Monday, January 9, 2017

La La Land: Short Film Review

Sweet Nothings. It was sweet and it was nothing. 

Sweet because of few soul-freeing moments like the hill top tap dance, her winning audition sequence, and the climax flashback. 

Nothing because we've seen much better musicals, much better romances, much much much better chemistry. 

#whatwasthebigdeal #lalaland

Dangal: Short Film Review

Short Film Review

Classic winning formula that works again and again. Emotional story of victory against all odds. Personal success = India patriotism. SPORTS. Plus Aamir's additional touch of a social cause (but without the annoying preachy-ness). 

Great performances. Strong characters. Simple story telling. And an underlying point of view. Just what a good movie should be made of. Nothing more. Nothing less.

A lovely feel good Christmas movie. Must watch.

Dear Zindagi: Short Film Review

Short Film Review
It's like 7 Khoon Maaf, except that all the men that are dumped live happily ever after. 

Alia is Strong, the Story is NOT. Music is Annoying, SRK is NOT. Goa is Beautiful, the Moments are NOT.

Gauri is clearly no Shoojit. Next time Shinde.

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil: Short Film Review

Short Film Review

"Fawad Khan is the only stud". Follow the chain of 'Ek Tarfa Pyaar'...SRK loves Aishwarya, who loves Ranbir, who loves Anusha, who loves Fawad, who loves himself.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Tamasha, November 2015

It’s a classic Imtiaz Ali magnum opus. It has everything you absolutely LOVE about his films and some of the things that occasionally frustrate you in his films.

But, more importantly, it’s a classic Imtiaz Ali because it’s not meant to be loved by everyone. It’s strictly for a certain breed of people I call ‘hopeless romantics’. If you’re one of them, it’s one of the best movies of the year to watch. If you’re not, well, then you won’t be missing much.

And to put it out there, before I get into it. I loved the film!

The film tells the story of Ved (Ranbir Kapoor) and Tara (Deepika Padukone) who accidentally meet in Corsica, France, and decide to not reveal their true identities and spend a week just ‘being’… together, flowing, floating… only living from one moment to the next. The holiday ends and without exchanging any details, they go their separate ways – Delhi and Kolkatta. Post Corsica, the story revolves around Tara, who gets busy with her professional life, but all the while  missing Ved. Four years later, as work takes her to Delhi, she again accidentally meets Ved. She has realised that she is in love with the man she met in Corsica and is excited to meet him again. They start dating and become a couple. However, she soon realises that the man she met in Corsica, seems to have got left behind in Corsica (literally, what happens in Corsica stays in Corsica!). She makes the hard decision to break-up with Ved, honestly telling him the reason for it. Ved takes the break-up really badly and through a tumultuous set of emotions between Delhi and his childhood home Shimla, he sets off on a journey of finding himself again, and in that finding the man that Tara had fallen in love with. He finds Tara and they live ‘liberated’ ever after.

In many ways, it’s one of the oldest love stories, with the theme of ‘love will set you free’. And that ‘you can’t love someone if you don’t love yourself first’. It is the journey of finding love, which is the journey of finding your own self.

Even, the metaphor of the robot life vs. the clown life is not new. Of not letting your brain rule over your heart. Of chasing your dreams, based on what you feel and not what the world tells you. Etc Etc. Nope. None of this is new, path-breaking or remotely interesting.

But, what makes this film is not the story or the dialogues or the mood or the cinematography, or even the location or the characters. What makes the film is Ranbir and Deepika (not Ved and Tara) and their chemistry - both when it’s firing like crazy and equally when it grows cold. The magic of this movie lies in the journey of various emotions through the movie, nothing else. 

You feel every emotion they feel throughout the film. In Corsica, you feel completely liberated when you can do anything, be anyone… even choose to not have sex when you easily can! You feel something missing in your life after Corsica, as Deepika goes about 4 years of getting on with her life and professional career. You feel anxious and excited when Deepika meets Ranbir in Social, Hauz Khas in Delhi. You feel that it’s a happy ending after all at that very moment. But immediately after, you feel deep frustration and disappointment, on realising that this relationship is not working out, and shocked that the fairy tale Corsica romance was perhaps not real. You feel Deepika’s conflicted emotions in dumping him, yet not being able to let go. You feel the onset of insanity in Ranbir as he tries to grapple with his break up, that is stirring something much more fundamental inside of him. He is not upset because a girl dumped him. He is upset because she is right. Deep down he knows that the reason she is leaving him, is the very reason he has left himself a long time ago, without even realising it. You feel Ranbir’s angst and his pain that comes from a deep awakening of the soul. You feel his frustration at not being able to resolve it, not being able to get to the truth about himself. Why should this be so damn hard! And yet is. And you can feel that. You can feel Deepika trying to help him but Ranbir is angry. Ranbir is angry, but not with her. He is angry with himself. She knows she can’t help him and that breaks her heart. He knows she can’t help him and it breaks his heart too. He knows only he can find the truth for himself.

And that’s why he has to go back to the past, go back to his roots, go back home to discover the truth for himself.  He has to meet the neighbourhood story-teller that once made him believe in a life larger than his own reality. He wants to find that belief again. He wants to find his faith, his religion, his reason to exist. Only in going back to his childhood, can he start again…

And he does. He does start his life all over again. This time on a truth of who he really is – a master story-teller himself, where he can imagine the world to be the way he wants it, and not live in a world that is prescribed to him. Because who’s to define what the real world is, anyway. The supposed ‘real world’ in which he lived all these years had felt the most fictitious to him!

And finally, just like that, you feel happy again, at peace again and liberated again…just the way you started out in Corsica at the beginning of the movie.

There are several beautiful moments throughout the movie, anchored on stellar performances by both Ranbir and Deepika. Ranbir proves clearly once again that he is a powerhouse of talent. Throughout the movie, he displays a stream of multiple conflicting emotions, done brilliantly. This is the Imtiaz + Ranbir combination that we know works. We’ve seen it in Rockstar. But the refreshing performance comes from Deepika. She is nothing short of brilliant in this movie.  
The climax scene infact, is appropriately, the grand finale of both Ranbir and Deepika’s ‘jugalbandi of emotions’. And the beauty of this scene is that it’s literally just a few seconds. When at the end of a successful theatre production, he moves from bowing to the audience to bowing to Deepika (who is standing insignificantly near the exit of the hall) to doing a full ‘sashtang pranam’ to her. He looks at her and she smiles at him. And in that brief moment, we realise something for the first time - that Deepika’s love for Ranbir  is much greater than his love for her, even though it was Ranbir’s story being told all this while. It is Deepika’s love story told through the lens of Ranbir’s journey.

It is Deepika who is willing to lose him forever by telling him the truth when she dumps him. It is she who is risking everything, only for Ranbir to find himself. She is ready for him to hate her forever just so he can be who he really is. She is not afraid to give him the tough message, even when she is feeling the pain herself. She is herself, vulnerable and emotional, but she is not weak. She knows what she needs to do. And she needs to do it for him, for love. She knows he needs to go through the process (no matter how painful for both of them), to emerge on the other side…

And it is only then that he realises what she has done. She has saved him,  from the world and from himself. She was his knight in shining armour.

Some of the frustrating bits of the film emerge in some of the exagerated theatrics, like the obvious metaphors of the robot vs. the clown as a choice of life, the camarederie-providing auto driver and his rockstar performance interludes, the gang of bhangra-makers representing happy or sad emotions, and in the cliched portrayal of the father as the bad guy, representative of a heart-less, anti-individual system (it’s always easier to blame someone else for your problems in life rather than owning it up as the screw-up of your choice!)

We recognise these exagerated parts from Imtiaz’s earlier movies – remember Heer (Nargis Fakhri) getting cancer, but then also becoming pregnant and a bundle of misery at the end in Rockstar (see my earlier review http://www.books-booze-boxoffice.blogspot.in/2011/12/rockstar-2011.html ). Or, in Highway, Veera’s (Alia Bhatt) child molestation history being revealed at the end as a hindsight explanation for her desire for freedom and escape.

But, even as you forgive these parts for everything else that is right with the film, the one unforgiveable aspect in Tamasha is the sound track, despite A.R. Rehman. In Rockstar, every song was a master-piece carefully crafted to deliver an emotional ride that was individually unique, and yet together created the world and emotions of the film, making it live with us for many years after the movie. Unfortunately, Tamasha only has Matargashti, as the anthem of the movie (aka Sadda Haq of Rockstar, but more like Hawa Hawa in feel), which works, and to an extent Agar Tum Saath Ho (aka Tum Ho). But, after that, Safarnama tries to do a weak ‘Phir Se Ud Chala’ and Tu Koi Aur Hai a weaker ‘Aur Ho’. The other songs like Wat Wat, Heer Toh Badi Sad, Parade Instrumental don’t create any impact. The music lets us down and will be the one reason why this movie, otherwise so beautiful, will not live with us for as long as it deserves.

Despite all of this, what matters is that after a long time, we have an out-an-out love story in Bollywood, that allows us the rare indulgence of just feeling our own emotions, without having to explain it or justify it. It is a refreshing, modern day love story, that reminds us that the pursuit of love itself could be a worthy cause in itself, right up there with the pursuit of a career, of justice, of wealth, of independence, safety, etc etc. Why did we forget that?

And just for that, we say ‘Thank You Imtiaz Ali’ for continuing to write and make love stories in a world plagued by and obssessed with war and hate. Thank You for making the world inside of us as imporant as the world outside of us. Thank You for suggesting (as crazy as it may sound!) that sorting our own selves out could be more powerful than trying to sort others out.

More power to you.

PS. Don’t miss the very last scene of silence, when Deepika and Ranbir on their respective headphones are doing the moves on a hill top in Corsica. Priceless!

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Kissanpur - Real Joy Of Togetherness

One of the newest popular brand-created content is Kissanpur - Real Joy of Togetherness. The content can be found at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3s2kWc0ILCM and has already clocked 1.7 million hits (as of 12th Oct 2014, 8:48pm). Clearly it’s popularity is high and it yet again reminds us how people crave good stories, that are both meaningful as well as speak directly to our hearts. Indeed, the head vs. heart debate is something that good content makes redundant, because it is always both, isn’t it.

The story is set in a classic modern day urban family (2 parents & one child) living in a condo in potentially a suburb of one of the cities in India (Gurgaon?). Both parents are working, with mom possibly working from home (mostly anyway). The story starts with the mom snatching all ‘screen devices’ from the boy (Rohan), annoyed that he is always stuck to a screen (sound familiar?). In a fit of anger, as the child storms out of the house, he discovers the idea of planting seeds seeing the friendly neighbourhood maali. With tomato seeds available in a certain ketchup bottle at home, he decides to grow a tomato plant. Mom, realizing she needs to make up with him, joins in, as a competition of who’s plant grows the fastest and the best. After days of sand, water and sunshine, mom seems to be winning, till Rohan’s plant catches up. Finally, in the climax, despite Rohan’s best efforts, it feels that mom is going to win after all, since she gets the bright red, juicy tomato on her plant and Rohan doesn’t. But, as usual mom saves the day and the family emerges the winner - together, happy, connected.

The impact and the popularity of the film is not in its storyline (as we can see from the narration above), but in the emotions it generates in the viewer. As a viewer, we don’t feel like the outsider in this film. We ARE the mom in this film, going through every emotion that she feels.

We feel shocked and angry when Rohan slams the mom’s laptop shut, but only for a moment. We immediately feel guilty and a hippocrate at having snatched his screen devices earlier from him.

We feel intrigued when Rohan is putting his plant building blocks together - seeds, pot, name, sand and water. We feel proud and indulgent when he is making his plant, but know that we can’t show it yet, since he still has to make his point of being one up on us.

We are rooting for him through the week as he waters and patiently nurtures his plant, waiting for his sign of victory and disappointed for him when he doesn’t get his sapling before the mom’s. And we are elated more than Rohan when the sapling does show its face. But, we don’t show any of this emotion in front of Rohan, because we want him to enjoy his victory when it happens.

We feel hurt when he rubs off the kiss on his cheek that mom gives, while getting him ready for school.

And finally, we know what we have to do when Rohan’s plant doesn’t fruit the bright juicy tomato and mom’s plant does. We know we have to lose for him to win and feel happy. And because only that will make us happy. And we feel all is well when Rohan finally comes and embraces his mom.

And through it all, we know that it was all about him. It was always about him. Like every parent knows, it’s always about them. 

We feel Rohan’s emotions and the mom’s emotions at the same time, because that’s what comes with being a paren. A complex, bitter-sweet jugalbandi of our emotions and our children’s.

The connection with this film comes not because of the obvious insights that speak to the mind - like the urban working parents with less time with kids, or children being stuck to multiple screens through the day, the struggle that parents have in keeping them away, or even in the championing of children going back to nature. 

The impact comes from the subtle nuances within the insights - like you need a little bit of competitive spirit between mom and child to get the kid really going, since that is the natural spirit of the child, or that children can be really stubborn about forgiving if they feel hurt by a parent, or  that children need something to obsess about and pour their unbridled energy into, or that at that age a child is finding his identity and looking for a sense of respect from the people around him & most of all from his parents. And that’s really what the journey of competition and winning vs his mom is all about. 

This film also reminds us of the power of just good music and good acting and comes as a breath of fresh air in a world that is full of talk, clever words, and shallow meaning. It’s a film with no words exchanged between the characters and yet makes the biggest impact.

If there is anything we hold against this film, it is the dad stereotype. For an otherwise progressive film, the cliche of the dad who is always busy on the phone & is otherwise helpless, clueless when it comes to his son, comes as a bit of a rude disruption (obviously I am biased as a dad myself). The dad is conspicuous by his absence and simply gets a sad mention on one flower pot for him as well, which clearly no one is watering, or even figures in the competition. Sure, there is the cursory moment of the football and running in park with dad, but all the real stuff is happening with mom. Even in the final moment when we are waiting for the tomato to shine on the plant, we are only shown the mom and son’s plant. Whatever happened to the dad’s plant? Did he even get a sapling to grow or did the weeds devour the plant even before it had a chance to see the sunlight. Seems like no one cares. And probably neither does the dad!

The content, as the www.kissan.in website tells us, is with the mission to bringing kids and nature together, around growing tomatoes and learning all about tomato farming & provides various other games and contests centered around kids, nature and tomatoes. 

But, what really the kissanpur film is, is about families, in urban India. At a simple level, it’s just about spending time together. But, then it’s about spending time doing something meaningful. It’s about creating something new and beautiful together, from just seeds in a ketchup bottle to a red bright tomato plant. Of seeing magic of of creating life with our very own hands.

As a result this is a piece of content that is not an ad. It is not trying to sell us more ketchup, but is delivering a story and a thought that evokes pleasant emotions, but also leading to a point of view. A point of view on modern day parenting. With this film, Kissan has (wittingly or unwittingly) taken on the mantle of building a progressive parent-child relationship. A 1:1 relationship with our children, where we treat him/her with respect, just like we would any another person. It’s about connecting with children on equal terms, respecting their individuality. It’s about thinking of them as people and not (as someone reminded me once) ‘kids’. This is the real win in this film. It’s not just about getting families together, it’s about progressive parent child relationships.

And if that doesn’t make you go buy some kissan ketchup, then little else will.. 

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Sapphire City - Pepsi IPL May 7th 2014, Delhi

Walking down The Blue Brick Road
What would Dorothy have to say

Today I visited sapphire city
‘Twas Pepsi IPL
And Blue was the day



Pepsi cans @10 cooling Delhi
But that's what blue does to u
Don't it?

Red feeling the heat
Are you "happy" about that too?
C'mon Now, gimme a smile.

Cool & ‘Thanda’ are not the same thing now, are they?

Boys and Girls
Uncles and Aunties
Corporates and freebies
Everyone's a junkie

Shades & Hair Styles
Feel Great, Look good
Gangs of Girls
Many guys, One Dude

Girls dressed down
Guys dressed up
Dew & Aqua
Trop & 7Up

Selfies, Selfies, Selfies, Selfies
Clicking, Smiling, Cheesing, Posing

Restless Teens, Cheering Loud
4 not good enough, 6 in the Cloud

Kids watching Mums
Mums watching dads
Dads watching item girls
But only just a tad
... and Cops watching everyone

Meeting friends
Hanging out
Music and dance
Strategic time out

Feeling hot summer heat
Noting better than a Bollywood beat

Item numbers with Firangi items
DD band desi ek dum
Abey Saalon, Band ko dekhtein nahin uske saamney naachhtey Hain

Only Now.
Nothing before
Never after

Cricket action
Or action cricket
Happily Ever After

IPL Haves. End of Now. Start of Next.
IPL Have Nots. Wonder Outside. What is next

IPL Haves. Back to Life
IPL Have nots. Excitement Passing By

IPL Haves. Will be back for more
Have nots. Try again for sure

Walking out Blue’d, You Look All Around...

Blue was the sideways, Blue was the shops
Blue was the walkways, And even the bus stops

I was in Sapphire city today.
I was in Pepsi City today