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Veer January 28, 2010

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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You might have seen the savage bashing this flick has received till now, so I’ll skip that part and write about a few redeeming things about Veer. For starters, when he isn’t sleepwalking through a movie Salman can pull off just about anything and Veer is a perfect example of that. No, it’s far from being a good film but ironically it’s camp quotient works to an extent to make it to the watchable category.

Honestly, I don’t know how Anil Sharma’s Gadar became such a huge hit but the only thing which I actually liked about the film is that one song (Udja Kale Kawa) – which keeps popping up at crucial moments and somehow (unintentionally) seemed to capture the true essence of the film (which was non-existent in the first place). Anil Sharma successfully repeats that in Veer with a couple of numbers – Surili Akhiyon Wali and Kanha – and that’s why I actually liked the film more than I had wanted to. Indeed, the surprise really are Sajid-Wajid who come up with an overall winning score. Apart from the two numbers mentioned before there’s the wonderful “Meherbaaniyan” track – equally well filmed (isn’t is unthinkable not to have an energetic Salman dance number!!!).

Well…that’s pretty much what I liked about the film. Coming to the performances, except for Mithun and Salman none make an impact. I would love to see both of them together again in a better film. I wouldn’t really recommend this film to anyone – except maybe for a Salman Khan fan (or if you happen to share to my quirks for Anil Sharma’s musical money-shots).

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button February 19, 2009

Posted by Sai in English, Movies, Reviews.
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David Fincher’s much talked about film has quite an intriguing premise. What would happen if someone had to live life backwards? Born as an old man, the film’s protagonist Benjamin Button grows younger as time progresses and the film tracks the major events in his journey from life to death. This is more or less a fictional biopic of a character based on fantasy.

A role such as Button’s requires an actor to adapt to old age as well as young, focus on body language and make the audience root for him. Brad Pitt does all this with aplomb though I fail to see how I could evaluate part of his performance without being able to differentiate between effects and reality. The other important character in the film that evolves with Button is his love interest, Daisy, admirably portrayed by Cate Blanchett. Another splendid actress, Tilda Swinton (Michael Clayton, Burn After Reading), plays the British woman who has an affair with Button in another interesting passage of his life. Despite the presence of such capable performers, the relatively unknown Taraji P Henson holds her own and grabs your attention as Button’s foster mother.

This is, without a shred of doubt, a very very well crafted film. With Fincher (Seven, Fight Club, Zodiac) at the helm, you expect nothing less. There is a lot to love in this film. Most of all, the magnificent visual effects. You wonder throughout the film about how they managed to make Brad Pitt look the way he does in the film. The outstanding visuals are aided by the superlative production design (Donald Graham Burt) and cinematography (Claudio Miranda).

The hard work put into the making of this film translates beautifully onto the screen. There is so much in this film that one can recall vividly even after many days; whether it is his affair with British woman or his outing as a sailor or Daisy’s accident. However, visuals aren’t always enough. Eric Roth (Forrest Gump) weaves a competent screenplay but it lacks moments that would make it memorable. At the end of the film, I asked myself if it conveyed anything particularly insightful about life through the living in reverse device. Nothing stood out except the attempt to depict the similarities between the beginning and the end of life in both physical and mental terms.

The 166 minute film isn’t particularly entertaining in terms of humor and thrills. It clearly isn’t for everyone but where I was watching, silence prevailed and everyone seemed to be thoroughly involved. At times you couldn’t even chew your popcorn without distracting those around you. Despite the novel premise and the interesting life that Button leads, this film falls short of being great. Watch this if you would for the premise, visuals and effects.

Jodhaa Akbar February 17, 2008

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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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.