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.