Highway – In bondage she found freedom!

Imtiaz Ali is easily one of the best storytellers of our times and he narrates his stories with great passion. With Highway he takes the road less travelled and makes a film that is braver and more risky than his previous outings. Does he succeed? Let’s just say Highway is his best film till date.

Like all his films the characters in Highway also traverse long distances and transcend geographical boundaries. In this case, Mahabir and Veera travel from the arid tracts of Rajasthan to the snow-capped mountains in Kashmir (Which Anil Mehta captures beautifully). Interestingly, Imtiaz had already told this story when he directed an episode for Zee TV’s Rishtey but Ali felt that there was more to the story and thank god for that! 

I have always loved the way Imtiaz Ali develops the characters in his films; especially the female protagonist.  Mahabir and Veera’s relationship is ambiguous and that is the beauty of the film. They can be lovers or they can’t be but they are definitely in love. Love that cannot be outlined by the conventional definitions.  Mahabir sees his mother in Veera and the way she embraces and caresses him when he cries, he probably finds his mother in Veera. However, the way Mahabir looks at Veera when she breaks into a spontaneous dance somewhere hints at Mahabir being attracted to her. Similarly, Veera feels protected with Mahabir and finds the father in him which she has never had. But, whether she saw a lover in Mahabir is something we don’t really know as the film doesn’t give any clear answers. I believe she didn’t.

530d95a2e347a

Mahabir and Veera are two characters that are hurting as hell. They are stooges of destiny whose childhood is obscured. They are fighting an inner battle with themselves which they eventually win as they confide in each other; whether it is Veera’s painful secret from her childhood or Mahabir’s guilt of killing three people.

Highway is about discovering oneself. It is about attaining freedom. It is about achieving salvation. It is about self-discovery. Like most Indians, I love happy endings and would have liked to see Mahabir live but his life wouldn’t have served the purpose of the film. His death sets Veera free. Veera unearths herself on the journey with Mahabir and experiences freedom. I also loved the way film subtly mocks the ‘tameezdar’ society and leaves us with a message. It talks (doesn’t preach) about child molestation and how the ‘well behaved’ society remains a mute spectator to it. It strips our hypocritical society and makes us ask ourselves ‘Kya hum bhi inhi mein se ek hain?’

Talking about the leads, Randeep Hooda is brilliant as the abductor and plays his part with great ease. He is one of the good actors we have today and is much more than what the Bhatts make him do. But Highway belongs hands down to Alia Bhatt who inhabits Veera’s world and infuses it with childlike honesty. This girl can act and how! Watch her in the scene when she is talking to herself as she mounts on a rock in the Kashmir valley or when she confronts  the man who abuses her or when she breaks into a spontaneous dance. Brilliant!

Imtiaz-Irshad-Rahman are Tridev (God). Highway wouldn’t have been what it is had it not been for them who instill soul into the film. Whether it is Veera’s run in the Sambhar lake with ‘Tu Kuja’ playing in the background or their journey to the mountains with Jonita’s haunting vocals; ek रूहानियत hai; a sufi feel to it.

In one of the scenes in the film Veera says to Mahabir;

“जहाँ से तुम मुझे लाए हो, में वहाँ वापस नही जाना चाहती.
जहाँ भी ले जा रहे हो, वहाँ पहुँचना नही चाहती.
पर यह रास्ता, यह बहुत अच्छा है.
में चाहती हूँ की यह रास्ता कभी ख़तम ना हो.”

It’s not about the destination, it’s about the journey quite like what Lord Krishna says कर्म करो, फल की चिंता मत करो. Go, take this journey!

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!

Bombay-Talkies-poster

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?