24 Apr 2014

Bommarillu (2006)

It is almost an exaggerated film story, but for the incidental humour. Aravind, a wealthy father (Prakash Raj, makes most of rare casting choice) heaps love, money, luxuries and unwittingly interferes in the lives of his children. While his daughters, elder son and wife don't mind, the just out of college son Siddharth aka Siddhu (Siddharth Narayan, damn right expressions) bottles up his resentment and vents out his frustration in occasional evening alcohol binges with friends, only to return home subdued with a mix of fear and respect. 

Things go awry when Siddu is engaged without his consent to a father-obeying girl of another wealthy family. He is also asked by his father to assist in his real estate business, against his own independent ambition. Into this turmoil, like a fresh flower, lands Hasini (Genelia D'Souza's role of a lifetime), a happy go lucky girl studying at Siddhu's former college.

Hasini is no typical, ornamental, navel baring, booty shaking, cleavage parting Telugu heroine. She has sheer innocence, childlike unawareness, a bumbling spirit and enjoys the little pleasures of life. Hasini is everything that Siddhu isn't and soon the duo are one tribe, enjoying, arguing out of concern for each other and inevitably falling in love. Then Siddhu's father spots the couple and at the end of a heated discussion, an arrangement is made...

Dollops of clean, genuine humour 
Bommarillu has the trappings of a Telugu commercial entertainer with glitzy lighting, spot clean clothes, lip-synced out of the blue songs, fluffy love story tag, and a family audience pleasing finale. Yet in mood and manner it is still a film with crackling, funny to very funny one-liners and genuine live moments in the Siddhu-Hasini track. The overtly sentimental culmination doesn't kill it, there are enough zingy humorous moments that keep this one alive till the end. 

Perky despite formula  
I got to this one it via subtitles and it is worth a repeat watch for what Hasini's character exudes, and how Siddhu's double life at home/outdoors is (if only a minor accidental study) reflective of the modern urban youth. The father's dilemma of loving or keeping the child on leash doesn't get enough insight, though its good interplay while it lasts. 

Yet, yet, yet there is enough here, despite the formula, to lighten up and enjoy. A nice, breezy watch.  

The Usual Suspects Movie Posters

23 Apr 2014

Movie Review: Psycho (1960)

Marion Crane and her boyfriend discuss the financial costs (during office lunch hour in a secret hotel room meeting) of getting married and find that they just don't have enough. Crane returns to her real estate office and finds $40,000 of the client's money entrusted to her. On impulse, she hits the road with the money, exchanges her car for a used one, until rain causes her to stop for the night at Bates Motel. Here she meets the young, nervous yet pleasant motel owner, Norman Bates. Bates tells her of his mentally ill mother and is appalled on the suggestion of sending the mother to an institution. Even as they talk, our thief has made up her mind to return the loot. Thus relaxed and assured, Marion Crane decides to take one harmless shower bath...  

Psycho is Alfred Hitchcock at the height of his film making powers. Shot effectively with a modest budget, this horror-suspense thriller stands the test of time for its chilling atmospherics, adroit storytelling and creepy use of black and white. Even for the prolific director, the film was a risk for its convention-deviating storyline, absence of a crowd-pulling star cast, depiction of voyeurism and sexuality. 

Hitchcock’s genius lay in placing dark elements in scenes of daily life, thus making it even more scarier and unforgettable. Bates Motel, a car disappearing into dark water and the final sinister smile are all stuff of cinema legend now. 

I have played this one for a family member just to relish the reaction during the shower scene. It was totally worth it. 

21 Apr 2014

Princess Mononoke (1997): A Whole New Experience!

The best you will ever see in animation drama and this is not simple cute kid stuff. My animation movie comfort, pandered by years of Disney, Dreamworks sophistication, slapstick and angelic friendly animals plunged into new waters with this one.

Princess Mononoke: The Story
In a world dwelled by gods and demons, Prince Ashitaka saves his village from a doomed demon, but not before his right arm is fatally cursed. On the advice of the village wise, Ashitaka travels west on his red elk to find a cure and ends up in the midst of a human-nature war between the residents of Irontown and the forest creatures lead by a mysterious girl, San. 

My first awe moment is when wolf-goddess Moro attacks forest pillaging denizens of Irontown. The film just attains a whole new level from that point, and never falls off its high graph. The size, scale, feel and tempo is colossal. Even as the tale gathers new characters on either side of this tussle - man, god, woman, beast, demon, spirit is deeply etched literature by the time the end credits roll. 

Hand drawn animation has its rewards, every little detail has a life of its own, each character seems to be part of a vast painting, whose extent we can't perceive in one gaze. Thus a feeling of the film springing from a larger source. In other words, this one is truly epic. A word in for Joe Hisaishi's amazing theme music and judiciously used background score.     

Hail Miyazaki!
For starters, Hayao Miyazaki is an iconic Japanese animation filmmaker. Princess Mononoke features his extraordinary vision, iconic characters and recurrent themes of nature, industrialization, love, war, mythical animals and human greed. 

No Dubbing Blues 
The English dubbed version of this Japanese language film is thoughtfully done. As compared to strangely dubbed (Imagine fist against open palm and a single repeated keyword - "Master!") kung fu movies, there are no awkward exaggerated dubbing transitions here. 

The two hour plus running time never feels like a stretch. Princess Mononoke is a movie I love returning to for that once-a-year-view-it-intently watch.

19 Apr 2014

The Shawshank Redemption (1994)

“Guess it comes down to a simple choice really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Easily one of the most underrated movies ever made, The Shawshank Redemption is at first a touching, uplifting drama of a man accused of murdering his wife and her lover.

Some directors are remembered by that one film they made, and at the time of writing, Frank Darabont is yet to make a more unforgettable film. Yes, he did make The Green Mile (1999), but what makes The Shawshank Redemption a classic is its quietly kaleidoscopic human procession of vulnerability, lopsidedness, perversion, wickedness, death, hope, hopelessness, despair and the triumph of spirit. The finale is believable, tangible and gets under your skin. It gets you because the celluloid fiction of superheroes, supernatural elements, war scenes and comedies do entertain, but rarely elevate to mirror life as it has been, is lived. This film is that rare bird song that brims with new tidings each time you hear it.

Apart from other laudatory things, watch out for career-defining turns by Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman.


15 Apr 2014

North by Northwest Posters

Movie Review: Queen: Original, elevating stuff

Walking its own non-flashy path to storytelling, Queen is a rare 'finding your feet' movie. It doesn't go for the melodramatic, but instead casts a sensitive light over an Indian woman's journey through heartbreak, loneliness, catharsis, travel, friends, new experiences and finally, transformation.

Rani (Kangana Ranaut, excellent) is a Home Science student who is all set to get married to her boyfriend. Only, Vijay (Rajkummar Rao, impressive bit part) informs her abruptly on his disinterest; how he has changed and Rani has not. Heartbroken and distraught, Rani informs her family that she still intends to go on her honeymoon to Paris and Amsterdam, alone. Unaffected, subtle, life-mirroring moments follow as Rani meets the alluring, sprightly hotel maid Vijayalakshmi (Lisa Haydon, great casting), and a bevy of males with whom she has to share rooms with.        

Bumping into pole dancers, walking dazed through sex shops, unwittingly unaware of dildos, Rani's endearing quality is her down but not out spirit, even as she fumbles through life and at the end of it finds assured ground. Amit Trivedi's music fits in to the scenario, understated and uplifting, without reminding us of a similar themed English Vinglish (2012).     

But what a movie, it took me by surprise by the quiet way director Vikas Bahl goes about establishing atmosphere and characters. Queen has a liking to a slender, crafty travel novella of self-discovery. I can't wait to rediscover this one in DVD, though 70mm is your best bet.  

Knock outs 
A woman can't just escape the Eiffel Tower. Rani contorts her mouth to various shapes in heart-stopping readiness to her first kiss.

9 Apr 2014

Dialogue Baazi: Andaz Apna Apna (1994)

Last Sunday, to be precise, on 6th April 2014, two national newspapers simultaneously celebrated 20 years of the now iconic Hindi film comedy Andaz Apna Apna. It is rare in commercial Hindi cinema when genre takes over star power. Andaz Apna Apna is even more of a rare movie for how often in its running time do the gags work. It is a template that the film's director Rajkumar Santoshi tried to emulate quite unsuccessfully in Ajab Prem Ki Ghazab Kahani (2009) and Phata Poster Nikla Hero (2013).

Anyway, for a film with a comic insanity very ahead of its time, I remember watching AAA in my childhood and been unimpressed by it's on your face slapstick, exaggerated performances, constant uproar and loud sound recording. The movie's influence has grown on incidental TV views, such that I now own a DVD that is played whenever any movie-loving guest, yet unaware of the movie, stops by.

In a hilarious world purely Wodehouse-ian and unreal, there are no social or life messages here. Yet, if one brings the magnifying glass closer, Ram Gopal Bajaj's (Paresh Rawal's brilliant double role) character of a man so concerned about not wasting time that no smile flickers in his face, is a statement for busybodies. In contrast, Shyam's twin brother Ram alias Teja seems to have more fun plotting and scheming. Of course, there is no such message in the movie, all meant to be damn funny, which it is. But for deciphers like us, Robert's line unwittingly mocking at the timekeepers of the world is a hoot.

It is a swift character introduction. A plane lands, cut to the empty chairs and tables in garden, and Ram Gopal Bajaj briskly walking with Raveena and Karishma trailing. Robert literally appears in this scene twice, first with a newspaper and then, tea. He is the first and only character in the movie to get back at Bajaj's robot-like demeanor:

Robert: Sir, shakkar dalne ka time ho gaya sir?   
Ram Gopal Bajaj: Nonsense!

Andaz Apna Apna released on April 11, 1994, and ironically, flopped