Friday, October 22

Cocktail - A compelling watch. Recommended!!

Movie - Cocktail (Malayalam)
Director - Arun Kumar
Producer - Milan Jaleel
Cast - Jayasurya, Anoop Menon, Samvritha Sunil, Fahadh Fazil, Innocent, Aparna Nair.
Music - Alphonse, Ratheesh Vega
Background Score - Ratheesh Vega
Cinematography - Pradeep Nair
Story, Screenplay - Shyam Menon
Dialogues - Anoop Menon
Editing - Arun Kumar
Art - Prashanth Madhav
Costumes - Velayudhan Keezhillam
Release Date - 22nd October 2010

Cocktail was announced as Jayasurya's and Anoop Menon's foray into film production and Priyadarshan's trusted editor Arun Kumar's foray into direction. But then, the credit list of the movie says that Milan Jaleel is its producer. Whoever the producer may be, the team has come up with a more than decent movie which is probably the best bet among the movies released after Ramzan. Arun Kumar, following his guru's footsteps, has taken a Hollywood movie as an inspiration for his first directorial venture. Cocktail is a faithful rip-off of Butterfly on a Wheel (Pierce Brosnan, Gerard Butler - 2007). [I havent seen the original. Have just heard bits and pieces of the story]. The movie is adapted well into Malayalam, but what it lacks is the energy and raciness required for a movie of this genre. Nevertheless, it is quite an effective movie which would go down well with a niche audience. 

Ravi (Anoop Menon) and Parvathi (Samvritha Sunil) are happily married and are leading a wonderful life with their 6 year old daughter Ammu. Ravi is rapidly climbing up the stairs of success in both real estate and construction business, thanks to him being in the good books of his young boss Naveen (Fahadh Fazil). And one day, Ravi and Parvathy leave their daughter at home under the care of a new babysitter Beatrice and leave - Ravi for an official meeting and Parvathy for a kitty party. On the way, they offer a lift to a stranger (Jayasurya) and within minutes, their lives go topsy-turvy. Cocktail tells the story of how this stranger plays with the lives of the couple. 

Cocktail has a pretty compelling storyline. It does not deviate from the main plot except during a totally unwanted item song. But still, the movie is not racy enough for a thriller like this. It could have been much much better if it had some more energy in it. Having said that, it tackles a theme which is very relevant in city life today (which if mentioned here would spoil the suspense) and portrays it effectively as well. Shyam Menon has adapted the storyline from the Hollywood original into Malayalam impressively. The movie's best part is its climax after a not-so-good pre-climax portion. The dialogues by Anoop Menon are brilliant. It is very tough to write natural dialogues in Malayalam (with a liberal dose of English) and Anoop Menon is a master at it. The dialogues are one of the best aspects in the movie. The F word is used rather liberally and thankfully it sounds authentic since most characters in the movie speak good English. 

It is refreshing to see the life of a rich upper class family in Malayalam Cinema, which normally keeps telling stories of poverty, the mandatory japthi and all that. Cocktail tells the story of the elite families in the state (especially in Kochi) and how their lives are. People speaking great English without an accent, a wife who goes for kitty parties, a corporate office environment, and many such things associated with the elite are portrayed in this movie, which is a first in Malayalam Cinema. And will go down very well with the upper middle class and elite crowd in the audience. 

Samvritha Sunil comes up with the best performance in the movie, which is also her career best. She looks gorgeous, acts brilliantly and wears some lovely costumes. Most importantly, she's very comfortable playing mother to a six year old. Jayasurya also gives a deadly performance in the movie. His role, with grey shades is sure to receive applause from the audience. He proves again that he's probably the best among the present young crop of actors. He does not have any airs about that and still plays all the different characters he gets, be it a hero or a villain or a comedian or a supporting actor, and shines in all of them. Anoop Menon is inconsistent. He's brilliant at portions and very ordinary in some others. He reminds one of Mohanlal, Mammootty and Suresh Gopi all at the same time and there's a heavy Mohanlal hangover in many of the emotional scenes. (He put that to good use in Thirakkatha and Pakal Nakshatrangal earlier). Otherwise, his performance is good. The credibility of the movie lies upon the performances of its 3 main leads and they pull it off quite well. Fahadh Fazil is highly impressive in a cameo. Innocent is not convincing as a Palakkad Iyer. Aparna Nair is okay. Kani Kusruti is good. The junior artiste who played a very important character Beatrice, was unintentionally funny.  And thankfully they did away with Suraaj Venjarammoodu who was also supposed to be a part of the movie. 

Director Arun Kumar is heavily influenced by his mentor Priyadarshan, in a positive way. Almost every frame in the movie is beautiful and the movie has some great visuals. And the beautifully shot 'Neeyam Thanalinu' stands testimony to the director's eye for great visuals. He could have made the movie racier, especially since he is the editor of the movie as well. The desperate situation of the couple doesnt come across that effectively in some key scenes. Otherwise, his handling of the subject is very good and the effective climax more than makes up for the not-so great portions before that. And as we have forgiven his guru for lifting plots from other movies, we should forgive him too, since he has done a good job at that. 

Music of the film is very good. 'Neeyam Thanalinu' is one of the best songs in recent Malayalam film music. Ratheesh Vega is a great find, and he excels in that song as well as the background score. Alphonse's 'Vennilavumivide' is a brilliant situational song, which also plays out during the end credits. The item was song was bad and totally uncalled for. Cinematography by Ravi K Chandran's erstwhile assistant Pradeep Nair is brilliant. The film looks great, thanks to him. Art direction by Prashant Madhav is very good. And the costumes by Velayudhan Keezhillam are amazing. Its such a relief to see actors wearing such nice clothes on screen other than the loud and colourful costumes we are used to in Malayalam films. 

Cocktail is a drastically different film from the same kind of movies offered to us friday after friday at the movie halls. A very good attempt by the whole team, it should be appreciated and promoted well to get the success it deserves. It could have been much much better, but still it impresses in its present form. A strong social message about families and values are also given out through the film. Watch it, you wouldnt be disappointed. 

Rating - 3.5/5

P.S. - I liked the fact that Jayasurya has christened his fans association as Jayasurya Friends association. Makes him more closer to them. Good move. :) 

Jhootha Hi Sahi - A light-hearted, enjoyable rom-com.

Movie - Jhootha Hi Sahi (Hindi)
Director - Abbas Tyrewala
Producers - Madhu Mantena, Abbas Tyrewala
Cast - John Abraham, Pakhi, Raghu Ram, R Madhavan, Manasi Scott, Alishka Varde, Anaitha Nair, Prashant Chawla, Omar Khan, George Young, Nandana Sen
Music - AR Rahman
Cinematography - Manoj Lobo
Story, Screenplay - Pakhi, Abbas Tyrewala
Dialogues - Abbas Tyrewala
Release Date - 22nd October 2010

This movie has been getting unanimously negative reviews from almost all the critics ranging from Taran Adarsh to Khalid Mohammed. But you know what, I really enjoyed this film. Its nowhere as brilliant as the director's first film Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. (Maybe because he didnt have Aamir Khan keeping a watch on each and every aspect of the film.) But yea, it still is an enjoyable watch, much better than the Anjaana Anjaanis and We Are Families. It is heavily inspired by the world's favourite sitcom F.R.I.E.N.D.S. and almost 70% of the film is based on conversations between the leading man, his friends and the leading lady. And it has an absolutely beautiful soundtrack by AR Rahman who is in top form. The movie is the second installment in Abbas Tyrewala's 3 part series on love and friendship. 

The movie tells the story of Siddharth (John Abraham, brilliant), a nerdy guy who works along with a couple of his friends at an Indian book store 'Kaagaz Ke Phool' in London. His world comprises of his weird and quirky friends circle -  the Pakistani siblings Omar (Raghu Ram, killer), Aaliya (Alishka Varde, lovely); the gay co-owner of the bookstore Amit (Omar Khan), who has a crush on Uday (Prashant Chawla); Aaliya's boyfriend Nick (George Young) and his airhostess girlfriend Kruthika aka Kuttika (Manasi Scott, fiery). Sid's landline number gets mistaken for a suicide helpline as part of a mix-up and eventually he volunteers to council people who're contemplating suicide, through the hotline. One one such instance, he gets a call from Mishka [from the video store :P] (Pakhi) who wants to commit suicide because her boyfriend Kabir (R Madhavan) dumped her for another girl. Sid starts talking to her and gradually makes her life better, but stays as a voice without a face. But falls for her when he sees her in person. And in a series of lies, he helps Mishka as her friend on phone and also tries to woo her as the real Siddharth. What happens next forms the story of Jhootha Hi Sahi. 

The story written by the leading lady Pakhi is as predictable as it can get. But the movie is full of enjoyable moments - mostly interactions & conversations between John & friends and John & Pakhi, which makes it very enjoyable. It doesnt have the charm and the wit of Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na. But still manages to impress you. The entire setting and characters remind you of FRIENDS in almost every scene. But I feel, thats a very good inspiration as those scenes worked very well for me. 

One thing I dont understand is that why did this movie have to be set in London? It wouldnt have made any difference if it was set in Mumbai or any other Indian city. The characters speak mostly in Hindi (as opposed to similar Hindi movies). Other than the fact that London looks great and they might be offering subsidies for film shoots, there's no requirement for this film to be shot in London. Abbas Tyrewala made a name for himself through Jaane Tu and automatically his next film has a bigger budget and foreign locations. Thats not such a great thing, especially when there's no point in setting the film abroad. How many Indians would try committing Suicide in London? And out of them how many would speak Hindi? And out of them how many would call a suicide hotline before dying? Such basic errors are not taken care of in the movie. But yea, we can forgive him for that. 

John Abraham is excellent as the Clark Kent-ish Siddharth. This is perhaps his career best performance. He doesnt depend on his good looks and body-shody to carry off the character. And his comic timing is quite good (like we saw in Dostana earlier). He is definitely the best thing about the movie. Pakhi looks much older than her character and she doesnt have the conventional Hindi film heroine look. There is something cute about her, but one cant fully digest her as the leading lady of the film. Especially a girl whom everyone has a crush on. Her acting is pretty decent, but she lacks an effervescent screen presence which is so badly required for such a role. (Why didnt he cast Genelia again??). Raghu Ram sheds his ruthless Television image and plays Omar wonderfully. He's one strong reason why you should watch this film. Alishka Varde, the cute-as-a-button girl from Jaane Tu plays Raghu's pregnant-but-unwed sister wonderfully. R Madhavan is royally wasted in a ridiculous role and he sports a horrible beard as well. The others in the cast also perform their parts effectively. There are voice-cameos by Imran Khan, Riteish Deshmukh and Abhishek Bachchan over the phone as well. A shameless gimmick, but it actually works. 

The movie may also remind you of the SRK starrer Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi at certain points where John simultaneously handles Mishka as two different persons. But yea, JHS is a lot better than RNBDJ. The conversations and interactions between the characters are the life of the film. The film would have fallen flat with its awfully weak storyline otherwise. Not so long ago, another film on suicide came (read Anjaana Anjaani) and people actually wanted to commit suicide after seeing it. But this one, makes you feel good. (At least I did). There are Indo-Pak jokes made and there's the cliched gay angle also (but its handled well thankfully). The climax where the hero breaks the law, runs to the heroine and seals their love, is there in this one too. But is not half as good as it was in Jaane Tu. The novelty and quirkiness in handling such quirky scenes in Jaane Tu is sorely missed here. 

Music by AR Rahman is heavenly. This is his best soundtrack this year after Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya (Tamil). The movie opens with Rahman's favourite track from the movie 'Moonlight' in the wonderful voice of Vijay Yesudas. 'Hello Hello' and 'Cry Cry' are very good while 'Pam Para' is shot ordinarily. There's also a beautiful female version of 'Moonlight' in the background score of the film (rumored to be sung by Dido). The best track from the album 'Do Nishaaniyaan' shows the progress of Sid & Mishka's relationship. Sadly, the beautiful 'Call Me Dil' doesnt find a place in the movie. Another beautiful Rahman song wasted. 'Mayya Yashoda' is a superb party track which actually tells a story through its lyrics. The background score of the movie is equally wonderful and leaves a huge impact. The themes of Moonlight, Do Nishaaniyan and Call Me Dil sound wonderful as parts of the background score. Manoj Lobo captures some beautiful visuals of London (but havent we seen it all before?). But he leaves an impression with his work during the indoor sequences. (which means, almost 80% of the film.)

All in all, Jhootha Hi Sahi is not great cinema. But its a light-hearted, enjoyable romantic comedy which you can spend time watching along with your friends and/or girlfriend. Much better than many Hindi movies made in similar genres in recent times. It is not anywhere close to the director's brilliant debut, but is very good nonetheless. It has John Abraham in an earnest avatar giving his career-best performance, the deadly Raghu Ram as John's best friend and an effective supporting cast. It also has one of AR Rahman's best soundtracks in recent years. And I can say without doubt that I had a great time watching this movie. 

Rating - 3/5

Gaana badiya, Video ghatiya!!

Have been thinking about writing a post on this topic for a long time now. There are so many songs in our films which are absolutely brilliant, but are ruined by terrible and embarrassing visuals on screen. This is a post compiling such songs from Hindi, Tamil and Malayalam. And the most number of such instances has occurred to songs by the country's most prolific composer AR Rahman. 

1. Rehna Tu (Delhi 6 - Hindi) 
Now, this had to top the list. It is certainly a crime if you cant do justice to one of AR Rahman's all-time best compositions. A masterpiece in all means, be it music, lyrics, vocals or orchestration, this song could have done wonders for the movie. But one gets shocked when this song plays out in the movie. It has visuals of Rishi Kapoor taking Abhishek Bachchan to his snooker parlour, them playing snooker and chilling with a couple of beers. Now, is that a way to shoot such a marvellous piece of music?? Especially when the director is someone who did wonders with Rahman's songs on screen in Rang De Basanti? I was heartbroken to see such a beautiful song go wasted in such a situation. I can never forgive Rakeysh Mehra for this sin. 

2. Veera Veera (Raavanan - Tamil)
Mani Ratnam, who is considered to be one of the best directors in India, and THE best when it comes to picturizing songs, makes a shocking entry to this list with this song. Another fabulous composition by Rahman royally wasted during the title sequence of the movie. This song could have made a fantastic introduction and  theme song for the Raavanan character that Vikram played. Mani Ratnam himself wrote lyrics for this song and yet ended up doing injustice to it. The song looked great in trailers, but when the movie came, it was played only during the title graphics which had stills of Vikram and his different faces. Even a small montage sequence with visuals of Vikram and his activities could have done wonders since this was such an amazing song. Never expected Mani Ratnam to do injustice to a song, that too an AR Rahman song. 

3. Ezhu Swarangalum (Chiriyo Chiri - Malayalam)
This song is one of master composer Raveendran's best compositions, utilizing the full potential of the magical voice of KJ Yesudas. Deeply rooted in classical Carnatic music, this song could have had a grand picturisation in its video. An extremely tough song to sing, this song is also famous for the drastic variations in pitching within the same sentence. But sadly, what we see in the video is a rugged looking Balachandra Menon, looking every bit like a goonda singing this song as casually as he is singing some nursery rhyme. And when the heroine dreams about him, he appears in similar costumes and does a 'madakkikuthu' (the act of folding and unfolding the mundu/dhoti - every Malayali's favorite pastime) and you cant help but feel sad thinking what this song could have been. Balachandra Menon himself expressed grief recently that he ruined this song completely in its visualization when he directed the movie in 1982. It still stands an embarassment to one of the greatest songs ever made in Malayalam film music. 

4. Theekkuruviyaay (Kangalal Kaidhu Sei - Tamil)
Another AR Rahman masterpiece wasted. The song is picturized like its in some big-budget soft porn movie. Something totally unacceptable from a director of Bharathiraja's stature. Bad sets, random foreign locations, gawdy costumes, weird choreography, disastrous editing, a funny looking hero and an awkward Priyamani make matters worse. A little known fact about this song is that veteran Malayalam composer Johnson sang the chorus portions of this song while the lead vocals were by Mukesh and Harini. The whole album has some great songs but they have horrible videos, out of which this has to be the worst. 

5. Mayiliragae (Anbe Aaruyire - Tamil)
Looks like this list is gonna be full of AR Rahman songs alone. Another wonderful song, disastrously picturized. With the beautiful vocals of Madhushree and Naresh Iyer, Mayiliragae is one of the best romantic songs Rahman has done in this decade. But the video has the super-good looking [:P] hero SJ Suryah with the Simran look-alike Nila, in florescent blue costumes,  doing random things inside a graphically created temple, palace and such other places. Other than bearing SJ Suryah (which itself is an enormous task), you have to endure the horrible graphics. Even the skin show by Nila doesnt help the terrible video. There are other great songs in the movie with bad videos too, like - Anbe Aaruyire, Tharugiray and Thazhuvuthu Nazhuvuthu

6. Marudhaani (Sakkarakkatti - Tamil)
Yet another AR Rahman song murdered. [:(] This time from an epic disaster called Sakkarakkatti. Vocals again by Madhushree, along with AR Rahman himself. A beautiful song about heartbreak, the song has visuals of the hero walking and has computer generated asteroids striking the mountains where he is walking, tornados following him and what not. I felt like weeping seeing the atrocity the director and the CG artists did to this beautiful song. The horrible acting by the hero and heroine dont help either. This movie would be an embarrassment for AR Rahman. And an insult to his talent and the hard work he put in for the movie. I hope this is the last AR Rahman song in this list. 

7. Neeyoru Puzhayaay (Thilakkam - Malayalam)
A sensuous, romantic melody with out of the world vocals by Jayachandran, this song was out of place in the movie itself. In the movie, Dileep plays a mad man and Kavya plays his childhood friend. This song appears randomly in between a lot of hilarious comedy sequences. So such a song looked totally out of place in a movie like that. It should have been given to some pure, romantic movie (such movies hardly come in Malayalam though). And then, in the video, Dileep and Kavya walk around random locations in some hill station. And what were nuns, burqa-clad women, Muslim men, Sardarjis and Buddhist monks doing walking around them? There's even a shot of a water droplet falling on the bald head of a monk. :O And halfway through the song, Dileep comes wearing shades along with a violet kurta. Kavya's costumes are marginally better than Dileep's. They have decent chemistry between each other but this song needed something else. Thankfully the actor wasnt lip-syncing the song. 

8. Maambullikkaavil (Katha Parayumbol - Malayalam)
A beautiful song composed by M Jayachandran and sung by Vineeth Sreenivasan and Shwetha, this song showed a movie within a movie. One glance at Mammootty in that hideous wig would put you off instantly. I'm clueless as to why such a handsome person like him would even agree to wear such a wig in such a nice song. Not jut one, but all wigs worn by him in this song are disastrous. Only a certain part where he comes in his Pazhassiraja look is watchable in this song. Even the North Indian model looks out of place in such a song. The costumes are bad as well. A bad video of a great song in a great film. 

9. Ariyathe Ariyathe (Ravanaprabhu - Malayalam)
After Mammootty, its Mohanlal's song which makes an entry into this list because of the hideous costumes and wigs he sported in the song. One of the most beautiful romantic tracks ever created in Malayalam, Ariyathe Ariyathe had a terrible video where Vasundhara Das was dressed as different princesses and Mohanlal as different emperors. It had horrible clothes, weird back-up dancers and bad art direction. Vasundhara Das had a single expression throughout, but still managed to look cute. Mohanlal appeared in embarrassingly bad costumes, the worst one being the one resembling Alexander (or whomever it was supposed to be), and looked like he was very uncomfortable as well. . Only towards the end, he comes in a normal attire and thats the only good part in the video of this song. A shame to Mohanlal who makes even the worst songs worthwhile with his performance alone. 

10. Maalai Neram (Aayirathil Oruvan - Tamil)
I think the worst fate for a song among this entire list would have been for this song. It never got picturised itself. The music of Aayirathil Oruvan released some 5-6 months before the movie released. And the track that was unanimously loved by everyone was Maalai Neram sung by Andrea. Perhaps GV Prakash's best song ever, this song deserved a lovely video. The movie, a confused epic, had no place for this song in it. I have no idea why such a beautiful song which is totally irrelevant to the subject of the movie was even composed for it. Otherwise, GV Prakash could have given this beautiful song to some other better movie. Andrea's voice is haunting and so is the song. I sincerely hope they allow some other director to take this song in his movie for a good situation as it has not yet appeared on the big screen. 

Thats a list I could compile as of now. Suggest more such songs if you can think of any. :) 

Monday, October 18

Anwar - A great opportunity wasted!!

Movie - Anwar (Malayalam)
Director - Amal Neerad
Producers - Raj Zacharias, Rijo Zacharias
Cast - Prithviraj, Prakash Raj, Lal, Mamta Mohandas, Salim Kumar, Jinu Joseph, Sai Kumar, Geetha, Nithya Menen, Azeem Jamal, Sampath
Music & Background Score - Gopi Sunder
Cinematography - Satheesh Kurup
Editing - Vivek Harshan
Art Direction - Joseph Nellickal
Sound - Tapas Nayak
Stunts - Anal Arasu
Dialogues - R Unni
Story, Screenplay - Amal Neerad
Release Date - 14th October 2010

Amal Neerad, schooled from the RGV factory made a mark with his debut feature film BIG B starring Mammootty. The film set a new benchmark for visuals, shots and action in Malayalam Cinema. It met with a moderate success but was tremendously appreciated for bringing in a new style unknown to Malayalam Cinema. The movie was also criticized for being a frame to frame rip-off the Hollywood flick Four Brothers. Next he made Sagar Alias Jacky Reloaded, which satisfied a section of Mohanlal fans but was seriously criticized for being just a showcase of great shots, good music and awesome locations and for having nothing even remotely related to a story. (Maybe because there wasnt any DVD to rip off in this case). And people got fed up of slow motions shots where the hero (be it Mammootty or Mohanlal) just keeps walking. The movie got a record initial but died down after the initial buzz. I wanted Anwar to do well for Prithviraj and for Amal Neerad who is a great technician, but has not yet made a mark as a good storyteller. But Amal Neerad has committed both the crimes of plagiarism (its a rip-off from Traitor [2008]) and giving innumerable slow motion shots making the film lag like anything, even this time around. :(

Babu Seth (Lal) is one of the prime suspects behind a bomb blast at Coimbatore and is imprisoned soon after the blast. Stalin Manimaran (Prakash Raj) is an ATS officer in charge of the investigation. Anwar (Prithviraj) is arrested for dealing in Hawala money and is also sent to the same jail. Anwar and Babu Seth bond during their imprisonment and they join hands when released. Babu Seth persuades Anwar to join his extremist group and together, they unleash a series of terror activities in Kochi. What happens when the investigating officer Manimaran and the young turk Anwar comes face to face, forms the rest of the story. 

The film tackles an extremely serious issue of terrorism. Lal's Babu Seth character draws parallels with a real-life extremist leader, and a major turning point in the movie is a true incident in which he was allegedly involved. Anwar becomes too much of a pro-terrorist movie in its entire first half, where nothing is said or done against it, even though we have a police officer keeping a close watch on all the proceedings. Only towards the end of the movie, something is said against terrorism, but that doesnt quite create the required impact, especially when so much had been said in favour of terrorism already in the movie. The fight against terrorism in this movie is not for peace or for the country, it is just to seek vengeance for a personal loss. That is not a very good way to handle such a sensitive and volatile issue, especially in a mass commercial film which gets such a wide audience. 

The story flows better compared to the director's previous film, but even that flow is spoiled by the never-ending slow motion shots which keep getting slower and slower as the movie progresses. The average frame rate of the movie seems something like 250 frames per second (a normal movie runs at just 24 frames per second). Yes, it is that slow. All those shots look stunning, no doubt. But anything in excess, is a bad thing. People thought the director had learnt that through his last film. But this film shows that he hasnt. 

Prithviraj is excellent as Anwar. He holds the film together with his star presence. And the sole reason you can watch this film for, is him. His beefed up look suits the character well. (Girls can have a swell time ogling at him throughout the movie). And he is fantastic in the stunt sequences (even though the slow motion gets on your nerves after a point). The only glitch was an emotional scene in the second half where he goes into his usual escapist style of screaming while delivering an angry dialogue. That alone looked odd, especially because an actor like Prakash Raj was performing opposite him in the same scene. Otherwise, it is Prithviraj's movie all the way. Prakash Raj is great as usual, but he hasnt been utilized fully. He gets just one scene to show his amazing talent and thats it. Lal gives a wonderfully restrained performance throughout the film. Mamta Mohandas is beautiful, pretty and hot, all at the same time. But she appears in 3 songs and around 5 small scenes in total. Thats it. Salim Kumar was excellent and was able to provide some good comic relief. His authentic Kochi accent also helped. Sai Kumar and Geetha were decent. Jinu Joseph suited his part. Nithya Menen looked stunning in the few scenes she had. A new guy called Azeem Jamal was good. An actor like Sampath was royally wasted. Mammootty's voice over didnt make much of an impact. It could've been done by anybody. 

Now to the good things about the movie. Amal Neerad's shot designs are simply mindblowing. He's really one of the best we have in conceiving shot designs and executing them. But sadly, he doesnt have the same talent in writing a screenplay. Its a sure thing that with a strong script, he will surely make a fantastic film which will be a visual delight. But its high time that he realized that writing is not his forte. Another interesting thing is that he is able to present a different style of acting from each of his lead stars as well as the supporting stars. The performances in all his movies have been very good. And its the same with Anwar as well. 

Cinematography by Satheesh Kurup is brilliant. His lighting and framing make a great visual impact. The only thing irritating again are the slow motion shots. (Mentioned here again and again because they also keep coming as many times in the movie). Anal Arasu's fight choreography was excellent in the beginning. The fight at a local gang's adda in Fort Kochi was superbly choreographed. But by the time the climax fight comes, the audience is already bored of the elaborate fights shot in extreme slow motion. The climax was exactly like Big B. The hero alone, against a group of villains, a shotgun and extreme slow-motion shots. Nothing new there. A big disappointment. Art Director Joseph Nellickal has done some real good work. But the 'designer' jail in the movie looked really absurd and illogical. And it looked like it was straight out of Pazhassiraja. Vivek Harshan's editing could have helped make the movie a lot more better had he chopped off all the slo-mo sequences. But he hasnt done that. Yet he impresses at certain portions, especially the songs. 

Music & background score by Gopi Sundar is very very good. Though the background score is great, the presence of a strong theme track like in Big B or SAJ is sorely missed here. 'Kizhakku Pookkum', a beautiful qawwali track by Shreya Ghoshal is heavily inspired by 'Kannalane' (Bombay) in both its visualization and composition. Yet its a lovely song in which both Mamta and Nithya look gorgeous. 'Kanninima Neele', another great song is shot just like 'Vennilave' (SAJ) on more or less the same locations with different costumes. Mamta again looks stunning in it. But the song comes in quick succession after the previous one therefore making the movie lag in its flow. 'Vijanatheeram' is shot just like 'Oru Mughamo' (Bheema), but fails create the impact created by the latter. The hip-hop video 'Njaan' is a very good song spoiled by very bad visuals and looks totally out of place after the heavy duty climax of the film. Prithviraj and Mamta look great, but its weird to see them dancing in front of random images created on the green mat. (Why was Prithviraj wearing Prakash Raj's glasses in that song??)

And to make things worse, the news that Anwar is a rip-off of the Hollywood spy flick Traitor is spreading like wild fire. It carries a heavy hangover of Big B in many scenes and also reminds one of Bheema at certain points in the first half. Even though the movie has been inspired from many such films, its narrative fails to engage the audience. Again proves that Amal Neerad has a long way to go before he can be called a good storyteller. 

On the whole, Anwar.... is.... a..... good... opportunity..... wasted........  (if said in slow-motion style followed in the movie). It was a perfect platform for both Prithviraj and Amal Neerad to enhance their positions in our cinema. While Prithviraj would be appreciated, Amal Neerad would still receive flak for his handling of the subject and the fascination for slo-mo. Anwar has a slightly better story (even though its a rip-off) than Amal's previous movie Sagar Alias Jacky. While that one and Big B depended on Mohanlal and Mammootty's star power more than anything else, this one depends on Prithviraj to do the same. And he has succeeded in that to some extent. The movie has taken a huge initial, the biggest for a Prithviraj movie and on par with that of any Mammootty/Mohanlal starrer. Even though thats a great sign, it is highly likely that the movie may not do as well after the initial excitement. Amal Neerad as a technician is brilliant, but has failed as a story-teller again. Anwar is strictly average. It could have been a lot more. Watch it if you're a die-hard Prithviraj fan, or a fan of slow-motion. 

Rating - 2.75/5

Monday, October 11

Do Dooni Chaar - The Duggals win your heart.

Movie - Do Dooni Chaar (Hindi)
Director - Habib Faisal
Producers - Arindam Choudhuri, Walt Disney Pictures
Cast - Rishi Kapoor, Neetu Kapoor, Archit Krishna, Aditi Vasudev, Akhilendra Mishra.
Music - Meet Brothers, Anjan, Ankit
Cinematography - Anshuman Mahaley
Editor - Aarti Bajaj
Art - Mukund Gupta 
Story, Screenplay, Dialogues - Habib Faisal, Rahil Qazi
Release Date - 8th October 2010

Hindi Cinema has been consistently telling stories of either the extremely rich or the extremely poor. But the Indian middle class is a section that Hindi Cinema has constantly been avoiding (after the Hrishikesh Mukherjee era of course). Other than a Khosla Ka Ghosla, we've never had any good film in recent times that chronicles the lives of one of the biggest sections of India's population - the middle class. What we get on a regular basis are movies like Anjaana Anjaani about filthy rich NRIs (even when they're supposed to be broke) or Aisha about the elite Delhi families. Or otherwise it goes to the other extreme in movies like Peepli Live which showcase the lives of the extremely poor. So, everytime when films such as a Khosla Ka Ghosla or a Do Dooni Chaar comes, it brings a refreshing change from the regular big budget extravaganzas. 

Do Dooni Chaar tells the story of the Duggals, a lower middle class Punjabi family settled in Dilli. Papa Duggal (Rishi Kapoor) is a Maths teacher in a private school and also takes classes at a coaching centre to earn enough to meet his family expenses. Mummy Duggal (Neetu Kapoor) is the typical Indian housewife, and the support system for the entire family. Beti Duggal (Aditi Vasudev) is fed up of their livestyle and is infatuated by the luxurious lifestyles led by her friends. Beta Duggal (Archit Krishna) has all he wants to have (including a girlfriend and an iPhone) with the money he makes from cricket betting. The movie tracks the journey of this family from 2 (an old khataara scooter) to 4 (a brand new Alto car, at the price of a Maruti 800) and the adventures in between. 

The movie is instantly likable and is definitely one of the best films to have come out this year. With a story as simple as that, writer-director Habib Faisal presents a series of lovely incidents in the life of the Duggal family. Instead of showing the miseries that the family goes through to make ends meet, Habib has chosen the awkward and funny situations that the family faces at each stage to tell his story. And while he narrates this rather simplistic tale, he also throws light on a major issue - How the people who lay the foundation for generations in educational institutions are given a raw deal, when their students go on to scale heights in different walks of society. And also shows the values of the upright middle class families who are willing to pay bribes to get things done, but petrified of attempting even the smallest of shortcuts to earn some extra bucks.  

Rishi Kapoor, who must have never experienced even a bit of middle class life in his real life, comes up with a career best performance. The hugely underrated actor is first class as the father, the husband, the teacher and the common man. Rishi Kapoor makes Duggal Saab as real as possible. For example, there's a scene where he's talking to his son and he scratches his backside at some point during the conversation, making the entire atmosphere inside the house so completely natural that we smile at it. A 5 star rating for this man alone!! Neetu Kapoor shows how comebacks have to be made!! After a break of around 30 years, she plays Kkusum Duggal so endearingly well that we cannot imagine any other actress playing that part. And if there's anything called on-screen chemistry, that can be witnessed in plenty between this real life couple in the movie. Aditi Vasudev as the fiery tomboy daughter of Duggal Saab is nothing short of brilliant. Without any inhibitions of a newcomer, she comes up with a fantastic performance. Archit Krishna as the beta Duggal is another amazing performer. Akhilendra Mishra as the hen-pecked husband was hilarious. Rajesh Vivek as the TV Crime reporter was funny. 

The movie has ample emotional moments which make your eyes moist and make you smile, at the same time. At no point does the script get preachy or goes into melodramatic mode. The scene between Rishi Kapoor and the son after the match fixing issue is one brilliant example of how well Habib Faisal has handled such emotional scenes. The dialogues are witty, natural, simplistic and sound the least bit cinematic. The pre-climax goes into Priyadarshan mode with some slapstick sequences. (They're funny nevertheless).  But then a beautiful climax, which poses an important question about the position of teachers in our society, solves it all. Do Dooni Chaar is one of those rare movies where a great script, characterizations, narrative and performances go hand in hand to give you a beautiful experience. 

Cinematography by Anshuman Mahaley and art direction by Mukund Gupta go hand in hand to give a clear picture of the claustrophobic life of the Duggals in their cramped apartment. The art director has done a splendid job as no frame in the movie looks artificial and looks as realistic as it can get. Music by Meet Brothers Ankit and Anjan support the narrative well. 

Anyone and everyone who has had a middle class upbringing would thoroughly enjoy this movie and find it immensely relatable, as many of the events in the movie would have occurred to them as well. A must watch for people from all walks of society, it gives a slice of life picture of middle class families struggling to cope up with the speed in which the rest of the world is progressing. As much about the people of Dilli as it is about the middle class, its a film which has heart in every frame of it. Something which we get to experience only in Rajkumar Hirani's films these days. It is surprising that the writer of films like Jhoom Barabar Jhoom and Ta Ra Rum Pum could come up with a gem like this. As critic Sudhish Kamath pointed out, coming out of the Yash Raj camp can provide some really fruitful results. Its surprising that despite being Walt Disney Pictures' first mainstream Indian film, there is very little promotion being done for this film. This gem of a movie deserves to be watched and it needs much more publicity for people to come and watch it. Lets hope that things improve in the coming days and more people watch this movie after hearing the amazing response it has garnered from almost all possible critics in the country. It ranks among the best films of the year, somewhere between Udaan and Peepli Live. Do not waste any more time, go watch Do Dooni Chaar immediately. 

Rating - 4.25/5

Tuesday, October 5

My thoughts after watching Anjaana Anjaani

  • When would big budget Bollywood flicks have enough of these NRI love stories?
  • How many times would the same love stories be narrated again and again?
  • Priyanka Chopra is hot and she can act too. (She got a National Award not so long ago). But its not so easy to pull of a Geet (Jab We Met) like Kareena did so effortlessly, even for her. 
  • Ranbir, after giving fantastic performances in films like Wake Up Sid, Ajab Prem Ki.., Rocket Singh and Raajneeti, shouldnt have done this film. Bachna Ae Haseeno looks like a classic in front of this. 
  • Why did Ravi K Chandran agree to do this film? 
  • The whole movie is about suicide. By the time it ends, the one who's watching it would actually contemplate on committing suicide. 
  • And yes, there is the club song where the hero and heroine get drunk and dance in a pub in America singing a Hindi song and the natives dance along with them.
  • Each and every person they meet in New York (or whichever foreign land the movie is set in) is an Indian and can speak flawless Hindi. 
  • Siddharth Raj Anand would at least be remembered as the guy who made the funny Salaam Namaste if he stops directing now. 
  • Bollywood makes films as if there are no Indians living in India. If they havent noticed, all the big hits of recent times have been as Indian as ever - Dabangg, Peepli Live, Once Upon A Time in Mumbai, Raajneeti, 3 Idiots, Ghajini, Wanted and what not. Why do they still make stuff like We Are Family and Anjaana Anjaani
  • Havent they had enough of gay jokes? Ranbir stripping and doing a pole dance to Mithunda's iconic Disco Dancer song is NOT funny!! Period. 
  • Priyanka laughs at Ranbir when he says he's a virgin. She's shown to be a party animal who doesnt mind sleeping with men. But when after they fall in love, she has to become the sati-savitri types - so she says she's also a virgin and she was lying about those men. 
  • Why would anyone want Zayed Khan to make a 'special' appearance in their movie? To prove that he's still alive?
  • As somebody said on Twitter, Priyanka slept with a black man in Fashion. She supposedly sleeps with a white man in Anjaana Anjaani (which she later denies, even though she wouldnt remember a thing from that night). What next?? 
  • And why the hell would they decide to release this movie along with Endhiran/Robot? Since the entire movie is about suicides, I think they also must have decided to do suicidal things. 
  • Other than the club song, there is the falling in love song, the roaming around the cities song, the love song, the separation song, the realization song and the reunion song. Phew!! 
  • Why did Ranbir have to deny us the pleasure of seeing Priyanka Chopra in a bikini, by forgetting to bring one when they go for a swim in the Atlantic Ocean? There was one good thing to look forward to and that also they dont give us. 
  • Even though there are some 7-8 songs, Vishal Shekhar managed to give a good soundtrack. Their lyrics are all the same from their previous songs. But songs like 'Hairat' and 'Aas Paas Khuda' are very good. 
  • Mr. Director, please watch films like Vinnaithaandi Varuvaaya to learn how to narrate love stories with a difference. 
  • Mr. Producer, last year you tortured us with Kambakth Ishq. This year also you didnt spare us with Housefull and now this. What plans next? 
  • Mr. Ranbir Kapoor, please act in the kind of films you were doing so far (from WUS to Raajneeti) and not crap like these. You are truly superstar-cum-actor material. Dont spoil yourself by acting in such movies. 
  • Ms. Priyanka Chopra. If you wanna do entertaining cinema, please do stuff like Bluffmaster or Don or even Dostana (couldnt take my eyes off you in that movie). If you want to demonstrate your acting skills, do stuff like Kaminey. Thank God that your next release is Saat Khoon Maaf. Sirf wohi reason ke liye is picture hum maaf kar sakte hain. 
  • Mr. Vivek Ranjit, why do you have to watch such movies, even though everyone you know warns you against it. You will never learn!! 

Friday, October 1

Endhiran - The Robot

Movie - Endhiran - The Robot (Tamil) 
Director - Shankar
Producer - Kalanithi Maran
Cast - Superstar Rajnikanth, Aishwarya Rai Bachchan, Danny Denzongpa
Music - AR Rahman
Cinematography - Rathnavelu
Production Design - Sabu Cyril
Editing - Anthony
Sound Design - Resul Pookutty
Action - Peter Hein
SFX - Stan Winston Studios
Story, Screenplay - Shankar
Dialogues - Sujatha, Shankar, Karky
Release Date - 1st October 2010

A Rajnikanth movie without his spectacular entry, without a self-celebratory introduction song, without punch dialogues and without any of the usual trappings of Rajnikanth movie. Such an instance has never happened for more than 25 years now. This is just one of the impossible things that Shankar achieves through his magnum opus called Endhiran – The Robot. Conceived by him around 10 years back, Shankar went through a lot of hurdles to get this man v/s machine dream project on floors. After the tremendous success of Sivaji – The Boss, Shankar decided to team up with Rajnikanth once again for his most ambitious project  and soon he had Kalanithi Maran and Sun Pictures backing him up with a budget of over Rs.160 crores. And after being in production for around 3 years, Endhiran has finally released sending the millions of fans of Rajnikanth into a frenzy. 

Dr.Vaseegaran (Rajnikanth), after 10 years of hard work, creates an android Chitti (Rajnikanth again - Speed 1 Terabyte, Memory 1 Zeta byte) whom he wishes to use as a replacement to soldiers in the Indian Army. But the committee headed by Dr.Bohra (Danny Denzongpa), Vasi's mentor denies approval to the robot stating that it does not have human emotions and feelings and thus it can be misused by anyone quite easily. Vasi feels dejected by this and sets upon an extremely difficult task of instilling human emotions in Chitti. But when he finally succeeds in that enormous task, things go out of control. Chitti falls in love with Sana (Aishwarya Rai Bachchan), Vasi's long-time girlfriend, thus creating a love triangle between the three. Sana rejects Chitti's proposal and this develops into a grand man versus machine spectacle.

It requires a man of amazing vision and imagination to even think that such a script can be pulled off in our country. There are ample moments in Endhiran which makes you want to say hats off to the vision of its director Shankar and his amazing technical crew. And unlike any other sci-fi/superhero film made in India (particularly in Hindi), this film actually has a plot, a wonderful one at that. Even though the film is about advanced robotics and science, Shankar narrates it in such a way that each and every one watching the film would understand every bit of what is going on in the movie. The late writer Sujatha's contribution to the screenplay is very evident in the way such complex themes are brought out with utmost simplicity. Dialogues by Shankar, Sujatha and Karky are simple, yet powerful. It's a movie for the masses, the classes and for all age groups from 6 to 60 and above. Perhaps one of the most entertaining movies ever made in the country, Endhiran is sure to break all collection records (if it hasn't already) in the weeks to come. 

Superstar Rajnikanth is deadlier than ever, playing three different roles with equal flourish. He plays the non-violent Dr.Vasi with a certain sophisticated dignity, Chitti with an irresistibly lovable charm and Chitti- Upgraded Version 2.0 as the devil incarnate. Rajnikanth looks 20 years younger and it is hard to imagine any other actor playing any of the three roles in this movie. He plays hero, comedian, dancer, fighter, savior and evil, all in the same movie and is nothing short of a treat to watch. Devoid of any of his usual gimmicks and style statements, he still manages to mesmerize his fans. And the final 30 minutes of the movie reminds us of the Rajni of the early 80s, and these portions have to be seen to be believed. The acting caliber of Rajnikanth has been utilized after a long long time. Aishwarya Rai Bachchan looks stunning for most portions of the film. Even though she plays arm-candy for all the Rajnis, she has a striking presence throughout the movie. She looks absolutely gorgeous in the songs and gives a decent performance as well. Danny Denzongpa gives an elegant performance as the evil Dr.Bohra and is a welcome relief from the usual Tamil villains. (The only issue is the out-of-sync dubbing done for him). Santhanam and Karunas are merely there and are not able to match up to Rajnikanth's impeccable comic timing. Malayalam actors Kalabhavan Mani and the late Cochin Haneefa come in one-scene cameos.

Each and every technical aspect of this film is top-notch. Be it the cinematography, production design, make-up, costumes, action, editing or special effects - each department is handled by the bests of the Indian and International film industries. Rathnavelu captures the movie in all its magnanimity and his work really comes into its own during the song sequences like 'Kaadhal Anukkal' and 'Kilimanjaro'. Sabu Cyril deserves nothing short of a National Award for his highly imaginative and futuristic production design and art works. Anthony could have used his scissors a little more in the second half, but still has done a tremendous job. Resul Pookkutty's sound design proves that he is capable of winning more Academy Awards. Action by Yuen Voo Ping and Peter Hein is unbelievably good. The sequence in the local train and the whole climax portions were fantastic. Special effects by Stan Winston Studios (who have worked on Terminator, Iron Man and Avatar) are the best that Indian Cinema has ever seen. The SFX team and the action team have done some extraordinary work in the final 30 minutes of the film making it a visual spectacle, which you can watch only with bated breath.

AR Rahman's music was declared a chartbuster on its release day itself. Shot in true Shankar style, the songs alone are worth the money you spend on your ticket. 'Kaadhal Anukkal' and 'Kilimanjaro' shows never-before-seen stunning locations like Macchu Picchu, shot in all their glory. Whereas 'Arima Arima' and 'Irumbile' has been shot on futuristic sets with imaginative costumes. The mandatory SP Balasubramaniam title song comes in a toned down, yet appealing version and 'Boom Boom Robo Da' and 'Chitti Dance Showcase' are excuses for Chitti to entertain us shamelessly. Choreography by Prabhu Deva, Raju Sundaram and others is excellent and suits the style of Rajnikanth. Vairamuthu and his son Madhan Karky write lyrics that complement the theme of the movie very well. The background score did not come up to usual Rahman-Shankar standards, but was still very good. The 2.0 theme track was killer. 

You can be sure of one thing while watching Endhiran. Such a movie has never come before on the Indian screen and it will take a long time for another such movie to come out as well. It is a spectacle which you can miss only at your own risk. If Sivaji was a Rajni film directed by Shankar, Endhiran is a Shankar film, utilizing both Rajni - the actor and Rajni - the superstar. Shankar with his amazing vision has shown us that nothing is impossible if you dare to dream. Ably supported by the best producers this movie could have ever got, Sun Pictures, this movie is sure to be a milestone in Indian Cinema. Move over Superman, Batman and Spiderman, we have Chitti - The Robot!! Shankar, Rajnikanth, Kalanithi Maran and the entire team can be proud. DOT!!

Rating - 4.5/5

(Previously published on -