26 Oct 2011

Movie Review: RA.ONE: Confused Sheep in Sci-Fi Clothing



Ra. One shows that there was the potential and the budget to make an entertaining and convincing science fiction movie. Only that, the movie holds on too tight to tried and tested Hindi film emotions. Shekhar Subramanium (Shah Rukh Khan, good act) is a bumbling, on the face South Indian (SI!), part of a London-based computer gaming company, husband to Sonia (Kareena Kapoor, OK) and father to his constantly embarrassed young son - a very conveniently placed tech whiz and game crazy Prateek (Armaan Verma, confident). In order to please his son, the curd rice with noodles eating Shekhar designs a game where the antagonist is more powerful than the hero.

As the sci-fi tale goes, the game villain Ra.One (Arjun Rampal impressive in a criminally brief part) becomes a self-sustaining program to such a level that it enters the real world to finish the game that Prateek started, leading to Shekhar's death. The only filmy way to end the game is by resurrecting G.One (Shah Rukh again), the game hero. There is more mumbo-jumbo that this review will not go to, for the proceedings are all lukewarm, even though the special effects sequences are individually impressive.

The culprit again is the safe Hindi film corner of high lathered emotion, as G.One's deliberate likeness to Shekhar is exploited for teary-eyed cry baby emotion that stalls the proceedings all through the second half, that the final showdown is a whimper. Read Kaho na pyar hai (2001) rehashed and several other template-adhering films. The Rajnikanth sequence is a cold, redundant tribute. The Vishal-Shekhar music is decent, not a saving grace. If not for the special effects, we say, miss this one.

Memorable moments?
Ah, aaah, aah?

9 Oct 2011

Music Review: ROCKSTAR: Magic Sparkles, Fades and Sparkles Again

Music AR Rahman / Lyrics Irshad Kamil
AR Rahman is forgiven his last lukewarm original Hindi film soundtrack Jhoota Hi Sahi (2010), for the long-awaited 14-tracklist long Rockstar, which is far from disappointing. The songs are still growing their gentle creepers as we write. Yes, there is some testing stuff too.
Mohit Chauhan gets a windfall of nine songs, solos and otherwise, that he grabs with both hands. A film musical requiring a certain vocal identity for the protagonist must have prompted the Chauhan largesse, considering Udit Narayan got a bountiful from Rahman a decade ago for Lagaan (2001). The thing about Rahman, that within the limitations that film music imposes, his creatively-gifted melodies and technical robustness, ensures something new. Evidence of the freshness here too.  
Phir se ud chala is a beautiful Irshad Kamil tribute to all the dreamers and travellers, as Chauhan goes - mitti jaise sapne ye, girta bhi palkon se, jado phir aa jate hai…. The turns of the song as unknown bends of a fast flowing river, moving from a guitar background to a techno fade out, riveting stuff. Jo bhi main is another deep poetic Kamil, set a live Chauhan act, soft and spiralling array of guitar, underplayed percussion and wordplay.
Rahman gave evidence of his Punjabi-theme dexterity first in Taal (1999), and he is clearly enjoying himself in Katiya karun, where Harshdeep Kaur is a perfect female lead, if you have heard her in similar Bulley Shah shades, at the recently concluded MTV Coke Studio. Although the main refrain of Kun faya kun can be heard fleeting in the antara of Mujhe Rang De - Thakshak (1999), no complaints, and the effect is stunning in atmospherics, you can almost smell incense here. Sample the simple harmonium-tabla magic with Javed Ali, Rahman and Chauhan as Kamil’s lyrics add lustre. All comes together in harmony, an experience.Kamil’s words deserve a front cover credit that he doesn’t get. 
Sheher mein plays as a studio recording as Chauhan mock-improvises to a straight-forward Karthik rendition of deliberate pop lyrics. A peppy number, embedded as it seems to the film plot. Hawaa hawaa will take getting used to, as a Spanish tango stage inspired song, again Chauhan omnipresent.
The off-key stuff coming up. Aur ho goes down the dark alley of destruction, a modern Devdas take, the Spanish influence hovering in the background. Has not got through yet, a weak link. Dichotomy of fame has some technically muffled shehnai and sparks of Rahman’s album experiment Connections (2009). Pass through stuff. Tango for Taj is an instrumental with Spanish hues reappearing with harmonica and piano, and patches of Hawaa hawaa. Kavita Subramaniam makes a comeback in Tum ko, reminiscent of her part in Tu hi re Bombay (1995). Still to grow on us, has a hint of spark.  
After the low-intensity moments, magic makes a re-entry with Nadaan parindey, Rahman and Chauhan gel well in this stage-set situation, a call for home-coming, Rahman gets the band infusion right here, knowing where cymbals have to shiver and the guitar histrionics blaze. Tum ho has the sound, situation, singer and déjà vu of Pritam’s Tum se hi – Jab We Met (2007). Decent, we expected better. In contrast, Sadaa haq is a sure winner, original, ‘anthemic’ and epic as Rahman does best, Kamil is in his element here as – kyun sach ka sabak sikae, jab sach sun bhi na paaye, sach koi bole toh tuh, niyam kanoon batae! The Ranbir Kapoor monologue to conclude is a brief filler. So, of the most good, some bad Rahman spread, we will applaud and tinker with doubt on some.
Rewind
Phir se ud chala, Jo bhi main, Katiya karun, Kun faya kun, Sheher mein, Nadaan Parinde and Saada haq, are all - shut yourself in a dark room and listen in stuff.