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.

Shekhar Kapur’s “Paani”


Shekhar Kapur

Paani means Water, which many of us take for granted, our most precious resource worth more than gold and diamonds together, takes center-stage in the utopian tale of “Paani”, Shekhar Kapur’s new cinematic (ad)venture. We heard about it way back in 2010. Rumors had it that Hrithik Roshan was playing the lead role. But we hear now it has been assigned to Sushant Singh Rajput, tant bien.

Wars have been and are being fought over water since centuries. Ever since we started dividing fertile lands. Cities are built around bodies of water. Colonizing any part of the world had to do with retaining and maximizing water resources. Our bodies are made of mainly water. Without water there wouldn’t be any human history, period.

Why are we so wasteful and careless with this greatest of all resources? Polluting industries, household chemicals,  farming practices are all culprits; the toxic chemicals, we pollute our earth with,  sooner or later will backfire, either through natural progression and their cumulative effects or acts of terrorism and war that are going to target water supplies directly or indirectly. It looks like we are doomed.Deep inside us lives that fear, even though we carry on in blissful denial.

Of all our bills, our water bill is the most modest monthly deduction. I consider myself very lucky having unlimited access. Do you?  You probably will, too, after watching Shekhar Kapur’s upcoming movie, which takes place in the future in a world doomed by water shortages. A war is triggered – in good archaic style, by two young lovers.

I hope with this movie, ShekharKapur is going to rattle our consciousness as he did 1994 with Bandit Queen, a movie etched into the memory of anyone who has seen it. Paani is going to be a movie opening on a grand scheme for sure, set to be released in IMAX theaters across the country, promising us to feel its heartbeat like we haven’t experienced it before in Indian film.

Please, Mr. Shekhar, don’t relegate the water issue into a background score, though. I am already glad, in a way,  to hear Hrithik Roshan is not going to be the main lead, cuz this would turn Paani into just another Hrithik-movie and its message would probably get ‘lost in romance’, or action or both. By signing a younger, less famous actor the focus will hopefully be the story itself, its focus on What IF….

 

 

Read up on Shekhar Kapur’s extraordinary filmography:

Shekhar Kapur bio and filmography

 

Countdown to November 15th: Ram Leela


 

Unconfirmed news of Ranveer Singh and Deepika Padukone’s dating popping up at every corner. The boy keeps busy, eh? That’s good news. The better and more important thing is, after watching the trailer we are all hyped up over Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s new film “Ram Leela”, which promises to score high on every Bollywood entertainment value. A hot hero, a cool heroine, a grand masala of action and romance: YES. That’s what we Bollywood aficionados are waiting for all year long. And it’s coming to hit us November 15th.

How do we know it’s going to be a spectacular movie? Easy. Sanjay Bhansali is a seasoned director/writer and producer. Whatever this magician touches starts to glow. His sets are lavish, exuberant, his actors inspired and becoming bigger versions of themselves.

Khamoshi: The Musical 1996

Straight From the Heart 1999

Devdas 2002

Black 2005

Saawariya 2007

Guzaarish 2010

 

 

 

 

 

PS, Dear Mr. Sanjay Leela Bansali

I could never forgive you  though the tremendous faux pas in Straight From the Heart. Filming in Budapest, using famous landmarks, whatsmore, and pretending it’s Italy… where we see mostly blond people strolling around in Lederhosen!!! supposed to be Milano? sorry but yeh Italy main nahi hai….  nor do we wear Lederhosen. Try Armani.

 

 

Okay, I got it finally off my chest :-) it’s been bothering me for years

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lootera, enchanted.


Get ready for some arresting, beautifully filmed images and songs that will melt your heart away.

Sonakshi Sinha has never been more charming and Ranveer Singh makes us fall in love with him all over again in Lootera.

Not only does the movie take place in 1953, it gives you the feeling  you are watching a movie of that era. It flows easy and gently through the first half, a romantic lullaby. It picks up drama and temporarily pace, only to level out again. The last quarter is quiet and introspective. No great Dabanggs here. Inner turmoils. A tale of redemption, of love conquers all and makes wrongs right.

The movie is set in West Bengal and captures the essence of Bengali films. It reminded my of the quietness of deep mountain lakes. You jolt a stone and it will create gentle ripples on the surface whilst it cuts through the deep waters, never to touch bottom.

Sonakshi Sinha graces each frame with her quintessentially Indian beauty. She conjures images of goddesses. As if somebody rubbed an oil-lamp, releasing a genie. She is greeting you from old paintings of a bygone era.  Sonaskhi is so beautiful you want to freeze time to keep her that way forever. I will always want to see her draped in colorful saris, not in skimpy Kareena outfits. The role of Pakhi was written for her.  I was glad to hear that she quit her agent over the refusal to take part in “Welcome.”  She is a character actress like Vidya Balan, a powerhouse, wasted on dumbed down movies. She should be weighing carefully her roles and remain true to herself.

Ranveer Singh plays his character Varun with depth and complexity.  Not to say I was surprised. I loved his nonchalance, energy and charisma  in Band Baaja Barat. This role as Varun,brings out a new side to him, the turmoiled, torn, emotionally charged.  Ranveer reminded me of Ralph Fiennes in The English patient, when he opened the door of his room to Pakhi. Or Ruldolfo Valentino in The Sheik. I bet every woman’s heart stood still for a moment.  This movie is heartbreakingly beautiful. I savored each minutet. Maybe it’s also the nostalgia of going back in time, before computers, before cell phones. A movie without the gadgets of our time felt so good all for sudden. Life seemed so different then.

If you want to spoil it for yourself, read all the reviews and storyline upfront. Or don’t ready anything about it and let the movie do its magic.

In a nutshell, a young archeologist, Varun Shrivastav (Ranveer Singh), comes with a friend  to excavate a temple site situated on grounds of a local Zamindar. He gains his trust and confidence of the kind Zamindar’s , whose most valuable asset is his daughter Pakhi (Sonakshi Sinha). Her feeble health is of great concern to him. From the first encounter  Pakhi feels increasingly drawn to  Varun and falls under his spell.  He is not what he seems to be though and things take an ugly turn.

If you are a guy, who loves action movies, don’t watch this movie. If you suffer from attention deficit disorder, don’t watch this movie. If you haven’t slept in days, bring a comfort pillow.

It’s a good date movie, if you want to reach out to the woman of your dreams. You might get lucky.

Writer/director Vikramaditya Motwane is a filmmaker after my heart. He has shown his talent with Udaan and DevD. He has worked on Devdas (2002) as associate director, as the choreographer in Water (2005)  and it must have inspired him. This movie is ripe with the tone and color of those two films, but Lootera is his masterwork.

I hope the movie makes it to the Oscar’s.

Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani, a Bollywood quilt


Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani or formerly known as….

Each little patch of this quilt reminded me of some other Bollywood movies. or respectively reversing situations not to get blamed for plagiarism. I got caught in some vague deja-vus, reminiscent moments of Barfi, Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara, Jab We Met and a gazillion revamped Bollywood cliches.. Plus: we  were  looking for hints about the REAL relationship between Deepika and Ranbir, the actors, not actees. We are curious, of course. Or, at least, I am. To a certain degree. After what transpired on the Koffee with Karan episode…

Hey, good news, you can take Grandma and Grandpa to see Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani. They might object to the excessive alcohol consumption (they will need to complain about something, all right?) but there is no nudity nor smoking (hence no prior obligatory 10min graphic lung cancer commercial) and the screen kiss between Ranbir and Deepika won’t make anybody’s cherry pop by a mile.

In this charming coming of age saga, because charming it is, some people know what they want to do when they grow up, some don’t. Luckily for us, Ranbir, sorry, Bunny,  likes to travel. Deepika plays the studious pre-med Naina, who nobody notices because she is oh so shy. After graduating high school, the otherwise bookish Naina spontaneously decides to join a group of friends,  Aditi  (played by wild thing Kalki Koechlin) and Avi, (played by BW’s new hunk Aditya Roy Kapoor), and of course playboy Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor)  on a trek to Manali. Tip for Bunny: If you intend to hike mountains, preferably leave your 2feetx 2feet photo album behind. Bunny has his handy,  even on the peak of the highest mountain. It made me think, why not bring a sofa?

Well, guys, I don’t want to give too much away. See for yourself how high school dreams and first loves turn out eight years later. It’s an easygoing feel-good romance, with some great locations, fantastic backdrops which make you want to explore more of India’s treasures rather than travel abroad.

This movie has no great highs or great lows, other than mountain peaks and valleys, but the performances are fresh and alluring.

One thing that ticked me off and I need to get it off my chest:: We don’t get the pleasure watching Deepika practicing medicine, as the most accomplished member of the group. Eight years later she has a medical degree, but still sits at home watching TV? The camera follows Bunny’s cam through the second half of the movie..

Ayan Mukerjii, the director, who directed also Wake Up, Sid, is first and second counsin of Kajol and Rani Mukerji. And I bet even they would have liked to see a little bit more focus on the heroine’s accomplishment. But hey, I understand, you can’t drag guys into a movie where the heroine is the success story. Let’s dumb her down to manageable size.

But then calling the protagonist Bunny… ? I don’t know anymore what message this movie sends :-p nor what happened to the ghosts on the mountain and why they didn’t show up to stir a little drama for special effects

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The Future (hopefully) Toh Bright Hai Ji – for Sanjay Amar.


 

Future Toh Bright Hai Ji is a refreshing Indian slapstick comedy of the sort I would like to see more of. It’s listed as drama, inexplicably. Okay, satire maybe, but drama? I had the best time watching this movie. It was funny and uplifting.

Aamir Bashir as Ajay and Sonal Sehgal as Sonia kill it as a struggling writer and  B starlet in an Indian Soap, two Kashmir ex-pats who dream of making it in Bollywood.

Married four years and tired of living in a crappy apartment in a crappy section of Mumbai with work opportunities going nowhere, an incidental visit to an astrologer who promises them a turnaround of their lives within seven days, we follow the young couple through the maze of bureaucracy and the threat of the underworld and more. This movie becomes a rollercoast ride through urban culture and the spontaneity of Aamir Bashir’s and Sonal Sehgal’s acting just brings it home what it means to be small timers in Mumbai’s bubbling entertainment industry. “Think Big, not Small” says the agent to Ajay as she is rejecting his script. This might be a small independent film but it shines pretty bright for its size.

Future Toh Bright Hai Ji is a great ensemble effort. It’s loaded with personable characters that stay with you. Not to be missed.

I put my money on Sanjay Amar, the writer/ director of this refreshing tale. If he is dreaming big, he might very well be on his way :-) If you enjoy Indian new wave cinema, you are going to enjoy this one.

Cast & Crew

Cast

  1. Aamir Bashir
  2. Sonal Sehgal
  3. Asrani
  4. Satish Kaushik
  5. Vipin Sharma
  6. Delnaaz Irani

Directors

  1. Sanjay Amar

Producers

  1. Rama Mehrotra

Writers

  1. Sanjay Amar