11 Jun 2013

Movie Review: The Hangover Part III: Works at the gag level, mostly

If you view The Hangover Part III as a series of skits, bear the gross, sexually harsh comedy and shut your eyes out to the story you are bound to breeze through it. The jokes keep coming, the cast has settled to a comfortable chemistry of 'been there, done that' territory and the director is clever enough not to ruin it.

To bind in the wafer-thin plot, Chinese gangster Mr.Chow (Ken Jeong) has escaped from prison.Meanwhile, Alan (Zach Galifianakis) buys a giraffe that loses its head and causes a huge freeway accident. His hapless father, tired of Alan's antics succumbs to a heart attack, and his concerned family is determined to get the 42 year-old some medical help. So it is up to Alan's wolfpack - brother-in-law Doug Billings (Justin Bartha), Phil Wenneck (Bradley Cooper) and Stu Price (Ed Helms) to take Alan to the ADHD treatment facility.  

The trip gets awry right at the start as the foursome are kidnapped by Marshall, a gangster looking for Mr. Chow who has made off with his gold bars. Doug is held hostage as the trio are sent out to find Mr.Chow and the gold bars. Alan has been in touch with Mr.Chow and soon the trio go on a roller coaster ride to Mexico and Vegas in pursuit of Mr.Chow.

The Hangover Part III mostly works on the character level with Galifianakis and Jeong playing their stark parts with brave abandon. Cooper and Helms tag along spiritedly and by the time one arrives at the end credits with yet another wedding underway, you can't say you were disappointed. There is no memorable scene, as in comedy soap operas, the lines keep coming and you get your laughs. Just don't ask for classic, cinematic comedy and you will do just fine. 

8 Jun 2013

Movie Review: Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani : Contradicting, Glitzy Escape...

Caution: Long sentences dot this review, it is advised for the safety of your eyes to blink prolifically.

In his second directorial venture, Ayan Mukerji again casts Ranbir Kapoor as the man-boy who wants to live life on his own terms, just as Sid in Mukherji's remarkable coming of age debut Wake Up Sid (2009). The central, core thing that worked for Wake Up Sid was its deft, non-judgmental documentation of a carefree, aimless protagonist finding his purpose, and incidentally - love. 

Manali and Udaipur are two settings set eight years apart in the story. Childhood friends, now collegians - Bunny (Ranbir Kapoor), Aditi (Kalki Koechlin) and Avi (Aditya Roy Kapur) take off on a trek to Manali. Bunny is a rebel, restless to travel to every corner of the world. An adventurer in frenzy, he is also against marrying and other societal norms. Avi and Aditi are scratchily sketched - He gambles and keeps losing money. Aditi is spontaneous, in love with Avi, a one-sided affair.

A chance meeting of Aditi with her school classmate, the studious, bespectacled, bored medical student Naina (Deepika Padukone) leads to the latter inexplicably joining the trio on a dream Hindi film train ride complete with skimpily dressed dumb beautiful women, even as Bunny draws Naina out of her shell. Post the Manali trek, Naina falls for Bunny and in total filmy style, is predictably interrupted in mid-confess by the news of Bunny's impending departure to an overseas travel job. There are several unexplained bits in between.

Eight years pass by, we only know what Bunny was really up to. Apparently Avi has suffered heavy losses in business, has taken to drinking. Aditi is a bride who has wisely accepted her groom (Kunal Roy Kapur). It is mildly suggested that Naina is a doctor. The foursome meet again at Aditi's wedding, and the film stretches itself to a comfortable, sofa cushion ending, a far cry from the sparks of rebellion it displayed in Ranbir's character. 

On convenience  
We know where the path will lead when: 
  • The main characters escape unscathed after a street squabble, the menace and danger is totally absent. 
  • Naina loses her spectacles at the holi song and never gets them back.Obviously she was carrying the lens case all along or her diet had drastically empowered her vision.  
  • Major letdown: Travel freak, individualistic Bunny no longer wants to be so even though he makes up with his step-mother (Tanvi Azmi) and remembers his late father's (Farooq Sheikh) advice - Live your dream?! He actions contradict his character from then on that it has the feel of our sweetest, impossible dreams.
  • The zest in the performances prop up the film. All four principal characters give it all, Ranbir is endearing in an overcooked role (Hero/Human); Deepika has come a long way since her raw, confident turn in Bachna Ae Haseeno (2008). Aditya has the makings of a fine actor and Kalki doesn't let the underdeveloped part assail her.
  • Crux of it: Too much time is spent to get the message across and then rub the blackboard clean and tell us - Get back to your girl, damn your dream!
  • The bright, glitzy lighting, perfect clothing, ad-placements and the lip-sync songs doesn't add up to the film. If not anything, we have surely had enough of characters' gruff voices suddenly transforming into melodious ventriloquism. Surely, the songs can play in the background, unless the protagonists are portraying musicians.    

In totality
Yeh Jawaani Hai Deewani starts off on an adventurous trek with the safety of cliches for company; takes occasional, enjoyable diversions, but then returns to the comfort of the accepted and the tested. Not a bad first time watch, especially for the performances and carefree atmosphere. The promise doesn't hold, that's all. 

She said it...
Somewhere beyond two hours running time, the film briefly comes to its own.As the sun sets on Udaipur and Bunny is eager to not miss another destination on his checklist, Naina observes calmly, "You can't get to every place in this world, something will always be left out...so why not be here at this moment and enjoy it."

6 Jun 2013

Javed Akhtar & War Movies (Part I)

jung toh chandd roz hotee hai
zindagi barson talak rotee hai 
(a war lasts for a few days 
life weeps for a lifetime)  

So go the balm-like lines to Anu Malik music at the fag end of the otherwise jingoistic 1997 release Border. The song Mere Dushman, Mere Bhai (My enemy, My brother) won singer Hariharan and lyricist Javed Akhtar the 1998 National Film Award. The movie was the first of the Anu Malik-Javed Akhtar-JP Dutta collaborations.

Dutta dealt with war again in the 2003 multi-starrer LOC Kargil. That we have only one warring neighbour didn't help Dutta if he was looking for variety. The director's tried and tested approach also threatened to make the music redundant. Just how many times can you have soldiers singing songs at the border in all abandon with the surety that the enemy never attacks mid-song?

Yet singularly, solely concerned with the audio, we have to say that Border was a very good soundtrack, it can certainly be counted among Anu Malik's finest works.Though the musical treatment follows the Hindi film template norms, the effort is sincere. (If someone were to accuse Malik of plagiarism, he can always shoot back with, "Hey, but I made the songs for Border!")

Sandeshe Aate Hai highlighted the exchange of letters between the soldiers and his family members, the ten minutes running time is no deterrent here. The language is deliberately of the everyday - nostalgia rants the air as the letters are read. The last paragraph has the soldiers hailing their heart-felt replies back to their loved ones with a final refrain of Main Wapas Aaunga...(I will be back).      

Hamein Jab Se Mohabaat Ho Gayi Hai is an extended love duet with lyrics that adds luster to the Indian village setting. There are beautiful references to the setting sun, a still, silent river, the paths that run between fields and the lingering of love. Ae Jaatein Huve Lamhon makes poetry out of a wedding night, as the groom yearns to absorb every bit of the bride, as he has to leave in the morning to attend his duties as a soldier.

But the most sombre and ever-reaching of the soundtrack is Mere Dushman, Mere Bhai. Akhtar writes sincere lines that make their point, asks the right questions:  

Hum apne apne kheto mein, 
ghehu ki jagah, chawal ki jagah, 
yeh bondooke kyun bote hai? 
Jab dono hi ki galiyon mein 
kuch bhooke bachhe rote hai 
kuch bhooke bacche rote hai..         
(Why do we sow guns instead
of rice and maize in our fields?
when in the lanes of both countries,
some hungry children cry...)               

(To be contd.)                    

Movie Posters: Kung Fu Panda

Both movies are my among my favourite animation films ever, so here is a collection of posters from Kung Fu Panda and Kung Fu Panda 2.