Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Alice in WonderLand Review

The original Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll is a delicious Victorian oddity, a children's book whose bizarre dream world, unforgettable word play, and young heroine have captured the imaginations of artists as diverse as James Joyce, Dali, Jefferson Airplane, Jan Švankmajer, and, of course, Tim Burton.

It was only a matter of time until Burton tackled this classic, a dive into the subconscious littered with nonsensical rhymes and literally crazy characters. As the wonderful Annalee Newitz points out, "As [Carroll's] protagonist Alice moves from dreamy encounter to dreamy encounter, watching nursery rhymes coming to life and fighting bloodthirsty monarchs made of cards, we witness something that for the Victorians was just as stunning as a giant dynamo. Psychiatry was in its infancy in the 19th century, and this brave new science suggested there was a method in madness. The muddle of our dreams might illuminate the truth about human consciousness; the murmurings of madwomen could shed light on how so-called sane people think."

I guess you’ve already seen all the movies, so you’ll know that this is not the adaptation of two novels by Carroll, Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass, but an original storyline that sees the return of a wing of nineteen in the country Wonderland, ruled with an iron fist and broad appeal to be beheaded by the Queen of Hearts. According to a prophecy only Alice can liberate the country and deliver the kingdom to the White Queen, sister of the Red Queen. To do so will kill the dragon Ciciaramba (would be the Jabberwocky, but everyone translates it as he prefers) Vorpal brandishing a sword.

Burton’s approach to the film reminded me of Planet of the Apes. Then the director declared that he would have made a remake of the 1968, arguing correctly that if one wanted to review that history, he could look at the original. Excellent insight, but we all know how it ended. On this occasion, said he did not want to create a mix ofAlice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass , as did the other directors who have grappled with the material. According to him, these movies are translated into a series of bizarre incidents and encounters in which Alice is no longer a spectator role. What I wanted to accomplish was instead a work with a complete and consistent with a greater sense of history. Again, great intuition and great respect. Unfortunately, the end result is not up to expectations.

Even the Mad Hatter. Always good Johnny Depp, but I got tired of seeing him making funny faces and grimaces in the movies of Burton? Excellent, the young Mia Wasikowska in the role of Alice. I appreciated the irony of acting over the lines of Anne Hathaway, made up like a transvestite with those lips, andHelena Bonham Carter . The cast includes many other great actors, but between heavy makeup or digital playback and dubbing Italian, you lose the subtleties of their acting. I discovered the presence of many actors that I appreciate, Stephen Fry and Alan Rickman at all, just reading the names in the credits.

Last note on 3D. Not worth it to me. To see something out of the screen and some tuft of grass in the foreground separated from the background have to seethe film with dark images and colors a bit ‘off. I do not know if it’s the fault of the 3D ADR of Rome, but I also heard other people complain that in other films and other films because the 3D effect of this lack of brightness and I read somewhere that is a characteristic of three-dimensional headlamps . Dark to see the movie gave me trouble in the UP, imagine here! To date I have not seen a movie where the 3D has added something to the experience. Perhaps I’ll see 3D avatars (yes, still have not seen it), but other than that, hardly going to see other films in three dimensions, at least until it can be relinquished to the brightness for the depth.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Prem Ka Game Review

Arbaaz Khan gets the seven-year-itch when his wife, Tara Sharma goes to Mysore on family business, with their precocious kid. Can't blame him, since the no-brain neighbour, Madhuri Dixit, literally throws herself on him, with her funny mission of finding love, not marriage.Salman Khan also tries so hard to add some humour to this humourless film. But nothing seems to work. Neither the apology of a plot that tries to preserve the sanctity of marriage amidst extra-marital flings. Nor the plethora of comic actors, headed by Johnny Lever, who ironically make you cringe with their loud, crude, no-laughing-matter acts.

Try figuring out what the filmmaker means when he likens marriage to a public toilet and wives to an internet virus. Maybe Tara Sharma and newcomer Madhuri Bhattarcharya might be able to shed some light on the similes, as they try and keep pace with Arbaaz Khan's wooden antics.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Shaapit's Review

Vikram Bhatt's penchant for the horror film finds another exposition with Shaapit, supposedly the third in the trilogy initiated with the blockbuster Raaz, followed by 1920. This one falls somewhere between the chutzpah of Raaz and the picture-postcard perfection of 1920. It is definitely more gripping than 1920, though it fails to draw you into the drama like the two Raaz sequels. Nevertheless, there's enough to keep the interest running, although we would wish the Indian horror film would somehow extricate itself from mumbo-jumbo, mantra-tantra.

Vikram Bhatt does try to give a more scientific bend to the proceedings by bringing in an erudite professor (Rahul Dev) to unravel the mystery of the ghost who travels through time and prevents the girls from a certain family from entering into wedlock. The Professor helps youngster Aman (Aditya Narain) to find a cure to the curse which plagues his girlfriend (Shweta Agarwal) and sends her into a coma after a chilling tryst with the evil spectre. He takes him on a journey to the distant backwaters and their search ends up in a spooky jail, where the plaster-peeling walls have their own sordid tales to tell. The present day story is basically anchored in two stories from the past and provides ample scope for the film maker to parade kings, princes and scheming queens before the special effects set in.

The film works not so much due to its story. Rather, it's the way Vikram Bhatt tells his story -- with a certain polish and pizzazz -- that draws you in. Also, it's Pravin Bhatt's multi-hued cinematography which adds a lyrical quality to the film. Not much of a debut however for Shweta Agarwal, who spends much of the screen time in comatose, though Aditya Narain is adequate. Watch it, while you wait for our own Paranormal Activity.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Mittal Vs Mittal Review

Mitali walks out of her marriage and files a case of marital rape and domestic abuse against her high profile husband, Karan, who is a leading business tycoon. Time for a lot of dirty linen to be washed in the courtroom, as bedroom secrets begin to tumble out in public glare.
A purposeful film that ends up as pulp, Karan Razdan's take on domestic violence is too long drawn and too verbose, with almost unending courtroom sequences, to keep you engaged. Also, the violence hardly comes through, even though Rituparna, the wronged wife, sheds endless tears while narrating her tale of woe.

Having spurned rich boyfriend, Rohit Roy when he makes an indecent proposal before marriage, middle class Rituparna marries him only because he convinces her of his good intentions. Turns out, the intentions weren't good at all, as she suspected all along. The playboy turns out to be a fiend in bed and seems to have married her mostly for revenge. Needless to say, there's a bad mom-in-law (Dolly Thakore) and her henpecked husband (Amar Talwar) hovering in the background too. The newly-wed does try to take on the sundry forces but when she can't summon any more courage, she simply walks out, hires a lawyer (Suchitra Krishnamoorthi) and joins the dukhi naari brigade. Her job? Mostly, to sit silently through the prolonged proceedings, with tear-rimmed eyes, while lawyer (Suchitra) versus lawyer (Gulshan Grover).

Well-intentioned, yes, but too straight, too talkative and too flag-waving, Mittal versus Mittal is more for the sundry committees on women atrocities than for the new age viewer.

Hum Tum Aur Ghost Review

Story: Fashion photographer Armaan has too many problems at hand. There's a high maintenance girlfriend, Gehna who is the editor of the fashion magazine he works for and a plethora of ghosts who want him to fulfil their wishes, since only he can see and communicate with them. Things get even more complicated when Gehna begins to hate the other worldy intrusions and actually doubts her boyfriend's mental health....

Movie Review: Arshad Warsi's debut film as writer and producer has a problem at the onset. It fails to define itself. Is it a comedy, a love story or a supernatural drama? Does it have a point to make, other than entertain?

The first question raises its head because the plot and the tenor of the film ramble too much. Rarely funny, mostly sentimental, the film seems to waste away its comic potential for some drama that doesn't quite engage. While the encounters with the ghosts, headed by Boman Irani, begin in a lighter vein, they suddenly seem to enter touch-feely territory, with Arshad Warsi, the guy who can see dead people, shedding copious tears while bringing together sons and fathers, sons and mothers, husbands and wives. Case in point: Suddenly, out of the blue, you have a little boy ghost running across crowded streets, urging Arshad to save his dying daddy. Hello! Where did he come from; what's his story? They do tell you, but it's too abrupt and makes you wonder why Arshad is weeping his way through a sequence that barely touches you. Again, the mother ghost hunting for her four-year-old son is too soppy and too predictable. The only ghost-ghost ka dost sequence that actually works is the Boman-Arshad track, wherein a dead Boman wants Arshad to set things right for his ill-treated wife (Asavari Joshi). But unfortunately, that's short-lived.

Which brings us to the second question about the relevance of the film. Now that's an important query, because director Kabeer Kaushik and Arshad Warsi have another film to their credit: Seher. A hard-hitting cop story, Seher still lingers in memory as amongst Arshad's best acts, apart from being a no-nonsense expose of the rail mafia in UP. We wouldn't ask this question if Hum Tum aur Ghost worked as a pure comedy or maybe as the other `I see dead people film' (read a supernatural thriller like The Sixth Sense). It doesn't, and all we are left with are a few sequences of fun, followed by long-drawn drama.

When it comes to performances, it's the Arshad-Boman chemistry that crackles and invests the film with sparkle and wit. Dia Mirza too has her moments as the feisty girlfriend while Sandhya Mridul ends up mostly wasted as a sidekick. What's even more disappointing is Shankar-Ehsan-Loy's audio track which fails to throw up a single hummable tune.

Friday, March 26, 2010


An Indian kickboxer defeats a Pakistani kickboxer in an international tournament. But the event ends in a tragedy due to the Pakistani players intemperance. Will the peace process, initiated by the two countries lose its momentum, specially when the Indian hero's brother is determined to avenge his family, and country during a second international bout that is being held in Lahore this time?

So, the film has been reportedly banned in Pakistan? Do they have reason to do so? The truth is, Lahore may begin on a note that showcases the Pakistani sportsman (kickboxer, Mukesh Rishi and his coach, Sabyasachi Chakraborty) in a dubious light and has the young Pakistani sports psychologist (Shraddha Das) apologising to our Indian hero on behalf of her entire nation, but it ends on a strong pacifist note and perfectly fits in with the need of the hour. One which demands that the legacy of hate and the baggage of history need to be buried because the principle of an eye for an eye cannot work in international politics.

More importantly, the film does not strike a jingoistic note, despite tracing the entire trajectory of the tumultuous Indo-Pak relationship through the aggressive sport of kickboxing. The tenor of the film is sensitively restrained and low key throughout, with the story of young Virendra's (Aanaahad) journey through grief, acceptance and transcendence unfolding gently through the bone-crunching and jaw-breaking. The cricketer who turns to kickboxing to avenge his brother (Sushant Singh) is helped in his endeavours by the avuncular coach (Farouque Sheikh) of the Indian team. But more than training him in the art of kickboxing, the coach must instil the spirit of true sportsmanship in his player and redefine the concept of patriotism for the firebrand.

Lahore works due to several reasons. Firstly, because of its topicality which strikes the right note in this season when India and Pakistan are seeking a new equilibrium in their relationship. Secondly because of its narrative style which is the antithesis of nationalistic chest-beating Gadar-like films. Lahore tells a fiery story, gently and lyrically and is embellished with some great cinematography (Neelabh Kaul) and action choreography in the kickboxing sequences (Tony Ching Siu Tung). But most of all, it boasts of a stellar act by the performers with Farouque Sheikh walking away with most of your applause as the genteel Hyderabadi who must train a team of winners, despite political and bureaucratic interference.

Well Done Abba

The patriarch of parallel cinema returns with a film that suitably showcases why the Indian new wave of the 1970's was such a sterling movement that pioneered a whole new trend of high art and wholesome meaning in desi cinema. Yes, today, when the industry is throwing up another whole new wave of experimental cinema, Shyam Benegal's Well Done Abba emerges as some kind of a benchmark for our current brat pack who want to say so much, so very differently. The film unfolds like a gentle symphony -- never over the top, never hysterical -- even as it ends up as a hard-hitting satire on the entire misnomer of `India Shining', India growing, India evolving, et al.

Benegal's script takes on the entire government machinery -- politicians, engineers, bureaucrats, cops -- for the malaise that seems to be eating away the system. One which precludes the percolation effects of progress and development into the Indian heartland. Driver Arman Ali (Boman Irani) returns to his village, ostensibly to find a groom for his spunky daughter, Muskaan (Minissha Lamba). But to his dismay, the village is in a state of disarray and destitution. The villagers still have to walk miles to get their water and are forced to even refuse a glass of water to the thirsty and weary. What's more, Arman's twin brother, Rehman (Boman, again) and his begum (Ila Arun) are forced to become fugitives, having stolen water from a protected well. In such a parched landscape, Arman comes across a hoarding which tom-toms a government scheme inviting people to dig wells with official loans. This is the beginning of Arman Ali's tryst with all that's absurd, weird, dishonest and ironic in officialdom, whereby schemes like sundry BPL (below poverty line) benefits and NREGA may exist, but in a state of rigor mortis. The welfare bit of welfare pronouncements rarely reach the real people. After having paid off all the percentages and cuts to the long line of officials, Arman is left with a pittance from the loan. Naturally then, the well exists only on false documents and fake photographs and is even reported as stolen in a bizarre sequence of events... Until, a beleaguered Arman decides to take things in his own hands.

The film is a sheer delight, with the events unfolding in a breezy, comic vein which keeps the ribs relentlessly tickling. But what's more alluring are the colourful characters and the multi-layered approach to the problems of a village which becomes a microcosm of the entire nation. Boman Irani's Arman Ali and Rehman Ali are absolutely awesome, Minissha Lamba's Muskaan is a funky firebrand while Ila Arun's slithery, wily, unscrupulous Salma is a veritable scene stealer. The rest of the ensemble cast pitches in like icing on the cake, with Ravi Kissen and Sonali Kulkarni deserving a special mention as the randy newly weds who are wondering whether a silicone job would add more spark to their nocturnal tumbles. Shantanu Moitra's music creates some unforgettable folksy melodies you walk out humming. But eventually, what remains, is the signature of the maestro, Shyam Benegal, over a canvas delivered with finesse and concern.

Savour and sensitize yourself with substance and soul. Watch some Well Done cinema.