Friday, January 11, 2013

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola wraps in a bouquet of awesomeness

Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola stars Imran Khan, Pankaj Kapur, Anushka Sharma and Shabana Azmi. Sounding weirdly preternatual, the unattractive title of this film created apprehensions in everyone's mind when the movie was announced, whether the makers would have wanted it or not. The first trailer and the following promos reflected a lot of fun on theaters this weekend, despite the limitations of a seemingly non-populist film, set in a village with no mainstream slam-bang histrionics to boast off. But then you find a name emblazoned on this venture, that of Vishal Bharadwaj, and every movie buff is forced to keep his punditry aside and expect awesomeness. For those who dont know much about Vishal, well, have you ever cared about cinema beyond a means of sporadic entertainment? Thus, it wouldn matter that Bharadwaj is a champion of Indian cinema, largely competing with just himself. Agreed, Saat Khoon Maaf did not live upto our expectations succumbing to a lot of indulgence, but a single infirmity cannot decree a predilection. With MKBKM, Vishal steps into comedy. Oh wait, lemme correct that, he literally prances into a completely new genre that is fast attaining a state of stasis like a ginormous bout of fresh air. MKBKM is a delightful film, a rare one that stunningly wraps around so much in its garb that it is excruciating to fathom the astute effort that went into it.

Written assiduously by Vishal Bharadwaj and the brilliant Abhishek Chaubey, Matru is a delicacy that organically offers you multiple resplendent flavors, as each layer peels off, with constant assuredness that stays with you long after you have left the theaters. MKBKM is essentially a comedy in its treatment, but it cautiously laces around a very pertinent national problem in India, one that evades our daily lives amidst the rigmarole of bigger cities in developing nations, which are constantly assaulted by the pressures of competing with the sneering pace of progress. Vishal picks up the familiar premise of a small unknown village in Haryana, dealing with its own issues of land forfeiture, overbearing corruption and bureaucratic autocracy but turns it on its head with the uncanny power of alcohol and alcoholics, for real. The characters legitimately end up solving most of their problems when they are drunk, and this lends the proceedings a seriously funny outlook as the fallible leads meander their way to closure, almost walking tipsy. MKBKM is like a rum-soaked raisin that radiates warmth, while driving home a valid point. Bharadwaj and Chaubey do not seem to believe in doing anything marginally mawkish, stitching together a coherent piece on industrialization in a village led by two alcoholic characters, where one is a schizophrenic tyrant and the other is a secret savior. As rare as the title, the film packs in immaculate gut in many of its sunny and fresh moments. The scene where Shabana Azmi dictates the path to progress to her devastatingly immature son, or the marvelously executed finale which is both theatrically urgent and outrageously comic, the film magically gets its tone right, never failing to be entertaining. As a tradition, Bharadwaj pays a regulatory tribute to William Shakespeare in a small sequence in the second half. The crackling motifs and subtle hints used to highlight the socio-political playground of a village such as the tradition of slavery, lack of direction amongst the masses, the attachments to your own home or just the trade-offs of money and love, all of them lift the movie to be qualified as another gem from the master. There a few loose ends such as the track of Matru's deal with a leading company which never reaches a conclusion or Bijlee finding out the truth about Matru. One would have also preferred to delve more into the confused psyche of Anushka's character, Bijlee, which shows a gleam of hope towards the end. Yet, at its breakneck pace, MKBKM finishes up in 140 minutes providing you the exact smashing payoff you are looking for. 

Not only is Vishal Bharadwaj is glib in direction or screenwriting, but his multi-faceted talents overflow from the credits of MKBKM. Produced exclusively by him and distributed by Fox Star Studios, MKBKM is festered with virtuous production values and efficient technicalities. Music by Vishal Bharadwaj (yet, again) is fantabulous with Khamakha being my favorite song of the album, after a vicious inner struggle to rate it above the others. The songs have been choreographed and shot with a cheesy effervescence, right in the mood of the film. At two instances, Vishal uses speech poetry through Pankaj Kapur to searingly make his point in the absence of songs. If that wasnt commendable enough, his masterstroke provides a welcome twist to the smoking warning at the beginning by wrapping it in a mini song. A lot of credit for such cerebral stuff goes to Gulzaar for penning droolworthy lyrics once again for each of them. Kartik Vijay's cinematography is honest, devoid of any cheap thrills. Editing by Sreekar Prasad does not leave much to complain about. Production Design plays an important role in aiding the authenticity of MKBKM as most of the scenes are captured in real locations.

Bharadwaj has been traditionally known to extract striking performances from his actors, and turning the careers around of his heroes or heroines. In MKBKM, despite the discerning selection of a competent cast, it is painfully hard to ignore that Pankaj Kapur stand out, and by a large distance. As Mandola, a character bespoke for him, Kapur stupefies you with his emphatic portrayal of a guttural master who becomes a silly Jatt when alcohol enters his system. The transitions are smooth enough to make you feel it was two different people playing those characters, and yet, not a blemish that you can put on the prudence of each portrayal. He unspools like a firecracker everytime they called 'action' on the sets leaving a remarkable performance that will erode all scars of his directorial debut in Mausam last year. Imran Khan possesses limited versatility and Matru is not something he would have ever thought of playing. Surprisingly, he seems to have nosedived into this character, carrying no baggage or reference, and comes out with an unrelenting performance that makes you believe he has pushed his limits and the result is good. Anushka Sharma has always done well, despite being cast in similar roles at times. In this one, she plays a cheerful yet emotionally weak character with a little nuance, despite the character not arching well in the whole picture. But you know what she is capable of when she pulls off a stunner in the climax sequence. Shabana Azmi is first-rate as usual as the conniving politician. Watch her in the scene where she is dancing with her son and simultaneously explaining the importance of his marriage to her. Arya Babbar is unusually well-cast in the role of a dumb son of a politician whose superficial world does not understand beyond what he sees or listens. 

Vishal Bharadwaj is a gifted filmmaker with a wide slate of films, and Matru Ki Bijlee Ka Mandola diversifies it with a masterstroke. Who said its hard to make a film entertaining if you are addressing an issue? While MKBKM gets almost a lot of it right, it is a hard film to sell to an audience that feeds on malarkey and one can only hope that the film finds its people. It is a slick product, with a lot to offer and hopefully the star faces would draw everyone to the theaters. As for the minorities of cine-sensible junta, this is a moment of consolation that Vishal is back in his original skin and has delivered another movie for us to talk about. I sincerely request you to take your whole family and go watch this film, it would be worth every penny you spend, that is if Anushka Sharma isn't attractive enough for you.

Rating - 3.5/5

Originally published on Mad About Moviez here


Wednesday, January 9, 2013

My 10 Worst Mainstream Hindi Movies of 2012

Almost everyone around puts out a list of 10 Best Films of the year, and so did I, over here. The response was very good so I went ahead and put a compilation of My Best Performances and Music Albums of 2012 here. But beyond the shining stars and the shimmering craft, lie heaps of garbage that, not just Bollywood, but any film industry produces. Here, we try to look back at that garbage that constantly amuses us week after week and the filmmakers whose products contribute to a continuous regression of Indian cinema. Yep, 10 Worst Mainstream Hindi Movies of 2012.

When I sat down to enlist my top 10 in this category, it turned out to be a ridiculous affair, mostly because I could find so many that deserve to be in the list. But then I decided to narrow down the approach. The movies considered for this list are not only mainstream hindi, but also the ones that were marketed well, received a proper release and were mostly star vehicles. It is impossible to make this list if I am considering movies like Ab Hoga Dharna Unlimited or Cigarette Ki Tarah in this category, because not only were they outrageously bad, but they did not even get a proper release or marketing. So here we go with the Hall of Shame -

10. Joker

Shirish Kunder's multi-crore dream project, Joker, was undoubtedly the most talked about failure of 2012, becoming the butt of all jokes, literally. Mostly everyone in the cast and crew bailed out on Kunder right upto its release due to 'creative differences', including Akshay Kumar. UTV drowned their sorrows a month before release, sitting put in the wake of a washout. A half-baked product has now forced Kunder to go back to Editing now. 

9. Tezz

There can be nothing right about Priyadarshan making a thriller and Ajay Devgn showing his teeth. Add to that, a clinically altered Kangana Ranaut, a hairy Anil Kapoor, an ugly Sameera Reddy and an actor beyond redemption Zayed Khan. Poor Boman Irani and Mohanlal were stuck in a film that just didnt seem to move anywhere, only adding to the shameful quotient of the year.

8. Rowdy Rathore

Third highest money grosser of the year, Akshay Kumar's Rowdy Rathore proudly permeated unadulterated abhorrent mustiness. With Hindi being the 5th language this film was made in, there was nothing much left to see anyway, except fora  brand of shlocky silliness which has been served to us again and again and we still seem to love it. Paralytic direction, profusely topped with song and dance and a lollypop visual style apparently makes the insipid gags work.

7. Teri Meri Kahaani

Kunal Kohli's Teri Meri Kahaani, starring Shahid Kapoor and Priyanka Chopra, can be awarded the title of the most generic film of the year. Appallingly, it is set in three eras and all three episodes of this story are essentially the same. Not only did Kohli copy the Taiwanese hit, Three Times, but made it such that the original's makers would have to feel abominably shameful about themselves for being related to this one in any way. 

6. Hate Story

Touted as an adult revenge thriller, Vikram Bhatt's Hate Story was a titillation fest, more than anything else. Riding high on high dosages of unintentional hilarity, the film provided the most ludicrous moments with its lead actress, Paoli Dam, ready to drop her clothes at the bat of an eyelid. Why? Apparently it makes sense to avenge sexual assault in office by becoming a whore, of sorts. 

5. Jism 2

Pooja Bhatt's Jism 2 marked the debut of pornstar Sunny Leone, or maybe just her bosom. On the lines of Hate Story, Jism 2 went a few steps ahead to become the most unintentionally funny film of the year. A ham and sleaze (read cheese) fest, Jism 2 is burlesque towards your own sensibilities. The wafer-thin plot, cornball dialogues and clumsy direction leave Jism 2 to be nothing more than a big black hole, except that your computers will never have that big a screen with Sunny on them. 

4. Chaar Din Ki Chandni

Samir Karnik's slate is loaded with despicably shameful films, and CDKC just adds to the list. As if watching a single Tusshar Kapoor wasnt enough for us, Karnik goes ahead and casts him in a double role in this racist, homophobic and insensitive film, that doesnt make you laugh even once. CDKC is ditchwater dull, and a thoroughly offensive piece of drivel that hurts your brains and makes you puke.

3. Dangerous Ishq

It would be hard to convince any sane person to come watch a movie which has a title like Dangerous Ishq. Karisma Kapoor may have shimmied to the best numbers in 90s but to pick a Vikram Bhatt film for her comeback must have been a really desperate decision. Painful to endure, Dangerous Ishq has the secret power to make you cry horrid tears and cringe in shock and anger to get those 2.5 hours back. 

2. Department

Ram Gopal Varma's Department makes it almost to the top of this list, yet not the top. If the world ended this year, RGV would have made a film on that too, and possibly a sequel too. Once a filmmaker, RGV is now a professional crotch-cam artist with his mayhem of a film which merrily dances on the line between the completely unpleasant and the utterly distasteful, leaving you uncomfortably numb.

1. Son Of Sardaar

And finally, we have a winner. Son Of Sardaar is undoubtedly the worst film of the year. Ajay Devgn's creepy unfunny teeth, Sanju baba's smude-leaking ugly face and eye-hurting long locks, Sonakshi Sinha's bigger-than-Wankhede forehead and Earth's black hole for the story - All of these come together in all-time garbage director Ashwani Dhir's Son of Sardaar, a film that does not even provide accidental funniness. It is hard to make a film that has nothing in it, Dhir and Devgn manage to leave you with no capacity to like monkey balls or walk straight. 


Hall of Shame Honorable Mentions - Khiladi 786, Raaz 3, Players, KLPD and Chakravyuh

Sunday, January 6, 2013

My Best Performances And Music Albums of 2012

In an ongoing series of posts, I recently posted My 10 Best Mainstream Hindi Movies of 2012. Next up, here we have the best performances and music albums. This will be followed by 10 Worst Mainstream Hindi Movies of 2012.

Top 5 Hindi Mainstream Music Albums of 2012

5. Jab Tak Hai Jaan
4. Gangs Of Wasseypur
3. Talaash/Ishaqzaade
2. Barfi
1. Cocktail

Top 5 Hindi Mainstream Female Lead Performances of 2012

5. Richa Chadha - Gangs Of Wasseypur
4. Kareena Kapoor - Talaash/Heroine
3. Sridevi - English Vinglish
2. Vidya Balan - Kahaani
1. Priyanka Chopra - Barfi

Top 5 Hindi Mainstream Male Lead Performances of 2012

5. Salman Khan - Dabangg 2 
4. Shah Rukh Khan - Jab Tak Hai Jaan
3. Irrfan - Paan Singh Tomar
2. Nawaazuddin Siddiqui - Gangs Of Wasseypur
1. Emraan Hashmi  - Shanghai
    Ranbir Kapoor - Barfi 

Thursday, January 3, 2013

My 10 Best Mainstream Hindi Movies of 2012

So like everyone else, I decided to put up a list of 10 Best Hindi Films of 2012. First question: Are there 10 films to put in this list? Yes, there are, thankfully, and probably the films that came this year have the audacity to exhaust such lists for any film analyst, film critic or just an avid watcher. Not only was it a good year at the Box Office with numbers pushing themselves beyond their own limits, but it ushered in a welcome change in our movie going audience, or so we can say. People came out for no-star vehicles, smaller films and independent films and made them taste success, albeit not the same monetary success that a Salman Khan movie achieves. Yet, more than ever, in 2012, well made movies also earned some money at the BO, contrary to any of the years gone by and this can only lead to more positive things. 

When I finally sat down to compile this list, I was having a hard time making an exclusive list across all Indian movies or even picking 10 out of them. There are regional movies, some of which I saw, there are smaller movies which did not get as noticed as others, there are many independent movies that did not get a theatrical release and there are some who did, thanks to a blessing called PVR Director's Rare. I have seen some regional movies, some independent movies, and a hell lot of mainstream hindi movies. Hence, I decided to put together this list only for the 10 Best Mainstream Hindi Movies of 2012, including hindi movies that got a theatrical release through regular distribution channels. It would be unfair to consider the other movies in this list as I may not have seen all the releases. So here we go -

10. Paan Singh Tomar

A well-intentioned biopic, Paan Singh Tomar tells the life story of the famed athlete-turned-dacoit with a rare subtexted elegance, pioneered efficiently by what could easily be the best lead performance of the year by Irrfan. Featuring much higher on the lists of most other people, the film is at No.10 for me as despite the rich raw material and master direction/acting, the film left me craving to feel more, or be overwhelmed by it.

9. Agneepath

Despite being campy, supposedly regressive and obnoxiously melodramatic, Agneepath would definitely feature in my best movies of the year, even at the risk of getting a lot of flak for it. The only reason for its appearance here is that the film works as a fitting tribute to its original, and takes us back to old school cinema, in the most traditional way, doing it fittingly well. Agneepath is genuinely aided by efficient performances and sound technicalities. 

8. Eega (Makkhi)

S.S. Rajamouli's Eega (Telugu) released in Hindi under the ridiculously sounding title of Makkhi, which left it subject to a ludicrous predilection amongst the nation wide audience. Yet, Makkhi was one of the most viscerally imaginative and thoroughly entertaining movies of the year, despite riding on a cliched theme of reincarnation, mostly due to large investments in the characterization of the persona of its lead. 

7. Gangs Of Wasseypur

Anurag Kashyap's epic two-parter, Gangs Of Wasseypur, released over a period of two months after grabbing eyeballs and standing ovations across the world. Blazing guns, gangland wars and much fancy gore signified the strikingly well made saga, coupled with exceptional performances and memorable music by Sneha Khanwalkar. The bullet ridden tale of vengeance in a circular narrative was probably the most progressive film of the year, yet it suffered from three-act division of each part and over indulgence of Kashyap himself

6. Oh My God

The biggest surprise hit of the year, Oh My God, is a rare treat. Bold enough to punch a nation in its balls and amateurish enough to reach out to the common man in simple language, the film adaptation of other chained adaptations of Man Vs God is undoubtedly the most socially relevant movie of this year, riding on stunning lead performances. OMG manages to cut out the preachy and still preach, and to cut out the masala and be masaledaar. 

5. Barfi

A multi-layered sensitive film, Barfi had elements of zany comedy, unspoken physical challenges and a shy thriller subplot, but at the heart of it, was a love triangle with soaring emotions. Poetic treatment, pulsating score and breathtaking visuals make it the most feel good movie of the year. Despite being pummeled for its various influences and derived plotpoints, the film worked on many levels mainly due to debatably the best ensemble performances of the year. It is an important film, that should be seen more as a tribute than an inspiration. 

4. Shanghai

In an ideal world, Shanghai is the best made film of the year. Yet, it is not the most mainstream film that one could think of. Dibaker Banerjee's fourth venture, Shanghai, is an ebullient example of gut-busting cinematic panache and also why Emraan Hashmi deserves a National Award for this film. Carved like a perfect handicraft, Shanghai blends the real and the reel seamlessly to come up with a droolworthy political thriller cum satire. Lacking an unusual plot but rich in little details, Shanghai makes you a Dibaker fanboy with much ease if you havent been one. 

3. Kahaani

Kahaani, directed by Sujoy Ghosh, was a taut thriller with a rapier-sharp edge to it. Undoubtedly, the most gripping and engrossing fare this year, Kahaani is the story of a pregnant out in the search of her husband. Going back to his Calcutta roots, Ghosh plays a magician in Kahaani setting up the milieu pitch perfect, capturing the best frame and extracting the juices out of his technicians and artists to deliver a movie which would have surpassed all others, had it not been for the minor plot loose ends, mind you, which you wont even feel when you are watching it. Vidya Balan could have done better than all male performances here. 

2. English Vinglish

The best things in life are simple. If you can doff your amazement due to the Sridevi's sunny charisma and focus on Gauri Shinde's debut serving, English Vinglish is a charming delight of a film, handpicking influences from daily lives and wrapping a bundle of issues and values in an endearing family tale. Innovative humor, soothing music and simplistic treatment make English Vinglish a heady cocktail that stays with you longer than most other movies on this list. An astoundingly well-made film, this one outpaces many fine products on this list. 

1. Vicky Donor

A small little film dealing with a rampant taboo in India, Vicky Donor, makes it to the pinnacle of list without a shred of doubt, and definitely will show up in the lists of everyone else too. Directed by Shoojit Sircar and dealing with sperm donation, the film is a laugh riot that does not  compromise on the sensitivity of the issue and retains its persistently breezy flavor, ably shouldered by its leads, Ayushmaan and Annu Kapoor. Layering the issue around a love story, and supporting it with peachy subplots, Sircar effortlessly delivers the best mainstream movie of the year. 

Other Honorable Mentions - Ek Main Aur Ekk Tu, Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, Gattu, Delhi Safari, Talaash and Chittagong