jump to navigation

Milk February 23, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
add a comment

Harvey Milk was the first openly gay man to be elected to any public office, as a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors in 1977. Milk is the story of his life, his triumph, his activism and his unfortunate death.

Written by Dustin Lance Black and directed by Gus Van Sant (Good Will Hunting, Finding Forrester, Paranoid Park), Milk is an affecting, moving film. The period and the gay rights movement are captured very well and the audience can sympathize with the problems of being openly gay during the period.

But this is ultimately the story of one man and Sean Penn portrays him brilliantly. I have witnessed a few of Penn’s performances before this one, but here he is a completely different person and you only see Harvey Milk after a while. The film also features admirable supporting turns from Josh Brolin (W, American Gangster), James Franco (Spider-Man 3, Pineapple Express) and Emile Hirsch (Speed Racer).

Apart from his political life, the film also tracks his personal life and relationships. This helps the audience relate to Milk as an ordinary person as opposed to a hero. It also helps the straight folks in the audience who do not have gay friends and do not understand how their lives function to find them to be just like everyone else.

Milk has a great story to tell and features a knockout performance from Sean Penn. It captures an important period in history of the gay rights movement and the fundamental problem of fighting for your rights has universal appeal. Watch it if the idea of a docudrama based on a real life personality appeals to you.

Advertisements

Jodhaa Akbar February 17, 2008

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
6 comments

Period films aren’t common in Hindi cinema and they don’t work well at the box office. That is primarily because movies like Subhash Ghai’s disastrous offering Kisna and the way-off-the-mark Asoka by Santosh Sivan are being dished out in the guise of landmark films. Finally, we have a notable entry in the historical genre in the form of Jodhaa Akbar. Director Ashutosh Gowariker (Swades, Lagaan) shows us that it can be done even if he takes too much time.

The film begins when a young teenager, Jalaluddin Mohammad (who will later be known as Akbar), is forced to take over the reigns of the kingdom due to the death of his father, Humayun. His next few years are spent waging wars under the guidance of Bairam Khan. When Jalal is old enough to take over, he resorts to more peaceful ways of expanding his control and uniting Hindustan under the Mughal rule. Meanwhile, the Rajput ruler of Amer, who is also against wars, decides to join his hands with Akbar, incurring the wrath of other Rajput rulers. Faced with a dilemma, he decides to marry his daughter, Jodhaa to Akbar. The rest of the film deals with the developing relationship between the two as well as the rule of Akbar during that period.

The writers (Haider Ali and Gowariker himself) effectively mix historical facts with fiction to create a watchable film. Though the film touches many aspects, both political and emotional, the writers manage to keep it uncomplicated. The visuals are extremely impressive. The production design by Nitin Desai is superlative and I loved the costumes, head gear and jewellery by Neeta Lulla. Cinematographer Kiran Deohans captures these beautiful visuals but Gowariker makes sure that they don’t become the focus in any of the scenes. A R Rahman, once again, delivers for Ashutosh. The songs are lovely (Jashn-E-Bahara is probably my favorite) and his background score is commendable (especially for the scenes involving Hrithik and Aish). Ashutosh films the nicely choreographed Azeem-O-Shaan Shahenshah and the romantic In Lamhon Ke Daaman Mein numbers well and Manmohana is placed quite effectively but Khwaja Mere Khwaja does not warrant a place in the narrative.

Ashutosh, as always, casts well and both his lead actors have what it takes to look regal. Hrithik Roshan pulls off a tough role once again with ease. Some might feel that he doesn’t look like Akbar because of the preconceived images of Prithviraj Kapoor (Mughal-e-Azam) or Vikram Gokhale (Akbar-Birbal teleseries) but better sense should prevail. He doesn’t quite have the baritone of Amitabh Bachchan or even Raza Murad (who plays the prime minister in this film) but he does his best to make up for it with his earnest dialogue delivery. Aishwarya Rai is more beautiful here than in any of her recent films and this is as natural a performance as she has ever given in her career. She far exceeds my expectations. Kudos to Gowariker for bringing out the best in these two. As usual Ashutosh Gowariker collects an eclectic and less exposed cast for this film including Ila Arun (who manages to be quite scary as Maham Anga), Kulbhushan Kharbanda (who played a King in Lagaan as well) and Punam Sinha (presumably Shatrughan Sinha’s wife, who is very likable as Akbar’s mother) and it always helps to relate better to the characters. Sonu Sood gets to play a sympathetic role as Jodhaa’s cousin, Sujamal. A good opportunity for him to get better recognition and hopefully, more roles that can justice to his capability.

This isn’t quite the perfect film. The first hour of the film is somewhat languorously paced and doesn’t really pull you in despite the visual splendour. This section could have been shortened, considering the length of the film. The film holds strong appeal once Jodhaa and Akbar get together. The best parts of the film involve the interactions between these two characters. Gowariker creates some brilliant scenes here with subtle expressions and reactions from both his lead actors. In fact, Ashutosh’s impact is all over this film and he successfully pulls off another challenging film, even if isn’t a great one.

This film is clearly not for those who cannot sit through one that lasts over 200 minutes. Also, it isn’t for those who want simple entertainment and are likely to look at this as a history lesson. For the rest, this is recommended because one hardly gets to see such a well made historical in India.

Guru (Gurukanth) January 17, 2007

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
21 comments

Being inspired from real-life incidents (Bombay, Kannathil Muthamittal/Amrutha) and characters (Iruvar/Iddaru, Nayagan/Nayakudu) isn’t new for writer-director Mani Ratnam. Despite what he says, his latest film is definitely inspired by the life of Dhirubhai Ambani. Though Mani makes sure that this is an inaccurate biopic, it includes characters (including the journalist played by R. Madhavan, as my Dad pointed out) and incidents reminiscent of the life of the Polyester Prince. The film spins an interesting yarn on the astonishing rise of a common man to a position of great importance, focusing on his moral dilemmas as well as the social, political and legal repercussions of his actions. This is an engaging film that is pretty good but I would think twice before calling it great. The reason it falls short of being great is that it tends to get cinematic at times when realism would have kept me much happier.

That Mani Ratnam’s screenplay and direction are superb, goes without saying. I greatly enjoyed the conflicting relationships between Guru and Nanaji and their respective families. The one issue that I had though is with the songs. The Ek Lo Ek Muft song felt unnecessary and I would have liked it if the Tere Bina song wasn’t shot as it was. The rest of the songs are used to forward the story or used in the background. Though the well-shot Barso Re number seems repetitive for Mani, Aishwarya’s bicycle accident necessitated this song and hence that can be overlooked.

Another important factor in the effect of this film is the dialogue by Vijay Krishna Acharya (who also provided the dialogue for Pyaar Ke Side Effects and wrote the screenplay along with dialogue for Dhoom and Dhoom 2). Mani Ratnam being a Tamilian with relatively low capability of understanding Hindi needed someone to accurately translate his vision into words and Vijay does a very good job (though sometimes one feels that the dialogue is a bit more dramatic than necessary). Being a period flick, the art direction (Samir Chanda) and costume design (Ameira Punvan, Sai, Nikhar Dhawan, Anu Parthasarathy, Aparna Shah) becomes very important. Mani Ratnam being the master that he is seems to have taken extra care of the detailing. The one thing that is easily visible in the film is the vehicles used for the different periods. I was quite surprised with Aishwarya’s backless blouse in the Barso Re song that seemed out of sync for that period. However, that is just my ignorance. Apparently, women in Gujarat wear such outfits due to the weather and not for sex appeal (source: IndiaFM.com).

Though the film never paints Guru as the nicest human being, some members of the audience seem to think that Mani has shown Guru’s misdemeanors lightly through the somewhat happy climax. This isn’t exactly a children’s storybook to have the most politically correct climax. I would like to ask these people if they have always taken a legally correct path in their lives (and don’t tell me that we break the law only when it seems unreasonable). Most of us have bribed someone or the other at some point in our lives and therefore furthered the rampant corruption in the country. We have committed our share of mistakes and so has Guru (or Dhiru) and as one character in the film points out these are things that we cannot be executed for (yet). The most practical (not to mention realistic) solution is punishment with a hope of reformation and that is what happens in the film. The good part though is that Guru’s tryst with swindling and smuggling does help the shareholders of his company and this is not forgotten.

Abhishek Bachchan, who plays the main protagonist, delivers a stunning performance. If Mani’s last film Yuva provided him the platform to be noticed as an actor, this performance will make sure that he will be remembered as an actor. Aishwarya Rai once again shows that she can deliver a good performance under the guidance of a capable director. Mani brings out the best in the newly engaged couple both in terms of acting and chemistry that seemed to be lacking in their earlier outings together. Apart from these two the film boasts of a splendid supporting cast. Mithun’s national awards (for Best Actor in Mrigaya, Tahader Katha and for Best Supporting actor in Swami Vivekananda) might have been forgotten by the common audience but thankfully filmmakers like Mani haven’t forgotten him and he delivers a performance that does justice to his talent. Madhavan and Vidya Balan, both capable actors, do well in supporting roles. Arya Babbar (Raj Babbar’s son who made his debut in the forgettable flick called Ab Ke Baras) makes an impression in a short role as Aishwarya’s brother.

A.R.Rahman has done some of his best work for Mani Ratnam’s films and he once again comes up with a brilliant soundtrack and background score. Gulzar’s lyrics provide the poetic imagery that makes these songs even better (though I won’t claim to have understood them completely). My favorite numbers are Jaage Hain and Shauk Hai (sung by Soumya Rao, this song is a part of the background score and is expected to be included in the new CDs of Guru alongwith the Gurubhai Aaya Che number that has become synonymous with the film) followed by Aye Hairathe and Maiyya Maiyya. Barso Re and Tere Bina are very good too.

This film is aimed primarily at the intelligentsia. There is a lot of dialogue in the film that is going over the heads of well-educated people. Mani makes no effort to explain things in detail as is the norm in Hindi cinema (and I believe that should be the way to go). Thanks to the multiplex and overseas audience, this movie might do well but its prospects in the interiors are bleak. Those looking for mindless entertainment could watch Dhoom 2 again while the others should try and catch this one.