How I wonder what you are…

November 21, 2015



Thoughts on stars, those people who keep making us go to the theatres even if, sometimes, we wish better sense had prevailed. Why is Vedalam, Ajith’s Deepavali release, doing such boffo business at the Tamil Nadu box office? A lot of people have asked me this question, including a Delhi-based journalist who’s doing a story […]

“X: Past Is Present”… High concept, low returns

November 21, 2015



Spoilers ahead… Some films are so abstracted that they exist fully only in their makers’ heads, and if we are to engage with them at all, it isn’t to know what happens next but to dive in for the experience – something like accepting a dare to stare at a lava lamp unblinkingly for a […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

“Oru Naal Iravil”… A mature story that treats the audience like infants

November 20, 2015



Spoilers ahead… Imagine the irony. Sekar (Sathyaraj) sees his college-going daughter Varsha (Dixitha Kothari) behind a boy on a bike. He grounds her, breaks her phone and decides to marry her off at once. But he’s less severe on himself. He gathers friends and drinks into the night. Worse, he picks up a sex worker […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

Shelf Help

November 15, 2015



My contribution to a column in the Weekend Reading section of The Hindu, about three favourite books on cinema… I fell in love with Pauline Kael’s writing when I read her six-page response to The Godfather, Part II.  (“Review,” in this case, is too diminished a word.) On the third page, she said, “I began […]

Posted in: Books, Personal

Emotion capture

November 14, 2015



A quick trip through the nine moods – nava rasas – of the Indian film song. Which song would you pick as a depiction of Śṛungāram (Love)? There are hundreds. Abhi na jaao chhod kar, for instance. He’s saying don’t leave me yet, the heart hasn’t had its fill of you. She protests. It’s late. […]

“Vedalam”… A decent-enough star-dispensing machine

November 13, 2015



Spoilers ahead… Among the mass heroes, Ajith may be the most interesting. It’s the grey shades – not just in the hair, but also in the characterisations he gets away with. There’s something about watching a hero who isn’t virtue incarnate, whose image allows him to do things other heroes can’t, and Vedalam makes pretty […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

Art reorientation

November 13, 2015



A colossal performing-arts space in South Korea hopes to establish the East as the centre of the cultural world.  One evening this September in Gwangju, South Korea, some 125 people watched Tishani Joshi and Shaji John slip into what seemed like a trance and demonstrate Chandralekha’s theories about “the geometry of the body.” The production, […]

“Prem Ratan Dhan Payo”… Salman scores in unexceptional Barjatya formula

November 12, 2015



Spoilers ahead… What could explain my affection for Sooraj Barjatya’s work? My sweet tooth, definitely. But also his rootedness in an ethos that we think of – maybe “imagine” is a better word – as “Indian.” We may not be that “Indian” anymore, and we may squirm, sometimes, at his insistence on serving us orange […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

Mani matters

November 11, 2015


Cinema_1987_-_2015-09-23 - Copy

Much kindness from a reader. Thank you Ravishankar. Dear Sir I was gifted the book ‘Conversations with Mani Ratnam’ recently by a talented “kid” in my office for my birthday. Contrary to what I expected it was an extremely breezy read. I read Conversations with Hitchcock by Truffaut twenty five years ago in college and […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil, Personal

“Thoongavanam”… An okay thriller, with goodies for Kamal-watchers

November 10, 2015



Spoilers ahead… Kamal Haasan’s films are increasingly beginning to look like the “circus thuppakki” so memorably showcased in Aboorva Sagotharargal – the kind of gun that fires from both ends. The targets at one end are the general viewers, who just want a good time at the movies. At the other end are the fans […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

Festival dates

November 7, 2015



Thoughts from a few days when Fassbinder rubbed shoulders with Rajinikanth and Guru Dutt…. How do you plan your viewing schedule at the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival? One way is to simply let the film find you. Earlier this year, at the Berlinale, the documentary Fassbinder – To Love Without Demands was one of […]

Coming soon, and not just to theatres

November 7, 2015



Baradwaj Rangan reports on a film market at the Mumbai Film Festival, which hopes to help directors like Vetri Maaran target the screens on your laptops and smartphones. On the second day of the Jio MAMI Mumbai Film Festival, the producer Guneet Monga (The Lunchbox, Gangs of Wasseypur, Shaitan) screened a two-minute trailer of her […]

New clichés for love

November 6, 2015



Greeting cards still exist. Okay, at some level I knew they hadn’t become extinct, exactly, but when was the last time you saw one? I saw one when a friend and I ducked into a small stationery store. Someone in her office was retiring. She wanted one of those cards that everyone can scribble you-will-be-missed […]

“Main Aur Charles”… A slick, not-bad thriller

November 4, 2015



Spoilers ahead… We remember Charles Sobhraj as a serial killer, but Prawaal Raman’s biopic (though it doesn’t actually call itself one, or use the name “Sobhraj”) Main Aur Charles isn’t very interested in murders and gore. It follows the time-tested Godfather or Don strategy of hinting at a bad side but focusing on the things […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

“Guddu Ki Gun”… Not enough meat

November 4, 2015



Spoilers ahead… A monumental sex comedy could be erected from the premise of a young man who finds, one day, that his “man power” has transformed into a “sone ka tower” – but Guddu Ki Gun isn’t it. It isn’t for lack of trying, though. Kunal Khemu is game as ever – he must have […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

“Titli”… A sharp portrait of family traps and flights to freedom

November 4, 2015



Spoilers ahead… Violent films usually invite us to take off our politically correct hats and indulge our inner atavists. The spurts of blood in the work of Scorsese and Tarantino are like the money shots in porn films – we get off on them. There’s a very different kind of violence in Kanu Behl’s Titli […]

Posted in: Cinema: Hindi

The heart will go on, and on, and on…

October 31, 2015



Thoughts on a Malayalam documentary (and the movie it inspired) about star-crossed lovers who rival Laila-Majnu, Heer-Ranjha, Ambikapathy-Amaravathi… Why do we love love stories so much? I’m talking about the genre, which we never seem to tire of. When Ram Gopal Varma made Satya and Company, we raved about them, but when his follow-ups were […]

I hate the idea that a critic is ‘reliable’…

October 31, 2015



Baradwaj Rangan catches up with Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian’s chief film critic, who was at the Mumbai Film Festival mentoring future critics.  Do you think reviews are a kind of consumer report, or are they an art form? They’re certainly not a consumer report. I can’t say whether or not you will like a film. […]

Posted in: Cinema, Culture

A subtler magician

October 24, 2015



The superb new Spielberg movie is a showcase for the superb new Spielberg. In a recent interview with, Guillermo del Toro – whose entertaining throwback to Gothic horror, Crimson Peak, is in theatres now – spoke of his admiration for Steven Spielberg’s Catch Me If You Can. “It’s preternaturally nimble with such grace in […]

“Sivappu”… Not dismissible, but not much more either

October 23, 2015



Spoilers ahead… Sivappu, directed by Sathyashiva, begins with some tight writing. A construction worker falls to her death, and this tragedy gives us multiple insights. One, the working conditions are unsafe. Two, women are in especial danger. (The fall may have been the result of a rape attempt.) Three, Konaar (Rajkiran) is the general fixer-upper […]

Posted in: Cinema: Tamil

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