6 Points: Angry Birds

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Saw Angry Birds the day it released in India. Why? Because it’s the one game that I’ve played the most ever since I got my first Android phone, while pointing and laughing at the iPhone owners who had to pay to play the game.

  1. The movie is irreverent if you pay attention. Pigs which are green. With that beard. Well, it won’t be seen in the areas where this would be a problem, because I’m sure it’s already banned there.
  2. Puns galore. Using pig wherever it’s supposed to be big, ham and eggs, a movie starring Kevin Bacon, it’s all over the place, and it’s well done.
  3. What a world! Birds who can’t fly, and pigs who do. Well made, and lovely.
  4. Back to irreverence, the legend, the hero, the eagle is, [Almost a spoiler] well as far from a hero as you can be without actually being a villain.
  5. It’s got baby birds. Who are like the cutest little things in existence. Even grown up birds look cute, just imagine babies of those cute things. Big shiny eyes, squeaky voices, and an occasional shout out to their dinosaur heritage (you’ll know it when you see it), makes this a cute-fest.
  6. And finally, seeing a Hollywood studio movie made out of a video game that is made by a runaway startup from the era we’re in – that’s a rush!

The Babi & The Bhabhi

A scene from Kaalia:

In the year 1981 sir, Mr Big B took Parveen Babi to meet Asha Parekh the Bhabhi. The occasion was to make Babi meet bhabhi for the first time sir. Asha Parekh the bhabhi wanted to judge Parveen the Babi over her housekeeping skills, confusing both Big B and Babi. So Bhabhi asks Babi what she can cook. Babi, who cannot cook, looked helplessly at Bhabhi and Big B, who lied to Bhabhi that Babi can cook everything, especially an omelette. Bhabhi looked at Babi, Babi looked at Bhabhi, and went ahead with what Big B suggested, because of the confusion. Babi took an egg, took a knife, and looked at Big B. Big made gestures to Babi to break the egg with the knife, but Babi kept confusing the gesture, and tried to cut the egg. Big B kept gesturing, Babi kept confusing, and Bhabhi kept looking with more confusion at both Big B and Babi. When this had gone on for a few times, Big B in confused desperation banged his head with his palm, sir, and Babi, misconstruing the frustration as instruction, banged the her head with her palm holding the egg!

The egg was now on Babi’s forehead, Big B was scared, and Bhabhi, having understood the situation, accepted Babi as Big B’s wife.

Phew.

6 points: Nil Battey Sannata

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A simple small-town film with simple small-world issues. And a hard-hitting question: Doctor ka beta doctor, engineer ka beta engineer,… will the world go on like this? And are our dreams really supposed to be crippled by our current means?

This film was a breath of fresh air, in its treatment and its sensitivity. Money well spent. And here are the 6 points once more:

  1. I loved maths in school. I was probably the geeky chap who was teaching everyone and spouting off one-liners about loving maths and finding answers within questions. Nevertheless, the film connected with me. And if it connected with a math-lover like me, कुछ तो बात होगी.
  2. The film stands on the shoulders of four performances – Swara Bhaskar, not a false step as a conscientious and aware but undereducated young mother-cum-maid (and never have I seen her get a local accent wrong!), Ria Shukla, the ambitionless but street-smart daughter, believable to the extent that you hate her throughout, Pankaj Tripathi, a revelation as the polite teacher who comes with his own cute quirkiness, and Ratna Pathak Shah, in the tried and tested affluent but down to earth and helpful matriarchal figure.
  3. The music reminded me of the style that we know as the signature of Amit Trivedi in places, but isn’t by him.
  4. Agra! Never seen it so beautifully captured. The Taj makes an appearance in only a handful of scenes, but the city is still presented so tastefully – the bylanes, the bungalows, the city’s bustle, and the river flats (I remember seeing such terrain from the window during train journeys as a kid) – everything’s beautiful.
  5. The film stretches a bit in the second half. The challenges keep mounting, and the resolution stays a little out of reach. But in the end, what the protagonist achieves isn’t Hindi-film style absolute success, but just enough to validate her outlook of dreaming beyond what she’s capable of.
  6. The film does get preachy at times, though I understand it’s par for course for such a film. The math geek’s dialogues make him appear a bit too wise. The moment that changes the daughter’s heart is literally in your face struggle porn. And the final scene where the mother explains to the daughter about having a dream went a bit too long, and repetitive.

6 Points: Fan

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A film with two Shah Rukh Khans – one of them is the SRK as he appears in real life, and the other is the SRK from his early movies we all starting loving him from. On to the usual 6 points.

  1. The obvious: Wow it’s got two-two SRKs! And not like Duplicate, where the plot was furthered purely on them looking identical. Here SRK-2 has to take extra pains to pass for SRK-1. Well, the film crew took extra pains to make SRK look non-SRK. Inconsistencies on Gaurav’s look in some frames aside, thumbs up for pulling this off. While Gaurav Chandna looks every bit the 20-something Delhi boy whose mannerisms are like an early lanky SRK playing the 20-something local boy, and who sometimes turns into “indistinguishable from Aryan Khanna” when he intends to (i.e. when he goes “kar ke dikhata hoon“), SRK the real one impresses as being the larger than life, accomplished star that he is, right from his first frame. And Aryan Khanna isn’t shown as a do-gooder, made of the first snow, purely innocent victim here – he has feet of clay, he isn’t perfect, and he could have done a few things in a different way to avoid everything that followed. It’s difficult to root for either of them consistently – which makes it more interesting.
  2. It’s a thriller: The chase sequences, while thrilling, are too long and over the top. Each one of them. The end could have been way way shorter. Also, when we’re watching a film about a film star and a fan, it’s hard to suspend our disbelief when they’re both performing stunts fit for James Bond in every third scene.
  3. The ladies: Shriya Pilgaonkar, Sayani Gupta, Waluscha Dsouza, are present, noticeable, and do well in a film with two SRKs. No mean feat, especially for first-timers(?).
  4. My Name Is Khanna: SRK plays up his “chip on the shoulder with foreign law enforcement” bit again. The dialogues between Aryan and the interrogating police officer, and with the filthy-rich-NRI-patron are fun to watch. In fact, Aryan’s arrogant, borderline obnoxious wit makes him more real.
  5. The Brother: The mimicry of a contemporary actor (and I’m not telling you whom, go watch) is just accurate enough to become uncanny, and by the time you recognise it, it’s gone. Just shows that SRK can act, even when he’s not supposed to act like SRK.
  6. Comparisons with “originals”: I’ve seen The King of Comedy, and I’ve read the story of The Fan. SRK pulls off… wait… he isn’t even trying to pull off a DeNiro here. The archetype of the story has to be similar, but the writer and director have localised the context so much, that it’s an original in its own right (I haven’t yet watched The Fan, so don’t know if sequences, frames et al have been lifted). If you are going to ask Maneesh Sharma and Habib Faisal if this is inspired from the other two, and they say they came up with the story on their own, I’m going to believe them, whether you do or not.

If you were looking for a review of the film, this wasn’t it. You should be reading Rahul Desai’s blog for that.

Also, here are three jokes around Fan that have been floating around, verbatim. I’m looking for three more jokes to complete the list, so if you have any, please comment:

  1. “SRK’s fans are watching SRK’s Fan where SRK is SRK’s fan who tries to kill SRK’s fan [sic] coz SRK’s fan tried tokill SRK, Fan is Indian Inception”
  2. Watching ‘FAN’ right now. It’s just amazing and mind blowing. I will give it three stars out of five. You can also watch it live at your place. Just switch it on and it will start revolving [sic] at an amazing speed on the top of your roof [sic]!! 😃
  3. Kamal Haasan watches Fan. Decides to remake it. Adds a couple of more lookalikes to the film. Multiple fans against one star. – Rony D’Costa

6 points: जंगल बुक (The Jungle Book)

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“जंगल-जंगल पता चला है, चड्डी पहन के फूल खिला है…”

कुछ दिन पहले डिज़्नी के नये जंगल बुक का हिन्दी ट्रेलर आया, गुलज़ार-विशाल के २० साल पुराने गाने के नये रूप के साथ. और मेरी उमर के आस-पास के सारे लोग सारे दिन इसी ट्रेलर को बार-बार-बार देखते रहे, और रोमांच का अनुभव करते रहे.

तो ये तो तय था कि फिल्म आते ही देखनी है. और हिन्दी में देखनी है. तो देखी, और ये रहे ६ पाइंट.

  1. फिल्म लाजवाब है. एक सेकंड के लिये भी मैं अपनी आँखें स्क्रीन से हटा नहीं पाया. और कहीं भी ऐसा लगा ही नहीं कि मोगली का किरदार एक जीते-जागते हाड़-माँस के लड़के ने निभाया है पर उन्हीं फ्रेम्स में जो भालू, तेंदुआ, भेड़िये इत्यादि हैं वह कंप्यूटर पर बनाये गये हैं.
  2. इफेक्ट्स मज़ेदार हैं. फिल्म ३डी में देखने लायक है, और कई ऐसे सीन हैं, जहाँ ३डी का प्रयोग कमाल का है.
  3. जिन्होंने ९० के दशक में दूरदर्शन पर आने वाला जापानी जंगल बुक देखा था, वे ज़रा अलग रूप की कहानी जानते हैं, पर ये फिल्म डिज़्नी की है, और डिज़्नी की कहानी पर ही चलती है.
  4. लेकिन, शेर खान के डायलॉग फिर से नाना पाटेकर की आवाज़ में सुनकर बचपन वापस आता-सा लगता है. इस के अलावा ओम पुरी का बघीरा, इरफ़ान का बलू, और प्रियंका चोपड़ा की का (एक हाल ही की निकम्मी सी फिल्म के नाम जैसा ये केवल संयोग से सुनाई पड़ता है), और बग्स भार्गव के किंग लूई के डायलॉग भी बेहद सटीक और मज़ेदार हैं – ऐसा लगता ही नहीं कि फिल्म अंग्रेजी में बना कर हिन्दी में केवल डब की गयी है. इस के अलावा मोगली के रूप में नील सेठी बहुत ही उम्दा है.
  5. मैं अंत तक हॉल में खड़ा रहा, ताकि “जंगल-जंगल बात चली है…” एक बार बड़े परदे पर देख सकूं, लेकिन मुझे निराश लौटना पड़ा. ये गीत फिल्म में नहीं है. लेकिन आखिर के क्रेडिट्स देखने लायक हैं.
  6. जिन्होंने १९६७ वाली डिज़्नी की जंगल बुक देखी है, उन्हें बलू और मोगली का गीत “बेयर नेसेसिटीज़” तो याद ही होगा. इस फिल्म में भी वही गीत है, पर चूंकि मैंने फिल्म हिन्दी में देखी, ये गाना भी हिन्दी में है, और मज़ेदार है. आखिर के क्रेडिट्स में किंग लूई वाला गाना दोहराया गया है, पर एनिमेशन बड़ा ही दिलचस्प है.

6 points: Kung Fu Panda 3

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Kung Fu Panda 3 is probably one of the most awaited sequels ever. With the awesomeness KFP1 and KFP2 were, we were all eagerly waiting for KFP3. So here’re the 6 points (might contain spoilers):

  1. Who am I?: I had thought that Po’s journey of self-discovery so far had already made him awesome. This movie imparts the same message, but applies it to almost everyone. Watch it to find out.
  2. The dads: Love the two dads angle. They have also played out the “Who is Po’s real father” joke on full-blast this time. This includes the part where Po and his goose dad find out things about each other for the first time.
  3. So many pandas = so much more awesomeness!
  4. The spirit realm sequences were mind-blowing. And (spoiler!) so was the dragon!!!
  5. (Big spoiler: Beware!) What’s more beautiful was the part where they show Po’s real father having feet of clay – he was just a parent wanting to be together with his long-lost son.
  6. There’s something that does seem right, but not logical with the fantasy segment towards the end – how do people who have no idea of how to do things they have just heard of do it in one attempt when they just will it? But on a deeper level, this is probably how it is – they’re dealing with the spirit realm and inner powers after all – if you’ve been in a meditation session, you would know the feeling I’m talking about.

6 Points: Dawn of Justice

Here’s me starting a new series of posts about new movies I see. I’m going to write down the top 6 things I feel or think about the film. These won’t be reviews, just what I think. You’re free to take them to the bank if you wish, but don’t ask me why the tellers are laughing at you.

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  1. We didn’t sit through the entire film. During the interval we just decided we should save our precious time and go home to watch Friends reruns.
  2. All the characters are flat. All of them. This includes Batman/Bruce Wayne, Superman/Clark Kent, the only sarcastic Alfred, Lois Lane, and the perennially angry editor Perry White.
  3. Lex Luthor’s character is the only one with some semblance of depth, but he’s like a lukewarm weird-tasting cup of tea when you were expecting a cup of chamomile.
  4. It seemed like I am seeing a story with three villains – Batman, Superman, and Lex Luthor. And the only character I could root for was good ol’ Alexander.
  5. Bruce Wayne and Clark Kent are both like high school rivals, trying to undermine each other through whatever means they have at hand. It looks stupid and boring.
  6. The most enjoyable part of the film was the awesome trailer of Suicide Squad. Now that’s a movie I am looking forward to!

Now that…

1.
I rinse the toothbrush and put it away. While the coffee is dripping in the kitchen, I apply shaving foam on my face, and examine the blade. No rust yet. Just a few hairs from the last time. I open the tap, put the blade under it, and look up at the mirror to see my face under the small fluorescent lamp.

And I think, if only I was holding a cigarette between my lips, this could be a scene from an award-winning movie.

2.
Travelling in the Metro, I see a formally-dressed executive, talking to someone on the cellphone. Just behind him, I spot a woman and her son sitting near the window, and talking about the day ahead, in Marathi.

And I think, where are the subtitles?

3.
I see people standing outside a lift in our building, and I instinctively go and ask one person – is it a queue for people with the SMS?

Now that MAMI is over once again, I need a fix of more movies. Sigh, withdrawal symptoms.

MAMI-2 Day 1 & 2

If you’ve seen Haider, and you’re cringing at the title of this post, please relax.

It just means that this is the second MAMI/MFF I am attending 🙂

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Day 1: Started with probably the best film I’ve seen this year. Avinash Arun’s Killa is visually stunning, and far more immersive as a story. The scenes are taken to great heights by the performances of the entire cast – especially the kids in the school. A story of adolescence, struggling with moving to a new place, loss, fear of abandonment, not being understood, finding friends, then finding strength, layered with beautiful frames, and music that’s beautiful but never gets in your way. And at many times, I am reminded that segments of this film could very well be a teenage Dil Chahta Hai :). Don’t miss it anywhere you get a chance to see it.

The second movie I walked in to, was Mrityunjay Devvrat’s Children of War. I had seen its trailer a few months back, and was intrigued by the star cast (Farooq Shaikh, Victor Banerjee, Pavan Malhotra, Raima Sen, Tilottama Shome). I walked into the screen around half an hour late (because Killa was rescheduled to an hour after the initial time), but got the gist of the movie in a dialogue Pavan Malhotra (playing a military man from West Pakistan) mouths. I stayed for a half hour after that, but could not sit much longer. Perhaps it was because the contrast in the approaches between Killa and CoW was so stark. That half an hour was full of loud background music, dialogues delivered with strange pauses, extra expositing dialogues, and lots of melodrama. I decided to not let my headache increase and walked out.

Day 2: Güeros apparently is a slur in Mexico. It means a pale man. And many times in the movie, calling someone pale is deemed as a mild insult. Alonso Ruiz Palacios’ Güeros touches upon various conflict of urban Mexican society along with many many other subjects, related to the characters’ lives as well as with art and education in the country. But what’s more delightful than the treatment of these subjects, or the black-and-white and four-by-three frames, or the music that could change Mexican rock that the audience never gets to hear, or the ‘tiger’, or the semi-parasitic relationship our protagonists have with the unsuspecting little girl who’s their neighbour, is the self-effacing approach the film takes – it just dissipates whatever tension is built up because of a character going on a deep self-discovery monologue or a deep political discussion between the characters by taking a totally unexpected and hilarious route. And quite a few times, it appears as if the characters are making a commentary on the film they themselves are acting in, which gave me a feeling of them having crossed the boundary of the silver screen and having walked into the theatre amongst us. It’s in a way a road movie, as well as a coming of age movie, as well as a self-discovery movie. Even though the title refers to a pale man, the most important protagonist is the man who’s referred to as the dark one whenever someone is called pale. Watch it for deep thoughtful conversations, and belly-aching laughs.

In the evening, I walked in to Chandan to catch Atom Egoyan’s The Captive. To be honest, I am a sucker for a good thriller. Most of this film ticks off the boxes for one, but the narrative is mostly loose and flaky. I was trying to write off the discrepancies by positing that the film jumps back and forward in time, not exactly like Memento, but in a loose way. The problem still remained that I could not find any anchors or markers for us to realise ‘which’ time we are in at any point in the film. There even was a time when I wondered if Rosario Dawson is playing twins! The performances are strong, but the motives seem half-baked. The created universe of the pedophile ring seems a bit too goody-goody to be sinister and menacing, and the characters are all in set templates of such a thriller, well, except for Rosario Dawson’s Nicole. I was thankful the movie wasn’t too long, but I wouldn’t watch it again. Well, maybe I would, just to understand (spoiler alert) how Nicole manages to appear in a kidnapper’s van one moment, and then investigating in the next frame, and then back in the van later on.

#MFF

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Welcome to the most late-to-the-party post about this year’s Mumbai Film Festival, affectionately called MAMI.

This is the first time I attended the Mumbai Film Festival. Actually it’s my first time at any film festival 🙂 I wasn’t disappointed, overall that is: watching so many movies over one week, discussing them with friends over samosa chaats and sandwiches and cups of tea, all while rushing from one auditorium to the other, is fun. So, here’s the list of movies I saw, in decreasing order of preference.

Paolo Sorrentino’s The Great Beauty (Le Grande Bellezza)
It’s about the life of a writer who’s living the decadent high-life in Rome. It’s visually magnificent, humorous, and thoroughly enjoyable. Maybe the best film I’ve seen in recent times.

Coen Brothers’ Inside Llewyn Davis
A gloomy film about a young folk singer in the Greenwich Village folk scene of the ’60s, who’s struggling to make it big, but can’t catch a break. Well he could be a little less miserable if only he could change the way he was a bit, but he does not.

Fahad Mustafa & Deepti Kakkar’s Powerless / Katiyabaaz
A documentary about the state of power distribution in Kanpur, and the alternate industry called Katiyabaaz this has spawned, it’s a documentary which feels like a drama-comedy-thriller crossover. The characters, played by the real people themselves, talk without help of dialogues, but they might as well have been written & bound in a script, for they evoke all the responses you’d expect from a scripted drama.

Yong-gyun Kim’s Killer Toon / Deo Web-toon: Ye- go Sal-in
Gripping, horrifying, with lots of emotional hooks to keep you glued. The latter half loses the suspense element to give way to lots of exposition, to keep up with the somewhat complicated plot. But a unique concept, and competent direction make it a favourite.

Steven Knight’s Locke
How long can one scene be? How gripping can a very long scene be? Steven Knight shows us that the rules of filmmaking can be ignored/bypassed/broken, and still a fantastic piece of cinema can be made. Locke is a construction professional, who is on his way to London to take care of a one-time mistake he made around a year ago, partly because it’s who he is, and partly because of how his father had behaved in a similar situation years ago. It raises a lot of questions, uncomfortable ones, and doesn’t answer any of them. Just like life.

Amit Masurkar’s Sulemani Keeda
Jane Bhi Do Yaaro hangover? Maybe. Except that this movie does not have any commentary on politics or the state of our country. It’s a light-hearted story of two struggling screenwriters who live in where-else-but-Versova, and their journey – to find work and meaning. Cameos by Mahesh Bhatt, Anil Sharma, and Razzaq Khan, who plays a producer father of a wannabe director son, whose cat is called, what-else-but-Fellini. Also, Aditi Vasudev looks her most stunning here.

Guillaume Brac’s Tonnerre
The only love story that I saw here, albeit an unusual one. A 30-something musician comes visit his father in the small town of Tonnerre, and starts dating a much younger reporter with a local magazine. The girl’s ex-boyfriend is a local sportsman closer to her age. The usual complications in such a situation arise, and juxtaposed with our guy’s relationship & past with his father, it makes for an interesting & gripping story.

Boris Khlebnikov’s A Long and Happy Life / Dolgaya schastlivaya zhizn
A leisurely paced story of a farmer, who’s stuck between the easy way out of giving up his farm for a huge sum of money, or standing up for workers on his farm, who eventually desert him. It’s interesting to observe his psychological condition, from uncertainty, to a sense of purpose, to betrayal and then obstinacy. The performances are good, the story touching, and the Russian countryside looks beautiful throughout the film.

Anup Singh’s Qissa
A film that uses an unbelievable premise and a supernatural twist to tell us a tale which is about a very real problem – of the state of girl children in India. Stellar performances, almost mythical storytelling, and a largely tight screenplay make it a must watch.

Jia Zhangke’s A Touch of Sin / Tian Zhu ding
Four real stories of four different people who didn’t have much to begin with, their struggle to make a living despite that, and how sin enters their lives. It’s so good that the only time I noticed how long it was was at the end of the third story. I had expected it to be the last one.

Nagraj Manjule’s Fandry
Wow for the storytelling. It’s the story of a boy who belongs to the class of untouchables, his one-sided love for a girl way out of his reach, and his struggle to get her amidst all the hardships he faces because of his ‘identity’.

Michel Gondry’s Mood Indigo
It’s Gondry. So it’s absurdism at its best. The story is a pretty simple tragedy – of a man who has everything, finds love, and then loses everything in the process of trying to save her. But it’s visually entertaining with the legs that stretch in curves while dancing, doorbells who run like arachnids when they go off, the mouse who’s suspiciously looks like a tiny man in a mouse suit, the flower that grows inside lungs, and many others, which make an otherwise simple story interesting enough to watch.

Tudor Cristian Jurgiu’s The Japanese Dog / Cainele Japonez
A sweet idyllic movie about the conflict between a father who, against everyone’s advice in his village, is holding on to his land and life in the village hoping for his son’s eventual return, and the son, who’s made a life for himself in faraway Japan with his Japanese wife & son, and how these two worlds reconcile.

J. C. Chandor’s All is Lost
Life of Pi meets Gravity meets Tree of Life? One character who is out sailing in his yacht, and faces the perils of sea. Words are spoken only twice – when the nameless character does a sort of an intro of his voyage, and later when he tries speaking to someone on the radio asking for help. Beautiful camera work. And the character’s arc is in place. But it’s tedious, very tedious. I haven’t looked at my watch so many times in any other movie.

James Gray’s The Immigrant
A thoroughly boring movie, if ever there was one. The only thing bearable was Marion Cotillard’s face, but throughout the movie even she bore the same stiff pained expression of eternal suffering. Throughout the movie I was reminded of Nolan’s The Prestige, because of the period and the palette, but sadly this movie lacks all the humour and charm of The Prestige.