Sunday, January 29, 2012

Good Night | Good Morning is eclectic, engrossing and enchanting

Good Night | Good Morning. Most of us might not even have heard of this independent feature film venture by Sudhish Kamath, a reporter at the Hindu. I have followed the director closely while researching about independent films and filmmakers out of interest and GNGM created quite a stir because it took almost 2+ years to release a simple conversation movie that was shot in a weeks time, the directors heart wrenching story of the plight of indies today and the acclaim it received from various film festivals across the world. The movie finally managed to get hold of some shows at PVRs across the country owing to the PVR Director's Rare initiative. A lot of mainstream critics reviewed it, Karan Johar reviewed it as a challenge, and a lot of media did features on it as a potential breakthrough in commercially releasing independent cinema. The maker was satisfied even after spending a fortune of his earnings on this one but he successfully marketed his film digitally without spending a penny. In terms of art, GNGM is a well made engrossing fare that stays true to its soul despite being derived from many school of thoughts in terms of story, treatment and execution.

GNGM is made as a conversation movie between two strangers who are on a phone call for one whole night on new years eve in New York City. The idea sounds interesting but the feature could get boring if not handled well. Screenwriters Kamath and Shilpa Rathnam make sure to keep you hooked with a lively screenplay that has constant doses of humor and wit. Kamath pays a tribute to Cameron Crowe, Woody Allen and a lot of other stalwarts of the kind of cinema that he has always admired over the years. The film derives from and pays tribute to a large variety of films and filmmakers and spoofs some of our Bollywood ones too. Yet, its none of superficial, sumptuous or schmaltzy. Infact, it comes out as an endearing coming of age journey of two strangers in fast paced execution of 80 minutes. However, I do complain that the screenplay becomes too deep and preachy at times about love, life and more. You like to see the realizations of well-sketched characters but you dont like to see them talk heavy stuff about philosophies of life. But I guess at some point, conversations in real life tend to get there too.

GNGM is treated like a real conversation and has all the essential charms of a soul-wrenching feature. Yet, you feel something is missing in it. Maybe the setting of characters does not work perfectly, maybe the lack of edge of seat moments, maybe the ineffective subplots, maybe just the mood and tone of the climax. I am not sure yet. What it definitely does not miss out on is the performances. Its a hard film and needs competent actors. Manu Narayan and Seema Rehmani perform exceptionally well as the leads and the film essentially rests on their shoulders. They give their heart and soul to characters that are drawn straight out of reality. Seema is a tad bit better than Manu. The side characters dont work for me. The background score and sound loaded with jazz music works perfectly with the mood of the film. Its shot in black and white with some exceptional long shots and good steady camerawork. Most of the other technical aspects are well in place

GNGM is not an abstract art film. Its a fairly engaging and enlightening drama from an independent filmmaker. Definitely deserves to be watched!

Rating - 3/5

Agneepath is obnoxiously melodramatic, yet a fitting commendable adaptation

How hard is it to make remakes, really? Agneepath, the original, released in 1990 and bombed at the Box Office but was critically acclaimed by a lot of people leading to Amitabh Bachchan winning a national award for his flamboyant portrayal of Vijay Dinanath Chauhan, as a gangster with the swagger to mock the world and take his revenge with the villain. The original is deemed as a bit of a "cult film" or an "ahead of its time" kinda film now but I feel it was a standard revenge drama executed with much more panache and much less sleaze than what was prevalent in that era. Nevertheless, Bachchans performance and dialogues definitely became a cult. When you make a remake, people constantly pitch it against the original if they have seen it. Those who havent, definitely want to see something new and a serving well above the general serving of films coming out these days to like it, hence the original will need to be ironed, glossed and oiled. But again, it may qualify as 'tampering' with the original and be written off on the note "people should not remake classics" by cantankerous ‘protectors of cult films’. Dharma Productions head honcho, Karan Johar and director Karan Malhotra decided to walk the thin line and pay a fitting tribute to their original production, almost!

After being heavily marketed as a hard-hitting drama, from the cuts of the promos to the one-liners used in them, this remake is definitely loaded with copious amount of action and fair number of gore sequences. Most definitely, this one is not everyone's cup of tea but despite a few hiccups, it still has its heart at the right place. Director Karan Malhotra along with his co-writer Ila Dutta Bedi are in awe of the original Agneepath but manage to pay an appreciable ode to it by completely re-interpreting the story, adapting it to a different structuring of characters and re-bottling the old-fashioned revenge drama with a lot of fizz. The technical aspects only add to the flavor of the final product. This one comes with an inherent rawness, a stronger emotional undercurrent and gritty action sequences that are more ‘in your face’. Malhotra manages to keep a check on a lot of things barring the length and the melodrama in his debut venture and should definitely be applauded for attempting this one. 

Malhotra's screenplay comes with some potholes but then mass entertainers are meant to be seen with a pinch of salt. Although garishly served, this one does not replace script with style, thankfully. The plot is uncomplicated but the journey of revenge becomes endearing due to its execution. The problem with the screenplay is that a couple of characters are under-written. Priyanka Chopra's character Kaali is merely there to cheer up Vijay (Hrithik), do all the dance numbers and not make any sense. Inspector Gaitonde (Om Puri) suffers from an underdeveloped sub plot, again. All the songs except for one (Abhi Mujhme Kahin) are not required in the screenplay but the writers still chose to keep them. However, the biggest problem with the film is that its tediously long and obnoxiously melodramatic at times. The first 45 minutes are wasted on Vijay's childhood and the final film stands at a staggering 2 hours and 50 plus minutes. The audience is bound to lose its patience even if the drama is engrossing. There are just too many melodramatic emotional sequences, too long, too clich├ęd and too syrupy. The editor Akiv Ali had no idea what he was doing or maybe he was forced to keep all the crap. 

What could have been a shoddy mess of a remake due to its loosely bound screenplay and sometimes lazy cheesy dialogues (Piyush Mishra), turns out to be an above average fare owing to its unabashed action sequences (Abbas Ali Moghul), more-than-perfect production design (Sabu Cyril), magnificent cinematography (Ravi K Chandran, Kiran Deohans) and the fact that Malhotra manages to extract riveting performances from his leads (Hrithik, Sanjay and Rishi). The Background Score adds to the hard treatment of this action drama but turns out to be overtly loud and cacophonic at times, else it would have been one more factor that enhances this movie coupled with an on-point Sound Design. Music is already a hit and definitely a winner but the songs are not required in this fast paced uncomplicated storyline. 

Sanjay Dutt. I honestly never considered him to be an actor. I feel Vaastav was something that was natural to him and in Munnabhai, he never lived upto the ingenuous script, atleast not for me. With Agneepath, the guy has forced me to change my opinion with his motivated portrayal of Kancha, the villain. All that fat and those baggy eyes definitely have a much higher potential that has never been explored better. As Kancha, he is cynical, menacing and overpowering. His creepy looks work well and he looks like a giant in some of the action sequences in his village, Mandwa. Kudos to him for putting in an earnest effort and successfully portraying what could possibly be his career best. Rishi Kapoor delivers an unprecedented performance as a villain too. His performance will stay with you for long as he has never done anything like this. The guy is a pure genius. Priyanka Chopra and Om Puri are wasted. Chetan Pandit is allright. A special mention for the guy who plays young Vijay for his assertive performance. Zarina Wahab is typical and sappy and Vijay's sister plays to the part well.

However, its one guy whose performance stands tall and a small notch above everyone else. Hrithik Roshan. He growls, kicks, punches, laughs, weeps, sweats, bleeds – he gives it his all and restructures Vijay's character as a more rooted, emotional guy who still does not have any qualms of doing the wrong in order to achieve his final motive of revenge. He displays a rare vulnerability and gushes with rage at the same time, with much less flamboyance than Bachchan, which erects the distinctiveness of this character. His sincere performance redefines Agneepath and goes down as my personal favorite in his career. 

Raw. Massy. Obnoxious. Thats how I would describe Agneepath. You could get absorbed in the power packed sequence of events or get annoyed with the loud melodrama. Nevertheless, its still works as a fitting adaptation of the original due to many reasons. Its just one of those films that could be made so much better just by re-editing it. The team definitely deserves a huge applause for getting most of the things right. The films has already broken the first-day record in its collections and it is bound to touch the Rs 100Cr mark. The Box Office was never a question. Even if you are tired by the length of the movie, its still worth a watch.

Rating - 3.5/5

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Dharma Productions and Karan Johar - Turning Over A New Leaf?

Dharma Productions latest venture 'Agneepath', a remake of the 1990 original is set to release in a day or so. This one stars Hrithik Roshan, Sanjay Dutt, Priyanka Chopra and Rishi Kapoor while the original one had Amitabh Bachchan, Mithun Chakraborty and Danny Denzongpa. It didn't work at the Box Office then, its expected to work big time this time around and the general buzz is awesome. Within two weeks from Agneepath, Dharma has another big release 'Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu' lined up. How many production houses will be daring to release two films worth crores of rupees in a span of two weeks? Big stars, Big budgets, Big Films!

Cut To

An independent film maker whose film just released in select theaters in the metro cities is in conversation with a leading news channels' film critic who is half an advocate for independent cinema and aspiring filmmaker himself. They are discussing the ending of the former's latest release which involved the lovers not coming together. The film critic goes on to say, 'It had to be like that, else you'd have done a KJo but good you kept it this way'. The filmmaker replies by saying 'Yeah, I wouldn do a KJo with my film'. The filmmaker struggled a lot taking his baby to many festivals, investing his hard earned money in its production and still not having many who give a f**k about it. But as he said, "We did it to hear that sound of applause at the end of each show. We made a fairly decent film. This is what every artist wants. F*@k the money."

Cut To

Agneepath and EMAET gear up for release but the question remains. Why are the two films releasing at such a short gap? Does KJo know that his product is not worthy enough to last more than two weeks? Will they not eat into each other's publicity campaign? In the meanwhile, KJo takes up the challenge to review this indie filmmakers latest release and gives it the biggest celebrity endorsement because it stars a film critic who used to write devoutly underwhelming reviews of all KJo movies before he exchanged places this time to go in front of the camera himself. 

I decided to dig this whole thing up and bring out the real truth, obviously, as I see it! I am definitely ready for your garrote, guillotine or gaali if you choose to disagree because I am just a passenger in an airplane full of windows with multiple viewpoints. See this as a perspective, dont hammer it like a nail on the wall. 

To find answers to my question I download a pirated version of the filmmakers venture and see it to decide for myself if this conclusion of the above discussion was valid. There's a huge upcoming clout of people who hate and spread hate for Karan Johar and his likes in the industry, managing to do both pretty well at the same time. This clout consists of some indie filmmakers, some film critics, some journalists, some nobodys who like saying 'this shit is f***ed up' at almost everything and some others. My intentions here are not to spark a debate between independent and commercial mainstream cinema, or the many other categories that cinema can be put into. I can leave that debate for later. This indie filmmaker pointed out that he has spent a lifetime of money and time bringing his latest release to the audiences and might just not have the courage to do it again. He says, "If you cant beat them, join them". Alas, this is the demoralizing tale for a big chunk of independent cinema these days and the star system has in the industry has never let it improve. All these filmmakers want to tell a story, believe in the power of a strong script, which can never be substituted by style. I really hope all those stories reach the celluloid someday and these upsetting trends of reaching the Rs 100Cr mark are put to an end soon but deriding KJo and discrediting him for his achievements is not the way to go about it. Each of the haters is definitely entitled to his opinion and school of thought but they gotta see that KJo's antics may be praiseworthy in a domain that they dont relate themselves to. 

I find it inappropriate to blame KJo for perpetuating the star system when the whole industry is plagued by it. On the other hand, he went out and has given great platforms to new directors and amazing talents such as Ayan Mukerji (Wake Up Sid), Amit Trivedi (Wake Up Sid + EMAET) and Akshay Roy (upcoming untitled film, co-produced with Ekta Kapoor). He is blamed for constantly writing similar characters and making sappy movies that associate with schmaltz more than substance but he did make My Name is Khan, which is one of the most sensitive international issue-based films made in the industry. He goofed it up trying to make it a hero's tale rather than a man's tale, too bad, but he did give religious profiling a shot, right? As famous film journalist Anupama Chopra points out here, he is the architect of contemporary Bollywood style. No one knew how to make it look big, how to make it look classy, how to make it look every frame look gorgeous before the likes of Kuch Kuch Hota Hai and Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham came out. Indian Awards may be considered to be rigged but if Filmfare holds any credibility, his movies have won a lot of them. 

The point is, at the end of the day, even he takes up challenges, just like any other indie filmmaker. Be it the aggressive and on-point marketing of Agneepath or writing the review of the above mentioned release. The only difference is its easier for him to win those challenges because he has chosen to feed the star system which comes with big risks along with big numbers. The risks are outdone by the numbers, more often than not. But you cant hate the guy for being successful in his own domain. Atleast he knows what he is doing. As Aniruddha Chatterjee points out here, only 3 movies in the last four years have had total collections which are more than double of their first week collections. We have stopped having a repeat audience and its not a bad decision to release EMAET two weeks after Agneepath in that case. The industry cannot be changed by one KJo alone, I feel he is doing his bit by giving the perfect backing to a lot of indie talent. I am no big fan of KJo and I am not here to advocate on his behalf. He did play safe for a long time, but he has switched over to taking risks now and not all Dharma movies are sappy and gay anymore. He should get this chance to do something different instead of being a victim to pre-conceived notions. Agneepath is getting great reports and is unlike anything Dharma has done till now. The least we can do is find a new scapegoat to make fun of and believe that its not that bad to have a happy ending to a movie!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Chaalis Chauraasi is backed only by its brilliant performances

Chaalis Chauraasi or 4084 as its titled stars Naseeruddin Shah, Kay Kay Menon, Atul Kulkarni and Ravi Kissen in its lead roles and manages to establish the strength of these actors, all over again in a film that well manages to be a good one time watch. Its obvious the film was not marketed well, as opposed to all the big budget films and the way they are marketed nowadays. Films like 4084 are classified as low budget/second line films that are not expected to run at the Box Office. But alas, little do the money-minded studios know that this film provides a refreshingly good flavor of comedy and is backed by stellar performances, if only the scripting was more cohesive. it also proves my point right that you dont need to make dark films with shock value to create something different. 4084 is different, yet entertaining.

 The ultimate heist that can win you more money than you ever had. A used concept, many a times. So no brownie points for that. Hriday Shetty, the director, creates a difference in the way he executes the concept with his comic flavor. One only wishes that the he could have gone ahead with much more bound script. The screenplay is flawed, it takes too much time in the first half to establish its characters or to come to the point that they need to make. Definitely could have done without that. The music numbers only add to the crap quoteint. Second half is like a prolonged climax, with the actual climax the highpoint of the film cuz it had me in splits. Editing the first half and adding a more author backed character sketch would have worked wonders for this film. Direction is ordinary, with a tadka of strange comedy.

 4084 is a classic example of an average film pulled up by its competent actors. The four stalwarts casted here make their characters believable with such ease and display superb comic timing. The best part is they dont try to compete against each other else it would be messy. They are happy in their space and are literally the heartbeat of a film that does a lot of things to screw itself up. Atul Agnihotri is the star of the show for me followed by others. The guy is simply brilliant. Rajesh Sharma is getting typecast as the cop. Music is ordinary and so are all the other technical aspects.

 I would still suggest you to watch 4084 over any film that has released this year. Its not attention grabbing but its a little film with a hilarious climax on a lazy weekend with bad releases. Watch it once!

 Rating - 2.5/5

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Players is a bad remake, but a decent first time watch

Players. Abhishek Bachchan, Neil Nitin Mukesh, Sonam Kapoor, Bobby Deol, Bipasha Basu, Sikander Kher, Omi Vaidya and Vinod Khanna. How much willing will you be to watch a movie that has the above starcast? Probably not at all, or maybe only a few people will be very excited to watch this cast display their histrionics on screen, all at the same time. Players is an official remake of another remake, The Italian Job (2003) which was originally made in 1969 with Michael Caine. Honestly, I do not believe in a lot of critics these days who are merely suckers for Hollywood movies, who are against Hollywood classic remakes or who have rested their preferences only in movies that are off the hook, an innovative (read shocking) storyline which is executed with no bordering bakwaas! BUT that in no way means that I liked Players, its only that I am against people who have recently made 'making fun of movies' a religious and social responsibility for themselves. What I have done here is I have outlined the two biggest problems with Players at the very start of this review and Ill explain more in a bit since I do not intend to dissect the movie scene by scene or make this review long.

Players is a typical Abbas-Mustan film, it has all the elements of all their films in terms of treatment. Its fast paced, full of twists, excellent cinematography, gorgeous babes and thrilling action. The problem here is they take a perfectly nuanced screenplay and use their dumb heads to tamper it under the shield of adding desi elements to the plot and all their improvisations fall flat and only add to the unimaginable length of the movie which could test the patience of most people. The only thing that works as an addition is the corny humor which appears to be unintentional but definitely manages some light moments. The other additive subplots fail to strike a chord.

The second thing that shatters the castle called Players is the ensemble cast of bad actors who fail to live up to the requirement even in one scene. Neil Nitin Mukesh as Spider is the only noteworthy performance amongst all the people who could might as well be replaced by trees. They dont make the computer hackers, the illusionists, the make up artists, the con men believable! Sonam could never act, Bipasha is monotonic, Sikander Kher is hideous, Omi Vaidya is passable, Bobby is an idiot and Abhishek is too wooden and almost miscast! AB has to stop doing similar movies for real, its overdone now and he cannot be romantic in any way.

Yet, I am not writing off the movie. These problems are big, but they dont stop the movie from being entertaining and at times, unintentionally hilarious. I am not complaining about plotholes here unlike a million other critics cuz we never complain about potholes in Hollywood action and heist films but we start saying that things are unbelievable when Bollywood does it. They say they do it in style, but I say you will find style in Bollywood scenes also if your viewpoint changes and the performances are lively. The problem with Players is they do everything shabbily, and hence the punch of the twist does not come out. When I say shabbily, heres what I mean. Why do actors need to wear sequin jackets in important scenes? Why do huge palaces need to be tackily styled? Why do all gizmos and bombs need to have outrageous colors and visuals? This completely ruins the plusses such as spellbinding cinematography, power packed action and inherent twists in the plot.

Players is a decent one time watch if you havent seen Italian Job and its a definitive progressive film for indian cinema in heist films. The movie still lacks the wit and class of Don 2. If you have seen the Italian Job, Players comes too late in the day with pretty much the same technology and a shoddy screenplay and your gonna hate it. I was entertained, but never awed. Its not a waste, but it tries its best to be, saved by Abbas Mustan and Neil. Business wise, its gonna lose money cuz of the whole negative buzz around the movie which will not improve with the word of mouth. The music has failed to click with the audience in general, and the promos have not forced people to go watch it necessarily. Watch it once if you havent seen the original!

Rating - 2/5