7 Khoon Maaf

After turning several of the Bard’s works into Hindi cinema masterpieces, Vishal Bhardwaj chose to work on an Indian story this time. His choice of Ruskin Bond’s Susanna’s Seven Husbands is consistent with the dark theme of his previous movies. The high decibel promotion of the movie had made all and sundry know that it is about Susanna killing all her husbands and the implication automatically is that it a murder movie or a thriller of sorts. However, 7 Khoon Maaf turns out to be a brooding movie about a woman’s simple desire to find true love – and her sadness at her repeated failures

Of course, this is just a movie and debating on the justification of killing off husbands is completely useless. So leaving that aside, it is quite charming to see the life of an rich Anglo-Indian lady (in what is presumably Panchgani), living in her ancestral bungalow, surrounded by antique furniture, a horse stable and even having a church in her own grounds. She is loyally served by her butler, maid and her father’s old stable-hand throughout her life – even in the inexplicable deaths of her husbands. All the three staff do amazingly well – especially the mute stable-hand/jockey. And without spoiling the fun - the maid is a surprise to say the least.

All the husbands are from different walks of life – and they each represent one unique aspect of the man of Susanna's dreams. But they are all flawed in some way - and it proves fatal for them. Except for John Abraham’s rock star act, all the other husbands perform exceedingly well – never letting you guess how or why it all goes wrong. The standout among them is Annu Kapoor as inspector Keemat Lal and the russian Aleksandr Dyachenko.
[Just to show that women can never be satisfied - unlike men who just want only one thing :D]

Priyanka gives this movie all she has got in acting. Which makes for very engrossing watching. If I had to pick a flaw, it would not be in her acting – but the person that she is. Priyanka is very good looking, and can act fairly well – but she comes across as very straight and open. There is no mystery about her – that intangible mystique – which you just can't fathom, Paeans have been written by poets throughout the ages about this very aura of mystery around women - and Susanna was one character which demanded that mystery. Like Smita Patil did in her times – and what Tabu has in this generation. Tabu would have blown everyone away with this role.

Linking all these stories up is debutante Vivaan Shah as the orphan boy whose schooling Susanna sponsors – and who is also the narrator for the movie. His fresh face somehow lends a little more credence to his story of a childhood crush – and hence contributes significantly to making the story believable.

Vishal Bhardwaj has not pushed any boundaries with 7 Khoon Maaf – which people have come to expect of him given his body of work. It is a linear account of the life of Susanna Anna-Marie Johannes and her loves. As with all of Vishal’s previous works, 7 Khoon Maaf is brooding and dark, but Susanna connects with the viewer much more than any of his previous lead characters. It makes you feel her initial euphoria of getting married, then her despair, and finally her resignation to fate. All of it adds up to a movie with soul.

3 star

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Movies to look out for this week

7 Khoon Maaf [IMDB]

The highly anticipated Vishal Bhardwaj movie adaptation of Susanna's Seven Husbands by Ruskin Bond. It has Priyanka marrying 7 times in the movie as each of her husband seems to die

Cast: Priyanka Chopra, Neil Nitin Mukesh and John Abraham

Direction: Vishal Bhardwaj

Rabbit Hole [IMDB]

Life for a happy couple is turned upside down after their young son dies in an accident. Based on a play by David Lindsay-Abaire

Cast: Nicole Kidman, Aaron Eckhart, Dianne Wiest

Direction: John Cameron Mitchell

Gnomeo & Juliet [IMDB]

Garden gnomes Gnomeo (voice of McAvoy) and Juliet (voice of Blunt) have as many obstacles to overcome as their quasi namesakes when they are caught up in a feud between neighbors

Cast: James McAvoy, Emily Blunt, Maggie Smith

Direction: Kelly Asbury

I Am Number Four [IMDB]

John is an extraordinary teen, masking his true identity and passing as a typical high school student to elude a deadly enemy seeking to destroy him. Three like him have already been killed ... he is Number Four

Cast: Alex Pettyfer, Timothy Olyphant, Dianna Agron

Direction: D.J. Caruso

How Do You Know [IMDB]

After being cut from the USA softball team and feeling a bit past her prime, Lisa finds herself evaluating her life and in the middle of a love triangle, as a corporate guy in crisis competes with her current, baseball-playing beau

Cast: Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd and Owen Wilson

Direction: James L. Brooks

Kaccha Limboo [IMDB]

Bheja Fry's director Sagar Bellary next venture. It is about a teenage kid Shambhu's struggle with adolescence and its associated baggage.

Cast: Bhairavi Goswami, Iravati Harshe, Chinmay Kambli

Direction: Sagar Ballary

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Yeh Saali Zindagi

When I watch gangster capers like Yeh Saali Zindagi, I am never quite sure how to go about reviewing the movie without giving away the essence of it. Because none of these movies have much of a story in the traditional sense. But they make up for the lack of a depth with their moviemaking style – and packing the script with quirky characters

Which Yeh Saali Zindagi has by bucketloads. Beginning with Irrfan Khan, a crooked account par excellence who helps arms dealers, politicians and other unsavoury characters stash away their moolah. He might be exceedingly clever in the ways of the world, but the wiles of women are completely beyond him, as he discovers, hanging from his 30th floor balcony in the opening scene of the movie. Holding the end of the rope is his boss, Saurabh Shukla – who doesn’t think much of the womankind and their wily ways – and nor does he care about his promises to his employees.

The opening scene of the movie might be a bit of a shock to some – given the coarse and vulgar language in it. Sudhir Misra’s writing and editing is crisp – so you have to follow the movie carefully to understand the twists and turns of the script. Those squeamish about vulgar hindi words are better off not watching the movie – and those with weak hindi should probably brush up their abuses. Because the dialogues in Yeh Saali Zindagi are really profane – and all the fun is lost if you don’t understand the dirty jokes – of which there are plenty

The humour is irreverent (and of course very rustic). Death and violence are casually treated, and the background narration by Irrfan adds dry deadpan humour to the proceedings. There are mandatory backstories for most characters – and jumps between them quite abrupt – hence requires full concentration.

Essentially there are two stories running in parallel in the movie – Irrfan & Chitrangada’s love track and Arunoday & Aditi Rao’s marriage track. Irrfan and Chitrangada need no introduction. Arunoday is ex-Cabinet minister Arjun Singh’s grandson while Aditi Rao is the bua from Delhi 6. Both of them are quite the revelation – Arunoday showcasing his good physique and acting and Aditi Rao coming across as quite smouldering despite her cute Nauheed-Cyrusi-looks. Infact there is a constant sexual tension between her and Arunoday, resulting in about a dozen slaps and two dozen liplocks in the movie

But Chitrangada Singh takes all the male attention as the sultry and smoking-hot singer Priti. She forms the linchpin of the movie – not very different from her debut movie Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi – where two men are vying for her charms. The difference is that Yeh Saali Zindagi has a busload of other weirdos – gangster brothers Bade & Chhote, corrupt cop Satbeer and the motley group of henchmen.

This is not Sudhir Misra’s most serious movie by a mile – but the director seems to be having fun here. There script is manic, punctuated by languid frames of Chitrangada - yet there is an air of nonchalance through out the movie which stands it in good stead over other movies of its genre. In comparison, Kaminey feels almost formulaic. And because of its exaggerated eccentricity, this movie will not appeal to everyone. But if you keep up with it, Yeh Saali Zindagi will reward you will a tumultuous thrilling ride packed with a lot of fun.

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Movies to look out for this week

Yeh Saali Zindagi [IMDB]

A gangster caper about a strong-man who wants to do one last big job before settling down with his wife, a gangster who desperately wants to escape from jail, a crooked accountant in love with a unfaithful singer and lots of other desperadoes

Cast: Irfan Khan, Chitrangada Singh, Arunoday Singh

Direction: Sudhir Mishra

Sanctum [IMDB]

An underwater cave diving team experiences a life-threatening crisis during an expedition to the unexplored and least accessible cave system in the world

Cast: Rhys Wakefield, Allison Cratchley, Christopher Baker

Direction: Alister Grierson

Biutiful [IMDB]

Acclaimed director Alejandro Iñárritu's latest movie about the mean side of Barcelona. Nominated for Best Foreign Language oscar and best actor oscar

Cast: Javier Bardem, Maricel Álvarez, Hanaa Bouchaib

Direction: Alejandro González Iñárritu

Inside Job [IMDB]

Takes a closer look at what brought about the financial meltdown. Nominated for best documentary Oscar

Cast: Matt Damon, William Ackman, Daniel Alpert

Direction: Charles Ferguson

Utt Pataang [IMDB]

Another gangster caper, populated by stalwarts like Vinay Pathak and Saurabh Shukla, about a money deal gone wrong and five individuals stuck at one place at one night

Cast: Vinay Pathak, Mona Singh, Mahie Gill

Direction: Srikanth Velagaleti

Alpha and Omega [IMDB]

Two young wolves at opposite ends of their pack's social order are thrown together into a foreign land and need each other to return home, but love complicates everything

Cast: Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci and Justin Long

Direction: Anthony Bell, Ben Gluck

United Six [IMDB]

Six girls in Bangkok, out of desperation and frustation, decided to try and rob an bank. However, they realize that its not quite a cakewalk and quit, only to find the bank was looted and they are the suspects

Cast: Isha Batwe, Daisy Bopanna, Pooja Sharma

Direction: Vishal Aryan Singh

Hum Dono [Rangeen] [IMDB]

A reluctant Mahesh takes the place of his lookalike Major Verma when Major Verma goes missing in action in Burma War. However Mahesh's love life goes for a toss between his girlfriend and Major Verma's wife

Cast: Dev Anand, Nanda, Sadhana

Direction: Amarjeet

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Great Movies of 2010

A little late perhaps, but better late than never (and hey, the oscars are not out yet either). So presenting Bombay Cinephile's list of awesome movies of 2010 (in the order of release)

Big caveat - since the name proudly proclaims the Bambaiya origins of the writer - the list contains movies released in Bombay in the year 2010 (which includes some movies which were released in 2009 worldwide )

Sherlock Holmes
There were three good Robert Downey Jr movies this year - but only one makes the cut. Even with a slightly disappointing mystery, this remarkable adaptation of the classic detective franchise by Guy Ritchie was one of the highlights of this year. The spectacularly visualized super-slo-mo fights, the rapid fire humorous exchanges (bromance?) between Holmes and Watson and the authentic 19th century sets make it a must repeat-watch

Paranormal Activity
The small-budget horror movie that made quite a few bravehearts skip a beat with its potrayal of an always lurking, but never-seen monster that terrorizes a suburban couple in LA. While it takes a while to build up that tension, the pressure mounts rapidly in the end and the sudden ending is sure to leave you shaken. And despite all my bravado, I dont think I want to sit through it again

Road to Sangam
A really touching movie that most people probably never heard about. Yet among the movies listed here, if I had to choose one that everyone should have seen, it would be this movie. A simple god-fearing muslim mechanic finds himself trapped between religion and patriotism when a motor engine that carried Mahatma Gandhi's ashes needs repairs and muslim leaders of his locality have downed shutter as a protest against the government. The writing is almost impossibly nuanced and deceptive, and the movie has many layers. And if you still need some more convincing, Tusshar Gandhi (Mahatma Gandhi's grandson) saw it fit to play himself in the movie for a substantial part.

In Wake Up Sid last year, we saw a wonderful coming-of-age movie - but in the candyfloss world of Yash Raj productions. Striker is raw, gritty, real-world coming-of-age movie, set in the 1980s in the slums of Malvani in Mumbai. A gifted carrom player, shackled by the crime and poverty, strives to make it big in life. Some wonderful cinematography depicting the 1980s era accurately and an award-worthy performance by Ankur Vikal in a supporting role - Striker is one of best kept secrets of 2010.

Up in The Air
After its nominations and awards, Up in The Air really doesnt need any words from me. A moody, melancholy film about a man who fires people for a living - and collects air miles with a passion. Till he meets someone who also collects air miles - and he thinks he has found someone who understands him ...

Love Sex Aur Dhokha
With Love Sex and Dhoka, Dibakar Banerjee has almost cemented his claim as India's coolest director by making this -ing awesome movie. Three stories, which can be approximately called Love, Sex and Dhokha respectively - although each of the three stories has all these three elements individually. The visuals are ultra-realistic (because of extensive use of handycam, spycamera and CCTV footage), actors are remarkably genuine and the twists in the endings are astounding. A definite must-watch movie

Already a recipient of several critics awards in many Bollywood awards ceremonies, Udaan is the other coming-of-age movie in this list. Equally gritty, but much more personal and melancholy than the first one, Udaan feels almost an autobiographical tale about teenage angst and despair under an autocratic father and in an alien land. Slow and brooding, but with an equally liberating and exhilirating end

Tere Bin Laden
The first light-hearted movie in this list. Some loser journalists in Pakistan stumble upon a Osama Bin Laden-lookalike and try to exploit the similarity. Recruiting a rag-tag bunch of friends, they set about making their fake Osama a real one. A genuine laugh out loud situational comedy made memorable with the Urdu-Punjabi mix and the antics of the murga Sikandar.

Again, gazillions of pages have been devoted to the enigma called Inception and I feel really incapable of saying anything that hasnt been said. The gifted director Christopher Nolan toys with the audiences, showing them a convulted story of dreams within dreams - where nothing is what it seems. And to top it all, he leaves a somewhat ambiguous ending - setting up the basis for heated arguments all around the planet. Intriguing and devilishly-clever

Peepli Live
Aamir Khan's first production which didnt have him acting. Peepli Live was a sensitive (and sarcastic) take on the hardships faced by farmers and the ridiculous extents our news media will go to cover a juicy story. In this case, it was the carrot of a live suicide of a farmer under a pile of debt. As the media frenzy increases, the Natha's home becomes a battleground/circus for various reporters and political parties. Yet, debutante director Anusha Rizvi ends the movie on a surprisingly nuanced and haunting note. A touching story which succeeds in making you think

Do Dooni Char
A touching middle-class story that harks back to the days of Hrishikesh Mukherjee and Amol Palekar movies. Do Dooni Char stars Rishi Kapoor as a middle-aged maths teacher, who like other middle class families, just barely makes ends meet. But when he decides he wants to buy a car, it sets of a chain of events which ends in reaffirming family ties and one happy Duggal family. Rishi and Neetu Kapor as Mr and Mrs Duggal make this movie super special - and a must watch

The Social Network
A movie that is more of a documentary rather than a feature film, follows the birth and rise of www.facebook.com and tells us the story of its founder Mark Zuckerberg. We get the inside story about how facebook might not be Zuckerberg's idea at all - and how alienated (and mistreated?) some of his closest aides. A fascinating docu-drama, with crisp dialogues and an enigma called Mark Zuckerberg

Phas Gaya Re Obama
Phas Gaye Re Obama happens to be another biting sarcasm, about the cottage industry of kidnapping in the hindi heartland of India. A down-on-his-luck NRI gets kidnapped by cash-strapped kidnappers languishing in the recession aftermath. However, there are bigger fish in the waters and a NRI is too good a bait to let go. Phas Gaye Re Obama is a delightful play on the subprime crisis, with some subtle comic situations and some outrageous guffaws. All culminating in a very intelligent ending.

Band Baaja Baaraat
And finally, my most favorite movie of this year ! A bollywood love story of two colourful individuals who are complete opposites - yet inevitably get attracted to each other. Filmed amidst the riotous colours of Delhi weddings and with catchy songs, Anushka Sharma and debutante Ranveer Singh steal hearts with their performances. And you go home with a wide smile plastered on your face

Honorable mentions

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