Tag Archives: Movie

#AndheriGirl: How To Watch A Movie In Andheri

Movie in Andheri

Thank God

Thank God for friends and silly conversations. Thank God for movies like Inception that leave me with the thought that,

“Your world isn’t real.”

Thank God for imagination. Thank God for fantasy. Thank God for the gift of escapism.

We need the imaginary to get through the real.

Time Travel

Channel-surfing. Wait. Stop. Backtrack.

The Time-Traveler’s Wife is on, just started on one of those channels that comes and goes. Just like the protagonist in the movie. Hmm.

Odd flashes of nostalgia. The book was a birthday gift from my parents in 2007. Birthday gifts are special. Books are special. A good book on a birthday is well…you know. It was a Friday the thirteenth (just like the day I was born) which curiously enough, always bodes well for me. My birthday (just like my boyfriend and other friends) had been hijacked by another closely-birthday’ed person whom I loathed. I spent the weekend following, curled up with the book, the rain pelting down outside the window behind me. I’ve received books for every birthday of my adult life but I think this was the most memorable one.

Flash forward two and a half years. The movie came out without much fanfare, at least in India. I spotted it in an ad, by pure chance. The only show I could find was at 11:30 p.m. Normally, I’d probably have watched this particular movie by myself. But given the timing and the opportunity that it presented, I did something different and asked a guy I’d met recently, out. It was the first of what I thought of as pleasant conversations. And this is how that story turned out. Well, then.

Snap. The screen’s gone blank. The channel’s vanished on another of the cable-operator’s mysterious whims. And just like that, The Time-Traveler vanished.

Movie: Turning Thirty

I saw the movie yesterday, five days after it was released and at the unlikely time of 3:30 p.m. It felt sort of appropriate considering that the movie seemed to showcase the absolute freedom of the urban Indian woman.

The movie was strictly okay. The songs made me cringe, especially the one just following the opening scene with its done-over-to-the-point-of-nausea ‘couple in a convertible’ picturisation. It also felt a little too Sex and the City in a desi setting. And yet, I didn’t walk out of the theatre. I guess, it’s not the kind of movie I’d take someone on a date to, not one that I’d want to watch with my parents and not one I’d arrange a weekend plan around. But it is the kind of movie that I wouldn’t mind catching on an unexpected free weekday afternoon, by myself just like I did.

I don’t think the problem was the story itself, even if I did overhear a guy tell another, “It should have had a board saying Only For High Profile Women”. That just strikes me as typical Indian male horse-blinkeredness. We do drink and cuss. We are ambitious, ruthless, confused and non-comittal. And yes, casual sex, sex-without-feelings, revenge sex, premarital sex, illicit sex, gay sex…all of these things and more are a realistic part of our lives. Maybe this describes only one kind of Indian woman but that kind definitely exists, and not just in the high society pages.

But I thought the dialogues and the acting left much to be desired. It wasn’t like anybody was wooden. But the theme was fairly complex and new in the purview of Indian cinema. None of the actors really seemed convincing. They just looked…awkward. Except for Tilottama Shome (remember Alice from Monsoon Wedding?) who I thought carried every moment of even her very limited footage with ease.

Something struck me only towards the end and I don’t know if the makers even intended this. Naina, the protagonist faces the standard issues that one would expect from this movie – break-up, heartbreak, parental pressure to get married, societal perceptions towards ageing. But the one subtle issue that underlies the story and the only one that really satisfactorily reaches resolution, both in the situation and in her mind, is her career.

It got me thinking. The world has always struggled with integrating women and ambition. The generation before ours had jobs and within overwhelming barriers like lower pay, stereotyped roles and automatic prioritizing of family over career. My generation has careers but still within standard norms of what will impress the marriage market, what will be conducive to the partner’s own career and eventually, motherhood. Even today, it’s hard for us to admit that we worry about our jobs, employability and career path as much as, if not more than the way our relationships are going.

The boy often points out how hard and cynical I am about many things about my past. It stands out that he seems a tad more understanding about my bitterness over failed relationships than he does about my dashed hopes at the workplace. But maybe that’s not the typical male dismissal of my ambition, as I’d like to think. It is possible, just a wee bit at least, that I’m more bothered by the lows of my career than my love life.

This is not to say that I’ve loved any less or that my relationships mattered less to me than my career. But when I look back, I’ve more or less made my peace with the relationship failures, even the ones that were disasters. I’ve been able to do so by finally accepting that people, emotions and relationships are uncontrollable and that there’s no logic or rules or framework to follow. They happen and if they happen well, I count myself as lucky.

Career on the other hand, seems a lot more logical and structured, which means my expectations are nearly higher. Pettiness, politicking, theft, sabotage are each more difficult to forgive (and impossible to forget) when it comes to my workplace. And whether this is actually true or not, my expectations are still that I’d be able to right such wrongs or seek justice in some manner, when it pertains to work-related issues.

The same obviously doesn’t hold for relationships. Leading someone on, cheating, stealing another woman’s boyfriend and lying are not crimes punishable by law. And hence, my only hope for resolution is to accept and move on.

I’m heartened to note that popular culture (even it if is a somewhat offbeat movie like this one) portraying such issues. Pop culture does reflect how we are, how we think and how we behave, after all.

My favorite words in the movie were in the very last scene.

“Turning thirty is something I learnt to accept and appreciate only after I turned thirty-one.”

That means a helluva lot more than I can say. I’m tiptoeing towards the end of my 31 and I’m still learning to articulate what the big three-O has brought into my life.

Reverb 10.28: Hell & Back Is An Achievement

Grrr to another repetitive and uninspiring Reverb10 prompt. So I’m going the opposite way again. If I was frivolous in the last post, I’ll be ridiculous now.

December 28 – Achieve

What’s the thing you most want to achieve next year? How do you imagine you’ll feel when you get it? Free? Happy? Complete? Blissful? Write that feeling down. Then, brainstorm 10 things you can do, or 10 new thoughts you can think, in order to experience that feeling today.

(Author: Tara Sophia Mohr)

I’ve said it so many times in so many ways and here it is all over again. I want to have that novel done with and out on the shelves next year.

How do I think I’ll feel after that? I’m petrified that it’ll actually happen. What’ll I do after that? Go back to spreadsheets and emails to clients about meetings? Return to a world where matrimony is the single biggest event in a woman’s life? And wait for the resurrection in importance, also known as motherhood? I’m seeing spots, I think I’m going to throw up. Okay, I’ve written that down.

Hmm. Queasy and petrified. Ten things I can do to feel that way today:

  1. Turn off the lights and watch a horror movie alone. Any horror movie, even Ramsay Brothers. Especially Ramsay Brothers.
  2. Go to Delhi
  3. Watch a double bill of Action Replayy and Tees Maar Khan
  4. Build a time-machine, go 48 hours into the future and stand in the middle of a Mumbai road. (Hint – HAPPY NEW YEAR!)
  5. Get back with the abusive ex-
  6. Go back to the boss-from-hell (who screamed at me daily from across the office & sabotaged my computer)
  7. Drink too much tequila
  8. Do 7. on an empty stomach
  9. Work my way through stale, suspect fried food after 7. and 8.
  10. Torture myself through a list like this simply because I have to have ten

Movie Review: AMEN

What’s better than spending Saturday night with a gorgeous, intelligent, witty and sensitive man? I had the privilege this weekend. Harish Iyer invited me to a private screening of the short film ‘AMEN’ based in part, on his life. My first question was to ask if I should dress up. He said, “No yaar, I’ll be there in my regular jeans and all.” Thank goodness for me then, that I’ve met Harish before and I know what his idea of ‘regular jeans’ is. Never trust a gay man who says he isn’t dressing up!

The movie was screened at Pixion, a luxurious 24-seater in Bandra. The poster shows a part of the famous Michelangelo fresco depicting the Genesis and bears the tagline,

“Life does not let you choose your parents or your sexuality.”

One social message is a heavy charge for a film to bear without getting typecast into the shoddily made, preachy documentary mold. AMEN touched on internet hookups, rape, incest, child abuse, trust issues and love, in addition to homosexuality. It is remarkable that a film could accomplish all of that without sounding like a laundry-list of the ills of society.

From a storyteller’s point of view, it was interesting to see how the team managed to make a powerful commentary about the life of a gay man, fraught as it is with much uncertainty, loneliness, fear, mistrust and anger….all of this through the very intimate portrayal of two characters. The film could have gone two ways – maudlin or sleazy. Instead, it came through as sensitive, realistic, disturbing but also thought-provoking.

AMEN is a 24-minute film with taut storyline and a certain freshness without the glitches of an amateur production. The characters were well-defined and both actors (Karan Mehra and Jitin Gulati) essayed their roles without any of the self-consciousness that one might associate with such a bold project. One of the best compliments of the evening came from Vinta Nanda (director, Tara). When she said,

“Ordinarily when you watch a boy-meets-girl story, the women associate with the heroine and the men with the hero. I am a woman but I was completely immersed in the story of two men.”

Personally I liked the two intertwining threads of story within the film – two characters who’ve come to a situation from different places. Their individual experiences have shaped them differently and as a result, how they come to terms with their lives and their sexuality is different. Everything that we watch and read about love stories involves a certain automatic slotting of characters into their gender roles, a certain, ‘It’s a guy thing’/ ‘That’s so girly’ attitude. But AMEN made me see the characters as two people, each one a unique set of emotions and experiences. It made me empathise with each one separately and isn’t that an artist’s greatest challenge?

One normally expects a certain kind of scene to draw a certain premediated response. The violence and intensity of the starting scenes were disturbing. However it was the subtlety of Harry (Karan Mehra)’s mirror scene that really brought tears to my eyes. The mirror, as a metaphor for self-reflection, for facing one’s fears and the subsequent connection of fingertip to reflection was beautifully done.

I also liked the way the conflict was resolved realistically and not in the conventional ‘happily ever after’ way. The ending completely satisfied me as a viewer and that may be the best thing that can be said about any movie.

The making of AMEN is probably enough material for another movie altogether. A labour of love for both Ranadeep Bhattacharyya & Judhajit Bagchi, the experience had them playing producer, director but also spotboy, technician, teaboy and scriptwriter. The shoot commenced over 3 days in a small bungalow, after which the team hand-packed the sets, bundled into a tempo and delivered back the props borrowed from friends and family. Midway during the production, they found even their tight budgeting would not cover the costs of the film. Then Harish put up a status update on Twitter about this and to their surprise, a stranger offered to help them. Expenses were often cut down but money would continue to make its way to them till they finished. Their online guardian angel, Tina Valentina, actually met the team for the first time only at the preview of the film. AMEN was helped greatly by an excellent background score, a gift from Jonathon Fessenden, Hollywood composer and a professional look/feel thanks to Prasonjit.

In sum, AMEN is a fine movie with a solid story that also carries a number of powerful messages. It will definitely be of interest to the gay community but also to anyone who likes good cinema.

(pictures from the AMEN Facebook Fanpage)

Movie: Ravanan-Skip & Read Amar Chitra Katha Instead

If you haven’t seen Ravan (or Ravanan) already, I’d suggest you not bother. If you’re the only person in this country who doesn’t know the story, pick up an Amar Chitra Katha rendition of Ramayana. It has the basic plot, the facts as most of us have heard them and the visuals are nice enough. It’ll be cheaper on the pocket too.

I would have given the movie a definite skip if it had been called Rama or Ramayan. I mean, I was weaned on the Ramanand Sagar classic and the aforementioned Amar Chitra Katha culture. I even saw the various renditions on television, movies and pop culture, edifying the perfect man, his perfect wife and the exact opposite embodiment of evil with all the paraphernalia of Hanuman, Vibhishan, Lakshman and Surpanaka.

If by some chance, I found I’d forgotten a tiny point, I could retrieve my copy of the original or I could turn around and ask just about anybody and expect the right answer. Why then, would anyone in their right minds, want to spend time and money to hear the same story in a theatre?

I was intrigued by the title Ravanan. While I’ve seen the old story in the old setting and in new settings, I haven’t heard it from the other point of view, the darker side. I’m sorry to say, it was a sad trick to lure the audiences into the theatres. As a vision, the idea of telling the Ramayan from Ravan’s point of view is interesting but it didn’t carry through in execution.

*spoiler alert*

A movie that set out with such lofty ideas didn’t even explore the complexity of some of the other characters. Hanuman, for instance, is depicted by a washed-up actor portraying a jungle officer given to silly dancing and pesky monkey-like behaviour. Vibhishan is no more than a nondescript younger brother who has exactly one dialogue and gets shot dead soon after. Lakshman is a lackey cop who is unconscious/dead for most of his screen time. Each of these depictions comes across as a parody in poor taste.

The idea of a tribal leader on the wrong side of the law is intriguing and the tough forest terrain would well explain his personality and behaviour. But it wouldn’t explain spending an entire hour showing what looked like rejected National Geographic clips. I kid you not, I was surprised when the interval came and my watch showed only an hour had gone by. And the Vicco Vajradanti ads in the interval were far more entertaining than what I had been subjected to, before that.

The second half picks up (though not before a forced back-to-back two songs) but by then the damage has been done. Too much, too late. There just isn’t enough time to think about the character conflicts, the depth of each of their emotions. Mostly by then, you just want the movie to get over and be done with it.

I’ve never liked Aishwarya Rai as an actress and with this movie, I add the rest of the cast to this list too. Vikram does an Ajay Devgan with grunts and a perpetual scowl to depict menace. I’m sorry to say that Mani Ratnam and A.R.Rahman fall in my ratings too. This is just lazy creativity – poor storytelling and rehashed tunes.

The bigger question is why are we so stuck on the two great epics, Ramayana and Mahabharata? Granted, they were great stories (and that’s why they’re called epics). But have centuries worth of storytellers not been able to come up with new fare? Have we become pathological remixers?

Last week’s fiasco Rajneeti was a foul remix of Mahabharata and The Godfather. It grated on my nerves for how the characters seemed to be forced into the roles of their Mahabharata counterparts to the point of ridiculous serendipity (Ajay Devgan being the driver’s boy a.k.a charioteer’s son, Ranbir Kapoor as the sharpshooting Casanova a.k.a. Arjun). Ravanan didn’t even get that far. With the caricature of Hanuman in the first few minutes of the movie, they had already lost me.

My tweets on this have been getting a few replies to the effect of human emotions being finite and there being only so many stories to express them. I disagree. The art of storytelling is universal and timeless. It is an art because it moves, it flows, it engages and it grows. It’s what made Omkara wonderful even as it was a retelling of Othello. Vishal Bharadwaj managed to find his Iago in a rustic local goon called Langda Tyaagi. His version, in an English script could have been called Iago and not Othello. That’s what a different story is all about, even though it’s the same plot.

With a movie, there are several components that can drive the story forward – an original script, great casting and acting and good screenplay. Ravanan, I regret to say, enjoys none of these.

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.

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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