Peepli Fail

August 16, 2010 at 5:11 pm (Uncategorized)

I am sorry to burst the bubble of many (including fellow reviewers), but Peepli Live is NOT a very smart, exhilarating, revolutionary, mould-breaking film. If anything, it is, at best, an honest attempt at doing something which is not run of the mill and when Anusha Rizvi decided to not replicate a Hollywood film, that was the battle half won. I can assure you that had it not been for the publicity bandwagon of Aamir Khan productions, this film would have sunk without a trace. A film with the right heart but in the wrong place in the body, best sums up Peepli Live

Let’s not be completely negative and look at the positives first. The film tracks the journey of Natha in a nondescript village in a fictional state in India called Mukhya Pradesh. Peepli Live brilliantly captures the media circus that engulfs the Indian TV today. The torment facing the English-speaking media in the face of TRP wars with the Hindi-speaking news channels and the Sophie’s choice between stooping to their levels or sticking to their guns is portrayed on the screen by a Barkha-Dutt wannabe and a Jaspal Bhatti look/soundalike (Standout performance). Natha’s mom, who is on the cot in the entire movie, is a scene stealer with some choice dialogues and great delivery. Natha’s wife’s apathy towards the suicide plan or the spectacle surrounding it is refreshing. The vitriol between the mom and her daughter in law are the only time when one could hear a few laughs in the movie hall (besides the times when the four letter words were uttered). The music, which has an authentic rustic feel, has been a smash hit. As I said before, overall an honest attempt at depicting an issue that rarely makes it to the silver screen, despite its obvious bearings on this nation.

But Rizvi’s attempt at satire fails primarily because of a lack of either wit or irony in the script. The film is funny in small bits and pieces but falls flat on a whole, to qualify as a genuine satire. The central theme of exploitation of farmers by politicians for political gains, at times displayed through montages, gets ultimately overshadowed by the media circus. The script tatters away by the second half despite the crisp editing and the 96 minute running time. The motley crew cast’s performances are undistinguished but passable. I personally was appalled by the wasted sub-plot of the farmer who dies digging a hole. And poor Natha and his brother are hardly seen on-screen in the second half.

A few critics had compared Peepli Live to Jaane bhi do yaaron, which had got me really excited. After watching the movie though, it feels as if someone stuck a dagger in every JBDY’s fan and then twisted it over and over again. I shall not lose hope though. Peepli Live will ultimately be a commercial success and will encourage film makers to make movies, that will one day match the stature reached by Bollywood satire in JBDY.

Peepli Live is the perfect example of how a publicity machine (and reputation) can make an unexceptional movie a success. One of the promos for Peepli Live has a journalist questioning, “Aamir Khan has gone mad. Does he think he can make any type of movie and it will work?” Unfortunately, I have to agree with him.

Genre: Satire

Rating: Double Yawnnnnnn

Go watch it with: A Journo friend (preferably from the Hindi language news channels)

Go watch it for: The media jamboree

Peepli Live

Peepli Live


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Angels Demonized

August 7, 2010 at 12:17 pm (Uncategorized)

Ron Howard, Tom Hanks and a Dan Brown best seller. Sounds like a recipe for great success. Alas, just as their previous collaboration Da Vinci Code, which led to the coining of the 11th Commandment, “Thou shalt not bore”, Angels and Demons fails to live up to the hype and ends up making almost the same mistakes as its predecessor

Adaptation of books to a screenplay is no easy task (as so brilliantly displayed by the masterpiece “Adaptation”). And the task doesn’t get any easier when the book at hand, is a 500 page thriller, read by millions of people worldwide. The Peter Jackson directed LOTR is a notable exception, bringing to the screen, a world of fantasy, superior to the imagination of a reader. However, A&D is no notable exception, save for thef fact that it features a largely insipid display by Mr. Hanks. Tom Hanks, for more than a decade, has been the Mr. Dependable of Hollywood. But he comes across as almost uninterested in the film, with little screen presence, even in the company of lesser known actors.

Trying to establish the background to the plot and characters seems to be a hurried affair, as the movie moves quickly to the chase, which dominates the rest of the movie. That is the big problem with the adaptation of a book, a big chunk of which is devoted to the history of the church and the characters. The studios probably chose to concentrate on the action segments, rather than in the historical background. With the latest LHC experiment thrown in for topicality, the director tries hard to capture the imagination of the viewer.

To be fair to the film, it does pick up in the middle, after a drawn out first 45 minutes. With some imaginative editing and the constant back and forth between the chase and the proceedings of the papal congregation, a seed of interest is sowed in the viewer. This is concurrently accompanied with Hanks actually looking lively and though it is not quite “set the screen on fire” material,  at least he doesn’t look bored. The background score also livens up the action. With about 140 minutes of screen time, Howard makes sure the middle part of the film is action packed, with a relentless chase.

I am not an expert on the history of the Church, and will not try to point out the various historical inaccuracies in the film (and the novel). But as a cinematic experience, the movie is hardly captivating and gripping. The utter lack of chemistry between the lead pair, the predictable storyline and the bad screenplay do not help the cause. Hanks seems better suited for drama roles (Saving Private Ryan was an exception). Ron Howard has clearly seen better days. The studios need to get over their fascination of churning out adaptations of bestsellers, without putting enough thought into the whole art of film making.

Ewan McGregor as Patrick McKenna tries to hold the movie together, with an inspired performance. The art direction is one of the best seen in years, and the sets are a standout. Combined with some fast paced action, it actually makes the movie a little better than the previous edition. But, if you have already read the book, or if you have zero interest in Christian symbols, do yourself a favor. Stay at home. Go watch Toy Story 3.

Genre: Thriller

Rating: Yawnnnnnnnnnnn

Go watch it with: Best seen alone

Go watch it for: The sets

Angels and Demons

Angels and Demons

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Fly away… Kites

July 26, 2010 at 6:15 am (Uncategorized)

Oh Anurag Basu, what have you done? Your fans are going to cry that you sold out, that you wasted such an extensive canvas and a limitless budget to come up with such an end product. Kites was supposed to be the first truly international Bollywood movie, shot extensively in English (and Spanish) and with a large motley crew of internationally reputed technicians. It is hard to come out with a clear verdict though. The movie is an out and out masala movie and it delivers enough for you to not emand your money back. But does it leave a lasting impression? Unlikely.

Kites is more like a Mexican telenovela or closer home, a K(or double K) TV series. You know it is emotional crap, but you are hooked on to it. You don’t really miss it when it’s gone, but while it is there on your screen, you are hooked. The script is nothing to write home about, it is your familiar boy-meets-girl, overcomes odds, live/die happily ever after. Basu and the Roshans play to the gallery, with an over-the top love story between the Indian J (Hrithik Roshan) and the Mexican Linda (Barbara Mori). J and Linda epitomize the American dream, looking for that quick fix way to attain the pinnacle of financial success. But when their love comes in the way, they choose love over their aspirations (of course!!!). In doing so, they acerbate a powerful casino family in Las Vegas and the rest of the movie meanders from some really tepid chase sequences to some outstanding ones.

“Love has no language barrier” is the central theme, but ironically, the language gap between the lead characters is the biggest drawback of the movie. The second half, in which J and Linda are on the run by themselves, is quite a bore, with the characters struggling to strike a chemistry. This is quite in contrast to the first half, when Hrithik and Barbara light the screen on fire, with some fluid dance numbers, some excellent cinematography by Ayananka Bose and quite frankly, the hot toned bodies of J and Linda. Not quite the oomph of Jennifer Grey and Patrick Swayze in Dirty Dancing or even the romantic charm of DiCaprio and Kate Winslet in Titanic, but close. Kangana Ranaut is in a completely forgettable piecemeal of a role.

Basu does show moments of brilliance – the fight sequence in the end is shot in visually captivating darkness and rain and the end is all silence, as he tries to move away from the clichéd magnanimous dialogues of Bollywood films. I think this actually captures where the filmmakers went wrong. They were torn between doing an out and out Bollywood movie and a slick Hollywood movie. The end product is somewhere in the middle and there is your problem. It is not a path breaking movie, neither an embodiment of entertainment and regalement.

The crisp photography cannot make up for the horrendous acting performances. It has to be one of the worst acting performances by Hrithik. The moment the poor guy opens his mouth in this movie, it seems his left and right cerebral hemispheres are slugging it out to decide whether he should have an Indian accent or an Indian American accent. It’s all hunky dory when he has to just show up, flex his muscles, twitch his moustache or step on the dance floor. But this is no musical, where the audience is 60 feet away from you, and you can get away with it. Mori, seems to lose her radiance whenever she launches into a Spanish tirade. I am sure the Mexicans will be offended when they see her blabber away. Yeah right, that is how we speak in daily life too.

With the majority of dialogue in English, it is unlikely that there would have been a mass audience for this movie in India, and with no elaborate wedding scenes to appeal to the American or European population, Kites shall remain limited to the metropolis in India and the NRI population. So much for an international appeal (though this does cover more than 800 million people). As for you Mr. Basu, enjoy that fat paycheck. Given the 20 million USD budget, don’t expect any bonus payments.

Genre: Romance

Rating: Yawwnnnnnnnnn

Go watch it with: Your better (or worse) half

Go watch it for: Some lessons in dance



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A Dream within a Dream

July 25, 2010 at 8:18 am (Uncategorized)

It was sometime in the late 90’s that The Tribune started a column where people’s dreams were analyzed. It ranged from the completely mundane  (“Your dream about snakes represent that you fear something”) to some more complex analysis. Soon, the column became a rage and a water cooler discussion. The human kind has been obsessed with dreams and the messages contained within them. Possibly since Inception (I, of course, refer to the inception of homo sapiens and not the Nolan classic). Not surprisingly, it has also been a favorite with the filmmakers. Though there are very few films that deal with dreams as a theme or topic, dream sequences are often used as an escape from reality.

Belle de Jour tries to explore dreams as an avenue for human fantasy. Belle de Jour was initially produced in France in 1967, but has attracted a lot of attention after Martin Scorsese promoted a DVD release in 2002. Luis Bunuel, regarded by many as the best director of his era, is in charge of the reins of the camera for this movie. There have been a slew of movies dealing with dual identity, but 40 years back, this was still a relatively unexplored theme. The 60’s would always be remembered as a decade marked with sexual rebellion, so it is not a surprise that BDJ deals with a dual sexual identity.

The opening scene itself sets the tone for the rest of the movie. Severine and her husband Pierre have a minor tiff and Pierre orders Severine to be flogged. To his horror, Severine begins to enjoy the flogging and he orders the flogging to stop. Very abruptly, the movie cuts to a scene of Severine sleeping. The audience is yet to recover from the shock of realizing that this was a dream, that they realize (Pierre and Severine, who have been married less than a year, are shown to sleep on separate beds) all is not well with the couple. Pierre is shown as a rich, caring and loving husband but despite his repeated overtures, Severine maintains a distance.

Severine is disgusted, yet fascinated, when she hears that one of her friends has joined a whorehouse. As a hesitant Severine turns into a day-time prostitute (Belle de Jour), she belies all the traditional reasons women resort to prostitution. She has money, a loving husband and no clear reason to join a whorehouse. The director risks raising the ire of the common man, to whom prostitution is a trade you are forced into. But this also forces the audience to question its own ethos. BDJ portrays some really twisted clientèle, poking fun at the morals of the bourgeois satirically.

Severine tries to find reason within herself for her actions, but ultimately rationalizing that it was the friend who was responsible for forcing her into this. Through her dreams, we see a galaxy of Severine’s emotions culminating in a scene where she sees Pierre throw mud at her just after he has seen two bulls called remorse and expiation.

Catherine Denevue, as Severine, is the standout performance of the movie. Her transformation from a nervous, classy, elegant housewife to a a questioning and catechizing woman, wonderfully depicts the strange mixture of seduction and repulsion that prostitution holds for a woman in her position. The director, by the end of the movie, makes you wonder if the entire movie was Severine’s dream, an outlet for her hidden fantasies, a description of her desire to flirt with danger, a mean to escape her solitude and loneliness?

The film lacks crisp editing and can be a bit repetitive in the middle. However, for its time, this must have broken so many glass ceilings in terms of the issues it touches upon. The society was still controlled by the upper class and the masochistic and  sexual fantasies played out by Severine in her fantasies and with her clientèle, would  have required guts to depict on the silver screen. However, the movie was clearly not made for the masses and was targeted at an art cinema festival audience.

Genre: Drama

Rating: They’ve got something here

Go watch it with: Your local film critic

Go watch it for: Catherine’s acting, Fresh perspective on prostitution

Belle de Jour

Belle de Jour

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Old Boy ushers in New Era

July 24, 2010 at 12:34 pm (Uncategorized)

Slick editing, slick editing, slick editing. Just as cricket coaches try and ingrain  “ground the bat” in batsmen, “slick editing” should be the Moolmantra for film makers. And if they ever wanted a lesson in editing ingenuity, OLDBOY, is the chef d’oeuvre in this field.

Infact, this masterful 2003 Korean cinematic piece, directed by Park Chan-wook, is much more than just a slickly edited film. Marvelous storytelling technique, that keeps you perched on the edge of your seats, even as it flips in and out of the present, great acting performances and themes that make you question the very ethos of the human kind.

The film begins with a man holding the arm of another man, who hangs precariously over the edge of a building. The man wants to tell a story, as his desperation to be heard, is hard to figure out from the emotionless face. As the man begins to tell his story, the movie cuts to 15 years back, when a drunken man (Oh Dae-su), disappears as his friend attends a call. Dae-su wakes up to find himself in a hotel room, with no exits, except a narrow slot through which he is fed fried dumplings for each meal. Every now and then, a mysterious gas enters the room and puts Dae-su to sleep.

The time spent by Dae-su inside the hotel room, is probably the most amazing sequence of the entire movie. Dae-su seems to undergo the five stages of grief- denying that this is happening to him, trying to fight his way out with the captors, trying to negotiate his way out, going silent for months together and finally indulging in rigorous physical training to prepare himself for revenge, when he is out. He learns during his stay, that his wife was murdered, he is the main culprit and his daughter has been sent to a foster home, fueling his rage. As his plan to dig his way out, using a chopstick, nears fruition, he finds himself on a roof and the movie comes back to the first scene.

And then begins the frenetic search for the answers to “who” and “why”. Keep a man in captivity for 15 years, with the same dish for every meal, and sexual stimulation through state sponsored television programs, and you are bound to see the primal behavior of homo sapiens unleashed. As he devours a raw Octopus and unleashes himself on the girl who rescued him from an accident (Mi-do), it becomes hard to make black and white distinctions between the heroic and villainous part. Dae-su and Mi-do, in the meanwhile, come closer to each other, culminating in a sexual encounter. Even though a love bond seems to develop between the two, Dae-su still looks distant and oppressive towards her.

By a series of incidents, Dae-su finally finds the perpetrator (Woo-Jin), who just tells him, that he was punished because “You talk too much” and gives him 5 days to find the answer “Why” , now that he knows “Who” did it to him. It turns out that Dae-Su had spread a rumor about the pregnancy of Woo-Jin’s sister(Soo-ah) after seeing Woo-Jin and Soo-ah make out, leading to the suicide of Soo-ah. As the film cuts to the suicide scene, where Woo-Jin has to let go of Soo-ah , the audience is thrust into this schizophrenic avatar, as they switch from sympathy to disgust for Dae-su, but still not condoning the actions of Woo-Jin.

Woo-Jin reveals that Mi-do is actually the daughter of Dae-su and he had hypnotized Dae-su and triggered a series of events to coerce him into this incestuous relationship (unbeknown to Dae-su and Mi-do), as a revenge for Dae-su outing Woo-jin’s own incestuous relationship with his sister. As Dae-su offers his tongue in return for Woo-jin keeping this a secret from Mi-do, the transformation of Woo-jin from a villain to a semi-hero is complete, as he accepts the offer. Woo-jin asks Dae-su “My sister and I actually loved each other, knowing our relationship. Can you two do the same?”, as a bloodied and teary Dae-su merely looks on. His revenge complete, Woo-jin commits suicide himself.

The director has chosen an open and ambiguous ending, as Dae-su goes to the same hypnotist, asking for help to forget the secret. We never find out if Dae-su has actually forgotten the secret. A clichéd and set ending would have belied the character of the movie. The open ending makes you think deeper about the character traits of Dae-su.

There are quite a few grotesque scenes in the movie, but I found the scenes purposeful and making a statement of their own. Special shout out to the corridor fighting scene, which reminds you of Street Fighter video game. I saw the movie as a cross between Saw, Requiem for a Dream and Matrix, in terms of the impact it leaves on the viewer’s mind.

Sanjay Gupta tried to do a reprise in Bollywood. I shudder at the very thought of how he would have handled the incest part of the story, but withstanding that too, filmmakers should learn that masterpieces are not meant to be replicated. That’s because they can’t be replicated.

Genre : Thriller, Pathbreaking

Rating : Palme d’Or material

Go watch it with : Your AOE buddies (or is there a new game making the waves today, reemphasizing how old I have become)

Go watch it for : A cinematic treat



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The Ten commandments courtesy The Heartbreak Kid

March 19, 2009 at 6:35 am (Uncategorized)

No, no I am not talking about Shawn Michaels. Rather these rules that shall govern all relationships are provided by the hilariously funny (wait is that a correct phrase) comedy The Heartbreak Kid.

Ben Stiller comedies are usually very predictable and barring the occasional laugh here and there not really funny. THK breaks the mould though and without resorting to slaptstick jokes manages to be funny and pacy throughout.

Oh yeah the ten commadments. To be followed before you jump the gun and marry a chick.

  1. Thou shalt knoweth her mother. After all the genes are going to decide how your wife looks 20 years from now
  2. Thou shalt knoweth all her sickness and allergies. Who knows she might be allergic to professional wrestling or worse sports
  3. Thou shalt knoweth if she is a full time karaoke singer singing along to every sound of music that passes you by
  4. In order of importance this shalt rank right up there. Bed manners. Thou shalt knoweth if she has the capacity to tire you out within the first 5 minutes.In your face all you purity ring holders. Side note to myself : jackhammer check, pile driver check but what in the blue hell is a swedish helicopter move
  5. Thou shalt knoweth of any and all piercings
  6. Thou shalt knoweth of your to-be-wife’s source of income and not just her job
  7. Thou shalt knoweth of any debts she might be bringing along
  8. Thou shalt knoweth of any blow problems (and I mean cocaine only here but I think Moss might have meant more here)
  9. Thou shalt knoweth of all ex-boyfriends and their activities
  10. Thou shalt knoweth her IQ level (putting mineral oil in Mexican sun, come on how dumb can you get)

Follow these 10 commandments of MOSS and you will never go wrong in life. And if you are not a big fan of my blog you can go watch the movie itself. You might just find it a tiny winy bit more interesting. And yeah, lest I forget, do watch till the end of the credits.

The heartbreak kid

The heartbreak kid

Rating : They’ve got something here

Genre : Romance, Comedy

Go watch it for : A good time

Go watch it with : Your partner, friends or when u are feeling lonely

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My own private purgatory

March 18, 2009 at 7:40 pm (Uncategorized)

How can you stay in Idaho and not watch My Own Private Idaho. Ever heard that? Well one I lived in Idaho only for 12 weeks or so and secondly Idaho shouldn’t be the reason you want to watch this work from Gus Van Sant, the guy who brought us the movie which probably should have won the Oscar in 2009 Milk.
I must start with a confession though. I am very uncomfortable watching movies with homos and all. Watching brokeback mountain (in French) and that too with a chick I was trying to ask out was clearly one of the most  awkward 2 hours. Thankfully the movie was good enough for the time to pass by quickly. This “homophobia” has probably to do with me being Indian.

Anywho, the movie starts with one of the most impressive opening scenes with Mike (river phoenix) having hallucinations as he stands in the middle of an empty road. In terms of impact, the orgasm portrayed by a house falling from the sky onto the ground,  few scenes would surpass it. Mike and Scott (Keanu Reeves) are gay street hustlers as they land up in Portland afer Mike has another of his narcoleptic episodes

Scott is revelaed to be in line for a big inheritance from his parents when he turns 21, subject to his being a “good son”. His father is the mayor who thinks his son’s wayward ways is God’s way of punishing him.

The movie though shot brilliantly loses much of its steam in the first 40 minutes so much that I didnt want to come out of this self imposed blogging exile. But I guess this is going to serve as preparation for my new job. Times when you dont like them, times when you do but when there is a job to do, you better get ur hands dirty
Scott and Mike leave for Idaho to meet Mike’s older brother Richard in a quest to resolve Mike’s narcoleptic visions about his mother. Richard reveals himself to be Mike’s real father (Joseph Fritzl, where art thou) and then Scott and Mike leave for Rome in search of his mother.

Some great evening shots of Rome are followed by the revelation that she doesnt live in Rome anymore. In her place they meet this Italian girl Carmella who hooks up with Scott much to the envy of Mike (who is shown as having romantic feelings towards Scott from the beginning)
Scott and Carmella leave for States leaving Mike behind to continue his work as a gay hustler. But another narcoleptic lapse later, he finds himself back in Portland where Scott has overcome his past, disowned their former mentor Bob who dies soon after.

As the funerals for Bob and Scott’s father take place temporally and spatially simultaneously, in contrasting conditions though the scene cuts back to Idaho where a passed out Mike is picked up by a driver and the final image is that of the house which had crashed in the beginning.
I hate the very thing about this movie which other critics rave about- There is hardly a central thread running through which can bind the movie. Gus does a wonderful job with the cinematography and scene set up but scenes individually dont make a movie click. The only saving grace is the fine performances delivered by all and sundry. Specially from someone who was coming of Bill and Ted adventures.

The plot has evidently been borrowed from Henry IV. I say what plot. The characters are flat and the dialogue lifeless. It’s a visual treat. Just mute the volume, skip the gay scenes and sit back and enjoy some spectacular scenes

My own private idaho

My own private idaho

Genre : Beats me

Rating : Yawnnnn

Go see it for : Why Idaho is one of the most beautiful wonders hidden in the middle of nowhere.

Go see it with : Your gay partner

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In bruges

December 27, 2008 at 2:51 pm (Uncategorized)

Hard, it is these days, to find a movie which compels you to slog away on the keyboard. I was really skeptical of watching “In Bruges” which had been lying on my laptop for quite some time. Never been a big fan of movies about cities since they tend to be a tourist brochure of the city more often than not. I have always felt that a good city movie is one which uses the city as a sub plot because it lends both credibility and pace to the movie. Otherwise such movies just drag along.

In Bruges the debutant director, Martin McDonagh, brings his theatrical expertise to the fore and does what every director should be doing – telling a story through this medium and telling it beautifully. In Bruges starts off as two hitmen have been bundled off to the nondescript town Bruges in Belgium (it was on my itinerary, so don’t know how nondescript it really is).

The initial part where one of the hitmen, Ken keeps on riveting about the town and Ray (Colin Farrell in a stupendous performance) keeps on describing the town as a shithole is a bit sluggish but the pace picks up in the middle of first half and keeps on accelerating right up to the climatic end.

The best part is Ray’s interaction with the dwarf Jimmy. Again I have to mention the acting because it really keeps the film together. There is also this subtle back humor which is actually a character in itself. And at no times is it the slapstick humor which seems to be the order of the day these days in Hollywood, nor is it British black humor which is funny to exactly 219 people in the world.

The climax takes you through the breathtaking scenes in Bruges and so aptly the bell tower in Bruges forms the backdrop for this scene. It really has been a long time since I enjoyed a movie so much. There is almost everything you look for in a movie- good cinematography, nice locations, romance, action et al. It doesn’t go overboard on Belgian waffles, beer or Tintin for that matter. There are jokes planted on the Belgian film industry as well.

You like your Belgian beer and waffles, go watch this movie. You don’t, still go watch the movie. It is that good.

Rating : A gem

Genre: Action, Crime

In Bruges

In Bruges

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Children of Heaven- A must watch

October 18, 2008 at 7:34 am (Uncategorized)

Remember watching the Bicycle Thief. How the sheer helplessness of the protagonist (and his family) kept us glued to the screen. I have been trying to find another film which binds you emotionally from start to the end. I had heard only good stuff about the Indian movie, The Blue Umbrella but I was afraid it is going to be a rip-off of the bicycle thief and could never muster enough courage to give it a shot (Unfortunately, i have very low expectations from Bollywood). But when I heard about this Iranian movie, Children of Heaven, I had this urge to explore it considering the reputation Iranian filmmakers carry with them. A French connection means that unlike Bollywood most of their movies have a story to convey.

Children movies (and by which I don’t mean Disney likes) are a rarity. Maasoom and Bridge to Terabithia are two examples which stand out.I have always been at a loss to understand that with emotional bonding that can be conveyed through the story of children, why don’t we get to see more of such stories. Aamir Khan probably could understand my point and made Taare Zameen Par( which frankly wasn’t the best movie even of 2007) but that, if anything, strengthens my point. The trick to a successful movie is attachment and empathy with the main characters and the story. Granted that sometimes, we resort to cinema to take a break from the drudgeries of life, but the stories that linger on are those which we can connect with.

With a simple story which addresses a multitude of issues and a realistic background, Children of Heaven is one of the most touching stories to have been screened. Ever. It starts as a simple story of a boy who misplaces (loses) the shoes of his sister. The sister and brother Ali, knowing that their parents can’t afford a new pair of shoes plan to stay out of trouble by sharing their shoes and keeping it a secret from everyone else. Of course this lands them in trouble time and again since both of them need to be on time from their respective schools (which have complementary timings). Of course there are twists and turns for eg. the sister discovers who has her pair of shoes but finds out that her father is blind, so lets it go. And then there is the subplot where the father who is looking for a gardening job lands up at a place inhabited by a kid and his grandfather. The kid is lonely and looking for some friends and tries to find one in Ali.

The climax is in the form of a race where the third prize is a pair of sneakers (Reminded of some old Anil kapoor movie where the product of desire, a bicycle was a runners up prize in a wrestling bout). The race, which is beautifully captured on camera and orchestrated is won by Ali and he comes home dejected to his sister. Though in a scene just before that they show their father on his way home with two new pairs of shoes. However we never get to see the joyful faces of the children getting it. Instead the director gives us a gem of an ending. As Ali faces his sister empty handed (the first prize was a 2 week vacation for him), he takes off his torn shoes and we get to see his swollen feet. He places his feet in a pool of water where (with a joyous music background) the fish come and stick to his feet, signifying ( atleast in my opinion) the end of miseries for the family.

Now where do I start praising this movie. Right from the first scene, where they show the cobbler repairing the girl’s shoes, the movie grips you and never lets go of you. The small alleys of Teheran (I presume) with small puddles of water in the middle form the backdrop for the movie. But the real stars have to be the child actors. You thought Darsheel had shone in Taare Zameen Par, wait till you see the performance of this bunch. It was almost as if the movie was being filmed secretly, and the kids could bring out the entire range of emotions -the purity, the innocence, the naivety, the maturity. Every small detail fitted them to the tee. Whether it be facial expressions, body posturing or dialogue delivery. It was hard to imagine this being a scripted movie.

The longing looks of the sister/brother pair when they see a pair of shoes in a television or a window showcase conveys it all. I was particularly impressed by the scene where the girl drops the sneaker into a flowing gutter by mistake. The helplessness on her face was so evident and it made me want to help her. Now that is what I call emotional attachment.

Another beautiful aspect of this movie is when it shows the contrast between the rich and the poor when Ali travels to the uptown part of the city or when he sees the rich kids in their bright tracksuits at the start of the race. The look on his face almost makes you feel guilty for being rich and am sure would melt the coldest of hearts. But the other side of the coin is well represented too by the longing for a companion by the rich kid, which actually leads me to the only grouse about this movie. After building up this sub plot, they eliminated it entirely from the movie. But it does keep the movie taut and crisp. I have another big problem. After seeing this particular movie, it will be hard to judge other movies by this scale (maybe I should see Singh is King once more)

But in the end, the movie is all about the extent to which a brother is willing to sacrifice for his sister and vice versa. It almost (and I emphasize the word almost, dear sis if you are reading) makes me want to stop my bickering with my sister.

Ever wanted to see something that shall linger on in your heart for ever. Go rent this DVD now

Genre :Drama

Rating: It doesn’t get any better than this

Go watch it with: Anyone

Go watch it for : Everything

Children of Heaven

Children of Heaven

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Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (A tribute to Paul Newman)

October 6, 2008 at 7:48 pm (Uncategorized)

I have been MIA for quite some time now. This is not a reflection on my extent of movie watching (I’d have watched atleast 20 in the corresponding period) but after the flak I received for Rock On (I still stick by it, the movie sucked balls) I have decided to review only those movies which evoke extreme emotions only. No bland movies ( so no more Rock On, ok I have to stop this rant.)

Paul Newman was one of the greatest on the silver screen I have ever come across. And not just as an actor but as a director, entrepreneur and God knows what else. The Sting remains one of my all time favorites ( I will always hold a grudge against Hustle for having ruined the plot for me). His performance in Cool Hand Luke is unparalleled. BCASK was one of the movies I always wanted to see. And after his death, I couldn’t think of a better way to pay homage to this legend.

It starts as a neo-noirish Western but then it shows its beautiful face. A comic western (well not quite Blazing saddles) with the kind of humor which Paul Newman (later along with Robert Redford who as the Sundance kid gives a dazzling performance) became famous for . Sample this -” Why did you close down th e bank. It was beautiful” ” Well people just kept on robbing it” “Beautiful indeed”

Butch fights off a leadership tussle within his own gang ( in which he bets against himself, talk about hedging risks, if only the Wall St. smart kids would have taken this lesson) and then robs a train. He plans to rob the train on its way back (the ingenuity supplied by his rival ironically) as well. The ferocity and the fear evoked by Butch is shown as the marshal is unable to gather a posse to go after the gang.

The love interest of Sundance is pursued by Butch as well setting up a love triangle subplot (which incidentally turns out to be one of the weak points of the movie). The real tale begins when a posse hunts them after their second robbery attempt gone wrong. The chase showcases the picturesque scenery of the West without which the genre of western movies would be reduced to the an’n’als of RockOnites (sorry sorry this is the last time I mention Rock on Ever)

Well the story moves on to Bolivia where the three are involved in some of the most hilarious robbery scenes you will ever see on the 70 mm screen without being reduced to buffoonery. Their attempts to lead a straight life are thwarted by destiny which apparently wants them to stick to things they do best. And all this climaxes in the ever eternal scene where the scene is framed but you can still hear the sounds of the bullets whizzing around.

Paul Newman and Robert Redford are there in almost every single shot of the movie. Initially there had been some controversy over the title of the movie. Actors couldn’t agree on which character should get the more prominent role and this led to multiple changes in the cast. Even though Sundance Kid is in the latter part of the title, Redford brings the role alive on his own. The movie would also catapult him to the stage of stardom. Redford, Newman and director George Roy Hill would later regroup for another classic – “The Sting”.

George deserves special mention for breaking the mould and trying to be innovative. The 2nd robbery scene (where the excess of dynamite blows up the entire carriage) is masterfully done. The allusion to lack of money somehow reminded of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The journey from US to Bolivia is an exquisite masterpiece. Hill uses a montage of pictures with the background music reflecting the mood to represent this journey. The mere use of this instrument was a high point for me in the movie. Wonder why it is not used more often. It has a strong lingering after taste (oops the wine sessions have got to me). There is a dialogue free scene in which the song “Raindrops keep falling on my head” plays in the background. All you Bollywood aficionados would relate to this instantly but it was something of  a refreshing change in a Western. On another note, I have been hearing this song everywhere now. On the Simpsons, on Arrested Development. See extreme emotions indeed.

The humor is never over the top and seems to fit in seamlessly. But the movie meanders in the middle and the chase sequences begin to look repetitive. The tame end to the love triangle doesn’t help matters. But the movie more than redeems itself in the end. Tell you what. Just listen to the last dialogue in the movie and you will know how uber cool this movie was.

Newman, Just show this to St. Peters and your entrance to heaven is guaranteed. You deserve a place there.

Genre: Western, Humor

Rating: Gem

Watch it with: Your friends

Watch it for: A Jolly good time

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid

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