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.

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Jism under the prism


First of all, let me say this: if a terrorist with Hooda’s sex-appeal, who can play the cello with his right hand and fire his guns with the left,  should cross my path, I’ll be happy to become a gangster-b*tch… Count me in. :-)  his abode in Thailand wasn’t too shabby either.

Secondly, my recommendation to Sunny Leone is, don’t give up your lucrative career as a porn-star quite yet… Oh boy, Sunny looked hot in all the right places (hey, didn’t she remind a bit of Zarine Khan?)  Lesson learned: porn stars are good at heaving their bosoms up and down at the mere thought of carnal love but have a very hard time walking graciously in stiletto heels, (which came as a huge surprise to me. I would have thought they master this task to perfection. And here is my  rule: if you can’t walk in them, don’t wear them).

Jism 2 reads like a cross-section of Mahesh Bhatt ideology.  He wrote a screen play where he can spit it all out, just barely shying away from blaming the government of being the ultimate terrorist organization, Mahesh knows he wouldn’t have many friends left if he went that far.  Biographical tidbits, remembering old loves, fantasizing over the power of love are interspersed in this father/daughter venture. But largely it carries the stamp of the  patriarch, the Maheshji.  We are made to believe terrorists are the true patriots? excuse me, Sir? They are artists at heart, poets, entirely misunderstood. Blowing up a couple of hundred people is some honest business because it’s for the good of the countrymen, who don’t realize that the institutions they trust are the true blood-hounds and devils incarnate, conniving with drug cartels and arms dealers. Terrorists are the pure-hearted ones… who want to save the world. blah blah blah… I guess that’s more Mahesh speaking… Pooja created the platform for the sensual that infuses the film with the honey of luv.

The  movie reminds me a bit of these endless and fruitless conversations with half baked pubescent conspiracy theorists.. Hooda’s performance is so convincing though that for a moment I want to believe it.  And had there been a stronger supporting cast the message might have had more clout. but  somehow the performances lacked in authenticity.. it felt all staged and too stylized to grab me by the throat.

So I guess, Mahesh Bhatt’s mission went unaccomplished here. Sorry buddy, but I just don’t believe in catering to terrorism and looking at terrorists through rose colored glasses.

The photography of Jism 2 was strong, the sets lush and beautiful. Everything on set neat and color-coordinated, like a Karan Johar trip.  The cinematography mind-blowing in parts, like the fireflies in Izna’s hair.. what beauty! must have been Pooja’s idea :-)

the songs were fantastic too. I loved the slow pace of the movie, the attention to detail. It had certainly a good deal of redeeming factors but on the overall, it missed its target.

Randeep Hooda is my new favorite actor, already since Once Upon a Time in Mumbai. He has a timing and a delivery that is unmatched. Not just good, he is a GREAT actor!! I can’t wait to see more of him. What a powerful performance. His best to date.

Great chemistry between him and Sunny Leone.  Even so, I dare to hope that the national security of our countries won’t be so easily compromised.  If a good rack and a nice tush and a juicy whatnot is all it takes to drive special forces into madness then let’s start re-negotiating contracts. And, we are doomed. Thank goodness it’s just a movie… :-)

Overall, I liked the movie better than I had thought I would. The story doesn’t hold up very well though.  at times way too much pathos and a height of emotion that just doesn’t didn’t translate and reach the audience. Only Randeep Hooda could convey something authentic.  Adult and seasoned men crouching on the floor over a woman with whom they had a few times sex, losing their minds over? forgetting missions and life goals?? Hey! Only in India… :-)

Sunny Leone lioness in disguise


 

Wow, she knows her business. If she does only half as well acting as she does what she does here,  we will be thrilled with her in Jism 2…

I am already in her quarter. Because:  you can LEARN from a woman like her!! :-)

Randeep Hooda must have had a field-day filming with her. Mahesh Bhatt probably lurking in the background and having dinner with her after the shoots, yeah, just to go one more time over the script…haha

I am kinda excited and very curious to see Jism 2, primarily because of Pooja Bhatt being the director.  I am favorably biased towards women directors. A) because I can relate to their views and B) because I feel there need to be more of them…

yeh kasoor from the movie Jism 2

 

 

Jannat 2 – not exactly a review


(I am reposting, since yesterday’s post didn’t show up on wordpress. same post, added my two favorite songs)

Initially, cross my heart, I didn’t even want to see the movie. I read reviews that weren’t very favorable and I don’t like the genre. I need to be dragged to see any film promising an abundance of gun-toting and car chases and where blood flows in rivers. Yet, if it’s a good movie it’s worthwhile to check it out. As a die-hard Bollywood lover, I went to see it almost with a sense of duty. And I figured if it’s coming from Mahesh Bhatt’s corner, it cannot be THAT bad.

It didn’t have a strong beginning. The intro to the story had me yawn and my mind began drifting trying to convert rupees into dollars and the subtitles started running away with the setup.. 1,2,3 and I was lost. Oh yes, I reminded myself, small time crook, illegal arms, Emraan Hashmi and 2 hours to go.

Just when I thought, I may as well start napping, this is going to be a Hollywood cross-over, the characters of the movie started coming to life. One by one.

The characters:

Emraan Hashmi as Sonu Dilli, the small time crook, who falls hopelessly in love with ravishing Jhanvi, unknowns to him, daughter of the local don.
Randeep Hooda as ACP Pratap Raghuvanshi, a cop out on revenge and a drinking binge
Esha Gupta as Jhanvi Tomar, the lovely doc, director of a clinic for the poor, it seems.
Mansish Choudary as Mangal Singh Tomar, the vicious don
Sumeet Niijhavan as Sarfaraz, wonderful villaini performance, small role but memorable character, hot.
Modh Zeeshan Ayyub as Balli, the sidekick, as good and innocent as they come

Randeep Hooda, the magnificently dysfunctional cop. What a performance! His screen presence is magnetic. I felt that already in Once Upon a Time in Mumbai, where he caught my attention first. This performance puts him right at the top as a new Bollywood force to reckon with, villaini, but I can’t wait to see him as a romantic hero. I bet he’ll be sensational. He has the right timing in delivery, the intensity, it’s just a joy to watch him. The camera work was also great, framing him beautifully portraying him as this dark presence throughout the movie. His filmography is already quite substantial but I hadn’t seen him in most of those movies.

Bollywood’s villains are the BEST!!! nothing compares to them. Sorry, but Hollywood villains can pack up and become sales clerks :-)

The romantic angle: Emraan can’t pull off a convincing romantic hero, you may think, he’s not glamorous enough, tall enough, handsome ‘nough and partly that’s true. Would I fall in love with him? no, visually he’s not a feast, but he has heart. and that transpires in his performances. And the matter of fact is, if a man loves you and treats you like his queen, his rani, he becomes irresistible over time.

The script was interesting and original, the story well-told, the characters well developed. You could feel empathy, even with those villains, which I liked. Kudos to Shagufta Rafiq.

The director of the movie, Kunal Deshmukh and cinematographer Bobby Singh did an outstanding job together. The shooting locations were mesmerizing. The chases very realistic. The camera work and angles worked really well.

Esha Gupta was beautiful, graceful and shining in those music clips.

The music was nice. I loved Rahat Fateh’s song Tu Deedar Hua..

and

Tu Hi mera by Shafqat Amanat Ali

I liked this movie. I liked the way it ended.

Check it out. I’d give it 3.8/5