Sunday, May 24, 2015

Tanu Weds Manu Returns Movie Review : Twice The Fun

Tanu Weds Manu became an instant winner with everyone when it came out in 2011, largely due to its renewed take on marriages and the female lead, played meticulously by Kangana Ranaut. Director Aanand L Rai and his writer, Himanshu Sharma, went on to make Raanjhanaa in 2013 and then came back for the TWM sequel. The first trailer shined amongst a lot of expectations, and the songs cracked the audience likability code right away. But that may not be enough for a great film, and more importantly, to snap out of the curse of the sequel.

Two Things.

One. Kangana Ranaut is India's current best actress. It is not about the wide buffet of roles she can yahoo about, but my remark is derived from the sheer ability to undo the star power, and dive deep into the character's skin. Kangana may be the only actress who has no qualms about looking ugly, unlikable or uncouth. Or to maniacally gearshift into an unknown territory without her PR making big news about it. In Tanu Weds Manu Returns, she is phenomenal, both as Tanu and as Kusum, the new look alike.

Two. TWMR may arguably have the best first scene Indian cinemas has seen in ages. Staged simplistically as a verbal standoff between Tanu and Manu (R Madhavan), 4 years after their marriage in 2011, the scene leapfrogs you into the story right away. The snappy lines between the couple cut each other up like swordsmen on steroids and you are left in smithereens due to uncontrollable laughter. 

So much so that, by the time you reach the mid point of the film, you are likely to have recognizable pain in the guts. People were standing up and clapping in the theater I watched the film, and most other times, I found myself missing the next punch trying to recover from the previous one. Its been a while a film has induced so much guffaw with this tenacity. The humor does dip in the second half as some unfortunate snags show up, but more on that later. 

Tanu and Manu have been married for 4 years now and their marriage is not working. Manu creates a scene at a rehabilitation center and he is taken into custody. Tanu leaves him and comes back to India, and starts hanging out with all her ex-boyfriends, including Raja Awasthi (Jimmy Shergill). When Manu comes out, he rushes back to India as well, where he meets Kusum, who looks exactly like Tanu but hails from a Haryanvi family, is a state level athelete cum student at Delhi University. Manu receives a divorce notice from Tanu, initiated by a conniving tenant at Tanu's house, Chintu (a brilliant Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub) and decides to remarry to Kusum. Thats quite a lot of meat in there, except when you enter the second half, you feel that the writer is looking for contrived excuses to buy out time for the climax. Kusum, Manu and Pappi (a delectable Deepak Dobriyal) unnecessarily goto Chandigarh to get Pappi married and then Kusum brings them back to her village. All this looks like a stretched out scheme to delay Manu's marriage to Kusum. Even the final act seems a bit scrappy but the film does not slither due to its able performances and constant plugs of humor. 

Few damp patches aside, TWMR is a delightful riot. There is just so much to like here that nitpicking would be an arduous task. Himanshu Sharma and Aanand L Rai turn the topic of a simple marriage around its head, shatter your classical notions and yet not make the end product unctuous or righteous. Yes, despite the audience friendly ending, but it does make sense if you reflect upon it. And they do all this with truckloads of fun. And if anyone is to be thanked apart from the, it is the actors. A lot of Rai's favorites come back together to hone and shine this gem. If anyone's vim can match neck to neck Kangana's, it is Deepak Dobriyal. He takes Pappi to a striking new level, where he adds flavor to each scene, either by word or action. Rajesh Sharma as Kusum's brother is first rate and Jimmy Shergill is well restrained and effective. Swara Bhaskar does not get much scope and Eijaz Khan is alright. Amidst all the noise, however, it is R Madhavan whose contribution usually gets sidelined. Madhavan is a veteran now, and he does not care about the limelight. But he is as much the pillar of TWMR as Kangana. With his quiet demeanor, he is resplendent, if not stunning. 

Eros International and Color Yellow Productions have mounted TWMR on a reasonable scale with no real compromises. Chirantan Das's cinematography is easy on the eyes, while Hemal Kothari's Editing is top notch. The music of the film is a big hit and is produced by an ensemble, including Anmol Malik, Krsna and RDB. Banno, their flagship song, is already leading the charts. To be fairly honest, TWMR is a film where the job was more than half done at the script and casting stage. The technical departments add little to the film.

On the whole, Tanu Weds Manu Returns fades away the prequel with much glory. The first day collections are above the mark, and the word of mouth will nimbly make it a runaway hit, I suspect. And rightly so, as for most parts, it is like an overflowing torrent of hilarity, sheathing away a lot of relationship intricacies which unravel in a not so cliched way. All said and done, Aanand L Rai has an ace of spade in his hand and it would be foolish to miss this raging entertainer at the theaters.

Rating - 3.5/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here

Monday, May 18, 2015

Bombay Velvet Movie Review : Underwhelming, But Not Terrible

Anurag Kashyap's Bombay Velvet is his big, brassy and boombox-ed entry into the big budget films league. It is also his dream venture, and is meant to save the day for Ranbir Kapoor, whose goodwill continues to recede after Besharam and Roy. Buttloads of money has been poured in this film by Phantom as well as Fox Star Studios, and believe you me, it shows, as grandeur oozes out of each frame. But alas, Bombay Velvet is an aggrandized product, one which has little depth to suck you in beyond its visceral thrills and some good performances. The suspected word is out, and its going to be a nightmare night for the phalanx that came together for this difficult film. Difficult to shoot and produce, not difficult to make a mess of, ofcourse. 

Bombay Velvet unspools a retro era, soaked in nostalgia and homage, where a small time crook, Johnny Balraj (Kapoor) watches James Cagney's The Roaring Twenties ironically inflicting the same fate upon himself. He loves Rosie Noronha (Anushka Sharma) who ran away from Portugese occupied Goa and now sings in bars in Bombay. Kaizad Khambatta (Karan Johar) is not only a media baron, but someone who secretly is significant in controlling the underworld business dealings as Bombay city takes its shape post independence amidst a host of putrid bureaucrats, politicians and builders. Some fact, much fiction and a lot of cinematic liberty comes to the rescue of writers Vasan Bala, Thani, Gyan Prakash and Kashyap. Not to mention that the story is based on Prakash's book, Mumbai Fables. 

Bombay Velvet is a misfire. The guttural world of the film is mooched from Scarface to Once Upon A Time.. films to Bollywood retro masala to Kashyap's standard revenge story. But its not all bad or terrible, as there is much to like as well. Lets go a little in detail.

The Nay's

1. In Kashyap's 1960 Bombay, every single person smokes and every frame looks as if they burnt agarbatti right before the shot. Not just that, he takes the liberty to re-imagine Bombay as he pleases which anoints a fantastical feel to BV, much unlike what one would have wanted. 

2. The plot is heavily crammed with unnecessary turns and twists, most of which do not even surprise you, but instead they never let you soak in anything from the character's minds. 

3. The crucial elements to the story itself dont feel so crucial to you as Kashyap breezes over macabre details with a whiff, leaving you feeling unquenched or the scene being half-baked. It feels as if the screenplay was written like an action sequence plot. 

4. The film astoundingly has the worst climactic scene ever where Khambatta is having dinner and Johnny comes to kill him. What should be an adrenalin admininstering high point, is an over simplified laughter inducing culmination. 

5. Bombay Velvet badly straddles the line between a retro masala mainstream and a parallel noir film and ultimately causes its own falling as you dont connect to any of its characters. Nope, none. 

The Yay's

1. Kashyap has a brilliant eye for visual styling and along with cinematographer Rajeev Ravi, he bathes BV with a stunning visual palette. The way he stages some of his scenes, or the way he uses Background Score for decisive scenes is largely discerning, like always. Ravi's camerawork is probably one of the best in ages. 

2. Amit Trivedi's soundtrack is top-notch and though the songs did not click with the audience, they have the potential to become cult classics. The operatic value of Dhadaam Dhadaam is phenomenal and the song transcends the film itself. Again, the OST is not meant for mainstream audience. 

3. In the best scene of the film, Johnny asks Khambatta for his share of the business and Khambatta, being the upclass uptight man he is, excuses himself to take a secret laugh. Pure genius. As is the scene after Rosie breaks her leg and Johnny talks to her on the road in a car. 

4. Leading the pack of performances are Karan Johar and Satyadeep Mishra, as Johnny's right hand man and friend, Chiman. With unswerving mettle, both these men deliver knockouts. Watch Johar in the scene where he is with Johnny in the verandah of his house, talking about his own past. 

5. Production Design (Sonal Sawant, Sameer Sawant, Errol Kelly) is a trump card. BV looks so lovingly detailed and so strikingly beautiful that it is hard to dislike it completely. Knowing that they built the whole set in Sri Lanka, its a commendable feat in itself to make it look this authentic. This department largely benefits from Niharika Khan's gorgeous costume design as well. 

Even with a quaintly familiar plotline and the deficit of mystery, Bombay Velvet is fairly engaging as I never got bored. Underwhelmed, yes I was. As with Ranbir's performance. I am almost tempted to say he was miscast for this role. Anushka carries a sullen expression all through, even when she is not running a guilt. Sadly, we dont even feel much when they fall in and out of love. Siddhartha Basu and Manish Chaudhari are good, but Kay Kay Menon and Vivaan Shah are completely wasted in thin roles.  

Bombay Velvet promises a lot but delivers only little, and that itself is very superficial. It is lot of information and very little heart and I could see the audience exasperated by the end of it, specially with the despicable final reels. The film has taken a poor start and its bad omen for the large sums resting on its shoulders. The weak buzz upto its release has cast its shadow now. I am no one to say this but maybe Kashyap is better off doing his niche cinema. With the same inherent style, same Trivedi music and similar actors, with much less cinematic pizzazz and noise. As for this one, one can file it in the section of failed experiments. Even if you do choose to watch it, you wont be devastated, just upset. And that is okay I feel. Bombay Velvet is incoherent, yet not an almighty mess. 

Rating - 2.5/5

Originally published for MadAboutMoviez here