For all those who are curious about similarities with Memento (debut movie of Christopher Nolan), let me tell you straight - Ghajini is not a copy of that awesome flick. And unfortunately, Ghajini is nowhere as good as Memento either....

The common thing between the two movies is the 'short term memory loss' syndrome - a condition where the person is unable to form new memories because of damage to the brain. In both movies, it happens because the villain clobbers the hero on his head with an iron rod - while killing his wife/fiance. And the hero swears vengeance ...

Aamir Khan plays Sanjay Singhania, a rich tycoon, who is smitten by the charms of a do-gooder, upcoming model Kalpana (Asin). He befriends her without revealing his identity and theirs is a sweet little romance (no kissing scenes and no cleavage show :) ) Then the unfortunate incident occurs and Aamir transforms into an animal - powerful and full of rage. His only motive in life is to hunt down Ghajini .... and he tries to find a trail to him with the help of tattoos, polaroid photos and notes.
Aamir's acting is superb as usual - one wonders how much time and effort he must have put in to make that beefcake body. His expressions, especially in the final sequences are frighteningly animal-like - and the action pulse pounding. He just literally smashes all the tamil-baddies with brute power. Its been sometime since we have seen such raw violence in mainstream hindi movies.

However unlike the previous few Aamir movies, this one disappoints big time. His acting notwithstanding, the plot is so full of holes, that even the simple linear storyline doesnt make sense. Lets start with his exact mental condition. Its not clear exactly what all can he remember - the professor at the start of the movie indicates that he doesnt remember anything personal apart from his love life. Yet later when Aamir loses his notes and photos, he doesnt remember anything about Kalpana as well !

Then more controversial is his short term memory - he is supposed to be able to remember things only for 15 min - yet this 15 min apparently can be stretched as long or squeezed short, as per the director's wishes. Neither is there any hint about how Aamir was able to trace Ghajini - there are maps and photos galore but no actual investigation shown.

But the most obvious plot hole is the final sequence. Doesnt it sound more than a little stupid, that not ONE among the 20-odd bodyguards of Ghajini would have a gun, when Aamir already warned them he was coming ?

There are other silly mistakes in the plot as well - but I think these are enough to give you an idea about whats wrong in the movie. And if the plot holes are not enough, there are the songs. Atrociously placed, each song is a drag on the storyline and has absolutely no requirement in the movie. Its almost as if Asin signed a contract that said she will have 3 songs picturized and Jiah Khan's contract said one song - so there ....

Among performances, Asin does a competent job, doing a few scenes well enough - but her role was quite dumbly written. Jiah Khan's role had nothing difficult and she is again competent. The villain Ghajini (I dont know his name but he used to appear in hindi movies before) does well too - especially the disdain with which he labels Aamir as 'short term memory loss'.

The movie is too long and the romantic track takes up too much time - especially at the end, with another needless song and closeups. The revenge track, which is supposed to be the main theme, unfortunately doesnt impress. The action can get you on the edge of your seat a few times, but with so many convenient shortcuts in the script, you stop believing the story. I personally found the final vengeance scene quite underwhelming too. Do yourself a favor and miss this movie - multiplex tickets are way too costly nowadays :)

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Madagascar 2 : Escape 2 Africa

Apologies for posting so late - laptop went bust again.

Madagascar 2 continues from where it left off in part 1 - in the island of Madagascar. The New York foursome - Alex the lion, Marty the zebra, Gloria the hippo and Melman the giraffe - have gotten bored with the island and are restless to reach home. So under the able command of the military penguins, and accompanied by King Julien and his trusted Maurice, they take off in an old crashed-in-the-jungle-plane, but only to soon run out of fuel and crash-land in mainland Africa.

Here they find creatures of their own kind and discover their roots. For Alex its more special because he happens to get reunited with his family. The others take to their new surroundings quite well too. However, soon their wildlife preserve is faced with trouble and our foursome has to team up and tackle the challenge – in the process, discovering new bonds between them.

The characters are memorable as ever – especially the two lemurs King Julien and Maurice. The penguins are adorable, but I think the two lemurs steal the thunder from everyone else. There are more characters introduced, like Alex’s family and Gloria’s date – the hilariously named MotoMoto !!

However, while there are funny lines interspersed throughout the movie, Madagascar 2 is not as entertaining or memorable as part one. The first one had the advantage of the freshness - in this one, the characters have lost their novelty – and the new characters are simply not in the same mold. But more importantly, I think the introduction of the Lion King subplot was the weakest point of the movie – couldn’t the creative heads come up with a better subplot for Alex ? Something a little bit funnier ?

The granny from NY also makes an appearance, and would appear to have been given more screentime than necessary. The monkeys also do not come good till the end. But all the same, there are some absolute gems in the movie – the seafood one is a howler.

So definitely do not give this movie a miss. A very good entertainer like every animation – but not quite a great one …

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Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi

I think my view of 'Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi' was greatly influenced by the trailer of ‘New York’, that was shown before Rab Ne. I hadnt heard of it before - it’s a Yash Raj movie and stars John Abraham, Katrina Kaif and Neil Nitin Mukesh. The trailer starts off very Dostana-ish (minus the gayness, ofcourse) - two cool guys and one girl having a gala time in New York City. Then suddenly everything changes and we see 9-11 and torture scenes and then Neil Nitin Mukesh talks about 'our qam'. It was then that it struck me .... that maybe the Chopras were in a sort of deep slumber and one day, woke up to a movie market that had changed from DDLJ to Khosla Ka Ghosla. So they try to make a movie with the times (think Khuda Ke Liye), but cant help adding their magic secret success formula – candyfloss looks !!!

Which leads me to today’s movie – Rab Ne – and you can see the same theory at work. The honchos at Yash Raj studios read a market report – which says that the common man (‘Bheja Fry’) look is in, so lets put that angle in and set up the movie in a small town, but we will make Shahrukh Khan dance, add our special secret ingredient and ta-dah !!! Superhit !!

Unfortunately for the Chopras, movie audiences now have better taste and can separate actually good cinema from a wannabe. Yash Raj’s competency is stylish, glossy, escapist fare - and there is a good market for it, as Dostana proved. They should probably just concentrate on that.

And just to prove that I have nothing against Yash Raj movies, I confess that I am a sucker for feel-good, happy movies. I really liked Aaja Nachle and thought Tara Rum Pum was quite ok (and didn’t watch Laaga Chunari). But Rab Ne, even with its happy ending, has just too many things working against it. First being the ethereal love concept – ‘aap jisse pyar karte ho, usmein rab dikhta hai’. The notion that love is so pure and god-like is SOOOOO nonsense !!! Have these people ever actually been in love? In this age, love is about connecting with each other, clicking, or being on the same wavelength – whatever you call it. And its not just a big town phenomena – the days of falling in love, just by seeing a pretty face is long gone and everyone knows it. Everyone, except the Chopras, ofcourse.

The second is plot holes – the idea is to entertain, I get it – but can we have a little more sensible story please? Something which credits the viewers as having more intelligence than dumb goats - or sheep ? Its not like we do not like fantastical or outrageous storylines – we do. Om Shanti Om was an example of one. But the way the makers of Rab Ne try to convince you that its a non-fantasy, everyday love story just doesn’t hold. It feels complete like a complete eyewash.

The feeling of the me-too returns when you watch the retro “chalte chalte” song. “We can do what Farah Khan can do, and we can do it with better heroines” – but sorry Aditya, Farah does the stuff better. The self-referencing jokes work for the first couple of times, but they are far too many and there is only so many times a Dhoom gag will work. And arent there any other movies worth referencing ?

However there are some gems in the movie as well. The scene after the office party when Shahrukh thanks Anushka is very heartfelt and a scene Shahrukh should be proud of. And half a star is just for the ending credits with the commentary :) Anushka Sharma is a superb find I think – she is very confident and acts really well. Vinay Pathak is great as usual, but he doesn’t have much to do apart from act Shahrukh’s buddy.

But I cant help but wonder – how would the movie have been if it had Vinay Pathak in Shahrukh’s role ?

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Burn After Reading

I think the movie can be pretty well summed up in a line from the movie itself – “Christ, what a cluster-fuck !!

Burn After Reading has a bevy of stars – George Clooney, Brad Pitt, John Malkovich, Tilda Swinton & Frances McDormand – and one goofy storyline. The movie begins in the CIA office in Washington, where an analyst Osborne Cox (John Malkovich), explodes in rage on being demoted by his boss. He prefers to quit rather than accept a demotion and storms out ranting that he will write a tell-all memoirs. We come to know he might have an drinking problem ….

His wife Katie (Tilda Swinton) is a pediatrician who’s not so impressed by her husband’s activities, especially his latest one. She is having a fling with a married US Marshal Henry Pfarrer (George Clooney), who is a compulsive womanizer. Unrelated to them (atleast in the beginning) are two Hardbodies gym trainers Linda (Frances McDormand) and Chad (Brad Pitt) – and their boss Ted (Richard Jenkins). Linda thinks she desperately needs cosmetic surgery as she is getting old and Chad (who is the male equivalent of a blonde) is good friend of hers. The gym boss Ted has a major crush on Linda, but she never gives him any consideration.

The story begins when Chad discovers a CD full of Osborne’s memoirs in the gym’s ladies locker room floor. Linda and Chad are convinced they have a goldmine of classified information on their hands and hatch a plan to demand $50,000 for returning the CD. When Osborne gets the extortion call, he is enraged and flatly refuses to pay – threatening them with Official Secrets Act and Federal crimes etc. And from here the script just takes off …

This movie is less about the story and more about the characters. All the characters are complete oddballs – the paranoid Pfarrer, the enraged Osborne, the stupid but optimistic Linda, the harebrained Chad - and they make the movie rather quirky. Pfarrer is the most interesting character by far – his philandering, his paranoia about being followed – and especially his pastime of making mechanical devices in his basement (you gotta see it to believe it). But I think Brad Pitt steals the acting honors in this movie with his bimbo-brained act.

I would classify this as a goofy spy movie – but a very smart one - far removed from the Austin Powers’ kind. The comedy is much more mature and black, there is nothing at stake (like WMDs or billions of dollars in other spy movie spoofs) – just people convinced about their own superiority in some quirky situations. Ofcourse, coming from Coen Brothers*, violence is not far away and it suddenly explodes in the narrative, when you least expect it. The running time is just 95 minutes and final scene in the movie is by far the best I have seen in sometime – even though it doesn’t cleanly tie all ends up.

3 star

* The Coen Brothers – Joel and Ethan Coen – are a celebrated director duo and their last release ‘No Country For Old Men’ won the best picture Oscar.
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Dil Kabaddi

Imagine Irfan Khan wearing a g-string and a sports bra !!

Grossed out :D ? Don’t worry, they don’t show him in it :)

Just an indicator of the level of openness we have come to accept in hindi movies. Even 5 years ago, talk like this would have gotten movie posters burnt etc. But now its quite cool to talk about spicing up your sex life with such ideas. Ofcourse the g-string idea itself is quite stupid :)

Dil Kabaddi is a take on modern-day urban relationships - with Rahul Bose & Konkona Sensharma and Irfan Khan & Soha Ali Khan playing couples – who are outwardly happily married, but troubled inside. The movie claims to be a fun take on marital (and extramarital) affairs – and especially the trailers of the movie promise a lot of debauchery and goofing around.

So does Dil Kabaddi deliver ?

Yes – but not quite.

The story begins with Samit (Irfan Khan) and Mita (Soha Ali Khan) fighting on their way to meeting Rishi (Rahul Bose) and Simi (Konkona Sensharma). We come to know of Samit’s … err … overenthusiasm for all matters sexual and Soha Ali Khan’s preference for romance and ‘huggy-huggy’ at night – among other things. And they proceed to calmly inform Rishi and Simi that they are separating and Samit is moving out of the house.

And so begins the fun for Samit as he moves in with his ‘aerobics instructor’ Kaya (Payal Rohtagi) the very next day. Mita takes things hard at first but then Simi introduces her to Veer (Rahul Khanna), and they hit it off as well.
These events have their effect on Rishi and Simi who question their own status quo and start considering other people surreptitiously. Ofcourse, what happens next is for you to watch and find out.

All the four major characters are deeply flawed – Rishi a little less than the others – but flawed nevertheless. However, because of Samit’s over-the-top actions, his and Mita’s story doesn’t seem quite realistic while Rishi & Simi’s story seems more plausible. Among the other characters, special mention has to be made of Payal Rohtagi. She is depicted as a caricature, but even then she is so loud and screechy, it becomes a pain to watch her in the latter half in the movie. Her only highlight in the movie is her scene with Rahul Khanna. The other cool character not mentioned so far is Simi’s ex-boyfriend (cant remember his name). Bucking the trend of showing exes as losers (like in Jab We Met), this guy is shown as quite cool and forms a very important link in the narrative.

The chemistry between both the couples is very good and I personally found Soha Ali Khan quite attractive for the first time (and kinda hot, though there is no skin show). And though Irfan Khan gets a lot of wacky humour scenes, I found the scenes between Rahul Bose and Konkona more enjoyable – and Rahul Bose is right in his element.

The movie ends with a unexpected twist and is liberally strewn with gags and sexual jokes. Yet somewhere along, the director loses the balance between realistic and ridiculous fun - and somewhat disconnects with the audience. Like Pyaar Ke Side Effects, you will enjoy this movie just a little bit more if you are married or have had a significant other for sometime. Overall Dil Kabaddi is a lot of fun, but just not quite satisfying.

3 star
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Lets face it – Tarantino or Scorcese may make arguably the greatest gangster movies - but the combination of British humour and gangster movies is equally irresistible !! For those who aren’t familiar with the director Guy Ritchie – he is the guy who made the iconic Lock Stock & Two Smoking Barrels and the much acclaimed Snatch. However you may recall him more easily given that he is married to Madonna (though only for a few days more).

This movie follows the classic Guy Ritchie formula of a number of crooks and one grand prize. In RocknRolla, the real estate is booming in London and everyone wants a bite out of the real estate pie. Russian millionaire Yuri wants some city permits tweaked for a building project of his – and he gets in touch with Lenny, an old school mobster who has contacts in the city council. The payment to Lenny has to be made in cash and here starts the wild chain of events which involve Yuri’s accountant Stella (and her gay lawyer husband), Lenny’s right hand man Archie (Mark Strong), bunch of small-time crooks called the Wild Bunch – One Two (Gerald Butler), Handsome Bob & Mumbles – and Yuri’s two Russian henchmen. Oh I almost forgot – the recently deceased junkie rock’n’roll star Johnny Quid & his managers Micky and Roman.

If this sounds too much to you, well in a way it is. The only flaw in the movie is that it has couple of characters too many. The first half of the movie is spent introducing the characters – and with so many of them, the going is a trifle slow. But the scenes are interspersed with some superb British humour in their trademark cockney accents. The look of the movie is similar to gangster flicks – dark, grimy but stylish – and the dialogues are sharp & witty. Oh and the characters themselves - the goofy thug Gerald Butler, the deadpan Mark Strong and the weird accountant Thandie Newton are a delight. (Wife insists Gerald Butler’s acting had more than traces of George Clooney)

Johnny Quid is the dark horse in the movie, composing music while hopelessly stoned, and spouting some arbit philosophy, yet capable of destructive violence – which partly explains the title of the movie. And the linchpin of the movie is a ‘lucky’ painting of Yuri, which intriguingly, is always shown from the back – you never get to know how the painting looks.

There are so many great moments in the movie – the best being the robbery sequence with the two Russian strongmen - the scene was friggin hilarious. ‘Archie slap’ and Gerald Butler’s slow dance are other scenes which will make you grin much after you have exited the movie. Camerawork is great and the music, while not very impactful in the beginning, is definitely rocking in the finale. The finale brings all the characters together with some hilarious co-incidences and ties out all the loose ends.

Combination of wise-cracking wacky gangsters and even wackier russian gangsters in sitcom-like situation makes one hell of a cool movie. So if you like your gangster movies, then this is definitely the movie for you. And if you haven’t watched anything in this genre, you couldn’t have asked for a better introduction.

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Sorry Bhai

Rocket Singh : Salesman of the Year [IMDB]

Story of a fresh graduate trying to find a balance between the maddening demands of the 'professional' way, and the way of his heart

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Shazahn Padamsee, Gauhar Khan

Direction: Shimit Amin

The Twilight Saga : New Moon [IMDB]

Based on the Twilight book series. After Bella recovers from the vampire attack that almost claimed her life, she looks to celebrate her birthday with Edward and his family.

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson

Direction: Chris Weitz Read More!

Oye Lucky Lucky Oye

I confess that I am a huge Abhay Deol fan and I was really looking forward to this movie - you only have to look at his previous movies to see that he does very interesting - and intelligent movies. And guess what ? Oye Lucky didnt disappoint at all !!

The story - well there isnt much of a story - is about a thief called Lucky (Abhay Deol). To describe Lucky is a huge challenge - he is unapologetic, streetsmart, pulls off the most brazen heists in broad daylight, has a big ego and taste for good things in life - AND steals some really arbitrary things !! And ofcourse, has a boyish charm and earnestness - which make Lucky lovable. Believe me when I say - no other actor could have pulled this role off (except for maybe Akshay Kumar).

The story is set in Delhi, like the director's previous venture Khosla Ka Ghosla - and this movie seems to continue in tone and tenor from where it left off. There is something very enjoyable about the Delhi-Punjabi way of talking - their use of swear words in every other sentence, their ostentatiousness, emphasis on class/society, and general addressing of everyone with 'aap'. The director seems to have a very good understanding of the Delhi psyche and uses it to gently ridicule them from time to time.

The humour in the movie is understated like in Khosla Ka Ghosla - and maybe would not appeal to everyone as much. Its not slapstick - so dont expect a Singh is King. But all the same, watch out for the audacious stealing scenes - and the police station sequences. Even the now-common news channel-bashing turns out to be a hoot.
There are moments when the movie slows down and the director explores other themes like betrayal and family values etc. But then unerringly, the director focusses back on Lucky and he delivers.

Credit is to be given to the young sardar who played Lucky junior - he does it very well indeed. The director Dibakar Bannerjee is to be commended at recreating the Delhi feel - and for not deviating too much from his mold - while creating a completely new movie. But the main praise is for Abhay Deol. He is what makes the Lucky character believable - and lovable :)

Wont say anything more but hope I have interested you enough that you watch the movie :)

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Tourneuse de pages, La : The Page Turner

After happening to like the last two foreign movies we watched, I was all enthusiastic about catching this one this weekend itself, and dragged the less-than-enthusiastic wifey all the way to PVR. However I guess law of averages catches up pretty soon :)

(Lately PVR has been taking the distribution rights of a lot of international movies in India and releasing them first at PVR cinemas. While this has meant that people like me always keep a lookout at the PVR website on Fridays to see if they are screening a new international movie, it also means that most of the time, the movies go unnoticed by the majority of the viewing public.)

However nothing is lost with the ‘Tourneuse de pages, La’ or ‘The Page Turner’ this week. It’s a movie about a gifted young piano player Mélanie Prouvost, who stops playing after she fails an all-important exam – due to Ariane Fouchécourt (the head of the jury and a famous pianist). The 10-year-old Mélanie falters because Ariane was signing autographs for fans in the middle of her performance. 10 years after this incident, Mélanie happens to get a chance to become a governess in the Fouchécourt residence and a chance to extract her revenge.

The story is not very unique, sharing elements with ‘The Hand That Rocks The Cradle’ and its numerous remakes (including our Indian adaptation “Khal-naikaa” starring Anu Agarwal & Jayaprada).

However where The Page Turner fails is the thrill and suspense department. It shows us the reason for vengeance by young Mélanie at the beginning of the movie itself. But the revenge is never remotely exciting – you never get edgy about what is she going to do next. Probably because she never declares her true intentions. There ARE a few scenes here and there which do sit up and watch – like Mélanie pushing Tristan's head down into the pool when he is trying to surface, but these scenes are really rare. The blame for it goes to the screenplay. It chugs along at such a monotonous speed – neither accelerating nor braking – that it makes for extremely dull-viewing.

Revenge is a dish best served cold indeed.

But the revenge employed by Mélanie almost borders on the bizarre. She depends completely on luck to get her revenge – she couldnt have possibly predicted that Ariane would take her as her page turner when she was employed just as a governess. Or predicted any of the other thorns that she plants in Ariane’s life with any certainty. Basically Mélanie got ridiculously lucky in her revenge.

Both the lead actresses do their parts well. Mélanie as the wronged woman who is seething inside, but forced to act normal. Her intense facial expressions however, give some hint that things are not what they seem. Similarly, Ariane as a famous piano player who doesnt really care about anything else – her friends, house, her own son – or her loving husband. She’s does the egocentric part very well, looking haughty and imperious throughout the movie - except where she is taken over by stage fear (caused by a road accident 2 years ago)

However what was really the breaking point for us in the movie was the ploy Mélanie uses to destroy Ariane’s marriage. I mean how could Mélanie have possibly been sure that it would turn out the way it did ? I cant say more without giving away the main revenge, but trust me – its absurd to even consider Mélanie planned it out.
(I have noticed an attribute in other French movies and which was reinforced here - was that the French, as a people, are decidedly colder - less jovial and happy – slightly wooden.)

One of the small positives in the movie was that Ariane doesn’t know what hit her or why, at the end – Mélanie quietly walks off into the morning, just before the final chapter of her revenge. The soundtrack, classical western, was pretty good too.
To sum it up, the director fails completely to keep the audience involved in the proceedings with the flat screenplay and the story itself cannot be called a planned-revenge by any stretch of imagination. This movie is therefore probably better ignored.

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Usually all of us make movie-watching decisions based on the reviews we read – IMDB, Rajeev Masand on CNN-IBN, Khalid Mohammed in Hindustan Times or Raja Sen on rediff. (Ofcourse I like to think atleast one or two people take this blog into account too :D). If you read atleast a couple of these reviews, you usually get a very good idea of what a particular movie is like. I have another personal test – admittedly a sort of rough indicator. In case of mainstream hindi movies, just look at the schedule of a multiplex when the movie is released. So if a movie has 4-5 shows a day, it’s a decent movie – while movies with just 1-2 shows in the first week are just bad. Incase of a ‘multiplex movie’ like Johhny Gaddaar, it’s the second week schedule to watch out for.

However, sometimes these calculations go quite wrong. Dasvidaniya is one such movie. (In its second week, its running just 2 shows a day in all multiplexes – and all major reviews have given it two stars, blaming the slow narration and/or ridiculing the contents of the final list). And I thought it was one of the best movies of this year.

Just for those few of you who don’t know what the movie is about, it’s about a common man – Amar Kaul – who leads a very dull and inconsequential middle class life, with nothing to look forward to except for his obsession with ‘to-do’ lists. He makes them everyday, ticking off things that he accomplishes – till he gets to know that he is terminally ill and has just three months to live.

As he did during his lifetime, he decides to make a final list – ‘Things to do (before I die)’ and sets out to fulfill them.

But this movie is too much to be summarized by just this one line! Sure that’s the essence, but the movie has to be watched to appreciate the wonderfully tender moments captured by the director. Vinay Pathak plays the man with just three months to live, who suddenly has to fulfill a lifetime of ambitions – wishes which had been buried under the daily grind of existence. And the beauty of the script is in the things he chooses to put on the list. Nothing exotic or deliberated. Just simple heartfelt desires that probably most of us have – buying his first car or going on his first 'foreign trip'. Seeing his first and only crush Neha one final time - or meeting his childhood best-friend Rajiv before he dies.

Some experiences are heartwarming, like his mom’s reaction on seeing the new car - and some bittersweet, like finding out Neha is now married and a mother. There are many more touching moments - the final parting between Rajiv and Amar and making peace with Vivek – which linger on after the movie. Vinay Pathak gives a wonderful performance, first reflecting desperation, then a breakdown and finally a wistful acceptance of fate.

Kailash Kher has given his unique touch to the music – and while Alvida is the number which everyone is humming, the Maa song is very nicely picturized (without too much overt sentimentality) – and is catchy too.

Not all is perfect with the movie though – Amar’s alter ego’s appearance is a little jarring and he should have had less screentime. The russian’s popping-up act is also a little weird – but it also gives the movie its unique flavor. And if you think about it, how much money would an account manager’s provident fund be left with, after a Rs. 9 lakh car and a round trip to the US ?? And wouldn’t you want to leave it all to your mother instead?

But inspite of these loopholes, this movie is one of the most warm and thoughtful movies to come out of Bollywood in sometime. The director cheekily doffs his hat to mainstream movies Kal Ho Naa Ho and Munnabhai – and indulges in a bit of genuinely funny situational comedy, but you would remember the movie for touching your heart in its earnestness and simplicity.

PS - Dasvidaniya has a 8.8 rating on IMDB Read More!

The Hunting Party

I guess most of us do not know much about Bosnia/Serbia except that its a small country somewhere in Europe where there was some trouble in the 1990s and there was US/NATO military intervention. (For those unfamiliar with the Bosnian war, there is a small paragraph at the end of this review). This movie is set in Bosnia in the year 2000, 5 years after the war ended.

Richard Gere plays Simon Hunt, a washed out reporter, out to bag an interview of a lifetime - with one of the most notorious Bosnian war criminals, The Fox - who also happens to have a $5 million bounty on his head. Along with him is his erstwhile partner and cameraman Duck (Terrence Howard), and a greenhorn reporter Benjamin Strauss, son of a network VP, who wants to prove to his dad that he has what it takes. Apparently inspired by a true story about five journalists who set out to find out war criminals for themselves, this movie is a fascinating yet witty account of their endeavour.

The movie is narrated by Duck, who formed an award-winning team with Simon - covering wars across the planet. However, after a massacre in a Bosnian muslim village in 1995, Simon has a meltdown on national tv - and loses his job and credibility. Now he is struggling to make ends meet, indebted to various loan sharks, while Duck does well in life and now has a cushy job in the network headquarters as well as a sexy girlfriend.

Travelling in a noisy old Mercedes, the odd trio try to track down The Fox - but get mistaken for a CIA hit squad instead. Mention must be made of the Indian UN official, who is training the Serbian police (the same guy who played NRI Mr. Kohli in Bride & Prejudice). The story is a little slow to start with, but soon becomes quite gripping, with some fast paced action, interspersed with some very witty dialogues. Both Richard Gere and Terrence Howard play their roles perfectly - showing an easy camaderie which makes it look like they REALLY are part of an old team. The junior guy Benjamin fits in with the older guys well too.

It is not all funny lines though - a flashback shows what caused Simon's breakdown on that fateful day - just one example, but enough to tell you about the brutalities perpetrated on the Bosnian muslims during the war. A very intelligently done movie on a serious premise - it could have been a classic if only the ending was a little more rational. When it was establised that The Fox is VERY well guarded, I couldnt understand how our trio could pull off their trick at the end.

But a very good movie nevertheless - with a short run time of 100 minutes. And do not miss the picture comments at the end of the movie :)

Background : Bosnia and Serbia (along with Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro & Slovenia) are small countries that were part of erstwhile Yugoslavia. After the breakup of Yugoslavia in 1992, Bosnia found itself with three ethnic groups - Bosniaks (or Bosnian muslims), Serbs and Croats. Bosnian Croats and Serbs declared independent republics in Croat and Serb dominated areas of Bosnia - with the support of their respective countries. And so started the Bosnian War. In an attempt to strengthen their claim over those regions, Bosnian Croats and Serbs started ethinic cleansing of the Bosnian muslims from those areas, killing and raping at will. The war lasted till 1995, when finally NATO intervention stopped it.
About 100,000 people were killed in the war and about 1.8 million displaced. However the telling figure are the civilian casualties - about 39,000, out of which 85% were Bosnian muslims. According to a well-known CIA report, 90% of the Bosnian War crimes were committed by the Serbs - and Ratko Mladić, the commander of Republic Srpska army is still missing ....

More information - Wikipedia
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Imagine a scene where a muscular John Abraham takes his first step into the house by tipping over the kalash full of rice (in slow motion) and Kiron Kher gives him her gold bangles saying "Mujhe pata nahin tu meri bahu hai ya damaad .... aur Karvachauth ka vrat zaroor rakhna" - while Abhishek Bachhan watches helplessly.
If you think that is funny, then Dostana is for you. Even if you have difficulty imagining something like that, goto your favorite theater and watch Dostana - you are sure to have a blast.

As the makers have been shouting from the rooftops, this movie is about two straight guys - Abhishek Bachhan and John Abraham - who pretend to be gay in order to get a super flat on rent. Only, the third occupant/owner of the house is super-hot Priyanka Chopra. Needless to say, first friendship and then love follows - as both the guys fall in love with her - while she thinks they are gay. (I wonder why someone as gorgeous as Priyanka would still be single at 27, but then lets not start about plot loopholes). Then it becomes a 'Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai' as both the guys try upstaging the other - with somewhat funny results - all the while struggling to let her know that they arent gay.

The highlight of the movie is the gay fun in the first half. Getting two macho guys like John Abraham and Abhishek Bachhan to play a gay couple was a casting coup! No doubt the depiction is caricatured - but seeing them act like pansies is just too funny. Ofcourse there are some contrived situations but even those are made immensely enjoyable by the lead pair.

Abhishek Bachhan puts up a great performance - which is by far the best in the movie. He seems to have really delved into the character, and shows a fabulous comic timing. John Abraham doesnt have that much dialogue but he is the eye candy in the movie. I mean Priyanka looks really hot in the movie in a lot of bikinis - and Kidnapesque clothes :D - but John Abraham is fabulous too. Just look at his body - I'm a guy but even I am impressed - he'd make any clothes look good !! Ofcourse for females its a must-watch - he is on display wearing just a boxer (really short ones too) !

Vishal Shekhar have given some really good music and all the numbers are foot-tapping.

The only weak part is Bobby Deol - yeah he is there in the movie too. Compared to the other three, he just looks ugly and acts with a plastic expression on his face!! He seems so out of place in this young movie - someone else ..... maybe Kunal Kapoor should have done his role !! (he seems to be doing cameo roles pretty well these days :D)

The first half of the movie is a gag show where the jokes - some situational and some forced - just keep on coming. The second half becomes a bit more serious as we move into 'Mere Yaar Ki Shaadi Hai' territory. The climax - well there is definitely a surprise there - thats all I can say.

Goto to this movie for a fun time - and you wont be disappointed.

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2 Days in Paris

You remember ‘Before Sunrise’ – and its sequel ‘Before Sunset’ ?

‘Before Sunrise’ was definitely one of the most refreshing – and honest – boy-meets-girl stories I have seen (if you haven’t watched it yet, do try to grab it somewhere). And the reason to bring it up here is that the lead actress, Julie Delphy is back with another romantic comedy, set again – in Paris. This time over two days - hence the name. And whats more, she writes and directs it too.
(Don’t you think Julie Delphy looks a lot like Phoebe Buffay of FRIENDS in this photo ? )

But while the ‘Before’ movies are composed solely of interactions between the guy and girl and nothing else – this movie is a story of cross-cultural connections and misunderstandings. And it’s a satirical look at the growing intolerance around us – French who don’t like Americans (or Arabs or Germans for that matter) or the hero Jack who doesn’t like Republicans (and Bush). It takes a lot of potshots at the French culture as well – lampooning their openness to sexuality which sometimes borders on the bizarre !!

The story is about a Anglo-French couple who decide to take a vacation in Europe – and do a 2 day stopover in Paris to meet Marion’s parents before flying back to US. Jack (Adam Goldberg) is a sarcastic Yankee, who doesn’t know much French apart from Bon jour and Merci – and is on his first trip to Paris. Marion is a photographer, who is born and brought up in Paris before shifting to NY – who has been seeing Jack for 2 years now – and who has somewhat of an anger-management problem. Both of them are slightly over-the-top characters, but 10 minutes into the movie, you are least bothered about that as you hold on to your sides, doubling in laughter.

Over the two days, Jack gets increasingly agitated as he negotiates a variety of people who do not talk in anything but French – Marion’s America-hating parents, her numerous ex-boyfriends, racist/flirtatious taxi drivers and even the local burger joint personnel. He doesn’t have a clue what is being spoken and feels left out as well as ridiculed. Marion’s dad makes special effort to deride Jack and his American tastes – which doesn’t help matters between him and Marion. And then there are the ex-boyfriends … who seem to be more than happy to see her (Jack describes one of them as looking at Marion as if she was a piece of lamb and he had a knife and fork in hand !!)

(Tagline of the movie - He knew Paris was for lovers. He just didn't think they were all hers)

Marion’s non-english speaking parents are characters themselves – Marion’s dad’s art gallery is to be seen to be believed while Marion’s mom’s Jim Morrison story is well … interesting !

Both Adam Goldberg and Julie Delphi put in admirable performances – especially Adam. The look of disbelief and incredulity on his face is hilarious, while his sarcasm is to die for. In a scene where Marion’s dad deliberately serves him rabbit curry – and then offers him some carrots from the gravy, he asks “Oh so now we are going to eat the bunny’s food too ?”

I am very tempted to give away the hilarious incidents of the movie – but I’d doing the movie a disservice. This movie doesn’t take itself seriously at all till the last 10 minutes – the characters are wacky and the French ones even more so. You would be laughing your guts out at the situations and at the snide comments that Jack makes for most of the movie. At the end, it tries to justify the romantic part of the tag – and the movie slows down – but its easy to overlook the last 10 min.
Very enjoyable movie – do try to watch it.

(Its been released in India by PVR only - so you cant catch it anywhere else. Worldwide it was released last year. The movie is anglo-french, so some subtitles are there.)

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Quantum of Solace

I have not seen enough James Bond movies to make sweeping generalizations about the secret agent - or the standing of this latest movie in the line up of 22 Bond movies. But I know a rotten tomato when I see one - and this Albert R. Broccoli production is one. (As an aside, why on earth would someone have a family name as Broccoli ?)

Quantum of Solace opens with a car chase sequence - with bad guys trying to gun down 007 in his Aston Martin on Italian alpine roads. In doing so, it fulfills the norm of all Bond movies opening with a action sequence. But while the Casino Royale chase across a construction site was memorable, the car chase sequence, while good, is quite similar to a lot of other such sequences - and doesnt have the same impact.

The story begins by establishing that a there is a new group called Quantum, about which the MI6 has very little information, but who has people in all places - ALL places. This is the same organization that was responsible for killing Vesper, Bond's love interest in Casino Royale. Bond is hankering for revenge and once he finds a trail in Dominic Greene, he doesnt stop in his quest for this shadowy group - even when it brings him in conflict with his own MI6 or the CIA.

The action moves around the world - from Haiti to Bulgaria to Bolivia. The Bulgaria opera sequence is performed very slickly - and so is the aerial dogfight. There are lots of others - infact the movie begins to feels like its one long action sequence - but the others are not that remarkable.

Now onto things which are not so cool - when was the last time you saw 007 without using a SINGLE gadget ?? I mean his gadgets are part of the Bond identity ! Yet Quantum of Solace has absolutely zilch - nada - zero gadgets. No rocket launchers in his car, no laser watch or grenade pen - nothing. The only time he user something remotely resembling technology is when he takes photos of villains and sends them to headquarters - any phone with GPRS can do that !!

Onto Bond himself. Daniel Craig brought some rawness to the usually dapper, suave Bond character - and was appreciated for it in Casino Royale. But in this movie, the creators have unfortunately gone overboard with the rough-and-tough appeal - and Bond has lost all his suaveness and his unflappable looks. For me, Bond was defined by Pierce Brosnan in Golden Eye - driving the tank through the streets of Moscow - suit and tie perfectly in place. Daniel Craig is just a little too brutish - his penchant at plunging into fistfights headlong without a thought - make you fatigued after a little while. All he does is get chased by bad guys, get into fights with them, and beat them comfortably - without getting anything more than a scratch. Or get into gunfights and easily pick off all the opposition one by one.There is no variation - only the settings and countries change.

The new Bond girl is probably the only one who doesnt sleep with Bond. She has her own agenda of vengeance for her family's death - a general plotting a coup in Bolivia. And frankly, I didnt think much of her looks. But then lot of people liked her - so its an individual choice.

And the final failing - the story/screenplay. The only answer I got from my friends when asked about the story - "What story ?" The movie has almost a non-existent storyline - there are only shadowy details on the Quantum group - no explanation on how they control so much money - and neither are we any wiser at the end of the movie. Its as if the writers started out with the Quantum group as a octopus-like organization with tentacles everywhere, then midway realized that they needed a solo villain for Bond to fight with - and so focussed everything on Dominic Greene. The villain's scheme in Bolivia - unfortunately I cant elaborate on how stupid it was because it would give away the storyline. But if you do watch the movie, when the plot is revealed - just remember that he spends millions of Euros, plots a coup, just to do THAT !! And the grand scheme that is revealed at the end of the movie - seems very trivial compared to what is implied about the reach and power of the Quantum group. Makes you wonder what was happening in the rest of the movie. I mean c'mon!

The repetitive action sequences and the lack of any intelligible storyline meant there was nothing to look forward to in the movie after sometime. Soon we were looking at our watches and frequently wondering when the movie would end. Not a good omen for any movie - and especially for a Bond one. After Casino Royale, I had pretty high expectations from the next Bond movie and maybe thats why I am being a little more critical, but if asked to sum up the movie - I'd say boring.

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Are all male fashion designers gay ? YES, if you go with Madhur Bhandarkar's latest movie about the fashion world. A world where instead of females, male models face the casting couch - and where a single modelling agency has the ultimate power over all top models' careers.

The movie follows Madhur Bhandarkar's Page 3, Corporate and Traffic Signal - movies which purportedly give the viewer an insider view into the subject. But somehow, maybe because of the preponderance with Priyanka Chopra, the movie seems to be more about the models themselves and should probably have been named Models.

This movie is completely around Priyanka Chopra and she does justify the director's faith in her. However quite a few of the highlights come from the other characters. Kangana Ranaut is literally a show stopper as a supermodel on the decline. She has amazing screen presence on the ramp - and an exaggerated style of walking which is almost like a gallop - when she comes onto the ramp at the beginning of the movie, she literally sizzles !! Ironic that an actress (Kangana) looks more impressive on the ramp than Priyanka, who is a former Miss World.

Also impressive are Mugdha Ghodse - who plays a model with realistic ambitions - and Kitu Gidwani, who plays the head of the modelling agency who has seen it all. Harsh Chhaya's potrayal of a stuttering fashion designer was very refreshing - the sequence with Konkona and Ranbir especially so.

The movie is about Meghna Mathur's (Priyanka Chopra) rise from a Chandigarh girl to a supermodel - and then her downfall and what happens next. Dont kick me for telling you this - barely 20 min into the movie, Kangana tells Priyanka the same thing and so you know what the movie is all about right then - which robs the movie of all its curiosity value.

And this brings me to the couple of grouses I have with this movie. First, we all have heard how difficult - and sometimes dirty - the industry is. The expression often used is 'dog-eat-dog world'. The promos of the movie also seemed to highlight the fact that here you have to lose so much to succeed.

Yet in the movie, there is hardly any dirty linen washed !! Meghna Mathur had to face almost no struggle to make it big - her 'struggling' days are shown drinking coffee at CCD or strolling on the beach (looking quite dapper - no trace of any small-townism). The only compromise she had to do was a lingerie ad - that too, a nightwear ad and not proper lingerie-lingerie ! (Infact, I guess today's models would LOVE to do one - as a way to add to their portfolio as well as showing their glamorous side).

And just in case you are interested, there was no casting couch either - she is properly seduced by Arbaaz Khan and she doesnt do it to bag any contract or something. Looking at her growth, you cant help but think about the stories you have read about this industry - are they not true ? Of ill-treatment of models on foreign shoots, accomodating 4-5 girls in a single room - or the bad working hours - or the alternate jobs people do to make ends meet. kind of things. You would think that getting success in this industry wouldnt be so easy ....

Secondly, did you know the fashion industry is such a nice place where the friends you make will keep helping you forever - irrespective of whether you treat them nicely - even taking professionally suicidal risks for you ? That is how nice Meghna Mathur's friends are !

Really Mr. Director? In this industry ?

And ofcourse, they could have definitely made the ending a little less dragged.
There are potshots taken throughout the movie - from plagiarism among designers to using of bollywood stars on the ramp to the director making a joke at himself - but they are just two lines each and one wishes they could have been involved in the script a bit more. The much discussed wardrobe malfunction is filmed nicely, but is depicted as a pure accident, so nothing new there.

On the positive side, the movie has a great soundtrack and the theme music is just perfect.

The movie is technically competent with no obvious shortcomings apart from a slightly stretched ending. But the movie fails to involve the viewer - partly because the story is so evident from the beginning - and partly because of the way Meghna Mathur behaves. Her downfall is her own doing and she doesnt get any sympathy at all.

Additionally, instead of a look into the real workings of the industry and the struggle faced by newcomers, this is story of a girl somewhat superficially set in the modelling world. While its not a bad thing in itself, its not exactly what you expected - or atleast what I was expecting.

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After a long time, an actual ‘new’ story in a hindi movie – two lazy, good-for-nothing filmmaking students decide to make a graduation project movie about “Why not to join the Indian army” - by capturing the emotions of the family members of 3 deceased soldiers, to whom they will deliver the ‘last letter’ written by the soldiers. The idea being to capture the sorrow and hardships faced by the families after the soldiers are gone …

Any casual movie-goer can tell you – the idea, if properly executed, can be a blockbuster.

Unfortunately, the director - Samir Karnik (Kyun Ho Gaya Na, Nanhe Jaisalmer) – was probably not the best person to bring the story to the big screen. In my opinion, he lacked the depth and vision, to bring this story to life in a way that would touch the viewer throughout the movie – instead of just the couple of tear jerker scenes (done admirably by Preity Zinta and Mithun Chakraborty). It reflects in the choice of actors as well – the Deol brothers, for example. No disrespect to them, but subtly showing emotions is probably not their strength.

And this lack of subtlety is what destroys the movie in the end. This movie needed to connect with the viewer emotionally – making you feel for each of the families. Instead, the director goes for some extremely over-the-top sequences, which jarr your senses and completely obliterate any emotional connection you might have been making with the movie – to highlight a couple, the Sunny Deol pub fight sequence and the rugby sequence at the end. Neither do the number of songs or their picturization help matters much. This story needed a good haunting background score rather than a “Badmash Launde”.

Among the three stories, the first one was by far the best. Preity Zinta plays a Punjabi widow struggling to provide for her family after her husband’s death – played by Salman Khan, who gives a restrained performance after god-knows-how-many-years !! (some reviews claim its Salman’s best performance in years !!). The other two stories, apart from not-so-good acting, suffered from lack of credibility – they just didn’t seem real ! A father CAN be angry at his soldier son for leaving him alone – but the way his anger is defused is ridiculous ! Left to me, I would have completely changed the Deol brothers story into something more believable – but that’s probably why I am just criticizing on my computer and not making movies myself.

Sohail Khan and Vatsal Seth play the roving students and do a pretty good job – you can see that they are intrinsically good human beings, despite their tomfoolery. And their funny sequences help break the serious mood of the movie. Ofcourse mention has to be made of the opening sequences filched shamelessly from Friends (Ross’ leather pants) and the book Five Point Someone (when Hari wears the Prof Cherian’s shirt and goes out in his car – only to run into Prof. Cherian himself)

This movie has its high points – but the emotional connect is totally lacking. Most of the audience appreciates what the soldiers do for us – a film depicting the lives of their families should be ... just better somehow.

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Auf der Anderen Seite : The Edge of Heaven

After being fed movies like Kidnap and Bachna Ae Haseeno for most of the year, when you suddenly get a choice of a movie like The Edge of Heaven, most of us choose to pass up on it. The reason is not difficult to fathom - we are so used to dumbed-down movies with predictable plot lines and happy endings (ALMOST all of them still have happy endings – an Aamir or Mumbai Meri Jaan is still the exception) that, in our minds we are all afraid that we wouldn’t be able to comprehend a meaningful movie – or that it would be too much effort.

I myself admit I too belong to the same lazy group – but the few times that I do make an effort to go and watch such a movie – the experience is very satisfying.
The highlight of Fatih Akin’s The Edge of Heaven is its simplicity – the director doesn’t use any stylized sequences (like some big Hollywood directors) – or go for elaborate visuals at exotic locations. He narrates his story in a simple visual style – yet the story itself has such character that it lingers in your mind long after you have exited the hall – like a good wine.

The story unfolds in layers – starting with a Turkish migrant Ali, who lives in Bremen and his son Nejat, who is a professor in Hamburg University. Ali, bored with his retired life, meets a prostitute Yeter - and asks her to move in with him. However, fate alters the best laid plans of men (this is THE recurring theme of the movie) and things don’t quite work out as planned. Nejat heads out to Istanbul to search for Yeter’s daughter Ayten (who doesn’t know about her mom’s livelihood – she thinks Yeter is a shoemaker) but fate intervenes again. Ayten is a member of a partisan student movement and is on the run from the Istanbul police – she goes to Bremen looking for her mom, the shoemaker. There she meets and befriends a German girl Lotte who helps her out.

It’s a story of how the lives of six characters – Ali, Nejat, Yeter, Ayten, Lotte and Lotte’s mom Susanne – intertwine with each other. The narrative happens in a very subtle fashion – and the characters criss-cross each other with minimum fuss (no drum rolls or lengthy face-closeups). Performance wise, none of the 6 is a standout – in this movie, the story is the king. But nevertheless all of them do their job competently.

Ofcourse, coming from a good filmmaker – you can never guess whats going to come next. Even when he announces like a chapter - ‘Yeter’s Death’ - you cannot predict how it is going to come. Or rather, he throws you off the track with some very convincing red herrings.

Negatives ? Well the movie is a little slow I guess.

In the end – everything comes down to the climax - how does he end the story? And he does it in the same way as he has made the rest of the movie - with extreme simplicity. And the way the story ends – you are again beaten by the director in the guessing game. Make no mistake, the story ends properly, with no loose ends – but its just not the ending you were imagining it would be.

3 star
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Body of Lies

Deja Vu !!

You cant help but feel a sense of deja vu throughout the movie. Be it the story or Leonardo Di Caprio's look in the movie - there is a familiarity that you cant shake off.

The story - Leonardo is Roger Ferris - a CIA operative in the Middle East in these troubled times, working hard to make inroads into the shadowy Al Qaeda. His handler is Ed Hoffman - a tough, perenially-talking-into-his-handsfree-device Russel Crowe. (Anybody who has watched the Robert Redford-starrer Spy Games or the Al Pacino-starrer The Recruit would already start getting that familiar feeling) Ferris is an excellent field agent, with a good command over Arabic and good ground network - but he is always impeded my superiors in Langley (read Hoffman) who are always looking for quick results.

Now if I have any major complaint about the movie - its the character of Hoffman. He is shown as results-driven high-achiever, not bothering about who’s toes he is treading on. But c’mon – does the director think the audiences are that stupid ? I mean everyone loves to see the Langley-sitting American as a bumbling arrogant idiot, who has no clue of what is actually happening on the ground in the rest of the world but Hoffman is just too stupid. Even I KNOW that intelligence gathering is all about cultivating contacts and assets on the ground, helping them out if necessary, so that they can provide you years of service - and I don’t know jack shit about intelligence gathering – its just common sense. The intelligence business is not like buying milk from a grocery store – walk in, throw cash and walk out !! But Hoffman does exactly that – its impossible to comprehend just a how a man like that would rise even one step in the intelligence business – forget about how high-up he actually is.

More than once in the movie, I felt the urge to give Hoffman a couple of kicks – and I couldn’t for the life of me comprehend why Roger Ferris would continue to take orders from that jackass. I shudder to think this is all based on a real life novel by David Ingnatius (a Washington Post columnist)

Apart from the Hoffman character, there is not much wrong in the movie – but there is nothing new either. There have been a raft of movies in the last few years set in the Middle East – with the mandatory torture sequences as well as a Quran-spouting mullah on grainy video. This movie is no exception. Plus you cant help feeling that Leonardo gives a performance very similar to Blood Diamond – his look is almost exactly the same in both the movies. There are also shades of The Departed – in the infiltrating of rival organizations – the whole movie gives off vibes that you have felt before. The sequence of the girl getting kidnapped – Brad Pitt in Spy Game, anyone ?

Most of the movie is shot in crowded bazaars in Middle East cities – Baghdad, Amman, Dubai etc – but they all look the same. There are a few scenes in the desert which are very beautiful – in its starkness. The feeling of being in the middle of nowhere – but the scenes are too short to let you appreciate the visuals.
In the positives – the Jordanian spy chief Hani Pasha – is a class act. But he has a lifestyle more like a mafia lord than a government servant – impeccably cut suits, black armored SUVs and social high life. The sequence of making Omar Sadiki into a terrorist was also very cool …

All in all – a very competent movie by Ridley Scott. Just half a dozen movies too late. But incase you haven’t watched the movies mentioned above, give it a watch – you will like it.

PS - Apologies for no posts last week - I was down with viral fever over the weekend and hence didnt watch any movies
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I wont beat around the bush this time – this movie sucks !!! I have never felt so bad in my life to have paid Rs 250 to watch a movie – this movie. I missed the opportunity to watch Love Story 2050, but I am sure even that wouldn’t have been as big a disappointment.

To be sure, this movie isn’t the worst ever in an absolute scale – but the unfailing way this movie continues to disappoint is just too much to bear. You come into the movie expecting a superhero movie – from the trailers you know the basic gist – hero doesn’t know his powers and must realize his true calling and then save the world. Our basic superhero script.

But the implementation is SO BAD – if I ever get to meet Goldie Behl, I swear I am going to ask for my money back. The first half of the movie is completely morose – Abhishek Bachhan living a sad life with a loud-mouthed aunty and her wicked son. Then the villain Kay Kay Menon attacks him – which is foiled by his out-of-sight bodyguards - who then break into a jig - and after finishing the gyrations, try to convince him of his legacy. Now the realization routine is a regular in most superhero movies – Spiderman etc. But the singularly sleep-inducing way it is done in Drona is definitely a first.

I mean lets compare it with Krrish – did you fall asleep while Hrithik was romancing Priyanka Chopra ? No, right ? Behind me, a guy actually started snoring before the interval – and there were enough jeers from the rest of the audience to show it was a widespread feeling.

The second half is just slightly better – atleast there are some action scenes – but the action scenes just induce more yawns. In every superhero movie, you expect some special effects sequence which makes you go – WOW !!! In Drona, there is none – not the sand scene, not the train sequence – nothing !! This has to be the most boring action scenes shot ever !!!

There are so many irritating/laughable things in the movie that I will probably keep writing for half an hour but I will try highlighting a few
  • The Nazguls – a completely copy from Lord of the Rings – fight jocularly and never once, look anything but a bunch of underpaid extras wearing black capes rather than the fearsome warriors they are supposed to be

  • The blue petals and the purple chest/conch-shell – throughout the movie Abhishek Bachhan keeps getting help from these blue rose petals flying around. I can imagine an eight year old girl dreaming of being led on her way by pretty blue petals swirling in front of her, but a superhero ? C’mon !!!! Same with the purple conch shell and the purple box – they are again what an eight year old girl would design – all the crores of rupees wasted on the movie and that’s the best design they could come up with ??????? Want more ? The walls of Raazpur – orange with purple doors !!Take it from me - Goldie Behl is gay !!

  • Jaya Bachhan – WHY doesn’t she quit acting?? She looks so gross with her round football like face – and her standard expressions!! Thank god the director turned her into stone very soon so that we didn’t have to bear her for longer

But the biggest failure of the movie I think was the character of Drona himself – I have never seen such a loser superhero. He can do nothing himself – everytime he has to be helped by the swirling blue petals. A superhero is supposed to accomplish things by himself !! First, he loses the rice grain with the information on it. Then he loses Priyanka Chopra with the conch. Then he loses the duel to Kay Kay Menon and lies defeated …. I mean what DOES he do ?????

Good things in the movie ? Well, Priyanka Chopra looks pretty with her kohl lined eyes. And the title track is kinda nice. And … ummm … that’s it I guess.

0.5 star
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I guess the basic plot has been given away in the trailers itself - Minisha Lamba is Sanjay Dutt's daughter who has been kidnapped by Imran Khan to take some kind of revenge. So the things to look out were - what made Imran Khan cry revenge and what are the ransom demands ?

The movie titles open with a small graphic novel where we see what happens to Imran when he was a boy - which I think was a very clever way of showing everything without any actual melodrama. But before you can get to the vengeance drama, something else threatens to take over the movie completely! And What A Show !!!

Throughout the movie, Minisha Lamba and Vidya Malvade (the Chak De hockey captain) are competing furiously for the most-cleavage-show-award. Situations etc. be damned !! Minisha Lamba cant help showing even when she is being held by a kidnapper and mom Vidya Malvade does it throughout the movie (even though she is grieving for her daughter – or when she is goes to a jail on some pretext at night !!) And Minisha Lamba wins hands down !! Or ... ahem, deep down :) !!

Though all this provides quite a few laughs – like when Imran Khan cant help his eyes wandering over Minisha when she is having a bath.

Returning to the main drama – both the leading men Imran Khan and Sanjay Dutt do well. Minisha Lamba does her part pretty well too - she is a 'revelation' :D. Vidya Malvade is a failure – and singularly irritating too – but hers is an insignificant character. And the much-hyped chase scene between Imran Khan and Sanjay Dutt is executed pretty well (for those who didn’t catch it, the location was the under-construction Rustomjee apartments near the Goregaon flyover signal).

But even with good performances and good technicals, the film doesn’t work. Here’s why – for this genre of movies, the important thing is to either keep the audience curious/guessing about how or why. The film progresses very well till the intermission – where the audience doesn’t know what is driving Imran Khan or what exactly is his revenge. But post interval, Imran’s background is given away – which robs the movie of its suspense. The only reason left to watch the movie now is to see what exactly is his revenge. And here the script falters - the revenge is hardly something unique or cool.

The ending is just stretched too much – the audience were in the mood “just finish it !!”. In my opinion, it would have been a better movie if he had made Imran Khan a little more … badder and crazier – and made him do something crazy in the end instead of the goody-goody ending.

All in all, I would say, even with the cleavage show (no doubt the best in a hindi movie for a long time, Dhoom 2 included) it is an opportunity wasted. It had a good premise, but ultimately wasted.

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Journey to The Center of The Earth

It might be a book you read when you were a kid.

And 3d glasses ? Thats so 1980's !!

Yet that old science fiction book and those dorky glasses still have a trick or two up their sleeve. Enough that all the grown ups in the audience, atleast once, ducked at a spray of a liquid coming towards him - or thought of stretching his/her hands and touching the birds flying near him :)

The filmmakers show enough sense not to tamper with the classic story too much. To sync with modern times, they have slightly tweaked the script so that now the band of adventurers are following the well known book's path rather than reliving the book itself.

And most importantly, they have scripted it tightly and cut out some parts, so that the movie is compact and the pace never flags.

Brendan Fraser plays the scientist-cum-reluctant-adventurer part effortlessly, yet enjoyably - all the Mummy experience serving him well :) Making up the rest of the band is his nephew and daughter of Brendan's brother's friend. Both of them perform well - and especially the female, who doesnt fall into the hollywood stereotype of the teenage girl who always makes the most dumb moves and gets everyone else in trouble ! Dont believe me :) ? Just watch the teenage girl character in hollywood movies closely from now on ...

Tight script, great Brendan Fraser one liners and cool 3D effects that thrill even grown ups, earn this movie a

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The Polyester Prince

This book, while officially banned in India, is freely available at Bombay roadside book vendors – who will charge you a Rs. 50 premium over other books as they whisper “book banned hai”.

After finishing the book, I can understand why the Ambanis wanted it banned – but don’t think the government was right in banning it. The book is a regular biography – it has some very interesting nuggets about Dhirubhai Ambani and Reliance - but the readability of the book deteriorates markedly towards the end. It has quite a few allegations – direct as well as implicated – but as everyone knows, nobody could get any of the charges to stick against Reliance.

Ofcourse, having seen the movie Guru before reading the book, I was quite curious to see how much of the movie was real (i.e. matched with the book) and well, quite a lot did. Ofcourse the moviemakers took cinematic liberties and created the Vidya Balan character as well as made Kokilaben’s character (Aishwarya Rai) more glamorous and outspoken - well there are a lot of other deviations as well. But I will highlight a few similarities

  • The scene where Mithun confronts Gurubhai and Gurubhai claims he has a golden chappal and a silver chappal for everyone – according to the book, the scene actually happened between Dhirubhai and Ramnath Goenka, publisher of The Indian Express where these words were spoken verbatim (there was no ‘khadi’ chappal though :) ) That conversation reportedly sparked off the Indian Express' battle with Reliance and Dhirubhai

  • Madhavan’s character was based on the Indian Express reporter S. Gurumurthy – a tamil accountant with no reporting experience - who Ramnath Goenka hired to investigate Reliance accounts and foreign dealings. There was no expose of sand filled cartons (like the movie) but Gurumurthy did uncover the extra spinning lines in Reliance’s Patalganga plant – which caused a huge furore over excise evasion in importing of the equipment. What the movie also missed out was that Ambani managed to get Gurumurthy arrested and charged with Official Secrets Act, when he investigated Reliance’s overseas benaami investors

  • The scene where Gurubhai talks to a young minister and tells him that his father had parked some funds with him and coerces the young minister into okaying the licence for the new plant. Well according to the book – Dhirubhai ACTUALLY pulled the trick on Rajiv Gandhi himself !!! And it worked !!

  • There are many more – and it makes reading the book after the movie more enjoyable.

But as the book progresses, even though it tries to be neutral in cataloging exactly what trick Dhirubhai pulled to make the government maneuver according to his requirements, you cant help but marvel at the audacity of this man. Agreed the laws of the land were less than perfect – and he showed enterprise in his creative interpretation. But more often than not, he was just a routine law breaker who should have spent time behind bars for what he did. I mean if some more people started playing with government like he did, we would be a complete banana republic.

People also say that he did what he did with a greater vision in mind – maybe he did have a bigger picture view – but some of the things he did had nothing to do with any lofty aims, and were just pure cheating. He trampled over business competitors because he got the government to skew the playing field in his behalf. And Reliance continues to uphold that tradition till date. You only have to look at the creation of the telecom USL (Unified Service License) to see how they still cheat and then get the law to be changed, so that their way of playing the game becomes legal.

And as for Dhirubhai's professed love for small investors – well he had love only for his company – and the shareholders just got lucky that they were holding some part of it.

The book is a must read for everyone I think – just to get some perspective on Dhirubhai Ambani – who is now projected as the visionary businessman. And Reliance – as the greatest Indian company.

As for ratings, well I think books like these are impossible to rate, compared to movies. What do you compare it against ?
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Welcome to Sajjanpur

The trailers for the movie were quite polarising - some absolutely hated them and some couldnt wait to watch the movie (I was part of the former group). So went to the movie with low expectations. And I will say this - dont judge the movie by its trailers.

The movie is about Mahadev, the only educated youth in the village of Sajjanpur - who earns his living by writing and reading letters for the uneducated villagers. And he just doesnt write letters as narrated by his customers - he puts his heart into it - and writes as his emotions dictate.

The movie has a lot of hilarity in the first half - in a rustic manner - whick unlike the morbid Omkara, is of very light and refreshing kind. The entire first part of the movie, the director spends in etching out the characters, and every character has his own link to Mahadev.

The actual story begins in the second part, and the movie slows down a bit. But the ending is scripted nicely and the you come out of the theatre feeling good. This movie has one clear weakpoint - the songs. This movie definitely doesnt need dream sequences - one song in the titles was good enough - and the song Sitaram is pretty catchy as well. The director also fails to capitalize on the chemistry between Ila Arun and Divya Dutta - their sequences are very good and he should have given them more screen time. Amrita Rao does pretty decently but the best is Shreyas - he has a great comic timing and he carries the movie with him.

All in all, a very fresh and light-hearted movie from a veteran director

3 star
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Righteous Kill

Two of the greatest actors of our times - Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino come together for the first time (apparently they had come together once before in a scene - but had only one coffee together, so that doesnt count) in a cop movie which had a tagline of sorts "Most people respect the badge ..... but everybody respects the gun". Sounds really interesting, wouldnt you agree ? Add to it a 7.4 rating on IMDB and it sounds definitely exciting ....

[Edit Since the time of posting, the IMDB rating has gone down to 6.9]

Unfortunately what sounds so great on paper, ends as a disappointment. The story is nothing much to begin with. But the treatment, which makes the movie watchable in the first part - just goes to the dogs at the end ! The veteran actors make up for the weak script for most of the movie but at the end, the weak script wins. What doesnt help matters is a plethora of loose ends like that of the young corporate lawyer or what happens with Karen in the end ...

The plot - Al Pachino & Robert DeNiro (Turk and Rooster) have been partners for 30 years in NYPD - Turk is the hot headed one and Rooster is the calm and composed one. They are entrusted with a serial killer case where the killer is dropping off people with decidedly dirty backgrounds - child killers, arms dealers and the likes. Oh and like all other serial killers - this one has his signature too - a small poem about the victim. And throughout the first half, we see footage of Robert DeNiro narrating the crimes on video as if he committed all of them ....

Now I think I cant say anything else other than giving the entire story away (there really isnt anything to the story) Visuals are similar to other cop movies - but the gore is minimum as the preferred method of killing is a straight shot to the head ...

All in all, again just friggin huge waste of potential.

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Mamma Mia

Enthralling and exhilarating at the same time, Mamma Mia is a must watch for us Indians - just to see how exactly to use song and dance in a movie !! I had to suppress the urge to break out into clapping more than once during the movie (and I wasnt alone in feeling that way as low clapping could be heard at times in the hall). People who have watched the broadway show tell me that the stage version is much better - which makes me regret not seeing it when I had the chance.

About the movie - its a feel-good musical (it can be called a chic flick) - with the best Abba songs for a soundtrack - about a girl who wants her dad to give her away at her wedding. Only problem - according to her mom's diary, she dated three guys in that summer 20 years ago - and it could be any one of them. So she invites all three of them to the wedding (without telling her mom ofcourse) and so the story goes.

The location of the movie is outstanding - a white old style villa on a mediterranean island - and the cast is stellar. And the soundtrack is superb - though I hadnt heard half the songs before. The only bad bit about the movie comes towards the end when a couple of songs in the sad scenes could have been avoided. But overall, a celebration of cinema - definitely do watch.

Coming back to Indian movies, while we have songs in each and every movie of ours, the only movie which came close to being a good musical was Jaan-e-man (the Salman-Preity-Akshay starrer). Most people didnt get the point of the movie - but that is probably another post.

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A Wednesday

One of the better films to come out in the spate of bombing related movies. While Mumbai Meri Jaan has its appreciators, I would like to say that this is a better movie. For a debutant, the director has written a taut script and managed to rope in two of the best actors in Hindi cinema and come up with a great thriller which doesnt let up on the fast pace till the very end.

There are enough humorous breaks in the movie - the college-dropout hacker and the super-macho cop Jimmy Shergill (though his chocolate boy looks dont go with the image at all). But the effect Shergill's character has on various miscreants is really funny :) But the news-channel bashing falls flat on its face - there have been just TOO MANY movies making a mockery of news channels and its just not funny anymore ...

All in all, its a very crisp thriller - rolling on at a good pace and keeping you at the edge of your seats wondering whats next. While the premise of the movie is nothing new - a terrorist calling in to say there are 5 bombs in the city which will be detonated unless his demands are met - the director shows enough originality in the treatment to make it a unique experience ...

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