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Gran Torino June 24, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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Whether this was Clint Eastwood’s final appearance on screen or not is still not clear; either ways Gran Torino marks a grand culmination of what Eastwood has represented through his characters all these years. There was wild speculation much before its release that Gran Torino might be the final “Dirty Harry” flick. The initial promos didn’t do much to suggest otherwise. It doesn’t really matter because Walt Kowalski preserves Eastwood’s legacy as good as a “Dirty Harry” or a “Man with No Name”.

Now, if you aren’t a fan of the legend called Clint Eastwood there is really nothing to look forward to from this movie. Walt Kowalski is a Korean War Vet – the bitter experience (it is suggested) of which turns him into a guy who is pretty cynical and angry with the entire world around him – in other words – Vintage Eastwood! Circumstances lead to the blossoming of an unexpected relationship with his Hmong (immigrants/refugees from war-torn Laos) neighbors which culminates finally in a good ol’ cinematic redemption for Kowalski.

I absolutely loved this one purely because of Eastwoods towering presence in a role which so well celebrates his on-screen persona – that he is behind the camera as well is an added bonus. The supporting cast of Ahney Her, Bee vang, Christopher Carley and John Carroll Lynch also do quite well. Gran Torino is a simple yet remarkably strong film built around the aura of its protagonist. It is no doubt one of Clint Eastwoods’s greatest outings as an actor and that’s what makes it a classic of sorts.

The Wrestler March 3, 2009

Posted by Shujath in English, Movies, Reviews.
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If at some point in your life you’ve been hooked to Pro Wrestling and always longed that somebody make a film centered around this sport – and I mean one which isn’t a silly flick about fanboys; then you’re in luck. Darren Aronofsky’s acclaimed film is a much welcome entity in the sports underdog genre.

Sure it faithfully adheres to the stock elements in this genre – a down and out wrestler (“Randy the Ram”) trying to connect with his estranged daughter and whose only confidant is a stripper (“with a heart of gold” of course!). What makes the film notches above any similar flick you might have seen is the unbelievably authentic performance of Mickey Rourke. His being a professional boxer might have helped him to an extent to physically prepare for the role but that’s just one part of the story. As the has-been trying to find keep his life from falling apart further Rourke is absolutely convincing and really makes you feel for him. There are times you feel things getting a bit too melodramatic but thankfully those moments never go out of hand.

The best part centres around the wrestling bouts themselves. The staged brutality to entertain the spectators (the no-holds-barred hardcore match especially) in contrast to the unbelievable camaraderie between the players backstage is something which amazes you. I am not quite sure if that sort of thing exists in the big professional leagues (WWE, TNA et al). Given the physical onslaught the wrestlers go through and the corresponding “care” their bodies need to be given to withstand that; no wonder you hear about so many premature deaths and emotionally disturbing acts.

Though I stopped following the sport a few years back, I remember a lot of people who used to ask me (and everyone else who watched it) why I would be excited about something which is obviously “fake”. I don’t think I had a clear answer back then or even now – it’s akin to asking why one loves a movie even though you know everything is “fake” or “staged”. Anyways, Rourke apart there is also Marisa Tomei – who continues her newfound tradition of appearing naked in great films. She and Evan Rachel Wood just fill the customary supporting parts and nothing more is expected of them.

I also liked the way the camera follows behind Rourke most of the time – it gives that mockumentary feel which makes Randy “The Ram” look even more authentic. Aronofsky delivers one of the best redemption movies ever and if not for anything else Mickey Rourke’s tour de force act alone makes it a must watch.

Dev D February 13, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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During the first few minutes of Dev D we are treated to the first conversation between the grown up Dev and Paro – She says she can’t bear it anymore while Dev retorts back sheepishly – Do you touch yourself??? This is the moment exactly when all your notions about Dev D being little more than “Devdas moved to a more contemporary setting” are shattered.

Anurag Kashyap’s Dev D is more precisely “Devdas turned upside down”. Anurag’s Dev, Paro and Chanda are basically screwed up right from the word go – therefore their subsequent descent into debauchery isn’t really that surprising. That doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting – quite the opposite; after all who wouldn’t want to watch dissolute people indulge in lewd stuff! The director also doesn’t expect you to empathise with any of the characters. Aside from its advertised plot “inspiration” from Devdas, this could have been any contemporary flick about a bad urban heartbreak.

I especially liked the way Anurag references real life scandals like the DPS MMS and the BMW hit-and-run case. They blend so well into the story unlike other films which use such gimmicky stuff only to attract eyeballs. What ultimately works big time for Dev D is its musical format. The team of music director Amit Trivedi, lyricist Amitabh Bhattacharya and Anurag Kashyap collaborated for the first time in last year’s Aamir – which apart from being a great film had probably the best in-film soundtrack in recent times. With Dev D, Trivedi triumphs once again with a heady mix of numbers brought alive wonderfully on the screen by Anurag and team. It truly is an intoxicating experience. The icing on the cake of course is the outrageously funny “Emosanal Attyachar” number sung by Bandmasters Rangila and Rasila and performed on screen by “Patna Ke Elvis”. Check out the moment in that song when as Paro dances without abandon on her wedding, the Prelseys blurt out “Bol…Bol…Why did you ditch me whoooore?”.

The cast is equally triumphant as the technicians. Abhay Deol as usual effortlessly slips into his role and is completely natural as ever. His co-stars Mahie Gill and Kalki Koechlin also deserve high praise for their respective portrayals. Dev D is another maverick piece of cinema from Anurag Kashyap which contrary to everyone’s expectation is actually an unusual musical – definitely not to me missed.

There is a “Special Thanks” to Danny Boyle at the beginning of the movie – I thought if it was about the use of music inspired from the film everyone loves to rave or rant about, but like Anurag confirmed in a recent interview it had to do with certain camerawork tips.