25 Years of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ): What Makes the Film So Special Even Today

There are films of all kinds that we are exposed to, very few of them go on to become commercially successful and maintain their iconic status despite the passage of time. Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge or DDLJ as it is more popularly known as, is one of the rare films to have that distinction. There has been enough and more that has been written about the film, with people praising the film for various aspects, while even attracting some criticism for its cheesiness, overtly sentimental nature and emphasis on a more old school romantic style and family values. So, let me not try and analyze the film per se, as that would simply not make sense, nor will it add any new insight into the film otherwise. So, what does this write-up intend to do? Simple, it is about why the film deserves all the love and appreciation that has been coming its way, and how I have evolved with the film over the course of these 25 years.Continue reading “25 Years of Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge (DDLJ): What Makes the Film So Special Even Today”

DDLJ: Cutting across 3 decades. My Personal Ode & Journey with the Film

20th October 1995 was the first time DDLJ released in cinemas. I was 7 when I first watched the film at G7 Cinemas, Bandra with my parents. Little did I know that I would end up getting lost in the magical world that I was experiencing on screen. Tears rolled down my cheeks when I saw Amrish Puri slap SRK right before the climax sequence and I held my mother’s arms as each slap echoed in the pin drop silence inside the cinema packed with thousand people. I felt ecstatic when Kajol ran towards the stretched arm of SRK extending from the door of a running train in the end. I was mesmerized by the story that I narrated the entire film to my friends in school. When the songs came on the television, I would stop everything and listen attentively. Couple of months later, we revisited the theatre to watch DDLJ again. It was the same scenario as the first – a packed house with the same emotions. As a kid, I knew this film would stay with me forever. Continue reading “DDLJ: Cutting across 3 decades. My Personal Ode & Journey with the Film”

Serious Men (2020 Netflix Original) Movie Review: The Angst of India’s Voiceless

Serious Men releases at a time, when the Uttar Pradesh state machinery has gone all out and try to cover up the Hathras tragedy that has been in the headlines of late. It is also interesting that it comes at a time when filmmakers like Pa. Ranjith and Nagaraj Manjule are giving voice to the Dalits of India. 

Serious Men is based on the novel of the same name by Manu Joseph. It tracks the journey of resourceful Ayyan Mani (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) who works at a prestigious scientific organisation in Mumbai as a PA for his boss Acharya (Naseer). Both come from different class and different caste while Ayan is from the lower caste, his boss belongs to the uppermost caste.Continue reading “Serious Men (2020 Netflix Original) Movie Review: The Angst of India’s Voiceless”

Johny Mera Naam (1970): 50 years of Crime & Morality

The long weekend had given me some respite from work from home, I decided to watch a film of which I have heard so much, but never found the time to watch it. earlier Surprisingly as I watched this in the early hours of Sunday, I must say that it kept me hooked on for the entire duration.

Johny Mera Naam is a tale of two brothers who get lost in childhood, ending up in two different sides of the law. But then this is a Vijay Anand film, twist in the tale is that the one who is supposed to uphold law the cop is cheating people to achieve his goals.  Johny Mera Naam might look like a crime thriller at the outset, but like a good pulp film, it has layers to it.Continue reading “Johny Mera Naam (1970): 50 years of Crime & Morality”

GHAR (1978): Finding Home

I have been watching a lot of old Hindi films on Amazon Prime of late, given the lockdown it is strange that Bollywood is giving me solace, it is my comfort zone. I must say that I was surprised by Ghar, a pleasant departure for a film that talks about rape and rape victims and the people close to them. After the horrific Nirbhaya Delhi case there have been many films where rape has been a pivotal point only to take the narrative arc of having a male hero or even films like MOM where the only retribution is the killing of the preparators of crime.Continue reading “GHAR (1978): Finding Home”

GULABO SITABO movie review: A Meandering Tale of Greed!

Gulabo Sitabo on the surface may look like the usual banter comedy between a landlord and his tenant, a relationship often thrown in movies as a side note to generate some easy laughs. But here, it is not all laugh and fun. Because deep beneath the surface, the film reveals itself as a introspective look at the futility of all the greed, and what one really stands to gain at the end of it all.  Kya Leke Aayo Jagme , Kya Leke Jaayega croons Vinod Dubey in one of the songs in the movie.

In one scene, the main character asks an expert on what is the value of the prize that they are after. “Priceless” comes the reply.  As in life, the characters here too only learn the true value  when the thing they are after is truly gone. As the film winds down, we find one of the character finds himself losing his past, everything that he held on to all his life, while the other helplessly watches his potential future disappear into thin air as his girlfriend moves on.

In Shoojit Sircar’s world of Gulabo Sitabo, the prize referred earlier here is that of  Fatima Mahal. As glorious and majestic it the name may sound, the real condition of this age-old mansion is deplorable. And yet, everyone seems to be after a piece of this  almost-in-ruins rundown ‘haveli’.  The caretaker of the mansion is the grouchy Mirza (Amitabh) who is handling the things for the real owner of the property, his wife, the Begum (Farrukh Jaffar), who is seventeen years older to him. Ayushmann Khurrana plays Baankey Rastogi, one of the tenants,who has been living with his family for years,  and one who is  hardly able to cough up the paltry rents of Rs 30-70 that is being asked. So, Mirza is determined to get rid of Baankey and hence the two is constantly at loggerheads with each other.

However, with the archaeology department swooping in in the form of Gyanesh (Vijay Raaz) and on the other end, a property specialist lawyer Christopher Clark (Brijendra Kala) coming into the picture, the race for the claims to the dilapidated mansion literally gets out of hands.

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Unfortunately, this game of one-upmanship between the parties involved takes too long to set up. And once in, we keep going in circles for long lengths making its mere 120 mins seem much longer than it actually is. The plot, like the ‘haveli’ in question, is certainly not going anywhere but writer Juhi Chaturvedi uses the space and time to give broader strokes to her characters. It isn’t until the fag end of things when things finally get a move on. But by then, one feel it maybe a little too late.

The real problem is the distance audience have with the characters. Juhi is content letting the characters be as they want to be, not confined to black and whites with no one judging anyone. There is no coloring to make the characters likeable or appealing. So, we are not connected or emotionally invested in that sense to neither Mirza’s or Baankey’s struggles.  Certainly, by design. And yet, when the whole purpose of their rather purposeless tiffs disappears, one is left with a melancholic wave.

Set in the old-world charm of Lucknow, director Sircar draws out a love letter of sorts to the city, with the non-intrusive cinematography of Avik Mukopadhyay, letting us slip into the locales. And writer Juhi takes advantage by bringing in the flavor of the locality and language alive. So many people unfamiliar with the lingo may lose out some of the fun. And the official subtitles certainly do no justice here.

Besides the dialogues, the real strength is in the cast and how seamlessly they get into the skin of the characters. Amitabh spearheads that department with one of his most remarkable of characters in Mirza. Under a prosthetic nose and those thick glasses, hunched, he is hardly the tall, deep baritone voiced superstar that we are used to. He literally becomes the character and is undoubtedly the life of the movie. And surprisingly one with no bones of goodness to him.

Ayushmann puts in a good effort but he never really gets much from the script to chew on. So much so that he has to add something like a lisp to keep things interesting which keeps coming and going. Unfortunately, just did not feel the chemistry required between the lead duo. As always, Vijay Raaz and Brijendra Kala are pitch perfect in their respective roles making them a delightful addition to the proceedings.

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Special mention to the women in the film and the way they are written even though not in major roles. They are not sitting around and waiting for incompetent men to make decisions for them and are more in charge of their own destinies. Farrukh Jaffar as Fatima Begum is a riot with her wit and humour while Srishti Shrivastava puts in a scene stealing act as Baankey’s sister Guddo, one that breaks the stereotypical idea of a ‘hero’s sister’ role in Bollywood.

Gulabo Sitabo works better as a social satire when it is dealing with the citizens vs the govt battle, with the haveli being a stand-in for the nation. We have tenants who are paying rents for 70 years, but still complain of the raw deal they are getting and being denied of basic rights.  The ‘caretaker’ meanwhile is happy selling off assets from the property or even ripping off the tenants for a quick buck.  So much so the tenants are taking about revolting against the ruthless demands and conditions put by the caretaker. And in one of the most hilarious bits, when Mirza is asked why he is hated this much, he states he is oblivious of any ill-feelings whatsoever.

Unfortunately, all of these positives that the movie holds are buried in a rather meandering screenplay. The small fleeting moments have some charm to it (and some even work better the second time around), but it never really comes together as a whole. And that is a pity.

With neither the charm of PIKU, the emotions of OCTOBER, nor the fun of VICKY DONOR, this turns out to be easily the weakest from the Sircar-Juhi partnership.

 

Cast:  Amitabh Bachchan, Ayushmann Khurrana, Vijay Raaz, Brijendra Kala, Srishti Shrivastava and Farrukh Jaffar

Directed by Shoojit Sircar

Music  Shantanu Moitra, Abhishek Arora, Anuj Garg

Now streaming on AMAZON PRIME

CHOKED movie review: Drainage Story!

Choked is Anurag Kashyap bringing his trademark styles into more relatable scenarios. The normal Kashyap fans might be disappointed that there are no bodies falling here, gaalis thrown around, or with the auteur hardly going into the dark gritty side of things that he is usually known to indulge in.

But that does not mean you do not see Kashyap at all in his latest Netflix exclusive.

Fine example is this fabulous scene where the couple is fighting over who said what as they wind down for the day. The husband and wife decide to let their respective ego take over the situation, with both not willing to back down on their version of the ‘truth’. And in between the two is their young son who is having a sound sleep. So, it starts off on that note, with the two whispering not wanting to wake up the kid.

But not for long. Because soon, the parents decide that it is best to drag their sleeping child into this tussle.  And they keep arguing, whispers now turned to full blown shouting, and amidst all this a child that keeps screaming that he wants to go back to sleep!

This scene is Kashyap at his best, except now he is exploring it in a relatable middle-class family setting. New territories for the maker, but fresher perspectives for the audience.  This time it is a middle-class Marathi residential area where their lives are closely interwoven.

And that is what Kashyap ventures into – part thriller, part satire territory. Choked, is Anurag Kashyap’s exploration into a bad marriage and an equally troublesome drainage, political or otherwise.

Written by Nihit Bhave, the film introduces us to the lives of a regular middle class lady Sarita (Saiyami Kher) who is the breadwinner to her family. Her husband Sushant (Roshan Mathews) is a musician who struggles to stick onto any job and spends his days almost doing nothing. She literally must slog it out and it does take the toll on the relationship. While Sarita she struggles out to make the ends meet, all her slacker husband welcomes her is with “why do we still have potatoes for dinner?”

Sarita, we find also dealing simultaneously with a trauma of a past event. One where the aspiring talent in her finds her wings of desire clipped thanks to a choke up at a talent show audition. The incident still haunts her to this day.

However, it all changes with the arrival of an unexpected night guest. Bundles of cash, rolled up and packed up, pops out of the clogged kitchen pipes much to the surprise of Sarita. She seems to have struck jackpot when the money keeps coming and she thankfully accepts them as a solution to the problems of her life. But she does not go on any spending spree. She uses it wisely and sparsely, saving up most of it for later.

Little does she know Modiji has other plans for her!

 

This is also where the structural shift happens. Kashyap brings the demonetisation into the mix and the movie halts down to make a social commentary on the ordinary lives and the immediate effects of the landmark decision on them. The woman who was too busy struggling to make a life to be bothered with politics until then, advises an aged customer at the bank much later that she should be seeking help and answers to all the troubles from the people who were voted into power.

You can’t help but laugh at the situation on how the demonetisation decision is received. On one hand, the husband, jobless and always shrugging his responsibilities at home, applaud the great leadership and the decision and the foresight of how the rich and corrupt will be affected oblivious to the faces of horror from his wife and neighbor whose lives and plans are crumbling down overnight.

The whole thing is structured right from the word go as a thriller, drawing you immediately into the narrative.

Kashyap uses music wonderfully to ramp up the scenes. It starts off adventurously with the ‘The Mark of Torro’ orchestral piece promising us an intriguing ride as we see the money being hidden intricately. This is followed with more jazzy percussion from Karsh Kale giving the sequences a distinct feel. Not much scope for songs , except for the chaos of the demonetisation set against a Nucleya-Benny Dayal tamil dance track ‘Nerungi’ and a ‘Achhe Din’ observation set to nursery rhymes in the track “500-1000”.

However, keeping the shift from thriller to social satire going on, Kashyap is unable to finally wrap it up with a convincing finale. For the free-wheeling, money dealing story fails to come with a fitting pay-off. It plays out more as one of convenience and makes the earlier issues we dealt with until then all seem irrelevant. Even the whole ‘Reddy’ angle all fails to contribute much to the final outcome.

So yes, as much as one has reasons to have some disappointments with the finale, there is still a lot this movie has going for it.  Like the screenplay and the acting that keeps you firmly engaged with the proceedings. And also some fine work by cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca with the framing of the tight interiors.

Saiyami Kher holds the fort with a wonderful performance in the lead role of Sarita. She embodies the character and sells it well.  Roshan Mathews, making his Hindi debut, does a decent job given the character that he was handed out to play. But the real scene stealer here is Amruta Subhash who hits it out of the park with her portrayal of the neighbor. Rajshri Deshpande chips in with a short role.

On a side note, it is surprising that it took until now for a movie to talk about demonetisation on celluloid in Bollywood. While other regional industries were bold enough to comment, joke or deal with this issue from 2016,  big brother Bollywood has only finally managed to even acknowledge the event. Thankfully, Kashyap is restrained and does not hijack the story to make it a propaganda film and is happy with the sly jabs every now and then.  But still again, it goes about to show how filmmakers are ‘choked’ into putting out their voices more freely out there.

As far as the film is concerned, Choked is more a film that deals with the strangles more than merely the struggles. It talks about the strangles money has on relationships, the strangles the government has on the lives of ordinary people, the strangles the corrupt few have on the general majority as the money flows from the top to the lower levels. Unfortunately, no plumber is going to fix the issue.  Neither will eating mushrooms. Unless of course, your idea of a leader is…Super Mario!

 

Cast: Saiyami Kher, Roshan Mathews, Amruta Subhash

Directed by Anurag Kashyap

Music score by Karsh Kale

Streaming now on NETFLIX

WHAT ARE THE ODDS? Movie Review: Bunty Aur Bubbly!

Bunty – well, we will get to that later!

Bubbly, however is Vivek. The leading lady of this tale. Yes, that is right, Vivek is a ‘SHE’. And we have this freewheeling, socially awkward schoolgirl deciding to bunk her scholarship exam when we first meet her. However, her misadventures also cost the head boy Ashwin (Karanvir) to miss his exam as well.Continue reading “WHAT ARE THE ODDS? Movie Review: Bunty Aur Bubbly!”

Kaamyaab (2020) Movie Review: When the lights go off!

Oh, those faces!

Those familiar faces we have seen numerous times as we revisit the movie classics and hits from yesteryear. Faces that are very much part of the movies that we grew up with. Many of them without whom those iconic scenes are never complete. And yet unfortunately,  many of them remain faces with their names still unknown to many.Continue reading “Kaamyaab (2020) Movie Review: When the lights go off!”