of people, a different set of flora and fauna and finally, about the American attitude of invading everyone and everything.

What makes it different from Independence Day or Jurassic Park is the sheer vision of that one person- James Cameron and his bold experiment that has costed close to 2000 crores of Indian Rupees- money enough to feed the entire population of India for one year!

Its only when you sit through the movie with your 3D glasses on that you realize that not a single penny has gone waste, for such is the sheer brilliance with which Avatar has been made. Avatar unfolds in AD 2154 when the world is facing an energy crisis and American scientists have discovered a rare metal called "Unobtanium" on planet Pandora that is inhabited by Navis- blue colored, tailed and angular faced huge creatures. The mineral can be excavated only if the Navis leave their village and with this end in view, they create Avatars of 2 human beings- a lady scientist (played brilliantly by Sigourney Weaver) and a wheel chair bound Army man. The Avatars are released into Pandora and they take only little time to get close to the Navis- so close that they become one among the Navis and start opposing the plan to vacate the Navis from their village.

All hell breaks lose and it is for the Navis and the Avatars to fight the humans who are armed with Robots, Missiles and Warplanes. Fight they do, with their bows and arrows and also with the help of those unexplainable creatures that walk the Pandora. The movie ends with the human race conceding defeat and leaving Pandora for good.

The basic premise is the good winning over evil story that is part of all religious textbooks and mythology known to mankind. But the CGI enabled visuals of Pandora that Cameron creates need to be seen to be believed. He takes the audience with him to Pandora and gives them that one cinematic experience that is likely to last beyond his lifetime. And the best part is the human angle and personal traits that he gives to each of his characters so that when they play out before you, you start relating to the mind of the character and not over his/ her cartoonish looks.

Cameron deserves a tight hug for having come out with something like "Avatar"- every moment of his 12 year toil was worth it and you realize that as you leave the theatres in awe of the sheer brilliance of James Cameron!

Aall Izz Well...

Bollywood has this unique ability to connect Indians all over the world and Indians all over the world have just one sentence to utter when asked about Bollywood these days- "Aall Izz Well"- thanks to the historic success of Raj Kumar Hirani's "3 Idiots".

The success does not really come as a surprise considering the track record of Raj Hirani as a film maker and Aamir Khan as the actor. With 3 Idiots, Aamir Khan has turned out to be the Santa Claus of Bollywood who brings that one brilliant film at the end of every year that becomes the face of Bollywood for that year- he did that with Ghajini in 2008 and Taare Zameen Par in 2007 and he does that again in style with 3 Idiots in 2009!

3 Idiots is not just unspoilt Bollywood entertainment at its best, it is also a statement against many ills that is plaguing the society these days- our Education System that focusses so much on grades and not on knowledge, the priority that money and material comforts have over a meaningful life and the unnecessary pressure that parents put on their children to see them become successful professionals in life without considering the interest of the child itself. As with Hirani's Munnabhai series, 3 Idiots never gets into the idealistic mode to drive home its point and that is where its success and acceptability lies.

Hirani with the backing of a successful producer like Vidhu Vinod Chopra takes his basic premise from Chetan Bhagat's best selling novel and turns it round into a cohesive and enjoyable script (Co writer: Abhijat Joshi) with enjoyable sequences, witty oneliners and brilliant character sketches. He does not get it 100% right but the minor flaws are more than made up his excellent cast- Boman Irani breathes life even into a caricature, US based actor Omi makes the cliche'- ridden Chatur Ramalingam look real, Television star Mona Singh puts in a delightful cameo, Pareekshit Sahani is adequate, Sharman Joshi makes good use of the most well written and layered character in the script, Aamir Khan is all over the place with his excellent comic timing and endearing screen presence and the leading lady, Kareena Kapoor lights up the screen and comes out with a solid performance even in a role that seems to be a last minute addition to the script.

Shantanu Moitra- Swanand Kirkire team deliver a couple of hummable songs- All Izz well has become the new national anthem and Zoobi Zoobi is a peppy romantic number that gets a boost with the electrifying chemistry that Aamir and Kareena share on screen.

The few scenes that stand out are the suicide of the brilliant student on campus, Omi's felicitation of the Director played by Boman Irani and the friends' visit to Sharman Joshi's house. On the flip side, Hirani seems to have not gotten over his Munnabhai hangover- old men and hospital seem to be present in all his films and the delivery scene on the ping pong table is pushing things a bit too far!

Hirani, Chopra and Khan have very little to be worried about though- 3 Idiots has clicked with all sections of the audience and is on its way to be the highest grosser in the History of Indian Cinema. If there is anyone who does not say "All Izz Well", it is Mr. Bhagat who has cut a sorry figure in the media. As they say, the arguement continues...

Bachchan is one brilliant Bachcha...

There are actors and then there is Amitabh Bachchan- India's answer to Clint Eastwood and Ben Kingsley. Mr. Bachchan's talent has been showcased in many directors in many landmark movies of the past. But, R Balki very skilfully brings out the bachcha in Mr. Bachchan through his 2nd directorial venture- "Paa", a sensitive take on Progeria, a rare medical condition, that thankfully does not rely on melodrama.

Paa is the story of Auro (Amitabh Bachchan), a progeria affected 13 year old being brought by his single gynaecologist mother Vidya (Vidya Balan) and feisty grandmother whom he fondly calls "Bum" (Arundhathi Nag). The media starts stalking him when he wins a prize in a school competition presided over by Amol Apte, the young MP (Amitabh Bachchan). Amol takes an instant liking for Auro only to find out later than Auro is his own son who was conceived by Vidya during their student days together in the UK.

Auro's condition worsens and he manages to unite his parents on his deathbed. That is where "Paa" ends. There is nothing new in the storyline except the Progeria angle but the treatment of the narrative is light and entertaining. There are not many cry out loud moments, instead Auro's character is established through a set of humurous incidents and witty one liners that appeals to one and all- notable among those are his telephone conversation with his friend where the friend discusses his dad and his verbal exchange with his paternal grandfather (Paresh Rawal) on the hospital bed.

R Balki comes up with this novel approach to family movies which is enjoyable without slipping into melodrama and manages to succeed with Paa. He is ably supported by P C Sreeram (Camera), Anil Naid (Editing), Aki Narula and Sabyasachi Mukherji (Styling & Costumes) and the brilliant Iliayaraaja (Music score).

He manages to extract brilliant performances from his cast- Arundhathi Nag shines in the role of the grandmother, Abhishek Bachchan is adequately subdued as Amol and Vidya Balan digs her teeth deep into the author backed role that has come her way since "Parineeta".

At the heart of "Paa", however, is the great Amitabh Bachchan who scales even greater heights with his performance and proves to one and all that he is irreplaceable in the history of Indian cinema. "Paa" explores the mother- son bonding more than the father- son bonding and thus, does not justify its title. Also, the much winded media bashing sequences mar the flow of the otherwise brisk narrative. These are but minor glitches in an otherwise enjoyable film- Go for it with your entire family, you will come out in awe of Amitabh Bachchan's performance and Vidya Balan's beauty :-)

Noble Intention, Good Execution

Its sad that not many looked beyond a backless Kareena on Kurbaan's posters. Probably, thats where such a well made movie failed to click with the audience- it gave out wrong messages of what kind of movie it was. If you watch "Kurbaan" (which is incidentally on Tata Sky these days), I am sure you will come out feeling happy that there are filmmakers in Bollywood who make serious, issue based films very well.

Kurbaan helmed by debutante Renzil D'silva deals with a set of Muslims in USA who want to teach America a lesson, following 9/11 and their invasions to Iraq and Afghanisthan. Ehsaan Khan (Saif Ali Khan) belongs to this group and wants a reentry to the USA. He befriends and falls in love with Avantika Ahuja (Kareena Kapoor), an unsuspecting Psychology professor in a Delhi University who was teaching in the US earlier. They get married and Avantika is asked to come back to US. She takes Ehsaan with him and Ehsaan tricks Avantika to taking a rented apartment in a Muslim dominated region that has Bhaijaan (Om Puri) and his wife, Aaapa (Kirron Kher) among its other residents. Avantika suspects something fishy here and her fears are confirmed when she learns that her rebellious neighbour, Salma (Nauheed Cyrusi) has been killed by her husband. She confronts Ehsaan only to learn that he is also part of the group and is left with no choice since she is pregnant and her lonely father (Aakash Khurana) in Delhi is also under their custody.

She learns about the plan to bomb an aircraft that has Salma's reporter friend Rihana (Dia Mirza) is traveling in, but is not able to do anything on time. Her voice message on Rihana's phone reaches her boyfriend Riyaz (Vivek Oberoi) who joins the gang only to bust their plans. Does Ehsaan find out about Avantika's intentions" Are Avantika and Riyaz successful in busting the plans of the gang? This is what Kurbaan tries to answer in its concluding reels.

"Kurbaan" does not belong to the entertaining Bollywood film type, something its producers, Dharma Productions are renowned for. Instead it is a hard hitting and realistic film that does not move away from its focus at any point of time. Renzil and Anurag Kashyap have scripted Kurbaan very well with poignant dialogues and excellent character sketches. Renzil also manages to extract excellent performances from his cast. It is heartening to see Om Puri play a character that does justice to his talent. Kirron Kher is adequately subdued and not her boisterous self (thankfully!). Vivek Oberoi gets to play an author backed role after ages and he makes full use of the opportunity. Saif Ali Khan plays Ehsaan very intelligently. Layers are peeled off the character as the narrative progresses and this has been done to excellent effect. The strongest performance comes from the leading lady- Kareena Kapoor looks bewitching on screen especially in the initial reels- she enacts all emotions of Avantika brilliantly- be it her love for Ehsaan, shock when she finds out the truth, her earnestness in helping out Riyaz or her helplessness when she learns about the plans of the terror group. She even dares to go where no commercial Hindi film heroine has gone before with the aesthetically shot love making scene that is extremely integral to the script.

Karan Johar, Renzil D'silva, Saif Ali Khan and Kareena Kapoor can definitly be proud of "Kurbaan"- it is a strong statement against Terrorism- a well intentioned movie that has also been made brilliantly!

Don't bother about these Khannas...

As I was watching "Main Aur Mrs Khanna" on Tata Sky, I was thanking my stars- not for having been able to watch this movie but for not being able to catch this one at a Bangalore multiplex since that would have amounted to embarrassment in addition to loss of money!

Why would anybody make a movie like this one is something that I have not been able to figure out ever since. What could have easily ended as a 30 minute episode in a serial is stretched to almost 2 hours and when you have non actors like Sohail Khan, Yash Tonk and Bappi Lahiri (spare the thought!) playing prominent roles, it becomes a test of your endurance. Salman Khan sleep walks through the entire movie and does not make one sincere effort to emote. Kareena Kapoor looks ravishing on screen but appears to be confused with what she is doing. To top it all, you have an embarrassing special appearance by Preity Zinta which is simply not happening.

The only merit in this movie is the fairly hummable "Alvida" song- everything else is dull, drab and unimpressive! Visit a temple rather than watching this movie- you will get some peace of mind!

Ajab Santhoshi ka Ghazab Comedy!

Raj Kumar Santhoshi is often remembered for his hard hitting and realistic dramas like Ghayal, Ghatak, Damini, Lajja, Pukaar, Khakhee and Halla Bol. Most of us often forget that it is the same Santhoshi who gave us that cult comedy of the early 90's- "Andaaz Apna Apna" that can make you fall of the chair laughing even if you are watching it the 25th time.

Its probably to remind us this fact that Santhoshi has come up with something as refreshing and hilarious as "Ajab Prem ki Ghazab Kahani'. With the extremely talented Ranbir Kapoor and the extremely beautiful Katrina Kaif, Santhoshi delivers a beautiful romantic comedy and how! The setting is Ootty where you bump into Sid (Ranbir Kapoor) who along with his friends has formed Happy Club and his only intention is to help others and make them happy. He bumps into Jennifer and falls head over heels in love with her. Trouble comes in the form of Rahul (Upen Patel) who Jennifer is in love with. She befriends Prem and his clubmates and seeks their help to unite with Rahul. What happens later forms the rest of the story.

APKGK does not have much of a storyline but it is the treatment that makes it stand out. The slapstick comedy has been woven very well into the narrative. The conflicts between Prem and his father (Darshan Jariwala) has been brought out very well. The don angle (Zakir Hussain) reminds you of Shakti Kapoor in Andaz Apna Apna and Santhoshi uses Salman Khan's guest appearance very cleverly. The final action sequences are also peppered with excellent comedy.

Pritam's musical score is average and only "Prem Ki Naiyya" is impressive. Thiru's camera work is brilliant. Ranbir and Katrina have been clothed very well and look ravishing on screen. Katrina Kaif displays very good comic timing, looks like she has benefitted from the company of Akshay Kumar and Paresh Rawal. Darshan Jariwala, Smita Jaykar, Zakir Hussain, Govind Namdeo, Mohan Ram and even Upen Patel play the fools perfectly and add to the charm of the film.

But, it is Ranbir Kapoor who has a good time playing Prem. His charming screen presence, impeccable comic timing and natural performance need to be seen to be believed- its such a great departure from his earlier outing and Ranbir proves beyond doubts that he is the Actor to look forward to.

Kudos to Raj Kumar Santhoshi for having come up with a feel good, slapstick comedy with the promising youngsters of Bollywood. Its no surprise that "Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani" has the Tauranis laughing all the way to the bank! 

Magic that fails to enchant...

The story of Aladin and the Magic Lamp from the Arabian Nights has inspired quite a lot of filmmakers who have come out with their own versions in many languages. It is one of the most used and abused Fairy tales that exist but Sujoy Ghosh (Jhankar Beats, Home Delivery) deserves kudos for taking this one and turning it completely around to give us something as different as "Aladin".

Aladin deals with the sufferings of its lead player (Riteish Deshmukh, his best performance ever!) who is bullied by all and sundry because of his name. He hates his name and hates the sight of lamps but he has to accept the lamp that is presented to him as a birthday gift by the most beautiful girl in college (Jacqueline Fernandez, heavenly in looks and confident in performance). Before he can say 1-2-3, out comes a Genie (Amitabh Bachchan) who can fulfill 3 wishes for Aladin and has to go on retirement. Aladin wants the girl to fall for him but none of the Genie's tricks would work. In the meantime, we have the evil Ringmaster (Sanjay Dutt) who wants to usurp the lamp and the Genie to become the most powerful man on the earth. Will Aladin be able to propose his love? Will Ringmaster be successful? Will the Genie be able to save both Aladin and the world? These are the questions that Sujoy Ghosh tries to answer in the concluding reels of his magnum opus.

The good thing about "Aladin" is that it has its heart in the right place. Add to it the marvelous special effects and you end up feeling you are watching one from the Harry Potter franchise. Riteish and Jacqueline are good. Sanjay Dutt lends an evilish tinge to Ring Master and Amitabh Bachchan is deliciously over the top playing the Genie. These actors are so much in control that you can comfortably ignore the irritating Saahil Khan and the awfully miscast Ratna Pathak Shah in a role that smells so much of Juhi Chawla.

Then, where does it go wrong? Its the script that pulls Aladin down. Sujoy tasted success with his maiden venture "Jhankar Beats" thanks to the uber cool and lazy script. The writing style suited something like Jhankaar Beats but you cannot use the same medicine always. "Home Delivery" was a confused piece of work and "Aladin' also suffers from the same syndrome. When one sets out to retell a Fairy tale with a top star like Amitabh Bachchan and at such huge a budget, there should not be any room for complacency. It is here that Sujoy fails miserably. His casual script and lack lustre direction take Aladin a few notches lower than where it would have otherwise been.

Its time Sujoy got out of his complacent mood and start working hard on his script and direction. Better luck next time!

Wake up to the next superstar!

Coming of age stories are such a rarity in mainstream Bollywood and that probably, is the first reason anyone would fine "Wake Up Sid" cute and entertaining. Debutant Director Ayan Mukherji does a brilliant job with establishing his lead characters clearly in the first few reels itself- thus you have the rich, spoilt and happy go lucky Siddharth (Ranbir Kapoor) whose only aim in life is to have fun. He ignores his studies, roams around with his friends and finally fails in his exams. This is too much to handle for his businessman father (Anupam Kher) who has had a rags-to-riches past and his affectionate, uneducated mother (Supriya Pathak Kapur). Disillusioned with his son's ways, the father asks Sid to leave the house.

Sid takes shelter with Aisha (Konkona Sen Sharma), who he had earlier bumped into at a party. Aisha hails from Kolkata and has come down to Mumbai to pursue her dreams of working with "Mumbai Beat"- an upmarket magazine. She is very clear about what she wants in life and is very methodical and practical- totally opposite to what Sid is. Though she is charmed by Sid, she finds it difficult to adjust to his ways and finally becomes instrumental in bringing down a positive change in his attitude.

It is a very simple story that relies primarily on its 2 protagonists- Sid and Aisha played brilliantly by Ranbir and Konkona. Ranbir lends his character a natural charm and lights up the screen with his presence. He portrays the playfulness, innocence, disillusionment and realization of Sid very effectively and is the strongest link in this movie. Konkona successfully plays a perfect foil to Ranbir and ends up being Aisha on screen. Anupam Kher and Supriya Pathak are good in their respective parts and Rahul Khanna ends up playing a useless cameo like in his earlier outing. Namit Das and Shikha Talsania who play Sid's friends, are extremely impressive.

Anil Mehta's camera captures Mumbai like never before and anybody who watches the movie is likely to end up falling in love with the city. Shankar- Ehsaan- Loy's compositions stand out especially "Bawra" and "Kya Kahoon". Wake Up Sid is quite a departure from the kind of movies that Dharma Productions have made till date and Karan Johar should be congratulated for making an enjoyable movie on a serious theme.

The real hero here is undoubtedly Ayan Mukherji who comes up with a strong script and has learnt his basics of direction very well. Ayan appears to be in complete control over his script, cast and crew and deserves recognition for having come out with a clean, entertaining film. This is one story teller Bollywood can really look forward to...

Aah- the- One!

Fresh from the super duper success of "Ayan", Suriya Shivakumar scores again with K S Ravikumar's "Aadhavan". As is the case with most KS Ravikumar films, Aadhavan also offers nothing new in terms of storyline. However, the director's racy treatment, excellent performance from an ensemble cast and the supersonic speed at which the narrative progresses more than makes up for the flaws in the story line.

Aadhavan is the story of a contract killer who is hired to kill a Supreme court judge. The killer disguises himself as helper to the chief cook and gets into the family and befriends each and every family member. Whether the killer manages to succeed in his objective or not forms the rest of the story.

Suriya Shivakumar is in fine form playing the title role. He is growing younger with time and has an on screen charisma that attracts people across ages. Nayanthara looks good since she is fully clothed and does justice to her miniscule role. The late actor Murali is adequate as the judge and veteran Padmabhushan B Saroja Devi shines in the role of the grandmother. But, it is Vaigaippuyal Vadivelu who literally runs the show. His comic timing and dialogues are perfect and he is a RIOT in the movie!

Add to it a couple of hummable songs composed by Harris Jayaraj and excellent camerawork, "Aadhavan" is good enough for a weekend with the entire family :-)

He is not that much like you...

"Unnaipol Oruvan" has been in the news ever since it was announced thanks to the coming together of Kamalhassan and Mohanlal- 2 of the greatest actors of Indian Cinema; Sruthi Hassan's debut as a Music Director and also because it was a remake of the critically and commercially successful "A Wednesday"- A Bollywood film directed by debutante Neeraj Pandey.

Unnaipol Oruvan remains extremely faithful to its Hindi original and scores because of that. The story that deals with how a frustrated common man drives the Police department crazy on a Wednesday and finally manages to kill 4 cruel terrorists is definitely thought provoking and something every common man would have thought about doing at least once.

Add to it, solid performances from an ensemble cast and a technically perfect film, you would not have any reason to complain, save one- Kamal Hassan does not pass off as a common man as much as Naseeruddin Shah did in the Hindi original. His accented English is irksome and he brings in unnecessary heroism in his body language and diction that takes away the simplicity and identifiability from the principal character.

However, this small glitch is more than compensated by the rest of the cast. Anusha Ayyer as the cigar smoking journalist is pitch perfect, Ganesh Venkatraman is a revalation and veteran Lakshmi is completely at ease portraying the Chief Secretary. But, if there is one actor who elevates the movie to another level, it is Lt. Col. Padmashree Bharath Mohanlal who plays IG Nambiar- a soft spoken, duty bound police officer who is out to nab the character played by Kamal Hassan. It is a strong role performed with grit and determination and you can only come out in awe of the great actor that Mohanlal is.

Shruthi Hassan's background score is OK but she scores very well with the promotional video- the song has been sung and shot very well! Chakri Tolati makes a confident debut as a Director but he needs another film to prove his calibre considering how faithful Unnaipol Oruvan is to its original. Camera, Editing, Sound and Art Direction are all done very well and contributes to the overall impact that movie leaves on you.

Its probably the first time that an actor marches over Kamal Hassan in terms of performance- "Unnaipol Oruvan" is a must watch just to see Mohanlal in action, even if you have seen "A Wednesday" 10 times. Strongly recommended!!!