Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Saving Private Ryan - Guest Post by Ashwin Baindur

This here is a guest post by a fellow blogger, a fine writer. He is a soldier and a nature lover as you can see on his blog The Butterfly diaries

Contrary to the common perception, it is quite difficult to make or even to properly appreciate a war movie. Many things stand in the way. Firstly, except for soldiers, very few of us understand the nature of War. Then, the production of a modern epic is costly, involves large sets, large casts, many explosions, and lately, plenty of special-effects all of which reduce the ease of making a 'good' film. In addition to all this, there are many pitfalls to entrap the director could get entangled with in its making - overfondness for explosions and special effects being the least of them. In such a scenario, it is a rare treat to come across such a balanced and masterfully-crafted gem as Saving Private Ryan - in my humble opinion, the best film Steven Spielberg ever made.

Surprised? I wonder what your opinion will be after reading the review as well as seeing this movie from a different point of view.

Great cinema, as in the case of great literature, holds in its script, or portrayal of it, messages for mankind. What Steven Spielberg does is to include in just one film so many of the conundrums about the nature of war that have troubled mankind through the ages. The name 'Saving Private Ryan' itself gives a tantalising hint to the central premise of the film (

Namely, is it worth risking, and losing, lives to save just one man?

In the opening scene, we see an elderly Ryan visiting the graveyards of Normandy and as he kneels in front of some of them, the director cuts to the brutality of Omaha beach publicly acknowledged as the worst bloodbath suffered by American troops in the Second World War.

This battle scene, which was ranked by TV Guide as the best of the 50 greatest movie moments of all time, is an overwhelming assault on one's senses. The soldiers of an unarmed landing craft land unprotected into a maelstrom of fire and flying metal on a beach in broad daylight without cover. With great dificulty a company of 2nd Rangers under Capt John Miller (Tom Hanks) reaches the beach and after suffering very heavy casualties secures a part of Omaha beach-head. What Spielberg achieves with this 24-minute sequence is to impress upon the viewer the Horror of War. He breaks in the viewer's mind once and for all the concept of war as a honourable and glorious endeavour and that losing lives in war is abhorrable.

The scene fades to show the human flotsam on the beaches and focuses on one pack - the name Ryan stencilled upon it.

The scene now moves to the office of the US Army Chief of Army Staff, General George C. Marshall, who discovers that three of the four brothers of the Ryan family have all died within days of each other and that their mother will receive all three notices on the same day. He is then told by his staff that that the fourth son, Private First Class James Francis Ryan (Matt Damon) of Baker Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment is missing in action somewhere in Normandy.

After reading to his staff Abraham Lincoln's Letter to Mrs. Bixby, Marshall orders that Ryan be found and sent home immediately. His staff argues that Ryan may be dead and that it is pointless to risk lives in a foolhardy mission into enemy territory to locate and bring back a soldier who may already be dead. Till this point, the viewer will wholeheartedly agree that it is pointless to risk such lives - the sons of other mothers for just one man.

In response to their arguments, Gen Marshall takes out an old letter written a long time ago to a Mrs Bixby from Abraham Lincoln. Through the formal archaic language of the letter the viewer learns that the letter is one of condolence and that she is the mother of five sons all of whom lost their lives in the American Civil War. The reading aloud by Harve Pressnell evokes powerful emotion.

I cannot stop myself from sharing the text of the letter with you, dear Reader.

"Dear Madam:

I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any words of mine which should attempt to beguile you from the grief of a loss so overwhelming. But I cannot refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of the Republic they died to save. I pray that our heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the altar of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully, Abraham Lincoln."


Gen Marshall orders that Pyt Ryan be found and sent home immediately.

By the time the reading is done, I personally was convinced that it was definitely worth anything to save that one last precious son for Mrs Ryan.

This is a very tenuous premise. It struggles like an enraged python as one mulls over it. The first thought that comes is since life is valuable, more lives are more precious than one life. Or is it? Does the great sacrifice of four lives not earn Mrs Ryan the right for her son to be returned to her? If we accept that, then how about the single chld of parents or children of parents who have lost one or more but not all but one lives of their children?

One of the real-life incidents in World War II which inspired this film was that of the Niland brothers, where two of four brothers was killed, but at one point of time, the third was also thought to have been killed (actually he was a POW) and the fourth brother brought back. The other incident was that of the five Sullivan brothers who enlisted in the US Navy on the precondition that they all serve together but who all died when their ship sank during the War. There being many cases of brethren enlisting in the conscripted United States armed forces of World War II, a 'Sole survivor' policy was introduced.

This is the magic of Spielberg! He first convinces you of a premise and then just as strongly convinces you of its the validity of its antithesis! He sets up the first conundrum for the reader to reflect at his leisure after having watched the movie. Now I am not a spoiler nor would I like to walk you through all the other contradictions that Spielberg brings alive in this magnificient film. That is for you, dear reader of Avdi's blog, to watch and discover for yourself. I only wanted to show you the method of finding such hidden lessons in Spielberg's work.

I could go on and on waxing eloquent over the accuracy of battle scenes, the way Spielberg brings life to his characters and so on and so forth, but I am only a simple soldier and should not say more. Better film reviewers than me have written about this film - Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times has written a great critique!

I wish you all the very best of viewing of this amazing movie and hope you can enjoy it as much as I enjoyed it. I enclose with thanks to Avdi for inviting a guest post for The Pink Bee.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Wake Up Sid! - 2009

There is something really refreshing about seeing a movie you have heard hardly anything about, and discover it scene by scene and be captivated by it.

Sidharth Mehra (Ranbir Kapoor) is a spoilt rich brat who is appearing for his last college exam. His intention is stay up the whole night and study hard and pass. However, he finds himself doodling, watching TV, snacking, snoozing all the time and passing out when he is tries to study. He does badly in his paper, but forgets it all and parties hard with his friends. He attends his farewell party and discovers a pretty bengali girl writing away in her diary. Aisha Bannerjee (Konkana Sen Sharma) is new to Mumbai and looking for a job in a magazine, Mumbai Beat. They are diametrically opposite. Sid is rich, pampered, spoilt, clueless and lazy. Aisha is purposeful, educated, active and independent. But they gel instantly and become friends.

Sidharth's father, Anupam Kher, tries to bribe his son into taking an interest in his business of bath fittings. Sidharth cant be pinned down to a 9-5 job and walks out after a week. He spends time with his college pals and Aisha, helping her settle into a new studio apartment. After a showdown with his parents, he leaves home and moves in with Aisha. His credit card is cancelled and he finds he needs to earn money. He starts working in Aisha's firm as an intern-photograper. He starts dating Tanya, the design-intern, while Aisha finds herself dating Kabir (Rahul Khanna), her boss.

Ok, I had better stop divulging more details. The movie is like a slice of life. The scenes are utterly convincing and very funny without being slapstick-comedic. Although there is 'Plot' as such, things seem to keep happening on their own. The pace of the movie never flags.

Both Sid and Aisha learn more things about themselves. Sid of course, has far to go as he is a spoilt brat who has never given a thought to others. But even seemingly perfect Aisha finds herself doing a double-take when Kabir tells her that she has some immature tastes and needs to be cultivated. (This was surely my favorite scene in the film). Even Sid yells back at Aisha that he tired of being told he is a kid when he has tried so hard to improve himself, but Aisha never seems to acknowledge his efforts.

There are some lovely human touches in the film. The relationship between Aisha and Sid. It is totally refreshing. They are never gooey or pally or overly sentimental. They are just together because they have fun together. Then there is Sid's mom. Played by my old favorite Supriya Pathak. When I saw her name in the credits I was stabbed by a fear that I was going to see a Hansa clone. Surely this iconic character from Khichdi was played fabulously by Supriya, but I didnt need to see it EVERYWHERE. But here Supriya plays a mother who is eager for her son's love. It was so touching that I had tears at the back of my eyes most time. But again, its not the OTT Maaaa type of thing. Just a sweet usual mother thing.

Then there is Sonia (Kashmira Shah) who is Aisha's neighbour. She has the hots for Sid right away. Later she gets pally with them both, teaching Sid how to cook eggs and share a drink with Aisha and ask her about her sex life. Then there is another neighbour who wants Sid to photograph her son, and bribes them with yummy poha.

On the other hand, the life seems a tad easy for them all. There is too much eye candy. Despite her moneyless status, Aisha is able to do up her apartment very well. Sid wears all those cool tees, socks and shoes (well, he has a rich father). Aisha too, dresses up in really cool stuff. They are able to eat out and go pub-hunting despite being freshers at work. But then, the pretty look is pleasing and aesthetic. So ok. It adds to the fun.

As for performances they are all toppers, ALL. Anupam Kher puts in a dignified performance. Supriya is wonderful as the mother who tries to speak English so she may not seem out of place with her son's friends. Kashmira Shah is great. All the people who played Sid's friends are great.

Ranbir Kapoor seems tailor made for the role. When peeved he seems petulant and spoilt. He just seems to be going with the flow. He looks every inch a college grad with his low slung, chaddi revealing jeans and cartoon tees. I loved his bright socks. I think I will hunt for some similar ones for my son. (err for me too).

Konkana I have reserved for the last because she is the best. She has lost oodles of weight and looks stunning in this movie. She has turned in an amazing performance. I could watch the movie once more just for her.

Just one plot hole. Konkana is supposed to be 27 years old. During her interview, she seems to be fresh out of college. College freshers are younger than that. It could have been explained a bit. Just a line of dialogue, to describe what she was doing all this time.

To the credit of the writers, they concentrate more on other elements of Aisha-Sid relationship, their mutual comfort, the fun they have together, their chemistry, rather than harping on the age. It is just mentioned once or twice and never again. Another thing I liked was how there are no shadi plans or any serious implications involved with them both. They just like being together so they are. Wow !

Music is by Shankar-Ehsan-Loy and its wonderful. There was this Ektara song that I am dying to hear again.

Great Job by Karan Johar the producer and Ayan Mukherjee the writer/director.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Harry So Fine

Six of the eight Harry Potter movies are out and the thing to be noted is that they have been so consistent in quality. These movies have excellent production values, the special effects are there in a good measure but they never overawe you. As Harry Potter was literature before anything else, they are very well grounded story-wise. Its not something stretched from cartoons or cooked up just for the sake of producing a SFX heavy movie.

The story itself seems to borrow a lot from fantasy-lore and is yet fresh. The forces of dark and fair is familiar to the readers of LOTR already, but unlike LOTR, Harry Potter is based in current times. The magic world is parallel to the normal world. We are all poor magicless muggles, doomed to live our lives as we know it, while somewhere we cannot see, lies a world where battle rages between the good and evil forces.

Hogwarts seems like the countless boarding school stories we gobbled up when young. For me, notably, the Mallory Towers and St.Clare's series. The children grow up and learn values in these series, quite similar to the kids in Hogwarts. There are feasts and sports and studies. Except in Harry Potter books they learn about the dark arts, fortelling future and casting spells.

The horcrux that contain the soul of the dark lord is also so similar to the evil magician who could not be killed because his life was in a parrot kept in a cage in a faraway castle.

The muggles world which Harry Potter grew up in is so Dickensian. He is an oppressed and disadvantaged orphan, subject to ridicule by his foster parents, living in a tiny room and denied any privileges or rights. He is denied any knowledge of his legacy, and is not allowed any letters even. By contrast, in the magic world he is famous, rich and accomplished. The magic world could be a fantasy of a poor orphan, like the magic world conjured up by the match-girl. But this world is so real, that you quite believe something like this could be going on right now.

So while Harry Potter story absorbs so many elements from other such tales, it is unique in its own way. There are no elves and dwarves and talking animals, but there are lot of people who work magic, giants and weird animals. Its world is lovable and warm and full of people you like instantly. Like Hagrid, Dumbledore, the weasly twins. Hermonine and Ron are the kinds of friends you would like to have.

Yes ! No wonder the books and the movies have such a hold on millions of children and grown-ups.

The books were so vivid and popular that it was inevitable that they would be made into movies.

In the first movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone we were shown the poor orphan boy who is having a bad time with his foster parents. He soon discovers his wonderful legacy and enters the world of wizards. Unlike the muggles world where he is a disadvantaged orphan, here he is already famous and rich. Along with Harry it was great to step into Hogwarts, the moving staircases, the talking pictures, the talking hats, Hermoine, Ron, Dumbledore, quidditch. OH the WHOLE JING BANG ! This movie will never lose its sheen for me.

Things are still at kid-level, but are getting a bit serious. The world is still hooked on to Harry Potter. He is gradually getting more clues to his legacy. Looking back it is easy to connect the unease with which Harry will later face regarding the pull of the dark side.

The kids are no longer wee. In this one they have to take some action. It is really my favorite of all (so far) HP movies. Ron-Hermoine action starts tentatively. Hermoine looks fabulous. Emma Watson is turning into a hottie without getting into the gauchy teen phase. Sirius Black is not what they thought he would be. Harry gains a godfather.

Harry finds himself embroiled in a serious game which could be fatal. Goblets of Fire does result in a death, that of a senior student. But Harry comes out of it, growing wiser and stronger by the year.

Decidedly dark, Harry begins to find out the extent of evil that the dark lord can summon around him. In this bleak movie, Harry learns what makes him different, its his friends who nourish his soul and keep him away from evil.

Harry has to learn how to be quick on his feet, be a bit of a sleuth, be a bit clever to find the means to serve his needs. He has lost one friend already and must lose another. He knows now that the time has come when he has to venture out and seek to defeat the Dark Lord.

The last book in the series is to be made into TWO movies, slated to be released in the years 2010 and 2011. Here is wishing there is no postponement and our decade long fellowship with Harry Potter comes to a satisfactory culmination.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Thanks for the Award

I got this lovely lovely award :

Yes the rules that follow this blog are as follows:

* Link the person who tagged you
* The display of award on your blog with these rules
* Reply to the questions
* Tag 7 people deserving the award according to you
* Come back to BLoGGiSTa iNFo CoRNeR (PLEASE DO NOT CHANGE THIS LINK) at and leave the URL of your Post in order for you/your Blog to be added to the Master List

My Answers to the questions:

* The Person who tagged you : Valerine
* His/her site’s url
* Date when you were tagged: 16th July 09
* My top 7 fav blogs….

The Papaya Factor
Vee to hona hi tha
Garbles who hardly writes but is hilarious
Bouncing Bubble
Visceral Observations

Waise all the people in my blog list are my favorites, that is why I put them there in the first place. Its horrible to select only 7, but I am sure Vee will enjoy being the only man with the rest of us .. hehe

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Breakfast at Tiffany's - 1961

There are families with a mother and father and children, living together in harmony and setting an example to others. There are other people who live on the periphery, knowing no security, thrown out in the world and forced to find their way around. These people have seen a seamier side of life and have moral values that have been 'adjusted'.

Holly Golightly and Paul Varjak live on the outside of the society. Holly is trying to survive in the world, dreaming of the day she will again be with her brother Fred and raise horses in a Mexican ranch. She wants to save money for this day, but finds it slipping through her fingers. She knows all the rich and eligible bachelors and wants to buy security for herself and Fred by marrying one of them. Paul is a struggling writer and finds that a 'helpful' society girlfriend does not hurt.

Like kinderd souls let loose in the cruel world, Paul and Holly are drawn towards one another. Will they be able to help each other?

Audery Hepaburn's luminous beauty lights up the movie. Her frail, ingenue looks make Holly an iconic character.

Holly Golighty

So frail.

You can understand why the world is in love with Audrey Hepburn, after you see this movie.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Beautiful Always !

I got the idea for this post from Reema's Post about Five Female Crushes. As usual, she peppers her post with lovely illustrations and pictures to show us why those 5 girls are so beautiful. I wanted to pick up the tag and do something on with-and-without-makeup pics of famous beauties. But instead I found myself picking up girls from a bygone era and found myself looking at the current images of those women, still beautiful.

Madhubala :

Sometimes I feel she is the ultimate beauty. She reigned over bollywood with tags like Venus. She was ethereal in her early hit, Mahal. She is the Ladki bheegi bhagi si who was all allure, innocence and loveliness. She was amazingly funny in Chalti ka naam gaadi, a perfect girl next door who is unabashed and spirited. Her role in Mughaleazam was different. She was both romantic and realistic in the movie. She knew that her love for Salim would never be accepted and foresaw only doom for herself. Despite that she offers her sweet love to Salim and accepts all the hardships she has to face with a fortitute that made her an icon for Love.

There is no old picture of Madhubala because she died young of a heart disease. Even if she had aged, she would have looked just as beautiful. Here she looks like a dream beside Dev Anand.

2. Durga Khote

I have always seen Durga Khote in a character role, mother, grandmother even. She exudes a grace and glory that even a young shapely nymphet would want. She was one of the first women of bollywood, Indian films who chose movies and acting as a career. Despite hailing from a 'good' family she stepped into acting. She was attached not only to the film world but the progressive theatre as well. An intellectual actress she was Beauty and Grace Personified.

She has worked in countless movies, but let me list two or three. She was the grandma who gave her favorite ugly duckling granddaughter Sadhana a makeover in Love in Shimla. She breaks Sadhna's thick glasses, cuts her hair and styles it and gives her a lesson in deportment. Amazing. She was the beautiful Jodhaa in Mughaleazam who is torn between her love for her husband, her duty as the maharani of Hindustan and her love for her son Salim. Class Act ! She was again Dimple's Grandma in Bobby who loves Rishi but cannot allow them run away. At the last, she was seen as Rishi's mother from previous birth in Karz.

The dimples NEVER fade.

3. Ingrid Bergman :

There were a bevy of beautiful women in hollywood, girls who could take your breath away. Girls with sass and spunk and loads of talent. There were studio heads who knew how to get the best out of their stars, how to showcase their talents. They made Hollywood into a standard that the rest of the world struggled to follow.

In this scenario it was difficult to stand out. But Ingrid Bergman had a quiet kind of a beauty that stole over you totally. Sometimes it is not just pretty features and beautiful figure that makes one face stand out, it is some kind of an allure that draws glances, an aura that makes people look at THAT face and no other. Ingrid Bergman had that allure, a soft lovely look on her face that made her look so beautiful. Her supreme talent that made her unforgettable.

Graceful always !

Play it again Sam.

4. Waheeda Rahman :

She had a whammy debut in CID, went on to play a prostitute with a heart of gold in Pyaasa. She looked like a dream. She was the original protege of Guru Dutt, but soon shook off the mantle and became a great star on her own steam. Her opus was surely Guide. She was known as a magnificent dancer and a good actress, both these talents were well exploited in Guide. I think Pyasa and Guide are among the top 5 Hindi movies and Waheeda graces both these movies beautifully.

Her looks never faded !

5. Dimple :

It helps when a great filmmaker launches you. Raj Kapoor was looking for a fresh looking girl to match his cute and talented son, Rishi. He happened to look at Kapadia's older daughter and history was made. In Bobby he chose to re-enact his own first meeting with Nargis.

But of course it was much earlier, during his birthday party that Rishi spots Dimple, framed in candles and prettier than a picture.

Cuter than a button.

Locked up in a room - a scene fraught with innocence and sexiness. Did they do it?

Just when she became the toast of the bollywood town, she tossed it away to marry Rajesh Khanna who was THE man of the moment. An early death, a retirement turns a memory poignant and its subject a topic of debate. Thus the tinseltown sang out its grief when such a natural actress and such a pretty girl bid adieu. Dimple returned with a bang in Sagar, and has never needed to go away. After a few unsavory films during the early period of her comeback, she has chosen wisely and had given us gems like Rudali, Being Cyrus, Dil Chahta Hai and Luck By Chance.

AGE, naah !

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day - 2008

I was looking for a good movie to see this weekend. Tasveer and mediocre ones like Aloo Chat are still around. Among the English ones I had a choice between Underworld, Confessions of a Shopaholic and Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day. I tried to cart my son along for Underworld, but he refused to go. So Underworld went out of the window, it's no fun watching a movie of that sort alone.

I would have picked Confessions Of A Shopaholic if it weren't for a comment on a friend's blog that she couldn't watch the movie on DVD as it was so boring. Boring is a word that's really scary. So I settled for Miss Pettigrew Lives For A Day, as I remembered reading a favorable review somewhere. Frances McDormand's presence on the cast clinched the deal further. It is directed by Bharat Nalluri.
Am I glad I followed my instincts ! Wholeheartedly !

Ms. Pettigrew (Frances McDormand) has lost a job and has been denied the wages for the last week even. She is at the lowest point in her life, having to eat at a soup kitchen, sleep at a train station. She visits her employment agency next morning to find the door slammed in her face, but she nicks a visiting card before she leaves. The visiting card belongs to Delysia Lafosse. She decides to visit Delysia and offer her services.

Just as she rings the bell to Delysia's apartment, she has second thoughts but returns to make another try. The door opens to a beautiful young woman (Amy Adams) who is obviously very flustered. She has one lover in the bed, another on the verge of a visit and another devoted one who waits in the wings, and never the three should meet. She throws her problems right at Guinevere Pettigrew and finds her quite capable of managing them. So Delysia hires Ms. Pettigrew instantly and tags her along with her everywhere for the day.

As it turns out the skittish Ms. Delysia is facing several dilemmas at the moment and is sorely in need of a wise counselor.  She has just done with trying to seduce the son of a famous producer, Phil (Tom Payne) in order to bag the lead role in his play. However, she is also in a thrall of the owner of a nightclub where she sings, Nick (Mark Strong). He keeps her in luxury, the fancy apartment she lives in is his and he is in no hurry to give her up. True Love beckons in the form of her piano player Micheal (the delectable Lee Pace). It is the night of reckoning - who does she finally submit to? Phil and a career on the stage? Nick and Luxury? True love and two tickets to New York with Micheal? She looks at Miss Pettigrew for answers to this and finds her own views changing through various points in the day.

Ms Pettigrew is pretty needy herself. She needs a job, food, security for future. She hasn't eaten in a long time, her soup at the soup kitchen the night before had spilled before she could take a spoonful, Delysia's cupboard is bare and she got only drinks where ever she went. Her genteel hunt for food is a delight to watch. She isn't looking for love but is drawn to handsome and successful Joe (Ciaran Hinds) - a lingerie designer who is a sought after bachelor. In this glittering glamorous world of shallow silly socialites, four people try to find love.

It is a totally feel-good movie, a romance. Despite its breakneck pace, you find yourself finding out almost everything about the characters. The loveless Ms. Pettigrew who has struggled to survive in this heartless world, a successful Joe who is at last fed up of being the darling of the beau monde and wishes to design Gentleman's Socks. Micheal, who just loves Delysia and wants her for himself exclusively. The scheming Edyth who wants Joe for his rich contacts. The young Phil who just wants to be able to sleep around.

Everything is brought to life perfectly. The times, the language, the ambiance, the dresses, the cars are all faultless. Amy Adams looks gorgeous, she plays the simpering silly socialite with her heart in the right place to perfection. Frances McDormand is perfect as ever. She speaks like a true governess here. Her language is a delight to hear. Just after encountering Delysia's naked lover in the bed - She tells her - "He was in the state of nature".

The men look absolutely handsome and yummy, especially Lee Pace.

It reminded me somewhat of Breakfast at Tiffany's, I guess because, Delysia is herself a high society climber and the ambiance is similar.

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Oonche Log - High Drama

It was both the RIP Feroze Khan messages on my mobile, and the excellent review of Oonche Log by Memsaab that set me off to hunt down the movie. And what a treat that was.

Major Chandrakant (Ashok Kumar) is a retired major who was wounded in a war and has lost his sight. He has led a disciplined life and has his own moral standards. He cannot bear anyone deviating from them, and his punishment is usually 3 strokes of a whip. He has two sons. The older one, Shrikant (Raj Kumar) is an upright police officer who does not hesitate to rebuke his father if he finds him breaking the law. The younger one, Rajnikant or Rajjo (Feroze Khan) is a student and leads a life given to pleasure. Shrikant senses this and is distaurbed about it, but his love for his younger brother makes him sheild his misdemeanors.

Rajjo is carrying on with a classmate of his Bimla (K R Vijaya), they even holiday in Kodaikanal. This has repercussions when Bimla finds herself pregnant. She asks Rajjo to marry her as he promised. Rajjo is too chicken to broach the subject with his father and tries to brush off Bimla. Shrikant comes of know of the issue and shields his younger brother from the wrath of his father, but insists that Rajjo do the right thing, i.e. marry the poor girl he knocked up. Alas, Rajjo is not as Ooncha (great) as the rest of his family and finds his cowardly ways landing him in a spot he cannot get out of. It even comes close to ruining the integrity of his father and brother.

Of course all I have given here is the kernel of the story. The movie is fleshed out so beautifully, is so beautifully plotted that there are no loose ends. When there was mention of Rajjo's engagement, I wondered why should there be talk of this when the older son was yet unmarried. Right then I hear Major Chandrakant mention that his older son was engaged to a girl of his father's choice. Similarly, the background of the lonely blind Major is conveyed to us in two quick dialogues between father and son when he recounts his encounter with the enemy which left him blind and how he returned from war to find his wife dead.

The movie is shot mostly in interiors, the scene being the house of Chandrakant. It moves outside mostly with Rajjo who is the skittish one. In one telling scene, Rajjo is so pleased to recieve a transistor as a gift from his brother for his birthday, that he hugs the transistor, and dances out to the garden while listening to a lovely song (Hai re tere chanchal). It is almost as if he is the only one of the 3 who can 'stray'.

This is what I liked best about the movie, it goes beyond being just a thriller. It really gets under the skin of the characters. The father, the blind man, cannot see what his younger son is up to. He signifies moral uprightness, and blames Shri for the destruction Rajjo has caused, for keeping quiet when he should spoken up and exposed him. Shri signifies Law, the external control that society imposes upon us. He is constrained to arrest a lawbreaker, even if it is someone dear to him. Rajjo playes the troublemaker - dear to both of them - who really puts their ideals to test.

There are a total of four songs in this movie, all superlative, set to music by Chitragupt with lyrics by Majrooh Sultanpuri.

1. Jaag dile diwana - sung by Mohammad Rafi
2. Aaja re mere pyaar ke rahi - Lata and Mahendra Kapoor
3. Hai re tere chanchal - Lata and Mahendra Kapoor
4. Ajab teri duniya are insaan - Asha and Mahendra Kapoor (maybe, not sure)

Battle of the Hotties
Right at the outset of the movie you realise that the 3 men share an amazing chemistry. Shri and Chandrakant are constantly bantering with each other, playing Police-Major all the time, even calling each other by their titles, 'Inspector-Major' instead of 'Beta-Pitaji'. Rajnikant is fondly called Rajjo - denoting the love the older men have for their youngest, which could have been a factor in spoiling the son. The three men look absolutely hot, Ashok Kumar is blind, but keeps himself spiffy. Raj Kumar looks very trim in his police uniform and handsome. Rajjo the rake is every bit charming and lovable.

In her review, Memsaab points out how the women in the movie stay firmly in the background. Major's wife is dead and a photograph, Shri's wife is a beloved fiance and again, a photograph, Rajjo's girlfriend appears on screen but is usually veiled and makes a brief appearence. A valuable comment on her post by Raja told me that the movie was actually an acclaimed play. The filmmaker - Phani Majumdar - wisely kept the movie taut and focussed like a play which explains why major action takes place in Chandrakant's drawing room and why the dialogue is so 'descriptive'.

This movie is a hidden classic, there is hardly anything about it on IMDB and you can google up barely anything. You simply have to read Memsaabs wonderful review. I have posted the link at the last, because I wanted to keep the readers on my page. BLUSH

Before you go - the climax is absolutely edge-of-seat-biting-your-nails stuff.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Aamir - Life deals out a nasty hand

Aamir is happy, he is returning to India to his family. His suitcase is loaded with goodies for his brothers and sisters, he carries his Hindu girlfriend's picture to show to his family, he is on cloud number 9. His dreams shatter rapidly as he disembarks at the airport and finds no fond family awaiting him. He is further puzzled as a cellphone is handed to him forcibly. The phone rings and his nightmare begins in earnest. His family has been abducted and he has to do as directed or face death of his loved ones.

Aamir goes all over Mumbai, tired and spiritless. The movie is sad and dark. It is almost like a challange to all the people of the world to make hard choices when they face it themselves.

Uh huh ! I am being a Vee here, that is -- spoilers ahead. If you want to see the movie in earnest, dont read the next paragraph.

At the end of the movie, Aamir suddenly realises that the suitcase he is carrying has a bomb, that he has sweetly been set up. He picks up the suitcase and takes it to a secluded spot and dies with it. He is perhaps aware that his family will not be spared either. It is a singular act of bravery. To spare the unknown old woman, a child that innocently waves goodby to passerbys, at the cost of own's loved ones is a choice not many may make. I may have made the easy exit too, I dont have any claims to being brave. I doubt if the movie will inspire others to take such decisions, but I dont know, it just might.

Spoilers over.

The pace of the movie is quick, and the setting is the streets of Mumbai. The movie looks almost like a documentary, which makes everything look so realistic and you are carried away by the story, even if it is awfully grim. If also makes you realise how innocent bystanders can be involved in some heinous scheme at the spur of the moment. And also that real heros can sometimes go unsung.

Rajeev Khandelwal is the dishy guy from Left Right Left. Many female hearts (including mine) was set aflutter when he appeared on screen. Incredibly handsome, (his eyes are coal black, his features are so even) he has good acting skills even, his only weak point is his slightly weak voice. But hey - his diction is still better than Shah Rukh Khan's. I am hoping he appears soon in some other pic where he vanquishes all the baddies and shows all the wimpy heros on the marquee what a hottie should really look like !

Please someone give Rajeev a good role. We are dying to watch more of him.

Wanted - A Life

Wesly Gibson (James McAvoy) has a sad life. He spends his days in a cubicle getting bossed around by Janice (Lorna Scott) his overweight bitchy boss. His girlfriend Cathy (Kirsten Hager) is fine. But she cheats on him with his best friend. Wes does a lot of ego googling and is depressed to find nothing coming up against his name. His bank account is zilch and he knows he has to depend on his cheating girlfriend for subsistance. This is pits, man! One can only go up from here.

Suddenly, he is caught in seeming crossfire between two assassins when on a visit to the supermarket. A foxy assassin seems intent on saving his life. She shoots at the other guy till he loses them, takes him on a wild car chase while he is yelling and screaming like the perfect wimp that he is. From now on life changes as Wes realises he is an assassin by legacy, and also a rich guy. All he has to do is to take some really tough training aided by Fox (Angelina Jolie) the foxy assassin.

There are fabulous effect to keep you glued to your seat. James McAvoy plays the Peter Parker character very well. He looks like a wimp too, with his petite looks and red lips. His transformation is well executed, from a wimp to a killer dude.

There are plenty of twists and turns in the plot to keep you engrossed. As in fantasy films and some thrillers, there are some fantastic assumptions here. Like a group of assassins looking inside the warp and weft of fabric to determine the name of the next person to be killed. Like a total wimp turning into the best killer in business in matter of days. Like a guy who bashed his colleagues face is able to get back to his workdesk anytime he wants to.

But still it a movie that is well written and stylishly executed. The odd match of Angeline Jolie and James McAvoy works. Thanks to some good acting by JM. Only time I liked Jolie was when she was playing a tomb raider.

There are some good effects here, as I mentioned before, death defying stunts and curving bullets, almost like target-seeking missiles. Some good punchlines like, 'Kill that motherfucker' and 'What the fuck have YOU been doing lately'.

Sigh ! I am not in a high budget movie dears, or I would dump my boring job n walk out to turn into a gorgeous assassin. For starters, I guess I should buy a magnifying glass and start looking at the warp and weft of my clothes.

Update : I read this morning in the papers that Wanted-2 is in offing and is likely to be shot in India (some parts I guess)

Monday, April 20, 2009

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Factory Girl - 2006

The Factory Girl is about aspirations of a pure WASP heiress, Edie Sedgewick and also those of a second generation (I guess) immigrant, Andy Warhol. Edie Sedgewick is full of what is happening in her life at the moment, she seems to have no thought of what's past and what is to come. I know only one other person like that, and that is my father. It is a rare gift. Do you realize how often we agonize over the past and future and completely ignore the present?

Edie ignores her heritage and possibilities totally and drops out of Radcliffe to come to New York after she is smitten by Holly Golightly. She wants to make movies and be famous. She runs into Andy Warhol at a party. He is flirting with a genre called pop-art, and also makes short films. He is struck by her verve and beauty and they kind of hang out together. She is a subject of many of his short films. Their relationship is projected as asexual and that is how I like it. But hanging out at The Factory (as Andy's studio is called) with a set of bohemian actors who take drugs and alcohol. Edie is on her gradual destructive trip, squandering her money, doing drugs, hanging around Andy uselessly, just living in the moment. She has this exclusive look for herself, heavy eye makeup, thick eyebrows, pale lips, a short dress, black leotards and gorgeous dangling, huge, gorgeous earrings.

But things change. Edie gets involved with Bob Dylan though he is called something else in the movie. This changes things between Andy and Edie too. He finds other hangers-on. Things just get worse for Edie as Bob marries someone else. Her life goes out of control and she winds up bankrupt, junked out and abandoned by her family.

"Let a man go on his way to perdition," says D.H. Lawrence. What we perceive as perdition us could be heaven for Edie. That is how she wished to live, and that is how she lived. How many of us have the courage to do that?

Andy Warhol made his movies with her as a subject, and Bob Dylan wrote two magnificent songs for her. 'Just like a Woman' and 'Leopard Skin Pillbox hat'. Her look was very famous once. She was an original socialite who craved for fame and desire to lead her life the way she wanted. In the present times, Paris Hilton springs to my mind as a famous socialite. But Paris is so put-on and so obviously out for nothing but headlines. Edie had a natural sophistication that is required for a celebrity, and a natural flair for attracting attention.

The movie is riddled with inaccuracies. Andy Warhol is shown as a ruthless exploiter of her charisma. Bob Dylan is painted as a caring lover she rejected. The facts may be quite different, my readings of their wiki pages show.

The movie works amazingly because of two great reasons. Sienna Miller and the story. The story of a rich girl crashing down to dust because of her degenerate (as we see it) living is just so romantic (like a female Devdas).  Sienna Miller looks amazing! Simply Amazing. She just gets into the role, she is great. This is what Jude Law lost? Gosh, what a sad loser.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Is Redemption Possible? Just a few thoughts, not really a review

On the face of it, The Shawshank Redemption is a guys movie. Tough criminals together, some sordid details, plenty of male bonding, and women right where men want them.. looking good on posters.

But as one watches, one realises that it is perhaps an allegory on life itself. Aren't we all living in prisons? Of our own making too, we cant blame the state or some lousy attorney for it. We are hemmed in our regular lives, moving between an endless cycle of office-home-grocery stores-eating and shitting endlessly. Occasionally taking a break to enjoy ourselves in usual ways, making out, going to movies, going to parks, taking a break (like being on a Parole). We are in this rut because we are too fearful of the world outside, like Red.

The stark truth is our wings are not bright enough. We just dont know how to fly away and strike our own paths. It is a kind of a movie that bowls you over in retrospect, and wants to make you watch it again, right away.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Laali mere laal ki, jin dekhey tith laal. Laali dekhan mai gayi, mai bhi go gayi laal.

Dileep Singh (Raj Singh Chaudhary) , a meek seedha, bhajan singing, god fearing fellow turns up to study law in Rajpur. Awaiting a spot in the hostel, he rooms in with RanSa (Abhimanyu Singh). RanSa is not appropriate company for Dileep, being a degenerate who likes to womenize, drink, and smoke weed. Hence Dileep tries to meet the warden of the hostel for a quicker entry, but to his horror finds himself mauled, stripped and thrown into a room with another naked girl, a young teacher who has just joined, Anuja (Jesse Randhawa). He is mortified and finds a good friend and benefactor in RanSa, who helps him get over his trauma. In turns, RanSa is sucked into student politics by his benefactor, Dukkey Bana (Kay Kay Menon). RanSa is a scion of the royal family and his adversory in college elections is his bastard half-sister Kiran (Ayesha Mohan). Every one seems connected to each other by blood or history.

There are old maharajas who carry a chip on their shoulders for having lost their legacy, there are bastard children seething to claim their name, there are leaders with illusions of bringing back the glorious past. The seemingly innocous elections are bloody and ruthless, with both parties going hammer and tongs at each other to win. Even the student Annual Function is a means to minting money, and a display of power by roping in rich sponsors. Dileep is repelled and intrigued by all these goings on, but finds himself sucked into the whirlpool aginst his will.

In the end, there is a thin line seperating the good from evil, and the most ruthless person wins.

This film is full of violence and anger, and though the catchline is Love.. Power.. Revolution. The Love should read as sex. So far, movies in politics have shown a woman as either the moll of the leader or his shadowy wife, it is for the first time that we see a woman using sex as a means of getting what she wants. To makes things easier for her, Kiran (Ayesha Mohan) has the sophisticated ingenue look of a girl one takes home to one's mother. It is a shock to realise how ruthless the sweet looking girl can be.

Kay Kay Menon, Deepak Dobriyal, Abhimanyu Singh, Raj Singh Chaudhary, Mahie Gill, Ayesha Mohan, Jesse Randhawa, Piyush Mishra, Aditya Shrivastava, Mahie Gill all put in marvellous performances. The music is apt and the lyrics are awesome. Both by Piyush Mishra. Even the dances, choreographed by Maansi, are really good. Mahie Gill has a small role here, she is a mistress of the local leader Dukkey Bana, who dances at night and runs a beauty parlour in the daytime. Abhimanyu Singh has a personality to die for.

So far I have seen only two films by Anurag Kashyap. Gulal and DevD. Here is a director, I feel, who is able to harness the best talent in business to make a consummate film. His casting is first rate, he is able to bring the perfect ambience to the movie, the music is always very easy on the ear, with a special mention for the lyrics. This movie may not be the best ever, but it is a very honest and a praiseworthy effort.

Of course - as they say in Punjabi - you need a jigra to see his films. A kind of a toughness, no namby-pambiness. It says the world is harsh place, and though life destroys you, you love it nonetheless.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Crazy and Beautiful

Dev Dhillon is a spoilt punjabi kaka. His dad owns a sugar mill and is loaded. Parminder Kaur (alias Paro alias Chammak Challo) is the manager's daughter. The duo is madly in love and have every intent to get it on, marry, have children and continue to live on the sugar mill campus for ever. But destiny has other plans. As in the original, Paro and Dev never get together and Dev goes off on a drinking spree. He goes on his psycheldic way to perdition, doing bootleg drinks and drugs. He is thrown into the room of Chanda by Chunnilal who is her - as she succiently calls him - 'bhadva'.

The movie begins by delineating the stories of Paro, Dev and Chanda and then leaves us to follow Dev until he is done sowing his wild oats. The movie bows to the new generation (finally) and lets us know that they all experiement with sex, hot chatting, nude pics, porn. This does not mean they are depraved. It just means they are learning about life and how to cope with it. While parents just want the kids to discover life via the route they did, parents deciding the career graphs (what to take in 11th - Med, Non-med or Arts), pointing them to a career (doctor, engr, papa ka business, yaa phir nalayak bachchon ke liye Call Centre) , finding a girl/boy for them (Savita aunty ki beti, Puran uncle ka ladka), a lavish wedding, two cute kids (hopefully boys or atleast one boy one girl) and the kids are on a giddy spree through a life of their own, plotting things for their own children.

But Paro, Dev and Chanda have taken life into their own hands. They are spirited and can think for themselves. They are clear about their own sexuality and look bemused at the term - virginity - which is such a prize for the older generation. They are not interested in being 'Good'. Hence they turn into interesting characters, even if they are careening about, clueless about what to do next. They stop being characters and become metaphors of all that is restless within the human soul. Because, without this restlessness, we would never have seen progess and would still be living in caves.

The performances of all the three leads is superlative. Mahi Gill is perhaps way ahead of the rest with her uninhibited act as Paro. At one time, she is on the verge of tears and fighting to control herself. She presses her palms against her face, and the veins on her forehead stand out. It was a magnificent act. Even the glimpse of her taking off her bra to cater to her boyfriend's wish for a nude pic. Sadly, despite her fire, she is the first of the trio to go under, kowtow to tradition and marry an older man for security, love and money, even if it is to spite Dev.

Kalki looks perfect as a schoolgirl whose life spins out of control because her boyfriend was a such a creep. She is suddenly put in a tight spot and spends some time trying to get the situation in hand. Funnily enough, she finds security and identity as Chanda in a brothel. Here she can earn her keep during the night and study during the day.

Abhay is the hero and the quintessential questless man of this saga. He is content to drift and let things happen to him. I dont know if I can label him as a good actor, but he doesnt make any jarring moves, so I guess I can say he melts into the character. All Dev knows is that he needs more daru and more daru and wont say no to drugs either. It is Chanda who jolts him out of his self absorption. That and an epiphanic moment when he is this close to death.

The movie kicks away the model of heros and heroines as perfect characters. These are three normal people who make their own decisions and come back from the brink of sure perdition.

Despite the criticism meted out to it, I loved the music and wanted to pick up a cd right away. I want ALL the songs, not just 'emosonal atyachar'. They are all played out in the background, almost substituting the background music entirely.

A friend of mine said that if Anurag Kashyap took the same team and tried to re-do the movie he wont be able to make the same kind of thing. It is so unique that it just cannot be replicated. Here is a no-holds barred look at life.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

LBC - Kaun Banega Superstar

Movies on the movie industry have a peculiar charm about them. It is like turning a camera back to face yourself, or shooting your own feet. It is a time to reveal your warts. Zoya reveals the beauties and warts of the film industry with a gentle humour with Luck By Chance.

Vikram Jaisingh (Farhan) is a fairly good looking fellow (hot actually) who can emote well, dance well and has a good bod too. He has a couple of friends connected slightly to the movie industry. He has this childhood friend Abhimanyu (Arjun) who is a laid-back kind of a character. He does theater and has a hot neighbour, Sona (Konkona). He also hangs out with another friend who assists Mahesh Bhatt. Almost inadvertently, 'by chance' to borrow the title phrase, a grandfather clock sets things in motion for Vikram, and he winds up charming the right people, which leads him to a big break.

Our Vikram is not all sugar and sweet, he is out to be a superstar and he can be sans scruples when the occasion demands it. All the people in the industry are shown in an equal light, they are neither white nor black. The backbiting, the mediocrity, the manipulations are all shown with such a gentle humour that you are left giggling and marveling.

The story is like a slice of life and very complete. The characters are totally STANDOUT. There is not one character I would cut out of the movie. Dimple, Juhi, Rishi are the stellar seniors, though Juhi looks mint fresh as Minty. Dimple is grace personified as ever, and her acting is flawless as ever. Rishi is now getting the kind of roles he deserved. He is an emotional, Punjabi, old time producer who can shed crocodile tears at the drop of a pin. He wolfs down paranthas with his diet food. Isha Shravani as Nikki,  the debutante heroine  and the daughter of an yesteryear's superstar is perfect. She looks exactly like a pampered teenager who has had everything on a platter.

If the characters are a standout, I don't have words to describe the script and dialogues. They are simply PERFECT. The dialogues are fun and funny without being smart ass. I am dying to reveal the one about khoon and murder. But won't. No point in spoiling others' fun. The story moves so well, and is so well done, that I feel its one of the best scripts ever in a film industry.

The acting is superlative, the cast is definitely ensemble, especially as the hero of this movie is not there to hog footage, but to make a good movie.

May I please compare this movie with Dil Chahta Hai? Of course DCH is fun personified and one of the best movies out of Hindi film industry, but still I didn't quite like the Preity-Amir tamasha at the end of it. It was too dramatic. And I also had a bit of a quarrel about the opulence of sets, the attempt to create a 'designer' look. These two faults are totally avoided in LBC, there is no attempt at opulence, and the look is strictly according to the situation. The clothes of the characters and the sets are just perfect.

Alright, that comparison above was a bit out of line, Farhan and Zoya are brother and sister, but they are entitled to their own movie making styles.

I had a bone to pick with Sona (Konkona) opting to drop out of the rat race at the end.  By doing so, Sona shows that you cannot survive in the film industry unless you are willing to play dirty.  The message it gives out is that when someone uses you, you just use them back.  If you cannot do that, go away. Also, I am sure television world has as much dirty politics going on as the film world.