Pretty pictures

October 22, 2016



On the great shallow pleasures of gawking at beautiful people on screen, and the problems when they pretend they’re otherwise. When the minute-and-a-half teaser for Karan Johar’s upcoming Ae Dil Hai Mushkil was released in August, I froze at the thirty-second mark, the point where Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, in a salmon-pink coat, turns to the […]

The Amateur’s Art #8 – “Platform Paune Dus” (Hindi, with English subs)

October 17, 2016



See here for what this series is about. This short is by Aman Agrawal. Director’s note: The film revolves around the education system in India and how it gets to a point of being a blind race. So much so that young kids don’t really know what they are trying to achieve.

A sense of books

October 15, 2016



My contribution to a “musings” column in the Weekend Reading section of The Hindu… Sir Francis Bacon had great taste in books. Think of his most famous quote: “Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested.” The image isn’t so much of the bibliophile as […]

Posted in: Books, Shelf Help

Effect and cause

October 15, 2016



‘Placebo,’ the “AIIMS students” documentary recently released on Netflix, is as much about the filmmaker as those being filmed. “I want to look thin. I’ve always had the image of skinny me, swimming through a swimming pool.” If I hadn’t seen Abhay Kumar’s documentary, Placebo, if I’d just read these words on a page like […]

“Ammani”… A drama with textured characters and a tough message

October 14, 2016



Spoilers ahead… It’s easy to care about Salamma (Lakshmy Ramakrishnan), the hardworking protagonist of Ammani. She’s employed at a government hospital, where she swabs floors and tends to an amputee’s stump and cleans up after a patient whose motion is like stone. The words make us flinch; the visuals don’t. The film strikes a fine […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

“Mirzya”… A major misfire… But for a while, a fascinating formal experiment

October 9, 2016



Spoilers ahead… Something about star-crossed lovers nudges our filmmakers towards formal experiments. Chetan Anand’s Heer Ranjha is entirely in exquisite verse. Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s Saawariya, itself containing a lot of spoken verse, seals itself from natural light and the outside world – it’s shot entirely on doomed-fairy-tale sets painted in colours of the night. Rakeysh […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

“Rekka”… An action film that’s totally nuts, and quite enjoyable

October 8, 2016



Spoilers ahead… I had a lot of fun watching Rekka, which is essentially Vijay Sethupathi saying he can be Vijay Sethupathi even in Vijay’s world. The actor plays Siva, who spends his life abducting women who are in love with X but are on the verge of being married off to Y, and reuniting them […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

Analysis, critical!

October 8, 2016



Social media may not have killed the film critic, but it has definitely changed the business of film criticism. In a panel discussion at the Indywood Film Carnival, held in Hyderabad last week, I was asked about the impact of social media on critics. It wasn’t the first time I’ve been asked this question. It […]

“Remo”… A charmless movie that puts effort into everything but the script

October 7, 2016



Spoilers ahead… For a while, Bakkiyaraj Kannan’s Remo looks like Tootsie. A small-time actor (SK, played by Sivakarthikeyan) discovers that he has a shot at a part in a KS Ravikumar film, but only if he transforms himself into a female nurse. We await the scene where SK frantically hunts for help in the makeup […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

Fact? Or rah-rah fiction?

October 6, 2016



The problem with the recently released biopic of Mahendra Singh Dhoni is the problem with many biopics of the famous: the flaws make way for fawning. MS Dhoni – The Untold Story is a terrifically entertaining sports saga, but is it a biopic, a “biographical picture”? On the evidence of dictionary definitions, it probably qualifies. […]

Posted in: Cinema, Cinema: Hindi, Op-ed

The Amateur’s Art #7 – “Juliet’s Shiva” (English, with English subs)

October 4, 2016



See here for what this series is about. This short is by Nikkhil Menonn.

From Love Marriage to Dhoni

October 3, 2016



A short history of cricket in Hindi cinema. Take the topic of cricket in Hindi cinema and the temptation to concoct a quiz is irresistible. For instance, name the actors who played father and daughter in two films featuring the game. That would be Naseeruddin Shah and Urmila Matondkar, inMasoom and Chamatkar. Which is the […]

“M.S. Dhoni – The Untold Story”… Not a good biopic, but a perfectly entertaining yarn

October 2, 2016



Spoilers ahead… At one time, the minimal requirement for a biopic to be made about a man (or woman) wasn’t just a life that lent itself to drama but the subject’s death. Mahatma Gandhi died in 1948. Richard Attenborough’s film came nearly 35 years later. You could point to the films about Mary Kom and […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

More than a few good women

October 1, 2016



‘Dil Chahta Hai’ is the ultimate male-bonding movie, but today, the females seem more fascinating. So Dil Chahta Hai turned 15 this year. It hasn’t aged all that well. That’s the thing about being such an embodiment of your era that mere English words cannot do justice to what you captured. You need something heftier, […]

“Parched”… A very well-acted film that hits hard, hits home

September 29, 2016



Spoilers ahead… Is Radhika Apte the best weeper on screen today? With other actresses, you hunt for a handkerchief to lend, a ladies’ room to usher them into. You worry about their makeup. With Apte, the emotion goes deeper, down to her core, and then it bursts out. You hunt for something to hold on […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

“Banjo”… Some nice touches cannot salvage a trite story

September 28, 2016



Spoilers ahead… In Banjo, Marathi director Ravi Jadhav proves, once again, that only regional filmmakers know their way around a “mass” movie. It isn’t just that the underprivileged banjo-playing hero (Taraat, portrayed by Riteish Deshmukh) is shown rising from a manhole, blackened with sewage, after rescuing a child that’s fallen in. It’s that his bathing […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

Movies, memories and everything in between

September 24, 2016



Watching old films on the big screen is a form of travelling through time. Why don’t we have revival theatres? The US has them. Among the coming attractions at the Texas Theatre in Dallas is a screening of The Fly, to commemorate its 30th anniversary. The point isn’t that the film can be seen on […]

“Aandavan Kattalai”… Yet another marvellous comedy of desperation from Manikandan

September 23, 2016



Spoilers ahead… At the opening of Manikandan’s Aandavan Kattalai, these words flashed on screen: This film is meant to create awareness. My heart sank. The film is about debt-ridden Gandhi (Vijay Sethupathi), who, with the help of falsified documentation, attempts to get to London on a tourist visa, stay back, and make pots of gold. […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

“Thodari”… Given the names involved, shockingly inept

September 22, 2016



Spoilers ahead… With most films, a critic prepares for a dissection. With Thodari, it’s more of an autopsy. The film is dead on arrival. You come away with the impression that director Prabhu Solomon gives one hell of a story narration. What else can explain why an artist like Dhanush signed up, despite situations that […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

The Amateur’s Art #6 – “Kadaladhigaaram” (Tamil, with English subs)

September 21, 2016



See here for what this series is about. This short is by Lokesh Raghuraman.