Shark Tank is going to make you want to start a business. Fo Sho!

It is a guilty pleasure but of a good kind. Let me tell you why.

a38b74d55a5840acc2a959e2ce6f5ef87a255daa

It has been a very recent development that I got hooked onto Shark Tank (no pun intended!) on Netflix and boy oh boy it is interesting. The show is a franchise of the international format Dragons’ Den, which originated in Japan in 2001. Multiple Emmy award winner, Shark Tank shows aspiring entrepreneurs as they make business presentations to a panel of five “shark” investors, who then choose whether to invest as business partners.

That is the explanation part but let me tell you why it is interesting. The kind of pitches that you get to see range from being hilarious to eye opening. From chips to baby weighing machines to smart alarm systems to virtual air gliding- the range of businesses is just amazing.

What also holds your interest is the presentations. You have the most creative and absolute duds in just one episode. You enter a world of investor pitch boardrooms where sales and revenues and go to market strategies are discussed. You get to witness deals through equity, royalties, loans and what not. And not to miss is the banter between few of the richest people in the United States of America sitting their and slyly taking each others’ cases.

If you are a fan of reality TV which is not as stupid as the Bachelor, start watching Shark Tank today. Even if it is running in the background, you will not be bored. You can catch seasons 7 through 9 on Netflix and the rest on various other websites.

P.S. The recent favourite in the dating world- Coffee meets Bagel was also pitched on the show. 🙂

Hits- Real Drama, Short crisp pitches, Accumulated business acumen
Misses- Only three seasons available on Netflix in India

Picture Credits- WikiCommons
Advertisements

Andhadhun: The melody of a blind tune

andhadhun_2Let me start with a disclaimer- I am a Sriram Raghavan fan so this might be skewed, slightly. From Ek Hasina Thi to Badlapur– the thriller genius has given us many gems to cherish and Andhadhun is another one of them. What a film! This is exactly what we want in Bollywood. A strong script, layered characters, superb acting talent and a director that lives the story through every frame. Inspired by a French short story (and possibly the song sequence Raabta in Agent Vinod), Andhadhun is the quintessential black comedy thriller, which keeps you hooked to your seats through its 2 hours 20 minutes of run time (Add 15 minutes of Manyavar ads if you are watching it at a PVR). You literally do not know what is going to happen in the next shot, leave along next scene or later in the story.

The story has a twist after every 5 minutes and I am not exaggerating. And they are not the twists that you would expect normally out of such a story. Things like whether the blind pianist is actually blind or not, who committed the murder and the kinds are answered right at the beginning. And that does not take away from the absolute thrill of the roller coaster that is Andhadhun. Written by Sriram along with 4 other writers, the story binds all loose ends together eventually if not at an ideal point. From a cat to a loitering kid, everyone has a role to play. Although the movie derails for a bit in the second half, it picks up quick and without much loss.

Let’s talk about the performances. Oh my God, Tabu! She is a delight. An absolute amazeball in the movie. Her character is so organically there in the midst of one situation after another that you are left to wonder if she is an intrinsically bad person or is she a victim too. I think Ayushman Khurrana has given his career best performance in this movie. He is so nuanced and in control of the character that you see his training for the role right through the screen. Commendable. The supporting cast with Manav Vij, Anil Dhawan and Ashwini Kalsekar is as strong as the leads of the story. And there is Radhika Apte too. Why is she there, you ask? Well, some questions even Sriram cannot answer.

The music of the film is not the central attraction but incidentally very intrinsic to the narrative of the film. But why three voices for one actor? Why? Anyway! What holds your attention are the piano pieces for which apparently Ayushman did not use any body (hand) double. Noice. There are pleasant throwbacks to Chaaya Geet and Chitrahaar and plenty of easter eggs to bring a smile to your face if you catch the references.

The screenplay though effective could have been edited slightly better so that the movie was crisper. But the cherry on the cake is the open ended final shot that will leave you with an Inception kind head scratch. It is becoming quite difficult to continue with this piece without giving away any spoilers. So I will wrap this up now.

If you are a thriller fan, go watch. If you are a dark comedy fan, go watch. If you are an Ayushman or a Tabu fan, definitely go watch. And if you a fan of good cinema, go watch. So basically, go watch this one because it is amazing.

P.S. If you were intrigued by the blind rabbit in the trailer, you will be very happy with what happens in the movie.

Hits- Acting, Screenplay, Direction, Story
Misses- Radhika Apte, Length, Editing

 

(Picture Credit- Wikicommons)

 

Alia is Sehmat and we are Raazi

raazi-7591

India seriously lacks some good quality spy stories. They are either too laden with forced patriotism or harp on one-note formulaic good and evil side narrative more often than not. Raazi is none of that. Directed by Meghna Gulzar, the movie is an adaptation of the book Calling Sehmat which was based on a real life account of an Indian spy who married a Pakistani official to pass intel across the border in times leading up to the Ghazi attack. And it is so beautifully done. It is this understated story of a girl who is not a professional spy but is trained to ace the art because ‘watan ke aage kuch nahin, khud bhi nahin‘. As an audience member, you are brought onto this journey with this girl who is sweet, innocent, passionate and mission oriented all at the same time. The tension is palpable, not for the implication to the impending war between the two countries but because of what those situations might do for our protagonist that we have grown to care for minutes into the movie.

The movie never dramatises the narrative beyond what is needed and that is the reason why it might seem simplistic in some parts. It plays out as a spy thriller without taking sides. It is not about infiltrating a terrorist group planning an attack from the other side- it is as much a story of Pakistani Army officials doing their jobs as it is about Sehmat doing hers. During one of the sequences entailing a miraculous singing transformation for some kids at an annual day celebration in Pakistan, you see both Sehmat and the kids singing Ae Watan– the essential patriotic addition to the album. It means exactly the same for both the sides, albeit intended for countries at loggerheads with each other.

Coming to the star of the show, Alia Bhat. She is amazing in this one. She has gained so much control over her face, her reactions and every nod of her head that you cannot but marvel at the growth she has shown as an actor in almost every frame. Although one can debate that she has almost mastered the act of that ‘one breakdown scene’ at the end, that she repeats in almost each one of her performance. Regardless, it is her movie and she is aware of it. This is not to take away from the supporting cast including Vicky Kaushal, playing Sehmat’s compassionate husband, Rajit Kapoor as the father, Shishir Sharma as the father in law and Jaideep Ahlawat playing Sehmat’s handler who impresses the most.

The movie is shot so realistically with pretty Kashmiri landscapes, intricate markets in Pakistan or the matter of factly cold Delhi training camp. The music with three songs plays beautifully with the screenplay throughout the movie. Ae Watan will inspire the patriotism while Dilbaro will get you emotional playing on the father-daughter relationship. The first half is more impressive than the second and some elements of the climax might seem a little too convenient and avoidable. I mean, if the dumbo sitting next to you can guess what happens next, you know these are ‘too much in your face’ moments.

A definite recommendation.

Hits- Alia Bhat, subtle storytelling, direction, realism
Misses- Simplistic, drags slightly in the second half, checks off some ‘must to do’ patriotic moves

(Picture credits- Wikicommons)

Avengers are here and we are ‘infinitely’ happy

Whoa! It’s time. With a decade of our lives leading up to these 2 hours 40 minutes of blissful excitement, we just all hoped for it to be awesome. And guess what, it is more than that, in most parts. This is not a movie, this is an event; and you definitely will want to be a part of it. Fitting more than two dozens of superheroes, one ominous villain that we have been getting terrifying glimpses of till now and a mandatory cameo by Stan Lee in one movie is no lean task. The Russo brothers knew that they were up for this challenge and boy oh boy they succeeded with flying colours.

In a movie like this, it is bound to happen that some characters get more to do than others. So while Robert Downey Jr.’s Iron Man is being a star, Scarlett Johansson’s Black Widow is left with running in the background for most of the film. That being said, what the movie really aces is chartering new chemistry territories with characters who have not been on screen together till now. As a product of that, you have Doctor Strange smacking Iron Man’s back with his cape, Thor and Peter Quill (Star Lord) bantering endlessly and the new age Spidey throwing in all pop culture references that they could fit in. Just reiterates what Marvel excels at- its light hearted humor which has been the lifeline of these movies since the beginning. And why poor DC has to face so much of flak for their dark tone. Marvel has spoilt us and we are not even complaining.

Not to forget, this is an out and out action film. The set pieces, the fights, the CGI- all just come together so seamlessly that you are bound to just sit in amazement and stare at the screen almost forgetting the big bucket of popcorn that you got along. While all that is taken care of, the movie also is surprisingly emotional. What is interesting is how they have humanised the plot which almost becomes a commentary on our existence. There is always a human connect between the characters and why they are doing what they are doing. (Yeah, try writing about this without spoiling anything!)

Now let’s talk about the big baddie- Thanos. Oh my god! They got it so so right. The motion capture performance by Josh Brolin (Cable from Deadpool 2 coming next month) is just perfect. Every reaction, every nuance and emotion is captured so effectively that you are compelled to be scared of him and feel for him with the same intensity at different points in the movie. Trust me, there are points in the film where you forget that he is a completely CGI character.

Serious props to the director duo for getting all of this together and present a cinematic experience that you might not have seen in the superhero universe till now. The movie is long. There is no doubt about the fact that it is also kind of manipulative in the end to give us a hook that we are going to cling onto till the next year when this Marvel Extended Universe chapter wraps up. But on the whole, it is quite entertaining for fans and for peer pressured folks alike. Although, if you have been a fan of the series, you will enjoy it more because of how self referential the script is. To top it all, go to the theatre near you for the palpable energy in the crowd and join in for a collective round of cheer and applause at multiple points.

A definite recommendation with 4 thumbs up (toes included).

Hits- Direction, superhero overload, CGI, Thanos
Misses- Maybe the butt-soaring length, pace in some parts, underutilisation of some characters

Picture credit- Wikicommons

October in April ‘smells’ good!

OctoberTime and again, cinema emerges out as one of the strongest mediums to invoke emotions that are not even apparent in most cases. October is one such example. A movie that revolves around relationships which are fluid, undefined yet strong. The lack of structured definition to the story, characters and their meaning to each other is maybe the most empowering components of this acquired taste.

The story starts with a group of 20-something hotel management trainees dealing with the grueling training days at a five star in Delhi NCR that soon takes a turn for the worse. During a Christmas party, one of the trainees Shiuli slips and falls from the third floor to experience a handful of near-fatal injuries. Here begins the endless waiting (for the characters and audiences alike) for her to get better and how that journey impacts her family, the other trainees and especially Varun Dhawan’s Dan.

Why I didn’t mention the nature of Dan and Shiuli’s relationship is because it is never defined in the film. Still, Dan becomes the last leaf to Shiuli and her recovery propels Dan to come of age in the span of four seasons and two hours of screen time. And it turns into a story of many feelings- unselfish love, duty, patience, longing, ambiguity and the overwhelming helplessness of life and death. Why he is so involved is anybody’s guess and is open to many interpretations.

The movie is shot so organically. Every frame is real, every beat of the background music hits hard and all seasons play out as the most effective storytellers. You will feel every bit of pain and bliss that the characters feel and the closure at the end of the movie is almost cathartic. It is not one of Shoojit Sircar’s movies that you have seen in the past including Piku and Vicky Donor but has the brand of cinema making for sure.

Varun Dhawan has been getting a lot of praise for his performance and he totally deserves it except for some scenes where his ‘acting’ might be the weakest link. I am left to wonder what would have become of this movie if someone else were cast in the same role. He makes some of the scenes which are supposed to be awkward unintentionally comical- and that did not work for me personally. The new comer Banita Sandhu has a huge task laid out for her to act with almost no dialogues in her first major break. And she does a brilliant job. The mother’s, played by Gitanjali Rao, is another brilliantly acted out role.

I would definitely recommend you watch this one. Maybe not in a theatre but at home on one of those lazy days in bed. It is not the first time that a story like this has been played out on screen- the latest one being Waiting starring Naseeruddin Shah and Kalki Koechlin but obviously it never got that attention because it did not have the youngistan’s heartthrob Varun Dhawan! *slight eye roll*

BTW the title and the flower in it have some relevance. Wait till the end of the movie.

Hits- Acting, The way the movie is shot, real characters, background score
Misses- Varun in some scenes, Screenplay

(Picture Credits- Wikicommons)

 

Padmavati: “Nuh huh Khilji!”

Padmaavat-9

The movie that the entire country has obsessed over for 4 months now is finally here. And what a visual treat it is. Every frame painstakingly crafted, every movement imitating poetry and every second dialogue-a one liner mic drop. But. What after that? Now I don’t think, even for a second, that it is a bad movie or even an average one but it is not what is expected out of the biggest magnum opus that the country has seen. Let’s start from the beginning.

Based on the poem of the same name (yeah now the name is the same because we have definitely stopped calling it by its former name! DUH!), the story revolves around the Rajput’s quest for honor and Khilji’s quest for lust for everything ‘nayab’. The story is simple. One ruthless barbaric king is attracted to the idea of the most beautiful queen in the world, defeats the king that the queen ‘belongs’ to but the queen, the most savage of them of all, throws a trump card, and be like- NUH HUH bro! I would rather barbecue myself. (More like Shiela, Shiela ki Jawani- I am too sexy for you, main tere haath naa aani!) Anyway, I digress.

The problem with the movie is its first half which has too many inconsequential set up scenes one after the other not moving the story or the characters at all. And the problem is the quick 2 minutes noodles love that Bhansali’s characters develop to have life long implications in all his movies. One Holi sequence in Ram-Leela, one battle together in Bajirao Mastani and one fateful arrow in this one. Side characters are all caricatures and throw in wooden dialogues with glaring eyes like nobody’s business but with no real effect. There is so much that could have been done with themes of love, loyalty, second wife drama, Alauddin’s relationship with Malik Kafur, etc. etc. but it just falls short. The second half of the movie is much better and the climax is goosebumpy. It is also because the latter half of the move is shorter, crisper and with movement.

In retrospect if you think of it, this movie could have been easily called Alauddin because it definitely belongs to him and Ranveer for playing it like a seasoned actor. (However, Bajirao hangover lingers on slightly.) He is on point with most of his scenes, even the ones which are unintentionally comic. Shahid is good in the mellow scenes but hamming away to glory in the scenes where he has to preach about Rajputana valor. Deepika is a beauty and Bhansali knows exactly how to present her- with gold make up, eye lenses and glycerin doses just enough to water those eyes in almost every scene. And she does not blink. Why Deepika, why? But that is not just her in the movie so I would give it to her.

The movie is a beautiful piece of art. The eye for detail is incomparable. It moves swiftly from one frame to another like an opera and you are transported into the world it aims to create almost instantaneously. But I couldn’t figure out if it was because of 3D rendering or visual effects that a lot of scenes featured patchy frames and shaky camera transitions. So, I guess I will have to watch it in 2D too. 🙂 Coming to the effects. NO Bhansali NO. Why would you not have better VFX? It is a 200 crore film. And if those effects looked pretty on the computer screens of the designers- you should have tested it on a theatre screen. Or they should all start doing a focused test screening for cynical observationists. Music was a let down too. I love Ghoomar and how it was picturised but rest of the other songs were not at all impactful or even required at the points they came in. What compensated for that was the background score. Especially the climax, you will know when you watch the movie.

All in all, I would strongly recommend watching it once to see what cinematic power is and the direction that the film world should move in to provide us with good quality content. And also because this is probably the last time we are going to watch a historical drama in a long long time.

Hits- Scale, Direction, Ghoomar (I have a soft corner!), Acting, Ranveer (Exclusive mention required)
Misses- Story, Screenplay, Side Characters, VFX, Music, Length of the movie- so editing, I would still prefer Bajirao Mastani over this one.

Call Me by Your Name

This post might not be for everyone. And you will see why. Some emotions are bigger than the stories that they drive and some stories are bigger than the lives they chronicle. And where these two intersect, you find pieces like Call Me by Your Name. Written by André Achiman, the novel has been a favourite in the romantic drama genre since it was first published in 2007 and the movie, which has now been recognised on every affluent film festival, does not disappoint either.

Set in 1983, where a 17 year old Elio finds love for the first time in an older Oliver, an American Jewish graduate student who comes to live with the family for that summer to assist Elio’s father with his academic paperwork. It is about just that one summer and how those days define what love means for the both of them. The novel or the movie does not titillate or make its gender roles dominant on the story- it simply takes you on this journey with these two characters. And that is the beauty of it all. You might not agree with the kind of love that the piece has to offer but you will not think even twice before accepting that the emotion is so raw, so palpable and so universal.

The story is about a lazy summer and that is exactly the tone that the director Luca Guadagnino picks up. The direction is so persuasive, in control and human that you will become a part of the story at some point without even realising. There are scenes and scenes where there is no movement in the story but there is so much happening between the unsaid words and the ever on point expressions of brilliant actors- Armie Hammer (the twins from The Social Network, remember?) and Timothée Chalamat.

What is striking is how the much explicit material from the novel is reduced to representative moments in the film. There is a deep understanding that the visual medium does not require over exposition- that sometimes less is more. Many people who have read the novel or heard about the movie keep wondering what the title really means. And that is one thing you either understand or you don’t. It strikes you in the moment and you are left numb with how romantic that thought of absolute oneness with the love of your life can be. A scene between Elio and his father near the end and the last scene of the movie with Elio will seep into your soul. It is inexplicable for the most part. #Feels

The movie is shot on location in various parts of Italy– the enchanting Crema being the primary one. And if nothing else you will fall in love with the place. I don’t even like to walk and I felt like riding that bicycle through those cobbled lanes. If that does not give you a case in point, what will! Another feather in the cap is the film’s music and background score. Mystery of Love by Sufjan Stevens is hauntingly going to stay with you for a long time.

And if you finally realised that this post might be your thing because you are essentially a romantic at heart, you should definitely check out the other two entries I Am Love and A Bigger Splash from Guadagnino’s Desire trilogy of which Call Me by Your Name is the last instalment. I don’t generally talk of the accolades but it is essential here to represent the sheer beauty and power of this movie. The film has received unanimous acclaim. It was chosen by the National Board of Review and the American Film Institute as one of their top 10 films of the year. At the 75th Golden Globe Awards, it was nominated for Best Motion Picture – Drama, Best Actor – Drama for Chalamet, and Best Supporting Actor for Hammer. At the 24th Screen Actors Guild Awards, Chalamet was nominated for Outstanding Performance by a Male Actor in a Leading Role. So yeah!

Hits- Everything

Misses- You might still be homophobic (I wish tickets were up for you to time travel to the last century); It might never get released in India; I don’t support piracy 🙂

Picture credits- Wikicommons