Saturday, May 11, 2013

Go Goa Gone is the most daring film in a couple of years

Go Goa Gone is a phenomenon I have been waiting to witness for over 2 months now, yes, ever since that credulously well cut first trailer set it up for awesomeness. You might wonder that I did go in to like the movie, so I cant really hate it. But then, I can offer you a smirk for that ridiculous thought. 

Go Goa Gone is a ginormously special film for a million reasons. Indian cinema completed 100 years recently, and this, effectively, is our first film on a theme that has been gangraped many a times by Hollywood - Zombies. Except that Go Goa Gone takes a leaf out of the West's obsession, turns it around its head to evolve into a zombie comedy, almost reveling like a spoof that belies that obsession. Go Goa Gone is no malarkey to designed to rip you off but it delivers the thrills it promises and respect to Saif Ali Khan for backing it. Following Delhi Belly in 2011, Go Goa Gone makes no bones about its prophetically adult content, going the full hog with its uncensored ruthless sex humor or a stark use of drugs by its characters. It permeates badassery without a wink of thought and recklessly veers itself to a landmark point in Indian cinema, just for finding a release. 

Nosediving into Go Goa Gone, one does nimbly realize that this is not a film made for everyone. The action-gore baggage of the genre, the morally distorted lingo (in terms of wide social acceptance), or just the uncomfortable propaganda of drug abuse may be a put off for many. But alas, Go Goa Gone is too audacious to care about not having a pan-India audience. Derivatively enough, GGG follows three stone-headed friends as they make a trip to Goa where one of them has a work assignment and the other two are just distraught with life. Post a rave party, they find themselves amidst a bunch of cartoonishly fearsome zombies and have to scram for life, pretty much for the rest of the film's runtime. Saif Ali Khan plays a pseudo-Russian ex-mafia who seems to be omniscient about zombies and is out to eradicate them. 

But Go Goa Gone works for many other reasons. The unabashed repartee of snappy lines, amongst the three leads, cutting each other is the most compelling form of humor that has hit the screens lately. The continuous political incorrectness, the heaps of gristly wisecrack and the rousing stretch of ridiculous situations never let the humor dip throughout the movie. Unfortunately, it is this idea of zom-com that kinda became a quagmire for writer directors Krishna DK and Raj Nidimoru in the second half. A zomcom, to think of it, in the pre GGG era maybe a year back in Indian cinema, is an idea crackling enough to make it work anyhow, but then, but then they could not get out of in the second half as they had to keep the 'com' in it. Hence, the extended climax is just a chase fight sequence between zombies and humans with many hilarious moments which leaves GGG jarringly underwhelming in the last hour due to lack of meat in the narrative. 

I may have been mildly disappointed but the film carries a whole bunch to root for, honestly. It is told like whirlwind adventure and you never disengage from the proceedings. Raj and DK seamlessly weave in the surly with the impish and comic with the murky. The three leads barely miss a beat of timing ever to aid their directors. Screenplay and dialogues by Raj, DK, Sita Menon, Kunal Khemu and Raja Sen are monumentally brilliant and the lifeline of the film. Arindam Ghatak's Editing and Dan Macarthur's cinematography is on point. But it is the Music by Sachin-Jigar that scores an ace amongst all the technical departments. A truly delectable album with gems produced to appeal to the non-massy audience, this one will stick around for a while. 

Kunal Khemu, Vir Das and Anand Tiwari complement each other like real soulmates saucily adding much value to Go Goa Gone. Khemu does outshine his peers in this one, but Das and Tiwari are only inching behind by no real distance. Acerbic, awesome and assured, the leads deliver a standout performance here. It is their camaraderie that provides the necessary cover-up for a slim second half. A scene where they take on 3 zombie females together or the sequence when Tiwari and Saif are questioning Khemu or many other nuances stand out remarkably. Saif Ali Khan, albeit cast a tad bit incongruously, surprises us with a dedicated performance as Boris, carrying a large share of the clap-worthy lines. Puja Gupta has little to do but does not look out of place with the boys. 

Go Goa Gone is pivoted around the world of drugs, essentially, and makes no qualms about portraying two of its leads as users. It is also a learning journey derived from a common corporate phrase used by Steve Jobs famously. But above all, it is more candor than you have seen in a film in ages. Irrespective of your apprehensions, I would irk you to go for this movie, but dont forget your appetite for some gore, some silly and some crass. I assure you, you will laugh your ass out. Here is an extra half star for just having the balls, Saif, Raj and DK!

Rating - 3.5/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Gippi will make you happy this weekend!

Gippi, directed by debutante Sonam Nair, is a precious little film. A little film, that would not have fancied a first day houseful theater, had it not been for the moxie with which Karan Johar's Dharma Productions backed the film, even to the point of getting a studio (UTV Motion Pictures) on board. And voila! I entered the theater today to find it brimful with gregarious flocks of people. Surreal wonderment! People do come to watch movies without stars and directed by debut directors even in Dubai? Super props to Johar and his phalanx to orchestrate what atleast seems an initial success for Gippi. It is a progressive film that touches upon a melange of mature topics but does not quite deliver to its potential.

Riding on a story and screenplay by director Sonam Nair, Gippi is another addition to teenage movies, amalgamating them with the breezy candy-floss of chick flicks, yet rooting it as a simple coming of age tale. Last year, Karan's Student Of The Year dwelt heavily on the pointlessness of superficiality of teenagers in school environments when pitted against the value of relationships and coming to terms with one self, all done soapily well. Gippi, takes a leaf out of the same book, and tells the underdog story of a girl who is overweight, not good in academics or sport, and fallibly makes a fool of herself in school. Yet, she has more pluck than angst, and more dance than speech. Gippi is subject to lewd remarks and continuous jest from most others at her school, save for her best friend Aanchal (Doorva Tripathi), who finds a lot of similarity in Gippi. The basic plotline of Gippi is fairly derivative, smugly sheathing itself in a 'accept-yourself-the-way-you-are' story, but it does set up a premise that handpicks many other influences. Gippi is structured around mint-fresh themes of puberty, sex education, dysfunctional marriages and families and unlikely infatuations of teenagers. The writing heavily derives humor and maturity from the above themes and wraps them around Gippi's story to respect herself before others start respecting her. 

Yet, there exists some lack of discernment on the writing part that did not allow the avowedly touchy topics to cultivate to their potential. For example, Gippi's brother Booboo (Arbaaz Kadwani) is a 7th grader who is trifle effeminate, with subtle references to his sexual orientation. The movie never addresses this openly, to avoid the risk of letting go of its breezy tone. Gippi's infatuation with an older guy, the problems of teenagers and much more are just left as they are without proper closure, as one has to understand that the film is written from the point of view of a teenager, and in his/her world, most of these things are fickle and maturity is occasional. However, one cannot disregard Nair's writing as it provides for continual guffaws and multiple endearing moments that sunnily melt most of the criticism. Music, along with most of the technical work in the movie, is well above average and it does not look like any cost-cutting or compromises have been done by Dharma. Editing by Yashahwini Y.P. is crisp at around 95 minutes, while Costume and Production Design is spiffy like any Johar film.

Riya Vij, as Gippi, does fairly well to fit into the title role and carry the film on her shoulders. Gullibly enough, she does show some lack of finesse but just like the dress Gippi is trying to fit into, Vij does step in and pull it off palpably well. Arbaaz Kadwani as Gippi's brother is the show stealer with bursts of goofiness and a prudish want for food. Doorva Tripathi, as Aanchal, is another great find who gives a bunch of crackling moments. Divya Dutta, as Gippi's mom, does well to not play the Punjabi mom by the book, but it would have helped to see more about her failed marriage and the cope-up period. Taaha Shah is wasted in another inconsequential role, albeit it is yet to be seen if he has more potential than this. Jayati Modi does well as Shamira, Gippi's nemesis.

Gippi is a charming film, that constantly engages and entertains you. As a critic, one does see the unexploited potential of the premise but as an audience, we are mostly happy with some feel good cinema. Go ahead, take a dip!

Rating - 3/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Monday, May 6, 2013

100 Years of Indian Cinema : Does Regional Cinema work better internationally than Bollywood?

The Apu Trilogy, made up of the films Pather Panchali, Aparajito and Apur Sansar, instantly placed Satyajit Ray and Indian cinema on the world map in the late 1950s. Between them, the three films won seven awards at the Cannes, Berlin and Venice film festivals. This, ingenuously, spurred the 'Parallel Cinema' movement towards being firmly established in Indian cinema. In 1992, Satyajit Ray received an honorary Oscar – the Lifetime Achievement Award. 

During his career, Mrinal Sen's films have received awards from almost all major film festivals, including Cannes, Berlin, Venice, Moscow, Karlovy Vary, Montreal, Chicago, and Cairo. Retrospectives of his films have been shown in almost all major cities of the world. Mrinal Sen was also elected as the president of the International Federation of the Film Societies.

Mani Kaul’s Satah Se Uthata Aadmiwas the first Indian film to find a place in Un Certain Regard category of Cannes in 1981. Adoor Gopalakrishnan’s Elippathayam followed suit in 1982 and Mrinal Sen’s Khandhar in 1984. This was the first instance an Indian film was in competition at the festival. 

Bengali director, Ritwik Ghatak, directed just 8 films in his life but is generally regarded as one of the few truly original Indian talents in cinema by Ray himself and international critics such as Derek Malcolm. His films, along with a
 number of Indian films from different regions, from this era repeatedly feature in the Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll for all-time greatest films.

As Indian Cinema completes 100 years, I am coaxed to wonder, have the stalwarts of regional cinema out-shined Bollywood filmmakers in terms of attaining global recognition and honor? What really defines the international face of Indian Cinema in the last 100 years? This question poised here is not stemming from a anti-nationalistic sentiment about regional cinema but more from a genuine intrigue. 

India is the largest producer of films in the world, producing over 1000 feature films across a vast set of languages each year. At the end of 100 years of its existence, Indian cinema is projected to have a net worth of around USD 3 billion or more in 2013. Hindi may be the most common language of dialogue but we successfully make a large number of films in Tamil, Bengali, Malayalam, Telugu and Punjabi too. According to various studies, regional cinema accounts for upto 65-70% film revenues in India. Hence, if any regional film attains international recognition, I would still call it a feather in the hat of the Indian Film Industry. But it is interesting to note the magnanimous contributions of regional cinema in shaping the course of Indian cinema globally. 

Indian Film history can roughly be split into the experimental 20s and 30s, the golden 40s and 50s, the commercial 60s and 70s, the despicable 80s, the struggling 90s and 2000s leading upto a point where we seem to be somewhat headed in the right direction today. If we go for a less hackneyed view, we discover that although it may appear that regional films have brought back more recognition for India from around the world than Bollywood has, yet all these successes seem to be oddly juxtaposed with various achievements of Bollywood films releasing around them too. Indian films have gone through good and bad phases, and pretty much, films in all languages have been good in the good phase and bad in the bad phase, more often than not. 

While the Bengali parallel cinema was rising, Chetan Anand's Neecha Nagar was awarded best film at the first Cannes Film Festival in 1946. When Ray was earning accolades for The Apu Trilogy, Mehboob Khan’s epic film Mother India became India’s first nomination at the Academy Awards for Best Foreign Language Film in 1958. At the 1959 Golden Globe Awards, the Samuel Goldwyn Award for Do Aankhen Barah Haath was won by V Shantaram, a mainstream Hindi film director. 

For the likes of Ray, Ghatak and Adoor, Bollywood boasted of the incredibly tall order consisting of Guru Dutt, Bimal Roy and Hrishikesh Mukherjee. Guru Dutt's Pyaasa (1957) and Kaagaz Ke Phool (1959) are now included among the greatest films of all time, both by Time magazine's "All-TIME" 100 best movies and by the Sight & Sound critics' and directors' poll, where Dutt himself is included among the greatest film directors of all time, alongside the Apu Trilogy (1955–1959) by Ray. Bimal Roy's Do Bigha Zamin (1953) pioneered the neo-realist cinema movement in India popularizing what was called the Indian New Wave. It was the first Indian film to win the International Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Raj Kapoor's Awaara (1951) was included amongst the 20 new entries added to TIME's All-Time 100 greatest films in 2012.
From the 1970s, mainstream Bollywood had become increasingly commercial catering to the masses and often compromising on the quality of scripts to adhere to populist pressures. This trend continued over 80s and 90s with very few Hindi films making a splash in the waters abroad, apart from some works by Shyam Benegal and his likes. Regional cinema, however, continued to flourish in the 70s and 80s until it suffered a resurgence in the late 80s and 90s carrying over to the 2000s with few shining spots here and there. The trajectory of the regional cinema, thus, has been fairly similar to the one of Bollywood. 

In 1988, Mira Nair’s Salaam Bombay! won the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and was nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In 1989, Malayam director joined the club with Nair receiving a Special Mention in Caméra d’Or for Piravi. During the 90s and most of 2000s, most of the regional cinema became predominantly commercial, save for Bengali cinema which never fell short of its aim with new directors like Rituparno Ghosh, Aparna Sen etc. After Shaji Karun’s Swaham in 1994 which was in competition at Cannes the only other Indian films that got selected in competition at Cannes were Shaji Karun’s Vanaprastham and Murali Nair’s Marana Simhasanam (which also won the Camera d’Or) both in 1999. Post then, we didn’t manage to catch the fancy of Cannes selectors for competition until Udaan (2010) and Miss Lovely (2012).

I do not think we can single out the achievements of regional cinema and pit them against Bollywood or vice versa, as it becomes increasingly hard to assimilate the grandiose set of achievements of Indian cinema in the past 100 years. However, over the past 10-15 years, all of Indian cinema is experiencing one slow but steady change. The so-called parallel nature of cinema is slowly blending in with the mainstream wing of it, irrespective of the region or language it is made in. International recognition had taken a backseat in the recent decade as none of our cinema was able to match up to the expected standards. But we are gaining our ground back, and this approach looks more confident and reasonable than the one before, to reach out to a global audience.  

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Shootout At Wadala is a campy actioner with nothing new on its plate

When a film like Shootout At Wadala comes your way, you know exactly what to expect. If you have seen the 2007 Shootout At Lokhandwala, this one is a chronological prequel to it, despite the fact this comes almost 6 years later. Teething brutality was a remnant feature of the 2007 actioner that worked well amongst a large audience riding on efficient direction and some good acting. Shootout at Wadala boasts of a seasoned cast of Anil Kapoor, John Abraham, Manoj Bajpai, Kangana Ranaut, Sonu Sood, Tusshaar, Mahesh Manjrekar and Ronit Roy. And this time director Sanjay Gupta loads the proceedings with not only gargantuan amounts of gore action, but also pours in generous sleaze and titillation, carefully bereaving the film of a storyline and character development. 

Based on a chapter in S Hussain Zaidi’s book From Dongri To Dubai, the film is a lavishly dramatized fictive cinematic version of the first police encounter in Bombay in 1982, which needed to be told like a journalistic account or somewhere on the lines of its predecessor. SAW is the tale of the rise and fall of Manya Surve, Bombay's first Hindu gangster who stood up against the likes of Dawood Ibrahim after dutifully living his life as a respectable citizen turned gangster due to pressing circumstances and the unjust police force, almost like out of any 80s film. The narrative splutters, chugs and falls into a pit as honestly, Surve's story or the account hereof, is the same as the most cliched chain of events for most Hindi action movies. However, what works is that Gupta infuses the proceedings with a barrage of action sequences stacked together like a pile interspersed only by innuendo laden item numbers with grotesque dance moves. Milap Zaveri's dialogues suffer a serious hangover from his peer Rajat Aroraa who is famous for his works in Once Upon A Time in Mumbai and The Dirty Picture, using a pattern of rhyming verses to pseudo fill in for the lack of wit. However, this time they come laden with a host of louche cusswords thrown in to induce claps. The screenplay, almost anecdotal in nature, jumps from killings to killings never immersing the audience in the lives of its characters, unfortunately. 

To Gupta's credit, he does get a few things right. Being his zone of comfort, he captures a lot of action sequences (Tinnu Verma) with much ardor, despite their unoriginal nature. His traditional sepia-camerawork (Sameer Arya and Sanjay F. Gupta), slow motion badassery and sleek editing (Bunty Nagi) lends SAW a fair mass entertainment value, coupled with the sleaze brigade of Sunny Leone, Priyanka Chopra, Kangana Ranaut and Sophie Chaudhary. Any scenes involving the girls are almost voyeuristic in treatment. Despite a runtime of 150 odd minutes, SAW does not become mundane, that is if you have an appetite for violence.  Music of the film has no memorable value and will die out like most item numbers do. 

Manya Surve was a dreaded gangster who rose to fame in very less time in the 70s Bombay.  He also won "Mumbai Shri" title in body building and was the one who murdered Dawood's brother, Sabir Ibramhim. John Abraham slips into Surve's shoes with a lot of heart and soul. He sweats out every drop of acting potential to look and enact this role, but still you are still exposed to his limitations that straitjacket this performance. Anil Kapoor is fairly ordinary and Kangana Ranaut is expectedly pesky. Sonu Sood and Manoj Bajpai only get a few scenes to show off their histrionics and do well in them. Tusshaar is one of the few actors who have not shown any improvement in many years of acting career also and he sneeringly smiles at me as I say this because he is permanently employed by Balaji Motion Pictures. Ronit Roy and Mahesh Manjrekar do not get much scope. 

When Shootout At Lokhandwala was a gritty retelling of the original encounter with a solicited focus on the backstory of each of the characters. On the other hand, Shootout At Wadala is haphazard slam-bang assemblage of incidents doused and soaked in sleaze and foul language. It does work as a one-time watch due to its painstaking effort to be a violent movie, but that could be crucially putting off for many too. The film took a good start on Friday but the business dipped on Saturday. I do not expect any wonders at the Box Office as SAW does not offer much originality for die-hard fans also. Watch it if you have nothing better to do!

Rating - 2/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

The 100Cr Fatigue!

Post the release of Himmatwala, a film which I voraciously wrote about here, a welcome speculation has been born. On the Wednesday of its first week, many cinephiles shared a picture of the largely famous Chandan Cinema in Juhu, Mumbai where it showed that the theater was running 3 shows of Aatma and 2 shows of Rangrezz, both released a week earlier to Himmatwala. For anyone who has seen Sajid Khan talk in any interview, such as the one here, will be doggedly led to believe atleast two things. One, that the guy definitely has the knowledge to make good cinema but appallingly chooses not to, and two, his love for the single screens across the country, specially gathering the reactions of his audience from the aforesaid Chandan cinema. Khan claims to have a defiant understanding of this section of the audience, a section which is also the majority. What then could be the bitter reason for Chandan to pull down his latest release with much alacrity?

"I am a safe filmmaker. When I write a story, I feel that there are some points which bring in nostalgia. I don't want to experiment. I am making films for the audience. My films have been super hits and I always knew that I will make a super hit film. I don't think it is overconfidence," this is what Sajid Khan said in a recent interview. Himmatwala teetered to a domestic net figure of approximately Rs 45 Crores in its first week, a number well below its bloated projections. Can Khan's claims of providing every actor his biggest hit to date still hold, considering Devgn has Son of Sardaar, Bol Bachchan and Singham up his sleeve? Can his hackneyed confidence still justify this performance from his challenges? Well, we can leave the guy alone to re-evaluate his films and come back stronger. But the Box Office today is hinting on something that is well beyond the agreeable commercial under-performance of Himmatwala. 

Much of our industry still equates good box office to good audience likability. In 2012, films like Kahaani, Paan Singh Tomar, Oh My God and Vicky Donor did the kind of business that a lot of star vehicles would have hoped for. Despite most of these films opening bitterly low, the word of mouth drove them endured them through weeks to posit them as formidable successes at the Box Office. In 2013, we have been stormed by a string of such successes already, led by Special 26 and Kai Po Che amongst others. None of these can boast of a grandstanding star value, belonging to a common mainstream genre or having a rage of a music album. Vidya Balan and Akshay Kumar may be stars but their films above were not driven on their outreach. As for Vicky Donor, even Pani Da Rang became so widely accepted post its release. Much to the aphrodisiacal pleasure of the minority audience, there seems to be a burgeoning ray of acceptance for the change of our content paradigm. More good films are emerging from brutal burdens of the mainstream to discover audience likability, earn some bucks and please the critics too.

But that was not enough. More significantly, we are seeing a broader fatigue on the other end of this spectrum. The mainstream star cash-cows are not as successful as they were for the first half of 2012, at least. Rowdy Rathore, released in June 2012, grossed approximately Rs.133Cr to become the third highest grosser of the year. But later that year, Son of Sardaar dipped to being the tenth highest grosser and Khiladi 786 did not even feature in the top 10. This year, Himmatwala should be out of the top grossers most positively. While Dabangg 2, released in December 2012, was the second highest grosser of the year, it still barely managed to top the success of its prequel, a mark it should have left far behind. But with growing business, if these films merely hit the ceilings set by the ones in their genre against the content-based films, we are surely about to witness a magnified form of this fatigue. 

We, as an audience, have brought about this miniscule change and should continue to do so. Just off the top of my head, mainstream Hollywood has not doled out one single delectable affair since January and we already have a few to count. The year is wide open and we have a number of releases lined up, but the Box Office looks brim with content based propositions. 2013 will be the testing year for the flag-bearers of the 100Cr club and I wonder who will be the filmmakers standing on the stage at the end of the year waiting to be honored to have crossed this farce of a benchmark. Sigh!

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here