India Masala

Bollywood and culture in an emerging India

Rakht Charitra: Bloody tale

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- At the outset, I have to confess that I didn’t watch a lot of Ram Gopal Varma’s “Rakht Charitra”. Most of the scenes have so much blood and gore and what can only be described as disgusting methods of killing a human being that you are forced to avert your eyes. The film, based on the true story of Andhra politician Paritala Ravi, is less of a portrait of his time and life, and more of a gory chronicle of the bloody revenge saga he and his rivals are engaged in. Vivek Oberoi plays Prakash Ravi, the son of a local politician who is killed by his one-time mentor. Determined to take revenge when his elder brother is also killed, he transforms from college student to fugitive, hiding in the jungles and surfacing only to eliminate his father’s killers. The film traces his journey from a murderer to political leader, a minister in the cabinet with a swanky house of his own, a far cry from his makeshift shelter in the jungles. What Varma doesn’t do, however, is give us a glimpse into the minds of his characters, whether it is Ravi or his rival Bukka Reddy (Abhimanyu Singh who plays a despotic killer to the hilt). Instead, he chronicles every murder they commit, whether it is with a sickle, a gun, a handpump and several other weapons I cannot even begin to describe here. We get that the politics of the region is bloody, but exactly why it is like that, Varma doesn’t tell us. With the result you are left cringing at the amount of fake blood that must have been used during the making of the “Rakht Charitra”. Vivek Oberoi is intense as Ravi and Shatrughan Sinha as his political mentor will surprise you with a toned-down but effective performance. And Abhimanyu Singh brings the right amount of insanity in his eyes to convince you of his intentions. However, these aren’t enough to save the film, so unless you want to see some gruesome blood-spilling, you should avoid this one. Also, “Rakht Charitra” has a sequel coming up, releasing just three weeks later, and it’s also described as a “terrifying saga of revenge”. I cannot imagine how much fake blood they must have used for that one.

rc1At the outset, I have to confess that I didn’t watch a lot of Ram Gopal Varma’s “Rakht Charitra”. Most of the scenes have so much blood and gore and what can only be described as disgusting methods of killing a human being that you are forced to avert your eyes.

The film, based on the true story of Andhra politician Paritala Ravi, is less of a portrait of his time and life, and more of a gory chronicle of the bloody revenge saga he and his rivals are engaged in.

Vivek Oberoi plays Prakash Ravi, the son of a local politician who is killed by his one-time mentor. Determined to take revenge when his elder brother is also killed, he transforms from college student to fugitive, hiding in the jungles and surfacing only to eliminate his father’s killers.

The film traces his journey from a murderer to political leader, a minister in the cabinet with a swanky house of his own, a far cry from his makeshift shelter in the jungles.

Jhootha Hi Sahi: The truth is out and it’s ugly

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- I have a serious complaint against lovers in Bollywood films. Inspite of the fact that they know where the other stays, what he does, and the fact that they can just as easily go and deliver the “I love you” speech to their lover’s house the day after they’ve had their epiphany, they insist on hanging off a cliff or climbing a top a bridge, from where they can deliver their undying love for each other. Don’t they realise how ridiculous it looks? As you can guess, the above rant has been inspired by a scene in Abbas Tyrewala’s “Jhootha Hi Sahi”, dreary, dull rom-com that showcases perhaps the most wooden performances by a lead pair that I can remember and a lot of inane situations like the one described above. John Abraham is one half of the wooden pair, and plays Siddharth, a geek who co-owns an Indian book-store in London with two of his friends, and we are told stammers, but only when he meets a beautiful woman. He comes across Mishka (newcomer Pakhi), a depressed artist, when she calls him, mistaking his number to be that of a suicide help line. He talks to her through the night, and suddenly, she doesn’t want to kill herself any more. The two become “phone friends”, but for some reason, never quite explained in the film (or perhaps I missed it while I was yawning), he doesn’t want to reveal his identity to her. Instead, he be-friends her as Siddharth the bookstore guy, and talks to her on phone as the help line counsellor, leading a double life of sorts. The film follows a very predictable and very boring trajectory from here on. There is of course the obligatory ex-girlfriend and boyfriend, the funny friends, who egg them on and my main grouse, the epiphany in the end, which results in Siddharth clambering on London’s Tower Bridge as it closes, just so he can prove to her that he loves her. The film suffers from really bad casting, which is ironic given that Pakhi was casting director for Tyrewala’s earlier film “Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na”. John Abraham tries so hard to act, you are embarrassed for him. He is completely unfit for this role. Pakhi, on the other hand, is completely unfit to act. She has none of the qualities you expect in a leading lady; none of the screen presence and as for her chemistry with Abraham, there were scenes where she could have passed off as his elder sister. Tyrewala obviously wants to make a smart, funny film, on the lines of “You’ve Got Mail and “Notting Hill” but except for a few lines, the writing is laboured and tries too hard. His control over the movie wavers, and sub-plots are weaved sporadically into the main narrative. Also, Mishka is one of the most regressive heroines I can remember, coming across as this needy girl who doesn’t even take up a scholarship to Paris because her ex-boyfriend had promised that they would go together – before he dumped her, that is. The only good thing in this film is the performance by Raghu Ram, who plays Siddharth’s Pakistani friend Omar. Ram is funny, sardonic and responsible for the few laughs in the film. Everything else is just a drag. Avoid.

jhootha1I have a serious complaint against lovers in Bollywood films. Even if they know where the other person stays and can easily deliver the “I love you” speech at the lover’s house, they insist on hanging off a cliff or climbing atop a bridge from where they can declare their undying love for each other. Don’t they realise how ridiculous it looks?

As you can guess, the above rant is inspired by a scene in Abbas Tyrewala’s “Jhootha Hi Sahi“, a dreary and dull rom-com that features perhaps the most wooden performances by a lead pair that I can remember and a lot of inane situations like the one described above.

Ramayana: Not an epic revisited

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- It must take a lot of talent to take one of the greatest stories ever told and turn it into a mediocre, boring tale that makes you yearn for Ramanand Sagar to make a comeback with his serialised ‘Ramayana’. Chetan Desai’s “Ramayana – The Epic”, an animated version, tells you nothing new but manages to make one of Hinduism’s most revered epics and its characters tacky, B-grade Bollywood extras who uses phrases like “marvayega tu” and sing rap songs in the middle of a jungle before going out to fight against Ravana. I am all for retelling a story but I am afraid Desai goes about this ‘Ramayana’ with the attitude of a bull in a china shop. He glosses over the childhood years of Rama, deals with his wedding and exile in a half-hour and then moves on to the action — namely, his fight against Ravana. Important plot points are explained away by a two-line narration and the dialogues, particularly, are amateurishly written. This is certainly not how Hindi was spoken hundreds of years ago. Desai also ends the story with Rama’s coronation and leaves out one of the most important parts of the story — Sita’s trial by fire. The animation itself is not much to write home about and Indian audiences may find it hard to accept a Rama sporting washboard abs and a buxom Sita. If you do want to revisit this much-loved epic, I recommend you go back in time to the Sunday mornings of yore. Watching this version is not going to do it.

ramyana1It must take a lot of talent to take one of the greatest stories ever told and turn it into a mediocre, boring tale that makes you yearn for Ramanand Sagar to make a comeback with his serialised ‘Ramayana’.

Chetan Desai’s “Ramayana – The Epic”, an animated version, tells you nothing new but manages to make one of Hinduism’s most revered epics and its characters tacky, B-grade Bollywood extras who uses phrases like “marvayega tu” and sing rap songs in the middle of a jungle before going out to fight against Ravana.

Aakrosh: Not really about honour killing

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Aakrosh

Use a ruler to draw a straight line. Then try to draw another straight line freehand. Sometimes you get it right, sometimes you get it all wrong.

Aakrosh” which has been ‘filmed’ by Priyadarshan gets it absolutely right, Bollywood style.

Do Dooni Char: Sporadically charming

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- Watching Rishi and Neetu Kapoor on screen is truly such a pleasure. The couple have lost none of the effervescence they had a couple of decades ago – the chemistry still sparkles, as do their eyes and you are hooked. They are the Duggals in director Habib Faisal’s “Do Dooni Chaar”, a gentle comedy about a middle-class high school teacher who wants to buy a car for his family, but finds that he can’t afford to on his very meagre teacher’s salary. It does not help that he has two very brattish kids (Archit Krishna and Aditi Vasudev) who are constantly demanding iPods, indulge in illegal betting and refuse to sit with him on his worn down but trusty Bajaj scooter because it makes them look bad. When his younger sister demands that he and his family come to her house for a family wedding in nothing less than a car, Santosh Duggal has to beg a neighbour to lend him his car, because he can’t even afford to hire one. But when that car meets with a slight accident and he has to face the brunt of his neighbour’s ire, he decides it is time he got his own car, even though he cannot afford to. The first half of the film is quite engaging, but in spite of the good performances by all four main characters, you feel like the director is trying too hard to make a particular scene touching or funny. Even then, you are enamoured by this family and their dream of owning a car. The second half unravels a bit. The screenplay is haphazard and the way Duggal goes about trying to get a car don’t seem plausible. Other than these glitches, this is a film that will make you laugh, albeit in parts. While there are some real moments in the film, somehow it doesn’t come together in the end. Watch it though, if nothing else, then for India’s most evergreen on-screen couple and their chemistry. They make everything else, including flaws fade into the background.

ddc1Watching Rishi and Neetu Kapoor on screen is truly such a pleasure. The couple have lost none of the effervescence they had a couple of decades ago – the chemistry still sparkles, as do their eyes and you are hooked.

They are the Duggals in director Habib Faisal’s “Do Dooni Chaar”, a gentle comedy about a middle-class high school teacher who wants to buy a car for his family, but finds that he can’t afford to on his very meagre teacher’s salary.

Anjaana Anjaani: Suicidal story

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- Making a film with just two characters and about their journey towards love is a concept that has worked quite well. The Ethan Hawke starrer “Before Sunrise” and its sequel “Before Sunset” come to mind immediately. These films had at their centre a great love story between two very interesting people and their interaction with each other itself was enough to take the story forward. It is of course entirely to the credit of the director and the scriptwriter that he can achieve that. And no matter how many foreign locales director Siddharth Anand shoots in and no matter how American his characters talk and act, he doesn’t come even close to creating that kind of interest and sympathy for them, or his film for that matter. “Anjaana Anjaani”, which is about Kiara and Aakash, two very whiny people who meet each other when they are trying to kill themselves, but by the time they change their mind, you might want to do the deed for them. They spend the 2-and-a-half-hour film driving around deserts and swimming in freezing water, pretending they are friends, when you could have saved them that trouble and told them they were going to fall in love in the first five minutes of the film. Their exchanges are childish to say the least and have none of the freshness and originality you might expect from a film that is anyway re-hashing an old formula. Both Ranbir Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra share a good chemistry on screen, but give the sense that they are trying too hard to make up for the listless script. The last scene especially is so bad it is cringe worthy and both actors ham it up like there is no tomorrow. Avoid this one unless you want to die of boredom

AA2Making a film with just two characters and about their journey towards love is a concept that has worked quite well in the past.

The Ethan Hawke starrer “Before Sunrise” and its sequel “Before Sunset” come to mind immediately. These films had at their centre a great love story between two very interesting people and their interaction with each other itself was enough to take the story forward.

Robot is a critic-proof film

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- I could write a regular review of the Rajnikanth-starrer “Robot” as I do almost every week. I could give you the story outline and list out the positives and negatives, talk about the performances. But that would make no difference because most people are going to watch this film anyway. And no matter how absurd the storyline might be, you cannot escape the sheer star power of Rajnikanth. He makes even the most ridiculous scenes and plot lines look entirely stylish and believable. So, in a departure from the usual drill, here are some thoughts on “Robot” rather than a regular review - First, the story in brief. Rajnikanth plays three roles in the film. That of a scientist who creates a humanoid robot, the robot itself who “falls in love” with the scientist’s girlfriend (Aishwarya Rai) and finally the “bad robot” who is out to destroy everything. That is pretty much all there is to the story. - The action, special effects and animatronics in “Robot” are perhaps some of the best we’ve seen on the Indian screen. The climax sequence, though long drawn out, is especially impressive and you can understand why this movie cost the amount that it did. - Rajnikanth seems ageless. You wouldn’t believe he is more than 60 years old from the way he jumps, dances and talks. Of course, it is also the result of some good make-up and special effects but I think I understand where all those Rajnikanth jokes come from. - Aishwarya Rai looked more like the “Robot” than Rajnikanth did. Her expressions were entirely artificial and so were some of her costumes in the dance sequences. Also, this is the shallowest role she has done in a long time — she has nothing to do but kiss Rajni (on the cheek, mind you, this is a family film) and look good. And she doesn’t even manage to do that most of the time. - The film is too long. Yes, I know it would have meant a little less Rajni but did we really have to witness a five-minute long conversation with him and a swarm of mosquitoes? A lot of the scenes are entirely unecessary. - Even though the film is all about the snazzy action sequences and hi-tech special effects, there is an underlying message — the man vs machine one — that gets through to the viewer quite effectively. - Go watch this film anyway but I think one should watch it in Tamil. I have a feeling it’s going to be more fun that way.

robotI could write a regular review of the Rajnikanth-starrer “Robot” as I do almost every week. I could give you the story outline and list out the positives and negatives, talk about the performances. But that would make no difference because most people are going to watch this film anyway. And no matter how absurd the storyline might be, you cannot escape the sheer star power of Rajnikanth. He makes even the most ridiculous scenes and plot lines look entirely stylish and believable.

So, in a departure from the usual drill, here are some thoughts on ”Robot” rather than a regular review

Sanjay Leela Bhansali turns to music

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- At the launch of the first look of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest offering “Guzaarish”, it came as a surprise that the trailer didn’t have any hint of the songs. Instead, it was just a melody that served as a background. Given the memorable music of his earlier films, there are a lot of expectations from this one. But the director does have a reason for keeping the music under wraps a little longer, because there is a brand new music director making his debut — Bhansali himself. The director says he didn’t want to pass on the “deep thoughts” the characters would be expressing musically in the film to someone else. “Only I can understand what my characters feel the best. So I thought it was best that I score the music for the film,” he said. In “Guzaarish”, Hrithik Roshan plays a magician who becomes paraplegic after a stunt goes wrong while Aishwarya Rai stars as his lady love. The film opens in cinemas on Nov 19. “Guzaarish” also marks the Bollywood debut of model Monikangana Dutta and will be important for Bhansali, coming as it does three years after his much-hyped “Saawariya” failed at the box-office.

guzaarishAt the launch of the first look of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s latest offering “Guzaarish“, it came as a surprise that the trailer didn’t have any hint of the songs.

Instead, it was just a melody that served as a background. Given the memorable music of his earlier films, there are a lot of expectations from this one.

Zangoora: Bollywood comes alive on stage

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Zangoora

It’s not a film, not a play and not a dance-drama. Well, maybe it’s a fusion of all three.

But “Zangoora: The Gypsy Prince”, billed as Bollywood’s biggest musical ever, is definitely something Indian audiences have never seen before.

Anurag Kashyap – the industry ‘outsider’

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- Mumbai, (Reuters) – Anurag Kashyap hasn’t slept in four days. He’s been writing his next film and doesn’t want to stop till it’s done. When we walk into his suburban terraced apartment he’s beaming because he’s just finished writing the climax, which he informs you, before he’s even been introduced to you, he is very happy with. He offers you some tea, shows you clips from his new film “That Girl in Yellow Boots”, which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, all the while chatting animatedly with his assistants about shooting schedules and movies. In an industry where it’s all about being politically correct, Kashyap is delightfully candid, speaking about himself and the world he inhabits with an honesty that is difficult not to appreciate. Not that, that should come as a surprise – he is after all the “hat ke” film maker of Bollywood, the rebel, the one who is out to change the way the game is played. “Dev D”, his modern adapation of Sharat Chadra Chattopadhay’s classic Devdas was what many critics termed a turning point for Bollywood and the way it makes films. Anyone else who hadn’t slept for four days would barely be able to stay coherent, but Kashyap is buoyant, alive and itching to move on to the next task. Can you really write a film in four days, I ask him? “Of course you can,” he tells me gleefully. “I think about my films for a long time, maybe years, but I write them in days. He shoots them in days too, apparently. “That Girl in Yellow Boots” was shot in less than thirteen days, in an industry where it takes longer to shoot a song sequence. “That’s because I am an economical film maker,” he says. “I shoot one scene in one way and don’t make any changes. That way there is less wastage.” That is evident from the minimalist feel that most of his films exude. There are no extravagant dance sequences, or magnificent sets, long monologues where the protagonists rue their lot in life. Instead, the milieu is everyday, as is the language. “I think it comes from the fact that I am from a small town and everything there is so normal. I think the perspective that small-town directors bring to films is very different,” he says. That perspective is now going into other films. Kashyap turned producer this year, with “Udaan”, a coming of age tale set in small-town India, which was an official entry at the Cannes film festival this year and opened to rave reviews in India. ““It is an entirely selfish decision to turn producer, because I want my kind of cinema to last and flourish, and helping young film makers make those kind of films is the best way to do it,” he says. Born in a small town in Eastern UP, Kashyap first came to Mumbai to write scripts for serials, and then turned to making films. The place took a toll, his marriage crumbled and he was left with no place to stay. “As far as I was making serials I was the king of this place. Making films, “Paanch” not being released and having to sleep on people’s couches, really straightened me out,” he says. Perhaps that is why one of the first things he does when he is starting out on a film is ensure that everyone involved has a place to stay and the promise of a meal. “I have booked a guesthouse with a kitchen for all of you,” he tells an assistant, and turns around to tell you “once their food and boarding is taken care of, they can concentrate on the film.” Not a lot of producers in Mumbai would do that, and I tell him so. I am not from this city, he says, flipping through a book. I crane to see which one it is. The Outsider, by Albert Camus, which he says is his “favourite book”. It seems entirely appropriate to me.

anuragkAnurag Kashyap hasn’t slept in four days. He’s been writing his next film and doesn’t want to stop till it is done. When I walk into his suburban terrace apartment, Kashyap is beaming because he’s just finished writing the climax and he is very happy with it.

He offers you some tea, shows you clips from his new film “That Girl in Yellow Boots” which premiered at the Venice Film Festival, all the while chatting animatedly with his assistants about shooting schedules and movies.

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