“Singh Is Bliing”… Very funny in parts, until it gets painfully serious

Spoilers ahead… Singh is Bliing isn’t a movie so much as a collection of colourful bits (the real bliing is in the cinematography) in the style of what one may call a nautanki or a vaudeville performance – and for a while, that’s the film’s strength. Some bits are brilliant in the way a Mr. Bean episode is brilliant when you are in the mood. … Continue reading “Singh Is Bliing”… Very funny in parts, until it gets painfully serious

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“Talvar”… Superbly written and performed

Spoilers ahead… Meghna Gulzar owns the directorial credit in Talvar, but this is really Vishal Bhardwaj’s baby. He’s the writer – the film is based on the Aarushi Talwar murder case that transfixed the nation even as it left some of us wondering whether a similar tragedy in areas of the country not named Mumbai or Delhi would have commanded so much airtime and attention. … Continue reading “Talvar”… Superbly written and performed

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Rickshaw rides in an aviation age

Watching avant-garde theatre in South Korea. A little confounding. A little boring. And yet, exhilarating. The Asia Cultural Center Theater in Gwangju, South Korea, was inaugurated recently, with a three-week-long festival from September 4 to 21. The centre – it’s enormous – aims to establish itself as the hub of Asian contemporary performing arts, and when an invitation arrived, I didn’t need much persuasion. Offbeat … Continue reading Rickshaw rides in an aviation age

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“Puli”… A colourful diversion for undemanding kids

Spoilers ahead… If Chimbu Deven’s brief was to create a colourful diversion for undemanding children, then Puli, starring Vijay, must be counted as some sort of success. Through his career, the director has pitched his tent a couple of feet away from the mainstream – here too, his quirky inventiveness is charming. It isn’t just that an interlude in this Chosen One Saves The World … Continue reading “Puli”… A colourful diversion for undemanding kids

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Bullets over Blandings

In which I’m left wondering about the similarities (and differences) between Wodehouse and Woody Allen. You know those ‘Art of Fiction’ interviews in the Paris Review, where they talk at length with a writer? I stumbled upon one with PG Wodehouse recently, conducted when The Master was ninety-one and a half, and still working seven days a week. I perked up at two revelations.  One, … Continue reading Bullets over Blandings

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“Calendar Girls”… Bleurgh!

Spoilers ahead… Why is Madhur Bhandarkar still making movies? This is not a question about craft, for it is evident that the word means to him something that flies in the sky or sails in the sea. This is more about his interest in exposing the seamy underbelly of dance bars, jails, the fashion industry, Bollywood, and so forth. Heck, give this man a camera … Continue reading “Calendar Girls”… Bleurgh!

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“Kirumi”… A superb, low-key character study masquerading as a thriller

Spoilers ahead… Sometimes, five minutes is all it takes to assure you that you’re in the hands of a genuine filmmaker. Anucharan, who makes his directorial debut with Kirumi, is one. In those five minutes he establishes everything – tone, texture (you can feel the milieu like fabric), and the fact that this is an anti hero film. Not an antihero film – heaven knows … Continue reading “Kirumi”… A superb, low-key character study masquerading as a thriller

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“Kuttram Kadithal”… Very well done… up to a point

Spoilers ahead… The crux of Kuttram Kadithal, which was recognised as Best Film in Tamil at the National Awards announced this year, is the blurring of the line between religion and humanity – rather, the blind belief in a higher power versus the more rational belief that humankind is capable of many of the things (retribution, absolution) we often associate with God, and is therefore … Continue reading “Kuttram Kadithal”… Very well done… up to a point

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Wide-angle cinema

On ‘Swades’ versus ‘Srimanthudu.’ And the idea of the socially relevant ‘mass’ movie. A few weeks ago, Mahesh Babu’s Srimanthudu had a subtitled release in Chennai. I must say it was a brave move. Not because it was a Telugu film – these Telugu ‘mass’ films (or wide-appeal masala movies) are practically identical to the ones in Tamil – but because it referred to Mahesh … Continue reading Wide-angle cinema

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“Katti Batti”… A generally terrible rom-com that morphs into a melodrama

Spoilers ahead… Sometimes I wonder if we react badly to films because of the way they are promoted, the way we are programmed to think they’re going to be. Take Nikhil Advani’s Katti Batti. The trailer promised us a teddy bear; the film is a porcupine. We thought this was another rom-com – perhaps with a few more frayed edges than usual. The girl, Payal, … Continue reading “Katti Batti”… A generally terrible rom-com that morphs into a melodrama

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It’s complicated

Facebook has announced that they’re working on an alternative to the ‘like’ button. But is there a single button, a single word, that can contain the spectrum of negative human emotion? For a while, September 15 was like any other day. Large numbers of Indians, unsurprisingly, celebrated Engineer’s Day. Fans of old-fashioned murder mysteries remembered it as the 125th birthday of Agatha Christie. It was … Continue reading It’s complicated

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“Trisha Illana Nayanthara”… An okayish sex comedy where the joke is on the hero

Spoilers ahead… Adhik Ravichandran, the director of Trisha Illana Nayanthara, loses little time in establishing that his film is indeed the adolescent-male fantasy that the trailers promised. In the very first scene, set in a train, at night, a girl occupying the top berth invites a boy to share her space. The ‘sleeper class’ jokes write themselves. Later, Ramya (Anandhi) calls her boyfriend Jeeva (GV … Continue reading “Trisha Illana Nayanthara”… An okayish sex comedy where the joke is on the hero

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“Savaale Samaali”… Yawn!

Spoilers ahead… In the absence of remarkable films, let’s see if there are at least some remarkable statistics. For instance, was last week the first time we saw the release of two films whose names harked back to older hits? Paayum Puli was one. Sathyasiva’s Savaale Samaali is the other – and it has nothing to do with the Sivaji Ganesan drama about his villager … Continue reading “Savaale Samaali”… Yawn!

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“Paayum Puli”… Awful, with few silver linings

Spoilers ahead… The director Suseenthiran’s career is something like that line from Forrest Gump about life being like a box of chocolates… You never know what you’re gonna get. Sometimes you’ll get a delectable Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer. Sometimes you’ll get a Jeeva, half good, half bad-taste-in-the-mouth. And sometimes, there’s a Paayum Puli. This isn’t something made by the man who made Aadhalal Kadhal Seiveer and … Continue reading “Paayum Puli”… Awful, with few silver linings

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They remember so we don’t forget

A new documentary explores the Nellie massacre from a ‘micro’ perspective, through the accounts of two survivors. Abdul Khayer is an angry man, and to get to the root of his anger, we have to revisit the events of 18 February, 1983. This is how he remembers the day: “I saw our people leaving their homes and running… I tied one of my sons to … Continue reading They remember so we don’t forget

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“Hero”… Inoffensive… and that’s not a bad word

Spoilers ahead… Subhash Ghai had a thing for Sholay. Karma, of course, was his most explicit homage. Hero, on the other hand, is something of a what-if riff. What if a romantic musical were made using bits like the cop with the joint family, the scary villain, and the conman reformed by love? The surprise about Nikhil Advani’s remake of Hero is that he makes … Continue reading “Hero”… Inoffensive… and that’s not a bad word

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“Yatchan”… A well-crafted black comedy that isn’t all it could have been

Spoilers ahead… Imagine you are a filmmaker given these ingredients: murder; shattered dreams; a young woman’s (Swati Reddy) fear that her boyfriend may have run off with someone else; more murder; and a series of riffs on the notion of doppelgangers. Chinna (Arya) and Karthikeyan (an energetic Kreshna) are both outsiders in Chennai, and they’ve both fled from sticky situations – Chinna’s committed murder, and … Continue reading “Yatchan”… A well-crafted black comedy that isn’t all it could have been

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Musical meditation

Thoughts on the philosophical song, so much a part of our films at one time, but not anymore. As a movie, I did not care much for Manjhi: The Mountain Man, but there are some interesting things in it, like the song O Rahi. I’m talking about its lyrics, which go Chal apna rasta bana… Badlega khud ko to hi badlega yeh jahaan… Chingaari hogi … Continue reading Musical meditation

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