Mere Dad Ki Maruti

March 15th, 2013

A khadoos and kanjoos dad can’t see eye to eye with his free-spirited son. The backdrop is a big, fat Punjabi wedding in North India. A brand new car that’s supposed to be offered as the wedding gift goes missing. Now add a tadka of assorted characters: Bhai, weirdos and cops. Perfect recipe for a truly appetizing Punjabi delicacy? Oh, yes! Y-Films’ third movie MERE DAD KI MARUTI is loud, funny, energetic and whacky. Ashima Chibber, who has been an apprentice to talents such as Shimit Amin and Imtiaz Ali, opts for a full-on masaledaar fare in her debut film. Unlike Y-Films’ second endeavor MUJHSE FRAAANDHSIP KAROGE, a classy metro-centric love story, this one’s an over the top comic entertainer that unravels at lightening speed. And it works! MERE DAD KI MARUTI is set against the backdrop of a Punjabi wedding in Chandigarh. It tells the story of Sameer [Saqib Saleem], who sneaks his dad’s [Ram Kapoor] fancy new car out to impress the college hottie Jasleen [Rhea Chakraborty] and how all hell breaks loose when he loses it. The screenplay of MERE DAD KI MARUTI follows the tried and tested mantra: It activates with a dilemma and concludes with a definite resolution. In between, the fast-changing tracks and the colorful characters and episodes keep your attention arrested. You rarely go wrong if you follow this [oldest] storytelling technique in Bollywood… MERE DAD KI MARUTI gets it right on this count. Besides, Ashima does the smartest thing by making it an over the top experience. If you’re from North India, or are aware of how a section of individuals behave in the Northern region of the country, you’d promptly identify with the characters and setting in the narrative. Sure, MERE DAD KI MARUTI stands on a skeletal plot, but screenplay writers Neeraj Udhwani, Pooja Desai and Ashima Chibber make sure they pepper it with lively characters and situations, which makes this ride enjoyable for most parts. MERE DAD KI MARUTI manages to steer clear of major pitfalls. What stands out is the fact that most kids want to break free from parental pressures, but end up in trying situations. This aspect comes across loud and clear in the enterprise, although the film never gets preachy or sermonizing on that front. The only glitch is that the makers could’ve avoided in-your-face, blatant publicity of the vehicle brand. The director could’ve adopted a more subtle approach. Sachin Gupta grasps the essence of the film perfectly and delivers a lively soundtrack. ‘Punjabiyan Di Battery’ is sprightly and stays on your lips instantly. ‘Main Senti Hoon’ is another song that’s aimed at youngistaan. I’d like to make a special note of the witty one-liners/dialogue [Ishita Moitra], which is exactly how youth converse these days. Also, the North Indian dialect adds loads of flavor to the lines. Saqib Saleem showed immense potential in MUJHSE FRAAANDHSIP KAROGE and with MERE DAD KI MARUTI, proves he’s one of the brightest talents around. His comic timing, casual conversations and manic gestures are a delight to watch. Ram Kapoor, a supremely talented actor, gets his role spot-on. The cynics may argue, he’s loud and crass, but his character is meant to behave that way. Also, it only goes to prove how versatile he is, when you recall the suave character in STUDENT OF THE YEAR and the effort he invests in MERE DAD KI MARUTI to appear loud. Rhea Chakraborty is confident, although her character doesn’t offer her much to scope to prove her talent. Prabal Panjabi, also introduced in MUJHSE FRAAANDHSIP KAROGE, stands out yet again. Together with Saqib, he contributes to several lively moments in the enterprise. Ravi Kissen is first-rate as the local Bhai. Karan Mehra [as the groom] is efficient. Benazir Shaikh [as Saqib’s sister] does an okay job. The assorted characters, each of them, lend admirable support. On the whole, MERE DAD KI MARUTI is a joyride. Mazedaar, masaledaar , full-on entertainer. Hitch a ride on this one instantly!

I Me Aur Main

March 1st, 2013

The coming of age movie of a man-child has fascinated many a storyteller in the West. In fact, Hollywood has often churned out movies about guys who refuse to grow up. I, ME AUR MAIN, directed by first-time director Kapil Sharma, has John Abraham reprising the role of an adult who’s a narcissist, a self-obsessed guy who refuses to own up responsibilities and is also commitment-phobic. In the past, movies such as KYA KEHNA! and SALAAM | NAMASTE traversed the hitherto unknown path. Also, the male protagonist in those films did not own up their responsibilities, albeit initially [coincidentally, Saif Ali Khan enacted the part in both the films!]. Although I, ME AUR MAIN is *not* remotely similar to those two films in terms of plotline, it does talk of relationships [live-in, child without wedlock et al], but at the same time, it also takes the easy route of drifting into the stereotypical zone, at times. Kapil brings with him present-day, urban sensibilities, which is evident in a couple of episodes [more on that later], but the drama vacillates between spellbinding and mundane constantly. What emerges is a part watchable fare, despite an attention-grabbing premise. Had Kapil grabbed the opportunity of going unconventional out-and-out, I, ME AUR MAIN would’ve been in a different space altogether. Ishaan [John Abraham] is a charismatic, good-looking music producer from Mumbai. He lives a sheltered existence, is the centre of his life, the apple of his mother’s [Zarina Wahab] eye, always protected by his elder sister Shivani [Mini Mathur] and stays at his girlfriend Anushka’s [Chitrangda Singh] swanky house. He takes them all for granted! But there comes a day when his life falls apart like a house of cards. Fed up of being taken for granted, his girlfriend throws him out of her house. He moves into an ordinary dwelling, his mother leaves his father and moves in with him, his sister is upset with him and his boss [Raima Sen] asks him to resign. His ego is punctured and his confidence shaken. At this point, his new neighbor, Gauri [Prachi Desai], walks into his life and from her he learns the importance of relationships. There comes a point when he has to make a choice… I, ME AUR MAIN has several worthy of note sequences. Instances: John’s I-me-myself attitude comes across very well at the start itself, besides his relationship with Chitrangda, which goes from bad to worse with the passage of time. In addition, the segments featuring John and Mini Mathur echo a certain reality. You can’t help but laud the freshness Kapil brings on the table in those sequences. I’d like to make a special note of the finale, when John wants to be by her side, but Chitrangda’s words of wisdom sound so valid. Nonetheless, there’re tracks that fizzle faster than expected. John’s relationship with Raima, his boss, gets repetitive after a point. Also, John’s quest to introduce a new singer [Sheena Shahabadi] — the entire journey from scratch to star — is humdrum. Even the sequences with Prachi are inconsistent. As and when Kapil decides to take the unconventional route with her character [Prachi fleetingly talking about her previous relationships… also the sequence when John decides to get close to her, after she has had a couple of drinks], those moments compliment the spirit of the enterprise. Conversely, there’re portions that seem far from satisfying or enjoyable. The debutant director strikes the perfect note when he dares to defy the rules of the game. Also, what’s credible is that he spares us the melodrama that generally accompanies such subjects. But, like I pointed out earlier, the screenwriting should’ve been coherent. The storyteller restricts the flow of songs in the narrative, which, again, needs to be appreciated. As for the soundtrack, ‘Cappuccino’ and ‘Na Jaane’ add a lot of zing to the narrative. It’s the first time that John plays a man-child and I must add, he ensures that the character doesn’t deviate into the negative alley. Shunning the ‘Action Abraham’ image that he has steadily built, the actor delivers a striking, likeable performance. Chitrangda lends undeniable credence to her part. Prachi adds so much zest in those tiny little moments, enacting the spunky girl part so well. Mini Mathur is natural to the core, getting the nuances of her role spot-on. Raima Sen is perfect, despite the fact that her role lacks meat. Zarina Wahab is dependable as the doting mum. Sameer Soni doesn’t get any scope. Errol Peter Marks is efficient. On the whole, I, ME AUR MAIN is a decent watch. More for the urban youth!

The Attacks Of 2611

February 27th, 2013

The terror attacks on Mumbai on 26/11 will remain etched in our memory forever. The attacks, which were condemned globally, still send a shiver down my spine when I reminisce about it. The dastardly acts by a terrorist organization at multiple sites of the city, killing and wounding hundreds of innocent lives, evoked myriad emotions. One felt furious, powerless, empathetic, distraught and traumatized at the same time. Now relive the catastrophic attacks on the big screen… The tragic event, which led to debates, discussions and candlelight marches, gets chronicled on the big screen. Ramgopal Varma’s THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 is a cinematic interpretation of the barbaric attacks on 26/11, with the maverick film-maker unfolding the attacks on Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus, Leopold Cafe, Taj Mahal Hotel and Cama Hospital. Also incorporated in this motion picture is the arrest of Ajmal Kasab, the sole attacker who was captured alive, and his execution by hanging at Yerwada Jail in Pune last year. A 7-minute showreel of how the terrorists infiltrated into Mumbai — part of the promotional campaign of THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 — was spellbinding enough to generate incredible attention for the film. The challenge that RGV faced was to reconstruct the events, replicating the gruesome acts on celluloid. But, I wish to add, one relives the emotions while watching the horrifying events unfold on the screen — infuriation, distress, grief, helplessness. It leaves you stunned and traumatized, as if you, too, had been caught in the swirl of events that led to the inexpressible misery and carnage. Also, THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 makes you salute and respect the men in uniform, who fought the terrorists tooth and nail. That’s precisely why THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 triumphs as a feature film. RGV restricts the film to the night of the incident, recording episodes between 9 p.m. and 1 a.m., when Kasab was caught at Chowpatty. The movie grabs your attention from the inception itself, when the terrorists hijack an Indian trawler, Kuber, kill the fishermen on board and compel its head to sail towards Mumbai. Though it’s impossible to chronicle the events in 2 hours, RGV films the brutal attacks with ferocious passion, conjuring up images that seem straight out of real life. The audacious shootout in the lobby of Taj [replicated at another hotel], the slaughter and mayhem at CST, the blood and gore, each and every sequence that unfolds on screen gives you the goose bumps [this could be a deterrent for those who get put off by too much blood and gore]. Especially the sequence at the intermittent point [a wounded child watching a cop cry his lungs out]. It is chilling! It’s in the post-intermittent portions that the viewer gets to know what transpired at Cama Hospital and also gets an insight into the mind of Ajmal Kasab. The sequence when Kasab talks of his Aaka and the fight to save Islam is shocking. But it’s the sequence in the morgue — with Nana confronting Kasab and talking about jihad — which takes the graph of the film to an all-time high. It’s in these two sequences that you realize that the supremely talented storyteller is back with a vengeance. RGV makes sure he doesn’t skip a beat while narrating the vital episodes. Sure, the skeptics may argue, we have read and seen it all through various forms of communication [TV, newspapers, online], but what RGV accumulates is beyond words. This is one film where the real-life episodes take precedence, while technique takes a backseat [unlike his previous endeavors]. The gimmicky camera angles are not there this time, since RGV goes about passionately reliving the horrific tale as it is. In fact, it won’t be erroneous to state that THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 rediscovers RGV, who bounces back with renewed enthusiasm. The screenwriting [Rommel Rodrigues], the lines that the characters deliver [Rommel Rodrigues, Rashid Iqbal, Prashant Pandey], the cinematography [Harshraj Shroff, M. Ravichandran], the shootouts [Javed-Aejaz], the background score [Amar Mohile], the art direction [Udai Prakash Singh] and the edit [Sunil M. Wadhwani, Ajit M. Nair] add credence to the enterprise that attempts to portray the carnage. The impact leaves you stunned and traumatized. Nana Patekar is exceptional. Such restraint and maturity in a performance is a rarity. He is super in the sequences when he disposes before the inquiry commission and electrifying when he confronts Kasab at the morgue. Sanjeev Jaiswal [as Kasab] is so persuasive that you can’t help but hate him and his on-screen actions. The brutality that dwells in some humans comes to the fore as Jaiswal intensely enacts the sequence at the interrogation centre. Saad Orhan [as Ismail] is equally convincing. Atul Kulkarni, Asif Basra, Ravi Kale and Ganesh Yadav make cameo appearances. On the whole, THE ATTACKS OF 26/11 is akin to watching the barbaric act in rawest form. The film not only chronicles the terror attacks, but also pays homage to the sentiments of the people of India and especially the heroes and victims of 26/11. A powerful retelling of a regrettable event in history. Do not miss this one!

Zila Ghaziabad

February 22nd, 2013

Get set for trigger-happy gangs. Wild with vendetta, the guys go on a rampage — slitting throats, pumping bullets, the goons bash up rival gang members like we swat flies, fling daggers and knives, explode bombs… Truly, the men are mean, nasty and short-tempered… Welcome to ZILA GHAZIABAD, which borrows heavily from Vishal Bhardwaj’s OMKARA, Abhinav Kashyap’s DABANGG and also from the cinema of 1970s and 1980s. Nothing wrong with borrowing/seeking inspiration from the cinema of yore, or movies that have tremendous recall value, but the fact is that the premise of ZILA GHAZIABAD is thinner than wafer, with the movie constantly giving you the feeling of deja vu. The silver lining is that everything unravels at a feverish pace, with a couple of dramatic moments camouflaging the deficiencies. Also, Arshad Warsi’s wickedness makes the good versus evil fight look credible at times. ZILA GHAZIABAD is based on the war between two rival groups, led by Paresh Rawal and Ravi Kissen, respectively. Arshad Warsi crosses over from Paresh’s group to Ravi Kissen’s faction, while Vivek Oberoi is forced to take to violence and indulge in bloodshed when Arshad kills his elder brother [Chandrachur Singh].The battle lines are drawn… The administration decides to send a brawny cop, Sanjay Dutt, to put an end to the gang wars and restore peace in Ghaziabad. Director Anand Kumar plunges into action at the outset itself. Ten minutes into the film and you know what to expect. Come to think of it, you ought to have a strong stomach to absorb the violence in the narrative. What really catches your eye, despite a hackneyed script, are the episodes in the first hour. The narrative may be laced with been-there-seen-that kind of situations, yet a few dramatic moments and the speed at which everything unravels gives you no time to blink an eyelid. However, it’s in the second hour that restlessness seeps in. While Sanjay Dutt is hardly there in the first half, his character gets prominence in the post-intermittent portions. The problem with his character is that it’s a replica of Salman Khan’s role in DABANGG. He dances with the cops, has an eccentric side to him, is playful at times but spiteful when need arises, also participates in an item number [with Shriya Saran, a la ‘Munni badnaam huyee’]. Also, there’re references to his past works as an actor [KHAL-NAYAK and SAAJAN], which seems like an exercise to portray the stardom of the actor. Besides, the writer stretches things too far in the second half. Like, for instance, Vivek Oberoi walks into the cop station to meet Sanju, even though he has a reward of Rs 10 lacs on his head. Even the culmination doesn’t give you the feeling of having watched a mazedaar masala entertainer purely because, besides being conventional and foreseeable, it is stretched by at least 20 minutes. Having said that, ZILA GHAZIABAD does have a couple of high-on-energy sequences, besides hi-octane action. Also, a few clap-trap situations that the hoi polloi generally enjoys at single screens. The soundtrack is of run of the mill variety, while the cinematography captures the rustic flavor to perfection. Dialogue have an old-world charm; the one-liners are aimed at evoking claps from the aam aadmi . Although ZILA GHAZIABAD has several notable actors, the show clearly belongs to Arshad Warsi, who enacts a negative role with effortless ease. Actually, Arshad is synonymous with comic roles, so this act in ZILA GHAZIABAD comes as a [pleasant] surprise. Vivek Oberoi seems to be getting repetitive. It looks like a photocopy of the part he has essayed in his earlier gangster films. Sanjay Dutt looks out of shape and also lacks the charm that this character demands. Paresh Rawal is adequate. Ravi Kissen is loud, but it works. Charmee Kaur has a set of expressions, which she uses all through the movie. Minissha Lamba is hardly there. Divya Dutta is wasted. Ditto for top calibre actors like Zarina Wahab and Ashutosh Rana, who have nothing worthwhile to do. Eijaz Khan is strictly okay. Chandrachur Singh is just fair. Sunil Grover does very well as a vicious person. Geeta Basra and Shriya Saran lend glamour in their respective songs. On the whole, ZILA GHAZIABAD is purely for the mass belt, the single screen audience mainly.

ABCD – Any Body Can Dance

February 7th, 2013

The first time I heard the title of his new movie, I asked Remo D’Souza, can anybody [and everybody] dance? But you get the response while surfing television channels: Dance-based shows have become a prerequisite for the programming department of most channels. From kids to young couples to even senior citizens, these dance-based shows feature just about anyone and everyone with the passion for dance. There’s no ‘age limit’, frankly. Come to think of it, music and dance are an integral part of our culture and day-to-day life. We love dancing, don’t we? Dancing on the streets, during weddings, birthday celebrations, festivals… we also break into a dance when India wins a crucial cricket match against a strong opponent. Bollywood doesn’t have the tradition of making out-and-out dance-based movies, like Hollywood does with amazing regularity. At a point of time, B. Subhash did attempt a film or two starring Mithun Chakraborty [DISCO DANCER, DANCE DANCE]. Also NACHE MAYURI, featuring Sudha Chandran. But ABCD – ANY BODY CAN DANCE is the first of its kind that’s set against the backdrop of a dance competition. Does it ring a bell? Does it borrow from the STEP UP series? Perhaps, Remo may be motivated by the Hollywood film franchise, but he Indianizes it well enough, garnishing it with emotions that we can identify with and of course, choosing some of the best dancers for pivotal parts, besides casting Prabhu Dheva and Ganesh Acharya. Plus, this one’s in 3D. Of course, there are hiccups [more on that later], but the triumph of the underdog, if attempted with conviction, seldom fails. And ABCD – ANY BODY CAN DANCE does have its share of moments that work! For Vishnu [Prabhu Dheva], dance is more than a passion — it’s the reason he lives! So when he finds himself thrown out from the dance academy he himself set up by his manipulative business partner [Kay Kay Menon], it feels like the oxygen has been sucked out from the air he breathes. Heart-broken, Vishnu decides to give up dance and leave Mumbai forever. However, the night before his departure, he witnesses a most amazing sight — a group of raw talent preparing for the upcoming dance competition during the Ganeshotsav. An annual festival that pits Mumbai’s best dance groups against each other. Watching the amazing dancers helps Vishnu arrive at a decision. He decides to take this disparate group under his wing, help them overcome their personal rivalries and past demons and turn them into India’s best dance squad! Ideally, a well-known choreographer would make his directorial debut with a dance-based film, but after making a statement on the education system in F.A.L.T.U. [his first Hindi film, after attempting a Bengali film], Remo’s second Hindi outing ABCD – ANY BODY CAN DANCE revolves around dance and dancers. Naturally then, ABCD – ANY BODY CAN DANCE boasts of some spectacular dance pieces, with Remo bringing alive estimable vigor, energy and imagination on the big screen. He blends the emotional quotient with dance and music and presto! You can’t take your eyes off the screen every time a dance breaks out. ABCD – ANY BODY CAN DANCE’s biggest strength lies in the variety of dances that Remo presents to the spectators. Where the film falters is in its skeletal plotline, although writer Tushar Hiranandani comes up with several knockout sequences. But there’s no denying that the screenwriting deviates into the conventional and foreseeable zone in the second hour. The curse of the second half [most films run out of steam in the post-intermittent portions] looms large here too, as Remo resorts to clichés to carry the story forward. Besides, the film is stretched by at least 15/20 minutes. Thankfully, the narrative gathers steam once again towards the closing portions and the dance competition in the finale is simply breathtaking. The comparisons with F.A.L.T.U. would be foolhardy, since the two films belong to diverse genres, but Remo shows ample growth and confidence as a storyteller in ABCD – ANY BODY CAN DANCE. A few emotional and dramatic moments are the mainstay of the enterprise, while the sequences featuring the dancing talent are attention-grabbing as well. The real test lies in making the dancers [new talent] act. The gamble of casting dancers in pivotal parts seems to have worked, since most of them take to their parts with confidence. Sachin-Jigar create a winsome soundtrack for the film, complimenting the theme of the movie. ‘Bezuban’ is, without a shred of doubt, the pick of the lot and its choreography is breathtaking. Also, the track during the end credits, featuring greats such as Saroj Khan, Prabhu Dheva, Ganesh Acharya and of course, Remo, is another crackling number. The Ganeshotsav song in also stays with you. The choreography of each song and dance piece deserves distinction marks. It’s truly inventive and pop out from all kinds of places. The camerawork is perfect, while the 3D may seem gimmicky at times, but accentuates the impact of several scenes, especially the dance pieces. Prabhu Dheva returns to the acting arena after a hiatus. Regarded as the dance legend by many, Prabhu is, expectedly, incomparable in dances, but the good news is that he handles the dramatic scenes well too. It’s all the more significant since he’s pitted against no less than Kay Kay Menon, a tremendous talent. Kay Kay is, as always, natural to the core, essaying his part with flourish. Ganesh Acharya is a revelation. He’s efficient in a significant role. The film introduces several new talents on the big screen, but Dharmesh, Salman and Punit Pathak catch your eye the most. Lauren Gottlieb is alright. On the whole, ABCD – ANY BODY CAN DANCE has some incredible, eye-popping dances as its soul. While the template may be conventional — the triumph of the underdog — the film has its share of moments that stay with you, especially the concluding portions of the film. Decent watch!

Special 26

February 6th, 2013

Neeraj Pandey’s directorial debut A WEDNESDAY, which made a strong social statement, remains fresh to this date. It’s one of those rare movies that won critical acclaim, swept major awards and reaped box-office rewards as well. The supremely talented storyteller now carries a major responsibility on his shoulders: SPECIAL 26 has to be a worthy follow up to A WEDNESDAY. While A WEDNESDAY was about the common man, his second attempt, SPECIAL 26 is about a con man. Sorry, con men. The core issue remains the same: Law breakers and law enforcers. SPECIAL 26, however, is more of a caper, inspired by true incidents. A quick clarification before I proceed further. SPECIAL 26 is not one of those mindless masala entertainers with leave-your-brains-at-home attitude. You may assume it’s one because Akshay Kumar is synonymous with films like HOUSEFULL series, ROWDY RATHORE and KHILADI 786. SPECIAL 26, which borrows from real-life incidents, is a heist drama, has no forced humor, no South-styled stunts, no song-and-dance routine with foreign dancers in the background. SPECIAL 26 is more of a ‘treatment’ movie, a plot-driven fare. So, there! SPECIAL 26 may be a fictionalized account of events that occurred in the 1980s, but Neeraj ensures it does not transform into a dry film/documentary that focuses completely and absolutely on the incidents. The film has the soul of a thriller and the director makes sure that it not only enlightens [to the present-day viewer], but entertains as well. While the volatile plot and enthralling drama catches your attention, the execution of the written material, besides proficient performances from each and every member of the cast, makes SPECIAL 26 a game changer, a worthy follow up to the director’s A WEDNESDAY. SPECIAL 26 brings to the big screen the scandalous and outrageous incidents that occurred in the 1980s. The film narrates the story of a group of con men who orchestrated and executed a series of robberies, targeting the rich and famous, business magnets and politicians by posing as CBI or IT officers, under the pretext of confiscating unaccounted wealth [black money] from their premises. SPECIAL 26 encompasses three startling cases that sent a shiver down the spine of many a businessman in the 1980s. What makes the film tick is the manner in which Neeraj Pandey integrates these episodes in a sequence and develops a clever cat and mouse saga between law breakers and law enforcers. Like A WEDNESDAY, SPECIAL 26 also sets you thinking, but the motive this time is not to convey any message or make any social statement. The intention is crystal clear: Make an entertainer with a refreshingly different premise, which is a 360-degree transition from the customary masala fare. Yet, it’s sharp, intelligent and thoroughly enjoyable. Although SPECIAL 26 is about criminals, Neeraj shuns the unwanted bloodshed/violence and coarse language that would make the spectator uncomfortable. On the contrary, a film like SPECIAL 26 teaches you that you can attempt a thriller without resorting to the above-mentioned components, yet make a slick period thriller that’s thoroughly engaging and charming. Also, since it’s a period film [depicting the 1980s], Neeraj seems meticulous about everything that appears on screen, from vehicles to clothing to ambience to the overall look and feel. Blemishes? Yes, the romantic track is an eye-sore. Was it necessary to include romance and songs in this movie? Why, Neeraj? The first half gets diluted for this reason, although the post-intermittent portions are simply outstanding. As for the soundtrack, there’s nothing to hum about. Bobby Singh’s cinematography is top notch and captures the bygone era with flourish. Now to the performances! Akshay Kumar does a complete U-turn with SPECIAL 26. Deviating from the comic/action roles he is recognized for, Akshay truly reinvents himself with SPECIAL 26. No two opinions on that. This is, without doubt, one of the most challenging roles in his career and the seasoned actor enacts it with complete authority. Not only will Akshay’s fans adore him in this new avatar, even the skeptical types will applaud this superb act. Manoj Bajpayee has been associated with several path-breaking/cult films and one must add SPECIAL 26 to his fascinating repertoire. The skilled actor delivers yet another noteworthy performance that’ll be hard to erase from your memory. Anupam Kher is another splendid actor who has an illustrious body of work and his part and performance in SPECIAL 26 is truly special. In fact, together with Akshay, Anupam and Manoj add so much power to the written scenes and lines. Jimmy Sheirgill is first-rate, although the focus is primarily on the above-named three actors. Kajal Agarwal, who plays Akshay’s love interest in the film, doesn’t have anything substantial to do. Rajesh Sharma and Kishore Kadam lend superior support. Divya Dutta has a brief role, which she enacts well. Deepraj Rana is alright. On the whole, SPECIAL 26 is an intelligently woven, slick and smart period thriller with its subject matter as its USP. It’s sure to get listed as one of the most gripping heist dramas based on real life occurrences. A film that’s sure to win accolades, acclaim and awards. Also, box-office rewards!


February 1st, 2013

There are innumerable heartbreaking stories of children cutting off all ties with their parents in their ripe age. Ill-treating parents, enrolling them at old-age homes, avoiding them, abusing them, even torturing them during the sunset of their lives… the behavior is despicable, appalling and disgraceful. How does the modern world treat its elders? Why do kids push their parents — who need all the love, care and attention — into the dark alley? MAI… raises the disturbing issue of a distressed mother discarded by her son. A subject like this isn’t new for the Hindi screen. ZINDAGI [Sanjeev Kumar, Mala Sinha], AVTAAR [Rajesh Khanna, Shabana Azmi] and BAGHBAN [Amitabh Bachchan, Hema Malini], besides several films, have dealt with elderly parents being neglected by their children. In those films, the senior citizens were mistreated by their kids. In MAI…, the mother is reluctant to admit that her son has discarded her and is embarrassed to stay with her daughter and son-in-law. Therein lies the difference! The premise may be archaic — elderly parents being neglected/ignored/mistreated by their family — but it’s relevant even in this day and age of nuclear families and children who don’t think beyond themselves. Apparently, the subject matter [screenplay: Manoj Tapadia and Mahesh Kodiyal] demands a sensitive storyteller and director Mahesh Kodiyal executes the material with extreme sincerity and sensitivity. MAI… banks heavily on the emotional quotient, making you think about the woman who helped her son take the first steps, but the ungrateful son deserts her when she needs to take her last ones. Loaded with emotions, with heart wrenching situations, MAI… is a sincere attempt at telling an uncomplicated story with straightforwardness, with episodes that tug at your heartstrings. MAI… is about a woman [Asha Bhosle] suffering from Alzheimer, who is tossed between her four children. The only son, who she had great expectations from, isolates her the moment he lands a job in a foreign country. The two youngest daughters try to run away from the responsibility too. The eldest daughter, Madhu [Padmini Kolhapure], a woman of substance, takes a stand against the wishes of her husband [Ram Kapoor] and daughter takes the responsibility of tending for her. As time progresses, Mai’s health deteriorates. The family life of her daughter is in shambles due to the prevailing tension with her husband. However, Madhu balances her disgruntled family and work pressure, until, one day, the condition of her mother forces her to quit her job. At this stage, the relation between Mai and her son-in-law takes a miraculous turn, which changes his life forever. In this era of new-age cinema and experimental themes, MAI… may come across as an old-fashioned tale, with cliches aplenty, but some subjects can never go out of fashion. The tried and tested formula continues to work despite contrived scenes and situations, if handled with dexterity. That’s one of the prime reasons why MAI… works — the expert handling by its director. Rich in emotions, the film never deviates into unnecessary sub-plots, which explains why the focus remains on the core issue. Downers? The run time could’ve been shorter, with Kodiyal doing away with a couple of sequences and songs. Also, a few sequences don’t leave much of an impact, perhaps because they seem too predictable. Besides, one of the vital points in the screenplay — the change of heart of the son-in-law — seems abrupt and far from convincing. There had to be a strong reason, which is missing here. Cinematography deserves special mention, mainly because a major chunk of the film is shot indoors [in a home, in this case]. Dialogue are straight out of life and sound so real. Asha Bhosle, who makes her acting debut with MAI…, surprises you with a controlled, refined, truly wonderful performance. She lends a lot of credibility to her character and makes it seem so genuine. Padmini Kolhapure is supremely efficient, while Ram Kapoor handles his part with flourish. Note Ram’s outburst in an inebriated state. His contribution to several sequences is truly wonderful. Both, Padmini and Ram contribute enormously to the dramatic moments, which, frankly, would’ve fallen flat if entrusted to amateurish actors. Anupam Kher is perfect in a cameo. Naveen Kaushik, enacting the part of the son, doesn’t get much scope, while Shivani Joshi, who plays Padmini and Ram’s daughter, is alright. On the whole, MAI… is an honest attempt. It moves you on several occasions thanks to its emotional quotient, but it needs a strong word of mouth and patronage to sustain from its target audience — the families.


January 18th, 2013

The moviegoers have developed a taste for innovative, out of the box stories. Topics that were once considered taboo are being attempted on the Hindi screen. Pushing the envelope within commercial parameters is the new mantra. Known for attempting diverse stories in film after film, Sudhir Mishra takes on a hitherto untold topic for his newest venture INKAAR: Sexual harassment in a work environment. A film like INKAAR is extremely relevant, topical and relatable in today’s times. Sexual harassment is a reality and one needs to address it. We ought to discuss it — with students, with grownups, with working men and women, within and outside organizations. One has to be vigilant, on the guard against those indulging in it and getting away scot free. The ones who endure harassment are often scared to come out in the open, fearing that it may ruin their personal/professional life. INKAAR may revive memories of DISCLOSURE [Michael Douglas, Demi Moore] and also Abbas-Mustan’s AITRAAZ and Madhur Bhandarkar’s CORPORATE, but INKAAR depicts the clash of egos most differently. Beneath the sexual harassment issue that it addresses, there’s a love story that comes to the fore during the culmination of the film. However, the writing isn’t watertight this time. More on that later! At one of India’s leading ad agencies, the battle for the top job between Rahul [Arjun Rampal], a venerated advertising CEO, and Maya [Chitrangda Singh], his ambitious protégé, takes a dramatic turn when she files a sexual harassment complaint against him. It’s the job of the committee set up by the agency to hear both sides of the story and work through the layers of lies and accusations to find out who’s really telling the truth and who’s lying. The stakes are high because only one of them [Rahul or Maya] will walk away with their reputation intact. Will the committee really be able to uncover the truth? INKAAR is a tough film to make and one must compliment Sudhir Mishra for sticking his neck out. Let me add, INKAAR is not just about sex. It’s about greed, ambition and power play. Generally, in a majority of Hindi films, it’s the man who seeks sexual favors, while the woman is projected as someone who’s meek. But the woman here is shrewd and spiteful. When the two sexes collide, what the spectator gets to see is not just the issue that the film raises, but also the games the ambitious play to reach the top spot. Mishra is a sensitive storyteller. At the same time, he’s a director’s actor. Given the subject matter, INKAAR would’ve turned into a sleaze fest, a cheesy film, but the director handles the provocative moments elegantly. However, like I pointed out at the outset, the writing is gripping in parts, not in its entirety. A few episodes are engaging, but a couple of them lack the hammer-strong impact. Besides, the screenplay should’ve been exhilarating and engaging towards the resolution. Also, the track of the father [Kawaljit Singh] is a little difficult to comprehend. What was the writer trying to convey in those scenes? Dialogue are incisive, razor-sharp and acidic, depending on the situation. INKAAR succeeds in bringing out the right emotions from its actors. Arjun Rampal displays remarkable understanding of the character. Post CHAKRAVYUH, which released a few months ago, this is yet another power-packed performance that makes you realize that this supermodel has transformed into a super actor. Chitrangda immerses herself into the role brilliantly. She uses her lustiness in a wicked, dominating way and that’s what catches your eye. It’s great to see Deepti Naval after a hiatus. The film has a collage of talented actors, which includes Vipin Sharma, Mohan Kapur, Asheesh Kapur, Shivani Tanksale, Gaurav Dwivedi and Rehana Sultan [cameo] and each of them stands out in his/her respective part. On the whole, INKAAR is for spectators of serious cinema. Caters to a niche audience!

Mumbai Mirror

January 18th, 2013

DABANGG and SINGHAM started a trend of sorts. Besides reviving memories of the cinema of yore, these two films depicted the main protagonist in larger than life avatars. In a majority of masala entertainers these days, the star power supersedes the script [although DABANGG and SINGHAM had watertight scripts to compliment the stardom], with cinematic liberties galore. The protagonist breaks into a power-packed dialogue while confronting the villain, besides taking on the immoral brigade and evil forces single-handedly. MUMBAI MIRROR is cast in the same mould: A defiant cop locks horns with those in power, exposing the nexus between corrupt dance bar owners and police. Also, there’s a dash of prostitution and drug trafficking here… The guy has a toned physique, oozes masculinity, bashes up rogues like we swat flies… Like DABANGG and SINGHAM, which had Salman Khan and Ajay Devgn monopolizing almost every sequence, the focus is on the lead man of MUMBAI MIRROR, Sachiin Joshi, while the other characters [Prakash Raj, Mahesh Manjrekar, Aditya Pancholi, Prashant Narayanana, Sudesh Berry] partake in his journey. Very much like his previous film BHINDI BAAZAAR INC., director Ankush Bhatt mirrors the Mumbai underbelly, but unlike that film, the director tries to cram too many things this time. Oh yes, it’s the good versus evil saga wrapped in a new foil, with several riveting moments. But the writing could’ve been sharper… Abhijeet Patil [Sachin Joshi], a police officer, takes on an important mission involving drug dealing. But, in the process, he rubs the wrong people on the wrong sides. He messes up with a very powerful man called Shetty [Prakash Raj], who runs innumerous illegal bars and is involved in drug mafia. Abhijeet gets entangled in the drug circuit, where most of his seniors are involved and ends up getting suspended from the job. How he fights back forms the remainder of the story. MUMBAI MIRROR has a couple of plusses going in its favor: The dramatic moments between Sachin and Prakash Raj, the raw action sequences and of course, the viewpoint of the aam aadmi on issues plaguing the country today, right from corruption to spineless goons to slimy politicians to dishonest cops. Sure, these have been depicted in scores of Hindi movies before, but Ankush Bhatt succeeds in holding your attention in a number of scenes. Additionally, the feverish pace and energy add pep and vigor to the proceedings. And with Sachiin working hard on having a toned physique, the action looks plausible and credible. On the flipside, you yearn for some innovative stuff that Ankush promised in his earlier film. MUMBAI MIRROR seems like a hodgepodge of so many films put together. Nothing wrong with that, but the tried and tested stuff gets monotonous after a point. Also, the romance doesn’t work, with the mandatory song-and-dance routine looking like an aberration. The soundtrack too is plain mediocre, barring the high-on-energy track ‘Govinda’ at the commencement of the film. Action, of course, is a highpoint. Sachiin portrays the tough cop with gusto. It’s a vast improvement over his previous outing AAZAAN. He has worked hard on his physique and does the head-smashing bit [read action scenes] with flourish. Besides, the confidence that you witness in his second Hindi movie is worth lauding! Prakash Raj is getting typecast in similar roles. Mahesh Manjrekar is first-rate. Aditya Pancholi has a brief role, which he handles quite well. Prashant Narayanan excels yet again. Sudesh Berry impresses. Gihana Khan and Vimala Raman are adequate. On the whole, MUMBAI MIRROR is for those who relish masala movies. Especially for the single screen circuit.

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola

January 11th, 2013

One looks forward to a Vishal Bhardwaj film for varied reasons. For this supremely talented storyteller/music composer, stories have preceded stars, which, to be brutally honest, is a rarity in Bollywood. Though he has worked with A-list names, he’s *not* made it a compulsion or regularity. Additionally, one cannot accuse him of peddling saccharine sweet romances, brain-dead comedies or fancy family dramas to his spectators. Experimenting with varied genres, pushing the envelope vis-à-vis the subject matter of the film and often focusing on small-town stories has been his forte. Also, the soundtrack remains fresh in your memory, even after his movies make an exit from cinema halls. With MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA, Vishal goes to the Indian hinterland yet again to narrate a brand new story. This film, like some of his past works, reflects the rustic flavor of villages/small towns. The supremely talented film-maker is often accused of making ‘dark films’, but MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is an exception. Vishal tackles a serious issue, but makes sure he injects dollops of humor this time. Be forewarned, the humor is not the leave-your-brains-at-home kind of stuff that we get served in most films. It’s quirky and unconventional. MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is definitely not Vishal’s best work, though the master touch is evident in several sequences. The story barely moves in the first hour; there are stretches when the account begins to blur. Thankfully, the sequence of events and some exceptional moments in the post-intermittent portions save the film from tripping. At the same time, I wish to add that the film could’ve done with some judicious trimming for a stronger impact. It’s way too lengthy! Set in the rustic surroundings of a village in Haryana, MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is about Harry Mandola [Pankaj Kapur], a wealthy industrialist who loves his drink, his daughter Bijlee [Anushka Sharma] and the unusual bond they both share with Harry’s man Friday, Matru [Imran Khan]. Much to her father’s delight, Bijlee is all set to marry Baadal [Aarya Babbar], the son of a powerful politician Chaudhari Devi [Shabana Aami]. This alliance, which is far from just being a simple union of two young people, becomes the seed for a story that brings twists and turns in the lives of Matru, Bijlee and Mandola. One has come to expect genuinely hatke stuff from Vishal Bhardwaj and MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is no exception. Right from the casting to the setting, the plotline and the twists, even the music… you can’t draw parallels with any movie you may have watched. That’s one of the significant reasons why this motion picture thrives. But there’re shortcomings galore… The erratic writing [screenplay: Abhishek Chaubey, Vishal Bhardwaj; script consultant: Sabrina Dhawan], a few sequences are stretched for no reason, the uneven pacing distracts you from staying focused. In addition, like I pointed at the very outset, the humor is quirky and may not appeal to the hoi polloi. The Haryanvi dialect is another deterrent. The lingo remains faithful to the flavor of the region it chooses to depict, but a section of viewers will find it difficult to comprehend what the on-screen characters are expressing at times. Having said that, it’s tricky to find any slipup in Vishal’s implementation of the material. The handling of a number of sequences is exemplary, especially the dramatic ones. Also, a few lines [dialogue: Vishal Bhardwaj] are truly side-splitting, not distasteful, although a few words [‘Paincho’] may appear offensive. In fact, there are several gems in the narrative, making it difficult to pick just one and highlight here. Vishal teams up with ace wordsmith Gulzar yet again. The duo has always believed in experimentation and MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA is no exception. He amalgamates folk and western rhythms to create tunes that sound so distinct, but are ear-pleasing nonetheless. The soundtrack may not be mainstream [like ‘Dhan-Te-Nan’ or ‘Darling’], but is pleasant nonetheless, with two standout tracks — the title number and ‘Oye Boy Charlie’. Cinematography [Kartik Vijay Thyagarajan] is top notch. Each and every actor fits in delightfully in the structure of the tale. After DELHI BELLY, Imran faces the biggest challenge of his career as he attempts to portray a Haryanvi in MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA. By transforming his looks and working hard on his dialect and body language, Imran shuns the chocolate boy image with this performance. The act takes him to another level, in a different league altogether. Anushka has emerged one of the finest actresses of her generation. Her character is truly complex: She’s confident and mischievous, yet vulnerable and naïve. Her smoldering looks coupled with a nuanced performance will win her praise. Her styling too catches your eye. Pankaj Kapur enacts the flamboyant and boisterous part with gusto. The veteran goes all out for this role — singing, dancing, jumping into a pool — and it is this enthusiasm, besides a splendid performance, that merits the highest praise. Shabana Azmi is magnificent, as always. Her character changes colors constantly, an act only a powerful actress could’ve essayed with expertise, and Shabana takes to it like a fish takes to water. Aarya Babbar is a complete revelation. He gets a meatier role this time and he handles it exceedingly well. Navneet Nishan is alright. On the whole, MATRU KI BIJLEE KA MANDOLA holds your attention in parts, but that’s not enough. The first half is lackluster, while the post-intermittent part catches some steam. However, the excessive length plays a spoilsport. Below expectations!