A bouquet of flowers picked along the way ….

Saawaria (Movie Review) November 10, 2007

Filed under: Movie Reviews — gurdas @ :

I paid Rs. 140/- to watch Saawaria. I will gladly pay Rs. 1400/- to get a chance to shake Sanjay Leela Bhansali out of his delusionary slumber.

This movie deserves a puny 1 out of 5.

I cannot believe this comes from the same man who gave us Devdas and Black. Was SLB sleeping while someone else directed and edited the movie? Or has he lost his senses? This movie has NOTHING to make it watchable. A non-existent plot, lack lustre acting, and yes an unending assault on your senses of gaudy “beautiful” sets. Some idiot in the production team thought just showing us painted walls, silk clothes and designer jewellery will sell the film. And God, they never stop showing that!  The movie is completely shot within a set. Not a trace of reality here. A street with potholes has its walls gleaming as if they are painted with Asian paints Royale. There should have been a statutory warning that says “movie loaded with impossible fairy tale settings”.

The worst thing to happen to a love story is that the lead pair leaves you unconvinced they are in love. I was left searching for traces of love between Ranbir Kapoor and Sonam Kapoor. Only to find them cold, sparkless and even cheap at times.

Try this: Ranbir walks into a congregation of Muslims readying for their prayer. A solemn scene. He breaks into a dance and in a second all the devotees start dancing behind him (like they do in parks behind Govinda). I felt like puking.

And logical consistency takes a complete backseat. There are buildings that look like 17th century, trains that seem like early 20th century, clothes varying between 10th and 21st century, and language again from 10th to 21st century. What? Everything is decorated with flowers and geometric patterns, paintings and gold embroidery. After the first 2 minutes, you start feeling sick. After the first 10 minutes, if you were me, you will be swearing and generously using the f*** word.

And will someone please please please give Zohra Sehgal a fresh role? I loved it the first time she was shown as an old lady young at heart. I loved it the second time too. But when it happens the 10th time, you lose all interest in the character she plays. Because it is so damn predictable what she will say, or how she will act.

If you hate yourself, go watch Saawaria.

– – – –

Here’s another review of Saawaria by The GreatBong, in a style that is unmatched:


No Smoking (Movie Review) October 28, 2007

Filed under: Movie Reviews — gurdas @ :

Let me begin with a statutory warning, like on cigarette packs, “No Smoking can kill and you’ll be happy to die”.

No Smoking 01

What a stunner of a movie! I am ready to give it a straight 3.5 out of 5. This is a movie laden with imagery and metaphor. And is definitely not for the weak minded. If you prefer your movies brainless and consider a visit to the cinema hall as someplace where the mind can be excused, then STAY AWAY from No Smoking. However, if you like to be challenged, think and get into the director’s mind, then DON’T MISS this movie.

This is all and all a director’s movie. None of the actors give a sterling performance. They are somewhere between OK and good. But that simply does not matter. There is class written all over. Surprises, treasures, riddles and layers to everything. The movie begins with this line “Everyday thousands of people quit smoking, by dying”. And I knew this will be fun to watch.

Nothing is direct. No message is given on a plate. You have to figure out what’s with the bathtub, the Siberian settings, losing fingers, brother trying hard to kill himself, the bathing scene at the end, Paresh Rawal and his subterranean organisation, and the police interrogation. The director makes no excuses and does not make it easy. I never caught up with him. By the time I made some sense of a scene, he had already moved to another. I came out of the hall panting and ready for another watch. Remember the Hollywood movie “Memento”?

No Smoking 02

Nothing like this has ever been attempted in Indian cinema. And most people will come out scowling and cursing. Can’t blame them. This is new cuisine. And they have no idea how to eat the dish.

 If you have the appetite for a movie which you simply cannot figure out fully in one screening, go see “No Smoking”. Otherwise there is always a movie like Partner to watch.

– –

Read Anurag Kashyap’s take here.


Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (Movie Review) October 14, 2007

Filed under: India,Movie Reviews — gurdas @ :
Tags: , , ,

Flashback to 1981. Roll Smita Patil and Deepti Naval into one, throw in some ginger and marinate them to 21st century sensibilities. What you would get is Konkona Sen Sharma. What a performance Konkona throws in! Amazing body language and those eyes tell tales like none else.

Laaga Chunari Mein Daag (LCMD) is a movie that is mostly old wine in new bottle. But the bottle is good and gives a fresh lease to the old wine. I would rate the movie at 3/5 and recommend you go see it. It is not great cinema, there are serious logic lapses but what lifts the movie is the performances from its lead characters. I’d rate Konkona as the show stealer, followed by Jaya Bachchan, Rani Mukherjee and Kunal Kapoor. Anupam Kher and Abhishek Bachchan are good but nothing to shout about.

LaagaChunari Mein Daag

What I liked about the movie is its contemporary no excuses approach to prostitution in sophisticated circles. The helpless female crying has been kept low key with more focus on the journey Rani makes from small town Benaras to big bad Mumbai. Her transition is convincing. One might argue that in this age, there are so many options that a desperate female need not take up the escort girl trade. I disagree because the statistics prove otherwise. And sometimes, you are so overwhelmed by odds that you do things out of ordinary. Which is what Rani does.

My grudge with the director (Pradeep Sarkar) is that he does a poor job of Rani’s life in Benaras. When you do not have money to pay your electricity bill, you do not dress the way Rani and Konkona do. A little more down to Earth wardrobe and settings and one would be convinced of Rani’s inability to get a job. She looks too glamorous to fit the helpless girl image. But set aside that one fact and the rest of its holds good.

The movie is worth watching for a single reason – Konkona Sen Sharma. She infuses amazing life into her character of younger sister who is carefree. Observe her eyes as they roll, glance, smile, frown, love and show guilt. She’s got a full theatre running below those eyebrows! Her sentences are sharp and she delivers them with perfect timing. The scene where she stops Rani from apologising mid-sentence and then herself apologises is a window to the acting powerhouse this lady is.

 The director does follow some formula scenes, like the wedding song and that made me cringe.  Abhishek though acting his part well, is lost in the shadows. He looked like Abhishek from any other movie and leaves little impression on your mind. Jaya is better but still not in the same league as Konkana. Her telephone scene where she is talking to Rani while collecting some coins (and her senses) is bang on. But other than that she is mostly in the tragic mother holding her head high types.

 I like movies with hope and courage in them. Laaga Chunari Mein Daag is one of that kind. All ends well and ends well convincingly. No over the top heroism. Not a single dishum-dishum, no prolonged emotional or heated exchanges. A little muted but well cooked. I would recommend the movie if you wish to enjoy fine acting and come out smiling and feeling hopeful.

 – – – –


Partner (Movie Review) August 15, 2007

Filed under: Movie Reviews — gurdas @ :

Some movies are made for aliens. Partner is one such movie that leaves the competition (and you) gasping for breath. Touted as Govinda’s comeback vehicle, it made me wish Govinda never existed in the first place. And since I never missed his exit, I saw no point in being excited about his comeback.

Usually I choose which movie to watch. But sometimes, the movie chooses you. That is how it happened and I found myself huddled in a corner seat wondering how I ended up as audience to a movie I knew would be trash from the word go.

There is Govinda doing his silly act for the umpteenth time, jumping around like a jackass, making faces like a monkey and leaving you pulling your hair in desperation. He needs to woo some big-shot female (Katrina) who seems to be suffering from stunted mental growth. She is heading a big corporate and shows less sense than my housemaid. Helping Govinda is our resident maniac – Salman Khan. Like Govinda, he keeps dishing out the same stuff and expressions in movie after movie after movie. And people continue to enjoy the moronic contortions on his face as acting, movie after movie after movie. Both these ‘stars’ follow a familiar storyline in each movie. They will first act as brainless, then make some inevitable mistakes and then show the true love in their heart, finally winning the female lead in a rush of carbonated emotions. The female leads in this movie – Lara Dutta and Katrina Kaif contribute to the monkey parade with their silly histrionics.  Lara Dutta’s journalist act is as convincing as a zebra trying to pass as a peacock. Rajpal Yadav provides some comic relief in the first sequence but then even he starts getting on your nerves.

If the movie and the audience are to be believed, acting prowess is measured by the speed with which you can jiggle the muscles on your face and blurt sentences through your mouth. Before you can say help, there is some new nonsense being dished out. The trick is to so overwhelm you with stupidity that you never realise how stupid the movie is.

Characters are found breaking into a song and dance sequence of their own volition, much like a gang of baboons after they have had a drink too many. I forgot to check the credits but did this movie have a script writer and director in the first place?

And when will our movie makers learn to show some respect to the differently abled? For as long as I remember, they have been pulling cheap jokes on characters inflicted with stammering. And the latest craze is gay jokes. If the mark of a society’s evolution is its sensitivity towards others, Indian cinema gives the impression we are still in Stone Age.

Here is a mind bending sampler:
Salman’s sister is married to Sohail Khan who works with NASA. It seems after Shahrukh in Swades, the recruitment wing at NASA has thrown open their doors to Indians. And Salman’s nephew, true to his blood, has designed and developed a rocket at home. Never mind that it requires a certain knowledge of physics, if the director wants, it can be done. Right? And the rocket triggers when its developer say “go, baby, go”. If that has you tearing your hair out, the rocket gets fired and with a precision that would have the guys at NASA sit up, tracks Salman’s watervehicle and destroys it. And you dare not even think of the science of combustion, flight trajectories, coordinates etc. And yes, in case you did not know, keeping live rockets at home is within the law.

Have mercy on yourself. Stare at a wall if you have nothing better to do; but do NOT watch Partner.


Is Saving Private Ryan Spielberg’s Best? August 11, 2007

Filed under: Movie Reviews — gurdas @ :

 Saving Private Ryan

Yes, if you were to ask me. With E.T and Schindler’s List together at number 2. Jurassic Park and Jaws come next. And yes, I did not like the Indiana Jones series.

Flipping through channels, I came across the screening on HBO. Having first seen it some 8 years ago, I was eager to relive one of my all time favourite movies.

From the initial scene of the WWII Normandy invasion of Omaha beach to the climax battle in the town of Ramelle, Saving Private Ryan is movie making at its best. No war movie that I have seen is as realistic as this or gives you that edgy ‘in the thick of battle’ feeling.

Interlaced with human emotions, nuances of thought & action, and questions of life & death, the movie keeps reminding you of the horror of war and the sad necessity of it at times.

My two favourite scenes are (1) the kid girl slapping her father for leaving her alone in the face of attack (he was trying to keep her safe) and (2) the slow knife driven into the chest of Private Mellish by his German adversary.

Tom Hanks as Captain Miller pulls off a great role, ably assisted by the motley group he assembles to find Private Ryan (Matt Damon), who must be brought back from behind enemy lines because he has lost three brothers and is the last remaining son of his family.

If you can take some of the most graphic depiction of battle violence (read body parts being blown apart, blood oozing etc), then get your hands onto Saving Private Ryan.

—– Further reading —–


Shootout at Lokhandwala : Movie Review May 30, 2007

Filed under: Movie Reviews — gurdas @ :

Shootout at Lokhandwala (SaL) is so trashy I did not want to write a review in the first place. Because that means revisiting the movie in your mind. Yuck! I’d rate this movie at 1/5 and that single point is only because of the last 20 minutes of the movie, else I would have given it a zero.

Talk of recycled cinema! If you have seen Satya, Company, D and recently Sarkar and Black Friday, I would say you have seen most (if not all) of what Hindi Cinema has to offer on Mumbai underworld. To that list I would add Sarfarosh, Shool and Seher as great movies from recent years where the protagonist is a policeman. SaL is not even a shadow of these movies.

SaL is the story of a shootout that took place on 16 November 1991 at a residential apartment called Svati in Lokhandwala, Mumbai. The gangsters under fire are Maya Dolas and his four accomplices. Vivek Oberoi as Maya is not very convincing and Tushhar as his sharp shooter looks straight out of Santa Claus’s beard – funny and never threatening. Hear him squeak and you cannot but curse the casting director. The movie is full of half-baked caricatures and except for Sanjay Dutt, the rest do not leave any worthwhile impression on your mind. The rest includes Amitabh, Suniel Shetty, Arbaaz Khan, Dia Mirza, Neha Dhupia, Amrita Singh, and Abhishek Bachchan (in a guest appearance). There are three sidekicks hanging around Vivek and the best thing you can do about them is to forget they exist.

I wish the movie had spent more time on the actual shootout rather than meandering through all that history preceding the incident. Because it handles the history very poorly while the shootout is handled OK. The history part is nothing but small incidents somehow stitched together. Add to that lackluster cinematography, over-worked dialogues, wooden faced actors and what you have is the perfect recipe for disaster.

The item numbers are cacophonic and forced into the script. Each time a song comes up, you can hear the director say “I want a formula film”. On the upside, having such songs is a nice break to go visit the loo. Actually, in this movie, it makes no difference when or how many times you visit the loo 🙂

The movie probably lifts ideas from all and sundry. Heres an example: the scene where Arbaaz Khan slowly drives a knife into his opponent’s chest is lifted from the Steven Spielberg movie ‘Saving Private Ryan’ and sadly, the copy is not even a fraction of the original.

And no one told me Her Highness Ekta Kapoor had a finger in this pie. That explains why we have Tushhar as a gangster. Had I known about Ms. Kapoor’s association with the movie I would not have ventured within 100 feet of the theatre. If you are hooked onto any of Balaji’s teleserials, go see the movie. If you are not, spending time with your mother-in-law will be more entertaining.

The movie does bring up an important question – why is there such graphic violence in our cinema today? It is one thing to show people being killed, it is another to show their jaws being pulped and fingers being mashed etc. Repeatedly, the underworld story cinema in India has such graphic violence that I shudder to think of the impact it will have on fertile minds. I refuse to accept that people walking out of a movie do not carry some part of the movie back with them.
Shootout at Lokhandwala glorifies violence and non-democratic procedures to handle criminals. The police, lawyers and law courts gleefully pat themselves on using an encounter route. Had these same institutions not gone to rot, criminals could have been tried and convicted through courts of law. It is the police who have been hand-in-glove with criminals and it is the police that now say “we will kill and not arrest”.

To make matters worse, the movie does not touch upon these questions sufficiently and when it does, the treatment is crass and clearly shows that the director is pre-disposed and simply not interested or not capable of healthy debate.

To conclude, Shootout at Lokhandwala will leave you with a total blackout of your mind.


Cheeni Kum : Movie Review

Filed under: Movie Reviews — gurdas @ :

In short: If you miss seeing Cheeni Kum, you would not have missed much. I rate the movie at 2.5/5.

The more I see movies like Cheeni Kum, the more I come to respect the pivotal role the Director and Script Writer play towards the final outcome. Cheeni Kum could have been great, but ends up with little going for it inspite of honest performances by Amitabh Bachhan and Tabu. The reason is that it is overcooked. The tongue-in-cheek dialogues are one too many and after the first 30 minutes you desparately want to hear some real sentences.

The story is about an acerbic owner of an Indian restaurant in London (Amitabh) who meets his match in a software engineer from Delhi (Tabu); much like fresh lime meeting honey. One thing leads to another and soon they fall in love. But their marriage plans face the wall in Paresh Rawal who simply cannot live with the idea of his daughter marrying a person older than her father.

Most of the time, the humour is trite and repetitive; for example the repartees concerning the umbrella and the cheap references to condoms. I also found the movie to be insensitive in the humour it wishes to derive from the waiter whose teeth are protruding. I could (probably) take the joke one time but when a chef in the kitchen keeps having his fun from the same pair of gums, it starts to get on my nerves. Real fun is all about wit, not about below the belt jokes on someone’s physical appearance.

Then there is Amitabh doing this silly “lets make it out” act that is as cheap as it gets. And when he lies down in the middle of a field wanting to do it right there with Tabu, you know the ship has sunk.

And what is Paresh Rawal doing in this movie? Who wrote that role? His character is a total waste and makes you run for the exit, something I would have done had I not paid through my nose for the ticket.

I definitely felt that the script writer has struggled for all those one-liners. They just do not seem to be free flowing. And that is what kills them. A fact highlighted by the character of Zohra Sehgal. When even she cannot ignite the screen on some occassions, you know there is a problem somewhere.

If you are a die-hard AB fan, go see it. I wonder if there are many die-hard Tabu fans out there, but those who are, will be glad to know she puts in a fine performance and is my choice of best performance in the movie.

There are simply zero surprise packages in the movie. The title song is catchy and hummable. I do not recall anything other than that as far as music goes.

Cheeni Kum is a movie that has namak zyada and will leave you with a not-so-good taste in the mouth.