“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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“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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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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“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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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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“Kaun Kitne Paani Mein”… A whimsical fable with a lot to like

Spoilers ahead… Had things gone according to plan, the film about water scarcity would have come from Shekhar Kapur, and it would have featured Hrithik Roshan. The director wrote on his blog, “And years ago, as I sat down to write Paani, I had one image in mind to play the male lead. Hrithik Roshan.” But the project dragged on, and Roshan was replaced by … Continue reading “Kaun Kitne Paani Mein”… A whimsical fable with a lot to like

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“Phantom”… A revenge fantasy with good thrills, bad acting

Spoilers ahead… If there were awards for Most Schizophrenic Director, Kabir Khan would be winning them all. After extending an olive branch to Pakistan in Bajrangi Bhaijaan, he dons war paint and drops an A-bomb in Phantom, which begins with news footage and photographs from the 26/11 attacks in Mumbai. The film goes on to name Lashkar-e-Taiba, and has characters based on David Coleman Headley … Continue reading “Phantom”… A revenge fantasy with good thrills, bad acting

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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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richa masaan

“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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