Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Revolver Rani Movie Review : Experimental, brave but flawed

Revolver Rani is a hard film to judge and critique. It is a black comedy, and a sly one at that. It is an audacious and ambitious attempt. It is also marginally regressive at times. It is a slushy ode to Quentin Tarantino's Kill Bill series, not that those were classics either. It is the feminine version of a diatribe of Anurag Kashyap's Gangs of Wasseypur, in layman terms. It is a lot of things. But then, it is nothing like what its trailer promised it to be. Revolver Rani delves much deeper, darker and quirkier than a plain badass female dacoit beating up goons story. Yet in those finer reserves, it loses itself somewhere and leaves you confused. It must be lauded, but alas, it cannot be archived even if all of ye Kangana fans may have wanted to, specially after the release of Queen. 

Kangana Ranaut is Alka Singh, aka Revolver Rani, who is a psychotic, hard-headed feared dacoit in the Chambal valley of Madhya Pradesh. She is also a leader and politician in the Gwalior area, vying for the prestigious MLA seat or whatever. She defines wacky, irresistibly, from her sex life to her public shootouts to her clothes, which are imported specially from Italy. Her opponents are more laughable than villainous, while her toy boy boyfriend is a back-stabbing plundering aspiring actor Rohan Kapoor (Vir Das). Amidst the louche pack of men surrounding her is her well-meaning Balli Mama (Piyush Mishra) whose only fault is that he cannot sacrifice his hard-earned power for anything. Like her Rani from Queen, Kangana's Alka is also a woman in search of her own identity. Putting a cape on her murky past, she rages ahead  by the power of her gun. She wants to live like a normal girl, wishes to become fair, beautiful, have a family and drop the 'infertile' tag slammed on her face. But then this is a world where you have no one to cheer for, as everyone is bad and conniving. 

First time director Sai Kabir sets up architects a fresh interesting character in Alka with much alacrity. He also adopts a stunningly farcical tone in Alka's journey, playing on standard tropes of betrayals, double-crossings, masochistic goons, cheating politicians and media intrusions. But somewhere, his plot gets fragmented with no character-centric approach to the story. Alka's desire to clean up her act looks half-baked as the focus keeps meandering across various themes. In a certain sense, Revolver Rani is a very experimental film but its divisive screenplay shortchanges its audience. The trailer of the film promised much more fun while exploring the black layers that it does. The phan, phasion and gun is fun, but in bits of inspired moments, such as the one when Alka gets arrested, the one when she catches Rohan sneaking back into the house, the one where Balli mama conjures up Alka's marriage story. But none of this makes up for the whole, as a lot of whim is injected in an injudicious attempt.

Produced by Crouching Tiger Motion Pictures, Tigmanshu Dhulia and a couple of others, and presented by Wave Cinemas, Revolver Rani delivers a solid punch of hinterland cinema on a modest budget. Sanjeev Shrivastava's music churns out only a memorable title track. Suhas Gujrati's cinematography is decent, while a special mention for Rohit Nag for putting together a delectable cast. Sai Kabir's dialogues range from a riot to the trite. 

As the name goes, Revolver Rani belongs to Kangana Ranaut and she owns it well too. Post Queen, this one affirm her stature as the most versatile current actress of the Indian film industry. Gormless and crude, Kangana's Alka Singh is a cartoonishly fearsome character, a sharp turnaround from her previous Rani. And she stands tall, like a monumental giant with her performance. Capturing the strife and the inner desire of Alka, as well as her blithe and candor is an uphill task which she achieves. I cannot think of any actor in the film industry who would agree to play a spineless hero, but Vir Das is an exception. As Rohan, he experiments with his own capacities and must be credited for that. Piyush Mishra is first rate as Balli Mama once again. Zakir Hussan does well while the immensely talented Syed Zeeshan Quadri is wasted in an inconsequential role as Pilot. But the real show stealer is Mishkka Singh as an over-enthusiastic, ludicrously hilarious news reporter Payal Parihar from Sajag Samachar. 

On the whole, Revolver Rani may not appeal to a wide range of audience due to its unpersuasive plot and various dark indulgences. It does shine at many moments and worked for me, but I could not overlook the fact that it gets scattered all over the place. It has taken a decent start at the Box Office but one should not expect any success like Queen. Needless to say, Kangana Ranaut is in top form and could whisk away the well-written roles of many other actresses in the days to come. Vir Das, you always had my respect, and it continues to grow. The makers have been brave and that is always appreciable.  I will not urge that this is a film you should not miss, but considering the other options playing at the theaters, you might as well give this experiment a chance. If not for its leading lady!

Rating - 2.5/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Saturday, April 19, 2014

2 States Movie Review : A better book by Chetan Bhagat becomes an ordinary movie

Indian author Chetan Bhagat now writes books so that they can be converted into films. Yes, he has written his two latest books, 2 States and Revolution 2020 for the same purpose. As a novel, 2 States could be one of his better works, though I am not sure if it would still be any ruminating literature. Nevertheless, Bhagat does write engaging tales, rather simplistically, and they are able to engage a wide range of readers across the nation. It is no jaw dropping surprise then that they are made into movies. The first promo of the film 2 States was snazzy but thanda. The song promos were released right after and the music overcame the initial setback with much vim. Past few weeks, the buzz about the film has increased transcendentally and the film seems ready for a huge weekend. At some point in its promotional campaign, I could feel that it did not matter anymore if the film was good or not?

Debutante director Abhishek Varman has adapted Bhagat's story into a screenplay, along with Hussain Dalal (dialogues). But the rendition is inconsistent, ranging from clumsy to clinical. 2 States is the story of Bhagat's marriage, fictionalized as the marriage of Krish Malhotra (Arjun Kapoor) and Ananya Swaminathan (Alia Bhatt), who meet a much more rapturous IIM Ahmedabad than we know of. The story boasts of an interesting premise where Indian marriages dont happen with love between the couple only, infact there is a searing road ahead to convince both the set of parents and getting them to like each other. And it only gets worse if it is an inter-caste inter-state marriage. Varman's screenplay serves the story as it is without any savory tadkas, and that could be the biggest problem of the film. When you walk in to see the film, you would have seen best of the jokes in the trailer itself. Honestly, I am not against making mainstream ordinary love stories with nothing that fresh to offer. BUT in every film that is made on such large scales and budgets, there is always a scope of bringing in smaller nuances and a fresh treatment, and this is expected out of a first time director. Unfortunately, this is where Varman fumbles. He has ordinary material, but he also directions it ordinarily. Moments of laughter are far and few, while the clear cut effort to conjure the deep inexorable love story has left a lot of the film banal and stagnant. While the love story does work, it is underwhelming to see all the pieces of the cliched puzzle come in as you expect them to. The most fun portions of the film are the ones when both the sets of in-laws get together, and it only happens twice in the film. Another sequence which is handled well is the flashback of Krish's story with his dad. Varman anoints the film with warmth and chuckles but doffs the engagement, which even the book had. 2 States becomes easily likable but nothing worth remembering. 

Produced as a joint venture by rivals, Dharma Productions and Nadiadwala Grandson Entertainment, and presented by UTV Motion Pictures, 2 States is a product of avarice. So much so that, Sajid Nadiadwala shook hands with Karan Johar for the same. And thus, one can imagine the plush excessive budgets rolled out for this film. The biggest win of the film is that they were able to shoot inside IIM Ahmedabad campus. Music by Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy is an earful of melodies. Mast Magan, Locha-e-Ulfat and Offo have won over the audience already and are sure to stay on the charts. Binod Pradhan's cinematography is campy and ordinary, where the focus is more on the place than on the people or the moment. Namrata Rao's editing leaves a lot to desire as the film is overly long at 149 minutes. A special mention for Nandini Shrikent's brilliant casting of both the set of parents. Production Design by Amrita Mahal is good. 

When you gave a half-assed performance after a standing ovation, it is sort of a bummer, isnt it? Alia Bhatt gave Highway two months ago and now in 2 States, she can almost sleepwalk through Ananya's character. Arjun's Krish is much more interesting character. Arjun himself does well, but is limited by his available two expressions. He tries very hard to dance as well, but is nothing great at that as well. I guess he will have to make do with his charm which by any means isnt a bad thing seeing the fate of his films. I am just speculating the possibility of him being able to act. Amrita Singh is the best of the lot of parents, striking the cliched yet exact note of a Punjabi mother. Ronit Roy hams in an underwritten part. Shiv Subramaniam and Revathy are amazing as Ananya's Tamilian parents. 

On the whole, expectations from film adaptations of Bhagat's books have increased after 3 Idiots and specially Kai Po Che last year, where the ante was really upped by the films. In this peer zone, 2 States falls despicably short of its fellows. However, the film has an astounding buzz and is sure to rock the Box Office, owing to Alia's recent success, Arjun's cute face and the superficial Indian audience who will do anything to watch a campy entertainer...errr you may still be shortchanged in terms of entertainment. Unfortunately, I liked 2 States much less than I would have wanted to. Go for it if you have nothing else to do this weekend.

Rating - 2/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Yellow Movie Review : An ardent film on an inspirational true story

Yellow, directed by Mahesh Limaye, came out last week. After watching the film, I had an epiphany about two things. One, that Marathi cinema is on a roll with a peachy streak of films (read Fandry). And two, in India we make a flummoxing number of films with disabled characters. With the increasing number of such films, filmmakers are trying to approach them with calculated nuances and fresh fervor. Yellow is one such example, which cuts the tirades and manipulations, just tells a story instead, taking good care of the mainstream space it wants to dive in. Produced by Riteish Deshmukh and Uttung Thakur, Yellow gets the required unswerving support for it to look good and reach out to a large audience. Deshmukh, whose recent slate of stillborn films is doing a fairly good job as a Marathi producer, following up with this one after Balak Palak.

Yellow is the real story of Gauri Gadgil. For this 16-year-old suffering from down's syndrome, swimming helps her transform her personality. Not just that, it also brings a ray of hope in her life. In 2007, she bagged a silver medal in the 25-metre butterfly stroke at the Special Olympics Summer Games held in Beijing, China. The best part about the film is that Gauri herself plays the role in the film. While many parts of her journey are retained in the film, some others have been fictionalized to provide a surefire blend in Yellow. It is also the journey of a mother-daughter relationship, as the mother (Mrinal Kulkarni) comes to terms with her daughter's disability and allows her to create her own space. Then, it is also the journey of a teacher-pupil relationship, as the teacher learns to make friends with his differently abled pupil. The film's title carries a strong subtext which is revealed in the climax of the film. While Yellow eschews a lot of emotional manipulation that would hang like a dagger upon such a script, it does succumb to over-simplification at times. Gauri's dad has a subplot which looks under-cooked and bereft of any proper vision, and he ludicrously comes back in the climax seemingly regretful of his wrong doings. While Gauri and her mother's relationship with her coach, Pratap (Upendra Limaye) is fleshed out well, Pratap himself comes out as an uninteresting one-dimensional character. There are a few other holes but they do not affect the central situation a lot, in a largely heartwarming picture.

As said earlier, Yellow benefits from a relaxed budget which allow for good production values. There aren't many songs and Mahesh Limaye himself handles the camera. Yellow is a motivational film written it in its most simple form, with high octane sensitivity. The dialogues may sound hammy at times but the performances make up for that. Gauri Gadgil is rather dainty, and does very well in a fictional version of her own life. Her shtick for swimming makes her very comfortable in most of the swimming sequences. Mrinal Kulkarni is saddled with a very cliched character but somehow manages to walk the thin line, avoiding the hammy mess for most parts. Both Hrishikesh Joshi and Upendra Limaye are rather loud at times, but do decently well. Manoj Joshi is under-utilized.

Yellow is a movie in a mainstream space.and it does quite well to provide an expecting audience the custom tropes of this kind of cinema, without getting sappy and unctuous. It may not be a perfect film, but it is a must watch for an adorable lead performance and an inspiring true story that must be told. It pulls the right strings in your hearts and pioneers the soaring flag of Marathi cinema. Go feel happy!

Rating - 3/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Monday, April 7, 2014

Main Tera Hero Movie Review : Entertaining, but stupid

David Dhawan's Main Tera Hero is out and believe it or not, people will flock to the theaters to watch it. It is the perfect weekend getaway for a superficial Indian audience that pretty much cares only about good songs, good looking men and women, some action and a lot of romance. Yes, Main Tera Hero is the Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani of this year. Masala without substance. And incidentally enough, it has Evelyn Sharma as well, yes the doe-eyed eye candy who became popular with YJHD. 

Main Tera Hero boasts of a waferthin plot, where Seenu (Varun Dhawan) who is an infamous 'boy' in the small town of Ooty sets out to get a degree in a college in Bangalore and meets Sunaina (Ileana D'Cruz) who is engaged to a brawny brute cop Angad (Arunoday Singh). Even when he manages to overcome Angad, his love story is jacked by Ayesha (Nargis Fakhri) who falls in love with him. The two halves of MTH are separate like chalk and cheese and the film is a combination of the two stories which never give a wholesome feeling. Our hero talks, walks and behaves like a hero but definitely has no goal in his life apart from getting married to the love of his life. He goes to Bangalore to get a college degree but leaves for Bangkok the moment papa David decided to have an international location in the movie. He also drives his bike casually on an airport runway. Writers Tushar Hiranandani and Milap Zaveri weave MTH with a dozen such other faux pas but then this is not the film where one should look for logic. So here, I remove my logic hat and try to enjoy this campy entertainer that would make every critic cringe in his seat and throw that popcorn on the screen, along with some tomatoes, if available.

Now if you are not thinking and just having fun, David Dhawan is an auteur in giving you a fun ride all through. In Main Tera Hero, he weaves up interesting gags that provide a few laughs, but largely, the sharp editing and quick pace keep you largely entertained. You may gasp at plot points but Dhawan makes sure that you never lose interest, largely aided by his son, who steps into the shoes of a David Dhawan hero with an unusual ease. MTH rides on Varun's abilities to pull of slapstick humor while playing the adorable lover boy who the girls drool for. As for the boys, Ileana and Nargis should do the trick. Yet again, David Dhawan seems to be losing steam as he tries to stir up his old charm, albeit with barely any innovation. Tushar and Milap's dialogues do induce a light chuckle but also come out as cheesily moronic, instead of smart, a lot of other times. But if you are cool with physical and loud slapstick comedy, MTH does provide decent entertainment, which is what will work for the general audience out there. 

Balaji Telefilms have made Main Tera Hero with the intention of making big buck and have sold it like that. Spamming the media with publicity, Sajid-Wajid's chartbuster songs and the shiny glamour has all worked to create the buzz around the film. Sanjay F Gupta's cinematography is campy and glossy, aiding the similar Production Design by Sukant Panigrahy. Caution, as some colors may just hurt your cornea, if you are not used to David Dhawan films. Main Tera Hero is a film riding on Varun Dhawan's shoulders, who is only one film old. And Varun does well to charm the ladies and provide the required laughter bursts. Rajpal Yadav closes up to Varun's performance by making a worthwhile comeback on the screen, although his lines are mostly lame. Arunoday Singh, the one who could not act ever, has managed to respectably pull of slapstick in this one. Ileana D'Cruz and Nargis Fakhri do not have much to do except for playing glam dolls and they are bloody good at it. Manoj Pahwa is good as usual, while Saurabh Shukla, although immensely talented, is under-utilized. Anupam Kher again does not know what he is doing in a film. Evelyn Sharma is just gorgeous, she does not need to act.

I think I have summed it up earlier as well, but I would say it again, Main Tera Hero is a very massy film, but it is also a film limited to the first weekend and a couple of days more. So it must reap the most out of the dozens of shows running for it all around the country. It entertains, engages in parts and infuses enough cheese in you for it to last many months. Go watch Main Tera Hero for a lovable lead performance, but it does not have much more to offer.

Rating - 2/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Friday, April 4, 2014

Youngistaan Movie Review : Definitely a better film than you expect it to be

This is the revelation of the day for me. Youngistaan is not a terrible film, infact it is a decent one time watch. Or maybe I was in a mental state where I would have liked anything. 

For some weird reason, everyone that I know or follow on Twitter, has been humming the song 'Suno Na' from Youngistaan. Maybe its just the magic of Arijit Singh. But then Youngistaan did have an interesting premise, which was being jacked by an uninteresting lead actor, Jacky Bhagnani. Jacky, in his 5th film produced by his dad, is a persistent guy who is determined to juice out every penny of his dad's account anyhow. Whether Vashu Bhagnani believes it or not, but him producing all the films for his son is creating a negative conjecture amongst the audience about his films. While Youngistaan may be the first decent film they have produced together, but people may not still come out to theaters because of Jacky's unfavorable image with the popular audiences. To set the record straight, he is still not an 'actor', even after this one. 

Ramiz Ilham Khan, Maitrey Bajpai and director Syed Ahmed Afzal - a bunch of new writers work together on an interesting concept of a fish out of water when a race car obsessed game developer in Japan has to take over as the Prime Minister of India due to the demise of his father, who was the previous PM. Thrown into politics at the age of 28 and with a demanding live-in girlfriend, life is not going to be easy in India for Abhimanyu Kaul (Jacky Bhagnani). With Lok Sabha elections being the flavor of the season, Youngistaan is pertinent to the times and does offer a fairly researched and rational approach to an outsider taking up the most important chair of the nation, at least what is doable in a mainstream space because the audience really does not care about the subject or about understanding how does the office of a prime minister work. However, the dealings of a PMO office or of the chair are very surface level, with our young PM offering seemingly radical solutions off his gut like he was born with them, always to the clap of orchestrated background music. What makes Youngistaan interesting is its juxtaposition of the PM's personal life with his politics, where he is living in with his girlfriend who also gets pregnant later on and how a nation needs must grow up to understand that. The combination of the two equations is handled well enough, but a focus on it weighs down on the credibility of political side of the film. No situation ever appears to be hard enough for Abhimanyu, and he seems to be the guy who was born for politics. His backstory of being a game developer is restricted to minimal usage in the latter part of the film. A lot of preachy stuff is thrown rigorously towards the climax which may make you cringe. But with all the fallacies, Youngistaan is fairly engaging and never ludicrous. Some moments between Abhi and Anvita, his girlfriend, are handled with great care and Afzal takes care to keep his focus on the combination of his two lives. I may be overselling him here but he does show a promise of doing much better in future projects.

Produced by Vashu Bhagnani's Pooja Entertainment along with MSM Entertainment, and released by PVR Pictures, Youngistaan has been made on a generous budget to allow for good production values. Music by Jeet Ganguly, Sneha Khanwalkar, Shree Ishq and Shiraz Uppal is a good combination of genres, and songs never interrupt the screenplay. Suno Na by Arijit Singh is the pick of the lot, of course. Amalendu Chaudhary's cinematography is warm and easy on the eyes. while Anuradha Singh's editing leaves a lot to desire. Maybe there wa something wrong with the print that I saw, but I noticed 2-3 very abrupt cuts which made me question the editor. 

The star performer of Youngistaan is the amazing Farooque Sheikh, as the Prime Minister's PA. Sadly, he is no more in this world and Vashu Bhagnani pays a respectable tribute to him before the film. Sheikh is a natural, and he thrives even in an underwritten part. Neha Sharma is so pretty that her hammy lines can be ignored anyday, but she is definitely showing improvement in terms of the projects she picks. Jacky Bhagnani, saddled with a fairly difficult character, tries his best to do justice to it, but can only provide limited expressions. He is still way better than any of his past films. Father and son, Boman and Kayoze Irani do not get much scope in their parts. Mita Vashisht is a strong performer who is wasted here. Other supporting actors do well in their limited space. 

I expected Youngistaan to be a campy parable of a politically accurate India, almost like a fantasy. But it is a fairly decent take on a personal story with a stress on the importance of voting and youth power. Afzal's direction is pretty good for a newcomer and despite its superficial approach into the nation's problems, it stirs up interesting situations by focusing on the PM's love story. The film seemingly has a good word of mouth, and I would not like to berate it either. Amidst a sea of despicable Hindi films last week and this week, Youngistaan is a good one time watch, all of it done well within a mainstream space. 

Rating - 2.5/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

O Teri Movie Review : Good choice of subjects dont always lead to good films

O Teri is a film where credit roll begins with 'Salman Khan Presents'. Clearly, the signal was out loud and vivid, and I should have taken caution. But the self-proclaimed cinema lover that I am, I sat through the enlightening 107 minutes of the film. Bad songs, bad promos but a likable male lead, Pulkit Samrat, is probably the reason I went for O Teri, apart from a duty to watch every film that releases.

First time director Umesh Bist has co-written the script of O Teri with a popular stand up artist Neeti Palta. Not questioning the talents of either of them in their respective fields, but O Teri is a fine example of why writing a feature film screenplay is one of the hardest things to do. O Teri has the right intentions as a film, to become an entertaining expose of the deep roots of political corruption in India citing references and adaptations of popular incidents which have been in news in past few years. But alas, the plot is the one of generous conveniences. A dead body is used to create a situation multiple times and it disappears as well whenever its not needed. Towards the second half, there are multiple CD disks which contain different content that add to the confusion. My genuine issue with the film is that there are too many leap of faiths and contrived co-incidents which leave out glaring loopholes in an average screenplay to shatter it into pieces. Add to that a heavy dosage of bad acting, Samaritan speeches and a barrage of songs, none of which you like. O what a mess! 

Producers Atul and Alvira Agnihotri have made this film to serve as a launch/employment scheme for a lot of Sallu loyalists. They launch Bilal Amrohi (Kamal Amrohi's son) as the lead while Samrat is a known face at Galaxy Apartments, Bandra as well. A bunch of foreign women get to feature in small cameos or in songs, each of which must be Bhai's muses. For a film with multiple songs, that spring up upon a wink, Gj Singh's score is barely average. No other technical department stands out as well. O Teri does stir up some laughable moments, all thanks to the impeccable Vijay Raaz who tries to make the best of an underwritten part. Pulkit Samrat does reasonably well but he appears to be out of place next to the unintentionally hilarious Bilal Amrohi, who will never become an actor even if Salman Khan pimps him for the rest of his life. Sarah Jane Dias is a bad actress, and we find that out once again. Mandira Bedi is wasted, and Anupam Kher does not know what he is doing in this film. Murli Sharma is as ridiculous as ever.

On the whole, O Teri could be a torture even with its short runtime, because the gags are far and few. What you get instead is director Umesh Bist trying to act smart by creating small suspense moments which dont really lead to anything as the script buttresses on a bunch of situations forced in. The theater I went to had less than 5% occupancy, and you can skip it as well. 

Rating - 1/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here