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Love Aaj Kal August 10, 2009

Posted by Shujath in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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When a film turns out to be a rather unexpected blockbuster it could be that it really was that good or it was just able to to successfully tap into the sensibilites of a large segment of moviegoers. For me, Love Aaj Kal clearly fell into the latter category. Imtiaz Ali’s first two films (Socha Na Tha, Jab We Met) weren’t exactly super-hits during their release but today they are considered to be standout films in what is a worn-out genre.

Love Aaj Kal at its core relies on that crappy Hollywood romcom formula about two people breaking up and taking up the entire duration of the film to realize that they “truly love” each other. In this flick, there is an additional parallel story running in an earlier era where “true love” truly was true. This clever narrative does make the proceedings a lot more interesting but looking back it seems like a substitute for lack of content. There is no doubt that Imtiaz Ali has brilliant writing and directing skills this film too is no exception. His previous films were undoubtedly a lot more fun and had characters you could identify with. I might have enjoyed this film more if the “fun” part overshadowed everything else but it seemed to take itself too seriously which is the biggest complaint I have against this one. Even if it did not appeal to me, I must accept that sitting through this wasn’t a bad experience at all.

Saif is wonderful in both the roles he plays. He is probably a bit too old for a part like this – however you forget about this aspect when you watch him perform. Deepika seems to be a pretty bad choice. There is absolutely nothing wrong with her emoting but her dialogue delivery is always so bland that if you were to listen to her closing your eyes – it  sounds like a sonorous speech where the emphasis is on just getting the pronunciation of every word right. Rishi Kapoor gets another nice supporting role in what seems to be his real comeback year. The much kept-under-wraps Giselli Monteiro is cute but that’s about it. Rahul Khanna is unimpressive in a short supporting role. The visuals are beautiful (the period pieces specially) and add a lot to the film. Pritam’s score fits in nicely though there aren’t any great numbers to watch out for.

If you are a sucker for romcoms in general then you can’t ask for anything better than Love Aaj Kal – for the rest it’s just a pleasant but unmemorable film. Imtiaz Ali might not have picked the right film to make but his solid effort nevertheless shows – I am still eager to know what he makes next.

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.

Luck By Chance February 1, 2009

Posted by Sai in Hindi, Movies, Reviews.
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Debutant writer-director Zoya Akhtar’s Luck By Chance tells us a riveting story of two contrasting individuals and their journey in the Hindi film industry as they follow their dreams in disparate ways. As one might expect, the film uses the eccentricities of movie folks to throw up some laughs. But we get the see the human side of these celebrities, the delicate situations that they are caught in and the lies they have to tell themselves and others. This movie feels very natural and manages to capture a piece of real life.

This film is superbly cast. I wonder why stars were originally considered for the role of the main protagonist because this is really a part for an upcoming actor and Farhan Akhtar (Rock On!) fits the bill perfectly. Together with a remarkable Konkona Sen Sharma, he plays a major part in making this film very believable.

And then you have the supporting cast. When you can get a huge star like Hrithik Roshan to play a supporting part (billed as a special appearance), you must be doing something right (and kudos to him for doing this). I am so terribly fed up of seeing Rishi Kapoor playing father in one dumb film after another. So, it is refreshing to see him in a consequential role. And then, for the first time that I can recall, Sanjay Kapoor impresses (of course, I haven’t seen too many of his films). In his first big scene, he reminds me so much of Anil Kapoor. Dimple Kapadia is super as the erstwhile star who is launching her daughter, while Isha Sharwani who plays the part is quite impressive herself. Juhi Chawla gets a small part but she is always nice to watch.

I really don’t have the patience to talk about the guest appearances ranging from Shahrukh Khan and Aamir Khan to Karan Johar, Manish Malhotra, Anurag Kashyap and hold your breath… Mac Mohan but many of them play useful parts.

Assembling a good cast doesn’t mean much if you can’t use them well and Zoya Akhtar deserves all the credit for writing an admirable script, filming it superbly and getting the right performances.

I recall the tribute by Farah Khan to the film’s technicians at the end credits of Om Shanti Om. Zoya trumps her. She shows us technicians in their natural settings with the very apt Yeh Zindagi Bhi number playing in the background (Shankar Ehsaan Loy deliver a first-rate soundtrack again for Farhan Akhtar). While the film has interesting characters, identifiable moral dilemmas and a lot of humor, wonderful moments like these make it special.

I was not bored for a single moment in this film and despite it being an unconventional non-masala film, I would recommend this to everyone. Go watch it!