‘Apple’ of Bollywood’s eye: Newton!

Newton

Let’s get something out of the way- this is not a film for everyone. But this is definitely a film that everyone should watch. Directed by Amit V Masurkar, whose debut- Sulemani Keeda was widely appreciated, Newton is a story that will make you nod in agreement with what it is trying to say at several occasions. The story of a righteous government clerk sent to a Naxalite conflicted area to monitor voting and facing all odds in the process including the security services (which are ironically stationed there to protect him) will make you think. It is a slow film that takes its own time to grow on you but when it does, it has an impact.

The film raises a lot many issues that are prevalent around us- in our own country. The lack of information/knowledge, the total disregard to areas and most importantly people who do not matter to the larger scheme of things, what is wrong with democracy and its projection in a particular light, bureaucracy and the ease with which everyone- including the government officials and security forces- has accepted the state of affairs. It is normal to call a Naxalite area- Pakistan; it is okay to blatantly lie on air to a ‘foreign’ journalist; it is acceptable for the presiding election commission officer to not even conduct voting in an area because it might be ‘challenging’ and because ‘aisa hi hota hai!’ But the reason why Newton works is because it never becomes preachy. It does not have monologues on how everything is wrong, it does not exaggerate a situation in terms of violence, action or even emotions and maintains a ‘straight face’ while presenting the situation from the main character’s perspective.  And mind you, it is not a dark film at all. It has its moments of humour, wit and intelligence.

Now we come to the star of the film- Rajkumar Rao. Oh my God! That man. He does not miss one note. He gets into the skin of the character and never ‘acts’. He has the pulse of the situation, works on the energy of the co-actors and improvises his reactions to perfection. He is one actor who is slowly establishing himself just through his immense talent- he can deliver a mass entertainer like Bareily ki Barfi and a film like Newton with equal ease. And that is commendable. Talking of his co-actors, we have Pankaj Tripathi as the anti-hero security head who is another gem that Bollywood should leverage more. He has such calm about his performance. We know that he is going to be against our hero- but we don’t dislike him- not even for a second.

The direction is layered. The storytelling is simple. You are thrown into the world of a these characters who have their individual ideologies, perspectives, motivations in some cases and hence tactics to deal with the situation. It is nothing but elating to see such films garnering much attention among all kinds of audiences despite not featuring the Khans or the Kapoors. At least a part of the Indian audiences is maturing. Finally!

Having said all of that, if the film was worthy of being the official entry to Oscars or not remains debatable. Even though being compared to an Iranian film- Secret Ballot for its story and characters- Newton remains a top contender for your watchlist. Do give it a shot!

Hits- Acting, Direction, Runtime
Not so Hit- Pacing (not a miss definitely)

Picture Credits- Wikicommons

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Sweety ka sweet drama- Bareilly ki Barfi

bareilly

This year hasn’t been the greatest for movie lovers or even the general audiences who yearn plain simple ‘fun times’ at the movies. And thank God, this one comes as a breath of fresh air for everyone who was just getting disappointed with movies one after the other. This IS essentially a small town flavoured Dum Laga ke Haisha brand of a movie which talks to everyone sitting in that theatre. It has some amazing writing, on-point acting and great texture and not to miss a runtime of just 2 hours which makes it an ideal watch. The plot is quite far fetched but still seems plausible because of the way it is treated. You never get the time to question the on goings because almost every scene has that one note that you admire. A lot of it has to be credited to the director- Ashwiny Iyer Tiwari who picks up the flavour with much ease. Female directors be awesome!

This is a story of Bitty who is rejected in marriage proposals again and again because of her personality. She is outspoken, she drinks, she smokes, she watches English films (doesn’t understand them completely though!), does not sit with both legs on one side on a bike, has endless night outs and never reveals if she is actually a virgin or not. The question that the character asks is something we all should- does any of it really matter? In an initial scene- sharing a smoke with her father, played beautifully by Pankaj Tripathi, she questions all of this and refreshingly her father does not tell her that thinking on those lines is incorrect. He almost only informs her “hum ye sab nahin maante par samaaj maanta hai, aur jo bhi ho, rehna toh isi samaaj mein hai“. While Bitty is the son to her father, she remains a daughter to her mother- played by Seema Pahwa (again a very very fine actress). Her mother is so concerned about getting her daughter married that she literally questions the marital status of every boy who enters her home.

Image result for bareilly ki barfi

Then there are the two boys. One of them is Ayushman Khurana as Chirag Dubey who has by now almost moulded himself in these characters. At so many points in the movie, you will feel that you have seen him do this so many times, wearing the same clothes so many times and that he needs to maybe act one notch down or just experiment a little with his roles. And the other one is the star performer of the film- Rajkumar Rao as Pritam Vidrohi- a nearly apt amalgamation of his two sides in the film- soft spoken Pritam and the Rangbaaz Vidrohi. He does not miss one beat in the film. Sometimes in one shot of his face, he is able to transform himself from one character into another and it is a treat to watch him. Really.

Talking of beats, the music of the film is pleasant and is aptly placed except for the last song in the film which has a montage of brooding Ayushman Khurana. Sweety tera drama is very very catchy and will make you want to dance except for you will be worried for Ayushman Khurana’s shoulder on the verge of getting dislocated. Why so much energy for no reason bro! Take it slow and shut your gaping mouth when you are not lip syncing.

All of this will pack you up with a good dose of entertainment. But there will be some hindrances too. Although, this is Kriti Sanon’s most fleshed out character and role, she will look like a misfit in the set up of the film with her nicely done hair, her designer clothes (especially that wedding lehenga) and her on-point make up. She keeps picking and dropping the leheza of Bareilly throughout the film, which is distracting. Another thing that would look unrealistic is the transformation of Rajkumar’s character. It is only his acting that saves the under cooked and too abrupt a transition.

A special mention to the voice over narration by Javed Akhtar that is effective in most parts and slightly pushed too hard in others with a compulsive need to rhyme the lines.

All in all, watch this one for sure. It is totally worth your bucks.

Hits- Acting, Direction, Dialogues, Supporting Cast
Misses- Repetition by Ayushman, Slightly inconsistent Kriti, predictable plotline

(Picture Credits- Wikicommons)

Annabelle, why you be so creepy?

annabelle creation

She strikes again! The creepy doll that is a potent scare fest material for the sleepless nights that you might have had after watching her in the previous films, is back!! And this time, she is just a treat for anyone who is a horror genre fan. Annabelle: Creation, the latest addition to the Conjuring Universe (yeah it is a thing now!) that tells the story of the doll’s origin, possession and transit through the years, has all the essential elements of sending chills down your spine. There are jump scares, there are throwbacks, there is atmospheric eeriness and yes there are long long close up shots of that doll. Oh and before I forget, there are mid and post credit scenes. Yeah well now every movie wants us to go through those endless credits. (Fun game idea in the end– Aha! Did you see what I did there?!)

So, there are a lot of jump scares in the first half. If you are more of a lightweight around horror movies, then you would be crapping your pants throughout. However, the second half has more weight. It has the backstory, the plot has some character development especially between the two main girls and yes it finally reveals the origins of the doll that has been haunting you for a long time now. The atmospherics of the movie leverage the period set up to the fullest and brings about the same impact as The Conjuring movies. In addition to that, the movie uses two things quite aptly- sound design and cinematography. The music adds layers to the effectiveness and is close to what solid background did for The Shining. When the movie is not jump scaring you, it is playing with you through shadows, imagery and camera angles. And that is all that is needed to make it a good watch.

This is a definite valuable addition to the universe that James Wan is aiming to create (like I said; everybody wants to be Marvel; CASH GRABBERS!). It is everything that the first Annabelle wasn’t. And even though it works as an enjoyable standalone movie, it connects aspects of other entries in the series quite well. It leads to the events of the first Annabelle movie, Valak (the demon from Conjuring 2) makes a special appearance and teases the upcoming spin off- Nun and we get to see the actual Raggedy Ann doll that the Annabelle series is based on. (#TriviaTime The real Annabelle doll that resides in a glass chamber at Ed and Lorraine Warren’s museum is not the porcelain doll that the movie features but a Rag Doll. Look at this innocent looking doll and then think of all the creepy stories around it. Just look at it!!!)

Image result for annabelle doll

Now those are all good things but there is an essential problem with this formulaic approach too. The problem, which has greater impact if you are a horror movie fan, is that you almost know what is going to happen in most of the scenes. The crippled is going to be the most affected, the demon is going to vomit some black goo and possess, there are going to 3-4 girls who will just be there to scream (shriek), etc. etc. but that in no way takes away from how entertaining Annabelle: Creation is. All in all, the movie is a must watch for anyone who enjoys classic scary horror movies that keep you at the edge of your seats. If you are looking for subtle imagery, a thick storyline, immense character development then this might disappoint you. It is not as good as the first Conjuring but comes real close. I have to give a shout out to the director of this one- David Sandberg, who also directed Lights Out, for an amazing job done.

Hits- Jump Scares, Direction, Sound Score, Cinematography
Misses- Formulaic, change in the doll’s appearance from the earlier movies (which might only be a thing for an ardent follower)

Oh yeah, the fun game- so in any movie which is heavy on VFX and special effects- get your friends to locate Indian names in the crew list. It is fun and makes you wonder why these talented people are not working for Indian studios that suck at special effects.

Because MOM is always right!

Image result for MOM sridevi

I know this might be a little late but considering there is still a lot of buzz around the movie and after all it’s about MAA, why not! So let’s see- what do we have here?! Take a yesteryear star looking for a comeback after every 3-4 years, some talent from the neighbor country, a buffed up dude to play the chichora launda, a nerve wracking background score and yes a tragedy which would instill all levels of heroism in an otherwise meek mother figure- rape in this case. Once you have all this, blend it into the most predictable and stereotypical screenplay and BAM! you have a movie like MOM.

But then wait. That’s not the end of it. There is a reason why films like this work at some level. Because it has the universal mother-offspring connect, because it shakes you up a little everytime you see something tragic onscreen and at some level you are still keen to see those yesteryear stars performing their hearts out in a film which is basically hanging on their shoulders. It still has impact and that is exactly what Mom is able to do.

Sridevi does not miss a beat. She is on point with her portrayal of a mother who is trying to build a connect with her stepdaughter, who later in the story goes through the turmoil of being blamed for the tragedy and who shines as the woman driven only by the sheer angst of avenging her daughter. Two things that you should just let go are Sridevi’s dialogue delivery and the necessary failure of the ‘system’ in such movies. Adding brilliantly to the star cast is Nawazuddin and Akshaye Khanna (who in my opinion is really a missed opportunity for Bollywood, oh damn that man has some serious acting chops!) The Pakistani actors playing the daughter (Sajal Ali) and husband (Adnan Siddiqui) are capable actors and will not let the energy drop down.

There are some interesting plot developments where you will be slightly pleased and then there are many which are as predictable as what you are having for lunch (Yes, you are having exactly what the maid packed for you so don’t be all cool and think oh we will order something. That is not going to take you far!). But overall the movie does not dip your interest or lose you anywhere- which is enough, right? And if you are watching it with your mommy dear then obviously you will feel that eventual streak of love for her. So at that moment, just HUG HER!

Hits- Sridevi, Nawaz, Akshaye
Misses- Predictable Plot, Too convenient a resolution, Bad special hill station special effects

(Picture Credits- Wikicommons)

Dear Mr. Jagga Jasoos, are you happy with what you did there?

Image result for jagga jasoos

“OMG It is so long!” While those words might be the most flattering in some situations, they are definitely not as pleasant in all. Trust a person who has just been through the imaginative playing of the comic book written by Anurag Basu (and many others who are not credited but have influenced his work- TinTin anyone?!). If that description does not work for you, the movie Jagga Jasoos can literally be taglined as Barfi on steroids! You know while making this film, apparently there were so many points in time when Ranbir Kapoor just wanted to quit because it was too much time and energy that went in the process. You will not only empathise with him but will also feel the same at many junctures. India’s first (debatable) musical, Jagga Jasoos is made with good intentions for sure but experiencing this movie will feel like a love affair where the lover keeps telling you they love you dearly but that translates into nothing, nada, jackshit! Lip service can only take you so far.

Ranbir Kapoor is good. But isn’t he a good actor? But isn’t he also playing the same guy again and again in different scenarios? But still isn’t he good? He is. He is definitely the best thing about the movie; there is no doubt about that. Saswata Chatterjee, the man who played the bad guy in Kahani (remember the train scene?), plays the father- the centre point of the story and does such an amazing job. But that’s it. That’s all. If you have to have to take other aspects into consideration, then you might like the musical component of the movie initially and might enjoy watching the scenery at some points. But very soon, you will start searching for a storyline. And after a lot of searching, you will find a wafer-thin plot with a (social) message here and there. Last one hour of the almost three hours long movie was just another level of ridiculousness. In a South Delhi girl’s words- Anything was happening only!

Except for Ullu ka Pathha and Galti se Mistake, there is no song that stays with you. But yes the choreography by Shiamak is quite a feast to watch. And once you are finally done with everything in the film, there is a hint at a sequel. Seriously?! Please don’t even consider it. I might get hated for this one because this movie is definitely the one that is capable of dividing the families into halves fighting pro and against but those were my thoughts just after watching the movie. I expected at least a smile to cover my face through most of the movie and Jagga did not even do that for me. Maybe it’s the length of the movie, maybe it is those over saturated colors, or maybe it is that ridiculousness I talk about in the name of keeping it fantastical. It’s the overall package which is not likely to work.

Are you wondering why I didn’t even mention Katrina Kaif? Haha! Wonder about it, AGAIN!

Hits- Ranbir Kapoor, Some camera work, Father-son chemistry
Misses- Length, Banality, Plot, Lack of smile inducing charm

(Picture Credit: Wikicommons)

 

Mere pyaare Ayushman

Image result for meri pyaari bindu

I watched several movies in these past few weeks. Movies, in my head, are these therapeutic mediums that come to your rescue in the darkest times. Whether you are happy or heartbroken, movies are there to give you the much needed catharsis. And somehow that is what I expected Meri Pyaari Bindu to do for me. I always thought this would be a movie of moments- sweet, emotional, cherishable. But as the movie starting rolling, a flickering NO starting flashing in different corners. Essentially (yes, I use that a lot) it boiled down to three things- Ayushman’s subtle performance, a new favourite in ‘Maana ki hum yaar nahin’ (maybe because of current mood) and Parineeti’s makeover (read weight loss). The third one being the most prominent.

The movie wasn’t bad and it might be liked by some but it did not seal the deal for me. Not at least in the first watch. And the super apparent post production dubbing by actors did not help. It was like hearing an audio recording over a video that was playing. Even if the story wasn’t the most layered, I was ready to give in to the charm of the film but it never rose up to the occasion. Bindu was supposedly this super quirky, strong headed, whimsical girl who knew her way around the world. She got everything super easy because she was street smart and also because she had a loyal loyal friend in Abhimanyu. But then what happened? She got into the music scene with much ease but then broke down with one miss? She broke 2 engagements before falling for the male lead but then broke it with him too because she was not in the best phases of her life. Fair. But umm..2 years and you not only found another man, you decided to marry him without giving a second try for a person who loved you since he saw you two decades ago. I did not buy into it. Especially when the issue was never their equation.

But the old classics infused some energy into the film which was a refreshing break from very average album otherwise. Parineeti sang and she sang good but acting- Aenn! (it was a phonetic expression- try it. Aenn! Like a buzzer, Aenn!). But But But Ayushman Khurrana. He was a real gem when compared to everything around the movie. He was so nuanced, sincere and so present. Watch this movie for him.

Pluses- Ayushman Khuranna, One song at the end, How the movie is shot, Old melodies
Minuses- Parineeti and equally the film makers- get over the weight loss, Wafer thin story line, Doesn’t have moments

 

(Picture credits- Yash Raj Movies)

So excited about being ‘Trapped’

Have you heard of this movie Trapped releasing tomorrow? If not, let me tell you. This might be the most underplayed and un-marketed movie in the recent times but is very promising. By the looks of it (trailer), Trapped, directed by Vikramaditya Motwane, appears to be about a man who is locked in. Where? His own house. Is he kidnapped? No. Is this under some extraordinary circumstances- does not appear so. Just a very regular day where he is leaving in a hurry to pick someone up; someone who he has decorated the house with a ‘WELCOME’ sign for.

Trapped_Poater

But in an unfortunate turn of events, he is trapped in his own house with no resources to fall back on. Just imagine that scenario- an innocent setting with so much to take from you if it gets this peculiar. 

It does not seem to have any other characters physically present in the movie except for the super ignorant security guard that Raj Kumar Rao- the superbly brilliant actor- keeps calling out for.

The movie is set in a high res apartment building and takeson the isolation and survival of this man throughout. So simple but impactful. The film had its world premiere at the Mumbai Film Festival on October 26, 2016 where it was praised and received a standing ovation. After releasing on March 17, 2017, it would be made available on Netflix. Yay!

Do check out the trailer for the movie and catch it at a theatre near you tomorrow onwards. 

Image Source: Wikipedia