Category Archives: Movie Recos (Indian)

Some of my all-time favourites from Bollywood

THE 35 BEST FILMS OF 2015

#ICYMI:
THE 50 BEST TV SHOWS OF 2015: http://goo.gl/exsraC
THE 30 BEST INDIES OF 2015: http://goo.gl/xfRuOk
THE 100 MOST AWAITED FILMS OF 2016: http://goo.gl/KLHbTP
THE 35 MOST AWAITED TV SERIES OF 2016: http://goo.gl/b20Hr7
THE COMPLETE POP CULTURE CALENDAR OF 2016 (WITH RELEASE DATES): http://goo.gl/JMWW7c

I have already made a list of the 30 BEST INDIES OF 2015, but I also wanted to put together a list of my favourite Summer Films, Hindi Films and ‘Good Films’ (Dramas/Comedies). Please note that this is a list of MY 35 Favourite Films of 2015 and if there are films missing from here, trust me, they’ve been left out on purpose (for eg. I didn’t feel too much for Piku or Spectre, etc). Anyway, here are my lists below:


THE 15 BEST HINDI FILMS

  1. TALVAR: Because Irrfan Khan and Neeraj Kabi and Gajraj Rao and Konkana Sen Sharma and Vishal Bharadwaj and Meghna Gulzar.
  2. DUM LAGAKE HAISHA: Because this could well be India’s first indie romcom by a big studio.
  3. MASAAN: Because it made me want to write: On Masaan.
  4. BABY: Because Neeraj Pandey is to thrillers what Raju Hirani is to feel good cinema. Here’s my piece on it: On Baby.
  5. DETECTIVE BYOMKESH BAKSHY!: Because Dibakar Banerjee is a star and this film got the short end of the stick. My piece on it: On Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!
  6. TAMASHA: Because Imtiaz Ali has the power to make you feel feelings that no other Indian director does.
  7. DIL DHADAKNE DO: Because Anil Kapoor!!
  8. TANU WEDS MANU RETURNS: Because two Kangana Ranaut is even better than one Kangana Ranaut.
  9. BOMBAY VELVET: Because it was a GOOD film and my thoughts on it are well documented: On Bombay Velvet.
  10. NH10: Because we haven’t managed to pull off a road thriller so well ever before and hats off to Anushka Sharma for debuting as a producer with this.
  11. TITLI: Because this was the most hard-hitting Indian film I’ve seen in ages.
  12. COURT: Because it captured class divide and ‘India’ of the towns and of the shanties like very few could have.
  13. PYAAR KA PUNCHNAMA: Because let’s admit it, even with its misogyny, it was freaking hilarious.
  14. ANGRY INDIAN GODESSES: Because in spite of the filmy ending, this is a Dil Chahta Hai for women.
  15. BAJRANGI BHAIJAAN: Because Salman Khan did a good film and I still can’t believe it.


THE 10 BEST SUMMER FILMS

  1. MISSION IMPOSSIBLE: ROGUE NATION: Because what a perfect, perfect screenplay and what a perfect, perfect Tom Cruise.
  2. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD: Because this was not really a Mad Max film and we know it – it was a Furiosa film and that’s why we love it.
  3. JURASSIC WORLD: Because this was a throwback to the good ol’ family blockbusters of the ‘90s and Chris Pratt is the ‘hero’ we’ve been waiting for.
  4. THE MAN FROM U.N.C.L.E.: Because Guy Ritchie makes action films like no one makes action films and Guy Ritchie is my Tarantino.
  5. STAR WARS: THE FORCE AWAKENS: Because it was great trip back in time but as an independent film it could have been so much more.
  6. SPY: Because who knew Jason Statham could be SO FREAKING FUNNY!
  7. AVENGERS: AGE OF ULTRON: Because it was Joss Whedon’s last superhero film (as we know it) but otherwise it could have been so much more.
  8. FURIOUS 7: Because they showed ALL THEIR ACTION PIECES in trailers and there was nothing left to watch in the film.
  9. PITCH PERFECT: Because Anna Kendrick is acc-awesome.
  10. THE INTERVIEW: Because it was hilarious and I don’t know why critics found it vile and unfunny – the James Franco-Kim Jong Un friendship scenes were ROFL!


THE 10 BEST DRAMAS/COMEDIES

  1. BIRDMAN: Because OH MY GOD, what a film.
  2. STEVE JOBS: Because the greatest writer of the 21st century, Aaron Sorkin, wrote a film about the greatest mind of the 21st century, Steve Jobs, and it was perfect.
  3. WHIPLASH: Because this movie *is* my tempo.
  4. CREED: Because THIS is how you do a reboot, and hell, Ryan Coogler, you are a master of the art of screenwriting and storytelling – what a perfect film this was.
  5. THE INTERN: Because who knew a Robert DeNiro-Anne Hathaway film could be the feel good film of the year and charm the socks off you?
  6. TRAINWRECK: Because Amy Schumer’s hilarious big screen writing-acting debut has redefined the raunchy female comedy.
  7. THE MARTIAN: Because this was Ridley Scott’s happiest film ever and if getting back Matt Damon is such a fun time, he should get in these situations more!
  8. INSIDE OUT: Because no Hollywood film gave you as many feel as this one.
  9. SICARIO: Because Dennis Villeneuve can do no wrong and looks like even Emily Blunt can’t.
  10. TOMORROWLAND: Because it was an original film that had the right intentions even if it failed a bit in putting them across.

#ICYMI:
THE 50 BEST TV SHOWS OF 2015: http://goo.gl/exsraC
THE 30 BEST INDIES OF 2015: http://goo.gl/xfRuOk
THE 100 MOST AWAITED FILMS OF 2016: http://goo.gl/KLHbTP
THE 35 MOST AWAITED TV SERIES OF 2016: http://goo.gl/b20Hr7
THE COMPLETE POP CULTURE CALENDAR OF 2016 (WITH RELEASE DATES): http://goo.gl/JMWW7c


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Liked/disliked the piece? Think I’ve left out some fantastic films? Think I’m awesome or really, really not? Leave your comments below 🙂
Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

The 100 Most Awaited 2016 Movies

#ICYMI:
THE 35 MOST AWAITED TV SERIES OF 2016: http://goo.gl/b20Hr7
THE 50 BEST TV SHOWS OF 2015: http://goo.gl/exsraC
THE 30 BEST INDIES OF 2015: http://goo.gl/xfRuOk
THE 35 BEST FILMS OF 2015: http://goo.gl/Z796RR
THE COMPLETE POP CULTURE CALENDAR OF 2016 (WITH RELEASE DATES): http://goo.gl/JMWW7c

Note: This piece was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor Huffington Post. An edited version of the piece can be found here: https://goo.gl/04ZsS6
2016 is going to be an unbelievable year at the movies. There’s SO MUCH HAPPENING! DC, Marvel, Scorsese, Linklater, Kashyap, Bharadwaj and SO MUCH MORE. I have put together a list of MY most awaited 100 films below. There are movies I have left out on purpose because I may not be excited about them and movies that I have put in because I may be more excited about them than others. So having given the disclaimer that this is a list of films ‘I’ am most excited about, check out my 100 below:

THE 25 MOST ANTICIPATED HOLLYWOOD FILMS

  1. DEADPOOL: Because Ryan Reynolds and that trailer! Time to make the chimi-fucking-changas!
  2. BATMAN V SUPERMAN: DAWN OF JUSTICE: Because BATMAN V SUPERMAN WHAT PART OF THAT DOES NOT EXCITE YOU!
  3. EVERYBODY WANTS SOME: Because Richard Linklater is back with a ‘spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused and I WANTS SOME.
  4. FANTASTIC BEASTS AND WHERE TO FIND THEM: Because JK Rowling! And magic! And wizardry! Accio Release Date!
  5. THE NICE GUYS: Because the guy who made Kiss Kiss Bang Bang teams up with the guy who was in LA Confidential and the guy who was in Drive and this looks like it will be one of my all time favourites.
  6. SUICIDE SQUAD: Because, to quote David Ayer, ‘Enough of Good vs Evil, it’s time for Bad vs Evil.’ Also, JOKER + HARLEY QUINN = WIN!!
  7. THE MAGNIFICENT SEVEN: Because Chris Pratt and Denzel Washington and Ethan Hawke and Peter Sarsgaard and Matt Bomer and Vince D’Onofrio in this remake!! WHYISTHISNOTMAKINGMORENEWS?!
  8. DOCTOR STRANGE: Because Benedict Cumberbatch is Doctor Strange and that’s the only reason I forgive Marvel for not casting Keanu Reeves in it.
  9. CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR: Because it should have been the most exciting movie of the year but the trailer didn’t live up but I still have hopes because WARRRRRRR.
  10. X-MEN: APOCALYPSE: Because though I’m not a Bryan Singer fan, Oscar Isaac as the villain is SUCH FANTASTIC NEWS.
  11. KUNG FU PANDA 3: Because GET, SET, PO!!!
  12. BOURNE 5: Because Matt Damon is back! Paul Greengrass is back! Julia Stiles is back! I can’t stop with the exclamations!
  13. THE JUNGLE BOOK: Because even though I’m looking forward to Jungle Book: Origins more (because Andy Serkis), Bill Murray and Idris Elba on this makes it unmissable.
  14. WARCRAFT: Because though I haven’t played the game, Duncan Jones helming it makes me think that this will probably be better than anyone’s expecting this to be.
  15. THE CIRCLE: Because James Ponsoldt, an international treasure where I’m concerned, directs Tom Hanks, Emma Watson and John Boyega. How are more people not dying to see this!
  16. GAMBIT: Because Channing Tatum as a superhero is dope, yo.
  17. THE GREAT WALL: Because Matt Damon and Pedro Pascal star in a film directed by Yimou Zhang and this could totally be the event movie of the year.
  18. ICE AGE: COLLISION COURSE: Because this is my favourite animated series of all time (yes, of ALL TIME).
  19. LA LA LAND: Because Whiplash director returns with a jazz musical starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling and there is no way he could have topped himself on paper.
  20. PASSENGERS: Because America’s sweethearts Chris Pratt and Jennifer Lawrence star so this better be the movie of the year.
  21. ZOOLANDER NO. 2: Because BLUE STEEL FACE (And that Benedict Cumberbatch cameo!).
  22. ASSASSIN’S CREED: Because Michael Fassbender stars and there is no reason greater than that.
  23. ARMS AND THE DUDES: Because Jonah Hill and Miles Teller together in a Todd Philips movie is bound to be the dude movie of the year.
  24. STAR TREK BEYOND: Because they should have ended with the last one but with Justin Lin attached, the series could Live Long and Prosper.
  25. ROGUE ONE: A STAR WARS STORY: Because Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla was one of the worst blockbusters I’ve ever seen so I have no idea how this will turn out.


THE 15 MOST ANTICIPATED INDIAN FILMS

(NOTE: The most anticipated Indian film for me would be BANK CHOR since that’s the first film I’ve worked on as a Creative Producer and that releases SOON :D. The list below is movies besides Bank Chor, of course.)

  1. RANGOON: Because Vishal Bharadwaj is making a ‘Casablanca’ like love story featuring Kangana Ranaut along with Shahid ‘Kaminey’ Kapoor and Saif Ali ‘Langda Tyagi’ Khan.
  2. DANGAL: Because Aamir Khan.
  3. RAMAN RAGHAV 2.0: Because Anurag Kashyap is going back to his indie thriller roots with this one.
  4. AE DIL HAI MUSHKIL: Because Ranbir Kapoor and Anushka Sharma come together for a Karan Johar Film so this better be the romcom of the decade.
  5. FAN: Because have you seen Shah Rukh Khan’s Gaurav? I mean!!!!
  6. KAPOOR & SONS: Because Shakun Batra’s Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu is one of my favourite Hindi films of the last five years and this one has Alia Bhatt so it will be a cracker.
  7. UDTA PUNJAB: Because Abhishek Chaubey has pulled in a stellar starcast in Shahid Kapoor, Alia Bhatt and KAREENA KAPOOR, set against the backdrop of the drug trade in Punjab.
  8. RAEES: Because SRK looks like a badass and him facing off against Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Farhan Akhtar is going to be a treat.
  9. KI & KA: Because the first stills look absolutely amazing and Balki looks set to charm the hell out of us.
  10. DHONI: Because Neeraj Pandey has not set a foot wrong so far and Sushant Singh Rajput is going to play Dhoni like a champ.
  11. MANMARZIYAN: Because I loved Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana and I can’t wiat to watch Ayushmann-Bhumi again on screen.
  12. MOHENJADARO: Because Ashutosh Gowarikar directs Hrithik Roshan again and hopefully this film will not be as long as the time between that age and ours.
  13. MIRZIYA: Because Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra is a fantastic director and from everything I’ve read about Harshvardan Kapoor, his sensibilities seem on point (he assisted Anurag Kashyap!).
  14. DINESH VIJAN’S UNTITLED FILM: Because after Dinesh Vijan broke up with Saif Ali Khan, the first two things he produced independently (Badlapur and Finding Fanny) were better than anything else he’s done before so I give him the benefit of doubt.
  15. BAAR BAAR DEKHO: Because even though this film has Katrina Kaif and that probably means it will end up sucking, it’s an Excel film by the writer of Zindagi Milegi Na Dobara and Dil Dhadakne Do, so I have my hopes high.


THE 10 MOST ANTICIPATED HOLLYWOOD DRAMAS

  1. SILENCE: Because Martin Scorsese directs Andrew Garfield, Adam Driver and Liam Neeson in this historical drama.
  2. THE BFG: Because Steven Spielberg is making a family film after ages and this one’s adapted from a Roald Dahl book!
  3. STORY OF YOUR LIFE: Because Denis Villeneuve (of being amazing fame) directs Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner and Michael Stuhlbarg in a sci fi drama about aliens landing on earth.
  4. THE FREE STATE OF JONES: Because Matthew McConaughey is starring in this civil war drama from the writer of Big and Seabiscuit.
  5. BILLY LYNN’S LONG HALFTIME WALK: Because Ang Lee directs a script from Simon Beaufoy that stars a cast featuring Vin Diesel, Chris Tucker, Garrett Hedlund and Kristen Stewart.
  6. THE ACCOUNTANT: Because the director of Warrior directs Ben Affleck and Anna Kendrick in an action thriller and that’s all we need to know.
  7. DEMOLITION: Because the ever-dependable Jake Gyllenhaal costars with the ever-dependable Naomi Watts in a drama by Jean-Marc Vallee.
  8. SULLY: Because Clint Eastwood is still going strong at 85 and this time directs an autobiographical film starring Tom Hanks about a pilot who landed a plane on water, saving lives.
  9. MONEY MONSTER: Because Jodie Foster directs, George Clooney and Julia Roberts star, and it is a political thriller.
  10. SNOWDEN: Because it is a biographical drama from the king of biographical dramas, Oliver Stone, about Edward Snowden, starring Joseph Gordon-Levitt.


THE 10 MOST ANTICIPATED ‘SUMMER’ FILMS

  1. JACK REACHER: NEVER GO BACK: Because although not a summer release, Tom Cruise reunites with Edward Zwick after The Last Samurai… actually just because Tom Cruise.
  2. TEENAGE MUTANT NINJA TURTLES: OUT OF THE SHADOWS: Because I thoroughly enjoyed the first installment so let’s hope there’s more Cowabunga, Dude!
  3. PRIDE AND PREJUDICE AND ZOMBIES: Because what a bloody insane cast with Matt Smith, Charles Dance, Jack Huston, Lena Headey, Sam Riley, and Lily James and what a crazy ass idea.
  4. THE HUNTSMAN – WINTER’S WAR: Because even though the first part sucked, this one has Emily Blunt (and Jessica Chastain!) and we all know Emily Blunt can do no wrong now.
  5. INFERNO: Because screw Dan Brown, anything Tom Hanks does is immensely watchable plus this has Irrfan Khan too.
  6. INDEPENDENCE DAY: RESURGENCE: Because even though I’m sorely disappointed that this has no Will Smith, it’s got the same director and well, Jeff Goldblum again, so fingers crossed.
  7. THE LEGEND OF TARZAN: Because Margot Robbie as Jane!!!
  8. JUMANJI: Because our childhoods are back!
  9. NOW YOU SEE ME 2: Because basically they’ve got Daniel Radcliffe to star in another movie about magic and that deserves nothing but respect.
  10. BEN-HUR: Because in spite of zero buzz, Jack Huston as Ben-Hur is fascinating casting, and there’s also Morgan Freeman and Toby Kebell, so let’s hope it’s ‘epic’.


THE 10 MOST ANTICIPATED HOLLYWOOD THRILLERS

  1. HIGH-RISE: Because Ben Wheatley directs Tom Hiddlestone and Elisabeth Moss and a fantastic concept of class war in a high rise and I simply cannot wait.
  2. JOHN WICK 2: Because come on!
  3. TRIPLE 9: Because another fabulous trailer, Lawless director John Hillcoat at its helm and a crazy ass cast in Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Aaron Paul, Norman Reedus and Kate Winslet!
  4. MIDNIGHT SPECIAL: Because Jeff Nichols is special and when he teams up with Michael Shannon for a scifi thriller again it will be even more special and when the cast has Adam Driver, Joel Edgerton and and Kirsten Dunst, you know this is going to be a must watch.
  5. GREEN ROOM: Because it’s from the director of Blue Ruin, it’s got enormous festive buzz and because Patrick Stewart fights off Neo Nazis!
  6. FREE FIRE: Because there will be one more Ben Wheatley crime thriller this year with another amazing cast that includes Sharlto Copey, Armie Hammer, Brie Larson and Cillian Murphy.
  7. THE WITCH: Because it’s got better reviews than any other horror film in recent history.
  8. THE PURGE 3: Because this film has been my guilty pleasure for two installments now and I can bet part three will not let me down either.
  9. THE GIRL ON THE TRAIN: Because the novel’s supposed to be as good as Gone Girl and this one stars Emily Blunt (who can do no wrong) and Rebecca Forguson of MI5 so this could be gooood.
  10. THE NEON DEMON: Because Nicolas Winding Refn directs Keanu Reeves in a thriller shot at 60 fps, are you kidding me!


THE 10 MOST ANTICIPATED HOLLYWOOD COMEDIES

  1. LIFE ON THE ROAD: Because Ricky Gervais’ David Brent is back and is on the road with a band so this will be AMAZING!!
  2. GHOSTBUSTERS: Because Paul Feig directs Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig again so this is obviously going to be a comedy classic.
  3. THE BROTHERS GRIMSBY: Because Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Strong play estranged brothers one of whom becomes a spy and the other remains a village idiot and then they meet again and this is just going to be hilarious amiright?
  4. CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE: Because The Rock and Kevin Hart come together in an action comedy and I repeat: THE ROCK and KEVIN HART come together in an ACTION COMEDY!!
  5. KEANU: Because Key and Peele make their big screen debut so how are you not jumping with joy already?
  6. CONNER4REAL: Because The Lonely Island are writing and starring in this movie and there is no information about it except the certainty that it will be hilarious.
  7. RIDE ALONG 2: Because I loved part one and Kevin Hart and Ice Cube is the best buddy cop duo since Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in Lethal Weapon.
  8. KEEPING UP WITH THE JONESES: Because Greg Mottola of Superbad fame directs a spy comedy starring Jon Hamm, Zach Galifianakis and Wonder Woman Gal Gadot!
  9. BAD MOMS: Because the guys who wrote The Hangover are making their debut movie and it stars Mila Kunis and Christina Applegate and Kristen Bell as bad moms so this could just be mean girls but with women.
  10. NEIGHBORS 2: Because even though Bad Santa 2 is also releasing this year and I’m personally looking forward to that more, Seth Rogen needs representation in a list like this and so he will get it!


THE 10 MOST ANTICIPATED HOLLYWOOD DRAMEDIES/ROMCOMS/INDIES

  1. HAIL, CEASOR: Because this is the final part of the ‘Numbskull’ trilogy feat. George Clooney by the Coen Brothers and to top that, it has Scarlett Johannson, Channing Tatum, Josh Brolin and Jonah Hill too!
  2. ME BEFORE YOU: Because my favourite screenwriters of this generation, Michael H. Weber and Scott Neustadter and writing this romantic drama and I have no doubt it will turn out amazing.
  3. GOING IN STYLE: Because Zach Braff directs a bank heist comedy featuring Michael Caine, Morgan Freeman and Alan Arkin!
  4. EDDIE THE EAGLE: Because Dexter Fletcher is an underrated gem of a Brit director (check out Wild Bill if you haven’t) and this may just be the feel good film of the year.
  5. WHISKEY TANGO FOXTROT: Because Tina Fey is producing this war comedy that she is also starring in, plus it’s got Martin Freeman and Margot Robbie and Billy Bob Thornton!
  6. THE BRONZE: Because this raunchy sex comedy got tremendous reviews at Sundance last year and is the directorial debut of The Big Bang Theory’s Bernadette (Melissa Rausch)
  7. BRIDGET JONES’ BABY: Because Renee Zewelleger and Colin Firth are back again and let’s admit it, this is going to be a trip down good ol’ memory lane.
  8. MY BIG FAT GREEK WEDDING 2: Because Nia Vardalos and John Corbett are back again and let’s admit it, this is going to be a trip down good ol’ memory lane.
  9. TUMBLEDOWN: Because Jason Sudeikis has proved with his recent choices that he’s a capable leading man and this film has a lovely logline about love and death, and also stars the lovely Rebecca Hall.
  10. MASTERMINDS: Because though this film has been going through release hell, it’s got a crazy cast in Zach Galifianakis, Owen Wilson, Jason Sudeikis and Kristen Wiig so can’t wait!


THE 10 MOST ANTICIPATED HOLLYWOOD ANIMATED FILMS

  1. FINDING DORY: Because Finding Nemo.
  2. THE ANGRY BIRDS MOVIE: Because Angry Birds Movie!
  3. THE SECRET LIFE OF PETS: Because great teaser.
  4. SAUSAGE PARTY: Because first animated film by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg!
  5. STORKS: Because voices by Key and Peele and Andy Samberg and Kelsey Grammar.
  6. KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS: Because what animation movie has the cast of Matthew McConaughey, Charlize Theron, Rooney Mara, Ralph Fiennes and George Takei!
  7. TROLLS: Because Anna Kendrick leads this and Anna Kendrick is the best.
  8. SING: Because it’s a music animated comedy featuring Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johannson and Reese Witherspoon (what!).
  9. MOANA: Because THE ROCK makes his animated debut.
  10. PETE’S DRAGON: Because it’s the remake of a much loved animated classic.


#ICYMI:

THE 35 MOST AWAITED TV SERIES OF 2016: http://goo.gl/b20Hr7
THE 50 BEST TV SHOWS OF 2015: http://goo.gl/exsraC
THE 30 BEST INDIES OF 2015: http://goo.gl/xfRuOk
THE 35 BEST FILMS OF 2015: http://goo.gl/Z796RR
THE COMPLETE POP CULTURE CALENDAR OF 2016 (WITH RELEASE DATES): http://goo.gl/JMWW7c

 

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Liked/disliked the piece? Think I’ve left out some films? Think my list is shit? Think I’m awesome or really, really not? Leave your comments below 🙂
Note: This piece first appeared in Huffington Post on January 14, 2016
Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/nikhil-taneja-/the-100-most-awaited-movies-of-2016/

Picture courtesy: Google. None of the pictures are owned by the author all rights belong to the original owner(s) and photographer(s).
© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.

MASAAN (2015) REVIEW #HUFFINGTONPOST

Note: This review was written by Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon) for Huffington Post in July 2015.


Masaan and the Idea of India

The idea of India has always been fascinating to me. Because, to me, India is – and always has been – more a utopian idea of what a country can and should be, whereas the reality has gotten rather lost in translation. Think about it: India is probably the only country in the world where there is not a single thread that unites every man, woman and child. Be it caste, colour, community, religion, language, race, or ideology, the people of India indeed have nothing in common with each other. It’s often said that Bollywood and cricket are the only two things that unite the country, but Bollywood stops being relevant beyond the Hindi-speaking regions, and cricket’s days of glory effectively retired with Sachin Tendulkar.

This seemingly disjointed modern India may not be easy to classify in any of the traditional ways, but that is because it is an India that is trying to break out of such classifications. The truth is, there is no one idea of India and perhaps no one India either; India is remarkable because there are several Indias within the idea tussling with each other, and within themselves, to stride through the remainder of the 21st century with some core belief system.

In this tussle, this struggle, lies a deep-rooted ambition, within the cities, towns, villages and all of its varied and diverse people and culture, to define themselves and to find meaning, which has been aided largely by the technological revolution that is still seeping in its every nook and corner, possibly not fast enough. YouTube has invigorated the young, Facebook has helped them learn free will, while Google has been their guide in navigating life, love and lust.

This is the complicated backdrop and landscape that Masaan, a film by debutant director Neeraj Ghaywan, is set in, and the layered protagonists of the film traverse through its various complexities. Winner of two Cannes awards, including the FIPRESCI Prize, given by an international federation of film critics, Masaan is a tale of two Benarases, both weighed down by its heritage and both trying to escape it by any means.

There is one story about Devi (Richa Chadda), who, as a liberated young woman, has pre-marital sex with a fellow student, only to be caught by the traditionalist police and blackmailed into shame. The second is a love story of a young couple, Deepak (Vicky Kaushal) and Shaalu (Shweta Tiwari), belonging to different castes, and hoping to surmount the barriers presented by it.

In both stories, technology is an accomplice in seeking progress, and by sharp contrast, in one, it is a weapon used to threaten conformity too. Both stories are also driven by the ambitions of the protagonists to not be held prisoner to the milieu, conditions and the masaans (crematorium) they are born into, and that are born out of them. But reducing the stories to themes and metaphors would be doing a disservice to the soul that runs through them and the love, loss and longing that they so beautifully capture in the quiet chaos of the ghaats of Benaras.

Ghaywan, in his very first film, creates a deeply affecting world that devastates and uplifts at the same time, and that becomes a part of your world long after the film is over. The deftness with which he captures emotions of hope and young love (in the romance of Deepak and Shaalu), prejudices and old mores (in the relationship between Devi’s father and the inspector that blackmails them), aspiration and rebellion (through Devi) and death (in the stunning scene between Deepak and his friends), deserves much lauding. He has been proficiently supported by a wonderful script and heartfelt dialogues by the inimitable Varun Grover, through the earnest lens of Avinash Arun, who recently debuted as a director himself with the fine Killa, and the moving music by Indian Ocean, whom we cannot get enough of.

But the film’s true winner are the fantastic performances that Ghaywan has extracted from its lead cast. From a poignant and memorable Vicky Kaushal and the endearing warmth of Shweta Tripathi (both of whom have huge things ahead of them) to the intricate depth of emotions that Sanjay Mishra (who is clearly on the path of being a legend) as Devi’s father brings, to the confident, tender and touching performance of Richa Chadda that the film is anchored by, to the striking cameos by Pankaj Tripathi, Bhagwan Tiwari and Nikhil Sahni, Masaan is a masterclass in acting.

This is another winner by Phantom Films and Guneet Monga’s Sikhya Entertainment and as good a beginning as any by Manish Mundra’s Drishyam Films that, much like the film, is to be watched out for. An Indo-French production, if Masaan is (deservedly) successful at the box office, it may also help get further international funding to tell more such stories about the heart of what makes modern India. But these are not the reasons you must watch Masaan for.

Masaan deserves to be watched because it a rare film that holds a mirror to that deep-rooted ambition that runs through the pulse of this modern India: to break out of the boxes it’s been holed into, to overcome the circumstances it was born into, to rise above the demarcations that were set in its outdated texts and its archaic traditions, and to have the liberty and choice to be whatever and whoever it needs to be… to not just live, but to truly be alive.
Agree/disagree with the review? Leave your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
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Note: This piece first appeared in The Huffington Post on July 25
Link: http://www.huffingtonpost.in/nikhil-taneja-/masaan-review-a-fine-film_b_7869922.html
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Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!: Dibakar Banerjee, I LOVE YOU.

 (Full Disclosure: I work at YRF but this post isn’t sponsored by the studio but comes from the heart of a filmbuff who watched the movie in a theater with a paid ticket, instead of a film screening!)

It’s strange but I distinctly remember how every Dibakar Banerjee movie has left me feeling. I remember being euphoric at the end of Khosla Ka Ghosla. This was an Ocean’s 11 devoid of gloss, cool, swag or for that matter, George Clooney. But Anupam Kher Khosla and his motley bunch of family and friends made me want to whistle out loud for kicking Khurana’s butt so hard and so well. There was such a satisfaction that I felt after the Khoslas avenged Khurana for me – yes, I wanted to avenge him to because the film made me feel that it had happened to me, or someone I know really well.

Love, Sex Aur Dhokha made me feel cheap and ashamed. I’m not even sure why because I have never done anything like the protagonists in the film or subscribed to any of the views they had. But I felt dirty after watching the film, because I was part of a system that allows such tragedies to happen on a daily basis. I should have felt helpless but instead I felt mad that I had allowed this to happen; as if I played some part in making this possible.

In fact, it was Shanghai that made me feel helpless. It made me realise more than ever before that there is no such thing as one India. That India can unfortunately never be looked at as a single entity, because of the hundreds of worlds that it inhabits – and because most of these worlds are at odds with each other, at some level. I felt sad that one India will have to be left behind for another India to move forward, and I felt frustrated that this this won’t be allowed to happen so we may remain in this pathetic gridlock forever.

It was Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye! that made me feel the most among all Dibakar Banerjee films. I felt for days, for weeks, for months – and every time I simply think about the movie, I feel even now. This isn’t a feeling I can describe or elucidate in words, more so because it felt like the distinct lack of all emotions. It was the feeling of emptiness – the most difficult and demanding of emotions, one that you cannot shake off, because you don’t know how to. Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye is, for me, one of the greatest modern day Indian movies because of the hole it left in my heart.

I talked about Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye! last because Banerjee’s new film, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is a movie that made me feel the exact opposite of it. What is the opposite of feeling empty? Feeling everything! I felt possibly every emotion in my chest from thumping tension during the opening credits to excitement and euphoria to perplexity and panic to impatience and insight, to jaw-dropping awe during the final shots. What I felt during Byomkesh Bakshy was the mother of all feelings – the feeling that you seldom get while watching a Hindi film in a big screen: I was THRILLED!

Detective Byomkesh Bakhsy! is basically Detective Byomkesh Bakshy Begins, but the film has been made so that even within the inception of the movie, there is the inception of the detective. So the first half of the film is the origin of the man and is actually Byomkesh Bakshy begins and by the end of the second half, we come to reach the origin of the detective, and Detective Byomkesh Bakshy begins. This may be why the film has two very distinct paces – the first half is beautiful, languid, slow-burning and expansive, whereas the second half is chaotic, relentless, thrilling and focused. Interestingly though, even when the first half unfolds at its pace, there is so much of the plot thickening that it seems relentless, and even with the enthralling second half, there is a poetry in the plot unravelling that it is beautiful. But every frame is delicious, every shot alluring, and every plot development tantalizing through the course of the film.

As much as I hate to use the cliché, the movie is quite the experience: Dibakar Banerjee has invited you to the theaters for a scrumptious feast but it is up to you to eat in tandem with the pace of the film, else you may be too full for desserts or stay hungry because you were too spoiled for choice. I suppose – and I can only guess here – that’s the reason why some people remained far from appetized, because this is a film that demands a certain level of engagement, commitment and attention from the viewer, and it then proceeds to reward you wholeheartedly for it.

Personally, I loved everything about DBB; from the subtlety of Sushant Singh Rajput (a class act) to the flamboyance of Neeraj Kabi (possibly the greatest find of the last 5 years) to the awesomeness of Anand Tiwari (who I absolutely love watching on screen – although I’m biased because he’s a friend). I loved the entire supporting cast, from Meiyang Chang to Divya Menon to even Swastika Mukherjee, I loved Banerjee’s quirky humour (the Maggi Tomato Ketchup ode made me laugh out so loud that I could feel the piercing gazes of the people sitting behind me in the theater), I LOVED Vandana Kataria’s production design, Nikos Andritsakis outstanding camerawork, Sneha Khandwalkar’s fabulous background song and the INSANE indie music and even the end credits sequence that a lot of people found off. Simply told, my mind was blown by the badassery of the film, and I was stumped that a film so international in design, vibe and execution could come from an Indian director!

*spoiler* Yes, if anything, I did miss some scenes of the impending Japanese invasion at the end, I do believe the climax was a little stretched and if intercut with scenes of an advancing Japanese army, would have become bigger in scope and nail-biting in tension, but considering this is (and should be) the first part of a franchise, I am not one to nitpick.

When you think of it, it’s not at all strange that I remember how every Dibakar Banerjee movie feels. This is a man who has singlehandedly raised the bar for himself and his contemporaries with every movie, but with Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!, Banerjee has raised the bar for Indian cinema as well.

 

NOTE (Not related to the movie): I know that given my new job at YRF, everything I say about any movie from now will possibly be looked at with the lens of where I work, and it may seem shady that I have written such a gushing piece on a film produced by YRF, but those who know me, know well that I’m a film fanatic first and anything else after. And for those who don’t: I graduated as a computer engineer, started my career at HT as a journalist, dabbled in digital at Viacom18 and then made shows for MTV, but the one thing that’s remained constant in my life is my complete and utter love for the visual medium of cinema and television, and no matter where I work or what I do, I will continue reacting to every movie and TV show I see from the heart, than from a calculative mind. Koi doubt mat rakhna apne dil mein, filmbuff hoon mein Mumbai ka! 🙂

 

Agree/disagree with the review? Leave your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
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Why Mary Kom is the film Bollywood needs #Review #MaryKom #Bollywood

By Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon). Original article: http://goo.gl/Gfd0Oq

Well, what a great year this has been for women in Bollywood! Starting with Madhuri Dixit & Huma Qureshi in Dedh Ishqiya and Alia Bhatt in Highway to Kangana Ranaut in Queen and Rani Mukherjee in Mardaani to Priyanka Chopra now in Mary Kom, women are kicking all kinds of ass in movies that respect them, celebrate them and give them a standing ovation!

Mary Kom, the movie, isn’t perfect by any stretch – it’s got a Bollywood star at its helm instead of a Manipuri actress, it’s got a flawed, hurried screenplay, a sometimes jarring background score, unnecessary song placements; basically every cliche that a typical Bollywood film is guilty of. I can list a thousand ways this movie could have been better, to the level of a potential Foreign Film Oscar nominee, but you know what, all of that is immaterial and really doesn’t matter. Because Mary Kom is a very important film, and perhaps one of the most progressive films that ‘typical Bollywood’ has ever made.

This is a film with an almost completely North East Indian cast and each one of them knock it out of the park, proving that there’s talent *everywhere*, as long as we care to look. This is a film where the husband is shown willingly asking his wife to pursue her passion while he takes care of the kids at home, since his career is secondary and because her career is far too important to be sacrificed. This is a film where a woman, when faced with a choice between choosing her conservative father and choosing the passion of her life; goes for the unlikely choice, because you know what, women can and should do whatever the hell they like too! This is a film that shows that while men may face hardships in Indian sports, women have to overcome hardship from every single sexist male, every chauvinist attitude, every patriarchal rule, and even battle with the natural instincts of motherhood in order to achieve something.

In light of all this and more, Mary Kom is such an inspiring story of one of India’s most under-celebrated sports icons. Yes, it doesn’t hold up as a film at many places (it could have had much more of Manipur and Mary Kom’s struggles too), but this is an important watch for the fact that there lives a legend among us, who is an embodiment of the strength, courage and awesomeness of a woman – especially an INDIAN woman – who has to juggle being a daughter, a wife and a mother, and yet somehow manages to kick ass at all these as well as her passions and dreams… and at the international level that too.. FIVE TIMES OVER! Mary Kom is Maginificent Mary and this may not be the film that India deserves, but it is certainly the film that India needs.

So kudos to the makers, who brought the life of such an inspiration to the screen, for making Bollywood just a little more progressive, open-minded and respectful of women, kudos to Priyanka Chopra, who really put everything she had into this and came out all heart (and I understand that she was cast to bring audiences to the film, which is so important in a movie like this); and kudos to women in general, who are the BEST, and deserve many, many, MANY more such movies about them and their awesomeness, on screen. Please go watch this movie is you are a woman to feel empowered, but please DON’T MISS this if you are a man, to learn from the North East how it is cool to treat a woman with respect!

But please do watch Mary Kom, not for the flawed film it is, but for the brave story it tells and the small but sure step it is for mainstream Bollywood. In cynical times for our cinema where stalking, molesting or insulting their heroines by 45+ ‘stars’ on screen is what passes off as entertainment (Sanjay Leela Bhansali, who produced this film, last produced Rowdy Rathore where Akshay pinches a random woman off the streets in the name of ‘love’), we really need to make sure such movies are applauded for the effort to set the status quo straight!

 

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Note: This article first was first put up on Facebook on September 5, 2014.
Link: http://goo.gl/Gfd0Oq

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Cannes 2014 Roundup: Films on our must-watch list #SundayGuardian #Films

– Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoonfor The Sunday Guardian

We may not hold it against you if, on the mention of ‘Cannes 2014’, the image that pops into your head is that of a jaw-dropping Aishwarya Rai on the red carpet. We may hold it against you a little bit if you recall Freida Pinto and Sonam Kapoor’s alleged BFF rumours. But heaven forbid, if Mallika Sherawat is all that you can think of, especially in a year she *gasp* covered herself, you should take a deep look inwards and examine your choices in life.

INDIA AT CANNES
Because at the Festival de Cannes 2014, India had more to be proud of than the assembly line of fashionistas it churns out yearly.

  1. TITLI Chief among India’s growing presence at Cannes was first time director Kanu Behl’s TITLI, about the youngest member of a family of criminals in the ‘badlands of Delhi’s dystopic underbelly’ (according to the synopsis), who teams up with his newly wed bride to try and escape the family business.Produced by Dibakar Banerjee and distributed by Yash Raj Films, the film was featured in the prestigious Un Certain Regard category at Cannes and opened to glowing reviews with Hollywood Reporter calling it “an enjoyable, character-driven Indian yarn” and Variety calling it “a grittily impressive noir debut.”
  1. GRACE OF MONACO Yash Raj Films had even more glory come their way, as they unveiled Nicole Kidman-starrer GRACE OF MONACO, their first ever film produced under the banner of their Hollywood-based division, Yash Raj Entertainment (YRE), headed by Uday Chopra. The film, distributed by indie powerhouse The Weinstein Company, got the honour of opening Cannes, and despite dismal reviews, it was probably the first time Uday Chopra was a sight for sore eyes, as he proudly represented YRE and India alongside director Olivier Dahan, Kidman, Tim Roth, the very hot Paz Vega, and several other international names.
     
  2. TRUE LOVE STORY Another proud achievement was the selection of filmmaker Gitanjali Rao’s 18-minute animation film about a coming-of-age Bollywood-fantasy romance that was selected as one of the 10 short films at the Cannes Critics’ Week. Rao’ silent film won her well-deserved accolades at Cannes.


BEST OF THE FEST
Of course, no matter how much the Indian media tries to showcase Cannes as the sister-festival of the International Film Festival of India, Goa, the hard truth is, Cannes has a lot more to offer than Sonam, Freida, Mallika and Jacky Bhagnani (YES, HE WAS THERE TOO!). So here’s a look at the most-talked about films at Cannes 2014:

  1. FOXCATCHER Moneyball director Bennett Miller’s swan song that won him the Best Director, Foxcatcher features a non-funny Steve Carrell as a creepy, schizophrenic millionaire, Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo as wrestlers, and recounts a real life tragic story set around the 1996 Olympics.
  2. MOMMY Canadian indie film prodigy, Xavier Dolan, 25, continued giving everyone an inferiority complex, with his fifth film in as many years. Mommy, about an Oedipal relationship between a single mother and her son, won the Jury Prize.
  3. WINTER SLEEP At a runtime of 196 minutes, you’d think the film’s name would be a sign of its outcome. But Turkish director Nuri Bilge Ceylon took home the Palme d’Or and had critics and fans mesmerised about the brilliance of the class-divide drama.
  4. TWO DAYS, ONE NIGHT The name may suggest otherwise, but the French film directed by the Dardene Brothers, is not a romcom, but a character-study about a woman fighting depression. Two words: Marion Cotillard.
  5. LEVIATHAN The Andrey Zvyagintsev-directed drama, about an ordinary man fighting against the system, took home the Best Screenplay award, and is said to be the best Russian film in years and thankfully, comes with subtitles.
  6. MAPS TO THE STARS The scandalous take on the Hollywood film industry through the eyes of two former child stars, the film, being hailed as David Cronenberg’s return to form, won Julianne Moore the Best Actress Award.
  7. MR TURNER Director Mike Leigh’s biopic of controversial 19th century British artist, JMW Turner, won Timothy Spall the Best Actor Award for his portrayer of Turner.
  8. IT FOLLOWS An indie horror film that is actually scary! David Robert Mitchell got everyone talking about his film about a teenager who has nightmarish visions after a sexual encounter.
  9. WILD TALES ­The following words have been used often in reviews of Damian Szifron’s comic thriller, a multi-story revenge saga: Dark, noir, comic, outrageous, twisted and violent. Yes, it’s an ode to Pulp Fiction.
  10. THE TRIBE A film without a single dialogue would sound exactly the kind of arty film you’d be likely to avoid, but Ukrainian director Myroslav Slaboshpytskiy’s thriller, set in a boarding school for deaf students, is being hailed as a masterpiece. It also has graphic sex, by the way.


Note: 
An edited version of this article first appeared in The Sunday Guardian on June 7, 2014
Link: http://www.sunday-guardian.com/masala-art/festival-de-cannes-2014-films-on-our-must-watch-list

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Why Bhaag Milkha Bhaag should be seen emotionally #Opinion #Film

This was probably the first time I took so long to watch a movie I was looking forward to, because of all the criticism and the frightening runtime. But this was also the first time I was genuinely surprised at all the backlash a movie so lovely has received.

Because #BhaagMilkhaBhaag is a lovely film. Yes, it’s 30 minutes too long, there are places it gets too jarring or melodramatic or jingoistic, the background music at times leads you on, Farhan Akhtar’s Punjabi isn’t upto the mark, Dilip Tahil and Jograj Singh are very average in their roles, it seems that Milkha Singh himself has edited the film (which is to say it’s not been edited at all), yada yada yadaa…. but the truth is, at its core, there’s something very genuine about BMB. Not every film needs to be measured against the barometer of cinematic and technical excellence, some films can just be emotionally invigorating, and that needs to be enough, really.

I know that many have found the film to be emotionally manipulative but the fact is even with its melodrama, the film cannot possibly represent more than a small percentage of the trauma and heart-wrenching journey that Milkha Singh went through in his actual life. If even a few sequences about the life of this great, great man touched us, it’s unfathomable to imagine the horrors he must’ve faced and the trials he must’ve gone through to become the legend he did.

And even in pure cinematic terms, it’s mind-boggling to see the efforts Farhan Akhtar has put into the role; his physical transformation is a remarkable feat for any actor worth his salt, let alone an occasional one like him. Even the cinematography by Binod Pradhan is right up there with the best we’ve seen, and for all its worth, Rakeysh Omprakash Mehra *knows* how to shoot his sports. And at the right points, the background music is stirring as fuck!

If anything, this is a movie with its heart at the right place and a valiant effort in showcasing the life of a true Indian legend, as well as the horrors that a generation not too long ago faced, to a generation that takes far too little time to ‘move on’. Admittedly, he fell in love with his film and the subject, but we really should thank Rakeysh Mehra for putting in the efforts to bring this rousing story to us, and respect the life and the legend – Milkha Singh – who’s inspired it, because he’s inspired us too, and hopefully, through this flawed but lovely piece of cinema, will continue inspiring those to come.

P.S. On a side note, it’s almost impossible to watch a ‘good’ film in an Indian theater now. Be it Ghanchakkar or Lootera, and especially in the case of BMB, the jeering and laughter in the auditorium during serious scenes is fucking annoying, if not continually distracting. I couldn’t believe how people managed to laugh at the scenes of the partition and even in the end, at the message by Milkha Singh. The lack of respect, in general, is a shameful legacy we are passing on, and it’s unbelievable how, as a culture, we have managed to become literate, but not educated.

 

Note: This post was first published on June 18, 2013

Link: http://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10151703965308618&set=a.374244683617.158953.500158617&type=1&stream_ref=10

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© Copyright belongs to the author, Nikhil Taneja. The article may not be reproduced without permission. A link to the URL, instead, would be appreciated.