Tuesday, May 24

Pyaar Ka Punchnama - The funniest tragedy I've seen!!

Movie - Pyaar Ka Punchnama (Hindi)
Writer/Director - Luv Ranjan
Producer - Abhishek Pathak
Cast - Kartikeya Tiwari, Rayo Bakhirta, Divyendu Sharma, Sonalli Sehgal, Nushrat Bharucha, Ishita Sharma
Music - Clinton Cerejo, Hitesh Sonik, Luv Ranjan, Ad Boys
Cinematography - Sudhir K Chaudhury
Editor - Akiv Ali
Release Date - 20th May 2011

There have been n - number of movies in India which featured issues of exploitation (physical, emotional, social) of women by men. Pyaar Ka Punchnama addresses a different issue, which is important in its own way - the exploitation of the emotionally weaker sex, MEN, by women at so many different levels. There are so many people to speak for women, but what about men, who do not even acknowledge such problems to themselves, leave alone talk about it to others, just because they're supposed to be 'Men'. Luv Ranjan cleverly brings all this together in his brilliant satire on relationships, Pyaar Ka Punchnama soaked in sharp humour, something which 3-time National Award winning director Madhur Bhandarkar so miserably failed to do in his lousy attempt at romantic comedy, Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji

Rajat (Kartikeya), Vikrant Chaudhury (Rayo) & Liquid/Nishant (Divyendu) are 3 best buddies sharing an apartment in Delhi, each having his own boring job and list of frustrations, the biggest of them being that they are all single. And as their lives progress, Rajat falls for Neha (Nushrat), Chaudhury gets closer to Riya (Sonalli) and Liquid finds his first female friend in Charu (Ishita Sharma). Rajat moves on to a live-in relationship with Neha, Chaudhury helps Riya get over her break up with ex, Varun and Liquid tries to be an honest best friend to Charu who rejects his proposal. From here on, the lives of the 3 of them turn topsy turvy in ways they couldnt have imagined. 

3 different shades of modern day relationships are explored in the process of the narrative and its guaranteed that every guy who watches this movie would find at least some of him in either of the 3 characters. Be it Rajat, who tries to do everything to keep his complaining girlfriend happy or Vikrant who honestly tries to help Riya to get over her previous relationship; and the most honest of them - Liquid, who tries to be a support system for the manipulative colleague who is just interested in using him at her pleasure; being the biggest loser of them all . Many might have complaints that the movie has painted all its female characters completely evil. But hey, thats not true. The movie actually portrays how much more stronger they are compared to men, when it comes to the mind. They are confused most of the time;  but if they make their mind that they want something, they know the exact ways to get it done. The guys are not all white either. They have their own flaws and problems as well. 

[And even if the female characters are leaning towards negative shades, is that such a big problem? Dont men stay quiet when almost all of them are stereotypically depicted as lecherous creatures behind the woman's body in almost all of those female-oriented movies?? This movie tells how men feel about certain women who manipulate them. So take it like that, and if you cant handle it, then please dont watch this movie.]

The movie doesnt have your typical Hindi film romance or heroes or heroines. One of our heroes cries like a baby falling on her lap when she tells him that she's leaving him and another is terribly humiliated in his own office by someone for whom he remained a loyal dog. So if you are used to the Rajshri, Dharma, Yashraj kind of romances, stay away from this one, as this shows the real deal. Not all relationships may not be like the ones shown in this movie, but most of them do go through several stages which are depicted in this movie for sure. The movie tries to understand the toughest question of them all - 'What does a woman really want?' and fails in its quest by the end, just like our heroes. And director Luv Ranjan has done that with a confident and irreverent attitude by portraying many heartbreaking moments through such hilarity. 

The performances by the 3 guys are fantastic. Divyendu steals the show beyond doubt. Playing the desperate, seedha-saadha Liquid who is all talk but no action, he is just mindblowing. He gets the best lines in the movie as well. Kartikeya's hopeless lover who loses it after a point is brilliant in his own way. Watch out for him in his 6-minute long monologue (one of the best I've seen in Hindi), he's too good in it. Rayo plays the laid-back Chaudhury, in his undies whenever he's at home, with a guitar for company most of the time. He also makes a confident and impressive debut. Out of the ladies, it is clearly Nushrat who plays Neha who gets the maximum screen time and makes the most use of it as well. She plays her part so well that it is hard not to hate her. ;) Sonalli as Riya is neither attractive nor very effective, but since her character is written well, we dont mind it so much. Ishita is impressive playing the manipulative Charu effectively. And each of these actors should thank their writers for giving them such effectively etched-out characters. 

You're so immersed in the narrative of the movie that it is hard to notice the work of the rest of the crew. Sudhir Chaudhury's slick and flashy cinematography sets the right mood for the film. The bachelor pad created by the art director would make every guy wish to have one like it, even though its mostly in a mess. Akiv Ali has put together the 3 different tracks very well, but he could've sharpened the movie a bit more in the second half. Music and background score are super-effective, even though one or two songs unnecessarily slowed down the pace. The 'Ban gaya kutta' song has been used to hilarious effect in many scenes. 

Pyaar Ka Punchnama has more laugh-out-loud moments than all the mundane comedies that Bollywood has been producing over the past few years. And the movie makes sense too. Now, thats a rare combination in Bollywood. If Dil Chahta Hai set the benchmark on narrating stories on friendship and relationships in the last decade, Pyaar Ka Punchnama does that for this decade, without any star power to back it. The dialogues are howlarious, especially Rajat's monologue. [The constant beeps everytime there was the slightest of abuses, were really annoying. Will our Censor Board ever grow up?]

It is a perfect buddy film. And its also a tragedy in the sense that every man, be it Superman or Batman, was a dog to his woman at some point or the other. So guys, go catch this flick after a couple of beers with your best friends and have a great time. Hilarious scenes, great performances and a fresh take on relationships. What more could you ask for!! And please dont make the mistake of taking your girlfriends along, as it might lead to events of disastrous proportions. ;) 

If Woody Allen ever made a mainstream Hindi movie, it would be something like this. And yea, I think I can take some liberty and call Pyaar Ka Punchnama as the Dil Chahta Hai of this decade. It actually goes much beyond where Dil Chahta Hai went. Luv Ranjan and team, take a bow!! 

Bottomline - Launde log, is film ko dekh lena apne doston ke saath, immediately!! 

Sunday, May 15

Stanley Ka Dabba is Delicious!!

Movie - Stanley Ka Dabba (Hindi)
Writer/Producer/Director - Amole Gupte
Cast - Partho, Numan, Abhishek, Amole Gupte, Divya Dutta, Divya Jagdale, Raj Zutshi
Director of Photography - Amol Gole
Music & Background Score - Hitesh Sonik
Editor/Co-Producer - Deepa Bhatia
Production Designer - Sheetal Bapardekar
Sound Designers - Dwarak Warrier & Madhu Apasara
Release Date - 13th May 2011

In between all the star studded extravagances and mindless masala movies, comes Bollywood's first true-blue independent cinema Stanley Ka Dabba spreading a beautiful aroma and so many smiles around. Amole Gupte, whose brainchild Taare Zameen Par blew our minds and hearts not so long ago, scores yet again with his directorial debut. An original, genuine, sincere, simple and beautiful film, which is all heart - that is Stanley Ka Dabba. 

Stanley (Partho) is an enthusiastic and multi-talented child studying in Std IV F of Holy Family High School along with his friends Abhishek (Abhishek), Aman Mehra (Numan) & party. While all his friends feast on their dabbas during lunch breaks, Stanley doesnt bring a dabba and usually gets his share of lunch from his cool friends, most of whom are fans of him, and his stories. Trouble comes in the form of the terrifying Khadoos Varma (Amole Gupte), their Hindi teacher, who takes pleasure on eating food from others' dabbas, be it his students or his colleagues in the staff room. Stanley Ka Dabba effectively captures the routine school life of these children and their fight against the villain in their lives - the Khadoos Hindi teacher; and gives a shocking jolt by the end, which makes us see the entire film once again in another perspective. 

Amole Gupte is a brilliant storyteller, which was evident from his first screenplay Taare Zameen Par (which he was directing, until Aamir Khan took over). Stanley Ka Dabba is similar to TZP in many ways, yet so drastically different. Both films are essentially about children, and both tackle serious issues without being preachy as well and the similarity ends there. Stanley Ka Dabba makes us revisit the times when going to school, learning things, eating lunch with friends, getting a chocolate from the teacher, playing football during breaks and such small things were the biggest pleasures in life. School was such an important part of the growing up years of every single one of us and Amole Gupte takes us back to one of the classes in primary school and makes us feel like we're one among the students there. The film, which was shot completely on a digital still camera (Canon 7D, its the first mainstream Hindi film to use this technology) over weekends and vacations without disturbing the classes of any of its child actors, has captured the children at their most candid of moments, which makes the film so strikingly real and at the same time, enjoyable. None of the performances look like a performance, and never do you get a sense that what you are watching is actually a film which was written and made by a bunch of people over a period of time. You are sucked into the world of Stanley and his friends that you forget about everything else. Very rarely can a filmmaker achieve this. 

Partho is a brilliant actor. Amole Gupte's son proves that he might be as talented as his father at this young age itself. Those who loved Darsheel Zafary's Ishaan Nandakishore Awasthi, would adore Partho's Stanley Fernandez. Stanley is the complete opposite of whatever Ishaan was and he wins our heart right from the second he does his own version of Vishal Bhardwaj's Dhan Te Nan in the beginning of the film. Partho plays the enthusiastic, wide-eyed, talented and cute Stanley so beautifully that you cant help falling in love with the child. This is the best performance you would've come across in a Hindi film in a long long time and the best part is that it doesnt even look like its a performance. Partho is Stanley for everyone watching the film. Numaan Sheikh plays the chubby little Aman Mehra, the rich, but sweet kid who brings the tallest of dabbas and loves to share it with his buddies. Abhishek Reddy reminds you of your best buddy during school who would stand by you no matter what. The rest of the children are all so good that many of our leading men should take acting lessons from them. Anyone who has had the experience of shooting with children would vouch that it is one of the toughest things to do, but Amole Gupte has extracted some wonderful performances from a whole bunch of kids, which is indeed an enormous task. 

Divya Dutta plays the super-sweet English teacher whom Stanley has a major crush on. Lovely is too small a word to desrcibe her in the movie. Every grown up would have memories of a strict, no-nonsense and sarcastic teacher like the South Indian Science teacher Mrs Iyer, played perfectly by Divya Jagdale. And then there is the director Amole Gupte himself, playing the film's antagonist Khadoos Varma, who is as villainous as any of our iconic Hindi film villains, even when he snatches food from unsuspecting kids and teachers. His Varma actually mirrors Stanley's situation, but leaning towards the negative side of it. After Kaminey, Phas Gaye Re Obama and the Malayalam film Urumi, we get to see the wonderful actor having a ball playing a great character whom we feel both hatred and sympathy towards, at the same time. And then there's Raj Zutshi in a delightful cameo giving food for thought for Gupte's character. 

The routine school lives become so lively and energetic through Deepa Bhatia (Gupte's wife)'s clever and fantastic editing. Amol Gole, the director of photography has used the wonderful Canon 7D to its maximum potential and has captured children so beautifully and realistically, without many of them even noticing that they were being shot by a camera. Mixed with some real good DI work, nowhere does the film look like its been shot on a digital format, leave alone a still camera. This experiment has the power to revolutionize independent cinema in India and encourage more and more filmmakers to start making movies with the lowest of budgets. The film was shot completely on natural and ambient light which makes it look completely real. Dwarak Warrier & Madhu Apasara have captured the sound on location since it would be an enormous task to get all those kids to dub their lines; and they have done a great job with the sound design. Music by Hitesh Sonik is wonderful and the songs seamlessly fit into the narrative, thereby enhancing it. 

The charm of Stanley Ka Dabba lies in its simplicity and the nuances which the director has used to convey emotions through his characters. The ending might give you a shock, but yes, its a true fact which makes one think, after smiling throughout the movie. As the caption says, its a small story with a big heart. And this movie doesnt have the support or backing of a superstar like Aamir Khan, so its the responsibility for lovers of good and independent cinema to see to it that the film gets the viewership, success and recognition it deserves. And please dont deprive your children from the joy of seeing this movie. Make this film your vacation treat for your kids and its a given fact they would completely adore it. Rarely does a film which is so sincere and full of heart like this gets made in Hindi Cinema. Make sure you catch it immediately. The father & son are sure to win your hearts. 

To put it in Rosy Miss' words - 'Stanley, You Rock! ;-)'

P.S. - Carry lots of food with you when you watch this movie, it would come in handy, trust me. ;)

Bottomline - A heartwarming film which would make you smile throughout, and leave you with a lump in your throat by the end. MUST WATCH!!

Tuesday, May 10

First Look - Salt N Pepper

Movie - Salt N' Pepper (Malayalam)
Director - Aashiq Abu
Producers - Lucsam Creations
Writers - Shyam Pushkaran, Dileesh Nair
Cast - Lal, Asif Ali, Baburaj, Mythili, Shwetha Menon, Kalpana, Vijayaraghavan, Ahmed Sidhique
Music - Bijibal, Avial
Cinematography - Shyju Khalid
Editor - V Saajan
Art Director - Suresh Kollam

Aashiq Abu made an impressive debut as a director through Daddy Cool in 2009, which was one of the most slick & stylishly made movies (even though it had its share of flaws) in Malayalam Cinema. Salt n Pepper is his second feature film with an impressive star cast and a fresh setting of that of a thattukada, with a caption - 'Oru dosha ondakkiya katha' (A story of how a Dosa was made) which creates immediate interest in the audience. The fresh stills and posters released through social networking sites had already created a buzz among the young crowd about the movie. And the newly released trailer promises oodles of freshness, fun and entertainment. Baburaj is the one who shines the most in the trailer. Aashiq was the first one to give him something different to perform in Daddy Cool, other than getting beaten up by every hero. He has done the same, in a much more prominent role this time around. Music is by the talented Bijibal and there's also a promotional song 'Aanakkallan' by the rock band Avial. Cinematography is by the guy who did some great work earlier this year in Traffic, Shyju Khalid. Looking forward to the release of the movie. Till then, here's the fun trailer of the movie. 

First Look - 180

Movie - 180 (Tamil/Telugu)
Director - Jayendra
Producers - Sathyam Cinemas, Aghal Films & Wide Angle Creations
Writers - Subha & Jayendra
Cast - Siddharth, Nithya Menen & Priya Anand
Music & Background Score - Sharreth
Director of Photography - Balasubramaniem
Editor - Kishore TE
Art Director - V Selva Kumar
Lyrics - Karky & Viveka
Sound - Tapas Nayak
Release - Summer 2011

Tamil/Telugu bilingual romantic film 180 is getting ready for release this summer. Ad film maker Jayendra is turning director with this film which stars Siddharth, Nithya Menen & Priya Anand. This would be Siddharth's third Tamil film after Boys & Aayitha Ezhuthu. The actor who has been concentrating mostly on Telugu films is making a comeback to Tamil films after around 7 years. Music is composed by the extremely talented Malayali composer Sharreth who is popular for his stint as a judge in the superhit reality show Idea Star Singer. Cinematography is by Balasubramaniem & editing by Kishore. Here are the Tamil & Telugu trailers & teasers of the movie. 

First Look - Three Kings

Movie - 3 Kings (Malayalam)
Director - VK Prakash
Producers - Abdul Nazar, Vachan Shetty
Writer - YV Rajesh
Cast - Kunchacko Boban, Indrajith, Jayasurya, Samvritha Sunil, Ann Augustine, Sandhya, Suraaj Venjarammoodu, Jagathy Sreekumar, Salimkumar, Ashokan, Sreejith Ravi
Music - Ouseppachan
Cinematography - Venu ISC
Editing - Mahesh Narayanan
Releasing - This May
 VK Prakash is back with another comedy after his successful con-movie Gulumaal. And along with the heroes of Gulumaal, Kunchacko Boban & Jayasurya, he has roped in Indrajith as well to play the leads in 3 Kings, written by YV Rajesh, who also wrote Gulumaal. Samvritha Sunil, Ann Augustine & Sandhya play the female leads and Suraaj, Jagathy, Salimkumar, Ashokan and gang play supporting characters. A comedy adventure targeted at children, with many spoofy scenes thrown in for good measure, this movie is expected to release this month. There is even a spoof of the cult album song - Silsila, performed by Jayasurya. Here's the trailer of the film -