Logan—The Review

2 Comments

logan

In the year 2000, Bryan Singer made XMen. It still holds up well after all these years, specially the set-piece at Grand Central though perhaps not Storm vs Toad, but the significance of the original XMen goes well beyond as a well-done off. It launched the age of the modern superhero franchise, multiple interconnected movies, A-list actors, A-list directors, revenues in the billions, and guaranteed summer blockbusterdom. And the worldwide phenomenon of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine. Over the years, the XMen franchise has spawned multiple movies, some good, most bad, and Hugh Jackman has been through most of it all, and before you know it a whole seventeen years have passed, and a generation has grown up, watching this one actor play this one character. And so when Hugh Jackman announced his decision to hang up his claws, it was like a favorite player announcing his retirement, you wanted him to have a great send-off, a film worthy of a career.

Logan is that. And more. It ties with The Dark Knight as the greatest superhero movie ever. There are no God-like beings having universes for lunch, gigantic drills changing the earth’s polarity, hundred story buildings being split apart by a laser beam, no endless armies of superheros, each having two minutes of dialogues and three scenes, no greenscreen assault of CGI jiggerypokery, and most importantly, no feeling of having paid good money to watch a trailer for forthcoming attractions, all of which would then, in turn, be trailers for the next set. In Logan, the violence is scaled down,  the action set pieces scaled back, and the focus is on the effects of the violence, the wounds and the hurt, and this makes it all so much more real and effective. In that it is a cowboy movie with mutants, using the trope of the washed out gunslinger and the brash evil sheriff and the final redemption of the flawed hero, and with locales in cowboy country and sun-washed frames, so reminiscent of the world of Eastwood, Fonda and Leone.

Continue Reading »

Advertisements

Kaabil and Raees—A Joint Review

11 Comments

kaabil-33 raees

The 90s are back.

Not that I have become thin again or that LK Advani once again has a chance to become the Prime Minister. No, the reason that the 90s are back, at least for the greater part of four hours, is because Raees and Kaabil are retreads of well-worn 90s formula, faithfully rehashing as it does ancient tropes, with only a thin patina of 2010s gloss airbrushed over them.

Which in itself is not bad, for  90s junkies like me, except that both fail in bringing something even mildly new to the familiar.

First Kaabil. You know something is off by two decades when in the first five minutes, there is a joke made on Hrithik Roshan and Yami Gautam’s babies being as white as goras. Not that one can fail to not notice Yami Gautam, the patron saint of fairness creams and its favorite brand ambassador, whose whiteness which, like snows on a mountain, can cause tone-blindness if not looked upon with shades, the joke, which would have passed unnoticed in the 90s, does sound a bit, just a tad off-color in this day and age.

And then we go back further. Yami Gautam, like Mithunda’s sister in each of his Ootie movies, is raped. And then, exactly like Mithunda’s sister, she commits suicide, clearly articulating the reason behind the act, namely that she is not the same for her husband after being defiled, and that of all the things she can tolerate, there is no greater torture than to see her husband’s (or in the case of Mithunda, brother and father’s) humiliation. While I am pretty sure I have heard this sentiment expressed in countless Hindi movies of the 90s, this so-called “Gudiya bigaar gayee aur sabka mooh kala ho gya” trope is absolutely atavistic in this day and age, leaving one wondering if it’s 2 am, and you are having trouble falling asleep, and have tuned into Zee Gold, to watch “Mera Pati Sirf Mera Hai” or actually in a multiplex watching a 2017 release.

Continue Reading »

Dangal—The Review

12 Comments

dangal

The genre of sports movies is more trope-laden than most. The come-back-from-behind victory at the end. Adversity. Perseverance.  The overcoming of personal demons. The obtaining of redemption either through one’s victory or through one’s wards. A training montage to robust background music. Dangal, inspired by wrestler Mahavir Singh Phogat and his Commonwealth-medal-winning daughters, ticks almost all those boxes, with excellent performances from the ever-reliable Aamir Khan and the actresses who play Geeta Phogat and Babita Phogat as adults, Fatima Sana Seikh and Sanya Malhotra, and those that play them as children, Zaira Wasim and Suhani Bhatnagar, suitably rousing music, some excellently choreographed wrestling sequences, and the cinematic scaffolding needed to hold it all together, taut and flabless, for two and a half hours.

And yet, Dangal, is at its weakest when it is just a sports film.

Continue Reading »

Ae Dil Hai Mushkil–The Review

11 Comments

adhm

Karan Johar is a creator of worlds. Like J K Rowling, George R R Martin and Gurmeet Ram Rahim. Even though Mr. Johar’s world is populated by what seems to be homo-sapiens, in that they live, breathe, drink, eat, attempt to fornicate and occasionally die in order to resolve a story perfectly (leaving behind letters for an over-precocious child to read), it is very obviously a reality that is not quite ours. In the Johar universe, poverty does not exist even for poets and singers, people travel in personal jets, live in chic lofts in Paris and London with designer furniture, body-fat has melted away instead of the icecaps , the government provides everyone the latest fashions to wear , people do not converse but mushaaira through life, and men and women may lose their marbles occasionally and start thumping themselves on the chest with a flower-pot, but none of that affects their perfect make-up, not an even terminal illness can do that.

There is only one source of conflict in this reality, only one problem that world has not solved.

What is love? What is friendship?

Continue Reading »

M S Dhoni: The Untold Story—the Review

14 Comments

[This WordPress tells me is my 1000th post]

m-s-dhoni-the-untold-story

M S Dhoni. The Untold story.

So what would this “untold story” be I wondered, as I sank into my seat at AMC Barrington, in a surprisingly packed auditorium on a Sunday afternoon.

Was I expecting untold stories about Rhiti sports, cricket enthusiasts, selection room shenanigans, bags of cement and Deepika Padukone?

Of course not. A biopic of a sportsman who is not just alive but also playing the game isn’t going to lift the hood and show us the gunk in the engine.Just not going to happen. That too in India, where slapping of defamation and sentiment-hurting lawsuits is a cottage industry. And to be honest, cinematic biographies of heroes, even the most Oscars-hogging of them and I am talking Richard Attenborough’s Gandhi, rarely rise above being hagiographies, maybe not to the level of MSG Messenger of God, but pretty close.

Continue Reading »

Azhar—the Review

15 Comments

emraan-azhar123

There is a scene in Azhar where Azhar has gone to watch a film with Naureen, his first wife. As Nargis Fakhri playing Sangeeta comes onto screen, her lips swollen like she walked into an Ambrose bouncer, it is Naureen who almost gets aroused, commenting to Azhar “kya khoobsoorat aankhein hai uski” and for those who have grown up in Bollywood,  we know that”aankhein”is often an euphemism for some other components of a woman’s body. While wife getting turned on by another woman is a long-standing fantasy among Indian men, and by this time you should be thinking of Khulbhushan Kharbanda’s spontaneous eruption in front of bottles of “Crush”  after stumbling upon his wife Shabana Azmi writing sensuously with Nandita Das in Fire, Azhar is immensely distraught by the licentiousness of the dance, and looks uncomfortably from side to side, like he did when the ball was bouncing near his head on fast tracks.

Yes that’s how innocent and honorable Azhar is, in his approved eponymous hagiography. Why did he take money from bookies? So that he bankrupts them, and prevents them from offering the same money to other players. Yes. You read that right. That’s the final reveal. Why was his career finished? Because some player suspiciously called “Manoj”, himself suspect in his loyalties, resented Azhar being the boss, and carried a grudge of having been seen nude in the dressing room. Why the extramarital affair? Because the first wife was unavailable, and how do we know that? Azhar sits down to a dinner with Naureen, asks her about the biriyani, she says “it’s good”, and Azhar asks “What about it is good? The rice? The spices? The flavor?” and Naureen says “It’s all good”, and Azhar loses his cool because no husband likes a wife who can’t deconstruct biriyani and the next thing you know he is in the arms of his mistress. Not convinced that he is an amazing person? Here is more. Azhar wants to tell his wife the marriage is over, but there are people at the house, so what can the poor man do except announce it on TV, leaving his wife not just heartbroken but also embarrassed?

Because you see Azhar did nothing wrong. Absolutely nothing. Everyone around him was bad, a resentful “Manoj”, a philandering “Ravi”, a difficult “Navjot”. And if throwing mud at everyone else in order to make him look good isn’t bad enough, there are bare-faced lies. Matches Azhar was accused of having fixed, are mixed with other matches, like the one in Bangalore where he got a bad decision, so that unless you lived through the Azhar era or read Cricinfo while others go to Pornhub, you would not realize that the game that started was not the one that finished.

Continue Reading »

The Hateful Eight–the Review

7 Comments

hateful-eight

The “program” handed out at special roadshow engagement that I attended

The word “self indulgent” is often used to describe Tarantino, and whether that “fuck you I will do movies the way I want” is actually Quentin or a carefully-cultivated counter-culture-pandering persona I know not, because I have heard compelling arguments on both sides. I am a big fan of QT myself, because high art or not, his movies are always enormously enjoyable in the most unconventional of ways(I mean who would ever think that a conversation about “Royale with cheese” would be that memorable?) and though he has spawned an army of followers and me-toos (some of them in our Hindi film industry), he has remained pretty much un-inimitable.

I correct that. He is now imitated. By himself. The Hateful Eight, which I was fortunate to watch in 70mm as part of the limited release “roadshow”, is like a greatest hits of Quentin Tarantino recorded on bad-quality tape. You have seen everything in this film before, from Quentin Tarantino himself. Except he has done it better before. The exact same sequences. In order to keep this review spoiler-free, I am deliberately not going into the details, but for any QT fan, you can almost take every significant sequence and theme and narrative “trick” of the Hateful Eight and map it back to a previous QT film, and every time you would feel (at least I did) that it was done way better before. The quirks are all there, and the sudden surprises, and the bursts of action, interspersed with deliberation, but this being the eighth Tarantino(a point he announces in his trademark grandiloquent manner straight at the beginning),  the extreme-shock devices, both dialog and action, have been blunted through over-use. Even the politics, and Hateful Eight often has the subtlety of a propaganda video, is regurgitated from “Django Unchained” and, even there, Django does a better, more entertaining job, of getting the point across.

Continue Reading »