Dear Comrade Movie Review: Women in the World of Men

It has been a while since I have written here. Our site had become dormant of sorts of late and sadly we even recently lost our domain to a cyber squatter and we have now moved to madaboutmoviez.in. Anyway, it is time to restart from scratch of sorts and be back in full force again.Continue reading “Dear Comrade Movie Review: Women in the World of Men”

Gully Boy A Critical Appreciation: Bollywood Ka Time Aayega

Directed by: Zoya Akhtar; Starring: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Kalki Koechlin, Amruta Subhash

It is always heartening when we get live examples of how the times and tastes are changing for mainstream Bollywood. Exemplifying the same is Gully Boy, Zoya Akhtar’s (member of this brave new world) best work till date. Bollywood has often been blamed for not representing many sections of society. In this regard, Kudos to Zoya Akhtar for spotting the budding real-life talent of 2 hip-hop artists who rose from very humble backgrounds and giving them a voice into the mainstream. It is not surprising that India with such rich diversity and people would be brimming with stories, and it is the onus of the filmmakers to present such stories in the mainstream rather than just shoving them under the drawer or limiting them to arthouse cinema.Continue reading “Gully Boy A Critical Appreciation: Bollywood Ka Time Aayega”

Gully Boy Movie Review: Rhymes For a Reason!

In Zoya Akhtar’s latest directorial venture GULLY BOY, we have a scene which involves foreign tourists being brought into the congested slums of Dharavi by a local guide on probably their ‘slumdog millionaire’ sightseeing trip.   “Wow,” one of the tourists exclaim when they are shown a house, “Look…every inch has been used!”

It seems the case with director Zoya herself, who makes sure that every inch of the script of her desi hip-hop musical Gully Boy is effectively used to put across a wide range of topics – of class issues, religious bias, female empowerment, freedom of choice, etc. Indeed, not even an inch is spared. But the brilliance is in how it is all done subtly without shoving them down the viewer’s throats.

Which is good …because therefore the movie has sufficient fuel to take the one-line underdog story go the distance.

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The plot is straightforward and is the tale of a young man from Dharavi who has to rise above the challenges and social prejudices to pursue his dreams, even if means having to break the shackles of reality.

That young man is Murad (played brilliantly by Ranveer Singh). He starts off as this helpless young soul who watches silently as his father (Vijay Raaz) marries a second wife and bring the new bride to their house. He observes how his mother burns in humiliation and pain in the given situation. He gets miffed of being told what his social stature is by strangers he meets in walks of life. Even with his own friends, he is silenced and asked to look the other way when he questions their ethics and morality.

It is all feelings, bottled up and confined to his diaries and notebook scribbles. The only relief in his life comes in the form of Safeena (Alia Bhatt), the feisty girl that he has been dating for the past nine years.

Safeena too is also a barrel of frustration. The young Muslim woman is an ambitious medical student but must sacrifice the pleasures of the youth for the sake of her parents and religion. But unlike Murad, there is no repressing up of any emotions as she gets to explode now and then. But she is a character that has her priorities right.

Unfortunately, Murad never gets it that easy. At least not until he runs into a rapper MC Sher during one of the college fests and discovers the thrills of the local rap scene. He soon realizes that this could be an outlet for all his thoughts. So he jots down some lines and takes to Sher and asks him to use it. But Sher tells him that his story is not for others but for Murad himself to express and encourages him to take center stage. He soon realizes the magic of it all, and from thereon, with the help of his new found mentor, he takes on his dreams and uses his talent to create a splash as ‘Gully Boy’!

Inspired from the real rap sensations Neazy the Baa(Naved Sheikh) and Divine (Vivian Fernandes), the story introduces Bollywood to the underground rap scene in Mumbai that has a strong ‘fan base of its own’.

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Zoya Akhtar and partner in crime Reema Kagti join hands in bringing their stories and their music to a more broader audience who has been subjected to the Bollywood brand of music that has been just looping around the tunes of ‘Yo-Yo Honey Singh’ and ‘Baadshah.’  “Do you call this rap?” asks Murad in the opening scene as he is irate over popular rap songs that go on about the latest cars, hot girls and booze. We are exposed to a more hard-core rap scene where poetry meets the beat of the streets, where tongues lash hard with the most brutal of words, belting the truths of the worlds and lives they inhabit. And Ranveer inhabits the world splendidly. He morphs into the character of Murad and leaves all his flamboyant trademarks for the offscreen. Onscreen, he nails everything that Murad demands and betters on the restrained performances of his in movies like Lootera, or Zoya’s own Dil Dhadekno Do. Even with a camera tightly fixed just on his face, Ranveer draws in the audience to the emotional core of his character. And the fact that he sings all those tracks makes it even more special.

Alia Bhatt provides the perfect foil as the spunky Safeena. She shows that as one of the best in the field, there is little that she can do wrong at this point. She is adorably tender as she pleads to her father, while equally fierce as she goes all ‘thod-phod’ with another woman over her boyfriend. She brings such volatility to her character of Safeena that you know even the fast rapping Murad stand no chance against Safeena’s motor-mouth. Their relationship is very well-established right in the cute opening sequence when Safeena slides into the back seat of the bus with Murad, sharing the headphones, with no words spoken.

And things could have sailed just fine with just these two lead performances. But the real substance and depth are created in the way Zoya writes all the other characters and the space she creates for them to shine. So be it Vijay Raaz as the abusive father, or Vijay Verma as buddy Moeen, or National award winner Amruta Subhash, the whole cast breathes life to their characters. It is surprisingly Kalki Koechlin, as the US-based music student Sky, who ends up though with the underwritten role in the movie. The real trump card though is newcomer Siddhant Chaturvedi as MC Sher who holds his ground with utmost confidence as the mentor and never does the novice get overshadowed by the lead man.

The technical team brings the right amount of energy to this hip-hop musical tale. Jay Oza’s vibrant work behind the camera is aptly supported by the editing of Nitin Baid. It is not merely the crowd-pleasing ciphers or the rap battles, but equally shining through are the quieter moments. Some of, the best moments, strangely, are ones in closed spaces, like that of a car. One such scene is the one where  ‘Doori poem’ plays out, as we have the driver Murad wanting to reach out to the pain of his rich mistress. Or when you have Murad in the lets out his frustration verbally exploding in the closed confines of his car. Or the one where the rich father berates his daughter and compares her to the standards of a driver. Zoya uses these closed spaces to show the tight pressure spots these characters have to force themselves out of.

And then you have the ‘Both Hard’ soundtrack of the movie which is essentially the backbone. All of it would have been pointless had it not been for this beast of a soundtrack. This enormous work of 18 tracks and 54 artists, including the now-popular rap anthem ‘Apna Time aayega’  is put together by Ankur Tiwari, and the results are fabulous. The writing here is so powerful that one at times do feel that the subtle nature of the movie does not entirely match the intensity and rawness that the lyrical word provides.  Also commendable is the work on the dialogues by Vijay Maurya ( who plays Murad’s uncle here) as it manages to capture the lingo and the attitude of this sub-culture perfectly.

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The movie does come with a few negatives too, but none that strong to ruin your overall experience. As far as the look and treatment goes, one can say things are a little ‘too’ polished and not essentially as raw as it should be. The video of ‘Meri Gully Mein’ is a fine example to show the difference between the real vs. the Bollywood-ized version. There is also the predictability factor of the tale where structure wise no major risk is taken, but the writing and sensitive approach stands out as strengths that overcome these limitations. Yes, the quest to complete all the character’s arc does stretch the run-time in the process, but I guess ‘when you have something so good, one should just lap it up with no further questions!’  However, one must admit, the whole ‘Sky’ track does stick out like a sore thumb.

But it is also the character of Sky who comes with one of the most important messages of the film when she tells Murad that she likes him because he is an artist and where he comes from does not matter. Gully Boy is that ode to the artists out there who desire to be. Be it a rap artist, or a B-Boy dancer from the hoods, or a taxi driver penning down lyrics in his free time…it a call out to them to un(w)rap their dreams and take it out to the world. For an artist can cross over to a level playing field, one that looks straight at their talents and beyond their caste, color or creed.

As the pioneers and voices of this rap scene make their cameos and presence felt, we can only salute to their will that dared them to dream. And kudos to the team of making this effort in taking the ‘asli hip hop’ and giving it a mainstream recognition that these talents genuinely deserve.

Rating :  3.5/ 5

 

 Cast: Ranveer Singh, Alia Bhatt, Siddhant Chaturvedi, Kalki Koechlin, Vijay Raaz, Vijay Sharma, , Vijay Maurya, Amruta Subash, Sheeba Chadda

Directed by Zoya Akhtar

Written by Reema Kagti -Zoya Akhtar 

Music supervised by Ankur Tewari

Produced by Excel Entertainment and Tiger Baby Productions

 

Petta Movie Review: The Stars Are Out Tonight

There’s something to be said about the excitement in the air, as one walks into the theatre for a Rajinikanth movie. The old cliché about a Rajinikanth movie being an event didn’t ring true for a while, what with the critically reviled Kochadaiyaan and Lingaa and mixed feelings with regard to Kabali, but with Kaala, it seemed like the star for a change made way for the actor, and 2.0 was for the fans and fans alone.Continue reading “Petta Movie Review: The Stars Are Out Tonight”

KGF Chapter 1 Movie Review: All That Glitters…

What is it about a hero’s journey that fascinates a storyteller? Is it the fact that they are willing to go where nobody’s ever gone before, or their perseverance in staring down odds that might deter one even slightly lacking in spirit? With Ugramm, director Prashanth Neel made a rather impactful debut, and ensured that he’s a talent to watch out for.Continue reading “KGF Chapter 1 Movie Review: All That Glitters…”

2.0 Movie Review: Shankar’s Sci-fi Extravaganza

Shankar’s films have always been known for extravagance and visuals. To some of Shankar’s films may be in your face and loud, but for those who are familiar with his work, it is known that they are up for a magical ride of three hours. Shankar and Rajamouli are two of the last showmen in the Indian film Industry. I feel that the last showman in Bollywood was Mukul Anand.Continue reading “2.0 Movie Review: Shankar’s Sci-fi Extravaganza”

Kayamkulam Kochunni Movie Review: Prince of Thieves!

In the simplest of terms, one can label the legendary figure of Kerala folklore, Kayamkulam Kochunni as a local Robin hood of sorts. However, given the context of social structure of that times, he is much more than that. Here is a young Muslim man who is considered a deity in one of the Hindu temple in Kerala to this day. A Muslim who learned the martial art form of Kalari at a time when it was not exactly thought to ‘outsiders’. And a man who from whatever we know of him, stood for the lower caste and oppressed while taking on the rich and the upper strata of the society. A man who was eventually betrayed by his own men for a few pieces of gold. In short, a man who has a story that has all the makings of an epic.

And yet, direct Rosshan Andrews attempt at giving this legendary figure a fitting movie adaptation proves to an underwhelming one.

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Kayamkulam Kochunni narrates the tale of Kochunni (Nivin Pauly), a young chap with a heart of gold and a do-gooder. He flees from home when his father is caught for stealing and seeks to live an honest life. He takes up the job with a Tamil Brahmin as a storekeeper for his livelihood.

There is also the whole episode of him wanting to learn the art form of  Kalari which makes him seek out a local teacher Thangal (Babu Anthony) who initially refuses to teach him.  However, the determined man ends up learning the art by hiding on a treetop and watching the classes closely after dusk. When he is eventually sniffed out, the master is impressed at the man and his skills he has picked up.

The turn of events comes in when Kochunni stumbles upon some treasure which he duly informs the high priests of the village. However instead of being rewarded, they frame him once they get their hand on the loot and brands Kochunni as a thief and leave him out to die.

And he would have died, had it not been for the timely entry of a famed thief by the name of Ithikkara Pakki (the hyped cameo from Mohanlal). He comes in to save the central character and the film just in time. Pakki inspires a crushed Kochunni to stand again on his feet and fight back at the privileged few who cheated and framed him a criminal.

Thus, Kochunni becomes gradually Kayamkulam Kochunni, the feared thief whose name is enough to send shudders down the spine of the elite, while ensuring he does his bit for the oppressed and downtrodden.

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Sure, all of it needs to be taken with a pinch of salt as much of the screenplay is about creative cinematic liberties. Kochunni has already made it to the big screens once in the sixties, with Sathyan playing the role of the infamous thief. And even in recent past, the stories made its way into our living rooms in the form of a televised series.  And now with a budget of supposedly 45 crore, director Rosshan Andrews takes a shot at it.

Bobby-Sanjay, the writing duo, who has been the backbone of some of Andrews’ finest works fails to really bring out the distinctive epic materials that the script required. Instead taking inspiration from a basic Amar Chitra version of the character, the screenplay also goes about ticking off some basic events of Kochunni’s life without really bothering with the whys and hows. We never really get into the emotional psyche of the man, and as a result, we are not really engaged with the central character. The screenplay basically misses all the emotional beats making us disconnected with Kochunni’s victories or setbacks.

This is only made worse with the portrayal of the character by lead man Nivin Pauly. For starters, his approach to what could have been the role of a lifetime is extremely disappointing. He never looks comfortable in the part and does not really come off well in the transformation from the boy next door to the much-dreaded thief in town. His failure to become the character, mentally or physically turns to be the biggest bane of the project.

In fact, Mohanlal, even in his fifteen minutes, puts in much more effort with mannerisms and body language to give his character of Ithikkara Pakki, the much-needed distinction. So much for a tale of a thief, when the veteran in his 20 minute appearance ends up stealing the thunder. Yes, Pakki does look like a character from belonged in another film, with the costume and the western BGM. But no one would complain about authenticity there, because his scenes were the better portions of the movie. Wish Andrews and Nivin put in as much effort to the titular character.

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Priya Anand also turns out to be another case of wrong casting. She does not look the part and is seen struggling with her lines. Of the supporting cast, the ones that does shine are Sunny Wayne and Babu Anthony. Director Jude Anthony also do well in a brief sequence. The rest of the lot, including the extras and the foreign actors, all seem over the top and appear too amateurish. It has always been a recurring problem in the historical / period dramas and the same issues continue here too. There is that sense of artificialness that makes you detached from the period setting and giving you the feeling that instead you are witnessing a school play.

The movie makes room every now and then to voice the social issues of the times with a commentary on the prevalent caste structure of the times. Add to that the presence of the British. However the dialogues are poor, including one hilarious line mouthed by one of the English characters who goes “ He is your race, he is your case!” .  In fact, the whole British portions have no impact on the proceedings and seem just fillers with no real implications. The item number from Nora Fatehi also comes across as an unnecessary addition.

On the positive side, one needs to applaud the makers in spending the time and effort in recreating the settings. Sunil Babu’s production design and the cinematography by Binod Pradhan and Nirav Shah are definitely the major plus factors of this expensive venture. Gopi Sundar’s music is decent but it needed more folkish touch. Which is why he ends up creating a better impact with the background score and folk songs towards the end.

All in all, the movie is an amalgamation of several wrong choices that takes away the authenticity and works against the mood and feel of the movie. Something that no technical prowess is going to change or conceal. In its safe commercial avatar, Kayamkulam Kochunni turns out as an average venture that robs the audience from having something memorable or path breaking.

 

Cast : Navin Pauly, Priya Anand, Sunny Wayne, Babu Anthony and Mohanlal

Directed by Rosshan Andrews

Music Gopi Sundar

’96 Movie Review: Some Reflections…

SPOILER ALERT

96 is a bittersweet amalgamation of the ‘BEFORE‘ series – chiefly ‘BEFORE SUNSET‘— by Linklater, beautifully mapped onto the Indian landscape by contouring out the emotional crests and troughs of childhood love, its extensions, and its sustenance. It is a triumph for one of the most interesting actors to emerge out on the Tamil screens, Vijay Sethupathi, who brings his own brand of ‘casualness’ to his act, yet segues it – mainly in the second-half – into a fine act embodying a character who pretends to be living in the ‘moment’ but is really living in the past savoring moments of first love which are, obviously, momentous to him. [In fact, the film opens with a song ‘The Life of Ram’, with the lyrics and visuals expounding on the loneliness that’s part of Ram’s existential crises, as well as the thread he hangs onto to continue his existence. It shows him living life as a travel photographer, but travelling alone, and seemingly enjoying the independence—(he pulls a cart for an old man in Calcutta; drives in circles in his car onto a vast, open field; sits staring at the horizon on a beach, and runs on sand-dunes in Rajasthan, while the lyrics convey his feelings that he hasn’t understood the world yet though his hair has greyed..)— that a relationship-less existence provides, but that’s actually a facade.] There’s a nod here to Ranbir’s characters from Ali’s films portraying his alone-self in a populated world that’s hard to miss.Continue reading “’96 Movie Review: Some Reflections…”

Mamarziyaan Movie Review: Unchained Melody!

 

manmar1Very rarely do one get to witness a stand out climax in our romantic dramas like the one we see in Manmarziyaan. One that is sans the melodrama or the cliché settings (say like an airport or a railway station). It is something wonderfully set up by director Anurag Kashyap, who for a change grapples here with something more mainstream.

But the ending is only part of the tale. For first, you must reach there. And unfortunately, for that you need to tread a path that is familiar – as familiar as the Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam template, or the Rab Ne Banadi Jodi ones. Or for those familiar with South movies, as back as the Mani Rathnam classic Mouna Raagam or an Antha Ezhu Naatkal (remade in Hindi as Woh Saat Din).  Here too, we watch as a young woman fall in and out of love, leaving the men in her life to helplessly sit back and watch as she sorts out the messy affairs of her heart.

The lady is none other than Rumi (Taapsee Pannu). She is a happy go lucky, free spirited young woman who likes to live life on her terms. Rumi has no qualms in sneaking in over her boyfriend Vicky and indulging in some ‘f-yaar’ away from the eyes of her family members. But when her folks do find out, she immediately takes control of the situation stating that she wants to marry her Tinder find. She even promises that if her boyfriend fails to show up with his parents formally with an alliance, she is willing to be the sacrificial ‘donkey’ and shall be up for an arranged marriage with any idiot who her family deems right.

That is the confidence she shows in her lover. But little does she know him. Vicky Sandhu (a terrific Vicky Kaushal) is a hopeless irresponsible bloke, a DJ by profession, is so in love with Rumi that he can leap rooftops for his love but the first to run away from any talk of commitment and marriage. He is the kind who is all set to elope with his girl, but without a penny in his pocket. And most of the first half is spent with Rumi trying to get some sense into the guy’s head and get him to be serious about their relationship in a more responsible manner for once.

Enter Rajbir aka Robbie (Abhishek Bachchan) , a investment banker from London, in town looking for prospective brides. But when the marriage broker shows him a pic of Rumi, he is immediately fixated on the woman. Despite being aware of her torrid affair with the Dj dude, Robbie still decides to risk things on an alliance with Rumi.

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Anurag Kashyap thus brings these three diverse characters into the setting of middle -class Punjab to give you this bold take on the above-mentioned template. The loud Bhansali style Gujarati setting of Hum Dil De…,makes way for a subtler Punjabi one.

It is important to note how Kashyap and writer Kannika opts to keep the script free of any villains. Therefore you do not see the usual scheming family members or the screaming babu-jis in this one. In fact, all of Rumi’s family appear to be supportive of any decision that Rumi makes, that is she if makes up her mind. Having lost her parents at an earlier age, she cleverly manipulates things to her advantage with her aunts, uncles and grandfather to get whatever she desires. And as much as reckless and rebellious, she is also shown someone to be attached to things that she holds dear and near. Notice how she wears her father’s shirt when she goes to ask Vicky to propose to her.

But Rumi is as complex a character that can be, volatile and affectionate in equal measures and Taapsee Pannu has absolutely nailed this one. In what is easily her career best performance, Taapsee is in full control over her multi-faceted character. She is undoubtedly the life of the movie. But she gets wonderful support from the rest of the cast. Vicky Kaushal absolutely rocks as the irresponsible man-child and despite all the flaws of the character, Vicky still makes the character so endearing, without putting a foot wrong.  Abhishek Bachchan, returning after a gap of two years, unfortunately is still playing the bland Ramji types- the kind he played in Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna,.  However, the writing fails to do justice to this third wheel and even performance wise- Abhishek despite his calming assured presence, fail to really bring anything new to his portrayal.

Despite its predictability , Anurag Kashyap and writer Kanika ‘s treatment keep things interesting.  The characters here are not boxed into any stereotypes and each have enough shades of grey to keep the viewers hooked. In fact, there is this constant motif of duality that is the center-stage of this script whichKashyap keeps exploring with these characters. And to drive home the point, he deliberately keeps throwing the visual cues like the dancing twins (Poonam and Priyanka Shah) or the twin guys we see in the Kashmir episode.

It is a welcome return for Kashyap to the romantic genre after a series of crime dramas since tasting success with Dev D. But Kashyap being Kashyap, gets into his fair share of indulgence that makes the movie appear a slog at 155 minutes. As we grapple with Rumi’s indecisiveness, Vicky and Rumi’s antics get a little too repetitive and brings down the energy at a lot of instances. You would find yourself wishing that these two would for once make up their minds and move on.

Glad to find Kashyap and writer Kannika truly liberating Rumi and unchaining her from the Bollywood rulebook that defines how a leading protagonist should act and behave onscreen. Virginity and sex is never brought up as a hindrance to anything as the big issue over a small tissue is outright thrown out of the window in this unflinching take on love, lust and marriage. In fact, right at the beginning, in the scene when the family members discover Vicky in her bedroom Rumi’s immediate reaction is  ‘ So what?’

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Successfully aiding Kashyap’s return to the romantic genre is partner from Dev D days – Amit Trivedi.  Together with lyricist Shelly, the team has come up once again with a scintillating soundtrack that really works wonder and is effectively used to keep the narration stay afloat , capturing the various moods as required.

Cinematographer Sylvester Fonseca does full justice in capturing the hustle bustle of the small-town Punjab.  Kashyap also cleverly uses food as one of the crutch points. Lassi, pakoras and such mouthwatering delicacies are served aplenty and all the food talk could whet up an appetite in you. So it is best advised not to watch it on an empty stomach.

Manmarziyaan, like its title, seem to be content doing its own thing as it pleases. Refusing to cater to the tried and tested, it constantly pushes and rebels its way out of the labels. Kashyap and team may not have exactly hit it out of the park but has managed to carve out something distinctly bolder from the usual bunch of glossy rom-coms and romantic dramas that Bollywood churns out. And much like its characters, Manmarziyaan is a movie that needs to be accepted with all its imperfections.

 

MANMARZIYAAN  (2018)

cast:  Taapsee Pannu, Abhishek Bachchan, Vicky Kaushal

Music:  Amit Trivedi

Directed by Anurag Kashyap