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.

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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 🙂

 

 

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.

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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!

To Cinema – With Love, Bombay Talkies

The first film that I saw in a theatre was way back in 1994 when Hum Aapke Hain Kaun had released. I was in standard one and I still remember how I coaxed my dad daily to get the tickets. Yes, like many of you who read this; even I find it difficult to believe but I had this thing about movies since childhood. I am one of those zillion crazy fans around in our country who love cinema. I have made a failed attempt of getting up at 5.00 AM in the morning and travelling 20 odd kms only to get a glimpse of Shah Rukh Khan. I have for no reason maintained this list of all the movies that I have seen in a theatre till date (Keeps getting updated). I don’t mind going alone and watching a film if I don’t have company. I still get excited when I get a reply from my favourite actors on twitter. I have wasted so many hours arguing with fiends defending my favourite actor and his/her films. I hate cricket but I support KKR because it is owned by Shah Rukh. To be precise; I breathe cinema!

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Apart from the fact that Bombay Talkies celebrates 100 years of Indian cinema; I was excited because it had four of the most sought after directors to tell us four different stories. Very few films are able to pull out the lazy blogger inside me and Bombay Talkies is one of those few. So, here is what I felt about the film. NOT a review because I am no critic. This one’s straight from the heart as an audience!

Ajeeb Dastaan Hai Yeh

Karan Johar is one of my favorite directors so for obvious reasons I was most excited about his part in the film. Right from the start this story jolts you and catches your attention.The characters here are flawed and hurting as hell. You have a young homosexual who has just left his parents after a tiff with his dad who is ashamed to have a homosexual son, an editor whose marriage (read sex life) lacks passion and her news anchor husband who is lonely and finds solace in old Hindi film songs. I always like complex characters in films; probably that is one of the reasons I had loved Johar’s Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna. Few writers have such solid control over their screenplay as Karan Johar does and here too, the characters are very well written. As far as performances go; Rani Mukherjee who hasn’t looked this sexy in a long time gives a powerful performance. I have always believed she is one of the finest ‘actors’ we have and she proves it yet again. Watch her in the scene when she wipes off her make-up and says “I am free”. Lilah! Or, when she puts on the lipstick in the end; this time dressing up for “herself“. Randeep Hooda who is fighting an inner battle about his identity is superb and one can see the pain he goes through. Last but not the least; Saqib Saleem is brilliant as the young homosexual intern. Cocky, funny, disturbed and emotional. You know you have arrived when you can get noticed in spite of having seasoned actors as co-stars and Saqib Saleem does that.

Oh! And how can I forget the most important character in the film; the SONG which a small girl on railway station sings. I absolutely loved the way Karan thought of this and the way one of the characters in the film draws a life-lesson from the song. The film has to be the boldest among the four stories and also the boldest when it comes to Indian cinema as a whole. When was the last time you saw two mainstream male actors kiss on screen?  Lest I forget; a word for Niranjan Iyengar who has written the dialogues of the film – Bloody Good! Karan Johar who was in the esteemed group of so-called ‘intellectual’ film-makers makes his own mark and how! IN YOUR FACE critics!

Star

If you have Nawazuddin Siddiqui in your film then half your work is done and if the director is Dibakar Banerjee then the other half is taken care of. Eventually, what you get is STAR – Sheer brilliance! The story revolves around the life of Avinash (Nawazuddin) who once aspired to become an actor in films but could never succeed. It’s about his experience when he accidentally ends up getting a blink & miss role in one of the films whose shooting he was watching. It was such a treat to see the superb actor Sadhashiv Amrapurkar on screen after a long time. In fact his little conversation with Avinash remains my favourite from the film. Watch out for the scene where Sadashiv  throws variations of ‘Aye’. Sublime!

I also loved the way camera zooms out in the end slowly with music playing in the background as Avinash narrates the story to her daughter; brought a tear to my eye. The lady who played Nawazuddin’s wife – I would love to see you in more films! The film is about unfulfilled dreams, daily struggle of a middle class man, theatre artists and above all the love of a father. Take a bow Dibakar Banerjee, you are way ahead of your contemporaries. The only issue which I had with the film was the weird idea of having Emu as a pet in a ‘chawl‘. It might have some deeper and crazy cinematic meanings but I guess I am not intellectual enough to understand the intricacies!

Shiela Ki Jawani

Zoya’s film is about a child who wants to become a dancer like Katrina Kaif after he sees her dancing on ‘Shiela Ki Jawani’ in one of her films but the problem here is that he is a boy. His father wants him to play football which he believes is for boys and would make him tough; whereas the son likes putting on his mom’s lipstick, dressing up in his sister’s clothes and dancing on Bollywood numbers. He doesn’t play cricket with his friends but likes to observe the Kathak dance classes. The story takes time to sink in and once it does you are totally into it. In spite of some warm moments in the film; it couldn’t touch me. Much of this is because we all have seen this story somewhere; parents forcing kids to take up things which they like and suppressing their feelings.

The only thing that stayed with me was the last scene when the boy dances on stage to collect money for her sister’s trip. The applause, whistles of the audience as the boy dances with his closed eyes enjoying every moment of this instant fame like a star and experiencing freedom.  Wow! As far as performances go; there is nothing much to mention except the very cute Naman Jain who plays the protagonist. Kids always give honest performances and this one too is special. The film is not bad at all and I am sure most of you will like it. It’s just that I expected a bit more from Zoya Akhtar.

Murabba

“Kissa Kahani Dal Biriyani” used to be my favourite story book as a kid and when I was watching this film I felt as if I was reading to one of the stories from it or listening to one of those tales narrated by my grandma. Literally! Out of the four stories this one comes closest if we talk about ‘Love for cinema’. It shows how crazy, lunatic we are for our actors. A man on his deathbed has his last wish as getting a murabba tasted by Amitabh Bachchan and he sends his son to accomplish this task. “Are you fucking kidding me?” This is what anybody who comes from any place other than India would ask but we are like this only! We even have temples for our favourite stars. No? The pleading scenes with the guards and the daily struggle of the protagonist to meet the actor are heart warming and you can’t help but feel bad for him. Full marks to Anurag for the authentic treatment of the film; Uttar Pradesh comes alive on screen. Vineet Kumar who hails from the state itself does full justice to the role; the accent, dressing, style is as they say “ठेठ उत्तर प्रदेश वाला”. Also, this is the only story out of the four which had dome decent songs that went very much with the flow of the film. I dropped a tear with the protagonist as ‘Murabba‘ played in the background.

The film ends with an awful composition where all the mainstream stars from Hindi cinema come together. I would have preferred if they had played the famous ‘Om Shanti Om’ video instead. Moreover; why only Bollywood stars in a film that celebrates “Indian Cinema”? Anyways, Bombay Talkies is not about this song. It’s like the Halley’s comet that appears very rarely and brightens up the sky. Don’t miss this celebration of cinema!

My Favourite?

A tough call but I would pick up Karan Johar’s film only for the reason that it comes across as the boldest, coming of age and the riskiest of the four. Your pick?