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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Gangs of Wasseypur—The Review

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Gangs[More a deconstruction I guess than a review, (despite the title) this post has spoilers]

There have been very few movies that have had as much influence on its genre as The Godfather. When I say influence, I am of course using the Pritamian euphemism for “provide a treasure-trove of characters, situations and set-pieces on which the carrion-feeders of Bollywood can feast on for decades as they produce one aatank (terror) after another, including a movie titled Aatank Hi Aatank”. A part of the blame for being ravaged lies with the victim itself (and how often do we hear that). So epic is Godfather’s scope, so compelling are its protagonists and so eternal its dramatic conflict  that it becomes genuinely difficult to extricate oneself from its influence, even with the best of intentions.

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Talaash—The Review

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If you are an alien from outer space and your idea of humanity is formed solely on watching mainstream commercial Hindi movies, you could not be blamed for thinking that human beings are defined by two primary emotions. Anger and love. And that’s about it. Even in this rather restricted palette, there exist little in terms of shades. Anger is typically Sunny Deol snarling “Balwant Rai ke Tattu” (or Taate I forget which) or Amitabh Bachchanian “Aaj Khush to bahoot honge tum” angst. Love fares even worse, that many splendored thing reduced to juvenile “oohing and aahing” of the Ishq-wala love variety, an over-the-top concoction of roses-and-chocolate hyper-romance which frequently requires multiple adjectives to (“Pyar Ishq Aur Mohabbat”) hammer in the “Kaheen na kaheen koi hai” lovey-loveiness. Other expressions of emotions, when and if they are shown, are almost always concomitants to love, “Pyar ke Side Effects”. Thus melancholia has to stem either from the pain of separation between mohabbateins or from unrequited puppy-love. Even lust (“jism ki bhookh”) is defanged and transformed into a pink syrupy love-goo (“pyar ka ehsaas), bypassed from the loins to the heart in a masterful feat of moral surgery.

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Masters of Horror– Part 3

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[Previous editions of Masters of Horror---Part 1, Part 2]

As someone who writes genre fiction (Please buy “The Mine” if you have not yet), I always strive to layer in my elements. In other words, I try to hide the real horror of the story beneath the surface of the narrative such that what is being shown is as important (if not more) than what is being implied. Two levels (the outer and the inner) is the maximum I can handle and that too with difficulty. Which is why I doff my cap to Vikram Bhatt, a true master of horror, who effortlessly handles four, five, six and even sometimes seven layers of horror with consummate ease.

Case in point, Vikram Bhatt’s latest blockbuster Raaz 3 aka Raaz 3D aka Raaz the Third Dimension. It has caught the world by storm, getting reviews from NY Times (link) and LA Times (link), setting box-office records in India and perhaps, most impossibly, reviving the career of Bipasa Basu. Raaz 3 has seven layers of horror, which keen readers will note is the same number of circles of Hell envisioned by Dante. This, I believe, is not a co-incidence because sitting through Raaz 3 is like descending into the deepest depths of the Devil’s Lair.

So what are these seven layers you ask. Well, here they are. In no particular order.

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