Avengers Infinity War—the Review

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[Minor spoilers]

So it seems that Amitabh Bachchan took out time from counting his Twitter followers to watch “Avengers: Infinity War” and he came away puzzled, as “tajub hai” as Thanos would have been had he stumbled upon Ajooba.

Of all the things you can blame Big B for, be it a relentless desire for validation through social-media or his obsessive following up on unanswered communication or him endorsing every product under the sun, being bewildered by the latest Avengers film is not one of them. Avengers Infinity Wars is a culmination of eighteen films of universe building, and to be asked to make sense of this off-the-bat is like being dropped, without context, into the final episodes of “Pavitra Rishtaa… Tere Mere Mann Ka”, and trying to make out why mothers look younger than daughters, how many characters are being played by the same actor, who exactly is Archana and what history does she have with Manav.

For Avengers Infinity War is truly epic, and I say it being infinitely aware of how overused this word is, not just in terms of its “”Mera Naam Joker” running time, but in terms of how it plays out, it is sufficiently familiar in that those invested in the world get what they want. and yet surprising enough that the last twenty minutes leave you gasping for breath, and wondrously, and I cannot believe I am saying this for a Marvel franchise product, moved.

This is a stupendous feat. Because with Marvel, you are not just dealing with stories and characters. No, that would be way too prosaic. You are working through lawsuits, rights disputes, contracts,  focus groups, studio executives, merchandizing, branding, comic book continuity, retcons, spinoff TV series, new sub-franchises, reboots, and that something this good comes out from the ceaseless whirring of the Infinity Stones of uber-capitalism is, for the want of a better word, a marvel of product engineering.

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Pari–The Review

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I really wanted to like Pari. Any Hindi movie of the horror genre that does not have Emran Hashmi’s pout, random Miss Universe/World contest winners fluttering eyelids while strategically covered by satin sheets, a song by Atif Aslam or Arijit Singh and then its remix, the word Bhatt associated with any part of it, a What Lies Beneath rip off, and Jackie Shroff playing evil girl child Samarah from the Ring ( yes that happened) deserves my support. Add to it a reigning A lister venturing into a non phemily genre, a Kolkata setting, a hero named Arnab,  a heroine named Ruksana ( name of the protagonist of the Mahabharata Murders) and  Ritabhari playing the Barrackpore Bombshell and you can understand how desperately I wanted to love it.

And yet Pari just did not work for me. It just did not.

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When Harry Met Sejal—The Review

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A few posts ago, I had done the jurrat of putting Imtiaz Ali in the same group of directors as Karan Johar only to be sternly rebuked by an auteur commentator, with a passion for cinema, who opined that the moment I clubbed Imtiaz Ali with Karan Johar, I had displayed my lack of knowledge of cinema.

I agree. I now stand corrected.

Imtiaz Ali is in a class of his own.

“When Harry Met Sejal”, his latest film, is a masterpiece.

On one hand, it has all the Imtiazian motifs that the refined audience love, which in the hands of a less awesome director would be called cliches.

The philanderer who carnally pursues women to fill the emptiness in his heart. The freewheeling bubbly female whose sole reason for existence is to fill the aforementioned hole. Two and a half hours of sarson da saag and chak de phatte and European locales and music till finally the rudderless man finds himself into the safe confines of monogamy.

But, and here it is where it reaches another level, this film is a beautiful, heartfelt tribute to late-career Dev Anand films.

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Dunkirk—the Review

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The Bangla colloquial for a movie is “boi” or book. It is not hard to figure out why, the appreciation of a film, for most, is predicated upon the story. Unless you are the film-school type, you are not really watching for shot composition, camera angle, scene transitions, lighting, and even though you often say “The film should have been better edited” to look wise on social media, without really understanding what film-editing is, what you actually mean is that the story didn’t catch you.

Christopher Nolan’s reputation as a superstar director is built upon his consistent mastery over the narrative. Whether it be putting the elements out-of-sequence (Memento), or nesting elements (Inception), or playing with time (Interstellar), or working on audience assumptions (Prestige), Nolan understands the power of the twist, the pace, the lines, and the character. You remember the beginning (or is it the end) of Memento, you wonder what happens to the totem in Inception, you shake your head at the resolution of the Prestige, and you definitely want to be the Joker.

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Logan—The Review

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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.

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Kaabil and Raees—A Joint Review

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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.

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Dangal—The Review

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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.

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