Friday, January 26, 2018

Two Years Eight Months and Twenty Eight Nights by Salman Rushdie

I just hate it when time plays spoilsport.
So now, instead of the long rant that I had planned to unleash upon the unsuspecting audience (which I still will, but only in a few days) I am having to console myself by merely giving a rating to this book that I finished reading yesterday.
However, the out-of-the-box thinking chap that the author is, it would be most unfair if I rated his book using anything but an out-of-the-box rating scale wherein I refrain from comparing his book, to books written by other authors who are, well, not-Rushdie and by that definition simply NOT presentable on the same rating scale that Rushdie's books can be rated using.
As a consequence, I have no choice but to present my verdict in the following manner:
On a scale of Grimus to Shalimar the Clown, Grimus being the lowest rating assignable followed- in that order- by Haroun and the Sea of Stories, The Enchantress of Florence, Fury, The Moor's Last Sigh, Midnight's Children, Shame and then Shalimar the Clown; with Shalimar of course being the highest rating possible, Two Years Eight Months & Twenty-Eight Nights, in my humble opinion, falls somewhere between Grimus and the Enchantress.
How I wish the author understood the importance of remaining tethered to a discernible plot-line!
I wouldn't say this is a bad novel (because it isn't), but it most-certainly is one of his weakest stories yet.

Black Mass (2015)

At long last a film where Johny Depp isn't playing a fucking geeky geek!
As the notorious crime boss James 'Whitey' Bulger, a menacing make-up laden Depp manages quite brilliantly to lay low and still stand out at the right places as pure evil personified.
Bulger is a mob boss who will ask you a seemingly harmless question at random and whether you end up dead in a dumpster the following night or not will depend on how serious you sound to him when you answer.
While it would be a long shot to say that this is his best role ever, I could say that this might be his best role in the last half decade at least.
And he is supported by an excellent side cast, including Joel Edgerton (who the film belongs to, in my opinion), Benedict Cumberbatch (pulls off the Boston accent despite being British and that definitely earned some brownie points in my books), Julian Nicholson (is terrific in one scene where Bulger tries to freak her out), Kevin Bacon (bit role) and the promising Jesse Plemons (bit role again).
But despite the top notch acting, I would still say the movie is underwhelming on the whole. At best a good film. Not mind-blowing.
A definite one time viewing though.
Watch it for what has now officially been termed as Depp's return to serious acting and for Edgerton's performance as FBI agent John Connelly who was able to convince his agency to protect Bulger as an informant for nearly two decades in which Bulger managed to commit several counts of murder and racketeering without anybody pointing a finger at him.
Catch the trailer here:

Bone Tomahawk (2015)

What the fuck did I just watch right now! Seriously!
This came out of nowhere.
I wasn't expecting anything when I sat to watch this, but I must admit, this turned out to be one heck of a goose-bumps inducing and- not to mention- singularly gruesome viewing experience (Not sure how I will sleep now).
Starring Kurt Russell as a small-town sheriff who sets out with three other men to rescue captives taken by a group of savages living in the mountains, the film draws you in right from the word go and leaves you as curious as you can get when you have squished a spider with a Hardcover but haven't yet lifted the book to see what the result looks like.
While the pace is slow, the film is able to build an excruciating amount of curiosity as to what will happen next by combining elements from four different genres, namely- Western, Horror, Gore and Comedy, to brilliant effect.
The cinematography reminded me of some scenes from There Will Be Blood perhaps because of the coldness.
I think the usage of still camera shots with little or no focus on giving the audience a wider view of the background works in favour of the director as it creates a claustrophobic effect and you keep biting your nails all the time, knowing that danger is lurking only an inch outside the frame.
Also, that the acting is top notch (especially Russell) only adds to the effectiveness of it all.
I liked it. But you might want to check out the content advisory before going by my recommendation. Some really gory scenes in this.
Few in number, yes, but very... VERY disturbing.
Catch the trailer here:

The Stanford Prison Experiment (2015)

This was very intriguing indeed.
For a film that does not have any threat of death involved, The Stanford Prison Experiment sure did manage to keep me disturbed enough to keep watching till the very end.
For, it is disturbing, yes. But not in the sense that one would normally expect when a film promises to be just that.
Based on true events, the film is about twenty-four male students who were put into a simulated prison environment- half of them as prisoners, and the other half as guards- to study the psychological impact it would have on the subjects over a period of two weeks.
And to the surprise of Dr. Philip Zimbardo who arranged this exercise and who assumed that this would just be another boring two weeks spent over nothing, what transpired during the first six days was so shocking that he had to call the whole thing off before matters got any more out of hand.
I found the film to be engaging and- despite being based on a real incident- it held its own by not just playing out as a simple narration of the facts already available.
It has been to shot to induce enough claustrophobia into the prison scenes so that for the length of the film, you are part of the experiment while also being outside of it.
You experience the dread that unlimited authority can create in the average human mind and the copious amount of corruption that comes with power over other humans, but at the same time, you are not able to stop yourself from feeling ridiculous that human beings would actually allow themselves to be treated so degradingly without a word of protest just because they have been told that there is no way out- which I thought was a truly remarkable achievement, given (I repeat once more) how little the stakes of actual physical harm to anyone involved was.
The acting is fantastic, especially of the mock guards who seem to get a little too much into the skin of their roles. Billy Crudup as Dr. Zimbardo does a competent job.
Overall, I'd say, worth a watch, even if a tiny bit underwhelming on account of the source material.
But... but, before I finish, I cannot help but mention another film of the same kind that I found to be much more powerful, even if not more disturbing than this (maybe because it’s NOT completely based on a real life event. Still, a film is a film, so)- The Wave which is a German movie (of course, it had to be a fucking German movie!) about a high school teacher's experiment to demonstrate to his students what life is like under a dictatorship.
Now THAT is one experiment where fatality cannot be ruled out. You fill innocent minds up with enough hatred towards a particular group of persons or object, teach them to make it their sole purpose of existence and send them on a mission while you sit back, relax and enjoy the show (or as they so lovingly put it in India- Mandir wahi banayenge. Of course they have another name for such 'righteousness' in the middle east but, meh, thats common knowledge so am not mentioning it here.)
Both films are recommended.
Catch the trailers here:

Katyar Kaljat Ghusali (2015)

Subodh Bhave's Katyar Kaljat Ghusali, a film based on the play from the sixties, came quite close to becoming the best musical I saw in 2015. And given that Whiplash- which released earlier in January that year- was what it was pitted against for the title of best musical in my list, I must clarify that Katyar..., despite its flaws, coming a close second was no mean feat.
Yes, the film has many flaws.
As is the case with many other good commercial films that aim at striking a balance between the film-maker's urge to produce pure art and his burden of wanting to keep the film accessible to a larger audience that has, to his ill-fortune, over the years gotten used to being spoon fed with ham acting disguised as dramatic flair.
The plot stretches itself too thin at some places and the tight editing from the first half comes undone post the interval, thus resulting into a good thirty minutes of additional scenes making it onto the screen, that should have been left out of the final cut.
The acting from all three male leads is good albeit not without those few bits and pieces strewn across the film's length, that come off as overt.
And... that is all.
I am- I shouldn't be but I still am- quite surprised at how incapable I find myself now of jotting down any further negatives about this wonderful film.
And so, I take a turn- well not as dramatically as Sachin Pilgaonkar's Khan Saab does upon being disturbed when he is at his egotistical worst, but still-  towards the brighter side, or rather, the melodious one.
It is but obvious that the element of a 'Musical' that defines its purpose of existence and that will primarily determine its standing among many others, is the music.
Katyar Kaljat Ghusali has fantastic songs. They are vibrant, they are vivid and the vocals so powerfully evocative that I had found myself moist-eyed and clapping with the rest of the audience (A full-house!) after every good song ended, more often than not, cribbing at the short length of these musical pieces. The Qawwali from the second half is nothing short of dazzling.
Shankar Mahadevan has done a commendable job as the lead singer and music composer. While most of the songs are from the original play, it is to Mahadevan's credit that he succeeds in replicating the genius of legendary singers from the past while also making the songs his own.
Apart from the lyrics, what also packed a hefty punch for me, were the dialogues (both Urdu and Marathi), the visual effects (particularly the catchy opening sequence) and the effective usage of montages to convey emotional turmoil.
All in all, Bhave's directorial debut lacks much but makes up for most by keeping the focus where it should be- on the art to which it is an ode. The rest are mere ancillary elements... enablers.
The film made me ponder hard as to what my stand on religion and God would have been had music been the only product of believing in them.
Alas, if only.

Catch the trailer here:

Talvar (2015)

I should be pleased to have come across India's official answer to Bong Joon-ho's South Korean masterpiece Salinui Chueok (Memories of Murder) in the form of this tight and tense drama presented as a fictionalized account of the real-life murder case from few years ago that caught the fancy of many, mostly due to the perverse details involved.
I should be very very pleased.
As a film, Talvar scores high in all departments right from the script, the camera-work, the sound design, the dialogues and- most importantly- the acting. Irrfan Khan steels the show again with his effortless portrayal of the lead investigator assigned to the case by CDI (Read as - CBI), but not before the local police have irredeemably botched it all up. The casting for even bit roles is spot-on.
The drama is restrained and kept subtle wherever possible to not hint at a prejudiced take on things. 
So unlike other films based on real incidents, all the alleged culprits behave like humans instead of ham actors playing culprits who know they are supposed to look innocent but cannot look completely innocent for benefit of not ruining the suspense.
I am yet to read Avirook Sen's Aarushi and so would not be in a position to compare fact with fiction. But as a film, this is nothing short of a Fincher level production from Meghna Gulzar.
For which, as I have said twice already, I should be very pleased and therefore be giving the film a four out of five.
But I will give it a full five.
For the film, just like Joon Ho's, did exactly the opposite of pleasing me when the end credits began to roll.
It left me helpless.
Catch Trailer here:

Arbitrage (2012)

So Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko enjoys cult status even two decades after Wall Street was released and Richard Gere's Robert Miller from this film totally flies under the radar of almost every critic I follow for four fucking years!
It’s just wrong.
So… So wrong.
And I am quite sure that I would've been unlucky enough to have missed this myself had I not happened to have a few people on my friends list who in turn happen to have excellent taste in cinema.
Gere brings so much charisma to his portrayal of Miller, a troubled hedge fund magnate who has lied a few times too many to wriggle out of the combined repercussions without scarring himself.
A family that knows Robert too well to overlook signs that things are about to go south for them, an affair that ends abruptly, the crime that it leads to, a business transaction gone bad (and the crime that it leads to) and of course the clever cop who is always one step behind the anti-hero (Tim Roth in great form. As to why and how I have not seen more than a handful of films he's acted in, I've got no clue. Shame!)
This is a great plot and the taut script leaves little or no place for boring detours viewers usually have to put up with in most non action-based thrillers. Nicholas Jarecki directs with just the right amount of gloss to give Gere enough opportunities to shine as a devious human who has dug a hole too deep to have any other solution but to keep digging.
In all, while I may not go too far and proclaim this to be the best that there is, I really liked this a lot.
An easy three and a half out of five.
Certainly worth a shot, especially for Gere and the charming albeit wicked little 'I know too much to lose' smiles that he sports at every twist and turn.
Catch trailer here, but know that it is of crap quality. Makes the film look like an average rated TV show.

I guess you'll just have to take my word for it.

Calvary (2014)

The Irish are the best when it comes to dark humour.
And this film proves just that (Although this time it is more dark than humorous).
A film that begins and ends with two of the most emotionally affecting scenes I have seen on screen, Calvary is odd in too many ways to describe.
Despite having seen it many times already, I somehow always seem to fall short of words when I attempt to pin down what I loved and did not love about it.
The film is borderline strange. Which is not necessarily bad, but makes the job of a reviewer not wanting to adore or thrash it outright, very difficult.
Shot on the picturesque landscapes of Ireland and featuring a power-packed performance by Brendon Gleeson as a good-natured priest who receives an anonymous death threat from someone in his community, Calvary contains a whole variety of characters, whose traits ranging from goofy to hurtful to outright sinister- and unpredictably so- make the story move ahead a tad unevenly, albeit never without plucking your interest.
Along the way, questions revolving around religion and human nature in today's times are raised directly and indirectly, of which few are quite uncomfortable and either lay bare the irrefutable logic of there being no real justice in the world for God's presence to be believed, or make us think on whether sometimes our messed up expectations from religion and God are more worrisome than the concepts themselves.
Sadly, most of these questions are left for the audience to answer on their own. Which means, the sub-plots more or less conclude as character sketches that were not meant to have any story arc to them.
Hence the mixed reaction.
And yet, I cannot get enough of the film. I am sure I will watch this again in the near future.
So, for now, I rate this 4 out of 5, if not for anything else then at least for how it starts and how it ends.
A lot may have been left for us to decipher but one message, however, that did manage to shine through brilliantly was this:
Patience and tolerance are and shall always be the right way. And on that I concur.

Catch trailer here:

Udta Punjab (2016)

Disappointed to say that a somewhat muddled second half makes a good film out of something that could have been so much more.
The flow up to the interval is a fascinating mixture of dark and comic elements, well balanced and well-timed for the sequences to not feel abrupt or unnecessary- two flaws that abundantly plague the run time post intermission.
Same goes for the editing.
The acting is competent though.
Alia Bhat, if we ignore a few unintentionally funny moments of dialogue delivery, leads the lot. I thought the subplot revolving around her unnamed character was the best of the three. 
I'm not saying some other equally competent actress couldn't have done the job, but Bhat justifies her selection well enough.
Shahid Kapoor is in top form. He rocks the stage as Tommy Singh, a rockstar whose songs are, for lack of a better term, pro-drugs. But his role is mostly restricted to humor and little else (except for a scene where he is brought face to face with the effect his songs have on his fans)
Kareena Kapoor feels totally out of place in the scenes where she is emoting glee. 
I mean, 'happy' is still fine, but glee! The fuck! One doesn't feel 'glee' when one has succeeded in partially uncovering a drug racket involving political parties during election time. 
One just doesn't.
(Unless one has read the script and knows beforehand that one is going to be killed off by the end and one wants the audience to cry more than what one's character getting killed off genuinely deserves)
Diljit is a find. He plays his role with zero overt-ness and makes us care for his fate. 
Would definitely want to see more of him in future.
Mind you, I would still recommend you watch it, but only because there's a lot here to learn about how to (and how not to) deal with multiple plot-lines and mingle humor in dark tales.
A generous 3 out of 5.
I repeat, I'm disappointed.
PS: Kick-ass soundtrack though. Amit Trivedi is a genius.
Catch trailer here:

Begin Again (2014)

With Begin Again, Carney presents to us 'Once' more a film about a pair of down-and-out artists teaming up to make their own music, albeit this time unlike the last, the focus is more on making the movie more legit.. more wholesome, which in my opinion works both for and against it.
A budget much bigger than what he might've had on his first outing, the director opts for A-lister stars, professional camerawork and a visibly grand production value to spend it on... which is fine.
But I wouldn't have minded if there were less substance in the film and some more full-length songs to remember after the film ends.
Ruffalo and Knightley as producer and aspiring singer-songwriter is spot on casting. They certainly have the chemistry to make the now-romantic-now-platonic pairing feel genuine.
Also, shots of the band recording songs in public venues all across New York city are well done.
But for me the film didn't offer anything new or breath-taking unlike it's heart-warmingly simple predecessor.
A generous three out of five seems more than fair for this one.
Watch it if you have the time. But I won't recommend it over a repeat viewing of Carney's debut film Once. Nothing beats listening to Glen Hansard and Marketa Irglova sing their hearts out to some of the most sincere songs from the past decade you'll ever hear.
PS: If I wanted to make a fair comparison, I would say that this is to Once, what Bradley Cooper's Burnt is to Jon Favreau's Chef.
You wouldn't believe the amount of craving I felt for a cheese burger after I was done watching Chef. And that was after I'd already had dinner!
After watching Burnt though, I mulled over Bradley Cooper's fine acting chops for a bit, then took a piss and went straight to bed without a second's glance towards the kitchen.
Catch trailer here:
Catch the opening song from Once here:

The Conjuring 2 (2016)

I have to hand it to James Wan. The man knows how to shoot movie scenes.
You almost always get into the exact mood that he wants you to get into while watching a particular segment made by him, no matter how unbelievably cheesy the story-line.
What's more admirable is the fact that Wan achieves this without employing any fancy gimmick. No CGI spectacle here.
And certainly no Del Toro-esque creature art to grab ones attention.
A simple combination of long takes, subtle variation in colour and lighting, a constantly gliding camera, an eerie score, above average to good acting and- last but not the least- fantastic prop placement is what does it.
Good old filmmaking techniques used to maximum effect.
But this time around the story was- for lack of a better expression- too *bleh* to keep me hooked.
More than one jump scare, yes. And perfectly executed as well.
But unlike part one, this one failed to scare the crap out of me, which I mostly didn't mind, but also missed, in a sick sorta way.
Definitely worth a watch though.
To my misfortune, the theatre I saw it first in was fully packed and made me instantly regret the decision to pick a crowded hall and show.
Some people start up conversations or just laugh and are too fucking dumb to understand that its fucking irresponsible and even more fucking irritating.

Three out of five.
Catch trailer here:

Thursday, January 25, 2018

Killa (2015)

It is remarkable and also very inspiring to note that a film with so much of heart and soul is the doing of a débutante director (Avinash Arun).
After Elizabeth Ekadashi, this is the second Marathi film from my recent viewing list that has left me simply bowled over by the amount of commitment, patience and sheer drive to tell a story that seems to have gone into its making. 
For, without these it can never be that what gets captured on camera when ten or eleven years olds are in front of it, does not feel like forced-down-the-throat acting.
Stunning performances from all actors involved. Especially the children; every single one, right to the last kid who made it onscreen for only a second or two. Pure. 
Uninhibited. Natural. Real.
And the cinematography! Oh, I wouldn't want my petty words to describe something that is meant to be seen for its praiseworthiness to be believed.
I thoroughly recommend this film to all.
Watch it only on the big screen if you truly want to allow the beauty of nature and the innocence of the characters to hit you, tug at your heartstrings and involve you so much into it that you end up putting your younger self in the scene being played- be it sitting alone on the beach or riding a fisher-boat with the world behind you and the mighty sea in front, its waves blowing a steady breath of salty air into your face; or finding yourself strolling inside the walls of that mesmerizingly shot Killa (the fort) touching its moss laden walls with your fingertips as the rain pattering down hard on rock brings to your ears, a slapping sound both curious and dreaded.
Watch it today. 
For if nothing else, the least it'll do is make you want to meet your friends and go on a holiday to some place green.
Catch trailer here:

Demolition (2015)

More therapeutic than cinematic an experience, Gyllenhaal's latest is a good film, is what I can tell you.
Depicting the life of an investment banker who, in the wake of his wife's sudden demise is left to cope with the fact that he never really loved her or was honest with her about many things, the film is smooth and swift in narration.
While there is nothing new about the story, it was the jump-cut editing style, the acting (of all actors including an in-form Jake Gyllenhaal and a terrific performance by the kid Judah Lewis) and most importantly the background music that helped me avoid noticing the clichés in it until after the film ended, so much so that to avoid thinking about those clichés for a while longer and- more so- to experience the film's therapeutic vibe some more, I looked up the songs used and ended up playing them on loop for about an hour.
The camerawork overall and in one particular scene in specific is so fucking soothing that I've watched that particular segment over twenty times already in two days.
And for just that along with the music employed, I rate this a four instead of the three that Demolition actually deserves.
Neither as moving nor as powerful as the director's English debut venture Dallas Buyers Club.
But worth a watch.
Catch trailer here:

The Wire (2002-2008)

My season-wise ranking :
Primarily revolving around the Baltimore schooling system, season four was when the show hit its peak. 
The characters have either matured or evolved and the newer ones are intriguing enough to make their presence felt.
This season brings closure to the main story arc from Season One while also adding another fantastic plot about a cop with an unconventional solution to Baltimore's drug problem. 
Got so hooked that I ended up watching all thirteen episodes (an hour each) in one day. 
Fucked up my eyes, sure, but definitely worth it.
'tis how it all began, a show about a bunch of police officers assigned to a special detail that requires wire taps for surveillance of drug traffickers. 
I was drawn to it like nothing else.
I'm not sure if one more season was even required, considering how most of the relevant sub-plots were concluded already by Season Four
The few that were left loose felt justified, a realistic injustice of sorts. Nonetheless, it still is a good season. 
Subject tackled: print media and it's dying quality in the face of sensationalism.
I must've fallen asleep around six or seven times while watching this. We see the action shift from the police unit of Season One to a dockyard in Baltimore, a key player in the drug supply chain. 
Almost all episodes were equally boring. 
Some of them drag on and on about nothing in specific and had I not been aware of the remaining seasons being of a better quality, I would've stopped watching at episode four, maybe even earlier.
With no background score to assist in creating the mood, The Wire is one hell of an example of uncompromising and original writing that is able to bring to the screen content that is immersive purely for its quality and depth.
HBO sure did show a lot of guts in backing something of this sort back in 2002, each season basically being nothing but a twelve hour long movie.
Recommended for its fascinating story-telling technique where the problem of drugs and its impact are shown from multiple POVs.

PS: Omar Little is now one of my most favourite TV show characters.

Titli (2015)

I have always had a thing for gritty films. (Lets just say I'm a nice enough guy in real life and so if I am expected to deal with mush even in the art forms I partake in, I will retch). 
When in the right mood, I get attracted to such films like a moth to a burning candle. And like most moths that approach a burning candle, I end up burning my wings, either because the film is plain bad or, if I am fortunate, because it is so effective that I drown into depression.
But I will reserve that comparison for another day as that wasn't the case with this film.
Titli is an effective debut. I believe thats a fair way of putting it. But neither am I able to write about it as being brilliantly dark like Ugly or some such indie production nor would it be justified if I wrote it off as a lame attempt at making serious cinema.
The film made me sick in the stomach. I'll give it that. The characters and the plot are adequately twisted and the camera-work powerful enough to accomplish that much. 
The background score, which in my opinion should have been used more generously, is haunting and sets the right tone. 
Shashank Arora as the film's male lead proves that he has what it takes to carry an entire film on his shoulders. Ranvir Shorey is plain genius. He has an air of helpless menace around him that makes him both dangerous and unpredictable.
But all of this, and many other aspects that might make the film technically perfect fell surprisingly short at holding my attention through till the film's end. There are portions, especially in the second half, that felt empty. 
I believe budget constraints could be the main reason for that. But I thought the plot needed some more development too, to bring out the intensity that the international trailer I watched a year ago promised to offer in abundance. 
While the scene right before the end credits is executed perfectly, because of the underwhelming nature of what precedes it, the impact that that particular scene, again mixed with the haunting score, is supposed to have on you is somewhere lost.
If I were to rate it, I would give Titli a stern three out of five.
Its a good film and a mandatory viewing, at least for lovers of indie cinema is warranted. Rest can join too.
PS: I counted eight people in the hall I saw it in. THAT made me feel more sick in the stomach than the film itself. I mean, seriously people, your definition of good cinema is fucked up. Period. I see no point in even expressing my disappointment with you.

Catch the trailer here and decide if serious films is your thing too. Do note though, you only have two days to do that because just like other indie films that see a release once in a blue moon, this is going to disappear from theaters in no time:

The End Of The Tour (2015)

I cannot recollect having seen a more heart-warming film than this in recent times. Jason Segal, yes folks, you're reading correctly, the comedian Jason Segal, embodies one of the most endearing and intriguing characters I have come across on screen.
His voice is the voice of a man you would want to pay to listen to, just so you feel all the noise around you become irrelevant at least for the time the conversation lasts.
Segal is David Foster Wallace, the renowned American novelist most know for his novel Infinite Jest, who committed suicide at the age of forty six after battling two decades of depression.
But thats not what the film is about.
Spanning across five days, the film is a series of conversations between Wallace and David Lipsky, a writer working for Rolling Stone magazine (played by an in-form Jesse Eisenberg) who wants to interview the former.
Both actors get so brilliantly under the skin of their respective characters that what you are left with by the end of the film is a profound sensation of having witnessed two intelligent and philosophically well-versed people from another generation talking about life, the purpose of life, fame, addiction, materiality, the awareness of how hollow a material life can get, and also the helplessness that comes along with such awareness.
Mind you, a false note here or there could've easily undone the impact that the film leaves you with. But to give credit where its due, the straight-from-the-heart style of direction and the simplicity of the screenplay ensure that doesn't happen.
In my experience as a movie buff, a quality I have found lacking in most films of the feel-good genre (if there ever was such a genre) is nothing but plain and simple honesty.
And I am very pleased to conclude my review of the film, (of course with an expected recommendation for one and all to give it a shot), by putting it on record that this is indeed an honest piece of film-making, with a soul of its own, a soul so personal that I felt awakened- after a very long time- to a part of me that still wishes to remain lost in the abstract, away from the hassles of trying to make a name among people who won't even know the real me after I am gone.
A definite 4 out of 5.
Catch trailer here:

The Magnificent Seven (2016)

Far from being 'magnificent' as the title claims, this is as ordinary as cinema can get.
Denzel Washington's entry scene aside, am not sure if I liked anything about this film at all.
The soundtrack is lacklustre, the dialogues stereotypical, the storytelling conservative and the shootout from the second half is nothing short of a magnificent mess (I hope they weren't referring to this when they picked the name).
It takes a special kind of talent to produce an average film with such a stellar cast at one's disposal. And from watching his previous films I had a fair idea that Antoine Fuqua had the potential to display this talent.
A consistent absence of any unique directorial style, thats what I have noted in the five films of his I've seen so far. (Training Day was really good. But only because it wasn't a director's film).
Fuqua seems to prefer being in the backseat and that- as you would agree- does not bode well if the script isn't singularly powerful on its own.
I would rate this two out of five. I found myself rolling my eyes at the deaths of key characters in the third act, and that speaks volumes.
But that scene where Washington's Chisolm appears first in a bar is just really well done.
So, a two and a half still seems fair.
Its films like these that make me wonder if all that criticism Tarantino's western The Hateful Eight received (including from me) was a tad unjustified.

At least that man knows how to take charge of his fucking film.
Catch Trailer here:

Sunday, January 21, 2018

Highway- Ek Selfie Aarpar (2015)

A choice presents itself to the audience when they see a film that is shot in an intentionally ambiguous manner:
A) You call it a pretentious attempt by the filmmaker at appearing more profound than it is possible for the average Indian filmmaker to be, and you leave the theatre before the end credits have started to roll without putting a second thought to it, or
B) You prepare yourself for this not being a film thats going to deliver to you a simplistic one liner 'moral of the story' that'll fall right into your lap; a film that will probably not unveil itself to you in its entirety if you aren't observing everything thats happening. Then, having calmed your baser instinct of keeping your brain idle, you understand- or rather 'attempt' to understand- the meaning of all that is being shown while judging the film purely on its artistic merit and not its ultimate objective. Then, you watch it a second time. And, if the artistic merit continues to hold true, a third and a fourth.
Now logic dictates, that anybody who has seen the trailer of Highway Ek Selfie Aarpar and subsequently ventured out to see the film, will be wary of both A & B above and also of the implication of selecting A over B, or B over A.
The hall I watched the film in was packed (which was heartening to see albeit only a puny consolation to the fact that the film currently has only one show per day at only one theatre in the whole of Bombay). 
The crowd guffawed at all the right places in the first half, seats getting slapped and people rocking back and forth with laughter as they saw on screen the little details from ordinary lives that make for stand-out idiosyncrasies when presented in a particular fashion, on celluloid.
Then came the second half, sacrificing pace for meaning. Somewhat flawed in execution, I can be honest here, but still- effective.
And some fucker decided to exit while the film was still playing.
A over B.
'Good riddance', I said to myself as Mangesh Dhakde's melodiously piquing background score lured me back into the story, that had by then reached a point of philosophical high.
Two more exits. Then four.
Then a whole row got up followed by another two rows, as if the first fucking A-hole who had exited the hall had decided it for the whole lot of them that 'A over B' is THE guaranteed path to attaining oneness with the universe.
As the end credits rolled. My friend and I, and a handful of other 'B over As' stood at our seats, pondering, replaying the scenes in our heads, each of us fascinated at Umesh Vinayak Kulkarni's capacity to enthral and make a viewer feel the need to ask questions, all without resorting to high-handed, Rust Cohle-esque monologues.
'I need to watch this again. Atleast one more time before I can say that I got all of it', I said to my friend and he nodded, his eyes reflecting the same hunger that my eyes must've been shining with; hunger to know more about a film that, if you ask me, boasts of many things, a few of which I am listing below for your benefit:
- stunning camerawork
- well paced screenplay
- grounded dialogues
- stellar performances from the cast including Girish Kulkarni, Mukta Barve and Shrikant Mohan Yadav among numerous others
- excellent music
- and (last but not the least), one of the best opening shots I have seen till date in any film- foreign and Indian. A shot that is bound to induce nostalgia in any man who has walked the streets of Bombay and witnessed the level of economic divide that is so blatantly visible in this city.
It is saddening to see the strength in numbers of the unappreciative 'A over Bs' and their equally unappreciative companions who snubbed the film altogether without much cause.
A selfish reason it may be, but I am very disappointed that because of the collective many whose choice of cinema is as bad as their choice of political leadership, I am now deprived of a second viewing of a film that deserves one, to perhaps understand its motives, its loose threads, a little better.

I only hope that other films like this meet with a brighter fate.
Catch Trailer here: