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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