Jan 28, 2012

'Agneepath' is doused fire!

First things first! I believe every film deserves to be evaluated in its own light. Even remakes and sequels should be 'complete', unique and well rounded themselves. Too much of nostalgia can do injustice to the makers of the film in question. Hence, here I will not compare director Karan Malhotra's Agneepath (2012) with Mukul Anand's Agneepath (1990). Also, the film in question here is way too different from its predecessor with only 'Mandwa, Kancha, Vijay' and the underlying theme of revenge being the connecting links.

In fact, if I act rude and blunt, the 2012 remake has very few things worth comparing to the original cult classic. But, the fact that Karan Malhotra's film has very few merits of its own, makes the viewing experience more disappointing and the prospects of comparison meaningless. Agneepath is a tragically long film that forces you into the sleep mode post interval. However, it is the acting bravado of three male leads- Hrithik Roshan (as Vijay Chauhan), Sanjay Dutt (as Kancha Cheena) and Rishi Kapoor (as Rauf Lala) that saves the film from being an utter disappointment.

The story line of the film revolves around Vijay Chauhan's quest to seek revenge from Kancha who killed his righteous school-master father. In his bid to topple Kancha's empire in Mandva village, Vijay takes shelter at the doorsteps of cunning Rauf Lala. Later on, Vijay checkmates Lala and his gang, and launches a final assault at Kancha's fortress. Not to forget, the three women who impact Vijay's life- his love interest Kaali (Priyanka Chopra), a jolly Marathi slum girl who runs a 'Chinese beauty parlour', his mother played by Zarina Wahab and his sister Siksha played by Kanika Tiwari.

The length of the film (more than three hours) is its biggest undoing. While the film starts on a very promising note with first half hour being enthralling, the subsequent reels start to bore you. To be fair to director Malhotra, the film does pack a few punches till interval, but fails to ignite much fire later on. Hrithik's much-anticipated homecoming to Mandwa in the second half is surprisingly lacklustre and fails to ignite emotion in the viewer. In fact, there are many scenes in the film that fail to register a strong emotional impact despite their supposed high melodramatic scope. The scene where Vijay's mother invites him for dinner fails to make an impact with only Hrithik's food binging with left hand leaving a bit of mark on memory and heart.

Hrithik's chemistry with both his mother and beloved lacks substance. Shiksha, his sister, gets undue importance throughout the film without impressing too much. Priyanka Chopra gets very little scope throughout the film, however she plays her part pretty well. The child actor (Arish Bhinwandiwala) playing young Vijay Chauhan is terrific. Om Puri gets too much importance in the role of Commissioner Gaitonde. He looks very tired and out of place, hardly the kind of cop a menacing Kancha or a cunning Lala would fear.

Hrithik Roshan deserves credit for being 'himself' as Vijay Dinanath Chauhan. He does not get carried away by the sheer weight of Big B's iconic portrayal of Vijay in 1990. He brings his own poise, style and signature to the lead character. The marked difference in the way Hrithik approaches Vijay's character is well displayed by the fact that he is not always grumpy like Big B of Old Agneepath. Sanjay Dutt as Kancha looks deadly and fearsome. This act will surely flood him with offers of negative roles, all over again. Rishi Kapoor is refreshingly in command of a negative character that has shades of white. He looks sufficiently shrewd and cunning as Rauf Lala.

To put it metaphorically, director Karan Malhotra makes a mess of the delicious food platter on offer. He seems confused about the volume of significance he should have attached to various characters. Hrithik's wedding to Priyanka towards the end is pointless as far as the progession of the story goes. The sequence seemed to be a deliberate attempt to get rid of Priyanka's character. The final showdown between Kancha and Vijay lacks the ultimate fervor and punch. Hrithik is beaten black and blue by Dutt only to miraculously rise while casting a ghostly look towards the Banyan tree. And yes, there is this running commentary on 'Dharma-Karma' from Kancha and also some moments when Vijay and his father together recite 'agneepath' verse! Hmmph, all of this is very irritating!

The film boasts of good background music. In fact, it is the high point of the film along with the music (Ajay Atul). 'Chikni Chameli' (Katrina sizzles!), the Ganesha song and the Qawali number leave you spellbound. You feel happy looking at the screen. The overall production value (including cinematography) seems very rich and glossy, with impressive sets, specially the somewhat 'haunted' Mandva village.

All in all, the film lacks the captivating screenplay, emotional connect and most importantly a good decent editor! I will go with Two and Half Stars (**1/2- average) and a 'scissor' for director Karan Malhotra's Agneepath. It is a 'bloody' long revenge saga that demands extraordinary patience from the viewer!

P.S.- This film review is a tribute to noted film critic Nikhat Kazmi, who passed away on Jan 21.

Jan 17, 2012


Kissing the sun in a clear blue sky
Was an experience unmatched, I thought
Riding the wings of a flying bird
And the euphoric sense it brought

High and mighty, I covered miles
Bathing in the scoffing rains
Jittery wind hummed victory songs
As I crisscrossed the celestial lanes

The world below seemed so measly
As I ruffled my feathers of pride
Flying high on the wave of success
Forgot to take the string in stride

A forceful surge is all it took
For the string to tremble and break
Nosediving to kiss the earthen lips
I resembled a shambling wreck

High of highs and thrill of peak
At best last some days and nights
But to sail in air and avoid a fall
We need to learn from Kites

Jan 9, 2012

Virat's Middle Finger: Message for us

I, like any other cricket fan, was very excited for the 'Agneepath Series'. The grand cricket stadiums, be it in Sydney, Melbourne or Adelaide, the green grass shying under the sunny sky, the enthusiastic crowd and of course the sheer 'quality' of cricket on display. The mere visualization of these images was very thrilling.

However, two weeks since the first ball of the Boxing Day Test was bowled, we all know the picture has changed dramatically. Aussies have steamrolled the higher-ranked Indian side with utter disdain and a complete whitewash looks pretty much unavoidable. The ease with which this supposed 'weak' Australian side has beaten India in all the forms of the game, is very alarming. So, where does the blame lie? Who is responsible for the massacre Down Under?

Yes, here lies the problem. You can not and you should not blame the Indian bowling. Bowlers were never expected to create havoc at first place. In fact, barring the run riot in the batting paradise called Sydney, Indian bowlers, especially the seamers, have done a decent job on the tour so far. Umesh Yadav looks brilliant, Zaheer is erratic but efficient, Ishant is giving in everything and Ashwin is not the first spinner in history who has failed in Australia. Also, one should not forget that the likes of Clarke, Ponting and Hussey have hit form just when it mattered. And these players have always loved to perform against important teams, on big occasions. Sometimes, you should also acknowledge opposition's strengths rather than just sulking over your weaknesses.

Next up, let's talk about the captain cool. Dhoni, now has lost 6 overseas Tests in a row. A pathetic record for the twice World Cup winning captain, who also helped India top ICC Test rankings. But again, it will be too harsh to hunt his head down for these defeats. Does India have an alternative? Sehwag is too old and unimaginative to be made the Test Captain. Sachin wont walk down the fiery lane. Selectors will not think of giving the mantle to Dravid. The only 'established' young player in the side, Ganbhir, is still trying to establish himself!

Now, the final and the most probable suspects, the batsmen. Yes, Indian batting needs to owe up the responsibility. Bulk of the blame should go to Sehwag, Laxman, Dravid, Gambhir, Dhoni, Kohli and even Sachin for failing to fire individually as well as in unison. Sehwag looks very lethargic and his hand-eye co-ordination has deteriorated. I am almost confident that this is his last tour down under. Gambhir has some serious technical shortcomings, but he deserves praise for digging it out at SCG. Dravid has miraculously created a 'gate' between his bat and the legs. He is also looking very scratchy, unlike his fluent demeanor during the English tour. Laxman is in horrible form, he was lucky to score that fifty at SCG. It is clear, Laxman is well past his prime. Kohli must be learning a few lessons in batting on this tour. While his poor outing is sure to teach him a lesson, Indian prospects are taking a beating in the process. Dhoni hardly looks a test batsman. In fact, his overall batting prowess comes cropper once he steps out of Indian soil. His wicket-keeping has been brilliant on this tour, but he does not deserve a place in the side on the merit of his batting.

And finally, let's talk about the master. Sachin looks the best Indian batsman by a long distance. But it is amazing how the greatest batsman of the world gets affected when he reaches that remarkable milestone. Let's face it, we all have been seeing it! Sachin Tendulkar does get very cautious and tentative as soon as he reaches the late 70s. His eloquence vanishes, boundaries dry up and a thick shell is created all around him. Tendulkar is most vulnerable (in Test cricket) when he plays for time. And he has been doing so throughout this tour. Whether it is for any approaching break (lunch, tea, stumps) or that coveted milestone. Believe it or not, Sachin's 100th 100 has become a huge psychological bogey both for him and the team.

But all said and done, we can not make too many changes in the batting. There are no openers other than Viru and Gambhir. Dravid, even with that 'gate', is the best bet at no. 3. Sachin is Sachin. You may think of scalping VVS' head, but do not forget that he has done too many good things in Australia, and against Australia. Moreover, you can not risk playing two absolute youngsters at no. 5 and 6 (Rohit and Virat). What if they fail? Will you drop them as well? Let's not throw these talented batsmen in fire straightaway. And Dhoni of course will continue to be number 7 till he is the captain of the Test side. So, the only possible, and actually needless, change is bringing in Rohit Sharma in place of Virat Kohli. How does it matter? 

So, a team that has lost 6 overseas test matches in a row, can only afford to make one or at most two changes in the playing XI. This is the biggest problem. We have no option but to silently wait for the inevitable. With his middle finger, Virat, unintentionally, has sent a very lucid message back here in India.

Jan 7, 2012

Osama, Anna & the World Cup- News Events 2011

News is a subjective term. Journalists, communicators and sociologists have tried to define and interpret the term 'news' in their own ways. Despite the variance in the overall perception and definition, few characteristics remain universal in the term that has become so common in our daily lives. So, news is something that affects us directly, influences our thoughts/opinions and has certain 'proximity' and 'relativity' with us, the consumers of news.

2011 was a remarkable year in terms of news making and breaking. World, especially the Middle East, witnessed an unprecedented wave of protests against autocratic regimes, US killed the man who brought the Twin Tower down and our own Men in Blue won the Cricket World Cup at the home soil. All of this and much more shaped India's and the world's fortunes in 2011. With the new year already in full swing, its time to reflect upon 10 News Events that affected me, you and all of us the most in the year 2011-

1. Tere Bin Laden- He lived near one of the safest places in Pakistan, contrary to the popular belief that he must be hiding in caves and mountains of Afghanistan. After tracking his movements for several years, Uncle Sam finally struck, killing the World's Most Wanted Terrorist, right under the nose of an embarrassed and humiliated Pakistan. SEALs became a term synonymous with courage and US finally had something to cheer about in its War on Terror. And what about Pakistan? We all have been knowing and saying that. They are the ultimate bastards turned jokers. (Click here to read more on Laden)

2. I was alive when India Won the World Cup!- Exactly a month before Laden's killing, this dream drama unfolded at Mumbai's Wankhade Stadium. Dhoni hit the ball for a six to add that final jewel in Sachin's crown. Tears of joy, celebratory hugs, beer mugs, mad shouting- all of this followed after that memorable finale, both among the players and the fans. I had my share of fun at the India Gate. :) (Click here to read more)

3. I am Anna! to Who is Anna?- Anna Hazare, a 70-something Gandhian rose to national and global limelight for demanding a 'Strong JanLokapl' and leading an unprecedented mass protest against corruption. The sleepy middle class of India came out of its slumber and showed rare solidarity with Hazare's noble cause . Soon, metros and small cities across India were filled with angry protesters wearing 'I am Anna' caps. The UPA government buckled under pressure on few occasions, only to resume its cat and mouse game later on. After a long drawn slug fest with the government and his own over ambitiousness as well as stubborn attitude, Anna Hazare finally lost the plot towards the fag end of 2011. The anti-corruption movement as well as ailing Gandhian, now, look set to vanish in oblivion. (Read more on Anna Hazare)

4. A world of free Muslims- As most legends and romantic fables would have it, the story started when a vegetable seller set himself on fire in tiny Arab nation called Tunisia. He was not happy with autocratic president and his goons, who took away his livelihood. His sacrifice paved way for the JASMINE REVOLUTION. A first of its kind in Muslim world, at least in the recent memory. The flames of revolution reached Egypt, Yemen, Bahrain, Libya and Syria. It still threatens to engulf other Gulf nations, the iconic Monarchy of Saudi Arabia included in the list. Quite satisfactorily, social networking played a very crucial role in the build up. And we thought, Muslims only create groups on facebook to banish India, Israel, US and that Danish cartoonist. (Read more on Arab Spring)

5. End of Tyranny or the Beginning?- Rebels and the NATO forces finally hunted down Colonel Gadaffi  ending more than 4 decades of dictatorship in Libya. . He was severely beaten up, abused and finally shot in head. But the question is who gave the NATO and the US the right to kill Gadaffi? And who will care for human rights violations? Did not Gadaffi deserve a better treatment?

6. Price Rise/ Inflation- Petrol and Sachin got in an amazing duel in 2011. Who will first reach the 100 mark? However by now, we know that none of them have actually touched the coveted milestone. On a serious note, the Aam Admi suffered heavily due to rising food and petrol prices throughout the year. Government played hide and seek  by raising and lowering the petrol price as per its convenience. And of course, we know that the government has decontrolled the petrol prices and it does not have any say in fluctuation of rates. Yawn.

7. Bengal Tigress Conquers the Red Fort- No, no. I am not saying this literally. I am talking of Mamata Banerjee's historic assembly election victory in West Bengal. Didi's Trinamool-Congress Alliance drove the CPM-led Left Front out of Bengal, by securing a thumping two-third majority in the state assembly. Left's 34-year relentless rule finally ended, thanks to Banerjee's doggedness and never say never attitude. (Click here to read more on Bengal)

8. Japan Earthquake-Nuclear Disaster- World watched in utter horror as a devastating earthquake hit Japan triggering Tsunami. The quake was worst of its kind in Japan and one of the 5 most powerful earthquakes in recorded human history. Thousands of people were killed and millions were rendered homeless in this horrific natural disaster. Nuclear accidents further aggravated the situation, bringing back memories of troubled Japanese past. Many could not help but wonder is this the beginning of the end of this world?

9. Eurozone crisis-Indian bubble burst?- In 2011, European economy crumbled like a pack of cards. Greece was brought down to its knees, so were other EU giants including the UK and Italy. Back home, Indian economy also slowed down due to a dismal industrial growth and lack of reforms (FDI fiasco). Indian rupee fell sharply compared to the US dollar and the Sensex plummeted downwards. All of these developments sparked speculations about the Great Indian Story coming to an end.

10. Ra.One in your face!- Yes, Shah Rukh Khan's ambitious superhero flick Ra.One broke all the precedents by embarking on a never seen before promotional trail. Nearly two dozen brand tie-ups, 9 month promotional campaign on TV and Internet, add to it an energetic but frail King Khan hopping from city to city. Easily the most talked about and publicized Hindi film in recent memory, Ra.One went on to break some records at the Box-Office. The film set new record for highest ever collection in a single day (Rs. 25 Crore), Highest collection on Diwali day (Rs. 15 Crores approx) and highest opening weekend collection. The film received mixed reviews and garnered sharply divided opinions from the audience. (Read more on Ra.One)

I know it is very difficult to define what is important and what is not. The level of difficulty goes up b a few notches in case of 'news'. With so much happening each and every day, in all parts of the world and in all spheres of the life, it is almost impossible to keep track of everything that qualifies as news. Here, I have tried to list out all top news events not just from India but from world over/ The challenge was zero down on a few events from a sea of information. Also, let me clarify that the order of the news events does not matter, India winning World Cup may be top on your list or come further down. But I am sure, all these 10 news events must have affected you in some way or the other.

Let us hope for similarly eventful but a happier 2012!