Delhi 6

You know what – move over the Katrinas and the Deepikas – my new pinup-girl is Sonam Kapoor !! Man, she has an enchanting face - AND an enigmatic smile !! A little hard to quantify, but what sets her apart is that hint of mysteriousness – ahhh, beautiful :) If you don’t agree, go watch Delhi 6 (though the missus wasn’t quite floored by her, so maybe it’s just a guy thing)

However, Sonam Kapoor is pretty much the only reason why I would recommend anyone to watch Delhi 6 - other than to all Old Dilliwalas, ofcourse ! Mind you, not all Dilliwalas, because this movie is completely set in Chandni Chowk. And maybe I am wrong, but I feel that this movie is more like a collective slap on the faces of Dilliwalas, rather than an ode to them. The attitude of the people in the movie was REALLY conservative – more small town rather than a metropolis! If they hadn’t shown a couple of shots of the Delhi Metro, the movie might have been shot in Haridwar, Varanasi or any other old city with small dingy roads ….

Ok, enough of the attitude bashing. Delhi 6 has some very delectable moments for you too. It starts off with Waheeda Rehman (playing Dadi to Abhishek Bachhan), being diagnosed with a life threatening cancer. Dadi wishes to return to her roots in Chandni Chowk and grandson Roshan complies. And the regular NRI-returning-to-mad-India sequence follows. What is different however, are the people.

Rakeysh Mehra has assembled a brilliant set of actors in the support roles and each of them perform excellently. Most of them happen to be neighbours of Dadi in Chandni Chowk and the first half of the movie is spent giving each character his 5 min of fame – and Roshan plays the tourist NRI, intrigued by everything and capturing everything on his Motorola phone. The director has managed to capture the flavour and views of Purani Dilli immaculately – and the characters create a very warm and believable world.

We are introduced to a majority of the cast at the Ramleela performance – and Rakeysh Mehra keeps coming back to the Ramleela at important points in the movie – which makes you wonder if the Ramleela is a year-long fixture in Chandni Chowk :) ? The other oft-repeated event and ultimately the movie keystone turns out to be the kala bandar – remember the monkey-man scare in Delhi a couple of years ago ? And it is this part of the story that completely destroys the movie.

I wont give away exactly what happens in the last 30-40 min of the movie, since it is the only unexpected part of the story, but all I will say that its very cliché and forcibly pushes a message down your throat. Not in the subtle way that he does in RDB – but a literal ‘look inside your soul’ and ‘god is in everyone’ style preaching. The Roshan-Bittu (Sonam Kapoor) love story also very unsatisfying. From perennially sparring with each other, suddenly they spring to ‘I am not going back to America without you’ level – not believable at all !!

Technically, the story moves in a rather jerky fashion throughout the narrative – someone likened it to watching a bunch of serial episodes together – and it takes a couple of sequences to get used to. But it doesn’t impact the movie in any negative way. Music from A.R. Rahman is top notch, though the song placement was not optimal – some songs were totally lost. Particularly, Genda Phool picturization was rather disappointing.

The standout performances in the movie (apart from Sonam Kapoor, ofcourse ) are Rishi Kapoor, Vijay Raaz, Pawan Malhotra and a newcomer Aditi Rao who plays the Bua. Abhishek Bachhan doesn’t have much acting to do since his is a passive character – most of the times he is just playing the observer. Sonam Kapoor, apart from looking fabulous, does her part rather well. As I have mentioned before, all the other performances are top notch too.

If I had to rate the movie just on the first hour or so, I would have probably given it a 4 star. But the way the plot nosedives, even with the superb all round acting, I cant give it more than a

Addendum - After the movie, it struck me that for a born-and-brought-up-American, Roshan is a little too cool with India. I mean a first-timer to India would have gotten exasperated at something - the inefficiency, the craziness or the dirtiness … something ! But Roshan never once seemed to mind anything, except for the police high handedness. Minor quibble, but feels like a big omission compared to the meticulousness the director displays for the other characters.
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The Stoneman Murders

For a long time I thought The Stoneman Murders was a investigative documentary of some sort by NDTV – because I always saw the ads only on the news channels. And the ads only showed some guy shrouded in a blanket, about to smash someone with a big stone. It was only later that I saw Kay Kay Menon and Arbaaz Khan in the promos and realized it was a proper movie.

But the big question about each movie - is it a proper/watchable movie ?
Answer - Hell yeah !! It might be small budget and without any catchy item songs (there is one mandatory dance-bar song, but its eminently forgettable) – but it’s a very involving and riveting thriller. Ofcourse, it manages to trip itself up when it uncovers the mystery man – it’s a time honored hindi movie tradition (Raaz etc) after all !! But since it’s the last 10 minutes of the movie, you can easily skip that part in your mind and remember its engrossing moments.

As the movie title and the trailers announce – its about the gruesome Stoneman (or ‘Pattharmaar’) serial killings in Bombay in 1983 – whose identity remains a mystery till date. According to google, this is the only serial-killer case in India that was never solved – not even a definitive arrest !! Director Manish Gupta claims that there was no way a crime like this was unsolved – there must have been a massive coverup afterwards. Now I am not in a position to verify if this is just a publicity gimmick or he actually believes that – but it definitely adds to the enjoyment of the movie.
The Stoneman Murders has Kay Kay Menon playing inspector Sanjay - his now-regular characterization of a man with an inflated self-belief, aggression and a liking for violence (Sarkar, Mumbai Meri Jaan, Life in a Metro, Via Darjeeling and many more). I guess it goes without saying that he does that role pretty well. The movie begins with inspector Sanjay getting suspended from the police force for a accidental custodial death, right when the Stoneman kills his first victim. As the bodies pile up, he gets permission from a sympathetic senior Satam (Vikram Gokhale) to pursue a secret parallel investigation on his own. Sanjay latches on to the thin hope that cracking the case before the police department does, might be his only chance of getting back into the force ... and mobilizes his underground network of informers for clues. But the killer doesn’t give himself up easily and that is what the story is all about.

With a perfect accompanying background score that heightens the terse moments and shot mostly at nighttime Mumbai streets, The Stoneman Murders is a very intelligent cat-and-mouse game between the renegade cop and the mystery killer. The director/script-writer have come up with a very realistic & engrossing story – and I cant tell you more about the narrative without giving away some of the mystery. There are scary moments throughout the movie, and there were times I forgot to chew the popcorn in my mouth as I cringed inwardly about the gory death awaiting the pavement-dweller.

However, the director cant match this suspense buildup with the final expose of the Stoneman – and the identity of the killer is rather underwhelming. That spoils what is otherwise a perfect suspense movie. But even with the stinky ending, The Stoneman Murders is entertaining as hell, especially at just 1 hour 40 min runtime and hence deserves a

3 star
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Seven Pounds

Add Gabriele Muccino (maker of ‘The Pursuit Of Happyness’) & Will Smith (star of ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’) – and you should be looking at another moving, heartwarming drama about struggles and redemption. They both thought so too. Unfortunately, maybe they got a little cocky and figured that they knew exactly how to touch the audiences with emotional tear-jerker scenes - who knows. But the resulting movie ‘Seven Pounds’, while heavy with emotional drama and loss, is a little too smug for its own good.

I had read a preview of the movie before watching the movie, so I knew what was the general plot. Bad decision maybe, but its now become a practice. However, as I started to watch Seven Pounds, I realized that if I didn’t know the summary, understanding the story would be quite difficult ! The movie appears quite disjoint initially and moves into flashbacks intermittently, in a confusing way. It was enough to irritate wifey (she hadn’t read the preview) – she wondered aloud what was going on !! However around the intermission, the story becomes somewhat clear.
So if you (the reader) havent watched the movie yet, take a call now if you want to read further :)

The title Seven Pounds is never explained in the movie. Someone suggested that it had some connection to Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice – Shylock’s pound of flesh – but in Shakespeare’s version, a pound of flesh was not in return for a life. Google throws up conflicting answers as well. Basically nobody knows :)

Anyway, Seven Pounds opens with Ben Thomas (Will Smith), an IRS man on a mission. He is out investigating people with tax defaults, first an old-age-home doctor and then Emily Posa (Rosario Dawson), who has a congenital heart defect which can only be cured with a heart transplant. Ben freaks out on the doctor, but he befriends Emily and promises to help with her taxes. But you can see Ben is a disturbed man – he has a sadness on his face all the time – and his eyes tell us a story of troubled soul.

The movie then moves back and forth in flashes and you get tantalizing clues to the cause of this grief in Ben’s life. But its still not clear what Ben is trying to do – all his actions, including his conversations with his friend Dan, brother etc is very cryptic. All that you can make out that he has a definite motive – but he gives no clue as to what it is. Only in the second half do things become clearer – and the emotional tugging begins. I admit I did get a little moist in a few sequences – its difficult not to. But at the same time you cant shake off the feeling that this is deliberate - showing you the most pitiable stories and their final redemption, great sacrifices etc. And this is the downfall of the movie – nobody likes to be so obviously manipulated.

All the good things in this movie lie in Will Smith – he really has the charisma as well as the depth to carry off such a complex character. And his eyes really speak out in some sequences ... But all that goes waste when, you come out of the hall not feeling warm and fuzzy, but a little deceived

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He's Just Not That Into You

Its been a long time since I watched this movie – but it still deserves a review

A collage of love stories is a common format used in romantic comedies – the best examples I can think of right now is Richard Curtis’ - Love Actually and our homegrown copy Salaam-e-Ishq. While both movies were panned by critics, I confess I quite liked Love Actually – but then I like Notting Hill … :)

‘He’s Just Not That Into You’ is latest in this line of multiple-storyline romantic comedy – where all stories are somehow linked to each other. This one boasts of the most impressive cast yet – Jennifer Aniston, Drew Barrymore, Scarlett Johansson, Jennifer Connely, Ben Affleck, Justin Long (Die Hard 4), Ginnifer Goodwin and a host of others … I cant remember all their names. And yes, the cast has more female heavyweights – which isn’t necessarily a bad thing for us guys, is it ?

So whats new in the movie ?

Well, the movie uses the same cliché’d relationship issues faced by different couples – someone has commitment phobia, someone else’s life after marriage has lost the zing etc etc. But the newness comes from the dating fundae dispensed liberally throughout out the movie. It may not be applicable to us since 99.9% of Indians do not have the good fortune of going out on dates, but it is still a very funny and feel-good movie.

Ginnifer Goodwin almost repeats her character from Mona Lisa Smile – cute, plump and desperate to hitch up. However, most of her efforts fall flat on her face, till she is stood up at a bar, where Alex the manager there sort of takes pity on her - and starts educating her about what guys are really saying when they say they will call you etc. Around this central story, we see the other couples go through various ups and downs. The good fun is that this movie, though it shows guys in a bad light through Alex’s fundae, shows girls as equally insane and obsessed with signals :)

All in all, a very enjoyable movie – better watched with a date/girlfriend/wife.
And even if you have none of the above, its still loads of fun – AND you can ogle at Scarlett Johansson without any tension – boy she is HOT !!!

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Marley & Me

As movies get increasingly ‘sophisticated’, with more intricate plots, big sets & even bigger explosions (with the help of computer graphics wizardry, not to mention awesome animations like Wall-E), most people like me have almost forgotten the adage -

Sometimes, the best stories are the simplest ones

Marley & Me is one such story, which catches your attention from the word go and never lets it slacken, even though it has none of the thrills or twists that we have come to expect in regular cinema. It’s a real-life story about the family of reporter John (Owen Wilson) & Jennifer Grogan (Jennifer Aniston), and their dog - Marley. It follows their lives from the time they move to Miami and decide to adopt the cute little Labrador pup, to its growing up, the birth of their own children and how their lives change after that.

So its not a story about man-dog bonding, not at all. And to be honest, Marley is anything but adorable as he grows up – its not for nothing that he is labeled the worst dog in the world !! But all the same, his antics are really enjoyable – as they are unpredictable! And even though the camera seems to be focused mainly on Marley, you are slowly but surely eased into the world of the Grogans – their tribulations, their little compromises and their love for each other. Their relationship is shown as a slice of real life – no sugary sappiness, no unrealistic situations ! Just simple married life, with the odd googly that life inevitably throws …

I am deliberately not writing more as I don’t want to give away the entire story. But definitely go and watch it. It’s a very warm & honest story about people growing up, maturing – a slice of real life – but with a mad dog for company :) !!

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I really wanted to like Dev.D – I really did!

But unfortunately, as much as I tried, I couldn’t like it enough. This, inspite of it having the uber-cool Abhay Deol AND the uber-cool music (I still cant get Emosional Attyachar out of my head - the rock version rawks !!). Nevertheless, while its still comfortably ahead of any other cinematic adaption of the Devdas (especially the Shahrukh version), it does not superlative cinema make.
Note - I am making this statement as a twenty-six-year-old in the year 2009. I am sure there are some old timers who swear by the Bimal Roy’s black & white version of 1955 – but I am equally sure none of them are reading this :)

There is no point discussing the story, because if you are an Indian who doesn’t know the story for Devdas, you must be a Martian masquerading as an earthling !! Jokes apart, I am branding this as the best version of Devdas because it finally gives enough strength of character to the two women in Dev’s (Abhay Deol) life. Especially Paro’s (Mahi Gill) character – it is a wonderful sketch of a young woman from rural Punjab, with a mind of her own and enough self-belief to take on the world. She doesn’t hold anything back in love, but she will not submit to the unreasonably egotist Dev either. Watch out for the scene when Paro visits Dev in the hotel – I really appreciated the nuanced performance. The scene shows her struggles clearly – her loyalties to Dev and to her new family pulling her apart. Chanda (Kalki Koechlin) isn’t as strong a character, but unlike the original story, she also will do only so much for Dev.

Apart from the women’s empowerment bit, there are quite a few changes to the century-old story. The location is set in rural Punjab initially and then Delhi later – and Dev.D is actually Devinder, Paro is Parminder and Chanda is just a screen name for Lenny, a school MMS victim (The phone scene with Chanda is again one of the highlights of the movie - but for a different reason this time). Chunni is the only name who remains untouched, but his character itself undergoes a radical change.

The visuals of the seedy lanes of Delhi and the trippy camera are special - but they are completely overshadowed by the music. Amit Trivedi delivers one hell of a soundtrack - you wouldnt notice, but there are 18 songs in the movie, and each one of them is placed perfectly. The movie wouldnt be the same without this edgy score.
But the biggest change in Dev.D has to be the sex and intoxication. Mirroring the opening up of our society, Anurag Kashyap has no hesitation in showing the carnal instincts of the women in Dev’s life – and how its no longer taboo nowadays for a woman to take matters into their own hand. Even more glorified is the alcohol and drug abuse – this movie at times seems like an ode to these vices.

But in his enthusiasm to show Dev’s descent into alcohol & drug abuse-hell, Anurag Kashyap’s story begins to meander a little. Even with a couple of surprises, the movie feels a little stretched. But overall, the basic reason I didn’t like Dev.D, is that I think the original story itself isn’t valid anymore. A 100 years ago, when zamindars had precious little to do and more importantly, rebelling against the society was unheard, Devdas's actions are understandable. In today’s context, Dev’s actions are just incomprehensible to me ...

Is it just me or does Mahi Gill very much resemble actress Priya Gill (Josh, Sirf Tum, Tere Mere Sapne) ? Google doesnt throw up any information about them being related ...

You can catch Kalki Koechlin trying to sell you a vibrating massage device for reducing fat on Tele Shopping Network

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Lets get the important bit out first - all the guys are going to love this movie :)
Curious why ? Well, its got Penelope Cruz having a relationship with a much older man (Ben Kingsley) – and well, the director doesn’t leave ‘anything’ to imagination :D

OK, before the females get all up-in-arms – I am just kidding, there is much more to the movie than just ogling at Penelope Cruz. Infact, its one of the very few movies that are slow, brooding, gray … yet touch you deep inside.

Elegy is a tale of a cynical old man who is so set in his philandering ways, that he cant embrace true love even when it comes to his door knocking. A man of books, David Kapesh (Ben Kingsley) is a rock-star professor, making appearances on tv and critiquing books on radio. He is also a compulsive womanizer – and doesn’t mind seducing his own students. All the same, he is clever enough not to do anything till they clear his subject. But inspite of all his ‘conquests’, he is commitment phobic and has only two people in the whole world to fall back upon - his best friend George Hearn and his long time sex-partner Carolyn. Both relationships are depicted very warmly – especially with George. Their conversations over breakfast and games of squash are a delight – and their interaction, especially in the later half of the movie is heartwarming.

But this existence of his is shattered by the arrival of Consuela Castillo (Penelope Cruz) – a Cuban student whose beautiful face he cant keep his eyes off. He woos her with the help of arts and successfully sweeps her off her feet - but cant help himself falling for her charms and unquestioning love. As the relationship progresses, he is forced to confront himself with – his beliefs, his relationship with his estranged son and the world changing around him. However things aren’t always so simple – it suffices to say that there are a couple of surprises in the later half.

Coming to performances, Ben Kingsley is a terrific performer and all his skills are on show here. Finely balancing an old man’s age with his young-at-heart desires, Kingsley does a great job. But Penelope Cruz is just as good as well. Body display notwithstanding, she looks beautiful and enigmatic – David Kapesh superbly describes her as a ‘beautiful woman who knows she is beautiful, but hasn’t decided what to do with her beauty’. She plays the part of the confident yet lost-in-love woman to the T. Penelope Cruz hasn’t been known much for her acting skills, but after this movie I have changed my opinion about her.

If you are think that the movie sounds interesting, but aren’t sure about the slow and brooding pace, take the chance and watch it. It’s a touching, heartwarming and slightly erotic story about love beyond stereotypes.

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Luck By Chance

Is it just me or is Luck By Chance just a trifle overrated ?

Pick up any review about it and its plaudits and praise all the way - no brickbats in sight!

Yet it did not touch me at all - everytime I walk out of the cinema hall, something or the other about the movie usually buzzes around in my head. In most cases the movie is bad and I am thinking about where the director goofed up and how the scriptwriter was stupid. And once in a while when the movie is good, I am thinking about the more memorable sequences. But after a long time, nothing - empty, blank !!

However just because I didnt connect with the movie doesnt mean its a hopeless movie. Its a story about two two strugglers trying to make it big in Bollywood - Farhan Akhtar is Vikram Jaisingh, who is fresh from Delhi and Konkona Sensharma is Sona, who has been hanging around fringes for three years now. And surrounding them are a gamut of characters - producer, director, actresses, their moms, film journalists etc. One thing I appreciate about the story is that Zoya Akhtar has shown both sides of luck - how it can be both important and inconsequential. On the whole, the movie is quite competent and there are no major failings that I can place my finger on .... just that it didnt work for me.

I will try to think out aloud and list what I liked and what I didnt like about the movie - and you can decide for yourself. And did I mention there is a whole host of celebrities making special appearances in the movie ? I wont give out the names, but trust me, you will be surprised. They do add a bit of realism to the story - and make themselves look a little more human.

Positives for the movie include Isha Shervani - she is quite the revelation in the movie ! She hasnt been seen much after Kisna, way back in 2005, but she looks damn cute and attractive in Luck By Chance - she almost drips with freshness !!! She is so convincing is a star-kid that its difficult to believe she is not one in real life. The other thing that Luck By Chance got spot on was the characterization - Zoya Akhtar has to be commended for fleshing out ALL the characters in the movie - even the ones with just 2-3 scenes in the movie are rendered as believable - real - people (unlike Aditya Chopra's painful attempt in RNBDJ)

And among these, the best by far is Rishi Kapoor as the producer Romi Rolly. Javed Akhtar claimed that he had subconsciously modeled Romy Rolly's character on the different producers he has worked with - and it works !! Rishi Kapoor's performance is superb and you totally connect with the character.

Wondering if everything is so good then whats wrong with the movie ? Among the things that dont work, music is one - except for the Baawre and Sapno Se Bhare Naina song, rest of the tunes feel boring. Farhan Akhtar's average looks stand out a bit harshly in the movie - unlike Rock On where his non-hero looks made the character believable, here he just cant cut it as a standout newcomer! Same goes for Konkona - she just doesnt have a pretty face - and it stands out starkly in the dream love song. Apart from this, the movie moves quite slowly for the most part - and I wish they had cleared up the friend angle in the end. Is he jealous about Vikram's success, or does he like Sona, or is he just gay ?

But mostly, it doesnt work for me is because whatever happens in the movie is bit too understated - its hard to put it in words. I guess I expected a more lively movie - and while this is not gritty filmmaking, its a little sober for my taste.
I have to qualify that this is my personal take on the movie - most of my friends disagree with of and insist its a much better movie than the rating I am giving. But then after all, its my blog - I can say whatever I want :D

I would be extremely interested in hearing what you have to say about Luck By Chance - leave some comments if you agree or disagree.

I thought I would put in some words about Fun Cinemas as well - I watched it in Fun Republic, Andheri. We had a 25 min intermission in the movie - we were regaled with 4 full length Ghajini songs (audio only) before a barrage of video commercials. One or two commercials in a movie is the regular practice and is tolerable (even the supremely irritating HDFC Insurance ads). But at Fun Cinemas, it feels more like watching tv movie on Friday night - there is atleast 15 commercials shown after the 10 min intermission (note after, not between). And the same happened when we had watched 'The President is Coming' too. If I have to watch all these commercials, I might as well watch tv at home for free. Why should I pay Rs. 280 and then watch all this crap ? So take my advice and skip Fun Cinemas if you have a choice - if not, you have been forewarned
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