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)