Dil Dhadakne Do

Every film is a conversation between the maker and the audience. Sometimes this conversation is one-sided – like when the wonderful craft of Christopher Nolan makes Interstellar or Inception, acts of tremendous oratory where we stop asking questions about the ‘How’ and ‘Why’ and just submerge into the world created by him. Sometimes this conversation is passive – like the Matrix series that awe us with their scale and CGI but leave a bitter after-taste of incredulity; questions that wear out the film’s beauty over a period of time. Or when the skill of the director and the actor is so massive that it takes away the attention from the underlying inadequacies in the script or characterization while the film is being watched, but they dawn upon us after coming and one feels frustrated and ignored – films like Badlapur.

But then, ever so often there comes a film that engages the audience on a real-time basis. It answers the questions in such a way that it challenges and eggs us to ask even more. Dil Dhadakne Do is one such film. Writing about a film that released over a month back, can’t really be called a review these days. Month-old films are part of history, provided they are worth remembering in the first place. So this article is less of a review and more a sharing of experience.

Dil Dhadakne Do is a delightful romedy drama about a high-society but dysfunctional family. Dysfunctionality is a highly subjective and rarely filmed concept in India. That is because most of the behaviour that makes a family dysfunctional, in the western sense of the term, are quite accepted and commonplace in the Indian society. We believe that pyaar and takraar go hand in hand and that “husband-wife me aise problems to hoti rehti hain”. So the flawed nature of the Mehra family comes to fore only as the film progresses.

The family in question is the Delhi based Mehra khandaan with patriarch Kamal Mehra (the wonderful Anil Kapoor who seems to be ageing with enviable grace), his wife Neelam (the absolutely mesmerizing Shefali Shah who changes expressions with chameleon-esque ease), their children Ayesha (a fabulous Priyanka Chopra who doesn’t seem to be getting due appreciation in Bollywood these days) and Kabir (a wildly entertaining Ranveer Singh who keeps you guessing whether you are seeing Ranveer portray Kabir or Ranveer being Ranveer) and their dog Pluto Mehra (voice by the terribly irritating Aamir Khan mouthing inane dialogues surprisingly written by Javed Akhtar). Like most Zoya Akhtar movies in the past, this is also a travelogue (Although I don’t imagine Turkey and Tunisia benefiting from this movie as much as Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara helped tourism in Spain). So Kamal and Neena are ‘celebrating’ their 30th anniversary by taking a whole baaraat of characters on a Mediterranean cruise. What happens next has unfortunately been described in great (and unnecessary) detail on the wikipedia page of the film.

While watching the movie, some of the questions that came to my mind were:

Kabir Mehra has everything – a private plane to unwind from day-to-day ‘stress’, a seemingly successful career that is being handed over to him on a platter, an incredibly chiselled torso for which he is apparently not doing much workout. Yet he seems lost and unhappy. Why the hell would he be unhappy? This question was partly answered in the first 15 minutes during the meeting with the Sri Lankan company and more emphatically during the epic gym sequence where father Kamal shows his son his true worth using all the bluntness he can summon.

Ayesha Sangha (née Mehra) is married into an affluent family, has her own business to give her that sense of individual success and a husband Manav (a sadly caricatured Rahul Bose) who may not love her family (or her dog) but seems to love her. Yet she is unhappy and thinking of a divorce. Why the hell would she be unhappy? This role could have well become the obnoxious Rani Mukherjee character from Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna who just can’t tolerate Abhishek Bachchan although he seems like a pretty decent guy. Fortunately it was not; thanks to the “I allowed her to do her business” statement by Manav, Ayesha’s interaction with childhood friend Sunny (Farhan Akhtar in a special appearance), and the breakdown she has with Manav after the interaction.

Neelam Mehra has been a wife for 30 years and a mother for almost equivalent number of years. She has a buzzing social life outside and a comfortable life at home. Yet she is continuously fighting with Kamal and unhappy about something or the other. Again, why the hell would she be unhappy? I simply loved getting to know the character of Neelam, especially because it was played by an incredible Shefali Shah. The times when she valiantly tries to smile through her tears and put up a façade of celebration, the time when she binges on the cupcakes trying to come to terms with the promiscuity of her husband, and the time when she finally tells Kamal that she didn’t leave him because she probably didn’t have anywhere else to go. These sequences stayed with me long after the movie got over.

There were many such instances where a question came to my mind and it got answered either by Zoya Akhtar and Reema Kagti’s story or Farhan Akhtar’s dialogues. It was wonderful ‘talking’ to them. But more heartening was the fact that today morning, I was still having a conversation with myself about the movie. And I realised that most of my questions about the characters cropped up because of my subjective understanding of true happiness and its source. You see, true happiness doesn’t stem from what you have. It comes from how effectively they satisfy your hunger for what you want. You may have all the luxuries of the world, but if it is not something that you want, then it won’t give you happiness. Our doubts over the seriousness of other people’s problems comes from the fact that we judge them on the basis of what we think they’d want in life. If only we devote a little time towards understanding what they actually want in their life, we would be a lot more effective as family members, friends or movie audience.

Dil Dhadakne Do was entertaining and engaging while it lasted, and enlightening thereafter.

Barfi! – A Guilt-free Indulgence

Barfi!, written and directed by Anurag Basu, is mushy and soft when you first taste it, slightly chewy in the middle, but gives a memorable sweet aftertaste.

It is a simple yet well-conceived and well-enacted story of Murphy, or Barfi (as the incredible Ranbir Kapoor ‘calls’ himself), about the women he meets (the brave Priyanka Chopra and beautiful Ileana D’cruz), about how they change his life, and most importantly about how he changes theirs. Barfi is both hearing and speech impaired since birth, who, to the dismay of the audience, never once fishes for sympathy. Dismay; because the Hindi film industry has unfairly raised multiple generations of Indians using characters who leverage their disabilities to tug heart-strings with gay abandon. So Barfi provides an element of cognitive dissonance to the audience. A rather enjoyable dissonance if I may add.

In this age of large scale media bombardments, it is difficult to surprise viewers with a plot that they have not already guessed from the promos and over-enthusiastic reviews. Hence I will resist the temptation of re-exposing the story and inadvertently giving away more plot-lines. But remember this: some stories are less about what is unravelled and more about how it is unravelled. A discerning viewer may be able to predict the story before it is told but will enjoy its telling nonetheless.

Ranbir Kapoor, as Barfi, is fabulous. One may allege that he has borrowed quite a few pages from greats like Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and his showman grandfather Raj Kapoor. But I feel that it takes great audacity for even undertaking such an endeavour and it is not unethical either. if Jean Dujardin can do it in ‘The Artist’, then why not Ranbir? Talking of audacity, a round of applause should go to Priyanka for even attempting to play Jhilmil. Yes, she sometimes blurs the line between autism and mental retardation but that can be forgiven in the larger scheme of things. Ileana D’cruz is a revelation. I know that she is not new to acting and that she has had quite a successful career down south. I also know that she is more known for starring rather than acting. So Ileana’s Shruti comes across as a very pleasant surprise.

I’ve always believed that a good movie is like a good subway sandwich. The sauces you choose are as important as the the bread or the filings, if not more. Barfi has a great supporting cast comprising old faithfuls like Akash Khurana, Ashish Vidyarthi, Rupa Ganguly and Saurabh Shukla. Although if I were to nitpick, I’d have preferred to see Ashish and Akash interchange roles in order to make the Jhilmil plot less predictable.

Director Anurag Basu can finally be forgiven for Kites. He writes and directs Barfi with equal love and care. Cinematography by Ravi Varman is so great that I wouldn’t be surprised if Darjeeling sees more honeymooning couples this wedding season. Pritam does a very good job with the music and the picturization only makes the songs more memorable.

If I were to be pushed against a wall to pick out problems, I’d say that it has to be the length of film in the second half. Specially Barfi and Jhilmil’s journey from Darjeeling to Kolkata. No doubt West Bengal has been picturized beautifully but it does come across as the director’s indulgence. Also, Pritam and gang playing in the background, a la ‘Life.. in a Metro‘, starts getting on the nerves after a while.

Movies like Barfi challenge conventional wisdom that you need unconventional actors to make an unconventional film. Go indulge, guilt-free.

Rating: 8/10 (one each for Ranbir, Priyanka, Ileana, Anurag, Pritam, Ravi and Darjeeling; with one more given by me for good measure)

Don 2: If SRK tried any harder, he’d be Shahid Kapoor

This review probably comes a little late considering it has been a couple of months since the movie released and helped Sirish Kunder soar into previously un-imaginable levels of fame. But how could we not talk about the movie whose greatest achievement, arguably, is reducing this to this.

Unlike a lot of moviegoers out there, Don 2 was not a disappointment to me. Honestly. If I’d have expected anything worthwhile from someone whose “magnum opus” was a movie named Ra.One, then I guess I deserve the dung that was Don 2.

What is disappointing though, is how Farhan Akhtar, whose relatively good directorial skills have given us movies such as Dil Chahta Hai & Lakshya, allows SRK to take over the reins of this movie completely. From the opening sequence where a pony-tailed, cigarette smoke engulfed “D” slides into the screen on a speed-boat to the closing where he meets up with his ‘gang’ at a rendezvous point in the middle of a bridge (which apparently is in the middle of some ocean?) on a super-bike wearing his awesome cool dude clothes and awesome cool dude shades ……

… it isn’t difficult to see that every shot in the movie has been driven and manipulated by the (once) great Khan.

The entire movie is one man’s effort to make meaning of his mid-life crisis.

The plot is a cliché – one man putting together a team to attempt a seemingly impossible heist, but the twist at the end is refreshing.

There are some decent stunts, like the chase sequence, while the others are stuff that we’ve seen enough times.

And while the original Don was about punch-lines and dialogues that one doesn’t forget, in this one, the Don just doesn’t stop talking!!

“bandook se sar khujane mein jo mazaa hai woh kahin aur kaha jaaneman…”

Priyanka Chopra and Kunal Kapoor are extras. Boman Irani is a wasted talent. And Om Puri.. my dear face-full-of-craters Om Puri.. you really need to tell someone off when they are giving you re-cycled dialogues from 20 years ago.. I mean when you went all “police tumein charo aour se gher chuki hai.. apne aapko hamarei hawale kar do” the entire movie hall burst out laughing..

"yeh maine kya kar diya..."

At the end of the day, I think the best part about the movie was Hritik Roshan’s 3 minute role. And that’s saying a lot about the movie.

My rating: Click

pics courtesy: hindustantimes.com

Agneepath: It’s all in a name

It is ironic that my very first review on this blog is of a film that is a remake of classic, I’ve grown up watching. I’ll still try to be objective, but do overlook an occasional lapse.

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What is in a name, right? In Karan Johar’s Agneepath of 2012, Mandwa could have been Diu instead of a mythical island off the coast of Mumbai where the sun never shines. Vijay could have been Ajay, Master Dinanath could have been Master Hariprasad and Kaancha could have been Kunvar. This is the thing about Agneepath. It is a completely standalone story that could have been “Pratishod” or “Krodh” and it wouldn’t have mattered much.

The movie starts like the original; with the altruistic Master Dinanath Chauhan who has a penchant for speaking like Dharmendra of Satyakam and for quoting the poem, Agneepath. The déjà vu, though, ends when the Masterji dies and Vijay opts for a rather low profile burial than taking the dead body on a cart while chanting Agneepath and cremating it.

Thereafter the story moves to Mumbai from where the story takes a completely different turn. I’ll just stick to the discrepancies here. In this Agneepath, Vijay is more calculative and cunning. He has no qualms about dealing with drugs. He seems to have a lot of public support simply by financing an ambulance and Kaali’s (Priyanka Chopra) Chinese beauty parlour. He is also the more brooding type who continues to be haunted by his childhood. This somehow shaves off a lot of dimensions from the character. But just when you become comfortable to this Vijay, he turns around and inexplicably becomes a super-hero who can still pull up a guy like Sanjay Dutt after being stabbed multiple times!

The patience-testing Krishnan Iyer (YemYeah) of 1990 has thankfully been done away with. Plenty of characters have been tweaked to make way for Rauf Lala (the magnificent Rishi Kapoor) and the audience is indebted to director Karan Malhotra for the same. Sanjay Dutt as Kancha Cheena is on precarious grounds. He looks menacing when he laughs and snorts but falls flat when he’s chanting shlokas from Gita. Priyanka Chopra is relegated to being a pretty but irritating dancing extra. Hrithik Roshan…hmmm.. I personally feel that he was a bit of miscast in this movie. I’m not being biased towards lineage, but I really feel that Abhishek Bachchan could have lent more gravity to Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. Zarina Wahab as Vijay’s mother is a major letdown. She doesn’t stand her ground and you never really trust her allegiance. Owing to an obvious ‘liking’ that I have for Katrina, I shall resist the temptation to comment on her ‘item song’. 🙂

Technically, the movie looks good. The set design (especially the Mumbai of yore) by Sabu Cyril is great. Production values are consistent throughout. The dialogues pass muster. All the ingredients are there but they just don’t add up to the desired taste. It is in the destiny of every remake to be compared to its original at least in terms of memorable scenes, characters or dialogues. In the Agneepath of 1990, I had “aaj sham 6 baje maut ke saath apna apilment hai”, “yeh ladka, chingari!” and “Dinkar Rao, Topi sambhaal” among others; In Agneepath of 2012, I only remembered Rauf Lala and Chikni Chameli. Now what do you make of a film in which you only remember the secondary villain and the item girl? Agneepath, I feel, would have been better off with some other name.

Rating: 6/10 (Watch it, if you haven’t watched the Mukul Anand classic)

 

 

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