Dear Zindagi- Movie Review by Ram Anand

Dear Zindagi is a promise that delivered.

It does not trivialise the fears, tears and the breakdowns that Kiara has. Gauri allows the screenplay to flow, unmasking one fear after another, slowly charting her transformation from a woman who constantly questions her own imperfections to someone who actually embraces them.
Continue reading “Dear Zindagi- Movie Review by Ram Anand”

Chennai Express-Movie Review by Ram Anand

CE delivers exactly what it was supposed to deliver and makes no bones about masala intents. So, if you know what exactly to expect from this film- abandon your brains at the entrance of the threatre and go in for a fun ride. Yes, it is worth the admission price.

When it is Red Chillies, Shah Rukh Khan and Rohit Shetty rolled into a single package called “Chennai Express”, you know you should walk into the theatre expecting loads of fun, some southern masala elements including flying cars, slapstick comedy, and some roaring stupid villains.

So in that sense, there’s nothing to surprise us from what CE delivers over its normal 2 hours 30 minutes duration. The story is about Rahul (Shah Rukh Khan), a 40-year-old who accidentally travels south while wanting to disperse his grandfather’s ashes, and gets involved in a mess caused by Meenama (Deepika Padukone), a southern Tamil girl who is trying to run away from her father, the don of a fictional Komban village, Periyathalai (Sathyaraj).

But one thing about CE that northerners might fail to appreciate is the fact that the movie pays heavy tribute to famous south indian films by literally parodying snippets from many famous southern scenes. There is a scene that parodies a famous comic scene from Rajnikanth’s Muthu, while there is also a scene that parodies Vijay’s heroics in the blockbuster Gilli.

What you have is a film that packs all the punch in a comic way- plenty of colours, well choreographed songs, a gorgeous actress, an underdog hero who wins the woman with courage at the end of the movie, a bunch of goondas who want to kill the hero, and even an item number.

But what sets CE apart from your regular Tamil masala that southerners might be accustomed to is the characterisation of the hero and also the goondas.

Instead of being made as the “winner” and the “saviour”, SRK and Rohit team up to write SRK’s character with such humour quotient that his vociferous dialogue delivery during the climax comes as a pleasant surprise. At times, SRK happily allows Deepika’s quirky Meenama to overshadow him on all levels.

And the goondas provide great humour. The filmmakers’ decision to cast regular south indian actors to play pivotal roles in the movie is one of the best things going for the flick.

Shah Rukh Khan being the able entertainer that he is, pulls this off rather effortlessly. Since his character itself is aged 40, he wasn’t trying too hard to be young, and this adds to Rahul’s charm. Although he does over-act in some sequences at the beginning of the movie, his comic timing is impeccable from the time the movie shifts to the Komban village setting with plenty of southern colours.

Deepika Padukone could have spoken better Tamil (or maybe an actress who knew actual Tamil), but there’s no denying that she is the superstar among all Bollywood actresses currently. Her screen presence lights up the whole movie, and her own comic timing almost matches the much more experienced SRK.

Vishal Shekhar’s music is not the best they could deliver, but still a couple of numbers stand out- Titli was beautiful and Kashmir Kanyakumari was also sweet to the ears thrown in with a pleasant choreography. The song 1,2,3,4, though not fully in tune with southern beats, is a pleasant watch thanks to the sizzling screen presence of Priyamani.

Rohit Shetty deserves praise for carving out a tight screenplay without adding any unnecessary masala elements- in fact, the first song of the film does not arrive until a quarter into the movie. CE hardly has a boring moment as a result of the well-worked screenplay.

CE delivers exactly what it was supposed to deliver and makes no bones about masala intents. So, if you know what exactly to expect from this film- abandon your brains at the entrance of the threatre and go in for a fun ride. Yes, it is worth the admission price.

Highs: SRK comic timing, Deepika Padukone, Cinematography, Choreography, Dialogues, Screenplay.

Lows: No-brainer story, no suspense element, Sathyaraj under-utilised, a catchy yet unrelated Lungi Dance, and some moments of over-acting by SRK in the first half.

Rating: 7.5/10

Best of the decade- Hindi cinema

TAsB takes a look at the ten best films of the decade in Hindi cinema, or known more popularly known as Bollywood.

It’s Deepavali eve, and I have completed my compilation of ten best movies of the past decade in Bollywood. However, in order to remain true to the spirit of Indian cinema, I’m calling this Hindi cinema and not by its cheap moniker called Bollywood. There are notable absentees in this list, the most telling one being Ashutosh Gowariker’s ‘Lagaan’ and Deepa Mehta’s ‘Water’, both which were highly acclaimed and got close to Oscar glory.

I have also left out Kamal Hassan’s masterpiece ‘Hey Ram’ because I have already featured it in my Tamil-language compilation. Otherwise, ‘Hey Ram’ clearly has a special place somewhere beyond this following list.

10. Black (2005)

Director: Sanjay Leela Bhansali

Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Rani Mukherji.

Plenty of critics would argue that this film deserves to be higher up the ranking, or maybe even in a no.1 position. But I have always maintained that you can’t simply call a film ‘the best’ because it attempts to be different or features very unique performances alone. The main reason why Black only got as far as no.10 in my list is because the film can get a little slow in narration at times and it takes a patient viewer to enjoy it, and even more patient to be able to enjoy repetitive viewing.

Black tells the story of a blind and deaf Anglo-Indian girl, whose family contemplate sending her to the school for special kids until they hire an erratic old teacher from a special kids’ school to personally tutor their out-of-control daughter. What follows is a series of events that tightens the special bond between tutor and protégé, and when the old man starts suffering from Alzheimer’s, his protégé takes it upon herself to help him recuperate.

The film’s features some of the best performances of the decade, especially from Rani Mukherji who played the role of a blind and deaf woman. Amitabh matches her with his brilliant performance as an erratic teacher who later has Alzheimer’s. Sanjay Leela Bhansali, the king of melodrama, allows the film to flow on its own, and his choice of location and backdrop of an Anglo-Indian family also suits the film perfectly.

Black is an aesthetically rich film that will delight any cinemagoer, and deserved all the awards that came its way. And it is by far SLB’s career best work.

9. Delhi-6 (2009)

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Sonam Kapoor, Waheeda Rahman.

This movie had a mixed reception when it came out, but in my opinion, a clearly re-hashed ending does not mean that Delhi-6 becomes any less awesome than it is. Many people might have gone to the theatres expecting to see another ‘Rang de Basanti’, but just because the movie does not feature action and aggressive patriotism does not mean that it lacks soul. In fact, if you could appreciate the subtlety, it has more soul than most movies put together.

The movie is about an American NRI who accompanies his ailing grandmother back to her old hometown in downtown Delhi. He becomes a passive observer as the different facets of the society unfolds in front of his eyes, from a pair of bickering neighbor brothers, an wannabe actress, and also the nuisance of the ‘Kaala Bandar’, a mysterious monkey-like creature which commits theft and injures people.

The film is best social commentary of the past decade, and probably Indian viewers felt the sting because no other movie attempted to be so honest in stripping naked the hypocrisy of the Indian culture. There is one classic scene when a man glorifies how Lord Rama is equal to all beings but shuns away someone who is from a lower caste in his own society.

Abhishek’s role is that of a passive observer, something that did not go down well with many Indian audiences, but that is the core element of the film, and he plays the role brilliantly. Sonam’s character is slightly annoying but she plays it well. AR Rahman’s musical score is one of the best, even though the movie did not do justice to all those great tracks.

The movie is about loving something despite its imperfections and trying to make a change. Atul Kulkarni’s climax monologue is worth remembering, while the whole allegory to ‘Kaala Bandar’ and how it relates back to the society is also brilliantly written.

8. Dev D (2009)

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Cast: Abhay Deol, Mahi Gill, Kalki Koechlin

At some point of your life, you might have come across a spoilt rich brat, who is an absolute ass, and chose not to be too close to him or her. If you wanted a peek on how their personal life would be like then Dev D is one great watch.

With raw honesty, the film tells the story of a lustful son of a millionaire, who gets heartbroken when his childhood love marries an older rich guy. He turns to alcohol, drugs, and prostitutes- one of them being Saro, a girl who decides to enter the prostitution business after a MMS scandal featuring her making out with her boyfriend spreads like a wildfire, causing shame to her middle class parents, who subsequently disown her.

The film is a modern day adaptation of a classic 1917 novel Devdas, but its modern twist written by Abhay Deol himself along with Anurag Kashyap makes it very much relevant.

With some serious badass acting from all involved, a very straightforward direction, and a cult musical score, this film walked away with plenty of acclaim and also a good box office performance.

7. Taare Zameen Par (Stars On Earth) (2007)

Director: Aamir Khan

Cast: Darsheel Safary, Aamir Khan.

You’ve got to give to Aamir Khan for knowing the exact pulse of his audiences. In hardly unexplored theme, the movie tells the story of a dyslexic kid, whose parents almost lose faith in (not realizing that he is dyslexic), and how his teacher helps him attain that awareness and subsequently play to his strengths.

A simple film that would delight audiences from all walks of life, Taare Zameen Par was like the perfect Disney film, with the right amount of tartness and sweeteness and makes it feel like a small fairytale. There are plenty of emotional scenes, all powered by an excellent performance from child actor Darsheel Safary.

Aamir Khan steers the vessel with immaculate ability in his maiden directorial venture, and also through his dialogues tackles a very essential factor of the Indians’ result-oriented mentality when it comes to education.

6. Omkara (2006)

Director: Vishal Bhardwaj

Cast: Ajay Devgan, Saif Ali Khan, Vivek Oberoi, Kareena Kapoor.

Here, Hindi cinema proved that they make Shakespeare’s work look great even in the celluloid of the much-maligned Bollywood-ish routine. Set in a dry land in Uttar Pradesh, this adaptation of ‘Othello’ is about a local gang leader who chooses one deputy over another to succeed him.

The left out deputy hatches a devious plot to incite hatred and jealousy among his leader, his first deputy and also his leader’s ladylove, resulting in a tragic ending for all involved.

The setting and backdrop helps the film a great deal, bringing out the dark mood that is maintained throughout, while the star-studded cast does not disappoint one bit. Vishal Bhardwaj’s script is the work of a genius and pays genuine tribute to Shakespeare’s work.

5. Guru (2007)

Director: Mani Ratnam

Cast: Abhishek Bachchan, Aishwarya Rai.

Guru, by a distance is not Mani Ratnam’s finest but it certainly is Abhishek Bachchan’s best performance to date. In a decade where Bollywood had moved to multi-starrers, dual roles and stretching performances had gone out of trend. That was until Abhishek made his critics eat their own words by displaying so many different shades in a narration, which documented a man’s rise from the age of 30 till he was 60.

The film told the story of an industrialist wannabe who starts his life in Mumbai as virtually a nobody but works his way up, by sometimes being ruthless and cunning, but ultimately creating an industry that helped created thousands of job opportunities, at the expense of some very personal losses.

Abhishek was meteoric in the lead performance, and so was Aishwarya, who played the role of his older but fiercely loyal wife. The film had an ensemble startcast, and everyone else, including Madhavan and Vidya Balan did justice to their well written but rather short parts.

The master filmmaker that is Mani Ratnam has written many scenes that are worth applauding, and that is reason enough to make this an excellent film.

4. Chak de India (Buck up India) (2007)

Director: Shimit Amin

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Malvade

Definitely not your typical Shahrukh movie, as it did not come with incredible hype like most SRK films do, but it definitely made a wave at both of the box office and among critics. One of the most likeable films of the decade, Chak de was a sports film with a difference.

The film told the story of a disgraced former Indian national hockey team captain, who attempts to make a comeback by coaching the national women’s team to World Cup glory.

The film is extremely well shot, as all the actors genuinely practiced hockey and the hockey game scenes were shot with great authenticity. Sharukh delivers an incredible performance, somewhat restrained as the bearded, disgraced coach trying to redeem his pride. The film does not have the typical song-and-dance routine but is instead a simply well made sports film. Easily Hindi cinema’s best sports film of the decade.

3. 3 Idiots (2009)

Director: Rajkumar Hirani

Cast: Aamir Khan, R Madhavan, Sharman Joshi

A loose adaptation of Chetan Bhagat’s novel, 3 Idiots upon release went on to make an absolute splash for an entire generation. This is a movie that was a massive cult hit, with the dialogues still reverberating among the younger Indian generation until now.

The film told the story of an off-the-beat student at a highly respected engineering college in India, whose dean is a strict disciplinarian. This student comes in and changes the whole complexion of the education system there- he does things creatively with plenty of hands-on approaches yet still becomes a class topper. He befriends two of the lowest ranked students in the class, both of whom do not feel like they belong at the institute at the first place. And this results in a comical merry go round.

This film is a tale of friendship, love, and above all celebrates a different form of education, one that is less rigid and more expressive. The film has everything- from rich visuals, plenty of genuinely funny moments, some great acting, and plenty of evergreen dialogues.

Watching this would definitely make your day and make you want to come back to the film. A masterpiece, and a movie of a generation.

2. Rang de Basanti (Paint it Saffron) (2005)

Director: Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra

Cast: Aamir Khan, R Madhavan, Soha Ali Khan, Kunal Kapoor, Siddharth.

Another massive cult hit. RDB told the story of five carefree youths who get extremely frustrated and takes up arms after an army pilot friend of theirs dies in a plane crash but is later labeled by a corrupt minister as a bad pilot in order to hide his own corrupt practices.

Exquisitely written and directed with panache, the film moved an entire generation when it came out. There are scenes that will make you weep, and no film in the past decade highlighted the pain of losing a loved one better than this film. The frustrations that drives these youths over the edge is also highly relatable. The ensemble cast is perfect, everyone do an excellent job, including Madhavan, who made a simple cameo but left the greatest impact.

Siddharth does his role so well that he overshadows the veteran Aamir Khan himself. Rakesh Mehra’s direction, embedded with AR Rahman’s fresh musical score, all worked in favor of the film. Hardly a single flaw existed in the whole movie. A class above.

1. Swades (Motherland) (2004)

Director: Ashutosh Gowariker

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Gayatri Joshi.

The film gives a feel of nostalgia. Ashutosh, the director, has not made a good film for nearly four years now and has completely dropped off the radar, while Gayatri Joshi became a one-film wonder. This was the one and only film in which she acted, leaving the audiences wanting for more. The bertrayal of the decade is the fact that this movie flopped at the box office. But it subsequently became a cult flick, attracting an almost universal critical acclaim.

Patriotism never had a better advert than the story of a NASA scientist who falls in love with the deepest, most rundown areas of India. The film had some gut wrenching scenes that depicted poverty in India, but at the same time celebrated the sense of culture that exists in the country and the sense of purpose that the scientist finds back in his motherland. Shah Rukh Khan, sans his typical machoness, proves that he can act according to the script alone with a very controlled performance that bought tears and memories for plenty other NRIs all over the world.

‘Yun Hi Chala’ was the best music video in the industry over the past decade, while AR Rahman’s subtle musical score makes it, in my opinion, the best album in Hindi cinema history.

A story about humanity will always remain strong in the memories of people. The true masterpiece of the decade.

Top 10 Bollywood films in the last decade- Part 1

As 2010 reaches a crescendo, I am doing this compilation:

10. Taare Zameen Par (Stars on earth)- 2007

Cast: Aamir Khan, Darsheel Safary

Writer: Amole Gupte

Director: Aamir Khan

Brief synopsis:

Ishaan is the 8-year-old son of a regular, excellence-chasing middle-class urban family in Mumbai. Often overshadowed by his elder brother who excels in his studies, Ishaan struggles to reach similar academic heights but instead indulges himself in his own world of imagination. He paints, he creates scrapbooks, and he has fondness for small creatures.

Disillusioned by what they perceive to be Ishaan’s lack of discipline, the parents send him off to a boarding school, where a newly instated art teacher Ram recognizes that Ishaan suffers from dyslexia.

The subsequent story centers on how Ram tries to help cure Ishaan and at the same time raise awareness among his ever-demanding parents and teachers.

This film was definitely the flavor of the year as it was sent as India’s official entry for the Academy Awards. Backed by Amole Gupte’s taut script and Aamir’s assured commandeering in what was the popular actor’s directorial debut, the film works mainly because of child artist Darsheel’s excellent performance and also Aamir’s willingness to take a back seat while allowing Darsheel’s character remain the focus.

Great lyrics and also a very good score by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy back up the film, where most of the songs manage to heighten the emotional experience of watching the film.

The film gives the viewer a fulfilling cinematic experience, and was also the first film in Bollywood to touch upon the topic of dyslexia. The film also explores another important element, which is the demanding nature of the current Indian education system, and how art is being ignored and often considered to be not important.

IMDb rating: 8.3/10 (after 10,000 odd votes)

9. Dev D (2009)

Cast: Abhay Deol, Kalki Koechlin, Mahi Gill

Director: Anurag Kashyap

Writer: Anurag Kashyap, Vikramaditya Motwane, and Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay (the author of Devdas, upon which the film was based on)

Brief synopsis:

The film is a modern day adaptation of Sharat Chandra’s famous 1917 Bengali novel Devdas.

Dev is the spoilt son of rich man from Punjab. He has a childhood sweetheart named Paro, whom he uses at his own will. He flirts with other girls, and yet chides her hesitancy to engage in sexual activities with him.

When Dev hears rumors about Paro two-timing him, he believes them and ditches Paro within the blink of an eye. Enraged, Paro opts to marry an elderly man chosen by her family. It begins to dawn on Dev that the rumors are false, and it turns him into an alcoholic while trying to live with the fact that she is now married.

At the same time he runs into Chanda, who is a young prostitute who ended up in the profession after a MMS scandal with her boyfriend drove her to the cities.

The story centers on how Dev attempts to curb his alcoholism and also his drug addictiveness, and at the same time tries to make amends with Paro.

The film stands out because, just like above, it is an attempt never heard of in Indian cinema prior to that. Director Anurag Kashyap, already known for his outspoken and bold nature, takes his boldness to a new level by narrating the story of the Generation X and how a story like Devdas would be if it takes place in the present society.

Anurag dwells on prostitution, MMS scandals, school-time sex, lust desires, drugs and alcoholism in the current day society, all without compromising.

Abhay Deol looks the part as a lost, rich brat, as so do all the other characters. Dev D is the story of real characters that exist in our everyday life- real characters that we distance ourselves from, characters that are far from good.

Dev D is the story of people we love to hate.

Amit Trivedi’s 18 tracks and the catchy ‘Emosanal Attyachar’ remains a cult song to date.

IMDb rating: 8/10 (after 5,000 votes)

8. Chak De India (Buck up India)- 2007

Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Vidya Malvade

Writer: Jaideep Sahni

Director: Shimit Amin

Brief synopsis:

Kabir Khan is a former Indian men’s hockey team captain. After missing a penalty stroke in the dying moments, allowing arch-rivals Pakistan to win a tournament back in his playing days, he retired from the sport and went back to his ancestral homeland.

Realizing that the Indian women’s hockey team is in a mess, Kabir senses the opportunity to redeem himself, by offering his services to coach the women’s team ahead of the forthcoming Commonwealth Games.

The film centers on Kabir’s struggles as he tries to find the right players and breed the right attitude among them.

The film was inspired by the true events in the 2002 Commonwealth Games, when the Indian women’s hockey team claimed gold medal against the odds.

The film’s strength is that it doesn’t stop at being a sports film and a film about national spirit. But instead, the film explores other issues such as religious bigotry, prejudice and most importantly sexist, chauvinistic mentalities in the country.

Jaideep Sahni’s script is almost immaculate, and the man Shah Rukh Khan himself proves his caliber as an actor with an excellent performance while carrying the film almost entirely on his shoulders, sans any of his renowned romancing or duets.

Shimit Amin directs without compromising nor exaggerating any of the film’s finer details, as the hockey scenes come across as the most realistic sports scenes ever shot in Indian cinema.

IMDb rating: 8/10 (after 5,000 odd votes)

To be continued in Part 2.