Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Parinda (1989) Review by Shivom Oza – Realistic Portrayal Of Bombay Underworld

3.5/5 Stars

‘Parinda’, the Vidhu Vinod Chopra film, revolves around the gang rivalry prevalent in Bombay (now Mumbai) during the late 80s. The film reflects around two brothers, Kishen and Karan, on the opposite sides of the law with the backdrop of the Bombay underworld.

It features in the must-watch lists of most Hindi film buffs around the world. The realistic portrayal of crime, exceptional performances by Anil Kapoor, Jackie Shroff and Nana Patekar, and the magic of writer-director Vidhu Vinod Chopra and editor Renu Saluja make ‘Parinda’ one of the best gangster movies to be made in the country.

Kishen (Sameer and Jackie Shroff) and Karan (Hitesh and Anil Kapoor) are two brothers who have spent most of their childhood on the streets of Bombay, selling newspapers, doing odd jobs, getting involved in street brawls etc. They along with another sibling duo, Prakash (Jatin and Anupam Kher) and Paro (Shweta and Madhuri Dixit) eke out a living on the streets of Bombay. Troubled by poverty, Kishen joins hands with a gangster Anna Seth (Mohan and Nana Patekar). Time passes by and the lives of the four friends move in different directions. Karan goes to the United States to study, Paro becomes a school teacher in Poona (now Pune), Prakash becomes a police officer, while Kishen, while trying to fend for himself and his brother, becomes a dreaded gangster in Anna’s gang. Anna moves on from being a small-time crook to a dreaded gang lord, involved in drug deals, trafficking of women, murders as well as smuggling. Karan is unaware of the crimes that his brother has committed and upon his return from America, witnesses the murder of his good friend Prakash, plotted by Anna and his gang. Hence, Karan takes it upon himself to wage a war against the might of Anna. What follows is a series of murders, twists and turns, romantic liaisons and dramatic confrontations.  

The performances, to put it mildly, are the life of the film. Anil Kapoor gives one of his career-best performances as Karan. His character goes through a myriad of emotions throughout the film. An innocent youngster returning from America, overjoyed to meet his brother, gets the shock of his life when his best friend Inspector Prakash dies in his arms. Anil’s brilliance lies in the fact that he could shift from the caring brother to a charming lover to a troubled citizen to a vengeful friend so easily. One could call his initial scenes in the film a tad over exuberant, but Anil totally makes up for it while enacting the serious bits. His chemistry with Madhuri Dixit is scintillating. Madhuri has a small role in the film. Anil and she have a handful number of scenes, a few songs (notably Tumse Milke Aisa Laga) and a very aesthetically shot lovemaking scene in the film. Dixit gives a sincere performance. Jackie Shroff, as the angst-ridden brother and the much-feared gangster Kishen, delivers a strong performance. He does go over the top at times, and yes, quite often underplays it a bit too much, but his role leaves an impact on the viewer’s mind. The supporting characters, in particular, Anupam Kher as Inspector Prakash, Suresh Oberoi as Abdul Khan, Anang Desai as Inspector Meerani, Tom Alter as Musa and Kamal Chopra as Rama, provide a perfect foil to the principal characters. Nana Patekar gives an excellent performance as the antagonist. His maverick act of Anna Seth, is so domineering that you start hating him the moment he comes on the screen. It takes really good acting to evoke such strong reactions from any viewer.

One of the things that stand out in this film is the realistic approach in its writing and its characters. The underworld has been portrayed very close to what it must have been. Film made during those times had their criminals hidden in sprawling bungalows or dingy dens surrounded by hundreds of bodyguards. ‘Parinda’ had nothing of that. Yes, it did have over-the-top scenes, but even that was a far cry from the films made during that time. The writing (Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Imtiaz Hussain and Shivkumar Subramaniam) is phenomenal. The story may/may not have been inspired but it does keep you engaged for 2 hours 45 minutes. There are a few scenes, such as the assassination of Anupam Kher’s character, the killing of Kamal Chopra’s character, the sequences following the lovemaking sequence between Anil Kapoor’s and Madhuri Dixit’s characters, which are deeply etched in your mind and remain with you long after you have watched the film.  The editing by Renu Saluja is fine. She could have snipped out a lot of needless and inconsequential scenes but then, they must have been kept to keep the film ‘commercially viable’.

The music of the film (composed by Rahul Dev Burman) is decent. Although, the songs should have been completely done away with in the first place, ‘Tumse Milke Aisa Laga’ sung by Asha Bhosle and Suresh Wadkar is well shot.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra, the director, introduced a new style of filmmaking in ‘Parinda’, which was later emulated in films such as ‘Satya’ and ‘Vaastav’. It was one of the first true-blue gangster films to be made in India. There are certain flaws in the film but the performances and the concept make up for it.

‘Parinda’ is a cult classic. Must watch! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Harud (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Interesting Subject, Let Down By Listless Plot

2.5/5 Stars

Set in militancy-ravaged Kashmir, ‘Harud’ revolves around a tattered family, coming to terms with the loss of their son.

With an interesting subject, Harud is a must-watch for those who want to know about the dark and grim side of Kashmir as well as those who have been carrying the wrong notion about the place. Brilliant performances by the cast, interesting cinematography and the hard-hitting concept notwithstanding, the plot does falter.
Rafiq (Shahnawaz Bhat), a young man, disgruntled with the turmoil in Kashmir, tries to escape to Pakistan by crossing the border. However, he fails to do so and is compelled to return to his family. His brother, Tauqir, has been missing since four years and is probably no more. His mother, Fatima (Shamim Basharat), who has been hysterically searching for Tauqir all this while, is a pained woman. The father, a traffic policeman Yusuf (Iranian actor Reza Naji), is stifled by the endless violence taking place on the streets of Kashmir and worries for Rafiq, as he doesn’t want to lose another son. The tension within the family along with that of the strife-torn Kashmir eventually pushes him to a state of mental imbalance.

Rafiq tries hard to find his footing, but fails to focus enough. He is forever in a state of delirium and seldom finds solace in the company of his friends, notably Ishaq (Mudessir Ahmed Khan), who harbours dream of making it big as a reality television star.

One day, Rafiq accidently finds his brother’s old camera and thus begins his obsession with photography. He finally gets a job and things start settling down for him. ‘Harud’, meaning autumn, is about the young man Rafiq and many other youngsters living in Kashmir. The Kashmir in the film is that of circa 2003, when mobile services had gotten activated. There is a scene in the film where a journalist asks youngsters, who have lined up to get a SIM card, what change will this bring. Most responses veered around the incessant violence at the valley. The people wanted a mobile phone so that they could inform their family about cross-fires/bomb blasts/ occurrence of violence and also keep in touch with them. This shows the pathos that the place begins to exuberate for the youth of Kashmir. There are other instances, where a journalist from Delhi mistakes a painting of three women in Burkha against a backdrop of the mountains to be from Afghanistan, only to be corrected that the location in the painting is Kashmir circa 1947. This kind of, encapsulates the ignorance about Kashmir among many people around the country.

The casting of the film is exceptional. Performances by the principal cast are phenomenal, especially considering a few of the members of the cast were non-actors. Shahnawaz Bhat, who plays Rafiq, embodies the pain and the cluelessness of a youth living in violence-struck Kashmir. His confounded expressions, sedate body language and calm demeanour set the tone for this melancholic film.

Shamim Basharat, who plays Rafiq’s mother, is good. Her character Fatima could have had greater relevance in the film though. The Iranian actor Reza Naji, who was also seen in ‘Children of Heaven’, plays a troubled Kashmiri father, struggling to look after his family eventually veering towards mental imbalance. He too, is terrific in the film.

Mudessir Ahmed Khan, who plays Ishaq, brings a lot of life to the film. The backslapping humour he shares with Rafiq and others gives the film the much-needed dash of humour.

Aamir Bashir wonderfully captures the solemnness of the autumn in Kashmir against the backdrop of violence. Some of the shots (cinematography by Shanker Raman) are thoroughly breath-taking. We’ve often witnessed the picturesque locations of Kashmir; however this film shows us the ‘real picture’. The plot (written by Aamir Bashir, Mahmood Farooqui and Shanker Raman) does beat around the bush before reaching an almost predictable eventuality towards the climax. The most important moments in the film are lost within the subtext. There’s too much to read between the lines within the needlessly long screenplay. One finds it difficult to gauge the motive of the film, besides of course, mirroring the violence in the valley. There’s a concrete story missing in the film. Not to say, that the makers should have incorporated a filmy angle just to make it commercially viable. However, the characters should have been more concrete. The film is a decent effort; however it fails to engage the viewer after a point of time.

Wonderful subject and exceptional acting, notwithstanding, the absence of an intriguing plot takes the steam out of the film. (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Anand (1971) Review by Shivom Oza – A Film About Death Teaches How To Live

4/5 Stars

‘Anand’, the film, is about hope in despair, about finding trust in travesty, about finding life in death. Rajesh Khanna gives one of his career-best performances in this ‘fun-filled’ tragedy of a man who lives his life to the fullest despite death looming nearer. The film also marks the emergence of Amitabh Bachchan as an actor to reckon with.

Rajesh Khanna passed away last week leaving behind a legacy of unforgettable films. ‘Anand’ remains an important part of his filmography. It not only shows how to die, but teaches us about how to live!

Anand Saigal (Rajesh Khanna), a young man from Delhi is suffering from a terminal disease (lymphosarcoma of the intestine) and doesn’t have much time left to live. He comes to Bombay (now Mumbai) to meet his friend Doctor Prakash Kulkarni (Ramesh Deo) to live his last days as well as to get treated for his disease. Doctor Bhaskar K. Banerjee (Amitabh Bachchan) is given Anand’s responsibility. Upon their very first meeting, Anand blows the duo away with his spirited, fun-filled demeanour. Just like the two doctors, even Prakash’s wife Suman (Seema Deo), Matron D’Sa (Lalita Pawar), Bhaskar’s love interest Renu (Sumita Sanyal) are distraught after learning about Anand’s condition. They feel even more helpless after encountering his friendly behaviour and pleasant personality.

Anand and Bhaskar forge a wonderful friendship. Anand is willing to help each and everyone around him. However, he doesn’t believe in sharing his own pains in life with anyone. Being extremely talkative by nature, Anand cannot bear being confined to the four walls of his hospital room and runs away to stay with his much-adored ‘Babu Moshai’ Bhaskar.

The film was made in the year 1971 yet; it still is immensely entertaining and relevant even in today’s times. Watching Rajesh Khanna (who passed away last week) in his elements as the sprightly, fun-loving and ever-so-enduring Anand lifts your spirits. Watching him die on-screen which has been a cinematic marvel for years suddenly becomes melancholic following his death.
The dialogue ‘Zindagi Badi Honi Chahiye, Lambi Nahin’ has remained a memorable dialogue across decades. The line brings about vivid emotions within you. It is indeed heart-wrenching to hear this line from a dying man. Other instances, where Rajesh Khanna shares his ideas about life, love and death with Amitabh Bachchan are touching, and brilliantly performed.

Rajesh Khanna was going through a purple patch, career wise, during that time period and the glow on his face, the confidence in his body language showed. Amitabh Bachchan gives a sedate performance as Doctor Bhaskar. The final scene of the film, where he weeps on Anand’s dead body, is excellently performed by Bachchan. Considering that the film was made at a time when Bachchan was only beginning his career, shows that he had it in him to be the next big ‘superstar’ after Rajesh Khanna.

Salil Choudhury, the music director has given memorable numbers in ‘Zindagi Kaisi Hai Paheli Haaye’, ‘Maine Tere Liye Hi Saat Rang Ke Sapne’. Singers such as Manna Dey, Mukesh and Lata Mangeshkar lend their voices in this simple four-song soundtrack.

The writing by stalwarts including Hrishikesh Mukherjee, Gulzar, D.N.Mukherjee and Bimal Dutta, was exceptional. The story is a simple one, a man, who knows he is going to die, refuses to give up on life. However, the dialogues (Gulzar) strike a chord and make this simple story a great one.
The director (Hrishikesh Mukherjee) extracts stupendous performances from his leading men Amitabh Bachchan and Rajesh Khanna. Even the supporting leads Ramesh Deo, Seema Deo, Sumita Sanyal and Lalita Pawar tailor into the story seamlessly. One of the most significant scenes in the film comes when Anand wants to record Bhaskar’s voice in his tape recorder but deliberately takes time to speak so that he can create a lull period in between (knowing fully well that the tape will be played when he dies).

Another important scene that plays out during the film is when Rajesh Khanna approaches a pehelwan Dara Singh to thrash a few eve-teasing goons. It was touching to see the two great recently-deceased stars share the frame together.

It is these little moments that makes the film so memorable and a classic, in the truest sense of the word. Hrishikesh Mukherjee excellently conceives, writes and directs this wonderful film. (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Ice Age 4: Continental Drift (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Even The Script Drifts Apart

2.5/5 Stars

The mammoth Manny (voiced by Ray Romano), Sid the sloth (voiced by John Leguizamo) and Diego (voiced by Denis Leary), the smilodon or the saber-toothed cat, are back with the fourth film in the ‘Ice Age’ franchise. In a parallel storyline, you have Scrat (voiced by Chris Wedge), the saber-toothed squirrel, on the hunt for acorns. Scrat triggers the break-out of the Pangaea into the continents that we know of today’s time.

Meanwhile, Manny and his wife Ellie (voiced by Queen Latifah) are dealing with their teenage daughter Peaches (voiced by Keke Palmer), who is smitten by Ethan (Aubrey Graham), a teenage woolly mammoth. Peaches, is upset with her father for being so restrictive when it comes to her and yearns for independence. Keeping Peaches’ company is the soft-spoken and the inimitably charming molehog, Louis (voiced by Josh Ged), who secretly has a crush on her. Sid has been left with his Granny (Wanda Sykes), who also gets abandoned by their family. Now amidst all this drama, the break-up of the continent starts having its repercussions as Manny gets separated from his family. Accompanied by Sid, Diego and Granny on a floating ice raft, Manny thinks of ways to reunite with his family.

The route way back to his home kept getting tumultuous as the quad got captured by a pirate gang, led by Captain Gutt (voiced by Peter Dinklage), a Gigantopithecus. Manny rejects Gutt’s offer of joining the pirate gang and ends up infuriating him. Diego falls for the female pirate Shira (voiced by Jennifer Lopez), also a saber-toothed cat, who helps the quad escape for a brief period.
Manny, Sid, Granny and Diego encounter sirens, shown as sharp-toothed creatures, which take the shape of loved ones, and attempt to entice the sailors.

How the quad brave all odds (in the form of storms, a paralyzed Sid, another attack by Captain Gutt, attempted attack by Sirens) in order to get everything back to normal forms the crux of the story.

The plot was myriad in the first-half. It is in the second-half of this 90-minute film that the story finally begins to develop. It takes too long, for the battle lines to be drawn; hence time gets spent in watching endless gags, tomfoolery and the occasional tussle on screen. There are a few endearing moments in the film such as the romantic track between Diego and Shira, Peaches trying to impress Ethan, Louis’ waging a fight against the mighty Captain Gutt to save his love Peaches. However, they are too few and far in between, and sadly the only uplifting moments in the film.

The animation was stupendous. Blue Sky Studios deserve a pat on their back for the brilliant visual effects. However, the script leaves a lot to be desired. The animation is on par with recent films such as ‘Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted’ and ‘Brave’, but it is not as much about the visuals as it is about the entire film. The 3D is passable.

The line-up consists of heavyweights such as Jennifer Lopez, Queen Latifah, Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, with two celebs of Indian origin as well, Aziz Ansari and Kunal Nayyar (of ‘The Big Bang Theory’ fame). Voiceovers were exceptional but they too, were let-down by some lazy dialogue writing. The soundtrack by John Powell was good with the final track of the film ‘We Are’ (written by Ester Dean) evoking much excitement from the audience.

The writing (Michael Berg and Jason Fuchs) and the direction (Steve Martino and Mike Thurmeier) could have been a lot better. The franchise, which has been exceptional thus far, does disappoint this time around.

There is nothing noteworthy about the story. It’s a 45-minute concept dragged to an hour and a half. Some of the sequences and gags playing out in the film are needless. However, it is essentially a children’s film and the kids will love it! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Electric City (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Eclectic Episodes In An Intriguing Web Series

3/5 Stars

‘Electric City’ is a web-series comprising 20 web episodes adding up to 90 minutes, is set in a dystopian future. Dystopian civilization, where the electricity and communication is controlled by the law-enforcement, is on the brink of revolt from its citizens.

Planet Earth has become a dangerous place after an innocuous doomsday-like event. The principal character Cleveland Carr (Tom Hanks), a former police officer, is handed over the reins of maintaining law and order in the chaotic city. Electric City has become a symbol of peace and security. However, the security comes at a premium. The AMP, a security force that looks after the city, keeps a tight vigil over two of the most significant resources of the land, electricity and wireless communication. The population is showing signs or discomfort over the rule, and a revolution is in store.

The series is nuanced and well-developed. It is filled with questions about the choices we make. It also questions whether people would give up the need to sustain resources in order to break free from the shackles of the law enforcers. The Electric City is full of shades of grey. Its people are neither white nor black. They are controlled by a body that requires applications to allow childbirth. Even energy consumption is closely scrutinized. Resistance movements attempt to illegally tap into the main system and even begin creating something like wireless. 

Tom Hanks serves not only as the creative force behind the scenes of the dystopian series, but also lends his voice to its lead character, Cleveland Carr.

‘Electric City’ inculcates a map to show where each mini story takes place, quite similar to the opening sequence of ‘Game of Thrones’. It is indeed a very interesting concept, besides being dark in character.

The stories in each episode move at such a brisk pace that it is difficult for the viewer to keep track of the proceedings. Same holds true for the characters, having to brush through 20 episodes, with no supporting character being present on the trot successively.

‘Electric City’ is an intriguing concept. Heartening to see the old-school hand-drawn animation after such a long time! As for the story, one would have to pay close attention at the proceedings to not lost track.

The series is releasing in India on Bigflix (Reliance Entertainment).  Adapting ‘Video-on-demand’ facility may bode well for this unique web series. Its noir content renders it as a must-watch for avid watchers of the genre.

Shivom Oza

Mere Dost Picture Abhi Baaki Hai (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – Mere Dost Picture Achchi Nahin Hai

1/5 Stars

9-years-in-the-making, the film is about a disgruntled duo of a struggling actor and an aspiring director who are trying their level best to make a feature film. However, they face the strangest of odds on their way to become successful in film world.

Amar Joshi (Suniel Shetty) is a boy from Benares who pursues direction at a filmmaking school in London. Wanting to return to India to make a film on a rape victim called ‘Cheekh’, he approaches his friend Suraj (Rajpal Yadav) to get an entry into Bollywood. Upon reaching Mumbai, he realizes that making a film won’t be as easy as he reckoned. He faces weirdo characters; superstitious, foul-mouthed, debauched, sex-starved, corrupt, perverted and some of them, plain dumb. There are cameo appearances by Suresh Menon (a badly stereotyped South Indian music director), Deepak Qazir (an impulsive spirituality-struck producer), Avtar Gill (another sex-starved producer with a fixation for item numbers), Razzak Khan (as the crotch-tugging, foul-mouthed producer gave us some of the most disgusting moments in the history of Indian cinema) and many more. Udita Goswami as an established actress Mohini and Mumait Khan as a gangster’s moll also lurch around in the film. That the film finally gets made or not forms the crux of the story, not that you care!

Awful, even keeping in mind that the film has been in the making for almost a decade, there is certainly no excuse for mediocrity. Suniel Shetty and Rajpal Yadav ham through their roles. They have to pretend throughout the film that they aren’t really interested in making the film ‘Cheekh’. However, they look like they aren’t interested in making the film ‘Mere Dost Picture Abhi Baaki Hai’ as well. Rajpal plays a guy who cannot speak English properly. Hence, he mispronounces words which end up meaning something else from what was intended and yes, embarrassing to pits. Sexual innuendos are rampant throughout this film. They don’t bring about hilarity at all. In fact, they are supremely cringe-worthy. Other ‘stars’ in the film include Udita Goswami, Mumait Khan, Shawar Ali, Shyan Munshi etc. Even veteran actors such as Om Puri and Neena Gupta are hideous in their badly written characters.

It is so ironic that the film which spoke about the difficulties of filmdom, itself was in the cans for nine long years. Yet, after watching the film, it does not seem surprising at all. Such inane writing merits no acknowledgement. Even the music of the film is yawn-inducing. Director-writer Rajnish Thakur can probably keep revisiting this film to learn why a film doesn’t work.

Haggard storyline, lacklustre dialogues, annoying music and tired performances, make this film a terrible watch. You should not veer towards the ticket-window for this one.
Disappointing to the core! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Dark Knight Rises (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – The Dark Knight Rose

4.5/5 Stars

Christopher Nolan’s Batman trilogy reaches its finale with ‘The Dark Knight Rises’. Eight years after the events of ‘The Dark Knight’, a masked nemesis Bane arrives with a plan to destroy Gotham city. The Dark Knight re-emerges from his exile to protect it from the looming danger.

Bruce Wayne/Batman (Christian Bale) is in exile, still accused for the crimes committed by District Attorney Harvey Dent, at the Wayne Manor. Having been looked after by his faithful butler Alfred Pennyworth (Michael Caine), Wayne is confined to the four walls of his room at the sprawling mansion.

The mysterious Selina Kyle/Catwoman (Anne Hathaway) paves the way for the arrival of Bane (Tom Hardy), a horrific extremist, who sets out to destroy Gotham City. Batman emerges from his exile in order to bring an end to the terror inflicted by Bane.

Along the way, Batman is assisted by Commissioner Gordon (Gary Oldman), Lucius Fox (Morgan Freeman) of Wayne Enterprises and the young cop John Blake (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) in eliminating the antagonists. Marion Cotillard, who plays Miranda Tate, is a member of the executive board of the Wayne Enterprises and goes on to play a pivotal role in the film.

Christian Bale, Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman go on to play an extension of their characters from the previous two films, ‘Batman Begins’ and ‘The Dark Knight’. Christian Bale is flawless as Bruce Wayne/Batman. His character goes through a whirlwind of troubles in this film, and Bale depicts the pained superhero to perfection.

Gary Oldman, Michael Caine and Morgan Freeman are terrific, ably supporting the principal characters. However, it is the new entrants Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Anne Hathaway, who deliver superlative performances. Hathaway as Selina Kyle/Catwoman is electrifying in the film, almost running away with the show in the first half. Such audacity, exuberance and intensity, has seldom been inculcated in a female character in the franchise. Hathaway, who keeps getting better with every performance, now appears almost indispensable to the film. Tom Hardy, who plays the masked antagonist Bane, is absolutely brilliant. His terrorizing demeanour gives Batman a nemesis to reckon with.

The film should not be compared to its predecessor ‘The Dark Knight’ (2008), as this one is a starkly different set-up. Treat it on its own merit and you will immensely enjoy it. The writers Christopher Nolan, Jonathan Nolan and David S. Goyer, have reinstated the uniqueness of a Nolan film. The film, albeit dark in parts, is a visual treat. The cinematography (Wally Pfister) is astounding. The aerial shots are one of the best seen in recent times. The difference between the Batman films of yore and Nolan’s trilogy has been the visual appeal and ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ truly lives up to its billing. The computer-generated imagery (CGI), already on display in the theatrical trailers, is spectacular.

There is not a single lull moment in the 2 hour 44 minute screenplay. The immaculate editing by Lee Smith ought to be applauded as it is incredibly difficult to make such a long film engaging enough, notwithstanding the credibility of the makers.

The score by the maestro Hans Zimmer lends an almost ethereal touch to the magnificent visuals. We often talk about Nolan’s brilliance in the script and the execution in his iconic films, but Hans Zimmer has played a monumental role in making them memorable. His contribution should not be ignored. The chant that plays during Bane’s exploits is so haunting and mesmerizing at the same time. Like always, Zimmer gives us the best of both worlds.  

That Christopher Nolan is a director par excellence is not a startling revelation. With films such as ‘Memento’, ‘The Prestige’, ‘Inception’ and The Batman trilogy, to his credit, the man has set a bar so high that it would be difficult for any other filmmaker to be able to give us a superhero flick that is as impactful. Nolan does not disappoint this time around as well. Often, any film succeeding a superlative film fails to live up to the expectations. However, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ has generated so much anticipation in the last one year that it would be difficult even for the hardest critics to point out a blemish. The film will astonish you the moment, you think it is veering towards predictability.  Hats off to filmmakers for not sticking to the norms and adapting comic books with such unmistakable clarity and conviction! It’s been a wonderful year for comic book superheroes with ‘The Avengers’ and ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’ hitting jackpot at the box-office. Needless to say, ‘The Dark Knight Rises’ will meet a similar fate.

The film totally lives up to the expectations. It strikes the perfect balance between the technology and the human touch. Must, must watch! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Friday, 13 July 2012

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – The Film Makes Vampires Look Dull

1.5/5 Stars

A young Abraham Lincoln (Lux Haney-Jardine) witnesses his mother being killed by a vampire, Jack Barts (Marton Csokas). Considering himself to be guilty for his mother’s death Abraham vouches to take revenge. A decade later, he (Benjamin Walker as Abraham Lincoln) tries to eliminate Barts, but in vain.

An acquaintance Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper), who is a vampire himself, teaches him ways in which he can fight and kill vampires. However, Henry makes it clear to Abe (short for Abraham) that he will only kill vampires on his orders. Abe moves to Springfield where he is on the job in the days and on the hunt during the nights. The store owner Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) helps him out in getting accommodation and work and goes on to play an instrumental role in his growth as a politician. He also meets Mary Todd (Mary Elizabeth Winstead), his eventual wife, as well as reunites with his childhood friend Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie).

Once he plans to move on to the worldly ways, he vows to not ever get pulled into the world of vampires again. However, having made enemies in vampires such as Adam (Rufus Sewell), Vadoma (Erin Wasson) along with their entire troupe, Mr President Abraham has to return back to his vampire-slaying old-self to save his country.

Performances were decent. Benjamin Walker shows his mettle as a fine actor; however it gets too annoying after a while. He puts in an intense performance in the first half. However, it does dwindle a bit towards the end. Dominic Cooper’s role is one-dimensional, leaving the ‘The Devil’s Double’ star with nothing much to do in the film. The villainous vampires (Marton Csokas, Rufus Sewell and Erin Wasson) too, fail to have any sort of impact. The women in the film are almost lampposts. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, who plays Lincoln’s wife, could have done so much more with her character. The performances were impressive; however they are terribly let down by the disappointing writing.

Based on the 2010 novel of the same name by Seth Grahame-Smith (writer of ‘Dark Shadows’), the film is directed by Timur Bekmambetov (directed the Angeline Jolie starrer ‘Wanted’). Seth Graheme-Smith, who also wrote Tim Burton’s ‘Dark Shadows’, fails to derive the greatness of Lincoln. He even does grave injustice to the genre of vampire films. The concept was indeed, very innovative. To amalgamate a historic figure with a surrealistically-conceived plot was always a risky one. There were a few moments in the film (for instance, Abe learning the art of slaying vampires, his battle with his mother’s murderer Barts with a backdrop of innumerable horses galloping at a thunderbolt speed, the speeches made by Abraham during the political rallies). However, the sad part is that they are too few and far in between.

The background music of the film (Original Music by Henry Jackman) was brilliant. In films such as this one, sound along with visuals plays a big role in capturing the attention of the audience (notwithstanding the thoughtless idea), and Jackman does deliver. The CGI (computer-generated imagery) was breath-taking and even the 3D effects were passable (better in comparison in some of the recent fare that is being meted out).

Director Timur Bekmambetov fails to capture either of the two worlds effectively. Honestly, like one shouldn’t tamper with the classics, even historic figures should be left untouched. Abraham Lincoln is too iconic a figure to be caricaturized in such an absurd manner. The screenplay of the film was bizarre. The events that unfold towards the end could have been better placed in order to end the film on a high. However, looks like the makers wanted to leave no stone unturned to accomplish this kamikaze.

They shouldn’t have made this film at all. Neither does it contribute greatly in terms of storytelling nor does it boast of out-of-the-world visuals. The story does great disservice to the great man that was Abraham Lincoln. (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza 

Thursday, 12 July 2012

The Intouchables (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – The French Emote And How!

3.5/5 Stars

Based on the book "You Changed My Life" by Abdel Sellou, ‘The Intouchables’ is an uplifting comedy about human bonding, trust and hope. It is about the friendship between a handicapped millionaire Philippe (François Cluzet) and his caretaker Driss (Omar Sy). It begins with a false start for Driss, who finds it difficult to adapt to this new routine where he has to literally ‘baby-sit’ his master. Subsequently, he gets closer to Philippe, hence developing a close friendship. There are a lot of funny moments in this film. Embedded within them are some harsh realities that exist in any human society. During its closing moments the film fills the viewer with a lot of hope and goodness (much needed in this day and age).

The performances are excellent. François Cluzet, who plays the rich quadriplegic, gives a brilliant performance. In spite of being confined to a wheelchair throughout the film, he manages to hold your attention till the very end. Be it in the scene where he fakes an epileptic attack or one in which he is getting turned on by a lady masseuse rubbing his ears, François acts to sublime perfection.
As for the caretaker played by Omar Sy, the character had to be goofy, intense, compassionate, helpless, righteous, directionless and so much more at the same time. Omar Sy’s role was a tall ask, and the actor performs with a lot of ease.

The writing was the most interesting aspect in the film. The film was interspersed with understated scenes and subtle dialogues. There was nothing over-the-top about the performances. No emotional outbursts, unnecessary tears or pointless melodrama. This film was purely about the relationship between a master and his caretaker. The friendship part, although not blatantly portrayed, did appear at regular intervals.

The story moves along nicely in spite of not having too many side-tracks. The film was more of a collection of moments, than being a narrative. The film speaks less, yet ends up conveying so much more.

The music (by Ludovico Einaudi) comprises an eclectic mix. The selection was great and even the background score perfectly tailors into the narrative of the film.

Since this French film was dubbed in English and not subtitled, it would not be possible to comment on the dialogue delivery of the artistes. However, the dubbing is neatly done. Not for a moment do the words and the lip movement seem out-of-sync. Since the operative language was French, it must have been much easier for the dubbing artistes to pull off the dialogues. The dubbed version is perfect for the Indian audiences, since a majority is not accustomed to watching foreign-language films with subtitles.

The directors (Olivier Nakache and Éric Toledano) do a marvellous job of adapting this story. Although, the film does run a little long at 2 hours, the message is well-intended and conveyed well.
A simple plot about complex relationships along with an enthralling score and brilliant performances, make ‘The Intouchables’ a must-watch.

The Intouchables has grossed more than $300 million worldwide (excluding the US), which is a record for a foreign-language movie. Omar Sy has bagged a Cesar Award for Best Actor (the first Black actor to ever do so). Hence, if not for the touching storyline and the heart-rending performances, watch it for it’s been accepted worldwide. You should accept it too. (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Trishul (1978) Review by Shivom Oza – Yash Chopra’s Family Dramas Go Corporate

3/5 Stars

'Trishul' is a film, about how a war waged by a son against his illegitimate father, turns into a business rivalry and a bitter family drama.

Vijay Kumar (Amitabh Bachchan) is the illegitimate son of a rich construction tycoon Raj Kumar Gupta (Sanjeev Kumar) and his lover Shanti (Waheeda Rehman) whom he gives up to marry a wealthy heiress. Raj, who starts out as an engineer in a construction company, ends up as R K Gupta, its owner, after the marriage. Raj is not aware of his son, who is looked after by his mother all along and after her death, comes to Delhi to take revenge on the Gupta family. R K Gupta’s son Shekhar (Shashi Kapoor) and daughter Babli (Poonam Dhillon) have grown up to become independent individuals and get influenced by Vijay to revolt against their father. What follows is a tale of one-upmanship, lies, deceit, hatred, rebellion and eventual redemption.

Sanjeev Kumar effortlessly plays the tied-down son, helpless lover, workaholic businessman and the irresponsible father. Although his role could have been more substantial, he does give it his everything. He may not be the archetypical leading hero in the film, but the story revolves around his rivalry with Amitabh Bachchan’s character and the actor lives up to his reputation. Waheeda Rehman, who plays Sanjeev Kumar’s lover and Amitabh Bachchan’s mother, Shanti, has a very short role in the film. She plays the demure girl brilliantly and does well in the portions where she struggles to make ends meet in order to bring up her son. Shashi Kapoor is at his effervescent best, playing the sprightly, rich, flirtatious yet a sincere young man. He brings a lot of life to this essentially dramatic film. Amitabh Bachchan puts in one of his career-best performances in this film. Be it in the dramatic conversational scenes, the romantic ones, the emotional sequences or the action stunts, Bachchan excels and how! The scene where Amitabh Bachchan (Vijay Kumar) meets Sanjeev Kumar (R.K.Gupta) for the first time is excellently written and impeccably performed by the two geniuses. Hema Malini, besides looking stunning, does fine in her limited role of a rich businessman’s daughter. The chemistry between Shashi Kapoor and Hema Malini is absolutely electrifying. Rakhee Gulzar is fine as Geeta. Her role, especially her chemistry with Amitabh Bachchan, could have been explored further though. One wonders why Yash Chopra asked her to mouth certain lines in the English language, when she couldn’t get the diction right. A few lines hardly make a difference, but it does put the viewer off.  A young Sachin Pilgaonkar sparkles in a supporting role, where he is cast opposite the lovely Poonam Dhillon. Once again a Yash Chopra film has women playing independent and strong characters. It was interesting to see women play modern characters, and not the stereotypical ones where they’re shown submissive. Prem Chopra as the evil Balwant Rai is at his villainous best and gives us yet another memorable performance.

Firstly, the writing (Salim Khan and Javed Akhtar) is brilliant. The writers infuse the perfect combination of romance, drama, action and suspense in the film. The dialogues too, are not filmy per se. For some reason, the story and the dialogues of the film seem very real. The screenplay was found wanting at various junctures in the film.

The editing (B. Mangeshkar) is good for most of the duration of the film. There are a few misplaced shots with improper angles but you can put it down to the lack of technology (as it is, such discrepancies were prevalent in most films made during that time). Another noteworthy scene in the film is the one where Amitabh beats up the bad guy Madhav Singh illegally taking over R K Gupta’s land. The fight sequence (impeccable directed by Shetty) was hard-hitting and had a few light moments too, towards the end, guaranteeing wholesome entertainment.

The songs could have been shot better. The choreography falls flat at times and fails to infuse the kind of energy that is associated with Yash Chopra films. The music by Khayyam is superb. However, none of the songs have lasted the test of time. The numbers are hummable, but only while you watch the film. They aren’t memorable. ‘Mohabbat Bade Kaam Ki Cheez Hai’ was the best song in the film.

Coming to the direction, Yash Chopra once again extracts near-flawless performances from his cast. The film must have been a risqué one, during the time that it was made in, but Chopra brings his own edge to the table. The romantic sequences, especially, have been brilliant conceived and shot. The action sequences in the climax of the film do end up looking comical; however, they do nothing to spoil the charm of the film.

Not just does it boast of an interesting story, but also riveting dialogues and flawless performances by the cast, notably Sanjeev Kumar, Amitabh Bachchan and Shashi Kapoor. Thought the film may not be the most perfect, technically, it does entertain you for a good 2 hour 45 minutes. A story well told, and way ahead of its time. (First Posted In MSN)

Shivom Oza

Friday, 6 July 2012

Eega (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – A Film That You Should Be ‘Eager’ To Watch

3.5/5 Stars

A film, armed with spectacular visual effects (by Indian standards), about a man in love who gets murdered by an eccentric billionaire and reincarnates into a housefly to take revenge.

The film begins with a blossoming love story between a simpleton Nani (Nani) and a micro-artist Bindu (Samantha Ruth Prabhu). The guy has been relentlessly trying to woo the girl for two years, merely by staring at her through the window and lending a helping hand, whenever required. Bindu, who has been playing hard-to-get all this while, also runs a foundation for unprivileged children. She approaches the suave business tycoon Sudeep (Sudeep) for a donation to her organization. Sudeep, who thinks he can charm any girl except his own wife that he murdered, falls for her at first sight. He donates a whopping amount of money just to get close to Bindu. However, things go awry when he learns that a love story is already brewing between Nani and Bindu. He decides to take matters in his own hands and strangles Nani to death. It is at this moment where Nani gets reincarnated into a fly. How the fly makes Sudeep’s life hellish, hereon, forms the crux of the story.

The performances of the principal star-cast are excellent. Nani excellently plays the charming lover boy, while Samantha Ruth Prabhu, who looks stunning, acts brilliantly. However, Sudeep (who has acted in films such as ‘Rann’, ‘Rakhta Charitra’ and ‘Phoonk’) steals the show with his menacing looks and an even more intimidating performance! Villainy comes naturally to the actor, and he impresses yet again. However, the best performance in the film has been given by another element altogether. More on that later!

The concept of the film itself is very interesting. To have a fly as the protagonist of the film is a risk that very few makers will be willing to take. The writer-director S.S. Rajamouli has, come up with a novel idea, excellent dialogues (albeit they are subtitled) and extracts lovely performances from the cast. The art direction (S. Ravinder) and the cinematography (Senthil Kumar), is first-rate. Even the editing has been neatly executed. The film keeps you on the edge of your seat throughout its 2-hour duration. The star of the film is ‘Visual Effects’. The Makuta VFX team come up with mind-blowing visuals. The animation along with the computer-generated imagery (CGI) is absolutely enthralling. The audiences are going to cheer on, as the fly takes on the baddie. The music by M.M. Keeravani is hummable. The scenes involving the Eega and Sudeep are hilarious. Romance, Drama and Action too, are strongly inherent in this wholesome entertaining film. Kudos to the makers for supporting such a ‘risky’ film! The Hindi film industry should take a cue from such films. In any case, looking at the curiosity that the film has generated, it looks set for a Hindi remake.

An interesting plot, brilliant performances and path breaking CGI (according to Indian standards) make this film a must-watch! The only downside is the language. Unfortunately, the non-Telugu speaking audiences will have to cope with the subtitles. Otherwise, ‘Eega’ is THE film to watch! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

3 Bachelors (2012) Review by Shivom Oza – These Bachelors Are Better Left Untouched

1/5 Stars

A film that was made in the year 2002 unfortunately fails to appeal, in any way. With a clichéd storyline, stereotypical characters and lifeless music, ‘3 Bachelors’ is quite a ‘dud’. Even Sharman Joshi’s presence fails to lift the film, in any way.

The story is about two bachelors, Amit (Sharman Joshi) and Jai (Manish Nagpal), who have just moved into Mumbai to study at a reputed college. However, fate hits them hard on the very first day. Not only do the boys get ragged on the first day, but also fail to acquire any accommodation. Only one landlady is willing to give a house, given that the tenants are a married couple. Jai bites the dust and goes for a makeover (a la Kamal Haasan in ‘Chachi 420’) and becomes Jaya, Amit’s wife. Incidentally, the landlady, Shalini Devi (Himani Shivpuri), is also the principal of the college that the two boys study in. Shalini Devi’s nieces Neha (Raima Sen) and Nisha (Riya Sen) fall for the two boys. There is another angle. A professor Deepak Varma (Manoj Pahwa), who is supposedly a widower (suggested, not told), is looking for a promotion at the college. In lieu of that, he tries to woo the college principal. Yes, the story is quite messed up. A lot of misunderstandings, a couple of songs, endless revelations and heartbreaks later, this ‘dated’ film reaches its predictable climax.

The two leading men Sharman Joshi and Manish Nagpal strike up brilliant chemistry. Both have great comic timing, and the duo manage to lighten up the proceedings whenever they appear on the screen. However, the film itself is so dated (it went on floors a decade back) that even the supposedly ‘good’ scenes fail to create an impact. The writing is to blame for this, which unfortunately, ends up spoiling the entire movie-watching experience (Irrespective of the performances). Seasoned actors such as Manoj Pahwa and Himani Shivpuri too, deliver fine performances, but are let down by the lacklustre writing. There are a couple of cameos in the film, Mika Singh crooning ‘Something Something’ and Nigar Khan in an item number. However, the film has already become too yawn-inducing to elicit any interest from the viewer, thereon. Raima Sen and Riya Sen are major disappointments. Since, their voices have been dubbed, albeit miserably, won’t say much about their dialogue delivery, but the acting itself is appalling.
As already mentioned, the writing is horrible. The writers (Raghuvir Shekhawat and Ajai Sinha) come up with out-dated jokes, clichéd dialogues and an uninspiring storyline. The makers too, should take the blame for this debacle.

The editing (Sanjay Sankla) is average. When the film itself is bad, there is nothing much that the editor can do. The direction by Ajai Sinha is just about average. Can’t keep giving the timing as an excuse! There were good films made, a decade back as well. Daboo Malik shells out forgettable numbers.
Had this film been released in 2002, it would have found quite a few takers. Such films used to work at that point of time (single-screen theatres were more in demand, back then). The producers should have released the film directly on television (keeping the financial constraints in mind), instead of giving it a proper release.

The film cannot be watched, at one stretch. Maybe, if it does come on television, you may catch it to see the pre-‘Ferrari Ki Sawaari’ Sharman Joshi. However, not a single paisa should be spent on ‘3 Bachelors’. (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Khamosh (1985) Review by Shivom Oza – Deft Touch By The Master Vidhu Vinod Chopra

3.5/5 Stars

Pahalgam, Kashmir. Shooting of a new film titled ‘Aakhri Khoon’, starring Amol Palekar, Shabana Azmi and Soni Razdan is taking place at this somewhat eerie location. The debauched producer Prabhu Dayal (Ajit Vachani) and his eccentric brother Kuku (Pankaj Kapur) are pursuing Soni Razdan for a romantic liaison, while Chandran (Sadashiv Amrapurkar) is the over-confident director trying to rush up the film so that they can get back to Bombay. Mrs. Bhal (Sushma Seth), a veteran actress, is pushing her reluctant daughter Meenu into the big, bad world of glamour. There are other characters played by Avtaar Gill, Pavan Malhotra, Veerendra Saxena among others who are perpetually angry. There is tension galore on the sets of the film.

Things turn ugly when Soni Razdan is found dead, hanging from a tree, at the filming location. The producer brushes it off as a suicide and things get back to normal. Until, a CID inspector (Naseeruddin Shah) enters the story. He takes it upon himself to investigate into the murder. The twists and turns in the plot hereon, that culminate in the nabbing of the culprit, form the crux of the film.

The performances by the cast are brilliant. Considering that quite a few of the cast members of the film were playing themselves (Shabana Azmi, Amol Palekar and Soni Razdan), it must have been difficult for them to adapt their acting style. However, all the three give stellar performances and no one else could have played their roles better (understandably!). Ajit Vachani and Pankaj Kapur too, shine in this film. The supporting cast in particular, comprising an eclectic mix of actors, such as Sadashiv Amrupurkar, Sushma Seth, Avtaar Gill, Pavan Malhotra, Veerendra Saxena and Sudhir Mishra, is terrific, and elevates the film to a completely different level. Naseeruddin Shah, as usual, delivers a mind-blowing performance. This was the actor’s golden period in Hindi cinema as he was coming on the back of hits such as ‘Jaane Bhi Do Yaaro’, ‘Masoom’, ‘Mohan Joshi Hazir Ho!’ and the likes!

The story of the film, although not novel, is very differently conceived. The writers (Vidhu Vinod Chopra, Saeed Mirza, Kundan Shah and Manjul Sinha) have not incorporated anything that would come across as bizarre. There are leaps of faith, or cinematic liberties taken, but nothing so unusual that would leave you flabbergasted. The dialogues deserve special mention. Ranjit Kapoor and Sudhir Mishra have emulsified subtlety into this film with their sedate writing. The dialogues are not the kind that we’re accustomed to hearing in other films that belonged to the era (1980s). Lingo used in the film is somehow reprised even today. The locations too, had a believable quality about them. ‘Khamosh’, in a way, broke many myths about the film industry. One actually gets to know what happens on a film set and how the ‘stars’ that we worship on the screen are so ‘human’ in real life. Robin Das, the art director, chose the perfect locations for the film. It was important to not let the audiences get carried away by the background, when the story itself was so gripping. The editing by the brilliant Renu Saluja is first-rate. The ending seems a bit stretched; sure, they could have fastened the turn of events during the climax. However, taking the timing of the release into consideration, the film did set a trend for many more murder mysteries to come. And for that, it must definitely be lauded.  Lastly, the background music (Vanraj Bhatia) was extraordinary in this song-less film. It adds to the incredible tension of the story.

Vidhu Vinod Chopra exhibits his marvellous talent in this fantastic thriller. Not only has he written a superb story, but has also assembled a supremely talented cast.

‘Khamosh’ is Vidhu Vinod Chopra’s best film, Period. It’s a flawless murder mystery with an unpredictable climax.

This film has ‘CULT’ written all over it. Do, Watch it! (First Posted in MSN)

Shivom Oza