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About and around pop culture

When it comes to writing about cinema, the bad films are as important as the good ones. “What makes you go watch this film despite knowing full well that it is nothing but trash?” Some version of this question crops up every time a critic reviews a “bad” movie. As subjective as the qualifier is, there are two kinds of “bad” movie. The first is … Continue reading About and around pop culture

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“All Is Well”… Uh, not really!

Spoilers ahead… All Is Well loses very little time telling us that the title is a lie. The film opens with a performance by a singer named Inder Bhalla (Abhishek Bachchan). The actor is stiff – he looks like a Citibank employee in the middle of a PowerPoint presentation. It’s hard to see who’s buying this music. Throughout the film, you get the feeling Bachchan … Continue reading “All Is Well”… Uh, not really!

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“Manjhi: The Mountain Man”… A molehill of a movie

Spoilers ahead… In 1960, a Dalit from a village in Bihar sold his last goat and, with the money, purchased a hammer and a chisel. He then headed to the nearby mountain and began chipping away at it. He kept at it for twenty-two years and ended up clearing a path through it, and now, the people from his village could walk through (instead of … Continue reading “Manjhi: The Mountain Man”… A molehill of a movie

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“Brothers”… A melodrama that fails to make us feel

Spoilers ahead… The Macbeth quote, a lot of sound and fury signifying nothing, could have been coined for Karan Malhotra’s cinema. As with his earlier Agneepath, his new film Brothers is immaculately mounted – some of the frames could be hung in the living room of the Dil Dhadakne Do family. But there’s a big hollow at the centre. We don’t feel that the things … Continue reading “Brothers”… A melodrama that fails to make us feel

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Common men, uncommon stories

On the eve of the release of ‘Manjhi – The Mountain Man’, Baradwaj Rangan traces the journey of our biopics, which are no longer just about larger-than-life achievers. It all began in 1959, when a landless Bihari from the Musahar community, a scheduled caste that traditionally made a living as rat catchers, decided to make a road through the Gahlaur Ghati hills, to ease passage … Continue reading Common men, uncommon stories

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“Bangistan”… A religious satire that’s… God-awful!

Spoilers ahead… If the Harold and Kumar team decided to remake Padosi, V Shantaram’s 1941 plea for religious tolerance, you might have something like Bangistan – it’s a give-peace-a-chance stoner comedy with an explosive climax right out of the older movie. Here too, a Hindu and a Muslim, so far on opposing sides, realise the error of their ways and end up hand in hand. … Continue reading “Bangistan”… A religious satire that’s… God-awful!

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A lover, a model and a nose

Remembering ‘jhankaar beats,’ the nineties, and ‘Aashiqui,’ which turned 25 this July. If you were the cassette-buying type in 1990, you probably remember this image. A white background with horizontal, equidistant lines – like a page from a ruled notebook. A boy and a girl in what appears to be an embrace – only, we don’t see their faces. The boy is pulling a jacket … Continue reading A lover, a model and a nose

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“Masaan”… Worth every bit of the Cannes hype

Spoilers ahead… I haven’t been able to stop thinking about Neeraj Ghaywan’s  Masaan since I saw it a few nights ago. For one, it’s astoundingly good – dreamy and textured and with powerfully understated images that refuse to fade away. Reciprocated love is shown through two red balloons rising into the night. Boys dive into a river and retrieve not just coins but also life-altering lotteries. … Continue reading “Masaan”… Worth every bit of the Cannes hype

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“Bajrangi Bhaijaan”… A surprisingly effective return to masala roots

Spoilers ahead… Bajrangi Bhaijaan surprised me in a lot of ways. For one, the flavour of masala here isn’t the flavour we usually associate with a Salman Khan movie. This isn’t outlandish – though that, when done well, can be worthwhile too. There’s a sense of sobriety here. The director is Kabir Khan. To say that this is the best work of his career isn’t … Continue reading “Bajrangi Bhaijaan”… A surprisingly effective return to masala roots

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Any body cannot dance

With the dance-based ‘ABCD-2’ vaulting over the Rs. 100 crore barrier, a reflection on choreography in Hindi films down the ages. Had I been the kind who rated films, I’d have given Any Body Can Dance 2 (aka ABCD 2) two-and-a-half shrugs – but that’s not surprising. For one, this isn’t a film meant for anyone over twenty. It isn’t for those who don’t follow … Continue reading Any body cannot dance

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“Guddu Rangeela”… An action-drama diluted by too much quirkiness

Spoilers ahead… If you crossed Ishqiya with Sholay, you’d have something like Guddu Rangeela. Like the latter film, this one revolves around two small-time con men – one intense, smart; the other a bulb of a lower wattage – who like puttering about on a motorcycle fitted with a sidecar. And like the thakur, one of them has a personal score to settle with the … Continue reading “Guddu Rangeela”… An action-drama diluted by too much quirkiness

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“Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho”… An uneasy mix of laughs and issues

Spoilers ahead… Hindi cinema hasn’t been very kind to lovers of scatological humour. Once in a while, we catch a whiff of flatulence – sometimes in a line of dialogue, sometimes in a throwaway scene like the one where Salman Khan broke wind in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam. By these constipated standards, recent years have proved positively diarrhoeal. Delhi Belly treated us to a … Continue reading “Miss Tanakpur Haazir Ho”… An uneasy mix of laughs and issues

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“ABCD 2.”… Ho, hum, whatevs

Spoilers ahead… How you respond to ABCD 2 will probably depend on how much you follow dance-reality shows on television, how much you like hip hop moves, and, most important, if you’re still at an age where you squeal when people you like show up on screen. At the theatre, I found myself vaguely… not bored. But then, I don’t watch much reality television. And … Continue reading “ABCD 2.”… Ho, hum, whatevs

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“Hamari Adhuri Kahani”… A melodramatic throwback that just doesn’t work

Spoilers ahead… For a while now, pathetic fallacy hasn’t been a popular technique. In Hamari Adhuri Kahani, Mohit Suri brings it back with a vengeance. The heroine is named after the earth (Vasudha, played by Vidya Balan) and she’s a florist. But these flowers don’t always bring happiness. Vasudha speaks of her profession as a necessary evil – all this beauty has to be nipped … Continue reading “Hamari Adhuri Kahani”… A melodramatic throwback that just doesn’t work

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“Dil Dhadakne Do”… It’s like watching paint dry… only, inside a palace

Spoilers ahead… Luck By Chance, Zoya Akhtar’s first and best film, is also one of the most dispiriting movies ever made. You know those books you find in the self-help section? This was the exact opposite. Consider its… lessons, if you will. Everything’s a fluke. All the hard work in the world may not get you what you want. You may have to sleep around … Continue reading “Dil Dhadakne Do”… It’s like watching paint dry… only, inside a palace

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“Tanu Weds Manu Returns”… A romance that struggles to measure up to its heroine’s performance

Spoilers ahead… What an odd title: Tanu Weds Manu Returns. Considering the audience just needs to be told that this is a sequel, was Tanu and Manu Again unavailable? Tanu Weds Manu Returns sounds like Tanu weds and Manu returns. The blue-penciller in me kept wanting to insert a comma midway. Though, really, it’s Tanu who returns. As the film begins – this, too, is … Continue reading “Tanu Weds Manu Returns”… A romance that struggles to measure up to its heroine’s performance

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“Bombay Velvet”… An Anurag Kashyap film with bafflingly few traces of Anurag Kashyap

Spoilers ahead… When I heard Anurag Kashyap was making a movie about Bombay, I wondered – despite the heavily Hollywoodised imagery – if he would tip a hat to the “Bombay movie.” Bombay Velvet opens, instead, as a Bombay documentary, with grainy, sepia-toned footage that gives us glimpses of the city, round about 1949. There’s prohibition. There are dance bars. There’s a “Godse Will Hang” headline. … Continue reading “Bombay Velvet”… An Anurag Kashyap film with bafflingly few traces of Anurag Kashyap

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“Gabbar is Back”… One of those masala movies that’s too “cool” to be one

Spoilers ahead… Gabbar Is Back, directed by Krish (and based on an original story by AR Murugadoss), keeps making us think it is the real deal, a real masala movie. We see dabbawalas. We witness a lavani performance. We step into a barbershop. In other words, we see not Mumbai but Bombay, which is always a good sign in a masala movie. But there’s always … Continue reading “Gabbar is Back”… One of those masala movies that’s too “cool” to be one

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“Piku”… An irresistible amble with a dysfunctional family

The following review is relatively spoiler-free. If you’ve seen the film and would like to read a more detailed (i.e. spoiler-filled) review, then please go directly to the review below. Piku (Deepika Padukone) brings to screen a robust multidimensionality we don’t usually see in our leading ladies. She balances domestic chores (laundry, dusting) and a career as an architect. She admits to – you may … Continue reading “Piku”… An irresistible amble with a dysfunctional family

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In Salman, they trust

A fascinating documentary shows us what Salman Khan means to an India that’s not quite shining. One of the more perplexing moments on Season Four of Koffee with Karan was when Salman Khan made an appearance – his first on the show – and declared, “I am a virgin.” He added that he was going to save himself for the one he gets married to. … Continue reading In Salman, they trust

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