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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