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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