27 Jun 2012

Music Review: Cocktail: Dance/Lounge Sugar Candy

Music: Pritam; Lyrics: Irshad Kamil

All through this techno/electro Pritam act, we seldom get the depth of reflection, but more of percussion thumps and some passing rewind takes. The new female alternatives boosts the album big time. As for pathos, the last time we heard anything sad and tunefully gloomy in heartbreak was Shankar-Ehsan-Loy's Tanhai from their gatecrashing Dil Chahta Hai (2001). 

Still you can't deny the lounge riff addiction in Tumhi Ho Bandhu as Pritam regular Neeraj Sridhar does the usual English-Hindi reprise with the welcome freshness of  Kavita Seth. Thumbs up for the dance motivation. Also sunshine is the similarly veined Daaru Desi, a guitar-synthesizer friendship number, with treated vocals. The Shalmali Kholgade vocals are the bright new thing here.Interestingly, both Seth and Kholgade's vocal texture are variants of Shipa Rao, yet quite different. 

Second Hand Jawaani has a novelty concept in its tag line and the Punjabi rhythm. Again the vocals are fresh (Neha Kakkar, Nakkash Aziz and 'Miss' Pooja) and the dance thump beats a winner. Pick of the album. Kamil's lyrics are apt here, they fit in to the ultra urban tone, wish they could have risen above the sounds like they did in Rockstar (2011).  

Yaariyan, with its boy band referenced (Green Day) percussion and guitar work has its moments in its message of holding on to friendship despite the odds, with a shadow of isolation. Mohan Kanan's lead vocals and the brief Shilpa Rao interlude sync well here. The piano-accompanied reprise of the same song is a pleasant listen, Sunidhi Chauhan does a great take on it.

Luttna, the mandatory 'Sufi' filler, an otherwise fresh take, loses steam largely in its techno background and its high-pitched chorus reprise - which can take time getting used to. Tera Naam Japdi Phiran is again dance territory, the English refrain of bad bad girl, doesn't gel with the catchy Punjabi rendition here. Frankly, it is about time we move on from wrenching dry Jugni, which gets yet another rendition here.

Main Sharaabi, the sole composition by Yo Yo Honey Singh is another Punjabi dance number for the drinking, dancing party.

A groovy album that lacks variety in concept, though half of the songs work, skimming off  the surface, singularly.

23 Jun 2012

Movie Review: Gangs of Wasseypur (Part I): Greed, Gun, Lust Carved Into Small-Town Literature

As is a sign in good cinema, no actor's performance is allowed to overshadow the movie's flow...

It will take the release of the second part to conclude in summation on this epic endeavour that could well be a book on a history of crime. The film begins in 1941 somewhere in the smoky coal-rich badlands of what is by dialect and geography inclined to either Uttar Pradesh or Bihar.

To cut the long story short, the first part of the aptly ‘A’ rated Gangs of Wasseypur is immensely watchable for the lovers of the gangster drama genre. The weak points are few and far in between. A mild start with just too many guns booming and a two-minute part in between seems to drag, but that is about it. The rest is all bull’s eye and fresh, as the director’s breakthrough Dev D (2009) was.

The strength again is in the rich writing, dialogue, endearing characters and performances. For making us like onscreen murderers for whom killing is a casual, every day part of life is no small achievement. Seven decades are adroitly covered in 150 minutes of smoky greed-gun-lust celebration.

Sexual repression and expression - both make humourous, realistic appearances, from a wife catching her husband with a prostitute to a woman reprimanding a potential lover for not asking permission before holding her hand. The stand-out scenes are many, never have Indian abuses sounded so natural and enjoyable, and the way commercial Hindi film culture is embedded here is fun.

Without giving much away, go for it, cinema lovers.

The rooted, unconventional Sneha Khanwalkar soundtrack adds gleam to the realistic setting, much like Amit Trivedi's connect in Dev D.  A zany non-filmy take on the earth sounds of North India, the stand outs - Womaniya and the evocative Jiya Tu Bihar Ke Lala. A word also for G.V. Prakash's background score.   

It is not a complain, but the Dev D poster art was so much more to look at

The colour of coal more coherent than dialogue
The stunning Huma Qureshi plays Mohsina
Nawazuddin Siddiqui plays Faisal Khan
Reema Sen is a surprise as the sensuous, pivotal Durga

17 Jun 2012

Music Review: Teri Meri Kahaani: Energy and Enthusiasm in Formula

Music - Sajid-Wajid; Lyrics - Prasoon Joshi

A large number of filmmakers want to stick to the unchanging, simplistic sugar-candy Hindi film romance where all characters wear eye-popping clothes and showcase 1000 watt smiles. Snatches from Kunal Kohli’s upcoming Teri Meri Kahaani seem to fit right into that space, unless we are proven pleasantly wrong. 

Meanwhile the Sajid-Wajid 2012 juggernaut rolls on, as they present here a filmy, enthusiastic and energetic soundtrack for redundant themes. We thank Wajid for crooning Muktasar, which could have so easily been an Atif Aslam song. The dance lounge track is buoyed by Joshi’s lyrics and the vocals are a damn surprise. The theme here is of the mysteries of meeting and parting. 

Allah Jaane, despite the usual pure first love vibes, Sufism take and Rahat Fateh Ali Khan (yet again) is our album pick. For one, Khan is soulful in the singing; with minimum arrangements, the wind flute interlude is gorgeous, followed by Joshi’s poetic moments in – Aasman hai pairon ne neeche, varna zameen pe kaise neelepan...haar ke jitne ka silsala mil gaya... 

Jab Se Mere Dil Ko Uff is a retro-take on the swinging rock & roll inspired 1960’s soundtracks. We get a mix of Shankar-Jaikishan, R.D.Burman and early Laxmikant-Pyarelal. Sonu Nigam (Mohd.Rafi on Shammi Kapoor take yet holds his own) and Sunidhi Chauhan (Usual verve) make a clean job of it, hummable. 

Humse Pyar Kar Le Tu is familiar, oft-heard territory. The music directors do try sprucing it with additional male vocals to Shreya Ghoshal. Thus Wajid starts proceedings, Mika takes over and the Sabri brothers fill in quawwali inspired chorus. The running time dilutes the male-female interplay.

The western melodic reggae effect in That’s All I Really Want to Do is still a very Hindi Sajid-Wajid filmy number. Think some Housefull 2 after-effect. Shaan is an apt vocal choice; Shreya Ghoshal surprises us with her English rendition here. 

An easy hummable listen for those looking for good love songs with the music director duo whose energy does exude into what could so easily have been staple fare. Prasoon Joshi’s lyrics do play a part, merging Urdu words economically with the Hindi.    

13 Jun 2012

Movie Review: Shanghai: Telling Cinema

Justice delayed is justice denied - one of the many powerful truths that Shanghai exudes, without any character or voice over proclaiming the words. It is in such between the line moments, strong performances and precise storytelling that the film stays in the mind, much after the blood red end credits have rolled out.   

Based on Z, a novel by Greek writer Vassilis Vassilikos, Shanghai tells the story of Bharati Nagar, somewhere in small-town India that the ruling coalition party is keen to develop into a mega city. The thorn in the flesh is activist Prof. Ahmedi (Prosenjit Chatterjee, very apt) who leads the protest. In a flash, Ahmedi is mowed down by a vehicle and goes into a coma. His student and lover Shalini (Kalki Koechlin, a victim of weak characterization) is sure that the accident was a planned murder. The other two strands are Joginder, (Emraan Hashmi, a steal) a pornographer who is in possession of some damning evidence of the incident and Krishnan (Abhay Deol, good act), the serious-faced bureaucrat who heads the government enquiry.

The striking cinematography and sound design complement the storytelling, which seldom loses its hold. The mobile, steady camera captures all that is necessary, cutting out the wide frame except for the opening bird-view scene. The playing of street songs, bursting crackers, the revolutions of the ceiling fan, the invisible ticking clock, are elements that add to the deftness.

The prime mover is finally the story, contemporary, gritty and searing. That fighting for truth is not as simple in the real world as it is for commercial super-punch heroes of Dabangg, Singham and Rowdy Rathore, the contrast just can’t be ignored. Masks, insensitivity, the casualness with which dead bodies are dealt with, the cobwebs of bureaucracy and its dodgy luxury, all hit hard.

Director Dibakar Banerjee’s trademark light moments are all there - a basketball bounces into an alleged murder investigation, a woman bites savagely at a hand, and footwear oozes tension. The brilliant stuff – how the hunter becomes the hunted, even as elected governments make a mockery of democracy with an eerie ease,  and finally the most damning – how time is used as a device to create chaos and stagnancy to any attempt to arrive at a solution. Just that idea, allowing time to pass by and thus memory to fade, is the most telling aspect.

The weakest link of this otherwise stunning movie is the misplaced angst and wild anger of Shalini. We can only reason a mad, possessive love and the devastation in her loss for such behaviour. Also, the attempt at not stereotyping a south Indian accent in Krishnan’s character comes across as forced. The resultant accent has aloofness. These are but minor hurdles in what is a highly recommended political drama.

Right On
A bulldozer is set to ram a wall, and we see in the driver’s vision, a man set to be run over. End credits.     

5 Jun 2012

Movie Talk: Rambling over Rowdy Rathore

Vikramarkudu, the 2006 Telugu film that has been dubbed in Hindi as Pratighat 

Now, how does one talk about a film one has not seen?

Come again, the original of last Friday's Hindi release Rowdy Rathore has been playing at repeated intervals on Sahara Filmy under the Hindi-dubbed title of Pratighat for the last one year or two.... As squirmy as the proceedings were, right from female waist pinching, thunderous pro-police dialogues that come across as propaganda, and other torturous scenes where a married woman is kidnapped and kept by the village goon, are all but there for some sordid sensational effect rather than storytelling. That is the new sour taste of Hindi commercial films, something that was revived with the Salman Khan starring Wanted (2009). The bad 1980's era of anything goes, is kind of back. It is certainly not a welcome feeling for the 70mm regulars.   

As for the mindless assembly line of film remakes, just because the first one raked in the money, well, we mourn all such forms of ennui. 

Rowdy Rathore is the fourth remake of Vikramarkudu. The previous three remakes have been in Tamil, Kannada and Bengali.