Friday, 31 October 2014

Film Review- Happy New Year

It's Entertainment 

Film: Happy New Year
Cast: Shah Rukh Khan, Deepika Padukone, Boman Irani Abhishek Bachchan
Directed by: Farah Khan
Duration: 3 hrs
Rating: * * *

Farah Khan’s films usually don’t have a great story or plot, it is mostly a bits and pieces job but more than once she has managed to pull it off with films like Main Hoon Na and Om Shanti Om.  

You don’t expect some Bergman or Tarkovsky like magic in a Farah Khan film, her approach is to entertain the audience and glad to report that Happy New Year succeeds in what it sets out to do. Even though the length of 3 hours is a deterrent, constantly there are some tongue in cheek gags thrown in before you get too restless. In fact, the light hearted approach helps a great deal and the film for most parts doesn’t take itself too seriously. This is a good old fashioned Bollywood blockbuster, there are popular stars, action, emotion, drama, comedy, songs, dances, lavish sets and a bit of patriotism sprinkled on it. All in all, there enough ingredients to help the film sail through.

Shah Rukh Khan plays Charlie, a not so young man who is very angry with the rich businessman (Jackie Shroff) responsible for falsely implicating his father in a theft several eons ago. Charlie has been meticulously planning his revenge, never mind if it sounds a bit far fetched, just go with flow.

To execute his plan he needs a team, la Oceans Eleven and several other heist films. So we have Tammy (Boman Irani) an expert at cracking safes, Jag (Sonu Sood) is an explosive expert and considering that technology is important these days, he also recruits a hacker (Vivaan Shah). Now considering that their plan is rather convoluted where they are supposed to participate in the World Dance Championship in Dubai and pull off the heist at the same time, they need a dance teacher to coach them. Enter Mohini (Deepika Padukone) the bar dancer who considers dance as the greatest art form. Abhishek Bachchan plays Nandu, a tapori, who is a look alike of the business man’s son.

While the plot maybe lame, it is not particularly lazy, there is an attempt to plug the holes some instead of just bypassing some sub plots. But being a standard Bollywood film, at times there is too much explanation, especially towards the end.

While there are references to films of yore, jokes are made about India’s Oscar entries and even the Prime Minister’s look alike appears mentioning achche din. When ever the film slips in the serious-mode you want to hit the fast forward button but when it doesn’t take itself seriously, it is fun. Take the scene where Abhishek’s character has to remove a screw but falls short by a few inches and then has to resort to an ingenious technique. Anurag Kashyap and Vishal Dadlani are also seen in a cameo, as a ‘friendly pair’.

Of the cast, Deepika brims with confidence and continues to impress with every outing. Boman Irani is reliable as always and Abhishek Bachchan fits the bill. Shah Rukh Khan plays himself rather the character and we the same act that we have been watching for the last couple of decades.

The post credits are always fun in a Farah Khan film, after all, the behind the scenes crew never gets their due.

On the whole, if you are looking for laughs, Happy New Year has a handful to offer.

Published in The Navhind Times on 26th Oct 2014

The 10 Best Films From MAMI

The Mumbai Film Festival which has become quite popular among cinephiles  was almost down and out this year after the major sponsor backed out in 2013.With just over a month left, the festival was on the verge of being called off due to lack of funds. The film personalities and other prominent people chipped in and against all odds, the 16th edition of the festival was held.

Considering the time on hand, or lack of it, it was a job well done. Ultimately, a film festival is about an opportunity for film lovers to watch the crème de la crème of cinema from around the world. Moreover, MAMI as the festival as better known, consistently showcases some excellent Indian films, on that count it beats, the IFFI (International Film Festival of India) hands down. Ship of Theseus, Fandry, Court, Katiyabaaz, Killa all were premiered at MAMI while IFFI still keeps serving films in the Indian Panorama that already did the rounds in the theatres and have been screened elsewhere as well. 
There are a few other things that IFFI can learn from MAMI, for example the use of social media for disseminating information and updates. Gone are the days where information has to be put up on the notice board for everyone to see.  With a click of a mouse, you can reach out to thousands in no time with the help of Twitter and Facebook. At the time of writing this, the MAMI twitter handle (@mumbaifilmfest) had 11,400 followers.  IFFI (@iffi2014goa) meanwhile for some strange reasons perhaps of Feng Shui or numerology keeps changing the handle every year. So far it has only 20 followers including yours truly.

The biggest difference that you see at MAMI and IFFI is that of passion- the ones involved are passionate about doing the right thing and getting things right. Anupama Chopra the well known film-critic took over as the Creative Director of the festival at the last moment and she is the woman responsible for the festival being held this year. When I pointed out that at film-fests occasionally something’s do go wrong and everything doesn’t work with military precision. Her prompt reply was “I want to ensure that they do work with military precision.” Now that’s the spirit that you can’t help but admire and it is a clear indication that the festival is in very safe hands. 

With film stars coming out in full support of the festival, the Bollywood quotient was also high and what is the right proportion is something that can debated. Sure it brings in the glamour but how much of it do you actually need?

Here are the 10 Best Films I saw at the festival.

1.  Court (Marathi, India) – The 27 year old Chaitanya Tamhane’s debut feature won 3 awards in the International competition after already having won 2 at the Venice fest. One of the most assuring debuts in recent times, Court, about a poet who is implicated for abetting suicide with his poetry is a knockout as a social commentary. There are no villainous characters here, the system is the villain.  Sadly, the film is not in Indian Panorama at IFFI but don’t miss it when it releases in theatres. Interestingly, the film has an international distributor but not a local one, yet.

2.  Klauni (Clownwise, Czech) –It is always a great pleasure to discover unknown gems at a festival and Klauni tops the list. An exceptional film about three former mime artists, the narrative structure is admirable because the director doesn’t use the usual trope of flashbacks to tell the story. Instead, he surprises you at every juncture. Add this to your list of must-watch films.

3.   Mommy (Canada) – The film has a lot of hype surrounding it and every bit is worth it. It shared the Jury Prize at Cannes this year along with a film that I truly loathed Godard’s Goodbye Language.  At 25, actor director Xavier Dolan has ‘prodigy’ written all over his work.  Mommy also has an outstanding cast led by Anne Dorval.

4.  Killa (Marathi, India) – Cinematographer turned director, FTII alumini Avinash Arun’s debut feature Killa is one of the most heartwarming and nostalgic films you’ll get to see. With plenty of laughs and tender moments of friendship, Killa is an unforgettable trip backed by the best ensemble cast of kids you’ll see on the big screen.

5.  Stations of the Cross (Kreuzweg, Germany) – This is a film will stay with you for a long time. The story of a young girl who comes from a fundamental Christian family and goes out of her way to prove her love for God won the Silver Bear and Ecumenical Jury prize at Berlin. Divided in 14 chapters each one named after Christ’s Stations of the Cross (also known as way of the Cross) and shot in a single take with a static camera, the film leaves you shaken and stirred. 

6.  Boyhood (U.S.A) - If you haven’t heard of the film, don’t bother with the details. Just go and watch it.  Refund guaranteed if you don’t come out satisfied.

7.  Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Israel) – This film shows that it is not only in India that we have Kafka’esque trials in court. This is a story about a woman who wants a divorce but only the Rabbis can decide about it that too after the consent of the husband but he refuses to part with his wife.  The case literally drags on for years as the woman who fights for her independence.

8.  What’s The Time In Your World? (Iran) – A beautifully crafted Iranian romantic film starring Leila Hatami is a good enough reason to watch this film. And no one ends a film with a precision, like the Iranians do.  

9.  Difret – An Ethiopian girl is abducted but she manages to escape from the clutches of her captors by shooting one of them. She is in the hands of the police but her ordeal just begins. Based on a true story, the film won the audience award at Sundance and Berlin film festival.

10. Fever – Two young men murder a woman whom they don’t even know. We don’t see the murder but we are given an insight about why they did it. Very broadly reminiscent of Hitchcock’s Rope , this has the Banality of evil angle to it. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 25th Oct 2014 

Film Review Dracula Untold

The Vampire Strikes Back

Film: Dracula Untold
Cast: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper
Directed by: Gary Shore
Duration: 1 hr 32 mins
Rating: * * 1 / 2

Directed by Gary Shore, Dracula Untold makes frail attempt to give a background story to the most popular vampire. The end result is that the product looks like a mix of a Dracula and the routine superhero film. With the exception of the Twilight series (which made money thanks to teenagers), among vampires, only Dracula is a back draw at the box office.

Luke Evans plays Dracula who was born as Vlad Tepes, after serving in the Turkish army he returns to Transylvania. Mehmed (Dominic Cooper) the King decides that he needs a stronger army and recruits more young men from Transylvania, including Vlad’s son. This makes Vlad unhappy and he decides to go to war. 

Considering that he doesn’t have a strong force Vlad strikes a deal with the Master Vampire who gives him extraordinary powers but then there are no free lunches, Vlad has to make a compromise.

While the film starts off on a positive note, the CGI dominated finale is a letdown and all the initial good work is undone. Also, it hardly pays a nod to Bram Stokers classic and you would expect that if the film has Dracula in it. There have been interpretations of Dracula but the story here goes a bit too far in trying to twist it.

It has been a while since we saw anything impressive related to Dracula. Sadly, even with this film, the wait continues.   

Published in The Navhind Times on 19th Oct 2014

Film Review - Sex Tape

Lies and Videotapes
Film: Sex Tape
Cast: Cameron Diaz, Jason Segal
Directed by: Jake Kasdan
Duration:  1 hr 30 mins
Rating: * *

Sex Tape is a standard comedy from Hollywood that will draw interest only because of its title. And of course that fact that Cameron Diaz stars in a film with such a title. 

In this day and age where everyone is so tech savvy, you would expect the screen writers come up with something genuine and plausible as far as the technology depicted in the film is concerned, but they just take it for granted that the audience must be living in the early 2000 era.

Jay (Jason Segal) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) were having a gala time on just about every count, especially with the carnal pleasures, till they got married. After that, they got busy with the kids and life in general and the X factor has kind of vanished. To spice up their lives again they decide to convene a ‘special session’. Not only that, to spice it up further, they decide do to what Kim Kardashian and many others did it before them, make a sex tape.

Accidentally, the video gets uploaded and distributed to several iPads which Jay had given to friends and family (another reason to prefer Android devices). Before it can hit the porn sites, they have to retrieve the iPads, by hook or by crook.

This is where the screenplay fails to evoke either laughter or even to keep you engaged. They have to resort to all sorts of antics to get the iPads and part of it is slapstick and most of them are not funny at all. Unfortunately, the finale is also rather tedious and for a film that is just 90 minutes, even that seems too long.

There are some funny but they are once in a blue moon, for most parts Sex Tape suffers from lazy writing.  If you are looking for some humor with slight raunchiness, revisit one of those Carry On series films, they are infinitely superior. 

Published in The Navhind Times on 19th Oct 2014