Sunday, September 30, 2012

Reshma Aur Shera

Friday the 27th September was difficult for me because I was feeling depressed and down.  On top of that the internet was playing hookey.  I was in the process of changing my connection and fell between two stools of the old connection which I scrapped and the new connection which was having teething troubles.

I decided to bring out a DVD from my pile of 'to-be-watched'.  I picked 'Reshma aur Shera'.

I picked 'Reshma aur Shera'.

I have heard only good things about this movie, I loved the music, I love Sunil Dutt and Waheeda.  I was eager to see for myself if the movie lived up to my expectation.

It did.

The movie is set in the magnificent, stark sand dunes of Rajasthan.  Reshma (Waheeda Rehman) is the beautiful daughter of the Chief of Pochina and Shera (Sunil Dutt) is the son of the chief Sagat.  The two clans do not get along and their rivalry has claimed a good number of lives.  Shera is visiting a fair which culminates in ritual sacrifice of a goat for the Devi Ma.  This year he has the honor of wielding the sacrificial sword.

Reshma and Shera run into each other at the fair.  Shera is captivated by the girl and kind of stalks her.  She is curious about him, attracted too, but hesitant.  A little later Shera's younger brothers Vijay (Vinod Khanna) and Jagat (Naval Kumar) get into a scuffle with the Pochina crowd and are on the point of killing their Chief's son Gopal (Ranjeet) when Shera steps in and saves him.  He thrashes his brothers for creating ruckus at Devi Ma's door and sends them back home.

This act of his endears him to Reshma.  She loves her brother and her one wish is to see him unharmed.  Shera wants to end the enmity between their clans and wants to marry Reshma. For the moment they have to be content with a little courting and meeting secretly at nights in the sand dunes.

Shera's pacifist ways are not met with any enthusiasm by his bloodthirsty brothers and father, the Chief Sagat (Jayant).  Shera has one more sibling, the youngest, Chotu (Amitabh Bachchan).  Chotu is a crack shot and dumb. He loves his eldest brother Shera and follows him around.  He is a bit cowardly and weak too.  But a good person.

Shera wants to start the peace talks between the families by a visit to the Chief of Pochina (K N Singh) on the occasion of Gopal's marriage.  His father disowns him for wanting to do this.  There is a very touching scene as Shera is driven away without taking the bundle of food that his mother had packed for him.  Chotu picks up the food and runs after Shera to give it to him, but is dragged back, weeping and helpless by his brothers.

Shera's families now hatch an evil plan to making Chotu shoot the Chief of Pochina and Gopal dead.  Just as Shera manages to win over the Chief of Pochina too.  Now the heart-rending scene at the site as the newly wed bride (Rakhee) finds she is now a widow, makes Shera swear vengeance.

A bloodbath is unleashed as Shera tries to find the person who pulled the trigger.  Where will this vengeance end?  What will happen to Reshma and Shera?

The story is told in a taut manner, there are no unnecessary scenes and no diverting into CSP, which was the bane of many movies of the time.  The starkness of the tale is complemented by the starkness of the desert landscape.  The homes of the people are in mud-huts with thatched roofs, not some fancy havelis, as the movies these days often have.  

The characters are quickly delineated by deft dialogues and actions.  Hence we know early on that Shera is a pacifist, and so is Reshma. Shera's mother (Sulochana) wants peace too.  Shera's brothers and father are bloodthirsty. Chotu is simple soul who would not willingly hurt a sparrow.  The story moves along at an even pace.

The songs by Jaidev are sublime.  Ek thandi si agan, shot brilliantly in Hawa Mahal is gorgeous.  Tu Chanda Main Chandni, shot in the shifting sand dunes is captivating.  There is a qawwali at the start Zalim meri Sharab me where a very young Sanjay Dutt also performs along with Sudhir.   Ek to yeh bharpoor jawani is a mujra performed by Padma Khanna to celebrate the killing of the enemy.

All the actors have put in a wonderful performance.  Waheeda stands out as a young girl in love at the start and later as a troubled young woman who must make some tough choices.  She deserved the national award she got that year.  Another standout performance in the film was from Amitabh Bachchan who was magnificent as Chotu who is brings out the nuances of his character to perfection.

The movie gets a little too melodramatic at times, but in face of such brilliance elsewhere, I am willing to let it pass.  This is one movie every film lover should see.

Sunday, September 16, 2012


For quite some time now we have not seen a movie that the public was unanimous in endorsing.  Barfi is a movie all are raving about at the moment.  A friend tweeted "
Barfii is cute, funny, high on emotions. Every frame is brilliant. Classic."

This tweet made me want to see the movie, and I blocked out all reviews and opinions on the film from my reading list. I like to see a film without knowing anything about it at all.  All you could hear on the ticket window was 'Barfi'. "Do barfi dena" said the girl standing the row next to mine. I almost said "Yeh koi halwai ki dukan hai?".

I opted for the earliest show, the 9.15 one.  This is my favorite show timing.  You are done with the movie before midday and have the rest of the day free for other activities. Usually this time slot is not popular with people because no one likes being out of their beds so early on a Sunday.  Yet I was surprised to see the hall fill up in no time.

Most people know what the movie is about.  Barfi (Ranbir Kapoor) is a deaf mute boy living in Darjeeling.  His story is told in flashbacks by a girl who loves him Shruti (Ileana D'Cruz).  Shruti makes friends with Barfi when her father is transferred to Darjeeling.  She has a lot of fun running around with him.  Maybe for the first time in her life, she is truly emancipated, because the deaf-mute does not expect her to behave in a particular fashion.  Despite feeling connected to him, she has to give him up and marry the guy her parents approve of.

Barfi is heartbroken when he sees that he cannot be with her.  His life takes an unforeseen turn when he runs into Jhilmil, an autistic girl imprisoned in her home by her insensitive but rich parents. Jhilmil is kidnapped, and Barfi is suspected of kidnapping and later, murdering her.

The story of Barfi is engrossing, to be sure.  There is something happening all through the film to keep you occupied.  However it is the treatment of the film that is the king, nay, the emperor here.

The film is short almost like a silent movie for the first part. Apt. The movie is about a deaf-mute who has no sound in his life.  There are times when the silences actually nearly unnerve you, but also grip you in a way no film has done in recent time.

The movie is beautiful as well.  Shot in scenic Darjeeling, the frequent use of the toy train reminds you so much of "Mere sapno ki raani".

Anurag Basu OWNS the film along with Ranbir Kapoor.  He invokes memories of Life in a Metro with the use of musicians that pop up to play a mournful accordian every time something emotional happens.  Also the skillful touches and scenes that are likely to linger in your memory for a long long time.

Ileana D'Cruz is simply beautiful.  Her large eyes are used to full effect by the director to convey emotions.  She looks lovely in her 70s get-up, hoops and turtleneck sweaters in the first half and bengali sarees that show off her lovely slim waist in the second half.

Jhilmil (Priyanka Chopra) is helped in her acting by her curly hair, her prosthetic teeth and camera angles.  I do feel Anurag Basu must get the major chunk of kudos for her performance.

On the other hand, Ranbir Kapoor is absolutely perfect.  His lithe body helps in the chaplinesque moves he has to make as the slippery Barfi.  Seeing that he gets only one line to speak "Barfi", he could have gone OTT with the expressions, but he never does!  He is perfect.

I did not quite like the last couple of scenes.  I wish the movie had ended when the mystery around Jhilmil was cleared.  A little ambiguity does not hurt. :)  Even so! Barfi is the most unusual movie to have hit the movie screens in recent times.  It is quirky, funny, emotional, thrilling, moving. 

To Rome with Love and Arbitrage

I ended my hiatus of a few months and went to a theatre to watch To Rome With Love last week.  A Woody Allen movie is a guarantee of entertainment and some mental stimulation which the recent crop of 'disaster' or 'superhero' flicks can not provide.

To Rome with Love was a funny film, filled with absurd situations that can happen only in a Woody Allen film.  I loved it.  I loved the characters, the story, the acting.  Judy Davis looked super-hot despite her years.  It is nice to see a hollywood actress not afraid of showing her wrinkles.  Here is Richard Brody's review of the movie printed in The New Yorker.

I watched the trailer of a new film Arbitrage directed by Nicholas Jarecki starring Richard Gere and Susan Sarandon that looked pretty good during the screening of To Rome With Love.  This friday when I was looking at the new movie listings in the paper, I saw that this movie was playing in PVR.

I was caught between wanting to see Barfi and this movie, Arbitrage.  Arbitrage won because I knew I could not just walk to the box office window and get current show bookings for Barfi.  So I opted to watch Arbitrage first, and book my ticket for Barfi for Sunday.

A funny thing happened at the ticket window.  A lady had sent her mother to book a couple of tickets for Arbitrage.  The girl manning the window misheard the woman and booked two tickets for Raaz.  The miffed younger woman yelled at the box-office girl "Arbitraajz" not "Raaz", "English Movie".  I felt sorry for the ticket window girl.  These people are paid a pittance for sitting all day at the counters, dealing with a jostling crowd.  On top of that it is hard for a desi girl to understand poncy pronunciations, so it is better to be clear and simple while talking to people.  And keep your accents and airs limited to your own ilk.

The movie stars Richard Gere as a man of suspect character, who is on the verge of selling his business.  Robert Miller (Gere) has been cooking the books to facilitate the sale.  He is also having an affair with an artist on the side.  He has apparently promised the girl that he would soon leave his wife for her. Beset with troubles over the delays in the sale of his company which is costing him a great deal of stress and financial loss, he decides to run away with his mistress.  His eyes close for a second when he is at the wheel and the car crashes.  The girl dies and Miller leaves the car just before it blows up.

Miller is tempted to distance himself from this accident and return to his old life, to his wife and children, his business interests.  He calls a young man Jimmy Grant (Nat Parker) who is indebted to him, to come and pick him up.  He has left the site clear of any evidence of his presence, or so he thinks.

The police detective (Tim Roth) is soon on his trail, and Miller finds himself getting more and more stuck in the web of his lies.  Jimmy is picked up by the detective and pressured to give evidence against Miller. Miller is again torn between letting Jimmy get jailed for obstructing evidence and seeing himself in the dock for a crime. His lawyer advises him to make a clean breast of it to stop implicating innocent people.

Again, like To Rome With Love, Arbitrage is a movie different from the usual (recent) hollywood offerings of superhero or disaster flicks.  It shows us how a business magnate becomes corrupt to stay ahead of his game, in life and in business.  It tries to get inside his head and gives us an intimate look at the inner workings of his mind.

Gere performs admirably, Susan Sarandon as his wife performs even better! She has a role that is short but meaty.  She plays a woman who does not hesitate to kick her man in the balls, just when he is at his most vulnerable.

It is a very good film worth watching.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Rishi Kapoor - Kuch Chocolatey ho jai

In the year 1973 I was living in Bangalore.  There was a huge house right next my friend Aruna's house that belonged to a film distributor.  He had put up a large poster of a young teenage couple in a clinch with the name of the film 'Bobby' written across.

Shortly after, Aruna and I went to see the movie first day first show.  Needless to say, I fell in love with the movie and the lead couple, Dimple and Rishi.  In those days, if you liked a movie well enough, you just went and saw it again.  I think I saw the movie 2 more times right then.  I knew the scenes by heart, and wrote down the lyrics of all its songs in a notebook.

Dimple went and married Rajesh Khanna and left movies and Rishi high and dry.  For a while poor Rishi tried to find his feet until he hit jackpot with Rafoo Chakker.  Believe it or not I did not see Rafoo Chakkar and Khel Khel Mein, the movies that established his lifelong jodi with Neetu Singh.  I did see Laila Majnu and loved the movie, the songs, Rishi and Ranjeeta.

I saw Ham Kisi se Kam Nahi, Kabhi Kabhie and Doosra Admi.  All wonderful movies with loads of romance, songs and dances.  I liked Doosra Aadmi for its bold theme and simply great acting by Rishi, Rakhee and Neetu.

He was stylish in Karz, rustic in Sargam, and back with Dimple in Saagar.

Ek Chadar Maili Si saw him paired with Poonam Dhillon and Hema.  It was based on the custom in Punjab of marrying off a widowed daughter-in-law with the younger son to make sure that she was looked after well.  It was a difficult role but Rishi and Hema did full justice to it.

Shriman Ashique was a sort of a remake of Shagird, a fun filled film starring Rishi and Urmila Matondkar. Henna was another beautiful film, with a plausible story on Indo-Pak love story.

With Deewana Rishi handed over the baton of the young romantic lead to Shahrukh Khan.  He lingered in the hero mode for a while after this, but things were ending for him soon.

 Not being the first lead has actually improved Rishi's performances.  He works excellently in character roles.  He has been lucky to get some really meaty roles in movies like Chintuji, Do Dooni Chaar, Fanaa, Hum tum, and my favorite - Luck by Chance.

I have picked some random movies from his vast repertoire.  There are several songs and films of his that are more famous or perhaps more worthy of mention, but I have picked the ones that struck me at the particular time.  These are the movies I have seen and liked.

September 4 is Rishi Kapoor's birthday.  Happy birthday Rishi!  You have been a part of my growing up years.