Simmba is the much-needed reboot of Masala Films

1543733960-cabjhb

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!

Advertisements

Zeroing in on the odds and evens of Zero

zero-movie-shahrukh-khan-image4

“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!’

 

 

 

 

 

Manmarziyaan is neither pyaar nor fyaar

Is it a Tanu Weds Manu rehash? Is it an upgraded version of Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam or Woh Saat Din? Is it a story inspired by Amrita Pritam’s life or is it based on Manmarziyaan’s writer, Kanika Dhillon? Like Clark Gable’s immortal response to Scarlett O’Hara in the movie, ‘Gone with the wind’, after watching Anurag Kashyap’s ‘Manmarziyaan’, one would respond with an indifferent, “Frankly dear, I don’t give a damn.”

manmarziyaan8164881417177031396.jpg

Sixty minutes into the film, and you know where this messy love triangle is heading forth and you already find yourself losing interest halfway. You neither root for the blue-dyed DJ Vickey Sandhu (Played to perfection by Vicky Kaushal), fiery and feisty Rumi Bagga (A tailor-made role for Tapsee Pannu, the latest flagbearer of feminist fervor), nor do you give two hoots to the calm and composed Rajbir ‘Robbie’ Bhatia (Abhishek Bachchan in yet-another NRI role). It’s probably the most ‘thakela’ love triangle you’d ever want to be entangled into. Nah, this ain’t no rant. So, stay.

To begin with, you find two characters i.e. Rumi and DJ Vickey ‘Sand’hu like Munna and Mili of Rangeela, who’re constantly at loggerheads with each other, yet are as inseparable as Siamese twins or rather those twin dancing sisters who keep popping up during song sequences and leave you asking for more. In this love story, the lovers seem to derive some sort of high while fornicating behind banging doors (no pun intended).

Along comes the good guy, Robbie – the Ramji type character, who carries the mantle of ‘Goodman di laaltein’ forward, after his predecessors like Vanraj (Ajay Devgn in Hum Dil De Chuke Sanam) and Manu (R. Madhavan in Tanu Weds Manu). He instantly falls in love with Rumi and learns about Rumi ka Romeo, yet croons, ‘My heart will go on’ and hangs on with his feeling for her, voluntarily assuming the role of Option B, at the risk of ending up as a Phone-a-friend, as his Pa, Big B would like to term it.

The drivel goes on, until you find yourself concluding, ‘Okay, the girl is fiery, the guy is commitment-phobic and the NRI guy is Ramji-type. We get it, what next?’ The three characters are like three trains running parallel on their own tracks – never do they shift tracks. Halfway through, you assure yourself, ‘It’s an Anurag Kashyap film so there has to be some grey shades to the NRI’s character, which he does hint at, right before the interval, plus didn’t the film begin with the song, Grey wala shade?’ So, you hang on till the end, desperately hoping for some grey wala shade. Tough luck, sigh.

The only respite you find in Manmarziyaan, apart from its mind-blowing music, is the excellent performance by its lead characters. Vicky Kaushal goes on to prove that he’s here to stay for a really long time, perhaps snatching away crowns of the high and mighty. You wonder whether he’s the same guy you watched in Luv Shuv Tey Chicken Khurana, Masaan, Raghav Raman 2.0, Raazi, Lust Stories or the recent Sanju.

Tapsee Pannu, fresh from her fabulous performance in Mulk, is in complete form here. Any actress worth her acting chops would bet her bottom dollar on such a brilliantly fleshed-out character of Rumi Bagga. Her role is loosely modeled around Amrita Pritam, who was an orphan at young age, smoked leftover ciggies of her then-lover Sahir Ludhianvi, got married to a stable guy, Imroz and fell in love with him. Tapsee makes her presence felt in every frame she is featured in, despite the other hard-nailed actors around her.

Abhishek Bachchan, though a terrific actor who wowed us with his performance in ‘Yuva’, ‘Guru’, ‘Bunty aur Babli’, ‘Bluffmaster’ and ‘Raavan’ seems to be stuck in the rut of playing NRI with a heart of gold. Manmarziyaan was supposed to be his ‘comeback’ film, but the film adds insult to his injury with the ‘NRI desperate to get hitched’ role that’s making him comfortably numb. Ironically, the actor reasons that he took a break because he thought he was doing the same kind of roles, of late. Well, the bitter truth remains that the only actors to benefit from Manmarziyaan are Vicky Kaushal and Tapsee Pannu. Heck, even those twin dancers are sure bag some more films, perhaps in a Remo film.

The music by Amit Trivedi provides the much-needed breather from the sluggish screenplay written by Kanika Dhillon. Tracks like ‘Dariya’, ‘Grey wala shade’, ‘Dhyaanchand’, ‘Chhonch ladiya’, and a brilliant unplugged version of ‘Dariya’ by Deveshi Sahgal are going to stay on your playlist for a time inversely proportional to the time till you’d remember Manmarziyaan, a forgettable film with an unforgettable soundtrack.

To sum it up, Manmarziyaan oscillates between ‘Pyaar’ and ‘Fyaar’ (Desi version of ‘Friends with benefits’), just like Karan Johar has been relentlessly ping-ponging between ‘Pyaar’ and ‘Dosti’. Commitment phobic man-child lover, confused heroine with a feminist streak, golden-hearted sacrificial lamb husband material – We’ve had it enough. It’s high time our filmmakers take a leaf from the opening lines of ‘Grey wala shade’ song penned by Shellee: ‘Zamaanaa hai badla, mohabbat bhi badli, ghisey-pitey version, maaro update…’

 

 

Koode is a visual poetry punctuated with scars

koode-movie

The magic of cinema lies in its ability to transcend the tower of Babel and speak a universal language. Easier said than done, not every filmmaker is able to achieve such feat, where the film touches a chord with someone who doesn’t understand the language. Kudos to director Anjali Menon, who paints the silver screen with varied shades of human emotions with her latest offering, ‘Koode’.

Calling ‘Koode’ a remake would be a misnomer. It should be rather called a reinterpretation of Sachin Kundalkar’s Marathi film, ‘Happy Journey’ starring Atul Kulkarni, Pallavi Subhash and Priya Bapat. While Sachin Kundalkar in ‘Happy Journey’ relied more on the dialogues to tell its story, ‘Koode’ poetically pauses on tender moments of the film’s characters to build a narrative that touches you to the core. In hindsight, one would refrain from comparisons as both films are unique in their own ways.

To begin with, as hinted above, I am a linguistically-challenged audience for this beautiful Malayalam film, who watched it without subtitles – Blame it on the distributors of Ahmedabad, Gujarat. Director Anjali Menon sticks to the basic storyline of ‘Happy Journey’ but spins a soulful yarn of a screenplay that ‘shows’ rather than ‘tell’. For instance, Prithviraj’s character, Joshua is sexually exploited as a child, and Parvathy’s character, Sophie has braved the storm of domestic violence – these aspects of their characters are subtly hinted, yet are intense enough to move you.

Prithviraj Sukumaran, as Joshua is a man of few words but his eloquent eyes speak volumes about the wounds he has nursed and the sacrifices he has made all through his life for his family. Nazriya Nazim, as Jenny, Joshua’s sister, believes in living life, as well as afterlife to its full. Parvathy, as Sophie uses silence as her biggest strength to emote her feelings. There’s an addition of a football coach’s character, Ashraf, which is ably played by Atul Kulkarni, who leaves an everlasting impact with his performance. Roshan Mathew, as Jenny’s love interest, too, has a brilliant screen presence. Right from the child actors, to the character artists, the casting is spot-on.

Littil Swayamp’s camera beautifully captures the idyllic ambience of Ooty and is deftly edited by Praveen Prabhakar. Raghu Dixit’s music almost becomes the film’s character, which aptly lends its support to Anjali Menon’s engaging screenplay, rather than digressing from what transpires on the screen.

Well, digression reminds me of this: In Japan, there’s an ancient art called Kintsugi, which uses liquid gold to bring together the pieces of a broken pottery item. By repairing broken ceramics, they breathe a new life into the pottery that becomes even more refined, thanks to its ‘scars’. In ‘Koode’, director Anjali Menon uses the character of Jenny as the gild of gold that gives her brother, Joshua and his beloved, Sophie, a new lease of life and makes these two broken souls look beautiful.

 

 

Raazi is a meditative musing on patriotism beyond borders

Based on the novel, ‘Calling Sehmat’, ‘Raazi’, directed by Meghna Gulzar, is based on true incidents. The novel’s author Harinder Sikka is a retired army officer, who stumbled upon this story during the Kargil war while conversing with an Indian army officer. The officer confided in him about how his mother, a Kashmiri Muslim, had married a Pakistani Army officer to provide India with classified information during the 1971 war.

Harindar Sikka eventually managed to meet the officer’s mother in Malerkotla, Punjab, where she later revealed her entire story. So, all those ‘how can an army family not get suspicious’ kind of criticism doing the rounds for ‘Raazi’ must be put to rest here. After all, truth has always been stranger than fiction.

As a co-writer (along with Bhavani Iyer) and director, Meghna Gulzar creates an ensemble of characters that play with the audience’s minds, without letting them have a whiff about it. To begin with, Sehmat, played to perfection by Alia Bhatt, is inner conscience personified. The character of Iqbal Syed, ably played by Vicky Kaushal is a reflection of the same inner conscience.

The character of Sehmat’s father Hidayat Khan, essayed by Rajit Kapoor stands for patriotism, which is again juxtaposed by its reflection with the character of Brigadier Syed played by the brilliant Shishir Sharma. Sehmat’s trainer, Khalid Mir amazingly played by Jaydeep Ahlawat, embodies duty, which again finds its reflection in Mehboob Syed’s character played by Ashwath Bhatt. Interestingly, Sehmat’s nemesis, Abdul (Aarif Zakariya) is the only character who doesn’t have its mirror image. Abdul represents hatred and extremism, which is common on both sides.

It’s quite rare to see such interesting juxtaposition of characters’ reflections in a film, as if they were pawns of a chessboard, where one set is black, while the other is white. Having placed her characters around this chess-like narrative, Meghna Gulzar compels her audience to oscillate between these characters. This, dear folks, is her masterstroke as a director.

Alia Bhatt is an ace actor who never fails to surprise her audience and one is always tempted to describe her performance as ‘career best’, only to realize later that she has outdone herself in the next film. However, despite her mindbogglingly realistic performance, ‘Raazi’ will always be reckoned as a Director’s Film in the history of Indian cinema, owing to the deft direction of Meghna Gulzar.

‘Raazi’ has the warmth of the seventies films, invoking memories of those ‘chaai moments’ in Hrishikesh Mukherjee films and at the same time has the razor-sharp treatment of a spy thriller, mind you, minus those slickly edited Russian Angle shots. Cinematographer Jay I. Patel and editor Nitin Baid, take a bow!

A digression here: Asutosh Gowarikar’s ‘Swades’ had a scene where Shahrukh Khan’s character Mohan Bhargav states, “Hum mahaan desh nahin hain, lekin hum mein mahaan banne ki kshamta hai.” After Swades, it’s ‘Raazi’ that resonates with the depths of ‘Swades’, evoking the emotions of patriotism in you without resorting to Pakistan bashing or pulling off a handpump with a roar of jingoism.

At the risk of sounding ‘anti-national’, I’d confess that I have never liked the song, ‘Saare jahaan se acha Hindustan hamaara’. Hold on your horses, the ‘Taraana-E-Hind, though beautifully penned by poet Iqbal, not only contradicts o’s ancient philosophy of ‘Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam’ (The world is one family), but also confines one’s love for the motherland to its borders.

Clean bowled by ‘102 Not Out’

664683-102-not-out-posters-amitabh-rishi

Sanjeev Kumar, in an interview once mentioned that while Sholay’s climax scene was being shot, he requested director Ramesh Sippy to add a scene where he would hug his daughter-in-law, Radha, played by Jaya Bhaduri simply because he felt so sorry for her character. Though well-intended, the suggestion made no sense, especially when Thakur’s arms were chopped off and an embrace scene might hence look awkward.

In 102 Not Out, Rishi Kapoor’s character, Babulal Vakharia is one such character whom you want to hug till your tear glands wear out. Just like Sanjeev Kumar’s suggestion, this thought makes no sense, especially when you know it’s a white screen out there and what transpires on it is nothing but a filmed and edited reflection, even the character Babulal isn’t for real but a veteran actor who is completely different from what he portrays so excellently on screen. Nevertheless, there’s this urge of meeting up Babulal and gift him a cake from City Bakery on a Victoria Tonga ride. Seriously, when was the last time you ever felt so strongly for a character?

Umesh Shukla’s 102 Not Out is a triumph of writer Saumya Joshi and actors Rishi Kapoor, Amitabh Bachchan and Jimit Trivedi as Babulal Vakharia, Dattatraya Vakharia and Dhiru. The film is based on one of the most successful Gujarati plays by Saumya Joshi that has been staged over 102 times, where actor Jayesh More played the father and Prem Gadhvi essayed the son’s role, while Hemin Trivedi played the ever-curious Dhiru.

Having watched the play twice, I was quite skeptic about watching its film adaptation. ‘How on earth could a play with three characters inside a mansion can ever be made into a feature film?’ I’d wonder, when the first look was out. Furthermore, being an ardent Amitabh Bachchan fan, I wasn’t much keen on watching him in that quirky avatar and nasal twang that reminds of Paa (Didn’t like Paa – What’s a Bachchan film with no Bachchan face and no Bachchan voice? Methinks, the other Bachchan, i.e. Abhishek was brilliant in it).

Director Umesh Shukla exorcises your demons of skepticism and senses used to the slickly edited music video kind of films, with his execution reminiscent of those ‘Inse miliye…’ kind of voiceovers in Hrishikesh Mukherjee films. Right from Vijay Raaz’s narration in the opening sequence, dialogue-baazi, drama, to the voiceover spoon-feeding the audience on the inner turmoil of the characters, 102 Not Out is unapologetically old school, yet cool to the core.

There’s a reason why despite Amitabh Bachchan’s brilliant performance, 102 Not Out leaves you feel strongly for Rishi Kapoor’s character. While the Father’s role shone all through the play, the film brings the Son’s role to the fore, not in writing, as it more or less remains the same as in the play, but through performance of Amitabh Bachchan, apart from of course, Rishi Kapoor.

Amitabh Bachchan approaches his role with the wit of Auro in Paa, depth of Harish Mishra in The Last Lear, nonchalance of Bhaskor in Piku. The telescope scenes remind you of his Mili days too. This actor’s face has such chameleonic range that he could express grief, contempt and love in a single scene, making it seem completely effortless. The scene in question here is towards the climax and any further detail would be criminal to type.

Now coming back to Rishi Kapoor’s role of Babulal, it’s the love demonstrated by his father’s character (Mere bete ko tere bete se jeetne nahin doonga’ he growls under his breath, yet with equal fervour as his ‘Mein aaj bhi phenke hue paise nahin uthaata’ days).

Unlike any other film, the transition of Babulal’s character isn’t abrupt, yet sudden – Just like the flower he attempts to nurture in the film and it’s his father who makes the bloom possible.

Similarly, the Son’s character ‘blooms’ only because of the Father. Dattatraya’s immense love for Babulal is so beautifully portrayed on screen that it prepares the ground for Rishi Kapoor to perform. And boy, what performance this gem of an actor delivers! The transition of Babulal from stooped shouldered and grumpy faced old man to a confident and cheerful veteran is stuff legends are made of. It wouldn’t be wrong to proclaim that his role is a textbook on character transformation for every actor, writer and director worth their salt.

A jugalbandi, no matter how engaging, always needs a breather of another instrument or vocal to create a perfect harmony. Jimit Trivedi, as Dhiru, offers such breather in 102 Not Out of a third perspective, albeit switching sides all the time. Jimit Trivedi, who is already the poster boy of Gujarati films, especially as a comic actor, plays Dhiru to perfection. In hindsight, Dhiru is an extension of the narrator, who articulates what the audience might be wondering about – again, an old school approach of execution, which still wins hands down, especially because it allows you as an audience to have a ring-side view of what pans out between the father-son duo.

Those who often rue that we don’t have filmmakers with guts to make old-aged character -based films like ‘Something’s Gotta Give’, ‘Meet the parents’, ‘Father of the Bride’, ‘Bridges of Madison County’, ‘Amour’, ‘Iris’ or ‘The Intern’, Umesh Shukla’s 102 Not Out puts an end to your woes. Here’s a film that takes the ‘legacy’ of Cheeni Kum and Do Dooni Chaar forward, with coincidentally, the same ace actors.

Coming back to Sholay, Sanjeev Kumar’s suggestion of hugging and expressing sympathy for his daughter-in-law wasn’t executed in the film, yet he made that embrace felt through the empathetic look in eyes. I could ‘see’ similar empathy in the voice of people walking out of the auditorium after watching 102 Not Out.

After all, speaking with lump in the throat is never easy, nor is driving home with moist eyes. If words could embrace a character, here’s one for Babulal. The film will be remembered even after a century – 102 Years to go, yo!

Here’s my tribute to the two legends of Indian Cinema:

Pari is a fiery tale drenched with blood

220px-Pari_-_Poster

As ironical as it may sound, you know a horror film has achieved its purpose when the audience breaks into fits of laughter or giggles as a desperate attempt to camouflage their fear or shock. The laughter or giggles of such sort are the best compliments debutant director Prosit Roy can ever hope to earn with his film, Pari – Not a fairytale.

A genre done to death, resurrection and exorcisement, horror films either tread the Ramsay route or Ram Gopal Varma way. Either ways, the story has never really mattered much. A person is wronged by someone and the tormented soul torments others until a Tantrik or Priest pops up to everyone’s rescue, including the audience.

Even the experimental ‘Ek Thi Daayan’ and ‘Ragini MMS’ resorted to similar clichés of Tantrik Babas rising to the occasion. Pari, in that sense, is indeed a commendable film that breaks such stereotypes and humanizes the ‘ghost’ and presents a new ‘variety’ of ghosts, Ifrit, for instance.

Ifrits find mention Arabic literature and also in Qur’an, Sura An-Naml, wherein King Solomon seeks its help to get the queen of Sheba and the Ifrit obliges him instantly, within the split of a second. Ifrits are a type of Djinns, who cannot be seen, only heard and generally take form of recently deceased person.

Thankfully, director Projit Roy doesn’t venture the Ifrit tutorial territory or the mandatory ‘Ghost Background Story’. He instead focuses on his lead characters, Rukhsaana, ably played by Anushka Sharma, who has also co-produced Pari and Arnab played to perfection by Parambrata Chatterjee.

Anushka Sharma owns the screen in almost every frame and makes her character believable and strangely, relatable too. This is quite a feat, especially because a character with such complexity can seldom evoke empathy and even sympathy from the audience. I mean, when was the last time you rooted for a ‘ghost’ or ‘witch’ in such kind of films?

Parambrata Chatterjee reprises his ‘sweet guy’ character that he essayed in Kahani. So this role, despite being up his alley, has many layers to it, which is completely justified by the actor. The expressions of fear, apprehension, love, and resolve that Parambrata portrays within the 2 odd hours of the film is indeed worth a mention, and applause.

Piyali (Ritabhari Chakraborty), the prospective bride of Arnab is a redundant character of this film and even the actress seems to be desperately trying to find her footing in a film already crowded with humans, witches, sorcerers, ifrits and ghouls.

The ‘Tantrik’ finds a new avatar here as a ‘revolutionist’ professor from Bangladesh, where Rajat Kapoor makes his presence felt and leaves an everlasting impact. Interestingly, his is the only character in Pari which will leave the audience petrified and baffled, in the same breath. For instance, in the first half, you detest him for what he does and in the second half, you want to like him for what he does but are still not able to do so. It’s a tricky character to portray with conviction, and Rajat Kapoor wins hands down.

Pari, though begins on a nervous note, gains confidence once it finds its voice in the wilderness of West Bengal, followed by umpteen scenes gory enough to irk you, irrespective of the fact that you’ve watched the entire ‘Saw’ series with wide-eyed enthusiasm. It’s not just the sight of blood and gore, but the indulgence in them that irks you to the core.

After a point of time, such scenes lose their gory charm and so does that awkward love triangle that make you wish you had a fast-forward option available in the multiplex (Ah I wish!). In spite of all this, one would still not write Pari off because of the intricately woven story by Abhishek Bannerjee and Prosit Roy, compelling camerawork by Jishnu Bhattacharjee and slick editing by Manas Mittal that rids you of the constant ‘mobile peeking’ habit while watching a film on big screen. Not to forget the background score by Ketan Sodha who practices restraint and spares your eardrums from loud notes during ‘jump scare’ scenes.

Pari, to sum it up, is a fiery tale that will always be remembered as a precursor to some ‘hatke horror films’ hopefully on the anvil. Fingers (minus the blood-stained nails) crossed.