Friday, December 12, 2008

Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi.

I paid 210 rupees to watch this film. And entering the theatre, I had no clue what to expect. I had seen just a few promos on television. I knew nothing about the storyline. Unlike other times, here was a film which I knew nothing about before watching it. I had heard the songs a few times. Never really paid attention to them. And as I stepped into the almost full house first day first show of Aditya Chopra's Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi at Inox Swabhumi, I felt highly uncertain.

Rab Ne.. starts off with just random shots of Amritsar. The place where the whole story unfolds. As the opening credits appear on screen we are made familiar with an everyday morning in the city. People slowly starting to make their way to the Golden Temple, workers cleaning the streets, grandmothers making their way to their house roofs to worship the rising sun, vendors cleaning their carts for the day's business. It establishes a city waking up. In the midst of this bustle we are taken to the Amritsar train station where the focus is on a man deboarding a train. The man, probably in his early 30's, is dressed in a full-sleeved shirt buttoned up all the way to the wrists, plain trousers, and white running shoes. His hair is well-oiled and combed, he has a moustache which looks very well maintained. He wears plastic rimmed glasses. Your average middle-class working man. Behind him, a beautiful woman, much younger, wearing a beautiful red patiala. She sports an expression of uncertainty. It is assumed that they are married; a fact that we are made sure of a few scenes later. And so the story begins..

Rab Ne.. is, quite simply put, a love story. The simplicity of its story is clarified by its tag-line- 'There is an Extraordinary Love Story in every Ordinary Jodi'. Expect the unexpected, but not so much as to make the film an unsatisfactory watch. It could indeed be the story of an ordinary jodi. Firstly, what this film does not do is show something absolutely over the top. There are no outrageous and frustrating twists and turns. It is a very straightforward story. Very cutely constructed. The circumstances of the marriage between Shahrukh's character Surinder, and Anushka's character Taani are very believable. The instances that follow, are also the same. This is the story of an ordinary middle-class man who falls in love with a simple family girl. They get married the day after they meet each other for the first time, their marriage is the result of the sorry happenings of one day. What follows is a story involving a makeover, a dance competition, incidences of uncontrollable joy over a yellow tiffin carrier, and figuring out what love, really, is all about.

This is a film for the entire family to watch. Rab Ne.. is a love comedy/drama. It has most of the elements of your average Bollywood film. There is the song and dance routine, there is the melodrama, there is the action brought about by the word bitch, there is even time for some male bonding. For the entire two and half hours, its hard not to either smile or feel sad about the characters on screen. One thing it successfully establishes is characters. It centres around the characters and characters only, never giving way to unnecessary details.

Shahrukh Khan, playing the role of Surinder Sahni, our average middle-class working man; and also the role of Raj Kapoor (Yes, you heard that right. To know more you've got to watch the film), is a gem to watch. What he did in Om Shanti Om he does once again. He makes us laugh, and he makes us cry, telling us again why he is the Khan of the industry. He tackles both roles, one of Surinder, and the other of the flirty and flamboyant Raj, churning out one one-liners after the other, with absolute ease. The contrast between the two is amazing. One wearing the plain shirt, trouser and shoes; the other with the body hugging chain-around-the-neck t-shirt, designer jeans and cowboy boots.

Vinay Pathak is another gem in the cast, playing the role of Surinder's best friend Balwinder 'Bobby' Khosla. You will not believe the fact that it is actually him the first time you see him with his back turned to us, knocking on Surinder's front door. And then there is new-comer Anushka Sharma. Top model. And Rab Ne.. would not be what it is without her. She is a natural. A treat to watch. There is something about her smile that makes you want to smile. With every smile, she lights up the screen. She speaks with her eyes, those perfectly soothing stretched eyes. She has unbelievable screen presence. And the chemistry between her and Surinder, as well as her and Raj is perfect. One, where they sit at either end of a huge family table and have their dinner talking about how nice the food is; the other where they are going neck-and-neck in a golgappa eating competition. Even the chemistry between Shahrukh and Pathak is perfect. It is all about characters.

Rab Ne.. is also a film about moments. Small insignificant moments perhaps, but ones which mean the world to the characters. When Surinder discovers the small yellow tiffin carrier his wife has given him, filled with food she herself has cooked for him, his joy is uncontrollable. This is followed by one of the cutest song and dance routines of recent times. Haule Haule could be a short film by itself. With two excellently choreographed sequences within it, both amongst the hustle and bustle of busy Amritsar, this could be the story of a man exploding with joy about the fact that someone he loves has cooked a meal for him and packed it with love and care. There is also the small gesture of rubbing rang on his cheek in the same song. Then there is the song and dance of Phir Milenge Chalte Chalte. It will remind you of Dhoom Tana from Om Shanti Om, having the wordings and settings of famous hindi songs of old. Shahrukh Khan brings out comedy even when he is dancing. There are several other such instances, involving a sumo-wrestler or the Dhoom-like bike face-off, to name a few.

Taken without complications, Rab Ne Bana Di Jodi is still a love story. An Extraordinary story, about a very simple couple. Don't judge this film too much. It succeeds in being outrageously funny, very soothing and feel good, all at the same time. Rab Ne.. is all about feeling, realising, deciding, and most of all, about loving. It will make you sad, it will also make you as happy as Surinder was when he discovered the yellow tiffin carrier. Do not forget to stay for the closing credits. This is a very-very cute film.


Wednesday, December 10, 2008


When it comes to the historical epic, Hollywood has not had much of a successful run over the past few years. Big budget productions from directors like Wolfgang Petersen and Oliver Stone have left a bad gash on the historical epic genre. Leaving apart the historical accuracy of the films which could stir up elaborate debates by themselves; Troy was far from satisfactory, and Alexander was just plain sad. The only exception was Zack Snyder's beautifully stylized 300.

Mongol is an offering from Russian film-maker Sergei Bodrov known for his Academy Award nominated work Prisoners of the Mountains, nominated for the Best Foreign Film category. That perhaps is the only similarity between these two films of his. Mongol was nominated in the same category in 2007.

Mongol tells us the story of young Temudjin, of how he became the great Khan, Genghis Khan. The major part of the story is a telling of his early childhood and his growing up by Temudjin himself, now in captivity. Being a story of his growing up, most of the emphasis lies in lessons, learning the ways of life. To fear, to be brave, to defy, to make friends, and so on and so forth. The film shows us Temudjin's slow transformation from being the oppressed son of a Khan, awaiting death once he his found by his enemies who want the crown of Khan, to his becoming the great Khan himself.

The film's lead Tadanobu Asano, playing the role of Temudjin is considerably good. But the one deserving more credit is Sun Honglei who plays Jamukha, Temudjin's 'blood-brother' who became his enemy. Sun Honglei is a revelation. He commands attention with his screen presence. His role is a lesson in how to control the glare of the camera. Apart from some solid acting, the film has a brilliant background score, often haunting; and some top notch cinematography. The fight sequences are exceptionally well-made, and some of the landscape shots are beautiful. The camera tracking in the war sequences toward the end of the film deserve special mention.

Recalling Troy and Alexander, Mongol is a far superior film, from all angles. It shows everything it wants to in graphic detail in its mere two hour run-time. It has an extremely fast-flowing narrative which ensures that the viewers are never tired or bored of what is going on on-screen.

is only the first of a trilogy on Genghis Khan, and it is a very very good start to what promises to be an epic story. The second installment, The Great Khan is due out in 2010.

Worth it.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Good Night, and Good Luck.

At the present times, when the film and film-making in general has undergone such a drastic change that more often than not, a major portion of the viewers is accustomed to a film with either action, a lot of humor, exceptional chills, over-the-top stories, and so on and so forth. The very root of film-making seems to have been forgotten. The film, we must remember, is also an agent of communication. It puts forward a message. Good Night, and Good Luck is such a film.

As we hear David Strathairn's Edward R. Murrow speak, we are reminded of the positive points of what we call television. He asks the public not to underestimate or overlook the fact that television has a potential to inform and educate. Good Night, and Good Luck is basically a political drama, playing out an event that took place in the early 1950's in the Columbia Broadcasting System. The war of words between CBS' broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and Republican U.S. Senator Joseph R. McCarthy. It is more of a docu-drama with actual footages and dialogue from the happenings.

Directed by George Clooney, who also stars in the film, Good Night, and Good Luck is completely in black and white. It is exceptionally stylized. The repeated shots of Strathairn holding his cigarette, the light reflecting off his well-oiled hair, and his chiseled expressionless face; the glare he gives the viewers at the end of each broadcast, is the very point of the film. There is no added material here, no extra ingredients to spice up the events and modernize it, no effort to make it more appealing except for giving it the actual look and feel of the 50's. Almost the entire film is inside the CBS newsroom, or its adjacent offices. The music that occasionally plays in the background is more often than not a part of the diagesis, perhaps a jazz recording, or a broadcast in an adjacent room.

Then there is Edward Strathairn's performance. Flawless. His acting, more than anything else, takes us into understanding and realizing the consequences of the events that are taking place. The calm yet ruthless nature of him, the clarity with which he speaks in the broadcasts, is perfect. The supporting cast is also top notch with the likes of Frank Langella, Robert Downey Jr. and Patricia Clarkson. Frank Langella is exceptionally brilliant in the sequence in his office with Clooney and Strathairn.

At ninety minutes, the acting and the stylization make the film a visual treat. It is however suggested that one be informed of the events that the film portrays beforehand. It is the mere representation of an event; without any explanation, any commentary, any justification whatsoever. The film never tries to be something it cannot. It is not meant to be an entertaining action-packed film. It's action lies in the play of dialogue between characters and the facts that the conversations eventually reveal. It is man against man. One trying to bring out the truth about the other. It is a debate. It is a fiery battle of words between two men. It is about one man who dared to tell the truth, and went to all ends to bring it out into the open. Good Night, and Good Luck is a detailed and accurate account of the feud between broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow and Senator Joseph R. McCarthy.


Sunday, December 7, 2008

An Inconvenient Truth.

In 2004, the creators of the box-office hit Independence Day came out with another apocalyptic science-fiction film. Roland Emmerich's The Day After Tomorrow soon became one of the highest grossing films of all time. The crisis brought into account something that the entire world had been avoiding and hushing up for quite some time. Global warming, although indirectly, was finally being addressed to. Critics however did not much agree with the scientific accuracy of the film. Nonetheless, the destruction the film showed, opened eyes.

In 2006, came out a documentary on global warming. The piece was written by former United States Vice President Al Gore. An Inconvenient Truth was not merely a film on global warming. Not only did it address the entire topic at point blank, it also did not make the use of computer generated graphics to show us the crisis we were facing. Finally, the issue that the world might indeed be on the verge of chaos, the fault being our very own, was coming out into the open.

An Inconvenient Truth, apart from being an eye-opener by the time it ends, is also a film made with a lot of care. Just by looking at Al Gore throughout the entire screenplay, one notices the flawlessness with which he talks about the issues of rising CO2 levels and the state of the earth at the time of the last Ice Age. Even if The Day After Tomorrow was termed as scientifically inaccurate, it showed us things which, after seeing An Inconvenient Truth, one will realize were right. The known fact that students have learnt in school, about the temperature rising and the melting of the polar ice-caps resulting in a rise in sea-level, which eventually drowns low-lying areas, etc etc; is all true. All that and more. A particular sequence in the film shows us Al Gore commenting on satellite images of various low-lying areas of the world- The San Francisco Bay, the area around the rivers of Japan, the Bay of Bengal. Then comes the unexpected turn. The images that follow show us the state these places will be in in less than fifty years time given the continuation of dumping CO2 into the atmosphere at the present rate. The images are shocking, showing us the displacement of over 100million people all over the world. And that, speaking for itself, happens to be just the beginning.

When they marketed the film with taglines like 'Nothing is scarier than the truth' and 'By far the most terrifying film you will ever see' they actually meant it. An Inconvenient Truth beats any blood and gore slasher film when it comes to chills. The photographs of places on earth taken now and decades ago will shock you beyond belief. The change the earth has gone through in the last fifty years is more than the change it went through in the previous thousand. That itself is fact enough to make anyone realize the need for change, and the time at which the chance to act is running out. A very noticeable factor about the film's narrative is that Al Gore explains the entire progress of global warming, its consequences, etc etc; almost in layman's terms. More often than not he uses cartoons to explain the situation and bring it to life. The technique not only adds as a comic relief, but it also acts as a more effective explanatory technique ending with the realization of something dire. Making the truth all the more difficult to handle. It is a contrast that he uses to full effect.

An Inconvenient Truth also shares with us the life of Al Gore. One gets a very warm feeling listening to his story, right from the start. From where he lived, to how he grew up, and all for the purpose of showing us how much he wants us to care for his cause, how much he wants to see this world care about itself. It's very easily noticeable, how much effort the man himself has put into this project. The fact that the entire team have dedicated their heart and soul to this cause shows very clearly. This is not a film. This is a lesson. A lesson about the wrongs we have done to our planet, and the consequences we must face unless we rectify them. A lesson that everyone on the face of the earth should learn to see what Mother Earth is going through at the cost of our progress. It is time to face the music.

At the end of the film, contrasting the image of the Earthrise, which is perhaps the most influential environmental photograph ever taken, Gore talks about another photograph (the one above). It is a photograph taken by the Voyager 1 spacecraft taken from a record distance of 6.4 billion kilometers away. Known as 'Pale Blue Dot', the image is exactly as its name tells us. It is the Earth, lost in the vastness of space, a small dot in the middle of nowhere. An insignificant speck on the face of the Universe..
Or is it?


Friday, December 5, 2008

Children Of Men.

The closing credits of Children Of Men starts with the laughter of children, echoing a line spoken in the film itself - 'Very odd, what happens in a world without children's voices'. That line itself sums up the shocking nature of the film. This is not make believe science fiction. This is not human beings turning into zombies due to some drug. This is the slow death of the human race. This is humanity which has not heard a child's voice in almost two decades. This is chaos. This is disorder. This is dystopia. And amidst all that, this is hope.

Children Of Men sports all the characteristics of an action-packed science fiction film with its outstandingly orchestrated long and drawn-out single-shot action sequences, it's grim setting, the hinted darkness which is present throughout the length of the film, the beautifully grim and dead and at the same time uplifting background score and soundtrack. It is all that, and it is more. Within, lies hope. Lies faith. Lies redemption. Woven together with spellbinding perfection by director Alfonso Cuaron, Children Of Men is an apocalyptic film that raises the bar for films of the genre.

Based on P.D.James' 1992 novel of the same name, Children Of Men is an extremely well-written and well choreographed piece of cinema. The screenplay, most of the credit for which goes to Alfonso Cuaron and Timothy J. Sexton is an absolute gem. Emmanuel Lubezki's cinematography takes you to an entire different level in the art of film-making. The action sequences are brilliant. The picturisation, perfect. It is a relatively small film supporting an immense story. At an hour and forty four minutes, it never ceases to be jaw-dropping.

The year is 2027. It has been almost twenty years since the birth of the last human being. Starting of with the death of the youngest living human on earth, we are thrown into a world of turmoil. A world where human beings are grasping onto whatever hope they might have left. People are glued to the telecast airing the death of the youngest living human on earth. And hope, it seems, is fading away, ever so slowly. What Cuaron succeeds in doing at point blank is something we have already witnessed in some science fiction films of the decade. It is the same as what Spielberg did in The War of The Worlds, it is the same as what Abrams did in Cloverfield. We are tossed into the middle of a horrific crisis with no hope whatsoever of question or recovery. It takes us a few minutes to realize what exactly is going on. And therein lies the genius that makes this film brilliant.

The films boasts of some fine performances by Clive Owen and Michael Caine. Michael Caine, there for only a few sequences is a treat to watch. Oana Pellea, who plays Marichka the gypsy deserves special mention. She plays the character, who perhaps, gives you a feeling of hope. She cannot communicate much, yet she goes out of her way in order to help out as much as she can.

Children Of Men is simply a treat to watch. It is a film that will put you on the edge of your seat. It is a film that will get your heart racing. It will get you involved. There will be scenes that will shock you, scare you, awe you. And all to show you something even greater. Something even more important. You will feel the pain. You will feel the fear. You will feel the helplessness. You will feel the human race clawing for a grip at the edge of humanity. And at the end of it all, there will be hope.


Thursday, December 4, 2008

Pineapple Express.

The red band trailer for Pineapple Express, released quite a few months back. I remember watching it and being addicted to it, and the song it featured. Paper Planes by M.I.A. Check out the trailer here. To put things straight right at the start.. Pineapple Express is an action comedy inspired by the buddy comedy genre, coming from the team of Apatow/Goldberg/Rogen. The ones who made Knocked Up and Superbad.

Carrying forward the touch and feel of their previous two films, Pineapple Express is quite simply a hilarious film. It is not really to be taken seriously at any point of time. But it has these moments every fifteen or twenty minutes that make you feel light, and heavy at the same time. After all, it is inspired by the buddy comedy. The remaining time, it is a film that is absolutely stoned. Stoned as in high. Yes, you heard me right.

The main story of Pineapple Express, if you can forget the characters for a moment (which you actually cant) revolves around a type of marijuana called the pineapple express. The consumption and/or use of marijuana. The feeling of being almost permanently high from its consumption. The selling of marijuana. The battle for remaining at the top of the list as the seller/producer of marijuana. Well, basically its about marijuana. That is, if you can leave out the characters for a while. Which you still cant. Simply because they have amazing screen presence and the acting is top notch, as is the dialogue.

Marijuana, added with witnessing a murder, added with a couple of outrageous misunderstandings and over-analysis of situations and people, a bunch of hilarious Asian commandos, shouts of fuck you mothafucka , a guy who is obsessed with going home for dinner, a black dude who has a little too much feeling, and a whole lot of other things which i cant categorize right now, forms Pineapple Express. James Franco is a marvel. He acts high throughout the entire length of the film. Perfectly. He slurs, obscures things. When asked 'how could they have found us?', he replies..
Heat seeking missiles, bloodhounds, foxes.

Seth Rogen and Danny McBride are equally good. You will want to hear the sequence they have together in Red's bathroom over and over again. Just to try and make sense of it, with all the Buddhism. And they aren't even stoned in that sequence. And I quote..
Yeah, except if you're a dick your whole life, you're going to come back as shit. Or a slug or a fuckin' anal bead. But if you do something heroic, then you'll come back as like an eagle or a dragon, or fuckin' Jude Law. Now which would you rather be, an anal bead or a dragon?
And they're still following the laws of Buddhism.

Pineapple Express is a film with a lot of feeling. Just like Superbad, it has very nice, mellow background music. Especially in the sequence that comes after Dale and Saul get into the fight. It's just a marvellous sequence. Reminds you of the last sequence as well as the one in Evan's house in Superbad. Dont take this one too seriously. It is sweet. It is soul. Added with some Asian shouting Neeshi tikomotulya. aah! The response to which is Get out mothafucka!

8/10. Very very nice.