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Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Review: The Namesake

The Namesake (drama)
Cast: Tabu, Irrfan Khan, Kal Penn
Direction: Mira Nair
The Indian diaspora finally finds its voice: elegant, articulate and ekdum real. Here, there is no hysterical clash-of-culture cacophony about how the Patels, Gangulis and the Punjabis leave India, only to create Little India’s all over the world.
And here there is no hullabaloo about the Angrezi-born-confused-desi dilemmas that the second generation NRI kids succumb to: an overdose of drugs, sex and the dark side of the moon. Instead, there is a gentle probing, a mild introspection on cross cultural conflicts coupled with a quiet celebration of the idea of India, minus all chauvinism.
If Monsoon Wedding was a wild and rumbustious festival of India (read Punjabi culture), then The Namesake is a Haiku about Hindustan: minimalist, magical and intensely moving. Mira Nair takes Jhumpa Lahiri's novel and transforms it into visual poetics, using her colour palette to create a riveting kaleidoscope of contrasts.
If New York is captured in its winter whites, greys and pastel interiors — with just an occasional shot of autumnal fire — then the 1970s Calcutta is virtually a riot of colour and chaos. The grandmother shopping for fresh vegetables at her doorstep, the grandfather creating canvases of Howrah and the Hooghly, the shabby trams rattling down the decrepit tracks and the folk singer finding a resonance in foreign souls...the camera simply seduces the scenery into syrupy frames. But more than the cinematography, it is the soundtrack — long tracks of silence and solitary dialogues — that brings out the loneliness of the protagonists as they try to find new ground beneath their feet.
The film captures the journey of two generations of the Ganguli family in America. Ashima and Ashok (Tabu and Irrfan) leave for foreign shores after their arranged marriage and try and build a home and a family in a culture that both lures and scares them. They need to discover each other and the new country too.
But the passage is almost lyrical and the hiccups are mild as the good Bengali couple soon find an extended family of Bengalis who join them on births, christenings and birthdays. The story soon shifts to the second generation — their son Gogol and daughter Sonia — who ostensibly are thoroughbred Americans. Except that Gogol can’t understand why he had to be given such a strange name.
They go through their regular round of Americanisms, only to find out that there’s a long journey of self-discovery still beckoning them. India is an idea that lives in the heart and the mind, rather than a land-locked territory; and India is a style of upbringing and attitude that transcends territory.
Great performances, an iridescent canvas and a topical theme: The Namesake is Mira Nair's tribute to her janmabhoomi.


Review: Namastey London

Namastey London (romance)
Cast: Akshay Kumar, Katrina Kaif
Direction: Vipul Shah
We saw it in Humko Deewana Kar Gaye. And we see it in Namastey London too. Yes, there's a certain chemistry between Akshay Kumar and Katrina Kaif which lends their onscreen romance a redolence which makes even an ordinary romantic film above average.
Maybe, it's their traditional image of Akshay as the retrosexual male (read Punjabi munda) and Katrina as the Xtreme Feminine which strikes a crackling contrast and imbues the wooing game with fireworks.
Whatever! But they look good together and give you a paisa vasool pyar-mohabbat story. Especially here, where brawny Akshay plays the perfect 'Jat yamla pagla deewana' to brattish Jasmeet, all the way from the backwaters of Punjab to good ole Blighty.
Vipul Shah's celebration of this sarson ka saag versus sauce and finger chips potpourri is essentially a fun film which pitches the Purab Paschim metaphor in muted tones. Troubled by his daughter's wild and videshi ways, dad Rishi Kapoor bundles her off from London to Punjab to find a suitable desi boy for her. And before she can register her protest, he gets her married off to the perfect Punjabi boy who, like all perfect Punjabi boys, drinks milk straight from the udder.
But our gal's quite a shrew and has an ace up her sleeve. She promises her bhola-bhala groom a suhaag raat only in London and brings him to foreign shores to declare he's the persona non grata in her life.
She's going to wed the gora who woos her with vintage wine on a yatch. So what does our never-say-die Indian do? Gives all the goras a tutorial on India and makes everyone realise:
East or West, Bharat is best! Pulp patriotism, popcorn romance, adept performances (specially by Rishi Kapoor), pulsating music (Javed Akhtar-Himesh Reshammiya) and a refreshing lead pair (Akshay-Katrina in great form): Namastey London is a safe bet, despite the World Cup fervour.


Sunday, March 18, 2007

Review: Just Married

Just Married (drama) **
Cast: Fardeen Khan, Esha Deol, Satish Shah, Kirron Kher
Direction: Meghna Gulzar S
tatic on the screen: that's Just Married for you. The film ostensibly traces five days in the life and times of a bunch of honeymooners and happily-together golden oldies, live-ins and the likes. But those five days seem interminable since the film has no pace, the plot has no movement and the drama is non-existent. What holds is the premise alone. How do two people break the ice in an arranged marriage and literally bare themselves before strangers? The possibilities are immense, but all we end up here is 'how does Esha Deol get into bed and have sex with her newly wed hubbie...' Oh come on! The girl simply drives you nuts with her grunts and moans as she tries to think of some excuse every night, while husband Fardeen tries his best to break the ice, bide his time and play the decent bloke in their honeymoon suite. He even separates the two beds, when he sees his missus slip on to the sofa in the middle of the night. But the crisp white cotton nun's nightie gets closer to the bride's body and the delicious blue negligee just withers away in the closet. The rest of the couples have their problems too, but none of them seem as banal as our priggish little miss' problem. You almost feel sorry for Fardeen as he plays the perfect — and patient — gentleman, time and again. As for chemistry, ironically, it's the golden oldies — Satish Shah and Kirron Kher — who display the most crackling camaraderie, despite the presence of a bunch of babalog...can't remember most of them in their forgettable cameos.


Review: Hattrick

Hattrick (drama) **1/2
Cast: Paresh Rawal, Rimi Sen, Kunal Kapoor, Nana Patekar, Danny Dengzongpa
Direction: Milan Luthria
The first cricket movie to cash in on the World Cup fever and this one is a No Ball or simply an overthrow that misses the wicket by quite a distance.
Firstly, what's cricket doing in it, other than being a silly point (read reference point) in two of the story tracks. In the first, it becomes almost the cause of a marriage break-up and in the second, it becomes the rallying point in a cut-and-dried hospital run by a khadoos doctor.
In the third story, it's so very iffy — a weapon of reverse racism — that you might as well just let it be.
And secondly, what should have been a sweet little comedy ends up being a series of episodes that completely sidetrack the laughter track. Sad, because Milan Luthria is actually a director who prefers to tell a different story.
But all's not awry with this Hattrick which does manage to score a few brownie points in the performance department. All the lead characters are breezy and lovable. If Kunal Kapoor is the effervescent cricket-obsessed husband who becomes a cricket basher when he discovers his wife has a crush on Dhoni, then wife Rimi is both oomphy and dishy as the newly-wed who fantasises about Dhoni in bed.
Danny makes a delightful comeback as the ex-cricketer staring death in its face with the strength of his cricket fervour and Nana is Nana: acerbic, unsmiling and yet, intensely humane. As for Paresh Rawal as the desi trapped in racist London, the Gujju act has become kid's play for him by now. A bit more of fun and games (cricket, of course) and the film might just have been that googly at the cash-starved box office.


Saturday, March 17, 2007

Ash- Sanju Win Stardust Awards

Aishwarya Rai won the best actress award for her role in Sanjay Gadhvi’s ‘ Dhoom-2’ while Sanjay Dutt won the best actor award for his Munnabhai act in ‘ Lage Raho Munna Bhai’ at the Stardust Awards 2007 function held at M M R D A Ground, Bandra- Kurla Complex. In a rare sight, Big B presented the best actress award to Aishwarya Rai, his to be daughter-in-law. He also accepted the award on behalf of his son Abhishek Bachchan, who won the best supporting actor award for ‘ Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna.’ ‘ Omkara’ bagged the awards for the ‘ hottest new film’ as well as for the best actor in a villainous role for Saif Ali Khan. The director of the film Vishal Bhardwaj and Kareena were awarded with critic’s choice award. Mithun Chakravorthy was honored with the lifetime achievement award at the function.

The function was compered by Kunal Kohli and Amrita Arora, while Kareena Kapoor, Kangana Ranaut, Lara Dutta and Emraan Hashmi performed live on the occasion. Saif Ali Khan could not perform on the occasion as he had a chest pain during the rehearsals and was admitted in Leelavati hospital. He is out of danger now and will be discharged in two days.


Sunday, March 11, 2007

Review:Sarhad Paar

Sarhad Paar (drama)
Cast: Sanjay Dutt, Tabu, Mahima Chaudhary
Direction: Raman Kumar
The best thing about the film is its politics. For the first time, perhaps, a Hindi film actually mirrors the changing political sentiment between India and Pakistan and talks of a dosti between the two countries.
One where both try to battle the bad guys together, without blaming each other. And the bad guys? Osama-like terrorists, who according to the protagonists have neither religion nor country. Shabash ! Nice to see a coming-of-age in desh-bhakt Bollywood cinema.
Now if that maturity had been reflected in the structure of the film too, Sarhad Paar might have been landmark cinema. But there's a strange mothballed feel to the film, even though it boasts of two fine actors like Tabu and Sanjay Dutt playing the Bharatiya Braveheart couple.
Sanjay Dutt, the friendly sardar Kaptaan crosses the border one night, chasing the terrorists. Another friendly soul, a Pak army guy, sends him back to India in a nice Indo-Pak dosti gesture. The only hitch here is that our brave soldier has suffered a memory loss and can't remember his encounter with the terrorist (Rahul Dev).
Until the terrorist strikes again... Now that desh-bhakti has taken on a new dimension, post- Rang De Basanti , these border-war films don't actually hold attention anymore. Time to tackle the rot within, rather than bother about the threat from outside...Thus spake the Masti Ki Patshala boys!


Review: Water

Water (drama)
Cast: Lisa Ray, Seema Biswas, John Abraham
Direction: Deepa Mehta
It took almost a year to get here, but fortunately, it is here. Yes, Water does always manage to find its own level and flow, despite the impediments piled in its way. And yes, it was a worthy send to the Oscars, although apna Bollywood filmmakers had been murmuring about its purana story and its outdated feel.
Set against the 1940s, Water is by-now the familiar plea for widow re-marriage, albeit told in a style that's the polar opposite of Baabul . It's completely low key, restrained, almost elegant in grief and pathos.
You have no widows wailing at indignities heaped upon them by the patriarchal scriptures. On the contrary, they go about their state of nothingness with a silence and a dignity that seems to ring straight from their spartan souls.
Only the five-year-old widow is allowed to loose her cool and stomp around in childish anger at the monstrosity of the situation. Specially when the injustices are heaped on her friend Kalyani (Lisa Ray). It's a heart-rending performance by the Sri Lankan cherub who sails paper boats in a swollen river with the same felicity with which she bears the burden of her unnatural status where she is denied even a laddoo or a jalebi.
Of course, we aren't talking about the seamier side of widow ashram abuse as yet. The two performances that stand out are the child widow Chuhiya's and her self-appointed guardian Seema Biswas who moves from blind resignation to seething rebellion, laying aside years of religious indoctrination.
Both Lisa and John are a shade too plastic as the clandestine lovers who dream of breaking traditional taboos as Gandhism sweeps the land. Watch it, it's a worthy follow-up of Fire .


Review: Red

Red (thriller)
Cast: Celina Jaitley, Aftab Shivdasani
Direction: Vikram Bhatt
Why Red? Why not Grey? Specially since most of the film has been shot in a ghostly gloom, with a weeping-wailing Celina Jaitley permanently caught in silhouette. Vikram Bhatt returns to his bleak underbelly of the human psyche where murder becomes the moot point of romance; and love becomes a cat and mouse game. Aftab is a heart patient who gets a timely heart transplant and is all set to pick up the strings of his life again. Only, he unfortunately decides to find out the name of his donor and ends up playing peeping tom to the comely widow (Celina) of the man who gave him a new lease of life. Mysterious widow. Mysterious circumstances of death. Mysterious intruders. Mysterious diaries. And mysterious demands of lust, love and passion. It's neither edge-of-the-seat, nor intense and dark. Just bleak. Watch it if you want to see Celina non-perform and Aftab video-walk to Himesh Reshamiya's faltu tunes.


Mallika Unveiled

Mallika Sherawat, the sexy siren of bollywood, has managed to beat the likes of Aiswarya Rai and Shilpa Shetty to bag the coveted role of a Muslim women in ‘ Unveiled’, a mainstream Hollywood film being made by Bill Bannerman. Bill Bannerman, who has been associated with the Hollywood stalwart Clint Eastwood for many years, was on the lookout for an actress for his upcoming film which has a Middle East centric theme. He has finalized Mallika after considering several actresses from several countries and continents. Even Penelope Cruz and Hillary Swank were in the race but somehow Mallika floored the director in bagging the role.
This film will see Mallika for the first time in a performance oriented role of a Muslim woman, who has two husbands and a lover. As Bannerman describes, ‘ Behind the dark burkha , there lies a sexy, manipulative victim, whose life is in grave danger. But she is very dangerous too.’ Congrats Mallika, finally you have got an opportunity to prove that you do not have only a hot body but acting ability too!



Saturday, March 10, 2007

I don’t understand new age cinema says actor Katrina Kaif

Katrina Kaif is looking forward to greater acceptance after her next release ‘Namastey London’
Shy and reticent, Katrina Kaif has a phobia of the media just like her boyfriend Salman Khan. She clearly has been instructed to give to-the-point answers. But her vulnerability manages to peek out once in a while even when she is doling out short, clipped and what suspiciously seemed like rehearsed answers. Ask her a remotely awkward question and she goes back into her shell, like a true Cancerian.
To get her out of it, one needs to broach the topic of her next release, ‘Namastey London’ where she co-stars with Akshay Kumar, which she is most excited about at the moment.
Playing a role close to her own life of a girl who struggles to settle down in India after being brought up in a totally different culture in London, Katrina says, “I could identify quite a bit with the role. But the girl’s character is not like mine at all. The situations might be similar but I might have not reacted the way the girl in the film does.” Katrina is hoping to be taken more seriously as an actor after this film.
She says, “This film is very important to my career in the sense that the role is etched out so well and I have had a great scope to perform. I hope to be accepted better after this film.”
Tell her she is looking lovely in the promos and she doesn’t look too happy. She says, “I just hope people also see something beyond that. There is something much deeper than what you just see in the promos,” with eyes downcast, as if saddened by the fact that not many know the real Katrina.
She says she loves being a part of the industry — because ‘if you are honest, you are readily accepted.’ But there is something about the industry which irks her too. “I can do without people forming opinions and jumping to conclusions without really knowing me.”
Ask her what kind of films she is really interested in, she says, “I don’t understand new age cinema. All I know is good cinema and bad cinema, and I obviously want to be part of good cinema, small or big,” she says finally flashing a smile. Since she is new to the industry, does she take boyfriend Salman’s help in choosing a film? Kat hastily retreats back into her shell and says, “No, I do that on my own.”



Tuesday, March 6, 2007

‘Movie making is not my primary job’

While one may agree that there’s a significant growth in the cinematic sensibilities of today’s audience, one can still find many cinematic works struggling to find distributors. One such movie is Telugu classic, ‘Vanaja’. Having travelled almost half the world via film festivals like Toronto, Houston, Cairo, Durban, Goa and winning the Best Debutant Feature award at the 57 th Berlin International Film Festival, the movie is set to be screened at this years MAMI International Film Festival in Mumbai. Set in the coastal Andhra Pradesh, it revolves around 14-year-old Vanaja and her spirit of survival. “Besides dealing with the central character, the movie talks of many issues like the changes in the social structure, effects of television and many more. Also, the film lays a lot of importance on the Kuchipudi dance form,” says Rajnesh Domalpalli, director of ‘Vanaja’. In spite of receiving tremendous critic appraisal, the movie finds it difficult to find its way into cinema theatres.“Though the movie has been screened in many film festivals in North America and is also slated to hit theatres around mid-summer, the scenario is far different when it comes to India. When we spoke to a couple of distributors back in Hyderabad, the movie was immediately turned down as it wasn’t seen to be commercially viable,” explains Rajnesh. And while the movie struggles for recognition, Rajnesh has made up his mind to keep himself far away from the mainstream cinema. “Movie making is not my primary job. So, the few movies that I make in my life should satisfy myself rather than living up to someone else’s expectations,” says Rajnesh.



Monday, March 5, 2007

What is it about older men that women find so irresistable?

Ram Gopal Varma, whose proficiency lies with guns, has opted for roses this time in his Amitabh Bachchan-Jiah Khan starrer ‘Nishabd’. Only love here takes an unconventional idiom-that between a teen and a 60 plus. Soon, Bachchan will be seen romancing a much-younger Tabu in Balkrishnan’s 'Cheeni Kam' too.
That some women gush over greying sideburns is not an unfamiliar propensity. While Mallika Sherawat hounds the male fantasy, the siren has been vocal in her fascination for the older boys, be it mentor Mahesh Bhatt or Bachchan. Honey’ed feelings
Yash Chopra’s ‘Lamhe’ (‘90s), which had an unyielding Anil Kapoor finally succumb to the puerile charms of Sridevi, left a quiver in even the most stoic viewer. The film’s storywriter Honey Irani traces the genesis of this fascination. “Every girl, whilst growing up, has a crush on an older man. I too had one,” she explains. Honey reveals further, “I don’t think a girl looks for a father in him. In the way she looks at him, touches him and in her body language, she’s aware of her sexuality.” Such an equation makes a man feel desirable too says Honey, adding, “He gets his heaven on earth!”
Clinical psychologist Varkha Chulani analyses the imperceptible needs in the May-December alliance, saying, “An older man would already have gained success and status. So it makes life simpler for a woman as there’s no financial partnership to share.” Varkha adds, “Sometimes a woman validates her feelings of self-worth by associating with a mature man, as she feels inadequate to compete with women her age.” Inadvertently, for the older man, “a young chick on his arm is a sexual trophy to flaunt,” says Varkha.
Age no bar
What writer Farzana Contractor seems to have shared with her late husband, renowned writer Behram Contractor, decades her senior, endorses that love follows no diktat. “Age is irrelevant. We were two human beings tuned into a relationship that was not oppressive. We worked together, from the first day of our marriage. He had a joie de vivre that kept him younger than me. He guides me by remote. I still connect with him.”
Love mantra
Actor Kay Kay Menon sums up this amorphous emotion saying, “You can never analyse love. Just as there’s no formula for a hit film, there’s none for love.”



Saturday, March 3, 2007

Review Nehlle Pe Dehlla

Cast : Saif Ali Khan, Sanjay Dutt, Bipasha Basu, Kim Sharma
Direction : Ajay Chandok
Oops! They’d be mighty ashamed of this one, both Saif and Sanjay. Specially after having changed their brand equity with Parineeta, Omkara, Eklavya and the Munnabhai Inc.
It’s the most banal comedy to roll out of the cans of Bollywood. One where you don’t laugh even once and actually feel quite embarrassed for Saif ‘n’ Sunju.
Most of the time, these two con guys are asked to interact with a corpse (Shakti Kapoor) who has stashed a few crores in Mauritius.
Of course, he’s stolen them from the hottie hotelier (Bipasha Basu) who dreams of setting up a five star with friend Kim. The two girls end up playing perfect bimbettes to the heroes who try hard to crack some comedy.
But there are no wisecracks to play up and no sitcom to unleash. End result? The film’s a house of cards that comes down even before it can be set up.


Review Nishabd

Cast : Amitabh Bachchan, Jiah Khan
Direction : Ram Gopal Verma
Nishabd meaning wordless. And that’s what this quixotic relationship remains through most of the film. Notwithstanding the fact that this was a relationship that was crying out for words, reasons, explanations, resolutions and articulations for the strange new emotions that were supposedly taking birth for the first time on the Indian screen. Or is it the second time?
Remember Jogger’s Park, that charming little number where Perizaad played a more senior Lolita to Victor Bannerjee. Nishabd is more American Beauty than Lolita with the storyline borrowing heavily from the Kevin Spacey-Mena Suvari Oscar-applauded film. Here, it is Jia who plays the daughter’s friend who stays over and sets strange emotions stirring through the reclusive dad (Amitabh Bachchan).
But unlike director Sam Mendes, Ram Gopal Verma sanitises the film completely of all sexual overtones which would necessarily be a part of such a cross-generational attraction. No, unlike Kevin Spacey who does normal stuff under the sheets, each time he fantasises about the blonde beauty sleeping in his house, Mr Bachchan is rarely seen peeking or throwing a surreptitious glance at the dusky beauty sprawling before him in shorts and see-through skirts.
Okay, then it isn’t physical-sexual. So what is it: the attraction that brings them together? Philosophical, spiritual, psychical, mental, cultural....Don’t know and don’t get to know too. All that we can guess is that Jia, a product of a broken home, with a step dad, succumbs to Oedipus. And Vijay, the forty-year older photographer and family man flips for her hose pipe antics and her Take-Lite poetics. Wish the director had allowed Amitabh a little more fun and foreplay before he became overridden with guilt and depression.
The joyousness and wild abandon of the relationship doesn’t really come through and the resolution of the conflict fills you with much inadequacy. What remains is the camera-friendly and immensely confident Ms Jiah Khan who makes such good use of her body as an instrument of expression. Yes, she’s quite a natural and pitches in a perfect desi Lolita act.
Amitabh is in great form too, specially when the director allows him those brief moments of joy — he’s ticklish playing footsie and does quite a little jig with his little girl — before burdening him with sorrow. Technically too, the film is quintessential Ramu, with the camera working wonders with extreme close shots, the way it did in Sarkar. Only if Ramu had dared to break the mould a bit more and not been wary of the moral police...Ah! Nishabd would have ended up as landmark cinema!


Friday, March 2, 2007

Big B’s big boost for special children at extra special Antakshri

The superstar inspired the visually challenged participants by reciting a poem on the sets of ‘Titan Antakshri— Music for a Cause’
Amitabh Bachchan, participated in the special episode of ‘Titan Antakshri’ (Zee) for visually challenged children shot early this week. Bachchan enthralled the children and the audiences with his recital of the poem ‘Main prakash hoon’ written by Khalid Hashmi. The poem underlined that blindness is not a drawback.
Later, two visually challenged girls, Mansi and Mamta, from Smt Kamla Mehta Dadar School for the Blind, presented a letter written to him. It held a very special message for Bachchan and his ailing mother Teji Bachchan. She was wished a speedy recovery. While leaving, Bachchan extended his best wishes for the participants of Muncherjee Nowrowjee Banajee Industrial Home for the Blind.
The show will be aired on March 31. The music talent show ‘Titan Antakshari’ has devoted a six-part series for underprivileged sections of society that includes the aged, street children and visually challenged people. The series is coined as ‘Music for a Cause’. The first episode will be aired on March 23.



Smoking is injurious to health, says Saif

Barely a week after stories of his illness broke out and swamped the print and electronic media, Saif Ali Khan is back on his feet and promises to quit smoking for ever. “I'll have to take it easy for a while. Nothing strenuous and certainly no smoking any more. In fact, my doctors told me my condition was mainly due to smoking. It causes deposits in the artery, which caused that clot. I've decided to quit smoking completely,” Saif said. Saif was rushed to a hospital when he complained of chest pain while practising for his performance at an awards function. The actor was discharged recently. He is out of danger, but is bewildered by and yet resilient to the knocks of life. “There was a blood clot in my heart. The good news is that it's been fully cured,” Saif informed. Today Saif and his heart have become best friends. "Yeah, you can say that again. It's been a time of revelation for me. Though I came out unscathed, this hospital experience served up a healthy warning for me. I need to correct a few things in my life, mainly the smoking. "There I was, with genuinely ill people, people who were suffering from cancer and chronic heart ailments. It just made me so conscious of my own life and my responsibilities." The ceaseless surge of concern has moved Saif. "I was so glad to see my family and so many of my friends from the film industry visiting me in the hospital. I now intend to use my rest period, writing each of them a personal thank you note." So has the experience made Saif more compassionate? "I guess so. I never visited anyone in hospital. Now, I've decided to change that. It matters so much to have people who care for you when you're down."



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