Friday, June 10, 2011

West Is West review

Director: Andy DeEmmony
Starring: Om Puri, Aqib Khan, Linda Bassett, Ila Arun, Vijay Raaz
Rating: ***

In East Is East we saw a harried Jehangir Khan aka George (Om Puri) with his dysfunctional Anglo Pakistani family, running his shop along with his firang wife Ella (Linda Bassett), and trying fruitlessly to instill a sense of Muslim rootedness and tradition in his seven children. The family lives in Salford, UK in lower middle class circumstances.

Twelve years later, the makers have come up with the sequel to the British comic-drama, where Jehangir is disappointed that most of children have turned completely English. The period is still 1970s. His last hope rests with his youngest son, Sajid (Aqib Khan). He is keen that the teenager should develop pride for his Pakistani roots. However Sajid is a tough cookie, and is already upset at being referred to as 'Paki by a few school bullies. He is not willing to bend down to his father's tyrannical ways.

The scene ends in a showdown, and Jehangir is determined than ever before to turn his son around. He brings him to his village in Pakistan (the shooting happened in Chandigarh) to the house where his first wife (Ila Arun) and her daughters live. The script doesn't shy away from bringing out Jehangir's callousness in dumping his family and not bothering to visit them in 30 years. He sends them money, but beyond that, he’s been largely unconcerned about them all these years. His grown-up daughters are surprised at his visit and cannot hide their resentment. They accept his small, token gifts with forced smiles.

There's a wonderfully poignant scene where his first wife --- though irrevocably scarred --- for the first time in years perhaps bothers to check her weather-beaten face in the mirror and make herself presentable before her husband. She enters his room tentatively, with the hope he might need her in bed. You realise her own despondency of living without a man for so many years. Jehangir senses this, and gets uncomfortable. Without meeting her eyes, he says he's very tired and shifts in the bed. The wife comes out and weeps quietly, knowing nothing can change now. This is the single-most effective scene in the film.

In the meanwhile, Jehangir wants his younger son to adapt to his new surroundings and entrusts him with a sage. Sajid initially hates the new place calling it a 'dump, but slowly warms up to it. Meanwhile, Jehangir is also looking for an appropriate bride for his eldest and most obedient of all his sons, who has been staying in Pakistan for a year. In all this, his British wife, Ella comes down and some more chaos follows.

West Is West is languorous, spacious film, never in a hurry to fill up the time. Most characters are shown to speak in English, even if it is broken. This seems unrealistic, but can be viewed as permissable cinematic liberty. When the two wives come together, there are the obvious fireworks, but in a few days, both slip into an empathetic calm and even have a heart to heart chat. Even though Ella has stayed with her husband, she points out to the Pakistani women - in a moment of agony - that she too has suffered and that her life has been no easier.

In all this, it is easy to detest Om Puri's character, but you don't. There is an innate warm-heartedness to him. He is very vain and proud, which makes him seem acutely vulnerable and pathetic when his importance is undermined. The film has flaws - the sub plot about his eldest son and his marriage hunt is not too well-etched. Also the theme of identity and belongingness that the writer tries to bring forth through Sajid's character is somewhat half-baked. But there are enough nuances and subtleties to carry the film through and make it interesting enough.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Interview Ram Sampat

The success of D K Bose and Delhi Belly's soundtrack has elated music composer Ram Sampat. He talks to Sandhya Iyer about getting a new lease of life, and takes on director Anubhav Sinha for making remarks about Aamir Khan

The first time one really heard of Ram Sampat was when he took on the might of the Roshans and dragged them to court over a plaigirism issue. Rakesh Roshan had to cough up four crores for the Krazzy 4 number, which angered a section of Bollywood hitherto not used to being held accountable. Though Sampat was a known name in advertising circles, the period after the controversy proved to be an especially trying one for him. "I was out of work for a while. What I felt was pure indignation. I was upset that so much disrespect was being shown. Here, I am asking for credit for what I have created and is genuinely mine. It made me wonder why I am in this business at all? It was great the way the judiciary acted. I just needed to present facts and the decision was made," he says, recollecting the incident with mingled emotions.

The industry was divided over the issue. Some supported him, some didn't. "And among those who did was Aamir Khan," he says. When the actor offered him Delhi Belly, it meant the world to Sampat. "I was struggling at the fringes, so bagging Delhi Belly was huge. In the beginning, there was supposed to be just one song in the film, and the background music. The song was Jaa Chudail... After doing that, I was pretty much left to my own devices. As I went through the script again, I realised that a lot could be developed. Meanwhile, the film's writer, Akshat (Verma) had left a few hook words for me like Jaa Chudail and Teri Tirchi Nazar and Bhag D K Bose...they were just ideas which he thought we could work on. The film was still developing at this stage and was going through an edit change. Aamir was busy with Ghajini, and I asked him if he could hear some of the songs I had created. He heard it and was like 'Wow'. He was very excited," he says.
But Delhi Belly's music is not what one would immediately associate with Aamir Khan, isn't it?. "That's the thing. He's anything but conservative. He's a hip guy and a hip producer," says Sampat.
Once Aamir gave him the go ahead, the composer swung into full action, and created seven highly original and experimental tracks. The theme of the underdog in the film and the accompanying frustration fuelled his imagination. "Sure, I was going though the same feeling," he laughs, "But basically, the tracks came out of a strong feeling to express myself. I was sick of music that said nothing. Also, there were highly talented people who I wanted to introduce through this album. Besides creating something fresh and original, the idea was to reinvent the way songs are used," he says. Now that the tracks are out, he's thrilled with the way the songs are being promoted, with special music videos.
But the popularity of D K Bose has also seen a controversy cropping up, with filmmaker Anubhav Sinha going hammer and tongs at Aamir Khan for being 'irresponsible' for airing the song on prime time TV. Sampat has decided to take on the Cash and Ra.One director head on. Aamir himself is shooting in Pondicherry for his upcoming film, and the composer says that the actor himself would have laughed off Sinha's comments. "But I was very angry when I saw what he said, and I asked Aamir if I could express my opinion. He said 'okay'."
"Of course, I feel protective about Aamir and the whole Delhi Belly team. Also, here I had clawed my way back into the industry from the wilderness. I did it on my own terms. So I really do take this very seriously. Anubhav Sinha - if he has a problem - must argue this factually, not get into cheap mud-slinging. The censors have approved what they have to. I don't find anything wrong with D K Bose. It's a very honest song. It's about underdogs, who have taken blows in life. That one line in it ' Yeh Bheja Garden Hai, Aur Tension Maali Hai' is a profound one, and better than anything I've heard," he says.

Sampat is especially upset because he feels Anubhav Sinha has no right for moral policing when his own films like Cash and Dus have had titillating songs and lyrics. "It's laughable and blatant hypocrisy. What about lyrics like Saiyyan Saiyaan, love the way you touch me' He didn't have an issue with his son listening to it then? Why pick on a hit song, when he has regularly churned out meaningless crap," he retorts.

The composer is not sure why Sinha would want to speak against the film. "It does seem like an attempt to garner cheap publicity. I wouldn't know why else he is doing it. There is hidden agenda for sure, but that only Mr Sinha with his great 'anubhav' can tell and enlighten us. It's not for me to say whether he did it to promote Ra One. His film has to stand its own ground when it releases. There's no point trying to pull others down. It's a petty mentality. We hope Ra. One does well. We want all the films to do well.," he says.

Besides Delhi Belly, Sampat has also signed Reema Kagti's next starring Aamir Khan, Rani Mukherjee and Kareena Kapoor. "Yes it was Aamir who recommended me to Reema, but he only asked her to see if I suited the bill. So I had to impress Reema. Fortunately, we hit it off really well. The film has a fabulous script and great scope for music, and is the polar opposite of Delhi Belly," he says.
Other offers are pouring in for the hit composer but Sampat says two films a year is all he can handle. "Script is important to me In fact, the first thing Reema and Amair said to me is 'Go through the script and see if you 'd like to be a part of the film' I'd want to be choosy. For now, these two films are more than enough I think," he says.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Review: Ready

Ready, very unsteady

Director: Anees Bazmi
Starring: Salman Khan, Asin, Paresh Rawal, Mahesh Manjrekar, Sharat Saxena, Akhilendra Mishra, Anuradha Patel, Arya Babbar
Stars: **

Ready is exactly the kind of film that gets made when a lead star is going through a lucky purple patch in his career. The script then moves along with a smug consciousness of having a superstar as its chief mover and shaker. The assumption is that most of the film will revolve around the star, who will play to the gallery and draw heavily upon his various signature styles. Not that Salman Khan's films are known for their scripts, but Ready particularly hopes to ride on its male lead's shoulders without bothering to come up with anything new or remotely interesting.

In many ways, Ready looks like a residue and cheap imitation of some of Govinda's 90s romcoms, which anyway had far more spunk and humour. Right from the tacky title credits to the stale script and insipid treatment, Ready seems like a blast from an unwelcome past. The first half is especially trying, as the film drags along endlessly with unfunny gags and a nonsensical plot-line. The second half gathers some pace, and there are the occasional scenes which elicit a faint smile, but none of that pulls the film from its mire of inanity.

Prem (Salman Khan) belongs to a large, extended family, who are keen to get him married. He himself is reluctant and shows no interest when he is packed off to receive a girl at the airport. Simultaneously, a runaway bride, Sanjana (Asin) is desperate for a place to hide, as she is being chased by a few goons. She poses as Salman's proposed bahu and joins his family, who take a great liking to her. Salman stays aloof towards her, but warms up once she tells him about her two warring gangster-uncles (Sharat Saxena, Akhilendra Mishra). Each of them wants her to marry their respective sons for her wealth, and have been chasing her around the town. If you can get past this ludicrous plot, the rest of it revolves around Salman's efforts to bring the uncouth uncles around and create a Hum Saath Saath Hain out of the Kaminey families.

In many ways, Ready is a watered down version of director Anees Bazmee's own Welcome, an infinitely funnier comedy. It stays marginally watchable of course, thanks to a few individual scenes. There are a couple of characters, including the one of Paresh Rawal, who reveal Bazmee's talent for comic writing. But this is all very few and far in between, and much of what goes on is childish and puerile to the extreme.

Coming to the man of the moment, Salman Khan surprisingly seems a little out of form at the start of the film. He looks too bulky and the role of a 'young' bachelor-in-the-house -- that the 45 year old Khan has played in countless films -- heightens the sense of deja vu. He gradually slips into the part, but the role is unlikely to gain as much favour as Wanted or Dabangg. The choice of Asin works quite well for a film that is urgently in need of some freshness.

Calling it a 'time-pass' flick in some ways denotes that it probably isn't high art, but entertains reasonably well. Ready can't even be called that. Fans of Salman may find it bearable enough, but really, this is low IQ tripe that is one, long, pointless exercise.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Kuuch Luv Jaisa

Some Vows, some lows

Director: Barnali Shukla
Starring: Shefali Shah, Rahul Bose, Sumeet Raghavan
Stars: **1/2

After Stanley Ka Dabba that explored the word of dabbas in schools, this week's Kuuch Luv Jaisa is a similar slice-of-life film, where in a downcast housewife takes off alone on a bizarre one day adventure. The film looks at a familiar domestic situation where romance starts to fade off from a marriage, and a slow resentment starts to seep in. The film starts with the beautiful title track, where the couple's honeymoon period slowly over the years turns to a humdrum existence with their two children.

Its protagonist, Madhu ( Shefali Shah) is tied down with house work, looking harried and tired in a crumpled salvaar kameez. Her life has slipped into a predictable routine, and the only thing to look forward to is cursing the maid, as she jokingly tells her mother on the phone. The trigger point comes when her husband, Shravan (Sumeet Raghavan) forgets her birthday. The date is February 29, a leap year, a date that comes once in four years, to emphasise the callousness. Madhu is initially upset, but the disappointment soon gives away to rebellious rage after she has a nasty argument with her husband. She takes off and goes on a shopping overdrive. She goes for a makeover, smokes, and looks around to heighten her sense of adventure.

She spots a man called Raghav (Rahul Bose) sitting next to her in a restaurant and somehow assumes he's a detective. Being in an excited mood, she wonders if she can be part of one of his cases. In reality, Raghav is a criminal on the run. The journey ends up forming an unsaid bond between the two, that comes to influence their lives.

Though this is an original desi flick, Kuuch Luv Jaisa could remind you of films like Wong Kar-Wai's In the Mood For Love and The Bridges Of Madison County. The point at which Madhu leaves her home is plausible, and Shefali being a natural actress to the core makes it all very believable. Again, there is a great subtlety to Rahul Bose act and he makes his character a real life and blood one. What proves to be a major issue with the film is the sub plot involving Raghav's girlfriend (Neetu Chandra) who is double crossing him. This angle is confusing and for the longest time, you don't know what's happening. Also, Madhu's character begins to appear too naive to get into such a potentially dangerous situation. Their attraction is asserted too soon by the script. Raghav is laconic and introverted, while Madhu is bubbly and talkative. It's not impossible to see why they could get attracted to one another, but that process does not come through in the most effective way. The result is that you find Madhu's emotional outburst towards the climax a little too overstated and premature.

Sumeet Raghavan's character as the slightly overbearing, smug husband is realistic, however, his performance itself is a little jerky.

Debutant director/writer Barnali Shukla, also actor Saurabh Shukla's wife, is a talent to watch out for. She can portray delicate emotions well, and the psychological underpinnings of the characters come through beautifully. Kuuch Luv Jaisa had the potential to be a truly good film, but there are serious weaknesses that prevent it from being a really memorable experience.

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Stanley Ka Dabba review

Director: Amole Gupte
Starring: Partho, Divya Dutta
Rating: ***1/2

Amole Gupte’s new film is a fresh, original effort, one that feels closest to classic slice-of-life Iranian cinema like Where Is My Friend's Home and Children Of Heaven. It has tremendous strengths, even if it ends up valorising the protagonist — the delightful Stanley (Partho) — also Gupte’s son — more than necessary. This makes it entirely character-driven, which somewhat dilutes the impact of the film. Yet, let’s not get into the negatives first.

There’s no doubt Stanley Ka Dabba is as pure and seamless a film as they come. Amole, having worked in the area of childrens’ welfare for long now, is beautifully in touch with their world. And it is this sensitivity that he brings to his writing, portraying bitter-sweet memories of childhood —bench-mates elbowing each other for desk space, a hungry student pinching a piece of vada-pao from his dabba before recess. The film almost entirely centres around the world of school dabbas, and through food, Amole explores a variety of situations, emotions and character quirks.

Stanley (Partho) is always the first to arrive and his dishevelled state with bruises indicates that something could be wrong. As he puts his head down on the bench, you see a great anguish and agitation in him, as if he’d want to scream out for help. But the bell rings and Stanley quickly rubs his face, and steadies his emotions. He’s a great favourite among his classmates, who admire him for his ability to narrate interesting things. Even otherwise, he’s a boy impossible to dislike. Radiating warmth and boyish charm, he’s keen to keep up appearances of belonging to a normal household. He comes up with creative excuses that invariably centre around his mother. But one soon sees a pattern with Stanley. He never gets a dabba. His friends want him to share their food, but Stanley — though hungry — is too ashamed to borrow everyday.

His rapport with each teacher differs. He blooms with confidence when his English teacher Rosy maam (Divya Dutta) is around, but feels stifled under the unkind, rigid gaze of his science teacher, Mrs Iyer (Divya Jagdale). But the teacher who seems to particularly dislike him is Babubhai Varma, their Hindi teacher (Amole Gupte). Babubhai is unkempt and shamelessly digs into others’ dabbas. His colleagues are exasperated with him and frown each time he eyes their tiffin. The children too don't seem to have much respect for him.

Babubhai’s dislike for Stanley perhaps stems from the fact that the former sees a reflection of himself in the boy — of taking food from others. Or then it could be envy that Stanley is popular and gets offered food all the time, while he is rejected by the students and kept at bay.

All this is wonderful to watch. But then the film starts to become completely about Stanley. Even TZP was about Darsheel, but the film never lost sight of the issues it was trying to address. Of course, here too, Amole wants to stress on Stanley’s indomitable spirit in the face of difficulties, but it gets a bit exaggerated and over-the-top by the end. And this jars, because the rest of the film is pure gold. This is still a terrific debut from Amole. And a special mention to the couple of kids who play Partho’s friends. They exude such natural warmth and goodness, it almost made me imagine what lovely people they would make in their characters when they grow up.

Shefali Shah on Kuuch Luv Jaisaa

Shefali Shah's film Kucch Luv Jaisa, where she plays a housewife who gets into an unlikely adventure with a criminal, releases this Friday. The talented actress talks to Sandhya Iyer about the film

Shefali Shah is currently seen in the delightful promos of Kuuch Luv Jaisaa, where she plays a desperate housewife who in a rebellious state, takes off and indulges in expensive shopping. She goes further ahead and joins a detective on one of his cases, while her perplexed husband (the delightful Sumeet Raghavan) wonders what's happening. The detective, played by Rahul Bose, is in fact, a criminal on the run. The story tracks this bizarre adventure that brings this unlikely couple closer to each other.

The film releases this week, and Shefali - who has played an array of interesting characters in a career dotted with some well-chosen films (Satya, My Father Gandhi, Monsoon Wedding), is excited about it. The film is directed by debutant Barnali Shukla and produced by her filmmaker-husband, Vipul Shah. This is a departure for Shah as well, who has mostly dabbled in strictly commercial potboilers like Waqt, Aakhen, Singh Is Kinng and the recent Action Replay. The director has not had much luck in recent times, what with Action Replay and London Dreams proving to be duds.

Talking about it, the actress who started her career with television serials, says flops are not a matter of grave concern. "Vipul is a very sorted out man. He has taken it in his stride. It's also about luck you know. London Dreams was a good film, but it didn't do well," she says about the Salman Khan- Ajay Devgan starrer.
Shefali is an undoubtedly a talented actress, but as is the case with the Hindi film industry, scripts hardly allow scope for mature actresses in lead roles. In such a scenario having a supportive producer-husband who can back her up in a project as Kucch Luv Jaisa is surely heartening. Shefali understands that the question means no offense, but she insists, "For Vipul, his film is more important than anyone. He would never take me unless he is clear I suit the role. He doesn't take me in commercial set-ups as the lead. But in the case of Kuuch Luv Jaisaa, he loved the script," she says. "Barnali had brought the script to me and wanted me on board. She was on the look out for a producer. That's when Vipul heard the script and wondered if he could produce it."

The actress is delighted about her role in the film and says she could completely identify with it. "Madhu is an extension of me. She falters, is very passionate, but not melodramatic. Women get so busy taking care of other's needs that they forget their own. And that sometimes causes a trigger point. When it happens to Madhu, she turns a rebel and does all the things in one day she would never imagine doing otherwise. And in the process gets into all kinds of weird situations."

One of the challenges involved was to look good in the film for Shefali. "I've never really bothered about how I look. I'm very comfortable in my skin. But then, I do realise that there are some expectations from the heroine of a film. Earlier I would just dress up like the character. Here I had to adhere to some requirements. There are unsaid norms - the leading lady has to be desirable, alluring, attractive, thin with fabulous make-up. All that took some effort for me. I had to lose weight, especially since I was donning western clothes in the film. And I am wearing lycra where the slightest flab is going to show. But I'm glad I did it and lose weight," she says.

Of course, Shefali was also easily persuaded because the role demanded it, "The character goes through a drastic make-over. The idea is that every woman has it in her to look great and do wonders with herself if she so desires."

Increasingly more female writer/directors are dotting the Bollywood scape. Does she find their approach different and fresh? "Their sensitivities are sharper. Men tend to look at the bigger picture, women like to go into every small detail. Barnali is someone who makes her film from the heart. She is honest and true to the calling of the film," says Shefali, who has previously also worked with the inimitable Aparna Sen in 15 Park Avenue.

Taking of Sen, reminds us to her co-star in the film, Rahul Bose, who plays the unlikely role of a scrubby small-time criminal. Shefali lights up at the mention of the star. "When Barnali said she wanted Rahul to play the character of Raghav, I was like 'Really?' Because we know Rahul as this South Mumbai guy, politically correct and polite and well-behaved. And here was a character who had to look convincing as a guy from Dharavi. But he's done it so well, I can't think of anyone else doing it now. And it's treated very differently from your usual tapori character. It has none of the -apun-tapun' lingo. Madhu is the boisterous one, and he is quiet. They are a mad couple, like fire and ice," she explains.

Is there a hint of romance between them? "It has something like love, certainly. But it's not called so in the film. So many times we meet strangers and form an unsaid bond. Such an unexpected relationship may not culminate into anything, but it can still change your life," she says.

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Amole Gupte interview

'Food is a metaphor in the film'

Amole Gupte, whose film Stanley Ka Dabba releases today, talks about the benevolent shooting patterns he adopted for the film, and how acting can never be his priority. Sandhya Iyer chats up the director/writer

Amole Gupte is visibly nervous and excited. His film Stanley Ka Dabba releases tomorrow, and the pre-release reports he tells us have been excellent. "I'm getting 4 star reviews," he says, as we catch hold of him for a quick interview during his Pune visit. Incidentally, the actor's parents stay in the city, and Amole is a regular visitor. Positive reviews are a shot in the arm, but the actor-director-painter is still anxious for his film. "It's delivery day, so I'm feeling labour pains now," he says.

Amole came into prominence with his writing for the celebrated Taare Zameen Par - - a poignant tale of a 8-year-old on the precipice of suicidal depression. He was supposed to direct the film as well, but as is public knowledge, an ugly controversy erupted with actor-producer Aamir Khan taking over the directorial reigns. It was seen as an act of betrayal from an old friend and much newspaper ink was expended on the topic. Whatever the truth of that episode, the one thing that emerged through the film was Amole's passionate commitment towards the cause of children. And TZP was certainly not going to be the last of it, he had made clear. Having worked for years with his wife Deepa Bhatia in the area of childrens' welfare, Amole knew there was a fount of stories that needed to be told. And thus came about Stanley Ka Dabba.

The writer/director agrees that the film is a continuation of the process that started with TZP, though the feel and tone of very different, he says, "TZP was about depression in a child, Stanley...celebrates life seen through the life of a 9 year old."
Not many know but Amole has a great love for food, both eating and cooking - and at one time he had been all set to make a film about Mumbai's delectable street-food. It almost appears he found a way to bring together two of his favourite subjects in his new film. "Yes, you could say that. You'll see a lot of food in Stanley.... It is going to make everyone madly hungry," he smiles. But the film per se is not about food, and has other issues it deals with, though Amole would not like to reveal them just yet. "Food is the metaphor, because the theme is about hunger of a certain kind. Food is the carrier of that message, a Dabba."

Stanley Ka Dabba, produced by Fox Star Studios, also saw a unique shooting pattern devised by Amole, where the kid were called for just four hours every Saturday, and a still camera was used. "All the children were from the same class, so there were no auditions. I held some workshops with them and on other Saturdays, we filmed the scenes. There was no paper given to them. It was all oral narration," he says. Amole is clearly pleased with the departure he made from conventional shooting practises where children are asked to be on the sets for hours. "I think I changed the rules of the game. I wanted the process to be benevolent for the children. And none of that affected the lucidity or grandness of the film," he says.

Amole is also an acting in the film, but he insists, it was only because he couldn't have got another actor to make time every Saturday. "Senior actors like Divya Dutta etc showed a lot of grace by adjusting their schedules, and rallying behind the kids." he says.

There was speculation that Amole had taken this script to Aamir, who in spite of their acrimonious split, had given him a patient hearing. Ultimately, it was reported that Aamir thought the film was too similar to TZP. Amole terms the news complete concoction. "I never went to him with anything," he says firmly. Would be work with Aamir again? "I can't say that." he dismisses.

There were creative differences between Aamir and Amole during TZP. Were there any aspects that he found freedom to rectify this time around, considering he was the director on Stanley..? "I wouldn't say I had problems with TZP. That was also my vision," he says, clearly unwilling to make any controversial statements at this juncture.

Amole started off being an actor, having done over a hundred diploma films at FTII. He was also a stage performer for many years, until he turned his attention to cause of children. He started to be identified as a talented painter, writer and social worker. Acting was long forgotten, until a couple of years ago, when Vishal Bhardwaj offered him a meaty role in Kaminey. Amole says the gesture flattered him. I asked him 'Why are you taking me when there are so many other actors?' But I enjoyed that film. For me processes are important. But no, I don't suddenly perceive myself as an actor now, because I always knew I was one. But my priority is not acting. My focus is always to table childrens' issues. When I do films, it's to earn some money. Like I did Bheja Fry 2 and Phas Gaye Re Obama," he says candidly.

For now of course, the actor only has Stanley... on his mind, before he embarks on anything new. "This is it for now." he says.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Nana Patekar interview

Never failing to call a spade a spade, Nana Patekar is for once delighted with the way his film Shagird has turned out. He also lets out why he refused the Agneepath remake. Sandhya Iyer meets up with him at his Pune residence - the house he considers dearest to him

Nana Patekar is not known to mince words, and this extends to his own films, many of which he bluntly refuses to endorse if he does not fancy the final product. Which is why we were pleasantly surprised to get a call from the temperamental, albeit highly talented actor's media managers informing that Nana would like to speak on his Friday release Shagird at his Pune residence.

Shagird has Nana Patekar in the central role of a Delhi cop, with director Anurag Kashyap playing an important character. The film, directed by Tigmanshu Dhulia, who made a fine debut with Haasil, is about corrupt police officers and moral choices. Shagird also has Mohit Alhawat (James) in a pivotal role, and Nana swears by the actor's work in this film.

As we reach the actor's apartment, it is Nana's son Malhar who opens the door for us. As we make ourselves comfortable, we notice how aesthetically the home has been done up - with wonderful Victorian style wood furniture, artifacts and carvings. Every corner of the house has quite evidently been done up keeping the actor's fastidious tastes in mind.

As we get called in, we see Nana reclining lazily on his bed in his shorts, watching TV. "Sit where you want," he commands with an informal, cheery air. Once you begin your questions, it's impossible to keep the actor from constantly digressing. His mind flits from one thing to another, as he alternatives between English and Marathi, interspersing the conversation with many dialogues from both his film Shagird and his other forthcoming Marathi film, Deool (Temple) - on the commercialisation of religious shrines - which he's terribly excited about.
He talks a great deal about Shagird. "He's a mad character, totally eccentric with a weird sense of humour and peculiar way of talking," he says enacting a few scenes. Its mere recollection fills him with child-like delight. "You have to see it, that's all I can say," he says with a wide grin.

Malhar enters the room, with glasses of lime juice. He asks if the AC needs to be switched on. Nana wonders why he is still at home. "Let someone else do this ..don't you have to go!," he says in Marathi. The actor informs us that Malhar has studied filmmaking and acting in New York and is looking to enter films. "Let's see what he does," he says trailing off.
He once again plays a cop in Shagird. So how will this be different from Ab Tak Chappan, we ask? "The plot is somewhat similar, but that was a straight character. This has many shades of grey," he says, talking some more about why the film is so special.

The fact that he plays a twisted cop, with some interesting quirks may be delightful to watch again, but hasn't that anyway been a signature style of Nana's? From Parinda to Krantiveer and Agnisakshi to Taxi No 9211, he has played edgy, troubled, volatile characters, hasn't he? "But in Ab Tak Chappan and recently Raajneeti, I played straight roles," he counters. "I had very few dialogues in Raajneeti. That was decided by me and the director (Prakash Jha)," he says. Is all well between him and Jha? There were reports that Nana was unhappy with his role that led to his split with the director. "No no," he shakes his head. "I fight with everyone. I liked Raajneeti a lot. It was a good film. Now, whether he wants to work with me or not, he has to decide," he says.

We try and get him to talk a little more about his aggressive characters and he attributes it to his early days as an actor. "I must have been in my 20s. I had this massive inferiority complex. I was too aggressive as a human being. I would insult others before they could say anything to me. It was a defence mechanism. I think I used that feeling a lot in my films. Now I see everyone is doing the kind of roles which I did at one time. That's human nature. Everyone has quirks." he says, speaking as and how his train of thoughts will travel.

Frequently, the actor has been accused of being repetitive with his high-pitched dialogue delivery. "But I always go by the pitch of the film. If people in an area are starving and food is being distributed, they have to shout if they want to get a packet. If they are going to whisper it, then no one will pay attention," he says, acting out both versions. "So in a film like Krantiveer, I had to be high-pitched, because that was its tone. It was a loud film. I modulate my performances in keeping with what the film demands from the character," he says.

Talk veers to a film he recently turned down - Karan Johar's Agneepath remake, where he was offered Danny Denzongpa's role. "I thought the script was too gory and violent. I don't like that. I feel violence never shouts. If you go to see, Agnisakshi was a very violent film, but there is nothing gory about it. There is no bloodshed. Kiran (Malhotra) is actually my friend, Ravi Malhotra's son. Kya karen. I don't like too much sensationalism," he says. So it was not a script he fancied, you press the question some more. "Have you seen Jackie Chan movies? Do you see blood anywhere? I prefer that," he says, avoiding being too blunt about the subject.

Somewhere from there he turns to the actors whom he likes, and names Dilip Kumar, Balraj Sahni and Naseeruddin Shah. "These are consistently great actors. No one else apart from them have lingered on in my mind," he says. He talks about Neeraj Pandey's A Wednesday and heaps lavish praise on his performance. Did he wish he had done the part? "You know when I met Naseer, he said to me, 'Arre, yeh role ke liye maine pehle tera naam suggest kiya tha' But it seems the makers thought I was a difficult guy to work with," he smiles.

On his direction plans, Nana passionately narrates to us the script that has been ready with him for a while. But he has no idea when he will make it. "In my mind's eyes, I have already seen the film. Then it's only about making it for the audience, and I'm not always in that mood," he says.

For now, Nana is eagerly awaiting the audience response for Shagird. "They are going to love it," he says, as a final note. "I never hesitate from calling my films bad. I never see them even. I'm very detached after I complete a film. So when I sign a project, I make it clear to the makers that I will say what I feel about a film if the media asks me, depending on how it has turned out. I say, I will only market a film if I believe in it."
It goes without saying that the actor is completely bowled over by his Friday release.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Luv Ka The End

'The End' never seemed more welcome

Director: Bumpy
Starring: Shraddha Kapoor, Taaha Shah, Jannat Zubair Rahmani, Shenaz Treasurywala
Rating: *

Yash Raj, at their worst can be accused of manufacturing shallow, synthetic, lame films, but they've never been one for crudity. There is a minimum quality control that goes into their ventures and occasionally they do surprise with a particularly fine film - like Band Baaja Baarat last year. It did look like the banner was on redemption path, and perhaps spurred by the success of the Anushka-Ranveer rom com - Yash Raj decided to peddle Y Films that would make youth-centric films with newcomers. The beginning couldn't have been more inauspicious, because Luv Ka The End is horrendously vulgar and puerile.

If this is what the youth wants, it is indeed very disconcerting. The film's story and screenplay is by none other than model-actress Shenaz Trasurywala, who mentioned in some interview that the theme was inspired by one of her own break-ups. She happily assumes all the stereotypes associated with the multiplex youth audiene - shallow, materialistic and frivolous - and together with director Bumpy, they end up making a film that is trivial and embarassing to the extreme.

The only area where it manages to be revealing in some socio-cultural sense (and this is again entirely unintentional, so credit is due to the makers), is in fricing home the point about how much today's youth and their world is driven by technology. It's all about texting, Facebook, and other technology-related social networking that has completely changed the way we communicate.
This transformation itself holds immense possibilities for stories, so starting a wing just for youth-related subjects is not such a bad idea per se. It's just that Luv Ka The End is plain obnoxious for most part, and is a definite error of judgement from YRF.

The story is painfully predictable, and its self-conscious swagger and fake boldness make it altogether unappealing. Rhea (Shraddha Kapoor) is a lovely teenage girl, madly in love with her boyfriend, Luv Nanda (Taaha Shah). Just as she's about to celebrate her 18th birthday, she overhears Luv's friends at a mall who boast about the former's Casanova image - chattering away about his two-timing ways, with location details and so forth (this is the kinbd of convenient screenplay you will see.

In a bizarre plot plot, Rhea discovers that Luv has merely been using her to win an online contest, which has rich boys uploading lusty vieos. Rhea and her two close girl friends swear to take revende and come up with totally ridiculous ways of getting back. This track is again lifted from She Devil. Rhea plans to strip him of his car, his money and his chamchas. So in one nioght, they smash his bar, steal his credit cards, spray itching powder on his panties (all this while I was curious to know which shop sells itching powder or which factory makes it?), make muffin cakes with laxatives, and send suggestive messages to his friends from his cell, indicating he might be gay.

Oh of course, Rhea's parents are conveniently away to see an ailing relative in another city. It's all set up in an artificial manner and gets progressively dumber.
Also, director Bumpy has an extremely crass sensibility, which makes this further unbearable to watch. The scenes are stagey, with loud acting all round.
The only bright spot is Shraddha Kapoor, who has natural charm and definite screen presence. For the rest, highly avoidable.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Film review: Game

Director: Abhinay Deo
Starring: Abhishek Bachchan, Kangna Ranaut, Boman Irani, Sara Jane Dias, Gauhar Khan, Shahana Goswami, Jimmy Shergill
Stars: * 1/2

It's hard to believe why producers Farhan Akhtar and debutant director Abhinay Deo would want to make a thriller, if all they could come up is a poor version of a Abbas-Mastan film. The latter pair is known to adapt Hollywood thrillers, turning them into stylised masala fares that are more often than not, quite watchable. With Game, the problem is that it's neither a plausible, edge-of-the-seat thriller and neither does it work as a commercial entertainer. The moments of drama, emotions and songs are all tepid and dull. The premise is both weak and unconvincing, the characters are poorly etched and the script singularly lacks spunk and originality.

A billionaire, Malhotra (Anupam Kher) in a bid to settle some scores for his daughter's (Sarah Jane Dias) murder, invites four strangers connected to the incident to his island. None of them really know why they are being called, except that Malhotra has promised to forward their careers in whatever way. This itself is a bizarre idea - that people staying in different continent would line up to meet a businessman they've never even met. The trouble begins there and the script remains drab and scratchy till the very end.

The persons invited include an Istanbul-based casino-owner, Neil (Abhishek Bachchan), a Bollywood actor, Vikram Kapoor (Jimmy Shergill), a ministerial candidate (Boman Irani) and a suicidal crime reportar (Shahana Goswami). Each of them is named guilty by Malhotra for various reasons. But before he can avenge his daughter's death, another murder takes place in the island, and the needle of suspicion is directed towards each of the characters present. Also part of the mix is Malhotra's secretary, Samara (Gauhar Khan).

None of this is remotely fresh. Malhotra's back story about losing his wife and daughter is laughable, while the Abhishek-Sarah Jane romance is a yawn-fest. The film stutters and stumbles throughout the first half, never really being able to establish the story. The twists are all predictable and stale. The second half gathers some momentum with Kangna's entry as an investigating officer, but the film never acquires the edge that is so important for a thriller.

The only actor who shines in this lack-lustre fare is Boman Irani. The rest, including Abhishek, Kangna and Anupam, deliver average performances. This was supposed to be Sara Jane's debut film, and though she looks smashing, hers is an altogether badly conceived two-bit role. Shahana Goswami, who is generally solid, seems confused about what she's exactly expected to do here.

Abhinay Deo's debut directorial effort is a terrible let-down. The onus must essentially be on writer Althea Delmas Kaushal and Excel for the mediocre script. And Deo of course has been unable to rescue it in any which way.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

'I don't believe in having a signature style'

The cricket frenzy might have reached an all time high, but there's a high-profile release this week- Game. Its director Abhinay Deo talks to Sandhya Iyer about his journey from an ad filmmaker to film director, among other things

Even as all eyes were set on the India-Pakistan game yesterday, director Abhinay Deo who makes his directorial debut this Friday was concerned about his own, Game - produced by Farhan Akthar's Excel and starring Abhishek Bachchan, Kangna Ranaut, Boman Irani, Shahana Goswami and new find, ex Miss India Sarah Jane. "I want India to win of course and reach the finals. Yes, our film will miss out on shows on Saturday if that happens, but that's okay. I strongly believe that a good film will work. And I have faith in my film," he says.
The young director of course is no newcomer to the glamour world. He's been a name to reckon with in the ad world, having worked with the top most stars of the industry. That apart, he's the talented second son of veteran Marathi actors, Ramesh and Seema Deo, who one will recollect made an endearing couple in Anand. It was his Marashtrian roots, he says, that made him doubly keen to hold a press conference in Pune, though Sarah Jane who was supposed to accompany him could not make it due to a sudden vertigo attack. Affable and warm, the director took questions patiently and tactfully, alternating between Marathi and English.
It wasn't Game, however, that Abhinay was supposed to debut with. It was Aamir Khan's Delhi Belly that he directed first, but the film got delayed and meanwhile Abhinay got started on his second film. "I actually signed Game first, but Delhi Belly shooting happened soon after. The first cut was ready. But Aamir had had two other films - Dhobi Ghat and Peepli Live which he had look into, so it took time. Meanwhile, I shot Game. Earlier, both Delhi Belly and Game were supposed to release in quick succession with hardly a month's gap. But we decided, Delhi Belly is a youth-oriented film and this would not be the right time to release it. It now releases in July," says the filmmaker, who also did his architecture before venturing into the ad world.

Game, he describes as an edge-of-the-seat murder mystery, with interesting twists and turns. He agrees that whodunnits aren't exactly condusive in today times of intense social networking with smses and twitter flying around all the time. “That's true and I hope the twitter world won't spoil it for us. But more than who the killer is, the journey that leads upto this is equally interesting. There are many twists and turns, and obviously that can't be enjoyed unless you see the film,” he smiles. “As for why we don't make enough thrillers. That's because our industry thrives on second viewings. Why would you watch a film after knowing who the killer is. The penny has dropped, so what's the interest? But Game is different because the journey is as much fun.”

Talking about how the film came to him, he says, “This was a script Excel had. The writer of the film is Althea Delmas Kaushal and when I read it, I totally loved it. It's an exciting genre, something I wanted to do,” he says.
Farhan Akthar is the dialogue writer of the film, and Abhinay believes it has added greatly to the film. “Of course Farhan never interfered. He was making Don at the same time. And besides, we've been good friends and known each other well. I think Farhan writes very interesting dialogues. And he doesn't treat it as a stand-alone job. He think about the film in its entirety and captures small details, which are important.”

Detailing is something that Abhinay holds dear. “That is something that I get from my 17 years of advertising background, where you have to say your story in a 30-40 seconds. Detailing becomes a habit in such a case. This is something we miss in Hindi cinema, so that's something you'll see in Game – not just technically but also story-wise,” he says.
The challenge, again, was one which ad maker turned film directors frequently face. “In a feature film you have to maintain a graph, it's like a spinal chord that has to stay in place. In some ways, the process is like making 200 ad films and putting it together as a film. But the graph has to be built correctly. And would you believe, we shot the climax first before the rest of the film. That's a very steep arch,” he tells us.
In the past, almost every ad man turned director - R Balki, Rakeysh Mehra, or previously Pankaj Parashar – has come up with fresh, innovative treatments for their scripts. Will it be the same for Game? Abhinay candidly says he isn't making any fresh departures in terms of technique. “The film is stylised, but I wouldn't say I'm trying new things technically. That's because I don;t think the film needs it. I've always believed that one of the important qualities in a director is that he must let the script determine the technique. Moving the camera unnecesarly or adding too much colour is not my idea of technique. But you'll find some of the editing in the film interesting – the way the plot is revealed is quite unique I think,” says Abhinay.
The film introduces newcomer Sarah Jane. “We wanted someone who would come with no baggage. We auditioned for almost four months and then when we saw Sarah, we thought she was fantastic. She is extremely striking,” the director says.
Wasn't Aishwarya Rai the first choice? “She was considered. In fact at that time the film was called Crooked. It was not Sarah Jane's character. At that time, we were still undecided on the heroine's part. But the dates didn't match.”
The film's lead, Abhishek Bachchan is going through a rather rough patch in his career. Are the makers bothered about it, which is why the film is being promoted as an ensemble one? “ Not really. This is an ensemble cast and it would be wrong of us to promote it in any other way. We can't call it an Abhishek film, because that would give a wrong picture. I could have Tom Cruise in Game, and we would still promote it this way,” he says. On Abhishek's dismal form, he thinks all it takes is one film to bounce back.

While it's too early to talk about Delhi Belly, the director is clear that he doesn't want to be attached to any particular genre. “I believe I am a story-teller and don't believe in having signatures. As it is you give two years of your life to one film. If you are going to attempt a similar genre, I think there's a good chance of you getting repetitive. So I want to try everything. I want to do a romantic film. I'm penning a childrens' film as well,” says the director, whose all time favourite film is Anand, and all other Hrishikesh Mukherjee films, especially Golmaal. “Not the new one!,” he says specifically. “I don't enjoy slapstick comedies.”
Here's looking forward to all that Abhinay has in store this Friday.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Basu Chatterjee interview

Basu Chatterjee, who was at FTII for a seminar, speaks to Sandhya Iyer about some of his delightful, evergreen films that continue to be a great source of enjoyment

His films, along with Hrishikesh Mukherjee's, remain the most avidly viewed films on television by far, and the countless re-runs have only added to their timeless appeal. Films like Golmaal, Baaton Baaton Mein, Chupke Chupke, Choti Si Baat and Rajnigandha have been a source of endless delight, and new age filmmakers too have come to see them as wonderfully conceived classics. And even if these two veterans have been out of the limelight for years, their films feel as fresh as ever.
We met up with Basu Chatterjee at FTII and though he admits he's not really a talker and has preferred to be the man behind the camera always, he does sit down for a tete-a tete, even as he politely waits for his sugarless tea that shows no signs of arriving.

Chatterjee had a long and impressive body of work, but the film that appears closest to his heart is Saara Akash (1969), which was his debut. It also remains important for the reason that almost the entire cast and crew were chosen from FTII. “The only person I could not get was Jaya Bhaduri. I was told that she could not act before completing the course. My point was that the very purpose of such a course was to get an opportunity to act and here I was offering it. So I had to take someone else. But otherwise, almost all the technicians were from FTII and I remain grateful for that,”he says.
Saara Akash is a story about a young, immature man — with political ambitions — and the turmoil he faces when he is pushed into an arranged marriage. The film on the one hand was a satire on the unpreparedness of youngsters with respect to marriage and on the other, was about two strangers discovering each other under one roof. Chatterjee says he surpirsed himself by coming up with such a good film and theme. “That is my best work I feel and very path-breaking for its times,” he says.
As for his other outright classic Rajnigandha — about a woman's struggle to decide between two men she loves — he credits his writer Manu Bhandari. “The story was written by a woman, so it got the complexities right. This was the time when the girl was viewed as sati- savitri and this film subverts that idea because here she is in love with two men at the same time. Originally, the story was written as letters shared between two ladies. I sat down and worked out the screenplay.”
A lot in the film is left unspoken. For example, one doesn't know if Dinesh Thakur's character really loved the girl. “He does,” says Chatterjee. “It's just that he is not expressive.”
The film starred a young Amol Palekar and Vidya Sinha. “I had seen Amol on stage and had liked his face. He was working as a clerk in a bank at that time. Vidya Sinha was struggling for years in the industry when she got this break. She looked very young in the film, but she was almost 28 by then. She was married too,” he tells us about the film that offers one of the most nuanced exploration into a woman's mind.
His films like Chameli Ki Shaadi, Baaton Baaton Mein, Choti Si Baat were all set in a middle-class milieu and were narrated with ironic humour “That’s becauseI belong to the middle-class and was the only thing I knew. Also, comedy by nature appeals to me. I was called a balcony class filmmaker in those days, because most of my films had the balcony full,” tells the filmmaker who also made one of the most popular television serials, Rajini.
Chatterjee's obvious strength was his ability to pick good stories. “Even today I don't think there is a dearth of ideas but you must know how to recogonise and grab the good ones,” says the director who made a Bengali film called Trishanku a year ago — about the conflict between a mother and daughter.
Among recent films, Chatterjee mentions A Wednesday which he liked, and among the filmmakers he likes Sanjay Leela Bhasali. He doesn't see the Hindi market conducive enough to make a film himself, though he readily admits that the industry and audience are changing for the better.
All of Chattejee’s films were greatly entertaining, and studded with several useful gems of wisdom. Would he share what he believes about love, life and relationships today? “I don't think my views have changed much since then. I'm almost 80 now. I believe you are wiser when you are younger. Experience is not necessarily useful. Most people who attain something in life do so in their youth. By the time they are old, they are already established," he says. As always, Basu Chatterjee leaves us thinking and smiling.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Aamir's b'day pics and new look

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Madhuri Dixit to be on a food show

Madhuri Dixit, who has taken up a food show with chef Sanjeev Kapoor, talks about cooking and how she minds her kitchen

The gorgeous Madhuri Dixit who has been consenting to be part of many events and shows these days has just agreed to join master chef Sanjeev Kapoor’s channel, Food Food as part of their new show, Mahachallenge. The show is essentially pegged as a male-female cooking battle, with Kapoor and Madhuri helming each of their respective teams.
Madhuri who was put up at Hotel Westin looked fresh and stunning in an orange-gold sari. Beaming with confidence and frequently flashing her million dollar smile, she spoke in chaste Marathi at the request of the local press. “When I was acting, I didn’t cook too much. Not that I didn’t know how to cook, I knew a few things... but it was only after I got married and had kids that I turned to cooking in a big way,” she says.
“I hate to admit it but my husband (Shreeram Nene) cooks better than me. He makes a salad with bell pepper which is awesome. I love Maharashtrian food, my favourites are kande pohe, zunka bhakri and modak,” she tells us.
The fact that she is a doting mother to two growing up sons makes her all the more conscious about healthy and tasty cooking.

“My elder son is very fussy, the younger one is easier. It’s tough to get kids to eat. It took some time for me to know that my son likes everything sweet - which may not be healthy all the time. So then, you have to find ways around it. You have to cheat a bit - keep the food interesting and yet make sure they are eating right. If they don’t like cucumber, I tend to cut it in different shapes and put tomatoes,” she says, speaking with passion about her kids.

Madhuri intends going back to the US now, and returning back again to shoot the show in a month’s time. “I’ve been here for four months now, and I have three big fans waiting for me in the US, and they are the ones who matter the most to me,” she says.Does that mean there isn’t any film on the horizon for the dhak dhak beauty? Madhuri is tentative, “Let some good script come along...”

She’s excited about the food show in question though. “It’s about culinary skills and lifestyle and every woman sees herself balancing these two things. I’m one of them too,” she says.
The show would have her supporting the women’s team and she sportingly indulged in a mock-verbal dual with Sanjeev Kapoor. The latter spoke about his recently launched channel once again, and said it was doing very well. “It was seven years ago that I dreamt of having a channel entirely dedicated to food. At that time, people said I was mad. Why would people be interested in a 24/7 food channel, they asked? But in the last 2-3 years, things have been changing and the project started seeming viable. Food Food is already doing very well, and in fact, it’s TRPs have gone ahead of many channels in the same genre,” he says.
On Madhuri, he tells us that he needed someone with credibility and a love for food. “We needed a big personality to be associated with the channel so as to take it to the next level. Normally, all the film people I meet are scared of food. They are overly health-conscious. Thankfully, Madhuri was not like that.”
“Oh I have no such problems,” says Madhuri. “I eat what I want to and say to myself, ‘I can run a bit more on the treadmill tomorrow’. In any case, the channel and this show in particular will be promoting the idea of healthy eating,” she adds.
Food shows - that are well executed - have an excellent chance of succeeding, but only recently we saw a major dud with Akshay Kumar’s Master Chef, that Star Plus had launched with great hype and hoopla. So has Sanjeev analysed what goes into a hit show?
“I know about food and I know this will work. Yes, if I was a doing a film, I wouldn’t be sure at all,” he smiles at his implied response.
The show looks all set to begin in a month or so, and given the charismatic players at the centre, there’s not much doubt that the channel will get its much-needed visibility.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Just like Juhi

The affable Juhi Chawla was in the city on Thursday evening for a screenplay launch, and Sandhya Iyer caught up with her for a quick tete-a-tete

Looking younger by years and slimmer than ever, Juhi Chawla made for an extremely pretty picture, as she joined director Onir and co-star Sanjay Suri at Pune’s Landmark book store to release the screenplay of their 6- year old film, My Brother Nikhil, that over the years has been evoking discussions on many forums around the world, due to the sensitive issues of homosexuality and AIDS that it handles.

Coming to Juhi, we ask her how she’s managed to shed so much weight, but the cherubic faced star is in a painfully self-effacing mood and doesn’t take any credit for her lovely looks. “Hardly,” she says giving us her chirpy smile. “Maybe it’s because I’m wearing black. Everyone looks slim in it,” she says. Is the weight loss a result of the IPL planning where she’s part-owner of Kolkata Knight Riders along with Shah Rukh Khan, we joke? “No, I’m not really involved with it. The others manage it,” she says about her team that has been putting up a disappointing show the last three years.

Coming back to films, throughout her career, Juhi firmly stuck to commercial films. There wasn’t even a hint of anything arty in the work she did. But with films like Teen Deewarein, My Brother Nikhil and some others, she suddenly seemed to be patronising meaningful, hatke films? Does she see this as a natural transition for a top mainstream actress like her? “You’re right. I never did anything arty in my career. I was very happy running around trees, and banners etc did matter to me. In general too, I am a fan of regular Hindi cinema. I like films to be entertaining, matlab they have to keep me engaged. My Brother Nikhil happened because of Jhankaar Beats that I was doing with Sanjay (Suri) and Rahul Bose. I did that film because it was being produced by Pritish Nandy and his name rang a bell. Also it was such a sunny, happy film. Sanjay was the one who introduced me to Onir, and when I heard his script, I was blown away. That is how the association happened,” she tells us.

Now that Juhi has got a taste of the more sensitive, subtle cinema, she says she’s not enthused much about the purely mainstream fare. “I think I have outgrown those kind of films. Moreover, what can commercial cinema offer me? I am not ready for mother roles yet, thoda ruk jao abhi...,” she says, her humour intact.

The actress who is married to industrialist Jay Mehta and is mother to two children didn’t take a longish break at all from the industry. Unlike her contemporaries, she eased into all her roles and today appears to have kept a fine balance between family and career. “Well, I know how chaotic my life is, but if people think I am balancing everything beautifully, I am happy to appear like that,” she says. “I love my work, films are very important to me. At the same time, my family matters a lot too. Social events, get-togethers, I like all these aspects of my life.”

Among today’s actresses, the QSQT, Darr and Hum Hain Rahi Pyaar Ke star is fond of Vidya Balan, who perhaps comes closest to her own comely personality. “She’s the only one who is pushing the boundries, so it would have to be Vidya,” she says.

Juhi’s next film, which she has also co-produced, is Onir’s film I Am where she plays a wealthy Kashmiri Pandit, who is forced to come face to face with an uncomfortable past. The film also stars Nandita Das, Sanjay Suri, Rahul Bose and Manisha Koirala. The film allowed Juhi and Manisha to connect after so many years. “Imagine! I never really knew her when we were contemporaries, but we spent a lovely time in Srinagar,” says Juhi.

We do hope to see this talented actress in several different roles, but Juhi, prompted by director Onir sitting beside her, agrees that she is perhaps in a happy, comfortable zone and doesn’t feel a strong need to push herself. Yet, as an audience who is feeling the lack of strong actresses more severely now than ever, one does hope to see more of the lovely Juhi.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Tanu Weds Manu team in Pune

The team of Tanu Weds Manu were at Inox, Pune and were visibly thrilled with the positive response to the rom-com. Sandhya Iyer brings the details

2011 is seeing several surprise hits and Tanu Weds Manu is an addition to that list. The rom com is being lapped up and the film's lead actor R Madhavan, in particular, is getting unprecedented praise. The charming actor came to the city with his co-star Kangna Ranaut, director Anand Rai and Deepak Dobrayal (the actor who did a marvellous job as Madhavan's friend).

Looking slimmer than he ever has in recent times, we tell the actor how his entry on screen in Tanu Weds Manu was greeted with huge whistles - something which one sees only when an A list superstar is at the helm. Does he believe his popularity that sky-rocketed after 3 Idiots rubbed off on Tanu Weds Manu as well? The actor agrees. "The success of 3 Idiots is unparallelled and I am sure that popularity must have helped. But I also had 13B which did well. So now with Tanu Weds Manu it's been three hits in a row," he says with some pride.
Sitting next to him was Kangna Ranaut, who said she completely identified with her character in the film. "Every girl can relate to Tanu. It was my most satisfying and fulfilling roles. Tanuja is not dumb. She's a smart, intelligent outspoken girl and knows the effect she has on men."
The film is about a reticent, affable NRI groom falling for a loud, capricious small-town girl with plenty of airs. We ask Madhavan about the scene where he sees Kangna as a sleeping bride-to-be and agrees to marry her. It is testimony to the actor's talent that one buys a somewhat absurd situation like this, but was it just physical attraction that makes him fall in love so instantly? We put the question to the director, but Madhavan is eager to field this one. "I'll answer it, because it is my interpretation. Every love story begins with looks. You probably cannot find someone ugly and yet fall in love immediately. Looks do matter. The other thing is that, even in real life, when I was of marriagable age, I thought it looked quite unmanly to go and see a girl and then call in saying you don't want to go ahead. I think that same feeling is with Manu. He knows his parents have approved the family, so he's made up his mind to marry without too much fuss. He doesn't fall in love with Tanu instantly, but he is charmed by the fact that a girl can be so cool so as to sleep when a guy is coming to see her. He falls in love much later," Madhavan explains.
The actor has a relatively low-key role in the film, but Madhavan made it extremely memorable. Says the actor about his part, "No other hero would have agreed to do the role after reading the script. There are no turning points for him. He hardly talks in the film. It's not author-backed at all. But I'm glad it worked," he says. Director Anand Rai agrees, "Yes, his role isn't author-backed, but it is director-backed. Manu is extremely strong in his thoughts - once he decides, he decides."
There have been points of criticism against the film, where people have found it somewhat strange for Madhavan to stick on in such a harrowing relationship. The director has no qualms joining the critics' chorus. "I agree with them, the film is not flawless at all. But I tried to make the characters lovable. You fall in love with them, so you forgive many things," he says.
There has been talk about a sequel to Tanu Weds Manu. The team is toying with the idea after the media presumed it themselves. "If you ask me whether I had thought of a sequel, then the answer is no. We're hearing it for the last ten days. I might consider it, but nothing as of now," says Rai.
Madhavan is less enthused. "How do you make a sequel to a love story? It has a beginning and an end. Sequels are made for films like Dhoom and Krrish. But let's see if something works out," he says.
The film's leading lady too is happy that she got to do a different role after playing a series of on-the-edge characters. " I am a happy person by nature. And I was a bit tired to do the on the edge roles. I'm thrilled this happened," she says.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Tanu Weds Manu

Director: Anand Rai
Starring: R Madhavan, Kangna Ranaut, Deepak Dobriyal, among others
Stars: **1/2

Considering some of the edgier, more interesting themes have all come from smaller films in the last couple of years, much was expected from Tanu Weds Manu. Add to that, the promos have been extremely eye-catching. The film even begins on a promising note, and bristles with atmospheric, small-town charm.

The premise is again ripe with possibilities. It begins in very convincing fashion where an NRI groom, Manu (R Madhavan) is on a bride-hunting trip to India. He's shy and inhabited, with an affable, heart-melting smile. He's a far cry from the arrogant, accented English-speaking NRIs one normally gets to see in films. Manu as a doctor in London for ten years has mostly lived a boring life with little or no interaction with women. The bride-hunting is planned at break-neck speed by his mother (so as to accommodate as many girls as possible) and Manu - though surprised at such urgency- is too nice and affectionate to complain. Such an old-fashioned routine for marriage is not something he's terribly happy about, but he also realises he cannot put it on hold forever, and hence resigns to his parents' wishes. This entire portion has been shot with pitch perfect authenticity.

However, as it turns out, the girl he sees in Kanpur, Tanu (Kangna Ranaut) gets drunk to avoid him, and collapses on the bed where the couple is left in a room. Just a glance of her pretty face causes a great flutter in Manu's heart. Perhaps out of repression and a sudden release, or because Manu is genuinely attracted to Tanu, he's never able to get over her even when she declines to marry him. As it turns out, Tanu is a rebel without a cause, and smokes, drinks and abuses freely, and has a boyfriend whom she is set on marrying. Heartbroken, Manu returns back to Delhi. But the couple meet again, and Manu starts building his hopes.

What works for the film is R Madhavan - in an understated, yet very effective and credible character - who effortlessly slips into his role, and plays it with immense conviction. His performance has to be doubly lauded because Kangna is the weak link here, and it's left to this wonderful actor to hold their scenes together from slipping. Besides Madhavan's character - which is easily the highlight of the film - and Deepak Dobriyal's performance, as his friend, Pappi (fantastic!), Tanu And Manu is otherwise a regular rom com that takes a few false steps, especially in the second half. Only a very charming female lead could have made all the chaos believable. Sadly, Kangna is not upto the task. Her appearance and attitude don't go with the tone of the film at all, and her dialogue delivery is painfully bad and often incoherent. The actress perhaps thought this would be a Jab We Met moment for her, but Kangna plays the character as a weird, confused and crude female without any redeeming features. She walks around like a zombie, and Indian clothes look doesn't suit her Medusa- hair at all. Also Kangna's lip job has gone drastically wrong, and with her three inch pout, Donald Duck could be feeling a bit threatened. Kangna's look and performance - both let down a well-made film that deserved a more appealing actress. Of course some of the blame should rest on the writers and director, who perhaps could have justified Manu's intense liking for the girl better. On a script level, the situation is perfectly plausible of opposites attracting. Manu -being the timid, restrained and obliging guy that he is - gets drawn to the impudent and loud Tanu. But Kangna's character, and her relationship with her boyfriend are not satisfactorily explored at all.

The dialogues are crackling and all the character actors have done a sterling job. The music and background score is addictive. The film is of course enjoyable in parts, but one does get a bit tired by the end of it all, which suggests it's not such a joy ride after all.

Friday, February 18, 2011

7 Khoon Maaf

7 Khoon Maaf
Director: Vishal Bharadwaj
Starring: Priyanka Chopra, Naseeruddin Shah, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Annu Kapoor, John Abraham, Vivaan Shah, Konkona Sen Sharma, Aleksandr Dyachenko, Irrfan Khan
Stars: ***

Nothing to kill for

Vishal Bhardwaj's film has always been something to look forward to. From Makdee to The Blue Umbrella and Maqbool to Omkaara, the filmmaker's works have stood out for their cinematic richness, in terms of story-telling, treatment and music. At least three of his five films so far have been literary adaptations, two of them derived from Shakespeare, while The Blue Umbrella was adapted from Ruskin Bond's utterly poignant and beautiful short story. Though Maqbool and Omkaara were fine efforts, there were critics who felt that Bhardwaj did a literal reading of the Bard's texts, without uncovering their deeper layers. But the music, the texture and the performances more than made up for some of the complexity in the classics that the director may have missed out on.

But this literal reading becomes a problem in 7 Khoon Maaf. The premise of a young woman always craving for love and being disappointed each time in marriage, and ultimately killing her husbands, is an intriguing concept. However, for all its thrill-value, the story is never challenging or provocative. And with a distinct lack of depth and layering, the theme in fact falls a bit flat.

Again, the story is a literary adaptation of Ruskin Bond's short story, Susanna's Seven Husbands (the septuagenarian also features in a guest appearance in the film), where the author was requested to expand upon the original story by fleshing out each episode.

The film begins with a young Susanna (Priyanka Chopra), who grows up in a wealthy Christian household with a loyal governess (Usha Uthup, used cheaply) and a couple of other servants. She takes under her wing a cute boy, who grows up to be the narrator of the film (Vivaan Shah). After the death of her parents, Susanna honours her father's last wish and marries an Army officer (Neil Nitin Mukesh). Having lost a limp, she discovers that her husband is a cruel, possessive and violent man. Susanna kills him in what appears to others as a freak incident. Then comes husband number 2, John Abraham, a rocker, who turns out to be a drug addict. The others prove to have other extreme problems, which forces her to kill each of them.

The film stays more or less engaging throughout, and the curiosity about what could possibly go wrong with the next husband is what sustains the narrative. Also, veteran actors like Irrfan Khan, Anu Kapoor and Naseeruddin Shah (delightful in pitch perfect Bengali accent) give solid performances in their respective sequences, frequently infusing life into a story-line that starts turning dull and pointless. The best written and most chilling part is for Neil Nitin Mukesh, who does an adequate job of it. But John Abraham disappoints in a role that is the most unconvincing of the lot. The section where Susanna falls in love with a Russian is also one of the tamer bits.

The disappointment in 7 Khoon Maaf is that in spite of its different theme, and some interesting characters, it never scratches much below the surface to throw any fresh insights on human behaviour or relationships. All the husbands have serious problems, which leaves Susanna with no option but to kill them. This makes the film quite regular, with standard situations.
Also, one would think that 7 Khoon Maaf would be a milestone for Priyanka, given that she gets to play a character from age 20 to 50 plus. Unexpectedly, Susanna's is a much under-written character, and you never really get into her head. Clearly, she has no special quality or allure, and is in fact, quite ordinary and meek. It is the husbands who take centre-stage, and Priyanka is left with a role that never really connects at any point.

Bhardwaj justifies all her killings by presenting her as the victim, thereby making it quite a shrill and straightforward film. There are ironical aspects to some of the characters (like Irrfan), but by and large, this is a less edgy, and not a very emotionally involving film.

He is especially unsuccessful in creating a wholesome character with Susanna. Think Being Julia or Scarlet O Hara, and the female combination of evil and manipulation, charm and impishness, spunk and spirit they represent. This one is a far cry from any of that, and a big missed opportunity in that regard. In stead of hard-core reasons to kill a man, it would have been so much fun if Bharadwaj would have subverted that idea by showing that any reason can be good enough to kill a husband!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Patiala House

This House has its charms

Director: Nikhil Advani
Starring: Akshay Kumar, Rishi Kapoor, Anushka Sharma, Dimple Kapadia
Stars: **1/2

Patiala House is Akshay Kumar's best film in recent times, but that's not saying much, given that his movies have lately touched new lows. Director Nikhil Advani, who already has two failures behind him — Salaam-e-Ishq and Chandni Chowk To China — has been itching to prove himself, and doesn't do too badly with Patiala House. The 'goings on' are kept interesting, with fairly engaging scenes, even if the basic premise remains a silly, stretched out one.

The film combines a dramatic father-son story, with the thrills of a cricket match, so you have some key plot points to look forward to. Not all of this comes together very well and the central conflict starts thinning out quite soon. Gurtej Kahlon (Rishi Kapoor) turns a stuanch hater of the English following a few racial attacks in Southall against the residing Sikhs. He takes it as a mission to turn the whole town into a self-sufficient mini-Punjab with schools and hospitals. Soon, he has his entire extended family staying here, toeing his line. Gurtej is respected in the community for his rebellous spirit, but the writers (Advani and Anvita Dutt) leave no doubt that he’s a vain, difficult and over-bearing man. And Rishi Kapoor being the fab actor that he is, absolutely nails the character. Most stunning is the actor's body language for this arrogant man, who seems to be pursuing the cause more for egoistical reasons than anything else. So while his quivering paunch in Do Dooni Chaar was endearing, denoting middle-class humbleness, in Patiala House, the same paunch gives him the appearance of an unpleasant, intolerant man.

Obviously, his wife (Dimple Kapadia) and elder son, Parghat Singh Kahlon aka Gattu (Akshay Kumar) are at the receiving end of Gurtej's bullying ways.
As a collegian, Gattu is a talented cricketer, but his father commands him not to play for England. Forlorn and disillusioned, Gattu gives up his dream and runs a shop instead. He's 34 now, and viewed as a loser by his younger cousins. They hold him responsible for setting the wrong precedent in the house, by following the patriarch's diktats blindly. So far so good. But from here, the film moves ahead in ways that are never quite convincing. For example, Akshay goes about listlessly for the first 90 minutes of the movie. One understand he's supposed to be inhabited and slightly depressed, but it comes out looking one-note and unidimensional. His character should have had more layers for the audience to feel a stronger empathy and connect. Again, the angle with Anushka, as the girl-next-door who prods Akshay to pursue his dreams is never effective. Anushka's exaggerated facial expressions and loud pitch do nothing to complement Akshay's character. The actress doesn’t seems to get that reacting is the better part of acting — the result is that she gives the same expressions and speaks in an affected manner. Her acting never gels with the overall tone of a scene. There's no doubt Anushka needs a good director to reign her in, and Advani isn't very successful here. This section partly affects the film's appeal. A more mature/ capable actress would have perhaps brought something more to this romance. There's a nice scene where the usually timid Akshay exchanges a few heated words with Anushka and immediately regrets it. This is a pivotal scene. It is his fondness for the woman in his life that really spurs him on. But given that this relationship is not very well-executed, the effect goes missing.

The film has many loopholes. If Rishi Kapoor's character hated England so much, why didn't he think of moving back to India? It's also a bit tough to believe that all the cousins consider Gattu the reason for their stifled existence. One doesn't see why they can't move out of the house and do their own thing if they really want to. Again, the father-son relationship has not been explored to its full potential. All these problems don't completely derail the film at any point, but your emotional involvement as an audience does get minimised.
The direction is competent, and there are a few scenes that evoke a genuine smile. Like the one with the bride and her obsession for a grand, filmy marriage. There's touch of class to the cricket matches shot in the final half and hour, but the emotional content is just not strong enough for us to be moved like one did in Lagaan and Chak De! India. Yet, not a bad effort and certainly, one of Akshay's better films in recently times. Go for it.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Yeh Saali Zindagi

Stars: Irrfan Khan, Chitrangada Singh, Arunoday Singh, Yashpal Sharma, Aditi Rao Hydari
Director: Sudhir Mishra
Showing at: Citypride, E-Square, Inox
Stars: ***

The thing with certain filmmakers is that the themes they tackle in their most influential works tend to find a way into their subsequent films. In Sudhir Mishra's case, Hazaaron Khwaishein Aisi, a period movie set in the 70s, can easily be counted as a modern-day masterpiece. Not surprisingly then, when Mishra tries to portray love in the seedy and labyrinthine universe of assorted thugs, corrupt police officers and shady businessmen in Yeh Saali Zindagi, you see a distinct trace of the romantic themes he dealt with in his earlier celebrated film.
Mishra, being the unconventional man that he is, joyously destroys chiches with his by-now-familiar tone of subversion and irreverence. However, this brash and erratic style of filming is something one has come to associate with new-age directors, almost to the point of repetition. Hence one looks for more than mere shock value. Mishra’s film is promising, but tends to rely too much on the sensational — what with it making news for having its actors thrash Mallika Sherawat’s 22 kisses record.

Yeh the title suggests, is full of colourful cuss words, most of it meant to scanadalise and titilate. If it stays engaging and amusing for major part of its two hour running time, it is largely because of the excellent actors on board, and Mishra gives his character wonderful touches. However, the central plot itself, has the Hazaaron... hangover, and in this case, is less satisfying to see on screen. There are also definite points where you feel somewhat exasperated with all the chaos and confusion happening in the film. Chitrangada's sketchy character contributes to that feeling as well.

As has become a trend with many small-budget black comedies and satires, the narrative moves back and forth, with many interesting characters being part of the mix. When the action starts, you see a despondent Arun, a fixer (Irrfan Khan) who is madly in love with Priti (Chirangada Singh). But she falls for another guy (Vipul Gupta). Meanwhile, Kuldeep (Arunoday) is a thug trying to begin on a clean slate, and appease his upset wife (Aditi Rao Hydari). But he's willing to take up one final assignment, a high profile kidnapping case, which involves getting his boss (Yashpal Sharma) released from jail, that also promises some moolah.

Kuldeep and his gang are supposed to kidnap the CM's daughter and his proposed son-in-law (Vipul), the same guy who Chitrangada is seeing. The gang makes a mistake and kidnaps Chitrangada instead. This proves frustrating for the players, because the CM's daughter has now given up on her fiance and the minister won't make any concessions. Irrfan goes to all kind of lengths for his lady love, and her lover! Much like Hazaaron...Irrfan's character is inspired from Shiney Ahuja's masterful role as a fixer, and his attempt to do the unthinkable for the girl he loves, is also taken from there. In the same way, Chitrangada's character, who loves one man sincerely, but will take favours from another, was better written in Hazaaron.
There are individual scenes that are extremely well done, but the central plot involving Chitrangada-Irrfan-Vipul is somewhat unconvincing. One can't quite see why Chirangada ditches Irrfan in the beginning, and some montages trying to explain this doesn't make anything clear. But Irrfan, the actor, is flawless and delivers yet another solid performance. Ditto with Yashpal Sharma, who is terrific. Arunoday's act is fresh. Chitrangada is decent, though her expressions keep alternating between a pouty smile and a harried frown.

Mishra, with his unique sensibility and maturity, is always someone to watch out for, and though Yeh Saali Zindagi isn't anything out of the world, and certainly this could have been a much better film, it still has many strengths to recommend itself.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Review: Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji

Director: Madhur Bhandarkar
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Omi Vaidya, Shazahn Padamsee, Shruti Haasan and Shraddha Das
Stars: **1/2

Madhur Bhandarkar might think he's made a major departure with Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji, a dramedy about three bachelors (Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi and Omi Vaidya) of different temperaments trying to find a mate. The filmmaker's other films have all been based on specific settings (Page 3, Fashion, Corporate, Traffic Signal, Jail) where Bhandarkar focusses on their ugly underbelly through the voyeuristic gaze of middle-class morality.

Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji is not too different from these films, except that it is not restricted to a segment of society. It's not so much a comedy, even though it has been billed as one. It has many devices and character-types here that are common to most of Bhandarkar's films. Of course, the one-liners pop up at regular intervals for the laughs. But what is most distasteful about this film is its attempt to extract humour at the cost of gays (portrayed in the most offensive manner)and middle-aged women. The director has always used some of these crude stereotypes in his other films, but when the attempt here is to garner some cheap laughs, it appears all the more pathetic. In particular there is a funeral scene where some shockingly callous remarks are made at the diseased female model. In the bank that Devgan works, you see a plump, regular-looking colleague. For a while, you are fooled into thinking that probably Bhandarkar is aiming for an authentic office environment by having real looking people. But no such luck.

Bhandarkar's insensitive portrayal is extended towards animals also. There's a scene where playboy Emraan is trying to get introduced to a rich socialite (Tisca Chopra) at her pet parlour. He buys a puppy from someone on the road, only to see its mother desperately trying to chase him down. And this is supposed to be funny?

Anyway, one can't help feel that the film would really have been better without some of this offensive stuff, because on the plus side, it is still quite a rooted, situational film, without too much of the loud, slapstick comedies that are getting churned out. Of course, the maker's penchant for drama and twists remains. And what's with the horribly loud background music and cues that are spoon-fed to the audiences at every point?

All three tracks have some decent moments. Yet, the one involving Ajay- Shezahn and Omi-Shraddha Das are the most interesting. The Emraan-Tisca Chopra track is made immensely watchable because of the lovely Chopra, who is reliably solid and believable. Ajay is a divorcee looking at life anew, and his new intern, June Pinto (Shazahn Padamsee), a pretty, giggle-head catches his fancy. Omi is a traditional Maharashtrian boy who falls madly in love with an ambitious RJ, who keeps using him for free booze and so on. Right from the beginning, you sense that these are not workable relationships, but towards the end, you almost expect the director to smoothen the edges and go in for a contrived happy ending. Thankfully, Bhandarkar shows enough sense, and that alone saves a film which would have otherwise appeared extremely lame. Besides, it also stretches endlessly. The track involving Emraan-Tisca-Shruti Haasan is high on drama and coincidence and if your interest is still sustained, it's because of the two lovely ladies. Shruti is a real looker, with a strong personality. Hope she find more roles that can explore her talent.

Bhandarkar extracts good performances from his entire cast. Ajay Devgn, Emraan and Omi are all excellent. Among the women, newcomer Shraddha Das has the least charming part, but she grows into her character well. Shazahn Padamsee is extremely believable as the irritating and perky youngster.

This could have perhaps been a good break-out film for Bhandarkar, only if he has abandoned many of his regular devices and opted for something fresher. As it stands, Dil Toh Bachcha Hai Ji is marginally watchable, but nothing terribly interesting.