Nov 28, 2015

Tamasha Movie Review: Imtiaz Ali’s Mera Naam Joker Moment

If you flip through filmography of accomplished directors, you will find at least one film that goes on to become a symbol of their pedigree. ‘That one film’ may not necessarily be the directors’ most accomplished work or a roaring commercial success, yet it beams with the faith, idea and conviction of its creator.
Imtiaz Ali seems to have invested that kind of energy into Tamasha. The film is Ali’s most complex, ambitious and audacious take on emotions – be it his pet theme of love (Jab We Met and Love Aaj Kal) or his relatively recent fascination with identities and personality traits (Rockstar and Highway). Tamasha is resplendent with sumptuous and powerful designs, but sadly it is dragged down by its inconsistent and indulgent treatment.
Destiny conspires to make Ved (Ranbir Kapoor) meet Tara (Deepika Padukone) in the picturesque island of Corsica where the two decide not to divulge their real identities in order to make the most of the moment. They hit it off instantly doing crazy gigs and crisscrossing mighty mountains, leafy forests and clear, blue waters. The fairy tale ends within a week when Tara comes back to India leaving behind much more than her heart at Ved’s disposal. 4 years later, she meets the ‘real’ Ved in Delhi – a regular corporate retard in his impeccable tie and suit. Their attempts to reunite fail as Ved battles to overcome his inner demons and struggles to script his own story.
The film’s first hour is surprisingly wasted and annoyingly drifty where two of the most talented actors of our times are stationed in the picturesque island of Corsica and left to do sweet nothings. While you relish the stunning landscape and marvel at the lead pair’s sparkling chemistry, the stretched ‘Tamasha’ and the callous screenplay put you off. Things change for good from the second hour, when we get to know the real Ved, his inner conflicts and Tara’s late realization of what she just let go off.
Themes and Motifs:
Tamasha makes a fierce attempt to deal with the notions of chasing your dreams, scripting your own story, and how true love can help you achieve all of this. It tries hard to be that vehicle of inspiration, that ray of hope for millions of young and restless people who take up regular, conventional jobs and compromise with their inner calling. But, the means to drive home this message is thoroughly sketchy and even absolutely random at times. There are occasions when the film seems to be going in circles and the director needlessly convolutes simpler messages.
Imtiaz Ali chooses the interesting backdrop of a drama (Tamasha) and tries to examine emotions through the prism of a stage play. Like a typical play, the film is divided into ‘acts’ and things actually go on pretty smooth till here. The complexity level of the narrative goes quite a few notches up as Imtiaz invests a tad too much into flashbacks and tries a bit too hard to connect us to Ved’s childhood. Yes, we get that the bachpan connection is critical to our hero’s overall evolution in the film, but this connection seems too larger than life at times. So does the occasional self-indulgent sojourn of the film where pointed emphasis is laid at a parallel play, stories of famous lovers (including mythological Ram and Sita), clowns and stage-like camera and lighting.
The film also comfortably leaves behind some loose ends , which if tightened, would have given more meat to the screenplay. What were Ved and Tara doing in Corsica? How come ‘role play’ bit of Ved’s personality never manifested itself after he met Tara in India? Also, enough light is not thrown on Ved’s and Tara’s unusual behavior, specially Ved’s, whose antics go beyond the realm of role play and infringe in the territory of psychology.
Despite its inconsistent screenplay, Tamasha manages to sail through because of the riveting performances by its lead actors. It is such a relief and an absolute joy to see Ranbir Kapoor return to form. Wait, he just does not come back to form, he is in fact at the top of his game by literally owning every single frame that he is a part of. The actor comes up with a beautifully restrained and a deliciously nuanced performance that will easily go down as one of his best.
Ranbir’s Ved is tragic, funny, romantic, goofy, vulnerable, exciting – all at the same time. I also believe that actors whose faces ‘talk’ are perhaps heads and shoulders above others. Ranbir’s face can talk, shout, scream, cry, without uttering a single word. Equally impressive is Deepika Padukone as she never really lets Ranbir completely steal the show. Her expressions, body language and emotions look as real as 24-carat gold. Together, Ranbir and Deepika display a cracking chemistry and it’s a pity that they have not been paired together more often.
AR Rahman’s music gels very well with the film’s theme and atmosphere. While Matargashti is quirky and peppy, Agar Tum Saath Ho beautifully depicts melancholy and sadness. The film’s cinematography (Ravi Varman) is too much ‘stage-like’ at places but the camera does roam at the right places in Corsica and even Delhi. The editing of the film (Aarti Bajaj) is impressive given the unusual weaving of the story.
Overall, Tamasha is Imtiaz Ali’s most complex film till date that houses both mediocre and spectacular moments. Add to that an element of complexity in narrative that cripples its overall acceptability and makes it possible for many to actually not like/understand several sequences in the film.
Not easy to like. Not easy to reject. Leaves you thinking for long. Tamasha could well be for Imtiaz Ali what Mera Naam Joker was for Raj Kapoor – his most honest but perhaps the weakest film.
Rating: *** (Good)
P.S. – Half a star extra just for the Kapoor lad.

Nov 12, 2015

Prem Ratan Dhan Payo Review: Old School Sanskaar Meets New Age Salman Khan


Not everyone can like Sooraj Barjatya. It’s not easy. But, not everyone can really dispute the fact that he is good at what he does. Yes, he takes familial values to astronomical heights, he is too sanskaari and painfully old school in matters of romance, he is too engrossed into the lessons from Ramayana, and he is obsessed and surprisingly comfortable with lengthy soundtracks and lengthier run time. But, he is also extremely successful in retelling stories with same moral messages again and again, he is very aware of his strengths and has never really yet bored us to death with any of his films (given the template in question, death by boredom is a distinct possibility).
Maine Pyar Kiya, Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Hum Saath Saath Hain are films weaved by the same thread, but I bet you can distinguish between them even while you are asleep. And I also bet that you watch all these films on TV every now and then. On lazy Sundays. From interval point, 20 minutes before the credits roll or half an hour after the film has started – does not really matter. It’s lazy fun.
No, this article is not an ode to Sooraj Barjatya. But, I thought it was pertinent to quash the prejudice that surrounds him and his body of work. With Prem Ratan Dhan Payo, Barjatya achieves nothing spectacular but still manages to hold your attention for good 3 hours. That’s not a mean feat.
Of course, he is hugely aided by a certain Salman Khan who seems to be finally enjoying himself as an actor. Salman is affable as the quintessential Prem even after all these years. Barjatya does a smart job of squeezing out a dual act from him wherein Salman blends the histrionics of Prem with the goofiness of a simpleton with utmost ease. He is charming, restrained, emotive and effective. First Bajrangi Bhaijaan and now this. Salman, it seems, is suddenly a good actor.
To begin with, the backdrop of Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is extremely opulent and lavish. From his typical happy Indian family, that eats, prays and sleeps together (err, did that sound wrong?), Barjatya moves to a big, fat royal family that houses a lonely prince Vijay Singh (Salman Khan) who shares uneasy relationship with his siblings. Enter princess Maithali (Sonam Kapoor) and a large-hearted simpleton from Ayodhya (yes, this is a new high in Rajshri’s obsession with Ramayana) Prem (again Salman Khan). Expectedly, there is a lot of song and dance, much of it meaningless, and the sinister plans of the palace insiders begin to fail and the broken bonds start to heal.
Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is different from a typical Rajshri film in some superficial ways. There are some well-shot action sequences, perhaps keeping in mind the current image of Salman, and a lazy attempt to infuse an ingredient of thrill and suspense. That Barjatya is no Abbas Mustan is clear but you got to credit the man for slightly tweaking his otherwise stubborn template. And yes, talking of how PRDP is not-so-typical, there is no official wedding in the film, there is no Samdhi-Samdhan bonding, women are not always in the kitchen (guess what, they are playing football!) and Mohnish Behl and Alok Nath are missing. Okay, I actually kind of missed Alok Nath.
In the acting department, Sonam Kapoor takes time to settle into the shoes of a Barjatya heroine. She looks a little odd while trying her hand at all the ‘shy stuff’ to begin with but eventually Rajshri parampara gets better of her. The actress does well in a couple of emotional scenes and her chemistry with Salman Khan is quite natural. Neil Nitin Mukesh as the half-brother and bete noir of Salman looks as odd as how litti chokha would look in a Gujarati Thali. Armaan Kohli as the cunning palace insider does a good job. So does Anupam Kher in the role of a loyal confidante of the royal family. Swara Bhaskar, as Salman’s step-sister, looks uncomfortable in unfamiliar territory but same can’t be said for Deepak Dobriyal, who does a neat job as Salman’s friend.
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Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is pulled down by a crazy runtime that bothers you at places if not bores you completely. The film also has a lot of unnecessary songs with weird lyrics – there is a song talking about Gujiya and Mathri. I would be keen to find out if the lyricist Irshad Kamil got a certain brief from Barjatya to write these tacky songs or was he himself undergoing some sort of poetic menopause. To Kamil’s and music director Himesh Reshammiya’s credit, there are a couple of hummable songs in an otherwise lackluster soundtrack. The title song, with its signature step being the latest fad for Dubsmash-ers, is very well shot, so has been the romantic track Jalte Diye. But, apart from these two songs, there’s nothing much in the soundtrack that features 10 songs!
In addition to the above mentioned loopholes, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is also riddled by a lackluster screenplay that seems to have suffered at the cost of all the grandiose and bling. Somehow the ‘simplicity’ of Rajshri films seems to have been a bit compromised, what if there are some added toppings on offer.
Overall, Prem Ratan Dhan Payo is far from flawless and not close to being Sooraj Barjatya’s best work. Yet, the film stays afloat due to an in-form Salman Khan and some old school sanskaar. Watch it on a lazy and jobless Sunday afternoon. You might just like it.
Rating: *** (3 out of 5 – Good)

Nov 2, 2015

Happy Birthday Shah Rukh, Thank You for Being a Great Friend

This is not an open letter, Shah Rukh. I do not know what to call it – or wait, I can perhaps label it as a thank you note. One tiny bit of the many millions that you must be receiving every day.
Before I begin to thank you, let me admit that I can’t thank you enough. Did that sound like a hyperbole? This is what happens to me when I try and thank you, or when I try and explain it to myself and to others that why I need to thank you. But, today on your birthday, I think it is imperative that you know how you have touched, influenced and molded not just my life but also the lives of your millions of fans. I also write on their behalf.
Neither am I going to praise you for your films, your acting prowess, your box office clout nor am I going to stake claim to the title of being your Sabse Bada Fan (I know Gaurav is already out there). I am just grateful for how you and your films have stood by my side, almost like an imperceptible friend, through joys and sorrows. I am grateful because you epitomize happiness, dream, love, hope and miracle. For me. For all of us.
Happiness: I was merely 7-year old when I watched Dilwale Dulhaniya Le Jayenge in a theater – perhaps the first time I went out to watch a film with my family. That little mischievous twinkle in your eye, spring in your feet and sincerity in your words, made me genuinely happy as a child. It was perhaps the first time cinema made a lasting impression on my young mind as I found myself seamlessly fitting in the world of Raj.
But, DDLJ was not just about happiness. I remember stealing a glance at my family members and others in the audience as you innocently pulled out a bra from Simran’s rucksack. Those were my first lessons in knowing the opposite sex and their ways. No one ever really tells you what a bra is and how it functions. In your own playful way, you educated quite a few young, curious Indian minds who are otherwise devoid of any sort of formal gender sensitization. Thank you.
Dream: I also remember repeatedly watching Yes Boss and Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman on Doordarshan. Those were the days when DD aired movies every Friday and Saturday in the late night slot, so I battled familial displeasure to watch your films on TV. Yes Boss and Raju Ban Gaya Gentleman were my first lessons in dreaming, daydreaming and dreaming it big.
As an ordinary teenager from a small town, with deeply imbibed middle-class values, your films taught me to dream and be shamelessly open and assertive about it. Success, money, love, family, we all want a slice of these but those who finally get there are perhaps the ones who are not shy of dreaming. You were the voice of my middle class dreams – that is if dreams could ever speak – you were my easiest and most reliable source of motivation, long before motivational speakers and their quotes started to invade our lives. Thank you.
Love: Meanwhile, you rose the ranks of Bollywood and firmly established yourself as the industry’s biggest star and most importantly, as the greatest icon of love and romance. Roughly around the same time, my hormones started to go on a rampage with teenage paving way into adolescence and eventually adulthood. Call me hopelessly filmy, but I sought inspiration from your films and life as I tried to understand love and its different shades.
Your body of work was my Bible, Gita and Quran when I first fell in love. From serenading my girl to never losing hope even when the going got tough to eventually managing to win over her heart (a la Kabhi Haan Kabhi Naa), you were always there like an invisible friend. Raj and Rahul are cheesy names to be frank, but these characters were an open repository of dos and don’ts of romance. For almost every relationship scenario, you had a film and hence, I knew I will have you every time I faltered or needed advice or simply needed some inspiration. Not to mention, your own fairy tale romance with your wife and how it continues to be a landmark for anyone and everyone who has ever fallen in love and never given up on each other. No matter what. Thank you.
Hope: As they say, life is not a bed of roses and we all have our share of setbacks, heartbreaks and failures. Life is a little more challenging than how it appears in the movies and there isn’t always a happy ending. For every DDLJ, there is a Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. For every Kuch Kuch Hota Hai, there is a Kal Ho Na Ho.
And, there is also Darr and Baazigar lurking around the corner all the time. I have had my trysts with obsessive, compulsive and revengeful behavior when things did not go how I had wished or planned for. It is tough to let go, accept defeat or face rejection. It is even worse when you completely immerse in your failures and become a modern day manifestation of Devdas.
But, you have also been a light of hope at the end of an abysmal tunnel. If I still in believe in love, it is because of you told us to. If I now believe that life is all about second chances, rising to the challenges and finding completeness by joining the dots and putting together the pieces, it is because of you. A bit like how you did it in Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna and My Name is Khan.
Miracle: Picture Abhi Baaki Hai Mere Dost, I tell this to myself sometimes. I believe in miracles because I know what almighty has in store for us is the probably the best. Rab Ne Bana De Jodi explored this divine angle so profusely and I believed in you so diligently. I still do. Your own life, your journey has been nothing less than a miracle – it is not every day that an ordinary Delhi boy with funny hair goes on to conquer big, bad Bollywood. And he does not stop there. Not even at 50. He continues to inspire, enthuse and entertain a billion people.
And, he continues to be friends with them without ever really asking for anything in return.
Thank you, Shah Rukh. Dil Se.