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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(Watched it two weeks back but didnt get around to post a review)

One of the most over-hyped and unworthy releases of the year. Billed as a horror movie - it generated countless laughs as the audience found the directors desperate attempts for scaring rather silly. The trick of focusing on inanimate objects was used WAY too many times to elicit any other reaction other than derision.
Barring one genuinely scary scene with a mirror, there was nothing remotely scary in the movie. The actors do their role well, but with such a weak script - its not their fault

And the ending was just too zany - in short, nothing good in this movie ... go watch The Ring agian for some real horror :)

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