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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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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Ae Dil Hai Mushkil–The Review

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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?

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M S Dhoni: The Untold Story—the Review

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[This WordPress tells me is my 1000th post]

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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.

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