My 2 cents

Dhobi Ghaat (Mumbai Diaries)

I am not sure if Dhobi Ghaat is an apt title for this movie, just ‘Mumbai Diaries’ would have worked better for me. Or maybe ‘Bombay Diaries’ since no one in the movie refers to the city as Mumbai anyway, not that I am complaining.

Most of our movie experiences depend on two factors – our expectations from the movie and our mood while watching it. This is one movie where these factors become crucial, really crucial. Most of the people watching the movie with me (not just my gang, the entire hall) did not like the movie and were pretty vocal about it (sadly during the movie also), I enjoyed it. This is one movie which wants you to let it be, had no pretensions of being conventionally engaging, does not offer any sort of  closure for any of the lead characters, does not have any larger than life characters and does not have any item song (shudder!!!).

Yet it is engaging and interesting, makes you think enough for it to be called smart, and is funny and endearing in enough places. You are invited to view the lives of young Munna (Prateik Babbar, the best of the lot in Jaane Tu Ya Jaane Na and very good and endearing here) and Yasmin (Kriti Malhotra, simply the most outstanding performer here), through the eyes of Shai (Monica Dogra, looking okay but performing just adequately) and Arun (Amir Khan being Amir Khan). As an added attraction you also get a peek into the lives of Shai and Arun.

Yasmin is the one you empathize with most even though she has the simplest story. You feel for her as she tries to find (or create) capture-worthy experiences in her apparently routine and to some extent boring life. Her interview of her maid and maid’s daughter is easily the highlight of the film, the one scene where even the naysayers in my theatre were hooked. It was interesting to notice how Arun’s attitude towards her story changes as the movie progresses. At the start he had her story at his beck and call, pausing and rewinding as he pleased/needed. But later, the story took over him and ultimately his decision (of moving house) was controlled by the story, a far cry from him having the control.

Munna is next in the list of characters that made you feel for them. He has dreams, and he is working towards them even though it is highly unlikely that he will be able to realize them, he keeps on working towards them. Even adding Shai to the list of apparently unachievable dreams that he has. Where the film succeeds is in making viewers also want the success of Munna. Prateik is endearing and honest in his performance and I feel this is only the second of many such performances.

Shai should have been the more intriguing of the two observers since she is an outsider, more than Arun anyway, but it is Arun who is sucked in more. Shai is in turn intrigued by Arun and is apparently oblivious to the feelings Munna has for her, though she genuinely cares for him and is in no way using him. Initially I felt that Shai was looking at everything with Slumdog Millionaire eyes, but her genuine feelings for Arun as well as Munna made me feel otherwise. Her story is the one that comes closest to a closure in that she has something to look forward to when the movie ends. Munna is looking at a life of responsibility and hardships and Arun is plain lonely, but she has a choice and a chance to pursue what she wants.

The best way to watch this movie would be the way Arun watches Yasmin’s videos, at our own pace pausing/rewinding at will – continue if we are interested or just leave it. So once again I would say wait for the DVD, else you might be in the majority who won’t like this experimental movie.

In one of the pre-release interviews Kiran Rao said she was not comfortable being known just as Amir Khan’s wife. While I do feel she is a talented director, I think she will have to face that predicament for some more time. This movie would not have been made, analyzed so much, and gotten an international release without Amir Khan’s name attached to it. Amir’s name has a certain credibility which ensured that scores of people went in to watch a non-conventional movie on the first weekend of its release and the ones who liked it are a small subset of those people. Even the ones who liked it might not have gone for it had it not been an Amir Khan production. This was an Amir Khan film first for most of us. But looking at it, I feel the audience of a Kiran Rao film is already building up.


Road To Sangam

Posted in Last movie I saw, Lucknow, Movies, Movies I recommend, something I like by urmilesh on January 23, 2011

‘Road to Sangam‘ is a movie that was on my watch-list for a long time now, but somehow I never got a chance to see it, not least because it did not get a major release. Thanks to the Fremont Main Library that had a DVD, and to the lazy Saturday morning, I finally got to see it.

I have been watching a lot of movies that I could not catch up on when they released, and quite a few of the recently watched ones had Paresh Rawal in them – and I am in awe of the man now. I will do a separate Paresh Rawal post soon and so here I will keep my awe in check 🙂

‘Road to Sangam‘ is the story of a simple man who is caught between the turmoil of his times. How he chooses to fight being a part of the herd and follow his heart, is what the film tries to depict, and it does a very good job of it

Paresh Rawal is Hasmat Bhai, the most well-written character and the protagonist of the movie, an expert motor-mechanic and a devout muslim. He lives a non-confrontational life and goes about his job with honesty and commitment. His life is thrown into a turmoil when his idea of religion clashes with the preachers. He believes in honouring his word, finishing the job he started – you can say that an honest day’s work is his religion. But when he is unable to deliver on a commitment due to the local Muslim community leaders calling for a boycott of all work (to oppose of arrest of suspects in a blast case, and the death of an innocent in the stampede following a protest), he begins to question the decrees of those leaders. After much debate, with family, friends and community members, and most importantly with his own self, he decides to follow his conscience. The fact that the task at hand involves the ashes of Mahatma Gandhi makes his resolve only stronger.

The movie is about this thought. Can you follow your conscience against the face of any opposition? Everyone has a limit to which he will listen to his inner voice, as is seen by Hasmat Bhai’s various friends helping him covertly. Hasmat Bhai is the protagonist because his commitment to his inner voice is the strongest. He may have his limits but clarion calls to toe the community line do not define them. It is the genuineness with which this thought has been portrayed that makes this movie worth a watch.

Sure, it has its drawbacks. It gets preachy at times, and the sermon to Mr Kasuri (a very one-dimensional Om Puri) by Hasmat Bhai comes very close to overkill. But most of the times the director stays far far away from pretentiousness. The characters other than Hasmat Bhai are not that well-written and do not engage you as much, except when they are interacting with Hasmat. Also, by focusing on one community, the director is providing ammunition to those who might want to dub him partisan. But I feel the story could as well have been set in any community and to look at it with a narrow vision would be a folly.

Paresh Rawal as Hasmat Bhai is a not a revelation since we know how good an actor he is, but it sure is refreshing to see him play a not over the top character for a change. Being from Lucknow, I can appreciate the nuances he brought to the role to depict an Allahabadi, and his portrayal of the internal struggles of Hasmat is too good. Pawan Malhotra, as the Maulvi was a revelation because it took me a while to realize that it is him. The voice that he used, the mannerisms, the expressions, and his diction all added to the character and showed how he could be revered by some and feared by others. Om Puri, as I said, carried the same expression throughout and didn’t have too much to do. The rest of the supporting cast was adequate and the interactions that Hasmat had with them which made the movie watchable.

I would have recommended watching this one on DVD, but since it is not running in cinema halls anymore that is a moot point. It is not engaging throughout, and has a few troughs among more frequent crests. But the central thought has been depicted with simplicity and genuineness, and for that you should watch it.


Posted in Last movie I saw, Movies, Movies I recommend, review, something I like, Something New by urmilesh on December 23, 2009

It is not often that you are witness to a human-alien war and you side with the aliens – Avatar is the experience that will bring this change in you.

I’d been hearing about this movie for a long time now, and saw the first visuals only last year. And I was so hoping that it is not one of those movies where the special effects guy takes over as the director. Well it turns out the director here took over as the special effects guy, and found a way to let us peek into his mind and see what he is visualizing. Yes he did do that.

For once you will not feel betrayed at paying the prohibitively costly ticket prices, you might in-fact feel lucky to be able to witness something so path-breaking and so revolutionary for a couple of hundred rupees. As it happened in my case, you will also not mind the long wait for parking, the utterly mis-managed queues for 3D glasses distribution, and the jostling crowds. Yes it is that kind of a movie.

There is nothing much to say about the story, it is fairly predictable. But the depiction, the visualization and the execution are AWESOME. Every little detail has been tended to, and there is so much rich content on the screen in almost every frame that you just HAVE TO watch this in 3D. I am hoping to get a chance to watch it in IMAX for my second viewing. Yes a second viewing is a very real possibility – It is such a great movie.

Hindu mythology says that Vishnu will come to earth in an avatar whenever the right is over-powered by the wrong; and he shall do so for not more than ten times in total (out of which nine incarnations are already past us). There is an interesting theory on PFC about how Avatar is the story of the tenth incarnation of Vishnu. It is very well possible that JC himself is the supposed tenth guy burdened with the task of salvaging movie-making (since the world seems to be beyond Vishnu’s saving power anyways :P) and Avatar is his way of doing it. Yes, it is such an act of brilliance from him.

Go watch it, in 3D.


Posted in India, Last movie I saw, Movies, Movies I recommend, politics, review, something I like by urmilesh on March 25, 2009

It is surprising in a way that this is the first Anurag Kashyap movie I have seen (since I watch pretty much anything) but I can only say this : ‘better late than never‘.

One of the most difficult tasks at this time would be to find faults with this movie simply because it has been so well made. And it gives me a bad feeling to know that it will not make as much money as a film good as this should make; but I guess the makers also knew this beforehand.

The movie packed a whole lot in itself and as such can mean different things to different people and the impressive part is that none of these different people would feel short-changed by the director. For me, it was about the extent to which politics has crept into our day to day lives, even in personal relationships. The way Dileep is exploited by Kiran (obvious to everyone but Dileep) and the way Kiran is exploited by her brother Karan (which is not as obvious); reflects at a personal level how the office of general secretary is exploited by Dukey Bana at a political level. In the end the clear winner, or the last man standing, is the one who was the least obvious in his manipulations; which says a lot about how politics is played out.

The strengths of the movie are many: dialogues, songs (used very effectively as background score), performances, screenplay, use of lighting (notice the place where Dileep and Ransa reside, and also the scene when his highness learns of his son’s death…you will know what I mean) and the writing. What’s great is that every character has story and a part to play, no one is a filler. And nobody’s story is dictated out to you, you are assumed intelligent based on the fact that you bought a ticket for this movie.

I would recommend this movie to all who love good cinema…and would like to say that Anurag Kashyap and Piyush Mishra have gained a new fan who is starting his research on them as of now 🙂

Welcome to Sajjanpur – movie review

Posted in Funny, India, Last movie I saw, Movies, Movies I recommend, something I like, Something New by urmilesh on September 26, 2008

There are times when, quite unexpectedly, you discover who you really are; what you really like; when you really laugh…and if you are a movie person like me then most of these times will come when you’re watching a movie. Last weekend told me that my sense of humour is twisted in some ways because I found myself laughing all through Zohan…and I wasn’t the least bit surprised to see that I was not laughing the loudest in my gang; and yesterday I realized that I can even laught at real world problems or very real looking people…only requirement is for a master story teller to tell that story in a funny way.

And Shyam Benegal has done just that. He has taken a setting in a very real world village, not one of those filmy villages you see in movies almost always (Lagaan included). I could very easily think of similar people in my village in eastern UP, and that is when I don’t visit there that often; and he has told their story…no no…he has made us see their tale from the eyes of Mahadev (nice performance by Shreyas Talpade). Their problems, their griefs, their daily trials, their dreams…and while it is nice that we enjoy and admire their dreams….we also laugh at their problems. Agreed the story unfolds in a very light-hearted manner…and there are some places where even the stoic of faces will show a grin….but still, it’s someone’s grief we are laughing at. Did Shyam Benegal realize that the only way he can ensure a large audience for his close to life movies is to view them humorously?? rather than seriously…I don’t know.

Well, this thought apart…the movie is a very nice collage of everyday characters from a village that could be anywhere in India. No one seems to have been cast out of place…everyone has done justice to their part; and in turn to the story. A movie which will not disappoint you…and make you feel that even the highly overpriced tickets at these city malls are justified. One thing I particularly liked was the dialogues of the movie; they have been written very well and the delivery matches the writing. And thankfully, the accent has not been toned down….that is something that adds to the movie.

Go watch…

What happens in Vegas – should have stayed in Vegas

Posted in Bangalore, Last movie I saw, Movies, review by urmilesh on September 17, 2008

That’s the first and the last thing that I remember about the movie…in between there are a number of other things also, but none of them could take priority over it 🙂 That, in effect, sums up the movie for me.

I am one of those who pride myself on knowing how the movie will be (again for me) by watching the trailer. And from the trailer itself this movie seemed to be one I would not pay to see; but the ticketing software of PVR Bangalore took care of that and gave us 4 tickets to this movie when we’d boooked 4 for ‘Righteous Kill’ (one which is also not very high on the wanna-watch list).

The movie is one of the ‘Rom-Com’ genre and does nothing which hasn’t been done before. It is completely predictable, except for bits and pieces here and there, and that is what spoils the fun. It is the story of Jack (Ashton Kutcher) who is fired by his own dad at the start of the movie; and Joy (Cameron Diaz) who is dumped by her boy-friend right in the middle (more at the start) of the birthday party that she has painstakingly organized for him. They both go to Vegas to forget everything, and do just that…accidentally getting married in the process.

Oops!!! Did I just gave away the story? No I did not since this much is shown very prominently in the trailers, as also the part where Jack wins 3 million dollars in Jackpot the morning after and that makes the idea of annulement of their recent marriage rather unattractive for Joy.
The rest of the movie is about how they try to stay together for 6 months for the sake of money, how each one tries to make life hell for the other, and how they fall in love eventually.

Nothing wrong with the story actually…nothing wrong with the movie as such also; except for the fact that it gives you a feeling of ‘been there done that’ and that too a number of times. The actors are ok…Cameron Diaz has started looking old, and the jokes more or less fall flat.

Watch it if it’s coming on TV…don’t spend money on it.

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