Jul 18, 2012

Guwahati: The Inconvenient Truth

It's shocking how all of us (myself included) missed it completely. Yes, the first response after seeing that molestation video from Assam had to be that of outrage and anger. But even after settling down post that initial response, nobody managed to notice the most obvious signs of the entire filming being fishy. It took me a bit of enlightening on part of Barkha Dutt to finally notice the strange 'friendly' relationship that the camera had with the mob.

When journalists or cameramen go to cover a frenzied mob, they fear for their safety. Simply because of the reason that the mob, in that state of madness, could target them, their camera or their heads. Because howsoever crazy and ill-reasoned the mob may be, it does understand that a journalist and his camera are the last things to be befriended. This assumption is more and more applicable in cases where the mob is indulged in some horrific law-breaking exercise, such as lynching and molesting. So, a mob beating up a thief may not mind the camera over its head, but a mob molesting a girl, in 99 out of 100 cases, would not hesitate in assaulting the journalist, for it knows that the camera can spoil their fun.

But nothing of this sort was visible in the Guwahati molestation video. Forget about being camera conscious, the molesters passed familiar and friendly smiles towards the camera, inviting it to come closer for a 'better' view. There was not even a pinch of hesitation or reluctance amongst the molesters about letting the cameraman shoot the condemnable incident. Now, either the molesters were so daring that they did not give a damn about the camera's presence or they had a tacit understanding with the man shooting the entire event. The chances of former are very rare. Because, fear is an emotion that has a place in even in a law-breaker's heart.

So, it brings us to that age old debate over the role of media in situations like these. First, if the molestation was orchestrated and instigated by that cameraman/ journalist, it makes him a worse offender than the molesters themselves. But let's not jump onto this conclusion so early and wait for probe to conclude. But even if the incident was not choreographed, should the journalist have tried to stop it or should he have continued to shoot?

I belong to the school of thought that says a journalist must go ahead with the 'job' at had first. Because, the truth is that the 'truth' would have never come out and caused this national hysteria if there was no video footage. Every individual in the society has a definite role to play and I believe a journalist's role is to 'inform' the people. He is a messenger, much on the lines of a doctor being the saviour and the police being the protector. But again, in situations like these, an individual needs to move out of his traditional role and assume a greater collective responsibility towards the society. After all 30-minutes footage or the a 5-minute short clip, the 'message' would have been lucid enough in any case. Informing the police as soon as the possible, and intervening to stop the mob to the best of his abilities, are part of that collective social responsibility.

There are far too many horrendous blunders that have been committed in the Guwahati molestation case. From showing the face of the victim by the media to revealing her identity by the NCW (how ironic!?) and the Chief Minister's office, the trail of indifference is horrifying. Amidst all the hue and cry and the supposed aftermath of 'justice', the girl in question is turning out to be the greatest sufferer. Because, the channels and the reporters will move on, the government and the administration will cope up with the jolt too, but the victim's lost dignity is hard to be restored.

And I fear the worse. The Guwahati case will soon be forgotten.

Jul 13, 2012

'Cocktail' Belongs to Deepika Padukone!

Cocktail arrives with a huge baggage of expectations. The promos and music of the film gave us the belief that it perhaps has all the ingredients of an 'urban epic' on contemporary friendship and romance. So, does the trio of Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone and Imtiaz Ali (Co-writer) succeed in scaling new heights of romance post their highly successful outing in 'Love Aaj Kal'. The answer is- yes, but only partially. While the first half of the film is full of some beautiful light moments, the second half is stretched and aimless at several places. In between all of this, there are some quirky dialogues, memorable sequences and an incredibly brilliant musical score.

Saif Ali Khan plays Gautam, a 'flirt' who can not control his urge to go behind beautiful women. More often than not he succeeds in charming women of all hues and nationalities, Veronica (Deepika Padukone) being the latest of them all. Veronica, herself, is a free-spirited 'rich bitch' who in a sense is the female version of Gautam. But all her flings aside, she is a girl with golden heart who helps out Meera (Diana Penty), a simpleton who has just arrived in London from India, and has to deal with the shock of a fraud marriage. Veronica and Meera live together and soon Gautam moves in on the virtue of being former's 'boyfriend'. They are visited at their apartment by Gautam's loud Punjabi mother (Dimple Kapadia) who is bride searching for her son. What follows next is a cocktail of triangular romance between Gautam, Veronica and Meera.

Cocktail boast of some endearing moments in the first half. The unique bond shared by the three leads brings smiles on your faces, and some of us can even relate with the principle characters and the kind of fun-filled situations they land in. Proceedings breeze past in front of you as long as Veronica and Gautam are into their non-committal relationship, and share a very warm camaraderie with Meera. Problem surfaces as soon as cupid strikes the trio in Cape Town, and the awesome threesome undergo emotional distress. There are some sluggish talk heavy scenes in the second half that induce yawning. Also, the predictable path of the storyline post intermission leaves a lot to be desired. But, despite all these flaws Cocktail manages to sail through mainly because of its very entertaining first half, cleverly juxtaposed musical score and brilliant performance from the self-proclaimed rich bitch Veronica, that is Deepika Padukone.

In fact, Deepika comes across as the cornerstone of Cocktail. She looks absolutely stunning and sufficiently wild as Veronica, expressing and holding back emotions with aplomb. You are not just mesmerized by her sumptuous looks, impeccable wardrobe and scintillating grooves, but also by the way she handles difficult emotional scenes post interval. Cocktail is surely one of Deepika's finest performances till date, at par with Love Aaj Kal, and should bring in a flurry of award nominations for her.

With films like Salaam Namaste, Hum Tum and Love Aaj Kal to his credit, Saif Ali Khan by now is an expert at playing the quintessential urban dude. But in Cocktail, Saif looks cocky at places. There are a few scenes where the actor displays his perfect comic timing, but in a lot of scenes he looks jaded and out of touch. Also, he looks 'aged' at many places and some of his supposed one-liners fall flat. The debutante, Diana Penty, comes across as a pretty lass and gives an average performance. She has the habit of being monotonous with her body language and facial expressions despite the sombre nature of the character she plays. Dimple Kapadia as Saif's mother is very effective while Boman Irani does not get his share of brilliance despite of having ample screen time. Randeep Hooda in a cameo is a total waste.

Director Homi Adajania easily comes out of the dark mould of his debut film 'Being Cyrus'. He shows good craft in creating some identifiable characters but struggles in execution of emotional scenes. Interestingly, Homi seems to be in command till the story (Imtiaz Ali, Shaad Ali) proceeds in its merry path, but falters as soon as writing goes slightly weak. Anil Mehta's cinematography captures London and Cape Town beautifully. Special mention should be made for remarkable camera work inside the night clubs that plays a crucial role, along with the music, in pushing the audiences in party mode.

Pritam's music is uplifting, perhaps his most accomplished work since Love Aaj Kal. 'Daaru Desi' and 'Tumhi Ho Bandhu' are peppy while two tracks (Angrezi Beat and Main Sharabi) borrowed from Honey Singh's album 'International Villager' are like icing on the cake.

On the whole, 'Cocktail' is a heady blend of some fun-filled and  few ordinary moments. Despite its 10-odd minutes of surplus length and untidy second half, the film rides high on Deepika Padukone's spirited performance and Pritam's foot-tapping music. This one is to be watched with your dosts and yaars, followed by some Desi Daru (afterwards)! A cool summer gift from Bollywood.

Rating- ***3/4 (Good)

Jul 6, 2012

Bol Bachchan is Consistently Watchable

Ok, I have this feeling that Bol Bachchan was conceptualized and made for Abhishek Bachchan. You may argue that there is nothing strange in a film being made with a certain actor in mind. But, here the concerned actor happens to be Abhishek Bachchan, whose career has nosedived in the last few years. He hardly has had any credible film under his belt off late, and he is struggling badly when it comes to box office numbers with even newcomers like Imran Khan and Ranbir Kapoor putting up much better performances, both critically and commercially. And also, Bol Bachchan is not a film that will enhance Junior AB's credentials as an actor, that dream project kind of thing that every hero/heroine dreams about. So, what do I mean when I say Bol Bachchan was made for Abhishek Bachchan? Ok, to put it in straight words, Bol Bachchan was filmed to gift a 'hit' to Abhishek Bachchan! And guess what, after watching the film you realize that Abhishek, finally, will actually have a hit to his credit. Thanks to Rohit Shetty and his brand of Cinema!

Bol Bachchan revolves around a predictable 'comedy of errors' plot. This formula of mistaken identity in Bollywood is as old as AK Hangal. And our very own Mr. Shetty has milked this formula like no one else, minting in hundreds of crores of rupees through Golmaals and All the Best (My favorite Rohit Shetty Film). What is different with Bol Bachchan then? Here, Rohit Shetty pays a tribute to the original Golmaal, the cult classic from Hrishida, in his own signature style but does not attempt to become over smart. He keeps it simple, interpreting the original in today's times, without tampering with the 'soul' of Golmaal.

The story, as you may already know and guess, is quite predictable. Abhishek Bachchan plays Amol Palekar's part while Ajay Devgn (why this missing 'a' in Devgn?) reprises Deven Varma's role. Both of them are sufficiently funny, specially Ajay who delivers some horrendously humorous 'English' one-liners like 'Hard work is the keyhole to saxophone' and 'Boy in armpit, hyper-noise pollution in city'. He is Rohit Shetty's go-to man and he does not disappoint one bit. And yes, there is ample dose of car flying sequences and Ajay beating the hell out of goons, while the camera wanders across his muscular body. 

Abhishek Bachchan, for whom this film was made, is brilliant at places and ordinary sometimes. He revisits his Dostana days through the character of Abbas Ali and comes out with flying colors. He looks sincere throughout film and seems keen on making the most of this wonderful 'hit' formula in hand. However, it is Krushna, the marvelous stand-up comedian of 'Comedy Circus' fame, who disappoints out of the entire principle cast. He looks uneasy in front of the camera and your wait for a moment of comic brilliance from his side never ends. Archana Puran Singh, Krushna's judge at Comedy Circus, plays her 'double role' with required humor and perfection. And the two leading ladies, Asin and Prachi Desai, are perfect eye candies, roaming around the picturesque Rajasthan village in their beautiful traditional Indian dresses. 

As for the director Rohit Shetty, kudos to him for creating a niche brand for himself in this industry. We need him in the fray, as much as an Anurag Kashyap or Imtiaz Ali. I think he knows his target audience as well as any other filmmaker, and is proud of his own limitations and strengths. 

All in all, Bol Bachchan is certainly not an ideal comic flick. But it is very much tolerable and in fact quite humorous at places. Film's more than 2 and half hours of length is a problem, so is Himesh Reshammiya's uninspiring music and Asin-Ajay's half-baked love track. But the major objectives of this film, like all of Rohit Shetty's films, such as madness and buffoonery  are duly achieved.

Your chest will certainly not become a blouse after watching Bol Bachchan, but you will get your intermittent dose of laughter and fun. This one is a typical popcorn and Pepsi stuff from Rohit Shetty factory!

Rating- *** (Good) 


Jul 4, 2012

Ability to Laugh at Itself Makes America Great

236. No, this not Sachin Tendulkar's or Kumar Sangakara's latest Test double hundred. A country has completed these many years of its existence. And let me remind you that today is 4th of July. Yes, the United States of America, that ruthless superpower that we so love to hate and pounce on every opportunity to write its future off, is celebrating its more than two-century old existence today.

What makes me write about America? I am all of 23-years old, do I have the right to scrutinize and debate over a nation that is now 236 years old? Also, I am not an American (you know that) and have only little knowledge about the world outside India. And I did not say that I know India inside out either. But there is something fascinating about America, something magnetic that draws almost every human being towards that country. Even those who are repulsed by American hegemony can not help but think about America all day all night long. They vent their anger against US through Twitter and Facebook, forgetting that these platforms too have deep American roots. From the automobile to the Television to google to your toilet seat, the American connection is hard to be ignored.

Yes, America is a shameless resource hunter, a country that has exploited the earth's endowments relentlessly over the last century. In the process, it has fought and incited wars in almost all corners of the world. From Iraq to Afghanistan, US' quest for superiority and its championing the cause of democracy and counter-terrorism have been nothing but veiled attempts to establish control over critical non-renewable resources. But today, I am less concerned about the policies of the successive American governments. What intrigues and interests me is the remarkable success of the American society to stand as a cohesive unit over the centuries, and spread its influence over the entire globe.

So, what makes America 'Great'? For me, the greatest American asset is its ability to laugh at itself. Yes, freedom of expression in American society is almost unprecedented, the people there enjoy the kind of liberty that hardly any other country in the world offers. Right from a literature genius like Mark Twain to the current crop of comedians and satirists, America has a long list of its own national icons who ridicule and laugh at their country's misdemeanors. In the early and mid-20th century, the legendary notion of the 'Great American Dream' was trashed by scholars and general public alike. The American society has always been divided on the racial and ethnic lines, but these lines have often been blurred by Americans themselves. So, an emotional nation voted a Black into Presidentship, and few years prior to that, did not hesitate in branding its own President as a 'human rights violator' or even a 'terrorist' in extreme cases, based on his misadventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.

You can not imagine such liberty in the rising superpower like China. The voices of Chinese people is often thwarted and human rights is a taboo term in that part of the world. If US has a belligerent army that threatens security of the nations across the world, it also has watchdogs like Amnesty who cry hoarse at the slightest hint of injustice. It is this wonderful dichotomy that makes America a fascinating success story. Despite contending with a huge influx of immigrants of various races and ethnicity, the American society has managed to keep its various strings attached, at least much better than the Britons.

American government may always look for its own interests, but its the free-thinking mindset of the people of the United States that makes their country great. You hardly witness an outcry in countries like Pakistan or even the Gulf Nations over Jihadist terror attacks across the world, but the Americans did not hesitate to criticize Bush after the Gulf War or his so-called War on Terror. You may call CNN biased, but it enjoys great autonomy, something that you can not associate with a Xinhua. From Hollywood to MTV to that common middle class American, every one is proud of the achievements of the USA as a nation, but is never shy of pulling the carpet from the under the feet if a need arises.

While our Desi 'experts' sweat profusely when asked whether the Great Indian Story has gone bust, the Americans have been at the forefront when it comes to predicting doomsday for themselves. Noted comedians and social critics have predicted that US will no longer be the numero uno of the world and that its decline is inevitable. It is this ability of the American society to introspect and self-examine which has made it last so long, that too very strongly. Don't forget, US was like Britain's abandoned child in its initial days, the White settlers were indulged in fierce wars with native Indians, and there was a third dimension of African slaves as well. But over the years, the Americans have evolved remarkably by their methods of self-correction and improvement. 

For me, the American Dream is not over. It will not be over till the Americans continue to laugh at themselves. Because governments may think in terms of military expenditure or GDP figures, but the an average American still thinks about how to change the world in a positive manner. An American continues to be fiercely free and reasonably sensible.

It is perhaps the reason why Shah Rukh Khan has to go to America again and again despite being frisked at the Airports. The work culture and social credentials of this country is impeccable. Why just Shah Rukh Khan, don't be surprised if you find a Communist or a Jihadist standing in a queue outside the US consulate. There is something magnetic about America, I told you.

Jun 22, 2012

'Teri Meri Kahaani' is Simply Boring

'Teri Meri Kahaani' grabbed my attention because of two main reasons. First, the film was directorial venture of Kunal Kohli, a man who I think has not got enough praise for two wonderful films that he has made- Hum Tum and Fanaa. His other two films- Thoda Pyar Thoda Magic and Mujhse Dosti Karoge (Such terrible names!) were box-office disasters, but were reasonably 'watchable'. Secondly, I was impressed with the film's title and the tagline (Thrice upon a love story). 'Teri Meri Kahaani', for me, is a wonderfully simple and effective name for a film. A name that can intrigue both the metro junta and the people from the heartland. And I am stressing so much on the film's name because nowadays there is a marked decline in the 'quality' of film names. If films like 'London Paris New York' and 'Cocktail' could have been named better, 'Dangerous Ishq' is perhaps the most horrible mainstream Hindi film title I have ever heard of.  However, film names are an entirely different topic of debate. For now, let us focus on Kunal Kohli's 'Teri Meri Kahaani'.
The film is a love story (but of course) set in three different eras, 1910, 1960 and present day 2012. The idea of the film, I hear, is copied from some immensely popular Taiwanese film called 'Three Times'. But this notion, whether true or not, is of little concern because 'Teri Meri Kahaani' in its own self is a heavily flawed and uninspiring film. It is tough to believe that this film comes from the director of Hum Tum and Fanaa, and Shahid Kapoor seriously needs to introspect about his choice of films and the direction in which his Bollywood career is heading!

The biggest lacuna of Teri Meri Kahaani is its very ordinary plot and screenplay. There is nothing worthy in the story to mention about, and quite surprisingly, even the expected chemistry and camaraderie between Shahid and Priyanka is missing! Out of the three story tracks, only the one set in the 1960, Bombay, leaves some kind of impact. Sadly, the present day love track looks tired and predictable while the one set in the pre-independent India looks over the top!

Unlike Love Aaj Kal, which beautifully explored definition and significance of love in two different generations, Teri Meri Kahaani does not even intend to dig deep. There are far too may songs, too many Shahids and Priyankas, virtually doing the same silly stuff in all the three romantic tracks. Even though the film is only 2 hours long, it feels like a lifetime. It is one of those films that perfectly fits the cliched bill of 'boring'. After the climax, you wonder what the filmmaker tried to convey? Did he try to sell us the idea of reincarnation and love breaking the barrier of 'saat janams'? If yes, then where was the 'connection' between the three tracks? If no, then what was binding force of these different tracks? Or, were these three stories totally independent of each other? Too many questions. But still, you dont bother much. The proceedings are so boring!

Shahid Kapoor portrays his usual self. He is simply functional. Nothing outstanding. Priyanka Chopra is also her usual self. She is simply functional. Nothing outstanding. The script lets the actors down. Had Kunal Kohli invested even half the effort, which he puts in erecting those 'fake looking' sets and milieu of 1910 and 1960, into strengthening the script, this Kahaani might have been different. As a director, Kohli fails to drive any point home. Music by sajid-Wajid is not good to ears. Somehow. There are 5 songs in the film, but only Mukhtasar is hummable. Cinematography, which is such an important element in a film that travels in different time spaces, is below the mark- flat and uninspiring. There is nothing that the camera does to help the viewer travel to 1910, Lahore or 1960, Bombay.

There is sheer lack of novelty, verve and charm in the film. Twenty minutes into the film and you are bored. You wait for the intermission, hoping it would bring something 'new'. Expectations trashed. Twenty minutes post interval, and you start praying for a quick 'climax', again hoping that the end would definitely throw in some surprise. Expectations trashed. Again.

This one is avoidable. Most Definitely. And Shahid Kapoor, please put your hands up. And be counted. Please.

Rating- *1/2 (Poor)

Jun 19, 2012

Urban Dust

Every morning I wake up early
But fail to witness a beautiful dawn
I can see some pigeons flyin' around
But where have the sparrows gone

I sit in my car and drive around
And feel the city needs a correction
Journey is on, but the end's nowhere
As I fail to find the right direction

I see a million faces around
Grumpy, joyous and even masked
Every one seems busy answering
The question that was never asked

I wish they ban plastic
The bag is not all I mean
All of us are deeply intrigued
But none of us is really keen

Innocence is a mirage they say
But the chase at times is a must
Dirty shoes and blackened hearts
Are all makings of the Urban Dust.

Jun 15, 2012

Manmohan is a Joke, Mamata a Joker

I write this with great empathy for an 80-year old economist who also happens to be the Prime Minister of India. Perhaps for the first time, I feel for Dr. Manmohan Singh and the continuous rebuff he is facing from his party and allies alike. Because all things said and done, Dr. Singh is our country's Prime Minister, the supposed all powerful man in the Indian democracy. The fact that his name was propped up as a probable Presidential candidate speaks a lot about the lack of trust his leadership is generating. He is no more even a lame-duck PM, he is crippled and perhaps amputated beyond repair and recovery.

The sheer audacity of Double Ms- Mamata and Mulayam to name Manmohan as a probable occupant of the Rashtrapati Bhawan, shows that these regional chieftains are fluttering their wings a bit too much. The move is a near endorsement of S&P's scathing attack on leadership qualities of the Prime Minister. There is a growing unease within the UPA ranks regarding Dr. Singh, and many believe that he is more of a liability than an asset for the government.

This move is unprecedented in truest sense of the word and much beyond that. A sitting PM has never been nominated as the President, although this seems to be an 'elevation' in profile, at least in the constitutional terms. Making Manmohan the president will be an admission of his failure as the Prime Minister, a surrender to the grim circumstances that stare this government in face. No doubt Manmohan Singh has proved to be an incapable premier, more so in his second term, there has been rampant corruption, ample mis-governance and lack of reforms in the economic sector. But, there is little doubt over the credibility and integrity of Dr. Singh himself. Yes, he is a weak Prime Minister but I can not imagine him indulging in wrongdoings, whatever Team Anna may say. So, if at all the Congress and the UPA thinks that time is up for Manmohan Singh, they should convey this clearly to him. Singh's phasing out has to be graceful and gradual, without any lollypop attached as 'compensation'.

Also, the post and authority of India's Prime Minister can not be undermined at any cost. Two regional cartoons can not be allowed to show the door to the PM, even if India is a multi-party democracy. It is the right of the people, and the single largest party/alliance to choose the Prime Minister. A couple of opportunistic leaders must not be allowed to humiliate the office at 7, Race Course Road. Embarrassment and defeat at the hands of nonsensical politics is the last thing that a sitting Prime Minister deserves. If Mamata and Mulayam are so fade up with the PM, what forces them to support his government? Do they have the courage to openly speak against the PM and the way he functions (or does not function). A gesture of this kind will strengthen a multi-party democracy, not the silly tactic of one upmanship.

Mulayam is a known gold digger. Dont be surprised if he changes sides tomorrow, in case he is offered a better bargain by the Congress. But what amazes me is the sheer lack of political sense that Mamata Banerjee is displaying. Right from the day of taking oath as the Bengal CM, Mamata has been behaving like a spoilt kid. Her opposition to almost every other UPA decision is bizzare, she is almost etching to ease out of the coalition. Sadly, she has done nothing worth mentioning as the Chief Minister. All the headlines she has received over the last one year has been because of her lunatic behavior, from calling students as 'Maoists' or pushing PM as the President. In the last 48 hours, she has made a joker out of herself and reduced Dr. Singh to a mere joke. Not only this, she has made Kalam a divisive figure, using his dignified name for her narrow gains. Mamata is in dire need of counseling. And Manmohan deserves a bit of pampering.

Political slug-fest is bound to happen in a multi-party democracy ahead of a crucial election, but the cheap theatrics involved in this drama has devalued the post of India's first citizen. Also, source -based reports of 'bargain', where Samajwadi Party may switch sides in return of a cabinet berth or relief from CBI probe, are appalling. One does not expect consensus on a candidate in the current Indian political situation. In fact a contest is what fuels a healthy democracy, and it is much more acceptable than 'Madam' Sonia simply sending her nominee to the Raisina Hill. But decency and civilized politicking is the least we can expect for, specially at a time when the nation is facing challenges at numerous fronts.

Too many backdoor meetings and deal crackings. Too many jokes and jokers around. Is it time India chose its President directly through people's voting?

Jun 9, 2012

'Shanghai' is Full of Substance

Political thrillers are not easy to film. As a film-maker, you run the risk of treading the predictable path and may find it uneasy to effectively conclude the story. Prakash Jha’s Rajneeti comes to my mind as a recent political thriller that delved into the rather ‘known’ territory and culminated into a typical masala Bollywood entertainer. However, Dibakar Banerjee’s Shanghai is no such run-of-the-mill stuff as it absorbs you slowly but surely into its brilliant narrative. Also, the political bickering and conspiracies aside, the film leaves behind a very lucid and somewhat disturbing image of Modern India and its notions of ‘development’.

Shanghai is the story of Modern City Dreams being sold to a restive small town of Bharatnagar. The ambitious IBP (International Business Park) project has the backing of state’s political elite, right from the Chief Minister to the main coalition party or the ‘Morcha’. Standing in between Bharatnagar and its dream to become Shanghai, is renowned activist Dr. Ahmadi (played by Prosenjit), who is making the locals aware about the ‘reality’ of such development planks where the natives are ultimately the biggest losers. Clearly, Ahmedi becomes too big a thorn for the ruling coalition in the approaching election season and so the politicos decide to get rid of him. A speeding truck runs over Ahmedi, almost mowing him down and what follows next is a series of systematic administrative, bureaucratic and police cover ups to ensure that the incident just looks like another accident.

Abhay Deol plays the forthright, restrained and no non-sense senior IAS officer Krishnan, who is first the vice-chairman of the IBP project but after Ahmadi’s accident heads the govt. appointed enquiry commission to probe the incident. The actor is simply brilliant as a high-rank govt.-loyal, yet righteous IAS officer. He gets into the skin of the character which demands remarkable restrain and poise, as there are practically no give aways through body language and facial expressions. Krishnan works like a robot, is fully dedicated, shows no signs of emotion even in the midst of most tensed situations. Towards the end, Deol’s character shocks you by its sheer wit and resolve and emerges as the main cog in the wheel for the culmination of the entire thriller.

Emraan Hashmi plays Jogi, the local porn filmmaker who likes to call himself a ‘journalist’. If Deol’s character is ice-cold as far as emotions are concerned, Hashmi, perhaps for the first time in his career, rides on the wave of body language and facial expressions to come up with an impressive performance. The kisser boy is replaced by an average looking man with dirty teeth, tanned body and a pouch.  

Kalki Koechlin plays Shalini, the student cum lover of Dr. Ahmadi who bravely fights for justice in a town where everyone seems to be pitted against her and the anti-IBP activists. She emotes perfectly, delivers a very few dialogues and comes across as a very feisty and fearless character.  Film's support cast, specially veteran Farooq Sheikh and Pitobosh Tripathi are complete naturals. Sheikh shows glimpses of his brilliant self towards the climax without delivering any heavy duty dialogue. He just holds a paneer tikka in his hand, and you are impressed!

Yes, Shanghai is a performance-driven film but it also boasts of a very meticulously planned and well-executed narrative. Dibakar Banerjee is director with a difference, almost like that master-chef who knows to cook nearly all the cuisines of the world. 'Khosla ka Ghosla, Oye Lucky Lucky Oye, Love Sex Aur Dhokha and now Shanghai are all very different films albeit with the commonality of 'difference'. You call him torchbearer of Avante Garde or the New Indian Wave or whatever, but Banerjee is definitely wonderfully diverse and sensitive. Here, he adapts Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos's book 'Z' in a very Indianized manner and deals with socio-political issues in Shanghai with brutal sincerity. Importantly, he does not look for a heroic, good-wins-over-evil kind of climax. Like the entire length of film, even Shanghai's climax depicts reality and rationality. Film's background score and camera complement the grim and disturbing mood of the film. Music by Vishal-Shekhar is passable with only 'Bharat Mata Ki' leaving some kind of impact on ears. 

Deceptive pace of story may trouble you, specially in the first hour, and a few may find it difficult to completely understand the proceedings. By intermission, you will start debating in your head- "whether this is mainstream or off-beat cinema?". But I believe this is simply good cinema. 

Shanghai tries to show India the mirror. The balloons of 'pragati' are punctured and a very raw, stinging and nearly naked reality is presented. Watch 'Shanghai' if you are ready to be provoked and surprised in a rather passive manner. It may take a bit of time to sink in but the film will make you think, and appreciate the goodness of cinema. Recommended!

Rating- ***1/2 (Very Good)

Jun 1, 2012

Rowdy Rathore is Unintentionally Hilarious!

We all have waited for Akshay Kumar’s return to the genre that was bread and butter for him in early days of his career. The time was absolutely ripe for him to reinvent himself as an action hero, now that every leading actor had a Ghajini, Dabbang, Singham or Don to his credit. The promos of Rowdy Rathore looked rather promising with plenty of brawn and rowdiness, some scintillating musical score and a petite young leading actress. But alas, after spending two hours and twenty minutes inside the theatre, I could not help but regret the fact that Rowdy Rathore was less of action and more of comedy, and that too, quite sadly, unintentional and accidental.

The first half of the film is extremely lethargic with Akshay Kumar playing Shiva, a thug with a good heart. The emphasis here is mainly on inciting a few laughs, but the success rate in this regard is dismally low. Proceedings pick up only after the real ‘Vikram Rathore’ makes an entry. And from here on till the time director unforgivably decides to do away with feisty Rathore in favor of Shiva, the film enjoys its honeymoon period. Akshay Kumar plays a double role but excels only in the garb of a fearless and gutsy police officer Vikarm Rathore. Though the actor carries the entire film on his broad shoulders, but is somewhat undone by confused direction and wafer thin plot.

 Majority of the film is set in a fictional village of Devgarh, which we are told is a few kilometers away from Patna. But the locales and terrain of the village belie this presumption and even the characters of the village look confused in their attempt to look and behave like Biharis. Post interval, some bad boys break into horrible Bihari accent, only to do away with it whenever and wherever they feel like. All of this confusion does not ‘angry’ you, but makes you laugh, what if sarcastically. It was absolutely fine if logic and reasoning were given a backseat in a supposed all-out action flick, but here the twin pillars of storyline are mercilessly thrown out of the window.

Some of the scenes in the first half, such as the in-built rewind and play buttons in Shiva’s head are somewhat funny, but the very purpose of making this film is somewhat lost because the director invests too much into the romantic track of Akshay and Sonakshi . The pair breaks into unexplainable song and dance sequences in the first half, which reminds you of Jitendra brand of cinema. You get a feeling that there are a few songs too many in the film, but despite the abundance of songs the lead pair lacks the chemistry and verve. Overall, otherwise, the film boasts of reasonably peppy music (Sajid-Wajid) with ‘Chinta ta chita chita’ and ‘Pritam Pyare’ being pick of the lot.(the 3 'item girls' spew venom!)

Prabhudeva is the biggest criminal here. He had all the ingredients of a potential potboiler at his disposal, yet he flounders to handle what can easily be called as the most predictable formula Indian cinema has. The double role opportunity is terribly wasted. I mean, we have seen Akshay wasting himself and being wasted by directors again and again, but here two Akshays have been left underused! It's criminal! There is no swapping of look-alikes anywhere, no thrill, no twist.
The story starts in a reverse narrative mode with Shiva (who is later christened Rowdy by his beloved, for no practical reason) appearing before Rathore. Then story goes in a flashback mode and Rathore is eventually done away with. And predictably, Rowdy steps into the big shoes of Rathore. He brings with him his cheeky sense of humor, visual demonstration and analysis of the 'chinta ta ta' act. Rowdy’s stupidity and the ease with which he takes over Rathore somewhat undermines the otherwise well-sketched character of the later. In the second half, there are fight scenes after every ten minutes, but none of them leave an impression on your mind or set your adrenalin pumping. And not to mention, towards the end Prabhudeva is suddenly reminded that he has a winner one-liner, ‘Faulad ki Aulad’ still in hand. So, Sonakshi Sinha makes sure that she calls Shiva by this name a couple of times. And hold on, the most hilarious aspect is yet to come, which also highlights the director’s failure to tap the potentiality of a double-role. The villains in the film are not aware that Rowdy has taken over from Rathore throughout the unfolding drama. It is only in the closing reels that Sonakshi Sinha again comes to director’s rescue, telling goons in a very nonchalant way-‘ Aur haan yeh Rathore nahin hai, Shiva hai. Mera Shiva.’ Err.

You are not angered or agitated by Rowdy Rathore. You just laugh at the sight of a promised action film turning out to be unintentionally comical. The support actors in the film are absolutely not worth mentioning, specially the main villain, whatever his real name is. Sonakshi Sinha's makes her presence felt only through her creamy waist and elaborate forehead. Her Dabanng act was much more meatier compared to Rowdy Rathore. And Prabhudeva's Wanted looks like a classic in front of this. 

Sad to see that Akshay Kumar is still doing what he should not do. And what explains Sanjay Leela Bhansali producing this film? Perhaps he is hoping to collect a few easy bucks before canvassing his own magnum opus. Yes, you need money to build those extravagant sets.

There is no reason as such to watch this film. But as the IPL is over and the June sun promises to take away your sanity, go and catch Rowdy Rathore in the nearest air-conditioned theatre. Yes, the film is this much tolerable. Only this much.

Rating- ** (Average)

May 28, 2012

IPL-5: The Best Ever?

I believed right from the beginning that IPL-5 would be a roaring success. I had my reasons to think that way, and I am glad that as an ardent cricket lover, my belief in the game has been further boosted by some outstanding displays of batting, bowling and fielding in the last 2 months or so. Eventually, it was consistency and tenacity of the Knight Riders that prevailed over luck and resoluteness of the Chennai Super Kings.

The credit for KKR win mainly goes to Gautam Gambhir who made the right noises throughout the IPL. I loved the way he spoke after every defeat or victory. There was a sense of purpose and a flat honesty in the way he talked, hinting a lot about the kind of character Gautam is. He led from the front, scoring a bulk of runs for his team, and also marshaled his troops brilliantly on the field. He had an ace up his sleeve in the form of Sunil Narine, who remained a mystery bowler throughout the tournament barring the finals. Credit also must be given to young Indian talent of the KKR who got themselves counted every time the situation demanded. From Bisla's whirlwind knock in the finals to Rajat Bhatia'a wily slow medium pace, KKR had some pretty good local talent at their disposal. The franchise owners and the players would be hugely delighted as well as relieved to have finally won the title for the city of Kolkata, which is extremely passionate about sports. And this must be a personal victory of sorts for Shah Rukh Khan, who got in all kinds of trouble in lead up to this big title. To be honest, despite being an ardent SRK fan I too at times got agitated by what I believed was 'extreme involvement' of the actor with the team and the games it played. I always believed that sheer weight and aura of his personality hindered KKR's chances of playing freely and up to their true potential. Khan was always there, in the stands, out there in the field, for every single match. I wondered is it that necessary for a team owner to watch each and every game!

Two reasons that perhaps explain Khan's enthusiasm are- one, he himself has been a sportsperson, and could not help getting involved in the game, and second reason can be the immense passion and energy he brings to everything that he does. But all things said and done, his brawl at the MCA and smoking scandal at Jaipur were surely avoidable incidents. Coming back to cricket, you got to give due credit and respect to CSK for coming so close yet again. Yes, I am a proclaimed CSK hater but the team definitely has the meat to rise up on big occasions. They have had plenty of good fortune coming their way but luck alone can not bring a team this far. But the CSK need to watch out for complacency and arrogance seeping in their ranks. Personally, I did not like Bravo's theatrics every time he took a catch or got a wicket. Ashwin and Vijay also go overboard in their celebrations, and all of this did have a role in eventual denial of what could have a hattrick of titles for Chennai.

My heart goes out to teams like Rajasthan Royals and Kings XI Punjab who played out of their skins to keep this IPL alive and kicking till the very last match of the league stage. RCB's ouster before the play-offs makes me wonder what will this team do once Gayle is out of form or not available for playing! Two years in a row Gayle has been absolutely devastating in his impact, scoring bucket full of runs, but still the RCB has not managed to win the title. This tells us a lot about the team's over-dependency on Gayle and the management really needs to do something about it.

As for Delhi, they were deservedly dumped by CSK in the eliminator! This is a team that has come cropper in crunch games again and again, despite creating havoc in the league stages. Mumbai Indians, on the other hand, were the second most lucky team in the competition after CSK. I think they did not deserve to be in the play-offs, with the kind of patchy performance they put up, specially in the first half of the tournament. But MI would be happy with the eventual results, although they seriously need to find a more 'captain like captain' next season!

And my heart aches every time I think of the torrid time Pune had in this IPL! Despite starting off their campaign pretty well, IPL's newest franchise struggled badly towards the business end of the tournament, losing 8 games in a row! I fail to understand the exact reasons behind this debacle. But a probable answer could be that bigger and better teams like CSK, KKR and MI peak towards the end of the IPL while the underdogs like PWI and RR struggle as the business end approaches. Deccan Chargers were never in contention for the play off berth, but did well by extinguishing the chances of at least two hopeful sides (RR, RCB)!

These two months have been fascinating for every cricket fan! I was specially in awe of some of the fielding heroics near the boundary rope by the likes of Rahane, Botha, Steve Smith and a few others! Add to it the innovation in batting by the likes of de'Villiers and the guile in spin bowling brought on by Sunil Narine, and IPL-5 has contributed immensely to the game of cricket. This edition was easily the most fiercely contested with 7 out of 9 teams in the race for a play-off berth till the last stage of the league matches. Naysayers may sulk and call it all 'fixed' or may brood over that molestation case or SRK brawl, but at the end of the day IPL has yet again proved to be cricket's beloved million dollar baby!

Hoping for a bigger and better 2013!

May 25, 2012

India Needs A President Who Speaks Like Obama

Who is the President of India? I am sure you know this. What role does the President play in Indian democracy? Yes, this is the tricky question. If you go by what a certain Satan Bhagat says, 'President is nothing but a 'freeloader-in-chief'. And a third world country like India can not afford to have a titular head of state.' Really?

Our President is neither all powerful as his American counterpart nor is he/she as politically volatile as the one in our immediate neighborhood. But one must not underestimate the president's role to be mere titular and ceremonial. Indian president is the guardian of the constitution, head of the armed forces and decision maker of the key governmental and non-governmental procedures. From taking a call on amnesty to convicts sentenced to death to using all his/her political and practical wisdom during mad days of government formation, a president is like that eldest member of the family who is responsible for maintaining order in the house. The President carries a lot of diplomatic baggage on his/her shoulders, visiting and receiving foreign heads of states and cementing out those crucial bilateral deals.

Rashtrapati Bhawan Will Have a New Occupant in July

But significance of the President of India goes beyond what is prescribed in the constitution. In these times of omnipresent corruption, prevalent gloom and a sense of defeat, India needs a President who is willing to give the healing touch. A President with stature and profound wisdom can actually help India resurrect its growth story and revive that missing 'feel good factor' amongst the masses. How? Imagine we had a 'pro-active' incumbent President and what joy would he or she have brought by giving a emphatic address to Indians on key issues like say Lokpal Bill. Furthermore, what if the President would have passed a snide remark on the recent petrol price hike by merely stating that he/she is planning to cut down on travel within the country! These small 'gestures' and symbolic statements/ pronouncements would mean a lot to Indians at large. The President does not need to take on the government in power head on to prove that he/she is the 'people's president'. In fact, an Indian President is not empowered enough to take on the might of the central government, but certainly should be brave enough to cause embarrassment, wherever and whenever required.

We have enough netas and babus who follow protocols, and know how to play around the rules to pull their own ends. India needs a President who is willing to come out of that cocoon called Rashtrapati Bhawan. Presidential tenure should not be perceived as a dream retirement plan but rather as a wonderful opportunity to serve the nation, in the truest sense of the word. We know the President is Head of Indian State only in theoretical sense. No one expects the President to literally 'rule' us, but yes His Highness/ Her Highness can definitely try and rule our hearts. Trust me, nothing will hurt an incapable government more than a bold and dutiful President who is ready to ask a few questions every now and then. Could not a President simply summon the Petroleum Minister and ask for an explanation for the Petrol Price Hike? Obviously, the government may or may not agree to what President says or suggests, but at least the country would know that there exists a constitutional authority which is somewhat concerned about nation's plight. 

Sadly, we rarely had such a President. After the Holy Trinity of Rajendra Prasad, Radhakrishnan and Zakir Hussain, only Kalam has managed to touch the nerves of the Indian public. Its high time we had a President who is ready break a few protocols, willing to walk the extra mile and genuinely involved in the matters affecting this country. We need a President who knows how to 'talk' to masses, knows to use those big words and does not need to refer to any written speech on Republic Day. Power of oration is the cornerstone of politics and democracy and India's highest public office certainly deserves to have it.

This reminds me of Barack Obama. In his much-anticipated tenure, he has done little more than giving inspirational fiery speeches to Americans, some of them even moving many to tears. We can not even imagine such an animated incident in India. Yes, the time is ripe to have a President who at least indulges in 'lip-service' to the nation. Time we had a President who revived 'hope' in our hearts and 'inspired' us to collectively work towards bright 'future' of the nation, much on the lines of an Obama.

We need a talking President. A President who speaks likes Obama. There needs to be some balance in the house. Plenty of dumb dolls are already around. (Pun Intended)

(As for Satan Bhagat, he is also a dumb doll, albeit with a difference. He is dumb enough to speak too much, way beyond his intellectual level and way below the levels of the author he claims to impersonate.)

May 9, 2012

Satyamev Jayate: Will Truth Triumph?

I do not want to play the Devil's Advocate. Not at all. I also do not wish to extinguish the 'rays of hope' that have emerged in several peoples' eyes after watching Aamir Khan's much hyped television debut 'Satyamev Jayate'. Hereby, I just intend to debate, discuss and examine the actual prospects of Satyamev Jayate, as a 'path-breaking talk show', and the kinds of challenges it faces in coming weeks.

To be honest, the show took me by surprise to an extent. I did not expect Satyamev Jayate to completely stay away from the 'entertainment angle', given the mad race for TRPs in the TV industry. At the end of the hour long show, my heart was filled with different hues of emotions.

The Positives:

  • It is perhaps for the first time that a celebrity of Aamir Khan's stature has taken up social cause in such a big way. Full points to Khan for venturing into a dangerous category, economics wise. We often complain about our stars not associating themselves with social causes, specially in comparison to gigantic humanitarian and social services rendered by celebrities from the West. So, here is an immensely popular Indian film star choosing to debut on TV through a social-theme based programme rather than a usual game show/ reality show affair.
  • Satyamev Jayate has thankfully revived the Sunday morning primetime slot! Remember the good old days when the streets of big cities and small villages presented an absolute deserted look Sunday after Sunday from 9 am or 10 am onwards. Once the slot of some legendary tele-serials like Mahabharat, Chandrakanta, Ramayana and Sri Krishna, the Sunday morning bracket had suddenly gone off the radar of TV producers. Kudos to the makers of Satyamev Jayate for reviving the potentially 'jackpot' slot. If the show manages to hit a chord with the audience, its timing will have a big role to play in it. Also, not to mention that the decision to air the show simultaneously on DD National also seems to be a very prudent and responsible decision. 'Change' can not be expected in the society without reaching out to maximum number of people.

  • Lets face it. Satyamev Jayate is not a whirlwind 'change' that it is being made out to be. Shows with similar concepts have aired before on various channels from DD National to Satellite networks. Some of the examples include Kiran Bedi's show where she delivered 'justice' in public court kind of setting, debating social evils of different kind, numerous tele-serials on issues such as child marriage, female feticide, gender inequality etc. The only change is that never before a prominent celebrity has taken up such causes through a proper TV programme. And yes, perhaps the earlier shows were also not as well dramatized, sprinkled with emotional spices and backed up by sound research. And this much you definitely expect from someone like Aamir Khan.
  • The major challenge that the show faces is from the second episode onwards. Yes, we all were eagerly waiting for Aamir's TV debut, there was tremendous promotion, internet frenzy et all, but what happens from next week? Will the same number of people sit and watch Satyamev Jayate next Sunday, now that they know what the show is all about. There is not an iota of entertainment involved. And this appears to be a weak link for the show in the hindsight. Is the opulent upper class and the restive middle class ready to swallow plenty of bitter truth, along with its rich and healthy brunch, every Sunday morning? The first episode had the novelty factor, the curiosity quotient. I am pretty sure at least some of the viewers who went gaga over the show last Sunday, and flooded internet with praises for Aamir Khan, will not religiously follow the show next week onwards. And I am not saying this because I had a special 'vision' last night. This assumption or rather fear is based on the very fact that we, the middle class Indians, are experts at shrugging off responsibilities. 'Yes, Aamir is the man! Hats off to him for bringing about this change!'. And the story ends there. Where is the follow up? Where is your contribution? Will not you switch to a Govinda potboiler when the goings become very 'preachy' on Satyamev Jayate? This is my genuine fear.
  • Now lets strictly talk about the merits of the show. Satymev Jayate heavily rides on the star power of Aamir and his strong emotional connect with the audience. He does a remarkable job of 'moving' the viewers, sometimes even coming close to 'overdoing' it. As the show progressed, I had a strong feeling of it being a desi version of Oprah Winfrey Show. But, for me, that is not a problem. In fact, full marks to the show's team for going through the rigors of research and it very well shows during the entire length of programme. What worries me about the show, from now on, is its slight 'predictability'. You and I can very well guess what all 'issues' will be taken up by Aamir in the coming weeks. This fact, along with the general apathy towards social issue based talk shows, may just prove to be a hindrance for Satyamev Jayate in coming weeks.
So, Satyamev Jayate's biggest asset as well as undoing is its audience. The initial euphoria and online frenzy will definitely not satisfy Aamir and other brains behind this show. If their idea is to bring a 'change', they will really need to go beyond TRP ratings, holding impromptu press conferences etc. Perhaps writing a letter or meeting Rajasthan CM is the right way forward. Then, if and only if, Satyamev Jayate is able to 'retain' and 'energize' its core middle class target audience, 'truth will triumph'. Or else, we will just have a praiseworthy or rather 'perfect' TV debut for Aamir Khan, his credentials will go sky high (I have no issues with that), his fan base will further swell, but the real 'change' on ground will never happen.

Apr 23, 2012

At 39, Ganguly Kicks the Clock!

'Turn Back the Clock'- read the giant screen at the Feroz Shah Kotla when Sourav Ganguly hit his trademark six over long off in the PWI Vs DD match a day ago. Perhaps the man controlling the giant screen operations vented out the emotions of millions of cricket lovers across India, who wish to see Sourav shine and stamp his authority. Save Sachin Tendulkar, and Sourav Ganguly is the only Indian cricketer (retired or playing) who receives a rousing welcome from the crowd anywhere he goes to play in India. Whether it is his animated captaincy on the ground, a desperate fielding effort or a lethargic pull over the in-field, the crowd goes gaga over Dada, forgetting its team loyalties. Some fools, disguising themselves in the garb of 'experts', often confuse Ganguly to be a 'regional' icon, someone who owes most of his popularity to Bengal and Eastern India. This prejudice was on display in a KXIP Vs PWI match, where the broadcasting channel ran a small little poll, asking viewers to vote for whom they consider to be a better captain- Ganguly or Gilly? When 67% of the voters voted in favor of Ganguly, one such fool cum expert shamelessly said that votes must be hailing from a 'certain region of India'. But now, after his Man of the Match winning effort in Delhi, the same experts use phrases like- 'Its so good to see him perform like this!', 'Respect is the word that comes to my mind when I see Dada perform like this.' and 'Once a Champion always a champion!' These bunch of idiots must quickly realize that Sourav Ganguly is a national icon, who has touched the nerves of millions of Indians over the years. He is the epitome of aggression, tenacity and relentlessness. Someone who has proven his detractors wrong again and again, and scripted fairytales of various hues for the folklore of cricket.

So what has changed overnight? Has Ganguly suddenly become a player of old times, when the ball would merely kiss his willow and race towards the boundary like a falling comet, when his gentle medium pacers would irritate and frustrate worthy batsmen from across the world? No, not exactly. These experts are nothing but aged maniacs who thrive on a potent mix of opportunism and astrology. At the start of a game or a tournament, they indulge in confident blabbering about which team has got the best chances and which team has absolutely no hope. When these predictions fall flat on the ground, they quickly shift their focus to the opportune moment and praise the unlikely hero or the underdogs.

But Indian cricket lovers, fans of Sourav Ganguly and even his staunchest of critics realize that the performance at Kotla was not just out of the blue. Yes, Sourav is now well past his prime, the silken cover drives have dried up, him dancing down the pitch against a left arm spinner is no more a guarantee for DLF maximum, but still the man refuses to get bogged down. Age catches up with every living object and Sourav is no different. And let's also remember that he is not as 'supremely gifted' as say a Sachin Tendulkar. His abilities and batting skills may have corroded, but the fire and desire to succeed at the highest level remains firmly intact. It is this tenacity and resoluteness of Ganguly's character that Indian cricket lovers are well aware of. Hence, Kotla heroics came as no surprise for those who have know and followed Sourav over the years. Yes, it was a sort of 'relief' for his die-hard fans, me included, but all of them knew that it was coming, sooner or later.

Ganguly is a special player because he has always risen from the ashes, he has stared in the face of adversity every time the going gets tough. He never says never, wins half of the battle through his mind. You would have seen this happening every time he walked out to bat in IPL-5. It is evident that he is struggling to get runs, but no one can take away the credit from him for trying relentlessly. He is ready to pull, even though it was never his strength, he is sweeping like never before and is also not afraid of playing the Dil-scoop! Against Daredevils, he took the ball in his hands when all his bowlers failed to stop rampaging duo of Sehwag and KP. That's Ganguly's hallmark, he is never shy when it comes to facing the heat or leading from the front. Once he was into that magical spell of 2-27 from 4 overs, his on-field captaincy improved by leaps and bounds. Ganguly, the tiger was back, weaving a web of discomfort and doubt around the Delhi batsmen. Not to mention that camera-frenzy moment when he sprinted across the dimensions of Kotla to celebrated the fall of Kevin Pietersen. That jubilation, fist clenched and raised up in the air and hair going all over the place, will go down in the history of IPL as one of the most defining moments.

Ganguly is a classic example of triumph of strong willpower over diminishing abilities. At this age, he could have easily chosen commentary over cricket or administrative power over passion, but he continues to astonish the cricketing world with his undying passion. His legs may have become slower, but his mind is still ticking, way better than some of the so-called young guns. And until Ganguly's mind continues to a kick a few butts and race against the natural progression of clock and time, expect him to be a potent force, both as a leader and a player. He does not promise to win the IPL for the Warriors, he does not promise or even remotely intend to match Gayle's batting heroics, but he also does not plan to bow down without a fierce fight.

P.S.- The Sourav Fairytale is Yet to Reach its Conclusion.

Apr 22, 2012

Vicky Donor is a 'fantastic sperm'

The first quarter of 2012 has been fantastic for the Hindi film Industry. We have witnessed small but significant films like Kahaani and Paan Singh Tomar make their mark at the box office, and there have been a couple of massive blockbusters in form of Agneepath and Houseful 2. Amidst all the hue and cry about that coveted 100 crore club and star power, the audiences have consistently rewarded smaller films that come up with novel and interesting stories. Director Shoojit Sircar's 'Vicky Donor' is another such small film albeit with a big heart.

Vicky Donor's biggest plus point is a unique and 'never been touched before' kind of subject. The issue of sperm donation is still a taboo in Indian society and the masses at large have little knowledge about the same. Shoojit Sircar's film successfully deals with this sensitive subject in a very humorous as well as educative manner. So at the end of the film, you not only come out with your funny bone tickled, but also with your mind illuminated.

The story of the film revolves around the protagonist Vicky Arora (Ayushmann Khurana), who is a quintessential young Delhi boy. Yet to find a suitable job for himself, he lives life as it comes. The Arora family comprises Vicky's Punjabi mother Dolly (Dolly Ahluwalia) and grandmother (Kamlesh Gill). While the former often nags Vicky about job and life in general, the later always backs the young boy. On the other hand there is Dr. Chaddha (Annu Kapoor), a fertility expert, who is frantically looking for a sperm donor for his rich clientele and addresses human beings as 'sperms', like 'confused sperm, complicated sperm'. His eyes are set on Vicky, in whom he sees the perfect 'Arya Putra', an excellent reservoir of finest quality sperm. Ashima Roy (Yami Gautam) is Vicky's love interest, who discovers her beloved's 'Donor' realty quite late.

There is plenty of quirky Punjabi humor throughout the film, specially the first half. Some scenes, like one where Vicky's mother and grandmother bond over late night drink, are madly comical. Dialogues are top notch with granny cracking you up with outstanding one-liners. The film takes a different turn post interval with less emphasis on humor and more mileage being given to the core 'issue'. There are subtle subplots of complex and beautiful human emotions and relationships, like the bond between Vicky and his mother, his mother and grandmother, Vicky and Ashima and not to forget Vicky and Dr. Chaddha. Here, I would ike to mention a solitary scene from the film where Vicky comes back to his home late at night to find his mother sleeping in his room. The hardly 3-minute sequence beautifully depicts the mother-son love, and stands out as the emotional high point of the film.

Ayushmann Khurana as Vicky comes across as a complete natural. He gets into the skin of Punjabi boy character and charms you all the way through with his impeccable comic timing. Not to mention, he looks dashing on-screen, justifying in every sense the title of 'Arya Putra' being bestowed upon him. Annu Kapoor as Dr. Chadha is terrific. He is funny, maniacal and a total Dilli da doctor. Seeing his remarkable performance, you tend to wonder why dont we see him more often on the celluloid. Yami Gautam as Ashima looks yummy and charming! She beautifully underplays her character, letting the surrounding Punjabi folk take the center stage. Apart from these three main leads, Vicky Donor boasts of an enviable support cast that delivers a cracking performance. Dolly Ahluwalia as Vicky's mother is sufficiently over the top and reasonably gentle. The showstopper, however, is the veteran Kamlesh Gill playing Vicky's granny, who makes you laugh more than any other cast of the film.  

Director Shoojit Sircar (and scriptwriter Juhi Chaturvedi) deserve applause for conceiving and executing a subject oriented film. Debutante producer John Abraham also deserves some brownie points for backing a project like this and walking an untrodden path. The film also boasts of soulful music with 'Paani Da Rang' being the pick of the lot.However, editing leaves a little to be desired with a scope for 15-20 minutes trimming of film's length. Also, film loses pace in middle portions when humor seems to be making room for few emotions.  

But all said and done, you need special sperms (read people) to make a film like Vicky Donor. It is a brave, humorous and educative film that does not get preachy even for a second. Humor here is mostly subtle sans all the possible awkwardness, given the kind of topic in hand.  

Watch Vicky Donor to get rid of a few stereotypes and have a sperm count of laughs! (read a million laughs)

Rating- ***1/2 (Very Good)

P.S. - By now you know that title of the review intended to say- 'Vicky Donor is a fantastic film.'

Apr 13, 2012


I can see a bit of future
And sip a cup of tea
Low waves and high tides
In that deep blue sea

Glimpses of the world above
And abundance of the earth
They look so perfect and plenty
There is no denial no dearth

I can see myself in mirror
For as long as I want
Shy away in admiration
Or impenitently flaunt

At times I lose my way
Sans all the verve and zeal
Decrepit but turns null and void
Cometh the touch of heal

Like a striking maiden
With a mask on her face
Like moon in a rainy night
And the clouds as its lace

They are epitome of life
Full of splendor and grace
For I can kill and get killed
If that may be the case

My heart resides within
Those starry streaks of hope
Call me a sinner or little insane
But your eyes are my Bioscope

Apr 6, 2012

Never Write Sourav Ganguly Off

When Pune Warriors take on the Mumbai Indians today, it will be a battle of David and Goliath. Not many would back the depleted Pune side led by Sourav Ganguly to upset the mighty Mumbai Indians, who spanked the reigning IPL champions Chennai Super Kings by 8 wickets in this season's opening game. There also seems to be a lot of negativity and lack of buzz surrounding the Pune Warriors. And there are some valid reasons for it. The Sahara franchise has been in the news this year for all the wrong reasons, almost not playing this season of the IPL. In 2011, they finished second last after flattering to deceive in first couple of matches. So, why have expectations from a side that has not done well to its reputation? Not really. Because, one man in that team has it in him to change the fortunes of his side drastically.

In a pre-tournament analysis of all the sides, I heard Sanjay Manjrekar saying that handing over the reigns of PWI to Sourav Ganguly 'makes no cricketing logic.' I wonder why he and other cynical experts love to loathe Ganguly. Same things were said when Ganguly was included in the side for South African tour of 2006. When he was dropped from the side earlier, these cynics rejoiced. But Sourav shut their mouths up by making a mother of all comebacks in 2006, and going on to play on the top of his game for the next 2 years. Why the likes of Manjrekar find no fault in a 41-year old Gilchrist leading the Kings XI Punjab. IPL is the only form of cricket that Gilchrist plays every year, not even bothering to participate in his country's domestic T20 bash. Yet, he remains the holy cow while Ganguly emerges as the favorite scapegoat.

Sourav has been training hard for four months now, playing in the domestic circuit, and in the process leading Bengal to its maiden Vijay Hazare trophy win. He is a born leader, who can walk into a side solely on his superlative captaincy skills. His batting, still, is better than many of those who are being paid millions of dollars in the IPL. There is no reason why Sourav Ganguly can not do to Pune, what Warne did to Rajasthan. In fact, he has a much better side at his disposal with the likes of Tamim Iqbal, Clarke, Jesse Ryder, Marlon Samuels, Robin Utthappa, Luke Wright and Rahul Sharma in the ranks.

But its not the team which makes Ganguly a formidable force. It's he himself, the never ending fairytale, which makes 'Dada' rise like a phoenix every time he is written off completely. He is very excited about this year's IPL and has been given a free hand by the team owners. At the ripe age of 39, he still has the same self-belief, aggression and passion for the game. Let's get it right- Sourav ganguly has nothing to prove anymore. He could have easily sat in the commentary box, sharing a few laughs with Shashtri or that stupid man Manjrekar. It is only the passion for the game of cricket, which is still driving Sourav Ganguly. Albeit on a high, he retired a bit pre-maturely in 2008. IPL gives him a chance to give back to the game and to the people who still have faith in him.

I am not expecting the moon from Sourav Ganguly and Pune Warriors this year. But rest assured, it will not be a meek surrender either. Sourav will play hard, play for his pride and inspire some good performances from the youngsters. He may not be the same batsman anymore, but he remains the same motivational leader, a fierce competitor and a dedicated student of the game. Cynics have come and gone while Sourav has quietly scripted some most unimaginative successes in his glorious cricketing career. And perhaps it is this never say never attitude, which makes Sourav Ganguly an ageless wonder.

I will not get into prediction business, as far as Pune's fortunes in this IPL is concerned. But I can firmly say that Sourav Ganguly will be the man who will ensure that Pune end this IPL with their heads held high. Trust me when I say this, (and you should certainly not trust someone like Sanjay Manjrekar)- Never Write Sourav Ganguly Off.

Apr 4, 2012

5 Reasons Why IPL-5 Will Be a Success

So, its that time of the year again! India's annual summer cricket and entertainment bonanza is here. IPL-5 faces some real credibility issues with its previous edition being lackluster and uninspiring to say the least. But the last edition's low makes me believe that IPL, this year, can only zoom upwards. Forget about the not-so-good opening ceremony (I liked it anyway), the controversies just ahead of the league and other flip-flops, I have my own reasons to believe (and hopefully make you believe) that IPL-5 should be a success story. Here are the 5 reasons:

1. No World Cup Hangover- Its been exactly an year since we won the Cup of Joy. Since then, lot of water has passed under the dam of Indian cricket. We have taken the law of gravity way too seriously, diving towards the ground very quickly quickly after reaching that peak on April 2, 2011. The cricket fans badly need a reason to rejoice and jump up in excitement. Trouncing in England and Australia has taken the sheen off Indian cricket. IPL could well be that balm which will sooth the nerves of distressed spectators. Last year's IPL suffered heavily because the fans were yet to get out of the World Cup euphoria. They were not able to digest a Sachin taking on Dhoni, days after they together danced with that coveted trophy. There was also the 'fatigue' factor and that natural phenomenon of 'low' after achieving a remarkable high.

2. Icons Will Strike Back- Sachin stepping down from Mumbai Indians' captaincy is the last cog in the wheel. Fans should expect all their 'icon players' to shine in IPL this year and I am not saying it just like that. Sachin is free from the burden of his 100th 100 and stepping down from captaincy will only make him lighter. With speculations rife about whether or not the Little Master is now truly well past his prime, I am sure Sachin would let his batting do the talking. Expect a free, fearless and 'enjoying his game' kind of performance from the great man this season. Same goes with Rahul Dravid, another icon player who will take the IPL plunge just for the sheer love of the game. Sehwag, with abundant negativity surrounding him, will also be keen on proving a few points. Ganguly, that never-ending fairytale of India cricket, is excited like a teenager for the IPL. With the Pune franchise giving him free hand, and an exciting pool of players at his disposal, he and his team are my dark horses for this season. And last but not the least, MS Dhoni will also take up IPL as a nice little spa session. With plenty of criticism coming his way in the last one year, Dhoni would like to unwind and relax by playing a few helicopter shots.

3. Fresh Looking Teams, Better Format- There were too many matches in the last season. IPL-5 looks in better shape with one team less and fewer matches. Also, the fresh trading of players has added an element of novelty to the teams, with their core remaining intact. Although, I believe that it should be the last time when open auctions occurred in IPL. The fans must be allowed to develop that emotional connect with their players and the team because that's the epitome of city-based sports league. Too much of shuffle, chopping and changing is not desired.

4. Lesser Controversies/Negativity- Lalit Modi is out of the picture and his shadows are not that long anymore. The shady Kochi franchise is also out of the league and the financial dirt and mud has also settled down. This year's IPL can only look forward after hitting a roadblock last time around. Barring the Sahara fiasco, IPL this year has managed to keep its slate clean. Somehow I feel that relatively low hype and hysteria would help IPL 'build' its own credibility. If cricketers click (which they will), IPL will be back on track.

5. IPL Remains a Legitimate Sporting Product- At the end of the day, it is all about quality of cricket on display. From a little know Paul Valthaty to an ageless wonder like Warne, IPL has been the garden of floral magnificence of all kind. And with new exciting talents like Tamim Iqbal, veterans like Ganguly and Dravid, and other domestic/international players all set to sizzle, IPL assures you of high quality cricket, if not anything else.

With first two days showcasing top four teams of last year, I expect the IPL-5 to hit the right notes from Day 1. The icing on the cake would be if the underdogs like Pune and Kings XI manage to get a good start this season. IPL must live up to its core promise of being unpredictable and exciting. And a good week or so of exciting cricket will be reason enough for estranged IPL lovers to jump back on to the bandwagon.

I am On. Are you?