Category Archives: Movie Reviews (Indian)

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 🙂
Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /
tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:
@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,
on Youtube: /tanejamainhoo

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
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.

On Bombay Velvet: How internet is killing the movie and the curse of being Anurag Kashyap #NotaReview

This is not a review of Bombay Velvet. Because whatever I say about Bombay Velvet doesn’t matter to you at all. You’ve already made up your mind about how you feel about Bombay Velvet, even especially if you haven’t seen it, because you have read gossip about the film’s edit issues before its release, or you’ve read Komal Nahta’s tweet about how two shows of the film got cancelled in the morning, or you’ve read a review of the film by critics who were ‘let down’ by this film.

For that matter, you have decided that no matter what others say, you will like this film because you are a Ranbir fan, an Anushka fan, or an Anurag Kashyap fan (are there any left though?). You may like it because everyone’s disliking it and you are a hipster, or you may like it because of the amazing irony of how a Rs 100 crore budget film has become an underdog. You may just like it because your expectations were lowered by the reviews of critics or your friends, and now you don’t find the film *that* bad.

It’s beside the point that I loved the film and its characters and its setting and the outstanding music, it’s pointless reviewing Bombay Velvet because invariably, I must belong to one or more of the sects I mentioned in the previous paragraph, perhaps without even knowing it. Because clearly, no one’s reviewing movies anymore, everyone’s reviewing their expectations of it.

Expectations vs the Film
Let me attempt to explain: When was the last time we walked into a movie theater without any expectations from the film whatsoever? Even if we didn’t have high expectations of the film, we certainly didn’t have no expectations else why would we spend your hard earned money and our precious time watching the film?

The reason we had these expectations (as little as they may be) is because we liked the trailer of the movie, or we like the actors in it, or the director of it or because it came recommended to us by a critic or a friend. So the film ultimately either lived up to these expectations, or fell short of them, and our opinion on the movie is an outcome of that. That’s largely how it’s always been when it comes to movie watching but ever since social media has happened to our lives, our expectations have started getting skewed much more sharply than ever before. With the groundswell of opinions on every movie, especially if they are STRONG and LOUD (whether positive or negative), our expectations have *become* our review of the movie. Think about it, we now rarely feel any different after watching a movie from what is being said about the movie, or the opinion we formed about it beforehand.

We already liked Piku before we entered the theater to watch it because EVERYONE LOVED IT. We were already impressed by the excellence of Court because EVERYONE WAS IMPRESSED BY IT. We were already disappointed with Detective Bymokesh Bakshy because EVERYONE WAS LET DOWN BY IT. We were already blown away by Fast and Furious because EVERYONE WAS BLOWN AWAY BY IT. Perhaps you are one of the rare people who felt the opposite for every movie I mentioned or you genuinely liked/disliked the previous movies and that has nothing to do with ‘everyone’. The truth, as they say, is probably somewhere in between.

The curse of being Anurag Kashyap
Let me put it another way: What if Court was made by Anurag Kashyap? What is Piku was made by Sajid Khan? What if Byomkesh Bakshy was made by Chaitanya Tamhane? What if Fast and Furious was made by Michael Bay? What if Bombay Velvet was made by Anand Gandhi?  Just think over this for a second. Would we still feel exactly the same about these movies? More importantly, would the *critics* feel the same way about them? Of course we wouldn’t. Because somewhere, we can’t disassociate the filmmaker from the film and that is true even moreso for critics.

Prove me wrong by showing me a review of Bombay Velvet that does not talk about Anurag Kashyap’s ambitions with this film, the film compared to his other work, the film with respect to other gangster film, the budget of the film, the expected box office, the negative buzz around it, etc etc etc. You’d be surprised if you find a review that only talks about the film and nothing else but the film because Anurag Kashyap is intricately linked to this film, but is that really fair? Why isn’t it only about the film anymore?

If you completely disagree with me on this, here’s another perspective: What if Woody Allen, who has been accused of being a pedophile, gets convicted? You’d certainly not be inclined to revere him as a person but would it have any bearing on what you think of him as a director? But that’s actually immaterial, to be honest, because the only question that matters is: would it change the way you feel about his films? Will Annie Hall make you feel any differently or will you love Midnight in Paris any less, knowing that the director behind him may not be a very good man? It won’t and it shouldn’t because it *really* doesn’t matter who has made a film. Only your connection to it matters.

Internet criticism
But that may not be true in the case of critics in the internet age. I read the reviews of a few critics who found Akshay Kumar’s Gabbar mildly enjoyable and gave it around 2.5 stars. I saw the film and it definitely didn’t suck as much as every other south remake but 2.5 stars? Bombay Velvet has got 2.5 stars. Byomkesh Bakshy got 2.5 stars. Are Gabbar and Bombay Velvet/Byomkesh Bakshy at the same level in ANY way? I’m not trying to be a condescending asshole or a cacophonous fanboy (although that’s beside the point too because you’ve already made up your mind either way, haven’t you?). What I’m trying to say is: Did Gabbar make you FEEL for even one second? What did you take back home after watching Gabbar? On the other hand – are you saying NOTHING in Bombay Velvet or Byomkesh made you feel? You took back NOTHING after watching them?

I’m not at all comparing popcorn films with ‘cinema’ and trying to draw a fail parallel. Because I LOVE popcorn cinema. Absolutely LOVE it. Because the best popcorn cinema also makes you FEEL – it could any feeling from awe and joy to aww and joy. (If you get the time, please do read this piece by Sady Doyle on popcorn cinema; possibly the best written article on cinema this year: http://www.wired.com/2015/05/marvel-killing-the-popcorn-movie/). Gabbar didn’t make me feel, neither do any of the umpteen other South remakes. Avengers (not part 2) did make me feel though, as did The Fault in our Stars in the same way that a Dhoom 3 and 2 States made me feel *something*. They are the epitome of popcorn films but I took away something back home after watching them. I took away something from Bombay Velvet and Byomkesh too, but nothing from Gabbar. Yet they are all given a star rating of 2.5 stars and to be honest, that blows my mind.

I am not calling out critics too (I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinions and how am I to say my opinion is better than yours?) but I do have a problem with criticism connected with expectations. Because I fail to understand how ratings can be flexible according to expectations. The reason Gabbar got 2.5 was because the reviewers went into theaters expecting to see an absolutely horrible film but were surprised that it didn’t suck THAT BAD. On the other hand, Byomkesh got 2.5 because the reviewers were expecting to be blown away but that didn’t happen; and Bombay Velvet got 2.5 stars because the reviewers expected to be let down and that’s exactly what happened. I admit, some of this is informed from my understanding of criticism because I was a ‘critic’ for a while for Firstpost.com and to be honest, I occasionally suffered from the same issues too.

It may have been JUST me and perhaps I wasn’t qualified enough to be an opinion-giver (‘critic’ is too strong a word to my liking), and I may be ENTIRELY wrong and presumptuous about internet criticism (because criticism without the support of the internet today does not exist). But the truth is, it was only after I left my opinion hat at home and started watching films as a filmbuff that I began to see them for what they are. My feelings towards any film, now, are based on what I feel *because* of the film, or if I feel because of it at all. It has nothing to do with the perception of the film or the cast and the crew.

Why Bombay Velvet cannot be left to die
I loved Bombay Velvet. I didn’t connect with it in the first thirty minutes at all, but then I was slowly pulled in by it and by the end of it, I had been wholly consumed by all the complexity at play – the class divide of Khambatta and Balraj, the love story of Johnny and Rosie, the angst of Balraj to rise above his so-called aukaad, the loyalty of Chiman, and all else. The music was the true champion of the film and Amit Trivedi’s OUTSTANDING score interpreted on film is reason alone to watch this film. I loved the world of the film created by its superlative cast (Ranbir, Anushka, Satyadeep, Karan and Kay Kay took my breath away) and crew, and contrary to what many have said, I felt that the film didn’t reach its full potential because of the edit, done by the great Thelma Schoonmaker and Prerna Saigal.

In the first thirty minutes, to give the film a certain pace and atmosphere, what I felt were crucial scenes of romance between Rosie and Johnny weren’t allowed to breathe and were cut off just when they needed that little pause for us to feel deeper. The uneven pace of the film throughout is its biggest downfall and somewhere, there is a director’s cut which could be 3 hours long but which I suspect I may love more. But I still love Bombay Velvet, but as I had mentioned upfront, what I think of the film doesn’t even matter.

The more time spent on the internet consuming about movies before watching them, is killing the experience of watching any movie for what it is. Remember the unparalleled pleasure of being in a cinema hall at one with a movie, and discovering it unfold one scene at a time, before the onslaught of teasers of teasers and trailers 2,7,10? Before Twitter and Facebook told you EVERYTHING you didn’t want to know about the film but would have liked seeing or deciding for yourself? Before opinions were jammed down your throat because you live on the internet and opinion-givers do too?

Hence my opinion of Bombay Velvet is immaterial. What matters is what *you* think of it. And the only way for you to decide is not by reading snarky comments about it on the internet but by going to the theater and watching it yourself. Watch it not because I or anyone else liked the film, but because such an intricately created and painstakingly mounted film is certainly worth your time – at least worth more than reading all the gossip about it. Whether you love, like or dislike it, watching a movie of this scale, design and feel isn’t an experience you get often in India cinema, and will certainly not get anymore if this film is doomed by the wrath of the internet and the curse of being Anurag Kashyap.

Do not let the internet kill Bombay Velvet. Do not let the internet kill movies.

Agree/disagree with the piece? Want to tell me how I suck and don’t know jackshit? Leave your thoughts in the comments below 🙂
Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /
tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:
@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,
on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

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.

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 🙂
Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /
tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter:
@tanejamainhoonon Instagram:@tanejamainhoon,
on Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

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.

Baby: Neeraj Pandey is the Raju Hirani of Bollwyood action thrillers! #Review

It’s been a while since I’ve felt compelled to write a review of a Bollywood film and to be honest, I didn’t think an Akshay Kumar film would be that film but here we are! The horribly named Baby, Neeraj Pandey’s third film, is the Indian action thriller that we didn’t know we needed, and if enough people watch it, I do hope it become exactly the blueprint of what an Indian action thriller *should* be.

Let’s get the obvious out of the way: Yes, the bar for a ‘Bollywood’ action thriller is so low that in retrospect, Ghajini seems like a classic, especially because it was the starting point for the downward spiral of the garbage dump that were the South remakes, from Bodyguard all the way to Action Jackson. Many of such crimes committed on the audiences in the name of cinema were inflicted by Akshay Kumar himself, so what Neeraj Pandey has pulled off in Baby, with Kumar at its helm, is nothing sort of an achievement!

To reiterate: Baby is an absolutely awesome surprise. I did not go into the theatre expecting to be as thrilled as I ended up being in the nearly three hours of its runtime, which really went by just as fast as the speed in which Akshay ran throughout this movie – because clearly, this time he was running for the cause that is his career. And if this is an attempt at redemption, Akshay can consider all his sins forgotten (including Rowdy Rathore, which I as *very* reluctant to forgive), because the man’s redeemed himself and how.

Baby is another film in the long line of films trying to decode the India-Pakistan issue through a cat-and-mouse game between Pakistani fundamentalists (or ISI) and the Indian ATS/IB/RAW/Whatnot. Where many others have failed in the past, Baby succeeds on the merit of a tight, gripping script that really gives you no time to think in between scenes. The film starts with action, ends with action – and baring a few awkward, cringe-worthy attempts at showcasing the ‘family’ angle of things – there is loads of action everywhere in between.

But the action here follows a plot that is just a little too smart for your average Bollywood action film, and just a little too Bollywood for your superior action thriller. Pakistani jihadists are planning a bigger attack than 26/11 and it is upto Akshay Kumar and his special ATS forces team (codename: Baby) to save the day, but everything done, acted and shown, leading upto the climactic saving of the day is done with great flair, structure and even logic(!). I’ve realised that in that way, Neeraj Pandey may just be the Raju Hirani of Bollywood action thrillers: his films manage to walk run across the fine line between ‘typical Bollywood’ and ‘good cinema’, and deliver some power packed punches in the simplest manner.

So while there are scenes where Danny Denzongpa (brilliant, as usual) spends a good chunk of time explaining the logic behind what is happening and what needs to, whenever there is the opportunity of a seeti/taali moment, Neeraj Pandey never shies away from that either. And there are *many* such moments, and when I heard the audiences maaroing either, for the first time in ages, I didn’t feel like throwing up… because they were surprisingly well deserved! Then, of course, there’s all the humour that Pandey brought to the proceedings in the most unpredictable of ways, and some moments *really* had you laughing hard (especially the ones with the rod and the slap – you’ll know which).

To be very honest, I always thought Neeraj Pandey was a gareebon ka Paul Greengrass, but he’s proved me wrong and how. It’s not that the film is super slick or jazzed up (it isn’t). Could Baby have looked more Agent Vinod and less A Wednesday? Yes. Does it matter? Absolutely not. Because while Pandey has ensured enough aerial shots, wide shots, and other camera tricks to give the film that grandness, what ultimately works for the film is how real it is: not for a second do you believe something like this is not being pulled off by our own soldiers already. And that’s really Pandey’s trump card. He makes make believe believable!

There’s just so much I loved about Baby – the action sequence where Taapsee Pannu kicks major ass, the level of detail wherein after an explosion, Akshay Kumar’s character sports a bruise on his face throughout the film, the fantastic acting by the supporting cast no matter how small or big a role they had, Anupam Kher the legend, and so much more – that the Argo-inspired climax is but a little bump in the bigger picture that is the movie.

So though I already may have, I don’t want to wayyy oversell Baby, but I *cannot* stress enough that this movie deserves to be watched, and in theaters. Watch it for Akshay, watch it for Pandey, or watch it because there is nothing else playing in Indian films that is remotely watchable, but do watch Baby. It is perhaps the most fun you’d have in watching an Indian a Bollywood action thriller.

Like The Tanejamainhoon Page on Facebook: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoonon Twitter: @tanejamainhoon, on Instagram: @tanejamainhoonon Youtube: /tanejamainhoon

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.

Haider is Vishal Bharadwaj’s inteqaam on Salman Khan’s cinema #MovieReview #Haider #SPOILERS

Spoiler Alert: Salman Khan and the headline of this piece is discussed in the first 4 paragraphs and contains a spoiler. Read from paragraph 5 if you want to avoid it.

Note: Have added my view on the debate around Haider in the existing review, in the last three paragraphs.

Haider is a film that makes daring statements about many different things over the course of its runtime. But the most artful statement it makes has to do with Salman Khan. * spoilers follow* In the movie, set in 1995, two brothers (or friends), both called Salman, are Salman fanatics (fondly called ‘Bhaitards’ on the internet): they are not only obsessive about Salman’s movies, they also impersonate him down to his look, style, and behaviour. They run a Bollywood VHS parlour, dressed almost entirely with posters of Salman’s mug, in the middle of a lake in Kashmir and sell Salman Khan ‘Bollywood’s Rocky and all time superstar’ to anyone, Indian or American, who wants to indulge in the movies.

To cut a long story short, the turning point of the film is brought about when Haider, brutally and mercilessly stones the two Salmans to death. If you haven’t watched the film and are still reading this, let me assure you that the murders are well-deserved, in the context of the movie, of course (otherwise they aren’t, so umm, don’t do them). The two Salmans are basically sidekicks without a hero, and also without a brain of their own, who go to whichever side is most profitable; within the movie, the tide is the Indian army, and it is most profitable to kill Haider, but they end up dead instead.

I generally don’t tend to make too much of symbolism in a movie but I almost stood up in my seat to applaud Vishal Bhardwaj when Haider *literally* stoned Salmans (who were Salman buffs), to death. The movie, which eloquently discusses, dissects and waxes eloquent on ‘inteqaam’, is essentially Vishal Bhardwaj’s inteqaam on Salman Khan’s brand of cinema; the brand of mindless entertainment, the sidekicks of what ‘cinema’ really is, that cares about little other than profit.

This may just be me – I don’t know if anyone else has brought up this point – and perhaps, like many on social media tend to think so, Bhardwaj *is* in fact paying tribute to Salman through the characters and his songs and film clips. But to think of it, is it a mere coincidence that among the many camps that potential terrorists are taken to, is a camp in which the men in uniform are watching a Salman Khan movie? Where I am concerned, Vishal Bhardwaj has, with Haider, unabashedly made a statement on the condition of cinema in India, and with a film this fantastic, stoned ‘Bollywood’ in the face, to prove that a great piece of cinema can also be pretty ‘mainstream’.

Because Haider is both a defiance of all that is Bollywood, and at the very same time, an ode to it. It’s got the ‘rooh’ of an art film, but the body of a contemporary Bollywood classic. It stays within the parameters of all that Bollywood is – there is at least one forced romantic song, there is a love story that’s trying hard to fit in, among all the nuanced characters there’s still a conventional hero and villain, there’s at least one slightly well-known token Kashmiri actor in Aamir Bashir whose role as the heroine’s evil brother is basically being angry all the time, there’s the most famous Bollywood problem: not knowing how to shorten a great film to a perfect one because you are in love with your product, and the film’s also got its own Salman Khan in Irrfan: the introductory scene of Irrfan basically makes you realise that Irrfan is Vishal Bhardwaj’s Salman Khan! – and yet, the film succeeds on all other levels as a cinematic achievement.

The direction is masterful; every shot has been conceived as a labour of love and it is evident that this was a film Bhardwaj possibly took even more seriously than any other in his illustrious career. The cinematography (Pankaj Kumar) is unbelievably good, I doubt anyone else can claim a better shot Bollywood film this year; the dialogues are exquisite… really, more than the music itself, I found the dialogues to be music to the ears in the way they were written and of course in the way they were expressed. Because every dialogue was expressed by an actor in a way that they owned that dialogue; that those words were written only for them and no one else in the world could perform them any better. Because the acting performances in Haider are possibly some of the best in contemporary cinema, of *any* country. From a newbie like Shraddha Kapoor to the character actors (the two Salmans) to seasoned ones, everyone is remarkable, even in the smallest of roles (Kulbhushan Kharbanda!).

Of course, Tabu and Kay Kay Menon steal every scene they are in because they are just that damn good. The oedipal layer that Tabu brings to her character is disconcerting, and the humanity that Kay Kay brings to a character so rotten is incredible. But that’s to be expected of the two stalwarts. What stands out in the movie, and which is one of the two greatest achievements of Haider – is the rise of Shahid Kapoor as a man amongst the boys.

With this movie, in fact from a single scene – the radio scene, which is bound to go down as iconic in film folklore as one of the bravest, most badass pieces of Indian cinema – Shahid has cemented his place amongst the likes of Ranbir Kapoor, as one of the finest and most terrific young actors in the country. Shahid evidently stripped himself of himself for the movie; he doesn’t just play Haider, he *is* Haider. This is a career defining performance, if there ever was one, and this could very well be Shahid’s McConaissance. Shahid Kapoor is the new Matthew McConaughey, and Haider is his True Detective. If, hereon, Shahid manages to build on the shoulders of Haider, he may well have booked a place among the greats of his generation, but if he goes back to his ‘Gandi baat’, it would be a loss tragic to our cinema.

The other great achievement of Haider – of course – is to bring the Kashmir issue to the front and center of Bollywood, which is the front and center of everything India is. The film pulls few punches and holds up an unflattering mirror on delicate matters like army torture, plebiscite and more – but ultimately, it is wise to remember that this is a film and not a political mouthpiece or propaganda. There is a story of a person and a family being told here, and that story does not necessarily depict all sides of the conflict.  I have hence tried not to make this review about the issue as well, because while films are often a commentary on society, Haider doesn’t claim to be one, and the only thing that it tries to be faithful to is Shakespeare and his tragedy, Hamlet, of which it is an adaptation.

Haider should hence be seen only through a cinematic lens and not a political one; because a piece of fiction cannot be held accountable for not judiciously reproducing history. Bhardwaj and cowriter Basharat Peer deserve praise for bravely representing on screen a version of a specific part of history that’s seldom been spoken about in mainstream cinema, and the onus is up to us to understand its background and its reality. The emotional response to Haider by those who feel strongly about the other side of events should ideally be channeled into a discussion or turned into prose or poetry through any artistic medium, and a film like Haider should be welcomed because it means that major Indian studios (DISNEY UTV Motion Pictures) and the censor board are now ready to share such stories, if well made, on the big screen.

The story of, and in, Haider may or may not attempt to give a mainstream voice to a specific, marginalised community, but if the film starts a meaningful conversation about Kashmir in the homes of ‘the masses’, and if its ultimate message – that revenge is never the answer – is the takeaway by audiences far and wide, then Haider won’t just be an achievement for Indian cinema, but an achievement for the Indian collective conscience.

Follow the blog on your left and like The Tanejamainhoon Page on FB: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoononTwitter:
@tanejamainhoononInstagram:@tanejamainhoon,
onYoutube: /tanejamainhoon

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.

DAAWAT-E-ISHQ: HABIB FAISAL ROCKS! #FBMOVIEREVIEW

By Nikhil Taneja (@tanejamainhoon). Original article: http://goo.gl/Uk51lH

How much romance should be in a romantic comedy? I have always felt that the makers of contemporary Bollywood romcoms have not been able to figure that out yet. There’s the new age filmmakers, who believe in ‘less is more’ so there seems to be this big fear when something reaches towards an emotion, or more like, ‘OHMYGOD EMOTION! WHAT DO WE DO NOW? THIS WILL MAKE PEOPLE FEEL AND THAT WILL DESTROY THE WORLD’. For example, the recent Finding Fanny, or Hasee Toh Phasee or Shuddh Desi Romance or you know, Dunno Y.. Na Jaane Kyun (#badjoke).

Then there’s the old school Bollywood filmmakers – or new age old school Bollywood filmmakers – who are basically the sons of somebody or one of the 100 relatives of the Bhatts, who approach emotion as a fat man would approach food: ‘LET’S HAVE EVERYTHING! THIS IS SPARTAAAAAAAAAAA!’ For example, Ek Villain, Aashiqui 2, Tum Mile, and 300 (#secondbadjoke)

And then there’s Dharma, YRF and Imtiaz Ali, who straddle the thin line in between, basically behaving like a drunk guy walking trying to walk straight: one time he will fall to the left, one time he will fall to the right, but he can never, ever stay in the middle. But every once a while, there comes a guy who, like a veteran drunk, can contain his daaru, and *own* this bloody line. Habib Faisal is one such veteran piyakkad (and I’m going to ignore that he wrote Bewakoofiyan because you know what, shit happens, ok?).

Faisal so expertly straddles the rom and the com in his movies that it’s hard to believe the genes of a 16 year old teenage girl and a, say, Asrani or Mehmood, or Keshto Mukherjee, doesn’t run in his blood at the same time (although I have no proof it doesn’t).

Let me cut the crap now and get to the point: Dawaat E Ishq is a romcom feast! It’s a delicious (#wordthatgoeswithdaawat) film with just the right ingredients in just the right quantity (#diditagain) and all the right garnishing on top (#somebodystopme) to make for a perfectly cooked meal (#omgthisisadisease) of love and fun. (#sorry)

I’m not going to get into the story since you should discover that yourself, but what I really loved about the movie is that it’s a movie that completely maintains its irreverent tone from the very beginning to the very end; never for once taking itself too seriously. When there is romance, it’s emphasised so very well in body language or through the eyes, or through the face; basically through everything Parineeti Chopra does because she’s just that damn awesome.

And when there’s drama, it is emphasised not with blaring emotional background music (*cough* Bhansali films *cough*)or a bucketful of glycerine (*cough cough* Bhansali films *gets asthma *); but just through great writing that leads itself to a conflict so well, that you are naturally intrigued to what could happen next. And what happens next, is usually a witty line or a smart foil of a cliché, usually through the OUTSTANDING Anupam Chopra – who is just as good as an Amitabh Bachchan or a Rishi Kapoor in any damn thing he does; in fact, several times he’s better – and the very charming Aditya Roy Kapoor, who’s quite a revelation, really.

For example, in the scene in which Gullu (the girl) has just been proposed to, the camera just stays on her face for a bit – and she is given the freedom to make us feel. And she does it so damn well, that you can’t help but feel and get tingly inside, perhaps because of the direction, perhaps because it’s Parineeti! And when there’s a conflict – like the finale – without giving any spoilers – there’s a leap of logic and some surreality but never any hammering the point away, all done to maintain that fantastic tone that’s been carried from scene one.

The chemistry between Parineeti and Aditya Roy is quite outstanding. To be honest, Parineeti can generate chemistry with a dying puppy if she wants (#ArjunKapoor #runningjoke); but full credit to Aditya Roy Kapoor, who’s taken to the role of a dil-phenk Lucknawi nawaab of the streets, like Deepika has taken to an anti-TOI activist (#snarky #sorryDeepu). To be honest, I really didn’t know Kapoor can act so well, but he’s immensely likeable in this, and makes one thing clear: he belongs among the leads, and he’s here to stay.

Karan Wahi, in the small role he has, is very, very sweet and, pardon my French, cute, and does a super job of making us like him. I really want to see what Kapoor and Wahi do next; their charm is a healthy thing in an industry that needs more of them else Saif Ali Khan will NEVER STOP playing romcom roles. IS THAT WHAT YOU WANT? And once again: Anupam Kher!!!!!!!!!!! I mean, what an actor!!!!!!! What a star!!!!!!!!! He owns every frame of what he does!!

The only thing that got my goat a little bit were the badly placed songs, and well, the fact that it had very little plot, but when did things like plot ever come in the way of an enjoyable film, right? I would totally recommend the film: it’s such a great family film after such a long, long time. Light, breezy and very entertaining. And the best part: while being all this, it also makes such a fantastic point about a social evil dowry (so very Rajkumar Hirani-esque, yay). So basically: Habib Faisal roxxxx!

Like The Tanejamainhoon Page on Facebook: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB:/tanejamainhoononTwitter: @tanejamainhoon, on Instagram:@tanejamainhoononYoutube: /tanejamainhoon

Note: This article first was first put up on Facebook on September 19, 2014. Link: http://goo.gl/Uk51lH

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.

Finding Fanny: Because Deepika Padukone #Review

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

To be honest, I wasn’t really looking forward to Finding Fanny because it looked damn pretentious and it was made by Illuminati Films [*read Edit*] who are most famous for getting fantastic directors to make the shittiest movie of their careers. For example, Sriram Raghavan’s Agent Vinod, Homi Adjania’s Cocktail, and Imtiaz Ali’s Love Aaj Kal, which wasn’t as bad as the rest, but whose second half is as random as casting Vir Das for two dance numbers. And when they made one great film *finally*, Go Goa Gone, they went on record to say that they’ll never be making a film like this, because it lost them money, and also probably because it doesn’t suit their filmography that comprises of shitty films. But, ultimately I went for it, because Deepika Padukone.

To my surprise, the film turned out to be a sweet, pleasant film that had some mad funny scenes and some outstanding acting by the greats: Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah and Dimple Kapadia. And Deepika Padukone. What the film lacks so spectacularly in plot, it makes up through some genuinely funny Pankaj Kapur moments and some genuinely heartfelt Naseeruddin Shah moments and some genuinely over the top Dimple Kapadia moments. It also stars Anand Tiwari in a hilarious cameo; I think Anand Tiwari is one of the best actors today, and he pretty much stole every scene he was in. Also Deepika Padukone.

Of course, the film is pretentious and laboured quirky at many places, like the whole ‘random Russian dude in Goa’ angle, and the enormously dull, boring, bland, uninteresting, badly written, pointless and *insert own adjective* Deepika Padukone-Arjun Kapoor love story that was forced into the film because casting the two stars was the only way that people would come to watch it. On a side note, I’m now beginning to worry that Arjun Kapoor’s entire range of emotions is limited to looking like a dying puppy, or maybe Homi didn’t care because Deepika Padukone.

At just 1 hours and 40 minutes, the film is a breezy one time watch, so it’s not going to kill you, although it won’t make you stronger either (sorry, bad joke). But you really *should* watch it to see our film legends in roles that they’re really having the time of their lives in. Also did I mention Deepika Padukone?

P.S. Still not sure the delight of Finding Fanny was worth the pain and anguish of suffering Cocktail. (*dramatic pause*) Nope, it wasn’t. Nothing ever will be. But then again, Deepika Padukone.

[Edit: Turns out its not Illuminati who made this but Dinesh Vijan, which explains to me that it’s basically Saif who’s screwing up all their films. Which makes even more sense because he worked with Tigmanshu Dhulia for Bullett Raja and that was Tigmanshu’s worst film. So SAIF IS THE CULPRIT]

Like The Tanejamainhoon Page on Facebook: /tanejamainhoonpage
Follow Nikhil Taneja on FB: /tanejamainhoononTwitter: @tanejamainhoon, on Instagram: @tanejamainhoononYoutube: /tanejamainhoon

Note: This article first was first put up on Facebook on September 14, 2014. Link: http://goo.gl/uHBVTN

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.