Queen Bee Kangana had good helper bees


queen_ver5_xlg

OMG, did I love this movie!  Queen has supersized Bollywood in regard to good contemporary female roles. We watch  Rani. (Kanagana Ranaut) brilliantly evolving from a place of innocence and learned helplessness vis-a-vis men,  to resilience and newly conquered strengths. Most movies that succeed in doing so don’t dare to combine drama with comedy. Queen does. That’s why you walk out uplifted and hopeful. Which, let’s face it, is the ultimate success formula. The beast (of your fears) is conquered. Off to new lands.

Many Indian movies I have seen, do the opposite. They start out uplifting and then start sagging through the second half, with intro of unforeseen dramatic events. Queen goes the other way. We start emphasizing with sweet and innocent Rani, who gets dumped a day before her wedding.What exactly motivates her to go on her honeymoon by herself, isn’t very clear, or maybe it is that seed of rebellion against becoming a victim and after locking herself in a room reliving her relationship with fiancee Vijay (Rajkummar Rao) in her mind. She remembers all that was good, and it’s breaking our hearts.

When the wedding banner “Rani Weds Vijay” gets thrown into the garbage, unknownst to her, her will to live, despite this obvious downfall, takes the upper hand. She reemerges from her 2 day exile and soon after, with the support of her loving family, she boards the plane to Paris.

Here she gets forced out of her protected childhood shell and has to switch gear to survival mode. This never comes easy. But in this movie it’s plastered with funny episodes. You cheer for Rani, you laugh with Rani and you see the West through her eyes. But contrary to many Indian films that make all Westerners and foreigners look like devils reincarnate, there is only one mean guy who she encounters. And she triumphs. Thank you, Vikas Bahl, for your kind portrayal of all foreigners in this movie. Makes it unique.

The whole cast in this movie is OUTSTANDING!! from mom, dad, grandmother and lil bro to all the people she encounters abroad. A well-chosen cast! Kudos to Parita Mandalia and Atul Mongic, (mentioned as the casting team in the credits). They found the quintessential Indian family in , people I would like to have as my family and everybody should have in their closet.. they are kind and understanding and supportive. Don’t you just love the father, played by Yogendra Tiku, the mom, (Alka Badola Kaushal), the rocking grandma (Tripita Lakhshanpal) and the lovable brother Chintu (Chinmaya Agarwal).

From Wild Wild Paris we follow Rani to Wild Wild Amsterdam, where she courageously dorms with her new pals Taka, Tim and aka Sikander (Jeffrey Ho, Joseph Guitobh, Mish Bogko) and emulates Emraan Hashmi’s lip-to-lip with restaurateur Marcello (Canadea Lopez Marco).

What I love most about her is that she never becomes anybody else. She sticks to her Rani-ness, to her Indian-ness throughout her journey of self-realization. She doesn’t alter her standards. She stays her ground and only becomes stronger. She learns about her fears. She also now opens her mind to seeing the ‘real Vijay’, his narrow-minded self. Rani sheds embellishments, biases, fears and returns to the fuzzy womb of her family invigorated and self-assured. Ready for the challenges of independence and freedom.

Every time I watched the movie, I discovered sth else, little symbolic gestures. Like the light that goes dark momentarily during the wedding dress rehearsal. Just like Rani’s life gets darkened by a cloud that then lifts and gives rise to a beautiful new day.

When best buddy Vijaylakshmi (Lisa Haydon) enters the room and the wind tousles her hair and reaches the impatiently waiting father and son duo, who want to get a glimpse of the beautiful and carefree Vijaylakshmi. So tender.

The cinematography and direction is flawless. Vikas Bahl has made it to the top. Thank you, Vikas, Kangana, everybody.

AND not to forget, letting us indulge in the foodie waves filling the theater with the spices and aromas of India, and glimpses of Her Majesty, Paris, and  Amsterdam in her upper and underworld glory. What a fun ride this was!

Advertisements

Highway, a review.


Alia and Randeep in Highway

Alia and Randeep in Highway

If I had listened to initial reviews I would have made a U-turn on Highway and x-ed out the best Indian film I have seen for a long time!  Anyone I talked to had apparently a problem with the anticipated May-December love between Alia Bhatt and Randeep Hooda. I am not so keen on those stark seasonal discrepancies either, but once you watch the movie you will understand that this isn’t your gardenvariety romance.

Soon-to-be-wed Veera (brilliantly acted by Alia Bhatt, who’s instantly moved to the top of my favorite new female actors list), born into wealth and status, is nursing deep wounds from a past she is trying to suppress. She pledges with her fiancee to elope and settle for a simple life style, where she imagines herself being a wife who lives very modestly amidst nature, cooking with devotion a simple meal for her husband.

Beware what you wish for! How so often in life, our dreams sometimes get fulfilled with an unexpected twist. Being, she gets the chance to live that way for a short period of time and under circumstances neither desired or imagined. She is being kidnapped right off the spot, being at the wrong time in the wrong place. A gas station in the suburbs of Delhi is just getting robbed, she becomes the hostage. This wasn’t planned, neither by her or by her kidnapper Mahabir (Randeep Hooda), who finds himself in the situation of needing to escape fast.. Randeep gives a powerful performance as the illiterate and simple bandit, victimized himself by an abusive father. Little we learn about his circumstances, but enough to understand his plight in a life of hardship and violence.

So, everybody who has seen the movie is trying to rationalize the strange bond of these two main characters, who are thrown at each other randomly, and call it Stockholm syndrome. Veera, the captive and the criminal Mahabir, who didn’t realize that he had abducted a high profile family girl and now runs for his life, with her in tow. Luckily for us, the journey takes us through the magnificent landscapes and villages of Rajasthan, Punjab, Kashmir. We travel with them on one of the colorful, poetically run-down  trucks you can ONLY find in India. I myself don’t want the journey to end, immersed in those awe inspiring landscapes, rugged snow-covered mountains.

After a first failed attempt to escape her kidnappers, Veera resigns herself. She realizes that her captors are at the end just some poor wretched souls. except for one, who leaves very fast after waiting for an opportune moment to rape Veera but gets caught by Mahadir in the nick of time.

She experiences a sense of safety in Mahadir’s presence. charming your captor is a common survival technique. Maybe that’s what she is trying to do in the beginning. She teases, and laughs, and bounces around, uninhibited. Mahadir is unable to read this complex human being. It’s beyond him that she ceases to be afraid. He is a one dimensional thinker. Everything is either black or white in his world, until Veera starts disassembling him, piece by piece. Layer by layer. As she starts revealing to him what man has done to her, and not just man, but family. Not just incest but cover-up, abandonment, Mahadir starts realizing that pain and suffering isn’t class-bound. It’s a difficult concept for him to understand maybe. For him life is a struggle between the rich and the poor. He resents wealth on existential grounds. Initially she is just a problem he needs to solve fast. As she is opening up to him he gradually becomes her protector.

She comes to realize that the dangers and demons lived in her midst, and those perceived outside her world, were actually kinder and protective of her than her own family ever was.

As for the so called romance in this movie, her kidnapper Mahadir could have been hundred years old and have a wooden leg! Mahadir was the first person Veera ever confided to (besides her mother, who in her learned helplessness was unable to perform her motherly duty in protecting her child, for whatever reasons). And that should be a movie in itself!  Mahadir never crosses the line of decency and it redeems him, not that it erases his own past, but he discovers his humanity through Veera.

This movie is all about healing, how to survive and move past violence and insults and biases. It touches you deep in your soul. The ending is the only appropriate ending one can think of. So the movie leaves you with a soft smile and tears in your eyes.

I cannot say enough about the heartfelt performances  of both Alia Bhatt, as well as Randeep Hooda. I always liked him a lot, but I never realized what kind of an acting caliber he possesses, after seeing him in more commercial films that made him only look cool and sexy in a rugged way.

Imitiaz Ali, what can I say, he has done it again! Rockstar, Jab We Met, Socha Na Tha, Ahista Ahista..These are some of my alltime favorite Indian movies. He is a genius! :-)

Last not least, a word about the supporting cast. Often in Indian films, supporting cast members are not given much attention and hate to say it, but often they tend to be really bad. There was a nice balance in this movie. No one ruined it. :-) Kudos to Durgesh Kumar, Pradeep Nagar, and Saharsh Kumar Shukla.

Music. Not too much, not too little. A.R. Rahman. How can you go wrong? I loved the soundtrack and will definitely buy it.

This movie is a rare gem. It is deep as it is beautiful. The images and emotions it evokes are haunting. It resonates just on every level. The characters linger with you for a long long time.

Ram Gopal Varma’s film based on “The Attacks of 26/11”


a date that will live on in infamy in India, remembered for its senseless bloodshed.  At least 164 died that day in a hail of AK gunfire, and close to 300 were injured. The terrorist attacks were minutely orchestrated and executed by members of the Pakistan-based militant organization Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), showing no mercy on men, women, children, the sick, the old, the innocent,  Hindu, Christians and even Muslims. Not even street dogs are spared.. The message is to spread terror and instill fear.

Ram Gopal Varma conveys that brutality in his movie 26/11 convincingly. The movie opens at the trial with the testimony of the Joint Police Commissioner played by Nana Patekar before it cuts to the action that we all await with pounding hearts in memory of those painful days in Mumbai in the fall of 2008.

A fishermen’s boat being is captured by a group of men with blood on their mind. Hat off to Ram Gopal Varma. The early scenes on open sea and as the determined and blood-thirsty jihadists make it to shore are foreboding, bone-chilling. Numbing. Evil taking over. That moment right there, the fishermen chatting on about their lives, simple men working hard to eke out a living. A boat approaches from far with someone waving a white flag signaling distress. A short and brutal take-over. Knowing what is to come, the audience is shrouded in helplessness. Ram Gopal Varma has us in his hands.

We get a first glimpse at Sanjeev Jaiswal as Kasab, the lone gunman brought to justice later on. Jaiswal dominates the second half of the movie with his unbelievably powerful performance.

Meanwhile the dangerous, cold blooded fire in the eyes of the jihadists is grabbing us by our throats. As we watch the first wave of slaughter taking place offshore in deep waters and almost feel in flesh the fear and helplessness of the fishing crew, all of whom will perish, it fills you with disgust and rage seeing the perpetrators change into outfits of regular tourists, who could be easily mistaken for a group of high-school friends coming to town for an innocuous sightseeing tour. Only instead of notebooks and travel guides they carry AK47s which they now start to unleash in unprecedented fashion on innocent Mumbaites, targeting at least six different locations.

The city is under siege for the next three days. But RGV is not guiding us through the whole process and exact events. He gives us an idea about the first hours and what they looked like. The Leopold Cafe, the Taj Mahal Grand Hotel, the Chhatrapati Shivaji train station, the Cama Hospital, the taxi, who is picking up the group with Mohammed the driver who gets later on blown up into pieces. No one is spared in the bloodbath that unfolds..

This is Ram Gopal Varma’s most powerful film to date. Even though I felt it stopped in its path by dedicating too little time on the whole event, which encompassed a couple of days. It would have been probably too grand of a task to film a Taj Mahal Hotel engulfed in flames, how the terrorists went from room to room through the whole building lining up hostages. So many stories of heroism and victimization untold…voices who would have had merit to be heard. Instead Varma takes a different route. He cuts short to the capture of Kasab and the second half it becomes Kasab’s story.  Sanjeev Saiswal’s intensity  reminded me of some of the most epic moments in film, the greatness of actors like Toshiro Mifune. Makeup and cinematography and his acting it all comes together in a torrent that washes you away like a tsunami. The one weakness the film has, it can’t hold the bundled up tension together, it becomes preachy and verbose as the Police Commisisoner starts philosophizing over the true meaning of the Quran and Jihad. Even though the message is well taken, and Nana Patekar delivers a fine performance here, the movie would have been much stronger without a sermon at the end. Do we need to rehabilitate jihadists on death-row? show them there are no virgins no baths in milk and honey, only scores of victims cursing them out in the afterlife? Any wannabe Jihadist will walk out of the movie or turn off the TV. Sometimes messages clouded in silence speak actually louder. The scene where Kasab is seen thrown on the corpses of his comrades was powerful enough in itself. It didn’t need any dialogue.

So I would have preferred more time dedicated to actual facts and events, which were kind of hushed over and lingered in question marks in my head as I was walking out of the movie. I felt that one third of the entire film was MIA, due to perhaps budgetary restraints or were left behind on the cutting board. Despite some of its weaknesses, this film is incredible and the most powerful moments have etched themselves already into my memory files.

and one question at the end I want to ask RGV: did he bring a vet to the set who knocked out the dog temporarily? or more permanently? I’d like to know. Usually you will see a “no animal was hurt” – maybe I missed it?

Aiyyaa, and I am back in love with Rani Mukherji


This movie is truly pagal. But I loved EVERY MOMENT of it.

The cinematography by Amal Chaudhary is outstanding and makes me want to see his other movies.

The premise is simple enough:  Meenakshi (Rani), a Marathi girl, needs to get married as her family insists, preferibly to a nice Brahmin bouy, an ad is put in the paper. While Meenakshi daydreams through her life, seeing herself as a famous Bollywood actress, her nutty parents are pushing harder to line up candidates. she wants to find a way to become independent financially and goes  looking for work. She lands a job as a librarian at a college, where she and her nose fall head over heel for the withdrawn and taciturn Surya (Prithviraj), an aspiring artist, who seems oblivious to her infatuation.

The music in her head stops every time he stands in front of her without really seeing her (what a wonderful little cinematic touch!). Another great detail: the paintings Surya works on are actually WONDERFUL. Usually I am disappointed when film tries to portray a painter, the art is usually yucky, here its GREAT! you can smell the colors, you are almost drawn into the moment of creation. I LOVED that about this movie. The mania of the true artist, the artist who can’t be contained, shines through.

The colors used for the set, the costumes, the wardrobes, it’s all so beautifully choreographed. This whole movie is a visual feast. Rani Mukherji has never beguiled me more than as the daydreaming somnambulant Meenakshi, who follows the seemingly divine smell of her desired man, regardless of how many foul things are being said about him. She follows him whenever he turns up not finding the courage to talk to him, (one of the mysteries when we fall in love..) even on the verge of being married off.

Unfortunately way too many crazy characters are flooding the film, from her ga(r)ga-ntuan-ly annoying colleague (Anita Date), her mom to gold-toothed and bewheelchaired, hysterically laughing grandma, there is not one character in the movie that makes you take a deep breath of calm. and that’s the biggest downfall of the movie. The nutty characters are floating around without much connection and integration.

But other than that, the cinematography, the music, Rani’s acting and Prithviraj, the Tamilian eye-candy, the surrealism pervading the movie, the sets, choreographies,  the locations are just magnificent.

It’s a film on the verge of a nervous breakdown, but it’s highly “intertaining”. Rollercoaster me anytime again soon, Satish Kundalkar-ji!

 

 

I think I am going to buy the DVD.

 

 

Cast:Rani Mukherjee, Prithviraj, Anita Date, Nirmiti Sawant, Satish Alekar, Subodh Bhave, Ameya Wagh

Director: Satish Kundalkar : nm2590202

Cinematograhpy: Amal Chaudhar:   nm2226885

 

 

 

 

 

the sex tape saga and my 5cents on Heroine..


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Help!!  Are sex tapes invading Bollywood, too, now? I wanted to google the topic but didn’t want to expose my pc to a virus by visiting dubious sites. So from what I could see, the only thing that kept coming up on first search was Bipasha Basu and Malika Sheravat and I don’t know if any of those are real to begin with, and/or certifiably leaked anythings :-)

If you check out Hollywood’s sex tape scandals, the list is LONGGGG! Paris leading the pack with her famous entree. Even I can remember the scandal and how her career took off subsequently. Miley Cyrus, formerly known as goodie girl, has made quite a turnaround and I guess her leaked stuff hasn’t done anything good to her career. Scarlett Johansson? I was surprised. Ke$sha? didn’t check it out but UGLY squared.  Rihanna? prob leaked it herself..haha. Kanye West? geez. who wants to know?  tattooed Pete Wentz? brutally ugly. Chris Brown? omg, I’ll get slapped!  All I could think of is, rule of thumb, I like my celebrities better with clothes on.

Decades after Paris Hilton (was she the first one?) rose to notoriety because of a leaked sex tape, Kim Kardashian’s mom now being accused by some of leaking her own daughter’s to achieve the same goal (if she did it or not, it proved to be a mega success turning all her daughters into cash cows).

Finally the sex tape saga has reached Mumbai’s shores, making it a climax in an unsympathetic movie about Bollywood’s film industry, Heroine. I hope Madhur Bhandarkar didn’t start a fad here! I love my beautiful actresses in saris and salwar kamiz, or ok mini skirts and I am not in the least curious with whom they share their intimate moments. I hope our beautiful Indian heroines will never have to steep that low to fare well at the box office. But maybe I am naive.

I think if Bhandarkar had made a satire and dressed up the subject as a comedy it might have fared better altogether, because if that’s BW reality, then it’s pretty pathetic. Poor famous girl. How my heart goes out to you…. :-) last resort a sex tape? oh dear how scandalous. naughty naughty.

None of the characters in Heroine came across as likeable which made it hard for me to get emotionally involved. If you can’t touch my heart I can’t follow your pathos. Halfway through the second part of the movie, you just want it to END, but no. You’ll have to sit through several “2months later” “2years later”. As I am reaching the peak of my patience, our heroine, Mahi, played by Kareena Kapoor, drops the bombshell.

She can avoid her looming professional demise, she confides to her PR manager, by leaking a holladi hi-holladi-ho sex tape to the press!  Sex tape which A) just shows a grainy cellphone video recording of her in an embrace with B) her co-star, Aryan (Z-gorgeous Arjun Rampal), who really, we find out, deep down is just a repenting sorrytushie  who’s trying to salvage her from the inevitable death sentence handed to actresses past 30.  Loverboy Aryan, sex-tape-humiliated, has to use the last resort: delete Mahi’s phone number from his handy. Duh! That’s harsh. The poor guy has to hold back his  tears. ( were you counting the number of guys u deleted from ur contacts within the last few years? and without shedding a tear? :-)

Okay, so Aryan was giving it his best shot to come up with a make-or-break movie with ‘babes’ Mahi, (who btw starts resembling more and more Linda Blair in The Exorcist ), who not being aware of his last minute heroism, deviously pulls out 20 seconds of their raw cellphone passion and leaks it to public.

‘If I fail at reviving my career I can still buy a cricket team?’ Was that godforbid geared at our poor Preity? All these little bits and pieces you could pick up and see where they fit in the gigantic 50,000 piece Bollywood gossip puzzle..made my head spin. I don’t know but I was just turned off by this movie. Honestly. Bhandarkar, Try it again Sam.

 

BTW This film is coming at a time when every weekend we are seeing a new release with a lead actress in her 30s, 40s, 50s!!! which hopefully makes this movie look dated.

 

 

Dibakar Banerjee on the roll with Shanghai


I was anticipating something great from  Dibakar Banerjee, the writer/director,  who brought us Khosla Ka Ghosla, one of my favorite Indian movies,  and LSD: Love Sex Aur Dhokha.  Again he delivered a smash hit with his new film Shanghai which kept us crazy-glued to our seats from the first to the last minute.  Just like Khosla Ka Ghosla, where Anupam Kher gives his life to his role together with a rocking group of actors, also here with Shanghai it’s really the brilliant cast who makes the film come to life.  One of the weaknesses in Indian movies is that you got one or two A-listers, one or two B-listers and then a terrible supporting cast, which can easily ruin a perfectly fine film. In a good movie, every single actor from top to bottom is chosen carefully. I am giving Dibakar Banerjee a lot of credit for choosing again such a wonderful team.

Emraan Hashmi, who when given the right role, proves himself to belong to Bollywood’s big league. I like him less as romantic hero but roles like this one here as pimp photographer  or as crook in Once Upon in Time in Mumbai and film director in Dirty Picture  show us how gifted he is and what a fantastic range he has.

Abhay Deol nailed his role as investigator, who is initially miffed at being given an assignment to document seemingly an accident of a political dissident and how his conscience slowly awakens to take a stand for what he believes is right.  I just love him as an actor and what he brings to his roles. By far the most gifted actor of the entire Deol clan.

Well, and Kalki Koechlin is so unique and enigmatic. She is at the same time difficult and intriguing to watch. Her performances are edgy and uncomfortable and brings a new intensity to any film you put her in. You will always remember in what roles you saw her, even if you can’t recall any of the other actors!  She is a blast. One of the most interesting actresses you can find in India, besides the fact that she is white and Indian :-)

 

Not everything we would like to know about gets explained in this movie. We learned little about the background of the characters, we learned little about the political figures or the corporation that robbed people of their land. Information was stripped down to the bare minimum but the fact that we had to fill in the voids in our imagination didn’t impact on the pace of the movie nor its quality. We got drawn in by the characters and in a way I was even glad not everything was spelled out.

It makes movies drag easily when you get voice overs or lengthy explanations by the actors as they inform each other – with the only underlying aim to inform the viewer.

If there was a weakness:  the multiple repeats of the “accident” in slow motion  as eye witnesses report what they had seen- a tad over the top.

The ending felt a little rushed and we leave the theater with a few more questions to ponder. Overall though, a movie I would highly recommend.

Dangerous Ishq: over the top – with highlights


Based on her performance in Dangerous Ishq, it is questionable whether Karishma Kapoor succeeded in grabbing our attention. Instead of coming out with a bang,  she hit us with 1345-Large-Bubble.html. This movie won’t go down in history as her comeback vehicle, I am afraid, but the music was nice and the movie had its beautiful moments. Maybe Karishma is a bit out of practice, hopefully she will find some interesting supporting roles in the future.

Poor woman, she looked a bit emaciated. I was pondering if she might have tried too hard to diet off any itzy bitz of flesh before the shooting.  I wonder when actresses will start realizing that extreme diets or poor eating habits will take a toll and make you look scary rather than attractive, especially as you are getting older.

But her weight wasn’t really the issue,  it was her acting that was inconsistent and only sporadically controlled. In the moments when Karishma does feel in control she is good and can be convincing. In her defense,  though, she must have been nervous as hell and perhaps trying too hard, this being her come-back film.

To make matters worse, there was no shred of chemistry between the main leads, their interactions felt staged and rehearsed. Rajneesh Duggal as Rohan was a  good-looking protagonist, but either they didn’t let him be himself or he was  just being too restrained.

There were some interesting points made in the movie, but I hope the premise it’s built on, that our stories continue in our next lives with exactly the same players involved, makes me want to puke. Dear Lord, please give me new people to handle in my next existence, or shoot me up with instant Nirvana to spare me from a next life altogether. I don’t want to meet any of my love interests in the next and/or beyond.

We are almost relieved when we hear the police officer laugh at the idea that the kidnapper was identified based on a past life regression but we soon learn he’s the dushman, he’s the enemy. Which then means, we should believe in the accuracy of a past life regression session. Geez, I wonder if that would fly in court, or if you’d be instantly relegated to a mental evaluation.

Maybe on paper the movie script could sound interesting and romantic but the execution of it all made it look borderline ridiculous, especially during moments when Karishma  pumped it  up with pathos, while shifting her lithe frame restless from one foot to the other – like a little canary in her cage.

I am not saying there weren’t redeeming moments. There were a few and they grabbed me and almost turned me into a believer,  just before something totally erratic and irrational would throw me out of the loop again. There were a few scenes that were very touching and brought me almost to tears.

The songs were lovely. The sets impressive. Some scenes were beautifully captured. On the overall, I disliked the movie just as much as I liked it. With no middle-ground.

At the end of the day, it was exactly what I had expected.

Watch it for the wonderful music, the breathtaking locations, the heartfelt moments. You will find something you can relate to,  just not in its entirety, maybe.

 

 

Written and directed by Vikram Bhatt

Karishma Kapoor as Sanjana

Rajneesh Duggal as Rohan

Jimmy Shergill

Divvya Dutta

Songs by Himesh Reshammiya, Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, Shreya Ghoshal

 

I might not buy the DVD but I will buy the CD

 

 

I would like to add one word about the subtitles! :-)

proof-reading would be a good idea and also show them against a darker background, a half transparent mesh of sorts, something that doesn’t take away from the screen, no black bar but there should be a solution to make them more readable. White letters on a light background are just the pits..