Photograph is a visual poetry in 24fps

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Ever wondered what’s the definition of photography? ‘Painting with light’. Ritesh Batra’s latest offering, ‘Photograph’ is a painting with darkness. It explores the emptiness and vagaries of life in Mumbai. In a world of ‘fiery feminist’ leads, here’s a quiet, composed and reserved actor, the brilliant Sanya Malhotra as ‘Miloni’ aka ‘Noorie’.

If you anticipate yet another ‘chashmish to charismatic’ transformation here, you’re in for some serious ‘pleasant disappointment’. Ritesh Batra lends a realistic charm to his leading lady. Miloni is so unmistakably raw and real that if you happen to bump into someone like her, you just might able to listen to her eloquent silences. Now when was the last time you felt such affinity with an onscreen character?

‘Photograph’, in an implied sense, has its narrator disguised as lead character. Mind you, Nawazuddin Siddiqui’s ‘Rafi’ isn’t your regular ‘Inse miliye yeh hai Laxmi Niwaas pariwaar’ kind of narrator of the Hrishikesh Mukherjee films. Nawazuddin’s Rafi is street-side photographer at The Gateway of India, Mumbai, who sells sunshine for a living.

The character of Rafi is silent witness of the Maximum City, who has accepted its ironical contrasts like its unpredictable rains and is brimming with positivity, wearing a twisty smile that only his grandma (the terrific Farrukh Jaffar) can see. Nawazuddin approaches his role with a restraint that ably exorcises the ghosts of ‘Gaitonde’ and ‘Faijal’, ensuring that his Rafi remains relevant and endearing all through its running time of 108 minutes.

Farrukh Jaffar, the woman who predicted the fate of Mohan Bhargav in Asutosh Gowarikar’s ‘Swadesh’ with the unforgettably prophetic line, “Apne hi paani mein pighalna barf ka muqaddar hota hai” owns the screen in every frame, often reducing Nawazuddin as an intern, especially in a bus sequence where she is sharing her concerns with him about marrying a girl who is more educated and successful than him.

Actors like Akash Sinha and Saharsh Kumar Shukla lend support to Rafi and his grandma, chipping in precisely at the points where they make the right impact. Even a brief role of Virendra Sinha makes his presence felt with a line that muses about the nation’s fading memory. The scenes between Sanya Malhotra and her domestic help, played-to-perfection by Geetanjali Kulkarni stays with you even after you exit the auditorium.

Spelling out the lines or scenes of these characters would rob you of the joys of discovering the nuggets studded in the film’s narrative. But it’s difficult to resist hinting at this one gem of a scene featuring an actor is a well-guarded Raaz here. Well, I’d better stop here.

‘Photograph’ would be incomplete without the mention of its cinematographers, Tim Gillis and Ben Kutchins. The way this duo captures the film with almost every frame in mid close up will go on to become a textbook in cinematography of our cinema.

There’s no ‘look the frame looks so beautiful’ approach here, but a visual grammar that resonates with the characters’ minds. John F. Lyons edits the film with such precision that its ‘chalo chaai peete hain’ and ‘har picture mein yehi to kahaani hoti hai’ moments transpire at the right time and the right place. Ironically, the audience never get to see the ‘photographs’ for long, still they get the bigger picture.

Kudos to Writer-Director Ritesh Batra, his brilliant technicians and his ensemble of gifted actors, who collate a ‘bunch of photographs’ and transform them into a fabulous flipbook called ‘Photograph’.

To end on a poetic note, here’s a poem dedicated to ‘Noorie’ of ‘Photograph’:

A moment smiled at me,
I captured her with a click.

Thereon she lies frozen,
Wearing a smile thawed.

Beholders sing her glories,
Yet she stares, unmoved.

The camera makes one wonder:
Is this what Da Vinci captured?

A frozen moment,
A smile thawed.

Did Mona Lisa really smile?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Gully Boy laaya Azaadi

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Mediocrity se, azaadi
Haan zero-brainer se, azaadi

Haan sau-crore ki race se, azaadi
Gully Boy leke aaya, azaadi

Zoya Akhtar dekho laayi, azaadi
Freedom, freedom

Haan bahut baithe chup chaap
Stars ke sau khoon maaf
Bollywood kaise hoga saaf
Inki scripts mein hai daag
Gaate rahenge wohi raag
Alag packet wohi jhaag
Promos banaaye yeh khaas
Phir beche wohi baasi maal

Haan isme ‘Bhai’ hai to
Noton ki bauchaar hai na
Nepotism se banaate apne beton ko
Yeh star hain na
Itne shallow kyun yeh
Aapas mein jhankar hai na
Baaki poora story doobe
Inki picture paar hai na

Achcha hit chahiye
Achcha khaasa star lena
Box Office par line chahiye
Khade reh le line mein na
Story chori ki par credits mein apna sign lena
Drugs liye yeh phir
Lenge creative liberties bhi na

Akela hero phir singer tere chaar kyun?
Gaana ek hai tera to phir locations tere 8 kyun?
Paiso se hi films nahi bante, budget itne high kyun?
Teri peedhi ka soch woh aisi filmo pe lenge pride kyun?

Kya shu
Ek tarfa tarazo

Kya shu
Aa teri hansi mere aansu

Kya shu
Aa mein yawning karke saans kyu loon

Kya shu
Public ko dega kya hisaab tu?

Aa nahi dekhna mujhe Slumdog Millionaire
Yeh audience hai mission pe
Singham ke keede chhode inke apne kafan pe
Bachchan qaid kar rakha hai
Inhone apne production pe
Lyrics mein yeh likhte gaali
Bikinis mein gaate qawwali
Par kisi ko parwah nahi
Yeh businessmen hain, filmmakers nahi
Creativity ke naam pe kuch bhi
Chipkaaye yeh bas yun hi
Paiso ke liye yeh hain sabhi
Popcorn combo sa beche kuch bhi
Dhasne laga audience bhi
Istemaal kar tu dimaag ka bhi
Andekha kyun hai jaan ke bhi
Andekha kyun hai jaan ke bhi
Character mein stars ho kabhi
Writer bhi to kamaaye kabhi

Iss gandh ko karna saaf abhi
Iss gandh ko karna saaf abhi
Iss gandh ko karna saaf abhi

Haan, ho bolo azaadi
Bolo azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Ranveer Singh ka Muraad laaya azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Siddhaant ka debut laaya azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Alia ka fiery performance laaya azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Gully Boy laaya azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Zoya aur Reema ka screenplay laaye azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Vijay Maurya ka subtle dialogue laaye azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Vijay Raaz ka khaas andaaz laaye azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Kalki ka Sky aur Amruta ki zameen laaye azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Spitfire, Divine aur Javed Akhtar ke lyrics laaye azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Karsh Kale, Divine, Spitfire, Rishi Rich, Salvage Audio ka music laaye azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Jay Oza ki true-to-life cinematography laaye azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Nitin Baid ki crisp naukili editing laaye azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Excel Productions laaya azaadi

Ho bolo azaadi
Zoya Akhtar ka direction laaya azaadi

Gully Boy is freedom

 

Uri is a surgical strike on mediocrity

“War films must be about futility of war, and this film endorses vendetta,” so proclaimed few, while pooh-poohing Aditya Dhar’s film, ‘Uri’. To begin with, one wonders who lays down such rules for a war films. Come to think of it, almost every Hindi film ends with a war, either through man-to-man talk, confession to woman, family confrontation, fisticuffs, and underworld combat or the war within, of lately made popular by Ranbir Kapoor.

Uri marks the beginning of films where the lines of fact and fiction begin to blur – a no-man’s land that belongs as much to the masses, as it does to the critics. Right from the first frame, to the closing credits, Uri, with its well-written screenplay, commands your attention to the screen. You know what would transpire, yet you hold on to every scene, with gusto of a wide-eyed child. Half way through Uri, you won’t even care about the facts, you can always Google them, such is the impact of power-packed performance by the lead actors, near-to-reality cinematography by Mitesh Mirchandani , edgy editing by Shivkumar V. Panickar, and nuanced writing complemented with focused direction by Aditya Dhar.

Vicky Kaushal, since his ‘Masaan’ days, has never failed to surprise us with his stellar performance and chameleonesque charm. The actor shines throughout the film, especially in the scene where his niece utters the war cry and he, along with other soldiers repeats the war cry, only to fail at holding back his tears and giving into the lump in his throat. That seemingly simple expression on his face articulates the most complex emotions of his character, Major Vihan Singh Shergill.

Yami Gautam and Kirti Kulhari don’t have much to do here yet they make their presence felt. Paresh Rawal adds some wit to the otherwise ‘serious film’. Rajit Kapoor approaches the PM’s role differently, rather than mimicking Narendra Modi, which is indeed commendable. Mohit Raina makes a promising debut and one can already see him doing some meatier roles in the years to come.

To cut a long story short, Uri, a war film is as much a film like your any other ‘regular film’, which is beyond the confines of rules that they ought to be about futility of war, peppered with patriotism, sautéed with jingoism and garnished with propaganda. Unfortunately, Uri, despite being one of the finest films in the ‘war genre’, is saddled with such tags that refuse to leave. To put it in a Floydisqe way: Critics, leave the ‘war films’ alone! All and all it’s just another brick in the wall.

Simmba is the much-needed reboot of Masala Films

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One would have wondered what new Rohit Shetty could possibly offer with his latest film, Simmba. The expectations are understandably low and yet the hopes are high. You aren’t looking for a Singham anyway, but don’t want to be fooled with a Dilwale too. So, how does Simmba pan out?

“Oh God, one more remix?”

The trailer promised to entertain you and guess what, that’s precisely what Rohit Shetty’s Simmba does – Entertain, entertain and entertain. Simmba, in all its grimy glory of a masala film, is a remix of 80s and 90s films that we have grown up with. Wait, let me put it more ‘intellectually’- Simmba reinvents the done-to-death genre of Bollywood revenge saga.

“Mein police wala bana paisa kamane ko, Robinhood banke dusre ka madad karne ke liye nahi.”

This line is perhaps a cleverly disguised disclaimer by director Rohit Shetty that he isn’t here to change the world, but just entertain. So if you’re expecting a film that would champion the rape cause, you are in for some serious disappointment, as the insights you’d gather here wouldn’t be any different from a hairdresser or paan-waala located near the corner of your house.

A self-pitying ‘Main anaath hoon’ undertone, a muh-boli-behen who eventually gets raped, a good looking heroine who sings songs before and after the interval and steps aside once her job is done, a villain waiting to be vanquished – Simmba is replete with every cliché of a typical Bollywood masala potboiler, yet it comes across as a fresh breath of air amid the stench of pseudo intellectual cinema that either guise themselves as a whitewashed biopic or bore you to death with yawn-inducing reality.

“Yeh kalyug hai kalyug. Yahaan log sirf ek matlab ke liye jeete hain, apne matlab ke liye.”

Come to think of it, when did the masala potboilers of the 80s and 90s ever give a damn to social causes? They coolly picked up a social cause, be it rape, corruption or terrorism and used it for their plot’s benefit. Even the Vijay films in Tamil do the same, albeit with better production values and seeti-worthy performances. Well, even Simmba is a remake of the Telugu film, Temper.

“Bhau, je mala maahit naahi te sanga. Tell me what I don’t know.”

Farhad Samji delight you with their witty dialogues and to give the devil its due, Ranveer Singh pulls them off like a boss. Yunus Sajawal and Sajid Samji write a screenplay that engages you to the core, despite the fact that you could see what is to transpire on screen at every given point of time. Among the songs, the ‘Aankh maare’ remix compels you to tap your foot all the way and sounds even better than the original version. The cinematography of Jomon T. John and editing by Bunty Nagi lend the film an edgy tone with all those slo-mo and low angle shots thrown in good measure.

“Dil dhadkaaye, seeti bajaaye!”

Sara Ali Khan is easily one of the best finds of 2018. The range that she displayed in Kedarnath, as well as Simmba is enough to convince one that she’s going to belong to the top league of Indian actresses. After all, she has this rare attribute that our actresses seem missing these days – She can act.

“Talent re!”

Who would have thought Ranveer Singh will waltz his way through the Masala entertainers and dethrone the Robinhood Pandeys of this world, even before his contemporaries begin to experiment this genre? Ranveer owns each frame of Simmba, despite the distraction of Sara Ali Khan’s beauty, Sonu Sood’s brilliant antagonist act, Asutosh Rana’s ‘salute’ (You need to watch the film to get this), Siddharth Jadav as Tawde (He truly shines in one of the best scenes of the film) or the ‘Tony Starkish’ cameo of Ajay Devgn that makes the audience go into raptures.

“Aala re aala, Simmba aala!”

More than ‘outshining’ our hero, these characters make Simmba roar louder and proclaim that he’s here to stay. The actor is quite capable of wooing an autorickshawala as effortlessly as the most cynical film critic. There’s a scene in the film where Ranveer Singh dances his way to a pub with the intention of closing it, which just might remind you of Sanjay Dutt from Thaanedaar and Anil Kapoor from Ram Lakhan.

To sum it up, Simmba shows the middle finger to the snooty critics with its unapologetic masala film treatment. ACP Sangram ‘Simmba’ Bhalerao is a character that surely deserves multiple sequels, just like Bajirao Singham. We are already waiting, Rohit Shetty. More so, because of the actor who makes an appearance as Veer Sooryavanshi. Let the Infinity War begin!

Zeroing in on the odds and evens of Zero

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“The bigger they are the harder they fall!” goes the ancient proverb that could well be rephrased today as “The harder they fall, the more we rejoice”. Be it sportsperson (“Dhoni should retire now”), political leaders (“2019 elections is a shaky ground for Modi”) or the Khans (“Race 3, Thugs and now Zero…The Khan uncles should sit at home”), we love watching the giants fall.

Anand L. Rai’s latest offering, Zero is a classic example of our fascination to pull down films, oftentimes, without even watching them. Right from the time of a film’s release (They post their ‘instant reviews’ even during the interval, without even bothering to let the film sink in first) few self-proclaimed movie critics champion the cause of ‘saving people’s hard-earned money’, ensuring that they avoid films like Zero.

To begin with, Zero is one of the most ambitious Hindi films made this year, perhaps a notch above Thugs of Hindostan. It is a film where you’d find yourself marveling at the writer Himanshu Sharma’s audacity of mounting a massive platform for a dwarf with gigantic determination. Come to think of it, when was the last time a writer got so obsessed with his/her character? And how many directors would be willing to go the extra mile (light years?) to execute such lofty idea?

In a recent interview, Anand L. Rai said that Zero is his ‘graduation film’ and one couldn’t have agreed more, especially because he sets Zero in his comfort zone of ‘small-town story’ goes beyond the skies, quite literally. Such indulgence may or may not work for some, nevertheless the common ‘zero’ ground here is the character of Bauua Singh. Shah Rukh Khan doesn’t play this role, he lives every moment of it, and how!

Our films seldom have fictional character based stories, where everything revolves around a particular character. Zero can easily be called a 164-minute character sketch. Bauua is predictable at one instant and takes you by surprise in the next. He is unapologetic ally selfish and believes that God has done his worst with him and there is nothing for him to lose at any point of his life. There is a hidden angst within him that often surfaces when he does something crazy. This specially reflects in the scenes where he lavishly spends his father’s money. The nonchalant grin on his face while watching people running helter skelter to pocket the currency notes Bauua generously showers at them makes him look like a monk (who sold his father’s Ferrari).

Director Anand L. Rai creates a canvas where his characters always speak their minds and there is no room for pretense or sugary sweet melodrama. For instance, Bauua’s father, Ashok Singh (ably played by Tigmanshu Dhulia) doesn’t hesitate to advice Bauua’s prospective father-in-law to organise ticketed shows for people to behold their dwarf son-in-law. Mohammed Zeeshan Ayyub is brilliant as Bauua’s best friend, Guddu and he is the one who triggers the ‘fandom’ of Bauua for his star crush, Babita.

Anushka Sharma’s Aafia Yusufzai Bhinder doesn’t mince words when she brings Bauua to an even plane of zero gravity and affirm, “Rishta baraabari ka ab hua hai Bauuey!” A scientist with cerebral palsy, Aafia is a character that you would feel for, not because of her disability, but for Bauua’s inability to love her. This is quite a feat to achieve in a film, especially where both the lead characters are disabled in a certain way, yet you see them as perfectly ‘normal’ people.

Katrina Kaif surprises you with her impeccable performance as an alcoholic star nursing an aching heart after her ex boyfriend (Abhay Deol) ditches her. Katrina’s character Babita doesn’t bat an (kohl-imbued) eyelid before telling her driver that she just cooked up her sob back-story for Bauua, whom she uses as a pet to move over her recent heartbreak.

R. Madhavan, despite being given a brief role, makes you wonder why we don’t get to see him more often on screen. Even his character, Srinivasan, Aafia’s fiancé and fellow scientist, in a scene admits that “I don’t know you love Bauua or not, but at this age, I couldn’t have cared any less.”

Such matter-of-factly tone across all the characters of Zero is quite commendable, which makes them believable. It is indeed no wonder that the film’s dialogues stand out, be it ‘Plot dekhne ke paise thodi lagte hain’, ‘Rishta baraabari ka ab hua’, to ‘Zindagi kaatni kisey thhi, hamein to jeeni thi’.

Ajay-Atul’s music is a major highlight of Zero, especially the song, Mere naam tu, wonderfully penned by Irshad Kamil. The signature style of opera with a tinge of Western classical of this composer duo (Sairat and Dhadak) manifests itself in its full glory in this song. Cinematographer Manu Anand beautifully captures the song’s essence, while editor Hemal Kothari adroitly cuts the film to perfection. ‘Mere naam tu’ doubles up as a leitmotif for the lead characters, Aafia and Bauua.

The obligatory post-interval song, Issaqbaazi is worth your seeti, with all those bells and whistles of an item song. Interestingly, the ‘items’ happen to be two Khans, Salman and miniature SRK. The ensemble of stars making cameos here is quite believable. After all, film parties are ought to be star-studded. Among the stars, Sri Devi, as if inspired by the director’s premonition, waves us goodbye on the silver screen. Sigh.

At the risk of sounding blasphemous, I would like to proclaim Zero as Shah Rukh Khan’s ‘Mera Naam Joker’, where different characters come into his life, only to make him realize the truths that lie within the dark recesses of his mind. And mind you, ‘Mera Naam Joker’ was trashed by all and sundry when it was released and it also had an ensemble of reigning stars. Okay I’d better stop here now.

Having said so, Zero does have its set of flaws, including a bit forced histrionics by Anushka Sharma’s character, where she seems to have forgotten she has cerebral palsy and suddenly remembers to slur her speech and twist her mouth, blame it on the close-up shots (The camera never lies). The last portion of the film, too feels like a bit of drag, especially the song, Tanha hua, which could have easily been chopped off. Bauua’s mannerisms seem to disappear towards the film’s end and you get to see Shah Rukh Khan talking and behaving like Shah Rukh Khan.

Despite its flaws, Zero ensures that Bauua follows you all the way to your home. Each scene featuring Bauua makes you marvel at the technological prowess of our times that make such storytelling possible and believable.

By his inherent nature, Bauua refuses to leave you until you insult him enough. Perhaps that’s the reason our critics are pooh-poohing Zero, as the only way to get rid of Bauua is to insult him and drive him away. He’d put it as, “Hum jiske peeche lag jaate hain, life bana dete hain!” Well, one isn’t sure about ‘life bana dena’, but Bauua would have asked the self-proclaimed critics to ‘get a life!’

 

 

 

 

 

Tumbbad is thrillingly fantastic

Remember those naani-ki-kahaanis of your childhood days? Stories riddled with mythological creatures, gods and goddesses, caves, monsters, ruins and treasure troves – tales that ended with a mandatory moral lesson, frightening you enough to never repeat the mistake that their characters make. Director Rahi Anil Barve’s Tumbbad invokes many a memory of such long-forgotten tales of Indian origin, way before the dungeons, dragons and wiz kids took over our imagination of fairytale plots.

Set in pre-independent India, Tumbbad is a mythological thriller, a first-of-its-kind genre in Hindi films that revolves around Vinayak, ably played by Sohum Shah, about how the curse of Tumbbad proves to be a blessing for him and his family. What comes across as a ‘fairytale for adults’, is laden with layers. You find yourself helplessly peeling one layer after the other all through your way after watching Tumbbad.

Pankaj Kumar’s cinematography breathes life into the wild overgrown trees, untrammeled pathways and ancestral ruins painstakingly created by production designers, Nitin Zihani Choudhury and Rakesh Yadav. Sanyukta Kaza deftly cuts the scenes to a perfect 104 minute spellbinding narrative that leaves you awestruck. To sum it up, Tumbbad is a grippingly original film that deserves a big screen viewing.

Mitron is a food truck serving you delectable entertainment all its way

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Some films are like gentle breeze. You experience for a while, feel good about it and then walk out of the auditorium with a smile on your face. Director Nitin Kakkar’s Mitron is one such film, which has a high entertainment quotient with undercurrents of an important message relevant for our times.

Adapted from the Telugu movie, Pelli Choopulu (Matchmaking), Mitron has been written by Tharun Bhascker Dhaassyam, the Writer-Director of Pelli Choopulu, which is a story revolving around a lazy guy down on his luck, who accidentally bumps into a girl and this meeting eventually changes his life. The overall theme of Mitron is the ‘arrangement’ of arranged marriage and how it makes almost every Indian parent believe that their good-for-nothing son will ‘settle down’ once he’s married.

Actor Jackky Bhagnani is quite a revelation in Mitron. He approaches his role of Jay with a distinct restraint, which makes you care for his character. As a discerning audience, you might see what’s coming in the next scene, owing to the film’s predictable premise, but the actors, coupled with witty dialogues by Sharib Hashmi, take you by surprise.

Kriti Kamra, the popular television actress, makes her debut here and her role of Avni is commendably well-written. The character of Avni has broad strokes of vulnerability along with streaks of feminism and the writer Tharun Bascker Dhaassyam knows where to draw the line, especially in a light-hearted film like Mitron.

Another debut worth mentioning here is of Pratik Gandhi, the poster boy of Gujarati cinema (Bey Yaar, Wrong Side Raju, Love Ni Bhavai and the recently released Ventilator), as well as theatre (Mohan No Masalo, Hoon Chandrakant Bakshi, Sir Sir Sarla). Having watched his work, one could see the shades of his character in ‘Hoon Chandrakant Bakhshi’ in the scene of Mitron, where Pratik Gandhi brags about his ‘punctuality’ to Kriti Kamra.

The actor shines bright as Jai’s friend, Raunak, who never misses a chance to pass a caustic remark on the ‘frankness’ of Mohan Kapoor’s character. Shivam Parikh is another actor from Gujarati theatre who’s making a debut in Hindi films here, who is perfectly cast as ‘that silent spectator friend’ in your coterie.

Mitron, despite being a decent film seems to have missed the mark in its screenplay that could have been more engaging and endearing, more so, when it charts the ‘Chef’ route. The backstory of Kriti Kamra about her failed relationship with Prateik Babbar has been shoddily done and doesn’t tug at your heartstrings the way it ought to.

Mitron was promoted as a zero-brainer comedy, which might have done more harm than good. It’s an entertaining film that makes a social commentary on the way Indian parents raise their children. The confrontation scene of Jackky Bhagnani and Kriti Kamra’s father towards the film’s end is indeed a defining moment of the film.

Manoj Kumar Khatoi beautifully captures the ‘Pol’ of Gujarat and Sachindra Vats deserves a special mention here for his sleek editing. Not a single scene seems stretched in Mitron, be it emotional or comical. Music by Sameer Uddin lends a character to the film’s screenplay, especially the cooking videos for YouTube, the montage scene of Food Truck’s success story, and the closing song, Kamariya.

To sum it up, Mitron, is an entertaining food truck serving you dollops of entertainment and some food for thought.