Saturday, June 5, 2010


I've never picked up my pen or typed away furiously at a keyboard, EVER, to write about a film I did not like. Despite watching Race with its 'I want to be different' meandering plotline, despite sitting through that obnoxiously superfluous entertainer called 'Prince' and many such, I never really felt like writing about a film as much as Rajneeti did.

Despite being SUCH an intense topic to explore, Prakash Jha fails us by creating a film with too many loose ends and convenient ones at that.

Rajneeti is a political drama, as all the characters very gravely remind us every two seconds in an attempt to make sure none in the audience forget the film's title.

The Story begins with a politician daughter Comrade Bharati differing from her papa's ways and joining the fiery communist leader Bhaskar Sanyal, played by Naserrudhin Shah. During the first-summer rain, with Bharti losing her acting skills(or lack thereof) in that... was it a dance?... she loses herself to her leader in a moment of passion.

Naseerudhin Shah, who could have probably made this film SO MUCH better had he just been around in the sides of the frames, makes a hasty exit from her life and from the film itself! *sigh

Then and there begins the saga... called Rajneeti. In a Nehru family inspired, Godfather-ish rendition of a Mahabharata with modern warfare and Fabindia Kurta clad-politicians, Rajneeti loses focus.

Trying to reconstruct the story-developing scenario, it must have been similar to this:

> Establish two camps like Pandavas and Kauravas. Enter the two politician brothers.

> Breed enmity Godfather-ish style. Paralyse older brother. Kill younger brother. Make Younger Brother's first son Sunny Corleone-esquely volatile and the Older brother's son very conniving.

> Add hospital sequence, police face-off scene-by-scene from The Godfather.

> Make everything more dramatic by using shudhdh Hindi that no one really uses in everyday land!

> Make Krishna mahashay add fuel where necessary, advice a la Bhagavat Gita when required, and basically to prod and usher people around to do whatever he wants without getting his hands bloody. Nana paterkar, the Mamaji.

> Thicken the plot, bring twists, kill people, kill more and more people, kill more and more and more people, bring in the Nehru family influence, foreign bahu, a little no-influence twist of two women liking hottie Ranbir(Samar, summer, pronounce whichever way you like, based on which side you are: In India or Outside India).

> Copy Sunny Corleone's weakness for women angle and also his intense family bonding to fit like a glove.

> Make Ranbir the detachedly attached Michael, using people, hiding things from his beloved, being fiercely loyal to familee.

> Enter Karna who plays kabaddi(parallel to chariot race), name him Suraj(Surya putra to hain hi!), make him meet Manoj 'Veer' Bajpai's sidekick. Suraj, incidentally is the charioteer...oops driver's son. He has the entire gadget essential- two silver earrings he never parts with on-screen, a lovely lustrous red wrapper in which he is sent floating on the river(Ganges?).

> Kill more people and repeat this as often as is possible.

> Bring twists and turns. Copy the blasting off wife in the car sequence from The Godfather. Add brother in the car for an exciting twist.

Also blast off plotter-of-dad's-murder in a car sequence.

> Kill...kill...kill...

> Throw some lone-woman-fighting sentiment, suspiciously similar to Sonia Gandhi, although Katrina is not the foreen bahu and YES that is the twist in the tale and oh-so-original idea.

> Make laidee win and make brother-in-law cum ex-love interest wipe out probably, the ENTIRE opposition party itself to help her make a clean sweep.

> Make B-I-law walk off back to where he came from- his lovely USA- as if he killed no one, he saw no blood, he wreaked no havoc.

> Throw in fancy one-liners that remain sadly, just that- One liners that stick out like a sore thumb amidst the archaic Hindi- "Come, give me a hug!", "Fall in the line or fall on the wayside!" etc.

> Dress all the men, like million buck worth Arjun Rampal wear fancy white kurtis you so drool over and hottie Ranbir sport some black magical sheeny kurtas that ooze out class!

> Make all the women wear saris like they are either heritage-hotel receptionists or Air India flight steawardesses with their permanent smiles and benign eyes.

> Make some loser design the party symbol for Arjun's Jan Shakti party. What lousy colours, what a terrible design! And they even dared to display their party t-shirt in the background!!!

> Observe facts like Manoj Bajpai mixes his drinks with Appy Fizz! :D

> Notice that both bahus could have had a moment of "I'm pregnant", "So am I" dialogue, which they failed to do!

>Hindi dialogues I learnt: "kokh ki aulaat":creation of my womb; "yon soshan": sexual abuse.

Phew! The film was entertaining only in a way that it made me notice these things and exchange hearty laughs over all these and more.

It could have been so much better had Jha decided to stick to the plot rather than his inspirations. A raw gritty political story, tracing the heights and lows of being a leader of this country's political system would have not only made an interesting but also a gripping film.

But getting carried away with the Mahabharata, The Godfather and the probable Nehru-family influences has only made Rajneeti weak and predictable.

P.S.: Watch it only if it is playing at a theatre very near you and you have too much money to spare. Otherwise, wait for the cable to show it, predictably, very soon.

The convincing campaigns.
The crowd! WHOA! Must have been quite a task.
The casting coup.
The theme and conviction to make a film about politics.

Sunday, September 14, 2008


We know he stutters 'ka...ka...ka...ka…Kiran'  in the most ludicrous of manners! We know he takes the cheesiest of cheesy dialogues to garnish his flicks. We also know that sappiness, sentiments and saccharine-sweetness go hand-in-hand with most of the roles he ‘Don’s (couldn’t resist the pun!).

And yet…

…and yet, when Shah Rukh Khan emerges from the train, turns around and winks; or reveals his dimples in that million-buck smile, our hearts melt!

So, what makes the man tick, beyond his badly-etched role in Kuch Kuch Hota Hain(KKHH), the mountains of over-acting in Chalte Chalte and all the emotional melodrama of Kabhie Kushi Kabhie Gham(K3G)?

Charisma, for one. The man oozes s muck of the C-word on screen that any movie turns to be a drool-fest! To see those steely Scorpio eyes (Nov 2 born) freezing the lady-love in an impenetrable eye-lock, is enough, for any girl to wish she were his screen goddess and any guy to wish he had that luck and flair!

Style, to mention another. Who would mouth a “Bade-bade deshon mein aisi chotti-chotti baatein hoto rehti hain”(in DDLJ) and a powerful inspiring ‘Chak De’ dialogue with equal élan?!

Spirit, too, if we may add. Which hero can convince himself to do roles like he did? He contradicts himself in KKHH. Tells us ‘Pyaar ek hi baar hota hain’ and takes away both Rani and Kajol!!! He dives away from Satish Shah’s spit in ‘Main Hoon Na’ ala Matrix-ishtyle! He does a ‘loved-lost-reborn to find love’ role in ‘Om Shanti Om’ with so much conviction that we are smitten by its flamboyance and cinematic flashiness! Who else, we ask again, can take up a ‘Badshah’ or a ‘Duplicate’ and ACTUALLY make it enjoyable?! Who else would have the guts to continue a ‘Kaun Banega Crorepati’ from the Big B himself and make it oh-so-good?

We almost forgot his Confidence. Strutting around declaring ‘I am the best’ may not really sound modest or down-to-earth. But believe it or not, we still think he’s one of the most people-friendly and adorable guys that scorched our screens! Such strength and poise that this guy exudes, makes everyone who has anything to do with films, mouth a ‘WOW’!

And not to forget, Stamina. From small-screen ‘Circus’ to big-screen Bhoothnath. From ‘Kabhi Haan Kabhi Na’ to ‘Kya aap Paanchvi Paas se behatar hain’- this man has lasted long enough and belted out enough hits to prove everyone who scoffs at him, wrong. Be it being silly in the initial moments of ‘Phir Bhi Dil Hain Hindustani’ or mute in ‘Koyla’ or taking up a powerful role in ‘Swades’ and excelling in it, King Khan has lived his role the way it should be!

There are very few men who would openly hail the guy as a true entertainer and a great actor. They repeatedly find faults out loud, because they grudgingly realize, that their wives and girlfriends, will always want to see the SRK in them! Daughters want the cool-dad. Mothers and mother-in-laws look out for the doting son! How terrible it must be to be born in the world as a man where SRK shall always be the better of the species, and you shall be compared to him in every way- walk, style, personality et al!

In a way, it is justified, as he does prove why he is called King Khan; he reigns supreme- head firmly on shoulders, working his way insomniacally into the top, and staying there, still declaring with a dimpled and delectable smile- ‘I am the best’!

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Rock on(2008)

Why Rock On probably works, is because of the maturity with which the film is handled.The movie has its share of cliches,but in places where you expect the movie to fall flat and you're sure it is contrived, surprisingly you're spared. And of course there's some really good music by the trio Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy(yeh tumahari meri baatein-surely one of the most beautiful songs written and composed); and the actors who seem to be perfectly handpicked by the casting director.Above all, the film has its heart in the right place, and you are bound to like it.

So Even though Abhishek kapoor's directorial debut 'Aryan' was a no show at the box office and his story is suspiciously similar to Dil chahta Hai, the man is quite talented. He sure knows his craft quite well. But then, he plays it safe and the film seems a little bland.

The story of four friends, who form a rock band, which breaks up and then reunites, might sound simple at the outset, but the way it plays out on the screen, with some beautiful vivid imagery-flashes of the past and the present juxtaposed with some 'rocking' music, makes for an engaging watch.

The multi-talented Farhan Akthar who makes his acting and singing debut, is a powerhouse performer, but he slips off at a few places. Television's young starlet Prachi Desai (aka Bani-another Ekta Kapoor find) too makes her debut. The maturity with which she performs is quite commendable, especially after her daily Kasamh se, where all she had to do was sob. After years of flops, Arjun Rampal seems to be choosing the right films. He performs with utmost sincerity.So does Shahana Goswami, who seems like the next Konkona.She's completely natural.Luke Kenny is good too.Purab Kohli, who invariably provides us with the lighter moments in the film, seems a little wasted.

Surely one of the better films of the year.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Manorama six feet under....(warning:no spoilers but a few good dialogues and lottts of hindi!!)

Set in Lakhot, a Rajasthani village which exists in extremes-either fatally hot or lethally cold, and is further personified as “…jahan duniya se alag apni ek alag duniya hai...ghaadi ki sui mein atka hua wife sa boring,haathi sa sust,bin naade ke pyjaame se dheela dhaala Lakhot”.

“..paranthu registhaan ki ek sach hai…jo dikhtha hai wo hotha hota hai wo dikhtha nahi....yahaan kidon ko bhi nahi pata ki jis reth par wo bistar banaye hai…pata nahin kaun saap,bichchu chupa baita hai uske neeche…”

And so is the life of Satyaveer Randhawa very similar to Lakhot ,one moment it is dreary and unfruitful but the next moment he’s caught in mystery,murder and adventure. And like the nature of the desert, nothing is what it seems.

The movie introduces us to Randhawa,a junior PWD engineer at an abandoned canal construction site with some brilliantly pictorial dialogues, ambiguous surroundings and a surreal painting like setting in the desert.


“tumhara tho dimag bhi pending hai,poora dept commission le raha hai-aur tumhi ek akele buddhu jo pakde gaye..”

This tells us about Randhawa who is in suspension awaiting the enquiry report for taking small commissions; and about his beautiful but nagging wife Nimi.Randhawa always wanted to be a famous writer and almost got there with his debut detective novel “Manorama”. But the novel corked his soaring dreams as only 200 copies were sold. The first and biggest failure in his life.

“har kisi ki zindagi mein ek aisa waqt bhi aata hai jab sale aaine ko sach bolne ki bimaari lag jaati hai”

But this day, in which he laments his lost glory the most, ends with the buyer of one of the 200 copies knocking on the door late into the night.


“afsos..!par raghu tho sirf ek character hai na…kirdaar…kehthe hain kirdaar kiraedaar nahi ban saktha,par kalaakar tho kiraedaar ban saktha hai..”

A fan of detective Raghu in Randhawa’s novel, and in need of one such man to spy on her irrigation minister husband P.P.Rathore…she turns to Satyaveer Randhawa for the lack of any trustworthy private detectives in Lakhot. She requests him to find out whether her husband is seeing another woman and to click pictures for evidence, in return for a fat paycheck. Owing to his need for and a spark in life, Randhawa agrees. But the day after he hands over the film roll to the woman, he accidentally discovers that she is not the minister’s wife.

Before his shock subsides she stops his bike one dark night to say that her name is actually Manorama and her life is in danger. She runs away after throwing him a cryptic line. What happens later? Like Brij Mohan,his typical-thanedaar brother-in-law, recounts a story of a kid called Bholu…
“jaisa naam waisa kaam....bada bhola bachcha tha Bholu.....choti choti cheejon se kush ho jaata-par saale mein ek hi bimari thi-pichwade mein jigyasa ki khurach thi usse”

Yes, the itch of curiosity got better of Satyaveer Randhawa and he fell headlong into this thriller of a situation only to find more complicated characters and more mysterious and dangerous situations! All this in spite of Brij mohan’s warnings…”zara si saavdhaani,zindagi bhar aasaani”,which he got from a condom ad and “kutte ki haddi aur mantri ki chaddi mein haath nahi dala karte jijje.Ek mein 14 injection lagte hain aur doosre mein tho bas…lag jaati hain,pata bhi nahi chaltha “

Manorama six feet under is of the noir genre and can be termed as one of those DVD hits.Though an indianized take of Roman Polanski’s Chinatown(yep the story is not original..sigh),it does not feel as if it has tried too hard to be baptized Indian.

From the dusty stretch of vast desert and evil looking scrubs in the beginning of the movie to the small flower wetting itself in the unexpected rain, the movie felt like those dark forgotten whodunits with everything clichéd(like brown toothed cackling goons to corrupt politicians) made into a very gripping screenplay.

Vinay pathak-“Rajasthan plays a character in the movie”

I completely agree with him and believe that Rajasthan and the brilliant dialogues by Abhinav Kashyap and Manoj Tapadia play main protagonists followed by the soundtrack in the supporting role.’Dhoka' sung by Richa Sharma gives a sense of mystery and doom leading on to ‘dhundla jo sama’ by Kailash Kher in the end of the movie.

Abhay Deol,Gul Panag and Vinay Pathak did full justice to Satyaveer randhawa,Nimi and Brij mohan respectively. Raima Sen did not go unnoticed in her stint as Manorama’s room-mate Sheetal. Kulbhushan Karbanda fits perfectly into the role of the corrupt politician P.P.Rathore and last but not the least Sarika gives her enigmatic best to ‘Manorama’.

So hats off to Navdeep Singh the director whose belief in his movie is extremely evident and feels like he fulfilled a childhood fantasy.

Ps: It would be great if next time this was done with an original story :D

Anoodha Kunnath

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


Aamir joins the league of movies like Lagaan, Dil Chahta Hai, Yun Hota Toh Kya Hota, Taare Zameen Par, Mithya (these are the only ones I can think of, as of now) and loads of others- movies synonymous with the coming of age of Indian cinema, where the story and screenplay are the real heroes of the film. Never mind the stars attached to them.

So even though it is 'inspired' from a Filipino film Cavite (Have not watched it.-- Talk about Bollywood and originality.) and deals with the same old subject of branding certain people as terrorists just because they are Muslim, debutant director Raj Kumar Gupta, gives it a whole new meaning, with such finesse and control over the medium, rarely seen.

As our protagonist (Rajeev Khandelwal) is coming out of the Mumbai Airport, after a squabble with the immigrations officer- Just because his name is Aamir Ali( his luggage checked thrice-What if he's a terrorist??)-he's given a mobile by two strangers. Soon Aamir becomes a puppet in the hands of a man(Gajraj Rao), who has kidnapped his family and is constantly giving him instructions over the phone, taking him(and us) through a maze called Mumbai, all this leading to a riveting climax. But why is Aamir chosen?- He too doesn't know and so don't we.

Shot on real time locations(all of it during the day) the city of Mumbai comes alive, with some very interesting camera work(Alphonse Roy).Very neat and clean, nothing too gimmicky.Yet there is some novelty in the way the shots are taken. Right from the opening shot where we get to see montages of the cityscape, with "It's a good day....." playing in the background to the scene where there is this chaotic traffic jam or even the abandoned shady alleys which Aamir has to go through. It gives the movie a very raw feel.This combined with Raj Kumar Gupta's adept direction and Amit Trivedi's music and background score, keeps you hooked on till the last minute.

Even though, this drama has a running time of 98 mins, the pace does slacken at some point, and the dialogues (Raj Kumar Gupta again.) get a little repetitive, especially that of the man on the phone.
The cast mostly comprising of unknown actors, except Rajeev khandelwal, performs quite well( Gajraj Rao gets a little annoying though.) Ekta Kapoor's then sone-ka-anda-dene-wala-murgi, Rajeev Khandelwal, who was wasted in two completely hopeless dailies ( Kahin na kahin...and Left Right left) means business, and just does that-act, displaying his wide range of histrionics and proves that he fits the character of Dr. Aamir to the T.

This movie surely needs to be watched.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Mahanagar : The Big City

With Mahanagar (The big city)(1963) Satyajit Ray explores the pathos of the people living in a modern day city.

Subrata Mazumdar (Anil Chatterjee) is a bank employee. The meagre income he earns is not enough to support his middle class family, which consists of his wife Arati (Madhabi Mukherjee), their son, his retired father (Haren Chatterjee) and mother and his young sister Bani (Jaya Bhaduri). After a few hints from her husband, Arati too decides to take up a job with stiff opposition from the elders, especially the father. Arati finds a job as a sales girl selling knitting machines door to door. Her success notwithstanding, Subrata asks her to quit her job. But as luck would have it, Subrata ends up losing his job due to unforeseen circumstances. Now its Arati who is the ‘man’ of the family. But then everything isn’t smooth sailing in the big city…..Thus begins a journey of struggles and hardships, and one has to be optimistic.

Somehow Mahanagar doesn’t have that poetic flow to it, as the other Ray films I’ve seen, especially Pather Panchali and Charulata (I know they can’t be compared, but then….). But he lends the film a raw feel which is much understated and he’s made a film which was completely modern for its time- about people living in 1950’s Calcutta, and it still holds relevance. The issues he deals with in this film are plenty. Like Arati’s racist boss, who has a strong dislike for her Anglo-Indian colleague Edith or her father-in-law, who has a problem with the women of the house working outside. Even though the movie deals small vagaries of city life, not a second does it leave you bored.

This was Madhabi Mukherjee’s first film with Satyajit Ray, after which she went on to star in his Classic Charulata and Kapurush. The transformation of Arati from a timid housewife to a confident working woman is excellently brought about. She underplays her character without being overly dramatic. Ditto with Anil Chatterjee. Even Haren Chatterjee as the father, who is unapologetic about his views, especially women working, but how he slowly ends up surrendering to the ways of modern times, plays his part well.

The camera work is quite impressive, and so is the way a few scenes have been executed. The scene where Arati is looking at herself in the mirror, with her first pay in her hands- the expression on Madhabi Mukherjee’s face and the scene as such is brilliant. A few of the close-up shots, of the main players, throughout the film, have been very interestingly shot with the play of light and shadow.

A film with interesting insights of city life

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


VK runs for his life after seeing a gang shoot out first hand. He madly runs along what I think is the Mumbai marine drive in the dead of the night. The camera follows him all along till a bird flying above the sea catches its attention. I don’t know whether the camera man got lucky or it was graphic but I loved that shot. That particular bird (among many others) seemed to be fleeing and sharing the same trembling apprehension. Side kicked with a very nice background score by Sagar Desai, Mithiya then on keeps you hooked.

You have to give it to Ranvir Shorey .Desperation, helplessness, charm, oblivion, humor…. and what not, he has portrayed it all. This guy is going places. The other protagonists like Saurab Shukhla ,Naseerudin Shah ,Vinay Pathak, Iravathi mayadev,Neha Dhupia,Harsh Chaaya etc are given equally distributed screen life and do full justice to the black comedy.

I don’t know whether this movie can be put into any one of the commercial or parallel cinema slot. It is so realistic that you can touch the characters, at the same time utterly entertaining .It has no long-muahahaha dialogues before someone shoots down another, no superhuman heroes and no spy cameras conveniently popping up (remember Race!).

Director/writer Rajat Kapoor and co-writer Saurab Shukhla have taken the age old humshakal or the doppelganger concept and beaten clichés into shape.VK an aspiring actor shares his face with Raje an underworld don, whose rivals-Gavde (Naseerudin Shah) and Shetty (Saurabh Shukla) - seize him in order to carry out their master plan. They kill Raje and send a trained-in-captivity VK in his place.VK plays his part well. The aspiring actor got a role of a ‘lifetime’ alright but is terrified. Will the kahani-mein-twists aid his acting or lead to a tragic love story or both!

The rest is mystery… :P

Anoodha Kunnath