Chef Review

"This seems to be Radha Menon's conspiracy to dilute the legacy  of the 'loins' of Punjab", says Saif Ali Khan, the Chandni Chowk bred boy whose son fails to understand what is Chole Bhature. It is definitely a matter of concern for the north Indian man, once married to a Malayali woman who left him for his inability to understand her desire for attention from her husband and moved back to her native town Kochi.

Roshan Kalra's first love since adolescence was food and the smell of it. He would run away from home to learn cooking, as his father played by veteran Ram Gopal Bajaj detests the idea of a man burning his fingers in the kitchen. He should grow up to be a doctor or an engineer. Roshan struggles to find a job in a restaurant, kills rats, sleeps on the floor and one fine day, makes it big in the United States of America. Did you read the recent news story of an Indian who makes 4 crore a year selling Vada Pav? Well Indians understand the global taste buds and given a chance, they can strike gold in the culinary world especially in the west. Roshan was a man who did it.

A remake of an English film Chef ( 2014) which starred Dustin Hoffman, Robert Downing Jr. and Scarlett Johansson, this film directed by Raja Krishna Menon explores relationships without any bitterness. Menon who earlier directed Airlift with Akshay Kumar , sketches a very likeable and humane character of a man who is capable of love but ends up losing it. He shows Saif Ali Khan like he really is, suave and definitely a gentleman. The character sketch of Roshan Kalra is one of the finest films in the film. He is a little unpredictable, a lot of fun, non-judgmental, easy going man who does not show any signs of chauvinism even as his ex-wife throws the idea of her remarriage to him. He comes and stays inside her house, jokes with the staff and even establishes a calm relationship with his ex-wife’s partner. This character is refreshing and something really out of the box for an average bollywood movie watcher and much of the film's appeal comes from the witty humor and style showcased by Saif Ali Khan. 

The best thing about the film is that it's life flowing on celluloid. Dialogues by Ritesh Shah are simple, funny and witty. Characters are believable and the natural landscape of Kerala put on screen by Cinematographer Priya Seth is alluring. Roshan Kalra's scenes with his son who he had rarely spent time with  are endearing and sketches a beautiful relationship between a father and son where both understand each other's perspective. 

On the flip side, the film starts to falter after the interval. The story meanders without much of a clarity about where it is heading. The screenplay is inconsistent losing the common thread and a motive, concentrating only on the scenes between characters and not the entire story. Indeed they are fun but where are we all going ? Also the very thing the film is based on – Food, there aren't many scenes celebrating food. The delicious shots of cooking, colors on a plate, the process of putting the spices together, the variety of edibles, the creativity of a chef, his inspiration; we are made to be drawn more towards the chef's personal life than the food that he cooks and that is such an opportunity lost. Shots of good food can really make for great visual imagery and here is where the director loses out on a few points. But Saif's wit and dialogue delivery often makes up for this vacuum.

Also the end to the film is  a hurried climax signifying that director had bitten off more than he could chew. All characters come in one scene with some of them behaving exactly opposite of the brief given to them in the beginning of the film.

It’s a slice of life worth eating while we know it could have been so much more delicious.

3 Stars  

It’s been a while since we laughed so much

Woh jo Sotey Huye Parindon ko neeche nahin girne deta                                                                                                     Wo Madad karega apne bandon ki. Woh sachcha baadshah.

There are many such dialogues in Mubarakan which remind us of the films written by Qader Khan in the 80s. Indeed, it’s an old world film shot in the new world of Punjab and London. Anees Bazmee who is the director here has been writing and directing films since the 80s and we can feel the aura of 80s here. It’s his 10th film with Anil Kapoor and quite an entertaining one. In the league of Anees bazmi’s previous films – hulchul, pyar to hona hi tha, no entry, welcome, singh is king , ready, welcome back, Mubarakan is also a film based on light banter, little emotions and a lot of quick comic capers. A wholesome entertainer but not a mindless film too.

Mubarakan is not an average film made for just youngsters. It’s one of those films where senior actors are given a longer track so that the story on paper is uplifted by powerful delivery. It’s a film where there is no one hero, everyone contributes to the fun, and besides all the romance, comedy and the essential masala, there is a social message that may particularly appeal to your parents if they accompany you. At the same time, the producer enjoys a sound sleep because the commercials are in place too.

Two brothers Karan Singh and Charan Singh (Simultaneously played by Arjun Kapoor) live in London and Punjab respectively. They have girlfriends that they want to get married to but their orthodox and old school Punjabi parents (who are also stuck in family politics by the way) want a girl of their choice. Chacha Kartar Singh (Anil Kapoor) tries to mend things but worsens the problem in his own quirky ways. Meanwhile the boys fall in and fall out of love. I know. I understand, this confusion is irritating, but in the film sounded quite entertaining thanks to a speedy screenplay that never allowed to feel the monotony of a poor story. 

Films starts off with a flavor of loud mannerisms and speech accompanied by louder Punjabi background music in almost every scene. Stellar performances by Ratna Pathak Shah and Pawan Malhotra make the film very adorable. You feel for the characters unlike in other movies made with inexperienced ones. The best thing about the film is certainly Anil Kapoor. In IIFA Awards this year in New York he said on stage-“ Aise hi thodi hain hum 38 saal se industry mein”, well he was right. The fact that he is so talented, has tremendous comic timing, punches, and knows how to modulate a simple dialogue into a hilarious one, he continues to be an average viewer’s favourite actor. In this film, Kartar Singh ( Anil Kaooor ) often breaks into british accent, compares people to things and dotes on his nephews, which finds a way straight into the viewer’s heart. I was reminded of his charm in Ram lakhan, Mr. India, Khel, Jamai Raja and Kishen Kanhaiya. People in the theatre were laughing aloud throughout. 

Story of the film? Let’s not even go there, simply because there isn’t any. But the screenplay is taut and crisp and never lets the viewer take a loo break. Except in the end the film is excruciatingly long but never sounds tedious and tiresome because of good humour. The family politics shown between the Bua ji -Ratna Pathak Shah and Pawan Malhotra is oh so adorable.

Illeana D’cruz is good but there is not much for Athiya Shetty and Neha Sharma.

On a final note, this film does wonders for Arjun Kapoor who apart from delivering a few good comic scenes hugely benefits from a stellar cast of master performers. 

It’s a no brainer. Just go and have a good laugh, with Family.   

3 Stars

 

Taut, thrilling, disturbing yet reassuring. In her 50th year, Sri Devi still rules

Hell hath no fury than a woman scorned.

What is it that we don’t like in the films of this age? Its predictability, old stories, old  techniques, stereotypes. And what is it that we really like in the movies? Something fresh, new age, a new treatment and a new narrative. Well Sri Devi’s calm but devious disposition, a brutal gang rape and a revenge story inspired by the oldest revenge and war saga – Mahabharat, Mom is something very fresh off Sri Devi’s plate.

A song in the film – Maafi Mushkil, in Arabic means, Its okay, no Problem. To pull a victim out of the gruesome memories of Gang rape, assault and physical abuse, we need to tell her, Its Okay- This too shall pass.

It’s the most beautiful thing in the film but would the mother of the victim let it pass? NO. And in this case even while the mother who is not a biological mother, she will prove that it does not need blood ties to avenge her child’s misery.

Director Ravi Udayavar’s narrative is very pacy, almost edge of the seat. There is nothing surplus and every scene serves a mission. Arya ( Sajal Ali ) has a strained relationship with her stepmother but is compensated by a loving father and a little stepsister. She switches to friends to fill the void left behind after the death of her mother. While we expected that director and story writer Ravi would keep the relationship strained forever, instead he dwells on unpredictability and shows a step mother risk her own life to avenge her step daughter’s ordeal.

The film sucks you in its world right from the beginning. Cinematographer Anay Goswami creates a Capital that we easily connect with. There is nothing artificial here. Screenplay by  Girish Kohli absorbs you into a small world where everything seems be your own story and Monisha Baldawa’s crisp editing does not leave a second to waste. Everything is for a purpose here.

Right from the beginning, we are one with Devaki’s character played by Sri devi who is a loving wife to Anand ( Adnan Siddiqui ). She looks ordinary but she is capable of much more sinister. That’s the catch of the film.

Stay on to see some nicely mounted scenes between Nawazuddin Siddiqui and Sri who holds his ground in front of the 54 year old Cinestar. Nawazuddin provides a few relief moments in this otherwise edge of the seat thriller. The artificial dentures are just to provide a visual  relief and add some novelty to this character though.  In a scene while watching a red painting symbolizing Draupadi’s revenge, he says, “Aisi painting to hum paan ki thook se bana dete”. Hilarious.  

The film feeds on our hatred towards Rapists. After Nirbhaya rape case, each brutal gang rape has been in the strict eyes of media and legal scrutiny ( arguably so ). We hate the men in the film who are products of depraved patriarchy. In a climax scene Nawazuddin in a dialogue says, Mard Rape nahin karte. Whether this film drives home the point can be argued upon but the point, that Sri devi in her 50th year of acting can still hold a film on her shoulders cannot be refuted.     

Akshay Khanna, like in most of his films proves that less is more on the big screen. He keeps it real.

One of the finest things in the film that adds soul is A R Rahman’s music. His background music in some of the key scenes makes us imagine things much worse. For example the scenes of gang rape in a black SUV roaming on the empty streets of Delhi gives you goose pimples along with steady camera and crane shots. The horror lived by the girls of this heinous crime will be well imagined by the viewer here.  

The problem comes at the end of the story though where things start to feel so clear that you almost know what will happen next.

The plot though interesting becomes too linear and simplistic and lacks drama and layering. Sri devi, albeit just a school teacher is the wonder woman who will get what she wants defying the prying eyes of the police. The story and plot conveniently lets her do that as she is a star and needs to be vindicated. Just in the end we feel the pinch of a very promising premise turning into a fanfare account. But otherwise largely the film remains a taut thriller.

Adnan Siddiqui a veteran artist from Pakistan gets a raw deal with not muct to do here in the role of Anand ( Sri devi’s husband. Suggest you watch one of his plays – Mere Qatil mere Dildar on internet, just to understand his range as an actor ).

Also Sajal Ali, another acclaimed actor is brilliant in the role of the victim. Her brooding, repenting eyes made me shed many a tear, she successfully made us identify with the families who suffer this trauma.

Abhimanyu singh in the role of the main villain is creepy, detestable and very apt for the role. Wonder why most of the rapists in our films have Haryanvi accent these days.

Apart from a few predictable turns and holes in the plot, MOM remains a treat to watch as a film and an experience to be lived. Some films are mirror to our world, we need to look into it.

3 Stars

A story of reincarnation with adolescent simplicity, puppy love & immature supervision thrown in.

Two men were in love with the same girl, in both lives, today and 800 years back. Separated by a lifetime, same things happen to them and they must meet the same end if one of them does not muster courage to alter it.

When Shiv and Saira meet in Budapest, they instantly connect. They spend 2 days and one night together. Just when we thought they were made for each other Saira asks him to get out of the house as she already has a boyfriend! She says, we hardly know each other while she had casually slept with him last night. It became obvious that the film is made to appeal to the young college going crowd that believes in ‘no strings being attached’.  There are young, good looking actors, lovely clothes, great European locations and beautifully shot landscapes with a bit of fun and romance thrown in here.

Sushant Singh Rajput as an actor has a quality that appeals to most people of all ages. In this film he exudes boyish charm, carries a romantic aura, and a vulnerability that was very  well capitalized on by film M S Dhoni. These qualities of his, work very well for this film as most of the first half is spent convincing the viewer how  adorable is the boy and girl on that celluloid. Producer turned director Dinesh Vijan probably forgot that the couple in the lead here is not Shahrukh Khan and Kajol who could carry the entire first half on their romantic histrionics. Actor Jim Sarbh makes an entry much to our relief just before the interval, cutting short the monotony of  this romance.

Jim Sarbh has been  getting rave reviews ever since he played a terrorist in film Neerja. In this film, as Zakir merchant aka Zac, he offers layered nuances of performance, uses his body language effectively to put across the character of a psychic lover who would kill to win. But in both his lives, his Hindi dialogues with a heavy American accent took away a lot of mystique from his character. Also the character was so dismally written that Zac becomes laughing stock in most parts while he had the potential to scorch the screen like in Neerja.  

I could draw parallel between Raabta and Rakesh Om Prakash Mehra’s Mirzya as the character of Sahiba is common to both and so is Saahiba’s confused love. The scenes shot by cinematographer Martin Priess  in the beautiful island for the past life track are breathtaking, especially the fight scenes between the tribe Murarka’s head Jilaan played by Sushant singh Rajput, Kriti and Sarbh. But that is not enough to keep the interest in the film. Also the character of the oldest man in the tribe played by Raj Kumar Rao was a bewildering spectacle but could have been used more effectively in the storyline. He would mostly talk in rhyme, in an accent that to me sounded Awadhi – Muraka kabhi na haara, usey dhokhey ne maara.

The film boasts of good looking actors, great wardrobe, lovely locations, you can’t take your eyes off the screen but it’s difficult to be emotionally invested in the characters. We never cared when the characters laughed or cried. The film constantly changes its temperament. In the middle of a crisis,  the characters were cracking jokes.  

Raabta is somewhere between a thriller and a romance and tries to be a little of everything. I was mostly glued to its cinematography and styling. Rest all seemed less fascinating.

2 Stars

Not a flawless film but truly Extraordinary

If you are an ardent fan of  the genre mythology, action, high octane drama and great visual effects, there is no doubt that you would consider Baahubali as the best Indian film of all time.

Baahubali – the conclusion is a story of an orphaned man, who had arms of steel, heart of gold and a fate of ashes, yet he shone like a star. He should rise to the throne in order to save his kingdom from the clutches of his sinister younger cousin brother Bhallal Deva. It’s a story of Baahubali’s valor, inimitable charm and humility, and unbeatable prowess. Baahubali played by Southern superstar Prabhas resembles the character of Lord Rama. He blindly obeys his mother, strides the path of truth and dharma and is ready to give up his throne in order to maintain family ties.

S S Rajamouli who has directed and written the screenplay of this film is an established director and a skilled story teller. Each second of this film is art in motion. He sets a very lofty scale and canvas for Baahubali; arguably unparalleled in the history of Hindi cinema, especially when it comes to war films. I can promise to you that it’s at par with Hollywood films like Troy, 300, and Benhur. If you had ever thought that our films lacked the scale, it’s time to put up our collar. This magnum opus was made right here in Ramoji rao city in Hyderabad.

Prabhas and Rana Duggubatti are a treat to watch. Their strong masculine chiseled bodies, blood shot eyes, ferocious fights convey the impact of two tigers in a live battle. The film’s action choreographer Peter Hein and Cinematographer K K Senthil Kumar are the reasons why the film is practically unforgettable once you have finished seen it. Those visuals would linger till long in your mind. They are so very powerful. Also the music by M M Keeravani is phenomenal. Actually it’s the background score that makes a story turn into a battleground.  

Katappa played by Sathyaraj is a slave to the royal family and must protect them even at the cost of his life. Baahubali calls him ‘Mama’ and Bhallal calls him a Dog. That is exactly the difference between the two brothers who may have been born from different mothers but were brought up by one. Rana Duggubati puts up a formidable opposition in front of Baahubali, in such dramas it’s the villain who must shine in order for the Hero to reflect in his glory too and Rana does a good job. I was expecting little more layers though in his character other than the teeth grinding expressions all along. But when he fights we forgive all. In Baahubali the beginning, it was a bull taming fight that he mastered and in this one it’s the climax where he excels. But we fail to know in this one that who was his wife who gave a son to him while he was conveniently letching at his ex-brother’s wife.

Finally, we got an answer to why Katappa killed Baahubali. This particular scene was not as well mounted and narrated as all other important scenes though as much hoopla had been created around the open ended climax that Rajamouli chose for his first installment.

In the role of Katappa, Sathyaraj shines throughout. It’s difficult to believe that he is the same person who played Virus in the Tamil version of Three idiots.

A special mention of Ramya Krishnan who plays Rajmata Sivagami; she is not just pivotal to the film, it’s her stone face, wide eyed look and a very firm voice that demands a stature much higher to the male protagonists in the film. Baahubali the Conclusion cannot be accused of shoving the female characters under the carpet as this one is basically a war fought by men but caused and created by women. Also here the women put up some really brave fights.

When the warrior princess played by Anushka Shetty turns down a proposal by Rajmata Sivagami, Rajmata says, “ Sibagami ki Bahu ko ye ahankar shobha deta hai”. Finally we see strong women on one side.

Nassar as Bijjalla deva becomes the cunning character that such a war film must have. He is man who is physically crippled but mentally strong, agile and very manipulative. He reminds us that most wars in history have been fought to avenge humiliation.

Anushka Shetty’s character of warrior princess disappoints a bit in the way it fails to develop. She started off as a powerful Kshatriya arrogant girl who defies death but in the end she is relegated to being a mother who needs her son for help despite of her fearless eyes throughout. She needed to pick up a sword or two. We were expecting.

It’s not an average Telugu film; it took more than 5 years, 450 crores to be made. Its special effects have been done by the same company that worked on Avatar, Life of pie and X men.The film is worth all the buzz and anticipation around it.

It’s not perfect but it’s still a master piece. I insist you make time for it.

4 Stars  

Priyanka Chopra to play Kalpana Chawla?

Where ever Priyanka Chopra goes, the latest Bollywood news follows. Our desi-girl is back in town after having spent a long time in Hollywood and has allegedly signed up for the role of Kalpana Chawla in her upcoming biopic.

PC is known for the versatile characters she has played over the years. After having played the role of the famous Olympian Mary Kom, she is now all set to play the role of Kalpana Chawla, the first Indian astronaut to go in to space. Chawla had made India proud by spending 31 days in space before she lost her life in a space shuttle explosion.

k_chawla

It has been reported that the script for the movie has been locked down. The movie is to be directed by a debutant director, Priya Mishra. Priyanka will be returning to the US in the coming week to complete her Baywatch promotional tour and then will be back, to work on her Bollywood projects. Apart from this she has also signed up for a suspense thriller movie with the Pink director Aniruddha Roy Chowdhary.

Are you excited to watch Priyanka on Bollywood’s silver screen again? Tell us in the comments below.

 

A film with a beautiful heart but lacking in craft.

Film Noor is based on a book called Karachi – You’re Killing me, written by a young Pakistani girl called Saba Imtiaz.

Noor is a girl who at the outset, to us, looks fine, but the narrative tells us that something is amiss in her life. There is a void, both in her personal and professional life. Is it because of a city that gives immense stress to its inhabitants, or its just Noor’s own poor destiny and personality that does not attract anything good. Or it could be a bit of both.

Director Sunhil Sippy who has been an ad filmmaker rolls out the film beautifully. It’s good for the eyes. Art direction is beautiful and contemporary. Cinematographer Keiko Nakahara takes us in the dingy lanes of Mumbai, dirty secrets, hidden wounds and pigeonholes inhabited by millions of less important mortals. The film starts to resemble the book which has been loosely translated into Mumbai – You’re killing me.

On the other hand there is Noor, a girl who has been blessed with everything material but is unhappy. She plans to change the world, do something worthwhile, make a life out of her living, but her editor sends her to interview frivolous people. Does a city like that deserve to have people like Noor actively changing it ? May be it does. Soon the lighted hearted story takes a serious turn as we find out that there is an organ harvesting racket flourishing in the city that Noor must expose. Here the narrative coupled with immature direction starts to lose grip.

Single, heavy and an accident prone woman has been brought to life on screen in a famous English film called Bridget Jones Diary.

Renee Zellweger in the lead did a marvelous job in it and did make for great entertainment. In Noor while we are being convinced that she is miserable, we fail to understand, why is she ? She got a spacious house in Mumbai, a loving Dad and truly caring friends. A difficult equation with the Boss ? Well its half the world’s problem and a perennially out of geyser could have been fixed.

What I liked best about Noor is how she looked. Sweet and smart. You could take a tip or two from the film’s stylist on casual dressing. Also you could feel the predicament of every city girl trying to make something out of her time and life. She does create magic in a few scenes and looks seriously adorable in them. But on the whole the narrative is so fickle and confusing that it’s difficult to keep pace with the changing mood of the film. Often it becomes the story of Mumbai, then Noor and sometimes Malti, the caretaker in Noor’s house. Malti played by Smita Tambe deserves a special mention with a powerful performance.

Standup comedian Kannan Gill makes his big screen debut and he does provide the film it’s best light moments. He is a complete natural and it was such a relief.

A problem area was the way broadcast media was showcased in the film. It needed to be authentic as it constituted the core theme but sting operations, expose and the finicky news editors’ portrayal was a bit faulty. Having been in News channels for 13 years, I thought, it could be anything but this.  

While Noor was right in the middle of a deep crisis she takes a break and flies to London with her friend Saad and what she had ready there was an evening dress to wear to a restaurant. Filmmakers have moved to a different era in filmmaking so such fancies be best avoided.

It’s a film with a beautiful heart and some heart wrenching scenes but fails to be a well cooked meal.

2.5 Stars