Thursday, 22 February 2018

Saturday, 27 January 2018

Padmaavat - Not in Her Name

Director : Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Cast : Deepika Padukone, Shahid Kapoor, Ranveer Singh, Aditi Rao Hyadri, Jim Sarbh, Raza Murad.

The legend of Padmavati is widely known, at least in the north of India. The film version is inspired from the work of Malik Mohammad Jayasi called Padmaavat, an entirely fictional account of how Alauddin Khilji saw the reflection of the beautiful Rani Padmavati of Chittor, and decided to make her his own, and how the Rajputs fought the Khilji armies to stop Khilji and his evil plan, a battle to save the honour of their beautiful queen and save the Rajputana pride.

It is a Sanjay Leela Bhansali film, so here is what HE WANTS US TO SEE.

Splendour and grandeur. Everything is beautiful in every frame. The animate and the inanimate. Larger than life, lit to perfection, detailed enough for you to see the furthest flag in the frame fluttering in harmony with the background score.

The costumes and jewellery, stunning and rich. From the heavily embroidered and embellished clothes of Rani Padmavati, to the elaborate work on Rawal Ratan Singh’s ensembles, to the darkly draped layers that Khilji wears, even the palanquins are dressed to perfection as the white fabric flutters against the red of the ghaghras worn by the ladies.

Sets and effects. The lamp lit forts, the shimmering fairy tale jungles of Sinhala (Padmavati is the princess of this kingdom in SLB’s tale) the battle field with horses and elephants and giant cannon throwers draped in yards and yards of white fabric.

A love triangle. Rajkumari Padmavati glides through the forest much like the Hiran she is hunting when instead of the animal, the arrow from her bow finds its way to Ratan Singh, the Rajput King of Chittor. They fall in love, and he proposes, they marry. She becomes Rani Padmavati of Chittor.  Enter the big bad villain Alauddin Khilji, desirer of all things priceless, Nayaab! He hears of the ethereal beauty of Padmavati and decides he wants her.

The film has Deepika Padukone playing Padmavati. She definitely looks the part. Her eyes do most of the talking, and when given a chance she shines through in her lines too. Shahid Kapoor as the proud Rajput warrior king is a strange concoction of rippled body and rigid expression. The meat (pun intended) goes to Ranveer Singh, and he chews lustily into the role of Alauddin Khilji. His scenes sparkle with energy, and he ends up making even unintentionally funny situations palatable.  He creates a villain we haven’t seen in sometime. Jim Sarbh as the homosexual aide, who would kill at Khilji’s pleasure, puts in a good act. Aditi Rao Hyadri is well cast as the submissive wife to Khilji who eventually stands up for herself.

So this is a spectacle of SLB and we know he does the best spectaculars in Bollywood.


The story of Rani Padmavati, which even those who didn’t know about it, do so by now, thanks to the Karni Sena. This fictional lore may have worked in its time and age, when women had no rights or voice, their existence defined by males, had no freedom to even form an opinion. But hell, this is 2018 and a filmmaker chooses to tell a tale in all its splendour, trying very hard to distract us with stunning visuals and ghoomar and ghaghras, from the statement the film eventually makes.

A woman as something to be possessed. A man is allowed to have multiple wives. Pride and honour are only found in a certain religion. A certain religion is full of evil monsters who chomp on meat and lust after women. Gays are to be made fun of and ridiculed.

Bhansali has chosen the top heroine only to relegate her the titular role of a woman weighed down by jewels and jauhar. You see sparks of a smart woman, but eventually it is a woman who needs her husband’s permission to end her life. This story may justify the need to save their “Honour” i.e be taken captive by the muslim ruler and his barbaric force, but don’t forget, Sati in certain parts of the country, was for every woman who became a widow, as if life stops to exist for them also the moment their husband breathes their last.

In the current scenario, the choice of the subject is questionable when we all know where it ends. Now what one was waiting for was what will be the stance SLB will take. There are films made every year about the Nazi Regime, the World War, Rape, Human Trafficking, Drugs, Cartels. And here lies the difference. They are made with a clear motive of NOT glorifying the sordid past or the abominable acts, or the illegal, criminal practices. They are a lesson in what we do NOT need to repeat from history, or applaud in the present. I was hoping for a positive, subversive spin on this tale.

If in Ramleela and Bajirao Mastani, his leanings were veiled, here they out in the open, thumping the message home.

He takes a stand and makes the most regressive magnum opus I have ever seen. A film that has consumed crores to present us with misogyny and bigotry in the times we live in. Times when the politics of the country is so skewed, women are being subjected to rampant rapes and mutilation, the caste divide is widening and crimes are being committed in the name of religion, where your dietary preferences can get you your personal lynch mob… where the LGBT community is treated the worst for the film that takes umpteen digs at gays… I question the existence of the film, the way it is.

It is all presented in such an easy to consume style, gorgeously mounted, with superb acting by Ranveer, Deepika looking mesmerising, her face air brushed to bring peaches and creams to her skin, well… She had to be that beautiful I guess for two rulers to throw logic aside. There are twists and turns, betrayals and deceit, dances and dalliances… That one can almost, almost forget what is being served.

As the climax approached… the dread took over. It began as a sermon on what it means to be a Rajput, as if the film had already not drilled it in our heads with “ye Rajput wo Rajput” and then what it means to be the pristine Rajput woman. As Padmavati prepares herself with all the other women to jump into the burning pyre I was squirming in my seat.

Let’s face it, the climax is not a surprise. Everyone knows where the film is headed, but without actually seeing it, I didn’t know whether Jauhar will be glorified, or shown as something from the regressive past of this country, something that should be regretted today, shunned and shamed.
But no, Padmaavat glorifies it to the skies. It is the best shot sequence, from framing to choreography to sound design and costumes. And as the film maker chooses to show a pregnant woman and a girl child walk towards the fire… my fists clenched in anger. Is this the price we continue to pay for being women?

Friday, 4 August 2017

My Review Jab Harry Met Sejal | Ye Ishq haaye...

Director : Imtiaz Ali
Starring : Shah Rukh Khan, Anushka Sharma

I love journeys. I am a diehard romantic. I am a believer in magic. I am a sucker for happy endings. I can swallow implausibility when you make me feel for the characters on screen. That is why Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayeinge remains one of my all time favorites.

One hero who has made looking passionately into a woman’s eyes, till her ovaries explode, his superpower. Shahrukh Khan. A director who has won me over with his understanding of the free spirit, of love that comes to lie down with the strangest bedfellows… who puts a sufi touch to his tales, of characters travelling inside and out, their paths revealing their own internal crossroads and potholes… So on paper, JHMS had a lot going for it.

The story is of a Gujrati girl Sejal Zaveri, losing her engagement ring on a Euro trip, who decides to stay back and find it, but finds love and longing in Harry, the Punjabi Euro guide.

So, instead of a missed train in DDLJ, which I found contrived then, seems way more convincing than how this plays out in the film.

Love hath no logic, sure, but then you need passion, chemistry, a quickening of the heart… nothing happens sadly … barring one moment in a chase sequence, when Harry is hit by his feelings for Sejal. 

Anushka as a lost, confused Gujju gal didn’t convince me, specially with the jarringly off and forced accent. Shahrukh's attempts at being a jaded, foul mouthed Punjabi work only in bits and pieces. JHMS is lackluster and only so much SRK love can sustain you through this poorly scripted film.

The biggest problem is the characterization or the lack of it.

The Casanova meets the ditzy virgin, super premise, but for me to be invested in their fate and frolics, I needed more, and apart from a chuckle here and a smile there, I wasn’t moved by their travels or travails.

The ramblings of Sejal about how Harry doesn’t find her hot, Harry’s phulkari flashbacks, their frantic hops from one beautiful location to another, felt as pointless as a quickly put together budget Euro Darshan where you never enjoy a single destination…

I kept waiting that  Harry and Sejal will have that one big moment, where it will all come together, I would let out a sigh, feel a tear form in the corner of my eye, my heart bursting with emotions, wanting life to work out in the favor of the star crossed lovers... even as the "palat" moment played... it didn't happen. 

I have always enjoyed an Imtiaz Ali film. Geet to me is iconic, the dialogues of JWM were a breath of fresh air, setting a trend which many tried to follow. Highway moved me with its rawness, Tamasha with its madness and dark detours inside Ved's heart and mind left me wanting more... JHMS leaves so much to be desired, specially in the second half.  

On the plus side is the music, Safar, Hawaayen and the Nooran sisters powerful Jee Ve Soneya are my favourites. Ali gets Kamil and Pritam to give a stellar soundtrack. I wish the same could be said of the film.

This one is for the die hard SRKians (isn't that what the fans are calling themselves these days!)

My Verdict 2/5

Thursday, 26 January 2017

That 70's Show. My Review. Raees

Starring : Shahrukh Khan, Nawazuddin Siddiqui, Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, Mahira Khan, Atul Kulkarni

Director : Rahul Dholakia

From Gaurav (Fan) to Dr. Jehangir Khan (Dear Zindagi) to Raees Alam, let’s say SRK is having a good streak compared to the highly forgettable Happy New Year and banal Dilwale. Playing three absolutely distinct characters with aplomb, one would like to believe as he keeps quoting “some films for mann (heart) and some for Dhan (Money)” he would do more for mann. Raees is of course an attempt to marry mann and dhan.

Rahul Dholakia who directed the national award winning gut-wrencher Parzania among others, and SRK coming together for a film was interesting news to say the least. The subject was Dholakia’s turf, Gujarat in the times of upheaval, add to it the era of bootleggers and underworld, smuggling and scotch, and though he claims it is not, the life and times of Abdul Lateef.

But as the trailers started hitting the screens one could see less of Dholakia and more of masala. The Gujarat prohibition backdrop, a larger than life anti-hero with a heart of gold, an incorruptible cop whose sole mission is to destroy the protagonist, a web of politician-crime nexus… Well, Raees has all the trappings of Salim-Javedesque 70’s blockbusters. There is even a doff to their Amitabh Bachchan starrer Kaala Patthar as it plays in the background of a crucial scene.  But Raees also gets trapped in its own vehicle carrying a superstar.

Where Raees scores :

Shahrukh makes a great good hearted bad guy. He brings in his classic charm and charisma to the film, even as he guns his enemies down. Shahrukh gets his goods together, shining in many moments. His Raees is made believable by his getting comfortable and settled in the character, and he is clearly enjoying going all out with many hard core action sequences. He pulls off the romance alongside the unflinching killer when required with same conviction. He is endearing when cooking for his wife, flying a kite and is menacing when he decides to take revenge. His and Nawaz’s chemistry crackles.

Nawazuddin Siddiqui. He is brilliant in the film. He gives his Inspector/SP Majmudar teeth and tongue in cheek deliveries. A delight to watch a properly fleshed character in a superstar film, that too of a cop, which are mostly seen mouthing same old lines. I loved him in Raees. Every scene that has Nawaz in it, is made better by his nuances. The writers have made him quirky and even when there are no dialogues, Nawaz gets in a “see what I did there” moment.

Supporting cast : The film has a very good cast all around, from small blink and miss roles to meatier ones, Raees gets it right mostly. I have two grudges, but that is for later.  

Dialogues are another high point of the film, especially the repartee between Nawaz and Shahrukh. From the already popular “Baniye ka Dimaag, Miyaan bhai kee daring” to “ Bete ka baap bana hai, Gujarat ka nahi”, there is good old fashioned dialoguebaazi, and unlike some other underworld based franchises actually pack a punch and not make you laugh at their absurdity.

Action : The film has some well choreographed action sequences, and I don’t remember the last time I saw Shahrukh do that.

Rahul Dholakia’s understanding of Gujarat, his research on that era, the character, the detailing add to Raees. The first half is excellent.

Where Raees fails :

The stretched second half. The film loses steam, too many songs slow the proceedings.
Predictability. Like many anti-hero films in Hindi cinema, one can predict how the film is going to unravel and end. Some of the portions in the second half seem forced and further bring down the story telling.

The self-censoring of the controversial layers. I was expecting Dholakia to be braver, but alas, the riots, the blasts, all were treated in a hurried, shoddy manner, without ever scratching the surface. The film obviously wanted to stay as far away from controversy as possible.

Mahira Khan : She doesn’t add anything to the film, neither is her character given it’s due nor has she made it stand out, despite a few scenes where a better actress would have made an impression. Another casting fail for me was if you have a fabulous performer like Mohd. Zeeshan Ayyub, don’t waste him so mercilessly.

Music. With so many songs, appearing at whim at the most unrequired places, cutting into the film’s pace, it would have helped if they were better compositions. Even Laila fails to impress, and sadly same goes for La Leone.

Raees could have been a hard hitting commentary on the times it is set in, but it chooses to be more of a commercial carrier. Nothing bad in that, only it sometimes pretends to be what it is clearly not.

Having said that, I enjoyed most of it. Shahrukh and Nawaz, both made it worth the ticket price.

I would say watch it.  

My verdict : 2.5/5

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

What is love? | My Review | Ae Dil Hai Mushkil

Director : Karan Johar

Starring : Ranbir Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Aishwarya Rai, Fawad Khan

This Review contains spoilers.

रंजिश ही सही दिल ही दुखाने के लिए
फिर से मुझे छोड़ के जाने के लिये

This Ahmad Faraz ghazal is one of my favorites… it speaks of unrequited love, love that is forgiving, angry, pleading, crying, aggressive, submissive… all at the same time… hopeless while waiting with hope… unfulfilled love is the most haunting…

Karan Johar weaves a tale of love, but unlike his other love stories, this one feels the most real… So a big fresh surprise from him, and one that I like.

Ayan (Ranbir Kapoor) is a poor little rich boy, who can summon a private jet, but has deep abandonment issues with his mom having left him when he was two, Alizeh (Anushka Sharma) is sassy, confident and seems sorted, but as you get to know her, she has a scarred heart too, one that yearns for pain, pain that loving someone who destroys you brings… The two meet in a night-club and instantly hit it off… The first half deals with their growing friendship…. Till the point Ayan has fallen totally and completely in love with her… But she loves Ali (Fawad Khan). Of course she loves the one who hurt her…. And despite Ayan’s pleas, she drops everything and follows her heart… because, Dil toh paagal hai… a heart wants what it wants.

We have seen love triangles aplenty, Kjo himself has made them relevant again for the genX, but here he breaks his own mould. Ek tarafa pyaar gets a punch I had seen before in Raanjhanaa. But unlike Raanjhanaa, Ayan and Alizehh are best friends first. One can even think of Anjali and Rahul in a newer, hipper avatar as far as camaraderie goes, but if KKHH talks of friendship being love… our hero here puts a new spin to it. To him, as he spouts many of the Bollywood quotable dialogues… Ladka Ladki kabhi dost nahi ho sakte.

But infusing freshness in to love aaj kal as we know it, the girl just doesn’t love her best friend. She is not Anjali after all.

One of  biggest achievement of this film is Karan Johar’s. He has taken a risk, no holds barred and retold a love story which though has all his trademarks, yet is nothing like he has done before. His Ayan is under-confident, a hero who is told in the first few minutes after meeting the heroine that he is a bad kisser… he cries rolling on the pavement after finding his girlfriend twining tongues with Alizeh’s boyfriend… And she is hero-like offering shelter and shoulder to him… In a way similar to Rockstar, Alizeh tells Ayan, who is an aspiring singer hating his MBA course… that a voice void of real pain is never going to touch anyone… the day his heart really suffers being crushed in pieces… will his voice come alive…

Predictably enough his heart is shattered by Alizeh’s marriage to DJ Ali… but his dard is not enough to get the girl… For Alizeh, her love is not her best friend… First left by his mother and now by the girl who owns his heart… Ayan lashes out, angry, petulant, entitled, and finally the futility hits him as he leaves Alizeh.

Rejection is an emotion hardest to accept… dare I say, specially by men… The fact that a girl can spurn them, as if the only reason for a girl to love them back is because they have professed their feelings is tough for them to handle. As if heart-break trumps all claims of the girl that she doesn’t love them… Ayan can not fathom Alizeh’s rejection, how can she not love him? HOW?
But he is no acid-thrower, home destroyer… the hero walks away and out of her life. But not before (one of my favorite scenes in the film) cursing Ali and her, wishing a painful death upon them, his pain at being turned down lashing out sharp and hard.

So with a broken heart, as his voice finds power, he finds an alluring, older woman, a Shairaa (Poetess) Saba (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan)… Our bad kisser has come a long way as he shares passionate embraces, lingering love-making… and another triangle is born… Love and longing keeps making connections and separations… as we are introduced to her ex husband (Shahrukh) who still loves her…and it all seems unfair…. But then who said love is a safe bet, when actually in love all bets are off. The ek tarafa pyaar seems to be an ailment all are suffering from in ADHM…

Ranbir has unlearned everything as if taking his clothes off and bares himself like you have not seen before. Right in the opening minutes of the film, he sits quietly, letting his eyes, his quivering lips, his vulnerable demeanour do the talking and clutches your heartstrings… and the last few seconds… is where he strums them like an expert player… I can watch this film again just to see his Ayan. Yes we have seen this turn in Rockstar but you would see the difference, a honing and going even deeper in ADMH. The boy seems to have grown up…

Anushka Sharma, assured like never before, lives Alizeh vibrantly. She is a perfect foil to Ayan. Together with Ranbir, she brings every scene to life, making you forget it is a make-believe world, because they actually make you believe everything that goes on. This performance is pitch perfect.

Aishwarya is stunning, and shares a smouldering chemistry with Ranbir. Their scenes together crackle, even though she doesn’t impress me as the Shaira, her urdu, heavy “dialogues” not ringing true. But does she wow, oh yes!! More please, thank you.

Fawad Khan is there for a minuscule portion, wonder if his role was chopped off thanks to all the controversy. But he of course looks delicious! 

Lisa Haydon is adorable as the ditzy, cotton candy for a brain girlfriend of Ayan. She has made the most of the cameo. 

Oh and SRK!! In just a one scene special appearance he has made me go all weak kneed and ogly eyed. Still has it, my Shahrukh. 


So problem kidhar hai? You must be wondering… This film is let down by the weird and banal twist in the second half, where a stage four cancer stricken Alizeh barring the shaved head, looks as fresh as a Daisy. This twist takes the film plunging down with it, as if to remove a person from the equation, permanently is the only solution. this spells sudden death for a movie that was extremely engaging thus far. What is even more banal than the twist, is the treatment of it all, the glamorization, the Kjofication left me disappointed.

Go watch it, because despite the problems, this film is definitely worth a watch, and offers a lot to love.

My Verdict : 3/5