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My Name is Khan March 12, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Along with rom-coms, movies with the backdrop of “terrorism” have in general been on my must-not-watch list – I hate both genres for similar reasons….unbearable cliches to be exact. Though Karan Johar has not lost his knack to entertain his second directorial foray into “serious” cinema slowly and regrettably turns laughable and cringeworthy like his previous flick. MNIK is still a very watchable film purely because of Shah Rukh Khan but his magic too wears out towards the end.

When I saw the first look of the film a couple of months back, the fact that the story and screenplay are credited to a certain Ms. Shibani Bhatija made the alarm bells in my head work overtime. In the past even seasoned film-makers who have handled “terrorism” haven’t moved beyond the stereotypes so it is wrong to expect K Jo-Shibani to do something groundbreaking. Surprisingly, the protagonist’s condition is not used to manipulate the audience and that’s just the one commendable aspect of the film. There are also a few well crafted moments when the film has to say something about discrimination but mostly goes overboard.

Most people have gone way out praising the movie – at least during the time of its release but now that the film has been reduced to a “medium hit” from “blockbuster” you know better. Still, watch MNIK for Khan.

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3 Idiots March 12, 2010

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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I love Rajkumar Hirani’s brand of “feel good cinema with a message”. I wish more young filmmakers made such films. This was a very well planned and executed film. It was thoroughly enjoyable and I’d love to watch it again. Kudos to Hirani and co-writer Abhijat Joshi, the cast (especially Aamir Khan, Boman Irani and Omi Vaidya), composer Shantanu Moitra and lyricist Swanand Kirkire (loved the Give Me Some Sunshine number). Since the film has received enough praise (and it has been a while), I’ll focus elsewhere.

If there is one thing I truly wish the film hadn’t done, it is the deification of the Rancho character. I mean, come on! In the past, Hirani carefully made his characters and situations idealistic without going over the line but this time he crosses it some.

Then there is the issue of credit to Chetan Bhagat. They did borrow the theme from his book (that doesn’t mean he deserves credit for the success of the movie) and they did tuck the name away in the end credits somewhere (did they feel like Bhagat was going to walk away with the credit? I’m sure Aamir gets the most credit even if Raju is the most deserving). So yes, I think the makers are clearly to blame for hiding his name.

And finally, I’ve always felt that it is hard to adapt a book for the screen and make it seem better than the book or equally as good for the readers. This is because when you read the book, you create this world in your mind. It is hard for anyone to recreate that personal experience. Another huge roadblock is the restrictions on duration that do not allow filmmakers to capture the content or the detail to the extent that a reader would like. So, whenever someone tells me that a film is not as good as a book, I never take them seriously because not everyone seems to understand or take into account the differences between the two media and the process and the limitations that come with the territory.

Having read the book, I had some mixed feelings while I watched the film. I had to consciously brush away the memories. In the end, they were two separate experiences, both of which I enjoyed thoroughly.

Yuganiki Okkadu (Aayirathil Oruvan) February 12, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Movies, Reviews, Tamil, Telugu.
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In production for almost two years, Selvaraghavan’s magnum opus is finally out. To be honest, though I had high expectations from this film I kinda figured out it might in the end turn out be that great – given the track record of modern “period fantasies” in Indian cinema. I couldn’t have been more wrong – Yuganiki Okkadu totally blew me away! It’s bold, it’s original and most importantly – absolutely engrossing till the very last frame. The latter aspect could also be attributed to the fact that almost 40 minutes of footage from the original Tamil version were chopped off for Telugu audiences.

Yuganiki Okkadu begins as a rescue mission to an unknown place find the whereabouts about an archaeologist who had gone missing in search of a lost Chola Kingdom. I cannot give away anymore of the plot without major spoilers. Selvaraghavan (who also wrote the film) beautifully blends adventure, historical fiction and the supernatural – and it is precisely this expert plotting that mostly earns the film its brownie points. It is also very humorous in some of the most unexpected places. This is also a film where the elaborate set-pieces and VFX seem so much a part of the film – rather that stand out as the lone USPs in plotless blockbusters. But then this isn’t a film for a casual viewer or someone whose idea of a film is a “family entertainer”. There is uninhibited blood, gore and raw sexuality which is sure to alienate a considerable number of people.

The casting is again spot on. Karthi (his second film after three years), Reemma Sen and Andrea are the naughtiest trio you’ll see on screen for a very long time – especially the risque moments between them are a hoot. Parthiban excels in a major supporting role. G.V Prakash again comes up with a great score. I don’t think I’ve enjoyed a Telugu movie so much in recent years and I can be pretty sure no one is going to bring out a movie like this in the future unless Selvaraghavan tries being even more awesome.

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.

Movie Roundup: 03/02/2010 February 3, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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1) Up in the Air (2009)
Director: Jason Reitman
Cast: George Clooney, Vera Farmiga, Anna Kendrick

Reitman’s latest is an enjoyable cynical take on relationships (or the lack of it) centered around its quirky lead (played with ease by George Clooney) who’s job is to fire people “with a personal touch” and accumulate airline miles. Down the line it starts to get a bit too familiar to my liking but there are pleasant surprises towards the end. Anna Kendrick excels in a supporting part.

2) The Men Who Stare at Goats (2009)
Director: Grant Heslov
Cast: George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey

A satirical look at non-traditional techniques used by the US Defense establishment to turn their men into Jedi warriors. Led by an excellent cast, the movie is fun most of the times – and equally unbelievable given that the premise is “based on true events”. It loses steam in its final portions but still worth a watch for its unique premise.

3) Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (2009)
Director: Phil Lord, Christopher Miller
Cast: Bill Hader, Anna Faris, Neil Patrick Harris, James Caan

I’d prefer to settle for actual meatballs. For me Cloudy… was only amusing in parts. Though it had most elements of any successful animation flick in place it seemed to me like just another Pixar wannabe. I’ve read somewhere that quite a few of the sight gags work mainly in 3D – which could be one of the reasons I didn’t enjoy it on DVD.

Movie Roundup: 29/01/2010 January 29, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Articles, English, Movies, Reviews.
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1) Bad Lieutenant – Port of Call: New Orleans (2009)
Director: Werner Herzog
Cast: Nicolas Cage, Eva Mendes, Val Kilmer

When Nicolas Cage is stoned and on the brink of a breakdown one can safely assume that it is one of the very few good films he makes to redeem himself. Bad Lieutenant easily qualifies for that. A regular gritty cop drama elevated singularly by Cage’s performance.

2) Sherlock Holmes (2009)
Director: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams, Mark Strong

With the ultimate geek combo of Downey Jr, Law and Ritchie this film would still have made the cut even if it was far less impressive than what it is. Except for Holmes purists who might take exception to Ritchie’s treatment I don’t see how one cannot like it. A perfect blend of action, suspense and humor – I absolutely loved it and it definitely ranks among the best flicks of the year gone by…..bring on the sequels!

3) District 9 (2009)
Director: Neill Blomkamp
Cast: Sharlto Copley, Jason Cope, David James

Worth all the hype it deserves, District 9 is an visually stunning and though provoking sci-fi flick which defies a lot of traditions in the genre. The premise might seem familiar with the usual themes of evil corporations but Blomkamp’s visual narrative takes it to a different level. It’s hard to get this film out of your head for a very long time after seeing it.