Friday, 22 March 2013

Salaam Bombay (1988) Review by Shivom Oza - Ek Din, Apne Hindustaan Mein, Sab Theek Ho Jaayega!

5/5 Stars

Bombay, now Mumbai, is often referred to as 'sapnon ka sheher' (city of dreams). There's a scene in 'Salaam Bombay', when Krishna, played by Shafiq Syed, is requesting for a ticket to any big city in the vicinity and the ticket seller tells him, 'Bombay jaa, waapas film star ban ke aana'. This, folks, is the magic about the city. Mira Nair’s ‘Salaam Bombay’ captures the life on the streets of this glorious city.
Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, ‘Salaam Bombay’ is a heart-rending film. The story, and particularly the mind-numbing climax, won't make you smile or cry. Instead, it will stun you!

Krishna (Shafiq Syed), who has run away from his home after being involved in a scuffle with his brother, works in the circus. On one of the days, young Krishna is left abandoned by his circus troupe after being asked to run an errand. The boy finds it difficult to find his way back to his mother, or locate his circus troupe. So, he lands up at the railway station and travels to the nearest big city, Bombay. Here, he hopes to collect 500 rupees so that he can return to his 'mulk' (home).

Krishna loses the little money that he had on the first day itself, as he gets robbed by the street urchins. He follows the robbers all the way till Bombay's red-light area at Grant Road. Here, he comes across interesting characters. Baba Golub (Nana Patekar) has hired Chillum (Raghubir Yadav) to sell drugs for him, while his wife Rekha (Aneeta Kanwar) sleeps around for money with well-off men at the up-scale areas of the city.

Chillum, who is a hustler and a drug-addict, befriends Krishna and gets him a job at a tea stall. So, Krishna is rechristened as 'Chaipau'. 'Chaipau' loses his heart to a young prostitute, named 'Sola Saal' (Chanda Sharma), which colloquially translates to Sweet Sixteen. While Baba and Rekha share a complicated, sometimes abusive, relationship with each other, their daughter Manju (Hansa Vithal) finds herself neglected all the time by her parents and her friend, Krishna/Chaipau.  Meanwhile, the young boy finds himself in the middle of several complicated equations; the unspoken one with Sola Saal, the helpless one with the self-destructive Chillum and lastly, dealing with his own troubles of trying to procure 500 rupees, which will help him go back to his 'mulk'.

'Salaam Bombay' captures the raw, relentless energy on the streets and slums of Bombay city. Although the film largely is about the downtrodden and the underprivileged class, every one, irrespective of their cast, class, race, sex, region or faith, will relate to these characters. The pathos of the city is wonderfully captured through Sandi Sissel's camera. Even the editing, which does seem abrupt on a few occasions, by Barry Alexander Brown brilliantly sets up the premise of the film. The cast, comprising of stellar actors in Patekar, Kanwar, Yadav, Shafiq and Vithal, make these dingy-characters their own through their exemplary performances. The cameo list includes Irrfan Khan, Sanjana Kapoor and Anjan Srivastav, all of whom went on to carve their own special place in the annals of the Indian entertainment industry. Mira Nair and Sooni Taraporevala's 'Salaam Bombay' is arguably the best film to be made on Bombay/Mumbai. While it does not mirror every aspect of this wonderful city, the parts that it does are immortalised in the best possible manner. One dialogue in this film really hits you hard - one elderly man tells Krishna/Chaipau - 'Ek din, apne Hindustaan mein sab theek ho jaayega', which translates to 'One day, in our India, everything will be alright'. This one line speaks volumes about the poignancy within the film. Hriday Lani's dialogues play an equal role in making this film the 'cult' that it is.

We keep reading about how the people of Mumbai resume their normal lives post any catastrophe - deluges, bomb blasts, riots, terror attacks. This phrase, 'the indomitable spirit of the people of Mumbai' is used by each and every scribe, every time our city faces a calamity. You know what best describes the indomitable spirit of Mumbai? 'Salaam Bombay'! Thousand Salaams, Mira Ji!

Shivom Oza  

Sona Spa (2013) Review by Shivom Oza - So Jaaiye!

0/5 Stars

If you've already watched the trailers of the film, 'Sona Spa', it seems like you must have already made up your mind. The film deals with sleep deprivation, which according to the makers is a 'major modern life issue'.

One falls short of adjectives to describe this apology of a film. Even 'terrible' is an understatement.

The 'plot' is nothing but a big 'blot'. Apologies for this lyrical catastrophe, but this particular film deserves all the 'accolades'. The concept of the film is that at 'Sona Spa', you can buy sleep for yourself and that girls will sleep for you. However, there's a catch! The girls can also inhabit their client's dreams, which lead to problems.

Look, one may call this concept 'novel', 'fresh', 'innovative', but if the execution is so lackadaisical, then they ought to be pulled up! Shruti Vyas, who is such a brilliant theatre actor, is completely wasted in the film. Naseeruddin Shah's is a guest appearance, thankfully. The actor par excellence, yet again, features in a terrible film. Quite frankly, one cannot complain about not getting enough due in the Hindi film industry, if you choose such scripts. If one feels that great disservice has been done to their talent, they should self-introspect instead of playing the blame-game.

Go to sleep. Avoid the film!

Shivom Oza

Thursday, 21 March 2013

Aatma (2013) Review by Shivom Oza – Redefines The Horror Genre!

3.5/5 Stars

Recent horror films churned out by Bollywood follow certain prerequisites – sex, love story, lip-sync songs, item numbers, and unfathomable twists among many others. These films end up being accepted by the audiences and collect great box-office returns. Surprisingly and to an extent, thankfully Suparn Verma’s ‘Aatma’ comprises none of the above, and yet manages to be more effective than any of those films, which do consist of the aforementioned prerequisites.

‘Aatma’ relies purely on the content and, to a large extent, succeeds owing to clever storytelling, astute direction and remarkable performances.

The plot of the film is quite simple and linear. Maya Verma (Bipasha Basu) keeps her daughter Nia (Doyel Dhawan) in the dark about her husband and the girl’s father, Abhay Verma’s (Nawazuddin Siddiqui) abusive behaviour and untimely death. It is when strange incidents start occurring in Nia’s life (Nia’s classmate and teacher die in mysterious circumstances) that Maya begins to get worried. Soon, she discovers that her daughter has been talking to someone (whom she claims is her father), not visible to anyone else. Her fears come true when she realizes that it’s Abhay’s ‘Aatma’ that’s haunting them and that the maverick wants to take Nia back with him.

The story of the film is very new so far as this particular genre is concerned. It takes the bold step of doing away with typical commercial cinema innuendos and keeps most aspects of the film (screenplay, dialogues, art direction, cinematography, acting etc.) subtle and realistic. There are a couple of scenes in the film, such as the entire sorcerer angle with the religious connection, which seem a bit out-of-place. However, the film manages to do away with most clich├ęs and ends up becoming a compelling watch. The cinematography (Sophie Winqvist) deserves special mention for incorporating the bluish-gray colour tone and imbibing it so wonderfully with the screenplay. Even the background score by Hitesh Sonik accentuates the thrill-factor of the film. As far as the performances go, Bipasha Basu delivers her career-best performance as the helpless mother coping with an abusive relationship, a long-kept secret and the impending loss of her only child. Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Doyel Dhawan too, deliver first-rate performances. Among the supporting cast, Shernaz Patel stands out. Suparn Verma has dared to try something different from the norm. Kudos to the director for this brave and largely successful attempt!

The film is more intriguing than terrifying. Either way, you should watch it!

Shivom Oza

Friday, 15 March 2013

Mere Dad Ki Maruti (2013) Review by Shivom Oza – Chalegi Nahin, Daudegi!

3.5/5 Stars

Tej, a wealthy-yet-stingy businessman, buys a luxury SUV for his future son-in-law. However, on one night his notorious son, Sameer, sneaks out this prized possession and ends up losing it.

Ashima Chibber’s ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti’ is a fun, feel-good film. The terrific dialogues, music and performances make up for the over-the-top screenplay.

Sameer (Saqib Saleem), Chandigarh’s useless bugger (or ‘burger’ as his dad, Tej (Ram Kapoor), calls him), takes out his father’s prized possession, a Maruti Ertiga, in the night to impress the college hottie, Jasleen (Rhea Chakraborty). While Sameer manages to sweep Jasleen off her feet, he ends up losing the 10-lac-rupees-worth-car. 

So, his friend Gattu (Prabal Panjabi) and he embark upon the car-hunt. After running helter-skelter through the streets of Chandigarh all night, the duo give up. Eventually, they cook up a plan to get another car. The cat-and-mouse begins with Sameer trying his level best to cover up this gaffe from his temperamental father. The story begins on a great note and is excellently placed till the interval point. Post, second-half, there are a few unbelievably over-the-top scenes. Yet, ‘Mere Dad Ki Maruti’ manages to culminate wonderfully.

The film’s dialogues (Ishita Moitra), interspersed with Punjabi slang, are one of the highlights of this film. The story, penned by Neeraj Udwani, is fresh, but the treatment did get a bit formulaic. There’s a scene in which Prabal’s Gattu delivers the ’70 minute’ speech a la Kabir Khan from ‘Chak De India’. There’s another scene in which a religious procession is playing ‘Dhoom Macha Le’ from ‘Dhoom’. Marriage is an integral part of the film, so there's ‘Kajra Re’ from ‘Bunty Aur Babli’ playing several times. These scenes are enjoyable, but one hopes that the production house doesn’t keep coming up with ‘YRF’ references. It does get a bit repetitive. Saqib Saleem, Prabal Panjabi and Ram Kapoor deliver outstanding performances and Rhea Chakraborty too, is quite good. The best part about the film is the foot-tapping music by Sachin Gupta. The soundtrack boasts of names such as Mika Singh, Yo Yo Honey Singh, Diljit Dosanjh, and Panjabi MC among others. ‘Main Senti Tha’ and ‘Panjabiyaan Di Battery’ are surely to get you to hit the replay button, again and again!

Comedy reigns supreme in the story and along with the wonderful music and the emotional touch towards the climactic moments, makes this film a great family entertainer. The youth, in particular, will tremendously enjoy it.

Shivom Oza

Friday, 8 March 2013

Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns (2013) Review by Shivom Oza – Please Go Back!

2/5 Stars

Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster was one of the best-written films of 2011. Jimmy Sheirgill as the Saheb, Mahie Gill as the Biwi and Randeep Hooda as the Gangster, delivered terrific performances and gave us a gripping political-bedroom-drama. Tigmanshu has, since then, made huge strides in the Hindi film industry with brilliant direction in 'Paan Singh Tomar' and a formidable acting debut in 'Gangs Of Wasseypur'. Now, he is all set to present his next directorial venture.

'Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster Returns' comprises traits - sex, betrayal, politics, power, greed among others, which are similar to its predecessor's. Even though the performances and the 'dialoguebaazi' steal the show, the screenplay is a big let-down.

Indrajit Singh (Irrfan Khan) wants to avenge the killing of his ancestors at the hands of Aditya Pratap Singh’s (Jimmy Sheirgill) forefathers. He frequently visits the ruins of his family’s erstwhile kingdom and every visit keeps reminding him of his mission to destroy Aditya Pratap Singh. Indrajit’s love interest, Ranjana (Soha Ali Khan), is the daughter of another royal, Bana Singh (Raj Babbar). Aditya, confined to a wheelchair and already in a defunct marriage with Madhavi (Mahie Gill), takes a liking for Ranjana and asks for her hand in marriage. Bana Singh, who is reluctant to give away his daughter to a handicapped and a temperamental man, summons Indrajit to plot Aditya’s downfall. The film is essentially about how Indrajit along with Ranjana get together to bring Aditya down. However, then enters the Biwi! Having already assumed ad-hoc power in the kingdom, Madhavi is perpetually inebriated and is basking in the glory of her newfound power. Trouble arises when Madhavi comes in contact with Indrajit! The story of the film is baffling at some points. The main conflict of the film only comes with about half an hour of the film to go. Till then, the story does not really go anywhere.

Even though the characters have been well-etched in isolation, they don’t quite go well with the story of the film. Soha’s Ranjana is shown as an innocuous princess who is blindly in love with Indrajit. However, there’s no trait which you would associate with her character, except maybe, confused. Mahie starts out brilliantly with her temperamental, drunk act (which she seems to have mastered), but it gets too annoying and repetitive. The bizarre twists-and-turns in the plot dilute the impact of the casts’ performances. Even though the actors get memorable dialogues to mouth, the story doesn’t quite rise to the occasion. Random incidents such as out-of-the-blue arrests and deaths of pivotal characters are left unexplained. Aditya, who couldn’t stand up till the mid-way point of the second-half, gets his swagger back, all of a sudden. The other royal members, with interesting nicknames such as Rudy and Bunny, also seem a confused lot with no real motive at hand. Irrfan, who is shown to be quite determined in his quest to kill Aditya Pratap Singh, suddenly develops a change-of-heart in the end. The climax just escalates the bizarre-level of the film by a few notches. As far as the politics of the film is concerned, here again, the only impression you will take back is that politicians are lecherous and dumb. Madness is obviously permissible in cinema and often, it makes for terrific viewing as well. However, there should be some method to the madness. The two unneeded item numbers only worsen the viewing experience.

When you have powerhouse performers in Jimmy Sheirgill, Mahie Gill and Irrfan, backed with a wonderful story teller in Tigmanshu Dhulia, how can you go wrong? When your first film ‘Saheb Biwi Aur Gangster’ was so bloody awesome, how can you make such a bad sequel? While you put all the thought into the 'dhamakedaar' dialogues and the 'seeti bajao' scenes, why didn't anyone proofread the screenplay? Greed and complacency! Sequels make sense commercially. One can make good sequels too, but proper attention should be given to the script as well. Mere piggy-backing on the ‘brand’ name won’t do!

Shivom Oza

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) Review by Shivom Oza – Ordinary and Weak

2/5 Stars

‘Oz the Great and Powerful’, which is a prequel to L. Frank Baum's 1900 novel ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’, and also an unofficial prequel to the 1939 film ‘The Wizard of Oz’, is about a small-time magician, Oscar Diggs/Wizard of Oz, who arrives in an enchanted land and is expected to save it from the ‘wicked’ witches. 

The supposedly ‘great’ and ‘powerful’ turns out to be ordinary and weak. The film begins on a promising note, with charming black and white visuals, witty dialogue writing and a nice setting of the basic premise. However, the film soon finds itself in a quandary, owing to its duration (2 hours 10 minutes).

Oscar Diggs (James Franco), a small-time circus magician with a dubious reputation, is hurled away in a hot air balloon from dusty Kansas to the vibrant Land of Oz.

At this enchanted land, he encounters three witches Theodora (Mila Kunis), Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Glinda (Michelle Williams). As the lone hope of the trouble-struck people of Oz, Oscar, the newly anointed Wizard must find out who is good and who is evil before time runs out.

The film has brilliant visuals. The way the transformation from the black and white visuals of Kansas to the vibrant ‘Land of Oz’ takes place, is highly praiseworthy. The performances are not quite top-notch. At times, the lead actors do end up looking a bit like caricatures. The biggest let-down of the film is the sluggish screenplay. The 3D too, flatters to deceive. Even kids may not find this fare too entertaining.

The film doesn’t live up to its name!

Shivom Oza