Red Rose—The Review

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redrose1

[Has spoilers]

Winston Churchill had once said about Russia, “It is a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma”.

The Red Rose, (a scene-by-scene remake of a Kamal Hassan and Sridevi Tamil movie) is a Russia, wrapped in Russia, inside a Russia, so convoluted and complex it is, with its nested riddles, mysteries and enigmas.

Is Red Rose, with its themes of  perversion, voyeurism, gratuitous gore, sexuality, verdant chest-hair and mammaries (only Om Shivpuri’s is shown) , an Indianized tribute to the Japanese pinku eiga or the Hong Kong Cat III or the Giallo genre of Italy?

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Ragini MMS 2—The Review

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One of the many things I do not understand about the world is why people would pay money in a theater to see Sunny Leone  in a half state of undress doing tepid things that would pass through the sieve of Indian censors when they can see her fully RTI-ed online doing bahoot hi krantikaari stuff for free.

It’s like someone getting a business class upgrade and then sitting coach-class right next to the lavatories, where the seats don’t even go back.

I never get it.

Because that’s all Ragini MMS 2 is.

Sunny Leone in lingerie and baby dolls and a song that has the words “baby doll”.

The first Ragini MMS was a passably good horror Hindi movie, given the severe restrictions of the Indian horror genre, stuck as it is in the scantily-clad lass in peril mode since the days of Ramsays. There were some nicely done moments, Rajkummar Rao is always good in whatever crappy role he is put in, and Kainaz Motivala’s demurely voluptuous charms captured through strategically-placed cams I at least understood the artistic reason for.

But Ragini MMS 2, with Sunny Leone playing a character called Sunny in the same way Himesh Reshammiya plays characters called Himesh (Himesh’s gratuitous cleavage being a horror movie in itself), is a disaster in every sense of the term.

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Gulaab Gang—The Review

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I have known the director of Gulaab Gang, Soumik Sen, for years now through my blog and have had the good fortune of meeting him at the reading of “The Mine”. When his movie came out, I knew I had to go see it but the problem with seeing anything done by a friend is that it is difficult to be totally unbiased. Also you are kind of afraid of not liking it. What do you do then? Pretend that you didn’t see it. Be brutally honest and say the truth? Since I write books and my friends read them, I am intensely conscious of the same dilemma that I put them in and always wonder how much knowing me affects their perception of the book.

Anyways, I went to see Gulaab Gang, trying to be as fair as possible, determined to tell the truth no matter how it turned out.

My verdict?

I loved Gulaab Gang.

Of course, I will accept my bias here, not for Soumik but for Madhuri Dixit and Juhi Chawla.

I grew up on them. I lived QSQT and Tezaab. I will also accept my bias for old school Bollywood, sans the nauseating wannabeness of what has come to sully its good-name, a  Bollywood of larger-than-life characters and conflicts, script-writers who could craft memorable lines and actors who could deliver them. Dilip Kumar. Raj Kumar. Shotgun. Amitabh. Sunny. Dharam. Prabhuji. Gulaab Gang stays true to the spirit of that masala Bollywood. And in a refreshing departure from current fashion, it is reverential to its roots rather than mocking in the way the Dabangg, Singham  and that Rohit Shetty-Akshay-Kumar-Ajay-whatever-how-he-spells-his-last-name-as-now school of forty-feet-jumping trucks is, where the conventions of classic Bollywood are extravagantly exaggerated and played for comedy and nothing else.

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Dhoom 3—The Review

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In 2004, two initiatives were launched to pass off mediocre blue-blood Babalog as superstars, while making a shitload of cash for their stakeholders.

One was the UPA government. The other was the Dhoom franchise.

In both these, the trick was essentially same. Smoke. Mirrors. Hype. And for smarter people to hold up the halo for the mediocres.

By 2004, the powers-that-be had tried, with no success, to pass Uday Chopra, the scion of one of Bollywood’s richest and most powerful families, off as a romantic hero. But after the spectacular tanking of his solo “Mere Yaar ki Shaadi Hai”, the writing was on the wall.

It was easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than it was to make Uday Chopra’s fantasy of being an A-list hero comes to fruition.

But they didn’t give up.

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Krrish 3—The Review

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The nation needs a superhero. Some try to bring one back from the pages of history, make a big statue and, through it all, generate political capital. Some create a superhero from imagination, make a big statue of him on film, and from that generate actual capital.

Like Rakesh Roshan. And his immortal “Krrish” (the only superhero with a numerically correct name) franchise, which may miss a number (Krrish 1 is followed by 3) but never an opportunity for nifty surrogate advertising. Products dot the landscape of Krrish 3, like pictures of Gandhi, Nehru, Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi at a Congress convention, and had not the movie been so stupendously original and exciting, one might have thought that more attention was given on product placement than things like plot, characterization and dramatic conflict.

Fortunately, that is not the case. Krrish is stupendously original, in every sense of the term.

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Lootera—the Review

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{Has spoilers}

Before I start to review “Lootera”, a disclaimer is in order.

Regular readers of the blog would know that I am a Bollywood-outsider. Which means, I have never had any personal connection to anyone in a film that I have reviewed.

Till now. Vikramaditya Motwane, the director of “Lootera”,  is an acquaintance through the blog, and hence what I am going to write, may or may not be influenced by that fact. Too often, I find reviewers in mainstream media not exactly up-front with connections to their subjects (“The director is a friend with whom I have drinks with”, “I am looking to work with the production house that made the film”, “The director rejected my script. Twice” and “the PR took me out to dinner”) and I will be damned if I do the exact same thing. I don’t think my opinion of “Lootera” is influenced by my knowing the director, and those that know me from the blog and on Twitter would know that I don’t hold back on my opinions, no matter how negative, even if the person concerned is a friend. But still this needed to be said. So there.

Now the review.

“Lootera” is gorgeously mounted, every frame is like a painting,  the cinematography/art-direction/lighting/use of music is awesome. Even the bad reviews of “Lootera” say this. Which is why I shall not delve into this any more . Beautifully shot and technically sophisticated movies, by themselves, do not impress me even a bit (and that may be because I do not fully appreciate some aspects, lacking as I do any form of formal training in filmcraft). Which is why I have more or less hated, with a vengeance, most of Sanjay Leela Bhansali’s creations, since I have failed to find anything else in them other than this obsession with “Wah kya frame hai”.

“Lootera” though, at least in my opinion, is not merely an action flicker of beautifully lit images. It has, embedded within it,  two fascinating interleaved narratives—the minor and the major.

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Into Darkness and Man of Steel

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Being a father of a five month old, it is tough watching in theaters as many movies as I used to. However, this being summer and the time for “franchise” releases, I had to (than you wife) just had to see “Star Trek: Into the Darkness” and “Man Of Steel.” (I have always found Iron Man to be very meh)

“Star Trek: Into Darkness” has big explosions, big intergalactic set-pieces, Cumberbatch’s accent and lens flare. It has little else. Now I am a big fan of Star Trek’s original series, which I consider to be some of the best science fiction ever to have been produced. I  have see every episode many times, read Star Trek themes books and these to the left are 1) on one of my walls and 2) one of my cushions [Read this older post for a more full treatment of my love for Star Trek] The original series was very minimalist in special effects (this was the 60s), almost like a stage play, and hence all of its impact came from dialog, characters and story. JJ Abrams turned the whole thing inside out in his 2009 reboot, sacrificing depth of story for the slam-bang. It still worked for me perhaps because of those lump-in-throat moments when characters you grew up with come back on screen, albeit in a different avatar (Kirk and Spock are almost dead ringers of the original) and because, the character development has already taken place for me before I had entered the theater. For Star Trek: Into The Darkness I had expected depth, since the first one could claim was just the set-up. In that I was disappointed. But the disappointment was made up for by  homages to the old show, littered as Into the Darkness is with “in-jokes”, including a play on the “Wrath of Khan” story with a possibly tongue-in-cheek re-doing of possibly one of the hammiest scenes ever in a mainstream Hollywood. Though for someone not steeped in Star Trek lore, I would think that “Into the Darkness” would be another by-the-numbers summer pop-corn blockbuster.

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On Kai Po Che !

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[Has spoilers]

Finally.

A male-bonding Bollywood film that does not have 1) Rich men driving down to Goa in a Mercedes for together-time 2) Even more rich men, meterosexual enough to make David Beckham look like Merv Hughes, driving around Spain, struggling with first-world problems of designer bags and commitment 3) Genius men doing a baby-delivery using improvised devices or 4) Angsty men getting into deep depression of the breakup of their music band or 5) Shirtless men running through the fields, high on life.

All right. Kai Po Che does have number five. But it still is a breath of fresh air in the world of  the dick flick (the male analog of the chick) crafting as it does three compelling and relatable characters who, for once, do not inhabit the history-less alternate dimension that forms the backdrop for almost all of mainstream Bollywood’s popular fantasies. History here exists and it is cruel and merciless as it tests their resolve, breaks them apart and unites once again, bringing success, ruin and tragedy to  three friends—the pragmatist, the believer and the idealist.

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The World of Master Criminals

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[Has spoilers for Players and Race 1 and 2]

An Abbas-Mastan is an acquired taste, like single malt or Cuban cigars. Not everyone can appreciate the meticulous research that goes into the making of their crime-thrillers and the believability of their characters and situations. Even those who do often miss the small touches of consummate artistry that is their hallmark. For example in Race 2, a tense sequence in which world-famous stud-art-thief is pulled out through a manhole into the bottom of a get-away-truck (this you have seen in a Mission Impossible movie) is as much as about the heist as it is about comely lass Amisha Patel’s first-day-GABBA-pitch-bouncy  cleavage, delegated as she is, of all the characters in this crime caper, to bend and lend a helping hand to the world-famous-stud-art-thief (this duality I can guarantee you have not seen in any Mission Impossible movie).

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