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The honour and welfare of India come first, always and every time.
The honour, welfare and comfort of the men I manage come next.
My passion for cinema and music follows, always and every time.
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Other Gorgeous Lists: >> Most Beautiful Hollywood Actresses >> 30 Actresses One Cannot Miss >> Best Comedy Movies of All-Times >> Male Actors With Largest Global Following
I've come up with this list giving due thought to all facets. It has female actors from Western cinemas - Hollywood, Europe and South American. Chronological order is subjective - my personal preferences. Many of these actresses aren't active on screen now. But when they were, they rocked the boat...
Other Gorgeous Lists: >> 30 Actresses One Cannot Miss >> Actresses Best Known For Comedy >> Best Comedy Movies of All-Times >> Actors Who Look Strikingly Alike
Other Gorgeous Lists: >> Gorgeous European Actresses >> Most Beautiful Hollywood Actresses >> 30 Actresses No To Be Missed >> Actresses Best Known For Comedy >> Best Comedy Movies of All-Times
Important Lists on Indian Film Universe: >> Most Beautiful Actresses in History of Indian Cinema >> Most Talented Indian Actresses. Ever. >> Most Talented Indian Actors. Ever.
It's truly rare to find actresses with that million dollar innocent smile. In my opinion these actresses are the few...
After voting you can discuss the poll here
P.S.- I'm not talking about IMDb display pictures. You've to see these lovely ladies on screen or in real to fall in love with their smiles...
I wanted to keep the list short, preferably under 50 entries. But for every person included there are so many other equally talented actors that it becomes a tough job to be in limits.
Chronological order is subjective - my personal preferences. Many of these actors aren't active on screen now. But when they were, they rocked the boat...
Other Gorgeous Lists: >> Most Beautiful Hollywood Actresses >> 30 Actresses One Cannot Miss >> Directors Best Known for Making Comedy Films >> Best Comedy Movies of All-Times
Chronological order is subjective - my personal preferences. Many of these actresses aren't active on screen now. They have been ranked by their beauty during their prime. When these yesteryear's actresses were active on screen, they truly rocked the boat...
Other Gorgeous Lists: >> Gorgeous European Actresses >> Most Beautiful Hollywood Actresses >> 30 Actresses One Cannot Miss >> Actresses Best Known For Comedy >> Best Comedy Movies of All-Times
Important Lists on Indian Film Universe: >> New Sizzling Actresses in Bollywood >> Most Versatile Indian Actresses. Ever. >> Most Versatile Indian Actors. Ever.
Irish, English, French, Belgian, German, Spanish, Greek etc...
Other Important Lists on Indian Film Universe: >> New Sizzling Actresses in Bollywood >> Most Beautiful Indian Actresses of All Time >> Most Versatile Indian Actors. Ever.
Other Gorgeous Lists: >> Most Beautiful Hollywood Actresses >> 30 Actresses One Cannot Miss >> Actresses Best Known For Comedy >> Best Comedy Movies of All-Times
A nice thriller with lots of dialogue. And a twist.
'Money' is a well-made thriller flick revolving around some dough which is earned unethically by two white-collar friends. A smooth talking professional criminal gets a whiff of the dough and comes to snatch it upfront. But the plan goes haywire and the story takes a twist. Relationships are tested under stress and people don't remain same anymore. 'Money' somewhat reminded me of another great thriller from last year, 'The Invitation', which had somewhat similar settings and premise.
The movie ticks all the boxes of a good thriller with lot of dialogue and couple of twists thrown in. Script is well knit. The setting of the story is small and neat. Almost whole story is located in a posh residence and its neighborhood. Jamie Barber playing the suave professional criminal with a hard British accent provides a nice touch to the story. But there are a few unrealistic moments in the film where the director and writers took artistic liberty for sake of keeping the story thrilling. And the screenplay is a bit slow paced for a thriller.
It's refreshing to see Jess Wiexler in a serious role. I'm her fan since I saw 'Teeth' during my grad days. She has a substantial role in this story and it's satisfying to see her in a mature talking role.
All in all, 'Money' is a good one-time-see thriller which can be enjoyed anytime of the week and any hour of the day. Running for some 1 hour 20 minutes only it packs a decent return on time.
My vote: 6.5/10.
Army of One (2016)
Not Quite Upto the Mark. Can Be Avoided.
I was skeptical about this movie. In recent times Nicholas Cage has lost that sheen of yesteryear. But I placed my faith in Larry Charles, the director, who has a reputation of directing comedies.
The movie starts on a bizarre note with an exaggerated monologue from Faulkner (Nicholas Cage). First 10-15 minutes of the movie are essentially Faulkner indulging in monologues with an over-the-top accent. Cage does a good job in enacting the concocted accent but the conversation starts to cloy after a few minutes. I constantly felt an urge of leaving it right there but somehow stayed on.
The movie picks up pace with the actual story of Faulkner's travels to Pakistan kicking in. There are a few genuinely funny moments in the middle but they are few and far between. One can actually see the highly compartmentalized screenplay. First 15-20 minutes introducing Faulkner and his surroundings, next 15-20 minutes narrating his few unsuccessful travels, next 15-20 minutes his stay in Pakistan, next 15-20 minutes for his tryst with CIA and next 15-20 vaguely wrapping up and last 10 minutes showing real-life footage of Gary Faulkner- the man himself, before the credits. There is nothing wrong with such a flow but the whole thing looks very contrived and forced. Parts of the movie feel like disjointed sketches forced together to make a collage. Another distasteful part of the film is the clichéd and dismissive portrayal of Pakistan and its social setup. Which is by the way Morocco, not Pakistan!!
But there are a few bright spots in the film too. Russell Brand playing the Almighty God brings up some really funny moments. Actually most of the genuine humor in the film spews out of the fanciful conversation of Faulkner with "God". Wendi McLendon-Covey plays a small but praiseworthy role as Faulkner's love interest. She should have been given a more substantive part in the film.
In all 'Army of One' is a mediocre movie which can be seen if you've nothing better to do. It takes in very good talent but churns out an avoidable product. Nicholas Cage should seriously look for some better roles if he is serious in reviving his once superb career.
Very poor. Verappan deserved much better. He would certainly be turning in his grave!
By filmmakers' own admission Veerappan was 'the' biggest villain ever - in India or world, well, they leave it open ended. Film's poster flaunts a tagline "No Villain Like Him Ever Existed". Now, if that is so, this is certainly not the way you treat the reel life of a real life giant.
I was truly curious to watch this film. Memories of crime-thrillers 'Black Mass' and 'Legend' were fresh from this year's (2016) winter and I was expecting to see at least a level of decent treatment for 'Veerappan' from Ram Gopal Verma. I made an exception to my 'no overpriced theaters' rule and watched it in a multiplex. But I was thoroughly disappointed and worse, frustrated with the final product.
To be honest, the film delivers more on comical front than as a crime-thriller-biopic. The story is poorly researched and script writing is completely botched up. Poor, wretched, appalling, F-grade script writing. The famed brigand had a dacoity career spanning more than two decades. I remember hearing several mythical anecdotes about him in my childhood. I remember a myth doing rounds in my school in 1999 that Veerappan copulates with a tigress! And I was a kid situated on the other end of country- in north India! That was Veerappan's stature as a villain. But this film concentrates only on last 6 months of his life - the part which is well documented in digital and print-media- and then too bungles it up. And then they market the film as a 'biopic'. Not too bright folks, not too bright. Indolence of worst kind.
This film is ambiguous whether it is a biopic on Veerappan or an action-thriller portraying police action that killed him. Because, there was another docu-drama "Killing Veerappan" made by the same director which preceded the release of this film. 'Veerappan' itself fails on both fronts, anyway. In the film, Veerappan is shown killing people for no particular reason, that too high-ups. Guys, at least build up a prelude to the gore. That's script-writing 101. Random killings and disjointed action scenes are superimposed by a background score which eulogizes Veerappan's villainy in chaste Hindi (Veer, Veer, Veerappan; Maut Ka Aalingan!). From this movie, an unaware (say foreign) viewer can't decipher whether Veerappan was a Robin Hood or a cold-blooded criminal. In many scenes, Veerappan is shown randomly shooting elephants. Was that some kind of a filler scene to keep audience aware that they are watching a famed villain? It comes off as comical anyway. Looks like the poor guy was a big believer in DIY. There is an on-foot chase scene where the policemen chase a Veerappan aide. The whole sequence is thoroughly comical. The aide shoots random people in his wake to escape the police. It brought memories of villains in Hindi comics! There is another scene where Veerappan's wife is introduced and is shown cooking a meal. She sumptuously throws chillies in her stew and the whole sequence desperately tries to be humorous. Then, within a split second, police arrives out of nowhere and chaos ensues. Lo and behold, police got Veeraapan's wife as soon as she came into picture - cooking a spicy stew full of water. You can even hear the splashing sounds chillies made after they enter the pot! Veerappan certainly had poor culinary tastes as per the movie!
The movie has certain scattered bright spots nonetheless. Sandeep Bharadwaj truly tried to enact the legend and was successful most of the time. He can't help if the script and dialogue writing was third-rate. He, himself, was spot on. Acting by some of the supporting cast was superlative. Krishna Srikanth Iyengar superbly enacts a disgruntled former policeman (Kumar). He brought out a sparkle whenever he entered the frame. I really wished he had more screen time. Usha Jadhav did a remarkable job in enacting a south-Indian woman. Locations for certain scenes were carefully chosen and camera work was ,well, OK.
'The biggest villain ever' deserved a biopic much-much better than this poorly researched, goofy charade of disjointed scenes. If not the level of 'Bandit Queen', 'Donnie Brasco', 'Public Enemies' or 'Goodfellas', Veerappan at least deserved a 'Paan Singh Tomar'. Bollywood truly needs to start treating Indian audience as sensible adults, which they are. Since the 1980s, big-budget mainstream Indian-Cinema (including regional) has been treating Indian audience as passive vacuous receptors of anything and everything. Most Indian movies attest to this. Throw something, make money and run away - that's their mool-mantra. To be honest, I would never recommend the likes of 'Veerappan' to anyone sane. It's another avoidable hit-and-run flick which dutifully does its job in pushing Indian viewers into the eager arms of Hollywood.
A mildly entertaining diversion. Worth only a couple of laughs here and there.
"The Brothers Grimsby" is latest in a long list of rude and crude comedy films which dot the post-academy winters and spring every year. This year "The Boss", "Dirty Grandpa", "Mother's Day", "Zoolander-2" etc. are included in this category. Unimaginative, unoriginal and unfunny "The Brothers Grimsby" is a big disappointment from Sacha Baron Cohen.
It must have taken very little talent or intelligence to write or produce "Grimsby". Unfortunately Cohen seems to have lost his comic genius here and consequently this act - Grimsby - has reduced to anal humor with large amounts of elephant semen thrown in! I was hoping for some of the brilliance Cohen once exhibited as AliG, Borat or Bruno. But alas!
Cohen here plays Nobby Butcher, an alcoholic football hooligan separated from his brother- the now MI6 spy Sebastian. Circumstances mean that they reunite and thus hilarity ensues. This character of Cohen doesn't work quite as well since the accent was off-the-mark and the jokes were 'kicking downwards' for the most part. The plot is completely predictable here and all the thought and cleverness has been taken out of the film's sails. For example after one particularly excruciating scene involving poison darts, our characters find (in the exact same room no less) a large crate that will take them to the next location which happens to be in place for the plot to move on. If we already know what will occur it's often easy to see some of the jokes coming, and most of them are repetitive slurs which wear out quickly. "Grimsby" also has a scene involving elephants that I really wish I could unsee! The movie works best when showing blue collar English life, letting Cohen demonstrate his first-rate chops for creating indelibly colorful characters, this one a home team-loving cockney with 11 kids and a boisterous wife.
There are a few moments here that made me giggle. If you want to see Sacha Baron Cohen in something raunchy, watch Borat or Bruno. If you want to see Mark Strong in something raunchy, watch Kick-Ass or Kingsman: The Secret Service. I got my cheap thrill which I was seeking. Had a challenging day and wanted something mindless and that will make me laugh. The 100 minute long comedy was funny in parts due to its absurdity. In the end "Grimsby" is a mildly entertaining diversion that doesn't do much to excel in any major way.
He Never Died (2015)
You get only one or two of such films every year. A Hidden Gem.
Every once in a while there comes along a flick which gives you a good ol' sheer surprise. You are left exclaiming - "Are there any more of such movies?", "Why don't they make more of such films?" The humble demeanour (and low budget) of such films disguises their ingenuity. Well, "He Never Died" is one of those films. An unexpected movie that is dark in nature, funny throughout and leaves you feeling satiated when over. The kind of satiety derived from a piece of good cinema.
'He Never Died' approaches a subject which is favourite staple of horror genre with a brilliant ingenuity. And a twist. Such ingenuity, to my memory, was visible recently only in 'What We Do In Shadows (2015)'. Humour here treats the audience as adults - grown-up sapiens capable of using grey matter. The dark bloody humour is quirkily deadpan and phenomenally subtle. Humour is not let down till the last scene and the script is tightly knit till the end. Story deliciously alloys crime, revenge, supernatural and dry, dark comedy into a bizarre story. Usually the films of low budgets drop the guard in second half and veer into banality. Not this film. I truly relished the raucousness of the film sprinkled with giddy gore till the end, and beyond.
The effort from scriptwriters and director deserves standing ovation. To me the actors were unknown. They deserve praise too- especially Henry Rollins in the lead and Kate Greenhouse in the support. Performances don't come more deadpan in this original.
Writing anything about the story will inadvertently ruin the suspense which is the crux of the film. The film never fully answers anything, it gives you what you need to know and leaves the rest to suspense. For me it was brilliant.
Unfortunately, you get only one or two of such films every year. Hidden gems. I really hope they make more of such movies.
The Boss (2016)
An All feminine, Bland, Clichéd, Cheeky affair. A total Hit and Run.
I saw this movie primarily because of Melissa McCarthy. Like 'Tammy', 'The Boss' is directed by Ben Falcone, McCarthy's husband and longtime collaborator, and written by them both. The duo has earned a reputation for delivering good humor. Also, it is produced by Will Ferrell's Gary Sanchez Productions. This production house has dished out some really good comedies in the past. But in 'The Boss' they all seem to have lost steam. 'The Boss' is a completely bland affair - one of those hit and run films production houses mass produce in off-season, just to keep their people employed.
Story here is completely predictable. It is about an orphan (McCarthy) who ends up as a billionaire only to lose it midway and regain it in the end. The premise is rooted in the common frustrations of ridiculous bosses and mundane modern jobs. The story and screenplay are full of clichéd acts and spineless jokes. There are portions of raw physical comedy too. In a scene (obvious from trailer) McCarthy gets thrown off a sofa bed. There are other scenes involving McCarthy tumbling down a flight of stairs, having sword fights and having fisticuffs. The humor is of poorly calibrated slapstick category. You literally stop laughing after a limit! I actually fast forwarded through many parts in the second half. The plot development seems totally contrived.
An all encompassing on-screen feminine presence is a curious aspect of this film. Even the street fights and classroom brawls have zero male presence! Peter Dinklage and Tyler Labine provide for only a feeble male presence in the film. Looks like neo-feminism is the new fad in Hollywood.
In the end 'The Boss' is a partial one-time-see. I saw it for McCarthy. I found it to be a waste of talent, screen space, time and energy. I expected it to be better - but it certainly is not.
The film is a riot. Excellent piece of cinema.
When I thought of watching 'Mommy' there were two factors which militated against it. One was language barrier. The movie is in fluent French and I know from experience that a lot of meaning is lost in translation via subtitles. Second was the cultural barrier. Being a middle-class conservative Indian, I usually find it difficult to connect with many foreign thematic films. But to my sheer surprise, 'Mommy' was a complete riot – far better and stimulating than 'Batman vs Superman' crap which I crawled through the previous day.
'Mommy' is one of those movies where screenplay moves fast yet the story unfolds slowly. This ingenuity shifts the film from art-house to entertaining realm. 2-3 months of characters' lives take around 130 minutes of screen time which give ample time for all details to unfold. Despite the subject matter being serious, the film never appears to be dry. Thorough importance is given to character development. I must add that I haven't seen such marvelous character development in my recent history of film-watching. We get to know and empathize with all idiosyncrasies of the characters. We laugh and cringe with the on-screen characters.
The plot of the film is not predictable at all. Just when you think you figured out what is happening the story throws up a new dimension. At places hidden emotional feelings of Patrick are insinuated which compel the viewer to churn his mind. Die's dream sequence towards the end of the film showing Patrick's life successful and happy was truly surreal and well placed - a mother's dream for his son.
Overall, 'Mommy' is the finest Canadian film I saw in a long time. The film is truly a riot - an excellent piece of cinema.
Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai (2015)
Indian documentary movement needs to mature
What is the difference between a documentary and propaganda? How do you walk the thin line when you make a documentary having cultural and political undertones? How do you refrain from drilling a particular world view into the audience? These are the questions which baffle me while watching documentaries. Ergo, I usually eschew documentaries. Last documentary which I truly enjoyed was "Super Size Me (2004)" by Morgan Spurlock, some 4 years ago (apart from all the Michael Moore stuff before that).
This documentary - Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai - emerged as the trigger for campus violence at Hyderabad Central University in early 2016 when two student wings clashed over its screening. A very good friend noted that news and recommended this documentary to me and I duly obliged. As a matter of fact I bought its DVD and created this page on IMDb when I didn't find one! I very much appreciate the fact that this film tried to deliberate upon the sensitive topic of communal violence. A strange and very disturbing story of communal hatred incited by our leaders is told in this documentary. I laud the effort of the film- makers to boldly document the events occurring during the September 2013 communal riots from a plebeian viewpoint. The general effort is aimed at exposing the wicked nexus between local politics and communal rioting.
On the critical side, this documentary, like most others, has been made by film-makers averse to nationalistic and conservative world view. This fact is explicit by the facts provided and questions asked during the narrative. In the end, "Muzaffarnagar Baaqi Hai" comes off as a documentary made with preconceived ideological underpinnings. It does touch some burning issues but falls flat when it comes to objective and in-depth analysis of deep rooted political rot. For example, I couldn't hear from the other side in detail ie. the right-wing political side. When you document a problem objectively, all sides need to be heard and let viewers be the final judge. There is an emerging documentary movement in India but it is still in nascent stage and very much left leaning. All we get are the likes of Leslee Udwin (India's Daughter) and Nisha Pahuja (The World Before Her). All of them seem to bash Indian culture and Indian conservatism. Film-makers should remember that conservatism, as such, is a strong undercurrent in Indian society. We simply can't ignore this fact.
P.S. - As a part of post-watching research, I came to know that Shubhradeep Chakravorty, one of the directors of this film, died of brain hemorrhage during the approval process of this film from CBFC. RIP brother.
The Night Before (2015)
A goofy, witless film. Sheer waste of time.
Seth Rogen has developed a reputation for dishing out decent comedies. I essentially saw this movie because of Seth Rogen and his pedigree. I agree, as an Indian, I'm not supposed to enjoy all the cultural jokes. For example, I don't know the pop-significance of Miley Cyrus in US or the humour value of 'Hanna' associated with her name. But leaving these apart, I found the humour to be either banal or straightaway foolish.
I didn't even have one good laugh in this film. Puking in a church, images of male genitalia, half-baked cameo of James Franco, statements about male and female private parts, nosebleed in a drink, cussing a baby, drugs, having sex with a girls' parents - this pretty much sums up the cumulative humour in the film. There was not a single act of decent situational humour. And I'm surprised how so many critics glossed over this banality and showered it with high ratings. I think, money of the production house did the magic via publicity. A cheeky trailer also did the trick.
I wasted my 2 hours on this goofy, witless film. It is highly over- rated and straightaway rotten.
Lazer Team (2015)
Decent Story + Poor Film-making = Over-rated Hit-and-run comedy.
Space, including all its paraphernalia, is one arena which has acted as substrate for film of all genres. You name it, space gave it! Even art-house and horror films have been made out of celestial subjects. For example, think of Melancholia (2011), Sunshine (2007) or Under the Skin (2013). To be honest, I'm waiting for a Quentin Tarantino film on space - bloodshed having a field day in space! No matter whatever you'll make having space or aliens, people will see it. In fact 'Plan 9 from Outer Space' (1959) was so badly made that it became memorable! So among its beginning ventures, YouTube Red chose the path of least resistance - space.
In 'Lazer Team' a group of four misfits find themselves responsible for the fate of the planet upon discovering an alien crash site containing a battle suit. I must admit that the idea is novel and exciting. The script is decently knit too. (This is the main reason why I reviewed this title.) A somewhat similar concept was tried last year (2015) in 'Absolutely Anything' starring Simon Pegg but that fizzled out too. With a little more effort 'Lazer Team' could have been transformed into a great sci-fi comedy. The subject matter is age-neutral - people of all age groups could've enjoyed it. But the film-makers instead settled for clichéd acts. For example, the character of Mindy (played by Allie DeBerry) was too bawdy. It was like some American Pie or Scary Movie character. Similarly the humour could have been more situational rather than explicit. More experienced actors could have been casted et cetra, et cetra. But, the damage has been done. 'Lazer Team' is another hit-and-run comedy which fails to leave its mark.
Blue Caprice (2013)
Different perspective in crime-thriller. An ingenious effort indeed.
When well made, crime thrillers have the ability to keep viewers on the edge of their seats. And when the plot is based on a real-life incident, the transition on to reel becomes all the more captivating. Usually crime thrillers narrate the incidents from a third-person perspective. But 'Blue Caprice' is a film that investigates the genesis of real-life horrific events from the point of view of the perpetrators. Therein lies its ingenuity which also helps to universalize the narrative. Thus, as a conservative middle- class Indian, I also feel uneasy with the sordid murders. The remoteness of events gets telescoped.
I think, it must have been difficult to even write such a film. There must be so many competing narratives and so many different points-of-view to reconcile - especially when you are dealing with serial killings of innocent middle-class citizens. Perhaps the writers and director need to be emotionally detached from the narrative too so as to objectively present the story from such a perspective.
Blue Caprice is a slow moving, linear and intriguing drama about a distorted father-son relationship which facilitated their long and bloody journey across north-eastern US. Recently Bollywood also attempted a similar narrative in 'Main aur Charles', in which the plot is narrated from the perspective of a police officer. But 'Blue Caprice' is superb in more ways than one. It gets in deep into the nitty-gritty of relationships - friends, family and strangers. The transformation of an impressionable teenager into one cold-hearted killer is captured with brevity.
As I discovered during post-viewing research, the filmmakers do take some artistic liberty with the events. For example, in real-life the mother of the teenager (Lee Malvo) was well-acquainted with John Muhammad. And they moved to Florida first not to Washington. But that's OK. In the end, the film succeeds in getting across a solid story. The acting is splendid from the whole cast. I was really impressed by the character of Jamie- played brilliantly by Joey Lauren Adams. She has that unique voice which matched the character. Its one of my things though - I always give more attention to supporting cast. They are like the props which take lead cast to pinnacle.
A Most Violent Year (2014)
Tightly knit script with a captivating performance from all
To begin with, 'A most violent year' is not an action film at all. It is wrongly mentioned in the sub-heading on IMDb page. It is a drama with a mild thrill. But it is an elegantly made drama with a well-written, tightly knit story. Period details are decently done.
As you would have seen or read by now, the movie is essentially about a struggling businessman in 1981's New York. It is his story – how he goes about expanding his business and the problems he faces.
The treatment of lead characters in the film (Abel, Anna and Lawrence) by the script-writers is highly commendable. The viewers remain uncertain about probity of characters till the very end. I don't remember seeing such meticulous character development in my recent cinematic experience. We are accustomed to figuring out the good, bad and ugly in beginning itself. But here, we are constantly ambiguous regarding integrity of Abel (Oscar Isaac) and Anna (Jessica Chastain). In the last scene, even the character of District Attorney Lawrence (played by David Oyelowo) breaks down into ambiguity and we are left wondering about rectitude of the characters.
The character played by Jessica Chastain - Anna - impressed me the most. It switches seamlessly between a responsible matriarch, an anxious wife, an intelligent escort, a methodical accountant and a gangster's cold daughter. It's like a personification of the Meredith Brooks' song 'Bitch'! It is indeed a dominating role and her presence is palpable all through the story.
Overall, this film is a linear drama, a bit slow but with an outstanding script and captivating performance by all actors. It is one of those films you treasure for posterity and recommend frequently to your friends.
Dum Laga Ke Haisha (2015)
An Emotive, Entertaining and Heart-Warming Film
In recent times, if there is movie in which Sanjay Mishra has a substantial role, one can easily predict whether that movie is going to be interesting or not. For example, Masaan, Aankhon Dekhi, Jolly LLB etc. were all pretty interesting. Dilwaale, Kick, Boss, Singh Saab etc. were all insipid - well, you know the reasons! 'Dum Laga Ke Haisha' is another wonderful film which has some great acting and equally good story. You don't come across such charming films all too often these days.
This movie stands out foremost because of the character of Sandhya - marvellously played by Bhumi Pednekar. Bollywood doesn't reflect Indian women at all. It essentially reflects American led pop-idea of a woman- skinny with prominent cheek-bones and chin. I hope more Sandhya-like characters will be included in future Hindi movies. If Hollywood can give ample opportunities to plus sized actresses like Melissa McCarthy, Rebel Wilson, Gabourey Sidibe, Phyllis Smith etc. Bollywood can surely follow.
The story is charming and emotive in a good way. Many reviewers here have remarked that it reflects reality but I'm not quite positive about that. I haven't heard of any wife-lifting competitions in the Hindi-heartland. Let's just say that it blends escapism and realism in a neat way. The plot is situated in 1995 making it a period drama. A decent effort is visible with the movie-set and paraphernalia.
On the critical side, there is one lacuna. The dialect of Hindi spoken by the actors is not matching with the geographical location of the plot. This dialect is prevalent in southern and central Uttar Pradesh. "Kachhu nahi hot hai" is a dialect found once you cross Mathura going south. A chaste dialect of Hindi is prevalent in Haridwar where the story is set.
Overall the movie is far better than the 'multi-million- star- studded-blockbusters' which Bollywood is so fond of. Thankfully there are no item songs, no fight scenes and no muscle-mongering. A piece heart-warming cinema steeped in Indian ethos.
Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! (2015)
Great Effort. Eagerly Waiting for the Sequel
Loads and loads of hit-and-run masaalaa bollywood films have created a sort of aversion to bollywood cinema. For me, there is a psychological barrier which I've to cross before I can actually muster up effort to go and watch a bollywood movie. This barrier is usually broken down with help of strong recommendations from close friends, good ratings on aggregator websites and positive reviews from selected sources. 'Detective Byomkesh Bakshy (with an exclamation)' happened to be the film which I watched and thoroughly enjoyed.
This film belongs to top percentile in the corpus of films produced by an otherwise banal and shallow Bollywood. The film delivers on both abstract and practical level.
* Abstract Level:
> 'Detective Byomkesh Bakshy!' (DBB henceforth) has a healthy component of escapism, which is essential for any cinematic experience. The ingenuity of its script lies in flawlessly welding actual historical events to fiction which gives rise to an entertaining narrative. Indian history - ancient, medieval and modern - is one of the most under-represented areas in bollywood cinema. We do have several films on revolutionary nationalism and freedom struggle but not a single one of them is half a match for 'Saving Private Ryan'.
> This film duly locates India among the contemporary nations II World War period. This is a novel and appreciable attempt. There are Chinese, Japanese and Burmese connections in the script. Indian popular culture usually shies away from integrating India into global affairs. We either have films like 'Chandni Chowk to China' or the ones which caricature Indians as subservient to westerners. Recently 'Airlift' is a good attempt in this area but as Indian MEA said, "Airlift takes too much artistic liberty". > DBB is an elegantly made period drama at a time when there is sincere dearth of period dramas in Bollywood. There is no film on Mundhra scandal, for instance or a veritable story on emergency period. In DBB there is a genuine effort to capture the cultural undercurrents of the 1940s' Bengal.
> The film gives due importance to female presence on screen. Calcutta was the hub of Indian feminism for several decades in pre- and-post independent India. Women also participated actively in revolutionary nationalism. 'Chittagong' is another film which captures this aspect.
* Practical Level:
> The depiction of period of 1940s' Bengal is meticulous. I really liked it. Bollywood is maturing towards elegant period dramas. The Calcutta tram, vintage cars, the costumes, the contemporary popular culture - all are given due importance.
> Acting is elegant. I highly laud the role played by Neeraj Kabi (Dr. Guha). His character resonated of antiheros of the likes of Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds) and Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men). It's high time that Bollywood start developing its pantheon of adorable antiheros which could replace Amrish Puri and Ranjit of yesteryears! Anand Tiwari (Ajit) was spot on as the faithful sidekick. He was close to Dr. Watson played by Martin Freeman in TV Series 'Sherlock'.
On the critical side, I would point out following shortcomings in the film.
* As the Indian version of Sherlock Holmes, the lead character certainly needs to have more oomph. Sushant Rajput did a good job but something seemed to be missing. I can't put a finger on it but the vacuum was all over the place. I don't know if Sushant was involved in script writing or not but it seemed that he was not. Character development of the lead was also missing. We get to know the pedigree of Byomkesh in one small conversation (in front of chemical mill). Romantic life of Byomkesh boils down to yearning looks at old photos. It has to be better than that.
* Things are made too explicit at times. Let audience run their imagination. Indian audience are literally spoon-fed the story by directors. In a crime thriller leave an elbow room for connection of dots. Leave the top spinning a la 'Inception'.
* Inject a bit more situational humor. I didn't have one hearty laugh throughout the movie. Make the dialogs a bit more informal without transcending into vulgarity. Byomkesh need to have a funnier component in his personality.
* Last but not least, we can all do with a little less gore and little more of instrumental background score. Keep the bloody scenes to the essentials. Indians did not lead gory crusades in distant past and nor we have a fundamental right to carry guns. So, stop emulating Quentin Tarantino. As a liberal film-maker, appreciate Gandhiji's thought. Also the background score can do without English hard rock. India has gifted musicians who can easily liven up thriller chases and fight sequences. Use them liberally.
In the end, Detective Byomkesh Bakshy! is a refreshing experience - escapism, entertainment and thrill, all bundled into one. I'm eagerly waiting for the sequel.
A Witty, Elegant, Enjoyable Act with Strong Feminist Presence
I saw 'Wristcutters' (2006) yesterday night. I was still ravelling in the cosy escapism of its love story that 'Grandma' came as another strong artistic jolt today afternoon !
From the vantage of a conservative Indian, it should have been difficult to connect to the cultural underpinnings of this film but surprisingly Grandma came off as a thoroughly enjoyable and captivating drama. The movie is one of the few drama films which eschews unnecessary American bawdiness and confines itself to telling a good story. There is a strong feminine presence on screen. Character of Elle (Lily Tomlin) is especially very strong - scary, respectable and affable at the same time. Story gives due importance to character development which is very important in any work of fiction. You get to know the characters well and can imagine from where their idiosyncrasies are coming.
On the critical side, I would've liked to know more about the character of Violet though. Maybe a dream sequence with Judi Dench as Violet wouldn't have been out of place. A little more detail about the academic career of Elle would also have helped us to know more about her character. Lastly, there is a bit of caricaturing of feminists- as usual. It is one area where almost all film-makers- Indian, American or European falter. Feminism affords space to male sensitivities as well. As a viewer, I'm undecided on the character of Karl (played by Sam Elliott). And feminists are not all liberal academicians. A conservative, non-academic, feminist character is perhaps long overdue in cinema.
In the end, 'Grandma' is a solid piece of cinema which is compelling, entertaining, thought provoking and witty.
The World Before Her (2012)
A Good Effort With Copious Shortcomings
To begin with, I very much appreciate the fact that this film deliberated upon sensitive topic of female-foeticide. I applaud Pooja Chopra's mother for frankly sharing her experience about this abomination.
Secondly, the movie touched upon the topic of corporal punishment meted out to children by Indian parents. Description of corporal punishment meted out to Prachi was unnerving. Its ironic that children (here Prachi) actually justify it in spite of concrete evidence of psychological impacts in later life.
Lastly, I laud the effort of the film-makers to boldly document the events occurring in niches of Indian society. The general effort was aimed at reforming Indian society from within. This is highly laudable.
I have certain reservations with the content matter of the documentary too.
1. I'm a bit surprised by the choice of subjects for the documentation. What exactly the documentary wanted to conclude? At one end the documentary portrays structural and functional constraints at work in Indian society which inhibits women to pursue certain lines of occupation. At another end it insinuates the indoctrination of a bunch of Indian girls by an extreme-right and nationalist organisation. In between it throws punches on religious extremism and religio- political violence.
2. What share of Indian women actually aspire to become Miss India or to join Durga Vahini ? I belong to the Hindi heartland of India and I came to know of Durga Vahini only after watching this documentary! Millions of young Indian women aspire to join Civil Services, police, PSUs and Armed Forces every year. On Republic Day 2015 India also showcased all-female military contingents in the parade. I'm surprised at the choice of nano-scaled niche groups which this documentary tries to portray. According to Wikipedia, the strength of Durga Vahini was 8000 in 2002. I'm pretty sure, even today that figure would not have crossed 50,000. Amongst 50 crore Indian women does these niche groups matter?
3. This documentary, like most others, has been made by a film-maker averse to nationalist and conservative world view. This fact is explicit by the facts provided and questions asked in the narrative. This stance can't be called 'liberal' because a liberal world view will respect the choices of a person and wouldn't vie for favourable responses. For example, in a question (towards the end of the film) the interviewer asks about Prachi Trivedi's reaction to 'westernization'- whatever that means. I personally know only of 'globalization' as an influence. As a model herself remarks during the film, will practice of Yoga in US be called 'Indianisation'. The words - Globalization and Westernizaion- are sure to elicit differing responses from a nationalist, which Trivedi is.
4. I want to comment on some conclusions presented in the documentary.
i) The documentary tells that "Over the past 20 years, Hindu nationalism has become a pervasive cultural and political force in India". I won't comment on political aspect here, but I can safely say that nationalism itself is not a major cultural force in India. A variant of patriotism is at display on national festivals but it doesn't necessarily translates into nationalism.
ii) The documentary asserts that "Hindu extremists are also called the 'Indian Taliban'". This was a statement made for political ends by leaders of a particular grouping. Who else calls whom so? You've trivialised the factual content by such loose statements. Taliban is a reactionary political grouping in Afganistan and Pakistan. It was midwifed by Americans during Soviet invasion. There are orthodox and reactionary political groupings in all thriving democracies. That's why they are 'democracies'.
iii) The documentary gives the following conclusions: a) "Hindu extremists have committed countless atrocities across India". b) "Many believe Hindu extremists pose a greater threat to national security than Muslim ones". As I understood the documentary was about the structural and functional constraints for women in society and feminist perspectives. Such statements make the documentary wade into political waters which polarises the opinion.
5. As the documentary was recommended by a very close friend, I made detailed observations. Doing so, I found some factual errors in the documentary.
> Translation for "Desh" as "Nation" instead of "Country" in the subtitles provided by the film-maker. There's a lot of difference between the two especially when you are wading in political waters. (@ 9:36 min in DVD)
> "Main wahan pe top pe jaungi" has been omitted altogether in the subtitles (@ 18:28 min). This omission changes a viewer's perception of the young girl getting trained at Durga Vahini's camp. Poor editing folks.
> "Parishad" refers to 'Vishwa Hindu Parishad' which is an 'organisation'. It is translated as "movement" instead. (@ 30:30 min in DVD). There is a major difference between the two.
> Insinuated "Hinsa" as "murder" (@ 54:51 min). Its 'violence' not 'murder'.
> Added "Culture" in the subtitles (@ 56:28 min.) It is not said by the speaker in the video. Come on folks, these are words which carry weight especially when you are making a documentary on sensitive topics.
In the end, "The World Before Her" is just another documentary made with preconceived notions about certain cultural moorings. It does touch some burning issues but falls flat when it comes to objective and in-depth analysis of deep rooted cultural traditions. If I may paraphrase the statement of a Miss India contestant, 'The World Before Her' certainly has the oomph to make it to the front page of Bombay Times. But alas, that is the last thing on which I'll judge success of anything.
A Refreshing Product from Banal By-lanes of Bollywood
There is a perceptible drift among Indians towards Hollywood. I happen to have a friend who proudly claims of not seeing any Indian film for past many months! For me this is a value-neutral proposition. Cinematic preferences are among last things which reflect patriotism or even nationalism. Hollywood films like 'Star Wars', 'Spectre', 'Mission Impossible' and even many not-so-blockbuster films (eg. San Andreas) are doing well in small cities of Uttar Pradesh- the bastion of Hindi cinema. There are many reasons behind this. And as we are reviewing a Hindi film, I'll stick to the supply side- the Hindi film-making.
Hindi films now a days can be broadly classified into two categories. (Yes, there are shades in between but let's keep it simple)
1. Masala Movies- movies which rely on gullibility of hapless Indian viewers. These movies utilize 'superstars', gaudiness, clichéd stories and audience' indifference to lure viewers to cinema halls. Recent examples include 'Prem Ratan Dhan Payo', 'Dilwale', 'Bajirao Mastani', 'Bajrangi Bhaijaan', 'Tamasha' etc. These all-singing-all- dancing-drama films provide full escapism.
2. A breed of movies made by newer generation of film-makers. This category includes the likes of Anuarg Kashyap, Tigmanshu Dhulia et al. But there is a problem with this category. These guys profess to tell original stories but they are very much influenced by famous Hollywood directors. For example, I couldn't help but draw similarities between Anurag Kashyap's 'Gangs of Wasseypur' and Quentin Tarantino's 'Kill Bill'. Also this category of films unabashedly use violence and abuse as part of their narrative and this very feature alienates the middle class audience which is essentially conservative. Here Hollywood stories provides a sense of remoteness which psychologically preserves the Indian conservatism.
Now, Masaan's ingenuity lies in blending the aforementioned categories. It blends individualism and libertine (Devi and Shaalu's characters) with conservatism (Devi's father and the general religious undertone). The best part is that it eschews unnecessary violence and slur. The film provides a touch of reality, a hint of escapism and ends on a trajectory which portends happy endings. That is why it clicks. I must say that 'Masaan' is indeed a refreshing product from otherwise banal 'Bollywood'.
Another Jewel which will make 2015 memorable
They say you never get 100% marks in humanities. I guess, cinema comes in category of arts. Thus the 9 !
Every year in the award season some of the best movies of the year, or for that matter in the history of cinema, are released. Trumbo was the one in 2015. Trumbo is a splendid biopic of a lesser known but meaningful life. The story telling is flawless. The best part is that the script is able to generate thrill out of a dry subject. As an Indian, I had doubts if the film would be riveting enough for the whole 2 hours. The life of a socially boycotted highbrow communist should certainly not make for a captivating cinema, especially in an age of fast- paced superhero movies. But 'Trumbo' walks that tight rope superbly.
Couple of years back I saw 'Good Night and Good Luck.' That movie was also based on somewhat similar theme and was equally elegant in the presentation of its story. Also recently by a twist of good fate I had the opportunity of reading world history of post-second world war period. All that came together and made me enjoy this film all the more. Trumbo truly portrays the other side (Communism) in an objective light. The best aspect is that the film eschews condescending undertones and sanitized portrayals which such narratives tend to take. I can safely say this after having watched several movies on India-Pakistan relations. Trumbo keeps the grey and shuns the binary - black and white portrayal of ideologies.
At the end of it all, Trumbo is a movie which needs to be digested and treasured, if I may paraphrase Francis Bacon.
The Walk (2015)
High on Visuals Low on Substance
The Walk is the latest and most visually gratifying film based on work of Philip Petit - the French high wire artist. As a slightly acrophobic person I must reveal that even the 2D version had many visuals which agitated butterflies in my stomach. The portrayal of Petit by Gordon Levitt is splendid especially given the fact that Levitt had to learn French and wire-walking for his role. The imagery is stunning. The use green screen (chroma key composting) has been done marvelously. But apart from the remarkable optical gratification, I found the film running short on substance. Almost three-fourth of the 2 hour film is only about the twin-tower act. Yes, the movie is named after the act-'The Walk'- but I would certainly have loved to see more about the life of Petit- his childhood, his romance, the making of the artist, the famed European circus circuit etc. Insertion of Kingsley's character as a mentor is perfunctory and very 'Americanesque'- my personal euphemism for sanitized, glib and insubstantial treatment of a subject. This was not a Marvel's superhero but a real life story. I would have loved the treatment of Petit's story to be like that of Spielberg's 'Bridge of Spies'- a tightly knit story touching all dimensions of a character. As a young man I would also have loved to see more of beautiful Charlotte le Bon's character. Some details and images of the original walk of 1974 wouldn't have been out of place before the end credits- they were missing.
At the end of 2 hours, 'The Walk' goes down in RAM and vanishes as the power is turned off. It doesn't touch the ROM or gets embedded in BIOS. Only some cookies - all visual- are left behind for the posterity. Yes, you know what I mean...
Don Verdean (2015)
Sheer Waste of Talent
Don Verdean is a movie about a biblical archaeologist whose heart is in the ballpark of right place. But one act throws him in the vicious cycle of lies. It is a movie you can get into and get out quickly and the script does give you couple of hearty laughs along the way. The story is good too. But at the end of it all, the movie is a sheer waste of talent. I personally sought the flick for its cast itself in spite of the poor reviews. Sam Rockwell, Will Forte, Jemaine Claiment and Danny McBride are actors who can single handedly enact finest comedic material. Support from Amy Ryan and Leslie Bibb should have iced up the act. But the story loses steam a few minutes into the film and veers into banality by the second act. The events look forced and the humour gets generated only from dialogs. For example, when Don covers up for Goliath's head everything in that sequence looks concocted. The natural flow is absent thereafter and story seems to be forced towards an ending. Overall, the film deserves a one time watch- for its cast at the least.
Ted 2 (2015)
Waiting for Ted 3
I really can't understand why many critics went harsh on this one.
The film is jutted with quality humour - social, political and personal. It lives up to the expectations and doesn't slack anywhere at all. It makes us laugh but also makes us uneasy at times not because of crassness but because it reveals the underbelly of our social setup.
I am waiting for Ted 3 - I sincerely hope McFarlene considers it. Ted should run up for Governor or President. It will fit in nicely with the US presidentials in 2016 and should reveal the shallowness of modern political campaigning.
Go Seth go...