‘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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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.

Let’s talk about Dunkirk, shall we?!

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I should start this with a disclaimer that this is in no way a review but only a perspective on what I thought of the movie that is being credited as one of the best war films of all times- Dunkirk. First and foremost, you see how cinema has the power of bringing out chapters from history that half the world did not have a clue about? You do? Yes? Yes. Such is the enigma of movies- you get exposed to stories from parts of the world you have no connection to, parts of society that do not impact you at all but to all of that strikes a connect with the humanity in us at so many different levels. Dunkirk is based on the real life Dunkirk evacuation during World War II and is almost a documentary-style representation of the events from three different perspectives- the land, sea and air.

The film does not talk too much. That might be unsettling for a lot of people but the beauty of it is that it almost nullifies the need to present the audience with redundant exposition. It’s a war, there are soldiers, they are fighting for their survival, it is what it is and there is no need to have patriotic dialogues in-between the action to drive the point home. The situation in itself is inspiring. The civilians who contributed to the evacuation are enough to show what it meant for them at that point and in the film of course. The audience is transported to this world of vast water body, unending horizon, constricted boats, stuffed cockpits, a constantly thrilling background score by Hans Zimmer- all at the same time. It is an experience in itself.

But that’s it. If you are into war films like Border and LOC Kargil then this might not be the best bet for you. There is no “Suno jaane wale…laut ke aana” or “Sandese aate hain…”, there is no drama, there is no ‘story’ and there is no cathartic THE END! (If you consider finally seeing Tom Hardy’s face in a beautifully shot scene near the end, then maybe yes.) And if you thought oh poor Tom getting no limelight, the film does not indulge Harry Styles at all either. Watch this one for the sheer scale and expertise of the makers. You are bound to wonder how they shot some of the scenes for sure. And if you are a Christopher Nolan fan, then this is pure gold for you. You know his style, you know how he makes his cinema and you know what not to expect from him. And he will still amaze you. Watch it at an IMAX theatre if you can.

And if you are really looking for a loophole in the movie- this smiling extra fail might interest you a little-

Related image

Hits- Scale, Direction, Technical Expertise, Authentic set up, Background Score
Misses- Disconnect with characters, Drama

(Picture Credits- Wikicommons)