Thursday, 21 February 2013


Directed by: Afzal Khan

Starring: Sanjay Dutt, Madhuri Dixit, Jeetendra, Amrish Puri

Released: 1997
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Mahaanta is one of those films I tend to pretend do not exist, because it is one of those films that cause me an acute pain as a Madhuri Dixit fan. In making for almost 9 years, by the time Mahaanta came out it was badly outdated in all aspects. The star-cast, that must have been extremely impressive in the late 80s, when the film shooting actually started, was, by the time it released, almost exclusively considered veteran and non-happening (apart from Sanjay and Madhuri). The story too was one of those bloody thrillers about revenge so popular at the time, but no longer relevant in the post Hum Aapke Hain Koun and Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge era. It wasn´t handled well either.

"Why were all my scenes cut out and my presence in the film reduced so much?"
"You are too old to be a heroine. Better you face it soon."

Honestly, I don´t know where to begin. The film is extremely boring from the start, and to be honest I couldn´t really follow what was happening. There was Jeetendra, already looking 60, but playing a young man, I caught a glimpse of the beautiful Poonam Dhillon (and my, does she disappear like a rock in the ocean not to be heard of again in this film!), but mostly the story seemed to focus on devilish Amrish Puri, who runs illegal business and has brave, but stupid police officers murdered. And then, out of nowhere, Sanjay Dutt appear to save the day and Jeetu´s ass (just like that, no explanation given). And in the next moment he´s wearing a tight yellow Speedo T-shirt, buying sarees for his bhabhi in a supermarket, and falling in love with the gorgeous, though horribly dressed Madhuri, as she´s passing around. However, Amrish Puri´s „son“ falls in lust with her (no, that isn´t a typo) and to get her he tries to rape her, and when he gets a beating, asks daddy to get him the gal.

By threats to her and Sanju Amrish forces Madhuri to a wedding, but Sanjay having none of that manages to steal the bride for himself and marry her. And from this point on, the story gets even more boring and confusing, with more kills and more raping, and Jeetendra circling around as a righteous protector of the law while Sanjay turns into an avenging killing machine and having a song after he murders every single one of his enemies (sorts of „Ninety-nine bottles of beer on the wall, Ninety-nine bottles of beer. Take one down, pass it around, Ninety-eight bottles of beer on the wall“ gaana). Until in the end Sanjay and Jeetendra have a Dostana moment of mutual forgiveness and renewed love for each other. Doesn´t you head hurt just reading? Now imagine actually watching all this in span of approximately three hours.

"I brutally murdered a guy just now. Sha-la-la-la-la!"
None of the actors gives a really bad performance, but none excels either. Jeetendra is boring, Sanjay´s character actually rather unlikeable, Amrish Puri gives us his standart staring villain and Madhuri doesn´t have a big role, especially in the second half she only appears for the songs - a reminder that she signed the film in the late 80s. Heck, Shakti Kapoor is on the screen more. Music is fine and catchy enough, although picturization of Chule Chule makes Sanjay Dutt look like a blind, deaf and unfeeling wooden log, because to sleep with your own wife would probably take away your super powers or what. Let´s just smack her across the face, that´s right. Just like when she said she loved you. Indeed, Sanju may love Madhuri in the film, but I have no idea why would she love him so dearly, cause treats her like dirt most of the time.

Saajan-wali Madhuri.

DTPH-wali Madhuri.
All those years it was in making ruined the film completely. I´m completely sure Sanjay and Madhuri´s story was just a supporting one to the main of Jeetendra and Poonam Dhillon, or at least there was loads more of Jeetendra and Poonam than what we´ve got to see eventually. Scenes were being rewritten and reshot, which we can perfectly document by seeing fresh and happy Sanjay vs. tired and weary Sanjay who just got out of jail, Madhuri with skin problems and black curly hair from the times of Saajan and Madhuri with flawless skin and brown messy hair she sported post 1996, and of course Sanjay´s mullet is ever-changing, not staying the same in two scenes.

Mahaanta is a pain. In the hearts of Madhuri fans like me, in the brains of all the sane movie-watchers, and if you manage to sit through it all at once, it can easily give you a pain in the...

"Baby, let´s make a baby!"
"No. I haven´t kill everybody in this film yet."
"WTF dude?"

Monday, 18 February 2013


Directed by: Reema Kagti

Starring: Aamir Khan, Kareena Kapoor, Rani Mukherjee, Nawazuddin Siddiqui

Released: 2012
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

There couldn´t be a better title for this film, because it is indeed primarily a movie about searching, where every character is on a lookout for something else. Ad to it that the full titles is „Talaash – the answer lies within“ - and wah! Rarely you stumble upon a title summing up the movie as perfectly, yet not revealing anything, just capturing attention. And the movie itself proves to be just as captivating. Before I go on, talking about the story and such, better be warned: if you have not seen the movie yet, and actually want to enjoy it, stop right here. I know what I´m talking about. This is one movie, that spoilers not only „spoil“, but extremely take away from an impact that the movie has a potential to make otherwise. I was, unfortunately, not lucky, and knew beforehand what the twist was. Talaash still made for an engaging and even thrilling watch. But I can just imagine how much more I would be taken by it if it wasn´t for some people who enjoy spoiling fun for everybody else.

"Who posted the spoilers on Twitter?"

In the dead of a night a fast speeding car, just like that and seemingly entirely without reason it takes a sudden turn and crashes into the sea. The driver, a famous actor, drowns. And so police inspector Surjan starts his search – for the reason of the tragedy, because nothing indicates a sabotage neither a suicide. The case doesn´t seem to have a satisfactory explanation, and the more police knows, the more mysterious and tangled it all looks. Surjan spends his days and nights at work. Not only he is driven by desire to solve the thing, but he is also trying to escape his own personal pain. He has lost his 8 years old son in a tragic accident some time ago. His shattered wife is only slowly trying to recollect her life. Her search is for the lost understanding with her husband. 

Surjan´s investigation brings him into the red light district of Mumbai, where he meets Rosy, a prostitute, who gives him some truly invaluable information. And more. Her presence seems to calm his nerves. He cannot talk to his wife, but he feels free to do so with Rosy. With her, he can finally rest for a few moments, without nightmares. Even Rosy is in search of something. She is searching – for justice, a revenge for her own death...

Spooky! That Talaash is a ghost film becomes apparent quite some time before Surjan himself realizes the truth behind Rosy, her tales of a lost prostitute three years ago and also a „special place“ she leads him to. Ad to it communicating with dead son through a medium, and you could almost classify the film as a horror. But the supernatural is not really the core of the film, neither is police investigation, nor are small episodes of side characters, who are also searching – pimps for wealth, prostitutes for freedom, and a crippled crook for a decent life of the woman he loves. Ultimately Talaash is a human tragedy and coping with the greatest loss a parent can bear. Whatever Surjan goes through, every person he meets, all that is slowly leading him to forgive himself and breathe freely again in the end. His search is for inner peace.

"And for that T-shirt. I love that T-shirt."
Talaash is not the best film of the last year, but it could be ranked among top 10. The concept is not entirely new overall, but it is new for Bollywood. It is different and well made. Performances are very good from everybody. There is both subtlety and realism to all of them. The film has three major stars, but none of their auras and personalities overshadows the film, making it a background to their own shine. If anyone around you is in search for a don´t-leave-your-brain-at-home film, Talaash might be what they are looking for.

Monday, 11 February 2013

Umrao Jaan

Directed by: Muzaffar Ali

Starring: Rekha, Naseeruddin Shah, Farooq Sheikh, Raj Babbar

Released: 1981
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

One of the most famous stories of both Indian literature and cinematography, Umrao Jaan could be easily described as a tale of a woman who got as much as bad luck as possible. Thrown into the middle of undesirable circumstances, Umrao Jaan accepts her fate, tries to make the best of it, dares to hope and being heart broken tries to cope with her fate yet again, every single time a little less hopeful, until a nearly indifferent attitude becomes her main character feature. From unknown enemies to her own family, they all have a share in her misery. The woe story has been adapted on the big screen several times, yet the 1981 version starring the legendary Rekha in her, possibly, most memorable role ever, is without a doubt the one lauded by many as the ultimate and best presented one.

The story begins in 1840. A little girl Amiran is kidnapped as a revenge to her father, who had previously testified in court against a rapist (who naturally feels offended). At first the kidnappers plan to kill the girl, but ultimately their greed and hunger for money produce a better idea – they would sell the girl into a brothel. That way they will get paid, and the girl will be as good as dead to the rest of the world anyway. Little Amiran tries to run away from the brothel, but is caught, and has to bow to her fate for the first time. She gets a new name – Umrao, is treated well by everyone in her new „home“, and she is given a proper education for a future courtesan. She is taught to sing, to play musical instruments, and her greatest passion becomes writing poetry. Years keep flying by and in no time a slightly awkward girl blooms into Rekha (aka into a creature with sweet, intoxicating voice, eyes burning with an inner flame and in possession of unique, mysterious beauty).

It is her poetry though, that brings the love of her life to her. Young and dashing Nawab Sultan is a lover of shayari, and it doesn´t really take much time, until he is head over heels in love with the prostitute as well. The fairy-tale romance, however, is cut short, when under pressure of circumstances (and his mother), Nawab Sultan is forced to stop visiting thr brothel and Umrao refuses to step into a house of his friend, where she is treated like dirt. And not even several outdoor meetings save anything. Nawab Sultan bows down to his mother´s wishes and gets married, leaving devastated Umrao forever. There is more bad luck in store for Umrao, as she tries to create a new way of life for herself, taking some rather dangerous steps, but being always struck down by one blow of fate after another. For no fault of hers, she is ultimately only left with herself and her verses. All the more sad since other two female characters, also destined to be courtesans from the star, both not only find a way out of their personal hell, but also a happiness and love.

The beginning of the film is not edited too well. Glimpses and hints of how the things go, and why the characters decide what they do, seem almost unrelated, and their motivations and reactions are so only a matter of assumptions on the part of the viewer. The story itself moves slowly, and could easily become tiresome (as was the case of the 2006 version of the film), but what keeps ones attention is Rekha, whose sensitive understanding of the character truly made Umrao Jaan a living person. Rekha is also one of those actresses, who don´t need to speak much, yet even their smallest change of mood can be visible in their eyes and on their face. And when she does speak, one wants to listen to her forever. She is almost equaled in the perfection of the performance by Naseeruddin Shah, playing a good-for-nothing Gohar Mirza, a helper in the brothel, who has a soft stop for the courtesan.

The settings, the costumes, everything seems extremely realistic, and as far as I know the makers managed to give the film an accurate historic feel to it as well. Nothing is blown out of proportions, yet the high class and richness of the culture of 19th century courtesans is very apparent. The film, of course, is also famous for beautiful songs, likeable melodies and lyrics. Finally I have to say, that although not perfect, the film is a beautiful piece of cinema for many reasons, some of which I have mentioned and some of which I would be putting into words only with difficulties. 

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Ek Saal

Directed by: Devendra Goel

Starring: Ashok Kumar, Madhubala, Kuldip Kaur, Johnny Walker

Released: 1957
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

There is nothing more poignant then watching a movie about a girl who is slowly dying, knowing that the actress herself will not live long and is actually slowly dying. This depressing thought was the only thing I really took from „Ek Saal“, a drama with some romance and hurting thrown into it. I suspect that my copy of the film had some scenes cut out and I thus did not get to see the entire movie as it was released. There was nothing too obviously missing really, but at times I wondered. After all, it wouldn´t have been the first time something like this happened to me with an old movie.

Usha, a girl of a simple name and manner, as well as extraordinary face and gazillion of gorgeous expressions (yes, Madhubala), is celebrating her birthday and everyone wishes her „A thousand years to live“. Unknown to her though, Usha has a brain tumour, something her rich rich rich father just found out, and his heart is breaking. As it appears his daughter doesn´t have a thousand years to live – not even several more. Just one. And the devastated man decided that the whole year that remains should be filled with happiness and not a single worry for his laadli beti. And so when Usha falls in love with their new estate manager Suresh, who doesn´t return her gentle feelings, father bribes him: for every month he spends pretending to love his ill-fated daughter, he will give him a considerable amount of money. Suresh accepts with head lowered in shame – and joy in his heart!

Because Suresh is in fact a conman, who is only trying to rob the rich family of as much as possible. And such an easy income as this he couldn´t have even imagined. And so he romances the girl and keeps counting his money, and planning a future of sorts with Rajni, his partner in crime. Since it is in his best financial interest to keep Usha alive as long as possible, Suresh searches for a doctor, who would be able to help her. But as the months are passing by, with unmerciful clocks tickling, he is becoming more and more aware that being greedy may not be exactly a virtue. And Usha´s innocence and love also start bringing their fruit. Suresh falls in love – for real. And unfortunately the possessive Rajni will have none of his lovey-dovey nonsense.

Why does Usha fall in love with Suresh? That was what I wondered in the first place. And I suspect that is where something was missing from my copy – because I don´t like an idea she simply falls for him just like that, in a matter of a few days, considering he didn´t show any interest in her whatsoever, plus was so bothersome to her at the beginning. Whatever the case, her love also chose to be quite blind. During the film there are several situations during which Suresh nearly shows his true face (like not believing in God and hiding suspicious letters before Usha), yet she never question him on anything, doens´t even stop to think about it. Then again perhaps Usha does have such a naive, almost childish mentality, considering her father decides she shouldn´t even know about her own state of health. Madhubala is as gorgeous as ever in the film, making Usha almost an ethereal creature, though not exactly someone you could relate to. She makes a nice couple with Ashok Kumar, who in his turn delivers a good performance too. Suresh and his change of mind (and heart) do not happen overnight and the inner struggle shown as a dialogue with his own mirror image/photo, who gain live for a few moments, is probably the most interesting aspect of the story.

Kuldip Kaur as Rajni is one sassy character with an attitude. She is no walk over, and she doesn´t just sit about making empty threats. She goes out and actually does what she wants without any delays. She does make you hate her, at the same time I realised I admired her to an extent. Same cannot be said for Johnny Walker with his completely useless comedy track, that gets way too much space for my liking and I recommend to fast forward through it, because it really IS useless.

Ek Saal did not win me over. It failed to make me feel emotional. As I have already said at the beginning, only the knowledge that Madhubala, playing a girl dying of brain tumour, was slowly, slowly dying of her weak heart, stayed with me once the closing credits kept rolling.