Tag Archives: Movie review

H for Holy Censored Expletive! – Dharam Sankat Mein

HI caught the media premier of a movie on Wednesday and am due to write its review. I thought I’d combine it with my April 2015 A to Z Challenge.


Paresh Rawal playing a man challenging society’s obsession with religion. Now where have we heard that one before? And a colourful godman, complete with wild locks and flashy sneakers, riding in on a motorbike. That’s known too. You’d be forgiven for wondering if Dharam Sankat Mein is what happens when MSG marries Oh My God. I’m not sure people will forgive the movie for those similarities, though.

Now take a look at the trailer.

Done? So you know the important plot points already. A Hindu man in Ahmedabad discovers that he was adopted from Muslim parents. It’s an interesting premise. Let’s talk about what I did like about the movie.

It is set in Ahmedabad. That makes for a nice change from movies set in Mumbai or Delhi (jaded, uber-urban brats and the idle problems of First Worlders in a poor country) or the ones set in ubiquitous North Indian towns (full of gossipy neighbours and a Mountain Dewesque desire to break free). Ahmedabad is a bustling city and close enough to a major metropolis to not be overawed by it. It’s also smaller and comparatively homogenous in culture, making the problems of diversity very real. And finally, given that our much discussed Prime Minister and his politics hail from there, it sets the tone for a rather bold statement.

I did wonder whether the frequent Gujarati sentences thrown in would bother the audience. I am a Mumbaiker after all, so Gujarati is like a second language to me. But that isn’t true for the rest of the country. Still, we’ve survived the Punjification of Hindi cinema for decades now, without flinching or letting it stop our acceptance of the stories. So I’ll hope North India doesn’t turn this movie down, solely because they couldn’t digest its linguistic flavour.

Paresh Rawal is in perfect form but that’s not surprising. The role was written for him. I wonder whether he is starting to get slotted, the way Amitabh Bachchan was in the early millennial decade. AB became the go-to guy for stories needing an old, strong man while Paresh Rawal seems to be the quintessential middle-aged skeptic dealing with change in a reluctant but humorous way (Hera Pheri, Hulchul, Oh My God). You already know what to expect and how he’ll behave, when he appears on screen.

Annu Kapoor was the surprise element for me in the film. As the firebrand Muslim lawyer next door, he delivers one Urdu couplet after another perfectly crafted verbal explosion and keeps the audience hooked. I was happy to see that he had a sizeable role in the movie and a chance to explore his rather unacknowledged talents.

The story doesn’t flinch from delivering hard truths. It addresses latent religious biases, the defensive stance of minority groups, the sense of identity crisis that occurs with a parent’s death as well as the pressure to change to please the offspring. The trouble is that it tries to do all of these things and the effort shows. None of them get addressed fully before the story rushes off to deal with something else, equally big. For instance, when the imaan tells Paresh Rawal that he must learn the Muslim way, the audience starts to think about what this actually mean. But all the movie does is describe the motions of namaaz and make a passing reference/joke to pronouncing nuqtas.

satireThere are several things going on all at once and the pacing seems completely off. Paresh Rawal holds the bumpy set of incidents together but still one is left feeling disoriented. And all the effort that it takes for the key characters to hold the story together, leaves no room to flesh out the others, making them but cardboard cutouts in the background. The ending seemed too convenient, as if the film-makers, exhausted by the effort, decided to just stuff what was left into wherever there was room.

I have to say this. I was terribly disappointed with Naseeruddin Shah. His character is an extreme one but I would have expected better of this actor than to turn Baba Neelanand into camp horror.

Overall, Dharam Sankat Mein isn’t a bad story. I think I would preferred to read it, though. The medium of cinema seems to have overwhelmed the makers and the end result is amateurish. Since comparisons with Oh My God are inevitable, this film looks like a starry-eyed but not very polished attempt to follow up on that theme. But if your weekend’s only options are an overdone car race franchise or a violent postfeminist saga, this might get you a few somewhat intelligent laughs.


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Bombay Talkies: 100 Years Well Worth Celebrating & Watching

If you’re a cricket-agnostic in India, then IPL season is slow torture. Every television in the world is hogged by cricket fanatics. Restaurants, malls, even shops are playing matches and everybody’s looking over your head to catch the score. Even the bloody internet bandwidth is clogged by those in office, desperate to know Sachin’s stats. And if you do manage to get online, Twitter is waiting for you, hashtags bared. A movie would be a nice place to lose oneself from this mania but the multiplexes and theatres all throw up their collective hands and screen the bottom-of-barrel movies only. I guess somebody up there took pity on the minority that is me and tossed me a tasty titbit in the form of Bombay Talkies.

Released as a centennial tribute to the 100 years of cinema, Bombay Talkies is Bombay_Talkies_2013_Filma collection of four short films, one each by a prominent Bollywood director. The shorts-format has always intrigued me and I wonder why Bollywood doesn’t do more of these. The only short film collections I’ve seen Bollywood release into mainstream are Darna Mana Hain, Darna Zaroori Hain and Dus Kahaniyan. Considering the burgeoning costs and risks in making a film, might it not be a better idea businesswise and creatively speaking, to spread that across multiple smaller buckets? I do hope the powers-that-be are considering this and that the brilliance of Bombay Talkies paves the way for more.

The first story, directed by Karan Johar, brings the expected star value by way of Rani Mukherjee and Randeep Hooda. This film is really more about gay angst than about cinema. It’s not too bad, all things considered. Unfortunately, as part of a bouquet that has the other offerings, this one is the weakest, both in terms of interpretation of the theme and the story delivery. Randeep Hooda is his versatile self but Rani (doing a Vidya Balan a la The Dirty Picture, if Silk were an affluent South Bombayite) come through the way HD made the raving beauties of the last decade look – plastic and grotesque. The one and only sweet note in this film – and it’s a beauty at that – is the street urchin’s rendition of Ajeeb daastan hain yeh. The child’s voice brings all the mood and has that component of art that reaches out from its canvas/celluloid/paper and wrings the audience’s heart.

Story two, by Dibakar Banerjee, takes us through the mundane day of a chawl-dweller and the one special event of his day. Nawazuddin Siddiqui is nothing short of superlative in his depiction of a nondescript everyday man turned magician, full of wonder and glory and big dreams, if only in his own mind. This one showed real class in such subtleties as Purandhar’s monologue with his alter ego and a surreal emu walking around in disparate scenes.

Post interval, the film didn’t disappoint either. The next story, by Zoya Akhtar dips into the LGBT bucket again, but this time with finer strokes and the rawer talent of a child. A little boy dreams of shiny baubles and dancing, instead of football and cricket. Mostly alone in a world of ambitious and gender-role rigid parents, he takes comfort and inspiration from Katrina Kaif. The climax of this film made me want to stand up and clap and just keep on clapping. Naman Jain shows talent beyond his years as he manages to depict a cross-dressing child without parody. He makes you want to laugh with him, rush to protect him from judgements that will destroy his innocence and applaud him for the star he is. This was my favorite film in the entire movie.

The last story is by Anurag Kashyap and to my surprise, not dark or gritty. It’s a fairly standard story of the God-level idolization of filmstars across India. A young man comes to Mumbai with just one burning purpose – to meet Amitabh Bachchan and ask him to bite into his mother’s homemade murabba so his ailing father can eat the other half, having felt like he shared a meal with the superstar. But the story carries you through Vijay (Vineet Kumar Singh)’s adventures and right through the twist in the end. Maybe I’d have enjoyed this film more if it had been number two or three. Placed last, it felt slightly predictable, probably because the two preceding it were so unexpected and diverse. At the start, I also had a The Terminal flashback with Tom Hanks soldiering on to get an autograph of his father’s favorite jazz player. Still, this was a very good film with the unmistakably Kashyap style of extreme highs and lows.

The movie ends with a song that fails to impress in any way. The medley through the years has been done so often in Bollywood recently, you already know how the music and even the backup dancers hips will swing. And it closes in a tacky family-photograph style ensemble of all the current actors. I was glad to walk out by this time.

In all, I’d have thought this would be a ‘festival’ kind of film, meant only for niche audiences that lived and breathed the technical language of cinema. What I found instead was a damn fine movie, that even I, a regular member of the audience, could relate to and enjoy.

Go Goa Gone: Zombie Comedies are Howl-a-rious!

I’ve only ever seen two movies on the same day, once in my life. That was the day Saawariya and Om Shanti Om released together and I came home with a headache and a blue disco hangover, swearing never to do that again. I broke that rule today and how delicious, I had a wonderful day!


Starting the day with a solo matinee of Bombay Talkies was a sweet surprise. And I ended the evening with Go Goa Gone. The friend I invited along, tossed off a comment about the ‘ZomCom’ that I was going to watch which made me think I must be getting old since I didn’t recognize the abbreviation. Zombie comedy seemed a misnomer to me and I wasn’t that hopeful given the cast seems to range from child stars who never really made it big as adults (Kunal Khemu), funny-but-always-sidekicks (Vir Das), Mr.Nondescript (Anand Tiwari) to ageing-and-desperate Saif Ali Khan.

Well, take all those notions and throw them to the zombies to chew on. Go Goa Gone was fun, funny, fun from the word go! Three friends find themselves Goa-bound. One, the classic hip dude/douchebag is in trouble for getting upto nooky at work, the second paavam prani has been dumped by his girlfriend and the third geek/good boy thinks he’s going to a business conference. They wake up on the other side of a rave party on an island off Goa’s mainland and discover that everyone at the party has turned into zombies.

The humour might have been grating were it not for the fast-paced action. And the zombie horror bit might have been screechy if it hadn’t been for the laughs. Quite surprisingly Go Goa Gone seems to hit the perfect balance between chills and laughs. It was actually fun to be scared of something other than the random ‘Boo!’ kind of scares that current Bollywood horror seems to dish out. And yes, it was such a pleasure to watch entire dialogues that weren’t being sterilized by censorship. If the words sex, fuck, fucker or gaand offend you, you might want to stay away from this film. Somehow in this film, this language didn’t seem to be thrown in for its ‘cool’ quotient but because realisitically, that is how people talk.

Aside from the language, there were genuinely funny sequences through the movie and I’m glad to say that these were plentiful. The sequence on the window ledge, right after Hardik (Kunal) gets caught with his pants down at work was a beauty. And the first conversation between the three friends where they try to piece together what they know about zombies is howl-a-rious. Finally, I loved the fact that they didn’t run out of the magic laugh-creating formula midway. The ending twist before they get off the island, was perfect and resulted in an explosion of laughter.

All in all, I’d say watch the movie. I’m heading to Goa as soon as I can!

MOVIE-Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows

Just earlier this week, I was talking about the revamped James Bond, played by Daniel Crag and why I wasn’t a supporter. The boy said that James Bond (Ian Fleming’s original) was not relevant in modern times. While that may be true, my point is that if a movie is using a character’s brand to pull me into the theatre, I feel cheated when I get something else. James Bond is supposed to make me go weak in the knees, not make my heart bleed for him.

I could say something similar about the Sherlock Holmes movie franchise. Still, the first movie made me want to consider that I could look at it as an independent storyline, not a depiction of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s hero. It’s very hard to be this objective about a character one loves so much, but if the movie is entertaining enough, it is possible.

Sadly, the second movie Sherlock Holmes: A Game Of Shadows did not permit me the same grace. Many things did not work for this film, the biggest of which was that it simply did not entertain. Halfway through the movie, I was already straining to look at the time and I actually groaned when the plot took another turn, indicating another half an hour at least.

Let’s start with the most obvious bits. Even as an independent character, a detective is fun to watch when you can see how he figures out a mystery. The ‘Show, don’t tell’ rule of story-telling was conspicuously absent in the film. The characters rushed about in what seemed like a wild-goose chase, interpersed with a sprinkling of rapid left-right head movements, presumably indicating Holmes’ brilliant mind at work. But none of those workings were ever shown satisfactorily. It was like someone stepped in and said, “There ought to be some Sherlock Holmes in this movie. Let’s pick at random and throw it into the film at some arbitrary points.”

The second most compelling thing about a Sherlock Holmes story is the case itself. Human foibles, grey emotions are all brought out in a compelling way in the books. The film completely missed that too. An extremely cardboard villain whose motives are explained away with,

“Bad people do bad things because they can.”

left me with an unpleasant taste in the mouth. I’m not stupid, Mr.Guy Ritchie.

Even if I were to hold on to my original premise of not expecting the same of the film story as I would from the books, it didn’t work. Robert Downey Jr. looks wasted through this film (worse than the earlier one). If that’s a tip-off to Holmes’ opiate behaviour, how does he manage to be fit enough to perform the stunts that are shown? He’s a detective, not a superhero. Even in an independent world, that means a regular human being whose prowess is more in the mental realm than the physical. As a fan of the detective fiction genre, I’m offended by one who is so stylised that he’s almost a drunken dandy, a guy who draws so much attention to himself when his profession involves moving in the shadows.

If the overextended action sequences weren’t bad enough, what was a generous orgy of gunfire and bloodied limbs doing slathered all over the second half of the movie? If I had known this was going to be a war movie, I’d have refrained from walking into the hall.

And then there were the characters. Some of the Holmes universe’s best known people make an appearance here but they were all nothing more than props for the main character. The tiny handful of smart lines were reserved for pseudo-homosexual banter between Holmes & Watson. Jude Law (Dr.Watson) and Rachel McAdams (Irene Adler) both looked thoroughly fed up with the movie and delivered their scenes like they were parodying in a small out-of-the-way theatre.

After the movie had managed to tick me off in all these ways, I also had adequate time to notice other things. The look/feel of the film looks all incongruous given the times that it is set in. Machine guns in the 19the century? And never mind the weaponry, what about the people? Did women really move that way, with such confidence (even arrogance)? Even Mad Men (set in the 1950s) seems primmer, more prudish and chauvinistic than these times. It doesn’t make sense at all.

This movie might have had a chance to entertain, if it could only make up its mind what it wanted to be – action flick, superhero caper, war film, comedy. In the case of the first movie, I’d have said watch without expecting Sherlock Holmes. For this movie, I’d say, don’t expect to be entertained unless repetitive stunts and tomfoolery are your thing.

Ideart: Mere Pass WOGMA Hain!

Another Ideart opportunity and my marketing mind tells me this should be called co-branding. 🙂 At the Mood Indigo-BlogCamp Dec 2010 that happened over the weekend, I had a chance to showcase one of my works.

I first met Meetu at a common friend’s party. A few months later, we connected at the 2008 BlogCamp at IIT Powai. We kept in touch, our blogs establishing a mutual admiration society. Last year, I called to tell her I’d be in Pune and she invited me to crash at her place. I don’t know if she has had a chance to regret that (!) gesture as yet but her place feels like my home away from home to me now. I have also had the honour of being a guest author at WOGMA, the blog that makes Meetu famous.

So it was nice to have the opportunity to show my solidarity for WOGMA and Meetu in a very personalized way, the Ideart way! Meetu wanted a fun WOGMA tee-shirt to wear to the BlogCamp event. She also sent me the inscription and a detailed description of the design. I think she was quite happy with the result. 🙂

The tee-shirt says,

Tumhare paas
…actor hain,
director hain,

Mere paas,
…WOGMA hain!!

(a filmi tribute to Deewar)

I considered two fonts for the message. Since Deewar came out in the 70s (my favorite decade of pop-culture!), I first wanted the curly-wurly psychedelic font that characterised those references (think the title of Om Shanti Om). But the message was too long to fit such a complex font onto the tee-shirt and I didn’t want to risk taking away from the WOGMA logo.

So I picked the other font which was what I think of as a ‘Las Vegas’ font, since Hollywood movies often show casinos and clubs with their billboards flashing names and surrounded by bulbs around each letter.

As with many Ideart projects, the conceptualisation took up the bulk of the time. Once I knew what I was going to do, actually carrying it out took very little time. The main words were painted on with a flat brush and touched up with the hairfine point. Once dry, I applied tiny yellow spots on top of the black letters. You can’t actually see the yellow dots too well and the effect isn’t quite what I had imagined with the Las Vegas lights. But it does brighten up the otherwise severe black strokes without detracting from the colourful WOGMA logo.

I was quite nervous about the WOGMA logo since this was the only thing that Meetu really wanted replicated as closely as possible. The logo on the site is an online print and I was not sure I’d be able to reproduce it in fabric paint. So I took some liberties with the shades and tried to stay close to the shape of the coffee-stain style ‘O’. I used my favorite technique of dabbing water-diluted colours and blending them where they met, before they dried. The ‘W’, ‘G’, ‘M’ and ‘A’ were done in a slightly narrower flat brush using a maroon colour (I didn’t have the plum shade of the actual logo, sorry Meetu!).

The back of the tee-shirt was even easier since I just replicated the WOGMA logo and practically scribbled the ‘movie reviews from a part of the audience’ that Meetu had asked for.

There was still something missing and it looked too much like the kind of tee-shirts that corporate types give out at conventions. So I gave it a neckline to make it look less like a tee-shirt and more like a dressy top. The same yellow-dotted black stripe ran around the V of the neck in the front. I didn’t have a chance to do the back and I figured Meetu’s long hair would cover that anyway. The entire exercise took all of one hour but a lot of frantic phone calls to Meetu. 🙂

Garment: Standard V-necked women’s tee-shirt

Material: Tee-shirt cotton

Background colour: Plain white

Paint colours used:

  • Fevicryl no.02 Black (for basic script)
  • Fevicryl no.302 Pearl Lemon Yellow (for dots & ‘O’ of WOGMA logo)
  • Fevicryl no.311 Pearl Spring Green (for ‘O’ of WOGMA logo)
  • Fevicryl no.303 Pearl Pink (for ‘O’ of WOGMA logo)
  • Fevicryl no.24 Vermillion (for ‘O’ of WOGMA logo)
  • Fevicryl no.10 Indian Red (for ‘W’, ‘G’, ‘M’ and ‘A’ of WOGMA logo)

Paa – The Self-Absorbedness Of Bachchanalia

HT Cafe’s summary of Paa goes as follows:

Auro (Amitabh Bachchan) is an intelligent, witty 13-year-old boy with an extremely rare genetic defect that causes accelerated ageing. Mentally he is 13, but physically he looks five times older. He lives with his mother Vidya (Vidya Balan), who is a gynaecologist. Amol Arte (Abhishek Bachchan), is a progressive politician. Paa is the story about a father-son.

I should have read that summary thoroughly. Or perhaps, by some inspired stroke of genius, read only the last line. Because the only thing that’s been on my mind, this past hour (I walked out of the hall roughly an hour ago), has been,

What was that movie about?

To be fair, I only focussed on the first two sentences of the description, which made me immediately think of another movie, more than a decade older – Robin Williams’ Jack. That was a movie about a genetic condition, one that was almost Daliesque in how surreal the patient’s life became. Robin Williams essayed the role of a ‘regular boy with a body 4 times its age’ to perfection.

That was the only thing that intrigued me about Paa. I don’t subscribe to the school of thought that ‘it’s Bollywood so leave your brains behind’. This is the industry that has given us Iqbal , Prem Rog, Taare Zameen Pe, Amar Prem and Khamoshi (the 1969 one as well as the 1996 one). If you’re wondering what the above have in common, they are all stories of people in difficult circumstances – social, mental and physical. All of these movies were mainstream cinema, they had commercial actors and they were portrayed realistically,boldly but also sensitively. And they all enjoyed varying degrees of commercial success as well.

I think it is quite fair to expect that the same industry provide good entertainment and if, a ‘serious’ topic is taken on, it be dealt with sensitivity, intelligence and maturity. Sadly I found none of the above in Paa.

To return to the story itself, was this a story about progeria? The introduction shows an lengthy description of the disease with some statistics thrown in and illustrated with photographs of victims to make the disease come alive, so to speak, for the audience. And then, abruptly there ceases to be any further mention of the problem, other than to provide convenient hiccups in the plot (a holiday on a whim, a 12-yr-old boy falling sick in the middle of the ground suddenly).

Meetu points out the over-simplification of various critical points in the movie:

Like the overall compassion with which people from all ages and backgrounds treat an abnormal child. Also, the social acceptance of an illegitimate child and his mother was a tad too uneasy to digest. It is obvious that these issues were intentionally left out of the equation to help focus on the characters and their relationships. But these issues are conspicuous by their absence.

Similarly, the whole comment on parents’ complete disregard to anything creative as a source of living was in bad taste. A wee bit exaggerated it was, in order to get those extra laughs. Also, the maturity that 12-13 year olds show seems a bit beyond their age. The climax too seems a little too melodramatic compared to the tone of the rest of the film.

I agree with WOGMA‘s analysis as far as this. But it stops right there.

If the story wasn’t supposed to be about the disease itself, then why bring it in? It seems contrived and hence insensitive to toss in a word like ‘progeria’ just to build up the intensity of the plot. Most of the movie revolves around Auro’s relationship with Amol.

If then, the movie was supposed to be about the father-son relationship, then why not a regular child actor to play Auro?

I came out of Paa feeling like I had been subjected to the extremely self-absorbed whim of Amitabh Bachchan to play a ‘different’ role. Just the way I felt forced by Sanjay Leela Bansali to believe that making Black made him a ‘sensitive’ story-teller. Or for that matter, Madhur Bhandarkar for making Jail.

All of these reek of people trying too hard. My tweet-review elicited an immediate response from Bolly-blogger Sakshi, who asks me,

Why not AB?

The point is because he is not a 12-year-old boy with progeria. And more importantly, he didn’t depict Auro to tell a story about the disease. It was an attempt at blatant self-glorification and it came off in bad taste.

Maybe, as Sakshi points out, he is a box-office success. But then so was Lata Mangeshkar. And it is also a fact that no other talent (not even her own sister Asha Bhosale) was permitted to flourish as long as Latatai ruled the roost. The distinction I’m making here is that there is no dearth of talent. But such self-promotional antics come across as crass and materialistic. Really, there’s no need to mask all that under the garb of artistic greatness.

At the end of the movie I’m left with a feeling that I wasted 300 bucks and three hours of my time watching an extremely self-centered old man trying to prove that he has talent. Like decades of showcasing it and all the adulation of this country haven’t been enough.

Movie-Making & Story-Telling: Jail – Epic Fail!

I saw Jail last night. This is the latest offering from the Madhur Bhandarkar stable and is about (yes of course) life within the confines of prison. One thing to say about Bhandarkar is that he definitely picks his topics well. From the plight of bar dancers to the socialite circles, the corporate battlefield and the glamour industry, each of his ideas are rich for development. My problem is that he stops right there. I’ve seen all the above movies and almost all of them left me wincing.

Chandni Bar had an overdose of pathos and greyness. I wasn’t asking for Karan Johar’s brand of fluff but I at least expect a story, not a list of all the possible evils that could befall a woman.

Page 3 received a lot of critical acclaim and perhaps it was a bold depiction of the filth behind the finery. But as a story, the plots were poorly depicted and the whole film came through as a collage of images badly pasted together by a young child.

Corporate was perhaps a little better in terms of story value and depiction. I believe the characters could have been etched a little better and the plot explained clearer too. For example, it is never quite clear just why KK Menon’s character has gone away (been expelled?) and then come back. Bipasha’s relationship with him is too stark, too simplistic and goes counter to the otherwise strong, rational character that she portrays. Still I guess it was a better effort than the earlier movies.

Fashion was probably the only one of his offerings that I really liked. The three protagonists were very well characterised, the plot was believable (within reason, it is a Bollywood film after all) and the story carried through well.

And finally we come to Jail. Going by the  progression of his earlier movies, I was expecting him to be learning and growing as a film-maker and serving up an ever better film. Sadly enough, Jail falls in the same pit that swallowed up Chandni Bar. Pathos and gloom sit heavy on your shoulders all through the movie. The main character depicted by Neil Nitin Mukesh doesn’t come through convincingly. At the end of three hours I’m still left wondering about what kind of a person he is, despite the camera riding on his shoulders all along. The conflicts, the confusion, the utter bewilderment of a man thrown into a harsh worldwere situations ripe for portrayal but I’m afraid neither the script, nor the dialogues nor Neil Nitin Mukesh’s emoting do any of them any justice. Manoj Bajpai shines in his portrayal of a convict/prisoner-on-duty but the role is too small to push the movie into the realm of palatable. Mugda Godse has very little to do other than look wide-eyed and say, “It’s okay.”

As a viewer I was left fidgeting and annoyed with the way the story dragged on. More than once I found myself asking “Why isn’t anyone pointing out that he didn’t fire the gun?”. Each courtroom scene looked exactly like the previous one with the lawyer reciting the same indifferent speech and Neil Nitin Mukesh’s stammering, “No, please..!”.

I found myself comparing Jail to another movie about prison life – Nagesh Kukunoor’s Teen Deewarein. Certainly the backdrop of Kukunoor’s movie may have been a bit of a rosy picture but as a story it brought out the agony and frustration of the daily bonded life superbly. Bhandarker in contrast dumps a series of gory situations to make up for lack of a storyline.

If this had been Bhandarkar’s first movie, I’d have given Jail full points for the authenticity of the background. But after all these experiences with ‘real cinema’, I really think a lesson should have been learnt on how to tell a story. At the end of it, I’m not willing to like a movie simply because it has a great concept. The concept is only the starting point and the movie is its complete expression. When the last falls flat, I think the director has failed as a story-teller.

MOVIE: Animals Are People Too!: Review of Bolt

I’m not a dog-lover. In fact I am not even an animal-lover, though I could fairly tolerate a cat’s company. It’s not that I have anything against them, animals just never touched me. I’m a people-person, not an animal-person.

But what if animals were people too, just on fours and oh, with paws and fur instead of fingers and hair? Hmm. My animal-loving friends tell me that every pooch, every kitten, every bird has its own unique personality, just like human beings.

I’m convinced, now that I’ve seen Bolt. Bolt is a white dog who adores his mistress Penny, frolics and chews a carrot-shaped toy and chases his own tail. He’s a dog like any other – with one difference. He thinks he’s actually a SuperDog with special powers like an iron-bending forehead, a fire-shooting glare and a SuperBark that can blow them all away (a special genetic contribution from his ancestor, The Big Bad Wolf, one supposes).

How does a normal well-fed dog with a loving owner come to suffer such delusions? Bolt, it transpires, is the star of a television series and the entire world that he sees around him, is an elaborately constructed set with actors playing every role. All so that he genuinely believes in the character of Bolt the SuperDog and acts accordingly. Method acting at its finest.

Bolt is a 3-D movie. Yes, the kind where you get to wear multi-coloured spectacles while watching! You can imagine how much that adds to a story about a dog with great powers and even greater imagination.

John Travolta provides the heart-warming, sometimes whiny, sometimes growly voice of Bolt. Penny, Bolt’s ‘person’ is played by Miley Cyrus. If you listen carefully enough, you can discern the shift in Penny the TV star and Penny, Bolt’s doting owner. During the shooting, when Miley began laying tracks for the scenes where Penny plays with Bolt, she imagined herself playing with her own dog and spoke as she would at home, with a Southern accent. So Penny naturally speaks with a drawl. But while shooting for the TV show, Miley was asked to record without the accent, so the actress Penny delivers her instructions of ‘Bolt, zoom zoom!’ on a crisp note.



When I first saw the promos detailing this story, I thought it was a tad contrived. But the nice part of the movie is that the story actually begins after Bolt accidently gets out of his set and what happens to him in the real world.

The story had a chance to go the ‘Babe in the city’ way with a smirking look at the mistakes of the uninitiated in the big, bad world. Instead, it took a strong bouquet of characters and carried a simple plot with style.

The bad guys are just circumstances (or circumstantial as in the case of Penny’s slimy Hollywood agent, but aren’t all TV agents supposed to be that way?), the good guys leave you wondering if it would be too much of a sin to give them a good kick now and then. Just like human people. We meet Mittens, the smirking New York alley cat, extortionist bully of the neighborhood bird community and expert in the matters of men and dogs. There is Rhino, an exuberant Bolt-groupie hamster energetically running around inside a plastic ball who alternately provides comic relief and the Yoda for Mittens’ hard-bitten cynicism.

And then there are the pigeons! Ever wonder what pigeons keep going on about while they goobgoob at each other from telephone wires and window parapets? Here’s what – they complain about bullies, they play tricks on people, they gossip about people (and dogs) walking about and in Hollywood, they even pitch movie ideas to any stars that they inadvertently bump into!

In all fairness, Bolt is exactly the way I see most dogs. Sweet, sometimes irritating in his antics, pretty lovable but nothing remarkable in himself. The other characters of this story are what make it really special and worth every minute of it.

*Bolt will premier at the multiplexes tomorrow, finally a good movie after the long wait! This movie was brought to me by The Social Media Catalyst.

Giggly Girls & Credit Cards: Confessions Of A Shopaholic

I am not a shopaholic. I’m not, I’m not, I’m not!! And for those of you who gasped in shock/amazement/incredulity (or don’t follow my idea-tweets, here are some of the Confessions of a Shopaphobic:

  • I don’t hate spending money, it’s the dressing room trials that get me down!
  • I don’t hate toting shopping bags, but I do hate it when they get crushed in the crowd!
  • I don’t regret having too much stuff; I just hate not having the place to put it all in!
  • I don’t miss having a man accompany me; I just hate not having someone else to blame my bad choices on!
  • I’ve no problem with cut-price sales; it’s the sharp nails (claws!) and trampled feet that get me down!
  • Window-shopping makes me feel like a tease: Foreplay which does not result in a climax!!
  • Environment-friendly: I’ve no problems with the price tags; I just dont like the credit card bills!!

What a pity Becky Bloomwood doesn’t know me. But if she did, we might not have the latest chick-lit offering that’s all set to send women across the world oohing, aahing, this-is-better-than-an-orgasming over it. Don’t believe me?

I picked up the first book at Heathrow airport, causing my very stiffy-upper-lipped (and cute!) British companion to remark,

That’s the one all the girls are mad about, innit?

From Mumbai to London (or should that be the other way since the heroine is British?), Sophie Kinsella is the reigning queen of chick-litdom. Her first book The Secret Dreamworld of a Shopaholic, sparked off an American version which is the one the movie is based on, thus Becky is a dollar-billing New Yorker. As you’d expect the movie is a glitzy, glamourous look at the Big Apple where skinny women tote Prada and totter about on Gucci as they sigh in envy at skinnier women in Jimmy Choos. The look is very Sex and the City, though the feel is more candy-floss ‘Someday my prince will come’. Prepare for dreamy eyes, dreamy sighs, gush and mush.

Confessions of a Shopaholic has all the classic ingredients of a good ol’ rom-com chickflick – fabulous clothes, unrealistic (but beeyootifool) shoes, accessories to die for, great friends, kissing on the beach and a droolsome hunk (to kiss). The plotline is pretty basic (but then you weren’t into chicklit for the intriguing storylines, were you?) and sweetened with pretty faces, zippy lines and fabulous montages. If the jokes seem a little predictable, they are but then again, they’re set in candy-fluff charm so you don’t really worry too much. It’s like a little kid telling a story, you’ve heard it, you’ve seen it but she’s so cute, you can’t help but listen to it over again and applaud at the end of it. Realism is another thing that you’d be better off not expecting from this movie. It’s an all out light-hearted chickflick, not meant to be taken seriously or examined too closely. Enjoy the giggly glitz and have an evening of girly fun!

It is also rather ironic that this movie’s release coincides with a time when the US is reeling under the aftermath of its excessive (pre-consuming) consumerist lifestyle. I’m not really sure how well this movie will do in the US markets since the audience there might just find it too hard to digest the disparity between their seemingly endless problems and how the heroine’s gargantuan debts are magicked away.

The movie led me to wonder exactly what makes a person a shopaholic. There is one telling point (and the one and only profound/intelligent moment) and it comes right at the start as the heroine tells us about her childhood, growing up with sensible (read frugal and boring) parents who believed in saving for a rainy day. The child that she is, is overawed by the shiny, magical things that can be possessed by those greater beings wielding pieces of plastic. When she grows up, she never quite gets used to the feeling that she is now one of them.

I so identified with that. I always wanted to be able to walk into a shop and know I could walk out with anything that my heart desired (it was on my ‘list of things I want’, the one I made when I was seventeen). When I started working , I was beseiged with people who wanted to give me credit cards, surround me with lovely things and reward me for shopping with them. It was a heady feeling, being able to flash that shiny little piece of plastic and have them put into my hands any manner of lovely things that I didn’t need, could well live without but just…could buy!

Incidently I also really liked the interplay between the maniacally consumerist Becky Bloomwood and the straight-shooting, cool-and-sensible Girl in a green scarf. Alter egos are a special thing with me and you’ll get what I mean when you watch the movie.

Isla Fisher as the scatter-brained heroine was charming and completely believable in her wide-eyed shock/innocence/awe/mischief. Hugh Dancy played his role of Luke Brandon to the tee (but then all he really had to do was look good in that tousle-haired millionaire way). I thought Robert Stanton was hilarious as the villian (debt-collector) of this girl-fantasy – the personification of brown/gray tweedy boringness in a world of bling.

I won’t spoil the story for you though if you’re keen on watching it, you’ve probably read the series already (and need I mention, female?!). Suffice to say that if you’re looking for a warm, glamorous, mushy, sparkly, feel-good movie to giggle over with your girlfriends, queue up at the box office on Friday night!

This preview was brought to us courtesy The Social Media Catalyst. I also had the delightful company of these lovely ladies: Ankita, Tharusha, The Polka Dot and Rehab (Don’t get me started of the sheer irony of Amy Winehouse singing the movie’s theme song while I sat next to the song’s namesake!). I wore a short flowery, flowy skirt and carried a pinky-pink bag. Ankita giggled and dared us a silly dare while Tharusha smiled silent Sphinx like at ‘Do you really have to go to work tonight?’. We did some girl stuff involving Mohitos and phone number-fishing at a bar. The Polka Dot whipped off her sensational heels and changed into sensible flats just after we left. And then we giggled all the way home.

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