India Insight

Movie Review: ‘Sonali Cable’

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

Handout picture from the movie "Sonali Cable"Charudutt Acharya’s “Sonali Cable” telegraphs its intention in the title: it’s a communications movie, focusing on the Internet, that part of Indian urban life that has become indispensable to the growing ranks of India’s middle class. Grandparents use it to speak to their grandchildren living a continent away, bored housewives surf for erotica, and pot-bellied businessmen use it to run their businesses from home.

The growing need for Internet service is one well met by our baudy hero Sonali (Rhea Chakraborty), owner of a small cable service business. She is super-charged like the Energizer Bunny, jumping between buildings, flinging cable wires as enthusiastically as her dialogue, and zooming in and out of the screen with a perpetual grin plastered across her face. She’s a whiz with wires and definitely not the cable guy that the company usually sends out to hook up your service.

Like most smaller businesses in the communications field, Sonali is ripe for a buyout even though it seems like she has no intention to sell. That’s OK because the big, evil Shining Corporation, led by the hammy Anupam Kher (what is that cotton swab doing in his ear?), has no intention to make an offer, other than one she can’t refuse. She isn’t one to bow to threats, however, so she recruits Raghu (Ali Fazal), her childhood friend and son of local politician Meena (Smita Jaykar), to help her expand her business.

Handout picture from the movie "Sonali Cable"But the Shining gang isn’t having it, despite controlling most of the rest of the Internet access in Mumbai. It refuses to let Sonali enjoy a monopoly on her block, and isn’t above destroying property, committing fraud and even killing people to get what it wants. (Someone should have told them that decreasing the population means shrinking your potential subscriber base.)

Fazal as Raghu is restrained and pleasant to watch. He’s the antithesis of Kher, who as the evil owner of Shining Corporation, delivers a caricature instead of a portrayal of what should have been a hard-nosed businessman. Kher has hundreds of performances to his credit, some of them good. This isn’t one of them.

Movie Review: Tamanchey

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

The producers of “Tamanchey” (“Guns”) are being sued by a man who claims to have directed the film but hasn’t been credited for it. This is hardly new or surprising in an industry not known for respecting writers and directors. What’s really baffling is that someone would want to take credit for this appalling gangster film.

As on-the-run prisoners Munna and Babu, Nikhil Dwivedi and Richa Chadda seem to be competing to see who can come up with the most ridiculous line delivery. (Dwivedi’s faux Bhojpuri accent sounded like he spent an hour learning the language before launching into monologues)

They get plenty of help from visual director Navneet Behal, who seems determined to add to the ridiculousness quotient of the film. (The villain is about to stab Chadda with a knife, when someone calls him. He mutters “climax ke pehle hi breaking news aa gaya” (“breaking news, just before the climax”) and walks off, forgetting about the knife and Chadda).

Movie Review: Bang Bang!

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

There’s a scene in Siddharth Anand’sBang Bang!” when Katrina Kaif as a woman in danger worries that Hrithik Roshan’s pistol, cradled in her worried hands, isn’t big enough to do the trick. Roshan produces a gigantic gun from just off camera and shows it to her. “In shock?” he asks. You bet. It’s just what she’s been hoping for.

bangBang Bang indeed.

The film is a remake of the Tom Cruise action comedy “Knight and Day”, a fun caper about an unlikely couple on the run from the U.S. Secret Service. In the Bollywood version, the single-line plot gets expanded to include all the baubles and ornaments that India’s mainstream cinema can’t seem to do without. Patriotism, brotherly love, romance, exotic locales, cut-cut-cut shots, pounding techno music, sexism? You name it and they are all there, larding up this film to the 160-minute mark.

Hrithik Roshan’s character Rajveer is the suave and mysterious burglar who claims to have stolen the Koh-i-Noor diamond. He occupies centre stage, almost saving the film with his easy-going screen presence. He is the all-conquering, can-do-no-wrong hero. He kills people without getting caught, he extracts bullets from his body as one might extract a thorn, and delivers even the most chauvinistic lines with such panache that co-star Katrina Kaif (Harleen) can do nothing but gaze at him in adoration.

Movie Review: Haider

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In retelling William Shakespeare’s tragedy “Hamlet” against the backdrop of war and sectarian strife in Indian-administered Kashmir, Vishal Bhardwaj’sHaider” starts off promisingly. It’s too bad that the promise never delivers.

A handout still from the film "Haider"A tense, beautiful 10-minute opening sequence introduces Kashmiri doctor Hilal Meer, who thinks nothing of hiding and treating a wanted militant in his house, and his wife Ghazala. Meer does it for humanitarian reasons, telling his wife, “I support life over death.”

Of course, the Indian Army discovers the militant leader, bombs their house, and the doctor becomes one of the “disappeared”, one of thousands of people who were taken away by the army, never to be heard of again.

And Then One Day: Naseeruddin Shah on his memoirs and life

It’s difficult to hold back your surprise when Naseeruddin Shah, one of India’s foremost art house actors, says the film industry doesn’t interest him greatly. In a career spanning almost four decades, Shah has worked with Dadasaheb Phalke Award-winning director Shyam Benegal and James Bond actor Sean Connery, won acclaim for his movie roles and continues to dabble in theatre.

But Shah wasn’t exactly a child prodigy. His grades were the poorest in class and his teachers thought he would “find it difficult to amount even to a small bag of beans,” he writes in his memoir “And Then One Day.”

It took him a long time to grow out of the conviction that he was a “complete idiot,” Shah told me when I met him at The Oberoi, a hotel in central Delhi.

Movie Review: Daawat-e-Ishq

“Daawat-e-Ishq” is one of those infuriating films that seem to go on for ever, getting more monotonous by the minute. For a movie that is supposedly about food, there is surprisingly little of it on screen.

Instead, director Habib Faisal chooses to populate his movie with asinine plotlines, a lead pair whose romance is stone-cold, and characters who are neither funny nor interesting.

Gulrez aka Gullu is a feisty shoe salesgirl who dreams of studying fashion design in New York and marrying the perfect man with the perfect American accent. Her father has more modest ambitions for his only daughter. He wants to get her married, even if it means having to pay dowry. But when several suitors reject Gulrez because the dowry is deemed inadequate, she hits upon what she thinks is a brilliant plan to get the marriage monkey off her back, and fund her American education.

Movie Review: Khoobsurat

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

If you are looking for a modern version of Hrishikesh Mukherjee’s much-loved film of the same name, then Shashanka Ghosh’s “Khoobsurat” may disappoint you.

Mukherjee’s film was centred on Manju (incidentally the name of the main character’s mother in the remake), a rather effervescent heroine who steamrolls her way to everything and takes it upon herself to change the lives of a rather dull family.

Ghosh’s film takes the same premise, but not the middle-class milieu that was the hallmark of Mukherjee’s film. Instead, there are opulent palaces, kings, queens, and even the supposedly middle-class people dust their houses wearing designer outfits and artisan jewellery.

Movie Review: Finding Fanny

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

In Homi Adajania’s version of Goa, there are winding pathways, crumbling mansions, and the sleepy village of Pocolim where “life doesn’t pass you by, it passes you by at the pace you want it to.”

There is an oddball cast of characters to add to the picturesque location, and some lovely lines. The setting is perfect for a road movie with quirky characters, but Adajania’s film falters for want of a strong premise and its inability to see these characters and their story to some sort of a rightful conclusion.

There is Angie (Deepika Padukone), a young widow who lives with her rather crabby mother-in-law Rosie (Dimple Kapadia) and a cat named Nareus. Angie is friends with Ferdie (Naseeruddin Shah), a lonely old man who pines for the love of his life – a woman who he thinks turned him down. Thanks to the chance discovery of a decades-old letter, he finds that this isn’t the case. Angie insists that they must find Fanny and achieve closure. No one, she tells Ferdie, deserves an incomplete love story.

Movie Review: Mary Kom

(Any opinions expressed here are those of the author and not of Thomson Reuters)

At a crucial point in Omung Kumar’s biopic of MC Mary Kom, the boxer’s husband urges her to get back to the sport after giving birth to their twin sons. He eggs her on to train while he handles household responsibilities and in one scene, tells his wife to have a glass of milk to gain strength. Mary Kom stops him right there and says, “Don’t add any sugar, I am going to use Sugar Free.”

A still from "Mary Kom"Immediately, any empathy you were feeling for this character and her struggle is lost. Kumar’s retelling of one of India’s sports success stories is replete with such examples. Not only do they take away from the story’s authenticity, but also cheapen Mary Kom’s real-life struggle, reducing it to a hackneyed Bollywood script.

Mary Kom’s story starts from the time she’s an angry teenage schoolgirl picking fights with her classmates. She stumbles upon a boxing coaching centre and a coach who trains her. Kumar chronicles her rise on the boxing circuit, her love story with football coach Onler (played by Darshan Kumar), and her return to the ring after the birth of her twin sons.

Darshan Kumar says he is the hero of ‘Mary Kom’

darshanbhaiEven though he is not playing the lead in Mary Kom“, debutant actor Darshan Kumar calls himself the hero of the film.

Kumar plays Onler Kom, the on-screen husband of India’s best known female Olympic medallist – portrayed by Priyanka Chopra – and is on the lookout for “meaty” roles.

Conscious about whether his hair was in place and regretting that he didn’t put on some make-up, Kumar met me at a Gurgaon hotel to talk about Chopra and the film.