Monday, 8 February 2010

Rann - A Review

Directed by: Ram Gopal Verma
Cast: Amitabh Bachchan, Paresh Rawal, Sudeep and Riteish Deshmukh.

Rann is a film that should be shown to students who are studying film-making. It should be part of the list of movies students of film should watch to learn how not to make a film.
In the form of Rann, Ram Gopal Varma has a churned out a product that is as shabbily conceived and constructed as Ram Gopal Varma Ki Aag.

Rann fails at every level as a movie. The script and screenplay are extremely weak. The characterisations are bad. The dialogues are downright corny and cliched. The camera work is a disgrace. The music is worse than pathetic and the direction, well the less said the better. The acting was below average but that is not the fault of the actors. The script just did not give them any scope for showcasing their skills.

The story is as follows: Malik (Bachchan) is the head of national news channel renowned for his ethics and principles. However, his brand of ethical and responsible journalism is not helping him in winning the TRP battle against a former colleague Amrish (Mohnish Behl) who packages news in the form of sensational entertainment on his channel. On the advise of his industrialist brother-in-law, Rajat Kapoor who is completely wasted in this role, Malik's son Jai (Sudeep) makes a discreet deal with a corrupt politician (Paresh Rawal) to air a fake sting framing the Prime Minister in exchange for the money required to save his father's failing channel and to set up a few more.

Jai convinces his father to air the fake string operation which results in the government getting toppled. This helps Rawal's character in usurping the PM's position. However, an earnest young reporter (Riteish Deshmukh) at Malik's channel feels that something is not right and decides to investigate the sting itself. He unearths the scam that has been committed and confronts Malik with the evidence. Heart-broken that his son duped him into committing such a travesty he goes on air, apologises to the country and exposes the people involved in the scam.

The issue Rann attempts to deal with is topical: the rat race that news channels are in to give the viewers 'breaking news' and to what extent they will go to increase their ratings. But just a topical subject does not make a good movie. Research is very important and Rann is a very badly researched film. No attempts are made to show the viewer the working of a news channel. Reitesh Deshmukh's character is always watching his channel on television but never shown doing any journalistic work which usually involves ferreting for stories, meeting sources, confirming the validity of sources and finally typing out the news story.

Mr. Bachchan's character is extremely preachy and sermonises whenever he is on screen. As the head of a news channel he delivers the news after sermonising on the need for ethical journalism, unbiased journalism etc etc. It feels as if the script writers and the directors want to drill it into the viewers that Mr. Bachchan's character is ethical, unbiased almost Gandhian in his approach towards news. When his wife throws a fit on hearing that their son wants to marry a Muslim girl he gives her and thus us the viewer another sermon. The movie ends with a 15 minute long monologue/sermon on the media and its role in society and news should not be fabricated for TRPs. The monologue is delivered extremely well by Mr. Bachchan but ruined by the craziest and dumbest camera work in recent times. Instead of keeping the camera on Mr. Bachchan, Verma has the camera move into weird angles distracting the viewer from really appreciating the subtle facial and vocal inflections Mr. Bachchan achieves.

Ram Gopal Verma uses bizarre camera techniques and extremely loud music to build drama and tension. These are very similar to the techniques in Sarkar and Sarkar Raj. However, in this film they fall flat. The camera work is extremely irritating. The loud background score further underlines that fact that after Company, music in Verma's movies have been extremely poor.

Verma could have used the story to critically explore the ways in which selected areas of ‘real world’ communications operate in global and national contexts. Here was an opportunity to analyse public diplomacy and propaganda in the news media as well as critically evaluate the existing journalistic trends in India (predominantly television and print media). Instead Verma has decided to make a movie that is preachy and does not engage the viewer in any intellectual debate. These faults combined with the extremely shoddy film-making result in a horrible experience at the theatre.

Ram Gopal Verma needs to introspect and realise that he has truly not lived up to the potential he showed with such fantastic films as Rangeela, Satya and Kaun. Each one these films were different in their genre and were very well constructed and put together. He needs to realise that good filmakers in India and the world over chose diverse genre and do not stick to one particular style.

Monday, 25 January 2010

Sherlock Holmes - A Review

Directed by: Guy Ritchie
Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Mark Strong, and Rachel McAdams.

Interpreting a literary character is never a bad thing. In fact it signifies an attempt at being original and trying something different. Therefore, when it was announced that Robert Downey Jr. was going to play Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law was portraying his ever-suffering partner, friend and chronicler of his adventures, Dr. Watson, intrigued is what this writer was. The casting would either be a stroke of genius or one of the biggest man-made disasters in recent times, very similar to the last two Bond films (yes, I firmly believe that Casino Royale and Quantum of Solace were disasters of epic proportions).

I was pleasantly surprised by the performances of the lead cast especially the banter between Holmes (Downey Jr.) and Watson (Law). But that is all the film offers. There is no semblance of a mystery here, which is quite shocking since the lead character is one of English literature's oldest and well loved sleuth. The makers of this film knew that only a strong cast in the form of Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law would make this film worth the price of ticket and Downey Jr. and Law quite valiantly carry the movie on their broad shoulders.

The film begins with Holmes and Watson ready to part ways as Watson is going to get married. Holmes seems to be extremely jealous, in a platonic way, and uses the mysterious resurrection of Lord Blackwood (Strong), a practitioner of the black arts, to drag Watson along.

Downey's portrayal of Holmes is very similar to that of the late Jeremy Brett who played Sherlock Holmes in series of Granada Television films between 1984 and 1994. Brett played the iconic detective as an obsessive and depressive personality with a penchant for drugs, alcohol and the dramatic. The only difference with Downey's portrayal is that his Holmes is more physical, practices martial arts and partakes in bare-knuckle boxing competitions.

Jude Law's Watson is energetic, quick-witted, is socially more adept than Holmes and seems to have have more common sense than his cerebrally gifted friend. In fact, quite refreshingly, unlike previous cinematic versions, this Watson is not a dithering old fool. He has his own charisma and his only failing is that he lets himself get dragged into his friend and partner's adventures, sometimes at the cost of ruining his relationship with his soon-to-be-wife.

The campy but delightful chemistry between Law and Downey Jr. would have been very interesting in an adaptation of one of the original stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I genuinely cannot understand why the filmmakers could not take one of the original stories and let Downey and Law use that as a platform for their interpretation of the iconic characters. The script writers have completely deviated from the original stories. Therefore, in this film Holmes has never met Watson's soon-to-be wife. Whereas, in the original classics, Watson meets his wife in The Sign of Four. The film also has an ex-love interest for Holmes to deal with in the form of Rachel McAdams, whose character is working with the mysterious Professor Moriarty. Mark Strong as Lord Blackwood grimaces throughout the movie and is completely wasted. He is neither mysterious or scary. Another case of a good actor let down by a travesty masquerading as a story.

But let me not digress. This writer would have forgiven every single creative liberty taken by the filmmakers if there was even the semblance of a story and mystery in this film. Throughout the movie Holmes trudges and trundles about and gets beaten black and blue. His deductions occur haphazardly, as if the script writers suddenly remembered that Sherlock Holmes has to be shown doing some sleuthing and detective work. The script has quite obviously been written for staging elaborate action pieces. As one reviewer put it, "(t)his is Holmes and Watson on a cheerful romp around London, and it never demands any real mental exertion of the audience." (Jon Williams This is a Sherlock Holmes mystery with no mystery, a 'whodunnit' where the audience knows who has done it from the very beginning and the chase to catch the perpetrator has no thrills. The movie is an ambitious roller coaster ride that unfortunately only coasts and but hardly ever rolls and jolts the viewer with excitement. There is no sense of foreboding that comes with stories set in Victorian England. This might as well have been set in the 19th century America because the lead character acts more like a cowboy and less like a sleuth.

As the director Guy Ritchie does the best he can with such a horrible script. The action pieces are well shot but just do not have the chutzpah that one expects from Ritchie's offerings. The script just does not lend him a helping hand. In fact, it feels as though Ritchie is trying to tell the studio bosses that he is now a director on hire and can work on scripts not penned by him. I would rate this movie as one of Ritchie's least satisfying concoctions, second only to the disaster ,Swept Away starring his ex-wife Madonna. The editing is smooth and the film movies at a frenetic pace. It does seem as though the quick pace of the film is deliberate so that the viewers do not have time to realise that there is not much a story.

Quite clearly the studio bosses needed a vehicle to cash in on Downey Jr's new found success and popularity. I just hope that the sequel has some semblance of a story worthy of English literature's great Victorian sleuth.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Dil Kabaddi - A Review

Please click on the link to read the review which was written a year ago. The writer, as is his habit, forgot to post it on his blog.

Monday, 29 December 2008

Some updates and one very important realisation

It has been almost three months since I have posted a single word. I am back in the land of my birth and the hunt for that elusive 'job' is still on. Mumbai is still the same, filthy, polluted, loud, crazy, zany other words full of life and colour and I would not have it any other way!!!

Even though I am part of the many million who are unemployed I have still managed to partake in one daaru session every week, which according to certain sections of society makes me one big bevda.

What constructive thing have I done since I have returned? Well, if one must know I have discovered that the best way to enjoy the effects of marijuana is to consume it in the weirdest of places, like hospitals or the rooms of doctors in hospitals!!! I have also realised that guys should not wear stockings of any kind, especially those that go up to their thighs and more importantly one should never encounter a guy wearing thigh-high stockings when one is stoned, it can be extremely scary. I still wake up at night shivering in fright...

Finally, let me end by saying how happy I am that the Aussies are getting their backsides whipped in their own backyard. Just thinking about it brings a smile to my lips and a tear to my eye. For those of you who do not know what I am talking about, SHAME ON YOU!!!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

Maqbool vs Omkara

Two nights ago, due to a lack of sleep and extreme boredom I revisited Maqbool and Omakara, Vishal Bharadwaj's adaptations of Macbeth and Othello and I must say that I ended up changing my initial views on these two films. I remember raving and ranting about how good Omkara was and how it was such an improvement for Vishal Bharadwaj as a filmmaker. Basically I reacted like every film critic in India. Unfortunately, I must eat my words shamelessly.

Maqbool is the movie where Bharadwaj has shown that he is a filmmaker that we should look out for. He has beautifully and very meticulously adapted Macbeth for Indian sensibilities. The main characters have been fleshed out extremely well with outstanding performances by Pankaj Kapur, Naseeruddin Shah, Om Puri, Irfann Khan, Tabu and Piyush Mishra. Pankaj Kapur, though, is the standout performance. His character bears shades of Marlon Brando in the Godfather, but Kapur has made the character his own. Even though he is physically diminutive, Kapur's character (Abbaji) exudes power. Kapur's Abbaji is the definitive 'Godfather' of Hindi cinema. Maqbool, though set in the squalor of the Mumbai underworld cannot really be called a gangster film. Its focus is on the characters and their human frailties. This is where Bharadwaj leaves his stamp as someone who is not interested in aping the gangster formula as conceived and unabashedly milked by Ram Gopal Verma.

Maqbool is the right blend of a tight script, brilliant performances and exceptional directing that is rarely seen in Hindi cinema these days.

Omkara, is definitely a technically superior movie than Maqbool. It is slicker and has a grander scale. Bharadwaj has shown an eye for detail by meticulously recreating the nexus that exists between politics and the underworld, especially in Uttar Pradesh. However, unlike Maqbool the focus is on the stars and not the characters. The only character that seems completely fleshed out is that of Langda Tyagi, which is essayed by Saif Ali Khan and is, not surprisingly, the stand out performance in the film. Saif's rustic, rural Iago is foul-mouthed, treacherous and at the same time slightly endearing. Saif is able to essay the hurt and betrayal his character feels at being overlooked as a successor to Omkara quite marvellously.

Unfortunately, other than Saif's performance and two remarkable cameos by Konkona Sen Sharma and newcomer Deepak Dobriyal, the rest of the star-studded cast deliver performances that are good but not memorable. As a friend of mine once mentioned, Bharadwaj might have been better off going with relatively unknown actors, since they would have approached the roles without the baggage of their star personae.

However, Bharadwaj should be given a standing ovation for turning to classic literature for ideas and for bringing Shakespeare to the masses and the effort he takes to adapt these classics to the Indian milieu. There seems to be a genuine effort by him to make films that are entertaining and at the same time have something for the connoisseur of good cinema.

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

This aint a review...

Saw RocknRolla with the Zenmaster after a session at our favourite watering hole and I must say that it was extremely disappointing. Most directors these days, in my humble opinion, seem to start their careers with a bang and then...NOTHING.

Guy Ritchie's first two movies Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels and Snatch showed a lot of promise and could well be considered to have added a new dimension to the British gangster genre with the tongue-in-cheek humour that they contained and the complex and intricately constructed script with excellent characterisation. These two movies had relative new-comers in them other than Snatch which had Brad Pitt in a role which was small yet memorable. However, Guy Ritchie has not lived up to expectations which these films created, at least not to mine.

RocknRolla has a story that is paper thin. There are multiple story lines that converge just like his earlier ones but they only appear to be complex. The dialogues of the characters are very mediocre with obvious attempts at replicating the wit witnessed in Lock, Stock and Snatch. The worst part is none of the characters are memorable. I came out of the theatre feeling the way one feels after smoking a Marlboro made in China. IT'S JUST NOT THE SAME!

I am not trying to write a review here, but what I am trying to convey is that these days the experience of going for a movie, at least for one made in the UK or US, is just not fulfilling. None of the British or American movies that I have seen in the past one year, have really made an impact on me. I have not come out of the theatre going, "WOW! That was some flick..." Even the blockbusters seem extremely formulaic and even visually they do not stand out.

That is my biggest gripe with the films coming out of the West these days. I do not remember seeing an American or British film recently that has knocked me off my feet the way Pulp Fiction did and sadly Tarantino has also gone the Ritchie way. I think the problem here is that the directors these days are slaves of their images. So a Ram Gopal Verma (RGV) sticks to gangster and horror films which is the same with Tarantino and Ritchie. They do not seem to want to experiment with genres and styles, which is the one way they can keep their audience guessing. I doubt if RGV will ever make a musical like Rangeela. He is so wrapped up in the image of a director who makes realistic, gritty films 'exposing the underbelly' of life that a frothy, light musical from him seems as distant as a Pink Floyd reunion.