Sunday, 23 February 2014

Goliyon Ki Rasleela Ram-Leela

Directed by: Sanjay Leela Bhansali
Starring: Ranveer Singh, Deepika Padukone, Supriya Pathak, Richa Chadda
Released: 2013
My rating:  destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Does the world really need another take on Romeo and Juliet? Of course not. In fact after pure and precise adaptation by Zeffirelli from the 60s every new movie on the topic can only pass of as „fine“ at best. Still a prospect of the story adapted by megalomaniac of Bollywood Bhansali, who had previously given us some serious visual orgasms and basically drowned us in feelings (positive or negative), against Indian backdrop sounded deliciously tantalizing. Even more so since SLB´s last venture with Guzaarish felt somehow shallow and pretentious to me. I was hoping for the return of magic of Devdas (also a classic story revolving around self-obsessed people) or HDDCS but while I would rate Ram Leela above Guzaarish, it is still much weaker than all the rest of SLB films. I was also pinning my hopes to it as a film that would be THE film of 2013, only to be kind of let down.

How´s my lipstick?
Given I am not the greatest fan of the original story, it still cannot be denied that it was heading to somewhere following (even if naive and hormonal) basic logic and once it reached the tragic climax one felt for the two young people. Ram Leela could easily turn a teenage puppy love into a truly passionate affair, but ultimately the teenagers from Verona owned them. Lust at first sight that happens between oily, hairless Ram who dedicates a whole song to get dandruffs out of his baal, and stunning beyond words Leela is good and makes sense, yet everything that follows is just too quick. But to be fair, it doesn´t do THAT much of a damage. Yet. I was quite enjoying the story of two families who shoot at each other every day for centuries and obviously suck at handling the gun considering they never hit anyone. And when they do, it is by accident.

Up until the moment of Ram and Leela being found by their families and torn apart, the movie works. However after that to the very last minute there is not an ounce of common sense left. Ram becomes the leader of the family gang, yet does absolutely NOTHING to get to Leela, in fact he is not even answering her desperate phonecalls. Leela holds onto her logic a bit longer, but then looses it as well. The story reaches new heights of WTF with HER becoming the leader of HER family gang. But while both our lovers can weep their eyes out they decide to continue the mutual family slaughter. I did not understand who exactly they were fighting with. Ad to it extremely random change of mind that other pivotal character goes through near the end and you are left with your head hurting from all the shaking.

Not all is bad. The film is visually pleasing and the play of colours wonderful, be it the blue and white Holi or red and golden Navratri, also the use of different festivals to give the viewer sense of how much time has passed is skillfully vowen into the narrative. Music is appropriate and follows the story well (yet I expect more from SLB films after the gold that were Devdas and Saawariya soundtracs). I could have done without the forced Priyanka Chopra´s item number. Women in the film are all in the top form and it wouldn´t be wrong to claim the film belongs to them. Supriya Pathak is nothing short of amazing. She steals the show with her portrayal of Baa - and only looses breath near the end with her (already mentioned) nonsensical and unexplained change of heart, which takes away from the impact of her character – and also makes the uselessness of the final Ishaqzaade-ish tragedy all the more frustrating. Her scenes are intense and very well create an image of dangerous woman who is scarier than all the dudes running around with their rifles.

Deepika Padukone is looking beautiful and emoting beautiful. I loved that underneath the tough exterior there was really just a very vulnerable, yet determined creature. I wouldn´t say it´s her best performance, but definitely very good. She also emerges as a very capable dancer, oozing grace in Lahu Munh Lag Gaya and unbound energy in Nagada Sang Dhol, even manages to pull off the throwback into the 90s that is the only unfitting song Ishqyaun Dhishqyaun, suffering from Govinda/Karishma hangover. Finally Richa Chadda, with an air of mystery and looking positively gorgeous, deserved more scope and more stuff to work with. She is brilliant in whatever she is given. And even though minuscule, I would mention the subplot with Leela´s unwilling prospective groom among positive as well.

Turning our attention to somehow effeminate Ram, Ranveer Singh nails some of the scenes and disappoints in others (but yay to his dancing). He is very inconsistent throughout, going over the top quite a few times. It doesn´t help that he shares next to none chemistry with his Leela (somebody explain to Bhansali that eating each other´s heads every five minutes does not create an image of love or passion if you simply don´t have “it”). Romeo and Juliet is primarily a story about two people who cannot be without each other. But here the script has them separated quite early on and the relationship practically ceases to exist (???). Truth is because of all that I did not care for Ram and Leela as a couple.

Overal Ram Leela is an average fare. Not “bad” and not “good”. Worth a watch, if only for Deepika Padukone. It is getting more and more interesting to watch her evolving into a very fine actress. I give it „flawed but enjoyable rating“, even though I did not exactly enjoy myself.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Neel Kamal

Directed by: Ram Maheshwari
Starring: Waheeda Rehman, Manoj Kumar, Raaj Kumar, Lalita Pawar, Balraj Sahni, Mehmood, Shashikala
Released: 1968
Verdict: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

Do you remember a scene from Kaagaz Ke Phool when an aspiring actress played by Waheeda Rehman attends a party and styles herself for it according to latest fashion trends? She then bumps into a director, played by Guru Dutt, who discovered her and is in for a nasty surprise when instead of flattery she is scolded by him for ruining her unique charm, which lies in simplicity. I felt like Guru Dutt while watching Neel Kamal. Somehow I felt that the dramatic 60s styling with mad cat eyes and huge hair never suited Waheeda Rehman, arguably one of the most gorgeous women on screen ever. Her beauty has been done justice by black and white film the most, where indeed no trappings of fashion would distract from her soulful face. By no means am I saying she looked bad in this film – after all that may not even be possible and her innate grace is as overwhelming as ever – but somewhere down the line I was not happy with her styling. How could I know that would actually turn out to be one of many voes offered by the film.

Neel Kamal is one of the films that cannot decide what they really are supposed to be about. Is it a horror? A reincarnation mystery? A family drama? There are even (very slight) hints of psychological thriller. From many ways they could the makers pursued the most unfortunate one and went on with weepy saas-bahu melodrama in which ultimately all characters loose their likeability. I would also say they all loose their brains, but most of them have none to loose from the beginning. In fact the supposedly mentally disturbed heroine is, for most part, the only one who has some logic left, while everybody else only have heads so it doesn´t rain into their throats.

The premise sounds intriguing, make no mistake. Once upon a time a sculptor was in love with a Princess, but instead of happiness he found death because of it. His immortal pyaar stalked the palace even as centuries went by and it fell into ruins. And finally, after years, a young woman hears the voiuce of the culptor calling out to her, for even though she is named Sita, she was once the Princess Neel Kamal. But is it all real? Or is Sita mentally disturbed or ill? In any case it lands her into a big pile of poo as the film goes on.

If I decide not to judge the movie for the old-fashioned sexism it stands for (complete with Sita having to undergo a harsh test to prove her innocence to a very undeserving hubster and nasty girls wearing western attire whilst pure heroine would never don anything but a saree) there are still too many things completely wrong about it. First of all – Sita is obviously a sleep-walker. Instead of trying to cure or at least help her condition the only worry her father has is who is going to marry her (and a doctor himself very scientifically supports the idea that the best remedy for sleep-walking is marriage), and when she does marry he doesn´t even make her new family aware of her „disease“, even though it is pretty life-threatening. Sita´s husband keeps randomly changing his mind about his wife according to what he is told the latest. He never bothers to actually ask her. And one look at an old statue combined with some crap about ghosts he deduces in his mind is what actually makes him believe her, instead of a delayed information from her father about her sleep-walking.

I wished the film would focus on Sita and her battling with her disease/visions/past life, but the makers did not find a time for that, wasting too much footage on her nasty sister-in-law played by ever-annoying Shashikala and her husband who looked like from another world altogether, played by Mehmood. Their subplot ranges from heavily awkward to downright embarrassing. Not to mention next to useless to the main story. Completing the mosaic of insane characters, who are concerned with everything BUT the source of what happens to Sita, is the devilish saasu-maa Lalita Pawar, who makes Sita´s life a living hell so it is OK for her to just change her mind at the end cause she don´t wanna live in an empty house yo. And nobody even wants her to say sorry. And since I really wanted Sita to send them all to blazing hell by that point I could only roll my eyes in frustration.

Neel Kamal wastes not only a promising plotline, but also its first class actors. Waheeda Rehman carries it all on her elegant shoulders, but seems as weary as her character while doing so. At least she gets to use her amazing dancing skills in several songs. Manoj Kumar as a confused pati parmeshwar looks handsome and has nothing to work with. Even seeing his plight over doubts he may have as a loving husband would have been interesting, but you know, let´s have a catfight between Shashikala and another random lady over a man neither loves instead. And over-possessive ghost Raaj Kumar, who keeps trying to kill his reincarnated love and just when she says OK decides it´s actually not that important, was quite weak.

Neel Kamal disappointed me on many levels, as a film that could have been exciting and different, but ended up being very „common“ and tiring.