Movies to look out for this week

Raat Gayi Baat Gayi [IMDB]

Rahul wakes up with a bad hangover after a party where he had gotten really cozy with a sexy young woman. But he cant remember clearly exactly what happened ..

Cast: Rajat Kapoor, Vinay Pathak, Neha Dhupia

Direction: Saurabh Shukla

Accident on Hill Road [IMDB]

A thriller based on a supposed real-life incident about a woman who hit a man, then drove home and parked the car in her garage with the man wedged halfway through her windshield

Cast: Celina Jaitley, Farooq Shaikh, Abhimanyu Singh
Direction: Mahesh Nair

Bolo Raam

A boy, Raam, is charged with the murder of his mother but he seems to have become silent, refusing to talk. The investigating officer cant find any motive either ..

Cast: Om Puri, Rishi Bhutani, Govind Namdeo

Direction: Rakesh Chaturvedi

The Stepfather [IMDB]

Michael returns home from military school to find his mother living with her new boyfriend. As the two men get to know each other, he becomes more and more suspicious of the man who is always there with a helpful hand

Cast: Dylan Walsh, Penn Badgley, Sela Ward
Direction: Nelson McCormick

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By the time I finally managed to catch Avatar (yesterday), it seems the entire world has already seen it and everyone is … er …. raving about it, to put it mildly. So you have to pardon me if I went with sky-high expectations – and came back not too impressed.

Knowing very well that the storyline is not the reason why someone watches Avatar, I still cant help myself from commenting on the hackneyed script. Did they think no one else in the world has watched The Last Samurai or The Ant Bully or the numerous such movies ? All of them have the SAME plot – hero lives with a different species/race and he becomes one of them and fights his own people. Here the location is planet Pandora and the race is the Na’vi people of Pandora.
Even otherwise, the storyline is really predictable - you would run up pretty high numbers if you start counting movie clichés.

The visuals ofcourse, are breathtaking – colors and imagination have run riot on Pandora. The forests is magical with its glowing trees, lighted water and twirly winged lizards. The animals of Pandora are stylized versions of regular animals – the horse, the rhino, the dog – and the flying creatures resemble dragons (without the fire breath ofcourse). It’s a fascinating landscape with flying mountains, huge waterfalls and giant trees – James Cameron didn’t restrict himself when he was painting this landscape. The quality of the animation can be gauged from that fact that most of the times its impossible to tell that the human characters are animated.

However, while the computer generated imagery was pitch perfect, I didn’t find anything impressive about the 3D aspect. It didn’t add anything to the movie at all – I didn’t see any reason why the 2D wouldn’t have been equally fun to watch. But I have to qualify that I watched it at Movietime at The Hub – and their projector or glasses might have been the culprit. Its not the best of theatres Bombay has to offer

Avatar is definitely a major technical achievement and visually marvellous. Great cinema it is not. So whether to watch it or not? I think I am going to discount my less-than-stellar-3D experience and recommend a watch. Hopefully your 3D experience will be better than mine

3 star

(I think I should also mention that The Hub is the only place I have seen where you have to BUY paper 3D glasses for Rs. 30 each to watch the movie – in addition to your ticket price ! The tickets were pricey as it is – and usually 3D glasses are given for a deposit or included in the ticket price. Needless to say, I will be trying to avoid this place if possible

While we are on the subject of rants against multiplexes, I want to talk about my experience as a really avid cinephile in Bombay. Fame Cinemas and Cinemax are the best I have encountered so far. Their ticket booking system are more robust – I have probably had zero or maybe one failure so far in 3 years. And I book 95% of my movies online. The other reason I like them is that they were the first to jump on the mobile booking bandwagon more than 2 years back. Fame is on ngpay and Cinemax has its own mobile application. Movies start within 10 minutes of schedule time and there never has been any technical glitches that I recall.

PVR has the newest and posh multiplexes in Bombay, because of its locations at Juhu and Phoenix Mills. Seating etc is best among all the multiplexes but unfortunately their ticketing system is the worst. Can you believe it that their website itself would work on Firefox (anything apart from IE) till 4 months back ? Forget booking tickets – just the homepage wouldn’t open ! The online ticketing system is hopelessly fragile. I would say atleast 30-40% of my bookings with PVR fail the first time – and I have to redo them. This weekend was the limit though - I tried booking a 3 Idiots show 4 times – and failed – money being charged to me everytime !
(Btw, yesterday I called the customer support and then wrote a scathing email to their Head, Customer Support. He called back offering to book the tickets himself, but I had already booked tickets elsewhere)

Fun Cinemas, is at the bottom of my multiplex list despite having a robust ticketing system and being one of the pioneers on ngpay. Its just a horribly managed cinema – movies never start on time, there have been inordinate delays at random moments – including a 30 minute intermission once and a 20 minute projector breakdown one other time. And once this summer, they even turned off the AC in the lobby citing cost-cutting as a reason. This and numerous other reasons make it absolutely the multiplex to avoid. Unfortunately, it is the the only multiplex screening English movies at late night or running some foreign movies – which make it unavoidable at times.

INOX I have hardly used once or twice and don’t have any comments)

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3 Idiots

Rajkumar Hirani seems to have perfected the art of making cinema that is completely commercial and intensely enjoyable – yet delivers a preachy message with it. Like in Munnabhai series, Hirani chooses not to mask his message – but sugarcoat it with some funny and some heart-warming moments. Enough to coax our cynical hats off and get us cheering for the good guys.

Although the story is said to have been based on Chetan Bhagat’s Five Point Someone, the plot has been completely reworked and except for setting of three students at IIT, an anally-retentive professor and his independent daughter, most of the story is new.
(In the movie, the college isnt called IIT, but Imperial College of Engineering).

All of us are probably a little sceptical about how two 30-plus and one 40-plus guy are going to play 3 college students – but such is Hirani’s craft, 5 minutes into the movie, you aren’t bothered about the age of its protagonists. The hostel atmosphere is established effectively by MM – who endearingly introduces a litter of puppies as kilobyte, megabyte and the mother as Gigabyte. The camaraderie between the three leads – Aamir, Madhavan & Sharman Joshi - is very believable, but in acting, they are more than matched by newcomer Omi.
(I did find shades of Golmaal in Sharman’s portrayal – in both the movies, he is the reluctant partner-in-crime)

There are innumerable points in the first half where you cant control hysterical laughter – especially the Teacher’s day speech. The second half becomes a little more emotional, especially the intermission point, which introduces the most significant difference between the book and the movie. Its here that you appreciate the director’s decision to go with seasoned actors. Because there are scenes in the movie which newcomers would have fluffed up – but Aamir, Sharman and Madhavan carry them off with aplomb.

Kareena has a really just a bit role in the movie – and two songs. But she is her vivacious self in her scenes and perks up the proceedings. Boman Irani plays the Dean of the college, with a more exaggerated accent & hairdo than J.Asthana of Munnabhai. And he delivers flawlessly - this kind of role has become his identity by now. Newcomer Omi does a fabulous job playing Chatur, the NRI Tamilian who is determined to become the number 1 by hook or crook.

Even though 3 Idiots is a critique on our current education system, the story of three friends overshadows the message completely. The only complaint some non-hostelers might have will be about the abundance of underwear show – but anyone who has stayed in a hostel will understand. It’s a complete entertainer, which will have you laugh as well as cry with the three idiots. It’s a great end to 2009 from Bollywood and something you shouldn’t miss.

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Movies to look out for this week

3 Idiots [IMDB]

5 Years after passing out of engineering, two friends start on a journey to meet their maverick classmate

Cast: Aamir Khan, Sharman Joshi, Madhavan, Kareena Kapoor

Direction: Rajkumar Hirani Read More!

Movies to look out for this week

Avatar [IMDB]

In the future, Jake, a paraplegic war veteran, is brought to another planet, Pandora, which is inhabited by the Na'vi, a humanoid race with their own language and culture. And the stage is set for a showdown

Cast: Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana
Direction: James Cameron

(I am dying to watch Avatar, but going out for the weekend, so review will be up only sometime next week)

World Cupp 2011

Yet another story on the about an unholy relation between the underworld and the cricketers.

Cast: Ravi Kapoor, Zakir Hussain, Suresh Oberoi

Direction: Ravi Kapoor Read More!

Rocket Singh : Salesman of the Year

The creative team behind Chak De India has delivered another … well … another Chak De India, for lack of a better description ! A non-glamour movie, rooted in reality and earnest as hell – only to have an idealistic & highly improbable ending !!

The simplicity of the visuals is refreshing – the utter lack of polish and style that one associates with Yash Raj productions catches your attention from the word go. There is not a single song picturised in the movie – only a couple of background tracks that do not stand out or distract in anyway. There are two leading ladies but no romance – love is not what this movie is about. What you get in the movie is an inside view of a salesperson’s world - its intense competition, disregard for the consumer, focus on numbers and targets – and the dry humour. How an office party consists of music played on windows media player and whiskey mixed with water at the office water dispenser. And how a loose connection on the motherboard is labelled as a replacement and charged Rs 5,000.

(The story has already been splashed across everywhere – with almost the entire plot unravelled - which I believe was a big disservice to the movie)
Ranbir Kapoor plays Harpreet Singh Bedi, a fresh B.Com graduate with persuasive skills and no academic ambitions to speak of – he graduated with just 39% marks. But he knows whats good for him – sales - and soon bags a job at a computer manufacturing company AYS, as a trainee salesman.

However, the world of sales turns out quite different from his expectations and sticking to principles leads him to a lot of humiliation and ridicule.
How he perseveres in this world without letting go of his ideals is the story to watch

The salesteam leader Nitin gives a great field introduction to the new trainee. With a hint of Roadies’ Raghu in his appearance and a whiplashing tongue, he is played excellently by Naveen Kaushik. Similar praises have to be heaped on Prem Chopra as Harpreet’s doting grandfather and Gauhar Khan as the cynical but ambitious receptionist. Porn-watching tech-support D. Santosh rounds off the excellent cast. Their performance makes you neglect the slightly slow pace of the movie. Newcomer Shazahn Padamsee has almost no role to play though – comes across as a bit of an air-head.

But Ranbir Kapoor cannot be praised enough for his acting skills. While he has performed admirably in collegian and happy-go-lucky roles before, Rocket Singh shows that he is superlative and complete natural in front of the camera in all kind of roles. He is definitely the most exciting actor to have come out of Bollywood since Abhay Deol.

Director Jaideep Sahni continues on his excellent form from Chak De India – but cant deliver an ending as strong as the rest of the movie. Like Chak De India’s over-dramatic ending, Rocket Singh ends up with a over-idealistic climax – which is the setback in what is otherwise a superb movie. But even with this blemish, Rocket Singh is a highly recommended watch for its fresh approach, honest storytelling and superb acting all around.

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Movies to look out for this week

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!


I watched the movie on Friday and I have had a couple of days to think over it while I was out of town. And I just don’t see what the hullabaloo about Paa is !!

Paa (like Taare Zameen Par) has been almost universally acclaimed by critics and all actors, especially Amitabh Bachhan, have been praised to the skies. There is talk of even making it India’s official entry to Oscars !! Yet, if you read those reviews, none of the reviews rate the movie at more than 3.5 stars. Whereas Taare Zameen Par was rated by most people at 4 or above. (Please note that Paa is nowhere similar to Taare Zameen Par, but it was the only movie I could think of which got such universal accolades.)

I think people have gotten a little too hyper at Amitabh Bachhan’s portrayal of a 12 year old. Make no mistake, it’s a great effort and not once through the movie do you get the feeling that there is Amitabh inside Auro. The voice is nasal-cartoony (the closest is drunk Anthony Gonzalves of Amar Akbar Anthony) and make up is top-notch ! But I think this was more an exercise in adulation – because I didn’t quite get convinced that Auro was an actual kid. There were far too many inconsistencies in the portrayal – both physically as well as in dialogues – to believe that it was a genuine 12-year-old.

The story is not much of a secret, but if you don’t know yet – Auro is a 12-year-old boy suffering from an extremely rare genetic defect called Progeria, which causes accelerated ageing of the body. So he resembles an old man in his seventies while he is still a child inside. Such children usually do not live too long. He is happy in school where his classmates are very supportive – and lives with his gynaecologist mum Vidya Balan and granny, who he calls Bum !

His sheltered life goes topsy turvy when he wins a creativity award and is noticed by upcoming idealist politician Amol Apte. Soon they become friends but they are unaware of their actual relation – that of Paa and son. The secret is revealed in a flashback, but how Auro and Amol come to know about it and what happens next is the movie.

The side-plots of slum redevelopment politics and the political fighting between Amol and his rival are actually interesting – they provide a break from the emotional drama and are also relevant to our times. The news bashing ofcourse, was a little overdone, but then again, our news channels haven’t been exactly blemish free. Abhishek Bachhan suits the intense young politician role totally – and seems to have modelled his appearance on Milind Deora, the south Mumbai MP.

The movie starts off with everyday scenes of Auro's life, his limitations of food and physical activity and bowel failures. Vidya Balan is very good as Auro’s mother – and she has more meaningful scenes with Auro than Abhishek - and Arundhati Naag is superb as the grandma used to the antics of her naughty grandson. Amitabh, as I have explained – puts in a great effort, but in vain. He didn’t convince me that there is a child inside Auro – even with his monkey dance and other antics. And without that, there is no movie.

It would have been a better movie if an actual kid had played Auro rather than Amitabh. Because the rest of the casting is pitch perfect. The climax is a little tacky and needs to be improved though, but to be fair to the director, he doesn’t go for needless tear-jerker scenes otherwise.

Although I didn’t get impressed by the movie, its not an opinion shared widely. So I would recommend you watch the movie and decide if it works for you.

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Most of you probably would never consider watching a Himesh movie. But if you decide to, I would suggest you give Radio a try. Not because he has really improved as an actor – he isn’t anywhere close. But this movie is overall entertaining, its completely set in young sensibilities (coffee, facebook etc) and is in a way pleasing on the eyes (the two leading ladies ofcourse)

Debutant director Ishaan Trivedi has a lot of ideas, but he hasn’t got the execution down to a pat yet. The story he narrates is very in our times – a young couple divorced but still friends, attraction towards someone at work and commitment issues. He chooses to go with chapter-wise screenplay (reminiscent of Pyar Ke Side Effects) and goes back-and-forth a couple of times – which is part of why the movie appears refreshing. Non linear timelines or chapter-wise narration aren’t new things – but are pleasantly executed in Radio. Especially check the chapter names.

But the main reason you should watch Radio is our man Himesh Reshammiya. While he isn’t dancing or judo-kicking villains this time, he has some of the funniest one-liners of the year. Delivered seriously, ofcourse. So, while the movie for the most part, is very sorted out, few of his dialogues that are so incredible cheesy and banal that you cant help but burst out laughing. It’s a case of so-bad-its-good, but only for certain one-liners. It helps keeps the mood cheery through the movie. If the director wasn’t a debutant, I might have even considered it was a deliberate ploy.

The leading ladies – Shenaz and newcomer Sonal Sehgal – do their job well. Come to think of it, doing well against Himesh shouldn’t be that much hard work, but hey they suit the roles. Shenaz is perfect in the role of vivacious RJ Shanaya, and Sonal does reasonably as the somewhat immature Pooja. Have to put in a word of praise for the stylist – all the three leads look very trendy and smart, without trying too hard to be cool and casual. Same applies to the workplace – its what you would expect a radio station to be. Believable.

Then there is Paresh Rawal in the role of Jhandu Lal, a bakra caller. He has a couple of random scenes but they are all good fun – all calls ending with “saale #%^&@*” !!

If the same movie had been made with better actor/s, it would probably have been a good romantic movie. The idea and execution is refreshing & realistic – and music is one of Himesh’s better works. The storyline is not without its faults – and the parents are over-the-top – but like Wake Up Sid, the freshness of it all makes you overlook those niggles. Himesh provides the not-intended comic effect – and frankly I liked the movie as it is. There, I said it. I would recommend you check Radio out and make your own opinion.

3 star
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Movies to look out for this week

Paa [IMDB]

A politician's relationship with his unusually developed son - the child suffers from a disease that causes him to age rapidly, rendering him an old man

Cast: Abhishek Bachhan, Amitabh Bachhan, Vidya Balan,

Direction: R. Balki


A recently divorced RJ gets attracted towards his new colleague. But he is also friends with his ex-wife. Its complicated

Cast: Himesh Reshammiya, Shenaz Treasurywala, Sonal Sehgal
Direction: Ishan Trivedi

Tinker Bell & the Lost Treasure [IMDB]

Tinker Bell journey far North of Never Land to patch things up with her friend Terence and restore a Pixie Dust Tree.

Cast: Lucy Liu (voice), Mae Whitman (voice)

Direction: Klay Hall

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De Dana Dan

Priyadarshan’s De Dana Dan joins his fairly long list of slapstick, helter-skelter comedies that make us laugh for a scene or two, but leave us exasperated for the rest of the movie. This one had the added pain of Archana Puran Singh, Paresh Rawal and Manoj Joshi competing for the loudest-voice-on-cinema award and gunning solely for your eardrums. I might have viewed the movie as a timepass, if only the shouting and screaming didnt give me a massive headache.

The theme is similar to his previous works (Hera Pheri series, Bhagam Bhag, Malamaal Weekly) – poor guys wanting to make the quick buck and getting involved with all kinds of random characters along the way – which culminates in a massive free-for-all in the climax. Here Akshay and Sunil Shetty kidnap a dog to strike it rich and then gatecrash into Chunky Pandey’s wedding at a hotel – who is marrying to escape debtors. Then there is a whole assortment of characters from the bumbling hitman, drunk waiter, hooker, an Indo-Chinese don to an investigator and the Indian Ambassador, no less.

The Bad
Priyadarshan’s attempt at hilarity by mixing up so many characters fails completely. The usual mistaken identities and misunderstandings are garnished with Tom-and-Jerry type chase sequences – but get you to chuckle only once every half hour. Akshay tries hard in his scenes but with so many other crazy things happening, he doesn’t sound any better than the others. And most of the other lead actors – Katrina, Sunil Shetty, Sameera Reddy etc do not have much to do and seem to be just going through the motions. If you were looking forward to the chemistry of the Hera Pheri trio, they never actually come in a scene together - and there is no spark between Akshay and Sunil to be seen anywhere.

The Good
The bright points of the movie are Rajpal Yadav and Johhny Lever – their scenes are mostly funny. And Asrani still gets a few good laughs in the end.

I have a pretty high tolerance for low-brow comedy, but this was asinine even by my low standards. The first half was especially dull, and the second half has most of the screaming, so its hard to recommend anything in this movie wholeheartedly. The rain song between Kat and Akshay in the movie has also been snipped off – just in case you were planning to go for that. And if you still HAVE to watch it, just take a good pair of earbuds along.

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Movies to look out for this week

De Dana Dan [IMDB]

The usual Priyadarshan mad-cap comedy with the Hera Pheri trio and 27 other actors

Cast: Akshay Kumar, Sunil Shetty, Paresh Rawal, Katrina Kaif

Direction: Priyadarshan

Ninja Assasin [IMDB]

A young ninja turns his back on orphanage that raised him, leading to a confrontation with a fellow ninja from the clan

Cast: Sung Kang, Randall Duk Kim

Direction: James McTeigue

New in Town [IMDB]

A Miami businesswoman adjusts to her new life in a tiny Minnesota town.

Cast: Renée Zellweger, Harry Connick Jr.

Direction: Jonas Elmer

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A Christmas Carol

The Disney version of one of the most famous christmas stories, A Christmas Carol was perhaps released a bit too early to cash in on the festive season. I watched it on Thanksgiving Day though, so there was some holiday spirit. Made with motion capture and in 3D, the visual quality of the movie is terrific – the animations having a wonderful life-like quality and you easily forget you aren’t watching a movie with regular actors. But unlike Disney regulars, this movie has a few scenes which are quite scary – I am afraid the kids might take home a few nightmares after this movie.

The story hasn’t been tampered with much – on the christmas eve of 1842, miser Ebenezer Scrooge’s dead partner Marley visits him and foretells the arrival of three ghosts – of Christmas Past, Present and Future. The three ghosts show Scrooge his past, present and what could happen in the future – making him see the error of his ways. The visualization of the ghosts ofcourse has been adapted – which is where the movie becomes a little un-Disney.

The Good
Visuals are great, and appear even better if watched in 3D – but it’s not a necessarily-3D-movie. Meaning you would enjoy the movie almost as much without 3D. The motion capture technology enhances the facial expressions and body movements, so Scrooge’s frightened face looks just like an actual old man’s. But then, coming from Robert Zemeckis (maker of Back to Future, Forest Gump, Cast Away & Beowulf), technical perfection is to be expected.

The screenplay is tight – there is no slack anywhere once the ghosts appear – and on the whole it is quite thrilling. But even with this fast screenplay, the moments of tenderness in clerk Cratchit’s family or Scrooge’s nephew Fred’s toast are unmistakable and lend this movie its soul.

Scrooge’s voice is almost unrecognizable as Jim Carrey’s – and other big names like Colin Firth, Gary Oldman & Robin Penn Wright make up the rest of the cast.

The Bad
The appearance of the final ghost is a little over-the-top frankly. Looking like the grim reaper and chasing Scrooge around in London in a carriage drawn by fiery-eyed-black-horses, it caused me to jump a couple of times. Accustomed to sugar-coated Disney movies where bad things are masked in a lot of funny gags, this was a little too grim. I don’t think this Disney movie is going to be too popular with the kids

Though its an animated version of a traditional christmas tale, it lacks the joyfulness and happy nature of Disney classics like Tarzan or Mulan. While A Christmas Carol too ends on a happy note, the overall mood and cinematography of 19th century London is certainly dark. A grown up and mature Disney movie, you might call it. Its definitely worth a watch, but I cant help wishing for a more feel-good holiday movie.

3 star
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Fa Yeung Nin Wa : In the Mood for Love

In the Mood for Love is not a new movie – it was released way back in 2000. And it was nominated for the Palme d'Or (best movie) at Cannes that year and won Best Actor there. The director Wong Kar-Wai is one of the more acclaimed current directors in Hong Kong. The reason I am reviewing it now is that it is being shown as part of the Palador Film Festival* - which is showcasing some great world cinema for Indian audiences. Currently in Bombay, only Fun Cinemas in Andheri and Eros Cinema in town are screening these movies every week.

Somewhat true to perception – some of these movies are not for general consumption. I’d say watch In the Mood for Love only if you are bored with the format of mainstream Hindi and English movies. It brings a very different take on movies with it - the use of lighting, repetitive use of certain camera angles frequently and portrayal of other characters by the two lead characters. Production wise, it appears frugal as most of the movie is in a couple of cramped rooms and a lonely street corner – but apparently it took 15 months to shoot.

The movie is about two couples who move into two neighbouring apartments on the same day – a reporter Mr Chow & his wife in one and a shipping clerk Mrs. Chan and her husband in the other. We know something is a little amiss when neither Mr Chan nor Mrs Chow’s face is shown. They are always shown from their back or their voice is heard from behind the camera. Mr Chan travels for weeks for his business and Mrs Chow works late night shifts as a receptionist – leaving the respective spouses alone in their rooms and frequenting the neighbourhood noodle place for dinner. The twist comes when they realize their spouses are cheating on them – and their loneliness acknowledges each other.

The treatment of the story is very unconventional with the story moving ahead in fits and starts - sometimes just languidly watching the rain fall or making perfect smoke rings in the air. The story is set in 1962 and in quite a rundown part of Hong Kong. Nothing like the gleaming metropolis of today. And even there, minimalism in everything – the simple 4-5 sets, the limited characters (the Chans’ landlord Mrs Suen & their cook, Mrs. Chan’s boss Mr Ho and Chow’s friend Ping), the minimal dialogue and the repeated background score. I recognized the famous Spanish song Quizás, Quizás, Quizás playing a couple of times (Spanish original of Perhaps Perhaps, the title track of BBC comedy series Coupling)

What I remember most about the movie are the lead characters enacting the hypothetical interaction of their spouses – it takes a few moments for it to sink in that it was a rehearsal and not the real thing. And it will happen again and you still wouldn’t be able to catch it.

Don’t watch it for ‘timepass’ - as they call it in Bombay – its not one. It’s a completely different genre of cinema and you will appreciate it more if you have a wider view of movies than hero-meets-girl-and-they-fall-in-love-despite-differences. You can call it an acquired taste if you like

3 star

* If you are interested in such movies, you might want to check Reeload ( , the movie club hosting these shows. They are offering free dvds and workshops with filmmakers etc on membership. Its not mandatory to be a member to watch these shows

Disclaimer – I am not a member of this club and I paid full price for my tickets :)

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One of the slickest looking movies to come out of Bollywood this year, Kurbaan is worth a watch just for its high quality visuals. Rensil D’Silva and his team will wow you by their sheer technical brilliance - I cant remember the last time frames of any movie looked so good. And designer Aki Narula’s wardrobe and overall look for Kareena adds a lot to the beauty of the movie – deep kohl lined eyes and rich Indian clothes (without a single hot pants or low-cut top).

Kareena gives one of her better performances as Avantika, even though she has very limited dialogues and screentime. Her eyes speak for her as she goes through emotions from amusement to happiness to despair and sorrow. She reminds us why she is one of the best actresses around today. And she completely outshines Saif in the second half, where he appears to be rolling through the scenes without much effort. However Saif is in his own territory in the first half, where he is the suave, confident dude who is trying to sweep Avantika off her feet. Their chemistry is sparkling and it is not very difficult to guess that they are a real-life couple.

Kurbaan is a love story of Ehsaan (Saif) and Avantika (Kareena) set in a background of muslim terrorism. Avantika is a professor of psychology in NY university, but she is teaching in Delhi university for a semester because her dad is recovering from a stroke in Delhi. There she bumps into Ehsaan Khan, a new professor at the college and soon they fall in love. However, she gets an ultimatum to return to NY for the next semester and Ehsaan agrees to go with her to the US – after marriage. And so they land up in New York.

And all this happens in the first 15 min of the movie!

The Good
Throughout the first half of the movie, pace is quick – almost frenetic. You get the feeling you are watching a thriller rather than a love story. The background score of the movie enhances that edgy feeling. And most importantly, logic is not sacrificed as most of the characters in the movie are more realistic – and not caricaturish. What they say or do makes sense – like the FBI is not just composed of muslim-hating officers.

Acting was a positive surprise – especially from Vivek Oberoi. He was much better than I remembered, and Kiron Kher does the Afghani accent exceedingly well.
And a trivial positive - when the police try to defuse a bomb, the wrong wire is cut and things go kaboom. Not like other movies where invariably, the correct wire is cut.

The Bad
Post-intermission, the movie slows down quite a bit, but the biggest failure of the movie is its climax. The screenplay abandons all pretence of logic or reason and its all senti-drama. Kareena does very well in the acting department, but Saif just sleepwalks through the role here. Given that there were lot of expectations from his negative or ‘grey’ character’, Saif fails to get you to sympathize in Ehsaan.

Kurbaan is a more realistic movie that New York or Fanaa – but its not a Khuda Kay Liye either. What works for it is superb production values and the chemistry between its lead-actors – the spark between them is quite visible. But it is let down by the Bollywood philosophy of love above everything else. It would easily qualify for 4 stars, were I to consider only the first half. However, it loses its way significantly in the second half and the stretched climax leaves a bad taste in your mouth.

3 star
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Movies to look out for this week

Kurbaan [IMDB]

A love story set in background of terrorism in New York

Cast: Saif Ali Khan, Kareena Kapoor

Direction: Rensil D'Silva

A Christmas Story [IMDB]

An animated retelling of Charles Dickens classic novel about a Victorian-era miser taken on a journey of self-redemption, courtesy of several mysterious Christmas apparitions

Cast: Jim Carrey (voice)
Direction: Robert Zemeckis

Twilight [IMDB]

Based on the Twilight book series. A teenage girl risks everything when she falls in love with a vampire.

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Robert Pattinson

Direction: Catherine Hardwicke

Fa Yeung Nin Wa : In The Mood For Love [IMDB]

A man and a woman move in to neighboring Hong Kong apartments and form a bond when they both suspect their spouses of extra-marital activities

Cast: Maggie Cheung, Tony Leung Chiu Wai

Direction: Kar Wai Wong
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2012 promises to be nothing more than a disaster movie – and it is exactly that. However, what works for the movie are the awesome action pieces that take your breath away. The CGI work is spectacular – you haven’t seen anything like this (not even from Michael Bay). Skyscrapers toppling, roads splitting up into canyons, the Sistine Chapel collapsing – and the piece de resistance – a plane taking off from a runaway as it cracks up behind it. I don’t remember the last time a cheesy action movie has me so exhilarated with the action scenes.

However, if you are the sort who looks for logic in every movie – please avoid this one. For it is not the most logical story every produced. The plot is something like this - as prophesied by the Mayans, the year 2012 witnesses a gigantic solar flare which bombards earth with a neutron-like subatomic particle and causes the earth’s core to start heating up. The result is a earth’s crust displacement which leads to massive earthquakes, volcanoes and tidal waves.

And the world is not caught unawares – an Indian scientist Dr Satnam makes the discovery in 2009 itself and the world powers ultra-secretively prepare for this armageddon. However, calculations are wrong and things start going kaboom a month before schedule ….

The Good
As I have already waxed eloquent, the disasters are breathtaking to watch. There is not a moment’s respite and the action just keeps on coming – the first half especially.
And there is not much else to recommend in the movie

The Bad
As is the bane of this genre, dialogues are extremely cheesy, especially towards the end. And while all the world is collapsing around us, we are made to sympathize with the family of John Cusack and Amanda Peet – without much explanation as to why they are the chosen ones. You can predict from a mile which ones from the group are going to make it are which ones aren’t. And Jimi Mistry (the Guru) is atrocious as Dr. Satnam – he really grates on your ears – but thankfully he has just a 3 min sequence.

Even though it is almost two and half hours long, 2012 has enough bangs to keep you entertained for most of the journey. So if you are in the mood for a mindless apocalypse movie, this is just the thing for you.

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Movies to look out for this week

Tum Mile [IMDB]

Two ex-lovers separated 6 years ago meet again in Bombay on the fatal night of 26th July 2005

Cast: Emraan Hashmi, Soha Ali Khan

Direction: Kunal Deshmukh

2012 [IMDB]

An epic adventure about a global cataclysm that brings an end to the world and tells of the heroic struggle of the survivors.

Cast: John Cusack, Amanda Peet, Chiwetel Ejiofor

Direction: Roland Emmerich

Aao Wish Karein [IMDB]

A 12-year old boy who has a huge crush on a 23-year old girl, is granted a miracle and he becomes a grown up man overnight

Cast: Aftab Sivadasani, Aamna Sharif, Johny Lever

Direction: Glenn Baretto
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The Informant!

The Informant! is one of those quirky cool movies that only Hollywood can produce (any such movie here would probably result in burnt theatres and hundreds of court cases !!). Its based on a real story and the disclaimers before the movie sound like this

... some characters are composites and dialogue dramatized.
So there.

With that cheeky introduction, The Informant! starts off with Mark Whitacre, President of Bio-Products division at Archer Daniels Midland, an agri-business giant. He has an all-american family with wife Ginger and two kids, a big house and plans to build a horse stable. But soon it transforms into a corporate spying story as Whitacre turns into an informant for the FBI, first alleging sabotage by japanese rival Ajinamoto Co - and then price fixing of lysine (an amino acid) by his own employers.

(I didnt make it up! There is - or atleast was - an Ajinamoto Co in Japan)

But just as you are settling down to watch a gripping corporate crime story like The Insider, you are distracted by some inane tangential comments made by Mark Whitacre –

When polar bears hunt, they crouch down by a hole in the ice and wait for a seal to pop up. They keep one paw over their nose so that they blend in. Cuz’ they’ve got those black noses. They’d blend in perfectly if not for the nose...
So the question is - how do they know their noses are black? From looking at other polar bears? Do they see their reflections in the water? And think, “I’d be invisible if not for that.”
That seems like a lot of thinking for a bear.

This and many other random utterances cause you to start doubting Whitacre himself – is he the white hat he claims to be? And credit to director Steven Soderbergh (Ocean’s Eleven series, Erin Brockovich), he doesn’t for a moment let you know what is coming at the end of the movie. Not to mention, his handing of the potential serious drama is highly humorous and tongue-in-cheek.

Which maybe does a little disservice to Mark Whitacre himself – irrespective of his personal failings, he did help the greater good by his whistleblowing deed. Matt Damon is absolutely fantastic as the slightly overweight, middle-aged Mark Whitacre. His role as the erratic corporate whistle-blower has already generated oscar buzz.

Apart from a slightly slow middle segment, The Informant is a great watch. Its got a limited release in India, with a few shows at PVR and single shows at Fame & Fun Cinemas. So probably you are going to have to take a few pains to watch it – but its well worth your time.

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2 States

This is going to be a more personal review than usual – mainly because I could so identify with the challenges of cross-state marriages – I had one myself.

And as a matter of fact, most of my friends did too – they chose their own partners, usually from a different community. Infact, I am scheduled to attend one wedding next month. And it doesn’t seem abnormal at all, does it ? Choosing a life partner is hard enough, without having to ensure that she speaks Oriya or Gujarati or whatever your mother tongue is !

Plus, isn’t the arranged marriage crowd a minority now ? You would think so if you went through my friend list :)

Unfortunately, there is a vast part of the country that is still very uncomfortable with the idea – if not horrified by it - as characters in the book are. They still cant wrap their head around the idea of a guy choosing his own girl, let alone happily accepting a daughter/son-in-law from a different part of the country. I don’t have to look further than my own first cousins for it. Its more pronounced in certain communities I think - whose sense of culture is very strong and all-pervasive. And so author couldnt have set his novel in two more apt communities than the Punjabis and Tamils.

The story is a simple (almost made for a movie) story – Punjabi boy meets Tamil girl and they fall in love. They want to get married, but only with their parents blessings. However parents need a bit more convincing than “I love him/her”. And when would-be-in-laws come face to face with each other – sparks inevitable fly – which jeopardizes things even more.

What made the book really enjoyable for me was the setting of the movie and the leads – they fall in love while studying in IIMA – and their courtship has a delightful current of humour throughout. Ofcourse, I am not even remotely hinting to be as funny as leads of the book, but given the backgrounds of me and my wife, it touched a chord somewhere. And again, like the book couple, we had more than our share of disagreements over wedding arrangements (thankfully getting parents to agree for the wedding was easy) – but getting two completely different cultures to appreciate each others rituals and customs is one head-bursting exercise !!

The book is priced at less than a multplex tickets cost (Rs 95). And it’s a good 3-4 hour read (I confess I am a fast reader, so you might take a bit longer). But highly recommended for a happy read all the same

PS – If you like the idea, here is an account of a similar wedding, condensed to a blog post and much more humorously written -
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Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani

If you guys watched All The Best, you remember how Sanjay Mishra steals the show in it with his “Just Chiiiiiilll” dialogue ? Or Amit Mistry in the movie 99 ?

Something similar happens to Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani – after the movie you remember Prem’s dad Darshan Jariwala in the movie more than anyone else (unlike the famous dialogue of the movie itself).

The movie, is not much ‘Ajab’ as the title suggests – it’s a story of a good boy who loves a girl, but cant bring himself to tell her. And when he is about to confess to her, turns out she loves someone else. So the good boy decides to help them get together, while remaining silent about his own feelings. Ofcourse, the good boy has a bunch of loser friends who adore him and do little else. And, the movie ends in a punchup climax with a with comic villains just like Andaz Apna Apna.

The Good
Clearly, this movie is not to be watched for its intriguing storyline. However it can be watched for its two leads – Ranbir and Katrina. Ranbir has the ‘goofy-yet-adorably-cute’ expression down to the pat – there is no one who can come close to him on this count. And Katrina owns the angelic-yet-cheerful-happy face. Together they really look good – their attire and camaraderie, especially in the songs is really cool in all senses of that word.

Then there is Darshan Jariwala. While he is usually irritating as the ‘khadoos’ dad in movies (like Life Partner), he is the same here – but with a very refreshing comic touch. His scenes are the best written in the movie – esp his singing scene.

And Upen Patel does pretty well in the comic role – which was unintentional on his part I am sure 

The Bad
The publicity designer of the movie is to be lauded in packaging this movie as a slick cartoony romantic comedy. It certainly piqued my interest – which is why I chose the movie over others in the weekend. But they are just the attractive packaging – there is nothing in the movie that would connect to a shred of reality. The setting is a fictional town that resembles Ooty and the hero is a do-gooder without ‘any complaints or demands’. Not to mention, with no goal in life.

I guess I am being exceedingly critical in demanding reality from a movie which is clearly inspired on ‘Andaz Apna Apna’ – so lets look at the movie through those lenses. Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani definitely does have it laugh-out loud moments, including some zany sequences when Prem goes to work. But overall, it fails to keep up the whacky comedy levels and gets needlessly senti in more places than required

And the songs are atrocious – they break in the story flow and don’t fit the overall light movie theme at all.

Overall, its a timepass movie, that has its moments, but it sits in an uncomfortable place between whacky comedy and a serious love story.

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Movies to look out for this week

Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani [IMDB]

The movie is about a boy who is madly in love with the beautiful Jennifer and his crazy mis-adventures that follow his quest

Cast: Ranbir Kapoor, Katrina Kaif

Direction: Raj Kumar Santoshi

Jail [IMDB]

'Jail' is the story of a common man who is living a dream life, till he lands up in prison for unknown reasons

Cast: Neil Nitin Mukesh, Mugdha Ghodse, Manoj Bajpai

Direction: Madhur Bhandarkar

The Informant! [IMDB]

The U.S. government decides to go after an agri-business giant with a price-fixing accusation, based on the evidence submitted by their star witness, vice president turned informant Mark Whitacre

Cast: Matt Damon, Eddie Jemison
Direction: Steven Soderbergh

The Rebound [IMDB]

In New York City, a single mom captivates her new neighbor, a much younger man.

Cast: Catherine Zeta-Jones, Justin Bartha

Direction: Bart Freundlich
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