Ae Dil Maange More

‘Pyar Dosti Hai’ – Karan Johar defined love for us in 1998 when he made the blockbuster Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. Almost two decades later, he revisits the theme of friendship, heart break and one sided love with Ae Dil Hai Muskil. Of course, the characters here are more mature and situations more real. Heck! You don’t even see Triumphal Arch or London Eye.

The film starts off very well and Karan builds on the friendship between Ayan (Terrific Ranbir) and Anushka (Brilliant Anushka) beautifully. Ayan is a rich billionaire who is studying MBA (he wants to be a singer though) while Alizeh is recovering from a broken relationship. They bond over cheesy Bollywood songs from the 80’s, dance on Baby Doll in Yoga classes, do a Yash Chopra film song in the mountains and even sing a Hindi Karaoke in a pub in Paris. Basically, they are mad people and you cannot help but enjoy their madness. While these evoke moments of joy, fun and laughter; there are some genuine heartfelt moments between the two protagonists. Alizeh ‘explaining’ Ayan what heartbreak actually feels like (Keeping a mortal-pestle on his heart) as she has experienced one or Ayan & Alizeh wrapped in a quilt on a cold winter night, discussing their relationship where the former expresses his ‘attraction’ to latter but she believes it’s only friendship are pure gems. I was particularly moved when Ayan pleads Alizeh to marry him at her wedding by keeping a flower pot on his chest to demonstrate the pain. This is Johar at his best. He knows how to manipulate with the emotions and he does that unabashedly, making you reach out to your tissues.

th_2875f1507cb1769f8a7df7f5ed402ef8_1477663739ae2

Second half of the film sees a heartbroken Ayan meeting Saba (Gorgeous Aishwarya) who is a shayara. She writes, he sings and their wounded hearts find solace in each other. However, this is not permanent because first love in a Karan Johar film is not easy to forget and though Ayan is physically involved with Saba, he remains emotionally attached to Alizeh. Even though her part comes with clumsy Urdu lines, she does justice to her role and leaves an impact in a short role. Shah Rukh in a cameo does well and when he says ‘Ek Tarfa Pyar Ki Taakat’ line you know no one does this better than him and how you wish he was young once again.

Johar is a master story teller and he is one of the best we have when it comes to portraying the complexity of relationships but post Aishwarya’s exit the film didn’t work for me.

I am a sucker for Karan Johar dramas and I have never been bothered about the length of his films but how I wish this was a bit shorter. Some of the scenes seemed forced making no sense and I was eventually tired of Ayan’s broken heart act. So much that I stopped feeling for Ayan and Alizeh. I was neither moved when Ayan slept for 2 says in freezing cold on a terrace waiting for Alizeh nor did I feel bad when Ayan cries like a child outside her hotel. I was also bothered about excessive use of Urdu because this is not Karan Johar’s forte and this was him trying to be someone else.

Even though she had a blink & miss appearance in Student of the Year, when Farida Jalal dies in the film, I cried a lot. In fact I still drop a tear whenever I watch it. This is the power of Karan Johar. But he seems to have lost that in Ae Dil Hai Mushkil. Even after investing more than 2 hours in the characters, I didn’t cry when one of them dies.

It’s not a bad film at all but the Karan Johar magic is missing. May be he should get back to doing what he does best and stop being so real. Meanwhile, I shall probably revisit Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna which remains my favorite Johar film 🙂

 

 

Raise a toast, to Margarita!

Margarita with a straw opens up with Revathy driving a Matador on the streets of Delhi with her husband sitting beside her. Her daughter Laila (Kalki Koechlin) is confined to a wheel chair because of cerebral palsy and is bisexual. Shonali Bose gives us two women who have been unheard and unseen of in our Indian films.

The film through its protagonist Laila talks about the sexual desires of the disabled (I hate the word differently-abled). Like everyone else, they also have feelings and it is actually quite “normal” that they desire someone. So, Laila has a crush on one of the boys in her college, she watches porn, openly lusts and also masturbates. She is a free-spirited girl who has not let her condition define her. She is an uninhibited soul who shows middle finger to a judge in a music competition because she awarded Laila due to the sympathy factor. The film effortlessly talks about Laila’s journey of self-discovery, her endeavour to come to terms with her bisexuality and her angst in ‘coming out’ to her mother. Shonali Bose is unafraid of showing sex between Laila and Khanum (Superb Sayani Gupta) & she does it beautifully without any titillation.

CC7f40tWIAABDbT

However, the heart of Margarita with a Straw is the relationship which Laila shares with her Aai (Revathy). Aai’s relationship is filled with warmth, love and understanding. She teaches Laila music, bathes her, combs her hair, helps her put on the clothes, approves her decision to go abroad and study even though her husband opposes and like every mother she is frustrated when she finds out her daughter watches porn and is bisexual. Revathy is absolutely brilliant and spontaneous in her role that we all can see our mother in her.

Director Shonali Bose lost her son few years back and she has often talked about it on her Facebook page and one can feel the personal loss in the film when Laila loses her mother. The death of Aai is one of the most poignant and heart warming scenes which I have seen in a film of late. Watch out for the scene when Laila sits next to her Aai’s dead body with her poem playing in the background. I sobbed, I cried and I howled.

As the film ended, I wasn’t feeling pity or sympathetic for Laila and that is exactly what Shonali Bose wanted from us. She doesn’t create a martyr out of Laila. She is like one of us with flaws. Kalki Koechlin literally breathes the character of Laila. From movements to speech; she gets it all correct. This is undoubtedly her best performance till date and probably the strongest by any female actor in recent times. There are very few film which have heart at the right place; this is definitely one of those. Dear Shonali Bose, take a bow!

Shabana Azmi @ 40 : 4 Favorite Performances

As a self-confessed Shabana Azmi devotee; it’s next to impossible to pick up 4 best performances from her body of work because she is just brilliant in every film. However, as she completes 40 years in the Indian film industry, I share four characters/performances which I loved the most.

1. Ankur

Shyam Benegal’s Ankur is one of my favorite films of all times. Interestingly, this was the first film of Shyam Benegal and Shabana Azmi who created the path for parallel or off-beat cinema as it is called now. Based on a true story, Ankur is a film that mirrors the brutal feudal system which prevailed in India and the evil social customs that had (still have) chained India. The beauty of Ankur is that it addresses various social issues from alcoholism and casteism to inequality and dowry; yet it is more about the underlying human relationships.

However, if I have to pick one reason as to why I love this film then it is because of Shabana Azmi who shines in the character of Lakshmi. She excels as a coy yet strong house servant who submits to her master who is attracted to her. We don’t know whether Lakshmi also loved her master or approved of the affair or whether she used him to get the child she had been yearning for. Her eyes speak of the emotions which churn within her. Ankur is truly class apart!

 

2. Mandi

Another Benegal film and it is probably one of the most enjoyable characters played by Shabana Azmi on-screen. At an age of 33, Shabana played the character of ‘Rukmini’ who was a woman much ahead of her years and she delivered an incredibe performance. I remember Shabana Azmi sharing in an interview that how she had to put on weight & chew paan continuously to look the part.   leads the film as Rukmini, the domineering but caring madame of the house. Her unusually loud tone with the ‘Hyderabadi’ accent and crudely unrefined mannerisms are brilliantly done, and it’s great to see her switching moods from angry to happy to suffering to motherly and loving. This is one of her most amazing performances.

 

3. Morning Raga

This happens to be one of the most challenging roles played by Shabana Azmi her career and unfortunately this remains her most under-rated performance. Playing a Carnatic singer is no mean feat but Shabana Azmi gets into the skin of the character and excels. She had undergone a great deal of training for this part in order to understand how Carnatic singers sing, their body language and mannerisms when they sing. She did not sing the songs but the lip-sync is done exceptionally well that one seldom realizes that someone else is singing.

 

4. Godmother

Godmother was stated to be inspired by the life of Santokben Jadeja,  who ran the Mafia operations in Gujarat in the late 1980s and later turned politician. Shabana Azmi got her fifth national award for the portrayal of ‘Rambhi’. Right from the accent to the body language, she gets it all correct. Shabana Azmi essays the ruthless confidence with great elan. I would be at a shortage of adjectives if I start writing about how much I loved her in the film.

চাঁদের পাহাড় : Take this journey

I am a typical North Indian who grew up watching Hindi films. And like most North Indians, Indian cinema equaled Hindi films for me. However, education brought me to South and courtesy my hostel friends, I was introduced to the world of regional cinema. And soon I realized that some of the outstanding films made are NOT always in Hindi.

Chander Pahar is my first film of 2014 and happens to be my second Bengali film in the theater. The first was Aparna Sen’s ‘Iti Mrinalini’. And I must say that I wasn’t disappointed. After a long time, I have enjoyed watching an adventure film so much and I couldn’t help but write about it. So, here I shoot!

Chander Pahar is based on Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay novel by the same name and as my Bengali friends tell me it is considered to be one of the finest novels in the Bengali literature. The story is about Shankar Roy Chowdhury who has got himself a job in a jute mill in his village but he yearns for a life full of adventure and risks as he is influenced by explorers like Marco Polo and Livingstone about whom he grew up reading. Luckily, he finds a job in South Africa and then starts his eventful journey in Africa.

1504396_684290874925959_903902458_o

The first half of the film is about Shankar’s encounters with the African wild as a station master at Uganda Railways. The sequences involving the wild animals are directed so well that you can’t take your eyes off the screen when Shankar escapes the man-eater lion in the dead dark-night or when the black mamba snake crawls onto his bed. Watch out for the moment when Shankar opens his eyes and finds the snake staring at him from a few inches; the terror and discomposure on his face is just so real! One of my favorite scenes was when Shankar uses himself as a bait by drenching him into animal blood to catch the man-eating lion. The best part about the film is that it is shot with real animals and none of them are graphically developed barring the tacky ‘Bunyip’.  Remember Dharma Production’s ‘Kaal’? Made at approximately the same budget and it was also shot with real lions but what a farce it had turned out to be! The makers can learn from Kamaleshwar Mukherjee.

The second half of the film is about the journey of Shankar along with his explorer friend Alvarez to the ‘Mountain of Moon’ and the innumerable hardships they face. The film however loses its steam in the middle with the totally unwanted sequence of volcano eruption. May be I would have liked it had it been done more skillfully. The whole sequence seemed too fake and much of it was because of the shoddy graphics. But, given the budget constraints which Indian films suffer, I think I can ignore it. Following it, Shankar’s expedition through the caves, forests and desert stretches is splendid.

We have been mostly shown the ‘gorgeous’ locations of South Africa in the films but Chander Pahar shows us Africa minus the South.  The cinematography of the film is just brilliant and one of the major reasons why the film works. You cannot help but fall in love with the natural landscape of Africa. The shots in Drakensberg mountains, Kalahari desert and Kruger National Park are breath-taking. Interestingly, this is the first film to be shot in Kalahari after a gap of 17 years. In an adventure film, it is always crucial that you get the cinematics correct and Chander Pahar doesn’t disappoint.

The actor Dev Adhikari breathes the character and there is a lot of sincerity in his work. Be it is the childlike enthusiastic Shankar eager to take the quest to the Chander Pahar or the bereaved explorer fighting for survival. India doesn’t have a great history when it comes to adventure films and I  doff my hat to director Kamaleshwar Mukherjee for making Chander Pahar. It needs courage to make a film without songs & dance with two men wandering around in the jungle for 2.5 hours. Though made at a budget of just 15 crore it looks so large and glorious on-screen. Hope the Hindi counterparts can learn a thing or two who spend waste crores on shitty films. The film would have been even better if it was edited well and had a better background score as most of the time it adopts the usual tunes associated with Africa.

Chander Pahar is the story of courage, endurance and determination. The film also subtly leaves the message of humans destroying the nature as one of the dialogues says “Beasts don’t kill. It is the human greed that kills”. Last but not the least a life lesson for all of us; “It is better to travel than to arrive”.

I would suggest you to drop everything that you are doing and arrive in a theater near you. Venkatesh Films has released it with sub-titles. Take this journey and you can thank me later!