Saturday, 15 March 2014

3 Deewarein

Directed by: Nagesh Kukunoor
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Juhi Chawla, Jackie Shroff, Nagesh Kukunoor, Gulshan Grover
Released: 2003
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

A curious, intriguing movie this is. Amazingly non-glamorous, yet not hyping on any dirt. Lasts little under 2 hours and yet stays with you for quite a while after. Clever and with a twist that you never could expect, but not venturing into an impossible scenario area. As both a sum of its parts and the final product 3 Deewarein is, I feel, severely underrated.

The notorious „bad man“ of Bollywood Gulshan Grover is here a „good man“, leaving aside his comic antics and theatrical villainous acting, trying to run a prison, where the prisoners are treated with humanity and everything is done to support their reformation. But some cases, apparently are beyond help. Three walls are a prison to three death convincts, each distinctly different from one another, but sharing the same lot. And the story serves as a probe to test their mentality and behavior face to face with death punishment and lengthy waiting for it. Nagya (played by director himself), keep believing his innocence would eventually be proved. Ishaan (excellent, excellent Naseeruddin Shah, stealing the show away and being incredibly charming even as a killer) is a sly-operator keeping his cool and plotting his escape. And finally Jaggu (Jackie Shroff) decides to be absolutely stoic, waiting for death as if she was his lover, whom he would welcome with some of his plentiful, melancholic poetry (which he recites so soulfully in his deep sexy voice that everything in me just couldn´t help but to be a Jackie Shroff-fangirl).

The makers did an excellent job in presenting the reality of life in jail and daily routine of the prisoners. When with the characters, you feel indeed enclosed in the same small world they are allowed to exist in, cut off from the world. There is nothing filmi about this prison, neither there is a Hitler-like jailor (waving at you, Sholay) and do not expect a happy song about how awesome it is to be imprisoned (avoid a movie called „Army“ at all cost). Within this atmosphere, both calm and full of anticipation, depending on which of the three condemned prisoners is pulling the story forward, the excellent performances by the actors make an intriguing tapestry of emotions and actions.

The medium through which the plot function though, is Juhi Chawla in a role of a documentary filmmaker. Simply clad, with simple talks, she is not what she appears to be to the world. These days expression „women empowerment“ is being thrown around right left and center, and it is unfair to forget that there have been character in the past that indeed reached the empowerment – Juhi in 3 Deewarein is one of them, as she plays an abused wife who not only decides to satisfy her need for being creative, she manages to win over her husband all by herself too. And meanwhile she is also an avenger. And a rescuer. Her performance is brilliant (and for me personally her best, most intense), her presence among the mournful and pessimist prisoners like a fresh wind. And her despair in scenes showing her personal life nothing less than deeply disturbing.

The movie does not have any songs, but the background score and a lonely, touching melody of a flute, which sounds throughout the prison in the nights, are beautiful. Editing in some of the scenes flawless. There is a bit too much English for my taste, which is one of the minor possible complaints. If you are looking for a really good film, try this one for sure.

Tuesday, 4 March 2014

Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai

Directed by: Milan Luthria
Starring: Ajay Devgn, Emraan Hashmi, Kangana Ranaut, Prachi Desai, Randeep Hooda
Released: 2010
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good – great – amazing

What can a director responsible for overhyped Dirty Picture do with a bunch of actors I would rank from „not interested“ to „dislike“ do? Surprisingly a film I really enjoyed. I have been ignoring this one for quite some time (Why? Read the first line!) but as a person who always insists on watching original before a remake and prequel before a sequel I finally sat down and hit the play button. I knew the film was quite acclaimed, but public opinion rarely sounds in tune with my own sentiments.

From time to time there is nothing better than a good Bollywood gangster flick and Once Upon a Time in Mumbaai has ticked every bracket needed to be good. Dark, but never gruelsome or lingering too much on the nasty effects of criminal activity, OUTIM is more or less a masala with a heart, in spite of being a gangster tale, and set in very attractively presented setting of 70s and 80s, thus evoking bit of that nostalgy everybody likes too.

Inspired by real events (at least I found it described like) the film revolves around an idea that criminals and their crimes are of different nature depending on what they have in heart and mind. A willful, ambitious kid that has a secure home grows up to be a selfish and self-loving individual hungry for power, while the one whose attention and approval he seeks came literally out of nothing and while he managed to become the „king“ of the Mumbai underworld his actions are dictated by his selflessness and love for common folk. One is a smuggler, the other is a killer. The interaction and play-off between larger-than-life yet level-headed Sultan (Ajay Devgn) and impulsive, as well as somehow childish, immature Shoaib is the backbone of the film, which in the end gets broken and leaves you a bit numb for a while.

The film has a nice, tight screenplay, that is not weighted down even by two romantic sub-tracks, which bring further understanding of what men the main protagonists actually are. The relationship between Sultan and a Bollywood star played by Kangana Ranaut (I suppose a character created to remind us of notorious Mandakini) is based on caring and love, Shoaib´s selfishness and possessiveness has the upper hand in his love life. His girlfriend (Prachi Desai) is more or less seen as his property, bending to his wishes even when she doesn´t like them or are simply unacceptable to her own mindset.

The film´s strengths are above all good script and performance by Ajay Devgn. Dressed in white, he embodies a towering figure in the game of power, and has an aura of invincibility. He carries the film on his shoulders and charisma and doesn´t make a false step. Emraan Hashmi, whom I just cannot like for whatever reason, is good enough, mostly because he IS supposed to be unlikeable. Kangana and Prachi both play their roles convincingly, even though Kangana´s dialogue delivery and voice will always be a problem. Special mention goes to special cameo by Randeep Hooda, another guy I don´t really care for in general, but like him here.

Once Upon a Time in Mumbai has its share of flaws and illogical moments (why in the world would you need to deconstruct a railway track just so a lorry can ride over it?), and it is not the most exciting gangster movie out there either. But it works, has solid performances and superb music, as well as that already mentioned pleasant vintage touch.

Monday, 3 March 2014


Directed by: Abhishek Chaubey
Starring: Naseeruddin Shah, Arshad Warsi, Vidya Balan, Adil Hussain
Released: 2010
My rating: destroy every copy – horrible – bad – whatever – flawed but enjoyable - good great – amazing

It would be a blatant lie if I denied that the impuls for revisiting Ishqiya was the coming of its successor in the form of Dedh Ishqiya (which has been watched and immensely loved and will be reviewed at LENGTH so just prepare yourselves), but at the same time I can claim with a clear conscience that the first film was definitely one of my favourite films of 2010, long before any news about a sequel. Because it was quite different, yet somewhere along the line it still didn´t feel like a wannabe-artsy film. And mostly because the characters created within the Ishqiya world range from extremely entertaining to quite fascinating. What Abhishek Chaubey managed to do in his debut movie, many more experienced directors sturggle to achieve after years of work. And put me in an awkward position, because I have started writing a review and yet I still don´t know how to write about the film. Or what really..... Ishqiya is one of the films I genuinely enjoyed.... but don´t have that much to say about (seriously wait for my word-diorrhea that will come once I get to Dedh....)

A sun slowly rises above the hills, enough to colour everything in hues of beige and brown, but not yet enough to reveal the true colours of a village landscape somewhere in Uttar Pradesh, where the story takes place. The visuals throughout refrain from using too much colour, settling instead for very earthy tones, in which a wild flower or Vidya Balan´s white choli stand out and draw even more attention than they would otherwise. The attention given to a detail is wonderful. And the overal atmosphere created quite unique. As is Krishna, with her glorious braid and drool-worthy sarees.

Now, Vidya Balan is possibly the sexiest (as well as stunningly gorgeous) actress Bollywood has on its hands these days and she is thus perfectly cast as the female protagonist of the story. A great feminist figure she is – going afer what she wants, manipulating others without a blink of an eye and using all that has nature endowed her with, from wit and swift thinking to sinful seduction. And she is so good in that art that no wonder she has two uncouth crooks wrapped around her finger. Played by Naseeruddin Shah and Arshad Warsi, the uncle-nephew thieving duo Khalujaan-Babban, have made a sure entry into the golden book of Bollywood bromance. Excellent actors with wonderful chemistry, they essay characters who believe themselves to be a lot more cunning than they actually are, and that together with them both being easily swayed by a promise of love (which they are willing to follow with devoted puppy-eyes) makes them utterly endearing. In many way they are the soul of the film, even if Vidya is the center of it. There can be no complaints about performances, music or visuals.

How do you not love them?
The story seems to be going one way for most part and in the last 30 minutes takes a very unexpected turn (at least silly me did NOT see that coming). It takes quite a while before it picks up a decent pace, and the build-up is good, unfortunatelly the very end feels somehow incomplete. As if the writer didn´t really know what to do with the characters once the issue is dealt with and over. At times the viewer grows impatient for story to move on. And if this review so far feels rather incoherent, it is because the film too is incoherent to a certain extent. It takes patience to „get there“ and good will to believe it will be worth it in the end.

I hope we get more films like Ishqiya. More „tight“, but with the same precision and care placed into the characters. With more even pace but with equal importance given to little details and touches. With similarly impressive twists and even more women, who actually are people. Ishqiya world is very feminist-friendly, with men being part of it (and being loveable with their shortcomings) but never really catching a drift of what is really going on. Ishqiya world is a great space to be.