‘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.

Jab SRK met Imtiaz!

583300-jab-harry-met-sejal

Now this one is in little bit of a fix. Is it a SRK film or an Imtiaz film? Because the lens that you are going to see it with will essentially change the way you feel about this movie. If you see it as a SRK film, it is no different- it is super plush movie with exotic locations, punjabi male lead, a charmer, a the sure shot lady-winner who also breaks into song and dance in a jiffy. If you see it as an Imtiaz film- it is very very different. You have now been used to maybe getting a stir in your soul by watching his cinema, you might expect a lot of layered writing, lot of soul searching and characters evolving from one phase to another at a life-unsettling pace. That is the basic conundrum of this highly anticipated movie- Jab Harry Met Sejal.

There is no story really. The ring that is lost is merely a metaphor throughout the movie which defines what each character is seeking. Sejal might be seeking a way out of her situation, might be seeking an adventure, an experience which amazes her because wo waisi aurat hai hi nahin. Harry, on the other hand, is this broken womaniser who is trying to find that one soul which fixes his own- the key to his lock, the other half of his heart, the anchor to his life. They are bound to fall in love, they are bound to show each other what they have been missing in life, they are bound to have the best chemistry that they have ever experienced. But what assures that is their journey. It is a film about moments, about subtle thoughts, maybe scenarios which shock you- when you realise that you can feel something which you might not in your ‘normal-daily-all is fine-in denial, borderline fake routine life’. The problem however is that this is too inconsistent. The problem is not that there is no cohesive story. The problem is that the screenplay does not bind the journey- the inner one- in one coherent narrative.

The first half is too jovial, impractical maybe, fun and the second one comes with a strong (mis)understanding that the audience has understood the characters’ arcs. It’s not all bad, it only becomes bad when you start expecting too much out of the movie. This is an Imtiaz film but the fact that a 50+ year old, with lots of make up on his face (and post production VFX according to my conspiracy theory) is a superstar who is hard to tame. Anushka on the other hand is more disappointing because of what she does with the character. The accent is inconsistent and irritating at times, the acting is as bewildered as in any other Anushka film and the biggest problem of all is that we are not able to connect with her. You cannot possibly go on watching the film without judging her intentions at some point. She is a self proclaimed selfish girl who will just walk away once she find the ring and that is one thing that stays with the character. That is her flaw- but the actual hidden intention behind it- her self exploration, validation of being layak and finding what is missing in her engagement- is never really exposed.

The music is just fine, a couple of songs are sheer misfits (including my jam song- Beech Beech mein) and the locations are amazing. So all in all- it can be watched once if you dont want to delve very deep into the inner workings of the characters. The writing is layered and will touch you but those moments are rare in the entire film, which is a boo-boo!

SRK is fine but he needs to lose that one expression of frowning eyebrows and that made up deep macho voice. I am happy that he is finally breaking away from that SRK stereotype of ‘oh I will lech, be dirty, be a womaniser but will never compromise a woman’s modesty’. If you love a woman so much, just kiss her. And good you are now- and less awkwardly than what you did in Jab Tak Hai Jaan.

All in all- watch it ONCE and then maybe watch the second half once more on TV!

Hits- Acting, How it is shot, Music (some of it)
Misses- Screenplay, Too plain a storyline, Incoherence

(Picture Credits- Wikicommons)

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)

This ‘Baby’ sure can ‘Drive’!

Image result for baby driver

Every peace-loving movie goer, at some point in life, has to undergo the deeply disturbing times of watching a film with a yapper! It’s a not so rare breed of movie watchers who just cannot keep shut. They have a comment, a oh! a ye kya hai! on every scene. Well, we all have one or a couple of such ‘friends’ and we have to live with that. But why do I bring this here? I bring it here because something unusual happened. Something that I have personally never experienced. The yapper was shut. Throughout the movie (Pfft! That is not possible. Let’s ballpark it at 80% of the movie, which is a LOT!). And this movie did it. Baby Driver- a title that not a lot of people recognised, that is so unassuming but is such a brilliant piece of entertainment.

Revolving around the central character called Baby (I would not disclose the real name- yes you do get to know that at the end), the movie is about a brilliant driver who helps gangs to escape from their crime scenes. He is stuck in this shit hole for a reason. He has a condition in his eardrums which creates a constant buzz in his ears- because of which he listens to music at almost all times. And that’s how it is a pseduo musical with a genuine heart. You would not guess what is going to happen the next or at least how it will unfold. You will not be burdened with some sad back story. You will have a smile on your face throughout; obviously when you are not gasping! There are moments that you would not expect in this one. 

Music adds heart but the camerawork takes you deep in this world. Where there is thrill in skillfully crafted car chase sequences and where there is just romance in the air. You have this marvellous piece by Edgar Wright rated at a near 100% on Rotten Tomatoes because of the brilliant star cast. From Ansel Elgort to Kevin Spacey, Jon Hamm, Jamie Fox, etc. everyone is ON POINT. There is Lily James too but is slightly far off from the point in question. 

I have a feeling that this would be a title like La La Land- one that slowly grows on people and gains a cult following. A definite watch if you like cinema that is not too hard on the soul but also is not frivolous. 

Hits- Performances, Direction, Music, Camerawork, Charm
Misses- slightly less fluid tone change from the first half to the second

Picture Credits- Wikipedia

Take a bow- Wonder Woman is here!

Image result for wonder woman 2017A dear friend asked me to describe the movie in just 3 words and I could only come up with- “It was great!” And most probably, that is what you are going to feel after you have watched this one. You start with the Greek Mythology of how the Amazons came into existence and how there was a God still lurking around to take his revenge. That very soon in the film is also interspersed with what is going on in the ‘human world’ and you are introduced to the times of World War 1, a British spy and a couple of megalomaniac Germans developing a poisonous gas for mass destruction.

The beauty of the script is that it is simple. It is exactly what Wonder Woman would see and experience throughout the film so the viewer never leaves her side. Well for good reason, HAVE YOU SEEN HER! Phew!! She is taken out of a paradisaical land and introduced to the world where men take charge, where women and children die and where she teams up with few who are righteous and want to really do some good, to save the day. Don’t expect anymore plot details because you don’t do that to wafer thin plots.

Gal Gadot, that beauty is everything that you wish for in Wonder Woman. It is not an easy role at all to take on. She looks absolutely stunning, she knows what to do with her body in that skimpy dress and she knows how to look vulnerable and innocent in the scenes where she realises that the world is not that simple. There were hoots in the hall when she walks in slow motion, in all her glory, to fight an attack from opposing army! But it’s not like the man in the film is any less. Chris Pine is so underrated yet so effective. He has this charm and comic timing that work for him throughout. He is the bridge between her world and his and he brings substance wherever required. You would have a constant smile on your face during their initial interaction and would feel for their pain in the end. I hate them for doing whatever they did to Robin Wright’s (Claire Underwood) character in the first part of the movie. And the villain (the initial one at least) is just too done to death with. At a certain point, I got confused if it was a Marvel crossover. Why do you have to cast such similar looking villains!

But the movie is entertaining throughout. You get some bit of mythology, action, drama, war, comedy and seemingly genuine emotions. And a lot of the credit should go to the amazing one, a wonder woman herself if you will- the director of the movie- Patty Jenkins. Baaki sab is all what you need in these high budget fantasy movies- the costumes, the scale, the effects- everything is right there. There is a lot of slo mo- a lot of it but it looks effective at most points. The final fight is slightly jarring because of it’s over saturated special effects.

Hits- Gal Gadot, Chris Pine, Patty Jenkins, a probable revival of DC universe
Misses- Over stylised CGI, wafer thin plot, Robin Wright’s character- she could have done so much more

All in all- A good weekend watch!