Thursday, 27 September 2012


Directed by: Sujoy Ghosh
Starring: Vidya Balan, Parambrata Chatterjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui
Released: 2012
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing 

Is anyone actually going to believe me that what happens in the end was actually my very first thought of how it´s going to be at the beginning? The revelation at the ending was a crowning jewel of Kahaani, but my own suspicion took away a bit from its impact, that would make it a really „wow“ film for me. Even so Kahaani is among the most quality stuff we have been served in a long while and it is probably the best movie of 2012 so far. It is different in more ways than one (from „usual“ stuff Hindi cinema produces). There are no lip-sync songs, there is no love story, there is, actually no dominant male hero. Not that I don´t love all those, after all why else would one watch Bollywood.

Vidya Bagchi, a heavily pregnant woman, arrives to Culcatta and with her priorities sorted out she goes straight to the police station, demanding the force starts looking for her missing husband. But as it turns out quite soon, this is no ordinary case. Not only the person is missing, but everything suggest he never existed either. Then again here is a woman pregnant with his child and with his photo and information one could not just make up. And things become even more mysterious when secret government agents step into it all, trying to convince Vidya to stop looking. However she is obstinate and determined and with a help of a police officer Rana, who is nurturing tender feelings for her, Vidya is slowly uncovering an elaborate plot of happenings and connections...

*One does not simply walk into Mordor* in Vidya Balan style
Kahaani has possibly the best (read the most „have a heart-attack dear viewer“) intermission scenes, which really has you cursing the pee break in the film, ever, and if there would still be the Best Villain award, then this year Rishi Kapoor would have had a serious competition from Saswata Chaterjee as „Namaskar. Bob Biswas. Ik minite.“ guy, who has to be one of the most freaky and scary cinematic bad guys in the world. Hidden in a plump body and behind strong glasses, there is a vicious and cold blooded killer hiding within a seemingly completely ordinary average insurance agent. 

Namaskar. Do not trust insurance agents. They might be like Bob.
Overall Kahaani is a very good movie that at times seemed too slow, but the ending made it all justified and definitely lifted it up. The suspense was there as well as thrill and grip, but it was not over done or over-dramatized. Up until I read some other reviews I didn´t really even think about plotholes, which seem minor anyway. It is a film that has you thinking, not just feeling – the latter being much more essential to Bollywood movies in general. 

In case you won´t find your hubby, I am here, fluffy, cute and in love with you.
Brilliant cast of largely unknown actors is dominated of course by Vidya, that gorgeous woman who had won me over a long time ago. Here she is definitely more sensitive than in pretty much overhyped The Dirty Picture and much much more moving than in rather boring NOKJ. Her performance deserves a serious praise, although yet again Parineeta stays unconquered. She represents so many elements within the film. Helplessness, inner strength, determination, and then also turning ill-treated and finally punishing the sinners, taking in a way a form of Goddess Durga, who is also present during the whole finale thanks to the setting of the movie. I really loved the atmosphere and portraial of Culcatta. I have never been to that city or India even, yet the movie provides what seems a very genuine representation of it. At times one can almost be under impression you can smell and breathe the air of the town, which thus itself becomes a performing artist. What is admiration worthy is also the fact that apart from being well cast and well acted, the film is also wonderful and polished from all technical aspects too. The camera angles, the lighting, the editing, blending of the music score, some really powerful yet not larger than life dialogues.... Kahaani is a film Bollywood can be proud of.

Friday, 21 September 2012


Directed by: Yash Chopra
Starring: Rajesh Khanna, Sharmila Tagore, Rakhee Gulzar
Released: 1973
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

The complete title is Daag – The poem of love, heralding right from the beginning that you are in for something cheesy and self-indulgent (though the latter not by far on the scale Yash Chopra started doing films in the 80s. Indeed compared to lavish Veer-Zaara, Chandni or Dil To Pagal Hai poor Daag looks like a disowned relative nobody talks to in family gatherings). It is also not „a poem of love“, unless you call bizarre romantic. Because bizarre, perhaps even with a capital B, it is.

After accidentally killing a man trying to rape his wife Rajesh Khanna escapes from the police, leaving bechari Sharmila Tagore pregnant and thinking he died. However as destiny would have it they meet again several years later, with Sharmila having a son and Rajesh having a huge moustache, bungalow, daughter and Rakhee Gulzar for his wife. Oh the drama! I was really curious at this point at how is Yash Chopra going to solve this one in order to please general public. But I was disappointed when it became clear that Rajesh is in fact not married to Rakhee and he is not a father to her child. He only told so everybody so to save Rakhee from gossip, because her lover had ditched her once she told him she was pregnant. And then Rajesh spent 5 years with her under one roof, with her million rupee daddy sponsoring them, growing a moustache, but he never even touched her, because you see, he loved Sharmila. As to why in the world did he never ever even tried to find her up (with millions at his dispose that wouldn´t have been so difficult anyway) is never explained. 

But even his „marrying“ Rakhee is as bizzare as hell. I for sure wouldn´t bring a random person from a train station to my home in the middle of the night, spilling to him what the rest of the world must not know and accept his immediate proposal for „marriage“ within an hour. The ending however was the most bizarre thing of all, with Rajesh and Sharmila being reunited (thus making Rakhee´s undesirable situation known to the world – which previously was that very thing they tried to stop the whole time) and choosing to live with Rakhee and her father in one household, because "their relationship is unbreakable now". BTW Rakhee was the one with millions and bungalow while Rajesh and Sharmila had, as we say in our country, naked butts. But Sharmila makes this decision seem like she is actually making a favour to Rakhee,who by the way is in love with Rajesh and thus making the whole thing even more questionable (urgh... how exactly did they arrange the house and bedrooms? And how the heck they explained it all to the kids?)

This was only my second film with Sharmila and Rajesh respectively. Rajesh I have previously watched in Khamoshi, but that one was completely Waheeda Rehman´s show. Here he showed me he had a beautiful voice, but was not really good when it came to being angry or agitated. It felt too fake really. Sharmila did well (and surprisingly was not a representative of what we today call „a Yash Chopra heroine“ aka looking like a heaven-sent creature), but the one to really capture my attention and sentiments was Rakhee. She was different in her approach than Sharmila. More focused. Less conscious of the camera. She was becoming her character with great conviction. And her character deserved so much better.

All in all I don´t think Daag is a great film. And well, I don´t think Yash Chopra is a great director either. My love for some of his films is rooted usually in performances and performers, sometimes also music. But it rarely has much to do with his direction. The self-indulgent, epicness-boasting titles do not help either.

Saturday, 15 September 2012


Directed by: Homi Adajania
Starring: Saif Ali Khan, Deepika Padukone, Diana Penty, Boman Irani, Dimple Kapadia
Released: 2012
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

When a young girl Meera from India decides to move to England where her husband lives, she is in the shock of her life. As it turns out the husband has no interest in her and only married her for money. He throws her out of his life and she finds refuge with Veronica, a young, beautiful woman whose entire life is big wild party. Soon they are joined in their apartment by Veronica´s boyfriend, a notorious flirt and womanizer Gautam. And things get rather complicated when his mother mistakes the traditional Indian girl for her son´s life partner instead of free-spirited Veronica. And even more troubles are on the way, because somewhere in between all the pretending, Gautam begins to fall for Meera and she for him.... 

Been there, seen that? Sure. Still Cocktail is not a waste of time and makes for a fairly good movie. It has enough of both fun and emotions to keep you occupied. There are negatives of course. For example Saif and Deepika are not a good jodi. She is too tall for him and he is too old for her. While Saif has a great comic timing and can be genuinly funny, he seemed rather out of place among the young girls, and his appearance somehow took a bit from him being completely convincing in the role. Diana Penty as Meera gives a confident debut, her portraiyal of a quiet Indian girl was nicely sensitive. And she looks really pretty which never hurts. I was actually quite surprised at the amount of screentime given to her, in fact I think she was the main female lead. 

The showstealer and life of the movie however is unquestionably Deepika Padukone. She has not been as gorgeous on screen since Om Shanti Om, and needless to say her efforts and work are finally showing. She has improved drastically as an actress in the past five years. I always liked her, though it had more to do with her beauty and also visible effort she put into her work, but now I can finally say she definitely belongs among the finest crop of the new actresses. The relationship between her and Diana in the was wonderful. While the first half of the film is a light entretainment, the second holds a feeling of unmistakable sadness. I sincerely felt for Deepika´s untold sorrow and impression of being completely lonely. She made my eyes teary. So afraid to be alone, to be deprived of all the love, that she was willing to change herself completely into a picture she believed Gautam would like. 

The ending itself somehow ruined the mood for me though. True enough, I think Gautam and Meera ending up together was inevitable, and one wanted it for them as well. After all Veronica did not really love Gautam I trust. She fell in love with the sense of security, with the unity of a family she suddenly was presented by his mother, uncle and even Meera. Shown as a child from a broken home, she was inwardly longing for a stability, a relationship that would last forever, and the idea that a marriage, home and children are not destined to her nearly destroyed her. Yet the finale itself was somehow thanda and didn´t fit the rest of the movie. I also didn´t understand the character of Meera´s husband. Why would he suddenly change his mind? Even to an extent of wanting Meera to stay with him? Did he have a bad conscience? If so, it was never shown, and so we are bound to wonder. 

To note down a few more things - performances by the supporting cast, namely Dimple Kapadia as Gautam´s mother and Boman Irani as his uncle, are a real delight. In fact Dimple was so excellent I wished she had more scenes, like this it only seemed to be an extended cameo. Music is rather average, no song stands out. What starts as a typical romcom evolves into a very touching film about relationships, out of some are more powerful than love.

Too much of Deepika in this article? Nonsense. There is never too much of Deepika....

Thursday, 6 September 2012


Directed by: B. R. Chopra
Starring: Rishi Kapoor, Rati Agnihotri, Poonam Dhillon
Released: 1985
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Since few days ago it was Rishi Kapoor´s 60th birthday I decided that I should review a film that actually made me change my opinion about him. Originally I knew him as the fat and awkward guy who romanced girlshalf (and quarter) his own age, and if anything I found him ridiculous. But then he grew onto me in his father roles, and finally I thought it was about time to watch some more 80s and chose Tawaif with Rishi in the lead role. Attracted primarily by the title (I have a thing for Bollywood tawaifs/prostitutes/courtesans), I was presented with a very nice film. And Rishi was suddenly cute instead of ridiculous.

Dawood, a young man in possession of a one room apartment in a friendly neighbourhood and working for a publishing company, meets a beautiful young girl Kayanat, an aspiring writer. She is naturally overjoyed when Dawood introduces her and her novel to the publisher and all seem to be going well both for Kayanat´s career and Dawood´s love life, as he soon enough finds completely enchanted by her. However then one night Dawood opens to the door only to have a tawaif forced into his house by her pimp escaping from the police. All the protests are in vain and Dawood, in fear for his life, has to take the woman, named Sultana, in and that for quite some time. For the matters to go even worse his neighbours find out about her existence the very next day, and assume Dawood got married in secret. And to avoid embarrassment both him and Sultana decide to go with the flow, letting the neighbourhood to celebrate their fictional marriage while they sleep in a room divided in half by curtains. As the time passes, Sultana becomes favourite of everybody around – except Dawood, who is still pining after Kayanat....

Rishi is quite adorable as poor but honest Dawood. Indeed suddenly I was able to see why he used to be so popular when younger. Far from being exactly good looking, he had cuteness written all over him, not to mention his comic timing was wonderful, and there are quite a few scenes in the film where he can prove that to you. His initial disgust over Sultana and frustration over not being capable to romance Kayanat are a source of some good humour when they clash with Sultana´s quick adaptation to her new role of his wife. 

Rati Agnihotri makes Sultana a beautiful, interesting tawaif character. She does not have the depth of Chandramukhi from Devdas or Gulabji from Pyaasa, but she combines excellently the vulnerability of a woman for sale and rather unladylike behaviour taught by "her world". As weird as it may sound I found her a "fun" prostitute (sounds even weirder now that it´s written down). I did not like though how the film made it sound as if a tawaif wasn´t a woman, but some low species unworthy of breathing air (I sense some strong Pakeezah inspiration here). Rati is the showstealer, even though Rishi acts very well as already mentioned, and Poonam Dhillon in the supporting role of Kayanat does her job with sincerity too. 

The finale though, was kinda hilarious instead of touching. So the whole community somehow makes their way into a brothel of all places to claim Sultana, not one of them suffers of prejudice against her profession. The pure naivity and cheeziness of it made me laugh, but I am almost never against heart-warming (even if unrealistic) endings. 

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge

Directed by: Aditya Chopra
Starring: Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Amrish Puri, Farida Jalal, Anupam Kher
Released: 1995
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

I was deeply disappointed by Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge. It is a film you will find in all the „must see“ Bollywood lists, it is massively popular and what is even more amazing it is still running in the theaters. For some it is the best of the best Bollywood movies ever. An evergreen classic. And it did not blow me away at all when I saw it the first time. I still remember how I was sitting in front of the screen as the closing credits rolled, me rather baffled, and I thought to myself: „Was that it?“ I failed to see the greatness there should be to rave about completely. But then after some time I returned to the film. And since then I have done so about four times. And other times I watched just small portions of it. And I realized that the beauty of DDLJ is in its simplicity and repeat value. It does not have the most amazing plot twist and it is all in all quite predictable, it does not have gorgeous sets to take your breath away and editing is a bit sloppy at times, but the film has an unusual freshness to it that can still be felt years after it first released and got so many fans.

This really wouldn´t be my reaction over prospect of being stuck with SRK....
The story line is notoriously known so let´s just sum it up quickly: Europe. Raj meets Simran. Simran hates Raj because he saw her bra and actually can play a piano. Raj doesn´t rape Simran even though they spend a night in a closed space together. Simran and Raj fall in love. But oh! Simran´s dad is Amrish Puri which in itself spells trouble. And indeed we are given his famous deadly stare and off goes Simran to India and her arranged fiancé she has never even seen. Raj, fully armed with a mandoline and a cow bell, follows, chupke chupke. Raj convinces everyone, while being in disguise, he is the most perfect guy ever. Amrish Puri deadly stares as he finds out the truth. Raj apologizes for even trying and makes a quick exit. Amrish Puri deadly stares as a train with Raj starts to move forward. They stare at each other. Still staring. Amrish Puri has a sudden change of heart and urges Simran to outrun the train and hop on. Simran runs. Running. Dramatic music in the background. Simran catches Raj´s hand and he pulls her into the train. 

One of the most famous Bollywood endings has actually many shortcomings. Why doesn´t the train actually move at the speed it should. Why doesn´t Simran hop into the nearest door and instead needs to outrun several carriages. Why the hell doesn´t Raj actually step out of the train? But as I´ve said before, DDLJ is not a perfect, flawless film. It has loads of fluffy charm to make up for it. Not even the performances are award-worthy (though numerously awarded), but there is so much earnestness in young Shahrukh Khan and natural appeal in Kajol you believe them without a complaint. It is no secret I am no fan of their jodi, as appalling as it sounds to many of you. I think they look like siblings most of the time. DDLJ however presented them so well even I couldn´t rant about my reservations towards the couple. Still, it shall forever be a great sorrow to me that DDLJ could not have been made with the original choice for Simran, the unfortunate Divya Bharti...

People usually rave about the second part of the movie, which almost entirely belongs to Shahrukh Khan as Raj, whilst Kajol as Simran remains largely passive, letting him do what he seems fit - after all that is what he asks her to do. I personally enjoyed the first part with their bonding in Switzerland more, it had more of things actually happening and there was more delightful comedy involved, it was also a lot less tear-heavy. The supporting character actors were dearly loved people whom we have learned to see in every other movie. They all do what we are used to know from them. Amrish Puri being the negative person in the film (but for once not evil), Farida Jalal an understanding and gentle mother, Anupam Kher a slightly whacky dad who interferes with everybody´s bussiness. All were lovely to watch. Though as a person who knows Karan Johar primarily as a TV host and a director of awful films it was kind of bizzare to watch him on screen as one of SRK´s friends...

"Actually, keep your daughter. Our kids could inherit your stare."
Great deal in the film´s appeal also lies in an extremely melodious and catchy soundtrack. It involves two pretty much iconic songs Tujhe Dekha To and Mehndi Laga Ki Rakhna, but all the tracks are good.

DDLJ is definitely overrated when labeled as perfect and the best ever film. But it is undeniably an all time classic with a truly tremendous repeat value, and it definitely belongs to all those „must see“ lists, even though if only as a reference point to the modern Bollywood romance it has become alongside two other biggies – Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Dil To Pagal Hai. The big three to bring romance and family values back after all the action packed massalas that ruled the cinemas for years post Sholay. It also remains the best Aditya Chopra work till date. In fact, I don´t think he came even close with any of his other movies. A begginer´s luck perhaps?