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?

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If Inkaar has taught me one lesson: don’t sleep with your boss or Mayday Mayday


This movie never made it to my shores. An  interesting and multilayered film dealing with sexual harassment at the workplace. But if you think you learn something, then let’s cut to the chase. Don’t sleep with your boss. EVER. Under no circumstances. We know from experience how messy that can get. Case in point: Inkaar

A  panel of investigators is summoned to determine if a sexual harassment suit filed by the creative director of an ad agency, Maya (Chitrangda Singh)  against a CEO, Rahul  (Arjun Rampal)  has any merit and a solution can be found internally without creating too many waves. The questioning takes place over three days and we viewers  feel just as exhausted at the end of this film as the members of the panel. But then comes the film’s climax and we realize our sufferings were in vain.The two feuding parties were just trying to figure out how they feel about each other. Duh!

So what started out as a really interesting premise of He Said She Said, the whole muddiness of office romance, game of ambition, blame and accusation had me in its grip. Usually sexual harassment is about one willing and one unwilling party, but in this case there was mutual attraction and boundaries were crossed consensually An ambitious young attractive employee finds a mentor in her boss and climbs up the ladder.

To illustrate how young and dumb she was in the beginning of her odyssey we see Maya adorned with unattractive body piercings until she morphs into a sophisticated dame in accordance with her new position. of creative director, which turns her into a mean and patronizing boss who fires old tested employees at will. Maya never appears as a victim and never gets our full sympathy. except of course we ask ourselves, in order to climb the ladder in a company on the fast track, do we need to sleep our way up? and that’s a concern of many women. It’s legit. We see it happen all the time.  Maya does and gets somewhere fast. She has a good mind and everyday situations are converted into creative ideas that benefit the agency. So even if she hadn’t slept with her boss and mentor, she would have probably climbed up pretty fast. We understand his well-controlled rage and anger when she is being promoted and encroaches now on HIS territory.

We see their relationship play out in their reciprocal flashbacks. And our sympathies may switch from one to another as we can understand their viewpoints..

I was happy to see Chitrangda Singh, who had so impressed me in Desi Boyz. She is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful actresses in Bollywood these days. She exudes elegance and sophistication. Somehow she reminds me of Zeta-Jones.. What I loved about her in this role is, that she remained enigmatic to the end. A superbly nuanced performance.

This was a fantastic role for Arjun Rampal, too. I could too fall in  love him  and hate him and admire him, just as Maya. This emotional roller-coaster kept me glued to the story.The tension was building up, but helas, it collapsed like an undercooked souffle which you have pulled out of the oven with great anticipation and then see it sadly deflate.

I wish I could re-write some of Bollywood’s endings. They oftentimes feel rushed, clumsily put together and reverse the positive feelings you built up during the movie. No exception here. They should have brainstormed the ending maybe via a focus group. The climax and resolution was the weakest part. So weak indeed that I felt that I had wasted two hours of my time. Still, the characters resonated with me and I therefore I would recommend watching it to my friends, warning them ahead of time about a weak ending.

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and its magic ingredient: Kunal Kapoor


I loved Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana!!   I watched it right after Sandy hit New York. Like any self-respecting Bollywood addict, would I miss a chance like that? Storms, floods, gasoline shortage.. screw that! :-)  I loved the preview of LSTCK.  Anything Kashyap will get me off the sofa and out of the house, even if it’s only a producing gig. I know I will be gloriously entertained.
And I am a big fan of Kunal Kapoor, whose eyes are burning with a warm fire. Or a dangerous fire. As needed. A criminal who redeems himself or the good guy who will turn bad, or just the reluctant romantic hero.  Always a tad off-beat, which allows him to switch into different avatars, playing out all shades of a searching and uncertain soul. That’s what he is. A soulful actor. I always feel Bollywood doesn’t know where to put him. He doesn’t fit into categories and thus he is being sadly underutilized and underrated as an actor. Under the right direction and with the right script his qualities start shining. And THIS was a GREAT role for him, for instance!
Punjabi-born Omi (Kunalji) gets into the hands of some ruthless money sharks in London, can’t pay off his debts. In order to buy time he promises them that once he gets back to India he’ll be able to get them back their cash. Lands in India, goes back to his village in Punjab, absolutely hapless how to make good on his promise. Well, we learn that he had left India in a hurry with money he stole from grandpa. Pretends he made it big in London. Falls for his ex girlfriend, Harman, who has become the village doctor (played by Huma Qureshi). First she rejects him, but we know how it goes… Huma, too, doesn’t fit the glam Bollywood heroine mold and that was a pleasant surprise. She played her role with earthy and maternal grace. Loved it. The characters felt real. The supporting cast was well-chosen.
Most of all, I could reach out with my hand and touch India. Unabashed. Rural. You could almost smell the earth, the spices and taste the food.
Finally a foodie movie coming out of India. If you love food and magic ingredients, don’t miss this one. Well, in the theaters you might have missed it already, but by all means, go and buy the DVD.
Directed by Sameer Sharma
Good interview on ndtv movies with Kunal Kapoor. But besides writing, he seems to have set his heart on racing too. So go and check out the link underneath and go to the ndtv movie page, it got more about him…
Kunal Kapoor to focus on writing
Press Trust of India | Sunday, November 18, 2012 (New Delhi)
Kunal is also set to star in Kashyap’s film, where he will play Raj Comics’ superhero Doga. He will also appear in Chamkila, a biography of controversial Punjabi singer Amar Singh Chamkila.
Right from its inception, Kunal Kapoor was actively involved in the writing process of his recently released film Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khuranaand the actor says he wants to take his new found interest forward. Kunal, 35, is currently busy putting together few scripts for films.”I have been working on something like I did in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khuranato put together a project that I believe in. I am writing and there are three to four stories that I have been working on. I am not writing a whole script, I am somebody who is more like a bouncing board, who ideates and puts together things. So, hopefully things will fall into place soon,” Kunal told PTI.

When asked if he plans to turn director any time soon, the actor said, “Directors have to pamper egos and actors get their egos pampered. Right now I am happy being pampered and have no plans to direct a film.”

Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, co-produced by Anurag Kashyap and UTV Motion Pictures and directed by newcomer Sameer Sharma, was made within a budget of Rs 3 crore but managed to set the cash registers ringing. The film set around a chicken recipe, also starred Gangs of Wasseypur girl Huma Qureshi.

“It is a film I believed in very strongly. Sameer and I have known each other for a while. We used to keep talking about the sort of films we’d like to do. We started the process two years back, we took it to lot of people,” said Kunal, who was in NCR recently to launch the new men’s soap series by Fiama Di Wills.

“We were doing something different from what Punjab is perceived as and nobody wanted to take a chance with it. But Anurag did and now to see the film having the effect that we wanted, is absolutely amazing,” he added.

Since making his Bollywood debut with Meenaxi: A Tale of Three Cities in 2005, Kunal has acted in ten films – Rang De Basanti, Bachna Ae Haseeno, Welcome to Sajjanpur, Lamhaa to name a few. Last year he starred alongside superstar Shah Rukh Khan in Don 2.

When asked why he is seen so less on the big screen, Kunal said, “I am not choosy. If I had the chance I would do five films in a year. But the films have to be exciting. There is no point going to the sets of a film and thinking why am I here? And also for the last one and half years I was putting together Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana. That took a lot of effort and time. It is not like I want to do one film a year but it is just that I want to do quality work.”

Kunal is also set to star in Kashyap’s film, where he will play Raj Comics’ superhero Doga. He will also appear in Chamkila, a biography of controversial Punjabi singer Amar Singh Chamkila.

Doga is very far away. It is a very big film and very expensive and you need a lot of money for it. Next year Anurag will start shooting a film called Bombay Velvet. So Doga will start after that. Chamkila is something I am very excited about but it being developed. We are working on putting the script together,” he said.

 

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.

 

 

Too bad Tha Tiger killed Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi


it’s really shame because Shirin Farhad Ki Toh Nikal Padi is a charming comedy, one that makes the point that you don’t have to be young, look hip like a Bollywood star and be size 0 to fall in love.

Frustrated  45 yr old bachelor and Farsi mama boy Farhad (played by the lovable Boman Irani), seasoned lingerie salesman, who can tell your bra-size in the split of a second, is finally finding his match in zesty secretary Shirin (Farah Khan).

Romcoms for the 40+ gen are no rarity in Hollywood, but Farah Khan just set a benchmark for Indian films. If you are single in Indian films by age 40 you are either widowed or divorced but not single and looking!  Just like Vicky Donor surprised us with its topic of sperm donation, Shirin and Farhad are the new It in the mature & single department.  Not that they don’t exist in India, 40 and single, but they are frowned upon. A woman not married by the age of 30 is still the anomaly. I also know Indian guys in their forties who are still unmarried. but it’s true, they are made fun of very often.

The movie is fresh and uncomplicated and speaks right to the heart.  This movie is not flawless and some things might have looked better on paper but Farah’s fabulous choreographies come handy to bridge you any looming downtime. This girl can shake her booty all right! :-) She is full of life and utterly believable when turning sexy and  flirtatious, happy, angry and/or kicks balls in a man’s world.

And finally, we get to see the versatile Boman Irani as a romantic lead. I always loved him as an actor and often thought he is underutilized. I loved him in this role as lingerie salesman, trapped between his mom (Daisy Irani) and his love interest.

 

Nice job by first time director Bela Sehgal.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel


This movie was disappointing and embarrassingly cliched. As if India is waiting for a bunch of UK reject retirees to show them how to sweep floors properly, run a call center and hotel, help with matchmaking, and, hello, HOW TO PLAY CRICKET?!

John Madden has gone mad. :-) Let’s throw in a dash of gay activism, unsightly and horny men running wild in the shower…Do we need to see that?  Postmenopausal, equally horny women trying to catch a maharaja… Gimme a break!

Besides, Bill Nighy and Judy Dench made a very unlikely romantic couple. sorry but they couldn’t sell us the chemistry there….

Dev Patel, self-deprecating, frantic and lost, trying too hard. On Imdb, he’s not even mentioned on the first page, which again, I don’t want to be mean but… it reflects exactly the attitude of this movie.   Tina Desae was a visual highlight with her sweet demeanor and vulnerability.

The best thing about the movie was seeing glimpses of colorful India. Even though, again, we got to see only shabby side and that’s not all there is.   The condescending treatment of India in Western movies is highly irritating. This movie, I was hoping, would turn the page but it didn’t with its eurocentric view, validating every prejudice there is.

Better movie about this topic was Shararat with Om Puri and Abhishek Bachchan

I was looking forward to The Best Ex9tic Marigold Hotel since last year and ended up being gloriously disappointed.

If there was anything I liked it was the performances.  Bill Nighy always lovable, Judy Dench, the whole cast – that was the best part.

Ironically, Caucasians in Indian films are treated just as poorly as Indians in Western films… I guess the world is what it is. Why get excited? :-)