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Rann February 5, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Ramu’s take on the media looks more like a Bhandarkar-esque affair – still it works because the film doesn’t compel you to take it seriously. This is a theme whose Bollywoodization was long overdue and even if the end result seems inexcusably dumbed-down, it is still fairly engaging. I actually loved Paresh Rawal as the vile politician – it’s been so long since he has played a role like this. Even though it is hands down the most throwback eighties character you’ve probably seen on screen these days.

My favorite nevertheless was Mohnish Behl – as the scheming head-honcho of a news channel he is top class – would love to see him more on the big screen. Sudeep, Suchitra and Rajpal Yadav are also impressive. Surprisingly the lead characters – Amitabh and Ritesh are the most uninteresting characters of the entire enterprise. The latter especially plays the dumbest investigative journalist ever – somebody please tell him that there is a silent mode on a cell phone, a rear view mirror to a car and that it is possible to make copies of DVDs.

Rann is far from being among RGV’s better films, still it makes the cut when you compare it with his more recent ventures. Worth a look.

Delhi-6 February 23, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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The experience of watching Delhi-6 goes something like this – Imagine that Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra promised to take you on a trip to the moon. This wonderful trip through space seems to be going fine and when you finally see yourself approaching the destination, he jettisons you off into outer space (the advantage in this case being that you can actually come back home). Now no matter how much you want to curse him for throwing you off you still cannot discount the unforgettable journey till that point. That for you is Delhi-6 condensed in a few lines – the must-watch disappointing flick of the year.

The film for most part is a satirical black comedy centered around the family and friends of an NRI Roshan (Abhishek Bachchan), who agrees to accompany her dying grandmother (Waheeda Rehman) to Delhi where she wants to live with her kith and kin until her final moment. This extended circle of family and friends incidentally turns out to be one amazing ensemble of a supporting cast who bring the streets of Delhi alive. The main premise makes use of the (in)famous “Monkey-man” (Kala Bandar) series of incidents which occurred about 6 years back. You realize as the film progresses that the use of this peg is mainly to take a dig at communalism but meanwhile there are a lot of other issues touched upon with a mix of playful reverence and biting satire like religious beliefs/rituals, casteism, oppressive families etc. with a dash of the usual NRI-finding-his-roots thread. The multiple sub-plots reminded me of last year’s Welcome To Sajjanpur but they are completely different and commendable in their own way.

What seems to have gone terribly wrong is the communalism thread – which is so hackneyed, preachy and completely out of line with the tone of the film. Still, when the film seems to be getting back on track towards the climax you are given another bitter (or rather bizarre) pill to swallow. No wonder it is receiving brickbats from all corners. Apart from Mehra another person to shoulder the blame has to be Abhishek Bachchan. On one hand he should be commended for accepting a role which is little more than a narrator where the only thing expected of him is just to “be there”. Now whoever gave him the idea of using that irritating fake accent – the worst part being he uses that only when conversing with characters who don’t seem to understand English otherwise he absolutely has no issues mouthing heavy duty dialogues in shuddh Hindi. Apart from pissing you off this only seems to make his character appear so disinterested in what is happening around him. If it weren’t for that wonderfully filmed song – with Times Square juxtaposed on Delhi’s crowded streets; his character’s existence in the film would be completely unjustified.

You might say these are small details but these stand out more so because the rest of the cast is flawless to the core. I can only mention the people whose names I know – Waheeda Rehman (my favorite onscreen mom anytime), Rishi Kapoor (whose true “second innings” finally seems to have kickstarted this year), Sonam Kapoor (a similar giggly role like Saawariya which nevertheless suits her so well), Vijay Raaz, Pawan Malhotra, Om Puri, Divya Dutta, Atul Kulkarni, Tanvi Azmi and the ones who play Rajjo Bhabhi and Rama Bua.

The cinematography (Binod Pradhan) and artwork (Samir Chanda) are top notch and there is a fine balance between the use of real locations and set-pieces. If the cast and crew make Delhi come alive then to top it all is the man of the moment A.R Rahman who arguably delivers one of his best scores ever and to his fortune he has a director who knows how to use it to maximum effect.

As the end credits rolled with the mesmerising “Arziyan” track I was feeling so exhilarated yet equally sad – for having seen a film which rises to magnificent heights yet screws up so badly in the last lap. But I strongly recommend every lover of cinema to still check out Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra’s brutally flawed masterpiece for it has too many great things about it which you’d struggle to find in any so called “good” film you generally come across.

God Tussi Great Ho August 16, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Salman Khan has this uncanny ability to be a part of B-grade projects which end up lying in the cans for years (needless to mention producer Afzal Khan is one up on him in this issue). If there is one thing he should be happy about it is that God Tussi Great Ho was the last one in his most recent set of backlogs. And going by the very unusual dedication to the hero at the beginning to the film, it looks like Sallu had something do with the film seeing the light of the day.

Writer-director Rumy Jafry has written most of David Dhavan’s hits so you wouldn’t be at fault if you thought it was David’s film….the catch is – despite using the plot of 2003’s smash hit Bruce Almighty it looks like a nineties David Dhawan film which err…doesn’t work today. But to be honest, if you accept the Blast from the Past experience which this film gives you it is a pretty okay flick (barring those jokes involving Rukhsar). Salman, Sohail and (unexpectedly) Anupam Kher still manage to make you sit this through this one. Amitabh has more like a guest appearance so don’t watch this if you expect to see him do something exciting. Sajid-Wajid’s numbers are tailor made for Khan and hence only work when viewed with the video – there are some unintentionally funny moments in the “Let’s Party” song when poor Salman is made to do more than his fair share of jhatkas. The visual effects – well like everything else are from the nineties.

None of the people involved even bothered to promote the film so that pretty much tell you what they were expecting. I like everyone else had low expectations and hence whatever good is there in this film was like a bonus. But save yourself the trouble and check out Ranbir Kapoor’s Bachna Ae Haseeno – the other Hindi release this weekend which is receiving better reviews than this one.

Sarkar Raj June 7, 2008

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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“How much really can I go wrong with Sarkar Raj???” asked Ram Gopal Varma recently. Despite the statement’s overconfident tone, you would have agreed completely with it (like me) provided you’ve seen and loved Sarkar. Now that the movie is out, I want to say to Ramu “Well….you could have messed it up!”

The film begins two years after it left off with Shankar Nagre (Abhishek Bachchan) being addressed as “Sarkar” and now Shankar has established himself firmly as the trusted successor of the original Sarkar (Amitabh Bachchan). In comes Anita (Aishwarya Rai) with a proposal to set up a power plant in one of the villages of Maharashtra. Sarkar isn’t interested in it but Shankar is totally convinced about its utility for the state and presses hard to get this project sanctioned and completed. However, there is more than meets the eye with other bigwigs having vested interests in it. Like in its predecessors there are shifting loyalties, unexpected traitors et al; just like Ramu said – “It’s another series of episodes in the Nagre family”.

But then if you’ve been a fan of the first film you can’t help but notice some major flaws. First and foremost has to do with the characterization of Sarkar and Shankar. The nuances and the grey shades in both characters and the relationship between them which were wonderfully brought out in the previous flick are glaringly missing (or rather inconsistent). Here you see that the father-son duo portrayed as selfless leaders only concerned about the well being of the state and probably to justify this drastic shift there are some redemption dialogues (especially with references to Vishnu’s killing)…and these are the only moments where the “family drama” part comes in. For me, this was the biggest letdown in the movie. Also, the supporting cast of bad guys in this ones aren’t colorful and interesting like before. Only Govind Namdeo as Hasan Qazi stands out a bit. Sayaji Shinde is highly irritating. Dilip Prabhawalkar as Rao Saab is brilliant yet again in an unrecognizable get-up…I fail to recognize him in every movie until I hear his voice. Also the new guy who plays his grandson does a fine job.

If you’ve read till this point and have come to the conclusion that this is probably just an average rehash of “Sarkar” then wait….even I started thinking the same when Ramu’s creative genius pitched in at the right time and thereon the dramatic turn of events in the later portions of the movie till the climax will change your opinion. In fact, the film starts getting better only when the original “Govinda…Govinda” theme arrives. Like a lot of other aspects mentioned before, the use of the background score here pales when you start comparisons. The open-ended climax has made lot of people to speculate about another sequel…but if I had to advise Ramu after Sarkar Raj I’d only ask him to pursue that option if he is going through a bad phase and desperately needs a hit (like now).

In the final analysis, Sarkar Raj works mainly because of its gripping penultimate portions – for the rest of the time it only succeeds in reminding you what a fine film “Sarkar” was. Definitely watchable…nevertheless!

Sarkar June 6, 2008

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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In anticipation of the release of Sarkar Raj this weekend, I watched Sarkar once again.

Director Ram Gopal Varma’s tribute to The Godfather isn’t his first film inspired from that source. He earlier made Gaayam (co-written by Mani Ratnam) in Telugu (and even his debut film, Shiva had some traces of inspiration) where many commercial constraints were adhered to but the film was good in its own way and was a success at the box office too. He reuses some parts of that film here but makes a more intense and largely superior film.

Though the content might have been inspired by The Godfather (and Bal Thackeray), this is a completely different and much more taut film. A few scenes and some themes may be similar but this isn’t a faithful remake. And anyone who wishes to judge this film by comparing it to The Godfather or its various inspirations should strictly sit out.

The screenplay of the film is credited to Manish Gupta but Varma, no doubt, had considerable inputs here. But it isn’t so much the script as it is the direction that defines this film. Ram Gopal Varma’s genius is visible in every frame that is so meticulously shot and his style is what makes this film remarkable. And he is greatly helped by his technicians (cinematographer Amit Roy and editors Amit Parman and Nipun Gupta).

The most striking aspect of this film is the brilliant use of extreme close-ups. A large part of the film doesn’t have any dialogue. Varma uses the expressions of the actors captured so minutely through these close-ups to convey the emotions as well as the subtext. The film depends on it completely. And when the characters do speak, they deliver some zingers.

The accompanying background score by Amar Mohile, tries to elevate every important moment and succeeds (some might not care for such dominance by the music but I do). It is interesting that the Govinda chant that has become quite synonymous with this film was originally composed for Varma’s telugu film Govinda Govinda, which belonged to a completely different genre.

With such close scrutiny of the actors in close-ups, acting becomes an extremely important part of the film and each actor needs to deliver. RGV extracts the required performances from Amitabh to Kay Kay to Katrina Kaif and Tanishaa. Amitabh Bachchan, in the titular role, brings out the required intensity with the right expressions and tone. You can almost feel the same reverence towards his character as his supporters in the film show. On the other hand, he makes the vulnerable side of his character thoroughly identifiable in the scenes in the hospital and home after the attack on him. The way Abhishek is portrayed as an obedient son who does not speak out of turn when the family is discussing business matters in the first half and his transformation when he takes the responsibility upon himself to fill in for his father and take over (note the black shirt that Abhishek wears when the transformation is complete towards the end) is superb. And Bachchan Jr is spot on in his portrayal of Shankar. Kay Kay is possibly the best actor on display in this film and he brings out the vices of Vishnu, the bad son, to perfection.

The supporting cast is great too. Despite many supporting players and limited scope, everybody gets noticed. Supriya Pathak is the best choice for the role of Sarkar’s loving, caring and reticent wife. The little known Rukhsar is very likable in a role where she has almost no dialogue. Even Katrina Kaif and Tanisha who, at the time (or even now) had not delivered any noteworthy performances slip nicely into their roles. Zakir Hussain makes a capable antagonist. Kota Srinivasa Rao, who brings out the sliminess of Silver Mani (or is it Selva Mani?), also serves as the comic relief in the film’s most loquacious character. Ravi Kale, who plays Sarkar’s right hand man also impresses but the same can’t be said about Jeeva’s performance as the wigged over-the-top Swami.

Another interesting aspect is the love triangle. The same triangle was also part of Gaayam as also another film inspired by The Godfather, the Kamal Haasan penned Thevar Magan (Kshatriya Puthrudu in Telugu, remade in Hindi as Virasat with Anil Kapoor). All three films have similar characters involved in a similar conflict (the situation is somewhat different from The Godfather) but each gets its own treatment in keeping with the setting, regional and commercial aspects as well as the focus of the respective films.

This is probably the closest RGV has come to making a family drama. The overachieving father who wonders, like any normal father would, what sins he might have committed to have borne a kid that has taken the wrong path. The bad son, whose need to come out of his father’s shadow ultimately drives him down a path that leaves no redemption. The good son, whose respect and trust in his father bears more importance to him than anything else and his willingness to follow in his father’s footsteps and take over the family’s responsibility. The obedient and caring mother, who easily melts over her son’s apparent repentance, like any average mother, and asks her husband to let her son back into the house. The daughter-in-law who has become such an integral part of the family that she prefers to stay with her in-laws instead of her wayward husband. There is so much here that makes this as much a tale about a family as it is about politics (or politricks as Silver Mani would say). Varma clearly conveys to the audience that this is a family like most others. I especially loved the use of the kid (playing in the background, asking for an ice cream) to bring in the aspect of normalcy. A similar effect is achieved through the game of Carroms, the dinner table conversations, the discussion in front of the television and more.

Different individuals might find different flaws in this film. Some might even hate the very things that I’ve loved. Nevertheless, this is definitely a film that is worth watching multiple times to observe the minutiae. It is the detail that makes this film special. It is the interpretation, focus and execution that makes this film different from the others based on similar material. Watch this once if you haven’t yet. If you have, watch it again to observe the detail that you missed out the first time.

Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag (Ram Gopal Varma Aggi) September 5, 2007

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews, Telugu.
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Fans of Sholay should keep away from this film. For the uninitiated, this is director Ram Gopal Varma’s re-imagination of the most popular masala action flick that Hindi cinema has seen. The title is intended to give the feel of the revenge sagas of the seventies and eighties while the name of the director himself indicates that this is his version of the film for which he intends to take the credit/blame for. Individually, I would say that half of the scenes in the movie work while half fall flat completely. However, as a whole, this is an unmitigated disaster. It leaves no impact whatsoever despite occasional flashes of technical brilliance.

In Varma’s defense, I would like to say that I have watched every one of his films and though he’s hurriedly made a few, none of them suffer from such a lack of continuity as this one. Considering that he claims to be the No.1 fan of Sholay and it was one of his dreams to remake this, one wonders if he had to cut out a lot of the scenes due to the court case that also required him to change the names of the characters (it could also be that cutting down the overlong Sholay was a difficult task). Despite that there are many other flaws. Foremost in my list is the highly inconsistent tone of the film. While part of it is like a seventies movie in terms of humor, action and romance, the rest of it is serious drama (more Varma’s style than the style of the Westerns that inspired Sholay) where almost none of the emotions manage to strike a chord. This seriously mars the film. The audience who like the dramatic moments loathe the seventies style humor and missing logic. The audience who watch this film hoping for a masala film are bored to death by the slow moving drama and dialogue. RGV seems to have focussed on some aspects of the film while neglecting some others. This results in a half-baked product that is a definite no-no at the box office from the word go.

Continuing further, the setting of the film doesn’t work at all. The setting of the original really gelled well with the film but the shift to the city loses what was essentially a character itself in the original. The back stories added to the film as a result of Ramu’s imagination seem arbitrary and add nothing whatsoever to the film. Another major drawback for this film is the comparisons with the original. These are inevitable but the standalone product is bad in any case and the comparisons bring it down further. The soundtrack of the film is of the catchy variety that sounds fine on screen (unless you dislike loud music) but you probably wouldn’t remember it a few months from now.

Amitabh and Mohanlal are super. Sushmita is good. Though he is raw, newcomer Prashant Raj (a huge improvement over the initial choice, the man with no expression, Mohit Ahlawat) has a good screen presence and does respectably well in his debut (without any comparisons of course). Nisha Kothari does a decent job (but I’m sure there are many who disliked her role and end up blaming her performance for it). I had issues with Ajay Devgan’s performance. Devgan doesn’t pull off the style of humor which Dharmendra managed to do so well in the original Sholay. He is miscast. Sushant Singh is good. Rajpal Yadav is extremely irritating and puts you off right at the beginning of the film.

The film does have a few things going for it but the abundance of flaws means that most critics haven’t even mentioned any of those. So here is my limited appreciation. The re-imagination of Gabbar as Babban is quite good. I liked the design of the character, his henchmen and the sets. It seems that Ramu has spent considerable time on this. Since the intent is different, the effect of this character is also quite different from that of Gabbar. I liked most of the sequences involving Babban. Many of the scenes featuring Inspector Narasimha are well executed as well. It is these sequences that make you sit through the film despite a lackluster start compounded by the boring romantic track and unfunny humor ending with a dismal climax. The Mehbooba song is well shot, choreographed (Ganesh Hegde), composed (Ganesh Hegde) and performed (Urmila and Abhishek). I especially loved the set for the song (Nitin Desai). The only other song that works to an extent is the Holi track while the rest of the songs are quickly forgotten. Technically, this film definitely has the RGV stamp all over it but technique alone isn’t enough for this film to appeal to even hardcore Varma fans.

Considering the dismal remakes of Shiva and Sholay, one would be tempted to assume that Ram Gopal Varma isn’t very good at adapting or re-imagining films. But you have films like Sarkar (inspired from The Godfather and Ramu’s own Gayam that was his first take on the classic), Bhoot (re-imagination of his own Raat/Raatri), Satya (a superb gangster film that was a much better reworking of his flop, Drohi/Antham) and on-the-run films like Anaganaga Oka Roju, currently being remade as Go (using the same formula as his classic, Kshana Kshanam that also inspired the dud, Daud) that show his versatility for the task. This time though he has gone horribly wrong and I would blame it on the fact that this is not so much a re-imagination (I had hoped it would be) as it is a remake with a few back stories, minor changes in characters and a change in tone (inconsistent one at that). RGV seriously needs to focus more on each of his projects instead of devoting his time to so many at once. One wonders what would be the fate of his other venture Darling that is releasing this weekend (some doubt if he actually directed it). I hope that his next project currently under production, Sarkar Raj is a worthy successor to Sarkar and brings back Varma at his best.